• Giovanni Gentile

The Importance of Feeling in Christianity

With Christianity there arises a new concept of life, no longer as nature, but as spirit, at the advent of which the old nature has to be put away. And this advent is in no way a retreat to a pre-existing reality, but the birth of a new reality born of goodwill alone. Henceforth men begin to perceive in their spiritual life something much worthier than rational knowledge and philosophical learning. They speak of the creative power of love, of faith and of hope: in short, of spiritual attitudes which cannot be the result of syllogism and which go far beyond the possibilities of the most profound learning. However vague these concepts may be, they clearly hint at something alive and deeply rooted in the subject, that is, in man. For man feels his life has needs and sorrows, fear of the hindrances with which his life is beset, and remorse for his sins, and anguish for his miserable state and for the death which will destroy him, as it has destroyed an infinity of other lives. These vague concepts point to something that may draw man to alife in which he can find salvation, to something that may touch his heart and drive him to seek a life which is not nature but the life of the spirit.

They point to something that seems to be new nature, a grace, a virtue freely bestowed without his doing anything to deserve it, but which is nothing in its pure immediacy-the immediacy that deprives the spirit of all freedom and consequently of all merit, thus degrading it to the state of nature. Grace is not fate! This is the hard problem which the new age has for so long attempted to penetrate. But however mysterious it remained for a still immature reflection, men drew from it the firm assurance that the principle of salvation was within them, that it was there they must seek it, at the source of their life; there lay the treasure. The subject began to prevail over the object; the spirit, with all the strength of its inner life, began to lift itself above nature.