Don Quixote till kingdom come: the (un)realized eschatology of Miguel de Unamuno.
("and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. [...] he [...] said unto them, occupy till I come.")
Miguel de Unamuno, especially in his Vida de Don Quixote y Sancho or The Life of Don Quixote and Sancho (1905 [hereafter, Vida]), and elsewhere in his writings, proposes a type of spiritual reconstruction for ailing turn-of-the-century Spain, based on his understanding of the kingdom of God a la quijotesca. He establishes a mystical hermeneutic for the Quijote in order to confront the well-known abulia or "paralysis of the will" of the period, and to remedy a contemporary and prevalent materialist perception of the universe, a view which he intuited was hemorrhaging life from the soul of Spain. Unamuno's philosophical mysticism is in due course earthbound, yet he also realizes that if thinking is not changed and spiritual intuition not awakened, no real on-the-ground solutions--political, economic, social, or cultural--are possible.
Theologian Karl Barth poses a compelling question concerning the kingdom of God as an event in the here and now: "Of what kingdom of God could we think of meaningfully at some later stage? When people have tried to do it, they always have moved into fantasies and utopias and been lost in them" (249). Does this scenario describe Unamuno? The position taken here is that although his proxy "kingdom" does appropriate the future existentially in order to impact the present, Miguel de Unamuno has not left us with a romantic millenarian fantasy, but with a present-moment analogy of the kingdom of God imbedded in the soul of Spain and in the realm of the human spirit. What may appear to be quixotic utopianism is paradoxically grounded in a hope for change--change which he nevertheless does not specify. As Navarro has noted in his introduction to the Vida, the Rector de Salamanca does not see the need for a concrete objective program based on science or art so much as a passionate faith that will motivate the Spanish population of his day (106). Unamuno avoids utopianism by applying a model of the kingdom of God to Spain's crisis, which he views as spiritual in its essence. However, his romantic elevation of Don Quixote from the publication of the Vida on contains the hope that his quijotismo will translate into practical action--he launches in order to land. Although he offers no specific plan for its implementation, he expects the spiritual energy of his insights to drive the creative impulse in his reader.
The approach used here will be to search out answers in the theology and thought of Unamuno himself, and secondly, to highlight his ideas by comparing and contrasting them with related theological positions on the kingdom of God current in the theological environment of his epoch. Our beginning assumption on this level of application is that the romance-faith treatise of Unamuno's quixotism parallels Christianity as a stand-in for the unrealized and unconsummated kingdom of God, seeking to establish a new spiritual base for Spain's self awareness and reform. His term for Cervantes's work, "El Evangelio espanol del Quijote" ("The Spanish Gospel of the Quijote") (1) ("Sobre el Quijotismo" ["Concerning Quijotism"] 744) implies this analogy, which he overtly develops in his Vida: "es el reino de Dios el que ha de bajar a la tierra, y no ir la tierra al reino de Dios, pues este reino ha de ser reino de vivos y no de muertos. Y ese reino cuyo advenimiento pedimos a diario, tenemos que crearlo, y no con oraciones solo; con lucha" (485) ("It is the kingdom of God that must come down to Earth, and not Earth that ascends to the kingdom of God, since this kingdom must be a kingdom of the living and not of the dead. And that kingdom whose coming we ask for daily, we have to create it, and not only with prayers; but with struggle").
Unamuno's historical-religious heritage is the amillennialism of St. Augustine, (2) which can be understood in terms of the spiritualized manifestation of the millennial kingdom of God in the present age (Thigpen 207). (3) In the Augustinian view, the Church is a kind of advance force or presence that anticipates the fully realized kingdom of God. (4) Nevertheless, as Walvoord notes: "The concept of progress and a triumphant church, [...] falls short of fulfillment or even significant attainment. The Christian era has been no golden age of righteousness nor has the church conquered the world" (53). As Miguel de Unamuno pondered a demoralized and decadent turn of the century Spain, he must have understood the disconnect between religious ideals and sociological-cultural realities. His kingdom of the human spirit, as part of the Generation of 1898 phenomenon, doubtlessly helped point the way out for--to use Raley's phrase--"a Spain that seemed finished" (111). In other words, the kingdom of God in its "realized" aspect of presence was, in point of fact, mostly an unrealized presence. To address this problematic reality, Unamuno employs a strategy that functions on two levels: first, he allegorizes Cervantes' Quijote, and second, he sets this allegorized quixotic discourse in analogical relationship to the kingdom of God.
Here the theology of C. H. Dodd is helpful in explaining the present aspect of the kingdom of God as it relates to this study. Eminent in the area of "realized eschatology" his position is similar to the historical orthodox position championed by Augustine. Instead of future elements, Dodd emphasizes the present nature of the Kingdom in the parables of Jesus. (5) Like Dodd, Unamuno deems the theological construct of the kingdom of God to be potentially present, but it is precisely the apparent absence of the Kingdom that allows him the necessary parenthesis in which to insert his quixotic kingdom. Don Quixote will reign until the kingdom of God fully comes or is realized, prescience he later articulates in La agonia del cristianismo ("The death knell of Christianity):" "Con el desengano del proximo fin del mundo y del comienzo del reino de Dios sobre la Tierra, murio para con los cristianos la Historia" (961) ("With the disillusionment of the approaching end of the World and the beginning of the kingdom of God on the Earth, History died for Christians").
Notwithstanding this somewhat fatalistic observation, for Unamuno the kingdom of God is realized in the spiritual essence of the people under the guise of the quixotic spirit. His understanding of quijotismo 'quixotism' as a hopeful expression of the collective soul of Spain is close to Rudolph Bultmann's notion that it is not the individual who attains the kingdom of God, (6) but rather it is "that the promise to the community should be fulfilled, this is what the realization [my emphasis] of the Kingdom of God means" (Jesus and the Word 47).
Likewise, the Salamancan professor does not see the kingdom of God primarily in futuristic eschatological terms, but rather anticipates elements of existential and to some degree neo-orthodox theology found in some of the early to mid-twentieth-century's greatest theologians of those schools. For instance, he shares a distrust of reason with Bultmann and Barth. (7) Like Barth, Unamuno breaks with the old liberal school, whose mantra of "the fatherhood of God, the infinite value of the individual soul, and the ethic of love" (Ladd 4), does not really address the agonic cry of one who mourns Spain's fin de siecle paralysis of will. Although he held many heterodox views (Granjel 248), Protestant liberalism with its attending emphasis on the social gospel was not an area of inquiry that was of interest to him per se. Moreover, he was neither attracted to Schweitzer's quest for the historical Jesus, (8) nor to the de-mythologizing of Jesus, except in Bultmann's sense of gaining the existentially present Christ who is infinitely more than his historical-literary containers. Unamuno assumes compatibility of background knowledge, and expresses tacit agreement with Kalkhoff's assertion that
Cristo no es el Jesus historico que pretende restabtecer en toda su pureza y exactitud historicas la escuela protestante liberal, [...] sino la entidad etica religiosa que ha venido viviendo, transfor mandose, acrecentandose y adaptandose alas diversas necesidades de los tiemposen el seno de la conciencia colectiva de los pueblos cristianos. ("Sobre la lectura" ["Concerning the Reading"] 662) Christ is not the historical Jesus that the liberal Protestant school seeks to restore in all of his purity and historical exactness, but the ethical religious entity that has come--living, transforming himself, growing and adapting himself to the diverse needs of the times in the bosom of the collective consciousness of Christian peoples.
Unamuno's balancing of the here and now aspects of the Kingdom with its futurity looks forward to Bultmann, who resolves the present/future tension through Heideggerian existentialism (Perrin 118). Bultmann understands the eschatological event to be the Christian message itself (the kerygma)--the coming of the Kingdom in terms of the individual's existential response to the future (Moody 42). (9) Unamuno embraces the future in terms of "ansia de vida eterna" (Vida 480) ("longing for eternal life" [Though less literal, "immortality" is probably closer to Unamuno's thought.]). His notion of the future is more a present appropriation of the Spanish philosophy that urges his fellow humans not to die, but rather to believe and create the truth (Vida 488). Unamuno's preferred future also appropriates fame for the coming centuries as a vision that will transcend even Spain's glorious past (486).
For Bultmann's one-time associate, the Swiss Barth, the Kingdom is
God himself as he not merely is somewhere and somehow but as he comes. The concern of the second petition [Thy kingdom come] is precisely with this coming. As God's kingdom is God himself, so God is his kingdom in his own coming: his coming to meet man, to meet the whole of the reality distinct from himself. (236)
It is not however to be understood primarily in future terms: "The whole of the New Testament message derives from this coming of the kingdom. It may explicitly point back to it or point forward to it, but it is to be understood as both a future and also a present saying" (Barth 248).
Similarly, Unamuno finds a space for his analogical quixotic kingdom, sheltered under the paradox of the already-not-yet of the kingdom of God. Without the overarching theological construct of the biblical kingdom of God to appropriate, his quixotic dominion would be weakened or nonexistent. It is the allegorization of Cervantes's sixteenth-century masterpiece with the biblical metaphor in the background that energizes his enterprise. Hirsch refers to this kind of writing as "transoccasional": "Such writing typically intends to convey meaning beyond its immediate occasion into a future context which is very different from that of its production" (552). Clearly, Unamuno takes Cervantes's work in this way, as can be seen in his comment that "de cuando en cuando nos sale algun santon de la critica sesuda [...] diciendonos que Cervantes ni quiso ni pudo querer decir lo que tal o cual simbolista le atribuye" ("Sobre la lectura" 661) ("From time to time some holy academic critic comes along telling us that Cervantes neither wanted to nor could have said what such and such a symbolist attributes to him").
Unamuno gives himself a free hand to interpret the Quijote as a theological substitute, in which he proposes the same inspirational treatment for the Quijote that Christianity has propagated for centuries with respect to the Bible: "Y lo que se ha hecho con las Sagradas Escrituras del Cristianismo, ?por que no se ha de hacer con el Quijote, que deberia ser la Biblia nacional de la religion patriotica de Espana?" ("Sobre la lectura" 664) ("And what has been done with the Sacred Scriptures of Christianity, why shouldn't it be done with the Quijote that ought to be the national bible of Spain's patriotic religion?").
Deeply concerned with the spiritual aridness of Spain, Unamuno searches for a balm for the national soul, and proposes to find it in the spiritual abstraction of Don Quixote. This is an apparent reversal of his earlier position in his "!Muera Don Quixote!" ("Let Don Quixote Die!") of 1898, which may have been a reaction against the self-imposed national blindness of pre-1898 Spain. (10) However, a re-appropriated Don Quixote was more useful to Unamuno as a national icon representing the potential rebirth of the Spanish spirit and identity. According to this new paradigm of historical perspective, Villegas observes: "La primera novedad de la postura unamuniana es que la figura del Quixote vendria a dar la clave para interpretar la historia de su patria" (51) ("The first novelty of the Unanmnian position is that the figure of the Quixote would come to be the key for interpreting the history of his fatherland").
Nevertheless, Unamuno moves beyond even the iconic Quixote. In the inserted introductory essay to the 1928 edition, "El sepulcro de Don Quixote" ("The Tomb of Don Quixote"), he articulates his cry of existential agony, placing it in the mouth of an imagined recipient who surmises that it is not enough to rescue Don Quixote from those of flat materialist vision, but that God himself must be rescued. He inquires: "?no te parece que ... debiamos ira buscar el sepulcro de Dios y rescatarlo de creyentes e incredulos, de ateos y deistas, que lo ocupan, y esperar alli dando voces de suprema desesperacion, derritiendo el corazon en lagrimas, a que Dios resucite y nos salve de la nada?" (Vida 153) ("doesn't it seem that we should go in search of God's tomb and rescue it from believers and nonbelievers, from the atheists and deists that occupy it, while we wait there crying out in utter desperation, our hearts melting into tears, so that God might arise and save us from the nothing?") Unamuno's response, as his Vida bears out, will be to look for significant archetypes in a "theology" of Don Quixote, one that rescues him from the pseudo-scientists that have killed the soul of modern man. He will affirm his version of God through his grand quixotic analogy by rejecting nothingness and crying out against the void. Again, anticipating Bultmann, Unamuno creates his reality and existence from the place of personal responsibility (Cf. Bultmann, Mythology 56). As he succinctly puts it in his "Religion of Quixotism:" "It is to war against all those who resign themselves, whether to Catholicism or to rationalism or to agnosticism; it is to make them all live lives of inquietude and passionate desire" (Essays and Soliloquies 117).
This stream of thought where science and mythology are placed in opposition finds a later echo in Bultmann, who coined the phrase demythologizing, or the seeking of deeper meanings behind biblical eschatology and miracles (Mythology 18). The German theologian remarks that "To demythologize is to deny that the message of Scripture and of the Church is bound to an ancient world-view which is obsolete" (Mythology 36). Similarly, Unamuno wishes to free Don Quixote from the restraints of the past, be they rationalistic, literary, historical, or scientific. This heroic kingdom of the spirit can only truly exist in present action and not in pedantic scientific exercises. But Unamuno insists that myth and even fiction may be truer than history; some truths are greater than, and transcend history. For example, a legend need not be factually true in order to be valid. This is the case regarding a given myth or epic legend: "cuando mueve a obrar a los hombres, enciendoles los corazones, o les consuela de la vida, es mil veces mils real que el relato de cualquier acta que se pudra en un archivo" (Vida 319) ("when it moves men to action, burning in their hearts, or comforting their hearts, it is a thousand times more real than the record of any document that sits rotting in a file").
Faith is a key component in the human interpretation of myth, and Don Quixote has a unique brand of faith. The way he perceives reality and sees circumstances through his own special vision, parodies the Christian model of faith. (11) His delusional version enables him to see armies where there are only herds of goats and sheep. Unamuno therefore allegorizes Don Quixote's faith vision and Sancho's lack thereof, with the latter representing the naturalistic and positivistic schools of thought that deny transcendence and quixotic idealism (Vida 244). Like Bultmann, who doubts "whether the scientific world-view can perceive the whole reality of the world and of human life" (Mythology 38), modern Spain's apostle of Quixotism (12) affirms that faith, rather than science alone is a redemptive answer to mankind's spiritual dilemma (Vida 246). Faith is creative and carries mankind beyond the frontiers that are limited by the apparently possible. It is a metaphysical project not confined by limiting or fatalistic pseudo-science, but one that continually confronts the fear of oblivion as it produces "el mundo sustancial de la fe" (Vida 242) (the substantial world of faith). As Vermeylen has noted, "Unamuno rejette donc l'interpretation deterministe de l'homme. Il la rejette sans appel" (188) ("Unamuno rejects then the deterministic interpretation of man. He rejects it utterly"). Here the relationship between faith and will in his thinking can easily be extrapolated.
A corollary to Unamuno's faith discourse is his idea of "redemption through madness" (Vida 171). Early on in his Vida Unamuno establishes a naive yet optimistic messianic characterization of Don Quixote (190). There is a telling sketch of a crucified Don Quixote in the Casa Museo de Unamuno in Salamanca (Vida 317). This is not surprising since, as Zoilkowski points out, Unamuno had already heralded Don Quixote as the "Castilian Christ" in his essay "The Knight of the Sad Countenance" (178). He further notes that for Unamuno redemptive madness is an antidote to sterile logic; Don Quixote's extravagancies are a form of rebellion against this tyranny of the spirit (103)--and as Unamuno wryly adds to his discourse, this madness is "loco, y no tonto" (145) ("crazy, but not stupid"). Thus, Unamuno's running battle with barren scholasticism and despotic scientism leads him to heroic confrontation by way of his romantic icon, which lends in Parr's view to "perhaps the extreme Romantic statement of all time" (Anatomy 166). (13) According to Unamuno, the heroism that is demonstrated by Don Quixote is primarily internal, and comes from a strong sense of self knowledge and identity. From an external point of view, the knight-errant is somewhat of an anti- or pseudo-hero. In his study on fictional modes, Northrop Frye points out that in the mode of romance, the hero is superior in degree to other men, and the laws of nature are slightly suspended, while the ironic mode allows us the sense of looking down on bondage or absurdity (34). The Quijote itself provides a strange mix of the two modes while Unamuno strongly endorses the romantic view and even approaches myth where the hero becomes a semi-divine being. The Manchegan knight's "!yo se quien soy!" ("I know who I am!"), recalls Christ, who dared to pronounce the divine words, "I am" (John 8:58). Don Quixote's declaration of messianic self knowledge reverberates in Unamuno's secondary characterization (after knight errant) of Don Quixote as a shepherd caring for his Spanish ovejas "sheep" (Vida 487). Nevertheless, locura redentora "redemptive madness" remains the dominant literary and ideological strategy of his Vida de Don Quixote y Sancho--clearly a messianic aspect of Unamuno's romantic appropriation of the Quijote's protagonist.
Quixotic messianism is an example of what Predmore describes as Unamuno's approach to the Quijote in essentially imaginative terms rather than critical ones, noting further that he uses the Quijote as a springboard for the projection of his own ideas (288). Unamuno himself makes no apology for this stance. In his article, "Sobre la lectura e interpretacion del Quijote" ("Concerning the Reading and Interpretation of the Quijote") published the same year as his Vida, he attacks the intentionality argument of those who accuse him of saying something other than what Cervantes meant to convey: "?que tiene que ver lo que Cervantes quisiera decir en su Quixote, si es que quiso decir algo, con lo que a los derails se nos ocurra ver en el? ?De cuando aca es el autor de un libro el que ha de entenderlo mejor?" ("Sobre la lectura" 661) ("What does whatever Cervantes wanted to say in his Quijote, if in fact he wanted to say anything, have to do with what might occur to the rest of us? Since when is the author of a book the one who best understands it?").
Since for Unamuno the intention of the interpreter is more important than that of the author, it is just as well that Cervantes gave us a madman, or at the very least a "cuerdo-loco," "a wise madman," in order to "encarnar en el lo eterno grande de su pueblo" ("Sobre la lectura" 670) ("to incarnate in him the eternal greatness of his people"). For Unamuno then, the madness of the Caballero "knight" can easily be compared to the redemptive madness of Jesus, whose family also misunderstood his mission (Vida 270). The critical point of Unamuno's discourse on redemptive madness comes in Part I, chapter 29 when Don Quixote is juxtaposed with Christ at the moment when Jesus is mockingly presented as king by Pilate: '"He aqui al hombre', dijeron en burla a Cristo Nuestro Senor; 'he aqui el loco', diran de ti, mi senor Don Quixote" (Vida 276) ("Behold the man, they said in mockery of Christ our Lord; 'behold the madman,' they will say of you, my lord Don Quixote").
The passion of Don Quixote before his mockers, the Duke and Duchess, analogically expresses Unamuno's unrelenting disquiet before a Spain apparently content to lick its wounds. Huerta observes that the publication of the Vida de Don Quixote y Sancho in 1905, "pretendia encontrar un alivio espiritual para su generacion despues de la derrota y perdida de Cuba en 1898" (429) ("intended to find spiritual relief for his generation following the defeat and loss of Cuba in 1898"). Thus the madness of which Unamuno speaks is a way of breaking the chains of past scholasticism with its attending spiritual decadence, as well as resisting a purely materialistic vision of the world. He clearly signals the heroic chivalric enterprise in Cervantes's Quixote as the forum for lunacy that potentially can free humanity from the constraints of a fiat materialist vision, even one that masquerades as spirituality (Vida 314).
The play on parallelisms between the spiritual and the human, tinted with biblical allusion, highlights the idea of a kind of surrogate kingdom hovering in Unamuno's thought: "A whole economy of things human and divine, a whole hope in the rationally absurd" (Essays and Soliloquies 120). However, allusions to the kingdom of God in the Quijote are not exclusive to the Unamunian interpretation; the kingdom of God can also be seen in archetypal form by Don Quixote himself in his discourse on the golden age (Cervantes 75), although in Cervantes's original masterpiece the flow seems to be more towards satire than a serious treatise on the kingdom of God:
It seems clear that Don Quixote's self-assumed mission of restoring his own fantastical version of the golden age can be read as a travesty of the socio-political agenda of the powerful advisors alluded to above [Charles I and Felipe II as utopian figures]. The obvious satirical targets, books of chivalry, are so obvious that there would be no subtlety whatsoever in the attack. ("Kind Reconsidered," Parr 143)
To the contrary, Unamuno understands Don Quixote's utopian pastoral landscape to prefigure the Christian idea of the consummation of the kingdom of God at the end of the age--i.e., the coming of the millennial kingdom: "y ese pasado siglo de oro, [es un] apagado relumbre del futuro siglo en que morara el lobo con el cordero [...]" (Vida 212; Essays and Soliloquies 121) ("and that distant golden age is but a faded sparkle of the future eon, in which the lion will dwell with the lamb"). In Unamuno's thinking it is precisely this mythical vision of the past that pushes us to conquer the future, redeeming poor and rich alike from their present unheroic restraints (Vida 213-14).
According to Unamuno Don Quixote attempts to establish a "reino espiritual de la fe" (183) ("a spiritual kingdom of faith") when he confronts the Toledan merchants, requiring of them a homage in faith to Dulcinea's exquisite beauty. Unamuno's allegorical interpretation of the episode equates the "faithless" merchants, incapable and unwilling to affirm the unique beauty of Dulcinea with men capable only of the kind of vision that perceives the material kingdom and not the spiritual (Vida 183). There is a historical reality just below the surface that brings this fanciful allegory back to earth. It is evident that triumphalism in terms of Church and state was not able to bring the government of God to earth--neither the Reconquest of Spain from the Moors nor the Conquest of the New World achieved this end. As inheritor and observer of the last vanishing vestiges of a world empire, Unamuno comprehends this disillusionment and the need for a spiritual narrative, a spiritual kingdom of faith, to replace it.
Similarly, when Unamuno compares Don Quixote to Ignatius of Loyola, he presents the option of continuing on the path of the crusades (impose the kingdom of God by force) or of allowing the Kingdom to come by nonviolence--that is, the road providentially chosen by a horse (Vida 187)! (14) Loyola's choice to follow the path of spiritualized warfare is significant in Unamuno's interpretation of Don Quixote, since our mad knight himself seems to understand that the kingdom of God is a displaced non-bellicose enterprise. Sancho must also set aside his quest for a kingdom or an insula, "island," in order to learn earthly obedience to a higher purpose. As a kind of Simon Peter, he is of a dull unspiritual nature and stubbornly seeks his earthly kingdom instead of the eternal glory of his master (Vida 209).
While Sancho lingers on his personal path toward "quijotizacion" and is slowly catching up with Don Quixote's vision, Unamuno offers the parable of the reapers where one harvester works futilely all day with a dull scythe, and another spends the day sharpening his; they both end up unproductive. The Unamunian parable frames the kingdom of God (in its quixotic manifestation) as a pragmatic life of balance between the inner life and a life of action: "sin vida interior no la hay exterior" (Vida 269) ("without an interior life there is no exterior life"). The motivation for the external life is in the quixotic faith that Unamuno prescribes for a Spain devoid of hope and confidence in a better future. Hence, "Don Quixote Till Kingdom Come" is a way of experiencing the kingdom on hold--outside of, yet parallel to the Christian framework of this concept. Unamuno is not proposing a replacement for Christianity, but rather a type of quixotic-Christian syncretism in which religious questions are considered in the light of the national soul. Ziolkowski observes that the driving motor of the new religion is to be the "voluntaristic concept of truth; that is, that truth equals one's belief in an object as that object is imposed by one's will" (176). Unamuno draws on Kierkegaardian influence (15) in his proclamation of the kingdom of God a la quijotesca as he urges the Spain of his day to speak a new progressive future into existence--barbers' basins must become, well, allegorical helmets. Here again, the movement towards Bultmands thought is evident, since as Ladd notes: "Bultmann [like Unamuno] does not find the real meaning of Jesus' teaching in an imminent apocalyptic kingdom. [...] Apocalyptic ideas of a future Kingdom are mythological, but in this mythology is embodied an existential meaning" (21). (16) Thus for Bultmann, every hour is the last hour since men stand in the dynamic tension in the crisis of decision (Jesus and the Word 52). By 1914 Unamuno emphasizes the will as the source of validation of Don Quixote's "sublime lunacy" ("Grandes, Negros y Caidos" "The Great, the Black, and the Fallen" 738), and earlier in his determining essay "Mi religion" ("My Religion") (1907) belief is always a choice--an existential affirmation made by a self-determining agent (257).
Finally, Unamuno proposes that God's kingdom be enjoyed on earth by means of a quixotic idealism that will produce a new mindset not only for Spain, but for all who dare to look where there are wrongs to right--seen of course, through the field glasses of allegorized chivalry. Unamuno insists that mere "Cervantism" be left to those with a flare for history and philology since it is unfruitful for the healing of the Spanish soul--he laments: "aun no ha empezado el reinado de Don Quixote en Espana" ("Sobre la lectura" 672) ("the reign of Don Quixote has not even begun in Spain").
In spite of Cervantes's attempt to kill his hero at the end of his masterpiece, Unamuno will have none of this and produces a figurative resurrection in which, "el mismo Don Quixote se ha resucitado a si mismo, [...] y anda por el mundo haciendo de las suyas" ("Sobre la lectura" 663) ("the very same Don Quixote has resurrected himself, and goes about the world doing as he pleases"). Unamuno's resurrected Quixote is not only an abstract representation of his idealism, but more importantly, he is the mythical incarnation of an ideal: "?Aspira al cielo? No; !al reino de Dios! y a todas horas, dia tras dia, alza por miles de bocas nuestro pueblo esta plegaria a Nuestro Padre que esta en los cielos: 'venga a nos el tu reino'" (Vida 485) ("Does he aspire to heaven? No, to the kingdom of God! And at all hours, day after day, thousands of voices of our people are raised with this petition to our Father who is in heaven: 'thy kingdom come'"). It is the incarnate ideal that is to be the salvation Unamuno seeks, a kingdom realized on Spanish soil. Unamuno's frequent references to Ignatius of Loyola, a spiritual knight, emphasize the analogy of Don Quixote as an emblematic figure in his worldview and a key to the Spanish national narrative in particular. But as long as an institutionalized national denial is the rule, Spain will not be able to break free from its inertia. Existential disquiet believed and willed is the impulse for change:
Lo repito: nuestra patria no tendra agricultura, ni industria, ni comercio, ni habra aqui caminos que lleven a parte adonde merezca irse mientras no descubramos nuestro cristianismo, el quijotesco. No tendremos vida exterior, poderosa y esplendida y gloriosa y fuerte mientras no encendamos en el corazon de nuestro pueblo el fuego de las eternas inquietudes. (307) I repeat it: our fatherland will have neither agriculture, nor industry, nor commerce, nor will there be roads that lead to where one deserves to go as long as we do not discover our Christianity, the Quixotic. We will not have an exterior life, powerful and splendid and glorious and strong as long as we do not light the fire of the eternal disquiets in our hearts as a people.
To return to the question posed by Barth at the beginning, what can we conclude from a summation on the thought of Miguel de Unamuno on the nature and praxis of the kingdom of God a la quijotesca?
In broad strokes, the Spain that Unamuno yearned to see and perhaps glimpsed in Spanish republican principles, was eventually swallowed up in the aftermath of the Civil War in 1939. Tragically, the oppressive dictatorship which followed under General Francisco Franco, "Caudillo de Espana pot la gracia de Dios" ("Leader of Spain by the grace of God"), could at best only be described as a caricature and not an emulation
of the kingdom of God.
Nevertheless, Unamuno's unrealized kingdom remains a possibility, and is at heart, practical. Quixotismo has its pastoral side linking the soul of Spanish people and the healing of their heart and land: "Con tal de no morir cambiabas tu profesion de caballero andante por la de pastor endechante. Asi tu Espana, mi Don Quijote, al tener que recojerse [sic] a su aldea, vencida y maltrecha, piensa en dedicarse al pastoreo y habla de colonizacion interior, de pantanos, de riesgos y de granjas" (480) ("Given the situation that you did not die, you would have changed your profession from knight errant to lamenting shepherd. And thus your Spain, my Don Quixote, upon having to withdraw to its village, defeated and battered, intends to dedicate itself to shepherding and speaking to interior colonization, of bogs, of dangers, and of farms"). For Unamuno the interior world of the spirit and the exterior world of the homeland are again portrayed here as part of a seamless whole in his quixotic kingdom. In the final analysis, it is the Spanish people themselves who hold the answer to the utopian riddle, since it was a reality that Unamuno envisioned for all time, and that not even Franco could destroy, but only stun.
In Unamuno's view Don Quixote was a product of the Spanish soul, and Cervantes was only his point of entry: "podemos comprender a Don Quijote y Sancho mejor que Cervantes que los creo--o mejor, los saco della entrana espiritual de su pueblo" (134-135) ("We can understand Don Quixote and Sancho better than Cervantes who created them--or better said, took them out of the spiritual bowels of his people"). Since it was the collective identity of Spain--its soul, culture, and history--that birthed Don Quijote in the first place, he can be reborn at any time provided that the will to do so is present.
In spite of the lofty tone of his discourse, social struggle is an assumed part of Unamuno's thinking. He notes metaphorically that in order to establish the "reinado social de Jesus [...] tiene que haber guerra" (308) ("[in order to establish the] social kingdom of Jesus [...] there has to be war"). Further, between the spiritual and the earthly there is no disjunction in Unamuno's mind, but rather a both/and paradox:
Y entre ambas profesiones, la de pedir al cielo el bien de la tierra, y la de poner en ejecucion lo pedido, creando, lanza en mano, el reino de Dios, cuyo advenimiento se pide en oracion, no cabe primero ni segundo. <<Asi que somos ministros de Dios en la tierra y brazos por quien se ejecuta en la tierra su justicia>>, anadio Don Quijote. (Vida 220) And between both professions, the one that asks heaven for the good of earth, and the one that puts into practice that which is asked for, creating lance in hand, the kingdom of God, whose coming is asked for in prayer, neither the first nor the second fits. "And so we are ministers of God on earth and arms for the one who executes his justice on earth," added Don Quixote.
Like the amillennial kingdom of God intimated by realized eschatology, Unamuno observes that there is a "celestial Spain" of which Spain's history in sand and blood is only a copy. He then rhetorically asks: "?Es que no hay un alma de Espana tan inmortal como el alma de cada uno de sus hijos?" (Vida 486) ("Isn't there a Spanish soul as immortal as the soul of each of her sons?"). He urges his compatriots to shake off the paralysis of will and begin the hard work of rebuilding the heroic spirit of the nation in the dynamic tension between the unrealized kingdom of God and the--at least in part--realizable quixotic kingdom on earth.
(1) All translations are mine.
(2) A Premillennial alternative to straightforward Amillennialism is the explanation offered by Ladd, whose summary of the term "kingdom of God" (Gk., basileia, 'reign or rule' vs. 'realm') is pertinent to the analogical use ascribed to it in this study: "[...] the Kingdom of God can be present and future, inward and outward, spiritual and apocalyptic. The Kingdom of God was the dynamic rule of God which had invaded history [...] to bring men in the present age the blessings of the messianic age" (The Presence of the Future [42, 307]).
(3) Thigpen reports that "since the time of St. Augustine [...] most Catholics have tended toward the so-called amillennial position. 'Amillennial' means literally 'no millennium; which is something of a misnomer. In fact, amillennialists, who might more accurately be termed 'present millennialists; do believe in the millennium of Revelation chapter 20. They simply insist that it refers symbolically to the present age between Christ's two advents rather than to a future, literal thousand years" (207).
(4) Augustine reveals that the Kingdom is both earthly and heavenly: "Neque tunc ciuitas Christi, quamuis adhuc peregrinaretur in terris et haberet tamen magnorum agmina populorum, [...]" (XXII.VI.66-69) ("The city of Christ, which, although as yet a stranger upon earth, had countless hosts of citizens" [XXII.6.482, trans., Dods]).
(5) In Mark 2.18-22, for example, Jesus clearly reveals his own presence as representative of the arrival of the new age he is the bridegroom, the new cloth, and the new wine that do not fit into the old order (Perrin 78). By contrast, theologians of the apocalyptic school, including Johannes Weiss, saw the Old Testament roots of the Kingdom as the mighty in-breaking of God. Thus Weiss' interpretation emphasizes primarily the Kingdom as future. He cites the ancient Kaddish prayer of the Synagogue which (for him) lies behind Jesus' understanding of the kingdom of God as an immediate certainty: '"Magnified and sanctified be his great name in the world which he has created according to his will. May he establish his kingdom in your lifetime and in your days and in the lifetime of all the house of Israel ever speedily and at a near time'" (qtd. in Perrin 19). This interpretation assumes the imminent return of Christ that will bring the kingdom of God to dynamically intersect the present age, which is typified by tribulation, suffering, foreign domination, etc.
(6) Cf. "Sobre la lectura" tor Unamuno's discussion on the poisoning of Spain's alma colectiva 'collective soul' (658).
(7) We know that Unamuno read German (Granjel 78), and was acquainted with German theology--he read Kalkhoff for example ("Sobre la lectura" 662).
(8) Schweitzer's well known attempt to uncover the historical Jesus is tied to his belief that Jesus was mistaken in his eschatological expectation. Following E. W. Emmett, Perrin critiques Schweitzer's "quest" position: "one of the weaknesses of the liberal quest of the historical Jesus was that each individual created his own picture of Jesus in accordance with his own character or ideals" (40). Many writers since his time (Perrin mentions E. E Scott and William Manson ) have reacted against Schweitzer's heavy emphasis on a purely future expectation, maintaining that Jesus taught that the Kingdom is, in some sense, also a present reality (42).
(9) Perrin summarizes Bultmann's view: "The Kingdom is proclaimed by Jesus as imminent in the future, as indeed already dawning but not yet actually present. This imminent future is, however, not to be understood as temporal but as existential; the Kingdom cannot by its very nature come in the course of time, its imminence confronts man with the crisis of decision" (118). For Bultmann, God is transcendent yet "never present as a familiar phenomenon but who is always the coming God" (Perrin 23).
(10) Starkie notes two distinct periods in the Quixotism of Unamuno: "The first belonged to his youth, around the year 1898, when he wrote in one of his articles: 'Let Don Quixote die that Alonso Quixano the Good may be reborn!"' (xxvi). In 1906, with his "The Sepulcher of Don Quixote," we have Unamuno ready to "undertake a holy crusade to redeem the Sepulcher of the Knight of Madness from the power of the champions of Reason" (xxvii).
(11) "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (KJV, Heb. 11:1)
(12) I owe this phrase to Starkie's introduction to Our Lord Don Quixote (ix).
(13) Parr notes that "For Unamuno, Cervantes not only did not understand his protagonist, but the author's life merely served the designs of destiny, for it was a pretext to assure the creation of this immortal character, who is more alive and therefore more real than his author" Parr further remarks: "I have made a fairly strong anti-Romantic statement, one that, to my present way of thinking, puts the author-character relationship in proper perspective. Put simply, Don Quixote is a mock hero; Cervantes is the hero of the Quijote" (Anatomy 166). It should be noted that in 1915 Unamuno modified his exaggerated quixotismo in his essay, "Sobre el Quijotismo de Cervantes": "exagere acaso pot via de paradoja y para mejor reveler el idealismo que la informa, mi culto a Don Quijote a expensas de Cervantes. Era mi objeto mostrar que lo real, lo duradero, lo eterno, que es la obra de uno" (741) ("perhaps I exaggerated by way of paradox in order to better reveal the idealism that informs it [the paradox], my cult to Don Quixote at the expense of Cervantes. It was my purpose to show how real, lasting and eternal a work is").
(14) The Virgin Mary had been insulted by a Moor and Loyola vacillated as to the action he should take: "Y al llegar a una encrucijada, se lo dejo a la cabalgadura, segun el camino que tomase, o para buscar al moro y matarle a punaladas o para no hacerle caso. Y Dios quiso iluminar a la cabalgadura, y 'dejando el camino ancho y llano por do habia ido el moro, se fue por el que era mas a proposito para Ignacio.' Y ved como se debe la Compania de Jesus a la inspiracion de una caballeria" (Vida 187) ("And when he arrived as a crossroads, he left it to his mount, whichever road he would take, whether to look for the Moor and stab him to death, or to pay no attention to him. And God chose to enlighten his mount, and 'leaving the broad level road where the Moor had gone, he went on the one that better suited Ignatius' purpose.' And so you see how the Company of Jesus [the Jesuits] owes its inspiration to a steed").
(15) The Kierkegaardian connection is noted in Evans's research: "that Miguel de Unamuno read Kierkegaard in 1901 when very few outside of Denmark and Germany had heard of him is hard to believe, though it is well documented by Unamuno's own comments about Kierkegaard's work, as well as the existence of the fourteen volumes of Kierkegaard's Samlede Voerke in Unamuno's personal library which are heavily annotated" (1).
(16) "Bultmann cannot then finally be classed with Schweitzer and Weiss ['consistent eschatology'], for whom the imminent end of the world is the essence of Jesus's eschatological message" (Ladd 21).
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|Author:||Yorba-Gray, Galen B.|
|Publication:||Christianity and Literature|
|Article Type:||Critical Essay|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2005|
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