In its state of immanence (or indwelling) in reason and religion, the Will appears indifferently as Wisdom or as Love: two names of the same power, the former more intelligential, the latter more spiritual. But in its utmost abstraction and consequent state of reprobation, the Will becomes satanic pride and rebellious self-idolatry in the relations of the spirit to itself, and remorseless despotism relatively to others; the more hopeless as the more obdurate by its subjugation of sensual impulses, by its superiority to toil and pain and pleasure: in short, by the fearful resolve to find in itself alone the one absolute motive of action, under which all other motives from within and from without must be either subordinated or crushed.
This is the character which Milton has so philosophically as well as sublimely embodied in the Satan of his Paradise Lost. Alas! too often has it been embodied in real life! Too often has it given a dark and savage grandeur to the historic page! And wherever it has appeared, under whatever circumstances of time and country,.. it has been identified by the same attributes. Hope, in which there is no cheerfulness; steadfastness within and immovable resolve, with outward restlessness and whirling activity; violence with guile; temerity with cunning; and, as the result of all, interminableness of object with perfect indifference of means:.. these are the marks that have characterised the masters of mischief, the liberticides and mighty hunters of mankind, from Nimrod to Napoleon. And even men of honest intentions too frequently become fascinated. Nay, whole nations have been so far duped as to regard with palliative admiration, instead of abhorrence, the Molochs of human nature, who dare to say with their whole heart Evil, be thou my good! All system so far is power; and a systematic criminal, self-consistent and entire in wickedness, who entrenches villany within villany, and barricadoes crime by crime, has removed a world of obstacles by the mere decision that he will have no obstacles but those of force and brute matter.
Note 1. Coleridge. From Lay Sermons. The Statesmans Manual. App. C. The colloquial use of adjectives among abstract expressions makes a strange style. In 3rd line of 2nd page of quotation, perfect indifference of means, the grammar is that complete indifference is imagined as a quality of the means, just as interminableness is a quality of the object. [back]