Academic journal article Christianity and Literature

Don Quixote till Kingdom Come: The (Un)realized Eschatology of Miguel De Unamuno

Academic journal article Christianity and Literature

Don Quixote till Kingdom Come: The (Un)realized Eschatology of Miguel De Unamuno

Article excerpt

"et ctuia existimarent quod confestim regnum Dei manifestaretur [...] et ait ad illos negotiamini dum venio" (Lk. 19.11b, 13b).

("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"). …

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