With Fichte and Schelling Idealism became more pronounced, and the thinking of God's thought within man himself became the note of philosophy. The other conception—that of development, which was to become the predominating scientific idea of the century, received a powerful impulse from the later writings of Schelling.
With this conception of the world as a growing organism, as a great work of art in process of creation, the past became full of interest, and every form of research tended to become historical. History was no longer the story of warfare and the record of kings, but took all past movements of thought and life within its province. Dead languages were interpreted and remote centuries illuminated. Philosophy became an evolution; the study of religion, historical.
The spirit of the new age revealed itself first in literature and art, and Romanticism was its expression. In contrast to the hard rationalism of the eighteenth century, the Romantic movement concerned itself with the whole development of man. The high priest of this school was Goethe, and his Wilhelm Meister is the work which gave expression to the artistic view of life. His aim is summed up in the word "culture." " In the cultured society the world is harmonized. The ideal and real are reconciled, nature and art are united." Under Goethe's influence the world came to be regarded as a great work of art. Though not a philosopher in the strict sense of the word, Goethe became an enthusiast for Spinoza, and his Pantheism took the form of a world-spirit unfolding itself into all the variety of life and being. This idea of harmonious development received its scientific expression in Schelling's philosophy of Identity. Schelling's conception of man as at once the creature and interpreter of the world, also became a thought congenial to the younger literary spirits of Germany, for whom the prevailing note was individuality. Each man was a separate idea of God, and each had a special end to work out. The writers of this school start with the ego as the source and standard of all things. But it is an empirical ego, an individual self of feelings and personal experiences which seeks to lose itself in nature and God. Individuality becomes with many a matter of whims and moods, and too often feeling degenerates into sentimentality.
While Romanticism connects itself in its literary efforts with the men of the Weimar circle—with Herder, Schiller, and especially with Goethe, in its philosophical views it takes up an intermediate position between Fichte, Jacobi, and Schelling. On the one side the egoism of this school falls far short of the moral earnestness and manly vigour of Fichte, and allies itself more with the subjective intuition and personal feeling of Jacobi. On the other hand, the individuality of Romanticism differs from that of Jacobi in so far as it is not exclusive and self-contained, but carries within itself a sense of infinitude and universality by which it seeks to transcend the immediate limits of personality and lose itself in the larger consciousness of God. It is at this point specially that the influence of Schelling may be detected.
The two chief representatives of this position, Novalis and Schlegel, were strongly impressed with the later mysticism of Schelling.
Friedrich Leopold v. Hardenberg, better known by his assumed name of Novalis (1772-1801), was a man of deep spirituality and fine poetic temperament. While a student at Jena he came under the influence of Schiller, and became the friend of Fichte and Schelling, of Tieck and Schleiermacher. Though at first a disciple of Kant, he eventually became impressed with the philosophy of Spinoza and Schelling. He wrote two philosophical romances, Heinrich von Osterdingen and the Lehrlinge zur Sais. His complete works are published in two volumes. His writings, though full of beautiful thoughts, lack method, and are often vague and elusive. He is essentially a mystic. He seeks the root of all science, as well as of the spiritual life, in freedom. The world is to be deduced from the moral life. "Without philosophy there can be no morality, but without morality no philosophy." The fear of God is the beginning of morals. Our true will is to do God's will. The world cannot be explained by logic or cold reason; a mystery envelops all things. Everything is in God, and God is in everything, and we can only apprehend the purpose of life by a higher faith. Novalis is imbued with the poetic interpretation of the world. "The poet," he says, "understands Nature better than the man of science." Life is poetry. It is easy to understand how all things tend to poetry. "Is not the whole universe full of soul?" Even ordinary work can be treated poetically. "Poetry heals the wounds of reason." Its elements are of a totally opposite character, and may be described as elevated truth and agreeable illusion. He says again, "poetry is absolute truth." "This is the gist of my philosophy." "The more poetic, the more truthful." There is nothing else than practical philosophy. Life is an art. The seat of art is intellect. Intellect creates in accordance with its characteristic perception. Fancy, wit, and judgment are all called into play. The true artist can make of himself anything that he likes. I can do what I will. Nothing is impossible to man. Thought is action. "We are united by closer bonds with the unseen than with the seen. Philosophy is a home-sickness—a longing to be at home. Life is a yearning—action is suffering; rest—the element of the soul. Man is the messiah of nature. One touches heaven when one touches a human being. Self-sacrifice is a genuinely philosophic act. Death is life. Eternity lies in the heart of each, and immortality is reached through sickness and death" (Werke, II. 271, etc.).
Friedrich Schlegel (1772-1829) gave to the fugitive poetic thoughts of Novalis a more systematic expression. He was an emotional and richly gifted man, but the unrest and impetuosity of his nature are reflected in the immaturity and fragmentariness of his writings. Along with his older brother, August, he was one of the most prominent leaders of the Romantic school. Together they edited The Athanaeum, the literary organ which advocated the principles of Romanticism. The best known of Schlegel's works are his Philosophy of History and his History of Literature, both of which were the result of lectures delivered in Vienna to the public. His Language and Wisdom of the Indians (1808) was highly esteemed, and may be regarded as a pioneer to the study of Sanskrit in Europe. In early life he wrote a notorious romance, Lucinde (1799), in which he advocated the relation of free love. In later years he found peace in the Roman Catholic Church. At first he made subjective feeling the test of morality, but after joining Rome his philosophical standpoint changed. While Idealism was still the true philosophy, he took exception to the fatalism of Spinoza. At the same time, he declared there was nothing outside the ego, and the world took its rise from our own inner consciousness.
What we really find in Schlegel is a vague combination of subjective Idealism and Pantheism, a union of Theism and Theosophical Mysticism, which he himself styles "Speculation" or "the Philosophy of Life." The sense of the higher life is in us: it is an innate idea of the infinite, which comprises at once unity and multiplicity. The idea of God is given to us neither by reason nor the senses, but through revelation alone. Schlegel attempts to show that both the world and God are to be conceived by us as in a process of "becoming." The Son of God he identifies with the Spirit of the Universe. History is the movement of the Divine Spirit, the unfolding of God's thought. Like a good Catholic he denounces the Reformation, which he calls "the second fall of man."
Schlegel's philosophy is full of strange vagaries, and with the exception of his philosophy of History, which, indeed, contains many thoughts which have been adopted by the later historical school, had little influence upon modern reflection. His place in German literature is that of a critic rather than a creator.
Passing over Solger (1780-1819), a friend of Tieck, and Berger (1772-1833), who sought to find a middle course between the Subjective Idealism of Fichte and the Spinozism of Schelling by the adaptation of the Platonic ideas, and the naturalist, Oken, who applied Schelling's nature-philosophy to Science, we shall proceed to mention two distinguished followers of Schelling who took up a somewhat independent position,—Baader and Krause,—and finally we shall refer to Schleiermacher, who may be regarded as the mouthpiece and completer of Romanticism.
Franz Baader (1765-1841), of Munich, was a spiritually minded man and deep thinker. It was his ambition to be known not merely as a philosopher, but as a Christian philosopher. Like Schlegel he too was a Roman Catholic, and the dogmas of the Church form the starting-point and goal of all his speculation. His standpoint is largely that of the Schoolmen, and he regards Thomas Aquinas, Eckhart, Paracelsus, and, before all others, Jacob Boehme, as his models. To separate religion from philosophy he considers an error. He loathes the Reformation and all forms of rationalism with his whole heart, but he is drawn to Schelling on account of his Theosophic tendencies.
The central point of Baader's speculation is his conception of God. The finite spirit cannot be conscious of itself, and only comes to self-consciousness as it is animated with the absolute spirit. God, as the eternal life, is at once Being and Becoming—an everlasting process. In the Divine Being there is a threefold element—the ground will, wisdom and nature. From the Ur-ground is begotten the Son. The Holy Spirit flows from the Wisdom, while Creation takes its rise from Nature. Sin and atonement are the two outstanding facts of history. Deliverance is wrought out for man by the magic or magnetic power of the blood of Christ. In general Baader endeavours to reconcile his philosophical ideas with the orthodox faith of the Roman Church. At the same time, his sound democratic nature rebels against all political despotism, while his strong sense of independence causes him to regard with disfavour the coercive policy of Rome. He advocates an intelligent participation by the people in the Government, a co-operative organization of the Church and a reconciliation between theology and speculation. In the dispute between the old and the new Catholicism, Baader inclined to take the side of the latter, and this incurred the suspicion of the Ultra-montane party.
He begins with the idea of self-consciousness, and seeks to evolve thence all our knowledge. The ego knows itself to be living, and it finds within itself manifold instincts, powers, activities, which are all derived from three root faculties—thought, feeling, will. In the exercise of these powers we at once become conscious of the existence of other creatures different from ourselves, and gradually we are led onwards from self-consciousness to a knowledge of the infinite principle of life, from which we and all other finite things are derivable—God, or, as Krause calls him, —"Wesen" or Essence. God, according to Krause, is not merely an essence, but the essence—Being—the absolute Identity, the Totality of all that is.
In deriving the world from absolute Being, Krause endeavours to guard himself against thoroughgoing Pantheism by ascribing personality to God. He regards the world as the development of the Divine Essence, a development which takes place according to the ideas which lie in the mind of the Supreme Personality. The "Essence" is not to be thought of as mere abstract reason, but as the personal, living ground of the world. In the development of his system, which he has called "Panentheism," Krause repels his readers by his terminology. Like Schelling he regards the universe as a divine organism (Wesen-gliedbau), and the structure of society as a continuation of the organic vital movement beyond the individual man. Every union of men is a Gliedbau, and the course of history is the process of the production of successive and more comprehensive unions.
Everywhere in the world we find a combination of two forces, Nature and Reason. These are combined in some degree in the animal world, but first in man are they completely united. Only one part of humanity, earthly humanity, do we now know. The highest destiny of man is not to remain in self-union, but to rise into union with others and finally with God. Hence the philosophy of religion forms the highest point not of Anthropology alone, but of all theories of essence, because it shows how man comes to manifest God in his life, and how God comes to resign Himself to man.
From the consideration of the primal essence of God there arise the various disciplines or sciences. The first is what Krause calls "Mathesis," or the science of Magnitude in its relation to time, space, motion, force, etc. Next in the series is "logic," which has to do with the forms and laws of thought. The third formal science is Aesthetics, which deals with beauty, whose realization in art is a true expression of Godlikeness. As the category of beauty forms the foundation of Aesthetics, so does life for ethics, the next science in the series. The sum of Ethics is the reproduction in life of that part of the highest good which can be actualized by man. "Do thou will and do the good as good" is the ethical formula laid down by Krause. Evil, embracing sin and misfortune, is conceived of as a pure limitation, and as, indeed, transitory. The theory of morals treats man not only as an individual, but as a member of society; and to fulfil one's destiny according to the prototype of humanity is to realize one's place of duty and influence in the larger organism of society. The series of sciences is completed by the philosophy of history, which is the culminating point of his system. As in individual life, so in the history of humanity generally, there are three periods—the stage of germination, youth, and maturity. The first stage was a primitive condition lived with the original essence, the only memory of which continues in traditions of the golden age. The age of growth closed its first period—that of Polytheism—with Jesus. Its second period, that of Monotheistic union with God, was the age of contempt of the world and the will of priests. The next stage, the age of maturity, will be the age of human endeavour, the age of right, virtue, and truth. But after maturity is completed there will begin another higher life, the goal of humanity, the consummation of good towards which mankind is ever approaching. Attractive as is the picture which Krause presents of the Ideal state towards which humanity is progressing, one cannot but feel, especially when he enlarges upon the future life of the inhabitants of heaven, that the author has passed beyond the limits of exact thought into the realm of phantasy.
Greater than any of the names just mentioned is that of Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), who was born at Breslau, and was a contemporary of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, and who stands along with them as one of the greatest thinkers of Germany. As the reformer of German Protestant Theology, his influence on theological thought has been as creative as that of Kant on philosophy. After finishing his studies at Halle he was ordained as pastor in Landesberg. In 1796 he was called to be chaplain to the hospital of the Charite in Berlin. Here he made the acquaintance of Schlegel, by whom he was introduced into the circle of the Romanticists, and at whose instigation he completed the translation of Plato's works. In 1799 he published his Discourse on Religion, which was followed in 1800 by his Monologues. After acting for a time as pastor at Stolpe, in 1804 he was called to the Chair of Theology in Halle. Five years later he was transferred to the newly founded University of Berlin, where also he became preacher in the Church of the Trinity. He died in 1834. He was a man of upright character, an inspiring teacher, the champion of humanitarianism, and the herald of a new era in theology. As a preacher Schleiermacher exercised a remarkable influence. His sermons, which he published from time to time, drew forth the admiration of all classes. In Berlin he divided his time between university work and the care of the poor. He also took a keen interest in political matters and Church affairs.
Among his principal writings we may mention, besides those already named, his System of Ethics and his Christian Faith. The work which roused most controversy was his Addresses on Religion to its Cultured Despisers.
Schleiermacher is closely related to the Romanticists. If Schelling is the philosopher of the movement, Schleiermacher is its theologian. This school or tendency, as we have seen, owed its origin to Goethe, and was a protest in every department of thought against the tyranny of abstract ideas and prosaic rationalism. It sought to return to life, to reality, and especially to the individual standpoint. Accordingly, the misconceptions of religion with which Schleiermacher deals are mainly two: that which views it as consisting essentially in knowledge, and that which makes it simply a means to morality. In his addresses on religion he seeks to prove that the system of reason can become complete only in and through religion, which he says is a life and not a theory, an experience to be enjoyed rather than a phenomenon to be explained. Individuality is the dominant note of Romanticism; to find a place, in the conception of the world as a reasoned whole, for the individual life, is the aim of all the members of this movement. And it is because of the part assigned to individuality that Schleiermacher's speeches on religion have been called the religious programme of Romanticism. The full title, Addresses to its Cultured Despisers, expresses its object and spirit. It speaks directly to man, and is addressed to those men of worldly culture with whom he was so closely associated at this time. He desires to show his literary friends that to despise an element in man, so radical and distinctive as religion, is a defect even of culture. Religion was not a thing of doctrine or of morals merely, but an essential part of all right thinking and acting. Religion has to do with that which is universal in man. Yet each man can only be an expression of the universal, as he is first of all true to his individuality. The duty of each is, first of all, to himself, and only as he is himself, as he realizes the thought of God for him, does he help to embody the rich and manifold idea of God in the world. It is as a theological writer rather than as a philosopher that Schleiermacher must be regarded. His philosophy, indeed, bears the character of ecclesiasticism. He styles himself a dilettante in philosophy.
His standpoint in regard to the origin of our knowledge is largely that of Kant. Yet his whole method is that of the critic rather than the metaphysician. His chief interest lies in practical questions, and the purpose of all his speculation is to affirm and vindicate the absolute need and supreme value of religion. The religious consciousness with which he starts, he regards, without further derivation, as an absolute innate possession of man.
While Schleiermacher affirms with Schelling that absolute knowledge—the supreme identity of thought and being—in which all contradictions are solved, is the highest, it is, he holds, an ideal which is never reached by man. As finite beings we are beset with contradictions, and the deepest contradiction which belongs to our very nature is that which exists between our senses and our understanding, or, as Schleiermacher expresses it, between the organic and intellectual parts of man. In all thinking there are these two functions: the organic yields the material, the intellectual, the form. But though Schleiermacher is in agreement with Kant as to the two functions in the formation of all knowledge, he alleges that we can never attain to the highest knowledge of all in this way. There is an intuitive union of thought and being, of the ideal and the real. Yet by the way of logical or scientific thought alone we can never reach this unity; nor can the difficulty be got over by Kant's method of Practical reason. We cannot really know God as He is. We can ascribe to Him no properties. He is the great first cause, the absolute identity of thought and being to which we can only ascribe personality when we bring it down into the region of earthly contradictions. Schleiermacher seems to agree with Spinoza in his notion of the relation of God to the world. God is mirrored in the universe and is present in the souls of men, so that if we would find Him we must go into ourselves. His Being is involved in the very idea of our personality. The individual spirit is the first and only reality, and the whole world is its mirror. In self-contemplation all contradictions vanish, and the soul through meditation enters the realm of the eternal. In this self-contemplation consists true piety. He who attains to this state is above all limits. The changes of outward life, time, age, death, can neither detract from nor add to his blessedness. This highest union is to be sought neither by the exercise of the intellect nor the will; it is to be reached through feeling only. By intuition we have intercourse with reality. In feeling, the soul and the universe, man and God commingle and become one.
Religion is the consciousness of the infinite. The seat of piety is, therefore, feeling. But if we inquire what special kind of feeling it is which constitutes piety, we are told by Schleiermacher it is the feeling of absolute dependence upon God. It is something more than the feeling of relative dependence which we have towards the world or finite things about us. The feeling of absolute dependence co-exists with the feeling of relative dependence. It is in the proper relation of these two feelings, in the dominating and determining powers of the former, that piety consists. To feel that the finite only exists in and through the infinite, that the temporal and changing world is but the expression of the eternal, that life is only life as it is lived in and through God—that is religion.
"The usual conception of God," says Schleiermacher, "as one single being outside of the world and behind the world is not the beginning and end of religion. It is only one manner of expressing God, seldom entirely pure, and always inadequate. Such an idea may be formed from mixed motives, from the need of such a being to console and help, and such a God may be believed in without piety, at least in my sense, and, I think, in the true and right sense. Yet the true nature of religion is neither this idea nor any other, but immediate consciousness of the Deity as He is found in ourselves and in the world. Similarly, the goal and the character of the religious life is not the immortality desired and believed in by many or—what their craving to be too wise about it would suggest—pretended to be believed by many. It is not the immortality that is outside of time, behind it, or rather after it, and which is still to come. It is the immortality which we can now have in this temporal life; it is the problem in the solution of which we are to be for ever engaged. In the midst of finitude to be one with the Infinite, and in every moment to be eternal, is the immortality of religion" (Reden, 2nd: On Immortality).
In his work on Christian Faith Schleiermacher deals more specifically with Christian piety and its relation to Christ as its Author. We can only refer very briefly to his views on Christianity. It is the function of Dogmatic Theology, he says, to deal with the contents of Christian experience. It has three main topics: (1) Pious Experience (Gottes-Bewustsein); (2) Development of the Sinful Experience; (3) Inward Experience of Redemption as related to Christ.
(1) The idea involved in our consciousness by God is not our creation, but our preservation, our sense of dependence. The world as a whole must, indeed, be referred to God, whom we regard as its Creator, but we cannot make any affirmation as to His being or attributes.
(2) Sin is the victory of the flesh over the spirit, and consists in the subordination of the religious feeling to our lower nature. It may be called original sin in so far as it is the condition of all men from the beginning.
(3) Christ is distinguished from other men by His absolute control of the religious feeling—by His habitual and perfect consciousness of God. But we must believe that His character developed in time, end that His nature was subject to human limitations. It is on His religious side that His perfection exists. He is the ideal of man, the type of mankind.
Christ is, therefore, the source of a new spiritual life of communion with God, and His redemptive agency consists in imparting to man His own inward consciousness of fellowship. By union with Christ the principle of sin is destroyed and a sense of forgiveness is experienced.
Christianity is the perfect religion, because it is the expression of the life of the perfect man who has lived in the fullest dependence on God, and whose consciousness is the norm and fountain of acceptable piety.
It is impossible to mistake the subjective character of religion in Schleiermacher's system. Sin is not so much a real thing, something abnormal, as simply a lower stage of human development; and the purpose of Christ's work is not to rescue from evil, but rather to elevate human nature. Next to his philosophy of religion it is in the sphere of ethics that Schleiermacher has exerted the greatest influence. His moral theory is considered under three heads,—goods, virtue, and duty. The highest good is the supreme union of the ideal and the real, of reason and nature; virtue is the motive force of moral action. The cardinal virtues are Prudence, Constancy, Wisdom, and Love. Duty is moral action in relation to the moral law. The four departments of moral conduct are: Intercourse between man and man, property, thought, and feeling. To these correspond the four ethical relationships of right, society, faith, and revelation. And these again find expression in the four ethical organizations of the State, the Community, the School, and the Church.
In life there are two opposing tendencies. The one is the endeavour to be oneself—to realize one's individuality. The other is the effort to surrender oneself and lose oneself in the greater universe of God. Romanticism on its noblest side was an attempt to reconcile their opposition, and herein lies the significance of Schleiermacher that he has summed up these conflicting tendencies of the soul,—the tendency to self-realization and to self-surrender—in the idea of freedom in God. Only as a man finds himself in God does he truly realize himself. In thus expressing himself he gave utterance to the best side of Romanticism. If he regarded sin as a negative thing, and considered the spiritual life as based upon the natural to be realized by continuous progress, he contended with passionate earnestness that life is life only as it is realized in and through God. "The influence of Schleiermacher in religious philosophy rests on the fact that he was the first to undertake a critical analysis of religion, and the problem at which he wrought unceasingly, and which he has done more, perhaps, than any modern thinker to solve, is that of mediating between experience and history, between the conscience of the individual and the conscience of the religious society of which he forms a part."