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The Riddle of Man

Riddle of Man: Pictures from the Thought-Life of Austria

On-line since: 5th October, 2006

Pictures from the Thought-Life of Austria

The author would like to sketch several pictures — nothing other than that — and not about the spiritual thought-life of Austria but only from this life. No kind of completeness will be striven for, not even with respect to what the author himself has to say. Many other things might be much more important than what is to be brought here. But this time only a little bit will be indicated from the spiritual life of Austria that is more or less, directly or indirectly, connected in some way with spiritual streams in which the author himself has stood during his youth. Spiritual streams like those meant here can indeed also be characterized, not by presenting mental pictures one has formed of them, but by speaking of personalities, their way of thinking and inclinations of feeling, in whom one believes these streams to express themselves, as though symptomatically. I would like to depict what Austria reveals about itself through several such personalities. If I use the word “I” in several places, please consider that to be based on my point of view at that time.

I would like first of all to speak about a personality in whom I believe in myself able to see the manifestation in a very noble sense of spiritual Austrianness in the second half of the nineteenth century: Karl Julius Schröer. When I entered the Vienna College of Technology in 1879, he was professor of German literary history there. He first became my teacher and then an older friend. For many years now he has not been among the living.

In the first lecture of his that I heard, he spoke about Goethe's Götz van Berlichingen. The whole age out of which this play grew, and also how Götz burst into this age became this play grew, and also how Götz burst into this age became alive in Schröer's words. A man was speaking who let flow into every one of his judgments what, out of the world view of German idealism, he had incorporated into all the feeling and willing of his entire spiritualized personality, His following lectures built up a living picture of German poetry since Goethe's appearance on the scene, They did so in such a way that through his depiction of poets and poems one always felt the living weaving of views, within the essential being of the German people, struggling to come into reality. Enthusiasm for the ideals of mankind carried Schröer's judgments along, and this enthusiasm implanted a living sense of self into the view of life that took its start in Goethe's age. A spirit spoke out of this man that wanted to communicate only what had become the deepest experience of his own soul during his observations of man's spiritual life.

Many of the people who got to know this personality did not know him. When I was already living in Germany, I was once at a dinner party, a well-known literary historian was sitting beside me. He spoke of a German duchess, whom he praised highly, except that — according to him — she could sometimes err in her otherwise healthy judgment as, for example, when she “considered Schröer to be a significant person.” I can understand that many a person does not find in Schröer's books what many of his students found through the living influence of his personality; but I am convinced that one could also sense much of this in Schröer's writings if one were able to receive an impression not merely by so-called “rigorous methods” or even by such a method in the style of one or another school of literature, but rather by originality in judging, by the revelations of a view one has experienced oneself. Seen this way, a personality grown mature in the idealism of German world views does in fact speak forth from the much maligned book of Schröer, History of German Poetry in the Nineteenth Century and from others of his works. A certain manner of presentation, in his Faust commentaries, for example, could repel many a supposed free thinker. For there does work into Schröer's presentation something that a certain age believed to be inseparable from the character of what is scientific. Even strong-minded thinkers fell under the yoke of this belief; and one must seek these thinkers themselves in their true nature by penetrating through this husk of their creations that was forced upon them by this yoke.

Karl Julius Schröer lived his boyhood and youth in the light of a man who, like himself, had his roots in spiritual German Austrianness, and who was one of its blossoms: his father, Tobias Gottfried Schröer.

It was not so long ago that in the widest circles certain books were known to which many people certainly owed the awakening of a feeling, supported by a view of life in accordance with the spirit, for history, poetry, and art. These books are Letters on Aesthetics' Chief Objects of Study, by Chr. Oeser, The Little Greeks, by Chr. Oeser, World History for Girls' Schools, and other works by the same author. Covering the most manifold areas of human spiritual life from the point of view of a writer for young people, a personality is speaking in these writings who grew up in the way of picturing things of the Goethean age of German spiritual development, and who sees the world with the eye of the soul educated in this way. The author of these books is Tobias Gottfried Schröer, who published them under the name Chr. Oeser. Now, nineteen years after the death of this man, in 1869, the German Schiller Foundation presented his widow with an honorary gift accompanied by a letter in which was stated: “The undersigned Board has heard with deepest regret that the wife of one of the most worthy German writers, of a man who always stood up for the national spirit with talent and with heart, is not living in circumstances appropriate to her status nor to the service tendered by her husband; and so this Board is only fulfilling the duty required of it by the spirit of its statutes when it makes every possible effort to mitigate somewhat the adversity of a hard destiny.” Moved by this decision of the Schiller Foundation, Karl Julius Schröer then wrote an article about his father in the Vienna New Free Press that made public what until then had been known only to a very small circle: that Tobias Gottfried Schröer was not only the author of the books of Chr. Oeser, but also a significant poet and writer of works that were true ornaments of Austrian spiritual life, and that he had remained unknown only because he could not use his own name due to the situation there regarding censorship. His comedy The Bear, for example, appeared in 1830. Karl von Holtei, the significant Silesian poet and actor speaks of it in a letter to the author right after its appearance: “As regards your comedy The Bear: it delighted me. If the conception, the disposition of characters, is entirely yours, then I wish you good luck with all my heart, for you will still write more beautiful plays.” The playwright took all his material from the life of Ivan (the Fourth) Wasiliewitsch and all the characters except Ivan himself are freely created. A later drama, The Life and Deeds of Emerick Tököly and his Comrades in Arms, received warm acclaim, without anyone knowing who the author was. One could read of it in “Magazine for Literary Conversation” (October 25, 1839): “An historical picture of remarkable freshness ... Works offering such a breath of fresh air and with such decisive characters are true rarities in our day ... Each grouping is full of great charm because it is full of great truth; ...The author's Tököly is a Hungarian Götz von Berlichingen and only with it can this drama be compared... From a spirit like this author we can expect anything, even the greatest.” This review is by W. v. Ludemann, who has written a History of Architecture, a History of Painting, Walks in Rome, stories and novellas, works that express sensitivity and great understanding for art.

Through his father's spiritual approach the sun of idealism in German world views had already shone beforehand upon Karl Julius Schröer as he entered the universities of Leipzig, Halle, and Berlin at the end of the 1840s and there could still experience, through much that worked upon him, this idealism's way of picturing things. When he returned to his homeland in 1846, he became director of the Seminar for German Literary History and Language in the Pressburg secondary school for girls that his father had founded in this city. In this position he unfolded an activity that essentially took this form: Through his striving Schröer sought to solve the problem of how to work best in the spiritual life of Austria if one finds the direction of one's strivings already marked out by having received the motive forces of one's own soul from German culture. In a Text and Reading Book (that appeared in 1853 and presents a “History of German Literature”), he spoke of this striving: “Seniors, law students, students of theology ... came together there (in the secondary school) ... I made every effort to present to a circle of listeners like this, in large perspectives, the glory of the German people in its evolution, to stimulate respect for German art and science, and where possible to bring my listeners closer to the standpoint of modern science.” And Schröer describes how he understands his own Germanness like this: “From this standpoint there naturally disappeared from view the one-sided factional passions: one will listen to a Protestant or a Catholic, to a conservative or a subversive enthusiast, or to a zealot of German nationalism only insofar as through them humanity gains and the human race is elevated.” And I want to repeat these words, written almost seventy years ago, not in order to express what was right for a German in Austria at that time, nor even now. I only want to show the nature of one man in whom the German — Austrian spirit expressed itself in a particular way. To what extent this spirit endows the Austrian with the right kind of striving: on this question the adherents of the different parties and nations in Austria will also decide very differently. And in all this one must also remember that Schöer expressed himself in this as a young man still who had just returned from German universities. But the fact is significant that in the soul of this young man — and not for political purposes, but out of purely spiritual thoughts about how to view the world — a German Austrian consciousness formed for itself an ideal for the mission of Austria that Schröer expressed in these words: “If we pursue the comparison of Germany with ancient Greece, and of the Germanic with the Greek tribes, we find a great similarity between Austria and Macedonia. We see the beautiful task of Austria exemplified there: to cast the seeds of Western culture out over the East.”

Schröer later became professor in the University of Budapest and then school director in Vienna; finally, he worked for many years as a professor of German literary history in the Vienna College of Technology. These positions were for him only an outer covering, so to speak, for his significant activity within Austrian spiritual life. This activity begins with an investigation into the soul and linguistic expressions of the German-Austrian folk life. He wants to know what is working and living in the people, not as a dry, prosaic researcher but rather as someone who wants to discover the riddle of the folk soul in order to see what forces of mankind are struggling to come into existence in these souls. Near the Pressburg region, among the farmers, there were living at that time some old Christmas plays. They are performed every year around Christmas time. In handwritten form they are passed down from generation to generation. They show how in the people the birth of Christ, and what is connected with it, lives dramatically in pictures with depth of heart. Schröer collects such plays in a little volume and writes an introduction to them in which he depicts this revelation of the folk soul with most loving devotion, such that his presentation allows the reader to immerse himself in the way the people feel and view things. Out of the same spirit he then undertakes to present the German dialects of the Hungarian mountain regions, of the West-Hungarian Germans, and of the Gottscheer area in Krain. His purpose there is always to solve the riddle of the organism of a people; his findings really give a picture of the life at work in the evolution of language and of the folk soul. And basically the thought is always hovering before him in all these endeavors of learning to know, from the motive forces of its peoples, what determines the life of Austria. A great deal, a very great deal, of the answer to the question, What weaves in the soul of Austria?, is to be found in Schröer's research into dialects.

But this spiritual work had yet another effect upon Schröer himself. It provided him with the basis for deep insights into the essential being of the human soul itself. These insights bore fruit when, as director of several schools, he could test how views about education and teaching take form in a thinker who has looked so deeply into the being of the heart of the people as he had through his research. And so he was able to publish a small work, Questions about Teaching, which in my view should be reckoned among the pearls of pedagogical literature. This little book deals brilliantly with the goals, methods, and nature of teaching. I believe that this little volume, completely unknown today, should be read by everyone who has anything to do with teaching within the German cultural realm. Although this book was written entirely for the situation in Austria. the indications there can apply to the whole German-speaking world. What one today might call outmoded about this book, published in 1876, is inconsiderable when compared with the way of picturing things that is alive in it. A way of picturing things like this, attained on the basis of a rich experience of life, remains ever fruitful even though someone living later must apply it to new conditions. In the last decades of his life Schröer's spiritual work was turned almost entirely to immersing itself in Goethe's life's work and way of picturing things. In the introduction to his book German Poetry of the Nineteenth Century, he stated: “We in Austria want to go hand in hand with the spiritual life of the German empire.” He regarded the world view of German idealism as the root of this spiritual life. And he expressed his adherence to this world view in the words: “The world-rejuvenating appearance of idealism in Germany, in an age of frivolity a hundred years ago, is the greatest phenomenon of modern history. Our intellect (Verstand) — focused only upon what is finite, not penetrating into the depths of essential being — and along with it the egoism focused upon satisfying sensual needs, suddenly retreated before the appearance of a spirit that rose above everything common.” (See the introduction to Schröer's edition of Faust). Schröer saw in Goethe's Faust “the hero of unconquerable idealism. He is the ideal hero of the age in which the play arose. His contest with Mephistopheles expresses the struggle of the new spirit as the innermost being of the age; and that is why this play is so great: it lifts us onto a higher level.”

Schröer declares his unreserved allegiance to German idealism as a world view. In his History of German Poetry of the Nineteenth Century there stand the words with which he wants to characterize the thoughts in which the spirit of the German people expresses itself when it does this in the sense of its own primal being: “Within what is perceived experientially, determining factors are everywhere recognizable that are hidden behind what is finite, behind what can be known by experience. These factors must be called the ‘undetermined’ and must be felt everywhere to be what is constant in change, an eternal lawfulness, and as something infinite. The perceived infinite within the finite appears as idea; the ability to perceive the infinite appears as reason (Vernunft), in contrast to intellect, which remains stuck at what is surveyably finite and can perceive nothing beyond it.” At the same time, in the way Schröer declares his allegiance to this idealism, everything is also at work that is vibrating in his soul, which senses in its own being the Austrian spiritual stream. And this gives his world-view-idealism its particular coloring. When a thought is expressed, there is given it a certain coloring that does not allow it to enter right away the realm described by Hegel as the realm of philosophical knowledge when he said, “The task of philosophy is to grasp what is; for, what is reasonable is real, and what is real is reasonable. When philosophy paints its gray on gray then a form of life has become old; the owl of Minerva begins to fly only when dusk is descending.” (See my book Riddles of Philosophy, vol. I.) No, the Austrian, Schröer, does not want to see the world of thoughts gray on gray; ideas should shine in a color that ever refreshes and rejuvenates our deeper heart. And what would have mattered much more to Schröer in this connection than thinking about the bird of evening was to think about the deeper human heart struggling for light, seeking in the world of ideas the sun of that realm in which our intellect, focused upon the finite and upon the sense world, should be feeling the extinguishing of its light.

*    *    *

Herman Grimm, the gifted art historian, had nothing but good to say about the Austrian culptor Heinrich Natter. In his essay on Natter, published in his Fragments (1900), one can also read what Grimm thought about Natter's relation to Austria. “When I meet Austrians, I am struck by their deep-rooted love for the soil of their particular fatherland and by their impulse to maintain spiritual community with all Germans. Let us think now of one such person, Ignaz Zingerles. Natter's statue of Walter von der Vogelweide owes its existence to the unceasing quiet work of Zingerles. He resembled the men of our earlier centuries through the fact that he was hardly conceivable outside the province of his immediate homeland. He was a figure with simple outlines, fashioned out of faithfulness and honesty as though out of blocks of stone. He was a Tyrolean, as though his mountains were the navel of the earth, an Austrian through and through, and at the same time one of the best and noblest Germans. And Natter was also all these: a good German, Austrian, and Tyrolean.” And about the monument to Walter von der Vogelweide in Bozen Herman Grimm says: “In Natter, inwardness of German feeling was united with formative imagination, His Walter von der Vogelweide stands in Bozen as a triumphant picture of German art, towering up in the crest of the Tyrolean mountains at the border country of the fatherland, A manly solid figure.”

I often had to think of these words of Hennan Grimm when the memory came alive in me of the splendid figure of the Austrian poet Fercher von Steinwand, who died in 1902. He was “all these: a good German, Austrian, and Carinthian,” although one could hardly say of him that he was “inconceivable outside the province of his immediate homeland.” I learned to know him at the end of the 1880's in Vienna and for a short time associated with him personally. He was sixty years old at the time: a true figure of light, even externally; an engaging warmth shone from his noble features, eloquent eyes, and expressive gestures; through tranquil clarity and self-possession, this soul of an older man still gave the effect of youthful freshness. And when one came to know this soul better, its particular nature and creations, one could see how a feeling life instilled by the Carinthian mountains united in this soul with a contemplative life in the power of the idealism in German world views. This contemplation (Sinnen) was already entirely native to his soul as a poetic world of pictures; this contemplation pointed with this world of pictures into the depths of existence; it confronted world riddles artistically, without the originality of artistic creation paling thereby into thought-poetry; one can observe this kind of contemplation in the following lines from Fercher von Steinwand's Chorus of Primal Dreams:

Out of all regions
Ever ascended,
Wanders an ether in far-radiant arches;
Travel the billows to
Depths ever silent.

There with our all-seeing
Will as their cargo,
Wending their way through the fog go our ferries;
Sail between wonderful
Banks new arising.

There before all-warming
Eyes of soft mildness
Winding and turning we fashion our patterns
Out all around dreaming
Regions of star-fields.

There to misfortune we
N'er are indebted,
There we constructed our fortresses hovering, And tribulations we
Joyfully shattered.

He who would paint you with
Most holy features,
Highest abode of our contemplative urgings:
Wait for the swiftest
Servants of love!

The following verses seek to portray how the soul, in thinking-waking daydreams, lives in far-away starry worlds and in immediate reality; then the poet continues:

No matter what careful
Powers accomplish,
Only on dreaming's own wide-spreading pinions
Can what is mighty be
Gained now forever.

Every o'erpowering greatness of action,
All of the angels who guard what was planted
Are given counsel by
Dreams that inspire them.

Fercher von Steinwand then sings further about the penetrating of thinking, spiritualized to the point of dreaming, into the depths of the world, and about the penetrating of that kind of dreaming which is an awakening out of our ordinary waking state into those depths where the life of what is spiritual in the world can make itself tangible to the soul:

Life that our pulsating
Hearts have perceived,
Life that our struggling hearts have ascended
To all the welcoming
Cries of the spirits:

And then Fercher von Steinwand lets sound forth to the human spirit what the beings of the spirit realm speak to the soul that opens itself to them in inner contemplation:

Healed ones, now be here by
Loving encircled!
What you were seeking in uplifting hours,
Here, you selected ones,
Is it disclosed;
Here in the grandeur of
Halls of the Godhead,
Where to the heart other hearts are so pleasing,
Where buried voices are
Sounding forth newly

Where now the care-worn are
Royally striving,
Radiant souls now in smiles are all wreathed,
Round all the wrecks of the
Wheels of the ages —

Only the blinded ones,
Earth-bound and foolish,
Were for the gulf of destruction begotten,
Lost to the worlds of
Spirit perfection!
Weal to the sens'tive one
Round whom we hover,
Whom we enliven to bloss'ming existence,
All without weaving in
Fugitive shadows!

In the literary works of Fercher von Steinwand there then follows upon this Chorus of Primal Dreams his Chorus of Primal Impulses:

In the distances unbounded
Of our ancient mother Night.
Hark — to be in inward conflict
Seems the deep mysterious might!
Do we hear present'ment striding?
Is our longing wide awake?
Was a spirit-lightning lit?
Are our dreams through spaces gliding?

How now are powers by powers enraptured,
Blessed exchanges!
Now sudden hastenings.
Then quiet lingerings,
Reveling listenings
Change into beckonings
Marveling fearings!
Charm of desiring
Mounts, and sinks down,
Sinks into hatred.
Faced with the pallid
Picture of embracing
Cannot clasp hatred.
Ramifications dim,
Inclinings burgeoning,
Send forth their tendrils.
Ponderous inklings
Dawn and go faltering
O'er the wide spaces,
Seem to give counsel
Or to give guidance.
What they're preparing
Is it the sowing
Of immense actions,
Of radiant ages?
Who felt the furrows
To be creative!
Who wandered through them
Blissfully savoring,
Or disentangling,
Grandeurs discovering!
Yonder the stir is like spirits embracing
We are enwarmed
And are receiving,
Seeking, and thinking,
See ourselves lifted,
Woven in joy with
Highest beginnings.
You wafting ‘round us,
In us arising:
“You are ideas! —”

Reflecting in this way, the poet's soul enters into an experience of how the ideas of the world-spirit announce the secrets of existence to the spirit of man's soul and of how the spirit of man's soul beholds the shapers of sense-perceptible shapes. — After presenting the observations of the soul within the chorus of primal world impulses in brilliant, ringing pictures, the poet concludes:

May duration grow accustomed
To what urge has conjured up;
May adorning and appeasement
In creation's stream prevail.
Sweetest light! in noble ringing
Mounts my heart aloft to you:
Linger at your western gate;
Help to crown the deed of love!
Risen from all earthly bonds is our impulse Soul — resurrected!
But what is ripened
Ruling, and valid
Proves to be spirit!
All that is circling,
All earth foundations,
All heavenly kindlings are
Self-made in spirit,
Came forth from spirit,
Work through the spirit

Powerful freedom from chaos did fashion
Space for good fortune!
Cloaked, with the dew of its deep-breathing mildness, Forest and field!
Cared that the dew and the light be companions,
Forming the hem of deep transfiguration —
Cared that each droplet should float at the threshold
of Spiritual radiance!

In Ferchervon Steinwand's Complete Works (published by Theodor Daberkow in Vienna), there are also several indications about his life given by the poet himself when pressed by friends on the occasion of his seventieth birthday, He wrote, “I began life on March 22, 1828 upon the heights of the Steinwand above the banks of the Möll in Carinthia (Kärten); that means, in the midst of a defiant congregation of mountains with their heads held high, beneath whose domineering grandeur burdened human beings seem continuously to grow poorer,”

Since, in his Chorus of Primal Impulses, we find the world view of German idealism cast in the form of a poetic creation, it is interesting to see how the poet, on his paths through Austrian spiritual life, receives impulses from this world view already in his youth. He describes how he enters the university in Graz: “With my credentials — which of course consisted only of my report cards — held tight against my chest, I presented myself to the dean. That was Professor Edlauer, a criminologist of high repute. He hoped to see me (he said) industriously present in his lecture course on natural law. Behind the curtain of this innocent title he presented us for the whole semester, in rousing lectures, with those German philosophers who, under the fatherly care of our well-meaning spiritual guardians were banned and kept from us: Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, and so on — heroes, therefore; that means men who founded and fructified all areas of pure thinking, who gave the language and created the concepts for all the other sciences, and who, consequently, are illustrious names shining from our street comers today and seeming almost strange there in their particular diamond clarity. This semester was my vita nuova!”

Whoever learns to know Fercher von Steinwand's tragedy Dankmar, his Countess Seelenbrand, his German Tones from Austria, and other works of his will be able through this to feel many of the forces that were working in the Austrian spiritual life of the second half of the nineteenth century. And everything about Fercher von Steinwand testifies to the fact that one receives out of his soul a picture from this spiritual life in clarity, truth, and genuineness. The amiable Austrian poet in dialect Leopold Hormann felt rightly when he wrote the words:

Far from all baseness
All avarice and meanness;
Foe of publicity,
That loathesome false lady;
German in soul,
Strong yet with kindness
Great in his thinking,
No faltering and wavering,
Proof against all objections: —
Fercher von Steinwand!

*    *    *

Out of the Austrian spiritual life of the second half of the nineteenth century, a thinker arose who brought to expression deeply significant characteristics of the content of modern world views: the moral philosopher of Darwinism, Bartholomaeus von Carneri. He was a thinker who experienced the public life of Austria as his own happiness or suffering; for many years, as a representative in the federal council, he took an active interest in this life with all the power of his spirit. Carneri could only appear at first to be an opponent of a world view in accordance with the spirit. For, all his efforts go to shaping a world picture from only those mental pictures which occur in the train of thought stimulated by Darwinism. But if one reads Carneri with a sense not only for the content of his views but also for what lay beneath the surface of his truth-seeking soul, one will discover a remarkable fact. An almost entirely materialistic world picture takes shape in this thinker, but with a clarity of thought that stems from the deep-lying, idealistic basic impulse of his being. For him as for many of his contemporaries the mental pictures growing from a world view rooted entirely in the soil of Darwinism burst into his thought-life with such overpowering force that he could do no other than incorporate all his consideration of man's spiritual life into this world view. To want to approach the spirit cognitively on any path other than those taken by Darwin seemed to him to rend the unified being that must extend out over all human striving in knowledge. In his view Darwinism had shown how a unified, lawful interrelationship of causes and effects encompasses the development of all the beings of nature up to man. Whoever understands the sense of this interrelationship must also see how the same lawfulness enhances and refines the natural forces and drives in man in such a way that they grow upward to the heights of moral ideals and views. Carneri believes that only man's blind arrogance and misled overestimation of himself can entice his striving for knowledge into wanting to approach the spiritual world by different cognitive means than in approaching nature.

Every page of Carneri's writings on the moral being of man, however, shows that he would have shaped his view of life in Hegel's way if, at a particular point of development in his life, Darwinism had not struck like lightning, with irresistible suggestive force, into his thought-world; this occurred in such a way that with great effort he silenced his predisposition toward an idealistically developed world view. As his writings also attest, this world view would definitely not have arisen through the pure thinking at work in Hegel, but rather through a thinking that resounded with a hearty, contemplative quality; but his thinking would have gone in Hegel's direction.

As though from hidden depths of Carneri's soul, Hegel's way of picturing things often arises in Carneri's writings, cautioning him as it were. On page 79 of his Fundamentals of Ethics one reads: “With Hegel ... a dialectical movement took the place of the law of causality: a gigantic thought, which, like the Titans all, could not escape the fate of arrogance. His monism wanted to storm Olympus but sank back down to earth; it remained a beacon for all future thought, however, illuminating the path and also the abyss.” On page 154 of the same book, Carneri speaks of the nature of the Greek way and says of it: “In this respect We do not remember the mythical heroic age, nor yet the times of Homer. ... We take ourselves back to the highlight of ages that Hegel depicted so aptly as the youthful age of mankind.” On page 189 Carneri characterizes the attempts that have been made to fathom the laws of thinking, and observes: “The most magnificent example of this kind is Hegel's attempt to let thoughts unfold, so to speak, without being determined by the thinker. The fact that he went too far in this does not prevent an unprejudiced person from acknowledging this attempt (to see one single law as underlying all physical and spiritual evolution) to be the most splendid one on the whole history of philosophy. The services he rendered to the development of German thinking are imperishable, and many an enthusiastic student who later became an embittered opponent of his has unintentionally raised a lasting monument to him in the perfection of expression he acquired through Hegel.” On page 421 one reads: “Hegel has told us, in an unsurpassable manner, how far one can go in philosophizing” with mere, so-called, healthy common sense.

Now one could assert that Carneri too has “raised a lasting monument to Hegel in the perfection of expression he acquired through Hegel,” even though he applied this way of expression to a world picture with which Hegel would certainly not have been in agreement. But Darwinism worked upon Carneri with such suggestive power that he included Hegel, along with Spinoza and Kant, among those thinkers of whom he said: “They would have acknowledged the sincerity of his (Carneri's) striving, which would never have dared to look beyond them if Darwin had not rent the curtain that hung like night over the whole creation as long as the theory of purpose remained irrefutable. We have this consciousness, but also the conviction that these men would have left many things unsaid or would have said them differently if it had been granted them to live in our age of liberated natural science...”

Carneri has developed a variety of materialism in which mental sharpness often degenerates into naiveté, and insights about “liberated natural science” often degenerate into blindness toward the impossibility of one's own concepts. “We grasp substance as matter insofar as phenomena — resulting from the divisibility and movement of substance — work corporeally, i.e., as mass, upon our senses. If the divisions or differentiations go so far that the phenomena resulting from them are no longer sense-perceptible but are now only perceptible to thinking, then the effect of substance is a spiritual one” (Carneri's Fundamentals of Ethics, p. 30). That is as if someone were to explain reading by saying: As long as a person has not learned to read, he cannot say what stands upon the written page of a book. For, only the shapes of the letters reveal themselves to his gaze. As long as he can view only these letter shapes, into which the words are divisible, his observation of the letters cannot lead to reading. Only when he manages also to perceive the letter shapes in a yet more divided or differentiated form will the sense of these letters work upon his soul.

Of course, an unshakable believer in materialism would find an objection like this absurd. But the difficulty of putting materialism in the right light lies precisely in this necessity of expressing such simple thoughts in order to do so. One must express thoughts that one can scarcely believe the adherents of materialism do not form for themselves. And so the biased charge can easily be leveled against someone trying to clarify materialism that he is using meaningless phraseology to counter a view that rests upon the empirical knowledge of modern science and upon its rigorous principles.(1) Nevertheless, the great power of materialism to convince its adherents arises only through the fact that they are unable to feel the weight of the simple arguments that destroy their view. Like so many others, they are convinced not by the light of logical reasons which they have examined, but by the force of habitual thoughts which they have not examined, which, in fact, they feel no immediate need to examine at all. But Carneri does differ from the materialists who scarcely have any inkling of this need, through the fact that his idealism continuously brings this need to his consciousness; he must therefore silence this need, often by quite artificial means. He has scarcely finished professing that the spiritual is an effect of finely split-up substance when he adds: “This conception of the spirit will be unsatisfying to many people who make other claims about the spirit; still, in the further course of our investigations, the value of our view will prove to be significant and entirely able to show the materialism which wants to grasp the phenomena of the spirit corporeally that it cannot go beyond certain bounds” (Fundamentals of Ethics, p. 30). Yes, Carneri has a real aversion to being counted among the materialists; he defends himself against this with statements like the following: “Rigid materialism is just as one-sided as the old metaphysics: the former arrives at no meaning for its configurations; the latter arrives at no configurations for its meaning; with materialism there is a corpse; with metaphysics there is a ghost; and what they are both struggling for in vain is the creative heat of sentient life” (Fundamentals of Ethics, p. 68).

But Carneri does feel, in fact, how justified one is in calling him a materialist; for, no one with healthy senses, after all, even if he is an adherent of materialism, will declare that a moral ideal can be “grasped corporeally,” to use Carneri's expression. He will say only that a moral ideal manifests in connection with what is material through a material process. And that is also what Carneri states in his above assertion about the divisibility of substance. Out of this feeling he then says (in his book Sensation and Consciousness): “One will reproach us with materialism insofar as we deny all spirit and grant existence only to matter. But this reproach is no longer valid the moment one takes one's start from this ideal nature of one's picture of the world, for which matter itself is nothing but a concept a thinking person has.” But now take hold of your head and feel whether it is still all there after participating in this kind of a conceptual dance! Substance becomes matter when it is so coarsely split up that it works only “upon the senses as mass”; it becomes spirit when it is split up so finely that it is then “perceptible only to thinking.” And matter, i.e., coarsely split up substance, is after all only “a concept a thinking person has.” When split up coarsely, therefore, substance achieves nothing more than playing the — to a materialist! — dubious role of a human concept; but split up more finely, substance becomes spirit. But then the bare human concept would have to split up even finer. Now such a world view would make that hero, who pulled himself out of the water by his own hair, into the perfect model for reality.

One can understand why another Austrian thinker, F. von Feldegg (in the November 1894 edition of “German Words”), would reply to Carneri with these words: “The moment one takes one's start from the ideal nature of one's picture of the world! What an arbitrary supposition, in all the forced wrong-headedness of that thought! Does it indeed depend so entirely on our pleasure whether we take our start from the ideal nature of our picture of the world or, for example, from its opposite — from the reality of our picture of the world in fact? And matter, for this ideal nature, is supposed to be altogether nothing except a concept a thinking person has? This is actually the most absolute idealism — like that of a Hegel, for example — which is meant to render assistance here against the reproach of materialism; but it won't do to turn to someone in the moment of need whom one has persistently denied until then. And how is Carneri to reconcile this idealistic belief with everything else in his book? In fact, there is only one explanation for this state of affairs and that is: Even Carneri is afraid of, yet covets, the transcendental. But that is a half-measure which exacts a heavy toll. Carneri's ‘Monistic Misgivings’ fall in this way into two heterogeneous parts, into a crudely materialistic part and into a hiddenly idealistic part. In the one part, the author's head is correct in the end, because he is undeniably sunk over his head in materialism; but in the other part, the author's deeper heart (Gemüt) resists the clumsy demands of rationalism's modes and conceits; it resists them with all the power of that metaphysical magic from which, even in our crudely sense-bound age, nobler natures are not able to escape entirely.”

And yet, in spite of all this, Carneri is a significant personality of whom one can say (as I indicated in my book Riddles of Philosophy: “This Austrian thinker sought, out of Darwinism, to open wide vistas in viewing the world and in shaping life. Eleven years after the appearance of Darwin's Origin of Species, Carneri came out with his book Morality and Darwinism, in which, in a most comprehensive manner, he turned this new world of ideas into the foundation of an ethical world view. After that he worked ceaselessly to elaborate a Darwinistic ethics. Carneri seeks to find elements in our picture of nature through which the self-conscious ‘I’ can fit into this picture. He wants to think this picture of nature so broadly and largely that it can also comprise the human soul.”

By their very character, Carneri's writings seem to me in fact everywhere to challenge us to root everything out of their content that their author had forced himself into by surrendering to the yoke of the materialistic world view; his writings challenge us to look only at that which — like an elemental inspiration of his deeper heart — appears in them as a revelation of a large-scale human being. Just read, from this point of view, what he thinks the task to be for an education toward true humanness: “It is the task of education ... to develop the human being in such a way that he must do the good, that human dignity not suffer from this, but that the harmonious development of a being who by his very nature is happy to do what is noble and great is an ethical phenomenon more beautiful than anything we could imagine. ... The accomplishment of this magnificent task is possible through man's striving for bliss, into which his drive for self-preservation purifies itself as soon as his intelligence develops fully. Thinking is based on sensation and is only the other side of feeling; which is why all thinking that does not attain maturity through the warmth of feeling — and also all feeling that does not illuminate itself with the light of thinking — is one-sided. It is the task of education, through the harmonious development of thinking and feeling, to purify man's striving for bliss in such a way that the ‘I’ will see in the ‘you’ its natural extension and in the ‘we’ its necessary consummation, and egoism will recognize altruism as its higher truth. ... Only from the standpoint of our drive to attain bliss is it comprehensible that a person would give his life for a loved one or to a noble end: he sees precisely in this his higher happiness. In seeking his true happiness, man attains morality, But he must be educated toward this, educated in such a way that he can absolutely do no other. In the blissful feeling of the nobility of his deed he finds his most beautiful recompense and demands nothing more.” (See Carneri's introduction to his book Modern Man.) One can see: Carneri considers our striving for bliss, as he sees it, to be a power of nature lying within true human nature; he considers it to be a power that, under the right conditions, must unfold, the way a seed must unfold when it has the appropriate conditions. In the same way that a magnet, through its own particular being, has the power to attract, so the animal has the drive of self-preservation and man the drive to attain bliss. One does not need to graft anything onto man's being in order to lead them to morality; one needs only to develop rightly their drive to attain bliss; then, through this drive, they will unfold themselves to true morality. Carneri observes in detail the various manifestations of human soul life: how sensation stimulates or dulls this life; how emotions and passions work: and how in all this the drive to attain bliss unfolds. He presupposes this drive in all these soul manifestations as their actual basic power. And through the fact that he endows this concept of bliss with a broad meaning, all the sours wishing, wanting, and doing falls — for him, in any case — into the realm of this concept. How a person is depends upon which picture of his own happiness is hovering before him: One person sees his happiness in satisfying his lower drives; another person sees it in deeds of devoted love and self-denial. If it were said of someone that he was not striving for happiness, that he was only selflessly doing his duty, Carneri would object: This is precisely what gives him the feeling of happiness — to chase after happiness but not consciously. But in broadening the concept of bliss in this way, Carneri reveals the absolutely idealistic basic tenor of his world view. For if happiness is something quite different for different people, then morality cannot lie in the striving for happiness; the fact is, rather, that man feels his ability to be moral as something that makes him happy. Through this, human striving is not brought down out of the realm of moral ideals into the mere craving for happiness; rather, one recognizes that it lies in the essential being of man to see his happiness in the achieving of his ideals. “We are convinced,” says Carneri, “that ethics has to make do with the argument that the path of man is the path to bliss, and that man, in traveling the path to bliss, matures into a moral being.” (Fundamentals of Ethics, p. 423)

Whoever believes now that through such views Carneri wants to make ethics Darwinistic is allowing himself to be misled by the way this thinker expresses himself. He is compelled to express himself like this by the overwhelming power of the predominant natural-scientific way of picturing things in his age. The truth is: Carneri does not want to make ethics Darwinistic; he wants to make Darwinism ethical. He wants to show that one need only know man in his true being — like the natural scientist seeks to know a being in nature — in order to find him to be not a nature being but rather a spirit being. Carneri's significance consists in the fact that he wants to let Darwinism flow into a world view in accordance with the spirit. And through this he is one of the significant spirits of the second half of the nineteenth century. One does not understand the demands placed on humanity by the natural-scientific insights of this age if one thinks like those people who want to let all striving for knowledge merge into natural science, if one thinks like those who toward the end of the nineteenth century called themselves adherents of materialism, or even if one thinks like those today who actually are not less materialistic but who assure us ever and again that materialism has “long ago been overcome” by science. Today, many people say they are not materialists only because they lack the ability to understand that they are in fact materialists. One can flatly state that nowadays many people stop worrying about their materialism by pretending to themselves that in their view it is no longer necessary to call themselves materialists. One must nevertheless label them so. One has not yet overcome materialism by rejecting the view of a series of thinkers from the second half of the nineteenth century who held all spiritual experiences to, be the mere working of substance; one overcomes it only by allowing oneself to think about the spiritual in a way that accords with the spirit, just as one thinks about nature in a way that accords with nature. What is meant by this is already clear from the preceding arguments of this book, but will become particularly apparent in the final considerations conceived of as “new perspectives” in our last chapter,

But one will also not do justice to the demands placed on humanity by the natural-scientific insights of our age if one sets up a world view against natural science, and only rejects the “raw” mental pictures of “materialism,” Since the achievement of the natural-scientific insights of the nineteenth century, any world view that is in accordance with the spirit and that wishes to be in harmony with its age must take up these insights as part of its thought-world. And Carneri grasped this powerfully and expressed it urgently in his writings. Carneri, who was only taking his first steps on the path of a genuine understanding of modern natural scientific mental pictures, could not yet fully see that such an understanding does not lead to a consolidating of materialism but rather to its true overcoming, Therefore he believed — to refer once more to the words of Brentano (see page 45 of this book) — that no success can be expected from modern science in “gaining certainty about the hopes of a Plato and Aristotle for the continued existence of our better part after the dissolution of the body,” But whoever goes deeply enough into Carneri's thoughts, not only to grasp their content but also to observe the path of knowledge on which this thinker could take only the first steps, will find that through him, in another direction, something similar has occurred for the elaboration of the world view of German idealism as occurred through Troxler, Immanuel Hermann Fichte, and others going in the direction characterized in this book. These spirits sought, with the powers of Hegelian thinking, to penetrate not merely into spirit that has become sense-perceptible but also into that realm of spirit which does not reveal itself in the sense world. Carneri strives, with a view of life in accordance with the spirit, to devote himself to the natural-scientific way of picturing things. The further pursuit of the path sensed by these thinkers can show that the cognitive powers to which they turned will not destroy the “hopes of a Plato and Aristotle for the continued existence of our better part after the dissolution of the body,” but rather will give these hopes a sound basis in knowledge. On the one hand, F.v. Feldegg, whom we have already mentioned (“German Words,” November 1894), is certainly justified when he says — in connection with the conflict in which Carneri was placed toward idealism and materialism: — “But the time is no longer far off in which this conflict will be settled, not merely as one might suppose within the single individual, but within our whole cultural consciousness. But Carneri's ‘Misgivings’ are perhaps an isolated forerunner of completely different and more powerful ‘Misgivings,’ which then, raging toward us like a storm, will sweep away everything about our ‘scientific’ creed that has not yet fallen prey to self-disintegration,” On the other hand, one can recognize that Carneri, by the work he did on Darwinism for ethics, became at the same time one of the first to overcome the Darwinian way of thinking.

*    *    *

Carneri was a personality whose thinking about the questions of existence gave all his activity and work in life their particular stamp. He was not one of those who become “philosophers” by allowing the healthy roots of life reality to dry up within them. Rather, he was one of those who proved that a realistic study of life can create practical people better than that attitude which keeps itself fearfully, and yet comfortably, at a distance from all ideas and which obstinately harps on the theme that the “true” conduct of life must not be spoiled by any dreaming in concepts. Carneri was an Austrian representative in the Styrian provincial diet from 1861 on, and in the federal council from 1870 to 1891. Even now, I often have to think back on the heart-lifting impression he made on me when, from the gallery of the Viennese federal council, as a young man of twenty-five just beginning life, I heard Carneri speak. A man stood down there who had taken up deeply into his thoughts the determining factors of Austrian life and the situation arising from the evolution of Austrian culture and from the life forces of its peoples; this was a man who spoke what he had to express from that high vantage point upon which his world view had placed him. And in all this there was never a pale thought. always tones of heart's warmth, always ideas that were strong with reality, not the words of a merely thinking head; rather, the revelations of a whole man who felt Austria pulsing in his own soul and who had clarified this feeling through the idea: “Mankind will deserve its name wholly, and wholly travel the path of morality only when it knows no other battle than work. no other shield than right, no other weapon than intelligence, no other banner than civilization.” (Carneri, Morality and Darwinism, p. 508)

I have tried to show how a thoughtful idealism constitutes the roots, solidly planted in reality, of Carneri's soul life; but also how — overwhelmed by the materialistic view of the time — this idealism goes its way accompanied by a thinking whose contradictions are indeed sensed but not fully resolved. I believe that this, in the form in which it manifests in Carneri, is based on a particular characteristic that the folk spirit (Volkstum) in Austria can easily impress upon the soul, a characteristic, it seems to me, that can be understood only with difficulty outside of Austria, even by Germans. One can experience it, perhaps, only if one has oneself grown up in the Austrian folk spirit (Volksart). This characteristic has been determined by the evolution of Austrian life during the last centuries. Through education there, one is brought into !:I. different relationship to the manifestations of the immediate folk spirit than in German areas outside Austria. In Austria, what one takes up through one's schooling bears traits that are not so directly a transformation of what one experiences from the folk spirit as is the case with the Germans in Germany. Even when Fichte unfolds his thoughts to their fullest extent, there lives something in them recognizable as a direct continuation of the folk element working in his Central German fatherland, in the house of Christian Fichte, the farmer and weaver. In Austria, what one develops in oneself through education and self-education often bears fewer of such directly indigenous characteristics. The indigenous element lives more indirectly, yet often no less powerfully thereby. One bears conflicting feelings in one's soul; this conflict, in its unconscious working, gives life there its particularly Austrian coloring.

As an example of an Austrian with this soul characteristic, let us look at Mission, one of the most significant Austrian poets in dialect.

To be sure, poetry in dialect has also arisen in other Germans out of subterranean depths of the soul similar to those of Mission. But what is characteristic of him is that he became a poet in dialect through the above-mentioned trait existing in the soul life of many Austrians. Joseph Mission was born in 1803, in Mühlbach, in the Lower Austrian district, below Mannhardtsberg; he completed school in Krems and entered the Order of Pious Schools. He worked as a secondary school teacher in Horn, Krems, and Vienna. In 1850 there appeared a pearl of Austrian poetry in dialect written by him: “Ignaz, a Lower Austrian Farmer Boy, Goes Abroad.” It was published in an uncompleted form. The provost Karl Landsteiner, in a beautiful little book, later wrote about Mission and reprinted the uncompleted poem.)

Karl Julius Schröer said of it (1875), and quite aptly, in I my opinion: “As small as the poem is and as solitary as it has remained through the fact that Mission published nothing further, it nevertheless deserves special attention. It is of the first order among Austria's poems in dialect. The epic peacefulness that permeates the whole, and the masterful depiction in the details that enthralls us constantly, I astonishing and refreshing us through its truth — these are qualities in Mission that no one else has equaled.” The setting out on his travels of a Lower Austrian farmer boy is what Mission portrays. A direct, truth-sustained revelation of the Lower Austrian folk spirit (Volkstum) lives in this poem. Mission lived in the world of thoughts he had attained through his education and self-education. This life represented the one side of his soul. This was not a direct continuation of the life rooted in his Lower Austrianness. But precisely because of this and as though unconnected to this more personal side of his soul experiences, there arose in his heart (Gemüt) the truest picture of his folk spirit, as though from subterranean depths of the soul, and placed itself there I as the other side of his inner experience. The magic of the direct folk spirit quality of Mission's poem is an effect of the “two souls within his breast.” I will now quote a part of this poem here and then reproduce the Lower Austrian dialect in High German prose as truly and modestly as possible. (In this reproduction, my intentions are only that the sense of the poem emerge fully in a feeling way. If, in such a translation, one simply replaces the word in dialect with the corresponding word in High German, the matter becomes basically falsified. For, the word in dialect often corresponds to a completely different nuance of feeling than the corresponding word in High German.)

Advice from my Father for my Travels
(Translation of Rudolf Steiner's High German prose version.)

Ignaz, now listen well to what I say to you; I am your father.
In God's name, since it must be so that you are to seek your fortune in the wide world,
Therefore I must tell you this; and what I tell you take well to heart.
I and your mother are old and have stayed at home; you know that nothing comes from that.
One slaves away, takes pains, works hard, and weakens oneself in the care of work
One does this out of love for one's children; what would one not do just so they will not fall into bad ways.
If later one becomes weak and sick, and hard times come,
Even they spring upon us lovingly if, when they come, proper honest children
Are standing by to help, so that one can more easily do what the state and life demands.
If good fortune should find you, don't live like a cavalier.
Stay as you were, in the golden mean of the middle road; do not budge from the right path of life.
Good fortune is round like a ball; it rolls just as easily away from as toward us.
If some effort does not succeed, or if a misfortune befalls you, do not speak of it to people.
Remain calm; let nothing show; do not be faint-hearted;
Pour out your troubles to God alone; beg him; I tell you, He makes everything better again!
To act troubled, to withdraw, to pull a sour face, to be whiny: nothing is achieved by that.
To let your head hang as though the chickens had eaten your bread away from you:
That improves nothing bad, let alone making the good even better!
Guard the possessions you take with you; take a little care for the future.
If someone gives you something, just receive it, without affectation, and say: “God bless you!”
Listen, Ignaz, and remember this well: no one has ever been punished for being polite!
Don't act stubborn; new places make a person modest; this is a saying and a true word.
Don't be led astray into gambling; don't let the dance floor mean too much to you.
Don't let anyone read your future in the cards; and do not seek your destiny in the book of dreams.
If two paths lie before you and one of them is new, then you take the old one.
If one is crooked, which is often the case, then you take the straight one.
Protect your health; health is the best of all possessions.
Admit it to me, after all: What does one really possess in the world if one lacks health?


If you ever come back home and no longer find us old folk in this little room,
Then we are there where your grandfather and your grandmother await us with joy,
Where our benefactors and our dead relatives will find us!
They will all recognize us at once — and this, Ignaz, is something very — beautiful.


In 1879 Karl Julius Schröer writes the following about this Austrian from whose educated soul there arose so magnificently the life of the peasants and also, as the above section of his poem shows so well, the native philosophy of the peasants: “His talent found no encouragement. Although he wrote much more than the above work, he burned his entire literary output ... and now lives as librarian for the Piaristic faculty of St. Thekla of the Fields in Vienna, isolated from all social intercourse, as he puts it, ‘without joy or sorrow.’” As in the case of Joseph Mission one must seek many personalities of Austrian spiritual life living in obscurity.

Mission cannot come into consideration as a thinker among the personalities portrayed in this book. Nevertheless, to picture his soul life gives one an understanding for the particular coloration of the ideas of Austrian thinkers. The thoughts of Schelling, Hegel, Fichte, and Planck shape themselves plastically out of each other like parts of a thought-organism. One thought grows forth from the other.

And in the physiognomy of this whole thought-organism one recognizes characteristics of a certain people. In the case of Austrian thinkers one thought stands more beside the other; and each one grows on its own — not so much out of the other — but out of a common soul ground. Therefore the total configuration does not bear the direct characteristics of the people; but, on the other hand, these characteristics are poured out over each individual thought like a kind of basic mood. This basic mood is held back by these thinkers within their heart (Gemüt) in the way natural to them; it sounds forth but faintly. It manifests in a personality like Mission as homesickness for what is elemental in his people. In Schröer, Fercher von Steinwand, Cameri, and even in Hamerling, this basic mood works along everywhere in the fundamental tone of their striving. Through this, their thinking takes on a contemplative character.

*    *    *

In Robert Hamerling one of the greatest poets of modern times has arisen from the lower Austrian district. At the same time he is one of the bearers of the idealism in German world views. In this book I do not intend to speak about the nature and significance of Hamerling's literary works. I wish only to indicate something of the position he took within the evolution of world views in modern times. He did in fact give expression in the form of thoughts to his world view in his work The Atomism of Will. (The Styrlan poet and folk author Adolf Harpf published this book in 1891, after Hamerling's death.) The book bears the subtitle “Contribution to a Critique of Modern Knowledge.”

Hamerling knew that many who called themselves philosophers would receive his “contribution” with — perhaps tolerant — bewonderment. Many might think: What could this idealistically inclined poet undertake to accomplish in a field that demands the strictly scientific approach? And the presentations in his book did not convince those who asked this; for their judgment of him was only a wave rising from the depths of their souls where (in an unconscious or subconscious way) this judgment issued from habits of thought. Such people can be very clever; scientifically they can be very important: and yet the struggles of a truly poetic nature are not comprehensible to them. Within the soul of such a poetic nature there live all the conflicts from which the riddles of the world present themselves to human beings. A truly poetic nature, therefore, has inner experience of these world riddles. When such a nature expresses itself poetically, there holds sway in the foundations of his soul the questioning world order that,without transforming itself in his consciousness into thoughts, manifests itself in elemental artistic creation. To be sure, no inkling of the real being of such true poetic natures is present even in those poets who recoil from a world view as from a fire that might singe their “life-filled originality.” A true poet might never shape thoughts in his consciousness for what actually lives powerfully in the roots of his soul life in the way of unconscious world thoughts: nevertheless, he stands with his inner experience in those depths of reality of which a person has no inkling if, in his comfortable wisdom, he regards as mere dreams the place where sense-perceptible reality is granted its existence from out of the spirit. If now, for once, a truly poetic nature like Robert Hamerling, without dulling his creative poetic power, is able to lift into his consciousness, as a thought-world, what often has remained unconscious in other poets, then, with respect to such a phenomenon, one can also hold the view that, through this, special light is shed from spiritual depths upon the riddles of the world. In the foreword of his Atomism of Will, Hamerling himself tells how he arrived at his thought-world. “I did not suddenly throw myself upon philosophy at some point out of a whim, for example, or because I wanted to by my hand at something different. Moved by the natural and inescapable urge that drives us, after all, to search out the truth and solve the riddles of existence, I have occupied myself since earliest youth with the great questions about human cognition. I have never been able to regard philosophy as a special department of science that one can study or not study — like statistics or forestry — but always as the investigation into what is most immediate important, and interesting to every person. ... For my own part, I could by no means keep myself from following the most primal, natural, and universal of all spiritual drives and from forming a judgment over the course of the years about the fundamental questions of existence and life.”

One of the people who valued Hamerling's thought-world highly was Vincenz Knauer, the learned and sensitive Benedictine priest living in Vienna. As guest lecturer at the university in Vienna, he held lectures in which he wanted to show how Hamerling stood in that evolutionary stream of world views that began with Thales in Greece and that manifested in the Austrian poet and thinker in its most significant form for the end of the nineteenth century. To be sure, Vincenz Knauer belonged to those researchers to whom narrow-heartedness is foreign. As a young philosopher he wrote a book on the moral philosophy in Shakespeare's works. (Knauer's lectures in Vienna were published under the title The Main Problems of Philosophy from Thales to Hamerling.)

The basic idealistic mood underlying Hamerling's view of reality also lives in his literary work. The figures in his epic and dramatic creations are not a copy of what spirit-shy observation sees in outer life; they show everywhere how the human soul receives direction and impulses from a spiritual world. Adherents of spirit-shy observation are critical of such creations. They call them bloodless mental products lacking the juice of real life. They are often to be heard belaboring the catch phrase: The characters of this poet are not like the people who walk around in the world; they are schemata, born of abstractions. If the “men of reality” who speak like this could only have an inkling, in fact, how much they themselves are walking abstractions and their belief the abstraction of an abstraction! If they only knew how soulless their blood-filled characters are to someone having a sense not just for pulsing blood but also for the way soul pulses in the blood. From this kind of “reality standpoints” one has said that Hamerling's dramatic work Danton and Robespierre has enriched the shadow folk of bygone revolutionary heros with a number of new schemata.

Hamerling defended himself against such criticisms in his “Epilogue to the Critics” which he appended to the later editions of his Ahasver in Rome. In this epilogue he writes: “... People say that Ahasver in Rome is an ‘allegorical’ work — a word that immediately makes many people break out in goose-bumps. — The poem is allegorical, to be sure, insofar as a mythical figure is woven in whose right to existence is always based only upon the fact that it represents something. For, every myth is an idea brought into picture form by the imagination of the people. But, people will say, Nero is also supposed to ‘represent’ something — the ‘lust for life’! All right, he does represent the lust for life; but no differently than Moliere's Miser represents miserliness and Shakespeare's Romeo love. There are, to be sure, poetic figures that are nothing more at all than allegorical schemata and consist only of their inner abstract significance — comparable to Heine's sick, skinny Kanonikus who finally was composed of nothing but ‘spirit and bandages.’ But, for a poetic figure filled with real life, its inherent significance is not some vampire that sucks out its blood. Does anything actually exist that ‘signifies’ nothing? I would like to know, after all, how a beggar would manage not to signify poverty and a Croesus wealth. ... I believe therefore that Nero, who is thirsting for life, sacrifices Just as little of his reality by ‘signifying’ lust for life when placed next to Ahasver, who is longing for death, as a rich merchant sacrifices of his blooming stoutness by happening to stand beside a beggar and necessarily making visible, in an allegorical group, the contrast between poverty and wealth,” This is how a poet, ensouled by an idealistic world view, repulses the attacks of those who shudder if they catch a scent anywhere of an idea rooted in true reality, in spiritual reality.

When one begins a reading of Hamerling's Atomism of Will, one can at first have the definite feeling that he let himself be convinced by Kantianism that a knowledge of true reality, of the “thing-in-itself,” was impossible. Still, in the further course of the presentations in his book, one sees that what happened for Hamerling with Kantianism was like Carneri with Darwinism. He let himself be overcome by the suggestive power of certain Kantian thoughts; but then the view wins out in him that man — even though he cannot push through to true reality by looking outward with his senses — does nevertheless encounter true reality when he delves down through the surface of soul experience into the foundations of the soul.

Hamerling begins in an entirely Kantian way; “Certain stimuli produce odors in our sense of smell. The rose, therefore, has no fragrance if no one smells it. — Certain oscillations of the air produce sound in our ear. Sound, therefore, does not exist without an ear. A rifle shot, therefore, would not ring out if no one heard it. ... Whoever holds onto this will understand what a naive mistake it is to believe that, besides the perception (Anschauung) or mental picture we call ‘horse,’ there exists yet another horse — and in fact only then the actual real one — of which our perception ‘horse’ is only a copy. Outside of myself there is — let me state this again — only the sum total of those determining factors which cause a perception to be produced in my senses which I call a ‘horse’.” These thoughts work with such suggestive power that Hamerling can add to them the words: “If that is not obvious to you, dear reader, and if your understanding shies away from this fact like a skittish horse, then read no further; leave this and every other book on philosophical matters unread; for you lack the necessary ability to grasp a fact without bias and to retain it in thought.” I would like to respond to Hamerling: “May there in fact be many people whose intellect does indeed shy away from the opening words of his book like a skittish horse but who also possess enough strength of ideas to value rightly the deeply penetrating later chapters; and I am happy that Hamerling did after all write these later chapters even though his intellect did not shy away from the assertion: There in me is the mental picture ‘horse’; but outside there does not exist any actual real horse but only the sum total of those determining factors which cause a perception to be produced in my senses which I call a ‘horse’.” For here again one has to do with an assertion — like that made by Carneri with respect to matter, substance, and spirit — that gains overwhelming power over a person because he just does not see at all the impossible thoughts into which he has spun himself. The whole train of Hamerling's thoughts is worth no more than this: Certain effects emanating from me onto the surface of a coated pane of glass produce my image in the mirror. Nothing occurs through the effects emanating from me if no mirror is there. Outside the mirror there is only the sum total of those determining factors which bring it about that in the mirror an image is produced that I refer to with my name.

In imagination I can hear all the declamations against a philosophical dilettantism — carried to the point of frivolity that would dare to dispose of the serious scientific thoughts of philosophers with this kind of a childish objection. I know, in fact, what all has been brought forward by philosophers since Kant in the way of such thoughts. When one speaks as I have just done, one is not understood by the chorus that propounds these thoughts. One must turn to unprejudiced reason, which understands that the way one conducts one's thinking is the same in each case: whether, when confronted by the mental picture of the horse in my soul, I decree the outer horse to be nonexistent, or, when confronted by the image in the mirror, I doubt my existence. One does not even need to enter into certain, supposedly epistemological refutations of this comparison. For, what would be presented there — as the entirely different relationship, after all, of the “mental picture to what is mentally pictured” than of the mirror image to what is mirroring itself — already stands there for certain epistemologists as established with absolute certainty; for other readers, however, the corresponding refutation of these thoughts could in fact be only a web of unfruitful abstractions.

Out of his healthy idealism, Hamerling feels that an idea, in order to be justified within a world view, must not only be correct but also in accordance with reality. (Here I must express myself in those thoughts which I introduced in the presentation on Karl Christian Planck in this book.). If Hamerling had been less suggestively influenced by the way of thinking described above, he would have noticed that there is nothing in accordance with reality in such thoughts as those which he feels to be necessary in spite of the fact that “one’s intellect shys away from them like a skittish horse.” Such thoughts arise in the human soul when the soul has been made ill by a mind for abstractions estranged from reality and gives itself over to a continuous spinning out of thoughts that are indeed logically coherent but in which no spiritual reality holds sway in a living way. It is precisely his healthy idealism, however, that guides Hamerling in the further thoughts of his Atomism of Will out of the web of thoughts he presented in the opening chapters. This becomes particularly clear where he speaks of the human “I” in connection with the life of the soul. Look at the way Hamerling relates to Descartes' “I think, therefore I am.” Fichte's way of picturing things (of which we have spoken in our considerations of Fichte in this book) works along like a softly sounding, consonant, basic tone in the beautiful words on page 223 of the first volume of The Atomism of Will: “In spite of all the conceptual hairsplitting that carps at it, Descartes' Cogito ergo sum remains the igniting flash of lightning for all modern speculation. But, strictly speaking, this ‘I think, therefore I am’ is not made certain through the fact that I think, but rather through the fact that I say that I think. My conclusion would have the same certainty even if I changed the premise into its reverse and said ‘I do not think, therefore I am.’ In order to be able to say this, I must exist.” In discussing Fichte's world view, we have said in this book that the statement “I think, therefore I am” cannot maintain itself in the face of man's sleeping state. One must grasp the certainty of the “I” in such a way that this certainty cannot appear to be exhausted in the inner perception “I think.” Hamerling feels this; therefore he says that “I do not think, therefore I am” is also valid. He says this because he feels: Within the human “I” something is experienced that does not receive the certainty of its existence from thinking, but on the contrary gives to thinking its certainty. Thinking is unfolded by the true “I” in certain states; the experiencing of the “I,” however, is of such a kind that through this experience the soul can feel itself immersed into a spiritual reality in which it knows its existence to be anchored even during other states than those for which Descartes' “I think, therefore I am” applies. But all this is based on the fact that Hamerling knows: When the “I” thinks, life-will is living in its thinking. Thinking is by no means mere thinking; it is willed thinking. As a thought, “I think” is a mere fantasy that is never and nowhere present. It is always the case that only the “I think, willing” is present. Whoever believes in the fantasy of “I think” can isolate himself thereby from the whole spiritual world; and then become either an adherent of materialism or a doubter in the reality of the outer world. He becomes a materialist if he lets himself be snared by the thought — fully justified within its own limits — that for the thinking Descartes had in mind the instruments of the nerves are necessary. He becomes a doubter in the reality of the outer world if he becomes entangled in the thought — again justified within certain limits — that all thinking about things is in fact experienced within the soul and that with his thinking, therefore, he can in fact never arrive at an outer world existing in and of itself, even if such an outer world existed. To be sure, whoever sees the will in all thinking can, if he inclines to abstraction, now isolate the will conceptually from thinking and speak in Schopenhauer's style of a will that supposedly holds sway in all world existence and that drives thinking like whitecaps to the surface of life's phenomena. But someone who sees that only the “I think, willing” has reality would no more picture will and thinking as separated in the human soul than he would picture a man's head and body as separated if he wished his thought to portray something real. But such a person also knows that, with his experience of a thinking that is carried by will and experienced, he goes outside the boundaries of his soul and enters into the experience of a world process (Weltgeschehen) that is also pulsing through his soul. And Hamerling is headed in the direction of just such a world view, in the direction of a world view whose adherent knows that with a real thought he has within himself an experience of world-will, not merely an experience of his own “I.” Hamerling is striving toward a world view that does not go astray into the chaos of a mysticism of will, but on the contrary wishes to experience the world-will within the clarity of ideas.

With this perspective of the world-will beheld through ideas, Hamerling knows that he now stands in the native soil of the idealism of German world views. His thoughts prove even to himself to have their roots in the German folk spirit (Volkstum) that in Jakob Böhme already was struggling for knowledge in an elemental way. On page 259f. of Hamerling's Atomism of Will one reads: “To make will the highest philosophical principle is what one seems to have overlooked until now — an eminently German thought, a core thought of the German spirit. From the German Naturphilosophen of the Middle Ages up to the classical thinkers of the age of German speculation, and even up to Schopenhauer and Hartmann, this thought runs through the philosophy of the German people, emerging sometimes more, sometimes less, often only at one moment, as it were, then disappearing again into the seething masses of our thinkers' ideas. And so it was also the philosophus teutonicus who was in truth the most German and the most profound of all modern philosophers, and who was the first, in his deeply thoughtful, original, and pictorial language, to grasp the will expressly as the absolute, as the unity. ...” And now, in order to point to yet another German thinker in this direction, Hamerling quotes Jacobi, Goethe's contemporary: “Experience and history teach us that man's action depends far less upon his thinking than his thinking depends upon his action, that his concepts direct themselves according to his actions and only copy them, as it were; that the path of knowledge, therefore, is a mysterious path, not a syllogistic one, nor a mechanical one.”

Because Hamerling, out of the prevailing tone of his soul, has a feeling for the fact that the accordance of an idea with reality must be added to its merely logical correctness, he also cannot regard those pessimistic philosophers' views of life as valid which wish to determine — by an abstract conceptual weighing — whether pleasure or pain predominates in life and therefore whether life must be regarded as a good or an evil. No, reflection become theory does not decide this; this is decided in much deeper foundations of life, in depths that have to judge this human reflection, but do not allow themselves to be judged by this reflection. Hamerling says about this: “The main thing is not whether people are correct in wanting to live, with very few exceptions, at any price, no matter whether things are going well or badly for them. The main thing is that they want it and this can by no means be denied. And yet the doctrinaire pessimists do not reckon with this decisive fact. Intellectually and in learned discussions, they always only weigh against each other the pleasure and pain life brings in particular situations; but since pleasure and pain belong to feeling, it is feeling and not intellect that ultimately and decisively draws up the balance between pleasure and pain. And, with respect to all mankind — indeed one can say with respect to everything living — the balance falls on the side of the pleasure of existence. That everything living wants to live, under any circumstances and at any price, this is the great fact; and in the face of this fact all doctrinaire talk is powerless:” In the same way as the thinkers from Fichte to Planck described in this book, Hamerling seeks the path into spiritual reality, except that his striving is to do justice to the natural-scientific picture of the world to a greater degree than Schelling or Hegel, for example, were able to do. Atomism of Will nowhere offends against the scientific picture of the world. But this book is everywhere permeated with the insight that this picture of the world represents only a part of reality. This book is based upon an acknowledgement of the thought that a person is submitting to belief in an unreal world if he refuses to take up the forces of a spiritual world into his thought-world. (I use the word “unreal” here in the sense employed in our discussion of Planck.)

Hamerling's satiric poem “Homunculus” speaks forcibly for the high degree to which his thinking was in accordance with reality. In this work, with great poetic force, he depicts a man who himself becomes soulless because soul and spirit do not speak to his knowledge. What would become of people who really stemmed from a world order such as the natural-scientific way of picturing things sets up as creed when it rejects a world view in accordance with the spirit? What would a man be if the unreality of this way of picturing things were real? In somewhat this way one could formulate the question that finds its artistic answer in “Homunculus.” Homunculism would have to take possession of a mankind that believed only in a world fashioned according to mechanistic natural laws. One can also see in Hamerling how a person striving toward existence's ideas has a healthier sense for practical life than a person who, fearful of the spirit, shies away from the world of ideas and feels himself thereby to be a true “man of reality.” Hamerling's “Homunculus” could help those regain their health who, precisely in the present day, are allowing themselves to be led astray by the opinion that natural science is the only science of what is real. Such people, in their fear of the spirit, say that the idealism of our classical period — which, in their opinion, has been overcome today — brought knowing man (homo sapiens) too much into the foreground. “True science” must recognize that attention should be paid above all to economic man (homo oeconomus) within the world order and in human arrangements. For such people “true science” means solely the science stemming from the natural-scientific way of picturing things. Homunculism arises out of opinions like this. The proponents of these opinions have no inkling of how they are hurrying toward homunculism. With the prophetic eye of the knower, Hamerling has delineated this homunculism. Those who fear that a rightful estimation of homo sapiens in Hamerling's sense might lead to an overestimation of the literary approach will also be able to see from “Homunculus” that this does not occur.

Last Modified: 29-Aug-2017
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