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Title: Life and works of Franz von Baader
Author: Leuer, Dennis Osborn
ISNI:       0000 0001 3608 4814
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1976
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The primary source for the biography is Baader's correspondence, nearly all of which is contained in the fifteenth volume of his collected works or in the four volumes edited by E. Susini. This material is predominantly religious and philosophical rather than personal in content, a factor which influences our presentation in two main respects. Firstly, it becomes necessary to introduce what may seem an inordinate number of personalities in order both to describe Baader (as 'the sum of his relations'), and to set his works as well as his life within an historical context. Secondly, the character of the letters often requires that motive be sought, if at all, in Baader's philosophical religion, making this to some extent a life of his ideas. This need not be artificial or unbiographical, inasmuch as Baader's mystic Romanticism disdained the separation of philosophy and action, or religion and life. Whatever 'coherence' is discernible in Baader's life is provided by an incessant striving not only to propagate but in fact to institutionalize the principles of his mysticism. This attempted meeting of 'the ideal and the real', often in the form of religious and political polemics, appears as a major theme in each of the three main sections into which Baader's life is here divided: 1) the years 1765-1814, leading from his education and religious background to his professional life as a mining engineer and public theosopher; 2) 1815-1824, the era of the Holy Alliance and of Baader's major theocratic and ecumenical activities; and 3) 1825-1841, beginning with Baader's advocacy of Catholicism and ending with his renewed ecumenical designs. The Second Part of this dissertation deals particularly with Baader's writings from 1786-1814, here called generally his Naturphilosophie. Our intent is to elicit the prime motive which they share with Baader's mature theosophy, and we state that to be an intuited unity of 'spirit' and 'nature'. These terms are Baader's own, and it is the definition of their relation – tending to be also that of ideal and real, soul and body, mind and world, God and creation – that the mystic makes his major task. The project appears first in his diaries, where in reaction to the mechanistic view of nature he extends the enthusiasm of the religion of feeling to include an intuitive appreciation of nature as the World-Soul. The Herderian analogical identification of the self as microcosm with the physical universe is Baader's initial method, which he gives a more detailed application in the thesis that discovers the World-Soul in the qualitative chemical heat-substance as a kind of Stoic 'technikon fire' (chap. 1). Departing not from the atomistic but from the 'dynamic' theory of matter for which Kant's metaphysics and theory of science had rather strangely prepared a way (chap. 2), Baader next produces an a priori refutation of natural necessity by proving for chemical and mechanical phenomena an underlying spontaneity and thereby an analogue of human freedom and life (chap. 3). In our fourth chapter, while taking note of Schelling's comparable effort to join 'religion and science' or the metaphysics of mind and of nature, we observe the mingling of Idealist terminology and mystic symbolism that marks the remainder of Baader's works, and we encounter as well the primary assumption of his doctrine of nature; for by his 'squared triangle' he has traced all natural organization and spontaneity to a source of life in the Divine. There follows a presentation of the doctrine of the organism wherein life stood as the realized unity of 'spirit' and 'nature' and as the paradigm for understanding the physical universe in all of its particulars and as a lawfully ordered whole. By way of a concept of organic teleology, Baader finds natural analogues to human moral purposiveness, and a means of re-establishing a theosophical teaching that knows all of creation to take part in the mystic return to God. Throughout this fifth chapter, reference to his contemporaries is intended to suggest why Baader would consider Boehme's vitalist metaphysics relevant to common Romantic concerns. Ending our Second Part, we introduce Jacobi's objection that any self-consistent philosophy purporting to have knowledge of the Deity and a religious understanding of nature leads ineluctably to pantheism. To this statement of the case for a separation of Wissen und Glauben, Baader replies that the intellect must be engaged in devotion, that 'the self is the other' or religious man needs not merely the 'supernatural' God but needs to know the divine presence in nature, and finally that the reconciliation of 'spiritualism' and 'naturalism' that Jacobi's other-wordly mysticism deemed impossible had already been achieved by Boehme. Because theosophy claims knowledge as well as faith, we begin our Third Part by reviewing the main arguments of Baader's mystic epistemology. While repeating without critical spirit the traditional ciphers for divine illumination, he calls upon preternatural experience in order to show that theosophy can fulfil even the rational criteria for 'knowledge'. The protean theme of 'reunion of religion and science' takes on other forms in Baader's desire to make belief philosophical through a speculative thinking that will take religious symbol and mystery as its given items of knowledge, and in his confrontation with the 'scientific' philosophy in which irreligiosity had assumed two different guises: the 'egocentric' Criticism that had declared the absolute independence of human thought, and the Hegelian system that would supersede religion and subsume it within its own categories. Baader's theosophy, his 'onto-theology' (chap. 2) joins 'spirit and nature', morality and natural knowledge, by discerning in the internal structure of the Deity a metaphysical law that defines both freedom and the general form of the panorganic universe. Expressed by the symbol of a fire in which darkness is overcome by light, this 'dialectical' law by which Boehme is to have laid the foundation for a resolution of all metaphysics, functions identically to the doctrine of the organism as a mediation of opposites. It generates the speculative concept of the self-created Trinity (or rather the Quaternary), the analogous concept of the Deity as the ideal organism, and the crucial concept of Baader's Boehmian theosophy: that of the eternal nature of life. The symbolical archetype of life, this mediative term acts at once as the divine 'substance' or 'body' ensuring the absolute concrete reality of God, and as a center of qualities and forces providing the creative model and power. The creation of the world of particulars is then pictured as the extension and articulation of that ideal life by the process of God's self-alienation and His 'return' to Himself through reflection on His image incarnate in the organic form of the created individuals, and of the creation as a whole. After characterizing the theosophical manner of signifying the dynamic structure of that eternal nature in 'this' vitalistically-perceived universe – which Baader carries out mainly by defining life as an expression of 'spirit' or freedom in synthesis with inorganic 'nature' as the contrary which it overcomes – we return to the problem of pantheism. Knowing the danger that he runs by admitting the irreducible quality of life, Baader restricts his identification of the eternal nature and the objectified universal life of the created individuals or their World-Soul. Distinguishing the 'substance' or Wesen, he maintains that the God of the eternal nature, enjoying unique independence, is entirely perfect prior to the creation of individual 'substances', and creates not from need but from love and the desire to increase perfection.
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Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
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