1902 Encyclopedia > Franz Xaver von Baader

Franz Xaver von Baader
German philosopher and theologian

FRANZ XAVER VON BAADER, an eminent German philosopher and theologian, born 27th March 1765 at Munich, was the third son of F. P. Baader, court physician to the elector of Bavaria. His two elder brothers were both distinguished, the eldest, Clemens, as an author, the second, Joseph, as an engineer. Franz when young was extremely delicate, and from his seventh to his eleventh year was afflicted with a species of mental weakness, which singularly enough disappeared entirely when he was intro-duced for the first time to the mathematical diagrams of Euclid. His progress thenceforth was very rapid. At the age of sixteen he entered the university of Ingolstadt, where he studied medicine, and graduated in 1782. He then spent two years at Vienna, and returning home, for a short time assisted his father in his extensive practice. This life he soon found unsuited for him, and he decided on becoming a mining engineer. He studied under Werner at Freiberg, travelled through several of the mining dis-tricts in North Germany, and for four years, 1792-1796, resided in England. There he became acquainted with the works of Jakob Böhme, and at the same time was brought into contact with the rationalistic 18th-century ideas of Hume, Hartley, and Godwin, which were extremely distasteful to him. For Baader throughout his whole life had the deepest sense of the reality of religious truths, and could find no satisfaction in mere reason or philo-sophy. " God is my witness," he writes in his journal of 1786, "how heartily and how often I say with Pascal, that with all our speculation and demonstration we remain without God in the world." Modern philosophy he thought essentially atheistic in its tendencies, and he soon grew to be dissatisfied with the Kantian system, by which he had been at first attracted. Particularly displeasing to him was the ethical autonomy, or the posi-tion that man had in himself a rule of action, that duty contained no necessary reference to God. This Baader called " a morality for devils," and passionately declared that if Satan could again come upon earth, he would assume the garb of a professor of moral philosophy. The mystical, but profoundly religious, speculations of Eckhart, St Martin, and above all of Böhme, were more in harmony with his mode of thought, and to them he devoted himself. In 1796 he returned from England, and in his passage through Hamburg became acquainted with Jacobi, the Faith philosopher, with whom he was for many years on terms of close friendship. He now for the first time learned something of Schelling, and the works he published during this period were manifestly influenced by that philosopher. Yet Baader is no disciple of Schelling, and probably, in the way of affecting the future course of Schelling's thought, gave out more than he received. Their personal friendship continued till about the year 1822, when Baader's vehement denunciation of modern philosophy in his letter to the Czar of Russia entirely alienated Sendling.

While prosecuting his philosophical researches, Baader had continued to apply himself diligently to his profession of engineer. He gained a prize of 12,000 gulden (about £1000) for his new method of employing Glauber's salts instead of potash in the making of glass. From 1817 to 1820 he held the post of superintendent of mines, and was raised to the rank of nobility for his services. He retired from business in 1820, and soon after published one of the best of his works, Fermenta Cognitionis, 6 pts., 1822-25, in which he combats modern philosophy, and recommends the study of J. Böhme. In 1826, when the new university was opened at Munich, he was appointed professor of philosophy and speculative theology. Some of the lectures delivered there he published under the title, Spekulative Dogmatik, 4 pts., 1827-1836. In 1838 he opposed the interference in civil matters of the Roman Catholic Church, to which he belonged, and in consequence was, during the last three years of his life, interdicted from lecturing on the philosophy of religion. He died 23d May 1841.

It is extremely difficult to give in moderate compass an adequate view of Baader's philosophy; for he himself generally either gave expression to his deepest thoughts in brief, obscure aphorisms, or veiled them under mystical symbols and analogies. In this respect his style of exposi-tion is not undeserving of Zeller's strictures (Ges. d. deut. Phil., 732, 736). Further, he has no systematic works; his doctrines were for the most part thrown out in short detached essays, in comments on the writings of Böhme and St Martin, or in his extensive correspondence and journals. For his own part, he was distinctly of opinion that philosophy is not as yet capable of reduction to scientific form, and it would consequently be an error to demand from him a rigidly coherent body of truth. At the same time, the general tendency of his thought is very apparent, and there are some salient points which stand out with a clearness sufficient to render possible an outline of his whole course of speculation. In the mode in which he approaches the problems of philosophy, Baader is entirely opposed to the modern speculative spirit, which, beginning with Descartes, has endeavoured to erect a rational or coherent system on the basis of self-conscious-ness alone, and has protested against the presupposition of anything which can fetter reason, and against the accepta-tion of any truth which cannot be rationally construed. He starts from the position that human reason is in a corrupt condition, and by itself can never reach the end it aims at, and maintains that we cannot throw aside the presuppositions of faith, church, and tradition. His point of view may, with some truth, be described as Scholasticism; for, like the great scholastic doctors, he believes that theology and philosophy are not opposed sciences, but that reason has to make clear the truths given by authority and revelation. But in his attempt to draw still closer the realms of nature and of grace, of faith and knowledge, of human thought and divine reason, he approaches more nearly to the mysticism of Eckhart, Paracelsus, and Böhme. All self-consciousness, he thinks, is at the same time God-consciousness; our knowledge is never mere scientia, it is invariably con-scientia—a know-ing with, consciousness of, or participation in God. Of this knowledge, as of knowledge in general, there are three grades:—(1.) Where the thing known impresses itself upon us without or against the will, where the knowledge is necessary,—such, e.g., is the knowledge that God is; (2.) Where the thing known is cognised by an act on our part, where knowledge is free,—such, e.g., is the voluntary belief or trust in God; (3.) Where the thing known enters into, and forms part of, the very process of knowing,—such is the speculative knowledge of God, where-in we recognise that without God we are not, and that we know Him only in and through His knowledge of us. The notion of God is thus the fufidamental thought of Baader; his philosophy is in all essentials a theosophy, and its first great problem is to determine accurately the nature of the divine Being. Now God, who is, according to Baader, the primary will which lies at the basis of all things, is not to be conceived as m*re abstract Being, substantia, but as everlasting process, activity, actus. Of this everlasting process, this self-generation of God, we may distinguish two aspects—the immanent or esoteric, and the emanent or exoteric. God has reality only in so far as He is absolute spirit, and only in so far as the primitive will cognises or is conscious of itself can it become spirit at all. But, in this very cognition of self is involved the distinction of knower and known, producer and produced, from which proceeds the power to become spirit. This immanent process of self-consciousness, wherein indeed a trinity of persons is not given but only rendered possible, is mirrored in, and takes place through, the eternal and impersonal idea or wisdom of God, which exists beside, though not distinct from, the primitive will. Concrete reality or personality is given to this divine Ternar, as Baader calls it, through nature, the principle of self-hood, of individual being, which is eternally and necessarily pro-duced by God. Only in nature is the trinity of persons attained. These processes, it must be noticed, are not to be conceived as successive, or as taking place in time; they are to be looked at sub specie mternitatis, as the necessary elements or moments in the self-evolution of the divine Being. Nor is nature to be confounded with created sub-stance, or with matter as it exists in space and time; it is pure non-being, the mere otherness, alteritas, of God—his shadow, desire, want, or desiderium sui, as it is called by mystical writers. Creation is itself a free and non-temporal act of God's love and will, and on this account its reality cannot be speculatively deduced, but must be accepted as an historic fact. Created beings were originally of three orders — the intelligent, or angels; the non-intelligent natural existences; and man, who mediated between these two orders. Intelligent beings are endowed with freedom; it is possible, but not necessary, that they should fall. Hence the fact of the fall is not a speculative, but an historic truth. The angels fell through pride—through desire to raise themselves to equality with God ; man fell by lowering himself to the level of nature. Only after the fall of man begins the creation of space, time, and matter, or of the world as we now know it; and the motive of this creation was the desire to afford man an opportunity for taking advantage of the scheme of redemption, for bring-ing forth in purity the image of God according to which he has been fashioned. The physical philosophy and anthro-pology which Baader, in connection with this, unfolds in various works, is but little instructive, and coincides in the main with the semi-intelligible utterances of Böhme. In nature and in man he finds traces of the dire effects of sin. which has corrupted both, and has destroyed their natural harmony. As regards ethics, it has been already pointed out that Baader rejects the Kantian or any autonomic system of morals. Not obedience to a moral law, but realisation in ourselves of the divine life, through and in which we have our being, is the true ethical end. But man has lost the power to effect this by himself; he has alienated himself from God, and therefore no ethical theory which neglects the facts of sin and redemption is satisfac-tory or even possible. The history of man and of humanity-is the history of the redeeming love of God. The means whereby we put ourselves so in relation with Christ as to receive from Him his healing virtue, are chiefly prayer and the sacraments of the church, though it must be noted that mere works are never sufficient. With regard to man in his social relations there are two great institutions or systems of rules under which, or in connection with which, he stands. One is temporal, natural, and limited—the state; the other is eternal, cosmopolitan, and universal— the church. In the state two things are requisite: first, common submission to the ruler, which can only be secured or given when the state is Christian, for God alone is the true ruler of men; and, secondly, inequality of rank, without which there can be no organisation. A despotism of mere power, and liberalism, which naturally produces socialism, are equally objectionable. The ideal state is a perfectly organised church society, a civil community ruled by a universal or Catholic church, and the principles of this church are equally distinct from mere passive pietism, or faith which will know nothing, and from the Protestant doctrine, which is the very radicalism of reason.

Baader is, without doubt, the greatest speculative theo-logian of modern Catholicism, and his influence has ex-tended itself even beyond the precincts of his own church. The great work of Bothe, Theologische Ethik, is thoroughly impregnated with his spirit; and, not to mention others, J. Müller, Christ. Lehre v. der Sünde, and Martensen, Christ. Dogmatik, show evident marks of his influence.

His works have been collected and published by a number of his adherents—Hoffmann, Hamberger, E. v. Sehaden, Lutterbeck, Von Osten-Sacken, and Schlüter—Bander's Sämmtliche Werke, 16 vols., 1851-60. Valuable introductions by the editors are prefixed to the several volumes. Vol. xv. contains a full biography ; vol. xvi., an index, and an able sketch of the whole system by Lutterbeck. Among the most valuable works in elucidation or development of Baader's philosophy may be named :—Hoffmann, Vorhalle zur Speku- lativen Behre Baader's, 1836 ; Grundzilge der Societäts-Philosophie Franz Baader's, 1837; Philosophische Schriften, 3 vols., 1868-72 ; Die Weltalter, 1868 ; Hamberger, Cardinalpunktc der Baaderschen Philosophie, 1855 ; Fwndamentalbegriffe von F. B.'s Ethik, Politik, u. Religions-Philosophie, 1858 ; Lutterbeck, Philosophische Stand- punkte Baader's, 1854; Baader's Lehre vom Weltgebäude, 1866. The only satisfactory survey in any history of philosophy is that given by Erdmann, Versuch einer Gesch. d. neuem Phil., iii. 2, pp. 583- 636. (E. AD.)

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