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Franz von Baader

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Franz von Baader

Franz Xaver von Baader (March 27, 1765 – May 23, 1841) was a German Roman Catholic philosopher and theologian.


He was born in Munich, the third son of Franz Josef Baader, court physician to the Prince-elector of Bavaria. His brothers were both distinguished — the elder, Clemens, as an author; the second, Joseph (1763–1835), as an engineer. Franz studied medicine at Ingolstadt and Vienna, and for a short time assisted his father in his practice. This life he soon found uncongenial, and decided on becoming a mining engineer. He studied under Abraham Gottlob Werner at Freiberg, travelled through several of the mining districts in north Germany, and for four years, 1792–1796, resided in England.

There he became acquainted with the ideas of David Hume, David Hartley and William Godwin, which were all distasteful to him. But he also came into contact with the mystical speculations of Meister Eckhart, Louis Claude de Saint-Martin (1743–1803), and above all those of Jakob Boehme, which were more to his liking. In 1796 he returned from England, and in Hamburg became acquainted with F. H. Jacobi, with whom he remained friendly. He now came into contact with Friedrich Schelling, and the works he published during this period were manifestly influenced by that philosopher. Yet Baader is no disciple of Schelling, and he probably gave more than he received.[1] Their friendship continued till about the year 1822, when Baader's denunciation of modern philosophy in his letter to Tsar Alexander I of Russia entirely alienated Schelling.

All this time Baader continued to apply himself to his profession of engineer. He gained a prize of 12,000 gulden (about £1000) for his new method of employing sodium sulfate 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 in 1820, and soon after published one of the best of his works, Fermenta Cognitionis, 6 parts, 1822–1825, in which he combats modern philosophy and recommends the study of Boehme. In 1826, when the new university was opened in Munich, he was appointed professor of philosophy and speculative theology. Some of the lectures delivered there he published under the title Spekulative Dogmatik, 4 parts, 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 is buried in the Alter Südfriedhof in Munich.


It is difficult to summarize Baader's philosophy, for he expressed his deepest thoughts in obscure aphorisms, or mystical symbols and analogies (see Eduard Zeller's Ges. d. deut. Phil. 732, 736). His doctrines are mostly expounded in short detached essays, in comments on the writings of Boehme and Saint Martin, or in his extensive correspondence and journals. However, there are salient points which mark the outline of his thought. Baader starts from the position that human reason 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 be described as Scholasticism; for, like the 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 faith and knowledge, he approaches more nearly to the mysticism of Eckhart, Paracelsus, and Boehme. Our existence depends on the act that we are cognized by God (cogitor ergo cogito et sum). All self-consciousness is at the same time God-consciousness; our knowledge is never mere scientia, it is invariably con-scientia — a knowing with, consciousness of, or participation in God.

Baader's philosophy is thus essentially a theosophy. God is not to be conceived as mere abstract Being (substantia), but as everlasting process, activity (actus). Of this process, this self-generation of God, we may distinguish two aspects — the immanent or esoteric, and the eminent or exoteric. God has reality only insofar as He is absolute spirit, and only insofar as the primitive will 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, from which proceeds the power to become spirit. This immanent process of self-consciousness, therein 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 (trinity), as Baader calls it, through nature, the principle of self-hood, of individual being, which is eternally and necessarily produced 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 aeternitatis, as the necessary elements or moments in the self-evolution of the divine Being. Nor is nature to be confounded with created substance, 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, itself a free and non-temporal act of God's love and will, cannot be speculatively deduced, but must be accepted as a 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 a 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 bringing forth in purity the image of God according to which he has been fashioned. The physical philosophy and anthropology which Baader, in connection with this, unfolds in various works, is but little instructive, and coincides in the main with the utterances of Boehme. 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, Baader rejects the Kantian or any autonomic system of morals. Not obedience to a moral law, but realization in ourselves of the divine life 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 satisfactory 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; mere works are never sufficient. Man in his social relations is under two great institutions. 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 be secured or given only 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 organization. A despotism of mere power and liberalism, which naturally produces socialism, are equally objectionable. The ideal state is a civil community ruled by a universal or Catholic church, the principles of which 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.

One of Baader’s central ideas in philosophy is his concept of androgyny:

The Androgyne is the harmonious fusion of the sexes, resulting in a certain asexuality, a synthesis which creates an entirely new being, and which does not merely juxtapose the two sexes 'in an enflamed opposition' as the hermaphrodite does.

Following in the footsteps of Jakob Boehme, Baader says that Man was originally an androgynous being. In truth neither man nor woman is the image and likeness of God but only the androgyne. Both sexes are equally fallen from the original divinity of the androgyne. Androgynism is man's likeness to God, his supernatural upsurge. Hence it follows that sexes must cease and vanish. From these positions Baader interpreted the sacrament of marriage as a symbolic restitution of angelic bisexuality:

The secret and the sacrament of true love in the indissoluble bond of the two lovers, consists in each helping the other, each in himself, towards the restoration of the androgyne, the pure and whole humanity.

Ultimately Christ's sacrifice will make possible a restoration of the primal androgyny. Baader believed that primordial androgyny would return as the world neared its end.[2]:57

Baader is, without doubt, among the greatest speculative theologians of modern Catholicism, and his influence has extended itself even beyond the precincts of his own church. Among those whom he influenced were Richard Rothe, Julius Müller and Hans L Martensen.


His works were collected and published by a number of his adherents — F Hoffman, J Hamberger, E v. Schaden, Lutterbeck, von Osten-Sacken and Schluter — Baader's sämmtliche Werke (16 vols., 1851–1860). 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. See F Hoffmann, Vorhalle zur spekulativen Lehre Baaders (1836); Grundzüge der Societäts-Philosophie Franz Baaders (1837); Philosophische Schriften (3 vols., 1868–1872); Die Weltalter (1868); Biographie und Briefwechsel (Leipzig, 1887); J Hamberger, Cardinalpunkte der Baaderschen Philosophie (1855); Fundamentalbegriffe von F. B.'s Ethik, Politik, u. Religions-Philosophie (1858); JAB Lutterbeck, Philosophische Standpunkte Baaders (1854); Baaders Lehre vom Weltgebäude (1866).

The most satisfactory surveys are those given by Erdmann, Versuch einer Gesch. d. neuern Phil. iii. 2, pp. 583–636; J Claassen, Franz von Baaders Leben und theosophische Werke (Stuttgart, 1886–1887), and Franz von Baaders Gedanken über Staat und Gesellschaft (Gütersloh, 1890); Otto Pfleiderer, Philosophy of Religion (vol. ii., Eng. trans. 1887); Richard Falckenberg, History of Philosophy, pp. 472–475 (trans. AC Armstrong, New York, 1893); Reichel, Die Sozietätsphilosophie Franz v. Baaders (Tübingen, 1901); Kuno Fischer, Zur hundertjährigen Geburtstagfeier Baaders (Erlangen, 1865).


  • Ghervas, Stella. Réinventer la tradition. Alexandre Stourdza et l'Europe de la Sainte-Alliance. Paris, Honoré Champion, 2008. ISBN 978-2-7453-1669-1
  • Vladimir Abashnik, Benedikt Franz Xaver von Baader. In: The Dictionary of eighteenth-century German philosophers. General editors: Heiner F. Klemme, Manfred Kuehn. In 3 vol. London: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd., 2010, Vol. 1: A – G, pp. 39–43.

External links

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  • Dr. J. Glenn Friesen. (Sämtliche Werke) and studies relating to Franz von Baader (English) (German)

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