Letter 420a

420a. Schelling to Hegel in Jena: Munich, 11 January 1807 [*]

Munich, 11 January 1807

. . . Now, as far as the literary state of affairs in Bavaria is concerned, the first and foremost possibility would be Landshut, to which I refer merely as the “Landeshut.” [1] Word has it that they are seeking someone in philosophy there now that the pastor who previously occupied the chair has found it advisable to withdraw to his country parsonage. [2] The candidate must be of the moderate sort, not least to prune the branches that have proliferated out of control in aesthetics and which Ast is now sending out into philosophy —

One of our young sages might be appropriate, perhaps Herbart in Göttingen or Fries or someone like that, whom one would indeed not begrudge a position that one would otherwise not recommend to a friend. [3]

One thing is certain, namely, that a new, purely Protestant university will be established in Erlangen or Nürnberg as soon as the war in the north has ended. But no more than that is known at this point. Count von Thürheim will be exerting the greatest influence on the organization of that university. Your friends in Bamberg can sooner inform you how to gain access to him. As far as I am concerned, you are doubtless familiar with my relationship with him. —

Although the man who will ultimately make the decision is not indisposed toward me, he is, first, likely disinclined to undertake anything the provincial commissar has not already proposed, and, second, his favor extends only as far as to have ensured that justice was done me at least to a certain extent; [4] the reason I cannot even risk speaking up for a friend is that I never know whether it will hurt him more than help him. [5] That is a sincere portrayal of my own circumstances here. . . .

Hence I can only advise you in a rather contingent and insubstantial fashion to send your publication at Easter to Count Thürheim as well as to Geheimer Rat von Zentner, Schenk, and perhaps also to the minister, along with an expression of your wish, one motivated by the situation in the north, to teach at the new Bavarian university. . . . I for my part would most like to see you transferred here, something for which there is certainly sufficient occasion; but who can assert himself amid the importunate?

Well, bad news, I know — but at least frank and sincere, as is my assurance that should the unexpected occasion arise to speak or act on behalf of your wishes ubi fas esset, [6] nothing would please me more than to do precisely that. — Jacobi has behaved quite properly toward me, and notwithstanding that his influence here is not insignificant, he would certainly not put any obstacles in your path.

I am full of excited expectation with respect to your forthcoming work. [7] What wonders cannot but occur if your own maturity takes time to allow its fruits to ripen! What I hope most for you is continued peace and quiet in your circumstances and leisure enough to execute such solid and, as it were, timeless pieces.

All of us here are presently occupied with the strangest things. — A while back, news came from Italy that a dowser capable of sensing both minerals and water was living on the Tyrolean border. [8] After a presentation, the minister here, who is truly receptive to everything great and good, decided that Ritter was to journey there — and behold, the latter discovered far more even than anticipated.

Ritter first of all made a connection with the pendulum oscillations over water and metals presented by Fortis over 20 years ago, [9] oscillations with which most physicists initially allegedly had little success themselves but which we are indeed now able to effect. If you want to see for yourself, first take a cube of some arbitrary matter, e.g., pyrite, pure sulfur, metal, preferably gold, then suspend it horizontally on a wet thread, which you then hold stationary between your fingers, and over water and metal the piece starts swinging first in ellipses, then increasingly in more circular formations.

This is the simplest experiment, but by virtue of these movements and their opposing directions one can demonstrate otherwise indiscernible polarities. E.g., over the north pole of a magnet, the pendulum swings in this direction ↺, over the south pole in this direction ↻; the oscillations behave similarly parallel over silver and copper etc. to those over zinc and water. But there is even more. In Milan Ritter found an abbaté who in this fashion has conducted experiments with the entire human body. [10]

Try experiments over your head, facial sections, fingers, innermost and outmost surface of the hand; right and left sides; you will encounter this same opposition everywhere. Above the stem end of an apple, the pendulum oscillates like over the north pole, — over the opposite end like over the south pole. The contracted and expanded ends of an egg behave similarly.

I am writing you all this because I know that these experiments will astonish you. Do not let variations deter you; they always derive from certain alterations in the operation itself; if you lift the pendulum vertically during its oscillation and then approach the center of the metal again, the movement will change to the opposite direction; the direction is similarly different if you approach from the side or from above; but with the same procedure, the results are always the same, and recur with similar regularity if the procedure is reversed.

But the actual divining rod moves for all of us over even the smallest mass of metal or water, i.e., it moves for us alone, those who are performing these procedures, for nature has denied many the power to do this, or certain species. It represents a genuinely magical element of human nature; no animal is capable of performing it.

The human being is now genuinely emerging as the sun among all other beings, all of which are his planets. The theories of circulation, generation, fetal formation, assimilation, and so much else will finally be illuminated through these findings. What is beginning now is physica coelestis or urania after the previous terrestris. [11]

Ritter is intending to start his own journal with the title Der Siderismus. [12] — I am relating this to you privately, and with the request that for now you yourself relate it only to your closest friends, since Ritter will probably soon publish his own results himself. He has brought the metal and water dowser here and will be drawing wonderful discoveries from this new phenomenon.

Stay well, and do not let the connection between us be interrupted again for so long. Be assured of the most steadfast and warmest friendship of


p.s. My wife sends her warmest regards to you. Give our regards to the Frommanns as well; my wife will be writing Madam Frommann in a few days to thank her for her letter. [13]


[*] Sources: Plitt 2:110–14; Fuhrmans 3:405–8. Back.

[1] Hegel, still in Jena but with little possibility of advancement, had queried Schelling about the possibility of an appointment at a Bavarian university.

Germ., Landeshut rather than Landshut; see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter and her children on 4 January 1807 (letter 420), note 18, also concerning the play on Friedrich Ast’s name (Germ., Ast, “branch, bough”). Hegel responded on 23 February 1807 (Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s Werke, vol. 19:1, Briefe von und an Hegel, ed. Karl Hegel [Leipzig 1887], 91; Fuhrmans 3:410): “is it [the “hat” in Landeshut] perhaps sheltering the state from reason, taste, and good manners?” Back.

[2] Fuhrmans 3:405fn1, explains that the Catholic theologian Josef Socher had withdrawn in 1805 to his parsonage, vexed at the power of the Schellingians in Landshut (Andreas Röschlaub, Patritius Zimmer).

His successor, the theologian Ignaz Thanner, a moderate Schellingian who had to move to the theological faculty when Zimmer, accused of Schellingian tendencies, was removed from the chair for systematics at the behest of Jakob Salat and, allegedly, also Jacobi, and withdrew in his own turn to a parsonage. Thanner’s vacant chair in philosophy was filled by the Schelling adversary Friedrich Köppen, author (with Jacobi) of the anti-Schellingian piece Schellings Lehre oder das Ganze der Philosophie des absoluten Nichts, dargestellt von Friedrich Köppen. Nebst drey Briefen verwandten Inhalts Friedr. Heinr. Jacobi (Hamburg 1803).

In February 1807, the other chair in philosophy was filled by the most resolute of all the anti-Schellingians, Jacob Salat himself. Despite Schelling’s ostensibly comfortable position in Munich, the Bavarian administration, not least because of Jacobi’s influence, had become increasingly hostile toward Schelling.

See also Schelling’s letter to Georg Friedrich von Zentner on 19 January 1806 (letter 400d), note 7. Back.

[3] Hegel responded on 23 February 1807 (Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s Werke, vol. 19:1:91–92; Fuhrmans 3:410):

That Ast is grafting branches over into philosophy would surprise me were his name not “Ast” in the first place; but given this particular quality, I do understand it. If a professor of philosophy there must primarily have the ability to prune such flosculos [Latin, accusative plural of flosculus, “small flower; fig. flowery ornament in speech”], the ministry would surely find a competent pair of shears in me.

Hegel did not get the position, moving instead to Bamberg in February or March 1807 to edit and otherwise manage a newspaper and then to Nürnberg in 1808; see below concerning the anticipated university in Erlangen (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[4] After leaving Würzburg, Schelling had not been offered a university professorship but was instead given a position in the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Back.

[5] Schelling had become a kind of persona non grata after his initially warm welcome in Bavaria back in 1803 insofar as his entire time in Würzburg had been essentially one of increasing conflict with adversaries.

See, e.g., Dorothea and Friedrich Schlegel’s letter to Karoline Paulus on 23 February 1806 (letter 400h), note 6, with the cross reference; also Caroline’s letter to Meta Liebeskind on 27 April 1806 (letter 404), note 9 and Kuno Fischer’s discussion of Bavarian Catholic opposition to Schelling. Back.

[6] Latin, here: “wherever fate may allow.” Back.

[7] Hegel’s System der Wissenschaft: Erster Theil, die Phänomenologie des Geistes (Bamberg, Würzburg 1807). Back.

[8] Concerning this entire issue, see the supplementary appendix on Caroline and Schelling’s interest in Francesco Campetti; Campetti had been living in the village of Gargagno on Lago di Garda (“Central Europe: Wars of the Third Coalition 1805–7,” Cambridge Modern History Atlas, ed. Sir Adolphus William Ward et al. [London 1912], map 92):



[9] Abbot Alberto Fortis (1741–1803). Back.

[10] Italian, “abbot,” here: Abbate Amoretti. Back.

[11] Latin, “celestial physics” or of “Urania” (muse of astronomy); “terrestrial [physics].” Back.

[12] Siderismus, ed. by J. W. Ritter, vol. 1, no. 1 (Tübingen 1808); this initial issue appeared in early 1808. Back.

[13] Johanna Frommann, or Johann Karl Wesselhöft at her behest, seems to have sent not only a letter, but in some form also her account of her experiences in Jena before, during, and following the battles of Jena and Auerstedt, from which Caroline seems to cite or draw in her letter to Luise Wiedemann on 30 November 1806 (letter 419); see esp. note 10 there. Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott