Letter 422b

422b. Schelling to Carl Joseph Windischmann in Aschaffenburg: Munich, 30 June 1807 [*]

Munich, 30 June 1807

. . . The experiments have in the meantime progressed quite far. [1] I was surprised that in your essay you at least seemed not yet to have any acquaintance with the influence of the will (that is, the magical, non-mechanical). [2] Or did you prefer to remain silent about it as a μυστηριον? [3] The pendulum, the baguette, or whatever one substitutes for them, follows the decision of the will (or indeed even of faint thoughts) just as does the voluntary muscle, whose movement is in any case rotational. Hence our own muscles are in fact nothing other than divining rods that operate inwardly or outwardly — flexors, extensors — depending on what we want.

Form, figure, number, etc. all exert a determinative influence on the phenomenon. In some isolated observations and experiments, all this begins to exhibit a close connection with magnetic clairvoyance. [4]

In a word, here or nowhere is where the key to ancient magic is to be found — as you yourself also say — the final hindrance has been overcome, nature will come under the power of human beings, albeit not in the Fichtean fashion. [5]


[*] Sources: Plitt 2:119; Fuhrmans 3:445–46. — Response to Windischmann’s letter to Schelling in April 1807 (letter 421c). Back.

[1] Concerning the ongoing episode involving the alleged dowser Francesco Campetti, see the supplementary appendix on Caroline and Schelling’s interest in Francesco Campetti; also, e.g., Schelling’s letter to Hegel on 11 January 1807 (letter 420a) and Caroline’s letter to Luise Wiedemann on 31 January 1807 (letter 421). Back.

[2] See Windischmann’s letter to Schelling in mid-April 1807 (letter 421c), note 1. Schelling similarly mentions the “magical” influence of the human will in his letter to Hegel on 22 March 1807 (letter 421b). Back.

[3] Gk., “mystery.” In his previous letter, Windischmann had spoken of “greater mysteries” associated with these phenomena. Back.

[4] In the following nineteenth-century illustration, “Mademoisell Léonide Pigeaire, in a state of somnambulism, reads a book through a blindfold,” from Louis Figuier, “Le magnetisme animal: L’Académie de médecine reprend examen du magnétisme animal,” Les mystères de la science aujourd’hui 1 (Paris 1887), 397–423, here 417, illustration 53:


Unfortunately, Mademoiselle Pigeaire was unable to reproduce the experiment under more stringently enforced conditions. Back.

[5] A pointed juxtaposition to one of the fundamental positions of Fichte’s philosophy. See the succinct description of the latter in A Dictionary of Science, Literature, & Art: Comprising the Definitions and Derivations of the Scientific Terms in General Use, ed. William Thomas Brande and George William Cox, 3 vols. (London 1875), 3:353, s.v. Schelling:

However, true philosophical science cannot admit of any such [previously discussed] contrariety of intellect and feeling; and to establish their identity, or at least to combine them in unison, was the problem which Fichte attempted to solve. Fichte’s philosophy is marked chiefly by the way in which he carried, to its extreme result, the idealistic tendency of Kant.

In the Wissenschaftslehre we have a system of pure and absolute idealism. The existence of a material world is here denied unconditionally; the real exists only so far as it is necessarily conceived by us; so that the external world is purely a creation of our conceptions, and the real is a product of the ideal.

To use the language of Fichte, the ego is absolute, and posits itself; it is a pure activity. As its activity, however, has certain indefinable limits, when it experiences this limitation of its activity it also posits a non-ego, and so originates the objective world. The ego, therefore, cannot posit itself without at the same time projecting a non-ego; which, consequently, is in so far the mere creation of the ego.

With the mediate knowledge of reflection, by which Fichte attained to this speculative result, he combined for practical ends the authority of immediate consciousness. As, he argued, it is from the impulse of the ego to activity that the non-ego arises, the absolute ego stands to the intelligent ego in the relation of a cause to its effect. But although the absolute practical ego is absolutely free, and the sole principle of all reality, so as to posit the world in opposition to itself, and to be its cause, it has, nevertheless, a subjective limit to its operation.

This is the idea of duty which the consciousness immediately announces to man as an unconditional authority and obligation; which, however, is not subversive of the freedom of the ego, but is simply an impulsive motive to its activity. Now, so far as the ego attempts to realise this duty, it tends to a moral order. He who does his utmost to establish this moral order, comes near to the Deity, and enters upon his true and proper life. Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott