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Brown (Schelling:197-201) – Ages of the World

sábado 2 de setembro de 2023, por Cardoso de Castro


The introduction of Ages begins with the threefold structure of time. There are three fundamental categories of temporality: past, present, and future. [1] There is a mode of knowing and a mode of description apropriate to each. One can know (wissen) the past thoroughly and therefore can narrate (erzählen) it. One can understand (erkennen) by investigation the events of the present, and can describe (darstellen) them. One can only have a presentiment of (ahnen) the future, hence it must be foretold (weissagen). The full texts of Ages deal only with the first aeon, the “past,” which is an object of ordered knowledge (Wissenschaft) because it is complete or fully realized. The introduction to Ages focuses on the epistemological presuppositions of Schelling  ’s picture of the “past.” [2]

It is a serious error to think of “science” (Wissenschaft) merely as a universal system of concepts and their consequences. Instead, it must be the representation of a living essence (Wesen) in its process of self-development. The highest science concerns the development of the primordial living reality. [3]

There is nothing before or outside this primal living reality by which it might be determined. Therefore, in so far as it develops itself, it can only do so freely, by its own impulse and volition, purely by itself, yet just on this account not lawlessely but only according to law. There is no arbitrariness in it. [4]

Once we have identified the object of the science of the “past,” the crucial preliminary question is the way in which we can apprehend it.

Human nature embodies the concrete relation of two principles. The higher principle is the impersonal power of soul, the bond of the individual to the source of all things. It endows him with the “co-knowledge (Mitwissenschaft) of creation.” The lower principle is the power of becoming that is constitutive of personal being. It is merely a presentiment (Ahndung) [5] and longing (Sehnsucht) for knowledge. The lower principle serves as the medium in which soul can express itself. [6]

The internal aspect of the interaction between the principles in the self is the process of recollection; the external aspect is the philosophical discipline of dialectic. Both aspects signify one’s struggle in a process of recovering knowledge, rather than an immediate possession of it.

This silent dialogue, this inner art of conversation, the peculiar secret of the philosopher, is that of which the external, therefore called dialectic, is the imitation. . . .
What we call knowledge is just striving after conscious recollection [“Wiederbewusstwerden”], thus more an aspiring after knowledge than knowledge itself. [7]

Philosophical dialectic is not therefore a means for discovery of the highest truth.

Everything, absolutely everything—even what is by nature external—must previously have become inward for us before we can represent it externally or objectively. [8]

The crucial question then is the nature of this inward apprehension, and its relation to external, dialectical expression.

It is a fundamental error to believe that the duality in the self can be suspended on a continuous basis. It is true that individuals from time to time experience a profound awareness of the simplicity of reality (an Einheitsgefühl). Schelling has great admiration for the theosophy based on such an immediate intuition of reality.

Therefore the preference of the inwardly disposed for theosophy is just as easily explained as the preference for nature in contrast to art. For theosophical systems have this advantage over all systems previously current, that in them at least there stirs a nature, even if not one which is master of itself; in the other systems, on the other hand, there is nothing but affectation and vain artifice. [9]

It is true that philosophers as well as poets have their moments of ecstasy. However, such intuitive vision (Schauen) is discontinuous and an insufficient basis for a living comprehension of reality.

We do not live in vision; our knowledge is piecework, that is, it must be produced piece by piece in a fragmentary way, with divisions and gradation, all of which cannot occur without reflection.
Therefore the goal is also not attained by mere vision. For in vision in and by itself, there is no understanding (Verstand). [10]

A person can have an immediate experience in himself of the processes whereby being passes from simplicity to multiplicity. But if he is to be conscious of the processes, if he as knower is to be distinguishable from the object known, if he is to express what is true, then he requires Verstand as the “mediating organ.” [11]

Philosophy, however, retains the knower-known distinction, and attains the complete vision only gradually and indirectly. Philosophy is thus the way to a disciplined grasp of truth and an intelligible expression of it. [12] Ages is a philosophical work, which builds upon the rediscovery by science of the true unity of thought and being, or spirit and nature.

Science no longer takes its origin from the remoteness of abstract thoughts in order to descend from these to natural objects; but conversely, originating from the unconscious presence [“Dasein”] of the eternal, knowledge leads this presence up to the highest transfiguration in a divine consciousness. [13]

Ages is just a beginning of the project. In all the complete versions it limits itself to the “past,” that is, the philosophical interpretation of “the unconscious presence of the eternal” in humanity. The understanding of God’s pre-temporal being is the prerequisite to any attempt to grasp both the structure and meaning of temporal-historical processes, and the anticipated shape of the “future” consummation.


[1It will become evident later that the “present” embraces the entire process of the created world. Therefore the “temporality” of the past and future is a qualified sort of temporality. In the earliest outline of Ages (Schröter, Fragmente, p. 188), Schelling spoke of a “system of times,” or of three “times” belonging to “the whole of time.” However, although there are three “ages,” “aeons,” or “periods,” it is preferable, in reference to the complete versions (1811-1815), to think of the “past” as a “pre-temporal” (logically and ontologically), eternal process. The “past” as a process is the archetype of real time as succession, but is not itself “temporal” in any ordinary meaning of the term. (Bolman translates Urbild as “prototype,” whereas I prefer to speak of an “archetype.” In common usage, “prototype” sometimes conveys a sense of temporal priority which is lacking in Schelling’s use of Urbild. Archetype, in philosophical usage, applies to something that stands as a model or pattern for something else that is ontologically “lower” than, and dependent on it, without implying any temporal relation.)

[2The introduction comprises 8 :199-206 (4: 575-82). The introduction to the 1811 version is almost identical to that of 1815. The 1813 introduction made a few changes, but Schelling subsequently dropped them and reverted to the former version.

[3“Das Urlebendige” or “das älteste der Wesen” (= God) (8:199 [4:575]).

[48:199 (4:575). (Bolman gives the 1856-1861 edition pages within his translated text.) How its development is both free and nonarbitrary will be explained later.

[5Ahndung here as elsewhere is Schelling’s archaic spelling of the word Ahnung. It should not be confused with the modern German Ahndung, which means “punishment, revenge.”

[68:200-201 (4:576-77). In the language of the Lectures, soul and feeling (Gemüth) are the higher and lower potencies in human nature, and spirit is their synthesis in a personal life. In the very earliest outline for Ages (cf. Fragmente, p. 190), Schelling had written that Gemüth is the locus of our participation in the “past,” and Geist is the higher principle that rules over it. At first sight this seems an appealing correlation, for Gemüth in our nature has affinity with the dark center in God. But when Schelling realized that the “past” consists of the entirety of God’s pretemporal being, and not just the dark center, he apparently discarded the correlation. In all full versions (1811-1815) he maintains instead that soul apprehends the “past” hut cannot express it by itself, that the lower principle in human nature contains it only implicitly, and that the interaction of the two is capable of bringing it to consciousness and conceptual expression (8:201 [4:577]).

[78:201 (4:577). In the Bolman quotations of this chapter, German equivalent terms within quotation marks are inserted by Bolman himself. Such insertions lacking quotation marks are my own additions, for clarification of the meaning. (Bolman does not italicize his inserted German words.) Bolman uses two kinds of square brackets for his additions, one kind enclosing the German equivalent terms, and the other to indicate the translator’s English interpolations. In this chapter I indicate both kinds of Bolman additions with a single kind of square brackets, and mark my own few additions, limited to italicized German equivalent’s with parentheses. When an English or Latin phrase appears in parentheses, the parentheses are Schelling’s own.

[88:202 (4: 578).

[98:204 (4:580). See the appendix to this study, which quotes Schelling’s later judgment upon Boehme’s theosophical orientation.

[108:203 (4:579).

[118:204 (4:580), What is immediately experienced he views mediately in Verstand, “as if in a mirror” !

[128:204-5 (4:580-81).

[138:205 (4:581). For the full meaning of this ambitious program in the context of Schelling’s late philosophy, see section E. of this chapter. (Bolman consistently modernizes Schelling’s spelling of Seyn and its derivatives.)