Dr. J. Glenn Friesen

Studies relating to Abraham Kuyper


Abraham Kuyper


Herman Dooyeweerd


Franz von Baader

Frederik van Eeden


Ramana Maharshi

C.G. Jung

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© J. Glenn Friesen 2003-2006

Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920)

Drawing by H.J. Haverman, 1896
from Gideon Strauss: "Abraham Kuyper–Christian Cultural Activist"


The following has been published by Ars Disputandi as "The Mystical Dooyeweerd Once Again: Kuyper's Use of Franz von Baader." Online at http://www.arsdisputandi.org/publish/articles/000130/index.html. It is a Discussion Note relating to my article "The Mystical Dooyeweerd: The Relation of His Thought to Franz von Baader," http://www.arsdisputandi.org/publish/articles/000088/index.html.

Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) was a major formative influence on neo-Calvinism and on the philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd. Further research has proved that Abraham Kuyper had extensive knowledge of Baader’s writings, and that he had great admiration for Baader’s philosophy. [1]

The most important of Kuyper’s references to Baader is in his article ‘Het Modernisme: een Fata morgana op Christelijk gebied.’ [2] Kuyper says,

Although I am not unaware of the dangers that his [Baader’s] ideas have in the direction of Rome, I nevertheless maintain that we can conceive of no better counterweight against the ravings of modernism.

Kuyper says that modernism had tried to defend the ideal world against the materialist view of ‘realism’ where only the visible world is real. But modernism had done this by a ‘spiritualizing flight of the spirit in abstract thought.’ This kind of spiritualizing necessarily involves a dualism, and Kuyper emphasizes that Baader was opposed in principle to all dualism. Kuyper says that the Scriptures place themselves above the dualistic conflict between matter and spirit, by pointing to the origin from which they both diverge. Kuyper expresses the wish that modernism would have allowed itself to be led by Baader to the “Biblical realism” of the Incarnation, as expressed in the life-giving proverb ‘Embodiment is the goal of the ways of God.’ [3] But Kuyper says that Baader’s ideas only had effect in a limited domain, and so the one-sided spiritualistic idealism that he opposed was able to continue among academics, in the national literature and culture and even among the people themselves through such literature, lectures and preaching. [4]

Kuyper is correct that Baader opposed any dualistic spiritualizing. Baader opposed both rationalism (which affirmed science but rejected the spiritual) and pietism (which affirmed the spiritual but rejected science). Baader said that both rationalists and supernaturalists confuse the transcendent with something that is against nature or against reason. But instead of being separated from nature, they should rather acknowledge the importance of embodiment [Leibwerdung, Naturwerdung]. [5] He says, ‘Embodiment is the fulfillment of the development of a being.’ [6] And, ‘It is pure arrogant pride to want to be before God without a body.’ [7]

Baader believed that there is embodiment even within God. He did not follow Schelling’s idea that God was required to reveal Himself in the temporal world. Rather, God’s expression of his ‘nature’ is within the Trinity. It is evident that Kuyper was familiar with Baader’s ideas about the Trinity. [8]

In his article about modernism, Kuyper says the Dutch theologians J.H. Gunning and de la Saussaye introduced him to Baader. [9] Kuyper says that Baader was ‘a gigantic personality, from whose spirit his own special stream of thought has flowed, which already has sprinkled each area of science with its fructifying waters.’ Baader emphasized the necessity of reforming the special sciences by the application of his Christian philosophy. He even seems to have anticipated Kuyper’s vision of a Free University by his plea for a faculty free from the control of the state.[10]

These two themes that Kuyper identifies in Baader, (1) the opposition to dualism, and (2) the reformation of the special sciences, were both later continued and developed by Dooyeweerd’s philosophy, as were the many other interrelated ideas that Dooyeweerd held in common with Baader.

Baader’s two major works were Fermenta Cognitionis (6 volumes) and Spekulatieve Dogmatik (5 volumes). In 1826 he was appointed professor of philosophy and speculative theology at the new University of Munich. He had to stop lecturing on theology in 1838 when the Catholic bishop banned the public discussion of theology by laymen. Kuyper refers to this order of the bishop with respect to Baader’s teachings. In Encyclopaedie der Heilige Godgeleerdheid [11] Kuyper says that Rome saw the dangers to it of the speculative theology of Baader. Rome therefore issued a judgment concerning these works and also proclaimed the dogma of Papal infallibility.

In Calvinism and the Arts [Het Calvinisme en de kunst,] [12] Kuyper refers to Baader’s Fermenta Cognitionis. Kuyper discusses the nature of beauty in relation to the situation before and after man’s fall into sin. Kuyper says that there is a question as to what existed in Paradise before the fall–whether the ‘Tohu Wa Bohu’ refers to a still unformed chaos or whether it refers to the result of a destruction that had already occurred. He says that Baader’s theosophical position on this is ‘well known,’ as is Milton’s position. His reference is to Baader’s view of a double fall and a double creation. It is significant that Kuyper does not regard these views as necessarily unorthodox; he merely says that nothing further can be proved. [13]

Kuyper says that after man’s fall, the earth sank below the level that it originally had. A part of the beauty of the earth was taken away. Thereafter, the unsightly, the ugly and even the demonic and the horrible began to reveal themselves as powers, both in their spiritual as well as material existence. Kuyper differentiates between mere ugliness and the truly horrible:

Where there is only the retreat [moving backwards] of former beauty, we have the beginning of ugliness. But as soon as an antithetical principle begins to work actively, there arises the sporadic anticipation of the hellish and the horrible; this really finds its own true region in the things that are under the earth, in the [katachthonia]… [14]

This last point, the anticipation of the hellish once an antithetical principle becomes active, is pure Baader. Baader says that we have anticipations both of heaven and of hell, depending on our religious ground principle or motive. There is a demonic realm below that of the ‘earthly’ temporal, just as there is a heavenly realm above the temporal. Within cosmic time, we move towards our final state, and we anticipate where we are headed. This anticipation is either through our heavenly eye, or our infernal eye:
In ecstasy as anticipation this integrity is seen by the heavenly eye (if only momentarily) through the purely outer seeing, or it is seen through the infernal eye. Shakespeare calls these moments ‘Eternal moments.’ [15]

Thus, when we are gripped by the true Christian principle, there is a reintegration, an eternal moment, or what Baader calls a transient ‘Silberblick.’ Dooyeweerd refers to a similar anticipation of the eternal:

In the Biblical attitude of naïve experience the transcendent, religious dimension of its horizon is opened. The light of eternity radiates perspectively through all the temporal dimensions of this horizon and even illuminates seemingly trivial things and events in our sinful world [NC III, 29]

Kuyper says that the idea of the beautiful in art must be related to the higher and richer concept of Glory [Heerlijkheid or doxa]. [16] He says that Baader’s error is that he conceived of this Glory in a way that identified Spirit and matter. Kuyper wanted to maintain a strong opposition between Spirit and matter, which he says is the only way to avoid the pantheism that pervades all theosophy. Kuyper’s objection of ‘pantheism’ insofar as it concerns Baader therefore concerns the fact that theosophy does not affirm a dualism of body and soul.

Now it appears that despite his praise of Baader’s opposition to dualism, Kuyper is here reintroducing a dualism of his own. And it is interesting that Dooyeweerd later criticized Kuyper for maintaining exactly this dualism.[17] Instead of this dualism, Dooyeweerd sets out the idea of the heart as the supratemporal integral religious root of the whole of our temporal existence, including all of our temporal functions. The heart therefore unites both the “spiritual” and the “material” aspects of our temporal reality. Such an idea of the supratemporal heart is found in Baader. But Dooyeweerd cites Kuyper in support. He refers to Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism, where he refers to ‘that point in our consciousness in which our life is still undivided and lies comprehended in its unity.’ Now Kuyper gave these lectures in 1898. Did Kuyper disavow his dualistic division between body and soul, or did Dooyeweerd read his idea of the supratemporal heart into Kuyper? In any event, the idea of a nondualistic supratemporal heart is one of the ideas where Dooyeweerd’s philosophy agrees with Baader. And such a nondual idea should not be regarded as pantheistic. Baader himself emphasized how his philosophy was distinct from pantheism, and he in fact criticized Schelling for being pantheistic.[18]

It is clear that Kuyper had an extensive knowledge of Baader’s writings. He quotes from Baader’s Collected Works [Werke] as well as from the excerpts in Die Weltalter. He also had a great appreciation for Baader, and as I have shown, he continued to retain many of Baader’s ideas. A study and comparison with Baader’s work is therefore crucial in order to understand Kuyper and the origins of neo-Calvinism. It is also essential to understanding Dooyeweerd, whose philosophy agrees with Baader in so many essential points. Through Kuyper and Dooyeweerd, Baader’s ideas and philosophy have been transmitted to neo-Calvinism both within and outside the Netherlands.

[1] In 1981, J. Zwaan prepared an extensive index of Kuyper’s works, which he called the 'Kuyper prosopografie' (unpublished). Michael Morbey provided me with Zwaan’s list of Kuyper’s references to Baader. The significance of these references was previously not recognized because Baader’s philosophy had not been compared with Kuyper’s ideas.

[2] ‘Het Modernisme: een Fata morgana op Christelijk gebied,’ (Amsterdam: H. de Hoogh & Co. 1871), 64 ft. 21; http://www.neocalvinisme.nl/ak/broch/akfatam.html). Kuyper refers to Die Weltalter, Lichtstrahlen aus F. von Baaders Werke, ed. Franz Hoffman (Erlangen, 1868).

[3] The original maxim is by Friedrich Christoph Oetinger (1702-1782), one of Baader’s influences. Oetinger refers to the ‘works’ of God instead of the ‘ways’ of God: ‘Leiblichkeit ist das Ende der Werke Gottes.’ Benz says that Oetinger’s idea is that God is not the complete, definable God of the theologians, who has placed a completed humanity in a prefabricated world, but one who out of the dark ‘Urgrund’ reveals himself in the realization and embodiment of Himself. This revelation is also realized in the development of the physical world; salvation extends to the cosmos. The idea of embodiment was disputed by some Protestant theologians because they thought it implied pantheism. Ernst Benz, Schöpfungsglaube und Endzeiterwartung. Antwort auf Teilhard de Chardins Theologie der Evolution (München, 1965), 185.

[4] ‘Confidentie: Schrijven aan den Weled, Heer J.H. Van der Linden,’ (Amsterdam: Hoveker & Zoon, 1873), 56.

[5] Über die Begründung der Ethik durch die Physik (Stuttgart, 1969), 36

[6] Über der Begriff der Zeit (Darmstadt, 1975), 38, ft. 18.

[7] Die Weltalter, 199.

[8] Abraham Kuyper: ‘De verflauwing der grenzen,’ (Amsterdam: J.A. Wormser, 1892; http://www.neocalvinisme.nl/ak/broch/akverfl.html), ft. 26. In this same article, Kuyper also praises Baader for opposing Kant’s autonomy of thought; this theme of opposition to the autonomy of thought was later developed by Dooyeweerd.

[9] In E Voto Dordraceno: toelichting op den Heidelbergus Catechismus, (Amsterdam: J.A. Wormser, 1892), II, 256. Kuyper says that Gunning and Saussaye wanted to seek a philosophic basis for the truth of the Christian religion. He says it was natural that they would be attracted to the theosophical ideas that were first sketched by Boehme and then later interpreted by Baader ‘with so much talent.’

[10] In Werke 8, 215 to 216 Baader speaks of the need for students of history, theology, medicine, jurisprudence, etc. to be given a course in philosophy where they are exposed to the higher [central] standpoint, so that their own special science can have true power. In a footnote, he proposes a free faculty within the University, independent of government influence, where this higher truth could be taught.]

[11] Abraham Kuyper: Encyclopaedie der Heilige Godgeleerdheid, (Amsterdam: J.A. Wormser, 1894), v. 1, 370.

[12] Het Calvinisme en de kunst: rede bij de overdracht van het rectoraat der Vrije Universiteit op 20 October, 1888,’ (Amsterdam: J.A. Wormser, 1888).

[13] See Werke 9,83 for Baader’s discussion on the ‘Tohu Wa Bohu.’]

[14] ‘Het Calvinisme en de kunst,’ pp. 12 and 64 ft. 32.

[15] Über der Begriff der Zeit, 58, ft. 14.

[16] ‘Het Calvinisme en de kunst,’ pp. 10 and 61 ft. 19. Kuyper reiterates this objection to ‘pantheism’ on p. 72 ft. 65, although he says that this theosophical teaching is an undoubted advantage over materialism.

[17] Herman Dooyeweerd: ‘Kuyper’s Wetenschapsleer,’ Philosophia Reformata 1939, 193-232. The citation is from Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism, p. 20, online at http://www.kuyper.org/main/publish/books_essays/

[18] See Peter Koslowski: Philosophien der Offenbarung (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2001). Koslowski distinguishes Baader’s orthodox theosophy from gnostic and from pantheistic theosophy.

Additional Notes on Dooyeweerd and Kuyper

Dooyeweerd says that the "great turning point" in his own philosophy was his discovery of the heart, the religious root of human existence (NC I, v). He was to call this insight “the key of knowledge.” And as we can see from his above quotation from Dooyeweerd found support for this idea in Kuyper's Lectures on Calvinism. It must be emphasized that Dooyeweerd distinguished Kuyper's neo-Calvinism from Calvinism.

Kuyper's Lectures on Calvinism (also called The Stone Lectures) were among the few writings of Kuyper that Dooyeweerd really valued. In most of Kuyper's writings, Dooyeweerd found remnants of a scholastic dualism (See Herman Dooyeweerd: “Kuyper’s Wetenschapsleer,” Philosophia Reformata 1939, 193-232). Dooyeweerd says that in these Lectures on Calvinism, Kuyper's reformational insight successfully broke through Kuyper's scholastic dualism. Dooyeweerd also cites these lectures with respect to Kuyper's reference to the semen religionis [religious seed] implanted in man (“Kuyper’s Wetenschapsleer,” 211). Dooyeweerd's appreciation for Kuyper on these points must be contrasted with Vollenhoven's rejection of the ideas of the supratemporal heart and of the semen religionis.

Dooyeweerd also mentions with approval Kuyper's lecture at the opening of the Vrije Universiteit, Souvereiniteit in eigen kring, 3e druk (Kampen, 1930). The only other works that Dooyeweerd approves of are those relating to “contemplation of life and of a meditative nature” [van levenbeschouwelijke en meditatieve aard] (See Herman Dooyeweerd, “Na vijf en dertig jaren,”Philosophia Reformata 36 (1971), 1-10, at 6. The last category–"works of a contemplative and meditative nature" must include Kuyper's To Be Near Unto God (New York: Macmillan, 1925, now available online through the Kuyper Foundation). This work was originally published as Nabij God te Zijn (Kampen: Kok, 1908). It was written by Kuyper late in his life, after he had developed his ideas of sphere sovereignty. Although Dooyeweerd criticized some of Kuyper’s ideas in his article “Kuyper’s Wetenschapsleer,” he did not criticize these mystical ideas. On the contrary, Dooyeweerd continued to emphasize the importance of Kuyper’s rediscovery of the importance of the supratemporal heart.

In a video interview of Dooyeweerd, he mentions the impact made on him when he first read Kuyper's Pentecost Meditations ("Dagen van goede boodschap: op den Pinksterdag").There are numerous references to our "heart" in that text. At p. 11, Kuyper refers to the soul's separation from God, which is overcome in Christ.

Maar als gij in Hem u ingelijfd weet, en éen plante met Hem ,en een levend lid aan zijn levend lichaam, door de mystieke, wondere levensverbonding des Geestes, o, dan is er geen afstand, maar dan is elk oogenblik uw gebed aan Hem opklimmende, en oogenblijk van Hem een gave op u nederdalend. Dan staat er de Jakobsladder weer opgericht; en langs die opgerichte ladder snelt uw ziele Hem tegemoet en snellen zijn liefdboden u tegen. Alles bezield, vol zaligen glans, en tintelend van goddelijk leven! Door Jezus’ Hemelvaart aard en hemel voor uw diepsten zielsblik éen.

But when you know yourself to be incorporate in Him, and one plant with Him, and a living member of his living body, by means of the mystical, miraculous living union of the Spirit, oh, then there is no distance, then in every moment your prayer ascends to Him, and in every moment a gift descends from Him. Then Jacob's ladder has been again set up; and along this erected ladder, your soul speeds to meet Him and his loving commandments speed towards you. Everything is animated, full of heavenly glory, and sparkling with divine life! By means of Jesus' ascension, earth and heaven become one in your deepest soul's view.

In this same Pentecost meditation, Kuyper speaks of the difference between our temporal world and our true home, which is a created eternity. He calls this created eternity "heaven" in contrast to the temporal 'earth.'

Een geschapen hemel dus, die zijn ordeningen en afmetingen, zijn aanwezen, aard en wezen heeft, zijn eigen huishouding en bestaanswijs, evengoed als deze aarde, en die niets gemeen heeft noch met het uitspansel, dat pas op den tweeden dag aanzijn verkreek, noch met den starrenhemel, dien God opriep, dat hij zijn zou, den vierden dag.(p. 18)

Therefore, a created heaven, which has its ordering and bounds, its existence, nature and being, its own administration and mode of being, just like this earth, and which has nothing in common with the firmament, which only came into existence on the second day, nor with the starry heavens that God called into being on the fourth day.

The heavens, the world above, is the real world, whereas the temporal world is a drably lit cellar (p. 14).Earth is a lower creation (p. 21). This created heaven is not merely spiritual, but is more real than this world in which we live (p. 124).

There is a considerable overlap with Dooyeweerd's use of the terms 'heaven' and 'earth,' as well as his idea of the aevum as a created eternity.

From where did Kuyper get these ideas? I would suggest from Franz von Baader, although Dooyeweerd is a more faithful follower of Baader. Whereas Kuyper believes that we cross over to this created eternity only at death, Dooyeweerd recognizes that even now we simultaneously live both in the aevum as well as in the temporal world.

The theologian J.H. Gunning, Jr. introduced Kuyper to the ideas of Franz von Baader. See my review of the thesis by Leo Mietus: Gunning en de theosofie: Een onderzoek naar de receptie van de christelijke theosofie in het werk van J.H. Gunning Jr. van 1863-1876, (Gorinchem: Narratio, 2006)

In an even more recent book, Lieuwe Mietus, details some of Kuyper's interest in Baader. See Leo Mietus: Gunning en Kuyper in 1978: A. Kuypers polemiek tegen Het Leven van Jezus van J.H. Gunning Jr. (Brochurereeks nr. 28, Velp: Bond van Vrije Evangelische Gemeenten in Nederland, 2009). Mietus refers at p. 69 to a discussion that Kuyper had with Ph.S. van Ronkel in 1871 in Zutphen. Kuyper urged Van Ronkel to read Baader, and asked whether he thought Baader could help revive intellectual studies. Kuyper said, “Lees hem [Baader] opnieuw, gij moet het doen.” ("Read him [Baader] again, you must do it.) Van Ronkel spent half a year reading Baader, and concluded that there although there were sparks of genius in him, he missed the “quietly burning fire of the hearth” in his work. I find that an interesting remark, since in the 1920's there was a revival of interest in Baader, contained in the Herdflamme [Hearth flame] series of books published by Othmar Spann, which Dooyeweerd read. See "Dooyeweerd, Spann and the Philosophy of Totality." Spann obviously did find this quietly burning hearth fire in Baader's work. Van Ronkel did not make a definitive judgment about Baader, but he spoke out against Gunning's "ethical theology.”

But Kuyper's disagreement was with respect to Gunning's view of Scripture and the confessions of faith. Kuyper was particularly upset with Gunning's view that the birth narratives of Christ need not be taken literally, but should rather regarded as myths or legendary expressions of a “history of a higher order.” This was a view that Gunning himself seems to have later retracted. Curiously, Kuyper himself questioned some of the birth narratives, acknowledging that they cannot be harmonized (Mietus 2009, p. 76). But in contrast to Kuyper's theology, which was based on a more literal Scriptural reading, Gunning's theology was based on the personal experience of the regenerated Christian. For Gunning, confessions of faith are an important expression of this experience, but such expressions are determined by their time and need to be devloped (Mietus, 2009, pp. 8-9).

Dooyeweerd seems to have a similar view of confessions of faith, as can be seen in his Responses to the Curators of the Free University. And Dooyeweerd's view of Scripture also seems to be that it is a temporal expression of the Word of God; he did not use propositions from Scripture as a basis for philosophy. Mietus suggests that one reason Kuyper criticized Gunning was competition between Gunning's University of Utrecht and Kuyper's newly founded Free University.

It was Baader’s recovery of the truly spiritual [geestelijk] as opposed to the merely pietistic spiritualistic that so impressed Kuyper. Kuyper himself emphasizes such a mystical spirituality in his To be Near Unto God:

For when it comes to a meeting with God, the action proceeds from both sides. God comes to him, and he comes to God. First from afar, then ever closer, until at length all distance falls away, and the meeting takes place - a moment of such blessedness as can never be expressed in words.

Then and only then comes the “nearness.” For everything hinges on that nearness, on that feeling, “it is good for me to be near unto God.”

He also who has not entered into this secret, may say with others, “it is good for me to be near unto God” (Ps. 73: 27), but as yet he does not grasp it. He says it without thought. He thinks it means a pious frame of mind, but feels no slightest burning of a spark of this mystical, most intimate and personal love in his own heart. Adoration, worship, prayer for grace are there, but no attachment yet of love. To be "near" is to be so close to God that your eye sees, your heart is aware of, and your ear hears him, and every cause of separation has been removed; near in one of two ways: either that you feel yourself, as it were, drawn up into heaven, or that God has come down from heaven to you, and seeks you out in your loneliness, in that which constitutes your particular cross, or in the joy that falls to your lot.

Kuyper here refers to “this secret” as something that must be entered into. And it is in this sense of the importance of “entering” that true mysticism is secret. For those who have not entered, the experience remains secret. It is not that someone else is keeping the information from them, but that they have not chosen to “taste and see.” It is for this reason that Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables (Matt. 13: 10-17). Those who have not experienced the supratemporal, or who do not want to acknowledge it, cannot understand it.

Dooyeweerd goes even further. Those who have not experienced the supratemporal do not even understand the temporal world! As the sense of transcendence is lost, our ability to experience the perspectival nature of our experience is weakened. We then cannot see reality as it really is (NC III, 30). We cannot have true knowledge of God, self or cosmos.

Notes revised Jan14/10