Unconscious - Romantic Unconscious: Dreams, Souls and Metaphysics

Author: F W J von Schelling

Title: Ages of the World (1813)


Pages: Introduction | Extract I a | Extract I b | Extract II a | Extract II bExtract III a | Extract III b


Three brief extracts from this very unusual, obscure and unfinished text by Friedrich Schelling. Schelling had been one of the leading lights of German Idealism in philosophy, but was now undergoing various philosophical doubts and becoming more interested in the irrational and unconscious aspects of the soul. Partly his arguments were metaphysical ones – he was beginning to believe that chaos, matter and unconsciousness might be the basis from which consciousness evolved, and on which it was very shakily erected. Partly he had also become interested in the emerging field of Romantic psychiatry and its reports based on prophetic trances, magnetism and dreams.

In Extract I Schelling sets out distinctions between waking, dreaming, and mesmeric trances in which the soul approaches a higher principle, thus overturning the Enlightenment association between consciousness, reason and truth.

In Extract II, in very obscure language, Schelling intimates that the soul has a double aspect – one part, the unconscious part, is the innermost essence that holds all the answers to the questions of consciousness.

Extract III is where Schelling’s manuscript breaks off unfinished with an attempt to describe a will at the origin of all life that ‘sinks into the night of unconsciousness’ after setting everything in motion.

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Back to Unconscious documents | IntroductionExtract I a | Extract I b | Extract II a | Extract II bExtract III a | Extract III b