1st Edition

Mysticism and Materialism in the Wake of German Idealism

By W. Ezekiel Goggin, Sean Hannan Copyright 2022
    162 Pages
    by Routledge

    162 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book argues that the rediscovery of mystical theology in nineteenth-century Germany not only helped inspire idealism and romanticism, but also planted the seeds of their overcoming by way of critical materialism. Thanks in part to the Neoplatonic turn in the works of J. G. Fichte, as well as the enthusiasm of mining engineer Franz X. von Baader, mystical themes gained a critical currency, and mystical texts returned to circulation. This reawakening of the mystical tradition influenced romantic and idealist thinkers such as Novalis and Hegel, and also shaped later critical interventions by Marx, Benjamin, and Bataille. Rather than rehearsing well-known connections to Swedenborg or Böhme, this study goes back further to the works of Meister Eckhart, Nicholas of Cusa, Catherine of Siena, and Angela of Foligno. The book offers a new perspective on the reception of mystical self-interrogation in nineteenth-century German thought and will appeal to scholars of philosophy, history, theology, and religious studies.


    1 The Spark and the Counterfeit: Kant, Fichte, and the Transcendental Critique of Mysticism

    2 In the Vein of Eckhart: Franz Xaver von Baader’s Mining of Medieval Mysticism

    3 Now the Bridge Stands Glittering: Apophasis, Kenosis, and Temporality in Novalis’ Mystical Politics

    4 The Eye With Which I See: All-Seeing Eyes in Hegel, Eckhart, and Nicholas of Cusa

    5 Social Grace: Eckhart, Catherine of Siena, and Marx on Appropriation

    6 A Dramatic Loss of Self: Bataille’s Mystical Praxis



    W. Ezekiel Goggin is a researcher specialising in post-Kantian philosophy of religion. He has published work in the Hegel Bulletin, Claremont Studies in the Philosophy of Religion, and The Journal of Cultural and Religious Theory. He was a fellow of the Marty Center for the Public Understanding of Religion and an inaugural fellow of the Humanities and Social Change International Foundation’s Center at the University of California Santa Barbara.

    Sean Hannan is an Associate Professor in the Humanities Department at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He is the author of On Time, Change, History, and Conversion (2020). He has also written articles published in Augustinian Studies, Political Theology, Medieval Mystical Theology, and the Journal of Early Christian Studies. He has co-edited the volume Augustine and Time (2021) and is co-editing a forthcoming volume, Mystical Theology and Platonism in the Time of Cusanus.

    "This highly original study of the reception of Platonistic, Eckhartian, and Cusan mysticism in German Idealism, Romanticism, and modern materialism, is a most welcome development and long overdue in the scholarship. Goggin and Hannan do an excellent job of presenting the genuine rationality and critical rejection of Schwärmerei in diverse thinkers such as J.G. Fichte, Novalis, Baader, Hegel, and Walter Benjamin, while still highlighting the undeniable but often overlooked philosophia perennis undercurrent in their philosophies, especially their engagement with imaginative, non-discursive, and intuitive forms of cognition. Mysticism and Materialism in the Wake of German Idealism is a wonderfully passionate and eloquent defense of the power, possibility, and continuing relevance of Neoplatonic mystical thought."           

    - David W. Wood, associate editor of SYMPHILOSOPHIE and editor of The Enigma of Fichte’s First Principles

    "This is a wonderfully thoughtful and deeply erudite book. Goggin and Hannan show how the question of mysticism in German romanticism is rooted in medieval sources. They argue that the roots of German idealism and romanticism go back beyond Neoplatonism and its philosophical grounding. The book wants to bring the mystical tradition in relation with the material aspects of labor and experience. The question of subjectivity, and the self-emptying of the subject to which the medieval mystics aspired, become issues of immediate importance for the perspectives of modernity. This is a fascinating and superbly informative study that considers a broad but focused range of mystical figures and their singular - even if often unacknowledged - importance in modernist political and philosophical assumptions."

    - Françoise Meltzer, University of Chicago