Book XVII - The Romantic Reaction

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2015


'Schopenhauer has depicted for us the tremendous terror which seizes man when he is suddenly dumbfounded by the cognitive form of phenomena because the principle of sufficient reason, in some one of its manifestations, seems to suffer an exception. If we add to this terror the blissful ecstasy that wells from the innermost depths of man, indeed of nature, at this collapse of the principium individuationis, we steal a glimpse into the nature of the Dionysian, which is brought home to us most intimately by the analogy of intoxication.'

The exaltation of science and technology, (such as it was), led to the development of industrialization, and industrialization led to the alienation of the masses (not the elite, of course).

Karl Marx
This was not, however, as is often thought, an alienation that the thinker Karl Marx would suggest and identify, (incorrectly, as it happened), but an alienation from the natural world, and the powerful spiritual forces (the Æons and Dæmons) that lay behind it.
These spiritual forces had lain practically dormant during the Christian era (when they had been denounced, and literally demonised as the minions of the 'Devil' [Pan is disguise, of course]) - but had resurfaced during the 'rebirth of Classical learning' - but had then been suppressed once more during the 'Enlightenment'.
For the 'Enlightenment' spiritual forces reeked of ignorance and superstition - and were seen as denizens of the darkness of the the 'primitive' unscientific mind.
And so, paradoxically, the agnostic, deist and atheistic 'enlightened' followed the same course as the credulous, ignorant and superstitious Christians.
This 'alienation' was the intention of the Demiurge, who, seeing the failure of his false religions in the West (Christianity and Judaism), sought the bind the sentient humans in the web of materialism.
Not surprisingly, spurred on subtly by the Æons, this descent into materialism created a reaction - which later came to be called 'Romanticism'.


Romanticism  is an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century, and still maintains on hold on the human imagination at the present.

Initially, it was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the aristocratic social and political norms of the 'Age of Enlightenment' (see Book XVI), and the scientific rationalization of nature.
It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but had a major impact on historiography, education, and the natural sciences.
It had a significant and complex effect on politics, its long-term effect being on the growth of nationalism.
The movement emphasized intense emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience, placing new emphasis on such emotions as apprehension, terror, and awe -especially that which is experienced in confronting the new aesthetic categories of the sublimity and beauty of nature.
It considered folk art and ancient custom to be noble statuses, but also valued spontaneity, as in the musical impromptu.

 John William Waterhouse
In addition, Romanticism revived medievalism, (or in reality created a 'neo-medievalism') which encouraged a belated, sentimental, and eventually ineffective revival of Christian belief.
The name "Romanticism" itself was derived from the medieval genre chivalric romance. This movement contributed to the strong influence of such romances, disproportionate to their actual showing among medieval literature, on the image of Middle Ages, such that a knight, a distressed damsel, and a dragon is used to conjure up the time pictorially.
Initially  the movement was rooted in a German movement described as 'Sturm und Drang', which preferred intuition and emotion to the rationalism of the Enlightenment.
Sturm und Drang (literally "Storm and Drive", "Storm and Urge", though conventionally translated as "Storm and Stress") is a proto-Romantic movement in German literature and music taking place from the late 1760s to the early 1780s, in which individual subjectivity and, in particular, extremes of emotion were given free expression in reaction to the perceived constraints of rationalism imposed by the Enlightenment and associated aesthetic movements. The period is named for Friedrich Maximilian Klinger's play 'Sturm und Drang', which was first performed by Abel Seyler's famed theatrical company in 1777. The philosopher Johann Georg Hamann is considered to be the ideologue of 'Sturm und Drang', with Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz, H. L. Wagner and Friedrich Maximilian Klinger also significant figures. The great Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was also a notable proponent of the movement, though he and Friedrich Schiller ended their period of association with it by initiating what would become Weimar Classicism - which, in itself, was a 'romanticized Cassicism'.
Romanticism assigned a high value to the achievements of "heroic" individualists and artists, whose examples, it maintained, would raise the quality of society.
It also promoted the individual imagination as a critical authority, and relaxed many of the classical notions of form in art.
There was a strong recourse to historical and natural inevitability, a 'Zeitgeist', in the representation of its ideas.
'Zeitgeist' (spirit of the age or spirit of the time) is the intellectual fashion or dominant school of thought that typifies and influences the culture of a particular period in time. The German word 'Zeitgeist' is often attributed to the philosopher Georg Hegel, but he never actually used the word. In his works such as 'Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte', he uses the phrase 'der Geist seiner Zeit' (the spirit of his time) - for example, "no man can surpass his own time, for the spirit of his time is also his own spirit." Other philosophers who were associated with such ideas include Herder and Spencer and Voltaire. 
Defining the nature of Romanticism may be approached from the starting point of the primary importance of the free expression of the feelings of the artist.
William Wordsworth
Caspar David Friedrich
The importance the Romantics placed on emotion is summed up in the remark of the German painter Caspar David Friedrich that "the artist's feeling is his law". To William Wordsworth, poetry should begin as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings," which the poet then "recollects in tranquility," evoking a new but corresponding emotion the poet can then mold into art.
In order to express feelings, it was considered that the content of the art needed to come from the imagination of the artist, with as little interference as possible from "artificial" rules dictating what a work should consist of. 
It was believed there were natural laws which the imagination, at least of a good creative artist, would unconsciously follow through artistic inspiration if left alone to do so.
As well as rules, the influence of models from other works was considered to impede the creator's own imagination, so that originality was essential.
The concept of the genius, or artist who was able to produce his own original work through this process of "creation from nothingness", is key to Romanticism, and to be derivative was the worst sin.
This idea was referred to as "romantic originality".
Also found in Romanticism was a strong belief and interest in the importance of nature.
However, this is particularly in the effect of nature upon the artist when he is surrounded by it, preferably alone.
In contrast to the usually very social art of the Enlightenment, Romantics were distrustful of the human world, and tended to believe that a close connection with nature was mentally and morally healthy.
Romantic art addressed its audiences with what was intended to be felt as the personal voice of the artist.
So, in literature, much of romantic poetry invited the reader to identify the protagonists with the poets themselves.
Romanticism embodied a new and restless spirit, seeking violently to burst through old and cramping forms, - a nervous preoccupation with perpetually changing inner states of consciousness, a longing for the unbounded and the indefinable, for perpetual movement and change, an effort to return to the forgotten sources of life, - a search after means of expressing an unappeasable yearning for unattainable goals.
In the realm of ethics, politics, aesthetics it was the authenticity and sincerity of the pursuit of inner goals that mattered; this applied equally to individuals and groups -states, nations, movements.
This is most evident in the aesthetics of romanticism, where there is a passionate belief in spiritual freedom, individual creativity.
The painter, the poet, the composer strive for self-expression of the artist's own unique, inner vision.
It part of a tradition of resistance to 'Enlightenment' rationalism - a "Counter-Enlightenment" -  to be associated most closely with 'German Romanticism'.
Romanticism is precisely situated neither in choice of subject nor exact truth, but in the way of feeling.


One of Romanticism's key ideas, and most enduring legacies is the assertion of nationalism, which became a central theme of Romantic art and political philosophy.
Romantic nationalism is the form of nationalism in which the state derives its political legitimacy as an organic consequence of the unity of those it governs.
This includes, depending on the particular manner of practice, the language, race, culture, religion, and customs of the "nation" in its primal sense of those who were "born" within its culture.
This form of nationalism arose in reaction to dynastic or imperial hegemony, which assessed the legitimacy of the state from the "top down", emanating from a monarch or other authority, which justified its existence.
Among the key themes of Romanticism, and its most enduring legacy, the cultural assertions of romantic nationalism have also been central in post-Enlightenment art and political philosophy.
From its earliest stirrings, with their focus on the development of national languages and folklore, and the spiritual value of local customs and traditions, to the movements that would redraw the map of Europe and lead to calls for "self-determination" of nationalities, nationalism was one of the key issues in Romanticism, determining its roles, expressions and meanings.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Romantic nationalism formed a key strand in the philosophy of Hegel (1770-1831), who argued that there was a "spirit (Æon) of the age" (hence the confusion between Æon and eon).

In the German language this was known as the 'zeitgeist' (see above), that inhabited a particular people at a particular time, and that, when that people became the active determiner of history, it was simply because their cultural and political moment had come.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (August 27, 1770 – November 14, 1831) was a German philosopher. He achieved wide renown in his day and, while primarily influential within the continental tradition of philosophy, has become increasingly influential in the analytic tradition as well. Although he remains a divisive figure, his canonical stature within Western philosophy is universally recognized. Geist is a central concept in Hegel's 'Phänomenologie des Geistes'. According to Hegel, the Weltgeist  is effected in history through the mediation of various Volksgeister ("national spirits").
The Æons, anxious to reassert the primacy of the 'original humanity' (the Aryan or noble race), which they had formed and nurtured in the distant past, encouraged this aspect of European Romantic Nationalism.
Richard Wagner correctly argued that those who were ethnically different could not comprehend the artistic and cultural meaning inherent in a particular national culture.

© Copyright Zac Sawyer 2015
© Copyright Zac Sawyer 2015
For example, identifying 'Judentum' (Jewishness) in musical style, Wagner specifically criticized Jews as being unwilling to assimilate into, or empathize fully with German culture, and thus were unable to truly comprehend the mysteries of its music and language.
In this way, a "national epic" such as Wagner's 'Ring des Nibelungen', which deals with the actions of the incarnated Æons, and their relationships with human sentient beings, have had a galvanizing effect on high culture, as well as society in general, and political develpoments.


Central to the Romantic position is the rediscovery of the 'Dionysian' spirit.
Dionysus (or Bacchus to the Latins) is the form taked by one of the great Æons.
Each Æon, to some extent, encapsulates an essential spiritual element.
In the case of Dionysus this may be epitomized as the liberation of the intuitive and the emotional.
The 'Apollonian and Dionysian' is a philosophical and literary concept, or dichotomy, based on certain features of ancient Greek mythology.
Many philosophers and literary figures have invoked this dichotomy.
In Greek mythology,  Ἀπόλλων (Apollo) and Διόνυσος (Dionysus) are both sons of Zeus.
Apollo is the god of reason and the rational, while Dionysus is the god of the emotional, instinctive and irrational.
Apollo - © Copyright Zac Sawyer 2015
The Aeon Apollo ( Ἀπόλλων - Latin: Apollō) is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in classical Greek and Roman religion and Greek and Roman mythology. The ideal of the kouros (a beardless, athletic youth), Apollo has been variously recognized as a god of music, truth and prophecy, healing, the sun and light, poetry, and more. Apollo is the son of Zeus and Leto, and has a twin sister, the chaste huntress Artemis.
Delphi - Apollo is particularly known for his oracle at Delphi - in Greece. Apollo spoke through his oracle: the sibyl or priestess of the oracle who was known as the Pythia; she had to be an older woman of blameless life chosen from among the peasants of the area. She sat on a tripod seat over an opening in the earth (the "chasm"). When Apollo slew Python, its body fell into this fissure, according to legend, and fumes arose from its decomposing body. Intoxicated by the vapors, the sibyl would fall into a trance, allowing Apollo to possess her spirit. In this state she prophesied.
Dionysus - Bacchus - © Copyright Zac Sawyer 2015
The Aeon Dionysus (Διόνυσος - the Roman Bacchus) is the god of the grape harvest, wine, of ritual madness, fertility, theatre and religious ecstasy in Greek mythology. Alcohol, especially wine, played an important role in Greek culture with Dionysus being an important reason for this life style. His origins are uncertain, and his cults took many forms; some are described by ancient sources as Thracian, others as Greek. In some cults, he arrives from the east, as an Asiatic foreigner; in others, from Ethiopia in the South. He is a god of epiphany, "the god that comes", and his "foreignness" as an arriving outsider-god may be inherent and essential to his cults. He is a major, popular figure of Greek mythology and religion, and is included in some lists of the twelve Olympians. Dionysus was the last god to be accepted into Mt. Olympus. He was the youngest and the only one to have a mortal mother. His festivals were the driving force behind the development of Greek theatre (see Nietzsche). Also known as Bacchus (Greek - Βάκχος), the name adopted by the Romans and related to the frenzy he induces,- 'bakkheia'.
The Dionysian Mysteries were a ritual of ancient Greece and Rome which used intoxicants and other trance-inducing techniques (like dance and music) to remove inhibitions and social constraints, liberating the individual to return to a natural state. In their final phase the Mysteries shifted their emphasis from a chthonic, underworld orientation to a transcendental, mystical one, with Dionysus changing his nature accordingly. By its nature as a mystery religion reserved for the initiated, many aspects of the Dionysian cult remain unknown and were lost with the decline of Greco-Roman civilisation; our knowledge is derived from descriptions, imagery and cross-cultural studies.
The Greeks did not consider the two 'Gods' (Aeons) to be opposites or rivals, although often the two deities were interlacing by nature.
The Apollonian is based on reason and logical thinking.
By contrast, the Dionysian is based on appeals to the emotions and instincts.
The content of all great tragedy is based on the tension created by the interplay between these two.
Although the use of the concepts of the Apollonian and Dionysian is famously linked to Nietzsche's 'Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik', the terms were used before him in German culture.
Famously, the poet Hölderlin spoke of the Apollonian and Dionysian along with Winckelmann.
Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin (20 March 1770 – 7 June 1843) was a major German lyric poet, commonly associated with the artistic movement known as Romanticism. Hölderlin was also an important thinker in the development of German Idealism, particularly his early association with and philosophical influence on his seminary roommates and fellow Swabians Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling.  Hölderlin forms a crucial link between true classicism and the most refined aspects of romanticism.
Johann Joachim Winckelmann (9 December 1717 – 8 June 1768) was a German art historian and archaeologist. He was a pioneering Hellenist who first articulated the difference between Greek, Greco-Roman and Roman art. His would be the decisive influence on the rise of the neoclassical movement during the late 18th century. He subsequently influenced Goethe, Hölderlin, Heine, Nietzsche, George, and Spengler and like Hölderlin forms a crucial link between true classicism and the most refined aspects of romanticism.
Nietzsche's aesthetic usage of the concepts Apollonian and Dionysian, which was later developed philosophically, first appeared in his book 'Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik', which was published in 1872.
His major premise here was that the fusion of Dionysian and Apollonian "Kunsttriebe" ("artistic impulses") form dramatic arts, or tragedies.
He goes on to argue that this fusion has not been achieved since the ancient Greek tragedians.
The interplay between the Apollonian and Dionysian is apparent, Nietzsche claimed in 'Die Geburt der Tragödie', from their use in Greek tragedy.
For the audience of such a drama, Nietzsche claimed, this tragedy allows us to sense an underlying essence, what he called the "Primordial Unity", which revives our Dionysian nature - which is almost indescribably pleasurable - a sort of metaphysical solace, or connection with the heart of creation.

Different from Kant's idea of the 'sublime', the Dionysian is all-inclusive rather than alienating to the viewer as a sublimating experience.
The sublime needs critical distance, while the Dionysian demands a closeness of experience.
According to Nietzsche, the critical distance, which separates man from his closest emotions, originates in Apollonian ideals, which in turn separate him from his essential connection with self.
The Dionysian embraces the emotional nature of such experience as all-important; not just on its own, but as it is intimately connected with the Apollonian.
The Dionysian magnifies man, but only so far as he realizes that he is one and the same with all ordered human experience.
The godlike unity of the Dionysian experience is of utmost importance in viewing the Dionysian as it is related to the Apollonian because it emphasizes the harmony that can be found within one's own experience.

to be continued....


© Copyright Peter Crawford 2015