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The Secular Beyond: Free Religious Dissent and Debates over the Afterlife in Nineteenth-Century Germany1


Toward the end of the first third of the nineteenth century, German writers began to favor a new metaphor for the afterlife: “das Jenseits” (“the Beyond”). At first glance, the emergence of such a term may appear to have little bearing on our understanding of the history of religious thought. However, as the late historian Reinhart Koselleck maintained, the study of semantic changes can betray tectonic shifts in the matrix of ideas that underpin the worlds of politics, learning, and religion. Drawing on Koselleck's method of conceptual history, the following essay takes the popularization of “the Beyond” as a point of departure for investigating secularization and secularism as two linked, yet distinct, sources of pressure on the fault lines of nineteenth-century German religious thought.

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2 Note on translation. German terms have been translated except where no clear English equivalent could be found. This is the case for “freigeistig” (meaning both freethinking and free spiritual), “Deutschkatholiken” (the name of a Catholic dissenting group that it would be misleading to call “German Catholics”) and “Diesseits” (the opposite of “Jenseits”). The German term “Jenseits” has been interspersed with “the Beyond” in order to remind the reader of the German specificity of the key term of this investigation. The main state church of Prussia, the “evangelische Kirche,” has been translated as the “Protestant Church” rather than the “Lutheran Church” (its American denominational equivalent) because it was created through the merger of the Lutheran and Reformed churches (1817–1821). Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own.

3 Koselleck Reinhart, “Einleitung,” in Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland, ed. Koselleck Reinhart, et al. . (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1972), xiixxvii. Koselleck Reinhart, The Practice of Conceptual History: Timing History, Spacing Concepts, trans. Presner Todd, Behnke Kerstin, and Welge Jobst (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2002). For an interpretation of Koselleck's method, see Palonen Kari, “The History of Concepts as a Style of Political Theorizing. Quentin Skinner's and Reinhart Koselleck's Subversion of Normative Political Theory,” European Journal of Political Theory 1:1 (July 2002): 96111.

4 On the secularization of Christian concepts of the afterlife, see McDannell Colleen and Lang Bernhard, Heaven: A History, 2nd ed. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2001). The appearance and popularization of “Jenseits” also corresponded to the grand realignment of assumptions about the human relationship “to nature and to history, to the world and to time” that Koselleck found manifested in the conceptual changes that took place between the mid-eighteenth and the mid-nineteenth century, that is, at the inception of the modern era: Koselleck, “Einleitung,” xv.

5 Koselleck, “Einleitung,” xvi–xviii.

6 The polemical aura thus acquired by the term “Jenseits” will not have been lost on two German-speaking atheists, Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud, who employed it—albeit as a preposition—in the titles of two of their most famous tracts. Friedrich Nietzsche first published Jenseits von Gut und Böse (Beyond Good and Evil) in 1886. Sigmund Freud's Jenseits des Lustprinzips (Beyond the Pleasure Principle) appeared in 1920.

7 Taylor Charles, A Secular Age (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007).

8 During the late 1920s, the infallibility of “scientific materialism” became firmly ensconced in the growing Stalinist orthodoxy while, at the same time, many churches, synagogues, and mosques were torn down, converted into cinemas, or turned into “antireligious museums”: Peris Daniel, Storming the Heavens: the Soviet League of the Militant Godless (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1998).

9 Däumig Ernst, Freier Volkskatechismus: Ein Wegweiser zur echten Nächstenliebe und freien Menschenwürde (Berlin: A. Hoffmann, n.d. [1918]), 5.

10 Däumig became co-chairman of the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD) in 1919 and was elected to the same post in the United Communist Party in 1920. The brief tenure of the booklet's publisher and anticlerical firebrand Adolph Hoffmann as Prussian co-minister of education remained an enduring trauma for the state churches, who forever associated his name with the “godless” revolution. On Däumig, see Morgan David, “Ernst Däumig and the German Revolution of 1918,” Central European History 25:4 (1982): 801813.

11 After the suppression of the Revolution of 1848, many of the Free Religious preachers and activists were forced into exile in the United States and Britain. Particularly in the former, they established a far-flung network of Free Religious Congregations within the German-speaking community: Rampelmann Katja, Im Licht der Vernunft: Die Geschichte des deutsch-amerikanischen Freidenker-Almanachs von 1878–1901 (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 2003).

12 Most of the literature on Freigeistigkeit has focused on the first five years of Free Religion: Hans Rosenberg, “Theologischer Rationalismus und vormärzlicher Vulgärliberalismus,” in Rosenberg Hans, Politische Denkströmungen im deutschen Vormärz (Göttingen: 1972 [1930]); Brederlow Jörn, “Lichtfreunde” und “Freie Gemeinden”: Religiöser Protest und Freiheitsbewegung im Vormärz und in der Revolution von 1848–49 (Munich, Vienna: Oldenbourg, 1976); Graf Friedrich Wilhelm, Die Politisierung des religiösen Bewußtseins. Die bürgerlichen Religionsparteien im deutschen Vormärz: Das Beispiel des Deutschkatholizismus (Stuttgart: Frommann-Holzboog, 1978); Paletschek Sylvia, Frauen und Dissens: Frauen im Deutschkatholizismus und in den freien Gemeinden 1841–1852 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1990); Holzem Andreas, Kirchenreform und Sektenstiftung. Deutschkatholiken, Reformkatholiken und Ultramontane am Oberrhein (1844–1856) (Paderborn: Schöningh, 1994); Herzog Dagmar, Intimacy and Exclusion: Religious Politics in Pre-Revolutionary Baden (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996). On the history of the freigeistig movement between 1890 and 1914, see Groschopp Horst, Dissidenten. Freidenkerei und Kultur in Deutschland (Berlin: Dietz, 1997); Simon-Ritz Frank, Die Organisation einer Weltanschauung: die freigeistige Bewegung im Wilhelminischen Deutschland (Gütersloh: Kaiser, 1997).

13 Initial research into the fate of Freigeistigkeit under National Socialism can be found in: Nanko Ulrich, Die Deutsche Glaubensbewegung. Eine historische und soziologische Untersuchung (Marburg: Diagonal, 1993); Ulrich Nanko, “Das Spektrum völkisch-religiöser Organisationen von der Jahrhundertwende bis ins ‘Dritte Reich’,” and Pilger-Strohl Matthias, “Eine deutsche Religion? Die freireligiöse Bewegung—Aspekte ihrer Beziehung zum völkischen Milieu,” in Völkische Religion und Krisen der Moderne: Entwürfe “arteigener” Glaubenssysteme seit der Jahrhundetwende, ed. Schnurbein Stefanie v. and Ulbricht Justus (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2001), 208226, 342–366. For two contrasting views of the interaction of paganism and Protestantism under National Socialism, see Steigmann-Gall Richard, The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919–1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003) and Poewe Karla, New Religions and the Nazis (New York: Routledge, 2006).

14 Already in the sixteenth century, Montaigne used the phrase “au delà cette vie”: Dictionnaire de la Langue Française du seizieme Siècle (Paris: Libraire Ancienne Honoré Champion, 1932), vol. 10, 766.

15 A German-English dictionary of 1828 translated “das Jenseits” not as “the Beyond” but as “the other world.” The date of the earliest citation of “the Beyond” found in the Oxford English Dictionary is 1835. “L'au-delà” achieved wide circulation in France in the 1830s but was first accepted as a noun in a French dictionary in 1866. Italians evidently picked up on the term even later, most likely from the French. “L'aldilà” did not appear in an Italian dictionary until 1908: Complete Practical Grammar of the German Language, 4th ed. (Leipzig and London: J. C. Hinrichs, 1828), 386; A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles (Oxford: Clarendon, 1888) I:841–842; Trésor de la Langue Française (Paris: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1978), 1012; Dizionario etimologico della lingua italiana (Bologna: Zanichelli, 1979), 1:36.

16 McDannell and Lang, Heaven: A History. On Swedenborg, see 181–227, n. 356. See also Lang Bernhard, Himmel und Hölle: Jenseitsglaube von der Antike bis heute (Munich: Beck, 2003). Two more recent histories of heaven that focus on ancient and medieval conceptions are Russell Jeffrey Burton, A History of Heaven: The Singing Silence (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1997); and McGrath Alister, A Brief History of Heaven (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2003).

17 See the indispensible conceptual history of the term “secularization” by Lübbe Hermann, Säkularisierung. Geschichte eines ideenpolitischen Begriffs, 2nd ed. (Munich: Karl Alber, 1975). Hartmut Lehmann has also argued against the expectation established by modernization theorists that disenchantment is a historically inevitable correlate of industrialization and democratization. Instead, Lehmann, like many historians, has come to see secularization as one aspect of the reconfigurations of religion in modernity: see Lehmann Hartmut, ed., Säkularisierung, Dechristianisierung, Rechristianisierung im neuzeitlichen Europa: Bilanz und Perspektiven der Forschung (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1997) and Lehmann Hartmut, Säkularisierung: Der europäische Sonderweg in Sachen Religion (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2004).

18 Walter Sparn, “‘Aussichten in die Ewigkeit’ Jenseitsvorstellungen in der neuzeitlichen protestantischen Theologie,” in Jenseits, ed. Hölscher, 12–39, n. 28, 29.

19 Hegel G. W. F., Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. Miller A. V. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1977), 63.

20 Hegel G. W. F., On Christianity: Early Theological Writings, trans. Knox T. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1983), 159.

21 G. W. F. Hegel, Phenomenology, 265.

22 A convincing argument for the centrality of the term “Jenseits” to Hegel's religious philosophy is made by the Bochum theologian Christian Link, “Das ‘leere Jenseits’: Hegels Analyse der neuzeitlichen Religion,” in Jenseits, ed. Hölscher, 63–79.

23 The Robbers, act IV, scene 5, in Schiller: Five Plays, trans. Robert David MacDonald (London: Oberon, 1998), 67–189, n. 163.

24 Hofacker Ludwig, Das grosse Jenseits: nun erschaulich gewiß; eine freudige Botschaft (Tübingen: Verlag der Buchhandlung zu Guttenberg, 1832). vom Nordstern Arthur (pseud. for Gottlob Adolf Ernst von Nostizt und Jänckendorf), Blicke der Vernunft in das Jenseits (Dresden: Gärtner'schen Buchdrückerei, 1833). Another “glimpse into the Beyond” was offered by a Protestant minister who encouraged parents and educators to help young people overcome life's despairs by looking into the afterlife to show that the material world was but a passing one: Stange C. A., Ein Blick in das Jenseits (Berlin: Plahn'schen, 1836).

25 Bernhard Lang notes that, although the terms “Jenseits” and “Diesseits” appear in the System der katholischen Dogmatik by the neoscholastic theologian Heinrich Klee in 1831, they were not commonly used by Catholic theologians until the 1860s. Lang, “Die zweigeteilte Welt: ‘Jenseits’ und ‘Diesseits’ in der katholischen Theologie des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts,” in Jenseits, ed. Hölscher, 203–232, n. 210. There is also evidence that the terms were entering Protestant theology in the early 1830s. When he revised his Commentar über die Schriften des Evangelisten Johannes (Bonn: Eduard Weber, 1833), 324, Friedrich Lücke, the well-known professor of Protestant theology and friend of Friedrich Schleiermacher, added mention of “Diesseits” and “Jenseits” in reference to contemporary “dialectical criticism.” According to Sparn, Schleiermacher himself apparently refrained from using the term “Jenseits,” even in the 1831 revision of his Glaubenslehre: Sparn, Aussichten, 36–37.

26 A particularly vivid example of the speculative use of the term “the Beyond” is found in an essay of 1847 written by the American lawyer Richard B. Kimball, who had immersed himself in Spinozist and idealist philosophy during a lengthy stay in Germany in the 1830s:

No, I was not happy… . For faith had never been by me sufficiently cherished; and without this great connecting link between two worlds, what wonder that difficulties were presented which I could not overcome? … The idea of Death! This now constantly obtruded itself before my mind. [I knew] [t]hat death would close all my earthly relations. The Beyond—the Beyond! What had it to do with me? So long as I kept my hold on life, my philosophy bore me along smoothly enough. I was a king, a monarch; all were monarchs. But … when the thought forced itself upon my mind, that I should … lose my individuality, my identity—my very Me, Myself—great God! What absolute horror would seize upon me; what terrific apprehensions hung like clouds around my heart!

This citation demonstrates how the two dimensions of secularization discussed above came to clash in the nineteenth century. On the one hand, the author expected there to be an extension of personal identity into the afterlife while, on the other, he was anxious that such an extension might not occur: Kimball Richard B., “Saint Leger Papers: Second Part,” in The Knickerbocker XXIX (1847): 6875, n. 68.

27 Hamilton Thomas, Beyond the Stars; or, Heaven, its Inhabitants, Occupations and Life, 4th ed. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1896 [1888]), 24.

28 Ibid., 41.

29 Sparn, Aussichten, 21, 28.

30 In 1845, Emil Du Bois-Reymond wrote of fellow physiologist Hermann Helmholtz that he stood “entirely on our vantage point with respect to world view”: cited in Galaty David, “The Philosophical Basis of Mid-Nineteenth Century German Reductionism,” Journal of the History of Medicine 29:3 (July 1974): 295316, n. 300.

31 Nordstern (pseud.), Blicke der Vernunft in das Jenseits. The author Gottlob Adolf Ernst von Nostizt und Jänckendorf (1764–1836) was Royal Saxon Konferenzminister, Oberkonsistorialrat-Präsident and Landesgroßmeister of the Saxon Masonic lodges. His other works include Sinnbilder der Christen (1818), Liederkreis für Freimaurer, (2 vols., 1815), and Anregungen für das Herz und das Leben (1825).

32 In the popular scientific spirit of the day, a recent German convert to spiritualism urged his readers to undertake their own “experiments” with table-knocking and assemble a group of skeptical “non-believers” to a séance, where they could make empirical observations: Bernhard Otto, Die Sprache der Verstorbenen oder das Geisterklopfen: Stimmen aus dem Jenseits und enthüllte Geheimnisse des Grabes. Ein unumstößlicher Beweis für die Fortdauer der Seele nach dem Tode und deren Weidervereinigung mit ihren Lieben. Nach gesammelten authentischen Thatsachen dargestellt, 3rd expanded ed. (Leipzig: Gustav Pönike, n.d. [1855]). See also the scientistic “magnetic-ecstatic method” for communicating with the dead found in Cahagnet Louis Alphonse, Die Geheimnisse des Jenseits: oder, die Fortdauer nach dem Tode und die Berufung und Befragung des Vorstorbenen auf magnetisch-ekstatischem Wege (Verlags-Comptoir, 1851). On the scientific claims of spiritualists, see Braude Ann, Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-Century America (Boston: Beacon, 1989); Oppenheimer Janet, The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985); Sawicki Diethard, Leben mit den Toten: Geisterglauben und die Entstehung des Spiritismus in Deutschland 1770–1900 (Paderborn: Schöningh, 2002).

33 Fechner Gustav, Das Büchlein vom Leben nach dem Tode, 3rd ed. (Hamburg and Leipzig: Leopold Voss, 1887 (1836)); Fechner Gustav, Zend-Avesta oder über die Dinge des Himmels und des Jenseits: Vom Standpunkt der Naturbetrachtung, vol. I (Über die Dinge des Himmels) (Leipzig: Leopold Voss, 1854). The Büchlein had numerous English editions, including The Little Book of Life after Death, trans. M. Wadsworth (Boston: Little, Brown & Co. 1904).

34 Fechner, Das Büchlein, 48. McDannell and Lang aptly call spiritualism a “thick description of heaven”: Heaven: A History, 292–303.

35 Fechner, Zend-Avesta III, iv, v.

36 Fechner, Das Büchlein vom Leben nach dem Tode, 7, 66–67.

37 The narrator in an 1842 book, Voices from the Beyond, describes his encounter with a mysterious stranger, who leaves him with a packet of letters describing his experiences as a man who had risen from the dead. Nork F. (pseudonym for Seligmann Kohn), Stimmen aus dem Jenseits: Oder das Todtengericht im Grabe; den mündlichen Mittheilungen eines weidererwachten Scheintodten getreu nacherzählt (Weimar: Bernhard Friedrich Voigt, 1842). Other apparently spiritualist titles by Kohn (1803–1850) were Die Existenz der Geister (1841), Zeriels Reise auf der Oberwelt (1830), and Der Mystagog (1850).

38 May Karl, Am Jenseits: Reiseerlebnisse von Karl May, 3rd ed., with a cover illustration by Schneider Sascha (Freiberg i. Br.: Friedrich Ernst Fehsenfeld, n.d. [1906]). See the discussion of this work in Sawicki Diethard, “‘Alpenglühen im Himmelreich’: Das Jenseits Karl Mays,” in Jenseits, ed. Hölscher, 123137.

39 Feuerbach Ludwig, “Todesgedanken,” in Sämmtliche Werke (Stuttgart: Fr. Frommans, 1903 [1830]) with an English translation by Massey James, Thoughts on Death and Immortality (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980). Feuerbach Ludwig, “Die Unsterblichkeitsfrage vom Standpunkt der Anthropologie,” in Sämmtliche Werke (Stuttgart: Fr. Frommans, 1903 [1846]).

40 In 1847 Feuerbach wrote, “we eliminate with the evils of the earth [also] the fortresses and foundations of heaven. Every improvement of justice on earth is an impairment of heavenly justice; every gain for this world (Diesseits) is a deficit for the Beyond (Jenseits). One stands or falls only at the cost of the other”: Feuerbach Ludwig, “Über meine ‘Gedanken über Tod und Unsterblichkeit’,” in Sämmtliche Werke (Stuttgart: Fr. Frommans, 1903 [1847]), 201.

41 Ibid., 161–162.

42 Fechner, Zend-Avesta I, v.

43 Opposition to materialism and Freigeistigkeit was an explicit part of the interest in spiritualism that spread in Europe in the 1850s. A former Catholic priest and champion of spiritualism asked: “Why do the Christian heathens and Jews rage and fume so very much against the belief in the revelations of spirits? In order to ban the terrible spook of superstition? As though it were superstition, if we see, hear, and experience a remarkable phenomenon of nature, perceive [it] with all senses, examine [it] with reason and science and draw conclusions from that! If that is superstition, then all of our great physicists, geologists, astronomers, chemists, physicians, and natural scientists are stupid, superstitious people… . I demand not faith, but investigation and examination alone.” This book is appropriately subtitled Scientific and Substantive Defense of the Science of Spirits with Essential Conclusions about the Beyond: Ammann Franz, Meine offene Nothwehr oder: Wissenschaftliche und gründliche Vertheidigung der Geisterkunde mit wesentlichen Aufschlüssen über das Jenseits (Zurich: 1856), vii.

44 See the representative essay “Fechner” by Wilhelm Bölsche, one of German's most renowned science popularizers and co-founder of the monistic Giordano Bruno League for Unified Worldview, in Hinter der Weltstadt (Leipzig: Eugen Diederichs, 1901), 259–347. See also Fick Monika, Sinnenwelt und Weltseele: der psychophysische Monismus in der Literatur der Jahrhundertwende (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1993).

45 Schrader Karl, Der Apostel Paulus: Zweiter Teil, oder das Leben des Apostels Paulus (Leipzig: Christian Ernst Kollmann, 1832), 371.

46 Schrader Karl, Die Freie Religion: Ein Volksbuch (Die Größe des Weltalls) (Holzhausen: Selbstverlag, n.d. [ca. 1850]), I:24.

47 Ibid., 23.

48 This mention of life “beyond the grave” is found in the list of ten theological tenets proposed in 1842 by the leading voice of the Protestant Friends of Light, Leberecht Uhlich. Because of his populist style and defense of religious freedoms, Uhlich became known as the “Saxon O'Connell” after the Irish politician. After his defrocking in 1847, Uhlich became the preacher at Germany's largest Free Congregation in Magdeburg: cited in Pröhle Heinrich, Feldgarben: Beiträge zur Kirchengeschichte, Literaturgeschichte und Culturgeschichte (Leipzig: Gustav Gräbner, 1859), 32.

49 Wislicenus Gustav Adolph, Ob Schrift? Ob Geist? Verantwortung gegen meine Ankläger, 3rd improved ed. (Leipzig: Otto Wigand, 1845). After this publication of his speech, an ecclesiastical court called on Wislicenus to recant in the spring of 1845. When he refused, he lost his right to preach in the Protestant Church. On Wislicenus and the Friends of Light, see Bigler Robert, The Politics of German Protestantism: The Rise of the Protestant Church Elite in Prussia, 1815–1848 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), 187230, 233–261.

50 The Protestant liberal politician and literary scholar Rudolf Haym (1821–1901), who had been an early supporter of the Friends of Light in Halle, later recalled that “church liberalism was the training ground for political liberalism”: cited in Langewiesche Dieter, Liberalism in Germany, trans. Banerji C. (Houndsmills and London: Macmillan, 1988), 27. For the text of the magistrate's petition to the king, see anon., Die Theologie des Berliner Magistrats (Münster: J. H. Deiters, 1845).

51 Brederlow, Lichtfreunde, 49–81, n. 81. According to participant Rudolf Haym, only a minority of the Halle Friends of Light joined the “adventurer” Wislicenus to “make the leap into emptiness”: cited in Bigler, German Protestantism, 237. On the “Religionspatent” of March 1847, see Friedrich Martin, Die preußische Landeskirche im Vormärz: Evangelische Kirchenpolitik unter dem Ministerium Eichhorn (1840–1848) (Waltrop: Hartmut Spener, 1994), 387420.

52 At the first conference of the Free Congregations in Nordhausen in 1847, the more radical congregations of Halle, Marburg, and Hamburg agreed “that today's worldview and lifeview (Welt- und Lebensanschauung) is a new one, which can no longer be called Christianity.” The January 1848 statutes of the Free Congregation in Marburg also invoked “worldview” as the core term for the new belief: “Our religion, i.e. the idea that animates us, comprises [the following]: to found a united humanity in which each individual can bring his essence to greater perfection through the power of the spirit [and] on the basis of a unified worldview (Weltanschauung)”: both citations in Paletschek, Frauen, 102.

53 In the Prussian provinces of Saxony and Silesia alone, ten leading members of the Free Religious movement were elected to the Prussian Parlament: Brederlow, Lichtfreunde, 86. See also Graf, Deutschkatholizismus, 121.

54 Hofferichter was an early promoter of natural scientific monism. Kampe, who became the movement's best historian, dated the beginning of “the humane religion” back to 1846 and 1847. Kampe Ferdinand, Das Wesen des Deutschkatholizismus, mit besonderer Rücksicht auf sein Verhältniß zur Politik (Tübingen: Ludwig Fues, 1850), 72.

55 Ibid., 72–73.

56 Sachse Heinrich Ernst, Drei Vorträge: Mit einem Vorworte über den Unglauben an ‘Gott, Tugend und Unsterblichkeit’ (Magdeburg: E. Fabricius, 1852), 45.

57 Für freies religiöses Leben: Materialien zur Geschichte und Fortbildung der freien Gemeinden, insbesondere der freien katholischen, 1:10 (8 September 1848), 78.

58 Already in 1844 Hengstenberg had shown an acute awareness of the larger political implications of radical religious dissent when he wrote: “It is natural that this Jacobinism in the field of the Church will sooner or later declare itself publicly against the state. For [if] someone ceases to owe obedience to God's word, i.e. to God, how shall he remain the servant of worldly authority?” cited in Gabriel Hans-Jürgen, “Im Namen des Evangeliums gegen den Fortschritt. Zur Rolle der ‘Evangelischen Kirchenzeitung’ unter E.W. Hengstenberg von 1830 bis 1849,” in Beiträge zur Berliner Kirchengeschichte, ed. Wirth Günter (Berlin: Union Verlag, 1987), 166.

59 Gabriel, “Im Namen,” 171–173.

60 French and English observers of the literature of the revolution in Germany alerted their readers to the special significance of “Jenseits.” A British reviewer found it consistent that the “sects” of French and German radicals who assert the “perfectibility and potential omnipotence of mankind” also “in the interest of their paradise here, … reject what the Germans among them significantly call das Jenseits—the Beyond”: Anon. “German Socialism,” in The North British Review, 21: 22 (1849), 406435, n. 414. A French reviewer of German historical criticism found that “the writings of the young school are abrupt, rude, realist, materialist, denying heartily and absolutely the Beyond (das Jenseits), that is to say the suprasensible, the religious in all its forms, declaring that it is an abuse of man to make him live in that fantastic world”: E. R., “Les Historiens Critiques de Jésus,” in La Liberté de Penser 13 (1849), 437–470, n. 439.

61 I explore these dynamics more deeply in Weir Todd, “Towards a History and Sociology of Atheist Religious Community: The Berlin Free Religious Congregation, 1845–1921,” in Die Gegenwart Gottes in der Modernen Gesellschaft, eds. Hölscher Lucian and Geyer Michael (Göttingen: Wallstein 2006), 197229.

62 Drews Paul, “Die freien religiösen Gemeinden der Gegenwart,” Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche 11 (1901): 484527. According to Nigg, the expulsion of the Friends of Light led to a cautious self-censoring of theological criticism within the Church, which he saw as the birth defect of modern Protestant liberalism: Nigg Walter, Geschichte des religiösen Liberalismus: Entstehung—Blütezeit—Ausklang (Zurich and Leipzig: Max Niehans, 1937), 367.

63 Paul Drews, “Die freien religiösen Gemeinden,” 500.

64 Most historians of Free Religion have ended their accounts with the movement's sharp decline during the 1850s. By describing the thrust of deutschkatholisch dissent as a translation of rationalist religious dissent into political consciousness, historians Hans Rosenberg and Friedrich Wilhelm Graf implicitly placed the movement's ultimate decline within a secularization paradigm. More recent studies by Sylvia Paletschek and Andreas Holzem have shown, by contrast, that state repression in the 1850s was the prime cause of the shrinkage of the movement (see n. 12 for titles).

65 Daum Andreas, “Naturwissenschaften und Öffentlichkeit in der deutschen Gesellschaft. Zu den Anfängen einer Populärwissenschaft nach der Revolution von 1848,” in Historische Zeitschrift 267 (1998), 5790, esp. 81–85.

66 My interpretation of the essential epistemological identity of naturalistic monism with materialism agrees with that of German philosopher Rudolf Eucken, who called the monists' claim to weigh both spirit and matter equally a fallacy. Natural scientific monists like Ernst Haeckel may have quoted Goethe and Spinoza, but they nonetheless ultimately explained spiritual and cultural phenomena through their materialist systems: “Monism,” in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. James Hastings (New York: Scribner and Sons, 1908–1926), 808–810. Against this view, see Holt Niles, “Ernst Haeckel's Monistic Religion,” Journal of the History of Ideas 32 (1971): 265280. Two other authors, who have stressed divergences within monism rather than its overall coherence, are Hübinger Gangolf, “Die monistische Bewegung. Sozialingenieure und Kulturprediger,” in Kultur und Kulturwissenschaften um 1900, eds. Hübinger Gangolf, et al. (Stuttgart: Steiner, 1997), 246259; and Breidbach Olaf, “Alle für Eines. Der Monismus als wissenschaftsgeschichtliches Problem,” in Monismus um 1900, ed. Ziche Paul (Berlin: Verl. für Wiss. und Bildung, 2000), 922.

67 Scholl referred to materialism as “the active catalyst (treibende Ferment) that is destined to lead us out of the dream life of the past and into the full, real life of the present, … out of the period of Unnature—of old and modern barbarism and hypocrisy—and into [the period of] Nature, of truth, of true, actual education (Bildung), out of the condition of malignant yearning for heaven and Jenseits-fanaticism into that of healthy practical-beautiful human life and of satisfaction with this world (Diesseits)”: From “Noch einmal der ‘Materialismus,’” in: Es werde Licht! Beiträge zur Förderung der Religion der Humanität von Carl Scholl 7:8 (May 1876): 113–124, n. 124.

68 K. B., “Der Tempel der Einheit,” in: Für freies religiöses Leben, vol. 2, no. 6, 9 Feb. 1849, 3741, citations on 38, 39.

69 The author of the “Tempel der Einheit” described how nature compensates humans for death. First, death is redefined. On the physical level there is no death in the closed system of a saturated universe, only “a necessary transformation of organization.” Second, on the level of the spiritual organization, the “individual's spirit lives on in his results, his fellow men, maybe in his children, and thus his spirit does not depart as personality in higher spheres—it had already lived and acted in the general spirit of the universe!” This essentially summarizes the weak afterlife that Freigeistige speakers were still offering their followers at graveside ceremonies well into the Weimar Republic, that is, that the deceased had contributed their bodies, deeds, and spirits to the material and cultural humus of future human progress: ibid., 40.

70 Weber Max, “The Prophet,” in Max Weber, On Charisma and Institution Building, trans. Fischoff E. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1968), 253267, 267.

71 Hofferichter cited Baltzer in his sermon of 23 October 1859, “Zurück zur Natur,” in Hofferichter Theodor, Gott und Welt: Freireligiöse Vorträge (Breslau: Selbstverlag, 1862), 37.

72 Ibid., 77.

73 Sociologist Oevermann Ulrich sees atheism as a step of separation from monotheism before a more secular position of religious indifference is reached: see his article “Strukturelle Religiösität und ihre Ausprägungen unter Bedingungen der vollständigen Säkularisierung des Bewusstseins,” in Atheismus und religiöse Indifferenz, eds. Gärtner Christel, Pollack Detlef and Wohlrab-Sahr Monika (Opladen: Leske & Budrich, 2003), 339387.

74 Strauß David Friedrich, Der alte und der neue Glaube. Ein Bekenntnis, 2nd ed. (Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1872), 7, 296297. The English translation by Blind M. appeared as The Old Faith and the New: A Confession (London: Asher and Co., 1874). For a critique of the substitution model of secularization, see Weir Todd, “The Secularization of Religious Dissent: Anticlerical Politics and the Freigeistig Movement in Germany 1844–1933,” in Religiosität in der säkularisierten Welt, ed. Gärtner Christel, Franzmann Manuel, and Köck Nicole (Wiesbaden: VSVerlag, 2006), 155176.

75 The ongoing importance of the opposition of Jenseits/Diesseits to the constitution of Freigeistigkeit is shown by the choice of Diesseits as the title of the popular journal of the contemporary German Freethinkers, who renamed themselves the Humanist Association of Germany in 1990.

76 Taylor, A Secular Age, 15.

77 The fate of Freigeistigkeit between 1933 and 1945 has yet to be thoroughly researched (see literature in n. 13). My own research would suggest, however, that despite the National Socialist attestations of their adherence to “positive Christianity,” the sacralization of the German race under the National Socialists might be loosely described as völkisch monism.

78 For an investigation of the fate of popular science and the monist worldview in East Germany after 1949, see Polianski Igor, “Das Rätsel DDR und die ‘Welträtsel’: Wissenschaftlich-atheistische Aufklärung als propagandistisches Konzept der SED,” in Deutschland Archiv 40:1 (2007): 7382.

79 Waldenmaier Hermann, “Weltanschauliche Grundlage,” in Freidenkertum und Kirche: Ein Handbuch, ed. Schweitzer Carl and Künneth Walter (Berlin: Wichern, 1932), 45. This book was published by the Apologetic Central, the defensive arm of the Protestant Church founded to combat Freethought and neo-pagan movements. On the Apologetic Central, see Pöhlmann Matthias, Kampf der Geister: Die Publizistik der “Apologetischen Centrale” (1921–1937) (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1998). The best work on the proletarian Freethinkers remains Kaiser Jochen-Christoph, Arbeiterbewegung und organisierte Religionskritik: proletarische Freidenkerverbände in Kaiserreich und Weimarer Republik (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1981).

80 Weir Todd, The Fourth Confession. Atheism, Monism and Politics in the ‘Freigeistig’ Movement in Berlin 1859–1924 (Ph.D. diss., Columbia University), 2005.

81 Anticlericalism and humanism were essential components in the development of European liberalism, radicalism and socialism. Secularism arguably had more lasting effects in Catholic countries like Italy and France than in Germany. While Freethought was an international movement, monism and Free Religion were particularly strong in Germany. Germany also became the center of European anticlericalism after World War I, only to be eclipsed by the state-sponsored Soviet League of the Militant Godless in the late 1920s. The best study of French Freethought is Lalouette Jacqueline, La Libre Pensée en France, 1848–1940 (Paris: Albin Michel, 1997). On Italian laicismo, see Verucci Guido, L'Italia laica prima e dopo l'Unita (Rome-Bari: Laterza, 1996). On the Russian case, see Peris Daniel, Storming the Heavens: The Soviet League of the Militant Godless (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1998). Comparative examinations of anticlericalism and confessional conflict in Europe can be found in René Rémond, ed., Special Issue: Anticlericalism, European Studies Review, 13:2 (1983); Clark Christopher and Kaiser Wolfram, eds., Culture Wars: Secular-Catholic Conflict in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003); Haupt Heinz-Gerhard, ed., Nation und Religion in Europa: Mehrkonfessionelle Gesellschaften im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (Frankfurt a. M.: Campus, 2004).

1 This article opens up for a broader audience research completed for a workshop on “The Transformation of the Belief in the Beyond in Modern History” at the Siemens Foundation in Munich on 17 May 2005. I am grateful to the workshop organizer, Hölscher Lucian, and the other participants for their helpful comments on the paper that has been published in conference proceedings as “‘Keine Lücke mehr im Menschen, worin das Jenseits sich einnisten könnte,’ Naturwissenschaft und Dissidenz in der frühen freireligiösen Bewegung,” in Das Jenseits: Facetten eines religiösen Begriffs in der Neuzeit, ed. Hölscher Lucian (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2007), 95122. Permission to use some of this material is here thankfully acknowledged. The present article benefited from the critical eyes of Tracie Matysik, at the University of Texas at Austin, and my colleagues Andrew Holmes and Emma Reisz at Queen's University Belfast.

Todd Weir is lecturer in modern European history at Queen's University Belfast.

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