Conservative Millenarians: The Romantic Experience in Bavaria

Front Cover
Fordham University Press, Jan 1, 1979 - Literary Criticism - 176 pages
0 Reviews
Conservative Millenarians: The Romantic Experience in Bavaria by Paul Gottfried is an account of the various individuals in early nineteenth century Bavaria whose thinking may be described as conservative, romantic, and utopian. These individuals were often part of a revival in Catholicism and expressed admiration for the Middle Ages and Christian mysticism. They were utopian, yet reactionary, seeking to restore a lost past from which the modern age was believed to have fallen. They may be described as counter-revolutionaries, opposing the French Revolution, defined by the Catholic traditionalist and reactionary Joseph de Maistre as "not a contrary revolution, but the contrary of revolution". Gottfried begins his book by discussing the Catholic revival, the rise of millenarianism and romanticism. Prime among the figures involved in the Catholic romantic revival include Novalis (pen name of Friedrich von Hardenberg, poet, scientist, and philosopher), Adam Muller (Protestantconvert to Catholicism and romantic economic theorist advocating a corporativist state, based on medieval society), Friedrich Schlegel (expositor of romanticism, originally a radical individualist and admirer of the ancient Greeks, Indians, and other pagans who became a convert to Catholicism), Joseph von Gorres (early proponent of the revolution who grew disenchanted and became a defender of Catholicism), and Franz von Baader (romantic and social philosopher, a Catholic who was influenced bymysticism particularly the thought of the Lutheran apostate Jakob Boehme). While these Catholic revolutionaries shared political ideals with such thinkers as Burke (the father of conservativism and opponent of revolution), Joseph de Maistre (reactionary traditionalist Catholic), and de Toqueville (Catholic writer on the "ancien regime" and opponent of democracy), they also were influenced heavily by mysticism and German idealism, including such mystics as Jakob Boehme, Jung-Stilling, Saint-Martin, and the Pietists. Gottfried next turns his attention to the age of Montgelas, in which various laws were enacted which resulted in oppression for the church and clergy. Here, Gottfried notes the influence of various rationalists, including the Bavarian Illuminati of Adam Weishaupt and the Rosicrucians, who plotted against throne and altar. Weishaupt, a professor of canon law, created the Illuminati modeling his society after the Jesuits in 1776, actively conspiring to murder the king and adhering to rationalist beliefs. Weishaupt along with Adolf von Knigge (a fellow Illuminatus) actively opposed other mystical doctrines such as those of the Swedenborgians and the Rosicrucians. The Rosicrucians were another initiatory society, whose presence was revealed in the various manifestos which appeared at the time. Believed to have been founded by Christian Rosenkreuz, the Rosicrucians were an invisible society of elite scientists and philosophers who would create a utopia. The chief Rosicrucian manifesto to appear is believed to have been authored by the Lutheran minister Johann Valentin Andreae, who actively opposed the papacy and Catholic reaction. Other individuals actively influenced by Rosicrucian mysticism, along with the writings of Paracelsus, include Karl von Eckarthausen and Gotthilf Heinrich von Schubert whose book _The Symbolism of Dreams_ was to play an important role in the romantic movement. Indeed, many romantics were especially influenced by Rosicrucianism as well as Martinism (the mysticism of Saint-Martin) and the Jewish Cabbala, though they often denied this influence. The thought of Schelling, who although a Protestant was much admired by Catholics, also played a prominent part in the development of the romantic movement. Throughout this discussion, Gottfried demonstrates the various conflicts which arose particularly between Catholics and Protestants as well as conflicts involving the Jews. Another important component of the romantic movement was that of "the Awakening", a movement started by many Catholic parish priests who sought to imitate Protestant pietism within Catholicism but were also repulsed by Enlightenment rationalism. Individuals involved in this movement included Johann Michael Sailer and Johann Ringseis, Catholic priests who sought an Awakening. In the era of Ludwig I, Catholicism witnessed a revival and romantics led the way in propagating the faith. In such journals as the Athenaeum, romantics actively sought the origins of human existence, often dabbling in non-Western religions, including the Vedas, as well as ancient Greek myth (arguing that the ancient Greeks were precursors of Christianity). Romantics also exposited an eschatology in which a coming conflict with modernism would bring about the reign of Antichrist. Romantics actively made war with both liberalism and modernism, advocating a corporativist medieval state as an alternative to class conflict. For thinkers such as Muller and von Baader, the role of the worker played an important part in their economic theories. Indeed, Gottfried notes the influence that romanticism may have played on the thought of early socialists including Karl Marx. This book is an important source of information, providing much material on an otherwise neglected historical topic. The conservative romantics, although frequently maligned because of baseless associations with the Third Reich, presented an important alternative to the decadenceof modernity. Their thinking will continue to live on in those who believe that traditional society is superior to the alternative of decadent modern civilization.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


Age of Montgelas
Portents of Romanticism in Bavaria
Ludwig I and the Catholic Renewal

5 other sections not shown

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (1979)

Paul Edward Gottfried (born 1941) is Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, and a Guggenheim recipient. He is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and Mencken Club President. He is the author of numerous books and articles in several languages on intellectual history, paleoconservatism, ancient historiography, and political theory.

Bibliographic information