Web Log Archives
Amor æternus
A new blog, started by a friend from Montreal, promises "tons of commentary on Spinoza and Brunner." This is a most welcome development. Keep going, Tree Fox!
-20061229 (permalink)
Eternity Now!
Terry Neff's Spinoza Study is a fabulous resource. The editions of Spinoza's works found here are rich in indexes and hyperlinks. Terry also helps lead an excellent Spinoza discussion group. Terry came to Spinoza in part via Dr. Frederick Kettner's Biosophical Institute. As all Brunnerians know, Dr. Kettner was an early devotee of Brunner, and, as leader of the Ethical Seminar in Czernowitz,
was responsible for bringing
many great people
into Brunner's orbit.
-20061222 (permalink)
Jacob Aliet has written a critique of Brunner (warning: pdf file). Mr. Aliet is a regular participant in discussions at the Internet Infidels, writing under the name "Ted Hoffman". He is a supporter of Earl Doherty, a Canadian who has authored a book, The Jesus Puzzle, that argues that Christ never lived. I have participated in debates on this topic under the names "freigeister" and "No Robots", and have frequently referred to Brunner's critique of the Jesus-is-myth argument. Mr. Aliet is a bright, engaging man who has had the courage to actually read Brunner, which is definitely a step in the right direction.
-20061106 (permalink)
Principia Cybernetica
Dr. Damià Vidal, professor of information technology at the University of the Balearic Islands, quotes Brunner and Henri Lurié to the effect that Spinoza is rightly considered the father of cybernetics. (Link).
-20060927 (permalink)
Global Christian Democracy 2
As stated below, Brunner's political outlook calls for the establishment of a global Christian Democracy. This is an important dimension of his thought that merits examination in detail. First, it should be made clear that Brunner's Christian Democracy is non-religious. What does this mean? He provides an indication in the appendix to Our Christ as to what he means by non-religious Christianity:
If Christianity is to become what it wants to be, it must renounce the desire to know anything that pure Judaism in Christ neither knows nor wishes to know: it must renounce symbols, dogmas, articles of faith, liturgy, worship; it must want to know nothing of creation, the Fall, redemption and justification, heaven and hell, the incarnation of God, the Three Persons of the Godhead, the single Personality of God; it must not hold on to a single item of religion's superstition. If Christianity is to come about, Christ must be the Master, revealing to the heathen that they are but men (Ps. 9:21).
For Brunner, non-religious Christianity is simple dedication to the person of Christ. Non-religious Christian Democracy is the political application of this outlook.
-20060919 (permalink)
Global Christian Democracy
Horace Kallen, the father of cultural pluralism, had this to say about Constantin Brunner:
THERE EXISTS A line of men of ardent faith who see and appreciate the import of Holmes's and Spinoza's and Blood's assimilation of the unknown to the known and thus their absorption of the hidden God in unconcealed Nature or liquidation of nature's invisibilities in God rendered manifest. This line of believers appreciate the powers and function of reason but despair over its inadequacies in the struggle to establish in life and not in death the Kingdom of God as the equal right of the unlike and unequal to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Their lineage is ancient. It counts Abelard and Francis of Assisi as well as Marsiglio of Padua and John Fox and Roger Williams and Thomas Paine. The more vocal of its present witnesses appear agitated with the agonies exploited by Kierkegaard and Karl Barth and Konstantin Brunner.

Secularism Is the Will of God: An Essay in the Social Philosophy of Democracy and Religion / Horace M. Kallen (Twayne Publishers, 1954), p. 117.
Kallen's political outlook is similar to Brunner's in that both envisage a global multicultural democracy in which nations continue to play a role. Kallen is criticised for having tilted the balance toward multiculturalism to the detriment of the nation. Brunner's call was specifically for a global Christian democracy. It is this explicitly Christian dimension that Kallen lacks.
-20060817 (permalink)
Landauer! Landauer!
German-Jewish political activist Gustav Landauer was a devoted Brunnerian. Penelope Rosmont has this to say (Surrealist Experiences, p. 97):
A flippant but sometimes vivid firsthand account of the Munich Revolution is given by Ben Hecht in his autobiography, Child of the Century. Hecht, who was there as foreign correspondent for the Chicago Daily News, portrays Landauer as a strange, romantic eccentric who had the habit of striding down the halls of the revolutionary government's headquarters—formerly a palace—announcing his own name over and over in a booming voice.

Strange, romantic and eccentric he undoubtedly was, though probably not in the way that Hecht meant. Outside all mainstream traditions, Landauer was influenced above all by extremely heterodox thinkers, mystics, poets and dreamers such as Eckhart, Spinoza, Shakespeare, Hölderlin, Achim von Arnim, Nietzsche, Ruskin, Whitman and his own contemporary, the philosopher Constantin Brunner, whose "fierce, prophetic voice" he echoed often in his works.
-20060623 (permalink)
A scientific honour
German political scientist Ekkehart Krippendorff is a devoted Brunnerian. He writes:
It was another German, Constantin Brunner, whose school has formed my philosophy. Together with his beloved Spinoza, he supplied the moral base and, I would say, the scientific (natural) foundation of my thought and work. It would appear to me unforgivable, however, if I should have the feeling of having betrayed, because of an ill-considered attitude or thoughtless act, these my mentors, whose values I am compelled to uphold. Only ignorance and innocence constitute a sufficient excuse for those who do not want to fly high enough. Brunner affirms with regard to Spinoza: "The first level of bliss consists in the knowledge of the identity of thought and reality in motion, and the consequent understanding of oneself as a part of the great and united life of the world, the understanding of oneself as at one with the reality of the world as thinking in motion (viz. pneumatology); the second level consists in the consciousness of the identity between the world in its relative aspect and in its spiritual aspect. And he continues: "To think them both, the relative reality on the base of the absolute reality, is what Spinoza lived".
—Translated into English from L'arte di non essere governati. Politica ed etica da Socrate a Mozart (p. 292-3), the Italian translation of Die Kunst, nicht regiert zu werden. Ethische Politik von Sokrates bis Mozart.
-20060614 (permalink)
The Savage Anomaly
I love the title of Negri's book on Spinoza. Negri mentions Brunner in a footnote:
Regarding subjectivist interpretations of the Spinozian attribute, all of which are directly in the Hegelian line but each of which has different nuances, see J. E. Erdmann, Rosenkranz, Schwengler, E. Hartmann, Ulrici, Pollock, Constantin Brunner, and Wolfson.
In spite of his strictly materialist outlook, Negri has written a book of first importance.
-20060613 (permalink)
A True Communion
Lev Gillet, an Orthodox monk, in his book Communion in the Messiah, cites Brunner's Our Christ as an example of positive Jewish attitudes toward Christ:
The German Jewish writer, Constantin Brunner, published in 1921 a large volume entitled Our Christ. He does not share, of course, the Christian faith. But he sees in Christ "the last word of Judaism: never man so spoke." He addresses Christ thus: "I loved none so tenderly as Thee, 0 Christ. We need Thee; without Thee we cannot live."
-20060419 (permalink)
Mr. Jones
I did a Google search on E.C. Werthenau, Lotte Brunner's pen-name, and found out that she translated a book by the Quaker writer, Rufus Jones. The book is called Spiritual reformers in the 16th and 17th centuries (London : Macmillan, 1914). I signed out a copy from the library, and I am in the process of reading it. It is very good, as I had expected: Lotte would not have spent her time translating anything of less than sterling quality. There are many, many points of comparison between Jones and Brunner. And Jones is still under active scholarly investigation.

I have posted a quotation from Jones that neatly summarizes many of Brunner's key points.
-20060310 (permalink)
Hola, Amigos!
I gave a talk last week on Brunner to a group of students at the University of Alberta. I'd been invited by Thom Kearns. Thom is a second-year student at the U of A. He is a friend of my son, Justin, who first told him about Brunner. Check out Thom's blog.
There were 8 of us at the meeting. We had a great discussion. It was my first experience in presenting Brunner to a group. I hope it isn't the last!
-20051006 (permalink)
Song of experience
In a discussion about William Blake, Ralph Dumain heaps praise on Walter Bernard's book:

The idealism produced by Reason is hard for me to understand. I thought objective idealism was nonsense, and I could not understand what made it plausible, and then I read an obscure book called The Philosophy of Spinoza and Brunner by Walter Bernard (New York: Spinoza Institute of America, 1934), which set it all out brilliantly (including the superiority of Hegel to Kant), and once I gained a glimmer of the precious secrets of objective idealism, I laughed and laughed! How exquisitely tautological.
Dumain's website is a visionary attempt to use the Internet as a primary vehicle for self-education.

Apparently I misread Dumain's remarks. Here is what he wrote in an email:
I don't in fact uncritically endorse Bernard's views, as you can see. But Bernard did an amazing job of explicating what is to me an alien way of thinking.
Nothing wrong with that, as far as I can see. It's nice to see that somebody from North America has heard of Brunner at all.
-20050124 (permalink)
SBISE like us
I have launched a new web project. It is called the Spinoza-Brunner Institute for Studies in Ecology (SBISE). I have set up a weblog there, where I will be posting most everything from now on. It has been a lot of fun running this blog, and I will certainly keep it available. I may use this blog as a place for posting lighter items, so do check back from time to time.

Update (August 16, 2006):
I have dissolved SBISE as a separate entity and incorporated it into constantinbrunner.info as its library.
-20041229 (permalink)
Bill Vallicella, maverick philosopher, vox clamantis in deserto, links to us on his blog. On his main site, Dr. Valicella states his purpose:
So what I propose is that we professional philosophers come down from our Zarathustrian heights and do our bit to inject some reason, precision, and substance into the current debates.
We couldn't agree more.
-20041126 (permalink)
Primed and ready
I have compiled a selection that constitutes a reasonable summary of Brunner's thought.
-20040818 (permalink)
Nihil Obstat
The Catholic Encyclopedia in its article on Spinoza says:
Very important for Spinoza's teaching is BRUNNER, Die Lehre von den Geistigen und vom Volke, I, pt. II (Berlin, 1908).
-20040603 (permalink)
Theosophically speaking
I posted a review of Science, spirit, superstition that appeared in American Theosophist in 1971.
-20040526 (permalink)
Something wiki this way comes
I posted an article on Brunner to the Wikipedia. I linked it to Jewish Philosophy, Jewish view of Christ, and Yehudi Menuhin.
-20040506 (permalink)
Relatively important

The Hebrew University in Jerusalem has letters by Albert Einstein in which he discusses Constantin Brunner. I have posted the relevant extracts.

-20040504 (permalink)
A double aspect

I just purchased through ebay a print called Uriel d'Acosta instructing the young Spinoza. The print can be found in Improvement of the understanding, Ethics and Correspondence of Benedict de Spinoza translated by R. H. M. Elwes (London: M. W. Dunne, 1901). In fact, it is obviously the case that the print that I purchased was cut out of a copy of the book, which somewhat diminishes my pride of ownership.

The original painting by Samuel Hirszenberg apparently now belongs to The Louvre.

Of course, it is ludicrous on the surface of it to have Spinoza in golden curls. But for me this painting is symbolic of the Enlightenment. It represents the transmission of ancient Jewish wisdom to the new and vital Europe. From this perspective, Spinoza is the master, and the child is the modern world.

I also see the painting as a stereoscopic portrait of Spinoza. His whole person is expressed as the fusion of both figures in the painting. Here is a relevant passage from Brunner:

Spiritual modification becomes education, not of a pupil, since here pupil and teacher are equally and devotedly one. This is the genuine and lasting, the profound self-education from within and above, giving the character impetus and direction towards the universal and eternal, and also the drive and the stir to realize itself in its fulness. The self becomes creative by self-surrender. (Science, spirit, superstition: 560)

Brunner took great interest in the representation of Spinoza in art. In fact, his associate Ernst Altkirch wrote a book on the subject, Spinoza im porträt.

-20040406 (permalink)
Even more surreal
Eric Bragg has sent me a link to a Czech surrealist magazine called The Analogon. The name of the magazine, Eric assures me, is taken directly from Brunner. It was André Breton who brought Brunner to the attention of surrealists (see preceding web log entry). Breton focused his attention on the Analogon as a mediator between the relative and the absolute. It looks to me that Breton was trying to summarize Brunner's thought and in so doing somewhat misconstrued it. This has caused confusion down the line for those who follow Breton's lead to Brunner. To clarify this I sent Eric a second letter. For those interested in further examination of Brunner's relationship to surrealism, may I suggest the Spring 1976 issue of the journal Arsenal: surrealist subversion. It has a letter by Brunner on the subject of Jonathan Swift. There is also a good introductory note preceding the article.
-20040406 (permalink)
How Surreal
Artist Andre Breton mentions Brunner in an article about René Magritte. Thanks to surrealist Eric Bragg for sending this to me. Here is the letter I wrote to Bragg.
-20040402 (permalink)
While I was in The Hague, I had the opportunity to scan a number of photos that were in the ICBI archive. I have posted some of them.
-20040316 (permalink)
Good Times
I just got back from the The Hague where I attended the ICBI annual meeting. I'll have more to say about it later. For the moment, I have posted my presentation to the group.
-20040315 (permalink)
A prodigious son

I found an article written by Lothar Bickel's brother Shlomo that vividly describes Lothar's devotion to Brunner and the impact of that devotion on the family. To get the whole article from the Commentary archive costs 4.50 $US. The article (Commentary October 1962: 324-333). is adapted from Shlomo's book Dray brider zaynen mir geven.

There are some powerful statements in the article. Shlomo calls Brunner's Die Lehre von den Geistigen und vom Volk "possibly the most important work in our generation in the development of Spinozism." He calls "Speech to the Jews" "Brunner's greatest literary achievement, written with a terse, stormy eloquence that shakes and moves the reader."

Shlomo describes the ferocious debates within the family over Brunner's thoughts on Christ, Zionism, and assimilation. Brunner is presented as a promethean force decisively affecting the fate of a family.

Best of all is Shlomo's description of his fiery brother, whom he calls Eliezer:

Eliezer shifted from one hand to the other the heavy gold ring with the Greek inscription "Kalos Kagatos" (good and beautiful) that his colleagues in the Constantine [sic] Brunner Society had given him a year before for his thirtieth birthday. His deep blue eyes sparkled with that magical intense light of truth revealed and found, and of absolute conviction.... Eliezer continued in the measured magisterial way that must have contributed to the Rebbe-Hasid relationship he enjoyed in the Brunner Society.

Of Lothar's move to Toronto, Shlomo attests that "it was only when he [Lothar] came for the first time into the freedom of emancipation in France and then Canada, and observed Nineveh and its great Christian civilization, that his faith in assimilation was shaken." Shlomo then quotes from a letter he received from his brother:

What attracted me so much to the West (though I would probably have very quickly got rid of my material worries in Israel) was the prospect of slipping out of the narrow circle and entering the large world of spiritual aspirations and spiritual trends. But here? Besides the cult of money there are only sports and religious activities, and they are merely social entertainment.... And there is little hope of coming into contact with other, freer circles, who are really interested in higher matters, because the religious communities are severely exclusive one from the other."

Of his brother's untimely death, Shlomo wrote, "'The Prophet to Nineveh' is no more." Their father was consoled when Shlomo sent to him a forward to one of Brunner's books in which Lothar had "welcomed the new State [of Israel] in Brunner's name."

In short, this article provides invaluable insight into Brunner's impact on the life of his chief disciple and his family through the crisis of the twentieth century.

-20040128 (permalink)
Brunner a must-read
Science, spirit, and superstition, a 1968 selection of Brunner's work, is on a list of recommended books. The recommendation originally comes from a book called Writer's choice : a library of rediscoveries by Linda Sternberg Katz and Bill Katz (Reston, Va.: Reston, 1983). The book extols Brunner for "combining a decisive style of writing with an imaginative new approach to how one perceives reality." The blurb quotes Yehudi Menuhin and Colin Wilson, the latter calling Brunner's work "excellent and fascinating."
-20040112 (permalink)
Not for the squeamish
The ICBI site used to have an unmoderated discussion forum. It was a lot of fun and some good points were made. There was one guy who amused himself with all kinds of outrageous posts under various pseudonyms. He even posed as Heidegger's grandson. The ICBI opted for decorum and removed the forum from its site. Bravenet, however, has kept it up. So if you want to see philosophical discussion in its rawest form, go ahead and check it out. By the way, I found this through a great new search engine, Vivisimo.
-20040112 (permalink)
Dance Dance Dance
Yaron Margolin is an Israeli dancer and choreographer. He is founder and director of the Yaron Margolin Dance House. He has written an article on Brunner. The article is in Hebrew. Presumably, it connects Brunner's philosophy to dance. This would make for an apt application of Brunner's thought, which posits the unity of mind and body within a universal motion-complex.
-20040105 (permalink)
Social Hazard

One night about a year ago I went to a friend's house for a party. The group consisted of a bunch of former coworkers. The party was being held in honour of a new employee, one Jeremy Lott . The conversation was a little dull, so I decided to have some fun by talking about Christianity from a Brunnerian perspective. Pretty soon I had everybody's full attention, and Jeremy seemed particularly offended. I left the party satisfied that if I had riled everyone up, I had at least kept us all from boredom. Well, about a month later I did a Google vanity search and found that one friend had posted something about the party. That led me to check the blogs of the other participants, where I found the following blogspheric disturbance:

Jeremy vents
Colby weighs in
Jeremy defends I
Jeremy defends II

I admit I was trying to egg them all on a bit. These were old friends with whom I have argued many times. And I was trying to sound out Jeremy, who is indeed a most interesting person. The whole thing was also something of an experiment. I wanted to see what would happen if I just grabbed an opportunity to declaim from a Brunnerian perspective. As luck would have it, the result has been recorded for posterity.

I certainly understand why Jeremy was upset. I was trying to convey a difficult point in a rapid-fire debate. Most important is the matter of the Shema. I was trying to quote Brunner on this. Here are the actual passages from Our Christ:

Jahveh ehad, cried Moses: "Hear O Israel, Being is our god, Being is one" (Deut. 6:4).
... Yet this quotation provides precisely the historically monstrous example of how Israel hears and how the truth is straightway transformed into superstition in Israel's ears. For this magnificent saying is at once a hymn of exultation and a wrathful protest against idol worship of any kind; but despite this protest, it now signifies-in the conception of Israel, the Jewish, Christian and Muslim Israel-the well-enough known, imbecilically wrong translation: "Hear O Israel, the Lord our god is the only God!" -p. 157


Hear O Israel, the essence is one!
... Hear O Israel-thou "Israel Pneumatikos", thou spiritual Israel of all nations of the world, thou noble hearer of the summons-the essence is one, the cogitans is one. The cogitans is the One and the All and each component of the many, of the thingly reality of this world of motion, of the ideatum. For everything ideated is what is ideated by the cogitans; it is the relative of the Absolute, the Absolute in the form of relativity. Happy or unhappy, all of us in the world of motion live the many, ideated by the cogitans. But the cogitans, the essence, is one, and we are blessed in the cogitans, in the essence, which is in us, not like the being of things, ideated things, things in motion, but which is truly in us, without having been drawn into motion; we become aware of it, secretly, at the point where motion ceases. Hear O Israel, Shema Yisrael, thou hast no gods, thou hast no god.
... Israel, hearken not to the Jews. Instead of being Spirit themselves, they make a god in heaven and say that Jahve is god. Israel never had a mythology, not even that of the single god Jahve. That is the only reason why Jahve has not passed away with the demise of the nation of Israel, as all national gods do, for Jahve is not a god. All gods are abominable idols, whether they are fashioned with the hands or with the mind; even the One God is an abominable idol. Thou hast no god, O Israel: the essence is thy god and they rock-what is there apart from it? And thy psalmist sings: "Jahve, if I only possess thee, what need have I of heaven and earth?" The essence is in thee, thou art this essence, in thy worth which reaches from eternity to eternity, in thy eternal glory today and always: the essence is one: Jahve Ehad! -p. 404

-20031215 (permalink)
Well, at least one other guy has read Our Christ. In fact, Chip Harmison, who describes himself as an "open-minded, mystic Christian," puts it on his list of "indispensable spirituality books" at Amazon. He gives Brunner's book (item 14 on his list) a glowing review, calling "Breathtaking; a non-theistic, non-dual approach to the Gospels."
-20031202 (permalink)
I put up a personal testimonial about how I found Brunner. It's on my contact page.
-20031202 (permalink)
Paul Gottfried has an article on Kant in which he mentions Brunner. As far as I know, this is the only article dealing with Brunner written by an American scholar. I emailed Gottfried, and he told me that he had heard of Brunner from a cousin who had been involved with the Brunner Gesellschaft, but this article is the only place where he deals with Brunner.
-20031114 (permalink)
Amazon.com now searches the fulltext of 120,000 volumes. I searched "Constantin Brunner" and on the list of results was a book called Chinese Boxing: Masters and Methods. The book extols Brunner for expressing in the clearest possible terms the principle of T'ai-chi, quoting from Science, Spirit, Superstition.
-20031023 (permalink)
Check out the book review:
German idealism and the Jew / Michael Mack
-20030828 (permalink)
Happy Brunner Day!

Constantin Brunner
August 28, 1862-August 27, 1937
-20030827 (permalink)