Assessments:
Yehudi Menuhin
For my understanding of the dilemmas of our times, I am deeply grateful to the great German philosopher, the Jew Constantin Brunner, who was born in Altona and lived the greater part of his life in Berlin. He also helped me to understand that greatest of paradoxes: how could a people that has made some of the very greatest contributions in music, in poetry and literature, in science and philosophy, in religion and mysticism, embrace genocide, murdering not only the sick and handicapped, not only political opponents, not only Gypsies and Jews, but all of Europe? Signale, DeutschlandRadio Berlin, 14. März 1999
One of the greatest books on the subject of Jesus was written by a man whom I adopted early on as my favourite philosopher, Constantin Brunner (a nom de plume, his actual name being Wertheimer), a Berlin Jew who held Spinoza in very high regard. I found his book Unser Christus to be one of the most inspiring books I had ever read. It has been published in an English translation thanks to help from various sources, in particular from Günter Henle, a German friend of mine and, with the fortune of one of the German steel firms behind him, a great patron of the arts. I had but to mention to him the fact that since Brunner’s books had been burnt by the Nazis the Germans owed it to humanity to have them republished, for him to respond immediately. (Unfinished journey: 456)
It is tantalising to think that a universal faith may, eventually, absorb the God of Abraham, the Son of God and other religions, even Buddhism, into that conviction, that moral imperative which recognizes that, in Brunner’s words, ‘Omnia Animat’, all creation, including each one of us, is inhabited by a spirit enabling us, in the old Jewish tradition of mystically communicating with the Other, to hold a dialogue with Him directly and without intermediary, as we can through our conscience with each other. 'Omnia Animat' is the opposite of all doctrines of exclusivity, all doctrines claiming superiority, but also the guarantee of infinite variety. (Unfinished journey:458)
I was much influenced by the writings of Constantin Brunner, a German Jew.... In 1938 a set of his books was sent to me anonymously; presumably by devoted friends of his who rightly guessed that Brunner’s writings would interest me. I never met him, but after the war someone gave me a letter in which he had mentioned me.
... Brunner’s philosophy owed much to eastern thought and also to Spinoza, whom I very much admire. But at the same time Brunner’s writings are thoroughly Germanic. He wrote the most beautiful prose. He was proud of the German language, which lends itself so naturally to philosophy and abstract thought. It took me several weeks to enter into the rhythm of his style, but from then on I read and read. His philosophy gave me a theoretical framework within which I could fit the events and experiences of life, and this framework continues to serve me.
... The main theme in Brunner’s work is an all-encompassing conception of life, in some way akin to the ancient Buddhist way of perceiving the atom. All those centuries ago they conceived of matter as being divisible into infinitely small particles. I read somewhere that the early Buddhists actually estimated the number of nerve ends in the spine. And their view of life ranged from the micro to the cosmic.
... Brunner was one of the first to bridge the organic and the inorganic, a theory which is gradually gaining acceptance, He postulated that all creation—whether a stone, leaf, a tree, an animal, or a human being—is animated and inhabited by an all-pervading being. All belong to one living process. He doesn’t draw an arbitrary line anywhere.
... There is nothing dry about his writings: his prose is notable for its intensity, its love, and its clarity. For example he wrote a passionate book called Our Christ; he worshipped Jesus, not as a God but as the greatest of the prophets.
... Of all the philosophers I have read, Brunner comes nearest to my own intuitive conception of life. He manages to resolve apparent paradoxes and discrepancies in life: between people, between nations, between man and the infinite. His writings helped to clarify my thoughts at a time when I was looking for a general field theory, which would enable me to navigate my life with some sense of direction, and assess events as they were happening.
... I was then in my early twenties and fortunately had enough time to read. Now I have so many obligations, and it has been some years since I have read any of his books. But I remain a faithful member of the Brunner Society and do what I can: I helped to have his books republished in Germany; they had been burned by the Nazis. There is now a Brunner Institute in The Hague, and, thanks to reprints and translations, I am glad to say that his works are becoming more widely known, understood, and valued. (Conversations with Menuhin: 32-34)
Einstein was searching for a field principle that would account for all phenomena, inorganic as well as organic; and one of my favourite philosophers, Brunner, later postulated just such a principle, bringing together animism and monism. According to Brunner, we make a false dichotomy between organic and inorganic: he saw all matter as being, to some degree, in motion, animated, and conscious of its motion. (Conversations with Menuhin: 113)
I was immediately attracted by Brunner’s global conception: the way he links matter and spirit; the way he sees ‘to feel, to want, and to know’ as parts of one basic impulse; his vision of plants, trees, animals, people, the arts, as aspects of one unity, all related, all mutually influential.
... Brunner revolutionized my thinking. He enabled me to see that opposites—good and bad, body and soul, work and play, night and day—are only apparent opposites; and that events and experiences which on the surface seem disjointed, even inimical, do have meaningful connections. (Conversations with Menuhin: 163)