American Theosophist

"Review of Science, Spirit, Superstition" / by Joseph D. Gullo. Reprinted from the American Theosophist (January 1971: p. 415), a journal of the Theosophical Society in America,

This is an unusual book by a relatively little known German philosopher who developed most of his ideas in the first three decades of the twentieth century. In it science and philosophy are reunited with their spiritual source. Brunner uses science to support his contention that the basic stuff of the universe is absolute thought and the fundamental law of the universe is motion. Thinking, then, is the essence of the world, and materialism is "thing quackery." Man makes the colossal error of affixing materialistic qualities to the essence of being and thus develops analogous thinking (the Analogon) which is a perversion of true thinking. He then behaves as if his distortions were really true. This is superstition and brings man much anguish. Man errs because he has forgotten that he is not only man but that which becomes man; i.e., the Absolute.

It is as though Plato were speaking again. Although Brunner holds Plato, together with Spinoza, to be the greatest of philosophers, he is no mere interpreter of another. He is an original thinker, definite and sure of his position. He is critical of a number of other writers, such as Kant for his "crude dualism" and many errors in thinking, and of Descartes who is not even to be regarded as a philosopher. As for Aristotle, "How," Brunner asks, "can one spend twenty years as a student of Plato and still not learn anything?" Brunner topples a few icons. For example, in science: the evolutionary ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny is rejected as a "chaotic abstraction"; in psychology: "There is no such thing as cognition. We can think and know!"; in philosophy: "The philosophy of Becoming is wrong." In place of this he holds a philosophy of Being. Becoming is only relative and is an admission of man's inferior state as indicated by his physical, emotional, and mental limitations. Man can move from this limited condition to what he is eternally: a thinking, spiritual being. And yet, man already is that which he can be! "Only those who retain the sense of the Absolute, who search with a feeling for discovery, will ever find what they have basically never lost." This needs to be realized, and the sense of the Absolute brought into the awareness of man will be controlled by the demands of his selfish ego. Self-examination is the basis for the needed self-improvement; it is also the only true morality. Mysticism, which baffles so many, is no mystery, but rather is the scientific result of that which transcends our practical understanding and forms its base. It is the true empiricism and can free man from materialism; that is, from his incorrect conception of the Absolute, his analogous thinking, his superstitions. But there can be no proof of the Absolute. One must face the existentialist solitude.

This deep and insightful scholar might well become a philosophical guide for those who would integrate the various intellectual disciplines, for philosophers of the new age, for scientists of the new physics, for psychologists of the new humanistic orientation, and for those interested in mysticism, morality, the wisdom and genius of Christ, and much more. He speaks to many. One needs but to listen. Brunner deserves a place on the roster of great minds. But will his works gather dust while the shallow offerings of certain others are pored over by students who are trapped by sense-realism and cannot escape because they do not know they are trapped? Shades of Plato's cave! Brunner returns to tell others of the true Source of Light.

This book is extremely well written and effectively translated into English, and one often gets the feeling that he is being directly engaged in conversation with the author. But it is not light reading. It is serious, scholarly, and profound. Yet the insights are exhilarating! Brunner takes his readers through intellectual experiences which lead to high levels of rationality and prepares them for the leap beyond rationality across the chasm which separates ordinary men from those who are truly seeking to know the meaning of life.