The "Nocturnal Side of Science" in David Friedrich Strauss's 'Life of Jesus Critically Examined' Open Access

Fabisiak, Thomas Stanley (2014)

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This dissertation analyzes David Friedrich Strauss's 1835-36 Life of Jesus Critically Examined in light of his lesser-known studies from the same period on "the science of the nocturnal side of nature," romantic medical research on paranormal phenomena such as animal magnetism, clairvoyance, and demon possession. The Life is known for the consequential role that it played in modern humanistic study and the criticism of religion. It defined an ethos of historical and theological Wissenschaft, science, as "free from presuppositions" and shaped critical adaptations of Hegel's philosophy in the early 1840's. Scholars often describe Strauss's contribution to modern science in terms of a shift from romantic and idealist models of science to positivism. I argue in opposition that his most radical interventions in the study of religion and history emerged where he engaged with esoteric religious beliefs, romantic medicine, and speculative cosmology. His work illustrates as such the complex, uncertain route of modern disenchantment. The writings on the nocturnal side of natural science serve to bring these aspects of the Life of Jesus into relief. I focus in particular on his responses to the romantic poet and physician Justinus Kerner's case studies on ghost-seeing, "demonomania," and Frederike Hauffe, the "Seeress of Prevorst."

Table of Contents




Disenchantment and Exorcism in Early Nineteenth-Century Germany 1

David Friedrich Strauss and the Life of Jesus Critically Examined 8

The Life and the Scientific Study of the New Testament 12

The Ghosts and Demons of the Life of Jesus 15

The "Nocturnal Side" of the Scientific Criticism of Religion and History 23

Chapter 1: D. F. Strauss on the Science of the Nocturnal Side of Nature 26

The Nocturnal Side of Natural Science in early Nineteenth-Century German Philosophy and Medicine 30

Strauss's Bildung in Württemberg 43

From an Equivocal Affinity to an "Inverted Image" of the Nocturnal Side of Nature 51

Frederike Hauffe and the Embodied Limits of Spirit 59

Magdalena Grombach, Anna U, and the Psychophysical Condition of Demonomania 64

Elisabeth Esslinger and the Cultural Conditions of Paranormal Experience 71

Conclusion 79

Chapter 2: The Nocturnal Side of Strauss's Historical Critique of Miracle Stories 81

Strauss on Historical Critical Wissenschaft in the Life 83

Romantic Cosmology and the Modern Critique of Miracle 88

The Nocturnal side of Nature and Strauss's Concessions to Rationalism and Supernaturalism 100

The Nocturnal Side of Natural Science and the Limits of the Gospel Stories in the Life 107

Bodies, Souls, and the Global Limits of Spirit in Strauss's Cosmology 121

Conclusion 123

Chapter 3: D.F. Strauss on Myth and the Nocturnal Side of Nature 125

German Romanticism and the Scientific Study of Biblical Myths 127

First Critical Aspect of Strauss's Adaptation of Romantic Myth Theory: The Critique of Miracles 138

Second Critical Aspect of Strauss's Adaptation of Romantic Myth Theory: Ancient and Modern Bildung 143

Strauss's Hegelian Exposition of his Method: an Immanent, Historical Critique of Consciousness 155

Conclusion 171

Chapter 4: The Nocturnal Side of Christian and Modern Origins 174

Strauss on Jesus' Messianic Self-Consciousness 176

Fanaticism, Religion, and the Origins of Christianity 182

Strauss's Critique of Modern Reason, Part 1: The Limits of the Modern Spirit 199

Strauss's Critique of Modern Reason, Part 2: The Condition of Modernity 206

Conclusion 218

Conclusion: D.F. Strauss's Visions of Modernity and Historical Science 220

The Results: The Nocturnal Side of Strauss's Vision of Historical and Theological Science 222

D.F. Strauss as a Historian and Student of the Nocturnal Side of Natural Science 226

Strauss's 1864 New Life of Jesus and 1872 Old Faith and the New, and the Genealogy of Historical-Critical Science 234

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