Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, 1775 - 1854

Friedrich Schelling, a German idealist philosopher once known as the "poet of the transcendental movement," has been held to be the most influential of the post-Kantian thinkers.  His works, however, were (and still are) little-translated into English, and consequently his thought was known to the New England Transcendentalists mainly through the writings of Madame de Staël, Victor Cousin, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  One Transcendentalist, Charles Stearns Wheeler, did hear Schelling in person when he presented his famous lectures on the philosophy of revelation--attempting to harmonize faith and science--in Berlin in 1842.
Schelling has been written about as follows by Octavius Brooks Frothingham, the first historian of American Transcendentalism.
. . . The traces of Jacobi and Fichte are broad and distinct on the mind of the New World.  Of Schelling little need be said, for his works were not translated into English, and the French translation of the "Transcendental Idealism" was not announced till 1850, when the movement in New England was subsiding.  His system was too abstract and technical in form to interest any but his countrymen.  Coleridge was fascinated by it, and yielded to the fascination so far as to allow the thoughts of the German metaphysician to take possession of his mind; but for Coleridge, indeed, few English-speaking men would have known what the system was.  Transcendentalism in New England was rather spiritual and practical than metaphysical.  Jacobi and Fichte were both; it can scarcely be said that Schelling was either.  His books were hard; his ideas underwent continual changes in detail; his speculative system was developed gradually in a long course of years.  But for certain grandiose conceptions which had a charm for the imagination and fascinated the religious sentiment, his name need not be mentioned in this little incidental record at all.  There was, however, in Schelling something that recalled the ideal side of Plato, more that suggested Plotinus, the neo-Platonists and Alexandrines, a mystical pantheistic quality that mingled well with the general elements of Idealism, and gave atmosphere, as it were, to the tender feeling of Jacobi and the heroic will of Fichte.
Schelling was Fichte's disciple, filled his vacant chair in Jena in 1798, and took his philosophical departure from certain of his positions.  Fichte had shut the man up close in himself, had limited the conception of the world by the boundaries of consciousness, had reduced the inner universe to a full-orbed creation, made its facts substantial and its fancies solid, peopled it with living forces, and found room in it for the exercise of a complete moral and spiritual life.  In his system the soul was creator.  The outer universe had its being in human thought.  Subject and object were one, and that one was the subject.
Schelling restored the external world to its place as an objective reality, no fiction, no projection from the human mind.  Subject and object, in his view, were one, but in the absolute, the universal soul, the infinite and eternal mind.  His original fire mist was the unorganized intelligence of which the universe was the expression.  Finite minds are but phases of manifestation of the infinite mind, inlets into which it flows, some deeper, wider, longer than others.  Spirit and matter are reverse aspects of being.  Spirit is invisible nature, nature's visible spirit.  Starting from nature, we may work our way into intelligence; starting from intelligence, we may work our way out to nature.  Thought and existence having the same ground, ideal and real being one, the work of philosophy is twofold--from nature to arrive at spirit, from spirit to arrive at nature.  They who wish to know how Schelling did it must consult the histories of philosophy; the most popular of them will satisfy all but the experts.  It is easy to conjecture into what mysterious ways the clue might lead, and in what wilderness of thickets the reader might be lost; how in mind we are to see nature struggling upward into consciousness, and in nature mind seeking endless forms of finite expression.  To unfold both processes, in uniform and balanced movement, avoiding pantheism on one side, and materialism on the other, was the endeavor we shall not attempt, even in the most cursory manner, to describe.  God becomes conscious in man, the philosophic man, the man of reason, in whom the absolute being recognizes himself.  The reason gazes immediately on the eternal realities, by virtue of what was called "intellectual intuition," which beholds both subject and object as united in a single thought.  Reason was impersonal, no attribute of the finite intelligence, no fact of the individual consciousness, but a faculty, if that be the word for it, that transcended all finite experience; commanded a point superior to consciousness, was, in fact, the all-seeing eye confronting itself.  What room here for intellectual rovers!  What mystic groves for ecstatic souls to lose themselves in!  What intricate mazes for those who are fond of hunting phantoms!  Flashes of dim glory from this tremendous speculation are seen in the writings of Emerson, Parker, Alcott, and other seers, probably caught by reflection, or struck out, as they were by Schelling himself, by minds moving on the same level.  In Germany the lines of speculation were carried out in labyrinthine detail, as, fortunately, they were not elsewhere.