L4. German Idealism & Nature’s Most Sublime Flower


Hegel, in 1807, balked at the idea that spines could seat additional souls. For him, metamerising nervous arcs and the plastic parenchyma represent ‘fluid’ moments in mind’s ‘self-contained existence’; on the contrary, supportive skull and rigid vertebral mast are mere antipodal moments in this liquid self-actualization, petrifactions and ‘self-externalizing’ exuviae of spirit’s self-realization. Brain is ‘living head’, spine merely its polarising ‘caput mortuum’. (‘Caput mortuum’ being the alchemical ‘nigredo’ or waste product from purification, literally ‘dead head’).

In stark contradistinction, Schopenhauer, as we have seen, relished the notion of spinal souls. Yet in his geohistorical account of a concatenated ‘biology’ and ‘physics’ of the unconscious (and its aeon-long awakening into conscious homo sapience), Schopenhauer is preceded by F.W.J. Schelling (1775–1854): first discoverer of depth psychology and of the law of recapitulation.It was the radically novel thinking of Schelling and his Naturphilosophen followers—a school of mad scientist polymaths—who first developed such notions.…