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Novalis – Started the anti-modernism 250 years ago?
© Heiko Rebsch/dpa Exterior view of the listed Oberwiederstedt Castle, the birthplace of the early Romantic poet Georg Philipp Friedrich von Hardenberg, who went down in literary history under the pseudonym Novalis,
Arnstein – He lived to be only 28, but left his mark on an entire era. His noble name: Friedrich von Hardenberg. His stage name works like a charm – even in the debate about the intellectual roots of the vaccination refuseniks.
Why don't many people in Germany get vaccinated?? Is this a late consequence of German Romanticism?? Yes, says literary critic Volker Weidermann.
In "time" he accused the early Romantic poet Novalis, who 250 years ago (2. Anthroposophists are particularly fond of this: it is "to blame for the German vaccination gap". The widespread "German love of irrationalism".
Novalis experts such as the Trier literary scholar Herbert Uerlings can only shake their heads at that. "Romanticism as an alleged German doom is a cliche", he says. Novalis should not be used as a label or catchphrase to talk about a supposed "national character of the Germans" to ponder.
The poet Friedrich von Hardenberg, who came from a middle German landed aristocracy and called himself Novalis, was long regarded as a death-addicted enthusiast. In his "Hymns to the Night" he had shied away from the light of reason and bid farewell to the Enlightenment again, they believed. A visionary experience at the grave of his fiancee Sophie von Kuhn, who died in 1797, made him a mystically enraptured poet of love.
Two friends and fellow romantics, Ludwig Tieck and Friedrich Schlegel, gave birth to this cliche in their edition of Novalis' writings in 1802. It was not until 160 years later, with the historical-critical edition of the estate, that research began to discover a completely different Novalis.
"In the utopian power of his thinking lies a meaning for us today", says Prof. Uerling's. Novalis had intellectually transcended all boundaries in order to "help dialogical and republican reason become reality". Accordingly, politics also needs ethics and public spirit in order to go beyond a mere balancing of egos and create a "free association of self-determined beings to be.
Question about the absolute
Already every single subject is a connection: of spirit and matter, consciousness and body. Novalis explored this unity in meticulous discussion with the main representatives of transcendental idealism, Immanuel Kant and Johann Gottlieb Fichte. But not philosophy, but poetry was for him the decisive medium for the question of the absolute. In his novel "Heinrich von Ofterdingen" (Henry of Ofterdingen) he made the "blue flower to be the symbol of the romantic "longing for the infinite".
For Novalis this longing can never be satisfied. For reflection inevitably inverts the infinite into the finite. The absolute being always appears only as relative consciousness. This is seen through by reflecting the limits of reflection on their part: Romantic poetry ironically says that it misses what is to be said precisely by saying it.
Novalis also relates this approach to the "Dialectic of Enlightenment": Enlightenment must be enlightened about its own limits in order not to turn into terror – as after the French Revolution.
Museum and research center
Those who want to get closer to the poet and thinker can visit the birthplace of Oberwiederstedt Castle in Mansfelder Land (Saxony-Anhalt). Today it is a museum. A research site for early romanticism. There, other sides of the multi-talent also become clear: As a trained lawyer, he began studying at the Freiberg Mining Academy near Dresden in 1797. There he deals with questions of chemistry, mineralogy, mining science, physics, mathematics and medicine, which is also reflected in his poetry in many ways. in 1799 he was appointed salt works assessor. Entering the higher civil service career. In 1801, at the age of only 28, he died in Weibenfels, presumably of tuberculosis.
Vaccination against this lung disease did not exist at the time, but initial trials of smallpox vaccines did. Novalis knew how dangerous smallpox viruses are, because two members of his family died from them. The basic idea of vaccination corresponds exactly to his approach, which he calls "Ordo inversus" called: One must cancel out reflection by reflection, eradicate illness with illness. This does not look like vaccination skepticism.