Frederik van Eeden

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Frederik van Eeden (1860-1932)

Frederik Van Eeden was a novelist, poet and philosopher. In his early writings, he was strongly influenced by Hindu Ideas of the selfhood, by Boehme’s mysticism, and by Fechner’s panpsychism. In his later life, van Eeden became a Catholic.

In psychology he is known for his idea of lucid dreaming. In 1914, he formed a circle of academics that included Martin Buber, Henri Borel, Gustav Landauer, Poul C. Bjerre, and Erich Gutkind. Shortly before World War I, this group broke up. After World War I, van Eeden started a Walden-type community in the Netherlands, with the Dutch mathematician Brouwer as its first chairman. Van Eeden also had plans for an international school of philosophy. His vision led to the founding of the Internationale Instituut voor Wijsbegeerte at Amersfoort. It was founded in 1916, although van Eeden by then was no longer involved in the founding committee. It continues to today, with the same goal of “the formation of a center for the deepening of life and worldviews” [het vormen van een centrum ter verdieping van levens- en wereldbeschouwing].

Van Eeden visited the U.S. He had contacts with William James and other psychologists. He met Freud in Vienna. He corresponded with Hermann Hesse.

Van Eeden also had an interest in Indian philosophy. He translated Tagore’s Gitanjali.

Dooyeweerd had an interest in Van Eeden and his work, as well as in the International School for Philosophy. In 1915, Dooyeweerd published an article in the Free University Student Society Almanac, entitled “Neo-Mysticism and Frederik van Eeden.” The article is dated November 27, 1914.

This article is discussed by Henderson in his Illuminating law. It is also discussed by Verburg. Verburg says that in this article, Dooyeweerd studies the development of the idea of intuition. The second half of the article is devoted to van Eeden. Dooyeweerd is attracted to him because unlike Bergson, van Eeden did not depreciate the value of science. Science also has value, as long as it does not pretend to be able to split apart [uiteen to kunnen doen vallen] the mysterious universe into numbers and mathematical formulas.

In the article, Dooyeweerd compares intuition to the dream state. He says van Eeden is both a thinker and a poet-seer [ziener-dichter]. Science must have regard to these poet-seers, and come to the conclusion that these seers long ago concluded, that our categories bound to space are only relative. (p. 150, referred to in Verburg 20)

Dooyeweerd refers in this article to van Eeden as holding to the viewpoint of “scientific mysticism.” The same term might perhaps describe Dooyeweerd’s own work.

Verburg says that Dooyeweerd corresponded with Van Eeden. In a letter of November 14, 1914, Dooyeweerd asked van Eeden what he meant by ‘zien met de meest mogelijke helderheid, die iemand vergen kan’ [“to see with the most clarity possible that one can obtain”]. This letter was written after publication of van Eeden’s book Paul’s ontwaken (Amsterdam, 1913). Van Eeden’s son Paul had died in that year. In this “seeing,” van Eeden said he had come to a fixed certainty about eternal matters. Dooyeweerd writes,

“Ik voel, dat u hier onmogeliljk het “empirisch zintuigelijk waarnemen” kunt hebben bedoeld. Is het misschien bij u dat onmiddeliijk gevoel geweest, dat men met den naam ‘intuitie’ pleegt aan te duiden en dat om met Schopenhauer te spreken, in de naar binnen gekeerde zijde van het bewustzijn zetelt?”

[It seems to me that it is not possible that you can have referred to “empirical sensory perception.” Is what occurred to you perhaps that immediate feeling that is often called ‘intuition’ and, to use Schopenhauer’s words, is seated in the inwardly turned side of consciousness?]

Dooyeweerd also refers in this article to the mysticism in William James, so he is familiar with his work. This is important in ideas of consciousness.

Henderson says (pp. 22-24) that in this article on Van Eeden, Dooyeweerd refers to “the intuitive dream-life of our second ‘I.’” And Dooyeweerd says that there are two basic structural needs; intuitive and reasoning. He says that these are “Two worlds. The one of cool reason…, the other, that of the inner will.” He says that this is “the dualistic background of neo-Kantianism.” He then sketches the trends in the history of thought that have tried to overcome the failure to respect one of these two dispositions, and how each ended up severing the two worlds again. He refers to his teacher Anne Anema’s discussion of Modern Romanticism’s attempt to resolve the dualism of faith and reason.

Almost two years later, Dooyeweerd was still interested in Van Eeden. He gave a review of the first publication of the Mededelingen van de Internationale School voor Wijsbegeerte te Amersfoort. (Review Oct 15, 1916 in the student paper Fraternitas, cited Verburg 24). Dooyeweerd criticized the school’s goal of making one conscious of divinity in man. They seek a unity above religion in the philosophy of the ages. We can’t do this because above the absoluteness of philosophy is the absoluteness of the word of Christ. “No one comes to the Father but through me.” In other words, Dooyeweerd seems to be opposing an idea of a perennial philosophy.

It is interesting that the Dutch mathematician Brouwer took part in van Eeden’s community. Vollenhoven’s thesis was about Brouwer’s intuitionism in mathematics.

Although I believe that we must look to Baader for the source of Dooyeweerd’s key ideas, it seems to me that some of Dooyeweerd’s ideas can also be traced to Van Eeden. This is not inconsistent, for Van Eeden had an interest in Boehme and theosophy. So it is not surprising that we can find some interesting parallels between van Eeden and Dooyeweerd..

It is also important to note that Vollenhoven was also interested in van Eeden. Vollenhoven wrote two reviews of van Eeden’s work in the journal Opbouw. Vollenhoven was one of the editors of that journal, although he used the pseudonym ‘Th. Voorthuizen.’ It was under that name, using the initials ‘Th. V.’ that Vollenhoven wrote a review of van Eeden’s book Paul’s Ontwaken. Van Eeden wrote it about the death of his son. Vollenhoven writes:

Dit boek is een doodsbrief, niet een gewone met zwarten rouwrand, wat Paul zoo leelijk vond, maar een die spreekt van sterven dat opwaken wordt. ‘t Ontroert door zijn verwoording van wat er genotend werd, gegrepen ook van het onzegbare, dat zich slechts laat vermoeden na den dood.

[This book is an obituary notice, not the usual one with the black band of mourning, which Paul found so ugly, but one that speaks of dying that becomes an awakening. It moves the reader by putting into words what will be enjoyed, and by laying hold on the ineffable, which itself can only be presumed after death.]

And

Allerlei wondere vragen, verwarrend juist door de soberheid van ‘t verhaal, dringen zich aan den lezer op.

[All kinds of wonderful questions, confusing just because of the soberness of the story, force themselves on the reader.]

Vollenhoven says that neither in theory nor in practice can we live with agnosticism:

Wie zich wapent tegen dat agnosticisme, wie kent de Waarheid Die gezien, getast en gehoord is, zal veel schoonheid zien beven ook in dit boek van den begaafden schrijver, dat in eenvoud is als de witte bloemen zonder geur, die stonden bij ‘t sterfbed van z’n zoon.

[Whoever arms himself against agnosticism, who knows the Truth That is seen, felt and heard, shall also see much trembling beauty in this book by a gifted author, which in its simplicity is like the unscented white flowers, which stood by the deathbed of his son.]

Vollenhoven also wrote a review in Opbouw of Van Eeden’s book Sirius en Siderius. (He wrote the review under the pseudonym ‘J.W.’). He says he is not sure what is intended in this work. Perhaps it is a defence of Buddhism that in the character Ananda tries to win over capitalistic America. But, says Vollenhoven, the core of the book is elsewhere.

Daar is iets in ‘t wezen van dat wonderkind, “achter zijn oogen” zooals hij ‘t zelf uitdrukt, dat niet zich leent voor analyse, maar dat zoekt ‘t hoogere, dat wil doordringen in de wereld buiten zich, dat juist systheem zoekt, alles met elkaar in verband brengt als ‘n kleine werelddichter. Daar wordt, als vrucht van die vrije opvoeding iets bedoeld, dat evenwichtige, dat toch niet wordt berijkt. Daar is iets in het Buddhisme dat den auteur biedt wat bevredigen zal en dat wordt gezocht door Adanda [sic]. Sla vooral dien zin niet over, dat zelfs Buddha’s woorden niet noodig heeft, “wie door eigen groote liefde gedreven wordt.”–En dat iets dat doel is maar ook norm, eindpunt en maatstaf beide, ‘t strijdt met de werkelijkheid, met deze maatschappij met haar geestelijken, die couponnetjes knippen en haar bedriegelijken handel, met haar geldhonger die zich meester maakt zelfs van politie ambtenaren en al haar haat en hoon tegen armoede en nederigheid als’t ware geuit heeft door naar den bedelmonnik van Assisi te noemen, de stad in ‘t verre Westen.
En wat is dat iets nu, dat de grondgedachte is van heel het boek en elk zijner deelen tot recht doet komen? Dat is wat gezocht wordt door de wijsgeeren, die niet kunnen indringen in ‘t wezen der natuur, die steeds buiten hen blijft. Dat is wat wil benaderen elke opvoed-kundige die menschen wil kweeken geheel-af, zooals de Grieken ze beeldden in hun plastiek en ‘t humanisme als ideaal stelde. Dat is wat ‘t Buddhisme heeft getast: invloeiïng in het Absolute, ‘t Wereld-al. Dat is de toekomstdroom der oeconomomen, die uitdachten stelsels van evenredige verdeeling. Dat is harmonie.[…]
De harmonie toch omvat voor Fr. v. Eeden eigenlijk alles, ze moet zijn de samenstelling van heel ‘t heelal in ‘n wonderschoon accoord en daarnaar te luisteren is de hoogste top, waar de mensch kan klimmen.

[There is something in the being of that wonder-child [Ananda], “behind his eyes” as he himself expresses it, that does not give itself to analysis, but which seeks that which is higher, that wants to penetrate into the world outside of him, that seeks the true system, to bring everything into relation like a little world-poet. An equilibrium is pointed to, as the fruit of a free education, but one which cannot be reached. There is something in the Buddhism offered by the author that will satisfy, and which is being sought by Ananda. But above all don’t skip over that sentence of his that does not even need the Buddha’s words, “who is driven by his own great love.” And that something is both goal and also norm. It is both end-point and criterion. It struggles with reality, with this society with its disturbed people who clip coupons and with its deceptive trade practices, with its hunger for money that makes itself master even of police officials, and has as it were expressed all its hate and scorn for the poor and the humble by naming the city in the far West [San Francisco] after the mendicant friar Francis of Assisi.
And what is it then now that is the basic thought of this whole book which allows for a justification of each of its parts? It is what is sought by the philosophers, who cannot penetrate into the essence of nature, who always remain outside of it. That is what each education expert want to approach who wants to cultivate people completely, just as the Greeks sculpted in their plastic art, and just as humanism has set as its ideal. That is what has Buddhism has touched: the flowing into the Absolute, the whole world. That is the economists’ dream of the future, who thought up systems of equitable distribution. That is harmony. […]
For Frederik van Eeden, harmony really includes everything, it must be the coherence of the whole universe in a marvelous accord. And to thereafter listen to this harmony is the highest peak that humanity can climb.]

Vollenhoven says that this goal of harmony is worked out better a German work by Anne Schieber: Alle guten Geister. This is because for van Eeden, the goal is unreachable, whereas Anne Schieber allows one to see the beginning of its realization–the unity that exists between all created beings, and between the world and God.

  1. Eeden zocht haar. Anne Schieber beluisterde haar, maar er in opgaan kan slechts hij, die weet dat gedempt is de kloof, die gaapt tusschen Schepper en maaksel, die niet allen belijdt, –want er zijn zooveel onharmonieuse belijders, –maar ook ervaren heeft dat God de wereld met zichzelf was verzoenende, en zoo hersteld is in de juiste verhouding tegenover zijn medeschepping en nu geniet in de zuivere harmonie, die heel ‘t heelal zoo wonderschoon zingt, de sferen-muziek, den Grooten Kunstenaar tot eere.

[Van Eeden sought this unity, Anne Schieber listened to it. But only the one who knows that the chasm that yawned between the Creator and his work has been filled can be absorbed in this harmony. Such a person not only confesses this harmony–for there are so many unharmonious believers–but he or she has also experienced that God was reconciling the world with Himself, and such a person has also been restored to the true relation with respect to co-creation, and now enjoys the purest harmony of the music of the spheres, that sing so beautifully throughout the whole universe, to the glory of the Great Artist.]

Vollenhoven did not deny that van Eeden’s goals are valuable. He just says that these goals are achieved better another way. So both Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven were intensely interested in Frederik van Eeden. Although Vollenhoven later moved away from ideas that emphasized the “filling in” of the chasm between Creator and creature, Dooyeweerd continued to hold many ideas in common with this mystical tradition.

Van Eeden’s poetry

I will start with his poetry. I have given some very rough translations which cannot match the original Dutch. And I offer these translations and notes not as any tightly argued relation to Dooyeweerd’s thought, but as a meditative way to approach Dooyeweerd’s ideas from a different perspective.

The Selfhood

In his Van de Koele Meren des Doods, he refers to

“de overgang van zelf tot Zelf, van het tijdelike eigene zelf tot het Zelf, het tijdelooze dat allen is”(cited H. W. van Tricht: Frederik van Eeden: Denker en Strijder, Amsterdam: Lankamp & Brinkman, 1934, 78).

[the passage from the self to Self, from the temporal separate self to the timeless Self that is everything].

The Self is One:

maar zie toch, geen is eenzaam, allen houën
te zamen in één Zelf, dat verre blijft
boven gescheidenheid, brandpunt der lijnen
die ‘t leven aller enkelen beschrijft (Lied I, V 80)

[but see, none is alone, all hold together
in one Self, that far endures above
diversity, the focus of all lines
that life de-scribes for individuals].

This Idea of the Self as the focus of the individual lines is the converse of the image of the prism that splits the Self into diversity.

Dooyeweerd also says that the selfhood is supra-individual and supratemporal. And both van Eeden and Dooyeweerd say that it is because our selfhood stands outside of time that we can measure time.

der vluchtige seconden wordt beseft
door ‘t Zelf, dat op de wieken der gedachte
zich aldus uit den stroom des tijds verheft

Wat acht geeft weet zich boven het beachte,
en wie den tijd als een beweging ziet
moet vaster staan dan ‘t ding dat hij betrachtte

en drijft niet mee in der seconden vliet.
Wie eens den top der heldre zelfbezinning
verrukt besteeg, vreest in die ruimten niet

de macht des tijds (Lied II, X 37)

[the passing seconds are perceived
by the Self, that elevates itself from out the stream
of time upon the wings of thought

What gives attention knows itself above what is attended to
and if as movement we perceive the time
we must stand surer than the things we practice,

and with the passing seconds cannot move.
Whoever once the top of self-reflection clear
ec-static climbs, no longer fears within his space

the power of time].

All things exist only in the Self. Can we compare this to the idea of a supratemporal root? Dooyeweerd says that temporal reality has no existence except in humanity as such a supratemporal root:

Geen ding bestaat, zoo niet het Ik ‘t beleeft,
zich voelend, denkend, teegenwoordig weetend,
schoon het al schijnbaar door ‘t on-eig’ne zweeft

en zoekt een weg, herinn’rend, tastend, meetend
in wat een onbekende waereld schijnt.
Oneigen wordt tot eigen, want gekeetend

blijkt alle Zijn, hoe men ‘t begrip verfijnt,
aan Zelfbesef in altijdduurend Heeden,
en alle zin van ‘t woord “niet-ik” verdwijnt.(Lied, III, II, 55).

[Nothing exists except as it is lived by Self,
as feeling, thinking, knowing in the present,
although the seeming real is in not-I suspended,

and seeks a way, in memory, taste and measure
in what seems to be a world unknown.
Not-mine becomes my own, for all of Being

is attached to consciousness of self, in the forever
resting present (however we refine this thought),
and all the sense of “not-I” disappears].

Dooyeweerd emphasizes the role played by our intuition in making the temporal world our own. The problem arises only because there is a differentiation from the totality of the self to the temporal world.

The self provides an immediate experience:

wordt tot direct gevoeld, onmiddlijk Zijn,
tot Nu, tot Ik (Lied III, II 85 )

[becomes directly felt, immediate Being,
to Now, to I].

The Law-Idea

Van Eeden refers to

“één vaste Wet in elke levenssfeer” (Lied II, IX, 78)

[one fixed law in every sphere of life]

That reference is more to the fact that one law applies to every person, whatever his or her social status; it speaks more of justice. But elsewhere he refers to the law in more general terms–as the power in the distant stars and the near tiny cells, and says it is the same law that holds for all:

Eenzelfde kracht, op eender wijs, houdt tevens
de verste vaste sterren in hun baan
en dwingt der cellen kleinste deeltjes nevens

elkander den bestemden weg te gaan.
De soorten aller plante’ en dieren strijden
ieder voor zich, als waar van elk ‘t bestaan

der schepping éénig doel. Allen benijden
elkander ruimte en levensduur en macht,
toch zijn ze in schijn slechts, en nooit scherp gescheiden

Eén Gods-wet geldt voor allen en de kracht
der Almacht houdt hen feilloos strak verbonden
als kind’ren van één éénig Gods-geslacht.(Lied II, VIII, 79)

[The one same power in different ways
holds for the orbits of the distant stars
and also forces smallest parts enclosed by cells

to in succession go their own determined way.
The animals and plants of every kind
fight for themselves, as if creation’s goal

were but their life. They all desire space
and length of life and power,
But they are maya only, not distinct.

God’s law is One, and holds for all. His mighty
power holds them and connects them now
as children of one single race of God.]

and

en wat mijn brooze lichaam aanzijn schonk
is toch Hetzelfde wat die groote vuuren
in vaste keet’nen Zijner wetten klonk (Lied III, V, 34).

[and what existence gave to this my fragile body
is the Same that latched the fiery stars
to the fixed bonds of all His laws]

and

‘t Groeyen mijns Weezens laat zich niet gebieden,
maar vergt zijn tijd en volgt verheev’ner Wet.
Niet mijne, maar Gods wilkeur moet geschieden.

Ik ben in dit rampzalig oord gezet
tot kwijting van mij niet bewuste schulden.(Lied III, VI, 16)

[My being’s growth cannot be commanded,
but needs its time and follows Law above,
Not mine but God’s will here must come to pass.

I ‘m fitted here within this wretched order
to pay my still unknown unconscious deeds]

The idea of being fitted in the law-order is certainly reminiscent of Baader’s ideas. And it is used by Dooyeweerd in his view of our being “fitted” or “gesteld” in the temporal order. Van Eeden does not here express a conscious fall. But for Dooyeweerd, the being fitted was after man’s creation. There is the possibility that the world was already fallen. See creation.

Van Eeden also speaks of the coincidence of individual laws, as well as a coherence of spheres of limitation:

Want in het Al bestaat geen ding alleenig,
geen kracht, geen wet, geen wezen, geen verstand.
Al ‘t enkle heeft zijn aard en deugd door ‘t menig,

als klanken in ‘t symfonische verband
zijn wat zij zijn,–daarbuiten zonder werking.
Een eindloos wijder spreiden web omspant

met samenhang de kringen van beperking.” (Lied I, IX, 40)

[For in the All nothing exists alone,
no power, law, no intellect or being,
the ground and virtue of the sole lies in the many

they are as sounds within symphonic union
what they are,–apart from this without effect.
An infinitely wider web now comprehends

in a coherence of the spheres of limitation].

Dooyeweerd refers to the law as “limiting and determining” our selfhood (WdW I, 13). And Dooyeweerd also emphasizes the coherence of individuality spheres, and their supratemporal unity.

Unfolding of the law by God’s Spirit

Geen levend wezen bleef er gansch ontbloot
dier grootste gaaf. Zij is ‘t, die doet in flauwe
daging de celletjes in jong loot,

vereend en stil, uit lucht en water bouwen
hun wondre bloemen en ‘t belooverd hout,
maar zij ook wekt den mensch tot diep zelf-schouwen

en tot ontvouwen van Gods wet, die houdt
de pracht te samen met standvastig glanzen,
door Zijn hand in der heemlen leeg gebouwd. (Lied I, XII, 58)

[No living being is completely bare
of this your greatest gift. For in the faintness
of the dawn, alone and still, cells of young shoots

are built by her from air and water
wondrous flowers and the promised wood;
she also wakes us up to introspection deep

and to unfolding of God’s law, that holds
the glory with its steadfast beams,
built in the empty heavens by His hand].

Prism

want alles wat bestaat wordt ook beschouwd
door die oneindig fijne spleet, die ‘t Leeven
splitst als wit licht, in kleuren meenigvoud (Lied, III, II, 43)

[for all existence can be contemplated
through the prism, infinitely fine, which splits our Life
in colours manifold, from the white light].

In this case, he is referring to the selfhood. The Upanishads speak of it as as infinitely small within the heart but yet containing all:

This is my self within the heart, smaller than a grain of rice, than a barley corn, than a mustard seed, than a grain of millet or than the kernel of a grain of a millet. This is myself within the heart, greater than the earth, greater than the atmosphere, greater than the sky, greater than these worlds (Chand. Up. III.14.3)

Another example of the self as prism is:

‘t prisma, waardoor haar diadeem van kleuren
‘t simpelte wit ontvouwt, (Lied, III, III, 13)

[The prism by which her diadem of colours
from simple white unfolds, ]

But elsewhere, in his poem Ellen, he refers to a refraction or a break by time:

het is half sterven, half verbeiden
‘t Licht, wellend uit den breuk der tijden” (Ellen, 2nd intermezzo, cited van Tricht 79)

[it is half dying, half awaiting.
Light wells out of time’s refraction]

He reverses the image to show that there is a harmony that points back towards a “concert of light”:

en losbreekt uit de zelf-geschapen hel,
om juichen de eigen oorsrpong weer te vinden
als ‘t kind den Vader vindt, en het herstel

der Harmonieén, die het Al verbinden
tot één volkoomen zuiver Licht-concert (Lied III, VII, 45)

[and breaks out of its self-created hell,
rejoicing once again to find the Origin
as a child its Father finds, the restoration of

the Harmonies that join the All
in one completely pure concert of Light].

He uses the reversed image in support of a perennial philosophy, which Dooyeweerd would not accept:

Wegen tot God zijn als de zonnestralen,
eindloos in veelheid, eenig in accoord (Lied II, II, 1)

[Ways to God are as beams of the sun,
endless in number, one in accord]

Heart within, the unity from which diversity proceeds.

De weg des innerlijken levens loopt
in aldoor dieper perspectief naar binnen,
tot ‘t Eén, dat àl veelvuldigheid verknoopt,

naar wij dat Zelf te naderen beginnen,
wordt onze liefde en die niet onderkend
waarmee God-zelf zichzelf steeds moet beminnen.

Des minnars min, naar ‘t lieve lief gewend,
opent hem schoonheid aller andre dingen,
van ‘t zacht maanlicht, van ‘t lied dat in de lent

door stillen nacht de kleine vogels zingen.[…]

en ‘t hart zich wend’ naar ‘t Hart van al ‘t Bestaan
zal dan niet nog volmacht’ger vreugde rijzen?
nóg hoger schoon der dingen opengaan? (Lied I, XI, 114)

[The way towards the inner life leads
perspectively within and deeper
to the One, that all diversity enfolds,

as we draw near unto that Self
we cannot separate our love from that
with which God’s Self Himself forever loves.

The lover’s love, to the beloved turned
opens the beauty of all other things
the soft moonlight, the song of spring

sung in night’s stillness by the little birds.[…]

and if the heart turns to the Heart of all Existence
shall not then even greater joy arise?
and higher beauty open up all things?]

Self-Reflection

Schouwen‘ or beholdiing is an important Idea in Dooyeweerd. It is our intuition, our immediate seeing.

Maar diepe zelfschouw voert ons onvermijdlijk
tot aan der zoom waar in een wijder Al
vervloeit de schijnbare eenheid van ons tijdlijk

persoonlijk zelf, als beekje in Oceaan,
waar vele in één versmolten onafscheidelijk
in andre ruimte en ander licht bestaan.(Lied, II, X, 50)

[Deep self-reflection drives us ever on
towards the border of a wider All wherein
our self, a seeming unity of personality
and time flows like a a brook into the sea,
the manifold now melted into One, inseparate,
existing in another space, another light.]

This stanza reflects van Eeden’s earlier monistic views. Dooyeweerd is much more nondualistic. But Dooyeweerd does see the temporal as a differentiation from a supratemporal unity.

Restlessness to the Origin

Van Eeden says that our intuitive knowledge or ‘weten‘ has of its own nature a tendency to be directed towards God. In principle, all life strives towards God (van Tricht, 71).

Zoo zal zich de blik
in dag van breedere bewustheid richten
op wijder strekking van ons diepstë Ik,
dat geen begrenzing wil, niet zal beklagen
den dood der dingen van een oogenblik,
als ‘t mag weerkeeren tot den bron der dagen
en drinken stilte en eeuwigheid (Lied I, V, 91).

[Our sight shall then direct itself
in days of broader consciousness
to wider reaches of our deepest Self,
no limits more, nor shall we mourn
the death of momentary things
that now return unto the source of days
to drink of rest and of eternity]

and

Hij spreekt door avondrood en zeegeruisch.
En o! als dan de zoete tranen vloeyen
in een oneindig hunkren naar Zijn Huis (Lied III, X 43).

[He speaks in sunset and the sound of waves
And O! then shall the sweet tears flow
in endless longing for His House]

Dooyeweerd of course also refers to our tendency towards the Origin. Dooyeweerd speaks of created reality as restless, and seeking its Origin.

Meaning

Van Eeden sometimes refers to the Origin as Life. Perhaps this is an influence of Fechner’s psychomonism. Nevertheless, even Dooyeweerd speaks of “life” in a central sense when he says that our religious choice is a matter “of life and death.”

al ‘t zijnde kan gevoel, gedachte heeten
en heeft tot oorsprong Leven. Want hij liegt

die zegt dat wij iets zonder Leven weten,
waar nog des levens uiting ons ontging.
ook zee en bergen, zonnen en planeten

zijn functiën van grootscher levenskring.
Zin-leeg is ‘t woord dat levenloos beteekent,
Dood is een schijn, een schijn vernietiging. (Lied, II, VIII, 22).

[all existence is thought and feeling
and has its Origin in Life. He lies who says

that we can know apart from Life,
where life’s expression still escapes us.
For sea and mountains, sun and planets

are functions of a greater sphere of live.
to be without life is the sense of ‘meaning-less’,
death is appearance, and annihilation is its sense].

Love

Van Eeden named this tendency towards God as “love.” Love is the uniting of that which is divided, the breaking through of limitation. He sees this tendency as the meaning of all words.

En toch is alle liefde Uw liefde, en alle leven is Uw leven.
En U zoekende moet ik dus liefhebben alles wat leeft. Vrouw en kind en vriend en dieren en bloemen, alles moet ik liefhebben. Maar met een liefde als de groote Zonneliefde. De zon kent de bladeren der boomen niet en heeft niet één bloem lief boven de andere.
Maar Gij zijt de zon, mijn eeuwige Geliefde, niet ik. Mijn ziel is een witte lelie en ziet naar U. Gij kent mij niet meer dan een andere, maar ik ken U alleen en niemand anders. Ik ben een witte lelie en mijn leven is het opengaan in Uw licht. Dat is àl mijn leven. [Johannes Viator]

[And yet all love is Your love, and all life is Your life.
And in seeking You I must therefore have love for all that lives. Wife and child and friend and animals and flowers, everything I must love. But with a love like the Sun’s great love. The sun does not know the leaves and trees and does not love one flower above the others.
Not I but You are the sun, my eternal Beloved. My soul is a white lily and looks to You. You know me not more than any other, but I know You alone and no one else. I am a white
lily and my life has opened up in Your light. That is my whole life.]

By the end of Het Lied van Schijn en Wezen, van Eeden has moved to his Catholic faith. He says,

Laat mij Uw liefde in al wat leeft bemerken
bestraal mijn weg met Uw drievoudig licht:
Uw Vaderschap, Uw Geest, Uw Liefde-werken.(Lied III, XII, 23)

[Let me see your love in everything that lives
Shine with your threefold light upon my way:
Your Fatherhood, Your Spirit, and your works of Love].

Van Eeden speaks of “gravity” which is called love. (Lied III, VIII, 37). This is one of Baader’s views of gravity in the sciences, and the basis for attraction.

Powers

…en voor die krachten die zich openbaren
in alle stof, zoo saamgesteld verknocht
dat ‘t is als woelden niet te tellen scharen

atomen in één enkle droppel vocht,
wier juist bestek geen reek’naar kan bepalen
schoon hij ‘t den duur zijns ganschen levens zocht

en voor het Leven, worden in de dalen
der vochte, gloedgekoesterde planeet,
waar ‘t is of God zijn zelf-heid wil herhalen

en met zichzelf in wisselwerking treedt,
waarin ook wij zijn wonderbaar besloten
met god’lijk kenlicht, als in een vreemd kleed (Lied, I, X, 9).

[and for the powers that reveal themselves
in matter, so attached and put together
the turbulent and countless multitudes

of atoms in each drop of mist,
whose true extent no calculator can determine
not even searching all his life

and for the growing Life, within the valleys
of this misty, warmly cherished planet
it is as if God willingly repeats His selfhood,

walks with himself in reciprocity,
in which we too are wonderfully enclosed
with a divine light, but in a garment strange].

Van Eeden also speaks of the “seed of eternity” that will be saved (Lied III, X, 37). Van Tricht interprets van Eeden as saying that our contemplation inwards shows the Divine light, and out of the overflow of our satisfied heart we will bestow love on the world, which in essence is a spark of the Divine All-love. (van Tricht 55).

Direction

All our acting can be in two directions: the direction of Being and that of non-being. The directions of those of life and death. (van Tricht, 67).

Het Ik, dat doet de keuze, ‘t leidend weten,
dat Richting geeft (Lied I, XII, 55)

[The Self, that makes the choice, a knowing that leads
and gives direction]

and

Volstrekt Goed is langs rechte linie stijging
Volstrekt Kwaad wat in ‘t grondelooze zwicht

Onrecht wat afwijkt, Liefde Gods díe neiging,
die alom reikt, en alles tsamenbrengt,- (Lied II, II, 15)

Completely Good is climbing in a straight line
Completely Bad yields to that which has no ground

Injustice is what turns aside our tendency towards the Love of God
that reaches everywhere and joins all things together].

Afterlife

vergleden slechts is ‘t Leven
van stof tot stof, waaruit zijn schoonheid blonk
als licht uit vensters. (Lied, II, V, 50)

[Life has merely glided over,
dust to dust, from out of which its beauty shone
like light from out of windows]

This idea of death as a “gliding over” was expressed by Dooyeweerd in what he wrote following the death of his friend Dr. Kohnstamm.

Midden in zijn arbeid nam God hem op 76 jarigen leeftijd weg, zonder ziekbed, zonder doodstrijd in een haast onmerkbare overglijding uit het tijdelijk naar het eeuwig leven. (cited Steen, 130).

[In the middle of his work, God took him away at the age of 76, without sickbed, without a struggle, in an almost unnoticeable gliding over from out of the temporal towards eternal life].

God’s aandacht waakt, en uit het tijdlijk kleed
redt Hij de schoone en werkelijke dingen
en niets vergaat wat van Zijn Wezen weet (Lied II, VI 28).

[God’s attentively watches, and from the temporal cloak
he saves the real and beautiful
and nothing is lost that knows of His Being]

Compare Dooyeweerd’s reference to our body as a “mantle of temporal functions” [functiemantel]. And Dooyeweerd’s emphasis that nothing in our apostate world is lost in Christ (NC II, 34). And only God has Being in relation to our meaning.

Van Eeden’s prose

In addition to his poetry, van Eeden wrote philosophy. Perhaps his most important is his Redekunstige Grondslag van Verstandhouding (Utrecht: Spectrum, 1975, first published 1897). Here are some Ideas from that book:

Modes

Van Eeden, influenced by Spinoza, refers to modes of being. His Diary entry of September 19,1885 records,

“het is de grootste overgang in ons denken, als wij niet meer vragen, “waarom?” en “waartoe?”, marr “hoe?” en “waarheen?” (van Tricht, 48).

[The greatest transition in our thinking is when we no longer ask “why?” and “where to?” but rather “how?” and “where from?”]

Numbers are not things. They are a mode [wijze, modus] of reality, pictured in our thought or figuratively expressed in symbols (Redekunstige Grondslag 34 #9). Space and time are modes of perception (79 #104). Movement is a mode of being, and “movement of thought” is a figurative expression (108). Here it must be remembered that Dooyeweerd initially included time as a mode or form of intuition (Verburg 53). This was before Dooyeweerd began referring to “cosmic time.”

Van Eeden starts his list of modes with the mathematical, moves to time and movement to the physical and then the sensory. As this occurs, our experience of reality gets more concrete.(37 #16; 40 #22b; 108 #139)

This is very similar to the initial order of modalities used by Dooyeweerd (although Dooyeweerd at first did not separate the modes of movement and the physical. Dooyeweerd also emphasizes the concrete nature of our naive experience. Since Dooyeweerd says that naive concepts are limited to the sensory aspects, there is a lot of similarity with van Eeden’s views. For Dooyeweerd, the aspects succeed each other in an order of cosmic time. It makes sense to interpret him as saying that it is only when the aspect of the psychical appears that we have a concrete naive experience.

Scientific thought, comparisons of impressions at various times, rests on change in succession of time. Mathematical thought is comparison of difference in space (uitgebreidheid), or quantity (veelheid). Reason is inseparable from change, movement and passing of time.(78)

Absolutization

We can seek for the Absolute in things, or in their representations and sensory images. and language [representation, zinnebeeld en taal]. But the Absolute can never be reached in this way. (Redekunstige Grondslag, 71 #84

Acts

The life of the soul consists of willing, perception [gewaarworden] and comparison. (Redekunstige Grondslag, 45, #35).

Compare this to Dooyeweerd’s three directions of Acts: knowing, willing and imagining. Imagining is the forming of images, which van Eeden includes under perception, since to think involves comparison of images.

Belief

He says that the idea of belief has become vague—it is understood as to take on someone else’s authority. But he says that belief is also seeking the absolute in a temporal image [schijnbeeld]. (Redekunstige grondslag, 95) For van Eeden, the temporal is schijn or appearance.

Christ

All of existence strives to unite with God. Christ seeks to unite with Him, and all humanity seeks the same with and through Christ (see van Tricht, 131).

Intuition:

Like Baader, Van Eeden distinguishes an intuitive knowledge (‘weten’) from theoretical ‘kennen.’ He says that the highest knowledge is a ‘weten,’ instead of ‘kennis.’ It is the ‘veritas sicuti se habet’ of Thomas a Kempis, the incomprehensible understanding, the ‘Visio sine Comprehension,’ the Mysterium Magnum of Boehme, the kennen in opposition to wissen of Von Helmholtz. (van Tricht, 84). This deepest knowledge is an inner knowledge related to the Self. The source of deepest knowledge is ‘Zelfschouw’ –the intuitive knowledge of Self.

Dooyeweerd emphasizes intuition as an important part of both our naive experience as well as our theory

Thought

We speak of Reason as something in itself [zelfstandig]. But it is rather a relation. It means that two or more things are being compared by a third, the self. (Redekunstige grondslag, 62 #65)

Where there is no diversity, there can be no reason (63 #67) Compare this to Dooyeweerd’s argument regarding the Gegenstand-relation; the logical aspect requires a cosmic diversity and a setting-apart of the aspects before it can apply its own categoreis.Van Eeden also says that reason is only an aid [hulpmiddel] to get us to where it can no longer exist. Compare this to Dooyeweerd’s statement that it points to where the raising of questions is no longer meaningful.

In order to understand, in order to compare, we need an image [representation]. In the image we are mirroring (46 #37). Cf. Dooyeweerd’s emphasis on imagination.

Either there is no unity or absolute for all things, or else that absolute does not lie in human reason (68 #79).

Those inclined to mysticism often reject reason. But this rejection of reason is also godless.(73 #93; 74 #96 )

If our reason can bring coherence and permanence to our perceptions and representations, in the image of things, this image is useful for the living-real self to find the way to the Absolute. who sees himself reflected there. [dat er zich door weer-spiegeld ziet] (74 #97)

The highest knowledge cannot be said to be other than the I that perceives. It is one. True knowledge is not a knowing but a being, a situation of the selfhood [toestand van het Ik] (van Tricht, 118). Can we not compare this to Dooyeweerd’s view of “standing in the truth?”

Van Eeden cites Boehme:Who finds the mysterium magnum finds everything therein; he needs no literal (letter) truth. (86)

Kant’s own critique must lead to rejection of his method. Kant’s way of speaking appears scientific, and yet it misses the certainty of scientific thought, because none of the nouns that he uses has a well-defined, unchanging meaning in all times and languages. (Redekunstige Grondslag, 120-122)

Sphere sovereignty

Van Eeden’s Walden incorporated an idea of sphere sovereignty or at least of an organic unity. Van Eeden distinguished a society where there is just one governing center, and everything is subordinate to it, to a society where all parts consciously fulfill their function. In this second kind of society there is the greatest possible independence and equality of power. They freely join themselves in an ideal unity, through the bonds of love, brotherhood and community (van Tricht 84).

Time
Creation is a timeless act (Redekunstige grondslag 110 #144).

There are abnormal perceptions of time (79 #105).

Time is more absolute than space. It is much more difficult for us to separate ourselves from time than from space. Non-spatial perception also does not give the impression of mystery. But abnormal time perception gives us this sense of mystery (83 #105).immediately.

Things

Concrete things are subordinated to the same relations as abstract, but they are “put together” [samengesteldheid] (Redekunstige grondslag 42 #31)

Selfhood

In Het Lied van Schijn en Wezen, he says he learned the idea of the Self from Hinduism. The soul is conscious of living in the cosmos. Our purpose is freedom from limitation of personality, and to opgaan in the wijdheid of Timeless Being. In times of extreme concentration, we have a feeling of this reality existing outside time and space; but we cannot express this in words

Van Eeden says that our selfhood is free from space and time. The self reflects temporal reality. But like a spherical mirror ball, it does not reflect itself. Therefore we can only speak of it in figurative language, and not in concepts.(Redekunstige grondslag van verstandhouding, 11, 56). Our Selfhood is directed towards Unity and Permanence or Rest (61-62). The Selfhood [ikheid] is that which perceives [waarneemt]. It is not the same as that which is perceived nor of reason, but it is not separable from Reason (78 #103). Our experience of déjà vu is a sign that the Self is outside time (79, #105). ‘”Person,” “selfhood” and “Self” are three levels of the particular, multiple and relative to the general, one and absolute. The objection that there are then many “I’s” in the Absolute rest on a misunderstanding. You cannot determine, image or think of the Absolute in concepts (87). Our personal identity is often unstable, changing (83, #106). We cannot represent or perceive the self. (84, #107). Everything connected with the body [lichaamstructuur] ends at death; but we can’t say with certainty that all perception depends on senses. Beethoven heard music despite his deafness (102, #130). The self is “free” from causal relation (113).

Van Tricht quotes van Eeden as saying

Ik weet alleen, dat ik ouder ben en eeuwiger dan aarde en zon en maan en sterren en dat de Waarheid in mij is. (van Tricht 125)

[I only know, that I am older and more eternal than earth and sun and moon and stars, and that the Truth is in me]

We live in limitation when we are separated from others (De Broeders, cited by van Tricht 61).

 

 

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