Key of Knowledge

Linked Glossary of Terms
(references to De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee, unless indicated. See concordance for correlation with pages in the New Critique. The concordance is in pdf format.)

Key of knowledge In the Twilight of Western Thought, 124-125, 135-36, 145

“Het Oecumenisch-Reformatorish Grondmotief van de Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee en de grondslag der Vrije Universiteit,”Philosophia Reformata 31 (1966) 3-15 at 8.

Dooyeweerd uses the phrase “key to true self-knowledge” in his farewell lecture [afscheidscollege] given on October 16, 1965: “Het Oecumenisch-Reformatorish Grondmotief van de Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee en de grondslag der Vrije Universiteit,”Philosophia Reformata 31 (1966) 3-15. At p. 8 he says,

Dr. Abraham Kuyper heeft de bijbelse openbaring van de religieuze radix der menselijke existentie, die de sleutel is tot de ware zelfkennis, waartoe de wijsbegeerte vanaf Socrates tot het hedendaagse Humanistisch existentialisme tevergeefs langs de weg ener vermeend autoonome theoretische bezinning heeft zoeken te geraken, opnieuw ontdekt. Dit werd bij hem beslissend voor het poneren van zijn befaamde, en zoveel ergernis en misverstand verwekkende stelling dat de antithese tussen geloof en ongeloof noodzakelijk ook in de wetenschap doorwerkt en dat dus van een neutraliteit der wetenschap t.a.v. het christelijk geloof geen sprake kan zijn.

[Dr. Abraham Kuyper rediscovered the biblical revelation of the religious root of human existence, which is the key to true self-knowledge. This is something that philosophy had sought for in vain, from Socrates to present day humanistic existentialism, for they looked for it along the path of a supposed autonomous theoretical attitude. This idea [of the religious root] was decisive for Kuyper in his positing of the famous proposition–a proposition that has caused so much annoyance and misunderstanding–that the antithesis between belief and unbelief necessarily also works itself out in science, and that therefore we cannot speak of a neutrality of science in relation to Christian faith].

The religious radix (religious root) of human existence is our supratemporal heart. This is clear from the very first page of the New Critique of Theoretical Thought:

I came to understand the central sigificance of the “heart”, repeatedly proclaimed by Holy Sripture to be the religious root of human existence.(NC I, v).

In this regard, it is important to note that Kuyper’s rediscovery of the idea of the heart as the center of human exisatence appears to have been obtained from J.H. Gunning, Jr., who in turn obtained the idea from Franz von Baader. See my book review of Leo Mietus’s dissertation: Gunning en de theosofie: Een onderzoek naar de receptie van de christelijke theosofie in het werk van J.H. Gunning Jr. van 1863-1876, (Gorinchem: Narratio, 2006) Philosophia Reformata (2007) 86-91.

At other times, Dooyeweerd says that the key is the Christian Ground-Motive of creation, fall and redemption, which he distinguishes from out selfhood:

In this sense the central motive of the Holy Scripture is the common supra-scientific starting point of a really biblical theology and of a really Christian philosophy. It is the key of knowledge of which Jesus spoke in his discussion with the Scribes and lawyers. It is the religious presupposition of any theoretical thought, which may rightly claim a biblical foundation. But, as such, it can never become the theoretical object of theology; no more than God and the human I can become such an object. (In the Twilight of Western Thought, 125)

But the same page of Twilight says that the central theme or Ground-motive of creation, fall and redemption “has a radical unity of meaning, which is related to the central unity of our human existence.” (Twilight, 125). He also says the key refers to “the true root and center of human life.” (Twilight, 186).

Thus, the ideas of the supratemporal selfhood, and the Christian Ground-motive of creation, fall and redemption are related to each other. The one idea cannot be understood without the other. Without the idea of the supratemporal heart, we cannot understand the radical meaning of creation, fall and redemption. For creation, fall and redemptionare all in relation to the root. Creation is of the root, as an undifferentiated unity. The fall is in this root; that is why temporal reality fell with man. And redemption is of the root; that is why Christ was required as the New Root.

And without the idea of the supratemporal hear as religious root, we cannot understand the working of God’s Word in our hearts, or the doctrine of the incarnation.(See Center and Periphery: The Philosophy of the Law-Idea in a Changing World, Dooyeweerd’s 1964 Talk. ). And see my 95 Theses on Herman Dooyeweerd, where I give a unified summary of Doooyeweerd’s philosophy, based on what he himself says is important, including this key of knowledge.

If we reject this idea of the supratemporal religious root as the key of knowledge, we cannot understand Dooyeweerd’s philosophy. We cannot even understand modal aspects without relating them to the supratemporal religious root. In 1975, two years before his death, Dooyeweerd wrote his last article  “De Kentheoretische Gegenstandsrelatie en de Logische Subject-Objectrelatie,” Philosophia Reformata 40 (1975) 83-101. He says that the ideas of the irreducibility of the modal spheres and their coherence are not to be separated from the transcendental idea of their root-unity in the religious center of human existence. The idea of the supratemporal selfhood must be the presupposition of any truly Christian view (De Crisis der Humanistische Staatsleer, Amsterdam: W. Ten Have, 1931, p. 113, cited by Steen, 79 ft. 53 and 153 ft. 46: “voor iedere wezenlijk Christelijke beschouwing der tijdelijke samenleving.”)

Dooyeweerd says that what gives life is the Christian Ground Motive in our hearts–the Motive of creation, fall and redemption. This knowledge does not come from our temporal experience:

Thus it is completely true that the living Christian faith can in no way originate from the temporal experience of man, who because of his apostasy is fallen prey to spiritual death. (Twilight, 139).

And he emphasizes that this is not theological knowledge. The true meaning is given by the “key of knowledge.” Whoever thinks that we begin with theological knowledge is on the wrong track.

If our salvation be dependent on theological dogmatics and exegesis, we are lost. (Twilight, 135).

The Christian Ground-motive of creation, fall and redemption cannot be determined by theoretical exegesis (Twilight, 134). Nor can the meaning of the religious centre of life, the root of man’s whole existence, the fall into sin, rebirth or the incarnation of the Word to be determined by exegesis (Second Response to Curators, 27). Theology does not concern “the central basic motive of the Holy Scriptures as it is operative in the religious center of our consciousness and existence.” (Twilight, 146). We ought not to confuse theoretical Christian theology with the true knowledge of God and true self-knowledge, which surpasses all theoretical knowledge (Twilight, 115, 120). Many Christians have only a theological knowledge of creation, fall and redemption, and this central theme of Word-Revelation has not yet become the central motive-power of their lives. (Twilight, 188). Nor can we understand the heart by theological exegesis. We recognize that Scripture “accords with” our experience [Jerusalem and Athens, 86]. But there is no theology or philosophy that can give us true knowledge of God and self; this is the fruit of God’s Spirit in our heart, and has a “religious enstatic character” (Dooyeweerd’s Center and Periphery: The Philosophy of the Law-Idea in a Changing World, Philosophia Reformata 72 (2007) at 17. Also NC II, 562).Thus, I don’t think it is fair to characterize Dooyeweerd’s philosophy as just a different kind of theology. He does not derive the philosophy from propsotiions in Scripture, but relies on the experience of our selfhood in its dynamic relation to temporal reality.

Dooyeweerd emphasizes, “This key of knowledge in its radical and integral sense cannot be made into a theological problem.” He says that the Jewish Scribes and lawyers had a perfect theological knowledge of the Old Testament but Jesus said, “Woe unto you, for ye have taken away the key of knowledge!” (Twilight, 145).

On the same page, Dooyeweerd says

…there must be a difference between creation, fall and redemption in their central sense as the key of knowledge and in their sense as articles of faith, which may be made into the object of theological thought.

The acceptance of this “key of knowledge” is a matter of (spiritual) life and death:

So long as this central meaning of the Word-revelation is at issue we are beyond the scientific problems of both of theology and philosophy. Its acceptance or rejection is a matter of life or death to us, and not a question of theoretical reflection. In this sense the central motive of the Holy Scripture is the common supra-scientific starting point of a really biblical theology and of a really Christian philosophy. It is the key of knowledge of which Jesus spoke in his discussion with the Scribes and lawyers. (Twilight, 125)

He emphasizes again this life or death importance:

…the true knowledge of God in Jesus Christ and true self-knowledge are neither of a dogmatic-theological, nor of a philosophical nature, but have an absolutely central religious significance. This knowledge is a question of spiritual life or death. (Twilight, 146).

Dooyeweerd’s views offended theologians at that time, and they are sure to offend those theologians today who believe that theology is the basis of our faith. Theology is philosophically founded, and the only question is whether that philosophy is ruled by the central biblical basic motive or not (Twilight, 157). Dooyeweerd’s views will also offend those reformational philosophers who attempt to follow Dooyeweerd without accepting his view of time or the supratemporal heart. It is not possible. They have taken away the “key of knowledge.” This does not mean that theology has no use. It has a limited use–revelation can become an object of theological thought only within the temporal diversity of experiential aspects (Twilight, 136). See theology.

Many theologians interpret the “key of knowledge” (Luke 11:52) as consisting in the correct (theological) understanding of the Scriptures. That was the view of Dooyeweerd’s contemporary, the theologian Berkouwer, who said that the Pharisees did not understand Scripture (G.C. Berkouwer: Studies in Dogmatics: Holy Scripture (Eerdmans, 1975). Kittel also interprets the key as “the key of theological knowledge” (Gerhard Kittel: Theological Dictionary of the New Testament; abridged version (Eerdmans, 1985, 440). It is of interest that Kittel says that the key may be either “knowledge as the key to the kingdom” or “the key to knowledge.” He opts for the first view.

We have seen that Dooyeweerd does not base his interpretation on theology. We have also seen that he considers the key to be not only knowledge that we need to have (Kittel’s option), but that it is the only way to obtain true knowledge (even the true knowledge of what is meant by ‘modal aspects’). Thus, it is not just another “fact” that we need to know. It is the key to our ability to understand God, self and others. It is a matter of our spiritual life or death.

Where did Dooyeweerd obtain this interpretation of the “key of knowledge,” which differs so much from these theological views? How did he come to link this idea to the supratemporal heart as the root of temporal reality, and to the motive of creation, fall and redemption, which (again contrary to many theologians) takes place within that root?

Dooyeweerd’s views fit with those of Franz von Baader, who also relates the idea of the “key of knowledge” [Schlüssel der Erkenntnis] to the creation of our supratemporal selfhood as the image of God, its relation to the temporal world, to the fall of our selfhood and the world, and to the restoration in Christ. Baader says that the Pharisees of Jesus’ time did not understand the key of knowledge (Werke 9, 162; 13, 145). Nor did the priests of Baader’s time understand it correctly (Werke 5, 26; 11, 193; 13,4521). It is not only that they did not use the key of knowledge; they did not allow other to use it, either (Werke 13, 145).

Does the “key of knowledge” relate to the “keys of the Kingdom” given by Christ to Peter? (Matt. 16:9). Many theologians have interpreted the power of “binding and loosing” in terms of excommunication and forgiveness of sins. Kittel says that the term can “hardly mean that Peter has the key to the doors of the heavenly world, for the kingdom of heaven is God’s royal dominion in the end time” (Kittel, 440-41). But for Dooyeweerd, whereas the end time (which he sees as the end of cosmic time), refers to the fulfillment of the temporal, the “heavenly” begins right now, for it is the supratemporal realm. In our present life we simultaneously exist both in the supratemporal and temporal realms. I am not aware of Dooyeweerd’s reference to the key given to Peter, but Dooyeweerd does emphasize how our task of “opening up” our temporal world is related to our directing the supratemporal light to the temporal (doorlichten). And that echowa Baader’s words (durchleuchten). Baader specifically links the “key of knowledge” relate to the “keys of the Kingdom” given by Christ to Peter. It allows us to separate the spiritual from its spiritual shell or mantle, both in respect of ourselves as well as for things (Werke 12: 526). Man was created as the image of God, with power to open or close the blessing (Werke 13, 144).

It is helpful to look at what Baader says about the “key of knowledge,” how it relates to the supratemporal heart as root of creation, how it relates to the ideas of creation, fall and redemption, and why it is so important for our spiritual life. I will make some comparisons to Kuyper and Dooyeweerd, although I have shown many other connections in The Mystical Dooyeweerd: The Relation of his thought to Franz von Baader. See also The Mystical Dooyeweerd Once Again: Kuyper’s use of Franz von Baader. And see my review of the dissertation by Lieuwe Mietus in J.H. Gunning, Christian Theosophy and Reformational Philosophy

Franz von Baader Comparison to Kuyper  and Dooyeweerd
Double creation and double fall. Baader frequently cites Boehme in this regard.

The first creation was destroyed in the rebellion by the angel Lucifer, which left the world in chaos. See Werke 9,83ff for Baader’s discussion on the ‘Tohu Wa Bohu.’


Kuyper was familiar with Baader’s view of a double creation and a double fall. He says that Baader’s theosophical position on this is ‘well known,’ as is Milton’s position. Kuyper refers to Baader’s Fermenta Cognitionis. Kuyper discusses the nature of beauty in relation to the situation before and after man’s fall into sin. Kuyper says that there is a question as to what existed in Paradise before the fall–whether the ‘Tohu Wa Bohu’ refers to a still unformed chaos or whether it refers to the result of a destruction that had already occurred. See Kuyper’s “Het Calvinisme en de kunst: rede bij de overdracht van het rectoraat der Vrije Universiteit op 20 October, 1888, (Amsterdam: J.A. Wormser, 1888). It is significant that Kuyper does not regard these views as necessarily unorthodox; he merely says that nothing further can be proved.

Dooyeweerd does not expressly refer to a double fall, but the idea is consistent with his philosophy. He does distinguish between the creation account in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. See references in the link creation.

Creatio ex nihilo.” Baader’s view is that creation out of nothing refers to the spontaneity of creation, creating out of nothing except oneself (PhilosophischeSchriften I, 71).God was under no necessity to create the world.So the doctrine is not inconsistent with a second creation out of the chaos left by Lucifer.

If by the word ‘nothing,’ the doctrine “creatio ex nihilo” intends to refer to a principle outside of God, so that our existence does not derive from God, then that would be a dualism. Dooyeweerd makes this point:

“But it is well known that the words ex nihilo have turned out to be not entirely harmless in Augustine’s theological exposition of the doctrine of creation, since they foster the idea that nothingness would be a second origin of creaturely being bringing about a metaphysical defect in the latter” (“Cornelius Van Til and the Transcendental Critique of Theoretical Thought,” Jerusalem and Athens, p. 459, fn15).

Similarly, the idea of the boundary between man and God refers to man’s dependence on God.“The boundary is not to be understood as a separation [scheiding] between God and creature, which would be in conflict with the community with God in Christ.” (“Critische Vragen,” Philosophia Reformata 25 (1960, 97-150) at 113-14; also Second Response to Curators, 10.)

Eternal, supratemporal, temporal.God’s eternity is distinct from the created spiritual realm of the supratemporal, which is distinct from the temporal.

The eternal and the supratemporal are not just indefinitely extended time. There is a qualitative difference. The supratemporal has a present, past and future. The temporal has a past and a future but no present.

See Concerning the Concept of Time] (1818)

Elementary Concepts Concerning Time (1831)


Like Baader, Dooyeweerd distinguishes eternitysupratemporal [or aevum] and cosmic time. The supratemporal and the eternal are not merely extended time.

Dooyeweerd also holds that cosmic time will end. The temporal cosmos is only our situation in this “earthly dispensation” (NC II, 560). The fulfillment in the eschaton cannot be given in cosmic time. The eschaton is beyond the limits of cosmic time (NC I, 32-33).


The temporal restrains evil. Time itself was created as a way of restraining sin after the fall of Lucifer. Time prevents the possibility of a total fall into nothingness, and it offers the possibility of redemption. Time has been given us so that we will become free of time” (Werke 13, 419) The material, temporal world was created in order to hold back the power of evil. All power that Lucifer exerts in the world is excercised by man [after man’s subsequent fall] (Werke 13, 146).

The supposed antinomy in saying that time has a beginning consists in continuing to relate the temporal to to time. But before time, there was no time, since time had a beginning (Werke 13, 100).

God’s law restrains the full working of sin in temporal reality. In this earthly cosmos the unhampered influence of sin does not exist. Dooyeweerd says he does not know what the effect of unrestrained sin on reality would be like. It would be “absolute subjective apostasy under the curse of God’s wrath.” but it would still not be meaningless. (NC II, 33).

Dooyeweerd also holds that cosmic time was created. The six days of creation are not to be understood in terms of cosmic time (NC I, 33). And cosmic will come to an end.

Man’s selfhood is supratemporal. Man was created a spiritual, supratemporal being. Dooyeweerd also emphasizes that man’s selfhood is supratemporal.
Heaven and earth. For Baader, the heavens refers to the supratemporal, and the earthly [irdisch] refers to the temporal. Like Baader, Dooyeweerd refers to the supratemporal as “heavens” in contrast to the temporal “earth.” Genesis chapter I distinguishes the ‘earthly’ from the ‘heavens.’ The ‘heavens’ means the “temporal world concentrated in man” (NC II, 53 fn1).

Cosmic time is the limit to our ‘earthly’ temporal cosmos (NC II, 3).

Vollenhhoven disagreed with Dooyeweerd’s view that time is limited to the earthly cosmos. For Vollenhoven, time included all creation, including the angels.

Center and periphery.For Baader, man’s central supratemporal selfhood is the center of his temporal periphery.


In his 1939 article “Kuyper’s Wetenschapsleer,”Philosophia Reformata, p. 193-232, Dooyeweerd cites (at p. 211) Kuyper’s 1898 Stone Lectures, where Kuyper refers to “that point in our consciousness in which our life is still undivided and lies comprehended in its unity, not in the spreading vines but in the root from which the vines spring.”

The supratemporal as the central sphere of occurrence (NC I, 32, 33).Dooyeweerd also makes it clear that he regards the center as supratemporal, and the periphery as temporal. His1964 lecture is entitled “Center and Periphery” and deals with what is central and what is peripheral in his philosophy.

God, self and cosmos. To know oneself means we also know about how God is above us and the world is below us:

“ Das “gnw[qi seauto\n” darf also nicht dahin missdeutet werden, dass der Mensch nur sich selbst kennen lernen soll; er würde dann nur seine Verlassenheit inne werden können; sondern durch Selbsterkentniss, von sich aus soll er Gott über sich und die Welt unter sich kennen lernen, so weit es dem Geschöpfe gestattet ist” (Werke 8, 63n).

[This “gnw[qi seauto\n” [know thself] must therefore not be misinterpreted as meaning that man should only learn about himself; he would then only be able to make his resignation an inner reality; instead, by self-knowledge man should from himself outwards learn about God above him and the world below him, as far as this is permitted for creatures to know](Werke 8, 63n).

Dooyeweerd also cites this maxim of Socrates: “Know thyself” (NC I, 51). Dooyeweerd emphasizes the importance of religiious religious self-reflection, by which we know ourselves as supratemporal beings.

Dooyeweerd also emphasizes how our knowledge of God, self and cosmos is interrelated. We cannont truly know one without knowing the others.True knowledge of the cosmos is bound to true self-knowledge, which is bound to true knowledge of God (NC II, 560).

Image and fulfillment. Man was created as image of God. A higher region always has its image in a lower region, and that image in the lower region finds its fulfillment only in the higher region.Thus, man, who was created in the supratemporal region, reflects or images God in the eternal region, and man finds his fulfillment in God.

Every lower being contains within itself the image of that which is higher to it. The lower is the temporal cloak or mantle (Hülle); the higher is its fulfillment (Fülle) (Werke 7, 371) Being [Wesen] is always below Spirit, as its image [Bild] (Werke 15, 661).

Dooyeweerd refers to this reciprocal relation of imaging and fulfillment in terms of the expression of the higher realm into the lower realm, and a referring of the lower realm to the higher.Man is the expression of God, and as that expression or image, man refers to God for his meaning and fulfillment.

Being the image of God means that we express ourselves in a lower center, just as we are the expression or image of God. Just as God expresses and reveals himself in creation, so man expresses himself in the temporal world.(“What is Man?” International Reformed Bulletin 3 (1960), 4-16, reproduced in Twilight of Western Thought, 173-195.)

Thus, for Dooyeweerd, man is the image of God, who is higher. And the temporal world (which is lower than man) has images of man, which need to be opened up and fulfilled by man. Dooyeweerd: Just as the meaning of our selfhood is found only in God, so the meaning of the temporal world is found in humanity, its religious root (NC I, 55). See the opening process, and my article “Imagination, Image of God and Wisdom of God: Theosophical Themes in Dooyeweerd’s Philosophy

Our temporal body is the expression and instrument of our supratemporal selfhood. It is interesting that Dooyeweerd uses the term “mantle of functions” [functiemantel] to describe it.

Man as the lord of creation. On the sixth day, man was created as the representative of God (Werke 13, 144). Man as the image of God, stands between God and the world:

“Der Mensch als Gottesbild ist schon supramundan, und die Welt bedarf des Menschen zum Vermittler mit Gott. Nicht als Bestandstück der Welt, sondern als Herr der Welt ist der Mensch aufzufassen” (Spec. Dogm., Werke 8, 63, fn).

[Man as the image of God is already supramundane, and the world needs man as mediator with God. Man is to be understood not as a part of the world, but as the lord of the world.]

But man is created after the image of God, as the lord of the “earthly” temporal world (NC III, 88). Man’s heart, the center of his existence, is in the aevum, which is between eternity and time (“Het tijdsprobleem en zijn antinomien, ” Philosophia Reformata 4 (1939), 4-5).

Kuyper: “He [God] placed the spiritual center of this Cosmos on our planet, and caused all the divisions of the kingdoms of nature, on this earth, to culminate in man, upon whom, as the bearer of His image He called to consecrate the Cosmos to His glory. In God’s creation, therefore, man stands as the prophet, priest and king, and although sin has disturbed these high designs, yet God pushes them onward. (“Calvinism and Religion,”Lectures on Calvinism, p. 59)

Man as mediator. As the representative of God, and as mediator between God and world, man stood between time and eternity. (Werke 13, 144). The manifestation of God in the world cannot be fulfilled apart from man (as image of God) (Werke 8, 61). Man’s selfhood is in the aevum and is therefore surpatemporal. The aevum is between time and eternity.

As far as I know, Dooyeweerd does not refer to man as ‘mediator.’ But he cites with approval Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism: Just as the whole creation culminates in man, its glorification can only first find its fulfillment in man, who was created as God’s image [216].

And the idea of mediator is evident from the following: Through man “the entire temporal world is included both in apostasy and in salvation” (NC III, 783).And

“De anorganische stoffen, het planten- en direnrijk, hebben geen zelfstandige geestelijke of religieuze wortel. Hun tijdelijk bestaan wordt eerst volledig in en door de mens. (Vernieuwing en Bezinning, 30).

[The inorganic materials, the plant and animal realms, have no independent spiritual or religious root. Their temporal existence first becomes complete [fulfilled] in and through Man]

Furthermore, the idea of man as mediator is there in the idea that man is the religious rootof creation. The temporal world finds its meaning, and indeed, depends for its existence, on man as its religious root. (We are the temporal root of temporal creation, which has no existence apart from us (NC I, 100; II, 53)

Temporal world is concentrated in man

Because our central, supratemporal selfhood is the image of God, humans are truly the center of the material world (Werke V, 31; XI, 78; Begründung 48).

In his true spiritual form, man as creature stands over nature as its root [Wurzel], but at the same time he is set [gestellt] under God.(Werke 13, 184 ff).

Since God has created the ‘earthly’ world in a concentric relation to the religious root of human existence, there cannot exist an ‘earthly’ ‘world in itself’ apart from the structural horizon of human experience. (NC II, 549)
Man’s purpose was to help redeem the world. Man’s purpose was to support and protect the suffering creation, which groans as it waits for redemption, and to free that which had been bound (Werke 8, 83-85, citing Rom. 8:18-24).

Baader cites Boehme:

“Gott schuf den Adam zum ewigen Leben ins Paradies mit paradiesischer Vollkommenheit und die göttliche Liebe durchleuchtete ihm, wie die Sonne die ganze Welt durchleuchtet.” Schutzschfit wider Stiefel II, 160. “Wie Gott ein Herr ist über Alles, also sollte auch der Mensch, in Gottes Kraft, Herr sein über diese Welt” Menschw. I, 4.7. …”Es war alles unter Adam; er herrschte in den Himmsel und in die Erde und in all Elemente und Gestirne. Der Willengeist des Menschen drang durch all Creaturen &c.” Gnadenwahl, 7,2.” (Werke 13, 146 fn).

[“Got created Adam for eternal life in paradise, with paradisial perfection, and Divine Love shone through him, just as the sun shines through the whole world.” Schutzschfit wider Stiefel II, 160. “Just as God is Lord over everything, so, too man, through God’s power, was to be Lord over this world.” Menschw. I, 4.7. …”Everything was under Adam; he ruled in heaven and in earth and in all elements and stars. Man’s spiritual will penetrated through all creatures. Gnadenwahl, 7,2. ]

Baader’s idea that man is to shine through [durchleuchten] the world is echoed in what Dooyeweerd says about the goal of man being to illuminate [doorlichten] the reality of things from within (Encyclopedia of Legal Science (1946), 28, 35).

The unfolding of temporal reality in its anticipatory analogies is a participation in the fulfillment of all things. We help to spiritualize temporal reality.

De “ontsluiting der anticipatiesferen,” als actieve “door-geestelijking” van de wetskringen, is een religieus thema in de Calvinistische levens- en wereldbeschouwing, een thema, dat zijn hoogste spanning verkrijjgt door de onmetelijke kracht der in universeelen zin genomen allesbeheerschende praedestinatiegedachte. Overal, in alle wetskringen moet de religieuze zin doordringen en den zin der wetsgedachte “voleindigen,” al wordt in deze zondige bedeeling dit ideaal nimmer vervuld, tenzij dan door Christus! (Het juridisch causaliteitsprobleem in it licht der wetsidee,”Anti-revolutionaire Staatkunde 2 (1928) 21-124, at 61).

[The “unfolding of the anticipatory spheres,” as an active “in-spiration” [lit. “spiritualizing-through”] of the law-spheres, is a religious theme in the Calvinistic life and worldview, a theme that reaches its highest tension through the immeasurable power of the all-ruling idea of predestination, taken in its universal meaning. Religious meaning must penetrate everywhere, in all law-spheres, and it must “complete” the meaning of the law-idea, although in this sinful dispensation this ideal is never fulfilled, except through Christ!]

The above quotation refers to the penetration of religious [i.e. supratemporal] meaning in all [temporal] law-spheres. The idea that the higher realm is to penetrate the lower is also foundelsewhere in Dooyeweerd.

A correct opening of the temporal brings light. But in his last article, Dooyeweerd speaks of how an incorrect (temporalizing) view will “darken our insight.”

Man was given the power of the keys. We have been given the power of the keys to open the supratemporal and to keep the subtemporal closed (Elementary Concepts Concerning Time 546-549). This power is also the power of “blessing and cursing.” We can only bless that which has the possibility of blessing in it. If by my good word, I radiate into a being [einstrahle], then I awaken in it the latent blessing. On the other hand, if I radiate in with my evil word, then I awaken the latent curse. He cites Boehme that the first work of the evil imagination was the growth of the tree of temptation (Werke 13, 145-46).


Man was “destined to concentrically direct all the powers that God had placed in the temporal world.” (Center and Periphery: The Philosophy of the Law-Idea in a Changing World in Philosophia Reformata 72 (2007) at 16.).

Dooyeweerd spoke of “slumbering powers” need to be developed in all of the law-spheres (“Leugen en Waarheid over het Calvinisme,” Juli/1925 Nederland en Oranje). Later, Dooyeweerd refers to the sparks of God that are left in the world (Vernieuwing en Bezinning, 56). At p. 58 he refers to the powers, which God has enclosed in His creation, and which man now must unfold. (“waarop de mens de krachten, door God in Zijn schepping besloten, gaat ontsluiten.”)

The powers and potential which God had enclosed within creation were to be disclosed by man in his service of love to God and neighbour (Roots of Western Culture, 30; Encylopedia of the Science of Law, 2002, 47, 152).

Dooyeweerd emphasizes man’s spiritual task of opening temporal reality. See my discussion of the opening process as related to our fulfillment of images in our imagination. See my “Imagination, Image of God and Wisdom of God: Theosophical Themes in Dooyeweerd’s Philosophy

We exercise the keys by opening or closing temporal reality. This opening and closing is either a blessing or a curse. The same Saviour,who came to free our hearts from sin, gave us this key of knowledge (Werke 15, 436). The subjective perspective has been obfuscated by sin and distorted and closed to the light of the Divine Revelation (NC II, 563).

Sin closed off faith from receiving the light of God’s eternity:

“According to the order of creation this terminal aspect was destined to function as the opened window of time through which the light of God’s eternity should shine into the whole temporal coherence of the world. That this window has been closed by sin, and cannot be opened by man through his own activity, does not mean that it cannot be disclosed by the Divine power of the Holy Ghost.” (NC II, 302)

This perspective had been darkened and distorted by sin, because it had been closed up to the light of Divine Revelation.(WdW II, 495).

He also refers to the “emptiness of the world” when we regard it only from a closed-up temporal viewpoint:

“Every Christian knows the emptiness of an experience of the temporal world which seems to be shut up in itself. But the Christian whose heart is opened to the Divine Word-revelation knows that in this apostate experiential attitude he does not experience temporal things and events as they really are, i.e. as meaning pointing beyond and above itself to the true religious centre of meaning and to the true Origin.” (NC III, 30)

In contrast, the opening process is a blessing on the world:

“In Him [Christ the struggle for historical power in the opening-process may become a temporal blessing for a corrupted and borken world.} (NC II, 336)

Man failed at this task. Man was originally given the power of the keys in order to keep the temporal region open to the supratemporal region, and to keep the infernal region [the region below the temporal] closed. But man did the reverse. He closed the supratemporal region and opened the infernal region. Man released these dark powers into the temporal:

“Man weiss nemlich oder sollte es wissen, dass dem Menschen die Gewalt der Schlüssel anvertraut ward, um die Zeitregion der überzeitlichen Region offen, der unterzeitlichen verschlossen zu halten; man weiss auch, das er umgekehrt, den Schlüssel gleichsam verdrehend, die überzeitliche Region abschloss und der unterzeitlichen den Eingang öffnete. Letztere erhob sich in demselven Verhältnisse in diese Zeitregion, in welcher der Mensch ihr heimfallend sich somit aus eigner Schuld den Angriffen dieser finstern Mächte in der Zeit aussetzte.” (“Elementarbegriffe über die Zeit,” Werke 14, 43.

[We know, or should know, that humanity was entrusted with the Power of the Keys, in order to keep the supratemporal [überzeitlichen] region open for the region of time, and to keep the infratemporal–the region below time–locked. We also know that humanity did it the other way round, as it were turning the key, locking the supratemporal region and opening the entrance to the region below time. The region below time elevated itself to the region of time. This [infernal] elevation was in the same ratios as the fall of humanity into time. It was then humanity’s own fault for setting the attacks of these dark powers within the temporal region. One should therefore also know that neither the Fall of Lucifer, nor the Fall of humanity into time, nor the usurping elevation of the beings below time into the realm of time can explain the primal state of time, although they do explain its successive alterations, disruptions and revolutions].[From Elementary Concepts Concerning Time,” Werke 14, 43]

Man failed in this task of redemption, and fell into the temporal horizon (Encylopedia of the Science of Law, (2002), 80),

In his ideas on art, Kuyper refers to ugliness as the anticipation of hell, which corresponds to Baader’s idea of wrongly opening the infernal instead of the supratemporal:

“Where there is only the retreat [moving backwards] of former beauty, we have the beginning of ugliness. But as soon as an antithetical principle begins to work actively, there arises the sporadic anticipation of the hellish and the horrible; this really finds its own true region in the things that are under the earth, in the [katachthonia]…”‘(Het Calvinisme en de kunst,’ pp. 12 and 64 fn32).

The fall into time. As a result of the fall, man fell into time. Our spirit, which in its original condition stood above nature and above time and space, fell into this temporal nature as if there were nothing other than the temporal. (Werke 14, 64).


Man fell into the temporal horizon (NC II, 564; WdW II, 496 [“viel de menschelijk zelfheid af in den tijdshorizon”]. The fall was also a falling away [af-val] from man’s true selfhood (WdW I, vi).


Man is now both supratemporal and temporal. Man now lives in a double way, both above time and in time.Man was created as a microtheos and was supposed to be that, but he became miscrocosmos. But he did not cease being microtheos, and with this double nature man now has to work (Werke 13, 145) Man is simultaneously both supratemporal and temporal. Man’s selfhood is supratemporal, but man’s body, the instrument of the selfhood, is in cosmic time.

“Self-consciousness necessarily carries with it at the same time a character of transcending time and a character immanent within time. The deeper identity, which is experienced in the self-hood, is a trans-functional one, it is a knowing oneself as one and the same in and above all cosmic-temporal meaning functions and it is aknowing of one’s temporal functions as one’s own.” (De Crisis der Humanistische Staatsleer (Amsterdam: Ten Have, 1931), 97)

Dooyeweerd refers to our present life, where our body is temporal, as “this dispensation.” (NC II, 561). In the next dispensation, we will be like the angels, with a spiritual body, although he does not speculate as to what that is like for us. He does speculate that since God and angels are not included in the cosmic temporal order; they may not need to think in a temporal fashion (NC I, 144). This is because cosmic time is the limit to our ‘earthly’ temporal cosmos (NC II, 3).

Fall of the temporal world with man. For Baader, this means that the temporal world is now disordered; this explains many of the things investigated by science.The fall gives us the key to understanding the relationship of spirit to nature, which does not have a selfhood (selblosen Natur), and this is the key to understanding all diversity in its relation to time and space. But if spirit changes its relationship to nature, the latter is also misformed [umgestaltet] (Werke 14, 64).


Through man “the entire temporal world is included both in apostasy and in salvation” (NC III, 783).

Because the temporal world is concentrated in humanity as the image of God, it fell with man. (WdW I, 65: NC I, 100).

Vollenhoven denied that anything was fallen except the direction of man’s heart. He believed that the structure of created reality was still intact. But even if God’s structural law is still intact, Dooyeweerd’s (and Baader’s) idea of a fallen world seems to imply that the world is not properly responding to that law.

Redemption in Christ. Man is the keystone, the key of understanding creation (Werke 15, 607, 641). That is why, after the fall, Christ needed to incarnate as man (Werke 15, 608).

Das ursprüngliche zeitliche Werk des Urmenschen war, all Strahlen dieser zentralen Aktion (des Wortes) nach und nach in seinem Wesen zu vereinigen und also das Wort in sich Mensch werden zu lassen. Ein Menschwerdung, welche, wie man weiß, Gott selbst übernahm, nachdem der Mensch sie vernachlässigte (Zeit, 39 ft. 20; Werke 2, 89)

[The original temporal work of original Man was to gradually unite within its being all rays of this central action (of the Word), and therefore to let the Word become human in itself. A becoming human which, as we know, God Himself undertook, after humans neglected it.]

Only God can save becdause only He can reunite me with my root (Werke 4, 179-200′ 12, 226).


Kuyper says that humans were created in the image of God, as the root of the cosmos, and called to consecrate the cosmos to God’s glory. This was disturbed by sin, and a New Root was required:

He [God] placed the spiritual center of this Cosmos on our planet, and caused all the divisions of the kingdoms of nature, on this earth, to culminate in man, upon whom, as the bearer of His image He called to consecrate the Cosmos to His glory. In God’s creation, therefore, man stands as the prophet, priest and king, and although sin has disturbed these high designs, yet God pushes them onward. He so loves His world that He has given Himself to it, in the person of His Son, and thus He has again brought our race, and through our race, His whole Cosmos, into a renewed contact with eternal life. To be sure, many branches and leaves fell off the tree of the human race, yet the tree itself shall be saved; on its new root in Christ, it shall once more blossom gloriously. For regeneration does not save a few isolated individuals, finally to be joined together mechanically as an aggregate heap. Regeneration saves the organism, itself, of our race. And therefore all regenerate human life forms one organic body, of which Christ is the Head, and whose members are bound together by their mystical union with Him. (“Calvinism and Religion,” Lectures on Calvinism, 59)

Dooyeweerd says that because man failed at his task, a New Root was required. This is the reason for Christ’s incarnation. The incarnation cannot be understood apart from the idea of the selfhood as supratemporal religious root. (See 1964 lecture).

Regeneration and new birth. The relation of the supratemporal to the temporal is key to understanding the meaning of “rebirth” or “regeneration.” It means “reintegration” (Werke 8, 258). Rebirth is not to be understood as procreation, but as restoration, the completion or fulfillment of ourselves as the image of God (Werke 13, 210).

Van Moorsel cites Kuyper,

“…somewhere in our inner, hidden mind is the centre of our being, the centre of our ego, the original root of our personality. This centre is dominated by our nature… [ ] At rebirth, however, the Lord our God enters and does a miraculous work in this dominating centre of our being, in this original root of our existence, in this centre of our conclusive ego, so that this nature of ours…comes to differ wholly (!) from what it was before. Consequently whatever we are and do and say comes to fall, from now on, under a new commandment, a new law of life, under a new dominion, so that, by virtue of that new moulding potency, man in us is formed again and hewn out, but no, man new (!) and holy (!), a child of God (!!), created in righteousness…” (Gerard van Moorsel: The Mysteries of Hermes Trismegistrus: A Phenomenologic study in the process of Spiritualisation in the Corpus Hermeticum and Latin Asclepius (Utrecht, 1955), emphasis Van Moorsel’s).


“Regeneration, being begotten anew, enlightening, changes man in his very being.” Abraham Kuyper: Principles of Sacred Theology (Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1980, p. 152).

Dooyeweerd shares this idea of rebirth and regeneration. Like Baader and Kuyper, he relates it to the reborn religious root. In our redemption, we participate in Christ, the New Root (NC I, 99). In Proposition 32 of “32 Propositions on Anthropology,” he says,

“With respect to our religious side (which does not take place in time) we are the “spiritual seed” of Adam and as a result of this, we share in his fall into sin. The regeneration by the Holy Spirit really breaks through this natural line of spiritual generation. The natural line of spiritual generation from Adam is really the condition for (but not the guideline for) this regeneration by the Holy Spirit. The “natural” man, the anthroopos psychikos, is first, after that comes the “spiritual” man, the anthroopos pneumatikos.”

But Vollenhoven did not accept the idea of regeneration.

In his debate with Van Til, Dooyeweerd says that regeneration cannot be understood conceptually:

“The Bible does not speak of this religious center in conceptual terms, no more than Jesus in his night conversation with Nicodemus gave a conceptual circumscription of rebirth as the necessary condition of seeing the kingdom of God. The same holds good with respect to the biblical revelation of creation, man’s fall into sin, and redemption through Jesus Christ. You often speak of the “scriptural concepts of creation of sin, and of redemption,” as revealed concepts, whose normativity ought to be our basic view of objectivity. But the Word-revelation does not reveal concepts of creation, sin and redemption.. You [Van Til] do not seem to have seen that words and concepts cannot be identical.” (“Cornelius Van Til and the Transcendental Critique of Theoretical Thought,” in Jerusalem and Athens (Presybterian and Reformed, 1971), 85).

The power of the Holy Spirit brings man into the relationship of sonship to the Divine Father. (NC I, 61)

Fulfillment. The fulfillment of the Kingdom of God coincides with the fulfillment of man as the image of God (Werke 8, 61, 316). See Dooyeweerd on fulfillment at the end (eschaton) of cosmic time. Man’s nature as image of God is also fulfilled.Mankind is redeemed and reborn in Christ, but mankind “embraced in Christ still shares in fallen human nature until the fulfilment of all things.” (Roots of Western Culture, 38).
Scripture. The relation of the supratemporal to the temporal is key to understanding the Scriptures, and for proper exegesis (Werke 7, 41) Dooyeweerd says that the Christian Ground-motive of creation, fall and redemption cannot be understood apart from the idea of the supratemporal selfhood as religious root.
Miracles. The original relation of man to nature (i.e. before the fall) is key to the proper understanding of miracles, which modern theologians do not believe (Werke 6, 309). Christ appeared with the power over blessings and curses. (Werke 13, 144). Compare this to Kuyper’s remarkable statement in Pro Rege (Kampen: J.H. Kok, 1911) that miracles are not magic, but rather a continuation or renewal of the original power of the human race over nature. At pp. 152-3, he says,

“Jesus never referred to His miracles as proof of his divinity. Their purose was to show that the Father had sent Him, that He had a task to perfomr on earth. He never made a sharp distinction between His own miracles and those of HIs disciples. He made the remarkable promise to the disciples that whoever believed in Him would do even greater works than His (John 14:120.[…] While on earth, He neither ruled as the Son of God nor did He display the majesty of His divinity, but He appared among us as a human being, as one of us, and He did not reveal any power other than that potentially available to all humanity.” (as translated by Jan Boer, You Can Do Greater things Than Christ (Nigeria, 1991), 17.

Sacrifice. the meaning of sacrifice, which has the goal of opening and restoring the rapport of a lower realm with a more powerful higher realm (Werke 2, 233). Sacrifice is of both the above, in the descent and the below, in the ascent or participation. This is the key to Christianity and of the higher physics (alchemy) (Werke 15, 898). Dooyeweerd certainly speaks of our participation in Christ. I am not aware that he links this with sacrifice, although participation is certainly needed for restoring the image of God in us.
Art. The relation of the supratemporal to the temporal is key to understanding art. Our supratemporal contemplation [Anschauung] our and working with and through the “material” world is the key to understanding art, higher physics, or religion itself. We are in both the inner and outer worlds at the same time; the immaterial penetrates the material. This is denied by both materialists (who deny the spiritual) and spiritualists (who deny or try to flee the material). (Werke 7, 24; 8, 184; 12, 47). In the completion of work is the idea of the Sabbath rest. A work of art is completed when it reflects back to the artist the reflection of God, and the artist is able to rest (Werke 8, 62). See my article “Imagination, Image of God and Wisdom of God: Theosophical Themes in Dooyeweerd’s Philosophy.”

See also my ‘Dooyeweerd’s Philosophy of Aesthetics: A Response to Zuidervaart’s Critique

The One and the many. It is the key to understanding the issue of the One and the many (Werke 8, 111)

The higher supratemporal level is a totality, which is individuated in time.

Dooyeweerd’s philosophy is not monistic, but neither does he accept a nominalism that begins with individual entities. Like Baader, he speaks of temporal individuation from a supratemporal totality.

See my articles, Dooyeweerd, Spann and the Philosophy of Totality

and Monism, Dualism, Nondualism: Problems with Vollenhoven’s Problem-Historical Method

Revised Sept. 24/08