Article Details

In: KulturPoetik 2019, Issue 1


Ritchie Robertson


»Wir sind so klug und dennoch spukt’s in Tegel«. The Enlightenment and the Paranormal




Although the Enlightenment had considerable success in opposing ›Schwärmerei‹ and dispelling belief in paranormal phenomena, the late eighteenth century produced many intriguing figures whose seemingly supernatural or paranormal powers aroused widespread fascination, even among major Enlightenment figures. Kant was briefly fascinated by the apparently paranormal gifts of Emanuel Swedenborg, then denounced Swedenborg with inexplicable ferocity in Träume eines Geistersehers (1766). Goethe’s attraction to J.K. Lavater, though likewise followed by alienation, was inseparably bound up with Lavater’s fervent and literal-minded Christian beliefs. These case studies provide evidence of the perennial emotional appeal of ideas which the Enlightenment considered ›schwärmerisch‹.