“Inner Human Being, Rehabilitation of Theological Motif in Light of the Psychology of Friedrich Schleiermacher” by Matthis Glatzel

‘Inner human being’ is one of the key concepts of Paul’s anthropology. On the hand,  Paul describes it in 2. Cor 4,16 as part of being human, which is renewed daily, and,  on the other hand, he locates it close to what he calls “law” in Rom 7,22. This motif  has its origin in Plato’s politeia and is negotiated in works from Augustine to Martin  Luther. While Plato describes it as being strongly linked to reason in opposition to  instinct, it is Augustine who identifies a deeper connection between ‘inner human  being’ and truth. Finally, Luther distinguishes between ‘inner’ and ‘outer human being’.  Not surprisingly, he understands ‘inner human being’ as being in a deep connection to  god while ‘outer human being’ is lost in sin. In summary, one can say that ‘inner human  being’ is one part of being human itself, but it is also directed toward a transcendent  sphere. 

When researching that concept in current theological encyclopedias, it is either not  mentioned at all or rejected as a Hellenistic estrangement of biblical anthropology.  Considering its great importance in Paul’s anthropology, this neglect is surprising and  likewise a symptom of anti-psychologism in philosophy and theology. This tradition  reaches back to the middle of the 19th century. At that time, psychology developed from  a philosophical into a scientific discipline. In this form, psychology has nothing to offer  for the explanation of a theological motif.  

To counter anti-psychologism in philosophy and theology, I am convinced that it is  necessary to search for concepts within romantic traditions. They are prior to  philosophical and theological anti-psychologism, emphasize inwardness, and, in the  form of the Psychologievorlesungen (Lectures on Psychology) of Friedrich  Schleiermacher, they offer a psychological concept that holds a fundamentally different  starting point than the psychology which had arisen at the end of the 19th century: the  term “living”. It derives from Friedrich Schlegel and Novalis and therefore can be  considered a motif of romantic philosophy. Moreover, it has formative power over the  psychological work of Schleiermacher. He does not strictly separate between body and  soul but sees a connection between both in the “living”. What he understands under  “living” can best be described as movement or as continuous interaction between  subject and object. As Schleiermacher’s Psychologievorlesungen are grounded in the  term “living”, he develops his concept from the “Denktätigkeiten” ( activities of  cognition) toward the feeling of the sublime and the beautiful, culminating in religious  feeling. 

In my research, I want to conceptualize ‘inner human being’ as being part of the human  conscience and explain how to understand its directedness toward a transcendent  sphere. For this, Schleiermacher’s work is very productive because he presents an  innovative conception of “inside” and “outside”. The two of them are connected in the  unity of “living”. This connection is maintained by means of every mental action  happening in both spheres, as action proceeds from “inside” to “outside” as well as in  the opposite direction. Accordingly, Schleiermacher offers an exposition of the human  inner workings, points out its context with “living”–instead of just with notional reflexion- -and presents an explanation of what can be understood as ‘inner human being’.

Author Bio:

Matthis Glatzel is a PhD student at the University of Leipzig, Germany. He studied philosophy and theology in Mainz, Frankfurt and Leipzig and is mainly interested in philosophy of religion. In his research he examines the psychology of Friedrich Schleiermacher as a philosophical psychology, which is deeply grounded in romantic thoughts and ideas.