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Egil AspremEgil Asprem is a Norwegian scholar of esotericism, religion, and intellectual history, with a penchant for philosophy (mostly analytic). He is currently a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Religious Studies at University of California Santa Barbara and the author of Arguing with Angels (SUNY Press, 2012), Contemporary Esotericism (Equinox / Acumen, 2013) and the award winning dissertation The Problem of Disenchantment (PhD thesis, University of Amsterdam, 2013). Check out his blog.


Reposted from Asprem's blog, where is was published
in three parts: May 28, May 30, and June 1, 2011, with permission of the author.
They are based on a lecture given to a workshop with Peter Burke, April 5 2011,
and to the Barchem Symposium, April 11 2011, both organised by the Huizinga Instituut

Blind Spots of Disenchantment

Science, Psychical Research, and
Natural Theology in the Early 20th Century

Egil Asprem

Part I

Enchanted evolutionary perspectives are indeed common in esoteric forms of religion, both in the post-war varieties and in a broader historical perspective going back to Enlightenment and Romanticism.

The way things have turned out, the content of my PhD dissertation will revolve around a concept which Max Weber somewhat unsystematically formulated almost 100 years ago: the disenchantment of the world. Disenchantment has usually been described as a socio-cultural process, driven by rationalisation and intellectualisation processes which Weber traced back to the invention of monotheism, and the development of monotheistic theology. It has been embraced by sociologists and historians of religion in particular, who have seen in it (as did Weber) certain consequences for the condition of religion, magic, and their relation to intellectual life (and particularly science) in the modern world. My dissertation is increasingly becoming a criticism of the concept of disenchantment, and an exploration of a more nuanced approach to it as it relates to interfaces between religion, science, and that vast unsystematic and poorly defined set of “the occult”, “esoteric”, and “magical”.

Max Weber
Max Weber (1864-1920)

In April I had two opportunities to discuss these ideas in workshop settings, first with a commentary from the social historian of knowledge Peter Burke, and later in a research workshop for cultural history PhDs in the Netherlands called the Barchem symposium. In this post, and in two following installments, I will share the text of my lecture(s), intended to give an overview of my general approach, illustrated with snapshots of relevant cases from early 20th century history of science and culture. This first post discusses, historicises and criticises Weber’s concept of disenchantment in what is a brief theoretical introduction proposing that we take a different approach to it. Part two will concern the place of this revised notion in early 20th century scientific discourses, particularly in their broader cultural reception and context. The third part discusses briefly the attempt to create a “new natural theology” in this period.


The disenchantment of the world and the intellectual sacrifice

Max Weber’s thesis on disenchantment (Entzauberung) has been central for historians and social theorists analysing the fate of religion and ‘magic’ in the modern world. According to Weber, the ‘fate of our times’ is ‘the disenchantment of the world’, by which he meant the dissipation of ‘mysterious incalculable forces’ from the workings of nature.[1] An ‘intellectualist rationalism’ promoted first and foremost by the growing ‘empirical sciences’ had shifted people’s epistemic attitude to the world, now holding that any phenomenon is knowable in principle, and that knowledge and mastery of the world is obtainable through ‘technical means and calculations’.[2]

The disenchantment of the world had very specific consequences for the relation between religion and science. In another evocative phrase, Weber stated that those who sought to possess ‘genuine’ religion in a disenchanted world were forced to undergo an ‘intellectual sacrifice’ (Opfer des Intellekts); he saw ‘[r]edemption from the rationalism and intellectualism of science’ as ‘the fundamental presupposition of living in union with the divine’.[3] This meant that there could be no legitimate ground in between the two separate spheres, and no overlaps. Indeed, those intellectuals who refused to undergo the sacrifice, but instead wanted to reconcile their intellectualism with some sense of religion were dismissed as ‘swindlers or self-deceivers’.[4]

In terms of the classic trichotomy of ‘religion, magic, science’, Entzauberung primarily meant that ‘magic’ had to go.[5] ‘Magic’, however, is a highly problematic category which, historically, has been tied to polemical struggles to define both ‘correct’ religion and ‘correct’ science, variously disenfranchising, delegitimizing or outright demonizing deviances.[6] I argue that this basic structure remains at work in Weber’s notion of disenchantment and the related call for an intellectual sacrifice. As defined in his 1918 lecture, ‘Wissenschaft als Beruf’, disenchantment creates certain blind spots for the history of religion and the history of science. These do not only hide, but also delegitimize, some very significant cultural developments in Weber’s own days. Weber’s formulation of disenchantment should be seen as an active speech-act located in ongoing struggles to define how science and religion ought to be conducted, and what place these socio-cultural systems and practices should have in a modern society. Moreover, I shall argue that Weber’s (not always implicit) ‘oughts’ differed from the ‘ares’ of his time. In order to illustrate this, I will first have to introduce the notion of disenchantment a bit further. Particularly, I will draw attention to how it assumes some rather specific views on the philosophy of science, views which do not necessarily correspond with the actual form and practice of science. They belong to normative epistemology rather than the analytic-descriptive study of scientific practice. The next step is to light up the ‘blind spot’, zooming in on some of those cases which defied the intellectual demands of the disenchantment process. In doing this, I will also suggest a way in which disenchantment might be redefined to adequately address these cases.

Philosophical implications of disenchantment

Considering the underlying philosophical assumptions of disenchantment, there are primarily two points that should be mentioned. The first is epistemic optimism about gaining knowledge of the physical world. The second is scepticism concerning knowledge of meaning and value, as well as of metaphysics. These twin points govern the ideal relationship between science and religion in a disenchanted world.

The principal meaning of the disenchantment of the world was the dissipation of ‘mysterious incalculable forces’. As a matter of principle modern ‘empirical science’ has expelled the possibility of genuinely capricious events. This is the basis of the epistemic optimism: since no essentially unpredictable causal forces exist in the world, everything can be explained, determined and mastered by calculations and technological interventions. Uncovering the mechanisms of nature in this way is the business of ‘empirical science’.

Counterbalancing this optimism, the second point puts clear limitations on the scope of scientific knowledge. Two kinds of limitations are imposed. The first follows the fact/value distinction and may be termed ‘ethical’: with the world disenchanted, science can know facts of the world, but there is no meaning inherent in those facts which can tell anything about how to live one’s life. The second limitation concerns a separation of ‘empirical science’ from metaphysics. Taken together, there is a clear separation of science and ‘worldviews’ (Weltanschauungen). The determination of worldviews is not within the range of science, according to Weber. Worldviews are adopted privately and individually; discussing them critically is the business of philosophy and religion, which are governed by different sets of rules and assumptions than science.

Demarcations along these lines were not uncommon in the early 20th century.[7] They reflect a general anti-metaphysical tendency in the philosophy of science. Ernst Mach was a strong contemporary proponent of this tendency, for example, as were the influential logical positivist or empiricist currents which he helped inspire. In Weber’s case it also reflects a specifically neo-Kantian approach to ethics, epistemology, and religion: Weber’s predilection for the fact/value distinction, the scepticism of metaphysics, and the privatized autonomy of faith as a principle for religion were all inspired by neo-Kantian philosophy.[8] From the perspective of intellectual history, Weber’s reflection on the on disenchantment simultaneously presented one particular view on the ‘ideal’ operation of science and religion, as well as their demarcation. This view was furthermore uttered in the context where science’s identity was still uncertain, and its precise location in modern society and relation to other societal systems were not fixed. By relocating Weber as a participant in these debates rather than a detached and objective observer, the intellectual historian should be forced to ask: To what extent did intellectual spokespersons in scientific and religious communities themselves share Weber’s assumptions?

I will soon venture to show that there was considerable disagreement over some fundamental assumptions of disenchantment. This suggests to me that a major problem with disenchantment is its status as an irrevocable process. Instead of viewing the disenchantment of the world as a process, I propose to reconsider it as a cluster of intellectual problems. The ‘problem of disenchantment’ thus covers a set of quite straight-forward questions: are there incalculable forces in nature, or are there not? How far extended are the boundaries of our capabilities for acquiring knowledge? Is there, or can there be, a basis for morality, value, meaning, or theology in nature itself? Can ‘religious’ worldviews be extrapolated from natural facts? In short: all the features of Weber’s disenchanted world, with question marks added.

Analysing intellectual discourses with a methodological focus on how these questions are grappled with may open up for more nuanced perspectives on modern scientific and religious history. In the following I will chart out a few regions I find important in this general territory. First I will have a brief look at the place of disenchantment in some of the natural sciences of the early 20th century. Then I will move on to consider links to the much more controversial but nevertheless very popular discipline of psychical research. Finally, I conclude with some reflections on the emergence of a new ‘natural theology’ in this period.

Part II

Following up the previous post about Weber’s notion of disenchantment, and its normative implications, this second part of the installment provides some snapshots of episodes in the early 20th century—that is, of Weber’s contemporaries—which all seem to be in conflict with the disenchanted perspective of science. We start by considering some episodes in physics, then move on to the life sciences, before ending with some remarks on the controversial borderland which is psychical research.


Questions related to the problem of disenchantment were opened up and debated as a part of the disciplinary changes in physics in the early 20th century. The controversy over causality and determinism during the interwar period is well known. Indeed, a triumphalist version of the advent of quantum mechanics, typically ensnared by the philosophical style of men like Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, has been used time and again to paint rather fanciful pictures of a ‘re-enchantment of science’.[9] That, obviously, is not the point here; I find such uses of history to be as untenable as they are ideological.[10] Instead, I take a cue from historian Paul Forman’s thesis about the wider worldview implications ascribed to quantum physics in Weimar Germany.[11] In a classic article from 1971 Forman documented the surprising ease with which a great number of the leading physicists in Germany stated, within a decade, that physics had abolished causality from the workings of nature.

Bohr, Heisenberg, and Pauli in discussion
Three "non-disenchanted" physicsist:
Bohr, Heisenberg, and Pauli in discussion.

The insistence on indeterminacy and acausality was, perhaps, most explicit in Werner Heisenberg’s 1927 paper on the uncertainty principle.[12] Even if that principle could be read as a primarily methodological problem arising from imperfections of measurement, Heisenberg concluded his article with the bold statement that ‘quantum mechanics establishes definitively the fact that the law of causality is not valid’.[13] This interpretation eventually gained a hegemonic status through being canonised in the anti-realist Copenhagen interpretation—despite much criticism from people such as Albert Einstein.

Unlike the overly enthusiastic ‘New Age’ and romantic references to this development, Forman seeks an explanation to why so many physicists embraced acausality and indeterminism outside of science itself. Instead of talking about ‘revolutionary discoveries’ that may have ‘proved’ the world to be enchanted in some sense (that is, an ‘internalist’ approach), Forman connects their attitude with the cultural climate in Germany after the First World War (‘externalist’ approach). The turn towards acausality in physics coincided with the development of a culture which was pessimistic about modernity, and which went far to equate the materialism, mechanism, and reductionism it saw in science with everything that was wrong with modern society in general. This culture of neo-romantic Lebensphilosophie and crisis-thinking challenged the ‘disenchantment of the world’.[14] According to Forman, the physicists accommodated their scientific writings and concocted broader worldview implications from their theories which harmonised with this anti-disenchantment cultural trend. The major point is that culture and worldview in these cases were prior to the scientific knowledge production. And, I would add: that leading scientists of the era did not work by the disenchanted dictum to keep science and worldviews apart.

The Life Sciences

Other examples can be found in the life sciences.[15] The most striking case in the field of biology is the controversies over mechanism, organicism, and neo-vitalism, which were very prominent during the first three decades of the century. What was at stake in these debates was precisely a question of whether or not the phenomenon of life can be understood by the same causal mechanism thought to govern inert matter. In the explicitly vitalistic form, there would even be an opening for explaining life with recourse to a ‘mysterious incalculable force’, whether in the form of Henri Bergson’s élan vital, or the German embryologist Hans Driesch’s concept of entelechy.[16] Anne Harrington’s study of the conflicts in the sciences of life and mind in Germany explicitly made reference to disenchantment and enchantment when discussing these questions. What the organicists and holists in biology, psychology, as well as in politics, were hostile towards, was the looming image of ‘the Machine’—the image par excellence of the disenchantment of nature, society, and the human organism itself.[17]

Hans Driesch
Hans Driesch, embryologist
and champion of neo-vitalism.

While here, too, we see scientific discourse aligned with a heavy cultural bias which may be called ‘romantic’ or even anti-modern, one should be quick to point out that far from all of these attacks on philosophical mechanism wanted to reinstate ‘mysterious incalculable forces’ in their entirety.[18] A holistic materialism was the most mainstream of these anti-mechanistic approaches, and enjoyed the support of many well-known biologists.[19] Their main claim was that some version of ‘emergent properties’, operative on different levels of organisation, was needed to fully account for something as complex as living organisms.[20] The strictly analytical method by which one could explain a machine in terms of its constituent parts would not hold. In this sense one might say that the holistic materialist did subscribe to some notion of incalculability: no matter how much one knew about the motion of the most fundamental particles of matter from which an organism is composed, one would not be able to derive or calculate the workings of the whole. But there was nothing mysterious about this incalculability. Life was composed entirely of ordinary matter, even though one needed principles other than mechanism to understand how it worked.

Neo-vitalism went one step further away from disenchantment. For explicit vitalists, such as Hans Driesch, the problem was not only about adjusting explanations to levels of organisation; their opposition was much more fundamental in character, and involved the existence of forces which were not only sui generis among natural phenomena, but the sine qua non of life.[21] These various vitalistic principles were both incalculable and mysterious forces. Driesch’s concept of entelechy, for example, was construed as a completely immaterial, organising, and directing force. Driesch was explicit about his anti-reductionism, anti-mechanism, and anti-materialism. Introducing his principle in 1908, he was wrote that:

No kind of causality based upon the constellations of single physical and chemical acts can account for organic individual development ; this development is not to be explained by any hypothesis about configuration of physical and chemical agents. Therefore there must be something else which is to be regarded as the sufficient reason of individual form-production.[22]

This ‘something else’ was entelechy. It consumed no energy, while it operated in mysterious ways in the development of organisms: from the fertilisation of the egg, through the various embryonic stages, to the fully fledged individual. Possibly, it was even active beyond death, although Driesch felt forced to claim an agnostic position on the matter.[23]

Psychology, Psychical Research, and the Occult

Now we reach a point where biology merges into psychology, and not only mainstream psychology but also the very controversial subject of ‘psychical research’. Discussions concerning vitalism and teleology in biology had their parallels in psychology—particularly in the controversy surrounding the behaviourist program of John Watson and his followers. The methodological premise of behaviourism was to avoid psychological interpretations resting on concepts such as ‘soul’, ‘consciousness’, or even ‘mind’, and to reject introspection as a method.[24] Instead, human behaviour was viewed strictly as an input-output system, and the goal was, to quote Watson’s programmatic article of 1913, ‘the prediction and control of behavior’.[25]

John Watson
Watson for behaviourism ...

In the United States in the 1920s, the most vociferous enemy of behaviourism was the English psychologist William McDougall, professor at Harvard, and a leading figure in the British and American Societies for Psychical Research.[26] Although a respected academic psychologist, McDougall was a controversial figure in his own days, writing passionate scientific and popular defences of a range of heterodox fields bordering science, politics and religion, including Lamarckism, psychical research, and eugenics.[27] He also provides a tangible link between the debates in biology and psychology on the one hand, and the curious field of researches into spiritualism, telepathy and other extraordinary ‘occult’ phenomena on the other.

Indeed, the ‘occult revival’ which followed the First World War represents a more readily apparent rejection of Weber’s disenchanted world.[28] Even though spiritualists, occultists, and psychical researchers were often more than happy to provide ‘theories’ and ‘explanations’ of what was going on in the gloomy séance room—whether in terms of the extension of ‘etheric’ and ‘astral’ bodies, the operation of psychic forces, or the actual intervention of departed souls[29]—they all indicate that some phenomena are indeed mysterious, incalculable and out of the ordinary.[30] Cloaked in scientific sounding terminology and claimed by their supporters as parts of a valid empirical field of research, these phenomena were also typically put forward as authentications of religious beliefs—thus denying the intellectual sacrifice.

William McDougall
... McDougall against.

While the occult is thus interesting on its own terms, I wish to say something more about how it was linked up with the more reputable discourse of the life and mind sciences.[31] McDougall provides my link, because, in addition to being one of the most visible opponents of behaviourism within the psychological profession, he also made his point based on a very explicit and clear theoretical understanding of life, mind, the organism and its evolution, which used psychical research as part of its evidential support. Recognising that the behaviourist programme rested on the Darwinian conception of evolution through blind mechanistic selection processes, McDougall built his position on the interdependent theories of Lamarckian, purpose-driven evolution, and a theory of irreducible and autonomous mind—a position he termed ‘animism’.[32] This cluster of ideas was easily connected with vitalism.[33] Furthermore, McDougall referred to some of the data produced by the Society for Psychical Research as particularly good indications that some kind of an autonomous, non-mechanistic conception of mind had to take precedence.[34] Referencing one of the supposedly strongest cases of spiritualism, the so-called ‘cross-correspondences’, McDougall insisted that whichever interpretation one preferred, whether the outright spiritualistic or the ‘psychical’ where extreme ‘supernormal’ cognitive powers were at play, one had now strong evidence against a purely mechanistic concept of mind.[35] In his view, the occult provided empirical support for a re-enchantment of biology and psychology.

Part III

The third and last part of my paper on the “Blind Spots of Disenchantment” focuses on the somewhat neglected concept of Weber’s 1918 “Wissenschaft als Beruf” paper: “the intellectual sacrifice”. It looks particularly at the Scottish Gifford Lectures’ attempt to promote a new “natural theology”, and suggests that this whole attempt defies Weber’s emphasis that science and religion are being/ought to be kept apart in a disenchanted modern world. It also includes the complete bibliography for all three parts.

New Natural Theologies: The Gifford Lectures

After this cursory overview of disenchantment in science, I will now finally turn attention to the other aspect of Weber’s thesis: the ‘intellectual sacrifice’ and religion. Questioning disenchantment as such does not necessitate any specific views on religion. This was indeed the case with most of the figures we have met so far: while they opened up for ‘incalculable forces’ they did not generally extrapolate new theologies from these scientific views. But attempts to do this did certainly exist, not only on the lay level of popular occultism and spiritualism, but also among the intellectual classes. The best example of this is the explicit attempt to create a new ‘natural theology’, a project which was particularly strong in Britain but which has had repercussions for Western religious thought in general.

One institution which has been particularly influential in this systematic contestation of the intellectual sacrifice is the Gifford Lectures in Scotland.[36] This lecture series was initiated by the will of Adam Lord Gifford, a Scottish judge and advocate, who wanted to create a ‘Lectureship or Popular Chair’ in the Scottish universities, ‘“Promoting, Advancing, Teaching, and Diffusing the study of Natural Theology,” in the widest sense of that term’.[37] Traditionally, natural theology had been a part of natural philosophy, focused on harmonising theology with reason and empirical knowledge. In the will of Lord Gifford, natural theology was described in ornamented ways as

The Knowledge of God, the Infinite, the All, the First and Only Cause, the One and the Sole Substance, the Sole Being, the Sole Reality, and the Sole Existence, the Knowledge of His Nature and Attributes, the Knowledge of the Relations which men and the whole universe bear to Him, the Knowledge of the Nature and Foundation of Ethics or Morals, and of all Obligations and Duties thence arising.[38]

A number of extremely influential essays and books on the relation between religion, science and metaphysics started their career as Gifford Lectures in the period between 1900 and 1940. Among them we may list William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience (1900-1902), Hans Driesch’s The Science and Philosophy of Organism (1906-1908), Conway Lloyd Morgan’s Emergent Evolution (1921-1922), Arthur Eddington’s The Nature of the Physical World (1926-1927), and Alfred North Whitehead’s Process and Reality (1927-1928). All these lecture series became highly influential publications on their own, and we already recognise several names which were mentioned in the context of the problems with disenchantment in the natural sciences. We could also mention Henri Bergson, whose lecture series were disturbed by the outbreak of war in 1914, and never published. Nevertheless, it is significant that two of the biggest heroes of the neo-vitalism movement—Bergson and Driesch—were invited to lecture.

William James, Hans Driesch, Conway Lloyd Morgan, Arthur Eddington, and Alfred North Whitehead

Some new natural theologians: William James, Hans Driesch,
Conway Lloyd Morgan, Arthur Eddington, and Alfred North Whitehead.

While a few of these works have had some scientific significance (e.g., James’ book for the psychology of religion), others have mainly made their impact felt in theology, the philosophy of religion, and in the writings of a great number of spokespersons for various types of non-denominational, ‘alternative spiritualities’, which, at least on the surface, are respectful of science.[39] A notable common feature of the Gifford lectures of this period is what might be called a ‘romantic’, non-mechanistic, ‘enchanted’ refashioning of evolutionary thinking. Whitehead’s lectures resulted, for example, in the creation of a ‘process theology’.[40] Morgan’s concept of emergence would make an impact on increasingly esoteric negotiations of theism and evolution, and the same may be said for Bergson’s ‘creative evolution’, propelled by the mysterious élan vital.[41] Enchanted evolutionary perspectives are indeed common in esoteric forms of religion, both in the post-war varieties and in a broader historical perspective going back to Enlightenment and Romanticism.[42] Intellectuals of the early 20th century played a central role in shaping this type of interpretation of evolution, through channels such as the Gifford Lectures.

I will round off this discussion with one final example from physics. Sir Arthur Eddingtion may have set a standard for later speculations when his Gifford lectures took the problems posed for disenchantment by quantum mechanics to bear directly on religion. In one of his oft quoted overstatements, Eddington held that ‘religion first became possible for a reasonable scientific man about the year 1927’, referring to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle which was published that year.[43] The notion that quantum mechanics provides a way to some vague, ‘mystical’ religion became wide-spread with parts of the post-war counterculture and the New Age movement. However, this particular refusal of the Weberian ‘intellectual sacrifice’ also seems to have been prefigured by professional physicists of the interwar period.[44]

While it should be made clear that far from all speakers used the Gifford Lectures to proselytise a hope for ‘scientific religion’, the role of this platform in providing new intellectual support for, and shape to, religious beliefs does deserve more attention than it has received. This and related intellectual arenas too often remain hidden behind the blind spot created by the assumption that 20th century scientific culture perpetuated the disenchantment of the world.


[1] Weber, 'Science as a Vocation', 155.

[2] Ibid., 139

[3] Ibid., 155. Cf. the German original: Weber, 'Wissenschaft als Beruf', 510-511.

[4] Literally, he accused them of being engaged in 'Schwindel oder Selbstbetrug'. Weber, 'Wissenschaft als Beruf', 509.

[5] Indeed, 'demagification' might be a more accurate translation of this term than 'disenchantment'.

[6] See e.g. Randall Styers, Making Magic; Marco Pasi, 'Magic'.

[7] For a contextualisation of Weber's thought on these issues, see Patrick Dassen, De onttovering van de wereld, 228-312.

[8] Mainly through his good friend, the philosopher Heinrich Rickert. Dassen, De onttovering van de wereld, 255. For Rickert and his place within contemporary struggles in the philosophy of science (particularly the humanities and the social sciences), see Charles R. Bambach, Heidegger, Dilthey, and the Crisis of Historicism, esp. 83-126.

[9] In addition to the obvious 'New Age' varieties, e.g. Lawrence LeShan, The Medium, the Mystic, and the Physicist; Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics, and Gary Zukav, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, we might mention the more academic variety of the same form of proselytising, found in, e.g. Morris Berman, The Reenchantment of the World, and David Ray Griffin, ed., The Reenchantment of Science. Professional philosophers of science have, on the other hand, not always been as impressed by the speculations of Bohr and his students and colleagues in Copenhagen. See for example Mara Beller, Quantum Dialogue, 270-276.

[10] For criticisms of this type of historical writing about science, see Sal Restivo, The Social Relation of Physics, Mysticism, and Mathematics; John Brooke and Geoffrey Cantor, Reconstructing Nature, 75-105.

[11] See Forman, 'Weimar culture, causality, and quantum theory'; Forman, 'Reception of an Acausal Quantum Mechanics in Germany and Britain'; Forman, 'Kausalität, Anschaullichkeit, and Individualität, or How Cultural Values Prescribed the Character and Lessons Ascribed to Quantum Mechanics'.

[12] A number of outstanding physicists had stated similar views in the preceding years. Max Born expressed in 1926 that he was 'inclined to abandon determinedness in the atomic world', and was immediately followed by colleagues in the German physics community, including Arnold Sommerfeld and Pasqual Jordan. Cf. Forman, 'Kausalität, Anschaullichkeit, and Individualität', 336.

[13] Heisenberg, 'Über den Anschaulichen Inhalt der quantentheoretischen Kinematik und Mechanik', 98. Cited and translated by Forman, Ibid., 'Kausalität, Anschaullichkeit, and Individualität', 336. In the original, the last sentence reads: 'Vielmehr kann man den wahren Sachverhalt viel besser so charakterisieren: Weil alle Experimente den Gesetzen der Quantenmechanik und damit der Gleichung unterworfen sind, so wird durch die Quantenmechanik die Ungültigkeit des Kausalgesetzes definitiv festgestellt.'

[14] The Lebensphilosoph which Forman spends most time on in this context is Oswald Spengler, whose Untergang des Abendlandes was published to huge success and widely read in German intellectual circles after the war. Incidentally, it was published for the first time only a few months before Weber's 'Wissenschaft als Beruf', and a worry about its rapid popularity among the young people seems implicit to much of his lecture. That is, at several occasions he seems to address the young generation which he assumes is becoming ensnared by Lebensphilosophie, attempting to convince them of the value and importance of science.

[15] Here, too, there have been some good studies which are relevant to the problem of disenchantment. Esp. Michael Ash, Gestalt Psychology in German Culture; Ann Harrington, Reenchanted Science; Scott Gilbert and Sahorta Sarkar, 'Embracing Complexity'; G. E. Allen, 'Mechanism, Vitalism and Organicism in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century Biology'; Heather Wolffram, 'Supernormal Biology'.

[16] See e.g. Bergson, Creative Evolution; Driesch, The Science and Philosophy of the Organism.

[17] Harrington, Reenchanted Science, esp. 3-71.

[18] For a good and concise analytical distinction between various forms of anti-mechanism in early century biology, see Allen, 'Mechanism, Vitalism and Organicism'. Cf. Gilbert and Sarkar, 'Embracing Complexity'.

[19] Among the proponents of holistic materialism were Hans Spemann, Joseph Needham, Paul Alfred Weiss, and the geneticist Richard Goldschmidt. See e.g. Allen, 'Mechanism, Vitalism and Organicism', 266-269.

[20] It was in this context that the terms 'emergence' and 'emergentism' made their way into the philosophy of science for the first time. See especially C. Lloyd Morgan, Emergent Evolution. Morgan's concept may be compared and contrasted to the similar Bergson's similar concept of 'creative evolution', as well as to the concept of 'process' in the later philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. I.e. Whitehead, Process and Reality.

[21] For Uexküll's position in these debates, cf. Harrington, Reenchanted Science, 34-71.

[22] For a larger discussion of the 'vitalistic or autonomous factor' of entelechy, see Driesch, The Science and Philosophy of the Organism, Vol. 1, 142-149, citation on p. 142; Vol. 2, 129-265.

[23] E.g. Driesch, Science and Philosophy of the Organism, Vol. 2, 260-263.

[24] Watson, 'Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It'.

[25] Ibid., 158.

[26] See e.g. McDougall and Watson, The Battle of Behavorism: An Exposition and an Exposure.

[27] See Egil Asprem, 'A Nice Arrangement of Heterodoxies'.

[28] Major studies of the occult (and the relation to psychical research) in this period include R. Laurence Moore, In Search of White Crows; James Webb, The Occult Establishment; Jenny Hazelgrove, Spiritualism and British Society between the Wars; Olav Hammer, Claiming Knowledge; Alex Owen, The Place of Enchantment.

[29] Sceptics, on their part, would refer to combinations of fraud, hallucinations and psychopathology. For a representative view of the conflict as it appeared in 1927, see Carl Murchison, ed., The Case for and against Psychical Belief.

[30] But cf. Wouter J. Hanegraaff, 'How Magic Survived the Disenchantment of the World'. Hanegraaff argues that, in the modern world, magic itself became 'disenchanted' in important respects. For criticisms and a call for a more nuanced perspective, see Christopher Partridge, The Re-Enchantment of the West, Vol. 1, 40-41; Asprem, 'Magic Naturalized?'; Asprem, Enochiana, esp. Ch. 4.

[31] For a discussion of these overlaps in the German context, see Heather Wolffram, 'Supernormal Biology'; Wolffram, Stepchildren of Science, 191-232.

[32] E.g. McDougall, Body and Mind.

[33] Cf. Asprem, 'A Nice Arrangement of Heterodoxies', 137. Driesch connected McDougall's psychology to neovitalism in the second edition of his historical overview of vitalism in 1922: Driesch, Geschichte des Vitalismus, 207.

[34] See especially McDougall, Body and Mind, 347-354.

[35] McDougall, Body and Mind, 349. The cross-correspondence sittings were documented in a series of installments in the Proceedings of the SPR from 1907 onwards. A summary was published in Herbert Francis Saltmarsh, Evidence of Personal Survival from Cross Correspondences.

[36]For historical overviews, see Stanley L. Jaki, Lord Gifford and His Lectures; Larry Witham, The Measure of God. For the wider context, see Peter J. Bowler, Reconciling Science and Religion.

[37] Lord Gifford's will, dated 21 August 1885, has been made available on the Gifford Lectures' website: (accessed 10 March, 2011).

[38] Gifford, 'Lord Adam Gifford's Will', unpaginated.

[39] For this latter development, see especially Hanegraaff, New Age Religion and Western Culture, 62-76, 113-181. Cf. Hammer, Claiming Knowledge, 201-302.

[40] Sixty years later Whitehead's thinking would become one of the major influences on semi-academic attempts to 're-enchant science'. See David Ray Griffin (ed.), The Reenchantment of Science.

[41] See for example the affinities with Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's ideas on the emergence of consciousness and the 'noosphere', and the final teleological end-point of evolution in the convergence between mankind and the 'Omega Point', in, e.g., The Phenomenon of Man. These emergentist and 'process' focused speculations have later had a quite tremendous influence on contemporary esoteric spokespersons.

[42] See Hanegraaff, New Age Religion and Western Culture, 158-168, 462-481.

[43] Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World, 350.

[44] In addition to Eddington, both Niels Bohr (1948-1950) and Werner Heisenberg (1955-1956) would later travel to Scotland to give lectures in 'natural theology'.


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