Catalyst for Controversy: Paul Carus of Open Court
- Publish Date: 1993-04-01
- Binding: Hardcover
- Author: Harold Henderson
I am not a common atheist; I am an atheist who loves God. Paul Carus, The God of Science, 1904
In the summer of 1880, while teaching at the military academy of the Royal Corps of Cadets of Saxony in Dresden, Paul Carus published a brief pamphlet denying the literal truth of scripture and describing the Bible as a great literary work comparable to the Odyssey.
This unremarkable document was Caruss first step in a wide-ranging intellectual voyage in which he traversed philosophy, science, religion, mathematics, history, music, literature, and social and political issues. The Royal Corps, Carus later reported, found his published views not in harmony with the Christian spirit, in accordance with which the training and education of the Corps of Cadets should be conducted. And so the corps offered the young teacher the choice of asking most humbly for forgiveness for daring to have an opinion of my own and to express it, perhaps even promise to publish nothing more on religious matters, or to give up my post. I chose the latter. . . . There was thus no other choice for me but to emigrate and, trusting in my own powers, to establish for myself a new home. His resignation was effective on Easter Sunday, 1881.
Carus toured the Rhine, lived briefly in Belgium, and taught in a military college in England to learn English well enough to thrive in the United States. By late 1884 or early 1885 he was on his way to the New World. Thriving in the United States proved more difficult than it had in England, but before 1885 ended he had published his first philosophical work in English, Monism and Meliorism. The book was not widely read, but it did reach Edward C. Hegeler, a La Salle, Illinois, zinc processor who became his father-in-law as well as his ideological and financial backer.
Established in La Salle, Carus began the work that would place him among the prominent American philosophers of his day and make the Open Court Publishing Company a leading publisher of philosophical, scientific, and religious books. He edited The Open Court and The Monist, offering the finest view of Oriental thought and religion then available in the West, and sought unsuccessfully to bring about a second World Parliament of Religions. He befriended physicist-philosopher Ernst Mach. For eleven years he employed D. T. Suzuki, who later became a great Zen Buddhist teacher. He published more articles by Charles S. Peirce, now viewed as one of the great world philosophers, in The Monist than appeared in any other publication.
Biographer Harold Henderson concludes his study of this remarkable man: Whenever anyone is so fired with an idea that he or she cant wait to write it down, there the spirit of Paul Carus remains, as he would have wished, active in the world.