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Catalyst for Controversy

Paul Carus of Open Court

Harold Henderson

Publication Year: 2009

"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 Carus’s 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 can’t wait to write it down, there the spirit of Paul Carus remains, as he would have wished, active in the world."

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press


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pp. c-i


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p. ii-ii

Book Title

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p. iii-iii

Copyright Page

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p. iv-iv


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p. v-v


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p. vi-vi


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pp. vii-x

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pp. 1-3

Between 1880 and 1920 Paul Carus wrote 74 books and nearly 1,500 articles on philosophy, religion, history, literature, politics, poetry, mathematics, and more (McCoy 1987, 76-111, 364-66; Sheridan 1957, 164-228).1 He oversaw the publication of 113 issues of The Monist and 732 issues of The Open Court....

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1. Paul Carus's Early Life

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pp. 4-11

Paul Carus was born 18 July 1852 to Gustav and Laura Krueger Carus-"descending from a family of distinguished scholars," according to Julius Goebel (1919, 513). At the time Gustav Carus was thirty-three years old and pastor of the Lutheran church at Ilsenburg am Harz; he rose steadily in the...

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2. The Philosophy of Monism and Meliorism

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pp. 12-20

"Thought for its own sake is a disease," wrote Paul Carns (1891b, 361). "Thought should always end in the regulation or adjustment of our behavior toward our surroundings. If it does not, it is not the right kind of thought." As he told Edwin N. Lewis (5 Oct. 1897), editor of the...

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3. Open Court's First Year

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pp. 21-44

The beginnings of the Open Court Publishing Company lie, oddly enough, in zinc. The company's existence, location, endowment, and even to some extent its character-all derive from the nineteenth-century exigencies of processing zinc ore into a usable product....

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4. The Religion of Science

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pp. 45-63

Paul Carus had always wanted to be a missionary, and now he had found his pulpit-a somewhat different one than his parents had planned for him. His original intention had dissolved, as we have seen:...

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5. The World's Parliament of Religions

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pp. 64-80

"The Parliament of Religions, which sat in Chicago from September 11 to September 27,1893, was a great surprise to the world," wrote Paul Carus (1916,1) shortly after its adjournment.! Carus himself was not taken by surprise: since the middle of July he had been scheduled to read a thirty-minute...


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pp. 81-88

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6. Looking Toward the East

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pp. 89-117

Of all the ways in which Paul Carus sought to promote the religion of science, by far the most consequential was Open Court's patronage of Oriental religion and philosophy, especially Buddhism. Carl Jackson, author of The Oriental Religions and American Thought: Nineteenth-Century Explorations (1981),...

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7. Mach

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pp. 118-124

Paul Carus and Edward C. Hegeler agreed on more than the abstract doctrines of monism. In his first letter to Hegeler in January 1887 Carus proposed that he conduct a section of The Open Court to be called "Transatlantic Review," containing summaries of recent European publications, inventions,...

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8. Peirce

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pp. 125-141

Paul Carus had a way of taking up with incongruous people. His friend W. E. Leonard wrote, "In turning over the pages of The Monist, The Open Court, or his numerous books, besides vigorous correspondence with such distinguished and ill-assorted friends as Ernst Haeckel, Tolstoy, and Pere Hyacinthe,...

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9. Carus's Later Philosophy

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pp. 142-152

"There must be a reason fo'r the reliability of knowledge," Carus wrote in The Philosophy of Form (1911b, 1), the most concise and systematic statement of his views. "The aim of all my writings centers in the endeavor to build up a sound and tenable philosophy, one that would be as objective as any...

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10. The Great War

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pp. 153-174

Much of the same logic that led Carus to reject hedonism also led him to reject pacifism. "There are good,s in this world which are higher than human lives," he wrote in reaction to the second National Peace Congress, held in Chicago in May 1909. "There are super-individual interests, there are ideals dearer...


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pp. 175-184


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pp. 185-198


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pp. 199-205

Back Cover

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p. bc-bc

E-ISBN-13: 9780809386420
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809329045

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2009