Johann Valentin Andreae Introduction - Essay


Johann Valentin Andreae 1586–1654

German prose writer, poet, theologian.

An influential Lutheran theologian, a prolific writer, and a champion of the practical application of Christian principles, Johann Valentin Andreae best expressed his passion for educational and social reform in his utopian work Christianopolis (1619). Although influenced by Tommaso Campanella's City of the Sun (1602) and Sir Thomas More's Utopia (1516), Andreae's utopian vision is unique in its synthesis of science and Christian ideals as elements of social order. The emphasis in Christianopolis on the creation of an enlightened system of learning reflected Andreae's concern about the oppressive educational practices of his time, and the presentation of a city structure geared towards the orderly production of food and goods presaged modern urban planning techniques. Because the work was not translated from the Latin original until the eighteenth century, Christianopolis received less recognition than the works of More and Campanella. Christianopolis, however, was widely read by Andreae's intellectual contemporaries and is believed to have influenced Sir Francis Bacon's New Atlantis (1627). Modern scholars praise Andreae's prose style and consider the Christianopolis to be a vivid example of seventeenth century utopian philosophy.

Biographical Information

Born 17 August 1586, Andreae was descended from a tradition of influential theologians. His grandfather, Jakob Andreae, was instrumental in forming a strong Lutheran unity based on Reformation orthodox principles rather than sectarianism, and his father, Johannes Andreae, served as a pastor in the Lutheran church. Influenced by their orthodox values, Andreae would later use Lutheran principles as the basis of his ideal state in Christianopolis. His father's involvement in alchemy and his mother's knowledge of pharmaceuticals contributed to Andreae's fascination with alchemy and pharmacology. Upon her husband's death in 1601, Maria Andreae sought employment to support her seven children, and her distinguished work in pharmaceuticals led to a post as court apothecary. Determined to educate her sons in the tradition of Reformation Lutheran theology, she moved the family to Tubingën

where Johann Valentin attended university. He received an extensive classical education in literature, science, and mathematics, earning a baccalaureate in 1603 and a master of arts in 1605. Late in his universtiy career Andreae wrote his first creative works, the comedies "Hyacinthus" (1605) and "Esther" (1605). Although not published until 1616, Andreae's prose piece Chymische Hochzeit Christiani Rosencreuz anno 1459 (The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz in the year 1459) was also written in his final year of school. Upon graduation he travelled extensively in Germany and Europe between tutoring assignments for the nobility. Particularly impressed with the strict Calvinist discipline and social order in Geneva, Andreae wrote: "While I was at Geneva, I noted something of a great moment which I will remember with nostalgia till the end of my days. Not only does this city enjoy a truly free political constitution; it has besides, as its particular ornament and means of discipline, the guidance of social life." Andreae particularly admired the moral supervision of the citizenry by the government, which he believed was the cornerstone for the apparently high level of social order in the city. Eventually Geneva would serve as a model for the vision of moral societal order expressed in the Christianopolis. Andreae returned to Tubingën to continue his religious studies, and in 1614 he became a deacon and began to develop friendships with leading intellectuals, several of whom were then circulating Campanella's ideas. The years 1614 through 1620 were the most prolific of Andreae's literary career. All of his important works were published during this time, including Chymische Hochzeit, the satirical play Turbo (1616), Christiano polis, and a volume of original poetry and translations entitled Geistliche Kurtzweil (1619). These works, along with several theological treatises, expressed Andreae's philosophical views on ideal societies, Christian principles, active good works, and the practice of alchemy as applied to evangelical truths. Andreae also published a series of pamphlets which, along with Chymische Hochzeit, are considered by some to have been the founding tracts for the Rosicrucian movement, although Andreae's role as the founder of the sect is disputed by modern scholars. In 1620 Andreae moved to Calw to take a position as chief pastor, a post he held for nineteen years. While at Calw, he practiced his philosophy of social and educational reform while speaking out against the suffering associated with the Thirty Year's War. Although he continued to publish during his years at Calw, including the philosophical work Thephilus (written 1623, published 1649), his output declined due to the increasing burden of his ministerial duties and harsh wartime conditions. In 1634 Bavarian and Croatian troops destroyed Calw, including Andreae's personal library of 3,000 volumes. This calamity effectively halted Andreae's literary pursuits for several years. He served in several influential posts for the rest of his career, including court chaplain in Wurttemberg and abbot of Bebenhausen. Although he continued to write, his energies during these later years were devoted to ministerial duties and the personal fulfillment of his views concerning the importance of an active Christian life. Andreae died 27 June 1654 in retirement at Stuttgart, leaving a legacy of generosity and public work that would influence the course of church history in Wurttemberg for the next two hundred years.

Major Works

Andreae's major works illustrate the application of Christian values—most importantly love and generosity—as predominant elements of order in a society. In his play Turbo, Andreae's protagonist becomes disillusioned with sterile, secular philosophies and turns instead to the teachings of Christ for guidance. Like many of his contemporaries, Andreae strongly believed in the promise of scientific inquiry and its benefits to society, and in Turbo, the propagators of "false science," particularly the alchemists, are criticized. The marriage of science and Christian virtue was further explored in the Chymische Hochzeit, published anonymously that same year. Full of Christian Resurrection symbolism, the Chymische Hochzeit satirizes the practice of alchemy. In his best known work, the Christianopolis, Andreae turned from satire to the creation of a utopia that embodied his moral philosophies. Based on the strict Christian moral structure Andreae witnessed in Geneva, the citizens of Christianopolis are ruled by spiritual authority. The protagonist, Cosmoxenus Christianus, is introduced to all facets of a society in which spiritual fulfillment and intellectual activity constitute the primary goals of each individual. Scientific pursuits are the highest intellectual calling and are linked to the achievement of spiritual perfection, although intellectual activity is never separated from physical labor: scientists are also artisans, a union that reflects Andreae's belief in the practical application of learning and discovery. Educational reform objectives are outlined, with educators culled from the leading intellectuals of society and teachers and students conducting their studies in pleasant surroundings. Andreae presents the structure of his city as a series of regions devoted to different means of production, a delineation that prompted the urban planner Lewis Mumford to comment: "The separation of the city into zones, the distinction between heavy industries and light industries, the grouping of similar industrial establishments, the provision of an agricultural zone adjacent to the city—in all this our garden cities are but belated reproductions of Christianopolis …." While many elements of Andreae's utopia share similarities with the utopian constructions of Campanella and More, Andreae's work is unique among utopian fiction in its emphasis on strict Christian morality and the spiritual transformation of the protagonist, who enters Christianopolis corrupted by worldly concerns and is converted to Christian idealism by the work's end. Critics have noted that the active engagement and epiphany of the main character in the work reflects Andreae's belief in the necessity of tangible action toward the achievement of social enlightenment.

Critical Reception

Modern scholars lament the circumstances which led to the Christianopolis' relative obscurity in the canon of utopian literature. Although widely read among intellectuals in Andreae's time, the work was not translated until the eighteenth century, well after More and Campanella became recognized as the leading utopian philosophers. Critics praise the concreteness of Andreae's utopian vision, a clarity often lacking in his contemporaries' work, and have commented on the realism that pervades the work despite its obvious allegorical conceits—a realism grounded in Andreae's practical experiences with social reform. Andreae's vivid writing style is also cited by scholars as both entertaining and concise in comparison to other Utopian writers of his time. Marie Louise Berneri has perceived Christianopolis as a precursor to the nineteenth century reformist utopias, pointing to the work's utilitarian language and orderly presentation of details, which contrasts with the "unreal dreams of More and Campanella." As an expression of contemporary seventeenth century intellectual thought and the exploration of spiritual fulfillment and societal goals, the Christianopolis is considered a vital and much neglected contribution to utopian literature.