Profile: Karl Jaspers

“He bent all his energies toward the development of a philosophy that would be independent of science but that would not become a substitute for religious beliefs.”

First off, I would like to welcome any new readers. I took a hiatus last month and this month to refresh my mind and do some studying. I started quite a few books, and am currently finishing some of them at the time of this writing. I have started several different articles as well, but I really want to finish up my look at existentialism.

If you have been following my posts on Trinity Press and Facebook, then you know that we are taking time to lay the groundwork for learning about the existentialist philosophy. To freshen your memory, we are doing this to demonstrate how this one philosophy has so influenced both secular society and the church world. The groundwork for this “take over” was laid back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, and has went on to change the very fabric of this nation and the world. I put forth a summary of what philosophy is. I then discussed existentialism in the following post and, after that, we looked at Jean Paul Sartre. I encourage you to read them if you have not, or go back and browse them again before you join me to look at Karl Jaspers.

So, without any further delay, let me introduce you to Mr. Jaspers. He was born in Germany in the year 1883 and lived until the year 1969. Like Sartre, Jaspers too saw a great many advances in technology and thought. I want to point out again that many of these world changing thinkers picked up their philosophies in Germany, and they in turn went on to influence men like John Dewey who founded our system of public education. I believe it is no coincidence that this happened, and if one looks at last day prophecies, Germany is not on the side of Christ. Many theologians translate “Gomer” to mean Germany, and that nation will be at the side of Anti-Christ. That is just an aside, take it for what you will, but I will be getting back to that later. Returning to Jaspers, he, like Sartre, was a very sickly child, and had more disabilities than Sartre. These would continue with him for the rest of his life.

Karl Jaspers

Personally, I find that the many people who have rejected Christianity, that I have encountered or have studied, have had a rough time of it. I am not giving them a pass, as there are many tales of Christians who have had similar experiences, but have come to Christ. No, I am only saying this because we as Christians can, and should, be appreciative of the grace, forgiveness, guidance, and strength afforded to us through Christ and the Holy Spirit. We should also have mercy and compassion for these men in women who are in this mental predicament, especially as we are trying to witness to them and discuss our beliefs.

Jaspers goes on though, after his hardships, to study law and medicine at university. He gets along quite well, but finds that he is smitten with psychology. Jaspers begins his own self-directed study and research in clinical psychology. He volunteers to work without pay so that he will be left alone to try out his own methods. This may seem a little odd, and possibly harmful to the patients he was treating, but we in this time should keep in mind that this was a totally new field. He also brought in and used the idea of phenomenology during his research and treatment. The short explanation is that it was a philosophical movement and deals with truth, experiences, and what is real and what is not. I am not going to get into this here, as time will not allow, but if you are interested in this you can find plenty of information on phenomenology in any number of encyclopedias.

Jaspers continued to gain in reputation due to his work in the field. He moved up several positions in the University of Heidelberg and became an assistant professor in psychology and philosophy. Jaspers path would take him on a journey down the road to philosophy. Like most philosophers of the past, Jaspers first looked at a unified field of thought that would account for the upper and lower stories (see Francis Schaeffer) being able to be merged in a cohesive manner. He soon found that this would not work, so he looked at a philosophy that would be a “rationale.”

Here is what the Encyclopedia Britannica has to say:

“He bent all his energies toward the development of a philosophy that would be independent of science but that would not become a substitute for religious beliefs. Though the resulting system presupposed science, it passed beyond the boundaries of science in an effort to illuminate the totality of man’s existence. For Jaspers man’s existence meant not mere being-in-the-world but rather man’s freedom of being. The idea of being oneself signified for Jaspers the potentiality to realize one’s freedom of being in the world. Thus, the task of philosophy was to appeal to the freedom of the individual as the subject who thinks and exists and to focus on man’s existence as the centre of all reality.” ~ (

Again, I ask, what words grab your attention? Is it the words existence, freedom, and the idea of “man’s existence as the centre of all reality?” If you can think back to my earlier articles, then this should sound familiar. The lie told by Satan in the garden was that man needed freedom and would be like God if they would listen to him. God is the centre of all reality, not man. Man, was always to be bound to God and not free of Him. You can see how this can appeal to nonbelievers and those that have had some tragedy that has happened that causes them to turn their backs on their creator. As the Bible says:

“There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” ~ Proverbs 14:12

The devil was wrong. This line of thinking can be proven wrong by looking at the graveyards all over the world. Man did not become like God. Oh we have the capacity to know right and wrong, but choosing that right path all the time is not something we will do. We also did not get the immortality that goes along with being God. It was a lie, just like this man’s philosophy.

Time Marches On

Jaspers continued his work up through World War 2. He stood up for decency and did not give in to the National Socialists as some of the other philosophers did. This was the party that would usher in Adolf Hitler. His wife was Jewish, and he decided to remain with her. They both survived the war, but Karl was changed by this experience. He helped to rebuild the nation of Germany, but in the end this proved to be disappointing to him. Jaspers decided that the world needed a philosophy to unite all of mankind. You can tell when reading about Jaspers that he knew there had to be more.

The Final Experience

Jaspers, in his work, came up with the idea of a “final experience.” Francis Schaeffer discusses it in several of his works, but it is an idea that gives hope to non-rational man. Jaspers did not believe in God, but he did believe that you would have an experience that was so mind-blowingly awesome that it would give you some sense of hope that there is a meaning to life. Again, we find a non-rational leap of faith and, unfortunately, you will find this in the thinking of the Christian existentialists. Since there is no rationality to this experience it could happen at any time and any place. According to Jaspers, man is ultimately left with no faith, no God, and no real hope of any meaning to life.

How does this tie into this series?

I think we can see that a great many non-religious and some religious people think this way; whether they are conscious of it is another matter. People live their lives going through motions, trying to be “good” and trying to attend church in the hopes that if there is something else out there that they will be good enough to make it. Some will have these “final experiences” and be changed by them, maybe for the better. However, if there is one thing that I have been taught by God’s word and several great Christian pastors and teachers (namely, Dr. Gene Scott), it is that this walk with Christ is all about GRACE and NOT WORKS. And it is also about having faith, real faith that the Bible is 100% true and accurate. If it is true and accurate then you can hang your life on it and trust what it says. John 3:16-17 sums it up better than I can.

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

Those words declare war on this philosophy. God is in control. He is the one that is at the center of everything. If you have chosen Jesus Christ as your lord and savior, then you are no longer your own. Your freedom was in your choice. We Christians are bought and paid for by Him. He died on the cross and shed His blood so He could purchase you and me and all those that will believe in Him. Unlike man, God will keep His word and do right by His children and those that reject Him. God will keep His word and promise. You can trust Him.

If you do not know Christ yet, then I encourage you to pick up a Bible and start reading. Find a good bible based church and start studying. Message us, and I can share with you my sources. You don’t have to be a Christian to start seeking God.

To Christians, keep your ears open as well as your hearts. Have conversations with those struggling to find the answers that you already possess. Be patient, empathetic, and kind. We all were in the places that those looking for the light are at.

Grace & Peace to All,

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