We have no need to follow Fichte farther. Suffice it to say, with reference to the theory of knowledge, that he had discovered that one could not stand still with Kant. One must either go back toward the position of the old empiricism which assumed the reality of the world exactly as it appeared, or else one must go forward to an idealism more thorough-going than Kant had planned. Of the two paths which, with all the vast advance of the natural sciences, the thought of the nineteenth century might traverse, that of the denial of everything except the mechanism of nature, and that of the assertion that nature is but the organ of spirit and is instinct with reason, Fichte chose the latter and blazed out the path along which all the idealists have followed him. In reference to the philosophy of religion, we must say that, with all the extravagance, the pantheism and mysticism of his phrases, Fichte’s great contribution was his breaking down of the old dualism between God and man which was still fundamental to Kant. It was his assertion of the unity of man and God and of the life of God in man. This thought has been appropriated in all of modern theology.
It was the meagreness of Fichte’s treatment of nature which impelled Schelling to what he called his outbreak into reality. Nature will not be dismissed, as simply that which is not I. You cannot say that nature is only the sphere of my self-realisation. Individuals are in their way the children of nature. They are this in respect of their souls as much as of their bodies. Nature was before they were. Nature is, moreover, not alien to intelligence. On the contrary, it is a treasure-house of intelligible forms which demand to be treated as such. It appeared to Schelling, therefore, a truer idealism to work out an intelligible system of nature, exhibiting its essential oneness with personality.