Schelling received lots of attention for his exceptional talents as a philosopher, publishing his first essay at 20 years old. At one point he was roommates with Hegel. You could say Schelling was the hare, and Hegel was the tortoise. Schelling’s ideas evolved radically throughout his career, and his popularity wavered throughout his life. Although he wasn’t nearly as popular towards the end of his life, there was a lecture series scholars believe both Kierkegaard and Engels attended.
He started as a pure German Idealist, but over time developed “Objective Idealism,” the idea that we can not only describe the world phenomenologically (subjectively, like Fichte), but we can also describe the world in reverse, as the “dogmatists” do, starting from the world of objects, I think. I don’t really get it myself.
This text was probably somewhere in between, when he was 34 years old. From my limited research, it sounds like Schelling believed objects were not the ground of being. God was. Imagine if, instead of evil computers, God was behind the Matrix. In fact, as I understand it, he believed we are all selves in the imagination of God.
The free will vs. determinism debate was central to the German Idealists, most of them leaning heavily towards the belief that, because our self is more real than the world of objects, free will is possible. Schelling preferred determinism, but retained free will by hypothesizing that in an “original act” each of us freely chose outside of space and time (the Matrix). The world of objects and human history are all a consequence of our original acts.
The strongest argument for this hypothesis is that everyone has a fairly stable character. The choices one makes in space and time are a reflection of their original act, which is to say, of who they decided to be.
You may be asking yourself, if the Matrix is all in the mind of God, why does sin exist? How come there is evil in the world? I’m only guessing when I answer that question, but from what I can tell, it goes back to freedom. God wants his creation to choose Him out of their own free will. A clarification of the definition of sin provides insight into this. Schelling appears to believe sin is the absence of God, which is to say “non-being.” He also appears to say what is true and rational is what is, that which has being. And if we look at Kant’s ethics, right action is rational (when performed out of duty, rather than emotions).
A person does have the possibility of a changed character by choosing to accept the truth of God. It is a gift from God in which He helps one act in accordance with the truth. One becomes truly holy when one becomes transformed by God, and acts rationally, without hesitation or emotion.