Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

Lectures on the philosophy of religion, together with a work on the proofs of the existence of God online

. (page 10 of 31)
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this cycle which returns into itself.

In this mode of representing the truth it is the symbol
which is the dominant factor. We have an independent
inner element which has an external mode of existence,
and these two are distinct from one another. It is the inner
element, the subject, which is free here, which has be-
come independent, in order that that inner element may
be the substance of what is external, and may not be in
contradiction with it, may not be a dualism, but be the
signification, the independently self-existing idea, in con-
trast to the sensuous mode of existence in which last it
constitutes the central point.

The representation of subjectivity in this definite
shape as the central point is closely connected with the
impulse to give the idea visible form. The idea as such
must express itself, and it is man who must bring this
meaning out of himself and give it a visible form. The
immediate has already vanished if it is supposed to
appear under the conditions of sense-perception or in
some particular mode of immediacy, and the general
idea is under the necessity of giving itself completeness
in this way. If the general idea thus integrates itself,
this immediacy must be of a mediated character, a pro-
duction of man.

Formerly we had visibility, immediacy in a natural
unmediated mode, where Brahma has his existence, the
mode of his immediacy in thought, in the immersion
or sinking down of man into himself. Such was the
case too where the Good is light, and therefore in the
form of an immediacy which exists in an immediate

Since here, however, the starting-point is ordinary
thought or idea, this must give itself to a definite sen-
suous form, and must bring itself to immediacy. It is,
however, a mediated immediacy, because it is an im-
mediacy posited by man. It is the inner element which


is to be brought to immediacy : the Nile, the course of
the year, are immediate existences, but they are symbols
only of the inner element.

Their history, as natural, is gathered up and comprised
within idea, this unification, this course appearing as one
subject, and the subject itself is intrinsically the return-
ing movement already spoken of. 1'his cycle is the
subject, which idea is, and which as the subject is to
make itself perceptible by sense.

(c.) Worship or cultus.

The impulse just described may be regarded as re-
presenting in general the cultus of the Egyptians, this
endless impulse to work, to describe or represent out-
wardly what is as yet only inward, contained in idea, and
for this reason has not become clear to the mind. The
Egyptians worked on for thousands of years. Pirst of
all they put their soil into order ; but the work which
has relation to religion is the most amazing that has
ever been accomplished, whether upon the earth or
under it. Think of the works of art still in existence,
but in the form of parched and arid ruins, which, how-
ever, on account of their beauty and the toil which their
construction represents, have been a source of astonish-
ment to all the world.

It has been the task, the deed of this people to pro-
duce these works ; there was no pause in this production ;
we see the spirit labouring ceaselessly to render its idea
visible to itself, to bring into clearness, into conscious-
ness, what it inwardly is. This restless industry of an
entire people is directly based upon the definite character
which the god has in this religion.

Eirst of all we may recall how, in Osiris, spiritual
moments too are revered, such as justice, morality, the
institution of marriage, art, and so forth. Osiris is,
however, in a special sense the lord of the realm of the
dead, judge of the dead. A countless number of pictures
or representations are to be found in which Osiris is


delineated as judge, while before him is a scribe, who is
reckoning up for him the deeds of the soul brought into
his presence. This realm of the dead, that of Amenthes,
constitutes a principal feature in the religious conceptions
of the Egyptians. As Osiris, the life-giving, was opposed
to Typhon, the annihilating principle, and was the sun
of the earth, so the antithesis of the living and the dead
makes its first appearance here. The realm of the dead
is just as fixed a conception as the realm of the living.
The realm of the dead discloses itself when natural
Being is overcome ; it is just there that what has no
longer natural existence persists.

The enormous works of the Egyptians which still
remain to us are almost entirely those only which were
destined for the dead. The celebrated labyrinth had as
many chambers above as beneath the ground. The
palaces of the kings and priests have been transformed
into heaps of rubbish, while their tombs have bid defiance
to time. Deep grottos extending several miles in length
are to be found hewn in the rock for the mummies, and
all the walls are covered with hieroglyphics. But the ob-
jects which excite the greatest admiration are the pyramid-
temples for the dead, not so much in memory of them,
as in order to serve them as burial-places and as dwell-
ings. Herodotus says that the Egyptians were the first
who taught that souls are immortal. It may occasion
surprise that, although the Egyptians believed in the im-
mortality of the soul, they yet devoted so much care to
their dead : one might think that man, if he holds the
soul to be immortal, would no longer have special respect
for his body. But, on the contrary, it is precisely those
peoples who do not believe in an immortality who hold
the body in slight esteem after its death, and do not
provide for its preservation. The honour which is
shown to the dead is wholly dependent upon the idea of
immortality. If the body falls into the power of the
forces of nature, which are no longer restrained by the


soul, yet still man does not wish, at least that nature,
as such, should be that which exerts its power and
physical necessity over the exanimated body, that noble
casket of the soul. Man's desire is, on the contrary,
that he himself should exert this power over it. Men
accordingly endeavour to protect it against nature as
such, or give it themselves, by their own free will, as it
were, back to the earth, or else annihilate it by means
of fire. In the Egyptian mode of honouring the dead
and preserving the body, there is no mistaking the fact
that man knew himself to be exalted above the power of
nature, and therefore sought to maintain his body against
this power, in order to exalt it above it too. The me-
thods followed by peoples in their treatment of the dead
stands in the closest connection with the religious prin-
ciple, and the difleient customs which are usual at burial
are not without bearings of very great importance.

In order then to understand the peculiar position of
Art at this stage, we have to recollect that subjectivity
does, as a matter of fact, begin to appear here, but as
yet only so far as its basis is concerned, and that its
conception or idea still passes over into that of substan-
tiality. Consequently the essential differences have not
yet mediated and spiritually permeated each other ; on
the contrary, they are as yet mixed together. Several
noteworthy features may be specified which elucidate
this intermixture and combination of what is present
and of living things with the Idea of the Divine, so that
either the Divine is made into something present, or on
the other hand into something human ; and in fact here
even animal forms become divine and spiritual moments
Herodotus quotes the Egyptian myth that the Egyptians
had been ruled by a succession of kings who were gods.
In this there is already the mixing together of the ideas
that the god is known as king, and again the king as
god. Further, we see in the countless number of the
representations of art which portray tlie consecration of


kings, that the god appears as the conseerator and the
king as the son of this god ; then the king himself too
is found represented as Ammon. It is related of Alex-
ander the Great that the oracle of Jupiter Ammon de-
clared him to be the son of that god. This is quite in
accordance with the Egyptian character, for the Egyptians
said the very same of their kings. The priests were
esteemed at one time as the priests of the gods, and then
as God himself also. Many monuments and inscriptions
remain even from later times, where the Ptolemaic king
is always and only called the son of god, or God him-
self. The same thing happened in the case of the Eoman

Astonishing certainly, yet considering the mixture of
the conception of substantiality with that of subjectivity,
no longer inexplicable, is that Zoolatry the practice of
which was carried out by the Egyptians in the most rigid
manner. In various districts of Egypt special animals
were worshipped, such as cats, dogs, monkeys, and so
forth ; and this worship was even the occasion of wars
between the various districts. The life of such animals
was held absolutely sacred, and to kill them was to incur
severe punishment. Further, dwelling-places and estates
were granted to these animals, and provisions laid up for
them : indeed, it even happened in a time of famine that
human beings were permitted to die rather than that
those stores should be invaded. The apis was most of
all held in reverence ; for it was believed that this bull
represented the soul of Osiris. In the cofBns in some of
the pyramids, apis bones were found carefully preserved.
Every form of this religion and every shape taken by it
is mingled with zoolatry. This worship of animals is un-
doubtedly connected with what is most offensive and
hateful. But it has been already shown in connection
with the religion of the Hindus how man could arrive at
the stage in which he worships an animal. If God be
not known as Spirit, but rather as power in general, then


this power is unconscious activity — universal life, it may
be. This unconscious power then appears under an out-
ward form, and first of all in that of an animal. An
animal is itself something devoid of consciousness, it leads
a dull, still life within itself, as compared with human
caprice or free-will, so that it may appear as if it had
within itself this unconscious power which works in the

Especially peculiar and characteristic, however, are the
forms under which the priests or scribes so frequently
appear in plastic representations and paintings with
animal masks ; and the same is the case with the em-
balmers of mummies. This duplicate form, — an external
mask concealing another form underneath it, — intimates
that the consciousness is not merely sunken in dull,
animal life, but also knows itself to be separated from
it, and recognises in it a further signification.

In the political state of Egypt, too, we find the struggle
of Spirit seeking to extricate itself from imniediateness.
Thus history frequently mentions the conflicts of the
kings with the priestly caste, and Herodotus speaks of
these even from the earliest times. King Cheops caused
the temple of the priests to be shut up, while other kings
reduced the priestly caste to complete subjection and
excluded them from all power.

This opposition is no longer Oriental ; we see here the
human free-will revolting against religion. This emero;-
ence from a state of dependence is a trait which it is
essential to take into account.

It is especially, however, in naive and highly pic-
torial representations in artistic forms that this strug-
gling on the part of Spirit and its emergence from Nature,
are expressed. It is only necessary to think of the
image of the Sphinx, for example. In Egyptian works
of art everything, indeed, is symbolical ; the significance
in them reaches even to the minutest details ; even the
number of pillars and of steps is not reckoned in accord-



ance with external suitability to ends, but means either
the months, or the feet that the Nile has to rise in order
to overflow the land, or something of a similar kind.
The Spirit of the Egyptian nation is, in fact, an enigma,
lu Greek works of art everything is clear, everything
is evident ; in Egyptian art a problem is everywhere
presented ; it is an external sign, by means of which
something which has not been yet openly expressed is

Even if, however, at this standpoint Spirit is still in
a state of fermentation, and still has the drawback of a
want of clearness, and if even the essential moments of
religious consciousness are in part mingled with one
another, and partly in this intermingling, or rather on
account of this intermingling, are in a state of mutual
strife, yet it is still free subjectivity which here takes
its rise, and thus it is precisely here that art too, more
correctly speaking fine art, must of necessity make its
appearance and is needful in religion. Art, it is true, is
imitation, but not that alone ; it may, notwithstanding,
arrest itself at that, but it is then neither fine art nor
does it represent a need belonging to religion. Only as
fine art does it pertain to the Notion of God. True art
is religious art, but ait is not a necessity where God
has still a natural form ; for example, that of the sun
or of a river. It is also not a necessity in so far as
the reality and visibility of God are expressed in the
outward shape of a man or of an animal, nor when the
mode of manifestation is light. It begins, it is true,
when, as in the case of Buddha, the actual human form
has dropped away, but still exists in imagination ; and
thus it has a commencement where there is imaginative
conception of the divine form, as, for example, in images
of Buddha ; in this case, however, the Divine is regarded
as at the same time still present in the teachers, his
followers. The human form in the aspect in which it
is the appearance of subjectivity, is only then necessary


when God is determined as subject. The need begins
to exist when the moment of Nature, of immediacy, is
overcome, in tlie conception of subjective self-determi-
nation or in the conception of freedom — that is to say,
at the standpoint which we have now reached. Inas-
much as the mode of definite Being is determined by
means of the inner element itself, the natural form is
no longer sufficient, nor is the imitation of it sufficient
either. All peoples, with the exception of the Jews
and Mahommedans, have images of their gods ; these,
however, do not belong to fine art, but are mere per-
sonifications of conceptions or ideas, signs of merely
conceived or imagined subjectivity, where this last
does not as yet exist as immanent determination of
the Essence itself. Figurate conception or idea has an
external form in religion, and from this what is known
as pertaining to the Divine Essence is to be essentially
distinguished. In the Hindu religion God has become
man ; it is in totality that Spirit is always present :
whether, however, the moments are looked upon as
belonging to the Essence or as not belonging to it, is
what makes all the difference.

It thus becomes a necessity to represent God by
means of fine art when the moment of naturalness is
overcome, when Spirit exists as free subjectivity, and its
manifestation, its appearance in its definite existence, is
determined by means of Spirit from within, and exhibits
the character of something which is a spiritual produc-
tion. Not until God Himself has the determination of
positing the differences under which He appears, out of
His own inner Being, not until then does art enter as
necessary for the form given to the god.

In connection with the introduction here of art, two
moments specially deserve attention : first, that God is
presented in art as something capable of being beheld
by sense; secondly, that as a work of art the god is
something produced by human hands. To our notions.


both of these represent modes which are inadequate to
the Idea of God • — so far, that is to say, as they are
supposed to be the sole mode ; for of course we are all
aware that God has been outwardly visible to sense,
though only as a transient moment. Art, too, is not
the ultimate mode of our worship. But for the stage
of that subjectivity which is not as yet spiritualised,
which is thus itself as yet immediate, existence which
is visible in an immediate way is both adequate and
necessary. Here this is the entirety of the mode of
manifestation of what God is for self-consciousness.

Thus art makes its appearance here, and this implies
that God is apprehended as spiritual subjectivity. It is
the nature of Spirit to produce itself, so that the mode
of definite existence is one created by the subject, an
estrangement or externalisation which is posited by the
act of the subject itself. That the subject posits itself,
manifests itself, determines itself, that the mode of
determinate Being or existence in a definite form is one
posited by Spirit, is implied when art is present.

Sensuous existence, in which God is visibly beheld,
is commensurate with His Notion ; it is not a sign, but
expresses in every point that it is produced from within,
that it corresponds with thought, with the inner Notion.
But it has the defect of being still a sensuously visible
mode, — that the mode in which the subject posits itself
is sensuous. This defect is the consequence of its being
as yet subjectivity in its first form, the primal free
Spirit; its determination is its first determination, and
thus its freedom is that of wliat is as yet natural,
immediate, primal determination ; that is to say, the
moment of Nature, of sense.

The other point is that the work of art is produced
by human beings. This, too, is inadequate to our Idea
of God. That is to say, infinite, truly spiritual subjec-
tivity, that which exists for itself as such, produces itself
by its own act, posits itself as Other, namely, as its out-


ward form or shape, and this last is posited by means of
subjectivity itself, and produced freely. But this its
assumption of form, which to begin with as the 1 = 1, is
as yet reflected into itself, must also have the determina-
tion of differentiation expressly in such a way that this
differentiation is merely determined by means of subjec-
tivity, or, in other words, that it merely appears in this
which is at first still something external. This first free-
dom further comes to have an additional element, namely,
that the outward embodiment produced by the subject is
taken back into subjectivity. What is First is thus the
creation of the world ; what is Second is the reconcilia-
tion, namely, that it reconciles itself in itself with the
true First. In the subjectivity which is before us at this
stage, this return is not as yet present, its mode of exist-
ence being as yet of an implicit character ; its existence
as subject is found outside of it in the form of Being-
for-other. The Idea is not as yet there ; for to it belongs
that the Other should of its own act reflect itself into the
primal unity. This second part of the process which
pertains to the divine Idea is not as yet posited here.
If we consider the determination as end or aim, then the
primal action of subjectivity regarded as an end is still a
limited end ; it has reference to this particular people,
this definite particular end, and if it is to become uni-
versal, a truly absolute end, the return is essential, and
the doing away with what is merely natural in respect
of the outward form is essential likewise. Thus, the
Idea is first present when this second part of the process
is added to the first, the part which annuls the natural
character, the limitation of the end, and it is owing to
this that it becomes for the first time an universal end.
Here Spirit as regards its manifestation is only the half
way of Spirit ; it is still one-sided finite Spirit, in other
words, subjective Spirit, subjective self-consciousness ; it
is the outward form of the god, the mode of his existence
for an " Other." The work of art is merely something


accomplished, posited by the finite spirit, by the subjec-
tive spirit, and for this reason the work of art must be
executed by man. This explains why it is necessary
that the manifestation of the gods by means of art is a
manifestation fashioned by human hands. In the religion
of absolute Spirit the outward form of God is not made
by the human spirit. God Himself is, in accordance
with the true Idea, self-consciousness which exists in
and for itself, Spirit. He produces Himself of His own
act, appears as Being for "Other;" He is, by His own
act, the Son ; in the assumption of a definite form as the
Son, the other part of the process is present, namely,
that God loves the Son, posits Himself as identical with
Him, yet also as distinct from Him. The assumption of
form makes its appearance in the aspect of determinate
Being as independent totality, but as a totality which is
retained within love ; here, for the first time, we have
Spirit in and for itself. The self-consciousness of the Son
regarding Himself is at the same time His knowledge
of the Father ; in the Father the Son has knowledge of
His own self, of Himself. At our present stage, on the
contrary, the determinate existence of God as God is
not existence posited by Himself, but by what is Other.
Here Spirit has stopped short half way. This defect of
art, namely, that the god is made or fashioned by man,
is also felt in those religions in which this is the highest
manifestation, and attempts are made to remedy the
defect, not, however, in an objective, but in a subjective
way. Images of the gods must be consecrated; alike
by the Negro and the Greek they are consecrated, that
is to say, the divine Spirit is put into them by a process
of conjuration. This results from the consciousness, the
feeling of defect ; but the mode of remedying it is one
which is not contained in the objects themselves, but
comes to them from without. Even among the Catholics
such consecration takes place ; of pictures, for example,
relics, and the like.


This explains' the necessity there is that art should
make its appearance here, and the moments indicated
are those from which it results that the god exists as
a work of art. Here, however, art is not yet free and
pure ; it is not as yet even in the process of transition
to fine art. In this perverted state it still presents itself
in such a way that outward forms which belong to im-
mediate nature, and which are not produced by Spirit,
such as the sun, animals, &c., do just as well as any
other for self-consciousness. The artistic form which
breaks forth out of an animal, the form of the Sphinx,
is more a mixture of artistic form and animal form.
Here a human countenance looks forth upon us from
the body of an animal ; subjectivity is as yet not clear
or manifest to itself. The artistic form is therefore not
as yet purely beautiful, but is more or less imitation and
distortion. The general character of this sphere is the
intermingling of subjectivity and substantiality.

The artistic activity of this whole people was not as
yet absolutely pure fine art, but rather the impulse towards
the fine art. Fine art contains this determination, namely,
that Spirit must have become in itself free — free from
passion, from tlie natural life in general, from a condition
of subjugation or thraldom produced by means of inner
and outer Nature ; it must feel the need to know itself as
free, and thus to exist as the object of its consciousness.

In so far as Spirit has not yet arrived at the stage of
thinking itself free, it must picture itself as free, must
have itself before itself as free Spirit in sensuous per-
ception. If it is thus to become an object for sensuous
perception in the mode of immediacy, which is a product,
this involves that its definite existence, its immediacy, is
wholly determined by means of Spirit, has entirely such
a character as implies that here it is a free spirit which
is described.

This, however, is precisely what we call the Beautiful,
in which all externality is absolutely significant and


characteristic, and determined by the inner element as
representing that which is free. We have here a natural

Online LibraryGeorg Wilhelm Friedrich HegelLectures on the philosophy of religion, together with a work on the proofs of the existence of God → online text (page 10 of 31)