Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

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

. (page 11 of 31)
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material which implies that the features in it are simply
tokens of the Spirit which is essentially free. The natural
moment must, in fact, be overcome, that it may serve for
the expression, the revelation of Spirit.

While the content in the Egyptian characteristic quality
is this subjectivity, the impulse present here toward fine
art is one which is worked out architecturally for the
most part, and has at the same time endeavoured to pass
over to beauty of form. Inasmuch, however, as it was
only impulse, beauty itself as such has not as yet actually
appeared here.

Such then is the source of this conflict between the
signification and the material of the external form in
general ; it is only the attempt, the effort, to stamp
the inward Spirit upon the outward embodiment. The
pyramid is an independent crystal, in which a dead man
dwells ; in the work of art, which is pressing forward
toward beauty, the inner soul is impressed upon the exter-
nality of the form employed.

What we have here is simply the impulse, because the
signification and actual representation, the mental idea and
the actual definite form of existence, are in fact opposed to
one another in this difference, and this difference exists
because subjectivity is, to begin with, merely universal,
abstract, and is not yet concrete, filled up subjectivity.

The Egyptian religion thus actually exists for us in
Egyptian works of art, since what these tell us is bound
up with what is historical, and which has been preserved
to us by ancient historians. In recent times especially,
the ruins of the land of Egypt have been explored in a
variety of ways, and the dumb language of the statues, as
also of the mysterious hieroglyphics, has been studied.

If we must recognise the superiority of a people which
has laid up its Spirit in works of language over one
which has only left dumb works of art behind it for


posterity, we must at the same time recollect that here
among the Egyptians no written documents are in exist-
ence, for the reason that Spirit had not as yet clarified
itself, as it were, but was struggling to clear itself of
alien elements, and this in an external way, as appears
in the works of art. At last, it is true, after prolonged
study, advance has been jnade in the deciphering of
hieroglyphics, but, on the one hand, there is still a part
of this work which is unaccomplished, and on the other
hand, they always remain hieroglyphics. Numerous rolls
of papyrii have been found beside the mummies, and it
was at first believed that a great treasure had been dis-
covered in these, and that we had come upon important
disclosures. These papyrii are, however, nothing else
than a species of archives, and contain for the most part
deeds of purchase regarding pieces of land, or have refer-
ence to objects which the person deceased had acquired.

It is, therefore, principally the extant works of art
whose language we have to decipher, and from which a
knowledge of this religion may be obtained.

Kow, if we contemplate these works of art, we find
that everything in them is wonderful and fantastic, but
always with a definite meaning, which was not the case
among the peoples of India. We thus have the immediate-
ness of externality here, and the meaning, the thought.
We have all these elements together in the tremendous
conflict of the inner with the outer ; there is a tremendous
impulse on the part of what is inner to work itself free,
and what is outer exhibits to us this struggle of Spirit.

The form is not as yet exalted into form that is free
and beautiful, not as yet spiritualised into clearness,
transparency ; the sensuous, the natural, is not as yet
so perfectly transfigured into the spiritual as to be merely
an expression of the spiritual, so that this organisation
and its features might be mere signs, merely the signi-
fication of the spiritual. To the Egyptian principle this
transparency of the natural, of the external element of


outward embodiment, is "wantin"; what remains is onlv
the task of becoming clear to self, and the spiritual con-
sciousness as being the inner element merely seeks to
struggle out of naturalness and be free.

The most important representation by which the essen-
tial nature of this struggle is made perfectly plain is
the statue of the goddess at Sais, who was represented
veiled. It is symbolised in that statue, and in the in-
scription in her temple, " I nm what was, is, and shall
be ; my veil has been lifted by no mortal," it is expressly
declared that Nature is something differentiated within
itself, namely, an Other in contrast to its outward ap-
pearance as that immediately presents itself, an enigma.
It has an inner element, something that is hidden.
" But," it is stated further in this inscription, " the fruit
of my body is Helios." This as yet hidden essence there-
fore expresses clearness, the sun, the becoming clear to
oneself, the spiritual sun in the form of the son who is
born of her. It is this clearness which is attained to in
the Greek and Jewish religion, in the former in art and
in the beautiful human form, in the latter in objective
thought. The enigma is solved ; the Egyptian Sphinx,
according to a deeply significant and admirable myth,
was slain by a Greek, and thus the enigma has been
solved. This means that the content is man, free, self-
knowing Spirit.



The Religion of Nature is the most difficult to get a
grasp of, because it lies farthest from our ordinary thought,
and is the crudest and most imperfect form of religion.
The natural element has such a variety of shapes within
itself, that in the form of naturalness and immediateness
the universal absolute content is broken up.



What is higher is also deeper ; in it the separate
moments are grasped together in the ideality of subjec-
tive unity ; the want of connection which characterises
immediacy is annulled, and the separate elements are
brought back into subjective unity. For this reason it is
necessary that what has the quality of naturalness should
manifest such a multiplicity of outward shapes, which
exhibit themselves as indifferent and mutually exclusive,
as independent and individual forms of existence.

The general characteristic is free subjectivity which
lias satisfied its impulse, its inner desire. It is free
subjectivity which has attained to dominion over the
finite generally, over the natural and finite elements of
consciousness, whether physical or spiritual, so that now
the subject, that is. Spirit as spiritual subject, becomes
known in its relation to the natural and the finite, while
the latter are in part merely subservient to Spirit, and in
part the garment of Spirit, and are present concretely iu
Spirit. Further, as outwardly representing Spirit, the
natural and finite merely serve as a manifestation and
glorification of Spirit. Spirit in this freedom, power,
reconciliation with itself, exists on its own account, free
and untrammelled in the natural ; the external, the finite,
is distinguished from these finite-natural and spiritual
elements, from what belongs to the region of empirical,
changeable consciousness, as well as to that of external

Such is the general fundamental characteristio of this
stage. Spirit being free, and the finite only an ideal mo-
ment in it, it is posited as inherently concrete, and inas-
much as we look upon Spirit and the freedom of Spirit
as concrete, what we have is rational Spirit ; the content
constitutes the rationality .of Spirit


This deterniinateness first referred to, looked at from
the point of view of its content, is in its formal aspect
this, namely, that the natural, the finite, are simply wit-
nesses to Spirit, are simply subservient to its manifesta-
tion. Here we have the religion within which rational
Spirit is the content.

The next step in advance, therefore, is that the free
form of subjectivity, the consciousness of the Divine,
comes into view in an unalloyed and independent form,
in the character of free subjectivity, so far as this can be
in the first form of spirituality which has become free.
That this last, however, is known exclusively for itself,
or, in other words, that the Divine is determined on its
own account as subjectivity, represents a purifying from
the natural, which has been already referred to in the
previous discussion. The subject is exclusive ; it is the
principle of infinite negativity, and since as regards its
content it is universal, it leaves nothing existing inde-
pendently beside it which is devoid of Spirit, or is merely
natural ; and in like manner nothing which is merely
substantial, essentially devoid of form. Subjectivity is
infinite Form ; and as such, it no more leaves to Form
which is not free, that is to say external naturalness, any
independent existence along side of it, than it does to
empty, pure, undetermined substantiality. The funda-
mental determination is that God becomes known as
freely determining Himself within Himself ; still formally,
it is true, but yet already freely within Himself. We
are able to recognise this emergence of free subjectivity
in religions and in the peoples to which such religions
belong, principally by observing whether among such
peoples universal laws, laws of freedom, justice, and
morality, constitute fundamental determinations and have
the predominance. God conceived of as subject is con-
ceived of as spontaneously determining himself, i.e., His
self-determinations are the laws of freedom ; they are
the determinations of self-determination, and are of sucli


a kind that their content belongs only to the form of free
self-determination, and with this is necessarily connected
the fact that freedom constitutes the content of the laws.
When we perceive this, the element of naturalness or
immediacy retires into the baclsground, and inherently
universal ends show themselves — ends which are in-
herently universal, although externally they may be
quite unimportant, or, so far as their range is concerned,
are not yet universal, just as a man who acts from
ethical motives may perform his actions within a sphere
extremely restricted, so far as its general content is con-
cerned, and yet be essentially moral. The brighter sun
of Spirit makes the natural light pale before it. Thus
we pass outside of the circle of the Eeligion of Nature.
We come to gods who are essentially founders of states
and marriage, founders of peaceful life, producers of art
which originates solely with them, gods who preside over
oracles and states, and who originate and protect law
and morality. The peoples who have reached that stage
in the development of self-consciousness in which sub-
jectivity is recognised to be the ideality of the natural,
have thereby crossed over into the sphere of ideality,
into the kingdom of the soul, and have come to the
region belonging to the realm of Spirit. They have torn
from their eyes the bandage of sensuous perception,
escaped from the trackless maze which is devoid of
thought, they have laid hold of thought, of the Intel-
lectual Sphere, and have made and secured for them-
selves the solid ground in what is inward. They have
laid the foundations of the sanctuary which in its very
nature is firm and stable.

The progress made up to this point has been as
follows : — We started from the natural desires as seen
in the religion of magic, from the authority and power
of these desires over Nature, gained simply by indi-
vidual will which is not determined by thought. The
second stage was occupied by the theoretical determi-


nation of the independence of objectivity, in which
accordingly all the moments were set free and released,
and reached the state of independence. In the third
stage was found the theoretical or self-determininj;
element, which took back into itself these moments
thus released, so that the practical element is thus made
theoretical, the Good self-determination, and, finally, the
blending of substantiality and subjectivity.

If we now ask,— How has the idea of God been
defined so far ? What is God ? What have we learned
about Him ? The answer is as follows : —

In accordance with the abstract form of the meta-
physical Notion we began thus : God is the unity of
the Infinite and the Finite, and our sole concern is to
find out how particularity and determinateness, i.e., the
fiuite, is incorporated with the infinite. What result
have we as regards this point so far reached ? God is
the infinite in general, what is identical with itself,
substantial power. When we start by saying this, it is
not implied that finitude is as yet posited as contained
in it, and it is, to begin with, the purely immediate exist-
ence of the infinite self-consciousness. From the fact
that God is just infinitude, substantial power, it follows,
and it is consciously implied in it, that the substantial
Power alone is the truth of finite things, and tliat their
truth consists only in this, that they return into the
substantial unity. God is thus, to begin with, the Power
referred to, a definition which, being purely abstract, is
extremely imperfect. The second position is that God
is the substantial Power in Himself, pure Being-for-self,
separate from the manifoldness of the finite. This is
substantiality which is reflected into itself, and this is
the essential conception of God. With this idea of sub-
stantiality which exists within itself and distinguishes
itself from the finite, we have reached higher ground,
but here the determination of the true relation of the
finite to the substantial Power, whereby the latter would


itself come to be the infinite, does not yet exist. This
inherently existing substantiality is accordingly Brahma,
and the independently existing finite is represented by
the many gods. The third position is that in which the
finite is posited as identical with substantiality, so that
its sphere is of similar extent to that of the latter, and
is pure universal form, as substantiality itself is. This
is God conceived of as The Good.

Spiritual subjectivity, the conception at which we
have now arrived, is the absolutely free power of self-
determination, so that this is nothing else than the
Notion, and has no content but the Notion ; and in this
self-determination there is nothing beyond the fact that
it contains itself. This self-determination, this content,
is accordingly as universal, as infinite, as the Power
itself. This universal Power, which now shows itself
active in the form of self-determination, we may call
Wisdom. In so far as we have to do with spiritual
subjectivity we have to do with self-determination, with
an end, and these are as universal as the Power, and are
thus wise ends. Determination in accordance with au
end is directly involved in the conception of free sub-
jectivity. Action which is in accordance with an end
is inner self-determination, i.e., it is determination by
means of freedom, by means of the subject, for there is
nothing within but just. the subject itself.

This self-determination maintains itself in external
existence, natural being has no longer any worth in its
immediacy, it belongs to the Power, is a transparent
medium for it, and has no value for itself. In so far as
it takes on an external form — and it must externalise
itself, subjectivity must give itself reality — it is simply
free self-determination which maintains itself in realising
itself, in external existence, in the natural spliere. In
the case of action wliich is in conformity with an end,
nothing comes out of it unless what is already there.
Immediate existence, on the other hand, is bereft of power,


as it were, is form only, is the mode only in which the
end is present in it, and it is the end which is the inner

We find ourselves here accordingly in the sphere of
the End, and action which is in conformity with an end
i>s wise action, since wisdom consists in acting according
to ends which hold good universally ; and no other con-
tent is actually present in it, for it is free subjectivity
which determines itself.

The general conception hei'e is that of subjectivity, of
power which works in accordance with ends, which is
active in fact. Subjectivity, speaking generally, consists
in being active, and the end must be a wise one, it must
be identical with what determines it, with the unlimited

I. What we have first to consider here is the relation
of the subject to Nature, to natural things, and more
particvilarly to what we previously called Substantiality,
the Power which has only potential being. This remains
something inward, but subjectivity is Power which has
independent actual being, and is different from Power
which has potential being and from its reality, namely,
Nature. This Power which has potential being. Nature,
is now degraded to the condition of something powerless,
something dependent relatively to the underived Power,
or, to put it more definitely, it is made a means. Natural
things are deprived of their own independent existence.
Hitherto they had a direct share in Substance, while now
they are in the subjective Power separated from substan-
tiality, distinguished from it, and aie regarded as only
negative. The unity of the subjective Power is outside
of them, is distinguished from them. They are only
means or modes which have no more value beyond serving
for manifestation ; they are the material of manifestation
and are subject to what manifests itself in them ; they
may no longer show themselves directly, but must reveal
a something higher in them, namely, free subjectivity.


2. But what is the more definite determination con-
nected with the idea of wisdom ? It is, to begin with,
undetermined so far as the end is concerned. We do
not as yet know of what it consists, what the ends of
this Power are, and do not go beyond the undefined
phrase, the wisdom of God. God is wise, but what are
His ways, His ends ? In order that we may be able to
say what they are, the ends must be already before us
in all their determinateness and definiteness, i.e., in their
development as a distinction of moments. So far we
have here only determination in accordance with ends
in general.

3. Since God is above all things real, we cannot, in
considering Him, stop short at this indeterminateness in
wisdom. The ends must be determined. God as subject
manifests Himself, acts, which means that He comes
forward into actual existence, into reality. At an earlier
stage the unity of infinitude and finitude was regarded
as simply immediate, and was thus the first and best of
finite things, sun, hill, river, &c., and the reality was of
an immediate kind. Here it is also necessary that God
be in a deflnite place, i.e., that His end be definite and

In reference to the reality of the end there are two
points which call for notice. The first is contained in
the question, What is the sphere in which this end can
be present ? The end, as being something inward, is
merely subjective, is only thought or idea. God, how-
ever, as subjective Power, is not simply will, intention,
&c., but rather immediate Cause. This sphere of the
realisation of the actual existence of the end is self-con-
sciousness or the finite spirit. End is determination in
general, and here we have determinations which are
merely abstract aijd not as yet developed. The finite
spirit is accordingly the sphere in which the divine end
shows itself. Since it is only now that we first reach
the thought of the determination of wisdom in general,



we have not any content, anything definite, whereby to
express what is wise. The end is potential, is yet un-
determined in the notion of God, and so we have to take
a second and further step, and show that the end must
become actual, must be realised. There must, therefore,
be determination in it, but the determination is not as
yet developed. The determination as such, the develop-
ment, has not as yet taken an actual form within the
Divine Essence, and for this reason the determination
is finite, external, an accidental or particular end. In so
far as it exists, it exists in an undefined form in the divine
notion, but so far as it is determined it is an accidental
and entirely limited end ; or, to put it otherwise, what
constitutes it is something outside of the divine notion,
an end which can be distinguished from it, not the divine
end in all its completeness in and for itself, i.e., not an
end which would be developed from its own inner nature,
and would in its particular forms express the determi-
nateness of the divine notion.

In studying the Eeligion of ISTature, we saw that in it
goodness was as universal as power; but speaking gene-
rally, it does not go beyond expressing the idea of sub-
stantial immediate identity with the Divine Essence, and
all things accordingly are good and full of light. Here,
in the determination of subjectivity, of Power which has
independent existence, the end is distinguished from the
notion, and the definite form given to the end is just for
this reason merely accidental, because the difference has
not yet been taken back into the divine notion, is not yet
considered as equivalent to it. Here, therefore, we have
only ends which, so far as their contents are concerned,
are finite, and are not as yet adequate to express the
divine notion. Einite self- consciousness is thus, to beijin
with, the region in which they are realised. This is
the fundamental characteristic of the standpoint we have
got to.




It is the pure abstract thouglit-determination wliicli
forms the basis here. We abstract as yet from idea or
mental representation, as also from the necessity of the
realisation of the Notion, a necessity which does not
exactly belong to idea, but is rather one which the
ISTotion itself renders necessary. Here we have the
metaphysical notion in its relation to the form taken by
the Proofs of the Existence of God. The special charac-
teristic of the metaphysical notion, as contrasted with the
foregoing, lies in this, that in the case of the latter we
started from the unity of the Infinite and the finite. The
Infinite was absolute negativity, undeveloped Power, and
the thought involved in the first sphere and its essence
were limited to this definition of infinitude. In that
sphere the notion, so far as we are concerned, was un-
doubtedly that of the unity of the finite and the Infinite ;
but in reference to this stage itself, the Essence was
defined simply as the Infinite. This latter forms the
basis, and the finite was merely added to it; and just for
this reason the determination assumed a natural aspect,
and was accordingly the Eeligion of Nature, because the
form required natural existence in order to show itself in
a definite actual shape. The Eeligion of Nature already
proved also the inadequacy of what is immediately ex-
ternal to express what is internal. In the conception of
the Immeasurable it passed beyond the immediate identity
of the natural and the Absolute, and also beyond that of
immediate Being and Essence. But the external form
when stretched out to the Immeasurable snaps, as it
were, natural Being vanishes, and begins to exist for itself
as the Universal. Infinitude is not yet, however, imma-
nent determination, and, in order to represent it, use is


Still made of natural forms which are external and inade-
quate. In proportion as the Natural is posited as exist-
ing negatively in the Immeasurable, is it also positive
looked at in its finite existence, as opposed to the Infinite.
Or, to put it otherwise, the Immeasurable, which, in pro-
portion as everything disappears within it, is in like pro-
portion also powerless, is the contradiction of Power
and powerlessness. In contrast to this, we have now
the Essence itself defined as the unity of the Infinite and
the finite, as true Power, as infinitude which is concrete
in itself, i.e., as the unity of the finite and the Infinite.
It is this, accordingly, that we have in the determination

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 11 of 31)