Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

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

. (page 17 of 31)
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 17 of 31)
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well with whoever does right.

An essential point here is that real existence, definite
Being in an external form, be made to correspond with,
brought into subjection to, and determined in accordance
with, what is inner and right. This essential condition
enters here in consequence of, and on the basis of, the
fundamental relation of God to the natural finite world.

There is here an end, and one wliich must be carried
out, namely, this difference, which must at the same time
come to be in a state of harmony, so as to show that
natural existence governs itself, and bears witness to
what is essential, to what is spiritual. So far as Man is
concerned, he must be determined, governed, by what is
truly inward, by right-doing.

In this way the well-being of Man is divinely guaran-
teed, but it is so guaranteed only in so far as it is in con-
formity with the Divine, the moral, divine law. This is
the band of necessity, which, however, is no longer blind,
as we shall see it is in other religions, where it is only
the empty indeterminate necessity from which the Notion
is absent, so that the Concrete is outside of it. The
gods, the moral Powers, are subject to necessity, but the
necessity is not characterised by the presence in it of
what is moral and right.

Here necessity is concrete, in the sense that what has
essential Being, Being in and for itself, gives laws, wills
the Right, the Good, and as a consequence of this, this
Being has an affirmative definite Being which is adequate
to it, an existence which is a state of well-being or welfare.
It is this kind of harmony of which Man is conscious in
this sphere of thought.


It is on this that is founded the belief that it must,
nay, that it ought, to go well with him. He is au end
for God, and he is this as being a whole. And yet he,
as constituting a whole, is himself something differen-
tiated or distinct, since he has the power of willing and
an external existence. The conscious subject now knows
that God is the bond of this necessity, that He is this
unity which brings about a state of well-being propor-
tionate to the well-doing, and that this connection exists,
for the divine universal will is at the same time the will
which is determined in itself, and has consequently the
power to bring about that connection.

The consciousness that these are thus joined together
constitutes that faith, that confidence, which is a funda-
mental and praiseworthy trait of the Jewish people.
The Old Testament Scriptures, the Psalms especially, are
full of this confidence.

This, too, is the line of thought which is represented
in the Book of Job, the only book the connection of
which with the standpoint of the Jewish people is not
sufficiently recognised. Job extols his innocence, finds
his destiny unjust, he is discontented, i.e., there is in
him a contradiction — the consciousness of the righteous-
ness which is absolute, and the want of correspondence
between his condition and this righteousness. It is
recognised as being an end which God has that He
makes things go well with the good man.

What the argument points to is that this discontent,
this despondency, ought to be brought under the control
of pure and absolute confidence. Job asks, " What doth
God give me as a reward from on high ? Should it not
be the unrighteous man who is rejected thus ? " His
friends answer in the same sense, only they put it in the
reverse way, " Because thou art unhappy, therefore we
conclude that thou art not righteous." God does this in
order that He may protect man from the sin of pride.

God Himself at last speaks : " Who is this that talks



thus witliout understanding ? Where wast thou when
I laid the foundations of the earth ? " Then comes a
A'ery beautiful and magnificent description of God's power,
and Job says, "I know it; he is a man without know-
ledge who thinks he may hide his counsel." This
subjection is what is finally reached ; on the one liand,
there is the demand that it should go well with the
righteous, and on the other, even the feeling of discon-
tent when this is not the case, has to be given up. It
is this resignation, this acknowledgment of God's power,
which restores to Job his property and the happiness he
had before. It is on this acknowledgment of God's power
that there follows the re-establishment of his happiness.
Still, at the same time, this good fortune is not regarded
as something which can be demanded by finite man as a
right, independent of the power of God.

This confidence in God, this unity, and the conscious-
ness of this harmony of tlie power, and at the same time
of the wisdom and righteousness of God, is based on the
thouglit that God is determined within Himself as end,
and has an end.

We have further to consider in this connection this
fact, that Spirit becomes inward, the movement of Spirit
within itself Man must do right. That is the one
absolute command, and this doing of what is right has
its seat in his will. Man is by this means thrown back
upon his inner nature, and he must occupy himself iu
thus considering his inner life, and finding out whether
it is righteous, whether or not his will is good.

This examination into and anxiety about what is
wrong, the crying of the soul after God, this descent
into the depths of the spirit, this yearning of the spirit
after what is right, after what is in conformity with the
will of God, is something specially characteristic of this
forni of religion.

This end further appears as being at the same time
limited. The end is, that men should know and acknow-


ledge God, that wliat they do they should do for the
glory of God; that what they will should be in accord-
ance with God's will, and that their will should be a true
will. This end has, at the same time, a limitation attached
to it, and we have to consider in liow far this limitation
belongs to the essential nature of God, to what extent
the conception, the ordinary idea of God itself, still con-
tains this limitation.

If the ordinary or popular idea of God is limited,
those further realisations of the divine conception in
human consciousness are limited also. What is always
most essential, but is also most difficult, is to under-
stand the presence of the limitation in One, and to
recognise that it is at the same time a limitation of the
Idea, and in such a way that this latter does not yet
appear as the absolute Idea.

God, as the one who determines Himself in His free-
dom and according to His freedom in such a way that
what is spiritual is free, is wisdom ; but this wisdom,
this end, is at first merely end and wisdom in general.
The wisdom of God, His self-determination, have not yet
received their development. This development within
the Idea of God is first found in the religion in which the
nature of God is entirely revealed.-

The defect of this Idea is that though God is the One,
He is this in Himself only in the determinateness of His
unity, and is not what eternally develops itself within
itself. There is not as yet any developed determination.
What we call wisdom is so far something abstract —
abstract universality.

The real end which we have is the first end. It exists
as an end of God in Spirit as actual, and thus it must
have universality in itself, it must be a divine and true
end in itself, and one which has substantial univer-
sality. A substantial end in Spirit means that the
spiritual individuals know themselves to be one, and act
towards each other as one and are in unity. The end is


a moral one, and it finds its sphere in real freedom. It
is that part of thought in which what is practical comes
into play, an end in actual consciousness. It is, how-
ever, a first end, and the morality connected with it is of
the immediate natural kind. The end is thus the family
and the connection of the family. It is this one particu-
lar family exclusive of all others.

The real immediate first end of divine wisdom is thus
still quite limited, quite particular, just hecause it is the
first end. God is absolute wisdom, but He is this in the
sense of being entirely abstract wisdom, or, to put it
otherwise, the end in the divine notion is one which is as
yet purely general, and is consequently an end devoid of
content. This indeterminate end thus devoid of content,
changes in actual existence into immediate particularity,
into the most perfect limitation ; or, in other words, the
state of potentiality in which wisdom still £xists is itself
immediacy, naturalness.

God's real end is thus the family, and in fact this
particular family, for the idea of many single families
already gives proof of the extension of the thought of
singleness by means of reflection. We have here a note-
worthy, and absolutely rigid contrast — in fact, the most
rigid possible contrast. God is, on the one hand, the God
of heaven and of earth, absolute wisdom, universal power,
and the end aimed at by this God is at the same time so
limited that it concerns only one family, only this one
people. All peoples, it is true, ought also to acknowledge
Him and praise His name, but His actual work and that
which has been really accomplished consists of this par-
ticular people only, regarded in their general condition
and definite existence, in their inner and outer, political
and moral actually existing condition. God is thus only
the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God
who has brought us out of Egypt. Since God is only
One, He is present also only in one universal spirit, in
■one family, in one world. The families as families come


first, those which were brouglit out of Egypt are the
nation, and here it is the heads of the family who con-
stitute the definite element of the end. Universality is
thus still something natural, and the end is accordingly
only human, and is therefore the family. Eeligion is
thus patriarchal, and it is accordingly the family which
expands into the people. A nation means a people,
hecause, to begin with, it has its origin in Nature. This
is the limited end, and in reference to all others it is
exclusively the divine end.

The five Books of Moses start with the creation of the
world, and immediately after we come upon the Fall,
which has to do with the nature of man as man. This
universal element present in the creation of the world,
and next that fall of man, and of man in his generic
character, are ideas which, have had no influence on the
form subsequently taken by the Jewish religion. We
have merely this prophecy, the universal element in which
did not become a truth for the Israelitish people. God
is only the God of this people, not the God of men, and
this people is God's people.

It may be further remarked, with the view of making
more generally intelligible the connection between the uni-
versal wisdom of God in itself and the completely limited
nature of the real end, that when man wills the universal
good, and has this as his end, he has made his arbitrary
will the principle of Ms resolves and his acts. For this
universal good, this universal end, does not contain within
itself the Other, the Particular. "When, however, it is
necessary to act, then this real end demands something
determinate, and this determinateness lies outside of the
Kotion, since the latter has no such determinateness in
itself, but is still abstract, and the particular end is for
this reason not yet sanctified, because it has not yet been
taken up into the universal end of the Good.

In politics, if it is only universal laws which are to
hold sway, then the governing element is force, the arbi-


tvary will of the individual. The law is real only in so
far as it is made particular, for it is through its being
made particular that the iiniversal first becomes some-
thing living.

The other peoples are shut out from this single real
end. The People has its own peculiar nationality, and
qonsists of certain families and the members of these.
This privilege of belonging to the People, and conse-
quently of standing to God in this relation, rests on
birth. This naturally demands a special constitution,
special laws, ceremonies, and worship.

The peculiarity connected with the end is further
developed so as to include the possession of a special
district. This district or soil must be divided amongst
the different families, and is inalienable, so that the
excluding of other peoples results in gaining this wholly
empirical and external Present. This exclusion is, in
the first instance, not polemical, but, on the other hand,
it is the special possession which is the reality, the indi-
vidual enjoyment of this individual people, and the relation
of the individual people to the almighty, all-wise God. It
is not polemical, i.e., the other peoples ca?i also be brought
into this relation to adore God in this way. They ought
to glorify the Lord, but that they should come to do
this is not a real end. The obligation is only ideal and
not practical. This real end appeals first in Mohamme-
danism, where the particular end is raised to the rank of
a general one, and thus becomes fanatical.

Fanaticism, it is true, is found amongst the Jews as
well, but it comes into play only in so far as their posses-
sion, their religion, is attacked, and it comes into play
then because it is only this one end which is by its very
nature exclusive and will tolerate no accommodation to
anything different, no fellowship, no intercourse with it.

nUrd Determination. — Man is exalted above all else
in the whole creation. He is something which knows,
perceives, thinks. He is thus the image of God in a


sense quite other than tliat in which the same is true of the
world. What is experienced in religion is God, He who is
thought, and it is only in thought that God is worshipped.
In the religion of the Parsis we had dualism, and the
idea of contrast implied in this we have in the Jewish
religion as well. The contrast or opposition does not,
however, occur in God, but is found in the spirit which
is His " Other.'' God is Spirit, and what He has produced,
namely, the world, is also Spirit, and it is in this latter
that He is in Himself the " Other " of His essence.
What is involved in finitude is, that in it difference
appears as division. In the world God is at home with
Himself; it is good, for the Nothing or non-existence
which belongs to it, and out of which the world has been
created, is the Absolute itself. The world, however, as
representing this first act of judgment, of separation, on
God's part, does not get the length of being absolute
contrast. It is only Spirit which is capable of being
this absolute contrast, and it is this wliich gives it its
depth. The contrast or opposition exists within the
other spirit, which is consequently the finite spirit. This
is the place where the contest between good and evil
goes on, and it is the place, too, in which this fight must
be fought out. All these characteristics arise out of the
nature of the Notion. This opposition is a difficult point,
for it constitutes the contradiction, which may be stated
thus : the Good is not contradictory in virtue of its own
nature, but rather it is by means of evil that contradic-
tion first enters, and it occurs only in evil. But then
the question arises : How has evil come into the world ?
At this stage such a question has both meaning and
interest. In the religion of the Parsis this question
cannot occasion any difficulty, for there the Evil exists
quite as. much as the Good. Both have sprung from
something which is devoid of all definite character. Here,
on the other hand, where God is power and the one
Subject, and where everything depends for its existence


solely on Him, evil is a contradiction, for God is certainly
the absolute Good. Au old pictorial representation of
this, namely, the Fall, has been preserved in the Bible.
This well-known account of how evil came into the
world is in the form of a myth, and appears at the same
time in the guise of a parable. Of course when a specula-
tive idea, something true, is thus represented in a sensuous
figure, in the form of something which has actually
happened, it can hardly miss having certain traits about
it which don'c fittingly express the truth itself. You find
the same thing in Plato when he speaks in pictorial
language of the Ideas, for there, too, the inadequacy of
the picture to express the truth is apparent. This is
how the narrative runs : — After the creation of Adam and
Eve in Paradise, God forbade the first human beings to
eat of a certain tree. The serpent, however, misleads
them, and gets them to eat of it by saying, "You will
become like God." God then imposes a severe penalty
on them, but at the same time says, " See, Adam is
become as one of us, for he knows what is good and evil."
Looked at from this particular side, man, according to
God's declaration, has become God, but regarded from the
other side, this means that God has cut off man's chance
of reaching Him by this path, inasmuch as He drives
him out of Paradise. This simple story may, to begin
with, be taken as embodying something like the following
meaning. God laid down a command, and man, impelled
by a boundless feeling of pride which led him to wish
to be equal to God (a thought which came to him from
the outside), transgresses this command, and for his
miserable silly pride it was ordained that he should be
severely punished. God laid down tliat command for-
mally only, with the view of putting him in circum-
stances in which his obedience might be proved.

According to this explanation, everything takes place
in accordance with the ordinary finite laws of cause and
effect. God, undoubtedly, forbids evil, but such a pro-


hibition is something wholly different from the prohibi-
tion to eat of a certain tree. What God wills or does
not will must represent His true eternal nature. Such a
prohibition is further thought of as having been imposed
only on a single individual, and man justly rebels against
being punished for guilt that is not his own — he will
only answer for what he has done himself.

On the other hand, in the story, regarded as a whole,
there is a deep philosophical meaning. It is Adam, or
man in general, who appears in this narrative. What is
here related concerns the nature of man himself, and it is
not a formal childish command which God lays on him,
for the tree of which Adam is not to eat is called the tree
of the knowledge of good and evil, and thus the idea of a
tree with an outward definite form disappears. Man eats
of it, and he attains to the knowledge of good and evil.
The difficulty, however, is that it is said God forbade
man to reach this knowledge, for it is just this knowledge
which constitutes the character of Spirit. Spirit is Spirit
only through consciousness, and it is just in this know-
ledge that consciousness in its highest form is found.
How, then, could this prohibition have been given ?
Cognition, knowledge, represents this two-sided danger-
ous gift. Spirit is free, and to this freedom good as well
as evil is referred, and it thus contains the power of
arbitrary choice to do what is evil. This is the negative
side attaching to the affirmative side of freedom referred
to. Man, it is said, was in a state of innocence ; this is,
in fact, the condition of the natural consciousness, but it
must be done away with as soon as the consciousness of
Spirit actually appears. That represents eternal history,
and the nature of man. He is at first natural and
innocent, and incapable, consequently, of having moral
acts attributed to him. In the child there is no freedom,
and yet it belongs to the essential character of man that
he should once more reach innocence. What is his
final destiny is here represented as his primitive condi-


tion— the harmony between man and the Good. The
defect in this pictorial representation is that this unity-
is describgd as a condition of immediate Being. It is
necessary to pass out of this condition of original natural-
ness, but the state of separation or disunion which then
arises has to pass into a state of reconciliation again.
Here this idea of reconciliation is represented by the
thought that man ought not to have passed beyond that
first condition. In the whole of this pictorial account,
what is inward is expressed in terms of what is outward,
and what is necessary in terms of what is contingent.
The serpent says that Adam will become like God, and
God confirms the truth of this, and adds His testimony
that it is this knowledge which constitutes likeness to
God. This ,is the profound idea lodged in the narrative.

But further, a pu.nishment is next inflicted on man.
He is driven out of Paradise, and God says, " Cursed be
the ground for thy sake, in sorrow shalt thou eat what it
brings forth to thee ; thorns and thistles shall it bear to
thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field. In the
sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread, and thou shalt
return unto the ground, for out of it wast thou taken ;
for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."

We have to recognise that here we have the conse-
quences of finitude ; but, on the other hand, the greatness
of man just consists in tlie fact that he eats his bread in
the sweat of his brow, and that through his own activity,
his work, and the exercise of his understanding, he wins
sustenance for himself. Animals have the happy lot,
if you like to call it so, of being supplied by Nature with
what they need. Man, on the other hand, elevates what
is necessary to this natural life to the rank of something
connected with his. freedom. This is just the employment
of his freedom, tliough it is not the highest form in which
lie employs it, for tliat consists rather in knowing and
willing the Good. The fact that man regarded from the
natural side is also free, is involved in his nature, and is


not to be considered as in itself punishment. The
sorrow of the natural life is essentially connected with,
the greatness of the character and destiny of man. For
him who is not yet acquainted with the loftier nature of
Spirit, it is a sad thought that man must die, and this
natural sorrow is, as it were, for him what is final. The
lofty nature and destiny of Spirit, however, just consists
in the fact that it is eternal and immortal ; still, this
greatness of man, this greatness of consciousness, is not
yet contained in this narrative, for it is said : God said,
" And now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the
tree of life, and eat and live .for ever" (iii. 22). Then
further (v. 19), " Till thou return unto the ground whence
thou wast taken." The consciousness of the immortality
of Spirit is not yet present in this religion.

In the entire narrative of the Fall these grand features
are present in what has the appearance of being an illo-
gical form, owing to the pictorial style in which the whole
is presented to us. The advance out of the merely natural
life, and the necessity for the entrance of the conscious-
ness of good and evil, constitute the lofty thought to
which God Himself here gives utterance. What is defec-
tive in the account is that death is described in such a
way as to leave the impression that there is no place for
consolation in regard to it. The fundamental note of the
account is that man ought not to be natural, and in
this is contained the thought expressed in true theology,
that man is by nature evil. EviL consists in resting in
this natural state ; man must advance out of this state
by exercising his freedom, his will. The further develop-
ment of this thought accordingly involves that Spirit
should once more attain to absolute unity within itself,
to a state of reconciliation, and freedom is just what con-
tains this turning back of Spirit into itself, this recon-
ciliation with itself. Here, however, this conversion or
turning back has not yet taken place ; the difference has
not yet been taken up into God, i.e., has not yet reached


a state of reconciliation. Tiie abstraction of evil has not
yet disappeared.

It has to be observed further that this story ceased to
have a living interest for the Jewish people, and that it
did not receive any further development in the Books of

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 17 of 31)