Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

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

. (page 18 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 18 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the Hebrews. If we except some allusions in the later
apocryphal books, it is not mentioned, speaking generally,
in the others. For a long time it lay unworked, and it
was in Christianity that it was first to attain its true
significance. Still it cannot at all be said that man's
conflict within himself is something which did not exist
amongst the Jewish people. On the contrary, it consti-
tutes an essential characteristic of the religious spirit
amongst the Hebrews, but it was not conceived of in the
speculative sense as implying that it arises from the
nature of man himself, being represented rather as con-
tingent, as taking place in single individuals. In contrast
to the sinner and the man who is in conflict witli him-
self, we get the picture of the righteous man, in whom
evil and the conflict witli it are represented as not being
an essential moment in his life, but rather righteousness
is thought of as consisting in the doing of God's will, and
in being steadfast in the service of Jehovah by observing
the moral commandments connected alike witli the pre-
cepts of ritual and the requirements of state law. Still
the conflict of man within himself is apparent every-
where, especially in the Psalms of David. Sorrow cries
out of the innermost depths of the soul conscious of its
sinfulness, and as a consequence we find the most sorrowful
prayers for pardon and reconciliation. This deep sorrow
is thus undoubtedly present, but it appears rather as
belonging to the single individual than as something
which is known to be an eternal moment of Spirit.

These are the principal moments of the religion of the
One, so far as they concern particularisation and the
determination of an end on the part of the One. This
latter determination brings us to worship.



God has essentially a relation to self-consciousness,
since it is the finite spirit which constitutes the sphere
in which His end appears. "We have now to consider
the religious sentiment or feeling of religion as seen in.
this self-consciousness. The mediation which it needs,
in so far as it is feeling, is the positing of the identity,
which is potentially posited, and is thus the mediating
movement. This feeling represents the most inward
movement of self-consciousness.

I. Self-consciousness brings itself into relation with
the One, and is thus, to begin with, intuition, pure thought
of the pure Essence as pure power and absolute Being,
alongside of which nothing else of equal value can be
put. This pure thought, therefore, as reflection into self,
as self-consciousness, is self-consciousness with the charac-
ter of infinite Being for self, or freedom, but freedom devoid
of all concrete content. This self-consciousness is thus
as yet distinct from real consciousness, and nothing of all
the concrete characteristics of spiritual and natural life,
of the fulness of consciousness, of the impulses, inclina-
tions, and of all that belongs to the realm of spiritual
relations, nothing of all this has as yet been taken up
into the consciousness of freedom. The reality of life
has still a place outside of the consciousness of freedom,
and this last is not yet rational, it is still abstract, and no
full, concrete, divine consciousness is as yet in existence.
Since, therefore, self-consciousness exists only as con-
sciousness, while, however, in the way of an object for
the simplicity of thought there exists as yet no corre-
sponding object, and since the determinateness of con-
sciousness has not yet been taken up into it, the Ego is
an object for itself only in its abstract state of unity with
itself only as immediate particularity. Self-conscious-


uess is accordingly devoid of expansion and extension,
devoid of all concrete specification, and God as infinite
power is also without determinate character in Himself,
and there is no third thing, no definite form of existence
in whiG4i they might meet. So far it is a coiidition of
unmediated relation,, and the two contrasted elements
— the relation to the One in pure thought and intui-
tion, and abstract return into self, Being for self, — are
immediately united. Since, then, self-consciousness, as
distinguished from its object, which is pure thought
and can only be grasped in thought, is empty, formal
self-consciousness, naked and devoid of specific character
in itself, and since, further, all real concrete specification
belongs to power only, in this absolute contrast the pure
freedom of self-consciousness is turned into absolute
absence of freedom, or, in other words, self-consciousness is
the self-consciousness of a servant in relation to a master.
The fear of the Lord is the fundamental characteristic of
the relation which here exists.

I have a general feeling of fear produced by the idea
of a Power above me, which negates my value as a
person, whether that value appears in an outward or in
an inward way as something belonging to me. I am
without fear when, on the one hand, in virtue of possess-
ing an invulnerable independence, T disregard the force
above me, and know myself to be power as against it in
such a way that it has no influence over me ; and, on
the other hand, I am without fear too when I disregard
those interests which this Power is in a position to de-
stroy, and in this way remain uninjured even when I am
injured. Pear has commonly a bad meaning attached to
it, as if it implied that the person who experiences fear
did not wish to represent himself as power, and was not
capable of doing so. But the fear here spoken of is not
the fear of what is finite or of finite force. The finite is
contingent power, which, apart from any fear felt, can
seize and injure me ; but, on the other hand, the fear


here spoken of is the fear of the Unseen, of the Absolute,
the counterpart of my consciousness, the consciousness of
the self which is infinite as opposed to me the finite self.
Before the consciousness of this Absolute, as being the
one single purely negative Power, special forces of any
kind disappear, everything which has the mark of the
earthly nature upon it simply perishes. This fear, in
the form of this absolute negativity of oneself, is the
elevation of consciousness to the pure thought of the
absolute power of the One. And this fear of the Lord
is the beginning of wisdom, which consists in not allow-
ing the particular, the finite by itself, to have a valid
existence as something independent. "What has a valid
existence can have this only as a moment in the organisa-
tion of the One, and the One is the abrogation of all that
is finite. This wise fear is the one essential moment of
freedom, and consists in being freed from all that is par-
ticular, in breaking away from all accidental interests,
and in general, in the feeling on man's part of the
negativity of all that is particular. It is accordingly
not a particular fear- of any particular thing, but, on the
contrary, it consists in the positing of this particular fear
as a thing of nought ; it is deliverance from fear. Thus
fear is not the feeling of dependence, but rather it is the
stripping oneself of dependence of every kind ; it is pure
surrender of self to the absolute Self, in contrast to which
and into which the particular self melts away and disap-

In this way, however, the subject is only in the infinite
One. Absolute negativity, however, is relation to self,
affirmation ; by means of absolute fear the Self accord-
ingly exists, and exists in its self- surrender, in the
absolutely positive. Fear in this way changes into
absolute confidence, infinite faith. At another sta^e
confidence can take the form of a state in which the
individual relies upon himself. This is the stoical free-
dom in chains. Here, however, freedom does not as yet


take on this form of subjectivity, but rather self-con-
sciousness has to sink itself in the One, while this latter,
again, represented as the Other, is the principle of
repulsion, in which self-consciousness regains its self-
certainty. This process can be conceived of under the
followintr form.

The state of servitude is, in fact, self-consciousness,
reflection into self and freedom, which, however, is devoid
of all general extension and rationality, and finds its
determinateness, its content, in the immediate sensuous
self-consciousness. It is the " I " as this particular indi-
vidual, in immediate particularity, which is accordingly
end and content. In the relation in which he stands to
his Lord the servant finds his absolute, essential self-
consciousness, and in view of Him he annihilates every-
thing in himself. It is, however, just because of this
that he regains his position as existing absolutely for
himself, and his particularity or individuality just be-
cause it has been taken up into that intuition of the
Absolute and is made to form its concrete side, is, owing
to this relation, absolutely justified. The fear in which
the servant regards himself as nothing, gains for him the
restoration of his justification. But because the servile
consciousness rests obstinately on its particularity, and
because its particularity has been taken up into the
unity immediately, it is exclusive, and God is —

2. The exclusive Lord and God of the Jewish people.
It need not surprise us that an Oriental nation should
limit religion to itself, and that this religion should ap-
pear as absolutely connected with its nationality, for we
see this in Eastern countries in general. The Greeks
and the Eomans were the first to adopt foreign forms of
worship, and all kinds of religion were introduced amongst
the latter, and did not rank as national. In Oriental
countries, however, religion is essentially closely con-
nected with nationality. The Chinese, the Persians, have
their State religion, which is for them o^ly. Amongst


the Hindus birth determines for every individual even
his rank and his relation to Brahma, and accordingly
they do not in any way demand that others should adopt
their religion ; in fact, amongst the Hindus, such a de-
mand has no meaning whatever, since, according to their
ideas, all the various peoples of the earth belong to their
religion, and foreign nations are reckoned collectively as
belonging to a particular caste. Still this exclusiveness
is rightly regarded as more striking in the case of the
Jewish people, for such strong attachment to nationality
is in complete contradiction with the idea that God is to
be conceived of only in universal thought, and not in one
particular characterisation. Amongst the Persians God
is The Good. That is also a universal characteristic ;
but it is itself still in the condition of immediacy, conse-
quently God is identical with light, and that is a form of
particularity. The Jewish God exists only for Thought,
and that stands in contrast with the idea of the limita-
tion of God to the nation. It is true that amongst the
Jewish people, too, consciousness rises to the thought of
universality, and this thought is given expression to in
several places. Psalm cxvii. i : " praise the Lord, all
ye nations, praise him, all ye peoples. For his grace
and truth are great toward us to all eternity.'' The
glory of God is to be made manifest amongst all peoples,
and it is in the later prophets particularly that this
universality makes its appearance as a higher demand.
Isaiah makes God even say, " Of the heathen who shall
honour Jehovah will I make priests and Levites ; " and
a similar idea is expressed also in the words, " In every
nation he that feareth God and woiketh righteousness is
accepted with Him.'' All this, however, comes later.
According to the dominant fundamental idea, the Jewish
people are the chosen people, and the universality is thus
reduced to particularity. But as we have already seen
above in the development of the Divine end how the
limitation attached to this is based on the limitation'
VOL. i[.


which is still involved in the characterisation of God, so
now this limitation is explained for us from the nature of
tlie servile consciousness ; and we see too, now, how this
particularity arises from the subjective side. This hon-
ouring and recognition of Jehovah is something which is
peculiar to them, those servants, and they have them-
selves the consciousness tliat it is peculiar to them.

This harmonises, too, with the history of the people.
The Jewish God is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and
of Jacob, the God who brought the Jews out of Egypt,
and there is not the slightest trace of the thought that
God may have done other things as well, and that He
has acted in an affirmative way amongst other peoples
too. Here, therefore, it is from the subjective side,
from the side of worship, that the idea of particularity
comes in, and in any case it can be said that God is
the God of those who honour Him, for it is God's
nature to be known in the subjective spirit, and to
know Himself there. This is a moment which essen-
tially belongs to the idea of God. The act of knowing,
of acknowledging, belongs essentially to this characterisa-
tion or determination. This often comes out in what is
for us a distorted way, when, for instance, God is said
to be mightier and stronger than the other gods, exactly
as if there were gods besides Him ; for the Jews, however,
these are false gods.

There is this particular nation which honours Him,
and so He is the God of this nation, its Lord, in fact.
It is He who is known as the Creator of heaven and
earth, He has set bounds and limits for everything and
bestowed on everything its peculiar nature, and so too He
has given to man his proper place and his rights. This
expresses the characterisation according to which He as
Lord gives His people laws, laws which have to do with
the entire sphere of their actions, both the universal
laws, the Ten Commandments — which are tlie universal,
ethical, legal, fundamental, characteristics of lawgiving


and morality, and which are not held to be laws given
by reason, but rather laws written down by God — and
also all the rest of the State laws and regulations.
Moses is called the lawgiver of the Jews, but he was
not to the Jews what Lycurgus and Solon were to the
Greeks, for these two gave as men their own laws. He
only made the laws of Jehovah known ; it was Jehovah
Himself who, according to the story, engraved them ou
the stone. Attached to the most trifling regulations, the
arrangement of the tabernacle, the usages in connection
with sacrifices, and everything relating to all other kinds
of ceremonial, you find in the Bible the formula " Jehovah
saith." All law is given by the Lord, and is thus entirely
positive commandment. There is in it a formal, abso-
lute authority. The particular elements in the political
system are not, speaking generally, developed out of the
universal end, nor is it left to man to give it its special
character, for the Unity does not permit human caprice,
human reason, to exist alongside of it, and political change
is in every instance called a falling away from God ; but,
on the other hand, the particular laws, as being something
given by God, are regarded as eternally established. And
here the eternal laws of what is right, of morality, are
placed in the same rank and stated in an equally positive
form with the most trifling regulations. This constitutes
a strong contrast to the conception which we have of God.
Worship is now the service of God ; the good man, the
righteous man, is he who performs this service, by keeping
and observing both the moral commandments and also the
ceremonial laws. This is the service of the Lord.

The people of God is accordingly a people adopted by
covenant and contract on the conditions of fear and
service. That is to say, the self-conscious community
is no longer an original and immediate unity in union
with the Essence, as is the case in the Eeligion of Nature.
The external form of the Essence in the Eeligion of
Nature is only a pictorial representation of Nature, an


outer covering which does not truly separate the two
sides of what constitutes the religious relation, and is
therefore only an unessential separation of the two, only
a superficial distinction. The present standpoint, on the
contrary, is based in the first instance on absolute re-
flection into self as abstract Being-for-self, and it is
here accordingly that the mediation of the relation be-
tween self-consciousness and its absolute Essence comes
in. The self- consciousness does not, however, represent
man as man in the sense of universality. The religious
relation is something special, which, regarded from the
point of view of man, may be called contingent, for all
that is finite is external to Absolute Power, and contains
in it no positive character. This particularity of the
religious relation is not, however, a particularity amongst
others, but is rather a separate, infinite preference. Be-
cause of the character which thus attaches to the relation,
the latter finds expression in the thought that this people
has been adopted on the condition of its having the
fundamental feeling of its dependence, i.e., of its servi-
tude. This relation between the infinite Power and
what has independent Being is accordingly not one
which is posited essentially and originally, or has come
into existence only through the love of God to man, but
rather this unity has been established in an external
way through a contract. And, in fact, this adoption of
the People is something which has taken place once for
all, and occupies the place of what in revealed religion
in its completed form is known as redemption and

Closely connected with the representation of God as
the Lord is the fact that , the Jewish people gave them-
selves wholly up to His service. It is this which
explains, too, that marvellous steadfastness which was
not a fanaticism of conversion like Mohammedanism,
which is already purified from the idea of nationality
and recognises believers only, but a fanaticism of stub-


bornness. It rests entirely on the abstraction of one
Lord ; the idea of vacillation comes into the mind only
when various interests and points of view exist alongside
of each other, and in sach a struggle it is possible to take
one side or the other, but in this state of concentration
of thought on one Lord, the mind is completely held fast
to one side. The consequence of this is that in view
of the existence of this firm bond there is no freedom.
Thought is simply bound on to this unity, which is the
absolute authority. Many further consequences follow
from this. Amongst the Greeks, too, it is true, certain
institutions were held to have divine authority, but they
had been established by men ; the Jews, on the other
hand, made no such distinction between the divine and
the human. It was owing, too, to this absence of the
idea of freedom that they did not believe in immortality,
for even though it is perhaps possible to point to certain
traces of belief in it, still those passages in which they
occur are always of a very general character, and had
not the slightest influence on the religious and moral
points of view from which things were regarded. The
immortality of the soul is not as yet an admitted truth,
and there is accordingly no higher end than the service
of Jehovah, and so far as man himself is concerned, his
aim is to maintain himself and his family in life as long
as possible. Temporal possessions, in fact, are consequent
upon service, not something eternal, not eternal blessed-
ness. The conscious perception of the unity of the soul
with the Absolute, or of the reception of the soul into the
bosom of the Absolute, has not yet arisen. Man has as
yet no inner space, no inner extension, no soul of such an
extent as to lead it to wish for satisfaction within itself,
but is the temporal which gives it fulness and
reality. According to the Law, each family receives a
property which must not be alienated, and in this way
the family is to be provided for. The aim of life conse-
quently was mainly the preservation of this bit of land.


This expresses the essential character of the family,
together with the land which belongs to it and from
which it derives its subsistence. The possession of a
country is what self-consciousness of this kind receives
from its God. It is consequently that very confidence
before referred to which is the absolutely limited con-
stitutive element of the individual family existence.
Just because man in the absolutely negative condition of
self-surrender exists in what is purely positive, and con-
sequently is once more in a condition of immediacy,
confidence, as expressing the surrender of finite interests,
turns into the surrender of the surrender, and thus
comes to represent in turn the realised finite individual,
his happiness and possessions. These possessions and
this people are identical, inseparable. God's people
possess Canaan. God has made a covenant with Abra-
ham, the one side of which is constituted by this posses-
sion, and it is the afiSrmative in this sphere of empirical
particular interests. Both are inseparable, the special
possession and the confidence, the piety. The possession
consequently gets an infinitely absolute authorisation, a
divine authorisation ; and yet at the same time the title
to the possession does not take the form of a juridical
right, of a property ; this latter, as being different from
possession, is not applicable here. Property has its
source in personality, in this very freedom of the single
individual. Man is essentially a holder of property in
so far as he is a person, but the possession, as expressing
the empirical aspect of property, is entirely free to take
any form, this being left to chance. What I possess is
a matter of accident, a matter of indifference ; when I
a,ra recognised as a holder of property, I am a free sub-
jectivity and the possession is a matter of indifference.
Here, on the contrary, this definite possession as such is
identical with the feeling of confidence, and it is con-
sequently this possession to which an absolute title
attaches. The idea of property does not come in here.


and so the idea of free-will does not appear either. God,
the absolute Idea, and then property, and possession,
represent three different stages. Here the uniting middle
term, property, drops away, and the possession is taken
up into the divine will in an immediate form. It is
this empirical individual possession which is to have
value as such and as thus authorised, and it is taken
out of the reach of the free act of designation on the
part of the individual, who cannot sell it but can only
pledge it for some time, and always only until the year
of Jubilee.

The other side, namely, the negative relation, corre-
sponds to the affirmative side. The recognition of Power
as constituting the negative side must also be defined
empirically or externally in reference to property. Parti-
cular acts of conduct, real ways of acting, must in the same
way have their negative side as the acknowledgment of
the Lord. There must be a service, not simply fear, but
an act of surrender in particular things. This is the
other side of the covenant, which, on the one hand, has
possession as its effect, but, on the other, demands service
also, so that just as this particular country is attached to
this particular nation, the nation itself is bound by the
obligation of rendering the service required by the Law.
These laws, looked at from one side, are family laws,
have reference to family conditions, and have a moral
content ; but looked at from the other side, the main point
about them is that what is inherently moral in them is
regarded as something which has been laid down in a
purely positive way, and so naturally we have joined on
to this a large number of external accidental regulations
which are simply to be observed. The irrationality of
the service corresponds to the irrationality of the posses-
sion, and we thus have an abstract obedience which does
not require any inwardness in respect of any definite
character belonging to it, since its justification for exist-
ing is an abstract one. Just because God is absolute


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 18 of 31)