Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

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

. (page 2 of 31)
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universal substantial element, is the eternal repose of
Being-within-itself ; this Essence existing within itself,
which universal Substance is. This simple Substance,
which the Hindus call Brahma, is regarded as the Uni-
versal, the self-existing Power ; which is not, like passion,
turned toward what is other than itself, but is the quiet,
lustreless reflection into itself, which is, however, at the
same time determined as Power. This abidingly self-
enclosed Power in the form of Universality must be
distinguished from its operation, from that which is
posited by means of it, and from its own moments.
Power is the Ideal, the Negative, for which all else exists
merely as abrogated, as negated. But the Power, as that
which exists within itself, as universal Power, distin-
guishes itself from its moments themselves, and these
therefore appear on the one hand as independent beings,
and on the other as moments which even perish in the
One. They belong to it, they are merely moments of it,
but as differentiated moments they come forward into


independent existence, and present themselves as inde-
pendent Persons — Persons of the Godhead who are God,
who are the Whole itself, so that that primary element
vanishes in this particular shape or form, hut on the
other hand they again vanish in the one Power. The
alternations — according to which we liave now the One,
now the distinction as entire totality — are the perplexing
inconsistencies which present themselves in this sphere
to the logical understanding, but they are at the same
time that consistency of reason which is in accordance
with the Notion, as contrasted with the consistency of
the abstract self-identical understanding.

Subjectivity is Power in itself, as the relation of infinite
negativity to itself ; it is not, however, only potentially
power, but rather it is with the appearance of subjectivity
that God is for the first time posited as Power. These
determinations are indeed to be distinguished from one
another, and stand in relation to the subsequent concep-
tions of God, and are also of primary importance to the
understanding of the preceding ones. They are therefore
to be considered more closely.

Power, in fact, at once in religion in the general sense,
and in the wholly immediate and crudest religion of
nature, is the fundamental determination, as being the
infinitude which the finite as abrogated posits within
itself. And in so far as this is conceived of as outside
of it, as existing at all, it nevertheless comes to be posited
merely as something which has proceeded out of that
finite as its basis. Now the determination which is all-
important here is, that this Power is, to begin with,
posited simply as the basis of the particular shapes or
existing forms, and the relation to the basis of the in-
herently existing Essence is the relation of Substantiality.
Thus it is merely power potentially — power as the inner
element of the existence ; and as Essence which has
Being within itself or as Substance, it is only posited as
the Simple and Abstract, so that the determinations or


differentiations as forms existing in their own right are
conceived of as outside of it. This Essence, which exists
within itself, may indeed be conceived of too as existing
for itself, as Brahma is self-thinking. Brahma is the
universal Soul ; when he creates, he himself issues as a
hreatli out of himself ; he contemplates himself, and exists
then for himself.

But his abstract simplicity does not at once vanish
owing to this, for tlie moments, the universality of
Brahma as such, and the " /" for which that universality
exists, these two are not determined as contrasted with
one another, and their relation is therefore itself simple.
Brahma exists thus as abstractly existing for himself.
The Power and the basis of existences and all things
liave, in fact, proceeded out of him and vanished in him.
In saying to himself, " I am Brahma," all things have
vanished back into him, have vanished in him. Whether
as outside of him, existing independently, or within him,
they have vanished ; there is only the relation of these
two extremes. But posited as diiferentiated determina-
tions, they appear as independent existences outside of
him, since he is primarily abstract, and not concrete in

The Power posited in this manner potentially only works
inwardly without showing itself as activity. I manifest
myself as power in so far as I am cause and determine,
ia so far as I am a subject, when I throw a stone, and
so forth. But this potentially existing Power works in
a universal manner, without this universality being a
subject for itself, a self-conscious subject. These uni-
versal modes of working, understood in their true char-
acter, are, for instance, the Laws of Nature.

Now Brahma, as the one, simple, absolute Substance,
is the neuter, or, as we say, the Godhead : Brahn]a ex-
presses this universal Essence more as a Person, as a
subject. But this is a distinction which is not constantly
made use of, and in the different grammatical cases this


distincfcioQ already spontaneously effaces itself, for the
masculine and neuter genders have many cases which
are similar. In another respect, too, no great emphasis
is to be laid upon this distinction, because Brahma as
personified is merely superficially personified in such a
]iianner that the content still remains this simple sub-

And now distinctions appear in this simple Substance,
and it is worth noting that these distinctions present
themselves in such a way that they are determined in
accordance with the instinct of the ISTotion. The First
is totality generally as One, taken quite abstractly ; the
Second is determinateness, differentiation generally ; and
the Third, in accordance with the true determination, is
that the differences are led back again into unity, into
concrete unity.

Conceived of in accordance with its abstract form, this
Trinity of the Absolute is, when it is formless, merely
Brahma, — that is, empty Essence. From the point of
view of its determinations it is a Three, but in a unity
only, so that this threeness is merely a unity.

If we define this more accurately and speak of it under
another form, the Second means that differentiations,
different Powers exist : the differentiation, however, has
no rights as against the one Substance, the absolute unity ;
and in so far as it has no rights it may be called eternal
goodness, implying that what has determinate character, —
this manifestation of the Divine, — should indeed exist ;
that differentiation too should attain to this, that it is.
This is the goodness through which what is posited by
the Power as a semblance or show of Being acquires
momentary Being. In the Power it is absorbed, yet
goodness permits it to exist independently.

Upon this Second follows the Third — that is, right-
eousness, implying that tlie existing determinate element
is not, that the finite attains to its end, its destin}', its
right, which is to be changed, to be transformed, in


fact, into another determinateness ; this is righteousness
in the general sense. To this, in an abstract way, belong
becoming, perishing, originating : for ISTot-beiug too has
no right : it is an abstract determination in contrast to
Being, and is itself the passing over into unity.

■ This totality, which is the unity, a Whole, is what is
called among the Indians Tri murti — murti = form or
shape — all emanations of the Absolute being called miirti.
It is this Highest, differentiated within itself in such a
manner that it has these three determinations within

The most striking and the greatest feature in Indian
mythology is unquestionably this Trinity in unity. We
cannot call this Trinity Persons, for it is wanting in
spiritual subjectivity as a fundamental determination.
But to Europeans it must have been in the highest degree
astonishing to meet with this principle of the Christian
religion here : we shall become acquainted with it in its
true form later on, and shall see that Spiirit as concrete
must necessarily be conceived of as triune.

The First, then, the One, the One Substance, is what
is called Brahma. Parabrahma, which is above Brahma,
also makes its appearance ; and these are jumbled to-
gether. Of Brahma, in so far as he is a subject, all
kinds of stories are related. Thought, reflection, at once
goes beyond such a determination as Brahma, since one
having such a definite character is conceived of as One
of these Three, makes itself a Higher, which gives itself
a definite character in the distinction. In so far as that
which is absolute Substance again appears as merely One
alongside of others, Parabrahma is expressive of the need
of thought to have something yet higher ; and it is im-
possible to say in what definite relation forms of this
kind stand to one another.

Brahma is thus what is conceived of as this Substance
out of which everything has proceeded and is begotten,
as this Power which has created All. But while the one


Substance — the One — is thus the abstract Power, it at
the same time appears as tlie inert element, as formless,
inert matter ; here we have specially the forming activity,
as we should express it.

The one Substance, because it is only the One, is the
Formless : thus this, too, is a mode in which it becomes
apparent that substantiality does not satisfy ; that is to
say, it fails to do so because form is not present.

Thus Brahma, the one self-identical Essence, appears
as the Inert, as that which indeed begets, but which at
the same time maintains a passive attitude — like woman,
as it were. Kriscbna therefore says of Brahma, "Brahma
is my uterus, the mere recipient in which I lay my seed,
and out of which I beget All." In the determination, too,
" God is Essence," there is not the principle of movement,
of production ; there is no activity.

Out of Brahma issues everything, — gods, the world,
mankind ; but it at once becomes apparent that this One
is inactive. In the various cosmogonies or descriptions
of the creation of the world, what has just been thus
indicated makes its appearance.

Such a description of the creation of the world occurs
in the Vedas. In these Brahma is represented as being
thus alone in solitude, and as existing wholly for himself,
and a Being which is represented as a higher one then
says to him that he ought to expand and to beget him-
self. But Brahma, it is added, had not during a thousand
years been in a condition to conceive of his expansion,
and had returned again into himself.

Here Brahma is represented as world-creating, but,
owing to the fact that he is the One, as inactive, as one
who is summoned by another higher than himself, and
is formless. Thus the need of another is directly pre-
sent. To speak generally, Brahma is this one absolute

Power as this simple activity is Tiiought. In the Indian
religion this characteristic is the most prominent one of all ;


it is tlie absolute basis and is the One — Brahma. This form
is in accordance with the logical development. First came
the multiplicity of determinations, and the advance con-
sists in the resumption of determination into unity. That
is the basis. What now remains to be given is partly
something of a merely historical character, but partly,
too, the necessary development which follows from that

Simple Power, as the active element, created the world.
The creating is essentially an attitude of thought towards
itself, an activity relating itself to itself, and in no sense
a finite activity. This, too, is expressed in the ideas of
the Indian religion. The Hindus have a great number
of cosmogonies which are all more or less barbarous, and
out of which nothing of a fixed character can be derived.
What we have is not one idea of the creation of the world,
as in the Jewish and Christian religion. In the Code of
Manu, in the Vedas and Puranas, the cosmogonies are con-
stantly understood and presented differently. Notwith-
standing this, there is always one feature essentially
present in them, namely, that this Thought, which is
at home with itself or self-contained, is the begetting of

This infinitely profound and true trait constantly re-
appears in the various descriptions of the creation of the
world. The Code of Manu begins thus : " The Eternal
with one thought created water," and so on. We also
find that this pure activity is called " the Word," as God
is in the New Testament. With the Jews of later times
— Philo, for example — crocpia is the " First-created," which
proceeds out of the One. The " Word " is held in very
high esteem among the Hindus. It is the figure of pure
activity, definite existence of an externally physical char-
acter, which, however, does not permanently remain, but
is only ideal, and immediately vanishes in its external
form. The Eternal created the water, it is stated, and
deposited fruit-bringing seed in it; this seed became a



resplendent egg, and therein the Eternal itself was born
again as Brahma. Brahma is the progenitor of all spirits,
of the existent and non-existent. In this egg, it is said,
the great Power remained inactive for a year ; at the end
of that time it divided the egg by means of thought, and
created one part masculine and the other feminine. The
masculine energy is itself begotten, and becomes agaiu
begetting and active, only when it has practised severe
meditation, that is to say, when it has attained to the con-
centration of abstraction. Thought is therefore what brings
forth and what is brought forth; it is the bringer fortli itself,
namely, the unity of thinking with itself. The return of
thinking to itself is found in other descriptions besides.
In one of the Vedas, some passages out of which Cole-
brooke was the first to translate, a similar description of
the first act of creation is to be found : " There was neither
Being nor nothing, neither above nor below, neither death
nor immortality, but only the One enshrouded and dark.
Outside of this One existed nothing, and this brooded in
solitude with itself; through the energy of contemplation
it brought forth a world out of itself; in thinking, desire,
impulse first formed itself, and this was the original seed
of all things."

Here likewise Thought in its self-enclosed activity is
presented to us. But Thought becomes further known as
Thought in the self-conscious Essence — in man, who repre-
sents its actual existence. The Hindus might be charged
with having attributed to the One a contingent existence,
since it is left to chance whether or not the individual
raises itself to the abstract Universal — to abstract self-
consciousness. But, on the other hand, the caste of the
Brahmans is an immediate representation of the presence
of Brahma ; it is the duty of that caste to read the
Vedas, to withdraw itself into itself. The reading of
Vedas is the Divine, indeed God Himself, and so too is
prayer. The Vedas may even be read unintelligently
and in complete stupefaction ; this stupefaction itself is


the abstract unity of thought ; the " I," the pure cou-
templation of it is perfect emptiness. Thus it is in the
Brahmans that Brahma exists ; by the reading of the
Vedas Brahma is, and human self-consciousness in the
state of abstraction is Brahma itself.

The characteristics of Brahma ■which have been in-
dicated seem to have so many points of correspondence
with the God of other religions — with the true God
Himself — that it appears to be of some importance to
point out, on the one hand, the difference which exists,
and on the other, to indicate for what reason the logical
determination of subjective existence in self-conscious-
ness which marks the Indian pure Essence has no place
among these other ideas. The Jewish God is, for example,
'the same One, immaterial Substantiality and Power which
exists for thought only ; He is Himself objective thought,
and is also not as yet that inherently concrete One which
He is as Spirit. But the Indian supreme God is merely
the One in a neuter sense, rather than the One Person ;
He has merely potential being, and is not self-conscious ;
He is Brahma the Neutrum, or the Universal determina-
tion. Brahma as subject, on the other hand, is at once
one among the three Persons, if we may so designate
them, which in truth is not possible since spiritual sub-
jectivity as an essential fundamental determination is
wanting to them. It is not enough tliat the Trimiirti
proceeds out of that primal One, and also returns back
again into that One ; all that is implied in this is that
it is represented merely as Substance, not as Subject.
The Jewish God, on the contrary, is the One exclusively,
who has no other gods beside Hirh. It is because of
this that He is determined not only as Potentiality, but
also as what alone has Actual Being, as the absolutely
consuming or absorbing element, as a Subject havin"
infinitude within itself, which is indeed still abstract and
posited in an undeveloped manner, but which is never-
theless true infinitude. His goodness and His righteous-


ness remain so far also merely attributes ; or, as the
Hebrews frequently express it, they are His names, which
do not become special forms or shapes, although too they
do not become the content through which the Christian
Unity of God is alone the spiritual one. For this reason
the Jewish God cannot acquire the determination of a
subjective existence in self-consciousness, because He is
rather a subject in Himself. To reach subjectivity He
does not therefore require an Other in which He should
for the first time acquire this determination, but which,
because of its being in an Other, would have a merely
subjective existence also.

On the other hand, what the Hindu says in and to
himself — " I am Brahma " — must be recognised, in its
essential character, as identical with the modern sub-
jective aud objective " vanity " — with that which the " I "
is made into by means of the oft-repeated assertion that
we know nothing of God. For the statement that " I "
has no affirmative relation to God, that He is a " Beyond "
for the " I," a nullity without any content, at once implies
that the mere independent " I " is the affirmative for " I."
It is of no use to say, " I recognise God as above me, as
outside of me ; " God is an idea without content, whose
sole characteristie, all that is to be recognised or known
of it, all which it is to be for me, is wholly and entirely
limited to this — that this absolutely indeterminate Being
is, and that it is the negative of myself. In the Indian,
" I am Brahma," it is not, indeed, posited as the nega-
tive of myself, as being in opposition to me. But that
apparently affirmative determination of God — that He is
— is partly in itself merely the perfectly empty abstrac-
tion of Being, and therefore a subjective determination
only, a determination which has an existence in my
self-consciousness only, and which therefore attaches to
Brahma also, and partly in so far as it still is to get an
objective meaning, it would already be — and not in concrete
determinations only, as, for instance, that God is a subject


in and for Himself — something which is known of God,
a category of Him, and thus would be already too much.
Being, consequently, reduces itself by its own act to the
mere " something outside of me," and it is intended ex-
pressly, too, to signify the negative of myself, in which
negation nothing in fact remains to me but I myself. It
is thrashing empty straw to attempt to pass off that
negative of myself, that something outside of me or above
me, for an alleged, or at least a supposed, recognised
objectivity, for to do so is merely to pronounce a negative,
and to do this, in fact, expressly through myself. But
neither this abstract negation, nor the quality that it is
posited through me, and that I know this negation, and
know it as negation only, is an objectivity ; nor is it an
objectivity, so far, at least, as the form is concerned, even
although it is not an objectivity so far as the content
is concerned ; for the truth rather is, that is just the
empty form of objectivity without content, an empty
form and merely subjective supposition. Formerly that
which could be described as merely the negative, was
called in the Christian world the Devil. Consequently
nothing affirmative remains save this subjectively-supposing
"I." With a one-sided dialectic it has, by a process of
evaporation, sceptically rid itself of all the content of the
sensuous and super-sensuous world, and given to it the
character of something that is negative for it. All
objectivity having become for it vain and empty, what is
present is this positive vanity itself — it is that objective
"I" which alone is Power and Essence, in which everything
has vanished away, into which all content whatever has
sunk as finite, so that the " I " is the Universal, the master
of all determinations, and the exclusive, affirmative point.
The Indian " I am Brahma," and that so-called religion,
the " I " of the modern faith of reflection, differ from one
another in their external relations only ; the former ex-
presses the primitive apprehension of the mind in its
naive form, in which the pure substantiality of its thought


comes into existence for self-consciousness, so that it
allows all other content whatever to exist beside it, and
recognises it as objective truth. In contrast to this, that
faith of reflection, which denies all objectivity to truth,
holds fast to that solitude of subjectivity alone, and
recognises it alone. In this fully developed reflection
the divine world, like all other content, is merely some-
thing posited by me.

This first relation of the Hindu to Brahma is set
down only in the one single prayer, and since it is itself
the existence of Brahma, the momeutary character of
this existence at once shows itself to be inadequate to
the content, and consequently a demand arises that this
existence itself should be rendered universal and lastinj;
like its content. Tor it is only tlie momentary time
element which appears as the most obvious defect in
ihat existence, it being that alone which stands in rela-
tion with that abstract Universality, compares itself with
it, and shows itself to be inadequate to it ; for in other
respects its subjective existence — the abstract " I ". — is
equal or commensurate with it. But to exalt that merely
single look into a permanent seeing means nothing else
than to stop the transition from the moment of this
quiet solitude into the full present reality of life, of its
needs, interests, and occupations, and to preserve oneself
continuously in that motionless abstract self-conscious-
ness. This is what, in fact, many Hindus who are not
Brahmaus (of whom later on) virtually accomplish. They
give themselves up with the most persevering callousness
to the monotony of an inactivity extending over years,
and especially to an inactivity of ten years' duration, in
which they renounce all the interests and occupations
of ordinary life, and combine with this renunciation the
constraint arising from some unnatural attitude or posi-
tion of the body, as, for example, sitting even on, going
with the hands clasped over the head, or else standing,
and never even in sleep lying down, and the like.


We now come to the Second in the triad, Krishna or
Vishnu ; that ■ is, the incarnation of Brahma generally.
Many and various are the incarnations of this kind which
are reckoned up by the Hindus. The general meaning
here is that Brahma appears as man : it cannot, never-
theless, be said that it is Brahma who appears as man,
for this assumption of humanity is not actually held to
be the pure form of Brahma.

Monstrous poetical fictions make their appearance in
this region : Krishna is also Brahma, Vishnu. These
popular conceptions of incarnations appear partly to have
in them echoes of what is historical, and point to the fact
that great conquerors who gave a new shape to the
condition of things are the gods, and are thus described as
gods. The deeds of Krishna are conquests in connection

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 2 of 31)