Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

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

. (page 20 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 20 of 31)
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jectivity vyhich can give account of its principles and has
an ethical intention, an ethical design and aim.

Morality is here as yet the substantial Being, the true
Being of what is moral, but not as yet the knowledge
of it. So far as the objective import is concerned, this
means that just because one subjectivity, the particular
reflection into self, is not yet present — and just in virtue
of this fact — the moral content has no connecting element
in it, its basis being constituted by the TlaOr;, the essen-
tially spiritual powers, the universal powers of the moral
life, and chiefly of the practical life, life in the State, and,
in addition to this, justice, bravery, the family, oaths,
agriculture, science, and so on.

Closely connected with the fact that what is moral has
no inner connection as it appears in these particular
forms, is that other want of connection, namely, that the
natural appears as something opposed to these spiritual
powers. The determination of immediacy, which has
this disconnected condition as its consequence, involves
the further idea that the natural forces, the sky, the
earth, rivers, the division of time, appear as opposed to
the spiritual forces.

3. The last form of determinateness is that of the
antithesis between essential self-consciousness and the
finite self-consciousness, between the essential spirit and


the finite spirit. In this determinateness the form of
the natural outward embodiment of subjectivity comes
into view, the natural outward form is imagined by self-
consciousness as something divine, and this divinity
accordingly stands over against self-consciousness.



(a.) The Conflict of the Spiritioal and the Natural.

Since the fundamental determination is spiritual sub-
jectivity, the power of Nature cannot be considered as
being the essential power in its own right. Yet it is
one of the particular powers, and as the most immediate
is the first of those through whose abrogation the other
spiritual powers first originate. We have seen the nature
of the power of the One, and how His real and actual
sublimity first resulted from creation. This one funda-
mental principle, as the self of the Absolute, is wanting
here. Thus the starting-point here is within the sphere
of wliat is immediately natural, which cannot at this
stage appear as if created by the One. The unity in
which these particular forms of the powers of Nature
repose is not spiritual, but is, on the contrary, an essen-
tially natural unity, chaos, in fact.

"But first of all," sings Hesiod, "was Chaos" (Theog.
V. 1 1 6). Chaos is thus itself something posited, but
what the positing agent is we are not told. It is only
said that it came into being. For the fundamental prin-
ciple here is not the self, but rather the selfless, the
necessity, of which it can only be said that it is. Chaos
is the moving unity of the immediate, but it itself is not
yet subject, particularity ; hence it is not said of it that
it begets, but as it only comes into being itself, so this
necessity comes into being in turn out of it, namely, the


wide extended earth, the shades of Tartaros, the night of
Erebos, as also Eros, adorned beyond all with beauty.
"We see the totality of particularity originating here ; the
earth, the positive element, the universal basis ; Tartaros,
Erebos, Night, the negative element, and Eros, the uniting
and active element. The particular elements are now
themselves productive ; the earth produces the heavens
out of itself, brings forth the hills without fructifying
love, the desolate Pontus, but when united with the sky
bears Oceanos and its rulers. She further brings forth
the Cyclopes, the forces of Nature as such, while the earlier
children, natural things, themselves exist as subjects. The
Earth and the Sivy are thus the abstract powers which, by
fructifying themselves, cause the sphere of natural parti-
cular things to come into existence. The youngest child
is the inscrutable Cronos. Night, the second moment,
brings forth all that from the natural side has the moment
of negation within itself. Thirdly, these particular forms
unite in a reciprocal relation, and beget the positive and
negative. All these are concpered later on by the gods
of spiritual subjectivity ; Hecate alone remains in the
form of Eate or Destiny as representing the natural side.

The primary power, that which rules over this circle
of natural forces, is the abstraction iu general out of
which they have risen, Uranos ; and inasmuch as he is
power only as positing his abstraction, so that this last is
alone what has valid worth, he drives away all his chil-
dren. But the main offspring of Heaven is inscrutable
Time, the youngest child. This latter conquers Uranos
through the cunning of the Earth. Everything here is
in the form of a subjective end, and cunning is the nega-
tive of force. But inasmuch as the particular forces
make themselves free, and set up on their own account,
Uranos calls them by a name suggestive of punishment,
calls them Titans, whose wrong-doing is one day to be
avenged on them.

These particular natural forces are also personified, but


this personification is, so far as they are concerned, super-
ficial only ; for the content of Helios, for example, or of
Oceanos, is something natural, and not superficial Power.
Thus, if Helios is represented in human fashion as active,
what we have is the empty form of personification.
Helios is not god of the sun, not the sun-god (the Greeks
never express themselves thus), and Oceanos is not the
god of the sea in such a way that the god and that over
which he rules are distinguished from each other ; on the
contrary, these powers are natural powers.

The first moment in this natural sphere is thus Chaos
posited together with its moments by abstract necessity ;
the second is the period of begetting under the rule of
Uranos, in which these abstract moments which have
proceeded out of chaos are the productive element ; the
third is the period of the sovereignty of Cronos, when
the particular natural powers, themselves just born, give
birth in turn to something else. In this way what is
posited is itself the positing factor, and the transition
to Spirit is made. This transition shows itself more
definitely in Cronos, in that he himself brings about
the downfall. He is sovereign pre-eminently through
the abrogation of the immediate divine forms. But he
himself is immediate, and thereby presents the contra-
diction of being, while in himself immediate, the abro-
gation of immediacy. He begets the spiritual gods
out of himself; yet in so far as they are at first merely
natural, he does away with them, and swallows them up.
But his abrogation of the spiritual gods must itself be
abrogated, and this is accomplished in its turn through
cunning working against the natural force of Cronos.
Zeus, the god of spiritual subjectivity, lives. Thus over
against Cronos there appears his Other, and there arises,
in fact, the conflict between the natural powers and the
spiritual gods.

However much, then, this breaking up may take place,
representing a state of things in which the natural powers


make their appearance as independent, still the unity of
the spiritual and the natural — and this is what is essen-
tial — appears more and more clearly, and this unity is,
moreover, not the neutralisation of the two, but is, on the
contrary, that form in which the spiritual is not only the
predominant element, but is also the ruling and deter-
mining factor, and in which the natural is ideal and
brought into subjection.

The Greeks have expressed the consciousness of this
subjugation of the natural powers by the spiritual element
by telling how Zeus, through a war, founded the sove-
reignty of the spiritual gods, conquered the nature-power,
and hurled it from its throne. It is spiritual powers
accordingly that rule the world.

In this war of the gods we find the whole history
of the Greek gods and their nature expressed. With
the exception of this war, they have done nothing ; and
even when they take up the cause of an individual, or
say that of Troy, this is no longer thei7- history nor the
historical development of their nature. But the fact
that they, as representing the spiritual principle, attained
to mastery over the natural and conquered it, is what
constitutes their essential act, and forms the essential
element in the ideas of the Greeks regarding them.

The natural gods are thus subdued, driven from their
throne ; the spiritual principle is victorious over the
religion of nature, and the natural forces are banished
to the borders of the world, beyond the world of self-
consciousness, but they have also retained their rights.
They are, while nature-powers, at the same time posited
as ideal, or as in subjection to the spiritual element,
so that they constitute a determination in what is spiri-
tual, or in the spiritual gods themselves. This natural
moment is still present in these gods, but is in them
only as a kind of reminiscence of the nature element,
only as one of their aspects.

To these old gods, however, belong not only nature-


powers, but also Dike, the Eumenides, the Erinyes ;
the Oath too and Styx are counted as aruoiigst the
ancient gods. They are distinguished from the later
ones by this, that although they are what is spiritual,
they are spiritual as a power existing only within itself,
or as a rude undeveloped form of Spirit. The Erinyes
are those wlio judge only inwardly, the oath is this
particular certainty in my conscience, its truth lies, even
if I take it outwardly, within myself. We may compare
the oath with conscience.

Zeus, on the contrary, is the political god, the god of
laws, of sovereignty, of laws definitely recognised, how-
ever, and not of the laws of conscience. Conscience has
no legal authority in the State. If men appeal to con-
science, one man may have one kind of conscience and
another another, and thus it is positive law alone which
has authority here. In order that conscieuce may be of
the right kind, it is necessary that what it knows as
right should be objective, should be in conformity with
objective law, and should not merely dwell within. If
conscience is right, then it is this as something; recoii-
nised by the State, when the State has an ethical con-

Nemesis is likewise an ancient deity. It is merely
the formal element which brings down what is loftv,
what exalts itself ; it is the merely levelling principle,
envy, the putting down of what is distinguished or
exalted, so that it may be on a level with other things.
In Dike we have merely strict abstract justice. Orestes
is prosecuted by the Eumenides and is acquitted by
Athene, by the moral law, by the State. Moral law or
justice is something different from bare strict justice ;
the new gods are the gods of moral law.

But the new gods have themselves in turn a double
nature, and unite in themselves the natural and the
spiritual. In the real view of the Greeks the natural
element or nature-power was undoubtedly not the truly


independent or self-sufficing element. On the contrarv,
this latter was found only in spiritual subjectivity.
Subjectivity as such which is full of content, the sub-
jectivity which determines itself in accordance with ends,
cannot have in it a merely natural content. Greek
imagination did not, accordingly, people Nature with gods
after the fashion of the Hindus, for whom the form
of God seems to spring out of all natural forms. The
Greek principle is rather subjective freedom, and hence
the natural is clearly no longer worthy to constitute the
content of the divine. But, on the other hand again,
this free subjectivity is not yet the absolutely free sub-
jectivity, not the Idea, which would have truly realised
itself as Spirit, i.e., it is not yet universal infinite sub-
jectivity. We are only at the stage which leads to this.
The content of free subjectivity is still particular ; it is
spiritual indeed, but since Spirit has not itself for its object,
the particularity is still natural, and is even still presented
as the one essential characteristic in the spiritual gods.

Thus Jupiter is the firmament, the atmosphere (in
Latin we have still the expression sub jove frigido), what
thunders ; but besides being this natural principle, he
is not only the father of gods and men, but also the
political god, representing the law and morality of the
State, that highest power on earth. He is, moreover, in
addition to this, a many-sided moral power, the god of
hospitality in connection with the old customs at a
time when the relationship of the different states was
not as yet well defined, for hospitality had essentially
reference to the moral relationship of citizens belonging
to different states.

Poseidon is the sea, like Oceanos, Pontus ; he restrains
the wildness of the elements, but he is also included
amongst the new gods. Phoebus is the god who has
knowledge, and, in accordance with analogy and sub-
stantial logical definition, he corresponds to the light and
is the reflex or reminiscence of the sun-power.


The Lycian Apollo Las a direct connection ■with light,
and the ideas connected ■with him come from Asia Minor :
in the East the natural element, light, gets greater pro-
minence. Phcebus decrees the pestilence in the Greek
camp, and this is immediately connected with the sun.
Pestilence is the effect of the hot summer, of the heat
of the sun. The representations, too, of Phcebus have
attributes and symbols that are closely connected with
the sun.

The same divinities that were at an earlier stage
Titanic and natural appear afterwards possessed of a
fundamental characteristic which is spiritual and which
is the ruling one, and in fact there has been a dispute as
to whether there was any natural element left at all in
Apollo. In Homer Helios is undoubtedly the Sun, but
is at the same time brightness as well, the spiritual
element which irradiates and illumines everything. But
even at a later period, Apollo still has something of
his natural element left, for he was represented with a
nimbus round his head.

This is what we find to be the case generally, though
it may not be particularly noticeable in the case of tlie
individual gods. Perfect consistency is, however, not to be
found here. An element appears at one time in a stronger
and more pronounced form, and at another in a weaker
form. In the Eumenides of jEschylus the first scenes
are laid before the temple of Apollo. There we have
the summons to worship, and first of all the worshippers
are invited to adore the oracle-giver (Tma), the principle
of Nature, then Qefj.ig, already a spiritual power, though,
like Dike, belonging to tlie ancient gods ; next comes
Night and then Phoebus — the oracle has passed over to
the new gods. Pindar too speaks of a similar succession in
reference to the oracle. He makes Nicjht the first oracle-
giver, then comes Themis, and next Phoebus. We thus
have here the transition from natural forms to the new
gods. In the sphere of Poetry, where these doctrines


originate, this is not to be taken historically as something
so fixed as to preclude the possibility of there being any
deviation from it.

Thus too the noise, the rustling of leaves, the light
noise of suspended cymbals, which represent the first
form in which the oracle was given, are mere natural
sounds. It is not till a later period that a priestess
appears who in human sounds, if not actually in clear
and distinct sounds, gives forth the oracle. Similarly
the Muses are first nymphs, springs, waves, the noise or
murmuring of brooks. In every case the starting-point
is some aspect of Nature, natural powers which are trans-
formed into a god with a spiritual character. Such a
transformation shows itself also in Diana. The Diana
of Ephesus is still Asiatic, and is represented with many
breasts and covered with images of animals. She has,
in fact, as the basis of her character, natural life, the
producing and nourishing power of Nature. On the
other hand, Diana of the Greeks is the huntress who
kills animals. She does not represent the idea of hunting
generally, but the hunting of wild animals. And indeed
by the bravery of spiritual subjectivity these animals,
which in the earlier spheres of the religious spirit were
thouglit of as having an absolute claim to exist, are
subdued and killed.

Prometheus, who was also reckoned amongst the Titans,
is an important and interesting figure. Prometheus is
the power of Nature, but he is also the benefactor of
men, for he taught them the first arts. He brought
down fire from heaven for them ; the power to kindle
fire already implies a certain amount of civilisation ; it
means that man has already got beyond his primitive
barbarism. The first beginnings of civilisation have
thus been preserved in grateful remembrance in the
myths. Prometheus also taught men to offer sacri-
fice in such a way that they too might have something
of the offering. The animals, it was supposed, did not


belong to men, but to a spiritual power, i.e., men formerly
ate no flesh. He, however, took the whole offering from
Zeus, that is to say, he made two heaps, one of bones,
over which he threw the skin of the animal, and another
of the flesh, and Zeus laid hold of the first.

Sacrifice thus became a feast in which the gods had
the entrails and the bones. Tliis same Prometheus
taught men to seize animals and use them as their means
of sustenance ; animals, it was formerly thought, should
not be disturbed by men, and were held in high respect
by them. Even in Homer mention is made of the sun-
cattle of Helios, which were not to be interfered with by
men. Amongst the Hindus and the Egyptians it was
forbidden to slaughter animals. Prometheus taught men
to eat flesh themselves and to leave to Jupiter only skin
and bones.

But Prometheus is a Titan. He is chained to the
Caucasus, and a vulture constantly gnaws at his liver,
which always grows again — a pain which never ceases.
What Prometheus taught men had reference only to such
acquirements as conduce to the satisfaction of natural
wants. In the mere satisfaction of these wants there is
never any sense of satiety ; on the contrary, the need is
always growing and care is ever new. This is wliat is
signifled by this myth. In a passage in Plato it is said
that Prometheus could not bring Politics to men, because
the science of politics was preserved in the citadel of
Zeus. The idea is thus here expressed that tliis science
belonged to Zeus as liis own peculiar property.

It is, indeed, gratefully mentioned that Prometheus
makes life easier for men by introducing arts and handi-
crafts ; but, spite of the fact that these are connected
with the powers of the human mind, he still belongs to
the Titans, for these arts are not in any sense laws, nor
have they any moral force.

If the gods represent spiritual particularity looked at
from the side of Substance, which breaks itself up so as to


form them, as a consequence of this, on the other hand,
the limitedness of the particular is advanced to substantial
universality. "VVe thereby get the unity of the two ; we
have the divine end made human, and the human end
elevated to the divine. This gives us the heroes, the
demi-gods. Specially significant in this respect is the
figure of Hercules. He has human individuality ; he has
worked very hard, and by his virtue he has obtained
heaven. The heroes are thus not gods straight off; they
have first by labour to put themselves into the rank
of the Divine. For the gods of spiritual individuality,
although now at rest, are yet what they are only through
their struggle with the Titans. This potentiality or in-
herent nature of theirs gets an explicit form in the
heroes. Thus the spiritual individuality of the heroes
is higher than that of the gods themselves ; they are
actually what the gods are implicitly ; they represent
the carrying into effect of what is implicit, and if they
have also to struggle and work, this is a working off of
the natural element which the gods still have in them-
selves. The gods come out of the powers of Nature ;
the heroes, again, come out of the gods.

Since the spiritual gods are thus the result reached
through the overcoming of the powers of Nature, though
they exist in the first instance only through these, they
have their development or becoming in themselves, and
manifest themselves as concrete unity. The powers of
Nature are contained in them as their basis, although this,
their implicit nature, is likewise transfigured. Hence, in
the case of the gods, we have this reminiscence or echo
of the natural elements, a feature which Hercules does
not possess. There are, indeed, several signs that the
Greeks themselves were conscious of the presence of this
difference. In ^schylus, Prometheus says that he placed
his consolation, his confidence, and satisfaction in the fact
that a son would be born to Zeus who would hurl him
from his throne. This prophecy of the overthrow of the


rule of Zeus, to be accomplished through the manifested
unity of the divine and the human which belongs to
the heroes, is expressed also by Aristophanes ; for Bacchus
says to Hercules, " When Zeus dies and goes, thou wilt
succeed him."

(&.) Formless Necessity.

The unity which binds together the plurality of the
particular gods is at first superficial only. Zeus rules
them in fatherl}', patriarchal fashion, which implies that
the ruler does in the end what the others on the whole
wish, while these give their assent to all that occurs.
But this sovereignty is not serious. The higher abso-
lute unity, in the form of absolute Power, stands over
them as their pure and absolute power. This power is
Fate or Destiny, simple necessity.

This unity, as being absolute necessity, has universal
determinateness within it. It is the fulness of all
determinations ; but it is not developed in itself, the fact
rather being that the content is divided in a particular
way among the many gods who issue forth from this
unity. It is itself empty and without content, despises
all fellowship and outward embodiment, and rules in
dread fashion over everything as blind, irrational, unin-
telligible power. It is unintelligible because it is the
concrete alone of which we can form an intelligent con-
ception ; but this necessity is still abstract, and has not
yet developed so as to have the conception of an end,
has not yet reached definite determinations.

JSTecessity, accordingly, essentially relates itself to the
world. For determinateness is a moment in necessity
itself, and the concrete world is developed determinate-
ness, the kingdom of finitude, of definite existence gene-
rally. Necessity has at first a merely abstract relation
to the concrete world, and this relation is the external
unity of the world, equality or uniformity simply, which
is without any further determination in itself, and is


incomprehensible — Nemesis, in short. It brings down
■what is high and exalted, and thus establishes equality.
But this equalising is not to be understood as meaning
that when what pushes itself forward or is too high is
brought down, what is low is, in its turn, raised up.
On the contrary, that which is low is as it was meant to
be ; it is the finite which has no particular claims, and
no kind of infinite value in itself to which it could appeal.
It is thus not too low. It has in it power, however,
to rise above the common lot and the ordinary limit of
finitude, and when it thus acts in opposition to unifor-
mity it is again thrust down by Nemesis.

If we now directly consider the relation of the finite
self-consciousness to this necessity, we see that under
the pressure of its iron power it is to have only an
obedience without inward freedom. But one form of
freedom is at least present when we look at the matter
from the side of feeling. The Greek who has within
him the feeling of the necessity calms his soul with that.
It is so ; there is nothing to be done against it ; with
this I must content myself ; just in this feeling that I
must be content with it, that this even pleases me, we

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 20 of 31)