Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

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

. (page 21 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 21 of 31)
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have the freedom which is implied in the fact that it is

This mental attitude implies that man has this simple
necessity before him. In that he occupies the stand-
point, " Ic is so," he has set all that is particular on
one side, has made a renunciation of and abstracts from
all particular ends and interests. The vexation, the
discontent which men feel consists just in this, that they
stick to a definite end, and will not give this up ; and
then if things do not fit in with this end, or, as may
happen, go quite contrary to it, they are dissatisfied.
There is then no harmony between what is actually pre-
sent and what men wish to have, because they have the
" ought to be " within themselves — " That ought to be."

Thus discontent, division, are inherently present ; but


those •who occupy the standpoint referred to cling to no
aim, no interest, as against actually existing circumstances.
Misfortune, discontent, is nothing but the contradiction
implied in the fact that something is contrary to ray will.
If the particular interest is given up, then by this act I
have retreated into this pure rest, into this pure Being,
into this " is."

There is here no consolation for man, but then it is
not necessary. He requires consolation when he desires
compensation for some loss ; but here he has renounced
the inner root of worry and discontent, and has wholly
given up what is lost, because he has the power which
enables him to look into necessity. It is, accordingly,
nothing but a false illusion to imagine that consciousness
is annihilated when brought into relation to necessity —
that it relates itself to something which is absolutely
beyond its own world, and finds in it nothing having a
relationship with itself. Necessity is not one person, and
accordingly consciousness does not exist in it on its own
account, for itself, or in other words, it is not an in-
dividual or selfish oneness in its immediacy. In relation
to that which is one person it is independent, wishes to
be independent, to be for itself, and to stand on its own
basis. The servant or vassal, in performing his service,
in his condition of subjection, has fear, and in doing any
base act against his master he has a self-seeking design.
But in relation to necessity the subject appears as some-
thing which does not exist independently, or as deter-
mined for itself, it has, on the contrary, surrendered
itself, retains no end for itself, and the revering of neces-
sity is just this indeterminate attitude of self-conscious-
ness, this attitude which is wholly devoid of the element
of opposition. What we now-a-days call fate is just the
opposite of this attitude of self-consciousness. We speak
of just, unjust, merited fate. We use the word fate bv
way of explanation, that is, as suggesting the reason of
any condition in which individuals are, or of the fate of

VOL. 11. Q


individuals. Here there is an external union of cause
and effect by which an inherited evil, an ancient curse
that rests on his house, breaks out in the individual.
In such cases fate implies that there exists some sort of
reason, but a reason that is at the same time away
beyond the present, and fate is here nothing but a con-
nection of causes and eilects, of causes, which, so far as
the person is concerned upon whom the fate falls, should
be finite causes, and where there is nevertheless a hidden
connection between that which the sufferer is in himself
and that which befalls him as something unmerited.

The perception of and reverent regard for necessity is,
on the other hand, the direct opposite of the foregoing.
In it that mediation and the superficial reasoning about
cause and effect are done away with. We cannot speak
of a belief in necessity as if necessity were something
essentially existing, or were a connection of relations,
such as that of cause and effect, and as if it thus stood
opposed to consciousness in some objective outward form.
On the contrary, the expression " it is necessary " directly
presupposes the abandonment of all argumentative reason-
ing, and the shutting up of the spirit within simple
abstraction. Noble and beautiful characters are produced
by this attitude on the part of the human spirit, wliich
has thus given up that which, as the saying goes, fate
wrests from us. It produces a certain grandeur and
repose and that free nobility of soul which is also found
amongst the ancients. This freedom is, however, only
of the abstract kind, which merely stands above the con-
crete and jiarticular, but does not actually come to be iu
liarmony with what is definite, i.e., it is pure thought,
Being, Being- within-self, the relinquishment of the parti-
cular. In the higher forms of religion, on the contrary,
there exists the consolation that the absolute end and
aim will be reached even in misfortune, so that the nega-
tive chiinges round into the affirmative. " The sufferings
of the present are the path to bliss."


Abstract necessity, as this abstraction of thought aud
of the return into self, is the one extreme ; the other
extreme is the singularity or individual existence of the
particular divine powers.

(c.) Posited necessity or the particular gods, their appear-
ance and outward form.

The divine particular powers belong to what is im-
plicitly universal, to necessity, but they come oat from it
because it is not yet posited for itself as the Notion and
determined as freedom. Kationality and the rational
content are still in the form of immediacy, or, in other
words, subjectivity is not posited as infinite subjectivity,
and the individuality hence appears as external. The
Notion is not yet revealed, and its definite existence as it
here presents itself does not yet contain the content of
necessity. But it is at the same time made plain that
the freedom of the particular is merely the semblance of
freedom, and that the particular powers are held within
the unity and power of necessity.

Necessity is not in itself anything divine, or at least
is not the divine in a general sense. We may indeed
say that God is necessity, i.e., it is one of His essential
qualities, though it may be one which is still imperfect,
but we cannot say that necessity is God. For necessity
is not the Idea, but rather abstract Notion. But Nemesis,
and still more these particular powers, are already divine
in as far as the former has a relation to definitely existing
reality, while these powers again are in themselves charac-
terised as distinguished from necessity, aud consequently as
distinguished from one another, and are contained in neces-
sity as the unity of the wholly universal and particular.

Accordingly, because particularity is not yet tempered
by the Idea, and necessity is not the fully concrete
measure of wisdom, unlimited contingency of content
•makes its appearance in the sphere of the particular gods.


(a.) The contingency of form or outward emlodiment. —
The twelve principal gods of Olympus are not arranged
in accordance with the ISTotion, and they do not constitute
any system. One moment of the Idea, it is true, plays a
leading part, to begin with, but it is not carried out in

The divine powers of necessity being separate from
it, are external and thus unmediated, merely immediate
objects, natural existing things, such as sun, sky, earth,
sea, mountains, men, kings, and so on. But they are
also still held fast by necessity, and thus the natural
element in them is abrogated. If no advance were made
beyond the thought that these powers were, in their
natural immediate form of existence, divine essentially
existing beings, this would be a reversion to the Eeligion
of Nature, in which light, or the sun, or some particular
king is as immediate, God, while the inner element, the
universal, has not yet reached that moment of the relation
which, nevertheless, necessity essentially and absolutely
contains in itself, since in the latter the immediate is
merely something posited and abrogated."

But even if it is abrogated and preserved, the element
of Nature is still a determinate characteristic of the parti-
cular powers, and because it is incorporated in self-con-
scious individuals it has become a fruitful source of
continrjent determinations. The determination of time,
the year, the division of the months, still hang so much
about the concrete gods that some, as Dupuis, for example,
have even tried to make them into calendar gods. The
idea, too, of the productive power of Nature, of beginning
to be and ceasing to be, is seen to be operative within the
sphere of the spiritual gods in the many points of agree-
ment still existing between these gods and Nature. But
when thus lifted up into the self-conscious form of these
gods, those natural characteristics appear as contingent,
and are changed into characteristics of self-conscious
subjectivity, whereby they lose their original meaning.


The right to search for so-called philosophemes or philo-
sophical ideas ia the actions of these gods, must be freely
granted. For instance, Zeus feasted with the gods for
twelve days amongst the Ethiopians ; Juno hung between
heaven and earth, and so on. Ideas such as these, as
also the endless number of amours ascribed to Zeus, have
undoubtedly their primary source in an abstract concep-
tion which had reference to natural relations, natural
forces, and to the regular and essential element in these,
and thus we have the right to search after the concep-
tions aforesaid. These natural relations are, however, at
the same time degraded to the rank of contingent things,
since they have not retained their original purity, but are
changed into forms which are in conformity with sub-
jective human modes of thought. Free self-consciousness
no longer concerns itself about such natural characteristics.

Another source of contingent determinations is the
Spiritual itself, spiritual individuality and its historical
development. The god is revealed to man in what befalls
himself or in the fate of a state, and this becomes an
event which is regarded as an action of the god, as
revealing the goodwill or enmity of the god. "We get
an infinitely manifold, but at the same time a contingent
content, when any event, such as good fortune or bad
fortune, is elevated to being the action of a god, and
serves to determine more definitely and in individual
instances, the actions of the god. As the God of the
Jews gave a particular land to the people and led their
fathers out of Egypt, so a Greek god is conceived of
as having done this or the other thing which happens to
a people, and which they look on as divine or as a self-
determination of the divine.

We have further to take into consideration also the
locality in which, and the time at which, the conscious-
ness of a god first began. This element of origin within
defined limits, united with the joyousness of the Greek
character, is the source of a number of delightful stories.


rinally, the free individuality of the gods is the main'
source of the manifold contingent content ascribed to them.
They are, if not infinite, absolute spirituality, at least
concrete subjective spirituality. As such, they do not
possess an abstract content, and there is not only one
quality in them, on the contrary, they unite in themselves
several characteristics. Did they possess only one quality
this would be merely an abstract inner element, or simply
a certain signification, and they themselves would be
merely allegories, i.e., would be concrete in imagination
merely. But in the concrete fulness of their indivi-
duality they are not tied down to the limited lines and
modes of operation belonging to one exclusive quality.
On the contrary, they can now go about freely in what
are voluntary but are at the same time arbitrary and
contingent directions.

So far we have considered the embodiment of the
divine as it is based in the implicit or potential nature
belonging to it, i.e., in the individual nature of these
deities, in their subjective spirituality, in their chance
appearances in time and place, or as it occurs in the
involuntary transformation of natural determinations into
the manifestation of free subjectivity. This embodiment
has now to be considered as it appears in its perfected
form united with consciousness. This is the manifesta-
tion of the divine powers which is for " Other," that is, for
subjective self-consciousness, and is known and embodied
in the conception consciousness forms of it.

(/3.) The manifestation and conceiving of the divine. —
Tlie actual form which the god attains to in his appear-
ance and manifestation to the finite spirit, has two sides.
The god, that is to say, appears in externality, and owing
to this a division, a separation, takes place which deter-
mines itself in such a way that the manifestation has
two sides, one of which pertains to the god and the other
to the finite spirit. The side which pertains to the god
is his self-revelation, his showing of himself. Looked


at from this side, all that belongs to self-consciousness is
passive reception. The mode of this manifestation is one
which exists pre-eminently for Thought ; what is eternal
is taught, given, and its existence does not depend on the
caprice of the individual. Dreams, the oracle, are mani-
festations of this kind. The Greeks embodied this idea
in all kinds of forms. For instance, a divine image
fallen from heaven, or a meteor, or thunder and lightning,
are reckoned as a manifestation of the divine. Or it
may be this manifestation, as the first and as yet inarti-
culate proclamation of the divine to the consciousness, is
the rustling of the trees, the stillness of the woods in
which Pan is present.

Since this stage is only the stage of freedom and
rationality in their first form, the spiritual power either
appears in outward guise — and this is the basis of that
natural aspect which still attaches to this standpoint —
or if the powers and laws that make themselves known
to the inward thought of man are spiritual and moral,
they are this to begin with hecmcse they are, and it is not
known whence they come.

The manifestation is now the boundary-line of both
sides, which separates them and at the same time relates
them to each other. At bottom, however, the activity
belongs to both sides, and the true comprehension of this
undoubtedly constitutes a serious difficulty. This difli-
culty also appears again later oti in connection with the
idea of the grace of God. Grace enlightens the heart of
man, it is the Spirit of God in man, so that man can be
regarded in relation to its work in him as passive, and
in such a way that it is not his own activity which
is manifested in his actions. In the Notion, however,
this double activity is to be conceived of as one. Here
in the present stage, this unity of the Notion is not yet
made explicit, and the side of productive activity, which
belongs to the subject as well, appears as independent
and separate in this way^ namely, that the subject pro-


duces the manifestation of the divine consciously as Us
oivn work.

It is self-consciousness which grasps, interprets, gives
form to what was, to begin with, abstract, whether it is
inward or outward, and produces it iu the form in which
it is held to be God.

Tlie mauifestations in Nature or any particular imme-
diate and external element, are not manifestations in
the sense that the Essence is only to be regarded as
a thought within our minds — as, for instance, when we
speak of the forces of Nature and of its outward effects.
Here it does not lie in the natural objects themselves,
does not lie in the objectivity in them as such that they
exist as manifestations of what is inward. As natural
objects they exist only for our sense-perception, and for
this they are not a manifestation of the universal.
Thus it is not, for example, in light as such that
thought, the universal, announces its presence. In the
case of natural existence we must on the contrary first
break through the husk behind which thought, that
which is the inward element in things, hides itself.

What is necessary is that the natural, the external,
should in itself and in its externality be directly ex-
hibited as abrogated and taken up into something higher,
and as being in its own nature manifestation, so that it
has only meaning and significance as the outward ex-
pression and organ of thought and of the universal.
Thought must be for sense-perception, that is, what is
revealed is on the one hand the sensuous mode of truth,
while on the other hand that which is perceived by the
senses is at the same time thought, the universal. It
is necessity that has to appear in a divine fashion, i.e.,
in definite existence as necessity in immediate unity
with this concrete existence. This is posited necessity,
i.e., definitely existing necessity, which exists as simple
reflection into itself.

Imagination is now the organ with which self-con-


sciousness gives outward form to the inwardly abstract
or to the external, which is at first something having
immediate Being, and posits it as concrete. In this
process the natural loses its independence and is reduced
to being the outward sign of the indwelling spirit, in
such a way that this latter alone is essentially allowed
to appear.

The freedom of Spirit here is not yet the infinite
freedom of thought ; the spiritual essences are not yet
in the element of Thought. Did man exercise thought
in such a way that pure thought constituted the basis,
there would be for him only one God. Just as little,
however, does man come upon his essential beings as
present immediate natural forms ; on the contrary, he
brings them forward into existence for idea or figurative
thought, and this bringing of them forward as repre-
senting the middle stage between pure thought and the
immediate perception of Nature, is imagination or fancy.

In this way the gods are formed by human imagina-
tion, and they originate in a finite fashion, being produced
by the poet, by the muse. They have this finitude
essentially in themselves, because so far as the content
is concerned they are finite, and in virtue of their indi-
viduality have no connection with each other. Tiiey
are not discovered by the human mind as they are in
their essentially existent rational content, but in so far
as they are gods. They are made, invented, but are not
fictitious. Tliey certainly come forth out of the human
imagination in contrast to what actually exists, but they
do this as essential forms, and this product of the mind
is at the same time recognised as being what is essential.

It is in this sense we are to understand the remark of
Herodotus that Homer and Hesiod made their gods for
the Greeks. The same might be said of every priest
and wise " ancient " who was capable of understanding
and explaining the presence in the natural of the divine
and of the essentially existing powers.


When the Greeks heard the roaring of the sea at the
funeral of Achilles, Nestor came forward and explained it
as meaning that Thetis was taking part in the mourning.
Thus, too, in the case of the pestilence, Calchas says that
Apollo had brought it about because he was angry with
the Greeks. This interpretation just means that an
embodiment is given to natural phenomena, that they
get the form of a divine act. "What takes place within
the mind is similarly explained. According to Homer,
for instnnce, Achilles would like to draw his sword, but
he calms himself and restrains his anfrer. This inward
prudence is Pallas, who represses anger. In this inter-
pretation originated those innumerable charming tales and
the endless number of Greek myths which we possess.

From whatever side we consider the Greek principle,
the sensuous and natural element is seen to force its
way into it. The gods as they issue out of necessity are
limited, and they have also still traces of the natural
element in them, just because they reveal the fact that
they have sprung from the struggle with the forces of
Nature. The manifestation by which they announce
themselves to self-consciousness is still external, and the
imagination which gives shape and form to this mani-
i'estation does not yet elevate their starting-point into
the region of pure thought. We have now to see how
this natural moment is wholly transfigured into a beauti-
ful form.

{y.) The heautiful form of the divine poivers. — In abso-
lute necessity determinateness is reduced to the unity of
immediacy, " it is so." But this means that the deter-
minateness, the content, is rejected, and the stability and
freedom of the feeling which keeps to this sensuous
perception consists only in the fact that it abides firmly
by the empty " is." But definitely existing necessity is
for immediate perception, and indeed exists for it in its
character as natural determinate existence which in its
determinateness takes itself back into its simplicity, and


actually exhibits in itself this act of withdrawal or taking
of itself back. Determinate existence, which is onlj; this
process, is in the state of freedom, or, to put it otherwise,
determinateness exists as negativity, as reflected into itself,
and as sinking itself into simple necessity. This deter-
minateness which relates itself to itself is subjectivity.

For this process of concretely existing necessity the
reality is accordingly the spiritual, the human form.
This is a sensuous and natural object and thus exists for
immediate perception, and it is at the same time simple
necessity, simple reference to self, in virtue of being
which it plainly announces the presence of thought. In
every instance of its contact with reality, of its externali-
sation, it is directly decomposed, dissolved, and merged
in simple identity ; it is an externalisation, a manifesta-
tion, which is really the externalisation of Spirit.

This relationship is not easily grasped, namely, that
the fundamental determination and the one side of the
Notion is absolute necessity, while the side of reality in
virtue of which the Notion is Idea, is the human form.
The Notion must, above all, have actual reality. This
determination accordingly i.s more directly involved in
necessity itself, for it is not abstract Being, but what is
actual and determinate, determinate in and for itself.
Thus the determinateness, just because it is at the same
time natural, external, reality, is further directly taken
back into simple necessity, so that it is this necessity
which exhibits itself in this variegated sensuous element.
It is only when it is no longer necessity but Spirit, which
constitutes the Divine, that the latter comes to be regarded
as existing wholly in the element of thought. Here,
however, the moment of external perceptibility still re-
mains, in which, spite of its material character, simple
necessity nevertheless exhibits itself. This is only the
case when we have the human form, because it is the
form of the spiritual, and only in it can reality be taken
back for consciousness into the simplicity of necessity.


Life generally is this infinitude of free existence, and
as what is living is it this subjectivity, which reacts
against the immediate determiiiateness and posits it as
identical -^vith itself in feeling. But the life of the
animal, that is, the actual existence and externalisation.
of its infinitude, has plainly a merely limited content, is
sunk in merely particular conditions. Tlie simplicity to
which this determinateness is taken back is a limited and
merely formal one, and the content is not adequate to
this its form. For thinking man, on the other hand, the
spiritual is expressed in his particular conditions also ;
this expression of it lets us see that man even in any one
limited condition is at the same time above it, transcends
it, is free, and does not go outside of himself, continues
to be at home with himself. We can very easily judge
whether a man in the act of satisfying his wants behaves
like an animal or like a man. The human element is a
delicate fragrance which spreads itself over every action.
Besides, man has not only this element of mere life, but
has likewise an infinite range of higher ways of expressing

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 21 of 31)