Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

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

. (page 26 of 31)
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not yet been absolutely reconciled.

Since the gods have in themselves this wealth of
external characteristics, we have a certain element of
indifference existing in reference to those particular
qualities, and they can be made sport of and be treated
with levity. It is with this side of their nature that the
element of contingency which we observed attached to
them in the stories of the gods, is connected.

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, in drawing a comparison
between the Greek and the Eoman religion, extols the
religious institutions of Rome, and points out' the great
superiority of the old Eoman religion to the Greek. It
has temples, altars, divine worship, sacrifice, solemn
religious gatherings, festivals, symbols, &c., in common
with the Greek religion ; but the myths with their
blasphemous features, the mutilations, the imprison-
ments, the wars, the squabbles, &c., of the gods, are
excluded from it. These, however, belong to the gods
in their joyous aspect, they lay themselves open to this,
they are made sport of in comedy, and yet in all this
they have a safe and undisturbed existence. When the
element of seriousness comes in, then the outward form
taken by gods, their actions and the events in their life,
must appear in a way which is in conformity with a
fixed principle. In free individuality, on the other hand,
there are no such fixed ends, no such one-sided moral
characterisations of the understanding. The gods, it is
true, contain within them the moral element ; but at the
same time, since they have a particular definitely marked
existence, they are possessed of a rich individuality, and
are concrete. In this rich individuality the element of
earnestness is not at all a necessary characteristic ; on the
contrary, it is free in all its separate manifestations, it


can roam about in a light-hearted way through every-
thing, and it remains what it is. Tlie stories -whicli
appear to be unworthy of gods have reference to the
general aspects of the nature of things, tlie creation of the
world, &c. ; they have their origin in old traditions, in
abstract views regarding the processes of the elements.
The universal element in these views is obscured, but it
is hinted at ; and in this external way of regarding things,
and in this want of order amongst things, a glimpse is
first got of the universal nature of the intelligence which
shows itself in them. In a religion, on the other hand,
in which a definite end is present, all reference to theo-
retical points of view from which intelligence may be
regarded disappears. No theories, and in fact nothing
universal, are to be found in the Eeligion of Utility. The
deity has here a definite character or content, namely, the
sovereignty of the world. The universality here is em-
pirical, not moral or spiritual, but is rather a real, actual

The Eoman god representing this sovereignty is to be
looked for in Fortuna puhlica, the necessity which for
others is a cold unsympathetic necessity ; the particular
necessity which contains the end concerned with Eome
itself is Rovia, sovereignty, a holy and divine Being, and
this sovereign Roma in the form of a god who exercises
sovereignty is Jupiter Capitolinus, a particular Jupiter —
for there are many Jupiters, three hundred Joves in fact.

This Jupiter Capitolinus is not Zeus, who is the
father of gods and men ; but rather, he simply stands for
the idea of sovereignty, and has his end in the world,
and it is for the Eoman people that he carries out this
end. Tiie Eoman people is the universal family, while
in the Eeligion of Beauty the divine end was represented
by 7nany families, and in the religion of the One, on the
other hand, by one family only.

2. This god is not the truly spiritual One, and just
because of this the Particular lies outside of this unity


of sovereignty. The Power is merely abstract, merely
Power, and is not a rational organisation, a totality in
itself, and just because of this the Particular appears as
something which lies outside of the One, outside of the
sovereign power.

This particular element appears partly, too, in the form
taken by the Greek gods, or else we find that later on it
was put side by side with theiu by the Eomans them-
selves. Thus the Greeks, too, find their gods in Persia,
Syria, and Babylonia, though, at the same time, this repre-
sents something different from the peculiar way in which
they regarded their gods, and from the definite character
of these gods, and it is only a superficial universality.

Looked at in a general way, the particular Eoman
deities, or at least many of them, are the same as the
Greek. But still they have not the beautiful free indi-
viduality of the Greek gods ; they seem to be grey, so
to speak. We do not know where they come from, or
else we know that they have been introduced in connec-
tion with some definite occasions. And besides, we must
distinguish the real Eoman gods from those Greek gods
which the later poets such as Virgil and Horace have in-
troduced into their artificial poetry in the form of lifeless

We do not find in them that consciousness, that
humanity which is the substantial element in men as in
the gods, and in the gods as in men. They appear like
machines with nothing spiritual in them, and show them-
selves to be "ods of the understanding which have no
connection with a free beautiful spirit, with a free beau-
tiful fancy. So, too, in those modern botches done by
the Prench, they have the appearance of wooden figures
or machines. It is, in fact, for this reason that the forms
in which the Eomans represent their gods have appealed
more strongly to the moderns than those of the Greek
gods, because the former have more the appearance
of empty gods of the understanding which have no


longer any connection with the free and living play of

Besides those particular gods which the Eomans have
in common with the Greeks, there are many gods and
ways of worshipping God which are peculiar to the
Eomans. Sovereignty is the end sought after by the
citizen ; but the aims of the individual ai'e not yet ex-
hausted by this — he has also his own particular ends.
The particular ends lie outside of this abstract end.

The particular ends, however, become perfectly prosaic
particular ends, and it is the common particularity of
man regarded in the manifold aspects of his necessities,
or of his connection with ISTature, which comes to the
front here. God is not that concrete individuality above
referred to. Jupiter is simply sovereignty ; while the
particular individual gods are dead, lifeless, without mind
or spirit, or, what is more, they are got at second-hand.

Particularity thus bereft of universality, and existing
on its own account, is something quite common ; it is
the prosaic particularity of man, but it is an end for man,
and he uses this or that other thing to accomplish his
end. Anything, however, which is an end for man is in
this region of thought a characteristic of the Divine.

The end aimed at by man and the divine end are one,
but it is an end which lies outside of the Idea ; thus
human ends rank as divine ends, and consequently as
divine powers, and so we get these many particular and
supremely prosaic deities.

We thus see on one side this universal Power which
is sovereignty ; iu it the individuals are sacrificed and
have no standing as individuals. Eegarding the matter
from the other side, we see that the definite element, just
because that unity, God, is something abstract, lies out-
side of tliis unity, and thus it is what is human that is
essentially the end ; it is the human element which gives
fulness to God by creating a content for Him.

In the Eeligion of Beauty, which represents the stage


preceding the present one, free, universal, and moral
powers constitute the object of adoration. Although
they are limited, still they liave an objective, indepen-
dently existing content, and in the very act of contem-
plating them the ends of individuality melt away, and
the individual is raised above his needs and necessities.
They are free, and the individual attains to freedom in
them ; just because of this he glories in his identity with
them, he enjoys their favour and is worthy of it, for he
has no interests opposed to theirs, and in his needs and
necessities, and in general in his particular existence, he
is not an end to himself. Wliether he will succeed in
carrying out particular ends or not is a question he re-
fers to the oracles only, or else he surrenders them
to necessity. The individual ends here have, to begin
with, a negative signification, only, aud are not something
having a complete aud independent existence.

In this religion of happiness, however, it is the self-seek-
ing of the worshippers which is reflected in their practical
gods in the shape of power, and which seeks in them and
from them the satisfaction of its subjective interests.
Self-seeking has in it a feeling of dependence, and just
because it is purely finite, this feeling is peculiar to it.
The Oriental who lives in light ; the Hindu who sinks
his self-consciousness in Brahma ; the Greek who yields
up his particular ends in the presence of necessity, and
beholds in the particular powers his own powers, powers
which are friendly towards him, which inspire and
animate him, and are in unity with him — lives in his
religion without the feeling of dependence. Far from
being dependent, he is free — free before his God. It is
only in Him that he possesses his freedom, and he is
dependent only outside of his religion, for in it he has
thrown away his dependence. Self-seeking again, need,
necessity, subjective happiness, the pleasure - seeking
life, which wills itself, keeps to itself, feels itself op-
pressed, starts from the feeling that its interests are


dependent on the deity. The Power which is above
these interests has a positive signification, and has itself
an interest for the subject, since it is to carry out its
ends. So far it simply signifies that it is a means
for the realisation of its ends. This is the sneaking
hypocritical element in such humility ; for its own ends
are and must be the content, the end of this Power.
This kind of consciousness accordingly has no theoretical
position in religion, i.e., it does not consist in a free
contemplation of objectivity, in an honouring of these
powers, but only in practical selfishness, in a demand
for the satisfaction of the individual interests of this
life. It is the understanding which in this religion
holds fast by its finite ends, by something which has
been posited in a one-sided way by itself, and which is
interesting only for it, and it neither sinks such abstrac-
tions and individual details in necessity nor resolves
them in reason. Thus particular ends, needs, powers,
appear also as gods. The content of these gods is prac-
tical utility ; they serve the common good or profit.

Thtcs (3) the transition is made to gods wJio are loholly
single or particular.

The family gods belong to this or that particular citizen.
The Lares, on the other hand, are connected with natural
morality and piety, with the moral unity of the family.
There are other gods, again, whose content or character
has reference to utility pure and simple of a still more
special kind.

Since human life and action of this kind appear also
in a form from which the negative element of evil at all
events is absent, the satisfaction of those needs which
belong to life takes the shape of a simple, peaceful, primi-
tive, natural state. The time of Saturn, the state of
innocence, is the picture which floats before the mind
of the Eoman, and the satisfaction of the needs proper
to such a condition of things is represented by a crowd
of gods.



Thus the Romans had many festivals and a crowd
of gods, which were connected with the fruitful iiess of
the earth as well as with the skill of men, who appro-
priate for their own nse the operations of Nature.
Thus we find a Jupiter Pistor ; the art of baking ranks
as something divine, and the power connected with the
art as something having substantial existence. Fornax,
the oven in which the corn is dried, is a goddess by her-
self ; Vesta is the fire used for baking bread ; for in her
character as 'Eo-r/a a higher meaning is attached to the
name-, and one which has reference to family piety. The
Romans had their pig, sheep, and bullock festivals ; in the
rites connected with the worship of Pales they sought to
propitiate the goddess who caused the hay to thrive for
the cattle, and to whose protection the herds committed
their flacks in order to assure them against any kind of
injury. In the same way they had deities for the arts
which were connected with the State, e.g., Juno Moneta,
since coins play an essential part in the regulated life
of a community.

Wheu, however, such finite ends as the circumstances
and various interests of the State and prosperity in what
belongs to the physical necessities, the progress, and
material wellbeing of man, are regarded as the highest of
all ends ; and when the main concern is for the prosperity
and existence of an immediate reality, which as being
such can, in virtue of what constitutes it, be merely a
contingent reality ; it follows that by way of contrast to
what conduces to utility and prosperity, we have what
conduces to injury and failure. So far as regards finite
ends and circumstances man is dependent ; what he has,
or enjoys, or possesses, is something having a positive
existence, and when he is conscious of some opposing
limit or defect, and that what he has is in the power of
another, and when further he finds this negated or denied
to him, he has a feeling of dependence, and the legiti-
mate development of this feeling leads him to revere the


power of what is injurious and evil, to pray to the devil
in fact. We do not at this stage get to the abstraction
called the devil, abstract evil and wickedness in an abso-
lutely definite form, because here the characteristics are
finite, present realities with a limited content. It is
only some special form of damage or defect which is here
an object of fear and is revered. The concrete, which is
finite, is a state, a form of reality which passes away, a
kind and mode of Being which can be conceived of by
reflection as an external universal, such as peace {Pax),
tranquillity {Tranquillitas) , the goddess Vacuna already
are, and which received a fixed form from the unimagi-
native Eomans. Such powers, which are partly allegori-
cal and partly prosaic, are however chiefly and essentially
of the kind whose fundamental character is represented
by the ideas of defect and injury. Thus the Eomans
dedicated altars to the plague, to fever (Febris), to care
(Angerona), and they revered hunger {Fames), and the
blight (Eohiffo) which attacked the grain. In the joyous
religion of art, this side of religion which consists of fear
of what brings misfortune, is put into the background ;
the infernal powers, which might be regarded as hostile
and powers to be dreaded, are represented by the Eume-
uides who are well disposed towards men.

It is difficult for us to understand how powers of that
kind should be honoured as divine. When we have
reached such ideas it is no longer possible to ascribe any
definite character to what is Divine, and they can become
objective only where the feeling of dependence and fear
exists. This state of things represents the total absence
of the Idea in any form, that decay of all truth which
can happen only in such circumstances. Such a pheno-
menon can be explained only by the fact that Spirit is
wholly shut up within the finite and the immediately
useful, as is evident when we consider how amongst
Eomans arts and crafts connected with the most immedi-
ate needs and their satisfaction, are gods. Spirit has


forgotteu everything inward and universal connected with
thought, it has reached an utterly prosaic state, and what
it aims at, what it seeks to raise itself to is nothing
higher than what is supplied by the wholly formal under-
standing which puts together into one picture the cir-
cumstances, the character and mode of immediate Being,
and knows no other mode of substantiality.

When power was thought of as existing in this prosaic
condition, and when for the Eomans the power which
had to do with such finite ends and with immediate,
real, and external circumstances, represented the welfare
of the Eoman Empire, it was no great step to go further
and worship as God the actual present Power connected
with such ends, the individual present form of such wel-
fare, the Emperor in fact, who had this welfare in his
hands. The Emperor, this monstrous individual, was
the Power which presided over the life and happiness of
individuals, of cities and of states, a power above law.
He was a more wide reaching power than Roligo ; famine,
and all kinds of distress of a public character were in his
hands ; and more than that, rank, birth, wealth, nobility,
all these were of his making. He was the supreme
authority even above formal law and justice, upon the
development of which the Eoman spirit had expended
so much energy.

All the special deities, however, are, on the other hand,
again brought into subjection to the universal, real
Power ; they fall into the background before the uni-
versal purely essential power of sovereignty, the greatness
of the Empire, which spreads itself over the whole known
civilised world. In this universality the destiny of the
divine particularisation consists in the necessity there is
that the particular divine powers should be disposed of
and pass away in this abstract universality, just as the
.individual and divine national spirit of the various peoples
is suppressed by being brought under the one sovereign
authority. This comes out also in several practical or


empirical features of the Eoman spirit, and in Cicero we
fiad this kind of cold reflection on the gods. Here reflec-
tion is the subjective power above the gods. Cicero
institutes a comparison between their genealogies, their
destinies, their actions ; he enumerates many Vulcans,
Apollos, Jupiters, and places them together in order to
compare them. This is the kind of reflection which
institutes comparisons, and in this way gives the hitherto
fixed form belonging to the gods a dubious and vacillat-
ing character. The information which he gives in the
treatise De Natura Beoritm is in other respects of the
highest importance, e.^., in reference to the origin of
myths ; and yet at the same time the gods are in this
way degraded by reflection, definite representation of
them is no longer possible, and the foundation is laid for
unbelief and mistrust.

If we regard the matter from the other side however,
we find that it was a universal religious necessity and
along with it the stifling power of the Eoman fate,
which collected the individual gods into a unity. Eome
is a Pantheon in which the gods stand side by side, and
here they mutually extinguish each other and are made
subject to the one Jupiter Capitolinus.

The Eomans conquer Magna Graecia, Egypt, &c.,
they plunder the temples, and then we see whole ship-
loads of gods hurried off to Eome. Eome thus becomes
a collection of all religions, of the Greek, Persian,
Egyptian, Christian, and Mithra forms of worship. This
kind of tolerance exists in Eome ; all religions there
meet together and are mixed up. The Eomans lay hold
of all religions, and the general result is a state of con-
fusion in which all kinds of worship are jumbled up, and
the outward form which belongs to art is lost.

C. The character of the worship connected with this
religion and its characterisation are involved in tire
foregoing description. God is served for the sake of
an end and this end is a human one. The content does


rot start so to speak from God, it is not the content of
what really is His nature, but on the contrary it starts
from man, from something which is a human end.

For this reason the outward form taken by these gods
can scarcely be considered as distinct from the worship
paid to them ; for this distinction together with free
worship presupposes a truth which has a realised exist-
ence, a truth in and for self, something which is universal,
objective, and truly divine, and which by means of its
content rises above particular subjective necessities and
exists on its own account, and thus worship is the
process in which the individual gets for himself the
enjoyment of his identity with what is universal and in
■which he commenaorates this identity. Here, however,
the interest originates in the subject or individual ;
his needs, and the fact that the satisfaction of these
depends on another, produce piety, and worship is thus
the positing of a Power which will relieve him and
which exists because of his needs. These gods have
thus essentially a subjective root and origin, and they
have, as it were, an existence only in the worship paid
to them ; they possess substantiality in the festivals
though scarcely in the conceptions formed of them.
The truth, rather, is that the effort to overcome the need
by the help of the power of the gods, and to get from
them the satisfaction of the want and the hope of being
able to do this, are merely the second part of worship,
and the side which is otherwise objective comes to be
included within the worship itself.

It is thus a religion of dependence and of the feeling
of dependence. The dominant element in such a feeling
of dependence is the absence of freedom. Man knows
that he is free ; but that in which he is in possession of
himself is an end which remains outside of the individual,
and this is still more the case with those particular ends,
and it is just in reference to these that the feeling of
dependence finds a place.


Here we have what is essentially superstition, because
we are concerned with limited finite ends and objects,
and those are treated as absolute which, so far as their
content is concerned, are limited. Superstition, put
generally, consists in giving to finitude, externality,
common immediate reality as such, the value of power
and substantiality. It originates in the sense of oppres-
sion felt by the spirit, in the feeling of dependence it has
in connection with its ends.

Thus the Eomans were always conscious of a thrill of
fear in presence of anything unknown, anything which
liad no well-defined nature or consciousness. Every-
where they saw something full of mystery and ex-
perienced a vague kind of horror, which led them to
feign the existence of something irrational which was
reverenced as a kind of higher being. The Greeks on
the contrary made everything clear, and constructed a
beautiful and brilliant set of myths, which covered all
the relations of life and Nature.

Cicero extols the Eomans as being the most pious of
nations, since in all departments of life they think on the
gods, do everything under the sanction of religion, and
thank the gods for everything. This is as a matter 'of
fact actually the case. This abstract inwardness, this
universality of the end, which is the fate in which the
particular separate individual and the morality and
humanity of the individual are suppressed, and in which
they cannot be present in a concrete form and cannot
develop — this universality, this inwardness is the basis
of the Eoman religion, and consequently since everything
is related to this inwardness, religion is in everything.
Thus Cicero, in complete accordance with the Eoman
spirit, derives religion from religare, for religion in all its
relations has as a matter of fact become to the Eoman
something which binds and swavs.

But this inwardness, this higher thing, this universal,
is at the same time only form : the subject or content,


the end, in fact, of this power is the human end and is
suggested by men. The Eomans revere the gods because
they make use of them and when they make use of them,
especiallj' in the crisis of war.

The introduction of new gods takes place in times of
difficulty and anxiety or because of vows. It is distress
or trouble which in general constitutes with them the

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 26 of 31)