Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

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

. (page 27 of 31)
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universal theogony. Connected with this also is the fact
that the oracle, the Sibylline books are regarded as some-
thing divine, by means of which the people get to know
what they should do or what ought to happen if they are
to be benefited. Arrangements of this sort are in the
hands of the State or the magistrate.

This religion is not at all a political religion in the
sense in which all the religions already treated of are,
in the sense that the nation has in religion the supreme
consciousness of its life as a State and of its morality, and
is indebted to the gods for the general arrangements
connected with the State, such as agriculture, property,
and marriage. In the Roman religion, on the contrary,
reverence for and gratitude to the gods are closely con-
nected, partly with definite individual cases, e.g., deliver-
ance from danger, and partly with public authority of all
kinds and with state transactions, in a prosaic way, and
religious feeling is in general mixed up in a finite way
with finite ends and with the deliberations and resolutions
connected with these.

Thus speaking generally the character of empirical
particularity is impressed on necessity ; it is divine, and
from a religious feeling which is identical with superstition
there springs up a collection of oracles, auspices. Sibylline
Books, which on the one hand minister to the end aimed
at by the State and on the other to particular interests.
The individual on the one hand disappears in a universal
element, in sovereignty, Fortuna puhlica, and on the other
human ends are regarded as having value in themselves,
and the human subject or individual has an independent,


substantial, and valid standing. It is within these
extremes and within the contradiction involved in thein
that Koman life moves restlessly about.

Eoman virtue, virtus, consists of that kind of cold
patriotism according to which the individual gives him-
self wholly up to advance anything that is a matter of
state or of sovereignty. The Eomans too gave a visible
representation of this disappearance of the individual
in the universal, of this negativity, and it constitutes
an essential feature of their religious games.

In a religion which has no doctrine it is by means
specially of the representations given in festivals and
dramas that the truth concerning the god is brought be-
fore the eyes of men. In such a religion dramas have for
this reason a wholly different importance from what they
have with us. In ancient times their essential object is
to bring before the imagination the process of the sub-
stantial powers, the divine life in its movement and
action. The adoration of the images of the gods, and the
worship paid to them are connected with this divine life
in its state of repose or Being, and the movement of the
divine life is contained in the narratives connected with
the gods, in the myth, though it is thought of as existing
only for the inner subjective mental representation of the
truth. And just as the idea formed of the god in his
state of repose comes to find expression in some work of
art, in the manner characteristic of immediate imagina-
tive perception, so, too, the idea formed of divine action
comes to be represented externally in the drama. Such
a way of representing the god was not indigenous to the
Eomans ; it was not something which sprang up on Roman
soil and Eoman ground ; and thus in adopting what was
for them originally foreign, they turned it into something
empty, ghastly, horrible — as we can see in the case of
Seneca — without making the moral divine Idea of it
their own. So, too, it was really only the later Greek
comedy which they took to do with, and they gave repre-


sentations merely of vicious scenes, and of private affairs
springing out of the relations between fathers, sons,
harlots, and slaves.

Amongst a people thus absorbed in the pursuit of
finite ends, it was impossible that any lofty perception
of moral and divine action, any theoretical or intellectual
conception of those substantial powers could exist ; and
actions which might be theoretically interesting to them
as spectators, although they had no reference to their
practical interests, could have for them only an external
crude reality, or, if they were to move them, a hideous

In Greek drama it was what was spoken that was the
main thing ; the persons who acted retained a calm
plastic attitude, and there was none of that mimic art,
strictly so called, in which the face comes into play, but
rather it was the spiritual element in the conceptions
dramatised which produced the effect desired. Amongst
tlie Eomans, on the contrary, pantomime was the main
thing — a form of giving expression to thoughts, which
is not equal in value to the expression which can be
clothed in speech.

The plays which ranked Iiighest consisted, in fact, of
nothing but the slaughter of animals and men, of the
shedding of blood in streams, of life and death combats.
They represent, as it were, the highest point to which
imaginative conceptions could be brought amongst the
Eomans. There is in them no moral interest, no tragic
collision in which misfortune or some ethical element
constitutes the essential part. The spectators, who sought
merely for entertainment, did not demand a representa-
tion of a spiritual history, but of one which was real and
actual — a history, in fact, which represents the supreme
change in what is finite, namely, barren, natural death —
a history which is devoid of any substantial element, and
is the quintessence of all that belongs to external life.
These plays attained amongst the Eomans such enormous


proportions that hundreds of men, from four to five
hundred lions, tigers, elephants, crocodiles were butchered
by men who had to fight with them, and who in turn
butchered each other. It is, above all, the history of
cold, unspiritual death which is here brought before
men's eyes — a death willed in an irrational, arbitrary
way, and which serves to feast the eyes of others. It
is necessity, which is purely arbitrary, murder without
any substantial element or content, and which has only
itself for content. It is this and this way of represent-
ing destiny which occupy the supreme place, the cold
fact of dying, not a natural death, but a death brought
about by an exercise of empty arbitrary will. It is not
produced by some external necessity arising out of certain
circumstances ; it is not a consequence of the violation of
some moral principle. Dying was thus the only virtue
which the noble Eoman could practise, and he shared
this virtue with slaves and with criminals who were
condemned to death.

What is here pictured to the mind is that cold kind
of murder which serves merely to feast the eyes upon,
the nothingness of human individuality, and the worth-
lessness of tlie individual who has no moral life in him-
self. It is a picture of hollow, empty destiny, which
in its relation to men is something contingent, a blind

Contrasted with this extreme of empty destiny in
which the individual disappears, a destiny which finally
found a personal representation in the power of the
Emperor, a power which is arbitrary and takes its own
way, unhindered by moral considerations, we have the
other extreme, the assertion of the worth of the pure
particularity or separate life of subjectivity.

The power has, that is to say, at the same time an end
also, but this power viewed in one aspect is blind ; Spirit
is not yet reconciled to itself, brought into harmony with
itself in it, and both accordingly continue to occupy a


oue-sided position, in reference to eacli other. Tiiis power
is an end, and this end, the human, finite end, is the
sovereignty of the world, and the realisation of tliis end
is the sovereignty of men, of the Eomans.

This universal end, taken in its real meaning, has its
basis, its seat in self-consciousness, and this means that
the independence of self-consciousness is posited, since
the end is included within self-consciousness. On the
one side we have a certain indifference in reference to
concrete life, and on the other we have this reserve, this
inwardness, which is an inwardness both of the divine
nature and of the individual, though so far as the indi-
vidual is concerned, it is a wholly abstract inwardness.

This explains what is a fundamental feature of Eoman
thought, namely, that the abstract person, the individual
abstractly considered, is held to be of so much account.
The abstract person is the individual regarded legally ;
and accordingly, the development of law, of the essential
characteristics of property, is an important feature of the
Roman way of regarding things. This law, or right, is
limited to juridical law, to the law or rights of property.

There are higher laws or rights ; the human conscience
lias its law or right, and this is as much a right as any
other ; but the law of morality, tlie law of ethics is some-
thinrr far higher. Here, however, this right no longer
possesses its concrete and proper meaning, the truth
rather being that abstract right, the right of the person,
expresses merely what is contained in the definition of
property. It is certainly personality, but it is abstract
personality only, subjectivity in the sense just explained,
which is given this lofty place.

These are the fundamental features of this Religion of
Utility or Conformity to an End. There are contained in
it moments, the union of which constitutes the essential
character of the next and last stage of religion. The
moments which are isolated in the religion of outward
utility, but which are related to each other, and conse-


quently are in a condition of contradiction, are, though
present here in an unspiritual form, the moments out of
wliich, when united according to their true nature, arises
the essential characteristic of the Eeligion of Spirit.

Tlie Eoman world forms the supremely important
point of transition to the Christian religion, the indis-
pensable middle term. It is that side of the Idea repre-
sented by reality, and, together with this, its potentially
determinate character, wliich are developed at this stage
of the religious spirit. At first we saw tliis reality held
firm in immediate unity with the nnivei'sal. Now, by
"iving itself a definite cliaracter, it has come out of the
universal and detached itself from it, and has thus come
to be completely realised externality, concrete indi-
viduality, and has consequently reached, in this its
alienation carried to the furthest point, totality in itself.
What now remains to be done, and what is necessary is,
that this particularity or individuality, this determinate
determinateness should be taken back again into the
universal, so that it may reach its true determination,
strip off the externality from itself, and consequently
that the Idea as such may get its complete determination
in itself.

The religion of external conformity to end or utility,
viewed according to its inner signification, constitutes the
closing stage of the finite religions. What is implied in
finite reality is just that the notion of God should be
or exist, that it should be posited, i.e., that this notion or
conception should be the truth for self-consciousness, and
accordingly should be realised in self-consciousness, in its
subjective aspect.

It is the notion or conception as thus posited which must
develop itself on its own account until it reaches totality,
for only then is it capable of being taken up into uni-
versality. It was this advance of determinateness to the
stage of totality accordingly which took place in the
Eoman world, for here the determinateness is something


concrete and finite, it is particularity, something wliicli
is inherently manifold, external, an actual condition, a
kingdom, present objectivity, not beautiful objectivity,
and consequently not complete or perfect subjectivity.
It is through the end, the determinate determinateness,
that the determinateness first returns into itself and is
found in subjectivity. At first, however, it is finite de-
terminateness, and owing to the subjective return into
itself, it is finitude without any measure or standard, the
false infinite-fiiiitude.

This measureless finite has two sides or aspects wliicli
we must get to understand and have a firm grasp of, its
potentiality and its empirical manifestation.

If we consider perfect determinateness in its potential
form, we see that it is the absolute form of the Notion,
the Notion, namely, in its determinateness, when it has
come back into itself. The Notion is to begin with only
the universal and abstract, the Notion in its potential
form and as not yet posited. It is the true universal
when, by means of particularity, it unites itself with
itself, i.e., when by means of the mediation of particu-
larity, of determinateness, by the act of going out of
itself, and by the doing away with and absorption of this
particularity, it returns to itself. This negation of the
negation is the absolute form, the truly infinite sub-
jectivity, the reality in its infinitude.

In the Eeligion of Utility it is just this infinite form
which self-consciousness has come to represent to itself.
This absolute form is in a special sense the characterisa-
tion of self- consciousness, the characterisation of Spirit.
Tbis is what constitutes the infinite importance of and
necessity for the Eoman religion.

This infinite subjectivity, which is infinite form, is the
grand moment which has been gained for Power ; it is
what was wanting in the idea of God as Power, in the
God of substantiality. It is true that in Power we had
subjectivity, but Power has only single ends, or several


single ends, and its end is not yet infinite. It is only
infinite subjectivity which has an infinite end, i.e., it is
itself the end, and ic is only inwardness, this subjectivity
as such, which is its end. This characterisation of Spirit
was accordingly gained for thought in the Eomau world.
This absolute form, however, is here still empirical, and
appears as a particular immediate person, and thus what
is highest when conceived of in a finite waj', is what is
worst. The deeper the nature of Spirit and genius, the
moie monstrous are their errors. When superficiality
errs, its error is correspondingly superficial and weak, and
it is only what possesses depth in itself that can become
the most evil and the worst. Thus it is this infinite
reflection and infinite form which, since it is devoid of
content and without substantiality, is the measureless and
unlimited finitude, the limitedness which is itself absolute
in its finitude. It is what appears in another shape in
the system of the Sophists as reality, for to them man
was the measure of all things, man, that is, regarded
according to his immediate acts of volition and immediate
feeling, from the point of view of his ends and interests.
In the Eoman world we see that this thinking by man on
himself gets an important place, and is elevated to the
condition of the Being and consciousness of the world.
The act by which thought shuts itself up within finitude
and particularity means, to begin with, the total disappear-
ance of all beautiful, moral life, the falling away from
true life into the infinitude of the desires, into momentary
enjoyment and pleasure, and this stage in the entire
shape in which it appears, constitutes a human animal-
kingdom, from which everything of a higher nature,
everything substantial has been removed. Such ■ a state
of lapse into purely finite forms of existence, ends, and
interests, can certainly be maintained only by the inhe-
rently measureless authority and despotism of a single
individual whose means for maintaining this authority is
the cold unspiritual death of individuals, for only by this


means can negation be brought to bear on them, and only
thus can they be kept in a condition of fear. The despot
is one, a real present God, the singleness or individuality
of will in the form of power exercising authority over all
the other infinitely many single individualities.

The Emperor represents the Divinity, the divine
essence, the Inner and Universal as it appears, and
is revealed, and is actually present in the form of the
singleness or particularity of the individual. This in-
dividual is the characterisation of Power advanced to the
state of particularity, the descent of the Idea into the
present, but it is a descent which means the loss on the
part of the Idea of its inherent universality, of truth, of
Being in-aud-for self, and consequently of its divine
nature. The universal has taken flight, and the Infinite
is impressed in such a way on the finite that the finite is
the subject of the proposition ; this as something which
has a fixed, permanent character, and is not negative, is
placed within the Infinite.

This completion of finitude is thus pre-eminently the
absolute misery and the absolute sorrow of Spirit, it is
the opposition of Spirit to Spirit in its most complete
form, and this state of opposition is not reduced to a
state of reconciliation, this contradiction remains unsolved.
Eut Spirit is what thinks, and so if it has lost itself in
this reflection into itself as externality, in its character as
thourjht it at the same time returns into itself through
the loss of itself; it is reilected into itself, and in its
depth as infinite form, as subjectivity, — but as subjec-
tivity which thinks, and not as immediate subjectivity, —
it has placed itself at the highest point which can be
reached. In this abstract form it appears as philosophy,
or speaking generally as the sorrow of virtue, as a
longing and seeking for help.

The resolution and reconciliation of the opposing
elements is what is everywhere demanded. This recon-
ciliation becomes possible only when the external finitude,


which has been set free, is talcen up into the infinite
universality of Thought, and is in this way purified from
its immediacy, and raised to the condition of wliat has
substantial validity. So, too, this infinite universality of
thought which has no external existence or value of its
own must iu turn receive a present reality, and self-
consciousness must at the same time come to be a con-
sciousness of the reality of universality, so that it may
see the Divine to he something with an actual definite
existence, something belonging to the world and present
in the world, and know that God and the world are

We have seen how Olympus, that heaven of the gods,
that region within which are found the fairest divine
forms that were ever created by fancy, represented at
the same time a free moral life, a free, though as yet a
limited, national spirit. Greek life was split up into
many small states, into those stars which themselves are
only limited centres of light. In order that the free
condition of Spirit may be reached, this state of limitation
must be done away with, and the fate which floats in
the distance above the world of the gods and above the
national life must make its true authority felt in them in
such a way that the national spirit of these free peoples
is destroyed. The free spirit must get to know itself as
free spirit in the entirety of its nature, free spirit in-and-
for self. Its value no longer consists in its being simply
the free spirit of the Greeks, of the citizens of this or
the other state, but rather man must be known to be free
as man, and God is thus the God of all men, the all-em-
bracing, universal Spirit. This fate, accordingly, which
exercises a kind of corrective discipline on the particular
forms in which freedom shows itself and crushes the
limited national spirit of the various peoples — so that
the nations apostatise from their gods, and get to be
conscious of their weakness and powerlessness, since
their political life is destroyed by the one universal

VOL. 11. X


Power — was the Eoman world and its religion. In this
religion of utility or conformity to end, the end was
none other than the Eoman State, which thus represents
abstract Power exercising its authority over the national
spirit of the various peoples. The gods of all nations
are collected together in the Eoman Pantheon, and
mutually destroy each other, owing to their being thus
united. The Eoman spirit as representing this fate,
destroyed tlie happiness and joyousness of the beautiful
life and consciousness of the religions which went before,
and crushed down all tlie various forms in which this
consciousness showed itself into a condition of unity and
uniformity. It was this abstract Power which produced
the tremendous misery and the universal sorrow which
existed in the Eoman world, a sorrow which was to be
the birth-throe of the religion of truth. The distinction
between free men and slaves disappears in the presence
of the all-embracing power of the Emperor ; everything
permanent, whether existing in an inward or in an out-
ward form, is destroyed, and we are in the presence of
the death of finitude, since the Fortuna of the one
Empire itself succumbs too.

The true taking up of finitude into the Universal, and
the perception of this unity, could not have their develop-
ment within those religions, and could not originate in
the Eoman and Greek world.

The penitence of the world, the discarding of finitude,
and the despair of finding satisfaction in what was
temporal and finite which gained the upper hand in the
spirit of the world, all served to prepare the soil for the
true, spiritual religion, a preparation which had to be
completed on the part of man, in order that " the time
mioht be fulfilled." Granting that the principle of
Thought was already developed, still the Universal was
]iot yet an object for consciousness in all its purity, as is
evident from the fact that even in philosophical specula-
tion. Thought was united with ordinary externality, as, for


instance, when the Stoics made the world originate in
fire. The truth is that the reconciliation could appear
only amongst a people who possessed the purely abstract
idea of the One for itself, and had completely cast away
finitude in order to be able to conceive of it again in a
purifled form. The Oriental principle of pure abstrac-
tion had to unite with the finitude and particularity of
the West. It was the Jewish nation which preserved
the idea of God as representing the ancient sorrow of the
world. Por here we have the religion of abstract sorrow,
of the one Lord, and because of this the reality of life
appears relatively to this abstraction and in this abstrac-
tion, as the infinite wilfulness of self-consciousness, and is
at the same time bound up with the abstraction. The
old curse is removed and becomes the source of salvation,
and this just because finitude has on its part raised
itself to the condition of something positive, has become
infinite finitude, and has gained for itself a valid





Wb have now reached the realised notion or conception
of religion, the perfect religion, in which it is the notion
itself that is its own object. KWe defined religion as beinn-
in the stricter sense the self-consciousness of God. '' Self-
consciousness in its character as consciousness has an
object, and it is conscious of itself in this object ; this
object is also consciousness, but it is consciousness as
object, and is consequently finite consciousness, a con-
sciousness which is distinct from God, from the Absolute.
The element of determinateness is present in this form
of consciousness, and consequently finitude is present in
it ; VXjrod is self-consciousness, He knows Himself in a
consciousness which is distinct from Him, which is poten-
tially the consciousness of God, but is also this actually,
since it knows its identity with, God, an identity which
is, however, mediated by the negation of finitude/ It is
this notion or conception which constitutes the content of
religion. We define God when we say, that He distin-
guishes Himself from Himself, and is an object for Him-
self, but that in this distinction He is purely identical with
Himself, is in fact Spirit. This notion or conception is

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 27 of 31)