Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

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

. (page 28 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 28 of 31)
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now realised, consciousness knows this content and knows
that it is itself absolutely interwoven with this content ;
in the Notion which is the process of God, it is itself a
moment. Finite consciousness knows God only to the
extent to which God knows Himself in it; thus God is
Spirit, the Spirit of His Church in fact, i.e., of those who
worship Him. This is the perfect religion, the Notion


become objective to itself.' ' Here it is revealed what God
is; He is no longer a Being above and beyond this
world, an Unknown, for He has told men what He is,
and this not merely in an outward way in history, but in
consciousness. We have here, accordingly, the religion
of the manifestation of God, since God knows Himself in
the finite spirit. This simply means that God is revealed.
Here this is the essential circumstance. What the tran-
sition was we discovered when we saw how this know-
ledge of God as free Spirit was, so far as its substance
is concerned, still tinged with finitude and immediacy ;
this finitude had further to be discarded by the labour of
Spirit ; it is nothingness, and we saw how this nothingness
was revealed to consciousness. The misery, the sorrow
of the world, was the condition, the preparation on the
subjective side for the consciousness of free Spirit, as the
absolutely free and consequently infinite Spirit.

We shall confine ourselves, to begin with (A), to the
general aspects of this sphere of thought.

The Absolute Eeligion is — i. The Revealed Religion.
Religion is something revealed, it is manifested, only when
the notion or conception of religion itself exists for itself ;
or, to put it differently, religion or the notion of religion
has become objective to itself, not in the form of limited
finite objectivity, but rather in such a way that it is objec-
tive to itself in accordance with its notion.

This can be expressed in a more definite way by saying
that religion, according to its general conception or notion,
is the consciousness of the absolute Essence. It is the
nature, however, of consciousness to distinguish, and thus
we have two things, consciousness and absolute Essence.
These two at first are in a state of mutual exclusion,
standing in a finite relation to each other. We have the
empirical consciousness, and the Essence taken in the
sense of something different.

They stand in a finite relation to each other, and so far
they are themselves both finite, and thus consciousness


knows the absolute Essence only as something finite, not
as something true. God is Himself consciousness, He
distinguishes Himself from Himself within Himself, and
as consciousness He gives Himself as object for what we
call the side of consciousness.

Here we have always two elements in consciousness,
which are related to each other in a finite and external
fashion. "When, however, as is the case at this stage,
religion comes to have a true comprehension of itself, then
it is seen that the content and the object of religion are
made up of this very "Whole, of the consciousness which
brings itself into relation with its Essence, the knowledge!
of itself as the Essence and of the Essence as itself, i.e.,'
Spirit thus becomes the object in religion. "We thus have ] (/
two things, consciousness and the object; in the religion,
however, the fulness of which is the fulness of its own
nature, in the revealed religion, the religion which com-
prehends itself, it is religion, the content itself which is
the object, and this object, namely, the Essence which
knows itself, is Spirit. Here first is Spirit as such the
object, the content of religion, and Spirit is only for Spirit.
Since it is content and object, as Spirit it is what knows
itself, what distinguishes itself from itself, and itself
supplies the other side of subjective consciousness, that
which appears as finite. It is the religion which derives .
its fulness from itself, which is complete in itself. This
is the abstract characterisation of the Idea in this form,
or, to put it otherwise, religion is, as a matter of fact. Idea.
Eor Idea in the philosophical sense of the term is the
Notion which has itself for object, i.e., it is the Notion
which has definite existence, reality, objectivity, and
which is no longer anything inner or subjective, but gives
itself an objective form. Its objectivity, however, is at
the same time its return into itself, or, in so far as we
describe the Notion as End, it is the realised, developed
End, which is consequently objective.

Religion has just that which it itself is, the conscious-


ness of the Essence, for its object ; it gets ati objective
form in it, it actually is, just as, to begin with, it existed
as Notion and only as the Notion, or just as at first it
was our Notion. The absolute religion is the revealed
religion, the religion which has itself for its content, its

It is the Christian religion which is the perfect religion,
the religion which represents the Being of Spirit in a
realised form, or for itself, the religion in which religion
has itself become objective in relation to itself. In it the'
universal Spirit and the particular spirit, the infinite
Spirit and the finite spirit, are inseparably connected ; it
is their absolute identity which constitutes this religion
and is its substance or content. The universal Power is
the substance which, since it is potentially quite as much
subject as substance, now posits this potential being which
belongs to it, and in consequence distinguishes itself from
itself, communicates itself to knowledge, to the finite
spirit ; but in so doing, just because it is a moment in its
own development, it remains with itself, and in the act of
dividing itself up returns undivided to itself.

The object of theology as generally understood is to
get to know God as the merely objective God, who is
absolutely separated from the subjective consciousness,
and is thus an outward object, just as the sun, the sky,
&c., are objects of consciousness, and here the object is
permanently characterised as an Other, as something
external. In contrast to this the Notion of the absolute
religion can be so presented as to suggest that what we
have got to do with is not anything of this external sort,
but religion itself, i.e., the unity of this idea which we
call God with the conscious subject.

We may regard this as representing also the stand-
point of the present day, inasmuch as people are now
concerned with religion, religiousness, and piety, and
thus do not occupy themselves with the object in
religion. Men have various religions, and the main


thing is for them to be pious. We cannot know God
as object, or get a real knowledge of Him, and the main
thing, what we are really concerned about, is merely the
subjective manner of knowing Him and our subjective
religious condition. "We may recognise this standpoint
as described in what has just been said. It is the
standpoint of the age, but at the same time it re-
presents a most important advance by which an infi-
nite moment has had its due value recognised, for it
involves a recognition of the consciousness of the subject
as constituting an absolute moment. The same content
is seen to exist in both sides, and it is this potential or/
true Being of the two sides which is religion. The great?-'
advance which marks our time consists in the recogni-
tion of subjectivity as an absolute moment, and this is
therefore essentially determination or characterisation.
The whole question, however, turns on how subjectivity
is determined or characterised.

On this important advance we have to make the
following remarks. When religion is determined from
the point of view of consciousness, it is so constituted
that the content passes beyond consciousness, and ia
appearance at least remains something strange or foreign
to consciousness. It does not matter what content re-
ligion has, this content, regarded solely from the stand-
point of consciousness, is something which exists above
and outside of consciousness, and even if we add to it
the peculiar determination of Eevelation, it is neverthe-
less for us something given and outward. The result of
such a conception of religion is that the Divine content
is regarded as something given independent of us, as
something which cannot be known but is to be received
and kept in a merely passive way in faith, and on the
other hand it lands us in the subjectivity of the feeling
which is the end and the result of the worship of God.
The standpoint of consciousness is therefore not the sole
and only standpoint. The devout man sinks himself in


his object, together with his heart, his devotion, and his
will, and when he has attained to this height of devout-
ness he has got rid of the sense of separation which
marks the standpoint of consciousness. It is possible
also from the standpoint of consciousness to reach this
subjectivity, this feeling that the object is not foreign to
consciousness, this absorption of the spirit in those
depths which do not represent something distant, but
rather absolute nearness and presence.

This doing away with the separation can, however, in
turn be conceived of as somethintr foreign to conscious-
ness, as the grace of God, which man has to acquiesce in
as something foreign to his own nature, and his relation
to which is of a passive sort. It is against this sepa-
ration that the formula is directed which says that it
is with religion as such we have got to do, i.e., with
the subjective consciousness which has ia itself what
God wills. Vlt is in the subject accordingly that the
inseparability of subjectivity and of the Other or objec-
tivity exists/ or, to put it otherwise,"~^the subject as
containing in itself the real relation is an essential
element in the whole range of thought." Regarded from
this standpoint, the subject is accordingly raised to the
rank of an essential characteristic. It is in harmony
with the freedom of Spirit that it should thus recover its
freedom, that there should be no standpoint at which it
is not in company with itself. That it is religion which
is objective to itself is a truth which is contained in the
notion or conception of the absolute religion, but only in
the conception. This conception or notion is one thing,
and the consciousness of this notion is another.
" Thus in the absolute religion as well the notion may
potentially contain the truth referred to, but the con-
sciousness of this is something different. This then is
the phase of thought which has reached consciousness
and come to the front in the formula which says that it
is with religion we have to do. The Notion is itself still


one-sided, is talcen as merely implicit or potential ; and
so it appears in this one-sided shape where subjectivity
itself is one-sided ; it has the characteristic of one of
two only, is only infinite form, pure self-consciousness,
the pure knowledge of itself, it is potentially without
content, because religion as such is conceived of only in
its potential character, and is not the religion which is
objective to itself, but is only religion in a shape which
is not yet real, which has not yet made itself objective
or given itself a content. What has no objectivity has
no content.

It is one of the rights of truth that knowledge should
have in religion the absolute content. Here, however,
what we have is not the content in its true form, but
only in a stunted form. Thus there must be a content.
The content in the present case has, as we have seen, the
character of something contingent, finite, empirical, and
consequently we have a state of things similar to what
existed in Eoman times. The times of the Eoman
Emperors resembled ours in many points. The subject
as it actually is, is conceived of as infinite ; but as ab-
stract, it changes into the direct opposite, and is merely
finite and limited. Its freedom consequently is only of
the sort which admits the existence of something beyond
the present, an aspiration, a freedom which denies the
existence of a distinction in consciousness, and conse-
quently casts aside the essential moment of Spirit, and
is thus unspiritual subjectivity, subjectivity without

Eeligion is the knowledge which Spirit has of itself
as Spirit; when it takes the form of pure knowledge
it does not know itself as Spirit, and is consequently not
substantial but subjective knowledge. The fact, however,
that it is nothing more than this, and is therefore limited
knowledge, is not apparent to subjectivity ia its own
form, i.e., in the form or shape of knowledge, but rather
it is its immediate potentiality which it finds, to begin


with, ill itself, and consequently in the knowledge of
itself as being simply the infinite, the feeling of its
finitude and consequently of its infinitude as well, as a
kind of potential Being beyond and above it in contrast to
its actual Being, or Being-for-self — the feeling, in short,
of longing after something above and beyond it which is
unexplained. The Absolute Eeligion, on the other hand,
contains the characteristic, the note, of subjectivity or
infinite form which is equivalent to substance. We may
give the name of knowledge, of pure intelligence, to this
subjectivity, this infinite form, this infinite elasticity of
substance whereby it breaks itself up within itself, and
makes itself an object for itself. Its content is therefore
a content which is identical with itself, because it is the
infinitely substantial subjectivity which makes itself both
object and content. Then in this content itself the finite
subject is further distinguished from the infinite object.
God regarded as Spirit, when He remains above, when
He is not present in His Church as a living Spirit,
is Himself characterised in a merely one-sided way as

This is the Notion, it is the Notion of the Idea, of
the absolute Idea, and tlie reality is now Spirit which
exists for Spirit, which has made itself its object, and
tliis religion is the revealed religion, the religion in
which God reveals Himself. Eevelation means this
differentiation of the infinite form, the act of self-
determination, the being for an Other, and this self-
manifestation is of the very essence of Spirit. Spirit
which is not revealed is not Spirit. We say that God
has created the world, and we state this as a fact which
has happened once and which will not happen again, and
we thus ascribe to the event the character of something
which may be or may not be. God, we say, might have
revealed Himself or He miglit not. The character we
ascribe to God's revelation of Himself is that of something
arbitrarv, accidental as it. were, and not that of some-


thing beloD"insr to the Notion of God. But God as
Spirit is essentially this very self-revelation ; He does
not create the world once for all, but He is the eternal
Creator, this eternal self-revelation, this actus. This is
His Notion, His essential characteristic.

Eeligion, the revealed religion. Spirit as for Spirit, is
as such the Religion of Spirit. It is not something which
does not open itself out for an Other, which is an Other
merely momentarily. God posits or lays down the
Other, and takes it up again into His eternal movement.
Spirit just is what appears to itself or manifests itself ;
this constitutes its act, or form of action, and its life ;
this is its only act, and it is itself only its act. What
does God reveal, in fact, but just that He is this revela-
tion of Himself? What He reveals is the infinite form.
Absolute subjectivity is determination, and this is the
positing or bringing into actual existence of distinctions
or difference. The positing of the content, what He
thus reveals, is that He is the one Power who can make
these distinctions in Himself. It is His Being to make
these distinctions eternally, to take them back and at
the same time to remain with Himself, not to go out of
Himself. What is revealed, is, that He is for an Other.
This is the essential character, the definition, of revela-

2. This religion, which is manifest or revealed to
itself, is not only the revealed religion, but the religion
which is actually known as a religion which has been
revealed ; and by this is understood, on the one hand,
that it has been revealed by God, that God has actually
communicated the knowledge of Himself to men ; and, on
the other hand, that being a revealed religion, it is a
positive religion in the sense that it has come to men,
and has been given to them from the outside.

In view of this peculiarity which attaches to the idea
of what is positive, it becomes interesting to see what the
Positive is.


The absolute religion is undoubtedly a positive religion
in the sense that everything which exists for conscious-
ness is for it something objective. Everything must
come to us in an outward way. What belongs to sense
is thus something positive, and, to begin with, there is
nothing so positive as what we have before us in imme-
diate perception.

Everything spiritual, as a matter of fact, comes to us
in this way also, as the spiritual in a finite form, the
spiritual in the form of history, and the mode in which
the spiritual is thus external and externalises itself is
likewise positive.

A higher and purer form of the spiritual is found in
what is moral, in the laws of freedom. This, however,
is not in its real nature any such outward form of the
spiritual as has just been referred to, it is not something
external or accidental, but expresses the nature of pure
Spirit itself. It too, however, comes to us in an outward
way, at first in education, training, definite teaching ;
there its truth or validity is simply given to us, pointed
out to us.

And so, too, laws, civil laws, the laws of the State, are
something positive ; they come to us, they exist for us,
they have authority or validity, they a7-e, not in the sense
that we can leave them alone or pass by them, but as
implying that in this external form of theirs they ought
also to exist for us as something subjectively essential,
subjectively binding.

When we get a grasp of the law that crime should be
punished, when we recognise its validity and find it to
be rational, it is not something essential for us in the
sense that it has authority for us only because it is posi-
tive, because it is what it is ; but it has authority for us
inwardly as well, for our reason, as being something
essential, because it is also inward and rational.

The fact of its being positive in no way deprives it of
its character as something rational, as something which


is our own. The laws of freedom, when they actually ap-
pear, have always a positive side, a side marked by reality,
externality, and contingency. Laws must get a specific
character, and into the specification, into the quality of the
punishment, there already enters the element of exter-
nality, and still more into the quantity of the punishment.

In the case of punishment the positive element can-
not at all be absent — it is absolutely necessary. This
final determination or specification of the immediate is
something positive which is in no sense rational. In the
case of punishment, round numbers, for instance, decide
the amount ; you cannot find out by reason what is the
absolutely just penalty. It is the irrational which is
naturally positive. It must get a definite character, and
it is characterised in a way which has nothing rational
about it, or which contains nothing rational in it.

It is necessary to regard revealed religion in the
following aspect also. Since in it there is present some-
thing historical, something which appears in an outward
form, there is also present in it something positive, some-
thing contingent, which may take either one form or
another. Thus it occurs in the case of religion as well,
that owing to the externality, the appearance in an out-
ward form which accompanies it, there is always some-
thing positive present.

But we must distinguish between the Positive as such,
the abstract Positive, and the Positive in the form of and
as the law of freedom. The law of freedom should not
possess validity or authority because it is actually there,
but rather because it is the essential characteristic of our
rational nature itself. It is not, therefore, anything
positive, not anything which simply has validity, if it is
known to be a characteristic of this kind. Eeligion, too,
appears in a positive form in all that constitutes its
doctrines ; but it is not meant to remain in this condition,
or to be a matter of mere popular ideas or of pure memory.

The positive element connected with the verification



of religion consists in the idea that what is external
should establish the truth of a religion, and should be
regarded as the foundation of its truth. Here in this
instance the verification takes the form of something
positive as such. There are miracles and evidences
which it is held prove tlie divinity of tlie person who
reveals and prove that this person has communicated to
men certain definite doctrines.

Miracles are changes connected with the world of
sense, changes in the material world which are actually
perceived, and this perception is itself connected with
the senses because it has to do with changes in the world
of sense. It has been already remarked in reference to
this positive element of miracle, that it undoubtedly can
produce a kind of verification for the man who is guided
by his senses ; but this is merely the beginning of verifi-
cation, an unspiritual kind of verification by which what
is spiritual cannot be verified.

The Spiritual, as such, cannot be directly verified or
authenticated by what is unspiritual and connected with
sense. The chief thing to be noticed in connection with
this view of miracles is that in this way they are put on
one side.

The understanding may attempt to explain miracles
naturally, and may bring many plausible arguments
against them — i.e., it may confine its attention simply to
the outward fact, to what has happened, and direct its
criticism against this. ^^ The essential standpoint of reason
in the matter of miracles is that the truth of the Spiritual
cannot be attested in an outward way ; for what is spiri-
tual is higher than what is outward, its truth can be
attested only by itself and in itself, and demonstrated
only through itself and in itself. This is what has been
called the witness of the Spirit.' '

This very truth has found expression in the history of
religion. Moses performs miracles before Pharaoh, and
the Egyptian sorcerers imitate them, and this very fact


implies that no great value is to be put on them. The
main thing, however, is that Christ Himself says, " Many
will come who will do miracles in My name, but I know
them not." Here He Himself rejects miracles as a true
criterion of truth. This is the essential point of view in
regard to this question, and we must hold fast to the
principle that the verification of religion by means of
miracles, as well as the attacking of miracles, belong to
a sphere which has no interest for us. The Witness of
the Spirit is the true witness.

This witness may take various forms ; it may be
indefinite, general, something which is, broadly speaking,
in harmony with Spirit, and which awakens a deeper
response within it. In history all that is noble, lofty,
moral, and divine, appeals to us ; our spirit bears witness
to it. The witness may not be more than this general
response, this assent of the inner life, this sympathy.
But it may also be united to intellectual grasp, to
thought ; and this intellectual grasp, inasmuch as it has
no element of sense in it, belongs directly to the sphere
of thought. \ It appears in the form of reasons, distinc-
tions, and such like ; in the form of mental activity,
exercised along with and according to the specific forms
of thought, the categories. It may appear in a more
matured form or in a less matured form. It may have
the character of something which constitutes the neces-
sary basis of a man's inner heart-life, of his spiritual life
in general, the presupposition of general fundamental
principles which have authoritative value for him and

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 28 of 31)