Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

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

. (page 29 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 29 of 31)
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accompany him through life. These maxims don't
require to be consciously followed ; rather, they represent
the mode and manner in which his character is formed,
the universal element which has got a firm footing in his
spirit, and which accordingly is something permanent
within his mind and governs him.

Starting from a firm foundation or presupposition of
this sort, he can begin to reason logically, to define or


arrange under categories. Here the stages of intellectual
advance and the methods of life are of very many kinds,
and the needs felt are very various. The highest need
of the human spirit, however, is thought — the witness
of the Spirit, which is not present only in the merely
responsive form of a kind of primary sympathy, nor in
that other form according to which such firm foundations
and fundamental principles do exist in the spirit, and
have reflective thought built upon them, firmly based
presuppositions from which conclusions can be drawn
and deductions made.

\'.The witness of the Spirit in its highest form takes
the form of philosophy, according to which the Notion,
purely as such, and without the presence of any presup-
position, develops the truth out of itself, and we recog-
nise it as developing, and perceive the necessity of the
development in and through the development itself. ' '

Belief has often been opposed to Thought in such a
way as to imply that we can have no true conviction
regarding God and the truths of religion by any other
method than that of Thought, and thus the proofs of the
existence of God have been pointed to as supplying the
only method by which we can know and be convinced
of the truth.

The witness of the Spirit may, however, be present in
manifold and various ways ; we have no right to demand
that the truth should in the case of all men be got at in
a philosophical way. The spiritual necessities of men
vary according to their culture and free development ;
and so, too, the demand, the conviction that we should
believe on authority, varies according to the different
stages of development reached.

Even miracles have their place here, and it is inter-
esting to observe that they have been reduced down to
this minimum. There, is thus still something positive
present in this form of the witness of the Spirit as well.
Sympathy, which is immediate certainty, is itself some-.


tiling positive in virtue of its immediacy, and the
process of inference wliich starts from something laid
down or given has a similar basis. It is man only who
has a religion, and religion has its seat and its soil in
thought. Heart or feeling is not the heart or feeling of
an animal, but the heart of thinTcing man, a thinking
heart, or feeling ; and what shows itself in the heart as
the feeling for religion, exists in the thinking element of
the heart, or feeling. In so far as we begin to draw
conclusions, to draw inferences, to suggest reasons, to
advance to thought - determinations or categories of
thought, we do this always by the exercise of thought.'^

Inasmuch as the doctrines of the Christian religion
are found in the Bible, they are given in a positive
way ; and if they become subjective, if the Spirit bears
witness to their truth, this can happen only ia a purely
immediate way, by a man's inner nature, his spirit, his
thought, his reason being impressed with their truth and
assenting to it. Thus, for the Christian it is the Bible
which is this basis, the fundamental basis, and which
has upon him the effect referred to, which touches a
chord in his heart, and gives firmness to his convictions.

We get a stage further, however, when it is seen that
just because he is a thinking being he cannot rest in
this state of immediate consent or witnessing to truth,
but turns it over by thinking, meditating, and reflecting
upon it.\> This accordingly leads to a further develop-
ment in religion ; and in its highest and most developed
form it is theology, scientific religion ; it is this content of
religion known in a scientific way as the witness of Spirit.

But here a principle which is the opposite of this comes
in, and which is expressed by saying that we should
simply keep to the Bible. Looked at in one aspect,
that is a perfectly correct principle. There are people
who are very religious, who do nothing but read the
Bible and repeat sayings out of it, and whose piety and
religious feeling are of a lofty kind, but they are not


theologians ; religion does not, so far, take with them a
scientific form, the form of theology. Giitze, the
Lutheran zealot, had a celebrated collection of Bibles ;
the devil, too, quotes the Bible, but that by no means
makes the theologian.

As soon, however, as this ceases to be simply the
reading and repetition of passages, as soon as what is
called explanation begins, as soon as an attempt is made
by reasoning and exegesis to find out the meaning of
what is in the Bible, then we pass into the region of
inference, reflection, and thought, and then the question
comes to be as to whether our thinking is correct or not,
and as to hoiu we exercise this power of thought.
^ It is of no use to say that these particular thoughts
or these principles are based on the Bible. As soon as
they cease to be anything more than the mere words of
the Bible, a definite form is given to what constitutes
them, to their content ; this content gets a logical form,
or, to put it otherwise, certain presuppositions are formed
in connection with this content, and we approach the
explanation of the passages with these presuppositions
which represent the permanent element so far as the
explanation is concerned. We bring with us certain
ideas which guide us in the explanation given. The
explanation of the Bible exhibits the substance or
content of the Bible in the form or style of thought be-
longing to each particular age. The explanation which
was first given was wholly different from that given now.

These presuppositions consist, for instance, of such an
idea as this, that man is naturally good, or that we
cannot know God. Consider how any one with such
preconceived ideas in his mind must distort the Bible.
Yet people bring such ideas to the interpretation of the
Bible, although the Christian religion just means that we
know G-od, and is just the religion in which God has
revealed Himself and has shown what He is.

Thus here again the positive element may enter in


in anotlier form, and in this connection it is a matter of
great importance to determine whether this content, these
ideas and principles, are true or not.

It is no longer the Bible which we have here, but the
words as these have been conceived of within the mind
or spirit. If the spirit gives expression to them, then
they have already a form got from the spirit, the form
of thought. \\It is necessary to examine this form which
is thus given to the content of these words. Here again
the positive element comes in. In this connection it
means, for instance, that the existence of the formal
logic of syllogistic reasoning, of the relations of thought
belonging to what is finite, has been presupposed.

According to the ordinary view of the nature of
reasoning, it is only what is finite, only what may be
grasped by the understanding, that can be conceived of
and known. Eeason, as ordinarily understood, is not
adequate to deal with a divine element or content.
Thus this content is rendered totally useless.

As soon as theology ceases to be a rehearsal of what
is in the Bible, and goes beyond the words of the Bible,
and concerns itself with the character of the feelings
within the heart, it employs forms of thought and passes
into thought. If, however, it uses these forms in a
haphazard way so that it has presuppositions and pre-
conceived ideas, then its use of them is of an accidental
and arbitrary kind, and it is the examination of these
forms of thought which alone makes philosophy.

When theology turns against philosophy, it is either
not conscious that it uses such forms, that it thinks
itself, and that its main concern is to advance in
accordance with thought, or else its opposition is not
seriously meant, but is simply deception ; it wishes to
reserve for itself the right to think as it chooses, to
indulge in thinking which does not follow laws and
which is here the positive element.

The recognition of the true nature of thought lessens


the value of this arbitrary kind of thought. This sort
of thought, which is a matter of choice and does not
follow strict laws, is the positive element which comes
in here. It is only the Notion in its true nature, the
Notion for itself, which truly frees itself absolutely from
this positive element, for both in philosophy and religion
freedom in its highest form is thought itself as such.

The doctrine or content also takes on the form of
something positive ; it is something having a valid exist-
ence, and it passes as such in society. All law, all that
is rational, and in general all that has true value or vali-
dity, takes the form of something which exists or is pos-
sessed of being, and as such it is for each one something
essential, something having true value or validity. This,
however, is merely the form in which what is positive
appears ; the content or substance must be constituted by
the true Spirit.

The Bible represents the Positive in this form ; but it
is one of its own sayings, that the letter killeth, while
the spirit giveth life ; and here the important point is the
kind of spirit which is brought into connection with the
letter, what kind of spirit gives life to the word. We
must know that we bring with us a concrete spirit, a
thinking, reflecting, or feeling spirit, and we must have
a consciousness of the presence of this spirit which is
active and forms a conception of the content before it.

This act of apprehending or forming a conception is
not a passive reception of something into the mind, but,
ou the contrary, just because the spirit forms a concep-
tion, this conceiving of something is at the same time a
manifestation of its activity. It is only in the mecha-
nical sphere that one of the sides remains passive in con-
nection with the process of reception. Tims Spirit plays
a part here, and this spirit has its ideas and conceptions, it
is a logical Essence, a form of thinking activity, and the
spirit must know this activity. Thought in this form,
however, can also pass into the various categories of finitude.


It is Spirit which after this fashion starts from what is
positive but is essentially in it ; it must be the true,
right spirit, the Holy Spirit which apprehends and knows
the Divine, and which apprehends and knows this con-
tent as divine. This is the witness of the Spirit, and it
may have a more or less developed form.

The main thing, therefore, so far as the Positive is
concerned, is that Spirit occupies a thinking relation to
things, that it appears in an active form in the categories
or specific forms of thought, that Spirit is active here
and may take the shape of feeling, reasoning, &c. Some
don't know this, and are not conscious when they have
impressions that they are active in receiving them.'

Many theologians, while treating their subject exegeti-
cally, and as they imagine taking up a purely receptive
attitude to what is in the Bible, are not aware that they
are at the same time thinking actively and reflecting.
Since this kind of thinking is accidental, governed by no
necessary laws, it yields itself up to the guidance of the
categories of finitude, and is consequently incapable of
grasping the divine element in the content ; it is not the
divine but the human spirit which is actively present in
such categories.

It is owing to this finite way of conceiving of the
Divine, of what has full and complete Being, what is in
and for itself, and to this finite way of thinking of the
absolute content, that the fundamental doctrines of Chris-
tianity have for the most part disappeared from Dogma-
tics. At the present time it is philosophy which is not
only orthodox, but orthodox par excellence ; and it is it
which maintains and preserves the principles which have
always held good, the fundamental truths of Christianity.

In treating of this religion we do not go to work his-
torically after the fashion of that form of mental action
which starts from what is outward, but, on the contrary,
we start from the ISTotion. That form of activity which
starts from what is outward takes the shape of some-


thing which apprehends or receives impressions only when
we look at it in one of its two aspects, while looked at in
the other it is activity.

\^ Our attitude here is essentially an attitude of activity
of this kind ; we are, in fact, conscious that we are think-
ing on thought itself, on the course taken by the cate-
gories of thought, a kind of thinking which has tested
itself and knows itself, which knows how it thinks, and
knows which are the finite and which the true categories
of thought. . That, regarding the matter from the other
point of view, we start from what is positive, is true in
reference to education, and is even necessary ; but here
we must abandon this mode of procedure in so far as we
employ the scientific method.

3. The absolute religion is thus the religion of Truth
and Freedom. For truth means that the mind does not
take up such an attitude to the objective as would imply
that this is something foreign to it. Freedom brings out
the real meaning of truth, and gives it a specific charac-
ter by means of negation. Spirit is for Spirit ; that ex-
presses its nature, and it is thus its own presupposition.
We start with Spirit as subject, it is identical with itself,
it is the eternal perception of itself, and it is at the same
time conceived of only as a result, as the end of a pro-
cess. It is the presupposition of itself, and it is at the
same time the result, and it exists only as the end of a
process. This is truth, this condition of being adequate,
of being object and subject. The fact that it is itself
the object makes it the reality, the Notion, the Idea, and
it is this which makes the Truth. So, too, it is the reli-
gion of freedom. Freedom considered abstractly means
that the mind is related to something objective which is
not regarded as foreign to its nature, its essential char-
acter is the same as that of truth, only that in the case
of freedom the negation of the difference of Otherness has
been done away with and absorbed in something higher,
and thus it appears in the form of Reconciliation. Ee-


conciliation starts from the fact that there are difTereiit
forms of existence which stand to each other in a rela-
tion of opposition, namely, God, who has opposed to Him
an estranged world, and a world which is estranged from
its own essential Bein". Eeconciliation is the negation of
this separation, of this division ; it means that each recog-
nises itself, finds itself and its essential nature, in the other.
Reconciliation is thus freedom ; but it is not something in
a state of repose, something which simply is ; on the con-
trary, it is activity. All that we- mean by reconciliation,
truth, freedom, represents a universal process, and cannot
therefore be expressed in a single proposition without
becoming one-sided. The main idea which in a popular
form expresses the truth, is that of the unity of the
divine and human natures ; God has become Man. This
unity is at first -potential only, but being such it has to
be eternally produced or brought into actual existence ;
and this act of production is the freeing process, the re-
conciliation which in fact is possible only by means of
the potentiality. The Substance which is identical with
itself is this unity, which as such is the basis, but which
as subjectivity is what eternally produces itself.

The final result of the whole of philosophy is that this
Idea only is the absolute truth. In its pure form it is the
logical result, but it is likewise the result of a study of the
concrete world. "What constitutes the truth is that Nature,
life, Spirit, are thoroughly organic, that each separate
thing is merely the mirror of this Idea, in such a way that
the Idea exhibits itself in it as in something isolated, as
a process in it, and thus it manifests this unity in itself.

The Religion of Nature is the religion which occupies
the standpoint of consciousness only. This standpoint
is to be found in the Absolute Religion as well, but it
exists within it only as a transitory moment. In the
Religion of Nature God is represented as an " Other," as
present in a natural shape ; or, to put it otherwise, reli-
gion appears in the form merely of consciousness. The


second form was that of the spiritual religion, of Spirit
which does not get beyond finite characterisation. So
far it is the religion of self-consciousness, that is, of
absolute power, of necessity iu the sense which we have
given to these terms. The One, the Power, is something
defective, because it is abstract Power only, and is not
in virtue of its content absolute subjectivity, but is only
abstract necessity, abstract, simple, undifferentiated Being.
The condition of abstraction in which the Power and
the necessity are conceived of as stUl existing at this
stage, constitutes their finitude, and it is the particular
powers, namely, the gods who when characterised in
accordance with their spiritual content first make totality,
since they add a real content to that abstraction. Lastly,
we have the third form of religion, the religion of free-
dom, of self-consciousness, which, however, is at the same
time a consciousness of the all-embracing reality which
constitutes the determirtateness of the eternal Idea of
God Himself, and a consciousness whicli does not go out-
side of itself, which remains beside itself in this objec-
tivity. Freedom is the essential characteristic of self-



The metaphysical notion of God here means that we
have to speak only of the pure Notion which is real
through its own self. And thus the determination or
definition of God here is that He is the Absolute Idea,
i.e., that He is Spirit. Spirit, however, or the Absolute
Idea, is what appears simply as the unity of the Notion
and reality in such a way that tlie Notion in itself re-
presents totality, while the reality does the same. This
reality, however, is Eevelation, actual manifestation,
manifestation which is for self. Since manifestation, too.


has in itself the moment of difference, it contains the
note or characteristic of finite Spirit, of human nature,
wliich being finite stands opposed to the Notion above
mentioned. Since, however, we call the Absolute Notion
the divine nature, the Idea of Spirit means the unity of
divine and human nature. But the divine nature it-
self is merely something which is to be Absolute Spirit,
and thus it is just the unity of divine and human nature
which is itself the Absolute Spirit. The truth, however,
cannot be expressed in a single proposition. The absolute
Notion and the Idea as the absolute unity of their reality,
are different the one from the other. Spirit is accordingly
the living Process by which the implicit unity of the^
divine and human natures becomes actual and comes to
have a definite existence.

Thus the abstract character or description of this Idea
is the unity of the Notion with Eeality. One of the
Proofs of the Existence of God takes the form of a proof
which represents this transition or mediation according
to which the Being of God follows from the notion or
conception of God. It is to be observed that in the case
of the other proofs we started from finite Being as repre-
senting something immediate, and inferred from its exist-
ence the existence of the Infinite, or true Being, which
appeared in the form of infinitude, necessity, absolute
power which is at the same time wisdom and has ends
within itself. Here, on the contrary, we start from the
notion or conception, and go on to Being. Both methods
are necessary, and it is necessary to point out the existence
of this unity, since we may start from either side with
equal propriety, for it is the identity of the two which is
the truth. The Notion as well as Being, the world, the
finite, are equally one-sided determinations, each of which
changes round into the other, and appears at one time as
a moment without independence, and at another as pro-
ducing the other determination which it carries within
itself. Their truth is to be found in the Idea only, i.e.,


both ave to be regarded as things posited, as dependent
for their existence on something else. Neither of the
two can be characterised simply as something which
continues to begin or is permanently original, but must
show itself in the character of something which passes
over into the other, i.e., it must show itself to be some-
thing posited. This transition has two opposite meanings,
each is represented as a moment, i.e., as something which
passes over from immediacy to the Other, so that each is
something posited. On the other hand, it has the signi-
fication also of something which produces the Other, in-
asmuch as it posits the Other, or brings it forward into
actual existence. Thus one of these two elements re-
presents movement ; but so, too, does the other.

If, accordingly, the transition to Being is to be exhibited
in the Notion, it is necessary to point out, to begin with,
that the characterisation or deteriiiinatiou we call Being
is of an utterly poor kind. It is abstract equality
with self, that last form of abstraction which is indeed
affirmation, but affirmation in its most abstract form,
purely indeterminate, characterless immediacy. If there
were nothing more in the Notion it would be necessary
to put into it at least this most extreme form of abstrac-
tion, namely, that the Notion is. Even when it is defined
simply as infinitude, or with a more concrete meaning as the
unity of the Universal and the Particular, as universality
which particularises itself and thus returns into itself, this
negation of the negative, this reference to self, is Being
taken in a purely abstract sense. This identity with self,
this characterisation just described, is directly contained
ia the Notion as an essential element.

Still it is necessary to state that the transition from
the Notion to Being has a rich and varied character, and
contains what most deeply concerns reason. The under-
standing of this relation between the Notion and Being
is something, too, which very specially concerns our time.
We must indicate more definitely the reason why this


transition possesses such an interest for us. The appear-
ance of this state of contrast or opposition is a sign that
subjectivity has readied the furthest point of its Being for
self or independent Being, and has arrived at the condition
of Totality, in which it knows itself as infinite and absolute
in itself. The essential characteristic of revealed religiou
appears in the form of something by means of which
Substance is Spirit. Of the two opposite sides one is
represented by the subject itself which is the realisation
of the Idea taken in its concrete meaning. The reason
why this opposition seems so hard to overcome and seems
to be infinite is that this particular side or aspect of
reality, the side of subjectivity, the finite spirit in itself,
has reached the point at which it is able to comprehend
its infinity. It is only wheu the subject is a totality,
when it has attained to this inner freedom, that it is
Being ; but then it is also the case that Bein£r in this
form is indifferent relatively to this subject, the subject is
for itself, and Being stands above it as an Other which
is indifferent to it. It is this which more particularly
constitutes the reason why the opposition can appear to
be of an intinite kind, and it is because of this and as an
immediate result of this that there exists iu all that has
life an impulse to reconcile the opposing elements. The
demand that these opposing elements should be reconciled
is directly involved in the totality which belongs to them ;

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 29 of 31)