Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

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

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Vasischtha then imposed on the cow the task of assem-
bling a force for him wherewith to resist the king. The
latter confronted him with his entire army, and both
armies were repeatedly overthrown ; finally, however, Vis-
vamitra was conquered after his hundred sons too had
been destroyed by means of a wind which A'asischtha had
caused to issue from his navel. Full of despair, he hands
over the government to his only remaining son, and
departs with his consort to the Himalaya mountains,
in order to obtain the favour of Mahadeva (Siva).
Moved by the severity of his exercises, Mahadeva is
prepared to fulfil his wishes. Visvamitra asks to have
the knowledge of the whole science of archery, and this
is granted him. Armed with his bow, Visvamitra in-
tends to coerce Vasischtha ; with his arrow he lays
waste his forest. Vasischtha,, however, seizes his staff,
the Br^hmanical weapon, and lifts it up ; whereupon
the gods are filled with apprehension, for such a force
as this threatened the entire world with destruction.


They entreated the Brahman to desist. Visvamitra re-
cognises his power, and now resolves to subject himself
to the severest exercises in order to attain to that power.
He retires into solitude, and lives there a thousand yeai's
in abstraction alone with his consort. Brahma comes
to him, and addresses him thus : " I recognise thee now
as the first royal sage." Visvamitra, not content with
this, begins afresh with his penances. In the meantime
an Indian king had come to Vasischtha with the request
that he would exalt him in his bodily form to heaven.
The request, however, was refused on account of his
being a Kshatriya ; but on his haughtily persisting in
it, he was degraded by Vasischtha to the class of the
Tschandala. Upon this he repairs to Visvamitra with
the same request. The latter prepares a sacrifice to
which he invites all the gods ; these, however, decline to
come to a sacrifice made for a Tschandala. Visvamitra,
however, by an exercise of his strength, lifts up the king
to heaven. At the command of Indra, he drops down,
but Visvamitra sustains him between heaven and earth,
and afterwards creates another heaven, other Pleiades,
another Indra, and another' circle of gods. The gods
were filled with astonishment ; they repaired in humility
to Visvamitra, and agreed with him about the place they
were to assign to their king in heaven. After the lapse
of a thousand years, Visvamitra was rewarded, and
Brahma named him the head of the sages, but did not
as yet declare him to be a Brahman. Then Visvamitra
recommences his penances ; the gods in heaven became
envious ; Indra attempts to excite his passions (for it is
essential for a perfect sage and Brahman that he should
■ have subjugated his passions). He sends him a very
beautiful girl, with whom Visvamitra lives five-and-
twenty years, but then withdraws himself from her,
having overcome his love. In vain, too, do the gods
try to irritate and make him angry. Finally, the
Brahmanic power has to be granted to him.


It is to be obser^'ed that this is no expiation for crime ;
nothing is made good by means of it. This renunciation
has not the consciousness of sin as a presupposition.
These are, on the contrary, austerities undertaken with
a view to attaining the state of Brahma. It is not pen-
ance entered upon for the purpose of atoning to the gods
for any Ivind of crime, transgression, or offence. Penance
of the latter Icind presupposes the existence of a relation
between the work of man, his concrete existence, his
actions, and the One God — an idea which is full of con-
tent, in which man has the standard and the law of his
character and behaviour, and to which he is to conform
himself in his will and life. But the relation to Brahma
contains as yet nothing concrete, because he himself is
merely the abstraction of the substantial soul ; all further
determination and content lies outside of him. Thus a
worship, as a substantial relation which effectually in-
fluences and directs the concrete man, has no place in
the relation to Brahma. If such a relation were present
here at all, it would have to be sought in the adoration
of the other gods. But just as Brahma is conceived as
the solitary self-enclosed Being, so, too, the exaltation of
the individual self-consciousness which strives, by means
of the austerities just spoken of, to render its own abstrac-
tion something perennial for itself, is rather a flight out
of the concrete reality of feeling and living activity. In
the consciousness which says, " 1 am Brahma," all virtues
and vices, all gads, and finally the Trimiirti itself,
vanish. The concrete consciousness of one's self and of
objective content, which, in the Christian idea of the
repentance .and conversion of the universal sensuous life,
is relinquished, is not characterised here as anything sin-
ful or negative, as it is in the penitential life of Chris-
tians and Christian monks, and in the idea of conversion.
On the contrary, it comprehends on the one hand, as has
just been indicated, the very content, otherwise esteemed
as holy ; and, on the other hand, we see that the charac-


ter of the religious standpoint under consideration con-
sists just in this, that all the moments drop asunder,
and that the supreme unity casts no reflection into the
fulness of the heart and life.

If the Absolute be conceived of as the spiritually free,
the essentially concrete, then self-consciousness exists as
something essential in the religious consciousness only,
to the extent to which it maintains within itself concrete
movement, ideas full of content, and concrete feeling.
If, however, the Absolute is the abstraction of the " Be-
yond " or of the Supreme Being, then self-consciousness
too, since it is by nature what thinks, by nature good, is
that which it ought to be.

The man who has thus made himself into the continu-
ously existing Brahma holds a position equivalent to
that which we have already seen was held by the magician,
namely, that he has won an absolute power over nature,
and is that power. It is imagined that such a man can
inspire even Indra with fear and apprehension. In an
episode in Bopp's " Chrestomathie " the story of two
giants is mentioned, who came to the Almighty with a
request for immortality ; but as they had entered upon
their exercises merely with a view to attaining to such
power, he granted their petition only to this extent, that
they are to die only by some act of their own. They
then exert complete dominion over nature. Indra becomes
afraid of them, and employs the usual means of inducing
any one to give up such an exercise of power. He brings
a beautiful woman into existence ; each of the giants
wishes to have her for his wife. In the strife they put
each other to death, and thereby nature is delivered.

3. A characteristic which is quite peculiar remains to
to be considered, and that is, that every Brahman, every
member of that caste, is esteemed as Brahma, is regarded
as God by every other Hindu. This particular way of
viewing the matter, however, is in close connection with
the previous characteristics. That is to say, each of the


two forms which we have considered is, as it were, a
merely abstract, isolated relation of self-consciousness to
Brahma ; the first being only a momentary one, the
second only the flight out of life — lasting life in Brahma
being the lasting death of all individuality. The third
demand, therefore, is that this relation should not be
mere flight, mere renunciation of life, but that it should
also be posited in an affirmative manner. The question
is, How must the affirmative mode of this relation be
constituted ? It can be none other than the form of
immediate existence. This is a difficult transition.
What is merely inward, merely abstract, is merely out-
ward ; and thus this merely Abstract is the immediate
Sensuous, is sensuous externality. Since the relation
here is the wholly abstract one to wholly abstract sub-
stance, the affirmative relation is in like manner a wholly
abstract, and consequently an immediate one. With this
we get the concrete phenomenon implying that the
relation to Brahma, the relation of the self-consciousness
to him, is an immediate, a natural one, and thus an in-
born one, and a relation established by birth.

Man is a thinking being, and is such by nature ;
thought is a natural quality of man. But the fact that
he is a thinking being generally expresses a quality
different from the determination which is here under
consideration, from the consciousness of thought in general
as the absolutely existent. In this form we have in fact
the consciousness of thought, and this is then posited as
the Absolute. It is the consciousness of absolute Being
which is posited here as existing in a natural mode, or,
to put it otherwise, which is affirmed and supposed to be
inborn ; and its degradation into this form is based upon
the entire relation ; for although it is rational knowledge,
yet this consciousness is supposed to exist in an imme-
diate form.

Since, then, man is a thinking being, and since the
consciousness of thought, as the Universal, the Self-


existent, is distinguished from human thought in general,
while both are something innate, it follows from this that
there are two classes of men, the one including think-
ing men, men generally, the other including those who
are the consciousness of man, as absolute Being. These
latter are the Brahmans, those born again, twice born
through birth, first naturally, and then as thinking men.
This is a profound idea. The thought of man is looked
upon here as the source of his second existence, the root
of his true existence, which ho gives to himself by means
of freedom.

Br§,hmans come into existence as twice born, and are
held in unbounded reverence ; compared with them all
other men are of no value. The entire life of the Brah-
mans is expressive of the existence of Brahma. Their
deeds consist in giving utterance to Brahma ; indeed, by
right of birth they are the existence of Brahma. If
any one who is of a lower caste touch a Brahman, he has
by the very act incurred death. In the Code of Manu
penalties are to be found for offences against Brahmans.
If, for example, a Sudra utter abusive language to a
Brahman, an iron staff, ten inches long, is thrust glowing
into his mouth ; and if he attempt to instruct a Brahman,
hot oil is poured into his nioiith and into his ears. A
mysterious power is ascribed to the Brahmans ; it is said
in Manu, " Let no king irritate a Brahman, for if exas-
perated he can destroy his kingdom, with all his strong-
holds, his armies, his elephants, &c."

The culminating point always is isolated thought as
Brahma existing solely for itself. This culmination
eomes into existence in that immersion in nothingness,
that wholly empty consciousness and contemplation already
spoken of. This Brahma, however, this highest conscious-
ness of thought, is independent, cut off from all else, and
does not exist as concrete actual spirit ; and accordingly
it likewise follows that there is no vital connection with
this unity present in the subject ; on the contrary, the


concrete element of self-consciousness is separated from
this region ; the connection is interrupted. This is tlie
leading characteristic of this sphere of thought, which, it
is trap, has in it the development of the moments, but
in such a way that they remain separate from one another.
Self-consciousness being thus cut off, the region in w"hich
it is is devoid of spirit, that is to say, has a merely natural
character as something inborn, and to the e.\tent to which
this inborn self-consciousness is different from tlie uni-
versal one, it is the privilege of certain individuals. The
individual " This " is in an immediate manner the Uni-
versal, the Divine. Spirit thus exists, but Spirit which
has merely bare Being is devoid of Spirit. By this
means, too, the life of the "this" as "this," and its
life in universality are irremediably separated from one
another. In the religions where such is not the case,
that is to say, where the consciousness of the Universal,
of essentiality, appears in the Particular, and is active
in it, freedom of the Spirit takes its rise, and upon
the fact that the I'articular is determined by means of
the Universal depends the appearance of uprightness,
morality. In civil law, for example, we find freedom of
the individual in the use he can make of property. I
in this particular relation of actual existence am free ;
the object is held to be mine, as that of a free subject,
and thus the particular existence is determined through
the Universal ; my particular existence is co-related with
this universality. The same holds good of family rela-
tions. Morality exists only where unity is what deter-
mines the Particular, where all particularity is determined
by the substantial unity. In so far as this is not posited,
the consciousness of the Universal is essentially a con-
sciousness cut off from all else, inactive and devoid of
Spirit. Thus by this isolation the Highest is made into
something unfree and only naturally born.

II. Worship, strictly speaking, is the relation of self-
consciousness to what is essential, to that which exists


in and for itself; it is consciousness of the One in this
essence, consciousness of one's unity with it. The second
relation here is that of consciousness to these very mani-
fold objects. The many deities constitute these objects.

Brahma has no divine service, no temple, and no
altars ; the unity of Brahma is not put in relation to
the Real, to active self-consciousness. From what has
been stated, namely, that the consciousness of the One
is isolated, it follows that nothing is determined by
means of reason here in the relation to the Divine ; for
this would mean that particular actions, symbols, &c.,
are determined by means of unity. Here, however, the
region of the Particular is not determined by this unity,
and has thus the character of irrationality, of unfreedom.
What we have is merely a relation to pnrticular deities,
which represent nature as detached or free. They are,
it is true, the most abstract possible moments implicitly
determined through the notion, but not taken back into
unity in such a manner that the Trimiirti would become
Spirit. Their whole significance therefore is merely that
of a mode of some particular natural element. The
leading characteristic is vital energy or life force, that
which produces and which passes away, what returns
to life and is self-transformation, and to this natural
objects, animals, &c., are linked on as objects of reve-
rence. Thus worship is here a relation to those particu-
lar things which are cut off in a one-sided manner from
what is essential, and is therefore a relation to unessential
things in natural form. Eeligious action, that is to say,
action that is essential, a universal mode of life, is con-
ceived of and carried out in accordance with this, and
is known and realised here in this fashion. And here
religious action is a content which is unessential and
without reason.

Since this element, considered generally, is partly
objective, namely, the perception of God, and partly
subjective, namely, that which it is essential to do, and


seeing that what is of most importance becomes un-
essential, the worship is infinite in its range ; everything
comes into it, the content is of no importance, it has no
limit within itself ; the religious acts are thus essentially
irrational, they are determined in an entirely external
manner. "Whatever is truly essential is stable; is, as
regards its form, exempt from the influence of suljjective
opinion and caprice. Here, however, the content is this
sensuous contingency, and the action is a merely char-
acterless action, consisting of usages which cannot be
understood, because there is no understanding in it ; on
the contrary, a latitude is introduced into it which runs
out in all directions. In so far as all this is trans-
cended, and in so far as there must be satisfaction in
these religious acts, we find this to be attained merely
by means of sensuous stupefaction. The one extreme is
the flight of abstraction, the middle point is the slavery
of unintelligent being and doing, and the other extreme
is capricious extravagance — surely the saddest possible
religion. In so far as flight or escape enters into this
cult, what is actually done represents mere purely ex-
ternal accomplished action, mere activity, and to this are
added the wildest intoxication and orgies of the most
fearful kind. Such is the necessary character of this
worship, a character which it acquires owing to the fact
that the consciousness of the One is broken up in this
way, for the connection with the rest of concrete exist-
ence is interrupted, and everything becomes disconnected.
In the region of imagination are found wildness and free-
dom, and here fancy has free scope. Thus we find most
beautiful poetry among the Indian peoples, but it always
rests upon the craziest foundation ; we are attracted by
its loveliness, and repelled by the confusion and nonsense
in it

The delicate sensibility and charm of the tenderest
feelings and this infinite resignation of personality, must
necessarily possess supreme beauty under such conditions


as are peculiar to this standpoint, because it is only this
feeling which, resting thus upon a foundation so devoid
of rationality, is nrouldcd exclusively into forms of beauty.
But since this feeling of abandonment is without the
element of right, it, for this very reason, is seen to
alternate with the most extreme harshness, and thus the
moment of the independent existence of personality passes
over into ferocity, into forgetfulness of all established
bonds, and issues in the trampling under foot of love

The whole content of Spirit and of nature generally is
allowed to break up in the wildest way. That unity
which occupies the leading position is indeed the Power
out of which all proceeds and into which all returns ;
but it does not become concrete, does not become the
uniting bond of the manifold powers of nature, and in
like manner does not become concrete in Spirit, nor the
bond of the manifold activities of Spirit and of emotional

In the first case, when the unity becomes the bond of
natural things, we call it necessity ; this is the bond of
natural forces and phenomena. "We look upon natural
properties, things, as Jjeing, though independent, essen-
tially linked together ; laws, understanding, are in E"ature,
so that in this way the phenomena are co-related.

But that unity remains in solitary and empty inde-
pendence, and accordingly that fulness which it acquires
is wild, extravagant disorder. In the spiritual world, in
like manner, the Universal, thought, does not become
concrete, determining itself within itself. Thought
determining itself within itself, and abrogating and pre-
serving the determinate element in this universality — ■
pure thought as concrete, is Reason.

Duty, right, exist in thought only. These determina-
tions when they appear in the form of universality are
rational in respect to the truth, the unity just spoken of,
and likewise in respect to the will. That One, that


solitary unity, however, does not become svich concrete
unity, reason, rationality.

For this reason there is no right, no duty present here,
for the freedom of the will, of the Spirit, just consists in
being present with itself in determinateness. But here
this being present or at home with itself, this unity, is
abstract, is devoid of determinate character. And here
is one source of the fantastic polytheism of the Hindus.

It has been remarked that the category of Being is
not found here ; the Hindus have no category for what
we call independent existence in things, or what we
express when we say " they are," " these are." Man, to
begin with, knows himself only as existing independently,
he therefore conceives of an independent object of nature
as existing with his independence, in the mode of inde-
pendence which he has in himself, in his Being, in his
human form, as consciousness.

Here fancy makes everything into God. This is what
we see in its own fashion among the Greeks, too, where
all trees and springs are made into dryads or nymphs.
We are accustomed to say that the beautiful imagination
of man gives soul and life to everything, conceives
everything as endowed with life, that man wanders
among his like, anthropomorphises everything, by his
beautiful sympathy shares with everything that mode of
beauty which is his own, and thus, as it were, presses
everything to his heart as having animated life.

But the liberality of the Hindus in the wild ex-
travagance of their desire to share their mode of exist-
ence, has its foundation in a poor idea of themselves, in
the fact that the individual has not as yet within himself
the content of the freedom of the Eternal, the truly and
essentially existent, and does not as yet know his con-
tent, his true nature, to be higher than the content of a
spring or of a tree. Everything is squandered on imagi-
nation, and nothing reserved for life.

With the Greeks this is more a play of fancy, while


among the Hindus there is no higher feeling of them-
selves present. The idea which they have of Being is
only that which they have of themselves ; they place
themselves upon the same level with all the productions
of nature. This is because thought lapses so completely
into this abstraction.

These natural powers, then, whose being is thus con-
ceived of as anthropomorphic and as conscious, are above
the concrete man, who, as having a physical nature, is
dependent upon them, and his freedom is not as yet
distinguished from this his natural aspect.

It is implied by this that the life of man has no
higher value than the being of natural objects, the life
of any natural thing ; the life of man has value only
if it is in itself or essentially, higher ; but among the
Hindus human life is despised, and is esteemed to be of
little worth — there a man cannot give himself value in
an affirmative, but only in a negative manner.

Life acquires value only by the negation of itself. All
that is concrete is merely negative in relation to abstrac-
tion, which is here the ruling principle. From this
results that aspect of Hindu worship according to which
men sacrifice themselves, and parents their children. To
this is due, too, the burning of wives after the death
of their husbands. Such sacrifices have a higher value
when they take place with, express reference to Crahma,
or to any god whatever, for the latter is Brahma likewise.

It is esteemed among the Hindus a sacrifice of high
value when they mount to the snow clefts of the Himalaya,
where the sources of the Ganges are, and cast themselves
into the springs. Such actions are not penances on
account of crime, nor are they sacrifices with a view to
making amends for any evil deed, but merely sacrifices to
give oneself value, and this value can be attained only in
a negative way.

With the position which is here given to man animal-
worship is closely connected. Au animal is not a con-


seious spiiit, but in this concentration of absence of
consciousness man is really not far removed from the
brutes. By the Hindus action is not conceived as definite
activity, but as simple energy which works through every-
thing. Special activity is despised ; it is only stupefaction
which is held in esteem, and in this state it is clearly
the animal life alone which is left remaining. And if
no freedom, no morality, no good customs be present, then
the power is only known as inward, torpid power, which
belongs likewise to the brutes, and to them in the most
complete degree.

Since man when he exists in this way is without free-
dom, and has no intrinsic worth, we find bound up with
this in the sphere of concrete extension that unspeakable
and infinitely varied superstition, those enormous fetters
and limitations above referred to. The relation of man
to external natural things, which is of little consequence
to Europeans, that dependence on them, becomes some-

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 4 of 31)