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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thing fixed, something permanent. For superstition has
its foundation just in this, that man is not indifferent
toward external things ; and he is not so if he has no
freedom within himself, if he has not the true indepen-
dence of spirit. All that is indifferent is fixed, while
all that is not indifferent, all that belongs to right and
morality, is thrown away and abandoned to caprice.

Of this character are the directions which the Brah-
mans have to observe, and of a similar character, too, is
the narrative of Nala in the Mahabharata. Just as super-
stition is of limitless extent owing to this want of free-
dom, so too it follows that no morality, no determination
of freedom, no rights, no duties have any place here, so
that the people of India are sunk in the most complete
immorality. Since no rational determination has been
able to attain to solidity, the entire condition of this
people could never become a legitimate one, a condition
inherently justified, and was always merely a condition
on sufferance, a contingent and a perverted one.


3. The Beligion of Being-iuithin-self.

(a.) Its' conception.

The general basis here is still the same as that which
is peculiar to the Indian religion ; what advance there is
merely consists in the necessity felt that the characteris-
tics of the Indian religion should be brought together
again out of their wild, lawless independence, out of
their merely natural state of dispersion, placed in their
inner relation, and have their unstable chaos reduced to
a state of rest. This religion of Being-within-self is the
concentration and tranquillisation of spirit as it returns
out of the arid disorder of the Indian religion into itself
and into essential unity.

The essential unity and the differences have hitherto
continued to keep apart to such an extent that the latter
were essentially independent, and only vanished in the
unity in order at once to reappear in all their indepen-
dence. The relation of the unity and the differences was
an infinite progression, a perennial alternation of the
vanishing of differences in unity, and their reappearance
in their own essential independence. This alternation is
now arrested, because that which is potentially coiitained
in it, namely, the coming together of the differentiations
in the catagory of unity, is actually posited.

In its character as this Being-within-itself, for which
all relation to another is now precluded, the essence is
essentiality existing within itself, reflection of negativity
into itself, and is thus that which is at rest within itself
and persists.

However defective this determination may Ije, for the
Being-within-itself is not as yet concrete, is only the dis-
appearance of the independent differences, yet we are on
firm ground here ; it is a true determination of God which
constitutes the foundation.

If we compare this general conception with the assump-
tion that we know nothing of God, then this religion,


however poor and mean it may seem, yet stands higher
than that which asserts that God cannot be known. For
in such a case there can be no possibility of worship, since
a man can only worship what he knows, what he has a
rational knowledge of. Is colit Deum qui cum novit, is an
example in frequent use in the Latin grammar. Self-con-
sciousness has at least here an affirmative relation to this
object, for the very essence of being-within-itself is thought
itself, and this is the real essential element in self-
consciousness, and therefore there is nothing unknown
in it, nothing which is " beyond." It is in presence of
its own essence in an affirmative form, since it at once
knows this essence as its own essential nature ; but it
also conceives it as an object, so that it distinguishes this
being-within-itself, this pure freedom, from itself, from this
particular self-consciousness. For this last is contingent,
empirical, independent Being, being for self, determined in
a manifold way. This is the fundamental determination.

Substance is universal presence, but as essentiality
existing within itself, it must be known concretely too
in an individual concentration. This embodiment and
definite form is still in accordance with the standpoint
of natural- religion, the immediate form of the Spiritual,
and has the form of a single definite self-consciousness.
Thus, as compared with the previous stage, there is an
advance made here from fantastic personification split up
into a countless multitude of forms, to a personification
which is enclosed within definite bounds, and is actually
present. A human being is worshipped, and he is as
such the god who assumes individual form, and in that
form gives himself up to be reverenced. Substance in
this individual existence is power, sovereignty, the creat-
ing and maintaining of the world, of nature, and of all
things — absolute Power.

(b.) The historical existence of this religion.

It is as the religion of Foe that this religion has an
historical existence ; it is the religion of the Mongols,

VOL. 11. D


the Thibetans in the north and west of China, also of
the Burmese and Cingalese, where, however, that which
is elsewhere called Foe is designated Buddha. It is, in
fact, the relisfion which we know under the name of
Lamaism. It is the most widely spread of religions, and
has the greatest number of adherents. Its worshippers
are more numerous than those of Mahomedanism, which
again counts more adherents than the Christian religion.
As in the Mahomedan religion, a simple Eternal consti-
tutes the fundamental idea and the characteristic quality
of the inner element, and this simplicity of its principle
is of itself sufficient to bring diverse nationalities under
its sway.

Historically, this religion appears rather later than
that form in which the absolute Power is what rules.
The French missionaries have translated an edict of the
Emperor Hia-King by which he suppressed many monas-
teries, because those who lived in them did not till the
ground and paid no tribute. Here the Emperor says, in
the beginning of the edict, " Under our three famous
dynasties the sect of Foe was not heard of. Only since
the dynasty of Hang has it come into existence."

The general conception of this religion in its more
definite features is as follows.

1. The absolute foundation is the stillness of being-
within-itself, in which all differences cease, in which all
determinations of the natural existence of Spirit, all
particular powers, have vanished. Thus the Absolute,
as being- within-itself, is the Undetermined, the annihila-
tion of all particularity, so that all particular existences,
all actual things, are merely something accidental, are
merely Form having no significance.

2. Since reflection into itself as the Undetermined (and
this too is in harmony with the standpoint of natural
religion) is merely immediate reflection, it is expressed
in this form as a principle ; nothing and not-being is
what is ultimate and supreme. It is nothing alone which


has true independence ; all other actuality, all particu-
larity, has none at all. Out of nothingness everything
has proceeded ; into nothingness everything returns.
Nothing, nothingness is the One, the beginning and the
ending of everything. However diverse men and things
may be, there is but the One principle — nothingness —
out of which they proceed, and it is form alone which
constitutes the quality, the diversity.

That man should think of God as nothingness must at
first sight seem astonishing, must appear to us a most pecu-
liar idea. But, considered more closely, this determination
means that God is absolutely nothing determined. He
is the Undetermined ; no determinateness of any kind
pertains to God ; He is the Infinite. This is equivalent
to saying that God is the negation of all particularity.

When we consider the forms of expression which we
hear used, and which are current at the present day,
namely, " God is the Infinite, is Essence — pure, simple
Essence, the Essence of Essences and Essence only " —
we find that such expressions are either entirely or nearly
identical in signification with the statement that God is
nothingness. In like manner, when it is said that man
cannot know God, God is thus for us emptiness, inde-

That modern mode of definition is therefore merely a
mUder expression for " God is nothingness." That, how-
ever, is a definite, a necessary stage : God is the Inde-
terminate, the indeterminateness in which immediate
Being and its apparent independence are abrogated and
absorbed, and in which they have vanished away.

3. God, although actually conceived of as nothing-
ness, as Essence generally, is yet known as a particular
immediate human being, as Poe, Buddha, Dalailama.
Such a conjunction may appear to us the most offensive,
revolting, and incredible of all, that a man with all his
sensuous needs should be looked upon as God, as He who
eternally creates, maintains, and produces the world.


When in the Christian religion God is worshipped in
human form, that is something altogether different ; for
the divine Essence is there beheld in the man who has
suffered, died, risen again, and ascended to heaven. That
is not man in his sensuous, immediate existence, but man
who has taken on the form of Spirit. The most startling
contrast, however, is when the Absolute has to be wor-
shipped in the immediate finite nature of a human being ;
this is an even more isolated individualisation than the
animal itself is. And what is more, humanity has within
itself the requirement that it should rise higher, and
hence it seems repugnant that this demand should be
suppressed, and man's aspiration tied down to continu-
ance in ordinary finite existence.

We must, however, learn to understand this general
conception, and in understanding it we justify it : we
show how it gets its foundation, its element of rationality,
a place within reason ; but it is also implied in this that
we perceive its defectiveness. In dealing with religions,
we must learn to perceive that what is in them is not
mere nonsense, mere irrationality. What is of more im-
portance than this, however, is to recognise the element
of truth, and to know how it is in harmony with reason ;
and that is more difficult than to pronounce a thing to
have no sense in it.

Being- within-itself is the essential stage, so that we
may advance from immediate, empirical singularity to
the determination of essence, of essentiality, to the con-
sciousness of Substance, of a substantial Power which
governs the world, causes everything to originate and come
into being in accordance with rational laws of connection.
So far as it is substantial, inherently existent, it-is a power
which works unconsciously ; and just because of this it
is undivided activity, has universality in it, is universal
power. And in order to make this intelligible to our-
selves, we must recall the expressions activity of nature,
spirit of nature, soul of nature. We do not mean by


these that the spirit of nature is conscious spirit, nor in
using them are we thinking of anything conscious. The
natural laws of plants, animals, of their organisation and
action, are devoid of consciousness : these laws are the
substantial element, are their nature, their notion ; they
are this implicitly, are the reason that is immanent in
them, but without consciousness.

Man is Spirit, and his spirit determines itself as soul,
as this unity of what has life. This its life force, which
in the unfoldiug of his organised existence is one only,
permeating and sustaining everything, this activity is
present in man so long as he lives, without his knowing
it or willing it ; and yet his living soul is the cause, the
originating agency, the Substance, which produces it.
Man, this living soul, knows nothing of this ; he does not
will this circulation of the blood, does not prescribe it
to himself ; yet he does it : it is his deed. Man is the
acting, working power in that which goes on in his
organism. This unconscious active rationality or uncon-
scious rational activity is the ruling of the world by vovs ;
among the ancients the vov^ of Anaxagoras. 1'his is not
conscious reason. By modern philosophers, especially by
Schelling, this rational activity has been also called per-
ception or intuition — God as intuitive intelligence. God,
intelligence, reason as intellectual intuition, is the eternal
creation of nature, what is called the maintenance of
nature ; for creation and preservation are inseparable.
In perception we are immersed in the objects ; they fill
us. This is the lower stage of consciousness, this im-
mersion in the objects ; to reflect upon them, to arrive
at general ideas, to originate points of view, to attach
certain determinations to certain objects — to judge — is
no longer perception as such.

Such then is this standpoint of substantiality, of intel-
lectual perception or intuition. This is really the stand-
point of Pantheism in the true sense of the word, this
Oriental knowledge, consciousness, thought of this abso-


lute unity, of the absolute Substance and the activity of
this Substance within itself, an activity in which all that
is particular, that is individual, is merely something
transient, vanishing, and does not represent true inde-

This Oriental conception stands in contrast to that of
the West, in which man, like the sun, sets into himself,
into his subjectivity. Here individuality is the leading
category, the fact, namely, tbat it is the individual which
is independent. As with the Orientals it is the Uni-
versal which is the truly independent, so in this form of
consciousness we find the singularity or individuality of
things, of mankind, occupying the foremost place ; indeed,
the Occidental mode of conception is capable of going so
far as to assert that finite things are independent, that
is to say, absolute.

The expression Pantheism has the same ambiguity
which attaches to Universality. "Ei/ Koi TLav means
the One All, the All, which remains absolutely One ;
but Tiav means also Everything, and thus it is that it
passes over into that idea which is devoid of thought,
and is a poor and unphilosophical one.

Thus Pantheism is understood as meaning the divine
nature of all things, not the divine nature of all : for in
the case of all being deified, if God were All, there is
only one God ; in the All, particular things are absorbed,
and are merely shadows, phantoms ; they come and go,
tlie very nature of their being is to vanish.

Philosophy is, moreover, asked to confess that it is
Pantheism in the first of these two senses, and it is
theologians especially who use this kind of language.

The ambiguity of Universality is precisely the same.
If it be taken in the sense of the universality of reflec-
tion, it is in that case allness ; and in the next place, this
is taken to mean that individuality remains independent.
But the Universality of Thought, the substantial univer-
sality, is unity with itself, in which all that is indivi-


dual, that is particular, is merely ideal, and has no true

This substantiality is the fundamental determination
of our knowledge of God too, but it is only the funda-
mental determination, the foundation not being yet the
True. God is the absolute Power, we must say that ;
He alone is Power. Everything which pretends to say
of itself that it is, that it has reality, is annulled,
absorbed, is only a moment of the absolute God, the
absolute Power. God alone is ; God alone is the One
true reality.

In our religion too this lies at the foundation of the
idea of God. The omnipresence of God, if it is no empty
word, directly expresses substantiality ; the latter under-
lies it. But stupidity continues to prate of these pro-
found religious expressions as a mere matter of memory,
and is not at all in earnest about them. As soon as true
Being is ascribed to the finite, as soon as things are in-
dependent, God is shut out from them ; then God is not
omnipresent at all, for if God is omnipresent, it will at
once be said that He is real, and not the things.

He is therefore not beside the things, in the pores,
like the God of Epicurus, but actually in the things :
and in this case the things are not real, and this pre-
sence in them is the ideality of the things. For that
feeble way of thinking, on the other hand, things are in-
vincible ; they are an impregnable reality. Omnipresence
must have a true meaning for the spirit, heart, thought ;
Spirit must have a true interest in it. God is the sub-
sistence of all things.

Pantheism is a bad expression, because it is possible
to misunderstand it so that TLau is taken in the sense of
allness or totality, not as universality. The philosophy
of Spinoza was a philosophy of substantiality, not of

God is in all higher religions, but especially in the
Christian religion, the absolutely One Substance. He is.


at the same time, however, subject too, and that repre-
sents a further stage. As man has personality, the
characteristic of subjectivity, personality, spirit, absolute
spirit, enters into God. This is a higher characteristic,
but Spirit nevertheless remains Substance, is the One
Substance notwithstanding.

This abstract Substance, which is the ultimate prin-
ciple of the philosophy of Spinoza, this Substance which
is thought of, which is only for thought, cannot be the
content of the religion of a people, cannot be the faith
of a concrete spirit. Spirit is concrete ; it is only ab-
stract thought which remains in one-sided determinate-
ness of this kind, in that of Substance.

The concrete spirit supplies the deficiency, and this
deficiency is tliat subjectivity is wanting, that is to say,
spirituality or the spiritual element. Here at the stage
of natural religion, however, this spirituality does not
yet exist as such, is not yet thought-out spirituality,
universal spirituality, but sensuous, immediate spiritu-
ality ; here it is a man, as sensuous, external, immediate
spirituality, and therefore in the form of the spiritual life
of a definite human being, of an empirical, individual con-
sciousness. Now if this man remains in contrast with
this Substance, with the inherently universal Substance,
then it must be remembered that man as living substan-
tiality is really this inherent substantial reality in him-
self, which is determined by his bodily existence ; it
must be possible to thinlv that this life force is in a sub-
stantial way active life within him. This point of view
contains universal Substantiality in an actual form.

Here the idea presents itself that a man is universal
Substance in his act of meditation, when he is occupied
with himself, when he is absorbed in himself ; not merely
in his active life, but in his absorption in self, in the
centre of the vov?, of the vovq posited as the centre, but
in such a way that the vow; is not conscious of itself in
its determination and development.


This substantiality of the vovs, this absorption repre-
sented in one individual, is not the meditation of a king,
who has in his consciousness the thought of the admini-
stration of his empire ; but rather implies that tliis ab-
sorption in self is as abstract thought potentially active
substantiality, the creation and preservation of the world.

The subjective form is not as yet exclusive here : only
in the in terpen etration of spirituality, subjectivity, and
substance does God become essentially One. Thus Sub-
stance is certainly One ; but Subjectivity, these outward
embodiments, are several, and it is their very nature to
be several : for this assumption of outward form is con-
ceived of as itself in relation to substantiality, as some-
thing essential in fact, while yet at the same time it is
also conceived of as something that is accidental.

For opposition, contradiction, first appears only in
consciousness, in will, in a particular act of intelligence,
and for this reason there cannot be several worldly rulers
in one land. But this spiritual activity, although it has
spiritual form for its deiinite existence or actual embodi-
ment, is yet merely activity of substance, and does not
appear as conscious activity, as conscious will.

Thus there are several, that is to say, three principal
Lamas : the first, Dalailama, is to be found in Lassa, to
the north of the Himalayas. There is another Lama in
Little Thibet, in Tischu-Lombu. in the neighbourhood of
Nepaul. Finally, in Mongolia there is yet a third Lama.

Spirit can, indeed, have one outward form only, and
this is man, the sensuous manifestation of Spirit. But
if the inner element is not determined as Spirit, the form
at once becomes accidental or indifferent. The eternal
life of the Christian is the Spirit of God itself, and the
Spirit of God just consists in self- consciousness of oneself
as the Divine Spirit. _ At this stage, on the other hand,
Being-within-itself is still devoid of determination, is not
as yet Spirit. It is immediate Being-within-itself ; the
eternal as this Being-within-itself has as yet no content.


SO that we cannot speak of the form as corresponding to
the inner nature. The indifference of the form extends
here even to the objectively eternal. Death even is no
interruption as regards the substantial Essence ; as soon
as ever a Lama dies, another is at hand at once, so that
the Essence is the same in both, and he can be sought
for directly, being recognisable by certain marks. Thus
we have a description by the English ambassador Turner
of the Lama in Little Thibet ; he was a child of two
or three years old, whose predecessor had died on a
journey to Pekin, to which place he had been summoned
by the Chinese Emperor. A regent, the minister of the
previous Dalailama, who is designated his cup-bearer,
took the place of this child in the affairs of govern-

There is a difference between Buddhism and Lamaism.
What they have in common has been already indicated,
and those who worship Foe and Buddha worship the
Dalailama also. It is, however, more under the form of
some dead person, who yet has also a present existence
among his successors, that the latter is worshipped. Of
Foe, too, in like manner, it is related that he had incar-
nated himself eight thousand times, and had been present
in the actual existence of a human being.

Such are the fundamental determinations which result
from what is here the divine nature, and which alone
result from it, since this itself is still confined entirely
to the undeveloped abstraction of calm, characterless
Being-within-itself. On this account all further embodi-
ment and mental representation of it is made entirely
dependent, partly on the accidental element of empirical
historical events, and partly on that of ungoverned
imagination. The details of it belong to a description
of the countless confused imaginings about certain inci-
dents connected with, or things that have befallen these
deities, their friends and disciples, and yield material
which, so far as its substance is concerned, has but little


interest or value, and indeed, for the reasons already
stated, has not the interest of the Notion.

In regard to worship, we have not to do ' here with
external ceremonies and customs. It is the essential
element alone which is to be described here, namely, how
Being- within-itself, the principle of this stage, appears in
the actual consciousness.

(c.) Worship or cultus.

This religion of substantiality has influenced the char-
acter of the peoples who profess it in the degree in which
they have made exaltation above the immediate individual
consciousness a thorough-going requirement.

I. Since the One is conceived of as the Substantial,
this immediately involves elevation aboA^e desire, above
the individual will, above savagery — involves immersion
in this inwardness, this unity. The image of Buddha is
in this thinking position : the feet and arms are folded
over one another so that one toe goes into the mouth,
representing this returning into self, this self-absorption.
The character of the peoples who profess this religion is
that of calmness, gentleness, obedience, which is superior

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 5 of 31)