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Phenomenology of Spirit
Analysis of the Text by J. N. Findlay

VII. Religion

672. Hitherto in Consciousness, Self-consciousness, Reason, and Spirit there have been manifold consciousnesses of the Absolute. The Absolute Being has not, however, been aware of itself in them.

673. The supersensible inner essence postulated by the scientific understanding was the Absolute, but certainly not a case of Spirit aware of Spirit. The Unhappy Consciousness yearned towards the Absolute, but did not recognise the Absolute as itself Reason missed the Absolute because it found itself in what was immediately before itself.

674. In the religion of the ethical order fate was an impersonal factor distinct from all selves-they could not recognise themselves in it. The spirits of the dead, on the other hand, may have put off immediate particularity, but had not yet achieved true universality.

675. The religion of the Enlightenment had an empty Absolute quite beyond the wholly satisfactory present. It emphatically failed to see itself in its  tre suprÍme.

676. The religion of morality and conscience involved an awareness of the inner universal self, but as having all differentiation and all actuality outside of itself.

677. In religion Spirit is self-conscious, as it is not in the phases outlined above. It sees itself objectively as a universal Spirit comprehending all essence and all actuality. It may have an objective natural shape, but this is also wholly transparent.

678. Religion does not, however, completely unify the actual world with the self of which it is conscious, but seems to have only a partial connection with that world, to be clothed by worldly forms as an outer garment. It does not yet see those worldly forms, in all their independent actuality, as simply Spirit itself.

679. Religion presupposes all the previous ‘shapes’ of Consciousness, Self-consciousness, Reason, and Spirit. But though it contains them all in unity, and not successively, yet, as individually realised in the world, it must realise them in succession.

680. The stages which lead up to religion recur in religion as specifically religious phases, out of which religion in its fullest realisation arises.

681. In religion the principles of the pre-religious stages no longer occur in isolation. We do not have a set of linear advances punctuated by nodes, but each node sums up all the advances which occur at other nodes and so is the centre of a radiating system. We have always, i.e., the whole progression, but with one phase emphatic.

682-3. In developed religion consciousness is self-consciousness, but not so at less developed stages. There Spirit first contemplates itself in an immediate natural form, into which it then puts its own creative life, i.e. the Art-Religion of Greece. In Revealed Religion, finally, Spirit is itself given to itself, but only in a form suitable to picture-thought. From this it must rise to a self-consciousness in the pure medium of thought.

Natural Religion

684. Religion is existence embraced in thought, or thought which is there for itself. Only in the specific way in which this pattern is realised does one religion differ from another. All are phases in the development of religion as such. In this development picture-thinking is steadily reduced. In all stages of religious development there are rudiments or residues of what is present at other stages, e.g. the unity of universality with individuality fully realised in a Christian incarnation is rudimentarily prefigured in the incarnations of other religions. But though all religions contain all sides of religion, we must not confuse rudiments or residues with the full expressions. Only when Spirit is at a certain stage does the religious presentation of that stage have full truth.

The God of Light (Persia)

685. Spirit at first has the consciousness of itself as being all truth and all reality in the form of a mere concept, a dark night of essence opposed to its daylight forms, a creative secret of birth. This secret must be externalised, seen in and through all daylight forms.

686. In its first immediate diremption, absolute Spirit appears to itself in the manner of sense-certainty It appears as a being pervaded by Spirit, but Spirit in the form of lordship or mastery, the immediate as opposed to the inwardly withdrawn form of self-consciousness. Its shape is in fact shapelessness, the all-embracing light of the morning, which shows itself in the forms of Nature, but continues to play uncommittedly over them.

687. This life of uncommitted surface-play never truly returns to self, nor makes its manifestations truly its own: these latter are merely its attributes, its myriad names, its selfless surface-ornaments.

688. This incoherent life must rise to self-consciousness and give firm subsistence to its vanishing forms. It must come to know itself as itself. Firm subsistence must be dissolved in the gamut of forms it lays before the individual.

Plant and Animal (India)

689. Religion goes on from seeing itself in the immediacies of sense-certainty to perceiving itself in a variety of independent forms, first blameless and vegetable, then vicious and animal. These animal spirits become locked in a combat unto death with one another.

690. Out of the self-cancelling attrition of the various animal spirits, Spirit sees itself in a new guise, that of an artificer behind objects. Spirit does not as yet see itself in the material it works upon: this material is already determinate and pre-existent and Spirit merely works upon it.

The Artificer (Egypt)

691. Spirit now appears as an artificer, which puts itself into its product, without knowing that it is itself that it is thus producing. It works instinctively like a bee building its cells.

692. The first products of Spirit are products of the Understanding, obelisks, etc. in which the straight predominates and the round is shunned. Spirit imprisoned in these forms is as it were dead, external to itself, not presented as Spirit.

693. Spirit now moves to a better representation of itself in which soul is clothed by body and not merely working on it ab extra. At the same time it sees this union externally, and so remains hidden from itself.

694. Spirit takes plant forms and stylises their freedom into the straight and the round, the severe universals of thought and the elements of free architecture.

695. Spirit mirrors its own individuality in animal forms, which are, however, also hicroglyphs of thought and not given as endowed with language. Even when they rise to the human shape they are still inarticulate and require the breath of morning to draw from them a tone, not a significant word. ('As morning from the lips of Memnon drew rivers of melodies’.)

696. The artificer himself lingers darkly in the background: when he does represent himself it is in the shapelessness of a black stone.

697. The artificer, conscious of the conflict between his withdrawn self and the outer product, expresses this conflict in a sphinx, half-animal and half-human, articulate but only in wise riddles.

698. Spirit now brings itself explicitly into the product it creates, and becomes an artist instead of an artificer. It creates a product in which its own self-consciousness is manifest.

The Religion of Art (Greece)

699. Spirit puts itself into a shape which is that of self-conscious Spirit: it no longer goes in for incongruous mixtures of the natural and the thinking.

700. The religion of Art is closely connected with the ethical Spirit. Not a blind adoration of mastering light, nor an attrition of warring castes, inspires it, but the life of a free people whose customs are also the will of all.

701. In the ethical stage, however, Spirit has not as yet retreated inwardly from its contented acceptance of its position in a society where all have different duties. It must come to detach itself from this happy life of custom, and must come to mourn over the loss of happiness and security, before it can rise to true art.

702. Absolute art is a product of the break-up of merely customary society. Previous art was merely instinctive, not a product of free Spirit.

703. Spirit as artist banishes all that is colourful and substantial from its expression. It wants only to express itself, the fathomless night of self-consciousness in which the ethics of custom is betrayed (Gethsemane). All that it is interested in is form alone. (White marble conception of Greek art due to their loss of colour.)

704. Spirit as artist chooses an individual subject-matter, and there is pathos in such a choice. The universality of Spirit is dominated by the exigencies of the individual, but these in their turn dominate unformed matter. In the end we have Spirit presented in breathing individuality and sensuous presence.

The Abstract Work of Art

705. The first work of art is abstractly individual, because immediate. It must move away from such individualised art towards selfconsciousness, which, in the religious cult, overcomes the otherness of its religious object.

706. The artistic product (the statue of the god) stands out as an individual on the universal background that surrounds it and houses it. It has a form which avoids the straight lines of the Understanding and the incongruous imitative mixture of straight and curved derived from vegetable shapes (in Egyptian art). It rejoices in the incommensurability of the straight line and the curve, and uses both.

707. The typical form produced by the art-religion is an idealised human form whose semblance of animal functions stops at the form’s surface. Such an idealised human form unites natural existence with self-conscious Spirit. It may contain residues of old untamed forces the Titans, etc.-but all is dominated by a spirit which is also that of a free, self-conscious people.

708. The restless variety of actual individuals is brought to peace in the idealised individuality of the sculptured god. In this, however, the artist expresses none of his own tortured individuality. But the work of the artist or the onlooker is as essential to the aesthetic situation as the mere art-object.

709. The artist’s creative efforts are inadequately shown forth in the art-object. When others admire his creation and even kneel before it, the artist recognises his superiority to it and to them.

710. Self-conscious Spirit therefore seeks a more adequate artistic expression than the mere art-object. This it finds in language, which is simply self-conscious existence in its immediacy, where production is one with product. The hymn is the essential art-form into which spirit puts its self-consciousness, and it is a self-consciousness shared by all who join in the singing.

711. We may, however, observe that oracular utterance is an even more primitive religious expression of Spirit than the hymn. Spirit has in it, however, not risen to universal self-consciousness, and so takes the oracular sayings to spring from an alien self-consciousness. Oracles tend to match the stage of spiritual evolution achieved, e.g. in the ancient cast they utter sublime generalities which seem trivial to developed consciousnesses.

712. In the religion of Art universal truths are not proclaimed in oracular fashion, but are discovered by each man’s reflection. Oracles utter the contingencies, whether of fact or practice, that cannot be effectively discovered. (Socrates’ daemon only told him trivial matters, leaving him to think out the great generalisations.)

713. After the digression Of 7 I i. and 7 I 2 ., the hymn is contrasted with the statue, the latter being extruded from the self and reposefully ,out there’, while the hymn forms part of the life of the self and has the vanishing character of that life.

714. In the religious cult the god loses his immobile ‘out-thereness’, and the worshippers cease to be humble suppliants before their gods. The god comes down from his pedestal and the worshippers actively commune with him.

715. The abstract cult makes the soul into the temple of the divinity, not merely someone striking attitudes before a divinity which he contemplates from without. The Greeks were not, however, sufficiently conscious of their remoteness from divinity, their sinfulness, and thought a change into white garments and a few penances could purify them.

716. The religious cult involves an actual rite and cannot be carried out on the plane of mere thought. In this rite the divine essence comes down into actuality and becomes one with the self.


717. In the cult natural objects, bread and wine, are given a divine meaning and a divine meaning is given concreteness and actuality.

718. The cult begins with the sacrifice of objects which represent a man’s own personality and possession. But the god also makes a sacrifice, firstly in creating the sacrificial object, and secondly in entering the sacrificer as he cats the sacrificial elements.

719. A cult is most fully and abidingly realised in the construction of a great temple, which is not only a dwelling for the divinity and its treasures but for the use and enjoyment of the citizens.

The Living Work of Art

720. In the art-religion the self-consciousness of the individual is one with that of the national Spirit, not, as in the light-religion, wholly subordinate and lost in the latter.

721. Self-consciousness in the art-religion does not involve the strain of the artist, his dark struggle for expression. His self-consciousness is not the dark, but the peaceful night, the night after sunset, not before dawn. The fruits of Nature have been quietly consumed and appropriated by self-consciousness.

722. In the various religious mysteries of Demeter and Dionysus bread and wine mediate a full communion and revelation of Spirit to Spirit.

723. In these mysteries the absolute Spirit unites with the self-consciousness of his worshippers, or the self-consciousness of the latter is lost in the absolute Spirit.

724. The Absolute in these mysteries is not, however, completely revealed. The mystery of the bread and wine is not the mystery of flesh and blood.

725. At this level the Absolute as artist seeks a more adequate living embodiment, not merely ‘out there’ and unmoving like the sculptured god. This it finds in the athlete’s matchless body displaying his powers at one or other of the great athletic festivals.

726. In the mysteries and the athletic games self-consciousness has been made one with the absolute essence, but not in a balanced manner. In Bacchic revels the self has been rapt out of its body, in athletic beauty spirit has become corporealised. In language alone can there be a perfect balance of interior and exterior. This balanced language is not the charged speech of hymns and oracles, but the luminous language of literature, open to all the members of a contemporary culture.

The Spiritual Work of Art

727. Language unites the various distinct national spirits into a single pantheon, in which, however, there is considerable looseness and independence, not subjected to an overriding unity.

728. The gods preside over all Nature and society: their chief is merely Primus inter pares. They represent various aspects and powers of self-consciousness. Their essential unity is masked by an external camaraderie.

729. In the epic these various sides of self-consciousness engage in a dialectic which takes the form of a pictorial narrative. The minstrel is the real power which unites the whole picture, bringing all together through the might of his muse. Though not present in the narrative he projects himself into the heroes who occur in it.

730. The various aspects of self-consciousness appear in the epic as separate individuals and forces (including the dead), all spurred into activity by someone’s deed. Gods and men repeat each other’s work, the divine participants being redundant individuals instead of active universals.

731. The gods thus individualised quarrel with one another in a comic fashion. All that presides over them and over men is the unintelligible power of necessity.

732. Necessity really represents the power of the Notion operating through all these seemingly independent realities. It lurks in the background Just like the minstrel. Both must, however, be brought into the picture.

733. This is what happens in tragedy where language ceases to be narrative and where self-conscious human beings are the spokesmen, behind whose mask actual actors are present.

734. The general commentary of the epic reappears in the discourse of the chorus of elders. These never reveal profound reflection or reaction, but practise only general observations, vague wishes, and feeble comfort. Before necessity they are blindly resigned and show only ineffective horror and pity.

735. In tragedy individuals are raised to heroic universality, while a vaguer commentatorial universality surrounds them in the chorus and spectators.

736. The divine forces in tragedy muster about the two poles of the ethical order, the feminine, family pole, on the one hand, and the masculine, governmental pole on the other.

737. The heroic agents in tragedy live divided between knowledge and ignorance. Even the powers of light which give them knowledge deceive them with ambiguous utterances which they completely trust. (Hamlet and Macbeth are more cautious.)

738. There are in tragedy two standards of right, the daylight standards of Apollo and the underworld standards of the Furies.

739. Zeus is presented as the ultimate reconciler and unity of the two standards.

740. Both forces are equally right and wrong, and their struggle ends in the death of the individual concerned, or his absolution from guilt. Both then vanish in the calm balance of the ethical order.

741. Even in tragedy Zeus tends to predominate over the separate ethical powers, which become demoted to passions in the individual, not impersonal principles which pathetically crush him.

742. Zeus and necessity become more and more the central figures in tragedy, on whom the chorus looks with terrified awe as on something quite alien.

743. The self-consciousness of the heroes is gradually passing beyond their supposed limitations of vision and becoming deeply critical.

744. In comedy the actor doffs his mask, and the individual selfconsciousness reduces everything to mockery, even the solemn proceedings of the gods.

745. In comedy the common man asserts himself in his revolutionary disrespect for everything. But he also makes a mock of his own self-assertion.

746. The dialectic of the Sophists and Socrates is a continuation of the dissolving irony of comedy. For conventional opinions and prescriptions it substitutes cloudy notions of goodness and beauty.

747. The truth of comedy is that all the great big essential fixtures that stand over against self-consciousness are really products of, and at the mercy of, self-consciousness. The individual knows himself in his individuality as the Absolute.

Revealed Religion

748. The religion of art has made the great step of making its Absolute a Subject instead of a Substance. It has expressed itself in forms (that of the statue) emblematic of self-consciousness, and in the comic consciousness it has reached a pitch where all, including itself, is at the mercy of the individual self-consciousness.

749. Spirit has inverted the view of the self as a mere apanage of the absolute essence to making the latter, in the comic consciousness, a mere apanage of the former. I t now inverts that inversion but without returning to the original priority of mere Substance set over against self-consciousness. Since it consciously gives priority to the absolute essence, the absolute essence continues to be itself, i.e. self-consciousness, of which it is in another form conscious. We have therefore two coequal sides of self-consciousness instead of situations in which one of these sides takes precedence over the other.

750. The art-religion and the comic consciousness are the spirit of a time in which the ethical spirit is being eroded, and pure individualism is beginning to run riot. This is a period of abstract right like that of the early Roman Empire, when religion has lost its meaning and a man lives unto himself alone.

751. Abstract right is, however, an empty abstraction, and soon passes over into yearning for a new Absolute. The Roman Empire, the scat of Stoic strength of mind, becomes a prey to the Unhappy Consciousness.

752. What is to the comic consciousness a vast joke is to the Unhappy Consciousness a vast misery. Its own abstract self-consciousness is a miserable refuge, and it cries with Luther (not yet born) that ‘God is dead’.

753. The Unhappy Consciousness has lost all reason for respecting itself, whether as legal person or as a rational thinking being. All the religious and artistic expressions of its culture-statues, rites, etc. have become deeply meaningless, as they are for modern scholars who study them in a merely external, lifeless way, and build up pictorial views of their background. Really, however, our reinterpretation of antiquity is more important than antiquity itself, if we will but truly remember and interiorise it [Erinnern]. Image of the maiden and the fruits.

754. All the spiritual attitudes engendered in the classical world, from the sculptural to the stoical and the sceptical, can be pictured as in wait about the true birthplace of self-consciousness, half in hope and half in despair.

755. Spirit may be thought of (a) as Substance going out of itself and becoming self-consciousness; (b) as self-consciousness going out of itself and making itself Substance. Spirit, we may say, has a real mother, self-consciousness, and a merely dispositional father, Substance.

756. Spirit is at first one-sidedly conscious of itself as (b). As such it fantastically imposes subjective interpretations on nature, history, and past religions, interpretations that are really not warranted. (The cults of Isis, Mithras, etc.)

757. But Spirit must be aware of (a) as much as of (b), i.e. it must see what immediately is before it taking on the lineaments of Spirit. This will happen at a certain stage in world-history when Spirit sees itself in the objective necessity of external things.

758. At a certain favourable moment in history the belief arises (,note stress on belief rather than event) that absolute Spirit has taken on actual, sensuous form. God is taken to exist before the yearning, conscious mind, and not to be merely a projection of it. And God is believed to exist as an individual self-consciousness.

759. God’s being made man is the simple content of absolute religion. Spirit is knowledge of self in self-abandonment, and absolute religion knows God as Spirit. Absolute religion is revealed religion because in it God is revealed, and revealed as essentially self-conscious. We do not achieve absolute religion as long as the object of religion is other than the Subject, is thought of merely as the absolutely good, creator of heaven and earth, etc. God must know God in religion: he must know himself in the religious person.

760. To be conscious of himself in a finite, sensuous, human individual does not represent a descent for God but the consummation of his essence. For God is not merely an abstract being, remote from concrete sensuous instantiation: he is only fully and completely himself in an instance.

761. Revealed religion is one with speculative knowledge: both attain to the knowledge of the universal as essentially in the individual. This is the message for which all previous ages were thirsting.

762. The individuation of the absolute essence is, however, pictured as achieved only in one case (Jesus), not equally in all, i.e. it is not truly a universal, notional self-consciousness which is everyone’s equally. Men are conceived as a lot of perceptible individuals, not as a single concept.

763. But the single exemplification of the absolute essence must die in time in order to become something in which all men can share. If Christ does not go, the Holy Ghost cannot come to the worshipping community.

764. The passing of Christ’s life into the remote past merely pictures its translation to the plane of universal meanings.

765. The religious consciousness thinks the truth in pictures which give a false independence to the various sides of what it believes in. These pictures have to be given a notional reinterpretation.

766. The religious consciousness goes astray when it substitutes for its own rich life the brooding upon a historical figure and particular events in the past.

767. Spirit is essentially a process which starts from pure thought (logic), goes on into otherness and pictorial presentation (,Nature), and returns from Nature to complete self-consciousness (Spirit proper). it is also essentially the synthetic connection of these three bases.

768. In the unhappy and believing consciousnesses there was a partial self-consciousness of Spirit. Spirit, however, mistakenly referred itself to a sphere beyond the conscious subject.

769. Spirit conceived in the element of pure thought is meaningless unless it also becomes manifest in something other than its pure self and returns to itself out of such otherness.

770. God is there manifest firstly as the Essence (the Father), secondly as the Being-for-self for whom the Essence is (the Logos or Word which made the realm of Nature), and thirdly as the Being-for-self which knows itself in the other (the Spirit or principle of selfconsciousness).

771. Pictorial religion turns the necessary relations of essential moments within the Absolute into external generative relations of paternity and sonship.

772. The relation of the Absolute’s moments in the pure thought of the Absolute is a relation of pure love in which the sides we distinguish are not really distinct. But it is of the essence of Spirit not to be a mere thing of thought, but to be concrete and actual.

773. Since the element of pure thought is abstract, it necessarily passes over into the realm of intuitive picture-thought, i.e. the realm of Nature. There one has a plurality of substantial things and a plurality of thinking subjects.

774. This passing over into the world of intuitive picture-thought is what is pictorially called ‘creation’. The absolute universality requires instantiation to be what it is, and it is this logical requirement which is misleadingly pictured as a temporal requirement.

775. Spirit not only instantiates itself in objects but also in subjects. These are at first not conscious of themselves as spiritual, and hence are innocent rather than good. Their first self-consciousness is as capable of evil as of good. This first self-consciousness is pictorially misrepresented as a historical ‘fall’.

776. Evil is the first actual expression of the dirempted self-consciousness, but it is the one that self-consciousness as it deepens must more and more repudiate. Pictorially, therefore, it is referred back to an infinitely remote date, to the fall from heaven of Lucifer, son of the morning. The angelic hosts enter the picture as a valuable pluralisation of the being-for-self of the Word. If we add them to the Trinity we get a quaternity, and if we add the fallen angels we get a quinity. Counting in theology is, however, a bad practice. (Note Hegel’s incorporation of Evil into the Absolute.)

777-8. Pictorial religious thought tends to extrude evil from God except in so far as, with great difficulty, it credits God with a wrathful

side. The activity of God can be nothing but a bringing-together of the dirempted world with his simple essence, each of which is one-sided without the other.

779. Pictorial religion treats the redemption of the alienated world as an act of arbitrary free will. But in reality the absolute essence would be abstract and unreal if it did not exercise itself redemptively, if it did not enter the sphere of alienation and overcome the alienation. This it does by living and then dying, accepting the burden of sensuous instantiation and rising above it to pure universality.

780. That God becomes alienated from himself in angelic and human evil does not mean that such evil really lies outside of God. To be distant from God is to be distantly God: nothing can lie outside of the Absolute Being. The self-centredness, the Insichgehen, which is the root of evil, is an essential moment in the life of the Absolute. This religion recognises in making God redeem the alienated, self-centred beings. Evil is in a deep sense the same being-for-self as absolute good, yet, in a deeper sense, it is not the same, since in fully developed being-for-self evil will be set aside and overcome. The true selfishness will drive out the untrue. It is above all mistaken in this sphere to speak in terms of fixed identity and diversity, and to fail to recognise the dialectical movement which makes everything turn into something else. Nature is and is not God, and God is God only by departing from himself in Nature, and returning to himself in Spirit.

781. Spirit is most essentially itself in the religious community where the Divine Man or Human God is transformed into the members’ universal, inward, chastening self-consciousness.

782. Evil lies not so much in an abuse of natural existence as in the very conception of it as other than, remote from, Spirit. It is only for picture-thought that Nature is at first good, then fallen. In the Absolute there is no such history of phases, only moments which entail one another.

783. Evil is nothing but the going-into-self out of the immediacy of nature and is accordingly the first step in the direction of good. To be evil one must be conscious of the norms one rebels against, and will ultimately obey. There is no element of chance in the going-into-self which leads to evil: it is the essential movement of self-consciousness.

784. Instead of seeing the redemption of the alienated world as inherently necessary the religious consciousness sees it as due to a special event, God’s incarnation and death. But it also realises that death to be a resurrection, the universal life of Spirit among the individuals in a religious community.

785. What is really meant by the passion and resurrection is the

elimination of pictorial particularity and its supersession by the life of thought. An existent entity has become a Subject, a universal selfconsciousness. The mere idea of self-consciousness has likewise become a concrete reality. God as a picture must die in order that God as a thought may live, one with every man’s deepest self-consciousness.

786. Spirit is the mover, the moved, and the motion. It is its nature to forgive and pardon evil, to reconcile it with itself. But the religious community sees this all in pictures.

787. The religious consciousness never fully identifies itself with the object of its devotion, but at best pictures itself as coming together with that object at an indefinitely future date. The religious community has an actual father (Its own action and knowledge) but a merely felt mother, eternal love which will one day unite it with God.

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