The Phenomenology of Mind

C: Free Concrete Mind: (BB) Spirit

B: The Spirit in Self-Estrangement
II. a. The Struggle of Enlightenment with Superstition (1)

Φ 541. THE various negative forms which consciousness adopts, the attitude of scepticism, and that of theoretical and practical idealism, are inferior attitudes compared with that of pure insight and the expansion of pure insight-enlightenment; for pure insight is born of the substance of spirit, it knows the pure self of consciousness to be absolute, and enters into conflict with the pure consciousness of the Absolute Being of all reality.

Since belief and insight are the same pure consciousness, but in form are opposed — the reality in the case of belief being a thought, not a notion, and hence something absolutely opposed to self-consciousness, while the reality in the case of pure insight is the self — they are such that inter se the one is the absolute negative of the other.

As appearing the one against the other, all content falls to belief; for in its unperturbed element of thought every moment obtains definite subsistence. Pure insight, however, is in the first instance without any content; it is rather the sheer disappearance of content; but by its negative attitude towards what it excludes it will make itself real and give itself a content.

(1) The Negative Attitude of Insight towards Belief

Φ 542. It knows belief to be opposed to insight, opposed to reason and truth. Just as, for it, belief is in general a tissue of superstitious prejudices and errors; so it further sees the consciousness embracing this content organized into a realm of error, in which false insight is the general sphere of consciousness, immediate, naively unperturbed, and inherently unreflective. Yet all the while this false insight does have within it the moment of self-reflexion, the moment of self-consciousness, separated from its simple navet, and keeps this reflexion in the background as an insight remaining by itself, and as an evil intention by which that former conscious state is befooled. That mental sphere is the victim of the deception of a Priesthood, which carries out its envious vain conceit of being alone in possession of insight, and carries out its other selfish ends as well. At the same time this priesthood conspires with Despotism, which takes up the attitude of being the synthetic crude (begrifflos) unity of the real and this ideal kingdom — a singularly amorphous and inconsistent type of being — and stands above the bad insight of the multitude and the bad intention of the priests, and even combines both of these within itself. As the result of the stupidity and confusion produced amongst the people by the agency of priestly deception, despotism despises both and draws for itself the advantage of undisturbed control and the fulfilment of its lusts, its humours, and its whims. Yet at the same time it is itself in this same state of murky insight, is equally superstition and error.

Φ 543. Enlightenment does not attack these three forms of the enemy without distinction. For since its essential nature is pure insight, which is per se universal, its true relation to the other extreme is that in which it is concerned with the common and identical element in both. The aspect of individual existence isolating itself from the universal nave consciousness is the antithesis of it, and cannot be directly affected by it. The will of the deceiving priesthood and the oppressive despot is, therefore, not primarily the object on which it directs its activity; its object is the insight that is without will and without individualized isolated self-existence, the notion (Begriff) of rational self-consciousness, which has its existence in the total conscious area, but is not yet there in the fullness of its true meaning (Begriff).

Since, however, pure insight rescues this genuinely honest form of insight, with its naive simplicity of nature, from prejudices and errors, it wrests from the hands of bad intention the effective realization of its powers of deception, for whose realm the incoherent and undeveloped (begrifflos) consciousness of the general area provides the basis and raw material, while the self-existence of each power finds its substance in the simple consciousness.

Φ 544. The relation of pure insight to the naive consciousness of absolute Being has now a double aspect. On one side pure insight is inherently one and the same with it. On the other side, however, this naive consciousness lets absolute Being as well as its parts dispose themselves at will in the simple element of its thought, and subsist there, and lets them bold only as its inherent nature and hence hold good in objective form. In accepting this inherent nature it disowns, however, its own independent existence. In so far as, according to the first aspect, this belief is for pure insight inherently and essentially pure self-consciousness, and has merely to become so expressly for itself, pure insight finds in this constitutive notion of belief the element in which, in place of false insight, it realizes itself.

Φ 545. Since, from this point of view, both are essentially the same, and the relation of pure insight takes effect through and in the same element, the communication between them is direct and immediate, and their give and take an unbroken interfusion. Whatever pins and bolts may be otherwise driven into consciousness, it is in itself this simplicity of nature in which everything is resolved, forgotten, and unconstrained, and which, therefore, is absolutely receptive to the activity of the notion. The communication of pure insight is on that account comparable to a silent extension or the expansion, say, of a scent in the unresisting atmosphere. It is a penetrating infection, which did not previously make itself noticeable as something distinct from and opposed to the indifferent medium into which it insinuates its way, and hence cannot be averted. Only when the infection has become widespread is that consciousness alive to it, which unconcernedly yielded to its influence. For what this consciousness received into itself was doubtless something simple, homogeneous, and uniform throughout it, but was at the same time the simplicity of self-reflected negativity, which later on also develops by its nature into something opposed, and thereby reminds consciousness of its previous state. This simple uniformity is the notion, which is simple knowledge that knows both itself and its opposite, this opposite being, however, cancelled as opposite within the self-knowledge of the notion. In the condition, therefore, in which consciousness becomes aware of pure insight, this insight is already widespread. The struggle with it betrays the fact that the infection has done its work. The struggle is too late; and every means taken merely makes the disease worse; for the disease has seized the very marrow of spiritual life, viz. consciousness in its ultimate principle (Begriff), or its pure inmost nature itself. There is therefore no power left in conscious life to surmount the disease. Because it affects the very inmost being, its manifestations, so long as they remain isolated, are repressed and subside and its superficial symptoms are smothered. This is immensely to its advantage; for it does not now squander its power in useless fashion, nor does it show itself unworthy of its true nature — which is the case when it breaks out into symptoms and isolated eruptions antithetic to the content of belief and to the connexion of its external reality. Rather, being now an invisible and unperceived spirit, it insinuates its way through and through the noble parts, and soon has got complete bold over all the vitals and members of the unconscious idol; and then “some fine morning it gives its comrade a shove with the elbow, when, bash! crash! — and the idol is lying on the floor”.(2) On some “fine morning”, whose noon is not red with blood, if the infection has penetrated to every organ of spiritual life. It is then the memory alone that still preserves the dead form of the spirit's previous state, as a vanished history, vanished men know not how. And the new serpent of wisdom, raised on high before bending worshippers, has in this manner painlessly sloughed merely a shrivelled skin.

Φ 546. But this silent steady working of the loom of spirit in the inner region of its substance,(3) spirit's own action being hidden from itself, is merely one side of the realizing of pure insight. Its expansion does not only consist in like combining with like; and its realization is not merely an unresisted expansion. The action of the principle of negation is just as essentially a developed process of self-distinction, which, being a conscious action, must set forth its moments in a definitely manifested expression, and must make its appearance in the form of a great noise, and a violent struggle with an opposite as such.

Φ 547. We have, therefore, to see how pure insight and pure intention manifests its negative attitude towards that other which it finds standing opposed to it.

Pure insight and intention, operating negatively, can only be — since its very principle is all essentiality and there is nothing outside it — the negative of itself. As insight, therefore, it passes into the negative of pure insight, it becomes untruth and unreason; and as intention it passes into the negative of pure intention, becomes a lie and sordid impurity of purpose.

Φ 548. It involves itself in this contradiction by the fact that it engages in a strife and thinks to do battle with some alien external other. It merely imagines this, for its nature as absolute negativity lies in having that otherness within its own self. The absolute notion is the category; it is the principle that knowledge and the object of knowledge are the same. In consequence, what pure insight expresses as its other, what it pronounces to be an error or a lie, can be nothing else than its own self; it can only condemn what itself is. What is not rational has no truth, or what is not comprehended through a notion, conceptually determined, is not. When reason thus speaks of some other than itself is, it in fact speaks merely of itself; it does not therein go beyond itself.

This struggle with the opposite, therefore, combines in its meaning the significance of being insight's own actualization. This consists just in the process of unfolding its moments and taking them back into itself. One part of this process is the making of the distinction in which the insight of reason opposes itself as object to itself; so long as it remains in this condition, it is at variance with itself. Qua pure insight it is without any content; the process of its realization consists in itself becoming content to itself; for no other can be made its content, because it is the category become self-conscious. But since this insight in the first instance thinks of the content as in its opposite, and knows the content merely as a content, and does not as yet think of it as its own self, pure insight misconceives itself in it. The complete attainment of insight, therefore, has the sense of a process of coming to know that content as its own, which was to begin with opposite to itself. Its result, however, will be thereby neither the reestablishment of the errors it fights with, nor merely its original notion, but an insight which knows the absolute negation of itself to be its own proper reality to be its self, or an insight which is its self-understanding notion.

This feature of the struggle of enlightenment with errors — that of fighting itself in them, and of condemning that in them which it asserts — this is something for us who observe the process, or is what enlightenment and its struggle are in themselves implicitly. The first aspect of this struggle, however — the contamination and defilement of enlightenment through its pure self-identity accepting the attitude and function of destructive negation — this bow belief looks upon it; belief finds it simply lying unreason and malicious intent, just as enlightenment in the same way regards belief as error and prejudice.

As regards its content, it is in the first instance empty insight, whose content appears an external other to it. It meets this content, consequently, in the shape of something not yet its own, as something that exists quite independent of it, and is found in belief.

Φ 549. Enlightenment, then, conceives its object in the first instance and generally in such a way as to take it as pure insight, and failing to recognize itself there, interprets it as error. In insight as such consciousness apprehends an object in such a manner that it becomes the inner being of conscious life, or becomes an object which consciousness permeates, in which consciousness maintains itself, keeps within itself, and is present to itself, and, by its thus being the process of that object, brings the object into being. It is precisely this which enlightenment rightly declares belief to be, when enlightenment says that the Absolute Reality professed by belief is a being that comes from belief's own consciousness, is its own thought, something produced from and by consciousness.(4) Enlightenment, consequently, explains and declares it to be error, to be a made-up invention about the very same thing as enlightenment itself is.

Enlightenment that seeks to teach belief this new wisdom does not, in doing so, tell it anything new. For the object of belief itself is just this too, viz. a pure essential reality of its own peculiar consciousness; so that this consciousness does not put itself down for lost and negated in that object, but rather puts trust in it; and this just means that it finds itself there as this particular consciousness, finds itself therein to be self-consciousness. If I put my trust in anyone, his certitude of himself is for me the certitude of myself ; I know my self-existence in him, I know that he acknowledges it, and that it is for him both his purpose and his real nature. Belief, however, is trust, because the believing consciousness has a direct relation to its object, and thus sees at once that it is one with the object, and in the object.

Further, since what is object for me is something in which I know myself, I am at the same time in that object really in the form of another self-consciousness, i.e. one which has become in that object alienated from its own particular individuation, from its natural and contingent existence, but which partly continues therein to be self-consciousness, and partly is there an essential consciousness just like pure insight.

In the notion of insight there lies not merely this, that consciousness knows itself in the object it looks at, and finds itself directly there, without first quitting the thought element and then returning into itself; the notion implies as well that consciousness is aware of itself as being also the mediating process, aware of itself as active, as the agency of production. Through this it gets the thought of this unity of self as self and object.

Belief also is this very consciousness. Obedience and action make a necessary moment, through which the certainty of existence in Absolute Being comes about. This action of belief does not indeed make it appear as if Absolute Being is itself produced thereby. But the Absolute Being for belief is essentially not the abstract being that lies beyond the believing consciousness; it is the spirit of the religious communion, it is the unity of that abstract being and self-consciousness. The action of the communion is an essential moment in bringing about that it is this spirit of the communion. That spirit is what it is by the productive activity of consciousness, or rather it does not exist without being produced by consciousness. For essential as this process of production is, it is as truly not the only basis of Absolute Being; it is merely a moment. The Absolute Being is at the same time self-complete and self-contained (an und fr sich selbst).

Φ 550. On the other side the notion of pure insight is seen to be something else than its own object; for just this negative character constitutes the object. Thus from the other side it also expresses the ultimate Being of belief as something foreign to self-consciousness, something that is not a bone of its bone, but is surreptitiously foisted on it like a changeling child. But here enlightenment is entirely foolish; belief experiences it as a way of speaking which does not know what it is saying, and does not understand the facts of the case when it talks about priestly deception, and deluding the people. It speaks about this as if by means of some hocus-pocus of conjuring priestcraft there were foisted on consciousness as true Reality something that is absolutely foreign, and absolutely alien to it; and yet says all the while that this is an essential reality for consciousness, that consciousness believes in it, trusts in it, and seeks to make it favourably disposed towards itself, i.e. that consciousness therein sees its pure ultimate Being just as much as its own single and universal individuality, and creates by its own action this unity of itself with its essential reality. In other words, it directly declares that to be the very inmost nature of consciousness which it declares to be something alien to consciousness.

How, then, can it possibly speak about deception and delusion? By the fact that it directly expresses about belief the very opposite of what it asserts of belief, it ipso facto really reveals itself to belief as the conscious lie. How are deception and delusion to take place, where consciousness in its very truth has directly and immediately the certitude of itself, where it possesses itself in its object, since it just as much finds as produces itself there? The distinction no longer exists, even in words.

When the general question has been raised, whether it is permissible to delude a people, the answer, as a fact, was bound to be that the question is pointless, because it is impossible to deceive a people in this matter. Brass in place of gold, counterfeit instead of genuine coin may doubtless have swindled individuals many a time; lots of people have stuck to it that a battle lost was a battle won; and lies of all sorts about things of sense and particular events have been plausible for a time; but in the knowledge of that inmost reality where consciousness finds the direct certainty of its own self, the idea of delusion is entirely baseless.

Φ 551. Let us see further how belief undergoes enlightenment in the case of the different moments of its own conscious experience, to which the view just noted referred in the first instance only in a general way. These moments are pure thought, or, qua object, absolute Being per se (an und fr sich); then its relation, as a form of knowledge, to absolute Being, the ultimate basis of its belief; and finally its relation to absolute Being in its acts, i.e. its “worship” and service.(5) Just as pure insight has failed to recognize itself in belief as a whole and denied its own nature, we shall find it taking up in these moments, too, an attitude similarly perverted and distorted.

Φ 552. Pure insight assumes towards the absolute Being of the believing mind a negative attitude. This Being is pure thought, and pure thought established within itself as object or as the true Being; in the believing consciousness this immanent and essential reality of thought acquires at the same time for the self-existent consciousness the form of objectivity, but merely the empty form; it exists in the character of something “presented” to consciousness. To pure insight, however, since it is pure consciousness in its aspect of self existing for itself, this other appears as something negative of self-consciousness. This might still be taken either as the pure essential reality of thought, or also as the being found in sense-experience, the object of sense-certainty. But since it is at the same time for the self, and this self, qua self which has an object, is an actual consciousness, for insight the peculiar object as such is an ordinary existing thing of sense. This its object appears before it in the picture-presentation found in belief. It condemns this idea and in doing so condemns its own proper object. It really commits a wrong, however, against belief in so apprehending the object of belief as if it were its own object. Accordingly it states regarding belief that its absolute Being is a piece of stone, a block of wood, having eyes and seeing not, or again a bit of bread-dough, which is obtained from grain grown on the field and transformed by men and is returned to earth again; or in whatever other ways belief may be said to anthropomorphize absolute Being, making it objective and representable.

(2) The Doctrine of Enlightenment

Φ 553. Enlightenment, proclaiming itself as the pure and true, here turns what is held to be eternal life and holy spirit into a concrete passing thing of sense, and contaminates it with what belongs to sense-certainty — with an aspect inherently worthless and one which is not to be found at all in the worshiping attitude of belief, so that enlightenment simply calumniates it by introducing such an aspect. What belief reveres is for belief assuredly neither stone nor wood, nor bread-dough, nor any other sort of thing of time and sense. If enlightenment thinks it worth while to say its object all the same is this as well, or even that it is this in its inherent nature and in truth, then belief also knows that something which it is “as well”, but for it this something lies outside; its worship; on the other hand, however, belief does not look on such things as stones, etc., as having an inherent and essential being at all, the essential nature as grasped by pure thought is alone for it something inherently real.

Φ 554. The second moment is the relation of belief as a form of knowing consciousness to this ultimate Being. As pure thinking consciousness belief has this Being immediately before it. But pure consciousness is just as much a mediate relation of conscious certainty to truth, a relation constituting the ground of belief. For enlightenment this ground comes similarly to be regarded as a chance knowledge of chance occurrences. The ground of knowledge, however, is the conscious universal, and in its ultimate meaning is absolute spirit, which in abstract pure consciousness, or thought as such, is merely absolute Being, but qua self-consciousness is the knowledge of itself. Pure insight treats this conscious universal, self-knowing spirit pure and simple, likewise as an element negative of self-consciousness. Doubtless this insight is itself pure mediate thought,, i.e. thought mediating itself with itself, it is pure knowledge; but since it is pure insight, or pure knowledge, which does not yet know itself, i.e. for which as yet there is no awareness that it is this pure process of mediation, this process seems to insight, like everything else constituting it, to be something external, an other. When realizing its inherent principle, then, it develops this moment essential to it; but that moment seems to it to belong to belief, and to be, in its character of an external other, a fortuitous knowledge of stories of “real” events in this ordinary sense of “real”. It thus here charges religious belief with basing its certainty on some particular historical evidences, which, considered as historical evidences, would assuredly not even warrant that degree of certainty about the matter which we get regarding any event mentioned in the newspapers. It further makes the imputation that the certainty in the case of religious belief rests on the accidental fact of the preservation of all this evidence: on the preservation of this evidence partly by means of paper, and partly through the skill and honesty in transferring what is written from one paper to another, and lastly rests upon the accurate interpretation of the sense of dead words and letters. As a matter of fact, however, it never occurs to belief to make its certainty depend on such evidences and such fortuitous circumstances. Belief in its conscious assurance occupies a nave unsophisticated attitude towards its absolute object, knows it with a purity, which never mixes up letters, paper, or copyists with its consciousness of the Absolute Being, and does not make use of things of that sort to affect its union with the Absolute. On the contrary, this consciousness is the self-mediating, self-relating ground of its knowledge; it is spirit itself which bears witness of itself both in the inner heart of the individual consciousness, as well as through the presence everywhere and in all men of belief in it. If belief wants to appeal to historical evidences in order to get also that kind of foundation, or at least confirmation, for its content which enlightenment speaks of, and is really serious in thinking and acting as if that were an important matter, then it has eo ipso allowed itself to be corrupted and led astray by the insinuations of enlightenment; the efforts it makes to secure a basis or support in this way are merely indications that show how it has been affected and infected by enlightenment.

Φ 555. There still remains the third aspect, the active relation of consciousness to Absolute Being, its forms of service.(6) This action consists in cancelling the particularity of the individual, or the natural form of its self-existence, whence arises its certainty of being pure self-consciousness, of being, as the result of its action, i.e. as a self-existing conscious individual, one with ultimate Reality.

Since in this action purposiveness and end are distinguished, and pure insight likewise takes up a negative attitude towards this action, and denies itself just as it did in the other moments, it must as regards purposiveness present the appearance of being stupid and unintelligent, since insight united with intention, accordance of end with means, appears to it as an other, as really the opposite of what insight is. As regards the end, however, it has to make badness, enjoyment, and possession, its purpose, and prove itself in consequence to be the impurest kind of intention, since pure intention, qua external, an other, is similarly impure intention.

Φ 556. Accordingly we find that, so far as concerns purposiveness, enlightenment thinks it foolish if the believing individual seeks to obtain the higher consciousness of freedom from entanglement with natural enjoyment and pleasure, by positively denying itself natural enjoyment and pleasure, and proving through its acts that there is no lie in its open contempt for them, but rather that the contempt is quite genuine.

In the same way enlightenment finds it foolish for consciousness to absolve itself of its characteristic of being absolutely individual, excluding all others, and possessing property of its own, by itself demitting its own property, for thereby it shows in reality that this isolation is not really serious. It shows rather that itself is something that can rise above the natural necessity of isolating itself and of denying, in this absolute isolation of its own individual existence, that e others are one and the same with itself.

Pure insight finds both purposeless as well as wrong. It is purposeless to renounce a pleasure and give away a possession in order to show oneself independent of pleasure and possession; hence, in the converse case, insight will be obliged to proclaim the man a fool, who, in order to eat, employs the expedient of actually eating. Insight again thinks it wrong to deny oneself a meal, and give away butter and eggs not for money, nor money for butter and eggs, but just to give them away and get no return at all; it declares a meal, or the possession of things of that sort, to be an end in itself, and hence in fact declares itself to be a very impure intention which ascribes essential value to enjoyment and possessions of this kind. As pure intention it further maintains the necessity of rising above natural existence, above covetousness as to the means for such existence; it only finds it foolish and wrong that this supremacy should be demonstrated by action. In other words this pure intention is in reality a deception, which pretends to and demands an inner elevation, but declares that it is superfluous, foolish, and even wrong to be in earnest in the matter, to put this uplifting into concrete expression, into actual shape and form, and demonstrate its truth.

Pure insight thus denies itself both as pure insight — for it denies directly purposive action, and as pure intention — for it denies the intention of proving its independence of the ends of individual existence.

Φ 557. Thus, then, enlightenment makes belief learn what it means. It takes on this appearance of being bad, because just by the fact of relation to an external other it gives itself a negative reality, it presents itself as the opposite of itself. Pure insight and intention have to adopt this relational attitude, however, for that is their actualization.

This realization appeared, in the first instance, as a negative reality. Perhaps its positive reality is better constituted. Let us see how this stands.

If all prejudice and superstition have been banished, the question arises what next? What is the truth enlightenment has diffused in their stead? It has already given expression to this positive content in its process of exterminating error, for that alienation of itself is equally its positive reality.

In dealing with what for belief is Absolute Spirit, it interprets whatever sort of determination it discovers there as being wood, stone. etc., as particular concrete things of sense. Since in this way it conceives in general every characteristic, i.e. every content and filling, to be a finite fact, to be a human entity and a mental presentation, absolute Being on its view turns out to be a mere vacuum, to which can be attributed no characteristics, no predicates at all. In fact to marry such a vacuity with universal predicates would be essentially reprehensible; and it is just through such a union that the monstrosities of superstition have been produced. Reason, pure insight, is doubtless not empty itself, since the negative of itself is present consciously to it, and is its content; it is, on the contrary, rich in substance, but only in particularity and restrictions. The enlightened function of reason, of pure insight, consists in allowing nothing of that sort to appertain to Absolute Being, nor attributing anything of that kind to it: this function well knows how to put itself and the wealth of finitude in their place, and deal with the Absolute in a worthy manner.

Φ 558. In contrast with this colourless empty Being there stands, as a second aspect of the positive truth of enlightenment, the singleness in general of conscious life and of all that it is: — a singleness excluded from an absolute Being, and standing by itself as something entirely self-contained. Consciousness, which in its very earliest expression is sense-certainty and mere “opining”, here comes back, after the whole course of its experience, to this same point, and is once again a knowledge, of what is purely negative of itself, a knowledge of sense things, i.e. of existent entities which stand in indifference over against its own self-existence. But here it is not an immediate natural consciousness; it has become such for itself. While at first the prey to every sort of entanglement, into which it is plunged by its gradually unfolding, and now led back to its first form by pure insight, it has arrived at this first state as the result and outcome of the process. This sense-certainty, resting as it does on an insight into the nothingness of all other forms of consciousness, and hence the nothingness of whatever is beyond sense-experience — this sense-certainty is no longer a mere opining”, it is rather absolute truth. This nothingness of everything that transcends sense is doubtless merely a negative proof of this truth. But no other is admissible or possible, for the positive truth of sense-experience in itself is just the unmediated self-existence of the notion itself qua object and an object in the form of otherness — the positive truth is that it is absolutely certain to every consciousness that it is and that there are other real things outside it, and that in its natural existence it, as well as these things too, are in and for themselves or absolute.

Φ 559. Lastly, the third moment of the truth of enlightenment is the relation of the particular beings to Absolute Being, is the relation of the first two moments to one another. Insight, qua pure insight of what is identical or unrestricted, also transcends the unlike or diverse, i.e. transcends finite reality, or transcends itself qua mere otherness. The “beyond” of this otherness it takes to be the void, to which it therefore relates the facts of sense. In determining this relation both the terms do not enter the relation as its content; for the one is the void, and thus a content is only to be had through the other, through sense reality. The form the relation assumes, however, to the determination of which the aspect of immanent and ultimate being (Ansich) contributes, can be shaped just as we please; for the form is something inherently and essentially negative, and therefore something self-opposed, being as well as nothing, inherent and ultimate (Ansich) as well as the opposite; or, what is the same thing, the relation of actuality to an inherent essential being qua something beyond, is as much a negating as a positing of that actuality. Finite actualities can, therefore, properly speaking, be taken just in the way people have need of them. Sense facts are thus related now positively to the Absolute qua something ultimate (Ansich), and sense reality is itself ultimate per se; the Absolute makes them, fosters and cherishes them. Then, again, they are related to it as an opposite, that is to their own non-being; in this case they are not something ultimate, they have being only for an other. Whereas in the preceding mode of consciousness the conceptions involved in the opposition took shape as good and bad, in the case of pure insight they pass into the more abstract forms of what is per se (Ansich) and what is for an other.

Φ 560. Both ways of dealing with the positive as well as the negative relation of finitude to what is per se (Ansich) are, however, equally necessary as a matter of fact, and everything is thus as much something per se, (an sich) as it is something for an other: in other words everything is “useful”.

Everything is now at the mercy of other things, lets itself now be used by others, and exists for them; and then again it, so to say, gets up on its hind legs, fights shy of the other, exists for itself on its own account., and on its side uses the other too.

From this, as a result, man, being the thing conscious of this relation, derives his true nature and place. As he is immediately, man is good, qua natural consciousness per se, absolute qua individual, and all else exists for him: and further, — since the moments have the significance of universality for him qua self-conscious animal,-everything exists to pleasure and delight him, and, as he first comes from the hand of God, he walks the earth as in a garden planted for him. He is bound also to have plucked the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; he claims to have, a use for it which distinguishes him from every other being, for, as it happens, his inherently good nature is also so constituted that the superfluity of delight does it harm, or rather his singleness contains as a factor in its constitution a principle that goes beyond it; his singleness can overreach itself and destroy itself. To prevent this, he finds reason a useful means for duly restraining this self-transcendence, or rather for preserving himself when he does go beyond the determinate: for such is the force of consciousness. The enjoyment of this conscious and essentially universal being must, in manifold variety and duration, be itself universal and not something determinate. The principle of measure or proportion has, therefore, the determinate function of preventing pleasure in its variety and duration from being quite broken off: i.e. the function of “measure” is immoderation.

As everything is useful for man, man is likewise useful too, and his characteristic function consists in making himself a member of the human herd, of use for the common good, and serviceable to all. The extent to which he looks after his own interests is the measure with which he must also serve the purpose of others, and so far as he serves their turn, be is taking care of himself: the one hand washes the other. But wherever he finds himself there he is in his right place: he makes use of others and is himself made use of.

Φ 561. Different things are serviceable to one another in different ways. All things, however, have this reciprocity of utility by their very nature, by being related to the Absolute in the twofold manner, the one positive, whereby they have a being all their own, the other negative, and thereby exist for others. The relation to Absolute Being, or Religion, is therefore of all forms of profitableness the most supremely profitable;(7) for it is profiting pure and simple; it is that by which all things stand-by which they have a being all their own-and that by which all things fall — have an existence for something else.

Φ 562. Belief, of course, finds this positive outcome of enlightenment as much an abomination as its negative attitude towards belief. This enlightened insight into absolute Being, that sees nothing in it but just absolute Being, the tre suprme, the great Void — this intention to find that everything in its immediate existence is inherently real (an sich) or good, and finally to find the relation of the individual conscious entity to the Absolute Being, Religion, exhaustively summed up in the conception of profitableness — all this is for belief utterly and simply revolting. This special and peculiar wisdom of enlightenment necessarily seems at the same time to the believing mind to be sheer insipidity and the confession of insipidity; because it consists in knowing nothing of absolute Being, or, what amounts to the same thing, in knowing this entirely accurate platitude regarding it — that it is merely absolute Being, and, again, in knowing nothing but finitude, taking this, moreover, to be the truth, and thinking this knowledge about finitude as the truth to be the highest knowledge attainable.

(3) The Rights of Enlightenment

Φ 563. Belief has a divine right as against enlightenment, the right of absolute self-identity or of pure thought; and it finds itself utterly wronged by enlightenment; for enlightenment distorts all its moments, and makes them something quite different from what they are in it. Enlightenment, on the other hand, has merely a human right as against belief, and can only put in a human claim for its own truth; for the wrong it commits is the right of disunion, of discordance, and consists in perverting and altering, a right that belongs to the nature of self-consciousness in opposition to the simple ultimate essence or thought. But since the right of enlightenment is the right of self-consciousness, it will not merely retain its own right, too, in such a way that two equally valid rights of spirit would be left standing in opposition to one another without either satisfying the claims of the other; it will maintain the absolute right, because self-consciousness is the negative function of the notion (Begriff), a function which does not merely operate in independence, but also gets control over its opposite. And because belief is a mode of consciousness, it will not be able to baulk enlightenment of that right.

Φ 564. For enlightenment does not operate against the believing mind with special principles of its own, but with those which belief itself implies and contains. Enlightenment merely brings together and presents to belief its own thoughts, the thoughts that lie scattered and apart within belief, all unknown to it. Enlightenment merely reminds belief, when one of its own forms is present, of others it also has, but which it is always forgetting when the one is there. Enlightenment shows itself to belief to be pure insight, by the fact that it, in a given determinate moment, sees the whole, brings forward the opposite element standing in direct relation to that moment and, converting the one in the other, brings out the negative principle which is the essence of both thoughts — the notion. It appears, therefore, to belief to be distortion and lies, because it shows up the other side in the moments of belief. Enlightenment seems, in consequence, directly to make something else out of them than they are in their own singleness; but this other is equally essential, and in reality is to be found in the believing mind itself, only the latter does not think about it, but keeps it somewhere else. Hence neither is it foreign to belief nor can it be denied of belief.

Φ 565. Enlightenment itself, however, which reminds belief of the opposite of its various separate moments, is just as little enlightened regarding its own nature. It takes up a purely negative attitude to belief, so far as it excludes its own content from its own pure activity and takes that content to be negative of itself. Consequently, neither in this negative, in the content of belief, does it recognize itself, nor, for this reason, does it bring together the two thoughts, the one which it contributes and the one against which it brings the first. Since it does not recognize that what it condemns in the case of belief is directly its very own thought, it has its own being in the opposition of both moments, only one of which — viz. in every case the one opposed to belief — it acknowledges, but cuts off the other from the first, just as belief does. Enlightenment, consequently, does not produce the unity of both as their unity, i.e. the notion; but the notion arises before it and comes to light of its own accord, in other words, enlightenment finds the notion merely as something there at hand. For in itself the proms of realizing pure insight is just this, that insight, whose essential nature is the notion, first comes to be for itself in the shape of an absolute other, and repudiates itself (for the opposite of the notion is an absolute opposite), and then out of this otherness comes to itself or comes to its notion.

Enlightenment, however, is merely this process, it is the activity of the notion in still unconscious form, an activity which no doubt arrives at itself qua object, but takes this object for an external other, and does not even know the nature of the notion, i.e. does not know that it is the undifferentiated, the self-identical, which absolutely divides itself.

As against belief, then, insight is the power of the notion in so far as this is the active process of relating the moments lying apart from one another in belief; a way of relating them in which the contradiction in them comes to light. Herein lies the absolute right of the power which insight exercises over belief; but the actuality on which it brings this power to bear lies just in the fact that the believing consciousness is itself the notion and thus itself recognizes and accepts the opposite which insight presents before it. Insight, therefore, has and retains right against belief, because it makes valid in belief what is necessary to belief itself, and what belief contains within it.

Φ 566. At first enlightenment emphasizes the moment that the notion is an act of consciousness; it maintains in the face of belief that the absolute Being belief accepts is a Being of the believer's consciousness qua a self, or that this absolute Being is produced by consciousness. To the believing mind its absolute Being, while it is in itself objective for the believer, is also and at the same time not like a foreign thing standing therein, having come there no one knows bow or whence. The trust of belief consists just in finding itself as a particular personal consciousness in absolute Being, and its obedience and service consist in producing, through its activity, that Being as its own Absolute. Enlightenment, strictly speaking, only reminds belief of this, if belief affirms without qualification the ultimate nature (Ansich) of absolute Being to be something beyond the action of consciousness,

But while enlightenment no doubt puts alongside the one-sidedness of belief the opposite moment, viz.: — action of belief in contrast to being — and being is all belief thinks about here — and yet does not itself in doing so bring those opposite thoughts together, enlightenment isolates the pure moment of action, and declares that what belief takes to be per se ultimate (Ansich) is merely a product of consciousness. Isolated action, action opposed to this ultimate Being (Ansich), is, however, a contingent action, and, qua presentative activity, is a creating of fictions — presented figurative ideas that have no being in themselves. And this is how enlightenment regards the content of belief.

Conversely, however, pure insight equally says the very opposite. When insight lays stress on the moment of otherness which the notion involves it declares the essential Reality for belief to be one which does not in any way concern consciousness, is away beyond consciousness, foreign to it, and unknown. To belief, too, that Reality has the same character. On one side belief trusts in it, and gets, in doing so, the assurance of its own self, on the other side it is unsearchable in all its ways and. unattainable in its being.

Φ 567. Further, enlightenment maintains against the believing mind a right which the latter concedes, when enlightenment treats the object of the believer's veneration as stone and wood, or, in short, some finite anthropomorphic feature. For, since this consciousness is divided within itself in having a “beyond” remote from actuality and an immediate present embodiment of that remote beyond, there is also found in it, as a matter of fact, the view that sense-things have a value and significance in and for themselves (an und fr sich). But belief does not bring together these two ideas of what is “in and for itself”, viz. that at one time what is “in and for itself” is for belief pure essential Reality and at another time is an ordinary thing of sense. Even its own pure consciousness is affected by this last view; for the distinctions of its supersensuous world, because this is without the notion, are a series of independent shapes and forms, and their activity is a happening, i.e. they exist merely in figurative presentation, and have the characteristic of sense-existence.

Enlightenment on its side isolates actuality in the same way, treating it as a reality abandoned by spirit; isolates specific determinateness and makes it a fixed finite element, as if it were not a moment in the spiritual process of the real itself, a something which is not nothing, nor possessed of a being all its own, but evanescent and transitory.

Φ 568. It is clear that the same is the case with regard to the ground of knowledge. The believing mind itself recognizes an accidental knowledge; for in belief the mind adopts an attitude towards contingencies, and absolute Being itself comes before belief in the form of a pictorial presentation of an ordinary actual fact. Consequently belief is also a certainty which does not carry the truth within it, and it confesses itself to be an unsubstantial consciousness of this kind, holding of this world and separated from the spirit that is self-assuring and assured of itself. This moment, however, belief forgets in its immediate spiritual knowledge of absolute Reality.

Enlightenment, however, which reminds belief of all this, thinks again merely of the contingency of the knowledge and forgets the other — thinks only of the mediating process which takes effect through an alien third term, and does not think of that process wherein the immediate is for itself its own third term through which it mediates itself with the other, viz. with itself.

Φ 569. Finally, on the view enlightenment takes of the action of belief, the rejection of enjoyment and possessions is looked upon as wrong and purposeless.

As to the wrong thus done, enlightenment preserves its harmony with the believing mind in this: — that belief itself acknowledges the actual reality of possessing property, keeping bold of it, and enjoying it. In insisting on its property, it behaves with all the more stubborn independence and exclusiveness, and in its enjoyment with all the more frank self-abandonment, since its religious act of giving up pleasure and property takes effect beyond the region of this actuality, and purchases for it freedom to do as it likes so far as that other sphere is concerned. This service, the service of sacrificing natural activities and enjoyments, in point of fact has no truth, owing to this opposition. The retention and the sacrifice subsist together side by side. The sacrifice is merely a “sign” which performs real sacrifice only as regards a small part, and hence in point of fact is only a figurative idea of sacrifice.

Φ 570. As for purposiveness, enlightenment finds it pointless and stupid to throw away a possession in order to feel and to prove oneself to be free from all possession, to renounce an enjoyment in order to think and demonstrate that one is rid of all enjoyment. The believing mind itself takes the absolute act for a universal one. Not only does the action of its absolute Reality as its object appear something universal, but the individual consciousness, too, has to prove itself detached entirely and altogether from its sensuous nature. But throwing away a single possession, giving up and disclaiming a single enjoyment, is not acting universally in this way. And since in the action the purpose, which is a universal, and the performance, which is a singular process, were bound to stand before consciousness, as essentially incompatible, that action shows itself to be of a kind in which consciousness has no share, and consequently this way of acting is seen to be too naive to be an action at all. It is too naive to fast in order to prove oneself quite indifferent to the pleasures of the table; too naive to rid the body of some other pleasure, as Origen did, in order to show that pleasure is finished and done with. The act itself proves an external and a single operation. But desire is deeply rooted within the inner life, and is a universal element; its pleasure neither disappears with the instrument for getting pleasure nor by abstention from particular pleasures.

Φ 571. But enlightenment on its side here isolates the unrealized inwardness as against the concrete actuality; just as in the case of the devotion and direct intuition of belief, enlightenment held fast to the externality of things of sense as against the inward attitude of belief. Enlightenment finds the main point in the intention, in the thought, and thereby finds no need for actually bringing about the liberation from natural ends. On the contrary, this inner sphere is itself the formal element that has its concrete fulfilment in natural impulses, which are justified simply by the fact that they fall within, that they belong to universal being, to nature.

Φ 572. Enlightenment, then, holds irresistible sway over belief by the fact that the latter finds in its own consciousness the very moments to which enlightenment gives significance and validity. Looking more closely at the action exerted by this force, its operation on belief seems to rend asunder the beautiful unity of trustfulness and immediate confidence, to pollute its spiritual life with lower thoughts drawn from the sphere of sense, to destroy the feeling of calm security in its attitude of submission by introducing the vanity of understanding, of self-will, and self-fulfilment. But in point of fact, enlightenment really brings to pass the abolition of that state of unthinking, or rather unreflective (begrifflos) cleavage, which finds a place in the nature of belief. The believing mood weighs and measures by a twofold standard, it has two sorts of eyes and ears, uses two voices to express its meaning, it duplicates all ideas, without comparing and relating the sense and meaning in the two forms used. Or we may say belief lives its life amidst two sorts of perceptions, the one the perceptions of thought which is asleep, purely uncritical and uncomprehending, the other those of waking consciousness living solely and simply in the world of sense; and in each of them it manages to conduct a household of its own.

Enlightenment illuminates that world of heaven with ideas drawn from the world of sense, pointing out there this element of finitude which belief cannot deny or repudiate, because it is self-consciousness, and in being so is the unity to which both kinds of ideas belong, and in which they do not fall apart from one another; for they belong to the same indivisible simple self into which belief has passed, and which constitutes its life.

Φ 573. Belief has by this means lost the content which furnished its filling, and collapses into an inarticulate state where the spirit works and weaves within itself.(8) Belief is banished from its own kingdom; this kingdom is sacked and plundered, since the waking consciousness has forcibly taken to itself every distinction and expansion of it and claimed every one of its parts for earth, and returned them to the earth that owns them. Yet belief is not on that account satisfied, for this illumination has everywhere brought to light only what is individual, with the result that only insubstantial realities and finitude forsaken of spirit make any appeal to spirit.

Since belief is without content and cannot continue in this barren condition, or since, in getting beyond finitude, which is the sole content, it finds merely the empty void, it is a sheer longing: its truth is an empty beyond, for which there is no longer any appropriate content to be found, for everything is appropriated and applied in other ways.

Belief in this manner has in fact become the same as enlightenment-the conscious attitude of relating finite that inherently exists to an unknown and unknowable Absolute without predicates; the difference is merely that the one is enlightenment satisfied, while belief is enlightenment unsatisfied.(9) It win yet be seen whether enlightenment can continue in its state of satisfaction; that longing of the troubled, beshadowed spirit, mourning over the loss of its spiritual world, lies in the background. Enlightenment has on it this stain of unsatisfied longing: — in its empty Absolute Being we find this in the form of the pure abstract object; in passing beyond its individual nature to an unfulfilled beyond, the stain appears as an act and a process; in the selflessness of what is “useful” it is seen in the form of a sensuous concrete object. Enlightenment will remove this stain: by considering more closely the positive result which constitutes the truth for it, we shall find that the stain is implicitly removed already.


The Truth of Enlightenment


1. "We live in an age of enlightenment” (Kant). Cp. Hegel W. W. 15 introduction to “French Philosophy”.

2. Rameau's Neffe.

3. In the life of “feeling” and “emotion”.

4. Cp. the view of God held by Fichte: also Feuerbach:-Wesen der Religion.

5. Enlightenment attacks the object and the basis of belief, and the mode of worship.

6. The cult.

7. Cp. 1 Timothy iv. 8: “Godliness is profitable unto all things.”

8. i.e. the life of feeling.

9. i.e. the contrast between belief and enlightenment becomes a contrast inside enlightenment itself.