Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion
a. In the relation in which religion, even in its immediacy, stands to the other forms of the consciousness of man, there already lie germs of division, since both sides are conceived of as in a condition of separation relatively to each other. In their simple relation they already constitute two kinds of pursuits, two different regions of consciousness, and we pass to and fro from the one to the other alternately only. Thus man has in his actual worldly life a number of working days during which he occupies himself with his own special interests, with worldly aims in general, and with the satisfaction of his needs; and then he has a Sunday, when he lays all this aside, collects his thoughts, and, released from absorption in finite occupations, lives to himself and to the higher nature which is in him, to his true essential being. But into this separateness of the two sides there directly enters a double modification.
(a.) Let us consider first of all the religion of the godly man; that is, of one who truly deserves to be so called. Faith is still presupposed as existing irrespective of, and without opposition to, anything else. To believe in God is thus in its simplicity, something different from that where a man, with reflection and with the consciousness that something else stands opposed to this faith, says, “ I believe in God.” Here the need of justification, of inference, of controversy, has already come in. Now that religion of the simple, godly man is not kept shut off and divided from the rest of his existence and life, but, on the contrary, it breathes its influence over all his feelings and actions, and his consciousness brings all the aims and objects of his worldly life into relation to God, as to its infinite and ultimate source. Every moment of his finite existence and activity, of his sorrow and joy, is lifted up by him out of his limited sphere, and by being thus lifted up produces in him the idea and sense of his eternal nature. The rest of his life, in like manner, is led under the conditions of confidence, of custom, of dutifulness, of habit; he is that which circumstances and nature have made him, and he takes his life, his circumstances, and rights as he receives everything, namely, as a lot or destiny which he does not understand. It is so. In regard to God, he either takes what is His and gives thanks, or else he offers it up to Him freely as a gift of free grace. The rest of his conscious life is thus subordinated, without reflection, to that higher region.
(b.) From the worldly side, however, the distinction involved in this relation develops until it becomes opposition. It is true that the development of this side does not seem to affect religion injuriously, and all action seems to limit itself strictly to that side in the matter. Judging from what is expressly acknowledged, religion is still looked upon as what is highest; but as a matter of fact it is not so, and starting from the worldly side, ruin and disunion creep over into religion. The development of this distinction may be generally designated as the maturing of the understanding and of human aims. While understanding awakens in human life and in science, and reflection has become independent, the will sets before itself absolute aims; for example, justice, the state, objects which are to have absolute worth, to be in and for themselves. Thus research recognises the laws, the constitution, the order, and the peculiar characteristics of natural things, and of the activities and productions of Spirit. Now these experiences and forms of knowledge, as well as the willing and actual carrying out of these aims, is a work of man, both of his understanding and will. In them he is in presence of what is his own. Although he sets out from what is, from what he finds, yet he is no longer merely one who knows, who has these rights; but what he makes out of that which is given in knowledge and in will is his affair, his work, and he has the consciousness that he has produced it. Therefore these productions constitute his glory and his pride, and provide for him an immense, an infinite wealth — that world of his intelligence, of his knowledge, of his external possession, of his rights and deeds.
Thus the spirit has entered into the condition of opposition — as yet, it is true, artlessly, and without at first knowing it — but the opposition comes to be a conscious one, for the spirit now moves between two sides, of which the distinction has actually developed itself. The one side is that in which the spirit knows itself to be its own, where it lives in its own aims and interests, and determines itself on its own authority as independent and self-sustaining. The other side is that where the spirit recognises a higher Power — absolute duties, duties without rights belonging to them, and what the spirit receives for the accomplishment of its duties is always regarded as grace alone. In the first instance it is the independence of the spirit which is the foundation, here its attitude is that of humility and dependence. Its religion is accordingly distinguished from what we have in that region of independence by this, that it restricts knowledge, science, to the worldly side, and leaves for the sphere of religion, feeling and faith.
(g.) Notwithstanding, that aspect of independence involves this also, that its action is conditioned, and knowledge and will must have experience of the fact that it is thus conditioned. Man demands his right; whether or not he actually gets it, is something independent of his efforts, and he is referred in the matter to an Other. In the act of knowledge he sets out from the organisation and order of nature, and this is something given. The content of his sciences is a material outside of him. Thus the two sides, that of independence and that of conditionality, enter into relation with each other, and this relation leads man to the avowal that everything is made by God — all things which constitute the content of his knowledge, which he takes possession of, and uses as means for his ends, as well as he himself, the spirit and the spiritual faculties of which he, as he says, makes use, in order to attain to that knowledge.
But this admission is cold and lifeless, because that which constitutes the vitality of this consciousness, in which it is “at home with itself,” and is self-consciousness, this insight, this knowledge are wanting, in it. All that is determined comes, on the contrary, to be included in the sphere of knowledge, and of human, self-appointed aims, and here, too, it is only the activity belonging to self-consciousness which is present. Therefore that admission is unfruitful too, because it does not get beyond the abstract — universal, that is to say, it stops short at the thought that all is a work of God, and with regard to objects which are absolutely different (as, for example, the course of the stars and their laws, ants, or men), that relation continues for it fixed at one and the same point, namely this, that God has made all. Since this religious relation of particular objects is always expressed in the same monotonous manner, it would become tedious and burdensome if it were repeated in reference to each individual thing. Therefore the matter is settled with the one admission, that God has made everything, and this religious side is thereby satisfied once for all, and then in the progress of knowledge and the pursuit of aims nothing further is thought of the matter. It would accordingly appear that this admission is made simply and solely in order to get rid of the whole business, or perhaps it may be to get protection for the religious side as it were relatively to what is without. In short, such expressions may be used either in earnest or not.
Piety does not weary of lifting up its eyes to God on all and every occasion, although it may do so daily and hourly in the same manner. But as religious feeling, it really rests in singleness or single instances; it is in every moment wholly what it is, and is without reflection and the consciousness which compares experiences. It is here, on the contrary, where knowledge and self-determination are concerned, that this comparison, and the consciousness of that sameness, are essentially present, and then a general proposition is enunciated once for all. On the one side we have understanding playing its part, while over against it is the religious feeling of dependence.
b.Even piety is not exempt from the fate of falling into a state of division or dualism. On the contrary, division is already present in it implicitly, in that its actual content is only a manifold, accidental one. These two attitudes, namely, that of piety and of the understanding that compares, however different they seem to be, have this in common, that in them the relation of God to the other side of consciousness is undetermined and general. The second of these attitudes has indicated and pronounced this unhesitatingly in the expression already quoted, “God has created all.”
(a.) The manner of looking at things, however, which is followed by the religious man, and whereby he gives a greater completeness to his reflection, consists in the contemplation of the constitution and arrangement of things according to the relations of ends, and similarly in the regarding all the circumstances of individual life, as well as the great events of history, as proceeding from Divine purposes, or else as directed and leading back to such. The universal divine relation is thus not adhered to here. On the contrary, this becomes a definite relation, and consequently a more strictly defined content is introduced — for the manifold materials are placed in relation to one another, and God is then considered as the one who brings about these relations. Animals and their surroundings are accordingly regarded as beings definitely regulated, in that they have food, nurture their young are provided with weapons as a defence against what is hurtful, stand the winter, and can protect themselves against enemies. In human life it is seen how man is led to happiness, whether it be eternal or temporal, by means of this or that apparent accident, or perhaps misfortune. In short, the action, the will of God, is contemplated here in definite dealings, conditions of nature, occurrences, and such-like.
But this content itself, these ends, representing thus a finite content, are accidental, are taken up only for the moment, and even directly disappear in an inconsistent and illogical fashion. If, for example, we admire the wisdom of God in nature because we see how animals are provided with weapons, partly to obtain their food and partly to protect them against enemies, yet it is presently seen in experience that these weapons are of no avail, and that those creatures which have been considered as ends are made use of by others as means.
It is therefore really progressive knowledge which has depreciated and supplanted this external contemplation of ends; that higher knowledge, namely, which, to begin with, at least demands consistency, and recognises ends of this kind, which are taken as Divine ends, as subordinate and finite — as something which proves itself in the very same experience and observation to be worthless, and not to be an object of the eternal, divine Will.
If that manner of looking at the matter be accepted, and if, at the same time, its inconsistency be disregarded, yet it still remains indefinite and superficial, for the very reason that all and every content — no matter what it be — may be included in it; for there is nothing, no arrangement of nature, no occurrence, which, regarded in some aspect or other, might not be shown to have some use. Religious feeling is, in short, here no longer present in its naive and experimental character. On the contrary, it proceeds from the universal thought of an end, of a good, and makes inferences, inasmuch as it subsumes present things under these universal thoughts. But this argumentation, this inferential process, brings the religious man into a condition of perplexity, because however much he may point to what serves a purpose, and is useful in this immediate world of natural things, he sees, in contrast to all this, just as much that does not serve a purpose, and is injurious. What is profitable to one person is detrimental to another, and therefore does not serve a purpose. The preservation of life and of the interests bound up with existence, which in the one case is promoted, is in the other case just as much endangered and put a stop to. Thus an implicit dualism or division is involved here, for in contradiction to God’s eternal manner of operation, finite things are elevated to the rank of essential ends. The idea of God and of His manner of operation as universal and necessary is contradicted by this inconsistency, which is even destructive of that universal character.
Now if the religious man considers external ends and the externality of the whole matter in accordance with which these things are profitable for an Other, the natural determinateness, which is the point of departure, appears indeed to be only for an Other. But this, more closely considered, is its own relation, its own nature, the immanent nature of what is related, its necessity, in short. Thus it is that the actual transition to the other side, which was formerly designated as the moment of selfness, comes about for ordinary religious thought.
(b.) Religious feeling, accordingly, is forced to abandon its argumentative process; and now that a beginning has once been made with thought, and with the relations of thought, it becomes necessary, above all things to thought, to demand and to look for that which belongs to itself namely, first of all consistency and necessity, and to place itself in opposition to that standpoint of contingency. And with this, the principle of selfness at once develops itself completely. “I,” as simple, universal, as thought, am really relation since I am for myself, am self-consciousness, the relations too are to be for me. To the thoughts, ideas which I make my own, I give the character which I myself am. I am this simple point, and that which is for me I seek to apprehend in this unity.
Knowledge so far aims at that which is, and the necessity of it, and apprehends this in the relation of cause and effect, reason and result, power and manifestation; in the relation of the Universal, of the species and of the individual existing things which are included in the sphere of contingency. Knowledge, science, in this manner places the manifold material in mutual relation, takes away from it the contingency which it has through its immediacy, and while contemplating the relations which belong to the wealth of finite phenomena, encloses the world of finiteness in itself so as to form a system of the universe, of such a kind that knowledge requires nothing for this system outside of the system itself. For what a thing is, what it is in its essential determinate character, is disclosed when it is perceived and made the subject of observation. From the constitution of things, we proceed to their connections in which they stand in relation to all Other; not, however in an accidental, but in a determinate relation, and in which they point back to the original source from which they are a deduction. Thus we inquire after the reasons and causes of things; and the meaning of inquiry here is, that what is desired is to know the special causes. Thus it is no longer sufficient to speak of God as the cause of the lightning, or of the downfall of the Republican system of government in Rome, or of the French Revolution; here it is perceived that this cause is only an entirely general one, and does not yield the desired explanation. What we wish to know regarding a natural phenomenon, or regarding this or that law as effect or result, is the reason as the reason of this particular phenomenon that is to say, not the reason which applies to all things, but only and exclusively to this definite thing. And thus the reason must be that of such special phenomena, and such reason or ground must be the most immediate, must be sought and laid hold of in the finite and must itself be a finite one. Therefore this knowledge does not go above or beyond the sphere of the finite, nor does it desire to do so, since it is able to apprehend all in its finite sphere, is conversant with everything, and knows its course of action. In this manner science forms a universe of knowledge, to which God is not necessary, which lies outside of religion, and has absolutely nothing to do with it. In this kingdom knowledge spreads itself out in its relations and connections, and in so doing has all determinate material and content on its side; and for the other side, the side of the infinite and the eternal, nothing whatever is left.
(g.) Thus both sides have developed themselves completely in their opposition, on the side of religion the heart is filled with what is Divine, but without freedom, or self-consciousness, and without consistency in regard to what is determinate, this latter having, on the contrary, the form of contingency. Consistent connection of what is determinate belongs to the side of knowledge, which is at home in the finite, and moves freely in the thought-determinations of the manifold connections of things, but can only create a system which is without absolute substantiality — without God. The religious side gets the absolute material and purpose, but only as something abstractly positive. Knowledge has taken possession of all finite material and drawn it into its territory, all determinate content has fallen to its share; but although it gives it a necessary connection, it is still unable to give it the absolute connection. Since finally science has taken possession of knowledge, and is the consciousness of the necessity of the finite, religion has become devoid of knowledge, and has shrivelled up into simple feeling, into the contentless or empty elevation of the spiritual to the Eternal. It can, however, affirm nothing regarding the Eternal for all that could be regarded knowledge would be a drawing down of the Eternal into the sphere of the finite, and of finite connections of things.
Now when two aspects of thought, which are so developed in this way, enter into relation with one another, their attitude is one of mutual distrust. Religious feeling distrusts the finiteness which lies in knowledge, and it brings against science the charge of futility, because in it the subject clings to itself, is in itself, and the “I” as the knowing subject is independent in relation to all that is external. On the other hand, knowledge has a distrust of the totality in which feeling entrenches itself, and in which it confounds together all extension and development. It is afraid to lose its freedom should it comply with the demand of feeling and unconditionally recognise a truth which it does not definitely understand. And when religious feeling comes out of its universality, sets ends before itself, and passes over to the determinate, knowledge can see nothing but arbitrariness in this, and if it were to pass in a similar way to anything definite, would feel itself given over to mere contingency. When, accordingly, reflection is fully developed, and has to pass over into the domain of religion, it is unable to hold out in that region, and becomes impatient with regard to all that peculiarly belongs to it.
c. Now that the opposition has arrived at this stage of development, where the one side, whenever it is approached by the other, invariably thrusts it away from it as an enemy, the necessity for an adjustment comes in, of such a kind that the infinite shall appear in the finite, and the finite in the infinite, and each no longer form a separate realm. This would be the reconciliation of religious, genuine simple feeling, with knowledge and intelligence. This reconciliation must correspond with the highest demands of knowledge, and of the Notion, for these can surrender nothing of their dignity. But just as little can anything of the absolute content be given up, and that content be brought down into the region of finiteness; and when face to face with it knowledge must give up its finite form. In the Christian religion, more than in other religions, the need of this reconciliation has of necessity come into prominence, for the following reasons: —
(a.) The Christian religion has its very beginning in absolute dualism, or division, and starts from that sense of suffering in which it rends the natural unity of the spirit asunder, and destroys natural peace. In it man appears as evil from his birth, and is thus in his innermost life in contradiction with himself, and the spirit, as it is driven back into itself, finds itself separated from the infinite, absolute Essence.
(b.) The Reconciliation, the need of which is here intensified to the uttermost degree, appears in the first place for Faith, but not in such a way as to allow of faith being of a merely ingenuous kind. For the spirit has left its natural simplicity behind, and entered upon an internal conflict; it is, as sinful, an Other in opposition to the truth; it is withdrawn, estranged from it. “I,” in this condition of schism, am not the truth, and this is therefore given as an independent content of ordinary thought, and the truth is in the first instance put forward upon authority.
(g.) When, however, by this means I am transplanted into an intellectual world in which the nature of God, the characteristics and modes of action which belong to God, are presented to knowledge, and when the truth of these rests on the witness and assurance of others, yet I am at the same time referred into myself, for thought, knowledge, reason are in me, and in the feeling of sinfulness, and in reflection upon this, my freedom is plainly revealed to me. Rational. knowledge, therefore, is an essential element in the Christian religion itself.
In the Christian religion I am to retain my freedom or rather, in it I am to become free. In it the subject, the salvation of the soul, the redemption of the individual as an individual, and not only the species, is an essential end. This subjectivity, this selfness (not selfishness) is just the principle of rational knowledge itself.
Rational knowledge being thus a fundamental characteristic in the Christian religion, the latter gives development to its content, for the ideas regarding its general subject-matter are implicitly or in themselves thoughts, and must as such develop themselves. On the other hand, however, since the content is something, which exists essentially for the mind as forming ideas, it is distinct from unreflecting opinion and sense-knowledge, and as it were passes right beyond the distinction. In short, it has in relation to subjectivity the value of an absolute content existing in and for itself. The Christian religion therefore touches the antithesis between feeling and immediate perception on the one hand, and reflection and knowledge on the other. It contains rational knowledge as an essential element, and has supplied to this rational knowledge the occasion for developing itself to its full logical issue as Form and as a world of form, and has thus at the same time enabled it to place itself in opposition to this content as it appears in the shape of given truth. It is from this that the discord which characterises the thought of the present day arises. Hitherto we have considered the progressive growth of the antitheses only in the form in which they have not yet developed into actual philosophy, or in which they still stand outside of it. Therefore the questions which primarily come before us are these: 1. How does philosophy in general stand related to religion? 2. How does the Philosophy of Religion stand related to philosophy? and 3. What is the relation of the philosophical study of religion to positive religion
In saying above that philosophy makes religion the subject of consideration, and when further this consideration of it appears to be in the position of something which is different from its object, it would seem as if we are still occupying that attitude in which both sides remain mutually independent and separate. In taking up such an attitude in thus considering the subject, we should accordingly come out of that region of devotion and enjoyment which religion is, and the object and the consideration of it as the movement of thought would be as different as, for example, the geometrical figures in mathematics are from the mind which considers them. Such is only the relation, however, as it at first appears, when knowledge is still severed from the religious side, and is finite knowledge. On the contrary, when we look more closely, it becomes apparent that as a matter of fact the content, the need, and the interest of philosophy represent something which it has in common with religion.
The object of religion as well as of philosophy is eternal truth in its objectivity, God and nothing but God, and the explication of God. Philosophy is not a wisdom of the world, but is knowledge of what is not of the world — it is not knowledge which concerns external mass, or empirical existence and life, but is knowledge of that which is eternal, of what God is, and what flows out of His nature. For this His nature must reveal and develop itself. Philosophy, therefore, only unfolds itself when it unfolds religion, and in unfolding itself it unfolds religion. As thus occupied with eternal truth which exists on its own account, or is in and for itself, and, as in fact, a dealing on the part of the thinking spirit, and not of individual caprice and particular interest, with this object, it is the same kind of activity as religion is. The mind in so far as it thinks philosophically immerses itself with like living interest in this object, and renounces its particularity in that it permeates its object, in the same way, as religious consciousness does, for the latter also does not seek to have anything of its own, but desires only to immerse itself in this content.
Thus religion and philosophy come to be one. Philosophy is itself, in fact, worship; it is religion, for in the same way it renounces subjective notions and opinions in order to occupy itself with God. Philosophy is thus identical with religion, but the distinction is that it is so in a peculiar manner, distinct from the manner of looking at things which is commonly called religion as such. What they have in common is, that they are religion; what distinguishes them from each other is merely the kind and manner of religion we find in each. It is in the peculiar way in which they both occupy themselves with God that the distinction comes out. It is just here, however, that the difficulties lie which appear so great, that it is even regarded as an impossibility that philosophy should be one with religion. Hence comes the suspicion with which philosophy is looked upon by theology, and the antagonistic attitude of religion and philosophy. In accordance with this antagonistic attitude (as theology considers it to be) philosophy seems to act injuriously, destructively, upon religion, robbing it of its sacred character, and the way in which it occupies itself with God seems to be absolutely different from religion. Here, then, is the same old opposition and contradiction which had already made its appearance among the Greeks. Among that free democratic people, the Athenians, philosophical writings were burnt, and Socrates was condemned to death; now, however, this opposition is held to be an acknowledged fact, more so than that unity of religion and philosophy just asserted.
Old though this opposition is, however, the combination of philosophy and religion is just as old. Already to the neo-Pythagoreans and neo-Platonists, who were as yet within the heathen world, the gods of the people were not gods of imagination, but had become gods of thought. That combination had a place, too, among the most eminent of the Fathers of the Church, who in their religious life took up an essentially intellectual attitude inasmuch as they set out from the presupposition that theology is religion together with conscious thought and comprehension. It is to their philosophical culture that the Christian Church is indebted for the first beginnings of a content of Christian doctrine.
This union of religion and philosophy was carried out to a still-greater extent in the Middle Ages. So little was it believed that the knowledge which seeks to comprehend is hurtful to faith, that it was even held to be essential to the further development of faith itself. It was by setting out from philosophy that those great men, Anselm and Abelard, further developed the essential characteristics of faith.
Knowledge in constructing its world for itself, without reference to religion, had only taken possession of the finite contents; but since it has developed into the true philosophy, it has the same content as religion. If we now look provisionally for the distinction between religion and philosophy as it presents itself in this unity or content, we find it takes the following form: —
a. A speculative philosophy is the consciousness of the Idea, so that everything is apprehended as Idea; the Idea, however, is the True in thought, and not in mere sensuous contemplation or in ordinary conception. The True in thought, to put it more precisely, means that it is something concrete, posited as divided in itself, and in such away, indeed, that the two sides of what is divided are opposed characteristics of thought, and the Idea must be conceived of as the unity of these. To think speculatively means to resolve anything real into its parts, and to oppose these to each other in such a way that the distinctions are set in opposition in accordance with the characteristics of thought, and the object is apprehended as unity of the two.
In sense-perception or picture-thought we have the object before us as a whole, our reflection distinguishes, apprehends different sides, recognises the diversity in them, and severs them. In this act of distinguishing reflection does not keep firm hold of their unity. Sometimes it forgets the wholeness, sometimes the distinctions and if it has both before it, it yet separates the properties from the object, and so places both that that in which the two are one becomes a third, which is different from. the object and its properties. In the case of mechanical objects which appear in the region of externality, this relation may have a place, for the object is only the lifeless substratum for the distinctions, and the quality of oneness is the gathering together of external aggregates
In the true object, however, which is not merely an aggregate, an externally united multiplicity, the object is one, although it has characteristics which are distinguished from it, and it is speculative thought which first gets a grasp of the unity in this very antithesis as such. It is in fact the business of speculative thought to apprehend all objects of pure thought, of nature and of Spirit, in the form of thought, and thus as the unity of the difference.
b. Religion, then, is itself the standpoint of the consciousness of the True, which is in and for itself, and is consequently the stage of Spirit at which the speculative content generally is object for consciousness. Religion is not consciousness of this or that truth in individual objects, but of the absolute truth, of truth as the Universal, the All-comprehending outside of which there lies nothing at all. The content of its consciousness is further the Universally True, which exists on its own account or in and for itself, which determines itself, and is not determined from without. While the finite required an Other for its determinateness, the True has its determinateness, the limit, its end in itself; it is not limited through an Other, but the Other is found in itself. It is this speculative element which comes to consciousness in religion. Truth is, indeed, contained in every other sphere, but not the highest absolute truth, for this exists only in perfect universality of characterisation or determination, and in the fact of being determined in and for itself, which is not simple determinateness having reference to an Other, but contains the Other, the difference in its very self.
c. Religion is accordingly this speculative element in the form, as it were, of a state of consciousness, of which the aspects are not simple qualities of thought, but are concretely filled up. These moments can be no other than the moment of Thought, active universality, thought in operation, and reality as immediate, particular self-consciousness.
Now, while in philosophy the rigidity of these two sides loses itself through reconciliation in thought, because both sides are thoughts, and the one is not pure universal thought, and the other of an empirical and individual character, religion only arrives at the enjoyment of unity by lifting these two rigid extremes out of this state of severance, by rearranging them, and bringing them together again. But by thus stripping off the form of dualism from its extremes, rendering the opposition in the element of Universality fluid, and bringing it to reconciliation, religion remains always akin to thought, even in its form and movement; and philosophy, as simply active thought, and thought which unites opposed elements, has approached closely to religion. The contemplation of religion in thought has thus raised the determinate moments of religion to the rank of thoughts, and the question is how this contemplation of religion in thought is related generally to philosophy as forming an organic part in its system.
a. In philosophy, the Highest is called the Absolute, the Idea; it is superfluous to go further back here, and to mention that this Highest was in the Wolfian Philosophy called ens, Thing; for that at once proclaims itself an abstraction, which corresponds very inadequately to our idea of God. In the more recent philosophy, the Absolute is not so complete an abstraction, but yet it has not on that account the same signification as is implied in the term, God. In order even to make the difference apparent, we must in the first place consider what the word signify itself signifies. When we ask, What does this or that signify we are asking about two kinds of things, and, in fact, about things which are opposed. In the first place, we call what we are thinking of, the meaning, the end or intention, the general thought of this or that expression, work of art, &c.; if we ask about its intrinsic character, it is essentially the thought that is in it of which we wish to have an idea. When we thus ask “What is God?” “What does the expression God signify?” it is the thought involved in it that we desire to know; the idea we possess already.
Accordingly, what is signified here is that we have got to specify the Notion, and thus it follows that the Notion is the signification; it is the Absolute, the nature of God as grasped by thought, the logical knowledge of this, to which we desire to attain. This, then, is the one signification of signification, and so far, that which we call the Absolute has a meaning identical with the expression God.
b. But we put the question again, in a second sense, according to which it is the opposite of this which is sought after. When we begin to occupy ourselves with pure thought-determinations, and not with outward ideas, it may be that the mind does not feel satisfied, is not at home, in these, and asks what this pure thought-determination signifies. For example, every one can understand for himself what is meant by the terms unity, objective, subjective, &c., and yet it may very well happen that the specific form of thought we call the unity of subjective and objective, the unity of real and ideal, is not understood. What is asked for in such a case is the meaning in the very opposite sense from that which was required before. Here it is an idea or a pictorial conception of the thought — determination which is demanded, an example of the content, which has as yet only been given in thought. If we find a thought content difficult to understand, the difficulty lies in this, that we possess no pictorial idea of it; it is by means of an example that it becomes clear to us, and that the mind first feels at home with itself in this content. When, accordingly, we start with the ordinary conception of God, the Philosophy of Religion has to consider its signification — this, namely, that God is the Idea, the Absolute, the Essential Reality which is grasped in thought and in the Notion, and this it has in common with logical philosophy; the logical Idea is God as He is in Himself. But it is just the nature of God that He should not be implicit or in Himself only. He is as essentially for Himself, the Absolute Spirit, not only the Being who keeps Himself within thought, but who also manifests Himself, and gives Himself objectivity.
c. Thus, in contemplating the Idea of God, in the Philosophy of Religion, we have at the same time to do with the manner of His manifestation or presentation to us; He simply makes Himself apparent, represents Himself to Himself. This is the aspect of the determinate being or existence of the Absolute. In the Philosophy of Religion we have thus the Absolute as object; not, however, merely in the form of thought, but also in the form of its manifestation. The universal Idea is thus to be conceived of with the purely concrete meaning of essentiality in general, and is to be regarded from the point of view of its activity in displaying itself, in appearing, in revealing itself. Popularly speaking, we say God is the Lord of the natural world and of the realm of Spirit. He is the absolute harmony of the two, and it is He who produces and carries on this harmony. Here neither thought and Notion nor their manifestation — determinate being or existence — are wanting. This aspect, thus represented by determinate being, is itself, however, to be grasped again in thought, since we are here in the region of philosophy. Philosophy to begin with contemplates the Absolute as logical. Idea, the Idea as it is in thought, under the aspect in which its content is constituted by the specific forms of thought. Further, philosophy exhibits the Absolute in its activity, in its creations. This is the manner in which the Absolute becomes actual or “for itself,” becomes Spirit, and God is thus the result of philosophy. It becomes apparent, however, that this is not merely a result, but is something which eternally creates itself, and is that which precedes all else. The onesidedness of the result is abrogated and absorbed in the very result itself. Nature, finite Spirit, the world of consciousness, of intelligence, and of will, are embodiments of the divine Idea, but they are definite shapes, special modes of the appearance of the Idea, forms, in which the Idea has not yet penetrated to itself, so as to be absolute Spirit.
In the Philosophy of Religion, however, we do not contemplate the implicitly existing logical Idea merely, in its determinate character as pure thought, nor in those finite determinations where its mode of appearance is a finite one, but as it is in itself or implicitly in thought, and at the same time as it appears, manifests itself, and thus in infinite manifestation as Spirit, — which reflects itself in itself; for Spirit which does not appear, is not. In this characteristic of appearance finite appearance is also included — that is, the world of nature, and the world of finite spirit, — but Spirit is regarded as the power or force of these worlds, as producing them out of itself, and out of them producing itself.
This, then, is the position of the Philosophy of Religion in relation to the other parts of philosophy. Of the other parts, God is the result; here, this End is made the Beginning, and becomes our special Object, is the simply concrete Idea, with its infinite manifestations; and this characteristic concerns the content of the Philosophy of Religion. We look at this content, however, from the point of view of rational thought, and this concerns the form, and brings us to consider the position of the Philosophy of Religion with regard to religion as this latter appears in the shape of positive religion.
It is well known that the faith of the Church, more especially of the Protestant Church, has taken a fixed form as a system of doctrine. This content has been universally accepted as truth; and as the description of what God is, and of what man is in relation to God, it has been called the Creed, that is, in the subjective sense that which is believed, and objectively, what is to be known as content, in the Christian Church, and what God has revealed Himself to be. Now as universal established doctrine this content is partly laid down in the Apostolic Symbolum or Apostles’ Creed, partly in later symbolical books. And moreover, in the Protestant Church the Bible has always been characterised as the essential foundation of doctrine.
a. Accordingly, in the apprehension and determination of the content of doctrine, the influence of reason, as “argumentation” has made itself felt. At first indeed, this was so much the case that the doctrinal content, and the Bible as its positive foundation, were to remain unquestioned, and thought was only to take up the thoughts of the Bible as Exegesis. But as a matter of fact understanding had previously established its opinions and its thoughts for itself, and then attention was directed towards observing how the words of Scripture could be explained in accordance with these. The words of the Bible are a statement of truth which is not systematic; they are Christianity as it appeared in the beginning; it is Spirit which grasps the content, which unfolds its meaning. This exegesis having thus taken counsel with reason, the result has been that a so-called Theology of Reason has now come into existence, which is put in opposition to that doctrinal system of the Church, partly by this theology itself, and partly by that doctrinal system to which it is opposed. At the same time, exegesis takes possession of the written word, interprets it, and pretends only to lay stress on the understanding of the word, and to desire to remain faithful to it.
But whether it be chiefly to save appearances, or whether it is really and in downright earnest that the Bible is made the foundation, it is inherent in the very nature of any explanation which interprets, that thought should have its part in it. Thought explicitly contains categories, principles, premises, which must make their influence felt in the work of interpretation. If interpretation be not mere explanation of words but explanation of the sense, the thoughts of the interpreter must necessarily be put into the words which constitute the foundation. Mere word-interpretation can only amount to this, that for one word another coextensive in meaning is substituted; but in the course of explanation further categories of thought are combined with it. For a development is advance to further thoughts. In appearance the sense is adhered to, but in reality further thoughts are developed. Commentaries on the Bible do not so much make us acquainted with the content of the Scriptures, as rather with the manner in which things were conceived in the age in which they were written. It is, indeed, the sense contained in the words which is supposed to be given. The giving of the sense means, however, the bringing forward of the sense into consciousness, into the region of ideas; and these ideas, which get determinate character elsewhere, then assert their influence in the exposition of the sense supposed to be contained in the words. It is the case even in the presentation of a philosophical system which is already fully developed, as, for example, that of Plato or of Aristotle, that the presentation takes a different form, according to the definite kind of idea which those who undertake thus to expound it have already formed themselves. Accordingly, the most contradictory meanings have been exegetically demonstrated by means of Theology out of the Scriptures, and thus the so-called Holy Scriptures have been made into a nose of wax. All heresies have, in common with the Church, appealed to the Scriptures.
b. The Theology of Reason, which thus came into existence, did not, however, limit itself to being merely an exegesis which kept to the Bible as its foundation, but in its character as free, rational knowledge assumed a certain relation to religion and its content generally. In this more general relation the dealing with the subject and the result can amount to nothing more than to the taking possession by such knowledge of all that, in religion, has a determinate character. For the doctrine concerning God goes on to that of the characteristics, the attributes, and the actions of God. Such knowledge takes possession of this determinate content, and would make it appear that it belongs to it. It, on the one hand, conceives of the Infinite in its own finite fashion, as something which has a determinate character, as an abstract infinite, and then on the other hand finds that all special attributes are inadequate to this Infinite. By such a mode of proceeding the religious content is annihilated, and the absolute object reduced to complete poverty. The finite and determinate which this knowledge has drawn into its territory, points indeed to a Beyond as existing for it, but even this Beyond is conceived of by it in a finite manner, as an abstract, supreme Being possessing no character at all. Enlightenment — which is that consummation of finite knowledge just described — intends to place God very high when it speaks of Him as the Infinite with regard to which all predicates are inadequate, and are unwarranted anthropomorphisms. In reality, however, it has, in conceiving God as the supreme Being, made Him hollow, empty, and poor.
c. If it should now seem as if the Philosophy of Religion rested on the same basis as this Theology of Reason, or Theology of Enlightenment, and was consequently in the same condition of opposition to the content, of religion, further reflection shows that this is merely an appearance of resemblance which vanishes directly it is examined into.
(a.) For God was conceived by that rationalistic way of looking at religion, which was only the abstract metaphysic of the understanding, as an abstraction which is empty ideality, and as against which the finite stands in an external fashion, and thus too from this point of view morals constituted, as a special science, the knowledge of that which was held to belong to the actual subject as regards general actions and conduct. The fact of the relation of man to God, which represents the one side, occupied a separate and independent position. Thinking reason, on the contrary, which is no longer abstract, but which sets out from the faith of man in the dignity of his spirit, and is actuated by the courage of truth and freedom, grasps the truth as something concrete as fullness of content, as Ideality, in which determinateness — the finite — is contained as a moment. Therefore, to thinking reason, God is not emptiness, but Spirit; and this characteristic of Spirit does not remain for it a word only, or a superficial characteristic; on the contrary, the nature of Spirit unfolds itself for rational thought, inasmuch as it apprehends God as essentially the Triune God. Thus God is conceived of as making Himself an object to Himself, and further, the object remains in this distinction in identity with God; in it God loves Himself. Without this characteristic of Trinity, God would not be Spirit, and Spirit would be an empty word. But if God be conceived as Spirit, then this conception includes the subjective side in itself or even develops itself so as to reach to that side, and the Philosophy of Religion, as the contemplation of religion by thought, binds together again the determinate content of religion in its entirety.
(b.) With regard, however, to that form of contemplation in thought, which adheres to the words of Holy Scripture, and asserts that it explains them by the aid of reason, it is only in appearance that the Philosophy of Religion stands on the same basis with it. For that kind of contemplation by its own sovereign power lays down its argumentations as the foundation of Christian doctrine; and although it still leaves the Biblical words standing, yet the particular meaning remains as the principal determination, and to this the assumed Biblical truth must subordinate itself. This argumentation accordingly retains its assumptions, and moves within the relations of the Understanding, which below, to Reflection, without subjecting these to criticism. But the Philosophy of Religion, as being rational knowledge, is opposed to the arbitrariness of this argumentative process, and is the Reason of the Universal, which presses forward to unity.
Philosophy is therefore very far removed from being on the common highway on which this Theology of Reason and this exegetical argumentative process move, the truth rather being that it is these tendencies chiefly which combat it, and seek to bring, it under suspicion. They protest against philosophy, but only in order to reserve to themselves the arbitrariness of their argumentative process. Philosophy is called something special and particular, although it is nothing else than rational, truly universal thought. Philosophy is regarded as a something ghostly, of which we know nothing and about which there is something uncanny; but this idea only shows that these rationalistic theologians find it more convenient to keep to their unregulated arbitrary reflections, to which philosophy attaches no validity. If, then, those theologians, who busy themselves with their argumentations in exegesis, and — appeal to the Bible in connection with all their notions, when they deny as against philosophy the possibility of knowledge, have brought matters to such a pass, and have so greatly depreciated the reputation of the Bible, that if the truth were as they say, and if according to the true explanation of the Bible no knowledge of the nature of God were possible, — the spirit would be compelled to look for another source in order to acquire such truth as should be substantial or full of content.
(g.) The Philosophy of Religion cannot, therefore, in the fashion of that metaphysic of the Understanding and exegesis of inferences, put itself in opposition to positive religion, and to such doctrine of the Church as has still preserved its content. On the contrary, it will become apparent that it stands infinitely nearer to positive doctrine than it seems at first sight to do. Indeed, the re-establishment of the doctrines of the Church, reduced to a minimum by the Understanding, is so truly the work of philosophy, that it is decried by that so-called Theology of Reason, which is merely a Theology of the Understanding, as a darkening of the mind, and this just because of the true content possessed by it. The fears of the Understanding, and its hatred of philosophy, arise from a feeling of apprehension, based on the fact that it perceives how philosophy carries back its reflecting process to its foundation, that is, to the affirmative in which it perishes, and yet that philosophy arrives at a content, and at a knowledge of the nature of God, after all content seemed to be already done away with. Every content appears to this negative tendency to be a darkening of the mind, its only desire being to continue in that nocturnal darkness which it calls enlightenment, and hence the rays of the light of knowledge must be necessarily regarded by it as hostile. It is sufficient here merely to observe regarding the supposed opposition of the Philosophy of Religion and positive religion, that there cannot be two kinds of reason and two kinds of Spirit; there cannot be a Divine reason and a human, there cannot be a Divine Spirit and a human, which are absolutely different. Human reason — the consciousness of one’s being is indeed reason; it is the divine in man, and Spirit, in so far as it is the Spirit of God, is not a spirit beyond the stars, beyond the world. On the contrary, God is present, omnipresent, and exists as Spirit in all spirits. God is a living God, who is acting and working. Religion is a product of the Divine Spirit; it is not a discovery of man, but a work of divine operation and creation in him. The expression that God as reason rules the world, would be irrational if we did not assume that it has reference also to religion, and that the Divine Spirit works in the special character and form assumed by religion. But the development of reason as perfected in thought does not stand in opposition to this Spirit, and consequently it cannot be absolutely different from the work which the Divine Spirit has produced in religion. The more a man in thinking rationally lets the true thing or fact itself hold sway with him, renounces his particularity, acts as universal consciousness, while his reason does not seek its own in the sense of something special, the less will he as the embodiment of this reason, get into that condition of opposition; for it, namely, reason, is itself the essential fact or thing, the spirit, the Divine Spirit. The Church or the theologians may disdain this aid, or may take it amiss when their doctrine is made reasonable; they may even repel the exertions of philosophy with proud irony, though these are not directed in a hostile spirit against religion, but, on the contrary, seek to fathom its truth; and they may ridicule the “manufactured truth” but this scorn is no longer of any avail, and is, in fact, idle when once the need of true rational knowledge, and the sense of discord between it and religion, have been awakened. The intelligence has here its rights, which can in no way be longer denied to it, and the triumph of knowledge is the reconciliation of the opposition.
Although then, philosophy, as the Philosophy of Religion is so very different from those tendencies of the understanding, which are at bottom hostile to religion, and is in no way such a spectral thing as it has usually been represented to be, yet even at the present day we still see the belief in the absolute opposition between philosophy and religion made one of the shibboleths of the time. All those principles of the religious consciousness which have been developed at the present time, however widely distinguished their forms may be from one another, yet agree in this, that they are at enmity with philosophy, and endeavour at all hazards to prevent it from occupying itself with religion; and the work that now lies before us is to consider philosophy in its relation to these principles of the time. From this consideration of the subject we may confidently promise ourselves success, all the more that it will become apparent how, in presence of all that enmity which is shown to philosophy, from however many sides it way come — indeed, it comes from almost every side of consciousness in its present form — the time has nevertheless arrived when philosophy can, partly in an unprejudiced and partly in a favourable and successful manner, occupy itself with religion. For the opposition takes one or other of those forms of the divided consciousness which we considered above. They occupy partly the standpoint of the metaphysic of the Understanding, for which God is emptiness, and content has vanished, partly the standpoint of feeling, which after the loss of absolute content has withdrawn itself into its empty subjectivity, but is in accord with that metaphysic in coming to the result that every characterisation is inadequate to the eternal content — for this indeed is only an abstraction. Or we may even see that the assertions of the opponents of philosophy contain nothing else than what philosophy itself contains as its principle, and as the foundation of its principle. This contradiction, namely, that the opponents of philosophy are the opponents of religion who have been overcome by it, and that they yet implicitly possess the principle of philosophical knowledge in their reflections, has its foundation in this, that they represent the historical element out of which philosophical thought in its complete shape has been formed.
If at the present day philosophy is an object of enmity because it occupies itself with religion, this cannot really surprise us when we consider the general character of the time. Every one who attempts to take to do with the knowledge of God, and by the aid of thought to comprehend His nature, must be prepared to find, that either no attention will be paid to him, or that people will turn against him and combine to oppose him.
The more the knowledge of finite things has increased — and the increase is so great that the extension of the sciences has become almost boundless, and all regions of knowledge are enlarged to an extent which makes a comprehensive view impossible — so much the more has our sphere of the knowledge of God become contracted. There was a time when all knowledge was knowledge of God. Our own time, on the contrary, has the distinction of knowing about all and everything, about an infinite number of subjects, but nothing at all of God. Formerly the mind found its supreme interest in knowing God, and searching into His nature. It had found no rest unless in thus occupying itself with God. When it could not satisfy this need it felt unhappy. The spiritual conflicts to which the knowledge of God gives rise in the inner life were the highest which the spirit knew and experienced in itself, and all other interests and knowledge were lightly esteemed. Our own time has put this need, with all its toils and conflicts, to silence; we have done with all this, and got rid of it. What Tacitus said of the ancient Germans, that they were securi adversus deos, we have once more become in regard to knowledge, securi adversus deum. It no longer gives our age any concern that it knows nothing of God; on the contrary, it is regarded as a mark of the highest intelligence to hold that such knowledge is not even possible. What is laid down by the Christian religion as the supreme, absolute commandment, “Ye shall know God” is regarded as a piece of folly. Christ says, “Be ye perfect, as My Father in heaven is perfect.” This lofty demand is to the wisdom of our time an empty sound. It has made of God an infinite phantom, which is far from us, and in like manner has made human knowledge a futile phantom of finiteness, or a mirror upon which fall only shadows, only phenomena. How, then, are we any longer to respect the commandment, and grasp its meaning when it says to us, “Be ye perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect,” since we know nothing of the Perfect One, and since our knowing and willing are confined solely and entirely to appearance, and the truth is to be and to remain absolutely and exclusively a something beyond the present? And what, we must further ask, what else would it be worthwhile to comprehend, if God is incomprehensible?
This standpoint must, judged by its content, be considered as the last stage of the degradation of man, in which at the same time he is, it is true, all the more arrogant inasmuch as he thinks he has proved to himself that this degradation is the highest possible state, and is his true destiny. Such a point of view is, indeed, directly opposed to the lofty nature of the Christian religion, for according to this we ought to know God, His nature, and His essential Being and to esteem this knowledge as something which is the highest of all. (The distinction as to whether this knowledge is brought to us by means of faith, authority, revelation, or reason, is here of no importance.) But although this is the case, and although this point of view has come to dispense both with the content which revelation gives of the Divine nature, and with what belongs to reason, yet it has not shrunk, after all its abject gropings, in that blind arrogance which is proper to it, from turning against philosophy. And yet it is philosophy which is the liberation of the spirit from that shameful degradation, and which has once more brought religion out of the stage of intense suffering which it had to experience when occupying the standpoint referred to. Even the theologians, who are on their own round in that region of vanity, have ventured to charge philosophy with its destructive tendency — theologians who have no longer anything left of that substantial element which could possibly be destroyed.
In order to repel these not merely groundless, but, what is more, frivolous and unprincipled objections, we need only observe cursorily how theologians have, on the contrary, done everything in their power to do away with what is definite in religion, in that they have (1) thrust dogmas into the background, or pronounced them to be unimportant; or (2) consider them only as extraneous definitions given by others, and as mere phenomena of a past history. When we have reflected in this manner upon the aspect presented by the content, and have seen how this last is re-established by philosophy, and placed in safety from all devastations of theology, we shall (3) reflect upon the form of that standpoint, and shall see here how the tendency which, taking its departure from the form, is at enmity with philosophy, is so ignorant of what it is, that it does not even know that it contains in itself the very principle of philosophy.
If, then, it be made a reproach to philosophy in its relation to religion that the content of the doctrine of revealed positive religion, and more expressly of the Christian religion, is depreciated by it, and that it subverts and destroys its dogmas, yet this hindrance is taken out of the way, and by the new theology itself, in fact. There are very few dogmas of the earlier system of Church confessions left which have any longer the importance formerly attributed to them, and in their place no other dogmas have been set up. It is easy to convince oneself, by considering what is the real value now attached to ecclesiastical dogmas, that into the religious world generally there has entered a widespread, almost universal, indifference towards what in earlier times were held to be essential doctrines of the faith. A few examples will prove this.
Christ still indeed continues to be made the central point of faith, as Mediator, Reconciler, and Redeemer; but what was known as the work of redemption has received a very prosaic and merely psychological signification, so that although the edifying words have been retained, the very thing that was essential in the old doctrine of the Church has been expunged.
“Great energy of character, steadfast adherence to conviction for the sake of which He regarded not His life” — these are the common categories through which Christ is brought down, not indeed to the plane of ordinary everyday life, but to that of human action in general and moral designs, and into a moral sphere into which even heathens like Socrates were capable of entering. Even though Christ be for many the central point of faith and devotion in the deeper sense, yet Christian life as a whole restricts itself to this devotional bent, and the weighty doctrines of the Trinity, of the resurrection of the body, as also the miracles in the Old and New Testaments, are neglected as matters of indifference, and have lost their importance. The divinity of Christ, dogma what is peculiar to the Christian religion is set aside, or else reduced to something of merely general nature. It is not only by “enlightenment” that Christianity has been thus treated, but even by pious theologians themselves. These latter join with the men of enlightenment in saying that the Trinity was brought into Christian doctrine by the Alexandrian school, by the neo-Platonists. But even if it must be conceded that the fathers of the Church studied Greek philosophy, it is in the first instance a matter of no importance whence that doctrine may have come; the only question is, whether it be essentially, inherently, true; but that is a point which is not examined into, and yet that doctrine is the key-note of the Christian religion.
If an opportunity was given to a large number of these theologians to lay their hand on their heart, and say whether they consider faith in the Trinity to be indispensably necessary to salvation, and whether they believe that the absence of such faith leads to damnation, there can be no doubt what the answer would be.
Even the words eternal happiness and eternal damnation are such as cannot be used in good society; such expressions are regarded as arrhta, as words which one shrinks from uttering. Even although a man should not wish to deny these doctrines, he would, in case of his being directly appealed to, find it very difficult to express himself in an affirmative way.
In the doctrinal teaching of these theologians, it will be found that dogmas have become very thin and shrunken, although they are talked about a great deal. If any one were to take a number of religious books, or collections of sermons, in which the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion are supposed to be set forth, and attempt to sift the greater part of those writings conscientiously in order to ascertain whether, in a large proportion of such literature, the fundamental doctrines of Christianity are to be found contained and stated in the orthodox sense, without ambiguity or evasion, the answer is again not a doubtful one.
It would appear that the theologians themselves, in accordance with the general training which most of them have received, only attribute that importance which they formerly assigned to the principle and doctrines of positive Christianity — when these were still regarded as such — to these doctrines when they are veiled in a misty indefiniteness. Thus if philosophy has always been regarded as the opponent of the doctrines of the Church, it cannot any longer be such, since these doctrines, which it seemed to threaten with destruction, are no longer regarded by general conviction as of importance. A great part of the danger which threatens philosophy from this side when she considers these dogmas in order to comprehend them ought to be thus taken away, and so philosophy can take up a more untrammelled attitude with regard to dogmas which have so much sunk in interest with theologians themselves.
The strongest indication, however, that the importance of these dogmas has declined, is to be perceived in the fact that they are treated principally in an historical manner, and are regarded in the light of convictions which belong to others, as matters of history, which do not go on in our own mind as such, and which do not concern the needs of our spirit. The real interest here is to find out how the matter stands so far as others are concerned, what part others have played, and centres in this accidental origin and appearance of doctrine. The question as to what is a man’s own personal conviction only excites astonishment. The absolute manner of the origin of these doctrines out of the depths of Spirit, and thus the necessity, the truth, which they have for our spirits too, is shoved on one side by this historical treatment. It brings much zeal and erudition to bear on these doctrines it is not with their essential substance, however, that it is occupied, but with the externalities of the controversies about them, and with the passions which have gathered around this external mode of the origin of truth. Thus Theology is by her own act put in a low enough position. If the philosophical knowledge of religion is conceived of as something to be reached historically only, then we should have to regard the theologians who have brought it to this point as clerks in a mercantile house, who have only to keep an account of the wealth of strangers, who only act for others without obtaining any property for themselves. They do, indeed, receive salary, but their reward is only to serve, and to register that which is the property of others. Theology of this kind has no longer a place at all in the domain of thought; it has no longer to do with infinite thought in and for itself, but only with it as a finite fact, as opinion, ordinary thought, and so on. History occupies itself with truths which were truths — namely, for others, not with such as would come to be the possession of those who are occupied with them. With the true content, with the knowledge of God, such theologians have no concern. They know as little of God as a blind man sees of a painting, even though he handles the frame. They only know how a certain dogma was established by this or that council; what grounds those present at such a council had for establishing it, and how this or that opinion came to predominate. And in all this, it is indeed religion that is in question, and yet it is not religion itself which here comes under consideration. Much is told us of the history of the painter of the picture, and of the fate of the picture itself, what price it had at different times, into what hands it came, but we are never permitted to see anything of the picture itself.
It is essential in philosophy and religion, however, that the spirit should itself enter with supreme interest into an inner relation, should not only occupy itself with a thing that is foreign to it, but should draw its content from that which is essential, and should regard itself as worthy of such knowledge. For here it is with the value of his own spirit that man is concerned, and he is not at liberty humbly to remain outside and to wander about at a distance.
In consequence of the emptiness of the standpoint just considered, it might appear as if we only mentioned the reproaches which it casts upon philosophy in order to pronounce expressly against such a point of view, and that our aim, which we do not relinquish, is to do the opposite of that which it holds to be the highest of all aims — namely, to know God. Yet this standpoint has an aspect belonging to its form in which it must really have a rational interest for us, and regarded from this side, the recent attitude of theology is more favourable for philosophy. For with the thought that all objective determinateness has converged in the inwardness of subjectivity, the conviction is bound up that God gives revelation in an immediate way in man; that religion consists just in this, that man has immediate knowledge of God. This immediate knowing is called reason, and also faith, but in a sense other than that in which the Church takes faith.
All knowledge, all conviction, all piety, regarded from the point of view which we are considering, is based on the principle that in the spirit, as such, the consciousness of God exists immediately with the consciousness of its self.
a. This statement taken in a direct sense, and as not implying that any polemical attitude has been taken up to philosophy, passes for one which needs no proof, no confirmation. This universal idea, which is now matter of assumption, contains this essential principle — namely, that the highest, the religious content shows itself in the spirit itself, that Spirit manifests itself in Spirit, and in fact in this my spirit, that this faith has its source, its root in my deepest personal being, and that it is what is most peculiarly my own, and as such is inseparable from the consciousness of pure spirit.
Inasmuch as this knowledge exists immediately in myself, all external authority, all foreign attestation is cast aside; what is to be of value to me must have its verification in my own spirit, and in order that I may believe I must have the witness of my spirit. It may indeed come to me from without, but any such external origin is a matter of indifference; if it is to be valid, this validity can only build itself up upon the foundation of all truth, in the witness of the Spirit.
This principle is the simple principle of philosophical knowledge itself, and philosophy is so far from rejecting it that it constitutes a fundamental characteristic in it itself. Thus it is to be regarded as a gain, a kind of happy circumstance, that fundamental principles of philosophy live even in general popular conceptions, and have become general assumptions, for in this way the philosophical principle may expect the more easily to obtain the general consent of the educated. As a result of this general disposition of the spirit of our time, philosophy has not only won a position which is externally favourable — with what is external it is never concerned, and least of all where it, and active interest in it, takes the form of an institution of the State — but is favoured inwardly, since its principle already lives in the minds and in the hearts of men as an assumption. For philosophy has this in common with the form of culture referred to, that reason is regarded as that part of the spirit in which God reveals himself to man.
b. But the principle of immediate knowledge does not rest satisfied with this simple determinateness, this natural and ingenuous content; it does not only express itself affirmatively, but takes up a directly polemical attitude to philosophical knowledge, and directs its attacks especially against the philosophical knowledge and comprehension of God. Not only does it teach that we are to believe and to know in an immediate manner, not only is it maintained that the consciousness of God is bound up with the consciousness of self, but that the relation to God is only an immediate one. The immediateness of the connection is taken as excluding the other characteristic of mediateness, and philosophy, because it is mediated knowledge, is said to be only a finite knowledge of that which is finite.
Thus this knowledge in its immediacy is to get no further than this, that we know that God is, but not what He is — the content, the filling up of the idea of God, is negated. By philosophical knowledge or cognition, we mean not only that we know that an object is, but also what it is; and that to know what it is, is not to know it to the extent of possessing a certain knowledge, certainty, of what it is; but more than this, this knowledge must relate to its characteristics, to its content, and it must be complete and full and proved knowledge, in which the necessary connection of these characteristics is a matter of knowledge.
If we consider more closely what is involved in the assertion of immediate knowledge, it is seen to mean that the consciousness so relates itself to its content that it itself and this content — God — are inseparable. It is this relation, in fact — knowledge of God — and this inseparableness of consciousness from this content, which we call religion. Further, however, it is of the essence of this assertion that we are to limit ourselves to the consideration of religion as such, and to keep strictly to the consideration of the relation to God, and are not to proceed to the knowledge of God, that is, of the divine content — of what the divine content essentially is in itself.
In this sense it is stated, further, that we can only know our relation to God, not what God Himself is; and that it is only our relation to God which is embraced in what is generally called religion. Thus it happens that at the present time we only hear religion spoken of, and do not find that investigation is made regarding the nature of God, what He is in Himself, and how the nature of God must be determined. God, as God, is not even made an object of thought; knowledge does not touch upon that object, and does not exhibit distinct attributes in Him, so as to make it possible that He Himself should be conceived of as constituting the relation of these attributes, and as relation in Himself. God is not before us as an object of knowledge, but only our relation with God, our relation to Him; and while discussions of the nature of God have become fewer and fewer, it is now only required of a man that he should be religious, that he should abide by religion, and we are told that we are not to proceed further to get a knowledge of any divine content.
c. If, however, we bring out what is inherent in the principle of immediate knowing, that is, what is directly affirmed in it, we find it to be just this, that God is spoken of in relation to consciousness in such a way that this relation is something inseparable, or, in other words, that we must of necessity contemplate both. It implies, in the first place, the essential distinction which the conception of religion contains; on the one side, subjective consciousness, and on the other, God recognised as Object in Himself, or implicitly. At the same time, however, it is stated that there is an essential relation between the two, and that it is this inseparable relation of religion which is the real point, and not the notions which one may have concerning God.
What is really contained in this position, and really constitutes its true kernel, is the philosophical Idea itself, only that this Idea is confined by immediate knowledge within limitations which are abolished by philosophy, and which are by it exhibited in their onesidedness and untruth. According to the philosophical conception, God is Spirit, is concrete; and if we inquire more closely what Spirit is, we find that the whole of religious doctrine consists in the development of the fundamental conception of Spirit. For the present, however, it may suffice to say that Spirit is essentially self-manifestation — its nature is to be for Spirit. Spirit is for Spirit, and not, be it observed, only in an external, accidental manner. On the contrary, Spirit is only Spirit in so far as it is for Spirit; this constitutes the conception or notion of Spirit itself. Or, to express it more theologically, God is essentially Spirit, so far as He is in His Church. It has been said that the world, the material universe, must have spectators, and must be for Spirit or mind; how much more, then, must God be for Spirit.
We cannot, consequently, view the matter in a onesided way, and consider the subject merely according to its finiteness, to its contingent life, but inasmuch too as it has the infinite absolute object as its content. For if the Subject be considered by itself, it is considered within the limits of finite knowledge, of knowledge which concerns the finite. It is also maintained, on the other hand, that God, in like manner, must not be considered for Himself, for man only knows of God in relation to consciousness; and thus the unity and inseparability of the two determinations — of the knowledge of God and self-consciousness — even presupposes what is expressed in identity, and that dreaded identity itself is contained in it.
As a matter of fact, we thus find the fundamental conception which belongs to philosophy already existing as an universal element in the cultured thought of the present day. And here it becomes apparent, too, that philosophy does not stand above its age as if it were something absolutely different from the general character of the time, but that it is One Spirit which pervades both the actual world and philosophical thought, and that this last is only the true self-comprehension of what is actual. Or, in other words, it is one movement upon which both the age and its philosophy are borne, the distinction being only that the character of the time still appears to present itself as accidental, and is not rationally justified, and may thus even stand in an unreconciled, hostile attitude towards the truly essential content; while philosophy, as the justification of principles, is at the same time the universal peace-bringer and universal reconciliation. As the Lutheran Reformation carried faith back to the first centuries, so the principle of immediate knowledge has carried Christian knowledge back to the primary elements. If, however, this process at first causes the essential content to evaporate, yet it is philosophy which recognises this very principle of immediate knowledge as representing content, and as being such carries it forward to its true expansion within itself.
The want of sound sense which marks the arguments advanced against philosophy knows no bounds. The very opinions which are supposed by those who hold them to militate against philosophy, and to be in the sharpest antagonism to it, upon examination of their content exhibit essential agreement with that which they combat. Thus the result of the study of philosophy is that these walls of separation, which are supposed to divide absolutely, become transparent; and that when we go to the root of things we find that there is absolute accordance where it was believed that there was the greatest opposition.
B. Preliminary Questions
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