Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion
There can be but one method in all science, since the method is the self-unfolding Notion (Begriff) and nothing else, and this latter is only one.
In accordance, therefore, with the moments of the Notion, the exposition and development of religion will be presented in three parts. In the first place, the notion or conception of religion will be considered in its universal aspect; then, secondly, in its particular form as the self-dividing and self-differentiating, notion, that is, under the aspect of judgment, [Ur-theil = separation of subject from predicate] of limitation, of difference, and of finiteness; and thirdly, we shall consider the notion, which encloses itself within itself, the syllogism, or the return of the notion to itself out of the particularity in which it is unequal to itself, so that it arrives at equality with its form, and does away with its limitation. This is the rhythm, the pure eternal life of Spirit itself; and had it not this movement, it would be something dead. It is of the essential nature of Spirit to have itself as object, and thence arises its manifestation. But here Spirit is to begin with in the relation of objectivity, and in this relation it is something finite. The third stage is reached when it is object to itself in such a way that it reconciles itself with itself in the object, is “with itself,” and in being so has attained its freedom. For freedom means to be self-contained, or at home with oneself.
But this rhythm, within which our science as a whole, and the entire development of the Notion moves, reappears in each of the three moments specified, since each of these is potentially totality in its determinateness, until this totality is made explicit as such in the final moment. Therefore, when the Notion first appears in the form of Universality, then in the form of Particularity, and lastly, in the form of Singularity, or when the movement of our science as a whole is that in which the Notion becomes judgment, and completes itself in the syllogism, in every sphere of this movement the same development of the moments will show itself, only that in the first sphere it is held together within the determinate character of universality, in the second sphere within that of particularity, where it exhibits the moments independently, and it is only on arriving at the sphere of individuality that it returns to the real syllogism, which mediates itself in the totality of determinations.
Such, then, is the division of the subject, representing the movement, nature, and action of Spirit itself, of which we, so to speak, are only spectators. It is necessitated by the Notion; the necessity of the progression has, however, to present, explicate, prove itself in the development itself. The division, the different parts and content of which we shall now indicate in a more definite way, is therefore simply historical.
What comes first is the notion in its universal aspect, what follows in the second place is the determinateness of the notion, the notion in its definite forms; these are indissolubly united with the notion itself, for in the philosophical mode of treatment it is not the case that the Universal, the Notion, is put into prominence, to do it honour, as it were. There are indeed notions or conceptions of Right and of Nature which are general definitions, and which are given a prominent place, and as to which there is to tell the truth room for doubt.
These are not, however, taken seriously, and so we feel that it is not these that are of importance, but the particular content itself, the particular subjects. What is in this connection called the notion, has no further influence upon this content beyond pointing out in a general way what is the ground upon which we stand in dealing with these subjects, and preventing the introduction of content from any other sphere. The content, for example, magnetism, electricity, answers to the subject-matter itself, [Sache] the notion to the formal element. The conception or notion which is placed in the foreground (as, for example, that of Right) may, however, in connection with such a mode of considering the subject, become a mere name for the most abstract, uncertain content.
For the philosophical way of looking at things, too, the notion occupies the first place, but here the notion is the content itself, the absolute subject-matter, the substance, as in the case of the germ, out of which the whole tree develops itself. All specifications or determinations are contained in this, the whole nature of the tree, the kind of sap it has, the way in which the branches grow; but in a spiritual manner, and not pre-formed so that a microscope could reveal its boughs, its leaves, in miniature. It is thus that the notion contains the whole nature of the object, and knowledge itself is nothing else than the development of the notion, of that which is implicitly contained in the notion, and has not yet come into existence, has not been unfolded, displayed. Thus we begin with the notion or conception of religion.
In the notion or conception of religion the purely universal, again, does indeed take the first place; that is, the moment of thought in its complete universality.
It is not this or that that is thought, but Thought thinks itself. The object is the Universal, which, as active, is Thought. As the act of rising-up to the True, religion is a departing from sensuous, finite objects. If this becomes merely an advance to all “Other,” it is the false progressive process ad infinitum, and is that kind of talk which does not act out of thought. Thought, however, is a rising up from the limited to the absolutely Universal, and religion is only through thought, and in thought. God is not the highest emotion, but the highest Thought. Although He is lowered down to popular conception, yet the content of this conception belongs to the realm of thought. The opinion that thought is injurious to religion, and that the more thought is abandoned the more secure the position of religion is, is the maddest error of our time. This misunderstanding originates in a fundamental misconception of the higher spiritual relations. Thus in regard to Right, good-will for itself (or as an independent motive) is taken as something which stands in contrast to intelligence, and men are given the more credit for true good-will the less they think. Right and morality, on the contrary, consist in this alone, that I am a thinking being; that is to say, in the fact that I do not look upon my freedom as that of my empirical personality, which belongs to me as this individual, and in which I might subjugate my neighbour by means of stratagem or force, but in my regarding freedom as something that has its being in and for itself, or exists on its own account, that is, as something Universal.
If we now say that religion has the moment of thought in its complete Universality in itself, and that the Unlimited Universal is supreme absolute Thought, we do not as yet make the distinction here between subjective and objective Thought. The Universal is object, and is thought pure and simple, but not as yet thought developed and made determinate in itself. All distinctions are as yet absent, and exist potentially only. In this ether of thought all that is finite has passed away, everything has disappeared, while at the same time everything is included in it. But this element of the Universal has not as yet taken those more explicit forms. Out of this liquid element, and in this transparency, nothing has as yet fashioned itself into distinct shape.
Sow the further advance consists in this, that this Universal determines itself for itself, and this self-determination constitutes the development of the Idea of God. In the sphere of Universality the Idea itself is, to begin with, the material of determination, and the progress is revealed in divine figures, but as yet the second element — form — is retained in the divine Idea, which is still in its substantiality, and under the character of eternity it remains in the bosom of the Universal.
The particularisation, therefore, which is as yet retained in the sphere of the Universal, when it actually manifests itself outwardly as such, constitutes the Other as against the extreme of Universality, and this other extreme is consciousness in its individuality as such. It is the subject in its immediacy, and with its needs, conditions, sins — in fact, in its wholly empirical, temporal character.
In religion, I am myself the relation of the two sides as thus determined. I who think, who am that which lifts myself up, the active Universal, and Ego, the immediate subject, are one and the same “I.” And further, the relation of these two sides which are so sharply opposed — the absolutely finite consciousness and being on the one hand, and the infinite on the other — exists in religion for me. In thinking I lift myself up to the Absolute above all that is finite, and am infinite consciousness, while I am at the same time finite consciousness, and indeed am such in accordance with my whole empirical character. Both sides, as well as their relation, exist for me. Both sides seek each other, and both flee from each other. At one time, for example, I accentuate my empirical, finite consciousness, and place myself in opposition to infiniteness; at another I exclude myself from myself, condemn myself, and give the preponderance to the infinite consciousness. The middle term contains nothing else than the characteristics of both the extremes. They are not pillars of Hercules, which confront each other sharply. I am, and it is in myself and for myself that this conflict and this conciliation take place. In myself, I as infinite am against or in contrast with myself as finite, and as finite consciousness I stand over against my thought as infinite. I am the feeling, the perception, the idea alike of this unity and this conflict, and am what holds together the conflicting elements, the effort put forth in this act of holding together, and represent the labour of heart and soul to obtain the mastery over this opposition.
I am thus the relation of these two sides, which are not abstract determinations, as “finite and infinite.” On the contrary, each is itself totality. Each of the two extremes is itself “I,” what relates them; and the holding together, the relating is itself this which is at once in conflict with itself, and brings itself to unity in the conflict. Or, to put it differently, I am the conflict, for the conflict is just this antagonism, which is not any indifference of the two as different, but is their being bound together. I am not one of those taking part in the strife, but I am both the combatants, and am the strife itself. I am the fire and the water which touch each other, and am the contact and union of what flies apart, and this very contact itself is this double, essentially conflicting relation, as the relation of what is now separated, severed, and now reconciled and in unity with itself.
As representing the forms of the relation of the two extremes, we shall make ourselves acquainted with (1) Feeling; (2) Sense-perception [Anschauung]; (3) Idea [Vorstellung], or ordinary thought.
Before entering upon this subject, it will be necessary to get a knowledge of the entire sphere of these relations in its necessity, in so far as it contains, as elevation of the finite consciousness to the Absolute, the forms of religious consciousness. In investigating this necessity of religion, we are obliged to conceive religion as posited through what is other than itself.
In this mediation indeed, when it opens for us the way into the sphere of those forms of consciousness, religion will present itself already as a result which at once does away with itself as a result; consequently it will present itself as the primary thing, through which all is mediated, and on which all else depends. We shall thus see in what is mediated the counter-impact, the reciprocal action of the movement and of necessity, which both goes forwards and pushes backwards. But this mediation of necessity is now to be posited within religion itself too, so that in fact the relation and the essential connection of the two sides, which are comprised in the religious spirit, may be known as necessary.
The forms of feeling, of sense-perception, and of idea or mental representation, as they necessarily proceed one out of the other, are now forced of themselves into that sphere in which the inward mediation of their moments proves itself to be necessary, that is to say, into the sphere of thought in which religious consciousness will get a grasp of itself in its notion. These two mediations of necessity, therefore, of which one leads to religion and the other takes place within religious consciousness itself, comprise the forms of religious consciousness as it appears as feeling, sense-perception, and idea or ordinary thought.
The movement in the preceding sphere is just that of the notion of God, of the Idea, in becoming objective to itself. We have this movement before us in the language of ordinary thought, in the expression “God is a Spirit.” Spirit is not something having a single existence, but is Spirit only in being objective to itself, and in beholding itself in the “Other,” as itself. The highest characteristic of Spirit is self-consciousness, which includes this objectivity in itself. God, as Idea, is subjective for what is objective, and is objective for what is subjective. When the moment of subjectivity defines itself further, so that the distinction is made between God as Object and the knowing spirit, the subjective side defines itself in this distinction as that which belongs to the side of finiteness, and the two stand at first so contrasted, that the separation constitutes the antithesis of finiteness and infiniteness. This infinitude, however, being still encumbered with this opposition, is not the true infinitude; to the subjective side, which exists for itself, the absolute object remains still an Other, and the relation in which it stands to it is not self-consciousness. Such an attitude, however, also involves the relation which is expressed by saying that the finite knows itself as a nullity in its state of separation, and knows its object as the Absolute, as its Substance. And here the first attitude toward the absolute object is that of fear; for individuality knows itself as in regard to the absolute object only as accidental, or as something which is transient and vanishing. But this standpoint of separation is not the true relation. On the contrary, it is what knows itself to be a nullity, and, therefore, something which is to be done away with and absorbed and its attitude is not merely a negative one, but is in itself, or implicitly, positive. The subject recognises the absolute substance, in which it has to annul or lose itself, as being at the same time its essence, its substance, in which, therefore, self-consciousness is inherently contained. It is this unity, reconciliation, restoration of the subject and of its self-consciousness, the positive feeling of possessing a share in, of partaking in this Absolute, and making unity with it actually one’s own — this abolition of the dualism, which constitutes the sphere of worship. Worship comprises this entire inward and outward action, which has this restoration to unity as its object. The expression “worship” is usually taken merely in the limited sense in which it is understood to mean only outward public acts, and the inward action of the heart does not get so much prominence. We, however, shall conceive of worship as that action which includes both inwardness and outward manifestation, and which in fact produces restoration of unity with the Absolute, and in so doing is also essentially an inward conversion of the spirit and soul. Thus Christian worship does not only include the sacraments and the acts and duties pertaining to the Church, but it also includes the so-called “way of salvation” as a matter of absolutely inward history, and as a series of actions on the part of the inner life — in fact, a movement which goes forward in the soul, and has its right place there.
But we shall always find these two sides, that of self-consciousness, that is, of worship, and that of consciousness or of idea, corresponding with each other at every stage of religion. According as the content of the notion or conception of God or consciousness is determined, so too is the attitude of the subject to Him; or to put it otherwise, so too is self-consciousness in worship determined. The one moment is always a reflection or copy of the other, the one points to the other. Both modes, of which the one holds fast to objective consciousness only, and the other to pure self-consciousness, are one-sided, and each brings about its own abrogation.
It was, therefore, a one-sided view if the natural theology of former times looked upon God as Object of consciousness only. Such a mode of contemplating the Idea of God, although the words “Spirit” or “Person” might be made use of, could never in reality get beyond the idea of an Essence. It was inconsistent, for if actually carried out it must have led to the other, the subjective side, that of self-consciousness.
It is just as one-sided to conceive of religion as something subjective only, thus in fact making the subjective aspect the only one. So regarded, worship is absolutely bald and empty; its action is a movement which makes no advance, its attitude toward God a relation to a nullity, an aiming at nothing. But even this merely subjective action has inconsistency inherent in it, and must of necessity annul itself. For if the subjective side also is to be in any way determined or qualified, it is involved too in the very conception of Spirit, that it is consciousness, and that its determinate character becomes object to it. The richer the feeling, the more fully determined or specialised it is, the richer must the object be for it too. And further, the absoluteness of that feeling which is supposed to be substantial, would, in accordance with its very nature, require to get itself free from its subjectivity; for the substantial character which is supposed to belong to it, is specially directed against the accidental element of opinion and of inclination, is in fact something permanent and fixed in and for itself, independent of our feeling or experience. It is the Objective, what exists in and for itself. If this substantial element remains shut up in the heart only, it is not recognised as the something higher than ourselves, and God Himself becomes something merely subjective, while the efforts of subjectivity remain at the most, as it were a drawing of lines into empty space. For the recognition of a something higher than ourselves, which is capable too of being described, this recognition of One who is undefined, and these lines which are to be drawn in accordance with such recognition, possess no support, no connecting element, derived from what is objective, and are and remain merely our act, our lines, something subjective and the finite never attains to a true real renunciation of itself; while Spirit ought, on the contrary, in worship to liberate itself from its finiteness, and to feel and know itself in God. In the absence of that which is self-existent and commands our obedience, all worship shrinks up into subjectivity. Worship is essentially made up of dealings with and enjoyment of a something higher than ourselves, and includes assurances, evidences, and confirmation of the existence of this higher Being; but such definite dealings, such actual enjoying and assurances can have no place if the objective, obligatory moment be wanting to them, and worship would, in fact, be annihilated if the subjective side were taken to be the whole. The possibility of getting out of the subjective heart into action would thus be as much precluded as the possibility of consciousness attaining to objective knowledge. The one is connected in the closest manner with the other. What a man believes he has to do in relation to God, corresponds with the idea which he has formed of God. His consciousness of self answers to his consciousness, and conversely he cannot believe himself to have any definite duties toward God if he neither have nor suppose himself to have any definite idea of Him as an Object. Not until religion is really relation, and contains the distinction involved in consciousness, does worship attain to a definite form as the lifting up into a higher unity of the severed elements, and become a vital process. This movement of worship does not, however, confine itself to the inner life alone in which consciousness frees itself from its finiteness, is the consciousness of its essence, and the subject as knowing itself in God has penetrated into the foundation of its life. But this its infinite life now develops towards what is outside too, for the worldly life which the subject leads has that substantial consciousness as its basis, and the way and manner in which the subject defines its ends depends on the consciousness of its essential truth. It is in connection with this side that religion reflects itself into worldly or secular life, and that knowledge of the world shows itself. This going out into the actual world is essential to religion, and in this transition religion appears as morality in relation to the State and to the entire life of the State. According, as the religion of nations is constituted, so also is their morality and their government. The shape taken by these latter depends entirely on whether the conception of the freedom of Spirit which a people has reached is a limited one, or on whether the nation has the true consciousness of freedom.
The more definite characteristics of worship will be seen to be the moment of presupposed unity, the sphere of separation, and the freedom which re-establishes itself in the separation.
a. Worship is thus, in fact, the eternal process by which the subject posits itself as identical with its essential being.
This process of the cancelling of the dualism seems to belong to the subjective side only, but it is posited in the object of consciousness too. Through worship, unity is attained; what is not originally united, however, cannot be posited or made explicit as such. This unity, which appears as the act, the result of worship, must be recognised, too, as existing in and for itself. For what is object for consciousness is the Absolute, and its essential characteristic is that it is unity of its absoluteness with particularity. This unity is therefore in the object itself; for example, in the Christian conception of the Incarnation of God.
This self-existent unity, or, put more definitely, the human form, God’s becoming man, is in fact an essential moment of religion, and must necessarily appear in the definition of its object. In the Christian religion this characteristic is completely developed, but it occurs, too, in inferior religions, even if the only sign of it is that the infinite is seen in unity with the finite in such a way that it appears as this particular Being, as a definite immediate existence in stars or animals. Further, too, it must be observed here that it is only momentarily that God assumes a human or other form of existence, that He becomes externally manifest, or inwardly reveals Himself in a dream, or as an inward voice.
This is the moment of presupposed or hypothetical unity, which is essentially involved in the conception of God, and in such a way that the object of consciousness (God) exhibits the entire conception of religion in its content, and is itself totality. The moments of the conception of religion thus present themselves here in the character of unification. Each of the aspects or sides of the true Idea is itself the same totality which the whole is. The specific characteristics of content in the two sides are consequently not different in themselves, but only in their form. The absolute object therefore determines itself for consciousness as totality which is in unity with itself.
b. This totality now presents itself in the form of separation and of finiteness, which, as representing the other side, stands over against that totality which is in unity with itself. The moments of the content of the entire conception are here posited as separating themselves from one another, as differentiated, and consequently as abstract. The first moment on this side of differentiation is that of potentiality, the moment of Being which is in identity with itself, of formlessness, of objectivity, in fact. This is matter as representing what is indifferent or undifferentiated, as existence of which all parts are of equal value. Form may be introduced into it, but it remains still in a condition of abstract being for self. We then call it the World, which in relation to God appears partly as His garment, vesture, form, or as something in contrast with Himself.
Over against this moment of undifferentiated potential Being there now stands Being-for-self, the Negative in general, Form. This negative now appears, in its at first indeterminate form, as the negative element in the world, while the latter is the positive element, what subsists. The negativity which is opposed to this subsisting element, to this feeling of self, to this definite being, to this established existence, is Evil. In contrast to God, to this reconciled unity of Being-in-itself and Being-for-itself, appears the element of distinction or difference. We have on the one hand the world as positively and independently existing, and on the other destruction and contradiction in the world; and here the questions suggest themselves, which pertain to all religions based on a more or less developed consciousness, as to how evil is to be reconciled with the absolute unity of God, and wherein lies the origin of evil. This negative, in the first place, appears as the evil in the world, but it recalls itself into identity with itself, in which it is the Being-for-self of self-consciousness — finite Spirit.
This negative which recalls itself into itself is now once more a something positive, because it relates itself simply to itself. As evil, it appears as involved in positive existence. But the negativity which is present for itself and independently, and not in another which is regarded as having independent existence of its own, the negativity which reflects itself into itself, the inward, infinite negativity which is object to itself, is just the “Ego.” In this self-consciousness, and in its own inner movement, finiteness definitely appears, and self-contradiction is thus incident in it. Thus there is an element of disturbance in it, evil makes its appearance in it, and thus is evil of the will.
c. I, however, who am free can abstract from everything; it is this negativity and isolation which constitutes my essential being. Evil is not the whole of the subject. On the contrary, this latter has in it also unity with itself, which constitutes the positive side (goodness) and the absoluteness, the infinitude of consciousness of self. It is this ability to abstract from all that is immediate, from all that is external, — which constitutes the essential moment of the isolation or seclusion of Spirit. This isolation is exempted from the temporariness, change and vicissitude of this world, from evil and from disunion, and is represented as the absoluteness of consciousness of self in the thought of the immortality of the soul. At first the prominent element in this thought is continued existence in time; this exemption from the dominion and from the vicissitudes of change is represented, however, as essentially and originally belonging to Spirit, and not as being brought about secondarily by means of reconciliation. And thus advance is made to the further determination that the Spirit’s consciousness of self is an eternal, absolute moment in that eternal life in which it is lifted up far above time, above this abstraction of change, and above the reality of change, above dualism, when it is taken up into the unity and reconciliation which is presupposed as originally present in the object of consciousness.
If in the first part we have considered religion in its notion or conception, the simple conception of religion, the character of the content, the Universal, it is now necessary to leave this sphere of Universality and go on to treat of determinateness in religion.
The notion as such is not as yet unfolded; the determinate qualities, the moments are contained in it, but are not as yet openly displayed, and have not received the right distinction or difference which belongs to them. It is only by means of the judgment (i.e., the act of differentiation) that they receive this. It is when God, the Notion, performs the act of judgment, and the category of determinateness enters, that we first come to have existing religion, which is at the same time definitely existing religion.
The course followed in passing from the abstract to the concrete is based upon our method, upon the notion, and not on the fact that much special content is present. There is a complete distinction between this and our point of view. Spirit, to which belongs Being which is absolute and supreme, is, exists only as activity; that is to say, in so far as it posits itself, is actual or for itself, and produces itself. But in this its activity it has the power of knowing, and only as it thus knows is it that which it is. It is thus essential to religion not only to exist in its notion, but also to be the consciousness of that which the notion is, and the material in which the notion as the plan, so to speak, realises itself, which it makes its own, which it moulds in accordance with itself, is human consciousness. So too, Right, for example, only is when it exists in the spirit, when it takes possession of the wills of men, and they know of it as the determination of their wills. And it is in this way that the Idea first realises itself, having before only been posited as the form of the notion.
Spirit, in short, is not immediate; natural things are immediate, and remain in this condition of immediate Being. The Being of Spirit is not thus immediate, but is, exists only as producing itself, as making itself for itself by means of negation as Subject; otherwise it would be substance only. And this coming to itself on the part of Spirit is movement, activity, and mediation of itself with itself.
A stone is immediate, it is complete. Wherever there is life, however, this activity is already to be found. Thus the first form of the existence of plants is the feeble existence of the germ, and out of this it has to develop itself and to produce itself. Finally the plant epitomises itself when it has unfolded itself in the seed; this beginning of the plant is also its ultimate product. In like manner man is at first a child, and as belonging to Nature he describes this ground in order to beget another.
In plants there are two kinds of individual forms. This germ which begins is different from the one which is the completion of its life, and in which this evolution reaches maturity. But it is the very nature of Spirit, just because it is living, to be at first only potential, to be in its notion or conception, then to come forward into existence, to unfold, produce itself, become mature, bringing forth the notion of itself, that which it implicitly is, so that what it is in itself or implicitly mah be its notion actually or for itself. The child is not as yet a reasonable person; it has capacities only, it is at first reason, Spirit, potentially only. It is by means of education and development that it becomes Spirit.
This, then, is what is called self-determination entering into existence, being “for other,” bringing one’s moments into distinction, and unfolding one’s self. These distinctions are no other than the characteristics which the notion itself implicitly contains.
The development of these distinctions, and the course of the tendencies which result from them, are the way by which Spirit comes to itself; it is itself, however, the goal. The absolute end, which is that Spirit should know itself, comprehend itself, should become object to itself as it is in itself, arrive at perfect knowledge of itself, first appears as its true Being. Now this process, followed by self-producing Spirit, this path taken by it, includes distinct moments; but the path is not as yet the goal, and Spirit does not reach the goal without having traversed the path; it is not originally at the goal; even what is most perfect must traverse the path to the goal in order to attain it. Spirit, in these halting places of its progress, is not as yet perfect; its knowledge, its consciousness regarding itself, is not what is true, and it is not as yet revealed to itself. Spirit being essentially this activity of self-production, it follows that there are stages of its consciousness, but its consciousness of itself is always in proportion only to the stage which has been reached. Now these stages supply us with definite religion; here religion is consciousness of the universal Spirit, which is not as yet fully developed as absolute; this consciousness of Spirit at each stage is definite consciousness of itself, it is the path of the education of Spirit. We have therefore to consider the definite forms of religion. These, as being stages on the road followed by Spirit, are imperfect.
The different forms or specific kinds of religion are, in one aspect, moments of religion in general, or of perfected religion. They have, however, an independent aspect too, for in them religion has developed itself in time, and historically.
Religion, in so far as it is definite, and has not as yet completed the circle of its determinateness — so far that is as it is finite religion, and exists as finite — is historical religion, or a particular form of religion. Its principal moments, and also the manner in which they exist historically, being exhibited in the progress of religion from stage to stage, and in its development, there thus arises a series of forms of religion, or a history of religion. That which is determined by means of the Notion must of necessity have existed, and the religions, as they have followed upon one another, have not arisen accidentally. It is Spirit which rules inner life, and to see only chance here, after the fashion of the historical school, is absurd.
The essential moments of the notion or conception of religion show themselves and make their appearance at every stage in which religion exists at all. It is only because the moments are not as yet posited in the totality of the notion, that any difference between it and its true form arises. These definite religions are not indeed our religion, yet they are included in ours as essential, although as subordinate moments, which cannot miss having in them absolute truth. Therefore in them we have not to do with what is foreign to us, but with what is our own, and the knowledge that such is the case is the reconciliation of the true religion with the false. Thus the moments of the notion or conception of religion appear on lower stages of development, though as yet in the shape of anticipations or presentiments, as natural flowers and creations of fancy which have, so to speak, blossomed forth by chance. What determines the characteristics of these stages, however, through their entire history, is the determinateness of the notion itself, which can at no stage be absent. The thought of the Incarnation, for example, pervades every religion. Such general conceptions make their presence felt too in other spheres of Spirit. What is substantial in moral relations, as, for example, property, marriage, protection of the sovereign and of the State, and the ultimate decision which rests with subjectivity regarding that which is to be done for the whole, all this is to be found in an uneducated society as well as in the perfect state; only the definite form of this substantial element differs according to the degree of culture which such a society has reached. What is here of special importance, however, is that the notion should also become actually known in its totality, and in exact accordance with the degree in which this knowledge is present, is the stage at which the religious spirit is, higher or lower, richer or poorer. Spirit may have something in its possession without having a developed consciousness of it. It actually has the immediate, proper nature of Spirit, has a physical, organic nature, but it does not know that nature in its essential character and truth, and has only an approximate, general idea of it. Men live in the State, they are themselves the life, activity, actuality of the State, but the positing, the becoming conscious of what the State is, does not on that account take place, and yet the perfected State just means that everything which is potentially in it, that is to say, in its notion or conception should be developed, posited, and made into rights and duties, into law. In like manner the moments of the notion or conception are actually present in the definite religions, in mental pictures, feelings, or immediate imagery; but the consciousness of these moments is not as yet evolved, or, in other words, they have not as yet been elevated to the point at which they are the determination of the absolute object, and God is not as yet actually represented under these determinations of the totality of the conception of religion. It is undoubtedly true that the definite religions of the various peoples often enough exhibit the most distorted, confused, and abortive ideas of the divine Being, and likewise of duties and relations as expressed in worship. But we must not treat the matter so lightly, and conceive of it in so superficial a manner, as to reject these ideas and these rites as superstition, error, and deceit, or only trace back their origin to pious feeling, and thus value them as merely representing some sort of religious feeling without caring how they may chance to be constituted. The mere collection and elaboration of the external and visible elements cannot satisfy us either. On the contrary, something higher is necessary, namely, to recognise the meaning, the truth, and the connection with truth; in short, to get to know what is rational in them. They are human beings who have hit upon such religions, therefore there must be reason in them, and amidst all that is accidental in them a higher necessity. We must do them this justice, for what is human, rational in them, is our own too, although it exists in our higher consciousness as a moment only. To get a grasp of the history of religions in this sense, means to reconcile ourselves even with what is horrible, dreadful, or absurd in them, and to justify it. We are on no account to regard it as right or true, as it presents itself in its purely immediate form — there is no question of doing this — but we are at least to recognise its beginning, the source from which in it has originated as being in human nature. Such is the reconciliation with this entire sphere, the reconciliation which completes itself in the notion. Religions, as they follow upon one another, are determined by means of the notion. Their nature and succession are not determined from without; on the contrary, they are determined by the nature of Spirit which has entered into the world to bring itself to consciousness of itself. Since we look at these definite religions in accordance with the notion, this is a purely philosophical study of what actually is or exists. Philosophy indeed treats of nothing which is not and does not concern itself with what is so powerless as not even to have the energy to force itself into existence.
Now in development as such, in so far as it has not as yet reached its goal, the moments of the notion are still in a state of separation or mutual exclusion, so that the reality has not as yet come to be equal to the notion or conception. The finite religions are the appearance in history of these moments. In order to grasp these in their truth, it is necessary to consider them under two aspects; on the one hand, we have to consider how God is known, how He is characterised; and on the other, how the subject at the same time knows itself. For the two aspects the objective and subjective have but one foundation for their further determination, and but one specific character pervades them both. The idea which a man has of God corresponds with that which he has of himself, of his freedom. Knowing himself in God, he at the same time knows his imperishable life in God; He knows of the truth of his Being, and therefore the idea of the immortality of the soul here enters as an essential moment into the history of religion. The ideas of God and of immortality have a necessary relation to each other; when a man knows truly about God, he knows truly about himself too: the two sides correspond with each other. At first God is something quite undetermined; but in the course of the development of the human mind, the consciousness of that which God is gradually forms and matures itself, losing more and more of its initial indefiniteness, and with this the development of true self-consciousness advances also. The Proofs of the Existence of God fail to be included also within the sphere of this progressive development, it being their aim to set forth the necessary elevation of the spirit to God. For the diversity of the characteristics which in this process of elevation are attributed to God, is fixed by the diversity of the points of departure, and this diversity again has its foundation in the nature of the historical stage of actual self-consciousness which has been reached. The different forms which this elevation of the spirit takes will always indicate the metaphysical spirit of the period in question, for this corresponds with the prevalent idea of God and the sphere of worship. If we now attempt to indicate in a more precise way the divisions of this stage of definite religion, we find that what is of primary importance here is the manner of the divine manifestation. God is manifestation, not in a general sense merely, but as being Spirit He determines Himself as appearing to Himself; that is to say, He is not Object in the general sense, but is Object to Himself.
1. As for manifestation generally, or abstract manifestation, it is Nature in General. Manifestation is Being for Other, an externalisation of things mutually distinct, and not yet reflected and one, in fact, which is immediate into itself. This logical determination is taken here in its concrete sense as the natural world. What is for an “Other,” exists for this very reason in a sensuous form. The thought, which is for another thought, which, as having Being, is to be posited as distinct, that is to say, as something which exists as an independent subject in reference to the other, is only capable of being communicated by the one to the other through the sensuous medium of sign or speech, in fact, by bodily means.
But since God exists essentially only as appearing to Himself, that abstract attitude of man to nature does not belong to religion; on the contrary, in religion nature is only a moment of the Divine, and therefore must, as it exists for the religious consciousness, have also the characteristic note of the spiritual mode of existence in it. It thus does not remain in its pure, natural element, but receives the characteristic quality of the Divine which dwells in it. It cannot be said of any religion that in it men have worshipped the sun, the sea, or nature; when they worship these objects, the latter no longer have for the worshippers the prosaic character which they have for ourselves. Even while these objects are for them divine, they still, it is true, remain natural; but when they become objects of religion, they at once assume a spiritual aspect. The contemplation of the sun, the stars, &c., as individual natural phenomena, is outside the sphere of religion. The so-called prosaic manner of looking at nature, as the latter exists for consciousness when regarding it through the understanding, betokens a separation which comes later; its presence is consequent on much deeper and more thorough-going reflection. Not till the spirit or mind has posited itself independently for itself, and as free from nature, does the latter appear to it as an Other, as something external.
The first mode of manifestation then, in the form of Nature namely, has the subjectivity, the spiritual nature of God as its centre in a general sense only, and consequently these two determinations have not as yet come into relation through reflection. When this takes place, it constitutes the second mode of manifestation.
2. In Himself or potentially God is Spirit; this is our notion or conception of Him. But for this very reason He must be posited too as Spirit, and this means that the manner of His manifestation must be itself a spiritual one, and consequently the negation of the natural. And for this it is necessary that His determinateness, the Idea on the side of reality, be equal to the conception; and the relation of reality to the divine conception is complete when Spirit exists as Spirit; that is to say, when both the conception and reality exist as this Spirit. To begin with, however, we see that the form of nature constitutes that determinateness of the conception of God, or the aspect of reality belonging to the Idea. The emergence of the spiritual element of subjectivity out of nature, accordingly appears at first merely as a conflict between the two sides, which are still entangled with one another in that conflict. Therefore this stage of definite religion too remains in the sphere of what is natural, and in fact constitutes, in common with the preceding one, the stage of the Religion of Nature.
3. It is actually within the definite religions as they succeed each other that Spirit in its movement attempts to make the determinateness correspond with the notion or conception, but this determinateness appears here as still abstract, or, to put it otherwise, the notion appears as still the finite notion. These attempts, in which the principle of the preceding stages, namely, Essence, or essential Being, strives to grasp itself together into infinite inwardness are: 1. the Jewish religion; 2. the Greek; 3. the Roman. The God of the Jews is Oneness or soleness, which as such continues to be abstract unity, and is not as yet concrete in itself. This God is indeed God in the Spirit, but does not exist as yet as Spirit. He is something not presented to sense, an abstraction of Thought, which has not as yet that fullness in itself which constitutes it Spirit. The freedom which the notion seeks to reach through self-development in the Greek religion, still lives under the sway of a sceptre of necessity of Essence; and the notion as it appears in and seeks to win its independence in the Roman religion is still limited, since it is related to an external world which stands opposite to it, in which it is only to be objective, and is, therefore, external adaptation to an end, or external utility.
These are the principal specific forms which here present themselves as the modes of the Reality of Spirit. As determinate they are inadequate to the notion or conception of Spirit, and are finite in character, and this infinitude, namely, that there is one God, this abstract affirmation, is finite also. This determination of the manifestation of God in consciousness as pure ideality of the One, as abolition of the manifold character of external manifestation, might perhaps be contrasted, as being that which is true, with the religion of nature, but it is really only one form of determinateness as against the totality of the notion of Spirit. It corresponds with this totality just as little as its opposite does. These definite relations are not in fact as yet the true religion, and in them God is not as yet known in His true nature, since there is wanting to them the absolute content of Spirit.
Manifestation, development, and determination or specification do not go on ad infinitum, and do not cease accidentally. True progress consists rather in this, that this reflexion of the notion into itself stops short, inasmuch as it really returns into itself. Thus manifestation is itself infinite in nature; the content is in accordance with the conception of Spirit, and the manifestation is, like Spirit, in and for itself. The notion or conception of religion has in religion become objective to itself. Spirit, which is in and for itself, has now no longer individual forms, determinations of itself, before it, as it unfolds itself. It knows itself no longer as Spirit in any definite form or limitation, but has now overcome those limitations, this finiteness, and is actually, what it is potentially. This knowledge of Spirit for itself or actually, as it is in itself or potentially, is the being in-and-for-itself of Spirit as exercising knowledge, the perfect, absolute religion, in which it is revealed what Spirit, what God is; this is the Christian religion.
That Spirit, as it does in all else, must in religion also run through its natural course, is necessarily bound up with the conception of Spirit. Spirit is only Spirit when it exists for itself as the negation of all finite forms, as this absolute ideality.
I form ideas, I have perceptions, and here there is a certain definite content, as, for instance, this house, and so on. They are my perceptions, they present themselves to me. I could not, however, present them to myself if I did not grasp this particular content in myself, and if I had not posited it in a simple, ideal manner in myself. Ideality means that this definite external existence, these conditions of space, of time, and matter, this separateness of parts, is done away with in something higher; in that I know this external existence, these forms of it are not ideas which are mutually exclusive, but are comprehended, grasped together in me in a simple manner.
Spirit is knowledge; but in order that knowledge should exist, it is necessary that the content of that which it knows should have attained to this ideal form, and should in this way have been negated. What Spirit is must in that way have become its own, it must have described this circle; and these forms, differences, determinations, finite qualities, must have existed in order that it should make them its own.
This represents both the way and the goal — that Spirit should have attained to its own notion or conception, to that which it implicitly is, and in this way only, the way which has been indicated in its abstract moments, does it attain it. Revealed religion is manifested religion, because in it God has become wholly manifest. Here all is proportionate to the notion; there is no longer anything secret in God. Here, then, is the consciousness of the developed conception of Spirit, of reconciliation, not in beauty, in joyousness, but in the Spirit. Revealed religion, which was hitherto still veiled, and did not exist in its truth, came at its own time. This was not a chance time, dependent on some one’s liking, or caprice, but determined on in the essential, eternal counsel of God; that is, in the eternal reason, wisdom of God; it is the notion of the reality or fact itself, the divine notion, the notion of God Himself, which determines itself to enter on this development, and has set its goal before it.
This course thus followed by religion is the true theodicy; it exhibits all products of Spirit, every form of its self-knowledge, as necessary, because Spirit is something living, working, and its impulse is to press on through the series of its manifestations towards the consciousness of itself as embracing all truth.
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