Monday, 1 June 2020

"Religion expresses what spirit is earlier in time than science." (Part Two)

Church carving of Christ's crucifixion, in Stuttgart Landesmuseum
This and the previous post are a reading of the section of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) on Christianity. In this post, I deal with the final section on the doctrine of the church.

Introduction (Stephen Cowley)

This post concludes this summary of the section on Christianity (Chapter 7C) of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (1807). See here for Part One.  The material considered here contains a discussion of Trinitarian ideas, then broader looping discussions of creation and redemption. This structure is typical of the theology courses of Hegel's day, such s that of Gottlob Storr (1746-1805) which he attended in Tübingen Stift. General metaphysical statements are combined with descriptive and interpretative material. Hegel suggests throughout that the concepts of transcendental philosophy provide a rational interpretation of Christian ideas. The last chapter of the Phenomenology develops this into a project of reconciling Spinoza with Fichte. On this reading, the ethos of the book is thus broadly Christian, though not in a fixed and static doctrinal sense.

Many of the paragraphs are essays in themselves and there is a high degree of compression of the material here summarised. Despite that, it is Hegel's longest published discussion of Christianity. The equivalent section of the Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Sciences (1830) is only eight paragraphs long and the Science of Logic (1812-16) does not discuss religion as such. Most of Hegel's writings on religion: the Early Theological Manuscripts (1907), the notes for the four sets of Berlin lectures on the Philosophy of Religion and the late manuscript on The Proofs of God's Existence were only published after his death.

In the following summary. I add headings as new subjects are introduced. However, some themes are submerged and re-emerge later – the Atonement being prominent amongst these. As before, paragraph references are to Pinkard’s numbering and material in square brackets is my commentary.

The Content of Church Doctrine

(Paragraphs 773-87 of Pinkard)

Hegel now examines the content of church doctrine as found in consciousness. This divides into
  a. Substance (Trinity)
  b. Representation
  c. Subject
The content is truth, at first present in the substance of the church (Gemeinde, congregation, community), but it expresses itself in the objectivity of ideation (Vorstellung). It has to become real selfhood, to be as subject, by means of reflection. This is the movement of spirit in the community, or this is its life.

Critique of Historical Scholarship

What this spirit is, is not brought out by winding and scaling back its rich life in the church to its first threads, according to the recollection of the first imperfect community, or back to what the actual man, Christ, said. Hegel says:
“This scaling back is based on the instinct to get back to the concept, but it confuses the origin as the immediate existence of the concept’s first appearance, with the simplicity of the concept.” (767)
This return to origins then, is an impoverishment of the life of spirit, a tidying up of thoughts and practices that does not lead the concept, but introduces singular externalities, a historical mode of recollection to which the imagination also contributes. [This is a critique of Protestantism, but also explains the exclusion of Hegel’s own detailed readings of the New Testament from his published writings, though this manuscript material has since been published as Early Theological Writings. – SC]

Division of Elements

The spirit is the content of consciousness, firstly as substance. This marks a descent into existence and individuality. The medium of this is synthetic attachment (Verbindung), ideation (Vorstellung), or the consciousness of becoming-otherwise. Thirdly, there is the moment of return from otherness, or self-consciousness. In addition to being the second part of the discussion, ideation is also “diffused through all these elements” as a common factor.

We have already encountered the content, in part, in the figures of the unhappy and the faithful consciousness. In the former though, Hegel says, it had:
“the peculiarity of the content brought forth from consciousness and longed for, in which spirit can neither be satisfied nor find peace, because spirit is not yet in itself its own content, or is not yet its content as its substance.” (768)
The faithful consciousness on the other hand saw the content as, but fled from the world. The consciousness of the church community in contrast has the content as its substance, along with the certainty of it as its own spirit. [This might suggest a pre-Christian dating of the unhappy consciousness. – SC]

The Substance of the Godhead

We will distinguish three elements of substance:
  a. Being (Wesen
  b. Word (Son, being other) 
  c. Spirit (self-knowledge in an Other)

The Eternal Being

Spirit first presents its elements of a priori thought as substance. It is not its nature to be a meaning, or something inward, but to be real. Substance is self-same, eternal being.

The element of abstraction introduces negation into this conception. Hegel says that the moments of absolute difference and becoming-otherwise are bound up with this. It is in-itself or for us, but through the a priori, abstract and negative, it is for-itself, as self, or reason. It is objective then. Our ideation presents an express, rational necessity as an event. Thus it is said that the everlasting being (Wesen) produces an Other. But this other being refers back to the first: so it is a distinction within a unity.

The Word

There is then a being-for-itself. Hegel calls this “the Word which, when spoken, lets go of the speaker and leaves him behind as empty and hollowed out.” (770) The essence (Wesen) is for the Word. The essence sees only itself in the Word.

The Spirit

Hegel says that “This movement within itself pronounces the absolute being (Wesen) as spirit.” [This aligns with the general idea of spirit as expressive. – SC} He continues, in language structured like a famous sentence of Kant: “The absolute being that is not grasped as spirit is only abstract emptiness, as spirit that is not grasped as this movement is only an empty word.” (771) Taken in their purity, these moments are restless. They are their own opposites and find rest only in the whole.

The Limits of Church Doctrine

As representations in the church though, Hegel says, we find the content without its necessity. Hegel writes:
“The ideation of the church [Gemeinde] is not thought through reason [begreiffende Denken], but has the content without its necessity and brings, instead of the form of the concept, the natural relationship of Father and Son into the realm of pure consciousness.” (771)
This ideational mode means that the moments are not seen through concepts, but separated from each other. Consciousness has thus retreated from its pure a priori object and relates itself externally to it. The object is revealed to it from abroad b a stranger [von einem Fremden]. It does not know itself in this thought of the spirit. It does not see “the nature of pure self-consciousness.”

The need to remove the limits of this ideation applies particularly to seeing the moments of the movement that spirit is as isolated substances or subjects, rather than transitional moments. This is a compulsion of reason [Drangen des Begriffes]. As a mere instinct, we mistake ourselves, or lose the content along with the form. This ideation, Hegel writes:
“debases it [the content] into a historical representation and an heirloom of tradition. In this, only the purely external in faith is retained, and therewith as an unknowing death; but what is inward has disappeared, because that would be reason [Begriff] knowing itself as reason [der sich as Begriff weiss].” (771)
Absolute spirit, presented in the pure being {Wesen] is not the abstract pure being. Rather this latter, as it is only a moment, has declined into an element. Being abstract, the essence [Wesen] is defective, as it is the negative of its simplicity, an Other. Spirit too essentially is the form “of simple unity, that thereby equally is essentially a becoming otherwise.” [This suggests a necessity in the divinity at odds with divine grace and freedom, as does the concept of spirit as self-revelatory by nature. – SC]

The relation of God and his Word is pure thinking. In this, otherness as such is not supposed. There is a seeing of himself in the Other, a recognition of love [ein Anerkennen der Liebe], not an opposition. Spirit is essentially not only this, but has to be real, for being-otherwise lies in its concept.

The Realm of Representation

(Creation, Paragraphs 773-80 of Pinkard)

We move over then from the element of pure thought to that of representation (Vorstellung). [Thus, we are dealing with empirical reality, or creation. However, the creative action of God is not appropriate content for a Phenomenology, which is supposed to be based on observable phenomena. We might interpret the text as dealing with beliefs necessarily held in Christianity, which is at least a phenomenon, as was the living Christ. - SC] Ideation (Vorstellen) is the element where moments of reason (Begriff) acquire a substantial existence with regard to each other, as subjects that do not have the indifference of being for a third, but by reflection are isolated and opposed to each other.

Thus the merely eternal, abstract spirit becomes an Other. It enters existence immediately. Thus it creates (erschafft) a world. Hegel writes: “This creation is ideation’s word for reason (Begriff) itself according to its absolute movement.” (774) Or, what is taken as God is immediate, or being, but this has no self and lacks inwardness, so it becomes passive and is being-for-another. This being-for-another is a world. Spirit in relation to this, determined as being-for-another, is the restful existence of the moments previously of pure thought, the dissolution of universality in favour of particularity.

The Prelapsarian World

Yet the world is not only spirit cast out into external order. The self of spirit that is essential to it is also present in the world. This individual self that distinguishes itself from the world is also present. This self is not yet spirit for itself. It can be called innocent (unschuldig), but not good. It too must become an Other to itself.

At first, the mind is dispersed in the manifoldness of its consciousness. It internalises this into thoughts. Sense consciousness is enveloped in thoughts. These conditioned thoughts have being-otherwise in them necessarily, as too the opposed thoughts of good and evil.

The Fall and the Wrath of God

The next section on the Fall is descriptive, though with a logical interlude. Little is offered in the way of argument, analysis or proof and he points out that this is not present in ideation, but only in thought. The subject matter is the story of the Fall in the Old Testament and the attendant elements of the drama of creation, sin and redemption.

The leaving of pure knowledge and self-identity, Hegel argues, is presented [in the Bible] as something that just happened.  - through plucking the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and being driven out of the garden of animals where work was not required of them.

This turning in on oneself [Insichgehen] is a becoming unequal [because action and hence the distinction of goal and present state is involved]. This appears as evil, for the thoughts of good and evil are opposed and the opposition is not resolved. However, good consciousness must also be present. Hegel describes “Insichseyn” as “partly thinking oneself, partly the moment of becoming otherwise. He says that in terms of the underlying ideas:
“the origin of evil can be shifted back even further out of the existing world and transferred into the first realm of thinking. It can thus be said that it was already the first-born son of light who, by turning inwards on himself, was he who fell.” (776)
[This indicates the meaning of “insichgehen”, which is not a common phrase in German. It appears to indicate pride, or so the reference to Lucifer suggests, but also due attention to one's own affairs combined with a failure to look outwards and glorify God. – SC] Hegel notes again that these terms, (as also “fallen”, “the Son”) devalue thought in favour of ideation. The contrast is that the Son knows himself as the essence, while Being-for-self lives only by praise of the essence.

Hegel explains that it is indifferent to multiply the manifoldness of forms at this point. If we divide creation, or add good and bad angels, we would have distinguished four-in-one, or five-in-one [as opposed to the Christian Trinity]. Counting such moments however, serves no purpose. Logically, a distinction can be seen as one thought or two parts. The thought that grasps many in one can be broken down in its universality into three or four parts. The principle of counting and number is abstract unity. Universality is indifferent in relation to this. One could thus speak of counting, not of a particular amount. Number and counting are superfluous and have nothing to the point to say.

Good and evil are thoughts. We may imagine them as self-sufficient realms, but the field of their struggle is the mind of man. Hegel writes: “these universal powers [...] belong to the Self or, the Self is their reality. He claims that 
“Evil is nothing other than the turning in on itself [Insichgehen] of the natural existence of mind, so conversely the good enters reality and appears as an existing self-consciousness.” (777)
The becoming-otherwise of the divine being is seen by ideation as its humbling itself, renouncing its abstraction and unreality. Ideation takes the aspect of evil as an act alien to the divine being. Its highest effort is the conception of the wrath of God, but without reason [Begriff], this is a fruitless effort.

Hegel paints a picture of alienation in the divine being, with nature and thought of unequal value. Again, the divine can be seen as essential and the world as inessential, or vice versa.

The Atonement 

The crucified Christ, in Stuttgart Landesmuseum
The resolution of the opposition [of good and evil] is not so much by way of a struggle, in which they are figured (vorgestellt) as independent beings. Their self-sufficiently contains the idea that each must dissolve itself through its concept. It is as thoughts that they are opposed.  Their movement is represented as a free act (als ein freiwilliges Thun vorgestellt).

The necessity of moving outside itself (Entäusserung) is in the concept that what exists by opposition has no stable existence (Bestehen) in itself. Christ, to whom God counts more than the world, “lays himself down (sich selbst entäussert) and goes to his death (in den Todt geht), and thereby the absolute being is reconciled with itself.” (779) Here is shows itself to be spirit. Its journey is posited as universal. Hegel writes: “Thus this death is his rising as spirit.” The immediate present of the self-conscious being (Wesen) that is taken away is its being present as universal self-consciousness. This taking away (Aufheben) is the constituting of the church.

It is at this point that spirit proceeds from its second element (ideation) to the third, self-consciousness as such (see para 766). Ideation in its progression first expressed itself in saying that God took on human nature. It has thus stated that these are not in themselves divided, – as also that:
“The divine being from the beginning (von Anfang) gives itself forth (sich selbst entäussert), that its existence turns in on itself and becomes evil is not expressed, but it is therein contained that in itself this evil existence is not foreign to him. [...] Absolute being would be only an empty name if there were in truth an Other to him, if there were to be a Fall away (einen Abfall) from him. – the moment of being turned in on oneself comprises rather the essential moment of the Selfhood of spirit.” (780)
This first reality of being turned in on oneself belongs to God and this is reason (Begriff) for us. As such, it appears to ideation as an incomprehensible event. To it, this in-itself looks like indifferent being. The thought that these moments are not separate comes to ideation as the self-relinquishing (Entäusserung, in the sense of kenosis) of God become flesh (des göttlichen Wesens, das Fleisch wird). The content is true, but the representation is immediate, not spiritual (geistig). It knows the human form as a particular. God (das gestaltete Wesen) sacrifices the immediate form and returns to the essence (Wesen). The reflection of the essence is spirit. Hegel writes:
“The reconciliation of the divine being (Wesen) with the Other in general and particularly with the thought of the same – with evil, is also represented in this.” (780)
This however, leads to a problem from the standpoint of the agent for whom good and bad, better or worse, are fundamentally real.

Good and Evil not illusory

The next passage seems to be an engagement with the ideas of Boehme and Swedenborg, visionary theologians whose ideas are present in such English works as William Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-93).

If it were said that good and evil are the same, Hegel argues, or that God and nature are the same, so that nature divided from God was nothing, these would be unspiritual modes of expression that lead necessarily to misunderstandings. Hegel writes:
“When evil is the same as good, evil is thereby not evil, nor good good, but both are rather taken away.” (800)
If evil is taken as being-for-self turned in on itself and good as selfless simplicity, their unity is brought out, for the former is simple knowing and the latter is a pure version of the former.

If it must be said that in a certain light (i.e. insofar as they are not good and evil) good and evil are the same, it must the more be said that they are not the same, because of the power of negation they contain.

The error is in taking such terms as “the same”, “not the same”, identity and non-identity, as true, fixed and real and resting one’s case on such abstractions. In saying “the same”, we are abstracting from the absolute difference. This difference, as difference, involves identity. Hegel concludes: “Neither the one nor the other has truth, but their movement.” (800) It is the same with the identity of God and nature, both in general and with human nature especially. The being (Wesen) is nature insofar as he is not essence (Wesen); nature is divine according to its essence (Wesen), but it is spirit in which both moments are in truth. This cannot be expressed by the flat (geistlos) “is” of judgement.

Nature is nothing apart from its essence, but this nothing still is, for it is absolute abstraction, or being turned in on itself, together with the moment of opposition to spiritual unity – it is evil. We ought not to cling to the is. The moments both are and are not in the course of the spiritual movement. The ideational consciousness has realised this in its reconciliation. As a unity that is a universality of self-consciousness, it has ceased to be ideational. Its movement has turned on itself within it.

The Work of the Spirit

(Paragraphs 781-87 of Pinkard)

In the third part of the treatment of doctrine, Hegel moves to the theme of redemption. Some of the following is formulaic and hard to interpret in more concrete terms. However, I here summarise what I draw from it. Spirit is supposed in the third element, that of universal self-consciousness. It is the community (or church, Gemeinde) of that self-consciousness. The movement of the church here (as of self-consciousness, as distinct from its representation) is to bring forth what has happened in itself. The divine man who has died (or the human God) is universal self-consciousness in itself. He has to become this for self-consciousness. Or, one side of the opposition, evil, to whom natural existence and individual being-for-self count as the essence, although supposedly self-sufficient, must elevate itself to spirit. Such a movement is required of it.

Natural spirit then Hegel argues, has to turn from nature. This would make it evil, but it decides that nature is already evil, and prior to that it is itself evil. Its turning inward on itself involved convincing itself that nature is evil. Consciousness sees the evil of the world and the prospect of reconciliation with God. It pictures them to itself. But it is self-consciousness that contains the form, for it has negation within itself, and also knowledge. The content brings out this negative moment.

God is reconciled and is a unity of moments, but here the meanings are reversed. They are completed in each other. The abstract forms of identity and non-identity are removed. To know good and evil is a taking leave of immediacy. That done, we try by calculation to turn from what we consider evil. To know evil as a thought is the first step to reconciliation. It helps us die to sin.

Turning inwards is something mediated. It presupposes itself, or is its own cause. A movement of becoming-otherwise must here make an appearance.

The Resurrection

Hegel seems to argue that there must be an understanding by the church of the outward event of Christ’s death. This is an event for ideation. Its significance is that of a “spiritual resurrection” (das geistige Auferstehen). It is not God’s unity with himself that is to be understood, but:
“that representation, that through the event of the divine being’s humbling himself, through his historical incarnation and his death, the divine being is reconciled with his determinate existence (Daseyn).” (784)
The movement is from individual self-consciousness to universal, or to the community or church (Gemeinde). Hegel says: “The death of the divine man, as death, is abstract negation.” That is its immediate result, or natural meaning, but not for spiritual self-consciousness. He adds: “Death is transfigured by it from what immediately means, from the not-being of this individual, to the universality of spirit that lives in his church, dies and rises again in it daily.” (784)

Something belonging to ideation is shifted into self-consciousness. Spirit conceived in as an individual, nay particular man, died and rose again. Our particularity dies off in its universality, i.e. in our knowing. This is not a real death, as that of Christ was. We have instead a knowing that returns the moment of being-otherwise within itself.

This knowing is the being (Wesen) that reconciles itself with itself. [Does Hegel mean the Holy Spirit? In what sense?  – SC] The prior element of representation is supposed to be removed [aufgehoben] here. It returns to the subject, to thought, from being merely existent.

With this, the first element (pure thinking) and the eternal spirit in it is no longer a beyond for the ideational consciousness nor for the self. Rather, the return of the whole to itself means that all moments are contained in the whole. Hegel says: “The self-conceived (vom Selbst ergriffene) death of the mediator is the taking away of the objectivity or particular being-for-self. This particular being-for-self has become universal self-consciousness. “ (785) On the other hand, the pure, i.e. unreal spirit of mere thinking, universal self-consciousness, has become real. Hegel says:
“The death of the mediator is death, not only of his natural side, or of his particular being-for-self. There dies not only the already dead husk withdrawn from God (vom Wesen) but also the abstraction of the divine being (Wesen). For he is, insofar as his death has not yet accomplished the reconciliation, the one-sided, whom the simplicity of thinking knows as God (als das Wesen). The self first has this value in the Spirit. The death of this representation includes at the same time the death of the abstraction of the divine being (Wesen) that is not taken as self. It is the painful feeling of the unhappy consciousness that God himself is dead. This hard saying is the expression of the most inward, simple self-knowledge, the return of consciousness into the depths of the night of “I am I”, that distinguishes and knows nothing outside itself. This feeling is in practice the loss of substance and its taking a stance against consciousness, but at the same time it is the pure subjectivity of substance, or the pure certainty of itself that it was missing as to the object, immediacy, or to the pure being (Wesen). This knowing is also the enthusiasm (die Begeistung) whereby substance becomes subject, its abstraction and lifelessness having died and it has become real and simple and universal self-consciousness.” (785) 
This may be read as a reference to Pentecost, though some commentators see in it a more contemporary reference to the ambitions of German philosophy and of Hegel himself.


So we end with spirit knowing itself. Its object, or its ideas (Vorstellungen) are the true, absolute content. These express, as we saw, spirit itself. The object is not only content, but real spirit, in that it runs through the three elements of its nature. This movement through its own states comprises its reality. Spirit moves itself; it is the subject of the movement and, as the movement itself, it is substance. We learned of spirit through religion, as the movement of self-assured spirit that forgives evil, leaving aside its simplicity and rigid unchangeableness (harten Unwandelbarkeit).

Knowledge bursts forth as a Yes between two extremes. Religion looks at this and accepts it. Hegel says: “As it is subject, so too is it substance, and thus is itself spirit just because of insofar as it is this movement.” (786)

This brings us the to the last paragraph of the section. Here Hegel outlines various defects that he sees in religious consciousness, such as might be removed by his own scholarship, or so we are led to presume.

The church, Hegel argues, is not complete in its self-consciousness. Its content is in the form of ideation. Hegel adds “and this division (Entzweyung) the real spirituality of the former also has.” (788) It returns from this ideation. The element of pure thinking was also so burdened. The church lacks self-awareness, self-knowledge. It consciousness is directed at its representations.

At the last, we see self-consciousness turn in on itself. It sets aside (entäussert) natural existence and attains pure negativity. But the positive meaning, that this negativity or pure inwardness of knowledge that is the essence in its self-sameness is an Other for devotional consciousness, s is the idea that substance gas attained absolute self-consciousness. It grasps this thought, that the pure turning inward of knowledge is in itself absolute simplicity, or substance, as the representation of something that is not so by virtue of reason, but as the deed of a foreign satisfaction (Genugthuung). The power of conceiving the abstract essence (das abstrakte Wesen) is not from the depths of the self, not the effect of its own devotion. The kenosis (Entäusserung) of substance is an in-itself for it, that it does not find in its own actions.

The unity of essence and self is accomplished in itself while to consciousness the idea (Vorstellung) of reconciliation exists, but as a representation. It achieves satisfaction (Befriedigung) by adding unity with God externally to its own power of negation. Thus the satisfaction remains burdened with the opposition of a beyond.

Hence, its own reconciliation is placed in the far future, while the original reconciliation appears as far in the past. Christ had an ideal father and a real mother. So the universal divine man, the church, has its own doing and knowing for its father, but eternal love for its mother, that it surely feels, but does not see in consciousness as a real, immediate object. Hegel writes:
“Its reconciliation is thus in its heart, but still divided with its consciousness (mit dem Bewusstsein noch entzweyt) and its reality is still broken.” (787)
What enters consciousness as the side of pure mediation is the reconciliation that lies Beyond, but what is present as immediacy and existence, on the other hand, is the world that still awaits its glorification (Verklärung, make bright, glorify, transfigure).

It is reconciled in principle and it is known that God loves the world, but for self-consciousness the immediate present does not have the form of spirit. The spirit of the community is so divided from its religious consciousness in its immediate consciousness. The former surely declares that they are not divided in principle, but that this principle is not realised, or not yet become an absolute being-for-itself.

[In the final chapter, Hegel develops this point, arguing that his own scholarship can contribute to the reconciliation implicit in religion, which is to say, on my understanding, to a rational contentment with one's lot in life. - SC]

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