The Phenomenology of Mind, by G. W. F. Hegel



Translator’s comments: The appearance of Absolute Spirit as a principle constituting on its own account a distinctive stage of experience is at once a demand of the preceding development and a condition of making experience self-complete. Finite or socialized spiritual existence is at its best incapable of establishing the truth that “Spirit is the only reality”; for the more finite spirit approximates to the state of claiming to be self-contained the more is it dependent on universal self-consciousness. A trans-finite or Absolute Spiritual Being as such is thus necessary to realize and sustain the fullness of meaning which finite spirit possesses. Moreover, if “the truth is the whole”, and only so is truth self-complete and self-explaining, and if reality is essentially spiritual — then experience only finds its complete meaning realized in the principle of Absolute Spirit. Hence the final stage of the Phenomenology of experience is the appearance therein of Absolute Spirit. Moreover, Absolute Spirit, in its own distinctive existence, could only appear at the end of the process of experience, for the whole of that process is required to reveal and to constitute the substance of which the Absolute consists. But the peculiarity of the stage now reached is that here the Absolute operates in its undivided totality to form a definite type of experience; or, in the language of the text, we have the Absolute here “conscious of its self”. No doubt, in all the previous stages, “consciousness”, “self-consciousness”, “reason”, “spirit”, the Absolute has been implied as a limiting principle, at once substantiating and determining the boundaries of each stage: hence each stage had an Absolute of its own, the character of which was derived in each case from the peculiarity of the stage in question. Now, however, we have the Absolute by itself, in its single self-completeness, as the sole formative factor of a certain type of experience.

The Absolute, then, in its own self-complete reality appears as the constitutive principle of experience. The experience here is the self-consciousness of Absolute Spirit; it appears to itself in all its objects. Since all the modes of finitude hitherto considered (consciousness, self-consciousness, etc.) are embraced in its single totality, it may use each and all of these various modes as the media through and in which to appear. When it appears in and through these modes of finitude we have the attitude of Religion. Since these modes, as we saw, differ, the religious attitude differs; and accordingly we have various types or forms of religion.

Each of these forms, in and through which the Absolute appears, is circumscribed in its nature and process; each is per se inadequate to the revelation of complete absolute self-consciousness: hence the variety of religion is necessitated by and is indirectly due to the failure of any one type and the inadequacy of every single type to reveal the Absolute completely. A form of appearance or self-manifestation of the absolute is therefore demanded which will reveal Absolute Spirit adequately to itself as it essentially is in itself. Here it will know itself, so to say, face to face, and with perfect completeness. This form is Absolute Knowledge. Hence Religion and Absolute Knowledge are the final stages in the argument of the Phenomenology. The former is dealt with in the immediately succeeding section (VII) and its various subsections; the latter forms the subject of the concluding section (VIII) of the work.

Religion in General

IN the forms of experience hitherto dealt with — which are distinguished broadly as Consciousness, Self-consciousness, Reason, and Spirit — Religion also, the consciousness of Absolute Being in general, has no doubt made its appearance. But that was from the point of view of consciousness, when it has the Absolute Being for its object. Absolute Being, however, in its own distinctive nature, the Self-consciousness of Spirit, has not appeared in those forms.

Even at the plane of Consciousness, viz. when this takes the shape of “Understanding”, there is a consciousness of the supersenuous, of the inner being of objective existence. But the supersensible, the eternal, or whatever we care to call it, is devoid of selfhood. It is merely, to begin with, something universal, which is a long way still from being spirit knowing itself as spirit.

Then there was Self-consciousness, which came to its final shape in the “unhappy consciousness”; that was merely the pain and sorrow of spirit wrestling to get itself out into objectivity once more, but not succeeding. The unity of individual self-consciousness with its unchangeable Being, which is what this stage arrives at, remains, in consequence, a “beyond”, something afar off.

The immediate existence of Reason (which we found arising out of that state of sorrow), and the special shapes which reason assumes, have no form of religion, because self-consciousness in the case of reason knows itself or looks for itself in the direct and immediate present.

On the other hand, in the world of the Ethical Order, we met with a type of religion, the religion of the nether world. This is belief in the fearful and unknown darkness of Fate, and in the Eumenides of the spirit of the departed: the former being pure negation taking the form of universality, the latter the same negation but in the form of individuality. Absolute Being is, then, in the latter shape no doubt the self and is present, as there is no other way for the self to be except present. But the individual self is this individual ghostly shade, which keeps the universal element, Fate, separated from itself. It is indeed a shade, a ghost, a cancelled and superseded particular, and so a universal self. But that negative meaning has not yet turned round into this latter positive significance, and hence the self, so cancelled and transcended, still directly means at the same time this particular being, this insubstantial reality. Fate, however, without self remains the darkness of night devoid of consciousness, which never comes to draw distinctions within itself, and never attains the clearness of self-knowledge.

This belief in a necessity that produces nothingness, this belief in the nether world, becomes belief in Heaven, because the self which has departed must be united with its universal nature, must unfold what it contains in terms of this universality, and thus become clear to itself. This kingdom of belief, however, we saw unfold its content merely in the element of reflective thought (Denken), without bringing out the true notion (Begriff); and we saw it, on that account, perish in its final fate, viz. in the religion of enlightenment. Here in this type of religion, the supersensible beyond, which we found in “understanding”, is reinstate, but in such a way that self-consciousness rests and feels satisfied in the mundane present, not in the “beyond”, and knows the supersensible beyond, void and empty, unknowable, and devoid of all terrors, neither as a self nor as power and might.

In the religion of Morality it is at last reinstated that Absolute Reality is a positive content; but that content is bound up with the negativity characteristic of the enlightenment. The content is an objective being, which. at the same time taken back into the self, and remains is there enclosed, and is a content with internal distinctions, while its parts are just as immediately negated as they are posited. The final destiny, however, which absorbs this contradictory process, is the self conscious of itself as the controlling necessity (Schicksal) of what is essential and actual.

Spirit knowing its self is in religion primarily and immediately its own pure self-consciousness. Those modes of it above considered —“objective spirit”, “spirit estranged from itself” and “spirit certain of its self”— together constitute what it is in its condition of consciousness, the state in which, being objectively opposed to its own world, it does not therein apprehend and consciously possess itself. But in Conscience it brings itself as well as its objective world as a whole into subjection, as also its idea(1) and its various specific conceptions;(2)and is now self-consciousness at home with itself. Here spirit, represented as an object, has the significance for itself of being Universal Spirit, which contains within itself all that is ultimate and essential and all that is concrete and actual; yet is not in the form of freely subsisting actuality, or of the apparent independence of external nature. It has a shape, no doubt, the form of objective being, in that it is object of its own consciousness; but because this consciousness is affirmed in religion with the essential character of being self-consciousness, the form or shape assumed is one perfectly transparent to itself; and the reality spirit contains is enclosed in it, or transcended in it, just in the same way as when we speak of “all reality”; it is “all reality”, but universal reality only in the sense of an object of thought.

Since, then, in religion, the peculiar characteristic of what is properly consciousness of spirit does not have the form of detached independent otherness, the existence of spirit is distinct from its self-consciousness, and its actual reality proper falls outside religion. There is no doubt one spirit in both, but its consciousness does not embrace both together; and religion appears as a part of existence, of acting, and of striving, whose other part is the life lived within spirit’s own actual world. As we now know that spirit in its own world and spirit conscious of itself as spirit, i.e. spirit in the sphere of religion, are the same, the completion of religion consists in the two forms becoming identical with one another: not merely in its reality being grasped and embraced by religion, but conversely — it, as spirit conscious of itself, becomes actual to itself, and real object of its own consciousness.

So far as spirit in religion presents itself to itself, it is indeed consciousness, and the reality enclosed within it is the shape and garment in which it clothes its idea of itself. The reality, however, does not in this presentation get proper justice done to it, that is to say, it does not get to be an independent and free objective existence and not merely a garment. And conversely, because that reality lacks within itself its completion, it is a determinate shape or form, which does not attain to what it ought to reveal, viz. spirit conscious of itself. That spirit’s shape might express spirit itself, the shape would have to be nothing else than spirit, and spirit would have to appear to itself, or to be actual, as it is in its own essential being. Only thereby, too, would be attained — what may seem to demand the opposite — that the object of its consciousness has, at the same time, the form of free and independent reality. But only spirit which is object to itself in the shape of Absolute Spirit, is as much aware of being a free and independent reality as it remains therein conscious of itself.

Since in the first instance self-consciousness and consciousness simply, religion, and spirit as it is externally in its world, or the objective existence of spirit, are distinct, the latter consists in the totality of spirit, so far as its moments are separated from each other and each is set forth by itself. These moments, however, are consciousness, self-consciousness, reason, and spirit — spirit, that is, qua immediate spirit, which is not yet consciousness of spirit. Their totality, taken all together, constitutes the mundane existence of spirit as a whole; spirit as such contains the previous separate embodiments in the form of universal determinations of its own being, in those moments just named. Religion presupposes that these have completely run their course, and is their simple totality, their absolute Self and soul.

The course which these traverse is, moreover, in relation to religion, not to be pictured as a temporal sequence. It is only spirit in its entirety that is in time, and the shapes assumed, which are specific embodiments Of the whole of spirit as such, present themselves in a sequence one after the other. For it is only the whole which properly has reality, and hence the form of pure freedom relatively to anything else, the form which takes expression as time. But the moments of the whole, consciousness, self-consciousness, reason, and spirit, have, because they are moments, no existence separate from one another.

Just as spirit was distinct from its moments, we have further, in the third place, to distinguish from these moments their specific individuated character. Each of those moments, in itself, we saw broke up again in a process of development all its own, and took various shapes and forms: as e.g. in the case of consciousness, sensuous certainty and perception were distinct phases. These latter aspects fall apart in time from one another, and belong to a specific particular whole. For spirit descends from its universality to assume an individual form through specific determination. This determination, or mediate element, is consciousness, self-consciousness, and so on. But individuality is constituted just bv the forms assumed by these moments. Hence these exhibit and reveal spirit in its individuality or concrete reality, and are distinguished in time from one another. though in such a way that the succeeding retains within it the preceding.

While, therefore, religion is the completion of the life of spirit, its final and complete expression, into which, as being their ground, its individual moments, consciousness, self-consciousness, reason, and spirit, return and have returned, they, at the same time, together constitute the objectively existing realization of spirit in its totality; as such spirit is real only as the moving process of these aspects which it possesses, a process of distinguishing them and returning back into itself. In the process of these universal moments is contained the development of religion generally. Since, however, each of these attributes was set forth and presented, not only in the way it in general determines itself, but as it is in and for itself, i.e. as, within its own being, running its course as a distinct whole — there has thus arisen not merely the development of religion generally; those independently complete processes pursued by the individual phases or moments of spirit contain at the same time the determinate forms of religion itself. Spirit in its entirety, spirit in religion, is once more the process from its immediacy to the attainment of a knowledge of what it implicitly or immediately, is; and is the process of attaining the state where the shape and form, in which it appears as an object for its own consciousness, will be perfectly adequate to its essential nature, and where it will behold itself as it is.

In this development of religion, then, spirit itself assumes definite shapes, which constitute the distinctions involved in this process: and at the same time a determinate or specific form of religion has likewise an actual spirit of a specific character. Thus, if consciousness, self-consciousness, reason, and spirit belong to self-knowing spirit in general, in a similar way the specific shapes, which self-knowing spirit assumes, appropriate and adopt the distinctive forms which were specially developed in the case of each of the stages — consciousness, self-consciousness, reason, and spirit. The determinate shape, assumed in a given case by religion, appropriates, from among the forms belonging to each of its moments, the one adapted to it, and makes this its actual spirit. Any one determinate attitude of religion pervades and permeates all aspects of its actual existence, and stamps them with this common feature.

In this way the arrangement now assumed by the forms and shapes which have thus far appeared, is different from the way they appeared in their own order. On this point we may note shortly at the outset what is necessary. In the series we considered, each moment, exhaustively elaborating its entire content, evolved and formed itself into a single whole within its own peculiar principle. And knowledge was the inner depth, or the spirit, wherein the moments, having no subsistence of their own, possessed their substance. This substance, however, has now at length made its appearance; it is the deep life of spirit certain of itself; it does not allow the principle belonging to each individual form to get isolated, and become a whole within itself: rather it collects all these moments into its own content, keeps them together, and advances within this total wealth of its concrete actual spirit; while all its particular moments take into themselves and receive together in common the like determinate character of the whole. This spirit certain of itself and the process it goes through-this is their true reality, the independent self-subsistence, which belongs to each individually.

Thus while the previous linear series in its advance marked the retrogressive steps in it by knots, but thence went forward again in one linear stretch, it is now, as it were, broken at these knots, these universal moments, and falls asunder into many lines, which, being bound together into a single bundle, combine at the same time symmetrically, so that the similar distinctions, in which each separately took shape within its own sphere, meet together.

For the rest, it is self-evident from the whole argument, how this co-ordination of universal directions, just mentioned, is to be understood; so that it becomes superfluous to remark that these distinctions are to be taken to mean essentially and only moments of the process of development, not parts. In the case of actual concrete spirit they are attributes of its substance; in religion, on the other hand, they are only predicates of the subject. In the same way, indeed, all forms in general are, in themselves or for us, contained in spirit and contained in every spirit. But the main point of importance, in dealing with its reality, is solely what determinate character it has in its consciousness, in which specific character it has expressed its self, or in what shape it knows its essential nature.

The distinction made between actual spirit and that same spirit which knows itself as spirit, or between itself qua consciousness and qua self-consciousness, is transcended and done away with in the case where spirit knows itself in its real truth. Its consciousness and its self-consciousness have come to terms. But, as religion is here to begin with and immediately, this distinction has not yet reverted to spirit. It is merely the conception, the principle, of religion that is established at first. In this the essential element is self-consciousness, which is conscious of being all truth, and which contains all reality within that truth. This self-consciousness, being consciousness [and so aware of an object], has itself for its object. Spirit, which knows itself in the first instance immediately, is thus to itself spirit in the form of immediacy; and the specific character of the shape in which it appears to itself is that of pure simple being. This being, this bare existence, has indeed a filling drawn neither from sensation or manifold matter, nor from any other one-sided moments, purposes, and determinations; its filling is solely spirit, and is known by itself to be all truth and reality. Such filling is in this first form not in adequate agreement with its own shape, spirit qua ultimate essence is not in accord with its consciousness. It is actual only as Absolute Spirit, when it is also for itself in its truth as it is in its certainty of itself, or, when the extremes, into which spirit qua consciousness falls, exist for one another in spiritual shape. The embodiment adopted by spirit qua object of its own consciousness, remains filled by the certainty of spirit, and this self-certainty constitutes its substance. Through this content, the degrading of the object to bare objectivity, to the form of something that negates self-consciousness, disappears. The immediate unity of spirit with itself is the fundamental basis, or pure consciousness, inside which consciousness breaks up into its constituent elements [viz. an object with subject over against it]. In this way, shut up within its pure self-consciousness, spirit does not exist in religion as the creator of a nature in general; rather what it produces in the course of this process are its shapes qua spirits, which together constitute all that it can reveal when it is completely manifested. And this process itself is the development of its perfect and complete actuality through the individual aspects thereof, i.e. through its imperfect modes of realization.

The first realization of spirit is just the principle and notion of religion itself-religion as immediate and thus Natural Religion. Here spirit knows itself as its object in a “natural” or immediate shape. The second realization, is, however, necessarily that of knowing itself in the shape of transcended and superseded natural existence, i.e. in the form of self. This therefore is Religion in the form of Art. For the shape it adopts is raised to the form of self through the productive activity of consciousness, by which this consciousness beholds in its object its own action, i.e. sees the self. The third realization, finally, cancels the one-sidedness of the first two: the self is as much as immediate self as the immediacy is a self. If spirit in the first is in the form of consciousness, and in the second in that of self-consciousness, it is in the third in the form of the unity of both; it has then the shape of what is completely self-contained (An-und-Fürsichseyns); and in being thus presented as it is in and for itself, this is Revealed Religion. Although spirit, however, here reaches its true shape, the very shape assumed and the conscious presentation are an aspect or phase still unsurmounted; and from this spirit has to pass over into the life of the Notion, in order therein completely to resolve the form of objectivity, in the notion which embraces within itself this its own opposite.

It is then that spirit has grasped its own principle, the notion of itself, as so far only we [who analyse spirit] have grasped it; and its shape, the element of its existence, in being the notion, is then spirit itself.

1. Vorstellung.

2. Begriff.

Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38