Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion/Introduction/A/II
In saying above that philosophy makes religion the subject of consideration, and when further this consideration of it appears to be in the position of something which is different from its object, it would seem as if we are still occupying that attitude in which both sides remain mutually independent and separate. In taking up such an attitude in thus considering the subject, we should accordingly come out of that region of devotion and enjoyment which religion is, and the object and the consideration of it as the movement of thought would be as different as, for example, the geometrical figures in mathematics are from the mind which considers them. Such is only the relation, however, as it at first appears, when knowledge is still severed from the religious side, and is finite knowledge. On the contrary, when we look more closely, it becomes apparent that as a matter of fact the content, the need, and the interest of philosophy represent something which it has in common with religion.
The object of religion as well as of philosophy is eternal truth in its objectivity, God and nothing but God, and the explication of God. Philosophy is not a wisdom of the world, but is knowledge of what is not of the world; it is not knowledge which concerns external mass, or empirical existence and life, but is knowledge of that which is eternal, of what God is, and what flows out of His nature. For this His nature must reveal and develop itself. Philosophy, therefore, only unfolds itself when it unfolds religion, and in unfolding itself it unfolds religion. As thus occupied with eternal truth which exists on its own account, or is in and for itself, and, as in fact, a dealing on the part of the thinking spirit, and not of individual caprice and particular interest, with this object, it is the same kind of activity as religion is. The mind in so far as it thinks philosophically immerses itself with like living interest in this object, and renounces its particularity in that it permeates its object, in the same way, as religious consciousness does, for the latter also does not seek to have anything of its own, but desires only to immerse itself in this content.
Thus religion and philosophy come to be one. Philosophy is itself, in fact, worship; it is religion, for in the same way it renounces subjective notions and opinions in order to occupy itself with God. Philosophy is thus identical with religion, but the distinction is that it is so in a peculiar manner, distinct from the manner of looking at things which is commonly called religion as such. What they have in common is, that they are religion; what distinguishes them from each other is merely the kind and manner of religion we find in each. It is in the peculiar way in which they both occupy themselves with God that the distinction comes out. It is just here, however, that the difficulties lie which appear so great, that it is even regarded as an impossibility that philosophy should be one with religion. Hence comes the suspicion with which philosophy is looked upon by theology, and the antagonistic attitude of religion and philosophy. In accordance with this antagonistic attitude (as theology considers it to be) philosophy seems to act injuriously, destructively, upon religion, robbing it of its sacred character, and the way in which it occupies itself with God seems to be absolutely different from religion. Here, then, is the same old opposition and contradiction which had already made its appearance among the Greeks. Among that free democratic people, the Athenians, philosophical writings were burnt, and Socrates was condemned to death; now, however, this opposition is held to be an acknowledged fact, more so than that unity of religion and philosophy just asserted.
Old though this opposition is, however, the combination of philosophy and religion is just as old. Already to the neo-Pythagoreans and neo-Platonists, who were as yet within the heathen world, the gods of the people were not gods of imagination, but had become gods of thought. That combination had a place, too, among the most eminent of the Fathers of the Church, who in their religious life took up an essentially intellectual attitude inasmuch as they set out from the presupposition that theology is religion together with conscious thought and comprehension. It is to their philosophical culture that the Christian Church is indebted for the first beginnings of a content of Christian doctrine.
This union of religion and philosophy was carried out to a still greater extent in the Middle Ages. So little was it believed that the knowledge which seeks to comprehend is hurtful to faith, that it was even held to be essential to the further development of faith itself. It was by setting out from philosophy that those great men, Anselm and Abelard, further developed the essential characteristics of faith.
Knowledge in constructing its world for itself, without reference to religion, had only taken possession of the finite contents; but since it has developed into the true philosophy, it has the same content as religion.
If we now look provisionally for the distinction between religion and philosophy as it presents itself in this unity of content, we find it takes the following form:—
a. A speculative philosophy is the consciousness of the Idea, so that everything is apprehended as Idea; the Idea, however, is the True in thought, and not in mere sensuous contemplation or in ordinary conception. The True in thought, to put it more precisely, means that it is something concrete, posited as divided in itself, and in such away, indeed, that the two sides of what is divided are opposed characteristics of thought, and the Idea must be conceived of as the unity of these. To think speculatively means to resolve anything real into its parts, and to oppose these to each other in such a way that the distinctions are set in opposition in accordance with the characteristics of thought, and the object is apprehended as unity of the two.
In sense-perception or picture-thought we have the object before us as a whole, our reflection distinguishes, apprehends different sides, recognises the diversity in them, and severs them. In this act of distinguishing, reflection does not keep firm hold of their unity. Sometimes it forgets the wholeness, sometimes the distinctions; and if it has both before it, it yet separates the properties from the object, and so places both that that in which the two are one becomes a third, which is different from the object and its properties. In the case of mechanical objects which appear in the region of externality, this relation may have a place, for the object is only the lifeless substratum for the distinctions, and the quality of oneness is the gathering together of external aggregates. In the true object, however, which is not merely an aggregate, an externally united multiplicity, the object is one, although it has characteristics which are distinguished from it, and it is speculative thought which first gets a grasp of the unity in this very antithesis as such. It is in fact the business of speculative thought to apprehend all objects of pure thought, of nature and of Spirit, in the form of thought, and thus as the unity of the difference.
b. Religion, then, is itself the standpoint of the consciousness of the True, which is in and for itself, and is consequently the stage of Spirit at which the speculative content generally, is object for consciousness. Religion is not consciousness of this or that truth in individual objects, but of the absolute truth, of truth as the Universal, the All-comprehending, outside of which there lies nothing at all. The content of its consciousness is further the Universally True, which exists on its own account or in and for itself, which determines itself, and is not determined from without. While the finite required an Other for its determinateness, the True has its determinateness, the limit, its end in itself; it is not limited through an Other, but the Other is found in itself. It is this speculative element which comes to consciousness in religion. Truth is, indeed, contained in every other sphere, but not the highest absolute truth, for this exists only in perfect universality of characterisation or determination, and in the fact of being determined in and for itself, which is not simple determinateness having reference to an Other, but contains the Other, the difference in its very self.
c. Religion is accordingly this speculative element in the form, as it were, of a state of consciousness, of which the aspects are not simple qualities of thought, but are concretely filled up. These moments can be no other than the moment of Thought, active universality, thought in operation, and reality as immediate, particular self-consciousness.
Now, while in philosophy the rigidity of these two sides loses itself through reconciliation in thought, because both sides are thoughts, and the one is not pure universal thought, and the other of an empirical and individual character, religion only arrives at the enjoyment of unity by lifting these two rigid extremes out of this state of severance, by rearranging them, and bringing them together again. But by thus stripping off the form of dualism from its extremes, rendering the opposition in the element of Universality fluid, and bringing it to reconciliation, religion remains always akin to thought, even in its form and movement; and philosophy, as simply active thought, and thought which unites opposed elements, has approached closely to religion.
The contemplation of religion in thought has thus raised the determinate moments of religion to the rank of thoughts, and the question is how this contemplation of religion in thought is related generally to philosophy as forming an organic part in its system.
a. In philosophy, the Highest is called the Absolute, the Idea; it is superfluous to go further back here, and to mention that this Highest was in the Wolfian Philosophy called ens, Thing; for that at once proclaims itself an abstraction, which corresponds very inadequately to our idea of God. In the more recent philosophy, the Absolute is not so complete an abstraction, but yet it has not on that account the same signification as is implied in the term, God. In order even to make the difference apparent, we must in the first place consider what the word signify itself signifies. When we ask, “What does this or that signify?” we are asking about two kinds of things, and, in fact, about things which are opposed. In the first place, we call what we are thinking of, the meaning, the end or intention, the general thought of this or that expression, work of art, &c.; if we ask about its intrinsic character, it is essentially the thought that is in it of which we wish to have an idea. When we thus ask “What is God?” “What does the expression God signify?” it is the thought involved in it that we desire to know; the idea we possess already. Accordingly, what is signified here is that we have got to specify the Notion, and thus it follows that the Notion is the signification; it is the Absolute, the nature of God as grasped by thought, the logical knowledge of this, to which we desire to attain. This, then, is the one signification of signification, and so far, that which we call the Absolute has a meaning identical with the expression God.
b. But we put the question again, in a second sense, according to which it is the opposite of this which is sought after. When we begin to occupy ourselves with pure thought-determinations, and not with outward ideas, it may be that the mind does not feel satisfied, is not at home, in these, and asks what this pure thought-determination signifies. For example, every one can understand for himself what is meant by the terms unity, objective, subjective, &c., and yet it may very well happen that the specific form of thought we call the unity of subjective and objective, the unity of real and ideal, is not understood. What is asked for in such a case is the meaning in the very opposite sense from that which was required before. Here it is an idea or a pictorial conception of the thought-determination which is demanded, an example of the content, which has as yet only been given in thought. If we find a thought-content difficult to understand, the difficulty lies in this, that we possess no pictorial idea of it; it is by means of an example that it becomes clear to us, and that the mind first feels at home with itself in this content. When, accordingly, we start with the ordinary conception of God, the Philosophy of Religion has to consider its signification—this, namely, that God is the Idea, the Absolute, the Essential Reality which is grasped in thought and in the Notion, and this it has in common with logical philosophy; the logical Idea is God as He is in Himself. But it is just the nature of God that He should not be implicit or in Himself only. He is as essentially for Himself, the Absolute Spirit, not only the Being who keeps Himself within thought, but who also manifests Himself, and gives Himself objectivity.
c. Thus, in contemplating the Idea of God, in the Philosophy of Religion, we have at the same time to do with the manner of His manifestation or presentation to us; He simply makes Himself apparent, represents Himself to Himself. This is the aspect of the determinate being or existence of the Absolute. In the Philosophy of Religion we have thus the Absolute as object; not, however, merely in the form of thought, but also in the form of its manifestation. The universal Idea is thus to be conceived of with the purely concrete meaning of essentiality in general, and is to be regarded from the point of view of its activity in displaying itself, in appearing, in revealing itself. Popularly speaking, we say God is the Lord of the natural world and of the realm of Spirit. He is the absolute harmony of the two, and it is He who produces and carries on this harmony. Here neither thought and Notion nor their manifestation—determinate being or existence—are wanting. This aspect, thus represented by determinate being, is itself, however, to be grasped again in thought, since we are here in the region of philosophy.
Philosophy to begin with contemplates the Absolute as logical Idea, the Idea as it is in thought, under the aspect in which its content is constituted by the specific forms of thought. Further, philosophy exhibits the Absolute in its activity, in its creations. This is the manner in which the Absolute becomes actual or “for itself,” becomes Spirit, and God is thus the result of philosophy. It becomes apparent, however, that this is not merely a result, but is something which eternally creates itself, and is that which precedes all else. The onesidedness of the result is abrogated and absorbed in the very result itself.
Nature, finite Spirit, the world of consciousness, of intelligence, and of will, are embodiments of the divine Idea, but they are definite shapes, special modes of the appearance of the Idea, forms, in which the Idea has not yet penetrated to itself, so as to be absolute Spirit.
In the Philosophy of Religion, however, we do not contemplate the implicitly existing logical Idea merely, in its determinate character as pure thought, nor in those finite determinations where its mode of appearance is a finite one, but as it is in itself or implicitly in thought, and at the same time as it appears, manifests itself, and thus in infinite manifestation as Spirit, which reflects itself in itself; for Spirit which does not appear, is not. In this characteristic of appearance finite appearance is also included—that is, the world of nature, and the world of finite spirit,—but Spirit is regarded as the power or force of these worlds, as producing them out of itself, and out of them producing itself.
This, then, is the position of the Philosophy of Religion in relation to the other parts of philosophy. Of the other parts, God is the result; here, this End is made the Beginning, and becomes our special Object, as the simply concrete Idea, with its infinite manifestations; and this characteristic concerns the content of the Philosophy of Religion. We look at this content, however, from the point of view of rational thought, and this concerns the form, and brings us to consider the position of the Philosophy of Religion with regard to religion as this latter appears in the shape of positive religion.
It is well known that the faith of the Church, more especially of the Protestant Church, has taken a fixed form as a system of doctrine. This content has been universally accepted as truth; and as the description of what God is, and of what man is in relation to God, it has been called the Creed, that is, in the subjective sense that which is believed, and objectively, what is to be known as content, in the Christian Church, and what God has revealed Himself to be. Now as universal established doctrine this content is partly laid down in the Apostolic Symbolum or Apostles' Creed, partly in later symbolical books. And moreover, in the Protestant Church the Bible has always been characterised as the essential foundation of doctrine.
a. Accordingly, in the apprehension and determination of the content of doctrine, the influence of reason, as “argumentation” has made itself felt. At first indeed, this was so much the case that the doctrinal content, and the Bible as its positive foundation, were to remain unquestioned, and thought was only to take up the thoughts of the Bible as Exegesis. But as a matter of fact understanding had previously established its opinions and its thoughts for itself, and then attention was directed towards observing how the words of Scripture could be explained in accordance with these. The words of the Bible are a statement of truth which is not systematic; they are Christianity as it appeared in the beginning; it is Spirit which grasps the content, which unfolds its meaning. This exegesis having thus taken counsel with reason, the result has been that a so-called Theology of Reason has now come into existence, which is put in opposition to that doctrinal system of the Church, partly by this theology itself, and partly by that doctrinal system to which it is opposed. At the same time, exegesis takes possession of the written word, interprets it, and pretends only to lay stress on the understanding of the word, and to desire to remain faithful to it.
But whether it be chiefly to save appearances, or whether it is really and in downright earnest that the Bible is made the foundation, it is inherent in the very nature of any explanation which interprets, that thought should have its part in it. Thought explicitly contains categories, principles, premises, which must make their influence felt in the work of interpretation. If interpretation be not mere explanation of words but explanation of the sense, the thoughts of the interpreter must necessarily be put into the words which constitute the foundation. Mere word-interpretation can only amount to this, that for one word another co-extensive in meaning is substituted; but in the course of explanation further categories of thought are combined with it. For a development is advance to further thoughts. In appearance the sense is adhered to, but in reality further thoughts are developed. Commentaries on the Bible do not so much make us acquainted with the content of the Scriptures, as rather with the manner in which things were conceived in the age in which they were written. It is, indeed, the sense contained in the words which is supposed to be given. The giving of the sense means, however, the bringing forward of the sense into consciousness, into the region of ideas; and these ideas, which get determinate character elsewhere, then assert their influence in the exposition of the sense supposed to be contained in the words. It is the case even in the presentation of a philosophical system which is already fully developed, as, for example, that of Plato or of Aristotle, that the presentation takes a different form, according to the definite kind of idea which those who undertake thus to expound it have already formed themselves. Accordingly, the most contradictory meanings have been exegetically demonstrated by means of Theology out of the Scriptures, and thus the so-called Holy Scriptures have been made into a nose of wax. All heresies have, in common with the Church, appealed to the Scriptures.
b. The Theology of Reason, which thus came into existence, did not, however, limit itself to being merely an exegesis which kept to the Bible as its foundation, but in its character as free, rational knowledge assumed a certain relation to religion and its content generally. In this more general relation the dealing with the subject and the result can amount to nothing more than to the taking possession by such knowledge of all that, in religion, has a determinate character. For the doctrine concerning God goes on to that of the characteristics, the attributes, and the actions of God. Such knowledge takes possession of this determinate content, and would make it appear that it belongs to it. It, on the one hand, conceives of the Infinite in its own finite fashion, as something which has a determinate character, as an abstract infinite, and then on the other hand finds that all special attributes are inadequate to this Infinite. By such a mode of proceeding the religious content is annihilated, and the absolute object reduced to complete poverty. The finite and determinate which this knowledge has drawn into its territory, points indeed to a Beyond as existing for it, but even this Beyond is conceived of by it in a finite manner, as an abstract, supreme Being, possessing no character at all. “Enlightenment”—which is that consummation of finite knowledge just described—intends to place God very high when it speaks of Him as the Infinite, with regard to which all predicates are inadequate, and are unwarranted anthropomorphisms. In reality, however, it has, in conceiving God as the supreme Being, made Him hollow, empty, and poor. c. If it should now seem as if the Philosophy of Religion rested on the same basis as this Theology of Reason, or Theology of Enlightenment, and was consequently in the same condition of opposition to the content of religion, further reflection shows that this is merely an appearance of resemblance which vanishes directly it is examined into.
(.) For God was conceived by that rationalistic way of looking at religion, which was only the abstract metaphysic of the understanding, as an abstraction which is empty ideality, and as against which the finite stands in an external fashion, and thus too from this point of view morals constituted, as a special science, the knowledge of that which was held to belong to the actual subject as regards general actions and conduct. The fact of the relation of man to God, which represents the one side, occupied a separate and independent position. Thinking reason, on the contrary, which is no longer abstract, but which sets out from the faith of man in the dignity of his spirit, and is actuated by the courage of truth and freedom, grasps the truth as something concrete, as fulness of content, as Ideality, in which determinateness—the finite—is contained as a moment. Therefore, to thinking reason, God is not emptiness, but Spirit; and this characteristic of Spirit does not remain for it a word only, or a superficial characteristic; on the contrary, the nature of Spirit unfolds itself for rational thought, inasmuch as it apprehends God as essentially the Triune God. Thus God is conceived of as making Himself an object to Himself, and further, the object remains in this distinction in identity with God; in it God loves Himself. Without this characteristic of Trinity, God would not be Spirit, and Spirit would be an empty word. But if God be conceived as Spirit, then this conception includes the subjective side in itself or even develops itself so as to reach to that side, and the Philosophy of Religion, as the contemplation of religion by thought, binds together again the determinate content of religion in its entirety.
(.) With regard, however, to that form of contemplation in thought, which adheres to the words of Holy Scripture, and asserts that it explains them by the aid of reason, it is only in appearance that the Philosophy of Religion stands on the same basis with it. For that kind of contemplation by its own sovereign power lays down its argumentations as the foundation of Christian doctrine; and although it still leaves the Biblical words standing, yet the particular meaning remains as the principal determination, and to this the assumed Biblical truth must subordinate itself. This argumentation accordingly retains its assumptions, and moves within the relations of the Understanding, which belong to Reflection, without subjecting these to criticism. But the Philosophy of Religion, as being rational knowledge, is opposed to the arbitrariness of this argumentative process, and is the Reason of the Universal, which presses forward to unity.
Philosophy is therefore very far removed from being on the common highway on which this Theology of Reason and this exegetical argumentative process move, the truth rather being that it is these tendencies chiefly which combat it, and seek to bring it under suspicion. They protest against philosophy, but only in order to reserve to themselves the arbitrariness of their argumentative process. Philosophy is called something special and particular, although it is nothing else than rational, truly universal thought. Philosophy is regarded as a something ghostly, of which we know nothing, and about which there is something uncanny; but this idea only shows that these rationalistic theologians find it more convenient to keep to their unregulated arbitrary reflections, to which philosophy attaches no validity. If, then, those theologians, who busy themselves with their argumentations in exegesis, and appeal to the Bible in connection with all their notions, when they deny as against philosophy the possibility of knowledge, have brought matters to such a pass, and have so greatly depreciated the reputation of the Bible, that if the truth were as they say, and if according to the true explanation of the Bible, no knowledge of the nature of God were possible,—the spirit would be compelled to look for another source in order to acquire such truth as should be substantial or full of content.
(.) The Philosophy of Religion cannot, therefore, in the fashion of that metaphysic of the Understanding, and exegesis of inferences, put itself in opposition to positive religion, and to such doctrine of the Church as has still preserved its content. On the contrary, it will become apparent that it stands infinitely nearer to positive doctrine than it seems at first sight to do. Indeed, the re-establishment of the doctrines of the Church, reduced to a minimum by the Understanding, is so truly the work of philosophy, that it is decried by that so-called Theology of Reason, which is merely a Theology of the Understanding, as a darkening of the mind, and this just because of the true content possessed by it. The fears of the Understanding, and its hatred of philosophy, arise from a feeling of apprehension, based on the fact that it perceives how philosophy carries back its reflecting process to its foundation, that is, to the affirmative in which it perishes, and yet that philosophy arrives at a content, and at a knowledge of the nature of God, after all content seemed to be already done away with. Every content appears to this negative tendency to be a darkening of the mind, its only desire being to continue in that nocturnal darkness which it calls enlightenment, and hence the rays of the light of knowledge must be necessarily regarded by it as hostile.
It is sufficient here merely to observe regarding the supposed opposition of the Philosophy of Religion and positive religion, that there cannot be two kinds of reason and two kinds of Spirit; there cannot be a Divine reason and a human, there cannot be a Divine Spirit and a human, which are absolutely different. Human reason—the consciousness of one’s being—is indeed reason; it is the divine in man, and Spirit, in so far as it is the Spirit of God, is not a spirit beyond the stars, beyond the world. On the contrary, God is present, omnipresent, and exists as Spirit in all spirits. God is a living God, who is acting and working. Religion is a product of the Divine Spirit; it is not a discovery of man, but a work of divine operation and creation in him. The expression that God as reason rules the world, would be irrational if we did not assume that it has reference also to religion, and that the Divine Spirit works in the special character and form assumed by religion. But the development of reason as perfected in thought does not stand in opposition to this Spirit, and consequently it cannot be absolutely different from the work which the Divine Spirit has produced in religion. The more a man in thinking rationally lets the true thing or fact itself hold sway with him, renounces his particularity, acts as universal consciousness, while his reason does not seek its own in the sense of something special, the less will he, as the embodiment of this reason, get into that condition of opposition; for it, namely, reason, is itself the essential fact or thing, the spirit, the Divine Spirit. The Church or the theologians may disdain this aid, or may take it amiss when their doctrine is made reasonable; they may even repel the exertions of philosophy with proud irony, though these are not directed in a hostile spirit against religion, but, on the contrary, seek to fathom its truth; and they may ridicule the “manufactured” truth—but this scorn is no longer of any avail, and is, in fact, idle when once the need of true rational knowledge, and the sense of discord between it and religion, have been awakened. The intelligence has here its rights, which can in no way be longer denied to it, and the triumph of knowledge is the reconciliation of the opposition.
Although then, philosophy, as the Philosophy of Religion, is so very different from those tendencies of the understanding, which are at bottom hostile to religion, and is in no way such a spectral thing as it has usually been represented to be, yet even at the present day we still see the belief in the absolute opposition between philosophy and religion made one of the shibboleths of the time. All those principles of the religious consciousness which have been developed at the present time, however widely distinguished their forms may be from one another, yet agree in this, that they are at enmity with philosophy, and endeavour at all hazards to prevent it from occupying itself with religion; and the work that now lies before us is to consider philosophy in its relation to these principles of the time. From this consideration of the subject we may confidently promise ourselves success, all the more that it will become apparent how, in presence of all that enmity which is shown to philosophy, from however many sides it may come—indeed, it comes from almost every side of consciousness in its present form—the time has nevertheless arrived when philosophy can, partly in an unprejudiced and partly in a favourable and successful manner, occupy itself with religion. For the opposition takes one or other of those forms of the divided consciousness which we considered above. They occupy partly the standpoint of the metaphysic of the Understanding, for which God is emptiness, and content has vanished, partly the standpoint of feeling, which after the loss of absolute content has withdrawn itself into its empty subjectivity, but is in accord with that metaphysic in coming to the result that every characterisation is inadequate to the eternal content—for this indeed is only an abstraction. Or we may even see that the assertions of the opponents of philosophy contain nothing else than what philosophy itself contains as its principle, and as the foundation of its principle. This contradiction, namely, that the opponents of philosophy are the opponents of religion who have been overcome by it, and that they yet implicitly possess the principle of philosophical knowledge in their reflections, has its foundation in this, that they represent the historical element out of which philosophical thought in its complete shape has been formed.
- Vernunft Theologie.
- Die Sache.