The Essence of Christianity/Chapter XXIII

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The Essence of Christianity by Ludwig Feuerbach
Chapter XXIII
CHAPTER XXIII.
THE CONTRADICTION IN THE SPECULATIVE DOCTRINE OF GOD.


The personality of God is thus the means by which man converts the qualities of his own nature into the qualities of another being,—of a being external to himself. The personality of God is nothing else than the projected personality of man.

On this process of projecting self outwards rests also the Hegelian speculative doctrine, according to which man’s consciousness of God is the self-consciousness of God. God is thought, cognized by us. According to speculation, God, in being thought by us, thinks himself or is conscious of himself; speculation identifies the two sides which religion separates. In this it is far deeper than religion, for the fact of God being thought is not like the fact of an external object being thought. God is an inward, spiritual being; thinking, consciousness, is an inward, spiritual act; to think God is therefore to affirm what God is, to establish the being of God as an act. That God is thought, cognized, is essential; that this tree is thought, is to the tree accidental, unessential. God is an indispensable thought, a necessity of thought. But how is it possible that this necessity should simply express the subjective, and not the objective also?—how is it possible that God—if he is to exist for us, to be an object to us—must necessarily be thought, if he is in himself like a block, indifferent whether he be thought, cognized or not? No! it is not possible. We are necessitated to regard the fact of God being thought by us, as his thinking himself, or his self-consciousness.

Religious objectivism has two passives, two modes in which God is thought. On the one hand, God is thought by us, on the other, he is thought by himself. God thinks himself, independently of his being thought by us: he has a self-consciousness distinct from, independent of, our consciousness. This is certainly consistent when once God is conceived as a real personality; for the real human person thinks himself, and is thought by another; my thinking of him is to him an indifferent, external fact. This is the last degree of anthropopathism. In order to make God free and independent of all that is human, he is regarded as a formal, real person, his thinking is confined within himself, and the fact of his being thought is excluded from him, and is represented as occurring in another being. This indifference or independence with respect to us, to our thought, is the attestation of a self-subsistent, i.e., external, personal existence. It is true that religion also makes the fact of God being thought into the self-thinking of God; but because this process goes forward behind its consciousness, since God is immediately presupposed as a self-existent personal being, the religious consciousness only embraces the indifference of the two facts.

Even religion, however, does not abide by this indifference of the two sides. God creates in order to reveal himself: creation is the revelation of God. But for stones, plants, and animals there is no God, but only for man; so that Nature exists for the sake of man, and man purely for the sake of God. God glorifies himself in man: man is the pride of God. God indeed knows himself even without man; but so long as there is no other me, so long is he only a possible, conceptional person. First when a difference from God, a non-divine is posited, is God conscious of himself; first when he knows what is not God, does he know what it is to be God, does he know the bliss of his Godhead. First in the positing of what is other than himself, of the world, does God posit himself as God. Is God almighty without creation? No! Omnipotence first realizes, proves itself in creation. What is a power, a property, which does not exhibit, attest itself? What is a force which effects nothing? a light that does not illuminate? a wisdom which knows nothing, i.e., nothing real? And what is omnipotence, what all other divine attributes, if man does not exist? Man is nothing without God; but also, God is nothing without man;[1] for only in man is God an object as God; only in man is he God. The various qualities of man first give difference, which is the ground of reality in God. The physical qualities of man make God a physical being—God the Father, who is the creator of Nature, i.e., the personified, anthropomorphized essence of Nature;[2] the intellectual qualities of man make God an intellectual being, the moral, a moral being. Human misery is the triumph of divine compassion; sorrow for sin is the delight of the divine holiness. Life, fire, emotion comes into God only through man. With the stubborn sinner God is angry; over the repentant sinner he rejoices. Man is the revealed God: in man the divine essence first realizes and unfolds itself. In the creation of Nature God goes out of himself, he has relation to what is other than himself, but in man he returns into himself:—man knows God, because in him God finds and knows himself, feels himself as God. Where there is no pressure, no want, there is no feeling;—and feeling is alone real knowledge. Who can know compassion without having felt the want of it? justice without the experience of injustice? happiness without the experience of distress? Thou must feel what a thing is; otherwise thou wilt never learn to know it. It is in man that the divine properties first become feelings, i.e., man is the self-feeling of God;—and the feeling of God is the real God; for the qualities of God are indeed only real qualities, realities, as felt by man,—as feelings. If the experience of human misery were outside of God, in a being personally separate from him, compassion also would not be in God, and we should hence have again the Being destitute of qualities, or more correctly the nothing, which God was before man or without man. For example:—Whether I be a good or sympathetic being—for that alone is good which gives, imparts itself, bonum est communicativum sui,—is unknown to me before the opportunity presents itself of showing goodness to another being. Only in the act of imparting do I experience the happiness of beneficence, the joy of generosity, of liberality. But is this joy apart from the joy of the recipient? No; I rejoice because he rejoices. I feel the wretchedness of another, I suffer with him; in alleviating his wretchedness I alleviate my own;—sympathy with suffering is itself suffering. The joyful feeling of the giver is only the reflex, the self-consciousness of the joy in the receiver. Their joy is a common feeling, which accordingly makes itself visible in the union of hands, of lips. So it is here. Just as the feeling of human misery is human, so the feeling of divine compassion is human. It is only a sense of the poverty of finiteness that gives a sense of the bliss of infiniteness. Where the one is not, the other is not. The two are inseparable,—inseparable the feeling of God as God, and the feeling of man as man, inseparable the knowledge of man and the self-knowledge of God. God is a Self only in the human self,—only in the human power of discrimination, in the principle of difference that lies in the human being. Thus compassion is only felt as a me, a self, a force, i.e., as something special, through its opposite. The opposite of God gives qualities to God, realizes him, makes him a Self. God is God, only through that which is not God. Herein we have also the mystery of Jacob Böhme’s doctrine. It must only be borne in mind that Jacob Böhme, as a mystic and theologian, places outside of man the feelings in which the divine being first realizes himself, passes from nothing to something, to a qualitative being apart from the feelings of man (at least in imagination),—and that he makes them objective in the form of natural qualities, but in such a way that these qualities still only represent the impressions made on his feelings. It will then be obvious that what the empirical religious consciousness first posits with the real creation of Nature and of man, the mystical consciousness places before the creation in the premundane God, in doing which, however, it does away with the reality of the creation. For if God has what is not-God, already in himself, he has no need first to create what is not-God in order to be God. The creation of the world is here a pure superfluity, or rather an impossibility; this God for very reality does not come to reality; he is already in himself the full and restless world. This is especially true of Schelling’s doctrine of God, who though made up of innumerable “potences” is yet thoroughly impotent. Far more reasonable, therefore, is the empirical religious consciousness, which makes God reveal, i.e., realize himself in real man, real nature, and according to which man is created purely for the praise and glory of God. That is to say, man is the mouth of God, which articulates and accentuates the divine qualities as human feelings. God wills that he be honoured, praised. Why? because the passion of man for God is the self-consciousness of God. Nevertheless, the religious consciousness separates these two properly inseparable sides, since by means of the idea of personality it makes God and man independent existences. Now the Hegelian speculation identifies the two sides, but so as to leave the old contradiction still at the foundation;—it is therefore only the consistent carrying out, the completion of a religious truth. The learned mob was so blind in its hatred towards Hegel as not to perceive that his doctrine, at least in this relation, does not in fact contradict religion;—that it contradicts it only in the same way as, in general, a developed, consequent process of thought contradicts an undeveloped, inconsequent, but nevertheless radically identical conception.

But if it is only in human feelings and wants that the divine “nothing” becomes something, obtains qualities, then the being of man is alone the real being of God,—man is the real God. And if in the consciousness which man has of God first arises the self-consciousness of God, then the human consciousness is, per se, the divine consciousness. Why then dost thou alienate man’s consciousness from him, and make it the self-consciousness of a being distinct from man, of that which is an object to him? Why dost thou vindicate existence to God, to man only the consciousness of that existence? God has his consciousness in man, and man his being in God? Man’s knowledge of God is God’s knowledge of himself? What a divorcing and contradiction! The true statement is this: man’s knowledge of God is man’s knowledge of himself, of his own nature. Only the unity of being and consciousness is truth. Where the consciousness of God is, there is the being of God,—in man, therefore; in the being of God it is only thy own being which is an object to thee, and what presents itself before thy consciousness is simply what lies behind it. If the divine qualities are human, the human qualities are divine.

Only when we abandon a philosophy of religion, or a theology, which is distinct from psychology and anthropology, and recognise anthropology as itself theology, do we attain to a true, self-satisfying identity of the divine and human being, the identity of the human being with itself. In every theory of the identity of the divine and human which is not true identity, unity of the human nature with itself, there still lies at the foundation a division, a separation into two, since the identity is immediately abolished, or rather is supposed to be abolished. Every theory of this kind is in contradiction with itself and with the understanding,—is a half measure—a thing of the imagination—a perversion, a distortion; which, however, the more perverted and false it is, all the more appears to be profound.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. “God can as little do without us as we without him.”—Predigten etzlicher Lehrer, &c. p. 16. See also on this subject—Strauss, Christl. Glaubensl. B. i. § 47, and the author’s work entitled, P. Bayle, pp. 104, 107.
  2. “This temporal, transitory life in this world (i.e. natural life) we have through God, who is the almighty Creator of heaven and earth. But the eternal untransitory life we have through the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . Jesus Christ a Lord over that life.”—Luther (Th. xvi. s. 459).