Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (August 27, 1770 – November 14, 1831) was a German philosopher. Wikipedia goes to great lengths to attempt to classify his philosophy, indicating he was “an important figure of German idealism” and that he was “primarily influential within the continental tradition of philosophy, and has become increasingly influential in the analytic tradition as well.” But what Wikipedia don’t tell you is that he might be better classified as a mystic..........
from The 17th Frederic W H Myers memorial lecture 1968 by Sir Cyril Burt
Hegel it may be noted stated that his philosophy developed out of the mystic insight he experienced in early youth
And from his own descriptions the experiences he had were extremely significant
The Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) - Hegel
The force of mind is only as great as its expression; its depth only as deep as its power to expand and lose itself. Preface (J. B. Baillie translation)
Given that Hegel at least had mystic tendencies even if he had not attained full mystic status, it was inevitable that he recognised the existence of Plato’s immortal soul, understood and intensely studied the mystical writings of Böhme and was fascinated by the works of Johann Wolfgang Goethe. All fellow mystics or geniuses. At the level of Hegel’s thinking one is beyond religion, and beyond the petty squabbles of most of philosophy. Instead one is delving into the heart of philosophy and its most difficult questions. Why evil? Why contrast? What is it to be conscious or self conscious?
He saw the battle between the powers of aggregation and those of diversity, freedom and authority, knowledge and faith, the so called Enlightenment and Romanticism.
Hegel’s works attract and attracted criticism, but possibly the only criticism that is justified is that he does not write for the uninitiated. Anyone with atheist tendencies or with very conventional views on religion or philosophy simply would not be able to understand a word of Hegel’s propositions.
He seems to assume a launching point way beyond the average academic, that alone a lay man. Bertrand Russell, for example, stated that Hegel was "the hardest to understand of all the great philosophers" – and I doubt that Russell ever did understand. Hegel seems to revel in obfuscation for the sake of it, as if he was writing a coded book. In a sense, maybe he was. Scientist Ludwig Boltzmann criticized the obscure complexity of Hegel's works, but then much of what Boltzmann contributed to science was deduced via perspiration and the study of the physical and not any inspiration.
Magee, Glenn Alexander (2001), Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition
I do not argue merely that we can understand Hegel as a Hermetic thinker, just as we can understand him as a German or a Swabian or an idealist thinker. Instead, I argue that we must understand Hegel as a Hermetic thinker, if we are to truly understand him at all.
Hermeticism, is the generic name given to the mystic, philosophical, and esoteric tradition based primarily upon writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, writings that influenced all mystic traditions including alchemy and astrology.
The Higher Spirit as the Master
All mystics recognise the existence of the Higher spirit, that little spark that is part of God. It is connected to the Tree of Life from which it derives its energy. All communication with higher powers - ‘Thy Will be Done’ - is via this Spirit. It is recognised by the Sufis but not by Islam. It is recognised by the Yogis [atman] but not by Hindus, it is recognised by Christian mystics but not by ordinary theologians. And Hegel tried to explain, to those who at least were familiar with the concept, of the Master Slave relationship - the necessity to relinquish our Will to this Spirit rather than to any man. If you wish you can call the entity God, but this would not be right. for the Higher spirit is our link to peace and bliss and deep connection with World Soul, Nature, and all the angels that fly in heaven!
To attain bliss and peace, to attain divinity, to achieve annihilation, one must surrender. Initially the relationship is master slave, but eventually all ego dies, all Personality and the Slave merges with the Master
The Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) - Hegel
In immediate self-consciousness the simple ego is absolute object, which, however, is for us or in itself absolute mediation, and has as its essential moment substantial and solid independence. The dissolution of that simple unity is the result of the first experience; through this there is posited a pure self-consciousness, and a consciousness which is not purely for itself, but for another, i.e. as an existent consciousness, consciousness in the form and shape of thinghood. Both moments are essential, since, in the first instance, they are unlike and opposed, and their reflexion into unity has not yet come to light, they stand as two opposed forms or modes of consciousness. The one is independent whose essential nature is to be for itself, the other is dependent whose essence is life or existence for another. The former is the Master, or Lord, the latter is the Bondsman.
I write this with little hope it will be understood. But it may help a tiny few, just as Hegel helped a tiny few.
The Spiritual Path
Most eastern religions believe that Enlightenment or release from the wheel of life, is only ever achieved by numerous incarnations on this Earth. Reincarnation as a belief was removed from the main stream Biblical religions 2,000 or so years ago, despite the fact that the Gnostic Gospels for example show that it was the principle belief at the time. The Great Work is the evolutionary plan for the universe, everyone is involved and the level of their involvement is reflected in the stages of the Spiritual Path and where on it people find themselves.
The Spiritual Path is not some self indulgent foray into ‘finding oneself’ as occasional New Age believers appear to preach, but it is a life of service, where initially we are severely tested to ensure we can follow through.
The Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) - Hegel
The life of God — the life which the mind apprehends and enjoys as it rises to the absolute unity of all things — may be described as a play of love with itself; but this idea sinks to an edifying truism, or even to a platitude, when it does not embrace in it the earnestness, the pain, the patience, and labour, involved in the negative aspect of things.
Furthermore it cannot be rushed. Stages may be repeated and one task can take a lifetime. Awareness and understanding of spirituality go hand in hand with actually doing the job for which one was destined
The Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) - Hegel
……… Impatience asks for the impossible, wants to reach the goal without the means of getting there. The length of the journey has to be borne with, for every moment is necessary, ... because by nothing less could that all-pervading mind ever manage to become conscious of what itself is — for that reason, the individual mind, in the nature of the case, cannot expect by less toil to grasp what its own substance contains.
Life in brief
Hegel was born on August 27, 1770 in Stuttgart, in the Duchy of Württemberg in southwestern Germany. Hegel's mother, Maria Magdalena Louisa died of a "bilious fever" when Hegel was thirteen. Hegel and his father also caught the disease but narrowly survived. He appears to have been something of a prodigy. At the age of three Hegel went to the "German School" and entered the "Latin School" two years later. In 1776, aged 6, Hegel entered Stuttgart's gymnasium illustre. Hegel's studies at the Gymnasium were concluded with his Abiturrede ("graduation speech") entitled "The abortive state of art and scholarship in Turkey".
At the age of eighteen Hegel entered the Tübinger Stift (a Protestant seminary attached to the University of Tübingen), where he had as roommates the poet Friedrich Hölderlin and the philosopher-to-be Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling. The three became close friends and mutually influenced each other's ideas. All greatly admired Hellenic civilization. There is a sad irony about this time as Hegel seems to have had an ambition to be a ‘people’s philosopher’ who aimed to make the abstruse ideas of philosophers accessible to a wider public. Having received his theological certificate (Konsistorialexamen) from the Tübingen Seminary, Hegel became a house tutor) to a succession of well-off families. He was at this time devoutly Christian and wrote
- the text which has become known as the "Life of Jesus"
- a book-length manuscript titled "The Positivity of the Christian Religion."
- an essay "Fragments on Religion and Love." And
- an essay entitled "The Spirit of Christianity and Its Fate" unpublished during his lifetime.
In 1801, Hegel came to Jena with the encouragement of his old friend Schelling, who held the position of Extraordinary Professor at the University there. Hegel secured a position at the University as a Privatdozent (unsalaried lecturer) after submitting an inaugural dissertation on the orbits of the planets.
He lectured on "Logic and Metaphysics" and gave joint lectures with Schelling. The collaboration ended when Schelling left for Würzburg in 1803. In 1805, the University promoted Hegel to the position of Extraordinary Professor (unsalaried). His finances drying up quickly, Hegel was now under great pressure to deliver his book, the long-promised introduction to his System. Hegel was putting the finishing touches to this book, the Phenomenology of Spirit, as Napoleon engaged Prussian troops on October 14, 1806, in the Battle of Jena. The city was devastated by the battle and students deserted the university in droves, making Hegel's financial prospects even worse. The following February Hegel's landlady Christiana Burkhardt (who had been abandoned by her husband) gave birth to their son Georg Ludwig Friedrich Fischer (1807–31).
In March 1807, aged 37, Hegel moved to Bamberg, to become editor of a newspaper, the Bamberger Zeitung (de). Ludwig Fischer and his mother stayed behind in Jena. He was then, in November 1808, appointed headmaster of a Gymnasium in Nuremberg, a post he held until 1816.
While in Nuremberg, Hegel adapted his recently published Phenomenology of Spirit for use in the classroom. Part of his remit being to teach a class called "Introduction to Knowledge of the Universal Coherence of the Sciences", Hegel developed the idea of an Encyclopaedia of the philosophical sciences, falling into three parts (logic, philosophy of nature, and philosophy of spirit).
Hegel married Marie Helena Susanna von Tucher (1791–1855), the eldest daughter of a Senator, in 1811. This period saw the publication of his second major work, the Science of Logic (Wissenschaft der Logik; 3 vols., 1812, 1813, 1816), and the birth of his two legitimate sons, Karl Friedrich Wilhelm (1813–1901) and Immanuel Thomas Christian (1814–1891).
Hegel received an offer of a post from the University of Heidelberg, where he moved in 1816. Soon after, in April 1817, his illegitimate son Ludwig Fischer (now ten years old) joined the Hegel household, having thus far spent his childhood in an orphanage because Ludwig's mother had died.
Hegel published The Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Outline (1817) as a summary of his philosophy for students attending his lectures at Heidelberg. In 1818, Hegel accepted the offer of the chair of philosophy at the University of Berlin. Here he published his Philosophy of Right (1821). Hegel was appointed Rector of the University in October 1829, when he was 59. His term as Rector ended in September 1830.
In 1831, Frederick William III decorated him with the Order of the Red Eagle, 3rd Class for his service to the Prussian state. In August 1831 a cholera epidemic reached Berlin and Hegel left the city, taking up lodgings in Kreuzberg. Now in a weak state of health, Hegel seldom went out. As the new semester began in October, Hegel returned to Berlin, with the (mistaken) impression that the epidemic had largely subsided.
By November 14, Hegel was dead.
And if you do not understand the subtle meaning of the following then there is no point in even starting to read Hegel. We do not see Reality.
Hegel published four books during his lifetime:
- The Phenomenology of Spirit (or Phenomenology of Mind), his account of the evolution of consciousness from sense-perception to absolute knowledge, published in 1807;
- The Science of Logic, the logical and metaphysical core of his philosophy, in three volumes, published in 1812, 1813, and 1816 (with a revised Book One published in 1831);
- Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, a summary of his entire philosophical system, which was originally published in 1816 and revised in 1827 and 1830; During the last ten years of his life, he did not publish another book but thoroughly revised the Encyclopedia (second edition, 1827; third, 1830).
- The Elements of the Philosophy of Right, his political philosophy, published in 1820. In his political philosophy, he criticized Karl Ludwig von Haller's reactionary work, which claimed that laws were not necessary.
He also published some articles early in his career and during his Berlin period. A number of other works on the philosophy of history, religion, aesthetics, and the history of philosophy were compiled from the lecture notes of his students and published posthumously.
The Phänomenologie des Geistes (1807) is generally thought of as Hegel's most important and widely discussed philosophical work. The title can be translated as either The Phenomenology of Spirit or The Phenomenology of Mind. The book's working title, which also appeared in the first edition, was Science of the Experience of Consciousness. As this subject is still being grappled with today, with no answers forthcoming, it was a challenging subject to tackle in the 1800s.
On its initial publication, it was identified as Part One of a projected "System of Science", of which the Science of Logic was the second part. A smaller work, titled Philosophy of Spirit (also translated as "Philosophy of Mind"), appears in Hegel's Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, and recounts in briefer and somewhat altered form the major themes of the original.
Hegel did not separate metaphysics from epistemology, physics, ethics, history, religion, perception, or consciousness; as such it is a challenge for the limited narrow and closed minded approach to philosophy and science that has developed today. For those with the necessary broad spectrum of understanding the book is excellent reading. But this was written for aspiring mystics well along the spiritual path. No one else would have understood a word.
It appears however, that up until today, no such academic has graced the doors of universities, as Wikipedia indicate that it "has been blamed for the development of existentialism, communism, fascism, death of God theology, and historicist nihilism."
Hegel is probably turning in his grave.
For iPad/iPhone users: tap letter twice to get list of items.
- Hegel - Know thyself
- Hegel - On the nature of ecstasy
- Hegel - Philosophy of Mind – Appetite or Instinctive Desire
- Hegel - Philosophy of Mind – Destiny Sacrifice and Virtue
- Hegel - Philosophy of Mind – Pantheism, Krishna , and the Bhagavad Gita
- Hegel - Philosophy of Mind – Reason
- Hegel - Philosophy of Mind – Recognitive Self-consciousness
- Hegel - Philosophy of Mind – Self consciousness
- Hegel - Philosophy of Mind – There is no such thing as matter
- Hegel - Philosophy of Mind – Universal Self-consciousness
- Hegel – Buried memories
- Hegel – The organs of the body as a means of expressing emotion