Skip to comments.Hegel as Sorcerer: The "Science" of Second Realities and the "Death" of God
Posted on 11/10/2008 11:37:17 AM PST by betty boop
by Jean F. Drew
A friend asked for an explanation of a remark I recently made on a public forum that the great German philosospher, Hegel, was a sorcerer. Im glad for this opportunity to respond. For the spirit of Hegel is alive and well today in the construction of any Second Reality, of which I regard the recent Obama Campaign to have been a splendid example.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (17701831) was a world-class philosopher a master of classical philosophy, and a master system-builder. He is usually associated with the period of German Idealism in the decades following Immanuel Kant. The most systematic of the post-Kantian idealists, Hegel attempted to elaborate a comprehensive systematic ontology, or science of being, from a logical or rational starting point. He is perhaps most well-known for his teleological, goal-directed, even eschatological, account of human history a model which was later appropriated by his notable follower Karl Marx, who developed Hegels dialectical science into his own theory of historical development (dialectical materialism), which by historical necessity culminates in communism.
Sorcery, or magic, is a conceptual system that asserts the human ability to control the natural world (including events, objects, people, and physical phenomena) through mystical, paranormal, or supernatural means through, for example, magic words, or an ability to present compelling appearances of fictitious reality.
A Second Reality is such an ersatz reality. The term was coined by Robert Musil to denote a fictitious world imagined to be true by the person creating it, who will then use his construction to mask and thereby eclipse genuine, or First Reality.
In 1807, Hegel published his grimoire i.e., a magicians book of spells and incantations the Phänomenologie, which takes as its main goal the transformation of philosophy, the love of knowledge, into the final, complete possession of real knowledge, by means of his system of absolute science. Of his accomplishment the great German-American philosopher Eric Voegelin (19011985) would write, No modern propaganda minister could have devised a more harmless-sounding, persuasively progressivist phrase as a screen for the enormity transacted behind it.
For Hegel, Absolute knowledge was to be the form in which the pure consciousness of the infinite is possible without the determinateness of an individual, independent life. In short, the Phänomenologie admits no reality but consciousness . [Yet] since consciousness must be somebodys consciousness of something, and neither God nor man is admitted as somebody or something, the consciousness must be consciousness of itself. Its absolute reality is, therefore, properly identified as the identity of identity and nonidentity. The substance becomes the subject, and the subject the substance, in the process of a consciousness that is immanent to itself . The reader would justly ask what a consciousness that is nobodys consciousness could possibly be?
And with that question, noetically astute observers realize we must be dealing with a Second Reality: It appears that Hegel the sorcerer wants to eclipse our image of reality by a counterimage conjured up to furnish a plausible basis for the action he calls for.
As Vöegelin notes, in order to be effective as a magic opus, Hegels system of absolute science had to satisfy two conditions:
(1) The operation in Second Reality has to look as if it were an operation in First Reality.
(2) The operation in Second Reality has to escape critical control and judgment by the criteria of First Reality. (I have noticed that President-Elect Obama excels in conducting both types of operations.)
So, what is First Reality? In effect, it is the classical Greek (and Judeo-Christian) description of the context in which human existence is actually experienced and lived. That is to say, the human condition is specified by mans participation in a Great Hierarchy of Being that extends beyond, encompasses, and shapes his existence as a man.
Being is a philosophical term referring to the fundamental structure or order of the world. Vöegelin, following the classical Greeks, defines being as not an object, but a context of order in which are placed all experienced complexes of reality . Thus the Great Hierarchy of Being consists of four partners: God, Man, World, and Society. The individual man, as part of this whole, finds his own humanity in his participatory experiences and relations with the other partners of the hierarchy, and most especially in his relation to God.
Strangely, given his revolt against God and man and the world, Hegel was a man who not only insisted on his Christian orthodoxy up to his dying day; but as already mentioned, he was a master of classical Greek philosophy. So clearly he was aware of First Reality in the above sense. His magical opus is motivated fundamentally by a desire to overturn and supplant it with a plausible Second Reality of his own imaginative construction.
The first partner of the Great Hierarchy that had to go was God. This was necessary in order to make room for Hegel as the new Christ who would usher in the third religion of his System of Absolute Science, so to be the Messiah, the New Christ, of the new age a-borning. The point here is that with God gone, man himself becomes a pure abstraction and, as such, an ideologically manipulatable entity and nothing more.
As far as I know, it was Voegelin who first drew attention to the element of sorcery in Hegels work even though the language Hegel had been using from the first was the language of the magic word and the magic force (Zauberworte and Zauberkraft respectively). Vöegelin indeed identified the Phänomenologie as a sorcerers grimoire. My sense is if Vöegelin was joking here, he was only half-joking: Something very serious is going on. So we need first of all to understand what Hegel intended by evoking such language. As for instance, here:
Every single man is but a blind link in the chain of absolute necessity by which the world builds itself forth. The single man can elevate himself to dominance over an appreciable length of this chain only if he knows the direction in which the great necessity [i.e., the Geist of history] wants to move and if he learns from this knowledge to pronounce the magic words (die Zauberworte) that will evoke its shape (Gestalt).
We need to define our terms here: Geist can be translated from the German as either mind or spirit; but the latter, allowing for a more cultural sense, as in the phrase spirit of the age (Zeitgeist), seems a more suitable rendering for Hegels use of the term. Gestalt (plural: Gestalten) means the present historical configuration of events as the Geist inexorably moves or evolves in time towards the fulfillment of its final absolute necessity, at which point in its final Gestalt, which in Hegels system is identified with the consciousness of Hegel expressing as the complete identity of absolute Self and absolute Idea world history ends; and a new age of Man, standing alone, begins. Because man is now alone, Hegel teaches that now he has arrived at the point in history where he can grant grace to himself, to save himself, to perfect the human condition, without the salvific Grace of God.
And Hegels enormously influential student Karl Marx (18181883) took the lesson to heart:
Philosophy makes no secret of it. The confession of Prometheus, In a word, I hate all the gods, is its own confession, its own verdict against all gods heavenly and earthly who do not acknowledge human self-consciousness as the supreme deity. There shall be none beside it.
A being regards itself as independent only when it stands in its own feet; and it stands on its feet only when it owes its existence to itself alone. A man who lives by the grace of another [including God] considers himself a dependent being. But I live by the grace of another completely if I owe him not only the maintenance of my life but also its creation: if he is the source of my life; and my life necessarily has such a cause outside itself if it is not my own creation.
And so the outside cause God must die in order for man to be liberated for self-sanctification and self-salvation.
In light of such expectations, first of all, we need to remember that a magic word in itself does not evoke an actual creative act. Rather, it is the invocation of appearances, of illusions. Magic words do not have the power actually to change the structure of being, of reality; but only the way the sorcerer wants us to see it. If he is successful, then we are grievously misled.
Hegels famous epigone Friedrich Nietzsche (18441900) had a field day with Hegels insights. He not only declared God dead, but claimed that we had murdered Him. Mankind, on this view, has finally gained the existential status not only to be in a position to kill God, but also to grant itself grace and salvation via human reason alone. Of course, these are the maunderings of a person who sadly died in an insane asylum. Nonetheless, Nietzsche is splendidly honored by the progressives among us to this day .
Its interesting to note that many students of the Phänomenologie consistently over time have reported that to be drawn into the magic circle of this enterprise is to enter into a perfectly logically self-consistent construction so long as one does not use the criteria of First Reality to judge it. But finally, all criticism by appeal to reality itself, i.e., as actually experienced by human beings in contrast with being merely cogitated or thought, is foreclosed by Hegels rule that his construction need justify itself through nothing but the presentation of the system itself. Thus we have the case of the magically disappearing world.
And so not only God is booted out of Hegels system; but also any sense of objective reality. The world is drawn into the sorcerers consciousness as conceptualizations only, as Gestalten, shapes. Once the sorcerer possesses the historical shapes in his consciousness, he has no further need of the world, of evidence from the side of actual experience of the world. Thus he intends to eclipse such experience by the force of reason alone, dispensing with human existential experience altogether through the power of magical imagination which of course altogether destroys any avenue of critical judgment from the side of First Reality, which happily satisfies criterion (2) above.
Second of all, we need to appreciate the worldview implicit in Hegels remarks. Voegelin thinks the above-quoted passage i.e., Every single man is but a blind link in the chain of absolute necessity . reveals Hegels intense resentment of the human condition as well as its cause. Further, it is a key passage for understanding the diremption meaning the tearing apart, or violent separation from all former historical notions of the human condition so characteristic of modern existence at the foundation of Hegels enterprise:
Man has become a nothing; he has no reality of his own; he is a blind particle in a process of the world which has the monopoly of real reality and real meaning. [Note it is not the world that has meaning; only its process has meaning.] In order to raise himself from nothing to something, the blind particle must become a seeing particle. But even if the particle has gained sight, it sees nothing but the direction in which the process is moving . And yet, to Hegel something important has been gained: the nothing that has raised itself to a something has become, if not a man, at least a sorcerer who can evoke, if not the reality of history, at least its shape. I almost hesitate to continue the spectacle of a nihilist stripping himself to the nude is embarrassing. For Hegel betrays in so many words that being a man is not enough for him; and as he cannot be the divine Lord of history himself, he is going to achieve Herrschaft [i.e., dominion, lordship, mastery, rule, reign] as the sorcerer who will conjure up an image of history a shape, a ghost that is meant to eclipse the history of Gods making. The imaginative project of history falls in its place in the pattern of modern existence as the conjurers instrument of power .
Since the conjurers instrument of power is in this case to be obtained by the perfection of philosophy into a system of absolute knowledge, we need to define what philosophy is. The etymology of the word tells you the meaning of philosophy is love of wisdom: In the original Greek, philo refers to love or lover; sophia to wisdom.
Hegels main project, as it turns out, was to transform philosophy, the love of wisdom, into an instrument of Absolute Science, whereby wisdom, and all knowledge, are found to consist, not in the loving search or quest for divine truth, the complete possession of which is denied to mortal men in this lifetime; but in the final possession of absolute truth once and for all the absolute science that can make men immortal in this world. In short, Hegel would like to transform philosophy into an exact science.
But if this were possible, then philosophy would instantly cease to be philosophy.
For although the insights of philosophy can advance, it cannot advance beyond its structure as love of wisdom. In the great tradition of the classical Greeks, eminently Plato and Aristotle (which Hegel had thoroughly mastered), philosophy denotes the loving tension of man toward the divine ground of his existence. God alone has sophia, real knowledge; man finds the truth about God and the world, as well as of his own existence, by becoming philosophos, the lover of God and his wisdom. The philosophers eroticism implies the humanity of man and the divinity of God as the poles of his existential tension. The practice of philosophy in the SocraticPlatonic sense is the equivalent of the Christian sanctification of man; it is the growth of the image of God in man. Hegels harmless-sounding phrase [ i.e., philosophy must at last give up its name of a love of wisdom and become real knowledge] thus covers the program of abolishing the humanity of man; the sophia of God can be brought into the orbit of man only by transforming man into God. The Ziel [goal] of the Phänomenologie is the creation of the man-god . commencing with Hegels own self-deification as the redeemer of mankind now that the history of mankind, and notably his spiritual history, has been abolished by Hegels system of absolute science.
In this, Hegel reveals his profound alienation from the idea of an established order of the universe. Indeed, he outright rejects any idea of order that has an origin other than in human consciousness, which he hypostasizes as reason or at least a facsimile thereof that the sorcerer can put over on his audience.
Voegelin provides some helpful insights into the consciousness of the sorcerer and his project:
Hegel experiences his state of alienation as an acute loss of reality, and even as death. But he cannot, or will not, initiate the movement of return; the epistrophe, the periagoge, is impossible. The despair or lostness, then, turns into the mood of revolt. Hegel closes his existence in on himself; he develops a false self; and lets his false self engage in an act of self-salvation that is meant to substitute for the periagoge of which his true self proves incapable. The alienation which, as long as it remains a state of lostness in open existence, can be healed through the return [to God], now hardens into the acheronta movebo of the sorcerer who, through magic operations, forces salvation from the non-reality of his lostness. Since, however, nonreality has no power of salvation, and Hegels true self knows this quite well, the false self must take the next step and, by the energy of thinking, transform the reality of God into the dialectics of his consciousness: the divine power accrues to the Subjeckt that is engaged in self-salvation through reaching the state of reflective self-consciousness. If the soul cannot return to God, God must be alienated from himself and drawn into the human state of alienation. And finally, since none of these operations in Second Reality would change anything in the surrounding First Reality, but result only in the isolation of the sorcerer from the rest of society, the whole world must be drawn into the imaginary Second Reality. The sorcerer becomes the savior of the age by imposing his System of Science as the new revelation on mankind at large. All mankind must join the sorcerer in the hell of his damnation.
In classical Greek philosophy, and especially in Plato, the epistrophe or periagoge in the above passage refers to the turning around to God (the transcendent Beyond of the cosmos) in open existence, in loving response to His call. The terms are analogous to the Christian born again experience. The term acheronta movebo means If I cannot bend the Higher Powers, I will move the Infernal Regions. It is the satanic declaration of the sorcerer who chooses to close all of reality in on himself, the Subjekt. Given the classical experience, this can only be a system of anti-philosophy.
In [Platos] Republic, the Beyond is imagined as the ultimate creative ground, the Agathon, from whom all being things receive their existence, their form, and their truth; and since by its presence it is the origin of reality and the sunlike luminosity of its structure, the Agathon-Beyond is something more beautiful and higher in rank of dignity and power that the reality that we symbolize by such terms as being, existence, essence, form, intelligibility, and knowledge. In the myth of the Phaedrus, then, the Beyond is the truly immortal divinity from whose presence in contemplative action the Olympian gods derive their divine and men their human immortality. In the puppet myth of the Laws, finally, the god becomes the divine force that pulls the golden cord of the Nous that is meant to move man toward the immortalizing, noetic order of his existence. In this last image of the noetic pull (helkein) Plato comes so close to the helkein of the Gospel of John (6:44) that it is difficult to discern the difference.
It appears that Hegels revolt is above all finally a revolt against, a rejection of the human condition, of the fact that a human being is never consulted about the terms of his coming into the world, nor of his departure from it. It is the essence of the human condition that a man is neither the origin nor the end of himself end in the sense of telos, meaning purpose, or goal. Meanwhile, in between birth and death, there is a litany of evils to which mortal human nature is subject. The life of man is really burdened, as Voegelin put it, with the well-known miseries enumerated by Hesoid. We remember his list of hunger, hard work, disease, early death, and the fear of the injustices to be suffered by the weaker man at the hands of the more powerful not to mention the problem of Pandora.
Notwithstanding, Voegelin reminds us that as long as our existence is undeformed by phantasies, these miseries are not experienced as senseless. We understand them as the lot of man, mysterious it is true, but as the lot he has to cope with in the organization and conduct of his life, in the fight for survival, the protection of his dependents, and the resistance to injustice, and in his spiritual and intellectual response to the mystery of existence.
Now the lot of man as just given is a description of the condicio humana, the human condition. It is the very basis for the idea of a universal, common humanity, of the brotherhood of mankind. It is my conjecture that it is possible for a person to take great umbrage at this condicio humana, to deplore and reject it, to see it as a grievous insult to ones own assumed personal autonomy; and so to take flight in an alternative reality that can be structured more according to ones own wishes, tastes, and desires. And thus, a Second Reality is born.
As for me, all things considered, Ill take First Reality, the Great Hierarchy of Being GodManWorldSociety any day, any time. I believe that human beings were put in this world to be creative actors, even if they never get to design the stage on which the acting is being done, nor to control the writing of the script by which the play unfolds. And meanwhile they not only act, but suffer the actions of other actors or forces personal, natural, social from outside themselves.
Yet to recognize all this is to recognize the very basis of ones own existential humanity. And to realize that the lot of any other man is no different. To be part and participant of this divinely constituted, dynamic sub-whole of a yet greater Whole is a glorious privilege. To go hole up in a Second Reality, to me, would be to lose ones reason and probably ones soul as well .
Indeed, that appears to be the conclusion reached by Charles Baudelaire (18211867), the great French poet, a noetically and spiritually sensitive person who understood himself to be living in an age of great noetic and spiritual disorder:
A man who does not accept the conditions of life, sells his soul.
And he penned these lines that make it crystal-clear to whom our soul is to be sold:
Sur loreiller du mal cest Satan Trismégiste
Qui berce longuement notre esprit enchanté,
Et le riche metal de notre volonté
Est tout vaporiseé par ce savant chimiste
C'est le Diable qui tient les fils qui nous remuent.
[On the pillow of evil is Satan Trismegistus
Who long lulls our minds delighted,
And the rich metal of our will
Everything is vaporized by the scientist chemist.
It is the devil who holds the son who we move.]
 Eric Vöegelin, On Hegel: A Study in Sorcery, Collected Works Vol. 12, 1990.
 G. W. F. Hegel, MS, Fortsetzung des Systems der Sittlichkeit, c. 180406.
 Karl Marx, Doctoral Dissertation, 184041 (quoting a passage from Aeschylus Prometheus Bound).
 Karl Marx, National Ökonomie und Philosophy, Der Historische Materialismus: Die Früschriften.
 Eric Vöegelin, On Hegel, op. cit.
 Eric Vöegelin, Wisdom and the Magic of the Extreme, Collected Works, Vol. 12, 1990.
 Charles Baudelaire, Au lecteur, introducing the Fleurs du Mal, 1857.
©2008 Jean F. Drew
It appears to be a drawn out assertion that there is no escape from theology - that even engaging in a conscious effort to avoid theology is an explicit expression of theology.
Suggestion.. Staniel Cay, Bahamas..
Pope Pipus I..
Been there, done it. It was good diving : ) I like the Exumas a lot.
Pope Pipus I..
Hmmm, Hosepipe - Pope Pipus. Could it be a mere coincidence? I think not. It must be a miracle. There is a God! How could I have been so blind? : )
The quote by Adams is held up as axiomatic, chosen to produce a preordained conclusion, and upon it built a "second reality" wherein all of the Founders share the same religious beliefs, and subscribe to the same sectarian/denominational doctines as the person making the argument.
Really, the past century in politics, and sociology has been applied dialectics. Obama is their 'synthesis.' (they think)
Balderdash! - Your fear is showing. No one has ever held up a universal, monolithic 'faith of the founders;' Only that they all were indeed believers in "the God of the Bible," which leaves much room for differences.
Philosophy may invalidate others’ reasoning due to logical fallacies, but it is impotent in establishing positive truth.
Voegelin's philosophy starts with an article of faith and therefore can only produce new articles of faith.
You got a lot about Hegel right, but you got Nietzsche entirely wrong. He despised Hegel’s notion of progress and took it to its most extreme so that we might notice its depravity.
I call ‘em like I see ‘em. If you want to dismiss it as “fear induced balderdash”, go right ahead. I’m not losing any sleep over it.
... For two long weve tried to reduce our philosophy of economics and governance to bumper-stickers about tax-cuts.
Tax-cuts dont motivate people. Tax-cuts dont explain the proper role of government, or the relationship between liberty and prosperity, or the importance of personal liberty for its own sake, or why people should govern themselves and their families and their communities and why letting government manage them is such a tragic mistake.
We dont explain those things, we just talk about cutting taxes because in an MTV world we figure no one has the attention span for the whole philosophical discussion.
And in a world in which there are a hundred channels, thats understandable. Most people dont have the attention span. But too many Repubs dont have a talent for this kind of discussion even when they have the stage and the microphone.
After decades of a dumbed down education system, most Americans dont know what the defining principles of this country are. They dont know what socialism is or why we should not want it. They dont know why an infantilized populace is bad and wouldnt recognize themselves in the description.
Weve abdicated control of the education of our own kids. Weve abdicated control of the news and entertainment media. Lose the schools and universities, lose the news and entertainment media, and youve lost the game. Maybe not immediately, but youre fighting a rear-guard action from that moment forward. Sooner or later an Obama shows up and down you come.
There is some truth to your complaint, though I would suggest that the Declaration's "we hold these truths to be self-evident" is the part more properly identified as being "held up as axiomatic." On what other basis, after all, can the rights life, liberty and pursuit of happiness properly be labled as "unalienable?" They are axiomatic in the sense that they are "endowed by our Creator." I think the left doesn't actually believe this to be true -- at least, not in the way the Founders did, and also not like at least some conservatives do.
In that case, of course, the objective basis for the correctness of the Declaration would depend on a "first reality" that actually includes a Creator.
I like the Adams quote not for any "axiomatic" reasons, but rather for its practical (if unspecific) statement of the necessary conditions for limited government. Absent the self-policing nature of a "moral and religious people," it is difficult to imagine a system of "limited government" as not descending into anarchy; or, in order to prevent anarchy, the government would tend toward tyranny.
The question for you is, is there anything that you could offer as a "basis for conservatism" that is not in some sense "axiomatic" in a "second reality" sense?
Depended in the week with Nietzsche.. he vacillated.. on many things..
Probably not. But with regard to issues like constitutionism and the intent of the Founders, there is a considerable body of work available for consideration. I'm skeptical of conclusions drawn from one quote by one man, and a single sentence lifted from the Preamble.
Axioms can properly be constucted an applied in mathematics. The term is something of a misnomer when applied to political philosophy, but generally speaking the less you base your conclusions on the more "axiomatic" it's going to appear, and I think there's a lot more to the situation than what's being presented as the relevant facts.
Nice response, but you dodged the question. To make it pointed: what should conservatives tout as the basic tenets of “conservatism?”
As Pascal put it:
It is in vain, O men, that you seek within
yourselves the cure for your miseries. Your
principal maladies are pride, which cuts you
off from God, and sensuality which binds you
to the earth. Either you imagine you are gods
yourselves, or, if you grasp the vanity of such
a pretension, you are cast into the other abyss,
and suppose yourselves to be like the beasts
of the field and seek your good in carnality.
So without God, we were left with a choice of
megalomania or erotomania; the clenched fist
or the phallus; Nietzsche or Sade; Hitler or D.
I consider basic tenets of conservativism to be a healthy scepticism of government solutions, objective examination of all arguments presented for consideration and consideration given to the possible unintended consequences.
Mr. Muggeridge might profitably have added "the clenched fist and the phallus," and pointed to the emasculating tendencies of modern feminism....
The Republic. Beyond that I don't have any one size fits all answers for you. I can understand arguments presented from a theological standpoint, but I can't reconcile saying there's one "right" theology to base public policy on in a nation committed to freedom of religion.
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