Hegel – Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion Volume III (Part I)

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First off, I want to apologize for this late posting. My busy schedule is partially to blame. I blame the rest on Hegel’s difficult style. Over the last couple of days I was able to finish reading Hegel’s Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion Volume III The Consummate Religion. Only after reading the three parts: Hegel’s Lecture Manuscripts prepared in 1821, the Lectures of 1824, and the Lectures of 1827, was I able to finally grasp his work. The three parts are all fairly similar, albeit slightly altered in certain places. I’ve been assigned to cover the first half of the Volume III, which extends halfway through the Lectures of 1824. I want to focus my discussion on the teachings of Christ found in all three parts.

In all three passages on the teachings of Christ Hegel discusses some of the more controversial passages found in the gospels concerning the family. First, he lists the saying in Matthew where Christ asks the disciples, “who is my mother and who are my brothers?” Next, he lists the passages in Matthew 10, “do not think I have come to bring peace on earth, but a sword. For I have come to set parents against son, son against parents, etc.”

In the Lecture Manuscripts Hegel writes, “In this sense, social groups and bodies will always arise among a people – among a people, a community, that [shuts] itself off, in the world too, in opposition to rational cohesion and existence – [sects that] take this distillation of the entire established over back into the simple heart, into simple love, “and behave outwardly in merely a forebearing, submissive manner, offering their necks [to the executioner]” (121).

In the Lectures of 1824, Hegel begins discussing the universal nature of Christ’s major teaching: the Kingdom of God. There are two aspects of Christ’s teaching, the universal and the particular/determinate. Again Hegel makes note of the “revolutionary doctrine that partly leaves all standing institutions aside and partly destroys and overthrows them. All earthly, worldly things fall away as valueless, and they are expressly declared to be so” (217). Ultimately, all social obligations are subordinated to the primary task of following Christ. The major task of the community is to love each other, but not in a general sense. Rather, this love will be a mutual love expressed within the community of believers. In the lectures of 1827 Hegel repeats many of his similar points that made in 1824.

What I find interesting is the emphasis Hegel places on mutual, concrete love in the community. Theologians always place such a strong emphasis on the love of God when interpreting these passages. God ends up turning into this insecure partner who wants all of humanity’s love. Basically, you can love your children, but make sure to love God just a bit more. In Hegel’s religious community the love of the neighbor turns out to be the ruling commandment. The love of God is totally dissolved into the love of the neighbor. People often talk about how much they love God, as if one can love God directly without mediation. The topic of the love of God and transference has been on my mind lately in my clinical work. In Freud’s seminal paper Observations on Transference-Love (1915) he hypothesizes that all love is transference (i.e. all relationships stem back from our internalized experiences with previous relationships, or object relations in psychoanalytic jargon), which raises an interesting question about the possibility of a non-transferential love. It is nothing new to say that we project all sorts of fantasies onto God. Perhaps Hegel’s view of the religious community helps us resist the narcissistic relationship believers are prone to have with God. The ultimate message of these difficult passages in the gospel is that the love of the neighbor is the goal of the religious community intent on building the Kingdom. Family and social relationships are completely subordinated to the role of following Christ. Ultimately, since the Holy Spirit dissolves herself into the community of believers, the love of God can be non-transferential because our love of God can only be expressed in the concrete service and mutual love of the neighbor.

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6 Responses to “Hegel – Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion Volume III (Part I)”

  1. John Anngeister Says:

    Thanks Jeremy,

    My LPR is in the one-volume edition featuring only the 1827 lectures (with footnotes from the others). But I’m glad to have had this opportunity to finally crack it.

    Of course your comment that God’s love can be “totally dissolved into the love of the neighbor” is problematic from any standpoint of God’s reality I think, and from the standpoint of human god-consciousness as described in Schleiermacher. I’ll have to check my text to determine whether this dissolution is of G’s love for us or ours for G, or both ways.

    If the god-consciousness is real (perhaps not provable), a group whose members tried to love only each other like that might be accused of projecting fantasies of displaced god-consciousness on to the group (possibly even giving the group ‘divine’ authority). So I see the group thing a possibility only if God is bracketed as unreal in any concrete sense. But if you reject unmediated communion with God this conversation is over.

    I think Hegel might have shown more insight into the order of the ‘great commandment’ which loves God first and then neighbor. Otherwise the basis of the brotherhood is actually symbolic and imaginary, and subject to its own dissolution (in memesis, covetousness, and violence as R. Girard might say).

    I’m beginning to see how much Hegel did for the philosophies of ‘secular salvation’ featured by followers of Engels and Marx. But my main interest is to discover the appeal of his LPR for British and American religious thinkers in late XIX. Andrew Seth showed that Hegel offered no viable ground for personalism (Hegelianism and Personality, 1887) but the craze didn’t end quickly enough (Royce, Bradley, McTaggart, etc.).

  2. Jeremy Says:

    I’ll respond in more detail later, but it’s interesting that in these sections Hegel fails to include the “greatest commandment”.

  3. Jeremy Says:

    You’re right that this would be problematical from Schleiermacher’s perspective since the individual’s personal feelings of dependence is the essence of religion.

    I guess I see the kenotic movement of the Godhead as being compatible with the group’s organization. From an analytic perspective, Freud discussed in Totem and Taboo the primal horde and the murder of the Almighty father. The sons who committed the deed were struck with ambivalence. Perhaps we can take a cue from Freud’s mythical narrative. Just like the Father lets himself be sacrificed so the sons can be liberated to form a democrats group, in the Christian community God has emptied Godself in the Spirit upon the community of believers at Pentecost. Since God has emptied Godself, the organization of the community likewise must follow suit and not allow any sort of authority to rule over them because of the egalitarian community’s belief in the priesthood of all believers. So it is a complete betrayal of the Godhead if anyone one becomes sovereign and rule over the community since God Himself has abdicated this role.

    I suppose I simply don’t understand what unmediated communion with God means. Is there a way for this relationship to be one of love that is not distorted by transference?

  4. John Anngeister Says:

    Jeremy, your question about transference in prayer (which I don’t deny is possible) reminds me that you asked in your post (pointedly I thought) whether it were possible to posit any love whatsoever that is non-transferential.

    I am filled with irony at the idea that, in transference, Freud has fashioned a concept so epistemologically slippery that it seems immune to being posited as anything but absolutely causal – and ends up regressing to the point that all discourse of the authenticity of a ‘first’ act of love is erased.

    My reaction is one that feels intuitive – a rejection of the ramifications, and a doubt of the entire Freudian theory. Using a falsifiability test – what you suggest we should be looking for if transference is to be disproved? Maybe that’s what your question is actually saying – that it’s a theory that destroys the object it attempts to explain (although I wasn’t actually sure you were being ironic). But if there’s no way to disprove it, why hold it as a scientific result?

  5. Jeremy Says:

    I suppose I wasn’t restricting communion with God to prayer, but rather asking about the believer’s entire relationship with God (in which prayer obviously plays a crucial role).

    I think that the division between an authentic and inauthentic love is unhelpful. Just because a couple’s love bears some resemblance to their earlier relationships with important objects does not somehow invalidate or weaken the bonds of love. I also think that the entire goal of psychoanalysis is to enable the analysand to become self-determining, autonomous, and insightful about herself and others. Also, it should be noted that no worthwhile analyst reduces the analysand’s relationships back to their parents. We combine and distort many different object-representations onto the person we are in a relationship with. The task is to untangle those connections and facilitate the client’s freedom and sense of agency.

    Freud’s Future of an Illusion includes his discussion of religion as an illusion along with his theory about the characteristics that are projected onto God to be the almighty Father. Although it should be noted that many people use other relationships unconsciously which end up impacting their theology (e.g. mother, grandmother, etc.)

    Hauerwas was asked about his own feelings about a personal relationship with God. He said he didn’t trust himself to have one. He said he needed a community to foster that relationship, otherwise he’d end up in all sorts of trouble. Here I stand in agreement with Hauerwas. The best way to worship God is in service of neighbor. I’m not saying I dismiss any notion of a personal relationship, but I am resolutely skeptical. The community ought to be in the business of helping hone that relationship by encouraging acts of mercy and service.

  6. idiot_russell Says:

    hegel, the one that makes Russell tremble

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