GHDI logo

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: Excerpts from Lectures on the Philosophy of History (1837)

page 11 of 12    print version    return to list previous document      next document


The second stage in the development of this spiritual world begins when the spiritual principle has translated itself into a concrete world. This principle is the consciousness and volition of subjectivity as a divine personality, and it manifests itself initially in a single subject. But it subsequently develops into an empire of the real spirit. This phase can be described as the Germanic world, and those nations on which the world spirit has conferred its true principle may be called the Germanic nations. The realm of the real spirit has as its principle the absolute reconciliation of subjectivity which exists for itself with the diversity which exists in and for itself, i.e. with that true and substantial condition in which the subject is free for itself in so far as it accords with the universal and has an essential existence: in short, the realm of concrete freedom.

From now on, the worldly empire and the spiritual empire are opposed to one another. On the one hand, the principle of the spirit which exists for itself is freedom, in its own peculiar form, and subjectivity. The individual mind seeks to be united with that which it is bound to respect. It must not be contingent, however, but rather the mind in its essential being and spiritual truth. This is what Christ has revealed to us in his religion; his own truth, which is that of the mind, is that we should posit ourselves as united with the divinity. At this point, the reconciliation in and for itself is accomplished. But since it has only been accomplished in itself, this phase of history, by virtue of its immediacy, begins with an antithesis.

Admittedly, its historical origin lies in that reconciliation which Christianity brought with it; but since this itself has only begun, and exists only implicitly for the consciousness, we find initially the greatest possible antithesis (although it is subsequently regarded as an injustice which ought to be removed). It is the antithesis between the spiritual and religious principle on the one hand and the secular realm on the other. Yet the secular realm is no longer what it formerly was, for it has now been converted to Christianity and ought therefore to accord with the truth. But the spiritual realm must also come to recognise that spirituality is realised in the secular world. But in so far as both worlds are still immediate, the secular realm has not yet cast off its arbitrary subjectivity, and the spiritual realm has not yet recognised the secular world; consequently, the two are in conflict. The course of history is therefore not one of peaceful and unopposed development, for the spirit does not approach its realisation in a peaceful manner. In the course of history, both sides must renounce their one-sidedness, i.e. their inauthentic form. On the one hand, we find a hollow reality which ought to accord with the spirit but does not yet do so; and for this reason, it must be destroyed. And on the other hand, the spiritual realm is primarily an ecclesiastical one which has become immersed in outward secularity; and while the secular authority is suppressed by external influences, the ecclesiastical authority falls into decay. The situation to which this gives rise is one of barbarism.

first page < previous   |   next > last page