Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831)

Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion

Translated from the 2nd German edition by the Rev. E. B. Speirs and J. Burdon Sanderson.  The translation edited by the Rev. E.B. Speirs, B.D.  Three volumes.  Vol. I (N.Y.  The Humanities Press Inc., 1962.

Republished in G. W. F. Hegel, On Art, Religion, and the History of Philosophy: Introductory Lectures, ed. J. Glenn Gray (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1970)

[First German edition published in Berlin in 1832. The second edition appeared in 1840.]

 [The passages are taken from The Humanities Press edition (1962).]


[1] We know that in religion we withdraw ourselves from what is temporal, and that religion is for our consciousness that region in which all the enigmas of the world are solved, all the contradictions of deeper-reaching thought have their meaning unveiled, and where the voice of the heart’s pain is silenced—the region of eternal truth, of eternal rest, of eternal peace.  Speaking generally, it is through thought, concrete thought, or, to put it more [2] definitely, it is by reason of his being spirit that man is man.  And from man as Spirit proceed all the many developments of the sciences and arts, the interests of political life, and all those conditions which have reference to man’s freedom and will.  But all these manifold forms of human relations, activities, and pleasures, and all the ways in which these are intertwined; all that has worth and dignity for man, all wherein he seeks his happiness, his glory, and his pride, finds its ultimate centre in religion, in the thought, the consciousness, and the feeling of God.  Thus God is the beginning of all things and the end of all things. …  In religion man places himself in a relation to this centre, in which all other relations concentrate themselves, and in so doing he rises up to the highest level of consciousness and to the region which is free from relation to what is other than itself, to something which is absolutely self-sufficient, the unconditioned, what is free, and is its own object and end.

      Religion, as something which is occupied with this final object and end, is therefore absolutely free, and is its own end; for all other aims converge in this ultimate end, and in presence of it they vanish and cease to have value of their own.  No other aim can hold its ground against this, and here alone all find their fulfillment.  In the region where the spirit occupies itself with this end, it unburdens itself of all finiteness, and wins for itself final satisfaction and deliverance; for here the spirit relates itself no longer to something that is other than itself, and that is limited, but to the unlimited and infinite, and this is an infinite relation, a relation of freedom, and no longer of dependence.


[7:] Now that religion of the simple, godly man is not kept shut off and divided from the rest of his existence and life, but, on the contrary, it breathes its influence over all his feelings and actions, and his consciousness brings all the aims and objects of his worldly life into relation to God, as to its infinite and ultimate source.  Every moment of his finite existence and activity, of his sorrow and joy, is lifted up by him out of his limited sphere, and by being thus lifted up produces in him the idea and sense of his eternal nature.


      [22:] Religion, then, is itself the standpoint of the consciousness of the True, which is in and for itself, and is consequently the stage of Spirit at which the speculative content generally, is object for consciousness.  Religion is not consciousness of this or that truth in individual objects, but of the absolute truth, of truth as the universal, the all-comprehending, outside of which there lies nothing at all.  The content of its consciousness is further the Universally True, which exists on its own account or in and for itself, which determines itself, and is not determined from without.  While the finite required the Other for its determinateness, the True has it determinateness, the limit, its end itself; it is not limited through an Other, but the Other is found in itself.


      [105:] The general necessity of the Notion accordingly develops itself in this wise.  Religion is (1) conceived of as result, but (2) as a result which at the same time annuls itself as result, and that (3) it is the content itself which passes over in itself and through itself to posit itself as result. …

      Religion, however, as something essentially spiritual, is by its very existence itself this process and this transition.  In the case of natural things, as, for example, the sun, we are in presence of an immediate existence at rest, and in the mental picture or idea we form of it there is no consciousness of an act of passing over, or transition. The religious consciousness, on the other hand, [106] is in its very essence the parting from and forsaking of hat is immediate, what is finite; it is a passing over to the intellectual, or, objectively defined, the gathering up of what is perishable into its absolute substantial essence.  Religion is the consciousness of what is in and for itself true, in contrast to sensuous, finite truth, and to sense perceptions.  Accordingly, it is a rising above, a reflecting upon, a transition from what is immediate, sensuous, individual (for the immediate is what is first, and therefore is not exaltation, and is thus a going out and on to an Other.


      [204] Reason is the region in which alone religion can be at home. … The basis of religion is in so far this rational, or to speak more precisely, this speculative element.  Religion, however, is not merely something so abstract; it is not merely such an affirmative attitude towards the Universal, as it is at present defined to be. …

      The standpoint of religion is this, that the True, to which consciousness relates itself, has all content in itself, and consequently this condition of relation is what is highest of all in it, is this absolute standpoint.

      Reflection is that form of mental activity which establishes the antitheses, and which goes from the one to the other, but without effecting their combination and [205] realising their pervading unity.  The true home of religion, on the contrary, is absolute consciousness, and this implies that God is Himself all content, all truth and reality.  An object such as this cannot be adequately expressed by mere Reflection. …

      If we have hitherto made use of the expression “consciousness,” it will be understood that this only expresses the aspect of the outward manifestation of Spirit, the essential relation of knowledge and its object. … We abstract from this relation and speak of Spirit, and consciousness then comes to be included as a moment in the being of Spirit; and this at once implies an affirmative relation of the spirit to absolute Spirit. … Religion is therefore a relation of the spirit to absolute Spirit; thus only is Spirit as that which knows, also that which is known. … Thus when we rise higher, religion is the Idea of the Spirit which relates itself to its own self—it is the self-consciousness of absolute Spirit.  Of this, its consciousness which was before defined as relation, forms a part.  Consciousness as such, finite consciousness, it is the knowledge of something other than the Ego.  Religion, too, is consciousness, and consequently has finite consciousness, and consequently has finite consciousness as [206] an element in it, but a consciousness which is cancelled as fiinite (sic); for the Other, which absolute Spirit knows, it itself is, and it is only absolute Spirit in knowing itself.  The finiteness of consciousness comes in here, since Spirit by its own movement differentiates itself; but this finite consciousness is a movement of Spirit itself, it itself is self-differentiation, self-determination; that is to say, positing of itself as finite consciousness.  By means of this, however, it is only mediated through consciousness or finite spirit in such wise that it has to render itself finite in order to become knowledge of itself through this rendering of itself finite.  Thus religion is the Divine Spirit’s knowledge of itself through the mediation of finite spirit.


[Volume 2, 327:] We defined religion as being in the stricter sense the self-consciousness of God. 


[Volume 3, 229:] This is the kind of starting-point from which the spirit raises itself to God.  It adjudges limited, finite or contingent Being to be untrue Being, above and beyond which true Being exists. …  

This elevation of the soul to God is, speaking generally, that fact in the history of the human spirit which we call religion, but religion in a general sense, that is, in a purely abstract sense, and thus this elevation is the general, but merely the general, basis of religion.


[Submitted by Kenneth Locke and James A. Santucci]