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A SPECULATION by Steven Theron

In Hegels account of Absolute Spirit its final form is philosophy, in which revelation is consummated. Even here, however, what is meant is not philosophy as a mere particular form, that of the written down text. That is an abstraction from the Absolute Idea, from Absolute Knowledge. What is meant rather is Truth as self-thought or truthed, the Absolute Idea which is, he says, the Absolute. The Absolute. That is, is the thinking of thinking which, as infinite, is self-knowledge, where self stands for the consequently knowing knowledge. This is at once, therefore, a system, universal and person, in the sense of absolute personality. The principle of personality is the universal, while, as we know from the Logic, the universal, the Idea , is the final individual. Only in, as identical with, the Idea is any existence actualised. It is thus improper, a concession to finitude, to speak of the Idea as itself existing. The Idea is, is the true form of Being in that being itself is truth, or indeed freedom, as the final elucidation of Being as that with which science must begin. In the Idea, further, freedom is finally Necessity, necessity is freedom. That is to say, knowledge is finally will, or practical. Duns Scotus wished to make of theology a practical science so as to show its superiority to and freedom from the theoretical necessities of philosophy. It perhaps did not occur to him that philosophy itself might be practical, that the higher reach of Reason itself is Will, as is shown in H egels Logic. Such Will, of course, is by no means the abstract or finite will which we naturally envision as self-will or caprice. As Absolute, will is Actuality itself as conscious or self-determining. In a word Goodness defined as what all tend towards or necessarily seek, as itself the principle of seeking or, again, will. The theoretical is thus included there as a moment, as indeed is Necessity itself and its freedom which, thus, is Freedom itself. So one might describe Hegel, like all modern culture, according to the historian Etienne Gilson, as Scotist. 1 He would, however, as would also Scotus, be equally Thomist, Aristotelian and Platonist. There is one System of philosophy and it is necessary. According to this system now Goodness, to be specific, is diffusive of itself (diffusivum sui) or, as Hegel transcribes back to religion, with Plato in mind, not envious, not, that is, finitely infinite or conceived as infinite in a bad or finite way. Thus, to illustrate, My God and my all is a bad or f alsely subjectivist translation of the Franciscan Deus meus et omnia, my God and all things. This rather shows forth the infinite subjectivity of my, of I as universal of universals. This one system, therefore, necessarily includes what is known in religion as Creation. In truth, Hegel shows, this is absolute selfhoods self-manifestation. It is, that is, not manifestation of this or that but manifestation itself, Nature as he calls it. Such manifestation, as the very being or essence of the Absolute, of Self as selfemptying, is thus absolutely necessary just inasmuch as it is Freedom. As a general principle (of philosophy), a necessity of nature is not a restriction upon that nature, and here we speak of nature as a principle of movement and rest in just anything, inclusive of the rational being or Mind itself. Mind speaks or utters itself, is thus Word and the Word, of which our words are mere echoes and pictures. The would-be exclusivity of theology, in the past, when speaking or writing of this, is thus abstractly finite, or calling for absorption in supersession. What is called inspired is thus, rather, in truth marked as of the Spirit, of spirit, belonging to Sophia or knowledge. How then do we, just we, come to know it? Necessarily, it is k nown in the fullness of time, that fullness which is eternity, of which, it was said, time is a moving figure or, rather, eternity figured as finite motion. The motion, the activity or Act, is rather infinite and thus coincident with our notion of changelessness, immutability, conceived not as negative restriction but as transcending the imperfection of any finite motion as such, defined accordingly by Aristotle as the act of a potency inasmuch as it is (still) in potency, so that it is still moving, as we say. The fullness of time is thus times acknowledgement of eternity. This, however, is accomplished in and by consciousness as such, of which humanity is the figure and, so to say, incarnation. This is the sense in which man is self-transcendent, or not man, as death is the proper fulfilment and actualisation of Life or of the Idea Immediate. This revelation of self to self, Hegel says, is merely pictured in religion as an historical event, inasmuch as history itself is a gallery of pictures, no more, in which in the fullness of time God sent forth his son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 2 In reality this is eternal truth while, as the Moslems like to remind us, God, the Absolute, does not have sons. Nor does it give commands or

E. Gilson, On Being and Some Philosophers, Toronto 1952. Gilson excepts modern neo-Thomism, which he thus removes from the actual movement of Spirit, leaving it fixed in a previous, superseded moment. For Hegel, however, all thinkers of the past are taken up into actual thought in the very same movement in which it puts them by (aufhebt). 2 Galatians 4,4, in the canon of Christian Scripture.

pass laws, however. It follows, anyhow, that we should rather say sends than sent. The past is not actual, nor is it properly the object of memory therefore, or of Er-innerung, inwardisation, that deep pit or mine where our words and scheme of language lie buried. Now religion also pictures such revelation or manifestation, as it properly is, in the form of free gift, which is easily understood and so often represented under the explanatory rubric that God might have done, or not done, otherwise. This, it is not seen, is simply to finitise the act in question, or act as such. The Absolute, however, is essentially Act and not substance, as act itself is Thought or, again, manifestation, utterance. Hence even Scotus represents what is called in theology since quite a while ago the incarnation or taking of flesh by God, the Absolute, as necessary or as, in his representation, intended from all eternity in formal distinction or, it seems, separation, from whatever finite free action, sinful or virtuous for example, was to take place. Now for philosophical idealism there is no flesh, no face even. These are all fleeting phenomena, false therefore. It is in this sense that Hegel speaks of the Absolute, of God rather, as he at this point prefers to say, as first coming to itself/himself/herself in concrete fullness in this its/his/her revelation (incarnation) which he himself, or the divine nature, the Absolute, is. Equally, the Absolute is here first known, touched, by us with certainty. He calls this the certainty of faith, belief, as specifically a form of knowledge, fully aware of course that belief and knowledge are precisely what the Understanding would keep apart, that my knowing that p entails the truth of p as my believing it does not. Knowledge, that is, is not grounded in sensation or sense-observation as the empiricists teach, since the objects of sense, the here, the now, are themselves false. What they deliver to reason, rather, is the denial of themselves. Rather, in and through them alone we ascend to reason, seen as the act of their denial. The ascent of the ladder is in fact the ladder's step by step(!) sublation. It is not merely cast away afterwards. The passage from shadows to reality is not literally a passage, from one thing or place to another. It is more passage itself, as an action. Orpheus is not merely forbidden to look at Eurydice in this passage, she is not there to be seen, not yet herself, and so to attempt it is the final crime or sin of nonsensicality. We can only look forward. What lies behind is not even there to be forgotten. In this sense the prophet represented God saying I will not remember their sins any more. What God forgets is intrinsically unknowable, is not at all, since, Hegel can be seen to concur, omne ens est verum, all that is is true or thought (thinked). So God too, subjectivity itself, the Absolute, is self-known in that manifestation, to us or as such indifferently, which it, he (she), essentially is. It is in this sense that Hegel suggests the Spirit might most properly be said to proceed immediately from the Son alone. He obviously has no conception of the Absolute as itself becoming temporally. This is plain misreading, as is shown by any number of passages from Hegels works, but supremely in the reading of that text of the Logic (either version) where Becoming is presented as itself a vanishing in equal proportion as it is a becoming category! The vanishing is vanished, and there is no varnishing over of this vanishing. That is, the presentation of the Son in religion, that moment of Spirit, presents or makes visible the true assessment and philosophy of temporality and of the things of sense, of what appears immediately, like Life itself in the first instance. He that has seen me has seen the Father. I and the Father are one. Generalising, The Outside is the Inside while, furthermore, The Inside is the Outside. There is no rind as, consequently, there is really no pulp either. With this theology as a special discipline disappears, since theology, cal led sacred, cannot allow itself to be thus (mis)represented. The sacred itself disappears, the veil of the holy is ripped away, when everything is revealed as consecrated, as the Idea itself, an identity in which, finally, there are no cows to be black or anything else. They are, in that they are not, abstractly. They are the Idea or, in an older realist terminology of the theologians, they are one of the myriad ways in which God sees himself as imitable, such that any and every one of the divine ideas, thus viewed, is identical with the divine essence. This, however, must include the idea of existence. Given this idea, there is, for every idea, an idea of its not being an idea (not being the case), and vice versa.3 Thus the necessary is possible, the possible necessary. Not merely so, but this contradiction is endemic to each and every realisation or exemplar, that it is in not being, is not in being. This is what makes it Idea as even the Idea itself can pass from Being to Non-Being without destruction, which would be one-sided non-being over again. Hence becoming, the ceaseless motion which as ceaseless is rather immobile, rock-like, immutable. It is the same with Self and Other. The Other of the Absolute is the Absolute, so that from that Other specifically and more properly, and we have just noted the suggestion, Spirit proceeds, thought is born as Act. We do not die because we never truly live. We more than live.

Ultimately such bivalence can prove misleading. At a deeper level the non-existent too is (the ouk on and the me on of old).

Ultimately, we are not we, exclusively, any more than is the Absolute. The eye with whi ch God sees me is the eye with which I see God, Hegel quotes approvingly from Eckhart, a Dominican theologian.