The way Religion in the form of Art unfolds into Revelatory Religion

The division of Art religion from Revelatory religion in the Phenomenology of Spirit marks the difference between a relation to God represented as an object, and the relation to God represented as a self vis a vis the Hegelian model of selfhood. This version of the theoretical/ practical distinction does have its problems. First, it is loosely drawn, since the structural division among these sections does not fully correspond to Hegel's use of the distinction. Second, Hegel's development in the Phenomenology may be read as an Abolition of the distinction itself, since the phenomenological presentation repeatedly exhibits a speculative relation between the terms: the abstracted theoretical presupposes the practical, while the practical depends on the concepts that emerge within the theoretical, and so on.

Art Religion and the First Supersensible
The structural doubling exemplifies Art religion and the second universal / first Supersensible. In the latter, the doubling opens a gap between what appears to Spirit and what Spirit knows. Hegel writes, "what is immediate for the Understanding is the play of Forces; but what is the True for it, is the simple inner world."# We have seen how the collapse of the immediate was presaged in the relation between soliciting and solicited forces, since each was seen to be mediated through its other. For Hegel, the result is that

Consciousness has a mediated relation to the inner being and, as the Understanding, looks through this mediating play of Forces into the true background of Things. The middle term which unites the two extremes, the Understanding and the inner world, is the developed being of a Force which, for the Understanding itself, is henceforth only a vanishing.

Consciousness realises that the division between Forces is, in fact, only for consciousness. The object formerly taken as the object to be grasped now is grasped as the expression, or appearance, of the underlying, intelligible order that is the Understanding's true object. The sensuous persists, but now as a vanishing, an appearance that manifests the supersensible as it is mediated through the Understanding. Hegel begins Art religion with the observation that "Spirit has raised the shape in which it is present to its own consciousness into the form of consciousness itself." Presumably, this denotes a statue of a human being. Art religion therefore begins in doubling, and will occupy itself with overcoming the distance between outer and inner#.  The insight to pursue here is that the sequence in which the artwork becomes more self-like mirrors Spirit's emerging realisation that the artwork, guised as appearance, is a "vanishing" unable to exhibit God as self. Paradoxically and predictably, the nearer Spirit advances, the farther the self withdraws.

The logical sequence of Consciousness is also at work within Art religion. Within the second universal/first supersensible, the first object for Consciousness is appearance. Rather than merely opposing appearance to the True, Hegel describes appearance as a "totality of show... which constitutes the inner of Things."This speculative/paradoxical idea of appearance revisits the modality of Perception, where things invert themselves into their opposites. This inversion governs the moments of the abstract work of art: the statue whose immediacy as a Thing obscures the activity of the self; the rendering of God in devotional language, which remains unexternalised; and the Cult, in which manifestation as actuality (Thing) and inwardness as devotion (self) are mutually sacrificed, thus identifying divine selfhood and the selfhood of the Cult, or state. .

These moments exhibit Spirit's attempt to manifest itself as an appearance which points to substance, as self-consciousness, as its underlying reality. Likewise, the central idea of the Living Work of Art (VII.B.b) is that the Cult manifests the divine one-sidedly: either as a festival, in which the mystery of bread and wine shows only the naturality of the self and not its self-consciousness (particularity); or as the glorified individual, whose inertia recalls the statue (universality). The Living Work culminates in Spirit's kenosis from representing the divine as food and drink or as the living torch-bearer, to a representation in speech of the divine, as "a lucid and universal content."

Because the Spiritual work of art is the bridge to the Revelatory religion, the previous forms of religion end here. In particular, these sections witness a collapse of the isomorphism between worlds of gods and men in favor of identifying them. The model for this transition comes from "Force and the Understanding," in the discussion of law and necessity.  There, Hegel revisits the play of forces, and concludes that because the properties of soliciting and being solicited belong equally to both members of the relation, that the relation constituting appearance must be reconceived non-dualistically.

What there is in this absolute flux is only difference as a universal difference, or as a difference into which the many antitheses have been resolved. This difference, as a universal difference, is consequently the simple element in the play of Force itself and what is true in it. It is the law of Force.

Hegel maintains the structure by which the inner expresses itself through the outer, but he complicates it by displacing universal difference from appearance into the supersensible realm of law itself. The Understanding no longer regards the play of forces as a transfer across distinct poles, but now perceives the isomorphism between the play of appearance and the underlying realm of laws. As an expression, the appearance exhibits this law's selfsameness, and universal difference from itself. But this conception of law generates a contradiction that pits the One, as the Notion of the law, "universal attraction," against the many specific laws.

To resolve this, Understanding correlates the Notion of law, "necessity" which characterises law as such, with the inner world, and the multiplicity of specific laws with the outer. But to demonstrate this necessity, Force must be polarised between positive and negative, which again makes the notion of Force—as that which is necessary—conditional upon the plurality of specific laws. As Hegel says, "in basing this necessity on the determinateness of being through another, we relapse again into the plurality of specific laws which we have just left behind in order to consider law as law." The insistence on limiting necessity to its Notion collapses the isomorphism between the inner and outer, Force and expression. What precipitates this collapse is that each world is finitely conceived through itself, and not through its other.

The Spiritual work of art has its structural ground in the above isomorphism between worlds, and its thematic ground in the notion of necessity. This work is the divine's representation in and through speech, which exhibits the previous section's logic of inner and outer. The progression from epic to tragedy, and ultimately to comedy, is marked by necessity and the self s alternation between the divine and the human. In epic, the relation between gods and men transpires through the middle term of the Minstrel, the "particularity" singled out by the gods to recollect the deeds that verify divine selfhood. But each side has claims upon selfhood: mortals are subject to the gods, but the gods' representability depends on the selfhood of mortals.

Further, because the gods' own selfhood is derivative, they experience necessity as something beyond their control. Because neither gods nor men can make an unchallenged claim to selfhood, tragedy emerges to serve as the artwork in which necessity is linked to self-consciousness in the form of the individual human self. The speech of the tragic hero demonstrates both selfhood and the capacity to act in accordance with necessity. But the presence of the chorus belies the tragic hero's full selfhood, since the chorus, and not the hero, knows the hero's fate. And on the other side, ethical substance repeats the earlier breakdown of law, since the bare notion of necessity requires specific matters (i.e. the conflict between human and divine law) in order to realise itself.

In realising itself as total self-certainty that overcomes the distinction between sensible and supersensible worlds, the self affirms the one-sided view of itself solely as a self. This self-conception is innocent of the need to mediate itself through substance or the community. Beginning from the collapsed self/world isomorphism, Hegel's task in Revelatory religion is to elucidate the speculative identity between the self and the community, the human and the divine. He accomplishes this by turning to the structure of infinity that emerges from the discussion of the second supersensible world.

Starting from this basic structure of inner difference, Hegel develops infinity into the model for self-consciousness. This model operates on two tiers. On the first, infinity functions both as a) the moving principle that animates the object known by consciousness, and b) as the act of knowing itself. This is evident in Hegel's parenthetical introduction of infinity as "this absolute unrest of pure self-movement, in which whatever is determined in one way or another, e.g. as being, is rather the opposite of this determinateness..."  But what radicalises inner difference into infinity, and infinity into self-consciousness is the self s realisation that it, itself, is the object which it knows. Self-consciousness is self-reflexivity.

As Hegel acknowledges, "this, no doubt, has been from the start the soul of all that has gone before." But this reflexivity only becomes apparent in explanation, where the explaation that explicitly thematised the physical world as its object implicitly referred to the needs of the knowing consciousness. As Hegel says, "it is as 'explanation'' that it [infinity] first freely stands forth; and in being finally an object for consciousness, as that which it is, consciousness is thus self-consciousness."

This is the transcendental insight whereby consciousness becomes aware of meeting itself in what appears as other to it. The object is both a sign of the activity of self-consciousness, and the occasion for self-consciousness to come back to itself in and through externality. As an activity, self-consciousness effects itself by returning to itself from out of apparent otherness, recognising itself in, and as, its intentional object. This reflexivity leads Hegel to conclude that "consciousness of an 'other,' of an object in general, is itself necessarily self-consciousness, a reflectedness-into-self, consciousness of itself in its otherness." (102) This infinity is the structure by which consciousness becomes self-consciousness, differing from itself, and returning to itself in what confronts it as other.

Infinity and the Revelatory Religion
Hegel's introductory remarks make clear that only self-reflexive and self-returning infinity can be the ground of Revelatory religion.

Through the religion of Art, Spirit has advanced from the form of Substance to assume that of Subject, for it produces its [outer] shape, thus making explicit in it the act, or the self-consciousness, that merely vanishes in the awful Substance, and does not apprehend its own self in its trust.

The difference in form between Art and Revelatory religion reduces to Spirit's failure, within Art religion, to recognise itself as the producer of the object it knows as divine. What Spirit gains in making this self-attribution is the knowledge of itself as infinite, as selfhood. But this knowledge of itself as infinite pushes Spirit toward the opposite extreme, expressed in the proposition that "the Self is absolute Being," at the risk of evacuating the object which confronts the self as other. However, Hegel denies that it is either the case that the object is collapsed into the self, or that the self loses itself in the object (Schelling). Although the onus of self-recognition admittedly falls to self-consciousness, or the Self, the structure of infinity corrects the one-sidedness that would otherwise result from enfranchising the subject as the agent of its own self-recognition. For Hegel,

the result achieved is the union and permeation of the two natures in which both are, with equal value, essential and at the same time only moments; so that Spirit is simultaneously consciousness of itself as its objective substance, and simple self-consciousness communing with itself.

The structure of infinity allows Hegel to enclose the opposed terms as moments of one  and the same "union," in which each permeates and is permeated by it its other. Within the sequence of religion, the advent of Revelatory religion promises that Spirit will realise the speculative unity between human and divine.

This unification begins from the dead end of Spirit's attempts to recognise itself. The Self first misidentifies itself as having no being outside of ethical substance,but flips to the other extreme by defining itself in isolation from the community.  The breakdown of each side leaves Spirit as the Unhappy Consciousness. Hegel characterises this shape of Spirit as "the loss of substance as well as of the Self, it is the grief which expresses itself in the hard saying that 'God is dead.'"  Unhappy consciousness realises that everything it thought to be true, or everything capable of being true, is in fact false. But this comes at a price. Because "Spirit has gained its certainty of itself from the crushing of gods and men,"  Spirit's identity has its negative ground in the conviction that everything it formerly believed is false. But in recollecting what went before, and in surrendering to despair, Unhappy Consciousness as Spirit is blinded to the fact that the ability to retrospect the shapes that came before means that they already belong to it. Unhappy consciousness is already pluralised, and acquainted with the shapes that will allow it to realise itself as a self.

Within Revelatory religion, the structure of infinity operates on different levels. First, Spirit's birth into self-consciousness as Revelatory religion has the structure of infinity as its model. Hegel elsewhere explains Spirit as the conjunction of substance and subject, a formula that may be concretised to mean the opposition between the community's ethos taken as a thing, versus the living, self-conscious individual. It is only within Revelatory religion that this opposition is undone, since it is here that substance and subject are shown to contain their own others. Each undergoes the kenosis into its opposite, which Hegel formulates as the process by which "substance alienates itself from itself and becomes self-consciousness... while self-consciousness alienates itself from itself and gives itself the nature of a Thing."

Literally, the community realises itself as the living individuals who enact it, while individuals realise themselves in and through the things they fashion that allow them to express themselves. Hegel's insistence on the necessity of this transition mirrors his insistence on the speculative identity of self-consciousness in-itself 'with substance, and substance in-itself with self-consciousness. The self-identification by Spirit that privileges self-consciousness and ignores substance is a privative form of religion that never realises itself as true Spirit.

Concretely, this means that God's presence must register not merely for the individual self-consciousness, since this may be imaginary or delusive. Rather, God must have a purchase within the objective world of substance, as a living being present to the community. This is why Hegel takes pains to emphasise how "this God is sensuously and directly beheld as a Self, as an actual individual man; only so is this God self-consciousness."  Revelatory religion must insist on God's incarnation as an existing self, since only this satisfies the necessary conditions for Spirit's full identification. God's unitary inner and outer structures must mirror each other, and God must possess the structure and shape of Spirit itself.

Ultimately, Revelatory religion's claim of God's selfhood is where Hegel tries to cash out the structure of infinity. This follows for a couple of reasons. First, Hegel identifies the structure of selfhood and Spirit with the structure of infinity. As he says, "Spirit is the knowledge of oneself in the externalisation of oneself; the being that is the movement of retaining its self-identity in its otherness." The passage touches on the capacity of inner difference to become other to itself, with the caveat that doing so does not annul self-identity or otherness. Both characteristics are essential to selfhood, and thus to Revelatory religion, in which "the divine Being is known as Spirit, or this religion is the consciousness of the divine Being that it is Spirit."  This suggests that the Revelatory religion not only reveals God as a self,# but also defines the relation of the believer to God, as the relation of the self to itself.

For there is something hidden from consciousness in its object if the object is for Consciousness an 'other' or something alien, and if it does not know it as its own self. This concealment ceases when the absolute Being qua Spirit is the object of consciousness; for then the object has the form of Self in its relation to consciousness, i.e. consciousness knows itself immediately in the object, or is manifest to itself in the object.

Self-consciousness only finds itself in and through its divine other, who is in fact itself, estranged in and as the other. Selfhood is the being of the divine Being, and the relation of the believer to the divine being is also one of selfhood, since the divine Being itself is the other of the self into which the self returns and finds itself. Hegel reformulates this infinite relation into specific terms when he says that "the divine nature is the same as the human, and it is this unity that is beheld."  Along with this infinity come various paradoxes: the lowest is the highest, the immediate is mediated, and so on. The figure of God as a self-consciousness, and religion as the consciousness o/this self-consciousness who is God, all depend on the structure of infinity as it figures in the Revelatory religion.

But what, finally, makes this relation to an immediate self-consciousness belong in religion and not elsewhere? For Hegel, the presence of the incarnate God "has inseparably the meaning not only of a self-consciousness that immediately is, but also of the supreme Being as an absolute essence in pure thought, or absolute Being."  It is the structure of infinity, not merely present, but realised. Both sides of God are present: the immediate presence as a living individual, alongside the mediated relation to God as the divine other of humanity, with whom humanity is one, and in whom humanity may find itself.

Hegel concludes the structural discussion of religion by underscoring the significance of the Revelatory religion. The joy of beholding itself in absolute Being enters self-consciousness and seises the whole world; for it is Spirit, it is the simple movement of those pure moments, which expresses just this: that only when absolute Being is beheld as an immediate self-consciousness is it known as Spirit.  To press the point, we should emphasise the play of immediacy and infinity within this passage. Only when the absolute Being is beheld as an immediately present self is it knowable as Spirit—as Hegel's concept for the infinite relation to the other.


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