HEGEL: A KEY TO UNDERSTANDING MODERN EXISTENCE

[The following passage reveals Hegel's intense resentment as well as its cause:

Every single man is but a blind link in the chain of absolute necessity by which the world builds itself forth (sich fortbildet). The single man can elevate himself to dominance (Herrschaft) over an appreciable length of this chain only if he knows the direction in which the great necessity wants to move and if he learns from this knowledge to pronounce the magic words (die Zauberworte) that will evoke its shape (Gestalt). {Fortsetzung des "Systems der Sittlichkeit," (1804-1806, written while working on the Phaenomenologie) Dokumente zu Hegels Entwicklung, Stuttgart, 1936, 314-325, at 324.}]

[This] is a key passage for the understanding of modern existence. Man has become a nothing; he has no reality of his own; he is a blind particle in a process of the world which has the monopoly of real reality and real meaning. In order to raise himself from nothing to something, the blind particle must become a seeing particle. But even if the particle has gained sight, it sees nothing but the direction in which the process is moving whether seen by the particle or not.

And yet, to Hegel something important has been gained: the nothing that has raised itself to a something has become, if not a man, at least a sorcerer who can evoke, if not the reality of history, at least its shape. I almost hesitate to continue the spectacle of a nihilist stripping himself to the nude is embarrassing. For Hegel betrays in so many words that being a man is not enough for him; and as he cannot be the divine Lord of history himself, he is going to achieve Herrschaft as the sorcerer who will conjure up an image of history—a shape, a ghost—that is meant to eclipse the history of God's making. The imaginative project of history falls in its place in the pattern of modern existence as the conjurer's instrument of power.

Hegel concludes his reflection with the statement:

This knowledge— which means including the whole suffering and the conflict which for several thousand years has ruled the world and all forms of its manifestation (Ausbildung) in oneself, and at the same time elevating oneself above it [i.e., the conflict]— this knowledge only philosophy can give. (at 325)

"This knowledge," we remember, is the knowledge from which its possessor can learn the magic words that will evoke the shape of things to come. Regarding its contents, "this knowledge" must be the all-inclusive book of the suffering and conflict in the world's process, for only if it is all-inclusive can the possessor of "this knowledge" elevate himself above the world's suffering and conflict. The theme of diremption and reconciliation is resumed. The all-inclusive knowledge must be achieved in order to make an end of the world process, of this nightmare of suffering and conflict, and to inaugurate the age of reconciliation.

A shape is evoked indeed by Hegel's program: the shape of the Christ who takes the conflict and suffering of this world on his shoulders and thereby becomes its redeemer. This redemptive knowledge is the knowledge that only philosophy can give. "Philosophy" becomes the grimoire of the magician who will evoke for everybody the shape and the reconciliation that for himself he cannot achieve in the reality of his existence.

CW VOL 12
On Hegel: A Study in Sorcery
§ II, pp 221-222.




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