Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 1

Hegel and capitalist ideology

The claim in Beiser regarding Kant – that he ‘lies far more within the Platonic tradition…than many scholars are willing to admit’1 applies far more so to the relationship between Hegel and that of Neoplatonism. The evidence of Neoplatonism in Hegel’s philosophy is so consistent, the challenge should be to argue that he was not a Neoplatonist rather than that he was.

But Hegel was the high point of the capitalist assertion that we in the West are the bearers of reason – he made that claim himself. Hence so much hangs on him ideologically. Expose who he was philosophically and you threaten the whole ideological structure of which he is a key part.

This is why academics won’t touch the connection between Hegel and Cusanus, because it proves his mysticism, his Neoplatonism. Even if, as all the academics write, Hegel didn’t know of Cusanus, why is it that the Christian Cusanus, whose philosophy exemplifies so many parallels and similarities with Hegel’s is readily known as a Christian Neoplatonist, yet Hegel is only known as a Christian?

Magee, who argues that Jakob Böhme’s writing had a profound effect on Hegel wrote that many Hegel scholars

find it simply unacceptable that Hegel might have been seriously interested in (or – worse yet – influenced by) one of the most obscure mystics in the Western canon. To most professional philosophers, mysticism is not merely a non-rational enterprise, but an irrational one: one contrary to reason. Thus, their attitude tends to be that we must save Hegel from Boehme.2

1.1 Hegel and Western supremacism

In his Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Hegel, Paul Redding wrote that Hegel’s account of history and the history of philosophy are clearly Eurocentric.3 Hegel not only justified that Eurocentrism on the basis of Christianity: ‘Christians…are initiated into the mysteries of God, and this also supplies us with the key to world history,’4 ‘It was through Christianity that this Idea came into the world,’5 ‘human beings are freed through Christ and everyone has access to freedom,’6 he did so by taking a clearly supremacist position with regard to ‘reason’

Negroes are to be regarded as a race of children…The Mongols…spread like monstrous locust swarms over other countries and then…sink back again into the thoughtless indifference and dull inertia which preceded this outburst. …(the Chinese) have no compunction in exposing or simply destroying their infants.

It is in the Caucasian race that mind first attains to absolute unity with itself. ..and in doing so creates world-history.

The principle of the European mind is, therefore, self-conscious Reason…In Europe, therefore, there prevails this infinite thirst for knowledge which is alien to other races. …the European mind…subdues the outer world to its ends with an energy which has ensured for it the mastery of the world.7

1.2 Paul Redding and Hegel’s Neoplatonism

Redding wrote

It is common within recent accounts of the emergence of German Idealism to find stressed the impact of Spinozism on the generation to which Schelling and Hegel belonged, but it is less common to find discussion of the neoplatonic aspects of their thought, despite the fact that this was commonly noted in the 19th century.8

Redding maintains this failure to analyse the relationship between Hegel’s philosophy and Neoplatonism. He many times raises it but then leaves it as a mere statement or fails to pursue it to any depth – ‘Again we see a Neoplatonist dimension to Hegel’s approach to spirit…,’9 ‘Hegel’s constant use of the notion of the Neoplatonists’ treatment of “negation”…,’10 ‘Hegel showed clear features of the type of thought found in the Platonism of late antique philosophers like Plotinus and Proclus…Importantly it was these neo-platonist, and especially Proclean features, that would be central to Hegel’s understanding of Christianity, and especially the doctrine of the trinity…,’11 ‘A particularly clear application of the Plotinian processes of egress and regress from “the one” within the living realm is to be found in Hegel’s discussion of life in chapter four of the Phenomenology of Spirit.,’12 ‘With its dark mystical roots, and its overtly religious content…’.13 Or he qualifies it – ‘Hegel’s “Neoplatonic” schema…,’14 ‘Hegel often seems to invoke imagery consistent with the types of neo-Platonic conceptions of the universe that had been common within Christian mysticism…’15

Redding repeated Hegel’s statement that Neoplatonism could be termed Neoaristotelianism16 but, while prepared to write that Hegel might be said to have been ‘a Christian Aristotelianised Platonist’17 despite continuing ‘And the point of view of most orthodox Christian thought in the nineteenth century (and since) this will hardly be recognisable as a form of Christianity, indeed, a form of religious thought at all,’18 he refuses to refer to him simply as he was – a Neoplatonist.

Most importantly, Redding wrote that Hegel’s conception of the Trinity is Neoplatonic.19 Hegel emphasised that the Trinity (his Neoplatonic version of it) was fundamental to his philosophy. A person who attended Hegel’s lectures on the philosophy of religion noted: ‘the Trinity may have entered Christian doctrine from the Alexandrian school, or from the Neoplatonists.’20

Hodgson, the editor of the publication of those lectures added that F.A.G.Tholuck with whom Hegel corresponded ‘was convinced that the doctrine of the triad was widespread in Islamic thought and in late Greek philosophy, and that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is closely linked with Neoplatonism.’21

Where is Redding’s thorough analysis of all these roads to Neoplatonism in relation to the master of ‘Reason’? There is none.



1. Paul Redding, Continental Idealism: Leibniz to Nietzsche, Routledge, London, 2009, 64
2. ‘Hegel’s Reception of Jacob Boehme,’ op. cit., 654
3. Paul Redding, ‘Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’ Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hegel/
4. G.W.F.Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History, Introduction: Reason in History, Trans., H.B. Nisbet, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1984, 41
5. G.W.F.Hegel Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind, Part Three of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1830), Trans., William Wallace, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1971, 239
6. G.W.F.Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy 1825-6, vol. I, Trans. Robert F. Brown and J.M. Stewart, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2009, 195
7. Hegel, Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind, op. cit., 42-45; ‘Europe, forms the consciousness, the rational part, of the earth, the balance of rivers and valleys and mountains – whose centre is Germany. The division of the world into continents is therefore not contingent, not a convenience; on the contrary, the differences are essential,’ G.W.F.Hegel Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature, Part Two of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1830), Trans., A.V.Miller, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2004, 285; ‘No philosophy in the proper sense (can be found in the Oriental world)…spirit does not arise in the Orient…In the West we are on the proper soil of philosophy,’ Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy 1825-6, op. cit., vol. I, 89, 91
8. Paul Redding, ‘Mind of God, Point of View of Man, or Spirit of the World? Platonism and Organicism in the Thought of Kant and Hegel’, Von Kant bis Hegel 4, Concordia Univ., Montréal, October, 2008, 9. ‘the Neoplatonic characteristics of Hegel’s thought came to be widely acknowledged during the nineteenth century, Feuerbach, for example, describing Hegel as “the German Proclus” (PPF: 47),’ Redding, Continental Idealism: Leibniz to Nietzsche, op. cit., 137
9. Paul Redding, Hegel’s Hermeneutics, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1996, 118, note
10. Redding, Continental Idealism: Leibniz to Nietzsche, op. cit., 151
11. Paul Redding, ‘Hegel’s Philosophy of Religion’ in Graham Oppy and Nick Trakakis Eds. The History of Western Philosophy of Religion, Volume IV: Nineteenth-Century Philosophy and Religion, Chesam: Acumen, 2009, 6
12. Redding, ‘Mind of God, Point of View of Man, or Spirit of the World? Platonism and Organicism in the Thought of Kant and Hegel’, op. cit., 10
13. ‘Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’, op. cit.
14. Hegel’s Hermeneutics, op. cit. 108
15. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’, op. cit.
16. ‘Neoplatonism too, or the Alexandrian, Neo-Aristotelian philosophy, is no eclecticism but a uniting of its predecessors,’ Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy 1825-6, op. cit., vol. I, 246; Redding, ’Hegel’s Philosophy of Religion’, op. cit., 13
17. Ibid., Paul Redding, ‘The Metaphysical and Theological Commitments of Idealism: Kant, Hegel, Hegelianism’, for volume, Douglas Moggach, Ed., Politics, Religion and Art: Hegelian Debates, Northwestern University Press, 19
18. Ibid.
19. Redding, Continental Idealism: Leibniz to Nietzsche, op. cit. 199
20. G.W.F.Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, vol. I, Ed. Peter C. Hodgson, Trans., R.F.Brown, P.C.Hodgson, J.M.Stewart, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2007, 157
21. Ibid.

Contents of Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist posts

Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist – Introduction


In capitalist ideology – a system of belief delimited by exploitative interests – Hegel’s philosophy is held to embody the mastery of conceptual reason. Hegel demanded this recognition through his philosophical assertions which he gave weight to with the complexity and bulk of his output. This recognition has been willingly granted – particularly after his death1 – maintained and propagated by generations of career-building academic ideologues.

In fact, the holding and teaching of his philosophy as such embodies one of the greatest lies in Western philosophy and culture – that what is Neoplatonic and works through and beyond concepts is linguistic only and rigorous in its conceptualisation. It is a lie that can be traced to the gates of Plato’s republic, from which the artist (and thus Plato himself) was excluded – both the artist and Plato who were crucial to Plotinus – together with all the richer and more subtle aspects of how we reason.

That reason is held to be only linguistic and conceptual is both patriarchal (the richness and complexity of our thought is reduced to identifiable and manipulable symbols) and supremacist (other ways of thinking in non-Western cultures which have long and esteemed histories ‘fail’ this standard). The West in its practice fails this standard. The ‘reason’ of Hegel is the reason of Plotinus.

From a materialist perspective (‘matter’ or objective reality is primary to consciousness) I will argue that Hegel’s philosophy is most obviously Neoplatonic, that it is the consummation of a philosophical current begun by Plotinus and that Hegel’s philosophy can neither be understood nor accorded the full appreciation it deserves without understanding that current.2

His philosophy, contrary to its place in capitalist ideology is, in the best tradition of Neoplatonism, profoundly poetic. His Phenomenology of Spirit is the most lyrical, his Logic the most austere. Hegel, like Cusanus, conflated the Neoplatonic hypostases and employed the same devices to convey his philosophy as did other Neoplatonists and mystics.

The tool that Hegel used to enrich and further anchor his Neoplatonism in this world which most pervades his philosophy is the Trinity – a Trinity Hegel acknowledged was derived from Neoplatonism. Where Neoplatonism is the framework, the Trinity is both the overlay and was woven into it. The Christian Trinity – which Hegel’s is not – is also a partial and, in the hands of academics, very successful disguise to stave off the recognition of a ‘pornography’ that pervades Hegel’s and their theorising and Western culture. Hegel’s philosophy is not Christian.

Just as that Hegel was a Neoplatonist is not conceded, so his knowledge of and immense debt to Cusanus who is known as a Neoplatonist. The motive is the same – the maintenance of the lie of ‘reason’ and of the patriarchy and supremacism of Western dominated, capitalist ideology – ultimately, domination and exploitation by the bourgeoisie. Here too, Hegel was complicit – in addition to unjustified claims of originality (Cusanus also was accused of plagiarism), a sympathy for ‘subjectivism’ and ‘atheism’ could mean the end of a promising career – both then and (with the decline of that stage of capitalist ideology known as ‘postmodernism’ – itself suffused with Neoplatonism and mysticism) a little less now.

Marx and Engels took this great current in philosophy – a current that has contributed so much to Western and global culture – from its influence on Michelangelo to that on Kepler, Nietzsche, Proust, Picasso, Popova, Stepanova and Joyce to name but a few – and stood it on material feet. The epistemology for the world within became that for the world without.

The hostility towards Neoplatonism and Marxism by the bourgeoisie and their inability to acknowledge and embrace them are for the same reasons – both the prime importance to this current of what the bourgeoisie have assigned to ‘the feminine’ – the ephemeral, the creative, that which is not responsive to and resists control and particularly, its recognition of the engine of negation with its resultant flux. Everything but change itself will pass.3

The dialectical materialist perspective that grew from a philosophy developed in reaction to change brought out its revolutionary content. The bourgeoisie – their domination and exploitation too, will pass.



1. ‘it was quite common for him to be linked with mysticism in general’ Glenn Alexander Magee, ‘Hegel’s Reception of Jacob Boehme’ in An Introduction to Jacob Boehme: Four Centuries of Thought and Reception, Eds., Ariel Hessayon and Sarah Apetrei, Routledge, New York, 2014, 531-575, 603
2. ‘The evidence that Hegel was influenced by mysticism and took it seriously until the end of his life is, in short, abundant. …If one is ignorant of the mystical tradition, then the claim I have just now made will seem implausible.’ Glenn Alexander Magee, ‘Hegel and Mysticism’, in Frederick C. Beiser, Ed., The Cambridge Companion to Hegel and Nineteenth-Century Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2009, 253-280, 264
3. The ideological silence for so long in academia with regard to the impact of mysticism, particularly its primary Western form Neoplatonism and the distortions written and spoken in the attempt to explain that influence away can be compared with the erasure of a two thousand year history of materialism from Indian philosophy. The only place where this ‘survives’ is in the writing of those who hated it. Some of those in the West who built their careers on never using the word ‘mysticism’ other than disparagingly or on explaining it away are now teaching it as though it has been ever thus. They make a mockery of philosophy and excellently exemplify the early stages of a major adjustment in capitalist ideology – from ‘modernism’ to ‘postmodernism’ to…? What will the new ‘ism’ be that denies or instils doubt regarding the primacy of objective reality?

Contents of Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist posts

Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist – Epigraphs

‘it is the inner which stirs us; we are in the case of one who sees his own reflection but not realising whence it comes goes in pursuit of it.’

Plotinus, The Enneads, V.8.2

‘I therefore openly avowed myself the pupil of that mighty thinker…The mystification which the dialectic suffers in Hegel’s hands by no means prevents him from being the first to present its general forms of motion in a comprehensive and conscious manner. With him it is standing on its head. It must be inverted, in order to discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell.

In its mystified form, the dialectic became the fashion in Germany, because it seemed to transfigure and glorify what exists. In its rational form it is a scandal and an abomination to the bourgeoisie and its doctrinaire spokesmen, because it includes in its positive understanding of what exists a simultaneous recognition of its negation, its inevitable destruction; because it regards every historically developed form as being in a fluid state, in motion, and therefore grasps its transient aspect as well; and because it does not let itself be impressed by anything, being in its very essence critical and revolutionary.’

Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1, Postface to the Second Edition 1873, Penguin, London, 1982, 103.

not a single professor of political economy, who may be capable of very valuable contributions in the field of factual and specialised investigations, can be trusted one iota when it comes to the general theory of political economy. For in modern society the latter is as much a partisan science as is epistemology. Taken as a whole, the professors of economics are nothing but learned salesmen of the capitalist class, while the professors of philosophy are learned salesmen of the theologians.’

Vladimir Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 322


Contents of Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist posts

Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist – Preface

Processed in a convict culture that has everything but a bigness of spirit, that oozes shame like pus from a boil; a culture overseen by ruthless, thieving ideologues who know they must never lose control of the ideas but too gutless to go near mysticism while the career pathways of modernism and po-mo rode high (themselves suffused with mysticism) and vicious, vindictive authoritarians, protected by their mates and their system – a nation that as much toadies to the interests of first British and now U.S. capital – from the skirts of Mother Britannia to the coat-tails of Uncle Sam – as it is a racist bully in its region.

A people who have everything and yet, convinced of their ‘decency’, behave as though they have nothing.

Till the end of my life I will salute Jørn Utzon for his bigness of spirit, for his vision and his masterpiece that resulted from it, in his being driven from this culture and for refusing to ever be drawn back by the embarrassed provincial rabble (still attempting to demean what he created by proposing to raise petty cash from sleepovers in it – why not in St Mary’s or Parliament House – symbols of authority?) that his departure exposed.


Contents of Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist posts

How the Australian bourgeoisie behave when they have a new master

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‘Fromelles: Families of British First World War veterans complain of being ‘banned’, itv Report, 05.02.16

The families of British First World War veterans have accused the Australian government of banning them from a ceremony commemorating a battle in which thousands of men from both countries were killed.

A special service marking 100 years since the Battle of Fromelles – known as one of the bloodiest battles in Australian military history – is due to take place in the northern French field where it took place on 19 July.

In a matter of hours, the 5th Australian Division saw 5,533 killed, wounded or taken prisoner after being sent over the top in the battle, only days after arriving at the Western Front. More than 2,000 of those men died.

As a result, the catastrophic day has been viewed by some historians as a consequence of poor British planning.

The Australian War Memorial itself describes the attack as a “complete failure” which had “no impact whatsoever upon the progress of the Somme offensive”.

However, after it emerged that families of the 1,547 British casualties would not be invited to attend, some complained that they were being unfairly excluded from remembering their fallen loved ones.

World War One enlistment poster

World War One enlistment poster

Casualties at Fromelles


Australian casualties at Fromelles (killed, wounded or taken captive)


British casualties at Fromelles


German casualties at Fromelles

Gunner Fred Bemrose from Dorset died in the hail of gunfire from the German-held higher ground known as the Sugarloaf.

Speaking to the Times, his grandson, Michael Bemrose – who has made regular visits to the battlefield since the remains of 250 Allied soldiers were exhumed and re-interred there in 2010 – accused Australian authorities of trying to “airbrush” British soldiers from the history of the deadly day.

Men from both countries fought together and died together but now the Australians want to airbrush the British out of the battle. They have made a unilateral decision to bar the British by restricting access to Australian passport holders.


Richard Dibben – the great-nephew of killed Private Harry Dibben from Buckland Newton, Dorset – had also hoped to go to the ceremony, and told the newspaper: “I think it’s grossly unfair.”

A spokesman from the Department of Veterans said the event was limited due to the small size of the Fromelles site, but added that the “ceremonial focus will be on the Australian role in the battle and on the Australian soldiers lost”.

A decision has been made by the Australian Government to prioritise Australians and French in the seated area,” he added, noting that most governments had chosen to commemorate the centenary of the Somme offensive with a single ceremony – such as Britain’s Thiepval memorial on 1 July.

“This is not to diminish the role of other nations but simply a recognition of the Australian focus of the event we are organising.”