Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 14a

 

14. Magee on Hermeticism, Böhme and Hegel

14.1 Magee’s misrepresentation of the Hermetica

My writing in this section is premised on my thesis to this point – that Neoplatonism underwent significant development and adaptation within both pagan and Christian cultures and that the most complex and thorough manifestation of that development and adaptation is the philosophy of Hegel.

Prior to my reading the Hermetica1 I have given Magee high praise for arguing that Hegel was not only influenced by mysticism – the evidence abundant and the influence decisive2 – but that he was a mystic. Magee correctly wrote that it should no longer be possible to treat Hegel as an arch-rationalist, ‘let alone to read him in a non-metaphysical or anti-theological manner.’3 His discussion of Hegel’s mytho-poetic circumscription is insightful and accurate. Magee’s philosophical position is all the more notable given that he is an academic – the great majority of philosophy academics still dutifully parrot the ideological line that Hegel is the patriarch of conceptual reason.

The evidence Magee details of Hegel’s interest in Hermeticism4 throughout his career is undeniable, long-overdue and excellent but the very charge that he makes of other academics, that they wilfully distort and misrepresent that evidence, seeing what they want to see5 applies equally to him in his argument that Hegel’s mysticism is Hermeticist. Magee’s writing on the subject exemplifies the academic ignorance of and hostility towards Neoplatonism and the developments within it, deliberately and grossly misrepresents the Hermetica in order to shoehorn Hegel into the status of ‘Hermeticist’ and fails to recognise the deeply ethical aspect of the philosophies of both Neoplatonism and Hermeticism.

Magee begins Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition with a simple, striking and challenging assertion

Hegel is not a philosopher. He is no lover or seeker of wisdom – he believes he has found it. …Hegel claims to have arrived at Absolute Knowledge, which he identifies with wisdom. Hegel’s claim to have attained wisdom is completely contrary to the original Greek conception of philosophy as the love of wisdom, that is, the ongoing pursuit rather than the final possession of wisdom6

He states dramatically

Hegel’s thought is not a part of the history of philosophy. It represents an altogether different standpoint, one that represents completed wisdom, not the search for wisdom. Hegel is a wise man offering not Philosophie but Wissenschaft, scientia, episteme. He calls this science of wisdom “speculation” and opposes it to reflection (Reflexion).7

and

Hermeticism replaces the love of wisdom with the lust for power. As we shall see, Hegel’s system is the ultimate expression of this pursuit of mastery.8

There are a number of problems in the above for Magee. Not only has he repeatedly referred to ‘Hegel’s philosophy’ and Hermeticism as philosophy in his writing,9 Magee fails to recognise that the Greek ‘love of wisdom’ was never the arcane abstract divorced from the world so beloved of modern philosophy academics, but that it was centred on their thinking about the world. The ‘first Greek philosopher’ Thales modelled this – the root of ‘wisdom’ is ‘knowledge’.

To lay claim to ‘absolute knowledge’ – capitalised or not – is a philosophical position no less than is a claim to be pursuing ‘wisdom’ or to be the proud possessor of it. Each must be defended. According to his argument, Magee not only implies that one philosophical school – Hermeticism – is the mere expression of a lust for power, he also rejects Neoplatonism, according to my argument and with parallels to Hermeticism from the history of philosophy – a school described by Hegel as the consummation and culmination of Greek philosophy.10

By implication, Magee is denying that what Hegel wrote reflecting the ‘world within’ of consciousness is a complex and deeply subtle philosophical enquiry – a position I do not believe he holds. Again, Magee fails to appreciate the ethical nature of both Neoplatonism and Hermeticism – both of which are focused on the Good as a fundamental principle and a pinnacle of their systems. Both schools contain reflections on the physical world in relation to their world of consciousness.

Magee argues that what he claims is Hermeticism describes Hegel’s system. That he charged Hegel with replacing philosophy with theosophy is particularly noteworthy

Hegel displays the essential characteristic of Hermeticism: the doctrine that God alone is not complete, that He lacks self-knowledge, and that He therefore creates the world as the mirror in which he recognises Himself, specifically through the speculative activity of the Hermetic adept, who by knowing God, allows God to know himself. Hegel claims to be such an adept, having replaced the love of wisdom with the possession of wisdom, philosophy with theosophy.11

Magee repeats this claim over and again12 But in doing so, he deliberately and grossly distorts Hermeticism – specifically, the philosophy in the Hermetica (both the Corpus Hermeticum which he quotes and the Asclepius to which he referred). The following quotation summarises why Magee thinks Hegel was an Hermeticist

Hermeticists not only hold that God requires creation, they make a specific creature, man, play a crucial role in God’s self-actualisation. Hermeticism holds that man can know God, and that man’s knowledge of God is necessary for God’s own completion. Consider the words of Corpus Hermeticum 10: “For God does not ignore mankind; on the contrary, he recognises him fully and wishes to be recognised. For mankind this is the only deliverance, the knowledge of God. It is ascent to Olympus.” Corpus Hermeticum 11 asks, “Who is more visible than God? This is why he made all things: so that through them all you might look on him.” As Garth Fowden notes, what God gains from creation is recognition: “Man’s contemplation of God is in some sense a two-way process. Not only does Man wish to know God, but God too desires to be known by the most glorious of His creations, Man.” In short, it is man’s end to achieve knowledge of God (or “the wisdom of God,” theosophy). In so doing, man realises God’s own need to be recognised. Man’s knowledge of God becomes God’s knowledge of himself. Thus the need for which the cosmos is created is the need for self-knowledge, attained through recognition. Variations on this doctrine are to be found throughout the Hermetic tradition.13

According to the Corpus Hermeticum and the Asclepius, God does not require creation for his completion – he is complete (which is expressed in several ways). Mankind plays no role in God’s ‘self-actualisation’; mankind’s knowledge of God is necessary for mankind’s ‘completion’ – return to divinity. Magee’s partial quotations from Corpus Hermeticum X and XI deliberately misrepresent Hermetic philosophy. Regarding the first quotation, God does not ignore mankind and wishes to be recognised because of his goodness, not from need. ‘Recognition’ (knowledge) of God is mankind’s only deliverance – from evil. The full, substantiating quote reads

For god does not ignore mankind; on the contrary, he recognises him fully and wishes to be recognised. For mankind this is the only deliverance, the knowledge of god. It is ascent to Olympus. A soul becomes good only in this way, (my italics) though it is not good [forever] but becomes evil. By necessity it becomes so.’

“What do you mean, O Trismegistus?”

“Envision the soul of a child, my son, which has not yet accepted its separation from itself; its body has not yet attained its full bulk, {of which it has only a little as yet}. How beautiful it is to look at, from every point of view, not yet sullied by the passions of the body, still depending closely from the soul of the cosmos. But when the body gets its bulk and drags the soul down to the body’s grossness, the soul, having separated from itself, gives birth to forgetting, and it no longer shares in the beautiful and the good. The forgetting becomes vice.14

Likewise with Magee’s second quote – the full text, echoing the point of my first quotation reads

And do you say, “god is unseen”? Hold your tongue! Who is more visible than God? This is why he made all things: so that through them all you might look on him. This is the goodness of god, this is his excellence (my italics): that he is visible through all things.15

Magee has quoted from the Corpus Hermeticum in such a way as to incorrectly identify a basis for Böhme’s theosophy and on the back of that, to define Hegel’s mysticism as Hermetic.

The parallels between Neoplatonism and Hermeticism are several. Neoplatonism and Hermeticism are both built on emanation from and return to a source. In both the Enneads and the Asclepius that source is ‘motion motionless’. Where the Enneads have the three hypostases (the One, Intellectual-Principle and All-Soul) and Proclus’ more developed triad within the second hypostasis comprising Being, Life and Intelligence reflected, as I have argued, in the structure of Cusanus’ De docta ignorantia and then Hegel’s Encyclopaedia, the Corpus Hermeticum speaks of God, the cosmos as son and human. In both Neoplatonism and Hermeticism there is that same move from first principle to existence to intellect which is the means of return again to a ‘community’.

The potential for the One, which Plotinus described as ‘that self-intellection which takes place in eternal repose’,16 to be known is resolved in Proclus’ triad in which Being is fully a part of the process of knowledge. Cusanus, following him, theorised the knowing of God (13.6.6). Furthermore and again contrary to Magee’s distinction between Plotinus’ One and Hermeticism’s God – a most important point – the Corpus Hermeticum and the Asclepius speak of the knowledge of God as ineffable, the latter of the limited capacity of our consciousness to see ‘great things’.

Both philosophies recognise the centrality of contradiction and change, the fundamental difference overall between them being that Hermeticism is philosophy as myth and aphorism and Neoplatonism philosophy as analysis and argument.

In order to show how and the degree to which Magee misrepresented Hermeticism and the Hermetica (I include here as did Copenhaver in his translation both the Corpus Hermeticum and the Asclepius) and to illustrate the parallels between Neoplatonism and Hermeticism, I include quotations from those texts, with my summarising points in italics. I have used two translations for each, the first two by Copenhaver, the second two in turn by Everard (published twenty six years after Böhme’s death) and Mead’s, published in 1906.

Hermetica, Brian P. Copenhaver, 2000

Corpus Hermeticum

I

Concerns how to be saved

II

God gives everything and receives nothing

‘“God has one nature – the good. In god and the good together there is but one kind, from which come all other kinds. The good is what gives everything and receives nothing; god gives everything and receives nothing; therefore, god is [the] good, and the good is god.”’

III

The divine (without mention of ‘human’) is wisdom, a beginning and completion

‘God is the glory of all things, as also are the divine and the divine nature. God, as well as mind and nature and matter, is the beginning of all things that are since he is wisdom meant to show them forth. The divine is also a beginning, and it is nature and energy and necessity and completion and renewal.’

The gods created humans to contemplate and know (not complete) divine power

‘…The gods sowed the generations of humans to know the works of god…And through the wonder-working course of the cycling gods they created every soul incarnate to contemplate heaven, the course of the heavenly gods, the works of god and the working of nature; to examine things that are good; to know divine power…’

IV

God sent man to earth because god is good; man recognised, in astonishment, its maker

‘Because he is good, it was [not] for himself alone that he wished to make this offering and to adorn the earth; so he sent the man below, an adornment of the divine body, mortal life from life immortal. …The man became a spectator of god’s work. He looked at it in astonishment and recognised its maker.’

If a man develops his mind he will be drawn up to god

V

Pray to the father for the grace to enable you to understand god (i.e. god gives one the grace to understand him)

‘You then, Tat, my child, pray first to the lord, the father, the only, who is not one but from whom the one comes; ask him the grace to enable you to understand so great a god, to permit even one ray of his to illuminate your thinking.’

There is nothing that god is not – god gives everything and takes nothing

‘so great is the father of all. …there is nothing in all the cosmos that he is not. He is himself the things that are and those that are not. …There is nothing that he is not, for he also is all that is…You give everything and take nothing. For you have it all, and there is nothing that you do not have. …you are whatever I am; you are whatever I make; you are whatever I say. You are everything, and there is nothing else; what is not, you are as well. You are all that has come to be; you are what has not come to be; you are the mind who understands, the father who makes his craftwork, the god who acts, and the good who makes all things.’

VI

God, the good, is perfectly complete

‘The good, Asclepius, is in nothing except in god alone, or rather god himself is always the good. If this is so, the good must be the substance of all motion and generation (for nothing is abandoned by it), but this substance has an energy about it that stays at rest, that has no lack and no excess, that is perfectly complete, a source of supply, present in the beginning of all things. When I say that what supplies everything is good, I also mean that it is wholly and always good.’

God lacks for nothing
‘God lacks for nothing…Nothing is stronger than god…[nothing is more beautiful] to cause desire in him…nothing is wiser, to make him jealous.’

God is the good

‘The good is in god alone, then, or god himself is the good.’

We need to be reverent and to know god – we have need of the good and the beautiful – of what god is – i.e., we need god, not he us

‘Only one road travels from here to the beautiful – reverence combined with knowledge. …Such, Asclepius, are the good and the beautiful for humans, things we can neither shun nor hate. Hardest of all to bear is that we have need of them and cannot live without them.’

VII

The greatest evil in mankind is ignorance concerning god

God wishes to be seen

‘The greatest evil in mankind is ignorance concerning god’

‘seek a guide to take you by the hand and lead you to the portals of knowledge. There shines the light cleansed of darkness. There no one is drunk. All are sober and gaze with the heart toward one who wishes to be seen…But first you must rip off the tunic that you wear, the garment of ignorance…Such is the odious tunic you have put on. It strangles you and drags you down with it so that you will not…look up and see the fair vision of truth and the good that lies within’

VIII

‘god begins, contains, and composes all things.’

X

God wishes to be seen because he is good but we are not strong enough to open our minds’ eyes and look

‘the good can come to be in none other than him alone who receives nothing but wills all things to be.’

‘god also wishes this seeing to happen…For being recognised is characteristic of the good. …the vision of the good…illuminates to the extent that one capable of receiving the influence of intellectual splendour can receive it. …we are not yet strong enough to open our mind’s eyes and look on the incorruptible, incomprehensible beauty of that good. In the moment when you have nothing to say about it, you will see it, for the knowledge of it is divine silence and suppression of all the senses.(my italics)’

When soul has looked on the beauty of the good it is drawn upwards and deified.

God wants to be recognised so that we may acquire knowledge and become divine

‘The vice of soul is ignorance. …The virtue of soul, by contrast, is knowledge; for one who knows is good and reverent and already divine.’

Everything is the result of contradiction

‘everything must be the product of opposition and contrariety, and it cannot be otherwise.’

The human, too, is not good and because he is mortal, he is evil as well.

There are three – god, the cosmos (son) and the human

‘There are these three, then: god the father and the good; the cosmos; and the human. And god holds the cosmos, but the cosmos holds the human. And the cosmos becomes the son of god, but the human becomes the son of the cosmos, a grandson, as it were.’

God wishes to be recognised so that mankind may be delivered (may ascend) from evil through his knowledge of god

‘For god does not ignore mankind; on the contrary, he recognises him fully and wishes to be recognised. For mankind this is the only deliverance, the knowledge of god. It is ascent to Olympus. A soul becomes good only in this way, though it is not good [forever] but becomes evil. By necessity it becomes so.’

“What do you mean, O Trismegistus?”

“Envision the soul of a child, my son, which has not yet accepted its separation from itself; its body has not yet attained its full bulk, {of which it has only a little as yet}. How beautiful it is to look at, from every point of view, not yet sullied by the passions of the body, still depending closely from the soul of the cosmos. But when the body gets its bulk and drags the soul down to the body’s grossness, the soul, having separated from itself, gives birth to forgetting, and it no longer shares in the beautiful and the good. The forgetting becomes vice.”

‘the human, because he moves and is mortal, is evil.’

‘when mind has entered a reverent soul, it leads it to the light of knowledge. Such a soul as this never has its fill of hymning and praising, always blessing all people and doing them good in every deed and word, in memory of its father.

Therefore, my child, one who gives thanks to god must pray to acquire a good mind. …There is a community of souls: the souls of the gods commune with souls of humans, those of humans with souls of unreasoning things. The greater take charge of the lesser…God stands above all things and watches over them.’

Mind unites humans to the gods and all things exist by action of the one

‘The greater take charge of the lesser: gods of humans, humans of living things without reason, and god takes charge of them all. For he is greater than all of them, and all are less than he. Thus the cosmos is subject to god, mankind to the cosmos and unreasoning things to mankind. God stands above all things and watches over them. And energies are like rays from god, natural forces like rays from the cosmos, arts and learning like rays from mankind. Energies work through the cosmos and upon mankind through the natural rays of the cosmos, but natural forces work through the elements, and humans work through the arts and through learning. And this is the government of the universe, dependent from the nature of the one and spreading through the one mind. Nothing is more godlike than [mind], nothing more active nor more capable of uniting humans to the gods and gods to humans; mind is the good demon. Blessed is the soul completely full of mind, wretched the soul completely empty of it.”’

‘we must dare to say that the human on earth is a mortal god but that god in heaven is an immortal human. Through these two, then, cosmos and human, all things exist, but they all exist by action of the one.”’

XI

God’s power does not come from humans, humans exist because of him – they are images of him

‘god’s energy is an insuperable power, not comparable to anything human or divine. …Because he is an energetic power, his autonomy does not come from things that come to be; those that come to be exist by his agency.’

‘God…is what he makes. …All things come to be by the agency of god’

The human is, ultimately, an image of god.

God makes the good necessarily because it is god’s life and movement

‘Just as a human cannot live apart from life, neither can god exist without making the good. For in god this making is life and movement’

‘All things are in god’

‘And do you say, “god is unseen”? Hold your tongue! Who is more visible than God? This is why he made all things: so that through them all you might look on him. This is the goodness of god, this is his excellence: that he is visible through all things.’

XII

(because of mind and reason) ‘humans are mortal gods’

‘And god, who is energy and power, surrounds everything and permeates everything’

God is all and the all permeates everything and surrounds everything

‘in the all there is nothing that he (god) is not. …For god is all. And the all permeates everything and surrounds everything.’

XIII

Concerned with the means for purification and rebirth. It discusses the singing of a hymn of praise to god the one.

XIV
God is all-powerful, not impotent

‘we must understand these two things: what comes to be and who makes it. Between them there is nothing, no third thing.’

‘(Those who do not know god) profane him greatly by imputing to him conditions of disdain and impotence. …in god there is only one condition, the good, but one who is good is not contemptuous or impotent. This is what god is, the good, all power to make all things.’

XVI

God is master, maker, father and container. He is one

‘I shall open the discourse by invoking god, the master, maker, father and container of the whole universe, the all who is one and the one who is all. For the plenitude of all things is one and is in one, not because the one duplicates itself but because both are one.’

Permanence is change

‘the permanence of every body is change’

God is all things and his making is ceaseless

‘all things are parts of god. But if all things are parts of god, then all things are god, and he makes himself in making all things. His making can never cease because he is ceaseless. And as god has no end, so his making has neither beginning nor end.’

XVIII

We praise god to confess our father’s limitless power

‘Moreover, this very fact contributes to god’s renown: that he is greater than his own progeny, and that the preface, beginning, middle and end of our praises are to confess our father’s limitless power and limitless extent. Praising god is in our nature as humans because we happen to be in some sense his descendants’

______

Asclepius

Why were humans put in the world?

In the reply to the question ‘Why then, Trismegistus, should humans have been put in the world?’ is the reply: ‘so great and so good was (god) that he wanted there to be another to admire the one (another god) he had made from himself, and straightaway he made mankind, imitator of his reason and attentiveness. God’s will is itself perfect achievement since willing and achievement are complete for him at one and the same moment of time. After he [had made] mankind ousiōdēs (a divine likeness) and noticed that he could not take care of everything unless he was covered over with a material wrapping, god covered him with a bodily dwelling and commanded that all humans be like this, mingling and combining the two natures into one in their just proportions. Thus god shapes mankind from the nature of soul and of body, from the eternal and the mortal, in other words, so that the living being so shaped can prove adequate to both its beginnings, wondering at heavenly beings and worshipping them, tending earthly beings and governing them.’

‘god…has two images, world and mankind.’

Spirit supplies the world and is subject to the will of god

‘Spirit supplies and invigorates all things in the world; like an instrument or a mechanism it is subject to the will of the supreme god.’

The one, the supreme governor, always begets what he wishes

‘And the whole of it complies with that supreme governor, the master, so that really there are not many, but rather one. In fact, all depend from one and flow from it…he is one and all…god, the only and the all…ever pregnant with his own will, always begets whatever he wishes to procreate.’

God is completely full of all things and wills all that he has

‘God wills nothing in excess since he is completely full of all things and wills what he has. He wills all that is good, and he has all that he wills. All things are good that he considers and wills. Such is god, and the world is his image – [good] from good.’

God is everywhere and surveys everything

‘seated atop the summit of the highest heaven, god is everywhere and surveys everything all around.’

God shows himself by illuminating people with the understanding of mind

‘the father and master of all, who alone is all, shows himself freely to all – not where as in a place nor how as through some quality nor how much as in a quantity but by illuminating people with the understanding that comes only through mind.’

Nothing is stable or fixed other than god who is whole and perfect

‘Nothing in this situation is stable, nothing fixed, nothing immobile among things that come to be in heaven and earth: the lone exception is god, and rightly he alone, for he is whole, full and perfect in himself and by himself and about himself.”’

Our consciousness and capacity to see the things that are in heaven are limited

we humans see the things that are in heaven as if through a mist, to the extent that we can, given the condition of human consciousness. When it comes to seeing great things, our concentration is quite confined, (my italics) but once it has seen, the happiness of our awareness is vast.’

God is everything – all things are from and in him

‘god is everything; everything comes from him; everything depends on his will. …Without god there was nothing, nor is, nor will be, for all things are from him, in him and through him’

Here below, it is the gods who help US

‘here below our gods render aid to humans as if through loving kinship’

The Asclepius concludes with a prayer to god

‘Asclepius asked: “Tat, do you think we should suggest that your father tell them to add frankincense and spices as we pray to god?”

When Trismegistus heard him, he was disturbed and said: “A bad omen, Asclepius, very bad. To burn incense and such stuff when you entreat god smacks of sacrilege. For he wants nothing who is himself all things or in whom all things are. (my italics) Rather let us worship him by giving thanks, for god finds mortal gratitude to be the best incense.”

“We thank you, supreme and most high god, by whose grace alone we have attained the light of your knowledge; holy name that must be honoured, the one name by which our ancestral faith blesses god alone, we thank you who deign to grant to all a father’s fidelity, reverence and love, along with any power that is sweeter, by giving us the gift of consciousness, reason and understanding…”’

______

The Corpus Hermetica, John Everard, 1650

I

v ‘First, God; Secondly, the World; Thirdly, Man.’

vi ‘God is good, Man is evil.’

viii ‘Things upon Earth do nothing advantage those in Heaven, but all things in Heaven do profit and advantage the things upon Earth’

‘What is God? The immutable or unalterable Good. What is Man? An unchangeable Evil.’

II

xxi ‘Holy art Thou Whom Nature hath not Formed. Holy art Thou that art Stronger than all Power. Holy art Thou, that art Greater than all Excellency. Holy art Thou, Who art Better than all Praise. …’

III

xxiii ‘For there were in the Chaos, an infinite darkness in the Abyss or bottomless Depth, and Water, and a subtle Spirit intelligible in Power; and there went out the Holy Light, and the Elements were coagulated from the Sand out of the moist Substance.’

IV

xxvi ‘it is the property of Good to be known’

The God of Hermeticism is ineffable

xxvii ‘for the present we are less intent to the Vision, and cannot yet open the eyes of our minds to behold the incorruptible, and incomprehensible Beauty of that Good; But then shall we see it, when we have nothing at all to say of it. For the knowledge of it, is a Divine Silence, (my italics) and the rest of all the Senses; For neither can he that understands that understand any thing else, nor he that sees that, see any thing else, nor hear any other thing, nor in sum, move the Body.’

The God of Hermeticism is ineffable

xxviii ‘For God, and the Father, and Good, is neither spoken nor heard.’ (my italics)

xxxi ‘For God is not ignorant of man, but knows him perfectly, and will be known by him. This only is healthful to man; the Knowledge of God: this is the return of Olympus; by this only the Soul is made good, and not sometimes good, and sometimes evil, but of necessity Good.’

xxxvi ‘Wherefore we must be bold to say, That an Earthly Man is a Mortal God, and That the Heavenly God is an Immortal Man. Wherefore, by these two are all things governed, the Word and Man; but they and all things else, of that which is One.’

V

There is nothing that God has or is not

xli ‘all things are in thee; all things from thee, thou givest all things, and takest nothing; for thou hast all things and there is nothing that thou has not.’

xlii ‘thou art what I am, thou art what I do, thou art what I say. Thou Art All Things and there is Nothing Else Thou art not. Thou Art Thou, All that is Made, and all that is not Made.’

VI

God wants for nothing

xliii ‘And this Essence hath about or in himself a Stable, and firm Operation, wanting nothing, most full, and giving abundantly.’

‘the Good…is present to none, but God alone; for he wanteth nothing, (my italics) that he should desire to have it, nor can anything be taken from him…’

It is mankind that needs

xlvi ‘Mankind has need of the Good (i.e. of god) and cannot live without it.’

VIII

The Eighth Book. ‘That The Greatest Evil In Man, Is The Not Knowing God.’

X

lxxix ‘it is the greatest evil, not to know God.’

XIII

From God comes the World and from the World comes man

‘God is the Father of the World, but the World is the Father of things in the World. And the World is the Son of God, but things in the World are the Sons of the World.’

XVII

cxxi ‘He (God) is stronger, and One, and only knowing all things indeed, as not having any thing more ancient than himself.’

______

The Perfect Sermon (The Asclepius), George Robert Stowe Mead, 1906

VIII

God made man to contemplate the world and the things in heaven

xvii

‘(God made the second god [the world/his son]). Accordingly, in that He (God) was so mighty and so fair, He willed that some one else should have the power to contemplate the One He had made from Himself. And thereon He made man, – the imitator of His Reason and His Love.’

‘The Will of God is in itself complete accomplishment; inasmuch as together with His having willed, in one and the same time He hath brought it to full accomplishment.’

xviii

‘(God made man so that he could) admire and worship things in heaven, and cultivate and govern things on earth.’

xix ‘’Tis in the admiration, adoration [and] the praise of men, and [in their] acts of worship, that Heaven and Heaven’s hosts find their delight.’

X

The three Gods of Hermeticism

xxi ‘The Lord of the Eternity is the first God; the second’s Cosmos; man is the third.’

XX

God is all-complete

xl ‘He (God), then, alone, yet all-complete in the fertility of either sex, ever with child of His own Will, doth ever bring to birth whatever He hath willed to procreate.’

XXII

God helps man to hope and effort

xliv ‘as for man, He (God) doth distinguish him from all the other animals by reason and by discipline alone; by means of which men can remove and separate their bodies’ vices, – He helping them to hope and effort after deathlessness.’

XXX

God is full and perfect

lxi ‘Immoveable [is] God alone, and rightly [He] alone; for He Himself is in Himself, and by Himself, and round Himself, completely full and perfect. (my italics) He is His own immoveable stability.’

XXXI

lxii ‘God, then, hath [ever] been unchanging…’

God is motion motionless

lxiii ‘For that (God’s) stability is in His vastness motion motionless; for by His vastness is [His] law exempt from change.’

The God of Hermeticism is ineffable

For where, and when, and whence, and how, and what, He is, – is known to none. (my italics) …His stability is in Himself [alone]

XXXII

We perceive the things in heaven as through a mist

lxvi And thus it comes to pass for men, that we perceive the things in Heaven, as it were through a mist, as far as the condition of the human sense allows. (my italics)

XLI

God has need of nothing

lxxx …naught is there of which He (God) stands in need, (my italics) in that He is all things, or all are in Him.

XLI

lxxxi (in a prayer addressed to God) ‘Sire, who (endowed us)…with reason that we may track Thee out from the appearances of things; with means of recognition that we may joy in knowing Thee. Saved by Thy Power divine, let us rejoice that Thou hast shown Thyself to us in all Thy Fullness. …For this is the sole festival of praise worthy of man – to know Thy Majesty. …For in the whole of this our prayer in worship of Thy Good, this favour only of Thy Goodness do we crave; – that Thou wilt keep us constant in our Love of knowing Thee, and let us ne’er be cut off from this kind of Life.’

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Notes

1. ‘before the eleventh century…there is no sign of the Corpus as such, although individual treatises were evidently in use as early as the third century CE.’, Copenhaver, Hermetica, op. cit., 70; ‘The Greek Perfect Discourse (Logos teleios) that became the Latin Asclepius…seems to have been written in the latter part of the period in which scholars generally locate the theoretical Hermetica, 100 to 300 CE; most would put C.H. I toward the beginning of that time.’, Ibid., 73
2. Magee, ‘Hegel and Mysticism’, op. cit., 253
3. Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op.cit., 17
4. Magee quoted Antoine Faivre having written that ‘Hermeticism’ has come to be used ‘to designate the general attitude of mind underlying a variety of traditions and/or currents beside alchemy, such as Hermetism (the religion of the Corpus Hermeticum), Astrology, Kabbalah, Christian Theosophy, and philosophia occulta or magia’, Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op.cit., Note, 8
5. ‘Scholars seize on the negative things Hegel says about Boehme (e.g. that he was a “barbarian”) and assert that Hegel “decisively rejects” him. This really amounts to a wilful distortion. It’s an instance of seeing what one wants to see.’, Magee in an interview by Stanislav Panin, posted 28.12.16, https://academia.fzrw.info/archives/1107; Magee begins an essay by making the point that Hegel scholars have often been eager to minimise Hegel’s strong interest in Böhme ‘and have, in some cases, misrepresented the available evidence’, Magee, ‘Hegel’s Reception of Jacob Boehme’, op. cit., 527
6. Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op.cit., 1
7. Ibid., 120
8. Ibid., 8
9. ‘Hegel’s major objection to Boehme is that he expresses ideas in “sensuous” form. In Hegel’s philosophy, this is called Vorstellung (or das vorstellende Denken), often translated into English as “picture thinking”’, Magee, ‘Hegel’s Reception of Jacob Boehme’, op. cit., 540; ‘The divisions of Hegel’s philosophy follow a pattern that is typical of many forms of mystical and Hermetic philosophy.’, Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op.cit., 4
10. ‘The third [epoch of the first] period takes the shape of Alexandrian philosophy (Neoplatonism, but likewise Neo-Aristotelian philosophy too). The consummation of Greek philosophy as such, it established the realm of noumena, the ideal realm. This philosophy therefore incorporated all earlier forms of philosophy within it. Plotinus lived in the third century and Proclus in the fifth. By choosing to regard Proclus as the culmination of this philosophy, the entire period of Greek Philosophy then amounts to about one thousand years.’, Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy 1825-6, op. cit., vol. I, 202
11. Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op.cit., 255

12. ‘As a Hermeticist…Hegel regards God before creation as incomplete. To complete himself, God must know himself, and the immediate self-cognition God possesses before creation is not self-knowledge. Self-knowledge requires mediated re-cognition. It requires that the self see itself reflected in another and recognise itself there.’, Ibid., 257
13. Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op.cit., 9-10
14. Copenhaver, Hermetica, op. cit., 234-235
15. Ibid., 252
16. Plotinus, The Enneads (Abridged), op. cit., xciv, V.4.2

Contents of ‘Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist’ posts

2 thoughts on “Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 14a

  1. Hi Phil. Nice to hear God “spoken” of, opens me up. makes me want to rave, excuse me …

    Good God. Both transcendent and immanent. All-creation-God, Reality in its entirety, more than the sum of all possible parts and points in creation (quantum and field, relativistic).

    Of which our whole being is a godly part, and “we”, as identity or self, may contemplate, sense and imagine.
    We may also commune with our whole, who is transcendent of us in “our” reality of experience, and pervades us immanent of, “us” as his or her (our whole’s) part. Our whole being of Reality, of creation and God-presence, displacing the rest of reality and touched by it, “entangled” with the rest of Reality, an indispensable individual, in Reality.
    Thanks for our entries. Tach

    Liked by 1 person

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