Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 14e


14.2  But wait! Shockingly, there’s more! (concluded)

Hegel not only gave very high praise to Böhme for his recognition of the Trinity as a universal principle and of the necessity of ‘contrariety’, he also repeatedly made the strongest criticisms of his theosophy, for two fundamental reasons – Böhme’s failure and inability to appreciate the conceptual nature of philosophy, manifest in his dependence on sensory imagery1 – a claim which could equally be made of Hermeticism

(Böhme’s articulation of his main thoughts) is unmistakably barbarous, and in order to put his thought into words he employs powerful, sensuous images such as Salitter, Tincture, Essence, Qual, Schrack, and the like.2

and, on this conceptual basis, Böhme’s primitive grasp of the nature of contradiction

Böhme grasps the antitheses in the harshest, crudest fashion3

Magee, following Hegel, also made the same fundamental criticisms of Böhme,4 further writing

Hegel treats the parallels between his thought and Boehme’s as merely, it would seem accidental: Boehme anticipates much in modern, speculative philosophy. But Hegel never once says anything that would indicate that he is indebted to Böhme or that Böhme in some way influenced him.5

Despite these criticisms and Hegel’s never once acknowledging any debt to Böhme, Magee persists in arguing for that debt and, as he sees it, its extent, but completely fails to explore and expand on his most significant references to Cusanus – another whom Hegel not only never expressed any debt to but even knowledge of, despite the far greater number of parallels between their work (see 13.6 for a summary of them), including their equal emphasis on the abstract, conceptual nature of philosophy, their exploration of contradiction on that basis, their equal regard for Proclus and their Trinitarian triad of triads, none of which are Hermetic or in Böhme’s theosophy.

Magee cites Rosenkranz having pointed out Hegel’s interest in medieval German Christian mystics, starting from his time in Berne,6 and Magee over and again positions Schelling as the link of influence between Böhme and Hegel

Schelling was, of course, an enthusiastic reader of Böhme and Oetinger and likely encouraged Hegel’s interest in theosophy.7

But with regard to the relationship between Schelling and Cusanus, and the possibility of a far greater significance to Hegel of Cusanus than Böhme, Magee, simply quoting Beck,8 made this extraordinary comment

‘Schelling…we know, was actually influenced by reading Nicholas (my italics).’ Beck also makes the claim that the Naturphilosophie of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, as well as theosophy and Protestant mysticism, have their roots in Cusa.9

Other than Beck and Magee, all the academics tell us that neither Hegel nor any of the German idealists knew of Cusanus – then suddenly, en passant, Magee tells us that Schelling not only knew of him and read him, but was influenced by him! How, logically, might his then close friend Hegel and their intellectual milieu which Schelling was at the centre of have been influenced as a result of Schelling’s reading of Cusanus? Magee doesn’t even question this – he only offers us a further enticement in a footnote.10 Simply…nothing more. Why so profuse on Böhme and so brief on Cusanus?

It should have been all the more pressing for Magee to investigate this relationship between Schelling and Cusanus since he named Cusanus in his discussion of speculation – a core concept for Hegel – writing not only that Cusanus associated the word with the Latin ‘speculum’, for mirror,11 that ‘Schelling and Hegel…picked up the term (from whom?) and both use it in a positive sense’,12 but that in his use of the concept, Hegel

has in mind precisely the thought of figures like Cusa, who sought knowledge of God through an overcoming of dichotomous, either-or thinking.13

Likewise, Cusanus’ use of Absolute in his philosophy

Schelling’s use of ‘Absolute’ is remarkably similar to Cusa’s. For Schelling, the Absolute is the ‘indifference point’ beyond the distinction of subject and object, or any other distinction.14

It is as though Schelling’s (and Hegel’s) use of ‘Absolute’ as a noun is nothing but a ‘remarkable’ coincidence to Cusanus’ use of it. Despite incorrectly attributing the first use of ‘Absolute’ as a noun, in reference to the ultimate principle, to Cusanus (instead of Plotinus),15 Magee himself implies a continuum from Cusanus through Schelling to Hegel

Hegel accepts Schelling’s conception of the Absolute as beyond the subject–object distinction16

Of Hegel’s approach to ‘Absolute’ Magee wrote

I believe that Hegel was aware of the fact that Boehme’s doctrine was unique in the history of mysticism, precisely in its rejection of God as an ineffable Absolute.17

This rejection of the ultimate principle as an ineffable Absolute had been explored throughout the long, developmental history of Neoplatonism, from Plotinus onwards, as I have shown. Cusanus was one who had done this and I have argued that Hegel was well-acquainted with his work. It would be far easier for such a supremely ambitious and political (as Magee has shown, both re- Hegel’s interest in Hermeticism and in his discussion of Hegel’s relations with Baader) person as Hegel was to acknowledge and focus attention on one of far lesser ability (Böhme) than on another also of genius (Cusanus) – to whom, given the parallels in their philosophies, he knew he was greatly indebted.18

Magee compounds his errors in his discussion of ‘the true is the whole’

Immediately after writing “The true is the whole,” Hegel states: “But the whole is nothing other than the essence consummating itself through its development.” The developmental, organic understanding of the nature of the Absolute was, as far as Hegel and the other idealists knew, original with Jakob Boehme and his school.19

If he has any concern for historical accuracy and giving credit where it is due – particularly with regard to one of the West’s greatest and most influential philosophers, rather than constructing a fanciful moat of uneducated Teutonic purity around one of Plotinus’ countless derivatives,20 Magee should make the time to study the Enneads. Not only, as I have indicated, did Plotinus repeatedly use ‘Absolute’ in reference to the ultimate principle – which Hegel called both ‘God’ and ‘the One’ – in his tractate ‘Nature, Contemplation, and the One’, translated by Creuzer in 1805, he wrote of Intellectual-Principle (Divine Mind, Divine-Intellection), 1300 years before Böhme took first breath

(In) the true and first universe (of Intellect)…each part is not cut off from the whole; but the whole life of it and the whole intellect lives and thinks all together in one, and makes the part the whole and all bound in friendship with itself, since one part is not separated from another and has not become merely other, estranged from the rest; and, therefore, one does not wrong another, even if they are opposites. And since it is everywhere one and complete at every point it stays still and knows no alteration; for it does not make as one thing acting upon another. For what reason could it have for making, since it is deficient in nothing?21

Armstrong wrote

Plotinus’s World of Forms is an organic living community of interpenetrating beings which are at once Forms and intelligences, all “awake and alive,” in which every part thinks and therefore in a real sense is the whole; so that the relationship of whole and part in this spiritual world is quite different from that in the material world, and involves no sort of separation or exclusion. This unity-in-diversity is the most perfect possible image of the absolute unity of the One22

Magee cites Böhme and Hegel using other Cusan and Neoplatonic terminology – ‘Böhme holds that nature is an unfolding of the dynamic “eternal nature” contained within God’,23 “Böhme wrote of the ‘contracted being’ of God”;24 Magee quotes Hegel using the expression ‘point of contraction’ – “the Ego is ‘contracted’ into its primordial self-relation” adding “This brings to mind the doctrine of the ‘coincidence of opposites’ in Eckhart, Cusa, and other mystics”25

Magee is continually pushing for his claim to be accepted:

The 1827 Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion introduce a doctrine of the ‘immanent Trinity’ clearly inspired by Böhme’s initial triad of ‘source-spirits.’ …In sum, all the evidence indicates that Hegel’s Hermeticism was no mere folly of youth, abandoned with maturity (my italics).26

What is so striking (in his early writing) is how indebted Hegel obviously is to Hermeticism. The chief debt is clearly to Böhme (my italics).27

Hegel did go on to employ some Boehmean expressions and now and then what can be characterised as a vaguely Boehmean ‘style’ (my italics).28

But of the full details, nature and extent of the direct influence Magee tells us Cusanus had on Schelling, he shows not the least interest in pursuing.


1. Magee commented on both of these – ‘(Hegel believed) Philosophy is purely conceptual, whereas religion uses “picture-thinking”: myths, allegories, images, and the like.’, Magee, ‘Hegel’s Reception of Jacob Boehme’, op. cit., 580 and ‘Hegel is unambiguous in sharply rejecting Boehme’s “picture thinking.”’, Magee, ‘Hegel and Mysticism’, op. cit., 258
2. Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy 1825-6, op. cit., vol. III, 103
3. Ibid.
4. ‘Böhme does not present philosophical arguments.’, Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op.cit., 45; ‘Boehme’s methodology is to argue by analogy from human psychology to theology’, Magee, ‘Jacob Boehme and Christian Theosophy’, 539
5. Magee, ‘Hegel’s Reception of Jacob Boehme’, op. cit., 589
6. Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op. cit., 106; “David Walsh writes that Jena in Hegel’s day ‘had become the focal point of the German Romantic movement, and many of its greatest figures were assembled there, including Tieck, Novalis, Schelling, F. Schlegel, and A.W. Schlegel. Within that company an intense centre of interest was formed by their rediscovery of the German mystical tradition. For the first time the works of the great medieval and Reformation mystics were becoming widely available within their native land.’”, Ibid., 133
7. Ibid., 134; ‘Schelling himself was an avid reader of Böhme and Oetinger, and likely encouraged Hegel’s interest.’, Ibid., 3 etc.; Magee’s stance, revelatory of his class perspective, on the degree of parental significance he attributes to Böhme – both with regard to a resulting bastardy and modernity – is exemplified by the following: ‘Boehmean ideas were communicated to Hegel by Schelling in Jena, and they exercised a strong influence on him. Arguably it is through Hegel – whose bastard children include Marxism, existentialism, and certain strains of modern conservatism – that Boehme has had his greatest influence: not just on the history of ideas, but on the formation of the modern world.’, ‘Jacob Boehme and Christian Theosophy’, op. cit., 525-526
8. ‘(Cusanus’) theory of the polarity but unity of man, God, and nature is elaborated by Schelling (who, we know, was actually influenced by reading Nicholas).’, Beck, Early German Philosophy, op. cit., 71. Also, as previously quoted, ‘when Nicholas of Cusa made God the coincidence of opposites, (he) set a pattern which Böhme accepted and Hegel rationalised (my italics) by seeing the Absolute as itself a dialectic process, not an Eleatic product of dialectic.’, Ibid., 156. Beck’s position on the influence of theosophy and Protestant mysticism directly contradicts Magee’s: ‘theosophy, and Protestant mysticism…this stream did not lead to the most significant work in philosophy.’ Ibid., 71
9. Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op. cit., 28
10. ‘David Walsh notes that although there is no evidence that Hegel ever read Cusa, he was indirectly influenced by him through J.G.Hamann and Giordano Bruno. See Walsh, Boehme and Hegel, 326.’, Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op. cit., 28
11. Magee, The Hegel Dictionary, op. cit., 80
12. Ibid.
13. Ibid., 221
14. Ibid., 19
15. ‘Like Eckhart, Cusa would teach that God is the coincidence of opposites. (He was also the first author to refer to God as Absolutum.)’, Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op. cit., 26
16. Magee, ‘Hegel and Mysticism’, op. cit., 273
17. Ibid., 272
18. I will address the influence of Neoplatonism on Hermeticism and Böhme soon.
19. Magee, ‘Hegel and Mysticism’, op. cit., 276
20. ‘(Böhme’s) thought is, as Hegel observed, genuinely Germanic and (as Faivre points out) owes nothing to classical sources. It is thoroughly Teutonic in character; earnest and unsophisticated, utterly lacking in irony or literary pretensions of any kind.’, Magee, ‘Jacob Boehme and Christian Theosophy’, op. cit., 526
21. Plotinus, Enneads, Trans., A.H.Armstrong, op. cit., vol. III, III.2.1
22. Ibid., vol. I, xxi
23. Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op. cit., 168
24. Ibid., 163
25. Ibid., 82
26. Ibid., 256
27. Ibid., 110
28. Magee, ‘Hegel’s Reception of Jacob Boehme’, op. cit., 590

Contents of ‘Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist’ posts

Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 14d


14.2  But wait! Shockingly, there’s more! (continued)

Magee asserted that Böhme, along with Eckhart, Cusanus and Hegel thought that nature is the equivalent of the Son.1 In mysticism, such an apparently simple equation is anything but. In the writing of the above, four meanings of ‘nature’ are used

  • the natural world or universe and its phenomena
  • the ‘inner’ world
  • different qualities (divine nature, human nature, intellectual nature)
  • the body of God

The equivalence between son and cosmos is Hermetic – it is stated in both the Corpus Hermeticum and the Asclepius, as I have quoted above.2 The Hermetica clearly distinguishes between the three gods (god the father, his son as cosmos, and man3) and there is no requirement in it either for the son to return to his father or for god to be completed by mankind as Magee claims. It is neither Neoplatonic nor Christian – irrespective of whether one defines ‘nature’ as either the natural or ‘inner’ world. Neither Eckhart nor Cusanus as I will show and again contrary to Magee, used it. Hegel, as I have quoted,4 used it in his Philosophy of Nature and it is plausible that his source for this may have been Böhme.

Magee wrote

In his tenth sermon, Eckhart preached that just as a son requires a father to give him existence, so the father is not father without the son. Similarly, God would not be God without creation: God must create to actualise His nature. (This is one of the innovations of the Hermetica.) Just as in Hegel more than five hundred years later, God the Father is conceived as “abstract” and “incomplete” apart from nature. Nature or creation is the Son. The “return” of the Son to the Father is the Holy Spirit and, again as in Hegel, this specifically denotes mankind.5

But there is no hint of God being incomplete or his Son being nature in Eckhart’s words

St. John says, “God’s love was disclosed to us in this, that He sent His Son into the world that we should live through him,” and with him. And thus our human nature has been immeasurably exalted because the Highest has come and taken on human nature.6

Of the world to which God sent his Son, Eckhart wrote

“God sent His only-begotten Son into the world.” You should not take this to mean the external world, as when he ate and drank with us, but you should understand it of the inner world. As surely as the Father in His simple nature bears the Son naturally, just as surely He bears him in the inmost recesses of the spirit, and this is the inner world. Here God’s ground is my ground and my ground is God’s ground.”7

Eckhart counterposed the ‘inner world’ to the natural world

Whatever of the soul is in this world or looks into this world, whatever is attached to her and looks out, that she should hate. A master says that the soul at her highest and purest is above the world. …A master says the soul in her own nature has as little to do with all that is in the world as the eye has to do with song, or the ear with colour.8

He echoed Plotinus’ metaphor of the sculptor hewing his soul

A man who wants to make a pot takes a little clay; that is the material he works with. Then he gives it a form, which is in himself, and is finer in him than the material. By this I mean that all things are immeasurably nobler in the intellectual world, where the soul is, than they are in this world.9

In Chapter 25 of Book I of De docta ignorantia – titled ‘The pagans named God in various ways in relation to created things’ – Cusanus wrote that

(one of the names the pagans gave God was) Cupid because of the unity of the two sexes (for which reason they also called Him Nature, since through the two sexes He conserves the species of things).10

yet he still did not take this opportunity to equate the Son with nature and give his reason for doing so. The structure of De docta ignorantia shows why. Book I deals with God, the Absolute uncontracted Maximum, Book II with the world – the contracted Maximum, and Book III (not book II) with the Absolute and contracted Maximum – Christ. Not only did Cusanus believe Christ and the world to be qualitatively different and not only did he believe Christ to be God and man (the union of divine and human natures)11 not God and cosmos, the cosmos for him as was everything, was comprised of a Trinity based on Proclus’ triad of triads – Böhme was not the first to think that the Trinity is in everything, which Magee accepts that he was and which, as I believe Hegel knew very well, he wasn’t

…[in the case of the universe] the three mutual relationships—which in God are called persons—have actual existence only collectively in oneness.

We must consider the foregoing points carefully. For in God the perfection of Oneness, which is Trinity, is so great that the Father is actually God, the Son actually God, and the Holy Spirit actually God, the Son and the Holy Spirit are actually in the Father, the Son and the Father [are actually] in the Holy Spirit, and the Father and the Holy Spirit [are actually] in the Son. But in the case of what is contracted, a similar thing cannot hold true; for the mutual relationships exist per se only conjointly. (my italics) Therefore, it cannot be the case that each distinct relationship is the universe; rather, all the mutual relationships [are] collectively [the universe]. Nor is the one [of them] actually in the others; rather, they are most perfectly contracted to one another (in the way in which the condition of contraction permits this), so that from them there is one universe, which could not be one without that trinity. For there cannot be contraction without (1) that which is contractible, (2) that which causes contracting, and (3) the union which is effected through the common actuality of these two.12

Cusanus defined ‘nature’: ‘nature is the enfolding (so to speak) of all things which occur through motion.’13

Magee described the position of Böhme and Hegel on the creation of nature in Neoplatonic terms

Böhme holds that nature is an unfolding of the dynamic “eternal nature” contained within God14

The Philosophy of Nature shows how the Absolute Idea or “God before creation” is “embodied.” Notoriously, Hegel employs Neoplatonic emanation imagery to describe the transition from Logic to Philosophy of Nature, saying that the Idea “freely releases itself.” This sort of approach is to be found in Eckhart as well.15

Hegel’s own description begins with the Hermetic notion of nature as the son of God and merges this with Christian Neoplatonism

Nature is the son of God, but not as the Son, but as abiding in otherness – the divine Idea as held fast for a moment outside the divine love…in Nature, Spirit lets itself go (ausgelassen), a Bacchic god unrestrained and unmindful of itself…God is subjectivity, activity, infinite actuosity, in which otherness has only a transient being16

Plotinus wrote most highly of nature, almost giving it the status of an hypostasis in his tractate ‘Nature, contemplation, and the One’, translated by Creuzer in 180517

And Nature, asked why it brings forth its works, might answer if it cared to listen and to speak: “It would have been more becoming to put no question but to learn in silence just as I myself am silent and make no habit of talking. And what is your lesson? This; that whatsoever comes into being is my vision, seen in my silence, the vision that belongs to my character who, sprung from vision, am vision-loving and create vision by the vision-seeing faculty within me. The mathematicians from their vision draw their figures: but I draw nothing: I gaze and the figures of the material world take being as if they fell from my contemplation.”’18

The relation between nature and divinity is one (and most important) aspect of the issue, the other was embodied by Proclus in his triad Being, Life and Intelligence reflected in the organisation of the Books of Cusanus’ De docta ignorantia (God/World/Christ) and those of Hegel’s Encyclopaedia (Logic/Nature/Spirit). Being by itself is abstract and for there to be Intelligence, there must be ‘Life’. For all three, the first element must posit the second so that it, in turn, can posit the third – the means of return.

Magee writes of Hegel’s application of this with a Christian patina

Hegel states in the Philosophy of Nature, “God as an abstraction is not the true God; His truth is the positing of His other, the living process, the world, which is his Son when it is comprehended in its divine form” (PN #246). …On its own, logic (or the logos) is formal and one-dimensional. To be fully realised, the Idea must “express itself” in the world of space and time. Thus, the Logic must be supplemented by the Philosophy of Nature.19

Hegel used Proclus’ triad of triads (which is in neither Hermeticism nor Böhme’s theosophy) as his philosophical basis, and, following Cusanus, overlaid the Trinity across it, matching the key elements of the triad with those of the Trinity in the same sequence of outflow and return and also made, for a richer and more anchored mytho-poetic purpose, the Hermetic notion of son as cosmos the conjunction between Being and Intelligence, God and Spirit.


1. ‘(Böhme believed that) Nature is the “body of God”…Along with Eckhart, Cusa, and Hegel, Böhme reads the second person of the Trinity, the “Son,” as equivalent to nature.’, Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op. cit., 39
2. Copenhaver, Corpus Hermeticum, X; Everard, The Corpus Hermetica, XIII; Mead, The Asclepius, VIII
3. Mead, The Asclepius, X; Being, Life and Intelligence are the three gods of Proclus’ triad.
4. See 11.3.7,, 13.6.6
5. Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op. cit., 24-25
6. Sermon 13 (a), Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart, op. cit., 104
7. Sermon 13 (b), Ibid., 109
8. Sermon 21, Ibid., 149
9. Ibid., 150
10. Nicholas of Cusa, De docta ignorantia (‘On Learned Ignorance’), op. cit., I,25,83
11. Chapter 4 of Bk III is titled ‘Blessed Jesus, who is God and man, is the [contracted maximum individual].’
12. Nicholas of Cusa, De docta ignorantia (‘On Learned Ignorance’), op. cit., II,7,127-128 (‘The trinity of the universe’)
13. Ibid., II,10,153
14. Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op. cit., 168
15. Magee, ‘Hegel and Mysticism’, op. cit., 266
16. Hegel, Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature, op. cit., 14
17. Plotinus used ‘Absolute’ repeatedly as a noun in this tractate). ‘the All has its One, its Prior but not yet the Absolute One; through this we reach that Absolute One, where all such reference comes to an end.’, Plotinus, The Enneads (Abridged), op. cit., III.8.10. Inwood and Magee are incorrect in claiming that Cusanus was the first to apply it to the ultimate principle.
18. Ibid., III.8.4; Magee wrote of Hegel ’By showing humanity a God who expresses Himself (in part) in nature, (Hegel) hoped to reconnect science with the experience of the divine, and specifically with the concrete presence of the divine. …Hegel’s system is an attempt to “re-enchant” the world, to re-invest nature with the experience of the numinous lost with the death of the mythical consciousness.’, Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op. cit., 97
19. Ibid., 190

Contents of ‘Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist’ posts

On The Beach, 2017

By John Pilger

Source: Axis of Logic

The US submarine captain says, “We’ve all got to die one day, some sooner and some later. The trouble always has been that you’re never ready, because you don’t know when it’s coming. Well, now we do know and there’s nothing to be done about it.” He says […]

via On The Beach 2017 — Desultory Heroics

A very good article overall and far better than the products of the penny-a-liners of the Australian media but, once again with Pilger’s journalism, search it for class analysis – for ‘capitalist class’, ‘capitalist ideology’, ‘working class’, ‘socialism’ and particularly ‘revolution’ – you won’t find them.




Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 14c


14.2  But wait! Shockingly, there’s more! (continued)

Magee wrote ‘Hegel’s philosophy of religion is from the beginning indebted to Eckhart’s mysticism’1 – a mysticism which conceived God as the coincidence of opposites2 – and that ‘No one has demonstrated direct Hermetic influences on Eckhart, but his thought exhibits certain “Hermetic” features’.3 Magee exemplifies what he thinks is a key feature of Eckhart’s Hermeticism

At one point in the Lectures, in fact, (Hegel) quotes the medieval mystic Meister Eckhart (c. 1260-c. 1328): ‘The eye with which God sees me is the eye with which I see him; my eye and his eye are one and the same. In righteousness I am weighed in God and he in me. If God did not exist nor would I; if I did not exist nor would he’ (LPR 1, 347-348)4

He quotes Eckhart and adds

“If I had not been, there would have been no God” (Sermon 4). Human self-reflection is the actualisation of God.5

Having dismissed ‘the ineffable mystery of the coincidentia oppositorum’, Magee approves of the mutual vision between and common existence of God and philosopher as symbolising ‘positive’ Hermetic knowledge of the divine.

But although sight and vision are fundamental to both Neoplatonism and Hermeticism, they are addressed differently in the two systems – in the former, seer and seen are philosophised abstractly as a unity and in a way that minimises reference to the material world

Now comes the question: what sort of thing does the Intellectual-Principle see in seeing the Intellectual Realm and what in seeing itself?

We are not to look for an Intellectual realm reminding us of the colour or shape to be seen on material objects: the intellectual antedates all such things…In the pure Intellectual…the vision and the envisioned are a unity; the seen is as the seeing and seeing as seen.6

In the Corpus Hermeticum, that relationship is set out as a mythical narrative which uses the material world for context and illustration

Poimandres said to me, “Have you understood what this vision means?”

“I shall come to know,” said I.

“I am the light you saw, mind, your god,” he said, “who existed before the watery nature that appeared out of darkness. The lightgiving word who comes from mind is the son of god.”

“Go on,” I said.

“This is what you must know: that in you which sees and hears is the word of the lord, but your mind is god the father; they are not divided from one another for their union is life.”7

“Such then, Tat, is god’s image, as best I have been able to sketch it for you. If your vision of it is sharp and you understand it with the eyes of your heart, believe me, child, you shall discover the road that leads above or, rather, the image itself will show you the way. For the vision of it has a special property. It takes hold of those who have had the vision and draws them up, just as the magnet stone draws iron, so they say.”8

Eckhart’s Christianity is redolent not with Hermeticism, but Neoplatonism – God is One, perfect, infinite and complete

‘God is one.’…God is infinite in his simplicity and simple in his infinity. Therefore he is everywhere and is everywhere complete. He is everywhere on account of his infinity, and is everywhere complete on account of his simplicity. Only God flows into all things, their very essences. Nothing else flows into something else. God is in the innermost part of each and every thing, only in its innermost part, and he alone is one.9

all things are contained in the One, by virtue of the fact that it is one, for all multiplicity is one and is one thing and is in and through the One. …note that the One in its most proper sense refers to perfection and to the whole, for which reason, again, it lacks nothing.10

(God) is perfect in knowledge and power, he is perfect too in his speaking.11

Eckhart believed that energised by his Neoplatonic abundance, God sent his Son to the world because of his Christian love for mankind, not for his own ‘actualisation’ and completion

Scripture says: ‘Before the created world, I am’ …The Father gives birth to the Son and derives such peace and delight from this birth that the whole of his nature is consumed within it. For whatever is in God, moves him to give birth; the Father is driven to give birth by his ground, his essence and his being.12

All that God does and all that he teaches, he does and teaches in his Son. All that God does he does in order that we may become his only begotten Son. When God sees that we are his only begotten Son, then God presses so urgently upon us and hastens towards us and acts as if his divine being were about to collapse and become nothing in itself so that he can reveal to us the whole abyss of his Godhead, the abundance of his being and his nature. God urgently desires that this should become ours just as it is his.13

…martyrdom and death of our Lord Jesus Christ His only-begotten Son, which he suffered for our salvation.14

To rise up to the intellect, subordinating ourselves to it, is to be united with God. To be united, to be one, is to be one with God. …in the domain of the intellect where, in so far as they are intellect and nothing else, all things are without doubt in all things.15

Magee appropriated Cusanus to Hermeticism in the same way he did Eckhart, writing ‘Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464) is another mystic whose influence on the Hermetic tradition was important.’16 Magee again bypassed Neoplatonism to write

In De Visione Dei (1453) Cusa takes advantage of the ambiguity of the phrase “the vision of God” to make a truly mystical point, very much in line with Eckhart and also with the Hermetic tradition.17

But the thought of Cusanus, too, bore that same tension between God as perfect and complete and an ultimate principle Being, which functioned within a developing Neoplatonic system

just as an infinite sphere is most simple and exists in complete actuality, so the Maximum exists most simply in complete actuality. And just as a sphere is the actuality of a line, a triangle, and a circle, so the Maximum is the actuality of all things. Therefore, all actual existence has from the Maximum whatever actuality it possesses; and all existence exists actually insofar as it exists actually in the Infinite. Hence, the Maximum is the Form of forms and the Form of being, or maximum actual Being.18


1. Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op. cit., 226
2. ‘Like so many mystics, Eckhart conceived God as the “coincidence of opposites.”’, Ibid., 24
3. Ibid., 23
4. Magee, The Hegel Dictionary, op. cit., 250
5. Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op. cit., 25
6. Plotinus, The Enneads (Abridged), op. cit., V.3.8
7. Copenhaver, Hermetica, op. cit., Corpus Hermeticum I, 177
8. Ibid., Corpus Hermeticum IV, 209-210
9. Latin Sermon 2 (Deus unus est), Meister Eckhart, Selected Writings, Trans., Oliver Davies, Penguin, London, 1994, 258
10. Ibid., 259
11. German Sermon 12, Ibid., 156
12. German Sermon 10, Ibid,. 147
13. German Sermon 16, Ibid., 176
14. Sermon 10, Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart, Trans. and Ed., Maurice O’C. Walshe, Herder and Herder, New York, 2009, 92
15. Latin Sermon 2, Meister Eckhart, Selected Writing, op.cit., 262
16. Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op. cit. 26
17. Ibid., 27
18. Nicholas of Cusa, De docta ignorantia (‘On Learned Ignorance’), op. cit., I,23,70

Contents of ‘Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist’ posts

Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 14b


14.2  But wait! Shockingly, there’s more!1

Magee wrote

In the preceding section, I implicitly drew a distinction between two types of mysticism. One strain of mysticism emphasises the ineffable mystery of the coincidentia oppositorum, and stops there. The other strain, exemplified by Boehme, actually seeks positive knowledge of the nature of the divine, usually through some method of articulating the different ‘aspects’ of God.2

Six pages prior to this he had written

When Hegel discusses mysticism in the Encyclopaedia Logic, he is emphasising the coincidentia oppositorum as characteristic of mysticism3

These two quotes exemplify Magee’s confusion and problem.4 Not only have I shown, with quotations from the Hermetica, that, according to the key Hermetic texts, god is complete and perfect, that our consciousness and capacity to see the things that are in heaven are limited and our knowledge of god is ineffable, I have argued that the unity of opposites – what Cusanus named coincidentia oppositorum – is at the heart of Neoplatonic dialectics and is considered philosophically in a way and with a thoroughness that is entirely absent from the Hermetica. 

Further and again as I have argued (13.6.6), the cardinal Cusanus explored beyond the walls of paradise to the possibility of knowing God. Hegel rightly emphasised coincidentia oppositorum as ‘characteristic of mysticism’ – the mysticism of Neoplatonism – the current of which he was its consummate proponent.

Magee wrote that Böhme represented a crucial shift in Christian philosophy –

from the idea of all reality as moving toward God to the idea of God himself as part of the movement of reality as well. This is the core of Böhme’s Hermeticism: the conception of God not as transcendent and static, existing “outside” the world, impassive and complete, but as an active process unfolding within the world, within history.5

Not only is the god of the Hermetica complete – it is man who undergoes development in his return to divinity. But the process to which Magee refers is explained by my developmental account of Neoplatonism, built on a current of thought thinking itself which, as I have indicated Hegel subscribed to (12.3.3), runs from Aristotle through Neoplatonism, Christianity and the ‘modern’ philosophy of Descartes.

Proclus wrote of the second element of his triad Being, Life, Intelligence (Intellect)

While Intellect is only participated in by beings capable of cognition, life pertains even to those that have no share in knowledge whatsoever; for we say of plants that they are alive. Accordingly, beyond Intellect we need to place the plane of Life which gives rise to a greater number of effects, irradiating its own gifts into more beings than Intellect does.6

Those ‘gifts’ are irradiated into and unfolded in the world generally, and therefore in its history.

Magee continues, asking

What initiates this process in the first place? Böhme held that God is moved by the desire to reveal Himself to Himself, but that this self-revelation is psychologically impossible (my italics) unless an other stands opposed to Him7

Here is the key to understanding Böhme’s theosophical take on Neoplatonism – in addition to his interweaving it with the mythology of the Trinity, he further ‘psychologised’ the Trinity. He addresses the Devil as ‘blackguard’ and ‘detestable tormenter’8

Hegel quoted him on God

God is…an all powerful, all-wise, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-hearing, all-smelling, all-tasting one who exists within himself as mild, cheerful, sweet, merciful, and joyful, indeed as joy itself9

wrote of his Son that he is

the emanation of the will, which makes the One peaceably divided. The Son is the heart pulsating in the Father, the kernel in all energies, the cause of the burgeoning joy in all10

and quoted him again on Spirit, that it is

an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-smelling, all-hearing, all-feeling, all-tasting spirit.11

Magee wrote that it

seems quite plausible that Hegel was positively influenced by Boehme, and in a significant way.12

and that

This Hermetic doctrine of the “circular” relationship between God and creation and the necessity of man for the completion of God is utterly original. It is not to be found in earlier philosophy. But it recurs again and again in the thought of Hermeticists, and it is the chief doctrinal identity between Hermeticism and Hegelian thought.13

The originality and recurrence in thought are Magee’s. He has all but ignored the relationship between Hermeticism and Neoplatonism, the interest that those who subscribed to one had in the other and therefore their influence on each other, particularly by the latter on the former, and he has ignored the influence of Christian Neoplatonists such as Pseudo-Dionysius and Eriugena on medieval and later German philosophy and Christian theosophy. Magee cannot excuse himself by writing

Hermeticism is the tradition that grew up around these texts (the Hermetica) over the course of centuries. Many different influences came together to create the Hermetic tradition, until, in fact, it had drifted considerably beyond the ideas expressed in the Hermetica.14

because not only did he note of his argument that Hegel was significantly influenced by Böhme that

Of course, there are serious difficulties with (it)15

he twice quoted the Corpus Hermeticum, both times in a misleading manner, to anchor his claim that God requires the philosopher for his ‘actualisation’, for his completion, and that he sent his Son into the world for that purpose.


1. ‘But there is more. Hermeticists not only hold that God requires creation, they make a specific creature, man, play a crucial role in God’s self-actualisation.’, Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op.cit., 9; ‘Shockingly, Boehme claims that apart from or prior to creation God is not yet God.’, Magee, ‘Hegel and Mysticism’, op. cit., 257.
2. Magee, ‘Hegel and Mysticism’ op. cit., 277
3. Ibid., 271
4. When Hegel began reading Böhme is uncertain. Magee gave different periods – in Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition (2001) he wrote that Hegel appears to have become conversant with the works of Böhme, Eckhart and Johannes Tauler in the period 1793-1801 (when he tutored first at Berne then at Frankfurt) (3) and ‘Hegel could have encountered Böhme’s work as early as the mid to late 1790’s’ (48). In ‘Hegel and Mysticism’ (2009) he wrote ‘H.S.Harris is “inclined to believe in Boehme’s influence upon Hegel from 1801 onwards.”’ (257) and in ‘Hegel’s Reception of Jacob Boehme’ (2014) he wrote ‘‘It seems likely that Hegel took up Boehme for the fist time in Jena in the period 1801-07.’ (529)
5. Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op.cit., 38
6. Proclus, On the Theology of Plato, quoted in Chlup, Proclus, An Introduction, op. cit., 97
7. Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op.cit., 38
8. Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy 1825-6, op. cit., vol. III, 96
9. Ibid., 98
10. Ibid., 100
11. Ibid., 103
12. Magee, ‘Hegel’s Reception of Jacob Boehme’, op. cit., 596
13. Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op.cit., 10
14. Magee, ‘Hegel and Mysticism’ op. cit., 278
15. Magee, ‘Hegel’s Reception of Jacob Boehme’, op, cit., 596

Contents of ‘Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist’ posts

There’s only one rogue nuclear state, and it’s the USA

By Bruce A. Dixon Source: Black Agenda Report This week marks the anniversary of two monstrous war crimes, the nuking of two undefended Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945. The fake history I learned as a child in the 50s and 60s was that the bombings saved the lives of […]

via There’s Only One Rogue Nuclear State, and it’s the USA — Desultory Heroics

War crime or war winner? The truth about the bomb


‘To hold fast to the positive in its negative…’


‘Take a burning coal and put it on my hand. If I said the coal burnt my hand, I would do it injustice. Were I to say truly what burns me, it is negation, for the coal contains something that my hand has not. It is this not that burns me. But if my hand contained all that the coal has or can effect, it would be all of the nature of fire. Then, if anyone were to take all the fire that ever burnt, and poured it out on to my hand, that could not hurt me.’

From Sermon 13 (b) in Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart, Trans. and Ed., Maurice O’C. Walshe, Crossroad, New York, 2009, 109



I know which gaze I think more beautiful


Spiral Galaxy NGC 1512: The Inner Ring


Leonardo da Vinci, ‘Mona Lisa’, oil on poplar panel, c. 1503-06, Musée de Louvre

‘Let art be content with its lofty, splendid mission of being a substitute for reality in case of its absence, and of being a textbook of life for man. Reality stands higher than dreams, and essential purpose stands higher than fantastic claims.’

N.G. Chernyshevsky, ‘The Aesthetic Relation of Art to Reality’, MA thesis, 1855, in Selected Philosophical Essays, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1953, 379


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Is this zoomorphism, am I in Wonderland, or have I missed a cosmic joke?

A group of galaxies nicknamed the "Cheshire Cat" about 4.6 billion light years from Earth.

Gravity’s grin. The Cheshire Cat galaxy group



The Cheshire Cat, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, 1865


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