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

2 thoughts on “Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 14c

  1. My hypothesis: the Geek word that is translated as “the word” in your English Corpus Hermeticum is logos. This reflects St. Jerome’s confusion in translating John 1:1.

    I have satisfied myself that if St. Jerome had interpreted and translated Logos as the Stoics had intended, the Latin/English Gospel of John might be interpreted as an allegory of the Life Spirit merging with Jesus as a dove at his baptism and the aftermath. As Jesus then says repeatedly, his miracles are the proof of life without bound. His crucifixion and resurrection was simply his last miracle, which is no big deal since he had already brought Lazarus back to life, Stoic 1, 2, 3. At the end, he simply walks away; no ascension. It’s all about waking up to the Life Force within and about. From this point of view, the gospel appears to mock the Christ salvation story. I conjecture that “Christ” was substituted for “Jesus” in the original, as was customary elsewhere in Christian “corrections” of text. This seems to be the only way it could have been tacked on to the New Testament. There are other likely fixes as well, such as the replacement of Magdalen by John at the foot of the cross in the last scene.

    This conjecture reflects my own “spiritual” exercises, to which I attach no religious or philosophical trappings other than the Trinity: Nous, Logos, Psyche; Consciousness, Life Force, Being, immediate experience here and now. As the Hermetics say, as above, so here and now. I feel that my experiences haven’t been greatly different than Plotinus’ and his understand of logos was not greatly different. The Gospel of John was under much discussion in Alexandria when he was there. It surely affected Gnostic thought and maybe Hermetic as well in those times. Given one shot at time travel, it would be Alexandria then.

    I’ve been reading a most enlightening book: Iain McGilchrist’s “The Master and his Emissary” about our divided brains. The right brain feels and left brain talks and attempts to interpret what the right brain feels. It does this badly because feeling is holistic and in the moment capturing nothing, while words are about division into things and fixed cause and effect sequence in time. As I feel it, the Life Force is about flow of life, nothing ever remaining the same even for an instant. Walk out on the wild side, attend, and its Presence becomes clear. Alas, Plotinus was a city boy and apparently didn’t like nature, didn’t see as above so below. In my view, mysticism is about ever flowing feeling in the here and now and attempting to capture in words is a waste of time. Well, poetry can serve, which I interpret Eckhart attempting to do in his German sermons.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Don,
      thank you for your comment. Undoubtedly the life of Jesus has been grossly distorted in the name of power – as is to be expected. Even Nietzsche, who, as you know, is famous for his hatred of Christianity, loved what he believed to have been the life of the ‘real’ Jesus. In ‘The Life of Brian’, as he is running from the crowd who believe him to be the Lord, one of his sandals came off and was picked up. The person then held it aloft and cried out ‘I have his sign!’ A crowd immediately formed around him. A little further on Brian gave the pitcher he was carrying to another person so he could run faster. The person repeated the action and cry of the first…another crowd. I was amazed that so much could be symbolised and summed up in those two actions.

      My detailed quoting from the Hermetica is particularly in response to what I believe is Magee’s gross misrepresentation of it but also to use those quotations in distinguishing between Hermeticism and Neoplatonism – I have more to process on this in my thesis.

      With regards to Plotinus on nature, one of his tractates is specifically on it (‘Nature, contemplation, and the One’). It was translated by Creuzer in 1805. Plotinus wrote with great feeling about nature and almost made another hypostasis of it: ‘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.”‘ (Enneads III.8.4)
      Best wishes, Phil


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