Hegels 'Lectures on the Philosophy of History' (1821-31)

"I saw the Emperor – this world-soul – riding out of the city on reconnaissance. It is indeed a wonderful sensation to see such an individual, who, concentrated here at a single point, astride a horse, reaches out over the world and masters it . . . this extraordinary man, whom it is impossible not to admire." (Hegel, Letter to Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer, 1806). 

A selection from the Introduction of Lectures on the Philosophy of History by Hegel. 

From The Philosophy of History: In a Course of Lectures, delivered by Friedrich Von Schlegel at Vienna, 1825:

The most important subject, and the first problem of philosophy, is the restoration in man of the lost image of God... .

Should this restoration in the internal consciousness be fully understood and really brought about, the object of pure philosophy is attained.

To point out historically in reference to the whole human race,... the progress of this restoration in the various periods of the world, constitutes the object of the Philosophy of History.

In this way, we shall clearly see how, in the first ages of the world, the original word of Divine revelation formed the firm central point of faith for the future re-union of the dispersed race of man; how later, amid the various power, intellectual as well as political, which in the middle period of the world, all-ruling nations exerted on their times according to the measure allotted to them, it was alone the power of eternal love in the Christian religion which truly emancipated and redeemed mankind: and how, lastly, the pure light of this Divine truth, universally diffused through the world, and through all science—the term of all Christian hope, and Divine promise, whose fulfilment is reserved for the last period of consummation—crowns in conclusion the progress of this restoration.

[Work in Progress]

The only Thought which Philosophy brings with it to the contemplation of History, is the simple conception of Reason; that Reason is the Sovereign of the World; that the history of the world therefore, presents us with a rational process.

It is only an inference from the history of the World, that its development has been a rational process; that the history in question has constituted the rational necessary course of the World Spirit-- that Spirit whose nature is always one and the same, but which unfolds this its one nature in the phenomena of the World's existence. This must, as before stated, present itself as the ultimate result of History.

I will only mention two phases and points of view that concern the generally diffused conviction that Reason has ruled, and is still ruling in the world, and consequently in the world's history.... .

1. Reason Governs the World

One of these points is, that passage in history, which informs us that the Greek Anaxagoras was the first to enunciate the doctrine that Understanding generally, or Reason, governs the world.

A thought of this kind,-- that Nature is an embodiment of Reason, that it is unchangeably subordinate to universal laws-- appears nowise striking or strange to us. We are accustomed to such conceptions, and find nothing extraordinary in them. ... history teaches, that ideas of this kind, which may seem trivial to us, have not always been in the world; that, on the contrary, such a thought makes an epoch in the annals of human intelligence. Aristotle says of Anaxogoras, as the originator of the thought in question, that he appeared as a sober man among the drunken. Socrates adopted the doctrine from Anaxagoras, and it forthwith became the ruling idea in philosophy- except in the school of Epicurus, who ascribed all events to chance
[Editors note: see Salvian's On the Government of God]. "I was delighted with the sentiment"-- Plato makes Socrates say-- "... I had found a teacher who would show me nature in harmony with reason, who would demonstrate in each particular phenomenon its specific aim, and in the whole, the grand object of the universe."

We have next to notice the rise of this idea-- that Reason directs the World-- in connection with a further application of it, well known to us,-- in the form, viz. of the religious truth, that the world is not abandoned to chance and external contingent causes, but that a Providence controls it. [...] ...Divine Providence is Wisdom, endowed with an infinite Power which realises its aim, viz. the absolute rational-design of the World. [...] But to explain History is to depict the passions of mankind, the genius, the active powers, that play their part on the great stage; and the providentially determined process which these exhibit, constitutes what is generally called the “plan” of Providence. Yet it is this very plan which is supposed to be concealed from our view: which it is deemed presumption, even to wish to recognise. [...] The common belief in Providence does; at least it opposes the use of the principle on the large scale, and denies the possibility of discerning the plan of Providence. In isolated cases this plan is supposed to be manifest. Pious persons are encouraged to recognise in particular circumstances, something more than mere chance; to acknowledge the guiding hand of God; e.g. when help has unexpectedly come to an individual in great perplexity and need. But these instances of providential design are of a limited kind, and concern the accomplishment of nothing more than the desires of the individual in question. But in the history of the World, the Individuals we have to do with are Peoples; Totalities that are States. [...] ...the merely abstract, undefined belief in a Providence, [is unsatisfactory] when that belief is not brought to bear upon the details of the process which it conducts. On the contrary our earnest endeavour must be directed to the recognition of the ways of Providence, the means it uses, and the historical phenomena in which it manifests itself; and we must show their connection with the general principle above mentioned. [...] But in noticing the recognition of the plan of Divine Providence generally, I have implicitly touched upon a prominent question of the day; viz. that of the possibility of knowing God: or rather-- since public opinion has ceased to allow it to be a matter of question-- the doctrine that it is impossible to know God. In direct contravention of what is commanded in holy Scripture as the highest duty,- that we should not merely love, but know God,-- the prevalent dogma involves the denial of what is there said; viz. that it is the Spirit [der Geist] that leads into Truth, knows all things, penetrates even into the deep things of the Godhead. While the Divine Being is thus placed beyond our knowledge, and outside the limit of all human things, we have the convenient licence of wandering as far as we list, in the direction of our own fancies. We are freed from the obligation to refer our knowledge to the Divine and True. On the other hand, the vanity and egotism which characterise it find, in this false position, ample justification and the pious modesty which puts far from it the knowledge of God, can well estimate how much furtherance thereby accrues to its own wayward and vain strivings. [...]  In the Christian religion God has revealed Himself, that is, he has given us to understand what He is; so that He is no longer a concealed or secret existence. And this possibility of knowing Him, thus afforded us, renders such knowledge a duty. [...]  That development of the thinking spirit, which has resulted from the revelation of the Divine Being as its original basis, must ultimately advance to the intellectual comprehension of what was presented in the first instance, to feeling and imagination. The time must eventually come for understanding that rich product of active Reason, which the History of the World offers to us. It was for a while the fashion to profess admiration for the wisdom of God, as displayed in animals, plants, and isolated occurrences. But, if it be allowed that Providence manifests itself in such objects and forms of existence, why not also in Universal History? This is deemed too great a matter to be thus regarded. But Divine Wisdom, i.e. Reason., is one and the same in the great as in the little; and we must not imagine God to be too weak to exercise his wisdom on the grand scale. Our intellectual striving aims at realising the conviction that what was intended by eternal wisdom, is actually accomplished in the domain of existent, active Spirit, as well as in that of mere Nature. Our mode of treating the subject is, in this aspect, a Theodicaea,-- a justification of the ways of God,-- which Leibnitz attempted metaphysically in his method, i.e. in indefinite abstract categories,- so that the ill that is found in the World may be comprehended, and the thinking Spirit reconciled with the fact of the existence of evil. Indeed, nowhere is such a harmonising view more pressingly demanded than in Universal History; and it can be attained only by recognising the positive existence, in which that negative element is a subordinate, and vanquished nullity. On the one hand. the ultimate design of the World must be perceived; and, on the other hand, the fact that this design has been actually, realised in it, and that evil has not been able permanently to assert a competing position.

2.  Essential destiny of Reason

It must be observed at the outset, that the phenomenon we investigate-- Universal History-- belongs to the realm of Spirit. The term “World,” includes both physical and psychical Nature. [...] Spirit, and the course of its development, is our substantial object. Our task does not require us to contemplate Nature as a Rational System in itself- though in its own proper domain it proves itself such- but simply in its relation to Spirit. On the stage on which we are observing it,-- Universal History-- Spirit displays itself in its most concrete reality.

 We have therefore to mention here:

(1) The abstract characteristics of the nature of Spirit.
(2) What means Spirit uses in order to realise its Idea.
(3) Lastly, we must consider the shape which the perfect embodiment of Spirit assumes-the State.

(1) The Abstract Characteristics of the Nature of Spirit.

The nature of Spirit may be understood by a glance at its direct opposite- Matter. As the essence of Matter is Gravity, so, on the other hand, we may affirm that the substance, the essence of Spirit is Freedom. [...] It is a result of speculative Philosophy, that Freedom is the sole truth of Spirit. Matter possesses gravity in virtue of its tendency towards a central point. [...]  Spirit, on the contrary, may be defined as that which has its centre in itself. [...] Matter has its essence out of itself; Spirit is self-contained existence [Bei-sich-selbst-seyn]. Now this is Freedom, exactly. [...] This self-contained existence of Spirit is none other than self-consciousness- consciousness of one's own being. Two things must be distinguished in consciousness; first, the fact that I know; secondly, what I know. In self consciousness these are merged in one; for Spirit knows itself. It involves an appreciation of its own nature, as also an energy enabling it to realise itself; to make itself actually that which it is potentially. According to this abstract definition it may be said of Universal History, that it is the exhibition of Spirit in the process of working out the knowledge of that which it is potentially. And as the germ bears in itself the whole nature of the tree, and the taste and form of its fruits, so do the first traces of Spirit virtually contain the whole of that History. [...] The History of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of Freedom; a progress whose development according to the necessity of its nature, it is our business to investigate.

The destiny of the spiritual World, and,- since this is the substantial World, while the physical remains subordinate to it...- the final cause of the World at large, we allege to be the consciousness of its own freedom on the part of Spirit, and ipso facto, the reality of that freedom. [...]  In the process before us, the essential nature of freedom-- which involves in it absolute necessity,-- is to be displayed as coming to a consciousness of itself (for it is in its very nature, self-consciousness) and thereby realising its existence. Itself is its own object of attainment, and the sole aim of Spirit. This result it is, at which the process of the World's History has been continually aiming; and to which the sacrifices that have ever and anon been laid on the vast altar of the earth, through the long lapse of ages, have been offered. This is the only aim that sees itself realised and fulfilled; the only pole of repose amid the ceaseless change of events and conditions, and the sole efficient principle that pervades them. This final aim is God's purpose with the world... .

The Nature of His Will-- that is, His Nature itself-- is what we here call the Idea of Freedom; translating the language of Religion into that of Thought. The question, then, which we may next put, is: What means does this principle of Freedom use for its realisation?

(2) The Means Spirit Uses to Realise Its Idea

History in general is... the development of spirit in time, as nature is the development of the idea in space.
If then we cast a glance over the world's history generally, we see a vast picture of changes and transactions; of infinitely manifold forms or peoples, states, individuals, in unresting succession. Everything that can enter into and interest the soul of man, all our sensibility to goodness, beauty, and greatness, is called into play. ...aims are adopted and pursued, which we recognize, whose accomplishment we desire-- we hope and fear for them. In all these occurrences and changes we behold human action and suffering predominant; everywhere something akin to ourselves, and therefore everywhere something that excites our interest for or against. [...] On every hand there is the motliest throng of events drawing us within the circle of its interest, and when one combination vanishes another immediately appears in its place.
The general thought-- the category which first presents itself in this restless mutation of individuals and peoples, existing for a time and then vanishes-- is that of change at large. The sight of the ruins of some ancient sovereignty directly leads us to contemplate this thought of change in its negative aspect. What traveller among the ruins of Carthage, of Palyra, Persepolis, or Rome, has not been stimulated to reflections on the transiency of kingdoms and men, and to sadness at the thought of a vigorous and rich life now departed-- ...a distinterested sorrow at the decay of a splendid and highly cultured national life! But the next consideration which allies itself with that of change, is, that change while it imports dissolution, involves at the same time the rise of a new life – that while death is the issue of life, life is also the issue of death. This is a grand conception; one which the Oriental thinkers attained, and which is perhaps the highest in their metaphysics. In the idea of Metempsychosis we find it evolved in its relation to individual existence; but a myth more generally known, is that of the Phoenix as a type of the Life of Nature; eternally preparing for itself its funeral pile, and consuming itself upon it; but so that from its ashes is produced the new, renovated, fresh life. But this image is only Asiatic; oriental not occidental. Spirit – consuming the envelope of its existence – does not merely pass into another envelope, nor rise rejuvenescent from the ashes of its previous form; it comes forth exalted, glorified, a purer spirit. It certainly makes war upon itself – consumes its own existence; but in this very destruction it works up that existence into a new form, and each successive phase becomes in its turn a material, working on which it exalts itself to a new grade.
If we consider spirit in this aspect-- regarding its changes not merely as rejuvenescent transitions, i.e., returns to the same form, but rather as manipulations of itself, by which it multiplies the material for future endeavors-- we see it exerting itself in a variety of modes and directions; developing its powers and gratifying its desires in a variety which is inexhaustible... . The abstract conception of mere change gives place to the thought of spirit manifesting, developing, and perfecting its powers in every direction which its manifold nature can follow.


It is not our concern to become acquainted with the land occupied by nations... , but with the natural type of the locality, as intimately connected with the type and character of the people which is the offspring of such a soil. This character is nothing more nor less than the mode and form in which nations make their appearance in history, and take place and position in it. Nature should not be rated too high nor too low: the mild Ionic sky certainly contributed much to the charm of the Homeric poems, yet this alone can produce no Homers. [...] We must first take notice of those natural conditions which have to be excluded once for all from the drama of the world's history. In the Frigid and in the Torrid Zone the locality of world-historical people cannot be found. For awakening consciousness takes its rise surrounded by natural influences alone... . ...nature is the first standpoint from which man can gain freedom within himself, and this liberation must not be rendered difficult by natural obstructions. Nature, as contrasted with spirit, is a quantitative mass, whose power must not be so great as to make its single force omnipotent. In the extreme zones man cannot come to free movement; cold and heat are here too powerful to allow spirit to build up a world for itself. Aristotle said long ago, "When pressing needs are satisfied, man turns to the general and more elevated." But in the extreme zones such pressure may be said never to cease, never to be warded off; men are constantly impelled to direct attention to nature, to the glowing rays of the sun, and the icy frost. The true theatre of history is therefore the Temperate Zone; or, rather, its northern half, because the earth there presents itself in a continental form, and has a broad breast, as the Greeks say. In the south, on the contrary, it divides itself, and runs out into many points.

The World is divided into Old and New; the name of New having originated in the fact that America and Australia have only lately became known to us. But these parts of the world are not only relatively new, but intrinsically so in respect of their entire physical and psychical constitution. Their geological antiquity we have nothing to do with. I will not deny the New World the honour of having emerged from the sea at the world's formation contemporaneously with the old: yet the Archipelago between South America and Asia shows a physical immaturity. [...] ...the aborigines, after the landing of the Europeans in America, gradually vanished at the breath of European activity. In the United States of North America all the citizens are of European descent, with whom the old inhabitants could not amalgamate, but were driven back. The aborigines have certainly adopted some arts and usages from the Europeans, among others that of brandy-drinking, which has operated with deadly effect. [...] When the Jesuits and the Catholic clergy proposed to accustom the Indians to European culture and manners (they have, as is well known, founded a state in Paraguay and convents in Mexico and California), they commenced a close intimacy with them, and prescribed for them the duties of the day, which, slothful though their disposition was, they complied with under the authority of the Friars. These prescripts, (at midnight a bell had to remind them even of their matrimonial duties,) were first, and very wisely, directed to the creation of wants - the springs of human activity generally. 

The original nation having vanished or nearly so, the effective population comes for the most part from Europe; and what takes place in America is but an emanation from Europe. [...] Many Englishmen have settled there, where burdens and imposts do not exist, and where the combination of European appliances and European ingenuity has availed to realize some produce from the extensive and still virgin soil. [...] ...for those who are willing to work vigorously, but who have not found in Europe opportunities for doing so, a sphere of action is certainly presented in America.

In North America we witness a prosperous state of things; an increase of industry and population civil order and firm freedom; the whole federation constitutes but a single state, and has its political centres. In South America, on the contrary, the republics depend only on military force; their whole history is a continued revolution; federated states become disunited; others previously separated become united; and all these changes originate in military revolutions. The more special differences between the two parts of America show us two opposite directions, the one in political respects, the other in regard to religion. South America, where the Spaniards settled and asserted supremacy, is Catholic; North America, although a land of sects of every name, is yet fundamentally, Protestant. A wider distinction is presented in the fact, that South America was conquered, but North America colonized. The Spaniards took possession of South America to govern it, and to become rich through occupying political offices, and by exactions. Depending on a very distant mother country, their desires found a larger scope, and by force, address and confidence they gained a great predominance over the Indians. The North American States were, on the other hand, entirely colonised, by Europeans, Since in England Puritans, Episcopalians, and Catholics were engaged in perpetual conflict, and now one party, now the other, had the upper hand, many emigrated to seek religious freedom on a foreign shore. These were industrious Europeans, who betook themselves to agriculture, tobacco and cotton planting, etc. Soon the whole attention of the inhabitants was given to labor, and the basis of their existence as a united body lay in the necessities that bind man to man, the desire of repose, the establishment of civil rights, security and freedom, and a community arising from the aggregation of individuals as atomic constituents; so that the state was merely something external for the protection of property. From the Protestant religion sprang the principle of the mutual confidence of individuals – trust in the honorable dispositions of other men; for in the Protestant Church the entire life – its activity generally – is the field for what it deems religious works.

If we compare North America further with Europe, we shall find in the former the permanent example of a republican constitution. A subjective unity presents itself; for there is a President at the head of the State, who, for the sake of security against any monarchical ambition, is chosen only for four years. Universal protection for property, and a something approaching entire immunity from public burdens, are facts which are constantly held up to commendation. We have in these facts the fundamental character of the community – the endeavor of the individual after acquisition, commercial profit, and gain; the preponderance of private interest, devoting itself to that of the community only for its own advantage. [...] As to the political condition of North America, the general object of the existence of this State is not yet fixed and determined, and the necessity for a firm combination does not yet exist; for a real State and a real Government arise only after a distinction of classes has arisen, when wealth and poverty become extreme, and when such a condition of things presents itself that a large portion of the people can no longer satisfy its necessities in the way in which it has been accustomed so to do. But America is hitherto exempt from this pressure, for it has the outlet of colonization constantly and widely open, and multitudes are continually streaming into the plains of the Mississippi. By this means the chief source of discontent is removed, and the continuation of the existing civil condition is guaranteed. A comparison of the United States of North America with European lands is therefore impossible; for in Europe, such a natural outlet for population, notwithstanding all the emigrations that take place, does not exist. Had the woods of Germany been in existence, the French Revolution would not have occurred. North America will be comparable with Europe only after the immeasurable space which that country presents to its inhabitants shall have been occupied, and the members of the political body shall have begun to be pressed back on each other. North America is still in the condition of having land to begin to cultivate. Only when, as in Europe, the direct increase of agriculturists is checked, will the inhabitants, instead of pressing outwards to occupy the fields, press inwards upon each other – pursuing town occupations, and trading with their fellow-citizens; and so form a compact system of civil society, and require an organized state.
America is therefore the land of the future, where, in the ages that lie before us, the burden of the World’s History shall reveal itself – perhaps in a contest between North and South America. It is a land of desire for all those who are weary of the historical lumber-room of old Europe. Napoleon is reported to have said: “Cette vieille Europe m’ennuie” [This old Europe bores me]. It is for America to abandon the ground on which hitherto the History of the World has developed itself. What has taken place in the New World up to the present time is only an echo of the Old World – the expression of a foreign Life; and as a Land of the Future, it has no interest for us here, for, as regards History, our concern must be with that which has been and that which is. In regard to Philosophy, on the other hand, we have to do with that which (strictly speaking) is neither past nor future, but with that which is, which has an eternal existence – with Reason; and this is quite sufficient to occupy us.
Dismissing, then, the New World, and the dreams to which it may give rise, we pass over to the Old World – the scene of the World’s History; and must first direct attention to the natural elements and conditions of existence which it presents. [...] The Old World... which lies opposite to America, and is separated from it by the Atlantic Ocean, has its continuity interrupted by a deep inlet – the Mediterranean Sea. The three Continents that compose it have an essential relation to each other, and constitute a totality. Their peculiar feature is that they lie round this Sea, and therefore have an easy means of communication; for rivers and seas are not to be regarded as disjoining, but as uniting. [...] For the three quarters of the globe the Mediterranean Sea is similarly the uniting element, and the centre of World-History. Greece lies here, the focus of light in History. Then in Syria we have Jerusalem, the centre of Judaism and of Christianity; southeast of it lie Mecca and Medina, the cradle of the Mussulman faith; towards the west Delphi and Athens; farther west still, Rome: on the Mediterranean Sea we have also Alexandria and Carthage. The Mediterranean is thus the heart of the Old World, for it is that which conditioned and vitalized it. Without it the History of the World could not be conceived: it would be like ancient Rome or Athens without the forum, where all the life of the city came together. The extensive tract of eastern Asia is severed from the process of general historical development, and has no share in it; so also Northern Europe, which took part in the World’s History only at a later date, and had no part in it while the Old World lasted; for this was exclusively limited to the countries lying round the Mediterranean Sea. Julius Caesar’s crossing the Alps – the conquest of Gaul and the relation into which the Germans thereby entered with the Roman Empire – makes consequently an epoch in History; for in virtue of this it begins to extend its boundaries beyond the Alps. Eastern Asia and that trans-Alpine country are the extremes of this agitated focus of human life around the Mediterranean – the beginning and end of History – its rise and decline.

Africa proper, as far as history goes back, has remained, for all purposes of connection with the rest of the world, shut up; it is the gold-land compressed within itself-- the land of childhood, which lying beyond the day of self-conscious history, is enveloped in the dark mantle of night.

The Negro, as already observed, exhibits the natural man in his completely wild and untamed state. We must lay aside all thought of reverence and morality, all that we call feeling, if we would rightly comprehend him; there is nothing harmonious with humanity to be found in this type of character. The copious and circumstantial accounts of missionaries completely confirm this, and Mohammedanism appears to be the only thing which in any way brings the Negroes within the range of culture. [...] Although they are necessarily conscious of dependence upon nature-- for they need the beneficial influence of storm, rain, cessation of the rainy period, and so on-- yet this does not conduct them to the consciousness of a higher power: it is they who command the elements, and this they call "magic."

...from the fact that man is regarded as the highest, it follows that he has no respect for himself; for only with the consciousness of a higher being does he reach a point of view which inspires him with real reverence. [...] They have moreover no knowledge of the immortality of the soul, although spectres are supposed to appear. [...] Tyranny is regarded as no wrong, and cannibalism is looked upon as quite customary and proper. [...] Another characteristic fact in reference to the Negroes is slavery. Negroes are enslaved by Europeans and sold to America. Bad as this may be, their lot in their own land is even worse, since there a slavery quite as absolute exists; for it is the essential principle of slavery, that man has not yet attained a consciousness of his freedom and consequently sinks down to a mere thing-- an object of no value. Among the Negroes moral sentiments are quite weak, or more strictly speaking, non-existant. Parents sell their children, and conversely children sell their parents, as either has the opportunity. [...] In the contempt of humanity displayed by the Negroes, it is not so much a despising of death as a want of regard for life that forms the characteristic feature. To this want of regard for life must be ascribed the great courage, supported by enormous bodily strength, exhibited by the Negroes, who allow themselves to be shot down by thousands in war with Europeans. Life has a value only when it has something valuable as its object.

...the entire nature of this race is such as to preclude the existence of any such arrangement [as a 'political constitution']. [...] There is absolutely no bond, no restraint upon that arbitrary volition. Nothing but external force can hold the state together for a moment. A ruler stands at the head, for sensuous barbarism can only be restrained by despotic power. [...] If the Negroes are discontented with their king they depose and kill him. [...] Every idea thrown into the mind of the Negro is caught up and realized with the whole energy of his will; but this realization involves a wholesale destruction. These people continue long at rest, but suddenly their passions ferment, and then they are quite beside themselves. The destruction which is the consequence of their excitement, is caused by the fact that it is no positive idea, no thought which produces these commotions; – a physical rather than a spiritual enthusiasm.

From these various traits it is manifest that want of self-control distinguishes the character of the Negroes. This condition is capable of no development or culture, and as we see them at this day, such have they always been. The only essential connection that has existed and continued between the Negroes and the Europeans is that of slavery. In this the Negroes see nothing unbecoming them, and the English who have done most for abolishing the slave-trade and slavery, are treated by the Negroes themselves as enemies. [...] The doctrine which we deduce from this condition of slavery among the Negroes... is that which we deduce from the Idea: viz., that the "natural condition" itself is one of absolute and thorough injustice, contravention of the right and just [see Hobbes]. Every intermediate grade between this and the realization of a rational State retains – as might be expected – elements and aspects of injustice; therefore we find slavery even in the Greek and Roman States, as we do serfdom down to the latest times. But thus existing in a State, slavery is itself a phase of advance from the merely isolated sensual existence – a phase of education – a mode of becoming participant in a higher morality and the culture connected with it. Slavery is in and for itself injustice, for the essence of humanity is Freedom; but for this man must be matured. The gradual abolition of slavery is therefore wiser and more equitable than its sudden removal.
At this point we leave Africa, not to mention it again. For it is no historical part of the World; it has no movement or development to exhibit. Historical movements in it – that is in its northern part – belong to the Asiatic or European World. Carthage displayed there an important transitionary phase of civilization; but, as a Phoenician colony, it belongs to Asia. Egypt will be considered in reference to the passage of the human mind from its Eastern to its Western phase, but it does not belong to the African Spirit. What we properly understand by Africa, is the Unhistorical, Undeveloped Spirit, still involved in the conditions of mere nature, and which had to be presented here only as on the threshold of the World’s History.

In Asia arose the light of spirit, and therefore the history of the world.





The German spirit is the spirit of the new world. Its aim is the realization of absolute truth as the unlimited self-determination of freedom-- that freedom which has its own absolute form itself as its purport.

The Greeks and Romans had reached maturity within, ere they directed their energies outwards. The Germans, on the contrary, began with self-diffusion-- deluging the world, and overpowering in their course the inwardly rotten, hollow political fabrics of the civilized nations. Only then did their development begin, kindled by a foreign culture, a foreign religion, polity and legislation. The process of culture they underwent consisted in taking up foreign elements and reductively amalgamating them with their own national life. Thus their history presents an introversion, the attraction of alien forms of life and the bringing these to bear upon their own. In the Crusades, indeed, and in the discovery of America, the western world directed its energies outwards.

The German world took up the Roman culture and religion in their completed form. [...] The Christian religion which they adopted, had received from councils and Fathers of the Church, who possessed... the philosophy of the Greek and Roman world, a perfected dogmatic system; the Church, too, had a completely developed hierarchy. To the native tongue of the Germans, the Church likewise opposed one perfectly developed-- the Latin. [...] Gothic and other chiefs gave themselves the name of Roman patricians, and at a later date the Roman Empire was restored. Thus the German world appears, superficially, to be only a continuation of the Roman. But there lived in it an entirely new spirit, through which the world was to be regenerated, the free spirit, viz., which reposes on itself, the absolute self-determination of subjectivity. To this self-involved subjectivity the corresponding objectivity stands opposed as absolutely alien. The distinction and antithesis which is evolved from these principles, is that of church and state. On the one side, the church develops itself, as the embodiment of absolute truth... . On the other side stands secular consciousness, which, with its aims, occupies the world of limitation-- the state. [...] European history is the exhibition of the growth of each of these principles severally, in church and state; then of an antithesis on the part of both...; lastly, of the harmonizing of the antithesis.
The three periods of this world will have to be treated accordingly.
The first begins with the appearance of the German nations in the Roman Empire-- the incipient development of these peoples, converts to Christianity, and now established in the possession of the west. Their barbarous and simple character prevents this initial period from possessing any great interest. The Christian world then presents itself as "Christendom"-- one mass, in which the spiritual and the secular form only different aspects. This epoch extends to Charlemagne.
The second period develops the two sides of the antithesis to a logically consequential independence and opposition-- the Church for itself as a theocracy, and the state for itself as a feudal monarchy. [...] In this period two aspects of society are to be especially noticed: the first is the formation of states... . The second aspect presents the antithesis of Church and state. This antithesis exists solely because the Church, to whose management the spiritual was committed, itself sinks down into every kind of worldliness-- a worldliness which appears only the more detestable, because all passions assume the sanction of religion.
The time of Charles V's reign, i.e., the first half of the sixteenth century, forms the end of the third period. Secularity appears now as gaining a consciousness of its intrinsic worth-- becomes aware of its having a value of its own... . This third period of the German world extends from the Reformation to our own times. The principle of free spirit is here made the banner of the world, and from this principle are evolved the universal axioms of reason. [...] Political life was now to be consciously regulated by reason [Editors note: it is precisely at this time that the theories of 'raison d'Etat' and the 'sect' of the politiques make their appearance. In this connection, see Foucault's 1977-78 lectures Security, Territory, Population.] Customary morality, traditional usage lost its validity; the various claims insisted upon, must prove their legitimacy as based on rational principles. Not till this era is the freedom of spirit realized.
We may distinguish these periods as Kingdoms of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit [Authors note: The conception of a mystical regnum Patris, regnum Filii, and regnum Spiritus Sancti is perfectly familiar to metaphysical theologians. Editors note: see Joachim of Fiore].

Section I


Chapter 1. The Barbarian Migrations

Chapter 2. Mohummedanism

On the one hand, we see the European world forming itself anew – the nations taking firm root there, to produce a world of free reality expanded and developed in every direction. We behold them beginning their work by bringing all social relations under the form of particularity – with dull and narrow intelligence splitting that which in its nature is generic and normal, into a multitude of chance contingencies; rendering that which ought to be simple principle and law, a tangled web of convention. In short, while the West began to shelter itself in a political edifice of chance, entanglement and particularity, the very opposite direction necessarily made its appearance in the world, to produce the balance of the totality of spiritual manifestation. This took place in the Revolution of the East, which destroyed all particularity and dependence, and perfectly cleared up and purified the soul and disposition; making the abstract One the absolute object of attention and devotion, and to the same extent, pure subjective consciousness – the Knowledge of this One alone – the only aim of reality; – making the Unconditioned [das Verhältnisslose] the condition [Verhält-niss] of existence.

Only among the Jews have we observed the principle of pure unity elevated to a thought; for only among them was adoration paid to the One, as an object of thought. This unity then remained, when the purification of the mind to the conception of abstract spirit had been accomplished; but it was freed from the particularity by which the worship of Jehovah had been hampered. Jehovah was only the God of that one people-- the God of Abraham, of Isaac and Jacob: only with the Jews had this God made a covenant; only to this people had he revealed himself. That speciality of relation was done away with in Mohammedanism. In this spiritual universality, in this unlimited and indefinite purity and simplicity of conception, human personality has no other aim than the realization of this universality and simplicity. [...] The worship of the One is the only final aim of Mohammedanism, and subjectivity has this worship for the sole occupation of its activity, combined with the design to subjugate secular existence to the One. [...] The object of Mohammedan worship is purely intellectual; no image, no representation of Allah is tolerated. Mohammed is a prophet but still man-- not elevated above human weakness. The leading feature of Mohammedanism involve this... that everything is destined to expand itself in activity and life in the boundless amplitude of the world, so that the worship of the One remains the only bond by which the whole is capable of uniting. In this expansion, this active energy, all limits, all national and caste distinctions vanish; no particular race, political claim of birth or possession is regarded-- only man as a believer. To adore the One... -- to remove the sense of speciality and consequent separation from the infinite, arising from corporeal limitation-- and to give alms-- that is, to get rid of particular private possession-- these are the essence of Mohammedan injunctions...  .


Chapter 3. The Eclaircissement and Revolution[gap]

We have now to consider the French Revolution in its organic connection with the History of the World; for in its substantial import that event is World-Historical... . As regards outward diffusion its principle gained access to almost all modern states, either through conquest or by express introduction into their political life. Particularly all the Romanic nations, and the Roman Catholic World in special—France, Italy, Spain—were subjected to the dominion of Liberalism. [...]  Thus Liberalism as an abstraction, emanating from France, traversed the Roman World; but Religious slavery held that world in the fetters of political servitude. For it is a false principle that the fetters which bind Right and Freedom can be broken without the emancipation of conscience—that there can be a Revolution without a Reformation. These countries, therefore, sank back into their old condition... .

The Constitution of England is a complex of mere particular Rights and particular privileges: the Government is essentially administrative—that is, conservative of the interests of all particular orders and classes; and each particular Church, parochial district, county, society, takes care of itself, so that the Government, strictly speaking, has nowehere less to do than in England. This is the leading feature of what Englishmen call their Liberty, and is the very antithesis of such a centralized administration as exists in France, where down to the least village the Marie is named the Ministry or their agents.

 Germany was traversed by the victorious French hosts, but German nationality delivered it from this yoke. One of the leading features in the political condition of Germany is that code of Rights which was certainly occasioned by French oppression, since this was the especial means of bringing to light the deficiencies of the old system.  The fiction of an Empire has utterly vanished. It is broken up into sovereign states. Feudal obligations are abolished, for freedom of property and of person have been recognized as fundamental principles. Offices of State are open to every citizen, talent and adaptation being of course the necessary conditions. [...] ...we have already remarked that in the Protestant Church the reconciliation of Religion with Legal Rights has taken place. In the Protestant world there is no sacred, no religious conscience in a state of separation from, or perhaps even hostility to Secular Right.

This is the point which consciousness has attained, and these are the principal phases of that form in which the principle of Freedom has realized itself; for the History of the World is nothing but the development of the Idea of Freedom. But Objective Freedom—the laws of realFreedom—demand the subjugation of the mere contingent Will—for this is in its nature formal. If the Objective is in itself Rational, human insight and conviction must correspond with the Reason which it embodies, and then we have the other essential element—Subjective Freedom—also realized. We have confined ourselves to the consideration of that progress of the Idea [which has led to this consummation], and have been obliged to forego the pleasure of giving a detailed picture of the prosperity, the periods of glory that have distinguished the career of peoples, the beauty and grandeur of the character of individuals, and the interest attaching to their fate in weal or woe. Philosophy concerns itself with the glory of the Idea mirroring itself in the History of the World. Philosophy escapes from the weary strife of passions that agitate the surface of society into the calm recognition of the process of development which the Idea has passed through in realizing itself—i.e. the Idea of Freedom, whose reality is the consciousness of Freedom and nothing short of it.
That the History of the World, with all the changing scenes which its annals present, is this process of development and the realization of Spirit—this is the true Theodicæa, the justification of God in History. Only this insight can reconcile Spirit with the History of the World—viz., that what has happened, and is happening every day, is not only not "without God," but is essentially His Work.