Drs. Nietzsche and Hegel: The Antidote to Postmodern Nihilism (From: HEGEL AND THE SOLUTION…)

From Nihilism to Kingdom Come.
Dr. Ken Foldes, Fulbright Scholar

1: Drs. Nietzsche and Hegel: The Antidote to Postmodern Nihilism 127


“We belong to the new race of men who no longer seek for immortality and God outside but rather within themselves.”[i]  Hegel, Schelling, and Hölderlin—1794

The Great Awakening (1969)

“The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Who would be born must first destroy a world. The bird flies to God. That God’s name is Abraxas.” Hesse

 We are all waiting to be born. To take that great leap

From becoming to full membership in being.

We wait anxiously for eons and eternities.

There is a moral instinct in all life.

There is within all beings an inner tendency, a regulator,

Which keeps the project of life on course, so that it never

Strays too far from its central course to Itself.

Man must learn to center himself on the path to his

Evolutionary destiny. The path is felt as an inner vibration,

Steady, constant.

It is the life force which bears the seed of liberation

And consummation.

All of our lives, thus far, have been a pre-uterine existence

In a world yet to see the Great Light that sustains the creation.

There is a great stirring.

We are all slowly awakening from a long sleep.

Humanity has been sleeping. Its magic seed has been

Patiently preserved through the centuries of history—the

Course of man’s restless activities. Some of us are beginning

To catch a glimpse of that Blinding Sublime Light, of that

Great Reality awaiting man’s assent.

Our perceptions are beginning to clear.

We are learning how to focus ourselves on that source,

That sound, that dwells in each of us—that great within.

We must help others learn to fly, or they will perish

In the flood of the great Awakening.

You should not be afraid of the signs of the awakening, –

The strange crackling sound in your ears,

The odd instances of unfamiliar frequencies and fragrances

Coming from within, of déjà vu, of synesthesia, the bursting

Of the unconscious, the great moral discontent, the revolution,

The Awakening…….


Drs. Nietzsche And Hegel: The Antidote To Postmodern Nihilism


We are posted between today and tomorrow … We have left the land and have embarked … The sea, our sea, lies open again … and there is no longer any “land.”[1]

                                                Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 124, 343.

The Spirit of the revealed religion has not as yet surmounted its attitude of consciousness as such, or what is the same, its actual self-consciousness is not yet the object of its consciousness.[2]

                                                Hegel’s Phenomenology, “Absolute Knowing”

My thesis in brief is that the painful “God is dead” period of history we are presently going through can best be understood as a necessary “transitional period,” indeed, as the immediate consequence of our intellectual advance in the preceding period, beyond the Middle Ages. With the apotheosis of the development of the principle of subjectivity in Modern philosophy, i.e., with Reason’s attainment of “absolute knowing,” humanity had outgrown its former manner of relating to substance, the divine:—its eyes opened, it could not look back but only forwards. From the highest standpoint, the movement of history proceeds from the God “outside” to the God “inside”—an inversion process involving three necessary phases: Premodernity, Modernity, and Postmodernity, and correlative with Thomas Aquinas, Hegel, and Nietzsche, respectively.

It appears that as a result of Modernity’s, i.e. Hegel’s, intellectual achievement—in which religion was superseded by philosophy, i.e., Science—religion had of necessity to undergo a major crisis. That is, a “God is dead” period of (post-) history had to supervene. However this “negative” period is not to be regarded as final or terminal, but instead as the necessary precondition for a “positive,” consummatory period of human history, its finale, a period in which, in Schelling’s words,[3] the unification of philosophy, science, and religion will be realized. Simply expressed—and this is the main point: For mankind to realize the “inside” God—what is demanded by “absolute knowing” and Christian eschatology—the “outside” transcendent God must needs disappear or “die.” Further, I would offer that what Hegel went through in the Phenomenology as an individual, humanity is to go through collectively—namely, the inversion from “outside” to “inside” God, from God as object of consciousness to God as object of self-consciousness, a process entailing a loss or “death” of God moment.

Accordingly, I will try to show how both Hegel and Nietzsche fully anticipate the two phases of history to follow Modernity: viz., “negative and positive PostModernity.” I will also argue that Nietzsche, therefore, is to be regarded not only as the prophet of the negative, God is dead phase of history, but also, and most significantly, as a pioneer in the overcoming of the nihilistic stage of meaninglessness, and thus a major contributor to the positive phase, as well as, ironically, to the third and final period of Christianity, which Schelling refers to as the “Church of John.”—Indeed, the “God is dead” period can be regarded as ingredient to Christian history and revelation itself.[4]

After a brief description of Schelling’s eschatological account of the historical process, I will discuss how Nietzsche’s redemptive vision makes a vital contribution to the understanding of our present situation, and then consider Hegel’s important contribution and role in the same.


                According to Schelling’s Philosophy of Revelation[5] one can distinguish three periods in the history of the perfection of the Church, correlated with three levels of Christian revelation: the Church of Peter, the Church of Paul, and the Church of John. The Church of Peter is that of the Past, the period of Catholicism, the age of Aquinas, which can be called Pre-Modernity. It is informed by the initial revelation that a special human being is divine and He dwells in the beyond: “God is up there” and, thus, “outside us.”—This dictating a diesseits/jenseits division of the Whole. The Church of Paul is that of the Present, the period of Protestantism, beginning with Luther and Descartes and ending, officially, with Hegel. This period, known as Modernity, is informed by the higher revelation that “God is in us”—a true union, though, is yet to obtain. The “Church of John” is Schelling’s term for the Church of the Future, the completed Church or Kingdom Come, Heaven on Earth, a kind of synthesis and thus transcendence of Catholicism and Protestantism, to be realized in the future as a task set for humanity. This stage will be characterized by the highest level of Christian revelation, namely, “God as us,” when God will be “all in all,” and divinity and humanity converge. This last stage, Postmodernity, has a “negative” and “positive” phase. In a word, the period of history from Hegel and Schelling’s time and the end of Protestantism to the present is to be understood as the period of the ushering in of the Church of John, mankind’s greatest deed and challenge. Since this perfected Church is characterized by a fusion of transcendence and immanence, heaven and earth, it is necessary that this final positive state be preceded by a negative “death of God” phase.

I would also suggest that it is possible, from another angle, to make sense of the negative, nihilistic period we are going through, and indeed of the historical process as such, in terms of a “negation of the negation,” in Hegel’s and, I would offer, Nietzsche’s profound sense. There are again three necessary stages. The first is the initial or given stage, the condition for the first negation: the theistic period of belief in the transcendent God of Platonic-Judeo-Christianity. The second stage is the negation of the first stage, inaugurated, in effect, by Hegel (and Modernity) and symbolized by Nietzsche. It is characterized by a non-belief in the God of the first stage and an ensuing state of meaninglessness (the “negation” being the work of Reflection, i.e. Reason and Science). The third stage is then the negation of this negation, in the primary sense of the restoration of meaning, i.e. absolute meaning (as tempered, having passed through “naive” meaning and its negation).

I offer that our present global crisis reflects precisely humanity’s struggle to give birth to this final “positive” stage of world history[6]—a work that can be viewed as the last stage in the education of our species. This “new world,” moreover, will be founded on the twin pillars of absolute science—the knowledge of the whole and the unity of the sciences—and a new Christianity or multicultural world religion. Our greatest most difficult task, it then seems, is to realize these. I believe both Nietzsche and Hegel devoted their best efforts solely to this end.

If the ideas presented in this paper are essentially correct, our situation is far from hopeless, the opinion of many commentators on today’s scene.


                What I relate is … the advent of nihilism. … The universe seems to have lost value, seems “meaningless”—but that is only a transitional stage.[7]

The Superman is the meaning of the earth.[8]

Nietzsche had an uncanny gift for throwing great light on a complex issue through a powerful aphorism. Indeed, he had a profound intuition, as well as diagnosis and prognosis, of the “postmodern” human predicament. In my view—and here I disagree with Danto and others—Nietzsche’s vision is essentially redemptive and not pessimistic—the heart of Nietzsche’s brilliant and largely correct analysis of the human condition, as set forth in Zarathustra and The Will to Power, lies in his partitioning of human history into three distinct periods—history, for Nietzsche, being not just the “history of nihilism” but also that of man’s liberation. The first period is that of “the no longer” or the Past. This is the naive, “happy” period of the traditional, transcendent God; the next period is that of the Present, Nietzsche’s and ourselves, the painful period of the absence of God, of “God is dead”; finally there is the period of “the not yet,” the Future, the final golden period of the Superman, of the Will to Power fully aware of itself, of nihilism overcome: the total Dionysian affirmation[9] of all things, of the world and ourselves. It is implied that the third stage is the goal of the whole historical process, that each stage is then necessary for the final, glorious, affirmatory and celebratory stage to see the light of day.

Nietzsche, in essence, is saying that although it is true we are going through a bleak, “dark night of the soul” period right now, one devoid of meaning—i.e. in the wake of the collapse of the old system of values—nevertheless this nihilistic period is not to be regarded as our final condition. This is made clear by his following statements from the Will to Power:[10]

                What I relate is the history of the next two centuries … the advent of nihilism (PP2).

                [I am] the first perfect nihilist of Europe who, however, has even now lived through the whole of nihilism, to the end, leaving it behind, outside himself (PP3).

                For one should make no mistake about the meaning of the title that this gospel of the future wants to bear. “The Will to Power: Attempt at a Revaluation of All Values”—in this formulation a countermovement [to nihilism] finds expression […]; a movement that in some future will take the place of this perfect nihilism—but presupposes it (PP4).

                [There will be an] intermediary period of nihilism: before there is yet present the strength to reverse values and to deify becoming and the apparent world as the only world, and to call them good (PP 585 A).

Nihilism represents a pathological transitional stage (what is pathological is the tremendous generalization, the inference that there is no meaning at all) (PP13).

                Now that the shabby origin of these values is becoming clear, the universe seems to have lost value, seems “meaningless”—but that is only a transitional stage (PP7).

Thus nihilism as envisioned by Nietzsche is only an “intermediate” or “transitional” stage—to be followed by a fully sanctified or “deified” world order. The period of nihilism can best be viewed as a catalyst needed to raise us, using Schelling’s term, to a higher potency (indeed our highest potency)—which Nietzsche refers to cryptically as “Superman”—a condition where both God and man are overcome (hence Nietzsche calls for a “death of man” no less than for a “death of God”), a condition where the opposition between the two has been abolished. Indeed a state of man—or Superman—characterized by absolute meaning or meaningfulness of existence, the opposite of the present state—an age, shall we say, of “gods and goddesses.”

The three stages are interpreted via three types of nihilism.[11] Nietzsche characterizes the first stage of history, the Past, as that of “religious nihilism,”—or that of the “Camel,” using the terminology of Zarathustra;[12] man as weighed down under the burden of laws and commandments deriving from an external source. Simply expressed—and I find this brilliant—religion is “nihilistic” in that, by its act of affirming and valuing a world or Being (God, the Good, the “Truth”) beyond the earth (this world, diesseits) humanity thereby, at the same time, negates and devalues the present world: it denies life, the body, the senses and passions—it “nothings” the world. Further, in viewing all meaning and purpose pertaining to the world as deriving from the transcendent God, it thus declares the world to be without meaning as such, to be intrinsically meaningless apart from relation to God. Hence, this stage is nihilistic in two respects: it is both life-denying and meaning-denying. This stage embraces all past history up till Nietzsche’s own time, the mid-nineteenth century, and includes both Aquinas and Hegel.

The second stage of man’s liberation, the becoming of Superman, if you will, is that of the Present, the “Lion”—man becomes a lion in order to turn against the old “legalistic” regime, to destroy it and break free from its oppressive “ought.” This leads to the stage of “radical nihilism.” Once humanity is no longer able to believe in the old God and the Platonic-Christian-Moral value system it supported, when it is perceived that “God has died,” the world as such is perceived or, as Nietzsche says, “seems to be” meaningless. This is so because the meaning it previously had was attached solely to the old transcendent God.

This is an important though widely ignored feature of Nietzsche’s analysis. Nietzsche’s point is that the world all along was intrinsically meaningless, that is, throughout the reign of the old God from above. However, only now, after belief in Him has become untenable, is man first capable of becoming aware of this fact, of a situation which has always obtained. Briefly, the death of God or transcendence came about with man’s exit from the Middle Ages, from the age of Aquinas and Faith, and entrance into the age of Reason, Enlightenment and Science—leading to the progressive secularization of experience. For Nietzsche the death knell was sounded during his own century 1. by the “deconstructive” work of Hegel’s left-wing disciples: Strauss, Bauer and Feuerbach, the Critical theologians who, as Nietzsche remarks, “revealed the shabby origins of the gospel texts,” and thus undermined the Christian faith, reducing it to the status of myth,[13] 2. by Darwin’s theory of evolution, which was able to account for man’s origin without recourse to a transcendent God, and 3. by the effect on European culture of Schopenhauer’s pessimistic doctrine of life. By the time Nietzsche had come on the scene, educated opinion had it that God was officially dead.

This second stage of history, the negation of the first, extends from Nietzsche’s time up to the present.

The final stage, that of the Future, Nietzsche terms “completed Nihilism.” This will occur when nihilism will have been overcome, hence it can be called the stage of Affirmation or Affirmatism, being the stage of the negation of the negation—this is the “Child” who says “Yes” to everything and lives only in the Present, beyond (repressive) time. It is a condition of total recovery of meaning, of absolute meaning, where meaning, so to speak, gushes out of every pore of being. What is important is that, according to Nietzsche, the solution for the conversion of the period of meaninglessness into one of total meaningfulness lies simply in letting God die, and not resisting (indeed, this is Nietzsche’s message to the Church today). Nietzsche alludes to this in the Will to Power:[14]

Suppose we realize how the world may no longer be interpreted in terms of these [values], and that the world begins to become valueless for us after this insight. … Let us try if it is not possible to give up our faith in them. Once we have devaluated these [values], the demonstration that they cannot be applied to the universe is no longer any reason for devaluating the universe (PP12 B).

—And also in Zarathustra where immediately after his announcement in the Prologue that “God is dead” he declares that, “The Superman is the meaning of the earth”—in this way linking a new meaning with the loss of the old meaning. Hence, our final condition is one of meaning, not the reverse: indeed, a world which has been “deified” and called good must have infinite meaning or significance ascribed to it.

This text, and those cited, moreover, clearly reveal that contra Danto and others Nietzsche was not a nihilist—his gospel or good news for the future is that nihilism one day will be overcome and superseded by its opposite.

What Nietzsche means in the above text is, in essence, that the world receives a negative valuation or is meaningless, only if we hold on to the old valuational system. If we let it go, negate it, negate the negation, then the world does not have to be viewed as value- or meaningless. Indeed, it must be regarded as meaningful. That is: Let the old God die, and the world becomes meaningful. However, and this is important, since “God” is, in the last analysis, equivalent to “absolute meaning,” the “death of God” does not entail the death of God as such—but the death only of the transcendent, far away, objective God. Hence the final state, is not without God or God-less: God remains—rather, the true meaning of “God” is realized for the first time: God becomes the “all in all” of the Bible, or the only reality, i.e. with the world taken up fully into Him, or He into the world. Here I am trying to give expression to the “truth” that God = absolute meaning = the world; in modern German philosophy this involves “seeing the identity of the subject and the object”.

I would offer that what Nietzsche’s theory truly reveals is this. The world/being from the very beginning or as such is infinitely meaningful. However this cannot be known by man except by his going through a certain process. That is, it can be known by him only in a mediate not an immediate way (hence the need for “history”). Man must first gather up the world’s intrinsic, superabundant meaning into a unity, a concept—the concept of “God.” But in so doing, man objectifies this meaning (containing his true good, end, happiness), makes it into an Object, into an Other—and thus distances himself, cuts himself off, in a word, “alienates” himself from “It.” Now, as a result of this act of pro-jection, transference, indeed “trans-substantiation” (see below) the world suffers a loss of meaning, becomes intrinsically meaningless. But this is not felt till after the disappearance of the “objective” God.

So: the only way to recover the world’s—and man’s—lost and authentic meaning, is for man to give up, renounce, negate the objectified/transcendent God (= our meaning, but alienated or displaced). Thus Nietzsche is really saying, it is by “letting God die” that we restore meaning to the world. And since the second stage of the world was characterized as one of “no meaning,” the negation of this negation, i.e. of no meaning, is all meaning. What is also important, is that the meaning lasts forever. The state of meaninglessness can never recur—since it has been already experienced by mankind (first in Christ, then in Hegel, then collectively), and—-negated (to say it lasts forever is to speak of “Kingdom Come,” the fulfillment of Judeo-Christian eschatology).

The historical process moves, then, from 1. unconscious absolute meaning, to 2. conscious absolute meaning qua objectified as God (= religious nihilism), to 3. conscious absolute meaninglessness (following the death of “objectified” absolute meaning = radical nihilism), to 4. self-conscious absolute meaning: the age of Superman, of Kingdom Come, of a Divine-humanity (= completed nihilism or Affirmatism).

That Nietzsche attacks not Jesus and his teachings but rather—and here Kaufmann is completely misleading—what the Church has made of them and him is well attested in his Antichrist (as Altizer has also pointed out):[15]

“Only we, we spirits who have become free, have the presuppositions for understanding something that nineteen centuries have misunderstood. … Mankind lies on its knees before the opposite of that which was the origin, the meaning, the right of the Evangel; … the “Church” … has pronounced holy precisely what the “bringer of the glad tidings” felt to be beneath and behind himself (PP36).

“[Jesus] never had any reason to negate “the world” … to negate is the very thing that is impossible for him. [His proofs are] inner feelings of pleasure and self-affirmations, all of them “proofs of strength” (PP32).

“Jesus had abolished the very concept of “guilt”—he had denied any cleavage between God and man; he lived this unity of God and man as his “glad tidings”—and not as a prerogative!” (PP41).

Thus, in this way Nietzsche is reconciled to Christianity, i.e. the true Christianity. In the end, he can be considered not as its destroyer but as its fulfiller. He was trying to heal the schizophrenia in Christian religious consciousness, rooted in its insuperable dualisms (of God and man, the here and the beyond), which simultaneously affirmed—since it must live in the “corporeal” here and now—and negated the world/life (see Hegel’s remarks below). Only by completely doing away with the Church, in its present contradictory form, did Nietzsche believe it possible to realize the self-affirmatory, celebratory, indeed, Dionysian superabundant life which its Founder promised—indeed, to make the earth, the body, and ourselves sacred, —not the beyond. The irony of ironies is that the goal of Christianity, Kingdom Come, could happen only with Christianity’s disappearance! The Church was standing in its own way. —This was Nietzsche’s central insight.

Nietzsche in my view, however, was somewhat extreme in his judgment on Catholicism and Protestantism. Schelling’s analysis and evaluation—which sees a necessary development of the Church through three progressive stages of revelation—is to be preferred. Further, Nietzsche’s presentation of the solution to nihilism, as expressed in the form of poetry and metaphor, is defective. The solution requires scientific form. There is a need to go on to Hegel.


 “[It] is the painful feeling that God Himself is dead.”
The Phenomenology, “Revealed Religion”[16]

As said earlier, the two-world system of the Middle Ages had necessarily to come to an end if Christian eschatology was to be realized. Moreover, Protestantism could only do so much. It appears that the Church as such is unable to overcome the dualism involved in its form or “letter” and bring about the required unification and healing. It is Reason which must intervene and assist the Church in its final Work. This was the central task, indeed is the raison d’etre, of the Modern Period—from Descartes to Hegel.

In fact it was Descartes and Reason’s (rather than Faith’s) discovery of subjectivity and its consequences which led to the necessary demise of the Middle Age’s “Other World”—and to the necessary conversion/inversion of this Other World into the Actual World and to the fusion of the merely divine and the merely human.[17] The great principle gradually dawned on Reason that you could not abstract from the I, one could not speak of an object—even God—apart from relation to a subject, an I. In the 1641 Meditations Reason began to realize this: “[I thought],” says Descartes, “I clearly perceived … that certain things existed outside me … but on this point I was mistaken.”[18] Not only was it seen that a world or being independent of subjectivity could be reached by inference alone (one highly dubious) but that such a “being” was even capable of existing, soon came to be questioned: perhaps subjectivity, in the end, was the only reality.

Indeed, this first came into full view with Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, with the notion of the “thing in itself,”—of a being existing out of all relation to a subject. If one looks carefully at (etc.) that key work one will find texts which reveal Kant was fully aware of the possibility that, in the end, there may not be a de facto thing-in-itself at all, that subjectivity may indeed be all in all. For example, in the Aesthetics at B66 he writes: “Nothing whatsoever can be asserted of the Thing-in-itself, which may [and thus may not] underlie these appearances.”[19] And in the “Phenomena/Noumena Chapter” he clearly tells us: “It is still an open question whether the notion of a noumenon [thing in itself] be not a mere form of a concept, and whether, when this separation [from the senses] has been made, any object whatsoever is left (A253).”[20] Moreover, the application of his immanent principles do not allow for such a thought. Causality aside, Kant’s principle that subjectivity—the “transcendental unity of apperception” or the “I think” (at PP16)—is an absolute presupposition for objectivity is sufficient to render the “thing in itself” highly suspect.

It was Fichte, Kant’s disciple, who then came to insist not only can we not know the “thing in itself,” it is impossible even to think it, as it is a sheer contradiction in terms:

“One cannot abstract from the I, says the Wissenschaftslehre. . [If this claim] had only been distinctly conceived sooner, we should long since been rid of the thing-in-itself, for it would have been recognized that whatever we may think, we are that which thinks therein, and hence that nothing could ever come to exist independently of us, for everything is necessarily related to our thinking.” [21]

And Schelling, Fichte’s disciple, is quick to apply this principle to the old, transcendent, objective God and to point up the impossibility of its coexistence with the I: “You may give me a thousand revelations of an absolute causality outside of myself … [yet] my capacity even to assume an absolute object would presuppose that I had first abolished myself as a believing subject.”[22]

The process of the sublation of the Other World, and the conversion of all objectivity into subjectivity, i.e. the coincidence or identity of the two, comes to its appointed end in Hegel, Schelling’s disciple, particularly in the Phenomenology—the proof of the impossibility of positing a being, an “in itself,” outside of consciousness or thought, and thus of an “I” which is absolute or all reality. In this work Reason (rather than Faith) dialectically overcomes the subject-object split characteristic of consciousness by collapsing every “in itself” into the for-itself or self-consciousness, with the result that the Self or Reason comes to know itself as all reality (as I = I): this is absolute knowing. And since the last in-itself to be appropriated by the subject is the object of religious consciousness, viz., God, with absolute knowledge we have the crucial experience we spoke of above, determinative of the “negative” and “positive” phases of history which are to follow. -Namely, the experience of, on the one hand, the “death of God” and, on the other, the re-location or “re-birth” of God in and as ourselves (i.e., our true or universal Self/ves). This is the coincidence of subjectivity and objectivity (what Hegel calls “The Concept”), the non-opposition or identity of God and man—what Nietzsche strove to express and realize in his own way.

The negative and positive moments and their necessary connection find expression at the end of the chapter Hegel entitles “Revealed Religion” (= Christianity):

                “The death of the [Mediator and the abstraction of the divine Being] is the painful feeling that God Himself is dead …”

Hegel thus anticipates Nietzsche by nearly a century. The question now is, what exactly does Hegel mean by this expression? He goes on to tell us:

“This hard saying [that “God is dead”] is the expression of innermost self-knowing, the return of consciousness [i.e. of an object] into the depths of the night in which “I = I,” a night which no longer distinguishes [from itself] or knows anything outside of it. This [painful] feeling is, in truth, the loss of substance [God] and its appearing over against [cf. gegen-stand = object] consciousness …”

Thus, the first moment of the meaning of “God is dead” is the negative one involving the “loss” or disappearance of God as a being standing over against oneself, or beyond and outside of oneself—since this is the common or traditional way God is viewed, its negation is experienced by the religious consciousness as an extremely painful experience, as an inconsolable loss. But, as Hegel says elsewhere, infinite loss is counter-balanced by infinite gain. He continues:

“but this [feeling of loss] is at the same time the pure subjectivity of substance, the pure certainty of itself it lacked when it was object … This knowing is the inbreathing of the Spirit, whereby Substance becomes Subject, by which its abstractness and lifelessness have died, and Substance therefore has become actual … Self-consciousness.”[23]

The negative moment directly gives rise to a positive moment—”Substance has become Subject,” i.e. the result of the loss of God as a being outside of oneself is not sheer negation, nothingness, or pure atheism (the reading of Marx, Kojeve, and Solomon), but instead the recovery or discovery of God as a being inside oneself, indeed as oneself (i.e. one’s universal, not particular, Self). As Hegel goes on to say: “the difference between its Self and [the absolute Being is overcome]; just as it [the religious consciousness] is Subject, so also it is substance, and hence is itself Spirit [or “God”—albeit with a new meaning].”

Thus the true meaning of the “death of God”—and by extension the current “death of God” period of history—is the death of the abstract God, of the objective (and “object—tionable”) transcendent God in the beyond and outside humanity, and at the same time (and this “time” admits of prolongation) its re-appearance (“trans-substantiation” = substance into subject) inside humanity, in unity with ourselves (hence, Jesus’ saying “The Kingdom of God is within you”): the coincidence or identity of subjectivity and objectivity, of God and man—the foundation-stone for the Church of John or Kingdom Come. This is precisely the meaning of “absolute knowing,” viz. the knowledge that the subject and object (viz., God) are one, that the object of consciousness is, at the same time, the object of self-consciousness. It can be said that the “curse” upon humanity is rooted in its inability to grasp the “identity of subjectivity and objectivity” principle (via Faith or Reason)- either by clinging onesidedly to a subject or self which lacks objectivity, or to an object (above all God) which is not at the same time subject.

Thus, as Hegel says, “[The Church] is still burdened with an unreconciled split into a here and a Beyond.”[24] What has to take place in order for the religious consciousness, i.e. for Christianity, to overcome its “divided state,” i.e., between its “immediate consciousness and its religious consciousness,” and thereby advance to its complete realization and goal (the Kingdom of God on Earth), is precisely the conversion of object or substance into subject, that is to say, the completed experience of the death of God. As Hegel states in the Encyclopedia Logic (194): “In Christ the human race is redeemed and reconciled to God, which is to say that the antithesis of subjectivity and objectivity has been implicitly overcome and that it is our business to participate in this redemption by laying aside our immediate subjectivity … and learning to know God as our true and essential Self.”

Thus, as in Nietzsche’s solution, humanity must collectively let the old God die, and let the new God—the “gods and goddesses” (elohim)—live.

This then, it would appear, is precisely what we are going through right now. The old is rapidly collapsing and the new is in the process of being born.[25] As Hegel observed at the beginning of the last century: “Ours is a birth-time and a period of transition to a new era; Spirit has broken with the world it has hitherto inhabited and imagined, and is of a mind to submerge it in the past, and in the labor of its own transformation.”[26] For when the Christian principle, which has nourished human civilization for two millennia, has been comprehended by Reason and Science and thereby exhausted, humanity must drink the “bitter drink” it has prepared for itself, which is its fate. It is then pressed back upon itself, into its innermost being, and forced to give birth from the womb of its experience to the new world. Schelling echoes Hegel in his remarks from the 1840 Berlin lectures:

“The more stridently the dissentions, the disputes, the phenomena that threaten dissolution … are presented, the more certainly will he who is truly informed see in all of them only the omens of a new creation, of a great and lasting revival; a revival that, admittedly will not be possible without grievous misery, a creation that must be preceded by the ruthless destruction of all that has become lazy, fragile and decayed […]. When the striving for wisdom will reach its long-sought goal, when the unrest that has plagued the human spirit for many thousands of years will cease … when over all the parts of human knowledge that have before been separate and mutually exclusive there will flow the spirit of universal mediation, like a balm that heals all the wounds that the human spirit has inflicted upon itself in its zealous struggle for light and truth—[then the new creation will have dawned]” (13:10).

In conclusion, I have tried to point the way out of our postmodern, nihilistic “rut.” I have argued that it is possible to construe history and thus our present standpoint in terms of a premodern, modern, postmodern (negative and positive) schema with a telos involving a “God outside” to “God inside” inversion dynamic. I have buttressed this with the insights of Nietzsche and Hegel who, I submit, were both fully aware of the two periods of postmodernity at issue and of the final destiny of the human race. Whether or not there is any truth to this grand thesis, the reader must decide for herself. In any case, as the saying is, time will tell.

Thus, I would offer that our present postmodern situation is far from hopeless. On the contrary! I am convinced that we are currently undergoing a kind of global transformation process, a global “negation of the negation” if you will, and that humanity is in the violent throes of giving birth to a new order of things, one to be founded on a new science and a new multicultural world religion. Perhaps the main problem of today is precisely the Church’s inability to surmount its dualisms through a baptism in the completed “death of God” experience, and thus realize its true consummation. Though at present the Church stands in its own way, it is to be hoped that Christianity will raise itself to its final form—that is, if it will allow Reason to assist it in this great work.


[1]           Nietzsche, The Gay Science, tr. Kaufmann (New York: Vintage, 1965), pp. 85, 223.

[2]           Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, tr. A.V. Miller (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), 479.

[3]           Schelling, Werke, Philosophy of Revelation, Vol. VI, ed. M. Schroter (Munich: C.H. Beck’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1959), pp. 691-724. Cf., for example: “John [is] the third Apostle, the apostle of the Future, of the Last Time, where Christianity has become the object of universal Knowledge … where it is first a truly revealed religion—not as a State-religion, not as a High-Church, but as a religion of the human race which possesses at the same time the highest Science (p. 720).”

[4]           What both the Catholic and Protestant Churches refer to as “The Great Tribulation Period” of the “end times,” can be correlated with what is otherwise known as the negative, nihilistic, “God is dead” period of Postmodernity—a time “when men’s hearts will fail them,” a universal time of “unbelief” and a “falling away of the Church,” a time which is to immediately precede the Second Coming and Millennial reign of Christ.

[5]           Schelling, Philosophy of Revelation; consider, e.g., the following: “The line of succession [is]: Peter, Paul, John. It is entirely in conformity with the historical course of revelation—(which can also be viewed differently)—to regard these three names as representing three periods of the Christian Church. … Peter is the lawgiver, the principle of Stability, the ground-layer; Paul is the principle of movement, development, of freedom in the Church; and John is the Apostle of the Future (p. 695). Protestantism should recognize that it is only a transition, a mediation, that it is something only in relation to what is still higher, which it has to mediate [namely, the perfected Church, that of John] (p. 713).”

[6]           Metaphysically, the True Affirmation or Third Potency, i.e., the union of the real and ideal, nature and spirit, body and mind; and theologically, heaven on earth.

[7]           Nietzsche. The Will to Power, tr. W. Kaufmann (New York: Vintage, 1968), pp. 3, 10 (#2,7).

[8]           Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, in The Portable Nietzsche (New York: Penguin Books, 1982), p. 125.

[9]           See The Will to Power, p. 536 (#1041), “My New Path to a ‘Yes’.”

[10]          Ibid., pp. 3, 319, 11.

[11]          I am grateful to Alan White for this tripartite classification of Nietzsche’s various types of nihilism. See his Within Nietzsche’s Labyrinth (New York: Routledge, 1990), Ch. 2, pp.15ff.

[12]          See Thus Spoke Zarathustra, “On the Three Metamorphoses,” pp. 137-139.

[13]          For an in-depth discussion of the left-wing Hegelian School see Edward Toews Hegelianism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980).

[14]          See The Will to Power, p. 13 (#12B).

[15]          The Antichristian in The Portable Nietzsche, p. 609, 606, 616.

[16]          Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, tr. A.V. Miller (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), 476. Also see Faith and Knowledge, tr. W. Cerf and H.S. Harris (Albany: SUNY Press, 1977), for example: “Good Friday [the absolute Passion] must be speculatively re-established in the whole truth and harshness of its God-forsakenness, etc. (p. 191).”

[17]          See Christ’s statement in John 17: “Father may they be one (echad) as we are one” (and 2Peter 1:4 as well). Hegel also states in several places that “the human and divine natures are the same” (e.g., in the Phenomenology, “Revealed Religion,” p. 471); also cf., p. 461: “God is attainable in pure speculative knowledge alone, etc.” And also compare Nietzsche’s remarks in the Antichrist, e.g.: “‘Sin’—any distance separating God and man—is abolished: precisely this is the ‘glad tidings.’”—And: “The ‘glad tidings’ are precisely that there are no longer any opposites [e.g. human and divine]. All of this is to say that the “death of God” in truth means that God is no longer “up there.” He died, that is, poured Himself out, passed over into (= kenosis) us [this is a “Level Three,” i.e. the highest and truest, interpretation of this “mystery”—the “Level One” understanding of God’s death on the cross, viz., that God’s Son “paid the price” for our sins as a “ransom” for us, though spiritually true, is deficient in that it leaves intact the old God “up there”]. In other words, God “changed His address.” See the Phenomenology: “The two worlds are reconciled and heaven is transplanted to the earth below “ (p. 355), and, at the end of “Morality,” “It is God appearing in the midst of those who know themselves in the form of pure knowing (Wissen)” (p. 409).—That is to say, the “transcendent” God has died—and has resurrected Himself in/as ourselves. Hence, the “Resurrection” (of the dead) is not a future event—but rather a present reality. Indeed, “eternal life,” the heart of the gospel, does not mean (in the primary sense) unending or interminable duration or existence, but instead “divine life” or the “Life of God Himself”—a life which is to be lived/experienced now, on the earth, in this life (see e.g., John 5:25—how otherwise can we do “greater works than He has done”?!). Hence, one is either “dead” or “alive.” The “dead” are those who are not living the Life of God—who are not totally alive—but living only the life of man (i.e., an impoverished, “half-life”).

For more on the Modern Period’s task of overcoming the separation of the Medieval’s two-world system resulting in “heaven on earth” see Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, tr. T.M. Knox (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975), section 360.

[18]          Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, tr. D.A. Cress (Cambridge: Hackett, 1993), p. 24.

[19]          Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, tr. N.K. Smith (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1965), p.87.

[20]          Ibid., p. 271.

[21]          Fichte, The Science of Knowledge, tr. Heath and Lachs (New York: Appleton-Century, 1970), (I, 501), p. 71 (emphasis added).

[22]          Schelling, Letters on Dogmatism and Criticism, in The Unconditional in Human Knowledge, tr. F. Marti (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1970), p. 159.

[23]          Hegel, Phenomenology, p. 476.

[24]          Ibid., p. 463.

[25]          See Edith Wyschogrod’s Saints and Postmodernism: Revisioning Moral Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990). This work is not only deeply sensitive to our plight and to the collective Task we all face, but also makes a significant contribution to realizing a “positive” postmodern moment of history—developing the insights of Deleuze, Lacan, Foucault and others.

[26]          Hegel, Phenomenology, p. 6.


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