Reflections on the Fate of Philosophy and The Church in the 21st Century (From: HEGEL AND THE SOLUTION …)

HEGEL AND THE SOLUTION TO OUR POSTMODERN WORLD CRISIS:
From Nihilism to Kingdom Come

Dr. Ken Foldes, Fulbright Scholar

2:      Reflections on the Fate of Philosophy and The Church in the 21st Century

Part I

HEGEL, POSTMODERNITY, AND GOD

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

2

REFLECTIONS ON THE FATE OF PHILOSOPHY AND THE CHURCH IN THE 21st CENTURY

The time of the true gospel of the reconciliation of the World with God is drawing near to the stage where the temporal and merely outward forms of Judeo-Christianity disintegrate and disappear.  F.W.J. Schelling

 

Will there be a “Millennium”? And will there be “Philosophy” in the 21st century?

This text is an effort to provoke discussion of what everyone will admit is the most important issue of our times but which, ironically, no one is willing to address, namely, Will there be a “Millennium”? And will there be “Philosophy” in the 21st century? I must say that at present I do not have all the answers, but I am open to suggestions and input. With this said, I will proceed.

Baynes and McCarthy say in After Philosophy: End or Transformation that all major philosophers today, including Habermas, Rorty, Derrida and Davidson, concede that Philosophy in the traditional sense is over. And thus by doing so they can be said to embrace what Schelling and Hegel, among others, have dubbed “Non-philosophy.” I offer that what this fact really testifies to is none other than the self-elimination of Non-philosophy—and, at the same time, the clearing of the ground for the renaissance and reemergence of True Philosophy, embodied most perfectly in Hegel’s System of Science. It is noteworthy that since the 60s the pace of the Hegel renaissance continues unabated; in the past twenty years more new books and articles on Hegel have been published than on any other major thinker past or present. As a Fordham Ph.D.’s doctoral thesis stated: “when all is said and done, the true measure of progress in Philosophy the last 100 years will be, How far we have gotten in understanding Hegel.”

It is vital first to understand that there are essentially two types of philosophy, as Rorty rightly tells us (perhaps his only contribution), “Philosophy” with an upper case “p” and “philosophy” with a lower case “p.” The former committed to Truth, Knowledge, and the comprehension of What is, the latter denying such to be possible and thus, as having “other concerns,” meriting the epithet “non-philosophy.”

As stated on other occasions, I hold that the real meaning of our 20th century crisis and “nihilism” is to create a desperate need for Truth, i.e. for real Philosophy, for what alone can address our crisis and by doing so force us to raise ourselves to the Truth, to the “Concept” and as well to a new Concept of God and the Millennium. The crisis of the 20th century, a century characterized by specialization, fragmentation, and social dismemberment, affects both religion and philosophy. After making its famous “linguistic turn,” Philosophy gradually became philosophy, it lost courage in the face of the ascendancy and absolute domination of the empirical or “applied” sciences and technology and withdrew into a small alcove in academia. We are also in crisis in that people can no longer relate to the old God and forms of worship and are seeking new religions. As John Robinson among others has said, “the average layperson is finding it harder and harder to take the old God seriously … if we don’t sever it from the old concepts, Christianity will perish.” There is need for healing and joy, for an abiding reconciliation with the present world and its forms (technology, arts, etc), which the Church seems unable to fulfill.

The point is that our contemporary pain, our emotional, psychological and spiritual dislocation and the assault of modern life on the person, has reached such proportions, that only the absolute Truth can suffice as the remedy. I would submit that not only Philosophy but the Church as well is being asked to rise up to what Schelling and others have called the third level of revelation and the final stage of Judeo-Christian history, viz. the “Church of John” or Kingdom Come. I would further submit, following Schelling, Hegel, Altizer, de Chardin and others, that in the next century the church as we know it today will no longer exist. Four key stages may be cited as indicators of the transition and transformation the church must undergo: that of 1) God—as traditionally understood, 2) No God (God is “dead”)—negative, 3) New God—positive, and 4) Beyond “God”—positive, the stage of Universal Knowledge.

Briefly, we are obviously in stage 2) right now, where belief in the old God upstairs is fast vanishing. However, because people cannot live without “God” or a link to the eternal and meaning, this “death” of the old God and the vacuum left is, as we said, forcing us to conceive the “new God” and move ahead to stage 3). The New God stage signifies the advent (i.e. beginning) of the Church of John/Kingdom Come, the total reconciliation or merging of God and man, earth and heaven, secular and sacred, time and eternity, finite and infinite. In our view, this will happen primarily as a result of true or absolute Science coming on the scene. That is, “Knowledge” will begin to be disseminated to humanity. First, the reunion of Philosophy and the “empirical sciences” will occur, and then science and religion will finally merge and, lastly, with all educational systems aligned to the Truth, all peoples will then be elevated into Knowledge. As a result, a fully enlightened world-consciousness or world-view (Anschauung) will emerge and be installed in history, much along the lines of the “noosphere” and “omega point” of Teilhard de Chardin. This Knowledge, moreover, will result in and make possible the total healing and empowerment of the human (divine) race, a race of fully alive people, as well as “the restitution of all things,” of man and nature/creation. Finally, in 4), the Beyond God stage, occurring at the end of the 21st or in a future century, there will be no need to use the word “God” anymore, since as Schelling says, then God will be fully actualized—as humanity. Total knowledge will cover the earth (cf., “as the waters cover the sea, so shall knowledge of Me cover the earth,” Isaiah). Indeed, at this time only Knowledge will be. There will be no need for philosophy or religion—for these only existed to lead the race into Knowledge.

What is the “Truth”?

As I said at the outset, Philosophy (with a capital “p”), what can alone save us, has as its preeminent concern, “truth,” i.e., its goal is, To Know The TRUTH. And, as also said, if it does not have this concern, it is not Philosophy and should appropriately be called “Non-philosophy.” In essence, I would offer that, following Hegel and others, The Truth first appeared in or as Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago (the Church, the communion, was intended to bring everyone into the Truth, in effect, as Jean Hyppolite said, to “replicate Christ”). Then in the Modern Period The Truth appeared when subjectivity or consciousness completed itself, preeminently in Hegel’s System of Science—”science” in the sense both of the knowledge of the Truth (of what Spirit, what We, are) and of the knowledge of the Whole, which can be said to be simply the becoming of Spirit or The Truth.

The Truth, in a word—perhaps crudely, but correctly, is that “We are God—nota bene, not “You are God” or “I am God,” but, “We are God”—or “God is us.” This clearly is the deathblow to “nihilism” (i.e., meaninglessness). As Hegel, Kant and Jesus say, Our True Self is the fount of Infinite Meaning and Infinite Value! — cf., “This is my Body, Take and eat,” i.e., on Fichte’s gloss, “become as I AM, become Me” (or become part of my Universality). Scientifically or conceptually expressed the Truth is the full awareness of the Identity of Opposites (as presented in the Science of Logic), i.e., of universal and individual, thought and being, infinite and finite, God and man, self and other, subjective and objective, necessity and freedom—most importantly, of certainty and Truth.

More concretely: The Truth is realized in our person—as Hegel says and demonstrates in the Phenomenology of Spirit—precisely by our overcoming our inveterate Dogmatism[1] and shifting to Criticism, i.e., to transcendental or absolute idealism, or “speculation,” from thing- and multiplicity-consciousness to I- and unity-consciousness. That is to say, by the transforming of consciousness (of an object/other) into self-consciousness, where certainty alone has become one’s object. That is, now one knows that Certainty is Being, is What Is, always is, and only is. One knows that “the Real (matter) is ideal and the Ideal (thought, awareness) is real.” As Aristotle and Aquinas suggested earlier: True Being and Unity are the same. This implies that matter and the entire physical extended universe has no True Being or = 0 [illustration: break a piece of chalk]—only the SELF has UNITY and hence BEING. Furthermore, this is not a doctrine of “egotism,” for the Self meant is a universal, intersubjective Self,[2] not a particular, empirical self, exclusive of other selves, as it involves “Spirit,” an “I that is We.” Thus, once one has completed one’s subjectivity and raised one’s own certainty to Truth and Objectivity via the Phenomenology[3] one is then established in the Truth, knows the Truth, and is alive in, and living with Science!—one has in effect coincided with God, has “put on” God’s [Christ’s] very own consciousness and is seated and rooted in the very center of All Being.

The key, which Hegel commentators and critics alike seem to miss, is recognition of the fact that there IS certainty—i.e., we at least have an initial present certainty, viz., I am certain, that I am, and am aware e.g. of this podium before me. All that is needed, then, is for this rudimentary certainty to increase. That is, for the certainty to gradually take the place of the Object (of consciousness). Again, even skeptics who deny certainty have to admit such certainty, that my certainty that a red patch is before me also gives me certainty of certainty![4]—certainty of the one who has the certainty of the red patch. Put differently, awareness of a world, necessarily implies awareness of awareness, of myself as aware of the world (hence, indisputably, “I AM” [See Schelling’s “Of the I as Principle of Philosophy,” sec. 1-7]). Also crucial for understanding his position is not only that the “self” for Hegel is simply another name for “certainty” but that certainty is identical with “thinking.” The goal of the Phenomenology is the awareness that certainty is all reality. As Hegel says, the Concept or absolute Knowing is “the knowledge that the activity of the self [i.e., thinking] within itself is all essence and all da-sein.” It should be said that with this kind of knowledge (or faith) one can, as Jesus said, “move mountains”—since one knows that a “mountain” is nothing, that one’s certainty of Self is everything. Further, one is no longer alienated or estranged from the universe, one knows not just that the universe is not cold, indifferent and “other” to oneself, that the Being of the universe = 0, that one’s being and consciousness is the sole end/purpose of the universe. Even more, one knows that one is and participates in the very mind of the universe (cf. “We have the mind of Christ, of God,” Philippians), that the universe is in truth one’s own Body (as Schelling and others have said). One is aware that one is the center of all, the raison d’etre of the universe. One has infinite significance; one is not alone in a meaningless, absurd, pointless, purposeless world. For one is Being per se! what is and eternally is (for one is [a participant of] elohim, of “I AM”). One knows of one’s immortality, one’s eternal, undying, limitless existence and Life. For one knows that all Being = Being-for-self, and that the Being of the world only equals a Being-for-an-other (the other being consciousness), that thus all apparent Being-in-itself (objectivity) really equals and counts for Being-for-self (as Kant also taught).

 

What happens to God’s “Transcendence”?

What we are saying then is that the true meaning of our time—and of the last century and a half—is that God has now become His community. -Something which Hegel makes dramatically clear in his Jena Philosophy and Phenomenology of Spirit. The old, distant “outside” God has “died”—the new, fully Present “inside” God now reigns or is about to reign. The Church of John has begun, is beginning and we are now entering into it. Much pain, dislocation, disorientation and shift in values, conceptions, etc, has been needed to bring us into it. As Hegel has said, “Ours is a birth-time … ,” one which involves pain and travail, i.e., necessary pain; but it is important to recognize that it is well worth it. For the result is a totally, healed, whole and empowered humanity, functioning at its fullest potential.[5]

That God has now become His community means both that God as transcendent has become immanent and that “transcendence” as such, as usually conceived, has been abolished; moreover, the true meaning of that abolition or “death,” as Nietzsche presaged, is “good news.” However, and this is vitally important, all that is desirable and of value in “transcendence” is not jettisoned but retained. This is because God is re-discovered in and as us, living in us in such a way that his transcendence and non-contingent status are not sacrificed but preserved. That is, I am not saying there is no such thing as transcendence at all, and all that this word connotes (e.g. eternity, apriority, necessity, noncontingency), rather I am saying that we need to overcome our Aristotelian-theological conception of the world which relegates the eternal and divine—the “ultimately significant”—to the supra-lunar heavens, and the contingent and perishable to the sublunar world. That is to say, indeed there is such a thing as “transcendence,” however, what we collectively have now to realize, and are being required to realize—and the sooner we realize it the faster will our recovery from our crisis and pain be—is that the true locus of “transcendence” (the eternal, holy, etc.) is to be understood as being within ourselves, (cf. “the kingdom of God is within you”), within our hearts (or self-consciousness)—something which also makes possible the transference or re-location of heaven to earth; and—what is absolutely crucial—in no other way will earth be transfigured into heaven and the great eschatological promises of the Bible be fulfilled. In other words, the eternal, universal, necessary and imperishable pertains in truth to our true consciousness and self, which alone of the things of the world is eternal. Furthermore, the unity of God and man is not an “oil and water” mixture but more of a fusion, an indissoluble unity—like a “blood transfusion,” i.e., our bloods are mingled and indistinguishable (cf. “drink my blood,” John, and “we partake of the divine nature,” II Peter 1:4). This must be made clear to laymen and philosopher alike—much work needs to be done in this area.

For those who insist on holding on to the old meaning of transcendence, the main point—which cannot be emphasized enough—is that after Kant and his disciples (after Reason’s intellectual labors in the Modern Period) it is no longer possible to occupy this standpoint. For as the idealists have conclusively demonstrated, “one cannot abstract from or think away one’s I or one’s thinking”—i.e., the thought of a being out of relation with thought (or consciousness), or which is not to be thought, is inconceivable, is nonsense or a non-thought: for all being is being related to consciousness (the principle of transcendental idealism). Thus in view of this incontrovertible fact one is absolutely forced to reconceive God (and the God-man/world relation), that is, to conceive Him in some kind of immanent way and immanent vocabulary. It is important to stress that it is not just that human reason is unable to conceive such a being or God, it being weak or finite. The very notion in question is self-contradictory! Thus there is no and can never be, a Being transcendent to us, to consciousness, to a self.

Now, one can take this in one of two ways: negatively and pessimistically, viz. that there is no God whatsoever; or positively and as an incredible revelation, a “Church of John” revelation, viz. that God is, but is to be conceived differently.[6] That is, God is not “far away” and inaccessible, but rather is with us, was here all along, and in us! One with ourselves and our consciousness (that is, of course potentially not actually or immediately; this is an important point which requires much clarification). Our big mistake was not to realize this sooner, was to place God outside us, removed from us; something which, moreover, as encouraging our preoccupation with unattainable “otherworldly things,” forced us to try to find happiness in finite things, which intensified our problem and suffering—for lasting happiness can only be found in an eternal not perishable object.

A Challenge to My Contemporaries

In 1987 I had a conversation with Quentin Lauer concerning, When will the kingdom of God or the Millennium advent on earth, and the evils and misery of the human race come to an end? Lauer’s answer was, “Never … That is, not on this side of heaven.” This is regrettable. It seems to be the view of the whole church[7] as well as of most Christian and Catholic thinkers. This view implies that the mess we are in, the pain and unfulfillment in the world, will always remain—only after death will things be different, that hence Christ’s words “Thy kingdom come … ” are untrue and vain.

To those among us who, au contraire, do believe that the kingdom or millennium will advent in time and history, the all-important question must be asked: How will it happen? There are only two possibilities: 1) from without, that is, God will do it, intervene in history—apart from man’s doings and contribution, or 2) from within, that is, We—with the Holy Spirit or Reason inside us—will effect it. If possibility 1) has been given up, which it seems it has (and rightly so), then only 2) remains. If this is so, then I must ask again: How will it happen? How will we, with the Holy Spirit, effect it? The crucial point is: if it can be done, and we do not bring it to pass, then our present condition of discord and unhappiness on earth will be the eternal order of the day—and, what is more, we will bear responsibility for this.

Our choice then is, either we do nothing, and eternal, continuing misery on earth remains, or we do something and there is truth and substance to the notion of “kingdom come” and the millennium—and, further, we summon all our powers and actually realize it. As I have been arguing, today we are being asked to rise into the Truth, into this new, true Concept of God and are being prepared precisely to undertake this all-crucial elevation. Indeed, it seems we must do it (via Faith or Science/Reason)—or perish. Again, the crucial reason why we cannot remain secure in our old posture, e.g., “I still believe in the Old, transcendent God upstairs, etc,” is precisely because we have passed through the Modern Period, and its changes and discoveries—and are no longer living in the Middle Ages or a still earlier period. That is, Kant and his disciples have proved that one cannot think and speak intelligibly of a “transcendent God” (Ding an sich) or conceive a Being out-of-relation with thought (I, consciousness). It is logically impossible.

Therefore, given this is the case, we cannot as Nietzsche forewarned, go back to an earlier standpoint—we must go forward: either to nihilism—i.e. there is no God at all (in keeping with the false belief that the only God possible is a transcendent one), or: God must be found within ourselves, as a Being (as Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel say) identical with our pure self-consciousness (I AM) or pure certainty of self. For Reason, when it undertakes a thorough-going analysis of itself, of the objects in relation to its consciousness, and when pushed to its limit, shows that consciousness necessarily objectifies itself or becomes the “objective” or “being” itself, that its only true object is really itself or its own certainty.

We thus have to go back to Hegel, i.e., go within and consult our own Reason, the Divinity within us, and master the Truth or the Concept and actually (as Heidegger said) realize the world that Hegel’s Philosophy points to and makes possible.—For it is obvious that the answer or antidote—what we need now (vis-a-vis nihilism and the impossibility of going back, or remaining where we are)—is not to be found in current forms of non-philosophy, i.e., in the writings of those who have thrown out the baby (the divine, eternal, universal, non-contingent, Meaning, etc.) with the bathwater (the traditional, transcendent concepts of God and Truth), and lack the sense or courage to engage Hegel seriously.

Therefore my challenge to my contemporaries is this: Given the fact that you cannot go back, or remain where you are (i.e., without God, Truth or Meaning) … What are you going to do? Your only options are: 1) to cling to your “faith” and not try to seek Truth or God with Reason (i.e. totally ignoring what happened in the Modern Period [in Kant and Hegel]) and go on “non-philosophizing” or rather cease altogether to do philosophy—perhaps take up another profession or hobby—in Hegel’s words, “if theologians know Spirit only as the negation of God, they not only forget the doctrine that man was created in the image of God, but emphatically forget the doctrine of the grace of God, of justification through Christ, and, above all, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, who leads the Church into all Truth, and abides forever in His church … [And] if there are theologians who cannot, by grasping them in thought, follow out such doctrines which undoubtedly have to do with the innermost depths of the Divine Essence, they ought in that case to let them alone … they ought therefore to acknowledge that they cannot comprehend it, and should not seek to criticize the comprehension of it.”[8] The disastrous result of this choice is that the unhappiness and unfulfillment of the human race remains (or is resolved only after death, à la Quentin Lauer and most Catholic thinkers); 2) cling to skepticism or nihilism (the choice of the vast majority of today’s post-modern post-philosophical “thinkers”); or 3) do all you can to assist in the birth of the New World—either, depending on your talents or preferences, in the area of Faith and the Church of John or Science-Philosophy—or inform others in your sphere of influence of these ideas, and at least help them to grasp the nature of our problem and point out the road that must be taken (diagnosis/prognosis)—i.e., make it easier for them even if you yourself cannot teach them or lead them into it.

Put in still other terms, your choice is: Either 1) give up God and religion altogether—become a nihilist or hedonist or epicurean—for you are being forced back into yourself in virtue of having the rug (former supports) pulled out from under you; Or 2) heed the Call, pull out all stops and actually do it—undertake the WORK required to realize Truth; throw yourself headlong into the Task and your Self—and realize, teach and proclaim the “New God” and the Millennium.

Conclusion

Thus I would offer that what is happening in the (cultural) world today is 1. The self-elimination of “non-philosophy”—preparing the way for True Philosophy and the Knowledge of the whole or Science—which will usher in, found and sustain the Millennium or Kingdom of God on earth; and 2. The merging of all fields of knowledge, the dissolving of boundaries between disciplines, and above all the coming together of religion and science. Indeed, we are witnessing the preparation for what Teilhard de Chardin called the advent of the noosphere—the world is becoming One Mind, One Consciousness, One Knowledge. As Isaiah said, “As the waters covered the earth, so will the earth be covered with the knowledge of Me,” i.e., all will have Knowledge of the Highest, will be “in on,” “hip” to the secret or Truth!

By the 21st century, we will have outgrown and seen through the charade of Non-philosophy and have given it up.—For, if there is Truth to be had, why bother with a “philosophy” which gives anything but. Moreover, as we all know and what has been abundantly shown in the literature, all non-philosophy, such as that of Derrida and Rorty, is self-refuting, is vulnerable to the charge of self-referential inconsistency—for in order to state their case, even to “say something” they are inevitably drawn back into Philosophy, i.e. they must make universal claims, which transcend language, culture and the historical moment—just what they deny to be possible. As for the fate of that brand of non-philosophy espoused by Davidson, Dummet, Putnam and others which aspires no higher than to vindicate a “theory of linguistic meaning,” thus renouncing the true knowledge of what is (leaving this task to the empirical sciences, the policy of all analysts), they do not address the need of the age, and thus leave nihilism, our number one problem and source of crisis, intact. Inevitably, they will have no audience. Philosophy, moreover, will have to re-connect to itself and integrate within itself the empirical sciences—and show how this can be done. The key to this is provided by the introductory sections of Hegel’s Encyclopedia of Science. As to how all this concretely will happen, Philosophers, one or more at least initially, will have to master the Concept or Absolute Knowledge and teach it, eventually on a global level—especially once it, i.e., Science, has been sanctioned and adopted into the educational systems of the world’s nations.

Furthermore, in the final stages of the world’s transformational process there will be no need for a Church—for the whole earth, including time, will have become sacred (as John McDermott hinted at his last appearance at St. Francis College). Finally, when humanity, in Fichte’s phrase, has been “translated into the Godhead itself,” when all will have been established in Knowledge, there will then be no need to use the word “God”—and no need to think of Him as a separate transcendent Being, apart from the world and us—which at once and necessarily (i.e. when “God” is pronounced and thus objectified) devalues the earth, makes existence merely secular, and installs alienation back into the world and man.

In conclusion: Either: 1) Man cannot attain Truth and Science—ever, and thus only faith is left to us; with the result that everything will continue the same as it is today—forever! Instead of “world without end” it will be “discontent without end” and Freud’s bleak prognosis for our civilization and its future will have proven true. Or: 2) He can. Because the record seems to indicate that he can why then should we bother any more with non-philosophy. In any case, we will not be happy—unfulfillment and discord will continue—unless we have Truth!

To those who can’t buy what has been said, I would ask: Do you have a better plan? What then is your vision of our future? How do you see the millennium or restitution of all things taking place? Or do you believe it never will. What say ye on these crucial issues?

 

NOTES

[1]               Or, a la Fichte, “thing-consciousness,” in which we habitually fixate on and attend to things, as to what alone is real and exists—rather than the I, pure self-consciousness, or the Concept—the invisible thing that alone is real or What is. Dogmatism is also the standpoint of Verstand or Reflection, which views thought or knowing as merely formal, lacking in content, and which to obtain must go outside itself, i.e., to sense things.

[2]               Cp., Christ’s words: “The Kingdom of God is among yourselves,” and “Where two or three are gathered there am I in their midst,” and “We participate in the divine nature.”

[3]               Henry Harris apparently misses this key point, for in his recent important work, Hegel’s Ladder, he states that Hegel denies that “absolute certainty” can be had, failing to grasp that the great conclusion of the Phenomenology is the equation of certainty with Truth.

[4]               The first step in the “theotic” process or movement.

[5]               See the Earliest System-Programme of German Idealism, by Schelling, Holderlin and Hegel, 1796.

[6]               Also, as Hegel says in his Philosophy of Religion, God must in true worship and religious consciousness must still be regarded as “objective” or “in and for Himself.” This aspect must not be sacrificed, otherwise a relapse into one-sided subjectivity is the outcome; i.e., there then becomes “nothing to worship,” no acknowledgment of a “higher being,” one is then occupied only with one’s finite, empirical subjectivity or self.

[7]               Certain Protestant sects excepted.

[8]               See Hegel’s Philosophy of Religion, Hegel goes on to quote Meister Eckhart approvingly, who “in speaking of this innermost element [i.e. the truth of Spirit, the point of fusion of God and man], says in one of his sermons the following: ‘The eye with which God sees me is the eye with which I see Him; my eye and His eye are one.’” Vol. I, 217-218, the Speirs and Sanderson translation.

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