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Hegel and Jungian Metaphysics

From the Donmeh Mail list
Wed, 14 Apr 1999

Hegel - original url
Prof. Tom Hickey and Yakov Leib

Yakov Leib writes in part:

The "transformation of God," as I pointed out in my last lecture, is a corollary to Jung's notion of the "continuing incarnation."  In fact, it is by the latter that the former takes place. In the words of Edward Edinger, Jung's "prophet" and chief exegete:

"As it gradually dawns on people, one by one, that the transformation of God is not just an interesting idea but is a living reality, it may begin to function as a new myth. Whoever recognizes this myth as his own personal reality will put his life in the service of this process. Such an individual offers himself as a vessel for the [continuing] incarnation of deity and thereby promotes the on-going transformation of God by giving Him human manifestation."
(The Creation of Consciousness, page 113.)

Prof. Hickey replies

As a historical fact in the history of Western thought, I believe it was Hegel who first put forward the position of ongoing Incarnation, based on a changing and dialectically evolving "notion" of the Absolute (God). Wissenschaft der Logik is the metaphysical underpinning, and Phenomenolgie des Geistes gives its the historical working out, which Hegel apparently believed to culminate in himself as the first person to comprehend the process of "Sein an sich under fur sich."

According to Hegel, while Being is eternally "in itself"  as Substance, only through subjectivity does substance become "for itself," and only in the comprehensive realization of the absolute identity of Substance and Subject is Being both "in and for itself." Hegel also sought to show the dialiactical progression of this realization in his lectures on the history of philosophy. Probably because he was essentially a Christian, he interpreted this in terms of a theology of Incarnation.

This Hegelian insight shaped European thinking perhaps more than Ango-American, despite the efforts of Bradley and McTaggart (and to a degree Whitehead also), but two the great American philosophers of this century, Paul Weiss and Charles Hartshorne, belong to the Process school.

So far it hasn't given much shape to the Western myth through, probably due to the dialectical reaction to Hegelianism in all its perceived forms by the anti-metaphysical attitude that still dominates the philosophical universe of discourse in the West - in Europe as the legacy of Husserl and Heidegger and in Ango-American thought as the legacy of Wittgenstein and the Cambridge school of logic and philosophy of language (e.g., Russell  and Moore). Similarly, as influential as Jung is among the avant-garde, the predominant psychiatric universe of discourse is still predominantly Freudian.

However, there is a strong undercurrent toward a more metaphysical approach in both philosophy (vide "the New Age") as well as in psychology (vide the Jungian and Transpersonal Schools), hearkening back to the Hegelian model but informed now by our greater knowledge of and appreciation for the Eastern traditions which are based more on inner experience than rationalism or empiricism. So it will be interesting to see what happens to the mainstream if this current gathers steam.

Peace and Love,

Yakov Leib replies

Hi Tom,
Yes, Jung frequently acknowledged his debt to Hegel, as well as other philosophers. There are many differences between them, however, not least of which is that while Hegel arrives at his proposition through "pure reason," Jung arrived at his though "direct experience." Moreover, the product, if you will, of Hegel's concern is a rationalization of the irrational, while that of Jung is a road map for its replication. In other words, while Hegel was interested in the idea of the "continuing incarnation," Jung experienced, explored and charted its process.


Prof. Hickey replies

Regarding spiritual experience, Hegel was well aware of the oceanic experience as described by Fichte, for instance, which he dismissed as "the night in which all cows are black," that is, as lacking comprehension - hence comprehensiveness. Hegel believed that his singular contribution to thought was to add rational comprehension to a genuine but not fully realized experience, which was necessary to Incarnation of Spirit in history. I don think that Hegel's view was that if anyone really "got" what he was doing, one would, like him, incorporate comprehensiveness. Of course, it is not possible to know what the level of anyone's actual experience might be, but Baba once said that Western philosophy professors were on the same level as most yogis in the Himalayas, even though they didn't act the part. So who knows where Hegel may or may not have been.

On the other hand, however comprehensive he thought himself to be, Hegel's view of Oriental metaphysics and history was decidedly deficient, in the first place because we was culturally biased, and secondly because good information/translations were not readily available in his time. Following a bit later when more information was at hand, Jung was perhaps the first to see not only the psychological importance of Eastern traditions but also its historical importance with respect to the unfolding of the comprehensiveness Hegel believed he had reached.

Moreover, Hegel underestimated the power of the dialectic to reach beyond and transcend the status quo, no matter how final it seems at any point. I think that there would have been much less of a dialectical reaction to Hegel historically if he had been a bit more humble.  Claiming to have reached the final solution invited attack. Since then, those associated with this historical trend have not been in the forefront.

While Hegel presented himself as a Rationalist par excellence in his emphasis on reason, he is actually viewed historically by many as a Romantic due to his introduction of non-rational (as opposed to the irrational) subject matter into logic and philosophy. Hegel's whole program is to give a comprehensive account of the unfolding of the life of Geist (Spirit), that is to say, the unconscious (non-rational) becoming more and more conscious until Spirit is fully Self-Conscious, and most importantly for Hegel, Spirit knows this fully, i.e., in its complete process of self-revelation to itself, both non-rationally in experience and rationally in the "notion."

Interesting, something very similar to this is the position of Adi Shankarachaya's Vedanta also, and I remember it being reiterated by Maharishi - although I certainly do not want to maintain that Hegel's experience, whatever it may have been, was on a par with that of Shankara. It can also be seen as the position of Mahayana and especially Yogachara Buddhism. (Interestingly, most Western thinkers have read Vedanta and Yogachara in pretty much the same terms as Western monisms like Helgel's, just looking at the model and not distinguishing among putative levels of awareness.)

A similar vision was introduced into Christianity through the Logos doctrine from the vantage of Neoplatonism, although it was certainly in John through the Kabbalah of the time. It found eloquent medieval expression in John Scotus Erigena, who very likely was writing on the basis of personal experience, and most recently through Teilhard's visionary elaboration of the Cosmic Parousia (comparable to the Kabbalistic "world to come") as the Incarnation of the Cosmic Christ (Messiah). Matthew Fox has founded a whole movement known as Creation Spirituality, for which we was excommunicated from the Roman Church, espousing a similar viewpoint. It may be that this is the way the Christian myth will develop in the future, since it is easily integrated into the esoterically interpreted myths of the other great traditions.

Being trained as a student of the history of philosophy, I view Jung's contribution more as a philosophical one (in terms of the dialectic of history) than a psychological one, although Jung's influence right now is primarily in the psychological field, if not academically, professionally, and his impact on what passes as philosophy is minimal.  Historically, I see Jung amplifying the Hegelian model to include a much deeper level of the non-rational than Hegel was able to see himself.  This is understandable, since his focus was primarily historical and I believe that his contribution to philosophical understanding of the working out of Spirit in history is unparalleled and still not well-appreciated.

Yakov Leib writes

One of the things I've often wondered about Hegel's dialectic is whether "thesis" and "antithesis" always result in "synthesis." A possible disproof of that, it seems to me, might be the gigantic failure of Marxist philosophy and economics, which was based in large part on Hegelian thinking.

Marxism and the Hegelian Dialectic

Prof. Hickey replies

Marxists failed to interpret Hegel's notion of the dialectic faithfully because they approached it ideologically, and we can't fault Hegel for their failings. Hegel's dialectic operates by analysis on the basis of intuition with reference to the logical core and hindsight with respect to its historical manifestation, whereas the Marxists used their version of the dialectic of thesis, antithesis, and projected synthesis as a predictive technique and were blind-sided by their own bias. There are a variety of kinds of "Hegelian" thinking. Hegel actually got this intuition from an insightful reading of the Greeks and he sees his comprehensive presentation as the Christian culmination of Greek noetics. Hegel considered his theology of Incarnation as the "end" of history, not the beginning of a new cycle, since the work of the Spirit in history is finished when comprehensive realization of Incarnation is gained. While Hegel thought he had plumbed the depths, Jung's work, for instance, shows that more is to be divulged by the Spirit to Itself in the course of Its historical manifestation.

German Philosophy and Kabbalah

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