|Philosophy of Religion
The Meaning of the Present Age:
ABSTRACT: I give reasons to believe that our present situation is not as bleak as some would have it. I show how the historical process can be understood in terms of a Premodernity (Aquinas), Modernity (Hegel), and Postmodernity (Nietzsche) division of human history. I argue that both Hegel and Nietzsche were fully aware that Modernity was over and that a negative Postmodern condition was to necessarily precede a consummatory positive one. Also since history may be taken to have reached its goal at the end of Modernity (with Reasons grasp of Christianitys principle), Postmodernity can best be understood in terms of its central task of elevating all humanity into absolute knowing (the knowing of the God within)an elevation via Reason and Faith achievable only by the abolition of the God outside, i.e., by a negative followed by a positive period of history, which Schelling refers to as the Church of John, a synthesis of Catholicism and Protestantism, the perfected Church.
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" the immediate consequence of mankinds intellectual advance, in the preceding period, viz., the Modern or Age of Reason, beyond the Middle Ages, the Age of Belief. With the apotheosis of the development of the principle of subjectivity in Modern philosophy, i.e., with the attainmeUnprioritized SDO meetingnt of "absolute knowing," or Reasons "knowing of the absolute," humanity had outgrown its former manner of relating to substance, the divine: its eyes opened, it could not go backwards but only forward. From the highest standpoint, it can be said that the movement of history is from the God "outside" to the God "inside" an inversion process involving three distinct and necessary phases: Premodernity, Modernity, and Postmodernity, to be correlated with Thomas Aquinas, Hegel, and Nietzsche, respectively.
It appears that as a result of Modernitys, i.e. Hegels, intellectual achievement in which religion was superseded by philosophy, i.e., Wissenschaft or Science religion had of necessity to undergo a major crisis.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 in no way 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 Schellings words, 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 disappear or "die." Furthermore, what Hegel underwent in the Phenomenology as an individual, humanity is to undergo 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 that Hegel and Nietzsche were both fully cognizant of the not one but two phases of history to follow Modernity, which can be named "negative and positive Postmodernity."
I will also contend that Nietzsche is to be regarded not only as the prophet of the negative, "death of God" phase of history, but also and most significantly, as a pioneer in the overcoming of the nihilistic stage of meaninglessness and thus as 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, it can be argued that the "God is dead" period is an essential ingredient of Christian history and revelation itself. After a brief description of Schellings eschatological account of the historical process I will discuss how first Nietzsches and then Hegels remarkable teachings make a vital contribution to the understanding of our present situation.
According to Schellings Philosophy of Revelation 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 alone is divine and He dwells in the beyond: "God is up there" and, thus, "outside us" this mandating 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 Schelling-Hegel. This period, known as Modernity, is informed by the higher revelation that "God is in us" a true union of all opposites, however, is yet to obtain. The "Church of John" is Schellings 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 informed 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 Schellings 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, mankinds 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/transcendence" phase.
In our view, this is precisely what the present global crisis with respect to values, beliefs and institutions is all about: namely, humanity is collectively engaged in the work of transforming "negative" into "positive" postmodernity, of giving birth to the final stage of world history. This is a work which can be viewed as the last stage in the education of our species. Moreover, this "new world" 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 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, then our situation is far from hopeless, the opinion of many commentators of todays scene.
"We of today stand between the no longer and the not yet. . . ."
Nietzsche had an uncanny gift for throwing much light on a complex issue through a well-honed aphorism. Indeed, he had a profound intuition, as well as diagnosis and prognosis, of the "postmodern" human predicament. In my view, 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 the history 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 ours, the painful period of the absence or "death" of God. 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 of all things, of the world and of ourselves. It is implied that the third stage is the goal of the whole process and thus that each stage is absolutely necessary, a sine qua non with respect to historys glorious finale.
Nietzsche is saying, in essence, 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:
Nihilism represents a pathological transitional stage (PP 13).
Thus nihilism as envisioned by Nietzsche is only an "intermediate" or "transitional" stage, one 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, in Schelling's language, to a higher potency (indeed our highest potency), which Nietzsche cryptically refers to as "Superman"; a condition where both God and man are aufgehoben (hence Nietzsche calls for the "death of man" no less than for the "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. Nietzsche characterizes the first stage of history, the Past, as that of "religious nihilism," or that of the "Camel," in the symbolism of Zarathustra; 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 this world (the earth, 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 as such to be without meaning, i.e., 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 the ages of 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, in order 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 "upstairs" and the Platonic-Christian-Moral value system it supported, when it is perceived that "God has died," the world as such is perceived 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 had always obtained. Further, the death of God or transcendence can be said to have come about with man's exit from the Middle Ages, the age of Aquinas and Faith, and entry into the age of Reason, Enlightenment and Science an event leading to the progressive secularization of experience and eventual disappearance of the "heavenly beyond," a result mainly of the influences of Hegels left-wing disciples, scientism-Darwinism, and Schopenhauerian pessimism. 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 existential pore."
What is important is that, according to Nietzsche, the solution for the conversion of the period of meaninglessness into one of total meaningfulnness lies simply in letting God die, and not resisting. That is, the world receives a negative valuation or is meaningless, only if we hold on to the old valuational system and the old God above. If we let it go, negate it, negate the negation, then the world does not have to be viewed as value or meaning-less. Let the old God die, Nietzsche insists, and the world becomes meaningful. However, since the word "God," in the last analysis, is 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 into Him and He into the world. Indeed, the Nietzschean "deification of Becoming" is one and the same with "Gods Kingdom fully come."
Lastly, that Nietzsche attacks not Jesus and his teachings but rather what the Church has made of them and him and here Walter Kaufmann is completely misleading is well attested in his Antichrist (as Thomas J.J. Altizer has also pointed out):
Thus, in this way Nietzsche is reconciled to Christianity, i.e., to true Christianity. In the end, he can be considered as not its destroyer but its fulfiller. He was in the last analysis simply 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 and negated the life/world: "affirmed," since the Christian is bound to live in the "corporeal" here and now, "negated," since his true home is not here but elsewhere. 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, that is, 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 be realized only with Christianity's disappearance! The Church was standing in its own way. This was Nietzsche's central insight.
"[It] is the painful feeling that God Himself is dead."
Thus, 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 dualisms involved in its form or "letter" and bring about the profound healing and self-actualization which is its purpose and raison detre. It is Reason which must intervene and assist Faith in its final Work. This was the central task and meaning of the Modern Period the period from Descartes to Hegel. In fact it was Descartes discovery of subjectivity and its consequences which led to the necessary demise of the Middle Ages "Other World," and to the necessary inversion of this Other World into the Actual World and the merely divine into the merely human. Most significantly, the great principle gradually dawned on Reason that one could not abstract from ones I, that one could not speak of an object even God apart from relation to a subject or an I.
In this section, however, we shall restrict ourselves to a single question: What does Hegel mean by the curious words, "God Himself is dead" which appear here in the penultimate chapter of the Phenomenology of Spirit? It can be said that the primary burden of this work is that of overcoming the subject-object split in consciousness by collapsing every "in itself" into self-consciousness or "Being for-itself," the result being a Self or Reason that knows itself as all reality, as I = I, i.e., "absolute knowing." Now since the last in-itself to be appropriated by the subject is the object of religious consciousness, viz., God, with absolute knowledge we find ourselves subjected to the crucial experience we spoke of above, determinative of the "negative" and "positive" phases of "post" history to follow Modernity. Namely, the experience of, on the one hand, the "death of the old upstairs God" and, on the other hand and at the same time, 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, which Hegel calls "The Concept," the selfsame non-opposition or identity of God and man which 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 "Revealed Religion" (i.e., Christianity), to wit: "The death of the [Mediator and the abstraction of the divine Being] is the painful feeling that God Himself is dead." As to the meaning of this phrase, Hegel goes on to tell us that, "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 . . . "I = I," a night which no longer . . . knows anything outside of itself. 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 and outside of ourselves; since this is the common or traditional way of viewing God, Gods negation is experienced by Christian consciousness as something extremely painful, as an inconsolable loss.
But, as Hegel also says elsewhere, infinite loss is counter-balanced by infinite gain. He continues: ". . . but this [feeling of loss] is at the same time the pure subjectivization of substance [God]. . . This knowing is the inbreathing of the Spirit whereby Substance becomes Subject. . . [that is] Self-consciousness." Thus, the negative moment directly gives rise to a positive moment "Substance has become Subject." That is to say, 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 total recovery of God, i.e., the discovery of God as a being inside oneself, indeed as oneself (i.e. ones universal, not particular, Self). As Hegel goes on to say: "the difference between its Self and [God is overcome]; and just as [Christian consciousness] is Subject, so also is it substance and hence it itself is 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 its birth and re-appearance ("trans-substantiation"of 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 Schellings "Church of John," a.k.a. "Kingdom Come."
This is precisely the meaning of "absolute knowing," viz., the knowledge that the subject and object (i.e., God) are one, that the object of consciousness is, at the same time, the object of self-consciousness. It also can be said that the "curse" upon humanity is rooted in none else than its inability to grasp (by Faith or Reason) the "identity of subjectivity and objectivity" principle whether by clinging one-sidedly to a subject or self which lacks objectivity, or to an object (above all God) which is not at the same time subject. Thus Hegel says, in full agreement with Nietzsche (and with Jesus Christ, one should add), that "[The contemporary Church] is still burdened with an unreconciled split into a here and a Beyond." What has to take place in order for Christian consciousness to overcome its "divided state," its "schizophrenia," i.e., the schism between its "immediate consciousness and its religious consciousness" and thereby advance to its complete consummation and goal (the Kingdom of God on Earth), is precisely the conversion of object or substance into subject, in other words, the completed experience of the death of God. As Hegel succinctly states in the Encyclopedia Logic (194): "In Christ the human race is redeemed and reconciled to God, . . . the antithesis of subjectivity and objectivity has been implicitly overcome, and it is our business to participate in this redemption by laying aside our immediate [one-sided] subjectivity . . . and learning to know God as our true and essential Self."
In conclusion, our two physicians Hegel and Nietzsche both agree and strongly recommend that humanity as a whole, to be fully liberated and cured, must let the old God diethat the new God, the "gods and goddesses" (elohim), may live. Nihilism and the death of God, therefore, turn out to be not our worst nightmare but instead our greatest blessing: they are the necessary precondition and "flip-side," so to speak, of Kingdom Come. It is precisely this, that is the "final lesson" of mankinds education. Our postmodern situation thus may not be hopeless. There is a real possibility that we are today undergoing a kind of global transformation or inversion and that humanity is indeed in the throes of giving birth to a new order of things (a "novus ordo seclorum"), to be founded on a new science and a new religion. This, I would like to submit, is the true meaning of the present age.
(1) Schelling, Werke, Philosophy of Revelation, Vol. VI, ed. M. Schroter (Munich: C.H. Becksche 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; my translation)."
(2) See Hegels Phenomenology of Spirit, tr. A.V. Miller (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 479: "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."
(3) 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 mens 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.
(4) 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 (p. 695)." "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; my translation)."
(5) Nietzsche, The Gay Science, tr. W. Kaufmann (New York: Vintage, 1968), PP 343, p. 279 (modified) and The Will to Power, tr. W. Kaufmann (New York: Vintage, 1968), PP 7, p. 10).
(6) See The Will to Power, p. 536 (PP 1041), "My New Path to a Yes."
(7) Ibid., pp. 3, 319, 11.
(8) See Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, in The Portable Nietzsche (New York: Penguin Books, 1982), p. 125: "The Superman is the meaning of the earth!"
(9) Compare Nietzsches remarks in The Gay Science (tr. W. Kaufmann, New York: Vintage, 1968, e.g., PP 125, p. 181): "Is not the greatness of this deed [the "murder" of God] too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?"
(10) I am indebted to Alan White for this tripartite classification of Nietzsches various types of nihilism. See his Within Nietzsches Labyrinth (New York: Routledge, 1990), Ch. 2, pp.15ff.
(11) See Thus Spoke Zarathustra, "On the Three Metamorphoses," pp. 137-139.
(12) For an in-depth discussion of the left-wing Hegelian School see Edward Toews Hegelianism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980).
(13) See The Will to Power, p. 13 (PP 12B).
(14) For more on the ultimate "deification of Becoming" see Schellings remarks in his 1810 "Stuttgart Seminars," translated by Thomas Pfau in Idealism and the End Game of Theory: Three Essays by F.W.J. Schelling (Albany: SUNY Press, 1994), p. 241-243, where he speaks of the goal and "greatest mystery" of all creation and history as none other than "the complete humanization of Godof which thus far only the beginnings have taken place." He goes on to characterize the third and final period of history thus: "The supreme purpose of creation has now been fulfilled: (a) God is now entirely actual, visibly corporeal, that is, A3/A2 = (A = B), (b) what was most inferior will have become the most superior, . . . only that everything which thus far had been implicit will now become explicit, (c) especially the mystery of mankind. In man the two utmost extremes have been connected . . . and humanity which had been deified by God become man [an allusion to Christ], is now deified both in a universal sense and by man in particular; and with man nature too becomes deified. . . Then God is in all actuality everything, and pantheism will have become true [cf., 1Cor 15:28]."
(15) See Thomas J.J. Altizer's important article, "Eternal Recurrence and Kingdom of God," in The New Nietzsche, edited by D. Allison (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1992) and also his The Gospel of Christian Atheism (The Westminster Press: Philadelphia, 1966), pp. 58-61.
(16) The Antichrist, in The Portable Nietzsche, p. 609, 606, 616 (modified).
(17) 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)."
(18) See Hegels Phenomenology: "Not until consciousness has given up hope of overcoming that alienation [of self and world] in an external, alien manner [cf., the Crusades], does it turn to itself . . . and to its own present world . . . thus taking the first step towards coming down out of the intellectual world [of the Middle Ages], or rather towards quickening the abstract element of that world with the actual Self (p. 488)."
(19) See Christs 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 Nietzsches remarks in the Antichrist, e.g.: "Sin any distance separating God and man is abolished: precisely this is the glad tidings" (PP 33) and: "The glad tidings are precisely that there are no longer any opposites [e.g. human and divine]" (PP 32). 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 (= kenosis), "passed over" into us [this is a "Level Three," i.e. the highest and truest interpretation of this "mystery"; the "Level One" understanding of Gods death on the cross, viz., that Gods 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 this is also revealed the true meaning of the "Last Supper," the "passover meal" or Eucharist, i.e., it signifies the utter "passing over" of God into man (i.e., the "death" of God)]. 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, "It is God appearing in the midst of those who know themselves in the form of pure knowing (Wissen)" (p. 409). For more on the Modern Periods task of overcoming the separation of the Medievals two-world system resulting in "heaven on earth" see Hegels Philosophy of Right, tr. T.M. Knox (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975), section 360.
(20) In the 1641 Meditations Reason began to realize this. Descartes there observes, for example, "[I once thought] that I clearly perceived . . . that certain things existed outside me . . . however on this point I was mistaken." Not only was it seen that a world or being existing independently of subjectivity could be reached by inference alone, but even that such a "being" was capable of so existing began to be called into question: 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 that seminal 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." 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)." Indeed Fichte, Kants disciple, came to insist not only can we not know the "thing in itself," it is impossible even to think it, it being a self-contradiction: "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 (I,501)." And Schelling, Fichtes 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 (I:287)." 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, Schellings disciple, particularly in the Phenomenology the proof of the impossibility of positing a being, an "in itself," outside of consciousness or thought. This necessarily results in the advent of an "I" which is absolute or all reality; i.e., in the death of man and the death of God (i.e., in the singular "Geist").
(21) Hegel, Phenomenology, p. 476.
(22) See the Philosophy of History, trans. by J. Sibree (New York: Dover, 1956), p.323.
(23) For further evidence that Schelling and Hegel were both aware of a "negative" to be followed by a "positive" period of postmodern history compare Schellings remarks in his 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 (Werke, 13:10)"; and Hegels words in the 1807 Phenomenologys Preface, to wit, "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. . . dissolving bit by bit the structure of its previous world, whose tottering state is only hinted at by isolated symptoms, etc." (also cf., p. 492, PP 808), as well as Hegels remarks to Baron dUxkull in 1817: "Logical knowledge has been brought to a close . . . only the arrogance of immaturity and one-sided Verstand can possibly stop the dawning day!" (from Franz Wiedmans Hegel).
(24) Hegel, Phenomenology, p. 463.
(25) See Hegels Phenomenology, p. 478: "But what enters [the contemporary Christians consciousness] as present, as the side of immediacy and existence, is the world which has still to await its transfiguration [= Verklarung; one should compare the late Heideggers concept of the "Clearing"also "Verklarung"with Hegels, i.e., what is implied here is that with the advance to "absolute knowing" the world becomes "transfigured," that is, we step into Heideggers "Clearing" and into the full manifestness of Being (= the parousia [or "second coming" a la the "Church"])]."
(26) Compare Christs word at John 10:34: "I said, You are gods and goddesses!" (Cf., Ps. 82,6).
(27) See Edith Wyschogrods Saints and Postmodernism: Revisioning Moral Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), a work not only sensitive to our common plight and to the Task we all face but which also makes a significant contribution to realizing a "positive" postmodern moment of history by expanding the insights of Deleuze, Foucault and Lacan.