The first period embraces a space of one thousand years — from Thales, 550 B.C., to Proclus, who died 485 A.D., and until the disappearance of pagan philosophy as an outward institution, 529 A.D. The second period extends to the sixteenth century, and thus again embraces a thousand years, to pass over which we must provide ourselves with seven-leagued boots. While Philosophy has hitherto found its place in the religion of the heathen, from this time on it has its sphere within the Christian world; for Arabians and Jews have only to be noticed in an external and historic way.
Through the Neo-Platonic philosophy we have come into quite familiar acquaintance with the Idea of Christianity, as the new religion which has entered into the world. For the Neo-Platonic philosophy has as its essential principle the fact that the Absolute is determined as spirit in a concrete way, that God is not a mere conception. Although the Absolute is Thought, it must, in order to be true, be concrete in itself and not abstract; in what we have just seen we have, then, the first appearance of the absolutely existent spirit. But in spite of their profound and true speculation, the Neo-Platonists still had not proved their doctrine that the Trinity is the truth, for there is lacking to it the form of inward necessity. The Neo-Platonists begin from the One that determines itself, that sets a limit to itself from which the determinate proceeds; this, however, is itself an immediate method of presentation, and it is this that makes such philosophers as Plotinus and Proclus so tiresome. Undoubtedly dialectic considerations enter in, in which the opposites which are conceived as absolute are shown to be null; but this dialectic is not methodical, but occurs only disconnectedly. The principle of retroversion and comprehension found with the Neo-Platonists is that of substantiality generally, but because subjectivity is lacking, this idea of Spirit is deficient in one moment, the moment of actuality, of the point which draws all moments into one, and which thereby becomes immediate unity, universality, and Being. To them spirit is thus not individual spirit; and this deficiency is made good through Christianity, in which spirit is found as actual, present spirit, immediately existent in the world here and now, and the absolute spirit is known in the immediate present as man.
In order to grasp and apply the Idea of Christianity, the philosophic Idea of which we have already spoken in connection with the Neo-Platonists must have been comprehended for itself; but within Christianity the basis of Philosophy is that in man has sprung up the consciousness of the truth, or of spirit in and for itself, and then that man requires to participate in this truth. Man must be qualified to have this truth present to him; he must further be convinced of this possibility. This is the absolute demand and necessity; the consciousness must be arrived at that this alone is true. The first point of interest in the Christian religion thus is that the content of the Idea should be revealed to man; more particularly that the unity of the divine and human nature should come to the consciousness of man, and that, indeed, on the one hand as an implicitly existent unity, and, on the other, in actuality as worship. The Christian life signifies that the culminating point of subjectivity is made familiar with this conception, the individual himself is laid claim to, is made worthy of attaining on his own account to this unity, which is to make himself worthy of the Spirit of God — Grace, as it is called — dwelling in him. Hence the doctrine of reconciliation is that God is known as reconciling Himself with the world, i.e. as we have seen in the Neo-Platonic philosophy, that He particularizes Himself and does not remain abstract. Not external nature alone, but the whole world pertains to the particular; above all must human individuality know itself in God. The interest of the subject is itself involved, and here it plays an essential rôle in order that God may be realized and may realize Himself in the consciousness of individuals who are spirit and implicitly free. Thus through the process these accomplish that reconciliation in themselves, actualize their freedom; that is to say, they attain to the consciousness of heaven upon earth, the elevation of man to God. Thus the true intellectual world is not a beyond, but the so-called finite is an element in it, and no division exists between this side and that. The real concrete in regard to the absolute Idea is the knowing of the mundane, the ‘other’ in God, as implicitly divine, as universal, as the world of intellect, as having its root in God, but only the root. In God man is accepted only in his truth, and not in his immediacy, and thus this doctrine is not what we call Pantheism, for that leaves the immediate just as it is. Man then has himself to accomplish the process of reconciliation in himself in order to attain to his truth. We have thus seen that man possesses the determination and attributes of God as the first begotten son, Adam Kadmon, the first man; we may call this unity the concrete Idea, which, however, is still only implicit.
But the fact that because man is capable of the divine, the identity of the divine and human nature must likewise be present for him, has in an immediate way become known to him in Christ, as one in whom the divine and human nature are implicitly one. In the world what has come to pass is that the Absolute has been revealed as the concrete, and, further, not only in thought in a general way as intelligible world, but because it has in itself proceeded to its ultimate point of intensity. Thus it is an actual self, an “I,” the absolute universal, the concrete universal, that is God; and also the absolute opposite of this determination, the clearly finite as it exists in space and time, but this finite determined in unity with the eternal as self. The Absolute comprehended as concrete, the unity of these two absolutely different determinations, is the true God; each of them is abstract, and either of them taken by itself is thus not the true God. The fact that the concrete is thus known to men in this perfection as God, brings about the whole revolution that has taken place in the world’s history. The Trinity is thereby not only present in conception, which would not yet constitute the perfect concrete, but actuality is perfectly united to it. In the consciousness of the world it has consequently broken in upon men that the Absolute has attained to this “culminating point” of immediate actuality, as Proclus says; and that is the manifestation of Christianity. The Greeks were anthropomorphic, their gods were humanly constituted; but the deficiency in them is that they were not anthropomorphic enough. Or rather the Greek religion is on the one hand too much, and, on the other hand, too little anthropomorphic — too much, because immediate qualities, forms, actions, are taken up into the divine; too little, because man is not divine as man, but only as a far-away form and not as ‘this,’ and subjective man.
Thus man reaches this truth, because for him it becomes a sure intuition that in Christ the λόγος has become Flesh. We thus first have man through this process attaining to spirituality, and in the second place we have man as Christ, in whom this original identity of both natures is known. Now since man really is this process of being the negation of the immediate, and from this negation attaining to himself — to a unity with God — he must consequently renounce his natural will, knowledge, and existence. This giving up of his natural existence is witnessed in Christ’s sufferings and death, and in His resurrection and elevation to the right hand of the Father. Christ became a perfect man, endured the lot of all men, death; as man He suffered, sacrificed Himself, gave up His natural existence, and thereby elevated Himself above it. In Him this process, this conversion of His other-being into spirit, and the necessity of pain in the renunciation of the natural man is witnessed; but this pain, the pain of feeling that God Himself is dead, is the starting point of holiness and of elevation to God. Thus what must come to pass in the subject — this process, this conversion of the finite — is known as implicitly accomplished in Christ. This constitutes the great leading Idea of Christianity.
From what has been said it follows, in the second place, that the world must not be left in its immediate naturalness. The original, implicitly existent, is found only in the strictest conception of mind, or as its determination: immediately, man is only a living being, who has indeed the capacity to become actual spirit — but spirit does not pertain to nature. Man is thus not by nature this particular in which the spirit of God lives and dwells: man is not by nature what he ought to be. The animal is by nature what it ought to be. But what has to be noticed in this respect is that natural things merely remain in their implicit Notion, or their truth does not enter into their sensuous life, for this their natural individuality is only a fleeting fact that cannot look back on itself. The misfortune in natural things is that they get no further, that their essential nature is not for itself and independent; from this it follows that they do not attain to infinitude, to liberation from their immediate individuality, i.e. they do not attain to freedom, but only remain in the necessity which is the connection of the “one” with an “other,” so that when this other unites itself to natural things, these last perish because they cannot bear the contradiction. But because the truth exists for man as consciousness, and in it he has the qualities necessary for freedom, he is capable of perceiving the Absolute, of placing himself in a relation to the same, and having knowledge as an end; and the liberation of mind depends on the fact that consciousness does not remain in its natural condition, but becomes spiritual, i.e. that for it the eternal, that is the reconciliation of the finite as this subject with the infinite, exists. Thus consciousness does not signify remaining in the sphere of nature, but the existence of the process whereby the universal becomes object or end to man. Man makes himself divine, but in a spiritual, that is to say not in an immediate way. In the ancient religions the divine is also united to the natural or human; but this unity is no reconciliation, but an immediate, undeveloped, and thus unspiritual unity, just because it is merely natural. But because mind is not natural but only that into which it makes itself, the spiritual is first met with in this very process of producing unity. To this spiritual unity pertains the negation of nature, of the flesh, as that in which man must not rest; for nature is from the beginning evil. Man is likewise naturally evil, for all the wickedness that man does proceeds from a natural desire. Now because man is in himself the image of God, but in existence is only natural, that which is implicit must be evolved, while the first natural condition must be abrogated. So much the more is it true that man first becomes spiritual, and attains to truth through rising above the natural, inasmuch as God Himself is a spirit only in that He transformed the hidden unity into the other of Himself, in order from this other to turn back again into Himself.
Now the fact that this is given as, or asserted to be the fundamental Idea of Christianity, implies on the one hand an historic question; at different times this idea has been grasped in different ways, and now, for example, men again have their particular conceptions of it. In order to bring about the conclusion that this is the historic idea of Christianity, we should have to enter upon an historic disquisition; but because we cannot deal with this here, we must accept it as an historic axiom. On the other hand, in so far as this question falls within the history of Philosophy, the assertion that this is the idea of Christianity has another ground to stand on than that of history, and this constitutes the third point of interest. In connection with the preceding forms it has been shown that this Idea of Christianity must have now come forth, and indeed become the universal consciousness of the nations. The fact that it has come forth as the world-religion, is the content of history; it is this necessity in the Idea which has to be expounded more clearly in the philosophy of history. To this end the conception of mind must be made fundamental, and it must now be shown that history is the process of mind itself, the revelation of itself from its first superficial, enshrouded consciousness, and the attainment of this standpoint of its free self-consciousness, in order that the absolute command of mind, “Know thyself,” may be fulfilled. The recognition of this necessity has been called the à priori construction of history; there is no good in decrying it as inadmissible, and indeed as arrogant. The development of history may be represented as contingent. Or, if the providence and government of God are seriously accepted, these are represented as though Christianity were so to speak ready made in the mind of God; then, when thrust into the world, it appears to be contingent. But the rationality and likewise the necessity of this decree of God’s has now to be considered, and this may be called a theodicy, a justification of God, i.e. a vindication of our Idea. It is a demonstration that, as I have just said, things have happened rationally in the world, and it implies the fact that the world-history represents the process of mind partially as the history of mind, which has to be reflected into itself in order to come to a consciousness of what it is. It is this which is shown forth in temporal history, and as history, indeed, just because mind is the living movement, proceeding from its immediate existence to beget revolutions in the world, as well as in individuals.
Since it is hereby presupposed that this Idea must necessarily become universal religion, there is, in the fourth place, present in it the source of a method of knowledge proper to the particular consciousness. That is to say, the new religion has made the intelligible world of Philosophy the world of common consciousness. Tertullian hence says: “Even children in our day have a knowledge of God, which the wisest men of antiquity alone attained to.” But in order that all may know the truth, this Idea must come to them as an object, not for the thinking, philosophic and cultured consciousness, but for the sensuous consciousness which still adheres to uncultured methods of regarding things. If this Idea were not to receive and to retain this form of outward consciousness, it would be a philosophy of the Christian religion; for the standpoint of Philosophy is the Idea in the form of the merely universal thought, and not the Idea as it is for the subject and directed to the subject. That through which this Idea appears as religion, belongs, however, to the history of religion, and this development of its form must here be passed over. Through these forms we must however not mistake the content, much less reject it altogether, for we must rather recognize its presence more completely; the forms must likewise not be held to be absolute, and we must not try to maintain the doctrines in this form alone, as was at one time done by an orthodoxy “of straw.”
Only one example will here be given. The so-called doctrine of original sin implies that our first parents have sinned, that this sin has thus descended to all mankind as an hereditary disorder, and has come upon posterity in an external way as something inherent in their nature, which does not pertain to freedom of the mind, nor has its ground therein. Through this original sin, it is further signified, man has drawn upon himself the wrath of God. Now if these forms be adhered to, we have in the first place there the first parents in time, and not in thought; but the thought of these first parents is none other than man as he is in and for himself. What is said of him as such, what every member of the human race really is in himself, is represented here in the form of the first man, Adam; and in this first man sin manifests itself as something contingent, or, more particularly, in his allowing himself to be enticed into eating of the apple. But it is again not merely represented that he simply partook of the fruit, but that he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; it is as man that he must partake of it, and not as beast. The fundamental characteristic, however, through which he distinguishes himself from the animal, is the very fact that he knows what good and evil are. For God likewise says, “Behold, Adam has become as one of us, to know good and evil.” But it is only through man’s having the power of thinking that he can make this distinction between good and evil; in thought alone is there thus the source of good and evil, but the healing of the evil which is brought about through thought is also there. The second point is that man is by nature evil and transmits the evil. On the other hand, it is said: “Why should the sinner suffer punishment seeing that there is no responsibility for what is inborn in him?” As a matter of fact the statement that man is implicitly or by nature evil would seem to be a hard saying. But if we set aside this hard saying, and do not speak of a divine punishment, but make use of milder general expressions, in this idea of original sin the fact remains for us that man as he is by nature is not what he ought to be before God, but has the power of becoming explicitly what he only is implicitly; and the fact that this rests in the determination of man as such is represented as inheritance. The abrogation of mere naturalness is known to us simply as education, and arises of itself; through education subjection is brought about, and with that a capacity for becoming good is developed. Now if this appears to come to pass very easily, we must recollect that it is of infinite importance that the reconciliation of the world with itself, the making good, is brought about through the simple method of education.
What concerns us now is to make the Principle of Christianity, which has been explained at considerable length, into the principle of the world; the task set before the world is to bring this absolute Idea within itself, to actualize it in itself, and thereby to reconcile itself to God. This task once more falls into three separate divisions.
In the first place we have the dissemination of the Christian religion and the bringing of it within the hearts of men; this, however, lies outside the limits of our consideration. The heart signifies the subjective man as ‘this,’ and through this principle the latter has a different position from before; it is essential that this subject should be present. The individual subject is the object of divine grace; each subject, or man as man, has on his own account an infinite value, is destined to partake of this spirit which must, as God, be born within the heart of every man. Man is determined for freedom, he is here recognized as implicitly free; this freedom is, however, at first only formal, because it remains within the principle of subjectivity.
The second point is that the principle of the Christian religion should be worked out for thought, and be taken up into thinking knowledge, and realized in this; and thus that it should attain to reconciliation, having the divine Idea within itself, and that the riches of thought and culture belonging to the philosophic Idea should become united to the Christian principle. For the philosophic Idea is the Idea of God, and thought has the absolute right of reconciliation, or the right to claim that the Christian principle should correspond with thought. The Fathers have rendered the service of thus elaborating the Christian religion in thinking knowledge; but neither have we to consider further this development of the Christian principle, since it belongs to the history of the Church. We have only here to give the point of view adopted regarding the relation of the Fathers to Philosophy. They for the most part lived within the ancient Roman world and in Latin culture, though the Byzantines likewise are included with them. We know that the Fathers were men of great philosophic culture, and that they introduced Philosophy, and more especially Neo-Platonic philosophy, into the Church; in this way they worked out a Christian system by which the first mode in which Christianity was manifested in the world was supplemented, for system was not present in this first manifestation. The Fathers have dealt with all questions respecting the nature of God, the freedom of man, the relationship to God — who is the objective — the origin of evil, and so on; and whatever thought decided regarding these questions was by them brought into and incorporated with the Christian system. The nature of spirit, the way of salvation, i.e. the various stages in the spiritualizing of the subject, his growth, the process of spirit, whereby it is spirit, the changes it has undergone, they have likewise treated in its freedom, and recognized its moments in the depths to which it reaches.
We may thus describe the attitude of the Christian Fathers, and likewise remark that this first philosophic development of the Christian principle has been looked on as a crime on their part, and it has been said that they have thus corrupted the purity of Christianity as originally manifested. We must speak of the nature of this corruption. It is well known that Luther in his Reformation made his aim the bringing of the Church back to the purity of its first estate in the early centuries, but this first condition already shows the fabric of an extensive and closely interwoven system, an elaborate tissue of doctrines regarding what God is and what is man’s relation to Him. Hence at the time of the Reformation no particular system was built up, but what was originally there was purified from later additions; it is a complicated erection, in which the most intricate pieces of workmanship are to be found. In modern times this elaborately woven system has been entirely pulled to pieces, because men have wished to bring Christianity back to the simple lines of the Word of God as found in the writings of the New Testament. Men have likewise given up the propagation of the system, the doctrine of Christianity as determined through the Idea and by the Idea, and have returned to the manner of its first appearance (and that, indeed, in eclectic fashion, and having regard to what will fit in with their own notions), so that now only the original Gospel narrative is regarded as forming the basis of Christianity. As regards the title of Philosophy and the Fathers to bring Philosophy into Christianity we have the following remarks to make.
Modern Theology on the one hand derives its formulas from the words of the Bible, which are made to form their basis, so that the whole business of the individual, as regards his thoughts and his conceptions, is merely exegetical; religion must be retained in its positive form, and thus it is from something received and given, something most evidently externally posited and revealed, that a beginning must be made. These words and this text are, however, of a nature such that they allow full latitude to the will of the interpreter; hence the other side is also present, or the application of the Bible saying: “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” This must be assented to, and the spirit means none else than the power which dwells within those who apply themselves to the letter in order that they may spiritually apprehend and animate it. This signifies that it is the conceptions which we bring along with us which have in the letter to give efficacy to themselves. Now these reflections brought along with us may be grasped by the most ordinary human understanding, which is what is indicated in modern times when we say that dogmas must be popular. In that way the right to act upon the letter with the spirit is assumed, i.e. the right to approach it with our individual judgment; but to the Fathers this is forbidden. They did act upon it with the Spirit; and it is expressly said that the Spirit dwells within the Church, directs, teaches, and illuminates it. The Fathers have hence a similar right to relate themselves with the Spirit to the positive, to what is given by the senses. Only it will depend absolutely upon what the nature of the Spirit is, for spirits are very different.
The assertion that the spirit must give life to the mere letter is certainly more definitely stated as that spirit has only to expound what is given, i.e. it must leave the actual sense of what is immediately contained in the words. We must, however, be far behind in culture if we do not see the fallacy in the attitude here adopted. To expound without the individual spirit, as though the sense were one entirely given, is impossible. To elucidate signifies to make clear, and it must be made clear to me; this can be done by nothing excepting what was already present in me. It must be in conformity with my subjective judgment, the necessities of my knowledge, of my apprehension, of my heart, &c.; thus only is it for me. We find what we look for, and just because I make it clear to myself, I make my conception, my thought, a factor in it; otherwise it is a dead and external thing, which is not present for me at all. It is hence very difficult to make clear to ourselves those foreign religions which lie far below our spiritual needs; but yet they touch a side of my spiritual necessities and standpoints, although it is but a dim and sensuous side. Thus when we talk of “making clear,” we conceal the real matter in a word; but if this word itself is made clear we find nothing in it but the fact that the spirit which is in man desires therein to recognize itself, and that it cannot know anything which does not rest in him. Thus have men made of the Bible what may be called a nose of wax. This man finds this thing, the other man that; what was secure now shows itself as insecure, because it is considered by the subjective spirit.
In this regard the nature of the text describing the method in which the first manifestation of Christianity took place, must be remarked upon; it cannot as yet expressly contain that which rests in the principle of Christianity, but only somewhat of an anticipation of what spirit is and will know as true. This also is expressly said in the text itself. Christ says: “If I depart, I will send the Comforter, the Holy Ghost…. He will guide you into all truth,” He — and not Christ’s earthly presence nor His spoken words. It was only to be after Him, and after His teaching through the text, that the Spirit was to come into the Apostles, and that they were to become full of the Spirit. It might almost be said that when Christianity is carried back to its first appearing, it is brought down to the level of unspirituality, for Christ Himself says that the Spirit will not come until He Himself has departed. In the text of the first manifestation of Christianity we, on the other hand, see Christ only as the Messiah, or under the more explicit designation of a mere teacher; for His friends and apostles He is a present man whom they can perceive by the senses, and who does not yet hold to them the relationship of the Holy Ghost. His friends have seen Him, heard His doctrine, seen His miracles, and have thereby been brought to believe in Him. But Christ Himself sternly rebukes those who demand miracles of Him; if He thus be made as God to man, God in the heart of man, He cannot have a sensuous and immediate presence. The Dalai-lama, in the form of a sensuous man, is God to the inhabitants of Thibet, but in the Christian principle, where God dwells in the hearts of men, He cannot be present to them in sensuous form.
The second point then is that the sensuous and present form must disappear, so that it may be taken into the Mnemosyne, into the realm of popular conception; then for the first time can the spiritual consciousness, the spiritual relation, enter in. To the question of whither Christ has gone, the answer is given, “He sits on the right hand of God,” which signifies that it is only now that God can be known as this concrete One, as the One who has the other moment, His Son (λόγος, σοφία), in Himself. Thus to know what is the principle of Christianity as truth, the truth of the Idea of spirit must be known as concrete spirit, and this is the form peculiar to the Fathers of the Church. With this the idea that the abstractly divine breaks up and has broken up within itself, first began to appear. This other moment in the divine must not, however, be grasped in the mode of an intelligible world, or, as we certainly have it in the ordinary conception, of a kingdom of heaven with many angels, who are also finite, limited, thus approaching closer to humanity. But it is not sufficient that the concrete moment should be known in God, for the further knowledge is requisite that Christ is an actual present man. This moment of Christ’s actual present humanity is of immense importance to Christianity, because it is the union of the most tremendous opposites. This higher conception could not have been present in the text, in the first manifestation; the greatness of the Idea could only come in later on, after the Spirit had perfected the Idea.
That the revelation of Christ has this significance is the belief of Christians, while the profane, immediate and direct significance of this history is that Christ was a mere prophet and met the fate of all the prophets in being misunderstood. But the fact that it has the significance given by us is known through the Spirit, for the Spirit is revealed in this history. This history is the Notion, the Idea of Spirit itself, and the world-history has in it found its end, which is in this immediate way to know the truth. It is therefore the Spirit which so comprehends that history, and at the time of Pentecost this is shown in an immediate and evident manner. For before this time the Apostles did not know the infinite significance of Christ; they did not yet know that this is the infinite history of God; they had believed in Him, but not yet as seeing in Him this infinite truth.
This is the truth which the Fathers developed; the general relation of the first Christian Church to Philosophy is hereby given. On the one hand, the philosophic Idea has been transplanted into this religion; on the other, this moment in the Idea — according to which the latter breaks up within itself into wisdom, the active Logos, the Son of God, &c., but yet in so doing remains in universality — has been brought to a culmination in subjectivity, and further in the sensuous immediate individuality and present existence of a human individual appearing in time and space. These two elements are essentially intermingled in this Christian system, the Idea itself, and secondly the form as it presents itself through its connection with a single individuality present in time and space. To the Fathers this history had thus the Idea as its principle; the true Idea of the Spirit was consequently to them likewise in the determinate form of history. But the Idea was not yet, as such, separated from history; because the Church thus held to this Idea in historic form, it determined the doctrines. This, then, is the general character of the time.
From this Idea as comprehended through the Spirit, many so-called heresies arose in the first centuries after Christ. Among such heretics must be included those of the Gnostics who take the Christian literature as their basis, but give a spiritual significance to everything therein present. For they did not remain at this historical form of the Idea of Spirit, since they interpreted the history and deprived it of its historical value. The reflections which they introduced are, as we have seen (Vol. II., pp. 396-399), to a greater or less extent such as are to be found in the philosophy of the Alexandrians or of Philo. In conformity with their principles they adopted a speculative attitude, but they proceeded into extravagances both of the imagination and morality, although in this dim fantastic region the elements which we found in history may always be recognized. But the form of immediate existence, an essential moment in Christ, is by them etherealized into a universal thought, so that the determination of the individual as a ‘this’ disappears. The Docetæ, for example, said that Christ had only a phantom body, a phantom life; yet in such assertions thought still constituted the background. The Gnostics were thus antagonistic to the Western Church, and, like Plotinus and the Neo-Platonists, this last strove hard against Gnosticism, because it remained in what is general, grasped the conception in the form of imagination, and because this conception was opposed to that of Christ in the Flesh (Χριστὸς ἐν σαρκί). The Church, on the contrary, held to the definite form of personality as the principle of concrete actuality.
From the East other forms of opposition in the principles than those we mentioned in connection with the Gnostics have been introduced, namely, Light and Darkness, Good and Evil. But more particularly has this Parsee opposition emerged in Manichæism, in which God, as the Light opposes the evil, non-existent (οὐκ ὄν), the ὕλη, the material, self-annihilating. Evil is that which contains contradiction in itself: the powers of evil (ὕλη), given over to themselves and raging in blind enmity against one another, were met by a gleam from the Kingdom of Light and thereby attracted, and this light pacified the powers of evil, so as to cause them to cease from strife and unite together in order to penetrate into the Kingdom of Light. As an inducement to make them so act, in order to weaken and mitigate their blind fury through a power operating irresistibly, and in order to bring about their final overthrow, and the universal supremacy of light, of life, of the soul, the Father of Light delivered over one of the powers of good. That is the world-soul (ψυχὴ ἁπάντων); it was swallowed up by the material, and this intermixture is the basis of the whole creation. Hence the soul is everywhere disseminated, and in the dead husk it is everywhere working and striving in man, the microcosm, as in the universe, the macrocosm, but with unequal power; for where beauty reveals itself, the Light-principle, the soul, obtains the mastery over matter, but in the ugly, the hateful, it is subordinate, and matter is the conqueror. This captive soul Mani likewise called the Son of Man — that is, of the primitive man, the heavenly man, of Adam Kadmon. But only a part of the Light-principle which was destined to strive with the Kingdom of Evil is in this manner delivered over; being too weak, it incurred the danger of being vanquished, and had to deliver over to matter a part of its armour, this soul. The part of the soul which had not suffered through such intermingling with matter, but had raised itself freely to heaven, works from above for the purification of the imprisoned souls, its kindred portions of light; and that is Jesus, the Son of Man, in so far as he has not suffered (ἀπαθής), as distinguished from the suffering Son of Man, the soul confined within the universe. But that delivering soul remains in the second and visible light which is still distinguished from the first and unapproachable, having its seat there, and by means of sun and moon exercising influence in the purification of nature. To Mani the whole course of the physical as of the spiritual world appears as a process of purification by means of this soul. The captive principle of Light required to be raised from the cycle of metempsychosis to an immediate re-union with the Kingdom of Light. Hence the pure heavenly soul came down to earth and appeared in the semblance of human form in order to reach to the suffering soul (to the νοῦς παθητικός of Aristotle?) a helping hand. The Manichæans also express themselves to the effect that God, the Good, goes forth, illumines, and thus produces an intelligible world. What comes third is Spirit as turning round, establishing the unity of the second and first, and experiencing feeling, and this feeling is Love. This heresy fully recognizes the Idea, but does away with the form of individual existence in which the Idea is presented in the Christian religion. The crucifixion of Christ is consequently taken as merely a semblance, as allegorical only, simply an image. That merely phantom crucifixion of the non-suffering Jesus, the fellow-suffering, only imaginary certainly, of the soul unmingled with matter, shows forth the actual suffering of the captive soul. Thus as the forces of Darkness could exercise no power over Christ, they must also show themselves powerless over the soul allied thereto. With the Manichæans originates the conception of a Jesus who is crucified in all the world and in the soul; the crucifixion of Christ thus mystically signifies only the wounds of our suffering souls. Through vegetation the particles of light were held fast, and thus held fast they were brought forth as plants. The earth becoming fruitful brings forth the suffering (patibilis) Jesus, who is the life and salvation of men and is crucified on every tree. The νοῦς which appeared in Jesus signifies all things. The Church has likewise made a principal point of asserting the unity of the divine and human nature. But because this unity in the Christian religion attained to conceiving consciousness, human nature was in its actuality taken as ‘this,’ and not merely in an allegorical or philosophic sense.
Now if, on the one hand, the essential matter with the orthodox Fathers who opposed themselves to these Gnostic speculations, is the fact that they held firmly to the definite form of an objectively conceived Christ, on the other hand they attacked the Arians and all that pertain to them; for these recognize the individual as manifested, but do not place the Person of Christ in connection with the separation, with the breaking up of the divine Idea. They took Christ to be a man, accorded to Him indeed a higher nature, not, however, making Him a moment of God, of Spirit itself. The Arians did not indeed go so far as the Socinians, who accepted Christ merely as a man of noble nature, a teacher, and so on; this sect hence did not form part of the Church at all, being simply heathen. But still the Arians, since they did not recognize God in Christ, did away with the idea of the Trinity, and consequently with the principle of all speculative philosophy. The according to Him of a higher nature is likewise a hollow mockery which cannot satisfy us; as against this the Fathers accordingly asserted the unity of the divine and human nature, which has come to consciousness in the individual members of the Church, and this is a point of fundamental importance. The Pelagians again, denied original sin, and maintained that man has by nature sufficient virtue and religion. But man should not be what he is by nature; he should be spiritual. And thus this doctrine is likewise excluded as heretical. Therefore the Church was ruled by Spirit, to enable it to hold to the determinations of the Idea, though always in the historic form. This is the philosophy of the Fathers; they produced the Church, as the developed Spirit required a developed doctrine, and nothing is so out of place as the endeavour or desire of some men of the present day to lead the Church back to her original form.
What follows thirdly is that the Idea permeates reality, is immanent therein, that not only is there a multitude of believing hearts, but that from the heart, just as the natural law rules over a sensuous world, a higher life of the world, a kingdom, is constituted — the reconciliation of God with Himself is accomplished in the world, and not as a heavenly kingdom that is beyond. This community is the kingdom of God upon earth in the Church; “Where two or three are gathered together in my name,” says Christ, “there am I in the midst of them.” The Idea is only for spirit, for subjective consciousness, in so far as it realizes itself in actuality, and thus it not only has to bring itself to perfection in the heart, but has to perfect itself also into a kingdom of actual consciousness. The Idea which man, self-consciousness, should recognize, must become altogether objective to him, so that he may truly apprehend himself as spirit and the Spirit, and then that he may be spiritual in a spiritual, and not in an emotional way. The first objectification is found in the first immediate consciousness of the Idea, where it appeared as an individual object, as the individual existence of a man. The second objectivity is the spiritual worship and communion extended to the Church. We might imagine a universal community of Love, a world of piety and holiness, a world of brotherly kindness, of innocent little lambs and pretty triflings with things spiritual, a divine republic, a heaven upon earth. But this is not supposed to come to pass on earth; that imagination is relegated to heaven, i.e. to some other place, that is to say, it is put off until death. Each living actuality directs his feelings, actions, and affairs in a very different way from this. On the appearance of Christianity it is first of all said: “My kingdom is not of this world;” but the realization has and ought to be in the present world. In other words the laws, customs, constitutions, and all that belongs to the actuality of spiritual consciousness should be rational. The kingdom of rational actuality is quite a different one, and must be organized and developed thinkingly and with understanding; the moment of the self-conscious freedom of the individual must maintain its rights against objective truth and objective command. This, then, is the true and actual objectivity of mind in the form of an actual temporal existence as state, just as Philosophy is the objectivity of thought which comes to us in the form of universality. Such objectivity cannot be in the beginning, but must come forth after being worked upon by mind and thought.
In Christianity these absolute claims of the intellectual world and of spirit had become the universal consciousness. Christianity proceeded from Judaism, from self-conscious abjectness and depression. This feeling of nothingness has from the beginning characterized the Jews; a sense of desolation, an abjectness where no reason was, has possession of their life and consciousness. This single point has later on, and in its proper time, become a matter of universal history, and into this element of the nullity of actuality the whole world has raised itself, passing out of this principle indeed, but also into the kingdom of Thought, because that nothingness has transformed itself into what is positively reconciled. This is a second creation which came to pass after the first; in it Mind became aware of itself as I = I, that is, as self-consciousness. This second creation has first of all appeared in self-consciousness equally directly in the form of a sensuous world, in the form of a sensuous consciousness. As much of the Notion as has entered in was adopted by the Fathers from the philosophers already mentioned; their Trinity, in so far as a rational thought, and not a mere ordinary conception, comes from these, and certain other ideas also. But what mainly distinguishes them is the fact that for the Christian this intelligible world had likewise this immediate sensuous truth of an ordinary course of events — a form which it must have and retain for the majority of men.
3. This new world has therefore, however, to be adopted by a new race of men, by Barbarians; for it is characteristic of barbarians to apprehend the spiritual in a sensuous way. And it must be by northern barbarians, for it is the northern self-containedness alone that is the immediate principle of this new world-consciousness. With this self-consciousness of the intelligible world as a world immediately actual, mind, having regard to what it has in itself become, is higher than before, but, on the other side, in respect of its consciousness it is thrown quite back to the beginning of culture, and this consciousness had to commence from the beginning again. What it had to overcome was on the one hand this sensuous immediacy of its intelligible world, and secondly the opposed sensuous immediacy of actuality, by its consciousness held as null. It excludes the sun, replaces it with tapers, is furnished with images merely; it is in itself alone, and inward, not reconciled for consciousness — to self-consciousness a sinful, wicked world is present. For the intelligible world of Philosophy had not yet completed in itself the task of making itself the actual world — of recognizing the intelligible in the actual, as well as the actual in the intelligible. It is one thing to have the Idea of Philosophy, to recognize absolute essence as absolute essence, and quite another thing to recognize it as the system of the universe, of nature, and of individual self-consciousness, as the whole development of its reality. The Neo-Platonists had found that principle of realization — namely, this real substance which again places itself in quite opposed, though in themselves real determinations — but having got so far they did not find the form, the principle of self-consciousness.
On the Teutonic nations the world-spirit imposed the task of developing an embryo into the form of the thinking man. What comes first is the mind as apprehended, and to that is opposed the subjectivity of will which has not been taken up into mind; the kingdom of truth and that of the world are bound together and at the same time evidently divided. An intelligible world has thus in the conception of men established itself in the mode of this same actuality, like a far-away land that is just as really conceived of by us, peopled and inhabited, as the world we see, but which is hidden from us as though by a mountain. It is not the Greek or any other world of gods and of mythology — a simple, undivided faith; for there is likewise present in it the highest negativity, that is, the contradiction between actuality and that other world. This intellectual world expresses the nature of real absolute existence. It is on it that Philosophy tries its powers, and on it that thought also moils and toils. We have in general outline to deal with these not very pleasing manifestations.
Our first view of Philosophy, as revealed in Christianity (pp. 10-21) is that of a dim groping which is carried on within the depths of the Idea — as being the forms assumed by the same, which constitute its moments; we see a hard struggle made by reason, which cannot force its way out of the imagination and popular conceptions to the Notion. There is no venture too rash for the imagination to undertake, because, impelled by reason, it cannot satisfy itself with beautiful images, but has to pass beyond them. There is likewise no extravagance of reason into which it does not fall, because it cannot obtain the mastery of the image, but within this element is merely in the act of warfare with it. Later on than this Western self-immersion, there arose in the East expansion, negation of all that is concrete, abstraction from all determinations; this pure contemplation or pure thought present in Mohammedanism corresponds to the Christian descent into self. Within Christianity itself, however, the intellectual world is set in opposition to that first Cabalistic principle; in it pure conceptions rule which constitute the ideas present in thought, and with this we enter upon the Scholastic philosophy. Philosophy, like the arts and sciences, when, through the rule of the Barbarians of Germany, they became dumb and lifeless, took refuge with the Arabians, and there attained a wonderful development; they were the first sources from which the West obtained assistance. Through the presupposition of the immediately present and accepted truth, thought had lost its freedom and the truth its presence in conceiving consciousness; and philosophy sank into a metaphysics of the understanding and into a formal dialectic. We have thus in this period first of all to consider philosophy in the East, and secondly in the West; that is, the philosophy of the Arabians first, and subsequently the philosophy of the Schools. The Schoolmen are the principal figures in this period; they represent European philosophy in the European Middle Ages. The third stage is the dissolution of what is upheld in the scholastic philosophy; new meteor-like apparitions are now seen, which precede the third period, the genuine revival of free Philosophy.
In the West the Germanic tribes had obtained possession of what had hitherto formed a section of the Roman Empire, and their conquests were attaining to shape and solidity, when another religion dawned in the East, namely the Mohammedan. The East purified itself of all that was individual and definite, while the West descended into the depths and actual presence of spirit. As quickly as the Arabians with their fanaticism spread themselves over the Eastern and the Western world, so quickly were the various stages of culture passed through by them, and very shortly they advanced in culture much farther than the West. For in Mohammedanism, which quickly reached its culminating point, both as regards external power and dominion and also spiritual development, Philosophy, along with all the other arts and sciences, flourished to an extraordinary degree, in spite of its here not displaying any specially characteristic features. Philosophy was fostered and cherished among the Arabians; the philosophy of the Arabians must therefore be mentioned in the history of Philosophy. What we have to say, however, chiefly concerns the external preservation and propagation of Philosophy. The Arabians became acquainted with Greek philosophy mainly through the medium of the Syrians in Western Asia, who had imbibed Greek culture, and who were under the Arabian sway. In Syria, which formed a Greek kingdom, at Antioch, especially in Berytus and Edessa, there were great institutes of learning; and thus the Syrians constituted the connecting link between Greek philosophy and the Arabians. Syrian was the language of the people even in Bagdad.
Moses Maimonides, a learned Jew, gives further historical particulars in his Doctor Perplexorum of this transition of Philosophy to the Arabians. He says: “All that the Ishmaelites have written of the unity of God and other philosophic dogmas” — especially the sect of the Muatzali (מעתוזלה, i.e. the Separated), who were the first to take an interest in the abstract intellectual knowledge of such subjects, while the sect Assaria (האשערייה) arose later — “is based upon arguments and propositions which have been taken from the books of the Greeks and Aramæans” (Syrians), “who strove to refute and deny the teachings of the philosophers.” The cause of this is as follows: The Christian community came to include within it these nations also, and the Christians defended many dogmas which were contradictory of philosophic tenets; among these nations, however, the teachings of philosophers were very widely and generally diffused (for with them Philosophy had its origin), and kings arose who adopted the Christian religion. The Christian Greeks and learned Aramæans, therefore, when they perceived that their doctrines were so clearly and plainly refuted by the philosophers, thought out a wisdom of their own, the “Wisdom of the Words” (Devarim), and they themselves received on that account the name of the Speakers (Medabberim, מִדַבְרִים). They set up principles which served the purpose both of confirming their faith and of refuting the opposite teaching of the philosophers. When the Ishmaelites followed and attained supremacy, and the books of the philosophers themselves fell into their hands, and along with them the answers which “Christian Greeks and Aramæans had written against the philosophic books, as for instance the writings of Johannes Grammaticus, Aben Adi, and others, they eagerly laid hold of these and adopted them bodily.” Christians and Ishmaelites felt the same need of philosophy; the Ishmaelites, moreover, strove all the more eagerly after knowledge of this kind, because their first desire was to defend Mohammedanism against Christianity, which was the religion of a large proportion of the nations they had conquered.
The external sequence of events is this. Syriac versions of Greek works were to be had, and these were now translated into Arabic by the Arabians; or translations were made from the Greek directly into Arabic. In the reign of Harun al-Raschid several Syrians are named who lived in Bagdad, and who had been called upon by the Caliphs to translate these works into Arabic. They were the first scientific teachers among the Arabians, and were chiefly physicians; hence the works they translated were on medicine. Among these translators was Johannes Mesue of Damascus, who lived in the reigns of Al-Raschid (d. A.D. 786), Al-Mamun (d. A.D. 833) and Al-Motawakkil (d. A.D. 847), rather earlier than the rise of the Turks to supremacy (A.D. 862); he was a hospital superintendent in Bagdad. Al-Raschid appointed him to make translations from Syriac into Arabic; he opened a public school for the study of medicine and all the sciences then known. Honain was a Christian, as was also his master Johannes, and belonged to the Arab tribe Ebadi; he applied himself to the study of Greek, and made a number of translations into Arabic, and also into Syriac, for example, Nicolaus De summa philosophiæ Aristotelicæ, Ptolemy, Hippocrate and Galen. Another is Ebn Adda, an eminent dialectician, who is quoted by Abulfaraj. Among the works of the Greek philosophers it was almost exclusively the writings of Aristotle which were translated by these Syrians, and the later commentaries on the same. It was thus not the Arabians themselves who translated the above works.
In the Arabic philosophy, which shows a free, brilliant and profound power of imagination, Philosophy and the sciences took the same bent that they had taken earlier among the Greeks. Plato with his Ideas or universals laid the foundation of the independent world of intellect, and established absolute existence as an existence which is manifestly present in the mode of thought; Aristotle developed, completed and peopled the realm of thought; the Neo-Platonic philosophy reached the further conception of the intelligible world as Idea of the existence which is independent in itself, of spirit; and then this first Idea, which we have already met with in connection with Proclus, passed over into a similar Aristotelian development and completion. Consequently it is the Alexandrian or Neo-Platonic Idea which forms the essential principle or basis of the Arabian as well as the Scholastic philosophy, and all that Christian philosophy offers; it is on it that the determinations of the Notion expend their strength, and around this that they career. A particular description of Arabian philosophy has in some parts but little interest; in other parts it will be found that the main dogmas of this philosophy have much in common with those of the Scholastics.
We may say of the Arabians that their philosophy constitutes no characteristic stage in the development of philosophy. The principal points in this, as in the later philosophy, were the question whether the world is eternal, and the task of proving the unity of God and similar dogmas. One great consideration in all this, however, was to defend the doctrines of Mohammedanism, and owing to this all philosophizing had to be carried on within the limits of these doctrines. The Arabians, like the Christians of the West, were restricted by the dogmas of their Church (if one may call it so), few though these dogmas were; yet this last circumstance of the small number of the dogmas certainly gave them greater liberty. But according to all that we know of them, they established no principle of self-conscious reason that was truly higher, and thus they brought Philosophy no further. They have no other principle than that of revelation, therefore only a principle that is external.
The Medabberim are specially mentioned by Moses Maimonides as a widely extended philosophic school or sect of considerable eminence. He speaks (More Nevochim, P. I. c. 71, pp. 134, 135) of the peculiarity of their method of philosophy somewhat as follows: “The Ishmaelites, however, have extended their discourses still further, and have aspired to other wonderful doctrines, of which none of the Greek Medabberim knew anything, because they were still on some points in agreement with the philosophers. The main point to be remarked is that all the Medabberim, whether among the Greeks who had become Christians, or among the Ishmaelites, in the building up of their principles did not follow the nature of the matter itself, or draw their arguments from it, but only had in view how the subject must be regarded in order to support their assertion, or at least not to refute it altogether: afterwards they boldly asserted that these were the circumstances of the case, and adduced further arguments and maxims in support of their object. They insisted on that, and that alone, which concurred with their opinions, even though it were in the most remote degree, through a hundred links of reasoning. The earliest of their learned men adopted this practice, though professing that they reached these reflections through speculation alone, without reference to any preconceived opinion. Their successors did not follow their example,” &c.
In the pure philosophy of the so-called “Speakers” was expressed the principle, peculiar to the Oriental mind, of the dissolution of definite thought in all its consequences as the dissolution of all connection and relation. Maimonides says (P. I. c. 71, p. 135; c. 73, p. 149): “The ground-principle of the Medabberim is that men can have no certain knowledge of the nature of things, because in the understanding the contrary may ever exist and be thought. Besides this they in the majority of instances confound imagination with understanding, and give to the former the name of the latter. They adopted as a principle, atoms and empty space,” where all connection appears as something contingent. “Production is nothing but a connection of atoms, and decay nothing but a separation of the same; and time consists of many ‘nows.’” In this way nothing but the atom really exists. They have thus in the more advanced cultivation of thought brought to consciousness the main standpoint, then as now the standpoint of the Orientals — that of substance, the one substance. This pantheism, or Spinozism, if you like to call it so, is thus the universal view of Oriental poets, historians and philosophers.
The Medabberim go on to say: “Substances, i.e. individuals, which,” for the rest, “are created by God, have many accidental qualities, as in snow every particle is white. But no quality can endure for two moments; as it comes, it goes again, and God creates another and yet another in its place.” All determinations are thus fleeting or perishable; the individual alone is permanent. “If it pleases God to create another quality in a substance, it continues; but if He ceases to create, the substance perishes.” Thereby all necessary connection is done away with, so that Nature has no meaning. “They therefore deny that anything exists by nature, likewise that the nature of this or that body necessitates that it should have certain qualities rather than others. But they say that God creates all qualities instantaneously, without natural means and without the help of anything else.” General permanence is substance, and the particular is altered every moment, and so exists through the substance. “According to this principle they say, for instance, that when we think we have dyed a garment red with red dye we have not dyed it red at all; for God created the red colour in the garment at the very moment at which we thought we had brought about the result with the red dye. God observes the invariable custom of not permitting that the colour black should be produced except when the garment is dyed with that hue; and the first colour which comes to pass on the occasion of the connection is not permanent, but disappears on the instant, and every moment another appears which is created in its turn. In the same way knowledge also is an accident, which is created by God at every moment that I know anything; to-day we no longer possess the knowledge which we yesterday possessed. A man,” when writing, “does not move the pen when he thinks he moves it, but the motion is an accident of the pen, created by God at the moment.” In this way God alone is in truth the operative cause; but He might have made everything differently. “Their eighth proposition is to the effect that nothing but substance or accident exists, and natural forms are themselves accidents; substances alone are individuals. The ninth proposition is that accidents have nothing to do with one another; they have no causal connection or other relation; in every substance all accidents may exist. The tenth proposition is transition (אִפִשָׁרות, transitus, possibilitas):” “All that we can fancy may also pass over into the understanding, i.e. be possible. But in this way everything is possible,” since there are no laws of the understanding; this transition of thought is thus perfectly accidental. “A man as large as a mountain, a flea as large as an elephant, are possible. Everything may just as well be something else as what it is, and there is no reason at all why anything should be one way rather than another. They term it a mere habit that the earth revolves round a centre-point, that fire moves upward and that it is hot; it is just as possible, they say, that fire should be cold.”
We thus see an utter inconstancy of everything; and this whirl of all things is essentially Oriental. But at the same time this is certainly also a complete dissolution of all that pertains to reasonableness, in harmony of course with Eastern exaltation of spirit, which allows of nothing definite. God is in Himself the perfectly undefined, His activity is altogether abstract, and hence the particulars produced thereby are perfectly contingent; if we speak of the necessity of things, the term is meaningless and incomprehensible, and no attempt should be made to comprehend it. The activity of God is thus represented as perfectly devoid of reason. This abstract negativity, combined with the permanent unity, is thus a fundamental conception in the Oriental way of looking at things. Oriental poets are in a marked degree pantheists; the pantheistic is their ordinary point of view. Thus the Arabians developed the sciences and philosophy, without further defining the concrete Idea; their work is rather the dissolution of all that is definite in this substance, with which is associated mere changeableness as the abstract moment of negativity.
The Arabians, moreover, made a point for the most part of studying the writings of Aristotle very diligently, and of availing themselves more especially both of his metaphysical and logical writings, and also of his Physics; they occupied themselves particularly with multiplying commentaries on Aristotle, and developing still further the abstract logical element there present. Many of these commentaries are still extant. Works of this kind are known in the West, and have been even translated into Latin and printed; but much good is not to be got from them. The Arabians developed the metaphysics of the understanding and a formal logic. Some of the famous Arabians lived as early as the eighth and ninth centuries; their progress was therefore very rapid, for the West had as yet made very little advance in culture.
Alkendi, who wrote a commentary on the Logic, flourished in and about A.D. 800, under Almamun. Alfarabi died in 966; he wrote commentaries on Aristotle’s Organon, which were made diligent use of by the Scholastics, and was also author of a work “On the Origin and Division of the Sciences.” It is related of him that he read through Aristotle’s treatise On Hearing forty times, and his Rhetoric two hundred times, without getting at all tired of them; he must have had a good stomach. The very physicians made a study of philosophy, and formulated theories; among them was Avicenna (b. A.D. 984, d. A.D. 1064), who belonged to Bokhara, to the east of the Caspian Sea; he wrote a commentary on Aristotle. Algazel (d. A.D. 1127 at Bagdad) wrote compendiums of logic and metaphysics; he was a sceptic of great ability, with a powerful mind of the Oriental cast; he held the words of the Prophet to be pure truth, and wrote Destructio Philosophorum. Tofail died in Seville in A.D. 1193. Averroës, who died A.D. 1217, was specially distinguished as the commentator of Aristotle.
The acquaintance of the Arabians with Aristotle has this interest in history that it was thus that Aristotle first became known also in the West. The commentaries on Aristotle and the collections of passages from his writings become thus for the Western world a fountain of philosophy. Western nations long knew nothing of Aristotle, excepting through such retranslations of his works and translations of Arabian commentaries on them. For such translations were made from Arabic into Latin by Spanish Arabs, and especially by Jews in the south of Spain and Portugal and in Africa; there was often even a Hebrew translation between.
With the Arabians are closely connected the Jewish philosophers, among whom the above-mentioned Moses Maimonides held a distinguished place. He was born at Cordova, in Spain, A.D. 1131 (Anno Mundi 4891, or, according to others, 4895), and lived in Egypt. Besides More Nevochim, which has been translated into Latin, he composed other works; of him and other Jews much more of a literary character might be said. In their philosophy a strong Cabalistic element, on the one hand, makes itself felt throughout, in astrology, geomancy, &c.; on the other hand, we find in Moses Maimonides, as in the Fathers, that the foundation is laid in history. He deals with this in a strictly abstract system of metaphysics, which is connected, in Philo’s fashion, with the Mosaic books and their interpretation. We find in these Jewish philosophers proofs brought forward that God is One, that the world was created, and that matter is not eternal; Maimonides also speaks of the nature of God. The unity of God is dealt with as it was among the ancient Eleatics and the Neo-Platonists; to prove, namely, that not the Many, but the self-begetting and self-abrogating One is the truth.
All the Philosophy which we first encounter in the Middle Ages, when independent states begin to rise, consists of bare remnants of the Roman world, which on its Fall had sunk in all respects so low that the culture of the world seemed to have come entirely to an end. Thus in the West hardly anything was known beyond the Isagoge of Porphyry, the Latin Commentaries of Boethius on the Logical works of Aristotle, and extracts from the same by Cassiodorus — most barren compilations; there is also what is just as barren, the dissertations ascribed to Augustine De dialectica and De categoriis, which last is a paraphrase of the Aristotelian work upon the categories. These were the first make-shifts or expedients for carrying on Philosophy; in them the most external and most formal reasoning is applied.
The whole effect of the scholastic philosophy is a monotonous one. In vain have men hitherto endeavoured to show in this theology, which reigned from the eighth or even sixth century almost to the sixteenth, particular distinctions and stages in development. In this case as in that of the Arabian philosophy, time does not allow — and if it did the nature of things would not allow — us to separate the scholastic philosophy into its individual systems or manifestations, but only to give a general sketch of the main elements present therein which it has actually taken up into thought. It is not interesting by reason of its matter, for we cannot remain at the consideration of this; it is not a philosophy. The name, however, properly speaking indicates a general manner rather than a system — if we may speak of a philosophic system. Scholasticism is not a fixed doctrine like Platonism or Scepticism, but a very indefinite name which comprehends the philosophic endeavours of Christendom for the greater part of a thousand years. However, this history which occupies nearly a thousand years is, as a matter of fact, comprised within one Notion which we propose to consider more closely; it has ever occupied the same standpoint, and been grounded on the same principle; for it is the faith of the Church that we catch sight of, and a formalism which is merely an eternal analysis and constant re-iteration within itself. The more general acceptance of the Aristotelian writings has merely brought forth a difference of degree and caused no real scientific progress. Here there is indeed a history of men, but speaking properly none of scientific knowledge; the men are noble, pious, and in all respects most distinguished.