Hegel, Phenomenology of the Spirit: Christianity as the Ultimate Slave’s Ideology

Estimated reading time: 14 minute(s)

Concerning Hegel’s philosophy, to become aware of a contradiction is necessary to want to remove it. However, one can eliminate the contradiction of a given existence only by modifying the given existence, by transforming it by Action. But in the case of the Slave, to transform existence is still to struggle against the Master. However, he does not want to do it. Therefore, he tries to justify this contradiction of the sceptical existence by a new ideology, which is at the end of the account the Stoic opposition, that is to say, between the idea or the ideal of Liberty and the reality of Servitude. And this third and final Slave ideology is Christian ideology.

The Slave now does not deny the contradictory nature of his continued actuality. But he tries to justify it by claiming that it is necessary, inevitable, that all existence involves a contradiction. To this end, he imagines an “other-world,” which is “beyond” (Jenseits) of the natural, sensible World.

The Christian is a Slave, and he does nothing to free himself. He is right because everything is only Bondage in this world, and the Master suffers from the same.

However, Freedom is not an empty word, a simple abstract idea, an unrealizable ideal, as in Stoicism and Skepticism. Freedom is real in the Hereafter. There is no need to fight against the Master since one is already free to the extent that one participates in the Hereafter. He is already recognized by God. There is no need to struggle for liberation in this World, which is just as vain and worthless for the Christian as it is for the Skeptic. There is no need to struggle, to act, since – in the Hereafter, in the only World that matters – one is already liberated and the equal of the Master (in the Servitude of God).

We can therefore maintain the Stoic attitude, but this time with good reason. And without boredom too, because now we do not remain the mime forever: we change, and we must change, we must always surpass ourselves and rise above ourselves, going past ourselves as a given in the empirical world, to reach the transcendent World, the Beyond which remains inaccessible.

Without Struggle, without effort, the Christian, therefore, realizes the ideal of the Slave: he obtains – in and through (or for) God – equality with the Master: inequality is only a mirage, like everything else in this sensitive World, where Servitude and Domination reign.

No doubt a brilliant solution, Hegel will say. And it is not surprising that Man has been able for centuries to believe himself “satisfied” by this pious reward for his Work. Hegel adds that this is all too good – too simple, too easy – to be true. What made Man a Slave was the refusal to risk his life. Therefore, he will not cease to be a slave, as long as he is not ready to risk his life in a Struggle against the Master, as long as he does not accept the idea of ​​his death. A liberation without a Bloody Struggle is therefore metaphysically impossible. And this metaphysical impossibility is also revealed in Christian ideology itself. The Christian Slave can only affirm his equality with the Master by admitting an “other world” and a transcendent God. For God is necessarily a Master and an Absolute Master.

The Christian, therefore, frees himself from the human Master only to enslave himself to the divine Master. He frees himself – at least in his idea – from the human Master. But no longer having a Master, he does not cease to be a Slave; he is a Slave without a Master, a Slave in himself, he is the pure essence of Servitude. And this “absolute” Servitude generates an equally absolute Master. It is before God that he is the equal of the Master. He is equal only in total Servitude.

He, therefore, remains a Slave. And this new Master is such that the new Christian Slave is, even more, a slave than the pagan Slave. And if the Slave accepts this new divine Master, he does so for the same reason he bore the human Master: for fear of death, He took – or produced – his first Bondage because it was the price of his biological life. He accepts – or makes – the second because it is the price of his eternal life. The last motive of the ideology of “two worlds” and of the duality of human existence is the enduring desire for life at all costs, sublimated in the passion for eternal life.

is ultimately born from the anguish of the Slave in the face of Nothingness- for Hegel – from the impossibility of supporting the necessary condition of Man’s existence – the condition of death as finitude.

Therefore, to remove the insufficiency of Christian ideology, to free oneself from the absolute Master and the Hereafter, to actualise Freedom and to live in the World as a human being, self-sufficient and self-ruling – could be made possible on the condition of accepting the idea of ​​death and therefore atheism. The Christian World’s whole unfolding is nothing more than a march towards the atheistic awareness of human existence’s essential finitude.

It is only by “suppressing” Christian theology that Man will definitively cease to be a Slave and will realise this same idea of Liberty, which he has engendered without positively actualising it.

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