Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 July 2009
That there is something “mystical” about Hegel's philosophy is a familiar claim. In the years following Hegel's death it was a commonplace. In an 1840 essay on Meister Eckhart, the Danish philosopher Hans Martensen remarked that Hegel (as well as Schelling) had “demanded that philosophical thought rejuvenate itself in the immediate knowledge of God and divine things found in mysticism.” Friedrich Theodor Vischer remarked that the Hegelian philosophy had come forth “from the school of the old mystics, especially Jakob Boehme.” In his 1835 work Die christliche Gnosis, Ferdinand Christian Bauer claimed that Hegel was a modern Gnostic, and argued for his philosophical kinship with Boehme. Wilhelm Dilthey later noted the same affinity between Hegel and the mystics. More recently, authors as different as Bertrand Russell and J. N. Findlay have claimed a “mystical element” in Hegel's thought - Russell in order to disparage Hegel, Findlay in order to elevate him.
In this chapter, I shall survey the evidence for the influence of mysticism on Hegel's writings. I shall argue that the evidence is abundant and the influence decisive. However, even if it can be established that there was such an influence, and that it was of importance, this does not mean that the Hegelian philosophy can itself be accurately described as mystical. Therefore, this issue must be addressed as well, and I shall approach it, primarily in section three, through an examination of what Hegel himself had to say about the relationship of his philosophy to mysticism.