Two Different Conceptions of Mysticism in Hegel’s Writings
This chapter situates the interpretation of Böhme’s mysticism within Hegel’s reflection on the nature of mysticism itself. An analysis of the presence of this theme, from the early writings (Jugendschriften) to the texts following the Phenomenology of Spirit, reveals that Hegel did not maintain a superficial dichotomy between mysticism and conceptual rigor. In Hegel’s writings, it is argued, two substantially different conceptions of mysticism are discernible: he opposes a speculative type of mysticism, characterized by the idea of dialectical movement and exemplified in the approaches of both the Neoplatonists and Böhme, to the pseudo-mystical attitude of the Romantics and of certain followers of Schelling. A close examination of the sections of Hegel’s early writings that develop and problematize the notion of mysticism serves as a starting point to consider the evolution of the two distinct understandings of the term. It will also clarify the frame of reference in which to understand Hegel’s encounter with Böhme’s mysticism. This distinction permits a more precise analysis of the characteristics of Böhme’s mysticism in Hegel’s view, while dispelling the mistaken critical assumption that Hegel rejected all forms of mysticism as leaps into the Absolute that intentionally forgo the labor of conceptuality.