Hegel as Interpreter of Böhme
This chapter, in which the first two chapters converge and culminate, analyses Hegel’s interpretation of the mystical philosophy of Böhme in greater detail. The study sets out from two principal theses: that Hegel’s interpretation evolves substantially, and that this evolution is particularly evident in Hegel’s choice of themes and concepts drawn from the writings of Böhme. The inquiry proceeds in an approximately chronological order, from the Jena Wastebook to Hegel’s references to Böhme in published works, and finally to his most comprehensive analysis in the Lectures on the History of Philosophy and in the Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion. Hegel’s interest in Böhme first surfaces during his period in Jena and develops over the subsequent years. It is clear from the comparison of various manuscripts relating to Hegel’s lecture course on the History of Philosophy that his study of Böhme’s writings is still in process during the Berlin years. In particular, Hegel increasingly focuses on the theme of negativity: the way Böhme conceives of the element of negativity within God turns his mysticism, for Hegel, into an exceptionally vital dialectical approach. This important conclusion is at the heart of Hegel’s interest in the philosophy of Jakob Böhme and can only be adequately grasped by carefully retracing the stages in Hegel’s progressive discovery of Böhme’s thought.