Theogenesis, Divine Suffering, Demythologizing the Demonic

Robert R. Williams

in Tragedy, Recognition, and the Death of God

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199656059
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191744846 | DOI:
Theogenesis, Divine Suffering, Demythologizing the Demonic

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In Chapter 8 the topic is Hegel’s tragic absolute. The focus is on Iwan Iljin’s Die Philosophie Hegels als kontemplative Gotteslehre (1918, 1946). Iljin’s commentary on Hegel is an important one for our purposes. Iljin argues (1) Hegel originally intended to write a panlogist, pantheistic system much like Spinoza. (2) But Hegel’s confrontation with the problem of the other created a crisis for his original rationalist project. (3) The result of this crisis is a compromise, and the compromise leads to the concept of a tragically struggling and suffering God. Iljin has seen more clearly than any other commentator that Hegel’s God is a tragically suffering absolute. But how should this tragic absolute be understood? Iljin personally rejects it in favor of traditional abstract divine immutability. Cyril O’Regan provides another answer, to wit, that Hegel’s project is a theogony indebted to Jacob Boehme. A theogony asserts a demonic divine with a blind, abysmal origin. God is not God at the beginning, but comes to be, and this coming to be requires that God overcome and tame a demonic abysmal origin. However, Iljin denies that Hegel’s tragic absolute is a theogony in Boehme’s sense. He distinguishes between theogenesis and theogony. The difference is that in theogenesis, God does not come to be out of some prior abysmal condition, whereas in ancient theogonies, perhaps including Boehme’s, such an abysmal origin is affirmed. There are many assertions in Iljin’s study that must be criticized, but his rejection of Boehmean theogony in Hegel is not one of them. Hegel confines tragedy to the level of a theological anthropology, but conceives God as tragically suffering — a reflection of serious otherness.

Keywords: theogenesis; theogony; Jakob Boehme; Iljin; O’regan; ricoeur; problem of the other; divine suffering

Chapter.  16719 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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