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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Problem
By Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831)
 
        
From the ‘Philosophy of History’
  
  [Hegel uses with great effect a quotation from a Neo-Platonist philosopher who used the clear thoughts of Aristotle and Plato to explain the symbolic consciousness of the Greeks.]

THAT the Spirit of the Egyptians presented itself to their consciousness in the form of a problem, is evident from the celebrated inscription in the sanctuary of the Goddess Neith at Sais: “I am that which is, that which was, and that which will be: no one has lifted my veil.” This inscription indicates the principle of the Egyptian Spirit; though the opinion has often been entertained, that its purport applies to all times. Proclus supplies the addition, “The fruit which I have produced is Helios.” That which is clear to itself is therefore the result of, and the solution of, the problem in question. This lucidity is Spirit—the Son of Neith the concealed night-loving divinity. In the Egyptian Neith, Truth is still a problem. The Greek Apollo is its solution; his utterance is: “Man, know thyself.” In this dictum is not intended a self-recognition that regards the specialties of one’s own weaknesses and defects: it is not the individual that is admonished to become acquainted with his idiosyncrasy, but humanity in general is summoned to self-knowledge. This mandate was given for the Greeks; and in the Greek Spirit, humanity exhibits itself in its clear and developed condition. Wonderfully, then, must the Greek legend surprise us, which relates that the Sphinx—the great Egyptian symbol—appeared in Thebes, uttering the words: “What is that which in the morning goes on four legs, at midday on two, and in the evening on three?” Œdipus, giving the solution Man, precipitated the Sphinx from the rock. The solution and liberation of that Oriental Spirit, which in Egypt had advanced so far as to propose the problem, is certainly this: that the Inner Being (the Essence) of Nature is Thought, which has its existence only in the human consciousness. But that time-honored antique solution given by Œdipus—who thus shows himself possessed of knowledge—is connected with a dire ignorance of the character of his own actions. The rise of spiritual illumination in the old royal house is disparaged by connection with abominations, the result of ignorance; and that primeval royalty must—in order to attain true knowledge and moral clearness—first be brought into shapely form, and be harmonized with the Spirit of the Beautiful, by civil laws and political freedom.  1
 
 
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