Uroboric Will, Hegel’s Spirit & The Godless, Purposeful Universe


We have already mentioned the Uroboros and the Uroboric Drive or Will on numerous occasions in these blog entries and it is an important concept for us. In our article “Ecology as Ideology and the Uroboric Drive” we stated:

“A vicious circle is already unravelling itself, only to take hold of its own tail again in order to swallow itself. But perhaps this most ancient image of the Uroboros, the tail-swallowing serpent, is the final revelation: that our drives are magnetic ones, folding us back toward the Uroboric state of an autarchic relationship with the world which is the perpetual result, if only in a perverted way, of any attempts to revaluate or reinvent our circumstances. Capitalism’s final end is to become a Uroboros, even if this is not its conscious eschatology. The System, whatever form it has, is manipulated subconsciously towards the Uroboric, autarchic paradise which we lost so long ago. But while for capitalism the Uroboric autarchy is a Utopian dream that can only end in a complete annihilation of the tail swallowing serpent, the ecological Uroboros has to be imagined perfectly intact and healthy.

The Uroboric drive is in Eros as much as in Thanatos. It is the ultimate unity, representing where we have come from – the autarchy of the foetus in the womb – and where we are going – our final conversion into dust or gas. At either end of the unity the condition is an ecological one. A return to the Uroboric state of being is the Being of the Great Mother, the planet Earth. As an Eros-driven force, our will to freedom is an autarchic will, as is our will for love; our sex drive; our will for community and our desire for isolation; our will to communicate; our creative drives; our willingness to share; and also our need to be protective and cautious. The essence of all of this is in autarchy.”[i]


We think Hegel was describing this Uroboric Will when he described the Spirit as “that which has being in itself,”[ii] or “that which relates itself to itself and is determinate,”[iii] or “it is other-being and being-for-itself and in this determinateness, or in its self-externality, abides within itself; or in other words, it is in and for itself.”[iv]

But this Uroboric nature of Hegel’s Spirit is only one side of its total substance. It must also be “the knowledge of the spiritual, and the knowledge of itself as Spirit, i.e. it must be an object to itself… a sublated object, reflected into itself.”[v] Which means, in our terms, it must be in possession of an intelligence.

A need for intelligence is, in the Uroboric universe, an instinctive drive, coming from an instinct for Being and a sense of the most necessary potential. Even though the matter being driven is blind, deaf and senseless. The Uroboric Universe wants to be perceived and known, even though it has no idea that it does. Nature wants to know, but does not know that it wants it.

It has to be blind and ignorant, if not there would be much more intelligent life in the Universe. If the Universe were driven consciously by a conscious Creator, there would have to be more success stories; more stars with inhabitable planets. Likewise, if Consciousness has existed from the beginning, then there is no pressing need for intelligence. That is the narrative of most religions: humanity is not at all necessary. In fact most of the time, despite Christ’s attempt to fill us with hope and self-esteem, we are a despicable species in the eyes of God, a failed mutation of something which should have been much better. But none of this makes any sense if the Creation was planned from the outset.

So, there is no Creator, there is no God, but…  there is most certainly a purposefulness in the Universe.

Our cosmologists tell us that the Universe is finely tuned and that it has to be tuned exactly this way in order for life to be even feasible. In a numerical sense we are positioned in the centre of the Universe, between the ultimate macrocosm at 1025 and the microcosm at 10-25, in a centre that we have to be in.[vi]This anthropocentricism is not an anti-nature one of human dominance and superiority. But it does imply purpose. We are here for a reason, and that reason has been determined, not by a God, but by the Universe. It implies a partnership, the partnership between the Object of Reality and the Subject that can perceive that reality, and make reality Being. It is a partnership between Sapiens creatures that know that they know things, and the Universe that allows a space for these knowing creatures to know It.

The fine tuning of the Cosmological Constant[vii] is so precise it could hardly have been accidental. But this does not mean that the fine tuning needed a Creator. Science does not need to embrace God on this issue, and nor should it – the idea of the Absolute has been a nihilistic, anti-life pessimism that has flagellated humanity for millennia. We know from thousands of years of experiences that the Idea of God does not make us better human beings, and that in fact it has been responsible for some of the darkest periods of history and some of the most violent, cruel acts that mankind has committed. If God exists, we’d do better just let It be and ignore all the power-driven dogmas that have been born out of the idea of the One.


[ii] Hegel, PHENOMENOLOGY OF SPIRIT, Preface, §25)

[iii] Ibid

[iv] Ibid

[v] Ibid

[vi] SEE Martin Rees JUST SIX NUMBERS (THE DEEP FORCES THAT SHAPE THE UNIVERSE), Perseus, 2000, pp. 6 + 7 )


7 thoughts on “Uroboric Will, Hegel’s Spirit & The Godless, Purposeful Universe

  1. Thank you for this illuminating article. I’ve not had the pleasure of engaging Hegel’s work–save for viewing it through the lens of Soren Kierkegaard (who is by no means a fan). I was surprised, however, by your rather one sided–I dare say, naive–portrayal of history.

    You stated: “We know from thousands of years of experiences that the Idea of God does not make us better human beings, and that in fact it has been responsible for some of the darkest periods of history and some of the most violent, cruel acts that mankind has committed.”

    Sure people acting in the name of religion have been and continue to be responsible for darkness and evil. But, secular ideologies have been responsible for the same, if not worse. Here is a list of wars waged for entirely secular reasons in which billions were killed (many of the deaths were brought about by secularist ideologues murdering millions in the name of their ideology):

    First World War (1914-18):…………………………… 15 million
    Russian Civil War (1917-22):……………………….. 9 million
    Soviet Union, Stalin’s Regime (1924-53)……….. 20 million
    Second World War (1937-45):……………………….. 55 million
    Chinese Civil War (1945-49):……………………….. 2.5 million
    People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong’s
    regime (1949-75):…………………………….. 40 million
    Tibet (1950 et seq.):…………………………………….. 600,000
    Congo Free State (1886-1908):……………………… 8 million
    Mexico (1910-20):……………………………………….. 1 million
    Turkish massacres of Armenians (1915-23):……. 1.5 million
    China (1917-28):………………………………………….. 800,000
    Korean War (1950-53):…………………………………. 2.8 million
    North Korea (1948 et. seq.):………………………….. 2 million
    Rwanda and Burundi (1959–95):…………………… 1.35 million
    Second Indochina War (1960-75):………………….. 3.5 million
    Ethiopia (1962-92):………………………………………. 400,000
    Nigeria (1966-70):………………………………………… 1 million
    Bangladesh (1971):……………………………………….. 1.25 million
    Cambodia, Khmer Rouge (1975-78):……………….. 1.65 million
    Mozambique (1975-92):…………………………………. 1 million

    Your comments also ignore thousands of years of beauty and discovery brought about by religion. Religiously minded people have created most of the worlds most astounding art and written much of the worlds greatest literature. Not to mention that many of the most important scientific advances in the 18th and 19th centuries were achieved by religiously minded men and women (working and thinking within a Judeo-Christian worldview).

    Just some food for thought. Thanks again for the insight on Hegel–I look forward to reading more.

  2. Thank you for your comments J.. It’s always gratifying to receive some debate.
    In response to your observations let me say:
    Firstly, that my intention was not to blame religions for all historical conflicts. However, even in some of the conflicts you have listed I think religion has been an influential force either actively or passively. The First World War, for example, was between nationalities and empires with strong identities that had been forged through religions and the centuries of religious wars that had torn Europe apart for centuries. The spark that set off the First World War happened in Sarajevo when a Bosnian Serb assassinated the Austrian Archduke. The final aims of the terrorist are complex, but a driving force in all the Balkan conflicts has been the problem that religious groups composing it, Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim, have had in accepting the foreign rituals of their neighbors. In 1914: Orthodox Russia supported Orthodox Serbia against the Germanic speaking empires of Austria and Germany. The Empires were full of nationalists whose identity was based on linguistic and religious factors. I think it would be naive to argue that religion had nothing to do with that European war, a war that reared its ugly head again in the 90s when the political stability in Yugoslavia fell apart and allowed religious fundamentalist voices to dominate the national-religious identities of the Balkan people again. The Second World War happened because the peace settlements after WWI were badly made – so if WWI was a religo-nationalist war then so was WWII. Most of the subsequent conflicts in the 20th century have been financed, prolonged or even fabricated by the USA, which, in terms of identity is a religious State. God and country – why has there never been a self-proclaimed atheist President?
    But no, I am not saying that religions are the cause of all conflicts.

    The darkness: I am thinking of the Dark Ages in Europe or the oppressive regimes of Islamic fundamentalists today where the Truth is One and Absolute and any criticism is blasphemous.

    Religion can stimulate the imagination and create beauty but so can LSD.

    After a thousand years of oppression by the church in the name of the Absolute, it took hundreds of years of struggle for artists and scientists to break through that domination and be allowed to develop a scientific thinking that could step beyond religious dogma. Yes, there have been many great religious minded artists and scientists, but they may never have been great if the thinking of Medieval Absolutism had not been overcome. Can we imagine Newton emerging from a 14th century monastery?

    Yes, religion can be enlightened and made to understand that there is more under the sun than their own dogmatic myths and pseudo-philosophies: but I think “historically” it has demonstrated a reluctance to do so. It is slow to change, and quick to regress.
    For me, Christianity is a tremendously sad concept. Christ was thinking the right way: “I’m going to create a religion based on Love. How can an idea like Love be perverted.” And yet the result is that it was, has been and still is. Christianity, as Islam, lay itself down in the bed of power and looked for Ultimate Power. This is the problem of the Absolute.
    And this brings me back to the idea in my post.
    If cosmology is saying that there is a purpose in the Universe and that the homo sapiens as a knowing being is an integral part of that purpose, this calls for a revaluation of all our nihilistic values again. This sounds like Nietzsche. Yes, of course, but with the authentic purpose imbued by science we can now say we have the opportunity to “logically” defeat nihilism and, in this way go beyond God and Nietzsche.
    However, the new cosmological constant is a great gift to the religions. They interpret it as saying: “See we were right. The universe is deterministic, God exists.” In fact it doesn’t. It says God may exist or it may not. And what it certainly does not say is that: the Universe is fined tuned by the same God that wrote or inspired the Bible or the Koran or some Mormon tablet.
    No, I stick by my equation: COSMOLGICAL CONSTANT + RELIGION = DISASTER

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