THE IDEALIST VIEW expounded by Hegel (1770-1831) was meant to overcome all dualisms. A major Western philosopher and a formidable critic of his predecessor Immanuel Kant, Hegel argued that spirit unfolds itself in nature and history. For Hegel, spirit moves the world as a formal and final cause. Spirit is the true meaning of things, their true nature and the end for which they will be realised. Take out any reference to God and this is a strikingly postmodern secular view of spirituality.
The Dane Soren Kierkegaard’s (1813-1855) definition of spirit is similar to Hegel’s. Kierkegaard was however, one of Hegel’s more devastating critics. Widely credited with providing the tools for modern existentialism Kierkegaard gives a theological take. Spirit-words continue to be regarded as the property of Christianity. There is a distinction between divine and human spirit. “The individual must synthesize soul and body, the eternal-universal and the temporal-particular into a unity, a self – and this accomplished relation when it is accomplished, is called “spirit.” [i] For Kierkegaard human individuals can only with great difficulty actualize themselves as spiritual beings.
[i] Ibid, 29.