This weekend I read the SEP article on Hegel to try to get some kind of grasp on the major trends in Hegel scholarship. From that article, I get the impression that a kind of “literalistic” reading of Hegel prevailed up until the last few decades — basically, everyone thinks Hegel believes there “really is” an entity called Spirit that emerges out of the unfolding of human reason, perhaps a kind of Voltron of Reason. This entity is closely analogous to God and has only fully actualized itself in modern times.
I found this to be pretty shocking. Recently reading Phenomenology of Spirit, it seemed to me that everything pretty much hung together fine without positing a “real” Spirit-as-Voltron kind of entity. Obviously I come at things primarily from Zizek’s Lacan-inflected reading, though it seems to me that at least on this particular question, Zizek is close to people like Gillian Rose or Robert Pippin — so it’d be pretty remarkable if he’d written a huge Gnostic myth (is Cyril O’Regan assuming the “literal” reading of Hegel?), but then it turned out to be pretty much coherent if you dropped that aspect completely.
More importantly, though, it struck me as crazy that Hegel would have had such influence if he really subscribed to the Spirit-as-Voltron idea (which may or may not be a good description, but I think it’s pretty funny and am totally going with it).