Heidegger, Romanticism, Bohme, Luria

Martin Heidegger the philosopher was a Nazi and an an anti-semite.  In his lectures on the Parmenides he talks about the inner truth and greatness of the Nazi movement.  Hans Sluga’s book “Heidegger’s Crisis” paints a portrait of the philosopher’s role as power player inthe Nazi take-over of the German university system.  He gave an intellectual defense and courage to students who committed genocide, and killed members of my family.     After the truth of the holocaust came out he ducked responsibility, made an equivalency between the way death camps convert Jews into ash wight he way a factory converts raw materials into finished products, and hoped that a god would vindicate his role in history.  Recent notebooks reveal that he blamed Jews for a shadowy conspiracy to shed German blood, presumably although behind the front lines like Hitler he was traumatized by the bloodshed of World War I, and thought it hypocritical of the west to shed tears for the gassed victims of the holocaust and not for the Kaiser’s soldiers dead from mustard gas.

Nevertheless, Heidegger makes a number of important points namely:

1)the engaged method of relating to the world in which the self disappears into situation and responds to its solicitations and threats is more fundamental than the Cartesian view of the self as a knowing subjects standing apart from a world of objects

2)the essence of a human being is to require self-definition and in a sense to be an empty space in which that self-definition takes place; in Heidegger jargon Dasein is the being whose being is at issue for it

3)Language is a repository of dark meanings — we think not by escaping the histories of words and their seemingly accidental punning connections into a world of pure thought but by going deeper into the irrational connections among words — fore example between “thinking” and “thanking”.

Isaiah Berlin’s book “The Roots of Romanticism” defines the enlightenment as the view that every meaningful question has a yes or no answer, and consequently that knowing reality is a question of putting the pieces together into the only possible way they can be assembled.  The negation of the enlightenment view, romanticism, which Berlin traces back to Vico, Haman and Herder asserts that the deepest questions can have no answer, or conflicting answers.  From this the major theses of Heidegger follow: the emphasis on a murky engagement rather than a clear detachment, the dark, surging, self-defining emptiness at the heart of human reality, and the path to wisdom through the poetry of language, particular its history, and its dark, untranslatable, punning depths.

But where did Haman come from?  Haman’s pietism was shaped by the thought of the obscure German shoe-maker Jacob Bohme who argued that God was an unknowable ground of being, who bodied forth in opposites — the sweet that caused expansion and the sour that caused constriction.  Bohme further believed that the biblical tree of life could be tasted in an attitude of engagement and participation with this unfolding divine reality, rather than in the separation and clarity of the tree of knowledge, which leads only to death, and that the concrete words of revealed truth are our path to tasting the tree of life.

Where did Bohme come from?

Bohme’s categories of the “sweet” and “sour” are re-statements of the kabbalah of the 16th century Safed kabbalist Isaac Luria, known as “The Holy Lion” and Bohme’s entire system is a Christianization of Luria.  The themes Heidegger adumbrates: engagement in life is better than detachment, immersion in the punning depths of language, and man’s being as a being whose nature is up for definition, are all kabbalah.   Heidegger’s slogan: Dasein is the being whose being is at issue for it: in Lurianic terms says that God withdraws from creation in order to create an empty space in which choice is possible.






5 thoughts on “Heidegger, Romanticism, Bohme, Luria

  1. Fascinating blog post Eric! On sweet and bitter I found these passages from the Zohar which I think relate to your discussion:

    “It has been taught: It is incumbent upon a person who studies wisdom to study some foolishness and know it, because thereby wisdom derives benefit – just as light derives some benefit from darkness, for were it not for darkness, light would not be recognized and the world would gain no benefit from it… This may be compared to sweet with bitter, for a person does not know the taste of sweet until he tastes bitter. What makes this sweet? You must admit, bitter. This corresponds to what is written: One against the other God has set [Ecclesiastes 7:14]” (Zohar 3:47b).

    “The Tree of the Knowledge, good and evil, prohibition or permission, purity or impurity, will no longer apply to the children of Israel, since our sustenance will be solely from the side of the Tree of Life, where there are no contradictions stemming from the Other Side, nor any strife nor difference stemming from the unclean spirit, as is written And also I will cause… the unclean spirit to pass out of the land [Zechariah 13:2]” (Zohar Ra’aya Meheimna Naso).


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