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Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage Update October 2001

Theme: Creating Silence

        Time is stunned. Ordinary time, ruptured. Sacred time, that time between what was ordinary and what will be ordinary, inserts itself with its wide and wordless presence.

        In New York City, Washington DC, and Western PA, the remains of the dead from September 11th are in silence.

        The rest of us make initial exclamations of "Oh my God, Oh my God!" (The alternate exclamation "Holy shit" is equally heard). We then rush into phrasings more familiar to us -- the explanations, statements of retaliation, phrases of grief, questions of "Why are we so hated?" and quiet conversations of remembrance and uncertainty, of sadness -- trying to piece together words of repair, return, or simple continuation.

        We are not at ease. We are ill at ease. We feel sick.

        Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) is quoted on the jacket of Catherine De Hueck Doherty's Molchanie: The Silence of God -- "The present state of the world and the whole of life is diseased. If I were a doctor and were asked for my advice, I should reply: 'Create Silence'."

        I thought of a professor of philosophy whose graduate class I wandered into 32 years ago. I wrote this to/for him the other day:

You Don't Say

Whatever your end may be, accept my amazement.
May I stand until death forever at attention
for any your least instruction or enlightenment.
I even feel sure you will assist me again, Master of insight & beauty. -

from Poem: "Eleven Addresses to the Lord," section 1, by  
John Berryman from Collected Poems (Farrar Straus Giroux)

No one thinker can express by what he says the inexhaustible abundance which Being imparts to him in the moment of experience. Even Heraclitus was forced to express Being as it disclosed itself to him. There remains hidden in what a thinker says the entire wealth of Being that he does not say, can not say, yet which remains present in what he does say, in mysterious, submerged fashion. .

- p.489, William J. Richardson, in, Heidegger: Through         
Phenomenology to Thought. Preface by Martin Heidegger
(The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1963)                                         .


  1. Is what is unsaid
    beyond what is not being
    said? October sun
  2. What is not-being
    said? Same as what-is unsaid?
    Angels watch, listen
  3. When Bill found word you
    felt what-is hide itself then
    seek now here today

(For Bill Richardson, gratefully,
wfh, 2Oct2001)

        There is something not said we listen for; something there we do not see. Teaching philosophy at the university this semester I am reminded that, despite all the arguments and theories, syntheses and propositions of the academic study, there is a nagging question at ground of the inquiry. I'm not sure what the question is. Perhaps the question is a word. And that word is hidden, concealed, covered by that which looks and listens for it.

I was surprised when, responding to a discussion after the terrorism of September 11th, I wrote:

Terror is the natural condition of the human mind that tries to look at the whole. In ancient Israel it was called Fear of the Lord, and was thought to be the beginning of wisdom.
Today terror is taken from the mind and thrown at The Other. Our arguments are terrifying when they try to partition what the ancient Greeks called truth -- that which becomes unhidden. Do we fear truth -- the unhidden, the manifest, and the open -- more than anything else?

Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) entitled an essay on pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus (ca: 500bce) (Aletheia, or, truth) even though, as Richardson says:

That the author should entitle his essay On Heraclitus is noteworthy, for the text to be analysed (Fg. 16) does not contain the word, nor does the author emphasize the fact that this theme is specifically the problem of truth. But the point is obvious, for the essay deals with the lighting-up process of beings, and the point is to make clear that the lighting-process is never undiluted revealment but comports shadows, concealment, therefore non-light as well. It is an essay on truth, but truth in its negativity (finitude).
... The fragment in question (Fg. 16) Heidegger interprets to mean: how could anyone remain concealed from the process of light which never disappears into concealment because always emerging from it?

(pp. 484-5 in, Heidegger: Through Phenomenology to Thought)

        Further on Richardson writes about truth, obscurity, and the human being. [Note in the following that "There-being" corresponds to the German Da-sein ( Da = There, sein = being) which Heidegger uses to mean "man" (or "woman"), sc. (mainly) the human person] :

As Heidegger sees it, Heraclitus meditates the relationship between man and Being, and thinks man in terms of this relationship. How is the relationship to be understood? " ...[There-being's relationship to the lighting process is nothing else than the lighting-process itself, insofar as it gathers-in... [There-being] and retains [it]." In other words, the relation of There to Being is the relation of Being to its There.
        But when all is said and done, does this add anything to what we know already? No. What does advance the problem, however, is an explication, still rather obscure, of the relation between There-being and Being as negatived. We are told that the ultimate Source of There-being's fallen-ness - and the point is important - is not primarily There-beings own laxity but the concealment intrinsic to Being itself. This is why the Greeks thought of "forgetting" (lanthanein) as in its origins a condition of Being-as-mittence, where the self-emitting is simultaneously a withdrawal, sc. Being both in its positivity and negativity. This is the primordial obscurity whence truth emerges.
        It becomes more clear and more explicit than ever: that the finitude of There-being's comprehension of Being, and all that this implied in the perspectives of SZ [i.e., Being and Time], is founded more originally in the finitude (self-concealment) of Being itself whose There it is; that Being must be thought in its negativity, if it is to be thought at all; that the thinking of Being, the total acquiescence of There-being (WM:Ep) [i.e. epilogue to What is Metaphysics?] to Being-as- negatived is clearly the process of re-solve, thought through to the level of Heidegger II. To endeavor to think Being in such a way - this is the genuine sense, Heidegger claims, of Heraclitus' question: how is it possible for a being whose nature it is to be enlightened to be oblivious to the light? (-p.486-7)

I am brought back to the question - is it a word? If so, what is the word? If it is not a word, then, what is it? What is at origin longing to take place in this existence?

Two people in different traditions point their view. Each tradition has a view that we can look through.
Francis Cline, Abbot of a Trappist monastery, writes:

The "place" of the contemplative is the depths of the human heart, where we turn from God in shame at our deeds, or embrace God in faith and trust. In the crucible of conscience, we all know and see one another; there we discover Christ. We look to Christ, the contemplative, for a countenance of truth and liberation, and for reassurance that humanity cannot reach its goal without putting on its own unique and unqualified obedience. Our "place" is in that heart of Christ, and our lives are signs pointing to his ultimate meaning. (- pp.120,1 Lovers of the Place)

Maura "Soshin" O'Halloran, a young Irish-American woman, in her writings spanning the three years during which she studied and trained to become a Buddhist priest in a Japanese temple, had the following final words in the Afterward of her posthumous Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind: The Zen Letters and Journals of Maura 'Soshin' O'Halloran

Once renunciation and the awakened mind have been fully realized, the way to Buddhahood is clear. Liberation is complete and such liberated beings are then bodhisattvas and Buddhas: "enlightened ones," or "empty dwellers." Their usefulness to others both before and after their physical death, is impossible to conceive. They are nothing but useful energy leading to liberation for all beings still caught in conditioned existence.

(- from a tattered, anonymous page of copy kept long years ago when any Dharma in
English was rare and precious. - Patricia Dai-En Bennage)

Maura died in her 20s in a bus accident in Asia in the early 1980s before finishing her studies. Her plan had been to start a school in Ireland. She is revered as a Buddhist saint.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, in his Tractatus Logico Philosophicus wrote of death, saying:

Death is not an event of life. Death is not lived through.
If by eternity is understood not endless temporal duration but timelessness, then he lives eternally who lives in the present. (-- #6.4311 Tractatus)

In the preface of that work Wittgenstein wrote:

Its whole meaning could be summed up somewhat as follows: What can be said at all can be said clearly; and whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. (wovon man nicht redden kann, dauber muss man schweigen) (- Tractatus)

Is that it? Do we talk ourselves out -- then enter silence, or, allow silence to enter us? Is this our investigation together? Is this the purpose we inquire of each other? That is -- Are we willing to study and learn with each other? Not only in a specific course of studies; but in the larger course of human existence?
What is life? Why are we here? Any of us? And what is death for us?

William Richardson, wrestling the meaning from Heidegger, writes:

The "structural unity of the intrinsically finite transcendence of There-being" (concern) consequently includes within it a logos (conscience) that by a word uttered in silence gives the everyday There-being to understand its finitude and at once invites it to achieve its authentic self. The achievement of authenticity for There-being is not, of course, a suppression of its finitude. On the contrary. It consists simply in accepting its self for what it is: a drive-towards-Being that is constitutionally limited. For There-being to accept itself as such is to let itself be called, to become free for the call, to attend to the voice which tells it of its finitude. It is this "readiness to be called" that constitutes There-being's choice of self.

And in this choice is achieved authenticity. Such a choice Heidegger will henceforth designate as "re-solve" (Entschlossenheit). But is it really a new phenomenon? It would be more exact to call it a special mode of disclosedness of There-being. It implies, after all, a comprehension, a disposition and a logos: comprehension, because, by re-solve There-being comprehends itself as a drive-towards-Being that is thrown-forth-and-still-to-be-achieved; disposition, because by re-solve, There-being becomes willing to accept the disposition corresponding to such a comprehension, sc. anxiety, that uneasiness born of There-being's discovery of its own expatriate condition; logos, because in re-solve There-being attends in silence to a voice that speaks without sound, and the attend-ing itself is a mode of logos that draws out of the superficial loquacity of everydayness a deep resounding word. (- pp. 82,3, Heidegger)

What is this "word uttered in silence?" What is it that "attends in silence to a voice that speaks without sound?"

(I note I've written in my journal after the Wittgenstein quote: "Faith within emptiness, is, silence without explanation." I'm curious why those years ago I used the two commas bracketing "is.")

The emptiness that seems to have burst through the distractions, dispersions, divisions and dissipations we've known as normal life has announced itself with a startling shattering of what we've called peace. We say - "everything has changed," and it has; we say - "its different now," and it is; we say, "we've got to do something," and we do.

But what to do? Will any belief comfort us now? Any religion soothe our dismay? Any philosophy make certain our unsettled minds? When Elie Wiesel said that "God means movement, not explanation" -what is it we're meant to move along to, return to, uncover?

Raymond S. Perrin's final chapter of his 1885 book The Religion of Philosophy, or, The Unification of Knowledge: A Comparison of the Chief Philosophical and Religious Systems of the World, Made with a View to Reducing the Categories of Thought, or the Most General Terms of Existence, to a Single Principle, Thereby Establishing a True Conception of God -- (That is the whole title!) - in his final chapter entitled "Appeal to the Women of America" writes:

It is to be remembered that all the great writers upon ethics, from Plato to those of the present day, seek to find the source of morality in the nature of man. Some call it a moral sense or intuition, some a divine instinct, others think it is one of two conflicting elements of life; but none believe it to be an external fact. They may all regard the source of morality as a mystery, but they think that mystery lies somewhere within us. Following this universal suggestion, we must seek for moral principles in the natural activities of life, viewing life in its widest sense; and in deference to the age we live in we must disown the common belief that these principles are unknowable, and that their secrets are in the keeping of men who deal in mysteries. (- p.565)

Perrin earlier says:

Recognizing. therefore the ascendancy which woman is gaining in the intellectual, and
which she has always had in the moral, world, it is with the women of America that we would plead the cause of Philosophy, which is the only true religion. ...We would ask them whether they are not aware that the religion of our country is losing the affection and respect of the men, and is ceasing to be, to them at least, a moral inspiration. (-p.558)

Perrin feels that the transmissions of beliefs and superstitions might be changed by Philosophy, aided by mothers who transmit so much of a culture's hopes and possibilities:

When a fabulous life is believed in, it distracts from the hopes and possibilities of actual existence. If we are taught to look to heaven for justice, (which is the highest human sentiment,) shall we not be less apt to accord it, and to demand it, upon earth? If we are told that our natural ideals of love, purity, and humanity can only be realized in some distant world, what courage shall we have to strive for their realization here? (-562,3)

He ends his book with the question:

Is it not time, at least in America, to try some other religion? Will not every phase of our existence be exalted by the formation of a true conception of God? (-p.566)

(A note: The copy of Perrin's book The Religion of Philosophy that I bought in 1991 was inscribed in pencil by the person who first owned it -- A. S. Prescott, Boston Mass, June 1891 - who penciled under their name "This book is the product of deep Thought." At book's end is penciled - "The mightiest minds have yet to solve the mystery of Self." I like this reader's expressing himself or herself 100 years ago!)

Where to look? Will Einstein help?

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest -- a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. (--- Albert Einstein)

Will Buddha help?

Do not believe anything on the mere authority of teachers or priests. Accept as true and as the guide to your life only that which accords with your own reason and experience, after thorough investigation. Accept only that which contributes to the well-being of yourself and others.
(- Buddha)

Will the man's question in Mark, or Timothy's observation in the Christian scriptures help?

Good Master, what must I do to win eternal (aionios) life? (- Mark 10. 17 NEB)
For he (Christ) has broken the power of death and brought life and immortality (aphtasia) to light through the Gospel. (2 Timothy 1. 10 NEB)

And there we arrive again, at question - What is life with no time? What is life with no death? We ask. And we ask. And we wait. In silence.

Poet John Masefield has his suggestion; we'll have to wait for ours:

I hold that when a person dies
His soul returns again to earth;
Arrayed in some new flesh-disguise,
Another mother gives him birth.
With sturdier limbs and brighter brain
The old soul takes the roads again.

(John Masefield, A Creed)

In conclusion: We are yet to emerge from, or perhaps merge profoundly with, the silence of our unknowing. We are still waiting to encounter the word "uttered in silence" that "speaks without sound." What is that word?

Heraclitus and Heidegger's (Aletheia, or, truth) is a place to begin. Perrin's religion of philosophy is a place to begin. The Gospel of John's phrase, In principio erat verbum, (In the beginning was the word, or, First and foremost is the word) re-sounds the place of beginning, the place of origin.

In her Foreword to Adrian House's book Francis of Assisi, A Revolutionary Life, (c, 2001), Karen Armstrong writes:

Religion cannot always be tasteful or confined within the polite restraints of institutional practice, because it aims at the infinite. Like Jesus, Francis showed the difficulty of incarnating a divine imperative in the flawed conditions of human existence. His stringent bodily and spiritual mortifications never degenerated into masochism or narcissism because they were always tempered by a kindness, compassion and gentleness to all creatures which, again, is often sadly missing from the churches that proclaim his sanctity. (- xi, Francis of Assisi)

So -- We watch. We wait. We pray. We try to uncover the truth of what we look at, wait with, and listen to. We engage each other there. For now! Still! Time is stunned. Ordinary time, ruptured. Sacred time inserts itself with its wide and wordless presence.

At root is silence. Its soil, stained with ash and blood, is also resplendent with new sprigs of kindness, compassion, gentleness, sanctity, and -- dare we say -- joy.
May we dwell and grow well there -

In Peace,
Bill, Saskia, Sando, Mini, and all who grace Meetingbrook
4Oct2001, Feast of St. Francis of Assisi



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