Dogen & Francis Hermitage Update October 2001
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
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.
(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 &
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) .
- Is what is unsaid
beyond what is not being
said? October sun
- What is not-being
said? Same as what-is unsaid?
Angels watch, listen
- When Bill found word you
felt what-is hide itself then
seek now here today
(For Bill Richardson, gratefully,
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
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
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
specifically the problem of truth. But the point is obvious, for
the essay deals with the lighting-up process of beings, and the
is to make clear that the lighting-process is never undiluted revealment
but comports shadows, concealment, therefore non-light as well.
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
advance the problem, however, is an explication, still rather obscure,
of the relation between There-being and Being as negatived. We are
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
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?
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 is not an event of life. Death is not lived
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)
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)
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
Will the man's question in Mark, or Timothy's observation in the Christian
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
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
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 -
Bill, Saskia, Sando, Mini, and all who grace Meetingbrook
4Oct2001, Feast of St. Francis of Assisi