To finish off this Blog/Diary of my thoughts on religion, existentialism and phenomenology from over the past year and a half, as promised, I will be doing an appendix of four book reviews of Heidegger's books on Holderlin's poetry. Here is the primer for those upcoming book reviews
(A) Holderlin (Some thoughts from Wikipedia)
- "When my second father died, whose love for me I shall never forget, when I felt, with an incomprehensible pain, my orphaned state and saw, each day, your grief and tears, it was then that my soul took on, for the first time, this heaviness that has never left and that could only grow more severe with the years."
- In 1788, he read Schiller's Don Carlos on Luise Nast's recommendation. Hölderlin later wrote a letter to Schiller regarding Don Carlos, stating: "It won't be easy to study Carlos in a rational way, since he was for so many years the magic cloud in which the good god of my youth enveloped me so that I would not see too soon the pettiness and barbarity of the world."
- In 1789, Hölderlin broke off his engagement with Luise Nast, writing to her: "I wish you happiness if you choose one more worthy than me, and then surely you will understand that you could never have been happy with your morose, ill-humoured, and sickly friend," and expressed his desire to transfer out and study law but succumbed to pressure from his mother to remain in the Stift.
- His mandated separation from Susette Gontard also worsened Hölderlin's doubts about himself and his value as a poet; he wished to transform German culture but did not have the influence he needed.
- At his home in Nürtingen with his mother, a devout Christian, Hölderlin melded his Hellenism with Christianity and sought to unite ancient values with modern life; in Hölderlin's elegy Brod und Wein ("Bread and Wine"), Christ is seen as sequential to the Greek gods, bringing bread from the earth and wine from Dionysus
-He understood and sympathised with the Greek idea of the tragic fall, which he expressed movingly in the last stanza of his "Hyperions Schicksalslied" ("Hyperion's Song of Fate").
(B) Holderlin in his “Hyperion's Song of Fate” says the following:
Radiant the gods' mild breezes/Gently play on you/As the girl artist's fingers/On
holy strings. - Fateless the Heavanly breathe/Like an unweaned infant
asleep;/Chastely preserved/In modest bud/For even their minds/Are in flower/And
their blissful eyes/Eternally tranquil gaze Eternally clear. - But we are fated/to
find no foothold, no rest,/ And suffering mortals/ Dwindle and fall/ Headlong
from one/ Hour to the next/ Hurled like water/From ledge to ledge/Downward for
years to the vague abyss. (Heidegger, Heraclitus Seminar, 101)
Eugen Fink and Heidegger, commenting on the meaning of the passage, say the following, "the gods wander without destiny, their spirit eternally in bloom, while humans lead a restless life and fall
into the cataract of time and disappear." (Heidegger, Heraclitus Seminar, 101).
Compare this with the David Farrell Krell translation of Homer when Apollo says
'"Why should I do battle for the sake of mere mortals!' exclaims the sun god, 'mortals, who are as wretched as the leaves on the trees, flourishing at first, enjoying the fruits of the earth, but then, deprived of heart (akerioi), vanishing (Iliad, 21.528-530) ... Vanishing how? Akerioi, as ... those who are deprived of [heart] (trns David Farell Krell, PAH, Kalypso, 105)."
Translated a little more interpretively, though less literally, I would offer: Apollo says:
"Why should I do battle for the sake of mere mortals!' exclaims the sun god, 'mortals, who are as wretched as the leaves on the trees, flourishing at first, enjoying the fruits of the earth, but then, no longer with their hearts in the goings on of life (akerioi), fade into the background."
To combat this, Aristotle said contemplation or theoria is a kind of athanatizein, a soul eternally in youthful bloom,
“Aristotle, Plato's disciple, relates at one place the basic conception determining the Greek view on the essence of the thinker: 'It is said they (the thinkers) indeed know things that are excessive, and thus astounding, and thereby difficult, and hence in general 'demonic (daimonia)' - but also useless, for they are not seeking what is, according to the straightforward popular opinion, good for man.' ... The Greeks, to whom we owe the essence and name of 'philosophy' and of the 'philosopher,' already knew quite well that thinkers are not 'close to life.' But only the Greeks concluded from this lack of closeness to life that the thinkers are then the most necessary -precisely in view of the essential misery of man.” (Heidegger, Parmenides, P, 100)
Perhaps a great culprit regarding this was the tragic Greek understanding of death that cast a pall over their lives. Achilles, a great hero of the Iliad, would rather “live working as a wage-labourer for hire by some other man, one who had no land and not much in the way of livelihood, than lord it over all the wasted dead” (Homer, 11.380, 624-28). It was a primary concern of the Philosophers to change the Homeric interpretation of death.
In the ode to man in Sophocles's Antigone, Sophocles calls man homeless (deinon/apolis). Humans strive for the homely (parestios, the one in the satiety of the warmth of the hearth fire), but this is precisely what is never realized – deinon/apolis. Sophocles’ ode to man says “Many things are uncanny (deina), but nothing more so than man.” We lose ourselves in endless distractions, but can never escape what Heidegger calls the monstrous essence within us:
Heidegger/Psychiatrist Medard Boss explain : "Our patients force us to see the human being in his essential ground because the modem neuroses of boredom and meaninglessness can no longer be drowned out by glossing over or covering up particular symptoms of illness. If one treats those symptoms only, then another symptom will emerge again and again ... They no longer see meaning in their life and ... they have become intolerably bored." Heidegger and Boss, Zollikon Seminars, 160
For Hegel, in contrast with Husserl, Phenomenology is about dis-closing from hiddenness. In his 1816 Heidelberg lecture, Hegel famously said "The essence of the universe, at first hidden and concealed, has no power to offer resistance to the courageous search for knowledge." Heidegger elaborates on Hegel's thoughts here by pointing out:
"In modern times, sunsets are now only for ‘poets’ and ‘lovers.’ The enchantment of the world has been displaced by another enchantment. The new enchantment is now ‘physics’ itself as an outstanding achievement of the human. The human now enchants himself through himself." The modern human is now what is enchanting (Heidegger, Heraclitus Inception, 41)
This perhaps will connect to what Hoderlin talks in the poems about the flight of the gods. But what is a God?
The 2-part System Fully Actualized: By Logic, Hegel meant the unity of Ontology and Speculative Theology, "Speculative Theology" pertaining not to traditional theology per se, but the "ens realissimum" or highest actuality. The Phenomenology of Spirit was to provide foundation for this metaphysics. Regarding Hegel's thoughts on God, Heidegger summarizes:
“In its formal meaning, pantheism means: pan-theos, "Every thing God"; everything stands in relation to God; all beings are in relation to the ground of beings. This ground as the One, hen is as ground what everything else, pan, is in it, in the ground. Hen kai pan. The One is also the whole and the whole is also the One. (Hen kai pan, this followed Heraclitus's fragment hen panta einai, nr. 50, and was according to the spirit of the time the chosen motto of the three young Swabian friends, Schelling, Hegel, and Holderlin.) (Heidegger, Schelling’s Treatise on Human Freedom, 68).”
The first two Hymns of Holderlin Heidegger will be looking at are Germania and The Rhine. Can we see hints in Holderlin’s first poem that something might be amiss with humanity? He writes:
For shame is fitting for mortals,
And thus to speak most of the time,
Of gods is also wise (strophe VI, lines 87ff)
Greek distinguished shame in the bad sense of "disgrace, dishonor" (aiskhyne) from shame in the good sense of "modesty, bashfulness" (aidos).
Holderlin is concerned with the commencement of who we are, not the beginning. Analogously, Heidegger makes the point that the Great War began with certain events, but had its commencement centuries earlier.
Holderlin wanted to change culture. Let's see how!
NB. Keeping a blog or diary throughout a course of study can be great for students in focusing on core material; as part of the writing process; publishing with pride and sharing with friends, family, and other students; debating with those who read the blog; and countless other applications!