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6 Epilogue
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A. Keep Silent! Or, Heidegger's Machtergreifung

Birmingham's and Guignon's interpretations to the contrary notwithstanding, Being and Time is neither anarchist nor politically neutral. Rather, it is a brilliant summary of the politics of the revolutionary Right. But is it «inherently fascist or proto-Nazi» (HC 131)? There is no need for long speculations, for Heidegger himself has given a clear answer to the question. As was mentioned above,[1] Guignon refers to the meeting between Heidegger and the Jew Karl Löwith in Rome 1936. Heidegger wore the swastika during his entire stay in Rome, even during an excursion to Frascati and Tusculum with his wife, his sons, and Löwith. They talked about this and that until Löwith brought up the controversy in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung of January 1936 between Hans Barth and Emil Staiger (see MH 241-248) and said that he agreed neither with Barth nor with Staiger, «insofar as I was of the opinion that his partisanship for National Socialism lay in the essence of his philosophy {daß seine Parteinahme für den Nationalsozialismus im Wesen seiner Philosophie läge }.»[2]

If Birmingham were right, Heidegger's answer probably would have been very short: «Being and Time? Historicality? Never heard of it!» According to Wolin, he would have shaken his head slowly and pensively, and would have finally said: «Well, Mr. Löwith! You know, I was just a regular conservative, and with Volk and all that kind of stuff; I wanted to ground these ideas in a theory of autonomy and decision. Unfortunately, it turned out that I lost any criteria. So, I couldn't help but become a conformist. Thus, in 1933 I couldn't resist. If the communists had achieved power, I would have become


a hard-working communist instead.» According to Guignon's interpretation, one would have expected a statement like the following: «Mr. Löwith, you are wrong. My partisanship for National Socialism is by no means inherent in the essence of Being and Time . I would not even call Being and Time the basis of my political engagement. However, if you like to think of it that way, you must keep in mind that it is the basis only in a very, very weak sense. For, first, as I say at the beginning of section 74, "In the existential analysis we cannot, in principle, discuss what Dasein factically resolves in any particular case. Our investigation excludes even the existential projection of the factical possibilities of existence" (BT 434; SZ 383). Thus, whatever one might read out of section 74, it doesn't affect Being and Time itself. Second, in my concept of historicality in sections 74-77, I merely explain the general structure of the situation in which, at that time, each person had to make his decision. From this analysis of the general structure one cannot infer anything about my own decision. Thus, third, even if one reads into section 74 a decision for National Socialism, one has to keep in mind that it is just one example of the possible decisions and could easily have been replaced with an example of the decision of a communist.»

However, as is known, «Heidegger agreed with me without reservation and added that his concept of "historicity" was the basis {die Grundlage} of his political "engagement" ("Einsatz"). He also left no doubt about his belief in Hitler.»[3] Guignon misreads the notion of «basis {die Grundlage}»[4] and he doesn't realize that «erwidert» in section 74 does not mean some deliberating conversation with the past, or some other act of distancing oneself from the past, but rather indicates compliance with the call of the past. According to my interpretation, in section 74 Heidegger presented a brilliant summary of the motif common to all revolutionary rightist authors. In his peculiar way, however, he inserted the notion of Volksgemeinschaft into his summary. In preceding parts of Being and Time , he explicitly criticized basic assumptions of Scheler's theory. In addition, there is no discussion in Being and Time that is analogous to Scheler's discussion of the different Gemeinschaften and that thus might have enabled Heidegger to criticize National Socialism. In light of these facts, his addition of the Volksgemeinschaft has to be read as an option for National Socialism. At the same time, the theory of history and politics is formulated in such an abstract way that philosophical readers could easily mistake it for a neutral fundamental ontology or at least could easily leave aside the impression that it was much more specific. The general motif of downward plunge and recovery in Being and Time as a whole and in its section 74 in particular could certainly not be missed, and it might be the case that in the eyes of many readers this motif could pass as fundamental ontology. Heidegger's option for National Socialism, however, was not so obvious. In order to recognize it one had to revert the sequence of «der Gemeinschaft» (SZ 394; «of the community,» BT 436) and «des Volkes» (SZ 384;


«of {the} people,» BT 436) and had to connect the resulting Volksgemeinschaft not only with Heidegger's criticism of the subject but also with his criticism of Scheler's notion of value and of the basis of Scheler's entire ontology, namely, the latter's distinction between a temporal realm and a realm of eternal entities. Still, even more was necessary, namely, to relate these findings to the presence of an absence, the absence of any discussion comparable to Scheler's theory of the different Gemeinschaften. In this way, Heidegger's option could easily be overlooked or ignored. No one reading a book on fundamental ontology by the «most famous» philosopher would normally be prepared for the possiblity that its author was making a case for the most radical party on the revolutionary Right.

The presentation in section 74 has been carefully prepared, not only from the beginning of section 74 and of section 72, but already from the end of Division One on, if not almost from the beginning of the entire book. It is certainly true that nothing in Being and Time allows for the step from Gemeinschaft in general to the Volksgemeinschaft in particular. However, it is equally true that there is nothing in Being and Time that might have prevented its author from making this specification. Like Scheler prior to his Kehre, Heidegger «deconstructs» liberalism and leftism and thus paves the way for an alignment with the Right. In contrast to Scheler, however, Heidegger also explicitly and implicitly «deconstructs» positions on the right, such as Scheler's, that allow their authors to distance themselves from and criticize Nazism. It is in this sense that, indeed, Being and Time leads directly into Nazism. Thus, one should not be surprised that Heidegger adds the specific difference «Volk» to the genus «Gemeinschaft» (BT 436; SZ 384) and thus sides with Hitler's «Volksgemeinschaft.» One also should not be surprised that, five years later, he joined the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei on May 1, 1933, and that twenty six days after that, on May 27, he gave his, as Jonas said, «infamous» (MH 200) rectorate address. All this underpins the assessment of Hans-Georg Gadamer, who himself has never been a detractor of Heidegger and his philosophy: «Sometimes, in admiration for the great thinker, Heidegger's defenders declared that his political error had nothing to do with his philosophy. That they could pacify themselves with such an argument! They did not notice how insulting such a defense of such an important thinker was» (MH 142).[5]

Being and Time is a miraculous work, and its section 74 is perhaps some sort of picture-puzzle, one of those Gestalt-switch figures used in psychology, for Heidegger's students at the time at least.[6] You see something, and then, all of the sudden, after the Gestalt-switch, or after the leap, you see something else, and even if you try hard, you can no longer go back and see what you had first seen. You see in Being and Time the terrifying face of the old witch of the loneliness of the isolated bourgeois subjects, or the un-erotic groupings in their Gesellschaft, and you see the desire for a leap out of


Gesellschaft. Explicitly from 1929 on, the philosopher produces in you the mood to make the leap, and he gives you the clear direction for the leap. Maybe a critic steeped in deconstructive theory might say that you rearrange the words in «der Gemeinschaft, des Volkes» (SZ 384; «of the community, of {the} people,» BT 436), and thus, you open up the female receptivity of «die Gemeinschaft» to become impregnated by the sober, male, or neuter force of «das Volk.» In this process, you incorporate and make «frei» (SZ 38; «free,» BT 436) the real origin, and you eroticize it. Thus, you see the beautiful woman of the «Volksgemeinschaft,» as Heidegger says in the Rectorate Address (SB 15; MH 10), in all the radiance of her spiritual and technical armament. Another picture-puzzle is placed by Heidegger at the end of his Rectorate Address . Heidegger develops the same motif of identification I discussed with reference to Being and Time . As in Being and Time , the origin is present in an extremely endangered situation, and you have to listen to its call to grasp it in order to regain stable identity, authenticity, or your own true essence, and in order to fulfill the demand of the origin to be faithfully rerealized: «But neither will anyone ask us whether we will it or do not will it when the spriritual strength of the West fails and the West starts to come apart at the seams {in seinen Fugen kracht}, when this moribund pseudo civilization {abgelebte Scheinkultur} collapses into itself, pulling all forces into confusion and allowing them to suffocate in madness.»[7]

Everyone understands the very colloquial metaphor, «in den Fugen krachen» (to creak in the joints, to split, come apart, at the seams). For instance, a shaky chair «kracht in den Fugen» if one sits down on it, for its joints no longer keep the different parts firmly together. This expression is sometimes accompanied by some sort of enjoyment of or satisfaction with the shakiness, similar to the peculiar sadism children display from time to time. At this point in Heidegger' s speech, it is the triumphant gesture indicating that meanwhile, the anschwellender Bocksgesang has become such a Krach (very loud noise) that no one can any longer miss it or cover it up with the work of ambiguity, and that those whose victory has been forecast in the sentences on erwidert and Widerruf have in fact taken over the city. The countermovement to this downward plunge of collapse and suffocation is performed in the next paragraph, although he has already presented it several times before, and at one place in terms of Fuge. For about three pages prior to the sentence with «moribund pseudo civilization» he says that to realize the «primordial and full essence of science» requires that «we submit ourselves to the command decreed from long ago by the beginning of our spiritual-historical existence {wir uns in die ferne Verfügung des Anfangs unseres geistig-geschichtlichen Daseins fügen}» (SB 16; italics mine, J. F.).[8] The Fuge (joint) keeps something in the proper order. «In den Fugen krachen» is one state within the process of falling apart that can be counteracted only if one turns back and listens to the call of the Fuge to which the corresponding, or echoing, verb is «sich fügen.» «Sich fügen» is «to fit oneself (back) into the


proper order,» and is often used with the implication that one has tried hard to avoid fitting in but can no longer resist and thus gives in. «Sich in sein Schicksal fügen» means to accept one's fate and no longer try to resist it. To accept one' s fate is what authentic Dasein does since it realizes that by this it gains fullness and authenticity of life. Only inauthentic Dasein does not sich fügen into its fate. Pace Birmingham, Guignon, and Caputo, fate is neither made by the individual nor can it be evaded by the individual. Often, «sich fügen» means simply to surrender, «sich überliefern dem»;[9] correspondingly, that into which Dasein sich fügt, is the Fuge, Fügung, or Gefügtheit. Heidegger doesn't use Schicksal or Fügung. Rather, he prefers the noun «Verfügung.» For the latter is a bureaucratic, legal and military term and often means a command given in a very serious situation. Furthermore, the Verfügung is fate, namely, fate as it raises its voice and delivers a command. A command has to be heard. In Being and Time , (in contrast to inauthentic Dasein, which doesn't listen to the call) authentic Dasein erwidert the call of the Volk. In the Rectorate Address , «we» «fügen» ourselves into the call, that is, the «Verfügung.» The «Verfügung,» however, verfügt, commands, that the city—the universities and Germany— has to be cleaned up from all the «moribund pseudo civilization» in order to make room for the proper realization of Volk and Führer, just as the call in Being and Time verfügte that Gesellschaft had to be destroyed in order to make room for the proper rerealization of Gemeinschaft.

To return to the end of the Rectorate Address , after the paragraph with «in seinen Fugen kracht» Heidegger goes on:

Whether such a thing occurs or does not occur, this depends solely on whether we as a historical-spiritual Volk will ourselves, still and again {noch und wieder}, or whether we will ourselves no longer. Each individual has a part in deciding this {entscheidet darüber mir }, even if, and precisely if, he seeks to evade this decision[10]

As opposed to the situation in 1927, in 1933 the origin is already «free» in several empirical Daseine and has already taken over. Thus, one has to identify oneself with these authentic Daseine since they are the truth of oneself. In an ugly parody of Kant's fact of freedom, and as an example of the phenomenon that, as it was called in Being and Time , some Dasein can be the «'conscience' of Others» (BT 344; SZ 298),[11] Heidegger goes on:

But it is our will that our Volk fulfill its historical mission. We will ourselves. For the young and youngest elements of the Volk, which are already reaching beyond us, have already decided this. { Aber wir wollen, daß unser Volk seinen geschichtlichen Auftrag erfüllt. Wir wollen uns selbst. Denn die junge und jüngste Kraft des Volkes, die über uns schon hinweggreift, hat darüber bereits entschieden . }[12]

He then moves on with one of his characteristic «aber» («however»): «We can only fully understand the glory and greatness of this new beginning, however,


{ Die Herrlichkeit aber und die Größe dieses Aufbruchs } if we carry within ourselves that deep and broad thoughtfulness upon which the ancient wisdom of the Greeks drew in uttering the words»[13] in order to conclude with a quote from Plato: «ta . . . megala panta episphale . . . ("All that is great stands in the storm . . . ") {"Alles Große steht im Sturm"} (Platon, Republic , 497d, 9).»[14]

The sentence with «however» is well placed. The proverbial German «zer-streute Professor» (absentminded professor) might have been somewhat embarrassed by the format and tone of Heidegger's address. Now he can lean back relieved: Heidegger remains one of ours, concerned with Plato and serious study. Non-absentminded professors and all the «verblendeten jungen Leute» (deluded young people),[15] however, could see in the last sentences the appropriate expression of the sublime event, and for them the particle «however» amounted to a «now, finally.» However, just as at the forked road where we negate the obligations contained in the institutions of inline image,[16] there is more than one way. Those who already had a more specific agenda than the one of the non-absentminded professors and of the deluded young people will have heard, and read, the end differently. For them, the particle «however» introduced a warning to all the absentminded and non-absentminded professors: «Ihr werdet euch noch wundern!» (or: «Ihr werdet noch euer blaues Wunder erleben!» You will get the shock of your life!). The name of the most disgusting journal of the extreme Right in the Weimar Republic was Der Stürmer, a magazine full of the most horrifying anti-Semitic propaganda. The noun «Stürmer» is grammatically, in Aristotelean terms, paronymous, and a «Stürmer» is, psychologically and christologically, a figure of, with Heideggerian hyphens, In-Spiration and redemption. As «the grammarian gets his name from grammar,»[17] a Stürmer, stormer, gets his name from Sturm, storm. As the grammarian is able to practice grammar in virtue of the grammar in him, the Stürmer stürmt, storms, in virtue of the storm in him, which is the primary agent in the storming of the Stürmer: «The Stürmer stürmt. This individual storms in virtue of the storm that has ergriffen, captured, him, or that has sich in ihm niedergelassen, settled itself in this individual; therefore, this individual stands in the storm and is a stormer.» Stürmer was another name for those soldiers who—as in Langemarck and Verdun—ran out of their trenches in order to erstürmen, to take by storm, the lines of the enemy. Of course, the editors and readers of Der Stürmer used this name to indicate where they came from, and where they wanted to go to, namely, from the battlefield against the external enemy of World War I back into the city, in order to erstürmen, take by storm, the city and throw out whomever they regarded as the city's internal enemies, notably, the Jews, social democrats, liberals, communists, Asphalt-Literaten, and homosexuals, and to establish their sway. To be sure, no one can reasonably maintain that Heidegger found his anti-Semitism represented, or erwidert, echoed, in Der Stürmer , or that Heidegger wiederholte or erwiderte the anti-Semitism of Der Stürmer . Yet, Der Stürmer and its readers formed a


remarkable and vociferous group of those in whose leader Heidegger still believed in 1936. However, even without the existence of Der Stürmer , the people listening to Heidegger' s speech could not but be reminded of the heroes of Langemarck and Verdun. Most of the educated readers at that time had read Ernst Jünger's diary of his World War I, published for the first time in 1920 under the title In Stahlgewittern (In the thunderstorms of steel). In this book one could read about the dangers, excitements, and pleasures of warriors that were unattainable within bourgeois Gesellschaft, and about true comradeship brought about by the war; or, rather, made «free» (BT 436; SZ 384) by the war; the war that makes manifest whether in one' s own true self one is really a comrade or not. In Jünger, this was literature and for the most part free of what bourgeois readers might have regarded to be the vulgarities of many of the other novels on World War I. Even without Jünger's text, however, everyone was familiar with the vocabulary of Sturm, in which Sturm, or the command «Auf zum Sturm!,» «Sturmangriff!,» («Attack! Assault!») governs—as a substance or health in an Aristotelean inline image[18] —all the activities, persons, and materials necessary for an assault, as, for instance, with Heideggerian hyphens, «Sturm-Gepäck,» «Sturm-Gewehr,» «Sturm-Führer» «Sturm-Abteilung,» and so on. Jünger' s title is ambivalent. On the one hand, it refers, of course, to all the munition exploding on the battlefields. On the other hand, it refers to the alleged process whereby the war makes «free» one' s true self, and that the war forms, informs, that is, «steels» the individual, as the Führer used to say that the German soldier had to be «hart wie Krupp-Stahb» («as hard as steel manufactured by Krupp»). Jünger can indicate these multiple meanings already in the title of his novel because he can quite naturally rely on the use of the German preposition and prefix «in-» (in) in metaphors of In-Spiration. «Seid einig im Geiste!» («Be united in spirit!») is a formula used in church at several occasions in order to indicate that we open the hardened houses of our selfish egos to surrender the interior of our houses to God and to let the Geist enter, to let the Geist be the primary agent in all our deeds, and to be «authentically» united with the others im Geiste, in our spirits, because we are united in God's spirit in which we are because it is in us. [19] In 1934 the artist Ernst Barlach, who had hoped for a short time that the National Socialists would officially acknowledge his art as «German art,» made a sculpture entitled with a variation on the last words of the Rectorate Address , namely, "Wanderer im Wind" (Wanderer in the wind), today on display in the Ernst Barlach Museum in Hamburg. As the face of the upright person shows, it is a piece of inner emigration. This is probably the reason why Barlach preferred «wind» over «storm.» For «im Sturm» can of course be used, say, as the title of a painting showing a shipwreck or sailors trying to avoid one. However, its use as a metaphor of «heroic» enthusiasm and inspiration is common. A Wind can carry and inspire me as well, and it can also «blow into my face.» However, a Wind is by definition less strong than a Sturm, and it can even be very light. Furthermore, in contrast


to «Sturm» the word «Wind» can invite a certain pensiveness and even melancholy. [20] Thus Barlach's figure is not a «Stürmer» but a «Wanderer,» who does not have a specific agenda to realize or a target to «take by storm.» Still, he walks «in» the wind. The hair of the wanderer is moved by the wind. Either the wind is erwidert, in all its different meanings (including resistance to it), by an inner movement of the wanderer, or there is no exterior wind, and the face as well as the hair is the exterior expression of an inner wind. Or it is both ways at the same time.

Again, all these possibilities of this sculpture are covered in a completely appropriate way by the «im» of the title since, especially when faced with the accusation of resistance against the Sturm, Barlach can always refer to, and rely on, the uses of «in» in different inspirations depending on what it is that is in me and inspires me, as grammatically, according to Aristotle, the grammar is «inline image,» «in,»[21] me and enables me to practice it, to be realized grammar, and, thus, to be called a grammarian.

Educated in ancient literature as he was, Heidegger could have used another Greek quote, especially if he had wanted to calm the enthusiasm about the National Socialist «new beginning» down in some way, or to indicate, in whatever manner, inner reservations toward National Socialism. However, he chose the one which, by virtue of its context in Plato[22] as well as in Heidegger's speech, was, like no other, pertinent to support die Sache des, the cause of the, New National Socialist State as well as die Sache des Denkens, the issue of thinking. Or he could have given the entire sentence as it appears in the widely used translation by Schleiermacher: «Denn alles Große ist auch bedenklich und, wie man sagt, das SchÖne in der Tat schwer» («For, all that is great is also grave, and, as they say, the beautiful is difficult, indeed»). Since «bedenklich» often means «dubious,» this might have been read even as some sort of mental reservation toward National Socialism by those interested in that. If he had wanted to avoid any possibility of being understood as having reservations toward National Socialism, he could have replaced «bedenklich» with several other words, the best of which, in this situation, would probably have been «erhaben» (sublime). However, he left aside the second part of Plato' s sentence, and he translated its first part extremely willfully. If one assumes that Heidegger maintained, as do all the translators I know of, that Plato's «inline image» was supposed to mean something like «precarious,» «risky,» or «grave,» he deliberately turned Plato's intention into the opposite. By this, he produced a stirring metaphor of inspiration for all, so to speak, normal National .Socialists, and for all not yet decided. At the same time, however, he turned the «Military Service [Wehrdienst ]» (MH 10; SB 15ff.), about which he had talked before, into explicit aggression. In addition, he did not distance himself from the readers and producers of Der Stürmer . Rather, he invited them to add their «Angriff» (attack) to his «im Sturm»; all those Stürmer who already at that time wanted the war, or at least, as a


relative of mine (not a reader of Der Stürmer ) put it, a «small war» to conquer the Soviet Union and to make good for the «shame of Versailles.»

However, things are much simpler. As to Being and Time , one might wonder whether for its students at the time it was a picture-puzzle or straightforward national socialistic. The last line of the Rectorate Address , however, is definitely too blunt to be a picture-puzzle. For—to assume the impossible— even if none of the listeners to the Rectorate Address had ever heard of Der Stürmer , Jünger, or World War I, the presence of the SA with their swastika flags at the Rectorate Address was all too obvious, and—«um das Maß voll zu machen» (to fill the cup to the brim)—Heidegger had ordained that, at the end of the entire procedure, all attendants had to sing the so-called "Horst-Wessel-Lied." [23] During the Weimar Republic the SA, the Sturm Abteilung, had been the illegal army of Hitler's party, and the "Horst-Wessel-Lied" was their Kampflied (and, under the National Socialists, «the other» German national anthem). The members of the SA had erstürmt the meetings of their political foes and had beaten up and killed a lot of people. Thus, also the last sentence of Heidegger's speech is an open command to übefliefern oneself to the new state. The military term «Sturm Abteilung» meant the leading group, the vanguard, in a Sturm-Angriff. Of course, being the vanguard of the National Socialists, the SA and the editors of Der Stürmer used these names to call upon a political and military Wiederholung—Wiederholung in Heidegger's sense, namely, under new circumstances, that is, this time victorious—of the Sturm-Angriffe of the brave German soldiers in World War I. Thus, let' s zoom in one last time on the heroes of Langemarck and Verdun in order, then, to disappear into the German or non-German forests and to leave for other shores. [24]

B. Events under Trees and Stars

Hans Castorp was no dandy, nor an environmentalist. He wasn't a Held either, neither a «Held von Verdun» nor some other Held. And he was no Heros. Without knowing how, he stumbled into World War I as it burst into the last four pages of Thomas Mann's novel The Magic Mountain . Nonetheless, like the «Helden von Verdun,» Hans Castorp too ran forward, he too listened to some call of the Volk, and he too gave voice to the call he was hearing. But he was not singing the German national anthem. Rather, he sang some love song, a song of Heimat, homeland, and love, "Der Lindenbaum" ("The Lime Tree"):

Up he gets, and staggers on, limping on his earth-bound feet, all unconsciously singing:

"Its waving branches whi—ispered
A mess—age in my ear—"

and thus, in the tumult, in the rain, in the dusk, vanishes out of our sight. [25]


He wasn't in the first line, and he didn't seem to be very enthusiastic, or skillful. For, he didn't have the German Volk, or some of its blonde women in mind. Rather, he had fallen in love with the foe, with Madame Chauchat, Clavdia Chauchat, the Russian with a French husband; with her peculiarly gliding step, her broad cheek-bones, and her Kirghiz eyes that went through him «like a knife»[26] when he passed her by in the dining room. We don't know what happened to Hans Castorp. The author, son of the haute bourgeoisie in the open-minded Lübeck, for one moment feels tempted «to press a finger delicately to our eyes at the thought that we shall see you no more, hear you no more for ever.»[27] However, he immediately er-mann-t sich (pulls himself together), and even confesses that it is without great concern that he leaves Castorp's fortunes open.

"The Lime Tree" is part of the collection of poems "Winter Journey" ("Winter Reise"), written by the disappointed and persecuted democrat Wilhelm Müller, and set to music by Franz Schubert. Without its fifth angry and political stanza, it became very popular, a Volkslied. Heinrich Heine, a Jew, also wrote a poem that became a Volkslied, "Die Loreley." During National Socialism, in anthologies of folk songs, Heinrich Heine's name as the author was replaced with «author unknown,» or simply «Volkslied.» I don't know whether Heidegger liked "The Lime Tree." Maybe it doesn't particularly fit areas like the Black Forest, or the Harz about which Heine wrote his Die Harzreise . Nor does it seem to fit, or to respond, to erwidern, Heidegger's specific melancholia. Probably, there are folk songs about fir trees that he would have liked more. [28] o be sure, trees show up not only in Germany. After all, there is the Porphyrean tree in logic and ontology, and it was under a tree, notably, a fig tree, the Geschlecht of the mother, that Saint Augustine was converted:

So I stood up and left him where we had been sitting, utterly bewildered. Somehow I flung myself down beneath a fig tree and gave way to the tears which now streamed from my eyes, the sacrifice that is acceptable to you. . . . I was asking myself these questions, weeping all the while with the most bitter sorrow in my heart, when all at once I heard the sing-song voice of a child in a nearby house. Whether it was the voice of a boy or a gift I cannot say, but again and again it repeated the refrain 'Take it and read, take it and read' {tolle lege, tolle lege}.[29]

Nonetheless, there might be something special to the Deutsche Wald, even for those who have no sense for the German Soldier. Even in Benjamin, at a crucial point, namely, in his explication of aura, a tree shows up. [30] One might read as an implicit criticism of the theological abuse of the tree in Augustine the aphorism,

Commentary and translation stand in the same relation to the text as style and mimesis to nature: the same phenomenon considered from different aspects. On


the tree of the sacred text both are only the eternally rustling leaves; on that of the profane, the seasonally falling fruits. [31]

The same might hold true of a short piece in the context of aura not translated into English:

I climbed up a slope and lay down under a tree. The tree was a poplar or an alder. You ask why I have forgotten its species? I did so because, as I looked into the foliage and followed its movements with my eyes, language in me was absorbed by it so that, in my presence, language at that moment consummated again the very old marriage with the tree. The branches and the top swayed in consideration or bent in refusal. The branches presented themselves as inclined or as high-handed. The foliage fought against a rough draft of wind, shuddering before it or complying with it. The trunk had its good ground to stand on. And the leaves cast their shadows upon each other. A soft wind played for the wedding and soon took away the children, quickly sprouted from this bed, carded them into the world as an image-language. [32]

Maybe, these sentences show that, sometimes, even Benjamin could write somewhat kitschig. Nonetheless, they also show a little bit of Benjamin's tender nominalism as in contrast to the call in Augustine and Heidegger. Notably, they bear witness to Benjamin's concern with nature. After all, already in 1928, in One-Way Street , Benjamin wrote, «If society has so degenerated through necessity and greed that it can now receive the gifts of nature only rapaciously, that it snatches the fruit unripe from the trees in order to sell it most profitably, and is compelled to empty each dish in its determination to have enough, the earth will be impoverished and the land yield bad harvests.»[33] Thus, Benjamin was the first environmentalist, not Heidegger! «I'm just kidding,» as one often hears in this country after some joke, even after not very good ones of which, as I frankly admit, my book might contain some. Anyway, I started with the «Helden von Langemarck,» and I referred to Max Scheler's hymn on the war. Most probably, Heidegger had also read Ernst Jünger's In Stahlgewittern , and, immediately after its publication, he studied carefully Jünger's Der Arbeiter (SB 24f MH 17f.). Let me finish by just quoting the last, and pretty strange, piece, "To the Planetarium," of Benjamin's One-Way Street :

If one had to expound the doctrine of antiquity with utmost brevity while standing on one leg, as did Hillel that of the Jews, it could only be in this sentence: "They alone shall possess the earth who live from the powers of the cosmos." Nothing distinguishes the ancient from the modern man so much as the former's absorption in a cosmic experience scarcely known to later periods. Its waning is marked by the flowering of astronomy at the beginning of the modem age. Kepler, Copernicus, and Tycho Brahe were certainly not driven by sci-


entific impulses alone. All the same, the exclusive emphasis on an optical connection to the universe, to which astronomy very quickly led, contained a portent of what was to come. The ancients' intercourse with the cosmos had been different: the ecstatic trance. For it is in this experience alone that we gain certain knowledge of what is nearest to us and what is remotest to us, and never of one without the other. This means, however, that man can be in ecstatic contact with the cosmos only communally. It is the dangerous error of modem men to regard this experience as unimportant and avoidable, and to consign it to the individual as the poetic rapture of starry nights. It is not; its hour strikes again and again, and then neither nations nor generations can escape it, as was made terribly clear by the last war, which was an attempt at a new and unprecedented commingling with the cosmic powers. Human multitudes, gases, electrical forces were hurled into the open country, high-frequency currents coursed through the landscape, new constellations rose in the sky, aerial space and ocean depths thundered with propellers, and everywhere sacrificial shafts were dug in Mother Earth. This immense wooing of the cosmos was enacted for the first time on a planetary scale, that is, in the spirit of technology. But because the lust for profit of the ruling classes sought satisfaction through it, technology betrayed man and turned the bridal bed into a bloodbath. The mastery of nature, so the imperialists teach, is the purpose of all technology. But who would trust a cane wielder who proclaimed the mastery of children by adults to be the purpose of education? Is not education above all the indispensable ordering of the relationship between generations and therefore mastery, if we are to use this term, of that relationship and not of children? And likewise technology is not the mastery of nature but of the relation between nature and man. Men as a species completed their development thousands of years ago; but mankind as a species is just beginning his. In technology a physis is being organized through which mankind's contact with the cosmos takes a new and different form from that which it had in nations and families. One need recall only the experience of velocities by virtue of which mankind is now preparing to embark on incalculable journeys into the interior of time, to encounter there rhythms from which the sick shall draw strength as they did earlier on high mountains or at Southern seas. The "Lunaparks" are a prefiguration of sanatoria. The paroxysm of genuine cosmic experience is not tied to that tiny fragment of nature that we are accustomed to call "Nature." In the nights of annihilation of the last war the frame of mankind was shaken by a feeling that resembled the bliss of the epileptic. And the revolts that followed it were the first attempt of mankind to bring the new body under its control. The power of the proletariat is the measure of its convalescence. If it is not gripped to the very marrow by the discipline of this power, no pacifist polemics will save it. Living substance conquers the frenzy of destruction only in the ecstasy of procreation. [34]

After this, one might turn back a few pages and compare to Heidegger the notions of decision and resoluteness in "Madame Ariane—Second Courtyard on the Left." [35] Isn't that more interesting and much better written as well?


After all, it is you, dear readers, who are called upon to make up your minds, to make a decision , and «to have the last word»! Anyway, don't forget the end of "Madame Ariane—Second Courtyard on the Left":

Each morning the day lies like a fresh shirt on our bed; this incomparably fine, incomparably tightly woven tissue of pure prediction fits us perfectly. The happiness of the next twenty-four hours depends on our ability, on waking, to pick it up.


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