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Religion without Why: Edith Stein and Martin Heidegger on the Overcoming of Metaphysics, with Particular Reference to Angelus Silesius and Denys the Areopagite

  • Michael F. Andrews
Part of the Analecta Husserliana book series (ANHU, volume 89)

Keywords

Collect Work Religious Experience Saturate Phenomenon Foreign Experience Negative Theology 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Jean-Luc Marion, In Excess: Studies of Saturated Phenomena, R. Homer and V. Beraud (trans.) (New York: Fordham University Press, 2002), p. 30.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    In What Is Metaphysics?, Heidegger distinguishes between two kinds of thinking: “representational thinking” [vorstellendes Denken] on the one hand, and “essential thinking” [wesentliches Denken] on the other hand. In The Mystical Element in Heidegger’s Thought John Caputo notes the following: “Representational thinking is depicted by Heidegger in the ‘Postscript’ as an attempt to calculate and count up beings, to reckon upon the possible uses to which they can be put (WM, 48/356–7). Essential thinking, on the other hand,’ spends itself (verschwendet: WM, 49/458) not on beings but on the truth of Being itself. John D. Caputo, The Mystical Element in Heidegger’s Thought (Villanova, PA: Oberline Printing Co., 1978), pp. 24–25.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Edith Stein, as well, notes that, “The inquiry into the meaning of being and of existents as such [des Seins und des Seienden als solchen] is, according to Aristotle’s statement in his Metaphysics, the task of first philosophy. Later on, this first philosophy was termed metaphysics.” She offers the following insight in footnote 33 on page 550 of the text, “Heidegger has never abrogated the ancient meaning of the term metaphysica generalis as denoting the science of existents as such [vom Seienden als solchem] but merely emphasized that first of all the meaning of being [Sein] should be made clear. In this demand we agree with him.” Edith Stein, Finite and Eternal Being (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 2002), pp. 20 and 550, respectively.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    This thematic is important to highlight in light of Stein’s and Heidegger’s overall project. Edith Stein notes that it is the task of Christian dogmatics and not Christian philosophy to treat of doctrinal exegesis: “Is it then correct when Heidegger asserts that in Christian dogmatics the questions concerning the nature of both being and nothingness remain unasked? This assertion is correct inasmuch as it is not at all the function of Christian dogmatics as such to ask questions but rather to teach Christian doctrine....” Edith Stein, Finite and Eternal Being (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 2002), p. 556.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Edith Stein, On the Problem of Empathy, from The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Volume III, Waltraut Stein (trans.) (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 1989), p. 11.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Here, it would be wise to heed the warning of Jean-Luc Marion: “He who pretends to go beyond a metaphysic must produce thereby another thought. And he who pretends to go beyond all metaphysics most often risks taking up again, without being conscious of it, its basic characteristic.” Jean-Luc Marion, God Without Being, Thomas A. Carlson (trans.) (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1991), p. 165.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Throughout this essay, I shall use the names “St. Denys the Areopagite,” “the Areopagite,” and “Dionysius” interchangeably. I shall not use the prefix “Pseudo-” in referring to any of these designations.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Jean-Luc Marion notes that, “According to the hypothesis [of excess and saturated phenomena], the impossibility of attaining knowledge of an object, comprehension in the strict sense does not come from a deficiency in the giving intuition, but from its excess, which neither concept nor signification nor intention can foresee, organize, or contain [T]he excess of intuition overcomes, submerges, exceeds — in short, saturates — the measure of each and every concept.” Jean-Luc Marion, In Excess. Studies of Saturated Phenomena, Robyn Homer and Vincent Beraud (trans.) (New York: Fordham University Press, 2002), p. 159.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    In_Lecture Five of The Principle of Reason, Heidegger notes that Leibniz (and also Hegel) “often speaks in his writings and letters of Angelus Silesius.” Martin Heidegger, The Principle of Reason, Reginald Lilly (trans.) (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), p. 35.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Martin Heidegger, The Principle of Reason, Reginald Lilly (trans.) (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1991), pp. 4–5.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Ibid., p. 4.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Edith Stein offers an equally technical definition of the meaning of ratio: “Meaning and understanding belong together. Meaning is what can be understood, and understanding is the grasping of meaning [Sinnerfassen]. To understand what is understandable (intelligible) is the precise nature or being of the intellect which for his reason is also called the understanding (German: Verstand; Latin: intellectus). In its logical or rational procedure, the understanding inquires into semantic associations and contexts [Sinnzusammenhänge]. Ratio (i.e., logical procedure) signifies the derivation of one meaning from another or the reduction of one meaning to another. This ratio comes to rest in some ultimate which can itself no longer either be derived from anything else nor be reduced to anything else.” Then, in footnote 7 on page 559, Stein notes that, “It is possible to distinguish ratio from intellectus by defining ratio as reason engaged in a discursive movement of causal relations, and intellectus as reason resting in the understanding of the ultimate meaning. Edith Stein, Finite and Eternal Being (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 2002), pp. 65 and 559. WGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Martin Heidegger, The Principle of Reason, Reginald Lilly (trans.) (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1999), p. 18.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Ibid., p. 18.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Ibid., p. 33.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Ibid., p. 33.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Ibid., p. 62.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Ibid., p. 35.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Ibid., p. 36.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Ibid., p. 32.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Ibid., p. 35.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Here, I am referring to Angelus Silesius as “the Cherubinic Wanderer.” Angelus Silesius, The Cherubinic Wanderer, Maria Shrady (trans.) (New York: Paulist Press, 1986). This was the first book of spiritual poetry written by Angelus Silesius and published in 1657. According to Martin Heidegger, Silesius’s poetry was familiar to Leibniz: “Leibniz was a younger contemporary of Angelus Silesius and was familiar with The Cherubinic Wanderer. Leibniz often speaks of his writings and letters of Angelus Silesius. Thus, in a letter to Paccius on January 28, 1695 he once wrote: ‘With every mystic there are a few places that are extraordinarily clever, full of difficult metaphors and virtually inclining to Godlessness, just as 1 have sometimes seen in the German — otherwise beautiful — poems of a certain man who is called Johannes Angelus Silesius...’” See: Martin Heidegger, The Principle of Reason, Reginald Lilly (trans.) (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1999), p. 35.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Angelus Silesius writes of the rose that it “pays no attention to itself, asks not whether it is seen.”Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    The term via negativa is itself controversial. Here, I refer to the classic tradition of Christian mystical theology, which includes John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart, Dionysius the Areopagite, and Angelus Silesius as well as Thomas Aquinas, Ignatius of Loyola, Anselm and many of the Greek fathers, including Evagrius of Pontus and Gregory of Nyssa. In terms of the soul’s encounter with the classic description of faith as a “dark night,” I would also include in this list the desert fathers, Søren Kierkegaard, Theresa of Avila, and Edith Stein. Kallistos Ware describes the experience of the via negativa as “what is often called a sense of the numinous... The Greek Fathers liken man’s encounter with God to the experience of someone walking over the mountains in the mist: he takes a step forward and suddenly finds that he is on the edge of a precipice, with no solid ground beneath his foot but only a bottomless abyss. Or else they use the example of a man standing at night in a darkened room: he opens the shutter over a window, and as he looks out there is a sudden flash of lightning, causing him to stagger backwards, momentarily blinded. Such is the effect of coming face to face with the living mystery of God: we are assailed by dizziness; all the familiar footholds vanish, and there seems nothing for us to grasp; our inward eyes are blinded, our normal assumptions shattered.” See: Kalistos Ware, The Orthodox Way (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1979), pp. 14–15.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    The “problem of technology” in Heidegger’s thought requires much more serious reflection than is possible in this paper. The thematic is addressed by Heidegger in terms of a “darkening of theWest” in his Rectoral Address at Freiburg, What isMetaphysics?Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    The themes to which I am referring here, namely “the numinous” and “mysterium tremendum,” pertain to the uncanny encounter of the soul to God in non-rational terms. See: Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-Rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational, John Harvey (trans.) (London: Oxford University Press, 1958).Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    As we shall see below, the terminology of “concealment” and “unconcealment” is used as well by Edith Stein in her analysis of Denys the Areopagite.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Martin Heidegger, The Principle of Reason, Reginald Lilly (trans.) (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1999), p. 90.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Ibid., p. 66.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Ibid., p. 56.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Ibid., p. 55.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Ibid., p. 55.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Ibid., p. 59.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Ibid., p. 73.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Ibid., p. 77.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Ibid., p. 89.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Ibid., p. 90.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Henry Pietersma, “Husserl’s Views on the Evident and the True,” from Husserl: Expositions and Appraisals, Elliston and McCormick (eds.) (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1977), p. 43.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Gary B. Madison, “Phenomenology and Existentialism,” from Husserl: Expositions and Appraisals, Elliston and McCormick (ed.) (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1977), p. 251.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Henry Pietersma, “Husserl’s Views on the Evident and the True,” from Husserl: Expositions and Appraisals, Elliston and McCormick (eds.) (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1977), pp. 42–43. 41 The question of the “vocation” of the West, a question that concerns the absolute limits of pure thinking, is historical in the sense that the question has been raised thematically throughout different epochs. For example: the Eleatics, Socrates, Plato, St. Anslem, Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, Levinas, etc.Google Scholar
  41. 42.
    By “apophatic” theology, I mean the theologia negativa. In negative theology, one can only make assertions of denial or negation, that is, apophasis. For example, St. Thomas Aquinas uses apophatic language to describe God in terms of what God is not. On the other hand, “kataphatic” theology uses positive imagery, it describes God in a more traditional sense by employing affirmative discourse.Google Scholar
  42. 43.
    Edith Stein’s description of the experience of God mirrors, to a significant degree, Derrida’s phenomenological description of “the name:” “That is the double bind of apophaticism, its effort both to negate the name of God and to negate everything except (save, sauf) the name of God, the double bind of a discourse that has been wounded by the logic of the impossible.”See: John D. Caputo, The Prayers and T ears of Jacques Derrida (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1997), p. 43.Google Scholar
  43. 44.
    To explore how Husserl described empathy [Einfühlung] throughout his career, see especially Ideas I, CartesianMeditations I, and Ideas II.Google Scholar
  44. 45.
    Edmund Husserl, Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology, Dorian Cairns (trans.) (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1995), p. 95.Google Scholar
  45. 46.
    Ibid., p. 103.Google Scholar
  46. 47.
    Ibid., pp. 96–100.Google Scholar
  47. 48.
    Ibid., pp. 110–111.Google Scholar
  48. 49.
    Ibid., pp. 111–112.Google Scholar
  49. 50.
    Ibid., p. 114.Google Scholar
  50. 51.
    Ibid., p. 120.Google Scholar
  51. 52.
    Edith Stein was born into a Jewish family in Breslau, the old capital of Silesia, in 1891. On January 1, 1922 she was baptized and shortly afterwards confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church. In 1933 she entered the austere Order of Discalced Carmelites in Cologne, Germany under the religious name Sister Benedicta of the Cross, and was later smuggled for safety to Echt, Holland. She was arrested by the Gestapo on August 2, 1943, and died in Auschwitz the following week on August 9, according to testimony and accounts offered by the International Red Cross. Edith Stein was canonized a saint by Pope John Paul II in Rome, 1999.Google Scholar
  52. 53.
    Edith Stein, An Autobiography: Life in a Jewish Family, from The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Volume I, Gelber and Leuven (eds..), Josephine Koeppel (trans.), OCD (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 1986), pp. 217–218.Google Scholar
  53. 54.
    Stein comments, “Adolf Reinach was privatdocent in philosophy. He and his friends, Hans Theodor Conrad and Moritz Geiger, and a few others, had originally been students of Theodor Lipps in Munich... After Husserl was called to Göttingen, they had come there together in 1905 to be initiated into the secrets of this new science by the master himself. So the ‘Göttingen School’ was founded. Reinach was the first of the group to be habilitated in Göttingen and was now Husserl’s right hand; primarily, he was the link between him and the students...” Edith Stein, An Autobiography: Life in a Jewish Family, from The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Volume I Gelber and Leuven (eds.), Josephine Koeppel (trans.), OCD (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 1986), p. 247.Google Scholar
  54. 55.
    The friends and colleagues of Husserl affectionately referred to themselves as the “Göttingen Circle.”Google Scholar
  55. 56.
    Stein notes: “His [Scheler’s] influence in those years affected me, as it did many others, far beyond the sphere of philosophy. I do not know in which year Scheler returned to the Catholic Church. It could not have been long before I met him. In any case, he was quite full of Catholic ideas at the time and employed all the brilliance of his spirit and his eloquence to plead them. This was my first encounter with this hitherto totally unknown world. It did not lead me as yet to the Faith. But it did open for me a region of ‘phenomena’ which I could then no longer bypass blindly.” Edith Stein, An Autobiography: Life in a Jewish Family, from The Collected Work of Edith Stein, Volume I, Gelber and Leuven (eds..), Josephine Koeppel, OCD (trans.) (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 1986), p. 260.Google Scholar
  56. 57.
    So-called “empathy theory” was a growing concern for the newly emerging German phenomenologists and empirical psychologists writing at the turn of the twentieth century. Husserl, Stein, Scheler and Ingarden for example, each charged Theodor Lipps for misappropriating the term Einfühlung without making the necessary distinctions between non-primordial and primordial experience. Such was the argument Husserl raised against the problem of “pyschologism” in his influential essay, Philosophy as a Rigorous Science. Both Stein and Ingarden also leveled this charge against Dilthey as well. See: Roman Ingarden, The Cognition of the Literary Work of Art, Crowley and Olson (trans.) (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1973), p. 3.Google Scholar
  57. 58.
    The thematic of intersubjective constitution dominated much of Husserl’s professional rumination, especially following the publication of Ideas I in I 1913. Edith Stein was a student of Husserl’s from 1913–1916, and served as his research assistant from 1916–1918. Her primary tasks during this time was to edit and organize Husserl’s notes for Ideas II (which is exclusively concerned with the theory of intersubjective constitution), and his Lectures on Internal Time Consciousness. Intersubjective constitution was further explored by Husserl in CartesianMeditations and The Crisis of European Sciences, among other works, and by Edith Stein in Zum Problem der Einfühlung and in her habilitation essay, published in Husserl’s 1922 Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung.Google Scholar
  58. 59.
    Edith Stein, On the Problem of Empathy, from The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Volume III, Waltraut Stein (trans.) (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 1989), pp. 12.Google Scholar
  59. 60.
    Ibid., p. 21.Google Scholar
  60. 61.
    Ibid., p. 11.Google Scholar
  61. 62.
    Ibid., p. 11.Google Scholar
  62. 63.
    See: Exodus 3:14. “Yahweh” is the name for God that was revealed to Moses during his encounter with the burning bush. Yahweh is an archaic form of the Hebrew verb “to be,” and is sometimes translated in future tense.Google Scholar
  63. 64.
    Exploring Derrida’s Suaf le Nom, John D. Caputo notes, “Derrida’s formula, which is no hermeneutic key or a semantic secret, goes like this: wherever you read the name of God in negative theology, remember, whatever you believe, that is the name of the wholly other, and remember as you read that every other is wholly other.” John D. Caputo, The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1997), p. 52.Google Scholar
  64. 65.
    Edith Stein writes: “When Dionysius calls Daniel, Ezechiel, or even the Apostle Peter ‘theologians,’ he does not mean only nor, as I believe, even primarily that they are the authors of the books or letters bearing their names, but that they are (as we should say) inspired: they speak of God because God has taken hold of them or God speaks through them. In this sense the angels, too, are theologians, and Christ, the living Word of God, is the highest of all theologians. Indeed, we shall in the end be led to call God the ‘Primal Theologian’ [Ur-Theologe]. Consequently, the various ‘theologies’ distinguished from ‘mystical theology’ in the work are not ‘disciplines’ or fields, but diffierent manners of speaking of God and — expressed in them —diffierent ways or manners of knowing God (or not-knowing him); mystical theology itself represents the highest stage. Edith Stein, “Ways to Know God,” from Knowledge and Faith: The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Volume VIII, Walter Redmond (trans.) (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 2000), p. 87.Google Scholar
  65. 66.
    “Ways to know God: The Symbolic Theology of Dionysius the Areopagite and Its Objective Presuppositions,” The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Volume VIII, Walter W Redmond (trans.) (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 2000), p. 87.Google Scholar
  66. 67.
    Ibid., p. 88.Google Scholar
  67. 68.
    Ibid., p. 88.Google Scholar
  68. 69.
    Ibid., p. 88.Google Scholar
  69. 70.
    Pslam 26:19.Google Scholar
  70. 71.
    Edith Stein, “Ways to Know God: The Symbolic Theology of Dionysius the Areopagite and Its Objective Presuppositions,” Walter Redmond (trans.), The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Volume VIII (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 2000), p. 89.Google Scholar
  71. 72.
    “This world is also a possible intuitive basis for image-language, for creating words and at the same time for understanding’ symbolic theology’.... Symbolic speech here expresses actual or supposed symbolic knowledge. And in such knowledge the image does more than make present, represent, something known before but not now present, so that it may be known again, recognized, in its image. The image leads to the knowledge of what is still unknown. The ‘theologian’ comes to know God from the image. The image in this case is not an object that he forms but one that God forms....” Edith Stein, “Ways to Know God: The Symbolic Theology of Dionysius the Areopagite and Its Objective Presuppositions,” Walter Redmond (trans.), The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Volume VIII (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 2000), pp. 99–100.Google Scholar
  72. 73.
    Ibid., p. 130.Google Scholar
  73. 74.
    Ibid., p. 89.Google Scholar
  74. 75.
    Ibid., p. 89.Google Scholar
  75. 76.
    Ibid., pp. 104–106.Google Scholar
  76. 77.
    Ibid., p. 106.Google Scholar
  77. 78.
    Ibid., p. 107.Google Scholar
  78. 79.
    Ibid., p. 106.Google Scholar
  79. 80.
    I Corinthians 13:13. St. Paul continues, “Be eager to have the gifts that come from the Holy Spirit, especially the gift of prophecy. If you speak languages that others do not know, God will understand what you are saying, though no one else will know what you mean. You will be talking about mysteries that only the Spirit understands...”Google Scholar
  80. 81.
    Edith Stein, “Ways to Know God: The Symbolic Theology of Dionysius the Areopagite and Its Objective Presuppositions,” Walter Redmond (trans.), The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Volume VIII (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 2000), p. 114.Google Scholar
  81. 82.
    Ibid., pp. 116–117.Google Scholar
  82. 83.
    Ibid., p. 125.Google Scholar
  83. 84.
    Ibid., p. 124.Google Scholar
  84. 85.
    See Chapter Five, “The Icon or the Endless Hermeneutic,” from Jean-Luc Marion, In Exeess: Studies of Saturated Phenomena, Robyn Homer and Vincent Beraud (trans.) (New York: Fordham University Press, 2002), pp. 104–127.Google Scholar
  85. 86.
    Again, the similarity between Edith Stein and Jean-Luc Marion is striking on this point. Marion writes, “That the two questions of the ‘metaphysics of presence’ and of ‘negative theology’ — questions which to all appearances come from such dissimilar provenances — should today end up encountering one another, indeed end up being by and large superimposed, could be surprising....” Jean-Luc Marion, In Excess: Studies of Saturated Phenomena, Robyn Homer and Vincent Beraud (trans.) (New York: Fordham University Press, 2002), p. 128.Google Scholar
  86. 87.
    Jean-Luc Marion, In Excess: Studies of Saturated Phenomena, Robyn Homer and Vincent Beraud (trans.) (New York: Fordham University Press, 2002), p. 132.Google Scholar
  87. 88.
    Marion writes: “The intention (the concept or the signification) can never reach adequation with the intuition (fulfillment), not because the latter is lacking but because it exceeds what the concept can receive, expose, and comprehend. This is what we have elsewhere called the saturated phenomenon.... The ‘non’ of the so-called negative theology does not say the Name any more than do the ‘names’ of the affirmative way. For if no one must say the Name, this is not simply because it surpasses all names, passes beyond all essence and all presence.” Jean-Luc Marion, In Exeess: Studies of Saturated Phenomena, Robyn Homer and Vincent Beraud (trans.) (New York: Fordham University Press, 2002), pp. 159–162.Google Scholar
  88. 89.
    Jean-Luc Marion, In Excess: Studies of Saturated Phenomena, Robyn Homer and Vincent Beraud (trans.) (New York: Fordham University Press, 2002), p. 132.Google Scholar
  89. 90.
    Edith Stein, Finite and Eternal Being: The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Volume IX, Kurt Reinhardt (trans.) (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 2002), p. 65.Google Scholar
  90. 91.
    Jean-Luc Marion, In Excess: Studies of Saturated Phenomena, Robyn Homer and Vincent Beraud (trans.) (New York: Fordham University Press, 2002), pp. 154–155.Google Scholar
  91. 92.
    Ibid., p. 159.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael F. Andrews
    • 1
  1. 1.Seattle UniversityUSA

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