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Meister Eckhart and the Later Heidegger: The Mystical Element in Heidegger's Thought: Part Two
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Meister Eckhart and the Later Heidegger: The Mystical Element in Heidegger's Thought Part Two JOHN D. CAPUTO III. HEIDEGGER AND ECKHART Space does not permit us to pursue Eckhart's thought in any greater detail. We must instead turn to Heidegger and develop the striking parallel of the latter's thought to that of the mystic of Hochheim. Dasein and the Ground of the Soul. Both Eckhart and Heidegger reject any merely "anthropological" account of the essence of man. Neither is content to say that man is one being among others, differentiated by his "rational faculty." Man must be under- stood instead in relationship to something which transcends beings altogether. The es- sential "greatness" of man is nothing human or anthropological, but rests in his being the privileged "place" (Stiitte: Q, 213;Ortscha[t: HB, 77) in which the "transcendent" comes to pass. 3" Hence neither Eckhart nor Heidegger speak of "man," but of the "ground of the soul" or the "Dasein" in man. And as the ground of the soul is the sanc- tuary or temple of God, so for Heidegger Dasein is the place which is needed by and used for the Truth of Being. Heidegger as much as draws this analogy of his thought to Eckhart for us himself. Referring to a text from the Talks of Instruction (Q, 57) in which Eckhart distinguishes those who are great in their "being" from those whose "outer works" alone are great, Heidegger comments: "Let us consider that the great being [Wesen] of man is that it belongs to the essence [Wesen] of Being and is used by the latter to preserve [wahren] the essence of Being in its Truth [Wahrheit]" (K, 39). Let us take a closer look at this comparison. Dasein is not a term for anything psycho- logical; it is not a "faculty" of the "mind," nor is it "consciousness." It is the process by which a "world," and the things that are in the world, become manifest. Dasein is the ecstatic relationship of openness to Being in which and through which Being reveals it- self. Dasein comes to pass "in" man, but it is not equatable with man. For man is a being, and Dasein is the process by which beings come to be manifest. But Eckhart makes a comparable claim about the ground of the soul. For the highest power of the soul is so noble, he says, as to be nameless. "This power has nothing in common with anything else" (Q, 210). It is neither "this nor that." It is not a faculty of the soul, but prior to all faculties. It is not identifiable with anything at all, anthropological or otherwise. It is not a being, just the way Dasein is not an existent entity (ein Seiendes), but a place within entities wherein God reveals Himself in His "naked Being." The ground of the soul is not man's "specific difference." That is why we have underlined the 82 We have chosen "transcendent" as a neutral term to refer indifferently to Heidegger's "Sein'" and Eckhart's "God." [61] 62 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY importance of Heidegger's characterization of the enlivening attitude of medieval mys- ticism as "the transcendent and primordial relationship of the soul to God" (DS, 1). For Heidegger has taken over this same structure in his own mature philosophical writings: the structure of a relationship to the transcendent which comes about in man, but is not identifiable with anything "human." By its "faculties," Eckhart held, the soul performed outer works and concerned itself with created things, thus running the risk of entirely forgetting the "hidden ground" which is deeper than all faculties. Heideggcr too warns of the danger of becoming so preoccupied with the business of everydayness as to forget the question of the meaning of Being. In the later Heidegger, "fallen" Dasein is so devoted to the challenge of master- ing and manipulating things that it is unmindful of the deeper Truth of Being which technology conceals. Both Eckhart and Heidegger de.~'ibc a comparable "fallenness" into everyday existence, and both interpret it as a forgetfulness of a silent, hidden ground in which the everyday is transcended. Moreover...

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