Studia Historica Septentrionalia 73


Annikki Niku, The sacred that conceals itself – Heidegger between Hölderlin and Hegel

According to Martin Heidegger (1889–1976), “A thinker states the being. A poet names the sacred.” For him, the poet of the sacred was Friedrich Hölderlin (1770–1843), “a poet’s poet”. On the other hand, Heidegger cites Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s (1770–1831) definition of philosophy: in the metaphysics of speculative dialectic, philosophy becomes what it is, “the most sacred, the innermost of the spirit”. Thus the concept of ‘sacred’ provides an opportunity to study the relationship of Heidegger’s late-period thinking to both poetry and absolute idealism. 

Hölderlin’s sacred conceals itself in nature as the “power of the earth”, the poet writes compelled by that sacred. Hegel and Schelling developed further his vitalist conception of nature, which also had an influence on the philosophy of identity. In their conception of nature, both Hölderlin and Hegel combined the best features of the Enlightenment and Romanticism. The main difference between them was caused by the fact that Hegel attempted to express intuitions and emotions as a system, whereas Hölderlin placed poetry before philosophy, its mythical language a synthesis of the determinacy of the intellectual and of the immediacy, unity, and wholeness of the historical. In his late period, beginning from Hölderlin’s conception of nature, Heidegger created his concept of the world as the fourfold of earth and sky, gods and mortals.

In my article I will demonstrate that the unity of love, pain and death is a set of ‘footprints’ leading to the sacred both in Hölderlin’s poetry and Hegel’s and Heidegger’s philosophy. In Hölderlin’s poetry that unity is embodied by Dionysus and Christ; in the elegy “Bread and Wine” they are absent, gone – but they have left traces, footprints. In Hegel this is about ethical life: the spirit of the religious community was born out of the “infinite anguish of love”, universal justice and of the actualization of freedom. Heidegger bypasses emotions in Hegel’s thinking as he interprets Hegel’s concept of ‘experience’ as absolute knowing habitual to our consciousness. Heidegger himself understands the unity of love, pain and death as the abyss of Being. When man forgets this, he reduces nature and finally himself to an instrument.

Love, pain and death as “footprints” leading to the sacred create cohesion. They are also interwoven in Hölderlin’s, Hegel’s and Heidegger’s conceptions of nature and modern Finnish environmental philosophy is beginning to take notice of their significance.

Takaisin Studia Historica Septentrionalia 73