The figure of the Last God (der letzte Gott) is directly connected and tied to the Event (Ereignis) of the authentic appropriation of Dasein (Being-there) by humans in the world. The German word Ereignis is difficult to translate in this context. Here, the Russian shades of the word ‘event’ as a co-occurrence – a joint existence, being together; an event as a chance, incident, ‘an event happened’ – are relevant. In German, the semantic line is complemented by the pair of modes eigenes/uneigenes Dasein – authentic or inauthentic existence of Dasein. Eigen means ‘own’, which is also present in the word Ereignis. Event-Ereignis is the appropriation of being, its ownership in the event-fulfillment, where a human being as Dasein directs all attention and effort to exist authentically.
For Heidegger, this is directly related to two things:
Zum-Tode-sein, being-towards-death. The possibility of authentic existence opens up for Dasein (conditionally for humans) in the face of its finitude, i.e. always its own and inevitable death.
Later, the possibility, and even the urgent need, to affirm the Other Beginning of philosophy as another more authentic way of thinking the truth of Being and clothing it in a radically different philosophy from the thousands of years of European metaphysics.
Heidegger himself derived the word Ereignis from the word Augen – eyes. Thus, the event-appropriation of being is also something quite understandable and visible.
It is precisely after a certain result of a radical change in Dasein’s and human thinking (it is precisely in Dasein where there is a human as its presence in the world, i.e. Dasein is in some sense quite concrete and primary) – that a person can see the Last God passing somewhere on the horizon, who gives him a barely noticeable hint as an affirmation of the authenticity of the event-fulfillment. Or he may not give it, or a person may not notice it, or he may not come at all.
Nevertheless, the possibility of the Last God passing by us – not for our sake – is rooted and tied to our Event-Ereignis. Roughly speaking, by shifting the ‘center of gravity’ of our existence towards an authentic experience of our finitude and the need for the Other Beginning, we can and should become subtle in relation to any Divine beings, so as not to frighten them away and be able to perceive them and their slightest gestures.
In a sense, we can consider the change of the Dasein regime, the beginning of the Other Beginning of philosophy, the Event-Ereignis and the passing by of the Last God as synchronous events, as one and the same event of Being happening simultaneously.
Everything that has been said about the Last God was first and only said in German with shades of Swabian dialect, within the framework of Heidegger’s need to move away from the conceptual thinking of classical philosophy. For a different thinking of the truth of Being, a different language is needed to express this truth, which corresponds to the maxim ‘language is the home of Being’. But Heidegger does not invent an artificial language; he remains within the realm of his native German language, its rural archaisms and dialects, beginning to speak it in a completely different way (cf. French façon de parler). His style is based on hermeneutic methods of constant circling and returning, emphasising the division of words by highlighting prefixes and roots, and referring to simple etymological meanings of words and their interrelations. Despite the seemingly terminological overload, his language strives to speak simply but at the same time ornately. The intertwining forest paths (Holzwege) that often lead to dead ends and were laid in the dark part of the Black Forest are a well-known metaphor of his thinking. For such a completely captivating and invoking manner of speech, Heidegger received the nickname ‘Black Forest shaman’.
It is worth mentioning Heidegger’s well-known call to let language speak for itself, which sounds more direct in German: ‘die Sprache spricht’. This means ‘the language speaks’, with the verb formed from the same root as the noun. In Russian, one could roughly say, ‘Let the saying speak for itself’ (пусть сказ сказывает), This phrase contains a call to pay close attention not to speech (discourse, what and how we speak) but to the language on which and within which this speech takes place.
As with all well-known deities, the proper root name of the Last God is unknown to us. We are dealing with his heiði, a poetic technique of indirect naming, deixis. He is the Last, letzte. According to Heidegger, all the classical deities, and he spoke and referred mainly to the Greeks, fled the world because of the rudeness, ignorance and boorishness of men. The deities are subtle, fearful and gentle. The noise of a branch disturbed by a hunter makes the nymphs flee to a new location. The coarseness of thought, the coarseness of language, the technical pressure on nature, society and man, are all alien to them and leave no hiding place. The deities have fled from such people as we have become and still are.
Modern humanity lives in a ontic-historical gap, when the old deities have already gone, and the new ones have not yet come, writes Heidegger. And the question of the truth of Being is the focus, the flame, around which the most sensitive and persistent mortals, who need their guardianship of this question, and the Immortals must converge in the night of the world.
Accordingly, the Last God is not just one of the old deities, but probably not one of the host of deities to come either. He is the Last. This does not mean that there will be no other deities outside of him and after him. Perhaps, by changing their attitude towards Being and the existing, the deities will return, and the Last God will be the last, separate from their cavalcade and an independent figure, who does not come into the world to be, stay in it but passes by, casting an almost imperceptible glance at us here.
In addition to being der letzte, he is also Gott. From the abundance of variations of the word ‘god’ and synonyms used by Heidegger (for example, Immortals or Göttliche, divine), he uses the classic der Gott. It is noteworthy that in the German language, the firm establishment of the grammatical masculine gender for Gott is a later innovation directly linked to the assertion of Christianity. In earlier times, ‘God’ was of the neuter gender, indicating its superiority over gender assignment and, in general, its exaltedness over the worldly. Partly, the correction of names and the development of profound theology towards the apophatic dimension and the distinction of the nature of the deity were carried out by Rhineland mystics, in particular, Meister Eckhart in his teaching on Gott/God and its grounding in apophatic Gottheit/Divinity.
Therefore, we consider it permissible to use the form Last God carefully.
Also, the German word Gott derives from the Proto-Indo-European lexeme *ǵʰutós, meaning ‘invoked’, ‘called upon’; the one who appeared in response to an oral invocation.
The only described and most important phenomenon of the Last God is his passing by somewhere on our horizon and a slight hint, a nod.
We do not know any other characteristics of him, his appearance, iconography, pronoun-epithets, details of his journey, from where and to where, etc. We know nothing. In this respect, the extreme brevity of his ‘appearance’ and passing by can refer to apophaticism, because statements about who and what he is are extremely scarce compared to the endless string of enumerations of who and what he is not.
The Last God passes us by, away from us, perhaps with a certain wariness and squeamishness of ‘aren’t they rude enough to pass so close to be seen’.
Finally, he may not pass by us at all, but remain unnoticed, not-missing.
In his last interview with the German news magazine Der Spiegel, which at Heidegger’s insistence came out after his death, he argues about the being-historical (Seinsgeschichte) abandonment of the world and thought, and leaves the following enigmatic passage:
Only God can still save us. We are left with only one possibility: in thought and poetry to prepare readiness for the appearance of God or for the absence of God and destruction; for in the face of the absent God we perish.
We cannot summon him by thought; we can, at most, awaken a readiness of expectation.
Heidegger does not specify which God he is talking about at all, but the general allusion and the context of the phrase and of his whole philosophy allow a path to be drawn precisely to the Last God and the need for man to become sensitive, gentle and subtle in his thinking and striving for the divine. Divinity cannot be called out loudly, forced to come by means of incantation. It is a question of awakening readiness, not even of meeting, but of waiting (‘prepare readiness’). To the possible theophany and gestures of the Last God is added the possibility (not the obligation!) of salvation.
The figure of the Last God cannot be incorporated into any old pantheon or identified with any one of the already escaped deities. Heidegger warns against this and it contradicts the way his thought unfolds.
The passing by of the Last God is absolutely not the second coming of Jesus Christ. According to Heidegger, from within Christian theology and metaphysics it is impossible to solve the question of the truth of being; it would only be a re-enactment and re-transformation of the same dead metaphysics of the First Beginning of philosophy. Numerous and rather harsh critical passages against Christianity are contained in Heidegger’s Black Notebooks, which also blocks the transfer and interpretation of the image of the Last God in a Christian vein.
In some aspects, Heidegger’s ideas and those passages where he approaches or enters the territory of theology are quite close to non-Christian, so-called ‘pagan’ theologies and metaphysics (primarily of a henological and advaitic nature). However, even in this regard, one should avoid drawing direct parallels, identities, and incorporations.
In general, Heidegger elegantly solves the problem of ‘monotheism vs. polytheism’. He says that the answer to this question should be found by the deities themselves. They must all gather together on the Thing and decide whether they are many or one.
The theophany of the Last God is eschatological in its etymological meaning: from the Greek ἔσχατος (‘last’) and λόγος (‘word’).
The essence of the history of Being in its First Beginning is its gradual thinning out, forgetting, and even forgetting the fact that ‘we have forgotten something’. The Last God and his last gesture, a hint that is an answer to the authentic event-fulfillment of the turned towards its finitude of being-here and the beginning of the Other Beginning.
In general, it can be confidently stated that the cult of the Last God, in the classical and idolatrous sense, is impossible and erroneous.
In a sense the Last God has ‘his people’. Not priests, adepts or ‘slaves’, but, as Heidegger calls them, the singular (die Einzelnen), the coming (die Zukünftigen) or, sometimes, the ‘great hidden loners’.
In Heidegger it is the truly few who, in the midst of historical beingness, want, boredom, and against the flickering agitation of das Man (the faceless, mass, unauthentic ‘subject’, instead of the existential man) preserve the thinking of Being, interrogate it, and mute precise thought in silence. They are the transitional ones who quietly march alone in the gap between the already dead and finished metaphysics of the West, including all its ‘traditions’ – but nevertheless still continuing to galvanise and reanimate, to rearrange and reassemble its decaying corpse of thought – and the still not (noch nicht) begun Other Beginning of philosophy. They are the last guardians and shepherds of the fire of Being and transition (Übergang).
If we are to speak of any ‘class affiliation’ of them, it would be philosophers and poets, the latter also including people of art in general. Heidegger says that philosophy and poetry are sisters who ascend to equally high peaks of two mountains, and the transition between them is possible not through descent and ascent, but by leapfrogging from peak to peak.
Philosophical thought questions and conceptualises Being and its truth, while poetic thought brings it forth in words and arts. The realm of poetry and art belongs to the Sacred (das Heilige, Sacrum) itself. They derive their origin from the Sacred, feed on it, express and transmit it. And philosophers, turning to poetry and poets, address the Sacred through them. Any creative act, as the etymology of the Greek word ποίησις suggests, is a bringing-forth, a bringing-to-presence, a setting-here, and it remains and arrives under the shade of the Sacred.
It is known that Rudolf Otto’s ideas had a great influence on Heidegger’s conception of the Sacred. Otto claimed that the essence of the experience of the Sacred lies in an inseparable, fascinating sensation of the incredible, numinous horror-and-delight. The Sacred is an experience of horror, and Angst (anxiety) as an objectless existential horror, but ultimately pointing to finitude and mortality, is one of the most important elements of Dasein’s analysis.
One could say that the Last God is the deity of philosophers and poets. However, here it is necessary to exclude two mistaken understandings of the meaning of ‘God of something’:
- The Last God is not the deity of philosophers in the sense in which it was for Enlightenment and deistic philosophers, as some instrumental and technical institution, artificially conceived and disconnected from religion; necessary as a deus ex machina for constructing scientific images of the world in accordance with the current level of development of science and technology. That is, this is not the ‘God’ that is resorted to as a last resort when one cannot explain ultimate reasons or mechanics.
- The Ultimate God is the deity of philosophers and poets not in the sense proposed within the framework of late naturalism and attributing various natural phenomena to the will and patronage of the deity. Just as Zeus is not the deity of all existing lightning, and Donnar is not the deity of all thunderclaps, although both of them, according to myths, are capable of throwing thunderbolts and causing the roar of heaven. Similarly, the Ultimate God is not the patron, father or ‘functionary’ of all philosophers.
To the extent of the possibility of translating Heidegger’s philosophical text and fundamental intention into other languages, if they are assimilated and find their thinkers who follow his thought and proposed changes in the façon de parler, the ‘coming people’ can be gathered from hidden individuals of any ethnicity and nationality. Like those who set out from their midst to blaze a trail and build a bridge towards other infinite possibilities of thought and history.
Hint (Wink) is that only barely noticeable gesture of the Last God towards us, which he makes (or doesn’t make) as he passes by, as an assurance and sign that the event of the appropriation of Being has come true.
The German word Wink has two roots:
- To wave, sway, nod, beckon. To make a light bodily gesture. This includes the meaning of winking, closing one eye as a hint. It is believed that in Germanic culture the spread of winking (winken) is associated with the cult of the one-eyed deity Wotan/Odin.
- As a synonym for the English word hint – a clue, a trick. In this case, Wink can be translated into the realm of language as a certain linguistic ‘gesture’ that will hardly or invisibly be pronounced in another language of a different understanding of the truth of Being.
The connection of the hint of the Last God with the assertion that we have all done the right thing in the event of mastering our Being-there and finding the right word (das Wort) to express in thought and (Sacred) art the truth of Being, makes the figure and gesture of the Last God fundamental-ontological. But this gesture is barely perceptible; it is light, made and thrown as if by chance, without effort to ensure that we see and perceive it for sure. We can even miss it altogether, so we must be sensitive and not show hasty and greedy persistence.
The Quadrilateral, or das Geviert, is a visual illustration and structure of Being as seen by Heidegger.
In understanding the Quadrilateral, it is essential to avoid any analogies associated with the symbolism of the cross. The Quadrilateral has no relation to Christian crucifixion, the sun or seasonal wheel, the St. Andrew’s cross, etc.
All parts of the Quadrilateral should be thought of together and always together; if one is mentioned or remembered, the others should be drawn and remembered as well.
At the center of the Quadrilateral is Being-Sein/Seyn, or Da-Sein, or sometimes das Ding-Thing. Something at the center is a resulting manifestation, the sum of all four sides of das Geviert.
The Quadrilateral is formed by the overlapping of two axes, Immortals/Divine – Mortals/Humans and Heaven/World – Earth. According to Heidegger, there is a constant struggle, πόλεμος, between World and Earth. On the other hand, the Divine and humans are opposed to each other, which means that they are not necessarily hostile; the discord between them is a possibility, not a given. The given is that they stand opposite to each other. The Divine are located on the ‘same plane’ as Heaven/World, while humans are on the same plane as Earth, which indicates their mutual proximity.
Being in general, our Being-in-the-world and the thing itself are the intersection of these four principles, instances or forces.
The essence of Heaven/World is to be a cosmos, to establish the law, to give a large space for being-in-the-world (in-der-Welt–sein), that is, Heaven/World is openness.
The essence of Earth, which belongs to the World but disputes it, is that it expresses the principle of concealment. Earth gives things matter and strives to hide and protect itself from Heaven.
Humans are mortals in the World, on Earth and under Heaven. This is their main feature – the awareness of their inevitable mortality and the possibility of facing death. Also, in their philosophy and arts, they move towards the center of Being, poetically bringing Being into the world as the truth of unconcealment (Ἀλήθεια).
And the Divine are Immortals; they do not know death in front of them, so they are puzzled and question their own Being based on other assumptions and positions, and in maintaining the question of Being, they need humans standing in front of them.
- Accordingly, if Earth finally closes itself in the dark womb of material inertia, countability, and chthonic futility;
- if Heaven turns away, and the harmony of the World-cosmos disintegrates;
- If a person surrenders to earthiness, gets involved in rudeness, calculation, machinations with the existing, if ‘everything becomes clear in the world’ to them;
- If then the Divine flee from the World and from humans, frightened and unable to bear the arrogant rudeness of the ‘last men’;
then the entire Quadriliteral falls apart and there occurs a complete oblivion of Being, the sacred sources of things (art, crafts, poetry), and our concrete existence falls into empty agitation of games and re-combinations of the same thing from the same thing; it falls into nihilism as the final oblivion of what has been lost; into boredom and deprivation of any meaning of life; into denial of its own mortality, finiteness, into complete inauthenticity and blindness (uneigene) from which it is impossible to speak and imagine – not the passing of the Last God on the horizon – but even the very thought that something is fundamentally and completely not as it should be.
Der letzte Gott
Das Kommendste im Kommen, das austragend sich als Ereignis ereignet.
Das Kommen – als Wesen des Seyns.
Frage das Seyn! Und in dessen Stille als dem Anfang des Wortes antwortet Gott.
Alles Seiende mögt ihr durchstreifen, nirgends zeigt sich die Spur des Gottes.
The Last God
The most imminent in coming, that which, by constituting itself, happens as an event.
Arrival as the essence of being.
Ask Seyn-being itself! And in its silence, as the Beginning of speech, God will answer.
You may roam through everything that exists, but nowhere does the trace of God show itself.
The Last God is the Beginning of the longest destiny (Geschichte) by the shortest path. Long preparation is necessary for the great moment of its passing by. For such preparation, peoples and countries are too small; they are closed for true growth and devoted to Machenschaft.
Only the great and hidden loners will prepare silence for God’s passing and prepare between them a silent attitude.
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