The Question: “Why are there beings at all, instead of nothing?”
Martin Heidegger. By ‘beings’ Heidegger meant anything at all that ‘is’, and not just living beings or human beings.
The Question of Being as that insurmountable Mystery which is completely beyond all scientific, religious and metaphysical explanations - each of which make Being as such a mere result or attribute of ‘beings’ or of a ‘being’, i.e. of anything or everything that IS or WAS, whether a supreme being or a ‘Big Bang’.
Martin Heidegger - the first thinker to recognise the Question of Being as a question totally unthought in the entire history of both Western and Eastern thought, science and religion, physics and metaphysics, and as the single most fundamental question of philosophy.
“Philosophy begins with a mood.” Martin Heidegger
Three fundamental moods necessary to approach The Question:
- “Openness to the Mystery” (Heidegger)
- Reverence for the Mystery. This is not the same as reverence for any god or guru, teaching or person - for any being. It is reverence for the mystery of Being as such, i.e. the fundamental question of why anyone or anything - including Awareness - IS at all.
- Gratitude for the Mystery: gratitude that we ourselves ARE and that anything at all IS. Gratitude for All That IS.
The ground of philosophy - the fundamental moods of reverence, gratitude and “openness to the mystery” (Heidegger).
“Questioning is the piety of thinking.” Martin Heidegger
Five aspects of the Question of Being:
- The Question itself - why there IS anything at all rather than nothing?
- The concealment and eclipse of The Question - the eclipse of Being.
- The consequences of the eclipse of Being: the attempt to evade or surmount it through countless other questions - theological and scientific, psychological and metaphysical, all of which already assume, WITHOUT question - that things ARE, and instead take their Being or IS-ness as given.
- The unnoticed loss of a basic Awareness of Being by beings.
- The loss of any capacity to fully embody this Awareness - an Awareness not just of the being they are, but of the infinite Mystery of Being itself.
Why the Mystery?
The Question of being does not ask after the ‘causes’ of things, for causality only explains one thing that IS by reference to another and thus altogether avoids the question of why anything at all IS.
The Question of Being therefore also cannot be answered by reference to some scientifically or religiously conceived event that itself ‘was’ - whether a Big Bang or an Act of Creation by a supreme being.
We constantly see beings - things and people - but do we ever open ourselves to the mystery of their Being? For no matter what we look at - an apartment block or bridge, a river, a mountain we see it for WHAT it is - an ‘apartment block’, ‘bridge’, ‘river’ or mountain - more or less interesting or dull, ugly or beautiful, big or small.
But not for a moment do we stand in awe at the ‘mere’ reality THAT it is - its Being. Being is, in this way, eclipsed by beings.
As a result, its Being itself withdraws into hiddenness and concealment. This is why Heidegger spoke of “the abandonment of beings by Being”. For in withdrawing, Being leaves beings to their fate, if only for them to eventually plead: “God. Why has thou forsaken me?”.
The Eclipse of Being:
- In being aware of WHAT is, we cease to wonder or be in awe of the simply reality THAT it is.
- Instead the Question of WHY anything at all IS, is thus reduced to mere explanations in terms of other things that are - for example the architect of an apartment block, the engineering of a bridge, or some geological process that ‘explains’ rivers and mountains.
- ‘Being is in this way reduced to beings - to things that are.
The only notable Eastern response to The Question:
“The Being of all things that are recognised in Awareness in turn depends on Awareness.” Abhinavagupta
The hidden and still concealed questions here: why and in what way Awareness itself IS? In what lies the Being of Awareness itself?
Hence the need to constantly return to The Question of Being as such - the question of why anything at all - including Awareness - IS.
“The Being of Awareness <=> the Awareness of Being.” (Wilberg)
This suggests that a primordial Awareness of Being is in someway inseparable from the very Being of Awareness - or that Awareness of Being constitutes the very Being of Awareness.
Yet this still leaves open the Question of what Being itself can be said to ‘be’? For the Being of any being - of anything existent - is nothing that can be observed, quantified, weighed or measured in any way, and nor can it be causally explained by reference to some other being.
The same applies to the Awareness of Being. Yet it is only out of an Awareness of Being that The Question of Being itself first arises - a Question which applies also to the very Being of Awareness itself.
Being as a forever open QUESTION lurking within the Awareness of Being.
But again: Being is not anything that can itself be said, without circularity, to BE. It is nothing reducible to a being or beings.
On the other hand, in a strange and mysterious and timeless way, Being constantly HAPPENS.
Similarly, Awareness constantly PRESENCES: it is the immediate presencing of Being in the form of beings.
Perhaps then, we can speak of both Being and Awareness as ‘Presencing’ or ‘Be-ING’ - that constant and timelessly occurring Event (Ereignis) through which beings ARE.
Awareness also as the medium of Embodiment and Empowerment of Being - as an infinite field of presencing, of the Be-ING of beings. This Infinite Field of Presencing or 'Be-ing' as by nature also the resonant Co-presencing and Inter-being of all beings.
Space as the Co-presence of beings
Time as the Presencing of Beings
Time-Space as their Co-presencing and Inter-being
Awareness as that Infinite Field of resonant Co-Presencing and of Inter-being within and through which Being itself is empowered and embodied - in, as and through beings.
Is this what Heidegger meant by “the Empowerment of Being”? (Ponderings, II-VI)
Is this not what Being itself commands of us: its Embodiment and Empowerment?
“A distant mountain range under a vast sky. Such a thing ‘is’. What does its Being consist in? When and to whom does it reveal itself? To the hiker who enjoys the landscape … or to the meteorologist who has a give a weather report?” Martin Heidegger
If we behold a great mountain and truly feel the power of its presence, it ceases to be merely ‘a mountain’ - let alone merely one mountain among others in a sightseeing or hiking tour. True, the view from its foot or pinnacle may be awe-inspiring, just as it may also embrace an entire range of mountains.
But all this does not mean we have in any way stood in awe of the Being of the mountain - that power which presences through it.
We do not ‘under-stand’ a mountain, simply by standing under and beneath its height or standing on its heights.
Only when the mountain ceases to merely be WHAT it is - ‘a mountain’ and we stand in awe of the miracle THAT it is, can its Be-ing, the presencing of its presence, be sensed in all its Mystery and Power.
When you observe or encounter other human beings, of how many can you say that they are fully present and there in an embodied way - or that through their eyes shines the dark and powerful Mystery of Being - seeking its own reflection in yours?
“How can a man know himself? He is a thing dark and veiled; and if the hare has seven skins, man can slough off seventy times seven and still not be able to say: this is really you, this is no longer outer shell.”
“If you stare long enough into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you.”
“The essence of the human being is not itself anything human.”
Martin Heidegger (Conversations on a Country Path)
Have you ever looked in the mirror and asked yourself who, or, better expressed - WHAT it is - that is really looking out through your eyes?
Have you ever allowed IT - the Infinite Mystery of Being - to let itself fully into your eyes and to fully show itself and darkly shine out through them?
Have you ever experienced the deepest resonance of the mutual gaze - through which Being’s Eye finds its own darkly shining gaze mirrored and rayed back through the eyes of another human being?
Have you ever felt the Infinite Mystery and Power of Being full-filling your body and being and in this way empowering its Being - empowering Being itself?
Have you ever been truly Aware - not just of what, where, who or how you are - but of the miracle THAT you are, the miracle of Being, and the miracle that Awareness itself just IS?
- not ‘a’ being or beings but Awareness as an Infinite Field of Presencing or ‘Be-ing’.
- the resonant Inner Being and Inter-Being of all beings - of All That IS.
- not a power ‘over’ beings but the most intense Empowerment of Being through beings - and of beings through Being.
- not an ‘I’ but an IT
- not a person, and yet that which uniquely personifies Itself in, through and as every human being - and is also able to be personified by them as the union of an I and a You - as in the famous saying: “I and the Father are one.”
- the BE-ing or Presencing of beings as their Godding.
Every being as an inseparable portion of the Infinite Power of Presencing as a whole - and therefore identical with that Power - with ‘God’. Every being as an absolutely distinct individuation of the Infinite Power of Presencing that is God, and therefore also ‘a’ God.
- Awareness of and attunement to Being as Be-ing: inner resonance with that Power of BE-ing which presences or gods itself - in, through and as our individual being.
- The resonant Empowerment of this God-Power of presencing - the Empowerment of Being by beings, and therefore also the Empowerment of beings by Being.
- Fulfilment of the ultimate Commandment of this Power: to Be
- Reverence and respect for the Infinite Mystery of this Power.
- The experience and personification of this God-Power - of ‘God’ - as THE Being. This is not any being but that unique portion of the Infinite Awareness or God-Power of Presencing which knows Itself - ‘gods’ itself - in through and as each individual being.
Peter Wilberg, August 2016
Sources and Inspirations:
Heidegger, Martin Introduction to Metaphysics
Heidegger, Martin Ponderings II-VI
Heidegger, Martin The Fundamental Questions of Metaphysics