Classic Essays

Martin Heidegger (1889-1976)

Martin Heidegger, circa 1920AS FAR AS WE know there is only one atheistic philosopher whose thought ever triggered religious resonances in the soul of his readers. That was Martin Heidegger (pictured). His greatest work Sein und Zeit is poetry, drama and philosophy all in one, or as the master might say, all in all.

Heidegger died in May, 1976. He may eventually be known as the greatest thinker of the twentieth century. His delayed recognition by an America whose own philosophers have become second-rate ideologues is an insult to one of the great stirrings of the human imagination.

This is no place to summarize the main points or even the essence of Heidegger’s thought. He was the founder of existentialism, but quickly disowned it when plagiaristic intellects like Sartre and Teilhard de Chardin started usurping, perverting, or religifying his philosophy.

Among a thousand other things, Heidegger taught us that a belief in immortality robbed man of his manhood. The play that has no final act, the time that has no end, the life that doesn’t round off cripple the whole meaning of existence. We act, we strive, we do the impossible precisely because we have a limited time in which to act, strive and perform our wonders. If we had infinite time, we would not be pressed; we would not concentrate; we would simply float along the boring streams of endlessness.

Time was not relative to Heidegger. Time was absolute. Anxiety and dread were not evil. They were the catalysts of the human spirit. No one, including Spengler, has delineated the Promethean and Faustian spirit in such bold strokes.

You will shudder when you read Heidegger. He dotes on the awful mysteries that this sickening age has tried to suffocate.

Heidegger dove deeper into the depths of being than anyone before him. And he found symbols and meanings in these depths that had never been seen by any other eye or imagined by any other mind. It is sad that the man who knew most about existence no longer exists. It is ironic that the man who could not abide the idea of an afterlife will live immortally in the mind of the future.

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Source: Instauration magazine, September, 1976

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