Worlding (Welten) and un-worlding (Unwelten)

Dasein, in being applied to the phenomenon of human existence, describes a world that is a world of thrownness and engagement, and temporalised in both its transience and its endurance. As factical, Dasein is being-in-the-world (In-der-Welt-sein); through Dasein, the world is what Heidegger calls “worlding” (das Welten), a phenomenon which happens in and through time. As the world “worlds”, it brings Dasein into this happening, an Ereignis that opens up Dasein‘s own possibilities in its ecstatic-horizonal projection upon the horizon of the question of being (Seinsfrage), which Dasein itself always is. For Dasein itself is a question, never a final answer – that is the meaning of the temporalisation of being.

But death – it “un-worlds”, and Dasein is no longer there (da). And yet, as Heidegger shows in Being and Time, death is Dasein‘s ownmost possibility of being. Hence being and nothingness, life and death, are intertwined – in the throes of ecstatic-horizonal temporalisation which is the lifelong phenomenon of being-toward-death (Sein zum Tode). To be in the world and to be no longer in the world – both are faces of the same head of being as such. This “monstrosity” (“Ungeheuerheit“) in the phenomenality of being is what makes Dasein tremble (zittern) in face of the abyss (Abgrund) of its own inherent nothingness that “un-worlds” at the same time as Dasein itself ceaselessly “worlds” itself in its everyday relationality with the living that forms its own world, and which we call “one’s life”. This is precisely where we can phenomenologically point at the popular obsession with Erlebnis (lived experience) as the closing off of the possibilities of being that death bestows upon us. Death is much more than the ontic being of coldness and rotting; it is the ultimate paradox, in that it is life itself.



Plenitue of being (Sein)

The factical plenitude of being (Sein), which is readily observable in nature as well as in society – though often less aesthetic in the latter -, tempts us to think that being is an abstraction and a metaphysical superfluity that is best done away with. Not this or that being, but the plenitude of beings in this or that totality as the phenomenally observable and the phenomenologically thinkable, is enough to carry us through the temporal projection of Dasein that we ourselves are. Why keep being (Sein) in order to maintain the hermeneutic circle in understanding?

Our thought is now brought back to the hermeneutic adage: the whole is greater than the sum total of its parts. Being (Sein), therefore, is not merely plenitude, but an excess, an overflow.

Being as question, and its call

Being as question – Sein als Frage – is the main stance, i.e., the principal theoretical orientation, in fundamental ontology as expounded by Heidegger in Being and time. It is the core of hermeneutic circle, which means that as long as one practises hermeneutics, the question of being remains the underlying driving force.

Heidegger, in order to avoid falling back on the great metaphysical tradition of Cartesianism, which reduces the Greek notion of ousia into latinised substantia, thus positing the illusory construct of the ego, and, as ethnography has taught us, ego is not part of the everyday Lebenswelt of some cultures, unlike the West. Hence to remain focused on the question of being while posing questions in hermeneutic circle calls for an ecstatico-temporal discipline in ontology and not for a higher level of metaphysical positing as Husserl, Heidegger’s mentor, did.

The ecstatico-temporal temporalisation of being calls for a high degree of mindfulness (Besinnung) on the continuous projection and constituting of Dasein in the three ecstases (Ekstasen) of time – past, present and future – in the finitude of its being-toward-death. Essentially speaking, the ecstatico-temporal horizon to which Dasein‘s hermeneutic structure of understanding, upon the formation of meaning depends on, refers to constantly is finite. Dasein, as lived, embodied experience, can never be infinite regression or progression. In other words, Dasein‘s interpretation has to come to an end somewhere; in radical terms, it is death, the mode of which, however, is never certain in the Dasein of anybody.

The uncertainty of death means that whatever control Dasein has over being, say, through the multifarious modes of techne regardless of the level of development of technology in any specific historical time, is quite limited. Mindfulness, as mindfulness of being, means submission on the part of Dasein to being (Sein), but not to the metaphysical reduction of being to beings (Seiende) that has ensnared the modern world. It is not a submission to any temporal authority or the dogmas of faith, but to the voice of being and its call which is radically individuated in the phenomenon of Dasein‘s conscience (Gewissen), which is in fact a form of fundamental knowing (Wissen) (cf. Heidegger 1996).

The ecstatico-horizonal nature of temporality

Heidegger differs from Husserl in that he places the problem of transcendence of Dasein – that incorrigible individuation in being in the universal phenomenon of Lebenswelt – in time and time only, as phenomenology, in its essence, cannot have within its grasp the theological imagination of eternity as supratemporality.

What Schütz understands as “retentional grasp” in temporal correspondence to the phenomenon of horizon – memory as the memorialisation of the past – has an ecstatico-horizonal equivalent in Heidegger’s hermeneutic use of temporality. In retention as memory, Dasein gives itself over to the ecstasis of the past – of being as having-been. Instead of dealing with Husserl’s problem of the “inner duration” of consciousness, in Heidegger’s philosophical treatment there is an ontological continuity of being through its ecstatico-horizonal temporalisation (Zeitigung) in understanding and interpretation, i.e. in the generation of meaning structure in Dasein‘s fundamental comportment to being (Seinsverhältnis) in its being-in-the-world. Being is time, and understanding is temporal; through understanding of being, Dasein is itself temporalised. The metaphysical construct of consciousness in inner duration can be replaced by an existentially projected, finitely temporalised phenomenon of Dasein‘s understanding, with its being-toward-death (Sein zum Tode) as the corresponding ecstatico-horizonal schema. Mortality forms the roots of understanding of being as they extend into Dasein‘s potentiality-of-being (Seinkönnen), which gives it the freedom and the accompanying conscience to exist in this or that way of being, in authenticity or inauthenticity.

Horizon in hermeneutics

In hermeneutics, there is no God’s point of view, but only a relative perspective determined by a spatially and temporally determined horizon in the being-towards-death of Dasein. Transcendence, in hermeneutic understanding, does not imply absence of a horizon, but Dasein‘s existential ecstasis in what Heidegger in Contributions to philosophy calls “time-space”, implying the primacy of time. Horizon, in turn, implies the essential truth of interpretation in the mode of being that is called Dasein, that each and everyone of us is, even before we are aware of ourselves as existents called humans, which distinguishes us from all other living things on earth. This means that in hermeneutics pure and simple, it does not matter whether we are humans, angels or demons, or even the linguistically indeterminate gavagai; we are first and foremost horizonally determined Dasein.

Hermeneutics as pointing

In Parmenides, Heidegger muses on the ancient Greek experience of daimonion as the pointing to by the uncanny to that region of being that escapes the ordinary – in the language of fundamental ontology of Being and time, it is the authenticity of being that escapes the everyday, the “they” as the one and the everyone, the idle gossip: the fallenness of inattentive being in its forgetfulness of being (Seinsvergessenheit). 

In my PhD thesis, The fourfold of the “godding”, I argue that hermeneutics, if we are to respect the authenticity of the original Greek understanding of being, is none other than daimonion itself. As daimonion, hermeneutics takes us beyond the signification of the ordinary to a whole new level of understanding, hence of saying and experiencing, that illuminates our mind: indeed Heidegger, in Parmenides, mentions, but with a curious restraint, as if mindful of a dangerous slippage in philosophical language, that the Greeks experienced daimonion as shining. Through shining, being is illuminated; only then is there a true understanding of being, because ontological difference between being and beings has already taught us that being cannot be grasped merely as this or that being. Socrates famously confessed that he could not do philosophy without daimonion, despite the fact that it is not founded upon reason, when philosophy itself is built upon reasoning. In other words, philosophy is primordial to something other than itself. 

By bringing hermeneutics into the rational (academic) program of qualitative studies in nursing, which in essence surpasses the rationalism of metaphysics by taking as its subject matter the lived experience of Dasein, what is being pointed to? 

Ousia as an ontological problematic

The life goal of Heidegger’s works is to free our thinking (Denken), in thinking about being (Sein) and beings (Seiende) and the hermeneutic space in the ontological difference between the two different understandings of being (Sein), from the illusions of ousia in Greek metaphysical thinking about being (Sein). In other words, by reading Heidegger and trying to understand him, the German philosopher appeared to promise us a philosophical freedom that before him was unknown in the history of Western philosophy. Dasein, as the embodied place and time of understanding of being (Seinsverständnis), becomes synonymous with freedom and liberation in its potentiality-of-being (Seinkönnen).

In nursing, given that care (Sorge) about being (Sein) is primordial to the humane and professional care (Pflege) that it provides to the sick and the suffering, the question of being (Seinsfrage) enters into the everyday discourse and practice of a nurse’s work. Hermeneutically speaking, this is potentially existentially liberating for both the nurse and the patient, if the Gadamerian notion of the fusion of horizons in mutual understanding of each other’s Dasein is attained in the ecstasis of time in the hermeneutic circle.

Is the question of freedom, namely in the form of liberation of understanding of being, consciously included in the methodology of “qualitative” studies in nursing that are becoming a research paradigm in its own right? Is not this liberation then, without avoiding philosophical controversy in nursing theory, opposed to the metaphysics of ousia, manifest today as the positivism in the substantialist reduction of being? 

Lethe and aletheia in occultism

While thinking – reflection as well as contemplation – about being (Sein) is present and integral to both philosophy and religion – and I include occultism, many forms of which use magic, in the latter -, philosophers do not appeal to faith (Glaube). The religious do; and dependent on which faith they adhere to, non-negotiable statements about their faith which are all shared by the faithful in a particular faith makes religion completely distinct from philosophy (it is in this sense that Buddhism is a religion, not a philosophy). These unalterable statements constitute the beliefs (Glaube) or the belief system of the faithful (Gläubige).

What distinguishes religion from philosophy is that the former cannot exist without distinct sets of practices, most of which can come under the category of ritual. Others relate to charity, such as the performance of good deeds in society to help the poor, the sick and the oppressed. Religions that involve magic in their beliefs and rituals can be said to have an occult dimension – the truth of magic is hidden from public view. Occultism, while leading to aletheia in personal as well as group experiences, is to the common perception lethe; and this serves a protective role, given that practitioners of magic are usually misunderstood in society and were even persecuted in various periods of history.

Lethe provides a favourable environment for personal involvement and commitment as a neophyte. In occultism, not only is magic to be learnt and harnessed, the neophyte and his or her teacher also have the high expectation of attainment of gnosis in the former, so that spiritual progress can be made in a particular occult system. Even more so than magical prowess, it is gnosis that makes an occultist truly special, who will in fact experience it as the apex of his or her Dasein.

Mayer (2013):

Because the adherents of modern paganism try to fill gaps in their reconstructions of traditional religions with their personal (or shared) religious experiences, the concept of UPG actually permits the creation of fragments of new religious dogma out of EE.

Spirituality in nursing: patients who are occultists

Using hermeneutics, the holism of the person in the patient is what the hermeneutically-aware nurse has in mind in the care (Pflege) that she provides – nursing care being one form of existential care (Sorge) highlighted by Heidegger in Being and time as the determination of Dasein‘s temporal thrownness (Geworfenheit) in being-in-the-world (In-der-Welt-sein). Sorge being primordial to Pflege, it is not surprising that when it comes to the wholeness of a patient under her care (Pflege), especially in the case of palliative care where something very personal such as the spirituality of the patient in his or her nearness to death becomes the main question of being (Seinsfrage) in palliative hermeneutics, the phenomenological interplay between the hidden and the unconcealed comes to the fore of the mutual experience of the nurse and the patient. 

This hermeneutic situation is particularly challenging when a patient is an occultist who does not follow any of the mainstream religions represented in hospital chaplaincy. Given the highly personal nature of death – Heidegger describes death as the true individuation of Dasein in Being and time, integral to the authenticity (Eigentlichkeit) of its being -, it behoves nurses to understand and appreciate alternative spirituality such as occultism. The occult, in essence, is the hidden, and challenges the assumption of aletheia in our everyday comportment to the world. The occultist believes that he or she lives with hidden forces that can be controlled to a certain extent through magic, which, apart from its arcane knowledge and practice, also places great emphasis on the will power of its practitioner. 


Of darkness within

Why in mainstream religious and spiritual traditions, dwelling within entails bathing one’s soul in light? A world-weary soul wants nothing more than sleep; and sleep can take place in the dark – the absence of light. Yet this absence is not the absence of being (Sein) as such.