Pursuit of Percipience

the blog that nobody reads which I write to silence the voices in my head

Tag: Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy Quotes #17

“Today as every day, [God’s] Spirit demands from us an answer to this question: What is as yet unfinished, uncreated, unprecedented, uncompromised in the vicious circle of our thinking? And we shall always find that the future of Christianity is present here and now as long as two or three Christians believe in it, and answer. And they answer, these poor timeful creatures, by contracting time to a point of most fruitful faith and love, and in this contraction, the suddenness of the end of the world and the endlessness of a first beginning are coupled and bear witness to the timelessness of our origin and our destiny.”

~from The Christian Future, page 91


Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy Quotes #16

“The future does not stay open automatically; it has to be re-opened by your own inward death and renewal. Not steady movement in one direction but continual re-direction, breaking through old ruts, is the formula for progress. All routine, all secondary forms of life, all the organs of our body even, decay when they do not serve and are not keyed up again by the growth of a new leaf, the bursting of one new blossom, by the one step into the unknown and improbable which we experience when we ask ourselves where our heart really is.”

~from The Christian Future, page 83

Letters to the Third Millennium (Book Review)

Letters to the Third Millennium: An Experiment In East West CommunicationLetters to the Third Millennium: An Experiment In East West Communication by Clinton C. Gardner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you’re into Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy you’ll like this one. This book goes well with ERH’s Out of Revolution and certain sections of his I Am an Impure Thinker.*

Gardner focuses much on ERH’s ideas of The Four Phases of Speech and The Cross of Reality.

The Four Phases of Speech

4 phase

When I read literature from the past, I am not just reading it in a detached analytical way. Take the book of Isaiah for example. When I read it, I am there with Isaiah when he says, “Here am I! Send me.” I am there when Isaiah carries out his calling, preaching to and warning the people of Israel. I am there when Isaiah completes his task and is able to say, “Lord, for better or for worse, we have completed our task and have spoken to the people.” And I am there to see Israel dragged off into captivity into Assyria because they did not heed the words of the prophet, and I can stand back and analyze that result. I am connected and in relationship with Isaiah and Israel. I am the last part of the story.

“Human speech never was intended for expressing platitudes like ‘the weather is bad,’ or ‘come,’ or ‘I am happy,’ or ‘the moon rises.’ Human speech corresponds to the construction of our brain so as to permit the transfer of acquired experiences to the race. Speech enables us to gain times and spaces for ‘settling’ a question. Speech connects the departments of experience. The event which is expressed can only be expressed in four phases.”†

“Thou must” is looking forward to the event. “I am” is living in the event. “We have” looks back on the event. “He did” looks at past, present, future as one.

In the first stage, one sees himself, not as “I”, but as “Thou”. My four year old son often refers to himself in the third person: “Noah ate a lot today!” He does this because he sees himself through the eyes of others, namely me – his father. But, as he grows and matures, and his ego develops, he will see himself more and more from within: the “I”. However, no matter how old or mature he gets, whenever a higher power calls on him, he will at those times see himself from the point of view of the higher power — he will see himself from without: the “Thou”. “The hero never is: he is prejective because he is made over into a new realm of experience and has not yet any ‘feelings’; hence the hero is ‘Thou’; to himself the hero appears as the instrument of God…”‡

When one is called by a higher power (which might be God, a powerful idea, a passion, lust for a woman, or whatever drives a person), one is singled out for the calling, he is alone, but it can’t stay this way — he must bring others into his world. He does this by courting, convincing, pleading, and prophesying. He doesn’t know if he will be successful, but he must try. He goes from being the “Thou” to being the “I”, driven by his own emotions and ego. He calls people into his own experience.

If he is successful, he reaches the perfectum. “The subjective pressure of a deep emotion is transformed into the narrative of a past whenever the hero’s ‘thou’ and the subject’s ‘I’ can be tranquillized into a ‘we’.”§ He can now look back and say, “We have accomplished something together.” His declaring of an event completes the event. “Thus, the tale of an event is the tail light of the event. Nothing has happened which is not reported back as having happened. History is not arbitrary staring at bygone things. History is the articulation of the event itself in its participants; as the event goes by. It proves its passing by being told as a tale. The historian certainly is not the onlooker of an event but the last man whom the event produces.”||

“The fourth phase of speech is the spirit’s death.”¶ Once I’ve completed my task, what left is there to do but to look at it objectively from the outside? There is no more calling from the higher power, there is no one left to convince, there is no job left undone. I am free now from the first calling. “If we call the impetus by which a total experience subjects one man to the four phases through which the experience is realized ‘spirit,’ i.e., a breath of life, then phase four is the phase in which the spirit dies but the specimen recovers. If phase four did not abstract us from our spells, freedom could not exist to start a new phase. In phase four we expire one act of faith so that we may be inspired again.”#

These days, especially in western thought, we tend to live in the fourth phase. We look at light and analyze it scientifically — “Light is made of waves and particles.” But we ignore the first three phases: 1) “Let there be light;” 2) “Let us praise the light;” 3) “The sun has risen.” When we do this, we disconnect ourselves from the relationship we have with the past, and consequently the future as well.**

A helpful illustration is to think of a great piece of music, like Beethoven’s 5th symphony. Most people I think have never listened to the whole symphony, but I’m sure everyone would recognize the opening notes. Those opening notes are a powerful call: People! Listen to this. When you hear those notes for the first time you are not analyzing, you are not feeling anything yet — your reaction is much like Moses’ reaction when seeing the burning bush: What is this? I will turn to see. Then, once you’ve settled in to listen, your emotions come into play; you are drawn into the music and you feel the passion of Beethoven with Beethoven, with the orchestra. Thirdly, the piece comes to an end, and it does not end on a strange note leaving you wondering what happened to the flow of music — it ends precisely when it should end; the final notes cry out, We are finished! It is complete! And finally, the fourth phase allows you to look back on the whole piece and say, That was good. What’s next?

You cannot enjoy Beethoven’s 5th if you don’t experience the piece through all four phases. You cannot be connected in relationship to the past if you do not experience the lives and events of your ancestors through the four phases of speech. Speech connects us all.

Every time I study history, if it is good history, I relive the four phases with those people who came before me, and because of that I am connected in relationship to those people. This is why stories are so good for learning history. This is why the Bible is written as story.

Unfortunately, most western history books written today are written by historians who believe that they can have no bias. They are stuck only in the fourth phase. It’s not possible to have no bias, so, to hide their bias, they use the most dry and unimaginative language possible in their writings. For example, here is an excerpt from a contemporary history book describing the introduction of Christianity into the Roman world:

“In the first centuries of the Christian era, while Christianity was expanding in the Empire, it was increasingly the speech of much of the population on the western borders of the Mediterranean. A religion which employed Greek and Latin, and especially Greek, had advantage over rivals which did not and might gain an Empire-wide hearing. Important also was the religious and moral hunger which characterized much of the populace of the basin of the Mediterranean in the centuries in which Christianity was having its early development.”††

Now, here is another excerpt from a history book, concerning the same time in Christian history as the example above, written in the 19th century, by an author who didn’t care about his bias:

“In the cheerless waste of pagan corruption the small and despised band of Christians was an oasis fresh with life and hope. It was the salt of the earth, and the light of the world. Poor in this world’s goods, it bore the imperishable treasures of the kingdom of heaven. Meek and lowly in heart, it was destined, according to the promise of the Lord, without a stroke of the sword, to inherit the earth. In submission it conquered; by suffering and death it won the crown of life.”‡‡

Notice how the second history draws you into the story and life of the early Church. In this one excerpt we see the call of God on the Church, we see how the Church would carry it out, and we see what the final result will be, and putting that all together we can objectively analyze it. In the first excerpt, however, all we see is the analysis.

There is a lot of good information in the first history book, but how long can one read a book like that and stay awake? To be forever trapped in the fourth phase is to be forever dead.

In his essay, Politics and the English Language,§§ George Orwell points out this problem much better than I have…

I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Here it is in modern English:

Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

This type of speech is purely objective. When the living experience of time is ignored, and the only goal is to objectively analyze in the present “objectivity (becomes a) god. It would treat all realities as things external to the mind, things in which we as thinkers have no roots, and which may accordingly be touched, weighed, measured, and manipulated without reference to the common destiny in which we and they are jointly bound. This may do for physics. It will not do for human society.”||||

God could have just written the Bible as a textbook, explaining everything we need to know and do objectively. But instead, He wrote a story. When one reads the Bible, he is put into that story. He becomes a part of the story. The story’s past is his past, the story’s future is his future. And when one knows his past and future, one knows what to do in the present.

“When man rises above his future, which is imminence of his death, and beyond his past, which is reminiscence of his origins, he enters the present. From the conflict of end and origin, of death and birth, the present results for those who have the courage not to blink but face the abyss before and in back of them… Without participation in the life of the Word through the ages, we remain ephemeral.”¶¶

I am constantly in relationship with all those who came before me, and all those will come after me. This relationship spans across and conquers time through my speech and everyone else’s speech. We are all connected through the stories of our lives told and retold, lived and relived, throughout all the ages.

The Cross of Reality

Cross of Reality Diagram 002

The Cross of Reality shows us the four parts of life pulling on us in four different directions. You stand in the middle of the Cross and each element is pulling at you. In order to have a healthy life you need to be pulled equally by each element. If you are pulled by one or two too strongly your life will be unbalanced and confused. For example, a 35 year old single man who lives in his mom’s basement and has a video game and porn addiction is a man who is pulled much too strongly by the Past and Inner Life elements. While another man, being very charismatic and well loved by many people, but can’t commit to anything, is a man being pulled too strongly by the Outer Life and Future elements.

Also, as illustrated above with the Four Phases of Speech, one must progress through each element in its turn to have a healthy balanced life. Starting with the Future, then moving to Inner (subjective), then Past, and finally Outer (objective): one hears the call, contemplates the options, makes the decision, and observes the results. If one element is skipped over, there will be conflict.

“Emotional disturbances may be described as getting stuck in one particular phase [or element] or the result of an attempt to skip one. The speech method reveals four basic phases in any significant experience: 1. Inspiration  2. Communication  3. Institutionalization, finally,  4. History… [W]e see this sequence when we fall in love and get married. Our falling in love cannot be an objective or logical experience. We must be swept off our feet, inspired. Then we enter a subjective phase in which we must communicate our new relationship through love letters, singing, and talking. In the third phase, institutionalization, when we marry before witnesses, our experience has begun to enter recorded history. Finally, usually after our first child is born, we experience ourselves as an objective family unit. In each phase we had new and different emotions.”##

The book was published in 1980, and the “East” referred to in the subtitle is the U.S.S.R., which of course doesn’t exist anymore. The author is too sympathetic to Marxism for my taste, and he actually takes it seriously enough to think it works. Well, the fall of the U.S.S.R, and other communist/socialist failed experiments, have taught us otherwise.

Good book.


* I Am an Impure Thinker can be read free with PDF download here.
† Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, I Am an Impure Thinker: The Four Phases of Speech, pg. 55
‡ Ibid., pg. 57
§ Ibid. pg. 57
|| Ibid. pg. 58
¶ Ibid. pg. 59
# Ibid. pg. 59
** Ibid. some of this taken from pg. 59
†† Latourette, Kenneth Scott, A History of Christianity (Peabody, MA.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003), pg. 22
‡‡ Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, Vol. II (Peabody, MA.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002, originally published in 1858), pg. 335
§§ Read Orwell’s essay here
|||| I Am an Impure Thinker: Teaching Too Late, Learning Too Early, pg. 93
¶¶ Ibid. pg. 94
## Gardner, Clinton C., Letters to the Third Millennium, pg. 131

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Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy Quotes #15

“If the land is not to be lost to hordes from outside, we in all the Western World shall have to recover the power to build communities. It is quite worthless to map out programs of rehabilitation or resettlement since not one of the individuals thus resettled or rehabilitated has the stamina to partake in the revival of the community. First of all, before any planners can carry out any plan, we shall have to create opportunities in which men recover their power to found or re-found communities. This power is lost. The modern mind has lost the recipe.”

~from The Christian Future, page 198

Judaism Despite Christianity (Book Overview)

Judaism Despite Christianity is a collection of letters between Franz Rosenzweig and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy written in 1916. That’s a hundred years ago, but the topics discussed in these letters directly relate to our world today. Rosenzweig and Rosenstock-Huessy were prophets.

Franz Rosenzweig (FR) was a practicing Jew, but that was not true of him or his family while he was growing up. It was in his encounters with Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy (ERH), a Christian, when he was forced to face the emptiness of his tradition-only religion. Thanks to ERH, not only did FR have to face the reality that merely paying homage to his Jewish faith was not good enough, he also had to face the possibility that Judaism itself was no longer necessary in a Christian world.

FR’s view of history was described by Alexander Altmann, who wrote an essay about the correspondence between FR and ERH, as this:

What happens in history, [Rosenzweig] says, is not a struggle between man’s faith and man’s reason but a struggle between God and man. In world history the absolute powers themselves are dramatis personae [the characters of the play]. Revelation breaks into the world and transforms creation, which is the Alpha of history, into redemption, which is the Omega. Philosophy has a pagan quality. It is an expression of the Alpha, of creation, of pure nature to which God has given freedom — even against himself. But as revelation comes into the world, it gradually absorbs philosophy, deprives it of its pagan elements, and illuminates it with its own light. The Omega of history will be realized after the element of creation, the world’s freedom, has spent itself. Then God, who has allowed the world to be in the Alpha, will again be the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega.*

FR, along with others, believed the Church was entering into the “Johannine” period of Christianity. Rather than the “Petrine” or “Pauline” periods, in which the Church focused mainly on dogma (Who are we?), in the Johannine period the Church would focus primarily on reaching out to the Gentiles. This Johannine period would be directed by the Spirit, whereas previous periods were directed by the Father and the Son. If this was/is true, then the world was/is coming into its “Omega” time, and Judaism is being left behind as a relic of the “Alpha” time.

If it was the function of Christianity to convert the heathen and to transform the Alpha element of creation — the world in its raw state — into the Omega element of redemption — the world as the place of revelation — was there any room left for Judaism?


This created a crisis for FR, and he strongly considered converting to Christianity. The Church was symbolized as holding the sceptre of power and rule, while the synagogue held only a broken staff. FR did not, however, want to enter the Church as a pagan, he wanted to enter as a true Jew, and this desire forced him to establish a new and more serious relationship with his Jewish faith. In the end, it was that new relationship with Judaism which prevented him from ever becoming a Christian at all.

FR eventually came to the conclusion that Judaism still served an important role in the Christian world. He recognized that her [Judaism’s] stern refutation of the pagan world and her uncompromising attitude constituted the only safeguard for the completion of the work of revelation and of the church herself.‡ Jews and Judaism continue to exist to remind the Church of what it is, and what its purpose is. ERH was obviously influenced by FR’s idea as he wrote a couple decades later in his book, Out of Revolution, something very similar:

The Jew is a stranger among the Gentiles, a reminder to them that their Christianity is always threatened by a backsliding into mere paganism.§

When [the Jews] were scattered over the earth after the loss of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., they had no other function than to bear witness to the “economy of revelation,” to the growing Kingdom of God. Without their existence, the gospel of Jesus might have come to the Gentiles like a myth or a legend. Christianity becomes an historical fact only through the existence of Jews. The natural inclination of men and nations to take flight into dreams of ancestral pride or the cobwebs of abstract philosophy always leads to excesses of agnosticism and mythology. The Jews, simply by their existence, bar the nations from a relapse into that comfortable self-adoration which makes Jesus himself into a blond Germanic hero instead of a despised Jew.||

[T]he Jews are not like the Armenians in Turkey or the Japanese in California or the Irish in New England. The Jews were created as counterfoil to the Gentiles; and whenever … the Christians grow weak in their faith, hope, and love, then the glowing nucleus of revelation and the inanimate forms of creation diverge and threaten to destroy human history, which is a process of salvation of the world and the conversion of the pagans by the Word.

Before this point, FR was afraid to talk to ERH again about his Judaism. ERH, in a conversation with FR in 1913, had shaken FR’s beliefs to the foundation. But now, as FR dived deeper into this new understanding of what Judaism existed for, he began to feel ready to confront ERH yet again, and defend his beliefs and Judaism as he could not before. This was the state of FR when these letters between himself and ERH began.

ERH and FR touch on the topic of the “stubbornness of the Jews” quite a bit in the letters. As FR writes to ERH…

But I should like to quote you [from] one … legend. The Messiah was born at exactly at the moment when the temple was destroyed [A.D. 70], but when he was born, the winds blew him forth from the bosom of his mother. And know he wanders unknown among the [Jewish] peoples, and when he has wandered through them all, then the time of our redemption will have come.

So that Christianity is like a power that fills the world (according to the saying of one of the two scholastics, Yehuda ha-Levi: it is the tree that grows from the seed of Judaism and casts its shadows over the earth; but its fruit must contain the seed again, the seed that nobody who saw the tree noticed. This is a Jewish dogma, just as Judaism as both the stubborn origin and last convert is a Christian dogma.# [Note: At no point in the letter does FR close the parenthesis.]

[T]he corresponding Jewish outcome of the theological idea of Christianity as a preparer-of-the-way is the pride of the Jews. This is hard to describe to a stranger. What you see of it appears to you silly and petty, just as it is almost impossible for the Jew to see and judge anti-Semitism by anything but its vulgar and stupid expressions. But (I must say again, believe me) its metaphysical basis is, as I have said, the three articles: (1) that we have the truth, (2) that we are at the goal, and (3) that any and every Jew feels in the depths of his soul that the Christian relation to God, and so in a sense their religion, is particularly and extremely pitiful, poverty-stricken, and ceremonious; namely, that as a Christian one has to learn from someone else, whoever he may be, to call God “our Father.” To the Jew, that God is out Father is the first and most self-evident fact — and what need is there for a third person between me and my father in Heaven? That is no discovery of modern apologetics but the simplest Jewish instinct, a mixture of failure to understand and pitying contempt.**

FR, throughout his letters, seems to believe that if and when a Jew converts to Christianity, he is not doing so as a Jew, but as a Gentile, for no true Jew would leave Judaism. This belief irks ERH, and he criticizes FR for not seeing Judaism as being trapped in the elemental (Alpha) part of reality while rejecting the revelation (Omega) part. As to FR’s statement that Jews need not a third person between them and God, ERH writes: Christ has mediated to us the breaking through into the universe in a heavenward direction of this force [faith], which was latent and imprisoned in the earth.††

ERH points out how, at Babel, humanity was split and that the Jews were separated at that time by God to be His chosen people. However, the healing of humanity came through Christ…

“The Word became flesh” — on that proposition everything indeed depends. While the word of man must always become a concept and thereby stagnant and degenerate, God speaks to us with the “word become flesh,” through the Son. And so the Christian revelation is the healing of the Babylonian confusion of tongues, the bursting open of the prison, but also the sign on the new tongues, speech that is now informed with soul. Since then, it has become worthwhile to think again, because thought has a standard outside itself, in the visible footsteps of God…

That from which Christ redeems is exactly the boundless naïve pride of the Jew, which you yourself exhibit. In contrast to the peoples talking the 372 languages of Babel, this pride was and is well founded, and therefore the Jews were separated and chosen out of all the peoples of the earth, until the destruction of the Temple. But Christianity redeems the individual from family and people through the new unity of all sinners, of all who are weary and heavy laden. That is Christianity, and its bond is equal need.‡‡

ERH further criticizes FR by saying that, even though the Jews say all people will one day come to Jerusalem to pray, they continually crucify the One who made that truth possible. The Jews have rejected and grown to be far away from the revelation that is Christ. In appearance they wait upon the word of the Lord, but they have grown through and through so far away from revelation that they do everything they can to hinder its reality. With all the power of their being they set themselves against their own promises.§§

FR later argues that Christians only have what the Jews gave them, and any Gentile who becomes a Christian was first “Judaized” — a Judaizing of the Pagans as he puts it. He writes: Your [ERH’s] whole description of the Synagogue since A.D. 70 forgets, or refuses to recognize, that we consciously take upon ourselves “the yoke of the kingdom of heaven,” that we pay the price for the sin of pride of non-cooperation, of walking without mediator in the light of God’s countenance. We pay subjectively through suffering the consciousness of being shut out, of being alienated, and objectively, in that we are to you the ever-mindful memorial of your incompleteness (for you who live in a church triumphant need a mute servant who cries when you have partaken of God’s bread and wine, [“Master, remember the last things”]. (FR wrote this last part in Greek.)||||

Well, this bantering back and forth goes on between the two in all the letters, but there is more to these letters than that. FR and ERH also discuss philosophy, history, and other religions. I can’t comment on all of that, and I don’t understand all of it either.

In the end I can’t say that FR and ERH resolved their conflict. FR died young and never was able to complete his whole theory of thought. He did publish his work Star of Redemption, which was highly influenced by ERH and these letters. ERH taught at Dartmouth College from 1935-1957, and died in 1973. You can listen to many of his lectures here. I recommend starting with The Cross of Reality.

I highly recommend this book if your are into Franz Rosenzweig and/or Rosenstock-Huessy, and the relationship between Christianity and Judaism today.

I gave the book 4/5 stars.

Further reading: Commentary Magazine: Judaism Despite Christianity

* Altmann. Judaism Despite Christianity. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011. Page 33
† Altmann. Ibid. Page 35
‡ Altmann. Ibid. Page 38
§ Rosenstock-Huessy, Eugen. Out of Revolution. Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2013 [1969]. Page 216
|| Ibid. Page 220
Ibid. Page 235
# Judaism Despite Christianity. Page 112
** Ibid. Page 113
†† Ibid. Page 119
‡‡ Ibid. Page 122-123
§§ Ibid. Page 125
|||| Ibid. Page 135