Keiji Nishitani – Religion and Nothingness

Meine Unterstreichungen:

As a result, we find religion and philosophy coexisting in conditions laden with tensions. The individual tends to assume One world view, for example, in moments of spiritual reading and another in moments of rational analysis. (S. xxvii)

but they all leave ne doubt as to where Nishitani wants to locate the fundamental problem of our times: it is nihilism, and its alliance with scientism, that is undermining the very foundations of Western civilization, leaving man with no place to stand as man. (S. xxxvi)

Through the loss of God, its “absolute center,” this affirmative-oriented culture of being has fallen into an abyss of nihility. From there it can never save itself through a simple return to affirmation, but “The negative direction must be pursued to its very end … where the negative converges, so to speak, with the positive.” (S. xxxvii)

those for whom religion is not a necessity are, for that reason, the very ones for whom religion is a necessity. (S. 1)

Whether the life we are living will end up in extinction or in the attainment of eternal life is a matter of the utmost importance for life itself. (S. 2)

A religion concerned primarily with its own utility bears witness to its own degeneration. (S. 2)

The religious quest alone is the key to understanding it; there is no other way. (S. 2)

But religion upsets the posture from which we think of ourselves as telos and center for all things. Instead, religion poses as a starting point the question: “For what purpose do I exist?” (S. 3)

This is why the question of religion in the form, “Why do we need religion?” obscures the way to its own answer from the very start. It blocks our becoming a question to ourselves. (S. 3)

the religious quest as man’s search for true reality in a real way (that is, not theoretically and not in the form of concepts, as we do in ordinary knowledge and philosophical knowl edge) (S. 6)

What the scientist takes to be real from the view point of his science and what he takes to be real from the viewpoint of his everyday experience are completely at odds with each other, and yet he is unable to deny either of them. (S. 7)

On the field of consciousness, self always occupies center stage. (S. 9)

Things, the self, feelings, and so forth are all real, to be sure. On the field of consciousness where they are ordinarily taken for real, however, they are not present in their true reality but only in the form of representations. (S. 10)

The subject cannot emerge out of something objective. Cogito, ergo sum may be the most directly evident of truths, then, but that the field on which we think about the cogito ought to be the selfsame standpoint of the cogito is anything but evident. (S. 14)

the so-called environmental conditioning-theory of crime and evil appears. According to this theory, the evil and crimes wrought by men are entirely the responsibility of their environment. “Society is to blame,” we are told. This one-sided way of looking at things blocks man from the way to personal awakening and, paradoxically, makes social life all the more evil. (S. 24)

It maintains that only a standpoint of subjectivized atheism — the atheism of the man who sees nothing at all either within or without himself on which to rely, and who is aware of a nothingness at the ground of his self-being — can truly bring about human Existenz and freedom. As noted above, however, at this standpoint man runs up against a wall inside the self, and his freedom becomes a freedom of the deepest bondage. We cannot stop here. We must seek the point at which this barrier is broken through and there seek out the world of religion. (S. 36)

Christianity speaks of a creatio ex nihilo: God created everything from a point at which there was nothing at all. (S. 37)

He who dies and regains life by this sword of agape can become God-breathed, an expiration of the Holy Spirit. (S. 40)

St. Paul writes: “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean’ (Rom. 14.14)

when the relationship between man and an insensitive world on the one hand, and between this same world and God on the other, are made the ground of religion, what becomes of the relationship, between God and man which is religion? (S. 49)

It is the same with modern atheism, whose variety of forms is unthinkable apart from Christianity. If we trace the genealogy of the ideas that make up the ingredients of modern atheism – for example, the idea of a natural law of unyielding necessity, the idea of progress, and the idea of social justice that has motivated so many social revolutions — we come back eventually to Christianity. (S. 57f)

The phenomenon this speaks to is similar to what I referred to before as the indifference of nature, except that here it is not a cold and insensitive indifference, but the indifference of love. It is a non-differentiating love that transcends the distinctions men make between good and evil, justice and injustice. (S. 58)

For man to actualize this perfection of God, to be perfect as the Father in heaven is perfect and so to “become a son of God,” man must engage himself in loving his enemies. This requires a transition from differentiating human love to non-differentiating divine love. It means denying eros and turning to agape, denying ego and turning to non-ego. Christ embodies this perfection of God through the love by which he “emptied himself” of his equality with God to take on the shape of a servant among men. (S. 59)

Eckhart is well known for his distinction between God and godhead (Gottheit), the later of which he calls the “essence” of God. In spite of his terminology, he did not, of course, think in terms of two Gods. Godhead means what God is in himself—what Eckhart speaks of as absolute nothingness. (S. 61)

When I break through and stand emptied (ledig sterben) of my own will, of the will of God, of all the works of God, and of God himself, I am beyond all creatures, and am neither God nor creature but am what I was and what I should remain now and forever more. (S. 64 Meister Eckhard)

In short, if the nihilum of creatio ex nihilo (as a negative referring to the relative existence of created being) may be called relative nothingness, and if the nothingness of godhead in Eckhart (as the point at which all of existence, including subjective existence, stands out in its true-to-life Reality) may be called absolute nothingness, then perhaps we might say that the nihility of Nietzsche’s nihilism should be called a standpoint of relative absolute nothingness. (S. 66)

When something that is not God but stands by itself over against God is posited, the field to which it is appointed—that is, the ground of its existence—must be a point within God where God is not God himself. In other words, it must be a point that is not the nihility of creatio ex nihilo but rather something like the absolute nothingness of godhead that we saw in Eckhart. Godhead is the place within God where God is not God himself. (S. 67)

Person is an appearance with nothing at all behind it to make an appearance, That is to-say, “nothing at all” is what is behind person; complete nothingness, not one single thing, occupies the position behind person. (S. 70)

Rather, true nothingness means that there is no thing that is nothingness, and this is absolute nothingness. (S. 70)

In the terms of the Tendai school of Buddhism, man comes into being as the “middle” between “illusion” and “emptiness.” (S. 72)

As the saying goes, water does not wet water, nor fire burn fire. This points to the central meaning of emptiness. To the extent that water cannot wet, it is not water; and to the extent that fire cannot burn, it is not fire. But to say that water does not wet itself does not mean that water is not in fact water. Quite the contrary, it means that the fact that water is really water is the real Form of water itself. (S. 76)

Every religion, when it takes concrete shape—as an actual historical reality— invariably bases itself on some world view or ontology. For a religion this basic “philosophy” is not something that can be changed at will, like a suit of clothes. It is to religion what water is to a fish: an essential condition for life. Water is neither the life of the fish as such nor its body, and yet it is essentially linked to both of them. A change of world view or ontology is a matter no less fatal to a religion than a change from salt water to fresh is to a fish. (S. 77)

The basic reason that science is able to regard its own stand point as absolute truth rests in the complete objectivity of the laws of nature that afford scientific knowledge both its premises and its content. One cannot “get a word in” regarding the explanations science gives to the laws of nature from any point of view other than the scientific one. (S. 78)

When this relationship of reciprocal control between the laws of nature and the things of nature reaches its extreme in the machine, it does so on a field that goes beyond the original, natural ties between man and the world of nature. It is a relationship that breaks down the barrier between the humanness of man and the naturalness of nature, and in so doing is fully radicalized. (S. 85)

Or again, when a man commits himself to be himself uncompromisingly, without God and simply as the finite being that he is, the nihility or death experienced as an absolute separation from God shows up in his self-awareness as a sin that leads him in revolt against God. (S. 92)

nihility is always a nihility for self-existence, that is to say, a nihility that we contact when we posit ourselves on the side of the “existence” of our self-existence. (S. 96)

Emptiness in the sense of Sunyatà is emptiness only when it empties itself even of the standpoint that represents it as some “thing” that is emptiness. (S. 96)

Eckhart exemplified a standpoint that does not set up an either/or alternative between theism and atheism. While taking the personal relationship of God and man as a living relationship between the “image of God” in the soul and its “original image,” he refers to the “essence” of God that is free of all form—the completely “image-free” (bildlos) godhead—as “nothingness,” and considers the soul to return to itself and acquire absolute freedom only when it becomes totally one with the “nothingness” of godhead. This is not mere theism, but neither, of course, is it mere atheism. (S. 99)

Separated from me by the abyss of that nihility, the flower in my garden is an unknown entity. (S. 101)

Seen essentially, that is, as existing in nihility and as manifest in nihility, everything and everyone is nameless, unnameable, and unknowable. (S. 101)

If, for example, from the standpoint of reason, one conceives of the being of a thing in itself as a substance and explains what it is substantially, one does not thereby find the thing itself but only an eidetic form “comparable” to the thing itself. (S. 131)

Sbobogenzo Sboji: “Just understand that birth-and-death itself is nirvana. … Only then can you be free of birth-and-death.” And later: “This present birth-and-death itself is the Life of Buddha.” (S. 178)

This “understanding” is the realization (manifestation-sive- apprehension) of the proper point at which samsara is nirvana and nirvana is samsara; and, hence, where samsara and nirvana are not samsara and nirvana. (S. 178)