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I and Thou
Part III

Marten Buber


The extended lines of relations meet in the eternal Thou.

Every particular Thou is a glimpse of the eternal Thou; by means of every particular Thou is a glimpse of the Eternal Thou; by means of every particular Thou the primary word addresses the eternal Thou. Through this mediation of the Thou of all beings fulfilment, and non-fulfilment, of relations comes to them: the inborn Thou is realised in each relation and consummated in none. It is consummated only in the direct relation with the Thou that by its nature cannot become It.


Men have addressed their eternal Thou with many names. In singing of him who was thus named they always had the Thou in mind: the first myths were hymns of praise. Then the names took refuge in the language of It; men were more and more strongly moved to think of and to address their eternal Thou as an It. But all God's names are hallowed, for in them
He is not merely spoken about, but also spoken to.

Many men wish to reject the word God as a legitimate usage, because it is so misused. It is indeed the most heavily laden of all the words used by men. For that very reason it is the most imperishable and most indispensable. What does all mistaken talk about God's being and works (though there has been, and can be, no other talk about these) matter in comparison with the one truth that all men who have addressed God had God Himself in mind ? For he who speaks the word God and really has Thou in mind (whatever the illusion by which he is held), addresses the true Thou of his life, which cannot be limited by another Thou, and to which he stands in a relation that gathers up and includes all others.

But when he, too, who abhors the name, and believes himself to be godless, gives his whole being to addressing the Thou of his life, as a Thou that cannot be limited by another, he addresses God.


If we go on our way and meet a man who has advanced towards us and has also gone on his way, we know only our part of the way, not hishis we experience only in the meeting.

Of the complete relational event we know, with the knowledge of life lived, our going out to the relation, our part of the way. The other part only comes upon us, we do not know it; it eomes upon us in the meeting. But we strain ourselves on it if we speak of it as though
it were some thing beyond the meeting,

We have to be concerned, to be troubled, not about the other side but about our own side, not about grace but about will. Grace concerns us in so far as we go out to it and persist in its presence; but it is not our object.

What we know of the way froih the life that we have lived, from our life, is not a waiting or a being open.

The Thou confronts me. But I step into direct relation with it. Hence the relation means being chosen and choosing, suffering and action in one; just as any action of the whole being which means the suspension of all partial actions, and consequently of all sensations of actions grounded only in their particular limitation, is bound to resemble suffering.

This is the activity of the man who has become a whole being, an activity that has been termed doing nothing: nothing separate or partial stirs in the man any more, thus he makes no intervention in the world ; it is the whole man, enclosed and at rest in his wholeness, that is effective he has become an effective whole. To have won stability in this state is to be able to go out to the supreme meeting.

To this end the world of sense does not need to be laid aside as though it were illusory. There is no illusory world, there is only the world which appears to us as twofold in accordance with our twofold attitude. Only the barrier of separation has to be destroyed. Further, no " going beyond sense-experience" is necessary; for every experience, even the most spiritual, could yield us only an It. Nor is any recourse necessary to a world of ideas and values; for they cannot become presentness for us. None of these things is necessary. Can it be said what really is necessary ? Not in the sense of a precept. For everything that has ever been devised and contrived in the time of the human spirit as precept, alleged preparation, practice, or meditation, has nothing to do with the primal, simple fact of the meeting. Whatever the advantages in knowledge or. the wielding of power for which we have to thank this or that practice, none of this affects the meeting of which we are speaking; it all has its place in the world of It and does not lead one step, does not take the step, out of it. Going out to the relation cannot be taught in the sense of precepts being given. It can only be indicated by the drawing of a circle which excludes everything that is not this going out. Then the one thing that matters is visible, full acceptance of the present.

To be sure, this acceptance presupposes that the farther a man has wandered in separated being the more difficult is the venture and the more elemental the reversal. This does not mean a giving up of, say, the I , as mystical writings usually suppose: the I  is as indispensable to this, the supreme, as to every relation, since relation is only possible between I and Thou. It is not the I, then, that is given up, but that false self-asserting instinct that makes a man flee to the possessing of things before the unreliable, perilous world of relation which has neither density nor duration and cannot be surveyed.


Every real relation with a being or life in the world is exclusive. Its Thou is freed, steps forth, is single, and confronts you. It fills the heavens. This does not mean that nothing else exists; but all else lives in its light. As long as the presence of the relation continues, this its cosmic range is inviolable. But as soon as a Thou becomes It, the cosmic range of the relation appears as an offence to the world, its exclusiveness as an exclusion of the universe.

In the relation with God unconditional exclusiveness and unconditional inclusiveness are one. He who enters on the absolute relation is concerned with nothing isolated any more, neither things nor beings, neither earth nor heaven; but everything is gathered up in the relation. For to step into pure relation is not to disregard everything but to see everything in the Thou, not to renounce the world but to establish it on its true basis. To look away from the world, or to stare at it, does not help a man to reach God; but he who sees the world in Him stands in His presence. " Here world, there God " is the language of It; " God in the world " is another language of It; but to eliminate or leave behind nothing at all, to include the whole world in the Thou,to give the world its due and its truth, to include nothing beside God but everything in Himthis is fall and complete relation.

Men do not find God if they stay in the world. They do not find Him if they leave the world. He who goes out with his whole being to meet his Thou and carries to it all being that is in the world, finds Him who cannot be sought.

Of course God is the " wholly Other " ; but He is also the wholly Same, the wholly Present. Of course He is the Mysterium Tremendum that appears and overthrows; but He is also the mystery of the self-evident, nearer to me than my I.

If you explore the life of things and of conditioned being you come to the unfathomable, if you deny the life of  things and of conditioned beings you stand before nothingness, if you hallow this life you meet the living God.


Man's sense of Thou, which experiences in the relations with every particular Thou the disappointment of the change to It, strives out but not away from them all to its eternal Thou; but not as something is sought: actually there is no such thing as seeking God, for there is nothing in which He could not be found. How foolish and hopeless would be the
man who turned aside from the course of his life in order to seek God ; even though he won all the wisdom of solitude and all the power of concentrated being he would miss God. Bather is it as when a man goes his way and simply wishes that it might be the way: in the strength of his wish his striving is expressed. Every relational event is a stage that affords him a glimpse intp the consummating event. So in each event he does not partake, but also (for he is waiting)
does partake, of the one event. Waiting, not seeking, he goes his way; hence he is composed
before all things, and makes contact with them which helps them. But when he has found, his heart is not turned from them, though everything now meets him in the one event. He blesses every cell that sheltered him, and every cell into which he will yet turn. For this finding is not the end, but only the eternal middle, of the way.

It is a finding without seeking, a discovering of the primal, of origin. His sense of Thou, which cannot be satiated till he finds the endless Thou, had the Thou present to it from the beginning; the presence had only to become wholly real to him in the reality of the
hallowed life of the world.

God cannot be inferred in anything in nature, say, as its author, or in history as its master, or in the subject as the self that is thought in it. Something else is not " given " and God then elicited from it; but God is the Being that is directly, most nearly, and lastingly, over against us, that may properly onif be addressed, not expressed.


Men -wish to regard a feeling (called feeling of dependence, and recently, more precisely, creaturely feeling) as the real element in the relation with God. In proportion as the isolation and definition of this element is accurate, its unbalanced emphasis only makes the
character of complete relation the more misunderstood.

What has already been said of love is even more unshakably valid here. Feelings are a mere accompaniment to the metaphysical and metapsychical fact of the relation, which is fulfilled not in the soul but between I and Tkou. A feeling may be considered ever so essential, it remains nevertheless subject to the dynamic of the soul, where one feeling is outstripped,
outdone, and abolished by another. In distinction from relation a feeling has its place in a scale. But above all, every feeling has its place within a polar tension, obtaining its colour and significance not from itself alone, but also from the opposite pole: every feeling is conditioned by its opposite. Thus the absolute relation (which gathers up into reality all those
that are relative, and is no more a part, as these are, but is the whole that completes and unifies them all), in being reduced to the status of ail isolated and limited feeling, is made into a relative psychological matter.

If the soul is the starting-point of our consideration, complete relation can be understood only in a bipolar way, only as the coincidentia oppositorum, as the coincidence of oppositions of feeling. Of course, the one polesuppressed by the person's basic religious attitudeoften disappears from the reflective consciousness, and can only be recalled in the purest and most
ingenuous consideration of the depths of the being.

Yes; in pure relation you have felt yourself to be simply dependent, as you are able to feel in no other relation and simply free, too, as in no other time or place: you have felt yourself to be both creaturely and creative. You had the one feeling then no longer limited by the other, but you had both of them limitlessly and together.

You know always in your heart that you need God more than everything; but do you not know too that God needs you in the fulness of His eternity needs you ? How would man be, how would you be, if God did not need him, did not need you ? You need God, in order to be and God needs you, for the very meaning of your life. In instruction and in poems men
are at pains to say mote, and they say too much what turgid and presumptuous talk that is about the " God who becomes " ; but we know unshakably in our hearts that there is a becoming of the God that is. The world is not divine sport, it is divine destiny. There is divine meaning in the life of the world, of man, of human persons, of you and of me.

Creation happens to us, burns itself into us, recasts us in burning we tremble and are faint, we submit, We take part in creation, meet the Creator, reach out to Him, helpers and companions.

Two great servants pace through the ages, prayer and sacrifice. The man who prays pours himself out in unrestrained dependence, and knows that he has in an incomprehensible way an effect upon God, even though he obtains nothing from God; for when he no longer
desires anything for himself he sees the flame of his effect burning at its highest. And the man who makes sacrifice ? I cannot despise him, this upright servant of former times, who believed that God yearned for the scent of his burnt-offering. In a foolish but powerful
way he knew that we can and ought to give to God. This is known by him, too, who offers up his little will to God and meets Him in the grand will. " Thy will be done," he says, and says no more; but truth adds for him " through me whom Thou needest ".

What distinguishes sacrifice and prayer from all magic ? Magic desires to obtain its effects without entering into relation, and practises its tricks in the void. But sacrifice and prayer are set" before the Face", in consummation of the holy primary word that means mutual action: They speak the Thou, and then they hear.

To wish to understand pure relation as dependence is to wish to empty one of the bearers of the relation, and hence the relation itself from the reality.


The same thing happens if we begin from the opposite side and look on absorbtion, or entering, into the self (wether by mean's of the self delivrance from all being that is conditionned by I, or by its being understood as the One thinking essence) as thee essential element in the religious act. By the first way of looking on the act it is imagined that God enters the being that is freed from I, or that this being is merged in God; by the second, that the being takes its stand directly in itself as though it were in the divine One. That is, by the first way, in a supreme moment the saying of the Thou ceases, for there is no more twofold being, and by the second the saying of the Thou does not in truth exist at all, for there is in truth no twofold being : the first way believes in the unification, the second in the identification of the human with the divine. Both assert a state that is beyond I and Thou, the first as in ecstasy one that becomes, the secondas in the self-bservation of the thinking subjectone that is and that reveals itself. Both abolish relation, the first as it were dynamically, through the swallowing up of the I by the Thou which is, however, no longer Thou, but that which alone isand the second as it were statically through the self-recognition of the I, which has been freed andhas become the Self, as that which alone is. If the doctrine of dependence considers the I that bears the span of pure relation in the world to be so weak and empty that its ability to bear it is no longer credible, the one doctrine of
absorption causes the span of relation to disappear at its consummation, the other treats it as a delusion to be overcome.

The doctrines of absorption appeal to the great sayings of identification, the one above all to the Johannine " I and the Father are one ", the other to the teaching of Sandilya : " The all-embracing, this is my Self in my very heart".

The ways these sayings lead are opposed to one another. The first arises (after a subterranean course) in the life of a person of mythical proportions and advances to a doctrine, the second emerges in a doctrine and only then leads to the mythical life of a person. The character of the saying is transformed along these lines. The Christ of the Johannine tradition, the Word
that once became flesh, leads to the Christ of Eckehardt, perpetually begotten by God in the human soul. The coronation formula for the Self in the Upanishad, " This is the real, the Self, and Thou art the Self", leads in a much shorter space to the Buddhistic formula of dethronement, " It is not possible to lay hold of a Self and a Self-appertaining in truth and in reality ".

The beginning and end of each way demand separate consideration.

That the appeal to the . cannot be substantiated becomes clear to all who read impartially, section by section, the Gospel according to John. It is really the Gospel of pure relation. Here is a truer verse than the familiar mystical verse : "I am Thou and Thou art I". The Father and the Son, like in being we may even say God and Man, like in beingare the indissolubly
real pair, the two bearers of the primal relation, which from God to man is termed mission and command, from man to God looking and hearing, and between both is termed knowledge and love. In this relation the Son, though the Father dwells and works in him, bows down before the " greater " and prays to him. All modern attempts to interpret this primal reality of dialogue as a relation of the I to the Self, or the like as an event that is contained within the self-sufficient interior life of manare futile : they take their place in the abysmal history of destruction of reality.

But what of mysticism? Does it not inform us how unity without duality is experienced ? May we dispute the truth of its account ?

I know not of a single but of two kinds of happening in which duality is no longer experienced. These are at times confused in mystical utterancesI too once

confused them.

The one is the soul's becoming a unity. That is something that takes place not between man and God, but in man. Power is concentrated, everything that tries to divert it is drawn into the orbit of its mastery, the being is alone in itself and rejoices, as Paracelsus says, in its exaltation. This is the decisive moment for a man. Without it he is unfit for the work of the spirit; with it, he decides, in his innermost being, if this means a breathing-space, or the sufficient end of his way. Concentrated in unity, he can go out to the meeting, to which he has only now drawn quite close, with the

mystery, with salvation. But he can also enjoy to the full this blessed concentration of his being, and without entering on the supreme duty fall back into dissipation

of being. Everything on our way involves decision, purposive, dimly seen, wholly mysterious: this in the innermost being is the primal mysterious decision, carrying the mightiest consequences for our destiny.

The other happening-lies in the unfathomable nature of the relational act itself, in which two, it is imagined, become one : " one and one united, bareness shines there

into bareness". I and Thou are absorbed, humanity which just before confronted the godhead, is merged in it glorification, deification, and singleness of being have appeared. But when the man, illuminated and exhausted, falls back into the cares of earthly affairs,  and with knowledge in his heart thinks of the two situations, is he not bound to find that his being is split asunder and one part given to perdition ? What

does it help my soul that it can be withdrawn anew from this world here into unity, when this world itself has of necessity no part in the unitywhat does all " enjoyment of God " profit a life that is rent in two ? If that abundantly rich heavenly moment has nothing to do with my poor earthly momentwhat has it then to do with me, who Have still to live, in all seriousness still to live, on earth ? Thus are the masters to be understood who have renounced the raptures of ecstatic " union ".

Union that was no union: as illustration I take the men who in the passion of the engrossing Eros are so enraptured by the miracle of the embrace that their

knowledge of I and Thou perishes in the feeling of a unity that does not and cannot exist. What the ecstatic man calls union is the enrapturing dynamic of relation, not a unity arisen in this moment of the world's time that dissolves the Z and the Thou, but the dynamic of relation itself, which can put itself before its bearers as they steadily confront one another, and cover each from the feeling of the other enraptured one. Here, then, on the brink, the relational act goes beyond itself ; the relation itself in its vital unity is felt so forcibly that its parts seem to fade before it, and in the force of its life, the I and the Thou, between which it is established, are forgotten. Here is one of the phenomena of the brink to which reality extends and at which it grows dim. But the central reality of the everyday hour on earth, with a streak of sun on a maple twig and the glimpse of the eternal Thou, is greater for us than all enigmatic webs on the brink of being.

This will, however, be opposed by the claim of the other doctrine of absorption that universal being and self-being are the same and that therefore no saying of the Thou is able to yield final reality.

This claim is answered by the doctrine itself. One of the Upanishads tells how Indra, the prince of the gods, comes to Prajapati, the creative spirit, in order to learn how the Self is found and recognised. For a hundred years he is a pupil, is twice dismissed with insufficient information, till finally the right information is given him : " If a man, sunk in deep sleep, rests dreamlessly, this is the Self, the Immortal, the Assured,

the Universal Being." Indra departs, but soon a thought surprises him. He turns back and asks : " In such a condition, O Exalted One, a man does not know

of his Self that 'This is I', and that " these are beings". He is gone to annihilation. I see nothing propitious here", "That", replies Prajapati, "is indeed so ".

In so far as the doctrine contains an affirmation about true being however the matter stands with its content of truth, which cannot be ascertained in this life it has nothing in common with one thing, with lived reality; for it is bound to reduce this too to the world of appearances. In so far, too, as the doctrine contains guidance for absorption in true being, it leads not to lived reality but to " annihilation", where no

consciousness reigns and whence no memory leads ; the man who has emerged from this annihilation may still propose, as representing his experience, the limiting words " absence of duality " ; he does not dare to call it unity.

But we with holy care wish to foster the holy good of our reality, that is gifted to us for this and perhaps for no other life that is nearer truth.

In lived reality there is no unity of being. Reality exists only in effective action, its power and depth in power and depth of effective action. "Inner" reality, too, exists only if there is mutual action. The most powerful and the deepest reality exists where

everything enters into the effective action, without reserve the whole man and God the all-embracingthe united I and the boundless Thou.

The united I: for in lived reality there is (as I have already said) the becoming one of the soul, the concentration of power, the decisive moment for a man. But this does not involve, like that absorption, disregard of the real person. Absorption wishes to preserve only the " pure ", the real, the lasting, and to cast away everything eke; but in this concentration the instinctive is not thought too impure, the sensuous I not thought too remote from its course, what is concerned with emotion is not thought too. fleeting : everything must be gathered into the orbit of its mastery. This concentration does not desire the self that is set apart, but the whole, unimpaired man. It aims at,

and is, reality.

The doctrine of absorption demands, and promises, refuge in the One thinking Essence (" that by which this world is thought"), refuge in pure Subject. But in lived

reality there is not something thinking without something thought, rather is the thinking no less dependent on the thing thought than the latter on the former. A

subject deprived of its object is deprived of its reality. Something thinking in itself alone existsin thought: first, as its product and object, as a limiting idea -without

an imaginable subject; secondly, by anticipation, in the definition of death, which can be replaced by its likeness of the deep sleep, which is just as impenetrable; and lastly, in the affirmation of the doctrine concerning a condition of absorption, resembling deep sleep, which is by nature without consciousness and memory. These are the loftiest peaks of the language of It. The sublime strength of their disregard must be respected, and in the very glance of respect recognised as what is, at most, to be experienced, but not to be lived.

The Buddha, the " fulfilled " and the fulfiller, makes no affirmation on this point. He refuses to assert that unity exists or that it does not exist, that he who has passed all the tests of absorption exists after death in unity or that he does not exist in unity. This refusal, this " noble silence ", is explained in two ways: one, theoretical, because fulfilment is beyond the categories of thought and expression; and two, practical, because disclosure of the existence of fulfilment does not establish a true life of salvation. Combination of the two explanations indicates the truth that he who treats

what is as an object of assertion pulls it into division, into the antithetics of the world of It, where there is no life of salvation. " If, O monk, the opinion dominates that soul and body are one in being, there is no life of salvation; if, O monk, the opinion dominates that the soul is one and the body another, then too there is no life of salvation ". In the mystery that is observed as in the reality that is lived, " It is thus " and " It is not thus ", being and non-being, do not reign; but " thus and otherwise ", being and non-being at once, the unfathomable this reigns. The primal condition of

salvation is undivided confrontation of the undivided mystery. It is certain that the Buddha is of those who have known this. Like all true teachers he does not

wish to impart an opinion, but to teach the way. He denies only one assertion, that of the "fools", who say there is no action, no deed, no power, and says " Men can walk in the way ". He ventures only one assertion, which is decisive: " There is, O Monks, an Unborn, neither become nor created nor formed ". If there were not this, there would be no goal; there is this, the way has a goal.

Loyal to the truth of our meeting, we can follow the Buddha as far as this, but a step further would be disloyalty to the reality of our life.

For we know, from the truth and reality that we do not extract from ourselves but which is given for us to share in, that if the goal described by the Buddha is only one of the goals, then it cannot Ha ours, and if it is the goal, then it is falsely described ; and also, if it is one of the goals, the way may lead as far as it, and if it is the goal,

the way leads, at most, nearer to it.

The Buddha describes as the goal the " cessation of pain ", that is of becoming and passing awayrelease from the cycle of births. " Henceforth there is no return " is the formula of the man who has freed himself from the appetite for living and thus from the necessity to become ever anew. We do not know if there is a return ; we

do not extend beyond this life the lines of this time-dimension in which we live, and do not seek to expose what will be disclosed to us in its own time and disposition. But if we did know that there is a return we would not seek to escape it, and we would long not indeed for gross being but for the power to speak, in each existence in its own way and language, the eternal I that passes away, and the eternal Thou that does not pass away.

We do not know if the Buddha actually leads to the goal of release from the necessity of returning. He certainly leads to a preliminary goal that concerns us to the becoming one of the soul. But he leads thither not merely (as is necessary) apart from the " thicket of opinions ", but also apart from the " illusion of forms " which for us is no illusion but rather the reliable world (and this in spite of all subjective paradoxes in observation connected with it for us). His way, too, then, involves disregard; thus when he speaks of our becoming aware of the events in our body he means almost the opposite of our physical insight with its certainty about the senses. Nor does he lead the united being farther to that supreme saying .of the Thou that is made possible for it. His innermost decision seems to rest on the extinction of the ability to say Thou.

The Buddha knows the saying of the Thou to men witness his intercourse with his pupils, in which, though high above them, he speaks very directlybut he does not teach it; for simple confrontation of being with being is alien to this love where " all that has become is inimitably comprised in the breast". He certainly knows too, in the silent depths of his being, the saying of the Thou to the primal causeaway beyond all those "gods" that are treated by hi like pupils. This act of his springs from a relational event that has taken on substance; this act, too, is a response to the Thou: but about this response he preserves silence.

His succession among the peoples, however, that " great vehicle ", has contradicted "him magnificently. It has addressed the eternal human Thou under the name of Buddha himself. And it awaits, as the Buddah that is to come, the last of the age, fr by whom love is to be fulfilled.

All doctrine of absorption is based on the colossal illusion of the human spirit that is bent back on itself, that spirit exists in man. Actually spirit exists with man as starting-pointbetween man and that which is not man. In renouncing this its meaning, its meaning as relation, the spirit that is bent back on itself is compelled to drag into man that which is not man, it is compelled to make the world and God into functions of the soul. This is the spirit's illusion about the soul.

" Friend ", says the Buddha, " I proclaim that in this my fathom-high ascetic's body, affected with sensations, there dwells the world and the beginning of the world and the extinction of the world and the way that leads to the extinction of the world ".

That is true, but in the last resort it is no longer true.

Certainly the world " dwells " in me as an image, just as I dwell in it as a thing.   But it is not for that reason in me, just as I am not in it.   The world and I are  mutually included, the one in the other.  This contradiction in thought, inherent in the situation of It, is resolved in the situation  of  Thou, which  sets me free from the world in order to bind me  up in solidarity of connexion with it.

I bear within me the sense of Self, that cannot be included in the world. The world bears within itself the sense of being, that cannot be included in the image. This sense of being, however, is not a "will" that can be thought, but simply the total status of the world as world, just as the sense of Self is not a "knowing subject" but simply the total status of the I as I. Here no further " reduction " is possible ; he who does not honour the last unities frustrates their apprehensible but not comprehensible sense.

The beginning and the extinction of the world are not in me;   but they are also not outside me; they cannot be said to be at all, they are a continuous happening, connected with and dependent on me, my life, my decision, my work, and my service.   But they do depend not on whether I " affirm " or " deny " the world in my soul, but on how I cause my attitude of soul to the world to grow to life, to life that acts upon the world, to real lifeand in real life the ways of very different attitudes of soul may intersect.  But he who merely "experiences" his   attitude, merely consummates it in the soul, however thoughtfully, is without the world and  all  the  tricks, .arts, ecstasies, enthusiasms, and mysteries that are in him do not even ripple the skin of

the world. So long as a man is set free only in his Self he can do the world neither weal nor woe; he does not concern the world. Only he who believes in the world

is given power to enter into dealings with it, and if he gives himself to this he cannot remain godless. If only we love the real world, that will not let itself be extinguished,  really in its horror, if only we venture to surround it with the arms of our spirit, our hands will meet hands that grip them.

I know nothing of a " world " and a " life in the world " that might separate a man from God. What is thus described is actually life with an alienated world of It, which experiences and uses. He who truly goes out to meet the world goes out also to God. Concentration and outgoing are necessary, both in truth, at once the one and the other, which is the One.

God comprises, but is not, the universe. So, too, God comprises, but is not, my Self. In view of the inadequacy of any language about this fact, I can say Thou in my language as each man can in his, in view of this I and Thou live, and dialogue and spirit and language (spirit's primal act), and the Word in eternity.

to surround it with the arms of our spirit, our hands will

meet hands that grip them.

I know nothing of a " world " and a " life in the world " that might separate a man from God. What is thus described is actually life with an alienated world of It, which experiences and uses. He who truly goes out to meet the world goes out also to God. Concentration and outgoing are necessary, both in truth, at once the one and the other, which is the One.

God comprises, but is not, the universe. So, too, God comprises, but is not, my Self. In view of the inadequacy of any language about this fact, I can say Thou in my language as each man can in his, in view of this I and Thou live, and dialogue and spirit and language (spirit's primal act), and the Word in eternity.


Man's religious situation, his being there in the Presence, is characterised by its essential and indissoluble antinomy. The nature of its being .determines that this antinomy is indissoluble. He who accepts the thesis and rejects the antithesis does injury to the significance of the situation. He who tries to think out a synthesis destroys the significance of the situation. He who strives to make the antinomy into a relative matter abolishes the significance of the situation. He who wishes to carry through the conflict of the antinomy other than with his life transgresses the significance of the situation. The significance of the situation is that it is lived, and nothing but lived, continually, ever anew, without foresight, without forethought, without prescription, in the totality of its antinomy.

Comparison of the religious with the philosophical antinomy will make this clear. Kant may make the philosophical conflict between necessity and freedom into a relative matter by assigning the former to the world of appearances and the latter to the world of being, so that in their two settings they are no longer really opposed, but rather reconciledjust as the worlds for which they are valid are reconciled. But if I

consider necessity and freedom not in worlds of thought but in the reality of my standing before God, if I know that " I am given over for disposal" and know at the

same time that " It depends on myself", then I cannot try to escape the paradox that has to be lived by assigning the irreconcilable propositions to two separate realms of validity; nor can I be helped to an ideal reconciliation by any theological device: but I am compelled to take both to myself, to be lived together, and in being lived they are one.


An animal's eyes have the power to speak a great language. Independently, without needing co-operation of Bounds and gestures, most forcibly when they rely wholly on their glance, the eyes express the mystery in its natural   prison, the anxiety of  becoming. This condition of the mystery is known only by the animal, it alone can disclose it to usand this condition only lets itself be disclosed, not fully revealed.

The language in which it is uttered is what it says anxiety, the movement of the creature between the realms of vegetable security and spiritual venture. This language is the stammering of nature at the first touch of spirit, before it yields to spirit's cosmic venture that we call man. But no speech will ever repeat what that stammering knows and can proclaim.

Sometimes I look into a cat's eyes. The domesticated animal has not as it were received from us (as we sometimes imagine) the gift of the truly "speaking" glance, but onlyat the price of its primitive disinterestednessthe capacity to turn its glance to us prodigious beings. But with this capacity there enters the glance, in its dawn and continuing in its rising, a quality of amazement and of inquiry that is wholly

lacking in the original glance with all its anxiety. The beginning of this cat's glance, lighting up under the touch of my glance, indisputably questioned me: " Is it possible that you think of me ? Do you really not just want me to have fun ? Do I concern you ? Do I exist in your sight? Do I really exist? What is it that comes from you ? What is it that surrounds me? What is it that comes to me? What is it?" ("I" is here a transcription for a word, that we do not have, denoting self without the ego; and by " it" is to be imagined the streaming human glance in the total reality of its power to enter into relation.) The animal's glance, speech of disquietude, rose in its greatnessand set at once. My own glance was certainly more lasting; but it was no longer the

streaming human glance.

The rotation of the world which introduced the relational event had been followed almost immediately by the other which ended it. The world, of It surrounded the animal and myself, for the space of a glance the world of Thou had shone out from the

depths, to be at once extinguished and put back into the world of It.

I relate this tiny episode, which I have experienced several times, for the sake of the speech of this almost unnoticeable sunrise and sunset of the spirit. In no other speech have I known so profoundly the fleeting nature of actuality in all its relations with being, the exalted melancholy of our fate, 'the change, heavy with destiny, of every isolated Thou into an It. For other events possessed between morning and evening their day, even though it might be brief; but here morning and evening flowed pitilessly mingled together, the bright Thou appeared and was gone.   Had the burden

of the world of It really been removed for the space of a glance from the animal and from myself? I myself could continue to think about the matter, but the animal had sunk back out of the stammer of its glance into the disquietude where there is no speech and almost no memory.

How powerful is the unbroken world of It, and how delicate are the appearances of the Thou!

So much can never break through the crust of the condition of things! O fragment of mica, looking on which I once learned, for the first time, that I is not something " in me "with you I was nevertheless only bound up in myself; at that time the event took place only in me, not between me and you. But when one that is alive rises out of things, and becomes a being in relation to me, joined to me by its nearness and its speech, for how inevitably short a time is it nothing to me but Thou! It is not the

relation that necessarily grows feeble, but the actuality of its immediacy. Love itself cannot persist in the immediacy of relation; love endures, but in the interchange of actual and potential being. Every Thou in the world is enjoined by its nature to become a thing for us, or at all events to re-enter continually the condition of things.

Only in one, all-embracing relation is potential still actual being. Only one Thou never ceases by its nature to be Thou for us. He who knows God knows also very well remoteness from God, and the anguish of barrenness in the tormented heart; but he does not know the absence of God: it is we only who are not always


The lover in the Vita Nuova rightly and properly says for the most part Ella and only at times Voi. The spectator of the Paradiso, when he says Colui, speaks from poetic necessity, and knows it. If God is addressed as He or It, it is always allegorically. But

if we say Thou to Him, then mortal sense has set the unbroken truth of the world into a word.


Every real relation in the world is exclusive, the Other breaks in on it and avenges its exclusion. Only in the relation with God are unconditioned exclusiveness and unconditioned inclusiveness one and the same, in which the whole universe is implied.

Every real relation in the world rests on individuation, this is its joyfor only in this way is mutual knowledge of different beings wonand its limitationfor in this

way perfect knowledge and being known are foregone. But in the perfect relation my Thou comprehends but is not my Self, my limited knowledge opens out into a state in which I am boundlessly known.

Every real relation in the world is consummated in the interchange of actual and potential being; every isolated Thou is bound to enter the chrysalis state of the It in order to take wings anew. But in pure relation, potential being is simply actual being as it draws breath, and in it the Thou remains present. By its nature the eternal Thou is eternally Thou; only our nature compels us to draw it into the world and the talk of It.


The world of It is set in the context of space and time. The world of Thou is not set in the context of either of these.

Its context is in the Centre, where the extended lines of relations meetin the eternal Thou.

In the great privilege of pure relation the privileges of the world of It are abolished. By virtue of this privilege there exists the unbroken world of Thou: the isolated moments of relations are bound up in a life of world solidarity. By virtue of this privilege formative power belongs to the world of Thou: spirit can penetrate and transform the world of It. By virtue of this privilege we are not given up to alienation from the world and the loss of reality by the Ito domination by the ghostly. Reversal is the recognition of the Centre and the act of turning again to it. In this act of the being the buried relational power of man rises again, the wave that carries all the spheres of relation swells in living streams to give new life to our world.

Perhaps not to our world alone. For this double movement, of estrangement from the primal Source, in virtue of which the universe is sustained in the process of becoming, and of turning towards the primal Source, in virtue of which the universe is released in being, may be perceived as the metacosmical primal form that dwells in the world as a whole in its relation to that which is not the worldform whose twofold nature is

represented among men by the twofold nature of their attitudes, their primary words, and their aspects of the world. Both parts of this movement develop, fraught with destiny, in time, and are compassed by grace in the timeless creation that is, incomprehensibly, at once emancipation and preservation, release and binding. Our knowledge of twofold nature is silent before the paradox of the primal mystery.


The spheres in which the world of relation is built are three.

First, our life with nature, in which the relation clings to the threshold of speech.

Second, our life with men, in which the relation takes on the form of speech.

Third, our life with intelligible forms, where the relation, being without speech, yet begets it.

In every sphere in its own way, through each process of becoming that is present to us, we look out toward the fringe of the eternal Thou; in each we are aware of a breath from the eternal Thou; in each Thou we address the eternal Thou.

Every sphere is compassed in the eternal Thou, but it is not compassed in them.

Through every sphere shines the one present.

We can, however, remove each sphere from the present.

From our life with nature we can lift out the " physical " world, the world of consistency, from our life with men the "psychical" world, the world of sensibility,

and from our life with spiritual beings the "noetic" world, the world of validity. But now their transparency, and with it their meaning, has been taken from them; each sphere has become dull and capable of being used and remains dull even though we light it up with the names of Cosmos and Eros and Logos. For actually there is a cosmos for man only when the universe becomes his home, with its holy hearth whereon he offers sacrifice; there is Eros for man only when beings become for him

pictures of the eternal, and community is revealed along with them; and there is Logos for man only when he addresses the mystery with work and service for the


Form's silent asking, man's loving speech, the mute proclamation of the creature* are all gates leading into the presence of the Word.

But when the full and complete meeting is to take place, the gates are united in one gateway of real life, and you no longer know through which you have entered.


Of the three spheres, one, our life with men, is marked out. Here language is consummated as a sequence, in speech and counter-speech. Here alone does the word

that is formed in language meet its response. Only here does the primary word go backwards and forwards in the same form, the word of address and the word of

response live in the one language, I and Thou take their stand not merely in relation, but also in the solid give-and-take of talk. The moments of relation are here, and only here, bound together by means of the element of the speech in which they are immersed. Here what confronts us has blossomed into the full reality of the Thou. Here alone, then, as reality that cannot be lost, are gazing and being gazed upon, knowing and being known, loving and being loved.

This is the main portal, into whose opening the two side-gates lead, and in which they are included.

" When a man is together with his wife the longing of the eternal hills blows round about them."

The relation with man is the real simile of the relation with God; in it true address receives true response; except that in God's response everything, the universe, is made manifest as language.


But is not solitude, too, a gate ? Is there not at times disclosed, in stillest loneliness, an unsuspected perception ? Can concern with oneself not mysteriously be transformed into concern with the mystery ? Indeed, is not that man alone who no longer adheres to any being worthy to confront the Being ? " Come, lonely One, to him who is alone ", cries Simeon, the new theologian, to his God.

There are two kinds of solitude, according to that from which they have turned. If we call it solitude to free oneself from intercourse of experiencing and using of things, then that is always necessary, in order that the act of relation, and not that of the supreme relation only, may be reached. But if solitude means absence of relation, then he who has been forsaken by the beings to which he spoke the true Thou will be raised up by God, but not he who him self forsook the beings. He alone adheres to various ones of these who is greedy to use them; but he who lives in the strength of present realisation can only be bound up in relation with them. And he alone who is so bound is ready for God. For he alone confronts the reality of God with a human


Further, there are two kinds of solitude, according to that towards which they have turned. If solitude is the place of purification, necessary even to the man who is bound in relation, both before he enters the Holy of Holies and in the midst of his ventures between unavoidable failing and the ascent to proving true to this solitude we are by nature disposed. But if solitude is the stronghold of isolation, where a man conducts a dialogue with himselfnot in order to test and master himself for that which awaits him but in the enjoyment of the conformation of his soul then we have the real fall of the spirit into spirituality. The man can advance to the last abyss, where in his self-delusion he imagines he has God in himself and is speaking with Him. But truly though God surrounds us and dwells in us, we never have Him in us. And we speak with Him only when speech dies within us.


A  modern philosopher supposes  that  every man necessarily believes either in God or in " idols ", that is, in some sort of finite good his nation, his art, power, knowledge, the amassing of money, "the ever new subjugation of woman "which has become for him an absolute value and has set itself up between him and God; it is only necessary to demonstrate to him the conditioned nature of this good, in order to " shatter " the idol, and the diverted religious act will automatically return to the fitting object.

This conception presupposes that man's relation to the finite goods he has " idolized " is of the same nature as his relation to God, and differs only in its object; for only with this presupposition could the mere substitution of the true for the false object save the erring man. But a man's relation to the " special something " that usurps the throne of the supreme value of his life, and supplants eternity, rests always on experiencing and

using an It, a thing, an object of enjoyment. For this relation alone is able to obstruct the prospect which opens toward Godit is the impenetrable world of It; but the relation which involves the saying of the Thou opens up this prospect ever anew. He who is dominated by the idol that he wishes to win, to hold, and to keep possessed by a desire for possessionhas no way to God but that of reversal, which is a change not only of goal but also of the nature of his movement. The man who is possessed is saved by being wakened and educated to solidarity of relation, not by being led in his state of possession towards God. If a man remains in this state what does it mean when he calls no longer on the name of a demon or of a being demonically distorted for him, but on the name of God ? It means that from now on he blasphemes. It is blasphemy when a man wishes, after the idol has crashed behind the altar, to pile up an unholy sacrifice to God on the desecrated place.

He who loves a woman, and brings her life to present realisation in his, is able to look in the Thou of her eyes into a beam of the eternal Thou. But he who eagerly desires " ever new subjugation "do you wish to hold out to his desire a phantom of the Eternal ? He who serves his people in the boundlessness of destiny, and is willing to give himself to them, is really thinking of God. But do you suppose that the man to whom the nation is a god, in whose service he would like to enlist everything (for in the nation's he exalts his own image), need only be given a feeling of disgustand he would see the truth ? And what does it mean that a man is said to treat money, embodied non-being, " as if it were God " ? What has the lust of grabbing and of laying up treasure in common with the joy in the presence of the Present One ? Can the servant "of Mammon say Thou to his money ? And how is he to behave towards God when he does not understand how to say Thou? He cannot serve two mastersnot even one after the other: he must first learn to serve in a different way.

He who has been converted by this substitution of object now "holds" a phantom that he calls God. But God, the eternal Presence, does not permit Himself to be held. Woe to the man so possessed that he thinks he possesses God!


The " religious " man is spoken of as one who does not need to take his stand in any relation to the world and to living beings, since the status of social life, that is defined from outside, is in him surpassed by means of a strength that works only from within. But in this idea of the social life two basically different things are combinedfirst, the community that is built up out of relation, and second, the collection of human units that do not know relationmodern man's palpable condition of lack of relation. But the bright building of community, to which there is an escape even from

the dungeon of " social life ", is the achievement of the same power that works in the relation between man and God. This does not mean that this one relation is set beside the others; for it is the-universal relation, into which all streams pour, yet without exhausting their waters. Who wishes to make division fed define boundaries between sea and streams? There we find only the one flow from I to Thou, unending, the one

boundless flow of the real life. Life cannot be divided between a real relation with God and an unreal relation of I and It with the worldyou cannot both truly pray to God and profit by the world. He who knows the world as something by which he is to profit knows God also in the same way. His prayer is'a procedure of exoneration heard by the ear of the void. He not the " atheist," who addresses the Nameless out of the night and yearning of his garret-window is the godless man.

It is further said that the " religious " man stands as a single, isolated, separated being before God, since he has also gone beyond the status of the " moral" man, who is still involved in duty and obligation to the world. The latter, it is said, is still burdened with responsibility for the action of those who act, since he is wholly defined by the tension between being and "ought to be", and in grotesque and hopeless sacrificial

courage casts his heart piece by piece into the insatiable gulf that lies between them. The "religious " man, on the other hand, has emerged from that tension into the tension between the world and God ; there the command reigns that the unrest of responsibility and of demands on oneself be removed; there is no willing of

one's own, but only the being joined into what is ordained; every " ought" vanishes in unconditioned being, and the world, though still existing, no longer counts. For in it the " religious " man has to perform his particular duties, but as it were without obligation beneath the aspect of the nothingness of all action. But that is to suppose that God has created. His world as an illusion and man for frenzied being. He

who approaches the Face has indeed surpassed duty and obligationbut not because he is now remote from the world; rather because he has truly drawn closer

to it. Duty and obligation are rendered only to the stranger; we are drawn to and full of love for the intimate person. The world, lit by eternity, becomes fully present to him who approaches the Face, and to the Being of beings he can in a single response say Thou. Then there is no more tension between the world and God, but only the one reality. The man is not freed from responsibility; he has exchanged the torment of the finite, pursuit of effects, for the motive power of the infinite, he has got the mighty responsibility of love for the whole untraceable world-event, for the profound belonging to the world before the Face of God. He has, to be sure,.abolished moral judgments for ever ; the " evil" man is simply one who is commended to him for greater responsibility, one more needy of love ; but he will have to practise, till death

itself, decision in the depths of spontaneity, unruffled decision, made ever anew, to right action. Then action is not empty, but purposive, enjoined, needed, part

of creation; but this action is no longer imposed upon the world, it grows on it as if it were non-action.


What is the eternal, primal phenomenon, present here and now, of that which we term revelation ? It is the phenomenon that a man does not pass, from the moment of the supreme meeting, the same being as he entered into it. The moment of meeting is not an " experience " that stirs in the receptive soul and grows to perfect blessedness; rather, in that moment something happens to the man. At times it is like a light breath, at times like a wrestling-bout, but always it "happens, the man who emerges from the act of pure relation that so involves his being has now in his being something more that has grown in him, of which he did not know before and whose origin he is not rightly able to indicate. However the source of this new thing is classified in scientific orientation of the world, with its authorised efforts to establish an unbroken causality, we, whose concern is real consideration of the real, cannot have our purpose served with subconsciousness or any other apparatus of the soul. The reality is that we

receive what we did not hitherto have, and receive it in such a way that we know it has been given to us. In the language of the Bible, " Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength ". In the language of Nietzsche, who in his account remains loyal to reality, " We take and do not ask who it is there that gives".

Man receives, and he receives not a specific " content " but a Presence, a Presence as power. This Presence and this power include three things, undivided, yet in such a way that we may consider them separately. First, there is the whole fulness of real mutual action, of the being raised and bound up in relation : the man can give no account at all of how the binding in relation is brought about, nor does it in any way lighten his life it makes life heavier, but heavy with meaning. Secondly, there is the inexpressible confirmation of meaning. Meaning is assured. Nothing can any longer be meaningless. The question about the meaning of life is no longer there. But were it there, it would not have to be answered. You do not know how to exhibit and define the meaning of life, you have no formula or picture for it, and yet it has more certitude

for you than the perceptions of your senses. What does the revealed and concealed meaning purpose with us, desire from us ? It does not wish to be explained (nor are we able to do that) but only to be done by us. Thirdly, this meaning is not that of " another life ", but that of this life of ours, not one of a world " yonder " but that of this world of ours, and it desires its confirmation in this life and in relation with this world. This meaning can be received, but not experienced; it cannot be experienced but it can be done, and this is its purpose with us. The assurance I have of it does not wish to be sealed within me, but it wishes to be born by me into the world. But just as the meaning itself does not permit itself to be transmitted and made into knowledge generally current and admissible, so confirmation of it cannot be transmitted as a valid

Ought; it is not prescribed, it is not specified on any tablet, to be raised above all men's heads. The meaning that has been received can be proved true by each man only in the singleness of his being and the singleness of his life. As no prescription can lead us to the meeting, so none leads from it. As only .acceptance of the Presence is necessary for the approach to the meeting, so in a new sense is it so when we emerge from it. As we reach the meeting with the simple Thou on our lips, so with the Thou on our lips we leave it and return to the world.

That before which, in which, out of which, and into which we live, even the mystery, has remained what it was. It has become pfesent to us and in its presentness has proclaimed itself to us as salvation; we have " known " it, but we acquire no knowledge from it which might lessen or moderate its mysteriousness. We have come near to God, but not nearer to unveiling being or solving its riddle. We have felt release, but not discovered a " solution ". We cannot approach others with what we have received, and say " You must know this, you must do this ", We can only go, and

confirm its truth. And this, too, is no " ought", but we can, we must.

This is the eternal revelation that is present here and now. I know of no revelation and believe in none whose primal phenomenon is not precisely this. I do not believe in a self-naming of God, a self-definition of God before men. The Word of revelation is I am that I am. That which reveals is that which reveals. That which is is, and nothing more. The eternal source of strength streams, the eternal contact persists, the eternal voice sounds forth, and nothing more.


The eternal Thou can by its nature not become It; for by its nature it cannot be established in measure and bounds, not even in the measure of the immeasurable, or the bounds of boundless being; for by its nature it cannot be understood as a sum of qualities, not even as an infinite sum of qualities raised to a transcendental level; for it can be found neither in nor out of the world; for it cannot be experienced, or thought;

for we TTnafl THm, TTirn who is, if we say " I believe that He is "" He " is also a metaphor, but " Thou" is not.

And yet in accordance with our nature we are continually making the eternal Thou into It, into some thing making God into a .thing. Not indeed out of arbitrary self-will; God's history as a thing, the passage of God as Thing through religion and through the products on its brink, through its bright ways and its gloom, its enhancement and its destruction of life, the passage away from the living God and back again to Him, the changes from the present to establishment of form, of objects,

and of ideas, dissolution and renewalall are one way, are the way.

What is the origin of the expressed knowledge and ordered action of the religions? How do the Presence and the power of the revelation (for all religions necessarily appeal to some kind of revelation, whether through the medium of the spoken word, or of nature, or of the soul: there are only religions of revelation) how do the Presence and the power received by men in revelation change into a "content" ?

The explanation has two layers. We understand the outer psychical layer when we consider man in himself, separated from history, and the inner factual layer, the primal phenomenon of religion, when we replace him in history. The two layers belong together.

Man desires to possess God; he desires a continuity in space and time of possession of God. He is not content with the inexpressible confirmation of meaning, but wants to see this confirmation stretched out as something that can be continually taken up and handled, a continuum unbroken in space.and time that insures his life at every point and every moment.

Man's thirst-for continuity is unsatisfied by the life -rhythm of pure relation, the interchange - of actual being and of a potential being in which only our power to enter into relation, and hence the presentness (but not the primal Presence) decreases. He longs for extension in time, for duration. Thus God becomes an object of faith. At first faith, set in time, completes the acts of relation; but gradually it replaces them. Resting in belief in an It takes the place of the continually renewed movement of the being towards concentration and going out to the relation. The "Nevertheless I believe" of the fighter who knows remoteness from as well as nearness to God is more and more completely transformed into the certainty of him, who enjoys profits, that nothing can happen to him, since he believes that there is One who win not let anything happen to him.

Further, man's thirst for continuity is unsatisfied by the life-structure of pure relation, the "solitude" of the I before the Thou, the law that man, though binding up the world in relation in the meeting, can nevertheless only as a person approach and meet God. He longs for extension in space, for the representation in which the community of the faithful is united with its God. Thus God becomes the object of a cult. The cult, too,

completes at first the acts of relation, in adjusting in a spatial context of great formative power the living prayer, the immediate saying of the Thou, and in linking it with the life of the senses. It, too, gradually replaces the acts of relation, when the personal prayer is no longer supported, but displaced, by the communal prayer, and when the act of the being, since ijb admits no rule, is replaced by ordered devotional exercises.

Actually, however, pure relation can only be raised to constancy in space and time by being embodied in the whole stuff of life. It cannot be preserved, but only proved true, only done, only done up into life. Man can do justice to the relation with God in which he has come to share only if he realises God anew in the world according to his strength and to the measure of each day. In this lies the only authentic assurance of continuity. The authentic assurance of duration consists in the fact that pure relation can be fulfilled in the growth and rise of beings into Thou, that the holy primary word

makes itself heard in them all. Thus the time of human life is shaped into a fulness of reality, and even though human life neither can nor ought to overcome the relation of It, it is so penetrated with relation that relation wins in it a shining streaming constancy; the moments of supreme meeting are then not flashes in darkness but like the rising moon in a clear starlit night. Thus, too, the authentic assurance of constancy

in space consists in the fact that men's relations with their true Thou, the radial lines that proceed from all the points of the I to the Centre, form a circle. It is not the periphery, the community, that comes first, but the radii, the common quality of  relation with the Centre. This alone guarantees the authentic existence of the community.

Only when these two arise the binding up of time in a relational life of salvation and the binding up of space in the community that is made one by its Centre and only so long as they exist, does there arise and exist, round about the invisible altar, a human cosmos with bounds and form, grasped with the spirit out of the universal stufi of the seon, a world thatis house and home, a dwelling for man in the universe.

Meeting with God does not come to man in order that he may concern himself with God, but in order that he may confirm that there is meaning in the world. All revelation is summons and sending. But again and again man brings about, instead of realisation, a reflexion to Him who reveals : he wishes to concern himself with God instead of with the world. Only, in such a reflexion, he is no longer confronted by a Thou, he can do nothing but establish an It-God in the realm of things, believe that

he knows of God as of an It, and so speak about Him. Just as the "self"-seeking man, instead of directly living something or other, a perception or an affection, reflects about his perceptive or reflective I, and thereby misses the truth of the event, so the man who seeks God (though for the rest he gets on very well with the self-seeker in the one soul), instead of allowing the gift to work itself out, reflects about the Giver and misses both.

God remains present to you when you have been sent forth ; he who goes on a mission has always God before him: the truer the fulfilment the stronger and more

constant His nearness. To be sure, he cannot directly concern himself with God, but he can converse with Him. Reflexion, on the other hand, makes God into an object.

Its apparent turning towards the primal source belongs in truth to the universal movement away from it; just as the apparent turning away of the man who is fulfilling

his mission belongs in truth to the universal movement towards the primal source.

For the two primary metacosmical movements of the worldexpansion into its own being and reversal to connexion find their supreme human form, the . real spiritual form of their struggle and adjustment, their mingling and separation, in the history of

the human relation to God. In reversal the Word is born on earth, in expansion the Word enters the chrysalis form of religion, in fresh reversal it is born again with

new wings.

Arbitrary self-will does not reign here, even though the movement towards the It goes at times so far that it threatens to suppress and to smother the movement out again to the Thou. The mighty revelations to which the religions appeal are like in being with the quiet revelations that are to be found everywhere and at all times. The mighty

revelations which stand at the beginning of great communities and at the turning-point of an age are nothing but the eternal revelation. But the revelation does not pour itself into the world through him who receives it as through a funnel; it comes to him and seizes his whole elemental being in all its particular nature, and fuses with it. The man, too, who is the " mouth " of the revelation, is indeed this, not a speaking-tube or

any kind of instrument, but an organ, which sounds according to its own laws; and to sound means to modify.

The various ages of history, however, show a qualitative difference. There is a time of maturing, when the true element of the human spirit, suppressed and buried, comes to hidden readiness so urgent and so tense that it awaits only a touch from Him who touches in order to burst forth. The revelation that then makes its appearance seizes in the totality of its constitution the whole elemental stuff that is thus-prepared, melts it down, and produces in it a form that is a new form of God in the world.

Thus in the course of history, in the transforming of elemental human stuff, ever new provinces of the world and the spirit are raised to form, summoned to divine form. Ever new spheres become regions of a theophany. It is not mail's own power that works here, nor is it God's pure effective passage, but it is a mixture of the divine and the human. He who is sent out in the strength of revelation takes with him, in his eyes, an image of God; however far this exceeds the senses, yet he takes it with him in the eye of the spirit, in that visual power of his spirit which is not metaphorical but wholly real. The spirit responds also through a look, a look that is formative. Although we earthly beings never look at God without the world, but only look at the world in God, yet as we look we shape eternally the form of God.

Form is also a mixture of Thou and It. In belief and in a cult form can harden into an object; but, in virtue of the essential quality of relation that lives on in it, it continually becomes present again. God is near His forms so long as man does not remove them from Him. In true prayer belief and cult are united and purified to enter into the living relation. The fact that true prayer lives in the religions witnesses to their true life": they live so long as it lives in them. Degeneration of the religions means degeneration of prayer in them. Their power to enter into relation is buried under increasing objectification, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to say TJiou with the whole undivided being, and finally, in order to be able to say it, man must come out of the false security into the venture of the infinite out of the community, that is now overarched only by the temple dome and not also by the firmament, into the final solitude. It is a profound misunderstand ing of this impulse to ascribe it to " subjectivism " ; life face to face with God is life in the one reality, the only true "objective", and the man who goes out to this life desires to save himself, in the

objective that truly is, from that which is apparent and illusory, before it has disturbed the truth of the real objective for him. Subjectivism empties God of soul, objectivism makes Him into an objectthe latter is a false fixing down, the former a false setting free; both are diversions from the way of reality, both are attempts to replace reality,

God is near His forms if man does not remove them from Him. But when the expanding movement of religion suppresses the movement of reversal and removes the form from God, the countenance of the form is obliterated, its lips are dead, its hands hang down, God knows it no more, and the universal dwelling-place that is built about its altar, .the spiritually apprehended cosmos, tumbles in. And the fact that man, in the disturbance of his truth, no longer sees what is then taking place, is a part of what has then taken place.

Disintegration of the Word has taken place.

The Word has its essence in revelation, its effect in the life of the form, its currency during the domination of the form that has died.

This is the course and the counter-course of the eternal and eternally present Word in history.

The times in which the living Word appears are those in which the solidarity of connexion between I and the world is renewed; the times in which the effective Word reigns are those in which the agreement between I and the world are maintained; the times in which the Word becomes current are those in which alienation between I and the world, logs of reality, growth of fate, is completedtill there comes the great

shudder, the holding of the breath in the dark, and the preparing silence.

But this course is not circular. It is the way. In each new aeon fate becomes more oppressive, reversal more shattering. And the theophany becomes ever nearer, increasingly near to the sphere that lies between beings, to the Kingdom that is hidden in our midst, there between us. History is a mysterious approach. Every spiral of its way leads us both into profounder perversion and more fundamental reversal. But the

event that from the side of the world is called reversal is called from God's side salvation.

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