of indeterminacy. He argues that it is from the standpoint of this marginal zone that the greatartists, writers, and social critics have been able to look past the social forms in order to seesociety from the outside and to bring in a message from beyond it.This marginality is the realm of Hermes. In his recent book, The Meaning of Aphrodite, PaulFriedrich remarks (in a brilliant appendix) on the multiple liminality of Hermes and his linkswith Aphrodite.
He notes that1.
Hermes moves by night, the time of love, dreams, and theft;2.
he is the master of cunning and deceit, the marginality of illusions and tricks;3.
he has magical powers, the margin between the natural and the supernatural;4.
he is the patron of all occupations that occupy margins or involve mediation:traders, thieves, shepherds, and heralds;5.
his mobility makes him a creature betwixt and between;6.
his marginality is indicated by the location of his phallic herms not justanywhere but on roads, at crossroads, and in groves;7.
even his eroticism is not oriented to fertility or maintaining the family but isbasically Aphroditic--stealthy, sly, and amoral, a love gained by theft withoutmoral concern for consequences; and finally8.
Hermes is a guide across boundaries, including the boundary between earthand Hades, that is, life and death.
Truly, one may say that Hermes is the Greeks' "god of the gaps," although not in thesense in which this phrase is used by Bonhoeffer (to refer to a religious attitude thatdoes not turn to God except to fill in the empty spots and question marks oneencounters in life).
Rather, he is one who seems to inhabit an in-between realm, whatCarlos Castaneda referred to as the "crack between the worlds."
The meaning of hermeneutics, then, is closely tied to the character of Hermes. Wemay see some further implications and dimensions of this fact by considering briefly(1) Heidegger's discussion of Hermes and hermeneutics in his famous conversationwith a Japanese on the topic of language in
On the Way to Language
, and (.2) WalterF. Otto's famous chapter on Hermes in his
The Homeric Gods
.For Heidegger, it is significant that Hermes is the messenger of the gods and not justother humans; for the message brought by Hermes is not just any message but "fatefultidings" (
Botschaft des Geschickes).
Interpretation in its highest form, then, is tobe able to understand these fateful tidings, indeed the fatefulness of the tidings. Tointerpret is first to listen and then to become a messenger of the gods oneself, just asthe poets do, according to Plato's
Indeed, part of the destiny of man is preciselyto stand in a hermeneutical relation to one's being here and now and to one's heritage.