The Problem of Unity in the Thought of Martin Buber

Wolfson, Elliot R.
Journal of the History of Philosophy, Volume 27, Number 3, July 1989, pp. 423-444 (Article)
Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press

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The Problem of Unity in the Thought of Martin Buber

MAURICE FRIEDMANHAS SUGGESTEDTHAT Martin Buber's thought "can best be understood as a gradual m o v e m e n t from an early period of mysticism t h r o u g h a middle period of existentialism to a final period of developing dialogical philosophy."' T h e c o m m o n d e n o m i n a t o r of these stages seems to me to be Buber's unyielding concern with the problem of unity in multiplicity. In Daniel: Dialogues on Realization (1913) Buber wrote: "All wisdom of the ages has the duality o f the world as it subject; its point of departure is to know it, its goal is to overcome it. However it names the two forces that it makes k n o w n - spirit and matter, f o r m and material, being and becoming, reason and will, positive a n d negative element, or with any of the other pairs of names--it has in mind the overcoming o f their tension, the unification of their duality. ''2 It is clear that from early on Buber was preoccupied with the possibility of overcoming this state o f conditionality. "Unity," he wrote in 1914, "is not a property of the world but its task. To form unity out of the world is our neverending work."3 This interest abided t h r o u g h o u t Buber's literary career, from the nascent mystical teaching o f unity (Einheitslehre) to the more developed philosophy of realization (Verwirklichung), to, finally, the mature philosophy of dialogue (Zwiesprache). T h e m a n n e r t h r o u g h which the unity was to be established, however, varied with each stage of his thought. In his mystical stage Buber mainmined that unity was f o u n d in the subjective experience of ecstasy whereby the individual transcends the conditional world o f space and time. In his existential Maurice Friedman, Martin Buber: The Life of Dialogue (Chicago: The Universityof Chicago Press, 1955), 27" Daniel: Dialogues on Realization, trans. M. Friedman (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1964), 136. s "With a Monist," in Pointing the Way, trans, and ed. M. Friedman (New York: Schocken Books, 1957), 3o.


T h a t he nevertheless w h o l e h e a r t e d l y a f f i r m e d it in his y o u t h is clear f r o m a passage such as this: " G o d does not want to be believed in. 1962). 94. In this way there arose in me the thought of a realization of God through man [einer Verwirklichung Gottes durch den Menschen]. 184-85 (my emphasis). Ecstasy. a9ma). Nahum Glatzer and trans. according to which the primal ground of being.. the nameless. in the m e e t i n g o f two beings who nevertheless r e m a i n distinct.4 T h i s passage is significant for it contains what is p e r h a p s the most i m p o r t a n t t h e m e o f B u b e r ' s pre-dialogical thought: m a n is the b e i n g t h r o u g h w h o m G o d is realized. as we shall see. Reflecting on his mystical period in 1938. impersonal godhead. Erster Band: Schriften zur Philosophie (Munich: Kosel-Verlag. 1965). to be d e b a t e d a n d d e f e n d e d by us. 1. entirely a b a n d o n e d this idea in his m a t u r e thinking.." in Ecstatic Confessions [hereafter ECI."s Yet one m u s t w o n d e r : w h a t did B u b e r really intend by these words? I n his mystical p h a s e he would have answered: G o d is realized t h r o u g h the experience o f ecstasy (das Erlebnis der Ekstase). 5 "Jewish Religiosity. In preparation of this paper I have utilized the German text of Buber's work as presented in Werke. References to the German text are taken from the following edition: Ekstatische Konfessionen [hereafter EK] (Leipzig: InselVerlag.e. 1967). All references in the body of the paper in German are taken from this volume unless otherwise noted. Buber. but simply to be realized t h r o u g h us. ed.424 JOURNAL OF T H E H I S T O R Y OF P H I L O S O P H Y 2 7 : 3 JULY ~ 9 8 9 stage B u b e r held that unity was not f o u n d but r a t h e r created by the individual c o n f r o n t i n g the world with all his uniqueness. 6 "Ecstasy and Confession. as B u b e r h i m s e l f r e m i n d s us in the introduction to his anthology o f mystical texts. ed." i. Ronald Smith (New York: The MacMillan Co. according to which man has the power to unite the God who is over the world with his shekhinah dwelling in the world." in On Judaism. Ekstatische Konfessionen (l 9o9). No s o o n e r have we answered o u r first question.c o n t i n u o u s l y a n d n e v e r absolutely--in the "Between. comes to "birth" in the human soul [in der Menschen-seele zur "Geburt" kommt]. t h a n a second c o n f r o n t s us: why is such an e x p e r i e n c e c o n s i d e r e d by B u b e r God-realizing? T o answer this we must h e e d the precise m e a n i n g o f the t e r m u n d e r consideration. resting in its truth. 1985). however. then I had been under the influence of the later Kabbala and of Hasidism. trans. Esther Cameron (San Francisco: Harper & Row.. man appeared to me as the being through whose existence the Absolute. Paul Mendes-Flohr and trans. B u b e r wrote: Since 19oo I had first been under the influence of German mysticism from Meister Eckhart to Angelus Silesius. It is to the u n f o l d i n g o f this d e v e l o p m e n t that we now set out.6 is derived f r o m the G r e e k ek- 4 "What Is Man?" in Between Man and Man. In his dialogical stage B u b e r claimed that unity is r e a l i z e d . ~. can gain the character of reality. Eva Jospe (New York: Schocken Books. .

the unity of the I and the world. is to be transferred from one place to another. and understands this precious experience of his unity as the experience of the unity. 3-4. s "Foreword."15 To understand the transference of the ecstatic from the realm of differentiated experience to that of the undifferentiated."7 The experience of ecstasy.s EC. He loses the sure knowledge of the principium individuationis. L.e. . 3. EK. . . ~4 EC." Pointing the Way. . a3. 5 . overcomes this fragmented self and is "embraced by the primal self" (von dem Urselbst umschlungen). . is transferred from the realm of "differentiated experience" to the realm of "undifferentiated experience. 'This is my self. and in this unity the unity of I and world. ix.6 Cf. The ecstatic. a stepping-out. i. "experiences the unity of the I [erlebt die Einheit des Ich]. that the individual loses the knowledge. Buber's Way to I and Thou: An Historical Analysis and the First Publication of Martin Buber's Lectures "Religion als Gegenwart" (Heidelberg: Verlag Lambert Schneider." Pointing the Way. it is a fire. elevated above life. a dis-placement. writes Buber. is what Buber elsewhere refers to as "the detached feeling of unity of being. 9 EC. therefore. 1" This primal self "is no longer a bundle.U N I T Y IN B U B E R 425 stas/s. Rivka Horwitz. From where and to where is the ecstatic transferred? The ecstatic. 16 The former is that mode of experiencing by which we individuate the world 7 EC.5 "Foreword. ed. 5. but the subject is not a unity that is experienced. '* EC. one must keep in mind Buber's distinction between two types of experience: Erfahrung and Erlebnis. A. ix (my emphasis). But in order to be experienced as unity the I must have become a unity. or to be displaced. ''11 The ecstatic. . and it appears then so uniquely existent. 1978). distinguished and separate from every other self'. the experience of an exclusive and all-absorbing unity of his own self. 12. A Treatise of Human Nature. is the unity of the I. To step out. . moreover."l~ The fiery unity experienced as the unity of the primal self is. ."9 But where is the I that has become and thus experiences unity to be found? Echoing Hume's description of the everyday self. ''8 But how is this "detached feeling of unity of being" realized? Here Buber turns to the self: "What is experienced in e c s t a s y . ''1~ Buber notes that one gives "the bundle a subject and says T to it. 1. the I of perception (Erkenntn/s) as "nothing but a heap or collection of different perceptions."14 Buber thus describes a "genuine 'ecstatic' experience": " . 2. ~o David Hume. Selby-Bigge (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1978). ~o 7. " EC. EK. E K I 5. according to Buber. 85-86. This self is then so uniquely manifest. however.

'''a Indeed. knowledge marked by duality and multiplicity. 1 did not believe in it. of will. cited in Maurice Friedman. x (my emphasis). absolute solitude: the solitude of that which is without limits. its essential trait is the belief in a (momentous) 'union' with the Divine or the absolute . solitude.e." Pointing the Way. in my 'mystical' period. any "others" outside him. Dutton. and conscious-~omes to know an undifferentiated experience: the experience of the I. The unity experienced in ecstasy is. The latter. which is at the same time solitude or aloneness (Einsamkeit). but only in a 'mystical' unification o f the Self. you will see that even then. x9 "Foreword. is first experienced as the unity of the I and then as the unity of the I and the world. . 6. i." Insofar as in the unity of the ecstatic experience the mystic contains all others in the unity of himself. The mystic therefore "no longer has any communion [Gemeinsamkeit]" with his fellow men nor "anything in common with them."~7 Through the experience of ecstasy. 3-4.4~6 JOURNAL OF T H E HISTORY OF P H I L O S O P H Y 27:3 JULY 1989 into distinct objects. identifying the d e p t h o f the individual self with the Self itself.."~9 There is here a curious identification by which all things are subsumed into the self. there are no longer. ''2x This unity (Einheit). x7. 2~For the ecstatic "unity is not relative. is a lived-experience of unity. I f you read attentively the introduction to Ekstatische Konfessionen. co See especially Buber's c o m m e n t . the ecstatic "no longer knows anything over against h i m . it is limitless. 6. . as Buber understands it. . uniqueness [Einzigkeit]: that which cannot be transferred. as we have seen. not limited by the other. one overcomes the bifurcation of reality into subjective and objective. of thought. . fundamentally the unity of the (primal) self with itself: all things become one in the oneness of self. ~" EC." His experience is that of "unity. which he experiences as the self.7 EC. For the ecstatic "there is as yet nothing that points either inward or outward. P. One's unity is solitude. 86: "As far as I u n d e r s t a n d mysticism. "One who knows only the differentiated experience--the experience of meaning. connected with one another. 3. It is insofar as the ecstatic experiences this unity that we may say that he has been transferred from one mode of experience to another.''~ In The Legend of the Baal-Shem (1908) Buber describes the Hasidic phenome. EK. cannot be expressed in words for "language is a function of community [Gemeinschafl]. for it is the unity of I and world. yet still separate in this separation. on the other hand. therefore. Martin Buber's Life and Work: TheEarly Years 1878-1923 (New York: E. nothing else exists [other] than his self. strictly speaking." The self who "experiences the oneness of I and world knows nothing of I and world. It is a mode of experience associated particularly with cognition. It is the abyss [Abgrund] that cannot be fathomed: the unsayable [das Unsagbare]. . 1981 ). a unity which. 18 EC. ." "~ EC.

"~5 T h e u n i t y e x p e r i e n c e d by the ecstatic is n o t a u n i t y w h i c h unifies existence. B u b e r r e m a r k s t h a t ecstasy is "originally an e n t e r i n g into 93 "The Life of the Hasidim." in The Knowledgeof Man. n." 21. Rivkah Schatz-Uffenheimer. 9s See Friedman. B u b e r relates two H a sidic a n e c d o t e s w h i c h a d d r e s s this f e a t u r e o f the mystical-ecstatic e x p e r i e n c e : "It is told o f o n e m a s t e r t h a t he h a d to look at a clock d u r i n g the h o u r o f w i t h d r a w a l in o r d e r to k e e p h i m s e l f in this world.s "Life of the Hasidim. "Martin Buber's Misuse of Hasidic Sources. 228-5o." in The Messianic Idea in Judaism (New York: Schocken Books. B u b e r rejected t h e latter's claim that mysticism is a "sociological c a t e g o r y . " ' A b o v e n a t u r e a n d a b o v e time a n d a b o v e t h o u g h t ' . Schilpp and M. the essay "The Teaching of Tao. Maurice Friedman (San Francisco: Harper & Row. ' f o r o t h e r w i s e he saw all the individual things o f the w o r l d as o n e ' . xvii-xviii." as an " e n v e l o p m e n t in G o d b e y o n d time a n d space. See in particular Gershom Scholem. . . 87." 19-2o." . 1955). 17. t h e r e e m e r g e s the u n i t y o f G o d . . cf. For a comparison of the early and later views. Steven Katz."~4 I n a d e b a t e in O c t o b e r 1910 with the G e r m a n sociologist. eds. . trans." in The Philosophy of Martin Buber. M. The 'religious' lifted you out [and was an] illumination and ecstasy and rapture held without time. P. a n d o f a n o t h e r that w h e n he wished to o b s e r v e individual things he h a d to p u t o n spectacles in o r d e r to restrain his spiritual vision.." . ''26 Ecstatic u n i o n is t h u s a fleeing f r o m the common~7 w o r l d o f space a n d time. F r o m t h e u n i t y o f I a n d world. 1967). t h e w o r l d o f i n d i v i d u a t i o n a n d d i f f e r e n t i a t i o n . 1965). Buber's Way. . a n d n o e x t e r n a l h a p p e n i n g that p e n e t r a t e s into his r e a l m can d i s t u r b his inspiration. 45. 76. Cf.lo 9.UNITY IN BUBER 427 n o n o f hitlahavut." 2o. . and the full text cited by Paul Mendes-Flohr in his introduction to EC. o n e w h o intuitively e x p e r i e n c e s (erlebt) the u n i t y o f I e x p e r i e n c e s in t u r n the u n i t y o f I a n d world. " a r g u i n g instead that the mystic's e x p e r i e n c e is best c h a r a c t e r i z e d as "religious solipsism.6 "Life of the Hasidim. " t h e ' i n f l a m i n g a r d o r ' o f ecstasy. Perhaps there is no better indication of the "turn" in Buber's thinking than in his revised understanding of this dictum of Heraclitus. 8) as an "otherness which did not fit into the context of life . 52-93 . 4o3-34. A critical discussion of Buber's treatment of Hasidism lies beyond the confines of this study. "Man's Relation to God and World in Buber's Rendering of the Hasidic Teaching. . . "Martin Buber's Interpretation of Hasidism. esp. m o r e o v e r ." in PostHolocaust Dialogues (New York: New York University Press. T h e m a n o f ecstasy rules life. trans. Friedman (New York: Harper & Brothers. Buber's Life and Work. 1970. .t h u s is he called w h o is in ecstasy . 1983).4 "Life of the Hasidim. T h a t is to say. b u t is r a t h e r a unity w h i c h t r a n s c e n d s e x i s t e n c e . "What is Common to All. with "What Is Common to All."~3 T h e e x p e r i e n c e o f ecstasy is thus an escape f r o m the m u n d a n e s p h e r e o f i n t e r p e r s o n a l relationships." in Pointing the Way. Cf. H e n c e . E r n s t T r o e l t s c h . also the description of religious experience in the story "A Conversion" (1914) (cited by Horwitz. 89." in The Legend of the Baal-Shem. Friedman (La Salle. Illinois: Open Court.7 In 1958 Buber dedicated an essay to the question of commonality. " T h e truest life o f the m a n o f ecstasy is n o t a m o n g men. ''2s S u c h a seeing i n d e e d lies at the core o f B u b e r ' s mystical Einheitslehre: all t h i n g s b e c o m e o n e in the o n e n e s s o f self.

6 4. of subjects and of objects. Wilhelm Dilthey. Ibid. He who creates it realizes the unity of the world in the unity of his soul. properly speaking. Here we meet.4~8 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY ~7:3 JULY 1989 God [Eingehen in den Gott]. These terms. you can register in the structure of experience [Zusammenhang der Erfahrung] for the sake of your aims or you can grasp it for its own sake in its own power and splendor. the net of space and 9. inner "magic" granted to each person which accounts for the particular existential predicament of the given individual: "Direction is that primal tension of a human soul which moves it to choose and realize this and no other out of the infinity of possibilities. enthusiasmos."~ ~ The second development is not."ss 99 Ibid.. The so-called existentialist stage of Buber's thought grew directly out of his interest in mysticism. He thus continued to occupy himself with the problem of unity and multiplicity. signify the unique. 14 I. namely.. Thus the soul strips off the net of directions. With respect to B u b e r ' s use o f Erlebnis to n a m e the p r e c o n c e p t u a l lived experience a n d t h e Zusammenhang der Erfahrung as t h e c o h e r e n t s t r u c t u r e o f experience which shapes this e x p e r i e n c e a n d i n f o r m s the everyday m o d e o f perception. it is m o r e t h a n probable that B u b e r was i n f l u e n c e d by his t e a c h e r at t h e University o f Berlin. so It is i m p o r t a n t to stress."sl In this phase of Buber's career two crucial developments appear. however. which Buber intends by his affirmation of the "realization of God through man" in the mystical stage of his thought. of causes and of ends. takes on a new form: "[T]here is a twofold relation of man to his experience [Erleben]: the orienting or classifying [das Orientieren oder EinsteUen] and the realizing or making real [das Realisieren oder Verwirklichen]. n. but the emphasis shifts from a unity that is discovered to one that is created: "True unity cannot be found. 5 6. an essential turn in his thinking. 4 ( G e r m a n text. The locus of unity is still sought in the self. doing and suffering."*9 It is this experience of unification. an innovation for it appeared already in Buber's reflections on the nature of the experience of ecstasy. See the c o m m e n t cited above. 2o. 3~ Daniel: Dialogues on Realization. 14). w h o likewise . Erfahrung and Erlebnis. we submit. being filled with the god [Erffdltsein vom Gotte]. The first is the introduction of the notion of decision (Entschlossenheit) or direction (Richtung). creating and enjoying. it strips off the net of directions and takes nothing with it but the magic of its direction. What you experience. What we have in mind is the distinction between the two modes of experience. that even in his mystical period B u b e r did not affirm the possibility o f unio mystica in t h e sense o f u n i o n between the individual a n d the Absolute or God. according to Buber.. The way in which Buber now articulates this distinction. 3. it can only be created. ss Ibid. however. however.

1978 ). 1973). transforms the experience into something universally comprehensible. Philosopher of the Human Studies (Princeton: Princeton University Press. n.'~7 This elaboration is a reworking of lived experience. 1975).~ i. 1o 7 . The Hebrew Humanism of Martin Buber.e. unclassifiable dimension of a given. This attitude is associated with Erlebnis for it involves an intensified awareness of reality. then we do not realize the unique--relationless---element of an experienced event or thing. See Rudolf Makkreel. by contrast."36 For Buber.. an awareness not bound by the forms and laws of Erfahrung. a reworking which proceeds ultimately according to our utilitarian aims. Through the attitude of realization. in short. In his words: "The structure of experience [der Zusammenhang der Erfahrung] appears to m e . 41-46. including Erfahrung. see Grete Schaeder. s. means "to relate life-experience to nothing else but itself. realization (Verwirklichung). explicated by scientific disciplines. . Dilthey. trans. For a discussion o f the influence o f Kant on Buber's dialogical thinking. an elaboration of life-experiences [eine Bearbeitung des Erlebnisses]. If our relation to experience is that of orientation. l o 9 . (I thank Professor Makkreel for suggesting this relation to me. closely following Kantian epistemology.34 maintains that our perceptual experience (Erfahrung) is an ordering and structuring of phenomena in accordance with the fixed categories of understanding. 69. On the contrary. What we experience as Erlebnis cannot be subsumed under the categories of understanding nor can it be of any use to us. "experience". s4 T h e influence o f Kantian and Neo-Kantian Idealism on both the early and mature Buber is a topic which still needs to be studied in detail. one intuitively experiences the unique.. however. Besides this relation to experience.v. concrete reality. "To realize. made use o f precisely this terminology.6 5 . there is another opened to man. Buber. Michael Ermarth.4 3 for an excellent review o f Buber's twofold characterization o f experience as orientation and realization. namely.U N I T Y IN B U B E R 42 9 The orienting or classifying attitude involves our cognitive apprehension of the spatio-temporal world. see Steven Katz. which facilitates our use and manipulation of objects for the sake of our practical needs and utilitarian aims. 1-51. Noah Jacobs (Detroit: Wayne State University Press. "Martin Buber's Epistemology: A Critical Appraisal. 35 Daniel: Dialogues on Realization." writes Buber. see pp. 65 . Erlebnis refers to the primary level to which all experience. 37 Ibid. . s6 Ibid. ."35 The attitude of orientation (i.) O n Buber's indebtedness to Dilthey. it is precisely the orientating posture which finds a place in time and space for that which is experienced and orders it with respect to cause and effect. Wilhelm Dilthey: The Critique of Historical Reason (Chicago: T h e University o f Chicago Press. See below. must be related. and passim. classification) thus yields a coherent structure (Zusammenhang der Erfahrung).. 6 4 ." in Post-Holocaust Dialogues. 64. but rather "force it into a chain where it represents just as much meaning as every other link in the chain: joining it as a link with another link.

the "undivided m a n " (Ungeschiedene)4~ w h o " m u s t . also Buber. s9 Ibid. For Buber's own critique of his earlier view regarding the positive value of Erlebnis as a religious category. bring f o r t h the totality o f his being in o r d e r to withstand a single thing or event. 45 Ibid. W h a t is u n b o u n d e d .43 ~ JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 27:3 JULY x989 B u b e r distinguishes the two attitudes to e x p e r i e n c e again in t e r m s o f the p r o b l e m o f unity."s a T h e world e x p e r i e n c e d t h r o u g h Erlebnis is. individual (Einzelne). see the comments of Horwitz. Cf.e. is unreal."4~ " T h e realizing m a n " is he who has realized his p o w e r to be one. For he m a y do that only as a whole a n d united person. and sources cited here. b o t h can only find it here. 40 Ibid. i. " n o t h i n g individual is real in itself. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons."45 B u b e r thus no l o n g e r viewed unity as absolute submission to ecstasy. Buber's Way.. . . realization accomplishes a n d proclaims it. Verbundenheit. 54- . 69 .. T o this world t h e r e belongs n o reality for. T h e world a p p r e h e n d e d by the orienting attitude is a fragm e n t e d world. 76. a n d is t h e r e f o r e "the genuinely real. 197o). F o r all life-experiencing is a d r e a m o f unification [Verbundenheit]. as B u b e r p u t it. T h u s all reality is fulfilled unification. Man has an active p a r t to play in realizing unity. W h a t we call things a n d what we call I are both c o m p r e h e n d e d in what is thus created. a realized world: "Realizing life-experience creates the essential f o r m o f existence . orientation divides a n d s u n d e r s it. 72. T h e realizing unity is a unified reality. 42 Buber uses this expression in "The Teaching of the Tao. i.."44 Only o n e who is inwardly directed can r e n d e r reality real: "[L]ife-experience calls to the m a n who is r e a d y to realize it. a n d hence. his direction. Indeed. n. 55. i.e.e. a unified. b o t h find their reality here. ~6 Ibid." 5 l. are the unifying hours. 4s Daniel:Dialogueson Realization. to describe the man who has realized the unity of the Tao within and without. on the o t h e r hand.."s9 Reality is coextensive with unification. . . 8." See below. acting a n d beholding. Buber's emphasis has clearly shifted: f r o m the e x p e r i e n c e o f Einheit in ecstasy to the act o f Verbundenheit. bondedness. is directed will s u f f e r the fate o f O r p h e u s who "enters into as Ibid. f o r m i n g a n d thinking. 157: "The moment of encounter [Begegnung] is not a "living experience' [Erlebn~]. as B u b e r p u t it. 69. " T h e creative hours. 71. or. trans. I and Thou. "only preparation"4o f o r a state o f unification. n.. 44 Ibid. o n the c o n t r a r y ."41 Reality is unified by a unity that has b e e n realized. 4~ Ibid. he suggests that "he w h o s u r r e n d e r s himself to ecstasy with u n d i r e c t e d soul" will s u f f e r the fate o f Dionysus o f w h o m it was said that "the Titans enticed him by m e a n s o f a g a m e a n d tore him in pieces a n d d e v o u r e d him. a world o f discrete a n d d e t e r m i n a t e bodies... .'46 T h e one who.

T h a t this is so even in the case o f Verbundenheit is clear f r o m Buber's well-known example o f the e x p e r i e n c e with a piece o f mica: On a gloomy morning I walked upon the highway. only this man here.UNITY IN BUBER 43~ ecstatic d e a t h with the lyre. there I first was I.. 49 Ibid. Only he who has controlled passion can unify reality. Notwithstanding this difference. moreover. whereas the latter involves the ecstatic. 5350 Ibid. The one who looked had not yet been I. in short. . I looked at it again."48 In a somewhat paradoxical m a n n e r . 55. . 14o. I closed my eyes. for Buber. solitary feeling o f unity above time and space. the I closes its eyes. the mica and 'I' had been one. "is the p u r e word o f the directed soul. confronting that which is o t h e r is the preliminary phase o f the unification process. And suddenly as I raised my eyes from it. in the e x p e r i e n c e o f each thing. Indeed. I first felt: I. I realized that while I looked I had not been conscious of "object" and "subject". B u b e r thus begins his p h e n o m e n o l o g i c a l account: "I walked u p o n the highway. it may be a r g u e d that t h e r e is a f u n d a m e n t a l similarity between the two. the unified man [Verbundene]. when.sO A careful r e a d i n g o f this text lends s u p p o r t to o u r previous claim. like the musician. . This is not to say. unification is complete when the I withdraws into itself. the unity did not return. ."49 Buber's conception o f Verbundenheit thus stands in m a r k e d contrast to his earlier notion o f Einheit: the f o r m e r involves an e n h a n c e d experience o f reality in its concrete wholeness. however. in my looking I had tasted unity. 48 Ibid."47 This act symbolizes the directed soul for such a person. that even in this stage there is some sort o f unification: in the looking the "I had not been conscious o f 'object' and ' s u b j e c t ' . the unity which B u b e r affirms in both cases is realized by the withdrawal o f the self into itself. bore the name like a crown. it is the p e r f e c t e d individual who overcomes individuation." etc. As B u b e r instructs us: "Not over the things. namely. But there it burned in me as though to create. lifted it up and looked at it for a long time . T h e placing o f the p r o n o u n in quotation marks is a 47 Daniel: Dialogues on Revelation. namely. It should be noted. is one who has b r o u g h t ecstatic passion (death) u n d e r control ( r e p r e s e n t e d by the lyre). I gathered in my strength. that the o t h e r is absolutely dispensable. it may be said that. . when what is over against the I is shut out. ." But h e r e we must pay special attention to the G e r m a n text: in meiner Anschauung waren der Glimmer und 'ich' eins gewesen. "Music." notes Buber. the gate o f the O n e opens to you if you bring with you the magic that unlocks it: the perfection o f y o u r direction. not between the things--in each thing.. saw a piece of mica lying. I raised the mica into the kingdom of the existing. And t h e r e . not a r o u n d the things. saw a piece o f mica lying. in my looking the mica and 'T' had been one. . I bound myself with my object. .

Cf. the thing that is one. . " T h e T e a c h i n g o f the T a o " (191o)."in The Philosophyof Martin Buber.."ss B u b e r did not yet e m b r a c e the i n d e p e n d e n t b e i n g o f G o d or world vis-a-vis man.F l o h r has p o i n t e d out that while in his early career B u b e r occasionally a d d r e s s e d sociological issues. 153: "[A]n individual entertains the illusion that he has surrendered himself to the unconditional .e. his real concern with such matters as 5. the perceiving subject. "The Teaching of the Tao. It is clear from the context that Buber's characterization of certain modes of experience is a veiled reference to some of his own earlier positions which at the time of the composition of this preface he had rejected. He does not know the response. also the following remark in "Herut: On Youth and Religion. T h e unity o f the world." 345.. that unifies. is not the u n i f i e d .'5. the unity o f y o u r life a n d y o u r soul. Buber's teaching finds succinct expression in the words o f Jesus to Martha: one thing is n e e d f u l (Luke lo:42 ) .." See above. as H u g o B e r g m a n notes. 299... i. for the world is n o t h i n g alien. Paradoxically. 48. G e n u i n e life is unified life. becomes o n e with. . the mica. "Martin Buber and Mysticism." T h e I is first felt in its fullness with the closing o f the eyes.. having had an 'experience' [Erlebnis]. w h e n there is no longer an o t h e r o v e r against the I. T h e I o f the looking. its object w h e n the I closes its eyes.. 8. " T h e o n e w h o looked [at the mica] had not yet b e e n I. this realization m e a n s n o t h i n g o t h e r t h a n u n i t y . T h e unified soul is the "soul that fulfils itself in itself.. . the I looking at the p h e n o m e n a l object. the I is b o u n d to. but o n e with the unified man. F r o m the s t a n d p o i n t o f man. His being remains wholly unperturbed . the "experiencing of life. "there is no o t h e r reality than t h r o u g h m a n who realizes himself a n d all being.432 JOURNAL OF T H E H I S T O R Y OF P H I L O S O P H Y ~7:3 JULY 198 9 fact that should not be overlooked: the I o f which B u b e r h e r e speaks.." continues Buber. 54 Buber uses this expression to describe Erleben. T h e locus o f unity in b o t h stages o f Buber's pre-dialogical t h o u g h t r e m a i n e d the individual consciousness.e. is not yet Ich. he knows only a 'mood' [Stimmung]. On Judaism. 46. w h e t h e r u n d e r s t o o d as the "isolated" and " d e t a c h e d subjectivity"54 o f the ecstatic o r as the e x p e r i e n c i n g subject o f the directed soul.. . 5s Hugo Bergman.r e a l i z e d . For the B u b e r o f the mystical-existential period.. a p p e a r s only w h e n one stops gazing u p o n the object. "is only the reflection o f his unity. . T h a t which is n e e d f u l is the one thing. n.e. Ibid. . i. See the English translation. the unity o f this h u m a n life a n d this h u m a n soul t h a t fulfils itself in itself.I . B u b e r elaborates this t h e m e : " T h e teaching has only o n e subject: the needful." in the preface to the 1923 edition ofReden iiber dasJudentum. He has psychologized God. . you who are seized by the teaching.e. In the essay. i. Paul M e n d e s ." in On Judaism."52 Reality is thus s u b s u m e d into the self. It is realized in g e n u i n e life.. the completely realized I. T h e Ich. Realization o f self thus d e m a n d s a t u r n i n g away f r o m the p h e n o m e n o l o g i c a l field. in contrast to ich. . i.

and man breaks free to meet other men." Concerning this word. See the detailed phenomenological analysis of Michael Theunissen. however." In this address Buber specifically discusses the problem o f the realization of divine unity: God may be seen seminally within all things. "I require a You to become. dissertation. it is a primal category of h u m a n reality.. insofar as it d e m a n d e d heroic action. Rotenstreich. and true community is that relationship in which the Divine comes to its realization between man and man. A seed of transformation had begun to germinate in his thinking: the locus o f the realization o f unity was no longer considered to be the individual consciousness. where the eternal rises in the Between [Dazwischen].D. Paul Mendes-Flohr. for Buber. "Buber's Dialogical Thought. the particular events o f relation. Notwithstanding this twofold nature of the "between" as cause and effect. Reden iiber dasJudentum (Berlin: Schocken. 1973). 243ff. 1965). zwischen." in On Judaism. he became disillusioned."57 T h e "between" is. "From Kuhurmystik to Dialogue: An Inquiry into the Formation of Martin Buber's Philosophy of I and Thou" (Ph. 5s This expression is used by Nathan Rotenstreich to describe Buber's notion of the "between. it is continuously reconstituted by. "double-faced. . . 55 Cf. however. one thing is certain: the pre-eminence of this concept in Buber's dialogical thinking points to the fact that the partners of relation are established t h r o u g h the mutuality of relation.58 T h e r e appears in this passage what is perhaps the most crucial word in Buber's dialogical thought. "between. . DerAndere: Studien zur Sozialontologie tier Gegenwart (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter & Co. 1932 ). T h o u g h being realized in very different degrees. namely. "Der Heilige War: Ein Wort an die J u d e n u n d an die V61ker.s5 At first Buber maintained that genuine community. Buber was later to write: "I call this sphere. 1o9-1o. In the course of the war. the sphere o f 'between' [die Sphgire des Zwischen]. . 3-456 "The Holy Way: A Word to the Jews and to the Nations. . in another sense. the seemingly empty space: that true place of realization is community [der wahre Oft der Verwirklichung ist die Gemeinschaft]. may reveal itself from within individual man. I have also made use of the original German text." Cf. This transformation can be clearly detected in the 19 18 address. where the sublime stronghold of the individual is unbolted."ss In one sense it is ontologically prior to all relations for it is that which makes all relations possible. but rather the realm o f relations between individuals. Gemeinschaft. he took as an impetus for re-establishing Gemeinschaft. but He must be realized between them [er ist zu~ischen den Dingen zu verwirklichen] . He thus enthusiastically endorsed the war which." in The Philosophy of Martin Buber. When this takes place. The Divine may come to life in individual man. individual beings open themselves to one a n o t h e r . but it attains its earthly fullness only w h e r e . . could be restored only t h r o u g h the inner lived-experience of individuals. which is established with the existence of m a n as m a n but which is conceptually still u n c o m p r e h e n d e d . . Brandeis University. and thus posterior to.U N I T Y IN B U B E R 433 interpersonal relations began d u r i n g the First World War. s7 "What Is Man?" 2o 3. 98. .

e. on the contrary. cf. Ibid. "the Thou in itself.434 JOURNAL OF T H E H I S T O R Y OF P H I L O S O P H Y 27:3 JULY ~989 becoming I."64 "Eternal" (ewigen)6~or infinite (unendliche)66 Thou. that relation necessitates the distinctness of the relata. moreover. 6. If God were not ontically real. Scholem. 12 8. glows dimly in all human beings. Buber's Way. the mutual reality [der Wirklichkeit der Wechselwirkung] of God and man. 64 Buber makes use of this expression in the lectures "Religion als Gegenwart". "The radiance of the ineffable's g l o r y . according to Buber. 34. that space wherein man meets man." On Judaism."62 Buber insists. see G. i. that is. 62. See above. 1961). Like Buber's "between. God. 60 This is not to say that the "between" is truly empty. . lo 9. The relata. T h e r e is a paradoxical implication in Buber's referring to the "between" as the "seemingly empty space. Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (New York: Schocken. is "something that takes place between man and God. is realized neither in contemplative ecstasy nor in intensified life-experience. Hence. 66 I and Thou." writes Buber. ~s "Preface. that in the lectures as well as in the earlier address "Herut" (see On Judaism. 15o ) Buber also referred to God by the Kantian expression. one to which we shall return at a later point. 32. 26o-64." das Du an sich. See Horwitz. Ich und Du (Leipzig: Insel-Verlag. 65 Cf. but rather in that "seemingly empty space ''6~which dwells between men. who has already noted the Kantian influence here. . the "Absolute. On this Lurianic concept. moreover. then there could be no dialogical relation between God and man. n." It is not impossible that Buber's choice of terminology reflects the Lurianic concept of the "primordial space" within the Godhead which is the clearing that remains after a primal act of withdrawal (zimzum) of God into himself. 28. . cf. God and man must be viewed as distinct. it is truly full. Here we touch upon a fundamental notion for Buber. 4. . in the reality of their relationship. 1923). lo7-1o."59 Buber thus accords ontic primacy to the category of "between" for it is the ground out of which emerges the identity of the relata." lo 9. the place of realization.' 'bringing into actuality'... I and Thou. "A phenomenon of religious reality. concludes Buber. I say You. and 174. It should be noted. In short it may be stated: relationship involves a turning-towards-the59 I and Thou. The realm of the "between" is a primal reality in both the religious and social spheres. it is consummated only in the life of true community. Horwitz. but it does not shine in its full brightness within them---only between them. 164." the "space" in the Lurianic system is best characterized as "seemingly empty. every one of them. are not self-contained entities but rather entities-in-relation. 57. T M "The realization of the Divine on earth is fulfilled not within man but between man and m a n ." for it is in truth most full. 6~ "The Holy Way. n. as the space in which the "encounter" or "meeting" arises. . In preparation of this study I have made use of the German original."63 God is no longer conceived of by Buber as being realized by man if we understand realization as 'making real. n. 113 . Buber's Way. in the religious relation.

68 I and Thou. in other and sacred words. 70 "nerut. "From Kulturmystik to Dialogue.. but to realize it [verwirklichen]."69 "God is truly present when one man clasps the hand of another. And cf. to love one's neighbor is to love God. Judaism's "wait for the Messiah is the wait for the true community. active Center" (die lebendige wirkende Mitte) which is the "builder" of "true community" (die wahre Gemeinde). was eventually abandoned by Buber sometime in 1923. Here again Buber turned to Judaism to find a concrete embodiment of his thinking. it is an actual relation [wirklicheBeziehung]: it acts on me as I act on it.U N I T Y IN B U B E R 435 other (Hinwendung) as Other. 7~ Mendes-FIohr.73 The "genuine existence of a community" is alone assured by "the common relation to the Center" [die Gemeinsamkeit der 67 As Rivka Horwitz has pointed out. 61 : "The form that confronts me I cannot experience [erfahren] nor describe. Buber continues to speak of realizing God. To be sure. Buber maintained that "community" is "the realization of the Divine in the shared life of men." Indeed. I can only actualize [verwirklichen] it. ad loc. 4.67 but by this he now means "to prepare the world for God." 145. the concept of "realization" (Verwirklichung). In the writings which chronologically preceded and conceptually anticipated the fully developed dialogical philosophy. the year in which lch und Du appeared. See Horwitz's comments regarding this passage in Buber's Way. 9.and post-dialogical thought. 214-15. radiant in the splendor of confrontation [Gegeniiber]. its ideal." Or again. must be upheld. 22 4. 73 I and Thou. 72 "The Holy Way. "In genuine Judaism ethics and faith are no separate spheres." 173. The "between" likewise plays an essential role in Buber's social thinking. to make reality one. God and man. therefore. as a place for this reality--to help the world become Godreal [gottwirklich]."7. The Jew experiences a perfect harmony between his religious and ethical duties: to love God is to love one's neighbor. "The Holy Way. in another place (lo3) he writes that the Thou-Relation cannot be fulfilled through perception (Erkenntnis) but only through realization (Verwirklichung). I and Thou. for example. however. it means. which continued to play an important role in Buber's lectures "Religion als Gegenwart" given in a92~. In the religious relation. men affect the realization of God in the world."7. is true community with God and true community with human beings. he speaks of the "living. 94- . ''6s That the world becomes God-real does not imply that God becomes real in the world. Instead of speaking about community as the realization of God in the world. the difference between these notions marks the difference between Buber's pre. This convergence of the religious task and the ethical is reiterated in the context of Buber's dialogical thinking." i 11. Thus." See Kaufmann's n. holiness. Buber's Way." 151. in one place in the lectures (92) Buber states: "I do not have to experience [erfahren] the Thou that confronts me. both in one. And yet I see it."7o Mendes-Flohr has aptly summarized Buber's opinion in this period: "By working for Gemeinschaft. the distinct otherness of both partners..

. cf. t h e n Gemeinschaft is established between them. in 74 Ibid." 79 I and Thou. lecture 5. the real otherness of the Thou. 54. 76 "Wie kann Gemeinschaft werden?" in Worte an dieJugend (Berlin: Schocken. it points to the selftranscendent character of the act whereby one relates to the Thou.i.t h a t is.T h o u .79 T h e basic words B u b e r distinguishes as I-It and I . quoted by MendesFlohr. First.'76 It is t h r o u g h the reciprocal relationship that people have to the C e n t e r that they are reciprocally related to one another. P. insofar as in every finite T h o u one addresses the eternal Thou. " T h e Itworld hangs t o g e t h e r [die Eswelt hat Zusammenhang] in space and time. 1923.e. 3. x63.77 it follows that t h r o u g h the interh u m a n relationship the relationship between God and man is likewise established. things r e c o r d e d in terms o f spatial coordinates and processes r e c o r d e d in terms o f temporal coordinates.. T h e o t h e r remains 'other' t h r o u g h the C e n t e r whereby it is related to another. . the m e e t i n g ."8~ T h e Itworld is a world wherein we e x p e r i e n c e "things that consist o f qualities and processes that consist o f moments. B u b e r begins I and Thou by distinguishing the twofold attitude (zwiefaltigen Haltung) one has to the world and the two basic words (Grundworte) which one can speak in accordance with that attitude. Second.a n o r d e r e d world [geordnete Welt]." 176. 1969). Daniel: Dialogues on Realization." 339. 41 : "The notion of the Between carries two significant elements. ~s Cf."74 T r u e c o m m u n i t y "is an event that arises out o f the C e n t e r [die Mitte] between men. Martin Buber's Ontology (Evanston: Northwestern University Press. 84."75 " W h e n individuals really have something to do with one another. Robert Wood.. "From Kulturmystik to Dialogue. Yet. it points to the ultimate inaccessibility. 77 "Wiekann Gemeinschaft werden?" 57.g r o u n d o f that which is distinct. s~ Ibid. T h e speaking o f the f o r m e r corresponds to o u r cognitive e x p e r i e n c e (Erfahrung) o f the world comprised o f discrete objects (Gegens~nde) causally c o n n e c t e d t h r o u g h a spatio-temporal nexus.. This clearly corresponds in part to the distinction Buber made at an earlier stage between the orienting and realizing attitude. It is at this point that we are p r e p a r e d to d e t e r m i n e what m e a n i n g the concept o f unity receives in the f r a m e w o r k o f Buber's philosophy o f dialogue. 8u. w h e n they share an e x p e r i e n c e and together existentially r e s p o n d to that e x p e r i e n c e . 64. "From Kulturmystik to Dialogue.43 6 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF P H I L O S O P H Y 2 7 : 3 JULY 198 9 Beziehung zur Mitte]. T h e C e n t e r thus simultaneoulsy brings together that which is set at a distance and holds at a distance that which is b r o u g h t together. cited in Mendes-Flohr.7~ the "between" is the separation-gathering. T M T h e e x p e r i e n c e d world. 72 Martin Buber--Abende.. 1938). 80 I and Thou. 5 unpublished lectures. a d e t a c h e d world [abgetrennte Welt]. 53. w h e n m e n have a living C e n t e r about which they are constellated. things and processes that are b o u n d e d by o t h e r things and processes and capable o f being m e a s u r e d against a n d c o m p a r e d with those o t h e r s .

2 6 . the Thou is not an object (Gegenstand) which stands apart from us to be categorized and used. For Buber. they stand apart from us and are used by us. ... ~7 Ibid. See Katz. egenwarq. but rather a presence (Gegenwart) which "confronts us. Buber concludes. 55.. structure. unconditional nature of presence. I encounter a presence. then he is no thing among things nor does he consist of things." esp. however. limited by other Hes and Shes. is a world of coordination. In saying Thou I do not experience an object bounded by countless other objects in a "spatio-temporal-causalcontext". see also F r i e d m a n ..'86 It is through the presence of Thou that the present comes to be. "Buber's Epistemology. a dot in the world grid of space and time. 88 "The You-world does not hang together in space and time. namely. By speaking this word one no longer dwells in the world of experience.S5 Hence. therefore. What can be re-presented is only that which exists in the past. Neighborless and seamless. can only be confronted. Ibid. Relation thus is."80 In the immediacy of relation I do not experience an object.. for Buber. a noumenal event. the sui generis. .e.8~ Yet. 59. a loose bundle of named qualities.s4 The world of relation is not a structured cosmos for the T h o u cannot be measured. every Thou is utterly unique. . In such a world things do not meet us. but only in an exclusive confrontation in 8. the object. the present exists only insofar as there is relationship.2 3 . "When I confront [gegeniiber] a human being as my You and speak the basic word I-You to him. coherency.UNITY IN BUBER 437 short. 83 B u b e r ' s locution. Indeed. 85 Ibid.. man is capable of speaking another basic word. He is no longer He or She. 59" 86 Ibid. properly speaking. oo Ibid."9o Notwithstanding the noumenal. 6 3. see 1 and Thou.. 4. 6 4 . 88 I deliberately u s e K a n t i a n l a n g u a g e here. 89 1 and Thou. that of the I-Thou. 8 4. 8 . The presentness of presence. he is You and fills the firmament. or classified in terms of other Thous. . encounter. waiting and enduring [Gegenwartende und Gegenwahrende]. nor a condition that can be experienced and described. a n d see K a u f m a n n ' s n. reliability. 81. "Only as the You becomes present [gegenwiirtig wird] does presence come into being [entsteht . Such experience is. every relation must be "consecrated" into the world of phenomenality and conditionality: "The You also appears in space. Buber's Life and Work. an object at all. one enters the world of relation (Beziehung).3 ~ . 87 The presentness (Gegenwiirtigkeit) of presence is t. coordinated. merely surface or superficial knowledge (Erfahrung). i. . encountered. that which cannot be re-presented. 84 I and Thou. ad loc.83 instead I encounter that which is not. 55.

. signifies the n o u m e n a l world of unconditional unity. but from a n o t h e r perspective it may be considered his greatness. according to Buber. 03 Ibid. of lifting up the world from a fallen state o f objectness to a r e d e e m e d state of relatedness. .438 JOURNAL OF T H E HISTORY OF P H I L O S O P H Y 27:3 JULY 198 9 which everything else can only be background from which it emerges.. T h a t the m o m e n t is absolutely exclusive follows from the fact that the basic m o v e m e n t of dialogue is a "turning towards the other" (Hinwendung).. not its b o u n d a r y and measure. ."94 i."9~ "All response binds the You into the It-world.." 96. but in that of a process that is fulfilled in itself--a process lived t h r o u g h not as a piece that is a part of a constant and organized sequence but in a 'duration' whose purely intensive dimension can be d e t e r m i n e d only by starting from the You.. fragmentation.. Just as every T h o u must become It. 89."9x T h a t every relation must enter the spatio-temporal realm represents the "sublime melancholy of o u r lot" for it entails that "every You in the world is d o o m e d by its nature to become a thing or at least to enter into thinghood again. we do not grasp this unity except negatively.T h o u relation the "world-order" (Weltordnung) discloses itself. the presence revealed in the "world-order" can only be addressed."in BetweenMan and Man.e. however. What Buber intends by this phrase "world-order" is a difficult thing to express. Indeed. to make it so is the redemptive---messianic--task of man. . turning. As of yet. so every It can again become T h o u . on the contrary. This m o m e n t is. absolutely exclusive and absolutely inclusive. m e a n s . What is clear. however. i. Ibid. . at once. T o u n d e r s t a n d unity positively.95 Dialogue is a "real outgoing to the other" (Zum-Andernausgehen). not articulated. ~1. 97 "What Is Common to All."97 o. 9. a4 Ibid. 22. the difficulty of expression stems from the very fact that. we must further examine the m o m e n t wherein the "world-order" is disclosed. 96 Ibid. a "companying with the other" (Beim-Andern-verweilen). confronting. and individuation. a "reaching to the other" (Zum-Andern-gelangen). a5 "Dialogue. for it bestows u p o n m a n the task of consecration. 69. meeting. the affirmation of the primally deep otherness of the."93 Such is the melancholic fate of man. T h e former. in this world there is structure and coherence but no unity." T h e latter signifies the phenomenal world o f conditionality. is that the "world-order" stands in sharp contrast to the "ordered world. to prepare it for encounter..96 " T h e genuine saying of ' T h o u ' . T h e You appears in time. T h e task of man is to make the world God-like. Ibid. s68. 81. Redemption is "the God-side o f the event whose world-side is called return [Umkehr]. In the consecration of the I . .other.e.

79..e. I become aware of him. What is there reveals itself to him in the occurrence. 126. ~ o o I and Thou. unique way which is peculiar to him. 111-12. analyzed." i. Not only is the other distinguished in the two basic world-attitudes. The Thou cannot be compared.e.UNITY IN B U B E R 439 The It that we experience is a thing among things. are used by Mendes-Flohr.. however. '''~176 event may be rendered the This realization of cosmic unity by which is meant the concentrated turning towards the other in his absolute otherness. This affirmation of the other in his unconditional otherness is what Buber calls the "personal making present" (personale VergegenwSrtigung). This unity. Both expressions." O n this difficult expression. so that in full earnestness I can direct what I say to him as the person he is. . defined. "own-being" or "self-being." 177-78. 99 Ibid. We shall call this unity existential oneness.o. " in The Knowledge of Man."98 In the turning towards the other one faces the other as other--not as a knowable object or subject but as independent subjectivity. In this turning the other is encountered "cosmically" (welthaft). The meeting of the other is thus an event of absolute exclusivity: "Every actual relationship to another being in the world is exclusive. . Its You is freed and steps to confront us in its uniqueness. ~o~Before discussing it.99 The dialogical situation lives in and through the tension of the "personal making present. ~os Literally. Such a grasping belongs to the encounter of the Thou. is a unity of absolute inclusiveness. an object situated alongside others in a spatial-temporal-causal context. see the e x t e n d e d comment o f K a u f m a n n . 7. I and Thou. 78 . in the definite. "From Kuiturmystik to Dialogue. The experience of the It is not yet the grasping of the other in its absolute exclusivity. in dialogue I confirm the otherness of the other. so too is the I: the I of the basic word I-It "appears as an ego [Eigenwesen]'~ and 98 "Elements o f the I n t e r h u m a n . essentially different from myself. n. and what occurs there happens to him as being. another unity is realized.'''o~ In the act of meeting.. "cosmic" and "existential" unity. or measured. we must make some preliminary remarks concerning the nature of the self according to Buber. Ibid. Nothing else is present but this one. aware that he is different. 83. as a cosmic unity: "[M]an encounters being and becoming as what confronts him--always only one being and every thing only as a being. in contrast to the first. "The chief presupposition for the rise of genuine dialogue is that each should regard his partner as the very one he is. and I accept whom I thus see. In saying Thou one meets the irreducible and ultimately inaccessible other.o. however. . i.. but this one cosmically. of the meeting of two who nevertheless remain other to one another.

In the event of relation.o4 Ibid. ''''o The dialogical relation is at the same time a dialectical one. My You acts on me as I act on it."'~ While the person "stands in relation" and "participates in actuality. That is to say. By the latter we do not intend to impart to Buber any Hegelian notion of unity- .to the absolutely exclusive other Thou and no other. "the firmament of the You is spread over me. Buber writes: "Relation is reciprocity [Gegenseitigkeit]. 59Ibid. One being-as-a-whole faces another being-as-a-whole.06 . "Whoever commits himself may not hold back part of himself. each affirming the other through the otherness of their being." the ego "sets himself apart from everything else and tries to possess as much as possible by means of experience and use. ''. 4 t.05 I and Thou. "The basic word I-You can only be spoken with one's whole being. '''~ The "vital primal words" (der vitalen Urworte) of the I-Thou relation are described by Buber as "I-acting-You and You-acting-I" (Ich-wirkend-Du und Du-wirkend-Ich)..'07 Such speaking is a "bodily speaking. One turns to the Other and stands in a relation of undivided to undivided which constitutes the actualized realm of the between. Ibid.o8 ." i. The basic word I-It can never be spoken with one's whole being."'~ It is thus that existential oneness is realized in and through the dialogical moment. The address of the Thou summons me in the wholeness of my being.. As Robert Wood expressed it: "In the I-Thou relation the undivided self meets the undivided Other . Ibid.~ The I in its entirety is encompassed by the radiant countenance of the Thou. The unity of the dialogical relation is a unity realized and sustained through mutuality and difference. Relation is thus the turning of the absolutely inclusive I .44 ~ becomes JOURNAL OF T H E H I S T O R Y OF P H I L O S O P H Y 27:3 JULY 1989 I- c o n s c i o u s o f i t s e l f as a s u b j e c t . .I and no o t h e r ."'~ The I that participates in relation is the I in its wholeness--the person.07 .o9 Ho "' Ibid. .. 113--14.e. 6o. .."'" At this juncture we can clearly articulate Buber's unique contribution to the philosophic discussion of the problem of unity. 54. Martin Buber's Ontology. 73Ibid.. 67. and I vis-a-vis the Thou. . . Wood. the T h o u is made present vis-a-vis the I.. " w h e r e a s the I of the basic word Thou "appears as a person and becomes conscious of itself as subjectivity. . the response must accordingly be that of the absolutely inclusive I.. a speaking with one's whole being. the I that appropriates through experience is the I in its partialness--the ego.

more precisely. it is a t u r n i n g of the being. Cf. as Buber himself has told us. i. Buber develops this theme in his "Distance and Relation" (19~ 1): "[T]he principle o f h u m a n life is not simple but twofold. Philip Wheelwright. the fact is that the being-at-a-distance is never absolutely transcended t h r o u g h the dialogical encounter.." 85. is possible only through the meeting of two beings who remain unique and distinct. In no uncertain terms Buber writes: "In genuine dialogue the turning to the partner takes place in all truth. this acceptance. To 'mean' someone in this connection is at the same time to exercise that degree of making present which is possible to the speaker at that m o m e n t . . To be sure.69-95. so far as it is for him to confirm. but rather that the lived unification of the meeting o f I a n d T h o u requires that both relata be preserved in their personhood. While it is certainly the case that the I-Thou attitude sets this over-againstness in a qualitatively different relation. it is precisely such a condition which renders the relationship possible. the sustaining of that relation.." in TheKnowledgeofMan. "~ "Distanceand Relation. if it is a genuine turning. has become an i n d e p e n d e n t opposite. ~J' "Elements of the Interhuman. he (the speaker) receives him as his partner. being built up in a twofold m o v e m e n t ."H3 In the event of relation.e. two beings meet who nevertheless remain distinct. ''"2 T h e t u r n i n g o f dialogue. can occur only between beings who stand at a distance from one another. therefore. i. the event of meeting. T h a t the first movement is the presupposition of the other is plain f r o m the fact that one can enter into relation only with being which has been set at a distance. 75 where the author points out that this "making present" of the other clearly distinguishes Buber's thought from that of mysticism. and. The mysticalstriving is a striving for unificationwhichoften eventuates in the lossof self. and that means that he confirms this other being. Dialogic relation. it is also the case that absolute identification would make it equally impossible. we might add. To confront the other in dialogue is to confirm the other as other. is always m o r e than being-against. "Buber's PhilosophicalAnthropology." in ThePhilosophyofMartinBuber. the being-with another. the entering into relation. T h o u g h absolute distinctness would make relation as such impossible. .UNITY IN BUBER 441 through-difference whereby opposites are held together by means of a synthetic resolution (Aufhebung). Every speaker 'means' the partner or partners to w h o m he turns as this personal existence. To meet the other is to confront the other. Meeting (Begegnung) the other is an enduring-against (Gegenwartende) the other. to be over against (Gegen~ber) the other. . T o be over against the other here means to face the other. See esp. I propose to call the first movement 'the primal setting at a distance' [Urdistanzierung] and the second 'entering into relation' [In-Beziehungtreten]. . . to be in the presence (Gegenwart) of the other. 60. that is. . on the other hand. T h e true turning of his person to the other includes this confirmation.e. I n d e e d . . But.

for Bubcr. "Man's 'religious' situation. In effect. the unity of relation does not dissolve.. is the reciprocal meeting of the eternal Thou and the finite I. 195~).t h r o u g h relation and not identification--is achieved. is a manifestation of otherness. as Emmanuel Levinas put it. The one who would affirm only the thesis (the human pole) and thereby repudiate the antithesis (the divine pole) violates the sense of the situation. without any possibility of anticipation or prescription. This is the meaning of Bubcr's claim that the "primal setting at a distance" is the presupposition of "entering into relation. whereas one who would think only in terms of the synthesis (unification of the individual and the Absolute) destroys the sense of the situation. according to Buber's philosophy of dialogue. but rather preserves the otherncss of the other."a8.s "Religionand Philosophy. "I-Thou finds its highest intensity and transfiguration in religious reality. for without this otherness no relation is possible.""4 That unity. my partncr. ." therefore."in Eclipse of God (New York: Harper & Row.''~8 H4 Cf. x41."MartinBuber and the Theory of Knowledge. existence in the presence. neither partner can be reduced to the other."'ls Inasmuch as revelation is dialogical. in which unlimited Being becomes. as absolute Person. . is the same act which renders a union with it possible. . Levinas. In this facing of that which is opposite u n i o n . . . . "the act whereby the I withdraws and thus distances itself from the T h o u . E. 143. .. is that "I relate myself to the divine as to Being which is over against me . 44-45. and man over against God.. is marked by its essential and indissoluble antinomies.6 I and Thou." The concept of unity in Bubcr's philosophy of dialogue embraces the pardoxical: unity arises in and is sustained through difference. In the "between" opposite beings face one another. That is to say. . Hence. there is no union worthy of the name except in the presence of this sort of otherncss: union. Revelation." According to Bubcr. Complete inclusion of the divine in the sphere of the human self abolishes its divinity. ."H7 "What is decisive for the genuineness of religion. The religious situation is such that it must be "lived in all its antinom i e s ."in The Philosophyof Martin Buber. the "between" engenders unity while maintaining difference.442 JOURNAL OF T H E H I S T O R Y OF P H I L O S O P H Y 27:3 JULY I989 presupposes thc scttting at a distance: "Only men who arc capable of truly saying T h o u to one another can truly say Wc with one another. .7 Ibid. Verbundenheit. God stands over against man. -5 "Religionand Philosophy. presupposes a "difference" that is never absolutely transcended in the relation is substantiated further by his revised treatment of the God-man relation. it follows that it will involve the meeting of that which is mutually exclusive. The presence of relation is therefore an abiding of difference.. 143-44.. . ''H6 That is to say.

Buber's revised concept o f realization parallels his revised notion o f Yihud." in The Origin and Meaning of Hasidism. T h e u n i o n o f relation is not an identification.0 "Preface.. . T o unify the world is to p r e p a r e the world for the divine e n c o u n t e r which is. ." On Judaism. . . M. and the Baal-Shem. B u b e r categorically rejects the unification o f God and world if that entails "the abstract dissolution o f the difference between God and world.4 l and Thou... " T h e e n c o u n t e r with GOd does not come to . B u b e r concludes. 4-5.. . 137. G o d as an undivided whole turns to man as an undivided whole. ~. it is as the O t h e r that G o d comes to dwell in the world. 99. ..' "Spirit and Body of the Hasidic Movement. m a n responds. ''~'* In the unity o f dialogue."t~4 Revelation does not obscure but r a t h e r highlights the distance which stands between G o d and man. the turning toward the eternal T h o u . means only that "the unity without m u l t i p l i c i t y . In the event o f revelation. is o v e r c o m e in genuine. the d i f f e r e n c e is not eliminated but preserved. concrete unity"~'s does not signify that the distance between God and world is dissolved." in The Origin and Meaning ofHasidism. Man does not possess God Himself. "In lived actuality t h e r e is no unity o f being . . G o d does not become man n o r man God. the unified I and the boundless You. ''''~ In this dwelling. and trans.. mathematical oneness. . It is r a t h e r the dynamic unity o f dialogue. G o d addresses. T h e strongest and deepest actuality is to be f o u n d where everything enters into activity--the whole h u m a n being. Unification o f G o d and world is not the identification o f G o d and world.UNITY IN BUBER 443 Such considerations forced B u b e r to alter his conception o f the realization o f God.o Ibid. . indeed. to make reality one. without reserve." T h a t God becomes. . it is only t h r o u g h this distance that man receives his task to unify the world. . but he encounters God Himself. 9. dwells in the unification o f multiplicity. unification. to p r e p a r e the world for the dialogical relationship.2 "Spinoza. T h e unity o f the world is not an abstract. . H e n c e . however. therefore. i. in the reciprocity o f relation the partners retain their irreducible otherness. . ed.e. T h a t "the separation between 'life in God' and 'life in the w o r l d ' . ''1~~ God and m a n stand in a relation o f "vis-a-vis.s Ibid. to address m a n in the dialogical m o m e n t .."1'9 T h a t God is independ e n t o f m a n is the very basis o f the religious life: "Religious reality is called precisely that because it constitutes an undiminished relationship to God Himself. 133. Sabbatai Zevi. 196o). God remains Other. T o "realize God" does not m e a n to make God real but r a t h e r to " p r e p a r e the world for G o d . Friedman (New York: Horizon Press. as we have seen. revelation is fulfilled only when it takes the f o r m o f action in the world. a n d the all-embracing god.

the stronger and more constant the nearness . even as the apparent turning away of those who fulfill their mission belongs in truth to the world movement of turning toward.5 Ibid. turns God into an object. for Buber."'~5 Paradoxically. but belongs in truth to the world movement of turning away. God remains presence for you. It appears to be a turning toward the primal ground.. while what appears to be a turning away is in truth a turning toward. Bending back. always a manifestation of otherness. stands in the presence of the eternal and boundless Thou. i. . . to paraphrase Levinas. on the other hand. All revelation is a calling and a mision. Union for Buber is.6 Ibid. 164-65. Man is unified with God. ~. whoever walks in his mission always has God before him: the more faithful the fulfillment. while the turning away from God may result in a turning towards God: "When you are sent forth. ''~'6 Here Buber's thought reaches the quintessence of paradox: what appears to be a turning toward is in truth a turning away. the turning towards God may result in a turning away from God..444 JOURNAL OF T H E H I S T O R Y OF P H I L O S O P H Y ~t7:3 JULY 1989 man in order that he may henceforth attend to God but in order that he may prove its meaning in action in the world.. . a64. . New York University ~. when he sets himself at a distance from God in order to act upon the world.e.

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