Tuesday, December 28, 2004

From the Mail: Edith Stein and Secretum Meum Mihi

Peter Freienstein writes:

I am extremely sorry, but I was wrong. In fact I mistook Edith Stein´s Secretum meum mihi for Omnia mea mecum porto. I wrote it from memory, but now I´ve checked it out.

BV: Yes, Omnia mea mecum porto suggests far too much independence and self-reliance to be the motto of a Carmelite nun who has taken vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Stein's motto is from Isaiah 24, 16:

From the ends of the earth we have heard praises, the glory of the just one. And I said: My secret to myself, my secret to myself, woe is me: the prevaricators have prevaricated, and with the prevarication of transgressors they have prevaricated.

A finibus terrae laudes audivimus gloriam iusti et dixi secretum meum mihi secretum meum mihi vae mihi praevaricantes praevaricati sunt et praevaricatione transgressorum praevaricati sunt.

Edith Stein wrote the phrase, Secretum meum mihi (Mein Geheimnis gehoert mir, My secret belongs to me) to her friend, the philosopher Hedwig Martius, the morning after Stein's conversion experience in the summer of 1921. Her conversion was occasioned by her reading of the autobiography of Theresa of Avila a copy of which she found in the library of Theodor Conrad and Hedwig Martius. See here.

I also wrote you some few remarks on Kant and Blondel. Did you read them? You are right to my mind when you wonder why so many people meditate on Heidegger and only so few care about Stein´s important books.

Still, I know quite a number of people who are interested. Like with Blondel, I have a manuscript here on her philosophy of some 400 pages. I don´t read her as an ontological philosopher, but concentrate on the concept of Sinn, which triggers off many deep philosophical reflections.

BV: Original Sinn? Sorry, just joking!

Stein is a giant, but there is little sense in dragging her before the altar of Heideggerian ontological demands, because as they have been defined by himself it is difficult to stand one´s ground there. Making 'sense' of Stein´s philosophy is still very much a future task.

BV: As you probably know, Sinn und Sein are closely connected in Heidegger. It is not just that he asks about the Sinn von Sein, but that Sein 'west' als Sinn, als Wahrheit. Indeed, I see that as a problem in Heidegger. The question about Sein is conflated with a question about die Erschlossenheit des Seins. On the other hand, Stein appears to be pursuing traditional ontological concerns, at least in her book, Endliches und Ewiges Sein.