Dreaming of M. H. (29 September 1996)

Dreaming of M. H.

Anthony Stadlen

Copyright © Anthony Stadlen 1996, 2020

[Note, 9 June 2020

This is an unpublished verbatim record of a lecture improvised on 29 September 1996 at Martin Heidegger and Psychotherapy, the joint Third International Forum of the International Federation of Daseinsanalysis and the Ninth Annual Conference of the Society for Existential Analysis, from 27 to 29 September 1996, at Regent’s College, London.

Some very slight changes improve clarity. But the spoken word is here, and exchanges with Dr Gion Condrau, chairman, and with the audience, whose laughter lightens what disquiets.]

For more than two decades I have been researching the paradigm cases of some of the great psychotherapists of the twentieth century and late nineteenth century. I started with Freud, and went on to other therapists; here I am concerned with Medard Boss.
I am using the term paradigm case in at least one of Thomas Kuhn’s senses in his theory of scientific revolutions. But it is also the sense in which Freud himself used the term Paradigma. Freud promoted his theory, his practice, and indeed his movement, in part by giving small vignettes as examples, but above all by giving a small number of very detailed examples. These were case-studies, dream interpretations and analyses of jokes and ‘parapraxes’, i.e., ‘mischievements’ such as slips of the tongue. He claimed these examples were historically accurate, not fictional. He wrote that it was an ‘abuse’ to distort any feature of such a Paradigma, apart from the minimal distortion necessary to protect the identity of the patient or the source.
Medard Boss followed in this tradition by also presenting paradigm cases. He did not, as far as I know, call them paradigm cases. He criticised, in fact, the use of the term ‘model’ in psychotherapy. However, he structured his magnum opus, Grundriss der Medizin und Psychologie, around one central case-study, the case of ‘Regula Zürcher’, to which he returns again and again. He calls this a ‘test case’. Boss thus uses the language of either law or science to indicate that this ‘test case’ is going to function as an experimentum crucis to decide between his Heideggerian theory or refusal-of-theory and the other, natural-scientistic, psychologistic, subjectivistic theories which, he claims, only partially, and in a distorted way, explain the phenomena of Regula Zürcher.
Now, from my own enquiries, my own testing of this ‘test case’, it emerges that Regula Zürcher was profoundly grateful to Medard Boss. She told me she experienced the therapy as a kind of rebirth. But certain Daseinsanalysts in Zürich (and also some of my students in London) find that some aspects of the case as Boss narrates it do not ring true. They say that Regula Zürcher has too many ailments and is too well cured. This suspicion turns out to be correct. For example, Boss claims Regula Zürcher had an adventure with a bus that ploughed into a bus queue and left her with a broken leg, but while in hospital she discovered a desire to write short stories, which the best newspapers fought to publish. But she tells me this is totally false: she has never broken her leg, never been in hospital, never written stories. Boss presumably justified it to himself (and her?) as a ‘pious fraud to transmit the daseinsanalytic teaching on how to turn a mishap like a broken leg to creative use. Regula Zürcher herself justified it to me as ‘essentially true.
I have also researched the first case in the American version of Boss’s earlier book Psychoanalysis and Daseinsanalysis. Many Daseinsanalysts appear not to know this version. It’s quite different from the German one. It contains a number of case-histories, some of which first appeared in Boss’s book on psychosomatic medicine. But the first case, of ‘Dr Cobling’, is a kind of paradigm for the whole book.
And, to start on a positive note, I can say that, at the most elementary level of investigation – the most elementary level is simply the investigation of ordinary factual correctness, which is sometimes scorned in favour of aletheia, unconcealedness, but as I understand it Boss was also claiming in his works that the case-histories he presented were factually true – I’m happy to be able to report that his reporting in this particular paradigm case appears to be reasonably accurate. There is an independent written report on it by ‘Dr Cobling’ herself, which I have been given by a close relative of hers; and it confirms Boss’s in every detail.
Except one. One detail is rather curious. Boss calls ‘Dr Cobling’ ‘a patient who taught the author to see and think differently’. This may be partially true, but he presents it as though he had only just heard a smattering of what he calls the ‘daseinsanalytic understanding of Man’, and this patient forced him into a deeper engagement with Daseinsanalysis.
Now this simply cannot be true, because he started treating the person in July 1956, after he’d had an intensive correspondence and relationship with Heidegger for ten years, and he had already published three – still influential – daseinsanalytic, Heideggerian books: his book on dreams, his book on psychosomatic medicine, and his book on the sexual ‘perversions’. And he had just come back from India, where, according to the reports I’ve heard of what he was like in India, he was writing the German version of his book Psychoanalysis and Daseinsanalysis, and was full of Heidegger, and comparing his thinking with what he was learning from his Kashmiri guru and other Indian sages.
So we have to ask about this case for example: what game was Boss playing by staging the case in this way? It sounds very modest, but is it actually modest, or is it more on a par with Freud playing down his contributions in his case-histories, for example the Rat Man case, where we have the original notes, and we can see that Freud at times presents as an original contribution of the Rat Man something which Freud has in fact suggested? So is Boss playing down his theoretical preconceptions for ‘didactic’ purposes, or for purposes of promoting his daseinsanalytic movement?
This is one sort of question that I’m concerned with. But there’s no doubt that Boss helped this woman, for example, profoundly. There’s no doubt that Freud helped many of his patients profoundly. But I want to take Boss’s criticism of Freud a little bit further and apply it to Boss, for example, himself. I’m only taking Boss as an example. This really applies to all of us. I feel sure that many of us are far better in our practice than we are in the alienated, institutionalised conference chatter that we engage in, which includes a split between people standing up here as lords of ontology, talking to all the ontic thises and thats down there, and engaging in all sorts of far more interesting gossip in the bar, where a lot of the real truth about Daseinsanalysis comes out, far more than here. I want to try to contribute a little to the healing of this fragmentation.
I’m not going to talk any more about Boss’s actual case-histories. I want to focus now on one of Boss’s other paradigm cases, namely, the first dream that he presents in the second chapter of his second dream book, ‘Es träumte mir vergangene Nacht,...’, published in 1975. It’s translated as ‘I dreamt last night...’, but Boss makes much of the ‘es träumte mir’: ‘it dreamt to me’.
I should explain that this chapter of the book is structured as a series of exercises, exercises in dream analysis, and Boss explains that it will be very repetitive and a lot of it may sound very simple-minded. But, he says, if one is patient and goes through the succession of dreams and his discussion of them, then one will gradually acquire the art of openness to dreams, without doing violence to dreams.
So, the book is structured as this series of dreams, maybe forty-something of them. And it is interesting to compare it to Freud. If you remember, Freud introduced his great Traumdeutung, Interpretation of Dreams, by saying that he was forced to fall back – because he found it difficult to get enough information from ‘nervously healthy’ friends or colleagues about their dreams, and because, although he believed that everybody’s dream-life worked in the same way, he still didn’t want to be open to the criticism that he was relying on the dreams of ‘nervously unhealthy’ people; he was therefore forced back on a rather embarrassing source, namely, himself. And so many of the dreams in his dream-book are his own dreams. And he presents these as the dreams of what he rather self-depreciatingly calls ‘an approximately normal person’. So Freud’s enterprise is in a way quite modest. It’s modest in that respect, and it’s extremely courageous. It’s difficult for us today to realise what courage it needed to expose himself to the extent that he did. Boss did nothing remotely comparable to Freud’s degree of courage in self-exposure in his dream-book.
The problems start of course when Freud starts betraying his own stated phenomenological approach, which is simply to let what ‘falls in’ to the person’s ‘consciousness’ determine the meaning of the dream. Freud says that his method differs from all previous methods in that it’s not a decoding, it’s not a dictionary of dreams, it is the patient him- or herself who vouchsafes the meaning, discovers the meaning, of the dream. But of course he hadn’t got far into his dream-book before he was already betraying that principle.
Now the question is whether Boss – who, I have no doubt, was a great therapist, he probably thoroughly deserved his Great Therapist award from the American Psychological Association – the question is whether Boss’s criticism of Freud also applies to Boss when he starts theorising, and also when he starts promoting his movement by his paradigm cases, and by his ‘historical’ anecdotes which I’ll also refer to, which are designed to impress people with the goodness of Daseinsanalysis.
This book, Boss’s second dream-book, is designed rather differently from the first. The first one, which he published in 1953, has one central dream, of a woman who dreams about having lunch with her husband and her children. And there’s a beautiful, juicy roast-beef steak on the table, and juicy lettuce, which tickled her nostrils, and then there are rainbow bridges going from her to her children, and there is a golden urn on the bridges. And Boss goes through all the possible interpretations that Freud or Jung or others might have given, and then he comes up with his, Heideggerian, interpretation. And I must say that he gives a long quote from Heidegger’s rather beautiful essay ‘Bauen Wohnen Denken’, ‘Building Dwelling Thinking’, about the meaning of a bridge and how the bridge gathers us, and gathers the fourfold of the sky and the earth and the gods and the mortals, but one can’t help, or I can’t help, feeling that, when I read this as an elucidation of the dream, it simply becomes yet another sort of reified fourfold. It was poetic when Heidegger first thought of it. It already becomes a bit of a bore as you go on in essay after essay by Heidegger. It’s already become a kind of thing in itself, this Geviert, the earth, sky, gods and mortals dancing around as if they had some sort of real reality. It’s no more impressive than Jung’s mandalas and so on. It’s become yet another reification, in my opinion.
Now the second book is structured with, first of all, dreams of ‘persons considered totally healthy by themselves and others’... [laughter] This is... I can’t think why you’re laughing. This is somewhat different from Freud’s rather modest presentation of himself as an ‘approximately normal person’, which also leaves open what ‘normal’ means, and so on. And we start with a ‘simple dream of a healthy European’, which is going to be the main topic I’m going to talk about. It then goes on with six dreams of healthy Swiss Army recruits [laughter], who are the most robust, healthy examples of Dasein that could follow after this totally healthy European. We then have, to show Boss’s non-Nazism and great broadmindedness, the dream of an American ‘negress’ (‘Negerin’) who is, as befits her station, dreaming about being an elephant in the jungle. [laughter]
We then start descending the hierarchy, and we have dreams of some disturbed neurotics, and then I’m afraid we go down and down until we reach the bottom of the barrel with some schizophrenics and some brain-damaged people all rather jumbled up together in a heap at the bottom as examples of grossly constricted Dasein.
I’m making fun of this, and I think it deserves in a way to be made fun of, but at the same time it’s not totally ridiculous. There are people who are severely constricted, and there are people who are relatively open and free.
But let us have a look at this first dream, this dream of this totally healthy European [laughter], and let us see what we can learn from it, and what Boss wishes us to learn from it.

I’m in Zollikon in the Höhe Restaurant with my old friend M. H. at lunchtime. The room is moderately occupied by people of both sexes. Some children’s voices can also be heard somewhere. The sun shines warm and bright into the lounge. Sunlight is filling the dining room, warm and bright. We’re very happy to be able to be together again in such quiet and contentment. We both order the same dish, an entrecôte Café de Paris. We eat with a good appetite and talk about how our children are getting on. I see with satisfaction how excellent the meal tastes to my guest, how heartily he bites into it. Then I wake up and become a litle sad that my friend’s visit was only dreamed. The day before, I had wished very much that this friend would once again come to visit me. [My translation]

Now, I had known this dream for many years before I started noticing something a little odd about it. Some readers will think I am naive for taking so long to think this about it. Some people think this immediately, though I must say that Dr Condrau, if I may mention, hadn’t noticed this [laughter], whereas Dr Alice Holzhey-Kunz – when I excitedly told her my discovery, it was all old hat to her. And some students I gave this to read a couple of weeks ago, one of them saw it immediately without ever having had anything to do with Daseinsanalysis before, so I must confess my naiveté.
After a few years it occurred to me: why is he so specific about the initials of this old friend with whom this unknown healthy European is having a meal in the Höhe Restaurant in Zollikon? If you look at the other pseudonyms used in this dream-book, they’re usually things like N. or K., something utterly anonymous. But M. H. is rather... specific, isn’t it? [laughter] So it slowly percolated through to me that, well, didn’t Boss himself live in Zollikon? [laughter] Well, I just couldn’t leave this alone, so a few years ago I telephoned Mrs Boss and I said, ‘Did your husband ever, when he had his old friend M. H., another M. H., Martin Heidegger, visiting him, did he ever take him to eat in the Höhe Restaurant in Zollikon?’ And she said, ‘Yes, yes, yes, certainly they did.’ So I started imagining what would have happened if this dreamer had been having an entrecôte Café de Paris with his old friend M. H., and if at the same time Medard Boss had been sitting at another table with his old friend M. H. [roars of laughter] What a Geviert that would be, what a dance, what a mirror-play, what a sublime opening of Daseins could have occurred.
However, I then continued my train of thought in various directions. One, on that supposition, that there’s some other person with an old friend M. H. Or, on the supposition that this actually refers to Boss himself. Either supposition leads to rather peculiar conclusions, because one has to ask, what game is Medard Boss playing here? This is not a daseinsanalytic sort of question; I’m afraid it’s a very American-sounding question. But is it not true? What is Boss up to here? Whether it is he and his old friend M. H. or somebody else and his old friend M. H., he is certainly behaving in a way that leads certain people to associate the dream, possibly, with him. Now, has he intended this as a disguise? Is he disguising it, in which case, is it such a... brilliant disguise? [laughter] Or, does he mean it to happen precisely as it does seem to happen, that some people notice this and other people don’t notice it, and the ones who do notice it bring it to the attention of the ones who don’t notice it, and so there’s quite a bit of gossip and amusement about this dream? Is this the game that he’s playing? I suspect that this is what it is. It’s a kind of name-dropping, which at the same time is in bad faith, because it is pretending not to be name-dropping, because it’s pretending it’s in disguise. So the very least we can say is that Boss appears to be suggesting, even if he’s not actually stating, that he himself is a totally healthy European at the top, the pinnacle, of this hierarchy.
And of course he is referring to his friendly relationship, on which he clearly prided himself, with this old friend M. H. And he’s no doubt pleased that he’s able to offer M. H. this expensive... because it’s an expensive restaurant, the Höhe Restaurant, I can assure you...

[Dr Condrau: Have you been there?]

I haven’t eaten there, but I’ve been inside it. And to cut the identification short: Mrs Boss, this last summer, told me definitively that her husband had indeed told her that it was about himself, and about Heidegger: that he had had this dream.
As a matter of fact, I asked Mrs Boss, ‘What’s the implication of the entrecôte Café de Paris?’; and she said, ‘Well, that is something very, very good, it is not billig, it is not cheap. It’s a really good meal.’
We don’t know who’s paying for this meal, of course. [laughter] Though the dreamer calls M. H. his ‘guest’.
That’s not a trivial point, about who’s paying for the meal. Because the question of what was the deal between Boss and Heidegger – what was each giving or conceding, how did each compromise with the other, what game was each playing with the other, in order to promote their names – is a very important one. I’m not trying to reduce the whole of the daseinsanalytic movement to this sort of game; but it’s incredibly naive – it’s unscientific and unphenomenological and undaseinsanalytic – not to take this sort of thing into account. And people do tend to take this sort of thing into account when we’re gossipping in the bar. But it’s streng verboten, it seems to me, here on the platform. So I want to continue trying to make this a part of the discussion as well.
Now, as a matter of fact, Mrs Boss didn’t know what an entrecôte Café de Paris was, really. She knew it was a steak with a very fine sauce, but... Does anybody know what an entrecôte Café de Paris is? [laughter] A serious question. [Dr Condrau nods.] Do you know? Ja? Could you tell us, Dr Condrau? [Dr Condrau declines.] Aha!

[Dr Condrau: I think there are some people who could.]

Yes. Well, who could? Yes, please?

[Woman in audience: ……a special restaurant……

And where is the special restaurant?

[Woman: It’s in Paris.]

No. You’re wrong. [laughter] Anyone else?

[Dr Condrau: He knows.]

[Another woman: ……entrecôte……]

[interrupting] There are many impostors. [laughter] There are many people who claim to make entrecôte Café de Paris. There is only one... [lifts up three-page typescript] Here we have the account of what is an authentic entrecôte Café de Paris. [much laughter and applause]
It stems from a restaurateur, M. Bouvier, at Rives, which is in Switzerland near Geneva; and he had a reputed establishment, I’m translating from the French, Le Coq d’Or, in the nineteen-thirties; and he developed a very original sauce which was a mélange of numerous spices with butter. And M. Bouvier confided the secret of his sauce to his daughter, who married a certain M. Dumont, the proprietor of the Café de Paris in Geneva.
I had asked Anton Mosimann and various other people if they knew about the entrecôte Café de Paris, and Mosimann said, ‘Yes, come along to my dining club and I will make you one’. Mosimann had told me the steak originated at a certain Café de Paris in Geneva. Now one day I’d been doing some other research in Switzerland and I came back from the main train station in Geneva, and as I was walking along the street I saw something saying Café de Paris’, and I walked across and it actually said ‘Entrecôte Café de Paris’ in the window. And so I thought, ‘Oh, this charming working-class and middle-class and student cafe is probably using the name of the old Café de Paris.’ So I went in, and I asked the waiter, and he said, ‘Monsieur, this is the Café de Paris.’ And the proprietor explained to me that, while Anton Mosimann, to whom he sent his compliments, was a very fine chef, this was the only place in the world that made authentic entrecôte Café de Paris.
This may sound a little frivolous, but the fact is that if Medard Boss and Medard Heidegger [sic] [laughter and applause] were sharing a so-called entrecôte Café de Paris in the Höhe restaurant in Zollikon, it would no doubt have been much more expensive than in the genuine Café de Paris, but it would have been a fake.
The chef in Zollikon during the years Heidegger visited Boss had, I discovered, retired and moved to another part of Switzerland. He died a few years ago – but not before I’d discussed with him [laughter] that he did indeed on occasion provide what he called entrecôte Café de Paris. But the fact is, it must have been a fake.
Now unfortunately we don’t know whether Medard Boss himself knew that it was a fake. [laughter]
So we don’t know whether we can take this as an indication that there is some fakery around in the dream or not.
Of course, Boss’s purpose in presenting the dream is primarily to challenge Freud’s wish-fulfilment theory. Just as in his first dream-book, which also centred around a steak [laughter], Boss seems very keen on steak, in both dreams he says, since the dreamer had been very hungry on going to bed, the dreamer – in this case, himself – had been fasting the previous day because he’d had a tummy upset, which sits rather uneasily with his also being a totally healthy European, and he’d also been wishing that his old friend M. H. would visit him again. So Boss says, is this not self-evidently what Freud called an undisguised wish-fulfilment dream? But Boss insists it’s not, and my students usually find this a very very peculiar argument. I have some sympathy with him, though, because Boss is insisting that, within the dream itself, within the actual dreamed dream, there is no wishing; there is no report by the dreamer that, while dreaming, he thought, ‘Ah, this is what I was wishing for, and now I’ve got it.’ And so therefore he says the allegation that it is a wish-fulfilment dream is a metaphenomenological assertion, or if you like it’s a phenomenological assertion about something larger than the dream itself. It’s a waking judgement. And this is one of the main points he wishes to make.
But a clue to one of the other main points he wishes to make, which is what I want to focus on here, is that he uses a word which he uses rather sparingly, to describe his relation, or the dreamer’s relation, but we now know from Mrs Boss that the dreamer was indeed definitively himself, assuming we can believe Mrs Boss, but I see no reason to disbelieve her – he says that the dreamer was in a state of ‘Gelassenheit’ towards his friend.
Now this brings us to something which I’m surprised none of the speakers yesterday mentioned. People talked about the goal of daseinsanalytic therapy, and we had the discussion of ‘from geworfenes Dasein to ereignetes Dasein’, and there was talk about ‘letting-be’, ‘Sein-lassen’; but nobody actually mentioned the word ‘Gelassenheit’, which means something like ‘releasedness’. It is probably strictly untranslatable. It was used by Meister Eckehart; but Heidegger, who published a book called Gelassenheit, said that he wanted to get beyond Eckehart’s sense of release from sin.
Let me try to give you an idea of what Heidegger meant.

[plays tape:]

Unser Verhältnis zur technischen Welt wird auf eine wundersame Weise einfach und ruhig. Wir lassen die technischen Gegenstände in unsere tägliche Welt herein und lassen sie zugleich draussen, d.h. auf sich beruhen als Dinge, die nichts Absolutes sind, sondern selbst auf Höheres angewiesen bleiben. Ich möchte diese Haltung des gleichseitigen Ja und Nein zur technischen Welt mit einem alten Wort nennen: die Gelassenheit zu den Dingen.
In dieser Haltung sehen wir die Dinge nicht mehr nur technisch. Wir werden hellsichtig und merken, dass die Herstellung und die Benutzung von Maschinen uns zwar ein anderes Verhältnis zu diesen Dingen abverlangen, ein Verhältnis das jedoch nicht sinn-los ist. So wird z.B. der Ackerbau und die Landwirtschaft zur motorisierten Ernährungsindustrie. Dass hier – so wie auf anderen Gebieten – ein tiefgreifender Wandel im Verhältnis des Menschen zur Natur und zur Welt vor sich geht, ist gewiss. Welcher Sinn jedoch in diesem Wandel waltet, dies bleibt dunkel.

So there is M. H. That’s M. H. himself in 1955 in his birthplace, Messkirch, on the 175th anniversary of the composer Conradin Kreutzer’s birth. He’s giving a speech which he introduced as a speech about how we could cope with the atomic age. But he published it as ‘Gelassenheit’. And I hope the English-speakers too could notice him using the word that he is saying is the solution to the problems of our atomic and technical age: ‘Gelassenheit’.

Our relation to technology becomes in a wondrous way simple and calm. We let the technological objects into our daily life, and at the same time leave them outside, that is, let them rest, as things which are nothing absolute but remain reliant upon what is higher. I would name this bearing toward technology, of ‘yes’ and at the same time ‘no’, with an old word, Gelassenheit towards things.
With this bearing we no longer see things merely technically. We become clear-sighted and notice that the making and using of machines demands of us another relation to things, a relation that is however not meaningless. Thus farming and agriculture, for example, have become a motorised food industry. That here, as in other areas, a profound change is taking place in man’s relation to nature and to the world, is certain. But the meaning that reigns in this change, this remains obscure. [My translation]

That’s what Heidegger was saying. And I would ask you to note in particular this sentence: ‘Thus farming and agriculture, for example, have become a motorised food industry.’ Because that’s a sentence that Heidegger was fond of saying, in a number of his lectures.
The first time he said it was in 1949, in his four lectures at the Bremen Club, with the collective title, ‘Insight into that which is’. They have only recently been published; but the rumour was that in those lectures he had uttered what has become the infamous sentence that:

Farming is now a motorised food-industry, in essence the same as the manufacture of corpses in gas chambers and extermination camps, the same as the blockade and starvation of countries, the same as the manufacture of hydrogen bombs.

And this is the only known statement by Heidegger ever about the Holocaust, about the extermination camps. I don’t know what he said in private, but this is the only thing he ever said in public, this and another brief allusion in the same set of lectures on the same day. And he was not lecturing at the university, this was to a club. This was his first day lecturing after the war. He wasn’t yet allowed to lecture at the university, after the denazification.
So on that occasion he spoke of Das Gestell, the Framing, which is the meaning of technology, which is expressed, he claimed, through farming becoming a motorised food-industry, and it was also expressed – the essence of motorised farming was exactly the same as the essence of the production of corpses in gas chambers and extermination camps.
This sentence was reported and criticised by innumerable people in numerous papers; and it was explained away by various people. I always thought it was a bit unfair that Heidegger was being indicted for something which was so far only hearsay, but last year these essays were finally published as part of the collected works, and indeed the sentence is there, exactly as it was reputed to be.
When Heidegger subsequently talks about farming being a motorised food-industry, he leaves the rest of that sentence out, for example in ‘The Question of Technology’ and in the speech on Gelassenheit.
But this raises the question of the whole project of ‘to the things themselves’: the whole project of simply letting the beings in the dream be themselves. Because Boss and Heidegger would have us let M. H. and let the entrecôte Café de Paris simply be what they are, not a symbol of something else. M. H. is not a symbol of Boss’s father, the entrecôte steak is not a symbol of animality, or anything like this.
But we are entitled to say, ‘What is the full reality of M. H.?’ Who or what was he? Who was M. H.? What is his full reality with all his contradictions?
And Gelassenheit, which Boss takes over as the ultimate aim of psychotherapy, in his writings certainly in the 1980s, the early 1980s, there’s a book [of his], one book with thirteen papers, Von der Spannweite der Seele, seven out of the thirteen papers refer to Gelassenheit, and Gelassenheit is the supreme goal of therapy.
So Boss is presenting himself in this dream, not only as totally ‘healthy’, but as being in this elevated state of ‘Gelassenheit’ to his friend M. H.
Now I took it on myself to search through those of Boss’s works that I could find, to find other occurrences of people who had achieved Gelassenheit. And I could find only very few. He mentions an Indian who lost his Gelassenheit on coming to the West. And Boss claims his Kashmiri guru spoke of Gelassenheit – though I am informed the guru knew no German or even English. [Note, 2020: Boss writes in the introduction to a pamphlet of his guru Gobind Kaul s hymns in Kashmiri that he and his guru Gobind Kaul had no language in common, so that they commiunicated in silence.] Boss does not explicitly state that his guru had achieved Gelassenheit. But in the West there’s only one other case I can find, apart from this disguised, or game-playing, claim that he himself has achieved it. The other case is when he is talking about Martin Heidegger.
This is in a little paper he published after Heidegger’s death about the Zollikon seminars, where he talks about what he alleges was Heidegger’s only ever dreamed dream. I think – Dr Condrau, can I quote what you said?

[Dr Condrau: Yes, you can.]

[Note, 2020
   Gion Condrau had told me how he had sat up half the night with a lady, Ragnvi Wesendonck, reading Heideggers love letters to her when she was a young girl in her 20s and he was in his 70s, decades earlier. In them, Heidegger had reported his dreams of her, thus contradicting Boss’s assertion that the Abitur dream was Heidegger’s only dream. Frau Wesendonck subsequently, in 1999, showed me these letters.
      But I did not, despite his permission, quote what Gion Condrau had said.]

Boss says that Heidegger was a ‘bad dreamer’ in that he only ever dreamt one dream. He dreamt it repeatedly, but it was the same dream over and over again. It was of being interrogated by his teachers in his Gymnasium at Konstanz, says Boss, at the time of his Abitur, matriculation.
Now already that can’t be correct, because his matriculation was not in Konstanz, after Konstanz he went to Freiburg, and that’s where he had his matriculation, so there’s a slight error there.
I expect most of you will have read this account of how Heidegger’s only dream experience, of being tortured by questions, interrogated by his professors, only ceased when Heidegger had found the right way to translate the sentence of Parmenides about thinking and being, and to understand Being as das Ereignis. And Boss says, how could Heidegger have possibly stopped dreaming this dream of being constantly questioned, if he had not in waking life entered into a wise Gelassenheit in the depths of his heart?
So we end up with, if anybody can find more people whom Boss claims to have achieved this exalted goal of Gelassenheit, I’d be interested to hear; but, as far as I can find, there are two, namely, Medard Boss and his old chum M. H.
So what does this tell us about how Boss is promoting his work? And what does it tell us about his wisdom?
And perhaps I can just leave you with the question: Is it right that anyone should be eating steak in a state of Gelassenheit with Martin Heidegger? [laughter]
Boss was telling his students – Dr Condrau has told us – not to question Heidegger about his Nazism. And Boss – I’ve seen him in a video film, and also in the introduction to the Zollikon Seminars – said that he himself had made some enquiries and discovered that poor Heidegger had been a victim, that anyone could have done as he did, and so that is the end of it.
So the question is, what is the ethics and what is the wisdom of this highest goal Gelassenheit?
Has anyone achieved it? If any of you has achieved Gelassenheit, please come up and tell us. [laughter]
And does not the entrecôte Café de Paris – by the same sort of Heideggerian thinking, whereby one brings in the sky, the earth, the mortals and the gods to discuss the bridge – by the same thinking does not the steak, produced by modern farming, inexorably point to something which has remained unsaid about Boss’s relation with Heidegger?
Was it not Heidegger himself who has taught us – would teach us – that farming is a motorised food-industry, in essence the same as the production of corpses in gas chambers and extermination camps?

No comments: