Aletheia (Heraclitus, Fragment B 16)

Thus his work The Teacher says in another place (Bk. III, chap. 5): οὕτως γὰρ μόνως ἀπτώς τις διαμένει, εἰ πάντοτε συμπαρεῖναι νομίζοι τὸν θεόν. "In this way alone will a man never fall, if he hold to the belief that God is everywhere present with him." Who would gainsay the fact that Clement, pursuing his theologico-pedagogic intentions, put the words of Heraclitus—seven centuries later—into a Christian frame of reference, thereby imposing his own interpretation on them? The Church Father was thinking about sinners hiding themselves from the light. Heraclitus, on the other hand, speaks only about "remaining concealed." Clement means the supersensible Light, τὸν θεόν, God, the God of Christian faith. Heraclitus, however, mentions only the never-setting. Whether or not this "only"—emphasized by us—signifies a limitation or something else is now, and will in what follows remain, an open question.

What advantage would there be in arguing that this theological interpretation of the fragment is simply incorrect? At best, such an argument could leave the impression that the following remarks cherish the notion that they engage Heraclitus in the one absolutely correct way. Our task limits itself to getting closer to the words of the Heraclitean saying. This could help to bring some future thinking within range of still unheard intimations.

Since these proceed from the call under which thinking stands, there is little to be gained from comparing thinkers and calculating their proximity to these intimations. Rather, all our efforts should be directed toward bringing ourselves closer to the realm of what is to be thought by means of a dialogue with an early thinker.

Discerning minds understand that Heraclitus speaks in one way to Plato, in another to Aristotle, in another to a Church Father, and in others to Hegel and to Nietzsche. If one remains embroiled in a historical grasp of these various interpretations, then one has to view each of them as only relatively correct. Such a multiplicity necessarily threatens us with the specter of relativism. Why? Because the historical ledger of interpretations has already expunged any questioning dialogue with the thinker—it probably never entered such dialogue in the first place.