Why is it that they cannot? Because their relation to the lighting is nothing other than the lighting itself, in that this relation gathers men and gods into the lighting and keeps them there.

The lighting not only illuminates what is present, but gathers it together and secures it in advance in presencing. But of what sort is the presenting of gods and men? They are not only illuminated in the lighting, but are also enlightened from it and toward it. Thus they can, in their way, accomplish the lighting (bring it to the fullness of its essence) and thereby protect it. Gods and men are not only lighted by a light—even if a supersensible one—so that they can never hide themselves from it in darkness; they are luminous in their essence. They are alight [er-lichtet]; they are appropriated into the event of lighting, and therefore never concealed. On the contrary, they are re-vealed, thought in still another sense. Just as those who are far distant belong to the distance, so are the revealed—in the sense now to be thought —entrusted to the lighting that keeps and shelters them. According to their essence, they are trans-posed [ver-legt] to the concealing of the mystery, gathered together, belonging to the Λόγος in ὁμολογεΐν (Fragment 50).

Did Heraclitus intend his question as we have just been discussing it? Was what this discussion has said within the range of his notions? Who knows? Who can say? But perhaps the fragment, independendy of Heraclitus' own representational range, says the sort of thing our tentative discussion has put forward. The fragment does say it— provided a thoughtful dialogue may bring it to speak. The fragment says it, and leaves it unuttered. The paths that lead through the region of the unuttered remain questions, questions which always evoke only such things as were manifested long ago on those paths under diverse disguises.

The fundamentally interrogative character of the fragment indicates that Heraclitus is contemplating the revealing-concealing lighting, the world fire, in its scarcely perceptible relation to those who are en-lightened in accord with their essence, and who therefore hearken to and belong to the lighting in an exceptional way.

Or does the fragment speak out of an experience of thinking which has already weighed every step? Might Heraclitus' question only be saying that evidently there is no way possible for the relation of the world fire to gods and men to be other than this: gods and men belong in the lighting not only as lighted and viewed, but also as invisible, bringing the lighting with them in their own way, preserving it and handing it down in its endurance?


Martin Heidegger (GA 7) Aletheia (Heraclitus, Fragment 16)