SPIEGEL: Well, we have to say that indeed we prefer to be here, and in our age we surely will not have to leave for elsewhere. But who knows if man is determined to be upon this earth? It is thinkable that man has absolutely no determination at all. After all, one might see it to be one of man's possibilities that he reach out from this earth toward other planets. We have by no means come that far, of course-but where is it written that he has his place here?

Heidegger: As far as my own orientation goes, in any case, I know that, according to our human experience and history, everything essential and of great magnitude has arisen only out of the fact that man had a home and was rooted in a tradition. Contemporary literature, for example, is largely destructive.

SPIEGEL: The word "destructive" in this case is bothersome, especially insofar as, thanks to you and your philosophy, the word has been given a comprehensive context of meaning that is nihilistic [in tone]. It is jarring to hear the word "destructive" used with regard to literature, which apparently you are able to see-or are compelled to see-as completely a part of this nihilism.

Heidegger: Let me say that the literature I have in mind is not nihilistic in the sense that I give to that word.

SPIEGEL: Obviously, you see a world movement-this is the way you, too, have expressed it-that either is bringing about an absolutely technical state or has done so already.

Heidegger: That's right.

SPIEGEL: Fine. Now the question naturally arises: Can the individual man in any way still influence this web of fateful circumstance? Or, indeed, can philosophy influence it? Or can both together influence it, insofar as philosophy guides the individual, or several individuals, to a determined action?

Heidegger: If I may answer briefly, and perhaps clumsily, but after long reflection: philosophy will be unable to effect any immediate change in the current state of the world. This is true not only of philosophy but of all purely human reflection and endeavor. Only a god can save us. The only possibility available to us is that by thinking and poetizing we prepare a readiness for the appearance of a god, or for the absence of a god in [our] decline, insofar as in view of the absent god we are in a state of decline.27

SPIEGEL: Is there a correlation between your thinking and the emergence of this god? Is there here in your view a causal connection? Do you feel that we can bring a god forth by our thinking?

Heidegger: We can not bring him forth by our thinking. At best we can awaken a readiness to wait [for him].

SPIEGEL: But can we help?

Heidegger: The first help might be the readying of this readiness. It is not


Martin Heidegger (GA 16) “Only a God Can Save Us”: The Spiegel Interview (1966) - Heidegger the Man and the Thinker