That is, while the clearing (ἀλήθεια-1) enables the meaningful presence of things (ἀλήθεια-2), it itself remains intrinsically undisclosed or “hidden”—unknowable in its why and wherefore. There is nothing mystical about this, and one is not talking about being “concealing itself” as if it possessed some weird kind of agency. We should avoid the hypostasization and quasi-personalization of the clearing that insinuates itself into Heideggerian discourse via the faux reflexive: “The clearing hides itself.”143 In this case, verb forms like sich entziehen and sich verbergen are to be read as “The clearing is withdrawn, is hidden” instead of “The clearing ups and hides itself.” (Compare etwas zeigt sich: something shows up vs. “shows itself.”)144 In any case, this text from the 1930 lecture records Heidegger’s breakthrough into his later work. We may mark it with the formula “ἀλήθεια-1 = λήθη-1”: the clearing, as the basis for the disclosure of everything meaningful, is itself intrinsically hidden. This is the ur-insight, the founding vision that drove all Heidegger’s work, early and late. To adapt the words of William J. Richardson, it is “the living center of Ur-Heidegger.”145
From something he said in 1946, it would seem this insight dawned on Heidegger in the 1920s and yet took some years to mature. In his “Letter on Humanism” he calls this insight the “fundamental experience”146 that he tried (but failed) to work out in Being and Time. In “Letter on Humanism” he calls it an experience of Seinsvergessenheit, a term that has two distinct meanings. (1) In its primary and proper sense Seinsvergessenheit refers to the intrinsic hiddenness of the clearing. (2) This hiddenness is the reason why the clearing is mostly overlooked and forgotten in metaphysics—and this latter is Seinsvergessenheit in its secondary and derived sense. However, in both of these senses, the term is a misnomer. Being is always the being of things, and such being is not intrinsically concealed; rather, it is quite knowable, and has long been the focus of metaphysics. Rather, what is intrinsically hidden, and therefore has been forgotten, is the appropriated clearing. In “Letter on Humanism” Heidegger is referring to the hiddenness of the clearing (λήθη-1) as his “fundamental experience,” and he shows as much when he glosses that phrase with “Vergessenheit—Λήθη—concealment—withdrawal—non-appearance-of- appropriation = appropriation.”147 This was the insight that Heidegger’s
143. Or even “the hiddenness hides itself” as at GA 6:2: 319.1–2 = 214.8: “diese Verborgenheit sich in sich selbst verbirgt.” The meaning here is: the clearing is intrinsically hidden.
144. See also “sich ausnehmen” at: GA 66: 340.13–14 = 303.18–19.
145. Richardson, Heidegger, 640.28–29.
146. GA 9: 328.11 = 250.10: Grunderfahrung.
147. GA 9: 328.11 note d = 250.10 note d: “Vergessenheit—Λήθη—Verbergung—Entzug—Enteignis: Ereignis.” The usual translation of the neologism “Enteignis” as “expropriation” makes no sense. The context shows that Enteignis is the hiddenness (or “withdrawal”) of Ereignis and thus is equivalent to λήθη-1.