RCR – Nihilism 2


The wind in the trees. Is it the trees or the wind that moves? Only our minds? But even Hui-neng is not there as Wumen expresses poetically,

Wind, flag, mind moves,
The same understanding.
When the mouth opens
All are wrong.

I open my mouth to say only this; Nihilism is.

We look out on the world, safely harboured, and see the writ of humankind inscribed upon the face of the earth. What greater expression of the semi-divine status of our God-given reason, than the view of this globe from space, a billion lights illuminating the dark!

But even a billion lights soon fade, even a billion suns, in the boundless tracts of darkness.

In clinging to this shard of light, we also hide from the darkness, allowing it to grow in the shadows where we dare not look. Fear blinds us, obscuring love and we hope for reason when in our hearts we know it is desire that guides our way – Eros precedes Logos.

We will consume the earth before questioning the darkness in our hearts.

We prefer to will destruction than to not will at all. Nihilism is this moment, this will to nothing.

It was Jacobi in a letter to Herder who first used the term, Nihilism. He concluded that our choice was either ‘God or nothing’! If we believe Nietzsche’s madman from Zarathustra, then ‘God is dead and we have killed him’. Then, given the choice of Jacobi, we are left with nothing.

Nihilism is fulfilled in this moment because we feel only the absence of God – Holderlin expresses this well as a ‘destitute time’. But Nihilism is only the preception of the negation of being. There is yet the possibility of the negation of the negation – again expressed well by Holderlin as ‘Where the danger grows, so grows the saving power’.

Why Nihilism? It is simply one way to express this moment that faces us today. If we realise that the nothingness implied by Nihilism, the human will to will nothing, if continued unchecked, will complete the work of the destruction of life on earth; if we see the suffering caused to the world by the poverty of this preception of life, there is, curiously, a saving power granted.

Nihilism can be nihilated, but only if we have the sincerity to look upon the suffering of the earth without turning away.

An early waking vision
In these last days
You call it, ‘Living in the presence of God’
Perhaps, but the name ‘God’ is absence
He is nowhere to be found.

What can we know of a transcendent God?
You say, ‘God is to be found in His Creation’
Perhaps, but He is not His Creation
And yet all this still is
Regardless of all talk of God.

Far better to drop all names
Of God and things
Rather open up to it all
To learn what is hardest
Being present before the mystery.

The mystery is all this
Chopping wood carrying water
Eating sleeping drinking
Hanging washing on the line
Then the world begins to shine.


About Jamie Nicol

Living in the forested hills of Catalonia, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Zen teacher, recovering philosopher, small-scale natural farmer. Writing just what comes.
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