The Holy of Holies: 
On the Constituents of Emptiness 

If God is the Absolute, the profoundly not nothing, then Martin Heidegger - in his essay "What is Metaphysics?" - may have come up with the opposite of God, what he calls "the Nothing."

Emptiness can be a creative force: The universe begins, in the first lines of Genesis, with a "void." (Although how precisely the Absolute might interact with such an absence is, Heidegger suggests, a difficult ontological question; what standing Heidegger himself might have in a discussion of Jewish texts, given his political history, is itself a difficult ethical question.) A new kind of Christianity is created, it might be said, with the marvelous discovery, made by Mary Magdalene, that Jesus' burial tomb is empty. The absence of representations of God, the absence even of God - these emptinesses, too, can be fertile. Heidegger, for his part, sees all Being as being dependent upon the Nothing: "Being means: being held out into the Nothing."

Heidegger is not free of the temple builder's impulse to "set apart." He can't resist distinguishing the apprehension of this Nothing from what he calls "the public superficies of existence"; "the "Oh, yes" and the "Oh, no" of men of affairs"; "the comfortable enjoyment of tranquilized bustle." It is as if he, too, wants to escape from the profane into a private, inaccessible, sanctified room.

However, if there is a Holy of Holies at the heart of Heidegger's philosophy - a place where we might contemplate this candidate for anointment as the opposite of God - it would not be exactly empty or, more precisely, it would not contain the emptiness that functions as "negation." Instead, it would be a place of "anxiety" - not an anxiety based on a specific fear, Heidegger explains, but on a generalized feeling of being "ill at ease." It would be a sanctuary filled with "nihilation."

Perhaps that is similar to a sanctuary filled with Koheleth's vapor.