Category Archives: Eugen Herrigel

It

If the painter or poet, the actor or archer, were asked how to express in a word what it is that gives life and breath to all living things, what sustains them in the “undancing dance” of coming-to-be and passing away, he would probably answer: “It.” In all action and non-action, “It” is there by not being there. This is a clumsy but perhaps the closest description of what it is whose form is not this and not that, but whose hidden essence is active in all forms that are.

– Eugen Herrigel, The Method of Zen (trans. Hull)

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The Master reads philosophy

The Master must have felt what was going on in my mind. He had, so Mr Komachiya told me later, tried to work through a Japanese introduction to philosophy in order to find out how he could help me from a side I already knew. But in the end he had laid down the book with a cross face, remarking that he could now understand that a person who interested himself in such things would naturally find the art of archery uncommonly difficult.

— Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery (trans. R.F.C. Hull)

The aimer and the aim

Should one ask, from this standpoint, how the Japanese Masters understand this contest of the archer with himself, and how they describe it, their answer would sound enigmatic in the extreme. For them the contest consists in the archer aiming at himself and yet not at himself, in hitting himself and yet not himself, and thus becoming simultaneously the aimer and the aim, the hitter and the hit. Or, to use some expressions which are nearer to the heart of the Masters, it is necessary for the archer to become, in spite of himself, an unmoved centre. Then comes the supreme and ultimate miracle: art becomes ‘artless’, shooting becomes not-shooting, a shooting without bow and arrow; the teacher becomes a pupil again, the Master a beginner, the end a beginning, and the beginning perfection.

— Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery (trans. R.F.C. Hull)

The seer and the seen

Because the illuminating vision does not inquire what meaning the ‘seen’ might have in relation to the seer, it permits each existent to be its true self, according to its origin. It grasps things as they are ‘meant to be’. For to the degree that their formless origin is inaccessible and inconceivable, things in their concrete forms become the more accessible to us. Bathed in the light of their origin, they themselves are illuminated. The more mysterious their ground, the more revealingly do they stand before us. The more silent they are about the ultimate questions, the less silent they are about themselves. This enables the visionary to let them go their own way without saddling them with his own preoccupations. Far from taking them as mere manifestations of a primal Ground, which at this state is inaccessible and incomprehensible, he lets each thing be itself. […] Occasionally he can intensify this contact to the point of complete union. It then seems to him that things do not come to him in his vision, but that they come to themselves, and that only then do they attain full reality, as if Being were beholding itself in everything that is, as if it embraced and sustained the process of seeing. He then no longer feels himself as the subjective pole, confronted by things as objects; he feels Being as the one pole, of an essentially inconceivable nature, and himself, together with everything that happens, as the other pole of concrete existence, which, like himself, proceeds from the origin.

— Eugen Herrigel, The Method of Zen (trans. R.F.C. Hull)

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