Monday, February 29, 2016

You Must Listen

Speech Meditation One

The speech that is being spoken now is crippled. A sick man who limps.  It is a half-full speech, an imitation speech. Men speak but they do not know why they speak. Rather, it is from habit.  They speak because it is customary to speak, to have a gripe or a complaint or an opinion or because they want to shake off the feeling of duty, obligation, unrelieved feelings. Speech runs everywhere, it runs errands, it compares things, it says what, why, how many, how often. Sometimes it even sings songs.

But never-- almost never, does a man stand upright by his speech and  say: "This word has made me. I have spoken. And now I must listen."
Perhaps only those who keep on  making mistakes in speech -- I don't mean grammar or spelling, I mean they say things that nobody want to hear, things that nobody will credit them for,  they say things that people would rather shun and avoid -- perhaps only those will fully stand alongside their speech and  take the blows that such speech inevitably elicits.
Man is formed for speech, formed by speech. But when he no longer forms his speech he begin to lose the outline of his humanity.  He kills the father. 
Forming speech, formal speech, alone, cannot save humanity. But its absence threatens  humanity with liquefaction, a merging with matter. It is as if the belly of humanity yawned, glistening, watching itself crawling away into the slime.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

On the Necessity of Formal Speech

In his The Origin of Speech, Rosenstock-Huessy took the question of language out of the province of linguistics and put it squarely in the lap of history—of time, of community-building, of the founding of cities, nations, institutions. Speech is formative, he says, and formal speech is the energy behind the founding of nations, constitutions, cities. It can transform a situation of speechlessness – of  chaos, disorder, trouble, muteness, paralysis, confusion – into a new path to the future. Such speech restores us to ourselves. It renews our faith. It gives us hope. Words matter for the reason that they are neither “natural” nor “instinctive.” If speech were purely an “instinct,” there would never be an elegy, a rite, a liturgy, an initiation. It is thanks to the power of formal speech that man liberates himself from nature and commemorates the important stages of his life: death, birth, baptism, marriage, initiation, commencements, memorials. 

I have been aware of the claims of formal speech for many years, in connection with the writing of poetry. Formal poetry, like formal speech in general, has become nearly extinct. Along with the extinction of poetic form has comes a massive increase in “subjectivist” or “personalist” poetry. Why should there be a correlation between the disappearance of strict form and the rise of a poetry which seems to have less and less to do with public events, history, shared experiences and social facts?  

The answer: because informal speech depends upon formal speech. If there is a deficit of formal speech in society, that would mean that people, missing the public, shared dimension of life, are thrown back into themselves. Issues relating to public memory, social discipline, historical continuity, national community—all of these would be affected by the decline of what used to be known as public speaking.   “We must forget our informal habits when we wish to understand the sublimity, elation, exultation, gravity and precariousness which it takes to speak formally,” says Rosenstock. Such speaking demands risk.  But in a  time when  slogans, clich├ęs, jokes, advertisement ditties, and casual and trivial speech is so prevalent, what’s the risk? “Let it all hang out” and “anything goes” and “whatever”  make a more measured and thoughtful approach seem  antiquated and irrelevant.   

The draining-away of formal speech can be seen in a small example. A friend of mine, a priest, remarked to me that he had called a restaurant to order a pizza. He placed the order and thanked the fellow, who answered, “No problem.” We can ask: how is “no problem”  a substitute for “You’re welcome”? As an alternate, it is confusing, for why would there be any difficulty about ordering a pizza from a pizza restaurant? Wouldn’t one assume that taking orders from customers would be the primary desire of the pizza restaurant?  This incident is a good illustration of Rosenstock’s contention that informal speech depends upon formal speech. “No problem” descended from “You’re welcome”—though the line of descent, as we have said, is unclear, and the meaning, at least in this case,  self-contradictory. But, as Rosenstock put it, “It’s a great day!” depends upon “The heavens declare the glory of God.”  And not the other way around.  

How is formal language called forth? Rosenstock examines pre-linguistic situations that demand to become articulate. “We shall have a science of speech when we have penetrated the hell of non-speech,” he says. And: “…new speech is not created by thinkers or poets but by great and massive political calamities and religious upheavals.” Always, he brings us back to the role of speech in forging a tribe, a nation, a political constitution.  Mankind exists under the perpetual threat of war, crisis, decay and revolution. The breakdown of speech, the inadequacy of speech, the cessation of speech: all of these things portend social upheaval. Faith and credit can only be restored when men stand by their words and act accordingly.  

Some people are beginning to notice that we are not tending to the traditions which the formal language of America’s founding brought into being.  In “A Colossal Wreck: The State of our Presidential Politics,”  DwightLongenecker writes—“Our nation…is broken, battered, and weather-beaten. Why? … if we do not preserve what is best from the past we should not be surprised if the future is even worse. For the better part of the past half-century we have demolished and distorted the morality, the law, the principles, and the faith of our fathers. Now the past being abandoned and broken, the present is our curse.”  

It might be argued, by some, “Well, you are just talking words.” When something is just words, we are not talking about transformative speech. Speech has the power to change us when we have the power to mean what we say and stand by our words and act according to them.  In one of his most beautiful statements,  Rosenstock wrote—“Speech was established to call forth life.”  This is the greater life into which we are born, or rather, initiated.   Rosenstock stresses that the facts of prehistory and anthropology  agree that speech served the function of  bridging the span between the death of one generation and the initiation of the next.  Speech told of predecessors, appointed successors, and  told the story of the tribe. Speech brought man into time, delivering him from being altogether bound to the present moment. Speech is not “natural” in the sense that: the grave = the cradle =  the coffin (e.g. of initiation) =  the altar (e.g. of worship).   Burial, birth, tomb, ritual: all become revealed  through the time-processes of speech. We are human beings because we have knowledge of our predecessors. To the extent that we are willing to become successors, we can play our part in passing on the culture. 

Finally – last but not least – Rosenstock draws attention to the link between formal  speech, the founding and sustenance of the tribal/political community, and what we call “common sense.” Common sense, he says, is what is “precipitated” out of the high speech or “super-sense” of the community. This is a remarkable insight, simple and compelling like his original distinction between formal and informal speech. Truly, the Rosenstockian “speech-thinking” becomes the key to a new sociology, one no longer prone to abstractions, and verifiable and experiential in its nearness and aptness.  For the insight concerning common sense rings true.  One would expect in a frayed community like the United States, that various forms of unbalance, bizarre behaviors,  arbitrary crazes, and the like, would increase.  One could call these kinds of actions a-temporal: they lack the creativity of being in a line of predecessors and successors. It is this breakage in the fabric of historical consciousness which seems so characteristic of life in our “advanced” nation.

But sadly, sometimes it seems that all that’s advancing is the decay.

                                                                  * * * 

Quite amazing, all these insights in just the first forty pages or so of The Origin of Speech.
I intend to go through this book step by step, and will be reporting on my responses in this blog.




Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Autobiographical Restart

(Originally posted November 26, 2014, on the original "Speech-Singer" website, which has been discontinued. I have renewed the Speech Singer site as a place for poetry. I have added the Comments from the original post to this essay.

I have come to the "speech-thinking"  of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy (1888-1973)  after a long sojourn in other realms, and I want to describe some of these other realms, which continue to be a part of my life. The difference now is that I look at them with the new understandings I have gained through the studying the writings of this remarkable thinker and teacher.  I am now in the process of integrating these insights and elaborating what I have learned into my own version of the Rosenstock work, which I call “speech-singing.” It fits for me not only because I like to sing and do it a lot, but more precisely when and how this singing came to play a part of my life.
My biography begins in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1947. I am grateful for having grown up in Birmingham during the civil rights era. It forms an important part of my book, Stewards of History (Rose Dog Books, 2011). Writing that book was, I felt, my spiritual task. I tell the story of how I came to write it in the book, but it was only later that I understood that task as an imperative of my life. Once I fulfilled it, I could sing. This is what happened.
My Southern background is an important strand of my destiny, and I have often quoted the old saying—“American by birth, Southern by grace of God.” Tracing the spiritual heritage of the South was another theme of my book. A whole history, tradition, and architecture of the Old South, and the social duties incumbent upon this aristocratic tradition, came through my grandparents. This heritage was complicated and challenged by the liberalism of my father, who had graduated from Harvard (1930) and embraced the new gospel of racial equality that was stirring in the South in those days.
I tell  this story in Stewards of History. I did not receive much religious or spiritual instruction from my parents or my environment. My parents went to the Unitarian Church and my father disclaimed any relationship with “Christian supernaturalism.” Yet on a heart level he would speak feelingly of Jesus, and give the blessing at the family dinner table with  simple and genuine conviction.
We are all bundles of contradictions. My father’s one drop of Christianity was sufficient, apparently,  to impel me, years later, into anthroposophy (1972) and still, even later (2006) into Catholicism.
Concerning the first of these: Anthroposophy, or Spiritual Science, is the name given to  the work of
Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) and claims to be a path from the spiritual in man to the spiritual in the universe. Steiner believed in the centrality of Jesus Christ and left a creative legacy in many fields, especially education, arts, and agriculture. Rosenstock-Huessy met Rudolf Steiner in 1919. According to Wayne Cristaudo, who wrote me that  
“Rosenstock-Huessy has a few pages on Steiner in Die Hochzeit des Kriegs und der Revolution  (The Wedding of War and Revolution) – perhaps the key sentence is : ‘he is still only a man of spirit/ mind (Geistesmensch)’ and his spirit is a  German/ Goethean  one, a little later he writes for Steiner ‘the more universal one is, the more German’ .  He also says  ‘Steiner is himself a symptom of the disease he wishes to cure.’” [From an email to CJ, Nov. 11, 2014] 
Rosenstock seized upon the chief flaw in Anthroposophy, which is, to my mind, heavy philosophical  Idealism and a tendency to a  lofty and inflated speech that lacks concrete and relational quality. Concerning the German Idealism tradition in philosophy, Rudolf Steiner once remarked, in his Autobiography possibly, although I don’t recall the source—that when he was starting out his mission he was ‘approached’ by an Initiate who told him to cast his teachings in the form of philosophical idealism. Statements of this kind occur frequently in Rudolf Steiner’s works. The claim is made that an initiate, or Higher Being, or member of the Angelic Hierarchies, suggested or dictated a course of action. This makes any argument about it or questioning very difficult. But the fact that there were other philosophical traditions in Germany at the time is attested by the work of Rosenstock-Huessy. And as for casting one’s spiritual research in that form, I can only paraphrase that wonderful and lucid Spaniard, Ortega y Gasset, himself a student of German philosophy of many years’ standing, when he said the main task of philosophy in the 20th century was the overcoming of idealism.
Despite these flaws of Anthroposophy, I appreciated Rudolf Steiner’s books and lectures about Christianity, which drew me towards a study of the Bible and the Gospels. I published a book on “Biblical epistemology,” actually a study of Genesis, in 2000—Consecrated Venom: The Serpent and the Tree of Knowledge.  In that book I said that there were “two streams” of human development, the genealogical and the metaphysical. We need two legs to walk and both of these streams are inherent and necessary to our life—biology and biography. The genealogical stream is the biological task, the inheritance, which is often intermingled with spiritual and metaphysical elements. My “genealogical” task was fulfilled through my marriage with a man I had met in the Waldorf School movement, a fellow-student of the work of Rudolf Steiner. We became the parents of two wonderful sons. My “metaphysical” task seems to have been the writing of Stewards of History, which was the response to an imperative. Indeed, this interchange between genealogy and metaphysics is characteristic of our ability to walk upright, where the two legs ultimately fuse into the single trunk.
The 'two legs’ of human walking give me an entry point to approach  the Rosenstock idea of the  “Cross of Reality,” which he considered to be the basic paradigm of grammatical man and  which he believed could form the basis for a new sociology.  In my terms,“genealogy” would refer to the past (narrative, narrational), and “metaphysics” the future (imperative).  Rosenstock’s  diagram of the Cross of Reality adds to the “spatial” dimensions of subject-object the temporal dimensions of past- future

In his book Practical Knowledge of the Soul, Rosenstock comments that occult and idealist philosophies that posit “mind” as the creative force of the universe “…recognize no ethical constraints as a necessity."   It was this lack in Steiner’s philosophy which was, for me, a continual vexation—a word, I like to think, that carries more soul-force than “objection.” In any case, I objected to it. That, and the need to affirm a Christian community, presence and ritual in my life eventually led me to the Catholic Church. 

I should mention, too, that Anthroposophy has a parallel Christian movement, the Christian Community,  which came about when some Lutheran minister approached Steiner with questions about the renewal of Christianity. The Christian Community Press, Floris Books, published my book on Genesis, and I was inspired by several books on Christianity by Emil Bock notably his The Three Years: The Life of Christ Between Baptism and Ascension and The Genesis of History. Our sons were baptized in the Christian Community. Nevertheless, where worship is concerned, I remain a conservative and traditionalist at heart, and believe that the strength, broad numbers and historical endurance of Catholicism is essential in order to effect some kind of Christian leverage upon society. 

What is essential is to maintain a vital community over time. Certainly Catholicism has been historically tempted by political power, and never more than in the present day, when so-called “free market neoliberalism” has lured many Catholics into betraying the social and economic teachings of the Church. That, and the warmongering neoconservatives and the  ultra-left sexual liberationists—these groups have nearly done in the Church. But I believe it holds the secret of death and resurrection still. I see no other force in society with even a hope of restraining a State that has lost all restraint and constitutionalism. 

So I entered the Catholic church in 2006, maybe because, in moving to Philadelphia from Birmingham in 2002, I came to a city that yet possessed something of a residual Catholic culture. When I first moved here, I was occupied by Quakerism, that archetypal symbol of Philadelphia. But I left when I realized that Quakerism, while it might be good for adults, did not seem able to pass on a culture to the children. The question of the passing on of the culture was foremost in my mind in those days, when I still had some hopes of the paleoconservative wing of the Republican party—anti-war, anti-Empire, anti-abortion, etc. Alas, like so many other hopes, paleoconservatism died when Russell Kirk died.  His clear-sighted warnings about excessive American involvement with Israel have been swept under the rug by the people today who consider themselves ‘conservative.’ Sometimes, these are the most rabid Zionists.

So here I am: knocking at the door of Rosenstock-Huessy’s legacy, the community that stands to guard and extend his work, and his insights. I realize that, on some issues, I am not in agreement with Rosenstock-Huessy or some of his followers. So my motto might be:
I go my own way, but I come to you. It expresses, to me, the need for unconditional liberty of thought along with the equally absolute need for community and trust and love.

Additional Notes:
The Cross of Reality: Clinton Gardner sums up very eloquently the significance of the Rosenstockian Cross of Reality: “…it is the method of speech that is made visible  on the Cross of Reality. Indeed, that cross is best understood as a dynamic model of just how speech works in us. It shows us that we live in an infinitely richer realm than that described to us by natural science or by most traditional theology. We are neither the cold observers of the world outside us nor the faithful children of a God above. Instead, we live at the heart of reality. We are the agents for the evolution as well as the revolution of matter and spirit…spirit is audible; it is the higher kind of human speech. And such speech does not have an infinite variety of forms. . . there are only four basic kinds of speech, and they move us through the four stages of any significant experience: Imperative…Subjective…Narrative…Objective… Those four stages of any memorable experience are universal and inevitable for all of us. As we move through them, we are conjugated into those four different grammatical persons: thou (you), I, we, he or she.” (Beyond Belief: Discovering Christianity’s New Paradigm, White River Press, 2008, pp. 57-58.

Question: Why is the overcoming of philosophical idealism important? Part of the problem is the word ‘ideal’ means not only ‘pertaining to ideas, thinking’ but also ‘best’ or ‘of highest quality.’ This bias in our language is very telling, suggesting that the world of thinking and ideas is better than the living and actual world. Idealism tends to equate Reality with thinking. Or as Ortega y Gasset puts it, in his What Is Philosophy?(1960)---“In the idealist thesis the ‘I,’ the self, the subject, swallows the outside world, In this process of ingurgitation the self has swollen. The idealist self has become a tumor; we must operate on it…[For] idealism has reached the point where it smothers the sources of vital energies and weakens the springs of living…[it is] an insistent pedagogue trying to make it quite clear to us that to live spontaneously was to suffer an error, an optical illusion.” This last sentence perfectly describes many anthroposophists I have known. I met one of them at a conference. He came whistling up the road, and later apologized for his “spontaneous” act.
A little thinking is sufficient to perceive what unlimited tyranny is wielded by  what may first appear clothed in the most innocent philosophy. At the very least it tends to stifle feelings of gratitude for nature and the institutions of society as they have existed and come down to us. So far, the environmental movement has pushed back against some of the assumptions which give fuel to the mania of redesigning organisms and natural systems.  But society and social customs remain firmly in the grip of those who would abolish the customs and constraints of manners and law in the name of “liberty.” It is good to recall Edmund Burke’s warning against such do-gooders (virtue-crusaders): “The effect of liberty to individuals is, that they may do what they please: We ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations, which may be soon turned into complaints.” (Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790, p. 91)


And....Ortega’s comment that “time is quite literally a task, a mission, an innovation,” is quite close to Rosenstock’s imperative. Thus “the superseding of idealism is the great intellectual task, the high historic mission of our era, the ‘theme of our time.’ …To try to move beyond idealism is by no means a frivolous idea; on the contrary it is to accept the problem of our time, to accept our destiny.” 

Finally, a Latin motto! Friends of ERH may apply to Edward Casey for an appropriate translation, should they come up with a suitable personal motto. I am grateful now to have a Latin motto for my crest: Viam propriam prosequar sed ad vos versus—‘I go my own way, but I come to you!’

Additional Postscript (February 26, 2016) Rosenstock-Huessy came to the United States from Germany in 1933. He had a teaching post at Harvard. That formidable institution didn't know what to make of the man-- someone who believed in the power of God in history! What an outrage to secular sensibility. They moved him from philosophy or sociology, or whatever he was hired to teach,  into Theology. In any case, he didn't stay long.  Rosenstock left Harvard after two years, having gained an appointment at Dartmouth where he had a long and distinguished career.  

My father graduated from Harvard in 1930. What if he had encountered Eugen Rosenstock back in his Harvard years?  They only missed being there at the same time by a few years. What if, in some philosophy class,  he had encountered Rosenstock's vital Christianity, about the capacity to step into a new future? Would it have made a difference to the later aloneness he felt as the civil rights movement unfolded in Birmingham---and the aftermath of all that, which left him even more isolated and self-doubting?

 "What-if" stories can remind us that history, biography, the course of events are, after all, human creations. I sometimes think that one's sense of "what-is"-- the realistic attitude--can best be developed by also cultivating "What-if"--the courage to imagine, to cherish uncommon vision.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Grammar of Morality


It is always an interesting exercise to read things written in the world which in some manner either anticipate  Rosenstock’s grammatical perspective, or could be made immensely more fruitful by the study of same. Philip Gorski, a professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at Yale, has published a review, “Where do morals come from?” -- the book, by Webb Keane,  is entitled Ethical Life: Its Natural and Social History (Princeton, 2015).  The book argues that “the basic structures of human interaction” provide a variety of what he calls “ethical affordances.” This is a fancy term for 2nd and 3rd person perspectives. In other words, grammatical language provides the context for two or more persons to engage in “joint attention,” that is, share interest and activity in something.  “As a linguistic anthropologist, Keane is especially interested in the ethical affordances created by human language,” comments Gorski. Language, he thinks, “probably first evolved as a means of coordinating action, rather than labeling things.”
So far so good. At least we are in the realm of action and social relations. But then academic-speak takes over when Keane “puts particular stress on abstraction and generalization,”  a capacity which can be used “to formulate rules, maxims and codes of behavior.” 

Somehow it is hard for me to picture our cave-man ancestors sitting around formulating rules and codes of behavior.  And  there is nothing that approaches Rosenstock’s striking distinction between formal and informal language, which in my view is the sine que non of any further progress in the field of language. Apparently Keane does acknowledge that most of our repertory of moral response is shaped by emotions, gestures, rituals, etc.  But then these concessions to reality are stated, in Gorski’s review, in the context of a politically-correct discussion of homosexuality and feminism. It seems almost impossible nowadays to escape this kind of harangue disguised as academic reporting. It is especially unfortunate because Gorski’s review, and what I gather of Keane’s book as well, both contain many potential links to Rosenstock’s great insights on language and culture, as described in his book The Origin of Speech.  

The question of reductionism is also hard to avoid. Keane has an interesting fourfold-theory of society, which Gorski describes as:
Gorski comments that “each emerges out of the other.” But then he appears to contradict this, when he says that “contra the current rage for reduction, in which all action is bottom-up, Keane assumes that higher levels can exert ‘downward causation’ on lower ones.”  But how is this possible, if all levels emerge from the lowest one? 
And, dear Reader, what, pray, is once more placed before our minds as an example?  I hate to say it, but it is feminism.  How I amaze, being such an anti-feminist female. Nevertheless I would argue that feminism has virtually nothing to do with ethical transformation, being the result of the propaganda of cultural Marxism, and therefore representing cultural regress. More precisely, to the extent that feminism was a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, which in effect destroyed the home and women's important economic role, it was both needed and understandable. But modern feminism has long since lost its bearings of home and family. It became a pawn in the hands of cultural Marxism--ironically to the furtherance of capitalism and the economization of all of society.
(An aside to the reader: my anti-feminism is based upon my perception that feminism is actually anti-woman, not to mention anti-male and anti-family. It is an ideology for atoms, not for human beings. I am inclined to agree with Ferdinand Lundberg’s remark, in his  Modern Woman: The Lost Sex, that “Psychologically, feminism had a single objective: the achievement of maleness by the female, or the nearest possible approach to it.”  I am a disciple of strong, gentle and confident womanhood. I make this detour for the sake of attempting to mollify the two academic gentlemen, since I would like them both to know of my (generally positive) response to Keane’s book and Gorski’s  review of it.)  

Another example of Keane’s almost-hitting-the-Rosenstockian-target can be found in his “three moments” of the ethical life: “I,” “thou,” and “me.”  Gorski describes these three moments as follows: 

“The ‘I’ moment is unthinking action where consciousness is submerged in doing. The ‘thou’ moment is empathic projection where ego imagines the perspectives of alter. And the ‘me’ moment is critical observation of the self where ego looks at herself through eyes of the generalized other. Perhaps we should also add a fourth moment, a historical moment in which ego considers past actions, interactions, and selves as a prelude to further action. We could call that ‘we.’”  

Ah—the Cross of Reality!—almost. But one is tempted to say that a miss is a good as a mile. Modern self-centeredness intrudes in the doubling of the first person, and there is no inkling of the imperative, the true significance of ‘thou’ or ‘you,’ and indeed the engine and motive-force of all action.  But there is, nevertheless, the seed of the Cross of Reality struggling out of this embryonic confusion, and that much is in itself remarkable.


Note:  see essay, “Speech as Our Matrix: Discovering the Cross of Reality,” by Clinton C. Gardner, to be posted to this blog with the permission of Mr. Gardner. This essay is an excellent introduction to the work of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy. A brief excerpt from Mr. Gardner's essay: 

“. . . the Cross of Reality is not some elaborate metaphysical concept but simply a commonsense way to interpret any experience. In fact, a person who uses common sense already interprets his or her life and history this way, from the four perspectives that the cross shows us. In other words, the cross simply codifies common sense. Unfortunately, huge numbers of people, probably the great majority—be they ideologues, fascists, or communists (all stuck on the “glorious future” front), fundamentalists (stuck on the past front), sentimentalists and pietists (stuck on the subjective front), or even rationalists (stuck on the objective front)—are not guided by common sense.”

Postscript February 22, 2016

I sent email notification of this piece to both Professor Gorski and Professor Keane. Professor Keane sent me back a “Thank you.” I appreciated hearing from him and I began to think that my little piece had done his book an injustice, and I wrote him back

“–Dear Mr. Keane, It was nice of you to write. I did not do justice to your book at all. I ask you to forgive my half-assed effort. I will want to read your book as I believe it contains genuine insights. Kind regards …”

I can see how my reaction against feminism prejudiced my view of his book. Yet in re-reading Gorski’s review,  I see that Gorski cites Keane himself who deployed the model of “feminist consciousness-raising” to describe ethical transformation. In that sense, if I objected to feminism, I objected to something the author of the book himself was promoting. 

We need a new concept for “time decay.” Something like this is used in the vocabulary of atomic explosion, fission, “half-life.” Time decay might be thought of as the disparity between the justification for a creed or an ideology and its lapse into toxic decay. There was a justification for a woman’s movement as a result of the Industrial Revolution, when the home was stripped of its economic function. Am I saying that women belong in the home? Not at all. There was a need for creative thinking about work outside the home, but in such a way to maintain the roles of parents and families. None of this “social thinking” was done. The home was wrecked, children were de-parented or became wards of the state. Are not World Wars one and two the fruit of this social chaos—that and other things?
Quite possibly.[1] 

No doubt I could have done better.  So it was good I apologized. Nevertheless, my reaction had something  good about it as well.  Toxic things need to be fumigated. And there is no good holding on to them when their time is expired. The ability to act and react decisively is given to those for whom “the time presses” –those who perceive the nature of the crisis in which we live.




[1] Rosenstock put the matter somewhat differently in his Out of Revolution (1938) where he speaks of the incoherence of modern knowledge-- history, nature, physics, theology-- "nothing but a breakdown of civilization could be expected from a kingdom so terribly divided against itself.'  Elsewhere, more cogently to my point, he says: "Capitalism can make profits only so long as it can escape the cost of reproducing the political and social order." It is this "reproduction" of the social order that had been the especial province of women, and which modern women have abandoned largely thanks to feminism.

Speech As Our Matrix (Parts 1 - 2)

Reprinted to this blog with the permission of Mr. Gardner. There may be some slight editing for space considerations.



Discovering the Cross of Reality


Clinton C. Gardner



Beloved by many generations of Dartmouth students, who recorded and published his lectures, and also kept his books in print, the social philosopher Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy (1888-1973), has yet to be welcomed by the academic establishment. He himself predicted that it would be 30 years or more, after his death, before this might occur. I have often thought of him as a latter-day Kierkegaard (1813-1855), who was “discovered” and celebrated as the father of existentialism in the 1920s, some 70 years after his death.
Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy (1888-1973), has yet to be welcomed by the academic establishment. He himself predicted that it would be 30 years or more, after his death, before this might occur. I have often thought of him as a latter-day Kierkegaard (1813-1855), who was “discovered” and celebrated as the father of existentialism in the 1920s, some 70 years after his death.

This essay will introduce the reader to what I consider the heart of Rosenstock-Huessy’s work: his “discovery” of what he called “the Cross of Reality,” and the related disclosure that “spirit,” which has usually been thought of as ethereal, can now be recognized as our gift of speech.

Born into a Jewish banker’s family in Berlin, Rosenstock-Huessy became a Christian at age 18. Indeed, he became a remarkably-engaged Christian, as we shall see.

Martin Marty, the prominent US historian of religion, has long hailed Rosenstock-Huessy’s work. In a Christian Century book review, Marty described Rosenstock-Huessy as a thinker “ahead of his time,” one who managed to write about Christianity “without old-line appeal to transcendence.”

The poet W.H. Auden (1907-1973) wrote a foreword for one of Rosenstock-Huessy’s books, saying “I have read everything by him that I could lay my hands on,” and closed by citing Rosenstock-Huessy’s motto, Respondeo etsi mutabor (I respond although I will be changed), then adding, “Speaking for myself, I can only say that, by listening to Rosenstock-Huessy, I have been changed.”

The distinguished Jewish philosopher Martin Buber (1878-1965) wrote: “The historical nature of man is the aspect of reality about which we have been basically and emphatically instructed in the epoch of thought beginning with Hegel....Rosenstock-Huessy has concretized this teaching in so living a way as no other thinker before him has done.”

Other prominent thinkers who have admired Rosenstock-Huessy’s work include the theologians Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, and Harvey Cox, as well as the sociologist David Riesman and the social critic Lewis Mumford.

   A likely reason for Rosenstock-Huessy’s long-delayed recognition by academe is that his work bridged so many different disciplines. He was a social philosopher and sociologist, a historian and a religious thinker, yet a scholar whose longest book, Die Sprache des Menschengeschlechts (The Speech of Humankind) was on the origins and meaning of language. As if that were not enough, he described Academe as the enemy—and urged that it get out of its ivory tower. To do that, he suggested that higher education should incorporate a year of service within its four-year term. Finally, a likely reason for his obscurity is that his “new version of Christianity,” a Christianity that was this-worldly, even secular, kept intruding into his historical and sociological works.

In this essay I will attempt to explicate and applaud those intrusions—because they serve Rosenstock-Huessy’s  goal of presenting our reality “whole” again, before it was divided into the several realms of the hard sciences, the social sciences,  the humanities, and religion. In other words, I will show how he pursued his aim of “realigning” all our fields of knowledge—so that natural science would no longer seem their base, as it has seemed since Descartes (1596-1650).

 Specifically, I will describe what Rosenstock-Huessy called “the Cross of Reality,” an image which shows us how all our knowledge—from the most material of physics to the most spiritual of religion—can be seen as related and forming a whole. Thus, I will be challenging the current trend in intellectual life, in which knowledge has seemed to become increasingly fragmented. I will be arguing that our experience of speech is the glue which holds us together—and that this experience can be seen as the action of spirit in us, in both the secular and religious senses. In sum, speech is our matrix, and the Cross of Reality depicts that matrix.

As if that were not enough for a shortish essay I will endeavor to show how the Cross of Reality points us to a new method for the social sciences, a more universal method than the one disclosed, for the natural sciences, by Descartes and Galileo (1564-1642).  

Before I begin that task, I should introduce myself. I was one of those Dartmouth students who have worked to preserve Rosenstock-Huessy’s legacy. In fact, I have written introductions to two of his books, as well as three books about his work. With his blessing. I founded a little company, Argo Books, which published many of his unpublished manuscripts—and kept all his English works in print. From the outset, I operated Argo Books with the support of Rosenstock-Huessy’s distinguished friend Freya von Moltke.

The text which follows first saw the light of day at a June 2014 conference held at Renison University College, Waterloo, Ontario. Canada. Most of it was drawn from my several books on Rosenstock-Huessy’s work. As of October 2014, it still needs an appended section of notes.


Ever since he introduced the Cross of Reality, in his 1925 Soziologie, Rosenstock-Huessy has kept that image central to his varied works on history, society, and religion. It is important to note that this cross is not a religious image; it is not the Cross of Christ. Rosenstock-Huessy’s Dartmouth classes made clear that the Cross of Reality was grounded in our everyday experience of secular life. This is evident in my classroom note, from the spring of 1941, which follows:

Rosenstock-Huessy says we are all crucified in a Cross of Reality on which we have to face backward to the past, forward to the future, inward toward our selves, and outward toward the world. He brings this cross image to life, not as an abstract idea, not as his idea, but as a new model of the human reality, a model which he invites us to discover with him. When he diagrams the cross on a blackboard, he makes a horizontal line for its time axis, then a vertical line to represent the space axis. This visual depiction becomes an icon for all his students, an icon of our human predicament—and our potential.

Since each of us lives at the center of this cross, our lives are crucial, not only for ourselves but for all humankind. We are constantly torn between the need to be true to the achievements of past time and the need to respond to the new callings of the future. Similarly, on the space axis of our lives, we are constantly trying to relate our personal, subjective inner space to the objective demands of the outer world, the space around us.

     This model applies not only to each person but to any group, even to a nation.

   The Cross of Reality, showing that times are as important as spaces, corrects the scientific subject-object model of reality, the Cartesian model (cogito ergo sum), which is merely spatial, and enlarges on its limited method. All these relationships become clear when Rosenstock-Huessy diagrams the cross on the blackboard:  



      When the social sciences were born, through Auguste Comte (1798-1857), to make themselves respectable, they adopted the objective methodology of the natural sciences. Measurements and statistics became their tools, just as they had been for the natural sciences.  Rosenstock-Huessy does not suggest that the social sciences abandon measurements and statistics; rather that objectivity should become only one of the four ways we investigate any question that involves the human being in society. In other words, the Cross of Reality is a model that can be turned into a method for sociology—and all the human sciences     

      A few months after I wrote that note, in June of 1941 I found myself in Tunbridge, Vermont as a member of Camp William James, a project which had begun through the efforts of Rosenstock-Huessy students. With the endorsement of President Roosevelt, the camp had started as an experimental camp within the Civilian Conservation Corps, with about 15 members from the regular CCC and about 10 recent graduates of Dartmouth and Harvard. In my diary, I wrote the following note which explained the camp in terms of the four fronts shown on the Cross of Reality—future time, the inner space of the self, past time, and the outer world:     

First, we came to Camp William James because we heard a calling toward the future. We wanted to create a new institution, a period of all-out service as part of all young people’s education. It would be the CCC plus Dartmouth and Harvard, an entirely new combination. It’s a breaking-away from the ivory tower of academe into the problems and life of a real community. We heard another calling toward the future when we sent a group to Mexico to help rebuild the town of Colima—recently flattened in an earthquake. This second calling makes clearer that we’re engaged in a “moral equivalent of war,” not just planting trees or helping some farmers. Second, we’re creating our own inner space within the farm building, our headquarters. Of course, it’s also the inner space of our group, the community we have formed here. Third, we have the experience of being connected with past time, with the ongoing life of a rural town whose roots go back for many generations. We go to square dances where the calling is in an Elizabethan style that’s died out in England. Quite a contrast with the rootless suburbs of New York or the slums of New Haven, both places where many of us grew up. Fourth, we are getting national publicity through stories in the Boston Globe and the New York Times. This makes our little inner group known to the outer world, objectively, with both good and bad consequences. It has helped recruiting, but it’s also what led to our losing federal funding. In Congress we were attacked as just another New Deal boondoggle—and had to close our CCC “side-camp” in Sharon. To sum up, the camp has provided each of us with a more intense experience of life, a more crucial experience, than we’d get in any ordinary college year. We have come to see that a period of such service, when integrated into one’s education, would show its participants how we all live historically, drawn toward the past and the future.

I think this note about the camp makes clear that the Cross of Reality is not some elaborate metaphysical concept but simply a commonsense way to interpret any experience. In fact, a person who uses common sense already interprets his or her life and history this way, from the four perspectives that the cross shows us. In other words, the cross simply codifies common sense. Unfortunately, huge numbers of people, probably the great majority—be they ideologues, fascists, or communists (all stuck on the “glorious future” front), fundamentalists (stuck on the past front), sentimentalists and pietists (stuck on the subjective front), or even rationalists (stuck on the objective front)—are not guided by common sense.

In 1942 I’d left Camp William James to serve four years in the army. Returning to Dartmouth in 1946, I majored in Philosophy because I wanted to concentrate on Rosenstock-Huessy’s work. The note below is from a course in which he described how humankind had been formed by four quite different kinds of speech, as portrayed on the Cross of Reality:

Universal History

During some 40,000 years before Christ, tribal speech, with its totems and taboos, had oriented us to our ancestors, to the narrative of our past.

Then, in the great empires, such as China and Egypt, already flourishing by 3000 BC, the speech of the temple oriented us to the stars, the rivers, and the fields, the universe of nature, the world outside us.

By 600 BC Greek speech had begun to orient us to our inner selves, through poetry and philosophy.

During that same millennium before Christ, the speech of Israel emerged, orienting us to our future by way of prayer and prophecy.

With the coming of the Christian era, those four ancient modes of speech were fused. After Christ we no longer felt bound by a single orientation. We were no longer simply Greek or Jew, Egyptian or tribesman. For 2,000 years now, we have been moving steadily toward spiritual unity, as we have become increasingly able to articulate all four forms of speech.

Four great types of civilization had reached dead ends at Year Zero of our common era. Christ and his apostles came at the right time. They translated those dead ends into new beginnings, becoming in effect the narrow part of the tube in the hourglass of history. Since that center-time, human history has become one story.

            Another course of Rosenstock-Huessy’s was based on his magnum opus Out of Revolution: Autobiography of Western Man. Here he was not explicit about the Cross of Reality orientations, but it seemed clear to me that they undergirded his message. Thus, my summary of the book was as follows:

      Western History         

Just as he tells pre-Christian history in terms of four kinds of speech, so Rosenstock-Huessy sees these four kinds of speech given different emphases in each of the great Western revolutions. The imperatives established in the first millennium of the Christian era made all those revolutions necessary, from what he calls the “Papal Revolution” of the high Middle Ages to the Russian Communist revolution of our own time. Each of these six great revolutions had different orientations and impulses, but they all sought to remake the whole world:


1. The Papal Revolution, begun by Pope Gregory in 1076, had a messianic orientation toward the future. It was the first global revolution—and that planetary purpose was repeated in all its successors. Its new speech, the language of theology, with Anselm’s credo ut intelligam (I believe so that I may understand) was first heard in the new institution of universities.


2. The German Reformation, begun by Luther in 1517, emphasized our inner conscience, and its greatest new institution was public education. It saw the Bible translated into local languages and introduced the priesthood of all believers, thereby ending the central power of the church. In fact, it began the process of secularization (particularly visible in the emergence of secular art).


3. The British Parliamentary or Puritan Revolution (1649-1688) celebrated the laws and traditions of the past. Its new institutions were parliaments and the rule of law. Power was no longer in the hands of the nobility but turned over to the gentry—the Christian gentlemen.


4. The French Revolution (1789) focused on the outer front, where reason and objectivity hold sway. For the first time, the lowly bourgeoisie, the common man, was fully      empowered. National literatures and arts, as well as newspapers, appeared. Freed from religion, all the sciences began to flourish. So did capitalism!  


          5. The American Revolution (1776) was a happy combination of impulses from both the

    French and the British. It gave them an additional impetus, as they spread over the new



   6. Finally, the Russian Revolution (1917) turned into a rather unhappy combination of

  future messianism with the new language of objectivity. Still, it was a needed corrective to

  unbridled capitalism’s exploitation of labor. Indeed, its new imperative was freedom from

  economic exploitation. Rosenstock-Huessy wrote that the New Deal, with Social Security,

 the WPA, etc., would have been unthinkable without the preceding communist revolution.


            In The Christian Future, Rosenstock-Huessy saw all these six revolutions, and the two World Wars contributing to what he called today’s “Great Society,” the global society that he described as “heiress of state and church.”  This explains why he said that “Christianity is not a religion.” In light of the history told in Out Of Revolution, Christianity was more important in changing secular society than it was as a religion.  



Speech as our Matrix (Parts 3-6)

Continuation of Clinton Gardner Essay.



Without participation in the life of the word through the ages, we become ephemeral. Speaking, thinking, learning, teaching, and writing are the processes into which we must be immersed to become beings. They enable us to occupy a present in the midst of flux. Language receives us into its community; speech admits us to the common boat of humanity in its struggle for orientation on its pilgrimage through space and time.                  
 –Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy


Man’s language aims at something not aimed at by apes or nightingales: it intends to form the listener into a being which did not exist before he was spoken to. Human speech is formative and it is for this reason that it has become explicit and grammatical
  –Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy


Does the soul have a grammar? Now, as the Word comes out of the soul, and the truest Word comes straight from the very depths of the soul, .…then, just as the mind has logic, the soul will have a sense of the way words fit together—that is, “grammar”—as its inner structure….He who would explore the soul must fathom the secrets of language.
–Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy


Our defense of grammar is provoked by the obvious fact that this organon, this matrix form of thinking is not used as a universal method, hitherto.                               
 Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy 

Those four quotations set the stage for a deeper exploration of the Cross of Reality, a cross which is formed by the four fundamental ways that “words fit together.” As we shall see, that cross is not only a model of the human condition but also points to a “universal method” for the human sciences.  Of course, it was Rosenstock-Huessy’s description of his model and method as a “matrix form of thinking” which inspired me to title this essay “Speech as Our Matrix.”

            Some twenty years after I’d studied with Rosenstock-Huessy at Dartmouth, in 1965, he handed me seven manuscripts on how the Cross of Reality depicted the way language works in us. Indeed, how four basic and contrasting kinds of language created this cross. Finally, how the Cross of Reality suggested itself as a new method for sociology and all the human sciences, a method based on our four basic ways of speaking. 

            I was smitten again, by the originality and force of his thought. I asked him why he’d never offered a course on language at Dartmouth. He replied that he thought this subject would best be taught at the graduate school level. The athletics-obsessed Dartmouth students were able to digest his teachings on the history of revolutions—and world history, but he had not felt confident about courses on language.

            I offered to group his seven manuscripts into a book and seek a publisher for them. When that effort failed, I proposed to found a publishing company, Argo Books, which could bring out a book on language as well as his other unpublished works. Thus, Speech and Reality saw the light of day in 1970.

            Argo published a closely-related book, The Origin of Speech, in 1981. There he

distinguishes between two kinds of speech. On the one hand, we have the formal or “high” speech that we use “to sing a chorale, to stage tragedy, to enact laws, to compose verse, to say grace, to take an oath, to confess one’s sins, to file a complaint, to write a biography, to make a report, to solve an algebraic problem, to baptize a child, to sign a marriage contract, to bury one’s father.” On the other hand, we have the informal or low speech that we might use to show “a man the direction to the next farm on the road” or to stop “a child from crying.” Such low speech, which makes up “our daily chatter and prattle,” often serves “the same purposes as animal sounds.”

It was only after reading that “Origin” essay that I came to a full appreciation of what Rosenstock-Huessy meant by “speech.” He meant the intentional, relational, and dialogical speech, the fully articulated speech we use when we seek to tell the truth or establish relations with others. It is the language we use to advance any cause, large or small, social or personal.

            It also helps to grasp the idea of high speech when we make a distinction between what we mean by language and what we mean by speech. Language can be simply any use of words, while true speech involves not only speaking but listening. The word that we have heard from another stays with us and frames what we do, from our smallest to our largest actions. In other words, high speech always implies its own enactment. The words that initiate such speech stay alive and guide us through their realization. We never leave the fields of force created by high speech, from a well-timed word of encouragement from a parent or teacher to an order given in combat. While it is certainly not always the higher form, even what goes on inside our minds is speech. As Rosenstock-Huessy puts it, “thinking is nothing but a storage room for speech.”

            Returning now to Speech and Reality, let me sum up its core messageof just how four kinds of speech create that Cross of Reality in which all of us live:   

      1. First, imperative (or vocative) speech toward the future, addresses us as thou. Parents and teachers, religious leaders, and politicians, often address us this way.

      2. Second, the subjective speech of our inner self, our I, arises when we consider our possible reply to an imperative.

      3. Third, historical speech, records what we did in response to imperatives. Such speech preserves the past, telling how we and other people formed and maintained institutions, as we.

      4. Fourth, objective speech can look at what happened in the first three stages of any complete experience—and provide an analysis of them. It considers how we impacted the world, or persons, around us. Now we see persons as he, she, or they. 

            That summary shows us that the Cross of Reality is not a static image. It depicts the process through which we become and remain human. Rosenstock-Huessy once wrote a compact and beautiful statement about that four-stage sequence of speech: 

The soul must be called “thou” before she can ever reply “I,” before she can ever speak of “us,” and finally analyze “it.” Through the four figures, thou, I, we, it, the word walks through us. The word must call our name first. We must have listened and obeyed before we can think or command.   

            The reader may now find it helpful to look at the diagram of the Cross of Reality in Appendix I, since it depicts that sequence—and shows how the four kinds of speech affect every realm of our experience.


The Four Forms of High Speech

Rosenstock-Huessy has shown us that all high speech takes just four forms—imperative, subjective, narrative, and objective, as summarized above. Those forms, taken together, create the Cross of Reality, the speech matrix in which we live. Now I’d like to focus, even more closely, on how these quite different ways of speaking orient us throughout our lives.

1. Imperative or Vocative Speech: Toward Future Time

Imperative or vocative speech, addressing us as “thou,” is what calls us to any important undertaking in life. It establishes our commitments, loves, avocations, and (if we are fortunate) our vocations. Thus, “vocative,” which emphasizes “calling,” is another name for the imperative. We hear such speech from parents, teachers, or any other person whose guidance we seek. We hear it as the Ten Commandments or Isaiah; as Luther’s 95 Theses or the Declaration of Independence.

We hear such speech in the words of anybody who cares for us, addressing us as thou. Any speech that casts a net of faith into the future is a vocative, like “Will you marry me?” That is not a request for information.

A person who is starved for such speech cannot discover who he or she is and therefore cannot speak his or her own imperatives. A society that cannot speak its own imperatives gives way to decadence. Decadence is the inability of one generation to communicate imperatives to the next. All education, therefore, that is not simply technical, aims to create and maintain imperatives. This future-creating speech precedes and determines all the others. Until we sense this orientation and feel overwhelmed by it, we never really begin anything new in our lives.

In religious terms, it is hard to imagine a resurrection for the person who has not been moved by the imperative, and lives simply for his or her own time. We are only a little lower than the angels, and we are supernatural, because we are the creature that can hear the call to enter the future.

2. Subjective Speech: Toward Our Inner Space

Subjective speech arises in response to imperatives and vocatives. It creates the inner space, our I, where we begin to feel personally responsible for the appropriate answers to life’s questions. Now just why is it that subjective speech follows the imperative in a necessary sequence? What is the connection between listening to the imperatives of a leader or a teacher who inspired you, and going to the theater, listening to music, or simply sitting and reflecting? Well, after you hear somebody tell you to change your ways, you want to stop and sort things out. That is why the speech that takes us from the call of the future to our inner orientation is in the subjunctive, conditional, or optative mood. We turn inward, start questioning, and consider different responses.

Art, music, literature, poetry—in fact, all the voices of culture—are subjective speech. The arts remind us of all the possible ways to reply to imperatives. We can be the doubting Ivan Karamazov or we can be the faithful Alyosha.

A critical kind of interior speech is prayer. Prayer is a concentrated pondering of one’s reply to the callings of the future. Prayer means a listening to God’s imperatives, a recognizing that we are being addressed.

We develop our unique personality by selecting, from the many imperatives that address us, the particular callings and the particular causes that move us to respond. We are not just bundles of nerves, but we are just bundles of responses.

“Go thou,” the prophets of preceding generations say to us. “I’m not sure whether I’ll go,” we reply. As we question and decide just what we will do, we discover our identity, our I. We then feel different from “the establishment” of any preceding generation. From an orientation toward the future of the whole race, created by the imperative thou, we proceed to the singular, inward space of the individual who replies, I.

3. Narrative Speech: Carrying the Past Forward

We enter historical time when we leave the subjective orientation of I, and decide to express ourselves openly in the world. That means taking responsible action, with some other person or group. This is our answer to the questioning that went on in our second, interior orientation. It may mean marriage or becoming wedded to one’s career, but in every case it forms a dual relationship: You cannot act historically by yourself. You incorporate, you embody. Therefore, our speech and actions are now in the narrative mood and the grammatical person of we.

Marriage is the most obvious dual required to continue past creation, but unmarried persons form generative attachments whenever they relate themselves to some significant cause or institution.

Through narrative speech we participate in past time, not only as a part of the world’s history but also as a part of the “current history” of our own lives.

4. Objective Speech: Toward the Outside World

Our life in the first three speech orientations—imperative, subjective, and narrative—comprises all of our “high” experience. But we cannot live through these experiences, we cannot complete them, understand them, or be open to new experience without our fourth orientation via objective speech. Thus, this strictly rational orientation plays as vital a role in our lives as the first three. The only mistake made by today’s academic, scientific, and technology-obsessed minds has been to identify such speech as the primary and supremely “real” one.

Objective speech states as an outward fact what was first a powerful calling (thou), then an inner secret (I), next a shared experience (we), and now is simply a commonplace for everyone (they, he, she, or it).

In our daily lives we hear objective speech whenever we analyze our own or somebody else’s experience. Most journalism is objective speech. So are all the facts and figures, all the data that we use to organize our lives and our economies. Mathematics and statistics are, of course, quintessentially objective.

The Four Moods of Literature, Music, and Theater

Rosenstock-Huessy made clear that high speech is more than aural when he described how all literature, music, and theater express themselves in just four moods, four primary kinds of speech. And each mood relates to one of the four fronts on the Cross of Reality.

First there is the dramatic, heavy and imperative in style, challenging us to move toward the future. Second, we have the lyric, which is light, personal, and includes comedy. Its inner orientation is subjective. Third comes the epic, the historical narrative, such as the Iliad or the Odyssey. Fourth, and finally, we have the prosaic, the outward and objective presentation of life, the “realistic.” A musically-adept friend of mine told me that the Cross of Reality had seemed an abstract idea to him until I pointed out how these four moods were found in all the performing arts.


In the preceding sections, from Camp William James onward, I have sought to show how the four forms of high speech make up the Cross of Reality in which all of us live, not only today but throughout our history. Thus, I’ve been concentrating on that cross as a model of the human condition. Now I’d like to take up the cross as a method for dealing with our problems—personal, social, and global.

Rosenstock-Huessy sometimes called this new method “the grammatical method,” but he had no objection when I called it “the speech method” in my introduction to Speech and Reality.

He recognized that there was a pedantic sound to the word “grammatical.” Therefore, I will continue here to call it “the speech method.”

In very broad terms, Rosenstock-Huessy said this method “is the way in which man becomes conscious of his place in history (backward), world (outward), society (inward), and destiny (forward).” He called it “an additional development of speech itself, for speech having given man this direction and orientation about his place in the universe through the ages, what is needed today is an additional consciousness of this power of direction and orientation.” What he means by “additional consciousness” here seems to mean consciousness of the Cross of Reality, which leads me to conclude that the model of that cross, as described in sections II and III above, is the heart of the method. Model is intrinsic to method (as I now realize is the case with the “scientific method” by which we unlock the secrets of nature).

This brings me back to what I said, at the beginning of this paper, when I discussed Camp

Camp William James in the light of the Cross of Reality. Let me repeat it: “A person who uses common sense already interprets his or her life and history this way, from the four perspectives that the cross shows us. In other words, the cross simply codifies common sense.” When I used the word “codify,” I was thinking of just what Rosenstock-Huessy meant by the cross as giving us “an additional consciousness” of the powers of speech.

What I’d like to do now is spell out the four common sense elements of the Cross of Reality as method, namely “the Speech method.”

It is only common sense to examine any issue in terms of:

1. One’s hoped-for future outcome, that is the imperatives (or vocatives) involved. Rosenstock-Huessy suggested we call this being “prejective.”

2. One’s subjective inner consideration of what action might be taken, reviewing all


3. Gathering allies and taking the action, thus entering into history. Rosenstock-Huessy suggested we call this being “trajective.”

4. Analyzing whether the goal established at the outset has been achieved, and if so, making this plain to the persons involved—or the general public. Now, of course, we must be objective.

What the Cross of Reality suggests is that we give adequate attention to each phase of that four-part process, and address any issue in that order. This will be exemplified in the following example, based on a paper by Dr. Hans Huessy, Rosenstock-Huessy’s son, who was a professor of child psychiatry at the University of Vermont Medical School.

The Speech Method Applied to Psychiatry and Psychology

Hans Huessy points out that modern psychology began by imitating the natural sciences. It constructed its pyramid of knowledge by starting with the most elementary building stones, the most trivial, objective raw data. This approach put all the emphasis on the physiological level of human functioning: seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, and sex. While much can be learned by studying our behavior on this objective or outer front, the speech method posits that there are three other fronts of equal importance. For example, in our prejective orientation, as we attempt to create the future, we live at the level of love and self-sacrifice. Doctor Huessy says that most psychological and psychiatric theory ignores these higher levels of human performance or “explains them away as pathology.” Thus, psychoanalysis is likely to think of our personal and subjective “artistic creations as a compensation for neurotic complexes.” Similarly, “heroic deeds are explained as defenses against psychopathology.”

He then shows how the Cross of Reality reveals the normal and desirable sequence of any human experience. Emotional disturbance may be described as getting stuck in one particular phase, or it might be the result of an attempt to skip one. The speech method reveals four basic phases in any significant experience: (1) inspiration, (2) communication, (3) institutionalization, and finally, (4) history.

We see this sequence when we fall in love and get married. Our falling in love cannot be an objective or logical experience. We must be swept off our feet, inspired. Then we enter a subjective phase in which we must communicate our new relationship through love letters, singing, and talking. In the third phase, institutionalization, when we marry before witnesses, our experience has begun to enter recorded history. Finally, usually after our first child is born, we experience ourselves as an objective family unit. In each phase we have had new and different emotions.

Doctor Huessy says, “I would view these meaningful experiences as tying up considerable emotional energy, to borrow from psychoanalytic theory, and I think it is essential for us to see these experiences through all four stages so that this emotional energy becomes freed and available for new experiences.” As we go through any important experience, the movement from one phase to the next always involves some change, and change is usually accompanied by pain or “psychiatric symptoms.” But such symptoms are not necessarily indicators of pathology. Psychiatrists may do positive harm by mistaking the symptoms of healthy change for psychiatric illness.

Finally, he challenges Freudian psychology’s assumption that one begins with the ego or I and then works out to include additional members of the social group. The I, he says, is not the first form in which we come to consciousness of ourselves. As a child, and even later in life, we become a subjective I only after having first been addressed vocatively as thou. “One might say that children are spoken into membership in the human race. They are not born into such membership.” In other words, our ego does not produce itself. It is produced by the vocative or imperative address of our parents, our society, and our tradition. Since his specialty was child psychiatry, doctor Huessy was able to document these points. Children, he says, learn the pronoun I last. Autistic children do not learn to use I until very late in their development.

Within the limits of this essay, I cannot cite other applications of the speech method. But I should point out that my discussion in Part II touched on how Rosenstock-Huessy applied the method to describing pre-Christian history as well as the revolutions which filled the second millennium. Then I had earlier provided an application of the method in my presentation of Camp William James.


In the Introduction, I referred to W.H. Auden’s comment on Rosenstock-Huessy’s motto, Respondeo etsi mutabor (I respond although I will be changed). Near the end of Out of Revolution Rosenstock-Huessy offered this as a more all-embracing motto than Descartes’ cogito ergo sum. I think therefore I am (with its corollary that everything else must be doubted until proven). Rosenstock-Huessy does not deny the usefulness of Cartesian doubt and objectivity when applied to the natural sciences. However, he says we have made the mistake of adopting it, in large measure, for the social sciences.

Besides advocating his new speech method, in his books Soziologie and Speech and Reality, Rosenstock-Huessy suggested that the higher sociology he was seeking might be named “metanomics.” With “nomics” derived from the Greek “nomoi,” for laws, he wanted the proposed science to be grounded in laws provable in social life and history, not on abstract theories.


Early in this paper I noted how Martin Buber had generously applauded Rosenstock-Huessy’s work in the realm of history. However, as founders of what has been called “dialogical thinking”, or “speech-thinking,” the two men took quite different approaches. Buber became world-famed through the publication of his little book Ich und Du (I and Thou) in 1923. There he wrote that any person, an independent I, can choose to have either warm dialogical I-thou relationships or cold objectifying I-it relationships, with others or with God. One does not become a fully realized person until one chooses the I-thou relationship. As Buber put his key insight, “as I become I, I say thou.”

Rosenstock-Huessy, by contrast, maintained that there is no such thing as an independent I. One becomes an I only as one is addressed by others, and by God, as thou. The proper grammatical order is thou-I, not I-thou. It is when we hear imperatives, when we hear ourselves addressed personally as thou, that we enter into the human story. As Rosenstock-Huessy put it, “The first form and the permanent form under which a man can recognize himself and the unity of his existence is the Imperative. We are called a Man and we are summoned by our name long before we are aware of ourselves as an Ego.”

Having discussed Buber, I should note Rosenstock-Huessy’s close friend and intellectual partner, Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929), who worked closely with Buber, in the 1920s, on a new translation of the Bible. Rosenzweig has been widely acknowledged as one of the most innovative Jewish thinkers of the 20th century. What is often overlooked is that Rosenzweig credits Rosenstock-Huessy with having been “the main influence” in leading him to write his magnum opus, The Star of Redemption, published in 1924. An echo of that influence can be heard in this line from The Star: “One knew that the distinction between immanence and transcendence disappears in language.”

Returning to Buber, I’d like to tell a touching story. One of Rosenstock-Huessy’s students, Marshall Meyer, lived at the Huessy home during 1952, when he was a Dartmouth undergraduate. He went on to become a prominent rabbi in Buenos Aires and then in New York. While at the Huessy’s, he would often drive Rosenstock-Huessy to events and meetings. Meyer recounted a story about driving Eugen to the train station in White River Junction, Vermont, to pick up Buber for a visit. Meyer described his feelings when he watched their warm embrace on the platform. He said their arms seemed to reach back to the early 1920s—to include Franz Rosenzweig who had collaborated with both of them during those postwar years.