“…if there is some sense in speaking of a hermeneutics of the sacred, it lies in the degree to which the double meaning of a text which, for example, in telling me about the Exodus, opens onto a certain state of wandering which is lived existentially as a movement from captivity to deliverance. Under the summons of a word which gives what it ordains, the double meaning aims here at deciphering an existential movement, a certain ontological condition of man, by means of the surplus of meaning attached to the event which, in its literalness, is situated in the observable historical world. Here, double meaning is the means of detecting a condition of being.
In this way, symbolism, taken at the level of manifestation in texts, marks the breakthrough of language toward something other than itself-what I call its opening. This breakthrough is saying; and saying is showing. This is the strength and the weakness of hermeneutics; its weakness because, taking language at the moment when it escapes from its enclosure, it takes it at the moment when it also escapes a scientific treatment, which can begin only by postulating the closed system of the signifying universe. All other weaknesses flow from this one, and first and foremost the conspicuous weakness of delivering hermeneutics over to the warfare of rival philosophical projects. But this weakness is also its strength, because the place where language escapes from itself and escapes us is also the place where language comes to itself, the place where language is saying. Whether I understand the relation of showing-hiding as a psychoanalyst or as a phenomenologist of religion (and I think that today these two possibilities must be assumed together), the understanding is in each case like a force which discovers, which manifests which brings to light, a force which language utilizes and becomes itself. Then language becomes silent before what it says.
I will venture to summarize this in a few words: the sole philosophical interest in symbolism is that it reveals, by its structure of double meaning, the equivocalness of being: ‘Being speaks in many ways.’ Symbolism’s raison d’être is to open the multiplicity of meaning to the unequivocalness of being” (Ricoeur 1974:66-67).
1974 The Conflict of Interpretations. Don Ihde, ed. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.
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