Dear Hannah,
The demonic has seized me. The still, prayer-like folding of your loving hands and your gleaming forehead guarded it through womanly transfiguration.

This is the citation from the correspondence between M. Heidegger and H. Arendt. Could you please clarify me which noun represents the pronoun "it" in the above sentence. I worked with the possibility of "The demonic" but the meaning of the sentence is than a little bit weird.

  • It must be a translation into English. From the two quoted sentences, the demonic seems to be the referred-to constituent. A love letter will oftentimes be a little weird, quite understandably. Jan 4, 2016 at 15:40
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    Heidegger was cryptogamic even during "mating call"…
    – bart-leby
    Jan 4, 2016 at 15:53
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    I'm a native speaker, and I cannot make sense of this passage (possibly because there isn't enough context). The writers appears to be saying that Arendt's folded hands and forehead guarded "the demonic". (Note that "demonic" is not usually used as a noun, but I'm reading it as "demonic force (or attitude)".) Also, it's unclear if "through womanly transformation" means "by means of womanly transformation" or "for the duration of a womanly transformation".
    – apsillers
    Jan 4, 2016 at 16:19
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    @apsillers The original German is in fraulicher Verklärung, which I would translate in feminine exaltation. Not that that makes it much clearer, but it does seem to be an attribute of her hands and brow which enables these to protect the daimonic. Jan 4, 2016 at 16:56
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    Note that the German das Dämonische would be better translated The daimonic or the daemonic rather than the demonic--it has the sense of an inspiring or spiritual force rather than a devilish one. Jan 4, 2016 at 16:59

1 Answer 1


I believe this passage from a letter by Heidegger to Arendt recounts a sexual encounter between them.

Heidegger is speaking in metaphors.

Demonic refers to the lust experienced by Heidegger towards Arendt.

A gleaming forehead is a reference to Arendt's sweating brow after being through womanly transfiguration. The heights of ecstasy, so to speak. The Transfiguration(Jesus) was when flesh turned into radiant spirit, when earthly bounds are transcended. Such events can occur between lovers.

I think Heidegger's reference to it is intentionally ambiguous as might be expected when writing in poetic form. I do not think he is literally referring to anything in his written text, rather he is referring to the feeling and passion of that moment of ultimate climax and oneness which they both achieved.

In the full text of the letter, Heidegger goes on to implore Arendt that she can not go away leaving him with without a word. He claims

The like has never happened to me before.

and that

In the rainstorm on the way home you were even more beautiful and great.

What smitten man has never felt that way about a passionate lover?

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