“..the recognition of the ontological mystery.. is.. only possible through a sort of radiation.. which is perfectly well able to affect souls who are strangers to all ..religion of whatever kind; ..this recognition, which takes place through certain higher modes of human experience, in no way involves the adherence to any given religion but it enables those who have attained to it to perceive.. in a way which is not open to those who haven’t ventured beyond the frontiers of the realm of the problematical and who have therefore never reached the point from which the mystery of being can be seen and recognised. Thus, a philosophy of this sort is carried by an irresistible movement towards the light which it perceives from afar and of which it suffers the secret attraction” [Gabriel Marcel, ‘The Philosophy of Existentialism’, p 46, 1956].

An irresistible movement towards the light which is perceived even from afar, and is attractive even if secretly, creating a yearning to be joined with the light, bathed in its luminance, recreated in its radiance— all this is Eros working on the soul.


Like Husserl and Heidegger, Sartre distinguished ontology from metaphysics. For him, ontology is primarily descriptive and classificatory, whereas metaphysics purports to be offering accounts about the ultimate origins and ends of humanity and of the universe as a totality.

Sartre does not try to combat metaphysics as a deleterious undertaking. He simply notes that it raises questions we cannot answer.

Marcel differs on exactly this point. His perspective echoes ancient Greek, and even Hindu, metaphysical ontology. It is a mistake to claim the approach that is ‘metaphysically ontological’ is non-phenomenological, seeking instead to give a ‘causal explanation’ of ultimate things. These ultimates are also open to observation and experience, provided the eyes are open, and the mind is awake to what it sees. Modern people, especially in the West, refuse to take in all the levels of reality that presents as a given. We select a small sample of the ‘bigger picture’, and ignore the rest, in our description of ‘what is’ [ontology] for the sake of further thinking about how we know it [epistemology].

It is necessary to take in all, not just the gross and sensory, but also the subtle and intelligible, as well as the mysterious and pure. All this is empirical in the real sense of the Greek word. To experience and to observe leads us from the blatant to other realities beyond its limited boundary.

Heraclitus= “Most people do not take heed of the things they encounter, nor do they grasp them even when they have learned about them, although they think they do.”