Nothingness in Existential Philosophy & Norse Mythology Concept of Ginnungagap
Several modern philosophers associated with existentialism, a movement that takes our experience of existence as the starting point of its philosophizing, have spoken of a similar schema using the more prosaic and impersonal language of philosophy and psychology. While the writings of luminaries such as Søren Kierkegaard, Martin Heidegger, and Jean-Paul Sartre differ considerably on these points, a fascination with negation and anxiety is a central focus of their work. In existentialist parlance, “nothingness” is that which negates oneself, one’s values, and/or one’s worldview – one’s “personal cosmos.”
The ultimate nothingness is death, because it negates one absolutely (at least in the modern worldview – see Death and the Afterlife for Norse perspective on death), but any condition over which one cannot triumph is a hostile absence into which one’s yearnings, strivings, and beliefs vanish. This negation is the root of anxiety (or “angst” or “Being-toward-death”), the fear of what we might not be able to overcome, that which stands every chance of “getting us” in the end. This is one of the fundamental facts of life with which everyone who strives to live deliberately and authentically must grapple. In Heidegger’s words, “To be a particular being means to be immersed in nothingness.” While these philosophers don’t necessarily identify nothingness with a physical void as the Norse did, the principle remains the same.
This primordial, annihilating chaos is ever-present; wherever there is darkness, wherever there is silence, wherever any wish or belief is negated, there is Ginnungagap.
Sources: Poetic Edda, Norsemythology.org