“Like a violet unseen”—the apotheosis of absence in Hutterite life

Authors


  • *This paper is based on field work done mainly among Dariusleut Hutterites in Alberta during the summers of 1972 and 1973 and over fourteen months during 1975 and 1976.1 am grateful to the Hutterites among whom I worked and to the Canada Council, the University of Calgary, and through John Bennett to the Washington University Graduate School and the Wenner Gren Foundation for funding. I would also like to thank Sara Preston for helpful discussion of Kierkegaard on silence and Peter Clark for his comments on Hutterite meals.

Abstract

Cet article tente de comprendre la manière dont les Hutterites imprègnent de signification les phénomènes invisibles et imperceptibles. II comprend trois parties principales. La première est une analyse structurale qui, tout en demontrant que l'absence de designation est un aspect important de la symbolique hutterite, ne réussit pas à relier significations et actes. La seconde partie utilise la théorie pragmatique de la communication pour comprendre comment l'absence fonctionne dans la conduite réelle (dans l'appel a l‘église et à la chorale). Cependant cette théorie pragmatique est aussi superficielle car elle engendre un paradoxe qui est un artefact produit par l'analyse et elle échoue à pénétrer la réalité psychologique de la vie quotidienne des Hutterites dans laquelle l'absence de choses “mondaines” sert à signifier la présence de l'Esprit-Saint. La dernière partie utilise un procédé littéraire et une métaphore musicale pour essayer d'evoquer l'imprégnation mystique de la réalité hutterite.

In this paper an attempt is made to understand how Hutterians imbue unseen and unheard phenomena with meaning. The paper consists of three basic parts. The first section is a structural analysis which, while it demonstrates that the absence of designata is an important aspect of Hutterian symbology, fails to relate meaning to acts. The second section utilizes pragmatic communication theory to understand how absence functions within actual behaviour (in the call to church and singing). However, the pragmatic theory is also superficial in that it produces a paradox which is an artifact of analysis and it fails to penetrate the psychological reality of Hutterite life in which the absence of worldly things serves to signify the omnipresent Holy Spirit. The third section utilizes a literary device and a musical metaphor in an attempt to evoke the mystical sentiment of the Hutterian reality.

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