Monthly Archive: July 2015

Nietzsche and Jesus

I am not a Christian in any conventional sense of the name. For sure I do not like religion, but that is likely to be misconstrued as faithlessness. But the truly faithless are the forsaken and the suicidal, and I am far from being a suicide or a nihilist. To be a Christian, I would have to feel guilty about being alive, or to look forward to the end of the world.

One should not confuse Christianity as a historical reality with that one root that its name calls to mind: the other roots from which it has grown have been far more powerful. It is an unexampled misuse of words when such manifestations of decay and abortions as “Christian church,” “Christian faith” and “Christian life” label themselves with that holy name. What did Christ deny? Everything that is today called Christian.” [Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, 158]

Most of what is today called “religion”, let alone “Christian religion,” is god-forsaken, and has become, itself, “the abomination of desolation” as described in Revelations. It has no spiritual content whatsoever, which is what Nietzsche meant by “the death of God” and in describing the churches as “the tomb of God” and the tombstones of God. For Nietzsche, Christianity had become empty of all positive or progressive spiritual content or direction.

Many of “the Faithful of the True Faith” hold that mere observance of the 10 commandments, the Decalogue or Mosaic Law, suffices to be recognised as Christian or “religious” or even “spiritual”. In fact, the so-called “ten commandents” (in Hebrew, they are called “the 10 terms” or “10 matters”) have no positive spiritual content whatsoever. They are the minima moralia of a political and social constitution, called “the covenant”, designed to fuse twelve fractious Hebrew tribes into a functioning national collective called “Israel”, and in more comprehensive terms, are instruments for overcoming man’s more animal spitits.

“I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?”
[Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, Prologue, §3]

“All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is the ape to man? A laughingstock or a painful embarrassment. And man shall be just that for the overman: a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment. You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape.” [Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, Prologue, §3]

The Decalogue is a formula for ape-taming, and little else. That this came to be seen as even the essence of a spiritual or religious life is one of the great perversions of history.

The “new dispensation” brought by Jesus was originally discovered by Plato and adapted by Christianity. The Neoplatonic single principle, “the One”, is the essence of the Gospel according to John. And it is why we divide history between A.D. and B.C. or between New Testament and Old Testament: The Old Testament is concerned with ape-taming. The New Testament with overman-making. This is the meaning of what is called “conversion”, or having one’s face turned in a new direction. The Old Testament was concerned with beating back or disciplining the ape-man or “natural man”, and the Old Testament prophets were continuously calling back the lapsed to remembrance of “God” because of man’s tendency to revert to the ape. The whole mood of the Old Testament is “thou shalt not…!” But the whole thrust of the New Testament is “thou shalt…!”

“Be thou therefore perfect, even as thy Father in Heaven” (Matthew 5:48) is a completely different imperative or commandment than we find in the Old Testament and in the Mosaic Law. It is not a negation, but an affirmation, no longer to fight against the ape in man, but to transcend it. It is for this reason that Jesus said, “I come not to change the law but to fulfil it” or “the Law is made for man, not man for the law”. While the Old Testament was obsessed with origin, the New Testament is obsessed with destiny. And this is what got Jesus condemned, executed, and martyred as a blasphemer and a heretic.

Jesus had a casual attitude towards the Mosaic Law because he recognised it as purely utilitarian and not as complete in itself. His call to mankind to transcend itself was a greater and more creative challenge than constantly merely beating back the ape or obsessing about the reversion to the “natural man”. And this is the vocation or calling that both William Blake and Friedrich Nietzsche responded to, but who were considered lunatic and even evil for doing so.