Tag Archive: Nietzsche

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.

Through Ruined Roofs, Under a Clear Sky

The following excerpt is taken from one of my favourite books and illustrates the alienation most religions bring along with their other unworldly concepts:

“Sir, be proud: today you came close to a happy death; and behave in future with the same nonchalance, knowing that the soul dies with the body. Go then to death after having savoured life. We are animals among animals, all children of matter, save that we are the more disarmed. But since, unlike animals, we know we must die, let us prepare for that moment by enjoying the life that has been given us by chance and for chance. Let wisdom teach us to employ our days in drinking and amiable conversation, as is proper to gentlemen scorning base spirits. Comrades, life is in out debt! We are rotting at Casale, and we were born too late to enjoy the times of the good King Henry, when at the Louvre you encountered bastards, monkeys, madmen and court buffoons, dwarfs and legless beggars, castrati and poets, and the king was amused by them. Now Jesuits lascivious as rams fulminate against the readers of Rabelais and the Latin poets, and would have us all be virtuous and kill the Huguenots. Lord God, war is a beautiful thing, but I want to fight for my own pleasure and not because my adversary eats meat on Friday. The pagans were wiser than we. They had their three gods, but at least their mother Cybele did not claim to give birth and yet remain a virgin.”
“Sir!” Roberto protested, as the others laughed.
“Sir,” Saint-Savin replied, “the first quality of an honest man is contempt for religion, which would have us afraid of the most natural thing in the world, which is death; and would have us hate the one beautiful thing destiny has given us, which is life. We should rather aspire to a heaven where only the planets live in eternal bliss, receiving neither rewards nor condemnations, but enjoying merely their own eternal motion in the arms of the void. Be strong like the sages of ancient Greece and look at death with steady eye and no fear. Jesus wanted too much, awaiting it. Why should he have been afraid, for that matter, since he was going to rise again?”
[Umberto Eco, Island of the Day Before, Random House, pp. 59 – 60 ]

How fresh and relieving Nietzsche’s concept of a clear sky:

“Oh, just look at those tabernacles which those priests have built themselves! Churches, they call their sweet-smelling caves! Oh, that falsified light, that mustified air! Where the soul – may not fly aloft to its height! But so enjoins their belief: ‘On your knees, up the stair, you sinners!’ Rather would I see a shameless one than the distorted eyes of their shame and devotion! Who created for themselves such caves and penitence-stairs? Was it not those who sought to conceal themselves, and were ashamed under the clear sky?
And only when the clear sky looks again through ruined roofs, and down upon grass and red poppies on ruined walls — will I again turn my heart to the seats of this God.”
[Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, II.4]