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In the whole psychology of the "Gospel" the concepts of guilt and
punishment are lacking, and so is that of reward. "Sin," which means
anything that puts a distance between God and man, is abolished -- this is
precisely the "glad tidings." Eternal bliss is not merely promised, nor is
it bound up with conditions: it is conceived as the only reality -- what
remains consists merely of signs useful in speaking of it.
The results of such a point of view project themselves into a new way of life, the special evangelical way of life. It is not a "belief" that marks off the Christian; he is distinguished by a different mode of action; he acts differently. He offers no resistance, either by word or in his heart, to those who stand against him. He draws no distinction between strangers and countrymen, Jews and Gentiles ("neighbour," of course, means fellow-believer, Jew). He is angry with no one, and he despises no one. He neither appeals to the courts of justice nor heeds their mandates ("Swear not at all") He never under any circumstances divorces his wife, even when he has proofs of her infidelity. -- And under all of this is one principle; all of it arises from one instinct. --
The life of the Redeemer was simply a carrying out of this way of life -- and so was his death. . . He no longer needed any formula or ritual in his relations with God -- not even prayer. He had rejected the whole of the Jewish doctrine of repentance and atonement; he knew that it was only by a way of life that one could feel oneself "divine," "blessed," "evangelical," a "child of God." Not by "repentance," not by "prayer and forgiveness" is the way to God: only the Gospel way leads to God -- it is itself "God!" -- What the Gospels abolished was the Judaism in the concepts of "sin," "forgiveness of sin," "faith," "salvation through faith" -- the whole ecclesiastical dogma of the Jews was denied by the "glad tidings."
The deep instinct which prompts the Christian how to live so that he will feel that he is "in heaven" and is "immortal," despite many reasons for feeling that he is not "in heaven": this is the only psychological reality in "salvation." -- A new way of life, not a new faith.
If I understand anything at all about this great symbolist, it is this: that he
regarded only subjective realities as realities, as "truths" -- that he saw
everything else, everything natural, temporal, spatial and historical, merely
as signs, as materials for parables. The concept of "the Son of God" does
not connote a concrete person in history, an isolated and definite
individual, but an "eternal" fact, a psychological symbol set free from the
concept of time. The same thing is true, and in the highest sense, of the
God of this typical symbolist, of the "kingdom of God," and of the
"sonship of God." Nothing could he more un-Christian than the crude
ecclesiastical notions of God as a person, of a "kingdom of God" that is
to come, of a "kingdom of heaven" beyond, and of a "son of God" as the
second person of the Trinity. All this -- if I may be forgiven the phrase -- is
like thrusting one's fist into the eye (and what an eye!) of the Gospels: a
disrespect for symbols amounting to world-historical cynicism. . . .But it
is nevertheless obvious enough what is meant by the symbols "Father" and
"Son" -- not, of course, to every one -- : the word "Son" expresses
entrance into the feeling that there is a general transformation of all things
(beatitude), and "Father" expresses that feeling itself -- the sensation of
eternity and of perfection. -- I am ashamed to remind you of what the
church has made of this symbolism: has it not set an Amphitryon story [in Greek mythology, Amphitryon’s wife was raped by the god Zeus and gave birth to the semi-divine hero Heracles] at
the threshold of the Christian "faith"? And a dogma of "immaculate
conception" for good measure? . . -- And thereby it has robbed
conception of its immaculateness --
The "kingdom of heaven" is a state of the heart -- not something to come "beyond the world" or "after death." The whole idea of natural death is absent from the Gospels: death is not a bridge, not a passing; it is absent because it belongs to a quite different, a merely apparent world, useful only as a symbol. The "hour of death" is not a Christian idea -- "hours," time, the physical life and its crises have no existence for the bearer of "glad tidings." . . .
The "kingdom of God" is not something that men wait for: it had no yesterday and no day after tomorrow, it is not going to come at a "millennium" -- it is an experience of the heart, it is everywhere and it is nowhere. . . .
This "bearer of glad tidings" died as he lived and taught -- not to "save mankind," but to show mankind how to live. It was a way of life that he bequeathed to man: his demeanour before the judges, before the officers, before his accusers -- his demeanour on the cross. He does not resist; he does not defend his rights; he makes no effort to ward off the most extreme penalty -- more, he invites it. . . And he prays, suffers and loves with those, in those, who do him evil. His words to the thief on the cross contain the whole evangel. “That was verily a divine man, a child of God!” says the thief. “If thou feelest this” -- answers the Redeemer -- “thou art in paradise, thou art a child of God.” Not to defend oneself, not to show anger, not to lay blames. . . On the contrary, to submit even to the evil one -- to love him. . . .
We free spirits -- we are the first to have the necessary prerequisite to
understanding what nineteen centuries have misunderstood -- that instinct
and passion for integrity which makes war upon the "holy lie" even more
than upon all other lies. . . Mankind was unspeakably far from our
benevolent and cautious neutrality, from that discipline of the spirit which
alone makes possible the solution of such strange and subtle things: what
men always sought, with shameless egoism, was their own advantage
therein; they created the church out of denial of the Gospels. . . .
Whoever sought for signs of an ironical divinity's hand in the great drama of existence would find no small indication thereof in the stupendous question-mark that is called Christianity. That mankind should be on its knees before the very antithesis of what was the origin, the meaning and the law of the Gospels -- that in the concept of the "church" the very things should be pronounced holy that the "bearer of glad tidings" regards as beneath him and behind him -- it would be impossible to surpass this as a grand example of world-historical irony --
Our age is proud of its historical sense: how, then, could it delude itself into believing that the crude fable of the wonder-worker and Redeemer constituted the beginnings of Christianity -- and that everything spiritual and symbolical in it only came later? Quite to the contrary, the whole history of Christianity -- from the death on the cross onward -- is the history of a progressively clumsier misunderstanding of an original symbolism. With every extension of Christianity among larger and ruder masses, even less capable of grasping the principles that gave birth to it, the need arose to make it more and more vulgar and barbarous -- it absorbed the teachings and rites of all the subterranean cults of the Imperium Romanum, and the absurdities engendered by all sorts of sickly reasoning. It was the fate of Christianity that its faith had to become as sickly, as low and as vulgar as the needs were sickly, low and vulgar to which it had to administer. A sickly barbarism finally lifts itself to power as the church -- the church, that incarnation of deadly hostility to all honesty, to all loftiness of soul, to all discipline of the spirit, to all spontaneous and kindly humanity. -- Christian values -- noble values: it is only we, we free spirits, who have re-established this greatest of all antitheses in values!. . . .
-- I cannot, at this place, avoid a sigh. There are days when I am visited by a feeling blacker than the blackest melancholy -- contempt of man. Let me leave no doubt as to what I despise, whom I despise: it is the man of today, the man with whom I am unhappily contemporaneous. The man of today -- I am suffocated by his foul breath! . . . Toward the past, like all who understand, I am full of tolerance, which is to say, magnanimous self-control: with gloomy caution I pass through whole millennia of this madhouse of a world, call it "Christianity," "Christian faith" or the "Christian church," as you will -- I take care not to hold mankind responsible for its lunacies. But my feeling changes and breaks out irresistibly the moment I enter modern times, our times. Our age knows better. . . What was formerly merely sickly now becomes indecent -- it is indecent to be a Christian today. And here my disgust begins. -- I look about me: not a word survives of what was once called "truth"; we can no longer bear to hear a priest pronounce the word. Even a man who makes the most modest pretensions to integrity must know that a theologian, a priest, a pope of today not only errs when he speaks, but actually lies -- and that he no longer escapes blame for his lie through "innocence" or "ignorance." The priest knows, as every one knows, that there is no longer any "God," or any "sinner," or any "Redeemer" -- that "free will" and the "moral order of the world" are lies -- : serious reflection, the profound self-conquest of the spirit, allow no man to pretend that he does not know it. . . All the ideas of the church are now recognized for what they are -- as the worst counterfeits in existence, invented to debase nature and all natural values; the priest himself is seen as he actually is -- as the most dangerous form of parasite, as the venomous spider of creation. . - - We know, our conscience now knows -- just what the real value of all those sinister inventions of priest and church has been and what ends they have served, with their debasement of humanity to a state of self-violation, the very sight of which excites loathing, -- the concepts "the other world," "the last judgment," "the immortality of the soul," the "soul" itself: they are all merely so many in instruments of torture, systems of cruelty, whereby the priest becomes master and remains master. . .Every one knows this, but nevertheless things remain as before. What has become of the last trace of decent feeling, of self-respect, when our statesmen, otherwise an unconventional class of men and thoroughly anti-Christian in their acts, now call themselves Christians and go to the communion table? . . . A prince at the head of his armies, magnificent as the expression of the egoism and arrogance of his people -- and yet acknowledging, without any shame, that he is a Christian! . . . Whom, then, does Christianity deny? what does it call "the world"? To be a soldier, to be a judge, to be a patriot; to defend one's self; to be careful of one's honour; to desire one's own advantage; to be proud . . . every act of everyday, every instinct, every valuation that shows itself in a deed, is now anti-Christian: what a monster of falsehood the modern man must be to call himself nevertheless, and without shame, a Christian! --
-- I shall go back a bit, and tell you the authentic history of Christianity. -- The very word "Christianity" is a misunderstanding -- at bottom there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross. The "Evangel" died on the cross. What, from that moment onward, was called the "Evangel" was the very reverse of what he had lived: "bad tidings," a Dysangel. It is an error amounting to nonsensicality to see in "faith," and particularly in faith in salvation through Christ, the distinguishing mark of the Christian: only the Christian way of life, the life lived by him who died on the cross, is Christian. . . To this day such a life is still possible, and for certain men even necessary: genuine, primitive Christianity will remain possible in all ages. . . . Not faith, but acts; above all, an avoidance of acts, a different state of being. . . . States of consciousness, faith of a sort, the acceptance, for example, of anything as true -- as every psychologist knows, the value of these things is perfectly indifferent and fifth-rate compared to that of the instincts: strictly speaking, the whole concept of intellectual causality is false. To reduce being a Christian, the state of Christianity, to an acceptance of truth, to a mere phenomenon of consciousness, is to formulate the negation of Christianity. In fact, there are no Christians. The "Christian" -- he who for two thousand years has passed as a Christian -- is simply a psychological self-delusion. Closely examined, it appears that, despite all his "faith," he has been ruled only by his instincts -- and what instincts! -- In all ages -- for example, in the case of Luther -- "faith" has been no more than a cloak, a pretense, a screen behind which the instincts have played their game -- a shrewd blindness to the domination of certain of the instincts . . .I have already called "faith" the specially Christian form of shrewdness -- people always talk of their "faith" and act according to their instincts. . . In the world of ideas of the Christian there is nothing that so much as touches reality: on the contrary, one recognizes an instinctive hatred of reality as the motive power, the only motive power at the bottom of Christianity. What follows therefrom? That even here, in psychologicis, there is a radical error, which is to say one conditioning fundamentals, which is to say, one in substance. Take away one idea and put a genuine reality in its place -- and the whole of Christianity crumbles to nothingness! -- Viewed calmly, this strangest of all phenomena, a religion not only depending on errors, but inventive and ingenious only in devising injurious errors, poisonous to life and to the heart -- this remains a spectacle for the gods -- for those gods who are also philosophers, and whom I have encountered, for example, in the celebrated dialogues at Naxos. At the moment when their disgust leaves them (--and us!) they will be thankful for the spectacle afforded by the Christians: perhaps because of this curious exhibition alone the wretched little planet called the earth deserves a glance from omnipotence, a show of divine interest. . . . Therefore, let us not underestimate the Christians: the Christian, false to the point of innocence, is far above the ape -- in its application to the Christians a well-known theory of descent becomes a mere piece of politeness. . . .
-- The fate of the Evangel was decided by death -- it hung on the "cross.". . . It was only death, that unexpected and shameful death; it was only the cross, which was usually reserved for the canaille only -- it was only this appalling paradox which brought the disciples face to face with the real riddle: "Who was it? what was it?" -- The feeling of dismay, of profound affront and injury; the suspicion that such a death might involve a refutation of their cause; the terrible question, "Why just in this way?" -- this state of mind is only too easy to understand. Here everything must be accounted for as necessary; everything must have a meaning, a reason, the highest sort of reason; the love of a disciple excludes all chance. Only then did the chasm of doubt yawn: "Who put him to death? who was his natural enemy?" -- this question flashed like a lightning-stroke. Answer: dominant Judaism, its ruling class. From that moment, one found oneself in revolt against the established order, and began to understand Jesus as in revolt against the established order. Until then this militant, this No-saying, No-doing element in his character had been lacking; what is more, he had appeared to present its opposite. Obviously, the little community had not understood what was precisely the most important thing of all: the example offered by this way of dying, the freedom from and superiority to every feeling of ressentiment -- a plain indication of how little he was understood at all! All that Jesus could hope to accomplish by his death, in itself, was to offer the strongest possible proof, or example, of his teachings in the most public manner. But his disciples were very far from forgiving his death -- though to have done so would have accorded with the Evangel in the highest degree; and neither were they prepared to offer themselves, with gentle and serene calmness of heart, for a similar death. . . . On the contrary, it was precisely the most unevangelical of feelings, revenge, that now possessed them. It seemed impossible that the cause should perish with his death: "recompense" and "judgment" became necessary (-- yet what could be less evangelical than "recompense," "punishment," and "sitting in judgment"!) -- Once more the popular belief in the coming of a messiah appeared in the foreground; attention was riveted upon an historical moment: the "kingdom of God" is to come, with judgment upon his enemies. . . But in all this there was a wholesale misunderstanding: imagine the "kingdom of God" as a last act, as a mere promise! The Evangel had been, in fact, the incarnation, the fulfillment, the realization of this "kingdom of God." It was only now that all the familiar contempt for and bitterness against Pharisees and theologians began to appear in the character of the Master -- he was thereby turned into a Pharisee and theologian himself! On the other hand, the savage veneration of these completely unbalanced souls could no longer endure the Gospel doctrine, taught by Jesus, of the equal right of all men to be children of God: their revenge took the form of elevating Jesus in an extravagant fashion, and thus separating him from themselves: just as, in earlier times, the Jews, to revenge themselves upon their enemies, separated themselves from their God, and placed him on a great height. The One God and the Only Son of God: both were products of ressentiment . . . .
And from that time onward an absurd problem offered itself: "how could God allow it!" To which the deranged reason of the little community formulated an answer that was terrifying in its absurdity: God gave his son as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. At once there was an end of the Gospel! Sacrifice for sin, and in its most obnoxious and barbarous form: sacrifice of the innocent for the sins of the guilty! What appalling paganism ! -- Jesus himself had done away with the very concept of "guilt," he denied that there was any gulf fixed between God and man; he lived this unity between God and man, and that was precisely his "glad tidings". . . And not as a special prerogative! -- From this time forward the type of the Redeemer was corrupted, bit by bit, by the doctrine of judgment and of the second coming, the doctrine of death as a sacrifice, the doctrine of the resurrection, by means of which the entire concept of "blessedness," the whole and only reality of the Evangel, is juggled away -- in favour of a state of existence after death! . . . Paul, with that rabbinical impudence which shows itself in all his doings, gave a logical quality to that conception, that indecent conception, in this way: "If Christ did not rise from the dead, then all our faith is in vain!" -- And at once there sprang from the Gospels the most contemptible of all unfulfillable promises, the shameless doctrine of personal immortality. . . Paul even preached it as a reward . . .
One now begins to see just what it was that came to an end with the death on the cross: a new and thoroughly original effort to found a Buddhistic peace movement, and so establish happiness on earth -- real, not merely promised. For this remains -- as I have already pointed out -- the essential difference between the two religions of decadence: Buddhism promises nothing, but actually fulfills; Christianity promises everything, but fulfills nothing. -- Hard upon the heels of the "glad tidings" came the worst imaginable: those of Paul. In Paul is incarnated the very opposite of the "bearer of glad tidings"; he represents the genius for hatred, the vision of hatred, the relentless logic of hatred. What, indeed, has not this dysangelist sacrificed to hatred! Above all, the Redeemer: he nailed him to his own cross. The life, the example, the teaching, the death of Christ, the meaning and the law of the whole gospels -- nothing was left of all this after that counterfeiter in hatred had reduced it to his uses. Surely not reality; surely not historical truth! . . . Once more the priestly instinct of the Jew perpetrated the same old master crime against history -- he simply struck out the yesterday and the day before yesterday of Christianity, and invented his own history of Christian beginnings. Going further, he treated the history of Israel to another falsification, so that it became a mere prologue to his achievement: all the prophets, it now appeared, had referred to his "Redeemer." . . . Later on the church even falsified the history of man in order to make it a prologue to Christianity . . . The figure of the Redeemer, his teaching, his way of life, his death, the meaning of his death, even the consequences of his death -- nothing remained untouched, nothing remained in even remote contact with reality. Paul simply shifted the centre of gravity of that whole life to a place behind this existence -- in the lie of the "risen" Jesus. At bottom, he had no use for the life of the Redeemer -- what he needed was the death on the cross, and something more. To see anything honest in such a man as Paul, whose home was at the centre of the Stoical enlightenment, when he converts a hallucination into a proof of the resurrection of the Redeemer, or even to believe his tale that he suffered from this hallucination himself -- this would be a genuine niaiserie in a psychologist. Paul willed the end; therefore he also willed the means. -- What he himself didn't believe was swallowed readily enough by the idiots among whom he spread his teaching. -- What he wanted was power; in Paul the priest once more reached out for power -- he had use only for such concepts, teachings and symbols as served the purpose of tyrannizing over the masses and organizing mobs. What was the only part of Christianity that Muhammad borrowed later on? Paul's invention, his device for establishing priestly tyranny and organizing the mob: the belief in the immortality of the soul -- that is to say, the doctrine of "judgment.“
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