Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Future of an Illusion (Book Review)

The Future of an Illusion (1927) was the first book of Sigmund Freud’s that I had ever read, but it was not my introduction to him, as I had studied his theories on sexuality, death, the ego, neuroses and whatever else his grandness decided to throw mankind's way. It is remarkable how much information he managed to put forth in only ten short chapters of this profound book. Many have considered him to have been a disciple of Friedrich Nietzsche's, and, speaking as a Nietzschean scholar myself, I definitely see the influence and similarities in both his thought process and style of writing. He directs all his psychoanalytic sharpness and abilities at the problem of religion in comparing it to an obsessive childhood neurosis. He believes religion to be a stumbling block in the future of mankind, and that what must replace it is the decrease of suffering through love and science. The new and inevitable God of mankind shall be Reason.

He begins by briefly explaining the necessity of civilization and the agitated feelings and sensations it causes in the masses due to the repression of the instincts, and he stresses that the passions could not be subdued by the intellect alone, hence what followed was the necessity of force. And to make up for all the inadequacies and the robbery of fulfillment which individuals feel, society, to compensate, grants them pride in their culture over others and the upholding of their ideals and works of art. This then gratifies a narcissistic need.

“The extent to which a civilization’s precepts have been internalized – to express it popularly and unpsychologically: the moral level of its participants – is not the only form of mental wealth that comes into consideration in estimating a civilization’s value. There are in addition its assets in the shape of ideals and artistic creations – that is, the satisfactions that can be derived from those sources.” – Chapter II

He goes on to explain his theory from Totem and Taboo (1912-1913) that our need for a father whom we both fear and need as protection from the elements and fate of the unforgiving, natural world transformed into God, who contained a combination of many of the gods which existed before him. He quips that the men who first designed a monotheistic god took much pride in designing one that contained the characteristics of all the ones that came before him. And from the first truly abhorrent act mankind had to deal with, which, according to Freud, was the killing of one’s father, came the necessary commandment, sanctified by God Himself – “Thou shalt not kill.” And in order for us to keep this commandment, and other important commands (which he does not mention) alive and in the hearts of man after the death of religion, the masses must be educated and taught that those commands were merely sanctified by religion, but in fact came from us, just as God did – out of necessity.

This is key because a core issue is that when the lower, downtrodden strata find out that the higher, more educated strata no longer believe in God, they will be influenced in the same atheistic direction, and be so indignant and resentful towards them that with no dogmatic fears holding them back, they will revolt out of envy and cause something as bloody as the French and Russian revolutions. This will not happen, however, if people are thoroughly educated in a secular manner from childhood, being properly taught all that their minds can possibly handle so that this gap between the masses no longer exists.

“Science has many open enemies, and many more secret ones, among those who cannot forgive her for having weakened religious faith and for threatening to overthrow it.” – Chapter X

Now, his main concern and emphasis is on Christianity and its state in modern-day Europe. Except there is no scriptural, scientific, or historical refuting of religious ideas, fables and doctrines by him, because, as he says, it has already been done by many great men before him, which he does not want to name, as he does not want to give the impression that he is putting himself in their rank. So the presupposition of the essay is that religion has been thoroughly refuted, is irrational, cannot be true and is, as he puts it, “a lost cause.” His goal is to explain much of the psychology behind it which has not been addressed yet, especially since psychoanalysis began with him. He does not hide the obviousness and his concern for the frivolousness in which people blindly hold fast to their faiths, even when presented with the blatant contradictions and errors.

“Where questions of religion are concerned, people are guilty of every possible sort of dishonesty and intellectual misdemeanour. Philosophers stretch the meaning of words until they retain scarcely anything of their original sense.” – Chapter VI

He explains that this ignorance is preserved from generation to generation through religious inculcation in childhood, and could very well be the root cause for the stagnation of the adult intellect and its limitations. This in turn causes the theistic and presumptuous circular argument that the human intellect can never be enough to replace religion in keeping a civilization secure and safe from humans acting as avariciously and cruelly to one another as their primeval ancestors.

“Is it not true that the two main points in the programme for the education of children to-day are retardation of sexual development and premature religious influence? Thus by the time the child’s intellect awakens, the doctrines of religion have already become unassailable. But are you of opinion that it is very conductive to the strengthening of the intellectual function that so important a field should be closed against it by the threat of Hell-fire? When a man has once brought himself to accept uncritically all the absurdities that religious doctrines put before him and even to overlook the contradictions between them, we need not be greatly surprised at the weakness of his intellect. But we have no other means of controlling our instinctual nature but our intelligence.” – Chapter IX


He strongly believes that when man throws off the veils of infantilism created by theistic brainwashing, he will be able to look at life more clearly and honestly. He will accept his little corner in the universe, and the horrors of life and nature will be something he takes on bravely and with resignation. And because all his concentration will be on this life, instead of a life in some Great Beyond, the world will experience progressive civilizations more profound than anything it has ever experienced before.

“They will be in the same position as a child who has left the parental house where he was so warm and comfortable. But surely infantilism is destined to be surmounted. Men cannot remain children for ever; they must in the end go out into ‘hostile life’. We may call this ‘education to reality’. Need I confess to you that the sole purpose of my book is to point out the necessity for this forward step?” – Chapter IX

Throughout the book he antagonizes himself with a made-up devil’s advocate who he hears making the inevitable objections. It is quite noble, indeed, as he scrutinizes himself thoroughly to the point where you can actually picture a stubborn-minded theist ranting while pulling out every stop he can possibly think of. It is not surprising that it ends with a formidable defence of science against the arguments that have been continuously thrown at it by men like Plato, Descartes, Kant, Leibniz, Berkeley and Hume (though he does not mention the names of these geniuses and master-rhetoricians), who have attempted to thwart it by having us question and severely doubt our reasoning abilities, senses, minds and, in turn, empirical data.

“No, our science is no illusion. But an illusion it would be to suppose that what science cannot give us we can get elsewhere.” – Concluding statement

It is a must read. It won’t take you very long either. What you get here is quality, not quantity.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Psychology of Death and Dying

I took a course this passed semester called Psychology of Death and Dying. Most of it was spent on grief and trauma, though, so it was kinda depressing at times, which is to be expected. But it was still fabulous. Even the textbook was awesome: The Last Dance: Encountering Death and Dying. All the best quotes, as far as I'm concerned, come from Chapter 1, though (probably because it's the most philosophical), and that's what I'm going to lay out here - my favourites. I'm reading The Denial of Death (1973) right now, by Ernest Becker. It's a mind-blowing, existentially and psychoanalytically driven masterpiece, deeply penetrating like nothing I've ever read before. And, man, oh, man, can he write! No wonder he won the Pulitzer Prize for it in '74. Too bad he couldn't collect it, though...since he died in March of that year. He wrote it while he was dying, and I agree with the professor I had in a psych course called Personality last winter semester that that probably contributed to how "blazenly" written it is (that's not a word, but it should be). All that was left of Becker's intellectual life force - all his fire - went into that monumental piece...but look at me, I'm so blown away by it that I've completely digressed. It's not time for a book review just yet. I'd be finished it by now if it wasn't for the 3 final essays that I had this month, the exam I had in Psychology of Death and Dying on the 15th, and having to worry about making sure everything is progressing with my 12 grad applications that I've been stressing about none stop. That's right - TWELVE!! Anyway, here are my favourite quotes from The Last Dance:

"Among the insights communicated in the work of Emily Dickinson, one of America's foremost poets, is the recognition that it is impossible to affirm life without an examination of death" (p. 19).

"Humour often functions as a kind of comment on incongruity or inconsistency relative to social norms or perspectives, as when a young girl wrote a letter to God asking, 'Instead of letting people die and having to make new ones, why don't you just keep the ones You have now?'" (p. 24).

"In the health care setting, humour serves to communicate important messages, promote social relations, diminish discomfort, and manage 'delicate' situations; it has been called the 'oil of society'" (p. 25).

"In short, humour is an important aid in confronting our fears and gaining a sense of mastery over the unknown. Finding humorous aspects to death, casting it in an unconventional light, relieves some of the anxiety that accompanies awareness of our mortality" (p. 26).

"Only through awareness of our lifelong losses and appreciation of our mortality are we free to be in the present, to live fully" (p. 26).

"The word thanatos became associated in the early twentieth century with Freudian psychoanalytic theory as a term describing the source of unconscious destructive urges, or the death instinct, in contrast to the constructive activities of eros, or life instinct. Freud postulated that all the variations of human behavior and activity were produced by interaction between eros and thanatos" (p. 30).

"Our relationship with death has, as Herman Feifel observed, 'a shaping power on thinking and behavior at all points in the life span.' The way which we anticipate death, Feifel says, governs our 'now' in an influential manner" (p. 31).

"In a variety of ways, our culture helps us 'deny, manipulate, distort, or camouflage death so that it is a less difficult threat with which to cope" (p. 32).

"Our heroic projects that are aimed at destroying evil have the paradoxical effect of bringing more evil in to the world" (p. 33 - Ernest Becker on terror management theory - how people cope with the awareness of death - four days before his passing).

"Because death is always a possibility, fear of death is built into human life. Studies show that 'fear of death functions as a motivating force whether people are currently focused on this particular issue or not; it is the implicit knowledge of death rather than current focal awareness that is the motivating factor.' In a commencement address at Stanford University, Steve Jobs of Apple Computer pointed out the irony of this when he said, 'Death is very likely the single best invention of life.' He called it 'life's change agent.' In this view, death is necessary to give existential meaning to life." (p. 33-34).

"Technological medicine sometimes seems to promote a view of death as an event that can be deferred indefinitely rather than as a normal, natural part of life" (39).

"As death educator Robert Kanaugh said, 'The unexamined death is not worth dying'" (40).

"Although death's finality appears harsh, for the ancient Greeks it was death that makes life significant. Mortality 'compels humans to make some sense of their existence, here and now, each day to discover what it means "to live well"'" (p. 45).

Monday, December 14, 2009

Maxims, Reflections and Opinions

I have accumulated these throughout the past few years. Some were thought up while sober, others while high. However, how often are any of us truly "sober?" I have often found myself to be most sober when I've been baked out of my skull, and the cobwebs have been cleared. Ones written out of sheer vexation aside, it amazes me how sublime ideas - epiphanies - sometimes blossom and crystallize all at once, and other times, only at the end of a long, deep, intense, vivid train of thought. Some a spiritual awakening, others merely much-needed, sinister laughter. Although, perhaps I should not say "merely" in regard to the most sacred of laughter - self-affirming, life-affirming laughter. God is dead...it doesn't mean we have to be.

1. Cruel people can be treated badly and not get hurt because deep down inside they know they deserve it. Good people eventually go insane.

2. I wish life’s tests were multiple choice.

3. God lets the Devil get away with so much, doesn’t he? It’s enough to make one think they’re one and the same person.

4. Pity can only last so long before it turns into laughter.

5. God is dead and his remains are cause and effect. They created him, and they’re what’s left of him.

6. Now, if you believe in the reality of something that is causing you to be afraid, that is a common product of a bare necessity of life: awareness. But if your beliefs are induced and sustained by fear, your beliefs are a stagnation, self-mortification, falsification and fallacy.

7. Commandments are not to be obeyed; they’re to be overcome. (A basic requirement for the school of Nietzsche).

8. Altruism and dualism – two falsehoods that have swindled mankind out of all honestly, truth and realism. Only we can save ourselves from cobweb spinners.

9. Selflessness, morality, immortality, Holy God, Satan, spirits, Santa Clause – all tools and tricks belonging to the category: “Swindles and Myths.” Though let’s be easy on Santa.

10. A holy truth is a sanctioned lie; the hardest kind to uproot and eradicate. Holiness = shrewd sickness. The “holy man” is a brutally unhealthy one.

11. Selflessness – the most deceitful and pernicious idea mankind ever foisted on itself. All hail the ego! Let us feed it proper nutrition.

12. Gaining a badge of morality out of being a physiological failure – THAT is the purpose and victory of the ascetic life.

13. Pure evil: making a question out of what is natural.

14. Surely God is mirrored by the universe he/she/it has created: cold, hard, merciless, unfair, heartless, amoral and indifferent.

15. I don’t know what’s funnier: the idea of a benevolent god, the notion that all men are created equal, or that it’s even remotely possible in any way, shape or form for selflessness to actually exist.

16. It’s ironic how the people under the delusion that the meek shall inherit the earth are rarely ever meek themselves. Ever notice that?

17. Fuck love if it means making a duty out of life. I have no time or tolerance for such rubbish!

18. Sometimes I think I should have kids just to raise little antichrists – for the sake of posterity, of course.

19. The spirit of man died the day “selflessness” prevailed.

20. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, no bliss from ignorance if doubt should reign.

21. The genius and energy of Plato was infiltrated by and wasted on the asinine idealisms and base-minded rhetoric of a sophist named Socrates.

22. Metaphysics (of the spiritual or theological kind) is the perfect pseudoscience for the layman. After all, it is merely the study of nothings.

23. The human is the only animal that knows for certain that it is going to die one day. It makes us naturally crazy, intrinsically insane, inexorably mad.

24. Christianity is for the oppressed and weary. For everyone else, it only makes oppressed and weary. It was created for and spawned by those gloomy, morbid and miserable in life. It gave and still gives consolation for such wretched souls. That is why for the joyous, high-minded, free-spirited and especially the hedonistic - it is the ultimate sapper of life.

25. Every vampire movie you have ever seen is about Christianity: “Allow me to suck the life right out of you, and in return you shall be granted immortality,” says the vampire/preacher. In return, you then become one of them, and feel compelled to go on to do the same to others. A conversion indeed!

26. A moralistic and/or existential philosopher who is ignorant of the human psyche is ignorant indeed. Unless his or her conscience is deeply rooted in psychological facts and observation – he/she is nothing but a sophist.

27. Do you think that a mother does not or cannot be jealous of or have contempt for her own daughter? How sadly na├»ve. She can envy her so much that she utterly despises her! But such a thing is too morbid and hateful for the mother to admit, even to herself. And so she dies…with this most bitter of secrets - in her mouth.

28. It is those who take the most pride in not putting themselves before others – that are the most arrogant of all.

29. If we could hear the thoughts of others we would kill ourselves.

30. They’ve lived so long under the ostentatious morality of a nonexistent God that they can no longer even fathom morality without one.

31. I can’t wait for the Bible and all other holy books to finally be written on toilet paper so the world can be wiping their asses with them once and for all. It would be very therapeutic!

32. Religion = a war on personal freedom.

33. Religion = self-delusion fuelled by fear and self-imposed ignorance.

34. Of all the superstitions, cults and pseudo-sciences which I have studied (and they are many), there is none more ridiculous, outrageous and unbelievable - than Judeo-Christianity.

35. If God exists he can suck my fuckin’ cock! How’s that for a reflection? LOL!

36. A wise and prudent man will “transcend” his impulses when it is befitting him. Except only a self-mortifying fool even dares to even attempt to remain afloat from them for good. And when he fails miserably at this horrifically masochistic and superfluous endeavour, let us throw back our heads and laugh with a whole-heart and utmost delight!

37. Always write your maxims and reflections down. Assume nothing about your memory. Especially if it’s when you’re lying in bed at night falling, or trying to fall, asleep. Learn from me.

38. What happens to us when we are forced into the all-too-common position of having to take on more than we can handle, in terms of the limited amount of vitality we have in us? When we have to give that extra 110%, where does that extra 10% come from? Indeed it must come from nowhere else but the energy we put into what we value most: our beloved craft(s), our friends, our family, our hobbies, etc. But what is left to tap when even this is not enough? Perhaps it has to come from what should be unspeakable as a resource. That is, from the inner, subterranean energy that is perpetually required in order to keep our identities and minds intact, until after years of such a morbid endeavour, there is scarcely anything of our former selves left. And how many of us give a piece of ourselves away every single day of our lives? I wish this theory of mine wasn’t true; but it does seem to be.

A thinker can for years on end force himself to think against the grain: that is to say, to pursue not the thoughts which offer themselves from within him but those to which an office, a prescribed schedule, an arbitrary kind of industriousness seem to oblige him. In the end, however, he will fall sick: for this apparently moral overcoming of himself will ruin his nervous energy just as thoroughly as any regularly indulged in excess could do.” - Nietzsche


Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Gnostic Gospels (Book Review)

Elaine Pagels explains in The Gnostic Gospels (1979), clearly and concisely, why it is that the suppression of the Gnostic gospels and Gnostic thought was deemed so necessary by the early orthodox/Catholic Church. Her writing is eloquent, well thought-out and easy to understand. She asks a lot of important questions that the Nag Hammadi findings of 1945 have encouraged. What do the Gnostic texts permit? What is the significance of their interpretation of the Resurrection? Should the role of women in the church be reconsidered? Can self-knowledge bring one, not only to the knowledge of God, but even to the stature of Christ himself? How does Gnostic Christianity undermine orthodox hierarchal authority? Is the controversy merely about maintaining power over the laymen? These are questions which Pagels attempts to put on the frontlines of Christian thought. She does a superb job of showing the direct link between the Church’s need to suppress Gnosticism, and its need to maintain its power and authority over believers.

Pagels sets the stage of her book with the introduction to both the journey and attainment of the Nag Hammadi texts, followed by their possible esoteric meanings, their relationship to orthodox Christianity and, hence, their invaluable significance. She notes that there is little controversy about the dating of the manuscripts, which is most likely between 350-400 CE. However, the original versions are most likely no later than 120-150 CE, “since Irenaeus, the orthodox Bishop of Lyons” condemns them as heresy in his treaties against heresy and heretics, written in the year 180 (xvi). The name Irenaeus is crucial, given that much of what is known about the onslaught against Gnosticism is taken from his polemics. Therefore, his claims and accusations, along with Tertullian’s, against the Gnostics and their sacred writings are discussed throughout the book.

An interesting topic, which Pagels addresses, is the inversion of the value-judgements and myths by the Gnostics found in the Bible. For example, the Testimony of Truth and Thunder, Perfect Mind, take the side of the serpent in the book of Genesis. In fact, the story of the so-called “fall from paradise” is taken from his point of view. This is quite astonishing since New-Testament Christianity brands him the Devil himself. In these two gospels, however, he is presented as something possessing divine wisdom and truth, and Adam and Eve are, in fact, punished by Jehovah, who is petty and jealous, because they gained the knowledge that only he wishes to have (xvii). Meaning, it is the snake (a Satanic figure), which is good, and God, who is wicked and filled with pride, not the other way around, as the orthodox churches have presented the case to be for two-thousand years.

It is for unorthodox interpretations like this that Gnostic Christianity was deemed, and is stilled deemed, heretical by the mainstream Christian churches. An historically enlightening fact, which Pagels presents, is that when Constantine made Christianity “an officially approved religion in the fourth century, Christian bishops, previously victimized by the police now commanded them” (xviii). It was declared heretical, and a criminal offence to hold in possession any and all Gnostic literature, and “copies of such books were burned and destroyed.” It was this, Pagels notes, that led “someone, possibly a monk from a nearby monastery of St. Pachomius,” to hide a few of these banned manuscripts, to keep “them from destruction – in a jar where they remained buried for almost 1,600 years” (xix). Such a clandestine event as this, gives an idea as to how controversial and significant these texts are. They were deemed extremely dangerous, due to their corrosive nature to what we now know as modern Christianity. This is the reason for their suppression, and Pagels’ mission, in her book, is to explain all the reasons why they were deemed such a threat.

In Chapter 1, Pagels begins with the controversy of the resurrection of Jesus Christ; for the Church, as we know it, was founded on this theme, and presented as historical fact. It is something, Tertullian states, which “must be believed, because it is absurd” (5)! Primarily, according to Pagels, the ultimate necessity for belief in a literal resurrection of Christ lies in the fact that “it legitimizes the authority of certain men who claim to exercise exclusive leadership over churches as the successors of the apostle Peter” (6). However, the Gnostic view takes the resurrection of Jesus symbolically and spiritually, not historically, and so the orthodox condemned “all such interpretations.” Tertullian declared “that anyone who denies the resurrection of the flesh is a heretic, not a Christian” (5). The Gnostics did, indeed, understand “that their theory, like the orthodox one, bore political implications. It suggests that whoever ‘sees the Lord’ through inner vision can claim that his or her own authority equals, or surpasses, that of the Twelve [disciples] – and of their successors,” that is, the church leaders (13-14). Gnosticism, then, loosens the chains that the Church elders have over believers, as those who believe in the Gnostic version of Christianity have no reason to feel humbled and subservient to the Church’s hierarchy. They can, in fact, surpass the stature of any priest, bishop or pope. “All who had received gnosis, they say, had gone beyond the church’s teaching and had transcended the authority of its hierarchy” (25). In other words, it is all about maintaining the power which the apostle-witnessed resurrection of Christ offers, which incited the censure of Gnostic thought regarding the resurrection. The power the orthodox Christian leaders had (or have) was founded on the supposed lineage of authority derived directly from the apostles themselves, and, hence, the sole reason for the derision of Gnostic Christianity by the heresy hunters.

In Chapter II, Pagels discusses the dualistic nature of Gnosticism. The orthodox Christians insisted upon Christianity being essentially monotheistic. The Gnostics believed not only that there were two gods, but that the creator-god, that is, Jehovah himself, was evil. This does not apply, however, to Valentinian Gnosticism, which is also monotheistic (31). It is the monotheistic nature of orthodox Christianity, Pagels maintains, which grants spiritual authority to church leaders, for their power derives from Peter, who was given it by Christ personally, and, hence, Gnostic dualism takes this authority away from them. It only follows, that the main proponents of the orthodox view, “were the bishops themselves. [..] As there is only one God in heaven, Ignatius declares, so there can be only one bishop in the church” (35).

Chapter IV deals with martyrdom and the suffering that supposedly comes with being a Christian. Certain Gnostic texts deny the suffering of Christ, saying that his divine nature transcended his human nature. Being the Son of God, he is pure spirit, which overcomes the flesh completely (75). Gnostic Christians believed that Christ was killed so that they “might not be killed” (82). This naturally led to the belief that the martyrdom of the orthodox Christians was in vain, and, hence, took the glory of it away in the process. This did not please the orthodox Christan leaders in the least. They “insisted on the necessity of accepting martyrdom” as a way of imitating and taking part in the glory of Christ (82). According to Gnostic Christan thought, however, as deduced from many of its sacred texts, their sufferings and executions were not at all honourable martyrdom, but, in fact, unchristian baseness. Also, one argument by the orthodox Christians, like Tertullian, was that their suffering and deaths was in itself evidence of the truth of the Gospel, that their theological take on Christianity was the right one, and that the Gnostics were mere liars and cowards. Justin Martyr went so far as to call their lack of persecution a crime (84).

Chapter VI is of great importance, because it emphasizes the meaning and power of gnosis within Gnostic philosophy and theology. For the Gnostics, finding the one true God required finding the one true self of the individual, and, clearly, no authority-figure is necessary for this. Hence, the Gnostics rejected “religious institutions as a hindrance to their progress.” For the orthodox believers, it was sin that separates humankind from God. The “gnostics, on the contrary, insisted that ignorance, not sin, is what involves a person in suffering” (124). Ignorance could then be considered the one true sin in Gnosticism; for “whoever remains ignorant, a ‘creature of oblivion,’ cannot experience fulfillment” (125). They remain in a state of sheer darkness and foolishness, as explained in Teachings, a Gnostic text written by the teacher Silvanus, and found at Nag Hammadi. This call for independence, then, is the ultimate undermining of clerical power and authority, and the absence of the Christian, metaphysical concept of sin also removes the need for priest absolution (something stressed by Protestantism, as well). The clergy, then, become something superfluous and unneeded.

Pagels transitions smoothly from one topic to another. The dominating theme is clear throughout the entire book, and gives a vivid backdrop, which unites the issues she covers. I enjoyed the feminist matter covered in Chapter III. The matter of denying the feminine aspect of Gnostic theology to maintain patriarchal dominance in the Church is, indeed, a serious matter, which is as relevant in the 21st Century as it was in the time of early Christianity. It is the timely relevance of The Gnostic Gospels which makes it such an important document. Seeing “God as a dyad whose nature includes both masculine and feminine elements” (57) can completely change a modern-day monotheist’s view of his/her God, be he Jehovah or Allah. Except, the most astonishing aspect for me of Gnostic theology, is the ability to not only achieve knowledge of Christ through gnosis, but to become his equal. For “whoever achieves gnosis becomes ‘no longer a Christian but a Christ’” (134). This is sheer blasphemy in New-Testament Christianity.

The most beautiful aspect of Gnosticism, which Pagels rightly emphasizes, is its artistic nature. It is a matter of finding God in the self-knowledge-seeking of the divine within, which is then expressed through creativity. This is a spiritual form of religion, which cannot be overly emphasized in its ability to help a person feel fulfilled, elated and genuine. The Gnostics encouraged the expression of “their own insight – their own gnosis – by creating new myths, poems, rituals, ‘dialogues’ with Christ, revelations, and accounts of their visions” (20), and it is very telling that the orthodox teachers, such as Irenaeus, censured and ridiculed this very creativity and deep, soulful expression (21). For the Gnostics considered it proof of enlightenment that one could “create the poems, vision accounts, myths and hymns that” were created “only on the basis of immediate experience” (145). Pagels was right to identify all of this artistry and spiritual creativity as an expression of power, and, hence, an undermining of achieving spiritual awakening solely through the Church’s hierarchy.

The Gnostic Gospels is an enlightening read, and a necessity for anyone who is interested in the early rise of Christianity. Although the attainment of power by “spiritual” leaders is not only a religious problem which expresses itself in Christianity, the historical analysis of it within the context of the orthodox churches can help us understand its significance and expression in other religious myths. Elaine Pagels gives a very well thought-out analysis of early Gnosticism, and the threat its sacred texts pose to orthodox Christianity.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Comedic Two-Pager - Charlie's Boner

Alright, so here's another two-pager I aced the following month. We had to do a comedic one this time...so I did this. In class, we'd present the assignments by acting them out around the long, rectangular, wooden table we always sat around. It was fun. I played the husband for this, a couple of other guys played the smaller parts, and a hilarious chick in the class played the wife, Lisa. She was awesome! She played it just as I wanted and as I knew she would be able to execute it. It had'm all in stitches. One guy asked if he could have the copyrights to it. Heh. Damn, that class was fun! First semester, anyway.

CHARLIE'S BONER

FADE IN:

EXT. MINI MART PARKING LOT NIGHT

A car is speedily driven to the front of the convenience store. CHARLIE (34) jumps out of the front seat and rushes inside. He is wearing dress pants, dress shoes, and a disheveled, white dress shirt.


INT. MINI MART NIGHT

He opens the door and rushes to the clerk (40) at the counter.

CHARLIE

Please, call 911! I’m outa gas! She’s coming!

CLERK

What’s wrong, Mack? Who’s comin’?

Two car headlights suddenly appear through the window. Charlie gulps with fear. LISA (28) gets out and slams the door behind her. She furiously enters the store with a look of sheer wrath upon her face.

LISA

Cheating on me with the babysitter, eh, Charlie? Well, now you pay the price!

She reaches behind her back and takes out a butcher knife.

LISA

Your prick is miiiiiiiiiiiiiine!

Charlie lets out a gasp and heads to the stockroom. She chases after him with her right arms stretched forward and the knife pointed upwards. He exits out the backdoor.


INT. SUPERMARKET NIGHT

The supermarket is immense and very busy. Charlie enters terrified, looks around, and dashes down the fruit section. He reaches the end of the isle and desperately grabs a GROCER by the collar.

CHARLIE

Please, my wife is comin’ for me! Help!

Lisa enters, stops, sees him, and then bolts after him with the knife pointed up in the air.

GROCER

Your wife?

CHARLIE

Yes!

GROCER

What does she want?

Lisa screams at the top of her lungs with a sadistic look in her eyes. She is headed right for Charlie’s crotch.

CHARLIE

My penis!

He dashes around the corner and gets some distance away from her. He stops and then she does the same. He frantically looks from left to right. He grabs a watermelon. There is a pause as he looks at her slyly.

LISA

To the wicked, Charlie...Bobitization...is inevitable.

She darts for him. He starts bowling watermelons as fast as he can towards her, then small cans of food. She acrobatically jumps off of each one towards him. He grabs a grapefruit and heads down another isle.

He stops about 50 feet in front of her, grabs three cereal boxes, and starts shooting them at her like giant ninja stars. She dodges each one. He heads for the exist. Just when he is about to leave, she catches up to him.

She lets out a scream, brings the knife down towards his lower region, he blocks it with the grapefruit, and the knife cuts it in half. With both halves, he squeezes citrus spray in each of her eyes. She screams, drops the knife, and covers her face. He escapes.


EXT. STREET NIGHT


Charlie runs to a building across the street without looking. A car swerves to avoid him and hits another car coming in the opposite direction. Lisa leaps over the cars effortlessly. She gets to the front door of the building and reads the sign: “MISOGYNISTS OF AMERICA.”

LISA

(looks up)
This isn’t over, Charlie! It shall be my trophyyyyyyyyyy!!


Monday, October 26, 2009

Two-Pager - Autumn Day

Back in September of 2005, I started taking a 7-month screen writing course at Ryerson University. The first assignment wasn't anything specific. It just had to have dialogue (my specialty), and it was limited to two pages. So I did this, and before October ends, I just thought I'd give it a post up here. I got an A on it, by the way. I don't know why; it's not that great. I hope you've enjoyed your autumn.

Autumn Day

FADE IN:

EXT. PARK DAY

Two best friends, TYLER PARKER (21) and KAYLA CLARK (21), are sitting beside each other under an apple tree with their backs resting against the trunk.

The leaves are changing colours as apples fall from their branches. Kayla is sitting with her knees up to her chest and her arms rapped around them. She rarely looks at Tyler while they speak.

TYLER

I just love fall.

KAYLA

Why?


TYLER

It’s beautiful. There’s colour to the leaves, there’s a perfect end of summer breeze, it’s not too cold, not too hot, there’s that unique autumn scent...but I guess mostly the colours. I love colours. What, you don’t like it?

KAYLA

No, I hate it.

TYLER

How can you hate Autumn?

KAYLA

Because everything’s dying, for God’s sake!

TYLER

Must you look at everything so morbidly?

KAYLA

It’s a morbid season. I look at it that way because it is! If you have an issue with the fact that everything’s dying, take it up with God.

TYLER

I’m not speaking to him!

KAYLA

It’s not that I’m morbid; you’re just overly merry and optimistic.

TYLER

I’ll have you know that I take pride in my pessimism.

He starts picking at the grass.

KAYLA

Oh, please. The trees are dying, the grass is dying, birds are flying away so they don’t die, squirrels are frantically scavenging around collecting enough scraps from the dying trees to survive the upcoming harsh, callous winter freeze, which homeless people are shaking in horror at just the thought of, and here you are talking about how beautiful it is because the leaves are changing colours in response to their death. Oh, and some imaginary smell.

TYLER

Hey, if you can’t smell it that’s your problem. If anything, you’re just jealous that I can find beauty and token hope in a time of year that you choose to find miserable and depressing.

KAYLA

I find it that way because it’s blatantly obvious. This just epitomizes the way you sadly go through life. An overtly delusional optimist. You blind yourself to the obviousness of the negativity so you can hold on to the scraps of your childhood la-la land.

TYLER

I am not an optimist, alright?! Stop calling me that! I really resent it. I’m the gloomiest person anyone I know has ever encountered.

KAYLA

Don’t kid yourself. You find pure joy in a time of year cleaved with the natural despondence of death.

TYLER

Correction: I see beauty in what you morbidly choose to deem as despondence of death.

KAYLA

You used to just love the Polkadot Door, didn’t you?

TYLER

Hated it, as a matter-of-fact.

KAYLA

Surprising.

TYLER

Polkaroo was Satan!

KAYLA

Don’t hurt yourself.

TYLER

Look, I just like colours! Do I really deserve this reproof for that? What’s your problem?

KAYLA

Nothing. I’m just stating my case.

An apple falls from the tree clunking him on the head.

TYLER

(grabs his skull)

Ah! Fuck!

KAYLA

That’s fall for yah.

TYLER

Unbelievable. Newton’s an iconic genius for realizing what we all know as toddlers. If he was such a genius, why didn’t he reverse the process?

KAYLA

The process of life and death, or what goes up must come down?

Another apple falls and cracks him on the skull again. He yelps out in pain.

TYLER

Goddamn it!

He grabs the apple angrily, stands up, and whips it as far as he can. Kayla stands up beside him.

KAYLA

I guess the tree doesn’t want us sitting under it anymore. It doesn’t want us reminding it of its time of dying.

TYLER

(pause)

Autumn sucks.

They start walking.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Saved by a Magic Mushroom

I love October. Good things always happen to me in October. Four years ago today, I had the craziest trip of my life, and through it I was literally reborn and emancipated. My life was changed forever, and I never viewed people, religion, ascetic morality or social mores the same way ever again. I was always skeptical about them, but now, seeing the psychology behind them, I had both reason and instinct for cynicism. I finally saw so clearly the rancour and hostility of the rabble - like never before. The way they use superstition and morality as a weapon had always bothered me, but now I knew exactly why. I saw the vamparism. I still see the vamparism, more and more every day. So much happened to me that magical day - perceptions, revelations . . . the experience of a lifetime. However, a few months later, I decided to write a strange little poem about it that turned into a prose, and then a poem again, and I think a prose near the end . . . I don't know . . . Fuck it; it doesn't matter; I'd just like to show it to you . . . whoever you are.

A Magic Mushroom was My Saviour
05/04/06

What began as a feeling deep,
An awakening of my struggle sleep,
A grinding, a churning, a marching dirt within,
Earthly purification, an excavation of sin.
Faces, bodies, images of the forbidden above me as I lay,
Never had I felt as whole as I had felt that day.
Patterns of light morphing...devouring and creating itself,
and out it came as totem images before me,
Light of coloured, bright life empowered, knowing faces of myself.
Inner glow comforting, soothing, warming feeling of my soul,
‘twas love possessing my every being and my whole.
With my new eyes, emancipated, outside did I drift,
That beloved 2005 of October 25th.
Seeing the wholesome world and sky of autumn as if for the first time,
I finally understood that my pious inculcation was nothing short of a crime.
That eternal place of fire and sulfur, pain and agony – a fear-tactic! Nothing more!
A devil who was the cause of my doubting a book founded on contradictions and errors - a scare-tactic! Nothing more!
Why hadn’t I realized it before?
Why was it only then that I so clearly saw through the scriptural deceit as spawned by bile?
Always a person of strong intuition and freeing will,
I guess I just needed the inevitable nudge,
But this was that times a thousand,
And now behold my mighty grudge!
So many years wasted in unwarranted guilt,
Without which the Cross would have not any power,
But once and for all reason cooled the burning,
I was then freed that warm, blessed hour.
Can anyone deny that if it wasn’t for the fabricated Hell and Satan that Christianity and Islam would have been mere footnotes in history?! Nothing more!
The grand idea of heaven takes people to places of worship,
the fear of hell keeps them there.
But it’s funny that when you acknowledge that there are no such things as demons, perdition, or “sin,” the term “Saviour” then means nothing.
And so now the lies and nonsense are affirmed to me for what they are. Fear tactics! Nothing more!
Now I live anew! Without the folklore.
Once and for all purged of any ravishing Christian guilt – as from refusing the weakening stagnation of that horrid Gospel pseudo-stilt!
Almost crippling me as it has done to so many past and present,
Leaving me an empty, scared, hollow peasant.
But my will was too strong,
For the joy of the world I would always long!
My entire life its evils raping my conscience by shrewdly violating me through what makes me human,
I am an innocent animal capable of my own benevolence; cleansed, and free, I am my own dominion!
The Church’s archaic form of control now impotent – so clearly self-servingly schemed,
Making you feel like a sinner in order to make you feel like you need to be redeemed.
No more acidic burn simply for being a healthily carnal creature,
My chest now safe from Christ’s phallus of fire.
The monster Paul dared condemn passion and ambition!
Tfou! I spit on him! Weakening was his mission!
For what then is the point of life? So befuddling is this heinous nihilism!
Paulianity is its true name – the ultimate masochism!
But I shall have none of it!
For me it was always misery not joy!
I embrace the seven deadly sins as intrinsic growths of living!
It is only through them in which I may cultivate my being!
Behold! I am a free man at last!
To express, to write, to laugh, to know, to fuck - to have a blast!

“Christianity has been up till now mankind’s greatest misfortune.” – Nietzsche

“That’s why I always recommend a psychedelic experience, ‘cause it does make you realize that everything you learned is, in fact, just learned and not necessarily true.” – Bill Hicks on religion

So true, Bill. R.I.P.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Dark Angel

See my dark angel,
See her soaring in the night?
Even through the day,
She still soars through the night.

Why so melancholy, dear angel?
Feel that all you do is glide?
Sweep down for me, dark angel,
Won’t you take me for a ride?

What do you search for, my angel,
A demon to fructify your role?
What will it take to slake you?
Is there a limit to your soul?

Why do you look away, dark angel?
Why so sullen, so morose?
My heart distends like yours, dark angel,
For it’s with you that it’s engrossed.

Hail down on me, sweet angel,
How I long for your embrace,
Grant me this much, dear angel,
As I take in and kiss your face.

Who do you swoop down on now, dark angel,
Another demon to cause you grief?
Such a veneer of charm is gravity,
Which pulls you in without relief.

Saddened once again, dark angel?
Another supposed personage, O so puerile…
But why be so dejected, sweet angel?
By yet another demon, O so vile?

Can I eat your pain, dear angel?
Can you rain it down on me?
I’ll always do my most, my angel,
Our hearts a synergy.

Don’t feel this way, dark angel,
To let your heart grow cold with stings!
Keep soaring on, my angel,
And let no demon break your wings.

I look on in awe, dear angel,
As I see you streaming 'cross the sky.
I look on with roses knotted,
For in my heart you’ll never die.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

To Hell with Hell

Something has been bothering me for quite some time now. I think for almost as long as I can remember. The unwarranted fear of this nonexistent place called hell is truly an unfortunate thing. An underlying, subterranean social cancer, one might say. It used to keep me up nights as a child and well into adulthood; tossing and turning the precious night hours away; imagining myself and everyone I ever cared about screaming in perpetual agony for all eternity in a pit of never-ending hellfire. I honestly think that religious inculcation is child abuse and that people who put the fear of hell into their children should have their children taken away from them. And it’s ironic that the two gods most responsible for breeding this fear of eternal destruction are the god of the Bible and the god of the Koran. The two most despicable deities man ever invented: deities whom, according to their very own holy texts, are responsible for the most atrocious and deplorable crimes ever committed against humanity. Many of which are acts a human being could never execute, i.e., Zechariah 14:1-2 where Jehovah sends an army into Jerusalem to ransack the homes and rape the women. Or Deuteronomy 28:53-57 and Jeremiah 19:9 where he makes people eat each other and their children. Stephen King doesn’t even write this shit! What is supernatural and also inhuman about such verses, and all the others the Bible is peppered with, besides the most obvious, is that God takes away the freewill of the people being forced to commit these evils with a clear conscience, and controls them like their pawns on a chessboard. This is something a human tyrant could not do no matter how badly he may want to. There is no character in all of literary fiction more worthy of eternal damnation than such a being as this. People actually pray to him, it’s disgusting!

“Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.” – Thomas Paine

There are so many miserable, divorced Catholic and Orthodox women out there who had a horrific marital experience, and who now either live in loneliness or in constant guilt and fear for their mortal souls, because they currently “live in sin.” Allow me to elaborate. In Christianity – and the Catholic and Orthodox churches are the only ones who have remained dogmatically true to this – divorce and remarriage to somebody else is only permitted by the lunatic from Nazareth if the first spouse was guilty of infidelity. By any other reason and remarriage is an act of adultery. Meaning, if a man beats the living hell out of his wife on a regular basis, and even gambles her money away, she may leave him only to remain single for the rest of her life, because he did not cheat on her. If she finds another man – one who treats her right, and gives her the good life she deserves – both are guilty of adultery and will be thrown into a lake of fire and sulfur for it for all eternity. This is how evil and sadistic the Christian god is! This is why I hate him so much! He’s the most malicious monster of monsters! What, should the poor, abused woman remain with her tyrannous husband until he beats her to death one day? And why should she remain alone forever if she does the right thing and leaves him? Does she not deserve happiness? Such detestable misogyny! Thankfully, marriage (at least heterosexual marriage) is being slowly abolished along with Christianity itself. And on a side note, if you compare Matthew 19:9 to Mark 10:11-12, Christ contradicts himself on the matter. (The reason being, of course, that the gospel writers didn’t know each other, and so couldn’t check each other’s notes.) In Matthew, divorce and remarriage is allowed due to unfaithfulness. However, in Mark, it is not allowed at all, and is adultery on all counts. All of this nonsense is a perfect example of what Richard Dawkins rightly calls “obnoxious morality.” Heh. I like that.

Now, like I said, there has been something on my mind for quite some time now. Almost all my life. It is the existential problem, as I see it, between the day to day interactions of people with the different belief-systems of hell. Not to mention the psychological problem of a believer (in such a place) in consorting or even acquainting themselves with a nonbeliever. It is a matter of inauthenticity and self-deceit. And as someone who used to be Christian, it is a problem which I once experienced within myself, all the while wondering how other believers dealt with it. Allow me to illustrate my point.

A Christian wakes up on Sunday morning and goes to church with his wife and kids (unless, of course, they are Seventh Day Adventists). When consorting with his fellow believers, he does so with a belief in his mind that he may also consort with them for all eternity after death in the bliss of heaven. When he interacts with family members of the same creed, it is with this same species of feeling. Nothing along the lines of convinced fear for their mortal souls exists. But the next day he goes to work. He interacts with fellow coworkers of many different superstitions other than his, along with those who carry none at all. But he smiles to all of them. He wishes them well. He bids them good day. He gives them high fives. He works with them earnestly to achieve their goals and deadlines. He gives them assistance, encouragement and praise. Nobody acts like there is an apocalypse on its way to swallow the majority of the human race into eternal, fiery torment. Well, most don’t anyway. Yet, as far as he is considered, he knows it as fact that most of them (unless they are of likeminded faith) are going to burn in hell forever and ever. And if he is a Catholic Christian he even feels this way about his Protestant coworkers, and they, if they are indeed devout, think this way about him. His Muslim coworkers feel that way about him, as well, along with all their other non-Muslim coworkers, whom they also feel that way towards, no matter, of course, how good they are as human beings.

But they act like everything is A-OK. But how can it be okay? If most of their coworkers, acquaintances, and the majority of humankind, who they claim are their brothers and sisters, are going to end up in the most horrific, nightmarish place imaginable, then should they not naturally be in a constant state of nausea and deep, dark depression, peppered with bouts of solemn weeping? How can they say that they are filled with their god’s love, yet not be in the constant turmoil of the conflicting feelings between wanting to be content and happy, and feeling nothing but the most ceaseless fear, pity and sadness for the accursed lot of people who they know and do not know? How then can they say that they love them, when they act like everything is fine and show no concern for them whatsoever? And, indeed, the only way for them to function properly from day to day is if they push these terrible feelings down into the trenches of their guts, and these morbid thoughts into the abyss of their mind. And in so doing, every “hi, how are you?” from a believer to an unbeliever is completely fallacious, because it does not matter how they are, hell awaits them. Every “good morning” and “good night” is tainted with a falsehood that increases along with the smile they are both presented and present with. Every “I hope you‘re doing well” is tainted with a morbid disingenuousness, because it does not matter how they are doing in this world if an eternity of weeping, and whaling and gnashing of teeth is their inevitable, godforsaken end, and deep down inside every believer knows it. But they have to act like everything’s okay. They must lie to themselves that everything is okay so they can have some semblance of peace in a life where it is already so hard to find. Otherwise, the thoughts and images of most of the people they know and care about (even family members of different beliefs) suffering to no avail would weigh down on them to the point where they could no longer function in society. So, as a defense mechanism, they push them away, and their conscience does not, in turn, constantly bite and nip at them for not always feeling remorse for their fellow man, woman and child, and for not proselytizing every chance they get in order to save them, making a complete nuisance and pestering bug of themselves. They may even “convince” themselves the miserable, absurd lie that all those people actually deserve what they are going to get, because it is decreed and handed down by their infallible, righteous, divine Judge. Either way, they teach themselves the abysmal habit of looking at themselves dishonestly. All this is a form of cognitive dissonance. The type of thing George Orwell termed doublethink.

And so instinctual concern and compassion for those whom, according to their holy writ, are damned forever, is smothered away and replaced with a weaker, tainted, plastic one. And the bad conscience that comes with this is now and then appeased by praying for the infidels and heretics to “come to the light.” Then they can tell themselves that though most are going to burn anyway, at least they’re doing their part. Yet, according to those two monsters of monotheism (Christianity and Islam), everyone who has ever lived or will live is predestined to either go to heaven or hell. So they should know very well, then, that there is no point in praying for them at all. It is futile. All this has implicitly bred in all believers in hell (and there are a few billion of them) an inauthenticity and callousness like no other. For if they actually considered what it all actually meant, and dwelt on it for an extended period of time, that, say, a beautiful human being (a philanthropist perhaps) is to burn in hell simply for not being baptized or for eating pork, for example, their natural care for their fellow species would have their conscience scream at them at how wrong it all is, and they would begin to doubt, as most actually do, whether they would like to admit it or not. And this doubt would grow and grow until it completely swept over their mind, heart and conscience and eventually blossomed into the emancipation of the fruits of a healthy skepticism and naturalistic world view. They would be cleansed of such a poisonous, masochistic superstition. No longer would they have to believe that most of the innocent, smiling or frowning faces which they see from day to day are going to end up in unending punishment at the hands of a merciless, totalitarian god, who we are supposed to believe is a god of love. For if the believer accepts all this madness for what it is, he or she would have to admit the simple fact that such a god has no love in him at all.

And if the aforesaid Christian man was raised Muslim, he would believe what Muslims believe about the matter: namely that all non-Muslims, like him, are eternally damned to hell. And if he were raised a Hindu or a Buddhist, he would be damned by both of these monotheistic standards, and, most importantly – it would not be his fault. And if either Christianity or Islam is correct, most people are handed at childhood onwards with a one way ticket to perdition. And, indeed – it is not their fault. No, no; this is most certainly NOT okay!

Now, let us say, hypothetically speaking, of course, that if this madman from Nazareth, this Lion of the Tribe of Judah, this Jesus Christ, were to return one day, with a double-edged sword coming out of his mouth, to throw the vast majority of the human race into a lake of fire and brimstone for all eternity, simply for not believing in him, or for not believing in him strongly enough, would it not be our duty to prevent such an unimaginably horrific and horrible thing from happening? Would it not be, out of our love for mankind, an obligation and privilege to crucify him and everything he stands for – once and for all?!

I think so...I think so...

If it wasn’t for the fear-tactics of hell and the devil, Christianity and Islam would have been footnotes in history!

Peace. Love. Abort Christ!

Cool Night Deceit

I love the cool night air,
The way it fills up my lungs...
The way it breezes by my ears,
Whispering the songs never sung.

Cool, summer-night air,
A microcosmic bliss...
Being the things that mean something,
Being a love that I miss.

Too-cool, summer-night breeze,
One that can make me ill...
Though I can’t bring myself to leave you,
And the wretched hope you instill.

Cold, summer-night wind,
An unfair surprise...
I now must escape thee,
And your enchanting, truthful lies.

The Gay Science (Review)

"'Evil has always had great effects in its favor. And nature is evil. Let us therefore be natural.' That is the secret reasoning of those who have mastered the most spectacular effects, and they have all too often been considered great human beings.” – The Gay Science; 225

I read this 19th-Century masterpiece of literature back in December, and then felt compelled to write this review. It was the eleventh book of Friedrich Nietzsche’s that I had read. All that was left was Nietzsche Contra Wagner, which I read this summer when I had the chance. I can surely understand why The Gay Science is so many people’s favourite. Here he puts art above science, knowledge above “truth,” and, as always, the affirmation of life up against its denial and slander. But what the book is most renowned for is the announcement that “God is dead,” and the notion of the eternal recurrence. The former requires much work to still be done in the realm of science and language, as the shadows of God remain, and they, too, must be – annihilated.

The meaning of "God is dead" has, for the most part, been explained as God being dead in comparison to how alive he was prior to the Enlightenment. For prior to the Enlightenment, everything (in Europe, anyway) was seen through theistic eyes; be it science, knowledge or “wisdom.” The search for truth in every sense was instinctively sought in and through God. Self- and external discovery was bound to theism at the hip. With the Enlightenment, God was removed, and reason put in his place. One might say he was flattened and crushed by it.

There is, of course, another interpretation of the statement “God is dead,” which one rarely ever hears touched upon, but is just as important, if not more so, and is well tied into what Nietzsche says in Thus Spoke Zarathustra of God being killed by pity. The Christian god wants more than anything that we deny ourselves this life. (Stoicism being the backbone of the New Testament). Basically, it is a call for the crucifixion of all that makes us human. But for Nietzsche, self-denial is the embrace of nothingness (a dominating theme in On the Genealogy of Morals and The Anti-Christ), and nothingness is precisely what death is. Therefore, self-denial is the embrace of death while one is still alive. For Nietzsche, the Buddhist or Christian monk who has been able to kill off all his desires, and blunt himself against life, is officially dead. He walks, talks, breathes, eats, etc, but he is dead. A living sack of meat, one might say. And because the Christian god wants self-abnegation of us as an ideal, he – is dead. For Nietzsche, Christianity is the ultimate attack on and nay-saying of life. This life, that is. As there is no other.

As for the matter of pity in Zarathustra, his following book, and how it fits into all of this, it is also a Christian matter. He called Christianity "the religion of pity." As most know, as it is overt, the god of The Old Testament is a god of power, vengefulness and animosity, and the god of the New Testament a god of love; yet, it is supposedly the same god. Except, he expresses this love by pitying our so-called “sinful natures.” For Nietzsche, this is a wearying violation of conscience, as there is nothing – absolutely nothing – to be pitied here. Our instincts and natural inclinations are to be embraced, sharpened and affirmed, and because this wretched, insipid, obnoxious god wants the contrary of us, namely to kill off our desires, he has inevitably died off (at least in comparison to his tyrannical dominion over Europe in the Middle Ages), as what is unnatural and/or wearying of the human spirit cannot last forever. Furthermore, it is quite astounding to our logic that all of a sudden this Old Testament god of wrath, bigotry and violence is insatiably in love with the entire world (not just the Jews anymore), and shows it by having his son brutally tortured and executed. This morbid nonsense could surely not have lasted forever in the hearts of man as the absolute, glorious truth.

The truth of the matter is, there is far too much that Nietzsche packed into this marvelous book, especially with book five, which he added four years later in 1886, and the Appendix of Songs the following year, for me to even attempt to successfully and justly summarize it all in a little review. But I will explain some fundamental aspects of it, like the vitriolic attack on the search for the absolute truth of things, which is first introduced in section 4 of the Preface. Nietzsche doesn’t know what the truth could possibly be, but he does know that, because the truth of something is a statement to which nothing more can be added, we do not have the means of ever finding it, nor should we want to be able to. For him such truth-claims are a product of laziness and an expression of death, which is why he calls truth an “old hag,” and why in aphorism 344 he identifies the will to truth as “a concealed will to death.” The horizons are limitless for Nietzsche. They are eternal, and there will always be more to learn, especially about human existence, which offers infinite interpretations, and he would not want it any other way, nor can he fathom why someone would want such an insipid, lifeless thing. In fact, if there were a God, Nietzsche would willingly praise him for our fate being this way and no other, which is another aspect of his philosophy that is first mentioned here and again in Ecce Homo: amor fati – the love of fate.

We cannot claim to know all there is to know about the causes of human motives and inspiration (our own, first and foremost), not just because all people and situations are different, but because we are the thing knowing and so are riddled with blind spots towards our inner selves. This, of course, also applies to trying to know the world around us in general. For this reason, which I have here so quickly and coarsely summed up, as there is so much more to this, he sides with Leibniz over Descartes that knowledge is to be sought and accumulated from the object, not the subject. Vice versa is futile, because in the process of knowing, our stream of consciousness continually brings about more that can and cannot be known. It is an infinite cycle that can get us nowhere in trying to learn about the world around us. And he agrees with Hume, as pretty much all the post-Enlightenment thinkers do (though without saying that is what he is doing, as he, for the most part, found Hume's philosophy to be petty and frivolous) that our reason is a slave to our passions, and Nietzsche expounds that when we discover or accept a new truth over one we used to embrace, it is because we have changed, and are ready to put on a new skin, which better suits our present selves.

A very interesting and undeniably ingenious section of the book is aphorism 354, entitled "On the genius of the species.” Nietzsche takes his usual burrowing stab at the origins of human consciousness and self-consciousness. He expounds for quite a bit that the former developed out of a need for communication, particularly between those who command and those who obey. It has evolved around humanity’s “social or herd nature” as a required “social or herd utility.” The latter is a by-product of actual human interaction, communication and the need to express ourselves as clearly as possible to our fellow Homosapiens. This made us very conscious of ourselves, and, therefore, “it was only as a social animal that man acquired self-consciousness – which he is still in the process of doing, more and more.” In constantly needing to assess ourselves and how well we are establishing what we want to communicate, self-consciousness came to be. Due to all of this, the “genius of the species” is what has us see the world, not as it actually is (though it might by fluke sometimes), but as is best for the herd – for the species. All our thoughts are continually “governed by the character of consciousness – by the ‘genius of the species’ that commands it – and translated back into the perspective of the herd.”

As with his other works, the problem of morality is of prime interest. A major aspect of it is, of course, that people use morality to appear and feel superior to others. It is a weapon and tool of their inferiority and feebleness. It is a mask and masquerade. In aphorism 352, he propounds that the person who needs this moral attire the most, is not the barbaric type, but the weak “herd animal with its profound mediocrity, timidity, and boredom with itself,” who then uses morality to appear justified and “divine.” A sage and/or religious founder, like Buddha or St. Paul, must have the genius of understanding the correct morality that will best fit and attract a people in a given place and time, which will in turn inspire followers and zealous devotion (353). And, as for philosophers, be they moral fanatics like Kant or not, there is nothing more paltry and pathetic to Nietzsche, than a philosopher who cannot laugh at himself and the world around him from time to time. Walter Kaufmann, who offers incredibly insightful footnotes, as usual, remarks that most of Nietzsche’s interpreters, critics and detractors were incapable of laughing at themselves.

As for his wonderfully superb attacks and mockery of nationalism (in particularly German nationalism), antisemitism, pessimism, mysticism and all the rest on Christianity and the Christian god, I will not dare to even begin to try and summarize it all here. It’s all too brilliant and fun, and would be quite unjust of me. I only recommend this entire book be read, and everything in it be pondered on without haste by the reader, preferably with a fierce, exuberant heart, under warm, sunny skies, or majestic, starry nights.

A TOAST, then! To the death of God! How I love the smell of his rotting carcass!!

Remember: just because God is dead, it doesn't mean we have to be. :)

Fool in Despair

All that I wrote on table and wall
With a foolish heart and foolish scrawl
Was meant to add a little grace.

You say: “The hands of fools deface
Table and wall – one must erase
All he has written, all!”

I’d like to help as best I can:
I wield a sponge, as you recall,
As critic and as waterman.

But when the cleaning up is done,
Let’s see the super-sage emit
Upon the walls sagacious shit!

- From the Appendix of Songs -