Nietzsche’s Parable of the Madman

From Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science…

Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: “I seek God! I seek God!”—As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated?—Thus they yelled and laughed.

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.

“How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us—for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto.”

Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. “I have come too early,” he said then; “my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars—and yet they have done it themselves.

It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: “What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?”

Alan Watts

I was sent a very interesting video based on Alan Watts. The little blurb on the video quotes Watts: 

Atheism in the name of God is an abandonment of all religious beliefs . . . giving up the attempt to make sense of the world in terms of any fixed idea or intellectual system. It is becoming again as a child and laying oneself open to reality as it is actually and directly felt, experiencing it without trying to categorize, identify or name it. ~ Alan Watts

There are comments under the video claiming that atheism is not a belief because it is simply the disbelief in God. This always cracks me up.  Especially since this IS Alan Watts after all.  Read the full quote:

Atheism in the name of God is an abandonment of all religious beliefs, including atheism, which in practice is the stubbornly held idea that the world is a mindless mechanism. Atheism in the name of God is giving up the attempt to make sense of the world in terms of any fixed idea or intellectual system. It is becoming again as a child and laying oneself open to reality as it is actually and directly felt, experiencing it without trying to categorize, identify or name it. This can be most easily begun by listening to the world with closed eyes, in the same way that one can listen to music without asking what it says or means. This is actually a turn-on a state of consciousness in which the past and future vanish (because they cannot be heard) and in which there is no audible difference between yourself and what you are hearing. There is simply universe, an always present happening in which there is no perceptible difference between self and other, or, as in breathing, between what you do and what happens to you. Without losing command of civilized behavior, you have temporarily “regressed” to what Freud called the oceanic feeling of the baby the feeling that we all lost in learning to make distinctions, but that we should have retained as their necessary background, just as there must be empty white paper under this print if you are to read it.

Why is it so many atheists claim they don’t believe in anything just because they don’t believe in God?  Those who say they do not believe in God have at least bought into the intellectual idea that the question of God’s existence is somehow significant, even if it is simply to refute the affirmative response.  But not all of us find the question significant, so the answer doesn’t really matter.  Isn’t it possible we’ve simply been asking the wrong question for thousands of years and the insistence on answering it is the problem rather than how it is answered? Perhaps it’s time for all of us to transcend the labels we assign ourselves and one another and move on.

Praying Naked

J. Francis Stroud’s Praying Naked is a very interesting book. I’m a little trouble as to why he feels the need to speak through Anthony de Mello? It felt just a tad too new-agish for me, but there were several quotes used in the book which I’ve been meaning to jot down before I shelve the book…

  • When I pray for something, I do not pray.  When I pray for nothing, I really pray.  ~ Anthony de Mello
  • A neurotic is someone who worries about things in the past that never happened.  Not like us normal people who only worry about things in the future that won’t happen.  ~ Anthony de Mello
  • The tragedy of life is not how much we suffer, but how much we miss. ~ Thomas Carlyle
  • To understand things equals learning; to understand others equals wisdom; but to understand yourself, that is enlightenment.  ~ J. Francis Stroud, S.J.
  • Whatever one believes to be true either is true, or becomes true in one’s mind.  ~ John C. Lilly
  • Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion.  You must set yourself on fire.  ~ Reggie Leach
  • To fall into a habit is to begin to cease to be.  ~ Miguel de Unamuno
  • The consciousness of divinity comes only with quietude. ~ Meister Eckhart
  • Pain is the bitter pill of the inner physician that cracks the shell of our understanding.  And, after all, how can a seed grow into a flower unless the seed swells and dies?  ~ Kahlil Gibran
  • Great men are they that see that the spiritual is stronger than any material force, that thoughts rule the world. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • The only thing that we can know is that we know nothing.  And that is the highest flight of wisdom.  ~ Leo Tolstoy
  • Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.  ~ Robert Frost
  • What can you say to a close friend who is about to die? There is only one thing you can say to give the deepest comfort.  Say that in his death, a part of you dies and goes with him.  Wherever he goes, you go also.  He is not alone.  ~ J. Krishnamurti
  • We become the God we adore.  If we make a monster of him, then we become monsters, also.  ~ J. Francis Stroud, S.J.
  • Three stages of a person’s development:  I believe in Santa Claus.  I don’t believe in Santa Claus.  I am Santa Claus. ~ unknown
  • A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and will sing it back to you when you forget it. ~ W.N. Clarke

Do You Believe in God?

I LOVE this story…

One day, when Joseph Campbell was on his way to lunch in mid-town Manhattan, he was stopped on the street by a man handing out religious pamphlets.  The man asked suddenly, “Do you believe in God?”   Stepping back to consider his questioner, Campbell responded, “I don’t think you have time for my answer.”

To reduce the idea of God to a question of belief is to miss the point.  The monotheistic God of the Abrahamic faiths and the many gods within polytheism are personifications of transcendent energy consciousness.

Amen to that!

Names and Forms are Provisional

The Tao can’t be perceived.

Smaller than an electron,

it contains uncountable galaxies.

If powerful men and women

could remain centered in the Tao,

all things would be in harmony.

The world would become a paradise.

All people would be at peace,

and the law would be written in their hearts.

When you have names and forms,

know that they are provisional.

When you have institutions,

know where their functions should end.

Knowing when to stop,

you can avoid any danger.

All things end in the Tao,

as rivers flow to into the sea.

#32 Tao Te Ching (Stephen Mitchell)

Orwell vs. Huxley

This was another quote Chris Hedges used in I Don’t Believe in Atheists that I found interesting because both Neil Postman (End of Education) and Huxley’s Brave New World heavily influenced my decision to homeschool.

A poll taken last year showed that in the U.S., only 1 person out of every 4 had read a book that year and it is mostly older people who read. To go an entire year without reading a book is completely unfathomable to me.

This quote is from Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death:

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books.  What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.  Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information.  Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism.  Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us.  Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.  Orwell feared we would become a captive culture.  Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.  As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisisted, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever alert to oppose tyranny ‘failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distraction’.  In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain.  In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure.  In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us.  Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

The Idea of Progress Relies on the Ground of a Christian Culture

Reinhold Niebuhr quote used by Chris Hedges in I Don’t Believe in Atheists:

The idea of progress is compounded of many elements.  It is particularly important to consider one element of which modern culture is itself completely oblivious.  The idea of progress is possible only upon the ground of a Christian culture.  It is a secularized version of Biblical apocalypse and of the Hebraic sense of a meaningful history, in contrast to the meaninglessness history of the Greeks.  But since the Christian doctrine of the sinfulness of man is eliminated, a complicating factor in the Christian philosophy is removed and the way is open for simple interpretations of history, which relate historical process as closely as possible to biological process and which fail to do justice either to the unique freedom of man or the daemonic misuse which he may make of that freedom.

From the Nature and Destiny of Man