Posts Tagged ‘Good’

Beyond Good and Evil

Beyond Good and Evil is the title of Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical work.  It is a highly controversial book in which he successfully debunks the tenets of Christianity and in which he relativises the notions of good and evil.  There are two types of morality, he argues, the ruler-morality and the slave-morality.  It is the difference between them which is considered good and evil.  The ruler-morality considers good to be the ‘noble’ and the ‘warlike’, the strong and the powerful, the dominant with the will-to-life (which is power and control by another name).  The good in the slave-morality consists of attributes such as compassion, charity, forgiveness, fortitude in suffering etc.  – values which, he says, arise in the subjugated and the oppressed.

For Nietzsche, society and the masses should serve an elite few – the aristocracy – so that a few ‘supermen’ can be bred from this group which will contribute to the overall creativity and intelligence of the world.  It resembles a Hellenic conception of power (whose ‘democracy’ allowed for slaves).  But Nietzsche does not adopt Platonic and Socratic ideas of what is good and evil for these are absolute in concept and more interesting.

For Plato, what is good is the ‘agathon’ – the pure.  But for Nietzsche purity is an idealistic term whose original meaning escapes him.  It is the ‘pure’ of theology he deconstructs and shows how this good is linked in with the life-denying concept of original sin and pain and suffering for the rewards of a hypothetical here-after.  Such concepts were popularized by medieaval church scholars, like Thomas Aquinas.  Ecclesiastical goodness and purity is that which is non-sexual, non-physical and is burdened by a good dose of martyrdom.

It was not the Christ figure of Jesus that Nietszsche reviles, but rather the ideology perpetuated and propagated by the ruling class of the day.  The Christianity adopted by the ‘disciples’, many hundreds of years after the event, was an amalgam of Judaic and Islamic scriptural discourses.  In these discourses, god is a great punitive judge, patriarchal, and full of avenging wrath and power.  This great judge not only punishes one for his crime (whatever that was in the day) but he promises to punish generations of his children aeons into the future (sic!).  There are only a few direct quotes from the great enlightened master, Jesus and the most significant ones are not included in the Bible (all versions) but were found in Thomas’ and other gospels found in the late 19th Century. (Such revolutionary notions as we are all god’s children and heaven exists in the heart of all human beings.)

Nietzsche rightly points out that Jesus was a man of peace.  His words were in diametrical opposition to the scriptural dogma of the day.  He preached love and maintained that to love your loved ones is easy, but the aspiration should be to love your enemies.  Turning the other cheek, was a controversial idea in those days, given the ruling class’s belief in an avenging male god who judged and punished for the smallest misdemeanour.  Jesus embodied peace and maintained his silence even when the church and state crucified him.  I consider it a profound tragedy and stupidity that this brutality has been privileged as his divine purpose!  Sacrificing the man of peace is clearly symbolic of a more ancient heritage – the sacrificial lamb.  For to kill and sacrifice one’s own is to placate the war-like monster/god, or a fertility symbol, to help make crops grow.  The concession to violence because god is on one’s side, is still a prevalent and dangerous medieaval theological teaching  today.

So Nietzsche tears into the anti-life theology which breeds hatred of the body and eulogizes pain and suffering.  In this theology, there is no mention of a heaven-in-life, on earth, but the mere belief in a heaven which comes only after death (if you are good that is – whatever that means).

Having tried Christianity and found it wanting on many counts, Nietzsche declares god to be dead.  This became the catchphrase of European intellectuals and artist from early 20th century culminating the nihilism of postmodernist thought.  For the latter, there is no god, no absolutes, and nothing outside of language.

Nietszche found Eastern philosophies much more to recommend them.  He liked the idea of (ego) self-transcendence and the life-affirming qualities of joy, peace and prosperity here on earth.  But being a man of words, essentially, not experience, he remained entangled by his own discursive web, finally succumbing not to self-transcendence, but insanity.  He died in a mental asylum, completely unaware of his meteoric fame and Europe’s eulogy of his works.

So we may ask is there anything beyond good and evil?  Obviously, these are relativist terms since what is good for one culture may not be good for another.  As Nietzsche cleverly points out, these notions are relative to one’s class and position in the pecking order.

Enlightened discourse recognises that even a murderer has the opportunity to know his/her own true self.  It recognises the potential of ALL human beings to know and experience (as a feeling, not a thought) a realm beyond good and evil and beyond judgment.  All human beings house the boundless and infinite power of what we commonly refer to as god.  To know this state, is to be full of peace and love (and a great many other things besides).

Socrates is rarely quoted by Plato.  One quote, however, remains ‘know thy self’ and it was inscribed on the entrance of the Delphic temple ages prior.  Plato believed that the pure, the agathon, existed in the realm of ideas (messing with philosophy for centuries later).   One cannot easily dismiss, however, his belief, that human beings exist in a land of shadows and half-baked perceptions.  Plato’s writings are a poor testament to the great revolutionary and enlightened teachings of Socrates – so revolutionary, the authorities so threatened by his influence on the young, that they poisoned him to death.

To know one’s self implies an answer, as the great man of peace, Prem Rawat, points out in contemporary times.  It implies that if one pursues self-knowledge, that the profound meaning of that inner experience will propel one into the self-transformation of a Socrates, a Kabir, a Meera, a Rumi and countless others who acknowledged the power and the knowledge of the Self (the divine within) and found in their experience, the experience of the Absolute – the one truly beyond Good and Evil.

By Eleni Pouliezou/DissidentVoice

Posted by John the Revelator

Advertisements