Are you a parent whose children have chosen a path far from yours? Are you a pastor, rabbi or imam who is frustrated at your flock’s seeming lack of interest? Are you a disciple of a particular religion who is having a hard time conforming? Here is a passage from Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra that may either encourage or challenge you.
Zarathustra is speaking to his disciples:
Now I go alone, my disciples. You too go now, alone. Thus I want it. Verily, I counsel you: go away from me and resist Zarathustra! And even better: be ashamed of him! Perhaps he deceived you.
The man of knowledge must not only love his enemies, he must also be able to hate his friends.
One repays a teacher badly if one always remains nothing but a pupil. And why do you not want to pluck my wreath?
You revere me; but what if your reverence tumbles one day? Beware lest a statue slay you.
You say you believe in Zarathustra? But what matters Zarathustra? You are my believers — but what matter all believers? You had not yet sought yourselves: and you found me. Thus do all believers; therefore faith amounts to so little.
Now I bid you lose me and find yourselves; and only when you have all denied me will I return to you.
Verily, my brothers, with different eyes shall I then seek my lost ones; with a different love shall I then love you.
And once again you shall become my friends and the children of a single hope — and then shall I be with you a third time, that I may celebrate the great noon with you.
My favorite part is “You had not yet sought yourselves: and you found me. … Now I bid you lose me and find yourselves…” Do we have enough confidence in our children or other followers to encourage them to find themselves?
Do we believe that right thinking and right living will lead to happiness and fulfillment? If so, then as one lives in alignment with one’s true self, won’t one align with what’s right as well?
Are we confident enough in the power of Good to believe that it will make itself evident and appealing to honest seekers? Do we believe Good is stronger than Evil? Or is our real confidence in the peer pressure of a group, in a particular spiritual practice, or in a particular book?
If you are one of those seekers, have you enough courage to seek yourself? Or are you afraid of what you will find there?
You needn’t be. You are a mix of good and bad, to be sure, but if you examine yourself you’ll find that any really bad parts come from externally inflicted wounds. Once you get past those and find yourself, you will probably discover that you are better than you thought.
Once you embrace that truth for yourself, it will be easier to encourage those who look up to you to do likewise. And then you can relax and enjoy what follows.
As a former Jehovah’s Witness, I reflected for years on the ways that cults/religions destroy members’ identities and damage their psyches. At some point, I realized that all their methods boil down to this: drowning out the inner voice that each person is born with and replacing it with something external. Witnesses were fond of quoting a particular Bible scripture that said not to rely on your own thinking but always turn to the Bible to guide your actions/thoughts (of course, that really meant let the Watchtower magazine control your every move). The Watchtower taught that even if a certain behavior FELT wrong, we were to practice it anyway. Often it meant treating others with coldness and indifference and circumventing the compassion we might feel for others (something that our hearts tell us is wrong) . The Watchtower was fond of telling us that the “heart is treacherous” and not to rely on our own sense of right and wrong.
Great article, POTB!