the prudent but strict curtailment of the freedom of the press; the minute police supervision of all teachers and professors; and the ferreting out Illuminism in its most secret recesses…. The result will be that henceforth no one will be able to corrupt the opinion of the people … and that the real happiness of the people will no longer be threatened by the destruction of religion and the subversion of society.
“I am all goodness, love, truth, mercy, health. I am a necessary part of God’s universe. I am a divine soul, and only good can come through me or to me. God made me, and He could make nothing but goodness and purity and worth. I am the reflection of all His qualities.” This is the “new” religion; yet it is older than the universe. It is God’s own thought put into practical form.
But they were entirely free from the malignant envy, the panic born of prejudice and the perverse passions produced by hypocritically pretending to suppress natural instincts, which one associates with tradesmen in the West End of London and ministers of religion.
Aleister Crowley, Confessions, Chapter 55
Rationalism swept through Germany, more especially the illusion that man’s faculty could establish and secure a single, true, and salvation-guaranteeing religion. This rationalism expressed itself in pamphlets, in systems, in conversations, in secret societies and in many other institutions. It was not satisfied—indeed it did not even bother—to deny the distinctive doctrines of the Catholic church; its basis was rather the simple assertion: nothing in positive Christianity is acceptable except its “reasonable morality,” the doctrine that God is the father of all things, and the proposition that man’s soul is immortal; what goes beyond these three assertions is either poetry or superstition or pure nonsense.
Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for Everyone and No One [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Friedrich Nietzsche; trans., introduction, & notes R J Hollingdale.
Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra is a Bible for the godless, a treasure-trove for reluctant but inevitable onolaters. Although it often seems to offer its message in the simplest and most straightforward terms, it also admits plainly to a crypticism and esoteric character that exceeds the one indicated in Mark 4:11-12. The sage Zarathustra is not merely a cipher for Nietzsche himself, he is putatively the inventor of the notion of good and evil lying at the root of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and thus his creative power both subsumes and stands outside of it.
Many other books could be and have been written in an attempt to comprehend and elucidate this one. Many other writers have tried to assert their own superiority with facile dismissals of the challenges Nietzsche raises here.
Coming on the heels of several other English translations of Zarathustra, Del Caro’s is a conservative, readable text with minimal commentary and explication. The few explanatory footnotes seem mostly intent on exonerating Nietzsche from charges of misogyny, although some address translation issues. In particular Del Caro tries to justify the existence of his translation over and against that of Walter Kaufmann, whose errors he specifically calls out.
The long note on page 199 attempts to dispel what Del Caro calls the “myth” of Nietzsche’s inspired authorship of the book. But it is more worthwhile to ask what is being signified by the allegedly rapid writing of Zarathustra, and why, than to merely cast doubt on whether it was “really” written thus. There are also a surprising number of typos in this edition.
Action is pointless; only senseless hope makes sense. Superstition and religion, the first resorts of the helpless, proliferate.
Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative?
This is why religion can only be advice and clarification, and cannot carry any spurs of enforcement—for only belief and behavior that is independently arrived at, and then chosen, can be praised or blamed.
Tim Powers, The Anubis Gates
Band of Angels: The Forgotten World of Early Christian Women by Kate Cooper, from Overlook Press, may be of interest. You can also read an excerpt online at the author’s site.
“In this inspiring new history of the early Christian movement, award-winning historian Kate Cooper reveals a vivid picture of the triumphs and hardships of the first mothers of the infant church. As far as recorded history is concerned, women in the ancient world lived almost invisibly in a man’s world. Piecing together their story from the few contemporary accounts that have survived requires painstaking detective work, but it can render both the past and the present in a new light.
Following the lives of influential women across the first centuries of the church, Band of Angels tells the remarkable story of how a new way of understanding relationships took root in the ancient world. As Cooper demonstrates, women from all walks of life played an invaluable role in Christianity’s growth to become a world religion. Peasants, empresses, and independent businesswomen contributed what they could to an emotional revolution unlike anything the ancient world had ever seen.
By sharing the ideas that had inspired them, ancient women changed their own lives. But they did something more. Their story is a testament to what invisible people can achieve, and to how the power of ideas can change the world, one household at a time.”