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1.1: The Death of God

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    124.       In the Horizon of the Infinite. — We have left the land and have gone aboard ship ! We have broken down the bridge behind us, — nay, more, the land behind us! Well, little ship! look out! Beside thee is the ocean ; it is true it does not always roar, and sometimes it spreads out like silk and gold and a gentle reverie. But times will come when thou wilt feel that it is infinite, and that there is nothing more frightful than infinity. Oh, the poor bird that felt itself free, and now strikes against the walls of this cage ! Alas, if home- sickness for the land should attack thee, as if there had been more freedom there, — and there is no " land " any longer !


    125. The Madman, — Have you ever heard of the madman who on a bright morning lighted a lantern and ran to the market-place calling out unceasingly : " I seek God ! I seek God ! " — As there were many people standing about who did not believe in God, he caused a great deal of amusement. Why ! is he lost? said one. Has he strayed away like a child? said another. Or does he keep himself hidden ? Is he afraid of us ? Has he taken a sea- voyage? Has he emigrated? — the people cried out laughingly, all in a hubbub. The insane man jumped into their midst and transfixed them with his glances. " Where is God gone ? " he called out. " I mean to tell you ! We have killed him, — you and I ! We are all his murderers ! But how have we done it? How were we able to drink up the sea ? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the whole horizon ? What did we do when we loosened this earth from its sun? Whither does it now move? Whither do we move? Away from all suns? Do we not dash on unceasingly? Backwards, sideways, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an above and below ? Do we not stray, as through infinite nothingness ? Does not empty space breathe upon us ? Has it not become colder ? Does not night come on continually, darker and darker? Shall we not have to light lanterns in the morning? Do we not hear the noise of the grave-diggers who are burying God ? Do we not smell the divine putrefaction? — for even Gods putrefy ! God is dead ! God remains dead ! And we have killed him ! How shall we console ourselves, the most murderous of all murderers ? The holiest and the mightiest that the world has hitherto possessed, has bled to death under our knife, — who will wipe the blood from us? With what water could we cleanse ourselves ? What lustrums, what sacred games shall we have to devise? Is not the magnitude of this deed too great for us ? Shall we not ourselves have to become Gods, merely to seem worthy of it ? There never was a greater event, — and on account of it, all who are born after us belong to a higher history than any history hitherto!" — Here the madman was silent and looked again at his hearers ; they also were silent and looked at him in surprise. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, so that it broke in pieces and was extinguished. " I come too early," he then said, " I am not yet at the right time. This prodigious event is still on its way, and is traveling, — it has not yet reached men's ears. Lightning and thunder need time, the light of the stars needs time, deeds need time, even after they are done, to be seen and heard. This deed is as yet further from them than the furthest star, — and yet they have done it!'' — It is further stated that the madman made his way into different churches on the same day, and there intoned his Requiem aeternam deo. When led out and called to account, he always gave the reply : " What are these churches now, if they are not the tombs and monuments of God ? " —


    343. What our Cheerfulness Signifies. — The most important of more recent events — that "God is dead," that the belief in the Christian God has become unworthy of belief — already begins to cast its first shadows over Europe. To the few at least whose eye, whose suspecting glance, is strong enough and subtle enough for this drama, some sun seems to have set, some old, profound confidence seems to have changed into doubt : our old world must seem to them daily more darksome, distrustful, strange and " old." In the main, however, one may say that the event itself is far too great, too remote, too much beyond most people's power of apprehension, for one to suppose that so much as the report of it could have reached them ; not to speak of many who already knew what had taken place, and what must all collapse now that this belief had been undermined, — because so much was built upon it, so much rested on it, and had become one with it : for example, our entire European morality. This lengthy, vast and uninterrupted process of crumbling, destruction, ruin and overthrow which is now imminent : who has realized it sufficiently to-day to have to stand up as the teacher and herald of such a tremendous logic of terror, as the prophet of a period of gloom and eclipse, the like of which has probably never taken place on earth before ? . . . Even we, the born riddle-readers, who wait as it were on the mountains posted 'twixt to-day and to-morrow, and engirt by their contradiction, we, the firstlings and premature children of the coming century, into whose sight especially the shadows which must forthwith envelop Europe should already have come — how is it that even we, with-out genuine sympathy for this period of gloom, contemplate its advent without any personal solicitude or fear? Are we still, perhaps, too much under the immediate effects of the event — and are these effects, especially as regards our- selves, perhaps the reverse of what was to be expected — not at all sad and depressing, but rather like a new and indescribable variety of light, happiness, relief, enlivenment, encouragement, and dawning day? ... In fact, we philosophers and " free spirits " feel ourselves irradiated as by a new dawn by the report that the "old God is dead " ; our hearts overflow with gratitude, astonishment, presentiment and expectation. At last the horizon seems open once more, granting even that it is not bright ; our ships can at last put out to sea in face of every danger ; every hazard is again permitted to the discerner ; the sea, our sea, again lies open before us ; perhaps never before did such an " open sea " exist. —

    1.1: The Death of God is shared under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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