Book Two: A Criticism of the Highest Values That Have Prevailed Hitherto
I: Criticism of Religion
§141 A Criticism of the Holy Lie. That a lie is allowed in pursuit of holy ends is a principle which belongs to the theory of all priestcraft and the object of this inquiry is to discover to what extent it belongs to its practice.
But philosophers, too, whenever they intend taking over the leadership of mankind, with the ulterior motives of priests in their minds, have never failed to arrogate to themselves the right to lie: Plato above all. But the most elaborate of lies is the double lie, developed by the typically Arian philosophers of the Vedanta: two systems, contradicting each other in all their main points, but interchangeable, complementary and mutually expletory, when educational ends were in question. The lie of the one has to create a condition in which the truth of the other can alone become intelligible -—
How far does the holy lie of priests and philosophers go? The question here is, what hypotheses do they advance in regard to education and what are the dogmas they are compelled to invent in order to do justice to these hypotheses?
First: they must have power, authority and absolute credibility on their side.
Secondly: they must have the direction of the whole of Nature, so that everything affecting the individual seems to be determined by their law.
Thirdly: their domain of power must be very extensive, in order that its control may escape the notice of those they subject: they must know the penal code of the life beyond of the life “after death”, and, of course, the means whereby the road to blessedness may be discovered. They have to put the notion of a natural course of things out of sight, but as they are intelligent and thoughtful people, they are able to promise a host of effects, which they naturally say are conditioned by prayer or by the strict observance of their law. They can, moreover, prescribe a large number of things which are exceedingly reasonable only they must not point to experience or empiricism as the source of this wisdom, but to revelation or to the fruits of “the most severe exercises of penance”.
The holy lie, therefore, applies principally to the purpose of an action (the natural purpose, reason, is made to vanish: a moral purpose, the observance of some law, a service to God, seems to be the purpose): to the consequence of an action (the natural consequence is interpreted as something supernatural and, in order to be on surer ground, other incontrollable and supernatural consequences are foretold).
In this way the concepts good and evil are created and seem quite divorced from the natural concepts: “useful”, “harmful”, “life-promoting”, “life-reducing”, indeed, inasmuch as another life is imagined, the former concepts may even be antagonistic to Nature’s concepts of good and evil. In this way, the proverbial concept “conscience“ is created: an inner voice, which, though it makes itself heard in regard to every action, does not measure the worth of that action according to its results, but according to its intention or the conformity of this intention to the “law”.
The holy lie therefore invented: (1) as a God who punishes and rewards, who recognises and carefully observes the law-book of the priests and who is particular about sending them into the world as his mouthpieces and plenipotentiaries; (2) an After Life, in which, alone, the great penal machine is supposed to be active to this end the immortality of the soul was invented; (3) a conscience in man, understood as the knowledge that good and evil are permanent values that God himself speaks through it, whenever its counsels are in conformity with priestly precepts; (4) Morality as the denial of all natural processes, as the subjection of all phenomena to a moral order, as the interpretation of all phenomena as the effects of a moral order of things (that is to say, the concept of punishment and reward), as the only power and only creator of all transformations; (5) Truth as given, revealed and identical with the teaching of the priests: as the condition to all salvation and happiness in this and the next world.
In short: what is the price paid for the improvement supposed to be due to morality? The unhinging of reason, the reduction of all motives to fear and hope (punishment and reward); dependence upon the tutelage of priests and upon a formulary exactitude which is supposed to express a divine will; the implantation of a “conscience“ which establishes a false science in the place of experience and experiment: as though all one had to do or had not to do were predetermined a kind of castration of the seeking and striving spirit; in short: the worst mutilation of man that can be imagined and it is pretended that “the good man “is the result.
Practically speaking, all reason, the whole heritage of intelligence, subtlety and caution, the first condition of the priestly canon, is arbitrarily reduced, when it is too late, to a simple mechanical process: conformity with the law becomes a purpose in itself, it is the highest purpose; Life no longer contains any problems — the whole conception of the world is polluted by the notion of punishment — Life itself, owing to the fact that the priests life is upheld as the ne plus ultra of perfection, is transformed into a denial and pollution of life; — the concept “God“ represents an aversion to Life, and even a criticism and a contemning of it. Truth is transformed in the mind, into priestly prevarication; the striving after truth, into the study of the Scriptures, into the way to become a theologian.