Spiritual Exercises

by Nikos Kazantzakis
Translated by Kimon Friar

Greetings for
Pandelis Prevelakis
from the author in Greek
and the translator in English



The Preparation

The March

The Vision

The Action

The Silence


WE COME from a dark abyss, we end in a dark abyss, and we call the luminous interval life. As soon as we are born the return begins, at once the setting forth and the coming back; we die in every moment. Because of this many have cried out: The goal of life is death! But as soon as we are born we begin the struggle to create, to compose, to turn matter into life; we are born in every moment. Because of this many have cried out: The goal of ephemeral life is immortality! In the temporary living organism these two streams collide: (a) the ascent toward composition, toward life, toward immortality; (b) the descent toward decomposition, toward matter, toward death. Both streams well up from the depths of primordial essence. Life startles us at first; it seems somewhat beyond the law, somewhat contrary to nature, somewhat like a transitory counteraction to the dark eternal fountains; but deeper down we feel that Life is itself without beginning, an indestructible force of the Universe. Otherwise, from where did that superhuman strength come which hurls us from the unborn to the born and gives us - plants, animals, men - courage for the struggle? But both opposing forces are holy. It is our duty, therefore, to grasp that vision which can embrace and harmonize these two enormous, timeless, and indestructible forces, and with this vision to modulate our thinking and our action.


First Duty

  1. WITH CLARITY and quiet, I look upon the world and say: All that I see, hear, taste, smell, and touch are the creations of my mind.
  2. The sun comes up and the sun goes down in my skull. Out of one of my temples the sun rises, and into the other the sun sets.
  3. The stars shine in my brain; ideas, men, animals browse in my temporal head; songs and weeping fill the twisted shells of my ears and storm the air for a moment.
  4. My brain blots out, and all, the heavens and the earth, vanish.
  5. The mind shouts: "Only I exist!
  6. "Deep in my subterranean cells my five senses labor; they weave and unweave space and time, joy and sorrow, matter and spirit.
  7. "All swirl about me like a river, dancing and whirling; faces tumble like water, and chaos howls.
  8. "But I, the Mind, continue to ascend patiently, manfully, sober in the vertigo. That I may not stumble and fall, I erect landmarks over this vertigo; I sling bridges, open roads, and build over the abyss.
  9. "Struggling slowly, I move among the phenomena which I create, I distinguish between them for my convenience, I unite them with laws and yoke them to my heavy practical needs.
  10. "I impose order on disorder and give a face - my face - to chaos.
  11. "I do not know whether behind appearances there lives and moves a secret essence superior to me. Nor do I ask; I do not care. I create phenomena in swarms, and paint with a full palette a gigantic and gaudy curtain before the abyss. Do not say, 'Draw the curtain that I may see the painting.' The curtain is the painting.
  12. "This kingdom is my child, a transitory, a human work. But it's a solid work, nothing more solid exists, and only within its boundaries can I remain fruitful, happy, and at work.
  13. "I am the worker of the abyss. I am the spectator of the abyss. I am both theory and practice. I am the law. Nothing beyond me exists."
  14. To SEE and accept the boundaries of the human mind without vain rebellion, and in these severe limitations to work ceaselessly without protest - this is where man's first duty lies.
  15. Build over the unsteady abyss, with manliness and austerity, the fully round and luminous arena of the mind where you may thresh and winnow the universe like a lord of the land.
  16. Distinguish clearly these bitter yet fertile human truths, flesh of our flesh, and admit them heroically: (a) the mind of man can perceive appearances only, and never the essence of things; (b) and not all appearances but only the appearances of matter; (c) and more narrowly still: not even these appearances of matter, but only relationships between them; (d) and these relationships are not real and independent of man, for even these are his creations; (e) and they are not the only ones humanly possible, but simply the most convenient for his practical and perceptive needs.
  17. Within these limitations the mind is the legal and absolute monarch. No other power reigns within its kingdom.
  18. I recognize these limitations, I accept them with resignation, bravery, and love, and I struggle at ease in their closure, as though I were free.
  19. I subdue matter and force it to become my mind's good medium. I rejoice in plants, in animals, in man and in gods, as though they were my children. I feel all the universe nestling about me and following me as though it were my own body.
  20. In sudden dreadful moments a thought flashes through me: "This is all a cruel and futile game, without beginning, without end, without meaning." But again I yoke myself swiftly to the wheels of necessity, and all the universe begins to revolve around me once more.
  21. Discipline is the highest of all virtues. Only so may strength and desire be counterbalanced and the endeavors of man bear fruit.
  22. This is how, with clarity and austerity, you may determine the omnipotence of the mind amid appearances and the incapacity of the mind beyond appearances - before you set out for salvation. You may not otherwise be saved.

Second Duty

  1. I WILL NOT accept boundaries; appearances cannot contain me; I choke! To bleed in this agony, and to live it profoundly, is the second duty.
  2. The mind is patient and adjusts itself, it likes to play; but the heart grows savage and will not condescend to play; it stifles and rushes to tear apart the nets of necessity.
  3. What is the value of subduing the earth, the waters, the air, of conquering space and time, of understanding what laws govern the mirages that rise from the burning deserts of the mind, their appearance and reappearance?
  4. I have one longing only: to grasp what is hidden behind appearances, to ferret out that mystery which brings me to birth and then kills me, to discover if behind the visible and unceasing stream of the world an invisible and immutable presence is hiding.
  5. If the mind cannot, if it was not made to attempt the heroic and desperate breach beyond frontiers, then if only the heart could!
  6. Beyond! Beyond! Beyond! Beyond man I seek the invisible whip which strikes him and drives him into the struggle. I lie in ambush to find out what primordial face struggles beyond animals to imprint itself on the fleeting flesh by creating, smashing, and remolding innumerable masks. I struggle to make out beyond plants the first stumbling steps of the Invisible in the mud.
  7. A command rings out within me: "Dig! What do you see?"
  8. "Men and birds, water and stones."
    "Dig deeper! What do you see?"
    "Ideas and dreams, fantasies and lightening flashes!"
    "Dig deeper! What do you see?"
    "I see nothing! A mute Night, as thick as death. It must be death."
    "Dig deeper!"
    "Ah! I cannot penetrate the dark partition! I hear voices and weeping. I hear the flutter of wings on the other shore."
    "Don't weep! Don't weep! They are not on the other shore. The voices, the weeping, and the wings are your own heart."
  9. Beyond the mind, on the edge of the heart's holy precipice, I proceed, trembling. One foot grips the secure soil, the other gropes in the darkness above the abyss.
  10. Behind all appearances, I divine a struggling essence. I want to merge with it.
  11. I feel that behind appearances this struggling essence is also striving to merge with my heart. But the body stands between us and separates us. The mind stands between us and separates us.
  12. What is my duty? To shatter the body, to rush and merge with the Invisible. To let the mind fall silent that I may hear the Invisible calling.
  13. I walk on the rim of the abyss, and I tremble. Two voices contend within me.
  14. The mind: "Why waste ourselves by pursuing the impossible? Within the holy enclosure of our five senses it is our duty to acknowledge the limitations of man."
  15. But another voice within me - call it the Sixth Power, call it the heart - resists and shouts:
  16. "No! No! Never acknowledge the limitations of man. Smash all boundaries! Deny whatever your eyes see. Die every moment, but say: Death does not exist.'"
  17. The mind: "My eye is without hope or illusion and gazes on all things clearly. Life is a game, a performance given by the five actors of my body.
  18. "I look on avidly, with inexpressible curiosity, but I am not like the naive peasant to believe what I see, clambering on the stage to meddle with the blood-drenched comedy.
  19. "I am the wonder-working fakir who sits unmoving at the crossroads of the senses and watches the world being born and destroyed, watches the mob as it surges and shouts in the multicolored paths of vanity.
  20. "Heart, naive heart, become serene, and surrender!
  21. But the heart leaps up and shouts: "I am the peasant who jumps on the stage to meddle with the course of the world!"
  22. I don't keep checks and balances, I don't seek to adjust myself. I follow the deep throbbing of my heart.
  23. I ask and ask again, beating on chaos: "Who plants us on this earth without asking our permission? Who uproots us from this earth without asking our permission?"
  24. I am a weak, ephemeral creature made of mud and dream. But I feel all the powers of the universe whirling within me.
  25. Before they crush me, I want to open my eyes for a moment and to see them. I set my life no other purpose.
  26. I want to find a single justification that I may live and bear this dreadful daily spectacle of disease, of ugliness, of injustice, of death.
  27. I once set out from a dark point, the Womb, and now I proceed to another dark point, the Tomb. A power hurls me out of the dark pit and another power drags me irrevocably toward the dark pit.
  28. I am not like the condemned man whose mind has been deadened with drink. Stone sober, with a clear head, I stride along a narrow path between two cliffs.
  29. And I strive to discover how to signal my companions before I die, how to give them a hand, how to spell out for them in time one complete word at least, to tell them what I think this procession is, and toward what we go. And how necessary it is for all of us together to put our steps and hearts in harmony.
  30. To say in time a simple word to my companions, a password, like conspirators.
  31. Yes, the purpose of Earth is not life, it is not man. Earth has existed without these, and it will live on without them. They are but the ephemeral sparks of its violent whirling.
  32. Let us unite, let us hold each other tightly, let us merge our hearts, let us create - so long as the warmth of this earth endures, so long as no earthquakes, cataclysms, icebergs or comets come to destroy us - let us create for Earth a brain and a heart, let us give a human meaning to the superhuman struggle.
  33. This anguish is our second duty.

Third Duty

  1. THE MIND adjusts itself. It wants to fill its dungeon, the skull, with great works, to engrave on the walls heroic mottoes, to paint on its shackles the wings of freedom.
  2. The heart cannot adjust itself. Hands beat on the wall outside its dungeon, it listens to erotic cries that fill the air. Then, swollen with hope, the heart responds by rattling its chains; for a brief moment it believes that its chains have turned to wings.
  3. But swiftly the heart falls wounded again, it loses all hope, and is gripped once more by the Great Fear.
  4. The moment is ripe: leave the heart and the mind behind you, go forward, take the third step.
  5. Free yourself from the simple complacency of the mind that thinks to put all things in order and hopes to subdue phenomena. Free yourself from the terror of the heart that seeks and hopes to find the essence of things.
  6. Conquer the last, the greatest temptation of all: Hope. This is the third duty.
  7. We fight because we like fighting, we sing even though there is no ear to hear us. We work even though there is no master to pay us our wages when night falls. We do not work for others, we are the masters. This vineyard of earth is ours, our own flesh and blood.
  8. We cultivate and prune it, we gather its grapes and tread them, we drink its wine, we sing and we weep, ideas and visions rise in our heads.
  9. In what season of the vineyard has it fallen your lot to work? In the digging? In the vintage? In the feasting? All these are one.
  10. I dig and rejoice in the grapes' entire cycle. I sing as I thirst and toil, drunk with the wine to come.
  11. I hold the brimming wineglass and relive the toils of my grandfathers and great-grandfathers. The sweat of my labor runs down like a fountain from my tall, intoxicated brow.
  12. I am a sack filled with meat and bones, blood, sweat, and tears, desires and visions.
  13. I revolve for a moment in air, I breathe, my heart beats, my mind glows, and suddenly the earth opens, and I vanish.
  14. In my ephemeral backbone the two eternal streams rise and fall. In my vitals a man and woman embrace. They love and hate each other, they fight.
  15. The man is smothering, and he cries out: "I am the shuttle that longs to tear apart the warp and woof, to leap out of the loom of necessity.
  16. "To go beyond the law, to smash bodies, to conquer death. I am the Seed!"
  17. And the other, profound voice, alluring and womanly, replies with serenity and surety: "I sit cross-legged on the ground and spread my roots deep under the tombs. Motionless, I receive the seed and nourish it. I am all milk and necessity.
  18. "And I long to turn back, to descend into the beast, to descend even lower, into the tree, within the roots and the soil, and there never to move.
  19. "I hold back the Spirit to enslave it, I won't let it escape, for I hate the flame which rises ever upward. I am the Womb!"
  20. And I listen to the two voices; they are both mine; I rejoice in them and deny neither one. My heart is a dance of the five senses; my heart is a counterdance in denial of the five senses.
  21. Innumerable powers, visible and invisible, rejoice and follow me when, fighting against the almighty current, I ascend with agony.
  22. Innumerable powers, visible and invisible, are relieved and grow calm again when I descend and return to earth.
  23. My heart streams on. I do not seek the beginning and the end of the world. I follow my heart's dread rhythm and plod on!
  24. Say farewell to all things at every moment. Fix your eyes slowly, passionately, on all things and say: "Never again!"
  25. Look about you: All these bodies that you see shall rot. There is no salvation.
  26. Look at them well: They live, work, love, hope. Look again: Nothing exists!
  27. The generations of man rise from the earth and fall into the earth again.
  28. The endeavors and virtues of man accumulate, increase, and mount to the sky.
  29. Where are we going? Do not ask! Ascend, descend. There is no beginning and no end. Only this present moment exists, full of bitterness, full of sweetness, and I rejoice in it all.
  30. Life is good and death is good; the earth is round and firm in the experienced palms of my hands like the breast of a woman.
  31. I surrender myself to everything. I love, I feel pain, I struggle. The world seems to me wider than the mind, my heart a dark and almighty mystery.
  32. If you can, Spirit, rise up over the roaring waves and take in all the sea with an encircling glance. Hold the mind fast, don't let it be shaken. Then plunge suddenly into the waves once more and continue the struggle.
  33. Our body is a ship that sails on deep blue waters. What is our goal? To be shipwrecked!
  34. Because the Atlantic is a cataract, the new Earth exists only in the heart of man, and suddenly, in a silent whirlpool, you will sink into the cataract of death, you and the whole world's galleon.
  35. Without hope, but with bravery, it is your duty to set your prow calmly toward the abyss. And to say: "Nothing exists!"
  36. Nothing exists! Neither life nor death. I watch mind and matter hunting each other like two nonexistent erotic phantasms - merging, begetting, disappearing - and I say: "This is what I want!"
  37. I know now: I do not hope for anything. I do not fear anything, I have freed myself from both the mind and the heart, I have mounted much higher, I am free. This is what I want. I want nothing more. I have been seeking freedom.


  1. BUT SUDDENLY a convulsive cry tears through me: "Help me!" Who calls?
  2. Gather your strength and listen; the whole heart of man is a single outcry. Lean against your breast to hear it; someone is struggling and shouting within you.
  3. It is your duty every moment, day and night, in joy or in sorrow, amid all daily necessities, to discern this Cry with vehemence or restraint, according to your nature, with laughter or with weeping, in action or in thought, striving to find out who is imperiled and cries out.
  4. And how we may all be mobilized together to free him.
  5. Amidst our greatest happiness someone within us cries out: "I am in pain! I want to escape your happiness! I am stifling!"
  6. Amidst our deepest despair someone within us cries out: "I do not despair! I fight on! I grasp at your head, I unsheathe myself from your body, I detach myself from the earth, I cannot be contained in brains, in names, in deeds!"
  7. Out of our most ample virtue someone rises up in despair and cries out: "Virtue is narrow, I cannot breathe! Paradise is small and can not contain me! Your God resembles a man, I do not want him!"
  8. I hear the savage cry, and I shudder. The agony that ascends within me composes itself, for the first time, into an integral human voice; it turns full face toward me and calls me clearly, with my own name, with the name of my father and my race.
  9. This is the moment of greatest crisis. This is the signal for the March to begin. If you do not hear this Cry tearing at your entrails, do not set out.
  10. Continue, with patience and submission, your sacred military service in the first, second, and third rank of preparation.
  11. And listen: In sleep, in an act of love or of creation, in a proud and disinterested act of yours, or in a profound despairing silence, you may suddenly hear the Cry and set forth.
  12. Until that moment my heart streams on, it rises and falls with the Universe. But when I hear the Cry, my emotions and the Universe are divided into two camps.
  13. Someone within me is in danger, he raises his hands and shouts: "Save me!" Someone within me climbs, stumbles, and shouts: "Help me!
  14. Which of the two eternal roads shall I choose? Suddenly I know that my whole life hangs on this decision - the life of the entire Universe.
  15. Of the two, I choose the ascending path. Why? For no intelligible reason, without any certainty; I know how ineffectual the mind and all the small certainties of man can be in this moment of crisis.
  16. I choose the ascending path because my heart drives me toward it. "Upward! Upward! Upward!" my heart shouts, and I follow it trustingly.
  17. I feel this is what the dread primordial cry asks of me. I leap to its side. I cast in my lot with its own.
  18. Someone within me is struggling to lift a great weight, to cast off the mind and flesh by overcoming habit, laziness, necessity.
  19. I do not know from where he comes or where he goes. I clutch at his onward march in my ephemeral breast, I listen to his panting struggle, I shudder when I touch him.

First Step: THE EGO

  1. I AM NOT good, I am not innocent, I am not serene. My happiness and unhappiness are both unbearable; I am full of inarticulate voices and darknesses; I wallow, all blood and tears, in this warm trough of my flesh.
  2. I am afraid to talk. I adorn myself with false wings; I shout, I sing and I weep to drown out the inexorable cry of my heart.
  3. I am not the light, I am the night; but a flame stabs through my entrails and consumes me. I am the night devoured by light.
  4. Imperiled, moaning and staggering in darkness, I strive to shake myself free from sleep and to stand erect for a while, for as long as I can bear.
  5. A small but undaunted breath within me struggles desperately to vanquish happiness, weariness, death.
  6. I put my body through its paces like a war horse; I keep it lean, sturdy, prepared. I harden it and I pity it. I have no other steed.
  7. I keep my brain wide awake, lucid, unmerciful. I unleash it to battle relentlessly so that, all light, it may devour the darkness of the flesh. I have no other workshop where I may transform darkness into light.
  8. I keep my heart flaming, courageous, restless. I feel in my heart all commotions and all contradictions, the joys and sorrows of life. But I struggle to subdue them to a rhythm superior to that of the mind, harsher than that of my heart - to the ascending rhythm of the Universe.
  9. The Cry within me is a call to arms. It shouts: "I, the Cry, am the Lord your God! I am not an asylum. I am not hope and a home. I am not the Father nor the Son nor the Holy Ghost. I am your General!
  10. "You are not my slave, nor a plaything in my hands. You are not my friend, you are not my child. You are my comrade-in-arms!
  11. "Hold courageously the passes which I entrusted to you; do not betray them. You are in duty bound, and you may act heroically by remaining at your own battle station.
  12. "Love danger. What is most difficult? That is what I want! Which road should you take? The most craggy ascent! It is the one I also take: follow me!
  13. "Learn to obey. Only he who obeys a rhythm superior to his own is free.
  14. "Learn to command. Only he who can give commands may represent me here on earth.
  15. "Love responsibility. Say: It is my duty, and mine alone, to save the earth. If it is not saved, then I alone am to blame.'
  16. "Love each man according to his contribution in the struggle. Do not seek friends; seek comrades-in-arms.
  17. "Be always restless, unsatisfied, unconforming. Whenever a habit becomes convenient, smash it! The greatest sin of all is satisfaction.
  18. "Where are we going? Shall we ever win? What is the purpose of all this fighting? Be silent! Soldiers never question!"
  19. I stoop and listen to this war cry within me. I begin to discern the face of my Leader, to distinguish his voice, to accept harsh commands with joy and terror.
  20. Yes, yes, I am NOT nothing! A vaporous phosphorescence on a damp meadow, a miserable worm that crawls and loves, that shouts and talks about wings for an hour or two until his mouth is blocked with earth. The dark powers give no other answer.
  21. But within me a deathless Cry, superior to me, continues to shout. For whether I want to or not, I am also, without doubt, a part of the visible and the invisible Universe. We are one. The powers which labor within me, the powers which goad me on to live, the powers which goad me on to die are, without doubt, its own powers also.
  22. I am not a suspended, rootless thing in the world. I am earth of its earth and breath of its breath.
  23. I am not alone in my fear, nor alone in my hope, nor alone in my shouting. A tremendous host, an onrush of the Universe fears, hopes, and shouts with me.
  24. I am an improvised bridge, and when Someone passes over me, I crumble away behind Him. A Combatant passes through me, eats my flesh and brain to open up roads, to free himself from me at last. It is not I but He who shouts.

Second Step: THE RACE

  1. THE CRY IS not yours. It is not you talking, but innumerable ancestors talking with your mouth. It is not you who desire, but innumerable generations of descendants longing with your heart.
  2. Your dead do not lie in the ground. They have become birds, trees, air. You sit under their shade, you are nourished by their flesh, you inhale their breathing. They have become ideas and passions, they determine your will and your actions.
  3. Future generations do not move far from you in an uncertain time. They live, desire, and act in your loins and your heart.
  4. In this lightning moment when you walk the earth, your first duty, by enlarging your ego, is to live through the endless march, both visible and invisible, of your own being.
  5. You are not one; you are a body of troops, One of your faces lights up for a moment under the sun. Then suddenly it vanishes, and another, a younger one, lights up behind you.
  6. The race of men from which you come is the huge body of the past, the present, and the future. It is the face itself; you are a passing expression. You are the shadow; it is the meat.
  7. You are not free. Myriad invisible hands hold your hands and direct them, When you rise in anger, a great-grandfather froths at your mouth; when you make love, an ancestral caveman growls with lust; when you sleep, tombs open in your memory till your skull brims with ghosts.
  8. Your skull is a pit of blood round which the shades of the dead gather in myriad flocks to drink of you and be revived.
  9. "Do not die that we may not die," the dead cry out within you. "We had no time to enjoy the women we desired; be in time, sleep with them! We had no time to turn our thoughts into deeds; turn them into deeds! We had no time to grasp and to crystallize the face of our hope; make it firm!
  10. "Finish our work! Finish our work! All day and all night we come and go through your body, and we cry out. No, we have not gone, we have not detached ourselves from you, we have not descended into the earth. Deep in your entrails we continue the struggle. Deliver us!"
  11. IT IS NOT enough to hear the tumult of ancestors within you. It is not enough to feel them battling at the threshold of your mind. All rush to clutch your warm brain and to climb once more into the light of day.
  12. But you must choose with care whom to hurl down again into the chasms of your blood, and whom you shall permit to mount once more into the light and the earth.
  13. Do not pity them. Keep vigil over the bottomless gulf of your heart, and choose. You shall say: "This shade is humble, dark, like a beast: send him away! This one is silent and flaming, more living than I: let him drink all my
  14. Enlighten the dark blood of your ancestors, shape their cries into speech, purify their will, widen their narrow, unmerciful brows. This is your second duty.
  15. For you are not only a slave. As soon as you were born, a new possibility was born with you, a free heartbeat stormed through the great sunless heart of your race.
  16. Whether you would or not, you brought a new rhythm, a new desire, a new idea, a fresh sorrow. Whether you would or not, you enriched your ancestral body.
  17. Where are you going? How shall you confront life and death, virtue and fear? All the race takes refuge in your breast; it asks questions there and lies waiting in agony.
  18. You have a great responsibility. You do not govern now only your own small, insignificant existence. You are a throw of the dice on which, for a moment, the entire fate of your race is gambled.
  19. Everything you do reverberates throughout a thousand destinies. As you walk, you cut open and create that river bed into which the stream of your descendants shall enter and flow.
  20. When you shake with fear, your terror branches out into innumerable generations, and you degrade innumerable souls before and behind you. When you rise to a valorous deed, all of your race rises with you and turns valorous.
  21. "I am not done! I am not done!" Let this vision inflame you at every moment.
  22. You are not a miserable and momentary body; behind your fleeting mask of clay, a thousand-year-old face lies in ambush. Your passions and your thoughts are older than your heart or brain.
  23. Your invisible body is your dread ancestors and your unborn descendants. Your visible body is the living men, women, and children of your own race.
  24. Only he has been freed from the inferno of his ego who feels deep pangs of hunger when a child of his race has nothing to eat, who feels his heart throbbing with joy when a man and a woman of his race embrace and kiss one another.
  25. All these are limbs of your larger, visible body. You suffer and rejoice, scattered to the ends of the earth in a thousand bodies, blood of your blood.
  26. Fight on behalf of your larger body just as you fight on behalf of your smaller body. Fight that all of your bodies may become strong, lean, prepared, that their minds may become enlightened, that their flaming, manly, and restless hearts may throb.
  27. How can you become strong, enlightened, manly, if all these virtues do not storm throughout your entire larger body? How can you be saved unless all your blood is saved? If but one of your race is lost, he drags you down with him to destruction. A limb of your body and your mind rots.
  28. Be deeply alive to this identity, not as theory, but as flesh and blood.
  29. You are a leaf on the great tree of your race. Feel the earth mounting from dark roots and spreading out into branches and leaves.
  30. What is your goal? To struggle and to cling firmly to a branch, either as a leaf or flower or fruit, so that within you the entire tree may move and breathe and be renewed.
  31. YOUR FIRST duty, in completing your service to your race, is to feel within you all your ancestors. Your second duty is to throw light on their onrush and to continue their work. Your third duty is to pass on to your son the great mandate to surpass you.
  32. Agony within you! Someone is fighting to escape you, to tear himself away from your flesh, to be freed of you. A seed in your loins, a seed in your brains, does not want to remain with you any more. It cannot be contained in your entrails any longer; it fights for freedom.
  33. "Father, I cannot be contained in your heart! I want to smash it and pass through! Father, I hate your body, I am ashamed to be glued to you, I want to leave you.
  34. "You are nothing now but a sluggish horse, your feet can no longer follow the rhythm of my heart. I am in haste, Father. I shall dismount, I shall mount another body, and I shall leave you on the road."
  35. And you, the father, rejoice to hear the contemptuous voice of your child. "All, all for my son!" you shout. "I am nothing. I am the Ape, he is the Man. I am the Man, he is the Son of Man!"
  36. A power greater than you passes through you, smashing your body and mind, shouting: "Gamble the present and all things certain, gamble them for the future and all things uncertain!
  37. "Hold nothing in reserve. I love danger! We may be lost, we may be saved. Do not ask. Place the whole world in the hands of danger every single moment. I, the seed of the unborn, eat at the entrails of your race, and I shout!"

Third Step: MANKIND

  1. IT IS NOT you talking. Nor is it your race only which shouts within you, for all the innumerable races of mankind shout and rush within you:
  2. white, yellow, black.
  3. Free yourself from race also; fight to live through the whole struggle of man. See how he has detached himself from the animal, how he struggles to stand upright, to co-ordinate his inarticulate cries, to feed the flame between his hearthstones, to feed his mind amid the bones of his skull.
  4. Let pity overwhelm you for this creature who one morning detached himself from the ape, naked, defenseless, without teeth or horns, with only a spark of fire in his soft skull.
  5. He does not know from where he comes or where he goes. But by loving, toiling, and killing, he wants to conquer the earth.
  6. Look upon men and pity them. Look at yourself amid all men and pity yourself. In the obscure dusk of life we touch and fumble at each other, we ask questions, we listen, we shout for help.
  7. We run. We know that we are running to die, but we cannot stop. We run.
  8. We carry a torch and run. Our faces light up for a moment, but hurriedly we surrender the torch to our son, and then suddenly vanish and descend into Hades.
  9. The mother looks ahead, toward her daughter; the daughter in turn looks ahead, beyond the body of her husband, toward her son - this is how the Invisible proceeds on earth.
  10. We all look directly before us, ruthlessly, driven by dark, enormous, infallible powers behind us.
  11. Rise above the improvised bastion of your body, look at the centuries behind you. What do you see? Hairy, blood-splattered beasts rising in tumult out of the mud. Hairy, blood-splattered beasts descending in tumult from the mountain summits.
  12. The two bellowing armies meet like a man and a woman and become a lump of mud, blood, and brain.
  13. Behold: multitudes ascend like grass out of the soil and fall into the soil again, fertile manure for future offspring. And the earth grows fat from the ashes, the blood, and the brains of man.
  14. Numbers without end vanish in mid-journey; they are born, but they die barren. Huge pits suddenly gape in the darkness, multitudes tumble and fall, disorderly commands are heard in confused clamor, and the human herd stampedes and scatters.
  15. Below and about us and within the abyss of our hearts we suddenly become aware of blind, heartless, brainless, ravenous powers.
  16. We sail on a storm-tossed sea, and in a yellow lightning flash we feel we've entrusted our wealth, our children, and our gods to an eggshell.
  17. The centuries are thick, dark waves that rise and fall, steeped in blood. Every moment is a gaping abyss.
  18. Gaze on the dark sea without staggering, confront the abyss every moment without illusion or impudence or fear.
  19. WITHOUT ILLUSION, impudence, or fear. But this is not enough; take a further step: battle to give meaning to the confused struggles of man.
  20. Train your heart to govern as spacious an arena as it can. Encompass through one century, then through two centuries, through three, through ten, through as many centuries as you can bear, the onward march of mankind. Train your eye to gaze on people moving in great stretches of time.
  21. Immerse yourself in this vision with patience, with love and high disinterestedness, until slowly the world begins to breathe within you, the embattled begin to be enlightened, to unite in your heart and to acknowledge themselves as brothers.
  22. The heart unites whatever the mind separates, pushes on beyond the arena of necessity and transmutes the struggle into love.
  23. Walk tiptoe on the edge of the insatiable precipice and struggle to give order to your vision. Raise the multicolored trap door of the mystery - the stars, the sea, men and ideas; give form and meaning to the formless, the mindless infinitude.
  24. Gather together in your heart all terrors, recompose all details. Salvation is a circle; close it!
  25. What is meant by happiness? To live every unhappiness. What is meant by light? To gaze with undimmed eyes on all darknesses.
  26. We are a humble letter, a single syllable, one word out of a gigantic Odyssey. We are immersed in an enormous song and we shine like humble pebbles as long as they remain immersed in the sea.
  27. What is our duty? To raise our heads from the text a moment, as long as our lungs can bear it, and to breathe in the transoceanic song.
  28. To bring together all our adventures, to give meaning to our voyage, to battle undauntedly with men, with gods, with animals, and then slowly, patiently, to erect in our brains, marrow of our marrow, our Ithaca.
  29. Out of an ocean of nothingness, with fearful struggle, the work of man rises slowly like a small island.
  30. Within this arena, which grows more stable night after day, generations work and love and hope and vanish. New generations tread on the corpses of their fathers, continue the work above the abyss and struggle to tame the dread mystery. How? By cultivating a single field, by kissing a woman, by studying a stone, an animal, an idea.
  31. Earthquakes come, the island sways, a corner crumbles away, another rises out of the sunless waves.
  32. The mind is a seafaring laborer whose work is to build a seawall in chaos.
  33. From all these generations, from all these joys and sorrows, from this lovemaking, these battles, these ideas, a single voice rings out, pure and serene. Pure and serene because, though it contains dl the sins and disquietudes of struggling man, it yet flies beyond them all and mounts higher still.
  34. Amidst all this human material Someone clambers up on his hands and knees, drowned in tears and blood, struggling to save himself.
  35. To save himself from whom? From the body which entwines him, from the people who support him, from the flesh, from the heart and the brains of man.
  36. "Lord, who are you? You loom before me like a Centaur, his hands stretched toward the sky, his feet transfixed in mud."
  37. "I am He who eternally ascends."
    "Why do you ascend? You strain every muscle, you struggle and fight to emerge from the beast. From the beast, and from man. Do not leave me!"
    "I fight and ascend that I may not drown. I stretch out my hands, I clutch at every warm body, I raise my head above my brains that I may breathe. I drown everywhere and can nowhere be contained."
    "Lord, why do you tremble?"
    "I am afraid! This dark ascent has no ending. My head is a flame that tries eternally to detach itself, but the breath of night blows eternally to put me out. My struggle is endangered every moment. My struggle is endangered in every body. I walk and stumble in the flesh like a traveler overtaken by night, and I call out: Help me.'"

Fourth Step: THE EARTH

  1. IT IS NOT you who call. It is not your voice calling from within your ephemeral breast. It is not only the white, yellow, and black generations of man calling in your heart. The entire Earth, with her trees and her waters, with her animals, with her men and her gods, calls from within your breast.
  2. Earth rises up in your brains and sees her entire body for the first time.
  3. She shudders; she is a beast that eats, begets, moves, remembers. She hungers, she devours her children - plants, animals, men, thoughts - she grinds them in her dark jaws, passes them through her body once more, then casts them again into the soil.
  4. She recalls her passions and broods upon them. Her memory unfolds within my heart, it spreads everywhere and conquers time.
  5. It is not the heart which leaps and throbs in the blood. It is the entire Earth. She turns her gaze backward and relives her dread ascent through chaos.
  6. I recall an endless desert of infinite and flaming matter. I am burning! I pass through immeasurable, unorganized time, completely done, despairing, crying in the wilderness.
  7. And slowly the flame subsides, the womb of matter grows cool, the stone comes alive, breaks open, and a small green leaf uncurls into the air, trembling. It clutches the soil, steadies itself, raises its head and hands, grasps the air, the water, the light, and sucks at the Universe.
  8. It sucks at the Universe and wants to pass it through its body - thin as a thread - to turn it into flower, fruit, seed. To make it deathless.
  9. The sea shudders and is torn in two; out of its muddy depths a voracious, restless, and eyeless worm ascends.
  10. The weight of matter is conquered, the slab of death heaves high, and armies of trees and beasts emerge filled with lust and hunger.
  11. I gaze upon Earth with her muddy brain, and I shudder as I relive the peril. I might have sunk and vanished amid these roots that suck at the mud blissfully; I might have smothered in this tough and many-wrinkled hide; or I might have twitched eternally within the bloody, dark skull of the primordial ancestor.
  12. But I was saved, I passed beyond the thick-leaved plants, I passed beyond the fishes, the birds, the beasts, the apes. I created man,
  13. I created man, and now I struggle to be rid of him.
  14. "I am cramped and crushed! I want to escape!" This cry destroys and fructifies the bowels of the earth eternally. It leaps from body to body, from generation to generation, from species to species, becoming always stronger and more carnivorous. All parents shout: "I want to give birth to a son greater than I!"
  15. During those fearful moments when the Cry passes through our bodies, we feel a prehuman power driving us ruthlessly, Behind us a muddy torrent roars, full of blood, tears, and sweat, filled with squeals of joy, of lust, of death.
  16. An erotic wind blows over Earth, a giddiness overpowers all living creatures till they unite in the sea, in caves, in the air, under the ground, transferring from body to body a great, incornprehensible message.
  17. Only now, as we feel the onslaught behind us, do we begin dimly to apprehend why the animals fought, begot, and died; and behind them the plants; and behind these the huge reserve of inorganic forces.
  18. We are moved by pity, gratitude, and esteem for our old comrades-in-arms. They toiled, loved, and died to open a road for our coming.
  19. We also toil with the same delight, agony, and exaltation for the sake of Someone Else who with every courageous deed of ours proceeds one step farther.
  20. All our struggle once more will have a purpose much greater than we, wherein our toils, our miseries, and our crimes will have become useful and holy.
  21. This is an onslaught! A Spirit rushes, storms through matter and fructifies it, passes beyond the animals, creates man, digs its claws into his head like a vulture, and shrieks.
  22. It is our turn now. It molds us, pummels matter within us and turns it into spirit, tramples on our brains, mounts astride our sperm, kicks our bodies behind it, and struggles to escape.
  23. It is as though the whole of life were the visible, eternal pursuit of an invisible Bridegroom who from body to body hunts down his untamed Bride, Eternity.
  24. And we, all the guests of the wedding procession - plants, animals, men - rush trembling toward the mystical nuptial chamber. We each carry with awe the sacred symbols of marriage - one the Phallos, another the Womb.


  1. YOU HEARD the Cry and set forth. From battle to battle you passed through all the war service of militant man.
  2. You fought within the small tent of your body, but behold, the battle arena seemed too narrow; you felt stifled and rushed out to escape.
  3. You pitched your camp on your race, you brimmed with hands and hearts as with your blood you first revived the dread ancestors and then set forth with the dead, the living, and the unborn to give battle.
  4. Suddenly all races moved with you, the holy army of man was arranged for battle behind you, and all earth resounded like a military encampment.
  5. You climbed to a high peak from which the plan of battle branched out amid the coils of your brain, and all opposing expeditions united in the secret encampment of your heart.
  6. Behind you the plants and animals were organized like supply troops for the front-line battling armies of man.
  7. Now entire Earth clings to you, becomes flesh of your flesh, and cries out of chaos.
  8. HOW CAN I besiege this dread vision with words? I stoop over chaos and listen. Someone is groaning and climbing up a secret, dangerous slope.
  9. He struggles and agonizes stubbornly to ascend. But he finds a contrary force that impedes him: Someone is hurriedly climbing down a secret and easy downward slope.
  10. Within the descending sluggish stream the Spirit is dismembered and whirled about, and for a moment - the duration of every life - the two opposing desires are balanced.
  11. This is how bodies are born, how the world is created, how among living things the two antithetical powers find equilibrium.
  12. For a moment the One ascending is entwined by a beloved body - his own body - and is retarded in his climbing. But quickly, with love, with death, he escapes it, and then continues to plod on.
  13. He tramples on inorganic matter, he shapes the plant and fills it. He encamps in it with his whole being. By "his whole being" is meant together with the longing and the power to escape.
  14. He emerges a little, breathes with difficulty, chokes. He abandons to the plants as much heaviness, as much stupor and immobility as he can and, thus disburdened, leaps, with his whole being again, farther and higher still, creating the animals and encamping in their loins.
  15. Again, "with his whole being" means together with the longing and the power to escape.
  16. The bodies breathe, feed, store up strength, and then in an erotic moment are shattered, are spent and drained utterly, that they may bequeath their spirit to their sons. What spirit? The drive upward!
  17. He purifies himself slowly by struggling amid their bodies, and abandons to the animals as much passion, as much slavishness, as much impotence and darkness as he can.
  18. Then once more he rises slightly, a bit (lighter, and rushes to escape. It is this drive toward freedom, this strife with matter, which slowly creates the head of man.
  19. And now we feel with terror that he is again struggling to escape beyond us, to cast us off with plants and animals, and to leap farther. The moment has come - O great joy and bitterness!-when we, the vanquished, must also be cast away among the reserve troops.
  20. Behind the stream of my mind and body, behind the stream of my race and all mankind, behind the stream of plants and animals, I watch with trembling the Invisible, treading on all visible things and ascending.
  21. Behind his heavy and blood-splattered feet I hear all living things being tram pled on and crushed.
  22. His face is without laughter, dark and silent, beyond joy and sorrow, beyond hope.
  23. I tremble. Are you my God? Your body is steeped in memory. Like one locked up in dungeons for many years, you have adorned your arms and chest with strange trees and hairy dragons, with gory adventures, with cries and chronologies.
  24. Lord, my Lord, you growl like a wild beast! Your feet are covered with blood and mire, your hands are covered with blood and mire, your jaws are heavy millstones that grind slowly.
  25. You clutch at trees and animals, you tread on man, you shout. You climb up the endless black precipice of death, and you tremble.
  26. Where are you going? Pain increases, the light and the darkness increase. You weep, you hook onto me, you feed on my blood, you grow huge and strong, and then you kick at my heart. I press you to my breast, and I fear you and pity you.
  27. It is as though we had buried Someone we thought dead, and now hear him calling in the night: Help me! Heaving and panting, he raises the gravestone of our soul and body higher and still higher, breathing more freely at every moment.
  28. Every word, every deed, every thought is the heavy gravestone he is forever trying to lift. And my own body and all the visible world, all heaven and earth, are the gravestone which God is struggling to heave upward.
  29. Trees shout, animals and stars: "We are doomed!" Every living creature flings two huge hands as high as the heavens to seek help.
  30. With his knees doubled up under his chin, with his hands spread toward the light, with the soles of his feet turned toward his back, God huddles in a knot in every cell of flesh.
  31. When I break a fruit open, this is how every seed is revealed to me. When I speak to men, this what I discern in their thick and muddy brains.
  32. God struggles in every thing, his hands flung upward toward the light. What light? Beyond and above every thing!
  33. PAIN IS NOT the only essence of our God, nor is hope in a future life or a life on this earth, neither joy nor victory. Every religion that holds up to worship one of these primordial aspects of God narrows our hearts and our minds.
  34. The essence of our God is STRUGGLE. Pain, joy, and hope unfold and labor within this struggle, world without end.
  35. It is this ascension, the battle with the descending countercurrent, which gives birth to pain. But pain is not the absolute monarch. Every victory, every momentary balance on the ascent fills with joy every living thing that breathes, grows, loves, and gives birth.
  36. But from every joy and pain a hope leaps out eternally to escape this pain and to widen joy.
  37. And again the ascent begins - which is pain - and joy is reborn and new hope springs up once more. The circle never closes. It is not a circle, but a spiral which ascends eternally, ever widening, enfolding and unfolding the triune struggle.
  38. WHAT IS THE purpose of this struggle? This is what the wretched self-seeking mind of man is always asking, forgetting that the Great Spirit does not toil within the bounds of human time, place, or casualty.
  39. The Great Spirit is superior to these human questionings. It teems with many rich and wandering drives which to our shallow minds seem contradictory; but in the essence of divinity they fraternize and struggle together, faithful comrades-in-arms.
  40. The primordial Spirit branches out, overflows, struggles, fails, succeeds, trains itself. It is the Rose of the Winds.
  41. Whether we want to or not, we also sail on and voyage, consciously or unconsciously, amid divine endeavors. Indeed, even our march has eternal elements, without beginning or end, assisting God and sharing His perils.
  42. Which is that one force amid all of God's forces which man is able to grasp? Only this: We discern a crimson line on this earth, a red, blood-splattered line which ascends, struggling, from matter to plants, from plants to animals, from animals to man.
  43. This indestructible prehuman rhythm is the only visible journey of the Invisible on this earth. Plants, animals, and men are the steps which God creates on which to tread and to mount upward.
  44. Difficult, dreadful, unending ascension! Shall God conquer or be conquered in this onslaught? Does victory exist? Does defeat exist? Our bodies shall rot and turn to dust, but what will become of Him who for a moment passed beyond the body?
  45. Yet these are all lesser concerns, for all hopes and despairs vanish in the voracious, funneling whirlwind of God. God laughs, wails, kills, sets us on fire, and then leaves us in the middle of the way, charred embers.
  46. And I rejoice to feel between my temples, in the flicker of an eyelid, the beginning and the end of the world.
  47. I condense into a lightning moment the seeding, sprouting, blossoming, fructifying, and the disappearance of every tree, animal, man, star, and god.
  48. All Earth is a seed planted in the coils of my mind. Whatever struggles for numberless years to unfold and fructify in the dark womb of matter bursts in my head like a small and silent lightning flash.
  49. Ah! let us gaze intently on this lightning flash, let us hold it for a moment, let us arrange it into human speech.
  50. Let us transfix this momentary eternity which encloses everything, past and future, but without losing in the immobility of language any of its gigantic erotic whirling.
  51. Every word is an Ark of the Covenant around which we dance and shudder, divining God to be its dreadful inhabitant.
  52. You shall never be able to establish in words that you live in ecstasy. But struggle unceasingly to establish it in words. Battle with myths, with comparisons, with allegories, with rare and common words, with exclamations and rhymes, to embody it in flesh, to transfix it!
  53. God, the Great Ecstatic, works in the same way. He speaks and struggles to speak in every way He can, with seas and with fires, with colors, with wings, with horns, with claws, with constellations and butterflies, that he may establish His ecstasy.
  54. Like every other living thing, I also am in the center of the Cosmic whirlpool. I am the eye of monstrous rivers where everything dances about me as the circle continually narrows with greater vehemence till the heavens and earth plunge into the red pit of my heart.
  55. Then God confronts me with terror and love - for I am His only hope - and says: "This Ecstatic, who gives birth to all things, who rejoices in them all and yet destroys them, this Ecstatic is my Son!"


The Relationship Between God and Man

  1. THE ULTIMATE most holy form of theory is action.
  2. Not to look on passively while the spark leaps from generation to generation, but to leap and to burn with it!
  3. Action is the widest gate of deliverance. It alone can answer the questionings of the heart. Amid the labyrinthine complexities of the mind it finds the shortest route. No, it does not "find" - it creates its way, hewing to right and left through resistances of logic and matter.
  4. Why did you struggle behind phenomena to track down the Invisible? What was the purpose of all your warlike, your erotic march through flesh, race, man, plants, and animals? Why the mystic marriage beyond these labors, the perfect embracement, the bacchic and raging contact in darkness and in light?
  5. That you might reach the point from which you began - the ephemeral, palpitating, mysterious point of your existence - with new eyes, with new ears, with a new sense of taste, smell, touch, with new brains.
  6. Our profound human duty is not to interpret or to cast light on the rhythm of God's arch, but to adjust, as much as we can, the rhythm of our small and fleeting life to his.
  7. Only thus may we mortals succeed in achieving something immortal, because then we collaborate with One who is Deathless.
  8. Only thus may we conquer mortal sin, the concentration on details, the narrowness of our brains; only thus may we transubstantiate into freedom the slavery of earthen matter given us to mold.
  9. Amid all these things, beyond all these things every man and nation, every plant and animal, every god and demon, charges upward like an army inflamed by an incomprehensible, unconquerable Spirit.
  10. We struggle to make this Spirit visible, to give it a face, to encase it in words, in allegories and thoughts and incantations, that it may not escape us.
  11. But it cannot be contained in the twentysix letters of an alphabet which we string out in rows; we know that all these words, these allegories, these thoughts, and these incantations are, once more, but a new mask with which to conceal the Abyss.
  12. Yet only in this manner, by confining immensity, may we labor within the newly incised circle of humanity.
  13. What do we mean by "labor"? To fill up this circle with desires, with anxieties, and with deeds; to spread out and reach frontiers until, no longer able to contain us, they crack and collapse. By thus working with appearances, we widen and increase the essence.
  14. For this reason our return to appearances, after our contact with essence, possesses an incalculable worth.
  15. We have seen the highest circle of spiraling powers. We have named this circle God. We might have given it any other name we wished: Abyss, Mystery, Absolute Darkness, Absolute Light, Matter, Spirit, Ultimate Hope, Ultimate Despair, Silence.
  16. But we have named it God because only this name, for primordial reasons, can stir our hearts profoundly. And this deeply felt emotion is indispensable if we are to touch, body with body, the dread essence beyond logic.
  17. Within this gigantic circle of divinity we are in duty bound to separate and perceive clearly the small, burning arc of our epoch.
  18. On this barely perceptible flaming curve, feeling the onrush of the entire circle profoundly and mystically, we travel in harmony with the Universe, we gain impetus and dash into battle.
  19. Thus, by consciously following the onrush of the Universe, our ephemeral action does not die with us.
  20. It does not become lost in a mystical and passive contemplation of the entire circle; it does not scorn holy, humble, and daily necessity.
  21. Within its narrow and blood-drenched ditch it stoops and labors steadfastly, conquering easily both space and time within a small point of space and time - for this point follows the divine onrush of the entire circle.
  22. I do not care what face other ages and other people have given to the enormous, faceless essence. They have crammed it with human virtues, with rewards and punishments, with certain ties. They have given a face to their hopes and fears, they have submitted their anarchy to a rhythm, they have found a higher justification by which to live and labor. They have fulfilled their duty.
  23. But today we have gone beyond these needs; we have shattered this particular mask of the Abyss; our God no longer fits under the old features.
  24. Our hearts have overbrimmed with new agonies, with new luster and silence. The mystery has grown savage, and God has grown greater. The dark powers ascend, for they have also grown greater, and the entire human island quakes.
  25. Let us stoop down to our hearts and confront the Abyss valiantly. Let us try to mold once more, with our flesh and blood, the new, contemporary face of God.
  26. For our God is not an abstract thought, a logical necessity, a high and harmonious structure made of deductions and speculations.
  27. He is not an immaculate, neutral, odorless, distilled product of our brains, neither male nor female.
  28. He is both man and woman, mortal and immortal, dung and spirit. He gives birth, fecundates, slaughters - death and eros in one - and then he begets and slays once more, dancing spaciously beyond the boundaries of a logic which cannot contain the antinomies.
  29. My God is not Almighty. He struggles, for he is in peril every moment; he trembles and stumbles in every living thing, and he cries out. He is defeated incessantly, but rises again, full of blood and earth, to throw himself into battle once more.
  30. He is full of wounds, his eyes are filled with fear and stubbornness, his jawbones and temples are splintered. But he does not surrender, he ascends; he ascends with his feet, with his hands, biting his lips, undaunted.
  31. My God is not All-holy. He is full of cruelty and savage justice, and he chooses the best mercilessly. He is without compassion; he does not trouble himself about men or animals; nor does he care for virtues and ideas. He loves all these things for a moment, then smashes them eternally and passes on.
  32. He is a power that contains all things, that begets all things. He begets them, loves them, and destroys them. And if we say, "Our God is an erotic wind and shatters all bodies that he may drive on," and if we remember that eros always works through blood and tears, destroying every individual without mercy - then we shall approach his dread face a little closer.
  33. My God is not All-knowing. His brain is a tangled skein of light and darkness which he strives to unravel in the labyrinth of the flesh.
  34. He stumbles and fumbles. He gropes to the right and turns back; swings to the left and sniffs the air. He struggles above chaos in anguish. Crawling, straining, groping for unnumbered centuries, he feels the muddy coils of his brain being slowly suffused with light.
  35. On the surface of his heavy, pitch-black head he begins with an indescribable struggle to create eyes by which to see, ears by which to hear.
  36. My God struggles on without certainty. Will he conquer? Will he be conquered? Nothing in the Universe is certain. He flings himself into uncertainty; he gambles all his destiny at every moment.
  37. He clings to warm bodies; he has no other bulwark. He shouts for help; he proclaims mobilization throughout the Universe.
  38. It is our duty, on hearing his Cry, to run under his flag, to fight by his side, to be lost or to be saved with him.
  39. God is imperiled. He is not almighty, that we may cross our hands, waiting for certain victory. He is not all-holy, that we may wait trustingly for him to pity and to save us.
  40. Within the province of our ephemeral flesh all of God is imperiled. He cannot be saved unless we save him with our own struggles; nor can we be saved unless he is saved.
  41. We are one. From the blind worm in the depths of the ocean to the endless arena of the Galaxy, only one person struggles and is imperiled: You. And within your small and earthen breast only one thing struggles and is imperiled: the Universe.
  42. WE MUST UNDERSTAND well that we do not proceed from a unity of God to the same unity of God again. We do not proceed from one chaos to another chaos, neither from one light to another light, nor from one darkness to another darkness. What would be the value of our life then? What would be the value of all life?
  43. But we set out from an almighty chaos, from a thick abyss of light and darkness tangled. And we struggle - plants, animals, men, ideas - in this momentary passage of individual life, to put in order the Chaos within us, to cleanse the abyss, to work upon as much darkness as we can within our bodies and to transmute it into light.
  44. We do not struggle for ourselves, nor for our race, not even for humanity.
  45. We do not struggle for Earth, nor for ideas. All these are the precious yet provisional stairs of our ascending God, and they crumble away as soon as he steps upon them in his ascent.
  46. In the smallest lightning flash of our lives, we feel all of God treading upon us, and suddenly we understand: if we all desire it intensely, if we organize all the visible and invisible powers of earth and fling them upward, if we all battle together like fellow combatants eternally vigilant - then the Universe might possibly be saved.
  47. It is not God who will save us - it is we who will save God, by battling, by creating, and by transmuting matter into spirit.
  48. But all our struggle may go lost. If we tire, if we grow faint of spirit, if we fall into panic, then the entire Universe becomes imperiled.
  49. Life is a crusade in the service of God. Whether we wished to or not, we set out as crusaders to free - not the Holy Sepulchre - but that God buried in matter and in our souls.
  50. Every body, every soul is a Holy Sepulcher. Every seed of grain is a Holy Sepulchre; let us free it! The brain is a Holy Sepulchre, God sprawls within it and battles with death; let us run to his assistance!
  51. God gives the signal for battle, and I, too, rush to the attack, trembling.
  52. Whether I straggle behind as a deserter or battle valiantly, I know that I shall always fall in battle. But on the first occasion my death would be sterile, for with the destruction of my body my soul would also be lost and scattered to the winds.
  53. On the second occasion, I would descend into earth like a fruit brimming with seed. Though my breath abandon my body to rot, it would organize new bodies and continue the battle.
  54. My prayer is not the whimpering of a beggar nor a confession of love. Nor is it the trivial reckoning of a small tradesman: Give me and I shall give you.
  55. My prayer is the report of a soldier to his general: This is what I did today, this is how I fought to save the entire battle in my own sector, these are the obstacles I found, this is how I plan to fight tomorrow.
  56. My God and I are horsemen galloping in the burning sun or under drizzling rain. Pale, starving, but unsubdued, we ride and converse.
  57. "Leader!" I cry. He turns his face toward me, and I shudder to confront his anguish.
  58. Our love for each other is rough and ready, we sit at the same table, we drink the same wine in this low tavern of life.
  59. As we clink our glasses, swords clash and resound, loves and hates spring up. We get drunk, visions of slaughter ascend before our eyes, cities crumble and fall in our brains, and though we are both wounded and screaming with pain, we plunder a huge Palace.

The Relationship Between Man and Man

  1. What is the essence of our God? The struggle for freedom. In the indestructible darkness a flaming line ascends and emblazons the march of the Invisible. What is our duty? To ascend with blood-drenched line.
  2. Whatever rushes upward and helps God to ascend is good. Whatever drags downward and impedes God from ascending is evil.
  3. All virtues and all evils take on a new value. They are freed from the moment and from earth, they exist completely within man, before and after man, eternally.
  4. For the essence of our ethic is not the salvation of man, who varies within time and space, but the salvation of God, who within a wide variety of flowing human forms and adventures is always the same, the indestructible rhythm which battles for freedom.
  5. We, as human beings, are all miserable persons, heartless, small, insignificant. But within us a superior essence drives us ruthlessly upward.
  6. From within this human mire divine songs have welled up, great ideas, violent loves, an unsleeping assault full of mystery, without beginning or end, without purpose, beyond every purpose.
  7. Humanity is such a lump of mud, each one of us is such a lump of mud. What is our duty? To struggle so that a small flower may blossom from the dunghill of our flesh and mind.
  8. Out of things and flesh, out of hunger, out of fear, out of virtue and sin, struggle continually to create God.
  9. How does the light of a star set out and plunge into black eternity in its immortal course? The star dies, but the light never dies; such also is the cry of freedom.
  10. Out of the transient encounter of contrary forces which constitute your existence, strive to create whatever immortal thing a mortal may create in this world - a Cry.
  11. And this Cry, abandoning to the earth the body which gave it birth, proceeds and labors eternally.
  12. A VEHEMENT EROS runs through the Universe. It is like the ether: harder than steel, softer than air.
  13. It cuts through and passes beyond all things, it flees and escapes. It does not repose in warm detail nor enslave itself in the beloved body. It is a Militant Eros. Behind the shoulders of its beloved it perceives mankind surging and roaring like waves, it perceives animals and plants uniting and dying, it perceives the Lord imperiled and shouting to it: "Save me!"
  14. Eros? What other name may we give that impetus which becomes enchanted as soon as it casts its glance on matter and then longs to impress its features upon it? It confronts the body and longs to pass beyond it, to merge with the other erotic cry hidden in that body, to become one till both may vanish and become deathless by begetting sons.
  15. It approaches the soul and wishes to merge with it inseparably so that "you" and "I" may no longer exist; it blows on the mass of man - kind and wishes, by smashing the resistances of mind and body, to merge all breaths into one violent gale that may lift the earth!
  16. In moments of crisis this Erotic Love swoops down on men and joins them together by force - friends and foes, good and evil. It is a breath superior to all of them, independent of their desires and deeds. It is the spirit, the breathing of God on earth.
  17. It descends on men in whatever form it wishes - as dance, as eros, as hunger, as religion, as slaughter. It does not ask our permission.
  18. In these hours of crisis God struggles to knead flesh and brains together in the trough of earth, to cast all this mass of dough into the merciless whirlwind of his rotation and to give it a face - his face.
  19. He does not choke with disgust, he does not despair in the dark, earthen entrails of men. He toils, proceeds, and devours the flesh; he clings to the belly, the heart, the mind and the phallos of man.
  20. He is not the upright head of a family; he does not portion out either bread or brains equally to his children. In justice, Cruelty, Longing, and Hunger are the four steeds that drive his chariot on this rough-hewn earth of ours.
  21. God is never created out of happiness or comfort or glory, but out of shame and hunger and tears.
  22. AT EVERY MOMENT of crisis an array of men risk their lives in the front ranks as standard-bearers of God to fight and take upon themselves the whole responsibility of the battle.
  23. Once long ago it was the priests, the kings, the noblemen, or the burghers who created civilizations and set divinity free.
  24. Today God is the common worker made savage by toil and rage and hunger. He stinks of smoke and wine and meat. He swears and hungers and begets children; he cannot sleep; he shouts and threatens in the cellars and garrets of earth.
  25. The air has changed, and we breathe in deeply a spring laden and filled with seed. Cries rise up on every side. Who shouts? It is we who shout - the living, the dead, and the unborn. But at once we are crushed by fear, and we fall silent.
  26. And then we forget - out of laziness, out of habit, out of cowardice. But suddenly the Cry tears at our entrails once more, like an eagle.
  27. For the Cry is not outside us, it does not come from a great distance that we may escape it. It sits in the center of our hearts, and cries out.
  28. God shouts: "Burn your houses! I am coming! Whoever has a house cannot receive me!
  29. "Burn your ideas, smash your thoughts! Whoever has found the solution cannot find me.
  30. "I love the hungry, the restless, the vagabonds. They are the ones who brood eternally on hunger, on rebellion, on the endless road - on ME!
  31. "I am coming! Leave your wives, your children, your ideas, and follow me. I am the great Vagabond.
  32. "Follow! Stride over joy and sorrow, over peace and justice and virtue! Forward! Smash these idols, smash them all, they cannot contain me. Smash even yourself that I may pass."
  33. Set fire! This is our great duty today amid such immoral and hopeless chaos.
  34. War against the unbelievers! The unbelievers are the satisfied, the satiated, the sterile.
  35. Our hate is uncompromising because it knows that it works for love better and more profoundly than any weak-hearted kindness.
  36. We hate, we are never content, we are unjust, we are cruel and filled with restlessness and faith; we seek the impossible, like lovers.
  37. Sow fire to purify the earth! Let a more dreadful abyss open up between good and evil, let injustice increase, let Hunger descend to thresh our bowels, for we may not otherwise be saved.
  38. We are living in a critical, violent moment of history; an entire world is crashing down, another has not yet been born. Our epoch is not a moment of equilibrium in which refinement, reconciliation, peace, and love might be fruitful virtues.
  39. We live in a moment of dread assault, we stride over our enemies, we stride over our lagging friends, we are imperiled in the midst of chaos, we drown. We can no longer fit into old virtues and hopes, into old theories and actions.
  40. The wind of devastation is blowing; this is the breath of our God today; let us be carried away in its tide! The wind of devastation is the first dancing surge of the creative rotation. It blows over every head and every city, it knocks down houses and ideas, it passes over desolate wastes, and it shouts: "Prepare yourselves! War! It s War!
  41. This is our epoch, good or bad, beautiful or ugly, rich or poor - we did not choose it. This is our epoch, the air we breathe, the mud given us, the bread, the fire, the spirit!
  42. Let us accept Necessity courageously. It is our lot to have fallen on fighting times. Let us tighten our belts, let us arm our hearts, our minds, and our bodies. Let us take our place in battle!
  43. War is the lawful sovereign of our age. Today the only complete and virtuous man is the warrior. For only he, faithful to the great pulse of our time, smashing, hating, desiring, follows the present command of our God.
  44. THIS IDENTIFICATION of ourselves with the Universe begets the two superior virtues of our ethics: responsibility and sacrifice.
  45. It is our duty to help liberate that God who is stifling in us, in mankind, in masses of people living in darkness.
  46. We must be ready at any moment to give up our lives for his sake. For life is not a goal; it is also an instrument, like death, like beauty, like virtue, like knowledge. Whose instrument? Of that God who fights for freedom.
  47. We are all one, we are all an imperiled essence. If at the far end of the world a spirit degenerates, it drags down our spirit into its own degradation. If one mind at the far end of the world sinks into idiocy, our own temples over-brim with darkness.
  48. For it is only One who struggles at the far end of earth and sky. One. And if He goes lost, it is we who must bear the responsibility. If He goes lost, then we go lost.
  49. This is why the salvation of the Universe is also our salvation, why solidarity among men is no longer a tenderhearted luxury but a deep necessity and self-preservation, as much a necessity as, in an army under fire, the salvation of your comrade-in-arms.
  50. But our morality ascends even higher. We are all one army under fire. Yet we have no certain knowledge that we shall conquer, we have no certain knowledge that we shall be conquered.
  51. Does salvation exist, does a purpose exist which we serve and in the service of which we shall find deliverance?
  52. Or is there no salvation, is there no purpose, are all things in vain and our contribution of no value at all?
  53. Neither one nor the other. Our God is not almighty, he is not all-holy, he is not certain that he will conquer, he is not certain that he will be conquered.
  54. The essence of our God is obscure. It ripens continuously; perhaps victory is strenghened with our every valorous deed, but perhaps even all these agonizing struggles toward deliverance and victory are inferior to the nature of divinity.
  55. Whatever it might be, we fight on without certainty, and our virtue, uncertain of any rewards, acquires a profound nobility.
  56. All the commandments are put to rout. We do not see, we do not hear, we do not hate, we do not love as once we did. Earth takes on a new virginity. Bread and water and women take on a new flavor. Action takes on a new, incalculable value.
  57. All acquire an unexpected holiness - beauty, knowledge, hope, the economic struggle, daily and seemingly meaningless cares. Shuddering, we feel everywhere about us the same gigantic, enslaved Spirit striving for freedom.
  58. EVERYONE HAS his own particular road which leads him to liberation - one the road of virtue, another the road of evil.
  59. If the road leading you to your liberation is that of disease, of lies, of dishonor, it is then your duty to plunge into disease, into lies, into dishonor, that you may conquer them. You may not otherwise be saved.
  60. If the road which leads you to your liberation is the road of virtue, of joy, of truth, it is then your duty to plunge into virtue, into joy, into truth, that you may conquer them and leave them behind you. You may not otherwise be saved.
  61. We do not fight our dark passions with a sober, bloodless, neutral virtue which rises above passion, but with other, more violent passions.
  62. We leave our door open to sin. We do not plug up our ears with wax that we may not listen to the Sirens. We do not bind ourselves, out of fear, to the mast of a great idea; nor by hearing and by embracing the Sirens do we abandon our ship, and perish.
  63. On the contrary, we seize the Sirens and pitch them into our boat so that even they may voyage with us; and we continue on our way. This, my comrades, is our new Asceticism, our Spiritual Exercises!
  64. God cries to my heart: "Save me!"
  65. God cries to men, to animals, to plants, to matter: "Save me!"
  66. Listen to your heart and follow him. Shatter your body and awake: We are all one.
  67. Love man because you are he.
  68. Love animals and plants because you were they, and now they follow you like faithful co-workers and slaves.
  69. Love your body; only with it may you fight on this earth and turn matter into spirit.
  70. Love matter. God clings to it tooth and nail, and fights. Fight with him.
  71. Die every day. Be born every day. Deny everything you have every day. The superior virtue is not to be free but to fight for freedom.
  72. Do not condescend to ask: "Shall we conquer? Shall we be conquered?" Fight on!
  73. So may the enterprise of the Universe, for an ephemeral moment, for as long as you are alive, become your own enterprise. This, Comrades, is our new Decalogue.

The Relationship Between Man and Nature

  1. ALL THIS WORLD, all this rich, endless flow of appearances is not a deception, a multicolored phantasmagoria of our mirroring mind. Nor is it absolute reality which lives and evolves freely, independent of our mind's power.
  2. It is not the resplendent robe which arrays the mystic body of God. Nor the obscurely translucent partition between man and mystery.
  3. All this world that we see, hear, and touch is that accessible to the human senses, a condensation of the two enormous powers of the Universe permeated with all of God.
  4. One power descends and wants to scatter, to come to a standstill, to die. The other power ascends and strives for freedom, for immortality.
  5. These two armies, the dark and the light, the armies of life and of death, collide eternally. The visible signs of this collision are, for us, plants, animals, men.
  6. The antithetical powers collide eternally; they meet, fight, conquer and are conquered, become reconciled for a brief moment, and then begin to battle again throughout the Universe - from the invisible whirlpool in a drop of water to the endless cataclysm of stars in the Galaxy.
  7. Even the most humble insect and the most insignificant idea are the military encampments of God. Within them, all of God is arranged in fighting position for a critical battle.
  8. Even in the most meaningless particle of earth and sky I hear God crying out: "Help me!"
  9. Everything is an egg in which God's sperm labors without rest, ceaselessly. Innumerable forces within and without it range themselves to defend it.
  10. With the light of the brain, with the flame of the heart, I besiege every cell where God is jailed, seeking, trying, hammering to open a gate in the fortress of matter, to create a gap through which God may issue in heroic attack.
  11. LIE IN AMBUSH behind appearances, patiently, and strive to subject them to laws. Thus may you open up roads through chaos and help the spirit on its course.
  12. Impose order, the order of your brain, on the flowing anarchy of the world. Incise your plan of battle clearly on the face of the abyss.
  13. Contend with the powers of nature, force them to the yoke of superior purpose. Free that spirit which struggles within them and longs to mingle with that spirit which struggles within you.
  14. When a man fighting with chaos subdues a series of appearances to the laws of his mind and strictly confines these laws within the boundaries of reason, then the world breathes, the voices are ranged in order, the future becomes clarified, and all the dark and endless quantities of numbers are freed by submitting to mystical quality.
  15. With the help of our minds we compel matter to come with us. We divert the direction of descending powers, we alter the course of the current, we transform slavery into freedom.
  16. We do not only free God by battling and subduing the visible world about us; we also create God.
  17. "Open your eyes," God shouts; "I want to see! Prick up your ears, I want to hear! March in the front ranks: you are my head!"
  18. A stone is saved if we lift it from the mire and build it into a house, or if we chisel the spirit upon it.
  19. The seed is saved - what do we mean by "saved"? It frees the God within it by blossoming, by bearing fruit, by returning to earth once more. Let us help the seed to save itself.
  20. Every man has his own circle composed of trees, animals, men, ideas, and he is in duty bound to save this circle. He, and no one else. If he does not save it, he cannot be saved.
  21. These are the labors each man is given and is in duty bound to complete before he dies. He may not otherwise be saved. For his own soul is scattered and enslaved in these things about him, in trees, in animals, in men, in ideas, and it is his own soul he saves by completing these labors.
  22. If you are a laborer, then till the earth, help it to bear fruit. The seeds in the earth cry out, and God cries out within the seeds. Set him free! A field awaits its deliverance at your hands, a machine awaits its soul. You may never be saved unless you save them.
  23. If you are a warrior, be pitiless; compassion is not in the periphery of your duty. Kill the foe mercilessly. Hear how God cries out in the body of the enemy: "Kill this body, it obstructs me! Kill it that I may pass!"
  24. If you are a man of learning, fight in the skull, kill ideas and create new ones. God hides in every idea as in every cell of flesh. Smash the idea, set him free! Give him another, a more spacious idea in which to dwell.
  25. If you are a woman, then love. Choose austerely among all men the father of your children. It is not you who make the choice, but the indestructible, merciless, infinite, masculine God within you. Fulfill all your duty, so overbrimming with bitterness, love, and valor. Give up all your body, so filled with blood and milk.
  26. Say: "This child, which I hold suckling at my breast, shall save God. Let me give him all my blood and milk."
  27. PROFOUND AND incommensurable is the worth of this flowing world: God clings to it and ascends, God feeds upon it and increases.
  28. My heart breaks open, my mind is flooded with light, and all at once this world's dread battlefield is revealed to me as an erotic arena.
  29. Two violent contrary winds, one masculine and the other feminine, met and clashed at a crossroads. For a moment they counterbalanced each other, thickened, and became visible.
  30. This crossroads is the Universe. This crossroads is my heart.
  31. This dance of the gigantic erotic collision is transmitted from the darkest particle of matter to the most spacious thought.
  32. The wife of my God is matter; they wrestle with each other, they laugh and weep, they cry out in the nuptial bed of flesh.
  33. They spawn and are dismembered. They fill sea, land, and air with species of plants, animals, men, and spirits. This primordial pair embraces, is dismembered, and multiplies in every living creature.
  34. All the concentrated agony of the Universe bursts out in every living thing. God is imperiled in the sweet ecstasy and bitterness of flesh.
  35. But he shakes himself free, he leaps out of brains and loins, then clings to new brains and new loins until the struggle for liberation again breaks out from the beginning.
  36. For the first time on this earth, from within our hearts and our minds, God gazes on his own struggle.
  37. Joy! Joy! I did not know that all this world is so much part of me, that we are all one army, that windflowers and stars struggle to right and left of me and do not know me; but I turn to them and hail them.
  38. The Universe is warm, beloved, familiar, and it smells like my own body. It is Love and War both, a raging restlessness, persistence and uncertainty.
  39. Uncertainty and terror. In a violent flash of lightning I discern on the highest peak of power the final, the most fearful pair embracing:

    Terror and Silence. And between them, a Flame.


  1. THE SOUL OF MAN IS a flame, a bird of fire that leaps from bough to bough, from head to head, and that shouts: "I cannot stand still, I cannot be consumed, no one can quench
  2. All at once the Universe becomes a tree of fire. Amidst the smoke and the flames, reposing on the peak of conflagration, immaculate, cool, and serene, I hold that final fruit of fire, the Light.
  3. From this lofty summit I look on the crimson line which ascends - a tremulous, bloodstained phosphorescence that drags itself like a lovesick insect through the raincool coils of my brain.
  4. The ego, race, mankind, earth, theory and action, God - all these are phantasms made of loam and brain, good only for those simple hearts that live in fear, good only for those flatulent souls that imagine they are pregnant.
  5. Where do we come from? Where are we going? What is the meaning of this life? That is what every heart is shouting, what every head is asking as it beats on chaos.
  6. And a fire within me leaps up to answer: "Fire will surely come one day to purify the earth. Fire will surely come one day to obliterate the earth. This is the Second Coming.
  7. "The soul is a flaming tongue that licks and struggles to set the black bulk of the world on fire. One day the entire Universe will become a single conflagration.
  8. "Fire is the first and final mask of my God. We dance and weep between two enormous pyres."
  9. Our thoughts and our bodies flash and glitter with reflected light. Between the two pyres I stand serenely, my brain unshaken amid the vertigo, and I say:
  10. "Time is most short and space most narrow between these two pyres, the rhythm of this life is most sluggish, and I have no time, nor a place to dance in. I cannot wait."
  11. Then all at once the rhythm of the earth becomes a vertigo, time disappears, the moment whirls, becomes eternity, and every point in space - insect or star or idea - turns into dance.
  12. It was a jail, and the jail was smashed, the dreadful powers within it were freed, and that point of space no longer exists!
  13. This ultimate stage of our spiritual exercise is called Silence. Not because its contents are the ultimate inexpressible despair or the ultimate inexpressible joy and hope. Nor because it is the ultimate knowledge which does not condescend to speak, or the ultimate ignorance which cannot.
  14. Silence means: Every person, after completing his service in all labors, reaches finally the highest summit of endeavor, beyond every labor, where he no longer struggles or shouts, where he ripens fully in silence, indestructibly, eternally, with the entire Universe.
  15. There he merges with the Abyss and nestles within it like the seed of man in the womb of woman.
  16. The Abyss is now his wife, he plows her, he opens and devours her vitals, he transmutes her blood, he laughs and weeps, he ascends and descends with her, and he never leaves her.
  17. How can you reach the womb of the Abyss to make it fruitful? This cannot be expressed, cannot be narrowed into words, cannot be subjected to laws; every man is completely free and has his own special liberation.
  18. No form of instruction exists, no Savior exists to open up the road. No road exists to be
  19. opened.
  20. Every person, ascending above and beyond his own head, escapes from his small brain, so crammed with perplexities.
  21. Within profound Silence, erect, fearless, in pain and in play, ascending ceaselessly from peak to peak, knowing that the height has no ending, sing this proud and magical incantation as you hang over the Abyss: