08 January 2015

"At first, he bore no ill feeling toward Christ."

At that time, there was among the few believing spiritualists a remarkable person -- many called him a superman -- who was equally far from both, intellect and childlike heart. He was still young, but owing to his great genius, by the age of thirty-three he had already become famous as a great thinker, writer, and public figure. Conscious of the great power of spirit in himself, he was always a confirmed spiritualist, and his clear intellect always showed him the truth of what one should believe in: the good, God, and the Messiah. 

In these he believed, but he loved only himself. He believed in God, but in the depths of his soul he involuntarily and unconsciously preferred himself. He believed in Good, but the All Seeing Eye of the Eternal knew that this man would bow down before the power of Evil as soon as it would offer him a bribe -- not by deception of the senses and the lower passions, not even by the superior bait of power, but only by his own immeasurable self-love. 

[...]

At first, he bore no ill feeling toward Christ. He recognized his messianic importance and value, but he was sincere in seeing in him only his own greatest precursor. The moral achievement of Christ and his uniqueness were beyond an intellect so completely clouded by self-love as his. Thus he reasoned: "Christ came before me. I come second. But what, in order of time, appears later is, in its essence, of greater importance. I come last, at the end of history, and for the very reason that I am most perfect. I am the final savior of the world, and Christ is my precursorHis mission was to precede and prepare for my coming." 

Thinking thus, the superman of the twenty-first century applied to himself everything that was said in the Gospels about the second coming, explaining the latter not as a return of the same Christ, but as a replacing of the preliminary Christ by the final one -- that is, by himself.

[...]

This man justified his selfish preference of himself before Christ in yet another way. 'Christ,' he said, "who preached and practiced moral good in life, was a reformer of humanity, whereas I am called to be the benefactor of that same humanity, partly reformed and partly incapable of being reformed. I will give everyone what they require. As a moralist, Christ divided humanity by the notion of good and evil. I shall unite it by benefits which are as much needed by good as by evil people. I shall be the true representative of that God who makes his sun to shine upon the good and the evil alike, and who makes the rain to fall upon the just and the unjust. Christ brought the sword; I shall bring peace. Christ threatened the earth with the Day of Judgment. But I shall be the last judge, and my judgment will be not only that of justice but also that of mercy. The justice that will be meted out in my sentences will not be a retributive justice but a distributive one. I shall judge each person according to his deserts, and shall give everybody what he needs."

In this magnificent spirit he now waited for God to call him in some unmistakable way to take upon himself the work of saving humanity -- for some obvious and striking testimony that he was the elder son, the beloved first-born child of God. He waited and sustained himself by the consciousness of his superhuman virtues and gifts, for, as was said, he was a man of irreproachable morals and exceptional genius.

Thus this just, proud man awaited the sanction of the Most High in order to begin his saving of humanity; but he saw no signs of it. He had passed the age of thirty. Three more years passed. Suddenly, a thought leaped into his mind and thrilled him to the core. "What," he thought, "what if by some accident it is not I, but the other ... the Galilean. What if he is not my annunciator but the true deliverer, the first and the last? In that case, he must be alive... But where is he, then? What if he suddenly comes to me... here, now? What shall I tell Him? Shall I not be compelled to kneel down before him as the very last silly Christian, as some Russian peasant who mutters without understanding: 'Lord, Jesus Christ, forgive me, a sinful man'? Shall I not be compelled like an old Polish woman to prostrate myself? I, the serene genius, the superman! It cannot be!"

And here, instead of his former reasoning and cold reverence to God and Christ, a sudden fear was born and grew in his heart, next followed by a burning envy that consumed all his being, and by an ardent hatred that took his very breath away. "It is I, it is I, and not he! He is dead -- is and will ever be! He did not -- no, did not rise! He is rotting in the grave, rotting as the lost..." His mouth foaming, he rushed convulsively out of the house, through the garden, and ran along a rocky path into the silent black night.

His rage calmed down and gave place to a despair, dry and heavy as the rocks, somber as the night. He stopped in front of a sharp precipice, from the bottom of which he could hear the faint sounds of the stream running over the stones. An unbearable anguish pressed upon his heart. Suddenly a thought flashed across his mind. "Shall I call him? Shall I ask him what to do?" And in the midst of darkness he could see a pale and grief-stained image. "He pities me ... Oh, no, never! He did not rise! He did not! He did not!" And he leapt from the precipice. 

But something firm like a column of water held him up in the air. He felt a shock as if of electricity, and some unknown force hurled him back. For a moment he became unconscious. When he came to his senses he found himself kneeling down a few paces from the brow of the precipice. A strange figure gleaming with a dim phosphorescent light loomed up before him, and its two eyes pierced his soul with their painful penetrating glitter...

He saw these two piercing eyes and heard some unfamiliar voice coming from inside or outside him -- he could not tell which -- a dull, muffled voice, yet distinct, metallic, and expressionless as a recording. And the voice said to him: "Oh, my beloved son! Let all my benevolence rest on thee! Why didst not thou seek for me? Why hast thou stooped to worship that other, the bad one, and his father? I am thy god and father. And that crucified beggar -- he is a stranger both to me and to thee. I have no other son but thee. Thou art the sole, the only begotten, the equal of myself. I love thee, and ask for nothing from thee. Thou art so beautiful, great, and mighty. Do thy work in thine own name, not mine. I harbor no envy of thee. I love thee. I require nothing of thee. He whom thou regardest as God, demanded of his son obedience, absolute obedience -- even to death on a cross -- and even there he did not help Him. I demand nothing of thee, and I will help thee. For the sake of thyself, for the sake of thine own dignity and excellency, and for the sake of my own disinterested love of thee, I will help thee! Receive thou my spirit! As before my spirit gave birth to thee in beauty, sonow it gives birth to thee in power." 

With these words, the superman's mouth opened involuntarily, two piercing eyes came close to his face, and he felt an icy breath which pervaded the whole of his being. He felt in himself such strength, vigor, lightness, and joy as he had never before experienced. At that moment, the luminous image and the two eyes suddenly disappeared, and something lifted the man into the air and brought him down in his own garden before the very doors of his house.

Next day, the visitors of the great man, and even his servants, were startled by his special inspired air. They would have been even more startled could they have seen with what supernatural quickness and facility he was writing, locked up in his study, his famous work entitled The Open Way to Universal Peace and Prosperity.

The superman's previous books and public activity had always met with severe criticism, though these came chiefly from people of exceptionally deep religious convictions, who for that very reason possessed no authority (I am, after all, speaking of the coming of the Anti-Christ) and thus they were hardly listened to when they tried to point out, in everything that the "coming man" wrote or said, the signs of a quite exceptional and excessive self-love and conceit, and a complete absence of true simplicity, frankness, and sincerity.

But now, with his new book, he brought over to his side even some of his former critics and adversaries. This book, composed after the incident at the precipice, evinced a greater power of genius than he had ever shown before. it was a work that embraced everything and solved every problem. It united a noble respect for ancient traditions and symbols with a broad and daring radicalism in socio-political questions. It joined a boundless freedom of thought with the most profound appreciation for everything mystical. Absolute individualism stood side by side with an ardent zeal for the common good, and the highest idealism in guiding principles combined smoothly with a perfect definiteness in practical solutions for the necessities of life. And all this was blended and cemented with such artistic genius that every thinker and every man of action, however one-sided he might have been, could easily view and accept the whole from his particular individual standpoint without sacrificing anything to the truth itself, without actually rising above his ego, without in reality renouncing his one-sidedness, without correcting the inadequacy of his views and wishes, and without making up their deficiencies. 

This wonderful book was immediately translated into the languages of all the civilized nations, and many of the uncivilized ones as well. During the entire year thousands of newspapers in all parts of the world were filled with the publisher's advertisements and the critics' praises. Cheap editions with portraits of the author were sold in millions of copies, and all the civilized world -- which now stood for nearly all the globe resounded with the glory of the incomparable, the great, the only one! 

Nobody raised his voice against the book. On every side it was accepted by all as the revelation of the complete truth. In it, all the past was given such full and due justice, the present was appraised with such impartiality and catholicity, and the happiest future was described in such a convincing and practical manner that everybody could not help saying: "Here at last we have what we need. Here is the ideal, which is not a Utopia. Here is a scheme which is not a dream." And the wonderful author not only impressed all, but he wasagreeable to all, so that the word of Christ was fulfilled: "I have come in the name of the Father, and you accept me not. Another will come in his own name -- him you will accept." For it is necessary to be agreeable to be accepted.


It is true some pious people, while praising the book wholeheartedly, had been asking why the name of Christ was never mentioned in it; but other Christians had rejoined: "So much the better. Everything sacred has already been stained enough in past ages by every sort of unacknowledged zealot, and nowadays a deeply religious author must be extremely guarded in these matters. Since the book is imbued with the true Christian spirit of active love and all-embracing goodwill, what more do you want?" And everybody agreed.

--Vladimir Soloviev, A Short Story of the Antichrist

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