The Synagogue of Satan by Stanislaw Przybyszewski 1897
Translated by Joe Bandel 2011
The church was happily finished with nature. The hypocritical priest was torn away from his wife and began to perpetrate unmentionable sexual obscenities. His marriage was dissolved and now he began to rape and put horns on his male sheep. But, as previously mentioned, celibacy became the standard practice over all.
Now the church had to deal with logic and reason. Earlier man had been forbidden to seek after the nature of God. Now man was forbidden above all else to seek after the physical application of logic and reason.
“Every word corresponds to an idea and every idea is the essence of reality. Thus it follows that grammar is logic and logic is the true science.”
With that logic and reason was settled. If an idea was the essence of reality, then man didn’t need to see physical things at all, didn’t need to learn about them, didn’t need to observe them. Man perceived the world through his thoughts in the same way he perceived truth and reality. Everything was in his mind. Ideas were the ultimate reality.
Man gave up thinking about the physical world and with enthusiasm turned to some fragments of Aristotle that Harun al Rashid had translated into Arabic. Now man commented on poor Aristotle, wrote long commentaries on the commentaries. They mutilated the fragments, made the pagan into a Christian, and showed how he proved the divinity of Christ and his martyrdom by splitting hairs. The entire structure of Christian doctrine was found to originate from Aristotle and based on his philosophy.
An airhead from Avicenna became the prince of thinkers and both great church doctors became sterile mules. Thomas Aquinas brooded over the psychology of the angels and Duns Scotus discovered the marvelous “machine cogitationis” (thinking machine). If existence is a dream, then words are things! Beautiful! Yet even more: every combination of words represents combinations of things and their realities. Setting words together in certain sequences is called perception of reality. This logical sequence of associated words gives us the thinking machine, gives thought without thinking. Thus concluded the church.
Satan—as philosopher, he who had created the most unfathomable philosophical systems of the orient, he who delighted in the poetic subtleties of Plato, he who split the most competent heads of the good God with his Manichean heresies, smiled evilly and was amused at this child’s play.
“But how is it,” he asked with a sly wink of an eye to the church doctors, “How is it when a farmer pulls a swine to the market? What is doing the pulling? The farmer or the rope?”
An entire century painfully racked its brains over this question. Opinions were divided and the most competent athletes of lunacy could not resolve the question. The thinking machine had destroyed thought and the ability to think. The church exhaled in relief. But in that moment, just as the church thought it could proceed calmly and peacefully in its business of pulling the hide over the ears of the farmer, a fearful storm was raised.
Abelard dared utter a little, tiny thought. The idea is not real. Abstraction is not reality.
He was as beautiful and majestic as a god, according to the statement of a chronicler of the time. There was no woman in France that could resist him. He was extraordinarily learned for his time with a brilliant gift of eloquence. Abelard began to speak out as a man of men. He developed and popularized the most appalling jumble of church doctrines and came to surprising and new conclusions that threw the old doctrines of the church into the trash heap.
Anselmus had to believe in order to know. Now Abelard had to prove and understand before he could believe. The crime was not in the deed itself, but in the intention. Consequently there were no sins that came out of ignorance or habit. What was original sin? No sin at all, only a punishment. But what of the entire work of salvation? That was an act of love. God wanted to establish the law of love and for that reason he sent his son to earth.
That was a terrible heresy for the time, but Abelard’s philosophy spread with an unusual swiftness over entire Europe. The prime intelligencia of his time sat at his feet, from which later emerged two popes, twenty cardinals and fifty bishops. This new churchly philosophy penetrated into the populace. Abelard taught unceasingly that everyone had to interpret divinity according to their own understanding. With one stroke the spiritual power of the church was broken. All the people began to discuss sacred things. They began to form their own conclusions. Great and small, educated and uneducated, even little children violated the sacred sanctuary and the secrets of the church.
St. Bernard of Clairvoux lamented in his denunciation of Abelard, “Irredetur simplicium fides, eviscerantur arcana Dei, quaestiones de altissimus rebus temerarie ventilantur.” (The faith of the morally simple people is derided; the secrets of God eviscerated and questions concerning the highest things are frivolously discussed.)
Arnold of Brescia, Abelard’s most gifted student, leaned against the papacy. He wanted the church to return to the form of the first Christian congregations. With wild enthusiasm the people listened to his teachings, that the power of the church should only be spiritual, as Christ had wanted it and for the first time the unheard of battle cry resounded, “Rome must be free!” Pope Lucius II was killed and his successor, Eugene III had to flee in order to escape the vengeance of the people.
The kings of Castile had the entire works of Aristotle translated and in its wake came the Arabs and the Jews with the pantheism of Averroes and the subtleties of the kabbalah. Under the protection of Emperor Fredrick II, Arabian doctors dared the unheard of—to cut open a human corpse. And Frederick II, debaucher and atheist, a witty and refined philosopher—with a big grin—asked the Muslims, “My dear Gentlemen, what do you think about God?”
A spirit of skepticism and unbelief seized all the people and the “I” was brought to the fore with drunken enthusiasm. To be able to prove everything and at the same time refute it, that was considered the highest philosophical art. Simon de Tournay suddenly cried out after brilliantly laying bare the essence of the Christian doctrines, “O pètit Jèsus, petit Jèsus, comme j’ai èlevè ta loi! Si je voulais, je pourrais encore mieux la rabaisser!” (O little Jesus, little Jesus. How I have fortified your teachings! If I wanted to, I could refute them even better!)
Richard the lionhearted declared himself a brother-in-arms with the Sultan Malek Adhal and offered him his sister for a wife. Henry II, king of England, threatened the pope that he would become Muslim and King John charmed everyone with the most beautiful jokes about his excommunication.
The people of the twelfth century paid no attention to God. They believed that Christ had ruled for a long enough time already and that is was finally time for the Holy Spirit to have its turn. One messiah after another stepped up. Countless sects began to form. The people no longer sought after an external God. He was inside them and spoke through their own mouths.
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