An Essay Response on “Goethe’s Prometheus & the Heretical Legacy of the Enlightenment” written by The AntiNietzsche

This essay is in response to “Goethe’s Prometheus & the Heretical Legacy of the Enlightenment” written by The Antinietzsche as reblogged below, or the original here. It is by no means a critical essay on Goethe’s take by AntiNietzsche, but it is my own take of the verses used in the original essay. I would like to thank The AntiNietzsche as always for exposing me to ideas I had never heard before, thus allowing me to expand my horizons and bring my own take on such ideas and issues.

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Let me start by saying that reading Prometheus it seems to me Goethe himself is such a mythical character, thus his monologue is in itself his cry for shying away from conventional beliefs in God, Gods and Goddesses. This is prominently expressed in this line;
“Now you must leave alone
My Earth for Me,”
It is understandable considering the period in history Goethe writes such lines; he would feel a sense of outrage and downright revolt against the ever present and crushing force of the conventional belief in Deities. He seems to elevate human kind (or at least parts of it) to the level of God for the sake of making humanity “god-like” as the sole force of his own destiny, by refuting the idea of divine intervention which at this point has proven to be a complete failure in addressing humanity’s cry for social justice on any level. Prometheus, thus humanity/Goethe must take a stand in declaring and accepting the fact humanity is its own creator of reality as it stands at such a time. What it is to be admired at this time about Goethe is the innate realization that not just one God is “guilty” of mankind’s tumbling social structure as seen by the imminent fall of autocracy (symbolized by monarchy) and raise of the masses to achieve equality and universal rights at a better life.
“I know of nothing poorer
Under the sun, than you, you Gods!”
This sentence seems to enrich the ideas/ideals mentioned above to which Goethe seems to subscribe at this point. By expressing both a sense of dubious pity and outright defiance as well as cynical admittance to the impotence of such deities. He understands that an enlightened mind does not need to look up into the heavens in order to achieve a better life, but must look within himself in order to bring forth change, were it not for the deluded, uneducated and poor masses, who still cling to the old ideas that god/s is the sole giver and taker were it not for offering and prayers in time of needs for survival, as expressed in the last sentences;
“By sacrificial offerings
And prayerful exhalations,
And should starve
Were children and beggars not
Fools full of Hope.”
“Should I honour you? Why?”The rhetorical question Goethe poses in this following line is understandable. Why indeed must we honor the gods where by looking back as far as human history allows, such entities have never given anything to humanity which said humanity could not give/create itself? Considering how Christianity was for centuries not only a burden, but an absolute power of anguish inflicting source of doom. Thus, Goethe tries to raise human kind to the epitome of god-like creature.
“Was I not forged as a Man
By almighty Time
And eternal Fate,
My masters and thine?’ – If human kind was forged as such, why than it must adhere to the established enforced belief only god/s are able to give us what we cannot give ourselves? Aren’t we masters of our own lives, our own reality (for better or worse)? Why look upwards when all we need to do is look around us to find the answers to help what plagues humanity throughout history?
“Do you somehow imagine
That I should hate Life,
Flee to the desert,
Because not every
Flowering dream should bloom?”
It is very admirable how Goethe seems to bring forth the old idea that only through self-sacrifice, only through denying ourselves any earthly possessions or goods, we can achieve eternal life. If we are “ordered” to sacrifice our best animals in order to please god/s, which by the way they will never get to feast on, what are we left to eat for ourselves in the end? If we are told to leave behind our earthly possessions (everything we value, including our families) and go into the desert like Jesus and Mohamed were asked and did in the so called “holy scriptures”, what are we doing this for/ what is the end result of such a peculiar act? Are we supposed to add to our earthly pain even more such a pain, by denying ourselves even the most basics of human needs such as food and water? Who are we pleasing in this case, is it some divine creature, and if such a being does exist, what kind of sadistic need is He/She trying to quench? Personally, I have never subscribed to the idea that by denying ourselves anything we can reach enlightenment or be closer to the divine, on the contrary, by doing so all we accomplish is a self-serving sense that we are better than most, holy than most and thus entitled to push forth our on beliefs onto others for :I have seen the light and the Divine spoke to me and through me” as the saying goes on many texts.
“Here I sit, I form humans, After my own image;” – indeed, for the time in which Prometheus was written, a force had been born and was ever growing where by using new, enlightened ideas a new man was being created, though with its flaws, he was able to suffer and rejoice at the same time. He (human kind), was the master of his own existence and well-being such as shown in this last sentences;
”A race, to be like me,
To sorrow, to weep,
To enjoy and delight itself,
And to heed you not at all –
Like me!”
I would like to remind you, that though Goethe’s passion is admirable and noble in essence, like any other human being trying to dwell in maters of humanity, sociology, philosophy, ethics and religious dogma, it fails to universalize such ideas by continuing to cling to the old. He sees “evil” in religious dogma, in eternal gods/goddesses, yet he fails to see how humanity itself is the source of its own demise, suffering and social injustice. It is very easy to point up to the heavens and blame some fictitious entity, meanwhile forgetting/dismissing (most times purposely) the innate human trait of afflicting one another for the sake of personal gain. In order to truly be enlightened one must also look deep within him/herself and acknowledge not just humanity’s but also the individual’s shortcomings.
Prometheus may indeed be a very important piece of literary critique toward outside “heavenly” creatures, but it fails to deal with the internal struggle of humanity with its own demons.

2 Comments

  1. Very insightful commentary Luci, it’s always a delight to read another person’s original take on a work, and I think you engaged Goethe’s “Prometheus” quite nicely (especially if you haven’t had much exposure to him before).

    Like

    • None whatsoever, at least as far as Prometheus is concerned, but I’ve read a few books of his when I was in high school.
      Like I told you before, it’s always a pleasure to be exposed to new ideas from all these different writers you write in depth of, and thus allowing my mind to ponder new areas I never got a chance to ponder before. It’s absolutely a delight to be able to reach my own conclusions based on my own ideas. Though I might admit, I may be at fault just like the writer’s I critique of being biased and one-sighted.

      Like


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