The shrewd and critical man would probably say: “Even assuming that this person is what he claims to be, that is, something extraordinary—for as to his affirming himself to be God I can, of course, not consider that as anything but an exaggeration for which I willingly make allowances, and pardon him, if I really considered him to be something extraordinary; for I am not a pedant—assuming then, which I hesitate to do, for it is a matter on which I shall at any rate suspend my judgment—assuming then that he is really performing miracles: is it not an inexplicable mystery that this person can be so foolish, so weak-minded, so altogether devoid of worldly wisdom, so feeble, or so good-naturedly vain, or whatever else you please to call it—that he behaves in this fashion and almost forces his benefactions on men? Instead of proudly and commandingly keeping people away from himself at a distance marked by their profoundest submission, whenever he does allow himself to be seen, at rare occasions: instead of doing so, think of his being accessible to every one, or rather himself going to every one, of having intercourse with everybody, almost as if being the extraordinary person consisted in his being everybody’s servant, as if the extraordinary person he claims to be were marked by his being concerned only lest men should fail to be benefited by him—in short as if being an extraordinary person consisted in being the most solicitous of all persons.
The whole business is inexplicable to me—what he wants, what his purpose is, what end he has in mind, what he expects to accomplish; in a word, what the meaning of it all is. He who by so many a wise saying reveals so profound an insight into the human heart, he must certainly know what I, using but half of my wits, can predict for him, viz. that in such fashion one gets nowhere in the world—unless, indeed, despising prudence, one consistently aims to make a fool of one’s self or, perchance, goes so far in sincerity as to prefer being put to death; but anyone desiring that must certainly be crazy. Having such profound knowledge of the human heart he certainly ought to know that the thing to do is to deceive people and then to give one’s deception the appearance of being a benefaction conferred on the whole race. By doing so one reaps all advantages, even the one whose enjoyment is the sweetest of all, which is, to be called by one’s contemporaries a benefactor of the human race—for, once in your grave, you may snap your fingers at what posterity may have to say about you. But to surrender one’s self altogether, as he does, and not to think the least of one’s self—in fact, almost to beg people to accept these benefactions: no, I would not dream of joining his company. And, of course, neither does he invite me; for, indeed, he invites only them that labor and are heavy laden.”
Or he would reason as follows: “His life is simply a fantastic dream. In fact, that is the mildest expression one can use about it; for, when judging him in this fashion, one is good-natured enough to forget altogether the evidence of sheer madness in his claim to be God. This is wildly fantastical. One may possibly live a few years of one’s youth in such fashion. But he is now past thirty years. And he is literally nothing. Still further, in a very short time he will necessarily lose all the respect and reputation he has gained among the people, the only thing, you may say, he has gained for himself. One who wishes to keep in the good graces of the people—the riskiest chance imaginable, I will admit—he must act differently. Not many months will pass before the crowd will grow tired of one who is so altogether at their service. He will be regarded as a ruined person, a kind of outcast, who ought to be glad to end his days in a corner, the world forgetting, by the world forgot; providing he does not, by continuing his previous behavior, prefer to maintain his present attitude and be fantastic enough to wish to be put to death, which is the unavoidable consequence of persevering in that course. What has he done for his future? Nothing. Has he any assured position? No. What expectations has he? None. Even this trifling matter: what will he do to pass the time when he grows older, the long winter nights, what will he do to make them pass—why, he cannot even play cards! He is now enjoying a bit of popular favor—in truth, of all movable property the most movable—which in a trice may turn into an enormous popular hatred of him.—Join his company? No, thank you, I am still, thank God, in my right mind.