And the mocker, not the one hated on account of his malice, but the one who is admired for his wit and liked for his good nature, he would reason as follows: “It is, after all, a rich idea which is going to prove useful to all of us, that an individual who is in no wise different from us claims to be God. If that is not being a benefactor of the race then I don’t know what charity and beneficence are. If we assume that the characteristic of being God—well, who in all the world would have hit on that idea? How true that such an idea could not have entered into the heart of man—but if we assume that it consists in looking in no wise different from the rest of us, and in nothing else: why, then we are all gods. Q. E.
D. Three cheers for him, the inventor of a discovery so extraordinarily important for mankind! Tomorrow I, the undersigned, shall proclaim that I am God, and the discoverer at least will not be able to contradict me without contradicting himself. At night all cats are gray; and if to be God consists in looking like the rest of us, absolutely and altogether like the rest of mankind: why, then it is night and we all are . . ., or what is it I wanted to say: we all are God, every one of us, and no one has a right to say he isn’t as well off as his neighbor. This is the most ridiculous situation imaginable, the contradiction here being the greatest, imaginable, and a contradiction always making for a comical effect. But this is in no wise my discovery, but solely that of the discoverer: this idea that a man of exactly the same appearance as the rest of us, only not half so well dressed as the average man, that is, a poorly dressed person who, rather than being God, seems to invite the attention of the society for the relief of the poor—that he is God! I am only sorry for the director of the charitable society that he will not get a raise from this general advancement of the human race but that he will, rather, lose his job on account of this, etc.” Ah, my friend, I know well what I am doing, I know my responsibility, and my soul is altogether assured of the correctness of my procedure. Now then, imagine yourself a contemporary of him who invites. Imagine yourself to be a sufferer, but consider well to what you expose yourself in becoming his disciple and following him. You expose yourself to losing practically everything in the eyes of all wise and sensible and respected men. He who invites demands of you that you surrender all, give up everything; but the common sense of your own times and of your contemporaries will not give you up, but will judge that to join him is madness. And mockery will descend cruelly upon you; for while it will almost spare him, out of compassion, you will be thought madder than a march-hare for becoming his disciple. People will say: “That he is a wrong-headed enthusiast, that can’t be helped. Well and good; but to become—in all seriousness—his disciple, that is the greatest piece of madness imaginable. There surely is but one possibility of being madder than a madman, which is the higher madness of joining a madman in all seriousness and regarding him as a sage.”