“Since I have known the body better,” said Zarathustra to one of his disciples, “the spirit has been only figuratively spirit to me; and all that is intransitory – that too has been only an image”
“I heard you say that once before,” answered the disciple; “and then you added: ‘but the poets lie too much.’ Why did you say that the poets lie too much?”
“Why?” said Zarathustra. “You ask why? I am not one of those who may be questioned about their why.
“Do my experiences date from yesterday? It is a long time since I experienced the reasons for my opinions.
“Should I not have to be a barrel of memory, if I wanted to carry my reasons, too, about with me?
“It is already too much for me to retain even my opinions; and many a bird has flown away….
“Yet what did Zarathustra once say to you? That the poets lie too much? – but Zarathustra too is a poet.
“Do you now believe that he spoke the truth? Why do you believe it?”
The disciple answered: “I believe in Zarathustra.” But Zarathustra shook his head and smiled.
Belief does not make me blessed (he said), least of all belief in myself.
But granted that someone has said in all seriousness that the poets lie too much: he is right – we do lie too much.
We know too little and are bad learners: so we have to lie….
And we believe in the people and its “wisdom” as if there were a special secret entrance to knowledge which is blocked to him who has learned anything….
Alas, there are so many things between heaven and earth of which only the poets have let themselves dream!
And especially above heaven: for all gods are poets’ images, poets’ surreptitiousness!
Truly it draws us ever upward – that is, to cloudland: we set our motley puppets on the clouds and then call them gods and supermen….
Alas, how weary I am of the unattainable that is supposed to be reality. Alas, how weary I am of the poets!…
This speech makes Zarathustra’s disciples angry and they are silent – silent too is Zarathustra, until at length he sighs and says:
I am of today and of the has-been… But there is something in me that is of tomorrow and of the day-after-tomorrow and of the shall-be.
I have grown weary of the poets, the old and the new: they all seem to me superficial and shallow seas.
They have not thought deeply enough: therefore their feeling – has not plumbed the depths….
The poet’s spirit wants spectators, even if they are only buffaloes!
But I have grown weary of this spirit: and I see the day coming when it will grow weary of itself.
Already I have seen the poets transformed: I have seen them direct their glance upon themselves.
I have seen penitents of the spirit appearing: they grew out of the poets.
…Thus spake Zarathustra.
Zarathustra is so sincere and so truthful that he will not even spare himself, if there is something uttered by him which is not absolutely true. And the problem about truth is, you cannot speak it in its totality.
At the most you can indicate some aspect, hint towards a few glimpses. But to the person you are speaking to, these fragments will remain absolutely puzzling, because he cannot fill the gaps. The mystic has a duty to fill the gaps and to make his statements as entire, as systematic as possible. Therein is the source of lies.
The mystic has to lie, it is unavoidable.
The responsibility is not of the mystic; it is the very nature of truth that it is not absolutely available to knowledge, to language, to expression. More often, the mystics have chosen poetry as an expression, for the simple reason that to lie in poetry is easier than to lie in prose.
You may have never thought about it. A lie in poetry becomes a metaphor, becomes a way of saying, becomes a decoration. But in prose, the lie stands out so clearly that it is very difficult to hide it. Poetry is more flexible, because poetry is part of the world of dreams; it is also part of fictitious expressions.
Fragments of truth can be expressed in poetry without feeling that you are not being just to the truth, and you are not being fair to the listener. Poetry is a beautiful camouflage. It is not an accident that many great poets are nothing but hidden mystics. And many great mystics have chosen poetry as an approach to the hearts of the people.
Prose is rational; it has to be logical, has to be supported by evidence and proofs. Poetry needs no reason, no logic, no support of any evidence or proof. It is a totally different dimension. All that it needs is beauty, all that it needs is music.
It is very easy, when there is no need for logic and reason, to mix fragments of truth into fictitious lies, and give it an expression of completion.
George Gurdjieff’s disciple, P.D. Ouspensky, was a great mathematician – perhaps one of the greatest in the whole history of man. He was not a poet; he knew only logic and reason, which are the foundations of mathematics. But he fell in love with George Gurdjieff, a mystic.
George Gurdjieff was not known in the world. He was known only to a very few people, because he was a very strange man. His methods were strange, unconventional, unorthodox. His ways of expression were almost not understandable. His writing is a category in itself.