Kazantzakis 5 - The Dungeon of the Heart

Curriculum Focus

The Struggle of Synthesis


Kazantzakis, Nikos, The Saviors of God: Spiritual Exercises. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1960. p 55-59.

1) The mind adjusts itself. It wants to fill its dungeon, the skull, with great works, to engrave on the walls heroic mottoes, to paint on its shackles the wings of freedom.

2) The heart cannot adjust itself. Hands beat on the wall outside its dungeon, it listens to erotic cries that fill the air. Then, swollen with hope, the heart responds by rattling its chains; for a brief moment it believes that its chains have turned to wings.

3) But swiftly the heart falls wounded again, it loses all hope, and is gripped once more by the Great Fear.

4) The moment is ripe: leave the heart and the mind behind you, go forward, take the third step.

5) Free yourself from the simple complacency of the mind that thinks to put all things in order and hopes to subdue phenomena. Free yourself from the terror of the heart that seeks and hopes to find the essence of things.

6) Conquer the last, the greatest temptation of all: Hope. This is the third duty.

7) We fight because we like fighting, we sing even though there is no ear to hear us. We work even though there is no master to pay us our wages when night falls. We do not work for others, we are the masters. This vineyard of earth is ours, our own flesh and blood.

8) We cultivate and prune it, we gather its grapes and tread them, we drink its wine, we sing and we weep, ideas and visions rise in our heads.

9) In what season of the vineyard has it fallen your lot to work In the digging In the vintage In the feasting All these are one.

10) I dig and rejoice in the grapes entire cycle. I sing as I thirst and toil, drunk with the wine to come.

11) I hold the brimming wineglass and relive the toils of my grandfathers and great-grandfathers. The sweat of my labor runs down like a fountain from my tall, intoxicated brow.

12) I am a sack filled with meat and bones, blood, sweat, and tears, desires and visions.

13) I revolve for a moment in air, I breathe, my heart beats, my mind glows, and suddenly the earth opens, and I vanish.

14) In my ephemeral backbone the two eternal streams rise and fall. In my vitals a man and woman embrace. They love and hate each other, they fight.

15) The man is smothering, and he cries out: I am the shuttle that longs to tear apart the warp and woof, to leap out of the loom of necessity.

16) To go beyond the law, to smash bodies, to conquer death. I am the Seed!

17) And the other, profound voice, alluring and womanly, replies with serenity and surety: I sit cross-legged on the ground and spread my roots deep under the tombs. Motionless, I receive the seed and nourish it. I am all milk and necessity.

18) And I long to turn back, to descend into the beast, to descend even lower, into the tree, within the roots and the soil, and there never to move.

19) I hold back the Spirit to enslave it, I wont let it escape, for I hate the flame which rises ever upward. I am the Womb!

20) And I listen to the two voices; they are both mine; I rejoice in them and deny neither one. My heart is a dance of the five senses; my heart is a counter-dance in denial of the five senses.

21) Innumerable powers, visible and invisible, rejoice and follow me when, fighting against the almighty current, I ascend with agony.

22) Innumerable powers, visible and invisible, are relieved and grow calm again when I descend and return to earth.

23) My heart streams on. I do not seek the beginning and the end of the world. I follow my hearts dread rhythm and plod on!

24) Say farewell to all things at every moment. Fix your eyes slowly, passionately, on all things and say: Never again!

25) Look about you: All these bodies that you see shall rot. There is no salvation.

26) Look at them well: They live, work, love, hope. Look again: Nothing exists!

27) The generations of man rise from the earth and fall into the earth again.

28) The endeavors and virtues of man accumulate, increase, and mount to the sky.

29) Where are we going Do not ask! Ascend, descend. There is no beginning and no end. Only this present moment exists, full of bitterness, full of sweetness, and I rejoice in it all.

30) Life is good and death is good; the earth is round and firm in the experienced palms of my hands like the breast of a woman.

31) I surrender myself to everything. I love, I feel pain, I struggle. The world seems to me wider than the mind, my heart a dark and almighty mystery.

32) If you can, Spirit, rise up over the roaring waves and take in all the sea with an encircling glance. Hold the mind fast, dont let it be shaken. Then plunge suddenly into the waves once more and continue the struggle.

33) Our body is a ship that sails on deep blue waters. What is our goal To be shipwrecked!

34) Because the Atlantic is a cataract, the new Earth exists only in the heart of man, and suddenly, in a silent whirlpool, you will sink into the cataract of death, you and the whole worlds galleon.

35) Without hope, but with bravery, it is your duty to set your prow calmly toward the abyss. And to say: Nothing exists!

36) Nothing exists! Neither life nor death. I watch mind and matter hunting each other like two nonexistent erotic phantasmsmerging, begetting, disappearingand I say: This is what I want!

37) I know now: I do not hope for anything. I do not fear anything, I have freed myself from both the mind and the heart, I have mounted much higher, I am free. This is what I want. I want nothing more. I have been seeking freedom.


Reflection Questions

Read one of the lines from this reading that caught your attention

What is the Great Fear (3) Where have you experienced this in your life

What is the Third Duty (4) Why does Kazantzakis make such an outlandish claim.....to give up hope (6)

What are the two voices that are both mine (8 20) How have you experienced My heart is a dance of the five senses; my heart is a counter-dance in denial of the five senses Where does this deliver us

What does it mean to recognize your life as entangled with Innumerable powers, visible and invisible (21 22) How do you personally experience this

What can I learn about the posture of surrender from reading this section How have I experienced this in my own life (24 31; read aloud if appropriate)

What does Kazantzakis suggest is my goal How have you experienced being delivered to this posture in your own life (33 37; read aloud if appropriate)

Talk about the freedom to which Kazantzakis is inviting us

What other line or concept would you like to have the group explore with grounding experiences

How might we live our lives differently because of the encounter with this material

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