Kazantzakis 8 - The Race

Curriculum Focus

What is the Inner Journey
My Interior Council


Kazantzakis, Nikos, The Saviors of God: Spiritual Exercises. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1960. p 69-75.

Second Step: THE RACE

1) The cry is not yours. It is not you talking, but innumerable ancestors talking with your mouth. It is not you who desire, but innumerable generations of descendants longing with your heart.

2) Your dead do not lie in the ground. They have become birds, trees, air. You sit under their shade, you are nourished by their flesh, you inhale their breathing. They have become ideas and passion, they determine your will and your actions.

3) Future generations do not move far from you in an uncertain time. They live, desire, and act in your loins and your heart.

4) In this lightning moment when you walk the earth, your first duty, by enlarging your ego, is to live through the endless march, both visible and invisible, of your own being.

5) You are not one; you are a body of troops. One of your faces lights up for a moment under the sun. Then suddenly it vanishes, and another, a younger one, lights up behind you.

6) The race of humanity from which you come is the huge body of the past, the present, and the future. It is the face itself; you are a passing expression. You are the shadow; it is the meat.

7) You are not free. Myriad invisible hands holds your hands and direct them. When you rise in anger, a great-grandfather froths at your mouth; when you make love, an ancestral caveman growls with lust; when you sleep, tombs open in your memory till your skull brims with ghosts.

8) Your skull is a pit of blood round which the shades of the dead gather in myriad flecks to drink of you and be revived.

9) Do not die that we may not die, the dead cry out within you. We had no time to enjoy the women we desired; be in time, sleep with them! We had no time to turn our thoughts into deeds; turn them into deeds! We had no time to grasp and to crystallize the face of our hope; make it firm!

10) Finish our work! Finish our work! All day and all night we come and go through your body, and we cry out. No, we have not gone, we have not detached ourselves from you, we have not descended into the earth. Deep in your entrails we continue the struggle. Deliver us!

11) It is not enough to hear the tumult of ancestors within you. It is not enough to feel them battling at the threshold of your mind. All rush to clutch your warm brain and to climb once more into the light of day.

12) But you must choose with care whom to hurl down again into the chasms of your blood, and whom you shall permit to mount once more into the light and the earth.

13) Do not pity them. Keep vigil over the bottomless gulf of your heart, and choose. You shall say: This shade is humble, dark, and like a beast: send her/him away! This one is silent and flaming, more living than I: let her/him drink all my blood!

14) Enlighten the dark blood of your ancestors, shape their cries into speech, purify their will, widen their narrow, unmerciful brows. This is your second duty.

15) For you are not only a slave. As soon as you were born, a new possibility was born with you, a free heartbeat stormed through the great sunless heart of your race.

16) Whether you would or not, you brought a new rhythm, a new desire, a new idea, a fresh sorrow. Whether you would or not, you enriched your ancestral body.

17) Where are you going How shall you confront life and death, virtue and fear All the race takes refuge in your breast; it asks questions there and lies waiting in agony.

18) You have a great responsibility. You do not govern now only your own small, insignificant existence. You are a throw of the dice on which, for a moment, the entire fate of your race is gambled.

19) Everything you do reverberates throughout a thousand destinies. As you walk, you cut open and create that riverbed into which the stream of your descendants shall enter and flow.

20) When you shake with fear, your terror branches out into innumerable generations, and you degrade innumerable beings before and behind you. When you rise to valorous deed, all of your race rises with you and turns valorous.

21) I am not alone! I am not alone! Let this vision inflame you at every moment.

22) You are not a miserable and momentary body; behind your fleeting mask of clay, a thousand-year-old face lies in ambush. Your passions and your thoughts are older than your heart or brain.

23) Your invisible body is your dread ancestors and your unborn descendants. Your visible body is the living men, women, and children of your own race.

24) Only s/he has been freed from the inferno of her/his ego who feels deep pangs of hunger when a child of her/his race has nothing to eat, who feels his/her heart throbbing with joy when a man and a woman of his/her race embrace and kiss one another.

25) All these are limbs of your larger, visible body. You suffer and rejoice, scattered to the ends of the earth in a thousand bodies, blood of your blood.

26) Fight on behalf of your larger body just as you fight on behalf of your smaller body. Fight that all of your bodies may become strong, lean, prepared, that their minds may become enlightened, that their flaming, manly, womanly, and restless hearts may throb.

27) How can you become strong, enlightened, alluring, if all these virtues do not storm throughout your entire larger body How can you be saved unless all your blood is saved If but one of your race is lost, s/he drags you down with her/him to destruction. A limb of your body and your mind rots.

28) Be deeply alive to this identity, not as theory, but as flesh and blood.

29) You are a leaf on the great tree of your race. Feel the earth mounting from dark roots and spreading out into branches and leaves.

30) What is your goal To struggle and to cling firmly to a branch, either as a leaf or flower or fruit, so that within you the entire tree may move and breathe and be renewed.

31) Your first duty, in completing your service to your race, is to feel within you all your ancestors. Your second duty is to throw light on their onrush and to continue their work. Your third duty is to pass on to your son/daughter the great mandate to surpass you.

32) Agony within you! Someone is fighting to escape you, to tear her/himself away from your flesh, to be freed of you. A seed in your loins, a seed in your brains, does not want to remain with you any more. It cannot be contained in your entrails any longer; it fights for freedom.

33) Father, I cannot be contained in your heart! I want to smash it and pass through! Mother, I hate your body, I am ashamed to be glued to you, I want to leave you.

34) You are nothing now but a sluggish horse, your feet can no longer follow the rhythm of my heart, I am in haste. I shall dismount, I shall mount another body, and I shall leave you on the road.

35) And you, the parent, rejoice to hear the contemptuous voice of your child. All, all for my child! you shout. I am nothing. I am the Ape, s/he is the Man/Woman. I am the Man/Woman, s/he is the son of Man/Woman!

36) A power greater than you passes through you, smashing your body and mind, shouting: Gamble the present and all things certain, gamble them for the future and all things uncertain!

37) Hold nothing in reserve. I love danger! We may be lost, we may be saved. Do not ask. Place the whole world in the hands of danger every single moment. I, the seed of the unborn, eat at the entrails of your race, and I shout!

Reflection Questions

Share the name of one ancestor or deceased relative who still shows up regularly in your daily life in one form or another and share a short statement about who they were in their time.

Context: Nikos Kazantzakis, the author who wrote these words, died in 1957 and has now been dead for XX years. Taking turns, read 5 lines of the verse and read them in the manner you believe Mr. Kazantzakis would wish for you to express this message today.

As you re-encountered the material, which line or phrase reached out and grabbed you or somehow snagged your attention How would anyone ground or illustrate this specific verse in your own life experience [Repeat, Repeat, Repeat, until end of Study Gathering.

How might I live my life differently because of the awareness provoked in this material

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