Kazantzakis 9 - Humankind

Curriculum Focus

How do I Serve
The Necessary Role
The Last Battle
The Mission


Kazantzakis, Nikos, The Saviors of God: Spiritual Exercises. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1960. p 75 - 81.


1) It is not you talking. Nor is it your race only which shouts within you, for all the innumerable races of humankind shout and rush within you: white, yellow, black.

2) Free yourself from race also; fight to live through the whole struggle of humanity. See how each has detached himself/herself from the animal, how s/he struggles to stand upright, to co-ordinate his/her inarticulate cries, to feed the flame between her/his hearthstones, to feed her/his mind amid the bones of her/his skull.

3) Let pity overwhelm you for this creature who one morning detached himself/herself from the ape, naked, defenseless, without teeth or horns, with only a spark of fire in her/his soft skull.

4) S/he does not know from where s/he comes or where s/he goes. But by loving, toiling, and killing, s/he wants to conquer the earth.

5) Look upon humans and pity them. Look at yourself amid all humanity and pity yourself. In the obscure dusk of life we touch and fumble at each other, we ask questions, we listen, we shout for help.

6) We run. We know that we are running to die, but we cannot stop. We run.

7) We carry a torch and run. Our faces light up for a moment, but hurriedly we surrender the torch to our son or daughter, and then suddenly vanish and descend into Hades.

8) The mother looks ahead, toward her daughter; the daughter in turn looks ahead, beyond the body of her husband, toward her sonthis is how the Invisible proceeds on earth.

9) We all look directly before us, ruthlessly, driven by dark, enormous, infallible powers behind us.

10) Rise above the improvised bastion of your body, look at the centuries behind you. What do you see Hairy, blood-splattered beasts rising in tumult out of the mud. Hairy, blood-splattered beasts descending in tumult from the mountain summit.

11) The two bellowing armies meet like a man and a woman and become a lump of mud, blood, and brain.

12) Behold: multitudes ascend like grass out of the soil and fall into the soil again, fertile manure for future offspring. And the earth grows fat from the ashes, the blood, and the brains of humanity.

13) Numbers without end vanish in mid-journey; they are born, but they die barren. Huge pits suddenly gape in the darkness, multitudes tumble and fall, disorderly commands are heard in confused clamor, and the human herd stampedes and scatters.

14) Below and about us and within the abyss of our hearts we suddenly become aware of blind, heartless, brainless, ravenous powers.

15) We sail on a storm-tossed sea, and in a yellow lightning flash we feel weve entrusted our wealth, our children, and our gods to an eggshell.

16) The centuries are thick, dark waves that rise and fall, steeped in blood. Every moment is a gaping abyss.

17) Gaze on the dark sea without staggering, confront the abyss every moment without illusion or impudence or fear.

18) Without illusion, impudence, or fear. But this is not enough; take a further step: battle to give meaning to the confused struggles of humanity.

19) Train your heart to govern as spacious an arena as it can. Encompass through one century, then through two centuries, through three, through ten, through as many centuries as you can bear, the onward march of humankind. Train your eye to gaze on people moving in great stretches of time.

20) Immerse yourself in this vision with patience, with love and high disinterestedness, until slowly the world begins to breathe within you, the embattled begin to be enlightened, to unite in your heart and to acknowledge themselves as brothers and sisters.

21) The heart unites whatever the mind separates, pushes on beyond the arena of necessity and transmutes the struggle into love.

22) Walk tiptoe on the edge of the insatiable precipice and struggle to give order to your vision. Raise the multicolored trap door of the mysterythe stars, the sea, people and ideas; give form and meaning to the formless, the mindless infinitude.

23) Gather together in your heart all terrors, recompose all details. Salvation is a circle; close it!

24) What is meant by happiness To live every unhappiness. What is meant by light To gaze with undimmed eyes on all darknesses.

25) We are a humble letter, a single syllable, one word out of a gigantic Odyssey. We are immersed in an enormous song and we shine like humble pebbles as long as they remain immersed in the sea.

26) What is our duty To raise our heads from the text a moment, as long as our lungs can bear it, and to breathe in the transoceanic song.

27) To bring together all our adventures, to give meaning to our voyage, to battle undauntedly with people, with gods, with animals, and then slowly, patiently, to erect in our brains, marrow of our marrow, our Ithaca.

28) Out of an ocean of nothingness, with fearful struggle, the work of humanity rises slowly like a small island.

29) Within this arena, which grows more stable night after day, generations work and love and hope and vanish. New generations tread on the corpses of their fathers, continue the work above the abyss and struggle to tame the dread mystery. How By cultivating a single field, by kissing a woman, by studying a stone, an animal, an idea.

30) Earthquakes come, the island sways, a corner crumbles away, another rises out of the sunless waves.

31) The mind is a seafaring laborer whose work is to build a seawall in chaos.

32) From all these generations, from all these joys and sorrows, from this lovemaking, these battles, these ideas, a single voice rings out, pure and serene because, though it contains all the sins and disquietudes of struggling humanity, it yet flies beyond them all and mounts higher still.

33) Amidst all this human material someone clambers up on his/her hands and knees, drowned in tears and blood, struggling to save him/herself.

34) To save him/herself from whom From the body which entwines him/her, from the people who support him/her, from the flesh, from the heart and the brains of humanity.

35) Lord, who are you You loom before me like a Centaur, his/her hands stretched toward the sky, his/her feet transfixed in mud.
I am S/he who eternally ascends.
Why do you ascend You strain every muscle, you struggle and fight to emerge from the beast, from humanity. Do not leave me!
I fight and ascend that I may not drown. I stretch out my hands, I clutch at every warm body, I raise my head above my brains that I may breathe. I drown everywhere and can nowhere be contained.
Lord, why do you tremble
I am afraid! This dark ascent has no ending. My head is a flame that tries eternally to detach itself, but the breath of night blows eternally to put me out. My struggle is endangered every moment. My struggle is endangered in every body. I walk and stumble in the flesh like a traveler overtaken by night, and I call out: Help me!

Reflection Questions

What were the two steps on the March from which we were invited to free ourselves in the previous sessions What are we being asked to free ourselves from in this section (2)

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

Read 1 6. Where do you experience life as a one-way street (6)

Read 7 15. How do you experience that we have entrusted everything to an eggshell (15)

Read 16 18. What does it mean to give meaning to the confused struggles (18) How have you experienced this dynamic in your life

Read 19 23. What does it mean Salvation is a circle, close it How have you experienced this dynamic in your life

Read 24. What is happiness and light How have you experienced this dynamic in your life

Read 25 29. What does it mean to cultivate a single field How have you grounded this cultivation of meaning in your life (29)

Read 30 35. Who is this one who ascends How do you experience this Presence in your own life

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

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