Conspiracy Nation -- Vol. 9 Num. 91

("Quid coniuratio est?")


(From A New Model of the Universe by P.D. Ouspensky)

Speaking generally, in order to understand the idea of superman it is useful to have in mind everything opposed to the idea. From this point of view it is interesting to note that besides a devil in check trousers who has had himself vaccinated [see Brothers Karamazoff by Dostoevsky], there is another very well-known type, uniting in itself all in man that is most opposed to the superhuman. Such is the Roman procurator of Judea in the time of Jesus -- Pontius Pilate.

The role of Pilate in the gospel tragedy is extremely characteristic and significant, and if it was a conscious role, it would be one of the most difficult. But is strange that perhaps of all the roles of the Gospel drama the role of Pilate needs least of all to be a conscious one. Pilate could not "make a mistake," could not act in this way or in that way, and therefore he was taken in his natural state as a part of the surroundings and conditions, just as were the people who gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover and the crowd who shouted "crucify him." And the role of Pilate is identical with the roles of the "Pilates" in life in general. It is not sufficient to say that Pilate tried Jesus, wanted to free him, and finally executed him. This does not determine the essence of his nature. The chief point lies in the fact that Pilate was almost the only one who understood Jesus. He understood him, of course, in his own Roman way; yet, in spite of understanding, he delivered him to be scourged and executed. Pilate was undoubtedly a very clever man, well educated and cultured. He saw very clearly that the man who stood before him was no criminal "preaching sedition to the people" or "inducing them not to pay their taxes," etc., as was declared to him by the "truly Jewish people" {1} of that time; that this man was not a pretender, not an imposter who called himself the King of Judea, but simply a "philosopher," as he could define Jesus to himself.

This "philosopher" aroused his sympathy, even his compassion. The Jews clamouring for the blood of an innocent man were repellent to him. He tried to help Jesus. But it was too much for him to fight for Jesus in earnest and incur unpleasantness, so, after a short hesitation, Pilate delivered him up to the Jews.

It was probably in his mind that he was serving Rome and in this particular case was safeguarding the peace of its rulers, maintaining order and quiet among the subject people, averting the cause of possible unrest, even sacrificing an innocent man for it. It was done in the name of politics, in the name of Rome, and the responsibility seemed to fall on Rome. Certainly Pilate could not have known that the days of Rome itself were already numbered, and that he himself was creating one of the forces that were to destroy Rome. But the thinking of Pilates never goes so far as that. Moreover, Pilate with regard to his own actions had a very convenient philosophy: everything is relative, everything is a question of point of view, nothing is of any particular value. It was a practical application of the "principle of relativity." On the whole Pilate is a very modern man. With such a philosophy it is easy to find the way amidst the difficulties of life.

Jesus even helped him; he said:

For this came I into the world that I should bear witness unto the truth.

"What is truth?" ironically answered Pilate.

And this at once put him into his accustomed way of thinking and acting, reminded him who and where he was, showed him how he should look at things.

Pilate's essential feature is that he sees the truth but does not wish to follow it. In order to avoid following the truth which he sees, he has to create for himself a special sceptical and mocking attitude towards the very idea of truth and towards the adherents of the idea. In his own heart he is no longer able to regard them as criminals; he has outgrown this; but he must cultivate in himself a certain slightly ironical attitude towards them, which will allow him to sacrifice them when it is necessary.

Pilate went so far that he even tried to set Jesus free, but of course he would not have allowed himself to do anything that could compromise him. This would have made him ridiculous in his own eyes. When his attempts failed, as probably he could foresee, he came out to the people and washed his hands, showing by this that he disclaimed all responsibility.

The whole of Pilate is in this. The symbolical washing of hands is indissolubly connected with the image of Pilate. The whole of him is in this gesture.

For a man of real inner development there cannot be any washing of hands. This gesture of inner deceit can never belong to such a man.

"Pilate" is a type expressing that which in cultured humanity hinders the inner development of man, and forms the chief obstacle on the way to superman. Life is full of big and small Pilates. "The crucifixion of Christ" can never be accomplished without their help.

They see and understand the truth perfectly. But any "regrettable necessity," or interests of politics as understood by them, or interests of their own position, may force them to betray truth and then to wash their hands.

---------------------------<< Notes >>--------------------------- {1} ...the "truly Jewish people"... An allusion [by Ouspensky] to a patriotic organization with strong pogrom tendencies in pre-war [pre-WWI] Russia -- "truly Russian people."

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Aperi os tuum muto, et causis omnium filiorum qui pertranseunt. Aperi os tuum, decerne quod justum est, et judica inopem et pauperem. -- Liber Proverbiorum XXXI: 8-9