Kazantzakis & Last Temptation of Christ

My Gnostic calendar says this for today: Birthday of Nikos Kazantzakis, Writer & Mystic 1883-1957, “My entire soul is a cry, and all my work is a commentary on that cry.”

He’s the guy, you may recall, who wrote the oh-so-controversial Last Temptation of Christ.

Found this online:

Magdalene jumped up and paced back and forth between the fire and the door.

Her mind had grown furious.God is the great enemy, she was thinking; yes, God. He never fails to intrude; he is evil, jealous; he won’t let a person be happy. She stopped behind the door and cocked her ear. The heavens were bellowing. A whirlwind had arisen and the pomegranates in the yard knocked against one another and were ready to break.

–from The Last Temptation of Christ

The Greek novelist, poet, and thinker Nikos Kazantzakis, b. Crete, 1883, d. Oct. 26, 1957, spent half his life living in Germany, the USSR, and France. He also traveled widely throughout Europe, Japan, and Communist China. Influenced early by Nietzsche and Bergson, he owed a debt to Marxism and Buddhism as well as to Christianity and attempted to synthesize these apparently disparate worldviews. His career started out more philosophical and pedagogical than literary. He came to the fore as a poet only in 1938 with his vast philosophical epic The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel (Eng. trans., 1958), which takes up the hero’s story where Homer leaves off.

Even more successful were his novels, which he did not begin writing until after his 60th year. His first, Zorba the Greek (1946; Eng. trans., 1952; film, 1965), is the most popular. In it Kazantzakis embodies Bergsonian ideas of the elan vital in the exuberant figure of Zorba.

His other novels are perhaps deeper, if less exuberant. Freedom and Death (1953; Eng. trans., 1956) deals with the concept of liberty, told through the story of a dour resistance fighter in the Cretan struggle for independence from the Turks. The Greek Passion (1954; Eng. trans., 1954) is a reenactment of Christ’s passion, set in a Greek village. Kazantzakis also wrote the novels The Last Temptation of Christ (1955; Eng. trans. 1960; film 1988) and God’s Pauper: Saint Francis of Assisi (1956; Eng. trans., 1962); a large number of plays; and an autobiography, Report to Greco (1961; Eng. trans., 1965).

P. A. Mackridge

Text Copyright © 1993 Grolier Incorporated
Retrieved from http://www.levity.com/corduroy/kazantza.htm

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So the fella who wrote Last Temptation of Christ (LTOC) was born on Crete, he is literally a Cretan, not figuratively, hee hee. He lived as a subject of the old Ottomon Empire until he was 35 or so and never wrote a novel until he was 60! Wow. Influenced by Marxism. Yikes. And Nietzsche…

Understandable that modern Gnostics revere him as a one of their own.

All the furor over LTOC when the movie came out was understandable, but you gotta admit it was deep, and it was thought provoking. I was in my young 20s when I saw it and though disappointed when he didn’t stay with Magdalene and ended up sleeping with other women in the New Testament (seemingly every woman mentioned therein!), I still found the entire concept of a last temptation while hanging on the cross as plausible, meaningful, and yes, fascinating. That such battles, such inner jihads, can take place in our minds / dreams / altered states, is pretty awesome. I was a bit deflated when the movie ended with Jesus’ fatherhood and loverhood relegated to “just a tempation,” a “bad decision,” but still I get the point. I was glad for the ride. Titillating as the subject matter of Jesus having sex is, the point of a god/dess-sent Messenger having free will until the very end, grappling with the mundane life vs. divine mission choice gives much to think about. Too bad N.K. didn’t somehow show Jesus gloriously managing to both embrace the body and the mundane life and deliver his all-awakening message. Now that would’ve been something to sink one’s teeth into. LTOC was published in 1955, so take that all you critics who say the idea of Jesus’ marriage and co-parenting with Magdalene didn’t come about until the 1980 non-fiction book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail.

Magdalene’s thoughts in the book excerpt above, “God is evil,” speak to the Gnostic suspicion / conviction that the True God isn’t ruling this planet, rather a Usurper is. He (call him Demiurgos or Ialdobaoth or Satan) interfered at the very beginning, messed up the Petrie dishes during our Creation, and this place is flawed, flawed, FLAWED. Time to repair the world, tikkun olam in Kabbalah, and wake up to the stark reality just like Neo has to in the first Matrix movie. Evil overlords are at work here. The Gnostic myth of Creation explains a lot, especially the Problem of Evil, as we have been discussing at length over on the GoddessChristians forum.

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Katia is a consecrated independent sacramental bishop. She directs the online Esoteric Mystery School and Interfaith Theological Seminary. Check it out at NorthernWay.org.

One thought on “Kazantzakis & Last Temptation of Christ”

  1. Well, could he have written it differently in 1955? We are now so much more ready to see another story about Christ. People are looking for new interpretations of the wellknown tales.
    We seem to be looking for a synthesis of religious life and a life of passion. And somewhere there is an intuition telling us that that is how it is supposed to be.

    If we want to bring the feminine divine back in the religious balance, we will have to bring her in all her earthy attributes. Her dripping fecundity, her unabashed sexuality, her gentle refined artistic sensuality, her way of seeing beauty everywhere and her ability to light a lamp in the corner of the room and suddenly the world is a warm and inviting place. We have to able to see all that as expressions of the divine, and make love like God and the Queen of Heaven.

    This is where I differ from Kazantzakis, I think Yeshua knew how to make love with Mariam and saw that as a holy act bringing them both in touch with the divine within.
    Sex is the easiest way to quicken all our chacras in one blasting current. What is blocking us from seeing it that way? There are numerous hints in scripture and symbolism, if we stop insisting that they mean something else.

    Maybe it’s time to get beyond the discussion of weather Jesus had sex or not, and start asking why we’re not seeing physical union as a divine expression. It is one of the mystical experiences we understand the least, with the most powerful sensations we’re capable of as humans. Let’s rediscover the ways they knew, the ways that led to mystical union, to mystical awakenings, visions and internal fireworks.


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