THE GRAY AREA WHERE ZARATHUSTRA’S TWINS MEET
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
We were glad for our freedom when we first heard the tidings about the difference between good and evil and about our power to choose between them.
“Hear ye all who come to inquire about the truth. We praise the wise one and we thank him for providing us a with a good mind in accord with the divine law firmly written in the heavens. Now listen to this truth and meditate upon it, that each man must decide for himself what he believes and choose accordingly. In the beginning two spirits, the best and the worst in thought, words, and deeds, proclaimed themselves. From these two, those of good knowledge chose aright, and those of evil knowledge did not. The two spirits created life and death and being and nothingness when they first came together. Certainly those who cloth themselves in the divine light of truth shall have the best life, and those who do not shall have the worst.”
Of course we knew which one we would choose – certainly not the evil one. At the very least we would avoid the appearance of impropriety and observe the first rule of rhetoric, that a speaker should never speak against himself. As Pufendorf one said, “Nay, there is no man who does not speak better than he either thinks or does.” Furthermore, Quintilian stated in his Institutes of Oratory, “Nor is there anyone so wicked that he would like to appear wicked.” But someone warned us about hypocrisy lest we deceive others or ourselves into believing we are better than we really are and lead people astray. We were adjured to tell the truth, for truth is the highest good of all; to wit: X. Then everything would fall into its right place and we would live happily ever after in harmony and peace. So far so good. But alas, although we abjured evil and avoided hypocrisy we somehow got our goods mixed up and found ourselves in a gloomy place, wandering about like dazed junkies in the gray field of asphodels. Where did we go wrong? Where are the blessed isles? Everything seemed so clear when we began, but somehow our progress was impeded and now we stand as confused as a hedged-in billy goat who cannot retreat or advance. Wherefore this confounded gray area?
It all seemed so simple at first. We saw the light at the end of the tunnel and we wanted it badly, but after we set out doubt was raised and certain questions were posed, such as “That which I ask thee tell me soon, lord, Which things are best? What, according to divine law, may enhance my district? … How can those to whom thy revelation is declared lose perfect devotion? … Who is holy or wicked among those of whom I inquire?”
Apparently the wise lord empowered us to answer these questions ourselves in order to save the world and perhaps the cosmos, so we gathered to discuss the issues and we were soon engaged in heated arguments. Perhaps we fell in with the wrong crowd, the liars and hypocrites. We would say demons, but nowadays daemons are all bad, and we do not like to demonize our colleagues. Nor do we have to. We understand that supernatural demons are to blame for our angry sessions.
“The assembled demons could not rightly choose between the two spirits, for as they were debating the Liar approached them and the demons rushed into wrath, polluting the spiritual life of mortal men.”
If the heretical truth were told about the two spirits, we might hold ourselves personally responsible for our plight and say that the two are fraternal twins fathered by mankind, and, that wherever one may be found, the other is bound to be. May heaven forbid it, for a lot of good that would do us with so many shady characters to contend with.
Forsooth we have found ourselves where heaven and hell meet, in the gray area. We feel that something is wrong as our indecisive friends (or are they foes?) pull down the shade on truth and justify their moral turpitude with turbid talk about the principles of chiaroscuro. To make matters murkier, the moment any one of us objects, he is called a hypocrite (we would say ‘she’, but we keep her pure, hoping she will save us from this depressing intercourse). Ironically, even those who insist that there is no such thing as either/or and who claim that anyone with an intolerance for ambiguity is a neurotic and a potential fanatic – they too feel there is something gravely wrong with our gray matter. If it were not for the asphodels, the absinthe, the music, the poetry, the prime numbers, and the injunction against beans, the tension would be unbearable.
I have paraphrased excerpts from Zarathustra’s Gathas.