- Parables of the Anonymous God in Nietzsche and Foucault
I have been fascinated by the "On the Vision and the Riddle" chapter in Thus Spoke Zarathustra from the first time I read it nearly half a century ago. I have written on it several times since over the years. This time, though, I am writing about it in the context of trying to understand not so much its key for illuminating Nietzsche's doctrine of the creative self-overcoming of the will-to-power; nor for the light it may shed on his doctrine of the eternal recurrence of the same; but rather for what it can mean in a modern secular culture based upon science (or on its technology at least), for someone to become divine, that is, for someone to play the modern secular visionary "game" of imaginative theurgy and divination. I will touch on these other matters, of course, but I will do so in trying to focus primarily on Nietzsche's revisionary conception of divinity in the different contexts provided by Foucault's critique of the veridiction of the modern subject and the original Christian parable of the identity of the neighbor, that of the Good Samaritan. I have been led to these other contexts, as well as once again back to this chapter in Zarathustra, by the question of anonymity at the center of the two acknowledged parables ("On the Vision and the Riddle" and "The Good Samaritan") and the one final paragraph (in Wrong-Doing, Truth-Telling), which to me reads like a parable in the end.
Here is the parable of the Good Samaritan:
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus: "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law? He replied. "How do you read it?" [The expert] answered, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and will all your mind'; and 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down [End Page 427] from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.' "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."(Luke 10: 25-37).
The parable is probably the most famous of them all, and is beautifully structured as a min-drama and as a narrative vignette. The point of view, subtly ironic, is handled with a light but pointed touch. And the many historical and religious contexts, of the time of the first telling, up until today are multitudinous. But some of the latter must be mentioned before we can begin to understand the parable.
The Samaritans and the orthodoxy of Judaism were at considerable, often violent odds. Originally, the Samaritans were formed as a distinctive group from the remnants of those Assyrians who had intermarried with the Jews in the Northern Kingdom when Assyria conquered Judea. Subsequently, these families...