We live in a cultural epoch in which the generally accepted view in certain situations is in effect "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth". It is this view that is the basis for the authorized murder we call "the death penalty" and indeed for everything connected with the term "punishment". When one human being has murdered another, many people feel that it is right that the murderer too should be put to death. Can it be more clearly demonstrated that it is the law of Moses that is being practised here? Why then be so bitter towards the Jews - as we have seen many are - when one oneself practises sheer Judaism. While it is true that Denmark has abolished the death penalty we have seen here that Christ's words "Let he that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" are still of immediate importance.
We saw after the war how the death penalty was reintroduced. But even this was not enough. A law was passed allowing the inflicting of punishment for acts committed in the past when these acts were still legally permissible. Could a greater undermining of trust and confidence in legal justice be imagined? Who can feel safe here when what the authorities today declare legally permissible may well in coming years be declared illegal with retrospective effect by the selfsame authorities? Can a more foolish, confusing and unjust legal administration of justice be manifested?
According to this legal practice, citizens who have never wittingly committed any infringement of any legal injunction may nevertheless be suddenly declared to be offenders and thereby be enrolled in the ranks of "criminals" because the authorities have only now after the event got the idea that certain acts, which they have not forbidden, are in actual fact criminal and ought to have been forbidden.
This gross delay in the setting up of the law can be attributed to nothing but a far too inadequate and sluggish mental activity and to inadequate powers of observation on the part of the legislating authorities. But this can easily be circumvented. One simply imprisons and punishes the citizens for breaking laws that the authorities at the given point in time, because of their lacking intellectuality or delayed insight into the situations in question, had not yet even begun to realise the necessity of and had therefore not at all thought of making. But punishing people for breaking laws that do not exist can only be criminal. Laws that do not exist cannot possibly be broken. The authorities are thus punishing the citizens for breaking laws that these same authorities, because of lacking intellectual qualifications at the time the "infringement" took place, had not yet made. If there is to be any question of punishment here it must be solely the legislative authorities that are liable to endure for the death trap or punishment trap they have set up for the innocent citizen who in good faith did only what was legally permissible yet who may one day be subjected to being stamped as a criminal and made liable to punishment.
During the recently ended struggle for liberty it was, in certain situations, an honourable act to kill and likewise an honourable death if one was oneself killed in the course of this struggle. While these lines are being written widespread celebrations in honour of this struggle for liberty are being prepared, a glorious campaign of commemoration in honour of those people who, out of good faith in this struggle, risked their lives, as well as for those participants in this massacre of man by man who are still alive. This is in itself quite natural. We all feel a need to honour what we think is noble. But if one asks if this struggle for liberty or the use of weapons is Christianity then the answer must of necessity be negative. And this is the reason why I am taking up the problem here. In our day it is more important than ever to establish what is Christianity and what is paganism. That which is not Christianity is paganism.
As for this struggle for liberty, with its attendant celebrations and notion of "heroic deeds", it has absolutely nothing to do with Christianity. It is, on the contrary, a situation and celebration purely in honour of the gods of Valhalla. In the worship of these gods it was an honour and a virtue to kill and to be killed. He who would not live like this was regarded as a weakling and could not of course enter the same kingdom of heaven as the mighty killers. What is the God Thor with his mighty hammer? Is he not the symbol of the culmination of the ability to kill? Is he not the symbol of the mighty warrior with his unerring murder weapon? The freedom fighters, as much as their opponents, were also warriors equipped with murder weapons. And what are the modern tools of war - atom and hydrogen bombs as well as the other colossal, effective murder weapons and tools of war - other than the culmination of the principle "the hammer of Thor" pure and unadulterated?
The old Nordic god is worshipped today to a far greater extent than ever before. But this worship is carried out in the name of "Christianity". The Christian priests sometimes bless the weapons, that is "the hammer of Thor". One forces the nation's youth to be soldiers, which means craftsmen of war, and teaches or trains these young people in the methods best suited to killing the "enemy" and destroying his possessions, his property and his culture.
One thus teaches and qualifies the young in the use of "Thor's hammer". Is this Christianity? And is it not the so-called Christian states that are the greatest and most effective warring peoples in the world? Which of the other world religions' peoples has such an immense capacity to murder and destroy? Absolutely none. Did we not see that the priestly vocation within the Christian church was not more stabilized and had no more root in the mentality of the priests concerned than that many of these official representatives of Christ also became freedom fighters and others became their opponents, that is, went over to the side of the "enemy"? And was it not firearms, bombs and machines of hell, that is "Thor's hammer", that were the foundations of their existence?
It is possible that many of these people prayed to the Christian god, but what did they pray for? Did they not pray that they might succeed in sabotaging or destroying the factories, houses and weapons that were in the enemy's possession? Did they not pray that God would protect them while they were out on their nightly excursions to kill and sabotage their opponent? And might it not sometimes also have happened that a similar prayer rose up towards God from the opponent?
In truth - a strange prayer for Christian people in general and for Christian priests in particular. Can one imagine a greater travesty of true Christianity? Is one not here witness to the fact that these priests of the twentieth century, just like the priests who became Jesus' executioners or murderers almost two thousand years ago, do not know what they are doing?
The freedom fighter priests mentioned here, whether they belong to the so-called "legal" side or the "traitor" side, have shown openly by their deadly conduct that they really know nothing whatsoever about Christianity, for if they did they would know that the greatest true means of protection is not sabotage, mutilation and murder of other people. It is not the principle of Thor's hammer but is, on the contrary, solely the principle of not killing, of not mutilating, of not waging war. It is thus solely the creation of peace, joy and blessing.
But when the authorised Christian priests do not yet know what true Christianity is, it is unlikely that ordinary Christians know what true Christianity is. The morality and way of behaving that people have gradually adopted and call "Christianity" is absolutely not true Christianity. What then is true Christianity?
There is absolutely no other true Christianity than the disposition and the display of neighbourly love that constituted Jesus' daily life and conduct, and for which he gave theoretical, practical and symbolical expression in his teaching. In this conduct of Jesus Christ we see the utterly completed human mentality. This mentality is different from the ordinary human being's mentality in that it is totally cleansed or liberated from the mental predispositions inherited from the animal kingdom. Here there was no egoism or selfishness. Here there were no tendencies towards envy or feelings of jealousy. Here there was no intolerance or feelings of antipathy whatsoever. Here there were no tendencies towards bitterness or anger. On the contrary there was a fully developed talent for being able to see the solution of the mystery of life and thereby the goal for every human being's existence. Here was a fully developed talent for a true life together with God and thereby for a harmonious and loving attitude to every living thing. Here was a fully developed talent for understanding one's neighbour's actions and troubles so that one could forgive him in all situations - even when it meant crucifixion for oneself. He had a fully developed talent for giving rather than taking, for serving rather than being served. He had a fully developed talent for not being able to be offended or hurt. He had a fully developed talent for being able to turn the left cheek when he had been smitten on the right. He could return love towards those who turned hatred towards him. There were thus no animal tendencies in his mentality. He was totally cleansed of what is more or less firmly to the fore in the mentality of other people and which we have come to know as "evil". He was the completed human being in "God's image".
God's image is in turn the same as God's spirit, God's knowledge and way of being or that which is described in the Bible as "the holy spirit". And it is this conduct of Christ or God's spirit that is true Christianity, the religion of religions or the essence of spiritual science. It is due to this, the perfect human mentality, God's spirit or cosmic consciousness that he could describe himself as "the way, the truth and the life", that is the elevated condition of life that was named "Christianity" after him.
The world redeemer has expressed this Christianity in, among others, the following words: "But I say unto you that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." What does this really mean? Turning the left cheek when smitten on the right is the same as challenging one's enemy to smite this cheek as well, is it not? Such a challenge cannot be Christianity. It is true that such a way of acting would ordinarily be a challenge to one's persecutors to smite one's left cheek too, after they have smitten one's right cheek, but this is not what is meant in the instructions for behaviour Christ has given us. Here the main thing is to show the enemy or one's persecutors that one is mentally and physically immune to acts of violence, and that one's human consciousness is thus totally unconquerable by one's persecutors.
All persecution with violence and force belongs to the animal kingdom. Everyone who uses such persecution as part of his behaviour reveals and compromises himself as a human being with an animal mentality. It is such a being that the great wise people of the long lost past have symbolised with the ancient Sphinx - the animal body with the human head. This almost imperishable stone colossus in the Egyptian desert has for tens upon tens of thousands of years served the purpose of reminding people that they were not yet finished human beings. The human head on the Sphinx expresses that the terrestrial human being has attained certain mental abilities that do not belong to the ordinary animal plane of existence. As these abilities belong to a plane of existence that lies above the animal kingdom (in the same way as the animal kingdom lies above the plant kingdom) they raise the human being up to the plane above the animal kingdom to the same extent as he gradually develops these higher abilities in his mentality or psyche.
As these higher abilities are "human" abilities the "animal" becomes a "human being" to the same extent as he has developed enough to attain these abilities. But since the attainment of these abilities can take place only through a long epoch of evolution this epoch will of necessity come to constitute an area of life or a plane of existence for beings in whom the human abilities are present in a more or less advanced stage of development. And these beings must therefore be human in their being to the same extent as these abilities are developed in them. By virtue of these human characteristics these beings differ from the ordinary animal kingdom and appear as "human beings". To these beings belong the ordinary terrestrial human being. But such a being is not a "human being" in its purest form. He is human only to the same degree or extent that he, by virtue of his human abilities and capacities, has developed the ability to act humanely. But in areas of manifestation where he is not so developed he can act only in an "animal" way.
What does one understand by "animal and human behaviour"? In order to understand animal and human behaviour one must first understand what is meant by behaviour. The behaviour or manifestation of a being is a result of its very highest, innermost and vital urge or instinct, namely the instinct of self-preservation. Without this urge the I or innermost self of the living being cannot possibly experience life. The I of the living being is, as explained in my main work "Livets Bog (The Book of Life)", certainly an eternal reality, but this eternal existence would mean nothing whatsoever if it could not be experienced by the I. But in order to be experienced it must appear as mutually contrasting details. And it is by virtue of this principle of contrast that the experience of life takes the form of an evolution from primitive to perfect forms, from mineral to plant, from plant to animal and from animal to human being and so on. The difference between the animal mentality and the human mentality is thus a difference in evolution. The animal mentality is primitive while the human mentality is further advanced in evolution and manifests, at its highest stage, high intellectuality.
Behind the animal's instinct for self-preservation there is only a purely primitive and unintellectual consciousness or mentality. The animal can maintain his life only by purely physical abilities and powers. And as its maintenance of life is to a great extent dependent on animal food its physical abilities and powers to a corresponding degree must be developed in order to be superior to the animals that it must hunt and kill in order to appropriate their organisms as food. It is thus a vital condition of life for the animal that it must kill in order to live. And here the maintenance of life is a question of power. Here there is no talk of any form of justice or any fifth commandment, "Thou shalt not kill". Here, on the contrary, the commandment is "Thou must kill in order to live".
As the human being is a being that is evolving from this animal area, he will, to the extent that he has progressed in this evolution, represent a correspondingly higher step in evolution. He is no longer an animal pure and simple. The new stage in evolution has given him new abilities and characteristics that raise him more or less above the animal stage, so that it is in reality no longer a vital necessity for him to kill animal life in order to live. Here the commandment is "Thou shalt not kill." Indeed, is not life's entire condition here included in this one great commandment, which is the fulfilment of all the laws, "Thou shalt love God above all things and thy neighbour as thyself"? The fulfilment of this behaviour is thus the pinnacle of life in the new area of evolution.
But the ordinary terrestrial human being has not yet reached this pinnacle or culmination of behaviour, even if he has advanced some distance on his way out of the animal area. The unfinished human being is thus a being in whom there exist both animal tendencies and human tendencies.
It is not so remarkable that human culture to a corresponding degree is based partly on animal tendencies and partly on human ones, which respectively means on the principle of killing and on the principle of humaneness or love. We see, therefore, great humane, technical and chemical creations, brilliant material wonders such as power, light and heat produced by man. Through great machines one makes the enormous forces of nature work for one. By means of these harnessed forces the human being is able to transport himself around the planet, through the air as well as under the water, across the continents by rail and motorway and on the ocean routes throughout the world.
But along with these highly civilised human blessings, man's civilisation is permeated by the still remaining vestiges of the animal nature in which it is might, and not right, that prevails. Within a very great area of human civilisation the principle of might instead of right is still to a greater or lesser extent upheld. Cultivating the principle of might instead of the principle of right or justice is here not a condition of life and cannot be a virtue, as is the case in the animal kingdom. Upholding the principle of might instead of the principle of right within human relations creates derailment of all human civilisation in the form of war, murder and killing as well as the destruction of many of the cultural phenomena that have already on a large scale become a joy and blessing for people.
This undermining or destruction of all civilisation and human intercourse is thus entirely a direct consequence of the animal nature still present in people. There is not one single unhappy fate that does not have its root or very first cause in its originator's more or less prevelant animal nature or mentality. To this animal nature belongs every form of thinking and acting that causes hatred, anger, bitterness, persecution, slander, professional jealousy, envy, jealousy or covetousness and so on, and any ensuing destructive or murderous actions or attempts on the life and property of one's neighbour. By these actions and the mentality they display the human being reveals that side of his consciousness or psyche which has not yet become "human". Where he has not yet become human he has only his animal mentality and is therefore compelled to act in an "animal" way. He cannot act according to a "human" nature that he does not yet possess. He who gets angry at such a person and hates him reveals himself as just as unfinished a being as the one he is persecuting.
One thus understands here the attitude of the world redeemer when he met the animal nature in the mentality of his persecutors. One understands why he, on the cross, prayed for his executioners, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do", instead of giving vent to hatred, anger and bitterness towards them.
One understands why he says that one should forgive one's neighbour not only seven times a day, but seventy times seven times a day. One understands why he says to Peter, "Put up thy sword in its sheath, for they that take the sword will perish by the sword." He saw clearly the true reason for people acting in an "animal" way. He saw that it was entirely because they, in the field in question, had not yet attained a "human" mentality. And where they do not have a human mentality they cannot possibly act in a "human" way. He saw that punishing and taking revenge on a human being was flagrantly unjust. He saw that injustice could never lead to love, to happiness and joy in living. And where there is no love, happiness and joy in living there can be only hatred, brutality, unhappiness, sorrow and suffering. For this reason he turned the left cheek when he was smitten on the right, that is when he was crucified by his executioners. And for this reason he advised people to turn the left cheek too when they were smitten on the right. And it was for this reason that he himself as such a shining example went in advance and with his behaviour and speech said to the people, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you." He had experienced that this form of behaviour was absolutely the only one that led to the way, the truth and the life, that is to the goal for God's creation - "the human being in God's image".
(Original Danish title: Hvorfor skal man tilgive sin næste?. Translated by Mary McGovern, 1992)
© Martinus Institut 1981
Published with permission from Martinus Institute