“Le Christ aux oliviers”

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“The child of both poetry and the visual arts, visual poetry has a double set of interests and its forms are myriad. We are living through what might be the greatest age of visual poetry.”

  • Geof Huth

“God is dead” (German: Gott ist tot; also known as the death of God) is a widely quoted statement made by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche used the phrase to express his idea that the Enlightenment had eliminated the possibility of the existence of God. However, proponents of the strongest form of the Death of God theology have used the phrase in a literal sense, meaning that the Christian God, who had existed at one point, has ceased to exist.

Nietzsche’s complete statement is:

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

The phrase first appeared in Nietzsche’s 1882 collection The Gay Science (Die fröhliche Wissenschaft, also translated as “The Joyful Pursuit of Knowledge and Understanding”). However, it is most famously associated with Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Also sprach Zarathustra), which is most responsible for making the phrase popular.

Before Nietzsche, the phrase ‘Dieu est mort!’ can be found in Gérard de Nerval’s 1854 Poem “Le Christ aux oliviers” (“Christ at the olive trees”). The poem is an adaptation into verse of a dream-vision that appears in Jean Paul’s 1797 novel Siebenkäs under the chapter title of ‘The Dead Christ Proclaims That There Is No God’.

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