Jean Paul and The Mistaken Christ

He raised his hands, folded as it for prayer; but then his arms shot out and came apart from his poor trunk, the folded hands came off and fell away. Upon the dome above there was inscribed the dial of eternity – but figures there were none, and the dial itself was its own gnomon; a great black finger was pointing at it, and the dead strove hard to read the time upon it. And at this point a lofty, noble form, bearing the impress of eternal sorrow, came sinking down towards our group, and rested on the altar; whereupon all the dead cried out, “Christ! Is there no God?” He answered, “There is none.”

At this the dead quivered and trembled; but now it was not their breasts alone that throbbed; the quivering ran all through the shadows, so that one by one the shudder shook them into nothingness. And Christ spake on, saying, “I have traversed the worlds, I have risen to the suns, with the milky ways I have passed athwart the great waste spaces of the sky; there is no God. And I descended to where the very shadow cast by Being dies out and ends, and I gazed out into the gulf beyond, and cried, ‘Father, where art Thou?’

But answer came there none, save the eternal storm which rages on, controlled by none; and towards the west, above the chasm, a gleaming rainbow hung, but there was no sun to give it birth, and so it sank and fell by drops into the abyss. And when I looked up to the boundless universe for the Divine eye, behold, it glared at me from out a socket, empty and bottomless. Over the face of chaos brooded Eternity, chewing it for ever, again and yet again. Shriek on, then, discords, shatter the shadows with your shrieking din, for HE IS NOT!”

The pale and colourless shades flickered away to nothingness, as frosty fog dissolves before warm breath, and all grew void. Ah! then the dead children, who had been asleep out in the graves, awoke, and came into the temple, and fell down before the noble form (a sight to rend one’s heart), and cried, “Jesus, have we no Father?”
He made answer, with streaming tears, “We are orphans all, both I and ye. We have no Father.”


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