Monday, August 29, 2011

The Blasphemy of Temptation

Religion has always helped mankind to achieve heights of spiritual upliftment. But at the same time organized religion has pulled us to the ditches. What organized religion has always done anywhere in the world is to negate the importance to the solitary communion with soul and chain the religion to rituals. Add doses of fundamentalism and intolerance, and you get a perfect recipe for disaster. Organized religion curbs the flow of free and rational thought and puts a bar on freedom to think.

Many instances can be found in history when a different reading of religious texts or symbols or leaders causes a furor and elicited the catcalls of blasphemy. Controversies erupt and some may even turn violent. Like what followed Rushdie's Satanic Verses and M F Hussain's paintings. Some artists try to show a different point of view, but some do it just to be in news and profit from the resulting publicity. While taking Nikos Kazantzakis' controversial novel "The Last Temptation" to read, I was intrigued to find out in which category this one will fit.

The Last Temptation is a try to fictionalize Jesus Christ's life as an ordinary man, who is in constant turmoil to come in terms with the difficult task given by God. Christian thought has always painted Jesus as an upright, virtuous young man with a strategical approach of how to do his job. He is never afraid or confused and stands tall in-front of any obstacle. When Kazantzakis tried to change this traditional an orthodox view of Jesus with a more human one, obviously he met with resistance.

Kazantzakis' Christ is a young man who makes crosses for Romans, in-order to crucify the rebels, so that he will become evil and God will stop coming to him. His villagers think of him as a traitor and abhor him like plague. Finally he has to shake his fear and start his journey to the desert, where he has to face many temptations laid out for him. 

The evolution of Christ from a normal person to Messiah was as emotionally turbulent as his fate after becoming one. He has to keep off the temptations of everyday life, lust, confusion, anger, dejection and fear of unknown. He has to keep the interest of his disciples, the Apostles, who are portrayed much weak and not committed fully to the cause, all except Judas Escariot. And what a character he is..! the brooding, ever suspicious, contemptuous, violent man, whom Jesus finds the only one capable of executing his final order, to betray him to Romans.

The novel takes you on a surreal journey through the minds of some of the most brilliantly written characters. Normally, I feel like quoting one or other passages that I feel interesting from the books that I read. If I try for that here, I will have tion reproduce the whole book. The prose of Kazantzakis is that good. The long and detailed description of plot and character motives make it a tedious read, but patient reading can be rewarding.

The controversies surrounding the book, I feel are uncalled for, because the portrayal of Jesus is much more divine and respectable, even when the weight of miracles and divine birth is lifted off from his shoulders.


  1. Seems like a good book to me. I will see if I can get hold of it.

  2. I have heard about this book. But too serious subject for me to read.

  3. I am grabbing a copy soon enough.. this sounds interesting.. thanks for the share


  4. @A: try it out. I feel it is worth the time.

    @nona: hm.. Martin Scorsese had made an acclaimed movie based on the book. May be you can try that.

    @Aakash: thanks for the visit. And happy reading.

  5. Its true...Any one who tries to portray something different or tries to view a sensitive subject from a different angle, controversies occur. Even if the view given is in the case of Galileo.

    Nevertheless, the books should be read for the pleasure of it...and this to me looks to be wonderful read.


  6. @kunal: total agreement, most of them don't even read the book before passing judgments.

  7. religion from its inception has always been used to demystify the human persona and the universal laws. Will try to read the book soon.

    Weakest LINK