Osho on Christian mystic Tertullian
Born in C. 155/160, Tertullian was an important early Christian theologian, polemicist, and moralist who, as the initiator of ecclesiastical Latin, was instrumental in shaping the vocabulary and thought of Western Christianity. He is one of the Latin Apologists of the 2nd century. Knowledge of the life of Tertullian is based almost wholly on documents written by men living more than a century after him and from obscure references in his own works. On this basis a general outline of his life has been constructed, but most of the details have been continually disputed by modern scholars.
Talking about his interest in Christianity, towards the end of the 2nd century he converted to the Christian faith. He left no account of his conversion experience, but, in his early works, Ad martyras (“To the Martyrs”), Ad nationes (“To the Nations”), and Apologeticum (“Defense”), he indicated that he was impressed by certain Christian attitudes and beliefs: the courage and determination of martyrs, moral rigorism, and an uncompromising belief in one God. From his early 40s to mid-60s—Tertullian devoted himself almost entirely to literary pursuits. Developing an original Latin style, the fiery and tempestuous Tertullian became a lively and pungent propagandist, though not the most profound writer in Christian antiquity. His works abound with arresting and memorable phrases, ingenious aphorisms, bold and ironic puns, wit, sarcasm, countless words of his own coinage, and a constant stream of invective against his opponents. Yet, he could be gentle and sensitive, as in a treatise to his wife (Ad uxorem), and he could be self-critical and reflective, as in his treatise on patience (De patientia), a virtue that he admitted was conspicuously absent from his life. Tertullian is usually considered the outstanding exponent of the outlook that Christianity must stand uncompromisingly against its surrounding culture.
The absurd is needed to bring you out of your mind, because mind is reasoning. Through reasoning you cannot come out of it. Through reasoning you will move and move, but you will move in a circle. That is what you have been doing for many lives. One thing leads to another, but the ‘another’ is as much a part of the circle as the first. You feel that you are moving because there is change, but you are following a circle. You go on moving about and about, around and around — you cannot get out of it. The more you reason how to get out, the more you create systems, techniques, methods how to get out, the more you become entangled into it. Because the basic problem is: reasoning cannot bring you out because reasoning is the very phenomenon that you are in. Something irrational is needed. Something beyond reason is needed. Something absurd, something mad — only that can bring you out.
All great masters have been devising things — their devices are absurd. If you think about them you will miss. You have to follow their line without any reasoning. That’s why philosophy is not of much use. Only religion can be of help — religion is absolute madness. Tertullian has said, “I believe in God because God is absurd.” There is no reason to believe in it — is there any reason to believe in God? Has anyone ever been capable of proving that God exists? There is no reasoning which can support it — hence faith. Faith means the absurd.
Faith means no reason to believe and you believe. Faith means no arguments, no proofs to prove, and you put your whole life at stake.
Nobody can prove that God is, and you take the jump into the abyss. Anyone who is reasonable will feel that you have gone mad, and that’s how all rationalists have always been feeling. A Buddha, a Krishna, a Jesus — they have gone mad, they are talking nonsense.
There is a whole school in the West which proves that all of religion is nonsense. And I am a religious man and I say they are right — for the wrong reasons they are right. They think that if you prove that religion is nonsense, that you have discounted religion, refuted it. No!
Religious men have always been saying, “We are absurd! We belong not to the world which is of sense, we belong to something which is beyond.” And the beyond is bound to be nonsense. What sense can you make out of religion? If you can make any sense out of religion, you have missed. Then you are in the world of theology, philosophy, systems, but you can never touch that purity which is always beyond reason.
Tertullian is right, he is true. He says, “I believe because God is absurd.” Belief means belief in the absurd. You need not believe in this world that surrounds you — it is there; nobody needs to believe in it. How can you disbelieve it? It is so much there, so present; everything proves it is there. Somebody can throw a stone at you and it is proved, because you will be bleeding. You have been hit; the stone is there. But God cannot hit you like a stone. You cannot even touch him. There is no way. How to smell him? How to see him? And still you believe. Belief means always believing in the absurd. But what happens when somebody is capable of believing in the absurd? He is out of his reason. Suddenly the circle stops, the wheel stops, because you are not feeding it any more. Argument stops, thinking stops. Suddenly you are out of it, as if you have been awakened out of your sleep. And
the greatest sleep is of reason, because reason creates such beautiful dreams, and so real that everyone is deceived by them.
Once you are awake and out of the vicious circle, God is there, nothing else exists. Then there is no need to believe. Then you know. But before that knowing happens, faith will be needed. And all those philosophers who have been trying for centuries to prove that God is, they are not religious, they are not serving God; they are doing a great disservice. Because when you give proof, you make God also a part of the mind. And when somebody believes because God is a proved fact, he cannot get out of the reason. So
all religious people, all the masters, have devised ways to bring you out of the reason. Zen has its own particular technique, and that technique is known as a koan. A koan is an absurd puzzle. You cannot solve it. Howsoever you try, your effort is irrelevant. “Harder and harder,” the master will go on saying, “you are not trying hard enough.” And he is deceiving you, because whatsoever you do will never be hard enough to solve the problem — because the problem is unsolvable! It doesn’t depend whether you work hard at it or not. But if you do it with your totality, suddenly you will become aware of the absurdity — never before. Suddenly you will start laughing. The whole thing was nonsense.
And if you can laugh the mad laugh that comes when reason is not functioning….
Have you seen a madman laughing? His laughter is totally different from your laughter. Your laughter is reasoned out, there is a reason for it. Somebody has told a joke, somebody has fallen on the street, slipped on a banana peel, and you laugh. There is a reason, something ridiculous has happened. Why do you laugh when a man falls in the street, slipping on a banana peel? Why? What is humorous in it? There is something: the ego is the most ridiculous thing in man, and when a man falls on a banana peel, then even the banana peel is stronger than you. The whole absurdity of the ego is proved, that man is nothing — even a banana peel can throw you off balance.
The whole civilization of man is ego-centered. Whole cultures, nations, all dreams of greatness have come to man because he is the only animal who stands erect on two feet — that’s why man goes on thinking that he is not an animal, he is different, he is unique, he doesn’t belong to the animal world. But when you slip on a banana peel suddenly the erect posture is gone. Suddenly you fall into the animal world, you are a helpless animal, nothing else. That’s why it is ridiculous, seeing a man fall.
And think — if a beggar falls on a banana peel, you will not laugh so much; but if a prime minister falls, you will laugh more. Why? — because a beggar is a beggar; he was already a part of the animal world, nothing much. But this prime minister, the president, the king, the queen — you could never believe that the queen of England could fall just like other human beings. Impossible! They have created a false impression around them that they are infallible. And just a banana peel cracks the whole thing. You are exposed, that you are just a helpless human being. And not only a helpless human being, just an animal — on all fours, not on two legs.
It is ridiculous. You laugh, but there is a reason. Watch a madman laughing — there is no reason in it. That’s why you call him mad. You ask him, “Why are you laughing?” If he can answer the why, then he is not mad. If he cannot answer the why, you say he has gone out of his reason.
When a koan is understood for the first time… not solved, because a koan cannot be solved, a koan is unsolvable, it cannot be solved. There is no way to solve it, it is an impossibility, it is an impasse for the mind — you cannot move any more. Suddenly you are stuck, and the master goes on saying, “Work hard! You are not working hard enough.” And the more you work hard, the more you are stuck, moving nowhere: you cannot go back, you cannot go ahead — stuck. And the master goes on hammering you, “Fast, fast, harder. Work hard!” A moment comes when you are not holding any part of your being, your whole being is involved, and still you are stuck.
Suddenly, when the whole energy is involved, you become aware. And this happens only when you are totally involved, when you have put in everything that you can. Only at that peak, at that climax of energy, do you become aware that this problem is absurd — it cannot be solved. A laughter spreads all over your being, it is a mad laughter. And with that laughter everything changes, is transformed…
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse name: No Water, No Moon
Chapter title: The Dead Man’s Answer
14 August 1974 am in Buddha Hall
Osho has spoken on many Western Mystics like Jesus, Gurdjieff, Magdalen, Rumi, Socrates, Theresa, Zarathustra, St. Francis, Dionysius, Tertullian, Boehme, Eckhart, Baal Shem and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- Sermons in Stones
- Come Come Yet Again Come
- Come Follow To You
- Socrates Poisoned Again After 25 Centuries
- The New Dawn
- The Sword and The Lotus
- Beyond Psychology
- The Empty Boat
- I Celebrate Myself: God Is No Where, Life Is Now Here
- Zarathustra: A God That Can Dance
- The Perfect Master
- Sufis: The People of the Path
- The Diamond Sutra