“Truth”? Who has forced this word on me? But I repudiate it; but I disdain this proud word; no, we do not need even this: we shall conquer and come to power even without truth. (Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power)
Lying on his deathbed, Hassan i Sabbah — the Old Man of the Mountain, founder and ruler of the Hashishim, otherwise known as the Order of the Assassins — left his followers with this anarchic declaration: ‘Nothing is true, everything is permitted’
Both the terms hashish and assassin are claimed to have derived from the Hashishim Order, that simply signifies the followers of Hassan. The etymological richness of the order’s name exemplifies how meaning changes over time, accruing new values.
Philosophy is generally associated with the search for knowledge of the self and of the world, yet the search for ultimate meaning can be life-denying and therefore cripple human fulfilment.
There is no absolute truth.
Truth has been constructed by men through a historic process, and even our own understanding of who and what we are is the result of a lengthy process of training and cultivation through the evolution of morality and centuries of social development.
Meaning or truth is historical and flexible, rather than a-temporal and absolute.
Even conscience and free will are not natural givens, but the outcome of historical and psychological evolution of humanity. The existence of both is essential for society as much as it is for Moral philosophy, as it can attribute guilt and responsibility.
The creation of free will and a moral perspective demarcates the birth of the ‘absolute’ truth and consequently the unceasing seeking of ultimate knowledge and truth.
Man’s conscience, his sense of responsibility, is instilled by means of punishment, in a relationship similar to that between creditor and debtor.
‘How do you give a memory to the animal, man? …’ ‘A thing must be burnt in so that it stays in the memory…’ (Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morality)
Science and philosophy are by no means an advance away from the will to truth, rather sophisticated versions of the same doctrine: a denial of sensual, present life in exchange for a pursuit of a believed, pre-determined truth — a truth that has been constructed through historical and psychological development, which differ for various civilisations, being simultaneously valid and null.
‘Nothing is true, everything is permitted.’ This is a fundamental affirmation of unrestricted creative freedom: an apocalyptic avowal that goes beyond the call to destructive, unrestrained behaviour:
“Everything is permitted because nothing is true. It is all make-believe . . . illusion . . . dream . . . art. When art leaves the frame and the written word leaves the page, not merely the physical frame and page, but the frames and pages that assign the categories.” (William S. Burroughs)
Only when we acknowledge the absence of eternal or pre-existing truth, can we be free from the burden of guilt.
Only then can we become our own master, legislator, executive and judge in the pursuit of a fulfilling sensual and creative life.
Only then will we stop blaming the elusive other for our actions and assume responsibility for everything we do in drawing our own horizons of truth.