Translation:Het gebed van de onwetende

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Het Gebed van den Onwetende  (1861) 
by Multatuli, translated from Dutch by Wikisource
This is a Wikisource translation of Het gebed van den onwetende.

The Ignorant's Prayer[edit]

Original text in De Dageraad (1861).
Reproduction of the attached illustration.

I don't know if we are created for a purpose,
Or are here by happenstance. Nor if a God
Or... Gods delight in our suffering, and revile
The deficiencies of our existence. If that were true
It would be terrible! Who to blame
That the weak are weak, the ill ill and the dumb dumb?

If we had been made with intent, with a goal
And do not reach it because of our deficiencies...
Then the blame of all evil does not befall us,
Not on the creature ... but on the Creator ! Call him ZEUS,
Or JUPITER, JEHOVAH, BAAL, DJAU... does not matter:
He is not there, or he must be GOOD, and forgive,
That we don't understand him. It was up to him
To reveal himself, and he did not ! Had he done so,
He would have done it such, that no one could doubt,
That everyone said: I know him, feel him, and hear him.[1]

What others now claim to know about that God,
Does not help me. I do not hear him ! I ask why
He revealed himself to others, and not to me?
Is one child closer to the father than the other?
As long as a human son does not know that God,
So long it is slander to believe in that God!
The child that calls upon the father to no avail does no harm...
The father that lets his child call to no avail, acts cruelly.
And prettier is the belief: there is no father,
Than that he would be deaf for his child!

Perhaps one day we will be wiser! Perhaps one day
See that He is there. That He observed us,
And that his silence had a cause, and ground. Well,
As soon as we know it, it is time for praising,
But not before... not now! It would sadden God,
To discover that we worshipped him without a reason,
And it is foolishness, the dark ignorance of the present
To want to enlighten with a light... that does not shine yet.

Serve him? Foolishness : had He desired service,
He would have revealed us in what way,
And it is absurd, that he expects of man:
Worship, service and praise... while He Himself
Left us in uncertainty concerning the way how.
If we don't serve God according to his wish...
Then it's His fault, His fault, and our fault it is NOT!

In between - until we are wiser - are good and evil one?

I don't see what a God does for us, in discerning
The bad and the good. On the contrary! The one who does good
Because God would reward him, that way just makes
the good into something bad, a trade. And who shuns evil,
Out of fear for the disgrace of that God is... a coward!

I don't know you, o God! I invoked you, I sought,
I begged for an answer, and You were silent! I really wanted to
Do your wish... not out of fear of punishment, out of hope of reward,
But like a child does its father's wish... out of love!
You were silent... and you were always silent!

And I wander, and gasp

To the hour, that I will know that You exist...
Then I will ask you: "Father, why now for the first time
Shown your child that it had a father,
And that it was not alone in the struggle,
Or were You sure, that I would do Your wish
Even without knowing it? That I, unconscious
Of your existence, would serve You, as You want to be served?
Would it be true?

Answer me, Father, if You are there, answer me !

Don't let Your child despair, Father! Don't remain mute
To the bloodily extorted lama sabacthani !

So the ignorant groans on his self-chosen cross,
And crying in agony, and wailing of thirst...

The wise man - he who does know... does know God - mocks the fool,
And reaches bile to him, and exults : "hear, he calls his father!"
And mumbles: "thank you, o Lord, that I am not like him!"
And sings a psalm: "Blessed is the man that walketh not
in the counsel of the ungodly...

The wise man... sneaks roaring with laughter all the way to the bank.

The father is silent....o God, there is no God!

The Hague, 26 February 1861.


  1. (Note from 1865.) Read: I feel him, know him, and hear him. The feeling should proceed (ID. 503) and this occurs to those who believe as well. But they do not get beyond just feeling. They see their recruit as a soldier. The belief in God has no more solid ground than the belief in ghosts. "But... could so many able, learned and skilled people be wrong?" My answer is simply: yes! And this is not so strange if one considers that KEPPLER, the great mathematically thinking KEPPLER, believed in witches! When his own mother was accused of witchcraft, he defended her without assuming the absurdity of the accusation. That major seems to have been too risky for the man who dared to enscribe his name on our solar system. Wherever faith joins the conversation, logic and science are silent. Therefore one should silence faith, at least when we are concerned about TRUTH.

(Note from 1875) One should not seek any dogmaticism in this piece, no revelation of opinions. It is merely a sketch of the troubles that swing an honest truthseeker to and fro, and torture him during the struggle he has to undertake with the world and... himself. I could not describe the true meaning of this Ignorant's Prayer better than with the words of Mr. C. VOSMAER (See page 15 of these works' first part.): "This is an goodbye cry from faith, in which the sorrow has not yet been replaced by a new peace from a higher truth. And for everyone who seriously desires the truth, and dares to face reality, that peace will come."

Right! Daring to face reality, the courage to acknowledge truth, will release us from the apparitions of Religion, and indeed make us FREE. The one who thinks, will overcome.