Chapter 28: Truth: The Greatest Surgery
So drop this whole idea because this is simply cunningness, not the way of truth.
A new officer arrives in the French foreign legion in the Sahara, and he quickly tries to adapt to the ways of life there. One day he was very puzzled to see all the men rushing off, out of the camp, and he asked, “What is going on?” A soldier explained, “Well, you see, all this time here in the desert, and no women ever come here, so when the camels come, we.ah.take the opportunity.”
“ Ah yes, I see,” says the new officer. “But then tell me, why such a rush?”
“Oh,” the man answers, “of course, nobody wants to get stuck with an ugly one.”
What you are saying is absolutely ugly. Truth has to be pure, uncontaminated, unpolluted, without any fear of any consequences - only then can it help humanity. Perhaps it may be dangerous for the man who utters it, but it is worth it. To be sacrificed for truth is one of the great blessings, one of the greatest ecstasies.
Socrates was offered three alternatives by the judges because they felt the man was innocent, but the crowd was shouting that he should be killed. Athens in those days was a city-state, and it was a direct democracy. So every citizen - slaves were not counted as human beings, so leave out the slaves, and half of Athens was full of slaves - but the citizens had the right to vote directly on any point. It was not like our democracies where you choose a representative for five years. They had no representatives, they represented themselves directly.
So the whole of Athens was shouting, “Socrates has to be killed because he is destroying our morality, he is destroying our religion, he is corrupting the mind of our youth and we cannot tolerate it anymore.”
The chief justice knew that it was impossible to save Socrates, and that the man was absolutely innocent. His only crime was that he said the truth as it is.
So he offered three alternatives to Socrates. He said, “You can leave Athens - it is only a city-state and you can live just outside the city boundary. Those who want to be your disciples can come there and Athens will not have any power to kill you.”
Socrates said, “That will be very cowardly. My inner truth will never forgive me. I have to face the consequence, but I am facing it because of truth, and it is a joy.”
The chief justice said, “Then you can do one thing. You can go on living in Athens, but stop teaching your truth. If you promise that you will not teach the truth, then there is no need for me to kill an innocent man.”
Socrates said, “This is not acceptable. For what should I be living if I cannot teach the truth? Then death is better, far better.”