In 1933 Peter Wessel Zapffe (a Norwegian) wrote a seminal piece called The Last Messiah. Unlike the children’s tales he wrote to make a living, The Last Messiah is seen as a pessimistic appraisal of man’s situation. The central message is that nature has overshot the mark, by creating a creature with an excess of consciousness – namely man. All other creatures live in a sort of ‘paradise’ where they simply exist moment to moment, with no reflective consciousness to evaluate things and imagine the past and future. As such, when an animal is happy, it is that happiness, and when it is frightened, it is the fear. But man can imagine what causes fear, before any fearful situation might arise – fear of death being the mother of all fears. And man can also look around him and see other men, and other creatures that suffer, causing him to suffer in sympathy.
Zapffe gives the example of a large prehistoric deer that became extinct because its antlers were too large. Through generations of deer the antlers assumed such a size that they weighed down the animal’s head, to the point where they because not only useless, but a liability. Zapffe sees man’s excess of consciousness as a similar liability.
There is only one solution – a solution proclaimed by The Last Messiah. The solution to man’s suffering, a suffering unique among created creatures, is to bring the process of procreation to an end – to stop breeding. Zapffe uses much more poetic language and states this as:
Know yourselves – be infertile and let the earth be silent after ye.
Like all messiahs, Zapffe predicts that The Last Messiah will be slaughtered by the masses. While this seems like a very dramatic message, there is now a well established antinatalist movement. Even mainstream academia is getting in on the act, and several high profile books have been written on the topic. Perhaps the best known is ’Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence” by David Benatar.
You can download a pdf of The Last Messiah by clicking here.