THE DAWN OF DAYContents
When Nietzsche called his book The Dawn of Day, he was far from giving it a merely fanciful title to attract the attention of that large section of the public which judges books by their titles rather than by their contents. The Dawn of Day represents, figuratively, the dawn of Nietzsche's own philosophy. Hitherto he had been considerably influenced in his outlook, if not in his actual thoughts, by Schopenhauer, Wagner, and perhaps also Comte. Human, all-too-Human, belongs to a period of transition. After his rupture with Bayreuth, Nietzsche is, in both parts of that work, trying to stand on his own legs, and to regain his spiritual freedom; he is feeling his way to his own philosophy. The Dawn of Day, written in 1881 under the invigorating influence of a Genoese spring, is the dawn of this new Nietzsche. “With this book I open my campaign against morality,” he himself said later in his autobiography, the Ecce Homo.
Just as in the case of the books written in his prime—The Joyful Wisdom, Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil, and The Genealogy of Morals—we cannot fail to be impressed in this work by Nietzsche's deep psychological insight, the insight that showed him to be a powerful judge of men and things unequalled in the nineteenth or, perhaps, any [pg vi] other century. One example of this is seen in his searching analysis of the Apostle Paul (Aphorism 68), in which the soul of the “First Christian” is ruthlessly and realistically laid bare to us. Nietzsche's summing-up of the Founder of Christianity—for of course, as is now generally recognised, it was Paul, and not Christ, who founded the Christian Church—has not yet called forth those bitter attacks from theologians that might have been expected, though one reason for this apparent neglect is no doubt that the portrait is so true, and in these circumstances silence is certainly golden on the part of defenders of the faith, who are otherwise, as a rule, loquacious enough. Nor has the taunt in Aphorism 84 elicited an answer from the quarter whither it was directed; and the “free” (not to say dishonest) interpretation of the Bible by Christian scholars and theologians, which is still proceeding merrily, is now being turned to Nietzsche's own writings. For the philosopher's works are now being “explained away” by German theologians in a most naïve and daring fashion, and with an ability which has no doubt been acquired as the result of centuries of skilful interpretation of the Holy Writ.
Nor are professional theologians the only ones who have failed to answer Nietzsche; for in other than religious matters the majority of savants have not succeeded in plumbing his depths. There is, for example, the question of race. Ten years ago, twenty years after the publication of The Dawn of Day, Nietzsche's countrymen enthusiastically hailed a book which has recently been translated into English, Chamberlain's Foundations of [pg vii]the Nineteenth Century. In this book the Teutons are said to be superior to all the other peoples in the world, the reason given being that they have kept their race pure. It is due to this purity of race that they have produced so many great men; for every “good” man in history is a Teuton, and every bad man something else. Considerable skill is exhibited by the author in filching from his opponents the Latins their best trump cards, and likewise the trump card, Jesus Christ, from the Jews; for Jesus Christ, according to Chamberlain's very plausible argument, was not a Jew but an Aryan, i.e. a member of that great family of which the Teutons are a branch.
What would Nietzsche have said to this legerdemain? He has constantly pointed out that the Teutons are so far from being a pure race that they have, on the contrary, done everything in their power to ruin even the idea of a pure race for ever. For the Teutons, through their Reformation and their Puritan revolt in England, and the philosophies developed by the democracies that necessarily followed, were the spiritual forbears of the French Revolution and of the Socialistic régime under which we are beginning to suffer nowadays. Thus this noble race has left nothing undone to blot out the last remnant of race in Europe, and it even stands in the way of the creation of a new race. And with such a record in history the Germans write books, eulogising themselves as the salt of the earth, the people of peoples, the race of races, while in truth they are nothing else than nouveaux-riches endeavouring to draw up a decent pedigree for themselves. [pg viii] We know that honesty is not a prerequisite of such pedigrees, and that patriotism may be considered as a good excuse even for a wrong pedigree; but the race-pandemonium that followed the publication of Mr. Chamberlain's book in Germany was really a very unwise proceeding in view of the false and misleading document produced. What, it may be asked again, would Nietzsche have said if he had heard his countrymen screaming odes to their own glory as the “flower of Europe”? He would assuredly have dismissed their exalted pretensions with a good-natured smile; for his study of history had shown him that even slaves must have their saturnalia now and then. But as to his philosophical answer there can be no doubt; for in Aphorism 272 of The Dawn of Day there is a single sentence which completely refutes the view of modern racemongers like Chamberlain and his followers: “It is probable,” we read, “that there are no pure races, but only races which have become purified, and even these are extremely rare.” There are even stronger expressions to be met with in “Peoples and Countries” (Aphorism 20; see the Genealogy of Morals, p. 226): “What quagmires and mendacity must there be about if it is possible, in the modern European hotch-potch, to raise the question of ‘race’!” and again, in Aphorism 21: “Maxim—to associate with no man who takes any part in the mendacious race-swindle.”
A man like Nietzsche, who makes so little impression upon mankind in general, is certainly not, as some people have thought and openly said, a public danger, so the guardians of the State need not [pg ix] be uneasy. There is little danger of Nietzsche's revolutionising either the masses or the classes; for, as Goethe used to say, “Seulement celui qui ressemble le peuple, l'émeut.” Nietzsche's voice has as yet hardly been lifted in this country; and, until it is fully heard, both masses and classes will calmly proceed on their way to the extremes of democracy and anarchy, as they now appear to be doing. Anarchy, though, may be too strong a word; for there is some doubt whether, throughout Europe and America at all events, the people are not now too weak even for anarchy. A revolt is a sign of strength in a slave; but our modern slaves have no strength left.
In the meantime, however, it will have become clear that Nietzsche tried to stop this threatening degradation of the human race, that he endeavoured to supplant the morality of altruism—the cause of this degradation—by another, a super-Christian morality, and that he has succeeded in this aim, if not where the masses and the classes are concerned, at any rate in the case of that small minority of thinkers to which he really wished to appeal. And this minority is naturally grateful to the philosopher for having supplied them with a morality which enables them to be “good” without being fools—an unpleasant combination which, unfortunately, the Nazarene morality is seldom able to avoid. This Nazarene morality has doubtless its own merits, and its “good” and “evil” in many cases coincide with ours; but common sense and certain intellectual qualities are not too highly appreciated in the table of Christian values (see, for instance, 1 Cor. iii. 19), whence it will be observed that the enlightenment [pg x] of a Christian is not always quite equal to his otherwise excellent intentions. We Nietzschians, however, must show that patience to them which they always pretend to show to their opponents. Nietzsche himself, indeed, recommends this in Aphorism 103 of this book, an aphorism which is almost too well known to need repetition; for it likewise disproves the grotesque though widely circulated supposition that all kinds of immorality would be indulged in under the sway of the “Immoralistic” philosopher:
“I should not, of course, deny—unless I were a fool—that many actions which are called immoral should be avoided and resisted; and in the same way that many which are called moral should be performed and encouraged; but I hold that in both cases these actions should be performed from motives other than those which have prevailed up to the present time. We must learn anew in order that at last, perhaps very late in the day, we may be able to do something more: feel anew.”
In regard to the translation itself—which owes a good deal to many excellent suggestions made by Mr. Thomas Common—it adheres, as a rule, closely to the German text; and in only two or three instances has a slightly freer rendering been adopted in order to make the sense quite clear. There are one or two cases in which a punning or double meaning could not be adequately rendered in English: e.g. Aphorism 50, where the German word “Rausch” means both “intoxication” and also “elation” (i.e. the exalted feelings of the religious fanatic). Again, we have “Einleid,” “Einleidigkeit,” [pg xi] in Aphorism 63—words which do not quite correspond to pity, compassion, or fellow-feeling, and which, indeed, are not yet known to German lexicographers. A literal translation, “one-feeling,” would be almost meaningless. What is actually signified is that both sufferer and sympathiser have nerves and feelings in common: an experience which Schopenhauer, as Nietzsche rightly points out, mistook for compassion or pity (“Mitleid”), and which lacked a word, even in German, until the later psychologist coined “Einleid.” Again, in Aphorism 554 we have a play upon the words “Vorschritt” (leading, guidance) and “Fortschritt” (progress).
All these, however, are trifling matters in comparison with the substance of the book, and they are of more interest to philologists than to psychologists. It is for psychologists that this book was written; and such minds, somewhat rare in our time, may read in it with much profit.
J. M. Kennedy.
London, September 1911.
In this book we find a “subterrestrial” at work, digging, mining, undermining. You can see him, always provided that you have eyes for such deep work,—how he makes his way slowly, cautiously, gently but surely, without showing signs of the weariness that usually accompanies a long privation of light and air. He might even be called happy, despite his labours in the dark. Does it not seem as if some faith were leading him on, some solace recompensing him for his toil? Or that he himself desires a long period of darkness, an unintelligible, hidden, enigmatic something, knowing as he does that he will in time have his own morning, his own redemption, his own rosy dawn?—Yea, verily he will return: ask him not what he seeketh in the depths; for he himself will tell you, this apparent Trophonius and subterrestrial, whensoever he once again becomes man. One easily unlearns how to hold one's tongue when one has for so long been a mole, and all alone, like him.—
Indeed, my indulgent friends, I will tell you—here, in this late preface,1 which might easily have [pg 002] become an obituary or a funeral oration—what I sought in the depths below: for I have come back, and—I have escaped. Think not that I will urge you to run the same perilous risk! or that I will urge you on even to the same solitude! For whoever proceeds on his own path meets nobody: this is the feature of one's “own path.” No one comes to help him in his task: he must face everything quite alone—danger, bad luck, wickedness, foul weather. He goes his own way; and, as is only right, meets with bitterness and occasional irritation because he pursues this “own way” of his: for instance, the knowledge that not even his friends can guess who he is and whither he is going, and that they ask themselves now and then: “Well? Is he really moving at all? Has he still ... a path before him?”—At that time I had undertaken something which could not have been done by everybody: I went down into the deepest depths; I tunnelled to the very bottom; I started to investigate and unearth an old faith which for thousands of years we philosophers used to build on as the safest of all foundations—which we built on again and again although every previous structure fell in: I began to undermine our faith in morals. But ye do not understand me?—
So far it is on Good and Evil that we have meditated least profoundly: this was always too dangerous a subject. Conscience, a good reputation, hell, and at times even the police, have not [pg 003] allowed and do not allow of impartiality; in the presence of morality, as before all authority, we must not even think, much less speak: here we must obey! Ever since the beginning of the world, no authority has permitted itself to be made the subject of criticism; and to criticise morals—to look upon morality as a problem, as problematic—what! was that not—is that not—immoral?—But morality has at its disposal not only every means of intimidation wherewith to keep itself free from critical hands and instruments of torture: its security lies rather in a certain art of enchantment, in which it is a past master—it knows how to “enrapture.” It can often paralyse the critical will with a single look, or even seduce it to itself: yea, there are even cases where morality can turn the critical will against itself; so that then, like the scorpion, it thrusts the sting into its own body. Morality has for ages been an expert in all kinds of devilry in the art of convincing: even at the present day there is no orator who would not turn to it for assistance (only hearken to our anarchists, for instance: how morally they speak when they would fain convince! In the end they even call themselves “the good and the just”). Morality has shown herself to be the greatest mistress of seduction ever since men began to discourse and persuade on earth—and, what concerns us philosophers even more, she is the veritable Circe of philosophers. For, to what is it due that, from Plato onwards, all the philosophic architects in Europe have built in vain? that everything which they themselves honestly believed to be aere perennius [pg 004] threatens to subside or is already laid in ruins? Oh, how wrong is the answer which, even in our own day, rolls glibly off the tongue when this question is asked: “Because they have all neglected the prerequisite, the examination of the foundation, a critique of all reason”—that fatal answer made by Kant, who has certainly not thereby attracted us modern philosophers to firmer and less treacherous ground! (and, one may ask apropos of this, was it not rather strange to demand that an instrument should criticise its own value and effectiveness? that the intellect itself should “recognise” its own worth, power, and limits? was it not even just a little ridiculous?) The right answer would rather have been, that all philosophers, including Kant himself were building under the seductive influence of morality—that they aimed at certainty and “truth” only in appearance; but that in reality their attention was directed towards “majestic moral edifices,” to use once more Kant's innocent mode of expression, who deems it his “less brilliant, but not undeserving” task and work “to level the ground and prepare a solid foundation for the erection of those majestic moral edifices” (Critique of Pure Reason, ii. 257). Alas! He did not succeed in his aim, quite the contrary—as we must acknowledge to-day. With this exalted aim, Kant was merely a true son of his century, which more than any other may justly be called the century of exaltation: and this he fortunately continued to be in respect to the more valuable side of this century (with that solid piece of sensuality, for example, which he introduced into his theory of [pg 005] knowledge). He, too, had been bitten by the moral tarantula, Rousseau; he, too, felt weighing on his soul that moral fanaticism of which another disciple of Rousseau's, Robespierre, felt and proclaimed himself to be the executor: de fonder sur la terre l'empire de la sagesse, de la justice, et de la vertu. (Speech of June 4th, 1794.) On the other hand, with such a French fanaticism in his heart, no one could have cultivated it in a less French, more deep, more thorough and more German manner—if the word German is still permissible in this sense—than Kant did: in order to make room for his “moral kingdom,” he found himself compelled to add to it an indemonstrable world, a logical “beyond”—that was why he required his critique of pure reason! In other words, he would not have wanted it, if he had not deemed one thing to be more important than all the others: to render his moral kingdom unassailable by—or, better still, invisible to, reason,—for he felt too strongly the vulnerability of a moral order of things in the face of reason. For, when confronted with nature and history, when confronted with the ingrained immorality of nature and history, Kant was, like all good Germans from the earliest times, a pessimist: he believed in morality, not because it is demonstrated through nature and history, but despite its being steadily contradicted by them. To understand this “despite,” we should perhaps recall a somewhat similar trait in Luther, that other great pessimist, who once urged it upon his friends with true Lutheran audacity: “If we could conceive by reason alone how that God who shows so much [pg 006] wrath and malignity could be merciful and just, what use should we have for faith?” For, from the earliest times, nothing has ever made a deeper impression upon the German soul, nothing has ever “tempted” it more, than that deduction, the most dangerous of all, which for every true Latin is a sin against the intellect: credo quia absurdum est.—With it German logic enters for the first time into the history of Christian dogma; but even to-day, a thousand years later, we Germans of the present, late Germans in every way, catch the scent of truth, a possibility of truth, at the back of the famous fundamental principle of dialectics with which Hegel secured the victory of the German spirit over Europe—“contradiction moves the world; all things contradict themselves.” We are pessimists—even in logic.
But logical judgments are not the deepest and most fundamental to which the daring of our suspicion descends: the confidence in reason which is inseparable from the validity of these judgments, is, as confidence, a moral phenomenon ... perhaps German pessimism has yet to take its last step? Perhaps it has once more to draw up its “credo” opposite its “absurdum” in a terrible manner? And if this book is pessimistic even in regard to morals, even above the confidence in morals—should it not be a German book for that very reason? For, in fact, it represents a contradiction, and one which it does not fear: in it confidence in morals is retracted—but why? Out of morality! Or how [pg 007] shall we call that which takes place in it—in us? for our taste inclines to the employment of more modest phrases. But there is no doubt that to us likewise there speaketh a “thou shalt”; we likewise obey a strict law which is set above us—and this is the last cry of morals which is still audible to us, which we too must live: here, if anywhere, are we still men of conscience, because, to put the matter in plain words, we will not return to that which we look upon as decayed, outlived, and superseded, we will not return to something “unworthy of belief,” whether it be called God, virtue, truth, justice, love of one's neighbour, or what not; we will not permit ourselves to open up a lying path to old ideals; we are thoroughly and unalterably opposed to anything that would intercede and mingle with us; opposed to all forms of present-day faith and Christianity; opposed to the lukewarmness of all romanticism and fatherlandism; opposed also to the artistic sense of enjoyment and lack of principle which would fain make us worship where we no longer believe—for we are artists—opposed, in short, to all this European feminism (or idealism, if this term be thought preferable) which everlastingly “draws upward,” and which in consequence everlastingly “lowers” and “degrades.” Yet, being men of this conscience, we feel that we are related to that German uprightness and piety which dates back thousands of years, although we immoralists and atheists may be the late and uncertain offspring of these virtues—yea, we even consider ourselves, in a certain respect, as their heirs, the executors of their inmost will: a pessimistic will, as I have already [pg 008] pointed out, which is not afraid to deny itself, because it denies itself with joy! In us is consummated, if you desire a formula—the autosuppression of morals.
But, after all, why must we proclaim so loudly and with such intensity what we are, what we want, and what we do not want? Let us look at this more calmly and wisely; from a higher and more distant point of view. Let us proclaim it, as if among ourselves, in so low a tone that all the world fails to hear it and us! Above all, however, let us say it slowly.... This preface comes late, but not too late: what, after all, do five or six years matter? Such a book, and such a problem, are in no hurry; besides, we are friends of the lento, I and my book. I have not been a philologist in vain—perhaps I am one yet: a teacher of slow reading. I even come to write slowly. At present it is not only my habit, but even my taste—a perverted taste, maybe—to write nothing but what will drive to despair every one who is “in a hurry.” For philology is that venerable art which exacts from its followers one thing above all—to step to one side, to leave themselves spare moments, to grow silent, to become slow—the leisurely art of the goldsmith applied to language: an art which must carry out slow, fine work, and attains nothing if not lento. For this very reason philology is now more desirable than ever before; for this very reason it is the highest attraction and incitement in an age of “work”: that is to say, of haste, of unseemly and immoderate hurry-skurry, [pg 009] which is intent upon “getting things done” at once, even every book, whether old or new. Philology itself, perhaps, will not “get things done” so hurriedly: it teaches how to read well: i.e. slowly, profoundly, attentively, prudently, with inner thoughts, with the mental doors ajar, with delicate fingers and eyes ... my patient friends, this book appeals only to perfect readers and philologists: learn to read me well!
Ruta, near Genoa,
Subsequent Judgment.—All things that endure for a long time are little by little so greatly permeated by reason that their origin in unreason becomes improbable. Does not almost every exact statement of an origin strike us as paradoxical and sacrilegious? Indeed, does not the true historian constantly contradict?
Prejudice of the Learned.—Savants are quite correct in maintaining the proposition that men in all ages believed that they knew what was good and evil, praiseworthy and blamable. But it is a prejudice of the learned to say that we now know it better than any other age.
A Time for Everything.—When man assigned a sex to all things, he did not believe that he [pg 012] was merely playing; but he thought, on the contrary, that he had acquired a profound insight:—it was only at a much later period, and then only partly, that he acknowledged the enormity of his error. In the same way, man has attributed a moral relationship to everything that exists, throwing the cloak of ethical significance over the world's shoulders. One day all that will be of just as much value, and no more, as the amount of belief existing to-day in the masculinity or femininity of the sun.2
Against the Fanciful Disharmony of the Spheres.—We must once more sweep out of the world all this false grandeur, for it is contrary to the justice that all things about us may claim. And for this reason we must not see or wish the world to be more disharmonic than it is!
Be Thankful!—The most important result of the past efforts of humanity is that we need no longer go about in continual fear of wild beasts, barbarians, gods, and our own dreams.
The Juggler and his Counterpart.—That which is wonderful in science is contrary to that [pg 013] which is wonderful in the art of the juggler. For the latter would wish to make us believe that we see a very simple causality, where, in reality, an exceedingly complex causality is in operation. Science, on the other hand, forces us to give up our belief in the simple causality exactly where everything looks so easily comprehensible and we are merely the victims of appearances. The simplest things are very “complicated”—we can never be sufficiently astonished at them!
Reconceiving Our Feeling of Space.—Is it real or imaginary things which have built up the greater proportion of man's happiness? It is certain, at all events, that the extent of the distance between the highest point of happiness and the lowest point of unhappiness has been established only with the help of imaginary things. As a consequence, this kind of a conception of space is always, under the influence of science, becoming smaller and smaller: in the same way as science has taught us, and is still teaching us, to look upon the earth as small—yea, to look upon the entire solar system as a mere point.
Transfiguration.—Perplexed sufferers, confused dreamers, the hysterically ecstatic—here we have the three classes into which Raphael divided mankind. We no longer consider the world in this [pg 014] light—and Raphael himself dare not do so: his own eyes would show him a new transfiguration.
Conception of the Morality of Custom.—In comparison with the mode of life which prevailed among men for thousands of years, we men of the present day are living in a very immoral age: the power of custom has been weakened to a remarkable degree, and the sense of morality is so refined and elevated that we might almost describe it as volatilised. That is why we late comers experience such difficulty in obtaining a fundamental conception of the origin of morality: and even if we do obtain it, our words of explanation stick in our throats, so coarse would they sound if we uttered them! or to so great an extent would they seem to be a slander upon morality! Thus, for example, the fundamental clause: morality is nothing else (and, above all, nothing more) than obedience to customs, of whatsoever nature they may be. But customs are simply the traditional way of acting and valuing. Where there is no tradition there is no morality; and the less life is governed by tradition, the narrower the circle of morality. The free man is immoral, because it is his will to depend upon himself and not upon tradition: in all the primitive states of humanity “evil” is equivalent to “individual,” “free,” “arbitrary,” “unaccustomed,” “unforeseen,” “incalculable.” In such primitive conditions, always measured by this standard, any action performed—not because tradition commands [pg 015] it, but for other reasons (e.g. on account of its individual utility), even for the same reasons as had been formerly established by custom—is termed immoral, and is felt to be so even by the very man who performs it, for it has not been done out of obedience to the tradition.
What is tradition? A higher authority, which is obeyed, not because it commands what is useful to us, but merely because it commands. And in what way can this feeling for tradition be distinguished from a general feeling of fear? It is the fear of a higher intelligence which commands, the fear of an incomprehensible power, of something that is more than personal—there is superstition in this fear. In primitive times the domain of morality included education and hygienics, marriage, medicine, agriculture, war, speech and silence, the relationship between man and man, and between man and the gods—morality required that a man should observe her prescriptions without thinking of himself as individual. Everything, therefore, was originally custom, and whoever wished to raise himself above it, had first of all to make himself a kind of lawgiver and medicine-man, a sort of demi-god—in other words, he had to create customs, a dangerous and fearful thing to do!—Who is the most moral man? On the one hand, he who most frequently obeys the law: e.g. he who, like the Brahmins, carries a consciousness of the law about with him wherever he may go, and introduces it into the smallest divisions of time, continually exercising his mind in finding opportunities for obeying the law. On the other [pg 016] hand, he who obeys the law in the most difficult cases. The most moral man is he who makes the greatest sacrifices to morality; but what are the greatest sacrifices? In answering this question several different kinds of morality will be developed: but the distinction between the morality of the most frequent obedience and the morality of the most difficult obedience is of the greatest importance. Let us not be deceived as to the motives of that moral law which requires, as an indication of morality, obedience to custom in the most difficult cases! Self-conquest is required, not by reason of its useful consequences for the individual; but that custom and tradition may appear to be dominant, in spite of all individual counter desires and advantages. The individual shall sacrifice himself—so demands the morality of custom.
On the other hand, those moralists who, like the followers of Socrates, recommend self-control and sobriety to the individual as his greatest possible advantage and the key to his greatest personal happiness, are exceptions—and if we ourselves do not think so, this is simply due to our having been brought up under their influence. They all take a new path, and thereby bring down upon themselves the utmost disapproval of all the representatives of the morality of custom. They sever their connection with the community, as immoralists, and are, in the fullest sense of the word, evil ones. In the same way, every Christian who “sought, above all things, his own salvation,” must have seemed evil to a virtuous Roman of the old school. Wherever a community exists, and consequently also a [pg 017] morality of custom, the feeling prevails that any punishment for the violation of a custom is inflicted, above all, on the community: this punishment is a supernatural punishment, the manifestations and limits of which are so difficult to understand, and are investigated with such superstitious fear. The community can compel any one member of it to make good, either to an individual or to the community itself, any ill consequences which may have followed upon such a member's action. It can also call down a sort of vengeance upon the head of the individual by endeavouring to show that, as the result of his action, a storm of divine anger has burst over the community,—but, above all, it regards the guilt of the individual more particularly as its own guilt, and bears the punishment of the isolated individual as its own punishment—“Morals,” they bewail in their innermost heart, “morals have grown lax, if such deeds as these are possible.” And every individual action, every individual mode of thinking, causes dread. It is impossible to determine how much the more select, rare, and original minds must have suffered in the course of time by being considered as evil and dangerous, yea, because they even looked upon themselves as such. Under the dominating influence of the morality of custom, originality of every kind came to acquire a bad conscience; and even now the sky of the best minds seems to be more overcast by this thought than it need be.
Counter-motion between the Sense of Morality and the Sense of Causality.—As [pg 018] the sense of causality increases, so does the extent of the domain of morality decrease: for every time one has been able to grasp the necessary effects, and to conceive them as distinct from all incidentals and chance possibilities (post hoc), one has, at the same time, destroyed an enormous number of imaginary causalities, which had hitherto been believed in as the basis of morals—the real world is much smaller than the world of our imagination—and each time also one casts away a certain amount of one's anxiousness and coercion, and some of our reverence for the authority of custom is lost: morality in general undergoes a diminution. He who, on the other hand, wishes to increase it must know how to prevent results from becoming controllable.
Morals and Medicines of the People.—Every one is continuously occupied in bringing more or less influence to bear upon the morals which prevail in a community: most of the people bring forward example after example to show the alleged relationship between cause and effect, guilt and punishment, thus upholding it as well founded and adding to the belief in it. A few make new observations upon the actions and their consequences, drawing conclusions therefrom and laying down laws; a smaller number raise objections and allow belief in these things to become weakened.—But they are all alike in the crude and unscientific manner in which they set about their work: if it is a question of objections to a law, or examples or [pg 019] observations of it, or of its proof, confirmation, expression or refutation, we always find the material and method entirely valueless, as valueless as the material and form of all popular medicine. Popular medicines and popular morals are closely related, and should not be considered and valued, as is still customary, in so different a way: both are most dangerous and make-believe sciences.
Consequence as Adjuvant Cause.—Formerly the consequences of an action were considered, not as the result of that action, but a voluntary adjuvant—i.e. on the part of God. Can a greater confusion be imagined? Entirely different practices and means have to be brought into use for actions and effects!
Towards the New Education of Mankind.—Help us, all ye who are well-disposed and willing to assist, lend your aid in the endeavour to do away with that conception of punishment which has swept over the whole world! No weed more harmful than this! It is not only to the consequences of our actions that this conception has been applied—and how horrible and senseless it is to confuse cause and effect with cause and punishment!—but worse has followed: the pure accidentality of events has been robbed of its innocence by this execrable manner of interpreting conception of punishment. Yea, they have even pushed their folly to such extremes [pg 020] that they would have us look upon existence itself as a punishment—from which it would appear that the education of mankind had hitherto been confided to cranky gaolers and hangmen.
The Signification of Madness in the History of Morality.—If, despite that formidable pressure of the “morality of custom,” under which all human communities lived—thousands of years before our own era, and during our own era up to the present day (we ourselves are dwelling in the small world of exceptions, and, as it were, in an evil zone):—if, I say, in spite of all this, new and divergent ideas, valuations, and impulses have made their appearance time after time, this state of things has been brought about only with the assistance of a dreadful associate: it was insanity almost everywhere that paved the way for the new thought and cast off the spell of an old custom and superstition. Do ye understand why this had to be done through insanity? by something which is in both voice and appearance as horrifying and incalculable as the demoniac whims of wind and sea, and consequently calling for like dread and respect? by something bearing upon it the signs of entire lack of consciousness as clearly as the convulsions and foam of the epileptic, which appeared to typify the insane person as the mask and speaking-trumpet of some divine being? by something that inspired even the bearer of the new thought with awe and fear of himself, and that, suppressing all remorse, drove [pg 021] him on to become its prophet and martyr?—Well, in our own time, we continually hear the statement reiterated that genius is tinctured with madness instead of good sense. Men of earlier ages were far more inclined to believe that, wherever traces of insanity showed themselves, a certain proportion of genius and wisdom was likewise present—something “divine,” as they whispered to one another. More than this, they expressed their opinions on the point with sufficient emphasis. “All the greatest benefits of Greece have sprung from madness,” said Plato, setting on record the opinion of the entire ancient world. Let us take a step further: all those superior men, who felt themselves irresistibly urged on to throw off the yoke of some morality or other, had no other resource—if they were not really mad—than to feign madness, or actually to become insane. And this holds good for innovators in every department of life, and not only in religion and politics. Even the reformer of the poetic metre was forced to justify himself by means of madness. (Thus even down to gentler ages madness remained a kind of convention in poets, of which Solon, for instance, took advantage when urging the Athenians to reconquer Salamis.)—“How can one make one's self mad when one is not mad and dare not feign to be so?” Almost all the eminent men of antiquity have given themselves up to this dreadful mode of reasoning: a secret doctrine of artifices and dietetic jugglery grew up around this subject and was handed down from generation to generation, together with the feeling of the innocence, even sanctity, of such plans and meditations. The means of becoming [pg 022] a medicine-man among the Indians, a saint among Christians of the Middle Ages, an angecok among Greenlanders, a Pagee among Brazilians, are the same in essence: senseless fasting, continual abstention from sexual intercourse, isolation in a wilderness, ascending a mountain or a pillar, “sitting on an aged willow that looks out upon a lake,” and thinking of absolutely nothing but what may give rise to ecstasy or mental derangements.
Who would dare to glance at the desert of the bitterest and most superfluous agonies of spirit, in which probably the most productive men of all ages have pined away? Who could listen to the sighs of those lonely and troubled minds: “O ye heavenly powers, grant me madness! Madness, that I at length may believe in myself! Vouchsafe delirium and convulsions, sudden flashes of light and periods of darkness; frighten me with such shivering and feverishness as no mortal ever experienced before, with clanging noises and haunting spectres; let me growl and whine and creep about like a beast, if only I can come to believe in myself! I am devoured by doubt. I have slain the law, and I now dread the law as a living person dreads a corpse. If I am not above the law, I am the most abandoned of wretches. Whence cometh this new spirit that dwelleth within me but from you? Prove to me, then, that I am one of you—nothing but madness will prove it to me.” And only too often does such a fervour attain its object: at the very time when Christianity was giving the greatest proof of its fertility in the production of saints and martyrs, believing that it was thus proving itself, Jerusalem [pg 023] contained large lunatic asylums for shipwrecked saints, for those whose last spark of good sense had been quenched by the floods of insanity.
The most Ancient Means of Solace.—First stage: In every misfortune or discomfort man sees something for which he must make somebody else suffer, no matter who—in this way he finds out the amount of power still remaining to him; and this consoles him. Second stage: In every misfortune or discomfort, man sees a punishment, i.e. an expiation of guilt and the means by which he may get rid of the malicious enchantment of a real or apparent wrong. When he perceives the advantage which misfortune bring with it, he believes he need no longer make another person suffer for it—he gives up this kind of satisfaction, because he now has another.
First Principle of Civilisation.—Among savage tribes there is a certain category of customs which appear to aim at nothing but custom. They therefore lay down strict, and, on the whole, superfluous regulations (e.g. the rules of the Kamchadales, which forbid snow to be scraped off the boots with a knife, coal to be stuck on the point of a knife, or a piece of iron to be put into the fire—and death to be the portion of every one who shall act contrariwise!) Yet these laws serve to keep people continually reminded of the custom, and [pg 024] the imperative necessity on their parts to conform to it: and all this in support of the great principle which stands at the beginning of all civilisation: any custom is better than none.
Goodness and Malignity.—At first men imposed their own personalities on Nature: everywhere they saw themselves and their like, i.e. their own evil and capricious temperaments, hidden, as it were, behind clouds, thunder-storms, wild beasts, trees, and plants: it was then that they declared Nature was evil. Afterwards there came a time, that of Rousseau, when they sought to distinguish themselves from Nature: they were so tired of each other that they wished to have separate little hiding-places where man and his misery could not penetrate: then they invented “nature is good.”
The Morality of Voluntary Suffering.—What is the highest enjoyment for men living in a state of war in a small community, the existence of which is continually threatened, and the morality of which is the strictest possible? i.e. for souls which are vigorous, vindictive, malicious, full of suspicion, ready to face the direst events, hardened by privation and morality? The enjoyment of cruelty: just as, in such souls and in such circumstances, it would be regarded as a virtue to be ingenious and insatiable in cruelty. Such a community would [pg 025] find its delight in performing cruel deeds, casting aside, for once, the gloom of constant anxiety and precaution. Cruelty is one of the most ancient enjoyments at their festivities. As a consequence it is believed that the gods likewise are pleased by the sight of cruelty and rejoice at it—and in this way the belief is spread that voluntary suffering, self-chosen martyrdom, has a high signification and value of its own. In the community custom gradually brings about a practice in conformity with this belief: henceforward people become more suspicious of all exuberant well-being, and more confident as they find themselves in a state of great pain; they think that the gods may be unfavourable to them on account of happiness, and favourable on account of pain—not compassionate! For compassion is looked upon with contempt, and unworthy of a strong and awe-inspiring soul—but agreeable to them, because the sight of human suffering put these gods into good humour and makes them feel powerful, and a cruel mind revels in the sensation of power. It was thus that the “most moral man” of the community was considered as such by virtue of his frequent suffering, privation, laborious existence, and cruel mortification—not, to repeat it again and again, as a means of discipline or self-control or a desire for individual happiness—but a a virtue which renders the evil gods well-disposed towards the community, a virtue which continually wafts up to them the odour of an expiatory sacrifice. All those intellectual leaders of the nations who reached the point of being able to stir up the sluggish though [pg 026] prolific mire of their customs had to possess this factor of voluntary martyrdom as well as insanity in order to obtain belief—especially, and above all, as is always the case, belief in themselves! The more their minds followed new paths, and were consequently tormented by pricks of conscience, the more cruelly they battled against their own flesh, their own desires, and their own health—as if they were offering the gods a compensation in pleasure, lest these gods should wax wroth at the neglect of ancient customs and the setting up of new aims.
Let no one be too hasty in thinking that we have now entirely freed ourselves from such a logic of feeling! Let the most heroic souls among us question themselves on this very point. The least step forward in the domain of free thought and individual life has been achieved in all ages to the accompaniment of physical and intellectual tortures: and not only the mere step forward, no! but every form of movement and change has rendered necessary innumerable martyrs, throughout the entire course of thousands of years which sought their paths and laid down their foundation-stones, years, however, which we do not think of when we speak about “world-history,” that ridiculously small division of mankind's existence. And even in this so-called world-history, which in the main is merely a great deal of noise about the latest novelties, there is no more important theme than the old, old tragedy of the martyrs who tried to move the mire. Nothing has been more dearly bought than the minute portion of human reason and feeling of liberty upon which we now pride ourselves. But [pg 027] it is this very pride which makes it almost impossible for us to-day to be conscious of that enormous lapse of time, preceding the period of “world-history” when “morality of custom” held the field, and to consider this lapse of time as the real and decisive epoch that established the character of mankind: an epoch when suffering was considered as a virtue, cruelty as a virtue, hypocrisy as a virtue, revenge as a virtue, and the denial of the reason as a virtue, whereas, on the other hand, well-being was regarded as a danger, longing for knowledge as a danger, peace as a danger, compassion as a danger: an epoch when being pitied was looked upon as an insult, work as an insult, madness as a divine attribute, and every kind of change as immoral and pregnant with ruin! You imagine that all this has changed, and that humanity must likewise have changed its character? Oh, ye poor psychologists, learn to know yourselves better!
Morality and Stupefaction.—Custom represents the experiences of men of earlier times in regard to what they considered as useful and harmful; but the feeling of custom (morality) does not relate to these feelings as such, but to the age, the sanctity, and the unquestioned authority of the custom. Hence this feeling hinders our acquiring new experiences and amending morals: i.e. morality is opposed to the formation of new and better morals: it stupefies.
Free-doers and Free-thinkers.—Compared with free-thinkers, free-doers are at a disadvantage, because it is evident that men suffer more from the consequences of actions than of thoughts. If we remember, however, that both seek their own satisfaction, and that free-thinkers have already found their satisfaction in reflection upon and utterance of forbidden things, there is no difference in the motives; but in respect of the consequences the issue will be decided against the free-thinker, provided that it be not judged from the most superficial and vulgar external appearance, i.e. not as every one would judge it. We must make up for a good deal of the calumny with which men have covered all those who have, by their actions, broken away from the authority of some custom—they are generally called criminals. Every one who has hitherto overthrown a law of established morality has always at first been considered as a wicked man: but when it was afterwards found impossible to re-establish the law, and people gradually became accustomed to the change, the epithet was changed by slow degrees. History deals almost exclusively with these wicked men, who later on came to be recognised as good men.
“Fulfilment of the Law.”—In cases where the observance of a moral precept has led to different consequence from that expected and [pg 029] promised, and does not bestow upon the moral man the happiness he had hoped for, but leads rather to misfortune and misery, the conscientious and timid man has always his excuse ready: “Something was lacking in the proper carrying out of the law.” If the worst comes to the worst, a deeply-suffering and down-trodden humanity will even decree: “It is impossible to carry out the precept faithfully: we are too weak and sinful, and, in the depths of our soul, incapable of morality: consequently we have no claim to happiness and success. Moral precepts and promises have been given for better beings than ourselves.”
Works and Faith.—Protestant teachers are still spreading the fundamental error that faith only is of consequence, and that works must follow naturally upon faith. This doctrine is certainly not true, but it is so seductive in appearance that it has succeeded in fascinating quite other intellects than that of Luther (e.g. the minds of Socrates and Plato): though the plain evidence and experience of our daily life prove the contrary. The most assured knowledge and faith cannot give us either the strength or the dexterity required for action, or the practice in that subtle and complicated mechanism which is a prerequisite for anything to be changed from an idea into action. Then, I say, let us first and foremost have works! and this means practice! practice! practice! The necessary faith will come later—be certain of that!
In what Respect we are most Subtle.—By the fact that, for thousands of years, things (nature, tools, property of all kinds) were thought to be alive and to possess souls, and able to hinder and interfere with the designs of man, the feeling of impotence among men has become greater and more frequent than it need have been: for one had to secure one's things like men and beasts, by means of force, compulsion, flattery, treaties, sacrifices—and it is here that we may find the origin of the greater number of superstitious customs, i.e. of an important, perhaps paramount, and nevertheless wasted and useless division of mankind's activity!—But since the feeling of impotence and fear was so strong, and for such a length of time in a state of constant stimulation, the feeling of power in man has been developed in so subtle a manner that, in this respect, he can compare favourably with the most delicately-adjusted balance. This feeling has become his strongest propensity: and the means he discovered for creating it form almost the entire history of culture.
The Proof of a Precept.—The worth or worthlessness of a recipe—that for baking bread, for example—is proved, generally speaking, by the result expected coming to pass or not, provided, of course, that the directions given have been carefully [pg 031] followed. The case is different, however, when we come to deal with moral precepts, for here the results cannot be ascertained, interpreted, and divined. These precepts, indeed, are based upon hypotheses of but little scientific value, the proof or refutation of which by means of results is impossible:—but in former ages, when all science was crude and primitive, and when a matter was taken for granted on the smallest evidence, then the worth or worthlessness of a moral recipe was determined as we now determine any other precept: by reference to the results. If the natives of Alaska believe in a command which says: “Thou shalt not throw a bone into the fire or give it to a dog,” this will be proved by the warning: “If thou dost thou wilt have no luck when hunting.” Yet, in one sense or another, it almost invariably happens that one has “no luck when hunting.” It is no easy matter to refute the worth of the precept in this way, the more so as it is the community, and not the individual, which is regarded as the bearer of the punishment; and, again, some occurrence is almost certain to happen which seems to prove the rule.
Customs and Beauty.—In justice to custom it must not be overlooked that, in the case of all those who conform to it whole-heartedly from the very start, the organs of attack and defence, both physical and intellectual, begin to waste away; i.e. these individuals gradually become more beautiful! For it is the exercise of these organs and their corresponding [pg 032] feelings that brings about ugliness and helps to preserve it. It is for this reason that the old baboon is uglier than the young one, and that the young female baboon most closely resembles man, and is hence the most handsome.—Let us draw from this our own conclusions as to the origin of female beauty!
Animals and Morals.—The rules insisted upon in polite society, such, for example, as the avoidance of everything ridiculous, fantastic, presumptuous; the suppression of one's virtues just as much as of one's most violent desires, the instant bringing of one's self down to the general level, submitting one's self to etiquette and self-depreciation: all this, generally speaking, is to be found, as a social morality, even in the lowest scale of the animal world—and it is only in this low scale that we see the innermost plan of all these amiable precautionary regulations: one wishes to escape from one's pursuers and to be aided in the search for plunder. Hence animals learn to control and to disguise themselves to such an extent that some of them can even adapt the colour of their bodies to that of their surroundings (by means of what is known as the “chromatic function”). Others can simulate death, or adopt the forms and colours of other animals, or of sand, leaves, moss, or fungi (known to English naturalists as “mimicry”).
It is in this way that an individual conceals himself behind the universality of the generic term [pg 033] “man” or “society,” or adapts and attaches himself to princes, castes, political parties, current opinions of the time, or his surroundings: and we may easily find the animal equivalent of all those subtle means of making ourselves happy, thankful, powerful, and fascinating. Even that sense of truth, which is at bottom merely the sense of security, is possessed by man in common with the animals: we do not wish to be deceived by others or by ourselves; we hear with some suspicion the promptings of our own passions, we control ourselves and remain on the watch against ourselves. Now, the animal does all this as well as man; and in the animal likewise self-control originates in the sense of reality (prudence). In the same way, the animal observes the effects it exercises on the imagination of other beasts: it thus learns to view itself from their position, to consider itself “objectively”; it has its own degree of self-knowledge. The animal judges the movements of its friends and foes, it learns their peculiarities by heart and acts accordingly: it gives up, once and for all, the struggle against individual animals of certain species, and it likewise recognises, in the approach of certain varieties, whether their intentions are agreeable and peaceful. The beginnings of justice, like those of wisdom—in short, everything which we know as the Socratic virtues—are of an animal nature: a consequence of those instincts which teach us to search for food and to avoid our enemies. If we remember that the higher man has merely raised and refined himself in the quality of his food and in the conception of what is contrary to his nature, it [pg 034] may not be going too far to describe the entire moral phenomenon as of an animal origin.
The Value of the Belief in Superhuman Passions.—The institution of marriage stubbornly upholds the belief that love, although a passion, is nevertheless capable of duration as such, yea, that lasting, lifelong love may be taken as a general rule. By means of the tenacity of a noble belief, in spite of such frequent and almost customary refutations—thereby becoming a pia fraus—marriage has elevated love to a higher rank. Every institution which has conceded to a passion the belief in the duration of the latter, and responsibility for this duration, in spite of the nature of the passion itself, has raised the passion to a higher level: and he who is thenceforth seized with such a passion does not, as formerly, think himself lowered in the estimation of others or brought into danger on that account, but on the contrary believes himself to be raised, both in the opinion of himself and of his equals. Let us recall institutions and customs which, out of the fiery devotion of a moment, have created eternal fidelity; out of the pleasure of anger, eternal vengeance; out of despair, eternal mourning; out of a single hasty word, eternal obligation. A great deal of hypocrisy and falsehood came into the world as the result of such transformations; but each time, too, at the cost of such disadvantages, a new and superhuman conception which elevates mankind.
State of Mind as Argument.—Whence arises within us a cheerful readiness for action?—such is the question which has greatly occupied the attention of men. The most ancient answer, and one which we still hear, is: God is the cause; in this way He gives us to understand that He approves of our actions. When, in former ages, people consulted the oracles, they did so that they might return home strengthened by this cheerful readiness; and every one answered the doubts which came to him, if alternative actions suggested themselves, by saying: “I shall do whatever brings about that feeling.” They did not decide, in other words, for what was most reasonable, but upon some plan the conception of which imbued the soul with courage and hope. A cheerful outlook was placed in the scales as an argument and proved to be heavier than reasonableness; for the state of mind was interpreted in a superstitious manner as the action of a god who promises success; and who, by this argument, lets his reason speak as the highest reasonableness. Now, let the consequences of such a prejudice be considered when shrewd men, thirsting for power, availed themselves of it—and still do so! “Bring about the right state of mind!”—in this way you can do without all arguments and overcome every objection!
Actors of Virtue and Sin.—Among the ancients who became celebrated for their virtue [pg 036] there were many, it would seem, who acted to themselves, especially the Greeks, who, being actors by nature, must have acted quite unconsciously, seeing no reason why they should not do so. In addition, every one was striving to outdo some one else's virtue with his own, so why should they not have made use of every artifice to show off their virtues, especially among themselves, if only for the sake of practice! Of what use was a virtue which one could not display, and which did not know how to display itself!—Christianity put an end to the career of these actors of virtue; instead it devised the disgusting ostentation and parading of sins: it brought into the world a state of mendacious sinfulness (even at the present day this is considered as bon ton among orthodox Christians).
Refined Cruelty as Virtue.—Here we have a morality which is based entirely upon our thirst for distinction—do not therefore entertain too high an opinion of it! Indeed, we may well ask what kind of an impulse it is, and what is its fundamental signification? It is sought, by our appearance, to grieve our neighbour, to arouse his envy, and to awaken his feelings of impotence and degradation; we endeavour to make him taste the bitterness of his fate by dropping a little of our honey on his tongue, and, while conferring this supposed benefit on him, looking sharply and triumphantly into his eyes.
Behold such a man, now become humble, and perfect in his humility—and seek those for whom, through his humility, he has for a long time been [pg 037] preparing a torture; for you are sure to find them! Here is another man who shows mercy towards animals, and is admired for doing so—but there are certain people on whom he wishes to vent his cruelty by this very means. Look at that great artist: the pleasure he enjoyed beforehand in conceiving the envy of the rivals he had outstripped, refused to let his powers lie dormant until he became a great man—how many bitter moments in the souls of other men has he asked for as payment for his own greatness! The nun's chastity: with what threatening eyes she looks into the faces of other women who live differently from her! what a vindictive joy shines in those eyes! The theme is short, and its variations, though they might well be innumerable, could not easily become tiresome—for it is still too paradoxical a novelty, and almost a painful one, to affirm that the morality of distinction is nothing, at bottom, but joy in refined cruelty. When I say “at bottom,” I mean here, every time in the first generation. For, when the habit of some distinguished action becomes hereditary, its root, so to speak, is not transmitted, but only its fruits (for only feelings, and not thoughts, can become hereditary): and, if we presuppose that this root is not reintroduced by education, in the second generation the joy in the cruelty is no longer felt: but only pleasure in the habit as such. This joy, however, is the first degree of the “good.”
Pride in Spirit.—The pride of man, which strives to oppose the theory of our own descent [pg 038] from animals and establishes a wide gulf between nature and man himself—this pride is founded upon a prejudice as to what the mind is; and this prejudice is relatively recent. In the long prehistorical period of humanity it was supposed that the mind was everywhere, and men did not look upon it as a particular characteristic of their own. Since, on the contrary, everything spiritual (including all impulses, maliciousness, and inclinations) was regarded as common property, and consequently accessible to everybody, primitive mankind was not ashamed of being descended from animals or trees (the noble races thought themselves honoured by such legends), and saw in the spiritual that which unites us with nature, and not that which severs us from her. Thus man was brought up in modesty—and this likewise was the result of a prejudice.
The Brake.—To suffer morally, and then to learn afterwards that this kind of suffering was founded upon an error, shocks us. For there is a unique consolation in acknowledging, by our suffering, a “deeper world of truth” than any other world, and we would much rather suffer and feel ourselves above reality by doing so (through the feeling that, in this way, we approach nearer to that “deeper world of truth”), than live without suffering and hence without this feeling of the sublime. Thus it is pride, and the habitual fashion of satisfying it, which opposes this new interpretation of morality. What power, then, must we bring into operation to [pg 039] get rid of this brake? Greater pride? A new pride?
The Contempt of Causes, Consequences, and Reality.—Those unfortunate occurrences which take place at times in the community, such as sudden storms, bad harvests, or plagues, lead members of the community to suspect that offences against custom have been committed, or that new customs must be invented to appease a new demoniac power and caprice. Suspicion and reasoning of this kind, however, evade an inquiry into the real and natural causes, and take the demoniac cause for granted. This is one source of the hereditary perversion of the human intellect; and the other one follows in its train, for, proceeding on the same principle, people paid much less attention to the real and natural consequences of an action than to the supernatural consequences (the so-called punishments and mercies of the Divinity). It is commanded, for instance, that certain baths are to be taken at certain times: and the baths are taken, not for the sake of cleanliness, but because the command has been made. We are not taught to avoid the real consequences of dirt, but merely the supposed displeasure of the gods because a bath has been omitted. Under the pressure of superstitious fear, people began to suspect that these ablutions were of much greater importance than they seemed; they ascribed inner and supplementary meanings to them, gradually lost their sense of and pleasure in reality, and finally reality is considered as valuable [pg 040] only to the extent that it is a symbol. Hence a man who is under the influence of the morality of custom comes to despise causes first of all, secondly consequences, and thirdly reality, and weaves all his higher feelings (reverence, sublimity, pride, gratitude, love) into an imaginary world: the so-called higher world. And even to-day we can see the consequences of this: wherever, and in whatever fashion, man's feelings are raised, that imaginary world is in evidence. It is sad to have to say it; but for the time being all higher sentiments must be looked upon with suspicion by the man of science, to so great an extent are they intermingled with illusion and extravagance. Not that they need necessarily be suspected per se and for ever; but there is no doubt that, of all the gradual purifications which await humanity, the purification of the higher feelings will be one of the slowest.
Moral Feelings and Conceptions.—It is clear that moral feelings are transmitted in such a way that children perceive in adults violent predilections and aversions for certain actions, and then, like born apes, imitate such likes and dislikes. Later on in life, when they are thoroughly permeated by these acquired and well-practised feelings, they think it a matter of propriety and decorum to provide a kind of justification for these predilections and aversions. These “justifications,” however, are in no way connected with the origin or the degree of the feeling: people simply [pg 041] accommodate themselves to the rule that, as rational beings, they must give reasons for their pros and cons, reasons which must be assignable and acceptable into the bargain. Up to this extent the history of the moral feelings is entirely different from the history of moral conceptions. The first-mentioned are powerful before the action, and the latter especially after it, in view of the necessity for making one's self clear in regard to them.
Feelings and their Descent from Judgments.—“Trust in your feelings!” But feelings comprise nothing final, original; feelings are based upon the judgments and valuations which are transmitted to us in the shape of feelings (inclinations, dislikes). The inspiration which springs from a feeling is the grandchild of a judgment—often an erroneous judgment!—and certainly not one's own judgment! Trusting in our feelings simply means obeying our grandfather and grandmother more than the gods within ourselves: our reason and experience.
A Foolish Piety, with Arrière-pensées.—What! the inventors of ancient civilisations, the first makers of tools and tape lines, the first builders of vehicles, ships, and houses, the first observers of the laws of the heavens and the multiplication tables—is it contended that they were entirely different from the inventors and observers of our own time, [pg 042] and superior to them? And that the first slow steps forward were of a value which has not been equalled by the discoveries we have made with all our travels and circumnavigations of the earth? It is the voice of prejudice that speaks thus, and argues in this way to depreciate the importance of the modern mind. And yet it is plain to be seen that, in former times, hazard was the greatest of all discoverers and observers and the benevolent prompter of these ingenious ancients, and that, in the case of the most insignificant invention now made, a greater intellect, discipline, and scientific imagination are required than formerly existed throughout long ages.
Wrong Conclusions From Usefulness.—When we have demonstrated the highest utility of a thing, we have nevertheless made no progress towards an explanation of its origin; in other words, we can never explain, by mere utility, the necessity of existence. But precisely the contrary opinion has been maintained up to the present time, even in the domain of the most exact science. In astronomy, for example, have we not heard it stated that the (supposed) usefulness of the system of satellites—(replacing the light which is diminished in intensity by the greater distance of the sun, in order that the inhabitants of the various celestial bodies should not want for light)—was the final object of this system and explained its origin? Which may remind us of the conclusions of Christopher Columbus The earth has been [pg 043] created for man, ergo, if there are countries, they must be inhabited. “Is it probable that the sun would throw his rays on nothing, and that the nocturnal vigils of the stars should be wasted upon untravelled seas and unpeopled countries?”
Impulses Transformed by Moral Judgments.—The same impulse, under the impression of the blame cast upon it by custom, develops into the painful feeling of cowardice, or else the pleasurable feeling of humility, in case a morality, like that of Christianity, has taken it to its heart and called it good. In other words, this instinct will fall under the influence of either a good conscience or a bad one! In itself, like every instinct, it does not possess either this or indeed any other moral character and name, or even a definite accompanying feeling of pleasure or displeasure; it does not acquire all these qualities as its second nature until it comes into contact with impulses which have already been baptized as good and evil, or has been recognised as the attribute of beings already weighed and valued by the people from a moral point of view. Thus the ancient conception of envy differed entirely from ours. Hesiod reckons it among the qualities of the good, benevolent Eris, and it was not considered as offensive to attribute some kind of envy even to the gods. This is easy to understand in a state of things inspired mainly by emulation, but emulation was looked upon as good, and valued accordingly.[pg 044]
The Greeks were likewise different from us in the value they set upon hope: they conceived it as blind and deceitful. Hesiod in one of his poems has made a strong reference to it—a reference so strong, indeed, that no modern commentator has quite understood it; for it runs contrary to the modern mind, which has learnt from Christianity to look upon hope as a virtue. Among the Greeks, on the other hand, the portal leading to a knowledge of the future seemed only partly closed, and, in innumerable instances, it was impressed upon them as a religious obligation to inquire into the future, in those cases where we remain satisfied with hope. It thus came about that the Greeks, thanks to their oracles and seers, held hope in small esteem, and even lowered it to the level of an evil and a danger.
The Jews, again, took a different view of anger from that held by us, and sanctified it: hence they have placed the sombre majesty of the wrathful man at an elevation so high that a European cannot conceive it. They moulded their wrathful and holy Jehovah after the images of their wrathful and holy prophets. Compared with them, all the Europeans who have exhibited the greatest wrath are, so to speak, only second-hand creatures.
The Prejudice concerning “Pure Spirit.”—Wherever the doctrine of pure spirituality has prevailed, its excesses have resulted in the destruction of the tone of the nerves: it taught that the [pg 045] body should be despised, neglected, or tormented, and that, on account of his impulses, man himself should be tortured and regarded with contempt. It gave rise to gloomy, strained, and downcast souls—who, besides, thought they knew the reason of their misery and how it might possibly be relieved! “It must be in the body! For it still thrives too well!”—such was their conclusion, whilst the fact was that the body, through its agonies, protested time after time against this never-ending mockery. Finally, a universal and chronic hyper-nervousness seized upon those virtuous representatives of the pure spirit: they learned to recognise joy only in the shape of ecstasies and other preliminary symptoms of insanity—and their system reached its climax when it came to look upon ecstasy as the highest aim of life, and as the standard by which all earthly things must be condemned.
Meditations upon Observances.—Numerous moral precepts, carelessly drawn from a single event, quickly became incomprehensible; it was as difficult a matter to deduce their intentions with any degree of certainty as it was to recognise the punishment which was to follow the breaking of the rule. Doubts were even held regarding the order of the ceremonies; but, while people guessed at random about such matters, the object of their investigations increased in importance, it was precisely the greatest absurdity [pg 046] of an observance that developed into a holy of holies. Let us not think too little of the energy wasted by man in this regard throughout thousands of years, and least of all of the effects of such meditations upon observances! Here we find ourselves on the wide training-ground of the intellect—not only do religions develop and continue to increase within its boundaries: but here also is the venerable, though dreadful, primeval world of science; here grow up the poet, the thinker, the physician, the lawgiver. The dread of the unintelligible, which, in an ambiguous fashion, demanded ceremonies from us, gradually assumed the charm of the intricate, and where man could not unravel he learnt to create.
To Determine the Value of the Vita Contemplativa.—Let us not forget, as men leading a contemplative life, what kind of evil and misfortunes have overtaken the men of the vita activa as the result of contemplation—in short, what sort of contra-account the vita activa has to offer us, if we exhibit too much boastfulness before it with respect to our good deeds. It would show us, in the first place, those so-called religious natures, who predominate among the lovers of contemplation and consequently represent their commonest type. They have at all times acted in such a manner as to render life difficult to practical men, and tried to make them disgusted with it, if possible: to darken the sky, to obliterate the [pg 047] sun, to cast suspicion upon joy, to depreciate hope, to paralyse the active hand—all this they knew how to do, just as, for miserable times and feelings, they had their consolations, alms, blessings, and benedictions. In the second place, it can show us the artists, a species of men leading the vita contemplativa, rarer than the religious element, but still often to be met with. As beings, these people are usually intolerable, capricious, jealous, violent, quarrelsome: this, however, must be deduced from the joyous and exalting effects of their works.
Thirdly, we have the philosophers, men who unite religious and artistic qualities, combined, however, with a third element, namely, dialectics and the love of controversy. They are the authors of evil in the same sense as the religious men and artists, in addition to which they have wearied many of their fellow-men with their passion for dialectics, though their number has always been very small. Fourthly, the thinkers and scientific workers. They but rarely strove after effects, and contented themselves with silently sticking to their own groove. Thus they brought about little envy and discomfort, and often, as objects of mockery and derision, they served, without wishing to do so, to make life easier for the men of the vita activa. Lastly, science ended by becoming of much advantage to all; and if, on account of this utility, many of the men who were destined for the vita activa are now slowly making their way along the road to science in the sweat of their brow, and not without brain-racking and maledictions, this is not the [pg 048] fault of the crowd of thinkers and scientific workers: it is “self-wrought pain.”3
Origin of the Vita Contemplativa.—During barbarous ages, when pessimistic judgments held sway over men and the world, the individual, in the consciousness of his full power, always endeavoured to act in conformity with such judgments, that is to say, he put his ideas into action by means of hunting, robbery, surprise attacks, brutality, and murder: including the weaker forms of such acts, as far as they are tolerated within the community. When his strength declines, however, and he feels tired, ill, melancholy, or satiated—consequently becoming temporarily void of wishes or desires—he is a relatively better man, that is to say, less dangerous; and his pessimistic ideas will now discharge themselves only in words and reflections—upon his companions, for example, or his wife, his life, his gods,—his judgments will be evil ones. In this frame of mind he develops into a thinker and prophet, or he adds to his superstitions and invents new observances, or mocks his enemies. Whatever he may devise, however, all the productions of his brain will necessarily reflect his frame of mind, such as the increase of fear and weariness, and the lower value he attributes to action and enjoyment. The substance of these productions must correspond to the substance of [pg 049] these poetic, thoughtful, and priestly moods; the evil judgment must be supreme.
In later years, all those who acted continuously as this man did in those special circumstances—i.e. those who gave out pessimistic judgments, and lived a melancholy life, poor in action—were called poets, thinkers, priests, or “medicine-men.” The general body of men would have liked to disregard such people, because they were not active enough, and to turn them out of the community; but there was a certain risk in doing so: these inactive men had found out and were following the tracks of superstition and divine power, and no one doubted that they had unknown means of power at their disposal. This was the value which was set upon the ancient race of contemplative natures—despised as they were in just the same degree as they were not dreaded! In such a masked form, in such an ambiguous aspect, with an evil heart and often with a troubled head, did Contemplation make its first appearance on earth: both weak and terrible at the same time, despised in secret, and covered in public with every mark of superstitious veneration. Here, as always, we must say: pudenda origo!
How many Forces must now be united in a Thinker.—To rise superior to considerations of the senses, to raise one's self to abstract contemplations: this is what was formerly regarded as elevation; but now it is not practicable for us to share the same feelings. Luxuriating in the [pg 050] most shadowy images of words and things; playing with those invisible, inaudible, imperceptible beings, was considered as existence in another and higher world, a world that sprang from the deep contempt felt for the world which was perceptible to the senses, this seductive and wicked world of ours. “These abstracta no longer mislead us, but they may lead us”—with such words men soared aloft. It was not the substance of these intellectual sports, but the sports themselves, which was looked upon as “the higher thing” in the primeval ages of science. Hence we have Plato's admiration for dialectics, and his enthusiastic belief in the necessary relationship of dialectics to the good man who has risen superior to the considerations of his senses. It was not only knowledge that was discovered little by little, but also the different means of acquiring it, the conditions and operations which precede knowledge in man. And it always seemed as if the newly-discovered operation or the newly-experienced condition were not a means of acquiring knowledge, but was even the substance, goal, and sum-total of everything that was worth knowing. What does the thinker require?—imagination, inspiration, abstraction, spirituality, invention, presentiment, induction, dialectics, deduction, criticism, ability to collect materials, an impersonal mode of thinking, contemplation, comprehensiveness, and lastly, but not least, justice, and love for everything that exists—but each one of these means was at one time considered, in the history of the vita contemplativa, as a goal and final purpose, and they all secured for [pg 051] their inventors that perfect happiness which fills the human soul when its final purpose dawns upon it.
Origin and Meaning.—Why does this thought come into my mind again and again, always in more and more vivid colours?—that, in former times, investigators, in the course of their search for the origin of things, always thought that they found something which would be of the highest importance for all kinds of action and judgment: yea, that they even invariably postulated that the salvation of mankind depended upon insight into the origin of things—whereas now, on the other hand, the more we examine into origins, the less do they concern our interests: on the contrary, all the valuations and interestedness which we have placed upon things begin to lose their meaning, the more we retrogress where knowledge is concerned and approach the things themselves. The origin becomes of less significance in proportion as we acquire insight into it; whilst things nearest to ourselves, around and within us, gradually begin to manifest their wealth of colours, beauties, enigmas, and diversity of meaning, of which earlier humanity never dreamed. In former ages thinkers used to move furiously about, like wild animals in cages, steadily glaring at the bars which hemmed them in, and at times springing up against them in a vain endeavour to break through them: and happy indeed was he who could look through a gap to the outer world and could fancy that [pg 052] he saw something of what lay beyond and afar off.
A Tragic Termination to Knowledge.—Of all the means of exaltation, human sacrifices have at times done most to elevate man. And perhaps the one powerful thought—the idea of self-sacrificing humanity—might be made to prevail over every other aspiration, and thus to prove the victor over even the most victorious. But to whom should the sacrifice be made? We may already swear that, if ever the constellation of such an idea appeared on the horizon, the knowledge of truth would remain the single but enormous object with which a sacrifice of such a nature would be commensurate—because no sacrifice is too great for it. In the meantime the problem has never been expounded as to how far humanity, considered as a whole, could take steps to encourage the advancement of knowledge; and even less as to what thirst for knowledge could impel humanity to the point of sacrificing itself with the light of an anticipated wisdom in its eyes. When, perhaps, with a view to the advancement of knowledge, we are able to enter into communication with the inhabitants of other stars, and when, during thousands of years, wisdom will have been carried from star to star, the enthusiasm of knowledge may rise to such a dizzy height!
Doubt in Doubt.—“What a good pillow doubt is for a well-balanced head!” This saying of [pg 053] Montaigne always made Pascal angry, for nobody ever wanted a good pillow so much as he did. Whatever was the matter with him?
Words block up our Path.—Wherever primitive men put down a word, they thought they had made a discovery. How different the case really was!—they had come upon a problem, and, while they thought they had solved it, they had in reality placed an obstacle in the way of its solution. Now, with every new piece of knowledge, we stumble over petrified words and mummified conceptions, and would rather break a leg than a word in doing so.
“Know Thyself” is the Whole of Science.—Only when man shall have acquired a knowledge of all things will he be able to know himself. For things are but the boundaries of man.
The New Fundamental Feeling: our Final Corruptibility.—In former times people sought to show the feeling of man's greatness by pointing to his divine descent. This, however, has now become a forbidden path, for the ape stands at its entrance, and likewise other fearsome animals, showing their teeth in a knowing fashion, as if to say, No further this way! Hence people now try the opposite direction: the road along which humanity is proceeding shall stand as an indication of their [pg 054] greatness and their relationship to God. But alas! this, too, is useless! At the far end of this path stands the funeral urn of the last man and grave-digger (with the inscription, Nihil humani a me alienum puto). To whatever height mankind may have developed—and perhaps in the end it will not be so high as when they began!—there is as little prospect of their attaining to a higher order as there is for the ant and the earwig to enter into kinship with God and eternity at the end of their career on earth. What is to come will drag behind it that which has passed: why should any little star, or even any little species on that star, form an exception to that eternal drama? Away with such sentimentalities!
Belief in Inebriation.—Those men who have moments of sublime ecstasy, and who, on ordinary occasions, on account of the contrast and the excessive wearing away of their nervous forces, usually feel miserable and desolate, come to consider such moments as the true manifestation of their real selves, of their “ego,” and their misery and dejection, on the other hand, as the effect of the “non-ego”. This is why they think of their environment, the age in which they live, and the whole world in which they have their being, with feelings of vindictiveness. This intoxication appears to them as their true life, their actual ego; and everywhere else they see only those who strive to oppose and prevent this intoxication, whether of an intellectual, moral, religious, or artistic nature.[pg 055]
Humanity owes no small part of its evils to these fantastic enthusiasts; for they are the insatiable sowers of the weed of discontent with one's self and one's neighbour, of contempt for the world and the age, and, above all, of world-lassitude. An entire hell of criminals could not, perhaps, bring about such unfortunate and far-reaching consequences, such heavy and disquieting effects that corrupt earth and sky, as are brought about by that “noble” little community of unbridled, fantastic, half-mad people—of geniuses, too—who cannot control themselves, or experience any inward joy, until they have lost themselves completely: while, on the other hand, the criminal often gives a proof of his admirable self-control, sacrifice, and wisdom, and thus maintains these qualities in those who fear him. Through him life's sky may at times seem overcast and threatening, but the atmosphere ever remains brisk and vigorous.—Furthermore, these enthusiasts bring their entire strength to bear on the task of imbuing mankind with belief in inebriation as in life itself: a dreadful belief! As savages are now quickly corrupted and ruined by “fire-water,” so likewise has mankind in general been slowly though thoroughly corrupted by these spiritual “fire-waters” of intoxicating feelings and by those who keep alive the craving for them. It may yet be ruined thereby.
Such as we still are.—“Let us be indulgent to the great one-eyed!” said Stuart Mill, as if it [pg 056] were necessary to ask for indulgence when we are willing to believe and almost to worship them. I say: Let us be indulgent towards the two-eyed, both great and small; for, such as we are now, we shall never rise beyond indulgence!
Where are the New Physicians of the Soul?—It is the means of consolation which have stamped life with that fundamental melancholy character in which we now believe: the worst disease of mankind has arisen from the struggle against diseases, and apparent remedies have in the long run brought about worse conditions than those which it was intended to remove by their use. Men, in their ignorance, used to believe that the stupefying and intoxicating means, which appeared to act immediately, the so-called “consolations,” were the true healing powers: they even failed to observe that they had often to pay for their immediate relief by a general and profound deterioration in health, that the sick ones had to suffer from the after-effects of the intoxication, then from the absence of the intoxication, and, later on, from a feeling of disquietude, depression, nervous starts, and ill-health. Again, men whose illness had advanced to a certain extent never recovered from it—those physicians of the soul, universally believed in and worshipped as they were, took care of that.
It has been justly said of Schopenhauer that he was one who again took the sufferings of humanity seriously: where is the man who will at length take [pg 057] the antidotes against these sufferings seriously, and who will pillory the unheard-of quackery with which men, even up to our own age, and in the most sublime nomenclature, have been wont to treat the illnesses of their souls?
Abuse of the Conscientious Ones.—It is the conscientious, and not the unscrupulous, who have suffered so greatly from exhortations to penitence and the fear of hell, especially if they happened to be men of imagination. In other words, a gloom has been cast over the lives of those who had the greatest need of cheerfulness and agreeable images—not only for the sake of their own consolation and recovery from themselves, but that humanity itself might take delight in them and absorb a ray of their beauty. Alas, how much superfluous cruelty and torment have been brought about by those religions which invented sin! and by those men who, by means of such religions, desired to reach the highest enjoyment of their power!
Thoughts on Disease.—To soothe the imagination of the patient, in order that he may at least no longer keep on thinking about his illness, and thus suffer more from such thoughts than from the complaint itself, which has been the case hitherto—that, it seems to me, is something! and it is by no means a trifle! And now do ye understand our task?
The “Ways.”—So-called “short cuts” have always led humanity to run great risks: on hearing the “glad tidings” that a “short cut” had been found, they always left the straight path—and lost their way.
The Apostate of the Free Spirit.—Is there any one, then, who seriously dislikes pious people who hold formally to their belief? Do we not, on the contrary, regard them with silent esteem and pleasure, deeply regretting at the same time that these excellent people do not share our own feelings? But whence arises that sudden, profound, and unreasonable dislike for the man who, having at one time possessed freedom of spirit, finally becomes a “believer”? In thinking of him we involuntarily experience the sensation of having beheld some loathsome spectacle, which we must quickly efface from our recollection. Should we not turn our backs upon even the most venerated man if we entertained the least suspicion of him in this regard? Not, indeed, from a moral point of view, but because of sudden disgust and horror! Whence comes this sharpness of feeling? Perhaps we shall be given to understand that, at bottom, we are not quite certain of our own selves? Or that, early in life, we build round ourselves hedges of the most pointed contempt, in order that, when old age makes us weak and forgetful, we may not feel inclined to brush our own contempt away from us?[pg 059]
Now, speaking frankly, this suspicion is quite erroneous, and whoever forms it knows nothing of what agitates and determines the free spirit: how little, to him, does the changing of an opinion seem contemptible per se! On the contrary, how highly he prizes the ability to change an opinion as a rare and valuable distinction, especially if he can retain it far into old age! And his pride (not his pusillanimity) even reaches so high as to be able to pluck the fruits of the spernere se sperni and the spernere se ipsum: without his being troubled by the sensation of fear of vain and easy-going men. Furthermore, the doctrine of the innocence of all opinions appears to him to be as certain as the doctrine of the innocence of all actions: how could he act as judge and hangman before the apostate of intellectual liberty! On the contrary, the sight of such a person would disgust him as much as the sight of a nauseous illness disgusts the physician: the physical repulsion caused by everything spongy, soft, and suppurating momentarily overcomes reason and the desire to help. Hence our goodwill is overcome by the conception of the monstrous dishonesty which must have gained the upper hand in the apostate from the free spirit: by the conception of a general gnawing which is eating its way down even to the framework of the character.
Other Fears, other Safeties.—Christianity overspread life with a new and unlimited insecurity, thereby creating new safeties, enjoyments [pg 060] and recreations, and new valuations of all things. Our own century denies the existence of this insecurity, and does so with a good conscience, yet it clings to the old habit of Christian certainties, enjoyments, recreations, and valuations!—even in its noblest arts and philosophies. How feeble and worn out must all this now seem, how imperfect and clumsy, how arbitrarily fanatical, and, above all, how uncertain: now that its horrible contrast has been taken away—the ever-present fear of the Christian for his eternal salvation!
Christianity and the Emotions.—In Christianity we may see a great popular protest against philosophy: the reasoning of the sages of antiquity had withdrawn men from the influence of the emotions, but Christianity would fain give men their emotions back again. With this aim in view, it denies any moral value to virtue such as philosophers understood it—as a victory of the reason over the passions—generally condemns every kind of goodness, and calls upon the passions to manifest themselves in their full power and glory: as love of God, fear of God, fanatic belief in God, blind hope in God.
Error as a Cordial.—Let people say what they will, it is nevertheless certain that it was the aim of Christianity to deliver mankind from the yoke of moral engagements by indicating what it [pg 061] believed to be the shortest way to perfection: exactly in the same manner as a few philosophers thought they could dispense with tedious and laborious dialectics, and the collection of strictly-proved facts, and point out a royal road to truth. It was an error in both cases, but nevertheless a great cordial for those who were worn out and despairing in the wilderness.
All Spirit finally becomes Visible.—Christianity has assimilated the entire spirituality of an incalculable number of men who were by nature submissive, all those enthusiasts of humiliation and reverence, both refined and coarse. It has in this way freed itself from its own original rustic coarseness—of which we are vividly reminded when we look at the oldest image of St. Peter the Apostle—and has become a very intellectual religion, with thousands of wrinkles, arrière-pensées, and masks on its face. It has made European humanity more clever, and not only cunning from a theological standpoint. By the spirit which it has thus given to European humanity—in conjunction with the power of abnegation, and very often in conjunction with the profound conviction and loyalty of that abnegation—it has perhaps chiselled and shaped the most subtle individualities which have ever existed in human society: the individualities of the higher ranks of the Catholic clergy, especially when these priests have sprung from a noble family, and have brought to their work, from the very beginning, the innate grace of gesture, the dominating glance [pg 062] of the eye, and beautiful hands and feet. Here the human face acquires that spiritualisation brought about by the continual ebb and flow of two kinds of happiness (the feeling of power and the feeling of submission) after a carefully-planned manner of living has conquered the beast in man. Here an activity, which consists in blessing, forgiving sins, and representing the Almighty, ever keeps alive in the soul, and even in the body, the consciousness of a supreme mission; here we find that noble contempt concerning the perishable nature of the body, of well-being, and of happiness, peculiar to born soldiers: their pride lies in obedience, a distinctly aristocratic trait; their excuse and their idealism arise from the enormous impossibility of their task. The surpassing beauty and subtleties of these princes of the Church have always proved to the people the truth of the Church; a momentary brutalisation of the clergy (such as came about in Luther's time) always tended to encourage the contrary belief. And would it be maintained that this result of beauty and human subtlety, shown in harmony of figure, intellect, and task, would come to an end with religions? and that nothing higher could be obtained, or even conceived?
The Needful Sacrifice.—Those earnest, able, and just men of profound feelings, who are still Christians at heart, owe it to themselves to make one attempt to live for a certain space of time without Christianity! they owe it to their faith that they should thus for once take up their [pg 063] abode “in the wilderness”—if for no other reason than that of being able to pronounce on the question as to whether Christianity is needful. So far, however, they have confined themselves to their own narrow domain and insulted every one who happened to be outside of it: yea, they even become highly irritated when it is suggested to them that beyond this little domain of theirs lies the great world, and that Christianity is, after all, only a corner of it! No; your evidence on the question will be valueless until you have lived year after year without Christianity, and with the inmost desire to continue to exist without it: until, indeed, you have withdrawn far, far away from it. It is not when your nostalgia urges you back again, but when your judgment, based on a strict comparison, drives you back, that your homecoming has any significance!—Men of coming generations will deal in this manner with all the valuations of the past; they must be voluntarily lived over again, together with their contraries, in order that such men may finally acquire the right of shifting them.
On the Origin of Religions.—How can any one regard his own opinion of things as a revelation? This is the problem of the formation of religions: there has always been some man in whom this phenomenon was possible. A postulate is that such a man already believed in revelations. Suddenly, however, a new idea occurs to him one day, his idea; and the entire blessedness of a great [pg 064] personal hypothesis, which embraces all existence and the whole world, penetrates with such force into his conscience that he dare not think himself the creator of such blessedness, and he therefore attributes to his God the cause of this new idea and likewise the cause of the cause, believing it to be the revelation of his God. How could a man be the author of so great a happiness? ask his pessimistic doubts. But other levers are secretly at work: an opinion may be strengthened by one's self if it be considered as a revelation; and in this way all its hypothetic nature is removed; the matter is set beyond criticism and even beyond doubt: it is sanctified. It is true that, in this way, a man lowers himself to playing the rôle of “mouthpiece,” but his thought will end by being victorious as a divine thought—the feeling of finally gaining the victory conquers the feeling of degradation. There is also another feeling in the background: if a man raises his products above himself, and thus apparently detracts from his own worth, there nevertheless remains a kind of joyfulness, paternal love, and paternal pride, which compensates man—more than compensates man—for everything.
Hatred of One's Neighbour.—Supposing that we felt towards our neighbour as he does himself—Schopenhauer calls this compassion, though it would be more correct to call it auto-passion, fellow-feeling—we should be compelled to hate him, if, like Pascal, he thought himself hateful. And this was [pg 065] probably the general feeling of Pascal regarding mankind, and also that of ancient Christianity, which, under Nero, was “convicted” of odium generis humani, as Tacitus has recorded.
The Broken-Hearted Ones.—Christianity has the instinct of a hunter for finding out all those who may by hook or by crook be driven to despair—only a very small number of men can be brought to this despair. Christianity lies in wait for such as those, and pursues them. Pascal made an attempt to find out whether it was not possible, with the help of the very subtlest knowledge, to drive everybody into despair. He failed: to his second despair.
Brahminism and Christianity.—There are certain precepts for obtaining a consciousness of power: on the one hand, for those who already know how to control themselves, and who are therefore already quite used to the feeling of power; and, on the other hand, for those who cannot control themselves. Brahminism has given its care to the former type of man; Christianity to the latter.
The Faculty of Vision.—During the whole of the Middle Ages it was believed that the real distinguishing trait of higher men was the faculty of [pg 066] having visions—that is to say, of having a grave mental trouble. And, in fact, the rules of life of all the higher natures of the Middle Ages (the religiosi) were drawn up with the object of making man capable of vision! Little wonder, then, that the exaggerated esteem for these half-mad fanatics, so-called men of genius, has continued even to our own days. “They have seen things that others do not see”—no doubt! and this fact should inspire us with caution where they are concerned, and not with belief!
The Price of Believers.—He who sets such a value on being believed in has to promise heaven in recompense for this belief: and every one, even a thief on the Cross, must have suffered from a terrible doubt and experienced crucifixion in every form: otherwise he would not buy his followers so dearly.
The First Christian.—The whole world still believes in the literary career of the “Holy Ghost,” or is still influenced by the effects of this belief: when we look into our Bibles we do so for the purpose of “edifying ourselves,” to find a few words of comfort for our misery, be it great or small—in short, we read ourselves into it and out of it. But who—apart from a few learned men—know that it likewise records the history of one of the most ambitious and importunate souls that ever [pg 067] existed, of a mind full of superstition and cunning: the history of the Apostle Paul? Nevertheless, without this singular history, without the tribulations and passions of such a mind, and of such a soul, there would have been no Christian kingdom; we should have scarcely have even heard of a little Jewish sect, the founder of which died on the Cross. It is true that, if this history had been understood in time, if we had read, really read, the writings of St. Paul, not as the revelations of the “Holy Ghost,” but with honest and independent minds, oblivious of all our personal troubles—there were no such readers for fifteen centuries—it would have been all up with Christianity long ago: so searchingly do these writings of the Jewish Pascal lay bare the origins of Christianity, just as the French Pascal let us see its destiny and how it will ultimately perish. That the ship of Christianity threw overboard no inconsiderable part of its Jewish ballast, that it was able to sail into the waters of the heathen and actually did do so: this is due to the history of one single man, this apostle who was so greatly troubled in mind and so worthy of pity, but who was also very disagreeable to himself and to others.
This man suffered from a fixed idea, or rather a fixed question, an ever-present and ever-burning question: what was the meaning of the Jewish Law? and, more especially, the fulfilment of this Law? In his youth he had done his best to satisfy it, thirsting as he did for that highest distinction which the Jews could imagine—this people, which raised the imagination of moral loftiness to a greater elevation than any other people, and which alone succeeded [pg 068] in uniting the conception of a holy God with the idea of sin considered as an offence against this holiness. St. Paul became at once the fanatic defender and guard-of-honour of this God and His Law. Ceaselessly battling against and lying in wait for all transgressors of this Law and those who presumed to doubt it, he was pitiless and cruel towards all evil-doers, whom he would fain have punished in the most rigorous fashion possible.
Now, however, he was aware in his own person of the fact that such a man as himself—violent, sensual, melancholy, and malicious in his hatred—could not fulfil the Law; and furthermore, what seemed strangest of all to him, he saw that his boundless craving for power was continually provoked to break it, and that he could not help yielding to this impulse. Was it really “the flesh” which made him a trespasser time and again? Was it not rather, as it afterwards occurred to him, the Law itself, which continually showed itself to be impossible to fulfil, and seduced men into transgression with an irresistible charm? But at that time he had not thought of this means of escape. As he suggests here and there, he had many things on his conscience—hatred, murder, sorcery, idolatry, debauchery, drunkenness, and orgiastic revelry,—and to however great an extent he tried to soothe his conscience, and, even more, his desire for power, by the extreme fanaticism of his worship for and defence of the Law, there were times when the thought struck him: “It is all in vain! The anguish of the unfulfilled Law cannot be overcome.” Luther must have experienced similar [pg 069] feelings, when, in his cloister, he endeavoured to become the ideal man of his imagination; and, as Luther one day began to hate the ecclesiastical ideal, and the Pope, and the saints, and the whole clergy, with a hatred which was all the more deadly as he could not avow it even to himself, an analogous feeling took possession of St. Paul. The Law was the Cross on which he felt himself crucified. How he hated it! What a grudge he owed it! How he began to look round on all sides to find a means for its total annihilation, that he might no longer be obliged to fulfil it himself! And at last a liberating thought, together with a vision—which was only to be expected in the case of an epileptic like himself—flashed into his mind: to him, the stern upholder of the Law—who, in his innermost heart, was tired to death of it—there appeared on the lonely path that Christ, with the divine effulgence on His countenance, and Paul heard the words: “Why persecutest thou Me?”
What actually took place, then, was this: his mind was suddenly enlightened, and he said to himself: “It is unreasonable to persecute this Jesus Christ! Here is my means of escape, here is my complete vengeance, here and nowhere else have I the destroyer of the Law in my hands!” The sufferer from anguished pride felt himself restored to health all at once, his moral despair disappeared in the air; for morality itself was blown away, annihilated—that is to say, fulfilled, there on the Cross! Up to that time that ignominious death had seemed to him to be the principal argument against the “Messiahship” [pg 070] proclaimed by the followers of the new doctrine: but what if it were necessary for doing away with the Law? The enormous consequences of this thought, of this solution of the enigma, danced before his eyes, and he at once became the happiest of men. The destiny of the Jews, yea, of all mankind, seemed to him to be intertwined with this instantaneous flash of enlightenment: he held the thought of thoughts, the key of keys, the light of lights; history would henceforth revolve round him! For from that time forward he would be the apostle of the annihilation of the Law! To be dead to sin—that meant to be dead to the Law also; to be in the flesh—that meant to be under the Law! To be one with Christ—that meant to have become, like Him, the destroyer of the Law; to be dead with Him—that meant likewise to be dead to the Law. Even if it were still possible to sin, it would not at any rate be possible to sin against the Law: “I am above the Law,” thinks Paul; adding, “If I were now to acknowledge the Law again and to submit to it, I should make Christ an accomplice in the sin”; for the Law was there for the purpose of producing sin and setting it in the foreground, as an emetic produces sickness. God could not have decided upon the death of Christ had it been possible to fulfil the Law without it; henceforth, not only are all sins expiated, but sin itself is abolished; henceforth the Law is dead; henceforth “the flesh” in which it dwelt is dead—or at all events dying, gradually wasting away. To live for a short time longer amid this decay!—this is the Christian's fate, until the time when, having become [pg 071] one with Christ, he arises with Him, sharing with Christ the divine glory, and becoming, like Christ, a “Son of God.” Then Paul's exaltation was at its height, and with it the importunity of his soul—the thought of union with Christ made him lose all shame, all submission, all constraint, and his ungovernable ambition was shown to be revelling in the expectation of divine glories.
Such was the first Christian, the inventor of Christianity! before him there were only a few Jewish sectaries.
Inimitable.—There is an enormous strain and distance between envy and friendship, between self-contempt and pride: the Greek lived in the former, the Christian in the latter.
The Use of a Coarse Intellect.—The Christian Church is an encyclopædia of primitive cults and views of the most varied origin; and is, in consequence, well adapted to missionary work: in former times she could—and still does—go wherever she would, and in doing so always found something resembling herself, to which she could assimilate herself and gradually substitute her own spirit for it. It is not to what is Christian in her usages, but to what is universally pagan in them, that we have to attribute the development of this universal religion. Her thoughts, which have their origin at once in the Judaic and in the Hellenic spirit, were able from the very beginning to raise [pg 072] themselves above the exclusiveness and subtleties of races and nations, as above prejudices. Although we may admire the power which makes even the most difficult things coalesce, we must nevertheless not overlook the contemptible qualities of this power—the astonishing coarseness and narrowness of the Church's intellect when it was in process of formation, a coarseness which permitted it to accommodate itself to any diet, and to digest contradictions like pebbles.
The Christian Vengeance against Rome.—Perhaps nothing is more fatiguing than the sight of a continual conqueror: for more than two hundred years the world had seen Rome overcoming one nation after another, the circle was closed, all future seemed to be at an end, everything was done with a view to its lasting for all time—yea, when the Empire built anything it was erected with a view to being aere perennius. We, who know only the “melancholy of ruins,” can scarcely understand that totally different melancholy of eternal buildings, from which men endeavoured to save themselves as best they could—with the light-hearted fancy of a Horace, for example. Others sought different consolations for the weariness which was closely akin to despair, against the deadening knowledge that from henceforth all progress of thought and heart would be hopeless, that the huge spider sat everywhere and mercilessly continued to drink all the blood within its reach, no matter where it might spring forth. [pg 073] This mute, century-old hatred of the wearied spectators against Rome, wherever Rome's domination extended, was at length vented in Christianity, which united Rome, “the world,” and “sin” into a single conception. The Christians took their revenge on Rome by proclaiming the immediate and sudden destruction of the world; by once more introducing a future—for Rome had been able to transform everything into the history of its own past and present—a future in which Rome was no longer the most important factor; and by dreaming of the last judgment—while the crucified Jew, as the symbol of salvation, was the greatest derision on the superb Roman prætors in the provinces; for now they seemed to be only the symbols of ruin and a “world” ready to perish.
The “Life after Death.”—Christianity found the idea of punishment in hell in the entire Roman Empire: for the numerous mystic cults have hatched this idea with particular satisfaction as being the most fecund egg of their power. Epicurus thought he could do nothing better for his followers than to tear this belief up by the roots: his triumph found its finest echo in the mouth of one of his disciples, the Roman Lucretius, a poet of a gloomy, though afterwards enlightened, temperament. Alas! his triumph had come too soon: Christianity took under its special protection this belief in subterranean horrors, which was already beginning to die away in the minds of men; and that [pg 074] was clever of it. For, without this audacious leap into the most complete paganism, how could it have proved itself victorious over the popularity of Mithras and Isis? In this way it managed to bring timorous folk over to its side—the most enthusiastic adherents of a new faith! The Jews, being a people which, like the Greeks, and even in a greater degree than the Greeks, loved and still love life, had not cultivated that idea to any great extent: the thought of final death as the punishment of the sinner, death without resurrection as an extreme menace: this was sufficient to impress these peculiar men, who did not wish to get rid of their bodies, but hoped, with their refined Egypticism, to preserve them for ever. (A Jewish martyr, about whom we may read in the Second Book of the Maccabees, would not think of giving up his intestines, which had been torn out: he wanted to have them at the resurrection: quite a Jewish characteristic!)
Thoughts of eternal damnation were far from the minds of the early Christians: they thought they were delivered from death, and awaited a transformation from day to day, but not death. (What a curious effect the first death must have produced on these expectant people! How many different feelings must have been mingled together—astonishment, exultation, doubt, shame, and passion! Verily, a subject worthy of a great artist!) St. Paul could say nothing better in praise of his Saviour than that he had opened the gates of immortality to everybody—he did not believe in the resurrection of those who had not been saved: more [pg 075] than this, by reason of his doctrine of the impossibility of carrying out the Law, and of death considered as a consequence of sin, he even suspected that, up to that time, no one had become immortal (or at all events only a very few, solely owing to special grace and not to any merits of their own): it was only in his time that immortality had begun to open its gates—and only a few of the elect would finally gain admittance, as the pride of the elect cannot help saying.
In other places, where the impulse towards life was not so strong as among the Jews and the Christian Jews, and where the prospect of immortality did not appear to be more valuable than the prospect of a final death, that pagan, yet not altogether un-Jewish addition of Hell became a very useful tool in the hands of the missionaries: then arose the new doctrine that even the sinners and the unsaved are immortal, the doctrine of eternal damnation, which was more powerful than the idea of a final death, which thereafter began to fade away. It was science alone which could overcome this idea, at the same time brushing aside all other ideas about death and an after-life. We are poorer in one particular: the “life after death” has no further interest for us! an indescribable blessing, which is as yet too recent to be considered as such throughout the world. And Epicurus is once more triumphant.
For the “Truth”!—“The truth of Christianity was attested by the virtuous lives of the [pg 076] Christians, their firmness in suffering, their unshakable belief and above all by the spread and increase of the faith in spite of all calamities.”—That's how you talk even now. The more's the pity. Learn, then, that all this proves nothing either in favour of truth or against it; that truth must be demonstrated differently from conscientiousness, and that the latter is in no respect whatever an argument in favour of the former.
A Christian Arrière-pensée.—Would not this have been a general reservation among Christians of the first century: “It is better to persuade ourselves into the belief that we are guilty rather than that we are innocent; for it is impossible to ascertain the disposition of so powerful a judge—but it is to be feared that he is looking out only for those who are conscious of guilt. Bearing in mind his great power, it is more likely that he will pardon a guilty person than admit that any one is innocent, in his presence.” This was the feeling of poor provincial folk in the presence of the Roman prætor: “He is too proud for us to dare to be innocent.” And may not this very sentiment have made its influence felt when the Christians endeavoured to picture to themselves the aspect of the Supreme Judge?
Neither European nor Noble.—There is something Oriental and feminine in Christianity, and [pg 077] this is shown in the thought, “Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth”; for women in the Orient consider castigations and the strict seclusion of their persons from the world as a sign of their husband's love, and complain if these signs of love cease.
If you think it Evil, you make it Evil.—The passions become evil and malignant when regarded with evil and malignant eyes. It is in this way that Christianity has succeeded in transforming Eros and Aphrodite—sublime powers, capable of idealisation—into hellish genii and phantom goblins, by means of the pangs which every sexual impulse was made to raise in the conscience of the believers. Is it not a dreadful thing to transform necessary and regular sensations into a source of inward misery, and thus arbitrarily to render interior misery necessary and regular in the case of every man! Furthermore, this misery remains secret with the result that it is all the more deeply rooted, for it is not all men who have the courage, which Shakespeare shows in his sonnets, of making public their Christian gloom on this point.
Must a feeling, then, always be called evil against which we are forced to struggle, which we must restrain even within certain limits, or, in given cases, banish entirely from our minds? Is it not the habit of vulgar souls always to call an enemy evil! and must we call Eros an enemy? The sexual feelings, like the feelings of pity and adoration, possess the particular characteristic that, in their case, one being [pg 078] gratifies another by the pleasure he enjoys—it is but rarely that we meet with such a benevolent arrangement in nature. And yet we calumniate and corrupt it all by our bad conscience! We connect the procreation of man with a bad conscience!
But the outcome of this diabolisation of Eros is a mere farce: the “demon” Eros becomes an object of greater interest to mankind than all the angels and saints put together, thanks to the mysterious Mumbo-Jumboism of the Church in all things erotic: it is due to the Church that love stories, even in our own time, have become the one common interest which appeals to all classes of people—with an exaggeration which would be incomprehensible to antiquity, and which will not fail to provoke roars of laughter in coming generations. All our poetising and thinking, from the highest to the lowest, is marked, and more than marked, by the exaggerated importance bestowed upon the love story as the principal item of our existence. Posterity may perhaps, on this account, come to the conclusion that its entire legacy of Christian culture is tainted with narrowness and insanity.
The Tortures of the Soul.—The whole world raises a shout of horror at the present day if one man presumes to torture the body of another: the indignation against such a being bursts forth almost spontaneously. Nay; we tremble even at the very thought of torture being inflicted on a man or an animal, and we undergo unspeakable [pg 079] misery when we hear of such an act having been accomplished. But the same feeling is experienced in a very much lesser degree and extent when it is a question of the tortures of the soul and the dreadfulness of their infliction. Christianity has introduced such tortures on an unprecedented scale, and still continues to preach this kind of martyrdom—yea, it even complains innocently of backsliding and indifference when it meets with a state of soul which is free from such agonies. From all this it now results that humanity, in the face of spiritual racks, tortures of the mind, and instruments of punishment, behaves even to-day with the same awesome patience and indecision which it exhibited in former times in the presence of the cruelties practised on the bodies of men or animals. Hell has certainly not remained merely an empty sound; and a new kind of pity has been devised to correspond to the newly-created fears of hell—a horrible and ponderous compassion, hitherto unknown; with people “irrevocably condemned to hell,” as, for example, the Stony Guest gave Don Juan to understand, and which, during the Christian era, should often have made the very stones weep.
Plutarch presents us with a gloomy picture of the state of mind of a superstitious man in pagan times: but this picture pales when compared with that of a Christian of the Middle Ages, who supposes that nothing can save him from “torments everlasting.” Dreadful omens appear to him: perhaps he sees a stork holding a snake in his beak and hesitating to swallow it. Or all nature suddenly becomes pale; or bright, fiery colours appear across the surface [pg 080] of the earth. Or the ghosts of his dead relations approach him, with features showing traces of dreadful sufferings. Or the dark walls of the room in which the man is sleeping are suddenly lighted up, and there, amidst a yellow flame, he perceives instruments of torture and a motley horde of snakes and devils. Christianity has surely turned this world of ours into a fearful habitation by raising the crucifix in all parts and thereby proclaiming the earth to be a place “where the just man is tortured to death!” And when the ardour of some great preacher for once disclosed to the public the secret sufferings of the individual, the agonies of the lonely souls, when, for example, Whitefield preached “like a dying man to the dying,” now bitterly weeping, now violently stamping his feet, speaking passionately, in abrupt and incisive tones, without fearing to turn the whole force of his attack upon any one individual present, excluding him from the assembly with excessive harshness—then indeed did it seem as if the earth were being transformed into a “field of evil.” The huge crowds were then seen to act as if seized with a sudden attack of madness: many were in fits of anguish; others lay unconscious and motionless; others, again, trembled or rent the air with their piercing shrieks. Everywhere there was a loud breathing, as of half-choked people who were gasping for the breath of life. “Indeed,” said an eye-witness once, “almost all the noises appeared to come from people who were dying in the bitterest agony.”
Let us never forget that it was Christianity which first turned the death-bed into a bed of agony, and [pg 081] that, by the scenes which took place there, and the terrifying sounds which were made possible there for the first time, it has poisoned the senses and the blood of innumerable witnesses and their children. Imagine the ordinary man who can never efface the recollection of words like these: “Oh, eternity! Would that I had no soul! Would that I had never been born! My soul is damned, damned; lost for ever! Six days ago you might have helped me. But now all is over. I belong to the devil, and with him I will go down to hell. Break, break, ye poor hearts of stone! Ye will not break? What more can be done for hearts of stone? I am damned that ye may be saved! There he is! Yea; there he is! Come, good devil! Come!”
Avenging Justice.—Misfortune and guilt: these two things have been put on one scale by Christianity; so that, when the misfortune which follows a fault is a serious one, this fault is always judged accordingly to be a very heinous one. But this was not the valuation of antiquity, and that is why Greek tragedy—in which misfortune and punishment are discussed at length, and yet in another sense—forms part of the great liberators of the mind to an extent which even the ancients themselves could not realise. They remained ingenuous enough not to set up an “adequate relation” between guilt and misfortune. The guilt of their tragic heroes is, indeed, the little pebble that makes them stumble, and on which account they [pg 082] sometimes happen to break an arm or knock out an eye. Upon this the feeling of antiquity made the comment, “Well, he should have gone his way with more caution and less pride.” It was reserved for Christianity, however, to say: “Here we have a great misfortune, and behind this great misfortune there must lie a great fault, an equally serious fault, though we cannot clearly see it! If, wretched man, you do not feel it, it is because your heart is hardened—and worse than this will happen to you!”
Besides this, antiquity could point to examples of real misfortunes, misfortunes that were pure and innocent; it was only with the advent of Christianity that all punishment became well-merited punishment: in addition to this it renders the imagination of the sufferer still more suffering, so that the victim, in the midst of his distress, is seized with the feeling that he has been morally reproved and cast away. Poor humanity! The Greeks had a special word to stand for the feeling of indignation which was experienced at the misfortune of another: among Christian peoples this feeling was prohibited and was not permitted to develop; hence the reason why they have no name for this more virile brother of pity.
A Proposal.—If, according to the arguments of Pascal and Christianity, our ego is always hateful, how can we permit and suppose other people, whether God or men, to love it? It would be contrary to all good principles to let ourselves be [pg 083] loved when we know very well that we deserve nothing but hatred—not to speak of other repugnant feelings. “But this is the very Kingdom of Grace.” Then you look upon your love for your neighbour as a grace? Your pity as a grace? Well, then, if you can do all this, there is no reason why you should not go a step further: love yourselves through grace, and then you will no longer find your God necessary, and the entire drama of the Fall and Redemption of mankind will reach its last act in yourselves!
The Compassionate Christian.—A Christian's compassion in the presence of his neighbour's suffering has another side to it: viz. his profound suspicion of all the joy of his neighbour, of his neighbour's joy in everything that he wills and is able to do.
The Saint's Humanity.—A saint had fallen into the company of believers, and could no longer stand their continually expressed hatred for sin. At last he said to them: “God created all things, except sin: therefore it is no wonder that He does not like it. But man has created sin, and why, then, should he disown this only child of his merely because it is not regarded with a friendly eye by God, its grandfather? Is that human? Honour to whom honour is due—but one's heart and duty must speak, above all, in favour of the child—and only in the second place for the honour of the grandfather!”
The Theological Attack.—“You must arrange that with yourself; for your life is at stake!”—Luther it is who suddenly springs upon us with these words and imagines that we feel the knife at our throats. But we throw him off with the words of one higher and more considerate than he: “We need form no opinion in regard to this or that matter, and thus save our souls from trouble. For, by their very nature, the things themselves cannot compel us to express an opinion.”
Poor Humanity!—A single drop of blood too much or too little in the brain may render our life unspeakably miserable and difficult, and we may suffer more from this single drop of blood than Prometheus from his vulture. But the worst is when we do not know that this drop is causing our sufferings—and we think it is “the devil!” Or “sin!”
The Philology of Christianity.—How little Christianity cultivates the sense of honesty can be inferred from the character of the writings of its learned men. They set out their conjectures as audaciously as if they were dogmas, and are but seldom at a disadvantage in regard to the interpretation of Scripture. Their continual cry is: “I am right, for it is written”—and then follows an explanation so shameless and capricious that a [pg 085] philologist, when he hears it, must stand stock-still between anger and laughter, asking himself again and again: Is it possible? Is it honest? Is it even decent?
It is only those who never—or always—attend church that underestimate the dishonesty with which this subject is still dealt in Protestant pulpits; in what a clumsy fashion the preacher takes advantage of his security from interruption; how the Bible is pinched and squeezed; and how the people are made acquainted with every form of the art of false reading.
When all is said and done, however, what can be expected from the effects of a religion which, during the centuries when it was being firmly established, enacted that huge philological farce concerning the Old Testament? I refer to that attempt to tear the Old Testament from the hands of the Jews under the pretext that it contained only Christian doctrines and belonged to the Christians as the true people of Israel, while the Jews had merely arrogated it to themselves without authority. This was followed by a mania of would-be interpretation and falsification, which could not under any circumstances have been allied with a good conscience. However strongly Jewish savants protested, it was everywhere sedulously asserted that the Old Testament alluded everywhere to Christ, and nothing but Christ, more especially His Cross, and thus, wherever reference was made to wood, a rod, a ladder, a twig, a tree, a willow, or a staff, such a reference could not but be a prophecy relating to the wood of the Cross: even the setting-up [pg 086] of the Unicorn and the Brazen Serpent, even Moses stretching forth his hands in prayer—yea, the very spits on which the Easter lambs were roasted: all these were allusions to the Cross, and, as it were, preludes to it! Did any one who kept on asserting these things ever believe in them? Let it not be forgotten that the Church did not shrink from putting interpolations in the text of the Septuagint (e.g. Ps. xcvi. 10), in order that she might later on make use of these interpolated passages as Christian prophecies. They were engaged in a struggle, and thought of their foes rather than of honesty.
Subtlety in Penury.—Take care not to laugh at the mythology of the Greeks merely because it so little resembles your own profound metaphysics! You should admire a people who checked their quick intellect at this point, and for a long time afterwards had tact enough to avoid the danger of scholasticism and hair-splitting superstition.
The Christian Interpreters of the Body.—Whatever originates in the stomach, the intestines, the beating of the heart, the nerves, the bile, the seed—all those indispositions, debilities, irritations, and the whole contingency of that machine about which we know so little—a Christian like Pascal considers it all as a moral and religious phenomenon, asking himself whether God or the [pg 087] devil, good or evil, salvation or damnation, is the cause. Alas for the unfortunate interpreter! How he must distort and worry his system! How he must distort and worry himself in order to gain his point!
The Moral Miracle.—In the domain of morality, Christianity knows of nothing but the miracle; the sudden change in all valuations, the sudden renouncement of all habits, the sudden and irresistible predilection for new things and persons. Christianity looks upon this phenomenon as the work of God, and calls it the act of regeneration, thus giving it a unique and incomparable value. Everything else which is called morality, and which bears no relation to this miracle, becomes in consequence a matter of indifference to the Christian, and indeed, so far as it is a feeling of well-being and pride, an object of fear. The canon of virtue, of the fulfilled law, is established in the New Testament, but in such a way as to be the canon of impossible virtue: men who still aspire to moral perfections must come to understand, in the face of this canon, that they are further and further removed from their aim; they must despair of virtue, and end by throwing themselves at the feet of the Merciful One.
It is only in reaching a conclusion like this that moral efforts on the part of the Christian can still be regarded as possessing any value: the condition that these efforts shall always remain sterile, painful, and melancholy is therefore indispensable; and it [pg 088] is in this way that those efforts could still avail to bring about that moment of ecstasy when man experiences the “overflow of grace” and the moral miracle. This struggle for morality is, however, not necessary; for it is by no means uncommon for this miracle to happen to the sinner at the very moment when he is, so to speak, wallowing in the mire of sin: yea, the leap from the deepest and most abandoned sinfulness into its contrary seems easier, and, as a clear proof of the miracle, even more desirable.
What, for the rest, may be the signification of such a sudden, unreasonable, and irresistible revolution, such a change from the depths of misery into the heights of happiness? (might it be a disguised epilepsy?) This should at all events be considered by alienists, who have frequent opportunities of observing similar “miracles”—for example, the mania of murder or suicide. The relatively “more pleasant consequences” in the case of the Christian make no important difference.
Luther, the Great Benefactor.—Luther's most important result is the suspicion which he awakened against the saints and the entire Christian vita contemplativa; only since his day has an un-Christian vita contemplativa again become possible in Europe, only since then has contempt for laymen and worldly activity ceased. Luther continued to be an honest miner's son even after he had been shut up in a monastery, and there, for lack of other [pg 089] depths and “borings,” he descended into himself, and bored terrifying and dark passages through his own depths—finally coming to recognise that an introspective and saintly life was impossible to him, and that his innate “activity” in body and soul would end by being his ruin. For a long time, too long, indeed, he endeavoured to find the way to holiness through castigations; but at length he made up his mind, and said to himself: “There is no real vita contemplativa! We have been deceived. The saints were no better than the rest of us.” This was truly a rustic way of gaining one's case; but for the Germans of that period it was the only proper way. How edified they felt when they could read in their Lutheran catechism: “Apart from the Ten Commandments there is no work which could find favour in the eyes of God—these much-boasted spiritual works of the saints are purely imaginary!”
Doubt As Sin.—Christianity has done all it possibly could to draw a circle round itself, and has even gone so far as to declare doubt itself to be a sin. We are to be precipitated into faith by a miracle, without the help of reason, after which we are to float in it as the clearest and least equivocal of elements—a mere glance at some solid ground, the thought that we exist for some purpose other than floating, the least movement of our amphibious nature: all this is a sin! Let it be noted that, following this decision, the proofs and demonstration of the faith, and all meditations upon its origin, [pg 090] are prohibited as sinful. Christianity wants blindness and frenzy and an eternal swan-song above the waves under which reason has been drowned!
Egoism versus Egoism.—How many are there who still come to the conclusion: “Life would be intolerable were there no God!” Or, as is said in idealistic circles: “Life would be intolerable if its ethical signification were lacking.” Hence there must be a God—or an ethical signification of existence! In reality the case stands thus: He who is accustomed to conceptions of this sort does not desire a life without them, hence these conceptions are necessary for him and his preservation—but what a presumption it is to assert that everything necessary for my preservation must exist in reality! As if my preservation were really necessary! What if others held the contrary opinion? if they did not care to live under the conditions of these two articles of faith, and did not regard life as worth living if they were realised!—And that is the present position of affairs.
The Honesty of God.—An omniscient and omnipotent God who does not even take care that His intentions shall be understood by His creatures—could He be a God of goodness? A God, who, for thousands of years, has permitted innumerable doubts and scruples to continue unchecked as if they were of no importance in the salvation of mankind, [pg 091] and who, nevertheless, announces the most dreadful consequences for any one who mistakes his truth? Would he not be a cruel god if, being himself in possession of the truth, he could calmly contemplate mankind, in a state of miserable torment, worrying its mind as to what was truth?
Perhaps, however, he really is a God of goodness, and was unable to express Himself more clearly? Perhaps he lacked intelligence enough for this? Or eloquence? All the worse! For in such a case he may have been deceived himself in regard to what he calls his “truth,” and may not be far from being another “poor, deceived devil!” Must he not therefore experience all the torments of hell at seeing His creatures suffering so much here below—and even more, suffering through all eternity—when he himself can neither advise nor help them, except as a deaf and dumb person, who makes all kinds of equivocal signs when his child or his dog is threatened with the most fearful danger? A distressed believer who argues thus might be pardoned if his pity for the suffering God were greater than his pity for his “neighbours”; for they are his neighbours no longer if that most solitary and primeval being is also the greatest sufferer and stands most in need of consolation.
Every religion shows some traits of the fact that it owes its origin to a state of human intellectuality which was as yet too young and immature: they all make light of the necessity for speaking the truth: as yet they know nothing of the duty of God, the duty of being clear and truthful in His communications with men. No one was more [pg 092] eloquent than Pascal in speaking of the “hidden God” and the reasons why He had to keep Himself hidden, all of which indicates clearly enough that Pascal himself could never make his mind easy on this point: but he speaks with such confidence that one is led to imagine that he must have been let into the secret at some time or other. He seemed to have some idea that the deus absconditus bore a few slight traces of immorality; and he felt too much ashamed and afraid of acknowledging this to himself: consequently, like a man who is afraid, he spoke as loudly as he could.
At the Death-bed of Christianity.—All truly active men now do without inward Christianity, and the most moderate and thoughtful men of the intellectual middle classes possess only a kind of modified Christianity; that is, a peculiarly simplified Christianity. A God who, in his love, ordains everything so that it may be best for us, a God who gives us our virtue and our happiness and then takes them away from us, so that everything at length goes on smoothly and there is no reason left why we should take life ill or grumble about it: in short, resignation and modesty raised to the rank of divinities—that is the best and most lifelike remnant of Christianity now left to us. It must be remembered, however, that in this way Christianity has developed into a soft moralism: instead of “God, freedom, and immortality,” we have now a kind of benevolence and honest sentiments, and the belief that, in the entire universe, benevolence [pg 093] and honest sentiments will finally prevail: this is the euthanasia of Christianity.
What is Truth?—Who will not be pleased with the conclusions which the faithful take such delight in coming to?—“Science cannot be true; for it denies God. Hence it does not come from God; and consequently it cannot be true—for God is truth.” It is not the deduction but the premise which is fallacious. What if God were not exactly truth, and if this were proved? And if he were instead the vanity, the desire for power, the ambitions, the fear, and the enraptured and terrified folly of mankind?
Remedy for the Displeased.—Even Paul already believed that some sacrifice was necessary to take away the deep displeasure which God experienced concerning sin: and ever since then Christians have never ceased to vent the ill-humour which they felt with themselves upon some victim or another—whether it was “the world,” or “history,” or “reason,” or joy, or the tranquillity of other men—something good, no matter what, had to die for their sins (even if only in effigie)!
The Historical Refutation as the Decisive One.—Formerly it was sought to prove that there was no God—now it is shown how the belief that a God existed could have originated, [pg 094] and by what means this belief gained authority and importance: in this way the counterproof that there is no God becomes unnecessary and superfluous.—In former times, when the “evidences of the existence of God” which had been brought forward were refuted, a doubt still remained, viz. whether better proofs could not be found than those which had just been refuted: at that time the atheists did not understand the art of making a tabula rasa.
“In hoc signo vinces.”—To whatever degree of progress Europe may have attained in other respects, where religious affairs are concerned it has not yet reached the liberal naïveté of the ancient Brahmins, which proves that, in India, four thousand years ago, people meditated more profoundly and transmitted to their descendants more pleasure in meditating than is the case in our own days. For those Brahmins believed in the first place that the priests were more powerful than the gods, and in the second place that it was observances which constituted the power of the priests: as a result of which their poets were never tired of glorifying those observances (prayers, ceremonies, sacrifices, chants, improvised melodies) as the real dispensers of all benefits. Although a certain amount of superstition and poetry was mingled with all this, the principles were true! A step further, and the gods were cast aside—which Europe likewise will have to do before very long! One more step further, and priests and intermediaries [pg 095] could also be dispensed with—and then Buddha, the teacher of the religion of self-redemption, appeared. How far Europe is still removed from this degree of culture! When at length all the customs and observances, upon which rests the power of gods, priests, and saviours, shall have been destroyed, when as a consequence morality, in the old sense, will be dead, then there will come ... yea, what will come then? But let us refrain from speculating; let us rather make certain that Europe will retrieve that which, in India, amidst this people of thinkers, was carried out thousands of years ago as a commandment of thought!
Scattered among the different nations of Europe there are now from ten to twenty millions of men who no longer “believe in God”—is it too much to ask that they should give each other some indication or password? As soon as they recognise each other in this way, they will also make themselves known to each other; and they will immediately become a power in Europe, and, happily, a power among the nations! among the classes! between rich and poor! between those who command, and those who obey! between the most restless and the most tranquil, tranquillising people!
One becomes Moral—but not because one is moral! Submission to morals may be due to slavishness or vanity, egoism or resignation, dismal fanaticism or thoughtlessness. It may, again, be an act of despair, such as submission to the authority of a ruler; but there is nothing moral about it per se.
Alterations in Morals.—Morals are constantly undergoing changes and transformations, occasioned by successful crimes. (To these, for example, belong all innovations in moral judgments.)
Wherein we are all Irrational.—We still continue to draw conclusions from judgments which we consider as false, or doctrines in which we no longer believe,—through our feelings.
Awaking from a Dream.—Noble and wise men once upon a time believed in the music of the [pg 098] spheres; there are still noble and wise men who believe in “the moral significance of existence,” but there will come a day when this music of the spheres also will no longer be audible to them. They will awake and perceive that their ears have been dreaming.
Open to Doubt.—To accept a belief simply because it is customary implies that one is dishonest, cowardly, and lazy.—Must dishonesty, cowardice, and laziness, therefore, be the primary conditions of morality?
The most Ancient Moral Judgments.—What attitude do we assume towards the acts of our neighbour?—In the first place, we consider how they may benefit ourselves—we see them only in this light. It is this effect which we regard as the intention of the acts,—and in the end we come to look upon these intentions of our neighbour as permanent qualities in him, and we call him, for example, “a dangerous man.” Triple error! Triple and most ancient mistake! Perhaps this inheritance comes to us from the animals and their faculty of judgment! Must not the origin of all morality be sought in these detestable narrow-minded conclusions: “Whatever injures me is evil (something injurious in itself), whatever benefits me is good (beneficial and profitable in itself), whatever injures me once or several times is hostile per se; whatever benefits me once or several times is [pg 099] friendly per se.” O pudenda origo! Is not this equivalent to interpreting the contemptible, occasional, and often merely accidental relations of another person to us as his primary and most essential qualities, and affirming that towards himself and every one else he is only capable of such actions as we ourselves have experienced at his hands once or several times! And is not this thorough folly based upon the most immodest of all mental reservations: namely, that we ourselves must be the standard of what is good, since we determine good and evil?
There are Two Classes of People who deny Morality.—To deny morality may mean, in the first place, to deny the moral inducements which, men pretend, have urged them on to their actions,—which is equivalent to saying that morality merely consists of words and forms, part of that coarse and subtle deceit (especially self-deceit) which is characteristic of mankind, and perhaps more especially of those men who are celebrated for their virtues. In the second place, it may mean our denying that moral judgments are founded on truths. It is admitted in such a case that these judgments are, in fact, the motives of the actions, but that in this way it is really errors as the basis of all moral judgments which urge men on to their moral actions. This is my point of view; but I should be far from denying that in very many cases a subtle suspicion in accordance with the former point of view—i.e. in the spirit of La Rochefoucauld—is [pg 100] also justifiable, and in any case of a high general utility.—Therefore I deny morality in the same way as I deny alchemy, i.e. I deny its hypotheses; but I do not deny that there have been alchemists who believed in these hypotheses and based their actions upon them. I also deny immorality—not that innumerable people feel immoral, but that there is any true reason why they should feel so. I should not, of course, deny—unless I were a fool—that many actions which are called immoral should be avoided and resisted; and in the same way that many which are called moral should be performed and encouraged; but I hold that in both cases these actions should be performed from motives other than those which have prevailed up to the present time. We must learn anew in order that at last, perhaps very late in the day, we may be able to do something more: feel anew.
Our Valuations.—All actions may be referred back to valuations, and all valuations are either one's own or adopted, the latter being by far the more numerous. Why do we adopt them? Through fear, i.e. we think it more advisable to pretend that they are our own, and so well do we accustom ourselves to do so that it at last becomes second nature to us. A valuation of our own, which is the appreciation of a thing in accordance with the pleasure or displeasure it causes us and no one else, is something very rare indeed!—But must not our valuation of our neighbour—which [pg 101] is prompted by the motive that we adopt his valuation in most cases—proceed from ourselves and by our own decision? Of course, but then we come to these decisions during our childhood, and seldom change them. We often remain during our whole lifetime the dupes of our childish and accustomed judgments in our manner of judging our fellow-men (their minds, rank, morality, character, and reprehensibility), and we find it necessary to subscribe to their valuations.
Pseudo-egoism.—The great majority of people, whatever they may think and say about their “egoism,” do nothing for their ego all their life long, but only for a phantom of this ego which has been formed in regard to them by their friends and communicated to them. As a consequence, they all live in a haze of impersonal and half-personal opinions and of arbitrary and, as it were, poetic valuations: the one always in the head of another, and this head, again, in the head of somebody else—a queer world of phantoms which manages to give itself a rational appearance! This haze of opinions and habits grows in extent and lives almost independently of the people it surrounds; it is it which gives rise to the immense effect of general judgments on “man”—all those men, who do not know themselves, believe in a bloodless abstraction which they call “man,” i.e. in a fiction; and every change caused in this abstraction by the judgments of powerful individualities [pg 102] (such as princes and philosophers) produces an extraordinary and irrational effect on the great majority,—for the simple reason that not a single individual in this haze can oppose a real ego, an ego which is accessible to and fathomed by himself, to the universal pale fiction, which he could thereby destroy.
Against Definitions of Moral Aims.—On all sides we now hear the aim of morals defined as the preservation and advancement of humanity; but this is merely the expression of a wish to have a formula and nothing more. Preservation wherein? advancement whither? These are questions which must at once be asked. Is not the most essential point, the answer to this wherein? and whither? left out of the formula? What results therefrom, so far as our own actions and duties are concerned, which is not already tacitly and instinctively understood? Can we sufficiently understand from this formula whether we must prolong as far as possible the existence of the human race, or bring about the greatest possible disanimalisation of man? How different the means, i.e. the practical morals, would have to be in the two cases! Supposing that the greatest possible rationality were given to mankind, this certainly would not guarantee the longest possible existence for them! Or supposing that their “greatest happiness” was thought to be the answer to the questions put, do we thereby mean the highest degree of happiness which a few individuals [pg 103] might attain, or an incalculable, though finally attainable, average state of happiness for all? And why should morality be the way to it? Has not morality, considered as a whole, opened up so many sources of displeasure as to lead us to think that man up to the present, with every new refinement of morality, has become more and more discontented with himself, with his neighbour, and with his own lot? Has not the most moral of men hitherto believed that the only justifiable state of mankind in the face of morals is that of the deepest misery?
Our Right to our Folly.—How must we act? Why must we act? So far as the coarse and immediate needs of the individual are concerned, it is easy to answer these questions, but the more we enter upon the more important and more subtle domains of action, the more does the problem become uncertain and the more arbitrary its solution. An arbitrary decision, however, is the very thing that must be excluded here,—thus commands the authority of morals: an obscure uneasiness and awe must relentlessly guide man in those very actions the objects and means of which he cannot at once perceive. This authority of morals undermines our thinking faculty in regard to those things concerning which it might be dangerous to think wrongly,—it is in this way, at all events, that morality usually justifies itself to its accusers. Wrong in this place means dangerous; but dangerous to whom? It [pg 104] is not, as a rule, the danger of the doer of the action which the supporters of authoritative morals have in view, but their own danger; the loss which their power and influence might undergo if the right to act according to their own greater or lesser reason, however wilfully and foolishly, were accorded to all men. They on their part make unhesitating use of their right to arbitrariness and folly,—they even command in cases where it is hardly possible, or at all events very difficult, to answer the questions, “How must they act, why must they act?” And if the reason of mankind grows with such extraordinary slowness that it was often possible to deny its growth during the whole course of humanity, what is more to blame for this than this solemn presence, even omnipresence, of moral commands, which do not even permit the individual question of how and why to be asked at all? Have we not been educated precisely in such a way as to make us feel pathetic, and thus to obscure our vision at the very time when our reason should be able to see as clearly and calmly as possible—i.e. in all higher and more important circumstances?
Some Theses.—We should not give the individual, in so far as he desires his own happiness, any precepts or recommendations as to the road leading to happiness; for individual happiness arises from particular laws that are unknown to anybody, and such a man will only be hindered or obstructed by recommendations which come to him from outside [pg 105] sources. Those precepts which are called moral are in reality directed against individuals, and do not by any means make for the happiness of such individuals. The relationship of these precepts to the "happiness and well-being of mankind" is equally slight, for it is quite impossible to assign a definite conception to these words, and still less can they be employed as guiding stars on the dark sea of moral aspirations. It is a prejudice to think that morality is more favourable to the development of the reason than immorality. It is erroneous to suppose that the unconscious aim in the development of every conscious being (namely, animal, man, humanity, etc.) is its “greatest happiness”: on the contrary, there is a particular and incomparable happiness to be attained at every stage of our development, one that is neither high nor low, but quite an individual happiness. Evolution does not make happiness its goal; it aims merely at evolution, and nothing else. It is only if humanity had a universally recognised goal that we could propose to do this or that: for the time being there is no such goal. It follows that the pretensions of morality should not be brought into any relationship with mankind: this would be merely childish and irrational. It is quite another thing to recommend a goal to mankind: this goal would then be something that would depend upon our own will and pleasure. Provided that mankind in general agreed to adopt such a goal, it could then impose a moral law upon itself, a law which would, at all events, be imposed by their own free will. Up to now, however, the moral law has had to be placed [pg 106] above our own free will: strictly speaking, men did not wish to impose this law upon themselves; they wished to take it from somewhere, to discover it, or to let themselves be commanded by it from somewhere.
Self-control and Moderation, and their Final Motive.—I find not more than six essentially different methods for combating the vehemence of an impulse. First of all, we may avoid the occasion for satisfying the impulse, weakening and mortifying it by refraining from satisfying it for long and ever-lengthening periods. Secondly, we may impose a severe and regular order upon ourselves in regard to the satisfying of our appetites. By thus regulating the impulse and limiting its ebb and flow to fixed periods, we may obtain intervals in which it ceases to disturb us; and by beginning in this way we may perhaps be able to pass on to the first method. In the third place, we may deliberately give ourselves over to an unrestrained and unbounded gratification of the impulse in order that we may become disgusted with it, and to obtain by means of this very disgust a command over the impulse: provided, of course, that we do not imitate the rider who rides his horse to death and breaks his own neck in doing so. For this, unhappily, is generally the outcome of the application of this third method.
In the fourth place, there is an intellectual trick, which consists in associating the idea of the gratification [pg 107] so firmly with some painful thought, that after a little practice the thought of gratification is itself immediately felt as a very painful one. (For example, when the Christian accustoms himself to think of the presence and scorn of the devil in the course of sensual enjoyment, or everlasting punishment in hell for revenge by murder; or even merely of the contempt which he will meet with from those of his fellow-men whom he most respects, if he steals a sum of money, or if a man has often checked an intense desire for suicide by thinking of the grief and self-reproaches of his relations and friends, and has thus succeeded in balancing himself upon the edge of life: for, after some practice, these ideas follow one another in his mind like cause and effect.) Among instances of this kind may be mentioned the cases of Lord Byron and Napoleon, in whom the pride of man revolted and took offence at the preponderance of one particular passion over the collective attitude and order of reason. From this arises the habit and joy of tyrannising over the craving and making it, as it were, gnash its teeth. “I will not be a slave of any appetite,” wrote Byron in his diary. In the fifth place, we may bring about a dislocation of our powers by imposing upon ourselves a particularly difficult and fatiguing task, or by deliberately submitting to some new charm and pleasure in order thus to turn our thoughts and physical powers into other channels. It comes to the same thing if we temporarily favour another impulse by affording it numerous opportunities of gratification, and thus rendering it the squanderer of the power which would otherwise be commandeered, [pg 108] so to speak, by the tyrannical impulse. A few, perhaps, will be able to restrain the particular passion which aspires to domination by granting their other known passions a temporary encouragement and license in order that they may devour the food which the tyrant wishes for himself alone.
In the sixth and last place, the man who can stand it, and thinks it reasonable to weaken and subdue his entire physical and psychical organisation, likewise, of course, attains the goal of weakening a single violent instinct; as, for example, those who starve their sensuality and at the same time their vigour, and often destroy their reason into the bargain, such as the ascetics.—Hence, shunning the opportunities, regulating the impulse, bringing about satiety and disgust in the impulse, associating a painful idea (such as that of discredit, disgust, or offended pride), then the dislocation of one's forces, and finally general debility and exhaustion: these are the six methods. But the will to combat the violence of a craving is beyond our power, equally with the method we adopt and the success we may have in applying it. In all this process our intellect is rather merely the blind instrument of another rival craving, whether it be the impulse to repose, or the fear of disgrace and other evil consequences, or love. While “we” thus imagine that we are complaining of the violence of an impulse, it is at bottom merely one impulse which is complaining of another, i.e. the perception of the violent suffering which is being caused us presupposes that there is another equally or more violent impulse, and that a struggle [pg 109] is impending in which our intellect must take part.
That which Opposes.—We may observe the following process in ourselves, and I should like it to be often observed and confirmed. There arises in us the scent of a kind of pleasure hitherto unknown to us, and consequently a new craving. Now, the question is, What opposes itself to this craving? If it be things and considerations of a common kind, or people whom we hold in no very high esteem, the aim of the new craving assumes the appearance of a “noble, good, praiseworthy feeling, and one worthy of sacrifice”: all the moral dispositions which have been inherited will adopt it and will add it to the number of those aims which we consider as moral—and now we imagine that we are no longer striving after a pleasure, but after a morality, which greatly increases our confidence in our aspirations.
To the Admirers of Objectiveness.—He who, as a child, has observed in his parents and acquaintances in the midst of whom he has grown up, certain varied and strong feelings, with but little subtle discernment and inclination for intellectual justice, and has therefore employed his best powers and his most precious time in imitating these feelings, will observe in himself when he arrives at years of discretion that every new thing or man he meets with excites in him either sympathy or [pg 110] aversion, envy or contempt. Under the domination of this experience, which he is powerless to shake off, he admires neutrality of feeling or “objectivity” as an extraordinary thing, as something connected with genius or a very rare morality, and he cannot believe that even this neutrality is merely the product of education and habit.
On the Natural History of Duty and Right.—Our duties are the claims which others have upon us. How did they acquire these claims? By the fact that they considered us as capable of making and holding agreements and contracts, by assuming that we were their like and equals, and by consequently entrusting something to us, bringing us up, educating us, and supporting us. We do our duty, i.e. we justify that conception of our power for the sake of which all these things were done for us. We return them in proportion as they were meted out to us. It is thus our pride that orders us to do our duty—we desire to re-establish our own independence by opposing to that which others have done for us something that we do for them, for in that way the others invade our sphere of power, and would for ever have a hand in it if we did not make reprisals by means of “duty,” and thus encroach upon their power. The rights of others can only have regard to that which lies within our power; it would be unreasonable on their part to require something from us which does not belong to us. To put the matter more [pg 111] accurately, their rights can only relate to what they imagine to be in our power, provided that it is something that we ourselves consider as being in our power. The same error may easily occur on either side. The feeling of duty depends upon our having the same belief in regard to the extent of our power as other people have, i.e. that we can promise certain things and undertake to do them freely (“free will”).
My rights consist of that part of my power which others have not only conceded to me, but which they wish to maintain for me. Why do they do it? On the one hand they are actuated by wisdom, fear and prudence: whether they expect something similar from us (the protection of their rights), whether they consider a struggle with us as dangerous or inopportune, or whether they see a disadvantage to themselves in every diminution of our power, since in that case we should be ill adapted for an alliance with them against a hostile third power. On the other hand rights are granted by donations and cessions. In this latter case, the other people have not only enough power, but more than enough, so that they can give up a portion and guarantee it to the person to whom they give it: whereby they presuppose a certain restricted sense of power in the person upon whom they have bestowed the gift. In this way rights arise: recognised and guaranteed degrees of power. When the relations of powers to one another are materially changed, rights disappear and new ones are formed, as is demonstrated by the constant flux and reflux of the rights of nations. When our power diminishes [pg 112] to any great extent, the feelings of those who hitherto guaranteed it undergo some change: they consider whether they shall once again restore us to our former possession, and if they do not see their way to do this they deny our “rights” from that time forward. In the same way, if our power increases to a considerable extent the feelings of those who previously recognised it, and whose recognition we no longer require, likewise change: they will then try to reduce our power to its former dimensions, and they will endeavour to interfere in our affairs, justifying their interference by an appeal to their “duty.” But this is merely useless word-quibbling. Where right prevails, a certain state and degree of power is maintained, and all attempts at its augmentation and diminution are resisted. The right of others is the concession of our feeling of power to the feeling of power in these others. Whenever our power shows itself to be thoroughly shattered and broken, our rights cease: on the other hand, when we have become very much stronger, the rights of others cease in our minds to be what we have hitherto admitted them to be. The man who aims at being just, therefore, must keep a constant lookout for the changes in the indicator of the scales in order that he may properly estimate the degrees of power and right which, with the customary transitoriness of human things, retain their equilibrium for only a short time and in most cases continue to rise and fall. As a consequence it is thus very difficult to be “just,” and requires much experience, good intentions, and an unusually large amount of good sense.
Striving for Distinction.—When we strive after distinction we must ceaselessly keep our eyes fixed on our neighbour and endeavour to ascertain what his feelings are; but the sympathy and knowledge which are necessary to satisfy this desire are far from being inspired by harmlessness, compassion, or kindness. On the contrary, we wish to perceive or find out in what way our neighbour suffers from us, either internally or externally, how he loses control over himself and yields to the impression which our hand or even our mere appearance makes on him. Even when he who aspires to distinction makes or wishes to make a joyful, elevating, or cheerful impression, he does not enjoy this success in that he rejoices, exalts, or cheers his neighbour, but in that he leaves his impress on the latter's soul, changing its form and dominating it according to his will. The desire for distinction is the desire to subject one's neighbour, even if it be merely in an indirect fashion, one only felt or even only dreamt of. There is a long series of stages in this secretly-desired will to subdue, and a very complete record of them would perhaps almost be like an excellent history of culture from the early distortions of barbarism down to the caricatures of modern over-refinement and sickly idealism.
This desire for distinction entails upon our neighbour—to indicate only a few rungs of the long ladder—torture first of all, followed by blows, then terror, anxious surprise, wonder, envy, admiration, [pg 114] elevation, pleasure, joy, laughter, derision, mockery, sneers, scourging and self-inflicted torture. There at the very top of the ladder stands the ascetic and martyr, who himself experiences the utmost satisfaction, because he inflicts on himself, as a result of his desire for distinction, that pain which his opposite, the barbarian on the first rung of the ladder, inflicts upon those others, upon whom and before whom he wishes to distinguish himself. The triumph of the ascetic over himself, his introspective glance, which beholds a man split up into a sufferer and a spectator, and which henceforth never looks at the outside world but to gather from it, as it were, wood for his own funeral pyre: this final tragedy of the desire for distinction which shows us only one person who, so to speak, is consumed internally—that is an end worthy of the beginning: in both cases there is an inexpressible happiness at the sight of torture; indeed, happiness considered as a feeling of power developed to the utmost, has perhaps never reached a higher pitch of perfection on earth than in the souls of superstitious ascetics. This is expressed by the Brahmins in the story of King Visvamitra, who obtained so much strength by thousands of years of penance that he undertook to construct a new heaven. I believe that in the entire category of inward experiences the people of our time are mere novices and clumsy guessers who “try to have a shot at it”: four thousand years ago much more was known about these execrable refinements of self-enjoyment. Perhaps at that time the creation of the world was imagined by some Hindu dreamer [pg 115] to have been an ascetic operation which a god took upon himself! Perhaps this god may have wished to join himself to a mobile nature as an instrument of torture in order thus to feel his happiness and power doubled! And even supposing him to have been a god of love: what a delight it would have been for him to create a suffering mankind in order that he himself might suffer divinely and super-humanly from the sight of the continual torture of his creatures, and thus to tyrannise over himself! And, again, supposing him to have been not only a god of love, but also a god of holiness, we can scarcely conceive the ecstasies of this divine ascetic while creating sins and sinners and eternal punishment, and an immense place of eternal torture below his throne where there is a continual weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth!
It is not by any means impossible that the soul of a St. Paul, a Dante, or a Calvin, and people like them, may once have penetrated into the terrifying secrets of such voluptuousness of power, and in view of such souls we may well ask whether the circle of this desire for distinction has come to a close with the ascetic. Might it not be possible for the course of this circle to be traversed a second time, by uniting the fundamental idea of the ascetic, and at the same time that of a compassionate Deity? In other words, pain would be given to others in order that pain might be given to one's self, so that in this way one could triumph over one's self and one's pity to enjoy the extreme voluptuousness of power.—Forgive me these digressions, which come to my mind when I think [pg 116] of all the possibilities in the vast domain of psychical debaucheries to which one may be led by the desire for power!
On the Knowledge of the Sufferer.—The state of sick men who have suffered long and terribly from the torture inflicted upon them by their illness, and whose reason has nevertheless not been in any way affected, is not without a certain amount of value in our search for knowledge—quite apart from the intellectual benefits which follow upon every profound solitude and every sudden and justified liberation from duties and habits. The man who suffers severely looks forth with terrible calmness from his state of suffering upon outside things: all those little lying enchantments, by which things are usually surrounded when seen through the eye of a healthy person, have vanished from the sufferer; his own life even lies there before him, stripped of all bloom and colour. If by chance it has happened that up to then he has lived in some kind of dangerous fantasy, this extreme disenchantment through pain is the means, and possibly the only means, of extricating him from it. (It is possible that this is what happened to the Founder of Christianity when suspended from the Cross; for the bitterest words ever pronounced, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” if understood in their deepest sense, as they ought to be understood, contain the evidence of a complete disillusionment and enlightenment [pg 117] in regard to the deceptions of life: in that moment of supreme suffering Christ obtained a clear insight into Himself, just as in the poet's narrative did the poor dying Don Quixote.)
The formidable tension of the intellect that wishes to hold its own against pain shows everything that one now looks upon in a new light, and the inexpressible charm of this new light is often powerful enough to withstand all the seductiveness of suicide and to make the continuation of life seem very desirable to the sufferer. His mind scornfully turns to the warm and comfortable dream-world in which the healthy man moves about thoughtlessly, and he thinks with contempt of the noblest and most cherished illusions in which he formerly indulged. He experiences delight in conjuring up this contempt as if from the depths of hell, and thus inflicting the bitterest sufferings upon his soul: it is by this counterpoise that he bears up against physical suffering—he feels that such a counterpoise is now essential! In one terrible moment of clear-sightedness he says to himself, “Be for once thine own accuser and hangman; for once regard thy suffering as a punishment which thou hast inflicted on thyself! Enjoy thy superiority as a judge: better still, enjoy thine own will and pleasure, thy tyrannical arbitrariness! Raise thyself above thy life as above thy suffering, and look down into the depth of reason and unreason!”
Our pride revolts as it never did before, it experiences an incomparable charm in defending life against such a tyrant as suffering and against all the insinuations of this tyrant, who would fain urge [pg 118] us to give evidence against life,—we are taking the part of life in the face of this tyrant. In this state of mind we take up a bitter stand against all pessimism in order that it may not appear to be a consequence of our condition, and thus humiliate us as conquered ones. The charm of being just in our judgments was also never greater than now; for now this justice is a triumph over ourselves and over so irritated a state of mind that unfairness of judgment might be excused,—but we will not be excused, it is now, if ever, that we wish to show that we need no excuse. We pass through downright orgies of pride.
And now appears the first ray of relief, of recovery, and one of its first effects is that we turn against the preponderance of our pride: we call ourselves foolish and vain, as if we had undergone some unique experience. We humiliate ungratefully this all-powerful pride, the aid of which enabled us to endure the pain we suffered, and we call vehemently for some antidote for this pride: we wish to become strangers to ourselves and to be freed from our own person after pain has forcibly made us personal too long. “Away with this pride,” we cry, “it was only another illness and convulsion!” Once more we look longingly at men and nature and recollect with a sorrowful smile that now since the veil has fallen we regard many things concerning them in a new and different light,—but we are refreshed by once more seeing the softened lights of life, and emerge from that fearfully dispassionate daylight in which we as sufferers saw things and through things. We [pg 119] do not get angry when we see the charms of health resume their play, and we contemplate the sight as if transformed, gently and still fatigued. In this state we cannot listen to music without weeping.
The so-called “Ego.”—Language and the prejudices upon which language is based very often act as obstacles in our paths when we proceed to explore internal phenomena and impulses: as one example, we may instance the fact that there are only words to express the superlative degrees of these phenomena and impulses. Now, it is our habit no longer to observe accurately when words fail us, since it is difficult in such cases to think with precision: in former times, even, people involuntarily came to the conclusion that where the domain of words ceased, the domain of existence ceased also. Wrath, hatred, love, pity, desire, recognition, joy, pain: all these are names indicating extreme conditions; the milder and middle stages, and even more particularly the ever active lower stages, escape our attention, and yet it is they which weave the warp and woof of our character and destiny. It often happens that these extreme outbursts—and even the most moderate pleasure or displeasure of which we are actually conscious, whether in partaking of food or listening to a sound, is possibly, if properly estimated, merely an extreme outburst,—destroy the texture and are then violent exceptions, in most cases the consequences of some congestions,—and how easily as such can they [pg 120] mislead the observer! as indeed they mislead the person acting! We are all of us not what we appear to be according to the conditions for which alone we have consciousness and words, and consequently praise and blame. We fail to recognise ourselves after these coarse outbursts which are known to ourselves alone, we draw conclusions from data where the exceptions prove stronger than the rules; we misinterpret ourselves in reading our own ego's pronouncements, which appeared to be so clear. But our opinion of ourselves, this so-called ego which we have arrived at by this wrong method, contributes henceforth to form our character and destiny.
The Unknown World of the “Subject.”—What men have found it so difficult to understand from the most ancient times down to the present day is their ignorance in regard to themselves, not merely with respect to good and evil, but something even more essential. The oldest of illusions lives on, namely, that we know, and know precisely in each case, how human action is originated. Not only “God who looks into the heart,” not only the man who acts and reflects upon his action, but everybody does not doubt that he understands the phenomena of action in every one else. “I know what I want and what I have done, I am free and responsible for my act, and I make others responsible for their acts; I can mention by its name every moral possibility and every internal movement which precedes an act,—ye may act as [pg 121] ye will, I understand myself and I understand you all!” Such was what every one thought once upon a time, and almost every one thinks so even now. Socrates and Plato, who in this matter were great sceptics and admirable innovators, were nevertheless intensely credulous in regard to that fatal prejudice, that profound error, which holds that “The right knowledge must necessarily be followed by the right action.” In holding this principle they were still the heirs of the universal folly and presumption that knowledge exists concerning the essence of an action.
“It would indeed be dreadful if the comprehension of the essence of a right action were not followed by that right action itself”—this was the only manner in which these great men thought it necessary to demonstrate this idea, the contrary seemed to them to be inconceivable and mad; and nevertheless this contrary corresponds to the naked reality which has been demonstrated daily and hourly from time immemorial. Is it not a “dreadful” truth that all that we know about an act is never sufficient to accomplish it, that the bridge connecting the knowledge of the act with the act itself has never yet been built? Acts are never what they appear to us to be. We have taken great pains to learn that external things are not as they appear to us.—Well! It is the same with internal phenomena. All moral acts are in reality “something different,”—we cannot say anything more about them, and all acts are essentially unknown to us. The general belief, however, has been and still is quite the contrary: the most ancient realism [pg 122] is against us: up to the present humanity has thought, “An action is what it appears to be.” (In re-reading these words a very expressive passage from Schopenhauer occurs to me, and I will quote it as a proof that he, too, without the slightest scruple, continued to adhere to this moral realism: “Each one of us is in reality a competent and perfect moral judge, knowing exactly good and evil, made holy by loving good and despising evil,—such is every one of us in so far as the acts of others and not his own are under consideration, and when he has merely to approve or disapprove, whilst the burden of the performance of the acts is borne by other shoulders. Every one is therefore justified in occupying as confessor the place of God.”)
In Prison.—My eye, whether it be keen or weak, can only see a certain distance, and it is within this space that I live and move: this horizon is my immediate fate, greater or lesser, from which I cannot escape. Thus, a concentric circle is drawn round every being, which has a centre and is peculiar to himself. In the same way our ear encloses us in a small space, and so likewise does our touch. We measure the world by these horizons within which our senses confine each of us within prison walls. We say that this is near and that is far distant, that this is large and that is small, that one thing is hard and another soft; and this appreciation of things we call sensation—but it is all an error per se! According to the number [pg 123] of events and emotions which it is on an average possible for us to experience in a given space of time, we measure our lives; we call them short or long, rich or poor, full or empty; and according to the average of human life we estimate that of other beings,—and all this is an error per se!
If we had eyes a hundred times more piercing to examine the things that surround us, men would seem to us to be enormously tall; we can even imagine organs by means of which men would appear to us to be of immeasurable stature. On the other hand, certain organs could be so formed as to permit us to view entire solar systems as if they were contracted and brought close together like a single cell: and to beings of an inverse order a single cell of the human body could be made to appear in its construction, movement, and harmony as if it were a solar system in itself. The habits of our senses have wrapped us up in a tissue of lying sensations which in their turn lie at the base of all our judgments and our “knowledge,”—there are no means of exit or escape to the real world! We are like spiders in our own webs, and, whatever we may catch in them, it will only be something that our web is capable of catching.
What is our Neighbour?—What do we conceive of our neighbour except his limits: I mean that whereby he, as it were, engraves and stamps himself in and upon us? We can understand nothing of him except the changes which take place [pg 124] upon our own person and of which he is the cause, what we know of him is like a hollow, modelled space. We impute to him the feelings which his acts arouse in us, and thus give him a wrong and inverted positivity. We form him after our knowledge of ourselves into a satellite of our own system, and if he shines upon us, or grows dark, and we in any case are the ultimate cause of his doing so, we nevertheless still believe the contrary! O world of phantoms in which we live! O world so perverted, topsy-turvy and empty, and yet dreamt of as full and upright!
Experience and Invention.—To however high a degree a man can attain to knowledge of himself, nothing can be more incomplete than the conception which he forms of the instincts constituting his individuality. He can scarcely name the more common instincts: their number and force, their flux and reflux, their action and counteraction, and, above all, the laws of their nutrition, remain absolutely unknown to him. This nutrition, therefore, becomes a work of chance: the daily experiences of our lives throw their prey now to this instinct and now to that, and the instincts gradually seize upon it; but the ebb and flow of these experiences does not stand in any rational relationship to the nutritive needs of the total number of the instincts. Two things, then, must always happen: some cravings will be neglected and starved to death, while others will be overfed. Every moment in the life of man causes some polypous arms of his being to grow and [pg 125] others to wither away, in accordance with the nutriment which that moment may or may not bring with it. Our experiences, as I have already said, are all in this sense means of nutriment, but scattered about with a careless hand and without discrimination between the hungry and the overfed. As a consequence of this accidental nutrition of each particular part, the polypus in its complete development will be something just as fortuitous as its growth.
To put this more clearly: let us suppose that an instinct or craving has reached that point when it demands gratification,—either the exercise of its power or the discharge of it, or the filling up of a vacuum (all this is metaphorical language),—then it will examine every event that occurs in the course of the day to ascertain how it can be utilised with the object of fulfilling its aim: whether the man runs or rests, or is angry, or reads or speaks or fights or rejoices, the unsatiated instinct watches, as it were, every condition into which the man enters, and, as a rule, if it finds nothing for itself it must wait, still unsatisfied. After a little while it becomes feeble, and at the end of a few days or a few months, if it has not been satisfied, it will wither away like a plant which has not been watered. This cruelty of chance would perhaps be more conspicuous if all the cravings were as vehement in their demands as hunger, which refuses to be satisfied with imaginary dishes; but the great majority of our instincts, especially those which are called moral, are thus easily satisfied,—if it be permitted to suppose that our dreams serve as compensation to a certain extent for the accidental [pg 126] absence of “nutriment” during the day. Why was last night's dream full of tenderness and tears, that of the night before amusing and gay, and the previous one adventurous and engaged in some continual obscure search? How does it come about that in this dream I enjoy indescribable beauties of music, and in that one I soar and fly upwards with the delight of an eagle to the most distant heights?
These inventions in which our instincts of tenderness, merriment, or adventurousness, or our desire for music and mountains, can have free play and scope—and every one can recall striking instances—are interpretations of our nervous irritations during sleep, very free and arbitrary interpretations of the movements of our blood and intestines, and the pressure of our arm and the bed coverings, or the sound of a church bell, the weathercocks, the moths, and so on. That this text, which on the whole is very much the same for one night as another, is so differently commented upon, that our creative reason imagines such different causes for the nervous irritations of one day as compared with another, may be explained by the fact that the prompter of this reason was different to-day from yesterday—another instinct or craving wished to be satisfied, to show itself, to exercise itself and be refreshed and discharged: this particular one being at its height to-day and another one being at its height last night. Real life has not the freedom of interpretation possessed by dream life; it is less poetic and less unrestrained—but is it necessary for me to show that our instincts, when we are awake, likewise merely interpret our nervous irritations and [pg 127] determine their “causes” in accordance with their requirements? that there is no really essential difference between waking and dreaming! that even in comparing different degrees of culture, the freedom of the conscious interpretation of the one is not in any way inferior to the freedom in dreams of the other! that our moral judgments and valuations are only images and fantasies concerning physiological processes unknown to us, a kind of habitual language to describe certain nervous irritations? that all our so-called consciousness is a more or less fantastic commentary of an unknown text, one which is perhaps unknowable but yet felt?
Consider some insignificant occurrence. Let us suppose that some day as we pass along a public street we see some one laughing at us. In accordance with whatever craving has reached its culminating point within us at that moment, this incident will have this or that signification for us; and it will be a very different occurrence in accordance with the class of men to which we belong. One man will take it like a drop of rain, another will shake it off like a fly, a third person will try to pick a quarrel on account of it, a fourth will examine his garments to see if there is anything about them likely to cause laughter, and a fifth will in consequence think about what is ridiculous per se, a sixth will be pleased at having involuntarily contributed to add a ray of sunshine and mirth to the world,—in all these cases some craving is gratified, whether anger, combativeness, meditation, or benevolence. This instinct, whatever it may be, has seized upon that incident as its prey: why that particular one? [pg 128] Because, hungry and thirsty, it was lying in ambush.
Not long ago at 11 o'clock in the morning a man suddenly collapsed and fell down in front of me as if struck by lightning. All the women who were near at once gave utterance to cries of horror, while I set the man on his feet again and waited until he recovered his speech. During this time no muscle of my face moved and I experienced no sensation of fear or pity; I simply did what was most urgent and reasonable and calmly proceeded on my way. Supposing some one had told me on the previous evening that at 11 o'clock on the following day a man would fall down in front of me like this, I should have suffered all kinds of agonies in the interval, lying awake all night, and at the decisive moment should also perhaps have fallen down like the man instead of helping him; for in the meantime all the imaginable cravings within me would have had leisure to conceive and to comment upon this incident. What are our experiences, then? Much more what we attribute to them than what they really are. Or should we perhaps say that nothing is contained in them? that experiences in themselves are merely works of fancy?
To Tranquillise the Sceptic.—“I don't know at all what I am doing. I don't know in the least what I ought to do!”—You are right, but be sure of this: you are being done at every moment! Mankind has at all times mistaken the [pg 129] active for the passive: it is its eternal grammatical blunder.
Cause and Effect.—On this mirror—and our intellect is a mirror—something is going on that indicates regularity: a certain thing is each time followed by another certain thing. When we perceive this and wish to give it a name, we call it cause and effect,—fools that we are! as if in this we had understood or could understand anything! For, of course, we have seen nothing but the images of causes and effects, and it is just this figurativeness which renders it impossible for us to see a more substantial relation than that of sequence!
The Purposes in Nature.—Any impartial investigator who examines the history of the eye and its form in the lower creatures, and sees how the visual organ was slowly developed, cannot help recognising that sight was not the first purpose of the eye, but probably only asserted itself when pure hazard had contributed to bring together the apparatus. One single example of this kind, and the “final purposes” fall from our eyes like scales.
Reason.—How did reason come into the world? As is only proper, in an irrational manner; by accident. We shall have to guess at this accident as a riddle.
What Is Volition?—We laugh at a man who, stepping out of his room at the very minute when the sun is rising, says, “It is my will that the sun shall rise”; or at him who, unable to stop a wheel, says, “I wish it to roll”; or, again, at him who, thrown in a wrestling match, says, “Here I lie, but here I wish to lie.” But, joking apart, do we not act like one of these three persons whenever we use the expression “I wish”?
On the Domain of Freedom.—We can think many more things than we can do and experience—i.e. our faculty of thinking is superficial and is satisfied with what lies on the surface, it does not even perceive this surface. If our intellect were strictly developed in proportion to our power, and our exercise of this power, the primary principle of our thinking would be that we can understand only that which we are able to do—if, indeed, there is any understanding at all. The thirsty man is without water, but the creations of his imagination continually bring the image of water to his sight, as if nothing could be more easily procured. The superficial and easily satisfied character of the intellect cannot understand real need, and thus feels itself superior. It is proud of being able to do more, to run faster, and to reach the goal almost within the twinkling of an eye: and in this way the domain of thought, when contrasted with the domain of [pg 131] action, volition, and experience, appears to be the domain of liberty, while, as I have already stated, it is nothing but the domain of superficiality and self-sufficiency.
Forgetfulness.—It has never yet been proved that there is such a thing as forgetfulness: all that we know is that we have no power over recollection. In the meantime we have filled up this gap in our power with the word “forgetfulness,” exactly as if it were another faculty added to our list. But, after all, what is within our power? If that word fills up a gap in our power, might not the other words be found capable of filling up a gap in the knowledge which we possess of our power?
For a Definite Purpose.—Of all human actions probably the least understood are those which are carried out for a definite purpose, because they have always been regarded as the most intelligible and commonplace to our intellect. The great problems can be picked up in the highways and byways.
Dreaming and Responsibility.—You would wish to be responsible for everything except your dreams! What miserable weakness, what lack of logical courage! Nothing contains more of your [pg 132] own work than your dreams! Nothing belongs to you so much! Substance, form, duration, actor, spectator—in these comedies you act as your complete selves! And yet it is just here that you are afraid and ashamed of yourselves, and even Oedipus, the wise Oedipus, derived consolation from the thought that we cannot be blamed for what we dream. From this I must conclude that the great majority of men must have some dreadful dreams to reproach themselves with. If it were otherwise, to how great an extent would these nocturnal fictions have been exploited in the interests of man's pride! Need I add that the wise Oedipus was right, that we are really not responsible for our dreams any more than for our waking hours, and that the doctrine of free will has as its parents man's pride and sense of power! Perhaps I say this too often; but that does not prove that it is not true.
The Alleged Combat of Motives.—People speak of the “combat of motives,” but they designate by this expression that which is not a combat of motives at all. What I mean is that, in our meditative consciousness, the consequences of different actions which we think we are able to carry out present themselves successively, one after the other, and we compare these consequences in our mind. We think we have come to a decision concerning an action after we have established to our own satisfaction that the consequences of this [pg 133] action will be favourable. Before we arrive at this conclusion, however, we often seriously worry because of the great difficulties we experience in guessing what the consequences are likely to be, and in seeing them in their full importance, without exception—and, after all this, we must reckon up any fortuitous elements that are likely to arise. Then comes the chief difficulty: all the consequences which we have with such difficulty determined one by one must be weighed on some scales against each other; and it only too often comes about that, owing to the difference in the quality of all the conceivable consequences, both scales and weights are lacking for this casuistry of advantage.
Even supposing, however, that in this case we are able to overcome the difficulty, and that mere hazard has placed in our scales results which permit of a mutual balance, we have now, in the idea of the consequences of a particular action, a motive for performing this very action, but only one motive! When we have finally decided to act, however, we are fairly often influenced by another order of motives than those of the “image of the consequences.” What brings this about may be the habitual working of our inner machinery, or some little encouragement on the part of a person whom we fear or honour or love, or the love of comfort which prefers to do that which lies nearest; or some stirring of the imagination provoked at the decisive moment by some event of trifling importance; or some physical influence which manifests itself quite unexpectedly; a mere whim brings it about; or the outburst of a passion which, as it accidentally [pg 134] happens, is ready to burst forth—in a word, motives operate which we do not understand very well, or which we do not understand at all, and which we can never balance against one another in advance.
It is probable that a contest is going on among these motives too, a driving backwards and forwards, a rising and lowering of the parts, and it is this which would be the real “contest of motives,” something quite invisible and unknown to us. I have calculated the consequences and the successes, and in doing so have set a very necessary motive in the line of combat with the other motives,—but I am as little able to draw up this battle line as to see it: the battle itself is hidden from my sight, as likewise is the victory, as victory; for I certainly come to know what I shall finally do, but I cannot know what motive has in the end proved to be the victor. Nevertheless, we are decidedly not in the habit of taking all these unconscious phenomena into account, and we generally conceive of the preliminary stages of an action only so far as they are conscious: thus we mistake the combat of the motives for a comparison of the possible consequences of different actions,—a mistake that brings with it most important consequences, and consequences that are most fatal to the development of morals.
Aims? Will?—We have accustomed ourselves to believe in two kingdoms, the domain of purposes and volition, and the domain of chance. In [pg 135] this latter domain everything is done senselessly, there is a continual going to and fro without any one being able to say why or wherefore. We stand in awe of this powerful realm of the great cosmic stupidity, for in most instances we learn to know it when it falls down upon the other world, that of aims and intentions, like a slate from a roof, always overwhelming some beautiful purpose of ours.
This belief in these two kingdoms arises from ancient romanticism and legend: we clever dwarfs, with all our will and aims, are interfered with, knocked down, and very often crushed to death by those ultra-stupid giants, the accidents,—but in spite of this we should not like to be deprived of the fearful poetry of their proximity, for these monsters very often make their appearance when life in the spider's web of definite aims has become too tiresome or too anxious for us, and they sometimes bring about a divine diversion when their hands for once tear the whole web in pieces,—not that these irrational beings ever intend to do what they do, or even observe it. But their coarse and bony hands rend our web as if it were thin air.
Moira was the name given by the Greeks to this realm of the incalculable and of sublime and eternal limitedness; and they set it round their gods like a horizon beyond which they could neither see nor act,—with that secret defiance of the gods which one meets with in different nations; the gods are worshipped, but a final trump card is held in readiness to play against them. As instances of this we may recollect that the Indians and the [pg 136] Persians, who conceived all their gods as having to depend upon the sacrifices of mortals, so that if it came to the worst the mortals could, at least, let the gods die of starvation; or the gods of the stubborn and melancholy Scandinavians, who enjoyed a quiet revenge in the thought that a twilight of the gods was to come as some compensation for the perpetual fear which their evil gods caused them. The case of Christianity was very different, for its essential feelings were not those of the Indians, Persians, Greeks, or Scandinavians. Christianity commanded its disciples to worship in the dust the spirit of power, and to kiss the very dust. It gave the world to understand that this omnipotent “realm of stupidity” was not so stupid as it seemed, and that we, on the contrary, were stupid when we could not perceive that behind this realm stood God Himself: He who, although fond of dark, crooked and wonderful ways, at last brought everything to a “glorious end.” This new myth of God, who had hitherto been mistaken for a race of giants or Moira, and who was now Himself the spinner and weaver of webs and purposes even more subtle than those of our own intellect—so subtle, indeed, that they appear to be incomprehensible and even unreasonable—this myth was so bold a transformation and so daring a paradox that the over-refined ancient world could not resist it, however extravagant and contradictory the thing seemed: for, let it be said in confidence, there was a contradiction in it,—if our intellect cannot divine the intellect and aims of God, how did it divine this quality of its intellect and this quality of God's intellect?[pg 137]
In more modern times, indeed, the doubt has increased as to whether the slate that falls from the roof is really thrown by “Divine love,” and mankind again harks back to the old romance of giants and dwarfs. Let us learn then, for it is time we did so, that even in our supposed separate domain of aims and reason the giants likewise rule. And our aims and reason are not dwarfs, but giants. And our own webs are just as often and as clumsily rent by ourselves as by the slate. And not everything is purpose that is called purpose, and still less is everything will that is called will. And if you come to the conclusion, “Then there is only one domain, that of stupidity and hazard?” it must be added that possibly there is only one domain, possibly there is neither will nor aim, and we may only have imagined these things. Those iron hands of necessity that shake the dice-box of chance continue their game indefinitely: hence, it must happen that certain throws perfectly resemble every degree of appropriateness and good sense. It may be that our own voluntary acts and purposes are merely such throws, and that we are too circumscribed and vain to conceive our extremely circumscribed state! that we ourselves shake the dice-box with iron hands, and do nothing in our most deliberate actions but play the game of necessity. Possibly! To rise beyond this “possibly” we should indeed have been guests in the Underworld, playing at dice and betting with Proserpine at the table of the goddess herself.
Moral Fashions.—How moral judgments as a whole have changed! The greatest marvels of the morality of antiquity, such as Epictetus, knew nothing of the glorification, now so common, of the spirit of sacrifice, of living for others: after the fashion of morality now prevailing we should really call them immoral; for they fought with all their strength for their own ego and against all sympathy for others, especially for the sufferings and moral imperfections of others. Perhaps they would reply to us by saying, “If you feel yourselves to be such dull and ugly people, by all means think of others more than yourselves. You will be quite right in doing so!”
The Last Echoes of Christianity In Morals.—“On n'est bon que par la pitié: il faut donc qu'il y ait quelque pitié dans tous nos sentiments”—so says morality nowadays. And how does this come about? The fact that the man who performs social, sympathetic, disinterested, and benevolent actions is now considered as the moral man: this is perhaps the most general effect, the most complete transformation, that Christianity has produced in Europe; perhaps in spite of itself, and not by any means because this was part of its essential doctrine. But this was the residuum of those Christian feelings that prevailed at the time when the contrary and thoroughly selfish faith in the “one thing needful,” the absolute [pg 139] importance of eternal and personal salvation, together with the dogmas upon which this belief had rested, were gradually receding, and when the auxiliary beliefs in “love” and “love of one's neighbour,” harmonising with the extraordinary practice of charity by the Church, were thereby coming to the front. The more people gradually became separated from the dogmas, the more did they seek some sort of justification for this separation in a cult of the love of humanity: not to fall short in this respect of the Christian ideal, but to excel it if possible, was the secret stimulus of all the French free-thinkers from Voltaire to Auguste Comte; and this latter with his famous moral formula “vivre pour autrui” has indeed out-christianised even Christianity!
It was Schopenhauer in Germany and John Stuart Mill in England who were the means of bringing into the greatest prominence this doctrine of sympathetic affections and of pity or utility to others as a principle of action; but these men themselves were only echoes. From about the time of the French Revolution these doctrines have manifested themselves in various places with enormous force. Since then they have shown themselves in their coarsest as well has their most subtle form, and all Socialistic principles have almost involuntarily taken their stand on the common ground of this doctrine. At the present time there is perhaps no more widely spread prejudice than that of thinking that we know what really and truly constitutes morality. Every one now seems to learn with satisfaction that society is beginning [pg 140] to adapt the individual to the general needs, and that it is at the same time the happiness and sacrifice of each one to consider himself as a useful member and instrument of the whole. They have still, however, doubts as to the form in which this whole is to be looked for, whether in a state already existing, or in one which has yet to be established, or in a nation, or in an international brotherhood, or in new and small economic communities. On this point there is still much reflection, doubt, struggling, excitement, and passion; but it is pleasant and wonderful to observe the unanimity with which the “ego” is called upon to practice self-denial, until, in the form of adaptation to the whole, it once again secures its own fixed sphere of rights and duties,—until, indeed, it has become something quite new and different. Nothing else is being attempted, whether admitted or not, than the complete transformation, even the weakening and suppression of the individual: the supporters of the majority never tire of enumerating and anathematising all that is bad, hostile, lavish, expensive, and luxurious in the form of individual existence that has hitherto prevailed; they hope that society may be administered in a cheaper, less dangerous, more uniform, and more harmonious way when nothing is left but large corporations and their members. All that is considered as good which in any way corresponds to this desire for grouping men into one particular society, and to the minor cravings which necessarily accompany this desire,—this is the chief moral current of our time; sympathy and social feelings are working [pg 141] hand in glove. (Kant is still outside of this movement: he expressly teaches that we should be insensible to the sufferings of others if our benevolence is to have any moral value,—a doctrine which Schopenhauer, very angrily, as may easily be imagined, described as the Kantian absurdity.)
“No longer thinking of One's Self.”—Let us seriously consider why we should jump into the water to rescue some one who has just fallen in before our eyes, although we may have no particular sympathy for him. We do it for pity's sake; no one thinks now but of his neighbour,—so says thoughtlessness. Why do we experience grief and uneasiness when we see some one spit blood, although we may be really ill-disposed towards him and wish him no good? Out of pity; we have ceased to think of ourselves,—so says thoughtlessness again. The truth is that in our pity—I mean by this what we erroneously call “pity”—we no longer think consciously of ourselves, but quite unconsciously, exactly as when slipping we unconsciously make the best counter-motions possible in order to recover our balance, and in doing so clearly use all our intelligence. A mishap to another offends us; it would bring our impotence, or perhaps our cowardice, into strong relief if we could do nothing to help him; or in itself it would give rise to a diminution of our honour in the eyes of others and of ourselves. Or again, accidents that happen to others act as finger-posts to point out our own danger, and even as [pg 142] indications of human peril and frailty they can produce a painful effect upon us. We shake off this kind of pain and offence, and balance it by an act of pity behind which may be hidden a subtle form of self-defence or even revenge. That at bottom we strongly think of ourselves may easily be divined from the decision that we arrive at in all cases where we can avoid the sight of those who are suffering or starving or wailing. We make up our minds not to avoid such people when we can approach them as powerful and helpful ones, when we can safely reckon upon their applause, or wish to feel the contrast of our own happiness, or, again, when we hope to get rid of our own boredom. It is misleading to call the suffering that we experience at such a sight, and which may be of a very different kind, commiseration. For in all cases it is a suffering from which the suffering person before us is free: it is our own suffering, just as his suffering is his own. It is thus only this personal feeling of misery that we get rid of by acts of compassion. Nevertheless, we never act thus from one single motive: as it is certain that we wish to free ourselves from suffering thereby, it is also certain that by the same action we yield to an impulse of pleasure. Pleasure arises at the sight of a contrast to our own condition, at the knowledge that we should be able to help if only we wished to do so, at the thought of the praise and gratitude which we should gain if we did help, at the very act of helping, in so far as this might prove successful (and because something which is gradually seen to be successful gives pleasure to the doer); but even more particularly at the feeling that our intervention [pg 143] brings to an end some deplorable injustice,—even the outburst of one's indignation is invigorating.
All this, including even things still more subtle, comprises “pity.” How clumsily with this one word does language fall foul of such a complex and polyphonous organism! That pity, on the other hand, is identical with the suffering the sight of which brings it about, or that it has a particularly subtle and penetrating comprehension of it: this is in contradiction to experience, and he who has glorified pity under these two heads lacked sufficient experience in the domain of morals. That is why I am seized with some doubts when reading of the incredible things attributed by Schopenhauer to pity. It is obvious that he thereby wished to make us believe in the great novelty he brought forward, viz., that pity—the pity which he observed so superficially and described so badly—was the source of all and every past and future moral action,—and all this precisely because of those faculties which he had begun by attributing to it.
What is it in the end that distinguishes men without pity from men who are really compassionate? In particular, to give merely an approximate indication, they have not the sensitive feeling for fear, the subtle faculty for perceiving danger: nor yet is their vanity so easily wounded if something happens which they might have been able to prevent,—the caution of their pride commands them not to interfere uselessly with the affairs of others; they even act on the belief that every one should help himself and play his own cards. Again, in [pg 144] most cases they are more habituated to bearing pain than compassionate men, and it does not seem at all unjust to them that others should suffer, since they themselves have suffered. Lastly, the state of soft-heartedness is as painful to them as is the state of stoical impassability to compassionate men: they have only disdainful words for sensitive hearts, as they think that such a state of feeling is dangerous to their own manliness and calm bravery,—they conceal their tears from others and wipe them off, angry with themselves. They belong to a different type of egoists from the compassionate men,—but to call them, in a distinct sense, evil and the compassionate ones good, is merely a moral fashion which has had its innings, just as the reverse fashion had also its innings, and a long innings, too.
To what Extent we must Beware of Pity.—Pity, in so far as it actually gives rise to suffering—and this must be our only point of view here—is a weakness, like every other indulgence in an injurious emotion. It increases suffering throughout the world, and although here and there a certain amount of suffering may be indirectly diminished or removed altogether as a consequence of pity, we must not bring forward these occasional consequences, which are on the whole insignificant, to justify the nature of pity which, as has already been stated, is prejudicial. Supposing that it prevailed, even if only for one day, it would bring humanity to utter ruin. In itself the nature of pity is no better than [pg 145] that of any other craving; it is only where it is called for and praised—and this happens when people do not understand what is injurious in it, but find in it a sort of joy—that a good conscience becomes attached to it; it is only then that we willingly yield to it, and do not shrink from acknowledging it. In other circumstances where it is understood to be dangerous, it is looked upon as a weakness; or, as in the case of the Greeks, as an unhealthy periodical emotion the danger of which might be removed by temporary and voluntary discharges. If a man were to undertake the experiment of deliberately devoting his attention to the opportunities afforded by practical life for the exercise of pity, and were over and over again to picture in his own mind the misery he might meet with in his immediate surroundings, he would inevitably become melancholy and ill. If, however, he wished in any sense of the word to serve humanity as a physician, he would have to take many precautions with respect to this feeling, as otherwise it would paralyse him at all critical moments, undermine the foundations of his knowledge, and unnerve his helpful and delicate hand.
Arousing Pity.—Among savages men think with a moral shudder of the possibility of becoming an object of pity, for such a state they regard as deprived of all virtue. Pitying is equivalent to despising: they do not want to see a contemptible being suffer, for this would afford them no enjoyment. [pg 146] On the other hand, to behold one of their enemies suffering, some one whom they look upon as their equal in pride, but whom torture cannot induce to give up his pride, and in general to see some one suffer who refuses to lower himself by appealing for pity—which would in their eyes be the most profound and shameful humiliation—this is the very joy of joys. Such a spectacle excites the deepest admiration in the soul of the savage, and he ends by killing such a brave man when it is in his power, afterwards according funeral honours to the unbending one. If he had groaned, however; if his countenance had lost its expression of calm disdain; if he had shown himself to be contemptible,—well, in such a case he might have been allowed to live like a dog: he would no longer have aroused the pride of the spectator, and pity would have taken the place of admiration.
Happiness in Pity.—If, as is the case among the Hindus, we decree the end and aim of all intellectual activity to be the knowledge of human misery, and if for generation after generation this dreadful resolution be steadily adhered to, pity in the eyes of such men of hereditary pessimism comes to have a new value as a preserver of life, something that helps to make existence endurable, although it may seem worthy of being rejected with horror and disgust. Pity becomes an antidote to suicide, a sentiment which brings pleasure with it and enables us to taste superiority in small doses. It [pg 147] gives some diversion to our minds, makes our hearts full, banishes fear and lethargy, and incites us to speak, to complain, or to act: it is a relative happiness when compared with the misery of the knowledge that hampers the individual on every side, bewilders him, and takes away his breath. Happiness, however, no matter of what nature it may be, gives us air and light and freedom of movement.
Why Double the “Ego”?—To view our own experiences in the same light as we are in the habit of looking at those of others is very comforting and an advisable medicine. On the other hand, to look upon the experiences of others and adopt them as if they were our own—which is called for by the philosophy of pity—would ruin us in a very short time: let us only make the experiment without trying to imagine it any longer! The first maxim is, in addition, undoubtedly more in accordance with reason and goodwill towards reason; for we estimate more objectively the value and significance of an event when it happens to others,—the value, for instance, of a death, loss of money or slander. But pity, taking as its principle of action the injunction, “Suffer the misfortune of another as much as he himself,” would lead the point of view of the ego with all its exaggerations and deviations to become the point of view of the other person, the sympathiser: so that we should have to suffer at the same time from our own ego and the other's ego. In this way we would voluntarily overload [pg 148] ourselves with a double irrationality, instead of making the burden of our own as light as possible.
Becoming more Tender.—Whenever we love some one and venerate and admire him, and afterwards come to perceive that he is suffering—which always causes us the utmost astonishment, since we cannot but feel that the happiness we derive from him must flow from a superabundant source of personal happiness—our feelings of love, veneration, and admiration are essentially changed: they become more tender; that is, the gap that separates us seems to be bridged over and there appears to be an approach to equality. It now seems possible to give him something in return, whilst we had previously imagined him as being altogether above our gratitude. Our ability to requite him for what we have received from him arouses in us feelings of much joy and pleasure. We endeavour to ascertain what can best calm the grief of our friend, and we give it to him; if he wishes for kind words, looks, attentions, services, or presents, we give them; but, above all, if he would like to see us suffering from the sight of his suffering, we pretend to suffer, for all this secures for us the enjoyment of active gratitude, which is equivalent in a way to good-natured revenge. If he wants none of these things, and refuses to accept them from us, we depart from him chilled and sad, almost mortified; it appears to us as if our gratitude had been declined, and on this point of honour even the [pg 149] best of men is still somewhat touchy. It results from all this that even in the best case there is something humiliating in suffering, and something elevating and superior in sympathy,—a fact which will keep the two feelings apart for ever and ever.
Higher in Name only.—You say that the morality of pity is a higher morality than that of stoicism? Prove it! But take care not to measure the “higher” and “lower” degrees of morality once more by moral yardsticks; for there are no absolute morals. So take your yardstick from somewhere else, and be on your guard!
Praise and Blame.—When a war has come to an unsuccessful conclusion we try to find the man who is to blame for the war; when it comes to a successful conclusion we praise the man who is responsible for it. In all unsuccessful cases attempts are made to blame somebody, for non-success gives rise to dejection, against which the single possible remedy is involuntarily applied; a new incitement of the sense of power; and this incitement is found in the condemnation of the “guilty” one. This guilty one is not perhaps the scapegoat of the faults of others; he is merely the victim of the feeble, humiliated, and depressed people who wish to prove upon some one that they have not yet lost all their power. Even self-condemnation after a defeat may be the means of restoring the feeling of power.[pg 150]
On the other hand, glorification of the originator is often but an equally blind result of another instinct that demands its victim,—and in this case the sacrifice appears to be sweet and attractive even for the victim. This happens when the feeling of power is satiated in a nation or a society by so great and fascinating a success that a weariness of victory supervenes and pride wishes to be discharged: a feeling of self-sacrifice is aroused and looks for its object. Thus, whether we are blamed or praised we merely, as a rule, provide opportunities for the gratification of others, and are only too often caught up and whirled away for our neighbours to discharge upon us their accumulated feelings of praise or blame. In both cases we confer a benefit upon them for which we deserve no credit and they no thanks.
More Beautiful but Less Valuable.—Picturesque morality: such is the morality of those passions characterised by sudden outbursts, abrupt transitions; pathetic, impressive, dreadful, and solemn attitudes and gestures. It is the semi-savage stage of morality: never let us be tempted to set it on a higher plane merely on account of its æsthetic charms.
Sympathy.—In order to understand our neighbour, that is, in order to reproduce his sentiments in ourselves, we often, no doubt, plumb the cause of his feelings, as, for example, by asking ourselves, Why [pg 151] is he sad? in order that we may become sad ourselves for the same reason. But we much more frequently neglect to act thus, and we produce these feelings in ourselves in accordance with the effects which they exhibit in the person we are studying,—by imitating in our own body the expression of his eyes, his voice, his gait, his attitude (or, at any rate, the likeness of these things in words, pictures, and music), or we may at least endeavour to mimic the action of his muscles and nervous system. A like feeling will then spring up in us as the result of an old association of movements and sentiments which has been trained to run backwards and forwards. We have developed to a very high pitch this knack of sounding the feelings of others, and when we are in the presence of any one else we bring this faculty of ours into play almost involuntarily,—let the inquirer observe the animation of a woman's countenance and notice how it vibrates and quivers with animation as the result of the continual imitation and reflection of what is going on around her.
It is music, however, more than anything else that shows us what past-masters we are in the rapid and subtle divination of feelings and sympathy; for even if music is only the imitation of an imitation of feelings, nevertheless, despite its distance and vagueness, it often enables us to participate in those feelings, so that we become sad without any reason for feeling so, like the fools that we are, merely because we hear certain sounds and rhythms that somehow or other remind us of the intonation and the movements, or perhaps even only of the behaviour, of sorrowful people. It is related of a [pg 152] certain Danish king that he was wrought up to such a pitch of warlike enthusiasm by the song of a minstrel that he sprang to his feet and killed five persons of his assembled court: there was neither war nor enemy; there was rather the exact opposite; yet the power of the retrospective inference from a feeling to the cause of it was sufficiently strong in this king to overpower both his observation and his reason. Such, however, is almost invariably the effect of music (provided that it thrills us), and we have no need of such paradoxical instances to recognise this,—the state of feeling into which music transports us is almost always in contradiction to the appearance of our actual state, and of our reasoning power which recognises this actual state and its causes.
If we inquire how it happened that this imitation of the feelings of others has become so common, there will be no doubt as to the answer: man being the most timid of all beings because of his subtle and delicate nature has been made familiar through his timidity with this sympathy for, and rapid comprehension of, the feelings of others, even of animals. For century after century he saw danger in everything that was unfamiliar to him, in anything that happened to be alive, and whenever the spectacle of such things and creatures came before his eyes he imitated their features and attitude, drawing at the same time his own conclusion as to the nature of the evil intentions they concealed. This interpretation of all movements and all facial characteristics in the sense of intentions, man has even brought to bear on things inanimate,—urged on as he was by the illusion that there was nothing inanimate. I [pg 153] believe that this is the origin of everything that we now call a feeling for nature, that sensation of joy which men experience at the sight of the sky, the fields, the rocks, the forests, the storms, the stars, the landscapes, and spring: without our old habits of fear which forced us to suspect behind everything a kind of second and more recondite sense, we should now experience no delight in nature, in the same way as men and animals do not cause us to rejoice if we have not first been deterred by that source of all understanding, namely, fear. For joy and agreeable surprise, and finally the feeling of ridicule, are the younger children of sympathy, and the much younger brothers and sisters of fear. The faculty of rapid perception, which is based on the faculty of rapid dissimulation, decreases in proud and autocratic men and nations, as they are less timid; but, on the other hand, every category of understanding and dissimulation is well known to timid peoples, and among them is to be found the real home of imitative arts and superior intelligence.
When, proceeding from the theory of sympathy such as I have just outlined, I turn my attention to the theory, now so popular and almost sacrosanct, of a mystical process by means of which pity blends two beings into one, and thus permits them immediately to understand one another, when I recollect that even so clear a brain as Schopenhauer's delighted in such fantastic nonsense, and that he in his turn transplanted this delight into other lucid and semi-lucid brains, I feel unlimited astonishment and compassion. How great must be the pleasure we experience in this senseless tomfoolery! How [pg 154] near must even a sane man be to insanity as soon as he listens to his own secret intellectual desires!—Why did Schopenhauer really feel so grateful, so profoundly indebted to Kant? He revealed on one occasion the undoubted answer to this question. Some one had spoken of the way in which the qualitias occulta of Kant's Categorical Imperative might be got rid of, so that the theory itself might be rendered intelligible. Whereupon Schopenhauer gave utterance to the following outburst: “An intelligible Categorical Imperative! Preposterous idea! Stygian darkness! God forbid that it should ever become intelligible! The fact that there is actually something unintelligible, that this misery of the understanding and its conceptions is limited, conditional, final, and deceptive,—this is beyond question Kant's great gift.” Let any one consider whether a man can be in possession of a desire to gain an insight into moral things when he feels himself comforted from the start by a belief in the inconceivableness of these things! one who still honestly believes in illuminations from above, in magic, in ghostly appearances, and in the metaphysical ugliness of the toad!
Woe to us if this Impulse should Rage!—Supposing that the impulse towards devotion and care for others (“sympathetic affection”) were doubly as strong as it now is, life on earth could not be endured. Let it only be considered how many foolish things every one of us does day by day and hour by hour, merely out of solicitude and [pg 155] devotion for himself, and how unbearable he seems in doing so: and what then would it be like if we were to become for other people the object of the stupidities and importunities with which up to the present they have only tormented themselves! Should we not then take precipitately to our heels as soon as one of our neighbours came towards us? And would it not be necessary to overwhelm this sympathetic affection with the abuse that we now reserve for egoism?
Closing our Ears to the Complaints of others.—When we let our sky be clouded by the complaints and suffering of other mortals, who must bear the consequences of such gloom? No doubt those other mortals, in addition to all their other burdens! If we are merely to be the echoes of their complaints, we cannot accord them either help or comfort; nor can we do so if we were continually keeping our ears open to listen to them,—unless we have learnt the art of the Olympians, who, instead of trying to make themselves unhappy, endeavoured to feel edified by the misfortunes of mankind. But this is something too Olympian for us, although, in our enjoyment of tragedy, we have already taken a step towards this ideal divine cannibalism.
“Unegoistic.”—This man is empty and wishes to be filled, that one is over-full and wishes to be emptied: both of them feel themselves urged on [pg 156] to look for an individual who can help them. And this phenomenon, interpreted in a higher sense, is in both cases known by the same name, “love.” Well? and could this love be something unegoistic?
Looking Beyond our Neighbour.—What? Ought the nature of true morality to consist for us in fixing our eyes upon the most direct and immediate consequences of our action for other people, and in our coming to a decision accordingly? This is only a narrow and bourgeois morality, even though it may be a morality: but it seems to me that it would be more superior and liberal to look beyond these immediate consequences for our neighbour in order to encourage more distant purposes, even at the risk of making others suffer,—as, for example, by encouraging the spirit of knowledge in spite of the certainty that our free-thought will have the instant effect of plunging others into doubt, grief, and even worse afflictions. Have we not at least the right to treat our neighbour as we treat ourselves? And if, where we are concerned, we do not think in such a narrow and bourgeois fashion of immediate consequences and sufferings, why should we be compelled to act thus in regard to our neighbour? Supposing that we felt ready to sacrifice ourselves, what is there to prevent us from sacrificing our neighbour together with ourselves,—just as States and Sovereigns have hitherto sacrificed one citizen to the others, “for the sake of the general interest,” as they say?[pg 157]
We too, however, have general interests, perhaps even more general than theirs: so why may we not sacrifice a few individuals of this generation for the benefit of generations to come? so that their affliction, anxiety, despair, blunders, and misery may be deemed essential because a new plough is to break up the ground and render it fertile for all. Finally, we communicate the disposition to our neighbour by which he is enabled to feel himself a victim: we persuade him to carry out the task for which we employ him. Are we then devoid of all pity? If, however, we wish to achieve a victory over ourselves beyond our pity, is not this a higher and more liberal attitude and disposition than that in which we only feel safe after having ascertained whether an action benefits or harms our neighbour? On the contrary, it is by means of such sacrifice—including the sacrifice of ourselves, as well as of our neighbours—that we should strengthen and elevate the general sense of human power, even supposing that we attain nothing more than this. But even this itself would be a positive increase of happiness. Then, if even this ... but not a word more! You have understood me at a glance.
The Cause of “Altruism.”—Men have on the whole spoken of love with so much emphasis and adoration because they have hitherto always had so little of it, and have never yet been satiated with this food: in this way it became their ambrosia. If a poet wished to show universal benevolence in the image of a Utopia, he would certainly have to [pg 158] describe an agonising and ridiculous state of things, the like of which was never seen on earth,—every one would be surrounded, importuned, and sighed for, not as at present, by one lover, but by thousands, by everybody indeed, as the result of an irresistible craving which would then be as vehemently insulted and cursed as selfishness has been by men of past ages. The poets of this new condition of things, if they had sufficient leisure to write, would be dreaming of nothing but the blissful and loveless past, the divine selfishness of yore, and the wonderful possibilities in former times of remaining alone, not being run after by one's friends, and of even being hated and despised—or any other odious expressions which the beautiful animal world in which we live chooses to coin.
Looking Far Ahead.—If, in accordance with the present definition, only those actions are moral which are done for the sake of others, and for their sake only, then there are no moral actions at all! If, in accordance with another definition, only those actions are moral which spring from our own free will, then there are no moral actions in this case either! What is it, then, that we designate thus, which certainly exists and wishes as a consequence to be explained? It is the result of a few intellectual blunders; and supposing that we were able to free ourselves from these errors, what would then become of “moral actions”? It is due to these errors that we have up to the present attributed to certain actions a value superior to what was theirs in reality: [pg 159] we separated them from “egoistic” and “non-free” actions. When we now set them once more in the latter categories, as we must do, we certainly reduce their value (their own estimate of value) even below its reasonable level, because “egoistic” and “non-free” actions have up to the present been under-valued owing to that alleged profound and essential difference.
In future, then, will these very actions be less frequently performed, since they will be less highly esteemed? Inevitably! Or at all events for a fairly long time, as long as the scale of valuations remains under the reacting influence of former mistakes! But we make some return for this by giving back to men their good courage for the carrying out of actions that are now reputed to be selfish, and thus restore their value,—we relieve men's bad consciences! and as up to the present egoistic actions have been by far the most frequent, and will be so to all eternity, we free the whole conception of these actions and of life from its evil appearance! This is a very high and important result. When men no longer believe themselves to be evil, they cease to be so.
Little Unconventional Actions are Necessary!—To act occasionally in matters of custom against our own better judgments; to yield in practice while reserving our own intellectual liberty; to behave like everybody else and thus to show ourselves amiable and considerate to all, to compensate them, as it were, even if only to some extent, for our unconventional opinions—all this among many tolerably liberal-minded men is looked upon not only as permissible but even as “honourable,” “humane,” “tolerant,” and “unpedantic,” or whatever fine words may be used to lull to sleep the intellectual conscience. So, for example, one man, although he may be an atheist, has his infant baptized in the usual Christian fashion; another goes through his period of military service, though he may severely condemn all hatred between nations; and a third runs into the Church with a girl because she comes from a religious family, and makes his vows to a priest without feeling ashamed of it. “It is of no importance if one of us does what every one else does and has done”—so says ignorant prejudice! What a profound mistake! [pg 162] For nothing is of greater importance than that a powerful, long-established, and irrational custom should be once again confirmed by the act of some one who is recognised as rational. In this way the proceeding is thought to be sanctioned by reason itself! All honour to your opinions! but little unconventional actions are of still greater value.
The Hazard of Marriages.—If I were a god, and a benevolent god, the marriages of men would cause me more displeasure than anything else. An individual can make very great progress within the seventy years of his life—yea, even within thirty years: such progress, indeed, as to surprise even the gods! But when we then see him exposing the inheritance and legacy of his struggles and victories, the laurel crown of his humanity, on the first convenient peg where any female may pick it to pieces for him; when we observe how well he can acquire and how little he is capable of preserving his acquisitions, and how he does not even dream that by procreation he might prepare a still more victorious life,—we then, indeed, become impatient and say, “Nothing can in the end result from humanity, individuals are wasted, for all rationality of a great advance of humanity is rendered impossible by the hazard of marriages: let us cease from being the assiduous spectators and fools of this aimless drama!” It was in this mood that the gods of Epicurus withdrew long ago to their divine seclusion and felicity: they were tired of men and their love affairs.
Here are New Ideals to Invent.—At a time when a man is in love he should not be allowed to come to a decision about his life and to determine once and for all the character of his society on account of a whim. We ought publicly to declare invalid the vows of lovers, and to refuse them permission to marry: and this because we should treat marriage itself much more seriously, so that in cases where it is now contracted it would not usually be allowed in future! Are not the majority of marriages such that we should not care to have them witnessed by a third party? And yet this third party is scarcely ever lacking—the child—and he is more than a witness; he is the whipping-boy and scapegoat.
Formula of Oath.—“If I am now telling a lie I am no longer an honourable man, and every one may say so to my face.” I recommend this formula in place of the present judicial oath and its customary invocation to the Deity: it is stronger. There is no reason why even religious men should oppose it; for as soon as the customary oath no longer serves, all the religious people will have to turn to their catechism, which says, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
The Malcontent.—He is one of the brave old warriors: angry with civilisation because he believes [pg 164] that its object is to make all good things—honour, rewards, and fair women—accessible even to cowards.
Consolation amid Perils.—The Greeks, in the course of a life that was always surrounded by great dangers and cataclysms, endeavoured to find in meditation and knowledge a kind of security of feeling, a last refugium. We, who live in a much more secure state, have introduced danger into meditation and knowledge, and it is in life itself that we endeavour to find repose, a refuge from danger.
Extinct Scepticism.—Hazardous enterprises are rarer in modern times than in antiquity and in the Middle Ages, probably because modern times have no more belief in omens, oracles, stars, and soothsayers. In other words, we have become incapable of believing in a future which is reserved for us, as the ancients did, who—in contradistinction to ourselves—were much less sceptical regarding that which is to be than that which is.
Evil through Exuberance.—“Oh, that we should not feel too happy!”—such was the secret fear of the Greeks in their best age. That is why they preached moderation to themselves. And we?
The Worship of Natural Sounds.—What signification can we find in the fact that our culture is not only indulgent to the manifestations of grief, such as tears, complaints, reproaches, and attitudes of rage and humility, but even approves them and reckons them among the most noble and essential things?—while, on the other hand, the spirit of ancient philosophy looked down upon them with contempt, without admitting their necessity in any way. Let us remember how Plato—who was by no means one of the most inhuman of the philosophers—speaks of the Philoctetus of the tragic stage. Is it possible that our modern culture is wanting in “philosophy”? or, in accordance with the valuations of those old philosophers, do we perhaps all form part of the “mob”?
The Climate for Flattery.—In our day flatterers should no longer be sought at the courts of kings, since these have all acquired a taste for militarism, which cannot tolerate flattery. But this flower even now often grows in abundance in the neighbourhood of bankers and artists.
The Revivers.—Vain men value a fragment of the past more highly from the moment when they are able to revive it in their imagination (especially if it is difficult to do so), they would [pg 166] even like if possible to raise it from the dead. Since, however, the number of vain people is always very large, the danger presented by historical studies, if an entire epoch devotes its attention to them, is by no means small: too great an amount of strength is then wasted on all sorts of imaginable resurrections. The entire movement of romanticism is perhaps best understood from this point of view.
Vain, Greedy, and not very Wise.—Your desires are greater than your understanding, and your vanity is even greater than your desires,—to people of your type a great deal of Christian practice and a little Schopenhauerian theory may be strongly recommended.
Beauty corresponding to the Age.—If our sculptors, painters, and musicians wish to catch the significance of the age, they should represent beauty as bloated, gigantic, and nervous: just as the Greeks, under the influence of their morality of moderation, saw and represented beauty in the Apollo di Belvedere. We should, indeed, call him ugly! But the pedantic “classicists” have deprived us of all our honesty!
The Irony of the Present Time.—At the present day it is the habit of Europeans to treat all matters of great importance with irony, because, as [pg 167] the result of our activity in their service, we have no time to take them seriously.
Against Rousseau.—If it is true that there is something contemptible about our civilisation, we have two alternatives: of concluding with Rousseau that, “This despicable civilisation is to blame for our bad morality,” or to infer, contrary to Rousseau's view, that “Our good morality is to blame for this contemptible civilisation. Our social conceptions of good and evil, weak and effeminate as they are, and their enormous influence over both body and soul, have had the effect of weakening all bodies and souls and of crushing all unprejudiced, independent, and self-reliant men, the real pillars of a strong civilisation: wherever we still find the evil morality to-day, we see the last crumbling ruins of these pillars.” Thus let paradox be opposed by paradox! It is quite impossible for the truth to lie with both sides: and can we say, indeed, that it lies with either? Decide for yourself.
Perhaps Premature.—It would seem at the present time that, under many different and misleading names, and often with a great want of clearness, those who do not feel themselves attached to morals and to established laws are taking the first initial steps to organise themselves, and thus to create a right for themselves; whilst hitherto, [pg 168] as criminals, free-thinkers, immoral men and miscreants, they have lived beyond the pale of the law, under the bane of outlawry and bad conscience, corrupted and corrupting. On the whole, we should consider this as right and proper, although it may result in insecurity for the coming century and compel every one to bear arms.—There is thereby a counterforce which continually reminds us that there is no exclusively moral-making morality, and that a morality which asserts itself to the exclusion of all other morality destroys too much sound strength and is too dearly bought by mankind. The non-conventional and deviating people, who are so often productive and inventive, must no longer be sacrificed: it must never again be considered as a disgrace to depart from morality either in actions or thought; many new experiments must be made upon life and society, and the world must be relieved from a huge weight of bad conscience. These general aims must be recognised and encouraged by all those upright people who are seeking truth.
A Morality which does not bore one.—The principal moral commandments which a nation permits its teachers to emphasise again and again stand in relation to its chief defects, and that is why it does not find them tiresome. The Greeks, who so often failed to employ moderation, coolness, fair-mindedness, and rationality in general, turned a willing ear to the four Socratic virtues,—they stood [pg 169] in such need of them, and yet had so little talent for them!
At the Parting of the Ways.—Shame! You wish to form part of a system in which you must be a wheel, fully and completely, or risk being crushed by wheels! where it is understood that each one will be that which his superiors make of him! where the seeking for “connections” will form part of one's natural duties! where no one feels himself offended when he has his attention drawn to some one with the remark, “He may be useful to you some time”; where people do not feel ashamed of paying a visit to ask for somebody's intercession, and where they do not even suspect that by such a voluntary submission to these morals, they are once and for all stamped as the common pottery of nature, which others can employ or break up of their free will without feeling in any way responsible for doing so,—just as if one were to say, “People of my type will never be lacking, therefore, do what you will with me! Do not stand on ceremony!”
Unconditional Homage.—When I think of the most read German philosopher, the most popular German musician, and the most distinguished German statesman, I cannot but acknowledge that life is now rendered unusually arduous for these Germans, this nation of unconditional [pg 170] sentiments, and that, too, by their own great men. We see three magnificent spectacles spread out before us: on each occasion there is a river rushing along in the bed which it has made for itself, and even so agitated that one thinks at times it intends to flow uphill. And yet, however we might admire Schopenhauer, who would not, all things considered, like to have other opinions than his? Who in all greater and smaller things would now share the opinions of Richard Wagner, although there may be truth in the view expressed by some one: viz. that wherever Wagner gave or took offence some problem lay hidden,—which, however, he did not unearth for us. And, finally, how many are there who would be willing and eager to agree with Bismarck, if only he could always agree with himself, or were even to show some signs of doing so for the future! It is true that it is by no means astonishing to find statesmen without principles, but with dominant instincts; a versatile mind, actuated by these dominant and violent instincts, and hence without principles—these qualities are looked upon as reasonable and natural in a statesman. But, alas, this has up to the present been so un-German; as un-German as the fuss made about music and the discord and bad temper excited around the person of the musician; or as un-German as the new and extraordinary position taken up by Schopenhauer: he did not feel himself to be either above things or on his knees before them—one or other of these alternatives might still have been German—but he assumed an attitude against things! How incredible and disagreeable! to range one's self [pg 171] with things and nevertheless be their adversary, and finally the adversary of one's self,—what can the unconditional admirer do with such an example? And what, again, can he do with three such examples who cannot keep the peace towards one another! Here we see Schopenhauer as the antagonist of Wagner's music, Wagner attacking Bismarck's politics, and Bismarck attacking Wagnerism and Schopenhauerism. What remains for us to do? Where shall we flee with our thirst for wholesale hero-worship! Would it not be possible to choose from the music of the musician a few hundred bars of good music which appealed to the heart, and which we should like to take to heart because they are inspired by the heart,—could we not stand aside with this small piece of plunder, and forget the rest? And could we not make a similar compromise as regards the philosopher and the statesman,—select, take to heart, and in particular forget the rest?
Yes, if only forgetfulness were not so difficult! There was once a very proud man who would never on any account accept anything, good or evil, from others,—from any one, indeed, but himself. When he wanted to forget, however, he could not bestow this gift upon himself, and was three times compelled to conjure up the spirits. They came, listened to his desire, and said at last, “This is the only thing it is not in our power to give!” Could not the Germans take warning by this experience of Manfred? Why, then, should the spirits be conjured up? It is useless. We never forget what we endeavour to forget. And how [pg 172] great would be the “balance” which we should have to forget if we wished henceforth to continue wholesale admirers of these three great men! It would therefore be far more advisable to profit by the excellent opportunity offered us to try something new, i.e. to advance in the spirit of honesty towards ourselves and become, instead of a nation of credulous repetition and of bitter and blind animosity, a people of conditional assent and benevolent opposition. We must come to learn in the first place, however, that unconditional homage to people is something rather ridiculous, that a change of view on this point would not discredit even Germans, and that there is a profound and memorable saying: “Ce qui importe, ce ne sont point les personnes: mais les choses.” This saying is like the man who uttered it—great, honest, simple, and silent,—just like Carnot, the soldier and Republican. But may I at the present time speak thus to Germans of a Frenchman, and a Republican into the bargain? Perhaps not: perhaps I must not even recall what Niebuhr in his time dared to say to the Germans: that no one had made such an impression of true greatness upon him as Carnot.
A Model.—What do I like about Thucydides, and how does it come that I esteem him more highly than Plato? He exhibits the most wide-spread and artless pleasure in everything typical in men and events, and finds that each type is [pg 173] possessed of a certain quantity of good sense: it is this good sense which he seeks to discover. He likewise exhibits a larger amount of practical justice than Plato; he never reviles or belittles those men whom he dislikes or who have in any way injured him in the course of his life. On the contrary: while seeing only types, he introduces something noble and additional into all things and persons; for what could posterity, to which he dedicates his work, do with things not typical! Thus this culture of the disinterested knowledge of the world attains in him, the poet-thinker, a final marvellous bloom,—this culture which has its poet in Sophocles, its statesman in Pericles, its doctor in Hippocrates, and its natural philosopher in Democritus: this culture which deserves to be called by the name of its teachers, the Sophists, and which, unhappily, from the moment of its baptism at once begins to grow pale and incomprehensible to us,—for henceforward we suspect that this culture, which was combated by Plato and all the Socratic schools, must have been very immoral! The truth of this matter is so complicated and entangled that we feel unwilling to unravel it: so let the old error (error veritate simplicior) run its old course.
The Greek Genius Foreign to us.—Oriental or modern, Asiatic or European: compared with the ancient Greeks, everything is characterised by enormity of size and by the revelling in great masses as the expression of the sublime, whilst in [pg 174] Paestum, Pompeii, and Athens we are astonished, when contemplating Greek architecture, to see with what small masses the Greeks were able to express the sublime, and how they loved to express it thus. In the same way, how simple were the Greeks in the idea which they formed of themselves! How far we surpass them in the knowledge of man! Again, how full of labyrinths would our souls and our conceptions of our souls appear in comparison with theirs! If we had to venture upon an architecture after the style of our own souls—(we are too cowardly for that!)—a labyrinth would have to be our model. That music which is peculiar to us, and which really expresses us, lets this be clearly seen! (for in music men let themselves go, because they think there is no one who can see them hiding behind their music).
Another Point of View.—How we babble about the Greeks! What do we understand of their art, the soul of which was the passion for naked masculine beauty! It was only by starting therefrom that they appreciated feminine beauty. For the latter they had thus a perspective quite different from ours. It was the same in regard to their love for women: their worship was of a different kind, and so also was their contempt.
The Food of the Modern Man.—He has learned to digest many things; nay, almost everything; [pg 175] it is his ambition to do so. He would, however, be really of a higher order if he did not understand this so well: homo pamphagus is not the finest type of the human race. We live between a past which had a more wayward and deranged taste than we, and a future which will possibly have a more select taste,—we live too much midway.
Tragedy and Music.—Men of essentially warlike disposition, such, for example, as the ancient Greeks in the time of Æschylus, are difficult to rouse, and when pity once triumphs over their hardness they are seized as by a kind of giddiness or a “demoniacal power,”—they feel themselves overpowered and thrilled by a religious horror. After this they become sceptical about their condition; but as long as they are in it they enjoy the charm of being, as it were, outside themselves, and the delight of the marvellous mixed with the bitterest gall of suffering: this is the proper kind of drink for fighting men,—something rare, dangerous, and bitter-sweet, which does not often fall to one's lot.
Tragedy appeals to souls who feel pity in this way, to those fierce and warlike souls which are difficult to overcome, whether by fear or pity, but which lose nothing by being softened from time to time. Of what use, however, is tragedy to those who are as open to the “sympathetic affections” as the sails of a ship to the wind! When at the time of Plato the Athenians had become more [pg 176] softened and sensitive, oh, how far they were still removed from the gushing emotions of the inhabitants of our modern towns and villages! And yet even then the philosophers were beginning to complain of the injurious nature of tragedy. An epoch full of danger such as that now beginning, in which bravery and manliness are rising in value, will perhaps again harden souls to such an extent that they will once more stand in need of tragic poets: but in the meantime these are somewhat superfluous, to put it mildly. For music, too, a better age may be approaching (it will certainly be a more evil age!) when artists will have to make their music appeal to strongly individual beings, beings which will have become hard and which will be dominated by the gloomy earnestness of their own passion; but of what use is music to the little souls of the present age which is fast passing away, souls that are too unsteady, ill-developed, half-personal, inquisitive, and covetous of everything?
The Flatterers of Work.—In the glorification of “work” and the never-ceasing talk about the “blessing of labour,” I see the same secret arrière-pensée as I do in the praise bestowed on impersonal acts of a general interest, viz. a fear of everything individual. For at the sight of work—that is to say, severe toil from morning till night—we have the feeling that it is the best police, viz. that it holds every one in check and effectively hinders the development of reason, of greed, and of desire for [pg 177] independence. For work uses up an extraordinary proportion of nervous force, withdrawing it from reflection, meditation, dreams, cares, love, and hatred; it dangles unimportant aims before the eyes of the worker and affords easy and regular gratification. Thus it happens that a society where work is continually being performed will enjoy greater security, and it is security which is now venerated as the supreme deity.—And now, horror of horrors! it is the “workman” himself who has become dangerous; the whole world is swarming with “dangerous individuals,” and behind them follows the danger of dangers—the individuum!
The Moral Fashion of a Commercial Community.—Behind the principle of the present moral fashion: “Moral actions are actions performed out of sympathy for others,” I see the social instinct of fear, which thus assumes an intellectual disguise: this instinct sets forth as its supreme, most important, and most immediate principle that life shall be relieved of all the dangerous characteristics which it possessed in former times, and that every one must help with all his strength towards the attainment of this end. It is for that reason that only those actions which keep in view the general security and the feeling of security of society are called “good.” How little joy must men now have in themselves when such a tyranny of fear prescribes their supreme moral law, if they make no objection when commanded to turn their eyes [pg 178] from themselves and to look aside from themselves! And yet at the same time they have lynx eyes for all distress and suffering elsewhere! Are we not, then, with this gigantic intention of ours of smoothing down every sharp edge and corner in life, utilising the best means of turning mankind into sand! Small, soft, round, infinite sand! Is that your ideal, ye harbingers of the “sympathetic affections”? In the meantime even the question remains unanswered whether we are of more use to our neighbour in running immediately and continually to his help,—which for the most part can only be done in a very superficial way, as otherwise it would become a tyrannical meddling and changing,—or by transforming ourselves into something which our neighbour can look upon with pleasure,—something, for example, which may be compared to a beautiful, quiet, and secluded garden, protected by high walls against storms and the dust of the roads, but likewise with a hospitable gate.
Fundamental Basis of a Culture of Traders.—We have now an opportunity of watching the manifold growth of the culture of a society of which commerce is the soul, just as personal rivalry was the soul of culture among the ancient Greeks, and war, conquest, and law among the ancient Romans. The tradesman is able to value everything without producing it, and to value it according to the requirements of the consumer rather than his own personal needs. “How many [pg 179] and what class of people will consume this?” is his question of questions. Hence, he instinctively and incessantly employs this mode of valuation and applies it to everything, including the productions of art and science, and of thinkers, scholars, artists, statesmen, nations, political parties, and even entire ages: with respect to everything produced or created he inquires into the supply and demand in order to estimate for himself the value of a thing. This, when once it has been made the principle of an entire culture, worked out to its most minute and subtle details, and imposed upon every kind of will and knowledge, this is what you men of the coming century will be proud of,—if the prophets of the commercial classes are right in putting that century into your possession! But I have little belief in these prophets. Credat Judæus Apella—to speak with Horace.
The Criticism of our Ancestors.—Why should we now endure the truth, even about the most recent past? Because there is now always a new generation which feels itself in contradiction to the past and enjoys in this criticism the first-fruits of its sense of power. In former times the new generation, on the contrary, wished to base itself on the old and began to feel conscious of its power, not only in accepting the opinions of its ancestors but, if possible, taking them even more seriously. To criticise ancestral authority was in former times a vice; but at the present time our idealists begin by making it their starting-point.
To learn Solitude.—O ye poor fellows in the great centres of the world's politics, ye young and talented men, who, urged on by ambition, think it your duty to propound your opinion of every event of the day,—for something is always happening,—who, by thus making a noise and raising a cloud of dust, mistake yourselves for the rolling chariot of history; who, because ye always listen, always suit the moment when ye can put in your word or two, thereby lose all real productiveness. Whatever may be your desire to accomplish great deeds, the deep silence of pregnancy never comes to you! The event of the day sweeps you along like straws before the wind whilst ye lie under the illusion that ye are chasing the event,—poor fellows! If a man wishes to act the hero on the stage he must not think of forming part of the chorus; he should not even know how the chorus is made up.
Daily Wear and Tear.—These young men are lacking neither in character, nor talent, nor zeal, but they have never had sufficient time to choose their own path; they have, on the contrary, been habituated from the most tender age to have their path pointed out to them. At the time when they were ripe enough to be sent into the “desert,” something else was done with them. They were turned to account, estranged from themselves, and [pg 181] brought up in such a way that they became accustomed to be worn out by their daily toil. This was imposed on them as a duty, and now they cannot do without it; they would not wish it to be otherwise. The only thing that cannot be refused to these poor beasts of burden is their “holidays”—such is the name they give to this ideal of leisure in an overworked century; “holidays,” in which they may for once be idle, idiotic, and childish to their heart's content.
As little State as possible!—All political and economic matters are not of such great value that they ought to be dealt with by the most talented minds: such a waste of intellect is at bottom worse than any state of distress. These matters are, and ever will be, the province of smaller minds, and others than the smaller minds should not be at the service of this workshop: it would be better to let the machinery work itself to pieces again! But as matters stand at the present time, when not only do all people believe that they must know all about it day by day, but wish likewise to be always busy about it, and in so doing neglect their own work, it is a great and ridiculous mistake. The price that has to be paid for the “public safety” is far too high, and, what is maddest of all, we effect the very opposite of “public safety” a fact which our own dear century has undertaken to prove, as if this had never been proved before! To make society secure against thieves and fire, and to render it thoroughly fit for all kinds of trade and [pg 182] traffic, and to transform the State in a good and evil sense into a kind of Providence—these aims are low, mediocre, and not by any means indispensable; and we should not seek to attain them by the aid of the highest means and instruments which exist—means which we should reserve precisely for our highest and rarest aims! Our epoch, however much it may babble about economy, is a spendthrift: it wastes intellect, the most precious thing of all.
Wars.—The great wars of our own day are the outcome of historical study.
Governing.—Some people govern because of their passion for governing; others in order that they may not be governed,—the latter choose it as the lesser of two evils.
Rough and Ready Consistency.—People say of a man with great respect, “He is a character”—that is, when he exhibits a rough and ready consistency, when it is evident even to the dullest eye. But, whenever a more subtle and profound intellect sets itself up and shows consistency in a higher manner, the spectators deny the existence of any character. That is why cunning statesmen usually act their comedy under the cloak of a kind of rough and ready consistency.
The Old and the Young.—“There is something immoral about Parliaments,”—so many people still think,—“for in them views even against the Government may be expressed.”—“We should always adopt that view of a subject which our gracious Lord commands,”—this is the eleventh commandment in many an honest old head, especially in Northern Germany. We laugh at it as an out-of-date fashion, but in former times it was the moral law itself. Perhaps we shall again some day laugh at that which is now considered as moral by a generation brought up under a parliamentary régime, namely, the policy of placing one's party before one's own wisdom, and of answering every question concerning the public welfare in such a way as to fill the sails of the party with a favourable gust of wind. “We must take that view of a subject which the position of our party calls for”—such would be the canon. In the service of such morals we may now behold every kind of sacrifice, even martyrdom and conquest over one's self.
The State as a Production of Anarchists.—In countries inhabited by tractable men there are always a few backsliders and intractable people. For the present the latter have joined the Socialists more than any other party. If it should happen that these people once come to have the making of the laws, they may be relied upon to [pg 184] impose iron chains upon themselves, and to practise a dreadful discipline,—they know themselves! and they will endure these harsh laws with the knowledge that they themselves have imposed them—the feeling of power and of this particular power will be too recent among them and too attractive for them not to suffer anything for its sake.
Beggars.—Beggars ought to be suppressed; because we get angry both when we help them and when we do not.
Business Men.—Your business is your greatest prejudice, it binds you to your locality, your society and your tastes. Diligent in business but lazy in thought, satisfied with your paltriness and with the cloak of duty concealing this contentment: thus you live, and thus you like your children to be.
A Possible Future.—Is it impossible for us to imagine a social state in which the criminal will publicly denounce himself and dictate his own punishment, in the proud feeling that he is thus honouring the law which he himself has made, that he is exercising his power, the power of a lawmaker, in thus punishing himself? He may offend for once, but by his own voluntary punishment he raises himself above his offence, and not only expiates it by his frankness, greatness, and calmness, [pg 185] but adds to it a public benefit.—Such would be the criminal of a possible future, a criminal who would, it is true, presuppose a future legislation based upon this fundamental idea: “I yield in great things as well as in small only to the law which I myself have made.” How many experiments must yet be made! How many futures have yet to dawn upon mankind!
Stimulants and Food.—Nations are deceived so often because they are always looking for a deceiver, i.e. a stimulating wine for their senses. When they can only have this wine they are glad to put up even with inferior bread. Intoxication is to them more than nutriment—this is the bait with which they always let themselves be caught! What, to them, are men chosen from among themselves—although they may be the most expert specialists—as compared with the brilliant conquerors, or ancient and magnificent princely houses! In order that he may inspire them with faith, the demagogue must at least exhibit to them a prospect of conquest and splendour. People will always obey, and even do more than obey, provided that they can become intoxicated in doing so. We may not even offer them repose and pleasure without this laurel crown and its maddening influence.
This vulgar taste which ascribes greater importance to intoxication than nutrition did not by any means originate in the lower ranks of the [pg 186] population: it was, on the contrary, transplanted there, and on this backward soil it grows in great abundance, whilst its real origin must be sought amongst the highest intellects, where it flourished for thousands of years. The people is the last virgin soil upon which this brilliant weed can grow. Well, then, is it really to the people that we should entrust politics in order that they may thereby have their daily intoxication?
High Politics.—Whatever may be the influence in high politics of utilitarianism and the vanity of individuals and nations, the sharpest spur which urges them onwards is their need for the feeling of power—a need which rises not only in the souls of princes and rulers, but also gushes forth from time to time from inexhaustible sources in the people. The time comes again and again when the masses are ready to stake their lives and their fortunes, their consciences and their virtue, in order that they may secure that highest of all enjoyments and rule as a victorious, tyrannical, and arbitrary nation over other nations (or at all events think that they do).
On occasions such as these, feelings of prodigality, sacrifice, hope, confidence, extraordinary audacity, and enthusiasm will burst forth so abundantly that a sovereign who is ambitious or far-sighted will be able to seize the opportunity for making war, counting upon the good conscience of his people to hide his injustice. Great conquerors [pg 187] have always given utterance to the pathetic language of virtue; they have always been surrounded by crowds of people who felt themselves, as it were, in a state of exaltation and would listen to none but the most elevated oratory. The strange madness of moral judgments! When man experiences the sensation of power he feels and calls himself good; and at exactly the same time the others who have to endure his power call him evil!—Hesiod, in his fable of the epochs of man, has twice in succession depicted the same epoch, that of the heroes of Homer, and has thus made two epochs out of one: to those who lived under the terrible iron heel of those adventurous despots, or had heard their ancestors speak of them, the epoch appeared to be evil; but the descendants of those chivalric races worshipped it as the “good old times,” and as an almost ideally blissful age. The poet could thus not help doing what he did,—his audience probably included the descendants of both races.
Former German Culture.—When the Germans began to interest other European nations, which is not so very long ago, it was owing to a culture which they no longer possess to-day, and which they have indeed shaken off with a blind ardour, as if it had been some disease; and yet they have not been able to replace it by anything better than political and national lunacy. They have in this way succeeded in becoming even more interesting to other nations than they were formerly [pg 188] through their culture: and may that satisfy them! It is nevertheless undeniable that this German culture has fooled Europeans, and that it did not deserve the interest shown in it, and much less the imitation and emulation displayed by other nations in trying to rival it.
Let us look back for a moment upon Schiller, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Schleiermacher, Hegel, and Schelling; let us read their correspondence and mingle for a time with the large circle of their followers: what have they in common, what characteristics have they, that fill us, as we are now, partly with a feeling of nausea and partly with pitiful and touching emotions? First and foremost, the passion for appearing at all costs to be morally exalted, and then the desire for giving utterance to brilliant, feeble, and inconsequential remarks, together with their fixed purpose of looking upon everything (characters, passions, times, customs) as beautiful—“beautiful,” alas, in accordance with a bad and vague taste, which nevertheless pretended to be of Hellenic origin. We behold in these people a weak, good-natured, and glistening idealism, which, above all, wished to exhibit noble attitudes and noble voices, something at once presumptuous and inoffensive, and animated by a cordial aversion to “cold” or “dry” reality—as also to anatomy, complete passions, and every kind of philosophical continence and scepticism, but especially towards the knowledge of nature in so far as it was impossible to use it as religious symbolism.
Goethe, in his own characteristic fashion, observed from afar these movements of German [pg 189] culture: placing himself beyond their influence, gently remonstrating, silent, more and more confirmed in his own better course. A little later, and Schopenhauer also was an observer of these movements—a great deal of the world and devilry of the world had again been revealed to him, and he spoke of it both roughly and enthusiastically, for there is a certain beauty in this devilry! And what was it, then, that really seduced the foreigners and prevented them from viewing this movement as did Goethe and Schopenhauer, or, better, from ignoring it altogether? It was that faint lustre, that inexplicable starlight which formed a mysterious halo around this culture. The foreigners said to themselves: “This is all very very remote from us; our sight, hearing, understanding, enjoyment, and powers of valuations are lost here, but in spite of that there may be some stars! There may be something in it! Is it possible that the Germans have quietly discovered some corner of heaven and settled there? We must try to come nearer to these Germans.” So they did begin to come nearer to the Germans, while not so very long afterwards the Germans put themselves to some trouble to get rid of this starlight halo: they knew only too well that they had not been in heaven, but only in a cloud!
Better Men.—They tell me that our art is meant for the men of the present day, these greedy, unsatisfied, undisciplined, disgusted, and harassed spirits, and that it exhibits to them a picture of [pg 190] happiness, exaltation, and unworldliness beside that of their own brutality, so that for once they may forget and breathe freely; nay, perhaps find that they may derive some encouragement towards flight and conversion from that oblivion. Poor artists, with such a public as this; half of whose thoughts require the attention of a priest, and the other half the attention of an alienist! How much happier was Corneille—“Our great Corneille!” as Madame de Sévigné exclaimed, with the accent of a woman in the presence of a whole man,—how far superior was his audience, which he could please with pictures of chivalric virtues, strict duty, generous devotion, and heroic self-denial! How differently did he and they love existence, not as coming from blind and confused “will,” which we curse because we cannot destroy it; but loving existence as a place, so to speak, where greatness joined with humanity is possible, and where even the greatest restraint of form, such as submission to the caprice of priests and princes, could not suppress either the pride, chivalric feeling, the grace or the intellect of individuals, but could, on the contrary, be felt as a charm and incentive, as a welcome contrast to innate self-glorification and distinction and the inherited power of volition and passion.
The Desire for Perfect Opponents.—It cannot be denied that the French have been the most Christian nation in the world, not because the devotion of masses in France has been greater than [pg 191] elsewhere, but because those Christian ideals which are most difficult to realise have become incarnated here instead of merely remaining fancies, intentions, or imperfect beginnings. Take Pascal, for example, the greatest of all Christians in his combination of ardour, intellect, and honesty, and consider what elements had to be combined in his case! Take Fénelon, the most perfect and attractive embodiment of ecclesiastical culture in all its power: a sublime golden mean of whom a historian would be tempted to prove the impossibility, whilst in reality he was merely the perfection of something exceedingly difficult and improbable. Take Madame de Guyon among her companions, the French Quietists: and everything that the eloquence and ardour of the Apostle Paul has endeavoured to divine with regard to the Christian's state of semi-divinity, this most sublime, loving, silent, and ecstatic state is seen verified in her, without, however, that Jewish obtrusiveness that Paul showed towards God—due in the case of Madame de Guyon to the real old French artlessness in words and gestures, artlessness at once womanly, subtle, and distinguished. Consider, again, the founder of the Trappists—the last person who really took seriously the ascetic ideal of Christianity, not because he was an exception among Frenchmen, but because he was a true Frenchman: for up to our own day his gloomy organisation has not been able to acclimatise itself and to prosper, except among Frenchmen; and it has followed them into Alsace and Algeria.
Let us not forget the Huguenots, either: that [pg 192] combination of a martial and industrial spirit, refined manners and Christian severity, has never been more beautifully exhibited. And it was at Port Royal that the great Christian erudition beheld its last era of prosperity; and in France more than anywhere else great men know how to prosper. Though not at all superficial, a great Frenchman has always his apparent superficiality;—he has, so to speak, a natural skin for his real contents and depth,—while, on the other hand, the depth of a great German is generally, as it were, closed up in an ugly-shaped box, like an elixir, which, by means of a hard and curious covering, endeavours to preserve itself from the light of day and the touch of thoughtless hands. And now let us endeavour to find out why a people like the French, so prolific in perfect types of Christians, likewise necessarily brought forth the perfect contrary types, those of unchristian free-thought! The French free-thinker, in his own inward being, had to fight against truly great men, and not, like the free-thinkers of other nations, merely against dogmas and sublime abortions.
Esprit and Morals.—The German, who possesses the secret of knowing how to be tedious in spite of wit, knowledge, and feeling, and who has habituated himself to consider tediousness as moral, is in dread in the presence of French esprit lest it should tear out the eyes of morality—but a dread mingled with “fascination,” like that experienced by the little bird in the presence of the rattlesnake. [pg 193] Amongst all the celebrated Germans none possessed more esprit than Hegel, but he also had that great German dread of it which brought about his peculiar and defective style. For the nature of this style resembles a kernel, which is wrapped up so many times in an outer covering that it can scarcely peep through, now and then glancing forth bashfully and inquisitively, like “young women peeping through their veils,” to use the words of that old woman-hater, Æschylus. This kernel, however, is a witty though often impertinent joke on intellectual subjects, a subtle and daring combination of words, such as is necessary in a society of thinkers as gilding for a scientific pill—but, enveloped as it is in an almost impenetrable cover, it exhibits itself as the most abstruse science, and likewise as the worst possible moral tediousness. Here the Germans had a permissible form of esprit and they revelled in it with such boundless delight that even Schopenhauer's unusually fine understanding could not grasp it—during the whole of his life he thundered against the spectacle that the Germans offered to him, but he could never explain it.
Vanity of the Teachers of Morals.—The relatively small success which teachers of morals have met with may be explained by the fact that they wanted too much at once, i.e. they were too ambitious and too fond of laying down precepts for everybody. In other words, they were beating the air and making speeches to animals in order to [pg 194] turn them into men; what wonder, then, that the animals thought this tedious! We should rather choose limited circles and endeavour to find and promote morals for them: for instance, we should make speeches to wolves with the object of turning them into dogs; but, above all, the greatest success will remain for the man who does not seek to educate either everybody or certain limited circles, but only one single individual, and who cannot be turned to the right or left from his straight purpose. The last century was superior to ours precisely because it possessed so many individually educated men, as well as educators in the same proportion, who had made this their life's task, and who with this task were dignified not only in their own eyes but in those of all the remaining “good society.”
The so-called Classical Education.—Alas! we discover that our life is consecrated to knowledge and that we should throw it away, nay, that we should even have to throw it away if this consecration did not protect us from ourselves: we repeat this couplet, and not without deep emotion:
Thee, Fate, I follow, though I fain would not,
And yet I must, with many a sigh and groan!
And then, in looking backwards over the course of our lives, we discover that there is one thing that cannot be restored to us: the wasted period of our youth, when our teachers did not utilise these ardent and eager years to lead us to the knowledge of things, but merely to this so-called “classical education”! [pg 195] Only think of this wasted youth, when we were inoculated clumsily and painfully with an imperfect knowledge of the Greeks and Romans as well as of their languages, contrary to the highest principle of all culture, which holds that we should not give food except to those who hunger for it! Think of that period of our lives when we had mathematics and physics forced down our throats, instead of being first of all made acquainted with the despair of ignorance, instead of having our little daily life, our activities, and everything occurring in our houses, our workshops, in the sky, and in nature, split up into thousands of problems, painful, humiliating and irritating problems—and thus having our curiosity made acquainted with the fact that we first of all require a mathematical and mechanical knowledge before we can be allowed to rejoice in the absolute logic of this knowledge! If we had only been imbued with reverence for those branches of science, if we had only been made to tremble with emotion—were it only for once—at the struggles, the defeats, and the renewed combats of those great men, of the martyrdom which is the history of pure science! But, on the contrary, we were allowed to develop a certain contempt for those sciences in favour of historical training, formal education4 and “classicism.”
And we allowed ourselves to be so easily deceived! [pg 196] Formal education! Might we not have pointed to the best teachers at our high schools and asked laughingly, “Where then do they keep their formal education? and, if it is wanting in them, how can they teach it?” And classicism! Did we get any of that instruction which the ancients used to impart to their youth? Did we learn to speak or to write like them? Did we ceaselessly exercise ourselves in that duel of speech, dialectic? Did we learn to move as beautifully and proudly as they did, and to excel as they did in wrestling, throwing, and boxing? Did we learn anything of that practical asceticism of all the Greek philosophers? Did we receive any training in a single ancient virtue, and in the way in which the ancients were trained in it? Was not all meditation upon morals wanting in our education?—And how much more the only possible criticism on the subject of morality, those courageous and earnest attempts to live according to this or that morality! Did our teachers ever stir up a feeling in us which the ancients valued more highly than moderns? Did they in the spirit of the ancients indicate to us the divisions of the day and of life, and those aims by which the lives of the ancients were guided? Did we learn the ancient languages as we now learn the modern ones, viz. that we might speak them fluently and well? Nowhere can we find a real proficiency or any new faculty as the result of those toilsome years! only the knowledge of what men had learnt and were able to do in past ages!
And what knowledge! Nothing becomes clearer to me year by year than the fact that the entire [pg 197] Greek and ancient mode of life, however simple and evident it must seem to our eyes, is in truth very difficult to understand, and even scarcely accessible, and that the customary ease with which we babble about the ancients is either giddy levity or the old hereditary conceit of our thoughtlessness. We are deceived by words and ideas which appear to resemble our own, but behind them there is always concealed a feeling which must be strange, incomprehensible, or painful to our modern conceptions. And these are realms in which boys are allowed to roam about! Enough: we roamed about them in our childhood, and there we became seized with an almost ineradicable antipathy for all antiquity, the antipathy arising from an intimacy which was apparently too great! For so great is the conceit of our classical teachers, who would almost make it appear that they had gained full control over the ancients, that they pass on this conceit to their pupils, together with the suspicion that such a possession is of little use for making people happy, but is good enough for honest, foolish old book-worms. “Let them brood over their treasure: it is well worthy of them!”—It is with this unexpressed thought that we completed our classical education. It can't be changed now—for us, at all events! But let us not think of ourselves alone!
The Most Personal Questions of Truth.—What am I really doing, and what do I mean by doing it? That is the question of truth which is not taught under our present system of education, [pg 198] and consequently not asked, because there is no time for it. On the other hand, we have always time and inclination for talking nonsense with children, rather than telling them the truth; for flattering women who will later on be mothers, rather than telling them the truth; and for speaking with young men about their future and their pleasures, rather than about the truth!
But what, after all, are seventy years!—Time passes, and they soon come to an end; it matters as little to us as it does to the wave to know how and whither it is rolling! No, it might even be wisdom not to know it.
“Agreed; but it shows a want of pride not even to inquire into the matter; our culture does not tend to make people proud.”
“So much the better!”
“Is it really?”
Enmity of the Germans towards Enlightenment.—Let us consider the contributions which in the first half of this century the Germans made to general culture by their intellectual work. In the first place, let us take the German philosophers: they went back to the first and oldest stage of speculation, for they were content with conceptions instead of explanations, like the thinkers of dreamy epochs—a pre-scientific type of philosophy was thus revived by them. Secondly, we have the German historians and romanticists: their efforts on the whole aimed at restoring to the place of honour certain old and primitive sentiments, [pg 199] especially Christianity, the “soul of the people,” folk-lore, folk-speech, mediævalism, Oriental asceticism, and Hinduism. In the third place, there are the natural philosophers who fought against the spirit of Newton and Voltaire, and, like Goethe and Schopenhauer, endeavoured to re-establish the idea of a deified or diabolised nature, and of its absolute ethical and symbolical meaning. The main general tendency of the Germans was directed against enlightenment and against those social revolutions which were stupidly mistaken for the consequences of enlightenment: the piety towards everything that existed tried to become piety towards everything that had ever existed, only in order that heart and mind might be permitted to fill themselves and gush forth again, thus leaving no space for future and novel aims. The cult of feeling took the place of the cult of reason, and the German musicians, as the best exponents of all that is invisible, enthusiastic, legendary, and passionate, showed themselves more successful in building up the new temple than all the other artists in words and thoughts.
If, in considering these details, we have taken into account the fact that many good things were said and investigated, and that many things have since then been more fairly judged than on any previous occasion, there yet remains to be said of the whole that it was a general danger, and one by no means small, to set knowledge altogether below feeling under the appearance of an entire and definitive acquaintance with the past—and, to use that expression of Kant, who thus defined his own particular task—“To make way again for belief by fixing the [pg 200] limits of knowledge.” Let us once more breathe freely, the hour of this danger is past! And yet, strange to say, the very spirits which these Germans conjured up with such eloquence have at length become the most dangerous for the intentions of those who did conjure them up: history, the comprehension of origin and development, sympathy with the past, the new passion for feeling and knowledge, after they had been for a long time at the service of this obscure exalted and retrograde spirit, have once more assumed another nature, and are now soaring with outstretched wings above the heads of those who once upon a time conjured them forth, as new and stronger genii of that very enlightenment to combat which they had been resuscitated. It is this enlightenment which we have now to carry forward,—caring nothing for the fact that there has been and still is “a great revolution,” and again a great “reaction” against it: these are but playful crests of foam when compared with the truly great current on which we float, and want to float.
Assigning Prestige to one's Country.—It is the men of culture who determine the rank of their country, and they are characterised by an innumerable number of great inward experiences, which they have digested and can now value justly. In France and Italy this fell to the lot of the nobility; in Germany, where up to now the nobility has been, as a rule, composed of men who had not much intellect to boast about (perhaps this [pg 201] will soon cease to be the case), it was the task of the priests, the school teachers and their descendants.
We are Nobler.—Fidelity, generosity, concern for one's good reputation: these three qualities, combined in one sentiment, we call noble, distinguished, aristocratic; and in this respect we excel the Greeks. We do not wish to give this up at any cost under the pretext that the ancient objects of these virtues have rightly fallen in esteem, but we wish cautiously to substitute new objects for these most precious and hereditary impulses. To understand why the sentiments of the noblest Greeks must be considered as inferior and scarcely respectable in the present age, where we are still under the influence of the chivalric and feudal nobility, we must recall the words of consolation to which Ulysses gave utterance in the midst of the most humiliating situations, “Bear with it, my dear heart, bear with it! Thou hast borne with many more swinish things5 than these!” As an instance of this mythical example, consider also the tale of that Athenian officer, who, when threatened with a stick by another officer in the presence of the entire general staff, shook off his disgrace with the words, “Strike, but listen to me.” (This was Themistocles, that ingenious Ulysses of the classical [pg 202] epoch, who was just the man at the moment of disgrace to address to his “dear heart” that verse of comfort and affliction.)
The Greeks were far from making light of life and death because of an insult, as we, influenced by a hereditary spirit of chivalric adventurousness and self-devotion, are in the habit of doing; or from looking for opportunities of honourably risking life and death, as in duels; or from valuing the preservation of an unstained name (honour) more than the acquirement of an evil reputation, when the latter was compatible with glory and the feeling of power; or from remaining faithful to the prejudices and the articles of faith of a caste, when these could prevent them from becoming tyrants. For this is the ignoble secret of the good Greek aristocrat: out of sheer jealousy he treats every one of the members of his caste as being on an equal footing with himself, but he is ready at every moment to spring like a tiger on his prey—despotism. What matter lies, murders, treason, or the betrayal of his native city to him! Justice was an extremely difficult matter for people of this kind to understand—nay, justice was almost something incredible. “The just man” was to the Greeks what “the saint” was to the Christians. When Socrates, however, laid down the axiom, “The most virtuous man is the happiest,” they could not trust their ears; they thought they had heard a madman speaking. For, as a picture of the happiest man, every nobleman had in his mind the cheeky audacity and devilry of the tyrant who sacrifices everything and every one to his own exuberance and pleasure. Among people whose [pg 203] imagination secretly raved about such happiness, the worship of the State could not, of course, have been too deeply implanted—but I think that men whose desire for power does not rage so blindly as that of the Greek noblemen no longer stand in need of such idolatry of the State, by means of which, in past ages, such a passion was kept within due bounds.
Endurance of Poverty.—There is one great advantage in noble extraction: it makes us endure poverty better.
The Future of the Nobility.—The bearing of the aristocratic classes shows that, in all the members of their body the consciousness of power is continually playing its fascinating game. Thus people of aristocratic habits, men or women, never sink worn out into a chair; when every one else makes himself comfortable, as in a train, for example, they avoid reclining at their ease; they do not appear to get tired after standing at Court for hours at a stretch; they do not furnish their houses in a comfortable manner, but in such a way as to produce the impression of something grand and imposing, as if they had to serve as a residence for greater and taller beings; they reply to a provoking speech with dignity and clearness of mind, and not as if scandalised, crushed, shamed, or out of breath in the plebeian fashion. As the aristocrat is able to preserve the appearance of being possessed of a [pg 204] superior physical force which never leaves him, he likewise wishes by his aspect of constant serenity and civility of disposition, even in the most trying circumstances, to convey the impression that his mind and soul are equal to all dangers and surprises. A noble culture may resemble, so far as passions are concerned, either a horseman who takes pleasure in making his proud and fiery animal trot in the Spanish fashion,—we have only to recollect the age of Louis xiv.,—or like the rider who feels his horse dart away with him like the elemental forces, to such a degree that both horse and rider come near losing their heads, but, owing to the enjoyment of the delight, do keep very clear heads: in both these cases this aristocratic culture breathes power, and if very often in its customs only the appearance of the feeling of power is required, nevertheless the real sense of superiority continues constantly to increase as the result of the impression which this display makes upon those who are not aristocrats.
This indisputable happiness of aristocratic culture, based as it is on the feeling of superiority, is now beginning to rise to ever higher levels; for now, thanks to the free spirits, it is henceforth permissible and not dishonourable for people who have been born and reared in aristocratic circles to enter the domain of knowledge, where they may secure more intellectual consecrations and learn chivalric services even higher than those of former times, and where they may look up to that ideal of victorious wisdom which as yet no age has been able to set before itself with so good a [pg 205] conscience as the period which is about to dawn. Lastly, what is to be the occupation of the nobility in the future if it becomes more evident from day to day that it is less and less indecorus to take any part in politics?
The Care of the Health.—We have scarcely begun to devote any attention to the physiology of criminals, and yet we have already reached the inevitable conclusion that between criminals and madmen there is no really essential difference: if we suppose that the current moral fashion of thinking is a healthy way of thinking. No belief, however, is nowadays more firmly believed in than this one, so we should not therefore shrink from drawing the inevitable conclusion and treating the criminal like a lunatic—above all, not with haughty pitifulness, but with medical skill and good will. He may perhaps be in need of a change of air, a change of society, or temporary absence: perhaps of solitude and new occupations—very well! He may perhaps feel that it would be to his advantage to live under surveillance for a short time in order thus to obtain protection from himself and from a troublesome tyrannical impulse—very well! We should make clear to him the possibility and the means of curing him (the extermination, transformation, and sublimation of these impulses), and also, in the worst cases, the improbability of a cure; and we should offer to the incurable criminal, who has become a useless burden to himself, the opportunity of committing suicide. While holding this in reserve [pg 206] as an extreme measure of relief, we should neglect nothing which would tend above all to restore to the criminal his good courage and freedom of spirit; we should free his soul from all remorse, as if it were something unclean, and show him how he may atone for a wrong which he may have done some one by benefiting some one else, perhaps the community at large, in such way that he might even do more than balance his previous offence.
All this must be done with the greatest tact! The criminal must, above all, remain anonymous or adopt an assumed name, changing his place of residence frequently, so that his reputation and future life may suffer as little as possible. At the present time it is true that the man who has been injured, apart altogether from the manner in which this injury might be redressed, wishes for revenge in addition, and applies to the courts that he may obtain it—and this is why our dreadful penal laws are still in force: Justice, as it were, holding up a pair of shopkeeper's scales and endeavouring to balance the guilt by punishment; but can we not take a step beyond this? Would it not be a great relief to the general sentiment of life if, while getting rid of our belief in guilt, we could also get rid of our old craving for vengeance, and gradually come to believe that it is a refined wisdom for happy men to bless their enemies and to do good to those who have offended them, exactly in accordance with the spirit of Christian teaching! Let us free the world from this idea of sin, and take care to cast out with it the idea of punishment. May these monstrous ideas henceforth live banished far from the abodes [pg 207] of men—if, indeed, they must live at all, and do not perish from disgust with themselves.
Let us not forget also, however, that the injury caused to society and to the individual by the criminal is of the same species as that caused by the sick: for the sick spread cares and ill-humour; they are non-productive, consume the earnings of others, and at the same time require attendance, doctors, and support, and they really live on the time and strength of the healthy. In spite of this, however, we should designate as inhuman any one who, for this reason, would wish to wreak vengeance on the sick. In past ages, indeed, this was actually done: in primitive conditions of society, and even now among certain savage peoples, the sick man is treated as a criminal and as a danger to the community, and it is believed that he is the resting-place of certain demoniacal beings who have entered into his body as the result of some offence he has committed—those ages and peoples hold that the sick are the guilty!
And what of ourselves? Are we not yet ripe for the contrary conception? Shall we not be allowed to say, “The guilty are the sick”? No; the hour for that has not yet come. We still lack, above all, those physicians who have learnt something from what we have hitherto called practical morals and have transformed it into the art and science of healing. We still lack that intense interest in those things which some day perhaps may seem not unlike the “storm and stress” of those old religious ecstasies. The Churches have not yet come into the possession of those who look [pg 208] after our health; the study of the body and of dietary are not yet amongst the obligatory subjects taught in our primary and secondary schools; there are as yet no quiet associations of those people who are pledged to one another to do without the help of law courts, and who renounce the punishment and vengeance now meted out to those who have offended against society. No thinker has as yet been daring enough to determine the health of society, and of the individuals who compose it, by the number of parasites which it can support; and no statesman has yet been found to use the ploughshare in the spirit of that generous and tender saying, “If thou wilt till the land, till it with the plough; then the bird and the wolf, walking behind thy plough, will rejoice in thee—all creatures will rejoice in thee.”
Against Bad Diet.—Fie upon the meals which people nowadays eat in hotels and everywhere else where the well-off classes of society live! Even when eminent men of science meet together their tables groan under the weight of the dishes, in accordance with the principle of the bankers: the principle of too many dishes and too much to eat. The result of this is that dinners are prepared with a view to their mere appearance rather than the consequences that may follow from eating them, and that stimulating drinks are required to help in driving away the heaviness in the stomach and in the brain. Fie on the dissoluteness and extreme nervousness [pg 209] which must follow upon all this! Fie upon the dreams that such repasts bring! Fie upon the arts and books which must be the desert of such meals! Despite all the efforts of such people their acts will taste of pepper and ill-temper, or general weariness! (The wealthy classes in England stand in great need of their Christianity in order to be able to endure their bad digestions and their headaches.) Finally, to mention not only the disgusting but also the more pleasant side of the matter, these people are by no means mere gluttons: our century and its spirit of activity has more power over the limbs than the belly. What then is the meaning of these banquets? They represent! What in Heaven's name do they represent? Rank?—no, money! There is no rank now! We are all “individuals”! but money now stands for power, glory, pre-eminence, dignity, and influence; money at the present time acts as a greater or lesser moral prejudice for a man in proportion to the amount he may possess. Nobody wishes to hide it under a bushel or display it in heaps on a table: hence money must have some representative which can be put on the table—so behold our banquets!
Danæ and the God of Gold.—Whence arises this excessive impatience in our day which turns men into criminals even in circumstances which would be more likely to bring about the contrary tendency? What induces one man to use false weights, another to set his house on fire after [pg 210] having insured it for more than its value, a third to take part in counterfeiting, while three-fourths of our upper classes indulge in legalised fraud, and suffer from the pangs of conscience that follow speculation and dealings on the Stock Exchange: what gives rise to all this? It is not real want,—for their existence is by no means precarious; perhaps they have even enough to eat and drink without worrying,—but they are urged on day and night by a terrible impatience at seeing their wealth pile up so slowly, and by an equally terrible longing and love for these heaps of gold. In this impatience and love, however, we see re-appear once more that fanaticism of the desire for power which was stimulated in former times by the belief that we were in the possession of truth, a fanaticism which bore such beautiful names that we could dare to be inhuman with a good conscience (burning Jews, heretics, and good books, and exterminating entire cultures superior to ours, such as those of Peru and Mexico). The means of this desire for power are changed in our day, but the same volcano is still smouldering, impatience and intemperate love call for their victims, and what was once done “for the love of God” is now done for the love of money, i.e. for the love of that which at present affords us the highest feeling of power and a good conscience.
The People of Israel.—One of the spectacles which the next century will invite us to witness is [pg 211] the decision regarding the fate of the European Jews. It is quite obvious now that they have cast their die and crossed their Rubicon: the only thing that remains for them is either to become masters of Europe or to lose Europe, as they once centuries ago lost Egypt, where they were confronted with similar alternatives. In Europe, however, they have gone through a schooling of eighteen centuries such as no other nation has ever undergone, and the experiences of this dreadful time of probation have benefited not only the Jewish community but, even to a greater extent, the individual. As a consequence of this, the resourcefulness of the modern Jews, both in mind and soul, is extraordinary. Amongst all the inhabitants of Europe it is the Jews least of all who try to escape from any deep distress by recourse to drink or to suicide, as other less gifted people are so prone to do. Every Jew can find in the history of his own family and of his ancestors a long record of instances of the greatest coolness and perseverance amid difficulties and dreadful situations, an artful cunning in fighting with misfortune and hazard. And above all it is their bravery under the cloak of wretched submission, their heroic spernere se sperni that surpasses the virtues of all the saints.
People wished to make them contemptible by treating them contemptibly for nearly twenty centuries, and refusing them access to all honourable positions and dignities, and by pushing them further down into the meaner trades—and under this process indeed they have not become any cleaner. But contemptible? They have never ceased for a [pg 212] moment from believing themselves qualified for the very highest functions, nor have the virtues of the suffering ever ceased to adorn them. Their manner of honouring their parents and children, the rationality of their marriages and marriage customs, distinguishes them amongst all Europeans. Besides this, they have been able to create for themselves a sense of power and eternal vengeance from the very trades that were left to them (or to which they were abandoned). Even in palliation of their usury we cannot help saying that, without this occasional pleasant and useful torture inflicted on their scorners, they would have experienced difficulty in preserving their self-respect for so long. For our self-respect depends upon our ability to make reprisals in both good and evil things. Nevertheless, their revenge never urges them on too far, for they all have that liberty of mind, and even of soul, produced in men by frequent changes of place, climate, and customs of neighbours and oppressors, they possess by far the greatest experience in all human intercourse, and even in their passions they exercise the caution which this experience has developed in them. They are so certain of their intellectual versatility and shrewdness that they never, even when reduced to the direst straits, have to earn their bread by manual labour as common workmen, porters, or farm hands. In their manners we can still see that they have never been inspired by chivalric and noble feelings, or that their bodies have ever been girt with fine weapons: a certain obtrusiveness alternates with a submissiveness which is often tender and almost always painful.[pg 213]
Now, however, that they unavoidably inter-marry more and more year after year with the noblest blood of Europe, they will soon have a considerable heritage of good intellectual and physical manners, so that in another hundred years they will have a sufficiently noble aspect not to render themselves, as masters, ridiculous to those whom they will have subdued. And this is important! and therefore a settlement of the question is still premature. They themselves know very well that the conquest of Europe or any act of violence is not to be thought of; but they also know that some day or other Europe may, like a ripe fruit, fall into their hands, if they do not clutch at it too eagerly. In the meantime, it is necessary for them to distinguish themselves in all departments of European distinction and to stand in the front rank: until they shall have advanced so far as to determine themselves what distinction shall mean. Then they will be called the pioneers and guides of the Europeans whose modesty they will no longer offend.
And then where shall an outlet be found for this abundant wealth of great impressions accumulated during such an extended period and representing Jewish history for every Jewish family, this wealth of passions, virtues, resolutions, resignations, struggles, and conquests of all kinds—where can it find an outlet but in great intellectual men and works! On the day when the Jews will be able to exhibit to us as their own work such jewels and golden vessels as no European nation, with its shorter and less profound experience, can or could produce, when Israel shall have changed its eternal vengeance into [pg 214] an eternal benediction for Europe: then that seventh day will once more appear when old Jehovah may rejoice in Himself, in His creation, in His chosen people—and all, all of us, will rejoice with Him!
The Impossible Class.—Poverty, cheerfulness, and independence—it is possible to find these three qualities combined in one individual; poverty, cheerfulness, and slavery—this is likewise a possible combination: and I can say nothing better to the workmen who serve as factory slaves; presuming that it does not appear to them altogether to be a shameful thing to be utilised as they are, as the screws of a machine and the stopgaps, as it were, of the human spirit of invention. Fie on the thought that merely by means of higher wages the essential part of their misery, i.e. their impersonal enslavement, might be removed! Fie, that we should allow ourselves to be convinced that, by an increase of this impersonality within the mechanical working of a new society, the disgrace of slavery could be changed into a virtue! Fie, that there should be a regular price at which a man should cease to be a personality and become a screw instead! Are you accomplices in the present madness of nations which desire above all to produce as much as possible, and to be as rich as possible? Would it not be your duty to present a counter-claim to them, and to show them what large sums of internal value are wasted in the pursuit of such an external object?[pg 215]
But where is your internal value when you no longer know what it is to breathe freely; when you have scarcely any command over your own selves, and often feel disgusted with yourselves as with some stale food; when you zealously study the newspapers and look enviously at your wealthy neighbour, made covetous by the rapid rise and fall of power, money, and opinions; when you no longer believe in a philosophy in rags, or in the freedom of spirit of a man who has few needs; when a voluntary and idyllic poverty without profession or marriage, such as should suit the more intellectual ones among you, has become for you an object of derision? On the other hand, the piping of the Socialistic rat-catchers who wish to inspire you with foolish hopes is continually sounding in your ears: they tell you to be ready and nothing further, ready from this day to the next, so that you wait and wait for something to come from outside, though living in all other respects as you lived before—until this waiting is at length changed into hunger and thirst and fever and madness, and the clay of the bestia triumphans at last dawns in all its glory. Every one of you should on the contrary say to himself: “It would be better to emigrate and endeavour to become a master in new and savage countries, and especially to become master over myself, changing my place of abode whenever the least sign of slavery threatens me, endeavouring to avoid neither adventure nor war, and, if things come to the worst, holding myself ready to die: anything rather than continuing in this state of disgraceful thraldom, this bitterness, malice and rebelliousness!” This would [pg 216] be the proper spirit: the workmen in Europe ought to make it clear that their position as a class has become a human impossibility, and not merely, as they at present maintain, the result of some hard and aimless arrangement of society. They should bring about an age of great swarming forth from the European beehive such as has never yet been seen, protesting by this voluntary and huge migration against machines and capital and the alternatives that now threaten them either of becoming slaves of the State or slaves of some revolutionary party.
May Europe be freed from one-fourth of her inhabitants! Both she and they will experience a sensation of relief. It is only far in the distance, in the undertaking of vast colonisations, that we shall be able to observe how much rationality, fairness, and healthy suspicion mother Europe has incorporated in her sons—these sons who could no longer endure life in the home of the dull old woman, always running the danger of becoming as bad-tempered, irritable, and pleasure-seeking as she herself. The European virtues will travel along with these workmen far beyond the boundaries of Europe; and those very qualities which on their native soil had begun to degenerate into a dangerous discontent and criminal inclinations will, when abroad, be transformed into a beautiful, savage naturalness and will be called heroism; so that at last a purer air would again be wafted over this old, over-populated, and brooding Europe of ours. What would it matter if there was a scarcity of “hands”? Perhaps people would then recollect [pg 217] that they had accustomed themselves to many wants merely because it was easy to gratify them—it would be sufficient to unlearn some of these wants! Perhaps also Chinamen would be called in, and these would bring with them their modes of living and thinking, which would be found very suitable for industrious ants. They would also perhaps help to imbue this fretful and restless Europe with some of their Asiatic calmness and contemplation, and—what is perhaps most needful of all—their Asiatic stability.
The Attitude of the Germans to Morality.—A German is capable of great things, but he is unlikely to accomplish them, for he obeys whenever he can, as suits a naturally lazy intellect. If he is ever in the dangerous situation of having to stand alone and cast aside his sloth, when he finds it no longer possible to disappear like a cipher in a number (in which respect he is far inferior to a Frenchman or an Englishman), he shows his true strength: then he becomes dangerous, evil, deep, and audacious, and exhibits to the light of day that wealth of latent energy which he had previously carried hidden in himself, and in which no one, not even himself, had ever believed. When in such a case a German obeys himself—it is very exceptional for him to do so—he does so with the same heaviness, inflexibility, and endurance with which he obeys his prince and performs his official duties: so that, as I have said, he is then capable of great [pg 218] things which bear no relation to the “weak disposition” he attributes to himself.
As a rule, however, he is afraid of depending upon himself alone, he is afraid of taking the initiative: that is why Germany uses up so many officials and so much ink. Light-heartedness is a stranger to the German; he is too timid for it: but in entirely new situations which rouse him from his torpor he exhibits an almost frivolous spirit—he then delights in the novelty of his new position as if it were some intoxicating drink, and he is, as we know, quite a connoisseur in intoxication. It thus happens that the German of the present day is almost always frivolous in politics, though even here he has the advantage and prejudice of thoroughness and seriousness; and, although he may take full advantage of these qualities in negotiations with other political powers, he nevertheless rejoices inwardly at being able for once in his life to feel enthusiastic and capricious, to show his fondness for innovations, and to change persons, parties, and hopes as if they were masks. Those learned German scholars, who hitherto have been considered as the most German of Germans, were and perhaps still are as good as the German soldiers on account of their profound and almost childish inclination to obey in all external things, and on account of being often compelled to stand alone in science and to answer for many things: if they can only preserve their proud, simple, and patient disposition, and their freedom from political madness at those times when the wind changes, we may yet expect great things from them—such as they [pg 219] are or such as they were, they are the embryonic stage of something higher.
So far the advantages and disadvantages of the Germans, including even their learned men, have been that they were more given to superstition and showed greater eagerness to believe than any of the other nations; their vices are, and always have been, their drunkenness and suicidal inclinations (the latter a proof of the clumsiness of their intellect, which is easily tempted to throw away the reins). Their danger is to be sought in everything that binds down the faculties of reason and unchains the passions (as, for example, the excessive use of music and spirits), for the German passion acts contrarily to its own advantage, and is as self-destructive as the passions of the drunkard. Indeed, German enthusiasm is worth less than that of other nations, for it is barren. When a German ever did anything great it was done at a time of danger, or when his courage was high, with his teeth firmly set and his prudence on the alert, and often enough in a fit of generosity.—Intercourse with these Germans is indeed advisable, for almost every one of them has something to give, if we can only understand how to make him find it, or rather recover it (for he is very untidy in storing away his knowledge).
Well: when people of this type occupy themselves with morals, what precisely will be the morality that will satisfy them? In the first place, they will wish to see idealised in their morals their sincere instinct for obedience. “Man must have something which he can implicitly obey”—this is a German [pg 220] sentiment, a German deduction; it is the basis of all German moral teaching. How different is the impression, however, when we compare this with the entire morality of the ancient world! All those Greek thinkers, however varied they may appear to us, seem to resemble, as moralists, the gymnastic teacher who encourages his pupils by saying, “Come, follow me! Submit to my discipline! Then perhaps you may carry off the prize from all the other Greeks.” Personal distinction: such was the virtue of antiquity. Submission, obedience, whether public or private: such is German virtue. Long before Kant set forth his doctrine of the Categorical Imperative, Luther, actuated by the same impulse, said that there surely must be a being in whom man could trust implicitly—it was his proof of the existence of God; it was his wish, coarser and more popular than that of Kant, that people should implicitly obey a person and not an idea, and Kant also finally took his roundabout route through morals merely that he might secure obedience for the person. This is indeed the worship of the German, the more so as there is now less worship left in his religion.
The Greeks and Romans had other opinions on these matters, and would have laughed at such “there must be a being”: it is part of the boldness of their Southern nature to take up a stand against “implicit belief,” and to retain in their inmost heart a trace of scepticism against all and every one, whether God, man, or idea. The thinker of antiquity went even further, and said nil admirari: in this phrase he saw reflected all philosophy. A [pg 221] German, Schopenhauer, goes so far in the contrary direction as to say: admirari id est philosophari. But what if, as happens now and then, the German should attain to that state of mind which would enable him to perform great things? if the hour of exception comes, the hour of disobedience? I do not think Schopenhauer is right in saying that the single advantage the Germans have over other nations is that there are more atheists among them than elsewhere; but I do know this: whenever the German reaches the state in which he is capable of great things, he invariably raises himself above morals! And why should he not? Now he has something new to do, viz. to command—either himself or others! But this German morality of his has not taught him how to command! Commanding has been forgotten in it.
A Question of Conscience.—“Now, in summa, tell me what this new thing is that you want.”—“We no longer wish causes to be sinners and effects to be executioners.”
The Utility of the strictest Theories.—People are indulgent towards a man's moral weaknesses, and in this connection they use a coarse sieve, provided that he always professes to hold the most strict moral theories. On the other hand, the lives of free-thinking moralists have always been examined closely through a microscope, in the tacit belief that an error in their lives would be the best argument against their disagreeable knowledge.6
The “Thing in Itself.”—We used to ask formerly: What is the ridiculous?—as if there were something above and beyond ourselves that possessed the quality of provoking laughter, and we exhausted ourselves in trying to guess what it was (a theologian even held that it might be “the naïveté of sin”). At the present time we ask: What is laughter? how does it arise? We have considered the point, and finally reached the conclusion that there is nothing which is good, beautiful, sublime, or evil in itself; but rather that there are conditions of soul which lead us to attribute such qualities to things outside ourselves and in us. We have taken back their predicates from things; or we have at all events recollected that we have merely lent the things these predicates. Let us be careful that this insight does not cause us to lose the faculty of lending, and that we do not become at the same time wealthier and more avaricious.
To those who Dream of Immortality.—So you desire the everlasting perpetuity of this beautiful consciousness of yourselves? Is it not [pg 225] shameful? Do you forget all those other things which would in their turn have to support you for all eternity, just as they have borne with you up to the present with more than Christian patience? Or do you think that you can inspire them with an eternally pleasant feeling towards yourself? A single immortal man on earth would imbue everyone around him with such a disgust for him that a general epidemic of murder and suicide would be brought about. And yet, ye petty dwellers on earth, with your narrow conceptions of a few thousand little minutes of time, ye would wish to be an everlasting burden on this everlasting universal existence! Could anything be more impertinent? After all, however, let us be indulgent towards a being of seventy years: he has not been able to exercise his imagination in conceiving his own “eternal tediousness”—he had not time enough for that!
Wherein we know Ourselves.—As soon as one animal sees another it mentally compares itself with it; and men of uncivilised ages did the same. The consequence is that almost all men come to know themselves only as regards their defensive and offensive faculties.
Men whose Lives have been Failures.—Some men are built of such stuff that society is at liberty to do what it likes with them—they will do well in any case, and will not have to complain of [pg 226] having failed in life. Other men are formed of such peculiar material—it need not be a particularly noble one, but simply rarer—that they are sure to fare ill except in one single instance: when they can live according to their own designs,—in all other cases the injury has to be borne by society. For everything that seems to the individual to be a wasted or blighted life, his entire burden of discouragement, powerlessness, sickness, irritation, covetousness, is attributed by him to society—and thus a heavy, vitiated atmosphere is gradually formed round society, or, in the most favourable cases, a thundercloud.
What Indulgence!—You suffer, and call upon us to be indulgent towards you, even when in your suffering you are unjust towards things and men! But what does our indulgence matter! You, however, should take greater precautions for your own sake! That's a nice way of compensating yourself for your sufferings, by imposing still further suffering on your own judgment! Your own revenge recoils upon yourselves when you start reviling something: you dim your own eyes in this way, and not the eyes of others; you accustom yourself to looking at things in the wrong way, and with a squint.
The Morality of Victims.—“Enthusiastic sacrifice,” “self-immolation”—these are the catch-words of your morality, and I willingly believe that [pg 227] you, as you say, “mean it honestly”: but I know you better than you know yourselves, if your “honesty” is capable of going arm in arm with such a morality. You look down from the heights of this morality upon that other sober morality which calls for self-control, severity, and obedience; you even go so far as to call it egoistic—and you are indeed frank towards yourselves in saying that it displeases you—it must displease you! For, in sacrificing and immolating yourselves with such enthusiasm, you delight in the intoxication of the thought that you are now one with the powerful being, God or man, to whom you are consecrating yourselves: you revel in the feeling of his power, which is again attested by this sacrifice.
In reality, however, you only appear to sacrifice yourselves; for your imagination turns you into gods and you enjoy yourselves as such. Judged from the point of view of this enjoyment, how poor and feeble must that other “egoistic” morality of obedience, duty, and reason seem to you: it is displeasing to you because in this instance true self-sacrifice and self-surrender are called for, without the victim thinking himself to be transformed into a god, as you do. In a word, you want intoxication and excess, and this morality which you despise takes up a stand against intoxication and excess—no wonder it causes you some displeasure!
Evil People and Music.—Should the full bliss of love, which consists in unlimited confidence, [pg 228] ever have fallen to the lot of persons other than those who are profoundly suspicious, evil, and bitter? For such people enjoy in this bliss the gigantic, unlooked-for, and incredible exception of their souls! One day they are seized with that infinite, dreamy sensation which is entirely opposed to the remainder of their private and public life, like a delicious enigma, full of golden splendour, and impossible to be described by mere words or similes. Implicit confidence makes them speechless—there is even a species of suffering and heaviness in this blissful silence; and this is why souls that are overcome with happiness generally feel more grateful to music than others and better ones do: for they see and hear through music, as through a coloured mist, their love becoming, as it were, more distant, more touching, and less heavy. Music is the only means that such people have of observing their extraordinary condition and of becoming aware of its presence with a feeling of estrangement and relief. When the sound of music reaches the ears of every lover he thinks: “It speaks of me, it speaks in my stead; it knows everything!”
The Artist.—The Germans wish to be transported by the artist into a state of dreamy passion; by his aid the Italians wish to rest from their real passions; the French wish him to give them an opportunity of showing their judgment and of making speeches. So let us be just!
To deal like an Artist with One's Weaknesses.—If we must positively have weaknesses and come in the end to look upon them as laws beyond ourselves, I wish that everybody may be possessed of as much artistic capacity as will enable him to set off his virtues by means of his weaknesses, and to make us, through his weaknesses, desirous of acquiring his virtues: a power which great musicians have possessed in quite an exceptional degree. How frequently do we notice in Beethoven's music a coarse, dogmatic, and impatient tone; in Mozart, the joviality of an honest man, whose heart and mind have not overmuch to give us; in Richard Wagner, an abrupt and aggressive restlessness, in the midst of which, just as the most patient listener is on the point of losing his temper, the composer regains his powers, and likewise the others. Through their very weaknesses, these musicians have created in us an ardent desire for their virtues, and have given us a palate which is ten times more sensitive to every note of this tuneful intellect, tuneful beauty, and tuneful goodness.
Deceit in Humiliation.—By your foolishness you have done a great wrong to your neighbour and destroyed his happiness irretrievably—and then, having overcome your vanity, you humble yourself before him, surrender your foolishness to his contempt, and fancy that, after this difficult [pg 230] scene, which is an exceedingly painful one for you, everything has been set right, that your own voluntary loss of honour compensates your neighbour for the injury you have done to his happiness. With this feeling you take your leave comforted, believing that your virtue has been re-established.
Your neighbour, however, suffers as intensely as before. He finds nothing to comfort him in the fact that you have been irrational and have told him so: on the contrary, he remembers the painful appearance you presented to him when you were disparaging yourself in his presence—it is as if another wound had been inflicted on him. He does not think of revenging himself, however; and cannot conceive how a proper balance can be struck between you and him. In point of fact, you have been acting that scene for yourself and before yourself: you invited a witness to be present, not on his account, but on your own—don't deceive yourself!
Dignity and Timidity.—Ceremonies, official robes and court dresses, grave countenances, solemn aspects, the slow pace, involved speech—everything, in short, known as dignity—are all pretences adopted by those who are timid at heart: they wish to make themselves feared (themselves or the things they represent). The fearless (i.e. originally those who naturally inspire others with awe) have no need of dignity and ceremonies: they bring into repute—or, still more, into ill-repute—honesty and straightforward words and bearing, [pg 231] as characteristics of their self-confident awefulness.
The Morality of Sacrifice.—The morality which is measured by the spirit of sacrifice is that of a semi-civilised state of society. Reason in this instance gains a hard-fought and bloody victory within the soul; for there are powerful contrary instincts to be overcome. This cannot be brought about without the cruelty which the sacrifices to cannibal gods demand.
Where Fanaticism is to be Desired.—Phlegmatic natures can be rendered enthusiastic only by being fanaticised.
The Dreaded Eye.—Nothing is dreaded more by artists, poets, and writers than the eye which sees through their little deceptions and subsequently notices how often they have stopped at the boundary where the paths branch off either to innocent delight in themselves or to the straining after effect; the eye which checks them when they try to sell little things dear, or when they try to exalt and adorn without being exalted themselves; the eye which, despite all the artifices of their art, sees the thought as it first presented itself to them, perhaps as a charming vision of light, perhaps also, however, as a theft from the whole world, or as an everyday conception which they had to expand, contract, [pg 232] colour, wrap up, and spice, in order to make something out of it, instead of the thought making something out of them.—Oh, this eye, which sees in your work all your restlessness, inquisitiveness, and covetousness, your imitation and exaggeration (which is only envious imitation) which knows both your blush of shame and your skill in concealing it from others and interpreting it to yourselves!
The “Edifying” Element in our Neighbour's Misfortune.—He is in distress, and straightway the “compassionate” ones come to him and depict his misfortune to him. At last they go away again, satisfied and elevated, after having gloated over the unhappy man's misfortune and their own, and spent a pleasant Sunday afternoon.
To be quickly Despised.—A man who speaks a great deal, and speaks quickly, soon sinks exceedingly low in our estimation, even when he speaks rationally—not only to the extent that he annoys us personally, but far lower. For we conjecture how great a burden he has already proved to many other people, and we thus add to the discomfort which he causes us all the contempt which we presume he has caused to others.
Relations with Celebrities.—A. But why do you shun this great man?—B. I should not like [pg 233] to misunderstand him. Our defects are incompatible with one another: I am short-sighted and suspicious, and he wears his false diamonds as willingly as his real ones.
The Chain-Wearers.—Beware of all those intellects which are bound in chains! clever women, for example, who have been banished by fate to narrow and dull surroundings, amid which they grow old. True, there they lie in the sun, apparently lazy and half-blind; but at every unknown step, at everything unexpected, they start up to bite: they revenge themselves on everything that has escaped their kennel.
Revenge in Praise.—Here we have a written page which is covered with praise, and you call it flat; but when you find out that revenge is concealed in this praise you will find it almost too subtle, and you will experience a great deal of pleasure in its numerous delicate and bold strokes and similes. It is not the man himself, but his revenge, which is so subtle, rich, and ingenious: he himself is scarcely aware of it.
Pride.—Ah, not one of you knows the feeling of the tortured man after he has been put to the torture, when he is being carried back to his cell, and his secret with him!—he still holds it in a stubborn and tenacious grip. What know ye of the exultation of human pride?
“Utilitarian.”—At the present time men's sentiments on moral things run in such labyrinthic paths that, while we demonstrate morality to one man by virtue of its utility, we refute it to another on account of this utility.
On German Virtue.—How degenerate in its taste, how servile to dignities, ranks, uniforms, pomp, and splendour must a nation have been, when it began to consider the simple as the bad, the simple man (schlicht) as the bad man (schlecht)! We should always oppose the moral bumptiousness of the Germans with this one little word “bad,” and nothing else.
From a Dispute.—A. Friend, you have talked yourself hoarse.—B. Then I am refuted, so let's drop the subject.
The “Conscientious” Ones.—Have you noticed the kind of men who attach the greatest value to the most scrupulous conscientiousness? Those who are conscious of many mean and petty sentiments, who are anxiously thinking of and about themselves, are afraid of others, and are desirous of concealing their inmost feelings as far as possible. They endeavour to impose upon themselves by means of this strict conscientiousness [pg 235] and rigorousness of duty, and by the stern and harsh impression which others, especially their inferiors, cannot fail to receive of them.
Dread of Fame.—A. The endeavour to avoid one's renown, the intentional offending of one's panegyrists, the dislike of hearing opinions about one's self, and all through fear of renown: instances like these are to be met with; they actually exist—believe it or not!—B. They are found, no doubt! They exist! A little patience, Sir Arrogance!
Refusing Thanks.—We are perfectly justified in refusing a request, but it is never right to refuse thanks—or, what comes to the same thing, to accept them coldly and conventionally. This gives deep offence—and why?
Punishment.—A strange thing, this punishment of ours! It does not purify the criminal; it is not a form of expiation; but, on the contrary, it is even more defiling than the crime itself.
Party Grievances.—In almost every party there is a ridiculous, but nevertheless somewhat dangerous grievance. The sufferers from it are those who have long been the faithful and honourable upholders of the doctrine propagated by the [pg 236] party, and who suddenly remark that one day a much stronger figure than themselves has got the ear of the public. How can they bear being reduced to silence? So they raise their voices, sometimes changing their notes.
Striving for Gentleness.—When a vigorous nature has not an inclination towards cruelty, and is not always preoccupied with itself; it involuntarily strives after gentleness—this is its distinctive characteristic. Weak natures, on the other hand, have a tendency towards harsh judgments—they associate themselves with the heroes of the contempt of mankind, the religious or philosophical traducers of existence, or they take up their position behind strict habits and punctilious “callings”: in this way they seek to give themselves a character and a kind of strength. This is likewise done quite involuntarily.
A Hint to Moralists.—Our musicians have made a great discovery. They have found out that interesting ugliness is possible even in their art; this is why they throw themselves with such enthusiastic intoxication into this ocean of ugliness, and never before has it been so easy to make music. It is only now that we have got the general, dark-coloured background, upon which every luminous ray of fine music, however faint, seems tinged with golden emerald lustre; it is only now that we dare to inspire our audience with feelings [pg 237] of impetuosity and indignation, taking away their breath, so to speak, in order that we may afterwards, in an interval of restful harmony, inspire them with a feeling of bliss which will be to the general advantage of a proper appreciation of music.
We have discovered the contrast: it is only now that the strongest effects are possible—and cheap. No one bothers any more about good music. But you must hurry up! When any art has once made this discovery, it has but a short space of time to live.—Oh, if only our thinkers could probe into the depths of the souls of our musicians when listening to their music! How long we must wait until we again have an opportunity of surprising the inward man in the very act of his evil doing, and his innocence of this act! For our musicians have not the slightest suspicion that it is their own history, the history of the disfigurement of the soul, which they are transposing into music. In former times a good musician was almost forced by the exigencies of his art to become a good man—and now!
The Morality of the Stage.—The man who imagines that the effect of Shakespeare's plays is a moral one, and that the sight of Macbeth irresistibly induces us to shun the evil of ambition, is mistaken, and he is mistaken once more if he believes that Shakespeare himself thought so. He who is truly obsessed by an ardent ambition takes delight in beholding this picture of himself; and when the hero is driven to destruction by his passion, this is [pg 238] the most pungent spice in the hot drink of this delight. Did the poet feel this in another way? How royally and with how little of the knave in him does his ambitious hero run his course from the moment of his great crime! It is only from this moment that he becomes “demoniacally” attractive, and that he encourages similar natures to imitate him.—There is something demoniacal here: something which is in revolt against advantage and life, in favour of a thought and an impulse. Do you think that Tristan and Isolde are warnings against adultery, merely because adultery has resulted in the death of both of them? This would be turning poets upside down, these poets who, especially Shakespeare, are in love with the passions in themselves, and not less so with the readiness for death which they give rise to: this mood in which the heart no more clings to life than a drop of water does to the glass. It is not the guilt and its pernicious consequences which interests these poets—Shakespeare as little as Sophocles (in the Ajax, Philoctetes, Œdipus)—however easy it might have been in the cases just mentioned to make the guilt the lever of the play, it was carefully avoided by the poets.
In the same way the tragic poet by his images of life does not wish to set us against life. On the contrary, he exclaims; “It is the charm of charms, this exciting, changing, and dangerous existence of ours, so often gloomy and so often bathed in sun! Life is an adventure—whichever side you may take in life it will always retain this character!”—Thus speaks the poet of a restless and vigorous age, an age which is almost intoxicated and [pg 239] stupefied by its superabundance of blood and energy, in an age more evil than our own: and this is why it is necessary for us to adapt and accommodate ourselves first to the purpose of a Shakespearian play, that is, by misunderstanding it.
Fear and Intelligence.—If that which is now expressly maintained is true, viz. that the cause of the black pigment of the skin must not be sought in light, might this phenomenon perhaps be the ultimate effect of frequent fits of passion accumulated for century after century (and an afflux of blood under the skin)? while in other and more intelligent races the equally frequent spasms of fear and blanching may have resulted in the white colour of the skin?—For the degree of timidity is the standard by which the intelligence may be measured; and the fact that men give themselves up to blind anger is an indication that their animal nature is still near the surface, and is longing for an opportunity to make its presence felt once more. Thus a brownish-grey would probably be the primitive colour of man—something of the ape and the bear, as is only proper.
Independence.—Independence (which in its weakest form is called “freedom of thought”) is the type of resignation which the tyrannical man ends by accepting—he who for a long time had [pg 240] been looking for something to govern, but without finding anything except himself.
The two Courses.—When we endeavour to examine the mirror in itself we discover in the end that we can detect nothing there but the things which it reflects. If we wish to grasp the things reflected we touch nothing in the end but the mirror.—This is the general history of knowledge.
Delight in Reality.—Our present inclination to take delight in reality—for almost every one of us possesses it—can only be explained by the fact that we have taken delight in the unreal for such a long time that we have got tired of it. This inclination in its present form, without choice and without refinement, is not without danger—its least danger is its want of taste.
The Subtlety of the Feeling of Power.—Napoleon was greatly mortified at the fact that he could not speak well, and he did not deceive himself in this respect: but his thirst for power, which never despised the slightest opportunity of showing itself, and which was still more subtle than his subtle intellect, led him to speak even worse than he might have done. It was in this way that he revenged himself upon his own mortification (he was jealous [pg 241] of all his emotions because they possessed power) in order to enjoy his autocratic pleasure.
He enjoyed this pleasure a second time in respect to the ears and judgment of his audience, as if it were good enough for them to be addressed in this way. He even secretly enjoyed the thought of bewildering their judgment and good taste by the thunder and lightning of his highest authority—that authority which lies in the union of power and genius—while both his judgment and his good taste held fast proudly and indifferently to the truth that he did not speak well.—Napoleon, as the complete and fully developed type of a single instinct, belongs to ancient humanity, whose characteristic—the simple construction and ingenious development and realisation of a single motive or a small number of motives—may be easily enough recognised.
Aristotle and Marriage.—Insanity makes its appearance in the children of great geniuses, and stupidity in those of the most virtuous—so says Aristotle. Did he mean by this to invite exceptional men to marry?
The Origin of a bad Temperament.—Injustice and instability in the minds of certain men, their disordered and immoderate manner, are the ultimate consequences of the innumerable logical inexactitudes, superficialities, and hasty conclusions of which their ancestors have been guilty. Men of a good temperament, on the other hand, are descended [pg 242] from solid and meditative races which have set a high value upon reason—whether for praiseworthy or evil purposes is of no great importance.
Dissimulation as a Duty.—Kindness has been best developed by the long dissimulation which endeavoured to appear as kindness: wherever great power existed the necessity for dissimulation of this nature was recognised—it inspires security and confidence, and multiplies the actual sum of our physical power. Falsehood, if not actually the mother, is at all events the nurse of kindness. In the same way, honesty has been brought to maturity by the need for a semblance of honesty and integrity: in hereditary aristocracies. The persistent exercise of such a dissimulation ends by bringing about the actual nature of the thing itself: the dissimulation in the long run suppresses itself, and organs and instincts are the unexpected fruits in this garden of hypocrisy.
Who, then, is ever Alone.—The faint-hearted wretch does not know what it means to be lonely. An enemy is always prowling in his tracks. Oh, for the man who could give us the history of that subtle feeling called loneliness!
Night and Music.—It was only at night time, and in the semi-obscurity of dark forests and caverns, that the ear, the organ of fear, was able to [pg 243] develop itself so well, in accordance with the mode of living of the timid—that is, the longest human epoch which has ever yet existed: when it is clear daylight the ear is less necessary. Hence the character of music, which is an art of night and twilight.
Stoical.—The Stoic experiences a certain sense of cheerfulness when he feels oppressed by the ceremonial which he has prescribed for himself: he enjoys himself then as a ruler.
Consider.—The man who is being punished is no longer he who has done the deed. He is always the scapegoat.
Appearance.—Alas! what must be best and most resolutely proved is appearance itself; for only too many people lack eyes to observe it. But it is so tiresome!
Those who Anticipate.—What distinguishes poetic natures, but is also a danger for them, is their imagination, which exhausts itself in advance: which anticipates what will happen or what may happen, which enjoys and suffers in advance, and which at the final moment of the event or the action is already fatigued. Lord Byron, who was only too familiar with this, wrote in his diary: “If ever [pg 244] I have a son he shall choose a very prosaic profession—that of a lawyer or a pirate.”
Conversation on Music.—
A. What do you say to that music?
B. It has overpowered me, I can say nothing about it. Listen! there it is beginning again.
A. All the better! This time let us do our best to overpower it. Will you allow me to add a few words to this music? and also to show you a drama which perhaps at your first hearing you did not wish to observe?
B. Very well, I have two ears and even more if necessary; move up closer to me.
A. We have not yet heard what he wishes to say to us, up to the present he has only promised to say something—something as yet unheard, so he gives us to understand by his gestures, for they are gestures. How he beckons! How he raises himself up! How he gesticulates! and now the moment of supreme tension seems to have come to him: two more fanfares, and he will present us with his superb and splendidly-adorned theme, rattling, as it were, with precious stones.
Is it a handsome woman? or a beautiful horse? Enough, he looks about him as if enraptured, for he must assemble looks of rapture. It is only now that his theme quite pleases him: it is only now that he becomes inventive and risks new and audacious features. How he forces out his theme! Ah, take care!—he not only understands how to [pg 245] adorn, but also how to gloss it over! Yes, he knows what the colour of health is, and he knows how to make it up,—he is more subtle in his self-consciousness than I thought. And now he is convinced that he has convinced his hearers; he sets off his impromptus as if they were the most important things under the sun: he points to his theme with an insolent finger as if it were too good for this world.—Ah, how distrustful he is! He is afraid we may get tired!—that is why he buries his melody in sweet notes.—Now he even appeals to our coarser senses that he may excite us and thus get us once again into his power. Listen to him as he conjures up the elementary force of tempestuous and thundering rhythms!
And now that he sees that these things have captivated our attention, strangle us, and almost overwhelm us, he once again ventures to introduce his theme amidst this play of the elements in order to convince us, confused and agitated as we are, that our confusion and agitation are the effects of his miraculous theme. And from now onwards his hearers believe in him: as soon as the theme is heard once more they are reminded of its thrilling elementary effects. The theme profits by this recollection—now it has become demoniacal! What a connoisseur of the soul he is! He gains command over us by all the artifices of the popular orator. But the music has stopped again.
B. And I am glad of it; for I could no longer bear listening to your observations! I should prefer ten times over to let myself be deceived to knowing the truth once after your version.[pg 246]
A. That is just what I wished to hear from you. The best people now are just like you: you are quite content to let yourselves be deceived. You come here with coarse, lustful ears, and you do not bring with you your conscience of the art of listening. On the way here you have cast away your intellectual honesty, and thus you corrupt both art and artists. Whenever you applaud and cheer you have in your hands the conscience of the artists—and woe to art if they get to know that you cannot distinguish between innocent and guilty music! I do not indeed refer to “good” and “bad” music—we meet with both in the two kinds of music mentioned! but I call innocent music that which thinks only of itself and believes only in itself, and which on account of itself has forgotten the world at large—this spontaneous expression of the most profound solitude which speaks of itself and with itself, and has entirely forgotten that there are listeners, effects, misunderstandings and failures in the world outside. In short, the music which we have just heard is precisely of this rare and noble type; and everything I said about it was a fable—pardon my little trick if you will!
B. Oh, then you like this music, too? In that case many sins shall be forgiven you!
The Happiness of the Evil Ones.—These silent, gloomy, and evil men possess a peculiar something which you cannot dispute with them—an [pg 247] uncommon and strange enjoyment in the dolce far niente; a sunset and evening rest, such as none can enjoy but a heart which has been too often devoured, lacerated, and poisoned by the passions.
Words Present in our Minds.—We always express our thoughts with those words which lie nearest to hand. Or rather, if I may reveal my full suspicion; at every moment we have only the particular thought for the words that are present in our minds.
Flattering the Dog.—You have only to stroke this dog's coat once, and he immediately splutters and gives off sparks like any other flatterer—and he is witty in his own way. Why should we not endure him thus?
The Quondam Panegyrist.—“He has now become silent now in regard to me, although he knows the truth and could tell it; but it would sound like vengeance—and he values truth so highly, this honourable man!”
The Amulet of Dependent Men.—He who is unavoidably dependent upon some master ought to possess something by which he can inspire his master with fear, and keep him in check: integrity, for example, or probity, or an evil tongue.
Why so Sublime!—Oh, I know them well this breed of animals! Certainly it pleases them better to walk on two legs “like a god”—but it pleases me better when they fall back on their four feet. This is incomparably more natural for them!
The Demon of Power.—Neither necessity nor desire, but the love of power, is the demon of mankind. You may give men everything possible—health, food, shelter, enjoyment—but they are and remain unhappy and capricious, for the demon waits and waits; and must be satisfied. Let everything else be taken away from men, and let this demon be satisfied, and then they will nearly be happy—as happy as men and demons can be; but why do I repeat this? Luther has already said it, and better than I have done, in the verses:
“And though they take our life,
Goods, honour, children, wife,
Yet is their profit small,
These things shall vanish all,
The Kingdom it remaineth.”
The Kingdom! there it is again!7
Contradiction Incarnate and Animated.—There is a physiological contradiction in what is [pg 249] called genius: genius possesses on the one hand a great deal of savage disorder and involuntary movement, and on the other hand a great deal of superior activity in this movement. Joined to this a genius possesses a mirror which reflects the two movements beside one another, and within one another, but often opposed to one another. Genius in consequence of this sight is often unhappy, and if it feels its greatest happiness in creating, it is because it forgets that precisely then, with the highest determinate activity, it does something fantastic and irrational (such is all art) and cannot help doing it.
Deceiving One's Self.—Envious men with a discriminating intuition endeavour not to become too closely acquainted with their rivals in order that they may feel themselves superior to them.
There is a Time for the Theatre.—When the imagination of a people begins to diminish, there arises the desire to have its legends represented on the stage: it then tolerates the coarse substitutes for imagination. In the age of the epic rhapsodist, however, the theatre itself, and the actor dressed up as a hero, form an obstacle in the path of the imagination instead of acting as wings for it—too near, too definite, too heavy, and with too little of dreamland and the flights of birds about them.
Without Charm.—He lacks charm and knows it. Ah, how skilful he is in masking this defect! He does it by a strict virtue, gloomy looks, and acquired distrust of all men, and of existence itself; by coarse jests, by contempt for a more refined manner of living, by pathos and pretensions, and by a cynical philosophy—yea, he has even developed into a character through the continual knowledge of his deficiency.
Why so Proud?—A noble character is distinguished from a vulgar one by the fact that the latter has not at ready command a certain number of habits and points of view like the former: fate willed that they should not be his either by inheritance or by education.
The Orator's Scylla and Charybdis.—How difficult it was in Athens to speak in such a way as to win over the hearers to one's cause without repelling them at the same time by the form in which one's speech was cast, or withdrawing their attention from the cause itself by this form! How difficult it still is to write thus in France!
Sick People and Art.—For all kinds of sadness and misery of soul we should first of all try [pg 251] a change of diet and severe manual labour; but in such cases men are in the habit of having recourse to mental intoxicants, to art for example—which is both to their own detriment and that of art! Can you not see that when you call for art as sick people you make the artists themselves sick?
Apparent Toleration.—Those are good, benevolent, and rational words on and in favour of science, but, alas! I see behind these words your toleration of science. In a corner of your inmost mind you think, in spite of all you say, that it is not necessary for you, that it shows magnanimity on your part to admit and even to advocate it, more especially as science on its part does not exhibit this magnanimity in regard to your opinion! Do you know that you have no right whatever to exercise this toleration? that this condescension of yours is an even coarser disparagement of science than any of that open scorn which a presumptuous priest or artist might allow himself to indulge in towards science? What is lacking in you is a strong sense for everything that is true and actual, you do not feel grieved and worried to find that science is in contradiction to your own sentiments, you are unacquainted with that intense desire for knowledge ruling over you like a law, you do not feel a duty in the need of being present with your own eyes wherever knowledge exists, and to let nothing that is “known” escape you. You do not know that which you are treating with such toleration! and [pg 252] it is only because you do not know it that you can succeed in adopting such a gracious attitude towards it. You, forsooth, would look upon science with hatred and fanaticism if it for once cast its shining and illuminating glance upon you! What does it matter to us, then, if you do exhibit toleration—and towards a phantom! and not even towards us!—and what do we matter!
Festive Moods.—It is exactly those men who aspire most ardently towards power who feel it indescribably agreeable to be overpowered! to sink suddenly and deeply into a feeling as into a whirlpool! To suffer the reins to be snatched out of their hand, and to watch a movement which takes them they know not where! Whatever or whoever may be the person or thing that renders us this service, it is nevertheless a great service: we are so happy and breathless, and feel around us an exceptional silence, as if we were in the most central bowels of the earth. To be for once entirely powerless! the plaything of the elementary forces of nature! There is a restfulness in this happiness, a casting away of the great burden, a descent without fatigue, as if one had been given up to the blind force of gravity.
This is the dream of the mountain climber, who, although he sees his goal far above him, nevertheless falls asleep on the way from utter exhaustion, and dreams of the happiness of the contrast—this effortless rolling down hill. I describe happiness [pg 253] as I imagine it to be in our present-day society, the badgered, ambitious society of Europe and America. Now and then they wish to fall back into impotence—this enjoyment is offered them by wars, arts, religions, and geniuses. When a man has temporarily abandoned himself to a momentary impression which devours and crushes everything—and this is the modern festive mood—he afterwards becomes freer, colder, more refreshed, and more strict, and again strives tirelessly after the contrary of all this: power.
The Purification of Races.—It is probable that there are no pure races, but only races which have become purified, and even these are extremely rare.8 We more often meet with crossed races, among whom, together with the defects in the harmony of the bodily forms (for example when the eyes do not accord with the mouth) we necessarily always find defects of harmony in habits and appreciations. (Livingstone heard some one say, “God created white and black men, but the devil created the half-castes.”)
Crossed races are always at the same time crossed [pg 254] cultures and crossed moralities: they are, as a rule, more evil, cruel, and restless. Purity is the final result of innumerable adjustments, absorptions, and eliminations; and progress towards purity in a race is shown by the fact that the latent strength in the race is more and more restricted to a few special functions, whilst it formerly had to carry out too many and often contradictory things. Such a restriction will always have the appearance of an impoverishment, and must be judged with prudence and moderation. In the long run, however, when the process of purification has come to a successful termination, all those forces which were formerly wasted in the struggle between the disharmonious qualities are at the disposal of the organism as a whole, and this is why purified races have always become stronger and more beautiful.—The Greeks may serve us as a model of a purified race and culture!—and it is to be hoped that some day a pure European race and culture may arise.
Praise.—Here is some one who, you perceive, wishes to praise you: you bite your lips and brace up your heart: Oh, that that cup might go hence! But it does not, it comes! let us therefore drink the sweet impudence of the panegyrist, let us overcome the disgust and profound contempt that we feel for the innermost substance of his praise, let us assume a look of thankful joy—for he wished to make himself agreeable to us! And now that it is all over we know [pg 255] that he feels greatly exalted; he has been victorious over us. Yes, and also over himself, the villain!—for it was no easy matter for him to wring this praise from himself.
The Rights and Privileges of Man.—We human beings are the only creatures who, when things do not go well with us, can blot ourselves out like a clumsy sentence,—whether we do so out of honour for humanity or pity for it, or on account of the aversion we feel towards ourselves.
The Transformed Being.—Now he becomes virtuous; but only for the sake of hurting others by being so. Don't pay so much attention to him.
How Often! How Unexpected!—How may married men have some morning awakened to the fact that their young wife is dull, although she thinks quite the contrary! not to speak of those wives whose flesh is willing but whose intellect is weak!
Warm and Cold Virtues.—Courage is sometimes the consequence of cold and unshaken resolution, and at other times of a fiery and reckless élan. For these two kinds of courage there is only the one name!—but how different, nevertheless, [pg 256] are cold virtues and warm virtues! and the man would be a fool who could suppose that “goodness” could only be brought about by warmth, and no less a fool he who would only attribute it to cold. The truth is that mankind has found both warm and cold courage very useful, yet not often enough to prevent it from setting them both in the category of precious stones.
The gracious Memory.—A man of high rank will do well to develop a gracious memory, that is, to note all the good qualities of people and remember them particularly; for in this way he holds them in an agreeable dependence. A man may also act in this way towards himself: whether or not he has a gracious memory determines in the end the superiority, gentleness, or distrust with which he observes his own inclinations and intentions, and finally even the nature of these inclinations and intentions.
Wherein we become Artists.—He who makes an idol of some one endeavours to justify himself in his own eyes by idealising this person: in other words, he becomes an artist that he may have a clear conscience. When he suffers he does not suffer from his ignorance, but from the lie he has told himself to make himself ignorant. The inmost misery and desire of such a man—and all passionate lovers are included in this category—cannot be exhausted by normal means.
Childlike.—Those who live like children—those who have not to struggle for their daily bread, and do not think that their actions have any ultimate signification—remain childlike.
Our Ego desires Everything.—It would seem as if men in general were only inspired by the desire to possess: languages at least would permit of this supposition, for they view past actions from the standpoint that we have been put in possession of something—“I have spoken, struggled, conquered”—as if to say, I am now in possession of my word, my struggle, my victory. How greedy man appears in this light! he cannot even let the past escape him: he even wishes to have it still!
Danger in Beauty.—This woman is beautiful and intelligent: alas, how much more intelligent she would have become if she had not been beautiful!
Domestic and Mental Peace.—Our habitual mood depends upon the mood in which we maintain our habitual entourage.
What are the Limits of the Ego.—The majority of people take under their protection, as it were, something that they know, as if the fact of knowing it was sufficient in itself to make it their property. The acquisitiveness of the egoistic feeling has no limits: Great men speak as if they had behind them the whole of time, and had placed themselves at the head of this enormous host; and good women boast of the beauty of their children, their clothes, their dog, their physician, or their native town, but the only thing they dare not say is, “I am all that.” Chi non ha non è—as they say in Italy.
Domestic Animals, Pets and the Like.—Could there be anything more repugnant than the sentimentality which is shown to plants and animals—and this on the part of a creature who from the very beginning has made such ravages among them as their most ferocious enemy,—and who ends by even claiming affectionate feelings from his weakened and mutilated victims! Before this kind of “nature” man must above all be serious, if he is any sort of a thinking being.
Two Friends.—They were friends once, but now they have ceased to be so, and both of them [pg 259] broke off the friendship at the same time, the one because he believed himself to be too greatly misunderstood, and the other because he thought he was known too intimately—and both were wrong! For neither of them knew himself well enough.
The Comedy of the Noble Souls.—Those who cannot succeed in exhibiting a noble and cordial familiarity endeavour to let the nobleness of their nature be seen by their exercise of reserve and strictness, and a certain contempt for familiarity, as if their strong sense of confidence were ashamed to show itself.
Where we may say Nothing against Virtue.—Among cowards it is thought bad form to say anything against bravery, for any expression of this kind would give rise to some contempt; and unfeeling people are irritated when anything is said against pity.9
A Waste.—We find that with irritable and abrupt people their first words and actions generally afford no indication of their actual character—they are prompted by circumstances, and are to some [pg 260] extent simply reproductions of the spirit of these circumstances. Because, however, as the words have been uttered and the deeds done, the subsequent words and deeds, indicating the real nature of such people, have often to be used to reconcile, amend, or extinguish the former.
Arrogance.—Arrogance is an artificial and simulated pride; but it is precisely the essential nature of pride to be incapable of artifice, simulation, or hypocrisy—and thus arrogance is the hypocrisy of the incapacity for hypocrisy, a very difficult thing, and one which is a failure in most cases. But if we suppose that, as most frequently happens, the presumptuous person betrays himself, then a treble annoyance falls to his lot: people are angry with him because he has endeavoured to deceive them, and because he wished to show himself superior to them, and finally they laugh at him because he failed in both these endeavours. How earnestly, therefore, should we dissuade our fellow-men from arrogance!
A Species of Misconception.—When we hear somebody speak it is often sufficient for his pronunciation of a single consonant (the letter r, for example) to fill us with doubts as to the honesty of his feelings: we are not accustomed to this particular pronunciation, and should have to make it ourselves as it were arbitrarily—it sounds “forced” [pg 261] to us. This is the domain of the greatest possible misconception: and it is the same with the style of a writer who has certain habits which are not the habits of everybody. His “artlessness” is felt as such only by himself, and precisely in regard to that which he himself feels to be “forced” (because he has yielded in this matter to the prevailing fashion and to so called “good taste”), he may perhaps give pleasure and inspire confidence.
Thankful.—One superfluous grain of gratitude and piety makes one suffer as from a vice—in spite of all one's independence and honesty one begins to have a bad conscience.
Saints.—It is the most sensual men who find it necessary to avoid women and to torture their bodies.
The Subtlety of Serving.—One of the most subtle tasks in the great art of serving is that of serving a more than usually ambitious man, who, indeed, is excessively egoistic in all things, but is entirely adverse to being thought so (this is part of his ambition). He requires that everything shall be according to his own will and humour, yet in such a way as to give him the appearance of always having sacrificed himself, and of rarely desiring anything for himself alone.
Duelling.—I think it a great advantage, said some one, to be able to fight a duel—if, of course, it is absolutely necessary; for I have at all times brave companions about me. The duel is the last means of thoroughly honourable suicide left to us; but it is unfortunately a circuitous means, and not even a certain one.
Pernicious.—A young man can be most surely corrupted when he is taught to value the like-minded more highly than the differently minded.
Hero-Worship and its Fanatics.—The fanatic of an ideal that possesses flesh and blood is right as a rule so long as he assumes a negative attitude, and he is terrible in his negation: he knows what he denies as well as he knows himself, for the simple reason that he comes thence, that he feels at home there, and that he has always the secret fear of being forced to return there some day. He therefore wishes to make his return impossible by the manner of his negation. As soon as he begins to affirm, however, he partly shuts his eyes and begins to idealise (frequently merely for the sake of annoying those who have stayed at home). We might say that there was something artistic about this—agreed, but there is also something dishonest about it.[pg 263]
The idealist of a person imagines this person to be so far from him that he can no longer see him distinctly, and then he travesties that which he can just perceive into something “beautiful”—that is to say, symmetrical, vaguely outlined, uncertain. Since he wishes to worship from afar that ideal which floats on high in the distance, he finds it essential to build a temple for the object of his worship as a protection from the profanum vulgus. He brings into this temple for the object of his worship all the venerable and sanctified objects which he still possesses, so that his ideal may benefit by their charm, and that, nourished in this way, it may grow more and more divine. In the end he really succeeds in forming his God, but, alas for him! there is some one who knows how all this has been done, viz. his intellectual conscience; and there is also some one who, quite unconsciously, begins to protest against these things, viz. the deified one himself, who, in consequence of all this worship, praise, and incense, now becomes completely unbearable and shows himself in the most obvious and dreadful manner to be non-divine, and only too human.
In a case like this there is only one means of escape left for such a fanatic; he patiently suffers himself and his fellows to be maltreated, and interprets all this misery in maiorem dei gloriam by a new kind of self-deceit and noble falsehood. He takes up a stand against himself, and in doing so experiences, as an interpreter and ill-treated person, something like martyrdom—and in this way he climbs to the height of his conceit. Men of this [pg 264] kind to be found, for example, in the entourage of Napoleon: indeed, perhaps it may have been he who inspired the soul of his century with that romantic prostration in the presence of the “genius” and the “hero,” which was so foreign to the spirit of rationalism of the nineteenth century—a man about whom even Byron was not ashamed to say that he was a “worm compared with such a being.” (The formulæ of this prostration have been discovered by Thomas Carlyle, that arrogant old muddle-head and grumbler, who spent his long life in trying to romanticise the common sense of his Englishmen: but in vain!)
The Appearance of Heroism.—Throwing ourselves in the midst of our enemies may be a sign of cowardice.
Condescending towards the Flatterer.—It is the ultimate prudence of insatiably ambitious men not only to conceal their contempt for man which the sight of flatterers causes them: but also to appear even condescending to them, like a God who can be nothing if not condescending.
“Strength of Character.”—“What I have said once I will do”—This manner of thinking is believed to indicate great strength of character. [pg 265] How many actions are accomplished, not because they have been selected as being the most rational, but because at the moment when we thought of them they influenced our ambition and vanity by some means or another, so that we do not stop until we have blindly carried them out. Thus they strengthen in us our belief in our character and our good conscience, in short our strength; whilst the choice of the most rational acts possible brings about a certain amount of scepticism towards ourselves, and thus encourages a sense of weakness in us.
Once, Twice, and Thrice True.—Men lie unspeakably and often, but they do not think about it afterwards, and generally do not believe in it.
The Pastime of the Psychologist.—He thinks he knows me, and fancies himself to be subtle and important when he has any kind of relations with me; and I take care not to undeceive him. For in such a case I should suffer for it, while now he wishes me well because I arouse in him a feeling of conscious superiority.—There is another, who fears that I think I know him, and feels a sense of inferiority at this. As a result he behaves in a timid and vacillating manner, in my presence, and endeavours to mislead me in regard to himself so that he may regain an ascendancy over me.
The Destroyers of the World.—When some men fail to accomplish what they desire to do they exclaim angrily, “May the whole world perish!” This odious feeling is the height of envy which reasons thus: because I cannot have one thing the whole world in general must have nothing! the whole world shall not exist!
Greed.—When we set out to buy something our greed increases with the cheapness of the object—Why? Is it because the small differences in price make up the little eye of greed?
The Greek Ideal.—What did the Greeks admire in Ulysses? Above all his capacity for lying and for taking a shrewd and dreadful revenge, his being equal to circumstances, his appearing to be nobler than the noblest when necessary, his ability to be everything he desired, his heroic pertinacity, having all means within his command, possessing genius—the genius of Ulysses is an object of the admiration of the gods, they smile when they think of it—all this is the Greek ideal! What is most remarkable about it is that the contradiction between seeming and being was not felt in any way, and that as a consequence it could not be morally estimated. Were there ever such accomplished actors?
Facta! Yes, Facta Ficta!—The historian need not concern himself with events which have actually happened, but only those which are supposed to have happened; for none but the latter have produced an effect. The same remark applies to the imaginary heroes. His theme—this so-called world-history—what is it but opinions on imaginary actions and their imaginary motives, which in their turn give rise to opinions and actions the reality of which, however, is at once evaporated, and is only effective as vapour,—a continual generating and impregnating of phantoms above the dense mists of unfathomable reality. All historians record things which have never existed, except in imagination.
Not to understand Trade is Noble.—To sell one's virtue only at the highest price, or even to carry on usury with it as a teacher, a civil servant, or an artist, for instance, brings genius and talent down to the level of the common tradesman. We must be careful not to be clever with our wisdom!
Fear and Love.—The general knowledge of mankind has been furthered to a greater extent by fear than by love; for fear endeavours to find out who the other is, what he can do, and what he wants: it would be dangerous and prejudicial to [pg 268] be deceived on this point. On the other hand, love is induced by its secret craving to discover as many beautiful qualities as possible in the loved object, or to raise this loved object as high as possible: it is a joy and an advantage to love to be deceived in this way—and this is why it does it.
Good-natured People.—Good-natured people have acquired their character from the continual fear of foreign attacks in which their ancestors lived,—these ancestors, who were in the habit of mitigating and tranquillising, humbling themselves, preventing, distracting, flattering, and apologising, concealing their grief and anger, and preserving an unruffled countenance,—and they ultimately bequeathed all this delicate and well-formed mechanism to their children and grandchildren. These latter, thanks to their more favourable lot, did not experience this feeling of dread, but they nevertheless continue in the same groove.
The so-called Soul.—The sum-total of those internal movements which come naturally to men, and which they can consequently set in motion readily and gracefully, is called the soul—men are looked upon as void of soul when they let it be seen that their inward emotions are difficult and painful to them.
The Forgetful Ones.—In outbursts of passion and the delusions of dreams and madness, man rediscovers his own primitive history, and that of humanity: animality and its savage grimaces. For once his memory stretches back into the past, while his civilised condition is developed from the forgetfulness of these primitive experiences, that is to say, from the failing of this memory. He who, as a forgetful man of a higher nature, has always remained aloof from these things, does not understand men—but it is an advantage if from time to time there are individuals who do not understand men, individuals who are, so to speak, created from the divine seed and born of reason.
The Friend whom we want no Longer.—That friend whose hopes we cannot satisfy we should prefer to have as an enemy.
In the Society of Thinkers.—In the midst of the ocean of becoming we adventurers and birds of passage wake up on an island no larger than a small boat, and here we look round us for a moment with as much haste and curiosity as possible; for how quickly may some gale blow us away or some wave sweep over the little island and leave nothing of us remaining! Here, however, upon this little [pg 270] piece of ground we meet with other birds of passage and hear of still earlier ones,—and thus we live together for one precious minute of recognition and divining, amid the cheerful fluttering of wings and joyful chirping, and then adventure in spirit far out on the ocean, feeling no less proud than the ocean itself.
Parting with Something.—To give up some of our property, or to waive a right, gives pleasure when it denotes great wealth. Generosity may be placed in this category.
Weak Sects.—Those sects which feel that they will always remain weak hunt up a few intelligent individual adherents, wishing to make up in quality what they lack in quantity. This gives rise to no little danger for intelligent minds.
The Judgment of the Evening.—The man who meditates upon his day's and life's work when he has reached the end of his journey and feels weary, generally arrives at a melancholy conclusion; but this is not the fault of the day or his life, but of weariness.—In the midst of creative work we do not take time, as a rule, to meditate upon life and existence, nor yet in the midst of our pleasures: [pg 271] but if by a chance this did happen once we should no longer believe him to be right who waited for the seventh day and for repose to find everything that exists very beautiful.—He had missed the right moment.
Beware of Systemisers!—There is a certain amount of comedy about systemisers: in trying to complete a system and to round off its horizon they have to try to let their weaker qualities appear in the same style as their stronger ones.—They wish to represent complete and uniformly strong natures.
Hospitality.—The object of hospitality is to paralyse all hostile feeling in a stranger. When we cease to look upon strangers as enemies, hospitality diminishes; it flourishes so long as its evil presupposition does.
The Weather.—An exceptional and uncertain state of the weather makes men suspicious even of one another: at the same time they come to like innovations, for they must diverge from their accustomed habits. This is why despots like those countries where the weather is moral.
Danger in Innocence.—Innocent people become easy victims in all circumstances because [pg 272] their lack of knowledge prevents them from distinguishing between moderation and excess, and from being betimes on their guard against themselves. It is as a result of this that innocent, that is, ignorant young women become accustomed to the frequent enjoyment of sexual intercourse, and feel the want of it very much in later years when their husbands fall ill or grow prematurely old. It is on account of this harmless and orthodox conception, as if frequent sexual intercourse were right and proper, that they come to experience a need which afterwards exposes them to the severest tribulations, and even worse.
Considering the matter, however, from a higher and more general point of view, whoever loves a man or a thing without knowing him or it, falls a prey to something which he would not love if he could see it. In all cases where experience, precautions, and prudent steps are required, it is the innocent man who will be most thoroughly corrupted, for he has to drink with closed eyes the dregs and most secret poison of everything put before him. Let us consider the procedure of all princes, churches, sects, parties, and corporations: Is not the innocent man always used as the sweetest bait for the most dangerous and wicked traps?—just as Ulysses availed himself of the services of the innocent Neoptolemos to cheat the old and infirm anchorite and ogre of Lemnos out of his bow and arrows. Christianity, with its contempt for the world, has made ignorance a virtue—innocence, perhaps because the most frequent result of this innocence is precisely, as I have indicated above, [pg 273] guilt, the sense of guilt, and despair: In other words, a virtue which leads to Heaven by the circuitous route of Hell; for only then can the gloomy propylæa of Christian salvation be thrown open, and only then is the promise of a posthumous second innocence effective. This is one of the finest inventions of Christianity!
Living without a Doctor when Possible.—It seems to me that a sick man lives more carelessly when he is under medical observation than when he attends to his own health. In the first case it suffices for him to obey strictly all his Doctor's prescriptions; but in the second case he gives more attention to the ultimate object of these prescriptions, namely, his health; he observes much more, and submits himself to a more severe discipline than the directions of his physician would compel him to do.
All rules have this effect: they distract our attention from the fundamental aim of the rule, and make us more thoughtless. But to what heights of immoderation and destruction would men have risen if ever they had completely and honestly left everything to the Godhead as to their physician, and acted in accordance with the words “as God will”!
The Darkening of the Heavens.—Do you know the vengeance of those timid people who [pg 274] behave in society just as if they had stolen their limbs? The vengeance of the humble, Christian-like souls who just manage to slink quietly through the world? The vengeance of those who always judge hastily, and are as hastily said to be in the wrong? The vengeance of all classes of drunkards, for whom the morning is always the most miserable part of the day? and also of all kinds of invalids and sick and depressed people who have no longer the courage to become healthy?
The number of these petty vengeful people, and, even more, the number of their petty acts of revenge, is incalculable. The air around us is continually whizzing with the discharged arrows of their malignity, so that the sun and the sky of their lives become darkened thereby,—and, alas! not only theirs, but more often ours and other men's: and this is worse than the frequent wounds which they make on our skins and hearts. Do we not occasionally deny the existence of the sun and sky merely because we have not seen them for so long?—Well then, solitude! because of this, solitude!
The Psychology of the Actor.—It is the blissful illusion of all great actors to imagine that the historical personages whom they are representing were really in the same state of mind as they themselves are when interpreting them—but in this they are very much mistaken. Their powers of imitation and divination, which they would fain exhibit as a clairvoyant faculty, penetrate only [pg 275] far enough to explain gestures, accent, and looks, and in general anything exterior: that is, they can grasp the shadow of the soul of a great hero, statesman, or warrior, or of an ambitious, jealous, or desperate person—they penetrate fairly near to the soul, but they never reach the inmost spirit of the man they are imitating.
It would, indeed, be a fine thing to discover that instead of thinkers, psychologists, or experts we required nothing but clairvoyant actors to throw light upon the essence of any condition. Let us never forget, whenever such pretensions are heard, that the actor is nothing but an ideal ape—so much of an ape is he, indeed, that he is not capable of believing in the “essence” or in the “essential”: everything becomes for him merely performance, intonation, attitude, stage, scenery, and public.
Living and Believing Apart.—The means of becoming the prophet and wonder-worker of one's age are the same to-day as in former times: one must live apart, with little knowledge, some ideas, and a great deal of presumption—we then finish by believing that mankind cannot do without us, because it is clear that we can do without it. When we are inspired with this belief we find faith. Finally, a piece of advice to him who needs it (it was given to Wesley by Boehler, his spiritual teacher): “Preach faith until you have it; then you will preach it because you have it!”
Knowing our Circumstances.—We may estimate our powers, but not our power. Not only do circumstances conceal it from us and show it to us time about, but they even exaggerate or diminish it. We must consider ourselves as variable quantities whose productive capacity may in favourable circumstances reach the greatest possible heights: we must therefore reflect upon these circumstances, and spare no pains in studying them.
A Fable.—The Don Juan of knowledge—no philosopher or poet has yet succeeded in discovering him. He is wanting in love for the things he recognises, but he possesses wit, a lust for the hunting after knowledge, and the intrigues in connection with it, and he finds enjoyment in all these, even up to the highest and most distant stars of knowledge—until at last there is nothing left for him to pursue but the absolutely injurious side of knowledge, just as the drunkard who ends by drinking absinthe and aquafortis. That is why last of all he feels a longing for hell, for this is the final knowledge which seduces him. Perhaps even this would disappoint him, as all things do which one knows! and then he would have to stand still for all eternity, a victim to eternal deception, and transformed into his enemy, the Stony Guest, who longs for an evening meal of knowledge which will never more fall to his share! for the whole world of things [pg 277] will not have another mouthful left to offer to these hungry men.
What Idealistic Theories Disclose.—We are most certain to find idealistic theories among unscrupulously practical men; for such men stand in need of the lustre of these theories for the sake of their reputation. They adopt them instinctively without by any means feeling hypocritical in doing so—no more hypocritical than Englishmen with their Christianity and their Sabbath-keeping. On the other hand, contemplative natures who have to keep themselves on the guard against all kinds of fantasies and who dread to be reputed as enthusiasts, are only to be satisfied with hard realistic theories: they take possession of them under the same instinctive compulsion without thereby losing their honesty.
The Calumniators of Cheerfulness.—People who have been deeply wounded by the disappointments of life look with suspicion upon all cheerfulness as if it were something childish and puerile, and revealed a lack of common sense that moves them to pity and tenderness, such as one would experience when seeing a dying child caressing his toys on his death-bed. Such men appear to see hidden graves under every rose; rejoicings, tumult, and cheerful music appear to them to be the voluntary illusions of a man who is dangerously ill [pg 278] and yet wishes to take a momentary draught from the intoxicating cup of life. But this judgment about cheerfulness is merely the reflection of the latter on the dark background of weariness and ill-health: in itself it is something touching, irrational, and pitiable, even childlike and puerile, but connected with that second childhood which follows in the train of old age, and is the harbinger of death.
Not yet Enough!—It is not sufficient to prove a case, we must also tempt or raise men to it: hence the wise man must learn to convey his wisdom; and often in such a manner that it may sound like foolishness!
Right and Limits.—Asceticism is the proper mode of thinking for those who must extirpate their carnal instincts, because these are ferocious beasts,—but only for such people!
The Bombastic Style.—An artist who does not wish to put his elevated feelings into a work and thus unburden himself, but who rather wishes to impart these feelings of elevation to others, becomes pompous, and his style becomes the bombastic style.
“Humanity.”—We do not consider animals as moral beings. But do you think that animals consider us as moral beings? An animal which had the power of speech once said: “Humanity is a prejudice from which we animals at least do not suffer.”
The Charitable Man.—The charitable man gratifies a need of his own inward feelings when doing good. The stronger this need is the less does such a man try to put himself in the place of those who serve the purpose of gratifying his desire: he becomes indelicate and sometimes even offensive. (This remark applies to the benevolence and charity of the Jews, which, as is well known, is somewhat more effusive than that of other peoples.)10
That Love may be felt as Love.—We must be honest towards ourselves, and must know ourselves very well indeed, to be able to practise upon others that humane dissimulation known as love and kindness.
What are we capable of?—A man who had been tormented all day by his wicked and malicious [pg 280] son slew him in the evening, and then with a sigh of relief said to the other members of his family: “Well now we can sleep in peace.” Who knows what circumstances might drive us to!
“Natural.”—To be natural, at least in his deficiencies, is perhaps the last praise that can be bestowed upon an artificial artist, who is in other respects theatrical and half genuine. Such a man will for this very reason boldly parade his deficiencies.
Conscience-Substitute.—One man is another's conscience: and this is especially important when the other has none else.
The Transformation of Duties.—When our duties cease to be difficult of accomplishment, and after long practice become changed into agreeable delights and needs, then the rights of others to whom our duties (though now our inclinations) refer change into something else: that is, they become the occasion of pleasant feelings for us. Henceforth the “other,” by virtue of his rights, becomes an object of love to us instead of an object of reverence and awe as formerly. It is our own pleasure we seek when we recognise and maintain the extent of his power. When the Quietists [pg 281] no longer felt their Christian faith as a burden, and experienced their delight only in God, they took the motto: “Do all to the glory of God.” Whatever they performed henceforth in this sense was no longer a sacrifice, it was as much as to say, “Everything for the sake of our pleasure.” To demand that duty should be always rather burdensome, as Kant does, is to demand that it shall never develop into a habit or custom. There is a small residue of ascetic cruelty in this demand.
Appearances are against the Historian.—It is a sufficiently demonstrated fact that human beings come from the womb; nevertheless when children grow up and stand by the side of their mother this hypothesis appears very absurd—all appearances are against it.
The Advantage of Ignorance.—Some one has said that in his childhood he experienced such a contempt for the caprices and whims of a melancholy temperament that, until he had grown up and had become a middle-aged man, he did not know what his own temperament was like: it was precisely a melancholy temperament. He declared that this was the best of all possible kinds of ignorance.
A Moral Pretence.—You refuse to be dissatisfied with yourselves or to suffer from yourselves, and this you call your moral tendency! Very well; another may perhaps call it your cowardice! One thing, however, is certain, and that is that you will never take a trip round the world (and you yourselves are this world), and you will always remain in yourselves an accident and a clod on the face of the earth! Do you fancy that we who hold different views from you are merely exposing ourselves out of pure folly to the journey through our own deserts, swamps, and glaciers, and that we are voluntarily choosing grief and disgust with ourselves, like the Stylites?
Subtlety in Mistakes.—If Homer, as they say, sometimes nodded, he was wiser than all the artists of sleepless ambition. We must allow admirers to stop for a time and take breath by letting them find fault now and then; for nobody can bear an uninterruptedly brilliant and untiring excellence—and instead of doing good such a master would merely become a taskmaster, whom we hate while he precedes us.
Our Happiness is not an Argument either Pro or Con.—Many men are only capable [pg 283] of a small share of happiness: and it is not an argument against their wisdom if this wisdom is unable to afford them a greater degree of happiness, any more than it is an argument against medical skill that many people are incurable, and others always ailing. May every one have the good fortune to discover the conception of existence which will enable him to realise his greatest share of happiness! though this will not necessarily prevent his life from being miserable and not worth envying.
The Enemies of Women.—“Woman is our enemy”—The man who speaks to men in this way exhibits an unbridled lust which not only hates itself but also its means.
The School of the Orator.—When a man has kept silence for a whole year he learns to stop chattering, and to discourse instead. The Pythagoreans were the best statesmen of their age.
The Feeling of Power.—Note the distinction: the man who wishes to acquire the feeling of power seizes upon any means, and looks upon nothing as too petty which can foster this feeling. He who already possesses power, however, has grown fastidious and refined in his tastes; few things can be found to satisfy him.
Not so very Important.—When we are present at a death-bed there regularly arises in us a thought that we immediately suppress from a false sense of propriety: the thought that the act of dying is less important than the customary veneration of it would wish us to believe, and that the dying man has probably lost in his life things which were more important than he is now about to lose by his death. In this case the end is certainly not the goal.
The best way to Promise.—When a man makes a promise it is not merely the word that promises, but what lies unexpressed behind the word. Words indeed weaken a promise by discharging and using up a power which forms part of that power which promises. Therefore shake hands when making a promise, but put your finger on your lips—in this way you will make the safest promises.
Generally Misunderstood.—In conversation we sometimes observe people endeavouring to set a trap in which to catch others—not out of evil-mindedness, as one might suppose, but from delight in their own shrewdness. Others again prepare a joke so that some one else may utter it, they tie the knot so that others may undo it: not [pg 285] out of goodwill, as might be supposed, but from wickedness, and their contempt for coarse intellects.
Centre.—The feeling, “I am the centre of the world,” forcibly comes to us when we are unexpectedly overtaken by disgrace: we then feel as if we were standing dazed in the midst of a surge, and dazzled by the glance of one enormous eye which gazes down upon us from all sides and looks us through and through.
Freedom of Speech.—“The truth must be told, even if the world should be shivered in fragments”—so cries the eminent and grandiloquent Fichte.—Yes, certainly; but we must have it first.—What he really means, however, is that each man should speak his mind, even if everything were to be turned upside down. This point, however, is open to dispute.
The Courage for Suffering.—Such as we now are, we are capable of bearing a tolerable amount of displeasure, and our stomach is suited to such indigestible food. If we were deprived of it, indeed, we should perhaps think the banquet of life insipid; and if it were not for our willingness to suffer pain we should have to let too many pleasures escape us!
Admirers.—The man who admires up to the point that he would be ready to crucify any one who did not admire, must be reckoned among the executioners of his party—beware of shaking hands with him, even when he belongs to your own side.
The Effect of Happiness.—The first effect of happiness is the feeling of power, and this feeling longs to manifest itself, whether towards ourselves or other men, or towards ideas and imaginary beings. Its most common modes of manifestation are making presents, derision, and destruction—all three being due to a common fundamental instinct.
Moral Mosquitoes.—Those moralists who are lacking in the love of knowledge, and who are only acquainted with the pleasure of giving pain, have the spirit and tediousness of provincials. Their pastime, as cruel as it is lamentable, is to observe their neighbour with the greatest possible closeness, and, unperceived, to place a pin in such position that he cannot help pricking himself with it. Such men have preserved something of the wickedness of schoolboys, who cannot amuse themselves without hunting and torturing either the living or the dead.
Reasons and their Unreason.—You feel a dislike for him, and adduce innumerable reasons for this dislike, but I only believe in your dislike and not in your reasons! You flatter yourself by adducing as a rational conclusion, both to yourself and to me, that which happens to be merely a matter of instinct.
Approving of Something.—We approve of marriage in the first place because we are not yet acquainted with it, in the second place because we have accustomed ourselves to it, and in the third place because we have contracted it—that is to say, in most cases. And yet nothing has been proved thereby in favour of the value of marriage in general.
No Utilitarians.—“Power which has greatly suffered both in deed and in thought is better than powerlessness which only meets with kind treatment”—such was the Greek way of thinking. In other words, the feeling of power was prized more highly by them than any mere utility or fair renown.
Ugly in Appearance.—Moderation appears to itself to be quite beautiful: it is unaware of the fact that in the eyes of the immoderate it seems coarse and insipid, and consequently ugly.
Different in Their Hatred.—There are men who do not begin to hate until they feel weak and tired: in other respects they are fair-minded and superior. Others only begin to hate when they see an opportunity for revenge: in other respects they carefully avoid both secret and open wrath, and overlook it whenever there is any occasion for it.
Men of Chance.—It is pure hazard which plays the essential part in every invention, but most men do not meet with this hazard.
Choice of Environment.—We should beware of living in an environment where we are neither able to maintain a dignified silence nor to express our loftier thoughts, so that only our complaints and needs and the whole story of our misery are left to be told. We thus become dissatisfied with ourselves and with our surroundings, and to the discomfort which brings about our complaints we add the vexation which we feel at always being in the position of grumblers. But we should, on the contrary, live in a place where we should be ashamed to speak of ourselves and where it would not be necessary to do so.—Who, however, thinks of such things, or of the choice in such things? We talk about our “fate,” brace up our shoulders, and sigh, “Unfortunate Atlas that I am!”
Vanity.—Vanity is the dread of appearing to be original. Hence it is a lack of pride, but not necessarily a lack of originality.
The Criminal's Grief.—The criminal who has been found out does not suffer because of the crime he has committed, but because of the shame and annoyance caused him either by some blunder which he has made or by being deprived of his habitual element; and keen discernment is necessary to distinguish such cases. Every one who has had much experience of prisons and reformatories is astonished at the rare instances of really genuine “remorse,” and still more so at the longing shown to return to the old wicked and beloved crime.
Always appearing Happy.—When, in the Greece of the third century, philosophy had become a matter of public emulation, there were not a few philosophers who became happy through the thought that others who lived according to different principles, and suffered from them, could not but feel envious of their happiness. They thought they could refute these other people with their happiness better than anything else, and to achieve this object they were content to appear to be always happy; but, following this practice, they [pg 290] were obliged to become happy in the long run! This, for example, was the case of the cynics.
The Cause of much Misunderstanding.—The morality of increasing nervous force is joyful and restless; the morality of diminishing nervous force, towards evening, or in invalids and old people, is passive, calm, patient, and melancholy, and not rarely even gloomy. In accordance with what we may possess of one or other of these moralities, we do not understand that which we lack, and we often interpret it in others as immorality and weakness.
Raising one's self above one's own Lowness.—“Proud” fellows they are indeed, those who, in order to establish a sense of their own dignity and importance, stand in need of other people whom they may tyrannise and oppress—those whose powerlessness and cowardice permits some one to make sublime and furious gestures in their presence with impunity, so that they require the baseness of their surroundings to raise themselves for one short moment above their own baseness!—For this purpose one man requires a dog, another a friend, a third a wife, a fourth a party, a fifth, again, one very rarely to be met with, a whole age.
To what extent the Thinker loves his Enemy.—Make it a rule never to withhold or conceal [pg 291] from yourself anything that may be thought against your own thoughts. Vow it! This is the essential requirement of honest thinking. You must undertake such a campaign against yourself every day. A victory and a conquered position are no longer your concern, but that of truth—and your defeat also is no longer your concern!
The Evil of Strength.—Violence as the outcome of passion, for example, of rage, must be understood from the physiological point of view as an attempt to avoid an imminent fit of suffocation. Innumerable acts arising from animal spirits and vented upon others are simply outlets for getting rid of sudden congestion by a violent muscular exertion: and perhaps the entire “evil of strength” must be considered from this point of view. (This evil of strength wounds others unintentionally—it must find an outlet somewhere; while the evil of weakness wishes to wound and to see signs of suffering.)
To the Credit of the Connoisseur.—As soon as some one who is no connoisseur begins to pose as a judge we should remonstrate, whether it is a male or female whipper-snapper. Enthusiasm or delight in a thing or a human being is not an argument; neither is repugnance or hatred.
Treacherous Blame.—“He has no knowledge of men” means in the mouth of some “He does not know what baseness is”; and in the mouths of others, “He does not know the exception and knows only too well what baseness means.”
The Value of Sacrifice.—The more the rights of states and princes are questioned as to their right to sacrifice the individual (for example, in the administration of justice, conscription, etc.), the more will the value of self-sacrifice rise.
Speaking too distinctly.—There are several reasons why we articulate our words too distinctly: in the first place, from distrust of ourselves when using a new and unpractised language; secondly, when we distrust others on account of their stupidity or their slowness of comprehension. The same remark applies to intellectual matters: our communications are sometimes too distinct, too painful, because if it were otherwise those to whom we communicate our ideas would not understand us. Consequently the perfect and easy style is only permissible when addressing a perfect audience.
Plenty of Sleep.—What can we do to arouse ourselves when we are weary and tired of our ego? [pg 293] Some recommend the gambling table, others Christianity, and others again electricity. But the best remedy, my dear hypochondriac, is, and always will be, plenty of sleep in both the literal and figurative sense of the word. Thus another morning will at length dawn upon us. The knack of worldly wisdom is to find the proper time for applying this remedy in both its forms.
What we may conclude from fantastic Ideals.—Where our deficiencies are, there also is our enthusiasm. The enthusiastic principle “love your enemies” had to be invented by the Jews, the best haters that ever existed; and the finest glorifications of chastity have been written by those who in their youth led dissolute and licentious lives.
Clean Hands and clean Walls.—Do not paint the picture either of God or the devil on your walls: for in so doing you will spoil your walls as well as your surroundings.11
Probable and Improbable.—A woman secretly loved a man, raised him far above her, and [pg 294] said to herself hundreds of times in her inmost heart, “If a man like that were to love me, I should look upon it as a condescension before which I should have to humble myself in the dust.”—And the man entertained the same feelings towards the woman, and in his inmost heart he felt the very same thought. When at last both their tongues were loosened, and they had communicated their most secret thoughts to one another, a deep and meditative silence ensued. Then the woman said in a cold voice: “The thing is quite clear! We are neither of us that which we loved! If you are what you say you are, and nothing more, then I have humbled myself in vain and loved you; the demon misled me as well as you.” This very probable story never happens—and why doesn't it?
Tested Advice.—Of all the means of consolation there is none so efficacious for him who has need of it as the declaration that in his case no consolation can be given. This implies such a distinction that the afflicted person will at once raise his head again.
Knowing one's “Individuality”.—We too often forget that in the eyes of strangers who see us for the first time we are quite different beings from what we consider ourselves to be—in most cases we exhibit nothing more than one particular characteristic which catches the eye of the stranger, [pg 295] and determines the impression we make on him. Thus the most peaceful and fair-minded man, if only he has a big moustache, may, as it were, repose in the shade of this moustache; for ordinary eyes will merely see in him the accessory of a big moustache, that is to say, a military, irascible, and occasionally violent character, and will act accordingly.
Gardeners and Gardens.—Wet dreary days, loneliness, and unkind words give rise within us to conclusions like fungi; some morning we find that they have grown up in front of us we know not whence, and there they scowl at us, sullen and morose. Woe to the thinker who instead of being the gardener of his plants, is merely the soil from which they spring.
The Comedy of Pity.—However much we may feel for an unhappy friend of ours, we always act with a certain amount of insincerity in his presence: we refrain from telling him everything we think, and how we think it, with all the circumspection of a doctor standing by the bedside of a patient who is seriously ill.
Curious Saints.—There are pusillanimous people who have a bad opinion of everything that [pg 296] is best in their works, and who at the same time interpret and comment upon them badly: but also, by a kind of revenge, they entertain a bad opinion of the sympathy of others, and do not believe in sympathy at all; they are ashamed to appear to be carried away from themselves, and feel a defiant comfort in appearing or becoming ridiculous.—States of soul like these are to be found in melancholy artists.
Vain People.—We are like shop-windows, where we ourselves are constantly arranging, concealing, or setting in the foreground those supposed qualities which others attribute to us—in order to deceive ourselves.
Pathetic and Naïve.—It may be a very vulgar habit to let no opportunity slip of assuming a pathetic air for the sake of the enjoyment to be experienced in imagining the spectator striking his breast and feeling himself to be small and miserable. Consequently it may also be the indication of a noble mind to make fun of pathetic situations, and to behave in an undignified manner in them. The old, warlike nobility of France possessed that kind of distinction and delicacy.
A Reflection before Marriage.—Supposing she loved me, what a burden she would be to [pg 297] me in the long run! and supposing that she did not love me, what a much greater burden she would be to me in the long run! We have to choose between two different kinds of burdens; therefore let us marry.
Rascality with a good Conscience.—It is exceedingly annoying to be cheated in small bargains in certain countries,—in the Tyrol, for example,—because, in addition to the bad bargain, we are compelled to accept the evil countenance and coarse greediness of the man who has cheated us, together with his bad conscience and his hostile feeling against us. At Venice, on the other hand, the cheater is highly delighted at his successful fraud, and is not in the least angry with the man he has cheated—nay, he is even inclined to show him some kindness, and above all to have a hearty laugh with him if he likes.—In short, one must possess wit and a good conscience in order to be a knave, and this will almost reconcile the cheated one with the cheat.12
Rather too Awkward.—Good people who are too awkward to be polite and amiable promptly endeavour to return an act of politeness by an important service, or by a contribution beyond their power. It is touching to see them timidly producing [pg 298] their gold coins when others have offered them their gilded coppers!
Hiding one's Intelligence.—When we surprise some one in the act of hiding his intelligence from us we call him evil: the more so if we suspect that it is his civility and benevolence which have induced him to do so.
The Evil Moment.—Lively dispositions only lie for a moment: after this they have deceived themselves, and are convinced and honest.
The Condition of Politeness.—Politeness is a very good thing, and really one of the four chief virtues (although the last), but in order that it may not result in our becoming tiresome to one another the person with whom I have to deal must be either one degree more or less polite than I—otherwise we should never get on, and the ointment would not only anoint us, but would cement us together.
Dangerous Virtues.—“He forgets nothing, but forgives everything”—wherefore he shall be doubly detested, for he causes us double shame by his memory and his magnanimity.
Without Vanity.—Passionate people think little of what others may think; their state of mind raises them above vanity.
Contemplation.—In some thinkers the contemplative state peculiar to a thinker is always the consequence of a state of fear, in others always of desire. In the former, contemplation thus seems allied to the feeling of security, in the latter to the feeling of surfeit—in other words, the former are spirited in their mood, the latter over-satiated and neutral.
Hunting.—The one is hunting for agreeable truths, the other for disagreeable ones. But even the former takes greater pleasure in the hunt than in the booty.
Education.—Education is a continuation of procreation, and very often a kind of supplementary varnishing of it.
How to recognise the Choleric.—Of two persons who are struggling together, or who love and admire one another, the more choleric will always be at a disadvantage. The same remark applies to two nations.
Self-Excuse.—Many men have the best possible right to act in this or that way; but as soon as they begin to excuse their actions we no longer believe that they are right—and we are mistaken.
Moral Pampering.—There are tender, moral natures who are ashamed of all their successes and feel remorse after every failure.
Dangerous Unlearning.—We begin by unlearning to love others, and end by finding nothing lovable in ourselves.
Another form of Toleration.—“To remain a minute too long on red-hot coals and to be burnt a little does no harm either to men or to chestnuts. The slight bitterness and hardness makes the kernel all the sweeter.”—Yes, this is your opinion, you who enjoy the taste! You sublime cannibals!
Different Pride.—Women turn pale at the thought that their lover may not be worthy of them; Men turn pale at the thought that they may not [pg 301] be worthy of the women they love. I speak of perfect women, perfect men. Such men, who are self-reliant and conscious of power at ordinary times, grow diffident and doubtful of themselves when under the influence of a strong passion. Such women, on the other hand, though always looking upon themselves as the weak and devoted sex, become proud and conscious of their power in the great exception of passion,—they ask: “Who then is worthy of me?”
When we seldom do Justice.—Certain men are unable to feel enthusiasm for a great and good cause without committing a great injustice in some other quarter: this is their kind of morality.
Luxury.—The love of luxury is rooted in the depths of a man's heart: it shows that the superfluous and immoderate is the sea wherein his soul prefers to float.
To Immortalise.—Let him who wishes to kill his opponent first consider whether by doing so he will not immortalise him in himself.
Where a great deal of Gentleness is Needed.—Many natures have only the choice of being either public evil-doers or secret sorrow-bearers.
Illness.—Among illness are to be reckoned the premature approach of old age, ugliness, and pessimistic opinions—three things that always go together.
Timid People.—It is the awkward and timid people who easily become murderers: they do not understand slight but sufficient means of defence or revenge, and their hatred, owing to their lack of intelligence and presence of mind, can conceive of no other expedient than destruction.
Without Hatred.—You wish to bid farewell to your passion? Very well, but do so without hatred against it! Otherwise you have a second passion.—The soul of the Christian who has freed himself from sin is generally ruined afterwards by the hatred for sin. Just look at the faces of the great Christians! they are the faces of great haters.
Ingenious and Narrow-Minded.—He can appreciate nothing beyond himself, and when he wishes to appreciate other people he must always begin by transforming them into himself. In this, however, he is ingenious.
Private and Public Accusers.—Watch closely the accuser and inquirer,—for he reveals his true character; and it is not rare for this to be a worse character than that of the victim whose crime he is investigating. The accuser believes in all innocence that the opponent of a crime and criminal must be by nature of good character, or at least must appear as such—and this is why he lets himself go, that is to say, he drops his mask.
Voluntary Blindness.—There is a kind of enthusiastic and extreme devotion to a person or a party which reveals that in our inmost hearts we feel ourselves superior to this person or party, and for this reason we feel indignant with ourselves. We blind ourselves, as it were, of our own free will to punish our eyes for having seen too much.
Remedium Amoris.—That old radical remedy for love is now in most cases as effective as it always was: love in return.
Where is our worst Enemy?—He who can look after his own affairs well, and knows that he can do so, is as a rule conciliatory towards his adversary. But to believe that we have right on our side, and to know that we are incapable of defending it—this gives rise to a fierce and implacable hatred against the opponent of our cause. Let every one judge accordingly where his worst enemies are to be sought.
The Limits of all Humility.—Many men may certainly have attained that humility which says credo quia absurdum est, and sacrifices its reason; but, so far as I know, not one has attained to that humility which after all is only one step further, and which says creda quia absurdus sum.
Acting the Truth.—Many a man is truthful, not because he would be ashamed to exhibit hypocritical feelings, but because he would not succeed very well in inducing others to believe in his hypocrisy. In a word, he has no confidence in his talent as an actor, and therefore prefers honestly to act the truth.
Courage in a Party.—The poor sheep say to their bell-wether: “Only lead us, and we shall never [pg 305] lack courage to follow you.” But the poor bell-wether thinks in his heart: “Only follow me, and I shall never lack courage to lead you.”
Cunning of the Victim.—What a sad cunning there is in the wish to deceive ourselves with respect to the person for whom we have sacrificed ourselves, when we give him an opportunity in which he must appear to us as we should wish him to be!
Through Others.—There are men who do not wish to be seen except through the eyes of others: a wish which implies a great deal of wisdom.
Making Others Happy.—Why is the fact of our making others happy more gratifying to us than all other pleasures?—Because in so doing we gratify fifty cravings at one time. Taken separately they would, perhaps, be very small pleasures; but when put into one hand, that hand will be fuller than ever before—and the heart also.
In the Great Silence.—Here is the sea, here may we forget the town. It is true that its bells are still ringing the Angelus—that solemn and foolish yet sweet sound at the junction between day and night,—but one moment more! now all is silent. Yonder lies the ocean, pale and brilliant; it cannot speak. The sky is glistening with its eternal mute evening hues, red, yellow, and green: it cannot speak. The small cliffs and rocks which stretch out into the sea as if each one of them were endeavouring to find the loneliest spot—they too are dumb. Beautiful and awful indeed is this vast silence, which so suddenly overcomes us and makes our heart swell.
Alas! what deceit lies in this dumb beauty! How well could it speak, and how evilly, too, if it wished! Its tongue, tied up and fastened, and its face of suffering happiness—all this is but malice, mocking at your sympathy: be it so! I do not feel ashamed to be the plaything of such powers! but I pity thee, oh nature, because thou must be silent, even though it be only malice that binds thy tongue: nay, I pity thee for the sake of thy malice![pg 308]
Alas! the silence deepens, and once again my heart swells within me: it is startled by a fresh truth—it, too, is dumb; it likewise sneers when the mouth calls out something to this beauty; it also enjoys the sweet malice of its silence. I come to hate speaking; yea, even thinking. Behind every word I utter do I not hear the laughter of error, imagination, and insanity? Must I not laugh at my pity and mock my own mockery? Oh sea, oh evening, ye are bad teachers! Ye teach man how to cease to be a man. Is he to give himself up to you? Shall he become as you now are, pale, brilliant, dumb, immense, reposing calmly upon himself?—exalted above himself?
For whom the Truth Exists.—Up to the present time errors have been the power most fruitful in consolations: we now expect the same effects from accepted truths, and we have been waiting rather too long for them. What if these truths could not give us this consolation we are looking for? Would that be an argument against them? What have these truths in common with the sick condition of suffering and degenerate men that they should be useful to them? It is, of course, no proof against the truth of a plant when it is clearly established that it does not contribute in any way to the recovery of sick people. Formerly, however, people were so convinced that man was the ultimate end of nature that they believed that knowledge could reveal nothing that was not beneficial and useful to [pg 309] man—nay, there could not, should not be, any other things in existence.
Perhaps all this leads to the conclusion that truth as an entity and a coherent whole exists only for those natures who, like Aristotle, are at once powerful and harmless, joyous and peaceful: just as none but these would be in a position to seek such truths; for the others seek remedies for themselves—however proud they may be of their intellect and its freedom, they do not seek truth. Hence it comes about that these others take no real joy in science, but reproach it for its coldness, dryness, and inhumanity. This is the judgment of sick people about the games of the healthy.—Even the Greek gods were unable to administer consolation; and when at length the entire Greek world fell ill, this was a reason for the destruction of such gods.
We Gods in Exile.—Owing to errors regarding their descent, their uniqueness, their mission, and by claims based upon these errors, men have again and again “surpassed themselves”; but through these same errors the world has been filled with unspeakable suffering, mutual persecution, suspicion, misunderstanding, and an even greater amount of individual misery. Men have become suffering creatures in consequence of their morals, and the sum-total of what they have obtained by those morals is simply the feeling that they are far too good and great for this world, and that they are enjoying merely a transitory existence on it. As [pg 310] yet the “proud sufferer” is the highest type of mankind.
The Colour-Blindness of Thinkers.—How differently from us the Greeks must have viewed nature, since, as we cannot help admitting, they were quite colour-blind in regard to blue and green, believing the former to be a deeper brown, and the latter to be yellow. Thus, for instance, they used the same word to describe the colour of dark hair, of the corn-flower, and the southern sea; and again they employed exactly the same expression for the colour of the greenest herbs, the human skin, honey, and yellow raisins: whence it follows that their greatest painters reproduced the world they lived in only in black, white, red, and yellow. How different and how much nearer to mankind, therefore, must nature have seemed to them, since in their eyes the tints of mankind predominated also in nature, and nature was, as it were, floating in the coloured ether of humanity! (blue and green more than anything else dehumanise nature). It is this defect which developed the playful facility that characterised the Greeks of seeing the phenomena of nature as gods and demi-gods—that is to say, as human forms.
Let this, however, merely serve as a simile for another supposition. Every thinker paints his world and the things that surround him in fewer colours than really exist, and he is blind to individual colours. This is something more than a mere deficiency. Thanks to this nearer approach and [pg 311] simplification, he imagines he sees in things those harmonies of colours which possess a great charm, and may greatly enrich nature. Perhaps, indeed, it was in this way that men first learnt to take delight in viewing existence, owing to its being first of all presented to them in one or two shades, and consequently harmonised. They practised these few shades, so to speak, before they could pass on to any more. And even now certain individuals endeavour to get rid of a partial colour-blindness that they may obtain a richer faculty of sight and discernment, in the course of which they find that they not only discover new pleasures, but are also obliged to lose and give up some of their former ones.
The Embellishment of Science.—In the same way that the feeling that “nature is ugly, wild, tedious—we must embellish it (embellir la nature)”—brought about rococo horticulture, so does the view that “science is ugly, difficult, dry, dreary and weary, we must embellish it,” invariably gives rise to something called philosophy. This philosophy sets out to do what all art and poetry endeavour to do, viz., giving amusement above all else; but it wishes to do this, in conformity with its hereditary pride, in a higher and more sublime fashion before an audience of superior intellects. It is no small ambition to create for these intellects a kind of horticulture, the principal charm of which—like that of the usual gardening—is to bring about an optical illusion (by means of temples, perspective, [pg 312] grottos, winding walks, and waterfalls, to speak in similes), exhibiting science in a condensed form and in all kinds of strange and unexpected illuminations, infusing into it as much indecision, irrationality, and dreaminess as will enable us to walk about in it “as in savage nature,” but without trouble and boredom.
Those who are possessed of this ambition even dream of making religion superfluous—religion, which among men of former times served as the highest kind of entertainment. All this is now running its course, and will one day attain its highest tide. Even now hostile voices are being raised against philosophy, exclaiming: “Return to science, to nature, and the naturalness of science!” and thus an age may begin which may discover the most powerful beauty precisely in the “savage and ugly” domains of science, just as it is only since the time of Rousseau that we have discovered the sense for the beauty of high mountains and deserts.
Two Kinds of Moralists.—To see a law of nature for the first time, and to see it whole (for example, the law of gravity or the reflection of light and sound), and afterwards to explain such a law, are two different things and concern different classes of minds. In the same way, those moralists who observe and exhibit human laws and habits—moralists with discriminating ears, noses, and eyes—differ entirely from those who interpret their observations. These latter must above all be inventive, and [pg 313] must possess an imagination untrammelled by sagacity and knowledge.
The new Passion.—Why do we fear and dread a possible return to barbarism? Is it because it would make people less happy than they are now? Certainly not! the barbarians of all ages possessed more happiness than we do: let us not deceive ourselves on this point!—but our impulse towards knowledge is too widely developed to allow us to value happiness without knowledge, or the happiness of a strong and fixed delusion: it is painful to us even to imagine such a state of things! Our restless pursuit of discoveries and divinations has become for us as attractive and indispensable as hapless love to the lover, which on no account would he exchange for indifference,—nay, perhaps we, too, are hapless lovers! Knowledge within us has developed into a passion, which does not shrink from any sacrifice, and at bottom fears nothing but its own extinction. We sincerely believe that all humanity, weighed down as it is by the burden of this passion, are bound to feel more exalted and comforted than formerly, when they had not yet overcome the longing for the coarser satisfaction which accompanies barbarism.
It may be that mankind may perish eventually from this passion for knowledge!—but even that does not daunt us. Did Christianity ever shrink from a similar thought? Are not love and death brother and sister? Yes, we detest barbarism,—we [pg 314] all prefer that humanity should perish rather than that knowledge should enter into a stage of retrogression. And, finally, if mankind does not perish through some passion it will perish through some weakness: which would we prefer? This is the main question. Do we wish its end to be in fire and light, or in the sands?
Likewise Heroic.—To do things of the worst possible odour, things of which we scarcely dare to speak, but which are nevertheless useful and necessary, is also heroic. The Greeks were not ashamed of numbering even the cleansing of a stable among the great tasks of Hercules.
The Opinions of Opponents.—In order to measure the natural subtlety or weakness of even the cleverest heads, we must consider the manner in which they take up and reproduce the opinions of their adversaries, for the natural measure of any intellect is thereby revealed. The perfect sage involuntarily idealises his opponent and frees his inconsistencies from all defects and accidentalities: he only takes up arms against him when he has thus turned his opponent into a god with shining weapons.
Investigator and Attempter.—There is no exclusive method of knowing in science. We must [pg 315] deal with things tentatively, treating them by turns harshly or justly, passionately or coldly. One investigator deals with things like a policeman, another like a confessor, and yet a third like an inquisitive traveller. We force something from them now by sympathy and now by violence: the one is urged onward and led to see clearly by the veneration which the secrets of the things inspire in him, and the other again by the indiscretion and malice met with in the explanation of these secrets. We investigators, like all conquerors, explorers, navigators, and adventurers, are men of a daring morality, and we must put up with our liability to be in the main looked upon as evil.
Seeing with new Eyes.—Presuming that by the term “beauty in art” is always implied the imitation of something that is happy—and this I consider to be true—according as an age or a people or a great autocratic individuality represents happiness: what then is disclosed by the so-called realism of our modern artists in regard to the happiness of our epoch? It is undoubtedly its type of beauty which we now understand most easily and enjoy best of any. As a consequence, we are induced to believe that this happiness which is now peculiar to us is based on realism, on the sharpest possible senses, and on the true conception of the actual—that is to say, not upon reality, but upon what we know of reality. The results of science have already gained so much in depth and extent that the artists of our century have involuntarily [pg 316] become the glorifiers of scientific “blessings” per se.
Intercession.—Unpretentious regions are subjects for great landscape painters; remarkable and rare regions for inferior painters: for the great things of nature and humanity must intercede in favour of their little, mediocre, and vain admirers—whereas the great man intercedes in favour of unassuming things.
Not to perish unnoticed.—It is not only once but continuously that our excellence and greatness are constantly crumbling away; the weeds that grow among everything and cling to everything ruin all that is great in us—the wretchedness of our surroundings, which we always try to overlook and which is before our eyes at every hour of the day, the innumerable little roots of mean and petty feelings which we allow to grow up all about us, in our office, among our companions, or our daily labours. If we permit these small weeds to escape our notice we shall perish through them unnoticed!—And, if you must perish, then do so immediately and suddenly; for in that case you will perhaps leave proud ruins behind you! and not, as is now to be feared, merely molehills, covered with grass and weeds—these petty and miserable conquerors, as humble as ever, and too wretched even to triumph.
Casuistic.—We are confronted with a very bitter and painful dilemma, for the solution of which not every one's bravery and character are equal: when, as passengers on board a steamer, we discover that the captain and the helmsman are making dangerous mistakes, and that we are their superiors in nautical science—and then we ask ourselves: “What would happen if we organised a mutiny against them, and made them both prisoners? Is it not our duty to do so in view of our superiority? and would not they in their turn be justified in putting us in irons for encouraging disobedience?”
This is a simile for higher and worse situations; and the final question to be decided is, What guarantees our superiority and our faith in ourselves in such a case? Success? but in order to do that we must do the very thing in which all the danger lies—not only dangerous for ourselves, but also for the ship.
Privileges.—The man who really owns himself, that is to say, he who has finally conquered himself, regards it as his own right to punish, to pardon, or to pity himself: he need not concede this privilege to any one, though he may freely bestow it upon some one else—a friend, for example—but he knows that in doing this he is conferring a right, and that rights can only be conferred by one who is in full possession of power.
Man and Things.—Why does the man not see the things? He himself is in the way: he conceals the things.
Characteristics of Happiness.—There are two things common to all sensations of happiness: a profusion of feelings, accompanied by animal spirits, so that, like the fishes, we feel ourselves to be in our element and play about in it. Good Christians will understand what Christian exuberance means.
Never Renounce.—Renouncing the world without knowing it, like a nun, results in a fruitless and perhaps melancholy solitude. This has nothing in common with the solitude of the vita contemplativa of the thinker: when he chooses this form of solitude he wishes to renounce nothing; but he would on the contrary regard it as a renunciation, a melancholy destruction of his own self, if he were obliged to continue in the vita practica. He forgoes this latter because he knows it, because he knows himself. So he jumps into his water, and thus gains his cheerfulness.
Why the nearest Things become ever more distant for Us.—The more we give up [pg 319] our minds to all that has been and will be, the paler will become that which actually is. When we live with the dead and participate in their death, what are our “neighbours” to us? We grow lonelier simply because the entire flood of humanity is surging round about us. The fire that burns within us, and glows for all that is human, is continually increasing—and hence we look upon everything that surrounds us as if it had become more indifferent, more shadowy,—but our cold glance is offensive.
The Rule.—“The rule always appears to me to be more interesting than the exception”—whoever thinks thus has made considerable progress in knowledge, and is one of the initiated.
On Education.—I have gradually come to see daylight in regard to the most general defect in our methods of education and training: nobody learns, nobody teaches, nobody wishes, to endure solitude.
Surprise at Resistance.—Because we have reached the point of being able to see through a thing we believe that henceforth it can offer us no further resistance—and then we are surprised to find that we can see through it and yet cannot penetrate [pg 320] through it. This is the same kind of foolishness and surprise as that of the fly on a pane of glass.
Where the Noblest are Mistaken.—We give some one at length our dearest and most valued possession, and then love has nothing more to give: but the recipient of the gift will certainly not consider it as his dearest possession, and will consequently be wanting in that full and complete gratitude which we expect from him.
Hierarchy.—First and foremost, there are the superficial thinkers, and secondly the profound thinkers—such as dive into the depths of a thing,—thirdly, the thorough thinkers, who get to the bottom of a thing—which is of much greater importance than merely diving into its depths,—and, finally, those who leap head foremost into the marsh: though this must not be looked upon as indicating either depth or thoroughness! these are the lovers of obscurity.13
Master and Pupil.—By cautioning his pupils against himself the teacher shows his humanity.
Honouring Reality.—How can we look at this exulting multitude without tears and acquiescence? at one time we thought little of the object of their exultation, and we should still think so if we ourselves had not come through a similar experience. And what may these experiences lead us to! what are our opinions! In order that we may not lose ourselves and our reason we must fly from experiences. It was thus that Plato fled from actuality, and wished to contemplate things only in their pale mental concepts: he was full of sensitiveness, and knew how easily the waves of this sensitiveness would drown his reason.—Must the sage therefore say, “I will honour reality, but I will at the same time turn my back to it because I know and dread it?” Ought he to behave as certain African tribes do in the presence of their sovereign, whom they approach backwards, thus showing their reverence at the same time as their dread?
Where are the poor in Spirit?—Oh, how greatly it goes against my grain to impose my own thoughts upon others! How I rejoice over every mood and secret change within me as the result of which the thoughts of others are victorious over my own! but from time to time I enjoy an even greater satisfaction, when I am allowed to give away my intellectual possessions, like the confessor sitting in his box and anxiously awaiting [pg 322] the arrival of some distressed person who stands in need of consolation, and will be only too glad to relate the full misery of his thoughts so that the listener's hand and heart will once again be filled, and the troubled soul eased! Not only has the confessor no desire for renown: he would fain shun gratitude as well, for it is obtrusive, and does not stand in awe of solitude or silence.
But to live without a name, and even to be slightly sneered at; too obscure to arouse envy or enmity; with a head free from fever, a handful of knowledge, and a pocketful of experience; a physician, as it were, of the poor in spirit, helping this one or that one whose head is troubled with opinions, without the latter perceiving who has actually helped him! without any desire to appear to be in the right in the presence of his patient, or to carry off a victory. To speak to him in such a way that, after a short and almost imperceptible hint or objection, the listener may find out for himself what is right and proudly walk away! To be like an obscure and unknown inn which turns no one away who is in need, but which is afterwards forgotten and laughed at! To be without any advantages over others—neither possessing better food nor purer air, nor a more cheerful mind—but always to be giving away, returning, communicating, and becoming poorer! To know how to be humble in order to be accessible to many people and humiliating to none! To take a great deal of injustice on his shoulders and creep through the cracks and crannies of all kinds of errors, in order that we may reach many obscure souls on their secret paths! [pg 323] ever in possession of some kind of love, and some kind of egoism and self-enjoyment! in possession of power, and yet at the same time hidden and resigned! constantly basking in the sunshine and sweetness of grace, and yet knowing that quite near to us stands the ladder leading to the sublime!—that would be life! that would indeed be a reason for a long life!
The Temptations of Knowledge.—A glance through the gate of science acts upon passionate spirits as the charm of charms: they will probably become dreamers, or in the most favourable cases poets, so great is their desire for the happiness of the man who can discern. Does it not enter into all your senses, this note of sweet temptation by which science has announced its joyful message in a thousand ways, and in the thousand and first way, the noblest of all, “Begone, illusion! for then ‘Woe is me’ also vanished, and with it woe itself is gone” (Marcus Aurelius).
For whom a Court Jester is needful.—Those who are very beautiful, very good, and very powerful scarcely ever learn the full and naked truth about anything,—for in their presence we involuntarily lie a little, because we feel their influence, and in view of this influence convey a truth in the form of an adaptation (by falsifying the shades and [pg 324] degrees of facts, by omitting or adding details, and withholding that which is insusceptible of adaptation). If, however, in spite of all this, people of this description insist upon hearing the truth, they must keep a court jester—a being with the madman's privilege of being unable to adapt himself.
Impatience.—There is a certain degree of impatience in men of thought and action, which in cases of failure at once drives them to the opposite camp, induces them to take a great interest in it, and to give themselves up to new undertakings—until here again the slowness of their success drives them away. Thus they rove about, like so many reckless adventurers, through the practices of many kingdoms and natures; and in the end, as the result of their wide knowledge of men and things, acquired by their unheard of travel and practice, and with a certain moderation of their craving, they become powerful practical men. Hence a defect in character may become the school of genius.
A Moral Interregnum.—Who is now in a position to describe that which will one day supplant moral feelings and judgments!—however certain we may be that these are founded on error, and that the building erected upon such foundations cannot be repaired: their obligation must gradually diminish from day to day, in so far as the obligation of reason [pg 325] does not diminish! To carry out the task of re-establishing the laws of life and action is still beyond the power of our sciences of physiology and medicine, society and solitude: though it is only from them that we can borrow the foundation-stones of new ideals (but not the ideals themselves). Thus we live a preliminary or after existence, according to our tastes and talents, and the best we can do in this interregnum is to be as much as possible our own “reges,” and to establish small experimental states. We are experiments: if we want to be so!
A Digression.—A book like this is not intended to be read through at once, or to be read aloud. It is intended more particularly for reference, especially on our walks and travels: we must take it up and put it down again after a short reading, and, more especially, we ought not to be amongst our usual surroundings.
The Primary Nature.—As we are now brought up, we begin by acquiring a secondary nature, and we possess it when the world calls us mature, of age, efficient. A few have sufficient of the serpent about them to cast this skin some day, when their primary nature has come to maturity under it. But in the majority of people the germ of it withers away.
A Virtue in Process of Becoming.—Such assertions and promises as those of the ancient philosophers on the unity of virtue and felicity, or that of Christianity, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you,” have never been made with absolute sincerity, but always without a bad conscience nevertheless. People were in the habit of boldly laying down principles—which they wished to be true—exactly as if they were truth itself, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, and in doing this they felt neither religious nor moral compunction; for it was in honorem maiorem of virtue or of God that one had gone beyond truth, without, however, any selfish intention!
Many good people still act up to this degree of truthfulness: when they feel unselfish they think it permissible to treat truth more lightly. Let it be remembered that the word honesty is neither to be found among the Socratic nor the Christian virtues: it is one of our most recent virtues, not yet quite mature, frequently misconstrued and misunderstood, scarcely conscious of itself—something in embryo, which we may either promote or check according to our inclination.
Final Taciturnity.—There are some men who fare like the digger after hidden treasures: they quite accidentally discover the carefully-preserved [pg 327] secrets of another's soul, and as a result come into the possession of knowledge which it is often a heavy burden to bear. In certain circumstances we may know the living and the dead, and sound their inmost thoughts to such an extent that it becomes painful to us to speak to others about them: at every word we utter we are afraid of being indiscreet.—I can easily imagine a sudden silence on the part of the wisest historian.
The Great Prize.—There is a very rare thing, but a very delightful one, viz. the man with a nobly-formed intellect who possesses at the same time the character and inclinations, and even meets with the experiences, suited to such an intellect.
The Magnanimity of the Thinker.—Both Rousseau and Schopenhauer were proud enough to inscribe upon their lives the motto, Vitam impendere vero. And how they both must have suffered in their pride because they could not succeed in verum impendere vitæ!—verum, such as each of them understood it,—when their lives ran side by side with their knowledge like an uncouth bass which is not in tune with the melody.
Knowledge, however, would be in a bad way if it were measured out to every thinker only in proportion as it can be adapted to his own person. And thinkers would be in a bad way if their vanity [pg 328] were so great that they could only endure such an adaptation, for the noblest virtue of a great thinker is his magnanimity, which urges him on in his search for knowledge to sacrifice himself and his life unshrinkingly, often shamefacedly, and often with sublime scorn, and smiling.
Utilising our Hours of Danger.—Those men and conditions whose every movement may mean danger to our possessions, honour, and life or death, and to those most dear to us, we shall naturally learn to know thoroughly. Tiberius, for instance, must have meditated much more deeply on the character and methods of government of the Emperor Augustus, and must have known far more about them than even the wisest historian.
At the present day we all live, relatively speaking, in a security which is much too great to make us true psychologists: some survey their fellow-men as a hobby, others out of ennui, and others again merely from habit; but never to the extent they would do if they were told “Discern or perish!” As long as truths do not cut us to the quick we assume an attitude of contempt towards them: they still appear to us too much like the “winged dreams,” as if we could or could not have them at our discretion, as if we could likewise be aroused from these truths as from a dream!
Hic Rhodus, Hic Salta.—Our music, which can and must change into everything, because [pg 329] like the demon of the sea, it has no character of its own: this music in former times devoted its attention to the Christian savant, and transposed his ideals into sounds: why cannot it likewise find those brighter, more cheerful, and universal sounds which correspond to the ideal thinker?—a music which could rock itself at ease in the vast floating vaults of the soul? So far our music has been so great and so good; nothing seemed impossible to its powers. May it therefore prove possible to create these three sensations at one time: sublimity, deep and warm light, and rapture of the greatest possible consistency!
Slow Cures.—Chronic illnesses of the soul, like those of the body, are very rarely due to one gross offence against physical and mental reason, but as a general rule they arise from innumerable and petty negligences of a minor order.—A man, for example, whose breathing becomes a trifle weaker every day, and whose lungs, by inhaling too little air, are deprived of their proper amount of exercise, will end by being struck down by some chronic disease of the lungs. The only remedy for cases like these is a countless number of minor exercises of a contrary tendency—making it a rule, for example, to take a long and deep breath every quarter of an hour, lying flat on the ground if possible. For this purpose a clock which strikes the quarters should be chosen as a lifelong companion.
All these remedies are slow and trifling; but [pg 330] yet the man who wishes to cure his soul will carefully consider a change, even in his least important habits. Many a man will utter a cold and angry word to his surroundings ten times a day without thinking about it, and he will forget that after a few years it will have become a regular habit with him to put his surroundings out of temper ten times a day. But he can also acquire the habit of doing good to them ten times.
On the Seventh Day.—“You praise this as my creation? but I have only put aside what was a burden to me! my soul is above the vanity of creators.—You praise this as my resignation? but I have only stripped myself of what had become burdensome! My soul is above the vanity of the resigned ones!”
The Donor's Modesty.—There is such a want of generosity in always posing as the donor and benefactor, and showing one's face when doing so! But to give and bestow, and at the same time to conceal one's name and favour! or not to have a name at all, like nature, in whom this fact is more refreshing to us than anything else—here at last we no more meet with the giver and bestower, no more with a “gracious countenance.”—It is true that you have now forfeited even this comfort, for you have placed a God in this nature—and now everything is once again fettered and oppressed! Well? are we never to have the right of [pg 331] remaining alone with ourselves? are we always to be watched, guarded, surrounded by leading strings and gifts? If there is always some one round about us, the best part of courage and kindness will ever remain impossible of attainment in this world. Are we not tempted to fly to hell before this continual obtrusiveness of heaven, this inevitable supernatural neighbour? Never mind, it was only a dream; let us wake up!
At a Meeting.—
A. What are you looking at? you have been standing here for a very long time.
B. Always the new and the old over again! the helplessness of a thing urges me on to plunge into it so deeply that I end by penetrating to its deepest depths, and perceive that in reality it is not worth so very much. At the end of all experiences of this kind we meet with a kind of sorrow and stupor. I experience this on a small scale several times a day.
A Loss of Renown.—What an advantage it is to be able to speak as a stranger to mankind! When they take away our anonymity, and make us famous, the gods deprive us of “half our virtue.”
Doubly Patient.—“By doing this you will hurt many people.”—I know that, and I also know [pg 332] that I shall have to suffer for it doubly: in the first place out of pity for their suffering, and secondly from the revenge they will take on me. But in spite of this I cannot help doing what I do.
The Kingdom of Beauty is Greater.—We move about in nature, cunning and cheerful, in order that we may surprise everything in the beauty peculiar to it; we make an effort, whether in sunshine or under a stormy sky, to see a distant part of the coast with its rocks, bays, and olive and pine trees under an aspect in which it achieves its perfection and consummation. Thus also we should walk about among men as their discoverers and explorers, meting out to them good and evil in order that we may unveil the peculiar beauty which is seen with some in the sunshine, in others under thunder-clouds, or with others again only in twilight and under a rainy sky.
Are we then forbidden to enjoy the evil man like some savage landscape which possesses its own bold and daring lines and luminous effects, while this same man, so long as he behaves well, and in conformity with the law, appears to us to be an error of drawing, and a mere caricature which offends us like a defect in nature?—Yes, this is forbidden: for as yet we have only been permitted to seek beauty in anything that is morally good,—and this is sufficient to explain why we have found so little and have been compelled to look for beauty without either flesh or bones!—in the same way as [pg 333] evil men are familiar with innumerable kinds of happiness which the virtuous never dream of, we may also find among them innumerable types of beauty, many of them as yet undiscovered.
The Inhumanity of the Sage.—The heavy and grinding progress of the sage, who in the words of the Buddhist song, “Wanders lonely like the rhinoceros,” now and again stands in need of proofs of a conciliatory and softened humanity, and not only proofs of those accelerated steps, those polite and sociable witticisms; not only of humour and a certain self-mockery, but likewise of contradictions and occasional returns to the predominating inconsistencies. In order that he may not resemble the heavy roller that rolls along like fate, the sage who wishes to teach must take advantage of his defects, and utilise them for his own adornment; and when saying “despise me” he will implore permission to be the advocate of a presumptuous truth.
This sage wishes to lead you to the mountains, and he will perhaps endanger your life: therefore as the price of his enjoyment he willingly authorises you to take your revenge either before or afterwards on such a guide. Do you remember what thoughts came into your head when he once led you to a gloomy cavern over a slippery path? Your distrustful heart beat rapidly, and said inwardly, “This guide might surely do something better than crawl about here! he is one of those idle [pg 334] people who are full of curiosity—is it not doing him too much honour to appear to attach any value at all to him by following him?”
Many at the Banquet.—How happy we are when we are fed like the birds by the hand of some one who throws them their crumbs without examining them too closely, or inquiring into their worthiness! To live like a bird which comes and flies away, and does not carry its name on its beak! I take great pleasure in satisfying my appetite at the banquet of the many.
Another type of Love for one's Neighbour.—Everything that is agitated, noisy, fitful, and nervous forms a contrast to the great passion which, glowing in the heart of man like a quiet and gloomy flame, and gathering about it all that is flaming and ardent, gives to man the appearance of coldness and indifference, and stamps a certain impassiveness on his features. Such men are occasionally capable of showing their love for their neighbour, but this love is different from that of sociable people who are anxious to please. It is a mild, contemplative, and calm amiability: these people, as it were, look out of the windows of the castle which serves them as a stronghold, and consequently as a prison; for the outlook into the far distance, the open air, and a different world is so pleasant for them!
Not Justifying Oneself.—
A. But why are you not willing to justify yourself?
B. I could do it in this instance, as in dozens of others; but I despise the pleasure which lies in justification, for all that matters little to me, and I would rather bear a stained reputation than give those petty folks the spiteful pleasure of saying, “He takes these things very seriously.” This is not true. Perhaps I ought to have more consideration for myself, and look upon it as a duty to rectify erroneous opinions about myself—I am too indifferent and too indolent regarding myself, and consequently also regarding everything that is brought about through my agency.
Where to Build one's House.—If you feel great and productive in solitude, society will belittle and isolate you, and vice versa. A powerful mildness such as that of a father:—wherever this feeling takes possession of you, there build your house, whether in the midst of the multitude, or on some silent spot. Ubi pater sum, ibi patria.14
The only Means.—“Dialectic is the only means of reaching the divine essence, and penetrating [pg 336] behind the veil of appearance.” This declaration of Plato in regard to dialectic is as solemn and passionate as that of Schopenhauer in regard to the contrary of dialectic—and both are wrong. For that to which they wish to point out the way to us does not exist.—And so far have not all the great passions of mankind been passions for something non-existent?—and all their ceremonies—ceremonies for something non-existent also?
Becoming Heavy.—You know him not; whatever weights he may attach to himself he will nevertheless be able to raise them all with him. But you, judging from the weak flapping of your own wings, come to the conclusion that he wishes to remain below, merely because he does burden himself with those weights.
At the Harvest Thanksgiving of the Intellect.—There is a daily increase and accumulation of experiences, events, opinions upon these experiences and events, and dreams upon these opinions—a boundless and delightful display of wealth! its aspect dazzles the eyes: I can no longer understand how the poor in spirit can be called blessed! Occasionally, however, I envy them when I am tired: for the superintendence of such vast wealth is no easy task, and its weight frequently crushes all happiness.—Alas, if only the [pg 337] mere sight of it were sufficient! If only we could be misers of our knowledge!
Freed from Scepticism.—
A. Some men emerge from a general moral scepticism bad-tempered and feeble, corroded, worm-eaten, and even partly consumed—but I on the other hand, more courageous and healthier than ever, and with my instincts conquered once more. Where a strong wind blows, where the waves are rolling angrily, and where more than usual danger is to be faced, there I feel happy. I did not become a worm, although I often had to work and dig like a worm.
B. You have just ceased to be a sceptic; for you deny!
A. And in doing so I have learnt to say yea again.
Let us pass by.—Spare him! Leave him in his solitude! Do you wish to crush him down entirely? He became cracked like a glass into which some hot liquid was poured suddenly—and he was such a precious glass!
Love and Truthfulness.—Through our love we have become dire offenders against truth, and even habitual dissimulators and thieves, who give [pg 338] out more things as true than seem to us to be true. On this account the thinker must from time to time drive away those whom he loves (not necessarily those who love him), so that they may show their sting and wickedness, and cease to tempt him. Consequently the kindness of the thinker will have its waning and waxing moon.
Inevitable.—No matter what your experience may be, any one who does not feel well disposed towards you will find in this experience some pretext for disparaging you! You may undergo the greatest possible revolutions of mind and knowledge, and at length, with the melancholy smile of the convalescent, you may be able to step out into freedom and bright stillness, and yet some one will say: “This fellow looks upon his illness as an argument, and takes his impotence to be a proof of the impotence of all others—he is vain enough to fall ill that he may feel the superiority of the sufferer.” And again, if somebody were to break the chains that bound him down, and wounded himself severely in doing so, some one else would point at him mockingly and cry: “How awkward he is! there is a man who had got accustomed to his chains, and yet he is fool enough to burst them asunder!”
Two Germans.—If we compare Kant and Schopenhauer with Plato, Spinoza, Pascal, Rousseau, and Goethe, with reference to their souls [pg 339] and not their intellects, we shall see that the two first-named thinkers are at a disadvantage: their thoughts do not constitute a passionate history of their souls—we are not led to expect in them romance, crises, catastrophies, or death struggles. Their thinking is not at the same time the involuntary biography of a soul, but in the case of Kant merely of a head; and in the case of Schopenhauer again merely the description and reflection of a character (“the invariable”) and the pleasure which this reflection causes, that is to say, the pleasure of meeting with an intellect of the first order.
Kant, when he shimmers through his thoughts, appears to us as an honest and honourable man in the best sense of the words, but likewise as an insignificant one: he is wanting in breadth and power; he had not come through many experiences, and his method of working did not allow him sufficient time to undergo experiences. Of course, in speaking of experiences, I do not refer to the ordinary external events of life, but to those fatalities and convulsions which occur in the course of the most solitary and quiet life which has some leisure and glows with the passion for thinking. Schopenhauer has at all events one advantage over him; for he at least was distinguished by a certain fierce ugliness of disposition, which showed itself in hatred, desire, vanity, and suspicion: he was of a rather more ferocious disposition, and had both time and leisure to indulge this ferocity. But he lacked “development,” which was also wanting in his range of thought: he had no “history.”
Seeking one's Company.—Are we then looking for too much when we seek the company of men who have grown mild, agreeable to the taste, and nutritive, like chestnuts which have been put into the fire and taken out just at the right moment? Of men who expect little from life, and prefer to accept this little as a present rather than as a merit of their own, as if it were carried to them by birds and bees? Of men who are too proud ever to feel themselves rewarded, and too serious in their passion for knowledge and honesty to have time for or pleasure in fame? Such men we should call philosophers; but they themselves will always find some more modest designation.
Satiated with Mankind.—
A. Seek for knowledge! Yes! but always as a man! What? must I always be a spectator of the same comedy, and always play a part in the same comedy, without ever being able to observe things with other eyes than those? and yet there may be countless types of beings whose organs are better adapted for knowledge than ours! At the end of all their searching for knowledge what will men at length come to know? Their organs! which perhaps is as much as to say: the impossibility of knowledge! misery and disgust!
B. This is a bad attack you have—reason is attacking you! to-morrow, however, you will again [pg 341] be in the midst of knowledge, and hence of irrationality—that is to say, delighted about all that is human. Let us go to the sea!
Going our own Way.—When we take the decisive step, and make up our minds to follow our own path, a secret is suddenly revealed to us: it is clear that all those who had hitherto been friendly to us and on intimate terms with us judged themselves to be superior to us, and are offended now. The best among them are indulgent, and are content to wait patiently until we once more find the “right path”—they know it, apparently. Others make fun of us, and pretend that we have been seized with a temporary attack of mild insanity, or spitefully point out some seducer. The more malicious say we are vain fools, and do their best to blacken our motives; while the worst of all see in us their greatest enemy, some one who is thirsting for revenge after many years of dependence,—and are afraid of us. What, then, are we to do? My own opinion is that we should begin our sovereignty by promising to all our acquaintances in advance a whole year's amnesty for sins of every kind.
A. But why this solitude?
B. I am not angry with anybody. But when I am alone it seems to me that I can see my friends in a clearer and rosier light than when I [pg 342] am with them; and when I loved and felt music best I lived far from it. It would seem that I must have distant perspectives in order that I may think well of things.
Gold and Hunger.—Here and there we meet with a man who changes into gold everything that he touches. But some fine evil day he will discover that he himself must starve through this gift of his. Everything around him is brilliant, superb, and unapproachable in its ideal beauty, and now he eagerly longs for things which it is impossible for him to turn into gold—and how intense is this longing! like that of a starving man for a meal! Query: What will he seize?
Shame.—Look at that noble steed pawing the ground, snorting, longing for a ride, and loving its accustomed rider—but, shameful to relate, the rider cannot mount to-day, he is tired.—Such is the shame felt by the weary thinker in the presence of his own philosophy!
Against the Waste of Love.—Do we not blush when we surprise ourselves in a state of violent aversion? Well, then, we should also blush when we find ourselves possessed of strong affections on account of the injustice contained in them. More: [pg 343] there are people who feel their hearts weighed down and oppressed when some one gives them the benefit of his love and sympathy to the extent that he deprives others of a share. The tone of his voice reveals to us the fact that we have been specially selected and preferred! but, alas! I am not thankful for being thus selected: I experience within myself a certain feeling of resentment against him who wishes to distinguish me in this way—he shall not love me at the expense of others! I shall always try to look after myself and to endure myself, and my heart is often filled to overflowing, and with some reason. To such a man nothing ought to be given of which others stand so greatly in need.
Friends in Need.—We may occasionally remark that one of our friends sympathises with another more than with us. His delicacy is troubled thereby, and his selfishness is not equal to the task of breaking down his feelings of affection: in such a case we should facilitate the separation for him, and estrange him in some way in order to widen the distance between us.—This is also necessary when we fall into a habit of thinking which might be detrimental to him: our affection for him should induce us to ease his conscience in separating himself from us by means of some injustice which we voluntarily take upon ourselves.
Those petty Truths.—“You know all that, but you have never lived through it—so I will not [pg 344] accept your evidence. Those ‘petty truths’—you deem them petty because you have not paid for them with your blood!”—But are they really great, simply because they have been bought at so high a price? and blood is always too high a price!—“Do you really think so? How stingy you are with your blood!”
A. So you wish to go back to your desert?
B. I am not a quick thinker; I must wait for myself a long time—it is always later and later before the water from the fountain of my own ego spurts forth, and I have often to go thirsty longer than suits my patience. That is why I retire into solitude in order that I may not have to drink from the common cisterns. When I live in the midst of the multitude my life is like theirs, and I do not think like myself; but after some time it always seems to me as if the multitude wished to banish me from myself and to rob me of my soul. Then I get angry with all these people, and afraid of them; and I must have the desert to become well disposed again.
Under the South Wind.—
A. I can no longer understand myself! It was only yesterday that I felt myself so tempestuous and ardent, and at the same time so warm and sunny and exceptionally bright! but to-day! Now everything is calm, wide, oppressive, and dark like the lagoon at Venice. I wish for nothing, and [pg 345] draw a deep breath, and yet I feel inwardly indignant at this “wish for nothing”—so the waves rise and fall in the ocean of my melancholy.
B. You describe a petty, agreeable illness. The next wind from the north-east will blow it away.
A. Why so?
On One's own Tree.—
A. No thinker's thoughts give me so much pleasure as my own: this, of course, proves nothing in favour of their value; but I should be foolish to neglect fruits which are tasteful to me only because they happen to grow on my own tree!—and I was once such a fool.
B. Others have the contrary feeling: which likewise proves nothing in favour of their thoughts, nor yet is it any argument against their value.
The Last Argument of the Brave Man.—There are snakes in this little clump of trees.—Very well, I will rush into the thicket and kill them.—But by doing that you will run the risk of falling a victim to them, and not they to you.—But what do I matter?
Our Teachers.—During our period of youth we select our teachers and guides from our own times, and from those circles which we happen to meet with: we have the thoughtless conviction that the present age must have teachers who will suit [pg 346] us better than any others, and that we are sure to find them without having to look very far. Later on we find that we have to pay a heavy penalty for this childishness: we have to expiate our teachers in ourselves, and then perhaps we begin to look for the proper guides. We look for them throughout the whole world, including even present and past ages—but perhaps it may be too late, and at the worst we discover that they lived when we were young—and that at that time we lost our opportunity.
The Evil Principle.—Plato has marvellously described how the philosophic thinker must necessarily be regarded as the essence of depravity in the midst of every existing society: for as the critic of all its morals he is naturally the antagonist of the moral man, and, unless he succeeds in becoming the legislator of new morals, he lives long in the memory of men as an instance of the “evil principle.” From this we may judge to how great an extent the city of Athens, although fairly liberal and fond of innovations, abused the reputation of Plato during his lifetime. What wonder then that he—who, as he has himself recorded, had the “political instinct” in his body—made three different attempts in Sicily, where at that time a united Mediterranean Greek State appeared to be in process of formation?
It was in this State, and with its assistance, that Plato thought he could do for the Greeks what Mohammed did for the Arabs several centuries later: viz. establishing both minor and more important [pg 347] customs, and especially regulating the daily life of every man. His ideas were quite practicable just as certainly as those of Mohammed were practicable; for even much more incredible ideas, those of Christianity, proved themselves to be practicable! a few hazards less and a few hazards more—and then the world would have witnessed the Platonisation of Southern Europe; and, if we suppose that this state of things had continued to our own days, we should probably be worshipping Plato now as the “good principle.” But he was unsuccessful, and so his traditional character remains that of a dreamer and a Utopian—stronger epithets than these passed away with ancient Athens.
The Purifying Eye.—We have the best reason for speaking of “genius” in men—for example, Plato, Spinoza, and Goethe—whose minds appear to be but loosely linked to their character and temperament, like winged beings which easily separate themselves from them, and then rise far above them. On the other hand, those who never succeeded in cutting themselves loose from their temperament, and who knew how to give to it the most intellectual, lofty, and at times even cosmic expression (Schopenhauer, for instance) have always been very fond of speaking about their genius.
These geniuses could not rise above themselves, but they believed that, fly where they would, they would always find and recover themselves—this is their “greatness,” and this can be greatness!—The [pg 348] others who are entitled to this name possess the pure and purifying eye which does not seem to have sprung out of their temperament and character, but separately from them, and generally in contradiction to them, and looks out upon the world as on a God whom it loves. But even people like these do not come into possession of such an eye all at once: they require practice and a preliminary school of sight, and he who is really fortunate will at the right moment also fall in with a teacher of pure sight.
Never Demand!—You do not know him! it is true that he easily and readily submits both to men and things, and that he is kind to both—his only wish is to be left in peace—but only in so far as men and things do not demand his submission. Any demand makes him proud, bashful, and warlike.
The Evil One.—“Only the solitary are evil!”—thus spake Diderot, and Rousseau at once felt deeply offended. Thus he proved that Diderot was right. Indeed, in society, or amid social life, every evil instinct is compelled to restrain itself, to assume so many masks, and to press itself so often into the Procrustean bed of virtue, that we are quite justified in speaking of the martyrdom of the evil man. In solitude, however, all this disappears. The evil man is still more evil in solitude—and consequently for him whose eye sees only a drama everywhere he is also more beautiful.
Against the Grain.—A thinker may for years at a time force himself to think against the grain: that is, not to pursue the thoughts that spring up within him, but, instead, those which he is compelled to follow by the exigencies of his office, an established division of time, or any arbitrary duty which he may find it necessary to fulfil. In the long run, however, he will fall ill; for this apparently moral self-command will destroy his nervous system as thoroughly and completely as regular debauchery.
Mortal Souls.—Where knowledge is concerned perhaps the most useful conquest that has ever been made is the abandonment of the belief in the immortality of the soul. Humanity is henceforth at liberty to wait: men need no longer be in a hurry to swallow badly-tested ideas as they had to do in former times. For in those times the salvation of this poor “immortal soul” depended upon the extent of the knowledge which could be acquired in the course of a short existence: decisions had to be reached from one day to another, and “knowledge” was a matter of dreadful importance!
Now we have acquired good courage for errors, experiments, and the provisional acceptance of ideas—all this is not so very important!—and for this very reason individuals and whole races may now face tasks so vast in extent that in former years they would have looked like madness, and defiance of [pg 350] heaven and hell. Now we have the right to experiment upon ourselves! Yes, men have the right to do so! the greatest sacrifices have not yet been offered up to knowledge—nay, in earlier periods it would have been sacrilege, and a sacrifice of our eternal salvation, even to surmise such ideas as now precede our actions.
One Word for three different Conditions.—When in a state of passion one man will be forced to let loose the savage, dreadful, unbearable animal. Another when under the influence of passion will raise himself to a high, noble, and lofty demeanour, in comparison with which his usual self appears petty. A third, whose whole person is permeated with nobility of feeling, has also the most noble storm and stress: and in this state he represents Nature in her state of savageness and beauty, and stands only one degree lower than Nature in her periods of greatness and serenity, which he usually represents. It is while in this state of passion, however, that men understand him better, and venerate him more highly at these moments—for then he is one step nearer and more akin to them. They feel at once delighted and horrified at such a sight and call it—divine.
Friendship.—The objection to a philosophic life that it renders us useless to our friends would never have arisen in a modern mind: it belongs rather to classical antiquity. Antiquity knew the [pg 351] stronger bonds of friendship, meditated upon it, and almost took it to the grave with it. This is the advantage it has over us: we, on the other hand, can point to our idealisation of sexual love. All the great excellencies of ancient humanity owed their stability to the fact that man was standing side by side with man, and that no woman was allowed to put forward the claim of being the nearest and highest, nay even sole object of his love, as the feeling of passion would teach. Perhaps our trees do not grow so high now owing to the ivy and the vines that cling round them.
Reconciliation.—Should it then be the task of philosophy to reconcile what the child has learnt with what the man has come to recognise? Should philosophy be the task of young men because they stand midway between child and man and possess intermediate necessities? It would almost appear to be so if you consider at what ages of their life philosophers are now in the habit of setting forth their conceptions: at a time when it is too late for faith and too early for knowledge.
Practical People.—We thinkers have the right of deciding good taste in all things, and if necessary of decreeing it. The practical people finally receive it from us: their dependence upon us is incredibly great, and is one of the most [pg 352] ridiculous spectacles in the world, little though they themselves know it and however proudly they like to carp at us unpractical people. Nay, they would even go so far as to belittle their practical life if we should show a tendency to despise it—whereto at times we might be urged on by a slightly vindictive feeling.
The Necessary Desiccation of Everything Good.—What! must we conceive of a work exactly in the spirit of the age that has produced it? but we experience greater delight and surprise, and get more information out of it when we do not conceive it in this spirit! Have you not remarked that every new and good work, so long as it is exposed to the damp air of its own age is least valuable—just because it still has about it all the odour of the market, of opposition, of modern ideas, and of all that is transient from day to day? Later on, however, it dries up, its “actuality” dies away: and then only does it obtain its deep lustre and its perfume—and also, if it is destined for it, the calm eye of eternity.
Against the Tyranny of Truth.—Even if we were mad enough to consider all our opinions as truth, we should nevertheless not wish them alone to exist. I cannot see why we should ask for an autocracy and omnipotence of truth: it is sufficient for me to know that it is a great power. [pg 353] Truth, however, must meet with opposition and be able to fight, and we must be able to rest from it at times in falsehood—otherwise truth will grow tiresome, powerless, and insipid, and will render us equally so.
Not to take a Thing Pathetically.—What we do to benefit ourselves should not bring us in any moral praise, either from others or from ourselves, and the same remark applies to those things which we do to please ourselves. It is looked upon as bon ton among superior men to refrain from taking things pathetically in such cases, and to refrain from all pathetic feelings: the man who has accustomed himself to this has retrieved his naïveté.
The Third Eye.—What! You are still in need of the theatre! are you still so young? Be wise, and seek tragedy and comedy where they are better acted, and where the incidents are more interesting, and the actors more eager. It is indeed by no means easy to be merely a spectator in these cases—but learn! and then, amid all difficult or painful situations, you will have a little gate leading to joy and refuge, even when your passions attack you. Open your stage eye, that big third eye of yours, which looks out into the world through the other two.
The Temptress.—Honesty is the great temptress of all fanatics.15 What seemed to tempt Luther in the guise of the devil or a beautiful woman, and from which he defended himself in that uncouth way of his, was probably nothing but honesty, and perhaps in a few rarer cases even truth.
Bold towards Things.—The man who, in accordance with his character, is considerate and timid towards persons, but is courageous and bold towards things, is afraid of new and closer acquaintances, and limits his old ones in order that he may thus make his incognito and his inconsiderateness coincide with truth.
Limits and Beauty.—Are you looking for men with a fine culture? Then you will have to be satisfied with restricted views and sights, exactly as when you are looking for fine countries.—There are, of course, such panoramic men: they are like panoramic regions, instructive and marvellous: but not beautiful.
To the Stronger.—Ye stronger and arrogant intellects, we ask you for only one thing: throw no further burdens upon our shoulders, but take some of our burdens upon your own, since ye are stronger! but ye delight in doing the exact contrary: for ye wish to soar, so that we must carry your burden in addition to our own—we must crawl!
The Increase of Beauty.—Why has beauty increased by the progress of civilisation? because the three occasions for ugliness appear ever more rarely among civilised men: first, the wildest outbursts of ecstasy; secondly, extreme bodily exertion, and, thirdly, the necessity of inducing fear by one's very sight and presence—a matter which is so frequent and of so great importance in the lower and more dangerous stages of culture that it even lays down the proper gestures and ceremonials and makes ugliness a duty.
Not to Imbue our Neighbours with Our own Demon.—Let us in our age continue to hold the belief that benevolence and beneficence are the characteristics of a good man; but let us not fail to add “provided that in the first place he exhibits his benevolence and beneficence towards himself.” For if he acts otherwise—that is to say, if he shuns, hates, or injures himself—he is certainly not a good [pg 356] man. He then merely saves himself through others: and let these others take care that they do not come to grief through him, however well disposed he may appear to be to them!—but to shun and hate one's own ego, and to live in and for others, this has up to the present, with as much thoughtlessness as conviction, been looked upon as “unselfish,” and consequently as “good.”
Tempting into Love.—We ought to fear a man who hates himself; for we are liable to become the victims of his anger and revenge. Let us therefore try to tempt him into self-love.
Resignation.—What is resignation? It is the most comfortable position of a patient, who, after having suffered a long time from tormenting pains in order to find it, at last became tired—and then found it.
Deception.—When you wish to act you must close the door upon doubt, said a man of action.—And are you not afraid of being deceived in doing so? replied the man of a contemplative mind.
Eternal Obsequies.—Both within and beyond the confines of history we might imagine that we [pg 357] were listening to a continual funeral oration: we have buried, and are still burying, all that we have loved best, our thoughts, and our hopes, receiving in exchange pride, gloria mundi—that is, the pomp of the graveside speech. It is thus that everything is made good! Even at the present time the funeral orator remains the greatest public benefactor.
Exceptional Vanity.—Yonder man possesses one great quality which serves as a consolation for him: his look passes with contempt over the remainder of his being, and almost his entire character is included in this. But he recovers from himself when, as it were, he approaches his sanctuary; already the road leading to it appears to him to be an ascent on broad soft steps—and yet, ye cruel ones, ye call him vain on this account!
Wisdom without Ears.—To hear every day what is said about us, or even to endeavour to discover what people think of us, will in the end kill even the strongest man. Our neighbours permit us to live only that they may exercise a daily claim upon us! They certainly would not tolerate us if we wished to claim rights over them, and still less if we wished to be right! In short, let us offer up a sacrifice to the general peace, let us not listen when they speak of us, when they praise us, blame us, wish for us, or hope for us—nay, let us not even think of it.
A Question of Penetration.—When we are confronted with any manifestation which some one has permitted us to see, we may ask: what is it meant to conceal? What is it meant to draw our attention from? What prejudices does it seek to raise? and again, how far does the subtlety of the dissimulation go? and in what respect is the man mistaken?
The Jealousy of the Lonely Ones.—This is the difference between sociable and solitary natures, provided that both possess an intellect: the former are satisfied, or nearly satisfied, with almost anything whatever; from the moment that their minds have discovered a communicable and happy version of it they will be reconciled even with the devil himself! But the lonely souls have their silent rapture, and their speechless agony about a thing: they hate the ingenious and brilliant display of their inmost problems as much as they dislike to see the women they love too loudly dressed—they watch her mournfully in such a case, as if they were just beginning to suspect that she was desirous of pleasing others. This is the jealousy which all lonely thinkers and passionate dreamers exhibit with regard to the esprit.
The Effect of Praise.—Some people become modest when highly praised, others insolent.
Unwilling to be a Symbol.—I sympathise with princes: they are not at liberty to discard their high rank even for a short time, and thus they come to know people only from the very uncomfortable position of constant dissimulation—their continual compulsion to represent something actually ends by making solemn ciphers of them.—Such is the fate of all those who deem it their duty to be symbols.
The Hidden Men.—Have you never come across those people who check and restrain even their enraptured hearts, and who would rather become mute than lose the modesty of moderation? and have you never met those embarrassing, and yet so often good-natured people who do not wish to be recognised, and who time and again efface the tracks they have made in the sand? and who even deceive others as well as themselves in order to remain obscure and hidden?
Unusual Forbearance.—It is often no small indication of kindness to be unwilling to criticise some one, and even to refuse to think of him.
How Men and Nations gain Lustre.—How many really individual actions are left undone [pg 360] merely because before performing them we perceive or suspect that they will be misunderstood!—those actions, for example, which have some intrinsic value, both in good and evil. The more highly an age or a nation values its individuals, therefore, and the more right and ascendancy we accord them, the more will actions of this kind venture to make themselves known,—and thus in the long run a lustre of honesty, of genuineness in good and evil, will spread over entire ages and nations, so that they—the Greeks, for example—like certain stars, will continue to shed light for thousands of years after their sinking.
Digressions of the Thinker.—The course of thought in certain men is strict and inflexibly bold. At times it is even cruel towards such men, although considered individually they may be gentle and pliable. With well-meaning hesitation they will turn the matter ten times over in their heads, but will at length continue their strict course. They are like streams that wind their way past solitary hermitages: there are places in their course where the stream plays hide and seek with itself, and indulges in short idylls with islets, trees, grottos, and cascades—and then it rushes ahead once more, passes by the rocks, and forces its way through the hardest stones.
Different Feelings Towards Art.—From the time when we begin to live as a hermit, consuming [pg 361] and consumed, our only company being deep and prolific thoughts, we expect from art either nothing more, or else something quite different from what we formerly expected—in a word, we change our taste. For in former times we wished to penetrate for a moment by means of art into the element in which we are now living permanently: at that time we dreamt ourselves into the rapture of a possession which we now actually possess. Indeed, flinging away from us for the time being what we now have, and imagining ourselves to be poor, or to be a child, a beggar, or a fool, may now at times fill us with delight.
“Love Equalises.”—Love wishes to spare the other to whom it devotes itself any feeling of strangeness: as a consequence it is permeated with disguise and simulation; it keeps on deceiving continuously, and feigns an equality which in reality does not exist. And all this is done so instinctively that women who love deny this simulation and constant tender trickery, and have even the audacity to assert that love equalises (in other words that it performs a miracle)!
This phenomenon is a simple matter if one of the two permits himself or herself to be loved, and does not deem it necessary to feign, but leaves this to the other. No drama, however, could offer a more intricate and confused instance than when both persons are passionately in love with one another; for in this case both are anxious to [pg 362] surrender and to endeavour to conform to the other, and finally they are both at a loss to know what to imitate and what to feign. The beautiful madness of this spectacle is too good for this world, and too subtle for human eyes.
We Beginners.—How many things does an actor see and divine when he watches another on the stage! He notices at once when a muscle fails in some gesture; he can distinguish those little artificial tricks which are so calmly practised separately before the mirror, and are not in conformity with the whole; he feels when the actor is surprised on the stage by his own invention, and when he spoils it amid this surprise.—How differently, again, does a painter look at some one who happens to be moving before him! He will see a great deal that does not actually exist in order to complete the actual appearance of the person, and to give it its full effect. In his mind he attempts several different illuminations of the same object, and divides the whole by an additional contrast.—Oh, that we now possessed the eyes of such an actor and such a painter for the province of the human soul!
Small Doses.—If we wish a change to be as deep and radical as possible, we must apply the remedy in minute doses, but unremittingly for long periods. What great action can be performed all [pg 363] at once? Let us therefore be careful not to exchange violently and precipitately the moral conditions with which we are familiar for a new valuation of things,—nay, we may even wish to continue living in the old way for a long time to come, until probably at some very remote period we become aware of the fact that the new valuation has made itself the predominating power within us, and that its minute doses to which we must henceforth become accustomed have set up a new nature within us.—We now also begin to understand that the last attempt at a great change of valuations—that which concerned itself with political affairs (the “great revolution”)—was nothing more than a pathetic and sanguinary piece of quackery which, by means of sudden crises, was able to inspire a credulous Europe with the hope of a sudden recovery, and has therefore made all political invalids impatient and dangerous up to this very moment.
Truth Requires Power.—Truth in itself is no power at all, in spite of all that flattering rationalists are in the habit of saying to the contrary. Truth must either attract power to its side, or else side with power, for otherwise it will perish again and again. This has already been sufficiently demonstrated, and more than sufficiently!
The Thumbscrew.—It is disgusting to observe with what cruelty every one charges his two or [pg 364] three private virtues to the account of others who may perhaps not possess them, and whom he torments and worries with them. Let us therefore deal humanely with the “sense of honesty,” although we may possess in it a thumbscrew with which we can worry to death all these presumptuous egoists who even yet wish to impose their own beliefs upon the whole world—we have tried this thumbscrew on ourselves!
Mastery.—We have reached mastery when we neither mistake nor hesitate in the achievement.
The Moral Insanity of Genius.—In a certain category of great intellects we may observe a painful and partly horrible spectacle: in their most productive moments their flights aloft and into the far distance appear to be out of harmony with their general constitution and to exceed their power in one way or another, so that each time there remains a deficiency, and also in the long run a defectiveness in the entire machinery, which latter is manifested among those highly intellectual natures by various kinds of moral and intellectual symptoms more regularly than by conditions of bodily distress.
Thus those incomprehensible characteristics of their nature—all their timidity, vanity, hatefulness, envy, their narrow and narrowing disposition—and that too personal and awkward element in natures like those of Rousseau and Schopenhauer, may very [pg 365] well be the consequences of a periodical attack of heart disease; and this in its turn may be the result of a nervous complaint, and this latter the consequence of ——16
So long as genius dwells within us we are full of audacity, yea, almost mad, and heedless of health, life, and honour; we fly through the day as free and swift as an eagle, and in the darkness we feel as confident as an owl.—But let genius once leave us and we are instantly overcome by a feeling of the most profound despondency: we can no longer understand ourselves; we suffer from everything that we experience and do not experience; we feel as if we were in the midst of shelterless rocks with the tempest raging round us, and we are at the same time like pitiful childish souls, afraid of a rustle or a shadow.—Three-fourths of all the evil committed in the world is due to timidity; and this is above all a physiological process.
Do you know what you Want?—Have you never been troubled by the fear that you might not be at all fitted for recognising what is true? by the fear that your senses might be too dull, and even your delicacy of sight far too blunt? If you could only perceive, even once, to what extent your volition dominates your sight! How, for example, you wished yesterday to see more than some one else, while to-day you wish to see it differently! and how from the start you were anxious to see [pg 366] something which would be in conformity with or in opposition to anything that people thought they had observed up to the present. Oh, those shameful cravings! How often you keep your eyes open for what is efficacious, for what is soothing, just because you happen to be tired at the moment! Always full of secret predeterminations of what truth should be like, so that you—you, forsooth!—might accept it! or do you think that to-day, because you are as frozen and dry as a bright winter morning, and because nothing is weighing on your mind, you have better eyesight! Are not ardour and enthusiasm necessary to do justice to the creations of thought?—and this indeed is what is called sight! as if you could treat matters of thought any differently from the manner in which you treat men. In all relations with thought there is the same morality, the same honesty of purpose, the same arrière-pensée, the same slackness, the same faint-heartedness—your whole lovable and hateful self! Your physical exhaustion will lend the things pale colours whilst your feverishness will turn them into monsters! Does not your morning show the things in a different light from the evening? Are you not afraid of finding in the cave of all knowledge your own phantom, the veil in which truth is wrapped up and hidden from your sight? Is it not a dreadful comedy in which you so thoughtlessly wish to take part?
Learning.—Michelangelo considered Raphael's genius as having been acquired by study, and upon [pg 367] his own as a natural gift: learning as opposed to talent; though this is mere pedantry, with all due respect to the great pedant himself. For what is talent but a name for an older piece of learning, experience, exercise, appropriation, and incorporation, perhaps as far back as the times of our ancestors, or even earlier! And again: he who learns forms his own talents, only learning is not such an easy matter and depends not only upon our willingness, but also upon our being able to learn at all.
Jealousy often prevents this in an artist, or that pride which, when it experiences any strange feeling, at once assumes an attitude of defence instead of an attitude of scholarly receptiveness. Raphael, like Goethe, lacked this pride, on which account they were great learners, and not merely the exploiters of those quarries which had been formed by the manifold genealogy of their forefathers. Raphael vanishes before our eyes as a learner in the midst of that assimilation of what his great rival called his “nature”: this noblest of all thieves daily carried off a portion of it; but before he had appropriated all the genius of Michelangelo he died—and the final series of his works, because it is the beginning of a new plan of study, is less perfect and good, for the simple reason that the great student was interrupted by death in the midst of his most difficult task, and took away with him that justifying and final goal which he had in view.
The Philosopher and Old Age.—It is not wise to permit evening to act as a judge of the day; for only too often in this case weariness becomes the judge of success and good will. We should also take the greatest precautions in regard to everything connected with old age and its judgment upon life, more especially since old age, like the evening, is fond of assuming a new and charming morality, and knows well enough how to humiliate the day by the glow of the evening skies, twilight and a peaceful and wistful silence. The reverence which we feel for an old man, especially if he is an old thinker and sage, easily blinds us to the deterioration of his intellect, and it is always necessary to bring to light the hidden symptoms of such a deterioration and lassitude, that is to say, to uncover the physiological phenomenon which is still concealed behind the old man's moral judgments and prejudices, in case we should be deceived by our veneration for him, and do something to the disadvantage of knowledge. For it is not seldom that the illusion of a great moral renovation and regeneration takes possession of the old man. Basing his views upon this, he then proceeds to express his opinions on the work and development of his life as if he had only then for the first time become clearsighted—and nevertheless it is not wisdom, but fatigue, which prompts his present state of well-being and his positive judgments.[pg 369]
The most dangerous indication of this weariness is above all the belief in genius, which as a rule only arises in great and semi-great men of intellect at this period of their lives: the belief in an exceptional position, and exceptional rights. The thinker who thus believes himself to be inspired by genius henceforth deems it permissible for him to take things more easily, and takes advantage of his position as a genius to decree rather than to prove. It is probable, however, that the need felt by the weary intellect for alleviation is the main source of this belief—it precedes it in time, though appearances may indicate the contrary.
At this time too, as the result of the love which all weary and old people feel for enjoyment, such men as those I am speaking of wish to enjoy the results of their thinking instead of again testing them and scattering the seeds abroad once more. This leads them to make their thoughts palatable and enjoyable, and to take away their dryness, coldness, and want of flavour; and thus it comes about that the old thinker apparently raises himself above his life's work, while in reality he spoils it by infusing into it a certain amount of fantasy, sweetness, flavour, poetic mists, and mystic lights. This is how Plato ended, as did also that great and honest Frenchman, Auguste Comte, who, as a conqueror of the exact sciences, cannot be matched either among the Germans or the Englishmen of this century.
There is a third symptom of fatigue: that ambition which actuated the great thinker when he was young, and which could not then find anything [pg 370] to satisfy it, has also grown old, and, like one that has no more time to lose, it begins to snatch at the coarser and more immediate means of its gratification, means which are peculiar to active, dominating, violent, and conquering dispositions. From this time onwards the thinker wishes to found institutions which shall bear his name, instead of erecting mere brain-structures. What are now to him the ethereal victories and honours to be met with in the realm of proofs and refutations, or the perpetuation of his fame in books, or the thrill of exultation in the soul of the reader? But the institution, on the other hand, is a temple, as he well knows—a temple of stone, a durable edifice, which will keep its god alive with more certainty than the sacrifices of rare and tender souls.17
Perhaps, too, at this period of his life the old thinker will for the first time meet with that love which is fitted for a god rather than for a human being, and his whole nature becomes softened and sweetened in the rays of such a sun, like fruit in autumn. Yes, he grows more divine and beautiful, this great old man,—and nevertheless it is old age and weariness which permit him to ripen in this way, to grow more silent, and to repose in the luminous adulation of a woman. Now it is all up with his former desire—a desire which was superior even to his own ego—for real disciples, followers who would carry on his thought, that is, true opponents. This desire arose from his hitherto undiminished energy, the conscious pride he felt in [pg 371] being able at any time to become an opponent himself,—nay, even the deadly enemy of his own doctrine,—but now his desire is for resolute partisans, unwavering comrades, auxiliary forces, heralds, a pompous train of followers. He is now no longer able to bear that dreadful isolation in which every intellect that advances beyond the others is compelled to live. From this time forward he surrounds himself with objects of veneration, companionship, tenderness, and love; but he also wishes to enjoy the privileges of all religious people, and to worship what he venerates most highly in his little community—he will even go as far as to invent a religion for the purpose of having a community.
Thus lives the wise old man, and in living thus he falls almost imperceptibly into such a deplorable proximity to priestly and poetic extravagances that it is difficult to recollect all his wise and severe period of youth, the former rigid morality of his mind, and his truly virile dread of fancies and misplaced enthusiasm. When he was formerly in the habit of comparing himself with the older thinkers, he did so merely that he might measure his weakness against their strength, and that he might become colder and more audacious towards himself; but now he only makes this comparison to intoxicate himself with his own delusions. Formerly he looked forward with confidence to future thinkers, and he even took a delight in imagining himself to be cast into the shade by their brighter light. Now, however, he is mortified to think that he cannot be the last: he endeavours to discover some way of [pg 372] imposing upon mankind, together with the inheritance which he is leaving to them, a restriction of sovereign thinking. He fears and reviles the pride and the love of freedom of individual minds: after him no one must allow his intellect to govern with absolute unrestriction: he himself wishes to remain for ever the bulwark on which the waves of ideas may break—these are his secret wishes, and perhaps, indeed, they are not always secret.
The hard fact upon which such wishes are based, however, is that he himself has come to a halt before his teaching, and has set up his boundary stone, his “thus far and no farther.” In canonising himself he has drawn up his own death warrant: from now on his mind cannot develop further. His race is run; the hour-hand stops. Whenever a great thinker tries to make himself a lasting institution for posterity, we may readily suppose that he has passed the climax of his powers, and is very tired, very near the setting of his sun.
We must not make Passion an Argument for Truth.—Oh, you kind-hearted and even noble enthusiasts, I know you! You wish to seem right in our eyes as well as in your own, but especially in your own!—and an irritable and subtle evil conscience so often spurs you on against your very enthusiasm! How ingenious you then become in deceiving your conscience, and lulling it to sleep! How you hate honest, simple, and clean souls; how you avoid their innocent glances! That better knowledge whose representatives they are, and [pg 373] whose voice you hear only too distinctly within yourselves when it questions your belief,—how you try to cast suspicion upon it as a bad habit, as a disease of the age, as the neglect and infection of your own intellectual health! It drives you on to hate even criticism, science, reason! You must falsify history to make it testify in your favour; you must deny virtues in case they should obscure those of your own idols and ideals.
Coloured images where arguments are needed! Ardour and power of expression! Silver mists! Ambrosian nights! well do you know how to enlighten and to darken—to darken by means of light! and indeed when your passion can no longer be kept within bounds the moment comes when you say to yourselves, “Now I have won for myself a good conscience, now I am exalted, courageous, self-denying, magnanimous; now I am honest!” How you long for these moments when your passion will confer upon you full and absolute rights, and also, as it were, innocence. How happy you are when engaged in battle and inspired with ecstasy or courage, when you are elated beyond yourself, when gnawing doubt has left you, and when you can even decree: “Any man who is not in ecstasy as we are cannot by any chance know what or where truth is.” How you long to meet with those who share your belief in this state—which is a state of intellectual depravity—and to set your own fire alight with their flames! Oh, for your martyrdom, your victory of the sanctified lie! Must you really inflict so much pain upon yourselves?—Must you?
How Philosophy is now Practised.—I can see quite well that our philosophising youths, women, and artists require from philosophy exactly the opposite of what the Greeks derived from it. What does he who does not hear the continual exultation that resounds through every speech and counter-argument in a Platonic dialogue, this exultation over the new invention of rational thinking, know about Plato or about ancient philosophy? At that time souls were filled with enthusiasm when they gave themselves up to the severe and sober sport of ideas, generalisations, refutations,—that enthusiasm which perhaps those old, great, severe, and prudent contrapuntists in music have also known. At that time the Greek palate still possessed that older and formerly omnipotent taste: and by the side of this taste their new taste appeared to be enveloped in so much charm that the divine art of dialectic was sung by hesitating voices as if its followers were intoxicated with the frenzy of love. That old form of thinking, however, was thought within the bounds of morality, and for it nothing existed but fixed judgments and established facts, and it had no reasons but those of authority. Thinking, therefore, was simply a matter of repetition, and all the enjoyment of speech and dialogue could only lie in their form.
Wherever the substance of a thing is looked upon as eternal and universally approved, there is only one great charm, the charm of variable forms, that is, of fashion. Even in the poets ever since the [pg 375] time of Homer, and later on in the case of the sculptors, the Greeks did not enjoy originality, but its contrary. It was Socrates who discovered another charm, that of cause and effect, of reason and sequence, and we moderns have become so used to it, and have been brought up to the necessity of logic that we look upon it as the normal taste, and as such it cannot but be repugnant to ardent and presumptuous people. Such people are pleased by whatever stands out boldly from the normal: their more subtle ambition leads them to believe only too readily that they are exceptional souls, not dialectic and rational beings, but, let us say, “intuitive” beings gifted with an “inner sense,” or with a certain “intellectual perception.” Above all, however, they wish to be “artistic natures” with a genius in their heads, and a demon in their bodies, and consequently with special rights in this world and in the world to come—especially the divine privilege of being incomprehensible.
And people like these are “going in for” philosophy nowadays! I fear they will discover one day that they have made a mistake—what they are looking for is religion!
But we do not Believe you.—You would fain pass for psychologists, but we shall not allow it! Are we not to notice that you pretend to be more experienced, profound, passionate, and perfect than you actually are?—just as we notice in yonder painter that there is a trifling presumptuousness in [pg 376] his manner of wielding the brush, and in yonder musician that he brings forward his theme with the desire to make it appear superior to what it really is. Have you experienced history within yourselves, commotions, earthquakes, long and profound sadness, and sudden flashes of happiness? Have you acted foolishly with great and little fools? Have you really undergone the delusions and woe of the good people? and also the woe and the peculiar happiness of the most evil? Then you may speak to me of morality, but not otherwise!
Slave and Idealist.—The followers of Epictetus would doubtless not be to the taste of those who are now striving after the ideal. The constant tension of his being, the indefatigable inward glance, the prudent and reserved incommunicativeness of his eye whenever it happens to gaze upon the outer world, and above all, his silence or laconic speech: all these are characteristics of the strictest fortitude,—and what would our idealists, who above all else are desirous of expansion, care for this? But in spite of all this the Stoic is not fanatical. He detests the display and boasting of our idealists: his pride, however great it may be, is not eager to disturb others. It permits of a certain gentle approach, and has no desire to spoil anybody's good humour—nay, it can even smile. A great deal of ancient humanity is to be seen exemplified in this ideal. The most excellent feature about it, however, is that the thinker is completely free from the [pg 377] fear of God, strictly believes in reason, and is no preacher of penitence.
Epictetus was a slave: his ideal man is without any particular rank, and may exist in any grade of society, but above all he is to be sought in the deepest and lowest social classes, as the silent and self-sufficient man in the midst of a general state of servitude, a man who defends himself alone against the outer world, and is constantly living in a state of the highest fortitude. He is distinguished from the Christian especially, because the latter lives in hope in the promise of “unspeakable glory,” permits presents to be made to him, and expects and accepts the best things from divine love and grace, and not from himself. Epictetus, on the other hand, neither hopes nor allows his best treasure to be given him—he possesses it already, holds it bravely in his hand, and defies the world to take it away from him. Christianity was devised for another class of ancient slaves, for those who had a weak will and weak reason—that is to say, for the majority of slaves.
The Tyrants of the Intellect.—The progress of science is at the present time no longer hindered by the purely accidental fact that man attains to about seventy years, which was the case far too long. In former times people wished to master the entire extent of knowledge within this period, and all the methods of knowledge were valued according to this general desire. Minor [pg 378] questions and individual experiments were looked upon as unworthy of notice: people wanted to take the shortest path under the impression that, since everything in this world seemed to be arranged with a view to man's needs, even the acquirement of knowledge was regulated in view of the limits of human life.
To solve everything at a single stroke, with one word—this was the secret desire; and the task was represented in the symbol of the Gordian knot or the egg of Columbus. No one doubted that it was possible to reach the goal of knowledge after the manner of Alexander or Columbus, and to settle all questions with one answer. “There is a mystery to be solved,” seemed to be the aim of life in the eyes of the philosopher: it was necessary in the first place to find out what this enigma was, and to condense the problem of the world into the simplest enigmatical formula possible. The boundless ambition and delight of being the “unraveller of the world” charmed the dreams of many a thinker: nothing seemed to him worth troubling about in this world but the means of bringing everything to a satisfactory conclusion. Philosophy thus became a kind of supreme struggle for the tyrannical sway over the intellect, and no one doubted that such a tyrannical domination was reserved for some very happy, subtle, ingenious, bold, and powerful person—a single individual!—and many (the last was Schopenhauer) fancied themselves to be this privileged person.
From this it follows that, on the whole, science has up to the present remained in a rather backward [pg 379] state owing to the moral narrow-mindedness of its disciples, and that henceforth it will have to be pursued from a higher and more generous motive. “What do I matter?” is written over the door of the thinker of the future.
Victory Over Power.—If we consider all that has been venerated up to the present as “superhuman intellect” or “genius,” we must come to the sad conclusion that, considered as a whole, the intellectuality of mankind must have been extremely low and poor: so little mind has hitherto been necessary in order to feel at once considerably superior to all this! Alas for the cheap glory of “genius”! How quickly has it been raised to the throne, and its worship grown into a custom! We still fall on our knees before power—according to the old custom of slaves—and nevertheless, when the degree of venerability comes to be determined, only the degree of reason in the power will be the deciding factor. We must find out, indeed, to how great an extent power has been overcome by something higher, which it now obeys as a tool and instrument.
As yet, however, there have been too few eyes for such investigations: even in the majority of cases the mere valuation of genius has almost been looked upon as blasphemy. And thus perhaps everything that is most beautiful still takes place in the midst of darkness and vanishes in endless night almost as soon as it has made its appearance,—I [pg 380] refer to the spectacle of that power which a genius does not lay out upon works, but upon himself as a work, that is, his own self-control, the purifying of his own imagination, the order and selection in his inspirations and tasks. The great man ever remains invisible in the greatest thing that claims worship, like some distant star: his victory over power remains without witnesses, and hence also without songs and singers. The hierarchy of the great men in all the past history of the human race has not yet been determined.
Flight from One's Self.—Those sufferers from intellectual spasms who are impatient towards themselves and look upon themselves with a gloomy eye—such as Byron or Alfred de Musset—and who, in everything that they do, resemble runaway horses, and from their own works derive only a transient joy and an ardent passion which almost bursts their veins, followed by sterility and disenchantment—how are they able to bear up! They would fain attain to something “beyond themselves.” If we happen to be Christians, and are seized by such a desire as this, we strive to reach God and to become one with Him; if we are a Shakespeare we shall be glad to perish in images of a passionate life; if we are like Byron we long for actions, because these detach us from ourselves to an even greater extent than thoughts, feelings, and works.
And should the desire for performing great deeds really be at bottom nothing but a flight from our own selves?—as Pascal would ask us. And indeed [pg 381] this assertion might be proved by considering the most noble representations of this desire for action: in this respect let us remember, bringing the knowledge of an alienist to our aid, that four of the greatest men of all ages who were possessed of this lust for action were epileptics—Alexander the Great, Cæsar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; and Byron likewise was subject to the same complaint.
Knowledge and Beauty.—If men, as they are still in the habit of doing, reserve their veneration and feelings of happiness for works of fancy and imagination, we should not be surprised if they feel chilled and displeased by the contrary of fancy and imagination. The rapture which arises from even the smallest, sure, and definite step in advance into insight, and which our present state of science yields to so many in such abundance—this rapture is in the meantime not believed in by all those who are in the habit of feeling enraptured only when they leave reality altogether and plunge into the depths of vague appearance—romanticism. These people look upon reality as ugly, but they entirely overlook the fact that the knowledge of even the ugliest reality is beautiful, and that the man who can discern much and often is in the end very far from considering as ugly the main items of that reality, the discovery of which has always inspired him with the feeling of happiness.
Is there anything “beautiful in itself”? The happiness of those who can recognise augments the beauty of the world, bathing everything that exists [pg 382] in a sunnier light: discernment not only envelops all things in its own beauty, but in the long run permeates the things themselves with its beauty—may ages to come bear witness to the truth of this statement! In the meantime let us recall an old experience: two men so thoroughly different in every respect as Plato and Aristotle were agreed in regard to what constituted superior happiness—not merely their own and that of men in general, but happiness in itself, even the happiness of the gods. They found this happiness to lie in knowledge, in the activity of a well practised and inventive understanding (not in “intuition” like the German theologians and semi-theologians; not in visions, like the mystics; and not in work, like the merely practical men). Similar opinions were expressed by Descartes and Spinoza. What great delight must all these men have felt in knowledge! and how great was the danger that their honesty might give way, and that they themselves might become panegyrists of things!
Future Virtues.—How has it come about that, the more intelligible the world has become, the more all kinds of ceremonies have diminished? Was fear so frequently the fundamental basis of that awe which overcame us at the sight of anything hitherto unknown and mysterious, and which taught us to fall upon our knees before the unintelligible, and to beg for mercy? And has the world, perhaps, through the very fact that we have [pg 383] grown less timid, lost some of the charms it formerly had for us? Is it not possible that our own dignity and stateliness, our formidable character, has decreased together with our spirit of dread? Perhaps we value the world and ourselves less highly since we have begun to think more boldly about it and ourselves? Perhaps there will come a moment in the future when this courageous spirit of thinking will have reached such a point that it will feel itself soaring in supreme pride, far above men and things—when the wise man, being also the boldest, will see himself and even more particularly existence, the lowest of all beneath himself?
This type of courage, which is not far removed from excessive generosity, has been lacking in humanity up to the present.—Oh, that our poets might once again become what they once were: seers, telling us something about what might possibly happen! now that what is real and what is past are being ever more and more taken from them, and must continue to be taken from them—for the time of innocent counterfeiting is at an end! Let them try to enable us to anticipate future virtues, or virtues that will never be found on earth, although they may exist somewhere in the world!—purple-glowing constellations and whole Milky Ways of the beautiful! Where are ye, ye astronomers of the ideal?
Ideal Selfishness.—Is there a more sacred state than that of pregnancy? To perform every [pg 384] one of our actions in the silent conviction that in one way or another it will be to the benefit of that which is being generated within us—that it must augment its mysterious value, the very thought of which fills us with rapture? At such a time we refrain from many things without having to force ourselves to do so: we suppress the angry word, we grasp the hand forgivingly; our child must be born from all that is best and gentlest. We shun our own harshness and brusqueness in case it should instil a drop of unhappiness into the cup of the beloved unknown. Everything is veiled, ominous; we know nothing about what is going on, but simply wait and try to be prepared. During this time, too, we experience a pure and purifying feeling of profound irresponsibility, similar to that felt by a spectator before a drawn curtain; it is growing, it is coming to light; we have nothing to do with determining its value, or the hour of its arrival. We are thrown back altogether upon indirect, beneficent and defensive influences. “Something greater than we are is growing here”—such is our most secret hope: we prepare everything with a view to his birth and prosperity—not merely everything that is useful, but also the noblest gifts of our souls.
We should, and can, live under the influence of such a blessed inspiration! Whether what we are looking forward to is a thought or a deed, our relationship to every essential achievement is none other than that of pregnancy, and all our vainglorious boasting about “willing” and “creating” should be cast to the winds! True and ideal [pg 385] selfishness consists in always watching over and restraining the soul, so that our productiveness may come to a beautiful termination. Thus in this indirect manner we must provide for and watch over the good of all; and the frame of mind, the mood in which we live, is a kind of soothing oil which spreads far around us on the restless souls.—Still, these pregnant ones are funny people! let us therefore dare to be funny also, and not reproach others if they must be the same. And even when this phenomenon becomes dangerous and evil we must not show less respect to that which is generating within us or others than ordinary worldly justice, which does not allow the judge or the hangman to interfere with a pregnant woman.
Circuitous Routes.—Where does all this philosophy mean to end with its circuitous routes? Does it do more than transpose into reason, so to speak, a continuous and strong impulse—a craving for a mild sun, a bright and bracing atmosphere, southern plants, sea breezes, short meals of meat, eggs, and fruit, hot water to drink, quiet walks for days at a time, little talking, rare and cautious reading, living alone, pure, simple, and almost soldier-like habits—a craving, in short, for all things which are suited to my own personal taste? a philosophy which is in the main the instinct for a personal regimen—an instinct that longs for my air, my height, my temperature, and my kind of health, and takes the circuitous route of my head to persuade me to it![pg 386]
There are many other and certainly more lofty philosophies, and not only such as are more gloomy and pretentious than mine—and are they perhaps, taking them as a whole, nothing but intellectual circuitous routes of the same kind of personal impulses?—In the meantime I look with a new eye upon the mysterious and solitary flight of a butterfly high on the rocky banks of the lake where so many plants are growing: there it flies hither and thither, heedless of the fact that its life will last only one more day, and that the night will be too cold for its winged fragility. For it, too, a philosophy might be found, though it might not be my own.
Leading.18—When we praise progress we only praise the movement and those who do not let us remain on the same spot, and in the circumstances this is certainly something, especially if we live among Egyptians. In changeable Europe, however, where movement is “understood,” to use their own expression, “as a matter of course”—alas, if we only understood something about it too!—I praise leaders and forerunners: that is to say, those who always leave themselves behind, and do not care in the least whether any one is following them or not. “Wherever I halt I find myself alone: why should I halt! the desert is still so wide!”—such is the sentiment of the true leader.
The Least Important Are Sufficient.—We ought to avoid events when we know that even the least important of them frequently enough leave a strong impression upon us—and these we cannot avoid.—The thinker must possess an approximate canon of all the things he still wishes to experience.
The Four Virtues.—Honest towards ourselves, and to all and everything friendly to us; brave in the face of our enemy; generous towards the vanquished; polite at all times: such do the four cardinal virtues wish us to be.
Marching Against an Enemy.—How pleasant is the sound of even bad music and bad motives when we are setting out to march against an enemy!
Not Concealing One's Virtues.—I love those men who are as transparent as water, and who, to use Pope's expression, hide not from view the turbid bottom of their stream. Even they, however, possess a certain vanity, though of a rare and more sublimated kind: some of them would wish us to see nothing but the mud, and to take no notice of the clearness of the water which enables us to look right to the bottom. No less a man than [pg 388] Gautama Buddha has imagined the vanity of these few in the formula, “Let your sins appear before men, and conceal your virtues.” But this would exhibit a disagreeable spectacle to the world—it would be a sin against good taste.
"Nothing in Excess!"—How often is the individual recommended to set up a goal which it is beyond his power to reach, in order that he may at least attain that which lies within the scope of his abilities and most strenuous efforts! Is it really so desirable, however, that he should do so? Do not the best men who try to act according to this doctrine, together with their best deeds, necessarily assume a somewhat exaggerated and distorted appearance on account of their excessive tension? and in the future will not a grey mist of failure envelop the world, owing to the fact that we may see everywhere struggling athletes and tremendous gestures, but nowhere a conqueror crowned with the laurel, and rejoicing in his victory?
What we are Free to do.—We can act as the gardeners of our impulses, and—which few people know—we may cultivate the seeds of anger, pity, vanity, or excessive brooding, and make these things fecund and productive, just as we can train a beautiful plant to grow along trellis-work. We may do this with the good or bad taste of a [pg 389] gardener, and as it were, in the French, English, Dutch, or Chinese style. We may let nature take its own course, only trimming and embellishing a little here and there; and finally, without any knowledge or consideration, we may even allow the plants to spring up in accordance with their own natural growth and limitations, and fight out their battle among themselves,—nay, we can even take delight in such chaos, though we may possibly have a hard time with it! All this is at our option: but how many know that it is? Do not the majority of people believe in themselves as complete and perfect facts? and have not the great philosophers set their seal on this prejudice through their doctrine of the unchangeability of character?
Letting our Happiness also Shine.—In the same way as painters are unable to reproduce the deep brilliant hue of the natural sky, and are compelled to use all the colours they require for their landscapes a few shades deeper than nature has made them—just as they, by means of this trick, succeed in approaching the brilliancy and harmony of nature's own hues, so also must poets and philosophers, for whom the luminous rays of happiness are inaccessible, endeavour to find an expedient. By picturing all things a shade or two darker than they really are, their light, in which they excel, will produce almost exactly the same effect as the sunlight, and will resemble the light of true happiness.—The pessimist, on the other hand, who paints [pg 390] all things in the blackest and most sombre hues, only makes use of bright flames, lightning, celestial glories, and everything that possesses a glaring, dazzling power, and bewilders our eyes: to him light only serves the purpose of increasing the horror, and of making us look upon things as being more dreadful than they really are.
The Settled and the Free.—It is only in the Underworld that we catch a glimpse of that gloomy background of all that bliss of adventure which forms an everlasting halo around Ulysses and his like, rivalling the eternal phosphorescence of the sea,—that background which we can never forget: the mother of Ulysses died of grief and yearning for her child. The one is driven on from place to place, and the heart of the other, the tender stay-at-home friend, breaks through it—so it always is. Affliction breaks the hearts of those who live to see that those whom they love best are deserting their former views and faith,—it is a tragedy brought about by the free spirits,—a tragedy which, indeed, occasionally comes to their own knowledge. Then, perhaps, they too, like Ulysses, will be forced to descend among the dead to get rid of their sorrow and to relieve their affliction.
The Illusion of the Moral Order of the Universe.—There is no “eternal justice” which [pg 391] requires that every fault shall be atoned and paid for,—the belief that such a justice existed was a terrible delusion, and useful only to a limited extent; just as it is also a delusion that everything is guilt which is felt as such. It is not the things themselves, but the opinions about things that do not exist, which have been such a source of trouble to mankind.
By the Side of Experience.—Even great intellects have only a hand-breadth experience—in the immediate proximity of this experience their reflection ceases, and its place is taken by unlimited vacuity and stupidity.
Dignity and Ignorance.—Wherever we understand we become amiable, happy, and ingenious; and when we have learnt enough, and have trained our eyes and ears, our souls show greater plasticity and charm. We understand so little, however, and are so insufficiently informed, that it rarely happens that we seize upon a thing and make ourselves lovable at the same time,—on the contrary we pass through cities, nature, and history with stiffness and indifference, at the same time taking a pride in our stiff and indifferent attitude, as if it were simply due to superiority. Thus our ignorance and our mediocre desire for knowledge understand quite well how to assume a mask of dignity and character.
Living Cheaply.—The cheapest and most innocent mode of life is that of the thinker; for, to mention at once its most important feature, he has the greatest need of those very things which others neglect and look upon with contempt. In the second place he is easily pleased and has no desire for any expensive pleasures. His task is not difficult, but, so to speak, southern; his days and nights are not wasted by remorse; he moves, eats, drinks, and sleeps in a manner suited to his intellect, in order that it may grow calmer, stronger, and clearer. Again, he takes pleasure in his body and has no reason to fear it; he does not require society, except from time to time in order that he may afterwards go back to his solitude with even greater delight. He seeks and finds in the dead compensation for the living, and can even replace his friends in this way—viz., by seeking out among the dead the best who have ever lived.—Let us consider whether it is not the contrary desires and habits which have made the life of man expensive, and as a consequence difficult and often unbearable. In another sense, however, the thinker's life is certainly the most expensive, for nothing is too good for him; and it would be an intolerable privation for him to be deprived of the best.
In the Field.—“We should take things more cheerfully than they deserve; especially because for [pg 393] a very long time we have taken them more seriously than they deserved.” So speak the brave soldiers of knowledge.
Poet and Bird.—The bird Phœnix showed the poet a glowing scroll which was being gradually consumed in the flames. “Be not alarmed,” said the bird, “it is your work! It does not contain the spirit of the age, and to a still less extent the spirit of those who are against the age: so it must be burnt. But that is a good sign. There is many a dawn of day.”
To the Lonely Ones.—If we do not respect the honour of others in our soliloquies as well as in what we say publicly, we are not gentlemen.
Losses.—There are some losses which communicate to the soul a sublimity in which it ceases from wailing, and wanders about silently, as if in the shade of some high and dark cypresses.
The Battle-Field Dispensary of the Soul.—What is the most efficacious remedy?—Victory.
Life shall Comfort Us.—If, like the thinker, we live habitually amid the great current of ideas [pg 394] and feelings, and even our dreams follow this current, we expect comfort and peacefulness from life, while others wish to rest from life when they give themselves up to meditation.
Casting One's Skin.—The snake that cannot cast its skin perishes. So too with those minds which are prevented from changing their views: they cease to be minds.
Never Forget!—The higher we soar the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.
We Aeronauts of the Intellect.—All those daring birds that soar far and ever farther into space, will somewhere or other be certain to find themselves unable to continue their flight, and they will perch on a mast or some narrow ledge—and will be grateful even for this miserable accommodation! But who could conclude from this that there was not an endless free space stretching far in front of them, and that they had flown as far as they possibly could? In the end, however, all our great teachers and predecessors have come to a standstill, and it is by no means in the noblest or most graceful attitude that their weariness has brought them to a pause: the same thing will happen to you and me! but what does this matter [pg 395] to either of us? Other birds will fly farther! Our minds and hopes vie with them far out and on high; they rise far above our heads and our failures, and from this height they look far into the distant horizon and see hundreds of birds much more powerful than we are, striving whither we ourselves have also striven, and where all is sea, sea, and nothing but sea!
And where, then, are we aiming at? Do we wish to cross the sea? whither does this over-powering passion urge us, this passion which we value more highly than any other delight? Why do we fly precisely in this direction, where all the suns of humanity have hitherto set? Is it possible that people may one day say of us that we also steered westward, hoping to reach India—but that it was our fate to be wrecked on the infinite? Or, my brethren? or—?