The Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche’s most sustained critique of morality, exhibits such an original approach to value theory that many readers feel lost in the whirlpool of his ideas, and grapple for some solid ground from which to evaluate him. Surely much if not most Nietzsche scholarship has suffered from misunderstandings about his work, due to a reliance on secondary sources, an ignorance of Nietzsche’s primary influences, the difficulty of the works, or a failure to see his innumerable, disparate insights in the context of the rest of his oeuvre.
Although Nietzsche is now hailed by many as the seminal thinker in post-modernist thought, for a long time serious philosophers considered Nietzsche a Nazi forbear, or even a mere sophomoric ranter, and so thorough criticism of Nietzsche remained scarce until after the Second World War. Surely the efforts of Walter Kaufmann and others to de-Nazify Nietzsche’s reputation have had some success, and there has been an inundation of Nietzsche scholarship ever since. It is often overlooked that Nietzsche exerted a decisive influence on many modernist writers–Andre Gide, Thomas Mann, Albert Camus, Henry Miller, among many, many others–none of whom took him for racist. In a sense, Nietzsche has been such a successful philosopher, that, much like Christianity’s grip on the society of his day, Nietzsche’s influence is so strong on the modern intellectual climate that it is often imperceptible, the very ocean we swim in.
These may seem like excessively strong claims, and it would be an error to give Nietzsche undue credit for the general rise of secular society in the West, a trend that would certainly have continued without him. Nietzsche’s legacy lies in his unique approach to that demise: his invocation of the Greeks as an ideal; his daring to turn the claims of Christianity on their head; to extol the virtues of strength; to mercilessly critique the shibboleths of pity, mercy, democracy, socialism; to brand the motivations of the clergy as wicked rather than merely misguided; to philosophize from an historical, etiologic perspective rather than a rationalistic void; to tackle the claims of science. Of course, Nietzsche’s influence extends far beyond the realm of value of theory, casting light on every field of philosophy, as well as many other disciplines.
The three essays comprising The Genealogy of Moralsrepresent Nietzsche’s most sustained, cohesive work. Many of his other works suffer from atomization, as Nietzsche’s superabundance of fresh insight spills into all crevices of human endeavor, emerging in frequent aphorisms, or short discursions on topics with little apparent transition between them. Nietzsche, as philosopher, indeed believed that truth was nearly impossible to convey intellectually, and this belief reveals itself in his style, which aims for penetrating yet disjointed insights often covering a staggering breadth of subject matter in a single, piquant phrase. Despite his valiant efforts to break completely free from traditional moral thought, even in his last works we find him violently struggling against the tides of Christianity in which he felt we were all awash. Asserting that critiquing Christianity and its secular vestiges remained Nietzsche’s primary enterprise in no way marginalizes his contributions to moral theory in general, nor psychology, the philosophy of language, aesthetics, metaphysics or epistemology. If a critique of Christianity provided Nietzsche’s starting point, and even hisidée fixe, it certainly led him to analyses of nearly all regions of philosophy; as well as to new ground.
Critics of Nietzsche must contend with a philosopher who sometimes shows little desire to substantiate his claims; who approaches philosophical problems with the psychologist’s view (why do people think this way?) rather than the logician’s (does the conclusion follow from the premises?); who appeals equally to our intuition and our counter-intuition (he assumes that we concur that most of our moral assumptions are fundamentally misguided, and so we naturally want to explore and even embrace the opposite view); who assumes that we either see or can be convinced to see the same general traits that he sees in the Europe of his day. When we keep in mind that Nietzsche overtly addressed his writings to “free spirits,” the philosophers of the future, and even future Übermensch, the obscurity of Nietzsche during his own lifetime becomes understandable.
Nietzsche’s methodology, one of insight over orthodox scholarship, emerged in his first book, The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music, a work which despite its focus on Greek mythology, drama, and philosophy, featured a complete lack of footnotes and little reference to the standard works of philology; Nietzsche’s rejection of traditional scholarly methodology contributed to the work’s scant scholarly reception. Later works fared no better for similar reasons, as well as for Nietzsche’s increasingly strident claims of philosophical greatness, reaching their early pinnacle in the perceived pretentiousness of Also Sprach Zarathustra.
After efforts to convey his essential philosophy in a more readily digestible form (cf. Beyond Good and Evil), Nietzsche’s most cogent work finally emerged in The Genealogy of Morals. Despite a continuing lack of scholarly apparatus, Nietzsche’s claims of grandeur are kept to a minimum, and the work’s three essays are complete in themselves, and feature progressive critical exploration rather than merely his usual lightning insight, although there is much of that as well. The three essays–“‘Good and Evil,’ ‘Good and Bad’; “‘Guilt,’ ‘Bad Conscience,’ and the Like”; and “What is the Meaning of Ascetic Ideals?”–investigate closely related aspects of Nietzsche’s primary philosophical concern: the origins, persistence and increasingly ill effects of Christian morality on the psychic health of Europe.
II. First Essay: “Good and Bad”, “Good and Evil”
Nietzsche makes his approach clear early in the first essay, contrasting himself with certain “English philosophers,” who Nietzsche feels are completely misguided in their explanation that from the very beginning, altruistic acts were praised as “good” by those who benefited from them. Their thought, Nietzsche protests, is thoroughly “unhistorical”; it assumes that altruism predates value-judgments. For Nietzsche, value-judgments first arose from the original value-creators, the natural aristocracy. They first used the term to describe themselves, and employed antithetical terms for the weak slave classes. Only over the course of centuries, through deviously dishonest means, were the meanings of “good” and “evil” transvalued and the natural aristocracy subverted by the slave classes, a state of affairs Nietzsche believed still obtained in his day.
Already Nietzsche betrays his predilection for offering his own unprovable etiology of a pre-historical concept. His claims for the aristocracy as value-creators are impossible to substantiate considering the meager historical record available to us (though in his defense his opponents claims are equally difficult to substantiate). Instead, we find ourselves relying on Nietzsche’s authority as a philologist; that if anyone knows the origins of value-judgments in ancient Greece, it must be the former Chair of Philology at Basel. Despite the lack of evidence, Nietzsche’s emphasis on an historical approach, rather than anachronistic methods of the utilitarians, seems a step in the right direction, as much as it points to overall weakness in Nietzsche’s critique.
Still, the audacity of Nietzsche’s claims more than holds our attention. Accustomed to viewing the rise of morality as concurrent with the rise of world religions, Nietzsche’s claim of primacy for aristocratic values succeeds in turning our preconceptions on their head. Having “established” the primacy of aristocratic values, (and perhaps unconsciously invoking our predilection for the primal purity of (especially Greek) “noble savage” culture), Nietzsche is able to depict any change from the “original” value system as a corruption. Here is the hinge of his entire thesis, not only for The Genealogy of Morals, but for much of his entire philosophy. For Nietzsche, since the golden age of the Greeks man has experienced inexorable decline; a loss of animalism, of feeling at home in nature, or instinct and strength. In its stead has come arid intellectualism, petty utility over aesthetic grandeur, the debasement of the natural aristocracy at the hands of the herd-like multitude.
And the catalyst for this cataclysm began with the general rise of the priestly caste, especially in Palestine and India, but occurring in some form everywhere. The Jews, slaves in Egypt for centuries, managed to turn the original, aristocratic morality on its head. They created a God who favored them, the vanquished, as the chosen race; who saw their race as clean and others unclean; who promised eventual deliverance. The Jewish wish for revenge on their many oppressors eventually manifested itself as the Christian belief in a calamitous Judgment Day on the proud, the strong, and the rich–the exact attributes of Nietzsche’s “original” value-creators, who are now, ironically, seen as evil. Similarly, the rise of the caste system in India signaled the rule of the weak, the Brahmin, who had learned how to make the strong feel ashamed and unclean. With the rise of the priestly caste in India and elsewhere began the first, sinister transvaluation of values, from which, Nietzsche insists we still suffer.
But Nietzsche is more at home in the West than the East, and the first essay follows the historical thread of his argument from prehistoric times to his own day. In however sketchy a form, Nietzsche provides an original and alternative view of history. Having never fully escaped the ghost of the Hegelian dialectic, Nietzsche traces the gargantuan battle of opposing value systems over two millennia: Christ as apotheosis of Jewish transvaluation of values; Christianity’s eventual triumph of Rome, despite Rome’s military victory; the brief rebirth of the original, aristocratic morality in the Renaissance only to be snuffed out by the forces of German and English populism, which also breathed life into the dying carcass of Christianity; further defeats for the aristocracy during the French Revolution; the inexplicable rise of Napoleon, the last world-figure of consequence for Nietzsche.
Lending such colossal drama to history is exciting stuff, but relies on appeals to our intuition tantamount to a suspension of disbelief. More often than not, Nietzsche eschews treating specific, historically pivotal events or figures (except when convenient, and especially if there is little historical record against which to check his utterances); he is more at home as psychologist, explaining the motivations of the “ascetic priest” (a psychological type rather than an individual) in his sinister attempts to subvert the primacy of the original aristocratic values.
It is here that Nietzsche is most original and convincing. He depicts an abstract struggle (no less abstract and unhistorical than the Social Contract theorists’ State of Nature, which he lambastes) between the honest, strong, proud aristocrat who is defeated by the cunning, vengeful, but essentially wretched and weak ascetic priest. First the priest manufactures the illusion of the moral agent, making weak and strong alike responsible for their state, a matter of choice, rather than a manifestation of natural accident and breeding. Nietzsche argues against the ascetic priest by claiming that strength flows from superabundance of strength, and weakness is similarly a kind of natural state; in fact the notion of a “doer” is itself an illusion; only actions exist–a supposition that Heidegger would later embellish considerably. Yet the original aristocratic duality of “good and bad”–“good” being akin to virtù: strength; “bad” meaning “weak”, “untrue”, “petty”, “mean”–is transplanted by the ascetic’s conception of “good and evil”: we are moral agents responsible to others for our actions and the state of downtrodden. Instead of supposed natural generosity of aristocrats to their own, we now have the onus of responsibility to others regardless of our estimation of their worth.
Despite my belief that Nietzsche’s depiction of the original conflict of value-systems is equally as fanciful (and rhetorical) as, say, the Hobbesian State of Nature, the Garden of Eden, or Utopia, it compels us to think about values in a novel way. Perhaps having rejected the notion that values come from on high, we still must explain their origin; for without divine sanction it is at least possible that (traditional) values do not serve mankind well (as Nietzsche asks, “what is the value of values?”); what were the motivations of the “original” value-creators and their opponents? do we have sufficient evidence to answer such a question?; if not, perhaps asking what are the motivations of contemporary purveyors of values can shed light on the subject. Perhaps exploring the contemporary effects of morality on mankind can equally expose their effects on ancient man, for whom morality was perhaps not inevitable, at least in its familiar form.
III. Second Essay: “Guilt, Bad Conscience and the Like”
Having established his “historical” depiction of the origins of values in the first essay, Nietzsche turns again to his strength, psychological interpretation, for the second and third essays. To support his case, Nietzsche must dissuade us from our conception of conscience, as well as our views toward the underlying motivations of pity, kindness, meekness and other attributes of the ascetic priest, who, despite being seen as increasingly misguided by Enlightenment and Romantic thinkers alike, was usually not depicted as being evil incarnate. The notion of conscience has often been used to buttress the validity of morality, and even the existence of God. Preachers avow that our notions of right and wrong “which we all have,” must have come from somewhere, presumably hot-wired into us by the Creator. Certainly St. Paul claims as much in saying that all peoples have “the law written on their hearts.” In this view, the existence of good suggests the existence of God.
Thus, Nietzsche must expose the “true” origin of conscience, which he nearly always ironically calls “bad conscience,” a conception that bears strong parallels to Freud’s superego. To achieve this end, Nietzsche portrays a time when ancient man held no moral views, lived in his glorious animal nature, and had not yet been subverted by the wicked priestly caste. At first the honorable man, the “supermoral” autonomous individual, conceived the necessity of carrying out promises, an activity that both assumes his continued existence, his future, as well as sets him above the beasts. In this early state, promises existed only between equals, a responsibility toward immediate family and perhaps fellow warriors, certainly not toward the downtrodden.
All of this presupposes memory, yet Nietzsche feels he is even qualified to offer us an explanation of the origins of memory: “awful and sinister” (II, 3); only excruciating pain could brand the first few moral laws into men’s memories. Conscience itself is “a late fruit of the memory tree” (II, 3) (an interesting echo of Edenic imagery). At first, however, “morality” consisted of keeping promises, of personal honor, with no suggestion of obligation to those to whom no promises were given.
Relying again on etymology, Nietzsche asserts that the very notion of “ought” sprung from the notion of “owe,” logically, since the relationship of buyer and seller is among the oldest of relationships, certainly predating the establishment of the state in any form. The notion of punishment originated as retaliation for broken contracts and failure of repayment, and has none of its later righteous tincture. Creditors were simply given the “sweet power” to exact violence on their debtors, who now “owed” them in more ways than one. Thus “guilt” and “conscience” spring ultimately from the creditor/debtor relationship. This relationship becomes the very model for other social relations (shockingly, Nietzsche does not treat marriage here), with the notion that “everything has its price; all can be paid for” soon following. With this key conception in place, justice is soon conceived as the means to exact comparable revenge from debtors; a table of punishments can be drawn up, now that acts can be evaluated in terms of their damage to the creditor. Not only is justice born of this realization, but also according to Nietzsche, “kindness,” “equity,” “goodwill,” and “objectivity” as well. Mutuality and commensurateness replace the former individuality of all persons and actions.
Comparing what are ultimately unique actions to a newly drawn standard becomes an entirely new basis for social behavior; prior to this, action and reaction, especially in regards to retaliation, were probably governed more by animal instinct than primeval standards of justice like “an eye for an eye.” Unfortunately, Nietzsche fails to elaborate on his claim that herein are found the origins of kindness and goodwill; a more telling attack on these notions would have more thoroughly undermined others’ claims of the innate goodness of man, and that conscience and morality are somehow innate.
Instead, Nietzsche anxiously presses on to a critique of the State, asserting that it emerged in much the same position as the early creditor. Since members of a community owe their security and much else to the community, a criminal (German “Verbrecker”) has broken the contract with the state, which now can exact “sweet revenge” against the ungrateful outcast. Always eager to extol the virtues of the state, courts of law exist as much to remind law-breakers of the benefits the state has given them as to punish them. As societies grow in power, offenses are taken less seriously; offenders as seen more as pesky insects. As the state’s authority weakens, the brutality of punishment intensifies.
From his depiction of the State as supreme creditor, Nietzsche offers an analysis of justice. Remember that earlier Nietzsche claimed that the rise of the belief that “everything has its price” is the true origin of justice, presumably because before that man did not compare other men’s actions to a standard, a table of punishments. For Nietzsche, this already represents a degeneration in the notion of justice, which Nietzsche believes degenerates pari passu to the extent that it is a reactive feeling–Nietzsche attaching greater value to proactive behavior of any sort. “The active man, the attacking, aggressive man is always a hundred degrees nearer to justice than the man who merely reacts; he certainly has no need to adopt the tactics necessary in the case of the reacting man, of making false and biased valuations of his object.” (II, 11, my italics.) For Nietzsche, the fact that before responding to aggression the reactive man must first consult a table of punishments–implicit or explicit–means that he is somehow false and counter-instinctual.
In fact the reader often gets the notion that Nietzsche’s ideal justice, seemingly divorced as it is from intellectual notions of any kind, is nothing more or less than the proto-Darwinian “war of Every Man against Every Man” which Hobbes believed made the Leviathan State imperative. Nietzsche finds any consultation with prescribed intellectual standards as a deviation from man’s true self. At this point, one might agree with early critics and characterize Nietzsche’s thought as essentially an interesting spin on Darwinism, yet Nietzsche is quick to dissociate himself from the Darwinians. The “whole problem of biology” (II, 12) is that proactive emotions have been woefully underestimated. Consider this extraordinary passage:
The democratic idiosyncrasy against everything which rules and wishes to rule, the modern misarchism (to coin a bad word for a bad thing), has gradually but so thoroughly transformed itself into the guise of intellectualism, the most abstract intellectualism, that even nowadays it penetrates and has the right to penetrate step by step into the most exact and apparently the most objective sciences: this tendency has, in fact, in my view already dominated the whole of physiology and biology, and to their detriment, as is obvious, in so far as it has spirited away a radical idea, the idea of true activity. The tyranny of this idiosyncrasy, however, results in the theory of “adaptation” being pushed forward into the van of the argument, exploited; adaptation–that means to say, a second-class activity, a mere capacity for “reacting”; in fact, life itself has been defined (by Herbert Spencer) as an increasingly effective internal adaptation to external circumstances. (II, 12)
Thus, Nietzsche, while tackling the problems of man-as-animal explicitly rejects the Darwinian vision, and strives for his own original depiction of man-as-animal. Man is innately proactive, spontaneous, exhibits “spontaneous play throughout all phenomena” (II, 12). That is to say, before the sinister transvaluation of values weakens the strong.
Law, presumably a mechanism for justice, represents a war against reactive feelings, an attempt by the state to control them, to enjoy a monopoly of force. But the idea that law or morality can represent any absolute good is absurd; the war of the wills still rages. “To talk of intrinsic right and intrinsic wrong is absolutely nonsensical….life is essentially (that is, in its cardinal function) something which functions by injuring, oppressing, exploiting, and annihilating, and is absolutely inconceivable without such a character” (II, 11). The establishment of the State signifies that the old war of wills will continue to be waged through different channels and apparatuses, but continue nonetheless. The power of the State to punish should in no way be confused as a bulwark of the State’s authority, as much as it is a facet of the State’s power.
For Nietzsche, punishment, like any custom, undergoes such a dramatic transmogrification over time that its final end is often a diametric opposite of its original intention.Nietzsche reasserts that at one time punishment was scarcely distinguishable from retaliation, and with no moral component. Again, the procedures of certain punishments existed long before they were put to use in the name of the State or a moral code. But now the application of punishment is sometimes justified as a mechanism to induce guilt in the victim of the punishing power–as if pain or solitude will somehow awaken the sleeping conscience. Nietzsche doubts the effectiveness of such means, believing that what is taken for “bad conscience” in a criminal is really anguish born of foreknowledge of the State’s imminent wrath. Again, Nietzsche shows his tendency to view things from a physical, visceral level, and treats traditional morality as a horrible lie that we all need to overcome.
After devoting the first fifteen sections of the second essay to brief descriptions of the origins of promises, memory, justice, the state, obligation, punishment, and conscience, Nietzsche turns to the ill effects of conscience on mankind. To do so, he contrasts the hallowed, pre-moral era, with the time immediately after the establishment of the state. In this view, conscience is actually a “serious illness” born of “man’s reaction” toward his new, peaceful, societal home (II, 16). Once the machinery of society had violently broken man from his animal past, all of man’s old impulses now turned inward on himself; this is the disease of modern man, and Nietzsche will devote significant time to the prognosis, especially in relation to the role of the ascetic priest.
But first he returns to embellish his theory of the origin of the state. Paradoxically, the origin of bad conscience lies in a violent state set up by the “blonde beasts,” the ultimate “artist-tyrants,” the like of whom has not yet been seen since. Yet bad-conscience did not originate with the “blonde beasts,” but by inaugurating the State, they made it possible. It should be noted, in Nietzsche’s “defense,” that the “blonde beasts” do not refer to any specifically Aryan or Teutonic group or to any specific racial group at all. For Nietzsche, the term refers to “the Roman, Arabic, German, and Japanese nobility, the Homeric heroes, the Scandinavian Vikings….,” (I, 11) all of who exhibited greatvirtù and power. For critic Walter Kaufmann, blond beast is simply an “ideogram for the conception of unsublimated animal passion.”
In the early state, ancestors assumed a place of preeminent authority, and in some cases were even worshipped because of their role in creating the existing social structure. Nietzsche posits that in the fear of such ancestors may lay the origin of gods themselves–significantly, from fear, still a primary motivation in belief. Further support for this claim is Nietzsche’s assertion that:
Progress towards universal empires invariably means progress towards universal deities; despotism, with its subjugation of the independent nobility, always paves the way for some system or other of monotheism. (II, 21)
By digging into the grisly roots of Western cultural history, Nietzsche has offered his own account of the origins of the state, and later, of religion, as an offshoot thereof.
Still aiming for the knockout blow, Nietzsche offers another scalding explanation for the rise of Christianity. As belief in a God tends to wane or ossify (as in 1st Century B.C.E. Palestine) there grows the belief that the debt to God cannot be paid (as with the state, the relationship between God and man is that of creditor and debtor). At first this realization brings horrible guilt; later man turns against his creditor (God, or nature, or even existence); eventually man finds alleviation in the unique claims of Christianity: that God, the creditor, has sacrificed himself out of love for his debtor! Tamed man, following Christian dictums, turns his natural instinct for cruelty against himself, and psychologically impales himself on the opposing horns of God and the devil. Or he completely eschews the pleasures of this life, mortifying his flesh in hopes of pleasure and reward in the next.
And this for Nietzsche highlights the horrors of Christianity, the reason for his ceaseless critique: that many otherwise strong spirits, as well as entire eras, have had their strong natural instincts trod underfoot and repressed by Christian dogma. Nietzsche ends the second essay with his hope that an Antichrist, Antinihilist redeemer will appear to rediscover dogma-free reality, and dissolve man’s foolish hopes for transcendence.
IV. Third Essay: “What is the Meaning of Ascetic Ideals?”
In the final essay, Nietzsche devotes much of his energy to a psychological evaluation of the ascetic priest; the evolution of the idea of the asceticism; various philosophers’ accounts of aesthetics and its relation to asceticism; and its detrimental effects on mankind. As he stated in the second essay, Nietzsche’s primary objection to ascetic ideals is that ascetics must deny the value of this life, portray it as a mere bridge to the next life, rather than as an end in itself. For Nietzsche, refining and exercising our wills in this life is the ultimate end, and any dogma that inhibits this process is a manifestation of sickness.
In depicting this dogma as all-intrusive, Nietzsche attempts to show first how even artists and philosophers–usually considered free-thinkers–are themselves afflicted by this dogma, as manifested in their works, which often exude the sickly smells of morality and asceticism. Nietzsche seems especially prescient of twentieth century trends in literature in stating that man has a need for some will, some goal, even the will for nothingness–a statement that seems to anticipate existentialism, and the literature of the absurd, as much as it is a critique of nineteenth century nihilism.
Nietzsche’s first artistic target remains Wagner, whom Nietzsche always felt took an abrupt aesthetic turn for the worst at the moment their short, intimate friendship ceased. For Nietzsche, Parsifal is but a parody of tragedy (III, 3), and shows that Wagner was by then overcome by the ascetic dogma.
But aside from Wagner, Nietzsche aims to show that asceticism is a common (but by no means necessary) trait of the artist. The artist’s will to action is in some way vitiated by the struggles of his life, else he be not an artist but a doer himself. The artist himself shows a reluctance to fully engage reality. “Homer would not have created an Achilles, nor Goethe a Faust, if Homer had been an Achilles or if Goethe had been a Faust” (III, 4). True artists do not consider themselves to be worthy objects of art. And yet, true artists, for Nietzsche, rarely have the courage to stand alone, needing the “milk of some orthodoxy” to stand upon.
Still implicitly and explicitly critiquing Wagner, Nietzsche turns toward an examination of Schopenhauer’s view of art, as Nietzsche believes that Schopenhauer’s philosophy had an indelible imprint on the thought of the 1870s, including Wagner’s. Schopenhauer, who exerted a decisive influence on Nietzsche himself by portraying the world as largely a struggle of wills, embraced ascetic ideals as a means of escape from his own tortured soul. Schopenhauer (like Kant before him) viewed the contemplation of pure beauty as the means to escape the life-will, and to counteract sexual interest (III, 6), betraying his predilection to view art from the perspective of the viewer rather than from that of the creator (as presumably Nietzsche does). Much like an ascetic, Schopenhauer needed enemies (the will, women, Hegel) in order to keep his own will going; Schopenhauer, too, was primarily a reactive force, and this is manifested in his philosophy.
Yet for Nietzsche, this is true of philosophers in general, not just Schopenhauer. Philosophers see asceticism as a bridge to independence; a way of achieving their purest intellectuality; a way of affirming their own (and only their own) existence. Philosophers do not see asceticism so much as virtuous but as the means to the best, most rarified, existence. The denial of sensory joy underscores the contrived “importance” of sheer intellectual pursuits.
Picking up the torch, Nietzsche quickly offers an historical sketch of the relationship between philosophy and asceticism. Appealing again to an unnamable, Ur-philosophical time, Nietzsche portrays the first philosophers as showing shame about any softness, much as they show shame (inspired by Christianity) for any hardness they show today. Early philosophers knew how to depict themselves as a continuation in the tradition of wise men, wizards, priests, and soothsayers in order to make others fear them; and the early ascetics behaved no differently.
Ascetics too sought power; power over life itself; power over the very sources of power (III, 11). The ascetic priest became the “real representative of seriousness,” characterized chiefly by a boundless resentment at those who enjoy health, strength, joy, and power. He sought to convince others of his formula: that this life is but a bridge to the next. (Nietzsche, in an unintentionally hilarious generalization, characterizes earth as “the ascetic planet” (III, 11).) Yet paradoxically, Nietzsche concedes that “Life itself must certainly have an interest in the continuance of such a type of self-contradiction. For an ascetic life is a self-contradiction…” (III, 11). Yet, since “Life itself” always grows and thrives despite the hostility of the ascetic priest, life, Nietzsche implies, must somehow strengthen itself through the conflict with asceticism.
The philosophy of the ascetic priest bears strong resemblance to that of certain secular philosophers, who similarly detect errors what in the healthy soul takes for reality; who treat pain, multiplicity, the subject/object distinction as errors. Ascetics scorn reason, and demand that we see the absurd, the impossible, and the counter-intuitive (and take it on faith; its very ineffability is often the reason we should believe in it). Since reason, according to this view, leads to so many errors, we should divorce our wills from reason, employing it only as a crude tool when absolutely necessary. Such a view came to influence even Kant’s epistemology, in that Kant championed “disinterested knowledge”.
Philosophical objectivity, then, is another fallacious spin-off from asceticism. It is unnatural to view things from an abstract bird’s-eye view; for Nietzsche, divorcing our wills from our perception is “intellectual castration” (III, 12). True objectivity, then, is the ability to see the pros and cons of a thing, “the difference in the perspective and in the emotional interpretations” (III, 12). Consider Nietzsche’s theory of objectivity and its ramifications for our views of objectivity in such diverse fields as science, journalism, philosophy:
There is only seeing from a perspective, only a “knowing” from a perspective, and the more emotions we express over a thing, the more eyes, different eyes, we train on the same thing, the more complete will be our “idea” of that thing, our “objectivity.” But the elimination of the will altogether, the switching off of the emotions all and sundry, granted that we could do so, what! would not that be called intellectualcastration? (III, 12)
Quickly turning back to the ascetic priest, we now find Nietzsche telling us that the ascetic’s contradiction of Life against Life is only an apparent contradiction; that psychologically asceticism represents a motivation for the preservation of life, the wish for another life; and yet, all the wounds he inflicts upon himself (and others) spurs the ascetic priest to live. Considering how prevalent are the sick among us, we should be all the more grateful for the rare cases, the “windfalls of humanity,” who, despite the debilitating presence of the weak, manage to strengthen themselves. For the “sick are the greatest danger for the healthy” (III, 14) and “the weak strive for union, as the strong strive for isolation” (III, 18).
But indeed the sick manage to infect the strong; the infection of asceticism spreads so widely, that society develops a need for “doctors and nurses who themselves are sick” (III, 15). Unfortunately, the ascetic’s prescription–more self-mortification, guilt, etc.–will not bring about a true healing; the priest will only successfully channel the course of resentment in the sufferer, offering the drowsy syrup of faith in the afterlife. Of course Nietzsche disputes the priest’s diagnosis that “sinfulness” is to blame; for Nietzsche, sinfulness is not real but merely the interpretation of a fact, probably springing ultimately from a physiological discomfort. In contrast, the “well-constituted” soul will easily digest even his negative experiences, remaining unsaddled with guilt or bad-conscience (III, 16).
For Nietzsche, there is simply no end to the evils of the ascetic priest. After aiding and abetting the slaves in their revolt against the natural aristocracy, wounding the strong through the introduction of bad-conscience into the human psyche, the priests’ medications for diseased man simply exacerbate the disease. For the disease of fatigue, nausea with this life, Christianity and Buddhism alike preach the annihilation of all wants, joys, emotion, and the will. To effect such a repression of the will, ascetics must be rigorously trained, their spirits honed through mindless repetition (cf. mantras, the routine of work) and fasting, which invites hallucinations that tend to reinforce their world-views, taken as they are for divine revelation. Others are encouraged to follow these practices, lest they stay mired in the unreal, sinful, temporal world.
Turning away from the ascetic priest as a psychological type, Nietzsche returns to his ill effects on nineteenth century thought. Nietzsche lambastes the “innocent lying” of current intellectuals in their predilection to smear everything with moral judgments, subconsciously parroting the views of the ascetic, who, nominally, is rejected by these thinkers. Where then lays the opposition to the ascetic world-view, that contains but one aim…
this goal is, putting it generally, that all the other interests of human life should, measured by its standard, appear petty and narrow; it explains epochs, nations, men, in reference to this one end; it forbids any other interpretations, any other end; it repudiates, denies, affirms, confirms, only in the sense of its own interpretation (and was there ever a more thoroughly elaborated system of interpretation?); it subjects itself to no power, rather does it believe in its own precedence over every power–it believes that nothing powerful exists in the world that has not first got to receive from “it” a meaning, a right to exist, a value, as being an instrument in its work, a way and means to its end, to one end. (III, 23)
The strongest, apparent opposition to asceticism that Nietzsche can detect lies with modern science. It would seem to counter asceticism with its own “will”, its strong focus on the temporal universe at the expense of the transcendent. And yet, science remains rhetorically unconvincing for Nietzsche (“these trumpeters of reality are bad musicians, their voices do not come from the deeps with sufficient audibility” (III, 23)). Consider, he says, the apparent temperamental similarities between the ascetic priest and the ideal scientist, their dispassion, their fixation with the routine of work. Science, with rare yet exquisite exceptions, is a “hiding-place for every kind of cowardice, disbelief, remorse, despectio sui, bad conscience–it is the very anxiety that springs from having no ideal, the suffering from the lack of a great love, the discontent with an enforced moderation” (III, 23). These scientists fear “coming to consciousness” (III, 23). Science’s right to exist springs ultimately from its faith in its hypotheses or some philosophy. In fact, the first hypothesis of any science asserts the existence of a world different than our own, a world that needs must circumscribe and negate our world to some extent in order to capture it conceptually (III, 24). Or earlier, Nietzsche writes off science as “a dupe of the tricks of language”. In short, scientists, like scholars, are usually not “free spirits,” and still suffer from the faith of the ascetic, insofar as they still believe in truth (III, 24).
This belief in truth is born of the ascetic ideal, or more precisely the Platonic, and eventually Christian belief that truth is divine. This suggests a belief in a timeless, objective reality that corresponds to the divine; the importance of the ever-mutable sensory world is minimized by such a view, paving the way for asceticism and much else. Even agnostics suffer from this conception of reality; and in their approach to an objective, godless reality, they “worship their very query as God” (III, 25). Modern history, as championed by Ranke, suffers from a similar malaise in that it asserts little, it describes; historians show little overt will to interpret, to be value-creators. Other strange transmogrifications of the ascetic include the prevalent belief in teleology (which presumably afflicts even Darwinism, in its belief in the inexorable improvement of the species), and the common belief in personal Fate, that things happen for a happen for a reason–echoing Nietzsche’s comment in Beyond Good and Evil that most of us are afraid of “looking into the abyss” of a teleologically free reality.
In closing his essay, Nietzsche grants that the ascetic ideal filled a void in the whole problem of man; that man, who often wills to suffer, needed a reason of suffer (which appears counter-intuitive), and that man would rather will ascetic suffering, than to will nothing at all. Paradoxically (except for Nietzsche), asceticism, which is characterized by a denial of the will, saved the will by preserving in us a warped counter-will to suffer.
Toward an Evaluation of Nietzsche’s Genealogy
Much of this essay necessarily degenerated into a summary of the Genealogy, because it remains especially difficult to evaluate Nietzsche without a sketch of his ideas fresh in mind. Nietzsche successfully preempted any valid reduction of his ideas into formulae, although many critics still rendered Nietzsche formulaically, rather than evaluated his philosophy in all its nuanced suppleness. As Kaufmann suggests, Nietzsche remains essentially “our greatest miniaturist,” as he said of Wagner, “who crowds into the smallest space an infinity of meaning” but fails, modern man being what he is, to create a sweeping, integrated vision like the handful of greatest Western writers.
Kaufmann, in his chapter on Nietzsche’s methodology, suggests that the “anarchy of atoms” that comprises his work are “perhaps integrated into a larger design” (Kaufmann, 74). His style:
might be called monadologic to crystallize the tendency of each aphorism to be self-sufficient while yet throwing light on almost every other aphorism. We are confronted with a “pluralistic universe” in which each aphorism is itself a microcosm. Almost as often as not, a single passage is equally relevant to ethics, aesthetics, philosophy of history, theory of value, psychology, and perhaps half a dozen other fields (Kaufmann, 75).
Kaufmann also mentions how the philosopher Karl Jaspers suggested not being satisfied that one understood Nietzsche’s view on any issue until one also found a passage that contradicted it; Jaspers saw “a virtue in Nietzsche’s bold attempt to face such contradictions squarely” (Kaufmann, 75).
For some philosophers, this points to a fundamental problem with Nietzsche’s thought: he did not feel bound by the traditional rules of logic, believing them largely irrelevant outside of mathematics, which itself had little to do with manifold reality. Logicians, scientists and others who possess more faith in logic’s usefulness in apprehending reality resist Nietzsche’s flouting of the rules. Ultimately, however, these more rational minded folk must agree that no rule of logic or mathematics can support the meta-logical assertion that logic or mathematics bring us closer to “truth.”
Indeed, in the discussion of the third essay, Nietzsche claims not to believe in ultimate truth–in essence undermining the whole scientific and intellectual enterprise (unless of course one believes that the real purpose of science has become to control nature, with a discovery but a necessary means to this end). Nietzsche believed truth still existed in most people’s minds as a kind of overarching Platonic Form, and hence a false abstraction. As much as Nietzsche’s criticisms do much to undermine the assumptions of science and metaphysics, “truth” in some form, must still be the standard to which he, Nietzsche, as philosopher, must struggle to achieve. Without any standard of truth, all remarks are equally valid, and thus we have no more reason to listen to Nietzsche’s doom rather than the drowsy syrup of the ascetic priest.
Having avowedly freed himself from the standards of Truth and logic, Nietzsche’s work appears more as rhetoric, in the benighted sense of the Sophists–an attempt to convince us through appeals to our intuition. Nietzsche’s fighting ground almost always becomes psychology–or psychologically compelling portraits of the principal players in the formation of morality: the natural aristocracy; the ascetic priest; the early philosophers; the ancient Greeks; Wagner, etc. A fundamental charge that can be levied against Nietzsche, however, is that his appeals to our intuition are in actuality appeals to our cynicism. The persuasiveness of his method, one of rhetoric and psychology instead of systems or appeals to deductive logic, must be determined by individual readers.
Aside from these possible objections, critics could object to Nietzsche’s passionate espousal of his beliefs; he often lacks the cold, detached stance of the philosopher to which we are accustomed. Nietzsche’s response to such an objection can be found in third essay of the Genealogy: that cold, dispassionate quests for truth are too redolent of asceticism; a divorce of one’s will from one’s perspective; the laughable pretense of bird’s-eye objectivity.
In the final analysis, Nietzsche’s influence will be seen as primarily heuristic: rather than embracing Nietzsche’s theories as they are, philosophers benefit from the wide tracts of previously unchartered ground that Nietzsche opened up for exploration. His approach to the origins of morality is singularly original, and anticipates, indeed exerted a decisive influence on twentieth century developments in value theory. Nietzsche himself, at times, would appear satisfied by this; rather than seeking disciples, he encouraged his readers above all to think for themselves. He sought merely to alter the locus of debate; in that, for those who have digested his works, he more than succeeded.
The Psychoanalytic Movement by Ernest Gellner. Gellner posits Nietzsche as the truly original thinker behind the “Nietzschean Minimum,” a set of ideas that Freud made more palatable and respectable and fostered a movement.
The Anxiety of Influence by Harold Bloom. Bloom calls Nietzsche a prophet of the anxiety of influence.
[Google Search this site for Nietzsche]
 Philosophers’ attitude toward Nietzsche before the war is perhaps typified by Bertrand Russell’s entry on Nietzsche in his History of Western Philosophy (1945). Russell simply posits a direct link between Nietzsche and Hitler, and then betrays such an appalling ignorance of Nietzsche’s work that his entry degenerates quickly into a fictional dialogue between Nietzsche and the Buddha–a humorous effort, but one that assumes we will take the Buddha’s side unquestioningly, which is exactly what Nietzsche diagnosed as the problem of the West. Russell also places Nietzsche in the nineteenth century “Romantic” tradition, a highly dubious contention, and dependent on an indefinable term.
 See especially Kaufmann’s Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, AntiChrist, Prologue, “The Nietzsche Legend,” for the rise of the myth of Nietzsche as Nazi forbear. Kaufmann establishes the complete lack of anti-Semitism in Nietzsche’s writings. Nietzsche’s views on both the Jews and Germans were both extremely ambivalent: he does believe the Jews furthered the rise of the “slave morality,” but no more so than the Buddha, Jesus, Paul, the early Christians, medieval monks, British utilitarian philosophers, and countless others; the Germans are often written off as “sausage-eaters” and other epithets. Nietzsche despised the nationalism of the Second Reich (1871-1918), and called himself the first “good European.” Sensing that his writings would be appropriated and misused by his domineering sister, Nietzsche bemoaned that he should have written both Zarathustra and The Will to Power in French (!), so that these books would in no way be associated with the burgeoning nationalism of the Second Reich (Kaufmann, The Will to Power, introduction). Finally, Nietzsche’s notion of a master race was multi-racial; it comprises all good “artist-tyrants” everywhere, and, when put in context of Nietzsche’s love for all things (Classical) Greek, is seen as a transparent descendant of Plato’s “philosopher-kings.”
 Nietzsche wrote over twenty volumes of philosophy during his writing years (1872-1890), most of which are divided into short sections dealing with a particular, usually original, idea or insight. Although sometimes divided into chapters (as in Beyond Good and Evil) or presented as poetry (Thus Spake Zarathustra), this form usually obtains, and so Nietzsche does not have to be read straight through like more thesis-oriented philosophers like Kant or Spengler.
 By appealing to a prescribed standard, logicians too invoke a silent “should” that one “ought” to think a certain way. Logicians, however, must deal only with form at the expense of content, and so can do little in the face of Nietzsche’s works other than cry “Contradiction!”, which Nietzsche himself often does for us without flinching.
 For the sheer audacity of self-praise, it is hard to top the late Nietzsche. See especially Ecce Homo, where, despite Nietzsche’s echoes of Socrates’ claim to be the wisest living man, he cannot be taken only at an ironic level.
 My references to the Genealogy will include essay number and section number. Thus “(II, 15)” will mean second essay, section 15.
 Readers of The Birth of Tragedy encounter a similar problem with Nietzsche’s confident assertions about the early Greek’s notion of drama. As carried away as we are by Nietzsche’s thesis, many times we wonder what sources he is drawing from.
Nietzsche, however, may be using history as grounds for higher symbols, higher types. Kaufmann writes:
Nietzsche, from his first book to his last, considered historical events and figures less with an eye to literal accuracy or correctness than “to circumscribe . . . an everyday symbol . . . , to elevate it, to intensify it into a comprehensive symbol” (Kaufmann, 153).
It may well be that Nietzsche’s perspective was more poetical than historical in his frequent historical accounts; but then, is it fair to characterize his philosophical opponents as “unhistorical”, if he himself is weaving a typology rather than offering a literal account? Such a debate naturally leads to the relative strengths of the literal and the metaphorical in the quest for truth; and though there is no doubt which side Nietzsche would favor, this issue is beyond the scope of this footnote.
 Nietzsche points out with juicy irony that even the weak dream of being strong, and fashion their beliefs in the afterlife accordingly. “These weaklings! –they also, forsooth, wish to be strong some time; there is no doubt about it, some time their kingdom also must come–“the kingdom of God” is their name for it…” (I, 15).
 Nietzsche, in Ecce Homo, freely admits that The Birth of Tragedy suffered from Hegelian tendencies (positing the Dionysian and the Apollonian as the overarching thesis and antithesis of world history). But even as late as the Genealogy he has failed to divest himself of the quest of identifying the principal elements in the world-historical dialectic. In this work, it is essentially the Greek versus the Jew, or the pagan versus the Christian. Perhaps it is this impulse, one of wanting to replace existing overarching philosophical visions with his own, that leads him down the road of unsupported generalization and the unprovable. For all his claims of historical acuity, Nietzsche’s various dialectics suffer from the same Achilles heel as Hegel and Marx’s dialectic, or Freud’s tripartite division of mind: they are unempirical, and bear as many resemblances to religion as science or philosophy.
 “Which of them has been provisionally victorious, Rome or Judea? but there is not a shadow of doubt; just consider to whom in Rome itself nowadays you bow down, as though before the quintessence of all the highest values–and not only in Rome, but almost over half the world, everywhere where man has been tamed or is about to be tamed–to three Jews, as we know, and one Jewess (to Jesus of Nazareth, to Peter the fisher, to Paul the tentmaker, and to the mother of the aforesaid Jesus, named Mary). This is very remarkable; Rome is undoubtedly defeated” (I, 16).
 In Nietzsche’s defense, his portrayal of this original conflict of opposing value systems is supported by (Nietzsche’s interpretation of) etymological evidence–rather than simply posited. He cites original usages for such encompassing words as “good” and “evil”, and appears to have confidence in his interpretation of how ancient speakers used language. Here again, without a sturdy background in linguistics or classical languages, one is forced to either accept or reject Nietzsche’s etymological insights, which provide the scant historical evidence for his “theory of history.” Again, much of the problem lies in the subject matter itself–there is simply not much documentation–so the claims of both Nietzsche and his opponents lack an historical standard on which to be evaluated.
 Even Nietzsche’s view of the ascetic priest is, at times, ambivalent. Although he rants at the tragedy of man being “tamed” by the asceticism of the weak, his own philosophy of the individual entails restraining wild animal impulses, in order to channel them to higher ends (such as art and philosophy). In this sense, asceticism, insofar as it teaches us to at least train our impulses (to harness them for positive ends), is not beyond the pale. Indeed, in his Untimely Meditations, Nietzsche considered “the philosophers, artists, and saints” as the highest types of humanity.
 C.S. Lewis uses such an argument in his Mere Christianity.
 To belabor a point, Nietzsche’s depiction of pre-moral ancient man is no more “historical” than the Social Contract theorists’ State of Nature, or others who have posited the origins of morality or law. In the necessary absence of a pre-historical history, Nietzsche’s position will stand or fall on the basis of its psychological credibility vis-à-vis other conceptions. Although I find Nietzsche’s scenario more compelling, more “realistic” than the Social Contract or the Garden of Eden, his approach still suffers from the weakness that its cogency depends on convincing modern readers, living in what I sometimes like to call The Age of Psychology, that he has accurately described what he himself admits is essentially a pre-psychological state–what indeed was first written upon the historical tabula rasa of the mind?
 For Nietzsche on the origins of memory see II, 3. Highlights include: “…perhaps there is nothing more awful and sinister in the early history of man than his system of mnemonics. ‘Something is burnt in so as to remain in his memory: only that which never stops hurting remains in his memory.’ This is the axiom of the oldest (unfortunately also the longest) psychology in the world….When man thinks it necessary to make for himself a memory, he never accomplishes it without blood, tortures and sacrifice; the most dreadful sacrifices and forfeitures (among them the sacrifice of the first-born), the most loathsome mutilation (for instance, castration), the most cruel rituals of all the religious cults (for all religions are really at bottom systems of cruelty)–all these things originate from that instinct which found in pain its most potent mnemonic.”
 Perhaps wisely, Nietzsche avoids a full etiology of memory, a task worthy of more than book-length treatment. But I leave Nietzsche’s account of the origins of conscience unsure of the relationship between conscience and morality. If indeed such cruelty was necessary to brand a few moral laws (noble ones, like keeping promises) into men’s souls, where did the morality exist in the minds of those who envisioned and were now branding moral laws into others, if not in memory?
 Compare Hobbes’ famous dictum from the Leviathan that prior to the State life was “poor, nasty, mean, brutish, and short.”
 To our cynical eyes, Nietzsche’s depiction of the relationship between the state and the individual as one of creditor and debtor seems more convincing than Locke’s State of Nature, where the Original Compact giving rise to the state is born of glorious mutuality.
 As often the case with Nietzsche, he first appears virulent, proud, instinctual, and animalistic; later we as readers are shocked by his sensitivity, bookishness, loneliness, weakness.
 The fact that the original aristocrats, the strong, are eventually vanquished by the “bungled and the botched” would, from a sheerly Darwinian perspective imply that, since the latter survived and won power, they were really stronger all along! Nietzsche, however, must reject this notion. His original aristocracy was not invincible; but it was true, honorable, spontaneous, warlike, and in possession of supreme aesthetic grandeur; only through the “sugary softness of lies” from the mouths of the proto-ascetic priests and his evil ilk did they fall from power. Nietzsche would not deny that industrialists and leading politicians of his day possessed far more “power” (control of men and matter) than most members of the original aristocracy; but their fall from their original state is (much like the fall from Eden!) irreversible and woeful, something that all later men should bemoan.
 “It is only that which has no history, which can be defined” (II, 13). This gem of a quotation encapsulates Nietzsche’s emphasis on the living, breathing, historical evolution of a concept, as well as its practical implementation, instead of the fool’s quest for perfect definitions (including those of mathematics and science; why are they any different?), a goal rendered palpably foolish long ago by the Socrates of the Platonic dialogues.
 See Kaufmann, op. cit., p. 225.
 This is a compelling theory of the origins of religion, and is supported by examination of ancient literature. Greek heroes, such as Hercules, were at least partially of divine extraction, and the gods themselves were often depicted as the gods of the Greeks alone, as if only ancestral Greeks were truly divine. In the Hebrew Bible, Yahweh is most certainly a patriarchal god, “the God of our Fathers,” of “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” of the Jews–again showing a tribalist bent, rather than universalist claims.
 This passage handsomely adumbrates the existentialism of Sartre.
 Nietzsche’s obsession with Wagner remains one of the more disquieting aspects of his writings, and is present from first to last. Nietzsche’s first book, The Birth of Tragedy, dealt mainly with the origin of tragedy as religious expression in ancient Greece, and remains a masterpiece of aesthetics and philosophy. Why then the long digression (forming the final third of the work) on Wagner’s role as a renascent, true tragedian? Nietzsche later devoted two works to Wagner (Nietzsche Contra Wagner, and The Case of Wagner), and references to him and his circle appear throughout Nietzsche’s work. Here too, in the Genealogy, Nietzsche expends a disproportionate amount of space, in this, perhaps his most cohesive work, on Wagner’s failings, especially his succumbing to traditional morality. It remains one more “aesthetic” fault that one must forgive of Nietzsche, that his obsession with Wagner did something to undermine the effectiveness of his writings.
 This is an interesting critique of much twentieth century fiction, which features a thinly veiled first person autobiographical narrator. While as Emerson (whom Nietzsche respected) anticipated that future literature would be composed of autobiographical accounts, Nietzsche believed such gross self-obsession to be counter-artistic. And yet, do his works (especially Ecce Homo) withstand such a critique?
 Confer Descartes’ famous dictum: “I think therefore I am.”
 Nietzsche’s statement that “this species, hostile, as it is, to life, always grow again and always thrive again” contradicts his other depictions of history, which often posit an inexorable decline since the time of the Greeks, usually because of the sinister spread of asceticism. Here again, Nietzsche, in approaching his target from so many angles, generates self-contradictions in his own position. Yet it does echo his statement from the first essay (I, 16) that in this day it is a “sign of the higher nature,” that they are self-contradictory; at least they are still struggling against the slave morality, and presumably the subtle permeations of asceticism as well.
 This comment supports Nietzsche’s depiction of the aristocrats being subverted by the slaves.
 “Our whole science is ‘moves, force causes,’ and so on. Our whole science is still, in spite of all its coldness, of all its freedom from passion, a dupe of the tricks of language, and has never succeeded in getting rid of that superstitious changeling ‘the subject’ (the atom, to give another instance, is such a changeling, just as the Kantian ‘Thing-in-itself’)” (I, 13).
 Interestingly, Nietzsche does not flex his Greek here by pointing out that in the Greek, “history” meant to narrate, and springs ultimately from the verb “histor,” to judge!
 See Kaufmann, op. cit., p. 73.
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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF ASCETIC IDEALS?
"Careless, mocking, forceful—so does wisdom wish us: she is a woman, and never loves any one but a warrior."
- Thus Spake Zarathustra.
What is the meaning of ascetic ideals? In artists, nothing, or too much; in philosophers and scholars, a kind of "flair" and instinct for the conditions most favourable to advanced intellectualism; in women, at best an additional seductive fascination, a little morbidezza on a fine piece of flesh, the angelhood of a fat, pretty animal; in physiological failures and whiners (in the majority of mortals), an attempt to pose as "too good" for this world, a holy form of debauchery, their chief weapon in the battle with lingering pain and ennui; in priests, the actual priestly faith, their best engine of power, and also the supreme authority for power; in saints, finally a pretext for hibernation, their novissima gloriae cupido, their peace in nothingness ("God"), their form of madness.
But in the very fact that the ascetic ideal has meant so much to man, lies expressed the fundamental feature of man's will, his horror vacui: he needs a goal—and he will sooner will nothingness than not will at all.—Am I not understood?—Have I not been understood?—"Certainly not, sir?"—Well, let us begin at the beginning.
What is the meaning of ascetic ideals? Or, to take an individual case in regard to which I have often been consulted, what is the meaning, for example, of an artist like Richard Wagner paying homage to chastity in his old age? He had always done so, of course, in a certain sense, but it was not till quite the end, that he did so in an ascetic sense. What is the meaning of this "change of attitude," this radical revolution in his attitude—for that was what it was? Wagner veered thereby straight round into his own opposite. What is the meaning of an artist veering round into his own opposite? At this point (granted that we do not mind stopping a little over this question), we immediately call to mind the best, strongest, gayest, and boldest period, that there perhaps ever was in Wagner's life: that was the period when he was genuinely and deeply occupied with the idea of "Luther's Wedding." Who knows what chance is responsible for our now having the Meistersingers instead of this wedding music? And how much in the latter is perhaps just an echo of the former? But there is no doubt but that the theme would have dealt with the praise of chastity. And certainly it would also have dealt with the praise of sensuality, and even so, it would seem quite in order, and even so, it would have been equally Wagnerian. For there is no necessary antithesis between chastity and sensuality: every good marriage, every authentic heart-felt love transcends this antithesis. Wagner would, it seems to me, have done well to have brought this pleasing reality home once again to his Germans, by means of a bold and graceful "Luther Comedy," for there were and are among the Germans many revilers of sensuality; and perhaps Luther's greatest merit lies just in the fact of his having had the courage of his sensuality (it used to be called, prettily enough, "evangelistic freedom"). But even in those cases where that antithesis between chastity and sensuality does exist, there has fortunately been for some time no necessity for it to be in any way a tragic antithesis. This should, at any rate, be the case with all beings who are sound in mind and body, who are far from reckoning their delicate balance between "animal" and "angel," as being on the face of it one of the principles opposed to existence—the most subtle and brilliant spirits, such as Goethe, such as Hafiz, have even seen in this a further charm of life. Such "conflicts" actually allure one to life. On the other hand, it is only too clear that when once these ruined swine are reduced to worshipping chastity—and there are such swine—they only see and worship in it the antithesis to themselves, the antithesis to ruined swine. Oh, what a tragic grunting and eagerness! You can just think of it—they worship that painful and superfluous contrast, which Richard Wagner in his latter days undoubtedly wished to set to music, and to place on the stage! "For what purpose, forsooth?"as we may reasonably ask. What did the swine matter to him; what do they matter to us?
At this point it is impossible to beg the further question of what he really had to do with that manly (ah, so unmanly) country bumpkin, that poor devil and natural, Parsifal, whom he eventually made a Catholic by such fraudulent devices. What? Was this Parsifal really meant seriously? One might be tempted to suppose the contrary, even to wish it—that the Wagnerian Parsifal was meant joyously, like a concluding play of a trilogy or satyric drama, in which Wagner the tragedian wished to take farewell of us, of himself, above all of tragedy, and to do so in a manner that should be quite fitting and worthy, that is, with an excess of the most extreme and flippant parody of the tragic itself, of the ghastly earthly seriousness and earthly woe of old—a parody of that most crude phase in the unnaturalness of the ascetic ideal, that had at length been overcome. That, as I have said, would have been quite worthy of a great tragedian; who like every artist first attains the supreme pinnacle of his greatness when he can look down into himself and his art, when he can laugh at himself. Is Wagner's Parsifal his secret laugh of superiority over himself, the triumph of that supreme artistic freedom and artistic transcendency which he has at length attained. We might, I repeat, wish it were so, for what can Parsifal, taken seriously, amount to? Is it really necessary to see in it (according to an expression once used against me) the product of an insane hate of knowledge, mind, and flesh? A curse on flesh and spirit in one breath of hate? An apostasy and reversion to the morbid Christian and obscurantist ideals? And finally a self-negation and self-elimination on the part of an artist, who till then had devoted all the strength of his will to the contrary, namely, the highest artistic expression of soul and body. And not only his art; of his life as well. Just remember with what enthusiasm Wagner followed in the footsteps of Feuerbach. Feuerbach's motto of "healthy sensuality" rang in the ears of Wagner during the thirties and forties of the century, as it did in the ears of many Germans (they dubbed themselves "Young Germans"), like the word of redemption. Did he eventually change his mind on the subject? For it seems at any rate that he eventually wished to change his teaching on that subject . . . and not only is that the case with the Parsifal trumpets on the stage: in the melancholy, cramped, and embarrassed lucubrations of his later years, there are a hundred places in which there are manifestations of a secret wish and will, a despondent, uncertain, unavowed will to preach actual retrogression, conversion, Christianity, mediaevalism, and to say to his disciples, "All is vanity! Seek salvation elsewhere!" Even the "blood of the Redeemer" is once invoked.
Let me speak out my mind in a case like this, which has many painful elements—and it is a typical case: it is certainly best to separate an artist from his work so completely that he cannot be taken as seriously as his work. He is after all merely the presupposition of his work, the womb, the soil, in certain cases the dung and manure, on which and out of which it grows—and consequently, in most cases, something that must be forgotten if the work itself is to be enjoyed. The insight into the origin of a work is a matter for psychologists and vivisectors, but never either in the present or the future for the aesthetes, the artists. The author and creator of Parsifal was as little spared the necessity of sinking and living himself into the terrible depths and foundations of mediaeval soul-contrasts, the necessity of a malignant abstraction from all intellectual elevation, severity, and discipline, the necessity of a kind of mental perversity (if the reader will pardon me such a word), as little as a pregnant woman is spared the horrors and marvels of pregnancy, which, as I have said, must be forgotten if the child is to be enjoyed. We must guard ourselves against the confusion, into which an artist himself would fall only too easily (to employ the English terminology) out of psychological "contiguity"; as though the artist' himself actually were the object which he is able to represent, imagine, and express. In point of fact, the position is that even if he conceived he were such an object, he would certainly not represent, conceive, express it. Homer would not have created an Achilles, nor Goethe a Faust, if Homer had been an Achilles or if Goethe had been a Faust. A complete and perfect artist is to all eternity separated from the "real," from the actual; on the other hand, it will be appreciated that he can at times get tired to the point of despair of this eternal "unreality" and falseness of his innermost being— and that he then sometimes attempts to trespass on to the most forbidden ground, on reality, and attempts to have real existence. With what success? The success will be guessed—it is the typical velleity of the artist; the same velleity to which Wagner fell a victim in his old age, and for which he had to pay so dearly and so fatally (he lost thereby his most valuable friends). But after all, quite apart from this velleity, who would not wish emphatically for Wagner's own sake that he had taken farewell of us and of his art in a different manner, not with a Parsifal, but in more victorious, more self-confident, more Wagnerian style—a style less misleading, a style less ambiguous with regard to his whole meaning, less Schopenhauerian, less Nihilistic? . .
What, then, is the meaning of ascetic ideals? In the case of an artist we are getting to understand their meaning: Nothing at all . . . or so much that it is as good as nothing at all. Indeed, what is the use of them? Our artists have for a long time past not taken up a sufficiently independent attitude, either in the world or against it, to warrant their valuations and the changes in these valuations exciting interest. At all times they have played the valet of some morality, philosophy, or religion, quite apart from the fact that unfortunately they have often enough been the inordinately supple courtiers of their clients and patrons, and the inquisitive toadies of the powers that are existing, or even of the new powers to come. To put it at the lowest, they always need a rampart, a support, an already constituted authority: artists never stand by themselves, standing alone is opposed to their deepest instincts. So, for example, did Richard Wagner take, "when the time had come," the philosopher Schopenhauer for his covering man in front, for his rampart. Who would consider it even thinkable, that he would have had the courage for an ascetic ideal, without the support afforded him by the philosophy of Schopenhauer, without the authority of Schopenhauer, which dominated Europe in the seventies? (This is without consideration of the question whether an artist without the milk of an orthodoxy would have been possible at all.) This brings us to the more serious question: What is the meaning of a real philosopher paying homage to the ascetic ideal, a really self-dependent intellect like Schopenhauer, a man and knight with a glance of bronze, who has the courage to be himself, who knows how to stand alone without first waiting for men who cover him in front, and the nods of his superiors? Let us now consider at once the remarkable attitude of Schopenhauer towards art, an attitude which has even a fascination for certain types. For that is obviously the reason why Richard Wagner all at once went over to Schopenhauer (persuaded thereto, as one knows, by a poet, Herwegh), went over so completely that there ensued the cleavage of a complete theoretic contradiction between his earlier and his later aesthetic faiths—the earlier, for example, being expressed in Opera and Drama, the later in the writings which he published from 1870 onwards. In particular, Wagner from that time onwards (and this is the volte-face which alienates us the most) had no scruples about changing his judgment concerning the value and position of music itself. What did he care if up to that time he had made of music a means, a medium, a "woman," that in order to thrive needed an end, a man—that is, the drama? He suddenly realised that more could be effected by the novelty of the Schopenhauerian theory in majorem musicae gloriam—that is to say, by means of the sovereignty of music, as Schopenhauer understood it; music abstracted from and opposed to all the other arts, music as the independent art-in-itself, not like the other arts, affording reflections of the phenomenal world, but rather the language of the will itself, speaking straight out of the "abyss" as its most personal, original, and direct manifestation. This extraordinary rise in the value of music (a rise which seemed to grow out of the Schopenhauerian philosophy) was at once accompanied by an unprecedented rise in the estimation in which the musician himself was held: he became now an oracle, a priest, nay, more than a priest, a kind of mouthpiece for the "intrinsic essence of things," a telephone from the other world—from henceforward he talked not only music, did this ventriloquist of God, he talked metaphysic; what wonder that one day he eventually talked ascetic ideals!
Schopenhauer has made use of the Kantian treatment of the aesthetic problem—though he certainly did not regard it with the Kantian eyes. Kant thought that he showed honour to art when he favoured and placed in the foreground those of the predicates of the beautiful, which constitute the honour of knowledge: impersonality and universality. This is not the place to discuss whether this was not a complete mistake; all that I wish to emphasise is that Kant, just like other philosophers, instead of envisaging the aesthetic problem from the standpoint of the experiences of the artist (the creator), has only considered art and beauty from the standpoint of the spectator, and has thereby imperceptibly imported the spectator himself into the idea of the "beautiful"! But if only the philosophers of the beautiful had sufficient knowledge of this "spectator"!—Knowledge of him as a great fact of personality, as a great experience, as a wealth of strong and most individual events, desires, surprises, and raptures in the sphere of beauty! But, as I feared, the contrary was always the case. And so we get from our philosophers, from the very beginning, definitions on which the lack of a subtler personal experience squats like a fat worm of crass error, as it does on Kant's famous definition of the beautiful. "That is beautiful," says Kant, "which pleases without interesting." Without interesting! Compare this definition with this other one, made by a real "spectator" and "artist"—by Stendhal, who once called the beautiful une promesse de bonheur. Here, at any rate, the one point which Kant makes prominent in the aesthetic position is repudiated and eliminated—le désinteressement. Who is right, Kant or Stendhal? When, forsooth, our aesthetes never get tired of throwing into the scales in Kant's favour the fact that under the magic of beauty men can look at even naked female statues "without interest," we can certainly laugh a little at their expense:—in regard to this ticklish point the experiences of artists are more "interesting," and at any rate Pygmalion was not necessarily an "unaesthetic man." Let us think all the better of the innocence of our aesthetes, reflected as it is in such arguments; let us, for instance, count to Kant's honour the country-parson naivete of his doctrine concerning the peculiar character of the sense of touch! And here we come back to Schopenhauer, who stood in much closer neighbourhood to the arts than did Kant, and yet never escaped outside the pale of the Kantian definition; how was that? The circumstance is marvellous enough: he interprets the expression, "without interest," in the most personal fashion, out of an experience which must in his case have been part and parcel of his regular routine. On few subjects does Schopenhauer speak with such certainty as on the working of aesthetic contemplation: he says of it that it simply counteracts sexual interest, like lupulin and camphor; he never gets tired of glorifying this escape from the "Life-will" as the great advantage and utility of the aesthetic state. In fact, one is tempted to ask if his fundamental conception of Will and Idea, the thought that there can only exist freedom from the "will" by means of "idea," did not originate in a generalisation from this sexual experience. (In all questions concerning the Schopenhauerian philosophy, one should, by the bye, never lose sight of the consideration that it is the conception of a youth of twenty-six, so that it participates not only in what is peculiar to Schopenhauer's life, but in what is peculiar to that special period of his life.) Let us listen, for instance, to one of the most expressive among the countless passages which he has written in honour of the aesthetic state (World as Will and Idea, i. 231); let us listen to the tone, the suffering, the happiness, the gratitude, with which such words are uttered: "This is the painless state which Epicurus praised as the highest good and as the state of the gods; we are during that moment freed from the vile pressure of the will, we celebrate the Sabbath of the will's hard labour, the wheel of Ixion stands still." What vehemence of language! What images of anguish and protracted revulsion! How almost pathological is that temporal antithesis between "that moment" and everything else, the "wheel of Ixion," "the hard labour of the will," "the vile pressure of the will." But granted that Schopenhauer was a hundred times right for himself personally, how does that help our insight into the nature of the beautiful? Schopenhauer has described one effect of the beautiful,—the calming of the will,—but is this effect really normal? As has been mentioned, Stendhal, an equally sensual but more happily constituted nature than Schopenhauer, gives prominence to another effect of the "beautiful." "The beautiful promises happiness." To him it is just the excitement of the will (the "interest") by the beauty that seems the essential fact. And does not Schopenhauer ultimately lay himself open to the objection, that he is quite wrong in regarding himself as a Kantian on this point, that he has absolutely failed to understand in a Kantian sense the Kantian definition of the beautiful—that the beautiful pleased him as well by means of an interest, by means, in fact, of the strongest and most personal interest of all, that of the victim of torture who escapes from his torture?—And to come back again to our first question, "What is the meaning of a philosopher paying homage to ascetic ideals?" We get now, at any rate, a first hint; he wishes to escape from a torture.
Let us beware of making dismal faces at the word "torture"—there is certainly in this case enough to deduct, enough to discount—there is even something to laugh at. For we must certainly not underestimate the fact that Schopenhauer, who in practice treated sexuality as a personal enemy (including its tool, woman, that "instrumentum diaboli"), needed enemies to keep him in a good humour; that he loved grim, bitter, blackish-green words; that he raged for the sake of raging, out of passion; that he would have grown ill, would have become a pessimist (for he was not a pessimist, however much he wished to be), without his enemies, without Hegel, woman, sensuality, and the whole "will for existence" "keeping on." Without them Schopenhauer would not have "kept on," that is a safe wager; he would have run away: but his enemies held him fast, his enemies always enticed him back again to existence, his wrath was just as theirs was to the ancient Cynics, his balm, his recreation, his recompense, his remedium against disgust, his happiness. So much with regard to what is most personal in the case of Schopenhauer; on the other hand, there is still much which is typical in him—and only now we come back to our problem. It is an accepted and indisputable fact, so long as there are philosophers in the world, and wherever philosophers have existed (from India to England, to take the opposite poles of philosophic ability), that there exists a real irritation and rancour on the part of philosophers towards sensuality. Schopenhauer is merely the most eloquent, and if one has the ear for it, also the most fascinating and enchanting outburst. There similarly exists a real philosophic bias and affection for the whole ascetic ideal; there should be no illusions on this score. Both these feelings, as has been said, belong to the type; if a philosopher lacks both of them, then he is—you may be certain of it—never anything but a "pseudo." What does this mean? For this state of affairs must first be interpreted: in itself it stands there stupid to all eternity, like any "Thing-in-itself." Every animal, including la bete philosophe, strives instinctively after an optimum of favourable conditions, under which he can let his whole strength have play, and achieves his maximum consciousness of power; with equal instinctiveness, and with a fine perceptive flair which is superior to any reason, every animal shudders mortally at every kind of disturbance and hindrance which obstructs or could obstruct his way to that optimum (it is not his way to happiness of which I am talking, but his way to power, to action, the most powerful action, and in point of fact in many cases his way to unhappiness). Similarly, the philosopher shudders mortally at marriage, together with all that could persuade him to it—marriage as a fatal hindrance on the way to the optimum. Up to the present what great philosophers have been married? Heracleitus, Plato, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Kant, Schopenhauer—they were not married, and, further, one cannot imagine them as married. A married philosopher belongs to comedy, that is my rule; as for that exception of a Socrates—the malicious Socrates married himself, it seems, ironice, just to prove this very rule. Every philosopher would say, as Buddha said, when the birth of a son was announced to him: "Rahoula has been born to me, a fetter has been forged for me" (Rahoula means here "a little demon"); there must come an hour of reflection to every "free spirit" (granted that he has had previously an hour of thoughtlessness), just as one came once to the same Buddha: "Narrowly cramped," he reflected, "is life in the house; it is a place of uncleanness; freedom is found in leaving the house." Because he thought like this, he left the house. So many bridges to independence are shown in the ascetic ideal, that the philosopher cannot refrain from exultation and clapping of hands when he hears the history of all those resolute ones, who on one day uttered a nay to all servitude and went into some desert; even granting that they were only strong asses, and the absolute opposite of strong minds. What, then, does the ascetic ideal mean in a philosopher? This is my answer—it will have been guessed long ago: when he sees this ideal the philosopher smiles because he sees therein an optimum of the conditions of the highest and boldest intellectuality; he does not thereby deny '"existence," he rather affirms thereby his existence and only his existence, and this perhaps to the point of not being far off the blasphemous wish, pereat mundus, fiat philosophia, fiat philosophus, fiam! . . .
These philosophers, you see, are by no means uncorrupted witnesses and judges of the value of the ascetic ideal. They think of themselves—what is the "saint" to them? They think of that which to them personally is most indispensable; of freedom from compulsion, disturbance, noise; freedom from business, duties, cares; of a clear head; of the dance, spring, and flight of thoughts; of good air—rare, clear, free, dry, as is the air on the heights, in which every animal creature becomes more intellectual and gains wings; they think of peace in every cellar; all the hounds neatly chained; no baying of enmity and uncouth rancour; no remorse of wounded ambition; quiet and submissive internal organs, busy as mills, but unnoticed; the heart alien, transcendent, future, posthumous—to summarise, they mean by the ascetic ideal the joyous asceticism of a deified and newly fledged animal, sweeping over life rather than resting. We know what are the three great catch-words of the ascetic ideal: poverty, humility, chastity; and now just look closely at the life of all the great fruitful inventive spirits—you will always find again and again these three qualities up to a certain extent. Not for a minute, as is self-evident, as though, perchance, they were part of their virtues—what has this type of man to do with virtues—but as the most essential and natural conditions of their best existence, their finest fruitfulness. In this connection it is quite possible that their predominant intellectualism had first to curb an unruly and irritable pride, or an insolent sensualism, or that it had all its work cut out to maintain its wish for the "desert" against perhaps an inclination to luxury and dilettantism, or similarly against an extravagant liberality of heart and hand. But their intellect did effect all this, simply because it was the dominant instinct, which carried through its orders in the case of all the other instincts. It effects it still: if it ceased to do so, it would simply not be dominant. But there is not one iota of "virtue" in all this. Further, the desert, of which I just spoke, in which the strong, independent, and well-equipped spirits retreat into their hermitage—oh, how different is it from the cultured classes' dream of a desert! In certain cases, in fact, the cultured classes themselves are the desert. And it is certain that all the actors of the intellect would not endure this desert for a minute. It is nothing like romantic and Syrian enough for them, nothing like enough of a stage desert! Here as well there are plenty of asses, but at this point the resemblance ceases. But a desert nowadays is something like this—perhaps a deliberate obscurity; a getting-out-of the way of one's self; a fear of noise, admiration, papers, influence; a little office, a daily task, something that hides rather than brings to light; sometimes associating with harmless, cheerful beasts and fowls, the sight of which refreshes; a mountain for company, but not a dead one, one with eyes (that is, with lakes); in certain cases even a room in a crowded hotel where one can reckon on not being recognised, and on being able to talk with impunity to every one: here is the desert—oh, it is lonely enough, believe me! I grant that when Heracleitus retreated to the courts and cloisters of the colossal temple of Artemis, that "wilderness" was worthier; why do we lack such temples? (perchance we do not lack them: I just think of my splendid study in the Piazza di San Marco, in spring, of course, and in the morning, between ten and twelve). But that which Heracleitus shunned is still just what we too avoid nowadays: the noise and democratic babble of the Ephesians, their politics, their news from the "empire" (I mean, of course, Persia), their market-trade in "the things of to-day"—for there is one thing from which we philosophers especially need a rest—from the things of "to-day." We honour the silent, the cold, the noble, the far, the past, everything, in fact, at the sight of which the soul is not bound to brace itself up and defend itself—something with which one can speak without speaking aloud. Just listen now to the tone a spirit has when it speaks; every spirit has its own tone and loves its own tone. That thing yonder, for instance, is bound to be an agitator, that is, a hollow head, a hollow mug: whatever may go into him, everything comes back from him dull and thick, heavy with the echo of the great void. That spirit yonder nearly always speaks hoarse: has he, perchance, thought himself hoarse? It may be so—ask the physiologists—but he who thinks in words, thinks as a speaker and not as a thinker (it shows that he does not think of objects or think objectively, but only of his relations with objects—that, in point of fact, he only thinks of himself and his audience). This third one speaks aggressively, he comes too near our body, his breath blows on us—we shut our mouth involuntarily, although he speaks to us through a book: the tone of his style supplies the reason—he has no time, he has small faith in himself, he finds expression now or never. But a spirit who is sure of himself speaks softly; he seeks secrecy, he lets himself be awaited. A philosopher is recognised by the fact that he shuns three brilliant and noisy things— fame, princes, and women: which is not to say that they do not come to him. He shuns every glaring light: therefore he shuns his time and its "daylight." Therein he is as a shadow; the deeper sinks the sun, the greater grows the shadow. As for his humility, he endures, as he endures darkness, a certain dependence and obscurity: further, he is afraid of the shock of lightning, he shudders at the insecurity of a tree which is too isolated and too exposed, on which every storm vents its temper, every temper its storm. His "maternal" instinct, his secret love for that which grows in him, guides him into states where he is relieved from the necessity of taking care of himself, in the same way in which the "mother" instinct in woman has thoroughly maintained up to the present woman's dependent position. After all, they demand little enough, do these philosophers, their favourite motto is, "He who possesses is possessed." All this is not, as I must say again and again, to be attributed to a virtue, to a meritorious wish for moderation and simplicity: but because their supreme lord so demands of them, demands wisely and inexorably; their lord who is eager only for one thing, for which alone he musters, and for which alone he hoards everything—time, strength, love, interest. This kind of man likes not to be disturbed by enmity, he likes not to be disturbed by friendship, it is a type which forgets or despises easily. It strikes him as bad form to play the martyr, "to suffer for truth"—he leaves all that to the ambitious and to the stage-heroes of the intellect, and to all those, in fact, who have time enough for such luxuries (they themselves, the philosophers, have something to do for truth). They make a sparing use of big words; they are said to be adverse to the word "truth" itself: it has a "high falutin'" ring. Finally, as far as the chastity of philosophers is concerned, the fruitfulness of this type of mind is manifestly in another sphere than that of children; perchance in some other sphere, too, they have the survival of their name, their little immortality (philosophers in ancient India would express themselves with still greater boldness: "Of what use is posterity to him whose soul is the world?"). In this attitude there is not a trace of chastity, by reason of any ascetic scruple or hatred of the flesh, any more than it is chastity for an athlete or a jockey to abstain from women; it is rather the will of the dominant instinct, at any rate, during the period of their advanced philosophic pregnancy. Every artist knows the harm done by sexual intercourse on occasions of great mental strain and preparation; as far as the strongest artists and those with the surest instincts are concerned, this is not necessarily a case of experience—hard experience—but it is simply their "maternal" instinct which, in order to benefit the growing work, disposes recklessly (beyond all its normal stocks and supplies) of the vigour of its animal life; the greater power then absorbs the lesser. Let us now apply this interpretation to gauge correctly the case of Schopenhauer, which we have already mentioned: in his case, the sight of the beautiful acted manifestly like a resolving irritant on the chief power of his nature (the power of contemplation and of intense penetration); so that this strength exploded and became suddenly master of his consciousness. But this by no means excludes the possibility of that particular sweetness and fulness, which is peculiar to the aesthetic state, springing directly from the ingredient of sensuality (just as that "idealism" which is peculiar to girls at puberty originates in the same source)—it may be, consequently, that sensuality is not removed by the approach of the aesthetic state, as Schopenhauer believed, but merely becomes transfigured, and ceases to enter into the consciousness as sexual excitement. (I shall return once again to this point in connection with the more delicate problems of the physiology of the æesthetic, a subject which up to the present has been singularly untouched and unelucidated.)
A certain asceticism, a grimly gay whole-hearted renunciation, is, as we have seen, one of the most favourable conditions for the highest intellectualism, and, consequently, for the most natural corollaries of such intellectualism: we shall therefore be proof against any surprise at the philosophers in particular always treating the ascetic ideal with a certain amount of predilection. A serious historical investigation shows the bond between the ascetic ideal and philosophy to be still much tighter and still much stronger. It may be said that it was only in the leading strings of this ideal that philosophy really learnt to make its first steps and baby paces—alas how clumsily, alas how crossly, alas how ready to tumble down and lie on its stomach was this shy little darling of a brat with its bandy legs! The early history of philosophy is like that of all good things;—for a long time they had not the courage to be themselves, they kept always looking round to see if no one would come to their help; further, they were afraid of all who looked at them. Just enumerate in order the particular tendencies and virtues of the philosopher—his tendency to doubt, his tendency to deny, his tendency to wait (to be "ephectic"), his tendency to analyse, search, explore, dare, his tendency to compare and to equalise, his will to be neutral and objective, his will for everything which is "sine ira et studio": has it yet been realised that for quite a lengthy period these tendencies went counter to the first claims of morality and conscience? (To say nothing at all of Reason, which even Luther chose to call Frau Klüglin the sly whore.) Has it been yet appreciated that a philosopher, in the event of his arriving at self-consciousness, must needs feel himself an incarnate "nitimur in vetitum,"—and consequently guard himself against "his own sensations," against self-consciousness? It is, I repeat, just the same with all good things, on which we now pride ourselves; even judged by the standard of the ancient Greeks, our whole modern life, in so far as it is not weakness, but power and the consciousness of power, appears pure "Hybris" and godlessness: for the things which are the very reverse of those which we honour to-day, have had for a long time conscience on their side, and God as their guardian. "Hybris" is our whole attitude to nature nowadays, our violation of nature with the help of machinery, and all the unscrupulous ingenuity of our scientists and engineers. "Hybris" is our attitude to God, that is, to some alleged teleological and ethical spider behind the meshes of the great trap of the causal web. Like Charles the Bold in his war with Louis the Eleventh, we may say, "je combats l'universelle araignée"; "Hybris" is our attitude to ourselves—for we experiment with ourselves in a way that we would not allow with any animal, and with pleasure and curiosity open our soul in our living body: what matters now to us the "salvation" of the soul? We heal ourselves afterwards: being ill is instructive, we doubt it not, even more instructive than being well—inoculators of disease seem to us to-day even more necessary than any medicine-men and "saviours." There is no doubt we do violence to ourselves nowadays, we crackers of the soul's kernel, we incarnate riddles, who are ever asking riddles, as though life were naught else than the cracking of a nut; and even thereby must we necessarily become day by day more and more worthy to be asked questions and worthy to ask them, even thereby do we perchance also become worthier to—live?
. . . All good things were once bad things; from every original sin has grown an original virtue. Marriage, for example, seemed for a long time a sin against the rights of the community; a man formerly paid a fine for the insolence of claiming one woman to himself (to this phase belongs, for instance, the jus primae noctis to-day still in Cambodia the privilege of the priest, that guardian of the "good old customs").
The soft, benevolent, yielding, sympathetic feelings—eventually valued so highly that they almost became "intrinsic values," were for a very long time actually despised by their possessors: gentleness was then a subject for shame, just as hardness is now (compare Beyond Good and Evil, Aph. 260). The submission to law: oh, with what qualms of conscience was it that the noble races throughout the world renounced the vendetta and gave the law power over themselves! Law was long a vetitum, a blasphemy, an innovation; it was introduced with force like a force, to which men only submitted with a sense of personal shame. Every tiny step forward in the world was formerly made at the cost of mental and physical torture. Nowadays the whole of this point of view—"that not only stepping forward, nay, stepping at all, movement, change, all needed their countless martyrs," rings in our ears quite strangely. I have put it forward in the Dawn of Day, Aph. 18. "Nothing is purchased more dearly," says the same book a little later, "than the modicum of human reason and freedom which is now our pride. But that pride is the reason why it is now almost impossible for us to feel in sympathy with those immense periods of the 'Morality of Custom,' which lie at the beginning of the 'world's history,' constituting as they do the real decisive historical principle which has fixed the character of humanity; those periods, I repeat, when throughout the world suffering passed for virtue, cruelty for virtue, deceit for virtue, revenge for virtue, repudiation of the reason for virtue; and when, conversely, well-being passed current for danger, the desire for knowledge for danger, pity for danger, peace for danger, being pitied for shame, work for shame, madness for divinity, and change for immorality and incarnate corruption!"
There is in the same book, Aph. 12, an explanation of the burden of unpopularity under which the earliest race of contemplative men had to live—despised almost as widely as they were first feared! Contemplation first appeared on earth in a disguised shape, in an ambiguous form, with an evil heart and often with an uneasy head: there is no doubt about it. The inactive, brooding, unwarlike element in the instincts of contemplative men long invested them with a cloud of suspicion: the only way to combat this was to excite a definite fear. And the old Brahmans, for example, knew to a nicety how to do this! The oldest philosophers were well versed in giving to their very existence and appearance, meaning, firmness, background, by reason whereof men learnt to fear them; considered more precisely, they did this from an even more fundamental need, the need of inspiring in themselves fear and self-reverence. For they found even in their own souls all the valuations turned against themselves; they had to fight down every kind of suspicion and antagonism against "the philosophic element in themselves." Being men of a terrible age, they did this with terrible means: cruelty to themselves, ingenious self-mortification—this was the chief method of these ambitious hermits and intellectual revolutionaries, who were obliged to force down the gods and the traditions of their own soul, so as to enable themselves to believe in their own revolution. I remember the famous story of the King Vicvamitra, who, as the result of a thousand years of self-martyrdom, reached such a consciousness of power and such a confidence in himself that he undertook to build a new heaven: the sinister symbol of the oldest and newest history of philosophy in the whole world. Every one who has ever built anywhere a "new heaven" first found the power thereto in his own hell. . . . Let us compress the facts into a short formula. The philosophic spirit had, in order to be possible to any extent at all, to masquerade and disguise itself as one of the previously fixed types of the contemplative man, to disguise itself as priest, wizard, soothsayer, as a religious man generally: the ascetic ideal has for a long time served the philosopher as a superficial form, as a condition which enabled him to exist. . . . To be able to be a philosopher he had to exemplify the ideal; to exemplify it, he was bound to believe in it. The peculiarly etherealised abstraction of philosophers, with their negation of the world, their enmity to life, their disbelief in the senses, which has been maintained up to the most recent time, and has almost thereby come to be accepted as the ideal philosophic attitude—this abstraction is the result of those enforced conditions under which philosophy came into existence, and continued to exist; inasmuch as for quite a very long time philosophy would have been absolutely impossible in the world without an ascetic cloak and dress, without an ascetic self-misunderstanding. Expressed plainly and palpably, the ascetic priest has taken the repulsive and sinister form of the caterpillar, beneath which and behind which alone philosophy could live and slink about. . . .
Has all that really changed? Has that flamboyant and dangerous winged creature, that "spirit" which that caterpillar concealed within itself, has it, I say, thanks to a sunnier, warmer, lighter world, really and finally flung off its hood and escaped into the light? Can we to-day point to enough pride, enough daring, enough courage, enough self-confidence, enough mental will, enough will for responsibility, enough freedom of the will, to enable the philosopher to be now in the world really—possible?
And now, after we have caught sight of the ascetic priest, let us tackle our problem. What is the meaning of the ascetic ideal? It now first becomes serious—vitally serious. We are now confronted with the real representatives of the serious. "What is the meaning of all seriousness?" This even more radical question is perchance already on the tip of our tongue: a question, fairly, for physiologists, but which we for the time being skip. In that ideal the ascetic priest finds not only his faith, but also his will, his power, his interest. His right to existence stands and falls with that ideal. What wonder that we here run up against a terrible opponent (on the supposition, of course, that we are the opponents of that ideal), an opponent fighting for his life against those who repudiate that ideal! ... On the other hand, it is from the outset improbable that such a biased attitude towards our problem will do him any particular good; the ascetic priest himself will scarcely prove the happiest champion of his own ideal (on the same principle on which a woman usually fails when she wishes to champion "woman")—let alone proving the most objective critic and judge of the controversy now raised. We shall therefore—so much is already obvious—rather have actually to help him to defend himself properly against ourselves, than we shall have to fear being too well beaten by him. The idea, which is the subject of this dispute, is the value of our life from the standpoint of the ascetic priests: this life, then (together with the whole of which it is a part, "Nature," "the world," the whole sphere of becoming and passing away), is placed by them in relation to an existence of quite another character, which it excludes and to which it is opposed, unless it deny its own self: in this case, the case of an ascetic life, life is taken as a bridge to another existence. The ascetic treats life as a maze, in which one must walk backwards till one comes to the place where it starts; or he treats it as an error which one may, nay must, refute by action: for he demands that he should be followed; he enforces, where he can, his valuation of existence. What does this mean? Such a monstrous valuation is not an exceptional case, or a curiosity recorded in human history: it is one of the most general and persistent facts that there are. The reading from the vantage of a distant star of the capital letters of our earthly life, would perchance lead to the conclusion that the earth was the especially ascetic planet, a den of discontented, arrogant, and repulsive creatures, who never got rid of a deep disgust of themselves, of the world, of all life, and did themselves as much hurt as possible out of pleasure in hurting—presumably their one and only pleasure. Let us consider how regularly, how universally, how practically at every single period the ascetic priest puts in his appearance: he belongs to no particular race; he thrives everywhere; he grows out of all classes. Not that he perhaps bred this valuation by heredity and propagated it—the contrary is the case. It must be a necessity of the first order which makes this species, hostile, as it is, to life, always grow again and always thrive again.—Life itself must certainly have an interest in the continuance of such a type of self-contradiction. For an ascetic life is a self-contradiction: here rules resentment without parallel, the resentment of an insatiate instinct and ambition, that would be master, not over some element in life, but over life itself, over life's deepest, strongest, innermost conditions; here is an attempt made to utilise power to dam the sources of power; here does the green eye of jealousy tum even against physiological well-being, especially against the expression of such well-being, beauty, joy, while a sense of pleasure is experienced and sought in abortion, in decay, in pain, in misfortune, in ugliness, in voluntary punishment, in the exercising, flagellation, and sacrifice of the self. All this is in the highest degree paradoxical: we are here confronted with a rift that wills itself to be a rift, which enjoys itself in this very suffering, and even becomes more and more certain of itself, more and more triumphant, in proportion as its own presupposition, physiological vitality, decreases. "The triumph just in the supreme agony": under this extravagant emblem did the ascetic ideal fight from of old; in this mystery of seduction, in this picture of rapture and torture, it recognised its brightest light, its salvation, its final victory. Crux, nux, lux—it has all these three in one.
Granted that such an incarnate will for contradiction and unnaturalness is induced to philosophise; on what will it vent its pet caprice? On that which has been felt with the greatest certainty to be true, to be real; it will look for error in those very places where the life instinct fixes truth with the greatest positiveness. It will, for instance, after the example of the ascetics of the Vedanta Philosophy, reduce matter to an illusion, and similarly treat pain, multiplicity, the whole logical contrast of "Subject" and "Object"—errors, nothing but errors! To renounce the belief in one's own ego, to deny to one's self one's own "reality"—what a triumph! and here already we have a much higher kind of triumph, which is not merely a triumph over the senses, over the palpable, but an infliction of violence and cruelty on reason; and this ecstasy culminates in the ascetic self-contempt, the ascetic scorn of one's own reason making this decree: there is a domain of truth and of life, but reason is specially excluded therefrom. . . . By the bye, even in the Kantian idea of "the intelligible character of things" there remains a trace of that schism, so dear to the heart of the ascetic, that schism which likes to turn reason against reason; in fact, "intelligible character" means in Kant a kind of quality in things of which the intellect comprehends so much, that for it, the intellect, it is absolutely incomprehensible. After all, let us, in our character of knowers, not be ungrateful towards such determined reversals of the ordinary perspectives and values, with which the mind had for too long raged against itself with an apparently futile sacrilege! In the same way the very seeing of another vista, the very wishing to see another vista, is no little training and preparation of the intellect for its eternal "Objectivity"—objectivity being understood not as "contemplation without interest" (for that is inconceivable and nonsensical), but as the ability to have the pros and cons in one's power and to switch them on and off, so as to get to know how to utilise, for the advancement of knowledge, the difference in the perspective and in the emotional interpretations. But let us, forsooth, my philosophic colleagues, henceforward guard ourselves more carefully against this mythology of dangerous ancient ideas, which has set up a "pure, will-less, painless, timeless subject of knowledge"; let us guard ourselves from the tentacles of such contradictory ideas as "pure reason," "absolute spirituality," "knowledge-in-itself":—in these theories an eye that cannot be thought of is required to think, an eye which ex hypothesi has no direction at all, an eye in which the active and interpreting functions are cramped, are absent; those functions, I say, by means of which "abstract" seeing first became seeing something; in these theories consequently the absurd and the nonsensical is always demanded of the eye. There is only a seeing from a perspective, only a "knowing" from a perspective, and the more emotions we express over a thing, the more eyes, different eyes, we train on the same thing, the more complete will be our "idea" of that thing, our "objectivity." But the elimination of the will altogether, the switching off of the emotions all and sundry, granted that we could do so, what! would not that be called intellectual castration?
But let us turn back. Such a self-contradiction, as apparently manifests itself among the ascetics, "Life turned against Life," is—so much is absolutely obvious—from the physiological and not now from the psychological standpoint, simply nonsense. It can only be an apparent contradiction; it must be a kind of provisional expression, an explanation, a formula, an adjustment, a psychological misunderstanding of something, whose real nature could not be understood for a long time, and whose real essence could not be described; a mere word jammed into an old gap of human knowledge. To put briefly the facts against its being real: the ascetic ideal springs from the prophylactic and self-preservative instincts which mark a decadent life, which seeks by every means in its power to maintain its position and fight for its existence; it points to a partial physiological depression and exhaustion, against which the most profound and intact life-instincts fight ceaselessly with new weapons and discoveries. The ascetic ideal is such a weapon: its position is consequently exactly the reverse of that which the worshippers of the ideal imagine—life struggles in it and through it with death and against death; the ascetic ideal is a dodge for the preservation of life. An important fact is brought out in the extent to which, as history teaches, this ideal could rule and exercise power over man, especially in all those places where the civilisation and taming of man was completed: that fact is, the diseased state of man up to the present, at any rate, of the man who has been tamed, the physiological struggle of man with death (more precisely, with the disgust with life, with exhaustion, with the wish for the "end"). The ascetic priest is the incarnate wish for an existence of another kind, an existence on another plane,—he is, in fact, the highest point of this wish, its official ecstasy and passion: but it is the very power of this wish which is the fetter that binds him here; it is just that which makes him into a tool that must labour to create more favourable conditions for earthly existence, for existence on the human plane—it is with this very power that he keeps the whole herd of failures, distortions, abortions, unfortunates, sufferers from themselves of every kind, fast to existence, while he as the herdsman goes instinctively on in front. You understand me already: this ascetic priest, this apparent enemy of life, this denier—he actually belongs to the really great conservative and affirmative forces of life. . . . What does it come from, this diseased state? For man is more diseased, more uncertain, more changeable, more unstable than any other animal, there is no doubt of it—he is the diseased animal: what does it spring from? Certainly he has also dared, innovated, braved more, challenged fate more than all the other animals put together; he, the great experimenter with himself, the unsatisfied, the insatiate, who struggles for the supreme mastery with beast, Nature, and gods, he, the as yet ever uncompelled, the ever future, who finds no more any rest from his own aggressive strength, goaded inexorably on by the spur of the future dug into the flesh of the present:—how should not so brave and rich an animal also be the most endangered, the animal with the longest and deepest sickness among all sick animals? . . . Man is sick of it, oft enough there are whole epidemics of this satiety (as about 1348, the time of the Dance of Death): but even this very nausea, this tiredness, this disgust with himself, all this is discharged from him with such force that it is immediately made into a new fetter. His "nay," which he utters to life, brings to light as though by magic an abundance of graceful "yeas"; even when he wounds himself, this master of destruction, of self-destruction, it is subsequently the wound itself that forces him to live.
The more normal is this sickliness in man—and we cannot dispute this normality—the higher honour should be paid to the rare cases of psychical and physical powerfulness, the windfalls of humanity, and the more strictly should the sound be guarded from that worst of air, the air of the sick-room. Is that done? The sick are the greatest danger for the healthy; it is not from the strongest that harm comes to the strong, but from the weakest. Is that known? Broadly considered, it is not for a minute the fear of man, whose diminution should be wished for; for this fear forces the strong to be strong, to be at times terrible—it preserves in its integrity the sound type of man. What is to be feared, what does work with a fatality found in no other fate, is not the great fear of, but the great nausea with, man; and equally so the great pity for man. Supposing that both these things were one day to espouse each other, then inevitably the maximum of monstrousness would immediately come into the world—the "last will" of man, his will for nothingness, Nihilism. And, in sooth, the way is well paved thereto. He who not only has his nose to smell with, but also has eyes and ears, he sniffs almost wherever he goes to-day an air something like that of a mad-house, the air of a hospital—I am speaking, as stands to reason, of the cultured areas of mankind, of every kind of "Europe" that there is in fact in the world. The sick are the great danger of man, not the evil, not the "beasts of prey." They who are from the outset botched, oppressed, broken, those are they, the weakest are they, who most undermine the life beneath the feet of man, who instil the most dangerous venom and scepticism into our trust in life, in man, in ourselves. Where shall we escape from it, from that covert look (from which we carry away a deep sadness), from that averted look of him who is misborn from the beginning, that look which betrays what such a man says to himself—that look which is a groan? "Would that I were something else," so groans this look, "but there is no hope. I am what I am: how could I get away from myself? And, verily—I am sick of myself!" On such a soil of self-contempt, a veritable swamp soil, grows that weed, that poisonous growth, and all so tiny, so hidden, so ignoble, so sugary. Here teem the worms of revenge and vindictiveness; here the air reeks of things secret and unmentionable; here is ever spun the net of the most malignant conspiracy—the conspiracy of the sufferers against the sound and the victorious; here is the sight of the victorious hated. And what lying so as not to acknowledge this hate as hate! What a show of big words and attitudes, what an art of "righteous" calumniation! These abortions! what a noble eloquence gushes from their lips! What an amount of sugary, slimy, humble submission oozes in their eyes! What do they really want? At any rate to represent righteousness, love, wisdom, superiority, that is the ambition of these "lowest ones," these sick ones! And how clever does such an ambition make them! You cannot, in fact, but admire the counterfeiter dexterity with which the stamp of virtue, even the ring, the golden ring of virtue, is here imitated. They have taken a lease of virtue absolutely for themselves, have these weaklings and wretched invalids, there is no doubt of it; "We alone are the good, the righteous," so do they speak, "we alone are the homines bonce voluntatis." They stalk about in our midst as living reproaches, as warnings to us—as though health, fitness, strength, pride, the sensation of power, were really vicious things in themselves, for which one would have some day to do penance, bitter penance. Oh, how they themselves are ready in their hearts to exact penance, how they thirst after being hangmen!
Among them is an abundance of revengeful ones disguised as judges, who ever mouth the word righteousness like a venomous spittle—with mouth, I say, always pursed, always ready to spit at everything, which does not wear a discontented look, but is of good cheer as it goes on its way. Among them, again, is that most loathsome species of the vain, the lying abortions, who make a point of representing "beautiful souls," and perchance of bringing to the market as "purity of heart" their distorted sensualism swathed in verses and other bandages; the species of "self-comforters" and masturbators of their own souls. The sick man's will to represent some form or other of superiority, his instinct for crooked paths, which lead to a tyranny over the healthy—where can it not be found, this will to power of the very weakest? The sick woman especially: no one surpasses her in refinements for ruling, oppressing, tyrannising. The sick woman, moreover, spares nothing living, nothing dead; she grubs up again the most buried things (the Bogos say, "Woman is a hyena"). Look into the background of every family, of every body, of every community: everywhere the fight of the sick against the healthy—a silent fight for the most part with minute poisoned powders, with pin-pricks, with spiteful grimaces of patience, but also at times with that diseased pharisaism of pure pantomime, which plays for the choice role of "righteous indignation." Right into the hallowed chambers of knowledge can it make itself heard, can this hoarse yelping of sick hounds, this, rabid lying and frenzy of such "noble" Pharisees (I remind readers, who have ears, once more of that Berlin apostle of revenge, Eugen Dühring, who makes most disreputable and revolting use in all present-day Germany of moral refuse; Dühring, the paramount moral blusterer that there is to-day, even among his own kind, the Anti-Semites). They are all men of resentment, are these physiological distortions and worm-riddled objects, a whole quivering kingdom of burrowing revenge, indefatigable and insatiable in its outbursts against the happy, and equally so in disguises for revenge, in pretexts for revenge: when will they really reach their final, fondest, most sublime triumph of revenge? At that time, doubtless, when they succeed in pushing their own misery, in fact, all misery, into the consciousness of the happy: so that the latter begin one day to be ashamed of their happiness, and perchance say to themselves when they meet, "It is a shame to be happy; there is too much misery!" . . . But there could not possibly be a greater and more fatal misunderstanding than that of the happy, the fit, the strong in body and soul, beginning in this way to doubt their right to happiness. Away with this "perverse world"! Away with this shameful soddenness of sentiment! Preventing the sick making the healthy sick—for that is what such a soddenness comes to—this ought to be our supreme object in the world—but for this it is above all essential that the healthy should remain separated from the sick, that they should even guard themselves from the look of the sick, that they should not even associate with the sick. Or may it, perchance, be their mission to be nurses or doctors? But they could not mistake and disown their mission more grossly—the higher must not degrade itself to be the tool of the lower, the pathos of distance must to all eternity keep their missions also separate. The right of the happy to existence, the right of bells with a full tone over the discordant cracked bells, is verily a thousand times greater: they alone are the sureties of the future, they alone are bound to man's future. What they can, what they must do, that can the sick never do, should never do! but if they are to be enabled to do what only they must do, how can they possibly be free to play the doctor, the comforter, the "Saviour" of the sick? . . . And therefore good air! good air! and away, at any rate, from the neighbourhood of all the madhouses and hospitals of civilisation! And therefore good company, our own company, or solitude, if it must be so! but away, at any rate, from the evil fumes of internal corruption and the secret worm-eaten state of the sick! that, forsooth, my friends, we may defend ourselves, at any rate for still a time, against the two worst plagues that could have been reserved for us—against the great nausea with man! against the great pity for man!
If you have understood in all their depths—and I demand that you should grasp them profoundly and understand them profoundly—the reasons for the impossibility of its being the business of the healthy to nurse the sick, to make the sick healthy, it follows that you have grasped this further necessity—the necessity of doctors and nurses who themselves are sick. And now we have and hold with both our hands the essence of the ascetic priest. The ascetic priest must be accepted by us as the predestined saviour, herdsman, and champion of the sick herd: thereby do we first understand his awful historic mission. The lordship over sufferers is his kingdom, to that points his instinct, in that he finds his own special art, his master-skill, his kind of happiness. He must himself be sick, he must be kith and kin to the sick and the abortions so as to understand them, so as to arrive at an understanding with them; but he must also be strong, even more master of himself than of others, impregnable, forsooth, in his will for power, so as to acquire the trust and the awe of the weak, so that he can be their hold, bulwark, prop, compulsion, overseer, tyrant, god. He has to protect them, protect his herds—against whom? Against the healthy, doubtless also against the envy towards the healthy. He must be the natural adversary and scorner of every rough, stormy, reinless, hard, violently-predatory health and power. The priest is the first form of the more delicate animal that scorns more easily than it hates. He will not be spared the waging of war with the beasts of prey, a war of guile (of "spirit") rather than of force, as is self-evident—he will in certain cases find it necessary to conjure up out of himself, or at any rate to represent practically a new type of the beast of prey—a new animal monstrosity in which the polar bear, the supple, cold, crouching panther, and, not least important, the fox, are joined together in a trinity as fascinating as it is fearsome. If necessity exacts it, then will he come on the scene with bearish seriousness, venerable, wise, cold, full of treacherous superiority, as the herald and mouthpiece of mysterious powers, sometimes going among even the other kind of beasts of prey, determined as he is to sow on their soil, wherever he can, suffering, discord, self-contradiction, and only too sure of his art, always to be lord of sufferers at all times. He brings with him, doubtless, salve and balsam; but before he can play the physician he must first wound; so, while he soothes the pain which the wound makes, he at the same time poisons the wound. Well versed is he in this above all things, is this wizard and wild beast tamer, in whose vicinity everything healthy must needs become ill, and everything ill must needs become tame. He protects, in sooth, his sick herd well enough, does this strange herdsman; he protects them also against themselves, against the sparks (even in the centre of the herd) of wickedness, knavery, malice, and all the other ills that the plaguey and the sick are heir to; he fights with cunning, hardness, and stealth against anarchy and against the ever imminent break-up inside the herd, where resentment, that most dangerous blasting-stuff and explosive, ever accumulates and accumulates. Getting rid of this blasting-stuff in such a way that it does not blow up the herd and the herdsman, that is his real feat, his supreme utility; if you wish to comprise in the shortest formula the value of the priestly life, it would be correct to say the priest is the diverter of the course of resentment. Every sufferer, in fact, searches instinctively for a cause of his suffering; to put it more exactly, a doer,—to put it still more precisely, a sentient responsible doer,—in brief, something living, on which, either actually or in effigy, he can on any pretext vent his emotions. For the venting of emotions is the sufferer's greatest attempt at alleviation, that is to say, stupefaction, his mechanically desired narcotic against pain of any kind. It is in this phenomenon alone that is found, according to my judgment, the real physiological cause of resentment, revenge, and their family is to be found—that is, in a demand for the deadening of pain through emotion: this cause is generally, but in my view very erroneously, looked for in the defensive parry of a bare protective principle of reaction, of a "reflex movement" in the case of any sudden hurt and danger, after the manner that a decapitated frog still moves in order to get away from a corrosive acid. But the difference is fundamental. In one case the object is to prevent being hurt any more; in the other case the object is to deaden a racking, insidious, nearly unbearable pain by a more violent emotion of any kind whatsoever, and at any rate for the time being to drive it out of the consciousness—for this purpose an emotion is needed, as wild an emotion as possible, and to excite that emotion some excuse or other is needed. "It must be somebody's fault that I feel bad"—this kind of reasoning is peculiar to all invalids, and is but the more pronounced, the more ignorant they remain of the real cause of their feeling bad, the physiological cause (the cause may lie in a disease of the nervous sympathicus, or in an excessive secretion of bile, or in a want of sulphate and phosphate of potash in the blood, or in pressure in the bowels which stops the circulation of the blood, or in degeneration of the ovaries, and so forth). All sufferers have an awful resourcefulness and ingenuity in finding excuses for painful emotions; they even enjoy their jealousy, their broodings over base actions and apparent injuries, they burrow through the intestines of their past and present in their search for obscure mysteries, wherein they will be at liberty to wallow in a torturing suspicion and get drunk on the venom of their own malice—they tear open the oldest wounds, they make themselves bleed from the scars which have long been healed, they make evil-doers out of friends, wife, child, and everything which is nearest to them. "I suffer: it must be somebody's fault"—so thinks every sick sheep. But his herdsman, the ascetic priest, says to him, "Quite so, my sheep, it must be the fault of some one; but thou thyself art that same one, it is all the fault of thyself alone—it is all the fault of thyself alone against thyself: that is bold enough, false enough, but one thing is at least attained; thereby, as I have said, the course of resentment is—diverted.
You can see now what the remedial instinct of life has at least tried to effect, according to my conception, through the ascetic priest, and the purpose for which he had to employ a temporary tyranny of such paradoxical and anomalous ideas as "guilt," "sin," "sinfulness," "corruption," "damnation." What was done was to make the sick harmless up to a certain point, to destroy the incurable by means of themselves, to turn the milder cases severely on to themselves, to give their resentment a backward direction ("man needs but one thing"), and to exploit similarly the bad instincts of all sufferers with a view to self-discipline, self-surveillance, self-mastery. It is obvious that there can be no question at all in the case of a "medication" of this kind, a mere emotional medication, of any real healing of the sick in the physiological sense; it cannot even for a moment be asserted that in this connection the instinct of life has taken healing as its goal and purpose. On the one hand, a kind of congestion and organisation of the sick (the word "Church" is the most popular name for it); on the other, a kind of provisional safeguarding of the comparatively healthy, the more perfect specimens, the cleavage of a rift between healthy and sick—for a long time that was all! and it was much! it was very much!
I am proceeding, as you see, in this essay, from an hypothesis which, as far as such readers as I want are concerned, does not require to be proved; the hypothesis that "sinfulness" in man is not an actual fact, but rather merely the interpretation of a fact, of a physiological discomfort,—a discomfort seen through a moral religious perspective which is no longer binding upon us. The fact, therefore, that any one feels "guilty," "sinful," is certainly not yet any proof that he is right in feeling so, any more than any one is healthy simply because he feels healthy. Remember the celebrated witch-ordeals: in those days the most acute and humane judges had no doubt but that in these cases they were confronted with guilt,—the "witches" themselves had no doubt on the point,—and yet the guilt was lacking. Let me elaborate this hypothesis: I do not for a minute accept the very "pain in the soul" as a real fact, but only as an explanation (a casual explanation) of facts that could not hitherto be precisely formulated; I regard it therefore as something as yet absolutely in the air and devoid of scientific cogency—just a nice fat word in the place of a lean note of interrogation. When any one fails to get rid of his "pain in the soul," the cause is, speaking crudely, to be found not in his "soul" but more probably in his stomach (speaking crudely, I repeat, but by no means wishing thereby that you should listen to me or understand me in a crude spirit). A strong and well-constituted man digests his experiences (deeds and misdeeds all included) just as he digests his meats, even when he has some tough morsels to swallow. If he fails to "relieve himself" of an experience, this kind of indigestion is quite as much physiological as the other indigestion—and indeed, in more ways than one, simply one of the results of the other. You can adopt such a theory, and yet entre nous be nevertheless the strongest opponent of all materialism.
But is he really a physician, this ascetic priest? We already understand why we are scarcely allowed to call him a physician, however much he likes to feel a "saviour" and let himself be worshipped as a saviour. It is only the actual suffering, the discomfort of the sufferer, which he combats, not its cause, not the actual state of sickness—this needs must constitute our most radical objection to priestly medication. But just once put yourself into that point of view, of which the priests have a monopoly, you will find it hard to exhaust your amazement, at what from that standpoint he has completely seen, sought, and found. The mitigation of suffering, every kind of "consoling"—all this manifests itself as his very genius: with what ingenuity has he interpreted his mission of consoler, with what aplomb and audacity has he chosen weapons necessary for the part. Christianity in particular should be dubbed a great treasure-chamber of ingenious consolations,—such a store of refreshing, soothing, deadening drugs has it accumulated within itself; so many of the most dangerous and daring expedients has it hazarded; with such subtlety, refinement. Oriental refinement, has it divined what emotional stimulants can conquer, at any rate for a time, the deep depression, the leaden fatigue, the black melancholy of physiological cripples—for, speaking generally, all religions are mainly concerned with fighting a certain fatigue and heaviness that has infected everything. You can regard it as prima facie probable that in certain places in the world there was almost bound to prevail from time to time among large masses of the population a sense of physiological depression, which, however, owing to their lack of physiological knowledge, did not appear to their consciousness as such, so that consequently its "cause" and its cure can only be sought and essayed in the science of moral psychology (this, in fact, is my most general formula for what is generally called a "religion"). Such a feeling of depression can have the most diverse origins; it may be the result of the crossing of too heterogeneous races (or of classes—genealogical and racial differences are also brought out in the classes: the European "Weltschmerz," the "Pessimism" of the nineteenth century, is really the result of an absurd and sudden class-mixture); it may be brought about by a mistaken emigration—a race falling into a climate for which its power of adaptation is insufficient (the case of the Indians in India); it may be the effect of old age and fatigue (the Parisian pessimism from 1850 onwards); it may be a wrong diet (the alcoholism of the Middle Ages, the nonsense of vegetarianism—which, however, have in their favour the authority of Sir Christopher in Shakespeare); it may be blood-deterioration, malaria, syphilis, and the like (German depression after the Thirty Years' War, which infected half Germany with evil diseases, and thereby paved the way for German servility, for German pusillanimity). In such a case there is invariably recourse to a war on a grand scale with the feeling of depression; let us inform ourselves briefly on its most important practices and phases (I leave on one side, as stands to reason, the actual philosophic war against the feeling of depression which is usually simultaneous—it is interesting enough, but too absurd, too practically negligible, too full of cobwebs, too much of a hole-and-corner affair, especially when pain is proved to be a mistake, on the naïf hypothesis that pain must needs vanish when the mistake underlying it is recognised—but behold! it does anything but vanish . . .). That dominant depression is primarily fought by weapons which reduce the consciousness of life itself to the lowest degree. Wherever possible, no more wishes, no more wants; shun everything which produces emotion, which produces "blood" (eating no salt, the fakir hygiene); no love; no hate; equanimity; no revenge; no getting rich; no work; begging! as far as possible, no woman, or as little woman as possible; as far as the intellect is concerned, Pascal's principle, "il faut s'abêtir." To put the result in ethical and psychological language, "self-annihilation," "sanctification"; to put it in physiological language, "hypnotism"—the attempt to find some approximate human equivalent for what hibernation is for certain animals, for what (aestivation is for many tropical plants, a minimum of assimilation and metabolism in which life just manages to subsist without really coming into the consciousness. An amazing amount of human energy has been devoted to this object—perhaps uselessly? There cannot be the slightest doubt but that such sportsmen of "saintliness," in whom at times nearly every nation has abounded, have really found a genuine relief from that which they have combated with such a rigorous training—in countless cases they really escaped by the help of their system of hypnotism away from deep physiological depression; their method is consequently counted among the most universal ethnological facts. Similarly it is improper to consider such a plan for starving the physical element and the desires, as in itself a symptom of insanity (as a clumsy species of roast-beef-eating "freethinkers" and Sir Christophers are fain to do); all the more certain is it that their method can and does pave the way to all kinds of mental disturbances, for instance, "inner lights" (as far as the case of Hesychasts of Mount Athos), auditory and visual hallucinations, voluptuous ecstasies and effervescences of sensualism (the history of St. Theresa). The explanation of such events given by the victims is always the acme of fanatical falsehood; this is self-evident. Note well, however, the tone of implicit gratitude that rings in the very will for an explanation of such a character. The supreme state, salvation itself, that final goal of universal hypnosis and peace, is always regarded by them as the mystery of mysteries, which even the most supreme symbols are inadequate to express; it is regarded as an entry and homecoming to the essence of things, as a liberation from all illusions, as "knowledge," as "truth," as "being," as an escape from every end, every wish, every action, as something even beyond Good and Evil.
"Good and Evil," quoth the Buddhists, "both are fetters. The perfect man is master of them both."
"The done and the undone," quoth the disciple of the Vedanta, "do him no hurt; the good and the evil he shakes from off him, sage that he is; his kingdom suffers no more from any act; good and evil, he goes beyond them both."—An absolutely Indian conception, as much Brahmanist as Buddhist. Neither in the Indian nor in the Christian doctrine is this "Redemption" regarded as attainable by means of virtue and moral improvement, however high they may place the value of the hypnotic efficiency of virtue: keep clear on this point—indeed it simply corresponds with the facts. The fact that they remained true on this point is perhaps to be regarded as the best specimen of realism in the three great religions, absolutely soaked as they are with morality, with this one exception. "For those who know, there is no duty." "Redemption is not attained by the acquisition of virtues; for redemption consists in being one with Brahman, who is incapable of acquiring any perfection; and equally little does it consist in the giving up of faults, for the Brahman, unity with whom is what constitutes redemption, is eternally pure" (these passages are from the Commentaries of the Cankara, quoted from the first real European expert of the Indian philosophy, my friend Paul Deussen). We wish, therefore, to pay honour to the idea of "redemption" in the great religions, but it is somewhat hard to remain serious in view of the appreciation meted out to the deep sleep by these exhausted pessimists who are too tired even to dream—to the deep sleep considered, that is, as already a fusing into Brahman, as the attainment of the unio mystica with God. "When he has completely gone to sleep," says on this point the oldest and most venerable "script," "and come to perfect rest, so that he sees no more any vision, then, oh dear one, is he united with Being, he has entered into his own self—encircled by the Self with its absolute knowledge, he has no more any consciousness of that which is without or of that which is within. Day and night cross not these bridges, nor age, nor death, nor suffering, nor good deeds, nor evil deeds." "In deep sleep," say similarly the believers in this deepest of the three great religions, "does the soul lift itself from out this body of ours, enters the supreme light and stands out therein in its true shape: therein is it the supreme spirit itself, which travels about, while it rests and plays and enjoys itself, whether with women, or chariots, or friends; there do its thoughts turn no more back to this appanage of a body, to which the 'prana' (the vital breath) is harnessed like a beast of burden to the cart." None the less we will take care to realise (as we did when discussing "redemption") that in spite of all its pomps of Oriental extravagance this simply expresses the same criticism on life as did the clear, cold, Greekly cold, but yet suffering Epicurus. The hypnotic sensation of nothingness, the peace of deepest sleep, anaesthesia in short—that is what passes with the sufferers and the absolutely depressed for, forsooth, their supreme good, their value of values; that is what must be treasured by them as something positive, be felt by them as the essence of the Positive (according to the same logic of the feelings, nothingness is in all pessimistic religions called God).
Such a hypnotic deadening of sensibility and susceptibility to pain, which presupposes somewhat rare powers, especially courage, contempt of opinion, intellectual stoicism, is less frequent than another and certainly easier training which is tried against states of depression. I mean mechancal activity. It is indisputable that a suffering existence can be thereby considerably alleviated. This fact is called to-day by the somewhat ignoble title of the "Blessing of work." The alleviation consists in the attention of the sufferer being absolutely diverted from suffering, in the incessant monopoly of the consciousness by action, so that consequently there is little room left for suffering—for narrow is it, this chamber of human consciousness! Mechanical activity and its corollaries, such as absolute regularity, punctilious unreasoning obedience, the chronic routine of life, the complete occupation of time, a certain liberty to be impersonal, nay, a training in "impersonality," self-forgetfulness, "incuria sui"