On the Genealogy of Morals
A Polemical Tract
[This translation by Ian Johnston of Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, BC, has certain copyright restrictions. For information please use the following link: Copyright. Editorial comments, translations in square brackets and italics, and endnotes are by the translator; comments in normal brackets are from Nietzsche’s text. This text (2014) is a revised version of an earlier translation (2009). If you would like a Word file for this translation, please contact Ian Johnston (there is no charge for these files).
WHAT DO ASCETIC IDEALS MEAN?
Thus Spoke Zarathustra1
What do ascetic ideals mean?—Among artists they mean nothing or too many different things; among philosophers and scholars they mean something like having a nose or an instinct for the most auspicious conditions of a higher spirituality; among women, at best, one additional seductive charm, a little morbidezza [small morbidity] on beautiful flesh, the angelic quality of a nice-looking, plump animal; among physiologically impaired and peevish people (that is, among the majority of mortals) they are an attempt to imagine themselves as “too good” for this world, a holy form of orgiastic excess, their chief tool in the fight with their enduring pain and boredom; among the clergy they are the essential priestly belief, their best instrument of power, and also the “highest of all” permits for power; finally among the saints they are a pretext for hibernation, their novissima gloriae cupido [most recent desire for glory], their repose in nothingness (“God”), their form of insanity. However, the fact that generally the ascetic ideal has meant so much to human beings is an expression of the basic fact of the human will, its horror vacui [horror of a vacuum]. It requires a goal—and it prefers to will nothingness than not to will.—Do you understand me? . . . Have you understood me? . . . “Not in the slightest, my dear sir!” — so, let’s start from the beginning.
What do ascetic ideals mean?—Or, to take a single example which I have been asked to give advice about often enough, what does it mean, for instance, when an artist like Richard Wagner in his later years pays homage to chastity? In a certain sense, of course, he always did this, but in an ascetic sense he did it for the first time at the very end. What does this change in “sense” mean, this radical change in sense?—For that’s what it was: with it Wagner leapt right over into his opposite. What does it mean when an artist leaps over into his opposite? . . . If we are willing to pause for a while at this question, we immediately encounter here the memory of perhaps the best, strongest, most cheerful, and bravest period in Wagner’s life, the time when he was inwardly and deeply preoccupied with the idea of Luther’s marriage. Who knows the circumstances which really saw to it that today, instead of this wedding music, we have Die Meistersinger?2 And how much of the former work may perhaps still echo in the latter? But there is no doubt that this “Luther’s Wedding” would also have involved the praise of chastity. Of course, it would have contained a praise of sensuality, as well —and that, it strikes me, would have been very much in order, very “Wagnerian,” too. For between chastity and sensuality there is no necessary opposition. Every good marriage, every genuine affair of the heart transcends this opposition. In my view, Wagner would have done well if he had enabled his Germans to take this pleasant fact to heart once more, with the help of a lovely and brave comedy about Luther, for among the Germans there are and always have been a lot of people who slander sensuality, and Luther’s merit is probably nowhere greater than precisely here: in having had the courage of his own sensuality (—at that time people called it, delicately enough, “evangelical freedom”). But even if it were the case that there really is that antithesis between chastity and sensuousness, fortunately there is no need for it to be a tragic antithesis. At least this should be the case for all successful and cheerful mortals, who are far from considering their unstable equilibrium between “animal and angel” an immediate argument against existence—the finest and brightest, like Goethe, like Hafiz, even saw in this one more attraction of life. It’s precisely such “contradictions” that make existence enticing. . . . On the other hand, it’s easy enough to understand that once pigs who have had bad luck are persuaded to worship chastity—and there are such swine!—they see in chastity only their opposite, the opposite to unlucky pigs, and will worship that—and with such zealous tragic grunting! We can imagine it—that embarrassing and unnecessary antithesis, which Richard Wagner at the end of his life unquestioningly still wanted to set to music and produce on stage. But what for? That’s a fair question. For why should he be concerned about pigs? Why should we?—
In this matter there is, of course, another question we cannot circumvent: why was Wagner really concerned about that manly (alas, so unmanly) “simpleton from the country,” that poor devil and nature boy Parsifal, whom he finally turned into a Catholic in such an embarrassing way.3 What? Was this Parsifal meant to be taken at all seriously? For we could be tempted to assume the reverse, even to desire it—that the Wagnerian Parsifal was intended to be cheerful, a concluding piece and satyr drama, as it were, with which the tragic writer Wagner wanted to take his farewell, in a respectful manner worthy of him, from us, also from himself, and, above all, from tragedy, that is, with an excess of the highest and most high-spirited parody of the tragic itself, of the entire dreadful earthly seriousness and earthly wailing of his earlier works, of the crudest form in the anti-nature of the ascetic ideal, conquered at last. That would have been, as mentioned, particularly worthy of a great tragedian, who, like every artist, first attains the final peak of his greatness when he knows how to see himself and his art beneath him—when he knows how to laugh at himself. Is Parsifal Wagner’s secret superior laughter at himself, the triumph of his achieving the ultimate and highest artistic freedom, the artist’s movement into another world [Künstler-Jenseitigkeit]? As I’ve said, we might wish that. For what would Parsifal be if intended seriously? Do we need to see in it (as it was put to me) “the epitome of an insane hatred for knowledge, spirit, and sensuality”? A curse on the senses and the spirit in one breath of hatred? An apostasy and going back to sickly Christian and obscurantist ideals? And finally even a denial of the self, a cancellation of the self on the part of an artist who up to that point had directed all the power of his will to attain the reverse, namely, the highest spiritualization and sensuousness in his art? And not only in his art, but also in his life. We should remember how Wagner in his day so enthusiastically followed in the footsteps of the philosopher Feuerbach. Feuerbach’s phrase about “healthy sensuality”—in Wagner’s thirties and forties, as with many Germans (—they called themselves the “young Germans”), that phrase rang out like a word of redemption. Did Wagner finally learn something different? It appears, at least, that he finally wanted to teach something different. And not only on the stage with the Parsifal trombones:—in the cloudy writings of his last years—as constricted as they are baffling—there are a hundred places which betray a secret wish and will, a despondent, uncertain, unacknowledged will essentially to preach nothing but going back, conversion, denial, Christianity, medievalism, and to say to his followers “It’s nothing! Seek salvation somewhere else!” In one place he even calls out to the “Blood of the Redeemer” . . . .
In a case like Wagner’s, which is in many ways an embarrassing one, although the example is typical, my opinion is that it’s certainly best to separate an artist far enough from his work, so that one does not take him with the same seriousness as one does his work. In the final analysis, he is only the precondition for his work, its maternal womb, the soil or, in some cases, the dung and manure, on and out of which it grows—and thus, in most cases, something that we must forget about, if we want to enjoy the work itself. Insight into the origin of a work is a matter for physiologists and vivisectionists of the spirit, never the aesthetic men, the artists—never! In a deep, fundamental, even terrifying way the poet and composer of Parsifal could not escape living inside and descending into the conflicts of the medieval soul, a hostile distance from all spiritual loftiness, rigour, and discipline, a form of intellectual perversity (if you will forgive the expression), any more than a pregnant woman can escape the repellent and strange aspects of pregnancy, something which, as I have said, one must forget if one wants to enjoy the child. We should be on our guard against that confusion which arises from psychological contiguity (to use an English word), a confusion in which even an artist can only too easily get caught up, as if he himself were what he can present, imagine, and express. In fact, the case is this: if that were what he was, he simply would not present, imagine, or express it. A Homer would not have written a poem about Achilles or a Goethe a poem about Faust if Homer had been an Achilles or if Goethe had been a Faust. A complete and entire artist is forever separated from the “real,” from what actually is. On the other hand, one can understand how he can sometimes grow weary of this eternal “unreality” and falseness of his innermost existence to the point of desperation—and that he then makes an attempt for once to reach over into what is forbidden precisely to him, into reality, in an attempt truly to be. What success does he have? We can guess . . . That is the typical wishfulness of the artist: the same wishfulness which fell over Wagner once he’d grown old and for which he had to pay such a high, fatal price (—because of it he lost a valuable number of his friends). Finally, however, and quite apart from this mere wishfulness of his, who could not desire—for Wagner’s own sake—that he had taken his leave of us and his art in a different manner, not with a Parsifal, but more victoriously, more self-confidently, more like Wagner—less deceptive, less ambiguous about all his intentions, less like Schopenhauer, less nihilistic?
—So what do ascetic ideals mean? In the case of an artist, we know the answer immediately:—absolutely nothing! . . . Or they mean so many things, that they amount to nothing at all! . . . So let’s eliminate the artists right away. They do not stand independent of the world and against the world long enough for their evaluations and the changes in those evaluations to merit our interest for their own sake! They have in all ages been valets to a morality or philosophy or religion, quite apart from the fact that, often enough, they unfortunately have been the all-too-adaptable courtiers of groups of their followers and their patrons and flatterers with a fine nose for old or simply newly arriving powers. At the very least, they always need a means of protection, a support, an already established authority. The artists never stand for themselves—standing alone contravenes their deepest instincts. Hence, for example, “once the time had come” Richard Wagner took the philosopher Schopenhauer as his point man, as his protection. Who could have even imagined that he would have had the courage for an ascetic ideal without the support which Schopenhauer’s philosophy offered him, without the authority of Schopenhauer, which was becoming predominant in Europe in the 1870's? (And that’s not even considering whether in the new Germany it would have been generally possible to be an artist without the milk of a pious, imperially pious way of thinking).4—And with this we come to the more serious question: What does it mean when real philosopher pays homage to the ascetic ideal, a truly independent spirit like Schopenhauer, a man and a knight with an bronze gaze, who is courageous to himself, who knows how to stand alone and does not first wait for a front man and hints from higher up?—Here let us consider right away the remarkable and for many sorts of people even fascinating position of Schopenhauer on art, for that was apparently the reason Richard Wagner first moved over to Schopenhauer (persuaded to do that, as we know, by a poet, by Herwegh). That shift was so great that it opened up a complete theoretical contrast between his earlier and his later aesthetic beliefs— between, for example, the earlier views expressed in “Opera and Drama” and the later views in the writings which he published from 1870 on. In particular, what is perhaps most surprising is that from this point on Wagner ruthlessly altered his judgment of the value and place of music itself. Why should it concern him that up to that point he had used music as a means, a medium, a “woman,” something which simply required a purpose, a man, in order to flourish—that is, drama! Suddenly he realized that with Schopenhauer’s theory and innovation he could do more in majorem musicae gloriam [for the greater glory of music]—that is, through the sovereignty of music, as Schopenhauer understood it: music set apart from all other arts, the inherently independent art, not, like the other arts, offering copies of phenomena, but rather the voice of the will itself speaking out directly from the “abyss” as its most authentic, most primordial, least derivative revelation. With this extraordinary increase in the value of music, as this seemed to grow out of Schopenhauer’s philosophy, the musician himself also suddenly grew in value to an unheard of extent: from now on he would be an oracle, a priest, more than a priest, in fact, a kind of mouthpiece of the “essence” of things, a telephone from the world beyond—in future he didn’t speak only of music, this ventriloquist of God—he talked metaphysics. Is it any wonder that finally one day he spoke about ascetic ideals? . . .
Schopenhauer used Kant’s formulation of the aesthetic problem— although he certainly did not examine it with Kantian eyes. Kant thought he had honoured art when among the predicates of the beautiful he gave priority to and set in the foreground those which constitute the honour of knowledge—impersonality and universal validity. Here is not the place to explore whether or not this is for the most part a false idea. The only thing I wish to stress is that Kant, like all philosophers, instead of taking aim at the aesthetic problem from the experiences of the artist (the creator), thought about art and the beautiful only from the point of view of the “looker on” and in the process, without anyone noticing it, brought the “spectator” himself into the concept “beautiful.” If only these philosophers of beauty had also been at least sufficiently knowledgeable about this “spectator”!— that is, as a great personal fact and experience, as a wealth of very particular, strong experiences, desires, surprises, and delights in the realm of the beautiful! But I fear the opposite has always been the case. And so from the very start we get from them definitions like that famous one which Kant gives for the beautiful, in which the lack of a finer self-experience sits in the shape of a thick worm of fundamental error. “The beautiful,” Kant said, “is what pleases in a disinterested way.” In a disinterested way! Let’s compare this definition with that other one formulated by a true “spectator” and artist—Stendhal, who once called the beautiful a promesse de bonheur [a promise of happiness]. Here, at any rate, the very thing which Kant emphasises in the aesthetic state is clearly rejected and deleted: désintéressement [disinterestedness]. Who is right, Kant or Stendhal?5—Naturally, if our aestheticians never get tired of weighing the issue in Kant’s favour, claiming that under the magic spell of beauty people can look even at unclothed female statues “without interest,” we are entitled to laugh a little at their expense:—in relation to this delicate matter, the experiences of artists are “more interesting,” and Pygmalion was in any event not necessarily an “unaesthetic man.”6 Let’s think all the better of the innocence of our aestheticians, which is reflected in such arguments. For example, let’s count it to Kant’s honour that he knew how to lecture on the characteristic properties of the sense of touch with the naïveté of a country parson.—This point brings us back to Schopenhauer, who stood measurably closer to the arts than Kant but who nonetheless did not get away from the spell of the Kantian definition. How did that happen? The circumstance is sufficiently odd. He interpreted the word “disinterested” in the most personal manner from a single experience which must have been something routine with him. There are few things Schopenhauer talks about with as much confidence as he does about the effect of aesthetic contemplation. In connection with that, he states that it counteracts sexual “interest” in particular—and thus acts like lupulin or camphor. He never got tired of extolling this emancipation from the “will” as the great advantage and use of the aesthetic state. Indeed, we could be tempted to ask whether his basic conception of “Will and Idea,” the notion that there could be a redemption from the “will” only through “representation,” might have taken its origin from a universalizing of that sexual experience. (With all questions concerning Schopenhauer’s philosophy, incidentally, we should never fail to consider that it is the conception of a twenty-six-year-old young man, so that it involves not merely the specific details of Schopenhauer but also the particular details of that time of life). If, for example, we listen to one of the most expressive passages from the countless ones he wrote to honour the aesthetic state (World and Will and Idea, I, 231), we hear its tone, the suffering, the happiness, the gratitude uttered in words like these: “That is the painless condition which Epicurus valued as the highest good and as the condition of the gods. For that moment, we are relieved of the contemptible drive of the will. We celebrate a holiday [den Sabbat] from the penal servitude to the will. The wheel of Ixion stands motionless.”7 . . . What vehemence in the words! What a picture of torment and long weariness! What an almost pathological temporal contrast between “that moment” and the usual “wheel of Ixion,” the “penal servitude to the will,” the “contemptible drive of the will”!—But assuming that Schopenhauer were right a hundred times about himself, what would that provide by way of insight into the essence of the beautiful? Schopenhauer wrote about one effect of the beautiful—the way it calms the will—but is it a regularly occurring effect? Stendhal, as mentioned, a no less sensual person, but with a natural constitution much happier than Schopenhauer’s, emphasizes another effect of the beautiful: “the beautiful promises happiness.” To him the fact of the matter seemed to be precisely the arousal of the will (“of interest”) by the beautiful. And could we not finally object about Schopenhauer himself that he was very wrong to think of himself as a Kantian in this matter, that he had completely failed to understand Kant’s definition of the beautiful in a Kantian manner—that even he found the beautiful pleasing out of an “interest,” even out of the strongest and most personal interest of all, that of a torture victim who escapes from his torture? . . . And to come back to our first question, “What does it mean when a philosopher renders homage to the ascetic ideal?”—we get here at least our first hint: he wants to escape a torture.
Let’s be careful not to make gloomy faces right away at that word “torture.” In this particular case there remain enough objections to take into account, enough to subtract—there even remains something to laugh about. For let’s not underestimate the fact that Schopenhauer, who in fact treated sexuality as a personal enemy (including its instrument, woman, this “instrumentum diaboli” [tool of the devil]), needed enemies in order to maintain his good spirits, that he loved grim, caustic, black-green words, that he got angry for the sake of getting passionately angry, that he would have become ill, would have become a pessimist (—and he wasn’t a pessimist, no matter how much he wanted to be one) without his enemies, without Hegel, woman, sensuousness, and the whole will for existence, for continuing on. Had that not been the case, Schopenhauer would not have kept going—on that we can wager. He would have run off. But his enemies held him securely; his enemies seduced him back to existence again and again. Just like the ancient cynics, his anger was his refreshment, his relaxation, his payment, his remedy for disgust, his happiness. So much with respect to the most personal features in the case of Schopenhauer. On the other hand, with him there is still something typical—and here we only come up against our problem once more. As long as there have been philosophers on earth and wherever there have been philosophers (from India to England, to name two opposite poles of talent in philosophy) there unquestionably have existed a genuine philosophical irritability with and rancour against sensuousness—Schopenhauer is only the most eloquent eruption of these and, if one has an ear for it, also the most captivating and delightful. In addition, there exist a real philosophical bias and affection favouring the whole ascetic ideal. No one should fool himself about or against that. As mentioned, both belong to the philosophical type: if both are missing in a philosopher then he is always only a “so-called philosopher”—of that we may be certain. What does that mean? For we must first interpret these facts of the case: in itself stands there eternally stupid, like every “thing in itself.” Every animal, including also la bête philosophe [the philosophical animal] instinctively strives for the optimal beneficial conditions in which it can let out all its power and attain the strongest feeling of its strength. Every animal in an equally instinctual way and with a refined sense of smell that “is loftier than all reason” abhors any kind of trouble maker and barrier which lies or which could lie in its way to these optimal conditions (—I’m not speaking about its path to “happiness,” but about its way to power, to action, to its most powerful deeds, and, in most cases, really about its way to unhappiness). Thus, the philosopher abhors marriage, as well as what might persuade him into it—marriage is a barrier and a disaster along his route to the optimal. What great philosopher up to now has been married? Heraclitus, Plato, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Kant, Schopenhauer—none of these got married. What’s more, we cannot even imagine them married. A married philosopher belongs in a comedy, that’s my principle. And Socrates, that exception, the malicious Socrates, it appears, ironically got married specifically to demonstrate this very principle. Every philosopher would speak as once Buddha spoke when someone told him of the birth of a son, “Rahula has been born to me. A shackle has been forged for me.” (Rahula here means “a little demon”). To every “free spirit” there must come a reflective hour, provided that previously he has had one without thought, of the sort that once came to this same Buddha—“Life in a house,” he thought to himself, “is narrow and confined, a polluted place. Freedom consists of abandoning the house”; “because he thought this way, he left the house.” The ascetic ideal indicates so many bridges to independence that a philosopher cannot, without an inner rejoicing and applause, listen to the history of all those decisive people who one day said “No” to all lack of freedom and went off to some desert or other, even assuming that such people were merely strong donkeys and entirely opposite to a powerful spirit. So what, then, does the ascetic ideal mean as far as a philosopher is concerned? My answer is—you will have guessed it long ago—the philosopher smiles when he sees in it an optimal set of conditions for the loftiest and boldest spirituality—in so doing, he does not deny “existence”; rather that’s how he affirms his existence and only his existence and does this perhaps to such a degree that he is not far from the wicked desire pereat mundus, fiat philosophia, fait philosophus, fiam! [let the world perish, let philosophy exist, let the philosopher exist, let me exist!] . . .8
You see that these philosophers are not unprejudiced witnesses to and judges of the value of ascetic ideals! They think about themselves — what concern to them is “the saint”! In this matter they think about what is most immediately indispensable to them: freedom from compulsion, disturbance, fuss, from business, duties, worries: a bright light in the head, dance, the leap and flight of ideas; good air—thin, clear, free, dry—like the air at high altitudes, with which everything in animal being grows more spiritual and acquires wings; calm in all basement areas; all dogs nicely tied up in chains; no hostile barking and shaggy rancour; no gnawing worm of wounded ambition; modest and humble inner organs busy as windmills but at a distance; the heart in an alien place, beyond, in the future, posthumous—all in all, so far as the ascetic ideal is concerned, they think of the cheerful asceticism of some deified animal which has become independent, roaming above life rather than being at rest. We know what the three great catch phrases of the ascetic ideal are: poverty, humility, chastity. Now look closely at the lives of all great, prolific, inventive spirits—over and over again you’ll rediscover all three there to a certain degree. Not at all— this is self-evident—as if it were something to do with their “virtues” —what does this kind of man have to do with virtues?—but as the truest and most natural conditions of their best existence, their most beautiful fecundity. At the same time, it is indeed entirely possible that their dominating spirituality at first had to set aside an unbridled and sensitive pride or the reins of a wanton sensuality or that they perhaps had difficulty enough maintaining their will for the “desert” against an inclination for luxury, for something very exquisite, as well as against a lavish liberality of heart and hand. But their spirituality did it, simply because it was the dominating instinct, which achieves its own demands in relation to all the other instincts—it still continues to do so. If it did not, then it would simply not dominate. Hence, this has nothing to do with “virtue.” Besides, the desert I just mentioned, into which the strong spirits with an independent nature withdraw and isolate themselves—O how different it seems from the desert educated people dream about!—for in some circumstances these educated people are themselves this desert. And certainly no actor of the spirit could simply endure it—for them it is not nearly romantic and Syrian enough, not nearly enough of a theatrical desert!It’s true there’s no lack of camels there, but that’s the only similarity between them. Perhaps a voluntary obscurity, a detour away from one’s self, a timidity about noise, admiration, newspapers, influence; a small official position, a daily routine, something which hides more than it brings to light, contact now and then with harmless, cheerful wildlife and birds whose sight is relaxing, a mountain for company, not a dead one but one with eyes (that means with lakes); in some circumstances even a room in a full, nondescript inn, where one is sure to be confused for someone else and can talk to anyone with impunity—that’s what a “desert” is here. O, it’s lonely enough, believe me! When Heraclitus withdrew into the courtyard and colonnades of the immense temple of Artemis, that was a worthier “desert,” I admit. Why do we lack such temples? (—Perhaps we do not lack them. I’ve just remembered my most beautiful room for study, the Piazza San Marco, assuming it’s in the spring, and in the morning, too, between ten and twelve o’clock).9 But what Heraclitus was getting away from is still the same thing we go out of our way to escape nowadays: the noise and the democratic chatter of the Ephesians, their politics, their news about the “empire” (you understand I mean the Persians), their market junk of “today”— for we philosophers need peace and quiet from one thing above all— from everything to do with “today.” We honour what is still, cold, noble, distant, past, in general everything at the sight of which the soul does not have to defend itself or tie itself up—something with which a person can speak without having to speak aloud. People should just listen to the sound which a spirit has when it is talking. Every spirit has its own sound, loves its own sound. The man over there, for example, must be a real agitator, I mean a hollow head, a hollow pot [Hohlkopf, Hohltopf]); no matter what goes into him, everything comes back out of him dull and thick, weighed down with the echo of a huge emptiness. That man over there rarely speaks in anything other than a hoarse voice. Has he perhaps imagined himself hoarse? That might be possible—ask the physiologists—but whoever thinks in words thinks as a speaker and not as a thinker (it reveals that fundamentally he does not think of things or think factually, but only in relation to things, that he really is thinking of himself and his listeners). A third man over there speaks with an insistent familiarity, he steps in too close to our bodies, he breathes over us—instinctively we shut our mouths, even though he is speaking to us through a book. The sound of his style tells us the reason for that—he has no time, he has little faith in himself, he’ll have his say today or never again. But a spirit which is sure of itself, speaks quietly. He’s looking for seclusion. He lets people wait for him. We recognize a philosopher by the following: he walks away from three glittering and garish things—fame, princes, and women. That doesn’t mean that they might not come to him. He shrinks from light which is too bright. Hence, he shies away from his time and its “day.” In that he’s like a shadow: the lower the sun sinks, the bigger he becomes. So far as his “humility” is concerned, he endures a certain dependence and obscurity, as he endures the darkness. More than that, he fears being disturbed by lightning and recoils from the unprotected and totally isolated and abandoned tree on which all bad weather can discharge its mood, all moods discharge their bad weather. His “maternal” instinct, the secret love for what is growing in him, directs him to places where his need to think of himself is removed, in the same sense that the maternal instinct in women has up to now generally kept her in a dependent situation. Ultimately they demand little enough, these philosophers. Their motto is “Whoever owns things is owned”—not, as I must say again and again, from virtue, from an admirable desire for modest living and simplicity, but because their highest master demands that of them, demands astutely and unrelentingly. He cares for only one thing and for that gathers up and holds everything—time, power, love, interest. This sort of man doesn’t like to be disturbed by hostile things and by friendships; he easily forgets or scoffs. To him martyrdom seems something in bad taste—“to suffer for the truth”—he leaves that to the ambitious and the stage heroes of the spirit and anyone else who has time enough for it (—they themselves, the philosophers, have something to do for the truth). They use big words sparingly. It’s said that they resist using even the word “truth”: it sounds boastful. . . . Finally, as far as “chastity” concerns philosophers, this sort of spirit apparently keeps its fertility in something other than in children; perhaps they also keep the continuity of their names elsewhere, their small immortality (among philosophers in ancient India people spoke with even more presumption, “What’s the point of offspring to the man whose soul is the world?”). There’s no sense of chastity there out of some ascetic scruple and hatred of the senses, just as it has little to do with chastity when an athlete or jockey abstains from women. It’s more a matter of what their dominating instinct wants, at least during its great pregnant periods. Every artist knows how damaging the effects of sexual intercourse are to states of great spiritual tension and preparation. The most powerful and most instinctual artists among them don’t acquire this knowledge primarily by experience, by bad experience—no, it’s simply that “maternal” instinct of theirs which here makes the decision ruthlessly to benefit the developing work among all the other stores and supplies of energy, of animal vitality. The greater power then uses up the lesser. Incidentally, apply this interpretation now to the above-mentioned case of Schopenhauer: the sight of the beautiful evidently worked in him as the stimulus for the main power in his nature (the power of reflection and the deep look), so that this then exploded and suddenly became master of his consciousness. In the process, we should in no way rule out the possibility that that characteristic sweetness and abundance typical of the aesthetic condition could originate precisely from the ingredient “sensuality” (just as from the same source is derived that “idealism” characteristic of sexually mature young girls)—so that thus, with the onset of the aesthetic condition, sensuality is not shoved out, as Schopenhauer believed, but is transformed and does not enter the consciousness any more as sexual stimulation. (I will come back to this point of view at another time, in connection with the even more delicate problems of the physiology of aesthetics, so untouched up to this point, so unanalyzed).
A certain asceticism, as we have seen, a hard and cheerful renunciation with the best intentions, belongs to those conditions favourable to the highest spirituality and is also among its most natural consequences. So it’s no wonder from the outset that philosophers in particular never treat the ascetic ideal without some bias. A serious historical review demonstrates that the tie between the ascetic ideal and philosophy is even much closer and stronger. We could say it was in the leading reins of this ideal that philosophy in general learned to take its first steps and partial steps on earth—alas, still so awkwardly, alas, still with such a morose expression, alas, so ready to fall over and lie on its belly, this small, tentative, clumsy, loving infant with crooked legs! With philosophy things initially played themselves out as with all good things: for a long time it had no courage for itself—it always looked around to see if anyone would come to its assistance, and even more it was afraid of all those who gazed at it. Just make a list of the individual drives and virtues of the philosopher—his impulse to doubt, his impulse to deny, his impulse to wait (the “ephectic” impulse), his impulse to analyze, his impulse to research, to seek out, to take chances, his impulse to compare, to weigh evenly, his desire for neutrality and objectivity, his will to every “sine ira et studio” [without anger and partiality]—have we not already understood that for the longest time all of them went against the first demands of morality and conscience (to say nothing at all about reason in general, which even Luther liked to call Madam Clever, the Clever Whore) and that if a philosopher were to have come to an awareness of himself, he would really have had to feel that he was almost the living manifestation of “nitimur invetitum” [we search for what’s forbidden]—and thus taken care not to “feel himself,” not to become conscious of himself? As I’ve said, the case is no different with all the good things of which we are nowadays so proud. Even measured by the standards of the ancient Greeks, our entire modern being, insofar as it is not weakness but power and consciousness of power, looks like sheer hubris and godlessness; for the very opposite of those things we honour today have for the longest period had conscience on their side and God to guard over them. Our entire attitude to nature today, our violation of nature, with the help of machines and the unimaginable inventiveness of our technicians and engineers, is hubris; our attitude to God is hubris—I mean our attitude to some alleged spider spinning out purposes and morality behind the fabric of the huge fishing net of causality—we could say with Charles the Bold in his struggle with Ludwig XI, “Je combats l’universealle araignée” [I am fighting the universal spider]; our attitude to ourselves is hubris—for we experiment with ourselves in a manner we would not permit with any animal and happily and inquisitively slit the souls of living bodies open. What do we still care about the “salvation” of the soul? We cure ourselves later. Being sick teaches us things—we don’t doubt that—it’s even more instructive than being healthy. The person who makes us ill appears to us nowadays to be more important even than any medical people and “saviours.” We violate ourselves now, no doubt about it, we nutcrackers of the soul, we questioning and questionable people, as if life were nothing else but cracking nuts. And in so doing, we must necessarily become every day constantly more questionable, more worthy of being questioned, and in the process perhaps also worthier —to live? All good things were once bad things; every original sin has become an original virtue. For example, marriage for a long time seemed to be a sin against the rights of the community. Once people paid a fine for being so presumptuous as to arrogate a woman to themselves (that involves, for instance, the jus primae noctis [the right of the first night], even today in Cambodia the privilege of the priest, this guardian of “good ancient customs”). The gentle, favourable, yielding, sympathetic feelings—which over time grew so valuable that they are almost “value in itself”—for the longest period were countered by self- contempt against them. People were ashamed of being mild, just as today they are ashamed of being hard (compare Beyond Good and Evil, Section 260). Subjugation under the law—O with what resistance of conscience the noble races throughout the earth had to renounce the vendetta and to concede the power of the law over themselves! For a long time the “law” was a vetitum [something prohibited], a sacrilege, an innovation; it appeared with force, as force, something to which people submitted only with a feeling of shame for their conduct. Every one of the smallest steps on earth in earlier days was fought for with spiritual and physical torture. This whole historical point, “that not only moving forward—no!—but walking, moving, and changing necessarily required their countless martyrs,” nowadays sounds so strange to us. In The Dawn, Section 18, I brought out this point. “Nothing has come at a higher price,” it says there, “than the small amount of human reason and feeling of freedom, which we are now so proud of. But because of this pride it is now almost impossible for us to sense how that huge stretch of time of the ‘morality of custom,’ which comes before ‘world history,’ is the really decisive and important history which established the character of humanity, when everywhere people recognized suffering as virtue, cruelty as virtue, pretence as virtue, revenge as virtue, the denial of reason as virtue and, by contrast, well-being as danger, the desire for knowledge as danger, peace as danger, pity as danger, being pitied as disgrace, work as disgrace, insanity as divinity, change as inherently immoral and pregnant with ruin!”
The same book, in Section 42, explains the system of values, the pressure of a system of values, under which the most ancient race of contemplative men had to live—a race that was despised exactly to the extent that it was not feared! Contemplation first appeared on earth in a disguised shape, with an ambiguous appearance, with an evil heart, and often with a worried head. There’s no doubt about that. For a long time the inactive, brooding, unwarlike elements in the instincts of contemplative people fostered a deep mistrust around them, against which the only way to cope was to arouse an emphatic fear of them. The ancient Brahmins, for example, understood that! The oldest philosophers knew how to earn meaning for their existence and their appearance, some security and background, because of which people learned to fear them. To look at the matter more closely, this happened because of an even more fundamental need, that is, the need to win fear and respect for themselves. For they discovered that inside them all judgments of value had turned against them; they had to beat down all kinds of suspicions about and resistance to “the philosopher inside them.” As men of dreadful times, they achieved this with dreadful means: cruelty against themselves, inventive self-denial—that was the major instrument of these power-hungry hermits and new thinkers, who found it necessary first to overthrow the gods and traditions inside themselves, in order to be able to believe in their innovation. I recall the famous story of King Vishvamitra, who, through a thousand years of self-torments, acquired such a feeling of power and faith in himself that he committed himself to building a new heaven, that weird symbol of the oldest and most recent history of philosophers on earth. Everyone who at some time or another has built a “new heaven,” found the power to do that first in his own hell. . . . Let’s condense all these facts into short formulas: the philosophical spirit always had to begin by disguising itself, wrapping itself in a cocoon of the previously established forms of the contemplative man, as priest, magician, prophet, generally as a religious man, in order to make any kind of life at all possible. The ascetic ideal for a long time served the philosopher as a form in which he could appear, as a condition for his existence—he had to play the role, in order to be able to be a philosopher. And he had to believe in what he was doing, in order to play that role. The characteristically detached stance of philosophers, something which denies the world, is hostile to life, has no faith in the senses, and is free of sensuality, which was maintained right up to the most recent times and thus became valued almost as the essence of the philosophical posture—that is, above all, a consequence of the critical conditions under which, in general, philosophy arose and survived. In fact, for the longest time on earth philosophy would not have been at all possible without an ascetic cover and costume, without an ascetic misunderstanding of the self. To put the matter explicitly and vividly: up to the most recent times the ascetic priest has provided the repellent and dark caterpillar form which was the only one in which philosophy could live and creep around. . . . Has that really changed? Is the colourful and dangerous winged creature, that “spirit” which this caterpillar hid within itself, at last really been released and allowed out into the light, thanks to a sunnier, warmer, brighter world? Nowadays do we have sufficient pride, daring, bravery, self-certainty, spiritual will, desire to assume responsibility, and freedom of the will so that from now on “the philosopher” is truly possible on earth? . . .
Only now that we have taken a look at the ascetic priest can we seriously get at our problem: What does the ascetic ideal mean—only now does it become “serious.” From this point on we confront the actual representative of seriousness. “What does all seriousness mean?”—this even more fundamental question perhaps lies already on our lips, a question for physiologists, naturally, but nonetheless one which we will still evade for the moment. In that ideal, the ascetic priest preserves, not merely his faith, but also his will, his power, his interest. His right to existence stands and falls with that ideal. No wonder that here we run into a fearful opponent, given, of course, that we were people antagonistic to that ideal?—an opponent of the sort who fights for his existence against those who deny the ideal. . . On the other hand, it is from the outset improbable that such an interesting stance to our problem will be particularly beneficial to it. The ascetic priest will hardly in himself prove the most successful defender of his ideal, for the same reason that a woman habitually fails when it’s a matter of defending “woman as such”—to say nothing of his being able to provide the most objective assessment of and judgment about the controversy we are dealing with here. Rather than having to fear that he will refute us too well—this much is clear enough—it’s more likely we’ll still have to help him defend himself against us. . . . The idea being contested at this point is the value of our lives in the eyes of ascetic priests: this same life (along with what belongs to it, “nature,” “the world,” the whole sphere of becoming and transience) they set up in relation to an existence of a totally different kind, a relationship characterized by opposition and mutual exclusion, except where life somehow turns against itself, denies itself. In this case, the case of an ascetic life, living counts as a bridge over to that other existence. The ascetic treats life as an incorrect road, where we must finally go backwards, right to the place where it begins, or as a misconception which man refutes by his actions—or should refute. For he demands that people go with him. Where he can, he enforces his evaluation of existence. What’s the meaning of that? Such a monstrous way of assessing value does not stand inscribed in human history as something exceptional and curious. It is one of the most widespread and enduring extant facts. If read from a distant star, the block capital script of our earthly existence might perhaps lead one to conclude that the earth is the inherently ascetic star, a corner for discontented, arrogant, and repellent creatures, incapable of ridding themselves of a deep dissatisfaction with themselves, with the earth, with all living, creatures who inflict as much harm on themselves as possible for the pleasure of inflicting harm—probably their single pleasure. We should consider how regularly, how commonly, how in almost all ages the ascetic priest makes an appearance. He does not belong to one single race. He flourishes everywhere. He grows from all levels of society. And it’s not the case that he breeds and replants his way of assessing value somehow through biological inheritance: the opposite the case—generally speaking, a deep instinct forbids him from reproducing. There must be a high-order necessity which makes this species hostile to life always grow again and flourish—it must be in the interest of life itself not to have such a type of self-contradiction die out. For an ascetic life is a self-contradiction. Here a ressentiment without equal is in control, something with an insatiable instinct and will to power, which wants to become master, not over something in life but over life itself, over its deepest, strongest, most basic conditions; here an attempt is being made to use one’s power to block up the sources of that power; here one directs one’s green and malicious gaze against one’s inherent physiological health, particularly against its means of expression—beauty, joy—while one experiences and seeks for a feeling of pleasure in mistrust, atrophy, pain, accident, ugliness, voluntary loss, self-denial, self-flagellation, self-sacrifice.10 All this is paradoxical to the highest degree. Here we stand in front of a dichotomy which essentially wants a dichotomy, which enjoys itself in this suffering and always gets even more self-aware and more triumphant in proportion to the decrease in its own prerequisite, the physiological capacity for life. “Triumph precisely in the ultimate agony”—under this supreme sign the ascetic ideal has fought from time immemorial. Inside this riddle of seduction, in this picture of delight and torment, it sees its highest light, its salvation, its final victory. Crux, nux, lux [cross, nut, light]—for the ascetic ideal these are all one thing.
Given that such a living desire for contradiction and hostility to nature is used to practise philosophy, on what will it discharge its most inner arbitrary power? It will do that on something it perceives, with the greatest certainty, as true, as real. It will seek out error precisely where the essential instinct for life has established its most unconditional truth. For example, it will demote physical life to an illusion, as the ascetics of the Vedanta philosophy did. Similarly it will treat pain, the multiplicity of things, the whole ideational opposition between “subject” and “ object” as error, nothing but error! To deny faith in one’s own self, to deny one’s own “reality”—what a triumph!—and not just over the senses, over appearances, but a much loftier kind of triumph, an overpowering of and act of cruelty against reason: a process in which the highest peak of delight occurs when ascetic self-contempt and self-mockery of reason proclaims: “There is a kingdom of truth and being, but reason is expressly excluded from it” . . . (By the way, even in the Kantian idea of the “intelligible character of things” there still remains something of this lecherous ascetic dichotomy, which loves to turn reason against reason: for the “intelligible character” with Kant means a sort of composition of things about which the intellect understands just enough to know that for the intellect it is—wholly and completely unintelligible).—But precisely because we are people who seek knowledge, we should finally not be ungrateful for such determined reversals of customary perspectives and evaluations with which the spirit has for so long raged against itself with such apparent wickedness and futility. To use this for once to see differently, the will to see things differently, is no small discipline and preparation of the intellect for its coming “objectivity”—the latter meant not in the sense of “disinterested contemplation” (which is inconceivable nonsense), but as the capability of having power over one’s positive and negative arguments and of raising them and disposing of them so that one knows how to make the very variety of perspectives and interpretations of emotions useful for knowledge. From now on, my philosophical gentlemen, let us protect ourselves better from the dangerous old conceptual fantasy which posits a “pure, will-less, painless, timeless subject of cognition”; let’s guard ourselves against the tentacles of such contradictory ideas as “pure reason,” “absolute spirituality,” “knowledge in itself”—those things which demand that we think of an eye which simply cannot be imagined, an eye which is to have no direction at all, in which the active and interpretative forces are supposed to stop or be absent—the very things through which seeing first becomes seeing something. Hence, these things always demand from the eye something conceptually absurd and incomprehensible. The only seeing we have is seeing from a perspective; the only knowledge we have is knowledge from a perspective; and the more emotions we allow to be expressed in words concerning something, the more eyes, different eyes, we know how to train on the same thing, the more complete our “idea” of this thing, our “objectivity,” will be. But to eliminate the will in general, to suspend all our emotions without exception—even if we were capable of that—what would that be? Wouldn’t we call that castrating the intellect?
But let’s go back to our problem. The sort of self-contradiction which seems to be present in ascetic people, “life opposing life,” is—this much is clear—physio-logically (and not only physiologically) considered—simply absurd. It can only be apparent. It must be some kind of temporary expression, an interpretation, formula, make up, a psychological misunderstanding of something whose real nature could not be understood for a long time, could not for a long time be described in itself—a mere word, caught in an old gap in human understanding. So let me counter that briefly with the facts of the matter: the ascetic ideal arises out of the instinct for protection and salvation in a degenerating life, which seeks to keep itself going by any means and struggles for its existence. It indicates a partial physiological inhibition and exhaustion, against which those deepest instincts for living which still remain intact continuously fight on with new methods and innovations. The ascetic ideal is one such method. The facts are thus precisely the opposite of what those who honour this ideal claim—life is struggling in that ideal and by means of that ideal with death and against death: the ascetic ideal is a manoeuvre for the preservation of life. As history teaches us, to the extent that this ideal could prevail over men and become powerful, particularly wherever civilization and the taming of humans have been successfully implemented, it expresses an important fact: the pathological nature of the earlier form of human beings, at least of those human beings who had been tamed, the physiological struggle of men against death (more precisely, against weariness with life, against exhaustion, against desire for the “end”). The ascetic priest is the incarnation of the desire for another state of being, an existence somewhere else—indeed, the highest stage of this desire, its characteristic zeal and passion. But the very power of this desire is the chain which binds him here. That’s simply what turns him into a tool which has to work to create more favourable conditions for living here and for living as a human being—with this very power he keeps the whole herd of failures, discontents, delinquents, unfortunates, all sorts of people who inherently suffer, focussed on existence, because instinctively he goes ahead of them as their herdsman. You understand already what I mean: this ascetic priest, this apparent enemy of living, this man who denies—he belongs precisely with all the great conserving and affirming forces of life. . . . To what can we ascribe this pathology? For the human being is more ill, less certain, more changeable, more insecure than any other animal—there’s no doubt about that. He is the sick animal. Where does that come from? To be sure, he has also dared more, innovated more, defied more, and demanded more from fate than all the other animals combined. He is the great experimenter with himself, unhappy, dissatisfied, who struggles for ultimate mastery with animals, nature, and gods—still unconquered, always a man of the future, who no longer gets any rest from the force of his own powers, so that his future relentlessly burrows like a thorn into the flesh of his entire present:—how should such a brave and rich animal not also be the animal in most danger, the one which, of all sick animals, suffers the most lengthy and most profound illness? Human beings, often enough, get fed up: there are entire epidemics of this process of getting fed up (—for example, around 1348, at the time of the dance of death): but even this very disgust, this exhaustion, this dissatisfaction with himself—all this comes out of him so powerfully that it immediately becomes a new chain. The No which he speaks to life brings to light, as if through a magic spell, an abundance of more tender Yeses; in fact, when he injures himself, this master of destruction, of self-destruction —it is the wound itself which later forces him to live on. . . .
The more normal this pathology is among human beings—and we cannot deny its normality—the higher we should esteem the rare cases of spiritual and physical power, humanity’s strokes of luck, and the more strongly successful people should protect themselves from the most poisonous air, the atmosphere of illness. Do people do that? . . . Sick people are the greatest danger for healthy people. For strong people disaster does not come from the strongest, but from the weakest. Are we aware of that? . . . If we consider the big picture, we should not wish for any diminution of the fear we have of human beings, for this fear compels the strong people to be strong and, in some circumstances, terrible—that fear sustains the successful types of people. What we should fear, what has a disastrous effect unlike any other, would not be a great fear of humanity but a great loathing for humanity; similarly, a great pity for humanity. If both of these were one day to mate, then something most weird would at once inevitably appear in the world, the “ultimate will” of man, his will to nothingness, to nihilism. And, as a matter of fact, a great deal of preparation has gone on for this union. Whoever possesses, not only a nose to smell with, but also eyes and ears, senses almost everywhere, no matter where he steps nowadays, an atmosphere something like that of an insane asylum or hospital—I’m speaking, as usual, of people’s cultural surroundings, of every kind of “Europe” there is right here on this earth. The invalids are the great danger to humanity: not the evil men, not the “predatory animals.” Those people who are, from the outset, failures, oppressed, broken— they are the ones, the weakest, who most undermine life among human beings, who in the most perilous way poison and question our trust in life, in humanity, in ourselves. Where can we escape it, that downcast glance with which people carry a deep sorrow, that reversed gaze of the man originally born to fail which betrays how such a man speaks to himself—that gaze which is a sigh. “I wish I could be someone else!”—that’s what this glance sighs. “But there is no hope here. I am who I am. How could I detach myself from myself? And yet—I’ve had enough of myself!”. . . On such a ground of contempt for oneself, a truly swampy ground, grows every weed, every poisonous growth, and all of them so small, so hidden, so dishonest, so sweet. Here the worms of angry and resentful feelings swarm; here the air stinks of secrets and duplicity; here are constantly spun the nets of the most malicious conspiracies—the plotting of suffering people against the successful and victorious; here the appearance of the victor is despised. And what dishonesty not to acknowledge this hatred as hatred! What an extravagance of large words and postures, what an art of “decent” slander! These failures: what noble eloquence streams from their lips! How much sugary, slimy, humble resignation swims in their eyes! What do they really want? At least to make a show of justice, love, wisdom, superiority— that’s the ambition of these “lowest” people, these invalids! And how clever such an ambition makes people! For let’s admire the skilful counterfeiting with which people here imitate the trademarks of virtue, even its resounding tinkle, the golden sound of virtue. They have now taken a lease on virtue entirely for themselves, these weak and hopeless invalids—there’s no doubt about that: “We alone are the good men, the just men”—that’s how they speak: “We alone are the hominess bonae voluntatis [men of good will].” They wander around among us like personifications of reproach, like warnings to us—as if health, success, strength, pride, and a feeling of power were already inherently depraved things, for which people must atone some day, atone bitterly. O how ready they themselves basically are to make people atone, how they thirst to be hangmen! Among them there are plenty of people disguised as judges seeking revenge. They always have the word “Justice” in their mouths, like poisonous saliva, with their mouths always pursed, always ready to spit at anything which does not look discontented and goes on its way in good spirits. Among them there is no lack of that most disgusting species of vain people, the lying monsters who aim to present themselves as “beautiful souls” and who, for example, carry off to market their ruined sensuality, wrapped up in verse and other swaddling clothes, as “purity of heart,” the species of self-gratifying moral masturbators. The desire of sick people to present some form or other of superiority, their instinct for secret paths leading to a tyranny over the healthy—where can we not find it, this very will to power of the weakest people! The sick woman, in particular: no one outdoes her in refined ways to rule others, to exert pressure, to tyrannize. For that purpose, the sick woman spares nothing living or dead. She digs up again the most deeply buried things (the Bogos say “The woman is a hyena”). Take a look into the background of every family, every corporation, every community: everywhere you see the struggle of the sick against the healthy—a quiet struggle, for the most part, with a little poison powder, with needling, with deceitful expressions of long suffering, but now and then also with that sick man’s Pharisaic tactic of loud gestures, whose favourite role is “noble indignation.” It likes to make itself heard all the way into the consecrated rooms of science, that hoarse, booming indignation of the pathologically ill hound, the biting insincerity and rage of such “noble” Pharisees (—once again I remind readers who have ears of Eugene Dühring, that apostle of revenge from Berlin, who in today’s Germany makes the most indecent and most revolting use of moralistic gibberish [Bumbum]—Dühring, the pre-eminent moral braggart we have nowadays, even among those like him, the anti-Semites).11 They are all men of ressentiment, these physiologically impaired and worm-eaten men, a totally quivering earthly kingdom of subterranean revenge, inexhaustible, insatiable in its outbursts against the fortunate, and equally in its masquerades of revenge, its pretexts for revenge. When would they truly attain their ultimate, most refined, most sublime triumph of revenge? Undoubtedly, if they could succeed in pushing their own wretchedness, all misery in general, into the consciences of the fortunate, so that the latter one day might begin to be ashamed of their good fortune and perhaps would say to themselves, “It’s shameful to be fortunate. There’s too much misery!”. . . But there could be no greater and more fateful misunderstanding than if, through this process, the fortunate, the successful, the powerful in body and spirit should start to doubt their right to happiness. Away with this “twisted world”! Away with this disgraceful softening of feelings! That the invalids do not make the healthy sick—and that would be such a softening—that should surely be ruling point of view on earth:—but that would require above everything that the healthy remain separated from the sick, protected even from the gaze of sick people, so that they don’t confuse themselves with the ill. Or would it perhaps be their assignment to attend on the sick or be their doctors? . . . But they could not misjudge or negate their work more seriously—something higher must not demean itself by becoming the tool of something lower. The pathos of distance must keep the work of the two groups forever separate! Their right to exist, the privilege of a bell with a perfect ring in comparison to one that is cracked and off key, is indeed a thousand times greater. They alone are the guarantors of the future; they alone stand as pledge for humanity’s future. Whatever they can do, whatever they should do—the sick can never to do and should not do. But so that they are able to do what only they should do, how can they have the freedom to make themselves the doctor, the consoler, the “person who cures” for the invalids? . . . And therefore let’s have fresh air! fresh air! In any case, let’s keep away from the neighbourhood of all cultural insane asylums and hospitals! And for that let’s have good companionship, our companionship! Or loneliness, if that’s necessary! But by all means let’s stay away from the foul stink of inner rotting and of the secret muck from sick worms! In that way, my friends, we can defend ourselves, at least for a while, against the two nastiest scourges which may be lying in wait precisely for us—against a great disgust with humanity and against a great pity for humanity!
If you’ve grasped the full profundity of this—and precisely here I require that you grasp deeply, understand profoundly—of the extent to which it simply cannot be the task of healthy people to attend to the sick, to make invalids well, then you’ve understood one more necessary matter—the necessity for doctors and nurses who are themselves ill. And now we have the meaning of the ascetic priest—we’re holding it in both hands. We need to look on the ascetic priest as the preordained healer, shepherd, and advocate of the sick herd; in that way we can, for the first time, understand his immense historical mission. The ruling power over suffering people is his kingdom. His instinct instructs him to do that; in that he has his very own art, his mastery, his sort of success. He must be sick himself; he must be fundamentally related to the sick and those who go astray, in order to understand them—in order to be understood among them. But he must also be strong, master over himself even more than over others, that is, undamaged in his will to power, so that he inspires the confidence and fear of the invalids, so that he can be their support, resistance, protection, compulsion, discipline, tyrant, god. He has to defend his herd, but against whom? Against the healthy people undoubtedly, also against their envy of the healthy. He has to be the natural opponent and critic of all rough, stormy, unchecked, hard, violent, predatory health and power. The priest is the first form of the more delicate animal which despises more easily than it hates. He will not be spared having to conduct war with predatory animals, a war of cunning (of the “spirit”) rather than of force, as is obvious—for that purpose, in certain circumstances it will be necessary for him to develop himself almost into a new type of beast of prey, or at least to represent himself as such a beast—with a new animal ferocity in which the polar bear, the sleek, cold, and patient tiger, and, not least, the fox seem to be combined in a unity which attracts just as much as it inspires fear. If need compels him to, he will walk even in the midst of the other sort of predatory animals with the seriousness of a bear, venerable, clever, cold, and with a duplicitous superiority, as the herald and oracle of more mysterious forces, determined to sow this ground, where he can, with suffering, conflict, self-contradiction, and only too sure of his art, to become the master over suffering people at all times. There’s no doubt he brings with him ointments and balm. But in order to be a doctor, he first has to inflict wounds. Then, while he eases the pain caused by the wound, at the same time he poisons the wound—for that is, above all, what he knows how to do, this magician and animal trainer, around whom everything healthy necessarily becomes ill and everything sick necessarily becomes tame. In fact, he defends his sick herd well enough, this strange shepherd—he protects them also against themselves, against the smouldering wickedness, scheming, and maliciousness in the herd itself, against all those addictions and illnesses characteristic of their associating with each other. He fights shrewdly, hard, and secretly against the anarchy and self-dissolution which start up all the time within the herd, in which that most dangerous explosive stuff and blasting material, ressentiment, is constantly piling and piling up. To detonate this explosive stuff in such a way that it does not blow up the herd and its shepherd, that is his essential work of art and also his most important use. If we want to sum up the value of the priestly existence in the shortest slogan, we could at once put it like this: the priest is the person who alters the direction of ressentiment. For every suffering person instinctively seeks a cause for his suffering, or, more precisely, an agent, or, even more precisely, a guilty agent sensitive to suffering—in short, he seeks some living person on whom he can, on some pretext or other, unload his feelings, either in fact or in effigy: for the discharge of feelings is the most important way a suffering man seeks relief—that is, some anaesthetic—it’s his involuntarily desired narcotic against any kind of torment. In my view, only here can we find the true physiological cause of ressentiment, revenge, and things related to them, in a longing for some anaesthetic against pain through one’s emotions. People usually look for this cause, most incorrectly, in my opinion, in the defensive striking back, a merely reactive protective measure, a “reflex movement” in the event of some sudden damage and threat, of the sort a decapitated frog still makes in order to get rid of corrosive acid. But the difference is fundamental: in one case, people want to prevent suffering further damage; in the other case, people want to deaden a tormenting, secret pain which is becoming unendurable by means of a more violent emotion of some kind and, for the moment at least, to drive it from their consciousness—for that they need some emotion, as unruly an emotion as possible, and, in order to stimulate that, they need the best pretext available. “Someone or other must be guilty of the fact that I am ill”—this sort of conclusion is characteristic of all sick people, all the more so if the real cause of their sense that they are sick, the physiological cause, remains hidden (—it can lie, for example, in an illness of the nervus sympathicus [sympathetic nerves], or in an excessive secretion of gall, or in a lack of potassium sulphate and phosphate in the blood, or in some pressure in the lower abdomen, which blocks the circulation, or in a degeneration of the ovaries, and so on). Suffering people all have a horrible willingness and capacity for inventing pretexts for painful emotional feelings. They enjoy even their suspicions, their brooding over bad actions and apparent damage. They ransack the entrails of their past and present, looking for dark, dubious stories, in which they are free to feast on an agonizing suspicion and to get intoxicated on the poison of their own anger—they rip open the oldest wounds, they bleed themselves to death from long-healed scars, they turn friends, wives, children, and anyone else who is closest to them into criminals. “I am suffering. Someone or other must be to blame for that”—that’s how every sick sheep thinks. But his shepherd, the ascetic priest, says to him: “That’s right, my sheep! Someone must be to blame for that. But you yourself are this very person. You yourself are the only one to blame—you alone are to blame for yourself!” . . . That is bold enough, and false enough. But one thing at least is attained by that, as I have said, the direction of ressentiment has been—changed.
By now you will have guessed what, according to my ideas, the healing artistic instinct for life at least has attempted with the ascetic priest and why he had to use a temporary tyranny of such paradoxical and illogical ideas, like “guilt,” “sins,” “sinfulness,” “degeneration,” and “damnation”: to make sick people to a certain extent harmless, to enable the incurable to destroy themselves by their own actions, to redirect the ressentiment of the mildly ill sternly back onto themselves (“there’s one thing necessary”—), and in this manner to utilize the bad instincts of all suffering people to serve the purpose of self-discipline, self-monitoring, self-conquest. As is obvious, this kind of “medication,” a merely emotional medication, has nothing at all to do with a real cure for an illness, in a physiological sense. We are never entitled to assert that the instinct for life has any sort of chance or intention to heal itself in this way. A kind of pressure to come together and organize the invalids on one side (—the word “church” is the popular name for this), some form of temporary guarantee for the more healthy successful people, the ones more completely fulfilled, on another side, and in the process the creation of rift between the healthy and sick—for a long time that’s all there was. And that was a lot! It was a great deal! (In this essay, as you see, I proceed on an assumption which, so far as the readers I require are concerned, I do not have to prove first—that the “sinfulness” of human beings is not a matter of fact, but much rather only the interpretation of a factual condition, that is, of a bad psychological mood—with the latter seen from a moral-religious perspective, something which is no longer binding on us.—The fact that someone feels himself “guilty” or “sinful” does not in itself yet demonstrate clearly that he is justified in feeling like that, just as the mere fact that someone feels healthy does not mean that he is healthy. People should remember the famous witch trials: at that time the most perspicacious and philanthropic judges had no doubt that they were dealing with guilt; the “witches” themselves had no doubts about that point—nonetheless, there was no guilt.—To express that assumption in broader terms: I consider that “spiritual pain” itself is not, in general, a fact, but only an interpretation (a causal interpretation) of facts which up to that point have not been precisely formulated, and thus something that is still completely up in the air and not scientifically binding —essentially a fat word set in place of a very spindly question mark. To put the matter crudely, when someone cannot cope with a “spiritual pain,” that has nothing to do with his “soul”; it’s more likely something to do with his belly (speaking crudely, as I said: but in saying that I’m not expressing the slightest wish to be crudely heard or crudely understood . . .). A strong and successful man digests his experiences (his actions, including his evil actions) as he digests his meals, even when he has to swallow down some hard mouthfuls. If he is “unable to finish with” an experience, this kind of indigestion is just as much a physiological matter as that other one—and in many cases, in fact, only one of the consequences of that other one.—With such an view, a person can, just between ourselves, still be the strongest opponent of all materialism. . . .)
But is he really a doctor, this ascetic priest?—We already understand the extent to which one can hardly be permitted to call him a doctor, no matter how much he likes feeling that he is a “saviour” and allowing himself to be honoured as a “saviour.” But he fights only against suffering itself, the unhappiness of the suffering person, not against its cause, not against the essential sickness—this must constitute our most fundamental objection to priestly medication. But if for once we look at things from the perspective which only the priest understands and adopts, then it will not be easy for us to limit our amazement at all the things he has noticed, looked for, and found by seeing things in that manner. The alleviation of suffering, every kind of “consolation”—that manifests itself as his particular genius: he has understood his task as consoler with so much innovation and has selected the means for that so spontaneously and so fearlessly! We could call Christianity, in particular, a huge treasure house of the most elegant forms of consolation —there are so many pleasant, soothing, narcotizing things piled up in it, and for this purpose it takes so many of the most dangerous and most audacious chances. It shows such sophistication, such southern refinement, especially when it guesses what kind of emotional stimulant can overcome, at least for a while, the deep depression, leaden exhaustion, and black sorrow of the physiologically impaired. For, generally speaking, with all great religions, the main issue concerns the fight against a certain endemic exhaustion and heaviness. We can from the outset assume as probable that from time to time, in particular places on the earth, a feeling of physiological inhibition must necessarily become master over wide masses of people, but, because of a lack of knowledge about physiology, it does not enter people’s consciousness as something physiological, so they look for and attempt to find its “cause” and remedy only in psychology and morality (—this, in fact, is my most general formula for whatever is commonly called a “religion”). Such a feeling of inhibition can have a varied ancestry; for instance, it can be the result of cross-breeding between different races (or between classes—for classes also always express differences in origin and race: European “Weltschmerz” [pain at the state of the world] and nineteenth-century “pessimism” are essentially the consequence of an irrational, sudden mixing of the classes), or it can be caused by incorrect emigration—a race caught in a climate for which its powers of adaptation are not sufficient (the case of the Indians in India); or by the influence of the age and exhaustion of the race (Parisian pessimism from 1850 on); or by an incorrect diet (the alcoholism of the Middle Ages, the inanity of vegetarians, who, of course, have on their side the authority of Squire Christopher in Shakespeare); or by degeneration in the blood, malaria, syphilis and things like that (German depression after the Thirty Years’ War, which spread bad diseases in an epidemic through half of Germany and thus prepared the ground for German servility, German timidity).12 In such a case, a war against the feeling of a lack of enthusiasm will always be attempted in the grand style. Let’s briefly go over its most important practices and forms. (Here I leave quite out of account, as seems reasonable, the actual war of the philosophers against this lack of enthusiasm, which always has a habit of appearing at the same time—that war is interesting enough, but too absurd, with too little practical significance, too full of cobwebs and loafing around—as, for example, when pain is to be shown an error, on the naive assumption that the pain must disappear as soon as it is recognized as a error—but, lo and behold, it sees to it that it does not disappear . . . ). First, people fight that domineering listlessness with means which, in general, set our feeling for life at their lowest point. Where possible, there is generally no more willing, no more desire; they stay away from everything which creates an emotional response, which makes “blood” (no salt in the diet, the hygiene of the fakir); they don’t love; they don’t hate—equanimity—they don’t take revenge, they don’t get wealthy, they don’t work; they beg; where possible, no women, or as few women as possible; with respect to spiritual matters, Pascal’s principle “Il faut s’abêtir” [it’s necessary to make oneself stupid]. The result, expressed in moral-psychological terms, is “selflessness,” “sanctification”; expressed in physiological terms: hypnotizing—the attempt to attain for human beings something approaching what winter hibernation is for some kinds of animals and what summer sleep is for many plants in hot climates, the minimum consumption and processing of material stuff which can still sustain life but which does not actually enter consciousness. For this purpose an astonishing amount of human energy has been expended. Has it all gone for nothing? . . . We should not entertain the slightest doubts that such sportsmen of “holiness,” whom almost all populations have in abundance at all times, in fact found a real release from what they were fighting against with such a rigorous training—with the help of their systemic methods for hypnosis, in countless cases they really were released from that deep physiological depression. That’s the reason their methodology belongs with the most universal ethnological facts. For the same reason, we have no authority for considering such an intentional starving of one’s desires and of one’s physical well being as, in itself, symptoms of insanity (the way a clumsy kind of roast-beef-eating “free spirit” and Squire Christopher like to do). It’s much more the case that it opens or can open the way to all sorts of spiritual disruptions, to “inner light,” for example, as with Hesychasts on Mount Athos, to hallucinating sounds and shapes, to sensual outpourings and ecstasies of sensuality (the history of St. Theresa).13 It’s self-evident that the interpretation which has been given for conditions of this sort by those afflicted with them has always been as effusively false as possible. Still, people should not fail to catch the tone of totally convincing gratitude ringing out in the very will to such a form of interpretation. They always value the highest state, redemption itself, that finally attained collective hypnosis and quietness, as the inherent mystery, which cannot be adequately expressed even by the highest symbols, as a stop at and return home to the basis of things, as an emancipation from all delusions, as “knowledge,” as “truth,” as “being,” as the removal of all goals, all wishes, all acts, and thus as a place beyond good and evil. “Good and evil,” says the Buddhist, “are both fetters: the perfect one became master over both”; “what’s done and what’s not done,” says the man who believes in the Vedanta, “give him no pain; as a wise man he shakes good and evil off himself; his kingdom suffers no more from any deed; good and evil—he has transcended both”— an entirely Indian conception, whether Brahman or Buddhist. (Neither in the Indian nor in the Christian way of thinking is this “redemption” considered attainable through virtue, through moral improvement—no matter how high a value they place on virtue as a form of hypnotism. People should note this point—it corresponds, incidentally, to the plain facts. That on this point they kept to the truth might perhaps be considered the best piece of realism in the three largest religions, which, apart from this, are religions so fundamentally concerned with moralizing. “The man who knows has no duties” . . . “Redemption does not come about through an increase in virtue, for it consists of unity with Brahma, who is incapable of any increase in perfection; even less does it come through setting aside one’s faults, for the Brahma, unity with whom creates redemption, is eternally pure”—these passages from the commentary of Shankara are cited by the first genuine authority on Indian philosophy in Europe, my friend Paul Deussen).14 So we want to honour “redemption” in the great religions; however, it will be a little difficult for us to remain serious about the way these people, who’ve grown too weary of life even to dream, value deep sleep—that is, deep sleep as already an access to the Brahma, as an achieved unio mystica [mysterious union] with God. On this subject, the oldest and most venerable “Scripture” states: “When he is soundly and completely asleep and is in a state of perfect calm, so that he is not seeing any more dream images, at that moment, O dear one, united with Being, he has gone into himself—now that he has been embraced by a form of his knowing self, he has no consciousness any more of what is outer or inner. Over this bridge comes neither night nor day, nor old age, nor death, nor suffering, nor good works, nor evil works.” Similarly, believers in this most profound of the three great religions say, “In deep sleep the soul lifts itself up out of this body, goes into the highest light, and moves out in its own form: there it is the highest spirit itself which wanders around, while it jokes and plays and enjoys itself, whether with women or with carriages or with friends; there it no longer thinks back to its bodily appendages, to which the prana (the breath of life) is harnessed like a draught animal to a cart.” Nevertheless, as in the case of “redemption,” we also need to keep in mind here that no matter how great the splendour of oriental exaggeration, what this states is basically the same evaluation which was made by that clear, cool, Greek-cool, but suffering Epicurus: the hypnotic feeling of nothingness, the silence of the deepest sleep, in short, the loss of suffering—something which suffering and fundamentally disgruntled people are already entitled to consider their highest good, their value of values, and which they must appraise as positive and experience as the positive in itself. (With the same logic of feeling, in all pessimistic religions nothingness is called God).
Against this condition of depression, a different and certainly easier training is tried far more often than such a hypnotic collective deadening of the sensibilities, of the ability to experience pain, for the method requires rare powers, above all, courage, contempt for opinion, and “intellectual stoicism.” This different training is mechanical activity. There’s no doubt whatsoever that this can alleviate a suffering existence to a degree which is not insignificant. Today we call this fact, somewhat dishonestly, “the blessings of work.” The relief comes about because the interest of the suffering person is basically diverted from his suffering—because some action and then another action are always entering his consciousness, thus leaving little space there for suffering. For it’s narrow, this room of human consciousness! Mechanical activity and what’s associated with it—like absolute regularity, meticulous and mindless obedience, a style of life set once and for all, filling in time, a certain allowance for, indeed, training in, “impersonality,” in forgetting oneself, in “incuria sui” [no care for oneself]—how fundamentally, how delicately the ascetic priest knew how to use them in the struggle with suffering! Especially when it involved the suffering people of the lower classes, working slaves, or prisoners (or women, most of whom are, in fact, simultaneously both working slaves and prisoners) what was needed was little more than the minor art of changing names and re-christening, so as to make those people in future see a favour, some relative good fortune, in things they hated—the slave’s discontent with his lot, in any case, was not invented by the priests. An even more valuable tool in the battle against depression is prescribing a small pleasure which is readily accessible and can be made habitual. People frequently use this medication in combination with the one just mentioned. The most common form in which pleasure is prescribed in this way as a cure is the pleasure in creating pleasure (as in showing kindness, giving presents, providing relief, helping, encouraging, trusting, praising, honouring). The ascetic priest orders “love of one’s neighbour”; in so doing, he is basically prescribing an arousal of the strongest, most life-affirming drive, even if only in the most cautious doses—the will to power. The happiness which comes from “the smallest feeling of superiority,” which all doing good, being useful, helping, and honouring bring with them, is the most plentiful way of providing consolation, which the physiologically impaired habitually use, provided that they have been well advised. In a different situation, they harm each other, doing so, of course, in obedience to the same basic instinct. If we look for the beginnings of Christianity in the Roman world, we find organizations growing up for mutual support, combinations of the poor and sick, for burial, on the lowest levels of society at the time, in which that major way of combating depression, the minor joys which habitually develop out of mutual demonstrations of kindness, were consciously employed—perhaps at the time this was something new, a real discovery? “The will to mutual assistance,” to the formation of the herd, to “a community,” to “a congregation,” summoned in this manner, must call up again, if only in the smallest way, that aroused will to power and come to a new and much greater outburst. In the fight against depression, the development of the herd is an essential step and a victory. By growing, the community also reinforces in the individual a new interest, which often enough raises him up over the most personal features of his bad disposition, his dislike of himself (Geulincx’s despectio sui [contempt for oneself]).15 All sick pathological people, in their desire to shake off a stifling lack of enthusiasm and a feeling of weakness, instinctively strive for the organization of a herd. The ascetic priest senses this instinct and promotes it. Where there is a herd, it’s the instinct of weakness which has willed the herd and the cleverness of the priest which has organized it. For we should not overlook the following point: through natural necessity strong people strive to separate from each other, just as much as weak people strive to be with each other. When the former unite, that happens only at the prospect of an aggressive combined action and a collective satisfaction of their will to power, with considerable resistance from the individual conscience. By contrast, the latter organize themselves collectively, taking pleasure precisely in this collective—their instinct is satisfied by this in the same way that the instinct of those born “Masters” (i.e., the solitary man of the predatory species of human being) is basically irritated and upset by organization. Under every oligarchy—all history teaches us—is always concealed the craving for tyranny. Every oligarchy is constantly trembling with the tension which every individual in it necessarily has in order to remain master of this craving. (That was the case, for example, with the Greeks. Plato provides evidence of this in a hundred passages—Plato, who understood his peers—and himself . . .).
The ascetic priest’s methods, which we learned about earlier—the collective deadening of the feeling for life, mechanical activity, minor joys, above all, the joy in “loving one’s neighbour,” the organization of the herd, the awakening of the feeling of power in the community, as a result of which the dissatisfaction of the individual with himself is drowned out by his pleasure in the flourishing of the community— these things are, measured by modern standards, his innocent methods in the war against unhappiness. But now let’s turn our attention to more interesting methods, to his “guilty” ones. With all of them there is one thing involved: some kind of excess of feeling —employed as the most effective anaesthetic against stifling, crippling, and long-lasting pain. For that reason, the priest’s powers of innovation have been tireless in addressing this one question in particular: “Through what means do people reach emotional excess?”. . . That sounds harsh. It’s clear enough that it would sound more appealing and perhaps please our ears better if I said something like “The ascetic priest has always used the enthusiasm which lies in all strong emotions.” But why keep caressing the mollycoddled ears of our modern delicate sensibilities? Why should we, for our part, retreat even one step back from the Tartufferie [hypocrisy] of their vocabulary? Doing something like that would already make us psychologists active hypocrites—apart from the fact that for us it would be disgusting. For if a psychologist today has good taste anywhere (others might say his honesty), it’s because he detests that disgraceful moralizing way of talking, which effectively covers in slime all modern judgments about human beings and things. For we must not deceive ourselves in this business. The most characteristic feature which forms modern souls and modern books is not lying but the ingrained innocence in their moralistic lying. To have to discover this “innocence” again all over the place—that is perhaps the most repellent part of our work, of all the inherently dangerous work which nowadays a psychologist has to undertake. It is a part of our great danger—it is a path that perhaps takes us in particular to a great revulsion. I have no doubt about what single purpose will be served, or can be served, in a coming world by modern books (provided they last, which, of course, we need not fear, and provided there will one day be a later world with a stronger, harder, and healthier taste), or what general purpose all things modern will have: they will serve as emetics—and they’ll do that thanks to their moralistic sugar and falsity, their innermost femininity, which likes to call itself “idealism” and which, at all events, has faith in idealism. Today our educated people, our “good people,” don’t tell lies—that’s true. But that’s no reason to respect them! The real lie, the genuine, resolute, “honest” lie (people should listen to Plato on its value) for them would be something far too demanding, too strong. It would require what people are not allowed to demand of them, that they opened up their eyes and looked at themselves, so that they would know how to differentiate between “true” and “false” with respect to themselves. But they are fit only for ignoble lies. Everyone today who feels that he is a “good man” is completely incapable of taking a stand on any issue at all, other than with dishonest falseness—an abysmal falsity, which is, however, innocent falsity, true-hearted falsity, blue-eyed falsity, virtuous falsity. These “good people”—collectively they are now utterly and completely moralized and, so far as their honesty is concerned, they’ve been disgraced and ruined for all eternity. Who among them could endure even one truth “about human beings”! . . . Or, to ask the question more precisely, who among them could bear a true biography! Here are a couple of indications: Lord Byron recorded some very personal things about himself, but Thomas Moore was “too good” for them. He burned his friend’s papers. The executor of Schopenhauer’s will, Dr. Gwinner, is alleged to have done the same thing, for Schopenhauer had also recorded some things about himself and also perhaps against himself (“eis auton” [against himself]). The capable American Thayer, the biographer of Beethoven, all of a sudden stopped his work: at some point or other in this venerable and naive life he could no longer continue . . . Moral: What intelligent man nowadays would still write an honest word about himself?—He would already have to be a member of the Order of Holy Daredevils. We have been promised an autobiography of Richard Wagner. Who has any doubts that it will be a prudent autobiography?16 Let’s remember the comical horror which the Catholic priest Janssen aroused in Germany with his incomprehensibly bland and harmless picture of the German Reformation movement. How would people react if one day someone explained this movement differently, if, for once, a true psychologist with spiritual strength and not a shrewd indulgence toward strength pictured a true Luther for us, no longer with the moralistic simplicity of a country parson, no longer with the sweet and considerate modesty of a protestant historian, but with something like the fearlessness of a Taine? . . . (Parenthetically, the Germans have finally produced a sufficiently beautiful classical type of such shrewd indulgence—they can classify him as one of their own and be proud of him, namely, their Leopold Ranke, this born classical advocate of every causa fortior [stronger cause], the shrewdest of all the shrewd “realists”).17
But you will already have grasped what I’m getting at. All in all, that’s surely reason enough, is it not, why we psychologists nowadays cannot rid ourselves of a certain distrust in ourselves? . . . We also are probably “too good” for the work we do. We are probably sacrificial victims and prey, as well, made sick by this contemporary taste for moralizing, no matter how much we also feel we’re its critics—it probably infects even us as well. What was that diplomat warning about, when he addressed his colleagues? “Gentlemen, let us mistrust our first impulses above all!” he declared; “they are almost always good” That’s also how every psychologist today should speak to his peers. And so we come back to our problem, which, in fact, requires a certain rigour from us, especially some distrust of our “first impulses.” The ascetic ideal in the service of intentional emotional excess—whoever remembers the previous essay will, with the compressed content of these ten words, already have a preliminary sense of the essential content of what I now have to demonstrate. To remove the human soul for once from its entire frame, to immerse it in terror, frost, glowing embers, and joys of that kind, so that it rids itself, as if with a bolt of lightning, of all pettiness and small-mindedness of lack of interest, apathy, and irritation. What paths lead to this goal? And which of them is the most reliable? . . . All the greatest emotions basically have this capacity, provided they discharge themselves suddenly—anger, fear, lust, revenge, hope, triumph, despair, cruelty. And the ascetic priest has, in fact, without a second thought, taken the entire pack of wild hounds in the human being into his service and let loose one of them at one time, another at another time, always for the same purpose, to wake human beings up out of their long sadness, to chase away, at least for a while, their stifling pain, their tentative misery, and always covered up in a religious interpretation and “justification.” Every emotional excess of this sort demands payment later; that’s self-evident—it makes sick people sicker. And thus, this way of providing a remedy for pain, measured by modern standards, is a “guilty” method. However, to be fair, we must insist all the more that it was used in good conscience, that the ascetic priest prescribed it with the deepest faith in its utility, indeed, its indispensability—often enough almost falling apart himself in front of the misery he created; and, similarly, that the vehement physiological revenges of such excesses, perhaps even psychic disturbances, basically do not really contradict the whole meaning of this kind of medication, which, as I’ve pointed out above, was not designed to heal sick people, but to fight their enervating depression, to alleviate and anaesthetize it. With this method that goal was attained. The main instrumental fingering which the ascetic priest allowed himself in order to bring every kind of disorienting ecstatic music ringing out in the human soul was achieved, as everyone knows, by the fact that he made use of the feeling of guilt. The previous essay indicated, in brief, the origin of this feeling—as a part of animal psychology, nothing more. The feeling of guilt we encountered there in its raw state, as it were. In the hands of the priest, this true artist in guilt feelings, it first acquired a form—and what a form! “Sin”—for that’s how the priest’s new interpretation of the animal “bad conscience” ran (cruelty turned backwards)—has been the greatest event in the history of the sick soul so far. In it we have the most dangerous and the most fateful artistic work of religious interpretation. The human being, suffering from himself somehow—at any rate, psychologically—something like an animal barred up in a cage, confused about why this has happened and what purpose it serves, longing for reasons—reasons provide relief—longing also for treatments and narcotics, finally discussed the matter with one who also knew about hidden things—and lo and behold! He gets a hint. He gets the first hint about the “cause” of his suffering from his magician, the ascetic priest. He is to seek this cause in himself, in his guilt, in a piece of the past. He is to understand his own suffering as a condition of punishment . . . He heard, he understood—this unfortunate man: now things stand with him as with a hen around which a line has been drawn. He is not to come outside this circle of lines again. The “sick man” is turned into the “sinner” . . . And now for a couple of millennia people have not rid themselves of the look of this new sick man, the “sinner.”—Will people ever be rid of him?—No matter where we look, we see everywhere the hypnotic glance of the sinner, who always moves in one direction (in the direction of “guilt” as the single cause of suffering), everywhere the bad conscience, this “horrifying animal,” to use Luther’s words, everywhere the past regurgitated, the fact distorted, the “green eye” cast on all action, everywhere the desire to misunderstand suffering turned into the meaning of life, with suffering reinterpreted into feelings of guilt, fear, and punishment, everywhere the whip, the hair shirt, the starving body, remorse, everywhere the sinner’s breaking himself on the terrible torture wheel of a restless conscience, greedy for its own sickness; everywhere silent torment, extreme fear, the agony of the tortured heart, the spasms of an unknown joy, the cry for “redemption.” As a matter of fact, with this system of procedures the old depression, heaviness, and exhaustion were basically overthrown. Life became very interesting once again: lively, always lively, sleepless, glowing, charred, exhausted, and yet not tired—that’s how man looked, the “sinner,” who was initiated into these mysteries. This grand old magician in the war against the lack of excitement, the ascetic priest—he had apparently won. His kingdom had come. Now people no longer moaned against pain; they longed for pain: “More pain! More pain!”—that had been the demanding cry of his disciples and initiates for centuries. Every excess of feeling which brought grief, everything that broke apart, knocked over, smashed to bits, carried away, enraptured, the secrets of the torture chambers, the very invention of hell—from now on everything was discovered, surmised, put into practice. Everything now was available for the magician’s use. Everything in future served for the victory of his ideal, the ascetic ideal. . . . “My empire is not of this world”—he said afterwards (as he said before). Does he really have the right still to speak this way? . . . Goethe asserted that there were only thirty-six tragic situations. From that we can surmise, if we did not know it anyway, that Goethe was no ascetic priest. He—knows more . . .
So far as this whole sort of priestly medication is concerned, the “guilty” sort, any word of criticism is too much. That an excess of feeling of the sort the ascetic priest habitually prescribes for his sick people in this case (under the holiest of names, as is obvious, while convinced of the sanctity of his purpose) has truly been of use to some invalid: who would really want to defend the truth of this kind of claim? At least we should come to an understanding of that phrase “been of use.” If with those words people wish to assert that such a system of treatment has improved human beings, then I won’t contradict them. I would only add what “improved” indicates to me—it’s as much as saying “tamed,” “weakened,” “disheartened,” “refined,” “mollycoddled” (hence, almost equivalent to damaged . . .). But when we are mainly concerned with sick, upset, and depressed people, such a system, even supposing that it makes them “better,” always makes them sicker. You only have to ask doctors who treat the mentally ill [Irrenärzte] what a methodical application of the torments of repentance, remorse, and convulsions of redemption always brings with it. We should also consult history: wherever the ascetic priest has put in place this way of dealing with the sick, illness has always spread far and wide at terrifying speed. What has its “success” always involved? The person who was already ill gets in addition a shattered nervous system, and that occurs on the largest and smallest scale, among individuals and among masses of people. As a consequence of a training in repentance and redemption, we witness huge epidemics of epilepsy, the greatest known to history, as in the St. Vitus’ and St. John’s dances in the Middle Ages. We find its repercussions in other forms of fearful paralysis and enduring depression, with which, under certain circumstances, the temperament of an entire people or city (Geneva, Basel) is changed into its opposite once and for all—with these belong also the witch crazes, something related to sleep walking (eight major epidemics of this broke out between 1564 and 1605 alone);—among its consequences we also find that death-seeking mass hysteria whose horrific cry “eviva la morte” [long live death] was heard far across the whole of Europe, interrupted by idiosyncratic outbursts—sometimes of lust, sometimes of destructive frenzies, just as the same alternation of emotions, with the same intermissions and reversals, can also still be observed nowadays all over the place, in every case where the ascetic doctrine of sin once again enjoys a great success (religious neurosis appears as a form of an “evil nature”—that’s indisputable. What is it? Quaeritur [that’s what we need to ask]). Generally speaking, the ascetic ideal and its cult of moral sublimity, this supremely clever, most dubious, and most dangerous systematization of all the ways to promote an excess of emotion under the protection of holy purposes, has etched itself into the entire history of human beings in a dreadful and unforgettable manner, and, alas, not only into their history. . . Apart from this ideal, there’s scarcely anything else I would know to point to which has had such a destructive effect on the health and racial power, particularly of Europeans. Without any exaggeration, we can call it the true disaster in the history of the health of European people. At most, the specifically German influence might be comparable to its effect: I refer to the alcohol poisoning of Europe, which up to now has marched strictly in step with the political and racial superiority of the Germans (— wherever they have infused their blood, they have also infused their vices).—The third in line would be syphilis—magno sed proxima intervallo [next in line, but after a large gap].
Wherever he achieved mastery, the ascetic priest has ruined spiritual health. As a result, he has also ruined taste in artibus et litteris [in arts and letters]—he is still ruining that. “As a result”?—I hope you will simply concede me this “as a result.” At least, I have no desire to demonstrate it first. A single indication: it concerns the fundamental text of Christian literature, its essential model, its “book in itself.” Still in the middle of the Graeco-Roman magnificence, which was also a magnificent time for books, faced with a ancient world of writing which had not yet declined and fallen apart, an age in which people could still read some books for which one would now exchange half of all literature, the simplicity and vanity of Christian agitators—we call them the church fathers—already dared to proclaim, “We also have our classical literature. We don’t need Greek literature.”—And with that, they pointed with pride to books of legends, letters of the apostles, and little apologetic treatises, in somewhat the same way as nowadays the English “Salvation Army” with its related literature fights its war against Shakespeare and other “pagans.” I don’t like the “New Testament”—you will already have guessed as much. It almost disturbs me that I stand alone in my taste with respect to this most highly regarded and most overvalued written work (the taste of two thousand years is against me). But how can I help it! “Here I stand. I can do no other”18—I have the courage of my own bad taste. The Old Testament—now, that’s something totally different: all honour to the Old Testament! In that I find great men, a heroic landscape, and something of the very rarest of all elements on earth, the incomparable naïveté of the strong heart; even more—I find a people. In the New Testament, by contrast, I find nothing but small sectarian households, nothing but spiritual rococo, nothing but ornament, twisty little corners, oddities, nothing but conventional air, not to mention an occasional breeze of bucolic sweet sentimentality, which belongs to the age (and the Roman province), something not so much Jewish as Hellenistic. Humility and pomposity standing shoulder to shoulder; a chatting about feelings which are almost stupefying; vehement feelings but no passion, with awkward gestures. Here, it seems, there’s a lack of all good upbringing. How can people make such a fuss about their small vices, the way these devout little men do? No cock—and certainly not God—would crow about such things. Finally, they even want to possess “the crown of eternal life,” all these small people from the provinces. But what for? What for? It is impossible to push presumption any further. An “immortal” Peter: who could endure him? They have an ambition that makes one laugh: one of them spells out his most personal things, his stupidities, melancholy, and indolent worries, as if the essence of all things had a duty to worry about such matters. Another one never gets tired of wrapping up God himself in the smallest misery he finds himself stuck in. And the most appalling taste of this constant familiarity with God! This Jewish, and not merely Jewish, excessive importuning God with mouth and paw! . . . There are small despised “pagan people” in east Asia from whom these first Christians could have learned something important, some tact in their reverence. As Christian missionaries reveal, such people are not generally allowed to utter the name of their god. This seems to me sufficiently delicate. It was certainly too delicate not only for the “first” Christians. To sense the contrast, we should remember something about Luther, the “most eloquent” and most presumptuous peasant Germany ever had, and the tone Luther adopted as the one he most preferred in his conversations with God. Luther’s resistance to the interceding saints of the church (especially to “the devil’s sow, the Pope”) was undoubtedly, in the last analysis, the resistance of a lout irritated by the good etiquette of the church, that etiquette of reverence of the priestly taste, which lets only the more consecrated and the more discreet into the holy of holies and shuts the door against the louts, who in this particular place are never to speak. But Luther, the peasant, simply wanted something different—this situation was not German enough for him. Above all, he wanted to speak directly, to speak for himself, to speak “openly” with his God. Well, he did it.—You can conjecture easily enough that there has never been a place anywhere in which the ascetic ideal has been a school of good taste, even less of good manners—in the best cases, it was a school for priestly manners. That comes about because it carries something in its own body which is the deadly enemy of all good manners—it lacks moderation, it resists moderation, it is itself a “non plus ultra” [an ultimate extreme].
The ascetic ideal has not only ruined health and taste; its has also ruined a third, fourth, fifth, and sixth something as well—I’ll be careful not to mention everything (when would I come to the end!). I’m not going to reveal what this ideal has brought about. I would much rather confine myself to what it means, what it allows us to surmise, what lies hidden behind, under, and in it, what it provisionally and indistinctly expresses, overloaded with question marks and misunderstandings. And only with this purpose in mind, I cannot spare my readers a glimpse into the monstrosity of its effects, as well as its disastrous consequences, in order, that is, to prepare them for the ultimate and most terrifying aspects which the question of the meaning of this ideal has for me. Just what does the power of this ideal mean, the monstrous nature of this power? Why was it given room to grow to this extent? Why was there not a more effective resistance? The ascetic ideal is the expression of a will. Where is the opposing will, in which an opposing ideal finds its expression? The ascetic ideal has a goal—a goal which is universal enough that all other interests in human existence, measured against it, seem small and narrow. It interprets times, people, and humanity unsparingly with this goal in mind. It permits no other interpretation. No other goal counts. It rejects, denies, affirms, and confirms only through its own interpretative meaning (—and has there ever been a system of interpretation more thoroughly thought through?); it does not submit to any power; by contrast, it believes in its privileged position in relation to all power, in its absolutely higher ranking with respect to every power—it believes that there is no power on earth which does not have to derive its meaning first from it, a right to exist, a value, as a tool in its own work, as a way and a means to its own goal, to a single goal. . . Where is the counterpart to this closed system of will, goal, and interpretation? Why is this counterpart missing? . . . Where is the other “single goal”? But people tell me that counterpart is not missing, claiming it has not only fought a long and successful war with that ideal, but has already mastered that ideal on all major points: all our modern science is a testament to that—this modern science, which, as a true philosophy of reality, evidently believes only in itself, evidently possesses courage and will in itself, and has got along up to this point well enough without God, a world beyond, and virtues which deny. However, I’m not impressed at all with such a fuss and chattering from agitators: these trumpeters of reality are bad musicians. One can hear well enough that their notes do not sound out of the depths. The abyss of scientific conscience does not speak through them—for today the scientific conscience is an abyss—the phrase “science” in such trumpeting mouths is mere fornication, an abuse, an indecency. The truth is precisely the opposite of what is claimed here: science nowadays has simply no faith in itself, to say nothing of an ideal above it—and where it consists at all of passion, love, ardour, suffering, that doesn’t make it the opposite of that ascetic ideal but rather its newest and most pre-eminent form. Does that sound strange to you? . . .There are indeed a sufficient number of upright and modest working people among scholars nowadays, happy in their little corners, and because their work satisfies them, they make noises from time to time, demanding, with some presumption, that people today should in general be happy, particularly with science—there are so many useful things to do precisely there. I don’t deny that. The last thing I want to do is to ruin the pleasure these honest labourers take in the tasks they perform. For I’m happy about their work. But the fact that people are working rigorously in science these days and that there are satisfied workers is simply no proof that science today, as a totality, has a goal, a will, an ideal, a passion in a great faith. As I’ve said, the opposite is the case: where science is not the most recently appearing form of the ascetic ideal—and then it’s a matter of cases too rare, noble, and exceptional to be capable of countering the general judgment—science today is a hiding place for all kinds of unhappiness, disbelief, gnawing worms, despectio sui [self-contempt], bad conscience—it is the anxiety of the very absence of ideals, suffering from the lack of a great love, the dissatisfaction with a condition of involuntary modest content. O, what nowadays does science not conceal! How much, at least, it is meant to conceal! The efficiency of our best scholars, their mindless diligence, their heads smoking day and night, the very mastery of their handiwork—how often has all that really derived its meaning from the fact that they don’t permit some things to become visible to them any more! Science as a means of putting themselves to sleep. Are you acquainted with that? . . . People wound scholars to the bone—everyone who associates with them experiences this—sometimes with a harmless word. We make our scholarly friends angry with us when we intend to honour them. We drive them wild, merely because we were too coarse to figure out the people we are truly dealing with, suffering people, who don’t wish to admit to themselves what they are, narcotised and mindless people, who fear only one thing—coming to consciousness.
Now, let’s consider, on the other hand, those rarer cases I mentioned, the last idealists remaining today among the philosophers and scholars. Perhaps in them we have the opponents of the ascetic ideal we’re looking for, the counter-idealists? In fact, that’s what they think they are, these “unbelievers” (for that’s what they are collectively). That, in particular, seems to be their last item of belief, that they are opponents of this ideal, for they are so serious about this stance, their words and gestures are so passionate on this very point:—but is it therefore necessarily the case that what they believe is true? We “knowledgeable people” are positively suspicious of all forms of believers. Our suspicion has gradually cultivated the habit in us of concluding the reverse of what people previously concluded: that is, wherever the strength of a faith steps decisively into the foreground, we infer a certain weakness in its ability to demonstrate its truth, even the improbability of what it believes. We, too, do not deny that the belief “makes blessed,” but for that very reason we deny that the belief proves something—a strong belief which confers blessedness creates doubts about what it has faith in. It does not ground “truth.” It grounds a certain probability— delusion. Well, how do things stand in this case?—These people who say no today, these outsiders, these people who are determined on one point, their demand for intellectual probity, these hard, strong, abstemious, heroic spirits, who constitute the honour of our age, all these pale atheists, anti-Christians, immoralists, nihilists, these sceptics, ephectics, hectics of the spirit (collectively they are all hectic in some sense or other), the last idealists of knowledge, the only ones in whom intellectual conscience lives and takes on human form nowadays— they really do believe that they are as free as possible from the ascetic ideal, these “free, very free spirits,” and yet I am revealing to them what they cannot see for themselves—for they are standing too close to themselves—this ascetic ideal is also their very own ideal. They themselves represent it today. Perhaps they are the only ones who do. They themselves are its most spiritual offspring, the furthest advanced of its troops and its crowd of scouts, itsmost awkward, most delicate, most incomprehensibly seductive form. If I am any kind of solver of puzzles, then I want to be that with this statement! . . . They are not free spirits—not by any stretch—for they still believe in the truth. When the Christian crusaders in the Orient came across that unconquerable Order of Assassins, that free-spirited order par excellence, whose lowest ranks lived a life of obedience of the sort no order of monks attained, then they also received by some means or other a hint about that symbol and slogan which was reserved for only the highest ranks as their secret, “Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.” . . . Well now, that was freedom of the spirit. With that the very belief in truth was cancelled. . . . Has a European, a Christian free spirit ever wandered by mistake into this proposition and its labyrinthine consequences? Has he come to know the Minotaur of this cavern from experience? . . . I doubt it. More than that: I know differently:— nothing is more immediately foreign to people set on one thing, these so-called “free spirits,” than freedom and emancipation in this sense: in no respect are they more firmly bound; in their very belief in the truth they are, as no one else is, firm and unconditional. Perhaps I understand all this from far too close a distance: that admirable philosophical abstinence which such a belief requires, that intellectual stoicism, which ultimately forbids one to deny just as strongly as it forbids one to affirm, that desire to come to a standstill before the facts, the factum brutum [brute fact], that fatalism of the “petits faits” [small facts] (what I call ce petit faitalisme [this small factism]), that quality with which French science nowadays seeks a sort of moral precedence over German science, the attainment of a state where one, in general, abandons interpretation (violating, emending, abbreviating, letting go, filling in the cracks, composing, forging, and the other actions which belong to the nature of all interpretation)—generally speaking, this attitude expresses just as much virtuous asceticism as any denial of sensuality (basically it is only one mode of this denial). However, what compels a person to this unconditional will for truth is the faith in the ascetic ideal itself, even though it may be its unconscious imperative. We should not deceive ourselves on this point— it is a belief in a metaphysical value, a value of truth in itself, something guaranteed and affirmed only in that ideal (it stands or falls with that ideal). Strictly speaking, there is no science “without presuppositions.” The idea of such a science is unimaginable, paralogical: a philosophy, a “belief,” must always be there first, so that with it science can have a direction, a sense, a border, a method, a right to exist. (Whoever thinks the reverse, whoever, for example, is preparing to place philosophy “on a strictly scientific foundation,” first must place, not just philosophy, but also truth itself on its head—the worst injury to decency one could possibly give to two such venerable women!). In fact, there is no doubt about this matter—and here I’m letting my book The Gay Science have a word (see its fifth book, Section 344)—“The truthful person, in that daring and ultimate sense which the belief in science presupposes in him, thus affirms a world different from the world of life, of nature, and of history, and to the extent that he affirms this “other world,” well? Must he not in the process deny its opposite, this world, ourworld? . . . Our faith in science rests on something which is still a metaphysical belief—even we knowledgeable people of today, we godless and anti-metaphysical people—we, too, still take our fire from that blaze kindled by a thousand years of old belief, that faith in Christianity, which was also Plato’s belief, that God is the truth, that the truth is divine. . . . But how can we do that, if this very claim is constantly getting more and more difficult to believe, if nothing reveals itself as divine any more, unless it’s error, blindness, lies—if even God manifests himself as our longest lasting lie?” At this point it’s necessary to pause and reflect for a long while. Science itself from now on requires some justification (by that I don’t yet mean to claim that there is such a justification for it). People should examine the oldest and the most recent philosophers on this question. They all lack an awareness of the problem of the extent to which the will to truth itself first needs some justification—here is a hole in every philosophy. How does that come about? It’s because the ascetic ideal up to this point has been master of all philosophies, because truth has been established as being, as god, as the highest authority itself, because truth was not allowed to be problematic. Do you understand this “allowed”?—From the moment when the belief in the god of the ascetic ideal is denied, there is also a new problem: the problem of the value of truth.—The will to truth requires a critique—let us identify our own work with that requirement—for once to place in question, as an experiment, the value of truth. . . . (Anyone who thinks this has been stated too briefly is urged to read over that section of The Gay Science, pp. 160 ff, which carries the title “The Extent to Which We Also Are Still Devout,” Section 344—or better, the entire fifth book of that work, as well as the preface to The Dawn.)
No! People should not come at me with science when I am looking for the natural antagonist of the ascetic ideal, when I ask, “Where is the opposing will, in which an opposing ideal expresses itself?” For that purpose, science does not stand sufficiently on its own, not nearly; for that it first requires an value ideal, a power to make value, in whose service it could have faith in itself—science is never in itself something which creates values. Its relationship to the ascetic ideal is still not inherently antagonistic at all. It’s even more that case that, for the most part, it represents the forward-driving force in the inner development of this ideal. Its resistance and struggle, when we inspect more closely, are not concerned in any way with the ideal itself, but only with its external trappings, clothing, masquerade, its temporary hardening, petrifaction, dogma. Science makes the life in this ideal free again, since it denies what is exoteric in it. These two things, science and the ascetic ideal—they really stand on a single foundation—I’ve just clarified the point—namely, on the same overvaluing of the truth (or more correctly, on the same faith in the inestimable value of the truth, which is beyond criticism). In that very claim they are necessarily allies—so that, if someone is going to fight against them, he can only fight them together and place them both in question. An appraisal of the value of the ascetic ideal unavoidably also involves an appraisal of the value of science; while there’s still time people should to keep their eyes open for that, their ears alert! (As for art—let me offer a preliminary remark, for I’ll be coming back to it at some point or other at greater length—the very art in which the lie sanctifies itself and the will to deceive has good conscience on its side is much more fundamentally opposed to the ascetic ideal than is science: that’s what Plato’s instinct experienced—the greatest enemy of art which Europe has produced up to this point. Plato versus Homer: that’s the entire, the true antagonism—on one side, the “beyond” of the best will, the great slanderer of life; on the other side, life’s unintentional worshipper, the golden nature. An artistic bondage in the service of the ascetic ideal is thus the truest corruption of the artist there can be. Unfortunately it’s one of the most common, for nothing is more corruptible than an artist.) Physiologically considered, science also rests on the same foundation as the ascetic ideal: a certain impoverishment of life is the precondition for both—emotions become cool, the tempo slows down, dialectic replaces instinct, seriousness stamped on faces and gestures (seriousness, this most unmistakable sign of a more laborious metabolism, of a life of struggle and hard work). Just look at those periods in a population when the scholars step up into the foreground: they are times of exhaustion, often of evening, of decline. The overflowing force, the certainty about life, the certainty about the future have gone. The preponderance of mandarins never indicates anything good—no more than does the arrival of democracy, the peace tribunal instead of war, equal rights for women, the religion of pity, and all the other things symptomatic of a degenerating life. (Science grasped as a problem: what does science mean?—on this point see the Preface to The Birth of Tragedy).—No! This “modern science”—keep your eyes open for this—is for the time being the best ally of the ascetic ideal, and precisely for this reason: because it is the most unconscious, the most involuntary, the most secret and most subterranean ally! They have up to now been playing a single game, the “poor in spirit” and the scientific opponents of that ideal (we should be careful, incidentally, not to think that these opponents are the opposite of that ideal, something like the rich in spirit—that they are not; I call them hectics of the spirit). The famous victories of the latter—and they have undoubtedly been victories—but over what? They in no way overcame the ascetic ideal. With those victories, the ideal instead became stronger, that is, harder to understand, more spiritual, more dangerous, as science ruthlessly and continually kept breaking off and demolishing a wall, an external structure which had built itself onto the ideal and coarsened its appearance. Do people really think that, for example, the downfall of theological astronomy indicates a downfall of that ideal? . . . Because of that, have human beings perhaps become less dependent on redemption in a world beyond as a solution for the puzzle of their existence, given that existence since then looks, in the visible order of things, even more arbitrary, indolent, and dispensable? Isn’t it the case that since Copernicus the very self-diminution of human beings, their will to self-diminution, has made inexorable progress?19 Alas, the faith in their dignity, uniqueness, irreplaceable position in the chain of being has gone—the human being has become an animal, not a metaphorical animal, but absolutely and unconditionally—the one who in his earlier faith was almost God (“child of God,” “God-man”[Gottmensch]) . . . Since Copernicus human beings seem to have reached an inclined plane—they’re now rolling at an accelerating rate past the mid-point—where to? Into nothingness? Into the “penetrating sense of their own nothingness”? . . .Well, then, wouldn’t this be precisely the way—into the old ideal? . . . All science (and not just astronomy, about whose humbling and destructive effects Kant made a noteworthy confession, “it destroys my importance”. . .)—all science, natural as well as unnatural—the name I give to the self-criticism of knowledge—is nowadays keen to talk human beings out of the respect they used to have for themselves, as if the latter were nothing more than a bizarre arrogance about themselves. In this matter we could even say science has its own pride, its characteristically acrid form of stoical ataraxia [indifference], in maintaining this laboriously attained self-contempt for human beings as their ultimate, most serious demand for self respect (and, in fact, that’s justified, for the one who despises is still one person who “has not forgotten respect” . . .). Does doing this really work against the ascetic ideal? Do people really think in all seriousness (as theologians imagined for quite a while) that, say, Kant’s victory over dogmatic theological concepts (“God,” “Soul,” “Freedom,” “Immortality”) succeeded in breaking up that ideal?—in asking that question, it should not concern us at the moment whether Kant himself had anything at all like that in mind. What is certain is that all sorts of transcendentalists since Kant have once more won the game—they’ve been emancipated from the theologians. What a stroke of luck!—Kant showed them that secret path by which from now on they could, on their own initiative and with the finest scientific decency, follow their “hearts’ desires.” Similarly who could now hold anything against the agnostics, if they, as admirers of what is inherently unknown and secret, worship the question mark itself as their God? (Xaver Doudan once spoke of the ravages brought on by “l’habitude d’admirer l’inintelligible au lieu de rester tout simplement dans l’incon-nu” [the habit of admiring the unintelligible instead of simply staying in the unknown]; he claimed that the ancients had not done this).20 If everything human beings “know” does not satisfy their wishes and, instead, contradicts them and makes them shudder, what a divine excuse to be allowed to seek the blame for this not in “wishes” but in “knowledge”! . . . “There is no knowledge. Consequently—there is a God”—what a new elegantia syllogismi [syllogistic excellence]! What a triumph of the ascetic ideal!
Or does modern historical writing collectively perhaps display an attitude more confident about life, more confident about ideals? Its noblest claim nowadays asserts that it is a mirror. It eschews all teleology. It doesn’t want to “prove” anything any more. It spurns playing the role of judge and derives its good taste from that—it affirms as little as it denies. It establishes the facts. It “describes” . . . All this is ascetic to a high degree. However, it is also, to an even higher degree, nihilistic. We must not deceive ourselves on this point. We see a sad, hard, but determined gaze—an eye which looks into the distance, the way a solitary traveller at the North Pole gazes out (perhaps so as not to look inside? not to look behind? . . .) Here is snow; here life is quite silent. The final crows that make noise here are called “what for?” “in vain,” “nada” [nothing]—here nothing thrives and grows any more, at most Petersburg metapolitics and Tolstoian “pity.” But so far as that other style of historian is concerned, maybe an even “more modern” style, which is comfortable and sensual and makes eyes at life as much as at the ascetic ideal—this style uses the word “artist” as a glove and has taken an exclusive lease on the praise of contemplation. O what a thirst these sweet and witty types arouse in people even for ascetics and winter landscapes! No! Let the devil take these “meditative” people! I would much prefer to keep wandering with those historical nihilists through the gloomiest cold gray fog!—In fact, if I had to choose, I might find it better to lend a ear to a completely and essentially unhistorical or anti-historical man (like that Dührung, whose tones intoxicate a species of “beautiful souls” in Germany today, people who up to now have been a still timid, still unassuming species, the species anarchistica [the anarchists] within the educated proletariat). The “contemplative ones” are a hundred times worse—: I know nothing that creates so much disgust as such an objective armchair, such a sweet-smelling man luxuriating in history, half cleric, half satyr, with perfume by Renan, who reveals at once in the high falsetto of his approval what he lacks, where is he deficient, where in his case the Fates have wielded their dreadful shears with, alas, so much surgical precision!21 That affronts my taste as well as my patience: confronted with such sights, let those be patient who have nothing to lose by them—such a picture infuriates me, such “lookers on” make me angry with the “spectacle,” even more than the spectacle itself (history itself, you understand). Seeing that, I fall unexpectedly into an Anacreontic mood. This nature, which gave the bull his horns, the lion his chasm odonton [chasm of teeth], why did nature give me a foot? . . . To kick with—by holy Anacreon!22—and not merely to run off, but to kick apart these decrepit armchairs, this cowardly contemplation, this lascivious acting like eunuchs in front of history, the flirting with ascetic ideals, the Tartufferie [hypocrisy] in the justice of impotence! I grant all honour to the ascetic ideal, insofar as it is honest! So long as it believes in itself and does not play games with us! But I can’t stand all these coquettish insects, with their insatiable ambition to sniff out the infinite, until finally the infinite stinks of bugs. I can’t stand these white sepulchres who treat life as play acting. I can’t stand the tired and useless people, who wrap themselves up in wisdom and gaze out “objectively.” I can’t stand the agitators who dress themselves up as heroes, who wear a magic hat of ideals on heads stuffed with straw. I can’t stand the ambitious artists, who like to present themselves as ascetics and priests, but who are basically tragic clowns. And I can’t stand these most recent speculators in idealism, the anti-Semites, who nowadays roll their eyes around in a Christian-Aryan-Bourgeois way and seek to inflame all the horned-animal elements among the people by abusing the cheapest form of agitation, moral posturing, in a way that exhausts all my patience (—the fact that every kind of spiritual fraud succeeds in present-day Germany is the result of the absolutely undeniable and already tangible desolation of the German spirit, whose cause I look for in an excessively strict diet limited to newspapers, politics, beer, and Wagnerian music, together with the pre-condition for such a diet: first, a restricting nationalism and vanity, that strong but narrow principle “Germany, Germany, over everything,” as well as the paralysis agitans [trembling palsy] of “modern ideas”).23 Today Europe is rich and resourceful, above all, in ways of arousing people. Nothing seems to be more important to possess than stimulants and firewater: hence, the monstrous falsification of ideals, the most powerful firewater of the spirit. Hence also the unfavourable, stinking, lying, pseudo-alcoholic air everywhere. I’d like to know how many shiploads of counterfeit idealism, of heroic costumes and rattles full of nonsensical big words, how many tons of sugary spiritual sympathy (its business name: la religion de la souffrance [the religion of suffering]), how many stilts of “noble indignation” to assist the spiritually flat-footed, and how many play actors of the Christian moral ideal would have to be exported from Europe today so that its air might smell cleaner once again. . . . Obviously, as far as this overproduction is concerned, a new commercial possibility has opened up: obviously there is new “business” to be made with small gods of ideals and their accompanying “idealists”—people should not fail to hear this hint! Who has the courage for it? We have it in our hands to “idealize” the entire earth! . . . But why am I talking about courage? Only one thing is necessary here, just the hand, an uninhibited, a very uninhibited hand.—
Enough! Enough! Let’s leave these curiosities and complexities of the most modern spirit, which inspire as much laughter as irritation. Our problem can do without them, the problem of the meaning of the ascetic ideal. What has that to do with yesterday and today! I am going to approach these issues more fundamentally and more forcefully in another connection (under the title On The History of European Nihilism. I refer to a work which I am preparing: The Will to Power: An Attempt To Re-evaluate all Values). What I have been dealing with here is only the following—to establish that the ascetic ideal has, for the time being, even in the most spiritual sphere, only one kind of true enemy who can inflict harm, and that enemy is those who play-act this ideal—for they awaken distrust. Everywhere else, where the spirit nowadays is strong, powerful, and working without counterfeiting, it generally dispenses with the ideal—the popular expression for this abstinence is “atheism,” except for its will to truth. But this will, this remnant of the ideal is, if people wish to believe me, that very ideal in its strongest, most spiritual formulation, thoroughly esoteric, stripped of all its outer structures, and thus not so much a remnant, as its kernel. Consequently, absolutely unconditional atheism (—and that’s the only air we breathe, we more spiritual men of this age!) does not stand opposed to this ideal, as it appears to do. It is much rather only one of its last stages of development, one of its concluding forms and innerly logical outcomes. It demands reverence, this catastrophe of two thousand years of breeding for the truth which concludes by forbidding itself the lie of a faith in God. (The same process of development in India, which was fully independent of Europe and therefore proof of something—this same ideal forced things to a similar conclusion. The decisive point was reached five centuries before the European calendar, with Buddha, or more precisely, with the Sankhya philosophy. For this was popularized by Buddha and made into a religion.) Putting the question as forcefully as possible, what really triumphed over the Christian God? The answer stands in my Gay Science, p. 290: “Christian morality itself, the increasingly strict understanding of the idea of truthfulness, the subtlety of the father confessor of the Christian conscience, transposed and sublimated into scientific conscience, into intellectual cleanliness at any price. To look at nature as if it were a proof of the goodness and care of a god, to interpret history in such a way as to honour divine reason, as a constant testament to a moral world order and moral intentions, to interpret one’s own experiences, as devout men have interpreted them for long enough, as if everything was divine providence, everything was a sign, everything was thought out and sent for the salvation of the soul out of love—now that’s over and done with. That has conscience against it. Among more sensitive consciences that counts as something indecent, dishonest, as lying, feminism, weakness, cowardice. With this rigour, if with anything, we are good Europeans and heirs to Europe’s longest and bravest overcoming of the self. All great things destroy themselves by an act of self-cancellation. That’s what the law of life wills, that law of the necessary “self-overcoming” in the essence of life—eventually the call always goes out to the lawmaker himself, “patere legem, quam ipse tulisti” [submit to the law which you yourself have established]. That’s the way Christianity was destroyed as dogma by its own morality; that’s the way Christendom as morality must now also be destroyed. We stand on the threshold of this event. After Christian truthfulness has come to a series of conclusions, it will draw its strongest conclusion, its conclusion against itself. However, this will occur when it poses the question: “What is the meaning of all will to truth?” Here I move back again to my problem, to our problem, my unknown friends (—for I still don’t know anything about friends): what sense would our whole being have if not for the fact that in us that will to truth became aware of itself as a problem? . . . Because this will to truth from now on is growing conscious of itself, morality from now on is dying—there’s no doubt about that. That great spectacle in one hundred acts, which remains reserved for the next two centuries in Europe, that most fearful, most questionable, and perhaps also most hopeful of all spectacles . . .
If we leave aside the ascetic ideal, then man, the animal man, has had no meaning up to this point. His existence on earth has had no purpose. “Why man at all?” was a question without an answer. The will for man and earth was missing. Behind every great human destiny echoes as refrain an even greater “in vain!” That’s just what the ascetic ideal means: that something is missing, that a huge hole surrounds man—he did not know how to justify himself to himself, to explain, to affirm; he suffered from the problem of his meaning. He also suffered in other ways as well: he was for the most part a pathological animal, but the suffering itself was not his problem, rather the fact that he lacked an answer to the question he screamed out, “Why this suffering?” Man, the bravest animal, the one most accustomed to suffering, does not deny suffering in itself; he desires it; he seeks it out in person, provided that people show him a meaning for it, a purpose of suffering. The curse that earlier spread itself over men was not suffering, but the senselessness of suffering—and the ascetic ideal offered him a meaning! The ascetic ideal has been the only meaning offered up to this point. Any meaning is better than no meaning at all; however one looks at it, the ascetic ideal has so far been the “faute de mieux” [for lack of something better] par excellence. In it suffering was interpreted, the huge hole appeared filled in, the door shut against all suicidal nihilism. The interpretation undoubtedly brought new suffering with it—more profound, more inner, more poisonous, and more life-gnawing suffering; it brought all suffering under the perspective of guilt. . . . But nevertheless—with it man was saved. He had a meaning; from that point on he was no longer like a leaf in the wind, a toy ball of nonsense, of “without sense”; he could now will something—at first it didn’t matter where, why, or how he willed: the will itself was saved. We simply cannot conceal from ourselves what is really expressed by that total will which received its direction from the ascetic ideal: this hate against what is human, even more against animality, even more against material things—this abhorrence of the senses, of reason itself, this fear of happiness and beauty, this longing for the beyond away from all appearance, change, becoming, death, desire, even longing itself—all this means, let’s have the courage to understand this, a will to nothingness, an aversion to life, a revolt against the most fundamental preconditions of life—but it is and remains a will! . . . And to finish up by repeating what I said at the beginning: man will sooner will nothingness than not will . . .
1Thus Spoke Zarathustra: a work written by Nietzsche between 1883 and 1885. [Back to Text]
2Luther: Martin Luther (1483-1546), German monk and university professor whose revolutionary break with the Catholic Church launched the Reformation; Die Meistersinger: The Mastersingers of Nuremburg, an opera by Richard Wagner, first performed in 1868. [Back to Text]
3Parsifal: the hero of Wagner’s opera of the same name, first performed in 1882. [Back to Text]
4Schopenhauer: Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), influential German philosopher, whose work emphasized the importance of the Will. [Back to Text]
5Stendhal: pen name of Marie-Henri Beyle (1783-1842), a French novelist whom Nietzsche admired for his psychological acuity. [Back to Text]
6Pygmalion In classical mythology a sculptor who carved a woman so lifelike and beautiful, that he fell in love with it. [Back to Text]
7Ixion: In Greek mythology a mortal man who tried to seduce Zeus’ wife, Hera, and was punished in Hades by being bound on a fiery wheel which was always spinning. [Back to Text]
8The Latin here is a reworking of the famous legal saying “Fiat Justitia et pereat mundus” [Let justice be done, though the world perish]. The saying is attributed to Ferdinand I (1503-1564), the Holy Roman Emperor, who adopted it as his motto. [Back to Text]
9Piazza San Marco: the main city square in Venice. [Back to Text]
10. . . ressentiment: Nietzsche introduces this important term in the First Essay of Genealogy of Morals, in Section 10: a short definition is as follows: “deep-seated resentment, frustration, and hostility, accompanied by a sense of being powerless to express these feelings directly” (Merriam-Webster). [Back to Text]
11. . . Eugene Dühring (1833-1921), a German philosopher and socialist who attacked Marxism, Christianity, and Judaism. [Back to Text]
12The reference to Shakespeare’s Squire Christopher [Junker Christoph] may be (as Walter Kaufmann suggests) an allusion to The Taming of the Shrew, where the hero, Petruchio refers to a vegetarian diet (see Kaufmann’s translation of Genealogy of Morals, 131); or it may be (as Maudemarie Clark and Alan J. Swensen propose) an allusion to Twelfth Night, where Sir Andrew Aguecheek (called Junker Christoph in one German translation of the play) comments on his eating habits. See the Clark and Swensen translation of Genealogy of Morality, 156. Nietzsche refers to Junker Christoph’s meat-eating habits again later on in this section. The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) was a disastrous European conflict which began as a fight over religion. [Back to Text]
13Hesychasts: a religious tradition in the Eastern Orthodox Church which emphasizes an inner spiritual retreat and abandonment of sense experience. St Theresa (1515-1582), a famous Spanish mystic. [Back to Text]
14Shankara (788?-820), Indian philosopher who played a formative role in the historical development of Hinduism. Paul Deussen (1845-1919), an important German scholar of Indian religion. [Back to Text]
15Geulincx: Arnold Geulincx (1624-1669), a Flemish philosopher. [Back to Text]
16Thomas Moore (1779-1852), an Irish poet; Dr. Gwinner: Wilhelm von Gwinner (1825-1917), German lawyer and civil servant. Thayer: Alexander Thayer (1817-1897). [Back to Text]
17Taine: Hippolyte Adolphe Taine (1828-1893), a French historian; Leopold Ranke: (1795 to 1886) a very famous and influential German historian. [Back to Text]
18. . . no other”: This is one of Martin Luther’s most famous quotations, allegedly his reply when asked to take back his criticisms of the church, a response which launched the Reformation in 1521. [Back to Text]
19Copernicus: Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), the Polish astronomer and monk who produced a scientifically based theory of a sun-centred solar system. [Back to Text]
20Xaver Doudan: Ximénès Doudan (1800-1872), a French writer. [Back to Text]
21Renan: Ernest Renan (1823-1892), French writer and philosopher, particularly famous for his Life of Jesus. [Back to Text]
22Anacreon: (born c. 570 BC), Greek lyric poet famous for his drinking songs. [Back to Text]
23“Germany, Germany, over everything”: the opening lines of the German national anthem “Deutschland, Deutschland, über alles”; the lyrics were written in 1841 to music by Haydn. The song was adopted as the national anthem in 1922. [Back to Text]