Ennoblement through degeneration. History teaches us that that part
of a people maintains itself best whose members generally share a vital public
spirit, due to the similarity of their long-standing, incontrovertible
principles, that is, of their common faith. In their case, good, sound custom
strengthens them; they are taught to subordinate the individual, and their character
is given solidity, at first innately and later through education. The danger
in these strong communities, founded on similar, steadfast individual members,
is an increasing, inherited stupidity, which follows all stability like a shadow.
In such communities, spiritual progress depends on those individuals
who are less bound, much less certain, and morally weaker; they are men who
try new things, and many different things. Because of their weakness, countless
such men are destroyed without having much visible effect; but in general, especially
if they have descendants, they loosen things up, and, from time to time, deliver
a wound to the stable element of a community. Precisely at this wounded, weakened
place, the common body is inoculated, so to speak, with something new;
however, the community's overall strength, has to be great enough to take this
new thing into its bloodstream and assimilate it. Wherever progress is to ensue,
deviating natures are of greatest importance. Every progress of the whole must
be preceded by a partial weakening. The strongest natures retain the
type, the weaker ones help to advance it.
Something similar also happens in the individual. There is rarely a degeneration, a truncation, or even a vice or any physical or moral loss without an advantage somewhere else. In a warlike and restless clan, for example, the sicklier man may have occasion to be alone, and may therefore become quieter and wiser; the one-eyed man will have one eye the stronger; the blind man will see deeper inwardly, and certainly hear better. To this extent, the famous theory of the survival of the fittest1 does not seem to me to be the only viewpoint from which to explain the progress of strengthening of a man or of a race. Rather, two things must coincide: first of all, stable power must increase through minds bound in faith and communal feeling; and secondly, it must be possible to attain higher goals when degenerating natures partially weaken or wound the stable power; it is precisely the weaker nature, as the more delicate and free, that makes progress possible at all. If a people starts to crumble and grow weak at some one place, but is still strong and healthy in general, it can accept being infected with something new, and can incorporate it to its advantage. The task of education is to make the individual so firm and sure that, as a whole being, he can no longer be diverted from his path. But then the educator must wound him, or use the wounds that fate delivers; when pain and need have come about in this way, something new and noble can also be inoculated into the wounded places. His whole nature will take it in, and show the ennoblement later in its fruits.
Regarding the state, Machiavelli2 says that "the form of governments is of very slight importance, although semi-educated people think otherwise. The great goal of politics should be permanence, which outweighs anything else, being much more valuable than freedom." Only when permanence is securely established and guaranteed is there any possibility of constant development and ennobling inoculation, which, to be sure, will usually be opposed by the dangerous companion of all permanence: authority.
The free spirit3 a relative concept. A man is called a free spirit if
he thinks otherwise than would be expected, based on his origin, environment,
class, and position, or based on prevailing contemporary views. He is the exception:
bound spirits are the rule; the latter reproach him that his free principles
have their origin either in a need to be noticed, or else may even lead one
to suspect him of free actions, that is, actions that are irreconcilable with
bound morality. Sometimes it is also said that certain free principles derive
from perverseness and eccentricity; but this is only the voice of malice, which
does not, itself, believe what it says, but only wants to hurt: for the free
spirit generally has proof of his greater kindness and sharp intellect written
so legibly on his face that bound spirits understand it well enough. But the
two other derivations of free-thinking are meant honestly; and many free
spirits do indeed come into being in one or the other of these ways: But the
tenets they arrive at thereby could still be more true and reliable than the
tenets of bound spirits. In the knowledge of truth, what matters is having
it, not what made one seek it, or how one found it. If the free spirits
are right, the bound spirits are wrong, whether or not the former came to truth
out of immorality and the others have kept clinging to untruth out of morality.
Incidentally, it is not part of the nature of the free spirit that his views are more correct, but rather that he has released himself from tradition, be it successfully or unsuccessfully. Usually, however, he has truth, or at least the spirit of the search for truth, on his side: he demands reasons, while others demand faith.
Origin of faith. The bound spirit assumes a position, not for reasons, but out of habit; he is a Christian, for example, not because he had insight into the various religions and chose among them; he is an Englishman not because he decided for England; but rather, Christianity and England were givens, and he accepted them without having reasons, as someone who was born in wine country becomes a wine drinker. Later, when he was a Christian and an Englishman, he may also have devised some reasons in favor of his habit; even if these reasons are overthrown, he, in his whole position, is not. Ask a bound spirit for his reasons against bigamy, for example, and you will learn whether his holy zeal for monogamy is based on reasons or on habit. The habit of intellectual principles without reasons is called faith.
Reason or unreason deduced from the consequences. All states and social
arrangements-‑class, marriage, education, law-acquire strength
and permanence solely because of the faith of bound spirits in them; they exist,
then, in the absence of reasons, or at least in the resistance to asking for
reasons. That is something bound spirits do not want to admit, and they probably
feel that it is a pudendum.4 Christianity, which was very innocent in
its intellectual ideas, perceived nothing of this pudendum; it demanded
faith and nothing but faith, and passionately rejected the desire for reasons;
it pointed to the successful result of faith: "You'll soon discover the
advantage of faith," it suggested, "you'll be blessed because of it."
The state, in fact, does the same thing, and each father raises his son in the
same way: "Just take this to be true," he says, "you'll discover
how good it feels." But this means that the truth of an opinion
should be proved by its personal benefit; the usefulness of a teaching
should guarantee its intellectual certainty and substantiation. This is as if
the defendant were to say in court: "My defender is telling the whole truth,
for just see what happens as a result of his plea: I am acquitted."
Because bound spirits hold principles for the sake of their usefulness, they also assume that the free spirit is likewise seeking his benefit with his views, holding for true only that which benefits him. But since he seems to find useful the opposite of what his countrymen or people of his class do, they assume that his principles are dangerous to them; they say or feel, "He must not be right, for he is harmful to us."
The strong, good character. Bound views, when habit has made them instinctive, lead to what is called strength of character. If someone acts from a few motives which are always the same, his actions take on great energy; if these actions are in harmony with the principles of bound spirits, they are acknowledged, and also produce in the one performing them the feeling of a good conscience. Few motives, energetic action, and a good conscience constitute what is called strength of character. The man of strong character lacks knowledge of the many possibilities and directions of action: his intellect is unfree, bound, because it shows him in any given case perhaps only two possibilities; between these he must necessarily choose, in accordance with his whole nature, and he does so easily and quickly because he doesn't have to choose among fifty possibilities. The educating environment wants to make each man unfree by always presenting him with the smallest number of possibilities. His educators treat the individual as if he were something new, to be sure, but as if he ought to become a repetition. If man first appears to be something unknown, never before existing, he should be made into something known, preexisting. What is called good character in a child is the manifestation of its being bound by the preexisting. By placing itself on the side of bound spirits, the child first demonstrates its awakening public spirit. On the basis of this public spirit, it will later be useful to its state or class.
Bound spirit's measure of things. Bound spirits say that four sorts
of things are in the right: first, all things having permanence are in the right;
second, all things that are no burden to us are in the right; third, all things
that benefit us are in the right; fourth, all things for which we have made
sacrifices are in the right. The last explains, for example, why, just as soon
as sacrifices are made, people continue with enthusiasm a war that was begun
against their wishes.
Free spirits, pleading their cause before the tribunal of bound spirits, have to prove that there have always been free spirits and that freethinking therefore has permanence; then, that they do not want to be a burden; and finally, that on the whole they are beneficial to bound spirits. But because they cannot convince the bound spirits of this last point, it does not help them to have proved the first and second.
Esprit forts5 Compared with the man who has tradition on
his side and needs no reasons for his actions, the free spirit is always weak,
especially in his actions. For he knows too many motives and standpoints, and
is therefore uncertain, awkward. By what means, then, can he be made relatively
strong, so that he can at least assert himself effectively and not perish,
having acted ineffectually? How does a strong spirit (esprit fort) come
into being? In one particular case, this is the question of how the genius is
engendered. Where does the energy come from, the unbending strength, the endurance,
with which one person, against all tradition, endeavors to acquire a quite individual
understanding of the world?
Genesis of the genius. The prisoner's wits, which he uses to seek
means to free himself by employing each little advantage in the most calculated
and exhaustive way, can teach us the tools nature sometimes uses to produce
a genius (a word that I ask be understood without any mythological or religious
nuance). Nature traps the genius into a prison, and piques to the utmost his
desire to free himself.
Or, to use another image, someone who has completely lost his way in ,a forest, but strives with uncommon energy to get out of it in whatever direction, sometimes discovers a new, unknown way: this is how geniuses come into being, who are then praised for their originality.
We have already mentioned that mutilation, crippling, or serious lack of an organ often causes another organ to develop unusually well because it has to carry out both its own function and another besides. From this we can divine the origin of many a splendid talent.
One should apply these general comments about the origin of the genius to the special case, the genesis of the perfect free spirit.
Conjectures about the origin of freethinking.6 Just as glaciers in
crease when the sun burns down on the seas in equatorial zones with greater
heat than before, so a very strong and spreading free thinking may testify
to the fact that somewhere emotional heat has extraordinarily increased.
The voice of history. In general history seems to teach the
following lesson about the engendering of the genius: "Mistreat and torment
men," history calls to the passions Envy, Hatred, and Competition, "drive
them to extremes; pit them one against the other, people against people, and
this for centuries; then perhaps, as from a stray spark of the terrible energy
thus ignited, the light of genius will blaze up suddenly. The will, driven wild
like a stallion spurred by its rider, will break out and leap over to a different
A man who was aware of how geniuses are engendered and also wanted to proceed practically, as nature usually does, would have to be just as evil and inconsiderate as nature.
But perhaps we have heard wrong.
Value of the middle of the path. Perhaps the engendering of genius is reserved to only a limited period of humanity. For one cannot expect the future of humanity to hold at the same time everything that only very particular conditions in some past time could produce-the amazing effects of religious feeling, for example. This has had its time, and many very good things can never grow again because they could grow from it alone. Thus there will never again be a religiously defined horizon to life and culture. Perhaps even the type of the saint is possible only along with a certain intellectual narrowness, which is apparently gone forever. And so, perhaps, has the highest level of intelligence been reserved for one single era of humanity; it came forth (and is coming forth, for we still live in this era) when, by way of exception, an extraordinary, long-accumulated energy of the will was diverted through inheritance to intellectual goals. This highest level will end when such wildness and energy are no longer cultivated. Perhaps mankind, in the middle of its path, the middle period of its existence, is nearer to its actual goal than it will be at the end. The energies that condition art, for example, could very well die out; pleasure in lying, in vagueness, in symbolism, in intoxication, in ecstasy, could come into disrepute. Indeed, once life is structured in a perfect state, then the present will no longer offer any theme for poetry whatsoever, and only backward people would still demand poetic unreality. They would then look back longingly to the times of the imperfect state, the half-barbaric society, to our times.
Genius and ideal state in contradiction. Socialists desire to produce
a good life for the greatest number. If the enduring homeland of this good
life, the perfect state, were really achieved, it would destroy the earth from
which a man of great intellect, or any powerful individual grows: I mean great
energy. When this state is achieved, mankind would have become too feeble to
produce genius any longer. Should we not therefore wish that life retain its
violent character, and that wild strengths and energies be called forth over
and over again? Now, a warm, sympathetic heart desires precisely the elimination
of that violent and wild character, and the warmest heart one can imagine
would yearn for it most passionately; though this same passion would have had
its fire, its warmth, even its existence from that wild and violent character
of life. The warmest heart, then, desires the elimination of its rationale and
its own destruction; that is, it wants something illogical; it is not intelligent.
The highest intelligence and the warmest heart cannot coexist in one person,
and a wise man who passes judgment on life also places himself above kindness,
considering it only as something to be evaluated along with everything else
in the sum of life. The wise man must oppose the extravagant wishes of unintelligent
kindness, because he cares about the survival of his type, and the eventual
genesis of the highest intellect. At least he will not further the establishment
of the "perfect state," if there is room there only for feeble individuals.
Christ, on the other hand, whom we like to imagine as having the warmest of
hearts, furthered men's stupidity, took the side of the intellectually weak,
and kept the greatest intellect from being produced: and this was consistent.
We can predict that his opposite, the absolute wise man, will just as necessarily
prevent the production of a Christ.
The state is a clever institution for protecting individuals from one another; if one goes too far in ennobling it, the individual is ultimately weakened by it, even dissolved-and thus the original purpose of the state is most thoroughly thwarted.
The zones of culture. For the sake of comparison, one can say that
cultural eras correspond to various climactic belts, only that the former follow
one another and do not, like the geographical zones, lie next to one another.
In comparison with the temperate cultural zone, which it is our duty to enter,
the past gives, on the whole, the impression of a tropical climate. Violent
contrasts; abrupt alternation of day and night; heat and magnificent colors;
reverence for everything sudden, mysterious, frightful; rapid onset of oncoming
storms; everywhere the wasteful overflowing of nature's horns of plenty; and
on the other hand, in our culture, a light, though not brilliant sky; pure,
rather unchanging air; briskness, even cold occasionally: thus the two zones
contrast with one another. When we see how the most raging passions are overcome
and broken with uncanny power by metaphysical ideas, we feel as if wild tigers
in the tropics were being crushed before our eyes in the coils of monstrous
snakes. Such things do not happen in our spiritual climate; our fantasy is temperate;
even in dreams, we do not experience what earlier peoples saw when awake. But
may we not be happy about this change, even admitting that artists are seriously
impaired by the disappearance of tropical culture and find us nonartists a bit
too sober? To this extent, artists are probably right in denying "progress,"
for it can indeed at least be doubted that the last three thousand years show
a course of progress in the arts; likewise, a metaphysical philosopher like
Schopenhauer will have no cause to acknowledge progress, if he surveys the last
four thousand years with reference to metaphysical philosophy and religion.
But for us, the very existence of the temperate cultural zone counts as progress.
Renaissance and Reformation. The Italian Renaissance contained within
itself all the positive forces to which we owe modern culture: namely, liberation
of thought, disdain for authority, the triumph of education over the arrogance
of lineage, enthusiasm for science and men's scientific past, the unshackling
of the individual, an ardor for veracity and aversion to appearance and mere
effect (which ardor blazed forth in a whole abundance of artistic natures who,
with the highest moral purity, demanded perfection in their works and nothing
but perfection). Yes, the Renaissance had positive forces which up to now
have not yet again become so powerful in our modern culture. Despite all
its flaws and vices, it was the Golden Age of this millennium. By contrast,
the German Reformation stands out as an energetic protest of backward minds
who had not yet had their till of the medieval world view and perceived the
signs of its dissolution-the extraordinary shallowness and externalization
of religious life-not with appropriate rejoicing, but with deep displeasure.
With their northern strength and obstinacy, they set men back, forced the Counter
Reformation, that is, a defensive Catholic Christianity, with the violence of
a state of siege, delaying the complete awakening and rule of the sciences for
two or three centuries, as well as making impossible, perhaps forever, the complete
fusion of the ancient and modern spirit. The great task of the Renaissance could
not be carried to its completion; this was hindered by the protest of the now
backward German character (which in the Middle Ages had had enough sense to
redeem itself by climbing over the Alps again and again). The fact that Luther
survived at that time, and that his protest gathered strength, lay in the coincidence
of an extraordinary political configuration: the Emperor protected him in order
to use his innovation to apply pressure against the Pope, and likewise the Pope
secretly favored him, in order to use the imperial Protestant princes as a counterweight
against the Emperor. Without this strange concert of intent, Luther would have
been burned like Huss7 and the dawn of the Enlightenment would have risen a
bit earlier, perhaps, and with a splendor more beautiful than we can now imagine.
Justice towards the evolving God. If the whole history of culture looks like a confusion of ideas, evil and noble, true and false, and one gets almost seasick at the sight of these waves, then one understands what comfort lies in the idea of an evolving- God; he reveals himself more and more in the metamorphoses and destinies of mankind; all is not blind mechanism, senseless, purposeless interplay of forces. The deification of evolution is a metaphysical outlook-as from a lighthouse along the sea of history which gave comfort to a generation of scholars who had historicized too much. One must not become angry about it, however erroneous their idea may be. Only someone who, like Schopenhauer, denies development also feels nothing of the misery of those historical waves; and because he neither knows nor feels anything of that evolving God or the need to accept him, he can fairly let out his scorn.
Fruits according to the season. Every better future that one wishes for mankind is also necessarily a worse future in some respects, for it is fanatical to believe that a new, higher stage of mankind would unite all the merits of earlier stages and would, for example, also have to produce the highest form of art. Rather, each season has its own merits and charms, and excludes those of the other seasons. Whatever has grown out of religion, and near it, cannot grow again, once religion has been destroyed. At the most, late stray shoots can mislead us to delusions about it, as does the intermittent memory of the old art; a condition that may well betray the feeling of loss and privation, but is no proof of any force from which a new art could be born.
The world's increasing gravity. The higher the culture of a man rises, the greater the number of topics are removed from joking or mockery. Voltaire was heartily grateful to heaven for inventing marriage and the church, for taking such good care for our merriment. But he and his time, and the sixteenth century before him, mocked these topics to their limit; any joke about them today comes too late and especially much too cheap to tempt buyers. Now we inquire after causes; this is the age of seriousness. Who still cares to see the lighter side of the differences between reality and pretentious appearance, between that which man is and that which he wants to present? We feel these contrasts very differently when we seek their reasons. The more thoroughly a person understands life, the less he will mock, though in the end he might still mock the "thoroughness of his understanding."
Genius of culture. If one were to dream up a genius of culture, what would be his nature? He uses lies, power, the most inconsiderate self-interest so confidently as his tools that he could only be called an evil, demonic creature; but his goals, which shine through here and there, are great and good. He is a centaur, half animal, half human, and even has angel's wings at his head.
Education as a miracle. Interest in education will gain great strength
only at the moment when belief in a God and his loving care is given up, just
as the art of healing could blossom only when belief in miraculous cures had
ceased. But to date, all the world still believes in education as a miracle:
one saw the most productive, mightiest men grow out of great disorder, confused
goals, unfavorable circumstances: how could this properly happen?
Now we will look more closely, test more carefully, in these cases, too. No one will ever discover miracles. Under equal condition, many men continually perish, but in return, the single saved individual is usually the stronger, because he endured these unfavorable circumstances thanks to his indestructible innate strength, which he developed and augmented: this explains the miracle. An education that no longer believes in miracles will have to pay attention to three things: first, how much energy is inherited? Second, how can other new energy still be kindled? Third, how can the individual be adapted to those very diverse demands of culture, without their disturbing him and dissipating his uniqueness? In short, how can the individual be integrated into the counterpoint of private and public culture; how can he both sing the melody and simultaneously make it the accompaniment?
The future of the doctor. There is no profession today that would permit such h high aspirations as that of the doctor, particularly since spirit doctors, the so-called spiritual advisers, may no longer practice their conjuring arts to public applause, and a cultured man avoids them. A doctor's highest intellectual development is no longer reached when he knows the best new methods, and is well practiced in them, able to make those swift deductions from effects to causes, for which diagnosticians are famed; he must in addition have an eloquence adaptable to each individual and capable of drawing the heart out of his body; a masculinity at whose sight even despondency (the worm-eaten spot in all ill people) is dispelled; a diplomat's smoothness in mediating between those who need joy for their cure and those who must (and can) create joy for reasons of health; the subtlety of a police agent or lawyer in understanding the secrets of a soul without betraying them-in short, a good doctor today needs all the tricks and privileges of all the other professions; thus armed, he is then in a position to become a benefactor to all of society, by increasing good works, spiritual joy and productivity; by warding off bad thoughts or intentions, and villainy (whose repulsive source is so often the belly); by producing a spiritual-physical aristocracy (as marriage broker and marriage censor); by well-meaning amputation of all so-called spiritual torments and pangs of conscience. Thus from a "medicine man" he will become a savior, and yet need neither to work miracles nor to be crucified.
In the neighborhood of madness. The sum of feelings, knowledge, experiences, that is, the whole burden of culture, has grown so great that the general danger is an overstimulation of nervous and mental powers; the cultivated classes of European countries are altogether neurotic, and almost every one of their great families has, in one of its branches, moved close to madness. It is true that we can now approach health in all kinds of ways, but in the main we still need a decrease of emotional tension, of the oppressive cultural burden, a decrease that, even if it must be bought with serious losses, does give us room for the great hope of a new Renaissance. We owe to Christianity, to the philosophers, poets, and musicians, a superabundance of deeply agitated feelings; to keep these from engulfing us, we must conjure up the spirit of science, which makes us somewhat colder and more skeptical, on the whole, and cools down particularly the hot flow of belief in ultimate truths, which Christianity, especially, has made so wild.
Casting the bell of culture. Culture came into being like a bell inside
a mold of cruder, more common material, a mold of untruth, violence, an unbounded
aggrandizement of all distinct egos, and all distinct peoples. Is it now time
to remove this mold? Has the fluid solidified? Have the good, useful drives,
the habits of nobler hearts, become so sure and universal that there is no longer
any need to depend on metaphysics and the errors of religion, on harsh and violent
acts, as the most powerful bond between man and man, people and people?
No sign from a god can help us any longer to answer this question: our own insight must decide. The earthly government of man as a whole must be taken into man's own hands; his "omniscience" must watch with a sharp eye over the future fate of culture.
The Cyclopses of culture. Seeing the furrowed hollows in which glaciers have lain, one hardly thinks it possible that a time will come when a valley of meadows, forests, and brooks will move onto the same spot. It is the same in the history of mankind: the wildest forces break the way, destroying at first, but yet their activity was necessary, so that later a gentler civilization might set up its house there. Frightful energies-that which is called evil are the Cyclopean architects and pathmakers of humanity.
Cycle of the human race. Perhaps the whole human race is only a temporally
limited, developmental phase of a certain species of animal, so that man evolved
from the ape and will evolve back to the ape again, while no one will be there
to take any interest in this strange end of the comedy. Just as with the fall
of Roman culture, and its most important cause, the spread of Christianity,
there was a general increase of loathsomeness in man within the Roman empire,
so the eventual fall of the general world culture might also cause men to be
much more loathsome and finally animalistic, to the point of being apelike.
Precisely because we are able to keep this perspective in mind, we may be in a position to protect the future from such an end.
Consolation of a desperate progress. Our age gives the impression of
being an interim; the old views on life, the old cultures are still evident
in part, the new ones not yet sure and habitual, and therefore lacking in unity
and consistency. It looks as if everything were becoming chaotic, the old dying
out, the new not worth much and growing ever weaker. But this is what happens
to the soldier who learns to march; for a time he is more uncertain and clumsy
than ever because his muscles move, now to the old system, now to the new, and
neither has yet decisively claimed the victory. We waver, but we must not become
anxious about it, or surrender what has been newly won. Besides, we cannot
go back to the old system; we have burned our bridges behind us.
All that remains is to be brave, whatever may result.
Let us step forward, let's get going! Perhaps our behavior will indeed look like progress; but if it does not, may we take consolation in the words of Frederick the Great: "Ah, mon cher Sulzer, vous ne connaissez pas assez cette race maudite, à laquelle nous appartenons:'8
Suffering from culture's past. Whoever has clearly understood the problem of culture suffers from a feeling similar to that of a man who has inherited riches that were acquired through illegal means, or a prince who rules because of his forefathers' atrocities. He thinks of his origin with sadness, and is often ashamed, often irritable. The whole sum of the strength, will to life, and joy that he expends on his estate is often balanced by a deep weariness: he cannot forget his origin. He regards the future with melancholy: he knows in advance that his descendants will suffer from the past as he does.
Manners. Good manners disappear proportionately as the influence of
the court and a self-contained aristocracy declines. This decrease can
be observed clearly from decade to decade, if one has an eye for public events,
which visibly become more and more vulgar. No one today understands how to pay
homage or flatter with wit; this leads to the ludicrous fact that in cases where
one must do homage (to a great statesman or artist, for example), one borrows
the language of deepest feeling, of loyal and honorable decency-out of
embarrassment and a lack of wit and grace. So men's public, ceremonious encounters
seem ever more clumsy, but more tender and honorable, without being so.
But will manners keep going downhill? I think, rather, that manners are going in a deep curve, and that we are nearing its low point. Now we inherit manners shaped by earlier conditions, and they are passed on and learned ever less thoroughly. But once society has become more certain of its intentions and principles, these will have a shaping effect, and there will be social manners, gestures, and expressions that must appear as necessary and simply natural as these intentions and principles are. Better division of time and labor; gymnastic exercise become the companion of every pleasant leisure hour; increased and more rigorous contemplation, which gives cleverness and suppleness even to the body-all this will come with it.
As this point one might, of course, think, somewhat scornfully, of our scholars: do they, who claim to be antecedents of the new culture, distinguish themselves by superior manners? Such is not the case, though their spirit may be willing enough: their flesh is weak.9 The past is still too strong in their muscles; they still stand in an unfree position, half secular clergymen, half the dependent educators of the upper classes; in addition, the pedantry of science and out-of-date, mindless methods have made them crippled and lifeless. Thus they are, bodily at least, and often three-quarters spiritually, too, still courtiers of an old, even senile culture, and, as such, senile themselves; the new spirit, which occasionally rumbles about in these old shells, serves for the meanwhile only to make them more uncertain and anxious. They are haunted by ghosts of the past, as well as ghosts of the future; no wonder that they neither look their best, nor act in the most obliging way.
Future of science. To the man who works and searches in it, science
gives much pleasure; to the man who learns its results, very little.
But since all important scientific truths must eventually become everyday and
commonplace, even this small amount of pleasure ceases; just as we have long
ago ceased to enjoy learning the admirable multiplication tables. Now, if science
produces ever less joy in itself and takes ever greater joy in casting suspicion
on the comforts of metaphysics, religion, and art, then the greatest source
of pleasure, to which mankind owes almost its whole humanity, is impoverished.
Therefore a higher culture must give Give man a double brain, two brain chambers,
as it were, one to experience science, and one to experience nonscience. Lying
next to one another, without confusion, separable, self-contained: our
health demands this. In the one domain lies the source of strength, in the other
the regulator. Illusions, biases, passions must give heat; with the help of
scientific knowledge, the pernicious and dangerous consequences of overheating
must be prevented.
If this demand made by higher culture is not satisfied, we can almost certainly predict the further course of human development: interest in truth will cease, the less it gives pleasure; illusion, error, and fantasies, because they are linked with pleasure, will reconquer their former territory step by step; the ruin of the sciences and relapse into barbarism follow next. Mankind will have to begin to weave its cloth from the beginning again, after having, like Penelope, destroyed it in the night. But who will guarantee that we will keep finding the strength to do so?
Pleasure in knowing. Why is knowledge, the element of researchers
and philosophers, linked to pleasure? First and foremost, because by it we gain
awareness of our power-the same reason that gymnastic exercises are pleasurable
even without spectators. Second, because, as we gain knowledge, we surpass older
ideas and their representatives, become victors, or at least believe ourselves
to be. Third, because any new knowledge, however small, makes us feel superior
to everyone and unique in understanding this matter correctly. These
three reasons for pleasure are the most important, but depending on the nature
of the knower, there are still many secondary reasons.
At one unlikely place, my expostulation about Schopenhauer10 gives a not inconsiderable catalogue of these reasons, a tabulation to satisfy every experienced servant of knowledge, even if he would want to wish away the hint of irony that seems to lie on the pages. For if it is true that "a number of very human drives and urges have to be mixed together" for a scholar to come into being, that he is, to be sure, of a very noble metal, but not a pure one, and "consists of a complicated weave of very different impulses and stimulations," then the same is also true of the origin and nature of the artist, philosopher, or moral genius-and whatever glorified great names there are in that essay. With regard to origin, everything human deserves ironic reflection: that is why there is such an excess of irony in the world.
Fidelity as proof of soundness. It is a perfect sign that a theory
is good if, for forty years, its creator never comes to distrust it;
but I contend that there has never been a philosopher who did not finally look
down on the philosophy he invented in his youth with disdain, or at least suspicion.
But perhaps he did not speak about his change of mind publicly, for reasons of ambition or (as is more probable in nobler natures) out of sensitive consideration for his adherents.
Increase of what is interesting. In the course of a man's higher education, everything becomes interesting; he knows how to find the instructive side of a matter quickly, and to indicate the point where it can fill up a hole in his thinking, or confirm an idea. In the process, boredom vanishes more and more, as does excessive emotional excitability. Ultimately, he goes among men like a natural scientist among plants, and perceives his own self simply as a phenomenon that intensely stimulates his drive for knowledge.
Superstition in simultaneity.11 Simultaneous things are thought to
be connected. Our relative dies far away, at the same time we dream about him-there
you are! But countless relatives die without our dreaming about them. It is
as with shipwrecked people who make vows: later, in the temple, one does not
see the votive tablets of those who perished.
A man dies; an owl screeches; a clock stops; all in one nocturnal hour: shouldn't there be a connection there? This idea presumes a kind of intimacy with nature that flatters man.
Such superstition is found again in refined form in historians and painters of culture. They tend to have a kind of hydrophobia towards all senseless juxtapositions, even though these are so abundant in the life of individuals, and of peoples.
Ability, not knowledge, cultivated through science. The value of having for a time rigorously pursued a rigorous science does not rest especially in its results: for in relation to the sea of worthy knowledge, these will be but a negligible little drop. But it brings forth an increase of energy, of deductive ability, of persistence; one has learned to gain one's purpose purposefully. To this extent, in respect to all one does later, it is very valuable to have once been a scientific man.
Youthful charm of science. The search for truth still has the charm of always contrasting strongly with gray and boring Error; this charm is progressively disappearing. It is true that we still live in the youth of science, and tend to pursue truth like a pretty girl; but what will happen when she has one day turned into an elderly, scowling woman? In almost all the sciences, the basic insight has either just been found or else is still being sought; how different is this appeal from the appeal when everything essential has been found and all that is left for the researcher is a scanty autumn gleaning (a feeling one can come to know in certain historical disciplines).
The statue of humanity. The cultural genius acts like Cellini,12 when
he made the cast of his statue of Perseus: the fluid mass threatened not to
suffice, but it had to; so he threw in bowls and dishes and whatever
else came into his hands. And in just the same way does the cultural genius
throw in errors, vices, hopes, delusions, and other things of baser as well
as nobler metal, for the statue of humanity must emerge and be finished. What
does it matter if, here and there, an inferior material was used?
A male culture. Greek culture of the Classical era is a male culture.
As for women, Pericles, in his funeral oration, says everything with the words:
"They are best when men speak about them as little as possible.."13
The erotic relationship of men to youths was, on a level which we cannot grasp, the necessary, sole prerequisite of all male education (more or less in the way love affairs and marriage were for a long time the only way to bring about the higher education of women); the whole idealism of strength of the Greek character was thrown into that relationship, and the treatment of young people has probably never again been so aware, loving, so thoroughly geared to their excellence (virtus), as it was in the sixth and fifth centuries-‑-in accordance with Hölderlin's beautiful line, "denn liebend giebt der Sterbliche vom Besten" (for loving the mortal gives of his best).14 The more important this relationship was considered, the lower sank interaction with women: the perspective of procreation and lust-nothing further came into consideration; there was no spiritual intercourse with them, not even a real romance. If one considers further that woman herself was excluded from all kinds of competitions and spectacles, then the sole higher entertainment remaining to her was religious worship.
To be sure, when Electra and Antigone were portrayed in tragedies, the Greeks tolerated it in art, although they did not like it in life; just as we now do not tolerate anything with pathos in life, but like to see it in art.
Women had no task other than to produce beautiful, powerful bodies, in which the character of the father lived on as intact as possible, and thus to counteract the increasing overstimulation of nerves in such a highly developed culture. This kept Greek culture young for such a relatively long time. For in Greek mothers, the Greek genius returned again and again to nature.
Prejudice in favor of size. Men clearly overestimate everything large and obtrusive. This comes from their conscious or unconscious insight that it is very useful if someone throws all his strength into one area, and makes of himself, so to speak, one monstrous organ. Surely, for man himself, a uniform cultivation of his strengths is more useful and beneficial, for every talent is a vampire that sucks blood and strength out of the remaining strengths; and excessive productivity can bring the most gifted man almost to madness. Even within the arts, extreme natures attract notice much too much, but a much lesser culture is also necessary to let itself be captivated by them. Men submit from habit to anything that wants to have power.
Tyrants of the spirit. The life of the Greeks shines bright only when
the ray of myth falls on it; otherwise it is gloomy. Now, the Greek philosophers
rob themselves of precisely this mythology; is it not as if they wanted to move
out of the sunlight into the shadow, the gloom? But no plant wants to avoid
light: actually, those philosophers were only seeking a brighter sun;
mythology was not pure or shining enough for them. They found the light they
sought in their knowledge, in what each of them called his "truth"
But knowledge shone ever brighter at that time; it was still young, and still
knew too little of all the difficulties and dangers of its ways; it could still
hope to reach the midpoint of all being with a single bound, and from there
solve the riddle of the world. These philosophers had a firm belief in themselves
and in their "truth," and with it they overcame all their neighbors
and predecessors; each of them was a combative and violent tyrant. Perhaps
the happiness of believing oneself in possession of the truth was never greater
in the world, but neither was the harshness, arrogance, tyranny, and evil of
such a belief. They were tyrants, which is what every Greek wanted to be, and
which each one was, if he was able. Perhaps only Solon15 is
an exception: in, his poetry he tells how he despised personal tyranny. But
he did it out of love for his work, for his lawgiving; and to be a lawgiver
is a sublimated form of tyranny. Parmenides, too, gave laws, probably Pythagoras
and Empedocles as well; Anaximander founded a city. Plato was the incarnate
wish to become the greatest philosophical lawgiver and founding father of a
state; he seems to have suffered terribly that his nature was not fulfilled,
and towards the end, his soul became full of the blackest bile. The more Greek
philosophy lost power, the more it suffered inwardly because of this bile and
need to slander. When various sects finally fought for their truths in the streets,
the souls of all these suitors of truth were completely clogged with jealousy
and venom; 16 the tyrannic element raged like a poison in their bodies.
These many petty tyrants would have liked to devour one another raw; there was
not a spark of love left in them, and all too little joy in their own knowledge.
The tenet that tyrants are usually murdered and that their descendants live briefly is also generally true of the tyrants of the spirit. Their history is short, violent; their influence breaks off suddenly. One can say of almost all great Hellenes that they seem to have come too late, thus Aeschylus, Pindar, Demosthenes, Thucydides; one generation follows them-and then it is always over forever. That is the turbulent and uncanny thing about Greek history. These days, of course, we admire the gospel of the tortoise. To think historically these days almost means to imply that history was always made according to the principle, "As little as possible in the longest time possible!" Alas, Greek history goes so quickly! Never has life been lived so prodigally, so immoderately. I cannot convince myself that the history of the Greeks took that natural course for which it is so famous. They were much too diversely gifted to be gradual in a step-by-step manner, like the tortoise racing with Achilles,17 and that is what is called natural development. With the Greeks, things go forward swiftly, but also as swiftly downwards; the movement of the whole mechanism is so intensified that a single stone, thrown into its wheels, makes it burst. Such a stone was Socrates, for example; in one night, the development of philosophical science, until then so wonderfully regular but, of course, all too swift, was destroyed. 18 It is no idle question to wonder whether Plato, if he had stayed free of the Socratic spell, might not have found an even higher type of the philosophical man, now lost to us forever. We look into the ages before him as into a sculptor's workshop, full of such types. The sixth and fifth centuries, however, seem to promise even more and greater things than they produced; but it remained at promises and declarations. And yet there is hardly a heavier loss than the loss of a type, the loss of a new, previously undiscovered, supreme possibility of philosophical life. Even of the older types, most have been handed down to us inadequately; it seems to me extraordinarily difficult to see any philosopher from Thales to Democritus19 clearly; but the man who is successful in recreating these figures strolls among creatures of the mightiest and purest type. Of course, this ability is rare; even the later Greeks who studied the older philosophers did not have it. Aristotle, particularly, seems not to have his eyes in his head when he is faced with them. And so it seems as if these marvelous philosophers had lived in vain, or even as if they had only been meant to prepare the way for the combative and garrulous hordes of the Socratic schools. As we said, there is a gap here, a break in development; some great misfortune must have occurred, and the sole statue in which we might have recognized the sense and purpose of that great creative preparatory exercise must have broken or been unsuccessful. What actually happened has remained forever a secret of the workshop.
What took place with the Greeks (that each great thinker, believing he possessed absolute truth, became a tyrant, so that Greek intellectual history has had the violent, rash, and dangerous character evident in its political history) was not exhausted with them. Many similar things have come to pass right up to the most recent times, although gradually less often, and hardly any longer with the Greek philosophers' pure, naive conscience. For the opposite doctrine and skepticism have, on the whole, too powerful and loud a voice. The period of the spiritual tyrants is over. In the domain of higher culture there will of course always have to be an authority, but from now on this authority lies in the hands of the oligarchs of the spirit. Despite all spatial and political separation, they form a coherent society, whose members recognize and acknowledge each other, whatever favorable or unfavorable estimations may circulate due to public opinion and the judgments of the newspaper and magazine writers. The spiritual superiority which formerly caused division and enmity now tends to bind: how could individuals assert themselves and swim through life along their own way, against all currents, if they did not see their like living here and there under the same circumstances and grasp their hands in the struggle as much against the ochlocratic nature of superficial minds and superficial culture as against the occasional attempts to set up a tyranny with the help of mass manipulation? Oligarchs need each other; they are their own best friends; they understand their insignias-but nevertheless each of them is free; he fights and conquers on his ground, and would rather perish than submit.
Homer. Even now, the greatest fact about Greek culture is that Homer became Panhellenic so soon. All the spiritual and human freedom the Greeks attained goes back to this fact. But at the same time it was also the actual doom of Greek culture, for, by centralizing, Homer made shallow and dissolved the more serious instincts of independence. From time to time an opposition to Homer arose from the depths of Hellenic feeling; but he always triumphed. All great spiritual powers exercise a suppressing effect in addition to their liberating one; but of course it makes a difference whether it is Homer or the Bible or science tyrannizing men.
Talent. In such a highly developed humanity as the present one, each
man by nature has access to many talents. Each has inborn talent, but
only a few have inherited and cultivated such a degree of toughness, endurance,
and energy that they really become a talent, become what they are20-that
is, release it in works and actions.
The witty man21 either overestimated or underestimated. Unscientific,
but gifted men esteem any sign of wit,22 whether it is on the right or the wrong
track. Above all, they want the man who goes about with them to entertain them
well with his wit, spur them on, ignite them, move them to seriousness and levity,
and, in any case, protect them from boredom like a most powerful amulet. A scientific
nature, on the other hand, knows that the gift of having all kinds of ideas
must be reined in most severely by the scientific spirit; not what glitters,
shines, and excites, but rather the often plain truth is the fruit he wishes
to shake off the Tree of Knowledge. Like Aristotle, he may make no distinction
between "boring" and "witty" men; his daemon takes him through
the desert as well as through tropical vegetation, so that wherever he goes
he will take pleasure only in what is real, tenable, genuine.
In insignificant scholars, this results in a distrust and suspicion of all things witty; and conversely, witty people often have a distaste for science, as do, for example, almost all artists.
Reason in school. Schooling has no more important task than to teach
rigorous thinking, careful judgment, logical conclusions; that is why it must
refrain from every thing which is not suitable for these operations-religion,
for example. It can count on the fact that later, human opacity, habit, and
need will again slacken the bow of all-too-taut thinking. But as
long as its influence lasts, schooling should force into being what is essential
and distinguishing in man: "Reason and science, the supreme strength
of man," in Goethe's judgment, at least.23
The great natural scientist von Baer 24 finds all Europeans' superiority, compared to Asians, in their learned ability to give reasons for what they believe, which Asians are wholly incapable of doing. Europe has gone to the school of logical and critical thinking; Asia still does not know how to distinguish between truth and poetry, and does not perceive whether its convictions stem from its own observation and proper thinking, or from fantasies.
Reason in the schools has made Europe into Europe. In the Middle Ages, it was on its way to becoming a part and appendage of Asia again, that is, to forfeiting the scientific sense that it owed to the Greeks.
Underestimated effect of Gymnasium instruction. One seldom looks for the value of the Gymnasium in the things that are really learned there, never to be forgotten, but rather in those things that are taught but which the pupil assimilates only with reluctance, to shake off as soon as he can. As it is carried out everywhere, reading the Classics is an odious procedure (as every educated man will admit): for young people who are in no respect ready for it, by teachers who by their every word, and often by their appearance, throw a blight over a good author. But therein lies the value that is generally underestimated: that these teachers speak the abstract language of higher culture, ponderous and hard to understand though it is, but an elevated exercise 25 of the brain; that concepts, technical terms, methods, and allusions continually occur in their language which young people almost never hear in the conversations of their relatives or in the streets. If pupils only listen, their intellect will be automatically preformed to a scientific way of thinking. It is not possible to emerge from this training as a pure child of nature, fully untouched by abstraction.
Learning many languages. To learn many languages fills the memory with
words instead of with facts and ideas, even though in every man, memory is a
vessel that can take in only a certain limited amount of content. Also, learning
many languages is harmful in that it makes a man believe he is accomplished,
and actually does lend a certain seductive prestige in social intercourse; it
also does harm indirectly by undermining his acquisition of well-founded
knowledge and his intention to earn men's respect in an honest way. Finally,
it is the axe laid to the root of any finer feeling for language within the
native tongue; that is irreparably damaged and destroyed. The two peoples who
produced the greatest stylists, the Greeks and the French, did not learn any
But because the commerce of men must become increasingly cosmopolitan and, for example, a proper merchant in London must be able to make himself a necessary evil. When it finally reaches an extreme, it will force mankind to find a remedy for it, and in some far-off future time everyone will know a new language, a language of commerce at first, then a language of intellectual intercourse generally, and this as surely as there will one day be aerial navigation. Why else would the science of linguistics have studied the laws of language for a century and assessed what is necessary, valuable, and successful about each separate language!
On the martial history of the individual. We find the battle that usually takes place between two generations, between father and son, compressed into any single human life that crosses several cultures. A close relationship heightens this battle because each party mercilessly draws in the inner self of the other party, which it knows so well; and thus this battle will be most embittered within the individual; here each new phase strides on past the earlier ones with a cruel injustice, and with no appreciation for their means and ends.
A quarter of an hour earlier. Occasionally one finds a person whose views are before his time, but only to the extent that he anticipates the common views of the next decade. He holds the public opinion before it is public; that is, he has fallen into the arms of a view that deserves to become trite, one-quarter of an hour sooner than the others. But his fame tends to be much noisier than the fame of the truly great and superior.
The art of reading. Every strong orientation is one-sided; it approaches the orientation of a straight line, and, like it, is exclusive; that is, it does not touch on many other orientations, as weak parties and natures do in their wavelike vacillation. Thus one must excuse the philologists for being one-sided. The guild's century-long practice of producing and preserving texts, as well as explaining them, has finally permitted the discovery of the right methods. The whole Middle Ages was profoundly incapable of a strictly philological explanation, incapable, that is, of the simple wish to understand what the author says. It was something to find these methods; let us not underestimate it! All science has gained continuity and stability only because the art of reading correctly, that is, philology, attained its full power.
The art of drawing conclusions. The greatest progress men have made
lies in their learning to draw correct conclusions. That is by no means
so natural a thing as Schopenhauer assumes when he says, "Everyone is capable
of drawing conclusions, only a few of judging";26 rather, it is learned
late and still has not come to prevail. False conclusions are the rule in older
times. And all peoples' mythologies, magic, superstition, religious worship,
and law-all are the inexhaustible sites of evidence for this thesis.
Annual circles of individual culture. Strength or weakness in intellectual
productivity depends much less on inherited gift than on the inborn amount of
resilience. Most young educated people thirty years of age go backwards
at this spring solstice of their lives, and from then on are averse to new intellectual
changes. That is why, for the health of a continually growing culture, a new
generation is then necessary which, however, also does not get very far: for
in order to catch up to the father's culture, the son must consume almost
the same amount of inherited energy that the father himself possessed at that
stage of life when he begot his son; with his little surplus, the son goes farther
(for since the path is being taken for the second time, he goes a little faster;
to learn what the father knew, the son does not use up quite so much energy).
Very resilient men, like Goethe, for example, traverse almost more than four
generations in a row can do; but for that reason they get ahead too quickly,
so that other men catch up to them only in the next century, and perhaps never
entirely, because frequent interruptions have weakened cultural unity and developmental
With ever greater speed, men are repeating the usual phases of the spiritual culture that has been attained in the course of history. Presently, they begin to enter the culture as children moved by religion, and in their tenth year of life, perhaps, those feelings attain the greatest vitality; then they make the transition to weaker forms (pantheism) as they approach science; they get quite beyond God, immortality, and the like, but yield to the spells of a metaphysical philosophy. This, too, they finally cease to find credible; art, on the other hand, seems to offer more and more, so that for a time metaphysics barely survives as a metamorphosis into art or as an artistically transfiguring mood. But the scientific sense grows ever more domineering, and leads the man on to natural science and history, and in particular to the most rigorous methods of knowledge, while art takes on an ever more subdued and modest meaning. All this tends to happen within a man's first thirty years. It is the recapitulation of a task at which mankind has been toiling for perhaps thirty thousand years.
Going backward, not staying backward. Anyone who still begins his development
with religious feelings and then continues living in metaphysics and art for
a long time, has of course gone some distance backward, and begins his race
against other modern men with a handicap. He is apparently losing ground and
time. But by having dwelled in those realms where heat and energy are unleashed,
and power keeps streaming like a volcanic river out of an everflowing spring,
he then, once having left those domains in time, comes the more quickly forward;
his feet have wings; his breast has learned to breathe more peacefully, longer,
with more endurance.
He has drawn back, only in order to have enough room for his leap: so there can even be something terrible or threatening about his retrogression.
A section of our self as an artistic object. It is a sign of superior culture when men consciously remember and sketch a true picture of certain periods of their development, which lesser men live through almost without thought, wiping them off their soul's tablet; this is the higher kind of painting, which only few people understand. To do it, it is necessary to isolate those phases artificially. Historical studies develop the capacity for this form of painting, for they continually exhort us, when occasioned by a period of history, or a people-or a human life, to imagine a quite definite horizon of thoughts, a definite intensity of feelings, the predominance of some, and the withdrawal of others. Historical sense consists of being able, when there is the occasion, to reconstruct quickly such systems of thought and feeling, like impressions of a temple from some random remaining columns and pieces of wall. The immediate result is that we understand our fellow men to be such definite systems, and representatives of various cultures; that is, necessary, but changeable. And conversely, we can separate out sections of our own development and set them down as autonomous.
Cynics and epicureans. The cynic knows the connection between the
more highly cultivated man's stronger and more numerous pains, and his profuse
needs; therefore he understands that manifold opinions about beauty, propriety,
seemliness, and delight must give rise to very rich sources of pleasure, but
also to sources of discontent. In accordance with this insight, the cynic educates
himself retrogressively by giving up many of these opinions and withdrawing
from certain demands of culture. In that way, he achieves a feeling of freedom
and of strengthening; and gradually, when habit makes his way of life bearable,
he does indeed feel discontent more rarely and less strongly than cultured men,
and approximates a domesticated animal; in addition, everything charms him by
its contrast and-he can also scold to his heart's content, so that in
that way he again gets far beyond an animal's world of feelings.
The epicurean has the same point of view as the cynic; between the two there is usually only a difference in temperament. Furthermore, the epicurean uses his higher culture to make himself independent of prevailing opinions; he lifts himself above them, while the cynic merely remains in negation. He strolls as in calm, well-protected, half-dark passageways, while above him the treetops whip about in the wind, revealing to him how violently in motion is the world outside. The cynic, on the other hand, seems to walk about outside in the blowing wind naked, hardening himself until he is without feeling.
Microcosm and macrocosm of culture. Man makes the best discoveries
about culture within himself when he finds two heterogeneous powers governing
there. Given that a man loved the plastic arts or music as much as he was moved
by the spirit of science, and that he deemed it impossible to end this contradiction
by destroying the one and completely unleashing the other power; then, the only
thing remaining to him is to make such a large edifice of culture out of himself
that both powers can live there, even if at different ends of it; between them
are sheltered conciliatory central powers, with the dominating strength to settle,
if need be, any quarrels that break out. Such a cultural edifice in the single
individual will have the greatest similarity to the cultural architecture of
whole eras and, by analogy, provide continuous instruction about them. For wherever
the great architecture of culture developed, it was its task to force opposing
forces into harmony through an overwhelming aggregation of the remaining, less
incompatible27 powers, yet without suppressing or shackling them.
Happiness and culture. We are devastated by the sight of the scenes
of our childhood: the garden house, the church with its graves, the pond and
the woods-we always see them again as sufferers. We are gripped by self-pity,
for what have we not suffered since that time! And here, everything is still
standing so quiet, so eternal: we alone are so different, so in turmoil; we
even rediscover some people on whom Time has sharpened its tooth no more
than on an oak tree: peasants, fishermen, woodsmen-they are the same.
Devastation and self-pity in the face of the lower culture is the sign of higher culture-this shows that happiness, at least, has not been increased by the latter. Whoever wishes to harvest happiness and comfort from life, let him always keep out of the way of higher culture.
Analogy of the dance.28 Today we should consider it the decisive sign
of great culture if someone possesses the strength and flexibility to pursue
knowledge purely and rigorously and, at other times, to give poetry, religion,
and metaphysics a handicap, as it were; and appreciate their power and beauty.
A position of this sort, between two such different claims, is very difficult,
for science urges the absolute dominion of its method, and if this is not granted,
there exists the other danger of a feeble vacillation between different impulses.
Meanwhile (to open up a view to the solution of this difficulty by means of
an analogy, at least) one might remember that dancing is not the same
thing as staggering wearily back and forth between different impulses. High
culture will resemble a daring dance, thus requiring, as we said, much strength
On easing life. One principal means to ease life is to idealize all its processes; but from painting one should be well aware what idealization means. The painter requires that the viewer not look too hard or too close; he forces him back to a certain distance to view from there; he is obliged to presuppose that a viewer is at a fixed distance from his picture; indeed, he must even assume an equally fixed amount of visual acuity in his viewer; he may on no account waver about such things. So anyone who wants to idealize his life must not desire to see it too closely, and must keep his sight back at a certain distance. Goethe, for example, knew this trick well.
Aggravating as easing,29 and vice versa. Much that aggravates man's
life at certain stages eases it at a higher stage because such men have come
to know life's more severe aggravations. The reverse also occurs: thus religion,
for example, has a double face, depending on whether a man is looking up to
it, in order to have his burden and misery taken from him, or whether he is
looking down on it, as on a chain laid on him so that he may not rise too high
into the air.
Higher culture is inevitably misunderstood. A man who has strung his
instrument with only two strings (as do scholars who, in addition to the scientific
drive, have only an acquired religious drive) does not understand
the kind of man who can play on more strings. It is in the nature of the higher,
many-stringed and manysided30 culture that it is always misinterpreted
by the lower, as happens, for example, when art is taken for a disguised form
of religion. Indeed, people who are religious only, understand even science
as a search for religious feeling, just as deaf-mutes do not know what
music is, if not visible movement.
Lament. It is perhaps the advantages of our times that bring with
them a decline and occasional underestimation of the vita contemplativa.
But one must admit to himself that our age is poor in great moralists, that
Pascal, Epictetus, Seneca, and Plutarch are now read but little, that work and
industry (formerly attending the great goddess Health) sometimes seem to rage
like a disease. Because there is no time for thinking, and no rest in thinking,
we no longer weigh divergent views: we are content to hate them. With the tremendous
acceleration of life, we grow accustomed to using our mind and eye for seeing
and judging incompletely or incorrectly, and all men are like travelers who
get to know a land and its people from the train. An independent and cautious
scientific attitude is almost thought to be a kind of madness: the free spirit
is brought into disrepute, particularly by scholars who miss their own thoroughness
and antlike industry in his talent for observation, and would gladly confine
him to a single corner of science; while he has the quite different and higher
task of commanding the entire arrière-ban31 of scientific
and learned men from his remote outpost, and showing them the ways and ends
A lament like this one just sung-will probably have its day and, at some time when the genius of meditation makes a powerful return, cease of itself.
Main deficiency of active people. Active men are usually lacking in
higher activity-I mean individual activity. They are active as officials,
businessmen, scholars, that is, as generic beings, but not as quite particular,
single and unique men. In this respect they are lazy.
It is the misfortune of active men that their activity is almost always a bit irrational. For example, one must not inquire of the money-gathering banker what the purpose for his restless activity is: it is irrational. Active people roll like a stone, conforming to the stupidity of mechanics.
Today as always, men fall into two groups: slaves and free men. Whoever does not have two-thirds of his day for himself, is a slave, whatever he may be: a statesman, a businessman, an official, or a scholar.
In favor of the idle. An indication that esteem for the meditative
life has decreased is that scholars today compete with active men in a kind
of hasty enjoyment, so that they seem to value this kind of enjoying more than
the kind that actually befits them and, in fact, offers much more enjoyment.
Scholars are ashamed of otium. But leisure and idleness-32
are a noble thing.
If idleness is really the beginning of all vices,33 it is at least located in the closest vicinity to all the virtues: the idle man is still a better man than the active man.
You don't think that by leisure and idling I'm talking about you, do you, you lazybones?
Modern restlessness. The farther West one goes, the greater modern agitation becomes; so that to Americans the inhabitants of Europe appear on the whole to be peace-loving, contented beings, while in fact they too fly about pell-mell, like bees and wasps. This agitation is becoming so great that the higher culture can no longer allow its fruits to ripen; it is as if the seasons were following too quickly on one another. From lack of rest, our civilization is ending in a new barbarism. Never have the active, which is to say the restless, people been prized more. Therefore, one of the necessary correctives that must be applied to the character of humanity is a massive strengthening of the contemplative element. And every individual who is calm and steady in his heart and head, already has the right to believe that he possesses not only a good temperament, but also a generally useful virtue, and that in preserving this virtue, he is even fulfilling a higher duty.
To what extent the active man is lazy. I believe that each person must
have his own opinion about every thing about which it is possible to have an
opinion, because he himself is a special, unique thing that holds a new, previously
nonexistent view about all other things. But laziness, which is at the bottom
of the active man's soul, hinders man from drawing water out of his own well.
It is the same with freedom of opinions as with health: both are individual; no generally valid concept can be set up about either. What one individual needs for his health will make another ill, and for more highly developed natures, many means and ways to spiritual freedom may be ways and means to bondage.
Censor vitae.34 For a long time, the inner state of a man who wants
to become free in his judgments about life will be characterized by an alternation
between love and hatred; he does not forget, and resents everything, good as
well as evil. Finally, when the whole tablet of his soul is written full with
experiences, he will neither despise and hate existence nor love it, but rather
lie above it, now with a joyful eye, now with a sorrowful eye, and, like nature,
be now of a summery, now of an autumnal disposition.
Secondary result. Whoever seriously wants to become free, will in the process also lose, uncoerced, the inclination to faults and vices; he will also be prey ever more rarely to annoyance and irritation. For his will desires nothing more urgently than knowledge, and the means to it-that is, the enduring condition in which he is best able to engage in knowledge.
The value of illness. The man who lies ill in bed sometimes perceives that it is usually his once, business, or society that has made him ill and caused him to lose all clear-mindedness about himself; he gains this wisdom from the leisure forced upon him by his illness.
Feeling in the country. If one does not have stable, calm lines on the horizon of his life, like lines of mountaintops or trees, then man's innermost will itself become restless, distracted, and covetous, like the city dweller's character: he knows no happiness, and gives none.
Caution of free spirits. Free-spirited people, living for knowledge
alone, will soon find they have achieved their external goal in life, their
ultimate position vis a vis society and the state, and gladly be satisfied,
for example, with a minor position or a fortune that just meets their needs;
for they will set themselves up to live in such a way that a great change in
economic conditions, even a revolution in political structures, will not overturn
their life with it. They expend as little energy as possible on all these things,
so that they can plunge with all their assembled energy, as if taking a deep
breath, into the element of knowledge. They can then hope to dive deep, and
also get a look at the bottom.
Such a spirit will be happy to take only the corner of an experience; he does not love things in the whole breadth and prolixity of their folds; for he does not want to get wrapped up in them.
He, too, knows the week-days of bondage, dependence, and service. But from time to time he must get a Sunday of freedom, or else he will not endure life.
It is probable that even his love of men will be cautious and somewhat short-winded, for he wants to engage himself with the world of inclination and blindness only as far as is necessary for the sake of knowledge. He must trust that the genius of justice will say something on behalf of its disciple and protégé, should accusatory voices call him poor in love.
In his way of living and thinking, there is a refined heroism; he scorns to offer himself to mass worship, as his cruder brother does, and is used to going quietly through the world and out of the world. Whatever labyrinths he may wander through, among whatever rocks his river may at times have forced its tortured course-once he gets to the light, he goes his way brightly, lightly, and almost soundlessly, and lets the sunshine play down to his depths.
Onwards. And so onwards along the path of wisdom, with a hearty tread, a hearty confidence! However you may be, be your own source of experience! Throw off your discontent about your nature; forgive yourself your own self, for you have in it a ladder with a hundred rungs, on which you can climb to knowledge. The age into which you feel yourself thrown with sorrow calls you blessed because of this stroke of fortune; it calls to you so that you may share in experiences that men of a later time will perhaps have to forego. Do not disdain having once been religious; investigate thoroughly how you once had a genuine access to art. Do not these very experiences help you to pursue with greater understanding enormous stretches of earlier humanity? Have not many of the most splendid fruits of older culture grown up on that very ground that sometimes displeases you, on the ground of impure thinking? One must have loved religion and art like one's mother or wet-nurse-otherwise one cannot become wise. But one must be able to look beyond them, outgrow them; if one stays under their spell, one does not understand them. Likewise, you must be familiar with history and the delicate game with the two scales: "on the one hand-on the other hand." Stroll backwards, treading in the footprints in which humanity made its great and sorrowful passage through the desert of the past; then you have been instructed most surely about the places where all later humanity cannot or may not go again. And by wanting with all your strength to detect in advance how the knot of the future will be tied, your own life takes on the value of a tool and means to knowledge. You have it in your power to merge everything you have lived through-attempts, false starts, errors, delusions, passions, your love and your hope-into your goal, with nothing left over: you are to become an inevitable chain of culture-rings, and on the basis of this inevitability, to deduce the inevitable course of culture in general. When your sight has become good enough to see the bottom in the dark well of your being and knowing, you may also see in its mirror the distant constellations of future cultures. Do you think this kind of life with this kind of goal is too arduous, too bereft of all comforts? Then you have not yet learned that no honey is sweeter than that of knowledge, and that the hanging clouds of sadness must serve you as an udder, from which you will squeeze the milk to refresh yourself. Only when you are older will you perceive properly how you listened to the voice of nature, that nature which rules the whole world through pleasure. The same life that comes to a peak in old age also comes to a peak in wisdom, in that gentle sunshine of continual spiritual joyfulness; you encounter both old age and wisdom on one ridge of life-that is how nature wanted it. Then it is time, and no cause for anger that the fog of death is approaching. Towards the light-your last movement; a joyful shout of knowledge-your last sound.