When one speaks of "humanity" the notion lies at the bottom, that humanity is that which separates and distinguishes man from nature. But such a distinction does not in reality exist: the "natural" qualities and the properly called "human" ones have grown up inseparably together. Man in his highest and noblest capacities is nature and bears in himself her awful twofold character. His abilities generally considered dreadful and inhuman are perhaps indeed the fertile soil, out of which alone can grow forth all humanity in emotions, actions and works.
Thus the Greeks, the most humane men (Menschen) of ancient times, have in themselves a trait of cruelty, of tiger-like pleasure in destruction: a trait, which in the grotesquely magnified image of the Hellene, in Alexander the Great, is very plainly visible, which, however, in their whole history, as well as in their mythology, must terrify us who meet them with the emasculate idea of modern humanity. When Alexander has the feet of Batis, the brave defender of Gaza, bored through, and binds the living body to his chariot in order to drag him about exposed to the scorn of his soldiers, that is a sickening caricature of Achilles, who at night ill-uses Hector's corpse by a similar trailing; but even this trait has for us something offensive, something which inspires horror. It gives us a peep into the abysses of hatred. With the same sensation perhaps we stand before the bloody and insatiable self-laceration of two Greek parties, as for example in the Corcyrean revolution. When the victor, in a fight of the cities, according to the law of warfare, executes the whole male population and sells all the women and children into slavery, we see, in the sanction of such a law, that the Greek deemed it a positive necessity to allow his hatred to break forth unimpeded; in such moments the compressed and swollen feeling relieved itself; the tiger bounded forth, a voluptuous cruelty shone out of his fearful eye. Why had the Greek sculptor to represent again and again war and fights in innumerable repetitions, extended human bodies whose sinews are tightened through hatred or through the recklessness of triumph, fighters wounded and writhing with pain, or the dying with the last rattle in their throat? Why did the whole Greek world exult in the fighting scenes of the Iliad? I am afraid, we do not understand them enough in "Greek fashion," and that we should even shudder, if for once we did understand them thus.
But what lies, as the womb of the Hellenic, behind the Homeric world? In the latter, by the extremely artistic definiteness, and the calm and purity of the lines we are already lifted far above the purely material amalgamation: its colours, by an artistic deception, appear lighter, milder, warmer; its men, in this coloured, warm illumination, appear better and more sympathetic--but where do we look, if, no longer guided and protected by Homer's hand, we step backwards into the pre-Homeric world? Only the night and horror, into the products of a fancy accustomed to the horrible. What earthly existence is reflected in the loathsome-awful theogonian lore: a life swayed only the children of the night, strife, amorous desires, deception, age and death. Let us imagine the suffocating atmosphere of Hesiod's poem, still thickened and darkened and without the mitigations and purifications, which poured over Hellas from Delphi and the numerous seats of the gods! If we mix this thickened Beotian air with the grim voluptuousness of the Etruscans, then such a reality would extort from us a world of myths within which Uranos, Kronos and Zeus and the struggles of the Titans would appear as a relief. Combat in this brooding atmosphere is salvation and safety; the cruelty of victory is the summit of life's glories. And just as in truth the idea of Greek law has developed from murder and expiation of murder, so also nobler civilisation takes her first wreath of victory from the altar of the expiation of murder. Behind that bloody age stretches a wave-furrow deep into Hellenic history. The names of Orpheus, of Musæus, and their cults indicate to what consequences the uninterrupted sight of a world of warfare and cruelty led--to the loathing of existence, to the conception of this existence as a punishment to be borne to the end, to the belief in the identify of existence and indebtedness. But these particular conclusions are not specifically Hellenic; through them Greece comes into contact with India and the Orient generally. The Hellenic genius had ready yet another answer to the question: what does a life of fighting and of victory mean? and gives this answer in the whole breadth of Greek history.
In order to understand the latter we must start from the fact that the Greek genius admitted the existing fearful impulse, and deemed it justified; whereas in the Orphic phase of thought was contained the belief that life with such an impulse as its root would not be worth living. Strife and the pleasure of victory were acknowledged; and nothing separates the Greek world more from ours than the colouring, derived hence, of some ethical ideas, e.g., of Eris and of Envy.
When the traveller Pausanius during his wanderings through Greece visited the Helicon, a very old copy of the first didactic poem of the Greeks, Hesiod's The Works and Days, was shown to him, inscribed upon plates of lead and severely damaged by time and weather. However he recognised this much, that, unlike the usual copies it had not at its head that little hymnus on Zeus, but began at once with the declaration: "Two Eris-goddesses are on earth." This is one of the most noteworthy Hellenic thoughts and worthy to be impressed on the newcomer immediately at the entrance-gate of Greek ethics. "One would like to praise the one Eris, just as much as to blame the other, of one uses one's reason. For these two goddesses have quite different dispositions. For the one, the cruel one, furthers the evil war and feud! No mortal likes her, but under the yoke of need one pays honour to the burdensome Eris, according to the decree of the immortals. She, as the elder, gave birth to black night. Zeus the high-ruling one, however, placed the other Eris upon the roots of the earth and among men as a much better one. She urges even the unskilled man to work, and if one who lacks property beholds another who is rich, then he hastens to sow in similar fashion and to plant and to put his house in order; the neighbour vies with the neighbour who strives after fortune. Good is this Eris to men. The potter also has a grudge against the potter, and the carpenter against the carpenter; the beggar envies the beggar, and the singer the singer."
The two last verses which treat of the odium figulinum appear to our scholars to be incomprehensible in this place. According to their judgment the predicates: "grudge" and "envy" fit only the nature of the evil Eris, and for this reason they do not hesitate to designate these verses as spurious or thrown by chance into this place. For that judgment however a system of ethics other than the Hellenic must have inspired these scholars unawares; for in these verses to the good Eris Aristotle finds no offence. And not only Aristotle but the whole Greek antiquity thinks of spite and envy otherwise than we do and agrees with Hesiod, who first designates as an evil one that Eris who leads men against one another to a hostile war of extermination, and secondly praises another Eris as the good one, who as jealousy, spite, envy, incites men to activity but not to the action of war to the knife but the action of competition. The Greek is envious and conceives of this quality not as a blemish, but as the effect of a beneficent deity. What a gulf of ethical judgment between us and him? Because he is envious he also feels, with every superfluity of honour, riches, splendour and fortune, the envious eye of a god resting on himself, and he fears this envy; in this case the latter reminds him of the transitoriness of every human lot; he dreads his very happiness and, sacrificing the best of it, he bows before the divine envy. This conception does not perhaps estrange him from his gods; their significance on the contrary is expressed by the thought that with them man in whose soul jealousy is enkindled against every other living being, is never allowed to venture into competition. In the fight of Thamyris with the Muses, of Marsyas with Apollo, in the heart-moving fate of Niobe appears the horrible opposition of the two powers, who must never fight with one another, man and god.
The greater and more sublime however a Greek is, the brighter in him appears the ambitious flame, devouring everybody who runs with him on the same track. Aristotle once made a list of such competitions on a large scale; among them is the most striking instance how even a dead person can still incite a living one to consuming jealousy; thus for example Aristotle designates the relation between the Kolophonian Xenophanes and Homer. We do not understand this attack on the national hero of poetry in all its strength, if we do not imagine, as later on also with Plato, the root of this attack to be the ardent desire to step into the place of the overthrown poet and to inherit his fame. Every great Hellene hands on the torch of the competition; at every great virtue a new light is kindled. If the young Themistocles could not sleep at the thought of the laurels of Miltiades so his early awakened bent released itself only in the long emulation with Aristides in that uniquely noteworthy, purely instinctive genius of his political activity, which Thucydides describes. How characteristic are both question and answer, when a notable opponent of Pericles is asked, whether he or Pericles was the better wrestler in the city, and he gives the answer: "Even if I throw him down he denies that he has fallen, attains his purpose and convinces those who saw him fall."
If one wants to see that sentiment unashamed in its naive expressions, the sentiment as to the necessity of competition lest the state's welfare be threatened, one should think of the original meaning of ostracism, as for example the Ephesians pronounced it at the banishment of Hermodor. "Among us nobody shall be the best; if however someone is the best, then let him be so elsewhere and among others" [Heraklitus]. Why should not someone be the best? Because with that the competition would fail, and the eternal life-basis of the Hellenic state would be endangered. Later on ostracism receives quite another position with regard to competition; it is applied, when the danger becomes obvious that one of the great competing politicians and party-leaders feels himself urged on in the heat of the conflict towards harmful and destructive measures and dubious coups d'état. The original sense of this peculiar institution however is not that of a safety-valve but that of a stimulant. The all-excelling individual was to be removed in order that the competition of forces might re-awaken, a thought which is hostile to the "exclusiveness" of genius in the modern sense but which assumes that in the natural order of things there are always several geniuses which incite one another to action, as much also as they hold one another within the bounds of moderation. That is the kernel of the Hellenic competition-conception: it abominates autocracy, and fears its dangers; it desires as a preventive against the genius--a second genius.
Every natural gift must develop itself by competition. Thus the Hellenic national pedagogy demands, whereas modern educators fear nothing as much as the unchaining of the so-called ambition. Here one fears selfishness as the "evil in itself"--with the exception of the Jesuits, who agree with the Ancients and who, possibly, for that reason, are the most efficient educators of our time. They seem to believe that selfishness, i.e., the individual element is only the most powerful agens but that it obtains its character as "good" and "evil" essentially from the aims towards which it strives. To the Ancients however the aim of the agonistic education was the welfare of the whole, of the civic society. Every Athenian, for instance, was to cultivate his ego in competition, so far that it should be of the highest service to Athens and should do the least harm. It was not unmeasured and immeasurable as modern ambition generally is; the youth thought of the welfare of his native town when he vied with others in running, throwing or singing; it was her glory that he wanted to increase with his own; it was to his town's gods that he dedicated the wreaths which the umpires as a mark of honour set upon his head. Every Greek from childhood felt within himself the burning wish to be in the competition of the towns as an instrument for the welfare of his own town; in this his selfishness was kindled into flame, by this his selfishness was bridled and restricted. Therefore the individuals in antiquity were freer, because their aims were nearer and more tangible. Modern man, on the contrary, is everywhere hampered by infinity, like the fleet-footed Achilles in the allegory of the Eleate Zeno: infinity impedes him, he does not even overtake the tortoise.
But as the youths to be educated were brought up struggling against one another, so their educators were in turn in emulation amongst themselves. Distrustfully jealous, the great musical masters, Pindar and Simonides, stepped side by side; in rivalry the sophist, the higher teacher of antiquity meets his fellow-sophist; even the most universal kind of instruction, through the drama, was imparted to the people only under the form of an enormous wrestling of the great musical and dramatic artists. How wonderful! "And even the artist has a grudge against the artist!" And the modern man dislikes in an artist nothing so much as the personal battle-feeling, whereas the Greek recognises the artist only in such a personal struggle. There were the modern suspects weakness of the work of art, the Hellene seeks the source of his highest strength! That, which by way of example in Plato is of special artistic importance in his dialogues, is usually the result of an emulation with the art of the orators, of the sophists, of the dramatists of his time, invented deliberately in order that at the end he could say: "Behold, I can also do what my great rivals can; yea I can do it even better than they. No Protagoras has composed such beautiful myths as I, no dramatist such a spirited and fascinating whole as the Symposion, no orator penned such an oration as I put up in the Gorgias--and now I reject all that together and condemn all imitative art! Only the competition made me a poet, a sophist, an orator!" What a problem unfolds itself there before us, if we ask about the relationship between the competition and the conception of the work of art!--
If on the other hand we remove the competition from Greek life, then we look at once into the pre-Homeric abyss of horrible savagery, hatred, and pleasure in destruction. This phenomenon alas! shows itself frequently when a great personality was, owing to an enormously brilliant deed, suddenly withdrawn from the competition and became hors de concours according to his, and his fellow-citizens' judgment. Almost without exception the effect is awful; and if one usually draws from these consequences the conclusion that the Greek was unable to bear glory and fortune, one should say more exactly that he was unable to bear fame without further struggle, and fortune at the end of the competition. There is no more distinct instance than the fate of Miltiades. Placed upon a solitary height and lifted far above every fellow-combatant through is incomparable success at Marathon, he feels a low thirsting for revenge awakened within himself against a citizen of Para, with whom he had been at enmity long ago. To satisfy his desire he misuses reputation, the public exchequer and civic honour and disgraces himself. Conscious of his ill-success he falls into unworthy machinations. He forms a clandestine and godless connection with Timo a priestess of Demeter, and enters at night the sacred temple, from which every man was excluded. After he has leapt over the wall and comes ever nearer the shrine of the goddess, the dreadful horror of a panic-like terror suddenly seizes him; almost prostrate and unconscious he feels himself driven back and leaping the wall once more, he falls down paralysed and severely injured. The siege must be raised and a disgraceful death impresses its seal upon a brilliant heroic career, in order to darken it for all posterity. After the battle at Marathon the envy of the celestials has caught him. And this divine envy breaks into flames when it beholds man without rival, without opponent, on the solitary height of glory. He now has beside him only the gods--and therefore he has them against him. These however betray him into a deed of the Hybris, and under it he collapses.
Let us well observe that just as Miltiades perishes so the noblest Greek states perish when they, merit and fortune, have arrived from the racecourse at the temple of Nike. Athens, which had destroyed the independence of her allies and avenged with severity the rebellions of her subjected foes, Sparta, which after the battle of Ægospotamoi used her preponderance over Hellas in a still harsher and more cruel fashion, both these, as in the case of Miltiades, brought about their ruin through deeds of the Hybris, as a proof that without envy, jealousy, and competing ambition the Hellenic State like the Hellenic man degenerates. He becomes bad and cruel, thirsting for revenge, and godless; in short, he becomes "pre-Homeric"--and then it needs only a panic in order to bring about his fall and to crush him. Sparta and Athens surrender to Persia, as Themistocles and Alcibiades have done; they betray Hellenism after they have given up the noblest Hellenic fundamental thought, the competition, and Alexander, the coarsened copy and abbreviation of Greek history, now invents the cosmopolitan Hellene, and the so-called "Hellenism."
(Completed on December 29, 1872)
THE GREEK STATE
We moderns have an advantage over the Greeks in two ideas, which are given as it were as a compensation to a world behaving thoroughly slavishly and yet at the same time anxiously eschewing the word "slave": we talk of the "dignity of man" and of the "dignity of labour." Everybody worries in order miserably to perpetuate a miserable existence; this awful need compels man to consuming labour; he (or, more exactly, the human intellect) seduced by the "Will" now occasionally marvels at labour as something dignified. However, in order that labour might have a claim on titles of honour, it would be necessary above all, that Existence itself, to which labour after all is only a painful means, should have more dignity and value than it appears to have had, up to the present, to serious philosophies and religions. What else may we find in the labour-need of all the millions but the impulse to exist at any price, the same all-powerful impulse by which stunted plants stretch their roots through earthless rocks!
Out of this awful struggle for existence only individuals can emerge, and they are at once occupied with the noble phantoms of artistic culture, lest they should arrive at practical pessimism, which Nature abhors as her exact opposite. In the modern world, which, compared with the Greek, usually produces only abnormalities and centaurs, in which the individual, like that fabulous creature in the beginning of the Horatian Art of Poetry, is jumbled together out of pieces, here in the modern world in one and the same man the greed of the struggle for existence and the need for art show themselves at the same time: out of this unnatural amalgamation has originated the dilemma, to excuse and to consecrate that first greed before this need for art. Therefore we believe in the "Dignity of man" and the "Dignity of labour."
The Greeks did not require such conceptual hallucinations, for among them the idea that labour is a disgrace is expressed with startling frankness; and another piece of wisdom, more hidden and less articulate, but everywhere alive, added that the human thing also was an ignominious and piteous nothing and the "dream of a shadow." Labour is a disgrace, because existence has no value in itself; but even though this very existence in the alluring embellishment of artistic illusions shines forth and really seems to have a value in itself, yet that proposition is still valid that labour is a disgrace--a disgrace indeed by the fact that it is impossible for man, fighting for the continuance of bare existence, to become an artist. In modern times it is not the art-needing man but the slave who determines the general conceptions, the slave who according to his nature must give deceptive names to all conditions in order to be able to live. Such phantoms as the dignity of man, the dignity of labour, are the needy products of slavedom hiding itself from itself. Woful time, in which the slave requires such conceptions, in which he is incited to think about and beyond himself! Cursed seducers, who have destroyed the slave's state of innocence by the fruit of the tree of knowledge! Now the slave must vainly scrape through from one day to another with transparent lies recognisable to every one of deeper insight, such as the alleged "equal rights of all" or the so-called "fundamental rights of man," of man as such, or the "dignity of labour." Indeed he is not to understand at what stage and at what height dignity can first be mentioned--namely, at the point, where the individual goes wholly beyond himself and no longer has to work and to produce in order to preserve his individual existence.
And even on this height of "labour" the Greek at times is overcome by a feeling, that looks like shame. In one place Plutarch with earlier Greek instinct says that no nobly born youth on beholding the Zeus in Pisa would have the desire to become himself a Phidias, or on seeing the Hera in Argos, to become himself a Polyklet; and just as little would he wish to be Anacreon, Philetas or Archilochus, however much he might revel in their poetry. To the Greek the work of the artist falls just as much under the undignified conception of labour as any ignoble craft. But if the compelling force of the artistic impulse operates in him, then he must produce and submit himself to that need of labour. And as a father admires the beauty and the gift of his child but thinks of the act of procreation with shamefaced dislike, so it was with the Greek. The joyful astonishment at the beautiful has not blinded him as to its origin which appeared to him, like all "Becoming" in nature, to be a powerful necessity, a forcing of itself into existence. That feeling by which the process of procreation is considered as something shamefacedly to be hidden, although by it man serves a higher purpose than his individual preservation, the same feeling veiled also the origin of the great works of art, in spite of the fact that through them a higher form of existence is inaugurated, just as through that other act comes a new generation. The feeling of shame seems therefore to occur where man is merely a tool of manifestations of will infinitely greater than he is permitted to consider himself in the isolated shape of the individual.
Now we have the general idea to which are to be subordinated the feelings which the Greek had with regard to labour and slavery. Both were considered by them as a necessary disgrace, of which one feels ashamed, as a disgrace and as a necessity at the same time. In this feeling of shame is hidden the unconscious discernment that the real aim needs those conditional factors, but that in that need lies the fearful and beast-of-prey-like quality of the Sphinx Nature, who in the glorification of the artistically free culture-life so beautifully stretches forth her virgin-body. Culture, which is chiefly a real need for art, rests upon a terrible basis: the latter however makes itself known in the twilight sensation of shame. In order that there may be a broad, deep, and fruitful soil for the development of art, the enormous majority must, in the service of a minority be slavishly subjected to life's struggle, to a greater degree than their own wants necessitate. At their cost, through the surplus of their labour, that privileged class is to be relieved from the struggle for existence, in order to create and to satisfy a new world of want.
Accordingly we must accept this cruel sounding truth, that slavery is of the essence of Culture; a truth of course, which leaves no doubt as to the absolute value of existence. This truth is the vulture, that gnaws at the liver of the Promethean promoter of Culture. The misery of toiling men must still increase in order to make the production of the world of art possible to a small number of Olympian men. Here is to be found the source of that secret wrath nourished by Communists and Socialists of all times, and also by their feebler descendants, the white race of the "Liberals," not only against the arts, but also against classical antiquity. If Culture really rested upon the will of a people, if here inexorable powers did not rule, powers which are law and barrier to the individual, then the contempt for Culture, the glorification of a "poorness in spirit," the iconoclastic annihilation of artistic claims would be more than an insurrection of the suppressed masses against drone-like individuals; it would be the cry of compassion tearing down the walls of Culture; the desire for justice, for the equalization of suffering, would swamp all other ideas. In fact here and there sometimes an exuberant degree of compassion has for a short time opened all the flood gates of Culture-life; a rainbow of compassionate love and of peace appeared with the first radiant rise of Christianity and under it was born Christianity's most beautiful fruit, the gospel according to St. John. but there are also instances to show that powerful religions for long periods petrify a given degree of culture, and cut off with inexorable sickle everything that still grows on strongly and luxuriantly. For it is not to be forgotten that the same cruelty, which we found in the essence of every culture, lies also in the essence of power, which is always evil; so that we shall understand it just as well, when a culture is shattering, with a cry for liberty or at least justice, a too highly piled bulwark of religious claims. That which in this "sorry scheme" of things will live (i.e. must live), is at the bottom of its nature a reflex of the primal-pain and primal-contradiction, and must therefore strike our eyes--"an organ fashioned for this world and earth"--as an insatiable greed for existence and an eternal self-contradiction, within the form of time, therefore as Becoming. Every moment devours the preceding one, every birth is the death of innumerable beings; begetting, living, murdering, all is one. Therefore we may compare this grand culture with a blood-stained victor, who in his triumphal procession carries the defeated along as slaves chained to his chariot, slaves whom a beneficent power has so blinded that, almost crushed by the wheels of the chariot, they nevertheless still exclaim: "Dignity of labour!" "Dignity of Man!" The voluptuous Cleopatra-Culture throws ever again the most priceless pearls, the tears of compassion for the misery of slaves, into her golden goblet. Out of the emasculation of modern man has been born the enormous social distress of the present time, not out of the true and deep commiseration for that misery; and if it should be true that the Greeks perished through their slavedom then another fact is much more certain, that we shall perish through the lack of slavery. Slavedom did not appear in any way objectionable, much less abominable, either to early Christianity or to the Germanic race. What an uplifting effect on us has the contemplation of the mediæval bondman, with his legal and moral relations,--relations that were inwardly strong and tender,--towards the man of higher rank, with the profound fencing-in of his narrow existence--how uplifting!--and how reproachful!
He who cannot reflect upon the position of affairs in society without melancholy, who has learnt to conceive of it as the continual painful birth of those privileged culture-men, in whose service everything else must be devoured--he will no longer be deceived by that false glamour, which the moderns have spread over the origin and meaning of the state. For what can the state mean to us, if not the means by which that social-process described just now is to be fused and to be guaranteed in its unimpeded continuance? Be the sociable instinct in individual man as strong as it may, it is only the iron clamp of the state that constrains the large masses upon one another in such a fashion that a chemical decomposition of society, with its pyramid-like superstructure, is bound to take place. Whence however originates this sudden power of the state, whose aim lies much beyond the insight and beyond the egoism of the individual? How did the slave, the blind mole of culture, originate? The Greeks in their instinct relating to the law of nations have betrayed it to us, in an instinct, which even in the ripest fulness of their civilisation and humanity never ceased to utter as out of a brazen mouth such words as: "to the victor belongs the vanquished, with wife and child, life and property. Power gives the first right, and there is no right, which at bottom is not presumption, usurpation, violence."
Here again we see with what pitiless inflexibility nature, in order to arrive at society, forges for herself the cruel tool of the state--namely, that conqueror with the iron hand, who is nothing else than the objectivation of the instinct indicated. By the indefinable greatness and power of such conquerors the spectator feels, that they are only the means of an intention manifesting itself through them and yet hiding itself from them. The weaker forces attach themselves to them with such mysterious speed, and transform themselves so wonderfully, in the sudden swelling of that violent avalanche, under the charm of that creative kernel, into an affinity hitherto not existing, that it seems as if a magic will were emanating from them.
Now when we see how little the vanquished trouble themselves after a short time about the horrible origin of the state, so that history informs us of no class of events worse than the origins of those sudden, violent, bloody and, at least in one point, inexplicable usurpations: when hearts involuntarily go out towards the magic of the growing state with the presentiment of an invisible deep purpose, where the calculating intellect is enabled to see an addition of forces only; when now the state is even contemplated with fervour as the goal and ultimate aim of the sacrifices and duties of the individual: then our of all that speaks the enormous necessity of the state, without which nature might not succeed in coming, through society, to her deliverance in semblance, in the mirror of the genius. What discernments does the instinctive pleasure in the state not overcome! One would indeed feel inclined to think that a man who looks into the origin of the state will henceforth seek his salvation at an awful distance from it; and where can one not see the monuments of its origin--devastated lands, destroyed cities, brutalised men, devouring hatred of nations! The state, or ignominiously low birth, for the majority of men a continually flowing source of hardship, at frequently recurring periods the consuming torch of mankind--and yet a word, at which we forget ourselves, a battle cry, which has filled men with enthusiasm for innumerable really heroic deeds, perhaps the highest and most venerable object for the blind and egoistic multitude which only in the tremendous moments of state-life has the strange expression of greatness on its face!
We have, however, to consider the Greeks, with regard to the unique sun-height of their art, as the "political men in themselves," and certainly history knows of no second instance of such an awful unchaining of the political passion, such an unconditional immolation of all interests in the service of this state-instinct; at the best one might distinguish the men of the Renaissance in Italy with a similar title for like reasons and by way of comparison. So overloaded is that passion among the Greeks that it begins ever anew to rage against itself and to strike its teeth into its own flesh. This bloody jealousy of city against city, of party against party, this murderous greed of those little wars, the tiger-like triumph over the corpse of the slain enemy, in short, the incessant renewal of those Trojan scenes of struggle and horror, in the spectacle of which, as a genuine Hellene, Homer stands before us absorbed with delight- -whither does this naive barbarism of the Greek state point? What is its excuse before the tribunal of eternal justice? Proud and calm, the state steps before this tribunal and by the hand it leads the flower of blossoming womanhood: Greek society. For this Helena the state waged those wars--and what grey-bearded judge could here condemn?--
Under this mysterious connection which we here divine between state and art, political greed and artistic creation, battlefield and work of art, we understand by the state, as already remarked, only the cramp-iron, which compels the social process; whereas without the state, in the natural bellum omnium contra omnes concentrates itself from time to time into a terrible gathering of war-clouds and discharges itself as it were in rare but so much the more violent shocks and lightning flashes. But in consequence of the effect of that bellum,--an effect which is turned inwards and compressed,--Society is given time during the intervals to germinate and burst into leaf, in order, as soon as warmer days come, to let the shining blossoms of genius sprout forth.
In face of the political world of the Hellenes, I will not hide those phenomena of the present in which I discern dangerous atrophies of the political sphere equally critical for art and society. If there should exist men, who as it were through birth are placed outside the national- and state-instincts, who consequently have to esteem the state only in so far as they conceive that it coincides with their own interest, then such men will necessarily imagine as the ultimate political aim the most undisturbed collateral existence of great political communities possible, in which they might be permitted to pursue their own purposes without restriction. With this idea in their heads they will promote that policy which will offer the greatest security to these purposes; whereas it is unthinkable, that they, against their intentions, guided perhaps by an unconscious instinct, should sacrifice themselves for the state-tendency, unthinkable because they lack that very instinct. All other citizens of the state are in the dark about what nature intends with her state-instinct within them, and they follow blindly; only those who stand outside this instinct know what they want from the state and what the state is to grant them. Therefore it is almost unavoidable that such men should gain great influence in the state because they are allowed to consider it as a means, whereas all the others under the sway of those unconscious purposes of the state are themselves only means for the fulfilment of the state-purpose. In order now to attain, through the medium of the state the highest furtherance of their selfish aims, it is above all necessary, that the state be wholly freed from those awfully incalculable war-convulsions so that it may be used rationally; and thereby they strive with all their might for a condition of things in which war is an impossibility. For that purpose the thing to do is first to curtail and to enfeeble the political separatisms and factions and through the establishment of large equipoised state-bodies and the mutual safeguarding of them to make the successful result of an aggressive war and consequently war itself the greatest improbability; as on the other hand they will endeavour to wrest the question of war and peace from the decision of individual lords, in order to be able rather to appeal to the egoism of the masses of their representatives; for which purpose they again need slowly to dissolve the monarchic instincts of the nations. This purpose they attain best through the most general promulgation of the liberal optimistic view of the world, which has its roots in the doctrines of French Rationalism and the French Revolution, i.e., in a wholly un-Germanic, genuinely neo-Latin, shallow, and unmetaphysical philosophy. I cannot help seeing in the prevailing international movements of the present day, and the simultaneous promulgation of universal suffrage, the effects of the fear of war above everything else, yea I behold behind these movements, those truly international homeless money-hermits, as the really alarmed, who, with their natural lack of the state-instinct, have learnt to abuse politics as a means of the Exchange, and state and society as an apparatus for their enrichment. Against the deviation of the state-tendency into a money-tendency, to be feared from this side, the only remedy is war and once again war, in the emotions of which this at least becomes obvious, that the state is not founded upon the fear of the war-demon, as a protective institution for egoistic individuals, but in love to fatherland and prince, it produces an ethical impulse, indicative of a much higher destiny. If I therefore designate as a dangerous and characteristic sign of the present political situation the application of revolutionary thought in the service of a selfish state-less money-aristocracy, if at the same time I conceive of the enormous dissemination of liberal optimism as the result of modern financial affairs fallen into strange hands, and if I imagine all evils of social conditions together with the necessary decay of the arts to have either germinated from that root or grown together with it, one will have to pardon my occasionally chanting a pæan on war. Clanging horribly its silvery bow; and although coming along like the night, war is nevertheless Apollo, the true divinity for consecrating and purifying the state. First of all, however, as is said in the beginning of the Iliad, he lets fly his arrow on the mules and dogs. Then he strikes the men themselves, and everywhere pyres break into flames. Be it then pronounced that war is just as much a necessity for the state as the slave is for society, and who can avoid this verdict if he honestly asks himself about the causes of the never-equalled Greek art-perfection?
He who contemplates war and its uniformed possibility, the soldier's profession, with respect to the hitherto described nature of the state, must arrive at the conviction, that through war and in the profession of arms is placed before our eyes in an image, or even perhaps the prototype of the state. Here we see as the most general effect of the war-tendency, an immediate decomposition and division of the chaotic mass into military castes, out of which rises, pyramid-shaped, on an exceedingly broad base of slaves, the edifice of the "martial society." The unconscious purpose of the whole movement constrains every individual under its yoke, and produces also in heterogeneous natures as it were a chemical transformation of their qualities until they are brought into affinity with that purpose. In the highest castes one perceives already a little more of what in this internal process is involved at the bottom, namely the creation of the military genius--with whom we have become acquainted as the original founder of states. In the case of many states, as, for example, in the Lycurgian constitution of Sparta, one can distinctly perceive the impress of that fundamental idea of the state, that of the creation of the military genius. If we now imagine the military primal state in its greatest activity, at its proper "labour," and if we fix our glance upon the whole technique of war, we cannot avoid correcting our notions picked up from everywhere, as to the "dignity of man" and the "dignity of labour" by the question, whether the idea of dignity is applicable also to that labour, which has as its purpose the destruction of the "dignified" man, as well as to the man who is entrusted with that "dignified labour," or whether in this warlike task of the state those mutually contradictory ideas do not neutralise one another. I should like to think the warlike man to be a means of the military genius and his labour again only a tool in the hands of that same genius; and not to him, as absolute man and non-genius, but to him as a means of the genius--whose pleasure also can be to choose his tool's destruction as a mere pawn sacrificed on the strategist's chessboard--is due a degree of dignity, of that dignity namely, to have been deemed worthy of being a means of the genius. But what is shown here in a single instance is valid in the most general sense; every human being, with his total activity, only has dignity in so far as he is a tool of the genius, consciously or unconsciously; from this we may immediately deduce the ethical conclusion, that "man in himself," the absolute man possesses neither dignity, nor rights, nor duties; only as a wholly determined being serving unconscious purposes can man excuse his existence.
Plato's perfect state is according to these considerations certainly something still greater than even the warm-blooded among his admirers believe, not to mention the smiling mien of superiority with which our "historically" educated refuse such a fruit of antiquity. The proper aim of the state, the Olympian existence and ever-renewed procreation and preparation of the genius,--compared with which all other things are only tools, expedients and factors towards realization--is here discovered with a poetic intuition and painted with firmness. Plato saw through the awfully devastated Herma of the then-existing state-life and perceived even then something divine in its interior. He believed that one might be able to take out this divine image and that the grim and barbarically distorted outside and shell did not belong to the essence of the state: the whole fervour and sublimity of his political passion threw itself upon this belief, upon that desire--and in the flames of this fire he perished. That in his perfect state he did not place at the head the genius in its general meaning, but only the genius of wisdom and of knowledge, that he altogether excluded the inspired artist from his state, that was a rigid consequence of the Socratic judgment on art, which Plato, struggling against himself, had made his own. This more external, almost incidental gap must not prevent our recognising in the total conception of the Platonic state the wonderfully great hieroglyph of a profound and eternally to be interpreted esoteric doctrine of the connection between state and genius. What we believed we could divine of this cryptograph we have said in this preface.