BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
[This document, which has been prepared by Ian Johnston of Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, BC, has certain copyright restrictions. For information, please consult Copyright. Editorial comments and translations in square brackets and italics are by Ian Johnston; comments in normal brackets are from Nietzsche’s text. Last revised in December 2013]
THE RELIGIOUS NATURE1
The human soul and its boundaries, the range of human inner experiences so far attained, the heights, depths, and extent of these experiences, the whole history of the soul up to this point and its still undrained possibilities: for a born psychologist and lover of the “great hunt” that is the predestined hunting ground. But how often must such a man say to himself in despair: “I’m just one man! Alas, only one man! And this is a huge wood, a primordial forest!” And so he wishes he could have few hundred helpers in the hunt and finely trained tracking dogs which he could drive into the history of the human soul in order to corner his wild animal there. A vain hope. He experiences over and over again, thoroughly and bitterly, how difficult it is to find helpers and hounds for all things which appeal to his curiosity. The problem he has in sending scholars out into new and dangerous hunting grounds, where courage, intelligence, and refinement are necessary in every sense, is that that’s precisely the place where scholars are no longer useful, where the “great hunt” but also the great danger begins:—right there they lose their keen eyes and noses for hunting. In order to ascertain and to establish, for example, what sort of history the problem of knowledge and conscience in the soul of the hominess religiosi [religious men] has had up to now, the individual would himself perhaps have to be as profound, as wounded, and as monstrous as the intellectual conscience of Pascal was:—and then it would still be necessary to have that expansive heaven of bright, malicious spirituality capable of surveying from above this teeming mass of dangerous and painful experiences, of ordering it, and of forcing it into formulas.2 But who would perform this service for me? And who would have time to wait for such servants?—It’s clear they arise too rarely. In all ages they are so unlikely! In the end, a person must do everything himself in order to know a few things himself: that means that one has much to do!—But at all events a curiosity of the sort I have remains the most pleasant of all vices.—Forgive me. I wanted to say this: the love of the truth has its reward in heaven and even on earth.—
The faith demanded and not rarely attained by early Christianity in the midst of a sceptical and southern world of free spirits that had behind and within it a centuries-long battle among philosophical schools, in addition to the education in tolerance provided by the imperium romanum [Roman empire]—this faith is not that naive and gruff faith of the subordinate, something like the faith with which a Luther or a Cromwell or some other northern barbarian of the spirit hung onto his god and his Christianity.3 That earlier faith is much more similar to Pascal’s belief, which looks, in a terrifying way, something like a constant suicide of reason, a tenacious, long-lived, worm-like reason, which cannot be killed once and for all with a single blow. From the start Christian faith has been sacrifice: a sacrifice of all freedom, all pride, all self-confidence about the spirit, and at the same time slavery and self-mockery, self-mutilation. There is cruelty and a religious Phoenicianism in this faith, which one expects in a crumbling, multilayered, and very spoilt conscience: its assumption is that the subjection of the spirit is indescribably painful, that the entire past and the habits of such a spirit resist the absurdissimum [the most extreme absurdity], which is how this “faith” confronts it. Modern people, with their insensitivity to all Christian nomenclature, do not sense any more the ghastly superlative that lay in the paradox of the formula “God on the cross” for the taste of classical antiquity. To this point there has never yet been anywhere such an audacious reversal—anything as dreadful, questioning, and questionable, as this formula: it promised an inversion of all ancient values.—It is the Orient, the deep Orient, it is the Oriental slave who in this way took his revenge on Rome and its noble and frivolous tolerance, on the Roman “catholicity” of faith:—and what always enraged the slaves about their masters and against their masters was not their faith but their freedom from faith, that half-stoic, smiling lack of concern about the seriousness of belief. “Enlightenment” fills people with rage, for the slave wants something absolute; he understands only the tyrannical, even in morality; he loves as he hates, without subtlety, to the depths, to the point of pain, to the point of sickness. His many hidden sufferings grow incensed against the noble taste that seems to deny suffering. The scepticism about suffering, basically only an attitude of aristocratic morality, was also not the most insignificant factor in the origin of the last great slave revolt, which began with the French Revolution.
Up to this point, wherever religious neurosis has appeared on earth, we find it tied up with three dangerous dietary rules: isolation, fasting, and sexual abstinence—although it would be impossible to determine with certainty what in this may be cause and what may be effect and whether there is, in fact, a relationship between cause and effect here. This final doubt is justified by the fact that among the most regular symptoms of the religious neurosis, both with savage and docile peoples, belongs also the most sudden and most dissolute sensuality which then, just as suddenly, turns into spasms of repentance and a denial of the world and the will. We could interpret both perhaps as masked epilepsy? But nowhere should people resist interpretations more than here. About no type up to this point has such a glut of absurdity and superstition proliferated. No other type so far seems to have interested human beings, even philosophers, more than this one. It’s high time to become a little cool on this issue, to learn caution, or better yet, to look away, to go away. Even in the background of the most recent philosophy, the work of Schopenhauer, there stands, almost as the essential problem, this dreadful question mark of the religious crisis and awakening. How is denial of the will possible? How is the saint possible?—This seems, in fact, to have been the question which prompted Schopenhauer to become a philosopher and to begin. Hence, it was a result really worthy of Schopenhauer that his most convinced follower (perhaps also his last, where Germany is concerned), namely, Richard Wagner, brought his own life’s work to an end at this very point and finally led out onto the stage the living physical embodiment of that fearful and eternal type as Kundry, type vécu [a real-life type], at the very time when the psychiatrists of almost all the countries of Europe had an opportunity to study it up close, in every place where the religious neurosis—or as I call it, “the religious nature”—had its most recent epidemic outbreak and paraded around as the “Salvation Army.”4 But if we ask ourselves what has really been so wildly interesting in the whole phenomenon of the saint for people of all types and ages, even for philosophers, then undoubtedly it is the appearance of a miracle associated with it, that is, the immediate succession of opposites, of conditions of the soul that are valued in morally opposed ways. People thought here they could get a grip on the fact that all of a sudden a “bad man” became a “saint,” a good man. On this point, psychology so far has suffered a shipwreck. Didn’t that happen primarily because psychology subordinated itself to the control of morality, because it itself believed in opposing moral evaluations and saw, read into, and interpreted these opposites into the text and the facts? How’s that? The “miracle” is only a failure of interpretation? A lack of philology?—
It seems that their Catholicism is much more inwardly bound up with the Latin races than all of Christianity is in general for us northerners and that, as a result, in Catholic countries unbelief means something entirely different from what it means in Protestant countries—namely, a form of rebellion against the spirit of the race; whereas, among us unbelief means rather a turning back to the spirit (or non-spirit [Ungeist]) of the race. We northerners undoubtedly stem from races of barbarians, and this also holds with respect to our talent for religion. We are badly equipped for it. One can make the Celtic people an exception to that, and for this reason they also provided the best soil for the start of the Christian infection in the north:—in France the Christian ideal bloomed only as much as the pale northern sun permitted. How strangely devout for our taste even these recent French sceptics still are, to the extent they have some Celtic blood in their ancestry! How Catholic, how un-German, August Comte’s sociology smells to us, with its Roman logic of the instincts! How Jesuitical that charming and clever cicerone [tour guide] from Port Royal, Sainte-Beuve, in spite of all his hostility to the Jesuits! And then there’s Ernest Renan: how inaccessible to us northerners the language of such a Renan sounds, in which at every moment some nothing of religious tension destroys the equilibrium of his soul, which is, in a more refined sense, sensual and reclining comfortably! One should repeat after him these beautiful sentences—and how much malice and high spirits at once arise in response in our probably less beautiful and harder, that is, more German souls: “Let us then boldly assert that religion is a product of the normal man, that man is most in touch with truth when he is most religious and most assured of an infinite destiny . . . When he is good he wants virtue to correspond to an eternal order; when he contemplates things in a disinterested manner he finds death revolting and absurd. How can we not assume that it is in those moments like this that man sees best? . . .” These sentences are so entirely antithetical to my ears and habits that when I found them my initial rage wrote beside them “la niaiserie religieuse par excellence!” [the finest example of religious foolishness]—until my later anger really grew to like them, these sentences which turn the truth on its head! It is so nice, so distinguished, to have one’s very own antithesis!5
The thing that astonishes one about the religiosity of the ancient Greeks is the unrestrained fullness of gratitude which streams out of it:—it is a very noble kind of man who stands before nature and life in this way! Later, as the rabble gained prominence in Greece, fear grew all over religion as well, and preparations were made for Christianity.
The passion for God: there are sincere, peasant, pushy types, like Luther’s—all Protestantism lacks southern delicatezza [delicacy]. In it there is an oriental way of existing in an exalted state [Aussersichsein], as with a slave who, without deserving it, has been pardoned or ennobled, for example, Augustine, who lacks in an offensive way all nobility of gestures and desires. There is some feminine tenderness and desire in it which pushes itself bashfully and ignorantly towards a unio mystica et physica [a mystical and physical union], as with Madame de Guyon.6 Strangely enough, in many cases it appears as a disguise for puberty in a young woman or man, and here and there even as the hysteria of an old spinster, also as her last ambition:—in such cases the church has often already declared the woman a saint.
Up to now the most powerful people have still bowed reverently before the saint, as the riddle of self-conquest and of intentional final sacrifice. Why did they bow? They sensed in him—and, so to speak, behind the question mark of his frail and pathetic appearance—the superior power that wished to test itself in such a victory, the strength of the will, in which they knew how to recognize and honour their own strength and pleasure in mastery once more. They were honouring something in themselves when they revered the saint. It got to the point that the sight of a saint aroused a suspicion in them: such a monster of denial, something so contrary to nature, would not have been desired for no reason—that’s what they said and questioned themselves about. Perhaps there is a reason for that, a really great danger, about which the ascetic, thanks to his secret comforters and visitors might provide more precise information? In short, the powerful people of the earth learned from the saint a new fear; they sensed a new power, a strange, as yet unconquered enemy:—it was the “will to power” which compelled them to halt in front of the saint. They had to ask him—
In the Jewish “Old Testament,” the book of divine justice, there are human beings, things, and speeches of such impressive style that the world of Greek and Indian literature has nothing to place beside them. We stand with fear and reverence before these tremendous remnants of what human beings once were and will in the process suffer melancholy thoughts about old Asia and its small protruding peninsula of Europe, which, in marked contrast to Asia, would like to represent the “progress of man.” Naturally, whoever is, in himself, only a weak, tame domestic animal and knows only the needs of domestic animals (like our educated people nowadays, including the Christians of “educated” Christianity), among these ruins such a man finds nothing astonishing or even anything to be sad about—a taste for the Old Testament is a touchstone with respect to “great” and “small”:—perhaps he finds the New Testament, that book of grace, still preferable to his heart (in it there is a good deal of the really tender, stifling smell of sanctimonious and small-souled people). To have glued together this New Testament, a sort of rococo of taste in all respects, with the Old Testament into a single book, as the “Bible,” and “the essential book,” that is perhaps the greatest act of daring and “sin against the spirit” that literary Europe has on its conscience.
Why atheism today?—”The father” in God has been fundamentally disproved, as well as “the judge,” “the rewarder.” Together with his “free will.” He is not listening—and if he were to hear, he wouldn’t know how to help anyway. The worst thing is this: he appears incapable of communicating clearly. Is he indistinct?—From a number of different conversations, asking and listening, this is what I have unearthed as the cause of the decline of European theism: it seems to me that the religious instinct is, in fact, growing powerfully—but that it is rejecting, with profound distrust, theistic satisfaction.
When you get down to it, what has all recent philosophy been doing? Since Descartes—and, in fact, more in defiance of him than on the basis of what he had done before—all philosophers have been trying to assassinate the old idea of the soul, under the appearance of a critique of the idea of the subject and predicate—that means an attempt to kill the basic assumption of Christian teaching. More recent philosophy, as an epistemological scepticism, is, in a concealed or open manner, anti-Christian, although (and this is said for more refined ears) in no way anti-religious. Formerly, that is, people believed in “the soul,” as they believed in grammar and the grammatical subject. They said “I” is the condition, “think” is the predicate and conditioned—thinking is an activity for which a subject must be thought of as cause. Now, people tried, with an admirable tenacity and trickery, to see whether they could get out of this net, whether perhaps the opposite might not be true: “think” as the condition, “I” the conditioned—thus “I” is only a synthesis that is itself created by thinking. Basically Kant wanted to show that if we started with the subject we could not prove the subject—or the object. The possibility of an apparent existence of the subject, hence “the soul,” might not have always been alien to him—that thought which, as Vedanta philosophy, was once before present with enormous power on earth.7
There is a huge ladder of religious atrocities, with many rungs. But three of them are the most important. First people sacrificed human beings to their gods, perhaps the very ones whom they loved best. Here belong the sacrifices of the first-born in all prehistoric religions, as well as the sacrifice of Emperor Tiberius in the grotto to Mithras on the island of Capri, that most terrible of all Roman anachronisms.8 Then, in the moral ages of humanity, people sacrificed to their gods the strongest instincts that man possessed, his “nature.” This celebratory joy sparkles in the cruel glance of the ascetic, of the enthusiastic “anti-natural man.” Finally, what was still left to sacrifice? Did people not finally have to sacrifice everything comforting, holy, healing, all hope, all belief in a hidden harmony, in future blessedness and justice? Did people not have to sacrifice God himself and, out of cruelty against themselves, worship stone, stupidity, gravity, fate, and nothingness? To sacrifice God for nothingness—this paradoxical mystery of the last act of cruelty has been reserved for the generation which is coming along right now. We all already know something about this.
Anyone who, like me, has, with some enigmatic desire or other, made an effort for a long time to think profoundly about pessimism and to rescue it from the half-Christian, half-German restrictions and simple-mindedness with which it has most recently appeared in this century, that is, in the form of Schopenhauer’s philosophy; anyone who really has, with an Asiatic and super-Asiatic eye, looked into and down on the most world-denying of all possible ways of thinking—beyond good and evil and no longer as Buddha and Schopenhauer do, under the spell and delusion of morality—such a man has perhaps in the process, without really wanting to do so, opened his eyes for the reverse morality: for the ideal of the most high-spirited, most lively, and most world-affirming human being, who has not only learned to come to terms with and to accept what was and is but who wants to have what was and is come back for all eternity, calling out insatiably da capo [from the beginning], not only to himself but to the entire play and spectacle, and not only to a spectacle but basically to the one who needs this particular spectacle and who makes the spectacle necessary, because over and over again he needs himself—and makes himself necessary. How’s that? Wouldn’t this be circulus vitiosus deus [god as a vicious circle]?
With the power of his spiritual glance and insight the distance and, as it were, the space around man expand: his world becomes deeper; new stars and new riddles and pictures always come into his view. Perhaps everything on which the eye of his spirit has practised its astuteness and profundity was just an excuse for exercise, a matter of play, something for children and childish heads. Perhaps one day the most solemn ideas, the ones over which we have fought and suffered the most, the ideas of “God” and “sin,” will seem to us no more important than a children’s toy or childish pain appears to an old man—and perhaps then “the old man” will need again another children’s toy and another pain—still sufficiently a child, an eternal child!
Have people properly considered just how much a genuinely religious life (both its favourite task of microscopic self-examination and that tender calmness which is called “prayer” and is a constant preparedness for the “coming of God”) requires an outward leisure or half-leisure—I mean leisure with a good conscience, time-honoured, from blood, something not entirely foreign to the aristocratic feeling that work is dishonourable (that is, the feeling that work makes the soul and body coarse) and how, as a result, the modern blaring, time-consuming industriousness, so proud of itself, stupidly proud, trains and prepares people, better than anything else, precisely for “unbelief”? For example, among the present inhabitants of Germany who live without religion, I find people who hold to “free-thinking” of various kinds and origins, but above all a majority of those whose industriousness, from generation to generation, has dissolved the religious instincts, so that these people no longer have any idea what purpose religions serve and take note of their presence in the world with, as it were, only a kind of indifferent wonder. They already feel that generous demands are made of them, these good people, whether from their businesses or their pleasures, to say nothing of the “Fatherland” and the newspapers and the “obligations to the family”: it seems that they have no time at all left over for religion; it is especially unclear to them whether religion involves a new business or a new pleasure—for it’s not possible, they tell themselves, that people go to church merely to spoil their own good moods. They are no enemies of religious customs. If, in certain circumstances, people demand of them participation in such traditions (something required by the state, for example), they do what is required, just the way people do so many things—with a patient and modest seriousness and without much curiosity and concern. They just live too much apart and on the outside to find it necessary in such cases to conduct an argument with themselves for or against the matter. Among these indifferent people nowadays belongs the majority of German Protestants in the middle classes, particularly in the great industrious centres of trade and business, including most of the hard-working scholars and all the accessories of the university (with the exception of the theologians, whose existence and possibility there constantly provide the psychologist with more and ever more sophisticated riddles to sort out). Devout or merely church-going people rarely imagine how much good will—one could say how much arbitrary will—is involved nowadays when a German scholar takes the problem of religion seriously. On the basis of his whole trade (and, as mentioned, on the basis of the industriousness of the tradesman, which his modern conscience requires of him) he inclines to a supercilious, almost kindly amusement towards religion, mixed now and then with a slight contempt for the “uncleanliness” of the spirit which he assumes is present wherever people still profess their faith in the church. The scholar succeeds only with the help of history (hence not from his own personal experience) in bringing to religion a reverent seriousness and a certain timid consideration. But even if his feelings about religion have managed to rise all the way to gratitude towards it, in his own person he has not yet come a step closer to what still constitutes church and piety: perhaps the reverse is the case. The practical indifference to religious matters in which he was born and raised tends to sublimate itself in him to caution and cleanliness, things which avoid contact with religious people and things. And it can well be the very depth of his tolerance and humanity that tells him to stay out of the way of complex difficulties which tolerance brings with it. Every period has its own divine form of naiveté whose invention other ages may envy:—and how much naiveté, respectful, childish, and boundlessly foolish naiveté lies in this belief of the scholar in his own superiority, in the good conscience of his toleration, in the unsuspecting, unsophisticated certainty with which his instinct treats religious people as a less worthy and lower type, above whom he himself has grown up, out, and above—the scholar, the small, presumptuous dwarf and member of the rabble, the diligent and nimble head-and-hand-worker of “ideas,” of “modern ideas”!
Whoever has looked deep into the world will readily guess what wisdom exists in the fact that human beings are superficial. It is their preserving instinct, which teaches them to be changeable, light, and false. Here and there we find a passionate and exaggerated veneration of “pure forms,” among philosophers as well as among artists. No one should doubt that whoever requires the cult of surfaces that much has at some time or another grasped beneath those surfaces, with unhappy results. Perhaps with respect to these scorched children, the born artists, who still find the good things of life only in the intention to falsify its image (as it were, in a prolonged revenge against life), there is even a rank ordering: we could derive the degree to which life has been spoiled for them by the extent to which they wish to see its image falsified, diluted, transcended, deified. Among the artists we could count the homines religiosi [men of religion] as their highest rank. It is the deep suspicious fear of an incurable pessimism which compels entire millennia to sink their teeth into a religious interpretation of existence, the fear arising from that instinct which has a premonition that people could grasp the truth too early, before humans have become strong enough, hard enough, artistic enough. . . . From this point of view, piety, the “life in God,” could appear as the most refined and final spawn of the fear of truth, as an artist’s worship and intoxication in the face of the most consequential of all falsifications, as the will to the reversal of the truth, to untruth at any price. Perhaps up to this point there has been no stronger way of making human beings themselves look more beautiful than this very piety: through it man can become so much art, surface, play of colours, and goodness, that we no longer suffer at the sight of him.—
To love human beings for the sake of God—so far that has been the most noble and most remote feeling that has been attained among men. The fact that without some consecrating intention behind it the love of human beings is one more stupidity and brutishness, that the inclination to this love of humanity must first derive its extent, delicacy, its grains of salt and specks of ambergris from some higher inclination—whatever human being it happened to be who first felt and “experienced” this, no matter how much his tongue may have stumbled as it tried to express such a delicacy, let him remain for all time sanctified among us and worthy of reverence as the man who so far has flown the highest and has lost his way most beautifully!
The philosopher the way we understand him, we free spirits, as the man of the most all-encompassing responsibility, who has the conscience for the collective development of human beings—this philosopher will help himself to religions for use in his work of cultivation and education, just as he will use contemporary political and economic conditions. The selective and cultivating influence—that is to say always both the destructive as well as the creative and shaping influence—which can be practised with the help of religions is something multifaceted and different, according to the type of people who are put under its spell and protection. For strong, independent people, those prepared and predestined to command, those in whom the reason and culture of a ruling race become something living, religion is one more means of overcoming resistance, so that they will be able to rule; it is like a bond which ties ruler and subjects together in common and betrays and hands over to the former the consciences of the latter, something hidden in their innermost selves which would like to evade obedience. And in the event a few individual natures of such noble descent, because of their high mindedness, feel drawn towards a more secluded and more peaceful life and reserve for themselves only the most refined form of ruling (over chosen disciples or brethren in an order), then religion itself can be used as a means to create some peace for oneself from the noise and hardship of the cruder forms of ruling and cleanliness from the dirt which necessarily comes with all political action. That’s something the Brahmin, for example, understood: with the help of a religious organization they arrogated to themselves the power to appoint a king for the people, while they held and felt themselves apart and outside, as men with higher purposes beyond kingship.9 Meanwhile, religion also provides instruction for some of the ruled and an opportunity to prepare themselves for ruling and ordering in the future, those slowly ascending classes and groups, that is, those in which, because of fortunate marriage traditions, the force and desire of the will, the will to rule oneself, is always rising:—to these people religion offers sufficient stimuli and temptations to travel the route to a higher spirituality, to test the feelings of great self-conquest, of silence and solitude:—asceticism and Puritanism are almost indispensable means for educating and ennobling people when a race wishes to become master of its origins from the rabble and works its way up towards future ruling power. Finally, for ordinary people, the vast majority, who are there to serve for common needs and are permitted to exist only for that purpose, religion gives an invaluable modest satisfaction with their situation and type, all sorts of peace at heart, an ennoblement of obedience, one more source of joy and suffering with people like them, and something of a transfiguration and beautification of and a justification for the whole routine, the whole baseness, the whole half-animal poverty of their souls. Religion and the religious significance of life bring the brilliance of the sun onto such constantly troubled people and make them capable of tolerating the sight of themselves. Religion works just as an Epicurean philosophy usually works on suffering people of a higher rank—refreshing and refining and, as it were, exploiting the suffering, finally even blessing and justifying it.10 In Christianity and Buddhism there is perhaps nothing so venerable as their art of teaching even the most abject people to place themselves, through their piety, into an illusory higher order of things and thus to hang onto their satisfaction with the real order, in the middle of which their life is hard enough—and this hardness is precisely what’s necessary!
Finally, of course, to evaluate the opposing bad effects of such religions, as well, and to bring to light their sinister danger, there is always an expensive and fearful price to pay when religions prevail, not as a means of cultivation and education in the hand of philosophers, but as some inherently sovereign power, when religions want themselves to be the final purpose and not a means alongside other means. Among human beings, as among all other animal species, there is an excess of failures, invalids, degenerates, and infirm individuals, those who necessarily suffer. Successful examples are always the exception, among human beings as well, and, given that man is the as-yet-undetermined animal, the rare exception. But even worse: the higher the type of human being a particular person represents, the more improbable it becomes that he will be successful. The contingent, the law of absurdity in the collective household of humanity, reveals itself in the most frightening manner in its destructive effects on the higher people, whose conditions of life are refined, multifaceted, and hard to estimate. Now, how do the two greatest religions mentioned above stand in relation to this excess of unsuccessful cases? They seek to preserve, to maintain alive, anything which merely allows itself to be preserved. In fact, they side with these unsuccessful cases, in principle, as religions for those who suffer; they agree that all those who suffer from life as from some illness are right, and they would like to see to it that every other feeling of life was judged false and became impossible. Even if we still wish to fix a high value on this protecting and preserving care, inasmuch as it is concerned and has been concerned with, among all the other people, the highest type of human being as well, the one who up to this point has almost always suffered the most, nonetheless in the total reckoning, the religions so far, that is, the sovereign religions, belong among the major causes which have kept the type “man” on a lower rung—they have preserved too much of what should have perished. We have to thank them for something invaluable, and who is rich enough in gratitude not to become poor in the face of everything which, for example, the “spiritual men” of Christianity have done for Europe up to this point? And yet, if they gave consolation to sufferers, courage to the oppressed and despairing, a staff and support to those who could not stand on their own, and enticed away from society and into monasteries and spiritual penitentiaries those suffering from inner destruction and those who had become wild, what must they have done in addition, in order to work in this way in good conscience basically for the preservation of everything sick and suffering, which amounts, in fact and truth, for the deterioration of the European race? Turn all evaluations of worth on their heads—that is what they had to do! Break up the strong men, infect great hopes, bring joy in beauty under suspicion, twist all self-mastery, everything manly, lofty, domineering, all instincts characteristic of the highest and most successful of the type “man” into uncertainty, distressed conscience, and self-destruction, in fact, to turn all love for earthly things and for dominion over the earth into hated for the earth and the earthly—that is the task the church gave itself and had to give itself, until finally in its estimation “unworldliness,” “lack of sensuality,” and “higher man” melted together into a single feeling. Suppose we could survey with the mocking and disinterested eye of an Epicurean god the strangely painful comedy of European Christianity, as crude as it is refined, I believe we would find no end to our amazement and laughter. Does it not seem that for eighteen centuries there has been ruling over Europe a will to turn the human being into a sublime monstrosity? However, anyone who, with the opposite needs, no longer Epicurean, but with some divine hammer in his hand, were to approach this almost voluntary degeneration and decay of a human being, like the Christian European (Pascal, for example), would he not have to cry out with fury, pity, and horror, “You fools! You arrogant, pitying fools, what have you done here? Was that a work for your hands? What a mess you’ve made, ruining my most beautiful stone! What have you presumed?” What I wanted to say was this: Christianity has been the most disastrous sort of arrogance so far. Men not lofty and hard enough to be permitted to shape men as artists; men not strong and far-sighted enough to allow, with a sublime conquest of the self, the foreground law of thousand-fold failure and destruction to prevail; men not noble enough to see the abysmally different rank ordering, the gulfs separating ranks between man and man:—such men have, with their “equal before God,” so far ruled over the fate of Europe to the point where finally a diminished, almost ridiculous type has been bred, a herd animal, something obliging, sickly, and mediocre—the contemporary European. . . .
1The title of this section is “Das Religiöse Wesen”. Wesen has a number of meanings, including person, character, disposition, nature, soul, mind, essence, inclination. [Back to Text]
2Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), a brilliant French mathematician known for the extreme strictness and mortification of his religious beliefs. [Back to Text]
3Martin Luther (1483-1546), German monk and theologian whose work launched the Reformation and Protestantism; Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), English Protestant leader against King Charles I and founder of the Commonwealth (the short-lived English experiment with republican government). [Back to Text]
4Richard Wagner (1813-1883), German composer and essayist, famous for his operas; Kundry: a character in Wagner’s opera Parsifal (1882), the high messenger of the Holy Grail. [Back to Text]
5August Comte (1798-1857), a French philosopher who founded positivism and is considered the father of modern sociology; Port Royal: an important French religious community in the seventeenth century which encouraged self-renunciation; Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve (1804-1869), a prominent French poet and literary critic; Ernest Renan (1823-1892), a well-known French writer on Christianity. Nietzsche quotes the the French: “Disons donc hardiment que la religion est un produit de l’homme normal, que l’homme est le plus dans le vrai quand il est le plus religieux et le plus assure d’une destine infini . . . C’est quand il est bon qu’il veut que la virtue corresponde á un ordre éternel, c’est quand il contemple les choses d’une manière désintéressée qu’il trouve la mort révoltante et absurd. Comment ne pas supposer que c’est dans ces moments lá, que l’homme voit le mieux? . . . [Back to Text]
6Saint Augustine (345-430), Bishop of Hippo, a key figure in the development of early Christianity; Madame de Guyon: a sixteenth-century French mystic. [Back to Text]
7Vedanta: a philosophical tradition within Hinduism. [Back to Text]
8Emperor Tiberius: the Roman emperor after Augustus (from 14 AD to 37 AD). [Back to Text]
9Brahmin: the elite priesthood in Hinduism. [Back to Text]
10Epicurean: a follower of Epicurus (341 BC-270 BC), who taught that the highest good was pleasure, especially contemplative pleasure. [Back to Text]