Of The First and Last Things: Part 3 by@nietzsche

Of The First and Last Things: Part 3

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Friedrich Nietzsche is part of the HackerNoon’s Book Blog Post Series. The table of Links for this book can be found here. The more the domination of religions and of all narcotic arts declines, the more searchingly do men look to the elimination of evil itself. The tragedy of it all is that although one cannot believe dogmas of religion and metaphysics if one adopts in heart and head the potent methods of truth, one has yet become, through human evolution, so tender, susceptible, sensitive, as to stand in need of the most effective means of rest and consolation.

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Friedrich Nietzsche

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Human, All Too Human, A Book for Free Spirits by Friedrich Nietzsche is part of HackerNoon’s Book Blog Post Series. The table of Links for this book can be found here. The Religious Life



The Double Contest Against Evil.—If an evil afflicts us we can either so deal with it as to remove its cause or else so deal with it that its effect upon our feeling is changed: hence look upon the evil as a benefit of which the uses will perhaps first become evident in some subsequent period. Religion and art (and also the metaphysical philosophy) strive to effect an alteration of the feeling, partly by an alteration of our judgment respecting the experience (for example, with the aid of the dictum "whom God loves, he chastizes") partly by the awakening of a joy in pain, in emotion especially (whence the art of tragedy had its origin). The more one is disposed to interpret away and justify, the less likely he is to look directly at the causes of evil and eliminate them. An instant alleviation and narcotizing of pain, as is usual in the case of tooth ache, is sufficient for him even in the severest suffering. The more the domination of religions and of all narcotic arts declines, the more searchingly do men look to the elimination of evil itself, which is a rather bad thing for the tragic poets—for there is ever less and less material for tragedy, since the domain of unsparing, immutable destiny grows constantly more circumscribed—and a still worse thing for the priests, for these last have lived heretofore upon the narcoticizing of human ill.


Sorrow is Knowledge.—How willingly would not one exchange the false assertions of the homines religiosi that there is a god who commands us to be good, who is the sentinel and witness of every act, every moment, every thought, who loves us, who plans our welfare in every misfortune—how willingly would not one exchange these for truths as healing, beneficial and grateful as those delusions! But there are no such truths. Philosophy can at most set up in opposition to them other metaphysical plausibilities (fundamental untruths as well). The tragedy of it all is that, although one cannot believe these dogmas of religion and metaphysics if one adopts in heart and head the potent methods of truth, one has yet become, through human evolution, so tender, susceptible, sensitive, as to stand in need of the most effective means of rest and consolation. From this state of things arises the danger that, through the perception of truth or, more accurately, seeing through delusion, one may bleed to death. Byron has put this into deathless verse:

"Sorrow is knowledge: they who know the most
Must mourn the deepest o'er the fatal truth,
The tree of knowledge is not that of life."

Against such cares there is no better protective than the light fancy of Horace, (at any rate during the darkest hours and sun eclipses of the soul) expressed in the words

"quid aeternis minorem
consiliis animum fatigas?
cur non sub alta vel platano vel hac
pinu jacentes."22


Then wherefore should you, who are mortal, outwear
Your soul with a profitless burden of care
Say, why should we not, flung at ease neath this pine,
Or a plane-tree's broad umbrage, quaff gaily our wine?
(Translation of Sir Theodore Martin.)

At any rate, light fancy or heavy heartedness of any degree must be better than a romantic retrogression and desertion of one's flag, an approach to Christianity in any form: for with it, in the present state of knowledge, one can have nothing to do without hopelessly defiling one's intellectual integrity and surrendering it unconditionally. These woes may be painful enough, but without pain one cannot become a leader and guide of humanity: and woe to him who would be such and lacks this pure integrity of the intellect!


The Truth in Religion.—In the ages of enlightenment justice was not done to the importance of religion, of this there can be no doubt. It is also equally certain that in the ensuing reaction of enlightenment, the demands of justice were far exceeded inasmuch as religion was treated with love, even with infatuation and proclaimed as a profound, indeed the most profound knowledge of the world, which science had but to divest of its dogmatic garb in order to possess "truth" in its unmythical form. Religions must therefore—this was the contention of all foes of enlightenment—sensu allegorico, with regard for the comprehension of the masses, give expression to that ancient truth which is wisdom in itself, inasmuch as all science of modern times has led up to it instead of away from it. So that between the most ancient wisdom of man and all later wisdom there prevails harmony, even similarity of viewpoint; and the advancement of knowledge—if one be disposed to concede such a thing—has to do not with its nature but with its propagation.

This whole conception of religion and science is through and through erroneous, and none would to-day be hardy enough to countenance it had not Schopenhauer's rhetoric taken it under protection, this high sounding rhetoric which now gains auditors after the lapse of a generation. Much as may be gained from Schopenhauer's religio-ethical human and cosmical oracle as regards the comprehension of Christianity and other religions, it is nevertheless certain that he erred regarding the value of religion to knowledge. He himself was in this but a servile pupil of the scientific teachers of his time who had all taken romanticism under their protection and renounced the spirit of enlightenment. Had he been born in our own time it would have been impossible for him to have spoken of the sensus allegoricus of religion. He would instead have done truth the justice to say: never has a religion, directly or indirectly, either as dogma or as allegory, contained a truth. For all religions grew out of dread or necessity, and came into existence through an error of the reason. They have, perhaps, in times of danger from science, incorporated some philosophical doctrine or other into their systems in order to make it possible to continue one's existence within them. But this is but a theological work of art dating from the time in which a religion began to doubt of itself. These theological feats of art, which are most common in Christianity as the religion of a learned age, impregnated with philosophy, have led to this superstition of the sensus allegoricus, as has, even more, the habit of the philosophers (namely those half-natures, the poetical philosophers and the philosophising artists) of dealing with their own feelings as if they constituted the fundamental nature of humanity and hence of giving their own religious feelings a predominant influence over the structure of their systems. As the philosophers mostly philosophised under the influence of hereditary religious habits, or at least under the traditional influence of this "metaphysical necessity," they naturally arrived at conclusions closely resembling the Judaic or Christian or Indian religious tenets—resembling, in the way that children are apt to look like their mothers: only in this case the fathers were not certain as to the maternity, as easily happens—but in the innocence of their admiration, they fabled regarding the family likeness of all religion and science. In reality, there exists between religion and true science neither relationship nor friendship, not even enmity: they dwell in different spheres.

Every philosophy that lets the religious comet gleam through the darkness of its last outposts renders everything within it that purports to be science, suspicious. It is all probably religion, although it may assume the guise of science.—Moreover, though all the peoples agree concerning certain religious things, for example, the existence of a god (which, by the way, as regards this point, is not the case) this fact would constitute an argument against the thing agreed upon, for example the very existence of a god. The consensus gentium and especially hominum can probably amount only to an absurdity. Against it there is no consensus omnium sapientium whatever, on any point, with the exception of which Goethe's verse speaks:

"All greatest sages to all latest ages
Will smile, wink and slily agree
'Tis folly to wait till a fool's empty pate
Has learned to be knowing and free.
So children of wisdom must look upon fools
As creatures who're never the better for schools."

Stated without rhyme or metre and adapted to our case: the consensus sapientium is to the effect that the consensus gentium amounts to an absurdity.


Origin of Religious Worship.—Let us transport ourselves back to the times in which religious life flourished most vigorously and we will find a fundamental conviction prevalent which we no longer share and which has resulted in the closing of the door to religious life once for all so far as we are concerned: this conviction has to do with nature and intercourse with her. In those times nothing is yet known of nature's laws. Neither for earth nor for heaven is there a must. A season, sunshine, rain can come or stay away as it pleases. There is wanting, in particular, all idea of natural causation. If a man rows, it is not the oar that moves the boat, but rowing is a magical ceremony whereby a demon is constrained to move the boat. All illness, death itself, is a consequence of magical influences. In sickness and death nothing natural is conceived. The whole idea of "natural course" is wanting. The idea dawns first upon the ancient Greeks, that is to say in a very late period of humanity, in the conception of a Moira [fate] ruling over the gods. If any person shoots off a bow, there is always an irrational strength and agency in the act. If the wells suddenly run dry, the first thought is of subterranean demons and their pranks. It must have been the dart of a god beneath whose invisible influence a human being suddenly collapses. In India, the carpenter (according to Lubbock) is in the habit of making devout offerings to his hammer and hatchet. A Brahmin treats the plume with which he writes, a soldier the weapon that he takes into the field, a mason his trowel, a laborer his plow, in the same way. All nature is, in the opinion of religious people, a sum total of the doings of conscious and willing beings, an immense mass of complex volitions. In regard to all that takes place outside of us no conclusion is permissible that anything will result thus and so, must result thus and so, that we are comparatively calculable and certain in our experiences, that man is the rule, nature the ruleless. This view forms the fundamental conviction that dominates crude, religion-producing, early civilizations. We contemporary men feel exactly the opposite: the richer man now feels himself inwardly, the more polyphone the music and the sounding of his soul, the more powerfully does the uniformity of nature impress him. We all, with Goethe, recognize in nature the great means of repose for the soul. We listen to the pendulum stroke of this great clock with longing for rest, for absolute calm and quiescence, as if we could drink in the uniformity of nature and thereby arrive first at an enjoyment of oneself. Formerly it was the reverse: if we carry ourselves back to the periods of crude civilization, or if we contemplate contemporary savages, we will find them most strongly influenced by rule, by tradition. The individual is almost automatically bound to rule and tradition and moves with the uniformity of a pendulum. To him nature—the uncomprehended, fearful, mysterious nature—must seem the domain of freedom, of volition, of higher power, indeed as an ultra-human degree of destiny, as god. Every individual in such periods and circumstances feels that his existence, his happiness, the existence and happiness of the family, the state, the success or failure of every undertaking, must depend upon these dispositions of nature. Certain natural events must occur at the proper time and certain others must not occur. How can influence be exercised over this fearful unknown, how can this domain of freedom be brought under subjection? thus he asks himself, thus he worries: Is there no means to render these powers of nature as subject to rule and tradition as you are yourself?—The cogitation of the superstitious and magic-deluded man is upon the theme of imposing a law upon nature: and to put it briefly, religious worship is the result of such cogitation. The problem which is present to every man is closely connected with this one: how can the weaker party dictate laws to the stronger, control its acts in reference to the weaker? At first the most harmless form of influence is recollected, that influence which is acquired when the partiality of anyone has been won. Through beseeching and prayer, through abject humiliation, through obligations to regular gifts and propitiations, through flattering homages, it is possible, therefore, to impose some guidance upon the forces of nature, to the extent that their partiality be won: love binds and is bound. Then agreements can be entered into by means of which certain courses of conduct are mutually concluded, vows are made and authorities prescribed. But far more potent is that species of power exercised by means of magic and incantation. As a man is able to injure a powerful enemy by means of the magician and render him helpless with fear, as the love potion operates at a distance, so can the mighty forces of nature, in the opinion of weaker mankind, be controlled by similar means. The principal means of effecting incantations is to acquire control of something belonging to the party to be influenced, hair, finger nails, food from his table, even his picture or his name. With such apparatus it is possible to act by means of magic, for the basic principle is that to everything spiritual corresponds something corporeal. With the aid of this corporeal element the spirit may be bound, injured or destroyed. The corporeal affords the handle by which the spiritual can be laid hold of. In the same way that man influences mankind does he influences some spirit of nature, for this latter has also its corporeal element that can be grasped. The tree, and on the same basis, the seed from which it grew: this puzzling sequence seems to demonstrate that in both forms the same spirit is embodied, now large, now small. A stone that suddenly rolls, is the body in which the spirit works. Does a huge boulder lie in a lonely moor? It is impossible to think of mortal power having placed it there. The stone must have moved itself there. That is to say some spirit must dominate it.

Everything that has a body is subject to magic, including, therefore, the spirits of nature. If a god is directly connected with his portrait, a direct influence (by refraining from devout offerings, by whippings, chainings and the like) can be brought to bear upon him. The lower classes in China tie cords around the picture of their god in order to defy his departing favor, when he has left them in the lurch, and tear the picture to pieces, drag it through the streets into dung heaps and gutters, crying: "You dog of a spirit, we housed you in a beautiful temple, we gilded you prettily, we fed you well, we brought you offerings, and yet how ungrateful you are!" Similar displays of resentment have been made against pictures of the mother of god and pictures of saints in Catholic countries during the present century when such pictures would not do their duty during times of pestilence and drought.

Through all these magical relationships to nature countless ceremonies are occasioned, and finally, when their complexity and confusion grow too great, pains are taken to systematize them, to arrange them so that the favorable course of nature's progress, namely the great yearly circle of the seasons, may be brought about by a corresponding course of the ceremonial progress. The aim of religious worship is to influence nature to human advantage, and hence to instil a subjection to law into her that originally she has not, whereas at present man desires to find out the subjection to law of nature in order to guide himself thereby. In brief, the system of religious worship rests upon the idea of magic between man and man, and the magician is older than the priest. But it rests equally upon other and higher ideas. It brings into prominence the sympathetic relation of man to man, the existence of benevolence, gratitude, prayer, of truces between enemies, of loans upon security, of arrangements for the protection of property. Man, even in very inferior degrees of civilization, does not stand in the presence of nature as a helpless slave, he is not willy-nilly the absolute servant of nature. In the Greek development of religion, especially in the relationship to the Olympian gods, it becomes possible to entertain the idea of an existence side by side of two castes, a higher, more powerful, and a lower, less powerful: but both are bound together in some way, on account of their origin and are one species. They need not be ashamed of one another. This is the element of distinction in Greek religion.


At the Contemplation of Certain Ancient Sacrificial Proceedings.—How many sentiments are lost to us is manifest in the union of the farcical, even of the obscene, with the religious feeling. The feeling that this mixture is possible is becoming extinct. We realize the mixture only historically, in the mysteries of Demeter and Dionysos and in the Christian Easter festivals and religious mysteries. But we still perceive the sublime in connection with the ridiculous, and the like, the emotional with the absurd. Perhaps a later age will be unable to understand even these combinations.


Christianity as Antiquity.—When on a Sunday morning we hear the old bells ringing, we ask ourselves: Is it possible? All this for a Jew crucified two thousand years ago who said he was God's son? The proof of such an assertion is lacking.—Certainly, the Christian religion constitutes in our time a protruding bit of antiquity from very remote ages and that its assertions are still generally believed—although men have become so keen in the scrutiny of claims—constitutes the oldest relic of this inheritance. A god who begets children by a mortal woman; a sage who demands that no more work be done, that no more justice be administered but that the signs of the approaching end of the world be heeded; a system of justice that accepts an innocent as a vicarious sacrifice in the place of the guilty; a person who bids his disciples drink his blood; prayers for miracles; sins against a god expiated upon a god; fear of a hereafter to which death is the portal; the figure of the cross as a symbol in an age that no longer knows the purpose and the ignominy of the cross—how ghostly all these things flit before us out of the grave of their primitive antiquity! Is one to believe that such things can still be believed?


The Un-Greek in Christianity.—The Greeks did not look upon the Homeric gods above them as lords nor upon themselves beneath as servants, after the fashion of the Jews. They saw but the counterpart as in a mirror of the most perfect specimens of their own caste, hence an ideal, but no contradiction of their own nature. There was a feeling of mutual relationship, resulting in a mutual interest, a sort of alliance. Man thinks well of himself when he gives himself such gods and places himself in a relationship akin to that of the lower nobility with the higher; whereas the Italian races have a decidedly vulgar religion, involving perpetual anxiety because of bad and mischievous powers and soul disturbers. Wherever the Olympian gods receded into the background, there even Greek life became gloomier and more perturbed.—Christianity, on the other hand, oppressed and degraded humanity completely and sank it into deepest mire: into the feeling of utter abasement it suddenly flashed the gleam of divine compassion, so that the amazed and grace-dazzled stupefied one gave a cry of delight and for a moment believed that the whole of heaven was within him. Upon this unhealthy excess of feeling, upon the accompanying corruption of heart and head, Christianity attains all its psychological effects. It wants to annihilate, debase, stupefy, amaze, bedazzle. There is but one thing that it does not want: measure, standard (das Maas) and therefore is it in the worst sense barbarous, asiatic, vulgar, un-Greek.


Being Religious to Some Purpose.—There are certain insipid, traffic-virtuous people to whom religion is pinned like the hem of some garb of a higher humanity. These people do well to remain religious: it adorns them. All who are not versed in some professional weapon—including tongue and pen as weapons—are servile: to all such the Christian religion is very useful, for then their servility assumes the aspect of Christian virtue and is amazingly adorned.—People whose daily lives are empty and colorless are readily religious. This is comprehensible and pardonable, but they have no right to demand that others, whose daily lives are not empty and colorless, should be religious also.


The Everyday Christian.—If Christianity, with its allegations of an avenging God, universal sinfulness, choice of grace, and the danger of eternal damnation, were true, it would be an indication of weakness of mind and character not to be a priest or an apostle or a hermit, and toil for one's own salvation. It would be irrational to lose sight of one's eternal well being in comparison with temporary advantage: Assuming these dogmas to be generally believed, the every day Christian is a pitiable figure, a man who really cannot count as far as three, and who, for the rest, just because of his intellectual incapacity, does not deserve to be as hard punished as Christianity promises he shall be.


Concerning the Cleverness of Christianity.—It is a master stroke of Christianity to so emphasize the unworthiness, sinfulness and degradation of men in general that contempt of one's fellow creatures becomes impossible. "He may sin as much as he pleases, he is not by nature different from me. It is I who in every way am unworthy and contemptible." So says the Christian to himself. But even this feeling has lost its keenest sting for the Christian does not believe in his individual degradation. He is bad in his general human capacity and he soothes himself a little with the assertion that we are all alike.


Personal Change.—As soon as a religion rules, it has for its opponents those who were its first disciples.


Fate of Christianity.—Christianity arose to lighten the heart, but now it must first make the heart heavy in order to be able to lighten it afterwards. Christianity will consequently go down.


The Testimony of Pleasure.—The agreeable opinion is accepted as true. This is the testimony of pleasure (or as the church says, the evidence of strength) of which all religions are so proud, although they should all be ashamed of it. If a belief did not make blessed it would not be believed. How little it would be worth, then!


Dangerous Play.—Whoever gives religious feeling room, must then also let it grow. He can do nothing else. Then his being gradually changes. The religious element brings with it affinities and kinships. The whole circle of his judgment and feeling is clouded and draped in religious shadows. Feeling cannot stand still. One should be on one's guard.


The Blind Pupil.—As long as one knows very well the strength and the weakness of one's dogma, one's art, one's religion, its strength is still low. The pupil and apostle who has no eye for the weaknesses of a dogma, a religion and so on, dazzled by the aspect of the master and by his own reverence for him, has, on that very account, generally more power than the master. Without blind pupils the influence of a man and his work has never become great. To give victory to knowledge, often amounts to no more than so allying it with stupidity that the brute force of the latter forces triumph for the former.


The Breaking off of Churches.—There is not sufficient religion in the world merely to put an end to the number of religions.


Sinlessness of Men.—If one have understood how "Sin came into the world," namely through errors of the reason, through which men in their intercourse with one another and even individual men looked upon themselves as much blacker and wickeder than was really the case, one's whole feeling is much lightened and man and the world appear together in such a halo of harmlessness that a sentiment of well being is instilled into one's whole nature. Man in the midst of nature is as a child left to its own devices. This child indeed dreams a heavy, anxious dream. But when it opens its eyes it finds itself always in paradise.


Irreligiousness of Artists.—Homer is so much at home among his gods and is as a poet so good natured to them that he must have been profoundly irreligious. That which was brought to him by the popular faith—a mean, crude and partially repulsive superstition—he dealt with as freely as the Sculptor with his clay, therefore with the same freedom that Æschylus and Aristophanes evinced and with which in later times the great artists of the renaissance, and also Shakespeare and Goethe, drew their pictures.


Art and Strength of False Interpretation.—All the visions, fears, exhaustions and delights of the saint are well known symptoms of sickness, which in him, owing to deep rooted religious and psychological delusions, are explained quite differently, that is not as symptoms of sickness.—So, too, perhaps, the demon of Socrates was nothing but a malady of the ear that he explained, in view of his predominant moral theory, in a manner different from what would be thought rational to-day. Nor is the case different with the frenzy and the frenzied speeches of the prophets and of the priests of the oracles. It is always the degree of wisdom, imagination, capacity and morality in the heart and mind of the interpreters that got so much out of them. It is among the greatest feats of the men who are called geniuses and saints that they made interpreters for themselves who, fortunately for mankind, did not understand them.


Reverence for Madness.—Because it was perceived that an excitement of some kind often made the head clearer and occasioned fortunate inspirations, it was concluded that the utmost excitement would occasion the most fortunate inspirations. Hence the frenzied being was revered as a sage and an oracle giver. A false conclusion lies at the bottom of all this.


Promises of Wisdom.—Modern science has as its object as little pain as possible, as long a life as possible—hence a sort of eternal blessedness, but of a very limited kind in comparison with the promises of religion.


Forbidden Generosity.—There is not enough of love and goodness in the world to throw any of it away on conceited people.


Survival of Religious Training in the Disposition.—The Catholic Church, and before it all ancient education, controlled the whole domain of means through which man was put into certain unordinary moods and withdrawn from the cold calculation of personal advantage and from calm, rational reflection. A church vibrating with deep tones; gloomy, regular, restraining exhortations from a priestly band, who involuntarily communicate their own tension to their congregation and lead them to listen almost with anxiety as if some miracle were in course of preparation; the awesome pile of architecture which, as the house of a god, rears itself vastly into the vague and in all its shadowy nooks inspires fear of its nerve-exciting power—who would care to reduce men to the level of these things if the ideas upon which they rest became extinct? But the results of all these things are nevertheless not thrown away: the inner world of exalted, emotional, prophetic, profoundly repentant, hope-blessed moods has become inborn in man largely through cultivation. What still exists in his soul was formerly, as he germinated, grew and bloomed, thoroughly disciplined.


Religious After-Pains.—Though one believe oneself absolutely weaned away from religion, the process has yet not been so thorough as to make impossible a feeling of joy at the presence of religious feelings and dispositions without intelligible content, as, for example, in music; and if a philosophy alleges to us the validity of metaphysical hopes, through the peace of soul therein attainable, and also speaks of "the whole true gospel in the look of Raphael's Madonna," we greet such declarations and innuendoes with a welcome smile. The philosopher has here a matter easy of demonstration. He responds with that which he is glad to give, namely a heart that is glad to accept. Hence it is observable how the less reflective free spirits collide only with dogmas but yield readily to the magic of religious feelings; it is a source of pain to them to let the latter go simply on account of the former.—Scientific philosophy must be very much on its guard lest on account of this necessity—an evolved and hence, also, a transitory necessity—delusions are smuggled in. Even logicians speak of "presentiments" of truth in ethics and in art (for example of the presentiment that the essence of things is unity) a thing which, nevertheless, ought to be prohibited. Between carefully deduced truths and such "foreboded" things there lies the abysmal distinction that the former are products of the intellect and the latter of the necessity. Hunger is no evidence that there is food at hand to appease it. Hunger merely craves food.

"Presentiment" does not denote that the existence of a thing is known in any way whatever. It denotes merely that it is deemed possible to the extent that it is desired or feared. The "presentiment" is not one step forward in the domain of certainty.—It is involuntarily believed that the religious tinted sections of a philosophy are better attested than the others, but the case is at bottom just the opposite: there is simply the inner wish that it may be so, that the thing which beautifies may also be true. This wish leads us to accept bad grounds as good.


Of the Christian Need of Salvation.—Careful consideration must render it possible to propound some explanation of that process in the soul of a Christian which is termed need of salvation, and to propound an explanation, too, free from mythology: hence one purely psychological. Heretofore psychological explanations of religious conditions and processes have really been in disrepute, inasmuch as a theology calling itself free gave vent to its unprofitable nature in this domain; for its principal aim, so far as may be judged from the spirit of its creator, Schleier-macher, was the preservation of the Christian religion and the maintenance of the Christian theology. It appeared that in the psychological analysis of religious "facts" a new anchorage and above all a new calling were to be gained. Undisturbed by such predecessors, we venture the following exposition of the phenomena alluded to. Man is conscious of certain acts which are very firmly implanted in the general course of conduct: indeed he discovers in himself a predisposition to such acts that seems to him to be as unalterable as his very being. How gladly he would essay some other kind of acts which in the general estimate of conduct are rated the best and highest, how gladly he would welcome the consciousness of well doing which ought to follow unselfish motive!

Unfortunately, however, it goes no further than this longing: the discontent consequent upon being unable to satisfy it is added to all other kinds of discontent which result from his life destiny in particular or which may be due to so called bad acts; so that a deep depression ensues accompanied by a desire for some physician to remove it and all its causes.—This condition would not be found so bitter if the individual but compared himself freely with other men: for then he would have no reason to be discontented with himself in particular as he is merely bearing his share of the general burden of human discontent and incompleteness. But he compares himself with a being who alone must be capable of the conduct that is called unegoistic and of an enduring consciousness of unselfish motive, with God. It is because he gazes into this clear mirror, that his own self seems so extraordinarily distracted and so troubled. Thereupon the thought of that being, in so far as it flits before his fancy as retributive justice, occasions him anxiety. In every conceivable small and great experience he believes he sees the anger of the being, his threats, the very implements and manacles of his judge and prison. What succors him in this danger, which, in the prospect of an eternal duration of punishment, transcends in hideousness all the horrors that can be presented to the imagination?


Before we consider this condition in its further effects, we would admit to ourselves that man is betrayed into this condition not through his "fault" and "sin" but through a series of delusions of the reason; that it was the fault of the mirror if his own self appeared to him in the highest degree dark and hateful, and that that mirror was his own work, the very imperfect work of human imagination and judgment. In the first place a being capable of absolutely unegoistic conduct is as fabulous as the phoenix. Such a being is not even thinkable for the very reason that the whole notion of "unegoistic conduct," when closely examined, vanishes into air. Never yet has a man done anything solely for others and entirely without reference to a personal motive; indeed how could he possibly do anything that had no reference to himself, that is without inward compulsion (which must always have its basis in a personal need)? How could the ego act without ego?—A god, who, on the other hand, is all love, as he is usually represented, would not be capable of a solitary unegoistic act: whence one is reminded of a reflection of Lichtenberg's which is, in truth, taken from a lower sphere: "We cannot possibly feel for others, as the expression goes; we feel only for ourselves. The assertion sounds hard, but it is not, if rightly understood. A man loves neither his father nor his mother nor his wife nor his child, but simply the feelings which they inspire." Or, as La Rochefoucauld says: "If you think you love your mistress for the mere love of her, you are very much mistaken." Why acts of love are more highly prized than others, namely not on account of their nature, but on account of their utility, has already been explained in the section on the origin of moral feelings. But if a man should wish to be all love like the god aforesaid, and want to do all things for others and nothing for himself, the procedure would be fundamentally impossible because he must do a great deal for himself before there would be any possibility of doing anything for the love of others.

It is also essential that others be sufficiently egoistic to accept always and at all times this self sacrifice and living for others, so that the men of love and self sacrifice have an interest in the survival of unloving and selfish egoists, while the highest morality, in order to maintain itself must formally enforce the existence of immorality (wherein it would be really destroying itself.)—Further: the idea of a god perturbs and discourages as long as it is accepted but as to how it originated can no longer, in the present state of comparative ethnological science, be a matter of doubt, and with the insight into the origin of this belief all faith collapses. What happens to the Christian who compares his nature with that of God is exactly what happened to Don Quixote, who depreciated his own prowess because his head was filled with the wondrous deeds of the heroes of chivalrous romance. The standard of measurement which both employ belongs to the domain of fable.—But if the idea of God collapses, so too, does the feeling of "sin" as a violation of divine rescript, as a stain upon a god-like creation. There still apparently remains that discouragement which is closely allied with fear of the punishment of worldly justice or of the contempt of one's fellow men. The keenest thorn in the sentiment of sin is dulled when it is perceived that one's acts have contravened human tradition, human rules and human laws without having thereby endangered the "eternal salvation of the soul" and its relations with deity. If finally men attain to the conviction of the absolute necessity of all acts and of their utter irresponsibility and then absorb it into their flesh and blood, every relic of conscience pangs will disappear.


If now, as stated, the Christian, through certain delusive feelings, is betrayed into self contempt, that is by a false and unscientific view of his acts and feelings, he must, nevertheless, perceive with the utmost amazement that this state of self contempt, of conscience pangs, of despair in particular, does not last, that there are hours during which all these things are wafted away from the soul and he feels himself once more free and courageous. The truth is that joy in his own being, the fulness of his own powers in connection with the inevitable decline of his profound excitation with the lapse of time, bore off the palm of victory. The man loves himself once more, he feels it—but this very new love, this new self esteem seems to him incredible. He can see in it only the wholly unmerited stream of the light of grace shed down upon him. If he formerly saw in every event merely warnings, threats, punishments and every kind of indication of divine anger, he now reads into his experiences the grace of god. The latter circumstance seems to him full of love, the former as a helpful pointing of the way, and his entirely joyful frame of mind now seems to him to be an absolute proof of the goodness of God. As formerly in his states of discouragement he interpreted his conduct falsely so now he does the same with his experiences. His state of consolation is now regarded as the effect produced by some external power. The love with which, at bottom, he loves himself, seems to be the divine love. That which he calls grace and the preliminary of salvation is in reality self-grace, self-salvation.


Therefore a certain false psychology, a certain kind of imaginativeness in the interpretation of motives and experiences is the essential preliminary to being a Christian and to experiencing the need of salvation. Upon gaining an insight into this wandering of the reason and the imagination, one ceases to be a Christian.


Of Christian Asceticism and Sanctity.—Much as some thinkers have exerted themselves to impart an air of the miraculous to those singular phenomena known as asceticism and sanctity, to question which or to account for which upon a rational basis would be wickedness and sacrilege, the temptation to this wickedness is none the less great. A powerful impulse of nature has in every age led to protest against such phenomena. At any rate science, inasmuch as it is the imitation of nature, permits the casting of doubts upon the inexplicable character and the supernal degree of such phenomena. It is true that heretofore science has not succeeded in its attempts at explanation. The phenomena remain unexplained still, to the great satisfaction of those who revere moral miracles. For, speaking generally, the unexplained must rank as the inexplicable, the inexplicable as the non-natural, supernatural, miraculous—so runs the demand in the souls of all the religious and all the metaphysicians (even the artists if they happen to be thinkers), whereas the scientific man sees in this demand the "evil principle."—The universal, first, apparent truth that is encountered in the contemplation of sanctity and asceticism is that their nature is complicated; for nearly always, within the physical world as well as in the moral, the apparently miraculous may be traced successfully to the complex, the obscure, the multi-conditioned. Let us venture then to isolate a few impulses in the soul of the saint and the ascetic, to consider them separately and then view them as a synthetic development.


There is an obstinacy against oneself, certain sublimated forms of which are included in asceticism. Certain kinds of men are under such a strong necessity of exercising their power and dominating impulses that, if other objects are lacking or if they have not succeeded with other objects they will actually tyrannize over some portions of their own nature or over sections and stages of their own personality. Thus do many thinkers bring themselves to views which are far from likely to increase or improve their fame. Many deliberately bring down the contempt of others upon themselves although they could easily have retained consideration by silence. Others contradict earlier opinions and do not shrink from the ordeal of being deemed inconsistent. On the contrary they strive for this and act like eager riders who enjoy horseback exercise most when the horse is skittish. Thus will men in dangerous paths ascend to the highest steeps in order to laugh to scorn their own fear and their own trembling limbs. Thus will the philosopher embrace the dogmas of asceticism, humility, sanctity, in the light of which his own image appears in its most hideous aspect. This crushing of self, this mockery of one's own nature, this spernere se sperni out of which religions have made so much is in reality but a very high development of vanity. The whole ethic of the sermon on the mount belongs in this category: man has a true delight in mastering himself through exaggerated pretensions or excessive expedients and later deifying this tyrannically exacting something within him. In every scheme of ascetic ethics, man prays to one part of himself as if it were god and hence it is necessary for him to treat the rest of himself as devil.


Man is Not at All Hours Equally Moral; this is established. If one's morality be judged according to one's capacity for great, self sacrificing resolutions and abnegations (which when continual, and made a habit are known as sanctity) one is, in affection, or disposition, the most moral: while higher excitement supplies wholly new impulses which, were one calm and cool as ordinarily, one would not deem oneself even capable of. How comes this? Apparently from the propinquity of all great and lofty emotional states. If a man is brought to an extraordinary pitch of feeling he can resolve upon a fearful revenge or upon a fearful renunciation of his thirst for vengeance indifferently. He craves, under the influences of powerful emotion, the great, the powerful, the immense, and if he chances to perceive that the sacrifice of himself will afford him as much satisfaction as the sacrifice of another, or will afford him more, he will choose self sacrifice. What concerns him particularly is simply the unloading of his emotion. Hence he readily, to relieve his tension, grasps the darts of the enemy and buries them in his own breast. That in self abnegation and not in revenge the element of greatness consisted must have been brought home to mankind only after long habituation. A god who sacrifices himself would be the most powerful and most effective symbol of this sort of greatness. As the conquest of the most hardly conquered enemy, the sudden mastering of a passion—thus does such abnegation appear: hence it passes for the summit of morality. In reality all that is involved is the exchange of one idea for another whilst the temperament remained at a like altitude, a like tidal state. Men when coming out of the spell, or resting from such passionate excitation, no longer understand the morality of such instants, but the admiration of all who participated in the occasion sustains them. Pride is their support if the passion and the comprehension of their act weaken. Therefore, at bottom even such acts of self-abnegation are not moral inasmuch as they are not done with a strict regard for others. Rather do others afford the high strung temperament an opportunity to lighten itself through such abnegation.


Even the Ascetic Seeks to Make Life Easier, and generally by means of absolute subjection to another will or to an all inclusive rule and ritual, pretty much as the Brahmin leaves absolutely nothing to his own volition but is guided in every moment of his life by some holy injunction or other. This subjection is a potent means of acquiring dominion over oneself. One is occupied, hence time does not bang heavy and there is no incitement of the personal will and of the individual passion. The deed once done there is no feeling of responsibility nor the sting of regret. One has given up one's own will once for all and this is easier than to give it up occasionally, as it is also easier wholly to renounce a desire than to yield to it in measured degree. When we consider the present relation of man to the state we perceive unconditional obedience is easier than conditional. The holy person also makes his lot easier through the complete surrender of his life personality and it is all delusion to admire such a phenomenon as the loftiest heroism of morality. It is always more difficult to assert one's personality without shrinking and without hesitation than to give it up altogether in the manner indicated, and it requires moreover more intellect and thought.


After having discovered in many of the less comprehensible actions mere manifestations of pleasure in emotion for its own sake, I fancy I can detect in the self contempt which characterises holy persons, and also in their acts of self torture (through hunger and scourgings, distortions and chaining of the limbs, acts of madness) simply a means whereby such natures may resist the general exhaustion of their will to live (their nerves). They employ the most painful expedients to escape if only for a time from the heaviness and weariness in which they are steeped by their great mental indolence and their subjection to a will other than their own.


The Most Usual Means by which the ascetic and the sanctified individual seeks to make life more endurable comprises certain combats of an inner nature involving alternations of victory and prostration. For this purpose an enemy is necessary and he is found in the so called "inner enemy." That is, the holy individual makes use of his tendency to vanity, domineering and pride, and of his mental longings in order to contemplate his life as a sort of continuous battle and himself as a battlefield, in which good and evil spirits wage war with varying fortune. It is an established fact that the imagination is restrained through the regularity and adequacy of sexual intercourse while on the other hand abstention from or great irregularity in sexual intercourse will cause the imagination to run riot. The imaginations of many of the Christian saints were obscene to a degree; and because of the theory that sexual desires were in reality demons that raged within them, the saints did not feel wholly responsible for them. It is to this conviction that we are indebted for the highly instructive sincerity of their evidence against themselves. It was to their interest that this contest should always be kept up in some fashion because by means of this contest, as already stated, their empty lives gained distraction. In order that the contest might seem sufficiently great to inspire sympathy and admiration in the unsanctified, it was essential that sexual capacity be ever more and more damned and denounced. Indeed the danger of eternal damnation was so closely allied to this capacity that for whole generations Christians showed their children with actual conscience pangs. What evil may not have been done to humanity through this! And yet here the truth is just upside down: an exceedingly unseemly attitude for the truth. Christianity, it is true, had said that every man is conceived and born in sin, and in the intolerable and excessive Christianity of Calderon this thought is again perverted and entangled into the most distorted paradox extant in the well known lines

The greatest sin of man
Is the sin of being born.

In all pessimistic religions the act of procreation is looked upon as evil in itself. This is far from being the general human opinion. It is not even the opinion of all pessimists. Empedocles, for example, knows nothing of anything shameful, devilish and sinful in it. He sees rather in the great field of bliss of unholiness simply a healthful and hopeful phenomenon, Aphrodite. She is to him an evidence that strife does not always rage but that some time a gentle demon is to wield the sceptre. The Christian pessimists of practice, had, as stated, a direct interest in the prevalence of an opposite belief. They needed in the loneliness and the spiritual wilderness of their lives an ever living enemy, and a universally known enemy through whose conquest they might appear to the unsanctified as utterly incomprehensible and half unnatural beings. When this enemy at last, as a result of their mode of life and their shattered health, took flight forever, they were able immediately to people their inner selves with new demons. The rise and fall of the balance of cheerfulness and despair maintained their addled brains in a totally new fluctuation of longing and peace of soul. And in that period psychology served not only to cast suspicion on everything human but to wound and scourge it, to crucify it. Man wanted to find himself as base and evil as possible. Man sought to become anxious about the state of his soul, he wished to be doubtful of his own capacity. Everything natural with which man connects the idea of badness and sinfulness (as, for instance, is still customary in regard to the erotic) injures and degrades the imagination, occasions a shamed aspect, leads man to war upon himself and makes him uncertain, distrustful of himself. Even his dreams acquire a tincture of the unclean conscience. And yet this suffering because of the natural element in certain things is wholly superfluous. It is simply the result of opinions regarding the things. It is easy to understand why men become worse than they are if they are brought to look upon the unavoidably natural as bad and later to feel it as of evil origin. It is the master stroke of religions and metaphysics that wish to make man out bad and sinful by nature, to render nature suspicious in his eyes and to so make himself evil, for he learns to feel himself evil when he cannot divest himself of nature. He gradually comes to look upon himself, after a long life lived naturally, so oppressed by a weight of sin that supernatural powers become necessary to relieve him of the burden; and with this notion comes the so called need of salvation, which is the result not of a real but of an imaginary sinfulness. Go through the separate moral expositions in the vouchers of christianity and it will always be found that the demands are excessive in order that it may be impossible for man to satisfy them. The object is not that he may become moral but that he may feel as sinful as possible. If this feeling had not been rendered agreeable to man—why should he have improvised such an ideal and clung to it so long? As in the ancient world an incalculable strength of intellect and capacity for feeling was squandered in order to increase the joy of living through feastful systems of worship, so in the era of christianity an equally incalculable quantity of intellectual capacity has been sacrificed in another endeavor: that man should in every way feel himself sinful and thereby be moved, inspired, inspirited.

To move, to inspire, to inspirit at any cost—is not this the freedom cry of an exhausted, over-ripe, over cultivated age? The circle of all the natural sensations had been gone through a hundred times: the soul had grown weary. Then the saints and the ascetics found a new order of ecstacies. They set themselves before the eyes of all not alone as models for imitation to many, but as fearful and yet delightful spectacles on the boundary line between this world and the next world, where in that period everyone thought he saw at one time rays of heavenly light, at another fearful, threatening tongues of flame. The eye of the saint, directed upon the fearful significance of the shortness of earthly life, upon the imminence of the last judgment, upon eternal life hereafter; this glowering eye in an emaciated body caused men, in the old time world, to tremble to the depths of their being. To look, to look away and shudder, to feel anew the fascination of the spectacle, to yield to it, sate oneself upon it until the soul trembled with ardor and fever—that was the last pleasure left to classical antiquity when its sensibilities had been blunted by the arena and the gladiatorial show.


To Sum Up All That Has Been Said: that condition of soul at which the saint or expectant saint is rejoiced is a combination of elements which we are all familiar with, except that under other influences than those of mere religious ideation they customarily arouse the censure of men in the same way that when combined with religion itself and regarded as the supreme attainment of sanctity, they are object of admiration and even of prayer—at least in more simple times. Very soon the saint turns upon himself that severity that is so closely allied to the instinct of domination at any price and which inspire even in the most solitary individual the sense of power. Soon his swollen sensitiveness of feeling breaks forth from the longing to restrain his passions within it and is transformed into a longing to master them as if they were wild steeds, the master impulse being ever that of a proud spirit; next he craves a complete cessation of all perturbing, fascinating feelings, a waking sleep, an enduring repose in the lap of a dull, animal, plant-like indolence.

Next he seeks the battle and extinguishes it within himself because weariness and boredom confront him. He binds his self-deification with self-contempt. He delights in the wild tumult of his desires and the sharp pain of sin, in the very idea of being lost. He is able to play his very passions, for instance the desire to domineer, a trick so that he goes to the other extreme of abject humiliation and subjection, so that his overwrought soul is without any restraint through this antithesis. And, finally, when indulgence in visions, in talks with the dead or with divine beings overcomes him, this is really but a form of gratification that he craves, perhaps a form of gratification in which all other gratifications are blended. Novalis, one of the authorities in matters of sanctity, because of his experience and instinct, betrays the whole secret with the utmost simplicity when he says: "It is remarkable that the close connection of gratification, religion and cruelty has not long ago made men aware of their inner relationship and common tendency."


Not What the Saint is but what he was in the eyes of the non-sanctified gives him his historical importance. Because there existed a delusion respecting the saint, his soul states being falsely viewed and his personality being sundered as much as possible from humanity as a something incomparable and supernatural, because of these things he attained the extraordinary with which he swayed the imaginations of whole nations and whole ages. Even he knew himself not for even he regarded his dispositions, passions and actions in accordance with a system of interpretation as artificial and exaggerated as the pneumatic interpretation of the bible. The distorted and diseased in his own nature with its blending of spiritual poverty, defective knowledge, ruined health, overwrought nerves, remained as hidden from his view as from the view of his beholders. He was neither a particularly good man nor a particularly bad man but he stood for something that was far above the human standard in wisdom and goodness. Faith in him sustained faith in the divine and miraculous, in a religious significance of all existence, in an impending day of judgment. In the last rays of the setting sun of the ancient world, which fell upon the christian peoples, the shadowy form of the saint attained enormous proportions—to such enormous proportions, indeed, that down even to our own age, which no longer believes in god, there are thinkers who believe in the saints.


It stands to reason that this sketch of the saint, made upon the model of the whole species, can be confronted with many opposing sketches that would create a more agreeable impression. There are certain exceptions among the species who distinguish themselves either by especial gentleness or especial humanity, and perhaps by the strength of their own personality. Others are in the highest degree fascinating because certain of their delusions shed a particular glow over their whole being, as is the case with the founder of christianity who took himself for the only begotten son of God and hence felt himself sinless; so that through his imagination—that should not be too harshly judged since the whole of antiquity swarmed with sons of god—he attained the same goal, the sense of complete sinlessness, complete irresponsibility, that can now be attained by every individual through science.—In the same manner I have viewed the saints of India who occupy an intermediate station between the christian saints and the Greek philosophers and hence are not to be regarded as a pure type. Knowledge and science—as far as they existed—and superiority to the rest of mankind by logical discipline and training of the intellectual powers were insisted upon by the Buddhists as essential to sanctity, just as they were denounced by the christian world as the indications of sinfulness.

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This book is part of the public domain. Nietzsche, Friedrich. (November 26, 2011). HUMAN, ALL TOO HUMAN, A BOOK FOR FREE SPIRITS. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved JUNE 2022, from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/38145/38145-h/38145-h.htm#THE_RELIGIOUS_LIFE

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