Ecce Homo

Page 12 of 30


This start of mine was remarkable beyond measure. As a confirmation of my inmost personal experience I had discovered the only example of this fact that history possesses,—with this I was the first to understand the amazing Dionysian phenomenon. At the same time, by recognising Socrates as a decadent, I proved most conclusively that the certainty of my psychological grasp of things ran very little risk at the hands of any sort of moral idiosyncrasy: to regard morality itself as a symptom of degeneration is an innovation, a unique event of the first order in the history of knowledge. How high I had soared above the pitifully foolish gabble about Optimism and Pessimism with my two new doctrines! I was the first to see the actual contrast: the degenerate instinct which turns upon life with a subterranean lust of vengeance (Christianity,[Pg 71] Schopenhauer's philosophy, and in some respects too even Plato's philosophy—in short, the whole of idealism in its typical forms), as opposed to a formula of the highest yea-saying to life, born of an abundance and a superabundance of life—a I yea-saying free from all reserve, applying even to suffering, and guilt, and all that is questionable and strange in existence.... This last, most joyous, most exuberant and exultant yea to life, is not only the highest, but also the profoundest conception, and one which is most strictly confirmed and supported by truth and science. Nothing that exists must be suppressed, nothing can be dispensed with. Those aspects of life which Christians and other Nihilists reject, belong to an incalculably higher order in the hierarchy of values, than that which the instinct of degeneration calls good, and may call good. In order to understand this, a certain courage is necessary, and, as a prerequisite of this, a certain superfluity of strength: for a man can approach only as near to truth as he has the courage to advance—that is to say, everything depends strictly upon the measure of his strength. Knowledge, and the affirmation of reality, are just as necessary to the strong man as cowardice, the flight from reality—in fact, the "ideal"—are necessary to the weak inspired by weakness.... These people are not at liberty to "know,"—decadents stand in need of lies,—it is one of their self-preservative measures. He who not only understands the word "Dionysian," but understands himself in that term, does not require any refutation of Plato, or of Christianity, or of Schopenhauer—for his nose scents decomposition.

[Pg 72]


The extent to which I had by means of these doctrines discovered the idea of "tragedy," the ultimate explanation of what the psychology of tragedy is, I discussed finally in The Twilight of the Idols (Aph. 5, part 10).... "The saying of yea to life, and even to its weirdest and most difficult problems: the will to life rejoicing at its own infinite vitality in the sacrifice of its highest types—that is what I called Dionysian, that is what I meant as the bridge to the psychology of the tragic poet. Not to cast out terror and pity, or to purge one's self of dangerous passion by discharging it with vehemence,—this was Aristotle's[2] misunderstanding of it,—but to be far beyond terror and pity and to be the eternal lust of Becoming itself—that lust which also involves the joy of destruction." ... In this sense I have the right to regard myself as the first tragic philosopher—that is to say, the most extreme antithesis and antipodes of a pessimistic philosopher. Before my time no such thing existed as this translation of the Dionysian phenomenon into philosophic emotion: tragic wisdom was lacking; in vain have I sought for signs of it even among the great Greeks in philosophy—those belonging to the two centuries before Socrates. I still remained a little doubtful about Heraclitus, in whose presence, alone, I felt warmer and more at ease than anywhere else. The yea-saying to the impermanence and annihilation of things, which is the decisive feature of a Dionysian[Pg 73] philosophy; the yea-saying to contradiction and war, the postulation of Becoming, together with the radical rejection even of the concept Being— in all these things, at all events, I must recognise him who has come nearest to me in thought hither to. The doctrine of the "Eternal Recurrence"—that is to say, of the absolute and eternal repetition of all things in periodical cycles—this doctrine of Zarathustra's might, it is true, have been taught before. In any case, the Stoics, who derived nearly all their fundamental ideas from Heraclitus, show traces of it.

A tremendous hope finds expression in this work. After all, I have absolutely no reason to renounce the hope for a Dionysian future of music. Let us look a century ahead, and let us suppose that my attempt to destroy two millenniums of hostility to Nature and of the violation of humanity be crowned with success That new party of life-advocates, which will undertake the greatest of all tasks, the elevation and perfection of mankind, as well as the relentless destruction of all degenerate and parasitical elements, will make that superabundance of life on earth once more possible, out of which the Dionysian state will perforce arise again. I promise the advent of a tragic age: the highest art in the saying of yea to life, "tragedy," will be born again when mankind has the knowledge of the hardest, but most necessary of wars, behind it, without, however, suffering from that knowledge.... A psychologist might add that what I heard in Wagnerian[Pg 74] music in my youth and early manhood had nothing whatsoever to do with Wagner; that when I described Dionysian music, I described merely what I personally had heard—that I was compelled instinctively to translate and transfigure everything into the new spirit which filled my breast. A proof of this, and as strong a proof as you could have, is my essay, Wagner in Bayreuth: in all its decisive psychological passages I am the only person concerned—without any hesitation you may read my name or the word "Zarathustra" wherever the text contains the name of Wagner. The whole panorama of the dithyrambic artist is the representation of the already existing author of Zarathustra, and it is drawn with an abysmal depth which does not even once come into contact with the real Wagner. Wagner himself had a notion of the truth; he did not recognise himself in the essay.—In this way, "the idea of Bayreuth" was changed into something which to those who are acquainted with my Zarathustra will be no riddle—that is to say, into the Great Noon when the highest of the elect will consecrate themselves for the greatest of all duties—who knows? the vision of a feast which I may live to see.... The pathos of the first few pages is universal history; the look which is discussed on page 105[3] of the book, is the actual look of Zarathustra; Wagner, Bayreuth, the whole of this petty German wretchedness, is a cloud upon which an infinite Fata Morgana of the future is reflected. Even from the[Pg 75] psychological standpoint, all the decisive traits in my character are introduced into Wagner's nature—the juxtaposition of the most brilliant and most fatal forces, a Will to Power such as no man has ever possessed—inexorable bravery in matters spiritual, an unlimited power of learning unaccompanied by depressed powers for action. Everything in this essay is a prophecy: the proximity of the resurrection of the Greek spirit, the need of men who will be counter-Alexanders, who will once more tie the Gordian knot of Greek culture, after it has been cut. Listen to the world-historic accent with which the concept "sense for the tragic" is introduced on page 180: there are little else but world-historic accents in this essay. This is the strangest kind of "objectivity" that ever existed: my absolute certainty in regard to what I am, projected itself into any chance reality—truth about myself was voiced from out appalling depths. On pages 174 and 175 the style of Zarathustra is described and foretold with incisive certainty, and no more magnificent expression will ever be found than that on pages 144-147 for the event for which Zarathustra stands—that prodigious act of the purification and consecration of mankind.

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