Ecce Homo

Page 14 of 30


I should not like to say that the last two essays in the Thoughts out of Season, associated with the names of Schopenhauer and Wagner respectively, serve any special purpose in throwing light upon these two cases, or in formulating their psychological problems. This of course does not apply to a few details. Thus, for instance, in the second of the two essays, with a profound certainty of instinct I already characterised the elementary factor in Wagner's nature as a theatrical talent which in all his means and inspirations only draws its final conclusions. At bottom, my desire in this essay was to do something very different from writing psychology: an unprecedented educational problem, a new understanding of self-discipline and self-defence carried to the point of hardness, a road to greatness and to world-historic duties, yearned[Pg 81] to find expression. Roughly speaking, I seized two famous and, theretofore, completely undefined types by the forelock, after the manner in which one seizes opportunities, simply in order to speak my mind on certain questions, in order to have a few more formulas, signs, and means of expression at my disposal. Indeed I actually suggest this, with most unearthly sagacity, on page 183 of Schopenhauer as Educator. Plato made use of Socrates in the same way—that is to say, as a cipher for Plato. Now that, from some distance, I can look back upon the conditions of which these essays are the testimony, I would be loth to deny that they refer simply to me. The essay Wagner in Bayreuth is a vision of my own future; on the other hand, my most secret history, my development, is written down in Schopenhauer as Educator. But, above all, the vow I made I What I am to-day, the place I now hold—at a height from which I speak no longer with words but with thunderbolts!—oh, how far I was from all this in those days! But I saw the land—I did not deceive myself for one moment as to the way, the sea, the danger—and success! The great calm in promising, this happy prospect of a future which must not remain only a promise!—In this book every word has been lived, profoundly and intimately; the most painful things are not lacking in it; it contains words which are positively running with blood. But a wind of great freedom blows over the whole; even its wounds do not constitute an objection. As to what I understand by being a philosopher,—that is to say, a terrible explosive in the presence of[Pg 82] which everything is in danger; as to how I sever my idea of the philosopher by miles from that other idea of him which includes even a Kant, not to speak of the academic "ruminators" and other professors of philosophy,—concerning all these things this essay provides invaluable information, even granting that at bottom, it is not "Schopenhauer as Educator" but "Nietzsche as Educator," who speaks his sentiments in it. Considering that, in those days, my trade was that of a scholar, and perhaps, also, that I understood my trade, the piece of austere scholar psychology which suddenly makes its appearance in this essay is not without importance: it expresses the feeling of distance, and my profound certainty regarding what was my real life-task, and what were merely means, intervals, and accessory work to me. My wisdom consists in my having been many things, and in many places, in order to become one thing—in order to be able to attain to one thing. It was part of my fate to be a scholar for a while.

[1] The Purists constitute a definite body in Germany, which is called the Deutscher Sprach-Verein. Their object is to banish every foreign word from the language, and they carry this process of ostracism even into the domain of the menu, where their efforts at rendering the meaning of French dishes are extremely comical. Strange to say, their principal organ, and their other publications, are by no means free either from solecisms or faults of style, and it is doubtless to this curious anomaly that Nietzsche here refers.—TR.



Human all-too-Human, with its two sequels, is the memorial of a crisis. It is called a book for free spirits: almost every sentence in it is the expression of a triumph—by means of it I purged myself of everything in me which was foreign to my nature. Idealism is foreign to me: the title of the[Pg 83] book means: "Where ye see ideal things I see—human, alas! all-too-human things!" ... I know men better. The word "free spirit" in this book must not be understood as anything else than a spirit that has become free, that has once more taken possession of itself. My tone, the pitch of my voice, has completely changed; the book will be thought clever, cool, and at times both hard and scornful. A certain spirituality, of noble taste, seems to be ever struggling to dominate a passionate torrent at its feet. In this respect there is some sense in the fact that it was the hundredth anniversary of Voltaire's death that served, so to speak, as an excuse for the publication of the book as early as 1878. For Voltaire, as the opposite of every one who wrote after him, was above all a grandee of the intellect; precisely what I am also. The name of Voltaire on one of my writings—that was verily a step forward—in my direction.... Looking into this book a little more closely, you perceive a pitiless spirit who knows all the secret hiding-places in which ideals are wont to skulk—where they find their dungeons, and, as it were, their last refuge. With a torch in my hand, the light of which is not by any means a flickering one, I illuminate this nether world with beams that cut like blades. It is war, but war without powder and smoke, without warlike attitudes, without pathos and contorted limbs—all these things would still be "idealism." One error after the other is quietly laid upon ice; the ideal is not refuted,—it freezes. Here, for instance, "genius" freezes; round the corner the "saint" freezes; under a thick icicle the "hero" freezes; and in the end "faith"[Pg 84] itself freezes. So-called "conviction" and also "pity" are considerably cooled—and almost everywhere the "thing in itself" is freezing to death.


This book was begun during the first musical festival at Bayreuth; a feeling of profound strangeness towards everything that surrounded me there, is one of its first conditions. He who has any notion of the visions which even at that time had flitted across my path, will be able to guess what I felt when one day I came to my senses in Bayreuth. It was just as if I had been dreaming. Where on earth was I? I recognised nothing that I saw; I scarcely recognised Wagner. It was in vain that I called up reminiscences. Tribschen—remote island of bliss: not the shadow of a resemblance! The incomparable days devoted to the laying of the first stone, the small group of the initiated who celebrated them, and who were far from lacking fingers for the handling of delicate things: not the shadow of a resemblance! What had happened?—Wagner had been translated into German! The Wagnerite had become master of Wagner!—German art! the German master! German beer!... We who know only too well the kind of refined artists and cosmopolitanism in taste, to which alone Wagner's art can appeal, were beside ourselves at the sight of Wagner bedecked with German virtues. I think I know the Wagnerite, I have experienced three generations of them, from Brendel of blessed memory, who confounded[Pg 85] Wagner with Hegel, to the "idealists" of the Bayreuth Gazette, who confound Wagner with themselves,—I have been the recipient of every kind of confession about Wagner, from "beautiful souls." My kingdom for just one intelligent word I—In very truth, a blood-curdling company! Nohl, Pohl, and Kohl[1] and others of their kidney to infinity! There was not a single abortion that was lacking among them—no, not even the anti-Semite.—Poor Wagner! Into whose hands had he fallen? If only he had gone into a herd of swine! But among Germans! Some day, for the edification of posterity, one ought really to have a genuine Bayreuthian stuffed, or, better still, preserved in spirit,—for it is precisely spirit that is lacking in this quarter,—with this inscription at the foot of the jar: "A sample of the spirit whereon the 'German Empire' was founded." ... But enough! In the middle of the festivities I suddenly packed my trunk and left the place for a few weeks, despite the fact that a charming Parisian lady sought to comfort me; I excused myself to Wagner simply by means of a fatalistic telegram. In a little spot called Klingenbrunn, deeply buried in the recesses of the Bohmerwald, I carried my melancholy and my contempt of Germans about with me like an illness—and, from time to time, under the general title of "The Plough-share," I wrote a sentence or two down in my note-book, nothing but severe psychological stuff, which[Pg 86] it is possible may have found its way into Human, all-too-Human.

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