Page 15 of 30
That which had taken place in me, then, was not only a breach with Wagner—I was suffering from a general aberration of my instincts, of which a mere isolated blunder, whether it were Wagner or my professorship at Ble, was nothing more than a symptom. I was seized with a fit of impatience with myself; I saw that it was high time that I should turn my thoughts upon my own lot. In a trice I realised, with appalling clearness, how much time had already been squandered—how futile and how senseless my whole existence as a philologist appeared by the side of my life-task. I was ashamed of this false modesty.... Ten years were behind me, during which, to tell the truth, the nourishment of my spirit had been at a standstill, during which I had added not a single useful fragment to my knowledge, and had forgotten countless things in the pursuit of a hotch-potch of dry-as-dust scholarship. To crawl with meticulous care and short-sighted eyes through old Greek metricians—that is what I had come to!... Moved to pity I saw myself quite thin, quite emaciated: realities were only too plainly absent from my stock of knowledge, and what the "idealities" were worth the devil alone knew! A positively burning thirst overcame me: and from that time forward I have done literally nothing else than study physiology, medicine, and natural science—I even returned to the actual study of history only when my life-task compelled me to. It was at that time, too, that I first divined the relation[Pg 87] between an instinctively repulsive occupation, a so-called vocation, which is the last thing to which one is "called" and that need of lulling a feeling of emptiness and hunger, by means of an art which is a narcotic—by means of Wagner's art, for instance. After looking carefully about me, I have discovered that a large number of young men are all in the same state of distress: one kind of unnatural practice perforce leads to another. In Germany, or rather, to avoid all ambiguity, in the Empire, only too many are condemned to determine their choice too soon, and then to pine away beneath a burden that they can no longer throw off.... Such creatures crave for Wagner as for an opiate,—they are thus able to forget themselves, to be rid of themselves for a moment.... What am I saying!—for five or six hours.
At this time my instincts turned resolutely against any further yielding or following on my part, and any further misunderstanding of myself. Every kind of life, the most unfavourable circumstances, illness, poverty—anything seemed to me preferable to that undignified "selfishness" into which I had fallen; in the first place, thanks to my ignorance and youth, and in which I had afterwards remained owing to laziness—the so-called "sense of duty." At this juncture there came to my help, in a way[Pg 88] that I cannot sufficiently admire, and precisely at the right time, that evil heritage which I derive from my father's side of the family, and which, at bottom, is no more than a predisposition to die young. Illness slowly liberated me from the toils, it spared me any sort of sudden breach, any sort of violent and offensive step. At that time I lost not a particle of the good will of others, but rather added to my store. Illness likewise gave me the right completely to reverse my mode of life; it not only allowed, it actually commanded, me to forget; it bestowed upon me the necessity of lying still, of having leisure, of waiting, and of exercising patience.... But all this means thinking!... The state of my eyes alone put an end to all book-wormishness, or, in plain English—philology: I was thus delivered from books; for years I ceased from reading, and this was the greatest boon I ever conferred upon myself! That nethermost self, which was, as it were, entombed, and which had grown dumb because it had been forced to listen perpetually to other selves (for that is what reading means!), slowly awakened; at first it was shy and doubtful, but at last it spoke again Never have I rejoiced more over my condition than during the sickest and most painful moments of my life. You have only to examine The Dawn of Day, or, perhaps, The Wanderer and his Shadow, in order to understand what this "return to myself" actually meant: in itself it was the highest kind of recovery!... My cure was simply the result of it.
Human, all-too-Human, this monument of a course of vigorous self-discipline, by means of which I put an abrupt end to all the "Superior Bunkum," "Idealism," "Beautiful Feelings," and other effeminacies that had percolated into my being, was written principally in Sorrento; it was finished and given definite shape during a winter at Ble, under conditions far less favourable than those in Sorrento. Truth to tell, it was Peter Gast, at that time a student at the University of Ble, and a devoted friend of mine, who was responsible for the book. With my head wrapped in bandages, and extremely painful, I dictated while he wrote and corrected as he went along—to be accurate, he was the real composer, whereas I was only the author. When the completed book ultimately reached me,—to the great surprise of the serious invalid I then was,—I sent, among others, two copies to Bayreuth. Thanks to a miraculous flash of intelligence on the part of chance, there reached me precisely at the same time a splendid copy of the Parsifal text, with the following inscription from Wagner's pen: "To his dear friend Friedrich Nietzsche, from Richard Wagner, Ecclesiastical Councillor." At this crossing of the two books I seemed to hear an ominous note. Did it not sound as if two swords had crossed? At all events we both felt this was so, for each of us remained silent. At about this time the first Bayreuth Pamphlets appeared: and I then understood the move on my part for which[Pg 90] it was high time. Incredible! Wagner had become pious.
My attitude to myself at that time (1876), and the unearthly certitude with which I grasped my life-task and all its world-historic consequences, is well revealed throughout the book, but more particularly in one very significant passage, despite the fact that, with my instinctive cunning, I once more circumvented the use of the little word "I,"—not however, this time, in order to shed world-historic glory on the names of Schopenhauer and Wagner, but on that of another of my friends, the excellent Dr. Paul Re—fortunately much too acute a creature to be deceived—others were less subtle. Among my readers I have a number of hopeless people, the typical German professor for instance, who can always be recognised from the fact that, judging from the passage in question, he feels compelled to regard the whole book as a sort of superior Realism. As a matter of fact it contradicts five or six of my friend's utterances: only read the introduction to The Genealogy of Morals on this question.—The passage above referred to reads: "What, after all, is the principal axiom to which the boldest and coldest thinker, the author of the book "On the Origin of Moral Sensations" (read Nietzsche, the first Immoralist), "has attained by means of his incisive and decisive analysis of human actions? 'The moral man,' he says is no nearer to the intelligible (metaphysical) world than is the physical man, for there is no intelligible[Pg 91] world.' This theory, hardened and sharpened under the hammer-blow of historical knowledge" (read The Transvaluation of all Values), "may some time or other, perhaps in some future period,—1890!—serve as the axe which is applied to the root of the 'metaphysical need' of man,—whether more as a blessing than a curse to the general welfare it is not easy to say; but in any case as a theory with the most important consequences, at once fruitful and terrible, and looking into the world with that Janus-face which all great knowledge possesses."