Human All-Too-Human, Part 1

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[1] Ecce Homo, p. 75.

[2] "Tender poetry, like rainbows, can appear only on a dark and sombre background."—J.M.K.

[Pg xii]
[Pg 1]



I have been told frequently, and always with great surprise, that there is something common and distinctive in all my writings, from the Birth of Tragedy to the latest published Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. They all contain, I have been told, snares and nets for unwary birds, and an almost perpetual unconscious demand for the inversion of customary valuations and valued customs. What? Everything only—human-all-too-human? People lay down my writings with this sigh, not without a certain dread and distrust of morality itself, indeed almost tempted and encouraged to become advocates of the worst things: as being perhaps only the best disparaged? My writings have been called a school of suspicion and especially of disdain, more happily, also, a school of courage and even of audacity. Indeed, I myself do not think that any one has ever looked at the world with such a profound suspicion; and not only as occasional Devil's Advocate, but equally also, to speak theologically, as enemy and impeacher of God; and he who realises something of the consequences involved,[Pg 2] in every profound suspicion, something of the chills and anxieties of loneliness to which every uncompromising difference of outlook condemns him who is affected therewith, will also understand how often I sought shelter in some kind of reverence or hostility, or scientificality or levity or stupidity, in order to recover from myself, and, as it were, to obtain temporary self-forgetfulness; also why, when I did not find what I needed, I was obliged to manufacture it, to counterfeit and to imagine it in a suitable manner (and what else have poets ever done? And for what purpose has all the art in the world existed?). What I always required most, however, for my cure and self-recovery, was the belief that I was not isolated in such circumstances, that I did not see in an isolated manner—a magic suspicion of relationship and similarity to others in outlook and desire, a repose in the confidence of friendship, a blindness in both parties without suspicion or note of interrogation, an enjoyment of foregrounds, and surfaces of the near and the nearest, of all that has colour, epidermis, and outside appearance. Perhaps I might be reproached in this respect for much "art" and fine false coinage; for instance, for voluntarily and knowingly shutting my eyes to Schopenhauer's blind will to morality at a time when I had become sufficiently clear-sighted about morality; also for deceiving myself about Richard Wagner's incurable romanticism, as if it were a beginning and not an end; also about the Greeks, also about the Germans and their future—and there would still probably be quite a long list of such alsos? Supposing[Pg 3] however, that this were all true and that I were reproached with good reason, what do you know, what could you know as to how much artifice of self-preservation, how much rationality and higher protection there is in such self-deception,—and how much falseness I still require in order to allow myself again and again the luxury of my sincerity? ... In short, I still live; and life, in spite of ourselves, is not devised by morality; it demands illusion, it lives by illusion ... but——There! I am already beginning again and doing what I have always done, old immoralist and bird-catcher that I am,—I am talking un-morally, ultra-morally, "beyond good and evil"?...


Thus then, when I found it necessary, I invented once on a time the "free spirits," to whom this discouragingly encouraging book with the title Human, all-too-Human, is dedicated. There are no such "free spirits" nor have there been such, but, as already said, I then required them for company to keep me cheerful in the midst of evils (sickness, loneliness, foreignness,—acedia, inactivity) as brave companions and ghosts with whom I could laugh and gossip when so inclined and send to the devil when they became bores,—as compensation for the lack of friends. That such free spirits will be possible some day, that our Europe will have such bold and cheerful wights amongst her sons of to-morrow and the day after to-morrow,[Pg 4] as the shadows of a hermit's phantasmagoria—I should be the last to doubt thereof. Already I see them coming, slowly, slowly; and perhaps I am doing something to hasten their coming when I describe in advance under what auspices I see them originate, and upon what paths I see them come.


One may suppose that a spirit in which the type "free spirit" is to become fully mature and sweet, has had its decisive event in a great emancipation, and that it was all the more fettered previously and apparently bound for ever to its corner and pillar. What is it that binds most strongly? What cords are almost unrendable? In men of a lofty and select type it will be their duties; the reverence which is suitable to youth, respect and tenderness for all that is time-honoured and worthy, gratitude to the land which bore them, to the hand which led them, to the sanctuary where they learnt to adore,—their most exalted moments themselves will bind them most effectively, will lay upon them the most enduring obligations. For those who are thus bound the great emancipation comes suddenly, like an earthquake; the young soul is all at once convulsed, unloosened and extricated—it does not itself know what is happening. An impulsion and-compulsion sway and over-master it like a command; a will and a wish awaken, to go forth on their course, anywhere, at any cost; a violent, dangerous curiosity about an undiscovered world flames and flares in every sense. "Better to[Pg 5] die than live here"—says the imperious voice and seduction, and this "here," this "at home" is all that the soul has hitherto loved! A sudden fear and suspicion of that which it loved, a flash of disdain for what was called its "duty," a rebellious, arbitrary, volcanically throbbing longing for travel, foreignness, estrangement, coldness, disenchantment, glaciation, a hatred of love, perhaps a sacrilegious clutch and look backwards, to where it hitherto adored and loved, perhaps a glow of shame at what it was just doing, and at the same time a rejoicing that it was doing it, an intoxicated, internal, exulting thrill which betrays a triumph—a triumph? Over what? Over whom? An enigmatical, questionable, doubtful triumph, but the first triumph nevertheless;—such evil and painful incidents belong to the history of the great emancipation. It is, at the same time, a disease which may destroy the man, this first outbreak of power and will to self-decision, self-valuation, this will to free will; and how much disease is manifested in the wild attempts and eccentricities by which the liberated and emancipated one now seeks to demonstrate his mastery over things! He roves about raging with unsatisfied longing; whatever he captures has to suffer for the dangerous tension of his pride; he tears to pieces whatever attracts him. With a malicious laugh he twirls round whatever he finds veiled or guarded by a sense of shame; he tries how these things look when turned upside down. It is a matter of arbitrariness with him, and pleasure in arbitrariness, if he now perhaps bestow his favour on what[Pg 6] had hitherto a bad repute,—if he inquisitively and temptingly haunt what is specially forbidden. In the background of his activities and wanderings —for he is restless and aimless in his course as in a desert—stands the note of interrogation of an increasingly dangerous curiosity. "Cannot all valuations be reversed? And is good perhaps evil? And God only an invention and artifice of the devil? Is everything, perhaps, radically false? And if we are the deceived, are we not thereby also deceivers? Must we not also be deceivers?"—Such thoughts lead and mislead him more and more, onward and away. Solitude encircles and engirdles him, always more threatening, more throttling, more heart-oppressing, that terrible goddess and mater sva cupidinum—but who knows nowadays what solitude is?...

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