Human All-Too-Human, Part 1

Page 38 of 70


Renaissance and Reformation.—The Italian Renaissance contained within itself all the positive forces to which we owe modern culture.[Pg 221] Such were the liberation of thought, the disregard of authorities, the triumph of education over the darkness of tradition, enthusiasm for science and the scientific past of mankind, the unfettering of the Individual, an ardour for truthfulness and a dislike of delusion and mere effect (which ardour blazed forth in an entire company of artistic characters, who with the greatest moral purity required from themselves perfection in their works, and nothing but perfection); yes, the Renaissance had positive forces, which have, as yet, never become so mighty again in our modern culture. It was the Golden Age of the last thousand years, in spite of all its blemishes and vices. On the other hand, the German Reformation stands out as an energetic protest of antiquated spirits, who were by no means tired of medival views of life, and who received the signs of its dissolution, the extraordinary flatness and alienation of the religious life, with deep dejection instead of with the rejoicing that would have been seemly. With their northern strength and stiff-neckedness they threw mankind back again, brought about the counter-reformation, that is, a Catholic Christianity of self-defence, with all the violences of a state of siege, and delayed for two or three centuries the complete awakening and mastery of the sciences; just as they probably made for ever impossible the complete inter-growth of the antique and the modern spirit. The great task of the Renaissance could not be brought to a termination, this was prevented by the protest of the contemporary backward German spirit (which, for its salvation,[Pg 222] had had sufficient sense in the Middle Ages to cross the Alps again and again). It was the chance of an extraordinary constellation of politics that Luther was preserved, and that his protest; gained strength, for the Emperor protected him in order to employ him as a weapon against the Pope, and in the same way he was secretly favoured by the Pope in order to use the Protestant princes as a counter-weight against the Emperor. Without this curious counter-play of intentions, Luther would have been burnt like Huss,—and the morning sun of enlightenment would probably have risen somewhat earlier, and with a splendour more beauteous than we can now imagine.


Justice Against the Becoming God.— When the entire history of culture unfolds itself to our gaze, as a confusion of evil and noble, of true and false ideas, and we feel almost seasick at the sight of these tumultuous waves, we then under stand what comfort resides in the conception of a becoming God. This Deity is unveiled ever more and more throughout the changes and fortunes of mankind; it is not all blind mechanism, a senseless and aimless confusion of forces. The deification of the process of being is a metaphysical outlook, seen as from a lighthouse overlooking the sea of history, in which a far-too historical generation of scholars found their comfort. This must not arouse anger, however erroneous the view may be. Only those who, like Schopenhauer, deny development[Pg 223] also feel none of the misery of this historical wave, and therefore, because they know nothing of that becoming God and the need of His supposition, they should in justice withhold their scorn.


The Fruits According to Their Seasons.—Every better future that is desired for mankind is necessarily in many respects also a worse future, for it is foolishness to suppose that a new, higher grade of humanity will combine in itself all the good points of former grades, and must produce, for instance, the highest form of art. Rather has every season its own advantages and charms, which exclude those of the other seasons. That which has grown out of religion and in its neighbourhood cannot grow again if this has been destroyed; at the most, straggling and belated off-shoots may lead to deception on that point, like the occasional outbreaks of remembrance of the old art, a condition that probably betrays the feeling of loss and deprivation, but which is no proof of the power from which a new art might be born.


The Increasing Severity of the World.—The higher culture an individual attains, the less field there is left for mockery and scorn. Voltaire thanked Heaven from his heart for the invention of marriage and the Church, by which[Pg 224] it had so well provided for our cheer. But he and his time, and before him the sixteenth century, had exhausted their ridicule on this theme; everything that is now made fun of on this theme is out of date, and above all too cheap to tempt a purchaser. Causes are now inquired after; ours is an age of seriousness. Who cares now to discern, laughingly, the difference between reality and pretentious sham, between that which man is and that which he wishes to represent; the feeling of this contrast has quite a different effect if we seek reasons. The more thoroughly any one understands life, the less he will mock, though finally, perhaps, he will mock at the "thoroughness of his understanding."


The Genius of Culture.—If any one wished to imagine a genius of culture, what would it be like? It handles as its tools falsehood, force, and thoughtless selfishness so surely that I could only be called an evil, demoniacal being but its aims, which are occasionally transparent, are great and good. It is a centaur, half-beast, half-man, and, in addition, has angel's wings upon its head.


The Miracle-education.—Interest in Education will acquire great strength only from the moment when belief in a God and His care is renounced, just as the art of healing you[Pg 225] only flourish when the belief in miracle-cures ceased. So far, however, there is universal belief in the miracle-education; out of the greatest disorder and confusion of aims and unfavourableness of conditions, the most fertile and mighty men have been seen to grow; could this happen naturally? Soon these cases will be more closely looked into, more carefully examined; but miracles will never be discovered. In similar circumstances countless persons perish constantly; the few saved have, therefore, usually grown stronger, because they endured these bad conditions by virtue of an inexhaustible inborn strength, and this strength they had also exercised and increased by fighting against these circumstances; thus the miracle is explained. An education that no longer believes in miracles must pay attention to three things: first, how much energy is inherited? secondly, by what means can new energy be aroused? thirdly, how can the individual be adapted to so many and manifold claims of culture without being disquieted and destroying his personality,—in short, how can the individual be initiated into the counterpoint of private and public culture, how can he lead the melody and at the same time Accompany it?


The Future of the Physician.—There is now no profession which would admit of such an enhancement as that of the physician; that is, after the spiritual physicians the so-called[Pg 226] pastors, are no longer allowed to practise their conjuring tricks to public applause, and a cultured person gets out of their way. The highest mental development of a physician has not yet been reached, even if he understands the best and newest methods, is practised in them, and knows how to draw those rapid conclusions from effects to causes for which the diagnostics are celebrated; besides this, he must possess a gift of eloquence that adapts itself to every individual and draws his heart out of his body; a manliness, the sight of which alone drives away all despondency (the canker of all sick people), the tact and suppleness of a diplomatist in negotiations between such as have need of joy for their recovery and such as, for reasons of health, must (and can) give joy; the acuteness of a detective and an attorney to divine the secrets of a soul without betraying them,—in short, a good physician now has need of all the artifices and artistic privileges of every other professional class. Thus equipped, he is then ready to be a benefactor to the whole of society, by increasing good works, mental joys and fertility, by preventing evil thoughts, projects and villainies (the evil source of which is so often the belly), by the restoration of a mental and physical aristocracy (as a maker and hinderer of marriages), by judiciously checking all so-called soul-torments and pricks of conscience. Thus from a "medicine man" he becomes a saviour, and yet need work no miracle, neither is he obliged to let himself be crucified.

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