The Genealogy of Morals

Page 32 of 36


Or, perchance, does the whole of modern history show in its demeanour greater confidence in life, greater confidence in its ideals? Its loftiest pretension is now to be a mirror; it repudiates all teleology; it will have no more "proving"; it disdains to play the judge, and thereby shows its good taste----it asserts as little as it denies, it fixes, it "describes." All this is to a high degree ascetic, but at the same time it is to a much greater degree nihilistic; make no mistake about this! You see in the historian a gloomy, hard, but determined gaze,----an eye that looks out as an isolated North Pole explorer looks out (perhaps so as not to look within, so as not to look back?)----there is snow----here is life silenced, the last crows which caw here are called "whither?" "Vanity," "Nada"----here nothing more flourishes and grows, at the most the metapolitics of St. Petersburg and the "pity" of Tolstoi. But as for that other school of historians, a perhaps still more "modern" school, a voluptuous and lascivious school which ogles life and the ascetic ideal with equal fervour, which uses the word "artist" as a glove, and has nowadays established a "corner" for itself, in all the praise given to contemplation; oh, what a thirst do these sweet intellectuals excite even for[Pg 204] ascetics and winter landscapes! Nay! The devil take these "contemplative" folk! How much liefer would I wander with those historical Nihilists through the gloomiest, grey, cold mist!----nay, I shall not mind listening (supposing I have to choose) to one who is completely unhistorical and anti-historical (a man, like Dhring for instance, over whose periods a hitherto shy and unavowed species of "beautiful souls" has grown intoxicated in contemporary Germany, the species anarchistica within the educated proletariate). The "contemplative" are a hundred times worse----I never knew anything which produced such intense nausea as one of those "objective" chairs,[6] one of those scented mannikins-about-town of history, a thing half-priest, half-satyr (Renan parfum), which betrays by the high, shrill falsetto of his applause what he lacks and where he lacks it, who betrays where in this case the Fates have plied their ghastly shears, alas! in too surgeon-like a fashion! This is distasteful to me, and irritates my patience; let him keep patient at such sights who has nothing to lose thereby,----such a sight enrages me, such spectators embitter me against the "play," even more than does the play itself (history itself, you understand); Anacreontic moods imperceptibly come over me. This Nature, who gave to the steer its horn, to the lion its ' , for what purpose did Nature give me my foot?----To kick, by St. Anacreon, and not merely to run away! To trample on all the[Pg 205] worm-eaten "chairs," the cowardly contemplators, the lascivious eunuchs of history, the flirters with ascetic ideals, the righteous hypocrites of impotence! All reverence on my part to the ascetic ideal, in so far as it is honourable! So long as it believes in itself and plays no pranks on us! But I like not all these coquettish bugs who have an insatiate ambition to smell of the infinite, until eventually the infinite smells of bugs; I like not the whited sepulchres with their stagey reproduction of life; I like not the tired and the used up who wrap themselves in wisdom and look "objective"; I like not the agitators dressed up as heroes, who hide their dummy-heads behind the stalking-horse of an ideal; I like not the ambitious artists who would fain play the ascetic and the priest, and are at bottom nothing but tragic clowns; I like not, again, these newest speculators in idealism, the Anti-Semites, who nowadays roll their eyes in the patent Christian-Aryan-man-of-honour fashion, and by an abuse of moralist attitudes and agitation dodges, so cheap as to exhaust any patience, strive to excite all the blockhead elements in the populace (the invariable success of every kind of intellectual charlatanism in present-day Germany hangs together with the almost indisputable and already quite palpable desolation of the German mind, whose cause I look for in a too exclusive diet, of papers, politics, beer, and Wagnerian music, not forgetting the condition precedent of this diet, the national exclusiveness and vanity, the strong but narrow principle, "Germany, Germany above everything,"[7][Pg 206] and finally the paralysis agitans of "modern ideas"). Europe nowadays is, above all, wealthy and ingenious in means of excitement; it apparently has no more crying necessity than stimulantia and alcohol. Hence the enormous counterfeiting of ideals, those most fiery spirits of the mind; hence too the repulsive, evil-smelling, perjured, pseudo--alcoholic air everywhere. I should like to know how many cargoes of imitation idealism, of hero-costumes and high falutin' clap-trap, how many casks of sweetened pity liqueur (Firm: la religion de la souffrance), how many crutches of righteous indignation for the help of these flat-footed intellects, how many comedians of the Christian moral ideal would need to-day to be exported from Europe, to enable its air to smell pure again. It is obvious that, in regard to this over-production, a new trade possibility lies open; it is obvious that there is a new business to be done in little ideal idols and obedient "idealists"—don't pass over this tip! Who has sufficient courage? We have in our hands the possibility of idealising the whole earth. But what am I talking about courage? we only need one thing here—a hand, a free, a very free hand.


Enough! enough! let us leave these curiosities and complexities of the modern spirit, which excite as much laughter as disgust. Our problem can[Pg 207] certainly do without them, the problem of meaning of the ascetic ideal—what has it got to do with yesterday or to-day? those things shall be handled by me more thoroughly and severely in another connection (under the title "A Contribution to the History of European Nihilism," I refer for this to a work which I am preparing: The Will to Power, an Attempt at a Transvaluation of All Values). The only reason why I come to allude to it here is this: the ascetic ideal has at times, even in the most intellectual sphere, only one real kind of enemies and damagers: these are the comedians of this ideal—for they awake mistrust. Everywhere otherwise, where the mind is at work seriously, powerfully, and without counterfeiting, it dispenses altogether now with an ideal (the popular expression for this abstinence is "Atheism")—with the exception of the will for truth. But this will, this remnant of an ideal, is, if you will believe me, that ideal itself in its severest and cleverest formulation, esoteric through and through, stripped of all outworks, and consequently not so much its remnant as its kernel. Unqualified honest atheism (and its air only do we breathe, we, the most intellectual men of this age) is not opposed to that ideal, to the extent that it appears to be; it is rather one of the final phases of its evolution, one of its syllogisms and pieces of inherent logic—it is the awe-inspiring catastrophe of a two-thousand-year training in truth, which finally forbids itself the lie of the belief in God. (The same course of development in India—quite independently, and consequently[Pg 208] of some demonstrative value—the same ideal driving to the same conclusion the decisive point reached five hundred years before the European era, or more precisely at the time of Buddha—it started in the Sankhyam philosophy, and then this was popularised through Buddha, and made into a religion.)

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