The Joyful Wisdom

Page 11 of 59


Outside the Lecture-room.—"In order to prove that man after all belongs to the good-natured animals, I would remind you how credulous he has been for so long a time. It is now only, quite late, and after an immense self-conquest, that he has become a distrustful animal,—yes! man is now more wicked than ever."—I do not understand this; why should man now be more distrustful and more wicked?—"Because now he has science,—because he needs to have it!"—


Historia abscondita.—Every great man has a power which operates backward; all history is[Pg 74] again placed on the scales on his account, and a thousand secrets of the past crawl out of their lurking-places—into his sunlight. There is absolutely no knowing what history may be some day. The past is still perhaps undiscovered in its essence! There is yet so much reinterpreting ability needed!


Heresy and Witchcraft.—To think otherwise than is customary—that is by no means so much the activity of a better intellect, as the activity of strong, wicked inclinations,—severing, isolating, refractory, mischief-loving, malicious inclinations. Heresy is the counterpart of witchcraft, and is certainly just as little a merely harmless affair, or a thing worthy of honour in itself. Heretics and sorcerers are two kinds of bad men; they have it in common that they also feel themselves wicked; their unconquerable delight is to attack and injure whatever rules,—whether it be men or opinions. The Reformation, a kind of duplication of the spirit of the Middle Ages at a time when it had no longer a good conscience, produced both of these kinds of people in the greatest profusion.


Last Words.-It will be recollected that the Emperor Augustus, that terrible man, who had himself as much in his own power and could be silent as well as any wise Socrates, became indiscreet about himself in his last words; for[Pg 75] the first time he let his mask fall, when he gave to understand that he had carried a mask and played a comedy,—he had played the father of his country and wisdom on the throne well, even to the point of illusion! Plaudite amid, comdia finita est!—The thought of the dying Nero: qualis artifex pereo! was also the thought of the dying Augustus: histrionic conceit! histrionic loquacity! And the very counterpart to the dying Socrates!—But Tiberius died silently, that most tortured of all self-torturers,—he was genuine and not a stage-player! What may have passed through his head in the end! Perhaps this: "Life—that is a long death. I am a fool, who shortened the lives of so many! Was I created for the purpose of being a benefactor? I should have given them eternal life: and then I could have seen them dying eternally. I had such good eyes for that: qualis spectator pereo!" When he seemed once more to regain his powers after a long death-struggle, it was considered advisable to smother him with pillows,—he died a double death.


Owing to three Errors.—Science has been furthered during recent centuries, partly because it was hoped that God's goodness and wisdom would be best understood therewith and thereby—the principal motive in the soul of great Englishmen (like Newton); partly because the absolute utility of knowledge was believed in, and especially the most intimate connection of morality, knowledge, and happiness—the principal motive in the soul of great[Pg 76] Frenchmen (like Voltaire); and partly because it was thought that in science there was something unselfish, harmless, self-sufficing, lovable, and truly innocent to be had, in which the evil human impulses did not at all participate—the principal motive in the soul of Spinoza, who felt himself divine, as a knowing being:—it is consequently owing to three errors that science has been furthered.


Explosive People.—When one considers how ready are the forces of young men for discharge, one does not wonder at seeing them decide so uncritically and with so little selection for this or that cause: that which attracts them is the sight of eagerness for a cause, as it were the sight of the burning match—not the cause itself. The more ingenious seducers on that account operate by holding out the prospect of an explosion to such persons, and do not urge their cause by means of reasons; these powder-barrels are not won over by means of reasons!


Altered Taste.—The alteration of the general taste is more important than the alteration of opinions; opinions, with all their proving, refuting, and intellectual masquerade, are merely symptoms of altered taste, and are certainly not what they are still so often claimed to be, the causes of the altered taste. How does the general taste alter? By the fact of individuals, the powerful[Pg 77] and influential persons, expressing and tyrannically enforcing without any feeling of shame, their hoc est ridiculum, hoc est absurdum; the decisions, therefore, of their taste and their disrelish:—they thereby lay a constraint upon many people, out of which there gradually grows a habituation for still more, and finally a necessity for all. The fact, however, that these individuals feel and "taste" differently, has usually its origin in a peculiarity of their mode of life, nourishment, or digestion, perhaps in a surplus or deficiency of the inorganic salts in their blood and brain, in short in their physis; they have, however, the courage to avow their physical constitution, and to lend an ear even to the most delicate tones of its requirements: their sthetic and moral judgments are those "most delicate tones" of their physis.


The Lack of a noble Presence.—Soldiers and their leaders have always a much higher mode of comportment toward one another than workmen and their employers. At present at least, all militarily established civilisation still stands high above all so-called industrial civilisation; the latter, in its present form, is in general the meanest mode of existence that has ever been. It is simply the law of necessity that operates here: people want to live, and have to sell themselves; but they despise him who exploits their necessity and purchases the workman. It is curious that the subjection to powerful, fear-inspiring, and even dreadful individuals, to tyrants and leaders of[Pg 78] armies, is not at all felt so painfully as the subjection to such undistinguished and uninteresting persons as the captains of industry; in the employer the workman usually sees merely a crafty, blood-sucking dog of a man, speculating on every necessity, whose name, form, character, and reputation are altogether indifferent to him. It is probable that the manufacturers and great magnates of commerce have hitherto lacked too much all those forms and attributes of a superior race, which alone make persons interesting; if they had had the nobility of the nobly-born in their looks and bearing, there would perhaps have been no socialism in the masses of the people. For these are really ready for slavery of every kind, provided that the superior class above them constantly shows itself legitimately superior, and born to command—by its noble presence! The commonest man feels that nobility is not to be improvised, and that it is his part to honour it as the fruit of protracted race-culture,—but the absence of superior presence, and the notorious vulgarity of manufacturers with red, fat hands, brings up the thought to him that it is only chance and fortune that has here elevated the one above the other; well then—so he reasons with himself—let us in our turn tempt chance and fortune! Let us in our turn throw the dice!—and socialism commences.

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