The Joyful Wisdom

Page 26 of 59


Life no Argument.—We have arranged for ourselves a world in which we can live—by the postulating of bodies, lines, surfaces, causes and effects, motion and rest, form and content: without these articles of faith no one could manage to live at present! But for all that they are still unproved. Life is no argument; error might be among the conditions of life.


The Element of Moral Scepticism in Christianity.—Christianity also has made a great contribution to enlightenment, and has taught moral scepticism —in a very impressive and effective manner, accusing and embittering, but with untiring patience and subtlety; it annihilated in every individual the belief in his virtues: it made the great virtuous ones, of whom antiquity had no lack, vanish for ever from the earth, those popular men, who, in the belief in their perfection, walked about with the dignity of a hero of the bull-fight. When, trained in this Christian school of scepticism, we[Pg 165] now read the moral books of the ancients, for example those of Seneca and Epictetus, we feel a pleasurable superiority, and are full of secret insight and penetration,—it seems to us as if a child talked before an old man, or a pretty, gushing girl before La Rochefoucauld:—we know better what virtue is! After all, however, we have applied the same scepticism to all religious states and processes, such as sin, repentance, grace, sanctification, &c., and have allowed the worm to burrow so well, that we have now the same feeling of subtle superiority and insight even in reading all Christian books:—we know also the religious feelings better! And it is time to know them well and describe them well, for the pious ones of the old belief die out also; let us save their likeness and type, at least for the sake of knowledge.


Knowledge more than a Means.—Also without this passion—I refer to the passion for knowledge—science would be furthered: science has hitherto increased and grown up without it. The good faith in science, the prejudice in its favour, by which States are at present dominated (it was even the Church formerly), rests fundamentally on the fact that the absolute inclination and impulse has so rarely revealed itself in it, and that science is regarded not as a passion, but as a condition and an "ethos." Indeed, amour-plaisir of knowledge (curiosity) often enough suffices, amour-vanit suffices, and habituation to it, with the afterthought of obtaining honour and bread; it even suffices[Pg 166] for many that they do not know what to do with a surplus of leisure, except to continue reading, collecting, arranging, observing and narrating; their "scientific impulse" is their ennui. Pope Leo X once (in the brief to Beroaldus) sang the praise of science; he designated it as the finest ornament and the greatest pride of our life, a noble employment in happiness and in misfortune; "without it," he says finally, "all human undertakings would be without a firm basis,—even with it they are still sufficiently mutable and insecure!" But this rather sceptical Pope, like all other ecclesiastical panegyrists of science, suppressed his ultimate judgment concerning it. If one may deduce from his words what is remarkable enough for such a lover of art, that he places science above art it is alter all, however, only from politeness that he omits to speak of that which he places high above all science: the "revealed truth," and the "eternal salvation o the soul,"—what are ornament, pride, entertainment and security of life to him, in comparison thereto? "Science is something of secondary rank, nothing ultimate or unconditioned, no object of passion"—this judgment was kept back in Leos soul: the truly Christian judgment concerning science! In antiquity its dignity and appreciation were lessened by the fact that, even among its most eager disciples, the striving after virtue stood foremost and that people thought they had given the highest praise to knowledge when they celebrated it as the best means to virtue. It is something new in history that knowledge claims to be more than a means.

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In the Horizon of the Infinite.—We have left the land and have gone aboard ship! We have broken down the bridge behind us,—nay, more, the land behind us! Well, little ship! look out! Beside thee is the ocean; it is true it does not always roar, and sometimes it spreads out like silk and gold and a gentle reverie. But times will come when thou wilt feel that it is infinite, and that there is nothing more frightful than infinity. Oh, the poor bird that felt itself free, and now strikes against the walls of this cage! Alas, if home-sickness for the land should attack thee, as if there had been more freedom there,—and there is no "land" any longer!


The Madman.—Have you ever heard of the madman who on a bright morning lighted a lantern and ran to the market-place calling out unceasingly: "I seek God! I seek God!"—As there were many people standing about who did not believe in God, he caused a great deal of amusement. Why! is he lost? said one. Has he strayed away like a child? said another. Or does he keep himself hidden? Is he afraid of us? Has he taken a sea-voyage? Has he emigrated?—the people cried out laughingly, all in a hubbub. The insane man jumped into their midst and transfixed them with his glances. "Where is God gone?" he called out. "I mean to tell you! We have killed him,—you and I! We are all his murderers! But how have we done it? How were we able to drink up the[Pg 168] sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the whole horizon? What did we do when we loosened this earth from its sun? Whither does it now move? Whither do we move? Away from all suns? Do we not dash on unceasingly? Back-wards, sideways, forewards, in all directions? Is there still an above and below? Do we not stray, as through infinite nothingness? Does not empty space breathe upon us? Has it not become colder? Does not night come on continually, darker and darker? Shall we not have to light lanterns in the morning? Do we not hear the noise of the grave-diggers who are burying God? Do we not smell the divine putrefaction?—for even Gods putrefy! God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him! How shall we console ourselves, the most murderous of all murderers? The holiest and the mightiest that the world has hitherto possessed, has bled to death under our knife,—who will wipe the blood from us? With what water could we cleanse ourselves? What lustrums, what sacred games shall we have to devise? Is not the magnitude of this deed too great for us? Shall we not ourselves have to become Gods, merely to seem worthy of it? There never was a greater event,—and on account of it, all who are born after us belong to a higher history than any history hitherto!"—Here the madman was silent and looked again at his hearers; they also were silent and looked at him in surprise. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, so that it broke in pieces and was extinguished. "I come too early," he then said, "I am not yet at the right time. This[Pg 169] prodigious event is still on its way, and is travelling,—it has not yet reached men's ears. Lightning and thunder need time, the light of the stars needs time, deeds need time, even after they are done, to be seen and heard. This deed is as yet further from them than the furthest star,—and yet they have done it!"—It is further stated that the madman made his way into different churches on the same day, and there intoned his Requiem ternam deo. When led out and called to account, he always gave the reply: "What are these churches now, if they are not the tombs and monuments of God?"—

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