The Joyful Wisdom

Page 27 of 59


Mystical Explanations.—Mystical explanations are regarded as profound; the truth is that they do not even go the length of being superficial.


After-Effect of the most Ancient Religiousness.—The thoughtless man thinks that the Will is the only thing that operates, that willing is something simple, manifestly given, underived, and comprehensible in itself. He is convinced that when he does anything, for example, when he delivers a blow, it is he who strikes, and he has struck because he willed to strike. He does not notice anything of a problem therein, but the feeling of willing suffices to him, not only for the acceptance of cause and effect, but also for the belief that he understands their relationship. Of the mechanism of the occurrence, and of the manifold subtle operations[Pg 170] that must be performed in order that the blow may result, and likewise of the incapacity of the Will in itself to effect even the smallest part of those operations—he knows nothing. The Will is to him a magically operating force; the belief in the Will as the cause of effects is the belief in magically operating forces. In fact, whenever he saw anything happen, man originally believed in a Will as cause, and in personally willing beings operating in the background,—the conception of mechanism was very remote from him. Because, however, man for immense periods of time believed only in persons (and not in matter, forces, things, &c.), the belief in cause and effect has become a fundamental belief with him, which he applies everywhere when anything happens,—and even still uses instinctively as a piece of atavism of remotest origin. The propositions, "No effect without a cause," and "Every effect again implies a cause," appear as generalisations of several less general propositions:—"Where there is operation there has been willing." "Operating is only possible on willing beings." "There is never a pure, resultless experience of activity, but every experience involves stimulation of the Will" (to activity, defence, revenge or retaliation). But in the primitive period of the human race, the latter and the former propositions were identical, the first were not generalisations of the second, but the second were explanations of the first.—Schopenhauer, with his assumption that all that exists is something volitional, has set a primitive mythology on the throne; he seems never to have attempted an analysis of the Will, because[Pg 171] he believed like everybody in the simplicity and immediateness of all volition:—while volition is in fact such a cleverly practised mechanical process that it almost escapes the observing eye. I set the following propositions against those of Schopenhauer:—Firstly, in order that Will may arise, an idea of pleasure and pain is necessary. Secondly, that a vigorous excitation may be felt as pleasure or pain, is the affair of the interpreting intellect, which, to be sure, operates thereby for the most part unconsciously to us, and one and the same excitation may be interpreted as pleasure or pain. Thirdly, it is only in an intellectual being that there is pleasure, displeasure and Will; the immense majority of organisms have nothing of the kind.


The Value of Prayer.—Prayer has been devised for such men as have never any thoughts of their own, and to whom an elevation of the soul is unknown, or passes unnoticed; what shall these people do in holy places and in all important situations in life which require repose and some kind of dignity? In order at least that they may not disturb, the wisdom of all the founders of religions, the small as well as the great, has commended to them the formula of prayer, as a long mechanical labour of the lips, united with an effort of the memory, and with a uniform, prescribed attitude of hands and feet—and eyes! They may then, like the Tibetans, chew the cud of their "om mane padme hum," innumerable times, or, as in Benares, count the name of the God Ram-Ram-Ram (etc., with or[Pg 172] without grace) on their fingers; or honour Vishnu with his thousand names of invocation, Allah with his ninety-nine; or they may make use of the prayer-wheels and the rosary: the main thing is that they are settled down for a time at this work, and present a tolerable appearance; their mode of prayer is devised for the advantage of the pious who have thought and elevation of their own. But even these have their weary hours when a series of venerable words and sounds, and a mechanical, pious ritual does them good. But supposing that these rare men—in every religion the religious man is an exception—know how to help themselves, the poor in spirit do not know, and to forbid them the prayer-babbling would mean to take their religion from them, a fact which Protestantism brings more and more to light. All that religion wants with such persons is that they should keep still with their eyes, hands, legs, and all their organs: they thereby become temporarily beautified and—more human-looking!


The Conditions for God.—"God himself cannot subsist without wise men," said Luther, and with good reason; but "God can still less subsist without unwise men,"—good Luther did not say that!


A Dangerous Resolution.—The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad, has made the world ugly and bad.

[Pg 173]


Christianity and Suicide.—Christianity made use of the excessive longing for suicide at the time of its origin as a lever for its power: it left only two forms of suicide, invested them with the highest dignity and the highest hopes, and forbade all others with dreadful threatenings. But martyrdom and the slow self-annihilation of the ascetic were permitted.


Against Christianity.—It is now no longer our reason, but our taste that decides against Christianity.


Axioms.—An unavoidable hypothesis on which mankind must always fall back again, is in the long run more powerful than the most firmly believed belief in something untrue (like the Christian belief). In the long run: that means a hundred thousand years hence.


Pessimists as Victims.—When a profound dislike of existence gets the upper hand, the after-effect of a great error in diet of which a people has been long guilty comes to light. The spread of Buddhism (not its origin) is thus to a considerable extent dependent on the excessive and almost exclusive rice-fare of the Indians, and on the universal enervation that results therefrom. Perhaps the modern, European discontentedness is to be looked[Pg 174] upon as caused by the fact that the world of our forefathers, the whole Middle Ages, was given to drink, owing to the influence of German tastes in Europe: the Middle Ages, that means the alcoholic poisoning of Europe.—The German dislike of life (including the influence of the cellar-air and stove-poison in German dwellings), is essentially a cold-weather complaint.


Origin of Sin—Sin, as it is at present felt wherever Christianity prevails or has prevailed is a Jewish feeling and a Jewish invention; and in respect to this background of all Christian morality Christianity has in fact aimed at "Judaising" the whole world. To what an extent this has succeeded in Europe is traced most accurately in our remarkable alienness to Greek antiquity—a world without the feeling of sin—in our sentiments even at present; in spite of all the good will to approximation and assimilation, which whole generations and many distinguished individuals have not failed to display. "Only when thou repentest is God gracious to thee"—that would arouse the laughter or the wrath of a Greek: he would say, "Slaves may have such sentiments." Here a mighty being, an almighty being, and yet a revengeful being, is presupposed; his power is so great that no injury whatever can be done to him except in the point of honour. Every sin is an infringement of respect, a crimen ls majestatis divin—and nothing more! Contrition, degradation, rolling-in-the-dust,—these are the first and[Pg 175] last conditions on which his favour depends: the restoration, therefore, of his divine honour! If injury be caused otherwise by sin, if a profound, spreading evil be propagated by it, an evil which, like a disease, attacks and strangles one man after another—that does not trouble this honour-craving Oriental in heaven; sin is an offence against him, not against mankind!—to him on whom he has bestowed his favour he bestows also this indifference to the natural consequences of sin. God and mankind are here thought of as separated as so antithetical that sin against the latter cannot be at all possible,—all deeds are to be looked upon solely with respect to their supernatural consequences, and not with respect to their natural results: it is thus that the Jewish feeling, to which all that is natural seems unworthy in itself, would have things. The Greeks, on the other hand, were more familiar with the thought that transgression also may have dignity,—even theft, as in the case of Prometheus, even the slaughtering of cattle as the expression of frantic jealousy, as in the case of Ajax; in their need to attribute dignity to transgression and embody it therein, they invented tragedy,—an art and a delight, which in its profoundest essence has remained alien to the Jew, in spite of all his poetic endowment and taste for the sublime.

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