The Twilight of the Idols - The Antichrist

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Concerning the psychology of the artist For art to be possible at all—that is to say, in order that an[Pg 66] sthetic mode of action and of observation may exist, a certain preliminary physiological state is indispensable ecstasy.[1] This state of ecstasy must first have intensified the susceptibility of the whole machine otherwise, no art is possible. All kinds of ecstasy, however differently produced, have this power to create art, and above all the state dependent upon sexual excitement—this most venerable and primitive form of ecstasy. The same applies to that ecstasy which is the outcome of all great desires, all strong passions; the ecstasy of the feast, of the arena, of the act of bravery, of victory, of all extreme action; the ecstasy of cruelty; the ecstasy of destruction; the ecstasy following upon certain meteorological influences, as for instance that of spring-time, or upon the use of narcotics; and finally the ecstasy of will, that ecstasy which results from accumulated and surging will-power.—The essential feature of ecstasy is the feeling of increased strength and abundance. Actuated by this feeling a man gives of himself to things, he forces them to partake of his riches, he does violence to them—this proceeding is called idealising. Let us rid ourselves of a prejudice here: idealising does not consist, as is generally believed, in a suppression or an elimination of detail or of unessential features. A stupendous accentuation of the principal characteristics is by far the most decisive factor at work, and in consequence the minor characteristics vanish.

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In this state a man enriches everything from out his own abundance: what he sees, what he wills, he sees distended, compressed, strong, overladen with power. He transfigures things until they reflect his power,—until they are stamped with his perfection. This compulsion to transfigure into the beautiful is—Art Everything—even that which he is not,—is nevertheless to such a man a means of rejoicing over himself; in Art man rejoices over himself as perfection.—It is possible to imagine a contrary state, a specifically anti-artistic state of the instincts,—a state in which a man impoverishes, attenuates, and draws the blood from everything. And, truth to tell, history is full of such anti-artists, of such creatures of low vitality who have no choice but to appropriate everything they see and to suck its blood and make it thinner. This is the case with the genuine Christian, Pascal for instance. There is no such thing as a Christian who is also an artist ... Let no one be so childish as to suggest Raphael or any homeopathic Christian of the nineteenth century as an objection to this statement: Raphael said Yea, Raphael did Yea,—consequently Raphael was no Christian.


What is the meaning of the antithetical concepts Apollonian and Dionysian which I have introduced into the vocabulary of sthetic, as representing two distinct modes of ecstasy?—Apollonian ecstasy acts above all as a force stimulating the eye, so that it acquires the power of vision. The painter, the[Pg 68] sculptor, the epic poet are essentially visionaries. In the Dionysian state, on the other hand, the whole system of passions is stimulated and intensified, so What it discharges itself by all the means of expression at once, and vents all its power of representation, of imitation, of transfiguration, of transformation, together with every kind of mimicry and histrionic display at the same time. The essential feature remains the facility in transforming, the inability to refrain from reaction (—a similar state to that of certain hysterical patients, who at the slightest hint assume any rle). It is impossible for the Dionysian artist not to understand any suggestion; I no outward sign of emotion escapes him, he possesses the instinct of comprehension and of divination in the highest degree, just as he is capable of the most perfect art of communication. He enters into every skin, into every passion: he is continually changing himself. Music as we understand it to-day is likewise a general excitation and discharge of the emotions; but, notwithstanding this, it is only the remnant of a much richer world of emotional expression, a mere residuum of Dionysian histrionism. For music to be made possible as a special art, quite a number of senses, and particularly the muscular sense, had to be paralysed (at least relatively: for all rhythm still appeals to our muscles to a certain extent):. and thus man no longer imitates and represents physically everything he feels, as soon as he feels it Nevertheless that is the normal Dionysian state, and in any case its primitive state. Music is the slowly attained specialisatio of this state at the cost of kindred capacities.

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The actor, the mime, the dancer, the musician, and the lyricist, are in their instincts fundamentally related; but they have gradually specialised in their particular branch, and become separated—even to the point of contradiction. The lyricist remained united with the musician for the longest period of time; and the actor with the dancer. The architect manifests neither a Dionysian nor an Apollonian state: In his case it is the great act of will, the will that moveth mountains, the ecstasy of the great will which aspires to art The most powerful men have always inspired architects; the architect has always been under the suggestion of power. In the architectural structure, man's pride, man's triumph over gravitation, man's will to power, assume a visible form. Architecture is a sort of oratory of power by means of forms. Now it is persuasive, even flattering, and at other times merely commanding. The highest sensation of power and security finds expression in grandeur of style. That power which no longer requires to be proved, which scorns to please; which responds only with difficulty; which feels no witnesses around it; which is oblivious of the fact that it is being opposed; which relies on itself fatalistically, and is a law among laws:—such power expresses itself quite naturally in grandeur of style.


I have been reading the life of Thomas Carlyle, that unconscious and involuntary farce, that heroico-moral interpretation of dyspeptic moods.—Carlyle, a man of strong words and attitudes, a rhetorician[Pg 70] by necessity, who seems ever to be tormented by the desire of finding some kind of strong faith, and by his inability to do so (—in this respect a typical Romanticist!). To yearn for a strong faith is not the proof of a strong faith, but rather the reverse. If a man have a strong faith he can indulge in the luxury of scepticism; he is strong enough, firm enough, well-knit enough for such a luxury. Carlyle stupefies something in himself by means of the fortissimo of his reverence for men of a strong faith, and his rage over those who are less foolish: he is in sore need of noise. An attitude of constant and passionate dishonesty towards himself—this is his proprium; by virtue of this he is and remains interesting.—Of course, in England he is admired precisely on account of his honesty. Well, that is English; and in view of the fact that the English are the nation of consummate cant, it is not only comprehensible but also very natural. At bottom, Carlyle is an English atheist who makes it a point of honour not to be one.

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