The Twilight of the Idols - The Antichrist

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"The kind of freedom I do not mean...."[6]—In an age like the present, it simply adds to one's perils to be left to one's instincts. The instincts contra diet, disturb, and destroy each other; I have already defined modernism as physiological self-contradiction. A reasonable system of education would insist upon at least one of these instinct-systems being paralysed beneath an iron pressure, in order to[Pg 100] allow others to assert their power, to grow strong, and to dominate. At present, the only conceivable way of making the individual possible would be to prune him:—of making him possible—that is to say, whole. The very reverse occurs. Independence, free development, and laisser aller are clamoured for most violently precisely by those for whom no restraint could be too severe—this is true in politics, it is true in Art. But this is a symptom of decadence: our modern notion of "freedom" is one proof the more of the degeneration of instinct.


Where faith is necessary.—Nothing is more rare among moralists and saints than uprightness; maybe they say the reverse is true, maybe they even believe it. For, when faith is more useful, more effective, more convincing than conscious hypocrisy, by instinct that hypocrisy forthwith becomes innocent: first principle towards the understanding of great saints. The same holds good of philosophers, that other order of saints; their whole business compels them to concede only certain truths—that is to say, those by means of which their particular trade receives the public sanction,—to speak "Kantingly": the truths of practical reason. They know what they must prove; in this respect they are practical,—they recognise each other by the fact that they agree upon "certain truths."—"Thou shalt not lie"—in plain English:—Beware, Mr Philosopher, of speaking the truth....

[Pg 101]


A quiet hint to Conservatives.—That which we did not know formerly, and know now, or might know if we chose,—is the fact that a retrograde formation, a reversion in any sense or degree, is absolutely impossible. We physiologists, at least, are aware of this. But all priests and moralists have believed in it,—they wished to drag and screw man back to a former standard of virtue. Morality has always been a Procrustean bed. Even the politicians have imitated the preachers of virtue in this matter. There are parties at the present day whose one aim and dream is to make all things adopt the crab-march. But not everyone can be a crab. It cannot be helped: we must go forward,—that is to say step by step further and further into decadence (—this is my definition of modern "progress"). We can hinder this development, and by so doing dam up and accumulate degeneration itself and render it more convulsive, more volcanic: we cannot do more.


My concept of Genius.—Great men, like great ages, are explosive material, in which a stupendous amount of power is accumulated; the first conditions of their existence are always historical and physiological; they are the outcome of the fact that for long ages energy has been collected, hoarded up, saved up and preserved for their use, and that no explosion has taken place. When, the tension in the bulk has become sufficiently excessive, the most fortuitous stimulus suffices in order to call "genius,"[Pg 102] "great deeds," and momentous fate-into the world. What then is the good of all environment, historical periods, "Zeitgeist" (Spirit of the age) and "public opinion"?—Take the case of Napoleon. France of the Revolution, and still more of the period preceding the Revolution, would have brought forward a type which was the very reverse of Napoleon: it actually did produce such a type. And because Napoleon was something different, the heir of a stronger, more lasting and older civilisation than that which in France was being smashed to atoms he became master there, he was the only master there. Great men are necessary, the age in which they appear is a matter of chance; the fact that they almost invariably master their age is accounted for simply by the fact that they are stronger, that they are older, and that power has been stored longer for them. The relation of a genius to his age is that which exists between strength and weakness and between maturity and youth: the age is relatively always very much younger, thinner, less mature, less resolute and more childish. The fact that the general opinion in France at the present day, is utterly different on this very point (in Germany too, but that is of no consequence); the fact that in that country the theory of environment—a regular neuropathic notion—has become sacrosanct and almost scientific, and finds acceptance even among the physiologists, is a very bad, and exceedingly depressing sign. In England too the same belief prevails: but nobody will be surprised at that. The Englishman knows only two ways of understanding the genius and the "great man": either democratically in the style of[Pg 103] Buckle, or religiously after the manner of Carlyle.—The danger which great men and great ages represent, is simply extraordinary; every kind of exhaustion and of sterility follows in their wake. The great man is an end; the great age—the Renaissance for instance,—is an end. The genius—in work and in deed,—is necessarily a squanderer: the fact that he spends himself constitutes his greatness. The instinct of self-preservation is as it were suspended in him; the overpowering pressure of out-flowing energy in him forbids any such protection and prudence. People call this "self-sacrifice," they praise his "heroism," his indifference to his own well-being, his utter devotion to an idea, a great cause, a father-land: All misunderstandings.... He flows out, he flows over, he consumes himself, he does not spare himself,—and does all this with fateful necessity, irrevocably, involuntarily, just as a river involuntarily bursts its dams. But, owing to the fact that humanity has been much indebted to such explosives, it has endowed them with many things, for instance, with a kind of higher morality.... This is indeed the sort of gratitude that humanity is capable of: it misunderstands its benefactors.


The criminal and his like.—The criminal type is the type of the strong man amid unfavourable conditions, a strong man made sick. He lacks the wild and savage state, a form of nature and existence which is freer and more dangerous, in which everything that constitutes the shield and the sword in[Pg 104] the instinct of the strong man, takes a place by right. Society puts a ban upon his virtues; the most spirited instincts inherent in him immediately become involved with the depressing passions, with suspicion, fear and dishonour. But this is almost the recipe for physiological degeneration. When a man has to do that which he is best suited to do, which he is most fond of doing, not only clandestinely, but also with long suspense, caution and ruse, he becomes anmic; and inasmuch as he is always having to pay for his instincts in the form of danger, persecution and fatalities, even his feelings begin to turn against these instincts—he begins to regard them as fatal. It is society, our tame, mediocre, castrated society, in which an untutored son of nature who comes to us from his mountains or from his adventures at sea, must necessarily degenerate into a criminal. Or almost necessarily: for there are cases in which such a man shows himself to be stronger than society: the Corsican Napoleon is the most celebrated case of this. Concerning the problem before us, Dostoiewsky's testimony is of importance—Dostoiewsky who, incidentally, was the only psychologist from whom I had anything to learn: he belongs to the happiest windfalls of my life, happier even than the discovery of Stendhal. This profound man, who was right ten times over in esteeming the superficial Germans low, found the Siberian convicts among whom he lived for many years,—those thoroughly hopeless criminals for whom no road back to society stood open—very different from what even he had expected,—that is to say carved from about the best, hardest and most[Pg 105] valuable material that grows on Russian soil.[7] Let us generalise the case of the criminal; let us imagine creatures who for some reason or other fail to meet with public approval, who know that they are regarded neither as beneficent nor useful,—the feeling of the Chandala, who are aware that they are not looked upon as equal, but as proscribed, unworthy, polluted. The thoughts and actions of all such natures are tainted with a subterranean mouldiness; everything in them is of a paler hue than in those on whose existence the sun shines. But almost all those creatures whom, nowadays, we honour and respect, formerly lived in this semi-sepulchral atmosphere: the man of science, the artist, the genius, the free spirit, the actor, the business man, and the great explorer. As long as the priest represented the highest type of man, every valuable kind of man was depreciated.... The time is coming—this I guarantee—when he will pass as the lowest type, as our Chandala, as the falsest and most disreputable kind of man.... I call your attention to the fact that even now, under the sway of the mildest customs and usages which have ever ruled on earth or at least in Europe, every form of standing aside, every kind of prolonged, excessively prolonged concealment, every unaccustomed and obscure form of existence tends to approximate to that type which the criminal exemplifies to perfection. All pioneers of the spirit have, for a while, the grey and fatalistic mark of the Chandala on their brows: not because they are regarded as Chandala, but because they[Pg 106] themselves feel the terrible chasm which separates them from all that is traditional and honourable. Almost every genius knows the "Catilinarian life" as one of the stages in his development, a feeling of hate, revenge and revolt against everything that exists, that has ceased to evolve.... Catiline—the early stage of every Csar.

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