The Twilight of the Idols - The Antichrist

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Here the outlook is free.—When a philosopher holds his tongue it may be the sign of the loftiness of his soul: when he contradicts himself it may be love; and the very courtesy of a knight of knowledge may force him to lie. It has been said, and not without subtlety:—il est indigne des grands curs de rpandre le trouble qu'ils ressentent[8]: but it is necessary to add that there may also be grandeur de cur in not shrinking from the most undignified proceeding. A woman who loves sacrifices her honour; a knight of knowledge who "loves," sacrifices perhaps his humanity; a God who loved, became a Jew....


Beauty no accident—Even the beauty of a race or of a family, the charm and perfection of all its movements, is attained with pains: like genius it is the final result of the accumulated work of generations. Great sacrifices must have been made on the altar ol good taste, for its sake many things must have been done, and much must have been left undone—the seventeenth century in France is admirable for both of[Pg 107] these things,—in this century there must have been a principle of selection in respect to company, locality, clothing, the gratification of the instinct of sex; beauty must have been preferred to profit, to habit, to opinion and to indolence. The first rule of all:—nobody must "let himself go," not even when he is alone.—Good things are exceedingly costly:; and in all cases the law obtains that he who possesses them is a different person from him who is acquiring them. Everything good is an inheritance: that which is not inherited is imperfect, it is simply a beginning. In Athens at the time of Cicero—who expresses his surprise at the fact—the men and youths were by far superior in beauty to the women: but what hard work and exertions the male sex had for centuries imposed upon itself in the service of beauty! We must not be mistaken in regard to the method employed here: the mere discipline of feelings and thoughts is little better than nil (—it is in this that the great error of German culture, which is quite illusory, lies): the body must be persuaded first. The strict maintenance of a distinguished and tasteful demeanour, the obligation of frequenting only those who do not "let themselves go," is amply sufficient to render one distinguished and tasteful: in two or three generations everything has already taken deep root. The fate of a people and of humanity is decided according to whether they begin culture at the right place—not at the "soul" (as the fatal superstition of the priests and half-priests would have it): the right place is the body, demeanour, diet, physiology—the rest follows as the night the day.... That is why the Greeks remain the first event in[Pg 108] culture—they knew and they did what was needful. Christianity with its contempt of the body is the greatest mishap that has ever befallen mankind.


Progress in my sense.—I also speak of a "return to nature," although it is not a process of going back but of going up—up into lofty, free and even terrible nature and naturalness; such a nature as can play with great tasks and may play with them.... To speak in a parable. Napoleon was an example of a "return to nature," as I understand it (for instance in rebus tacticis, and still more, as military experts know, in strategy). But Rousseau—whither did he want to return? Rousseau this first modern man, idealist and canaille in one person; who was in need of moral "dignity," in order even to endure the sight of his own person,—ill with unbridled vanity and wanton self-contempt; this abortion, who planted his tent on the threshold of modernity, also wanted a "return to nature"; but, I ask once more, whither did he wish to return? I hate Rousseau, even in the Revolution itself: the latter was the historical expression of this hybrid of idealist and canaille. The bloody farce which this Revolution ultimately became, its "immorality," concerns me but slightly; what I loathe however is its Rousseauesque morality—the so-called "truths" of the Revolution, by means of which it still exercises power and draws all flat and mediocre things over to its side. The doctrine of equality! ... But there is no more deadly poison than this; for it seems to proceed from the very lips of justice, whereas in reality it draws the curtain[Pg 109] down on all justice.... "To equals equality, to unequals inequality"—that would be the real speech of justice and that which follows from it "Never make unequal things equal." The fact that so much horror and blood are associated with this doctrine of equality, has lent this "modern idea" par excellence such a halo of fire and glory, that the Revolution as a drama has misled even the most noble minds.—That after all is no reason for honouring it the more.—I can see only one who regarded it as it should be regarded—that is to say, with loathing; I speak of Goethe.


Goethe.—No mere German, but a European event: a magnificent attempt to overcome the eighteenth century by means of a return to nature, by means of an ascent to the naturalness of the Renaissance, a kind of self-overcoming on the part of the century in question.—He bore the strongest instincts of this century in his breast: its sentimentality, and idolatry of nature, its anti-historic, idealistic, unreal, and revolutionary spirit (—the latter is only a form of the unreal). He enlisted history, natural science, antiquity, as well as Spinoza, and above all practical activity, in his service. He drew a host of very definite horizons around him; far from liberating himself from life, he plunged right into it; he did not give in; he took as much as he could on his own shoulders, and into his heart. That to which he aspired was totality; he was opposed to the sundering of reason, sensuality, feeling and will (as preached with most repulsive scholasticism by Kant, the antipodes of Goethe); he disciplined himself into a harmonious whole, he created himself. Goethe in the[Pg 110] midst of an age of unreal sentiment, was a convinced realist: he said yea to everything that was like him in this regard,—there was no greater event in his life than that ens realissimum, surnamed Napoleon. Goethe conceived a strong, highly-cultured man, skilful in all bodily accomplishments, able to keep himself in check, having a feeling of reverence for himself, and so constituted as to be able to risk the full enjoyment of naturalness in all its rich profusion and be strong enough for this freedom; a man of tolerance, not out of weakness but out of strength, because he knows how to turn to his own profit that which would ruin the mediocre nature; a man unto whom nothing is any longer forbidden, unless it be weakness either as a vice or as a virtue. Such a spirit, become free, appears in the middle of the universe with a feeling of cheerful and confident fatalism; he believes that only individual things are bad, and that as a whole the universe justifies and, affirms itself—He no longer denies.... But such a faith is the highest Of all faiths: I christened it wit! the name of Dionysus.


It might be said that, in a certain sense, the nineteenth century also strove after all that Goethe himself aspired to: catholicity in understanding, in approving; a certain reserve towards everything, daring realism, and a reverence for every fact. How is it that the total result of this is not a Goethe, but a state of chaos, a nihilistic groan, an inability to discover where one is, an instinct of fatigue which in praxi is persistently driving Europe to hark back to the eighteenth century? (—For instance in the form of maudlin romanticism, altruism, hyper-sentimentality,[Pg 111] pessimism in taste, and socialism in politics). Is not the nineteenth century, at least in its closing years, merely an accentuated, brutalised eighteenth century,—that is to say a century of decadence? And has not Goethe been—not alone for Germany, but also for the whole of Europe,—merely an episode, a beautiful "in vain"? But great men are misunderstood when they are regarded from the wretched standpoint of public utility. The fact that no advantage can be derived from them—this in itself may perhaps be peculiar to greatness.

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