Friedrich Nietzsche, Fighter for Freedom
iii. Nietzsche's Path of Development
We have presented Nietzsche's opinion about supermen as they stand before us in his last writings; Zarathustra (1883-1884), Jenseits von Gut und Böse, Beyond Good and Evil (1886), Genealogie der Moral, Genealogy of Morals. (1887), Der Fall Wagner, The Case of Wagner (1888), Götzendämmerung, The Twilight of Idols (1889). In the incomplete work, Der Wille zur Macht, The Will to Power, the first part of which appeared as Antichrist in the eighth volume of the Complete Works, these opinions have been given their most significant philosophical expression. From the text of the appendix to the above-mentioned volume, this becomes quite clear. The work is called 1. The Antichrist, attempt at a criticism of Christendom. 2. The Free Spirit, criticism of philosophy as a nihilistic movement. 3. The Immoralist, criticism of the most ominous type of ignorance: morality.
At the very beginning of his writing career, Nietzsche did not express his thoughts in their most characteristic form. At first he stood under the influence of German idealism, in the manner in which it was represented by Schopenhauer and Richard Wagner. This expresses itself in his first writings as Schopenhauer and Wagner formulas, but the one who can see through these formulations into the kernel of Nietzsche's thoughts, finds in these writings the same purposes and goals which come to expression in his later works.
One cannot speak of Nietzsche's development without being reminded of that freest thinker who was brought forth by mankind of the new age, namely, Max Stirner. It is a sad truth that this thinker, who fulfills in the most complete sense what Nietzsche requires of the superman, is known and respected by only a few. Already in the forties of the nineteenth century, he expressed Nietzsche's world conception. Of course he did not do this in such comfortable heart tones as did Nietzsche, but even more in crystal clear thoughts, beside which Nietzsche's aphorisms often appear like mere stammering.
What path might Nietzsche not have taken if, instead of Schopenhauer, his teacher had been Max Stirner! In Nietzsche's writing no influence of Stirner whatsoever is to be found. By his own effort, Nietzsche had to work his way out of German idealism to a Stirner-like world conceptIon.
Like Nietzsche, Stirner is of the opinion that the motivating forces of human life can be looked for only in the; single, real personality. He rejects all powers that wish; to form and determine the individual personality from outside. He traces the course of world history and discovers the fundamental error of mankind to be that it does not place before itself the care and culture of the individual personality, but other impersonal goals and purposes instead. He sees the true liberation of mankind in that men refuse to grant to all such goals a higher reality, but merely use these goals as a means of their self-cultivation. The free human being determines his own purposes; he possesses his ideals; he does not allow himself to be possessed by them. The human being who does not rule over his ideals as a free personality, stands under the same influence as the insane person who suffers from fixed ideas. It is all the same for Stirner if a human being imagines himself to be “Emperor of China” or if “a comfortable bourgeois imagines it is his destiny to be a good Christian, a faithful Protestant, a loyal citizen, a virtuous human being, and so on. That is all one and the same ‘fixed idea.’ The one who has never attempted and dared not to be a good Christian, a faithful Protestant, or a virtuous human being, and so on, is caught and held captive in orthodoxy, virtuousness, etc.”
One need read only a few sentences from Stirner's book, Der Einzige und sein Eigentum, The Individual and his very Own, to see how his conception is related to that of Nietzsche. I shall quote a few passages from this book which are specially indicative of Stirner's way of thinking:
“Pre-Christian and Christian times follow opposite goals. The former wish to idealize the real, the latter to realize the ideal. The former looks for the ‘Holy Spirit,’ the latter for the ‘transfigured body.’ For this reason, the former comes to insensitivity toward the real, with contempt for the world; the latter ends with the rejection of ideals, with ‘contempt for the spirit.’
“As the stream of sanctification or purification penetrates through the old world (the washings, etc.), so the actual incorporation penetrates into the Christian; the God throws Himself into this world, becomes flesh and redeems it, that is, He fills it with Himself; but since He is ‘the idea’ or ‘the spirit,’ therefore in the end one (for example, Hegel) carries the idea into everything of this world and proves ‘that the idea, that intellect, is within all things.’ Him whom the heathen Stoics represented as ‘the wise one,’ compares with the ‘human being’ in today's culture, and each of them is a bodiless being. The unreal ‘wise one,’ this bodiless ‘holy one,’ of the stories becomes a real person, an embodied holy one, in the God who has become flesh; the unreal ‘human being,’ the bodiless I, becomes reality in the embodied I, in me.
“That the individual himself is a world history and possesses in the rest of world history his essential self, transcends the usual Christian thought. To the Christian, world history is made more important because it is the history of Christ or of ‘man;’ for the egotist, only his own history has value because he wishes to develop himself, not the idea of mankind; he does not wish to develop the divine plan, the intentions of divine providence, freedom, and so on. He does not regard himself as an instrument of the idea or as a vessel of God; he acknowledges no profession, does not claim to be here for the further development of mankind, and to add his little mite, but he lives his life in indifference to this, oblivious of how well or how ill mankind itself is faring. If it would not lead to the misunderstanding that a condition of nature was to be praised, one could recall Lenaus' Drei Zigeuner, Three Gypsies: — ‘What am I in the world to realize ideas?’ — To bring about the realization of the idea, ‘State,’ by doing my bit for citizenship, or by marriage, as husband and father, to bring into existence the idea of family? What matters such a profession to me? I live according to a profession as little as the flower grows and perfumes the air according to a profession.
“The ideal of ‘the human being’ is realized when the Christian concept is reversed in the sentence: ‘I, this unique one, am the human being.’ The conceptual question, ‘What is man?’ has then transposed itself into the personal one, ‘Who is man?’ By ‘what,’ one seeks for the concept in order to realize it; with ‘who,’ it is no longer a question at all, but the answer is immediately present within the questioner: the question answers itself.
“About God one says, ‘Names do not name You.’ That also is valid for the ‘me:’ no concept expresses the ‘me;’ nothing one gives as my being exhausts me; they are only names. Likewise, one says about God that He is perfect and has no obligation to strive for perfection. This also is valid for me alone.
“I am the possessor of my own power, and I am this when I know myself to be the unique one. Within this unique one the possessor of self returns again into his creative nothingness, out of which he was born. Each higher being above me, be it God or be it man, weakens the feeling of my uniqueness, and only fades before the sun of the consciousness: If I base my affairs upon myself, upon the individual, then they stand upon the temporal, upon the mortal creator who devours himself, and, I may say. ‘I have based my affairs upon nothing.’”
This person dependent only upon himself, this possessor of creativity out of himself alone, is Nietzsche's superman.
These Stirner thoughts would have been the suitable vessel into which Nietzsche could have poured his rich life of feeling; instead, he looked to Schopenhauer's world of concepts for the ladder upon which he could climb to his own world of thought.
Our entire world knowledge stems from two roots, according to Schopenhauer's opinion. It comes out of the life of reflection, and out of the awareness of will, namely, that which appears in us as doer. The “thing in itself” lies on the other side of the world of our reflections. For the reflection is only the effect which the “thing in itself” exercises upon my organ of knowledge. I know only the impressions which the things make upon me, not the things themselves. And these impressions only form my reflections. I know no sun and no earth, but only an eye which sees a sun, and a hand which touches the earth. Man knows only that, “The world which surrounds him is only there as reflection, that is, absolutely in relation to something else: the reflected, which is he himself.” (Schopenhauer, Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, World as Will and Reflection, ¶ 1.) However, the human being does not merely reflect the world, but is also active within it; he becomes conscious of his own will, and he learns that what he feels within himself as will can be perceived from outside as movement of his body; that is, the human being becomes aware of his own acts twice: from within as reflection, and from outside as will. Schopenhauer concludes from this that it is the will itself which appears in the perceived body motion as reflection. And he asserts further that not only is the reflection of one's own body and movements based upon will, but that this is also the case behind all other reflections. The whole world then, in Schopenhauer's opinion, according to its very essence, is will, and appears to our intellect as reflection. This will, Schopenhauer asserts, is uniform in all things. Only our intellect causes us to perceive a multitude of differentiated things.
According to this point of view, the human being is connected with the uniform world being through this will. Inasmuch as man acts, the uniform, primordial will works within him. Man exists as a unique and special personality only in his own life of reflection; in essence he is identical with the uniform groundwork of the world.
If we assume that as he came to know Schopenhauer's philosophy, the thought of the superman already existed unconsciously, instinctively in Nietzsche, then this teaching of the will could only affect him sympathetically. In the human will Nietzsche found an element which allowed man to take part directly in the creation of the world-content. As the one who wills, man is not merely a Spectator standing outside the world-content, who makes for himself pictures of reality, but he himself is a creator. Within him reigns that divine power above which there is no other.
Out of these viewpoints within Nietzsche the ideas of the Apollonian and of the Dionysian world conceptions form themselves. He turns these two upon the Greek life of an, letting them develop according to two roots, namely, out of an art of representation and out of an art of willing. When the reflecting human being idealizes his world of reflection and embodies his idealized reflections in works of art, then the Apollonian art arises. He lends the shine of the eternal to the individual objects of reflection, through the fact that he imbues them with beauty. But he remains standing within the world of reflection. The Dionysian artist tries not only to express beauty in his works of art, but he even imitates the creative working of the world will. In his own movements he tries to image the world spirit. He makes himself into a visible embodiment of the will. He himself becomes a work of art. “In singing and dancing, man expresses himself as a member of a higher community; he has forgotten the art of walking and speaking, and is about to fly, to dance up into the air. Out of his gestures this enchantment speaks.” Geburt der Tragödie, Birth of Tragedy, ¶ 1.) In this condition man forgets himself, he no longer feels himself as an individuum; he lets the universal world will reign within him In this way Nietzsche interprets the festivals which were given by the servants of Dionysus in honor of the latter. In the Dionysian servant Nietzsche sees the archetpictures of the Dionysian artist. Now he imagines that the oldest dramatic art of the Greeks came into existence for the reason that a higher union of the Dionysian with the Apollonian had taken place. In this way he explains the origin of the first Greek tragedy. He assumes that the tragedy arose out of the tragic chorus. The Dionysian human being becomes the spectator, the observer of a picture which represents himself. The chorus is the self-reflection of a Dionysically aroused human being, that is, the Dionysian human being sees his Dionysian stimulation reflected through an Apollonian work of art. The presentation of the Dionysian in the Apollonian picture is the primitive tragedy. The assumption of such a tragedy is that in its creator a living consciousness of the connection of man with the primordial powers of the world is present. Such a consciousness expresses itself in the myths. The mythological must be the object of the oldest tragedies. When, in the development of a people the moment arrives that the destructive intellect extinguishes the living feeling for myths, the death of the tragic is the necessary consequence.
In the development of Greek culture, according to Nietzsche, this moment began with Socrates. Socrates was an enemy of all instinctive life which was bound up with powers of nature. He allowed only that to be valid which the intellect could prove in its thinking, that which was teachable. Through this, war was declared upon the myth, and Euripides, described by Nietzsche as the pupil of Socrates, destroyed tragedy because his creating sprang no longer out of the Dionysian instinct, as did that of Aeschylus, but out of a critical intellect. Instead of the imitation of the movements of the world spirit's will, in Euripides is found the intellectual knitting together of individual events within the tragic action.
I do not ask for the historical justification of these ideas of Nietzsche. Because of them he was sharply attacked by a classical philologist. Nietzsche's description of Greek culture can be compared to the picture a man gives of a landscape which he observes from the summit of a mountain; it is a philological presentation of a description which a traveler could give who visits each single little spot. From the top of the mountain many a thing is distorted, according to the laws of optics.
What comes into consideration here is the question: What task does Nietzsche place before himself in his Geburt der Tragödie, Birth of Tragedy? Nietzsche is of the, opinion that the older Greeks well knew the sufferings of existence. “There is the old story that for a long time King Midas had chased the wise Silenus, the companion of Dionysus, without being able to catch him. When the latter had finally fallen into his hands, the king asked, ‘What is the very best and the most excellent for the human being?’ Then, rigid and immovable, the demon remained, silent, until, forced by the king he finally broke out into shrill laughter with these words: ‘Miserable temporal creature! Child of accident and misery! Why do you force In to tell you what is most profitable for you not to hear? The very best for you is entirely unattainable, namely, not to be born, not to exist, to be nothing. But the second best is for you to die soon.’” (Geburt der Tragödie, Birth of Tragedy, ¶ 3.) In this saying Nietzsche finds a fundamental feeling of the Greeks expressed. He considers it a superficiality when one presents the Greeks as a continually merry, childishly playful people. Out of the tragic feeling of the Greeks had to arise the impulse to create something whereby existence became bearable. They looked for justification of existence, and found this within the world of the Gods and in their art. Only through the counter image of the Olympic Gods and art could raw reality become bearable for the Greeks. The fundamental question in the Geburt der Tragödie, Birth of Tragedy, and for Nietzsche himself is, To what extent does Greek art foster life, and to what extent does it maintain life? Nietzsche's fundamental instinct in regard to art as a life-fostering power, already makes itself known in this first work.
Still another fundamental instinct of Nietzsche's is to be observed in this work. It is his aversion toward the merely logical spirit, whose personality stands completely under the domination of his intellect. From this aversion stems Nietzsche's opinion that the Socratic spirit was the destroyer of Greek culture. Logic for Nietzsche is merely a form in which a person expresses himself. If no further modes of expression are added to this form, then the personality appears as a cripple, as an organism in which the necessary organs are atrophied. Because in Kant's writings Nietzsche could discover only the pondering intellect, he called Kant a “mis-grown concept cripple.” Only when logic is the means of expression of deeper fundamental instincts of a personality does Nietzsche grant it validity. Logic must be the outflow for the super-logical in a personality. Nietzsche always rejected the Socratic intellect. We read in the Götzendämmerung, Twilight of Idols, “With Socrates the Greek taste reverses in the direction of dialectic; what is it that really happens? Above all, an aristocratic taste is overthrown; the common people get the upper hand with dialectic. Before Socrates, the dialectic manners were rejected in good society; they were considered bad manners, they merely posed.” (Problem of Socrates, ¶ 5.) If powerful fundamental instincts do not uphold a position, then the intellect which has to ‘prove’ sets in, and tries to support the matter by legal artifices.
Nietzsche believed that in Richard Wagner he recognized a restorer of the Dionysian spirit. Out of this belief he wrote the fourth of his Unzeitgemässen Betrachtungen, Untimely Observations, Richard Wagner in Bayreuth, 1875. During this time he was still a strong believer in the interpretation of the Dionysian spirit which he had constructed for himself with the aid of Schopenhauer's philosophy. He still believed that reality was solely human reflection, and that beyond the world of reflection was the essence of things in the form of primordial will. And the creative Dionysian spirit had not yet become for him the human being creating out of himself, but was the human being forgetting himself and arising out of primordial willing. For him, Wagner's music-dramas were pictures of the ruling primordial will, created by one of those Dionysian spirits abandoned to this same primordial will.
And since Schopenhauer saw in music an immediate image of the will, Nietzsche also believed that he should see in music the best means of expression for a Dionysian creative spirit. To Nietzsche, the language of civilized people appears sick. It can no longer be the simple expression of feelings, because words must gradually be used more and more to express the increasing intellectual conditioning of the human being. But, because of this, the meaning of words has become abstract, has become poor. They can no longer express what the Dionysian spirit feels, who creates out of this primordial will. The Dionysian spirit, therefore, is no longer able to express himself in the dramatic element in words. He must call upon other means of expression to help, above all, upon music, but also upon other arts. The Dionysian spirit becomes a dithyrambic dramatist. This concept “is so all encompassing that it includes at the; same time, the dramatist, the poet, the musician” ... “Regardless how one may imagine the development of the archetypal dramatist, in his maturity and completeness he is a figure without any hindrances whatsoever and without any gaps; he is the really free artist, who can do nothing but think in all the arts at the same time, the mediator and conciliator between apparently separate spheres, the reconstructor of a unity and totality of artistic possibilities which cannot be at all conjectured or inferred, but can be shown only through the deed.” (Richard Wagner in Bayreuth, ¶ 7) Nietzsche revered Richard Wagner as a Dionysian spirit, and Richard Wagner can only be described as a Dionysian spirit as Nietzsche represented the latter in the above mentioned work. His instincts are turned toward the beyond; he wants to let the voice of the beyond ring forth in his music. I have already indicated that later Nietzsche found and could recognize those of his instincts which by their own nature were directed toward this world. He had originally misunderstood Wagner's art because he had misunderstood himself, because he had allowed his instincts to be tyrannized by Schopenhauer's philosophy. This subordination of his own instincts to a foreign spirit power appeared to him later like a sickness. He discovered that he had not listened to his instincts, and had allowed himself to be led astray by an opinion which was not in accord with his, that he had allowed an art to work upon these instincts which could only be to their disadvantage, and which finally had to make them ill.
Nietzsche himself described the influence which Schopenhauer's philosophy, which was antagonistic to his basic impulses, had made upon him. He described it when he still believed in this philosophy, in his third Unzeitgemässen Betrachtung, Schopenhauer als Erzieher, Untimely Observations, Schopenhauer as Educator (1874) at a time when Nietzsche was looking for a teacher. The right teacher can only be one who works upon the pupil in such a way that the inmost kernel of the pupil's being develops out of the personality. Every human being is influenced by the cultural media of the time in which he lives. He takes into himself what the time has to offer in educational material. But the question is, how can he find himself in the midst of all that is pressing in upon him from outside; how can he spin out of himself what he, and only he, and nobody else can be. “The human being who does not wish to belong to the masses needs only to stop being comfortable with himself; he should follow his voice of conscience which calls to him, Be yourself! That is not innately you, that which you are now doing, now intending, now desiring! Thus speaks the human being to himself, who one day discovers that he has always been satisfied to take educational material into himself from outside.” (opus cit, ¶ 1) Through the study of Schopenhauer's philosophy, Nietzsche found himself nevertheless, even if not yet in his most essential selfhood. Nietzsche strove unconsciously to express himself simply and honestly, according to his own basic impulses. Around him he found only people who expressed themselves in the educational formulas of their time, who hid their essential being behind these formulas. But in Schopenhauer Nietzsche discovered a human being who had the courage to make his personal feelings regarding the world into the content of his philosophy: “the hearty well being of the speaker” surrounded Nietzsche at the first reading of Schopenhauer's sentences. “Here is an harmonious, strengthening air; this is what we feel; here is a certain inimitable unreservedness and naturalness, as in those people who feel at home with themselves, and indeed are masters of a very rich home, in contrast to those writers who admire themselves most when they have been intellectual and whose writing thereby receives something restless and contrary to nature.” “Schopenhauer speaks with himself, or, if one absolutely must imagine a listener, then one should imagine a son whom the father instructs. It is a hearty, rough, good-natured expressing of one's mind to a listener who listens with love.” (Schopenhauer ¶ 2) What attracted Nietzsche to Schopenhauer was that he heard a human being speak who expressed his innermost instincts.
Nietzsche saw in Schopenhauer a strong personality who was not transformed through philosophy into a mere intellectual, but a personality who made use of logic merely to express the super-logic, the instinctive in himself. “His yearning for a stronger nature, for a healthier and simpler mankind, was a yearning for himself, and as soon as he had conquered his time within himself, then with astonished eyes, he had to see the genius within himself.” (Schopenhauer ¶ 3.) Already in those days the striving after the idea of the superman who searches for himself as the meaning of his own existence was working in Nietzsche's mind, and such a searcher he found in Schopenhauer. In such human beings he saw the purpose, indeed, the only purpose of, world existence; nature appeared to him to have reached a goal when she brought forth such a human being. Here “Nature, who never leaps, has made her only jump, and indeed a jump of joy, for she feels herself for the first time) at the goal, where she comprehends that she must abandon having goals.” (Schopenhauer ¶ 5) In this sentence lies the kernel of the conception of the superman. When he wrote this sentence Nietzsche wanted exactly the same thing that he later wanted from his Zarathustra, but he still lacked the power to express this desire in his own language. Already at the time when he wrote his Schopenhauer book, he saw in his conception of the superman, the fundamental idea of culture.
In the development of the personal instincts of the single human being, Nietzsche sees the goal of all human development. What works contrary to this development appears to him as the fundamental sin against mankind. But there is something within the human being which rebels in a quite natural way against his free development. The human being does not allow himself to be led only by his impulses, which are always active within him at every single moment, but also by all that he has collected in his memory. The human being remembers his own experiences. He tries to create for himself a consciousness of the experiences of his nation, his tribe, yes, of all mankind through the course of history. Man is an historical being. The animals live unhistorically: they follow impulses which are active within them at one single moment. Man lets himself be determined through his past. When he wants to undertake something he asks himself, What have I or someone else already experienced with a similar undertaking? Through the recollection of an experience the stimulus for an action can be completely killed. From the observation of this fact, the question arises for Nietzsche: To what extent does the human being's memory capacity benefit his life, and to what extent does it work to his disadvantage? The recollection which tries to encompass things which the human being himself has not experienced, lives within him as an historical sense, as study of the past. Nietzsche asks, To what extent does the historical sense foster life? He tries to give the answer to this question in his second Unzeitgemässen Betrachtung, Von Nutzen und Nachteil der Historie für das Leben, Untimely Observations, On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life (1873). The occasion for this writing was Nietzsche's perception that the historical sense among his contemporaries, especially among the scholars, had become an outstanding characteristic. To probe deeply into the past: this type of study Nietzsche found praised everywhere. Only through knowledge of the past was man to gain the capacity to differentiate between what is possible and what is impossible for him; this confession of faith drummed itself into his ears. Only the one who knows how a nation has developed can estimate what is advantageous for its future; this cry Nietzsche heard. Yes, even the philosophers wished to think up nothing new, but would rather study the thoughts of their ancestors. This historical sense worked paralysingly upon the creativity of the present. In the one who, with every impulse that stirs within him, has to determine first to what end a similar impulse has led in the past, the forces are lamed before they have become active. “Imagine the extreme example of a human being who simply does not possess the power to forget, who is condemned to see a coming into being everywhere; such a man no longer would believe in his own being, he would no longer believe in himself; he would see everything diffusing in moving fragments, and would lose himself in this stream of becoming. ... Forgetting is a part of all actions, just as not only light, but also darkness is a part of all organic life. A human being who would wish to feel only historically through and through, would be similar to the human being who is forced to do without sleep, or the animal who is compelled to live only by chewing the cud, over and over again.” (History, ¶ 1) Nietzsche is of the opinion that the human being can stand only as much history as is in accordance with his creative forces. The strong personality carries out his intention in spite of the fact that he remembers the experiences of the past; yes, perhaps just because of the recollection of these experiences, he would experience a strengthening of his forces. But the forces of the weak person are erased by this historical sense. To determine the extent, and through that the boundary “where the past must be forgotten if it is not to become the grave-digger of the present, one would have to know exactly the extent of the plastic forces of a human being, of a nation, of a culture; I mean, that power to grow out of oneself in a unique way, to transform and to incorporate the past and the foreign.” (History ¶ 1.)
Nietzsche is of the opinion that the historical should be cultivated only to the extent that it is necessary for the health of an individual, of a nation, or of a culture. What is important to him is “to learn more about making history of life.” (History, ¶ 1) He attributes to the human being the right to cultivate history in a way that produces, if possible, a fostering of the impulses of a certain moment, of the present. From this point of view he is an opponent of the other attitude toward history which seeks its salvation only in “historical objectivity,” which wants only to see and relate what happened in the past “factually,” which seeks only for the “pure, inconsequential” knowledge, or more clearly, “the truth from which nothing develops.” (History, ¶ 6) Such an observation can come only from a weak personality, whose feelings do not move with the ebb and flow when it sees the stream of happenings pass by it. Such a personality ”has become a re-echoing passivism, which through its resounding, reacts upon other similar passiva, until finally the entire air of an age is filled with a confused mass of whirring, delicate, related after-tones.” (History, ¶ 6) But that such a weak personality could re-experience the forces which had been active in the human being of the past, Nietzsche does not believe: “Yet it seems to me that in a certain way one hears only the overtones of each original and historical chief tone; the sturdiness and might of the original is no longer distinguishable from the spherically thin and pointed sound of the strings. While the original tone arouses us to deeds, tribulations, terrors, the latter lulls us to sleep and makes us weak enjoyers; it is as if one had arranged an heroic symphony for two flutes, and had intended it for the use of dreaming opium smokers.” (History, ¶ 6) Only he can truly understand the past who is able to live powerfully in the present, who has strong instincts through which he can discern and understand the instincts of the ancestors. He pays less attention to the factual than to what can be deduced from the facts. “It would be to imagine a writing of history which contained not the least drop of ordinary empirical truth, and yet could make the highest demands upon the predicate of objectivity.” (History, ¶ 6) He would be the master of such historical writing who had searched everywhere among the historical personages and events for what lies hidden behind the merely factual. But to accomplish this he must lead a strong individual life, because one can observe instincts and impulses directly only within one's own person. “Only out of the strongest power of the present may you interpret the past; only when you apply the strongest exertion of your most noble traits of character will you divine what is worthy to be known and to be preserved from the past, and what is great. Like through like! Otherwise you draw what is passed down to yourselves.” “The experienced and thoughtful writes all history. The one who has not experienced something greater and higher than others also will not know how to interpret something great and high out of the past.” (History, ¶ 6)
In regard to the growing importance of the historic sense in the present, Nietzsche judges, “That the human being learn above all to live and to use history only in the service of the life which has been experienced.” (History, ¶ 10) He wants above all things a “teaching of health for life,” and history should be cultivated only to the extent that it fosters such a teaching of health.
What is life-fostering in such an observation of history? This is the question Nietzsche asks in his History, and with this question he stands already at the place which he described in the above-mentioned sentence from Jenseits von Gut und Böse, Beyond Good and Evil, page 9.
The soul mood of the bourgeois Philistine works especially strongly against the sound development of the basic personality. A Philistine is the opposite of a human being, who finds his satisfactions in the free expression of his native capacities. The Philistine will grant validity to this expression only to the extent that it adapts to a certain average of human ability. As long as the Philistine remains within his boundaries, no objection is to be made against him. The one who wants to remain an average human being will have to settle this with himself. Among his contemporaries Nietzsche found those who wanted to make their narrow-minded soul mood the normal soul mood of all men; who regarded their narrow-mindedness as the only true humanity. Among these he counted David Friedrich Strauss, the aesthete, Friedrich Theodore Vischer, and others. He thinks Vischer, in a lecture which the latter held in memory of Holderlin, set aside this Philistine faith without conquering it. He sees this in these words: “He, (Holderlin) was one of those unarmed souls, he was the Werther of Greece, hopelessly in love; it was a life full of softness and yearning, but also strength and content was in his willing, and greatness, fullness, and life in his style, which reminds one here and there of Aeschylus. However, his spirit had too little hardness: it lacked humor as a weapon; he could not tolerate it that one was not a barbarian if one was a Philistine.” (David Strauss, ¶ 2) The Philistine will not exactly discount the right to existence of the outstanding human beings, but he means that they will die because of reality, if they do not know how to come to terms with the adaptations which the average human being has made regarding his requirements. These adaptations are once and for all the only thing which is real, which is sensible, and into these the great human being must also fit himself. Out of this narrow-minded mood has David Strauss written his book, Der alte und der neue Glaube, The Old and the New Faith. Against this book, or rather, against the mood which comes to expression in this book, is directed the first of Nietzsche's Unzeitgemässen Betrachtungen, David Strauss, der Bekenner und Schriftsteller, Untimely Observations: David Strauss, the Adherer and Writer (1873). The impression of the newer natural scientific achievements upon the Philistine is of such a nature that he says, “The Christian point of view of an immortal heavenly life, along with all the other comforts of the Christian religion, has collapsed irretrievably.” (David Strauss, ¶ 4) He will arrange his life on earth comfortably, according to the ideas of natural science; that is so comfortably that it answers the purposes of the Philistine. Now the Philistine shows that one can be happy and satisfied despite the fact that one knows that no higher spirit reigns over the stars, but that only the bleak, insensate forces of nature rule over all world events. “During these last years we have taken active part in the great national war and the setting up of the German State, and we find ourselves elated in our inmost being by this unexpected, majestic turn of events concerning our heavily-tried nation. We further the understanding of these matters by historical studies which nowadays, through a series of attractive and popular historical books, is made simple for the layman as well; in addition, we try to broaden our knowledge of natural science, for which also there is no lack of generally understandable material; and finally, we discover in the writings of our great poets, in the performances of the works of our great musicians, a stimulation for spirit and soul, for fantasy and humor, which leaves nothing to be desired. Thus we live, thus we travel, full of joy.” (Strauss, Der alte und neue Glaube, The Old and New Faith, ¶. 88)
The gospel of the most trivial enjoyment of life speaks, from these words. Everything that goes beyond the trivial, the Philistine calls unsound. About the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven, Strauss says that this work is only popular with those for whom “the baroque stands as the talented, the formless as the noble” (Der alte und neue Glaube, The Old and New Faith, ¶ 109); about Schopenhauer, the Messiah of Philistinism knows enough to announce that for such an “unsound and unprofitable” philosophy as Schopenhauer's, one should waste no proofs, but quips and sallies alone are suitable. (David Strauss, ¶ 6) By sound, the Philistine means only what accords with the average education.
As the moral, archetypal commandment, Strauss presents this sentence: “All moral action is a self-determining of the individual according to the idea of species.” (Der alte und neue Glaube, The Old and New Faith, ¶ 74) Nietzsche replies to this, “Translated into the explicit and comprehensible, it means only: Live as a human being and not as a monkey or a seal. This command, unfortunately, is completely useless and powerless, because in the concept, human being, the most manifold concepts are united beneath the same yoke; for example, the Patagonian and Magister Strauss; and because no one would dare to say with equal right, Live as a Patagonian, and, Live as Magister Strauss!” (David Strauss, ¶ 7)
It is an ideal, indeed, an ideal of the most lamentable kind, which Strauss wishes to set before men. And Nietzsche protests against it; he protests because in him a lively instinct cries out, Do not live like Magister Strauss, but live as is proper for you.
Only in the writing, Menschliches, Allzumenschliches, Human, All Too-Human, (1878), does Nietzsche appear to be free from the influence of Schopenhauer's way of thinking. He has given up looking for supernatural causes for natural events; he seeks natural proofs for understanding. Now he regards all human life as a kind of natural happening; in the human being he sees the highest product of nature. One lives “finally among human beings, and with one's self as in nature, without praise, without reproach, ambition, enjoying one's self in many things, as in a play, before which until now one had been full of fear. One would be free of the emphasis, and would no longer feel the goading of thoughts that one was not only nature or was more than nature ... rather must a human being, from whom the usual fetters of life have fallen away to such an extent that he continues to live on, only to know ever more how to renounce much, Yes, almost everything upon which other human beings place value, without envy and discontent; for him, that most desirable condition, that free, fearless floating above human beings, customs, laws and the usual evaluation of matter, must suffice.” Menschlices Alizumenschliches, Human, All Too Human, ¶ 34. Nietzsche has already given up all faith in ideals; he sees in human action only consequences of natural causes, and in the recognition of these causes he finds his satisfaction. He discovers that one receives an erroneous idea of things when one sees in them merely what is illuminated by the light of idealistic knowledge. What lies in the shadow of things would escape one, Nietzsche now wants to learn to know not only the bright but also the shadow side of things. Out of this striving comes the work, Der Wanderer und sein Schatten, The Wanderer and his Shadow (1879). In this work he wishes to grasp the manifestations of life from all sides. In the best sense of the word, he has become a “philosopher of reality,”
In his Morgenröte, Dawn (1881), he describes the moral process in the evolution of mankind as a natural event. Already in this writing he shows that there is no super-earthly moral world order, no eternal law of good and evil, and that all morality has originated from the natural drives and instincts ruling within the human being. No the way is cleared for Nietzsche's original journey. When no superhuman power can lay a binding obligation upon man, he is justified in giving his own creativity free reign. This knowledge is the motif of Fröhliche Wissenschaft, Joyful Wisdom (1882). No longer are fetters placed upon Nietzsche's “free” knowledge. He feels destined to create new values, having discovered the origin of the old, and having found that they are but human, not divine values. He now dares to throwaway what goes against his instinct, and to substitute other things which are in accord with his impulses: “We, the new, the nameless, the incomprehensible, we firstlings of a yet untried future, we require for a new purpose a new means, namely a new health, a stronger, sharper, tougher, bolder, more audacious health than any previous states of health. The one whose soul bursts to experience the whole range of hitherto recognized values and wishes, and whose soul thirsts to sail around all shores of this ideal ‘Mediterranean,’ wants to know from his most personal adventures how it feels to be a conqueror and discoverer of ideals ... he requires one thing above all, health ... And now, after having been long on the way, we Argonauts of the ideal, more courageous perhaps than prudent, it will seem to us as recompense for it all that we have before us a still undiscovered land ... After such outlooks and with such a craving in our conscience and consciousness, how can we allow ourselves to be satisfied with the man of the present day?” (Fröhliche Wissenschaft, Joyful Wisdom, ¶ 382)
Out of the mood characterized in the sentences cited above, arose Nietzsche's picture of the superman. It is the Counter-picture of the man of the present day; it is, above all, the counter-picture of Christ. In Christianity, the opposition to the cultivation of the strong life has become religion. (Antichrist, ¶ 5) The founder of this religion teaches that before God that is despicable which has value in the eyes of man. In the “Kingdom of God” Christ will find everything fulfilled which on earth appeared to be incomplete. Christianity is the religion which removes all care of earthly life from man; it is the religion of the weak, who would gladly have the commandment set before them, “Struggle not against evil, and suffer all tribulation,” because they are not strong enough to withstand it. Christ has no understanding for the aristocratic personality, which wants to create its own power out of its own reality. He believes that the capacity for seeing the human realm would spoil the power of seeing the Kingdom of God. In addition, the more advanced Christians who no longer believe that they will resurrect at the end of time in their actual physical body in order to be either received into Paradise or thrown into Hell, these Christians dream about “divine providence,” about a “supersensible” order of things. They also believe that man must raise himself above his merely terrestrial goals, and adapt himself to an ideal realm. They think that life has a purely spiritual background, and that it is only because of this that it has value. Christianity will not cultivate the instincts for health, for beauty, for growth, for symmetry, for perseverance, for accumulation of forces, but hatred against the intellect, against pride, courage, aristocracy, against self-confidence, against the freedom of the spirit, against the pleasures of the sense world, against the joys and brightness of reality, in which the human being lives. (Antichrist, ¶ 21) Christianity describes the natural as downright “trash.” In the Christian God, a Being of the other world, that is, a nothingness, is deified; the will to be nothing is declared to be holy. (Antichrist, ¶ 18) For this reason, Nietzsche fights against Christianity in the first book of Unwertung aller Werte, Transvaluation of all Values. And in the second and third books he wanted to attack the philosophy and morality of the weak, who only feel themselves comfortable in the role of dependents. The species of human being whom Nietzsche wishes to see trained because he does not despise this life, but embraces this life with love and elevates it in order to believe that it should be lived only once, is “ardent for eternity,” (Zarathustra, Third Part, The Seven Seals) and would like to have this life lived infinite times. Nietzsche lets his Zarathustra be “the teacher of the eternal return.”
“Behold, we know ... that all things eternally return, and ourselves with them, and that we have already existed times without number, and all things with us.” (Zarathustra, Third Part, The Convalescent)
At present it seems impossible for me to have a definite opinion about what idea Nietzsche connected with the words “eternal return.” It will be possible to say something more specific only when Nietzsche's notes for the incomplete parts of his Willens zur Macht, Will to Power, have been published in the second part of the complete edition of his works.