Monday, May 15, 2017

Ecce Homo: Part Two

The subtitle to Nietzsche's autobiographical work is “How One Becomes What One Is.”  It tells, in often satirical fashion, the story of Nietzsche's philosophical journey; the twists and turns, the mistakes and breakthroughs, that led him to write his 'great task' though, of course, he only completed the first part of the revaluation project.  The rest of it never came to fruition, buried as scattered and unripe thoughts and fragments captured in his private notebooks.

These selections from the work should suffice to give readers unfamiliar with Ecce Homo a taste of its potent prose.

“The last thing I would promise would be to 'improve' mankind.  I erect no new idols; let the old idols learn what it means to have legs of clay.  To overthrow idols (my word for ideals) – that is rather my business. Reality has been deprived of its value, its meaning, its veracity to the same degree as an ideal world has been fabricated...The 'real world' and the 'apparent world' – in plain terms: the fabricated world and reality...The lie of the ideal has hitherto been the curse on reality, through it mankind itself has become mendacious and false down to its deepest instincts – to the point of worshiping the inverse values to those which alone could guarantee it prosperity, future, the exalted right to a future.” (Forward, 2)

“A being who is typically morbid cannot become healthy, still less can he make himself healthy; conversely, for one who is typically healthy being sick can even be an energetic stimulant to life, to more life.  Thus in fact does that long period of sickness seem to me now: I discovered life as it were anew, myself included, I tasted all good and even petty things in a way that others could not easily taste them – I made out of my will to health, to life, my philosophy...For pay heed to this: it was in the years of my lowest vitality that I ceased to be a pessimist: the instinct for self-recovery forbade to me a philosophy of indigence and discouragement...And in what does one really recognize that someone has turned out well!  In that a human being who has turned out well does our senses good: that he is carved out of wood at once hard, delicate and sweet-smelling.  He has a taste for what is beneficial to him; his pleasure, his joy ceases where the measure of what is beneficial is overstepped.  He divines cures for injuries, he employs ill chances to his own advantage; what does not kill him makes him stronger.  Out of everything he sees, hears, experiences he instinctively collects together his sum: he is a principle of selection, he rejects much.  He is always in his company, whether he traffics with books, people or landscapes: he does honor when he /chooses/, when he admits, when he trusts.  He reacts slowly to every kind of stimulus, with that slowness which a protracted caution and a willed pride have bred in him – he tests an approaching stimulus, he is far from going out to meet it.  He believes in neither 'misfortune' not in 'guilt': he knows how to forget - he is strong enough for everything to have to turn out for the best for him.  Very well, I am the opposite of a decadent: for I have just described myself.” (Why I Am So Wise, 2)

“War is another thing.  I am by nature warlike. To attack is among my instincts.  To be able to be an enemy, to be an enemy – that perhaps presupposes a strong nature, it is in any event a condition of every strong nature.  It needs resistences, consequently it seeks resistances: the aggressive pathos belongs as necessarily to strength as the feeling of vengefulness and vindictiveness does to weakness....every growth reveals itself in the seeking out of a powerful opponent – or problem: for a philosopher who is warlike also challenges problems to a duel.  The undertaking is to master, not any resistances that happen to present themselves, but those against which one has to bring all one's strength, suppleness and mastery of weapons – to master equal opponents...Equality in the face of the enemy – first presupposition of an honest duel.” (What I Am So Wise, 7)

“One becomes what one is presupposes that one does not have the remotest idea what one is.  From this point of view even the blunders of life – the temporary side paths and wrong turnings, the delays, the 'modesties', the seriousness squandered on tasks which lie outside the task – have their own meaning and value....For the task of a revaluation of all values more capacities perhaps were required than have dwelt together in one individual, above all antithetical capacities which however are not allowed to disturb or destroy one another.  Order of rank among capacities; distance; the art of dividing without making inimical; mixing up nothing, 'reconciling' nothing; a tremendous multiplicity which is none the less the opposite of chaos – this has been the precondition, the protracted secret labor and artistic working of my instinct.  The magnitude of its higher protection was shown in the fact I have at no time had the remotest idea what was growing within me – that all my abilities one day leapt forth suddenly ripe, in their final perfection.” (Why I Am So Clever, 9)

As Cate pointed in the previous post, Nietzsche goes into great detail about his personal habits in Ecce Homo.  His beliefs and experiences regarding diet, location, hobbies, all sorts of intimate details are shared with the reader.

“...these little things – nutriment, place, climate, recreation, the whole casuistry of selfishness – are beyond all conception of greater importance than anything that has been considered of importance hitherto.  It is precisely here that one has to begin to learn anew.  Those things which mankind has hitherto pondered seriously are not even realities, merely imaginings, more strictly speaking lies from the bad instincts of sick, in the profoundest sense injurious natures – all the concepts 'God', 'soul', 'virtue', 'sin', 'the Beyond', 'truth', 'eternal life'...But the greatness of human nature, its 'divinity', has been sought in them...All questions of politics, the ordering of society, education have been falsified down to their foundations because the most injurious men have been taken for great men – because contempt has been taught for the 'little' things, which is to say for the fundamental affairs of life....My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be other than it is, not in the future, not in the past, not in all eternity.  Not merely to endure that which happens of necessity, still less to dissemble it – all idealism is untruthfulness in the face of necessity – but to love it...” (Why I Am So Clever, 10)

“My time has not yet come, some are born posthumously. - One day or other institutions will be needed in which people live and teach as I understand living and teaching: perhaps even chairs for the interpretation of Zarathustra will be established.  But it would be a complete contradiction of myself if I expected ears and hands for my truths already today: that I am not heard today, that no one today knows how to take from me, is not only comprehensible; it seems to me right.” (Why I Write Such Good Books, 1)

“I shall at the same time also say a general word on my art of style.  To communicate a state, an inner tension of pathos through signs, including the tempo of these signs – that is the meaning of every style; and considering that the multiplicity of inner states is in my case extraordinary, there exists in my case the possibility of many styles – altogether the most manifold art of style any man has ever had at his disposal.  Every style is good which actually communicates an inner state, which makes no mistake as to the signs, the tempo of the signs, the gestures - all rules of phrasing are art of gesture.  My instinct here is infallible.” (Why I Write Such Good Books, 4)

At this point Nietzsche proceeds to make a critique and assessment of his work up through The Wagner Case.  It is interesting to note how much analysis (in some cases how apologetic) he devotes to each volume in his body of work. The Birth of Tragedy receives a little over five pages.  The Untimely Essays a bit less than five pages.  Human, All Too Human about six pages.  Daybreak gets two and a half pages. Surprising to me is the fact that he devotes only one page to The Gay Science, one of his best overall works.  The famous Thus Spoke Zarathustra receives nine pages, the most of any work.  My favorite Nietzsche work, Beyond Good and Evil gets only a page and a half. Genealogy of Morals, considered by many to be his best philosophical effort – one page. Twilight of the Idols is worthy of two pages. The Wagner Case merits six and a half pages, which perhaps reflects Nietzsche's struggle to balance his personal anguish regarding Wagner in comparison with the wider achievements of his other works and particularly with respect to the revaluation project.

Nietzsche summarizes The Untimely Meditations as “altogether warlike”.  Daybreak is cast as the beginning of his “campaign against morality”, specifically “the struggle against the morality of unselfing” by which Nietzsche means the “decadence” that manifests itself as “resistance to the natural instincts” of ourselves as persons. His extremely brief review of The Gay Science declares that “in practically every sentence of this book profundity and exuberance go hand in hand”.  He sees the “positive” aspects of these books undergoing a transformation into the next phase of his life's work found in Beyond Good and Evil. He writes: “The task for the immediately following years was as clear as it could be.  Now that the affirmative part of my task was done, it was the turn of the denying, the No-saying and No-doing part: the revaluation of existing values themselves, the great war – the evocation of the day of decision.”

There is nothing particularly insightful or new, even in summation, offered for the freshly completed Twilight of the Idols or The Wagner Case, nor in his brief thoughts on the Genealogy. Rather it is with the sections devoted to The Birth of Tragedy and Thus Spoke Zarathustra that Nietzsche brings more substantive thinking to bear, perhaps achieving his best writing for the section of his autobiography dealing with his body of work.

For The Birth of Tragedy, his most popular work during his lifetime due to its Wagnerian connections, he writes: “The book's two decisive novelties are, firstly the understanding of the dionysian phenomenon in case of the Greeks – it offers the first psychology of this phenomenon, it sees in it the sole root of the whole Hellenic art.  The other novelty is the understanding of Socratism: Socrates for the first time recognized as an agent of Hellenic disintegration, as a typical decadent.  'Rationality' against instinct. 'Rationality' at any price as dangerous, as force undermining life!” (BOT, 1)

Nietzsche attempts to disconnect Wagner and Schopenhauer from this work, but his attempts are unconvincing. Nevertheless, he contextualizes his first book as the beginning of a meaningful process of self-discovery. He quotes from Twilight of the Idols (his intention is to connect his first book with his latest efforts): “'...beyond pity and terror, to realize in oneself the eternal joy of becoming – the joy which also encompasses joy in destruction...'  In this sense I have the right to understand myself as the first tragic philosopher - that is to say the extremist antithesis and antipodes of a pessimistic philosopher.  Before me this transposition of the dionysian into a philosophical pathos did not exist: tragic wisdom was lacking – I have sought in vain for signs of it even among the great Greeks of philosophy, those of the two centuries before Socrates.  I retained a doubt in the case of Heraclitus, in whose vicinity in general I feel warmer and more well than anywhere else.  Affirmation of transitoriness and destruction/, the decisive element in a dionysian philosophy, affirmation of antithesis and war, becoming with a radical rejection even of the concept 'being' - in this I must in any event recognize what is most closely related to me of anything that has been thought hitherto.” (BOT, 3)

Nietzsche contextualizes Zarathustra as a work primarily dealing with “the idea of eternal recurrence, the highest formula of affirmation that can possibly be attained.”  He continues, rather boastfully: “This work stands altogether alone.  Let us leave the poets aside: perhaps nothing at all has ever been done out of a like superfluity of strength. My concept 'dionysian' has here become the supreme deed; compared with it all the rest of human activity seems poor and conditional.  That a Goethe, a Shakespeare would not for a moment have known how to breathe in this tremendous passion and solitude, that Dante is, compared with Zarathustra, merely a believer and not one who first creates truth, a world-ruling spirit, a destiny – that the poets of the Veda are priests and not even worthy to unloose the latchet of the shoes of Zarathustra – all this is the least of it, and gives no idea of the distance, of the azure solitude, in which the work lives.” (Z, 6)

“I walk among mean as among fragments of the future: of that future which I scan.  And it is with my art and aim to compose into one and bring together what is fragment and riddle and dreadful chance.  And how could I endure to be a man, if man were not also poet and reader of riddles and the redeemer of chance!  To redeem the past and to transform every 'It was' into and “I wanted it thus!' - that alone I would call redemption.

“I emphasize one final point: the italicized line provides the occasion.  Among the decisive preconditions for a dionysian task is the hardness of the hammer, joy even in destruction,  The impressive 'become hard', the deepest certainty that all creators are hard, is the actual mark of a dionysian nature.” (Z, 7)

One aspect of Ecce Homo is that Nietzsche takes every opportunity to stitch his collective body of work together as always having dealt with themes that were actually only fully fleshed out in his later efforts. It is true the undercurrents of what Nietzsche later called “decadence” and the “dionysian” perspective occasionally graced his early and middle works, but not to the degree of emphasis we find in his 1888 writings.  So, perhaps somewhat disingenuously or at least self-deceptively, Nietzsche connects The Birth of Tragedy with Twilight of the Idols

For all its satire and poetry and insightful musings, Ecce Homo shows patterns in the evolution of Nietzsche's thought that are more convenient in the name of metaphysical consistency than they are accurately portraying his earlier works and the development of his philosophy. Nietzsche writes of “wrong-turnings” (existential and philosophical investigations that don't pan out and cause one to back track to their “main” path) on the path of self-discovery throughout Ecce Homo but in reality he fails to apply any personal wrong-turning specifically to his works.

Ultimately, all of this autobiographical and intellectual self-analysis manifests itself in the beautiful egoism that makes up the last section of the work.  Here Nietzsche discusses his legacy as if he knew Ecce Homo was the end of his sane life.  

“I know my fate.  One day there will be associated with my name the recollection of something frightful – of a crisis like no other before on earth, of the profoundest collision of conscience, of a decision evoked against everything that until then had been believed in, demanded, sanctified.  I am not a man, I am dynamite....I do not want 'believers', I think I am too malicious to believe in myself, I never speak to the masses...I have a terrible fear I shall one day be pronounced holy: one will guess why I bring out this book beforehand; it is intended to prevent people from making mischief with me...I do not want to be a saint, rather even a buffoon...Perhaps I am a buffoon....the truth speaks out of me. - But my truth is dreadful: for hitherto the lie has been called truth. - Revaluation of all values: this is my formula for an act of supreme coming-to-oneself on the part of mankind which in me has become flesh and genius. It is my fate to have to be the first decent human being, to know myself in opposition to the mendaciousness of millennia...I was the first to discover the truth, in that I was the first to sense - smell - the lie as lie...My genius is in my nostrils...I contradict as has never been contradicted and am none the less the opposite of a negative spirit....For when truth steps into battle with the lie of millennia we shall have convulsions, an earthquake spasm, a transposition of valley and mountain such as has never been dreamed of.  The concept politics has then become completely absorbed into a war of spirits, all the power-structures of the old society have been blown into the air – they one and all reposed in the lie: there will be wars such as there have never been on earth.  Only after me will there be grand politics on earth.” (Why I Am A Destiny, 1)

“...the over-valuation of goodness and benevolence by and large already counts with me as a consequence of decadence, as a symptom of weakness, as incompatible with an ascending and affirmative life: denial and destruction is a condition of affirmation.” (Why I Am A Destiny, 4)

“In the concept of the 'selfless', of the 'self-denying' the actual badge of decadence, being lured by the harmful, no longer being able to discover where one's advantage lies, self-destruction, made the sign of value in general, made 'duty', 'holiness', the 'divine' in man!” (Why I Am A Destiny, 8)

As explained in our review of the Genealogy selfishness is more authentic to the free spirit than selflessness.  Being-for-others is decadence - only actions that are meaningful of our own choosing (our intimate Being-in-myself) are authentic.  So selfishness in this sense, at least, is superior from Nietzsche's perspective.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Ecce Homo: Part One

Ecce Homo is Nietzsche's most enigmatic and problematic work, and the student who reads it  must do so with caution.  Much of it self-evidently belongs to the time Nietzsche no longer had control over his fantasies;  on the other hand, much is not only rational but quite consonant with the outlook already familiar from the other post-Zarathustra works.

“The extreme claims concerning his own importance in the history of European civilization – 'One day my name will be associated with the recollection of something frightful – with a crisis such as there has never been on the earth before' (EH IV 1)  and so on – may be discounted as examples of the his letters and personal writings of 1888 and earlier; where he is writing not about himself but about other people, or reiterating his philosophy, Ecce Homo shows no trace of unbalance. There is no intellectual degradation: the mind is as sharp as ever and there is, above all, no decline in the stylistic control of language; on the contrary, the book is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in German.  Many passages are a non plus ultra of richness combined with economy...To find a just comparison one must go outside literature altogether: Ecce Homo is the Jupiter Symphony of German letters.” (Hollingdale, page 216)

Ecce Homo shows how a modern man can defend himself against those disintegrating forces which threaten his personality and his life.  Nietzsche, modern to the core, counsels psychological insight, for moral and social prescription only mislead spiritually becalmed men and women further.  He urges self-determination while simultaneously underscoring the chaos of existence: the individual must create himself though he is existentially worthless.”  (Chamberlain, page 159)

“Here for the first time were publicly exposed many of Nietzsche's physiological characteristics, hitherto known only to close friends and acquaintances: his unusually low pulse rate, his poor eyesight, which improved every time his 'vitality' increased, his never having suffered a fever – he quotes a doctor who, after examining him, remarked, 'No, it's not a question of your nerves, it's only I who am nervous' – and has discovery that sickness can be an 'energetic stimulus' to life.

“What distinguishes Ecce Homo above all else is its fresh, uninhibited tones, and the careless ease with which, in describing his personal experiences and his highly idiosyncratic likes and dislikes, Nietzsche managed to give them a universal, but also, alas, easily misunderstood significance.” (Cate, page 535)

“One of the charms of Ecce Homo - for despite its strident imperfections (glaringly apparent towards the end) this is a charming book – is its rambling character. It is a peripatetic monologue in which the author takes the reader on a guided tour through his past, paying little heed to strict chronology but much to matters of geography, climate, food and drink.” (Cate, page 538)

“If all of Ecce Homo had been on this superior level, this little book of pungent reminiscences would have been a masterpiece.  But of a sick genius this is probably asking too much.  And the sad truth of the matter is that, as the book progressed, Nietzsche's worst habit – for a habit it had become – became stridently apparent.  This was his self-infatuated, subterraneanly nourished by frustration at having so long been ignored by German readers who refused to recognize his philosophical significance.  His observations about the successive books he wrote, the reasons why he wrote them, the responses they elicited (all too briefly suggest) are full of fascinating insights and valuable information; but every now and then he yielded to his inner demon and indulged in exaggerations unworthy of a thinker who detested histrionic exhibitionism and histrionic ostentation.” (Cate, page 541)

"Ecce Homo has aged in the shadows, and its sorry life consists of neglect, misunderstanding, and disparagement. As far as I can tell, the last person to comprehend and gain merriment form its farraginous form was its author, Friedrich Nietzsche. Instead of laughing at this cheerfully cynical book, a legion of grave scholars has found it oddly distressing at best and pathetic madness at worst....I contend Ecce Homo is a satire. As a trained classicist, Nietzsche was familiar with this ancient genre, and he wrote a parody of autobiography to skewer not only not only the inherent pretensions of self-reflection and unvarnished truth, but the larger historical pretensions of philosophy to procure timeless wisdom....What is the value of a life lived painfully? Could prolonged suffering be overcome and transformed, or would his authorial output always stand in spite of it? Ecce Homo became Nietzsche's last effort to transform enduring pain into something valuable, and to unify and communicate the essence of his philosophical corpus as he saw it.” (More, pp. 2-3)

Ecce Homo is Nietzsche's most unique major work.  It was written at a time when, if Nietzsche was not already going insane, his sanity was wavering.  As we shall see in a future post, he was exhibiting symptoms of megalomania when this work was written.  So a great deal of controversy surrounds the work.  Does it exhibit raving madness?  Is it cleverly insightful?  Is it brilliant poetic prose...or a megalomaniac's attempt at comedy?  There is less consensus about Ecce Homo than with any of Nietzsche's other published works. Despite some merits, Julian Young sees it as a “flawed work.”

“A weapon in his 'war against the present' which Nietzsche regarded as even more potent than The Antichrist was, in the order of composition, his last work, Ecce Homo.  Begun on his birthday, October 15th, he regarded it as, in principle, finished by November 4, though he continued to make alterations up until January 6, 1889. 

“In the Preface, Nietzsche writes that 'Since I plan shortly to have to confront humanity with the heaviest demand that has ever been made on it, it seems indispensable to say who I am'.  The reference, here, is to the immanent appearance of the master work and its urgent demand that we 'revalue all values'. Since he anticipated the masterwork being even more 'black and squid-like' than Beyond Good and Evil, he felt it imperative first to abolish the notion that its author was a sadistic misanthrope, a 'pathological' case.  The idea that he is a 'bogey man' or 'moral monster', he says in the Preface, someone who 'strives to abolish all decent feelings', is completely mistaken. By presenting a human, even intimate, portrait of himself as someone with a normal human background, who has had to struggle every step of the way with ill health, and who has himself been infected with the decadence he criticizes, he wants to show, I think, that the fundamental impulse of his work is 'not hardness but the opposite, a true humanity which strives to prevent needless disaster'.” (Young, pp. 518 – 519)

“Given that Nietzsche's collapse came right on the heels of Ecce Homo, the question inevitably arises as to whether, or to what extent, the work is infected by the approaching madness.  What sharpens the question is the fact that the work contains what look to be manifest delusions: that he was descended from Polish aristocracy, that even in childhood he never took the Christian God seriously, that the influence of Schopenhauer on The Birth of Tragedy was minimal, that he never had any enemies, that his greatness is obvious to everyone he meets, and many more.” (page 519)

“The claim to descent through his father from Polish nobility, to be sure, allows him to find nothing redeeming about the Germans, allows almost every page to drip – in the end it has to be said, tediously – with bile against these 'vulgar' 'cattle' who have perpetuated all the cultural crimes of the last four hundred years.  But given that he is supposed to be a picture of psychic health, he ought to be free of ressentiment and should not, therefore, have had any bile to spit in the first place.  Ressentiment is, it should be noted, exactly the right word here.  For, far too obviously, the bitterness that is read, as he thinks, 'by nothing but choice Vienna, St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Paris, and New York, everywhere except in Europe's flatland, Germany, betrays the fact that the readers who really matter to him are none other than his fellow Germans – who, however, either ignore him or dismiss him as a madman.

“What, moreover, has to be recognized is that a great deal of the hyperbole has a megalomaniac character which is directly continuous with themes in the letters he wrote as he was unmistakably losing his mind. The claim, for instance, that 'wherever I go, here in Turin, for example, every face grows more cheerful and benevolent at the sight of me...the old market woman take great pains to select together for me their sweetest grapes' appears several times in the so-called 'crazy letters', as does the claim to be God: the idea he is related to his mother and sister is Ecce Homo claims, in a passage Elizabeth managed for many years to suppress, a 'blasphemy against my divinity'.

Ecce Homo is, then, a flawed work. Other signs of Nietzsche's failing powers are repetition, wandering organization, self-questioning at disproportionate and self-indulgent length, and, when he comes to review his earlier works, a lack of sense of their relative importance: whereas the Genealogy receives less than a page, The Wagner Case receives six. For all this, however, Nietzsche still being, for the most part, Nietzsche, it remains a book full of interesting and sublime moments.” (page 519 – 520)

“Without rejecting the importance of role models, Ecce Homo expands on the techniques of self-discovery in an interesting way:

“'That one becomes what one is presupposes that one does not have the remotest idea what one is.  From this point of view even life's mistakes have their own meaning and value, the occasional side roads and wrong turns, the delays, the...seriousness wasted on tasks that lie beyond the task.'

“To, as it were, discover who one is by discovering who one is not, one must keep the 'surface of of all the great imperatives' and 'big words', otherwise one will 'understand oneself too early'; one's self-definition will run down worn, all-too-worn, paths.  To become a 'higher' type, something new and unique, one must preserve a kind of passivity while, 'in the mean time, the organizing, governing idea' that is the 'meaning' of one's life 'keeps growing deep inside'.  Soon it 'starts commanding and slowly leads back from out of the side roads and wrong turns'. In a word, 'self-seeking' is, through a process of trial and probably lots of error, a matter of finding rather than creating oneself, rather as the sculptor 'finds' rather than creates the figure 'slumbering' in the marble.

“The idea of allowing one's 'self' and 'destiny' to emerge through one's mistakes provides the narrative structure of the work, a narrative that centers, inevitably, on Wagner. The 'most affectionate and profound' relation of his life, Nietzsche says, was with Richard Wagner.  'None of my other personal relationships amounts to much, but I would not give up my Tribschen days for anything'.  But then came the Bayreuth festival:

“'Where was I?  I did not recognize anything.  I hardly recognized Wagner.  I sifted through memories in vain. Tribschen – a distant Isle of the Blessed: not a shadow of similarity.  The incomparable days when we laid the cornerstone [of the opera house – notice Nietzsche still endorses the original enterprise a small society of people who belong there...What had happened?

“What had happened was that Wagner had been 'translated into German', had allowed himself to be captured by the Wagnerians and in the process become Reichsdeutsch, and anti-Semite German chauvinist.” (page 521)

“Wagnerian decadence, the impulse to world-denial, is, Nietzsche emphasizes, 'in' rather then 'outside' his nature. Becoming ,what one is' is more a matter of ordering the inner world than of resisting alien influences.

“Under the guiding spirit of Voltaire, Neitzsche continues, he made, in Human, All-Too-Human, the turn from Wagnerian romanticism to Enlightenment thinking....Shortly after, through the fortunate intervention of sickness and fading eyesight, he had to give up the bookwormish life of philology – another wrong turning – and began writing his own philosophy. 

“And that, essentially, is that: the end of Ecce Homo's, in fact, rather meager narrative.  Since the rest of Nietzsche's life was writing books, all that remains is to review the books.  With the turn away from Wagner, the turn away from decadent, life-denying romanticism and towards health and life-affirmation, Nietzsche had essentially become 'what he was'.  But exactly what was that?  Who did he become?” (page 522)

“To adapt and grow, we know, a people must 'give birth to a star', to a 'free spirit': in my language, a 'random mutation'. Ecce Homo identifies 'superman' as just another name for this bearer of the future: the superman 'is a superman specifically when compared to the good - he stands 'super', above, their morality. Nietzsche adds, recalling the Genealogy's point that most free spirits will be 'martyred' by the forces of social conservatism, that 'the good and just would call [Zarathustra's]...superman a devil.'

“What will a 'superman' propose in the way of cultural reform?  In a nutshell, 'the imminent return of the Greek spirit'.  Community will be once more created, gathered together, an preserved by the authentic collection of art work, 'the supreme art in the affirmation of life, tragedy, will be reborn'.  And this takes us back, yet again, to Wagner, to a Wagner purified of cheap showmanship, anti-Semitism, German chauvinism, romanticism, Christianity and life-denial: 'the idea of Bayreuth [will have] transformed itself into...that great noon...who knows? The vision of the festival that I will live to see someday'.

“If, however, we are to abandon the Christian worldview what are we to do about that most problematic of all life's features, its finitude, to which, it has to be admitted, Christianity provided a solution?  The answer, again, is 'Dionysus': entering into the 'psychology of the tragic poet' in which 'over and above all fear and pity one is oneself the eternal joy of becoming', 'the will to life rejoicing in its own inexhaustibility through the sacrifice of its highest types'. To become fully healthy, to enter the Dionysian state, is to be able to rejoice, inter alia, over the eventual 'sacrifice' of one's own, everyday self. Through transcending the illusion of individuality, through realizing one's identity with the totality of existence, one not merely overcomes death but achieves a positive 'affirmation of [in particular, one's own] passing away'.” (pp. 522-523)

Walter Kaufmann called Ecce Homo “one of the treasures of world literature.”  But, he also qualified his praise.  “Of Nietzsche's last works, none has proven harder to understand than Ecce Homo.  The self-portrait is not naturalistic; hence, it is widely felt, it is clearly insane and to be disregarded.  This prevalent view is doubly false.  The lack of naturalism is not proof of insanity but a triumph of style – of a piece with the best paintings of that time.  And even if what might be interpreted as signs of madness do occasionally flicker in a passage, that does not mean that the portrait can therefore be ignored.  In both respects Nietzsche should be compared with Van Gogh.

Ecce Homo does not fit any ordinary conception of philosophers.  It is not only remote from the world of professional or donnish philosophy, from tomes and articles, footnotes and jargon – in brief, from the modern image.  It is equally far from the popular notion of the wise man: serene, past passion, temperate, and Apollinian.  But this is plainly part of Nietzsche's point: to offer a new image – a philosopher who is not an Alexandrian academician, nor an Apollinian sage, but Dionysian.” (from Kaufmann's introduction)

With Ecce Homo Nietzsche achieves his final victory of stylistic prose.  His ramblings and advocacy are more effective than reasoned substance.  In some respects, it is as if he were writing for himself alone.  The author and the audience have melded into a passionate farewell to his “great task”, farewell to critique and psychological insights, farewell to higher culture, farewell to making himself clear. Instead, we say hello to the philosophy made manifest, the Logos made spirit, the ridiculous made sublime.  The Birth of Tragedy reasserted the importance of Dionysus.  In this final work, Nietzsche becomes Dionysus and serves as an example for the rest of us to love all fate, become a free spirit, and relax into the weight of eternal return. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Antichrist: Part Two

Nietzsche attacks Christianity and the Christian Church with a vengeance in The Antichrist.  But there is more to his critique than just largely pent-up ravings that are often articulated in previous works. Given the fact that this is the only portion of the grand four-volume revaluation project Nietzsche completed, any hints of what he intended as characteristics of a “free spirit” who actually transforms his or her value system should be highlighted as particularly important.  What select traits does Nietzsche assign to the revaluation? The Antichrist offers glimpses of what are perhaps more established characteristics of his transformed values for cultural health and individual demeanor and style.

Some of the brilliance in the use of language previously commended by R. J. Hollingdale (if sometimes excessive as critiqued by Julian Young) can be found in the following excerpts; much of the phrasing is a perfected blend of philosophy, psychology, and poetry.  For Nietzsche, The Antichirst was an elite form of thinking and relating to life. This, I think, is a key to understanding his revaluation project.  "Honesty to the point of harshness" and being "above" politics and nationalism are among the many revalued traits of the "superman" human.

“This book belongs to the very few.  Perhaps none of them is even living yet.  Possibly they are the readers who understand my Zarathustra: how could I confound myself with those for whom there are ears listening today? - Only the day after tomorrow belongs to me. Some are born posthumously.

“The conditions under which one understands me and then necessarily understands – I know them all to well. One must be honest in intellectual matters to the point of harshness to so much as endure my seriousness, my passion.  One must be accustomed to living on mountains – to seeing the wretched ephemeral chatter of politics and national egoism beneath one.  One must have become indifferent, one must never ask whether one is useful or a fatality....Strength which prefers questions for which no one today is sufficiently daring; courage for the forbidden; predestination for the labyrinth.  An experience out of seven solitudes.  New ears for new music.  New eyes for the most distant things.  A new conscience for truths which have hitherto remained dumb.  And the will to economy in the grand style: to keeping one's energy. One's enthusiasm in bounds....Reverence for oneself; love for oneself; unconditional freedom with respect to oneself...” (A, Forward)

“Let us look one another in the face.  We are Hyperboreans – we know how much out of the way we live....Beyond the North, beyond the ice, beyond death - our life, our happiness....We have discovered happiness, we know the road, we have found the exit out of whole millennia of labyrinth'  Who else has found it? - Modern man perhaps? - 'I know not which way to turn' . – sighs modern man; I am everything that knows not which way to turn' – sighs modern man....It is from this modernity that we were ill – from lazy peace, from cowardly compromise, from the whole virtuous uncleanliness of modern Yes and No. This tolerance and largeur of heart which 'forgives' everything because it 'Understands' everything is sirocco to us.  Better to live among ice than among modern virtues and other south winds! … We were brave enough, we spread neither ourselves nor others: but for long we did not know where to apply our courage.  We became gloomy, we were called fatalists,  Our fatality – was the plenitude, the tension, the blocking-up of our forces.  We thirsted for lightning and action, of all things we kept ourselves furthest from the happiness of the weaklings, from 'resignation'....There was a thunderstorm in out air =, the nature which we are grew dark - for we had no road.  Formula for our happiness: a Yes, a No, a straight line, a goal...” (A, 1)

The revaluation is in some sense societal, ethical, certainly cultural in its intent. But the goal is also intimate and personal, generally a practice of self-revaluation that is a redefinition of attitude, belief, and style.  We can see glimpses of the revalued self in Nietzsche's negative approach to what he intends, defining it by what it is not.

“What is good? - All that heightens the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man.   

“What is bad? - All that proceeds from weakness.

“What is happiness? - The feeling that power increases - that resistance is overcome.

Not contentment, but more power; not peace at all, but war; not virtue, but proficiency (virtue in the Renaissance style, virtu, virtue free of moralic acid).

“The weak and the ill-constituted shall perish: first principle of our philanthropy.  An one shall help them to do so.

“What is more harmful than any vice? - Active sympathy for the ill-constituted and weak – Christianity...” (A, 2)

“The problem I raise here is...what type of human being one ought to breed, ought to will, as more valuable. More worthy of life, more certain of the future.  This more valuable type has existed often enough already: but as a lucky accident, as an exception, never as willed.” (A, 3)

Seeking to express and expand one's power, being existentially warrior-like, skillful and dexterous of spirit rather than striving for so-called virtues, these are all qualities of the revalued self that was at the heart of Nietzsche's unfinished great task. Meanwhile, traditional value systems like those developed through Christianity, contrary to popular opinion, have failed to strength western civilization.  Instead Christianity and all religious thinking has led to a frailty of culture.

“Mankind does not represent a development of the better or the stronger or the higher in the way that is believed today.  'Progress' is merely a modern idea, that is to say a false idea.  The European of today is of far less value than the European of the Renaissance; onward development is not by any means, by any necessity the same thing as elevation, advance strengthening.

“In another sense there are cases of individual success constantly appearing in the most various parts of the earth and from the most various cultures in which a higher type does manifest itself:  something which in relation to collective mankind is a sort of superman.” (A, 4)

“One should not embellish or dress up Christianity: it has waged a war to the death against this higher type of man, it has excommunicated all the fundamental instincts of this type, it has distilled evil, the Evil One, out of these instincts – the strong human being as the type of reprehensibility, as the 'outcast'.  Christianity has taken the side of everything weak, base, ill-constituted, it has made an ideal out of opposition to the preservative instincts of strong life...” (A, 5)

“ assertion is that all values in which mankind at present summarizes its highest desideratum are decadent values.  

“I call an animal, a species, and individual depraved when it loses its instincts, when it chooses, when it prefers what is harmful to it.  A history of the 'higher feelings', of the 'ideals of mankind' – and it is possible I shall have to narrate it – would almost also constitute an explanation of why man is so depraved.  I consider life itself instinct for growth, for continuance, for accumulation of forces, for power: where the will to power is lacking there is decline.  My assertion is that this will is lacking in all supreme values of mankind, the values of decline, nihilistic values hold sway under the holiest of names. (A, 6)

“Christianity is called the religion of pity. - Pity stands in antithesis to the tonic emotions which enhance the feeling of life: it has a depressive effect.  One loses force when one pities.  The loss of force which life has already sustained through suffering is increased and multiplied even further by pity.  Suffering itself becomes contagious through pity; sometimes it can bring about a collective loss of life and life-energy which stands in an absurd relation to the quantum of its cause ( - the case of the death of the Nazarene). (A, 7)

Nietzsche praises a "quiet, cautious, mistrustful manner" as a fundamental aspect of the revaluation. And it is clear that he associates "power" as the antithesis of "decadence".  The will to power is certainly a fundamental characteristic of the revaluation.

“Let us not undervalue this: we ourselves, we free spirits, are already a 'revaluation of all values', an incarnate declaration of war and victory over all ancient conceptions of 'true' and 'untrue'.  The most valuable insights are methods.  We had the whole pathos of mankind against us – its conception of what truth ought to be;  every 'thou shalt' has hitherto been directed against us....Our objectives, our practices, our quiet, cautious, mistrustful manner – all this appeared utterly unworthy and contemptible to mankind. - In the end one might reasonably ask oneself whether it is not really an aesthetic taste which blinded mankind for so long: it desired a picturesque effect from truth, it desired especially that the man of knowledge should produce a powerful impression on the senses.  It was our modesty which offended their taste the longest....Oh, how well they divined that fact, those turkey-cocks of God - “ (A, 13)

“Wherever the will to power declines in any form there is every time also a physiological regression, a decadence. The divinity of decadence, pruned of all its manliest drives and virtues, from now on necessarily becomes the God of the physiologically retarded, the weak.  They do not call themselves weak, they call themselves 'good'....When the prerequisites of ascending life, when everything strong, brave, masterful, proud is eliminated from the concept of God; when he declines step by step to the symbol of a staff for the weary, a sheet-anchor for all who are drowning; when he becomes the poor people's God, the sinner's God, the God of the sick par excellence, and the predicate 'savior', 'redeemer' as it were remains over as the predicate of divinity as such: of what does this transformation speak?  Such a reduction of the divine?” (A, 17)

Nietzsche dabbled in comparative religion throughout his body of work.  He compared Christianity with Judaism and with Greek philosophy on multiple occasions.  In The Antichrist he compares Christianity and Buddhism.  His understanding of the oriental religion is rudimentary at best, but nevertheless quite enlightened for a European of his time.  Interesting, he finds Buddhism superior to Christianity but nevertheless both perspectives are “decadent.” Nevertheless, even this exercise reveals aspects of Nietzsche's revalued self.

“With my condemnation of Christianity, I should not like to have wronged a kindred religion which even preponderates in the number of its believers: Buddhism.  They belong together as nihilistic religions – they are decadent religions – but they are distinguished from one another in the most remarkable way.  The critic of Christianity is profoundly grateful to Indian scholars that one is now able to compare these two religions. - Buddhism is a hundred times more realistic than Christianity – it has the heritage of cool and objective posing of problems in its composition, it arrives after a philosophical lasting hundreds of years;  the concept of 'God' is already abolished by the time it arrives. Buddhism is the only really positivistic religion history has to show to us, even in its epistemology (a strict phenomenalism -), it no longer speaks of 'the struggle against sin' but, quite in accordance with actuality, 'the struggle against suffering'.  It already has – and this distinguishes profoundly from Christianity – the self-deception of moral concepts behind it – it stands, in my language – beyond good and evil. - The two physiological facts upon which it rests and on which it fixes its eyes are: firstly an excessive excitability of sensibility which expresses itself as a refined capacity for pain, then an overly-intellectuality, a too great preoccupation with concepts and logical procedures under which the personal instinct has sustained harm to the advantage of the 'impersonal' ( – both of them conditions which at any rate some of my readers, the objective ones, will know from experience, as I do). On the basis of these physiological conditions a state of depression has arisen: against this depression Buddha takes hygienic measures.  He opposes it with life in the open air, the wandering life; with moderation and fastidiousness as regards food; with caution towards all emotions which produce gall, which heat the blood; no anxiety, either for oneself or for others.  He demands ideas which produce repose or cheerfulness – he devises means for disaccustoming oneself to others.  He understand benevolence, being kind, as health promoting.

“...his teaching resists nothing more than it resists the feeling of revengefulness, of antipathy, of ressentiment ( - 'enmity is not ended by enmity': moving refrain of the whole of Buddhism...).  And quite rightly; it is precisely these emotions which would be thoroughly unhealthy with regard to the main dietetic objective.  The spiritual weariness he discovered and which expressed itself as an excessive 'objectivity' (that is to say weakening of individual interest, loss of center of gravity, of 'egoism'), he combated by directing even the spiritual interests back to the individual person.  In the teaching of the Buddha egoism becomes a duty: the 'one thing needful', the 'how can you get rid of suffering' regulates and circumscribes the entire spiritual diet...” (A, 20)

“The precondition for Buddhism is a very mild climate, very gentle and liberal customs, no militarism; and that it is the higher and even learned classes in which the movement has its home.  The supreme goal is cheerfulness, stillness, absence of desire, and this goal is achieved.  Buddhism is not a religion in which one merely aspires after perfection: perfection is the normal case.  In Christianity the instincts of the subjugated and oppressed come into the foreground: it is the lowest classes which seek their salvation in it.” (A, 21)

“Buddhism is a religion for late human beings, for races grown kindly, gentle, over-intellectual who feel pain too easily ( - Europe is not nearly ripe for it - ): it leads them back to peace and cheerfulness, to an ordered diet in intellectual things, to a certain physical hardening.  
Christianity desires to dominate beasts of prey; its means for doing so is to make them sick - weakening in the Christian recipe for taming, for 'civilization'.  Buddhism is a religion for the end and fatigue of a civilization, Christianity does not even find civilization in existence – it establishes civilization if need be.” (A, 22)

The idea of "late" humans marks the high-tide of existential decadence. Neither Buddhism nor Christianity offer a sufficient basis for the revaluation of all values. As for specific characteristics of a “revalued” life, Nietzsche reveals much with his discussion of a "noble" and “ascending” style of living. 

“In my Genealogy of Morals I introduced for the first time the psychology of the antithetical concepts of a noble morality and a ressentiment morality, the later deriving from a denial of the former: but this latter deriving from a denial of the former: but this latter corresponds totally to Judeo-Christian morality.  To be able to reject all that represents the ascending movement of life, well-constitutedness, power, beauty, self-affirmation on earth, the instinct of ressentiment here become genius had to invent another world from which that life-affirmation would appear evil, reprehensible as such.” (A, 24)

One of the ironies about The Antichrist is that, for all his rage at Christianity, Nietzsche actually has a great deal of respect for Jesus.

“One could, with some freedom of expression, call Jesus a 'free spirit' – he cares nothing for what is fixed: the word killeth, everything fixed killeth.  The concept, the experience 'life' in the only form he knows it is opposed to any kind of word, formula, law, faith, dogma.  He speaks only of the inmost thing: 'life' or 'truth' or 'light' is his expression for the inmost thing – everything else, the whole of reality, the whole of nature, language itself, possesses for him merely the value of a sign, a metaphor. - On this point one must make absolutely no mistake, however much Christian, that is to say ecclesiastical prejudice, may tempt one to do so: such a symbolist par excellence stands outside of all religion, all conceptions of divine worship, all history, all natural science, all experience of the world, all acquaintances, all politics, all psychology, all books, all art – his 'knowledge' is precisely the pure folly of the fact that anything of this kind exists.” (A, 32)

“If I understand anything of this great symbolist it is that he took for realities for 'truths', only inner realities – that he understood the rest, everything pertaining to nature, time, space, history, only as signs, as occasion for metaphor.  The concept 'the Son of Man' is not a concrete person belonging to history, anything at all individual or unique, but an 'eternal' fact, a psychological symbol freed from the time concept.” (A, 34)

More clues and specifics about the qualities of revaluation: "instinct and passion" make "war" upon the "holy lie"; a "benevolent and curious neutrality"; "discipline of the spirit"; "shameless self-seeking."  

“Only we, we emancipated spirits, possess the prerequisite for understanding something nineteen centuries have misunderstood – that integrity become instinct and passion which makes war on the 'holy lie' even more than on any other lie....One has been unspeakably far from our benevolent and curious neutrality, from that discipline of the spirit through which alone the divining of such strange, such delicate things is made possible: at all times one has, with shameless self-seeking, desired only one's own advantage in these things, one constructed the Church out of the antithesis to the Gospel.” (A, 36)

“If one shifts the center of gravity of life out of life into the 'Beyond' – into nothingness - one had depraved life as such of its center of gravity.  The great lie of personal immortality destroys all rationality, all naturalness of instinct – all that is salutary, all that is life-furthering, all that holds a guarantee for the future in the instincts henceforth excites mistrust. So to live that there is no longer any meaning in living; that now becomes the 'meaning' of life...” (A, 43)

Nietzsche ends with a reiteration of the power of the priests argument he first fully articulated the Genealogy.  It begins with: “Have I been understood?” This question reflects Nietzsche actual state of being at this time of his life.  He was self-searching, self-critiquing.  This would manifest itself magnificently in Ecce Homo but first he has to assign ultimate blame for the decadence of Christianity. 

“The beginning of the Bible contains the entire psychology of the priest. - The priest knows only one great danger: that is science – the sound conception of cause and effect....The concept of guilt and punishment, including the doctrine of 'grace', of 'redemption', of 'forgiveness' - lies through and through and without any psychological reality – were invented to destroy the causal sense of man: they are an outrage on the concept cause and effect! ...When the natural consequences of an act are no longer 'natural' but thought of as effected by the conceptual ghosts of superstition. By 'God', by 'spirits', by 'souls', as merely 'mortal' consequences, as reward, punishment, sign, chastisement, then the precondition for knowledge has been destroyed - then one has committed the greatest crime against humanity. - Sin, to say it again, that form par excellence of the self-violation of man, was invented to make science, culture, every kind of elevation and nobility impossible: the priest rules through the invention of sin.” (A, 49)

For Nietzsche these priests not only satisfy his requirement on the importance of the will to power but it also declares that the abolition (or at least change in perspective) of the concept and experience of "sin" is a characteristic of the revalued self. Nietzsche's revalued ideal banishes sin and guilt. Believe in yourself, be free of all guilt and sin, find yourself free, be yourself.  That is possibly where we were headed with the revaluation.  We will never know.  The rest of the "great task" was undeveloped, scattered in notebooks he never intended anyone to read.  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Antichrist: Part One

With The Antichrist Nietzsche, at last, gets down to the business of crafting his “great task”, intended as the culminating work of his life. It is almost universally agreed upon that this book was originally intended as the first of a four-volume magnum opus to critique basic western values and advocate a revaluation for higher (elitist) culture with greater personal creative freedom and expression.  As is pointed out below, after its completion Nietzsche came to consider this singular work as the sum and the whole of his masterwork - personally, I see this as indicative of his mental decline and increased delusional thinking. 

“Throughout 1888 Nietzsche regards himself as 'at war', engaged in a spiritual 'war to the knife' against 'the present', but more specifically against the German present; against German chauvinism and anti-Semitism and the decay of its culture.  On September 30 he finished fashioning one of his major pieces, The Antichrist (or The Antichristian – the German has both meanings), which at the time he regarded as Book I of the projected four-book, masterwork (now re-titled Revaluation of all Values). By mid-November, however, he had come to regard it as constituting the totality of the masterwork.  This makes it an important document, in a sense, Nietzsche's last will and testament.

The Antichrist is an uneven work in both tone and content.  Some passages, the accounts of the historical Jesus, for instance, are as fine as anything he wrote.  But others amount to little more than a rage against Christianity that goes on much too long and says nothing that has not been said before.  The subtitle, 'A Curse on Christianity', added at the last moment as Nietzsche was dipping into insanity, captures the quality of his rage.  Gone is the former judicious weighing up of Christianity's 'pros' and 'cons'; in its place is simply the crude judgment that Christianity is 'the greatest corruption conceivable'.

“The essential thing about Christianity, writes Nietzsche, is its Jewish origins.  It was the Jews that invented 'slave morality', the 'morality of ressentiment.  Originally invented in the Babylonian Exile, it was subsequently adopted by the Christians in the early Roman Empire.  The Antichrist now proceeds to offer an account of the origin of slave morality in ressentiment which, since he refers us back to that, he clearly believes to be no more than an expansion of the account presented in the Genealogy's first essay.

“Originally, then, we now learn, slave morality was just theater. A 'noble lie' that the Jewish priests used to disempower their Babylonian oppressors.  By encouraging and validating the decadent instincts of the nobles, they persuaded them to transfer their allegiance from 'm  aster' to 'slave' morality and so cease their oppression.” (Young, page 510)

Curtis Cate sees three pillars to Nietzsche's attack on Christainity: “The three main thrusts of this new work were Nietzsche's contentions that Christianity, far from representing a radical 'break' with official Judaism, was essentially a morbid perpetuation of Jewish 'defeatism'; that its founder Jesus Christ, remained a baffling psychological enigma; and that what seems to have been his teaching was from the outset vulgarized and distorted by his insufficiently sophisticated disciples and, with the help of the former rabbi, Paul, transformed from an incipient form of neo-Buddhism into a seditious instrument of social agitation against the Roman Empire.” (page 528)

Young is more specific: “Crucial is the fact that The Antichrist is talking about, not the Christian revolt against the Romans, but Judaism's revolt against the Babylonians. Nietzsche portrays these early Jewish priests as, though naturally resentful of their oppression by their Babylonian masters, not infected by the poison of ressentiment. The reason they are not, evidently, is that they do something - something effective - about their oppression, and so 'assuage', vent, their ressentiment....They view their oppressors as enemies, to be sure, even hate them, but they do not poison their souls with the unvented hatred that is ressentiment.

“When we return to the later Jewish priests, however, the Christian ones, the story is very different.  What makes it different is the fact that the Christian priests internalized slave morality: what for their predecessors was mere 'theater' is for them the ultimate truth.  And that demands, of course, that one 'turn the other cheek'; it forbids them the practice of health-restoring revenge.

“The crucial contrast, then, is between the priests of Judaism and the priests of Christianity.  That The Antichirst calls 'Jewish priests' healthy while the Genealogy calls 'Jewish priests' sick is not a contradiction since the former focuses on priests of Judaism while the later focuses on priests of Christianity.  The Antichrist is, I think, making this point when it says that, while priests of Judaism are 'the opposite of decadents', 'the Christianity of Paul is a movement of decadence.” (page 511)

Cate agrees: “It was from the religiously 'polluted' soil of a theocracy directed by cringing bigots, a 'totally unnatural ground', that Christianity arose – like a blighted plant.  A revolt against a fatally corrupted, decadent form of religion is apt itself to be flawed in its very origins, and this, Nietzsche argued, was what happened to Christianity.  The revolt against the established order against the dominant priesthood, assumed a wildly utopian form, in the course of which the humblest and poorest elements of society were explicitly exalted (the reference here is to Christ's 'Sermon on the Mount'), while the key collective notion of a 'chosen people', which had hitherto provided the people of Israel with a strong residual sense of identity and cohesion, was allowed to evaporate into a totally unrealistic notion of individual perfection ('the Kingdom of God is within you').” (page 529)

Young summarizes Nietzsche's perspective on the historical, human Jesus: “The real, historical Jesus, Nietzsche claims, had nothing to do with ideas of sin and punishment. Afflicted by a neurotic oversensitivity to suffering, he preached a doctrine of universal love, of never resisting, always 'turning the other cheek'. Presumably the suffering, here, is the suffering of division, of enmity.  If one loves, forgives, everyone then whatever they do they can never be one's enemy. Nietzsche calls this a kind of hedonism, closely related to Epicurianism.  Both Jesus and Epicurus are decadent, on the grounds, evidently, that they lack the will that craves 'victories' and therefore 'enemies'. They lack, in a word, the will to power.  (page 511)

“The real Jesus was no metaphysician, had no supernatural beliefs whatsoever.  For him, 'the kingdom of heaven' is a 'state of the heart'.  Jesus taught by parable and by example.  His death was not an expiration of human sins but rather the ultimate demonstration of his doctrine of nonresistance, He was, in short, a kind of Buddhist, Buddhism being also a non-metaphysical life-practice engendered by hypersensitivity to pain.” (page 511 – 512))

“In the immediate aftermath of Jesus' death, Nietzsche continues, the traumatized disciples asked: who killed him? The answer was: the Jewish upper classes.  Gripped by ressentiment, they quickly began to misunderstand Jesus as a radical opponent of the Jews.  Jesus's death could not, therefore, be the end of the matter: there would be a 'second coming', judgment and punishment.  This is the torch soon passed to that 'priestly tyrant' Paul, who, welding Jewish notions of judgment to Plato's metaphysics, invented Christianity as we know it: original sin, a supernatural heaven and hell, an all-powerful judge, and Christ's human vanity, the idea of personal immortality. This proved the trump card in the spread of Christianity.” (page 512)

R.J. Hollingdale interprets Nietzsche's critique of the birth of Christianity this way: “The heart of Jesus' doctrine, Nietzsche maintains, is the adjuration to total pacifism, and the doctrine must have been the expression of a certain state of being: a morbidly exaggerated sensitivity to suffering.  If this state were at all general in men, whatever value mankind has produced – indeed, 'mankind' itself – would never have appeared, since the evolution of the higher has been brought about by conflict, between individuals and within individuals, within one 'soul'.  He therefore feels entitled to call Jesus a 'decadent', partly on physiological grounds – i.e. he thinks that Jesus' nervous system must have been pathologically excitable – and partly on the more general ground that his doctrine, if universally followed, would lead to the decay of mankind.  Secondly, he criticizes the Christian Church, not because it institutionalizes the teachings of Jesus – which it self-evidently did not do – but because it was a reversion to a primitive miracle-and-salvation religion of the kind Jesus himself had left behind.  Freed from the excessive rhetoric of The Anti-Christ Nietzsche's objection to the religion of the Western world can be seen to rest on rational grounds and to follow from the premises of his own philosophy.” (page 209)

According to Young, Nietzsche declares eight fundamental objections to Christianity in The Antichrist.  They are: idealistic arrogance, promoting guilt and self-hatred, destroying all “life-enhancing instincts”, advocating equality for everyone, disguising hate as love with its belief in hell and damnation, modern Christian theologians promote “holy lies”, and finally Christianity has “cheated us out of the fruits of ancient culture.”

In this last criticism Nietzsche refers to both ancient India and ancient Rome.  Regarding the Hindu Law of Manu, which he apparently appropriated from the book written by his friend Paul Deussen in 1887, “...Nietzsche writes, was an attempt to '”eternalize” the supreme condition for a thriving life, a great organization of society'.” (page 513)

But this society, too, is not a perfect model for the future because it created slave morality through establishing an “untouchable” class.  “The same is true of a much finer example of the effort to 'eternalize' the conditions of the thriving life, the Roman Empire: 'In this society, the revenue of reason from long ages of experiment and uncertainty should have been invested for the greatest long-term advantage, and the greatest, richest, most perfect crop should have been harvested'. (page 514) But it did not turn out that way because, according to Nietzsche, the slave morality of the underclass corrupted Rome from within.

Nietzsche proclaims that “every healthy society” contains a hierarchy of types of people based upon their “psychological type.”  A healthy society produces philosophically spiritual people are above all other types. Young points out that this reasoning is seems like “plagiarism” from Plato's Republic.  But there is a difference: “For Plato, the reason philosophers must rule is that they alone have knowledge of the 'Forms': the eternal and perfect paradigms of justice and virtue, knowledge which is the prerequisite of being a wise ruler.  But Nietzsche dismisses this 'true world' as a 'fable'.  And so he offers something else as a condition of leadership:

“'The highest caste – which I call the few - being the perfect caste also has the privilege of the few: this includes being [exemplary] models of happiness, beauty, goodness on earth.  Only the most spiritual human beings are be [morally] beautiful: only among them is goodness not a weakness...'The world is perfect' - this is how the instinct of the most perfect speaks, the yes-saying instinct.
“If one rejects democracy, as both Nietzsche and Plato do, if one believes – to call a spade a spade - in dictatorship, the question arises of how to ensure it is a benevolent dictatorship.  Plato's answer is not available to Nietzsche since the Forms are a myth. More broadly, it seems to me, Nietzsche does not believe that the most essential thing to good politics is any kind of cognitive expertise....What we need are leaders who are genuinely 'good', those in whom 'goodness is not a weakness', those who are 'the kindest' and who 'treat the average more delicately than they treat themselves or their equals'.” (page 516)

“Nietzsche argues that the fatal design flaw in both the society of Manu and in the Roman Empire was the creation of a 'Chandala' class: by allowing the development of an alienated underclass both societies sowed the seeds of their own downfall.  He needs, therefore, to be able to demonstrate that his own future society is free of this design flaw.

“Each of the three castes has, he says, a kind of happiness specific to itself....An 'average' type, for instance, would be 'crushed' by the burden of leadership and ascetic life-style that is the happiness of the spiritual type: 'life becomes increasingly difficult the higher one goes – it gets colder, there are more responsibilities'.  For the average, those with average desires and abilities, 'being average is happiness'.  For one born in an 'intelligent machine', a 'wheel' in the system, living the life of a wheel (or cog) is happiness.  This is a principal objection to socialism – it makes those it purports to benefit unhappy, 'undermines workers' instincts and pleasures, their feelings of modesty about their little existences'. 'Injustice', concludes Nietzsche, endorsing, exactly, Plato's definition of justice as everyone's adhering to the station in society to which they are, by nature, suited, 'is never a matter of unequal rights but it is a matter of claiming “equal” rights'.” (page 517)

“Healthy societies of the past have had, then, gods who allowed them, in one way or another, to celebrate themselves.  'There has never been a [successful] people without a religion' he writes in his notebooks; 'culture' means 'the gods'.  And a healthy society of the future will be the same: 'Almost two thousand years a no new god!' he laments.  That we have had only the same old 'mono-theism' says very little for Europe's 'skill in religion'.

“Notice the gesture, here, towards Greek polytheism: since Judaism, like Christianity (and Islam), is monotheistic, Yahweh will not, in the end, count as an ideal god.  Since the principal function of healthy gods is to be exemplary embodiments of the virtues of the community, and since Nietzsche insists that virtue, like happiness, is relative to one's station in the social totality, there must be, in the end, no 'one size fits all' kind of god but rather, as in Greece, a plurality – and presumably a hierarchy – of gods.

“The return of the 'Greek' gods in and through the rebirth of Greek tragedy was, of course, the aspiration of Nietzsche's first book.  With respect to the gods, it is clear, nothing essentially has changed.” (page 518)

“To make a hero of Jesus! […] Our whole concept, our cultural concept 'spirit' had no meaning whatever in the world Jesus lived in.  To speak with the precision of the physiologist a quite different world be in place here: the word idiot.” (A, 29)  While in some ways Nietzsche admires Jesus the man (...only Christian practice, a life such as he who died on the Cross lived, is Christian” A, 39), he nevertheless finds him more idiotic than heroic.  But what exactly inspired this rather crude name calling?  Cate explains:

“In writing these devastating sentences Nietzsche was clearly referring to Dostoevsky's novel, The Idiot - the pathetic story of a kindly, mystically inclined Russian prince (Myshkin), who ends up looking like a simpleton in trying to be kind-hearted and benevolent, in trying to love and love like a genuine Christian.  And indeed, a little further on, Nietzsche explicitly regretted that there should not have existed among Jesus's contemporaries a man of Dostoevsky's acute psychological insight, capable of fathoming the baffling complexities of his personality and exposing the crude naivete of his followers.  What Jesus really was, Nietzsche suggested, was a supreme irrealist, quite possibly the greatest irrealist the world has known and, for that very reason perhaps, the only absolutely genuine Christian there has ever been.  For, unlike Moses or Mohammed, who had their feet firmly planted on the ground and who were quite specific in their social recommendations, Jesus brought a message of 'glad tidings' that belonged to no specific time or place, that was atemporal and asocial.  Any 'Christian', eager to follow in the footsteps of the Master in the naive belief that the Kingdom of God is within one, ends up living in a religio-autistic world, totally severed from everyday reality.  This inner world is inherently 'subversive' in that it owes allegiance to no established institution, whether Church or other.  In this way the human individual is partly 'deified', divinized, delivered from the 'normal, natural' bonds of society.  This was the basic Christian element underlying Rousseau's political philosophy. Man is born free (because the 'Kingdom of God' is within him), but in the wicked world of everyday reality, he is everywhere in chains.  Normal, collective 'society' is thus demonized.

“When it became a faith, Christianity was transformed into something radically different: not a life of 'blessedness' as it is actually experienced here and now, as much as a belief in life as it ought to be lived with an eye to future rewards and punishments to be distributed in a radiantly celestial or darkly hellish future.” (Cate, page 530) 

It should be noted that, as with many of his previous works, Nietzsche's “psychological” reconstruction of “history” was inspired by his background in philology. But, his musings are often completely conjectural, without the benefit of empirical data or historical facts to back them up.  His interpretations as presented in The Antichrist are little more than astute observations leading to factually unsupported conclusions.  This does not diminish the power and application of his philosophy.  It merely emphasizes that the specifics of Nietzsche's interpretation of history are not founded in historical research but are, rather, free-form deductions that support his vision of the revaluation of the present to build a stronger future.