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.  

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