Ludwig Klages: Cosmogonic Reflections, part 5
by Ludwig Klages
translated by Joseph D. Pryce
401. False and True in Nietzsche. The best, the deepest, and the most true of all the discoveries that Nietzsche has won for the philosophy of life comprise the fragments of a philosophy of “orgiastics.” Everything else is worthless. We must see this clearly, so that we can comprehend the motives behind his critique of the substrate-concept as well as the ultimate significance of his Heracliteanism. We must also perceive, through the breach that he opened up in the meters-thick cocoon that shielded delusion’s chimera, the road to new truths, and even to a whole new species of thought. However, Nietzsche himself could not set out upon that road, so that we must content ourselves by widening the breach that he opened. (PEN p. 168)
402. Formula. Every one of Nietzsche’s truths derives from the pagan side of his character; all of his errors reflect his Christian side. (PEN p. 180)
403. Dionysus Against the Spirit. Nietzsche does not see the “Dionysian” predominantly as the alleged counterpart to the “Apollinian”; rather, his viewpoint springs from a profound opposition to everything that is spiritual—and most of all to the disaster of consciousness. (PEN p. 166)
404. Spirit as a Sickness of Life. When Nietzsche states that “the falseness of a judgment is no refutation of a judgment,” he announces a proposition from which we may derive a positive inference: the correctness of a judgment cannot guarantee its truth, or, truth has no value in itself. Likewise, the causes and purposes of the organ of thought are determined by the drive functions, and, therefore, the yardstick with which the organ of thought measures is subjective. One can decide to be for or against the party of logic, and—this is Nietzsche’s most important pronouncement—one joins the party that is against logic to the extent that one stands for the party that is for life, which is against spirit and without logic. Life and spirit stand in opposition to each other, and Nietzsche is surely justified in describing spirit as a sickness of life. (PEN p. 4)
405. Nietzsche’s Marksmanship. Nietzsche’s judicial investigations into the phenomenon of “life-envy” hit the bull’s-eye time and time again, and his discoveries in this area would retain their fundamental significance even if his “master-type” should turn out in the end to be only a thrilling phantom. (PEN p. 127)
406. Friedrich Nietzsche: The World’s “First Psychologist”. There are two reasons why we must call Nietzsche the “first psychologist.” The first is that he took upon himself, as his major mission, the task of illuminating the historical evolution of general value judgments; this enabled him to construct a propaedeutic for every possible science of the soul. The second was his utilization of this method to scrutinize particular value judgments in order to determine whether or not they constituted critical instantiations of the “will to power”; in such cases, Nietzsche could conclusively demonstrate the presence of self-deception. (PEN p. 65)
407. Nietzsche, Parmenides, and “Socratism”. Nietzsche stated (in the volume of his literary remains entitled “The Will to Power”): “Parmenides said: ‘one cannot think what is not’; we take hold of the other end of the stick, and say: what cannot be thought, must be a fiction.” The remark is as profound as it is true, if, in fact, it is an expression of the utter inimitability of the condition of judgment and that of actuality; it may be deeply misleading, however, if the word “fiction” is being used here to demonstrate the impossibility of our ever ascertaining the truth. In fact, Nietzsche remained throughout his life bogged down in Socratism, which accounts for the fact that he never pressed through to a clearer distinction between truth and actuality. (SW 1 p. 118)
408. On Nietzsche’s Handwriting. We have encountered no handwritten exemplar from the entire period extending from German Classicism to the turn of the 20th century that bears the slightest resemblance to that of Nietzsche…There is something uniquely radiant, bright, shining like silk, something, as it were, ethereal; it manifests an obvious lack of warmth; this is a man who, although he is deeply rooted in the home, must rise to ever higher, ever colder heights (like the albatross in his poem of that name), one who has only the slightest connection with the profound, subterranean depths, for he sees the world solely through the wide-ranging gaze of the spirit. It is precisely in the downwards and the below that he can see only the “abyss.” There is something in this script that is transparent, crystalline—the complete antithesis to the cloudy, the miasmal, the elastic, the gushing, the surging; there is something uncannily hard, sharp, of a glass-like fragility, with a complete absence of the conciliatory—something utterly formed, complete, even, one might say, chiseled…Never before have we encountered an unstylized handwriting that manifested such sharpness and angularity, together with an utterly flawless distribution of the handwritten masses and a sequential organization that almost reminds one of a string of precious pearls! (AC pp. 344-375)
409. Nietzsche as Socratic Thinker. When we examine certain aspects of Nietzsche’s theory of judgment-formation—especially with regard to his opposition to the very notion of the “substrate-concept”—we feel that the customary imputation of a passionate anti-Socratism to Nietzsche is well deserved. His own explicit diatribes in “The Birth of Tragedy” and “The Genealogy of Morals” seem to leave no room for doubt in this regard. Thus, how astonished we are when we encounter other aspects of his thought: for then we see Nietzsche falling into Socratism himself, and even into a rootless skepticism, which he embodies in concepts that he often wields as the lethal weapons with which he seeks to destroy his own discoveries—even when this very procedure is plunging his entire philosophical enterprise into an all-embracing chaos of logical inconsistencies! (PEN p. 181)
410. A Negative Aspect of Nietzsche’s Psychology. The human spirit—not the living organism—is conversant with anarchy: thus, this thinker who had hitherto served as the greatest breaker of chains in the history of mankind, in the end must logically join forces with all of the revolutionaries who went before. Thus, it is not the body—this eternal here and now, this sad and joyous event—that possesses the capacity to wish; on the contrary, it is spirit, restlessly oscillating between time past and time to come, which participates in vitality, but this occurs solely through the mediation of the wish. So we find that Nietzsche consistently howls his rage against the man of the wish and his vampyric “ideals”; he brings to light, as none of his predecessors had ever succeeded in doing, the paradoxical analogy that subsists between the madness of purposefulness and the mummification of the past. The protest of life against the arrogance of consciousness he locates in the protest of the body against the “holy spirit” within!…Nietzsche’s works were born out of the innermost needs of his being and out of his, as it were, self-flagellation. Without a doubt, his productions are vulnerable to the grave accusation that they are redolent of personal biases that render them both dangerous and deceiving. (PEN p. 82)
411. The Wisdom of Lord Byron. Under the legend “Sorrow is Knowledge” [Gram ist Erkenntnis], Nietzsche cites the following verse of Lord Byron’s:
Sorrow is knowledge: those who know the most
Must mourn the deepest o’er the fatal truth,
The Tree of Knowledge is not that of life.
Now although these lines could hardly have been intended by their author for the purposes to which we will put them, the factual content of Byron’s words entitles us to propose them as the master thesis of a pagan method of cognition, for they point an admonishing finger at the relationship of life to consciousness, and of experience to knowledge, and they perform this office from a perspective that recognizes the genuine processes that pose a threat to life. (PEN pp. 189-90)
412. Eros and Dæmon. Nietzsche’s world is a world of egos, of characters, or, if you prefer, of great personalities; his is a Renaissance world. Nietzsche wished for great, profound, truthful men (his “superman” is no longer merely a man!). Only rarely does he break out of this circle. In general, however, it remains a world of persons, a world whose depths harbor yearning always, but fulfillment never…Nietzsche understood neither Eros nor the dæmonic. We, on the other hand, can understand the one or the other; but only an omniscient thinker can understand them both. (RR p. 522)
413. Nietzsche’s Historical Vision. Nietzsche’s work on the “unmasking” of deception is of especial importance in the investigation of self-deception; in addition, he consummated his labors in this area by presenting us with a synoptic history of deception: therefore, he is the evolutionary theoretician of the characteristic valuations that have been attached to general concepts…Still, there is an additional question as to Nietzsche’s alleged affiliations with certain other thinkers who have customarily been regarded as evolutionary theorists, among whom we mention Darwin…and Spencer. The answer is unambiguous: Nietzsche is their most implacable adversary, for he has clearly seen that they have all managed to persuade themselves that they are competent to investigate the “animal,” the “primitive” tribe, and even the “child,” before they have undertaken to investigate themselves; their procedure inevitably founders on their ignorant subordination of their data to the moralistic value-conceptions of—today! (PEN 57-8)
414. Biocentric Physiology. Nietzsche’s ceaseless appeals to physiology, though widely dismissed as a mere toying with words, nonetheless expresses a doctrine of the body that, although it is utterly alien to medical doctrine in this area, is based upon a species of “eavesdropping” on the bodily experiences. Admittedly, to some it might appear to be merely an accentuation of observations of both habitual and transitory bodily states. (PEN p. 75)
415. From Stirner to Nietzsche. When we leave the world of Max Stirner and return to the world of Nietzsche, it is as if we had abandoned the polar ice and returned home to Greece! (PEN p. 60)
416. The Birth of Phantoms. Although no one has hitherto brought Nietzsche’s teaching to the hoi polloi, one can well imagine that were such an undertaking to flourish, we would at last have seen just how such legends as those that have attached themselves to the Buddha originated! (PEN p. 74)
417. Nietzsche: Philo-Semite and Germanophobe I. Nietzsche had so little of the “anti-Semite” in his nature that he can scarcely conceive of a more loathsome character than the: “anti-Semite”! Whoever takes the pains to examine Nietzsche’s collected works in order to determine his actual opinion of the Jews—and of the Germans—cannot fail to arrive at the following conclusions: Nietzsche held the Jews in the highest possible esteem; he detests all “anti-Semites”; and he hated the Germans with a blind hatred…
Had Nietzsche lived into the era of the “World War,” there can be no doubt as to whom he would have pledged his allegiance: he would certainly have sided with the mortal enemies of Germany! (PEN p. 152)
418. Nietzsche: Philo-Semite and Germanophobe II. It is Nietzsche who informs us that the Jews who have bestowed the “most refined manners” upon Europe.
It is Nietzsche who informs us that the Jews are the great masters of the art of adaptation, the true geniuses of European drama.
It is Nietzsche who praises the Jews as the race that has the most reverence for their forefathers.
It is Nietzsche who finds in the “Old Testament” the best criteria for distinguishing the “great” from the “small.”
It is Nietzsche who holds that “In comparison with Luther’s Bible, all other books are mere ‘literature’”.
It is Nietzsche who insists that the Jews and the Romans are the two most spiritually virile nations in history.
It is Nietzsche who tells us that the Jews initiated the “grand style” in moral matters…
It is Nietzsche who informs us that the Jews are “the most ancient and best-bred of all the races.”
It is Nietzsche who urges the “noble officers of Prussia” to marry Jewesses in order to create “a new ruling caste for Europe.”
It is Nietzsche who calls the Bible “the most profound and most important” book in existence.
It is Nietzsche who tells us that the Jews have raised “the dream of ethical nobility to a higher plane than has any other people.”
It is Nietzsche who tells us that the ideas of the Jews are the means by which Europe has achieved its masterful position.
It is Nietzsche whose exaggerated regard for the writings of Heine betrays him into such statements as the following: “Heine’s style is far superior to anything that mere Germans” (!) can hope to achieve!
And similar reflections can be culled by the dozen from Nietzsche’s works! (PEN pp. 223-4)
419. Oasis of the Soul. Even in the midst of the 19th Century, with its technology and its worship of hard facts, we must acclaim, as an oasis in the growing wasteland of “progress,” the dream-laden philosophy of life of the German Romantics and the militant religion of life of Friedrich Nietzsche! (SW 3 p. 364)
420. Nietzsche Unbound and Nietzsche in Chains. It can be demonstrated that Nietzsche—this greatest breaker of chains in the history of mankind—was himself a man in chains. While he advances the perfection to be achieved in the extra-personal fullness of ecstatic moments on one side, on the other he discovers—the “superman” and his restless ascent to ever more wretched heights! What Nietzsche himself annihilates from the ground up: the enslavement of life to purposes and to the future, he restores on another plane, so that he finally appears to be intent upon annihilating himself in a veritable frenzy of “self-overcomings.” (SW 4 p. 707)
421. Nietzsche in a Nutshell. The following is without a doubt the most elegant formula whereby we can express Nietzsche’s true nature: he was the battlefield between the orgiastic celebrants, whom he was the first to identify and interpret, and the ascetic priestly caste, which he was, here again, the first to unmask for us…To employ the language of myth, Nietzsche was simply the field of battle whereon Dionysus and Jahweh waged their war. We know of no comparable example in all of world history. We have often encountered, and still do encounter, the antithesis: Dionysus vs. Socrates, or, more commonly, Dionysus vs. Jahweh. But that one and the same personality should be possessed by both Dionysus and Jahweh is the most terrible case that the mind can conceive. (PEN p. 210)
422. The Nietzschean Eruption. The author of these lines can well remember—as can the majority of his colleagues who came to maturity during those heady days of the 1890s, and with whom he has often discussed this matter—the explosive impact exerted upon all of us when we first succumbed to the sorcery of Nietzsche’s thought. The effect can only be compared to a raging typhoon, a massive earthquake, or a volcanic eruption…
At the very instant when we begin to read Nietzsche’s books, we feel as if we had been dragged into a magic coach that hurtles at dizzying velocity through infinite landscapes. We are plunged into the bowels of the earth, then we are dropped onto icy glaciers and mountain summits, and all the while the world is shining with a harsh and intense radiance, which is sometimes terrible and threatening, but which is always violent and overpowering. (PEN p. 11)
423. The Last, Dying Wave of Romanticism. The Romantics constituted the ultimate wave, because the very core of terrestrial life died when they died. Surely man has never experienced, nor has he ever suffered more rapturously, the convulsions of being than did the Romantics. Their horizon flamed in the fiery gloaming of farewell, a last, irrevocable severing of the ties.
Only a select few perceived this event. Fewer still understood its implications. Even Nietzsche confused that melancholy and overpowering radiance with the first flush of a new dawn.
I have indulged in such descriptions merely so that the reader might be able to see the reason why we refer to these last, great bearers of the radiance of earth as the dithyrambic bards of destruction. They were surrounded by ghouls and vampires, and their creative work was never really consummated.
The whole earth reeks as never before with the blood of the slaughtered, and the apelike masses now strut about with the precious spoils that they have plundered from the ravaged temple of life! (SW II p. 923)
424. Biology and Heuristic Expediency. Naturalists, as well as philosophers, repeatedly emphasize the fact that it is impossible to draw a hard and fast line between the animal realm and the plant realm, since there exists no unexceptionable criterion of distinction between the two. Those who would ponder the biological borderlands must content themselves by examining the preponderant “weight of the evidence” on a case-by-case basis. (SW 2 pp. 1081-2)
425. Duality and Polarity. The duality of subject and object rests upon the polarity of experiencing life and appearing event. (SW 3 p. 49)
426. Forms of Polarity. A relationship of polarity exists between positive and negative magnetism, between right hand and left, and between male and female in sexually dimorphous species. (SW 3 pp. 52-3)
427. G. F. Daumer I. G. F. Daumer never employed the term “spirit” in our comprehensive and technical sense, for he restricted his meditations to the spirit of Christianity and to such “Catholic” converts as “Protestantism” and the “secret societies.” Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that Daumer was certainly not what we would call a psychologist, we have no hesitation in seeing him as a profound culture-critic and as the indisputable forerunner of Nietzsche’s “Antichrist.” (SW 2 p. 902)
428. G. F. Daumer II. The Romantic writer Daumer published in 1847 a work entitled “The Mysteries of Christian Antiquity”; in this volume, Daumer, basing his theories in part upon records and traditions, and in part upon familiar symbols and customs, demonstrates conclusively that ancient Christianity was, in reality, a sect devoted to the appalling god Moloch, whose worshippers have maintained, through uninterrupted millennia, the practice of cultic cannibalism [kultischer Anthropophagie]. Daumer enriches his speculations by adducing profound observations of Bayle (whose meditations are still worthy of perusal even today), which might provide, all things considered, a literal basis for Nietzsche’s accusation: “Christianity is the metaphysics of the hangman.” Daumer’s book provides the student of the secret history of Christianity with the most dazzling wealth of material that we have ever encountered. (PEN p. 154)
429. Spirit, the Destroyer. As spirit penetrates deeper and deeper into the life-cell, it transforms both body and soul. The changes are expressed in the physiognomy of the body as well as in the ascent of technology. In the arena of the soul the effects of spirit lead immediately to alterations in the emotional life, which find expression in the dwindling of poetic and artistic creativity. In the end, spirit can only express itself through the medium of “ideas.” (SW 2 913)
430. Spirit and History. Historical man is the battleground whereon two forces struggle for supremacy: actuality, which we call life, and an acosmic power, which we call spirit. (SW 2 p. 912)
431. Experience and Judgment. The pole of experience corresponds to the pole of the phenomenal world; the pole of judgment corresponds to the pole of the objective world. AG p. 74)
432. Volition and Expression. The direction of volition is determined by the individual, but the expressive movement is determined by the species. (AG p. 72)
433. Expression and Symbol. The expressive movement is to the volitional movement as the living symbol is to the factual judgment: in brief, the expressive movement is the symbol of the action. (AG p. 72)
434. On Space. Perceived space is essentially different from mathematical space. Mathematical space is infinite; perceived space is finite. In mathematical space, the dimensions are interchangeable; this is not the case with perceived space. Thus, in perceived space, we find an actual over and an actual under; an actual before and an actual behind; and an actual left and an actual right. Mathematical space is colorless and silent; perceived space is filled with color and sound. Mathematical space is disembodied; perceived space is embodied. (AG pp. 117-8)
435. What is “Graphology”? The word “Graphology” certainly does not mean: “the science of writing.” Its real meaning is the doctrine that treats handwriting as one of the expressions of character; it comprises as well the scientific investigation of the ultimate origins of the writing movement. These are, obviously, rooted in the bodily constitution. Movements sometimes possess a psychical content; sometimes they are devoid of such content. Most of the so-called “reflex processes”—coughing, sneezing, blinking of the eyes, increased production of saliva while eating, the flexing of the skeletal structure while reaching down to touch the floor, and even in the trembling movement that we find so often in the elderly—are without psychical content. On the other hand, other actions—such as the grasping of a book, which no one doubts originates in the conscious fact of an act of will—do possess a psychical content. Now there exists no fact of consciousness “in- and for-itself,” but only as a condition of a living personality. Thus, in every volitional movement personality plays the key role. (SW 8 p. 703)
436. History of Graphology. Graphology has a “pre-history” as well as a history in the strict sense. The pre-history reaches as far back as the Renaissance. We can name dozens of students who shared the conviction that there was a characterological value in the analysis of handwriting. We point to Hocquart in France and Henze in Germany (Henze would later be active in Sweden) as noteworthy exponents of early graphology. This pre-history came to an end when the French researcher Michon published his renowned “System of Graphology” in 1875. In that treatise, the author—who was a profound student of man—set down the observations that he had made over a thirty-year period. He believed that he had discovered revealing correspondences between character-traits and handwritten exemplars.
The history of Graphology in the proper sense belongs exclusively to the German lands, and this development can best be examined in the three following works, all of which embody decisive advances over the previous efforts: Wilhelm Preyer’s “On the Psychology of Writing” (first issued in 1895; second edition brought out by Leopold Voss of Leipzig); Georg Meyer’s “The Scientific Foundations of Graphology” (first edition in 1901; subsequent editions published by Fischer of Jena); and, finally, my own “Handwriting and Character” (which made its fist appearance in 1901; later editions were published by J. A. Barth of Leipzig). (SW 8 p. 803)
437. White Night. This night is harshly bright, like coldly ringing glass. An imperceptible flood seems to have seized everything that lives in its embrace, and even dead things stare, as with sallow gaze, into a dangerous domain. Massive dark-green cloud-waves roll throughout the heavens. Whitish breakers shine brightly above hidden reefs. Moonlight drips through the cracks and crevices. Signals swiftly sound and flash in the deep blue of the distance. A paler haze rises high above the towers of the great city. (RR p. 232)
438. On the Greatness of E. M. Arndt. Thanks to Arndt’s renowned and passionate love of the German fatherland—in the noblest sense of that expression—he became the deadliest critic of the very century in which he had been born—i.e., the 18th. He established the fact that all of the defects, blunders, and weaknesses of that age had their source in its “rationalism,” i.e., its cult of reason, in which Arndt saw the workings of spirit, which separates itself from the soul, from the body, and, ultimately, ” from the earth.” Thenceforth, he scrutinized the entire history of western man from the same thematic perspective; he concluded that every defect, blunder, and weakness to be found in Europe’s entire past derives from the destructive workings of the identical divisive force: spirit. (SW 2 p. 902)
439. Thought and Symbol. One may well ask if there exists a fundamentally different species of cognition [from the logical sort], which, so to speak, utilizes its own concepts so as to enable us to hold fast to our living experience. There is indeed such a species of cognition, and we find it in the symbolic thought of pre-historic cultures. (SW 3 p. 332)
440. On Modern Thought. Today we are witnessing an unprecedented “de-naturing” of thought, and we should not deceive ourselves: it will ultimately end in the complete ignorance of a new dark age. (SW 3 p. 333)
441. The Decline of Thought. For about a century now the foreground of research into the human sciences has been occupied by psychology—literally, “the science of the soul”—which, in its turn, presupposes the existence of “biology” (literally, “the science of life”), since the concept of the soul can have no meaning in the absence of a living essence in which it may dwell. But when we look back at the achievements of the so-called “Romantic Philosophy,” we must acknowledge that ever since the Romantic period, we have managed to entangle ourselves in all sorts of confusion in our utilization of basic concepts, so that philosophy now threatens to yield completely to systematic doubt (“skepticism”); it seems that we are about to renounce the very idea of knowledge itself! While man’s adherence to the example of the mechanistic “world-view” has allowed him to pile up mountains of “facts,” and while the engineering of his dazzling apparatus has enabled him to achieve the greatest precision in experimental research, he has long since forgotten just why he has need of all this extravagance! (SW 3 p. 332)
442. On Veils and Mysteries. Mysteries…neither desire to be, nor can they be, “unriddled.” A mystery from which the veil that obscures it has been torn is, indeed, no longer a mystery at all. Those who respect the integrity of the concealing veil are those natures who prefer metaphysics to any form of “redemption.” The actualization of a primordial mystery transforms it into “cognition.” One should never inquire into the primal origins; but one can ask all sorts of questions about essences, such as the essence of light, the essence of science, or even, if you wish, the essence of the copula “and”! (SW 3 pp. 332-3)
443. Concept and Meaning. The concept, as it were, belongs to the meaning of the word. The concept is related to the meaning—if we might employ an analogy—as the minute crystal is related to the matrix-solution from which it has been precipitated at the moment when the crystal separates from the solution and its form is rigidly fixed. The concept can be defined, but the meaning-content of a word never. The concept thinks through the medium of the word; the meaning-content can only be experienced on the basis of a profound feeling for language. The concept can be permanently established; but the meaning-content only mocks those who would place it in shackles. (AG pp. 212-3)
444. On the “Actuality of the Images”. All primitive cultures have experienced that which the critical rigor of the Greeks also brought to consciousness: the enhancement of the actual. Since we tend to confuse actuality with being, it appears to us as nonsensical when we witness the whole of Greek philosophy endorsing the comparative series: actual, more actual, and most actual. We attempt at least to enter sympathetically into this idea of “enhancement,” and we must conclude, without further ado, that the most actual must be the most valuable. Thus, we view the ultimate determining ground of all gradations of value according to degrees of actuality…But the thought of the enhancement of the actual arises solely from the images (allegedly of the so-called external world, although we are in fact referring to images purely and simply, and therefore we include among these images the visions and phantoms of our dreams). Thus, the ultimate ground of all judgments regarding actuality resides in the images. (AG p. 151)
445. Time and Memory. Through untold millennia stretches the umbilical cord of primal memory; and just as a wine improves with age, so does primal memory send its smoke higher the longer it has slept in the chthonic urn. (LK GL p. 238)
446. The Elemental Vision. The elemental vision signals rebirth; within us, the element recalls its limitlessness amid the primordial flux, as element and flux devour themselves anew: the winds, the trees, and the stars now speak. Through immeasurably distant ages, death and birth greet the soul of man in the wavering blade of grass, and they hear the dark inner night of the blood of man in the falling rain, as it trickles through the leaves outside. (LK GL p. 239)
447. The Fire of Life. The past is the hearth-fire of life. Every profoundly living being is great only through its origins. (LK GL p. 239)
448. Time and Image. Only that which once occurred can embody itself in the image, and the gaze of the soul is by necessity directed backwards. Out of time’s abyss the consciousness of the past breaks into man as the flowering of the elemental powers. (LK GL p. 239)
449. The Fate of the Images. With every diminution of the elemental past, there is a concomitant decrease in the ability of consciousness to receive the images. Hence, there is a decline in the majesty, depth, and beauty of the images. (LK GL p. 239)
450. The Ancient Souls. The present escapes the danger of emptiness only when it is stirred by the primordial images of the past; the moment is only filled to the brim with life when the souls of olden times renew themselves within us. (LK GL p. 239)
451. The Soul and its Moments. Without a connection to the images of times past, the soul’s moments would be utterly empty. (LK GL p. 239)
452. From a Letter Written During the First World War. In millions of hearts those ancient words are shining: love of the fatherland. Those words stand for an all-conquering faith, a faith that arouses within us those feelings that are the strongest and deepest ties that bind human society together. Nevertheless, we who—unhappily!—see through words to the facts behind them, know that the state has long since usurped the rightful place of the fatherland. We know as well that our victory in this war would only mean the victory of dams, factories, and the Jewish Press. That is the reality of the “German Fatherland”!…And what needs to be said today is this: the blood of our young men is being shed solely for the benefit of Judaism! (LK GL p. 616)
453. The Golem as Man of the Future. The Golem is bound up with the problem of vampirism, for the Golem is but a particular species of vampire…He is, in fact, the “man of the future”! He is that man—or non-man—over whom the machine will exercise complete domination. Already, the machine has liberated itself from man’s control; it is no longer man’s servant: in reality, man himself is now being enslaved by the machine. (LK GL p. 678)
454. Absolute Truth and Relative Truth. The phenomenon of individual partisanship has nothing whatsoever to do with the question as to the absolute or the relative nature of truth. I consider my fundamental discoveries to be not only absolutely true, but also to be completely demonstrable. I have discussed these matters with the shrewdest thinkers of my time, and yet I have never encountered among them—even among those who were explicitly hostile to my entire philosophical enterprise—anyone who was able to refute even a single judgment of mine. The meaning-content of our judgment is relative, but only as regards an individual’s choice of the party to which he will give his allegiance. The duality of spirit and life that I have established is as firmly grounded as any mathematical truth. The only thing that remains in dispute is whether it is more appropriate for an individual to adhere to the party of life or to the party of spirit. One is free to opt for either party without fear of contradiction. On the other hand, one can certainly discern the presence of deception as soon as a member of the party of spirit seeks to deny the existence of the essential disparity between spirit and life. (LK GL p. 697)
455. From a Letter. What you have described as an inner “guide” [Führer] recalls to mind the fact that throughout the ancient world we repeatedly encounter the similar phenomenon of the “Doppelgänger”—among the Persians it was the “fravashi;” among the Greeks we find the “eidolon;” and among the Romans we have both the “genius” and the “numen.” (LK GL p. 698)
456. “Romantic” and “Classical”. With regard to the relationship between the “romantic” (or elemental) and the “classical” modes of life-feeling, we admit that the Goethean variety of “self-control” is certainly the most masterful that has been achieved in modern times; but it remains, after all, just that: mere self-control; and we may be sure that this Goethean attitude of spirit will never enable us to reach the elemental reaches of the cosmic horizon of life. (LK GL p. 698)
457. Stewards of the World. The impulse to guard or protect the world [Weltgeborgenheit] is quite similar to our attachment to our family, to our race or nation, to our home-town, to our state, to our species, to our planet, and to our universe, in that the bonds in question constitute real connections and not merely spiritual relationships. Such true connections can only arise between one living being and another, for the connections are themselves the fundamental forms of all living being. In bygone days we expressed these perceptions through the medium of metaphysics, or, in the vernacular, through religion, so that what we now refer to as world-connection or world-protection binds the individual soul to the world-mystery…Every diminution of this sense of mystery ensures, among other things, that man’s activities, his vocation, his pleasures, and in the end his entire life, become devoid of mystery. This accounts for all of the shallowness, the triteness, and the banality of our age; and upon such foundations, the goal-obsessed Mammonism of today has erected its house! (LK GL pp. 1113-4)
458. Hellenism. Hellenic measure and Hellenic Eros are one and the same. (RR p. 304)
459. The Meaning of Dialectic. Philosophical dialectic thrives on the impulse to transcend conceptual thought. (RR p. 305)
460. On Repeating an Experience. Nothing ever recurs. Each experience is unique and unrepeatable. (RR p. 306)
461. Origin of Malice. Why is this man so quarrelsome and malicious? He feeds on his envy. (RR p. 307)
462. The Poles of Time. The past and the present—and not the past and the future—are the poles of time. (SW 3 p. 434)
463. On Eternity. Reality exists eternally, and time is the pulse-beat of eternity. (SW 3 p. 435)
464. Poetry as Living Form. Poetry is an ecstatic vital force. The life of the poet is an inner poetry. Poetic experience is the magical experience of language. (RR p. 243)
465. Soul and Destiny. Every soul bears from birth the color of its destiny. It has no need to think clearly about its fate, for it well understands the dream-images of creative ecstasy that shine before it. (RR p. 254)
466. Grounds for Love. We love only those with whom we share both revelry and grief. (RR p. 256)
467. Feeling and Life. The most emotional man is not necessarily the most alive. (RR p. 256)
468. The Element of Life. Purple and fiery is the living creative element: but it appears as flame in this one, heat in that. (RR p. 256)
469. The Pharaoh and the “One God”. As an embodiment of the hostility of the allegedly monotheistic, but in actuality atheistic, attitude of thought towards the polytheistic vision, the history of religious beliefs provides one instance that, in its immediate, illustrative force, surpasses even the development of Jewish “monotheism.” We allude to the attempt of the Egyptian monarch Amenhotep IV, who adopted the name Akhenaton, i.e., “the shining disc of the sun,” to overturn the innumerable dæmonic cults of his people, and to replace them with the worship of the “one true godhead”…
These were the results: on the Pharaoh’s side, a bitterly fanatical struggle against all the cultic sites of the polytheists…On the side of the people, whom he had sought to please with his “higher wisdom,” a passionate and ever-increasing opposition, which, in just a few years, led to the annihilation of his work, the shattering of his great temples, the consigning of the emperor’s teachings to the death of forgotten things, and the reestablishment of an unlimited polytheism, which was to last until the very end of the history of Pharaonic Egypt! (SW 2 p. 1266)
470. Hate and the Prophets. The victorious “monotheism” of the prophets of Israel achieved the astonishing trick of raising to the position of personal “lord” of the whole world,” purely and simply their own boundless hatred towards the true divinity of this world. (SW 2 p. 1266)
471. On the English Philosophy of the “Tabula Rasa”. If the chick that has only just left the egg immediately pecks at the grain, then without a doubt it has recognized the significance of the grain in serving to satisfy its hunger; similarly the duckling discovers its true element in the water into which—literally without reflection—it dives. The example is often cited of the species of wasp that brings to its larvae certain organisms that it has paralyzed, but not killed, with complicated stings, because they are destined later to serve as living food for its young. Thus the wasp appears to manifest the knowledge of a profoundly schooled anatomist, though, in fact, it cannot possibly have acquired such specialized knowledge. A horse, which has hitherto never encountered a beast of prey, is immediately seized by panic fear when it scents a lion and gallops way in wild flight: thus, the horse recognizes the significance of the scent of the lion, at least with reference to itself. These examples might be multiplied to infinity in order to demonstrate irrefutably the error of the English sensualists when they speak of the soul as of a “blank tablet”: for, though the soul bring no impressions with it into the world, it does bring a disposition for the interpretation of the world. These dispositions are commonly referred to as “innate instincts.” (SW 4 p. 254)
472. Inner and Outer. Of all of the profound utterances of Novalis, one of the deepest is the following: “The site of the soul is located at the point of connection between the outer world and the inner,” and of all the errors that originate in the faith in the actuality of things, one of the most absurd has resulted in the lunatic attempt to locate the “site” of the soul within the anatomy. The contrast of symbolic depth and symbolic surface is justified; but the “road inward” (which is represented in Heraclitus as the “road upward”!) is the road leading away from the appearances (“surfaces”) and into the depths wherein they appear, and certainly not from the natural exterior of the body to the matter with which it is filled. (SW 2 p. 1141)
473. Robbery as Good Business. Morality begins at the moment when theft is organized and its operations are re-christened with the name of “trade.” Nietzsche may well have been on the right track when he located the source of the idea of justice in the sense of guilt. The recognition that “what is fitting to one is just to another,” presupposes an abstraction not only from the inner sentiments; it also entails an even more fundamental abstraction, the one that establishes the great divide between egoism and racial instinct. It is at this point that man takes the first step beyond racial instinct and into the superstitious belief in “humanity.” (RR p. 398)
474. Images and Souls. Every one of my books harbors within it a key thesis; to my sorrow, not one of my readers seems to have been able to discover this secret. The reader may, in fact, be aware of the thesis, but he is somehow blind to the fact that it constitutes the key to the matter in hand!…The key to my book on the “cosmogonic Eros,” for instance, is this proposition: the primordial images are the phenomenal souls of the past. (LK GL p. 1076)
475. The Power of the Word. One hears a lot of talk about the poverty of language, and it is said that words are inadequate to express our deepest experiences; it is, perhaps, more accurate to speak of a poverty of experience, which in countless instances borrows only a semblance of significance from the display of words in which it clothes itself. Life, which has coagulated into speech, in ardor and wildness and in spiritual range leaves far behind the ultimate heights and depths in the life of the individual (apart from the dim feelings of earliest youth); and for this reason alone, it still possesses the power, once it is stirred, to transport the soul even now with an almost supernatural sorcery, carrying it into a whirlpool of more-than-human experience, unattainable otherwise: and a great poet leads us into an unknown magical kingdom, solely because he is blessed with the genius of language. (SW 4 p. 230)
476. Images are not Ideas. Neither the Romantics, with their startling concept of “cosmic consciousness,” nor Bachofen, nor Nietzsche, were able to arrive at a crucial discovery that I eventually had to track to its lair on my own: that vision, feeling, and perception, are fundamental functions of the soul, and that these functions, strictly speaking, are analogous to the revelatory activity of the images…However, the greatest danger that the student must avoid in this area is the temptation to confuse these images with the Platonic or neo-Platonic “ideas.” (LK GL p. 1073)
477. Romantic Dialecticians. There is no greater idiocy than the belief that the true mystics and the true Romantics have murky minds. Precisely the opposite is the case. We find the most rigorous dialecticians, without exception, among the Romantics! (LK GL p. 1078)
478. Little Man Luther. Had the petit bourgeois Luther possessed even a fraction of the radiant understanding of the mystic Meister Ekkehard, his “Protestantism” would have been less completely enslaved by the “letter of the law.” (LK GL p. 1078)
479. Imagination and the Sexes [From a Letter]. You have said that you are convinced that the soul of woman is dreamier and closer to the images than is the soul of man. In my view, this is completely erroneous. I ask you now to call to mind the truly significant individuals with whom you have come in contact during the course of your life. Ask yourself: all other things being equal, is it man or woman who possesses the larger endowment of imagination? I have been involved for many years with the characterological study of problems relating to the distinctions between the sexes, and I must say: even among the most outstanding women whom I have known, I found none who possesses a consequential power of imagination. Now someone might object that the psychology of women may well have altered since primitive times. I respond: yes, but men have undoubtedly changed to an even greater degree. If you ignore the so-called “emancipated” variety, you will certainly find that, in important matters, contemporary woman more closely resembles her ancestors than contemporary man resembles his forbears. The lack of imagination in women is obvious throughout recorded history, and one must doubt that the situation has changed since pre-historic times. In the whole of recorded history, there have been only two supremely gifted poetesses: Sappho and Droste! (LK GL pp. 1076-7)
480. Mind Against Life. The awakening of self-consciousness is the declaration of war issued by a hostile god against life. Man is henceforth forever separated from star and storm. (RR p. 423)
481. “Know Thyself”. It is no harmless inscription that looms over the entrance to the shrine at Delphi: this inscription announces the onset of the faith in a transcendent world. Greek life allows itself to be guided by this faith; Pelasgian wisdom perishes at its approach. (RR p. 423)
482. Back to the Ardor of the Primal Soul. Burckhardt paved a road back to the immoralism of the Renaissance, where at least part of his nature was content to remain; Bachofen, who belonged to Burckhardt’s generation, probed incomparably deeper, and he eventually penetrated all the way back to that chthonic substratum in which the pre-moralistic conception of the world, not merely of the Mediterranean peoples, but the whole of mankind, has its roots. Boecklin captured in the medium of color, and Conrad Ferdinand Meyer fixed in the medium of the word, the spectacle of a primordial world for which, in the end, Nietzsche, who was in large part a successor to these pivotal figures, discovered the symbol that would stand as the emblem of all such visions: he gave it the name of the god of masks, Dionysus. (LK GL p. 82)
483. Autobiographical Note. In my youth two essences, the human and the demonic, gathered strength, grew, and matured within me, and they developed without my being able to distinguish one from the other. It was a time of the darkest meditations…of unknowing blessedness, the time of my fullest and deepest experience. It was Peer Gynt before he was torn away from the ardent night of the maternal breast. (LK GL p. 24)
484. The Poet and the Gods. The poet expresses the last tragic flaring up in Western culture of the world of the gods against the “one god” of the Levant. (LK GL p. 51)
485. Myth and Symbol. To understand the convictions of a believer one must know the system of mythology out of which they arose; to understand the myth, one must know the symbol that embodies it. To understand the symbol, however, one must know the unique experience that gave birth to it; that type of knowledge can never be mediated by critical judgment. (SW 3 p. 415)
486. Ibsen and the “Life-Lie”. The young people of today can form no conception of the power of the influence that Ibsen’s works had upon the young people of the 1890s. His impact was centered less upon his poetic side, which was only briefly disclosed in his “Peer Gynt,” than it was upon his outspoken battle against those ideological “life-lies,” with which the furtive, atomized forces of the latter half of the 19th Century so colorfully clothed themselves. (LK GL p. 72)
487. On Gestures. The philosophy of antiquity had already divided the expressive phenomena into two significant groups (significatio and gestus scenicus), and this distinction has recently been revived in our mime and pantomime. The simplest example of pantomime is the gesture of pointing. On the other hand, the majority of expressive movements belong not to the imitative, but to the reflexive or, one might say, retroactive processes. (AG p. 114)
488. A Warning. I could fill many notebooks with the most precise records of the plundering of my ideas. These acts of theft were certainly not unconscious, but rather blatantly intentional. Now should these burglars continue their activities, the day may come when I will no longer be content to scribble the names of the offenders in private notebooks. At such a time, I will openly publish these records, naming names and unmasking the vileness of the thieves’ methods. Then everyone will be able to see with crystal clarity that this sort of robbery is not merely systematic, but it is also characteristic of the misdeeds of a certain racial element. What we’re dealing with here is something far greater than the robbing of one individual. In fact what I have discovered might even be said to constitute a significant contribution to the history of the “culture of the modern age”; this tale might also serve as a revelation of the furtive procedures adopted by envious souls. Publication will certainly startle more than one or two of these clever connoisseurs! (SW 2 pp. 1535-6)
489. Benjamin Franklin. From Franklin’s autobiography we learn that this man, who discovered and popularized the slogan “Time is money,” in the course of his life established thirteen “virtues,” the last of which, “humility,” is relevant to his aforementioned proposition regarding time and money. All of his so-called virtues orbit around one particular virtue: thrift. One has to exercise thrift in one’s eating, drinking, sexual intercourse, movements, words, tasks, feelings, time, etc. For Franklin, “virtue” means every quality and form of personal conduct that can serve to promote the spirit of thrift and keep that spirit before the eyes of one’s fellow earthlings. Franklin represents the achievement of a type, viz., that of the homme clos, of the man whose personal character is covered over, in approximate accord with the following scheme: purpose = the accumulation of cash (“Mammon”); the mediator of that purpose: thrift, systematized upon a daily and even hourly basis = the methodical adjustment of all impulses, inclinations, and wishes towards the sacred goal of profit. In other words: the first, second, and third precept is taking, whilst giving might be indulged in only to the extent that it will result in greater profits in the long run!
By the middle of the 18th Century, Franklin’s “The Road to Riches” had been translated into sixteen languages, including Chinese. For all of these reasons, we place Franklin at the head of the pack of early capitalists. As we can see from his notebooks, with their embarrassingly exact division of the working day (comprising both spoken and written efforts), he lays claim to just six hours for his own uses. That would be a scandalous waste of time from the standpoint of a representative of the later phase of “high” capitalism…And certainly Franklin’s attitude towards Mammon shows us that he is merely a pathfinder for those who would one day reduce life to the level of a “prosperous” and “care-free” existence…
During the phase of high capitalism, man is finally to be converted into a mere economic function. (SW 5 p. 485)
490. Ancient Records. Among the remains of ancient peoples there are no documentary records of the inner life that can match speech for sheer strength and directness; but this document cannot evade the necessity for psychological interpretation. Consciousness has crystallized in innumerable shapes, and all that is required of the student is a clear eye in order for him to be able to “read” in buildings, ornaments, and images, the confirmation and the complement of the evidence that actions historically vouched-for can furnish regarding the characterology of their authors. There is available here such a mass of material as never yet was the property of any science, and we would already be in the certain possession of the vastest knowledge, if only our historians possessed that psychological amazement that raises, whenever we are faced with any kind of form, work, or type of activity, the right questions as to what might be the forces that have produced these things. For the first time, customs, sagas, and conceptions of gods, costumes, and household articles, languages and systems of writing, can, and must, be interrogated deliberately, without any preconceived notions as to their origins. These data are to be understood; and, being understood, they will aid us in the completion of our picture of man. (SW 4 236)
491. The Gates of Death. To my mind death is the ultimate fulfillment of life, and whether it is the song of a human voice or the storm-wind as it uproots the forest that opens the gates of death, it is all one to me. (RR p. 522)
492. Eros Cosmogonos. Eros is not just a fine, blind, animalistic sensuality; we must be more precise: Eros is sensuality at the very moment of its realization. He who is inhabited by Eros-Dionysus becomes a dæmon whilst he yet remains a man. Such a man sees through the shadow-body of things into the flaming night of the images. He himself is destiny; he himself incarnates a Medusean dread. The streams of earth, the storms of heaven, and the starry vault above are all within him, and his power reaches beyond the orbit of Saturn. (RR p. 523)
493. Towards a Pagan Metaphysics. A pagan metaphysical system would not be philosophy as one understands that word today, i.e., the hair-splitting rehashing of such life-alien concepts as would be appropriate to the lecture-hall; nor would it be characterized by that sort of factitious profundity that seeks to conceal its utter inability to solve the riddles of thought behind a veil of second-rate poetic fables. Neither should a genuine pagan metaphysics resemble that which passes for science in the modern world, for science, in spite of its outstanding achievements, is in danger of becoming the mere discovery in cognition of truths which may be necessary, but which are also, considered from the standpoint life, utterly unimportant. Before we can discover truths that go to the very roots, we must possess a greater fund of inwardness than can be discerned in those thinkers who, for at least the last five hundred years, have expended their energies exclusively within the realm of reason. (RR p. 373)
494. On the Will and its Suppression of the Emotions. The so-called capacity of the will constitutes a capacity for suppressing the emotions, or more briefly, a capacity for self-control; but we must also bear in mind that self-control at certain times serves to realize external events of volition, and at other times it operates for its own sake. The self-mastery that a “saint,” a “yogi,” or any other ascetic requires, great as it undoubtedly is, nevertheless is still a very different matter from the self-control that a Napoleon needs on a thousand occasions in order to realize his plans for conquest. (SW 4 p. 228)
495. On the Panoramic Enormity of the Mountain Range. These rigid peaks of ice invite comparison with the deeds of a world-conqueror: harsh and inexorable, dreadful, radiating an iron, unfeeling lack of soul. The mountain range, from its bottommost stratum to its loftiest heights, has no soul.
How different is the sea, where the elemental soul is truly alive. (LK GL p. 131)
496. A Philosopher (with a Doctorate in Chemistry) Reflects on Science. Every science has to achieve clarity regarding that which it must do, by pondering from the loftiest perspective that which it can do. That even now we cannot express chemical processes in terms of physical equations is transparently clear. But it is equally certain that at least 75% of all the discoveries of modern science are completely without significance. The annual publication of new compounds shows that in most cases the results of our research have not the slightest importance. It is merely mendacious to claim that these trivial discoveries constitute interim stages on the high road to truly significant syntheses. No one has even come close to convincing us of the truth of that point of view! We produce according to the yardstick of traditional and readily accessible methods a superabundance of material whose existence (or non-existence) has no scientific value whatsoever. (The results that have been exploited by technological concerns, of course, are divorced from the realm of true science.) Thus, we are led to the conclusion that for all of our active scientists (especially our “great” organic chemists of today) the authentic goals of true science have been utterly lost. (LK GL p. 147)
497. A Prophecy (From 1897). The culture of Europe is about to be devoured by Pan-Slavic barbarism; thereupon will follow a fight to the death between Slavic and Mongol hordes; ultimately, the crucial battle will be fought between the European continent and an ascendant America.
Fragments of our intuitive culture may be rescued, but in all likelihood such remnants will be scarcely more comprehensible to posterity than ancient Egypt is to us today. (LK GL p. 161)
498. Honoring the Dead. Nothing seems to have been regarded as of greater importance to the ancient Pelasgians, than the solemnity with which they conducted their funerary rites and the great care which they bestowed upon the mortal remains. The most overwhelming dramatic creation of the entire ancient world celebrates the heroic self-sacrifice of Antigone, who so tenderly obeyed her sacred duty when she buried her fallen brothers. This theme is certainly without peer, especially if we measure it against the “poetry” of our own days!
Originally, those ancient interments were probably within the house, perhaps beneath the hearth-fire. In later days, the remains were laid to rest in the very center of the village. Then, they were placed before the city-walls or city-gates; eventually the dead were buried somewhere in the marketplace, or in the Prytaneum, or in the plaza of the polis. Thus, at Olympia we find the grave of Pelops alongside the great altar that was dedicated to Zeus; and these burial-sites were always venerated as being the burial chambers of daemons. (One example must suffice: the temple of Apollo at Delphi was constructed atop the crypt of the mother-goddess Python.)…
Tombs were always regarded as holy, for they were often no less than the “sacred grove” or the “blessed mountain” of so many peoples: the Manitou-stone of the Amerindians, the pagodas of the Chinese, and the stupas of the culture of the Indian sub-continent, are just a few examples of this phenomenon. The souls of the dead floated and soared above and around the gravestones, which were oftentimes carved in the likeness of a great serpent, who dwelt therein as the genius loci, the Agatho-daemon, who endlessly dispenses blessings upon the house of the living.
The entire culture of the ancient Romans recalled their primordial roots when they honored their domestic ancestral spirits, the “Lares,” just as the Shintoists in Japan honor their own ancestors even now. The nations of antiquity, along with the so-called “primitive” cultures that have survived into our own times, all bestow homage upon the noble dead.
From this honoring of the dead there arose the Hellenic Agon, which is a sensual and visible commemoration of the endless cycle of coming to be and passing away. We must understand that these peoples were not filled with dread of ghosts from whom they assiduously sought to protect themselves; instead, we perceive the loving respect tendered by all of those now living as they, expressing a different form of love, enroll the newly deceased on the honor-roll that bears the names of the noble figures of the past. These customs are enshrined in cultic rites, some of which are immediately comprehensible, while others seems to signify certain profoundly significant mysteries: but all such rituals reveal that the celebrants regard the deceased as forever standing “within life”! (SW III pp. 443-4)
499. Matter and Image. The school of thought that portrays matter as the substratum that supports the world of perception is merely concocting a “thought-thing” [Gedankending], and this false teaching was devised, of course, to advance spirit’s all-conquering impulse to subject physical movements to the rule of a quantifying formalism. Matter, considered as the habitation of the images (the very word “matter” betrays the fact), attempts to inhabit a dark hemisphere of actuality, a realm that, without the living light of phenomenal appearances, would be utterly unthinkable. (SW III p. 459)
500. The Perfected Ecstasy. In the rush of ecstasy, life seeks to liberate itself from the chains of spirit. Perfection is achieved when the soul awakens, and the awakened soul is vision. What is revealed is the actuality of the primordial images. The primordial images are the phenomenally appearing souls of the past. (SW III p. 470)
501. Image and Thing. We formulate the following dualities: The image has presence only in the instant during which it is experienced. The thing is “established” once and for all.
The image passes away, just as experience passes away. The thing is rigidly fixed, enduring, standing always in life-alien enmity.
The image is only there in the experience as it is lived. The thing is an arbitrary percept available to anyone.
In the image I can summon to my recollection something from the vanished immemorial past; however, I cannot incorporate that memory in a spontaneous judgment. With regard to the thing, since it is now exactly what it is at any time, and in any space, I can always comprehend a thing, and by means of my critical judgment, I can arrive at identical reference points that are quite sufficient for general purposes.
The image, deeply connected to the stream of time, transforms itself, as it transforms everything that is esteemed by the living soul. The thing, since it is outside the realm of time, collapses, fittingly, into utter destruction.
The image is received by the soul. The thing runs aground through the critical activity of spirit.
The image is independent of conscious reality. The thing is a concept in the world of consciousness, and exists solely for the inner life of a discrete person.
So: Whoever shatters his personal existence in order to embark on an attempt to experience true ecstasy will discover, in that very moment, that the world of facts has perished, and that there has arisen within him all the overwhelming force of a now-vibrant actuality. This actuality is the world of the images. The visionary soul is its inner pole, whilst the appearing actuality is its outer pole…
Recall the words of Novalis: “The outer world is only an inner one that has been raised to the condition of secrecy.” (SW III pp. 416-7)
502. On Truth and Actuality. From time immemorial, the vexed question regarding a general criterion of truth has remained unanswerable, as any proposed solution would presuppose the validity of that which is in question. It is also unnecessary that we establish such a criterion, since there are numerous propositions, both factual and philosophical, that possess such inherently compelling force that we habitually refer to them as “immediately self-evident.” Still, it is crucial that we understand that the expressions “true” and “false” pertain only to our judgments. In a world wherein there existed no thinking consciousness, such predicates would be utterly devoid of meaning.
Even if all of the discrete sciences should decide to co-ordinate their efforts so as to achieve one universal science that would be based upon correct and incontrovertible judgments, there would still be two opposed camps within that one scientific discipline when it came to the question regarding the actuality-content of scientific judgments. The first group would explain as mere objects of thought that which the other camp would hold to be actuality itself; one group would see mere appearance in that which the other considered to be genuine substance. The one camp (which today constitutes the majority party) again falls into two sub-divisions, known as “idealists” and “materialists.” The school of idealists, whose founding father is Plato, insists that the ultimate realities are concepts (“ideas,” “representations”). The school of materialists, whose founding father is Democritus, hold that concepts are merely propositions that have been designed so as to correspond with objects. Above all, however, objects are objects of thought, which we comprehend with the aid of concepts: thus, both parties endorse the faith in the creative, or the formative, power of the (human) spirit, the idealist consciously, the materialist (for the most part) unconsciously. Therefore, we call the camp of the majority, comprising both the “idealist” and the “realist,” the logocentric school.
The minority party, the party of opposition, we call the biocentric school. Its representatives look upon the matters in question as follows: all the proper objects of thought, both those mediated by thought and those immediately given, arise out of the sphere of actuality, but they do not contain actuality; for actuality can only be experienced, never conceived. Likewise, an understanding of the actual is certainly possible, but this understanding can never be exhaustively explained or conceptualized. The science of actuality is the science of appearances; the science of appearances strives to achieve a profound comprehension of the content of experience. Its aim is the discovery of that which Goethe referred to as “primal phenomena,” in which the meaning of the world reveals itself…
Suppose that two individuals were successively to count the same one hundred dollars, and suppose also that one of the two had been born blind. Now these individuals’ perceived images of the dollar bills would easily be distinguished from each other. However, that also holds true, if to a lesser degree, of the perceived images experienced by every living being; indeed, this also holds true of the perceived images in one and the same bearer of perception in different moments of his life. It follows that experiences can never be identically repeated.
In our judgments, we do not perceive reds or blues or colors as generalities; nor do we perceive sounds, tastes, and tactile sensations as generalities; nor do we perceive feelings of thirst or hunger, feelings of hope, yearning and expectation as generalities. What our judgments of the world do achieve in fact is this and this alone: we distinguish the multiform qualities, outer as well as inner, from each other. The qualities are thereby presupposed in the experiences. Our conceptions are derived from the qualities, since the conceptions are abstracted from the vital experience that is received. Whoever regards the objects of thought as actuality, confuses the boundaries that divide the objects with that which has established those boundaries. Conceptual thought must yield place to referential thought. The science of appearances, or the science of actuality, is the science not of conscious thought, but of referential thought.
In the major work of the author of these lines, “Spirit as Adversary of the Soul” [Der Geist als Widersacher der Seele], we present the proof of our contention that the objects of thought, both in the “idealist” and the “materialist” incarnations, cannot render the appearances according to their true nature. In every idealist philosopher we have a demonstration that the idealist’s own principles render him incapable of distinguishing the world of perceptions from the world of representations. As a result, the idealist must perforce disavow the world of actuality; as a result, that world will always be found to play a miniscule role in the idealist’s system. In fact, the idealist treats the world of perception as if it were a product of spiritual activity, whereas this activity could not raise itself up as the antithetical counterpart to the world of perception unless it had based itself upon a pre-existent substratum of vital events.
However, our experiences have no connection with the being-concept, nor have they any true relationship to the kindred existence-concept. For our experiences transform themselves without interruption; to employ the phrase of Heraclitus, they transpire in an “eternal flux.” Actuality can neither be conceptualized nor quantified; only that being in which spirit subdues actuality can be thus rigidly fixed in concept and quantity.
As soon as one is convinced that the substance of experienced life is outside the reach of spirit, one is compelled to endorse the conviction that conceptualizing spirit, which is solely found in man, is a force that, in-itself and for-itself, does not belong to the cosmos. One can indeed marvel at the deeds that spirit, employing our activity, has consummated in this world; but one can nevermore fall into the error of attributing creativity to spirit. Spirit broadens the scope of man’s will to power until we come to realize that spirit has at last unmasked itself as the will to annihilate nature. It is, thus, “utilitarian,” and this is the reason why the “truths” of the party of spirit have seduced a greater number of disciples than can ever be found in the party of life. “Knowledge,” in the biocentric sense, is seen as an end in itself. Such knowledge is only sought by the chosen few, who regard every glimpse into the nature of actuality as more rewarding than the fruits of utilitarianism and the will to power. (SW III pp. 720-22)
503. On Facial Expression. Of all the means whereby we achieve our knowledge of the inner life of man, by far the most certain is the interpretation of expressive movements. Everyone appreciates this fact intuitively. In examining the bearing and demeanor of our friends and acquaintances, we receive hints as to their cares, fears, hopes, their serenity or their depression; but we can also intuit information as to whether a person is sympathetic or unsympathetic even from an examination of someone whom we have never met before. We possess no exact criterion whereby we can account for our interpretation; but there is nothing surprising in this fact. From the dawn of human history man has been far more interested in determining whether someone with whom he came into contact was a “friend” or a “foe,” than he was in determining whether the person in question had blond hair or brown, large or small eyes, and whether or not his mouth-line was perfectly horizontal. It has only been in quite recent times, as a result of the increasing prestige of psychological research, that we have come to understand the laws governing the connection between bodily and psychical process. Nevertheless, we have not as yet produced incontestable explanations for all such connections. Such phenomena as laughing and weeping, breaking out in a sweat and the trembling of the musculature during moments of terror, the erection of the hair resulting from fright, the shifting glare of the eyes, blushing and becoming pale, have been satisfactorily accounted for; whilst we have approached an exact comprehension of those laws that interpret such expressive movements as transpire under the governance of volition.
Darwin and Piderit have provided the greatest services to the science of expression. Darwin’s achievement was in having demonstrated the fundamental identity of expression in all humankind as well as in the higher animals; Piderit was far more successful than Darwin in providing a theoretical foundation that could account for the empirical findings. It is as a result of such methodological advances that we are able to achieve a fuller comprehension of expressions of joy, sorrow, resentment, etc.; we also understand the necessary connection between outer expression and inner condition, without a knowledge of which we would never have been able to arrive at a correct response to the question as to just what we are perceiving in someone who is sorrowful, excited, or merry. This question can be answered through the schematic delineations of the front-view and side-view of the face achieved by comparative physiognomy, which has established the laws that govern the fluctuations of the lines of the mouth, the cheek, the eye, the forehead, and the wrinkling of the nose. These very laws have placed in the hands of contemporary psychology the formula that can comprehend all of these expressive movements; this leads us by the shortest path to the precise evaluation of the sources of knowledge that are omnipresent in human language.
Thus, we are now equipped to interpret internal states through the scrutiny of external processes. We sometimes speak of “stinging sarcasm,” without realizing that we have thereby established a connection between the sarcasm and the activity of stinging; we say of someone that he is “depressed” and intend by this expression to indicate the presence of a psychical state, without taking into account the “pressing-down,” as it were, of bodily activity in the depressed subject. We say of someone that he has an “inclination” towards another person, without realizing that we have employed an expression that indicates a bodily attitude in order to indicate our awareness of a psychical state. These expressions, along with countless others of a similar sort, describe the inner processes by means of terms that are obviously appropriate to outer expressions. In fact, we would never have referred to the sarcasm as “stinging,” to grief as “depression,” or to sympathy as “inclination,” whenever we encounter these things in our world, unless such expressions truly communicated the meaning of emotional states. The realization of the function of such verbal formulations places in our hands an interpretive key that provides us with access to a genuine understanding of expressions of the inner life. To the extent that we characterize psychical conditions through an interpretation of movements, we can also say: to every inner condition belongs, as its expression, those bodily movements by means of whose mediation we interpret them. Although descriptions of such processes sometimes exceed the inherent limitations of this discipline, nevertheless they will always be found to have pointed in the right direction. We repudiate the notion that joy or high spirits can accelerate the course of expressive movements, just as we are not permitted to say of a flighty person that he now possesses the power of flight. On the other hand, we are justified in concluding that a person in a state of joy will perform movements that are more effortless, more flowing, more energetic, and even more rhythmical, than when he is in a state of emotional distress or consumed by sorrow; in addition, his movements will actually be accelerated should he be released from certain physical constraints.
According to our simple formula, we have now established a theoretical basis for our conclusion that to every outer expression there corresponds an inner experience. Inner bitterness (resentment) results in a configuration of mouth and lips that is an exact image of the configuration that accompanies the placing of a bitter-tasting substance upon the tongue. When someone is in a condition of worry, we readily say that the person stands “with bowed head.” When we find that we are “tense,” whether from expectation, from worry, or from the maintenance of an excessive attentiveness, we realize that numerous sorts of tensing processes occur, quite involuntarily, viz., the knitting of the brows, the compressing of the lips, the clenching of the teeth, etc. We are all familiar with the phrase “stifling a sorrow”; we witness its expression in the shrinking posture and the tightened fist; whereas an easing of muscular strain and a relaxation of bodily bearing supervenes the moment we “let ourselves go.”
Lavater already understood the principle whereby we are enabled to evaluate the phenomenon of mimicry from the standpoint of a systematic physiognomic science. Whoever possesses the quality of an energetic volition, will chronically manifest a condition of strain. Whoever is fearful by nature, will again and yet again be discovered in a state of anxiety. Whoever is habitually sensitive will ordinarily exist in a state of sorrow. Thus, the whole bearing of the body communicates its affective expression in characteristic movements, and this is especially so the more often the activity within scrawls its idiosyncratic signature upon the facial expression without. The facial expression will always betray the inner quality to the critical student. We have ourselves, after scrutinizing an unfamiliar series of photographs, been able to interpret, with great accuracy, the true nature of each sitter, both from the perspective of mimicry and from an analysis of the pathognomic expressions of a particular subject’s inner dispositions [Anlagen]. (SW 6 pp. 677-79)
504. Self-Knowledge. If Goethe, who was certainly one of the shrewdest “self-knowers” who ever lived, nevertheless regarded the ability to understand oneself with the greatest conceivable suspicion, it seems to us that we must have quite a bit to learn from the revelations of those high-powered intellectuals who are delighted to share the mob’s absolute faith in the immediacy and validity of the data of self-consciousness; we would merely ask of these good people that they hand over their proofs for such overweening folly. (PEN p. 28)
505. World and Ego. Consciousness of external facts preceded the development of the consciousness of the ego. The Greeks, for instance, to whom is due to sole credit for their invention of philosophy, possessed a comprehensive cosmological system long before they turned their attention to the soul and the thinking spirit. Something very similar can be said about little children, whose first perceptions are almost invariably the result of impressions received from the external world. (PEN p. 16)
506. Response to Newspaper Query: “Is This the End, or a New Beginning?” [Written by Klages in December, 1923]. Abandon All Hope! I have been convinced, for at least the past quarter century, that mankind is on the verge of total annihilation, and that so-called “World History” merely describes the progress of a terminal disease. History may be naught but a short story in the life of the stars, but it is a murderous tale to earthly life. I believe that we are witnessing the last scene before the descent of the iron curtain [des eisernen Vorhangs].
I am not predicting a natural death such as might be attributed to the ravages of old age, but rather a sudden death in the peak years of earthly existence at the hands of a murderous parasite, a vampire that sucks forth its blood-meal from the very heart of life! Whoever is capable of comprehending the implications of this judgment, will henceforth dispense with the wisdom of our sages, just as the skilled physician needs no one to explain to him just why the dying cancer victim is enduring such agonies.
All that we have said is demonstrably true. However, people persistently ask whether it is possible to live in the absence of hope.
Those who believe that we cannot live without hope, are merely voicing the tendentious self-deceptions of an age which must conceal, even from itself, that it is precisely man himself who is the parasitic plunderer who, accompanied by the phantom known as the “future,” is performing the murderous deeds to which we have alluded!…
Now what is the meaning of this strange allegiance to the never arriving, but always the merely possible, future? At best, it is nothing more than a lamentation today and a horror tomorrow!
Genuine satisfaction can only transpire in the fulfilled moment. When it is hollow and void, the moment cannot make mere wishes richer in substance, and hope, the gift of Pandora, serves only the dark purposes of those who wish to prolong our misery indefinitely. The propagandists’ faith in the future is, in fact, a more feeble delusion than the religious faith of those who are accustomed to place their trust in a “life beyond death”; the faith of such propagandists necessarily ensnares its victims in a web of destruction! However, life—and this is the last thing that we have to say in response to the journalist’s question—renews itself eternally, as it draws the nurturing waters forth from the well of the past! (LK GL pp. 1289-90)
507. Against the Puffing of Literary Frauds and Sharks. Out of, say, 500 readers of the periodicals that publish the works of creative and philosophical writers, we would hazard a guess that perhaps one of them still retains the capacity to exercise an independent critical judgment. Thus, in untold thousands of magazine articles, pamphlets, and books, we are deafened by the brass bands that concertedly trumpet forth the praises of people like Freud and Thomas Mann. What is the result? The grotesque books of Thomas Mann are now being published in editions numbering in the millions of copies! (LK GL p. 1380)
508. Against the Current: From a Letter. Let me say that I have read with profound appreciation the pertinent essay “We Stand by Klages” [Wir stehen zu Ludwig Klages], which appeared in volume 2 of the 6th annual edition of “Will and Power” [Wille und Macht]. What could be more gratifying to a thinker who, without the blessings of material prosperity, has nevertheless always insisted on swimming against the current, than the realization that the young people of today have somehow managed to open up their hearts to the influence of my (admittedly difficult) philosophy?
Your own comments pleased me also, for they indicate your shrewd perception of the fact that behind the thinker in me there stands a man of deep conviction, one who—with the sole exception of Nietzsche—has fought longer and more ruthlessly than any modern thinker, not only against the false “ideals” of the previous century, but also against the cumulative errors of our own age. You see clearly that I have always insisted on speaking the truth, in spite of the fact that I have, for the most part, received nothing but abuse for doing so.
Just as one can evaluate a man’s character by looking at his friends, one can also derive the same information by discovering just who that man’s enemies are. Without a doubt, my enemies have always been, and will always be, the self-same powers who battle against my philosophy even today, for there is no greater enemy of my thoughts and deeds on earth than the government of the “New Germany”! (LK GL p. 1312)
509. Against the Errors of the Vitalists. It is quite an easy task to convince a student who is familiar with the history of “vitalism,” that the pet phrases that are employed by the various vitalists to indicate the specific organizing force at work in nature (formative “monads,” vis essentialis, nisus formativus, vis vitalis, “entelechy,” “immaterial power,” etc.) all have one and the same meaning: spirit. There is, in fact, no substantial difference between the implications of Kant’s theory that postulates the existence of unbreakable ethical imperatives and the “immaterial power” of our modern “philosophers of life,” for both schools of thought endorse one and the same view in affirming, as philosophically valid, the governance of unbreakable laws of causality. One is startled to find that the Kantian biologists of today have no space in their expositions to refer to their master’s observation that “a modality of living matter is quite inconceivable”; Kant believed that lifelessness is the very essence of matter…
The more perceptive of our readers will forgive us if we now, for the benefit of readers who are less familiar with our leading ideas, reiterate our central conviction so that it is clear to all: spirit is a “causative force.” That expresses the reality pithily, but we must also recognize that this power works immediately only in man…Through the medium of human activity, spirit controls all those areas of the world that have been subjugated to the will of man…Spirit’s activity, however, is not formative or creative, but solely destructive, and this fact bears witness to the adversarial tension between spirit and the powers of the cosmos. (SW 2 pp. 1119-20)
510. On Truth and Error. There are superficial truths as well as profound errors…The erroneous doctrines of the Eleatics have been far more fruitful for the development of Western philosophy than the unquestioned achievements of all the mathematicians since Pythagoras put together! (PEN p. 66)
511. Particular and General. One often hears it said of philosophical commentators that they weave their webs out of flimsy generalities, which they then pass off as “world views.” This is certainly true of the second-rate writers; on the other hand, truly gifted thinkers always occupy themselves with a narrow range of special questions. We often find, in fact, that a true philosopher will focus upon one problem that he places ahead of all others. One might even say of such a thinker that the problem has found him, for he will often dwell together with his special guest throughout the whole of his sad, yet joyous, intellectual life.
When we scrutinize the activities of authentic discoverers of philosophical and scientific truths, we find that they are all specialists…All such pioneers proceed from the particular to the general; never will their apprehension take the opposite direction! (PEN p. 66)
512. The War within the Organism. Once we have established the distinction between the ego and the vital substance (i.e., the soul of the organism), we have also demonstrated the cognate distinction between the ego and the body of the organism. Suppose a forty year-old person were to say: “I lived in South America when I was twenty years of age.” He is surely not telling us that he is referring to his present body, in which not an atom of his earlier physical constitution can be found; nor can he be referring to the personal ego for which that body provided shelter during its South American sojourn; and just as little can he be justified in thinking of his soul, which is certainly no longer the soul of the young man, for no one can have the slightest doubt that the growth, maturation, and withering of the soul that accompanies the growth and withering of the body has left that soul unchanged as it passes through time…In spite of all that, what the person in question is actually groping for when he speaks of his time in South America is, in fact, the ego that is identical with his ego of today, which he—assuming that he is mentally sound—could never be in danger of mistaking for anyone or anything else in the world. Thus, in spite of his restlessly transforming vitality, he has involuntarily established a real point of connection with that which remains one and the same through every change and upon which time can exert no influence. This is the “primal image of existence” [das Urbild des Daseins]; it is this primal image that enables him to shatter the chains of the here and now, and thereby to revert to the abstract being, which Parmenides discovered, and to which mystics later attached the name of the god Apollo.
Thus, there are within a person’s nature two antithetical forces coupled together, one of which is the ever-changing vital substance, while the other is the never-changing ego (or, to utilize the language of metaphysics, a soul that is manifested in space and time, and a spirit that is outside the spatio-temporal realm). Therefore, there exists within man both a ceaseless transitory flux of actuality and an ego, or self, which wages war against that actuality. In other words, the feeling of existence is inseparably bound up with the judgment of existence. Nietzsche’s comprehension of these matters led him to the discovery of his doctrine of the “Will to Power,” which he believed was the force that caused every organism to strive ceaselessly to increase its power. (PEN pp. 38-9)
513. “Eternal” Life. Less enduring than the flash of lightning in the darkness, and more futile than the flight of the cinder in the chimney is the life of man. One millionth of a second in this universe suffices to blot us out, and even if we have managed to consummate a supreme artistic achievement, no effort of our will can prevent our vanishing without a trace. Even the fame of so magnificent an artist as Homer endures for but a few trifling millennia. But what is a millennium when measured against the incalculable ages of mankind’s evolutionary development? And what is man’s evolutionary history when measured against the time that is required to articulate a solar system? Then again, what is the duration of a solar system when measured against a comprehensive biography of a constellation, the very idea of whose extant billions almost stuns the mind of man? We convince ourselves that our soul can somehow liberate itself from the dead weight of matter, because it is the innermost craving of every human being to extend this earthly life beyond the boundaries of this visible world and into another realm. The believer sees himself reborn in spirit, so that he may experience the delights of “eternal” life in heaven.
Is it possible to conceive of a more enviable idiocy? (RR 497-8)
514. Creation and Politics. Politicians indefatigably bellow the canard that they are making sacrifices every minute of the day; this is, of course, the most idiotic type of verbal pomposity. We can identify here the frightful egomania of our politicians and their deficient spirit of sacrifice. Behind all of the turgid tirades of our politicians there lurks an utter lack of principle.
Why should one use the word “cultured” when speaking of those who, in lieu of courage or soul, have nothing but a volume of two of memoirs brewing in their bellies? (RR p. 307)
515. On Life and Spirit. Spirit and object are the halves of being; life and image the poles of actuality—
Spirit “is”; life elapses—
Spirit judges; life experiences—
Judgment is an act; experience is a pathos—
Spirit comprehends what exists; life experiences what comes to be—
(Pure) being is outside space and time, and so too is the spirit; what comes to be is within space and time, and so too is life—
Being is fundamentally thinkable, but it can never be immediately experienced; what comes to be can be fundamentally experienced, but it can never be immediately comprehended—
The act of judgment requires experiencing life, upon which it bases itself; life does not need the spirit in order to experience—
Spirit, as that which inheres in life, signifies a force that is directed against life; life, insofar as it becomes the bearer of spirit, resists it with an instinct of defense—
The essence of the historical process of humanity (also called “progress”) is the victoriously advancing struggle of the spirit against life, with the logically predictable end in the annihilation of the latter. (SW 1 p. 68)
This is our final installment of Klages’ aphorisms; further translations of Klages’ works by Joseph Pryce will appear in National Vanguard in the near future.
Translated by Joseph D. Pryce from the original sources. For reference, notes refer to the more easily obtainable texts:
AC=Klages, L. Zur Ausdruckslehre und Charakterkunde. Heidelberg. 1926.
AG=Klages, L. Ausdrucksbewegung und Gestaltungskraft. Munich. 1968.
LK GL=Schroeder, H. E. Ludwig Klages Die Geschichte Seines Lebens. Bonn. 1966-1992.
PEN=Klages, L. Die psychologischen Errungenschaften Nietzsches. Leipzig. 1926.
RR=Klages, L. Rhythmen und Runen. Leipzig. 1944.
SW=Klages, L. Sämtliche Werke. Bonn. 1965-92.