Nietzsche as Spiritual Warrior — The Antichrist (Part 2 of 4)
Everyone familiar with the world of ideas has heard the term “Nietzschean” invoked as an allusion to the purported beliefs of the great German philosopher, but what does this term really mean and why does it matter? In part two of Nietzsche as Spiritual Warrior — The Antichrist, we present the philosopher’s indictment of Kant’s moral universalism as a secular derivative of Christian ethics insofar as both systems fetishize empty, meaningless, otherworldly abstractions at the expense of natural biological instincts which allow for the flourishing of racial life. — Dissident Millennial
by Friedrich Nietzsche
IT IS NECESSARY to say just whom we regard as our antagonists: theologians and all who have any theological blood in their veins — this is our whole philosophy…. One must have faced that menace at close hand, better still, one must have had experience of it directly and almost succumbed to it, to realize that it is not to be taken lightly (—the alleged free-thinking of our naturalists and physiologists seems to me to be a joke — they have no passion about such things; they have not suffered—). This poisoning goes a great deal further than most people think: I find the arrogant habit of the theologian among all who regard themselves as “idealists” — among all who, by virtue of a higher point of departure, claim a right to rise above reality, and to look upon it with suspicion… The idealist, like the ecclesiastic, carries all sorts of lofty concepts in his hand (—and not only in his hand!); he launches them with benevolent contempt against “understanding,” “the senses,” “honor,” “good living,” “science”; he sees such things as beneath him, as pernicious and seductive forces, on which “the soul” soars as a pure thing-in-itself — as if humility, chastity, poverty, in a word, holiness, had not already done much more damage to life than all imaginable horrors and vices… The pure soul is a pure lie… So long as the priest, that professional denier, calumniator and poisoner of life, is accepted as a higher variety of man, there can be no answer to the question, What is truth? Truth has already been stood on its head when the obvious attorney of mere emptiness is mistaken for its representative.
Upon this theological instinct I make war: I find the tracks of it everywhere. Whoever has theological blood in his veins is shifty and dishonourable in all things. The pathetic thing that grows out of this condition is called faith: in other words, closing one’s eyes upon one’s self once and for all, to avoid suffering the sight of incurable falsehood. People erect a concept of morality, of virtue, of holiness upon this false view of all things; they ground good conscience upon faulty vision; they argue that no other sort of vision has value any more, once they have made theirs sacrosanct with the names of “God,” “salvation,” and “eternity.” I unearth this theological instinct in all directions: it is the most widespread and the most subterranean form of falsehood to be found on earth. Whatever a theologian regards as true must be false: there you have almost a criterion of truth. His profound instinct of self-preservation stands against truth ever coming into honour in any way, or even getting stated. Wherever the influence of theologians is felt there is a transvaluation of values, and the concepts “true” and “false” are forced to change places: whatever is most damaging to life is there called “true,” and whatever exalts it, intensifies it, approves it, justifies it and makes it triumphant is there called “false.”… When theologians, working through the “consciences” of princes (or of peoples—), stretch out their hands for power, there is never any doubt as to the fundamental issue: the will to make an end, the nihilistic will exerts that power…
A word now against Kant as a moralist. A virtue must be our invention; it must spring out of our personal need and defense. In every other case it is a source of danger. That which does not belong to our life menaces it; a virtue which has its roots in mere respect for the concept of “virtue,” as Kant would have it, is pernicious. “Virtue,” “duty,” “good for its own sake,” goodness grounded upon impersonality or a notion of universal validity — these are all chimeras, and in them one finds only an expression of the decay, the last collapse of life, the Chinese spirit of Konigsberg. Quite the contrary is demanded by the most profound laws of self-preservation and of growth: to wit, that every man find his own virtue, his own categorical imperative. A nation goes to pieces when it confounds its duty with the general concept of duty. Nothing works a more complete and penetrating disaster than every “impersonal” duty, every sacrifice before the Moloch of abstraction. — To think that no one has thought of Kant’s categorical imperative as dangerous to life!… The theological instinct alone took it under protection! — An action prompted by the life-instinct proves that it is a right action by the amount of pleasure that goes with it: and yet that Nihilist, with his bowels of Christian dogmatism, regarded pleasure as an objection… What destroys a man more quickly than to work, think and feel without inner necessity, without any deep personal desire, without pleasure — as a mere automaton of duty? That is the recipe for decadence, and no less for idiocy… Kant became an idiot. — And such a man was the contemporary of Goethe! This calamitous spinner of cobwebs passed for the German philosopher — still passes today!… I forbid myself to say what I think of the Germans…. Didn’t Kant see in the French Revolution the transformation of the state from the inorganic form to the organic? Didn’t he ask himself if there was a single event that could be explained save on the assumption of a moral faculty in man, so that on the basis of it, “the tendency of mankind toward the good” could be explained, once and for all time? Kant’s answer: “That is revolution.” Instinct at fault in everything and anything, instinct as a revolt against nature, German decadence as a philosophy — that is Kant!—
We have unlearned something. We have become more modest in every way. We no longer derive man from the “spirit,” from the “god-head”; we have dropped him back among the beasts. We regard him as the strongest of the beasts because he is the craftiest; one of the results thereof is his intellectuality. On the other hand, we guard ourselves against a conceit which would assert itself even here: that man is the great second thought in the process of organic evolution. He is, in truth, anything but the crown of creation: beside him stand many other animals, all at similar stages of development… And even when we say that we say a bit too much, for man, relatively speaking, is the most botched of all the animals and the sickliest, and he has wandered the most dangerously from his instincts — though for all that, to be sure, he remains the most interesting! — As regards the lower animals, it was Descartes who first had the really admirable daring to describe them as machina; the whole of our physiology is directed toward proving the truth of this doctrine. Moreover, it is illogical to set man apart, as Descartes did: what we know of man today is limited precisely by the extent to which we have regarded him, too, as a machine. Formerly we accorded to man, as his inheritance from some higher order of beings, what was called “free will”; now we have taken even this will from him, for the term no longer describes anything that we can understand. The old word “will” now connotes only a sort of result, an individual reaction, that follows inevitably upon a series of partly discordant and partly harmonious stimuli — the will no longer “acts,” or “moves.”… Formerly it was thought that man’s consciousness, his “spirit,” offered evidence of his high origin, his divinity. That he might be perfected, he was advised, tortoise-like, to draw his senses in, to have no traffic with earthly things, to shuffle off his mortal coil — then only the important part of him, the “pure spirit,” would remain. Here again we have thought out the thing better: to us consciousness, or “the spirit,” appears as a symptom of a relative imperfection of the organism, as an experiment, a groping, a misunderstanding, as an affliction which uses up nervous force unnecessarily — we deny that anything can be done perfectly so long as it is done consciously. The “pure spirit” is a piece of pure stupidity: take away the nervous system and the senses, the so-called “mortal shell,” and the rest is miscalculation — that is all!…
Under Christianity neither morality nor religion has any point of contact with actuality. It offers purely imaginary causes (“God,” “soul,” “ego,” “spirit,” “free will” — or even “unfree”), and purely imaginary effects (“sin,” “salvation,” “grace,” “punishment,” “forgiveness of sins”). Intercourse between imaginary beings (“God,” “spirits,” “souls”); an imaginary natural history (anthropocentric; a total denial of the concept of natural causes); an imaginary psychology (misunderstandings of self, misinterpretations of agreeable or disagreeable general feelings — for example, of the states of the nervus sympathicus with the help of the sign-language of religio-ethical balderdash, “repentance,” “pangs of conscience,” “temptation by the devil,” “the presence of God”); an imaginary teleology (the “kingdom of God,” “the last judgment,” “eternal life”). — This purely fictitious world, greatly to its disadvantage, is to be differentiated from the world of dreams; the latter at least reflects reality, whereas the former falsifies it, cheapens it and denies it. Once the concept of “nature” had been opposed to the concept of “God,” the word “natural” necessarily took on the meaning of “abominable” — the whole of that fictitious world has its sources in hatred of the natural (—the real!—), and is no more than evidence of a profound uneasiness in the presence of reality…. This explains everything. Who alone has any reason for living his way out of reality? The man who suffers under it. But to suffer from reality one must be a botched reality…. The preponderance of pains over pleasures is the cause of this fictitious morality and religion: but such a preponderance also supplies the formula for decadence…
A criticism of the Christian concept of God leads inevitably to the same conclusion: A nation that still believes in itself holds fast to its own god. In him it does honour to the conditions which enable it to survive, to its virtues — it projects its joy in itself, its feeling of power, into a being to whom one may offer thanks. He who is rich will give of his riches; a proud people need a god to whom they can make sacrifices… Religion, within these limits, is a form of gratitude. A man is grateful for his own existence: to that end he needs a god. — Such a god must be able to work both benefits and injuries; he must be able to play either friend or foe — he is wondered at for the good he does as well as for the evil he does. But the castration, against all nature, of such a god, making him a god of goodness alone, would be contrary to human inclination. Mankind has just as much need for an evil god as for a good god; it doesn’t have to thank mere tolerance and humanitarianism for its own existence…. What would be the value of a god who knew nothing of anger, revenge, envy, scorn, cunning, violence? Who had perhaps never experienced the rapturous ardeurs of victory and of destruction? No one would understand such a god: why should any one want him? — True enough, when a nation is on the downward path, when it feels its belief in its own future, its hope of freedom slipping from it, when it begins to see submission as a first necessity and the virtues of submission as measures of self-preservation, then it must overhaul its god. He then becomes a hypocrite, timorous and demure; he counsels “peace of soul,” hate-no-more, leniency, “love” of friend and foe. He moralizes endlessly; he creeps into every private virtue; he becomes the god of every man; he becomes a private citizen, a cosmopolitan… Formerly he represented a people, the strength of a people, everything aggressive and thirsty for power in the soul of a people; now he is simply the good god… The truth is that there is no other alternative for gods: either they are the will to power — in which case they are national gods — or incapacity for power — in which case they have to be good.
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Source: H.L. Mencken Translation