Classic EssaysNietzsche

Nietzsche as Spiritual Warrior — The Antichrist (Part 3 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 three of Nietzsche as Spiritual Warrior — The Antichrist, we present the philosopher’s claim that healthy, life-affirming religions sacralize the highest will and aspirations of a national people, whereas Christianity and its secular offshoots merely offer members of the deracinated rabble a contrived identity to cling to for lack of roots. 

by Friedrich Nietzsche

WHEREVER the will to power begins to decline, in whatever form, there is always an accompanying decline physiologically, a decadence. The divinity of this decadence, shorn of its masculine virtues and passions, is converted perforce into a god of the physiologically degraded, of the weak. Of course, they do not call themselves the weak; they call themselves “the good.”… No hint is needed to indicate the moments in history at which the dualistic fiction of a good and an evil god first became possible. The same instinct which prompts the inferior to reduce their own god to “goodness-in-itself” also prompts them to eliminate all good qualities from the god of their superiors; they make revenge on their masters by making a devil of the latter’s god. — The good god, and the devil like him— both are abortions of decadence. — How can we be so tolerant of the naïveté of Christian theologians as to join in their doctrine that the evolution of the concept of god from “the god of Israel,” the god of a people, to the Christian god, the essence of all goodness, is to be described as progress? — But even Renan does this. As if Renan had a right to be naïve! The contrary actually stares one in the face. When everything necessary to ascending life; when all that is strong, courageous, masterful and proud has been eliminated from the concept of a god; when he has sunk step by step to the level of a staff for the weary, a sheet-anchor for the drowning; when he be comes the poor man’s god, the sinner’s god, the invalid’s god par excellence, and the attribute of “saviour” or “redeemer” remains as the one essential attribute of divinity — just what is the significance of such a metamorphosis? What does such a reduction of the godhead imply? — To be sure, the “kingdom of God” has thus grown larger. Formerly he had only his own people, his “chosen” people. But since then he has gone wandering, like his people themselves, into foreign parts; he has given up settling down quietly anywhere; finally he has come to feel at home everywhere, and is the great cosmopolitan — until now he has the “great majority” on his side, and half the earth. But this god of the “great majority,” this democrat among gods, has not become a proud heathen god: on the contrary, he remains a Jew, he remains a god in a corner, a god of all the dark nooks and crevices, of all the noisesome quarters of the world!… His earthly kingdom, now as always, is a kingdom of the underworld, a souterrain kingdom, a ghetto kingdom… And he himself is so pale, so weak, so decadent… Even the palest of the pale are able to master him — messieurs the metaphysicians, those albinos of the intellect. They spun their webs around him for so long that finally he was hypnotized, and began to spin himself, and became another metaphysician. Thereafter he resumed once more his old business of spinning the world out of his inmost being sub specie Spinozae; thereafter he be came ever thinner and paler — became the “ideal,” became “pure spirit,” became “the absolute,” became “the thing-in-itself.”… The collapse of a god: he became a “thing-in-itself.”

The Christian concept of a god — the god as the patron of the sick, the god as a spinner of cobwebs, the god as a spirit — is one of the most corrupt concepts that has ever been set up in the world: it probably touches the low-water mark in the ebbing evolution of the god-type. God degenerated into the contradiction of life. Instead of being its transfiguration and eternal Yea! In him war is declared on life, on nature, on the will to live! God becomes the formula for every slander upon the “here and now,” and for every lie about the “beyond”! In him nothingness is deified, and the will to nothingness is made holy!…

The fact that the strong races of northern Europe did not repudiate this Christian god does little credit to their gift for religion — and not much more to their taste. They ought to have been able to make an end of such a moribund and worn-out product of the decadence. A curse lies upon them because they were not equal to it; they made illness, decrepitude and contradiction a part of their instincts — and since then they have not managed to create any more gods. Two thousand years have come and gone — and not a single new god! Instead, there still exists, and as if by some intrinsic right, — as if he were the ultimatum and maximum of the power to create gods, of the creator spiritus in mankind — this pitiful god of Christian monotono-theism! This hybrid image of decay, conjured up out of emptiness, contradiction and vain imagining, in which all the instincts of decadence, all the cowardices and wearinesses of the soul find their sanction!—

In my condemnation of Christianity I surely hope I do no injustice to a related religion with an even larger number of believers: I allude to Buddhism. Both are to be reckoned among the nihilistic religions — they are both decadence religions — but they are separated from each other in a very remarkable way. For the fact that he is able to compare them at all the critic of Christianity is indebted to the scholars of India.— Buddhism is a hundred times as realistic as Christianity — it is part of its living heritage that it is able to face problems objectively and coolly; it is the product of long centuries of philosophical speculation. The concept, “god,” was already disposed of before it appeared. Buddhism is the only genuinely positive religion to be encountered in history, and this applies even to its epistemology (which is a strict phenomenalism). — It does not speak of a “struggle with sin,” but, yielding to reality, of the “struggle with suffering.” Sharply differentiating itself from Christianity, it puts the self-deception that lies in moral concepts behind it; it is, in my phrase, beyond good and evil. — The two physiological facts upon which it grounds itself and upon which it bestows its chief attention are: first, an excessive sensitiveness to sensation, which manifests itself as a refined susceptibility to pain, and secondly, an extraordinary spirituality, a too protracted concern with concepts and logical procedures, under the influence of which the instinct of personality has yielded to a notion of the “impersonal.” (—Both of these states will be familiar to a few of my readers, the objectivists, by experience, as they are to me). These physiological states produced a depression, and Buddha tried to combat it by hygienic measures. Against it he prescribed a life in the open, a life of travel; moderation in eating and a careful selection of foods; caution in the use of intoxicants; the same caution in arousing any of the passions that foster a bilious habit and heat the blood; finally, no worry, either on one’s own account or on account of others. He encourages ideas that make for either quiet contentment or good cheer — he finds means to combat ideas of other sorts. He understands good, the state of goodness, as something which promotes health. Prayer is not included, and neither is asceticism. There is no categorical imperative nor any disciplines, even within the walls of a monastery (—it is always possible to leave—). These things would have been simply means of increasing the excessive sensitiveness above mentioned. For the same reason he does not advocate any conflict with unbelievers; his teaching is antagonistic to nothing so much as to revenge, aversion, ressentiment (— “enmity never brings an end to enmity”: the moving refrain of all Buddhism…) And in all this he was right, for it is precisely these passions which, in view of his main regiminal purpose, are unhealthful. The mental fatigue that he observes, already plainly displayed in too much “objectivity” (that is, in the individual’s loss of interest in himself, in loss of balance and of “egoism”), he combats by strong efforts to lead even the spiritual interests back to the ego. In Buddha’s teaching egoism is a duty. The “one thing needful,” the question “how can you be delivered from suffering,” regulates and determines the whole spiritual diet. (—Perhaps one will here recall that Athenian who also declared war upon pure “scientificality,” to wit, Socrates, who also elevated egoism to the estate of a morality)…

The things necessary to Buddhism are a very mild climate, customs of great gentleness and liberality, and no militarism; moreover, it must get its start among the higher and better-educated classes. Cheerfulness, quiet and the absence of desire are the chief desiderata, and they are attained. Buddhism is not a religion in which perfection is merely an object of aspiration: perfection is actually normal. — Under Christianity the instincts of the subjugated and the oppressed come to the fore: it is only those who are at the bottom who seek their salvation in it. Here the prevailing pastime, the favourite remedy for boredom is the discussion of sin, self-criticism, the inquisition of conscience; here the emotion produced by power (called “God”) is pumped up (by prayer); here the highest good is regarded as unattainable, as a gift, as “grace.” Here, too, open dealing is lacking; concealment and the darkened room are Christian. Here body is despised and hygiene is denounced as sensual; the church even ranges itself against cleanliness (—the first Christian order after the banishment of the Moors closed the public baths, of which there were 270 in Cordova alone). Christian, too; is a certain cruelty toward one’s self and toward others; hatred of unbelievers; the will to persecute. Sombre and disquieting ideas are in the foreground; the most esteemed states of mind, bearing the most respectable names are epileptoid; the diet is so regulated as to engender morbid symptoms and over-stimulate the nerves. Christian, again, is all deadly enmity to the rulers of the earth, to the “aristocratic” — along with a sort of secret rivalry with them (—one resigns one’s “body” to them — one wants only one’s “soul”…). And Christian is all hatred of the intellect, of pride, of courage of freedom, of intellectual libertinage; Christian is all hatred of the senses, of joy in the senses, of joy in general…

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Source: H.L. Mencken Translation

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