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Friedrich Nietzsche, Fighter for Freedom

Friedrich Nietzsche: Part 2: The Psychology of Friedrich Nietzsche as a Psychopathological Problem

Part 2

The Psychology of Friedrich Nietzsche as a Psychopathological Problem

 

From the
Wiener Klinische Rundschau,
14th Year, No. 30, 1900

I.

T

HESE LINES have not been written to add to the statements of the opponents of Friedrich Nietzsche, but with the intention to offer a contribution to the understanding of this man from a point of view which, no doubt, comes into consideration in passing judgment on his strange ways of thought. The thorough student of the world conception of Friedrich Nietzsche will come upon innumerable problems which can only be clarified through psychopathology. On the other hand, it should be of the greatest importance for psychiatry for students to occupy themselves with an important personality who has had an immeasurably great influence upon the culture of the age. In addition, this influence has an essentially different character from the effects philosophers usually have upon their pupils. For Nietzsche does not work upon his contemporaries through the logical power of his arguments on the contrary, the wide dissemination of his concepts is to be traced to the same reasons which make it possible for zealots and fanatics to play their role in the world at all times.

A full clarification of the state of Friedrich Nietzsche's mind from the psychiatric point of view is not to be given here. Such an explanation is not possible today because a complete and true clinical picture of his sickness does not yet exist. Everything that has been presented concerning the history of his sickness, has the character of something fragmentary and contradictory. But the observation of Nietzsche's philosophy under the eye of psychopathology is entirely possible today. The real work of the psychiatrist would perhaps begin exactly where that of the psychologist, which is presented here, ceases. But this work is absolutely necessary for the complete solution of “the problem of Nietzsche.” Only on the basis of such a psychopathological symptomatology will the psychiatrist be able to accomplish his task.

One quality which penetrates the entire creative activity of Nietzsche is the lack of a sense of objective truth. What science strove after as truth was fundamentally nonexistent for him. During the period shortly before his complete collapse into insanity, this lack increased to a formidable hatred of everything called logical reasoning. “Honest things, like honest people, do not carry their reasons in their hand. It is indecent to show all five fingers. What has to be proved first is worth little,” he says in 1888, shortly before the Götzendämmerung, Twilight of Idols, was written, just before his illness (Volume VIII of the complete German edition of Nietzsche's Works, p. 71). Because he lacked this sense of truth, he never fought through the battle which so many have to experience when, in their development they are forced to give up an acquired opinion. At his confirmation, when he was 17, he was completely a believer in God. Indeed, over three years later, as he left the Gymnasium in Schulpforta, he wrote, “To Him to Whom I owe most, I bring the first fruits of my gratitude. What more can I sacrifice to Him than the warm feelings of my heart, which perceives His love more actively than ever: His love, which has allowed me to experience this most beautiful hour of my existence? May He, the true God, guard me henceforth!” (E. Foerster-Nietzsche, Das Leben Friedrich Nietzsches, The Life of Friedrich Nietzsche, Vol. I, p. 194). Within a short time, a complete atheist developed out of this faithful believer in God, without an inner struggle. In his memoirs which he sketched in 1888, under the title Ecce Homo, he speaks about his inner struggles. “Religious difficulties,” he says, “I do not know from experience ... God, immortality of the soul, salvation, life beyond, are pure concepts to which I have paid no attention, to which I have devoted no time, not even as a child; was I, perhaps, never sufficiently child-like for this? I absolutely do not know atheism as a result, still less as an event; it is understood by me only as instinct.” (M. G. Conrad, Ketzerblut, p. 182) It is indicative of Nietzsche's spiritual constitution that he asserts here that even as a child he had not given attention to the religious imaginations or ideas he mentions. From his biography which his sister has given us, we know that his classmates called him “the little pastor” because of his religious expressions. All this shows that he had overcome the religious convictions of his youth with greatest ease.

The psychological process by which Nietzsche comes to the content of his conceptions is not that through which a human being passes who strives toward objective truth. One can already observe this in the way in which he arrives at his fundamental ideas in his first work, Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik, The Birth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Music. Nietzsche assumes that two impulses lie at the basis of ancient Greek Art: the Apollonian and the Dionysian. Through the Apollonian impulse, the human being produces a beautiful image of the world, a task of peaceful observation. Through the Dionysian impulse the human being transfers himself into a condition of intoxication; he observes not only the world, but he permeates himself with the eternal forces of existence, and brings these to expression in his art. The epic style and sculpture are the results of Apollonian art. The lyric style, the musical work of art, are derived from the Dionysian impulse. The human being inclined to the latter impulse permeates himself with the world spirit, and brings its essence to manifestation in his artistic expressions. He himself becomes a work of art. “In song and in dance man expresses himself as a member of a higher community; he has forgotten how to walk and speak; he is about to take a dancing flight into the air. His very gestures bespeak enchantment.” (Geburt der Tragödie, Birth of Tragedy, ¶ 1) In this Dionysian state the human being forgets himself; he feels that he no longer is an individuum, but rather an organ of the universal world will. In the festival games which were held in honor of the god Dionysus, Nietzsche sees the Dionysian expressions of the human spirit. He now imagines that the dramatic an of the Greeks arose from such games: that a higher union of the Dionysian with the Apollonian took place. In the oldest drama was created an Apollonian image of the human beings, aroused by the Dionysian impulse.

Nietzsche came to such ideas through Schopenhauer's philosophy. He simply translated the Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, World as Will and Idea, into the artistic. The world of reflection is not the real world; it is only a subjective image which our soul creates of things. According to Schopenhauer's opinion, through observation the human being absolutely does not arrive at the real essence of the world. The latter unveils itself to him in his willing. The art of reflection is the Apollonian, that of willing, the Dionysian. Nietzsche needed to go but one little step beyond Schopenhauer in order to arrive where he stood in the Geburt der Tragödie, The Birth of Tragedy. Schopenhauer himself had already assigned music to an exceptional position among the arts. He calls all other arts mere images of the will; he calls music a direct expression of the archetypal Will itself.

Now Schopenhauer never worked upon Nietzsche in such a way that one could say that the latter had become a dependent. In the book, Schopenhauer als Erzieher, Schopenhauer as Educator, Nietzsche describes the impression which he had received from the teaching of the pessimistic philosopher: “Schopenhauer talks with himself, or, if one absolutely must imagine a listener, then one imagines a son whom the father instructs. It is an honest, strong, kindly expression, before one who listens with love. We lack such writers. The powerful feeling of well-being of the speaker surrounds us at the first sound of his voice. It is an experience similar to entering a large forest; we breathe deeply, and suddenly feel ourselves exceptionally well. Here is an even, harmonious, strengthening air: this is what we feel. Here is a certain inimitable openness and naturalness, such as those people have who are at home in themselves; indeed, who are at home in a very rich house.” This aesthetic impression is decisive in Nietzsche in relation to Schopenhauer. He was not at all concerned with the teaching itself. Among the notes which he had made at the time he had composed the pean of praise, Schopenhauer als Erzieher, Schopenhauer as Educator, one finds the following: “I am far from believing that I have rightly understood Schopenhauer, but rather, I have learned to understand myself a little better through Schopenhauer; this is why I owe him the greatest gratitude. But, all in all, it does not seem important to me that one goes to the depths of a philosopher and brings to light exactly what he has taught in the fullest sense of the word, and so on; such an understanding is least of all suited to human beings who are looking for a philosophy of life, not for a new scholastic aptitude for their memory, and in the end it remains improbable that such knowledge really can be found.” (Nietzsche's Works, German Edition, 1896, Volume X, p. 285)

Nietzsche, therefore, builds his ideas concerning the birth of tragedy upon the foundation of a philosophical structure of learning which he presents, whether or not he has rightly understood it. He does not search for logical, but mainly for aesthetic satisfaction.

A further evidence of his lack of a sense for truth is shown in his behavior during the composing of the book, Richard Wagner in Bayreuth, in the year 1876. At this time he not only wrote everything he could in praise of Wagner, but also many of the ideas against Wagner which he produced later in the Fall Wagner, The Case of Wagner. In Richard Wagner in Bayreuth he took only what could serve for the glorification of Richard Wagner and of his art; meanwhile, he kept the negative heretic judgment in his desk. Of course, no one would act in this manner who had a sense for objective truth. Nietzsche did not want to offer a true character sketch of Wagner, but rather to sing a song of praise for the master.

Most significant is Nietzsche's reaction to his meeting in 1876 with Paul Rée, who, when he studied a series of problems similar to those which interested Nietzsche, particularly the ethical, dealt with them in a strictly objective scientific spirit. This way of looking at things worked upon Nietzsche as a new revelation. However, this absolutely does not assume that Rée had a noticeable influence upon Nietzsche's world conception. He admired this pure searching for truth, which is entirely free of all romanticism. Malvida von Meysenbug, the intellectual author of Memoiren einer ldealistin, The Memoirs of an Idealist, in her recent book, Der Lebensabend einer ldealistins, Life Evening of an Idealist, speaks about Nietzsche's relation to Rée's mode of observation in the year 1876. At that time she belonged to the circle of people in Sorrento within which Nietzsche and Rée came closer to each other. “I saw from many conversations what a deep impression Rée's way of clarifying philosophical problems made upon Nietzsche.” She relates a section of one of these conversations: “It may be,” says Nietzsche, “the error of all religions to look for a transcendental unity behind appearance, and that may also be the error of philosophy and Schopenhauer's idea about the unity of the will to life. Philosophy may be just as gigantic an error as religion. The only worthwhile and valid thing is science, which gradually adds stone upon stone in order to construct a safe building.” This is clear speech. Nietzsche, who lacked the sense for objective truth in himself, almost idealized it when he encountered it in someone else. But the turning to objective science does not appear to him as a consequence. His way of working remains the same as before. Even now, the truth does not work upon him through its logical nature, but rather makes an aesthetic, pleasant impression upon him. In his two volumes, Menschliches Allzumenschliches, Human, All Too Human (1878), he sings one song of praise after another to objective science; but he himself absolutely does not apply the method of scientific knowledge. Indeed, he struggled along his way so that in 1881 he reached the point where he declared war against all truth.

During this time, Nietzsche made a statement by which he placed himself in conscious opposition to the points of view which natural science represents. This statement is his often-cited teaching about the “eternal return” of things. In Duhring's Kursus der Philosophie, Course of Philosophy, he found an argument which was to prove that an eternal repetition of the same world events is not compatible with the fundamental principles of mechanics. It was exactly this that led him to accept such an eternal, periodic repetition of the same world events. All that happens today has already occurred innumerable times, and is to recur innumerable times. During this period he also speaks about the pleasure it gave him to set up counter-arguments against universally accepted truths. “What is the reaction of opinions? When one opinion ceases to be interesting, one tries to give it new attractiveness by encouraging its counter-argument. But, usually the counter-argument misleads, and makes new advocates; meanwhile it has become more interesting.” (Nietzsche's Works, German Edition, 1897, Volume XI, P. 65) And because he understands that his counter-opinion does not suit the old natural scientific truths, he makes the statement that these truths are not truths in themselves, but are errors which human beings have only accepted because they have proved useful in life. The fundamental truths of mechanics and natural science are really errors: this he wanted to emphasize in a work for which he sketched the outline in 1881. He tried all this only for the sake of the idea of the “eternal return.” The logically compulsive force of truth was to be denied in order to be able to set up a counter-argument which runs Contrary to the essence of this truth.

Nietzsche's struggle against truth gradually assumed still greater proportions. In his Jenseits von Gut und Böse, Beyond Good and Evil, already in 1885 he asks whether or not truth has any value at all. “The will to truth which is to tempt us to many a hazardous enterprise, this famous truthfulness of which hitherto all philosophers have spoken with respect, what questions has this will to truth not laid before us? What strange, perplexing, questionable questions! It is already a long story, yet it seems as if it were hardly begun ... Granted that we want this truth, why not rather untruth?”

Such questions, of course, can also enter the most logical brain. The theory of knowledge must occupy itself with these questions. But for a real thinker, the natural. consequence of the appearance of such questions is the search for the sources of human knowledge. A world of the most subtle philosophical problems begins for him. None of this is the case with Nietzsche. He enters into absolutely no relationship with those questions which have to do with logic. “I am still waiting for a philosophical doctor in the most exceptional sense of the word; one who pursues the problems of the entire health of a people, of a time, a race of humanity; such a doctor will have the courage to bring my suspicion to a head, and will dare to express the sentence, ‘With all philosophers until now it is not at all a question of truth, but it is a question of something else, let us say, of health, future growth, power, life ...!’” Thus Nietzsche wrote in the autumn of 1886 in the Preface to the second edition of Fröhliche Wissenschalt, Joyful Wisdom. One can observe that the inclination is present in Nietzsche to feel a contradiction between life-usefulness, health, power, etc., and truth. Here, natural feelings would not find an antithesis, but a harmony. In Nietzsche, the question of the value of truth does not appear as a need for theoretical knowledge, but rather as an outlet for his lack of objective sense for truth. This is shown grotesquely in a sentence which also appears in the Preface quoted above: “And in regard to our future, one will hardly find us again on the paths of those Egyptian youths who made the temples unsafe at night, embraced columns, and unveiled everything which for good reason had been kept hidden. They unveiled it, uncovered it, and wanted to bring it into bright light. No, this bad taste, this will for truth, for truth at any price, this madness of youth in their love for truth, is offensive to us.” From this revulsion against truth stems Nietzsche's hatred for Socrates. The drive for objectivity of this latter thinker was something absolutely repulsive to him. This comes to expression in the strongest way in his Götzendämmerung, Twilight of Idols, 1888: “On the basis of his origin, Socrates belongs to the lowest people. Socrates was the mob. One knows, one can see for oneself, how ugly he was. ... Socrates was a misunderstanding.”

Let us compare the philosophical scepticism of other personalities with the struggle Nietzsche wages against truth. Ordinarily, at the bottom of this scepticism a sense for truth is really expressed. The drive for truth impels the philosophers to search for its value, its sources, its limits. In Nietzsche this drive does not exist, and the way he approaches these problems of knowledge is but the result of his erroneous sense of truth. It is understandable that in a talented personality such a lack comes to expression otherwise than in a subordinated way. However great the distance between Nietzsche and the psychopathically inferior people who lack a sense of truth in everyday life, qualitatively speaking, in him as in them one has to deal with the same psychological peculiarity which at least borders upon the pathological.

 

II

In Nietzsche's world of ideas is revealed an impulse to destruction, which in his judgment of certain points of view and convictions, allowed him to go far beyond what appears psychologically comprehensible in a critic. It is indicative that by far the greatest part of all Nietzsche has written is the result of this drive for destruction. In the Geburt der Tragödie, Birth of Tragedy, the entire Western cultural development from Socrates and Euripides to Schopenhauer and Richard Wagner, is presented as a path of error. The Unzeitgemässen Betrachtungen, Untimely Observations, on which he began work in 1873, was started with the decided intention “to sing off the entire scale” of his “enmities.” Of the twenty observations planned, four were completed. Two of these are warlike writings which, in the most cruel manner, ferret out the weaknesses of the opponent Nietzsche attacks, or of the opinions unsympathetic to him, without bothering in the least about the relative justification of the one assailed. Of course, the other two are hymns of praise of two personalities; nevertheless, in 1888 Nietzsche not only retracted everything (in the Fall Wagner, Case of Wagner) he had said in glorification of Wagner in 1876, but Wagner's art, which he first praised as the salvation and rebirth of the entire Western culture, he later represented as the greatest danger for this culture. And he also writes about Schopenhauer in 1888, “In this sequence he has interpreted art, heroism, genius, beauty, the will for truth, the tragedy, as consequential appearance of negation or the need for negation of the ‘will,’ and this, with the exception of Christianity, is the greatest psychological forgery in history. More carefully considered, in this he is merely the heir to Christian interpretation, only that he still knew how to sanction what was rejected by Christianity and the great cultural facts of humanity in a Christian, that is, in a nihilistic sense.” Therefore, even in face of things he once had admired, Nietzsche's sense of destruction, or drive toward destruction, does not rest. In the four writings which appeared from 1878 to 1882, the tendency to destroy established points of view outweighs all that Nietzsche himself brings forth as positive. For him it is of absolutely no consequence to search for new insights; he would much rather shake up those already existing. In 1888, he writes in his Ecce Homo about the work of destruction which he began in 1876 with his Menschliches Allzumenschliches Human, All Too Human, “One error after another is calmly laid upon ice; the ideal is not refuted — it freezes to death. Here, for example, freezes the genius; in another corner further on, freezes ‘the saint;’ under a thick icicle freezes ‘the hero;’ at the end freezes ‘the faith,’ the so-called conviction; sympathy also cools off considerably. Almost everywhere freezes the ‘thing in itself’ ...” “... Human, All Too Human, with which I prepared for myself a very quick, sudden end to all dragged-in, higher, cheating, ‘idealism,’ ‘beautiful feeling,’ and other womanlinesses ...” This drive for destruction incites Nietzsche to pursue with almost blind anger the victims upon whom he has thrown himself. He brings out judgments against an idea, against a personality whom he believes he must reject judgments which are not at all in relation to the reasons he offers for his rejection. The way he pursues opposing opinions does not differ in degree, but merely in manner from that in which typically argumentative people pursue their opponents. It is less a matter of the content of the judgment which Nietzsche brings forth. Often one can justify the content. But in those cases where doubtless he was justified to a certain degree, one will have to admit that the way he reached his judgments represents a distortion in a psychological sense. Only the fascination of his form of expression, only the artistic treatment of language can cast a veil of deception over the facts. But Nietzsche's intellectual lust for destruction becomes especially clear when one considers how few positive ideas he is able to bring against the points of view which he attacks. He makes the assumption that all of culture up to the present has brought about a completely false ideal of humanity; to this objectionable type of human being, he opposes his idea of the “superman.” As an example of a superman there floats before him a real destroyer, Cesare Borgia. To imagine such a destroyer in an important historical role gave him real, spiritual pleasure. “I see before me the possibility of a perfect super-earthly magic and charm of color; it appears to me that it shines in all its dreadfulness of refined beauty, that an art is at work, so divine, so divinely devilish, that one would search in vain for thousands upon thousands of years for a second such possibility. I see a drama so rich in sensuality, and at the same time so marvelously paradox, that all the deities in Olympus would have had occasion for immortal laughter — Cesare Borgia as Pope ... Does anyone understand me? Well, that would have been the victory for which I long today; with that Christianity was done away with.” (Nietzsche's Works, German Edition, Volume VIII, p. 311) How Nietzsche's sense for destruction outweighs his constructiveness shows itself in the disposition of his last work, in his Umwertung aller Werte, Transvaluation of All Values. Three-quarters of it were to be purely negative work, He offers a destruction of Christianity under the title Der Antichrist, The Antichrist; an annihilation of all present philosophies which he called a “nihilistic movement,” under the title, Der freie Geist, The Free Spirit; and an annihilation of all previous moral concepts, in The Immoralist. He called these moral concepts “the most fateful form of ignorance.” Only the last chapter announces something positive: Dionysus, PhilosoPhie der Ewigen Wiederkunft, Philosophy of the Eternal Return (Nietzsche's Works, German Edition, 1897, Volume VIII, Appendix, p. 3). He has been able to fill only this positive part of his philosophy with any substantial content.

Nietzsche does not shy away from the worst contradictions, if it is a question of destroying the arrangement of ideas of any cultural phenomena. When in 1888 in his Antichrist he is occupied with representing the harm of Christianity, he contrasts this with the older cultural manifestations: “The entire labor of the ancient culture is in vain; I have no words to express my feelings about something so monstrous ... Why Greeks? Why Romans? All assumptions of a learned culture, all scientific methods, were already there; the great, the incomparable art of reading had already been established. This assumption of the tradition of culture, of the unity of knowledge, natural science in union with mathematics and mechanics, was already on the very best path; the sense for the factual, the ultimate and most valuable of all senses, had its schools; its old tradition had been established for hundreds of years! ... and was not buried overnight by an event of nature ...! But it was brought to shame by clever, secretive, invisible anemic vampires! ... One should just read any Christian agitator — St. Augustine, for example — to understand, to smell out, what unclean fellows have come to the surface.” (Nietzsche's Works, Volume VIII, p. 308). Nietzsche thoroughly despised the art of reading until the moment when he defended it in order to fight Christianity. Let us quote but one of his sentences about art: “I am thoroughly convinced that to have written one single line which deserves to be commented on by scholars, compensates for the service of the greatest critics. There is a deep modesty in the philologist. To correct texts is an entertaining task for scholars; it is a picture puzzle, but one should not regard it as something too important. It is too bad when antiquity speaks to us less clearly because a million words stand in the way!” (Nietzsche's Works, Volume X, page 341) And in 1882 Nietzsche's comments about the union of the factual sense with mathematics and mechanics, in his Fröhliche Wissenschaft, Joyful Wisdom: “That only that world interpretation is right which allows counting, calculating, weighing, seeing, touching, and nothing further, this alone is stupidity and naivete, provided it is not insanity, or idiocy.” “Shall we really allow our existence to be degraded to a slavish exercise in arithmetic, and a parlor game for mathematicians?” (Nietzsche's Works, Volume V, p. 330)

 

III

We can clearly observe a certain incoherence in. Nietzsche's ideas. Where only logical association of ideas would be in order, thought connections appear in him which rest merely upon external, accidental signs, for example, sound similarity in words, or metaphorical relationships which are completely inconsequential at a point where concepts are used. In one place in Also Sprach Zarathustra, Thus spake Zarathustra, where the man of the future is contrasted with the man of the present, we find this digression of fantasy: “Do like the wind when it rushes forth from its mountain caves: to its own piping will it dance; the seas tremble and leap under its footsteps ... That which giveth wings to asses, that which milketh those lionesses: praise be to that good, unruly spirit, which cometh like a hurricane unto all present and to all the populace ... which is hostile to thistle-heads and puzzle-heads, and to all withered leaves and weeds: praised be this good, free spirit of the storm, which danceth upon fens and afflictions as upon meadows: which hateth the consumptive populace-dogs, and all the ill-constituted, sullen brood: praised be this spirit of all free spirits, the laughing storms, which bloweth dust into the eyes of these melanotic and melancholic ones!” (Nietzsche's Works, Volume VI, p. 429) In the Antichrist is the following thought, in which the word “truth” in a quite external sense gives occasion for an idea-association at a most important point: “Must I still say that in the entire New Testament there is but one single figure which one must revere? Pilate, the Roman Governor. He does not convince himself into taking a Jewish affair seriously. One Jew more or less — what does it matter? ... The noble scorn of a Roman, before whom a disgraceful misuse of the word ‘truth’ has occurred, has enriched the New Testament with the single word which is of value ... which is his criticism, his annihilation itself, ‘What is truth?’ ...” (Nietzsche's Works, Volume VIII, p. 280). It is absolutely a part of this class of incoherent association of ideas when, in Jenseits von Gut und Böse, Beyond Good and Evil, at the end of a discussion on the value of German culture, the following sentence which should have more value than a matter of style, appears: “It is artful of a people to make themselves be evaluated as deep, awkward, good-natured, honest, lacking in cleverness, or to let themselves be considered so, or, indeed it could be that they are deep! Finally, one should honor one's name; not for nothing is one called the deceiving nation. ...”

The more intimately one occupies oneself with Nietzsche's thought development, the more one comes to the conviction that everywhere there are digressions from that which is still explainable through psychology. The impulse to isolate himself, to separate himself from the outer world, lies deeply rooted in his spiritual organization. He expresses himself characteristically enough in his Ecce Homo: “I am gifted with an utterly uncanny instinct of cleanliness, so that I can ascertain physiologically, that is to say, that I can smell the proximity of, I may say, the innermost entrails of every human soul. ... This sensitiveness has psychological antennae, with which I feel and handle every secret; the hidden filth at the root of many a human character, which may be the result of base blood, but which may be superficially overlaid by education, is revealed to me at first glance. If my observation has been correct, such people, unbearable to my sense of cleanliness, also become conscious on their part of the cautiousness resulting from my loathing; and this does not make them any more fragrant. ... This is why social intercourse is no small trial to my patience; my humanity does not consist in the fact that I sympathize with the feelings of my fellows, but that I can endure that very sympathy. My humanity is a continual self-mastery. But I need solitude, that is to say, recovery, return to myself, the breathing of free, light, bracing air. ... The loathing of mankind, of the ‘rabble,’ was always my greatest danger.” (M. G. Conrad, Ketzerblut, p. 183) Such impulses are fundamental in his teaching in Jenseits von Gut und Böse, Beyond Good and Evil, and in quite a number of his other ideas. He wants to educate a caste of prominent people who establish their life aims outside the realm of their complete arbitrariness. And the whole of history is only a means of training a few master natures, who make use of the remaining mass of humanity for their own personal purposes. “One completely misunderstands the predatory animal and the predatory human being (for example, Cesare Borgia), one misunderstands nature so long as one looks for something abnormal at the root of these healthiest of all tropical monsters and growths, or, indeed, searches for an inborn ‘hell,’ as almost all moralists have done up to now.” (Jenseits von Gut und Böse, Beyond Good and Evil, p. 197) Nietzsche regards it as essential that a real artistocracy accept “with good conscience the sacrifice of innumerable human beings, who for their sakes had to be reduced to incomplete human beings, to slaves, to tools, and even had to be degraded.” (Ibid, p. 258). From this comes Nietzsche's criticism of the social question, a criticism bordering upon narrow-mindedness. According to him, workers must remain cattle; they may not be trained to regard themselves as having any purpose. “In the most, irresponsible: and thoughtless way, one has destroyed the instincts which made It possible to be a worker, and to be one's self. One has made the worker militaristically efficient, one has given him the coalition right, the political vote; is it any wonder that today the worker fears his existence as a critical situation (morally expressed as injustice)? But what does one want? is asked again. If one wants a purpose, then one must also want the means; one wants slaves, then one is a fool if one educates them to be masters.” (Nietzsche's Works, Volume VIII, Page 153)

During the last phase of his creative activity, he placed the true personality in the very center of world events. “This book belongs to the very few; perhaps none of these is yet living. There may be those who understand my Zarathustra; how could I confuse myself with those for whom ears are growing already today? Only the day after tomorrow belongs to me. Some of my readers will be born posthumously ... the conditions under which one understands me, and understands out of necessity, I know only too well. ... New ears for new music. New eyes for the most distant. A new conscience for truths silent until now ... Well These alone are my readers, my true readers, my readers intended for me; what does the rest matter? The rest are mere humanity. One must surpass humanity in strength, in elevation of soul-through contempt. ...” (Nietzsche's Works, Volume VIII, p. 213) It is only an intensification of such ideas when Nietzsche finally identifies himself with Dionysus.

Nietzsche could think only in this way because in his isolation he lacked all reflection; for this reason his ideas were only nuances of what had worked itself to mastery of the spiritual life of the nineteenth century. He also lacked any understanding for the connections between his ideas and those of the scientific outlook of his age. What for others is the result of certain assumptions stands isolated in his system of ideas, and in this isolation grows to an intensity which gives entirely the character of forced ideas to his favorite points of view. His completely biological understanding of moral concepts bears this character. The ethical concepts should be nothing but expressions of physiological processes. “What is morality? A human being, a nation which has suffered a physiological change, senses this in a community feeling, and interprets it in the language of effects and according to the degree of their knowledge, without noticing that the seat of the change lies in the physical. It is as if someone were hungry and thought that he could satisfy his hunger with concepts and customs, with praise and with blame!” (Nietzsche's Works, German Edition, 1897, Volume XII, p. 35) Such concepts, firmly established as the natural scientific world conception, work upon Nietzsche as forced ideas, and he does not speak about them with the security of the knower who is in the position to measure the extent of his ideas, but rather with the passion of the fanatic and the zealot. The idea of the survival of the fittest in the human “struggle for existence,” quite familiar in the Darwinian literature of the last century, appears in Nietzsche as the idea of the “superman.” The struggle against “the belief in the other world” which Nietzsche wages so passionately in his Zarathustra, is only another form of the struggle which the materialistic and monastic study of nature wages. What is fundamentally new in Nietzsche's ideas is only the tone of feeling in him, which is linked with his reflections. And the intensity of this tone of feeling is to be understood only when one agrees that these ideas, tom, from their systematic connection, work upon him as forced ideas. Thus the frequent repetition of these reflections, the unmotivated manner in which certain thoughts make their appearance, are also to be explained. We can observe this complete lack of motivation particularly in his idea of the “eternal return” of all things and events. Like a comet this idea appears ever and again in his works during the period between 1882 and 1888. Nowhere does it appear in an inner connection with that which he brings forth otherwise. Little or nothing is produced to give it foundation. Nevertheless, it is held up everywhere like a gospel to call forth the deepest emotions of the whole human culture.

One cannot understand Nietzsche's spiritual constitution with the concepts of psychology; one must call upon psychopathology for help. With this assertion one does not wish to say anything against the quality of his creative genius. Least of all is a decision to be made concerning truth or error in his ideas themselves. Nietzsche's genius has absolutely nothing to do with this examination. The quality of genius appears in him through a pathological medium.

The genius of Friedrich Nietzsche is not to be explained from his sick constitution; Nietzsche was a genius in spite of the fact that he was ill. It is one thing to explain genius itself as a condition of a sick spirit, still another to understand the entire personality of a man of genius in relation to the morbid in his being. One can be a follower of Nietzsche's ideas and yet be of the opinion that the way Nietzsche discovers these ideas, brings them together, evaluates them, and presents them, is to be understood only through psychopathological concepts. One can admire his beautiful, great character, the strange Physiognomy of his thinking, and yet admit that morbid factors enter into this character, into this physiognomy. The problem of Nietzsche is of particularly great interest, for the reason that a man of talent struggled for years with morbid elements, and because he was able to bring forth great ideas in a connection which is explainable through psychopathology alone. The expression of genius, not the genius itself, is to be explained in this way. Medicine will have much of importance to contribute to the understanding of the spiritual picture of Nietzsche. A light will also fall on the psychopathology of the masses when Nietzsche's spiritual nature is first understood. Of course, it is clear that it is not the content of Nietzsche's teachings that has brought him so many followers, but frequently the effect of his teaching is based precisely upon the unsound, unhealthy way he has presented his ideas. Nietzsche's ideas, first of all, were not a means whereby he understood the world and humanity, but rather a psychic discharge through which he wished to intoxicate himself; this is also true in many of his followers. Let us see how he himself describes the relationship of his ideas and his feelings, in his Fröhliche Wissenschaft, Joyous Wisdom. “Joyous Wisdom means the Saturnalia of a spirit who has patiently, strongly, coldly withstood frightful, long pressure, without being subservient, but without hope, and who is suddenly attacked by hope, the hope for health, the intoxication of convalescence. It is no wonder that much foolishness and nonsense comes to light thereby; that much arbitrary tenderness is wasted even upon problems which have a prickly hide and are no adapted to fondling and teasing. The entire book is really nothing but joyfulness after long denial and impotence; the rejoicing in a returning power, in a newly awakened faith ...” (Nietzsche's Works, Volume V, p. 3). It is not a question of truth in this book, but the discovery of thoughts which a sick spirit could find to be a healing remedy, a means of diversion for himself.

An intellect who wishes to grasp the evolution of the world and of humanity through his thoughts, needs the gift of imagination, which brings him to these thoughts, as well as self-discipline, self-criticism, through which these thoughts attain their meaning, their importance, their connection. This self-discipline does not exist to any great extent in Nietzsche. The ideas storm in upon him, without being kept in check by his self-criticism. There is no reciprocal relationship between his productivity and logic. No corresponding degree of critical thoughtfulness stands side by side with his intuition.

Just as it is justified to indicate the psychopathic origin of certain religious ideas and sects, it is also justified to test the personality of a human being on a basis which is not to be explained by the laws of psychology.




Last Modified: 12-Apr-2018
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