Which Way Western Man?
William Gayley Simpson
©1978 by William Gayley Simpson. Copyright renewed 2006 by the estate of William and Harriet Simpson. All rights reserved.
|Chapter 3b||Contents||Chapter 5|
The Meaning of Nietzsche for the Modern World.1
Certainly Nietzsche was not a philosopher in the strict sense of the word. He is essentially a poet and a sociologist, and above all, a mystic. He stands in the direct line of European mysticism, and though less profound, speaks with the same voice as Blake and Whitman. These three might, indeed, be said to voice the religion of modern Europe—the religion of Idealistic Individualism.
The material about Nietzsche is so vast, and his thought bears on so many of the problems of the world in which we live, that perforce I must select. In general, I shall submit here what of Nietzsche has most deeply fed and formed my own life. And I can do this without apology because through all my reading of Nietzsche I was not thinking more about my own problems than about those of my fellows and about the whole sorry and desperate plight of Western Man. And what I felt most deeply for myself is precisely what I would urge upon the world, with the greatest conviction and urgency. And urgency is called for. The Western world must alter its course, and alter it soon, or it may forever be too late. And before such alteration is possible there must be men who have both the vision to perceive that we are fatally off course and a body of principles by which to lay out a truer and wiser one, and also, let us hope, the magnetism by which to gather our people together and lead them out of the deathtrap they are in.
Those who would prepare themselves for such an undertaking had better resolve from the start that they are not going to turn aside from what is difficult, disturbing, or costly and painful, in favor of what confirms them in their pet prejudices and most treasured assumptions, and allows them to go on giving first place to their own security and comfort and peace of mind. When we sit down to read Nietzsche we are confronted by a man whose hunger for truth, and for life at its highest and noblest, was so insatiable that he put aside every lure that might stand in the way of his quest—whether it was money, friends, wife, or influence. And he said of himself: “I am not a man, I am dynamite.” 2 Let those, therefore, who think to find the truth we need in the old and usual places, or the answers to the problems that today threaten the very existence of our people, without having to strike tent and risk all the rigors and perils of a new climb—let all such skip this chapter, or better yet, close the book right now and forget it. Those who would learn from Nietzsche, and be his worthy companions and fellow warriors, no less than those who were moved to go with Jesus two thousand years ago, must be prepared from the outset to lay down all that they have and all that they are.
Let me begin by making it clear at once that Nietzsche undertook no less than a “transvaluation of all values”—that is, to stand off and from a different angle and elevation, and with at once critical and discerning eye, to judge anew the worth of all the values by which the Western world had lived for centuries—its religious beliefs, its moral and social ideals, its very virtues. He dared challenge man’s assumptions that he knew what was good, and dared raise the question, as regards each belief, virtue, and ideal, “Who made it ‘good’? For whom is it ‘good’, and for what?” His one concern, behind everything he said, was for quality of human life. And if he attacked, it was because, for all a certain virtue or idea was hallowed in hoary tradition as “given of God,” he discerned that actually it tended to weaken and to lower man. And if he pointed out new paths, it was because he believed that only by such could mankind ascend to the heights that he had in him the powers to attain.
This concern of Nietzsche’s for human life I must put squarely in the forefront of all I have to say about him. For him it was never enough that mankind should merely go on: he must go up. Indeed, he longed that the life of man should reach an elevation theretofore not only unknown but almost undreamt. This was more than his supreme purpose: in all soberness one has to say it was his one passion. Never name, never woman, never wealth, but always that mankind might become something more than it had ever been before. He might well have said, “I am come that ye might have life, and that ye might have it more exaltedly.” And for this purpose and in the flame of this passion he consumed himself.
In view of the glow with which this aspiration filled his soul, and the ardor and abandon with which he surrendered himself to its realization, it should hardly be a matter of surprise that when he turned to confront men as he found them on every side, he was often moved to contempt. He bore with difficulty the everlasting smallness and meanness of men. Mob values seemed in complete possession. “Mob at the top, mob at the bottom,” he cried; and he spoke of “the power-rabble, the scribble-rabble, and the pleasure-rabble.” 3 Everywhere men’s ideals seemed so low, their devotion so feeble, and their will so weak.
However, Nietzsche knew that this contempt was a feeling he must overcome. His Zarathustra, who in part was a personification of Nietzsche’s own ideals for himself, is referred to as “the surmounter of the great disgust,” 4 and he dies with love and blessing on his lips for all creatures.
Indeed, it is evident that this very contempt of Nietzsche’s was born of his love. “Out of love alone,” he cried, “shall my contempt and warning bird take wing; but not out of the swamp.” And again, “What knoweth he of love who hath not been obliged to despise just what he loved?” And “to despise when we love and precisely when we love best” he declared to be “a higher and sublimer thing than loving one’s enemies.” For him “the great despisers” were ever “the great reverers,” “the great adorers.” No one who comes close to Nietzsche can doubt that his supreme concern was for life, and for life in other men as surely as for life in himself. “My soul also is the song of a loving one,” he says wistfully. Like his Zarathustra, he also loved mankind.5
But for Nietzsche what was great in man was that he was “a bridge and not a goal,” a bridge “between the animal and the Superman.” The level that man had reached was not the end. His destiny, when realized, would place him as far above the mankind of today as this mankind is above the animal. But to Nietzsche, it seemed that in the modern world man’s fate hung in the balance. He was like “a rope over an abyss, a dangerous crossing . . . a dangerous looking back, a dangerous trembling and halting.” There were times when man seemed to doubt whether he had the requisite vision and strength to fulfill his potentialities. Nietzsche threw in his whole strength, his whole self, to give man courage to believe that his way was on and up. He set man’s goal before him concrete and luminous; like a towering mountain peak whose snow-covered summit is bathed in the calm clear light of the rising sun, he created his ideal of the Superman. This was Nietzsche’s supreme absorption. “The Superman I have at heart; that is the first and only thing to me—and not man: not the neighbor, not the poorest, not the sorriest, not the best . . . What I can love in man is that he is an over-going and a down-going”—that is, one who seeks to create beyond himself, and to this end is willing that he himself should succumb.6
Nietzsche’s idea of the Superman has been grossly misunderstood. It has been caricatured in comic sheets and held up for ridicule, but actually it was the rebirth in Nietzsche of a very ancient ideal.7 The word translated from the German original, really means, “the Beyond-Man,” or that which will be above and beyond anything we know of as human now. “Ye lonesome ones of today, ye seceding ones, ye shall one day be a people: out of you who have chosen yourselves, shall a chosen people arise—and out of it the Superman.” Zarathustra is the prefiguration and personification of the kind of being Nietzsche believed would walk the Earth when mankind had more nearly realized his possibilities. Nietzsche describes him as “the Roman Caesar with the soul of Christ”—the welding together in one man of the uttermost strength and the uttermost tenderness. He speaks of the Superman as displaying “the unity in power of the creator, the lover, and the knight of knowledge”—a man of the greatest serenity, wisdom, and kindness. He will come like “a perfectly Epicurean god,” as a “transfigurer of existence,” with “love for the smallest and narrowest things.”
He will ever be one who perceives, under any and all circumstances, that “the heart of the Earth is of gold,” that “all things are baptized at the font of eternity, and beyond good and evil,” and out of the fullness of his Yea-saying instinct will declare that “the world is perfect.” 8
To this end Supermen must live much alone, very austerely, apart from the mass of men, yet venerated by them and informing the whole of society with their wisdom. They are not at all men of brute force, conquerors or dictators. They are not even men who exercise rule. Force does not rest in their hands. They are more like the pilots on the bridge who determine the way the ship must go, while the actual handling of the crew and passengers is left to others. It is their function to discover and declare the way mankind must follow in order to realize its high destiny. They are the great value-creators, the great way-finders and way-showers.
For us, with the background of democracy and the tradition that all men are equal and that the direction of affairs should be in the hands of men elected by popular vote, this conception of the Superman may lack appeal, if it be not actually offensive. But as I have already observed, Harold Laski, Communist though he was, declared many years ago that democracy must ultimately go to ruin unless it could find some way in which to produce men of the greatest wisdom, set them apart from the life of the crowd in the most complete aloofness from its tawdry aspirations and petty concerns, and attach to them the utmost reverence and authority.
On the other hand, the picture of the Superman that I have presented, largely in Nietzsche’s own words, may have struck some of my readers as so fanciful as to be little more than a myth. But I am by no means one to dismiss myth as a frail and useless thing. Rather, I incline to believe that before any people has become a great people, perhaps before any people has even come into being, it has been necessary that it hang over itself a star, a sense of its destiny, some deeply rooted faith as to the meaning of its existence. Consider for a moment the significance for the ancient Jews of their belief in the Messiah. Remember how commonly through long centuries the prospective mother pondered whether it might be her privilege to give him birth. Or recall the Jews’ belief that between themselves and Jehovah there was a covenant contract, and that from all the children of men they were his chosen people. It was not at all necessary that their beliefs have foundation in reality. As a matter of fact, I am convinced that they did not. The important thing was that this faith held them together, called forth their profoundest creative powers, and shaped and pointed them to one end. Except for this belief, which Jews have held through thousands of years, they would long ago have completely disappeared as a people.
In the light of Nietzsche’s idea of the Superman, it is seen that the proper objective of any society was not “the greatest happiness of the greatest number” or the “green meadow happiness of the herd,” as he styled the aim of Christianity and democracy. For Nietzsche the only proper, or certainly the primary, object of any society was the production of the largest possible number of superior men. With Walt Whitman he would have said, “Produce great persons: the rest follows.” Produce great men and put them at the helm, and their wisdom will make your society stable, enduring and happy; and their creative powers, as seers, philosophers, artists and the like, will make your society significant and its name glorious.
But the goal that any people sets before itself more or less determines the means for reaching it. And so it was with Nietzsche. Let me now give some typical examples of the way he felt institutions must be shaped if a people was to produce Supermen.
To begin with, he believed that no people could lift itself by its bootstraps. They cannot escape what they stand on. And they stand on their legs. That is, he stressed the importance of the physical. Such a thing as a soul without a body was outside human experience. Physical, mental, and what we have come to call spiritual—each was but an artificial aspect of what in reality was one organic whole. And in a world that had long over-emphasized the “spiritual” Nietzsche found it necessary to emphasize the importance of sound vigorous instincts and bodily health and beauty, of diet, family, blood, and race. Inevitably, therefore, he emphasized the preponderant importance of breed, of heredity, in determining the development of the individual.
In consequence, the primary purpose of the family was to bring forth children who would be able to go farther and higher than their parents. Men and women whose marriage could not be expected to do this should not be entitled to marry. On the other hand, marriage between well-matched couples of a people’s best youth should in every way be encouraged, and likewise the greatest possible reproduction from them that might be consistent with the health of the mother and the health and best rearing of the offspring. As to what constitutes “well-matched” in marriage, a unique and monumental study has been made by the Nietzschean sociologist Anthony M. Ludovici in his book The Choice Of A Mate.9
Again, Nietzsche stressed the importance of diet. Anyone who may be irked by the mere mention of this subject would do well to take a good look at Dr. Weston A. Price’s Nutrition and Physical Degeneration,10 which, in measured words, was pronounced by Professor E. A. Hooton of Harvard “a profoundly significant book.” It reveals how the direst decadence, not only physical but mental and spiritual, can apparently be precipitated in a whole people with the most fatal certainty by little or nothing more than what they put in their mouths, or fail to put in their mouths. One reason that civilized man is the sickest animal on the face of the Earth is that he does not eat the right food. In fact, most people today do not know what right food is, and perhaps could not get it if they did. Even the great body of doctors are grossly ignorant. Medicine is negative and merely remedial, rather than positive and preventive. We hear too much of pills, X-ray and surgery. Almost nowhere are the people told that if they are ever to be well they have got to live right, and that an important part of living right is eating right. Verily we are paying a tragic price for our age-long tradition that the body does not matter. We have got so used to being sick that we do not realize how sick we are; and we are so unashamed of being sick that almost nothing can be said that will arouse people even to subject their diet to examination. Yet on our bodies is built our whole superstructure of character, intellect, spirit, and culture: when that goes, everything else goes with it. I simply do not believe—after the studies that I’ve made I cannot believe—that you can get great wisdom and enduring culture, or even plain healthy judgment about the values of life, from a people as shot through with disease as we are.
This is not the place to go specifically into the complex question of what “right food” is and how one can get it. During recent decades the matter has gradually come to be covered by some very well grounded and practical books, though it is doubtful whether even one percent of the people know of their existence. But the point that I wish to make at the moment is that the importance of diet, which is at last being recognized, was stressed by Nietzsche a hundred years ago. Similarly, I might write of the significance that Nietzsche assigned to physical beauty, as an index of desirability in a mate and of health and well-constitutedness in a people. Their sense of the beautiful and of the ugly was a deposit of their “most fundamental self-preservative values.” 11 Such delight in bodily beauty has been the attitude among every great people of the past that I have studied. It has been only where the values of the ill-favored and the inferior have gained the upper hand that beauty has been contemned and neglected.
Nietzsche’s thought on race furnishes further evidence of how important he considered the physical side of life. But since I shall touch upon this when I come to my chapter presenting my own conclusions about race, I shall remark here only that despite his emphasis on it he was a long way from being any “racist,” and he wrote contemptuously of the “mendacious race-swindle” of those who talked over-confidently or arrogantly about “pure” race or pushed racial ideas beyond the limits set by strictly scientific knowledge.12 And so far was he from being an “anti-Semite” that he almost broke with his own sister because she married one of Germany’s anti-Semitic leaders. Any suspicions of Nietzsche’s views on race should be set to rest once and for all by consideration of the well-known fact that the authorized English edition of his works was initiated and financed by Dr. Oscar Levy, and that many of the translations were made by fellow Jews. Indeed, everyone who has read him thoroughly must recall how often Jews come in for appreciation and even for open admiration.
With this brief mention of Nietzsche’s views on race as sufficing for the moment, let me now pass on to a consideration of his attitude toward defectives.
Nietzsche died before the world had begun to hear of the experiments of the Austrian monk Johann Gregor Mendel, which were to lay the foundation for the science of genetics. Nevertheless, he was one of the forerunners of modern eugenics. He declared that any organism that fails to excrete its waste products, dies. And he said it pointing to the human world about him. We have allowed our religious superstition and our sentimental humanitarianism almost completely to frustrate the operation of natural selection. Blinded to the fact that human life is of very unequal worth, we actually sacrifice the more valuable to the less valuable. In our folly, we burden the sound and the capable among us with the support and care of a colossal load of human wreckage—millions of morons, feeble-minded, insane, criminals, and all sorts of the hopelessly incurable who can never come to anything whatever. Moreover, the feeble-minded are notoriously prolific. The cost of carrying all this load is prodigious, and it is growing. If we do not soon reverse the present process the land will at last be possessed by those unable even to take care of themselves. We are following the path of national and racial suicide.
The remedy is deliberately and with the greatest possible wisdom but also with unflinching firmness, to attempt to provide a substitute for the natural selection that we have suppressed. “The weak and the botched shall perish: first principle of our humanity. And they ought even to be helped to perish.” 13 The actual means to be considered for the purging of our breeding stock, however, I will leave now in the hope of giving it adequate treatment in a future chapter on eugenics. Here it must be enough to insist that the process should be pressed until the gross defectiveness characteristic of perhaps the lowest quarter of our entire population and turning up here and there on almost every level, has been eliminated. Doubtless, mistakes would be made, but I submit that no mistake we should be at all likely to make could be so serious as the truly fatal mistake that we are making now all the time by our merely leaving the problem untouched. The warning should be kept before the eyes of the entire nation: Any organism that fails to excrete its waste products, dies.
Such, then, were some of the conclusions about the physical side of life that Nietzsche believed mankind must draw if it would attain unto the Superman. In short, he stressed the importance of the biological—of breeding, diet, and eugenics. But he believed that this goal, no less inexorably, laid upon men certain requirements as to the organization of society. Every sound social structure, and in particular every social structure shaped to favor the development of the largest possible number of superior men, would take the form of a pyramid. It would be stratified according to capacity and corresponding function, would rest on a broad base of well-constituted mediocrity, and come to its apex in an aristocracy of character and wisdom. In a future chapter to be entitled “The Necessity of An Aristocracy,” I shall give a full and careful description of such a society on all its levels, and I shall frankly examine the questions that its very proposal inevitably raises, and squarely face the obstacles that must be surmounted if ever any such society, assuming its desirability comes to be recognized, is to be brought about. Suffice now to remark, in fairness to Nietzsche, that he believed that in a society of such form and tone would inferiority of every kind most certainly settle to the bottom and be eliminated, and capacity most certainly be noted, be given the exceptional opportunities of which it alone could take advantage, and find outlet for its creative powers. Thus would the whole people move most surely and steadily toward the Superman.
Nietzsche’s goal, determining the means by which it might be reached, also gave him a criterion by which to recognize obstacles in the way of its attainment. The greatest of these were Christianity and its offspring, democracy. Nietzsche hated with a profound hatred all the equalitarian doctrines, democracy along with socialism and communism. In his eyes they were the great levelers, the great enemies of all quality of life, and of all higher men. They leveled, and they leveled downward. Professedly, they conduced toward the welfare of the mass, but in fact they created conditions under which superior life appeared less and less, could not obtain the exceptional opportunities required for its development, or, if it did somehow come to great wisdom, was ignored in the process of counting noses. On Christianity he was hardest of all. Chiefly he condemned its morality, on the ground that it favored the wrong kind of life, inferior life, and tended to choke and kill out those of true intellectual and spiritual superiority, without whom no society could long even endure, let alone outstrip the entire record of the past and ascend to the heights of the Superman. However, I will say no more of Christianity here, since I must soon bring it up again in another connection.
Before I go further in the exposition of Nietzsche’s thought, I must introduce a word to prevent misunderstanding. Though he could be, and at times was, exceedingly severe in his attack and his prescriptions, it was by no means because he lacked human feeling. All who know him well agree that though he had a mind like a rapier, he had a heart of down. He was no harsher than seemed necessary, if man was to be lifted to the heights. He was never vindictive. But having willed a goal, he had the strength to accept and to will also the necessary means thereto. Any man who does otherwise is nothing more than a visionary milksop. As we shall shortly see in some detail, condemning went against an element deep in Nietzsche’s nature. He believed in holding to the positive. It was better to sow good seed than to pull up weeds. But apparently there are times when one must clear the ground that one would plant. And, even if at times Nietzsche becomes almost vitriolic, it is always to be remembered that he condemns or attacks only out of his hunger for the Superman.
The next side of his teaching of which I wish to write is his idea that all life is “will to power.” We turn now from Nietzsche as sociologist to Nietzsche as psychologist. Here also he was a forerunner—in this case, of those in our time who have sought some principle or driving force by which to understand and to explain all human conduct. But whereas others have professed to find it in sex, or in the struggle for existence, or in a combination of the two, Nietzsche believed he had found it in will to power.
It is to be regretted that he did not live long enough to make it unmistakable what he meant by “power.” But careful reflection on the passages in which the phrase “will to power” occurs, seems to leave his meaning reasonably clear.
In the first place, it may be said categorically, that it was most certainly not a glorification of force. Nietzsche despised his contemporary Bismarck and thought him “. . . strong, strong and mad. But not great.” He deplored the growing feeling for a German empire that had begun to creep through the German people in the years following their triumph in the Franco-Prussian War. He penned the most severe indictment of the centralized octopus-state, declaring it no less than “the death of peoples,” and adding that only “where the state ceaseth . . . commenceth the man who is not superfluous.” 14
It may be said further that the prerequisite for “will to power” in the ascending forms of life was always great health, well-constitutedness, strength, and excess energy. Nietzsche would have rejoiced in William Blake’s assertion that “energy is eternal delight.” 15 At its highest such excess energy lifts a man above all concern even for his existence. He exults in his strength and longs above all else simply to expend it. In his youth he springs upon his charger crying, “A short life in the saddle, Lord, not a long life by the fire!” He feels his great inner wealth, and longs to lavish it with free hand. He feels within him a love that fills and overfills him, until he longs only to let it pour itself out to the ends of the universe. He is a Blake or a Beethoven, possessed by a veritable fury of creative energy, which overcomes him, sweeps away all obstacles, and finally seizes upon great form in music or in a vision of the soul of man the like of which the world has never seen before.
But also, and always, in any and every kind of life, will to power means will toward some kind of ascendancy, expansion, or mastery. The quality of it, the object of it, the place on which its force is spent, may vary infinitely, but always there is the element of will to master something.
Nietzsche recognized that excess energy might run amuck. Indeed, there are passages in which he seems to glory in an expression of energy that was little more than a display of sheer animal vitality. But in the light of Nietzsche’s whole teaching, it is impossible to believe that he gloried in such as though it were in itself enough to make a Superman. He gloried because of his belief that only out of such strength could the Superman be created, and because of his further belief that the damage to be done by physical energy broken loose was less to be feared than the damming up, or the weakening and sickening, of great strength and creative power. “Better to seek for the Superman in a Caesar Borgia,” he declared, “than in a Parsifal.” 16 He believed passionately that out of weakness could come no good whatever. Far better violence than the peace and the seeming virtue that were actually the expression of weariness, tamedness, sickness, and defeat.
Also, Nietzsche believed that in the last analysis all life lived at the cost of others. And, though slowly and reluctantly, I have become convinced that he was right. Within some limits, what takes place among us humans is not so unlike what we can witness among the seedlings carpeting the forest floor in their struggle for light and air. I cannot make an exception even of a life like that of Whitman, Thoreau, Tolstoy, or Jesus. Every eruption of great vital strength is a danger to the weak. Even Gandhi, despite his pacifism and philosophy of non-violence, was realist enough to recognize that all life necessarily preys upon other life. Doubtless what he had chiefly in mind was the cost of human life to the life of plants and animals: which indeed is obvious. But Nietzsche went further, though his words ought perhaps to be reserved for those having psychological penetration and considerable knowledge of the deductions that seem to follow unavoidably from our anthropologists’ conclusion that man is descended from a race of killer apes.17 He declared that “life is essentially (that is, in its cardinal functions) something that functions by injuring, oppressing, exploiting, and annihilating, and is absolutely inconceivable without such a character.” 18 And again, “Here one must think profoundly to the very basis and resist all sentimental weakness: life itself is essentially appropriation, injury, conquest of the strong and weak, suppression, severity, obtrusion of peculiar forms, incorporation . . . ‘exploitation’ does not belong to a depraved, or imperfect and primitive society: it belongs to the nature of the living being as a primary organic function; it is a consequence of the intrinsic Will to Power, which is precisely the Will to Life . . . the fundamental fact of all history. . .” 19 That is, “Living consists in living at the cost of others [not only at the cost of animals, but of other humans as well. WGS]—he who has not grasped this fact, has not taken the first step toward truth to himself.” 20
Indeed, there is a further extreme of Nietzsche’s thought, in the same direction, which it seems best to state frankly, even though, without space to present it fully and to forestall likely objections, there is danger of giving false impressions. Throughout the full span of Nietzsche’s thinking, one finds a recognition that all real culture is necessarily built upon some kind of slavery. To be sure, Nietzsche used the word “slavery” in a broad sense: to his discriminating mind any man was essentially a slave whose life was not a “self-rolling wheel,” who served something outside himself, who did not follow a direction of his own, who did not both command and obey himself.21 Viewed from this angle, it is likely that the number of really (that is, inwardly) free men in any society has always been comparatively small. Among the slaves would have to be counted not only the usual soldier, farmer, and factory-hand, but also many a scientist, professional man, banker and statesman. Perhaps most men have their price, and perhaps a large part of the population is really, in one way or another, and even though not openly or directly, bought and sold. To one like Nietzsche, even our own society, which talks so much of freedom, would certainly have appeared to consist very largely of slaves. In other words, to a very considerable extent, for Nietzsche it was not a matter of ordaining slavery, but rather of recognizing that already most men are more or less of a slave nature; furthermore, that already most men serve the will of another, and have to, and thereby reveal that in reality they are slaves now; and further that, provided their needs are well cared for, they are better off, and their existence takes on a new and nobler meaning, if they do serve the will of another, provided only it be the will of a man who is truly their superior, and especially if they come to serve such a will voluntarily and by choice.
In view of the obvious latitude of this conception, it might be questioned whether Nietzsche did not shoulder a quite unnecessary incubus of odium in sanctioning slavery. For much that he recognized as slavery passes with most people as something innocuous enough. And this question could be pressed with the more cogency when one learns that Nietzsche was never indifferent to the welfare of the mass of the population. He said in one of his latest books that “the workers22 should one day live as the bourgeois [that is, the middle class] do now—but above them, distinguishing themselves by the simplicity of their wants.” 23 Also, he warned repeatedly against contempt for the average man;24 pointed out that “a strongly and soundly constituted mediocrity” was the “broad base” of the entire social pyramid;25 remarked that “it is possible that even yet there is more relative nobility of taste, and more tact for reverence among peasants, than among the newspaper-reading demi-monde of intellect, the culture class;” 26 and called for a magnanimous consideration of the common man. “When the exceptional man,” he says in one place, “treats the mediocre with more tender care than he does himself or his equals, this is not mere courtesy of heart on his part—but simply his duty.” 27 On the other hand, the assumption implicit in our modern capitalism that a man has a right to direct and to exploit the labor of his fellowmen if only he has money, this he resented and rejected so strongly that he once exclaimed, “When an inferior man takes his foolish existence, his cattle-like stupid happiness as an end, he makes the onlooker indignant; and when he goes so far as to oppress and use up other men for ends of his own, he should be struck dead like a poisonous fly”; 28 Finally, it is evident enough that Nietzsche’s very first avowal of the necessity of slavery violated his instinctive humanity and gave him pain.29
Nevertheless, Nietzsche did accept slavery even in the form in which it is repugnant to the modern conscience: he accepted it, and he approved it. It is necessary to understand the considerations that brought him to such a conclusion. Nietzsche felt that human existence really had no value except as it produced culture—philosophy, science, and art of all kinds—music, painting, sculpture, architecture, literature. But culture is the fruit of leisure, and without leisure it is impossible. Moreover, the leisure requisite for creative work is incompatible with “earning one’s living.” Experience taught Emerson the same lesson. Anxious to support his opposition to slavery by act as well as by word, he undertook to tend his own garden, and wrote, “He who does his work frees a slave.” But gradually he discovered that the gardening hurt both his thinking and his writing; and in the end he declared that “the writer shall not dig.” And he observes that all the members of the Brook Farm experiment were “cured of their faith that scholarship and practical farming (I mean, with one’s own hands) could be united.” 30 Emerson, however, continued to stand for the abolition of slavery, whereas this experience ought to have made him realize, as Nietzsche did without the experience, that great creative work and manual labor are incompatible, that freedom for great creative work can be built only upon someone else’s doing more than his share of manual labor. That is to say, if there is to be a great culture, it is necessary that there be some kind of slavery in which many men, through being held to manual labor or menial tasks of one sort or another, will be prevented from reaching their full stature, in order that other men, of greater potentialities, may attain theirs. To put it at its baldest (as Salter does once31), “The higher ranges of human life exist by more or less despoiling the lower ranges.”
And what justification can be offered for a doctrine that is at first glance so repugnant? One can only repeat and amplify what I have already said. First, there is the stark fact (or what Nietzsche believed to be the stark fact) that otherwise culture is impossible, human existence is rendered meaningless and worthless, higher men are dragged down and smothered in the mass, palace and temple are as it were invaded by swine, and the mob takes possession of the Earth. Even slavery, especially if humanity and enlightenment determine its form, cannot be so abhorrent as the chaos and brutishness of universal mass-rule. Our age of equalitarian assumptions needs to be everlastingly reminded that the vaunted Athenian “democracy,” even of the age of Pericles, was built upon a huge substratum of slavery: only about one-tenth of the total population had political rights. Secondly, to very many men subjection to the will of another does not necessarily do any injury, or involve any degradation. For most men, perhaps, really have no ideas of their own anyway, have little aspiration to become more than they now are, and are happiest when they do not have to think and decide, but may surrender the direction of their lives to others, and then simply do as they are told. Indeed, if the men whose orders they obey are in fact their superiors, then mean and mediocre lives, through their very subjection, through the fact that they help to make higher men possible and to further their ends, may acquire a dignity, an elevation, and a significance that they could never know in any other way. But indeed happiness should not be the criterion by which the issue is decided. When it is a question of whether or not a people shall produce great men, and crown itself with the highest culture, it is not vitally important who is happy and who is not happy. In any case, it is doubtless higher men, those who face the severest tasks and must bear the heaviest responsibility, who always suffer most. But again, when the issue is the whole meaning of human existence, suffering is really aside from the point. It is the price that often must be paid, which higher men will pay voluntarily and gladly, and which other men, when they are not ready to pay it voluntarily and gladly, must be made to pay. The law of sacrifice runs through all existence. Even in the evolution of an organism, whenever there has been a development of the whole or of special higher faculties, there has been some loss or diminution of importance in affected parts. Occasionally, the diminution has meant the complete elimination, the actual perishing, of affected parts. The lesser is sacrificed to the greater. And in society, if individuals sacrifice themselves to the ends of higher men, and especially if they make the sacrifice voluntarily and even with joy, as there is historic evidence that men have done, the sacrifice ennobles, if it does not even, as the word itself implies, make holy.32
But now let me submit a few passages in which Nietzsche himself states his position.
In one of the earliest of his papers we find this: “Culture, which is chiefly a real need for art, rests upon a terrible foundation . . . In order that there may be a broad, deep, and fruitful soil for the development of art, the enormous majority must, in the service of a minority, be slavishly subjected to life’s struggle, to a greater degree than their own wants necessitate . . . Slavery is of the essence of culture.” And again, “If it should be true that the Greeks perished through their slavery, then another fact is much more certain, that we shall perish through the lack of slavery.” 33 And this position he confirmed, repeatedly, throughout his life. In The Joyful Wisdom we find, “Every strengthening and elevation of the type ‘man’ also involves a new form of slavery.” 34 And still later we come upon this: “Every elevation of the type ‘man’ has hitherto been the work of an aristocratic society—and so will it always be—a society believing in a long scale of gradations of rank and difference of worth among human beings, and requiring slavery in some form or other.” 35
The above paragraphs on Nietzsche’s views in regard to slavery were in explication and application of his conviction that life was Will to Power, that as such it always involved a will to master something, a will to achieve some kind of expansion and ascendancy; that in operation all life was observed to live on other life, that human life could in no wise be excepted from the prevailing rule; that, in fact, it was precisely the highest human life that laid its levy upon other human life most heavily. We may or we may not like Nietzsche’s idea at this point, but for the moment I am less concerned to win conviction than I am to make it clear what his idea was.
The idea carried with it far-reaching and very significant implications. Its shadow fell across Darwin’s theory of evolution. This “one-sided doctrine” he undertook to correct. Darwin had said, “Life is struggle for existence.” Nietzsche replied, in effect, “Not at all. What does not exist, cannot will. What does exist, cannot will to exist. It wills to power, to some sort of mastery.” 36 Indeed, it was only the weak, clinging to life precariously, who were ever content to seek mere self-preservation. Wherever life was strong, with energy in abundance and to excess, it never aimed at mere self-maintenance, mere survival: it aimed at some extension of its power. “. . . In nature it is not the state of distress that prevails, but superfluity, even prodigality to the point of folly. The struggle for existence is only an exception, a temporary restriction of the will to live; the struggle, be it great or small, turns everywhere on predominance, on increase and expansion, on power, in conformity to the will to power, which is the Will to live.” 37 “A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength: ‘self-preservation’ is only one of the results thereof.” 38
This idea of Nietzsche’s that life was will to some kind of mastery has a no less negative bearing on several doctrines that are popular with equalitarians, pacifists, and psychiatrists. For instance, he was contemptuous of the prevalent democratic prejudice that would make environment a more determining influence than heredity.39 Life was not to be explained as mere “adaptation” and “adjustment,” the result of giving in to environment, the fruit of what might be called a policy of appeasement. Certainly strong life—and it is strong life which alone is healthy and which alone, in the long run, matters—never conducts itself in any such fashion. Strong life masters its environment, finds ways to exploit it and to use it to its own advantage. Life remains—will to power! 40
The shadow of Nietzsche’s idea of life as will to power falls likewise across the significance of “mutual aid,” one of the strongholds of those who would fain see the world purged of conflict. In the lower orders of life, even the most casual observer is forced to recognize how ruthless the struggle for mastery is. Everywhere, through countless aeons, the weak have been pushed off the Earth by the strong. But as we rise in the scale of life, victory lies more and more with those who are strong in their cunning, strong less in body than in mind. Or, as Kropotkin pointed out in an exceedingly interesting book, it may be by mutual aid.41 But even mutual aid is only a means by which the members of a group, whether animal or human, increase their strength for combat. The necessity for struggle between individuals may thereby be reduced, the area within which strife is eliminated may thereby be somewhat widened, but always to the end that the strength of the group may be increased; and it is a strength that is used to fight enemies—and, if necessary, to kill them. Mutual aid is always a means to a group mastery. The issue remains a struggle for power—and in the struggle the weak succumb.
Finally, Nietzsche saw will to power determining the values of every people. Throughout all history, we witness the masterful conquering a given territory, setting up as hallowed standards of conduct (“given by the gods”) those values that through long experience they had come to believe essential, not only to their existence but to their greatness. They hallowed the means by which they had hewed out a place for themselves in the face of their environment and their enemies.42 Nietzsche felt that the needs for life behind a people’s will to power were a more determining force than any concern for abstract truth. “. . . what after all are man’s truths? They are his irrefutable errors.” 43 “Truth is that kind of error by which a particular species has been able to survive. The value for Life is ultimately decisive.” 44
But will to power interests us most as we detect it at work in the conduct of individuals and groups in our own world today. Here Nietzsche saw it operating without fail and without exception, continuously, in every individual, in every group. What a man undertakes to master, and on what plane he undertakes to master, may vary widely, but to Nietzsche’s way of thinking there were no exceptions. The object of your will to power may be a man, or a woman, or a group of men, or a whole nation of men; it may be a craft or a technique; you may try to gain a following by intimidating men, by convincing their minds or by winning their hearts; what you master may be yourself, an art, or the meaning of existence. But Nietzsche believed that while you lived at all, you must manifest will to power of some kind, on some plane, over some thing. A mother laying down her life for her child, or Jesus going to the cross for mankind are as much examples of it as anyone else. If you deny that will to power holds for you, it means only that through another philosophy you have found—your way to power. For philosophy, too, is but an instrument in the hands of the will to power, a means by which a man undertakes, consciously or unconsciously, to increase his power over others, or to make himself feel more secure in the universe. Jesus said, “He who humbleth himself shall be exalted,” but Nietzsche replied, mischievously, “He that humbleth himself wants to be exalted.” 45 That is why he humbled himself. It is easy to see that among people who value humility, a reputation for humility will be a means for climbing above others.
Once more—let me repeat, according to Nietzsche, so long as any man lives, he manifests will to power, and cannot do otherwise.
But there was one kind of people whose will to power came to be of peculiar interest to Nietzsche. As he looked abroad over Europe, he suddenly smelled a great smell, and upon investigation discovered that it arose from the morality of the decadent. Their kind of morality proved to be characteristic of the will to power of life in a state of decay.
The decadent, in Nietzsche’s thought, are the weak and sickly, those who are badly put together, a hodgepodge of conflicting instincts. They are the botched and ill-favored, the exhausted and beaten.
In inferior people of every sort, the will to power is easily frustrated. They are not able to take their full natural shape. Consequently, in them the will to power seeks its ends through devious, underground ways, by burrowing, or by stealing up backstairs and climbing in back windows. Like all people they create that kind of morality that will serve their needs—in this case, the needs of the weak, sickly, and botched. Having no strength in themselves as individuals, they turn upside down all sound valuation of life, and pronounce the virtues of superior men evil, and turn their own weaknesses into virtues. On the one hand, out of envy and fear and hatred, they disparage and condemn those qualities of their masters that they do not possess and, because of the limits set by heredity, cannot acquire. They depreciate beauty, health, good birth, and great strength; and they deprecate self-reliance, independence, boldness, iron will, and prodigality. All the lion in man that might make him formidable, all that might lift him above them like a towering mountain peak, sources of storms, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, they cry down and call evil. They would fain undermine his belief in and reverence toward himself, and thus disintegrate the forming core within him, which, if not nipped in time, might shape him into a powerful person, above their understanding and beyond their control. The “voice of God” is made to speak always in behalf of the “neighbor,” the other man, the mass. They would thus achieve a collective strength great enough to overwhelm all superior men, and either prevent their appearance or drag them down to their own level. Thus the “herd virtues” come to the fore—“brotherly love,” for example. The ideal now is “unselfishness.” One must think first of others, regardless of what happens to oneself, even to one’s deepest Self. The cry is, “Do everything for the benefit of others. To be true to oneself is evil: it might give somebody pain. Besides, it shows pride, a setting up of one’s own will in defiance of God. To find life, to ‘please God,’ one must bend one’s neck, deny oneself, forgive all injuries, love everybody, and show it by always ‘doing good’ and ‘helping others.”’ Why? To what end? That thus it may become ever easier, more pleasant, more secure, for the kind of people who preach this doctrine—that is, for the weak, the sickly, and the mediocre—in short, for the ordinary man and the mass.
Nietzche’s supreme example of decadence was Christianity. It is historic fact that the Christian Church took root in the scum and ghetto of the decaying Roman Empire. We have already noted that the Apostle Paul himself once boasted that among the Christians there were none of great wisdom, of high social standing, or of good birth (I Cor. 1:26). C.G. Jung speaks of the “explosive spread of Christianity which, so to speak, sprang out of the sewers of Rome,” 46 and Gibbon’s great history presents much the same picture. Houston Stewart Chamberlain says that “all the foundations for the structure of historical Christianity were laid and built up by this mongrel population.” 47 Merejkowsky, in his Death of The Gods, makes one feel that the early Christians were veritable vermin. And such people cannot look out upon the wholesome things of life except through jaundiced eyes. Instinctively, they want to bring all beautiful things down to their own level. Nietzsche condemned Christianity. He linked it with alcoholism as one of “the two great European narcotics.” 48 He condemned Christianity for exactly the same reason that Jesus condemned the Pharisees—as an enemy of life. He condemned it because it diverted attention from, and poisoned belief in, strong and beautiful life here and now on the Earth. But above all, he condemned it as a gospel by which the weak shall inherit the Earth—the weak, the sickly, the mediocre. As confirmation of his insight, no matter where in the Western world one today turns one’s gaze, one finds the Earth possessed by the mob. And in the hands of such people no nation, no culture, and no civilization, can long hold together. In the years since I first wrote these words I have come gradually to believe that Christianity unfits any people for survival. The malady, of which the whole White man’s world is dying, is Christianity.49
“With Nietzsche,” it has been said, “the conscience of Europe awoke.” Some people at least awoke to what had been happening. And wherever men awake to a realization of how Christianity has poisoned our whole life, there will be need to study the effort that Nietzsche made to point out the way by which mankind, or at least and certainly our kind, might get back onto the path to ever more exalted life. For accomplishing all this, nothing could be more important than the regimen and the new morality that Nietzsche prescribed for those strong, well-constituted and loving men who know not how to live at all except as “down-goers,” who would fain lay down their lives, if only thereby they may help to build the path by which man may ascend to Superman. First, therefore, let me submit a few words about the social provision for such men.
Under ideal conditions, there would be throughout every level of the social order a constant alertness for any sign of emergent superiority. And superiority would at once be exempted from some of the ordinary duties and be given the privilege of every bit of educational opportunity by which it showed itself capable of benefiting. The cream of the youth would be given the cream of the teachers. The youthful elite of the whole land, gathered into small groups, would sit for years at the feet of the greatest minds and souls that the land afforded. Here they would be initiated into the wisdom of life, and under severe discipline specifically trained for the responsibilities that they would eventually assume.
The morality by which these young men would be shaped would be vastly different from that prescribed for the rank and file, or even for the rulers. Obviously it would be for the very few. Incidentally, as I have read the words that Nietzsche would address to them, I have been reminded at some points of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount.” But that such resemblances may be the more easily noted, though above all in the interest of general understanding, I must preface what I want to say with a few remarks about egoism.
Nietzsche believed that “altruism,” in any strict sense, was “impossible,” and called it “the most mendacious form of egoism.” 50 He declared flatly that “the individual [does not study] the interests of the species, or of posterity, at the cost of his own advantage: all this is only apparent.” 51 It is, to be sure, possible to choose the plane on which you undertake to seek increase in your own life, as Jesus did when he set his face to go to Jerusalem, but to strip every motive of all concern for what, on one plane or another, will benefit oneself, is as utterly impossible as to remain alive without breathing. If we lost this sense of what, in one way or another, would mean increase of life in ourselves, we would not know our food from our poison. Here is the very core of the instinct for life. He who loses that has become decadent indeed.
Nietzsche went further and declared “the ego wholesome and holy, and selfishness blessed.” 52 But in an effort to prevent misunderstanding he added, “That your very Self be in your action, as the mother is in the child—let that be your formula of virtue!” 53 And while he thus sanctioned egoism, yet he was very careful not to include any and every ego. “Another selfishness is there,” he said, “an all-too-poor and hungry kind, which would always steal—the selfishness of the sick, the sickly selfishness.” He called this a “larcenous craving,” and declared “. . . a horror to us is the degenerating sense which says ‘all for myself.’” 54 It is easy to see why Nietzsche had thus to speak out in defense of what, for lack of a better word, he called “egoism.” Life is in individual men and women, or it isn’t anywhere. And yet, on every side, the actual life in men, all that could give their life any meaning, was being beguiled or beaten out of them in the name of some virtue or God that was ultimately nothing but an abstraction. The life of the whole world could be exalted only as the life in the individuals composing it was enriched and exalted. At all costs, therefore, men must be given new courage, in the face of all social pressures, to reverence and to trust and to obey their own impulses.
It is to be noted, however, and pondered well, that Nietzsche was not less discriminating than Jesus in regard to the impulses that he undertook to follow and told other men to follow. What is apt to confuse us is that he abandoned the metaphysical as a cobweb tissue of lies and cowardice, and undertook to confine himself to what he was sure of neither by tradition nor by speculation but by experience. And what Jesus called “God,” when looked at from the standpoint of psychology, is exactly what Nietzsche called “Self.” For Nietzsche, both what Jesus called “God,” which it was life to love and obey, and what Jesus called “self” (with a small “s”), which he urged men to deny, were impulses of one’s own being. That is to say, you were not to be identified with the smallness and weakness within you, and your life was not to be found by denying all this in the name of some other-than-yourself, however “divine” it may be. It was your own nature at its best that was divine, and what was to be sacrificed was not yourself, but only that side of yourself that stood in the way of your truest and highest.55 In any realistic sense, therefore, there was no sacrifice. You only gave up your lesser desires to get what you wanted most. And what you wanted most, that most inescapable, unalterable, and unappeasable wanting within you, the wanting which, satisfied, was Life, and unsatisfied, was at best but a living death, that very core of you, was what Jesus called God.
After this preface, I will now make bold to present Nietzsche’s gospel for those higher men, those few most loving men, who would fain live as “bridges to Superman.”
1. “Dare only to believe in thyself—in thyself and in thine inward parts! He who doth not believe in himself always lieth!” 56 “What saith thy Conscience?—‘Thou shalt become what thou art.’” 57 But over and over again Nietzsche stressed the difficulty of “finding oneself,” of finding within one’s own being a hallowed center of direction and a source of strength that would and could shape a man’s entire life, put it under orders, give it a destiny, and be to it a god. The “way unto thyself” he pronounced “the way of thine affliction.” Inevitable suffering and danger, even the danger of self-destruction, lurked about the path of the man who set out on this quest. It would be easy for him to miss the path, and, missing it, he might never find his way to the light, but instead spend all his days groping hopelessly through the black depths of a labyrinth. Or, to put the matter differently, he would for a while and maybe for a long while have to bear a constant and bitter struggle with all the refractory elements within himself, which refused to take orders from any god, which in fact would fain set up as gods themselves, and would at the least throw themselves across the path of obedience to any other. Worse yet, he would have to be equal to giving pain to those nearest to him, who could not understand or who disapproved: it might become necessary for him to cut off the hands of those dear ones who were determined to hold him back. Sooner or later, he would have to throw away, one by one, every crutch of dependence upon tradition, authority, and the experience of other men. He must be prepared, as the final price of his integrity, to endure the icy breath of an inner aloneness like that of the Polar wastes, or of a star projected into desert space.58
Needless to say, therefore, it was something vastly different from the doctrine implied in the slogan “Be thyself” so airily held up by many today who really want only to throw off irksome restraints. The common lusting after freedom repelled Nietzsche. Before a man set out to find and follow the way unto himself, he demanded evidence that he had the strength for it, and the inner authority and necessity. “Free, dost thou call thyself? Thy ruling thought would I hear of, and not that thou hast escaped from a yoke. Art thou one entitled to escape from a yoke? Many a one hath cast away his final worth when he hath cast away his servitude. Free from what? What doth that matter to Zarathustra? Clearly, however, shall thine eye show unto me: free for what? Canst thou give unto thyself thy bad and thy good, and set up thy will as a law over thee? Canst thou be judge for thyself, and avenger of thy laws? Canst thou bear with and master all that may come upon thee on thy path?” 59
Words like these made it completely obvious that Nietzsche’s doctrine was intended for very few; and he did his utmost to warn away all those who were not ready for it—as if it were fire, by which they might get burned, or dynamite, by which they might do damage to others.
2. Implicit throughout the foregoing is the next injunction that we must believe Nietzsche would press upon every man who would fain qualify as a “bridge to the Superman”—namely, Master thyself. Nietzsche may have called men, or at least some men, to a life that was “beyond good and evil,” but though he may have called them away from the current morality and have styled himself “the amoralist” and a “free spirit,” yet he deeply believed, as must already be evident enough, that the life to which he called men required a morality more difficult and self-discipline more austere than any he rejected. He believed that before ever a man could become an organic whole, before he could know what he wanted most, and be able, without strain, to do it, he must first have put himself under stern and prolonged discipline. He who would become a free spirit must start at the bottom and advance from one stage of mastery to the next. “He who wisheth one day to fly, must learn standing and walking and running and climbing and dancing: one does not fly into flying.” 60 He declared that the kind of freedom in which he did not believe was what is often called “following one’s instincts.” “In an age like the present,” he said, “it simply adds to one’s perils to be left to one’s instincts. The instincts contradict, disturb and destroy each other . . . A reasonable system of education would insist upon at least one of these instinct systems’ being paralyzed under an iron pressure, in order to allow others to assert themselves, grow strong and dominate.” 61 Elements in one’s nature that one could neither win nor persuade to voluntary subordination to one’s innermost being, one must be ready even to kill.62 He directed those who were qualified, to a life of moderate, voluntary poverty, of great simplicity, and of much solitude.
3. The third injunction that Nietzsche would lay upon all those who would be “bridges to the Superman,” who must undertake to create beyond themselves even though they go to pieces in the attempt, is: Love thyself. But he added, and emphasized, let it be “with great love,” “with great contempt.” 63 “Not, to be sure, with the love of the sick and infected, for with them stinketh even self-love! One must learn to love oneself—with a wholesome and healthy love, that one may endure to be with oneself, and not go roving about. Such roving about christeneth itself ‘brotherly love’; with these words hath there hitherto been the best lying and dissembling. . . And verily it is no commandment for today and tomorrow to learn to love oneself. Rather is it of all arts the finest, subtlest, last and patientest.” 64 And he cries, “Where is beauty? Where I must will with my whole Will; where I will love and perish, that an image may not remain merely an image. Loving and perishing: these have rhymed from eternity. Will to love: that is to be ready also for death.” 65 “Ready must thou be to burn thyself in thine own flame. How could thou become new if thou have not first become ashes?” 66 “Only where there are graves are there resurrections.” 67
4. But Nietzsche’s “Love thyself’ had a corollary and counterpart that is homologous to the like injunction with which Jesus followed his primary teaching. Jesus had hinged everything on love to one’s God and one’s neighbor, but then, to avoid misunderstanding as to what this entailed, he said also, “If any man cometh unto me and doth not hate—his father, and mother, and wife and children . . . he can be no disciple of mine.” And in the same spirit Nietzsche enjoined, “Be not considerate of thy neighbor.” 68 And again, “My brethren, I advise you not to neighbor-love—I advise you to furthest love!—Let the future and the furthest be the motive of thy to-day; in thy friend shalt thou love the Superman as thy motive.” 69 That is, Nietzsche certainly, and perhaps Nietzsche and Jesus both, addressed themselves to a life in which they undertook to lift the eyes of mankind to a new elevation and a new destiny. This hope and this dream possessed them utterly. They gave themselves to it with a purity of devotion and an abandon such as humans are privileged to see only too seldom, and must hush into awed silence and profoundest reverence all who really comprehend what it meant. They felt that the realization of mankind’s highest hope hinged in some very real and terrible way upon their own utter fidelity. They could feel looking to them and depending on them, all those higher men about them and yet to come, some struggling to be born, some struggling to get on their feet and to find their way, others struggling to foreshadow in their own persons a new future for humankind and showing in their faces the distant light of the Great Noontide toward which their eyes were lifted and their feet set. That is, in the man who would prove worthy of so high a calling there must be something undissuadable, which will not allow him to betray himself and the higher mankind-to-come-for anything. He must beware lest the very tenderness and sympathy of his heart seduce him into infidelity.
But let me put Nietzsche’s own words before you.
“Higher than love to your neighbour is love to the furthest and future ones; higher still than love to man is love to things and phantoms. The phantom that runneth on before thee, my brother, is fairer than thou; why dost thou not give unto it thy flesh and thy bones? But thou fearest, and runnest to thy neighbour.70
“Woe unto all loving ones who have not an elevation which is above their pity’ . . . All great love is above all its pity: for it seeketh to create what is loved! ‘Myself do I offer unto my love, and my neighbour as myself! — such is the language of all creators. All creators, however, are hard!” 71
“Who can attain to anything great if he does not feel in himself the force and will to inflict great pain? The ability to suffer is a small matter . . . But not to perish from internal distress and doubt when one inflicts great suffering and hears the cry of it—that is great, that belongs to greatness.” 72
And yet again, this:
“ ‘Why so hard!’ — said to the diamond one day the charcoal: ‘are we then not near relatives?’ —
“Why so soft? O my brethren; thus do I ask you: are ye then not — my brethren?
“Why so soft; so submissive and yielding? Why is there so much negation and abnegation in your hearts? Why is there so little fate in your looks?
“And if ye will not be fates and inexorable ones, how can ye one day — conquer with me?
“And if your hardness will not glance and cut and chip to pieces, how can ye one day — create with me?
“For the creators are hard. And blessedness must it seem to you to press your hand upon millenniums as upon wax, —
“Blessedness to write upon the will of millenniums as upon brass—harder than brass, nobler than brass. Entirely hard is only the noblest.
“This new table, O my brethren, put I up over you: Become hard! —” 73
5. But the end of all such hardness is that a man should obey himself. He who cannot obey himself will have to obey the will of another, or the Garden of the Lord would soon be trampled to ruin by runaway cattle and swine. But every potential creator, who would fain fulfill his destiny, and every man who would know the wholeness that waits upon the flowering and coordination of all his powers, must learn to take his orders from that innermost core of what he is. He must, in the profoundest sense, be true to himself.
That a man may learn to obey himself Nietzsche, like Blake, would have him ignore all moral rules, or codified standards of conduct, whether they be the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, the teaching of Jesus as a whole, or anything else whatever that can be made into an external, uniform moral deadhand. William Blake was completely right when he declared, “I tell you no virtue can exist but by breaking these Ten Commandments. Jesus was all virtue and lived by impulse, not by rules.” 74 He who lives by rules can only become the Pharisee, the man who lacks the courage and the honesty to accept, and avow, and obey himself. There can be no real virtue, no personal worth that is vital and integral with one’s own innermost being, something more than a mere “skin or a cloak,” except as one’s very Self be in one’s action “as the mother is in the child.” “Let that,” Nietzsche urged, “be your formula of virtue!” 75 Let it be your whole virtue that your innermost being shows its face in your conduct.
6. One thing more is to be made explicit. I need not undertake to quote passages where the idea may be found. Perhaps indeed it is something that a man of insight senses in, and distills from, his memories of the whole body of Nietzsche’s writing. It is this: In undertaking to obey thyself, do not confuse the Self, which thou art to obey, with thy reason.
But this admonition, though very definitely to be taken to heart by all intellectuals, is not for a moment to be misunderstood as any counsel to flout the rational faculty in favor of vagaries and willfulness. Those who have followed my story thus far must recognize the great respect that I pay to the scientific evidence on any issue, and the emphasis that I have placed on accumulating a sufficient body of knowledge to form a solid basis for any important decision. And through all my intense probing of the mystical experience, I have seen to it that reason and all that goes with it, facts, analysis, deduction, discrimination, and endorsement or veto, are given their day in court, where the invisible judge, the Self, which is the concentrated center of life (impulse, desire, and will), listens with its many ears, before it retires into its sanctum of inner stillness to review the matter in its entirety and to render a verdict. Reason is thus an indispensable check and aid. But reason of itself is not alive. Everything is dead and nothing stirs until impulse comes in. Nothing stirs until one or more of the moving powers that reside in the Self begin to assert themselves. And even reason’s veto cannot be accepted as final. On occasion, under exceptional circumstances, the Self may decide to override reason’s veto—on a basis of its own.
And there are other activities of the rational faculty against which the Self needs to be even more on its guard. It generally tends to become the servant of the little self, and very expert at pulling forth reasons for why a man ought to do what in fact he wants to do only for the sake of such paltry things as security, comfort, name, and influence, by which he is tied to his past, what he has been, instead of being lured and driven toward his future, what he has it in him to become, his destiny.
Anyone in whom life is a great expansive, propelling force, therefore, has need to beware of reason as a great restrainer and paralyzer, a potential strait jacket. Blake realized this as clearly as Nietzsche did. Near the beginning of his “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” he has this famous passage:
“Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained; and the restrainer or reason usurps its place and governs the unwilling.
“And being restrained, it by degrees becomes passive, till it is only the shadow of desire.”
Thus reason can become the great deadener, the great killer of the divine possibilities in men. He who is resolved to become what he is must early learn to free himself from all undue respect for precedent and from all concern for consistency. What one does today requires no reconciliation with what one did a year ago, or even yesterday. Each set of circumstances is new and must be faced as if it had never been faced before.
But perhaps the rational faculty is to be guarded against most of all, especially among intellectuals, for its tendency to shape, dress up, organize, and press upon our consciousness patterns of conduct, even a whole series of correlated patterns, as ideas, theories, and ideals, into which we try to force our living impulses and desires. But our living impulses and desires have their own form of expression, which belongs to them, and which they take spontaneously. And when we try to force them into the dead mold of any pattern preconceived by the mind, they die. Ideas and ideals are only abstractions. They have their place, but they are without roots in one’s innermost being. And an attempt to live by them, to live not by what one deeply feels but by what one merely thinks, can be only withdrawal from life, an evasion and denial of life. It will always be artificial, forced, and in the last analysis false, a putting on of something one really is not. One could be surer of touching the springs of vitality if one undertook to “live by one’s bowels” than if one allowed oneself to be put through motions by one’s head!
But all this can be no more than general warning. In the last analysis the problem of each man who wants really to live, is individual and personal. He must find his way to the vital quick within him that is the core of himself, and live in the most intimate and instant obedience to it. As for Nietzsche himself, however, he said that his “most terrible mistress” was that which “spoke” unto him “without voice,” in the hour of his abysmal stillness. Listen for that Word, and when it has been vouchsafed unto you, heed it.
Very evidently, however, this is an experience that very few men, in mankind’s present stage of development, can ever know. Most of all it is alien to those whom Nietzsche called “the good and the just.” For to have gained the social approval that these labels imply, they must have shaped their conduct to the external, stereotyped, and largely alien requirements of the prevailing moral codes and convictions. They must have made themselves compliant, submissive, and obedient. But—in Nietzsche’s words, “he . . . who obeyeth [in the sense, that is, of conforming—WGS], doth not listen to himself!” 76 Nay, by having more and more turned away from the behest of his own soul, he has put his soul to sleep, and must in the end even put it to death, until in effect he has no soul, and his conduct is quite unillumined and unguided by any light from an innermost being of his own.
Such are the people “who say and feel in their hearts: ‘We already know what is good and just, we possess it also; woe to those who still seek thereafter!’ ” And it was precisely these people whom Nietzsche pronounced “the greatest danger to the whole human future.” He declared, much as Jesus had before him, that “whatever harm the wicked may do, the harm of the good is the harmfulest harm! And whatever harm the world-maligners may do, the harm of the good is the harmfulest harm.” 77 For they are the Pharisees, and Pharisees must they be. Moreover, him who deviseth his own virtue, who goes a way of his own, which is unfolded from within himself, him must the Pharisees ever crucify. For he makes the very earth they stand on to rock by asking what is good, and breaks up the old tables and the old values by setting up a new good, which is above and beyond the old. Jesus had only to say, “Moses and the prophets told you so and so, but I tell you otherwise” and “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, . . .”—and after that the “good and just” went out and put their heads together to destroy him. To them must such a man ever seem their most deadly foe and a veritable demon. And ever will they cry, “Give us Barabbas rather than this Jesus. Better the malefactor, who only breaks our law, than this innovator who not only breaks it but supplants it.”
And yet, asserted Nietzsche, “All that is called evil by the good, must come together in order that one truth may be born . . . The daring venture, the prolonged distrust, the cruel Nay, the tedium, the cutting-into-the-quick: how seldom do these come together? Out of such seed, however—is truth produced!” 78
7. There is yet one more body of counsel to be presented here, and with this I may well conclude my attempt to summarize Nietzsche’s admonitions to those who would fain become “bridges to Superman.” It might perhaps be epitomized in the three words: “Don’t resist evil.” Just what was the meaning that Jesus put into these same words, or the body of his experience that dictated their utterance, it is now impossible to know. In the context given to the injunction in the Gospel of Matthew it is a matter of turning the other cheek. But “overcoming evil with good” and heaping coals of fire on one’s enemy’s head, which it is commonly interpreted to mean, may be nothing but the most refined and exquisite revenge. And as there is considerable reason to believe that all such was at the utmost remove from Jesus’ spirit, it may be that the substance of his teaching at this point, and the motive behind it, were much closer to Nietzsche’s counsel than is at once apparent. But, at any rate, with Nietzsche the object was to help higher men to avoid allowing their creative powers to be diverted into, and frittered away and wasted by, mere negative resistance to evil. Necessary as it might be for other, non-creative men to attack evil with all the powers at their command, such struggle was something in which the truly creative man must see his very dire peril. Somehow he must prevent his being drawn into it. He must even seek an air, an altitude, and a fellowship in which the pressure of evil upon him will not so much as require his resistance. He must undertake to provide himself with every circumstance that will favor the happy fruition of his pregnancy, the fulfillment of his destiny.
But again, let Nietzsche speak for himself.
In his Genealogy Of Morals, written next to the last year of his real mental life, he notes how every sort of revengeful human misery presses into the consciousness of happy and healthy people and resists their right to be happy, even making them ashamed to be happy. In the face of this and as a warning to all those of decidedly superior giftedness, that they should not allow themselves to make a virtue and a mission out of trying to alleviate the handicaps and miseries of the sick, the broken, the retarded, defective or disabled, Nietzsche exclaimed:
“But there could not possibly he a greater and more fatal misunderstanding than when the happy, the well-constituted, the strong in body and soul, begin in this way to doubt their right to happiness. Away with this ‘perverted world’! Away with this shameful enervation of feeling! That the sick should not make the healthy sick—and that is what such an enervation would come to—this ought to be our supreme object on Earth—but for this it is above all essential that the healthy should remain separated from the sick, that they should guard themselves even from the look of the sick, that they should not even associate with the sick. Or might it be, perchance, their mission to be nurses and doctors? But they could not in a worse way misunderstand and slander their mission—the higher must not degrade itself to be the tool of the lower, the pathos of distance must also to all eternity keep their missions separate. The right of the happy to existence, the prior right of bells with a full tone over the discordant cracked bells, is verily a thousand times greater: they alone are the sureties of the future, they alone are under bounden duty to the future of man. What they can, what they should do, that could the sick never do, and never should do. But in order that they may be able to do what only they ought to do,79 how can they possibly be free to play the doctor, the comforter, the ‘saviour’ of the sick? . . . And therefore, good air! good air! and away, at any rate, from the neighborhood of all the madhouses and hospitals of culture! And therefore good company, our own company, or solitude, if it must be so! but at any rate, away from the evil fumes of inner corruption and the secret worm-eaten-ness of the sick!” 80
But there is yet another, even more illuminating passage, taken from one of his earlier books, which I consider to be one of the most profoundly wise and infinitely precious pieces of counsel that any creative man can lay to heart, especially in a day of decay like our own. It is entitled “Not to Be A Soldier of Culture Without Necessity,” and reads as follows:
“At last people are learning what it costs us so dear not to know in our youth—that we must first do superior actions and secondly seek the superior wherever and under whatever names it is to be found; that we must at once go out of the way of all badness and mediocrity without fighting it; and that even doubt as to the excellence of a thing (such as quickly arises in one of practised taste) should rank as an argument against it and a reason for completely avoiding it. We must not shrink from the danger of occasionally making a mistake and confounding the less accessible good with the bad and imperfect. Only he who can do nothing better should attack the world’s evils as the soldier of culture. (Emphasis added.) But those who should support culture and spread its teachings ruin themselves if they go about armed, and by precautions, nightwatches, and bad dreams turn the peace of their domestic and artistic life into sinister unrest.” 81
But perhaps the following passage, from the New Year’s resolution with which Nietzsche entered upon the year 1882, when he was 38 years old, most fully reveals the entirely positive direction in which his spirit willed to move, and which he believed essential to the rearing of all higher men.
“. . . I also mean to tell what I have wished for myself to-day, and what thought first crossed my mind this year,—a thought which ought to be the basis, and pledge and sweetening of all my future life! I want more and more to perceive the necessary characters in things as the beautiful: —I shall thus be one of those who beautify things. Amor fati: let that henceforth be my love! I do not want to wage war with the ugly. I do not want to accuse, I do not want even to accuse the accusers. Looking aside, let that be my sole negation! And all in all, to sum up: I wish to be at any time hereafter only a yea-sayer!” 82
It may, of course, be pointed out, and with complete justice, that Nietzsche was a long way from holding to this resolution for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, it is certain that the resolution was not a pretty but passing notion that he merely toyed with. Rather, do we here touch the quick of his innermost being, one of the most poignant issues of his entire life. Behind this resolution was the persistent, inextinguishable yearning of his soul, one of those unfinished fights where to the end the tide of battle rolls now forward, now backward.
In his autobiography, Nietzsche confesses that “the loathing of mankind, of the rabble, was always my greatest danger.” 83 It may come as a shock, as utterly incongruous and impossible, that any man of real nobility could feel such an emotion as loathing, especially loathing toward other human beings. But Walter Pater once said, “The way to perfection is through a series of disgusts.” And must not he, who strives toward the stars, struggle long with a feeling of loathing for the swamp that denies him footing and constantly sucks him down? Is not this very loathing an expression of his will to free himself from his past, to break its hold upon him, and to rise above it? And Nietzsche did will to shake off his past and rise above it; to free himself from the chrysalis and take to wings. And he knew that this could not be accomplished until his disgust at man’s usual smallness and meanness had been left behind. As we have seen, his Zarathustra, who was so largely the projection of Nietzsche’s own soul, is described as one about whose mouth no loathing lurked,84 as “the surmounter of the great disgust.” 85 And if it be true that a man is revealed less by what he is than by what he would be, then, I beg you, listen to what follows, for here is unveiled the pathos of Nietzsche’s very soul:
“All loathing did I once vow to renounce: then did ye (those whom he has referred to as his ‘enemies’) change my nigh ones and nearest ones into ulcerations. Ah, whither did my noblest vow then flee?” 86
The chapter from which this is taken, entitled “The Grave Song,” one of the most moving in all Zarathustra and one of the most intimately revealing of Nietzsche, should be read in its entirety. And again:
“I, however, am a blesser and a Yea-sayer, if thou but be around me, thou pure, thou luminous heaven! Thou abyss of light! — into all abysses do I then carry my beneficient Yea-saying.
“A blesser have I become and a Yea-sayer: and therefore strove I long and was a striver, that I might one day get my hands free for blessing.
“This, however, is my blessing: to stand above everything as its own heaven, its round roof, its azure bell and eternal security: and blessed is he who thus blesseth!
“For all things are baptized at the font of eternity, and beyond good and evil . . .” 87
Let the little critics have their point: much of the time, let us even say most of the time, Nietzsche did not hold to his resolution. Yet it is no less evident that Jesus also fell short of his avowed ideals and violated his own teaching. And indeed, who has not? Moreover, I might list extenuating circumstances, of which there were many. Poignant experience of my own has forced me to recognize, in the face of all theory and idealizing, that sometimes, in order to make oneself quite clear, it seems necessary to say No as well as Yes, to declare not only what one’s meaning is but also what is the denial of it, and to expose and attack its enemies. Often it seems that before one can very well hold oneself singly and severely to the positive and constructive, and build, it is necessary to raze the old, and to clear the ground, in order to get room for so much as one’s foundations.
But in my judgment it is better to attempt no defense. Let it be admitted that Nietzsche’s work would have been even greater than it was, and more of it of enduring value, if he could more steadily have lived up to his ideal for himself, and held to that New Year’s resolution. Or, if it must be conceded that what he did had to be done by somebody, and that he fulfilled his task with magnificent rectitude and strength, then let it be conceded also that he was but a Moses, who viewed the Promised Land from a mountain-top, but always from afar, and never entered in. Nietzsche himself—there is evidence of this—would have been very ready to admit as much. He was but a way-shower, a cry in the wilderness, a light in the night. He was building the bridge to Superman, aye, was a wayfarer on the bridge, but yet one that must at times falter and stumble. Superman he was not. That he knew full well. It was precisely because his reach exceeded his grasp, because he could see better than he could do and farther than he could go, that he created his Zarathustra, who thus became essentially the personification of his vision and the voice of his innermost soul, of his love, his dream, and his hope. There had thus far been no one, out of our entire human past, who in his eyes qualified as Superman.88 The Superman was yet to come—not, however, as the Jews have waited for their Messiah, but to be the object of the concentrated search and struggle of the loftiest of human spirits. And Nietzsche, better than any other man that I have come upon, saw the way thereto, and made it clear—the stars to steer by, the pitfalls to be on one’s guard against, the regimen to be followed to acquire the requisite strength. And any of us who may have been gifted with creative powers, and who feels the necessity to set his own feet in the direction of Superman, for mankind’s sake as much as for his own, will do well, instead of reproaching Nietzsche that he fell short of his own ideal, to give close heed to his counsel. For it was the expression of a sensitiveness of insight, a range of vision, and a depth and integrity of experience such as has never before, perhaps, in like combination, been achieved. And one of the most precious parts of it all is this advice to go out of the way of all evil, lest that within us which was meant to be, and which could become a swelling river sweeping on to give life and power wherever it went, should lose itself in the desert sands of mere resistance.
With some such counsel as this, which I have ventured to conjure up before you, would Nietzsche have sketched the skeletal structure of the morality that he would give to the small part of each oncoming generation who were to be reared to direct the ascending life of a healthy society. Let me briefly review it.
1. Learn to hear the Voice in which, out of thy deepest stillness, thine innermost Self would speak to thee; and when thou hast heard it, believe in it, trust it.
2. Through discipline, bring all the recalcitrant elements within thee to do the will of thine innermost Self, until thou hast become a holy Yea to Life, a new beginning, a self-rolling wheel, a creating one.
3. And love thy Self—with thine entire love, and with all the reverence thou hast in thee.
4. Love it and hold to it even when it commands thee to do what will give others pain, even when it may cause others injury. Thy love cannot be true, nor safe, until it is above all thy pity. Learn to be hard.
5. Obey thy Self. Make sure that it is thy Self, but then—simply accept it. Do not try to change it, or to improve it, but rest in it. Rest in what you are as men heretofore have been taught to rest in “the will of God.” Put aside all considerations of advantage or disadvantage, and likewise all the claims of “right” and “wrong” and those of reason.
6. Resist not evil. Go out of the way of all evil. Seek thee out circumstances in which thine innermost Self can unfold in thy life, in all its fullness, without having to struggle for breath in foul air or to meet the pressure of alien influences. Until at last thou becometh what thou art, and thy holy Yea to Life is spoken with full voice, and thou seemest to be “carved from one integral block, which is hard, sweet, and fragrant.”
It strikes me that any person of insight, upon reading these words, must often be reminded of the teaching of Jesus. For me this is not surprising, for I am inclined to think that where the two men’s words relate to the same fields of experience, they may very largely agree. Unfortunately they are the two most misunderstood great men of whom I know. Consequently, it is in large part the falsification of Jesus that clashes with the misunderstanding and distortion of Nietzsche. To my mind, Jesus was as terrible as he was tender; and Nietzsche was not less tender than he was severe.
Perhaps you think that Jesus was more considerate of others than Nietzsche, but we must not forget Jesus’ injunctions in regard to family loyalties, which seem to me the severest that have ever crossed the lips of man. On the other hand, perhaps I have never encountered consideration for the feelings of other people quite so exquisite as Nietzsche showed when he enjoined that we should avoid abashing anyone—that is, avoid causing any personal humiliation or loss of self-possession.89 Or do you think that Jesus was more concerned for the masses? I can only ask: Where is your evidence? It seems to me he never slowed his pace for the weak or lowered his hurdles to make it easier for the sheep to enter his fold. He always went ahead as far as he could and as fast as he had it in him; let those come after him who were able. And as for those who had neither “ears to hear” nor “eyes to see”—that is, those who could not “bear fruit,” did he not at one time compare them to “swine” and “dogs,” and say of them again and again that they were like trees that were good only to be cut down and burned? Apparently, as far as his purpose was concerned, they were only obstacles in the way.
And if anyone still thinks that Jesus was humble, I would ask him what evidence of it he can point to. I myself cannot recall one thing Jesus ever said or did that I should call humble. William Blake understood him aright, as shown in a passage from one of his poems that I quoted in my last chapter. Having raised the question: “Was Jesus humble?” he declared that the course Jesus followed was a matter of “humble to God, haughty to man,” And he clinches the matter by making God pronounce: “If thou humblest thyself, thou humblest Me; Thou also dwell’st in eternity.” And in “The Stillest Hour,” that deeply moving chapter in his Zarathustra, Nietzsche makes precisely the same point.90
No, in their combination of tenderness and hardness, in their refusal to adjust their pace to the pace of the crowd, in the placing of their humility, and indeed (with due allowance for difference in terms) in their fundamental understanding of the inner life of man, I think the two men may have been very much the same. Moreover, both were mystics. That Nietzsche, for all he said against many kinds of mysticism, was essentially a mystic himself, seems to me beyond question. This was recognized, for instance, by my friend Miss Emily S. Hamblen, perhaps the first person in America to write on Nietzsche, and also by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, one of the outstanding interpreters of the East to the West, and a man with wide knowledge of things mystical. In his The Dance of Siva he declares that “Nietzsche was in the direct line of European mysticism along with Blake and Whitman.” 91
Indeed, Nietzsche’s mysticism is more congenial to me than what I can deduce concerning that of Jesus. As my reader will recall, the collapse of my Franciscan venture was followed by a period of disillusionment. I felt that I had been led into a dead-end by my obedience to that still small voice within me, which I had called God. As a result, my faith in that kind of leading had been shaken. I found it necessary to look behind the scenes. I said to myself, recollecting my past experience, “Something spoke within me. I called it God. But what ground had I for calling it God?” I came to believe that I had no ground. And though in time I was able to believe again in the validity of the mystical experience and once again undertook to devote myself to an obedience to my still small voice as implicit and literal as before, I thenceforward looked upon it from a psychological point of view. What spoke in me at any given time was a synthesis of all my highest perceptive faculties. It represented the highest wisdom, in regard to the situation then before me, that was able to reach my consciousness at that stage in my development. But I was no longer able to put behind it that omniscience, omnipotence, and the like, that most people connect with the idea of God. Indeed, from that day to this I have remained utterly agnostic about all absolutes and ultimates. I know nothing about a “moral order of the universe”: I admit that I do not. I have no means by which to explore the universe or to get beyond the content of my own consciousness. I have come to feel that the belief in a metaphysical God (that is, the common belief in God) has no solid foundation. But I find within myself a wisdom and a strength by which I am able to walk without dependence upon these crutches that I once found so necessary. And likewise Nietzsche, in referring to his mystical experience, limits himself to what Professor Leuba referred to as its “raw stuff,” and says only, “Then was there spoken unto me without voice . . .” 92 He holds himself close to what, if anything, he knows. For me this is solid ground. Here I am at home with Nietzsche, as I am not with Jesus.
Finally, and by no means least, Jesus and Nietzsche are alike in that both went to a kind of crucifixion. The suffering that Nietzsche bore during the last ten years of his thinking life, together with his final mental breakdown, in some ways constitutes a crucifixion more terrible than the more literal one of Jesus. In any case, I find in the price that both paid the final seal they put upon their conviction that the message they had delivered was true, and at the same time an evidence of the measure of their devotion to humankind. I know well that a man’s willingness to suffer proves nothing as to the worth of his cause. And yet I confess—let it be written down as my weakness if that is what it be—that I am not moved to my depths until I have seen a man lay down his all. Blake, I believe, died singing, and therein I feel the triumph of his spirit. And yet I wonder if he would have had quite so much breath for singing if he had thrown himself with more abandon into the thick of the fight, or if he had made himself more fully one with the soul of struggling humanity. But Nietzsche wrote, “As deeply as man looketh into life, so deeply doth he look into suffering.” 93 He cried to the potentially “higher men,” whose ear he hoped to catch, “Ye do not yet suffer enough for me! For ye suffer from yourselves, ye have not yet suffered from man! Ye would lie if ye spake otherwise! None of you suffereth from what I have suffered.” 94 He foresaw all the pressures that could be, and would be, brought to bear upon them to yield, but he called upon them that they should “rather despair than submit.” “And verily, I love you, because ye know not to-day how to live, ye higher men! For thus do ye live—best!” 95 He knew that higher men must “always have it worse and harder. . . Thus only groweth man aloft to the height where the lightning striketh and shattereth him.” 96 Like Jesus, Nietzsche knew that he was a “firstling,” and that “a firstling is ever sacrificed.” 97 He felt his long loneliness and the burden of his task breaking him—but he went on. He saw the lightning poised over his head—but he went on—until it struck.
All through his greatest book, his Zarathustra, runs the call to surrender oneself to one’s highest love. “I love those who know not how to live except as down-goers, for they are the over-goers.” 98 “What matter about thyself! Speak thy word, and succumb!” 99 “Loving and perishing: these have rhymed from eternity.” 100 “Ready must thou be to burn thyself in thine own flame.” 101 “I love him who seeketh to create beyond himself, and thus succumbeth.” 102 “I love those who do not wish to preserve themselves, the down-going ones do I love with mine entire love.” 103 “I love him whose soul is lavish, who wanteth no thanks and doth not give back: for he always bestoweth, and desireth not to keep for himself.” “I love those who do not first seek a reason beyond the stars for going down and being sacrifices, but sacrifice themselves to the Earth, that the Earth of the Superman may hereafter arrive.” “I love all who are like heavy drops falling one by one out of the dark cloud that lowereth over man: they herald the coming of the lightning, and succumb as heralds . . . the lightning, however, is the Superman.” 104
And it is men of this kind that I love, too. To them goeth out my entire love. In my heart, I kneel before them, in long silence. But above all, before Nietzsche. Yes, I came at last to the place where I had to put Nietzsche before Jesus. As I maintained in my last chapter, Jesus lived too long ago. His force is now too largely lost in quibbles over his words, what they mean, whether he meant literally what he obviously said, whether he would say the same things if he were confronted by the world of today. Moreover, his “hard sayings”—and it is of them that we are in direst need—have so long been overgrown with an utterly false conception of Jesus that they are almost completely ignored. Most people do not even know they exist. To be sure they are read, but that has only made it the worse, for their reading has usually been but a mumbling, utterly devoid of any comprehension of what the words mean. If only once in a while the words would explode in the reader’s face! But they don’t. The droning has gone on. Long ago, they became little better than dead duds. I doubt if anything can ever make them again the fire and sword and light and lightning that they were when Jesus spoke them.
But Nietzsche’s words are still alive. They have not yet become buried or had their charge drawn. They cut, pierce, dig, blast, pry open windows and doors, flood whole landscapes with light, paint rainbows, and dance on sunbeams. No one can read them and forget them—or lightly set them aside. Moreover, his teaching is not so fragmentary as that of Jesus. It is no mere handful of sayings. The same problem is approached from many sides, and again and again, through sixteen volumes. The words pile up into arrows and ever-recurring road-signs, the direction of which no man with eyes in his head can mistake. Moreover, the world in which Nietzsche set up his signposts is a much larger one than that which Jesus seems to have wrestled with. Above all, it is our own world—a world of science, industrialism, organized labor, cities, banks, democracy, socialism, nationalism, the octopus state, mechanized war; a world of “evolution” and “progress,” of anthropology, genetics, psychology, sociology; of books, newspapers, and universities—all but radios, movies, and television. This is the world whose problems we must somehow solve, or perish. But for Jesus this world did not even exist. It had not come into being. Indeed, so far as I can see he did not concern himself even with “the world” that was all about him—slavery, poverty, prostitution, a conquered Palestine, Caesar, war. There is no call to social reform. There is not a word about “advancing” the Kingdom of God.
Apparently he saw the world as a collection of individuals, and he confined himself to the inner life of individuals and their relations to one another. That the quality of life in our individual men and women must determine the health of our society, as the health of an organism must depend on the state of the cells that compose it, I will at once concede, and, at the same time, that it constitutes the very core of our problem. But I have become convinced that it is by no means our whole problem. It is possible for a people so to ignore the “differential birthrate” and the laws of genetics in general, that they breed out of existence the people of that capacity to think, to feel, and to aspire, who alone can make anything of the inner life of man. Of what conceivable use is any high teaching to a race of near-morons? Apparently, Jesus was so intent on his task with individuals, and with the present, that he never perceived this problem or reckoned with the future. Nietzsche, however, faced the whole range of modern problems with a completeness and a rigor unmatched, to my knowledge, in any other man. He not only gave an answer to the problems of the inner life of the superior individual (the chief problem that Jesus undertook to face), but he also pointed out with unmistakable clearness and moving earnestness what steps must be taken to make the appearance of such persons both possible and more frequent. Indeed, he at once pointed out how our vaunted “modernism” was but a steady slipping into decadence, and gave us a means by which the bedwarfing and debauching of man might be arrested, and a whole people be taken in hand, disciplined, groomed, and set on its way to heights of strength, and beauty, and majesty never before known.
And there we must leave him. He staked his all on his conviction that his teaching contained the way to life, both for the individual and for society. What will come therefrom, it is yet too soon to say. He believed that it would, as he put it, “break history in half,” even as Jesus broke it in half—that he was “the second one” (in point of time) as he recognized that Jesus was the first. But whether his foresight was as clear as his insight yet remains to be discovered. Sometimes, I fear that mob-mindedness has too largely possessed even the best of us—even those who must do most of our thinking and leading: we have become too smug, too comfortable, too soft and sentimental, to be equal to the stern measures that alone could arrest our descent and yet save us. Where shall we now find the necessary iron, the honesty, and the capacity both to suffer and to initiate measures that will bring suffering to others? But—more than any other man I know—Nietzsche has shown the way to Life. The chief question before us is: Do we have the will thereto?
1 For those whose reading of this chapter may impel them to look into Nietzsche more thoroughly, I append the following short, select bibliography:
§ Salter, William M.—Nietzsche The Thinker, Holt, 1917. This exposition of Nietzsche’s philosophy shows more sensitive insight than any other I know.
§ Morgan, George A., Jr.—What Nietzsche Means, Harvard University Press, 1941.
§ Ludovici, Anthony M.—Who Is To Be Master Of The World? Allen & Unwin, n.d. Best for Nietzsche’s sociological teaching.
§ Foster, George Burman—Friedrich Nietzsche, Macmillan, 1931. Best introduction for those with a Christian background.
§ Halevy, Daniel—Life Of Friedrich Nietzsche, T. Fisher Unwin, London, 1914.
§ Nietzsche In Seiner; Briefen Und Berichten Der Zeitgenossen, Die Lebengeschichte in Dokumenten, Edited by Alfred Baeumler, Kroner Verlag, 1932.
§ Nietzsche Briefe, Edited by Richard Oehler, Insel-Verlag, Leipzig, 1911.
§ Lichtenberger—The Gospel Of Superman. Translated from the French by J.M. Kennedy. T.N. Foulis, 1910.
2 Ecce Homo, Auth. English Ed., p. 131. All subsequent references, unless otherwise specified, will be to the same edition, published by Macmillan, under various dates. The individual works cited may be identified by the following abbreviations:
EGP—EARLY GREEK PHILOSOPHY
GM—GENEALOGY OF MORALS
DD—THE DAWN OF DAY
Z—THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
WP—THE WILL TO POWER
BGE—BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
JW—THE JOYFUL WISDOM
TI—THE TWILIGHT OF THE IDOLS
3 Z, Ch. XXVIII, p. 114.
4 Z, Ch. LXVIII, p. 328.
5 Z, Ch. LI, p. 216; Ch. XVII, p. 74; LVIII, p. 272; Prologue, Sec. 4, p. 9; Ch. XXXI, p. 124; Prologue, Sec. 2, p. 5. BGE, p. 160 (Aphorism 216).
6 Z, Ch. LXXIII, Sec. 3, p. 286; Ch. XVII, end, p. 74.
7 In regard to all this see “Superman,” Chap. III in P.D. Ouspensky: A New Model Of The Universe, Knopf, 1934.
8 Z, Ch. XL, p. 159; Ch. XLVIII, p. 200 ff.; Ch. XXII, p. 89; W.toP., Vol. II, Aph. 983, p. 380; Aph, 1003, p. 388; TI, pp. 218, 280, 281.
9 John Lane, London, 1935.
10 Harper, 1939.
11 WP, Vol. II, p. 246. Those responsive to this point of view would probably be enlightened and stimulated, as I was, by Physical Beauty And Racial Betterment by Knight Dunlap, for many years Professor of Experimental Psychology at Johns Hopkins University, C.V. Mosby, St. Louis, Mo., 1920.
12 See Nietzsche’s Die Unschuld Des Werdens, Kroners Taschenausgabe, Band 83, p. 433. “Maxime: Mit keinem Menschen umgehen, der an dem verlognen Rassen-Schwindel Anteil hat.” (Have nothing to do with any man who takes part in the race-swindle.) In the Authorized English Edition (Macmillan), see Vol. XIII, The Genealogy Of Morals, p. 226. However, though he scoffed at the idea that there were in fact any “pure” races in Europe, it is amply evident from Aphorism No. 272 in The Dawn Of Day (p. 253) how much importance he attached to purity of race as an ideal. “Purified races,” he says, “have always become stronger and more beautiful. The Greeks may serve us as a model of a purified race and culture, and it is to be hoped that some day a pure European race will arise.” Racial purification, that is, was both desirable and possible.
13 TI, pp. 128, 131-2. Cp. Z, Ch. XXI, p. 83; Ch. LVI, Sec. 20, p. 255; WP, Vol. I, pp. 46-7, Vol. II, pp. 194, 368.
14 Z, p. 57 (Ch. XI).
15 Poetry and Prose of William Blake, Nonesuch, London, 1927, p. 191 (“The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.”)
16 EH, p. 58.
17 See Robert Ardrey’s recent books African Genesis (Artheneum, 1961) and The Territorial Imperative (Artheneum, 1966).
18 GM, p. 88.
19 BGE, pp. 226-7.
20 WP, Vol. I, p. 294.
21 Cp. the dictum of Ezra Pound: “The slave is one who waits for someone else to free him.” IMPACT, Regnery, 1960, p. 209.
22 For this translation, “the workers,” see the German original, or Salter (op. cit.), p. 440. “Noblemen,” as in the authorized English edition, is an error.
23 WP, Vol. II, Aph. 764, p. 209.
24 TI, pp. 219-220.
26 BGE, Aph. 263 end, p. 239.
27 TI, p. 220.
28 Salter (op. cit.), p. 440, cites this from a German edition of Nietzsche’s “Nachlass” (literary remains, published after his death) to which I do not have access.
29 See EGP, p. 6 ff. Better, the entire chapter, pp. 3 to 18.
30 Ralph Waldo Emerson, essay entitled Wealth, in Conduct of Life, Fireside Ed. 1909, Vol. VI, pp. 112-13. Cp. Salter, op. cit., pp. 72-3.
31 Salter, op. cit., p. 38.
32 To the thoughtful reader, who wishes to explore this matter further, I suggest a reading of the passages in Salter (op. cit.) listed in his Index under “Slavery,” “Higher Individuals,” and some of the passages indicated under “Sacrifice.”
33 EGP, pp. 6,7,9.
34 P. 343 (Aph. 377).
35 BGE, p. 223 (Aph. 257).
36 Z, p. 137 (Ch. XXXIV).
37 JW, 289f. (Aph. 349).
38 WP, Vol. II, p. 128 (Aph. 650).
39 This prejudice, as I have called it, is simply an uncritical and unfounded assumption, and nothing else. Carleton Putnam, in his Race and Reality (Public Affairs Press, Washington, D.C., 1967, p. 58) says, “. . . the answer [as to the relative importance of heredity and environment] was available in studies conducted with identical twins raised apart in radically different environments. Here the inheritance was the same—only the environment differed. The results had been published and as usual remained, uncontradicted by any scientific counter-facts. Although the effect varied somewhat with different traits, the over-all influence of heredity was found to exceed that of environment in a ratio of about 3 to 1.” A lengthy footnote to the same page cites extensive scientific authority in support of this position. The case is summarized in Mankind Quarterly, 1964, Vol. 4, No. 4, pp. 197-204.
40 See WP, Vol. I, p. 62f. (Aph. 70). Cp. Vol. II, p. 127 (Aph. 647).
41 Prince Peter Kropotkin—Mutual Aid, Knopf, 1916.
42 See Z, Ch. XV, Cp. WP, Vol. I, pp. 50, 51; 212 (Aph. 254); 215 (Aph. 259); 372 (Aph. 455); Vol. II, p. 20 (Aph. 493); 26 (Aph. 507); 48 (Aph. 532, end), 49 (Aph. 534); 146 (Aph. 675).
43 JW, p. 208 (Aph. 265).
44 WP, Vol. II, p. 20 (Aph. 493).
45 HH, Vol. I. p. 88. Emphasis added.
46 C.G. Jung — Contrihutions To Analytical Psychology, Harcourt, 1928, p. 173.
47 Houston Stewart Chamberlain — The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, John Lane, 1913, Vol. I, p. 252.
48 TI, p. 51.
49 Recently, since writing this, I have happened upon the passage in Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols (p. 48) where he declares Christianity “essentially an anti-Aryan religion . . . the transvaluation of all Aryan values . . . the general insurrection of all the down-trodden, the wretched, the bungled and the botched, against the ‘race,’—the immortal revenge of the Chandala as the religion of love.” And in like vein Karl Jung wrote: “But the Germans did not make their conquest of the Roman world without becoming infected by some of the diseases which flourished so unwholesomely in Rome during her last days. Foremost among them was an infection which the Romans themselves had caught during the first century, a consequence of their own conquest of the Levant. It had begun as an offshoot of Judaism, had established itself in Jerusalem and a few other spots in the eastern Mediterranean area, and had traveled to Rome with Jewish merchants and speculators, who had long found that city an attractive center of operations. It eventually became known to the world as Christianity, but for more than two centuries it festered in the sewers and catacombs of Rome, along with dozens of other alien religious sects from the Orient; its first adherents were Rome’s slaves, a cosmopolitan lot from all the lands conquered by the Romans. It was a religion designed to appeal to slaves: blessed are the poor, the meek, the wretched, the despised, it told them, for you shall inherit the Earth from the strong, the brave, the proud, and the mighty; there will be pie in the sky for all believers, and the rest will suffer eternal torment. It appealed directly to a sense of envy and resentment of the weak against the strong.”
50 WP, Vol. I, pp. 10 and 58.
51 WP, Vol. II, 153 (Aph. 680).
52 Z, Ch. LIV.
53 Z, p. 112 (Ch. XXVII).
54 Z, pp. 86-7 (Ch. XXII).
55 This has been stated most succinctly by the Hindus as a matter of the sacrifice of the self, by the self, to the Self.
56 Z, p. 147 (Ch. XXXVII).
57 JW, p. 209 (Aph. 270). Emphasis added.
58 See, for instance, Z, p. 47f. (Ch. VIII); pp. 70-74 (Ch. XVII).
59 Z. p. 71f. (Ch. XVII).
60 Z, p. 238 (Ch. M. Cp. Ch. VIII.
61 TI, p. 99f.
62 Z, p. 72 (Ch. XVII).
63 Z, P. 208 (Ch. XLIX). Cp. Chs XVI and XVII (end).
64 Z, p. 235 (Ch. LV).
65 Z, p. 147 (Ch. XXXVII).
66 Z, p. 73 (Ch. XVII, near end).
67 Z, p. 134 (Ch. XXXIII, end).
68 Z, p. 243 (Ch. LVI, Sec 4).
69 Z, p. 70 (Ch. XVI, end).
70 Z, p. 69 (Ch. XVI).
71 Z, p. 105 (Ch. XXV).
72 J.W., Aphorism No. 325.
73 Z, p. 261f. (Ch. LVI, Sec 29).
74 Poetry and Prose of William Blake, Nonesuch Press, London, I vol. ed., 1946, p. 191—in the last “Memorable Fancy” of “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.”
75 Z, pp. 110, 112 (Ch. XXVII).
76 Z, p. 244 (Ch. LVI, Sec. 7).
77 Z, p. 259 (Ch. LVI, Sec 26).
78 Z, pp. 244, 259-260 (Chap. LVI, Sections 7 and 26).
79 This rendering, which is mine, seems to me truer to the original than that in the authorized edition of Nietzsche’s works. 80 GM, p. 160f. (Third Essay, Aph. 14).
81 HH, p. 98 (Aph. 183).
82 JW, p. 213 (Aph. 276).
83 EH, p. 26.
84 Z, p. 4 (Prologue, Sec. 2).
85 Z, p. 328, Ch. LXVIII.
86 Z, p. 132, Ch. XXXIII.
87 Z, p. 200f., Ch. XLVIII: “Before Sunrise.”
88 Z, p. 108, Ch. XXV, end.
89 Z, p. 78, Ch. XIX; p. 102, Ch. XXV. Cp. JW, p. 209, Aph. 274.
90 Z, p. 175ff. (Chap. XLIV).
91 Ananda K. Coomaraswamy—The Dance of Siva, Sunrise Turn, Inc., New York, 1924. Chapter entitled “A Cosmopolitan View of Nietzsche,” p. 115ff.
92 Z, p. 175. (Ch. XLIV).
93 Z, p. 189 (Ch. XLVI).
94 Z, p. 354 (Ch. LXXIII, Sec. 6).
95 Z, p. 352 (Ch. LXXIII, Sec. 3).
96 Ibid., Sec. 6.
97 Z, p. 244 (Ch. LVI, Sec. 6).
98 Z, p. 9 (Prologue, Sec. 4).
99 Z., p. 176 (Ch. XL).
100 Z, p. 147 (Ch. XXXVII).
101 Z, p. 73 (Ch. XVII).
102 Z, p. 74 (Ch. XVII).
103 Z, p. 244 (Ch. LVI, Sec. 6).
104 Z, pp. 9-11 (Prologue, Sec. 4).