Dear Herr Professor, when it comes to it I too would very much prefer a professorial chair in Basel [University] to being God; but I did not dare to go as far in my private egoism as to refrain for its sake from the creation of the world … being condemned to entertain the next eternity with bad witticisms.Friedrich Nietzsche to Jacob Burckhardt
Letter of 6 January 1889
It is a tragic fact that Nietzsche was ill, and this illness famously resolved itself into madness. Yet, despite his errors, his contradictions, his contribution to modernity’s moral malaise, he kept one foot planted in the camp of civilization. A part of him struggled against nihilism. At odd intervals he looked forward to the reconstruction of civilization — even allowing (in one passage) that the “death of God” was “only a rumor”; that he himself could believe in God, as long as it was a “dancing God.” In his madness, indeed, Nietzsche said he would have rather been a professor at Basel University than God.
Considering the more demonic attributes of latter-day professors, we need not assume the worst about the ailing Nietzsche; for unlike today’s academics, there was method in this madness. “Every form is accompanied by an inclination,” noted Aquinas. If our latter-day professors tend to malevolence, there was a streak of benevolence in Nietzsche. Yes, he questioned the foundations of morality; but only to find a pathway back from nihilism to the madhouse.
It is a peculiar feature of Nietzsche’s thought that he both dreaded and welcomed the end of civilization. His nihilism was therefore inconsistent. Charity directs us to appreciate, rather, his keen criticism of mankind’s hypocrisy. There was only one Christian, Nietzsche said, and He died on the cross. Here we find a deeper appreciation of man’s wickedness than one usually finds in academics. Nietzsche summarized man’s situation as “Nero on the throne, [and] God on the cross.”
Nietzsche, of all the dubious thinkers of modernity, was primarily thinking of us — of those who would reap the grim harvest of nihilism. In this matter he referred to himself as a “posthumous man” — a thinker whose intelligibility would only come into focus after his death. The Victorian Age in which he lived could not see that an age of unimaginable violence and tyranny was approaching; that ideological dictators would arrive with the twentieth century. The Victorians, naively believing in the triumph of Christian values, could not foresee the coming inversion of those values — what Nietzsche called “the transvaluation of all values.”
If Nietzsche’s insights were sometimes contradictory or confused, his foresight was nevertheless outstanding. He taught us to regard people and things not as they were, but as they were becoming. Nietzsche despised Christians because they were not at all Christ-like. Nevertheless, he believed that Christian civilization produced a conscientiousness and truthfulness that made science possible, that brought men to a higher standard of honesty. It was through the degeneration of Christianity he feared the emergence of a new and terrible socialist religion. In the “parable of the madman” Nietzsche proposed something which must have seemed shocking at the time; namely, that the Christians had murdered their own God without even knowing it.
Nietzsche lost his mind in January 1889. At this time he wrote a series of strange letters to persons known to him and those, like the King of Italy, he did not know. For example, Nietzsche wrote to August Strindberg: “Alas … not divorced after all?” This is almost funny, given Stringberg’s plays. Nietzsche signed it, “The Crucified.” To Fraulein von Salis he wrote, “God is on the earth. Don’t you see how all the heavens are rejoicing? I have just seized possession of my kingdom, I’ve thrown the Pope in prison, and I’m having Wilhelm, Bismarck, and [antisemitic politician Adolf] Stocker shot.” Once again, he signed it, “The Crucified.”
Nietzsche told his landlord in Turin that the king and queen of Italy would soon pay a visit. Adding to this picture of madness, Nietzsche tore up money that was later found in his wastebasket. On 3 January 1889 he was escorted home by two policeman after attempting to shield a horse from being beaten. It is a scene, curiously enough, copied out of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, wherein Raskolnikov dreamt “of drunk peasants beating a horse … and, overcome by pity, he embraces the dead animal and kisses it.”
Cosima Wagner received a very strange note from Nietzsche. “To Princess Ariadne, My Beloved. It is a mere prejudice that I am a human being. Yet I have often enough dwelled among human beings and I know the things human beings experience, from the lowest to the highest. Among the Hindus I was Buddha, in Greece Dionysus — Alexander and Caesar were incarnations of me, as well as the poet of Shakespeare, Lord Bacon. Most recently I was Voltaire and Napoleon, Perhaps also Richard Wagner … However, I now come as Dionysus victorious, who will prepare a great festival on Earth … Not as though I had much time … The heavens rejoice to see me here … I also hung on the cross …”
Nietzsche wrote a series of small notes to Cosima Wagner to proclaim the “Gospel” and his love of her as “Ariadne.” He wrote to Georg Brandes, who would later make him famous, “To my dear friend Georg! After you discovered me, it was no great feat to find me. The problem now is how to lose me …” To Hanns von Bulow he wrote: “Considering that you started out as and have been the first Hanseat, I, in all modesty, merely the third Veuve-Cliquot of Ariadne, I may not have already ruined the match for you: rather I condemn you to the ‘Lion of Venice’ — who may devour you …” He signed it “Dionysus.”
To the historian Jacob Burckhardt, his former colleague at Basel University, he wrote: “My highly honored Jacob Burckhardt: That was the little joke on whose behalf I bear the tedium of having created the world. Now you are — thou art — our great greatest teacher: I, together with Ariadne, need only to be the golden mean in all things, having in every respect such superiors …” He signed it, “Dionysus.”
On 4 January 1889 he wrote to Paul Deussen: “After you have irrevocably risen to the position that I have really created the world, it appears that friend Paul will also be provided for in the world plan: he shall be, together with Monsieur Catulle Mendes, one of my greatest satyrs and festival animals. Dionysus.”
To Peter Gast he wrote, “To my maestro Peitro. Sing me a new song: the world is transfigured and all the heavens are joyous. The Crucified.”
To the King of Italy he wrote, “To my beloved Umberto. My peace be with you! Tuesday I shall be in Rome. I should like to see you, along with His Holiness the Pope. The Crucified.” To Cardinal Mariani, the Vatican Secretary of State, he wrote: “My beloved son Mariani. My peace be with you! Tuesday I shall be in Rome, in order to pay my respects to His Holiness. The Crucified.” He wrote to the House of Baden: “Children, it is not good for you to get involved with the crazy Hohenzollern [rulers of imperial Germany], although you, through Stephanie [Napoleon’s niece], are of my race … Withdraw yourselves modestly [and] return to private life, I give Bavaria the same advice … The Crucified.”
To Franz and Ida Overbeck he wrote that he could pay his debts and that “I am just having all the anti-Semites shot.” He wrote a complementary letter to “the Illustrious Pole” and to Erwin Rohde: “To my growly bear Erwin,” and then he made reference to Hippolyte Taine as a composer of the Vedas, and “transposed” Rohde to the gods, “with the most beloved goddesses at your side … Dionysus.”
The crazy letters do not even stop here. Nietzsche wrote a brief note to Carl Spitteler about taking revenge on himself for being a god. To Supreme Court Justice Dr. Wiener he wrote of Wagner’s irresponsibility, perhaps alluding to the great composer’s antisemitism, signing himself “Dionysus.” Then came a long letter to Jacob Burckhardt, once more: “Dear Herr Professor, When it comes right down to it I’d much rather have been a Basel professor than God … But I did secure a small room, fit for a student, opposite the Palazzo Carignano (– in which was I was born as Victor Emmanuel), from whose desk I am able to hear that splendid music coming form below me, in the Galleria Subalpina. I pay 25 frs. including service, make my own tea and do all my own shopping, suffer from torn boots, and constantly thank heaven for the old world, whose inhabitants were not simple and quiet enough. – Since I am doomed to entertain the next eternity with bad jokes, I am busy writing, which leaves nothing to be desired, is very nice and not at all taxing. The post office is five steps away, I take the letters in myself, handling the great feuillitoniste of the grande monde. Naturally I am on terms with Figaro, and so that you will have an idea of how harmless I can be, here are my first two bad jokes….”
Being insane, Nietzsche told the doctors he had contracted syphilis. The doctors readily echoed this diagnosis. Public opinion later accepted it without question, though his sister Elizabeth sought to undo the stigma. However, Nietzsche’s illness almost certainly started in childhood. Others have tried to attribute his illness to his philosophy. In a letter to Nietzsche’s attending physician, Dr. Binswanger, dated 23 March 1889, Elizabeth Forster-Nietzsche wrote the following words from distant Paraguay: “Learned friends of my brother’s will want to demonstrate mental disturbance from his books. Do not believe them, they are prejudiced, they confuse genius with insanity. I myself am of course not in agreement with the results of my brother’s philosophy, but what I can recognize clearly is that they are new, yet completely logical. I want to prove that with my limited female intelligence.” Of course, the last person Nietzsche wanted to inherit his legacy was a sister he once described as a “resentful antisemitic goose.”
What did Nietzche actually suffer from? Elizabeth believed that her brother’s madness was due to Chloral poisoning. But Dr. Binswanger thought Nietzsche suffered from an inherited illness, since Nietzsche’s father had previously died of “softening of the brain.” In terms of a more updated diagnosis, the National Library of Medicine states, “Friedrich Nietzsche’s disease consisted of migraine, psychiatric disturbances, cognitive decline with dementia, and stroke. Despite the prevalent opinion that neurosyphilis caused Nietzsche’s illness, there is lack of evidence to support this diagnosis. Cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy (CADASIL) accounts for all the signs and symptoms of Nietzsche’s illness.”
Notes and Links
Karl S. Guthke, “Nietzsche’s collapse: The View from Paraguay” –https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/42665563/Nietzsche%27s collapse.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
Daren Jonescu, “Nietzsche’s Collapse Into Madness,” leaves me with the thought that Nietzsche’s collapse was a fabled patchwork of literary borrowings. Jonescu does not see anything redemptive here or, for that matter, anywhere: “The human race, on so many levels, has proved, even beyond the worst expectations of this very jaded and unoptimistic soul, to have been reduced to a condition of submissive slavishness for which a hundred years of universal tyranny will be the lightest sentence we may even hope for. Increasingly … I have lost any faint dreams of effective resistance, let alone revitalization … having resigned myself that today’s defeat is total and final….” Nietzsche said this type of “fatalism” reflected the very decline we see on every side.
The neurological illness of Friedrich Nietzsche – PubMed (nih.gov)
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49 thoughts on “On Nietzsche’s Madness Prefiguring Our Own”
“If Nietzsche’s insights were sometimes contradictory or confused, his foresight was nevertheless outstanding. He taught us to regard people and things not as they were, but as they were becoming.”
If we knew for a fact that Nietzsche actually foresaw the unholy mess dead ahead, there would be little doubt about the cause of his madness.
Nietzsche’s writings include references to coming wars over ideas, the rise of dictators, and the destruction of our civilization by the end of the twenty-first century. My suspicion is that some of his ideas about this were cribbed from Jacob Burckhardt.
My high school Physics instructor was a graduate engineer who took Russian for his language requirement. He repeated a joke he learned in his studies:
“Ill never forget the day I met the great Lobachevski on the streets of Moscow. In one word, he gave me the secret to success. ‘Plagiarize, plagiarize. Let no man’s work evade your eyes. But, please, call it research.'”
I’ve cleaned up the grammer some.
An example of metaphysical community, Soviet style.
Cribbing is extremely efficient; isn’t it?
But then again maybe, who knows?, Ol’ F.N., just wanted to promote Jacob?
One things for sure,
“a general increase in the level of background radiation, planet-wide.”
Sign me, Just an Experimental Mouse.
P.S. one more thing, German buildings had to have looked “nicer”.
Anon. (Thank God)
tags: JustalettertomyPublic, neartheend, Kudos, itsbeenCharming, espMrAlex907
As one looks at Obama’s provocatively extravagant (and inifinitely decadent) birthday party last weekend, or an alleged pro-Covid-victim charity in Austria’s capital Vienna end of May this year, which looked more like some Black Mass event, one wonders whether this is still about madness (although it is). I sense a very intentional evil that is driving things right now, and it is not only wholeheartedly celebrating death, but, it appears, sadistically triumphing over life and all of mankind. ‘Tradition In Action’ reported on Vienna’s “Austria for Life” event here: https://www.traditioninaction.org/RevolutionPhotos/A946-Ste.htm.
And here’s the most telling image from that ‘gala’ (that is but the continuing former HIV charity, Vienna Life Ball, in a smaller format and no longer hosted by the socialist-run Vienna city commune, but by the Archdiocese of Vienna!): https://thecontemplativeobserver.files.wordpress.com/2021/08/austria-for-life.jpg
Whatever happened to PizzaGate?
It seems Vienna has been serving for a long time as an experimental laboratory for what Anatoliy Golitsyn predicted would one day be a globally uniform, rigorous brand of Leninism. At the present stage, one might easily consider the city as the world capital of blasphemy – and the tens of thousands of Soviets who have already settled here must be laughing their heads off with devilish joy.
I’m giving two more events (out of a myriad) that might confirm such a view: On Good Friday of 2010, a performance artist, using the rampant pedophilia in the Catholic Church as a pretext, “self-crucified” on the facade of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, flanked by two shrouds carrying coloured negative imprints from actual corpses, that he was allowed to take at the University of Vienna’s Anatomical Institute. No protest from the Dean of the cathedral at all:
The following year, at the 2011 Vienna Life Ball (a glossy annual HIV charity gala last held in 2019, that, ironically, used to ‘fight’ HIV by promoting homosexuality, which is known as the prime vector for the spread of HIV-AIDS), there appeared high up above the colourful crowd, a “Popess” (impersonated by a well-known former Austrian Broadcasting television announcer of the seventies) who ‘solemnly’ announced:
“A wonderful good evening, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters! Here is the programme for today’s night, for the coming day, and the programme for our lives. Urbi et Orbi, to the city and the world be it announced: Go forth and adore each other! Go forth and conspire! May reason teach you! Protect life! Believe in a life before death! Urbi et Orbi, to Vienna and the world be it announced: May an awake spirit protect the neighbour, then the lovers will be protected by God! EGO TE ABSOLVO!”
I am tempted to think that Nietzsche was, after all, an artist.
Given a paintbrush instead of a pen, perhaps he would have given Van Gogh a run for his money; put on modern tranquilisers, an Eliot?
Maybe he just found the wrong audience?
These are wild thoughts, unschooled and dashed off; but perhaps he would not have been the only genius to have been taken seriously by the wrong people.
Nietzsche’s incident with the horse being beaten in Turin is very interesting in it’s relation not only because it resembles an incident in Fyodor Dostyoevsky’s ”Crime and Punishment” but because it traumatized ”Raskolnikov” as a child and sent him down the road to eventually thinking he was some kind of”Superman” as an adult;
” Raskolnikov had a fearful dream. He dreamt he was back in his childhood in the little town of his birth. He was a child about seven years old, walking into the country with his father on the evening of a holiday. It was a grey and heavy day, the country was exactly as he remembered it; indeed he recalled it far more vividly in his dream than he had done in memory. The little town stood on a level flat as bare as the hand, not even a willow near it; only in the far distance, a copse lay, a dark blur on the very edge of the horizon. A few paces beyond the last market garden stood a tavern, a big tavern, which had always aroused in him a feeling of aversion, even of fear, when he walked by it with his father. There was always a crowd there, always shouting, laughter and abuse, hideous hoarse singing and often fighting. Drunken and horrible-looking figures were hanging about the tavern. He used to cling close to his father, trembling all over when he met them. Near the tavern the road became a dusty track, the dust of which was always black. It was a winding road, and about a hundred paces further on, it turned to the right to the graveyard. In the middle of the graveyard stood a stone church with a green cupola where he used to go to mass two or three times a year with his father and mother, when a service was held in memory of his grandmother, who had long been dead, and whom he had never seen. On these occasions they used to take on a white dish tied up in a table napkin a special sort of rice pudding with raisins stuck in it in the shape of a cross. He loved that church, the old-fashioned, unadorned ikons and the old priest with the shaking head. Near his grandmother’s grave, which was marked by a stone, was the little grave of his younger brother who had died at six months old. He did not remember him at all, but he had been told about his little brother, and whenever he visited the graveyard he used religiously and reverently to cross himself and to bow down and kiss the little grave. And now he dreamt that he was walking with his father past the tavern on the way to the graveyard; he was holding his father’s hand and looking with dread at the tavern. A peculiar circumstance attracted his attention: there seemed to be some kind of festivity going on, there were crowds of gaily dressed townspeople, peasant women, their husbands, and riff-raff of all sorts, all singing and all more or less drunk. Near the entrance of the tavern stood a cart, but a strange cart. It was one of those big carts usually drawn by heavy cart-horses and laden with casks of wine or other heavy goods. He always liked looking at those great cart-horses, with their long manes, thick legs, and slow even pace, drawing along a perfect mountain with no appearance of effort, as though it were easier going with a load than without it. But now, strange to say, in the shafts of such a cart he saw a thin little sorrel beast, one of those peasants’ nags which he had often seen straining their utmost under a heavy load of wood or hay, especially when the wheels were stuck in the mud or in a rut. And the peasants would beat them so cruelly, sometimes even about the nose and eyes, and he felt so sorry, so sorry for them that he almost cried, and his mother always used to take him away from the window. All of a sudden there was a great uproar of shouting, singing and the balalaïka, and from the tavern a number of big and very drunken peasants came out, wearing red and blue shirts and coats thrown over their shoulders.
“Get in, get in!” shouted one of them, a young thick-necked peasant with a fleshy face red as a carrot. “I’ll take you all, get in!”
But at once there was an outbreak of laughter and exclamations in the crowd.
“Take us all with a beast like that!”
“Why, Mikolka, are you crazy to put a nag like that in such a cart?”
“And this mare is twenty if she is a day, mates!”
“Get in, I’ll take you all,” Mikolka shouted again, leaping first into the cart, seizing the reins and standing straight up in front. “The bay has gone with Matvey,” he shouted from the cart—”and this brute, mates, is just breaking my heart, I feel as if I could kill her. She’s just eating her head off. Get in, I tell you! I’ll make her gallop! She’ll gallop!” and he picked up the whip, preparing himself with relish to flog the little mare.
“Get in! Come along!” The crowd laughed. “D’you hear, she’ll gallop!”
“Gallop indeed! She has not had a gallop in her for the last ten years!”
“She’ll jog along!”
“Don’t you mind her, mates, bring a whip each of you, get ready!”
“All right! Give it to her!”
They all clambered into Mikolka’s cart, laughing and making jokes. Six men got in and there was still room for more. They hauled in a fat, rosy-cheeked woman. She was dressed in red cotton, in a pointed, beaded headdress and thick leather shoes; she was cracking nuts and laughing. The crowd round them was laughing too and indeed, how could they help laughing? That wretched nag was to drag all the cartload of them at a gallop! Two young fellows in the cart were just getting whips ready to help Mikolka. With the cry of “now,” the mare tugged with all her might, but far from galloping, could scarcely move forward; she struggled with her legs, gasping and shrinking from the blows of the three whips which were showered upon her like hail. The laughter in the cart and in the crowd was redoubled, but Mikolka flew into a rage and furiously thrashed the mare, as though he supposed she really could gallop.
“Let me get in, too, mates,” shouted a young man in the crowd whose appetite was aroused.
“Get in, all get in,” cried Mikolka, “she will draw you all. I’ll beat her to death!” And he thrashed and thrashed at the mare, beside himself with fury.
“Father, father,” he cried, “father, what are they doing? Father, they are beating the poor horse!”
“Come along, come along!” said his father. “They are drunken and foolish, they are in fun; come away, don’t look!” and he tried to draw him away, but he tore himself away from his hand, and, beside himself with horror, ran to the horse. The poor beast was in a bad way. She was gasping, standing still, then tugging again and almost falling.
“Beat her to death,” cried Mikolka, “it’s come to that. I’ll do for her!”
“What are you about, are you a Christian, you devil?” shouted an old man in the crowd.
“Did anyone ever see the like? A wretched nag like that pulling such a cartload,” said another.
“You’ll kill her,” shouted the third.
“Don’t meddle! It’s my property, I’ll do what I choose. Get in, more of you! Get in, all of you! I will have her go at a gallop!…”
All at once laughter broke into a roar and covered everything: the mare, roused by the shower of blows, began feebly kicking. Even the old man could not help smiling. To think of a wretched little beast like that trying to kick!
Two lads in the crowd snatched up whips and ran to the mare to beat her about the ribs. One ran each side.
“Hit her in the face, in the eyes, in the eyes,” cried Mikolka.
“Give us a song, mates,” shouted someone in the cart and everyone in the cart joined in a riotous song, jingling a tambourine and whistling. The woman went on cracking nuts and laughing.
… He ran beside the mare, ran in front of her, saw her being whipped across the eyes, right in the eyes! He was crying, he felt choking, his tears were streaming. One of the men gave him a cut with the whip across the face, he did not feel it. Wringing his hands and screaming, he rushed up to the grey-headed old man with the grey beard, who was shaking his head in disapproval. One woman seized him by the hand and would have taken him away, but he tore himself from her and ran back to the mare. She was almost at the last gasp, but began kicking once more.
“I’ll teach you to kick,” Mikolka shouted ferociously. He threw down the whip, bent forward and picked up from the bottom of the cart a long, thick shaft, he took hold of one end with both hands and with an effort brandished it over the mare.
“He’ll crush her,” was shouted round him. “He’ll kill her!”
“It’s my property,” shouted Mikolka and brought the shaft down with a swinging blow. There was a sound of a heavy thud.
“Thrash her, thrash her! Why have you stopped?” shouted voices in the crowd.
And Mikolka swung the shaft a second time and it fell a second time on the spine of the luckless mare. She sank back on her haunches, but lurched forward and tugged forward with all her force, tugged first on one side and then on the other, trying to move the cart. But the six whips were attacking her in all directions, and the shaft was raised again and fell upon her a third time, then a fourth, with heavy measured blows. Mikolka was in a fury that he could not kill her at one blow.
“She’s a tough one,” was shouted in the crowd.
“She’ll fall in a minute, mates, there will soon be an end of her,” said an admiring spectator in the crowd.
“Fetch an axe to her! Finish her off,” shouted a third.
“I’ll show you! Stand off,” Mikolka screamed frantically; he threw down the shaft, stooped down in the cart and picked up an iron crowbar. “Look out,” he shouted, and with all his might he dealt a stunning blow at the poor mare. The blow fell; the mare staggered, sank back, tried to pull, but the bar fell again with a swinging blow on her back and she fell on the ground like a log.
“Finish her off,” shouted Mikolka and he leapt beside himself, out of the cart. Several young men, also flushed with drink, seized anything they could come across—whips, sticks, poles, and ran to the dying mare. Mikolka stood on one side and began dealing random blows with the crowbar. The mare stretched out her head, drew a long breath and died.
“You butchered her,” someone shouted in the crowd.
“Why wouldn’t she gallop then?”
“My property!” shouted Mikolka, with bloodshot eyes, brandishing the bar in his hands. He stood as though regretting that he had nothing more to beat.
“No mistake about it, you are not a Christian,” many voices were shouting in the crowd.
But the poor boy, beside himself, made his way, screaming, through the crowd to the sorrel nag, put his arms round her bleeding dead head and kissed it, kissed the eyes and kissed the lips…. Then he jumped up and flew in a frenzy with his little fists out at Mikolka. At that instant his father, who had been running after him, snatched him up and carried him out of the crowd.
“Come along, come! Let us go home,” he said to him.
“Father! Why did they… kill… the poor horse!” he sobbed, but his voice broke and the words came in shrieks from his panting chest.
“They are drunk…. They are brutal… it’s not our business!” said his father. He put his arms round his father but he felt choked, choked. He tried to draw a breath, to cry out—and woke up.
He waked up, gasping for breath, his hair soaked with perspiration, and stood up in terror.”
It is known that Nietzsche had read Dostyoevsky before, and admired his work. To have seen almost the same incident as in the novel might have unhinged him. It is also known that Dostyoevsky was quite prone to draw upon real life stories to add color to his novels.
“Apparently there is more than one way of conquering a city and holding it as your own.”
— Groucho Marx
“ The Victorians, naively believing in the triumph of Christian values,…”
Christian values? What Christian values? They had to be kidding!
The Victorian age was the triumph of anti-Christian sentiment. It was the time of the publication of Darwin’s books, the lies of Thomas Huxley, they were popular because the people didn’t want Christianity. That was merely the culmination of attacks on the Bible by professors teaching evolution, widely taught in European universities by 1820, in the theology departments no less (source: PhD dissertation by Dr. Samuel Külling “Zur Datierung der Genesis ‘P’ Stücke”). Even that was but a development of the widespread immorality of the elites from the previous century that had filtered down to the hoi polloi. They thought they could maintain the civilization that Christianity had built up, without Christianity.
“…could not foresee the coming inversion of those values…”
The Victorians were the inversion of those values. They just maintained some of the outward appearances, while denying the inward reality.
Yes, there were still Christians in society, but true Christians had already become a minority in Europe, banished from the universities and polite society, and for the most part bereft of scholarship, even into their own beliefs. Yet Europeans illogically continued to call themselves “Christian”. Much like the situation in the U.S. today.
One cannot help but wonder how much of Nietzsche’s madness was caused by observing such madness in society?
Darwin did not set the moral tone of the age. Queen Victoria and her husband were very serious Christians. They promoted a higher moral standard for which the era was named. It was not named for Darwin.
Darwin merely reflected the moral tone of his age in England. Queen Victoria didn’t. Her name is on it because she personally was highly respected, and she was queen, but the people under her were to a large degree moral degenerates. In fact, one of the reasons Darwin proposed evolution is because his family were morally degenerate. The reason his theory was so quickly accepted in England is because 1) many people already believed in it and 2) it salved their consciences for their moral degeneracy (it removed God from history and responsibility to God in the present).
America was more than a century behind England in its slide into moral degeneracy. Queen Victoria’s moral excellency could very well have had more influence for the good in America than in her native England.
R.O. — I suspect you are also making fun of me, since you gaslight me so hilariously — bombarding me with such absurdities that the Victorian Era was under Darwin’s moral influence. Such a mockery you make of this discussion board. Surely, you have come here to make monkeys of us with Darwin in your hip pocket. You know perfectly well that Victoria was queen during a grass roots religious revival. There was a strong push for higher moral standards led by the nonconformist churches, such as the Methodists, and the Evangelical wing of the established Church of England. Victoria supported this with her position. “Onward Christian Soldiers” was sung throughout the land in those days. The Wiki says, “Ideologically, the Victorian era witnessed resistance to the rationalism that defined the Georgian period and an increasing turn towards romanticism and even mysticism with regard to religion, social values, and arts.” —England was a seriously religious place in the 19th century. It was not the House of Darwin. Surely you have heard of Gladstone — A very religious man and prime minister of England under Victoria. Even before Victoria there were serious Christian politicians in England. You know who William Wilberforce was. Right? He was the leader of the movement that abolished slavery in England, and did it on the grounds of Christian principles. I begin to think you invert history to mock us all.
Jeff: I’m not trying to gaslight you nor make fun of you. I merely report what I have read over the years about the lords and ladies, also the common people IN ENGLAND during the Victorian age. I don’t refer to Queen Victoria herself. Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901. When I think of the Victorian age, I think mainly of the latter half of her reign, from about 1865 onwards.
I do not see Darwin as a major moral influencer of his age. If anything, the influence was the other way around. The reason for Darwin’s almost instant popularity among the middle class was that he followed, not led, the spirit in England of his time. Yet England was a country in transition, with many still holding on to Christianity.
You mention the Methodist revival—that was started by the brothers John (d. 1791) and Charles (d. 1788) Wesley. As a movement, it was already sputtering out by 1820. Such movements have trouble maintaining their original fervor beyond the third generation, and by 1820 they were in the third generation while also under increasing intellectual assault. That movement was credited with preventing England from experiencing the social upheaval that led to the French Revolution.
William Wilberforce died in 1833, before Queen Victoria ascended the throne.
It could be that we are reading very different histories. The latter half of the 19th century, in the histories that I read, for many church was a place to go for the appearance of respectability, not because of an adherence to Biblical teachings. Even some famous theologians were known more for their silver tongues than for their faithfulness to the Bible. It was expected that the upper classes were faithless to their marriage vows. And many in the lower classes didn’t have marriage vows.
Yes, it looks as if we have read very different histories, Yet, are both of them true?
Yes, I already said Wilberforce lived before Victoria. The revival began before Victoria, but had a great impact on the moral tone of 19th century Britain. Most people in England in those days were Christians, not Darwinists. Sorry. I suppose you will deny that General Gordon was a Christian. You yourself admit that morality went down after Victoria. That indicates it was better under Victoria. That’s what I’m saying.
There is an interesting tidbit in the travels of (depraved? sufi muslim?) Richard Francis Burton, and it is an incident where his Catholic wife discovers a group of muslims in Syria who had discovered Christ in a vision. Him and his wife tried to bring up their cause and to help them, however, it seemed that for geopolitical reasons England, Palestine, the Church and what not were not at all happy about this. They were all furious at the Burton as it threatened some British deals in Syria and Arabia with the muslims etc… and it offended also the Catholics, Anglicans and Jews of the area too for some reason. Suffice to say this group got effectively destroyed and martyred eventually. I forget the details, but it stank like they did not want the real Jesus and its representatives around, and that they prefered to ally with enemies and drink the poison instead. As much as Burton was depraved, there seemed to have been a good streak in him in terms of love of language and anthropology as opposite to modern sociology. He seemed to appreciate the idea of a cultural container with its contents as its extensions and members. THe western death of anthropology where the being is just viewed as interacting with the social as opposed to be an extension of its group and God and traditions, wholesome and alive, is what Burton sought. It seemed like he did not find this satisfaction from the Christians of his time. The pseudo Christians are indeed suspected of using christianity as means to destroy other anthropologies while having none of their own with their God in the first place, but all in the name of an anthropology with God. In any case, the level of mental illness and incapacity of Christianity in the 19th century to keep their sheep sane and peaceful is a testament of the failure of the religions of those times. Dionysean cults were more apt at keeping a relative peace amongst the Greeks ironically. It is as if a cynical Romulus/Remus version of Christianity used Christianity to destroy actual culture that was ready to culture itself even more higher with Christ.
Oh Jeff that post touched my soul I keep horses maybe we should substitute the word Christian for human cruelty of any kind be it to animals or man tears at my soul cruelty I believe should be substituted by the word insanity my grand father kept horses all his life and when he had a really good quiet one he used call it a Christian I’ve just remembered that now and he was half Jewish but he recognised Christian values kindness the like I understand where Mr nietzche was coming from when he wrote that
It is alleged that Nietzsche saw a horse being mercilessly beaten in the street and threw himself around the horses neck, hugged him and held out his hand to block the blows. It is also said he wept.
Life without Teleological meaning is just dreary, senseless, and brutal, very depressing. It is too much to bear for one man like Nietzsche or any man at all, maybe even a Chinese one, as they are very Atheistic and have been for centuries.
“And behold: now the world became false, and precisely on account of the properties that constitute its reality: change, becoming, multiplicity, opposition, contradiction, war. And then the entire fatality was there: (1) How can one get free from the false, merely apparent world? (—it was the real, the only one); (2) how can one become oneself as much as possible the antithesis of the character of the apparent world? (Concept of the perfect creature as an antithesis to the real creature; more clearly, as the contradiction of life—)” — Nietzsche, Will to Power 584
Christians err when they argue Darwin on technical ground. It is like comparing manufacture of a robot with the historical growth of a child who becomes, say, George Washington.
The salient issue about Darwin is its fundamentalism in 19th century modernist schizophrenic neurosis and its associated callous cruelty to animals and treating of society as cattle in racist manner. Malthus is also of the the type.
Freud incidentally and unconsciously predicted it in Totem and Taboo through imagery of the myths he puts in there, and expressed it later in his acting appalled and almost surprised of the atrocities of WWI and WWII. Basically this idea that the primitive is where all our ills come from has been proven wrong and wrong again. Rousseau in fact was quite the hypocrite liberal racist when he called them the Good Savages, when all he described was really our own depravity as savages. Rousseau (and Voltaire) was a corrupt perv, and his book on educating young men reflects the Greek abduction pedophile cult of Crete.
No, apes “from which we come from” are not necessarily lower than humans (they do not commit incest or rape of the young), and their evolution is dependent on the strength of the clan in its ability to kick the competitive young out (the alpha male the males, and the alpha female the young females). Thus “evolution” requires first a maintainability of the strength of the clan with behaviors conducive to testing the young and preventing incest based lazy comfy degenerecence.
The error of Darwin and all of these nerdy schizo crazies who also suffered from sexual neurotic guilt of depravity was to project this primitiveness on apes, animals, blacks etc. And that lead to a mirror image scotoma that we see in today’s leaders and liberalism which has a huge and dangerous totalitarian scotoma (blind spot) on its evil behaviors.
The hatred of God, the cruel beating of a horse deemed inferior beast (there is a passage in the Bible on Balaam beating a donkey out of which God speaks), the latent racism, the word twisting etc… All contribute to this scotoma and vice versa.
All this socialist hash talk of humanism and economic refugees etc… It all cultivates a strange cruel scotoma behind a cynical language of “humane treatment for lower animals”. It seems somehow the communists subconsciously know they are lower depraved animals and that they cultivate the world (liberals, Nazis etc.) as believing neurotically in their own virtues, this scotoma.
In brief, the communist knows he is a one eyed man who can be found out, but will cultivate blindness all over the world, capitalizing on local schizo and neurotic scotomas of modern “sophisticated” appearance keeping material society.
Hello ”Jayne Sunter”, actually it was the 19th century Russian writer Fyodor Dostyoevsky in his famous novel ”Crime and Punishment” that wrote that scene from events he saw in his past, people can be very cruel. The young man in the book; ”Raskolnikov” endures that horse-killing scene and other traumas and indignities in his life and he decides to murder someone in his resulting mental illness-because he thinks he can get away with it and because he comes to think of himself as beyond good or evil.
”Raskolnikov” by the way is a very odd name to give someone in Russian language; it means closest in English to ”man of the cleaving apart” or ”man of the Schism”, which is both a coded reference to something in early Russian history and also to someone who is chopping something with an axe-which is what the crazy murderer does in the novel, kills two women with an axe in his delirium.
It’s a very good book, I might add, with themes of Christian redemption, God’s love extended to anyone and healing them.
Nietzsche admired Dostyoevsky’s writings interestingly enough, and seeing something like that scene in a fictional book happen right in front of him while on vacation in Italy, and him holding similar views as the crazed man in the novel, pushed Nietzsche over the edge completely.
Just as with the inane Anti-Semites, Nietzsche could see right through the folly of the Socialists;
“Socialism itself can hope to exist only for brief periods here and there, and then only through the exercise of the extreme terrorism”
His concept of ”Ressentiment” , of the envy of the lower for the higher in this life, is a highly valid if uncomfortable one, which is the root of what drives Socialists (and Anti-Semites!) to do what they do. Hard to say if Nietzsche blamed Rousseau or Socrates more than Christ. in my opinion.
Strangely, Nietzsche had a positive view of Christ. He referred to socialists as “tarantulas.”
I think that the poor man had a favorable view of Christ on a conscious level because Christ was ”obviously” of the Ubermensch of his writings. Unconciously, I think he was still that Pastor’s son, who believed in spite of himself, angry at the father who left him alone (by dying) with a family of dour henpecking and meddling Anti-Semites.
Nietzsche’s pun about Socialists is quite funny actually I think, because ”Tarantism” was an old psychological disorder from southern Italy based on the belief that the bite of a spider necessitates a kind of frenzied and convulsive Bacchanal dance in order to save one’s life from the poison, or something like that. He was saying that Socialists are spreading an irrational madness, I figure. It fits.
I loved this blog. When I was young, I despised Nietzche and his nihilism. But in the last months of my mother’s life, she was eager to read his writings. I was so perplexed. Yet, my mother died restored to her Christian faith. This made me realize there was more to this man than simply “God is dead.” Your blog makes it clearer that he was not saying that he believed God is dead, but civilization through culture turned its back on God. While he may have been mad, he foresaw the terrors that were the consequence of civilization without Christian faith. Is my understanding on track?
We forget that questioning is part of faith. When certain questions are not asked, our faith becomes hollow. Always we must struggle with difficult life-questions.
A psychologist realized that there is a healthy anger, and it is the one that makes you think. “Nice” people who are always happy or joking need to be avoided. There is a reason Christ/God makes us upset. He wants the Christian to think and not be a spoon fed sheep – to take charge of one’s own life.
We ”see through a glass darkly”, it’s true. Christ Himself was tempted by the Devil, who was trying to determine if He could be killed or not (it’s why he quoted Psalm 91), among other things. So we mere mortals cannot expect to not go through trials and tribulations. We cannot find out anything about ourselves,the people around us, reality in general, unless we suffer at least a little. Modern life is about the avoidance of suffering though; avoidance of labor, short cuts to instant wisdom and education, everything we want with minimal stress or effort in the shortest amount of time.
But Nietzsche wasn’t one of those people, who filled him with horror and disgust. His own evil was different.
Nietzsche called Blaise Pascal the ”Broken Christian” and thus knew Pascal’s critique, but Pascal could have been writing about Nietzsche centuries before when he wrote;
”Evil is easily discovered; there is an infinite variety; good is almost unique. But some kinds of evil are almost as difficult to discover as that which we call good; and often particular evil of this class passes for good. It needs even a certain greatness of soul to attain to this, as to that which is good.”
A timely 20-minute video:
MASS PSYCHOSIS – How an Entire Population Becomes MENTALLY ILL
A gentleman (whom I disagree with no doubt on almost every single thing, but whom I respect because his knowledge of Philosophy is most complete) on Youtube has an excellent channel on Philosophy that has this great piece on Nietzsche and political thought in the Modern Age;
This might help people understand what Nietzsche was trying to say on a political level.
But Mr. Nyquist, and your readers, we must be clear about Nietzsche, the poor man… From the same source;
”The Promethean Ubermensch”.
Regarding Nietzche calling himself the crucified. It seems he was in great suffering. Do you think it was the suffering of going insane ?
I am wondering if he saw things a little too clearly. I have had to a much lesser extent a realization of some things that were beyond troubling. What if he saw a clear view of the dystopian future, and could not shake it ? What if he was forced to stare into that dark future 24/ 7 ? That might push anyone over the edge. Maybe he was the man who knew too much.
Just a thought.
Nietzsche was in tremendous pain. Vomiting attacks and paralyzing headaches.
Upon whom may the Lord have mercy. I do not idly call Nietzsche a ”poor man”, because he truly did suffer very much in his life.
“There is a reason Christ/God makes us upset. He wants the Christian to think and not be a spoon fed sheep – to take charge of one’s own life.”
While Christians are not to be mindless robots, we certainly also aren’t to “take charge of” our own lives either. Mark 8:31-38:
Then [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and that He must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke this message quite frankly, and Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.
But Jesus, turning and looking at His disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Then Jesus called the crowd to Him along with His disciples, and He told them, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and for the gospel will save it.
What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Jesus often referred to His followers as sheep, and to Himself as the Good Shepherd.
The opposite of that viewpoint is a prideful one, and one that has ensnared Mankind (especially in the name of “doing good”), starting with the Fall in Eden.
Or in his madness did he actually think that he was Christ ?
He was completely mad, so he was not in his right mind. He could no longer “think” anything, but signed himself alternately “The Crucified” and “Dionysius,” by which he imagined the same pagan God, with all its listed incarnations.
There was a person on one of the now-defunct discussion boards centered around Jeff’s writings whose screen name was “Spirit of Truth”, who, upon “reading between the lines”, claimed to be a reincarnation of Christ.
There were, and are, and will be many who make that claim, either explicitly or implicitly. That’s why Jesus warned us to be on our guard against deception, the most dangerous kind being self-deception.
The two main tools of the enemy of our souls are deception, and distraction. They are also good tools for any geopolitical enemy.
I’ve often wondered what Peter whispered in Christ’s ear when he rebuked him. Maybe something like this: “Jesus! Don’t talk like that! You’re here as King of Kings! Isn’t it your task to establish your Kingdom with power and justice? Take what is rightfully yours, and let’s not have all this talk about dying…”
I believe the person you refer to was the late Jay Adams. He wrote me some very crazy emails going back to 1994. He was very angry in 1994 that I was withholding publication of my book to 1998.
Yes! That’s the name. I didn’t realize you had a history with him that far back.
St. Peter conflated what Christ was doing then, with what He will do when He returns, two appearances and two missions with the One Person, One Incarnation. St. Peter didn’t know. But yes, it’s quite true that deception and distraction are an element of war, whether we know we’re fighting in one or not.
Nietzsche on ”the dignity of work”
Again, I disagree with almost all of this in significant ways. But the ”why?” of Nietzsche being wrong is important.
Nietzsche is worth studying.
Yes, I agree. I wonder how amused or upset he would be if he realized he is kind of like his nemesis Socrates, who called himself the public ”gadfly”? As i’ve said before, I’m thankful that my exposure to Nietzsche in my youth was first mediated in homeopathic doses by reading Lev Shestov’s works about Nietzsche, then Nietzsche himself.
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