Produced by Marc D’Hooghe at http://www.freeliterature.org
(Images generously made available by the Hathi Trust.)
Produced by Marc D’Hooghe at http://www.freeliterature.org
A BOOK FOR FREE SPIRITS
WITH INTRODUCTION BY
J. M. KENNEDY
The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche
The First Complete and Authorised English Translation
Edited by Dr Oscar Levy
13 & 15 FREDERICK STREET
EDINBURGH: AND LONDON
FIRST DIVISION: FIRST AND LAST THINGS
SECOND DIVISION: THE HISTORY OF THE MORAL SENTIMENT
THIRD DIVISION: THE RELIGIOUS LIFE
FOURTH DIVISION: CONCERNING THE SOUL OF ARTISTS AND AUTHORS
FIFTH DIVISION: THE SIGNS OF HIGHER AND LOWER CULTURE
SIXTH DIVISION: MAN IN SOCIETY
SEVENTH DIVISION: WIFE AND CHILD
EIGHTH DIVISION: A GLANCE AT THE STATE
AN EPODE—AMONG FRIENDS
Nietzsche’s essay, Richard Wagner in Bayreuth, appeared in 1876, and his next publication was his present work, which was issued in 1878. A comparison of the books will show that the two years of meditation intervening had brought about a great change in Nietzsche’s views, his style of expressing them, and the form in which they were cast. The Dionysian, overflowing with life, gives way to an Apollonian thinker with a touch of pessimism. The long essay form is abandoned, and instead we have a series of aphorisms, some tinged with melancholy, others with satire, several, especially towards the end, with Nietzschian wit at its best, and a few at the beginning so very abstruse as to require careful study.
Since the Bayreuth festivals of 1876, Nietzsche had gradually come to see Wagner as he really was. The ideal musician that Nietzsche had pictured in his own mind turned out to be nothing more than a rather dilettante philosopher, an opportunistic decadent with a suspicious tendency towards Christianity. The young philosopher thereupon proceeded to shake off the influence which the musician had exercised upon him. He was successful in doing so, but not without a struggle, just as he had formerly shaken off the influence of Schopenhauer. Hence he writes in his autobiography: “Human, all-too-Human, is the monument of a crisis. It is entitled: ‘A book for free spirits,’ and almost every line in it represents a victory—in its pages I freed myself from everything foreign to my real nature. Idealism is foreign to me: the title says, ‘Where you see ideal things, I see things which are only—human alas! all-too-human!’ I know man better—the term ‘free spirit’ must here be understood in no other sense than this: a freed man, who has once more taken possession of himself.”
The form of this book will be better understood when it is remembered that at this period Nietzsche was beginning to suffer from stomach trouble and headaches. As a cure for his complaints, he spent his time in travel when he could get a few weeks’ respite from his duties at Basel University; and it was in the course of his solitary walks and hill-climbing tours that the majority of these thoughts occurred to him and were jotted down there and then. A few of them, however, date further back, as he tells us in the preface to the second part of this work. Many of them, he says, occupied his mind even before he published his first book, The Birth of Tragedy and several others, as we learn from his notebooks and posthumous writings, date from the period of the Thoughts out of Season.
It must be clearly understood, however, that Nietzsche’s disease must not be looked upon in the same way as that of an ordinary man. People are inclined to regard a sick man as rancorous; but any one who rights with and conquers his disease, and even exploits it, as Nietzsche did, benefits thereby to an extraordinary degree. In the first place, he has passed through several stages of human psychology with which a healthy man is entirely unacquainted; e.g. he has learnt by introspection the spiteful and revengeful spirit of the sick man and his religion. Secondly, in his moments of freedom from pain and gloom his thoughts will be all the more brilliant.
In support of this last statement, one instance may be selected out of hundreds that could be adduced. Heinrich Heine spent the greater part of his life in exile from his native country, tortured by headaches, and finally dying in a foreign land as the result of a spinal disease. His splendid works were composed in his moments of respite from illness, and during the last years of his life, when his health was at its worst, he gave to the world his famous Romancero. We would likewise do well to recollect Goethe’s saying:
Zart Gedicht, wie Regenbogen,
Wird nur auf dunkelm Grund gezogen.
Thus neither the form of this book—so startling at first to those who have been brought up in the traditions of our own school—nor the treat all men as equals, and proclaim the establishment of equal rights:
so far a socialistic mode of thought which is based on justice is possible; but, as has been said, only within the ranks of the governing classes, which in this case practises justice with sacrifices and abnegations. On the other hand, to demand equality of rights, as do the Socialists of the subject caste, is by no means the outcome of justice, but of covetousness. If you expose bloody pieces of flesh to a beast, and then withdraw them again until it finally begins to roar, do you think that the roaring implies justice?
Theologians on the other hand, as may be expected, will find no such ready help in their difficulties from Nietzsche. They must, on the contrary, be on their guard against so alert an adversary—a duty which they are apparently not going to shirk; for theologians are amongst the most ardent students of Nietzsche in this country. Their attention may therefore be drawn to aphorism 630 of this book, dealing with convictions and their origin, which will no doubt be successfully refuted by the defenders of the true faith. In fact, there is not a single paragraph in the book that does not deserve careful study by all serious thinkers.
On the whole, however, this is a calm book, and those who are accustomed to Nietzsche the out-spoken Immoralist, may be somewhat astonished at the calm tone of the present volume. The explanation is that Nietzsche was now just beginning to walk on his own philosophical path. His life-long aim, the uplifting of the type man, was still in view, but the way leading towards it was once more uncertain. Hence the peculiarly calm, even melancholic, and what Nietzsche himself would call Apollonian, tinge of many of these aphorisms, so different from the style of his earlier and later writings. For this very reason, however, the book may appeal all the more to English readers, who are of course more Apollonian than Dionysian. Nietzsche is feeling his way, and these aphorisms represent his first steps. As such—besides having a high intrinsic value of themselves—they are enormous aids to the study of his character and temperament.
J. M. KENNEDY.
 Ecce Homo, p. 75.
 “Tender poetry, like rainbows, can appear only on a dark and sombre background.”—J.M.K.
I have been told frequently, and always with great surprise, that there is something common and distinctive in all my writings, from the Birth of Tragedy to the latest published Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. They all contain, I have been told, snares and nets for unwary birds, and an almost perpetual unconscious demand for the inversion of customary valuations and valued customs. What? Everything only—human-all-too-human? People lay down my writings with this sigh, not without a certain dread and distrust of morality itself, indeed almost tempted and encouraged to become advocates of the worst things: as being perhaps only the best disparaged? My writings have been called a school of suspicion and especially of disdain, more happily, also, a school of courage and even of audacity. Indeed, I myself do not think that any one has ever looked at the world with such a profound suspicion; and not only as occasional Devil’s Advocate, but equally also, to speak theologically, as enemy and impeacher of God; and he who realises something of the consequences involved, in every profound suspicion, something of the chills and anxieties of loneliness to which every uncompromising difference of outlook condemns him who is affected therewith, will also understand how often I sought shelter in some kind of reverence or hostility, or scientificality or levity or stupidity, in order to recover from myself, and, as it were, to obtain temporary self-forgetfulness; also why, when I did not find what I needed, I was obliged to manufacture it, to counterfeit and to imagine it in a suitable manner (and what else have poets ever done? And for what purpose has all the art in the world existed?). What I always required most, however, for my cure and self-recovery, was the belief that I was not isolated in such circumstances, that I did not see in an isolated manner—a magic suspicion of relationship and similarity to others in outlook and desire, a repose in the confidence of friendship, a blindness in both parties without suspicion or note of interrogation, an enjoyment of foregrounds, and surfaces of the near and the nearest, of all that has colour, epidermis, and outside appearance. Perhaps I might be reproached in this respect for much “art” and fine false coinage; for instance, for voluntarily and knowingly shutting my eyes to Schopenhauer’s blind will to morality at a time when I had become sufficiently clear-sighted about morality; also for deceiving myself about Richard Wagner’s incurable romanticism, as if it were a beginning and not an end; also about the Greeks, also about the Germans and their future—and there would still probably be quite a long list of such alsos? Supposing however, that this were all true and that I were reproached with good reason, what do you know, what could you know as to how much artifice of self-preservation, how much rationality and higher protection there is in such self-deception,—and how much falseness I still require in order to allow myself again and again the luxury of my sincerity? … In short, I still live; and life, in spite of ourselves, is not devised by morality; it demands illusion, it lives by illusion … but——There! I am already beginning again and doing what I have always done, old immoralist and bird-catcher that I am,—I am talking un-morally, ultra-morally, “beyond good and evil”?…
Thus then, when I found it necessary, I invented once on a time the “free spirits,” to whom this discouragingly encouraging book with the title Human, all-too-Human, is dedicated. There are no such “free spirits” nor have there been such, but, as already said, I then required them for company to keep me cheerful in the midst of evils (sickness, loneliness, foreignness,—acedia, inactivity) as brave companions and ghosts with whom I could laugh and gossip when so inclined and send to the devil when they became bores,—as compensation for the lack of friends. That such free spirits will be possible some day, that our Europe will have such bold and cheerful wights amongst her sons of to-morrow and the day after to-morrow, as the shadows of a hermit’s phantasmagoria—I should be the last to doubt thereof. Already I see them coming, slowly, slowly; and perhaps I am doing something to hasten their coming when I describe in advance under what auspices I see them originate, and upon what paths I see them come.
One may suppose that a spirit in which the type “free spirit” is to become fully mature and sweet, has had its decisive event in a great emancipation, and that it was all the more fettered previously and apparently bound for ever to its corner and pillar. What is it that binds most strongly? What cords are almost unrendable? In men of a lofty and select type it will be their duties; the reverence which is suitable to youth, respect and tenderness for all that is time-honoured and worthy, gratitude to the land which bore them, to the hand which led them, to the sanctuary where they learnt to adore,—their most exalted moments themselves will bind them most effectively, will lay upon them the most enduring obligations. For those who are thus bound the great emancipation comes suddenly, like an earthquake; the young soul is all at once convulsed, unloosened and extricated—it does not itself know what is happening. An impulsion and-compulsion sway and over-master it like a command; a will and a wish awaken, to go forth on their course, anywhere, at any cost; a violent, dangerous curiosity about an undiscovered world flames and flares in every sense. “Better to die than live here“—says the imperious voice and seduction, and this “here,” this “at home” is all that the soul has hitherto loved! A sudden fear and suspicion of that which it loved, a flash of disdain for what was called its “duty,” a rebellious, arbitrary, volcanically throbbing longing for travel, foreignness, estrangement, coldness, disenchantment, glaciation, a hatred of love, perhaps a sacrilegious clutch and look backwards, to where it hitherto adored and loved, perhaps a glow of shame at what it was just doing, and at the same time a rejoicing that it was doing it, an intoxicated, internal, exulting thrill which betrays a triumph—a triumph? Over what? Over whom? An enigmatical, questionable, doubtful triumph, but the first triumph nevertheless;—such evil and painful incidents belong to the history of the great emancipation. It is, at the same time, a disease which may destroy the man, this first outbreak of power and will to self-decision, self-valuation, this will to free will; and how much disease is manifested in the wild attempts and eccentricities by which the liberated and emancipated one now seeks to demonstrate his mastery over things! He roves about raging with unsatisfied longing; whatever he captures has to suffer for the dangerous tension of his pride; he tears to pieces whatever attracts him. With a malicious laugh he twirls round whatever he finds veiled or guarded by a sense of shame; he tries how these things look when turned upside down. It is a matter of arbitrariness with him, and pleasure in arbitrariness, if he now perhaps bestow his favour on what had hitherto a bad repute,—if he inquisitively and temptingly haunt what is specially forbidden. In the background of his activities and wanderings —for he is restless and aimless in his course as in a desert—stands the note of interrogation of an increasingly dangerous curiosity. “Cannot all valuations be reversed? And is good perhaps evil? And God only an invention and artifice of the devil? Is everything, perhaps, radically false? And if we are the deceived, are we not thereby also deceivers? Must we not also be deceivers?”—Such thoughts lead and mislead him more and more, onward and away. Solitude encircles and engirdles him, always more threatening, more throttling, more heart-oppressing, that terrible goddess and mater sæva cupidinum—but who knows nowadays what solitude is?…
From this morbid solitariness, from the desert of such years of experiment, it is still a long way to the copious, overflowing safety and soundness which does not care to dispense with disease itself as an instrument and angling-hook of knowledge;—to that mature freedom of spirit which is equally self-control and discipline of the heart, and gives access to many and opposed modes of thought;—to that inward comprehensiveness and daintiness of superabundance, which excludes any danger of the spirit’s becoming enamoured and lost in its own paths, and lying intoxicated in some corner or other; to that excess of plastic, healing, formative, and restorative powers, which is exactly the sign of splendid health, that excess which gives the free spirit the dangerous prerogative of being entitled to live by experiments and offer itself to adventure; the free spirit’s prerogative of mastership! Long years of convalescence may lie in between, years full of many-coloured, painfully-enchanting magical transformations, curbed and led by a tough will to health, which often dares to dress and disguise itself as actual health. There is a middle condition therein, which a man of such a fate never calls to mind later on without emotion; a pale, delicate light and a sunshine-happiness are peculiar to him, a feeling of bird-like freedom, prospect, and haughtiness, a tertium quid in which curiosity and gentle disdain are combined. A “free spirit”—this cool expression does good in every condition, it almost warms. One no longer lives, in the fetters of love and hatred, without Yea, without Nay, voluntarily near, voluntarily distant, preferring to escape, to turn aside, to flutter forth, to fly up and away; one is fastidious like every one who has once seen an immense variety beneath him,—and one has become the opposite of those who trouble themselves about things which do not concern them. In fact, it is nothing but things which now concern the free spirit,—and how many things!—which no longer trouble him!