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Gospels of Anarchy and Other Contemporary Studies . Lee, Vernon, 1856–1935.
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page: 159

NIETZSCHE AND THE “WILL TO POWER”

page: 161

NIETZSCHE AND THE “WILL TO POWER”

I

THE fact that Friedrich Nietzsche, when released from life at only fifty‐six, had already survived his reasonable soul by nearly eleven years, disposes of his philosophy with miraculous satisfactoriness for some of his opponents. But it is liable to make those feel almost abashed who do not relish such cheap irony on the part of Fate.

I wish to make it plain, therefore, that, though the final catastrophe of this great mind appears to me to have had constitutional causes and preliminary symptoms which affected the doomed man’s manner of being and therefore of thinking, yet it is my conviction that the psychological interest and moral importance of what, following his own example, I venture to designate as “the Case of Nietzsche” would have been quite as real, though less vulgarly obvious, had it never been rounded off by so frightful a logico‐dramatic coincidence. If, therefore, I proceed to deal with Nietzsche’s philosophy as the expression of spiritual and bodily unhealthiness, let it be understood that I am referring only to the kind of madness page: 162 which Nietzsche’s Wise Man prayed for—“Give me, ye Powers, madness, that I may believe in myself!”—and not at all to the miserable obliteration of mind with which an atrocious and stupid destiny was preparing to answer that prayer. For it is with this “madness that he might believe in himself” that I intend to deal in the following pages.

The soundest and, therefore, the most living and fertile part of a philosopher’s work is, perhaps, that which makes him not unlike, but like, his fellows; nay, the possibility of being assimilated by the future is, in many cases, in direct proportion to the fact of having been assimilated from the past. But my object, in the present study, has not been the extracting of what I consider the most valuable productions of Nietzsche’s extraordinary mind; all the various “selections, philosophies and quintessences” of Nietzsche are amply sufficient in their unintentional misrepresentation of him as a typically sane, sound and socially normal thinker. My object has been, on the contrary, to collect into a synthetic group (the synthesis representing Nietzsche’s individual temperament) those peculiarities which differentiate him from nearly all other equally great thinkers; peculiarities which bring him into conflict, not merely, as he gloried in feeling, with the mental habits of hypocrites, Philistines and decadents, but with the modes of thinking and feeling indispensable for the continuance of the human race, and therefore deeply ingrained in the human race’s composition. I desire, in short, to see what was at the bottom of Nietzsche’s characteristic page: 163 views of life, in order to judge whether life is likely to cultivate or to weed out this type of philosophy and this type of philosopher.

II

“There is no Will to Existence,” says Zarathustra; “for what does not yet exist, cannot will; and, as to that which does exist, how could it possibly will to exist?”

Besides a combination of a truism (“that which does not exist, cannot will”) with an entirely unproven assumption (“that which does exist cannot will to exist”), we have here a confusion between an abstract metaphorical statement and an individual concrete fact. Philosophically speaking, no one has ever attributed to the individual human being dominant, unfailing desire for continued existence, so that its denial cannot be the core of Zarathustra’s supreme discovery; and we must look for that in the denial of that metaphorical Will under which the genius of Schopenhauer adumbrated the great generalisations of modern biology. The necessity of growing, reproducing, varying, adapting, of surviving at any price, this, and this only, can be called the Will to Existence. But this is an abstraction, an allegory, though a perfectly fitting one, and the Will to Existence can be postulated, and has been postulated, only of that abstract and allegorical entity, the Species. For this Will to Existence Nietzsche, in probably conscious contradiction to his discarded master, Schopen‐ page: 164 hauer, tries therefore to substitute a Will to Power; and the form of speech renders such a substitution superficially possible; Will is will, and you need only write “Power” after effacing “Existence.” But this operation is a delusion or a piece of trickery, an attempt at exchanging things which do not belong to the same category. Looking at that abstraction called “the Species,” and expressing our generalisations about it under the metaphorical form of Will, we are struck immediately by the utter indifference manifested by the Species to any such relation as is implied by the word “Power”; and by the metaphorical readiness which the Species displays, on the contrary, for proceedings absolutely negatived by the word “Power”: a readiness to alter, to dwindle, to lie low, to degenerate, to submit to any tyranny, privation or parasitic condition, or even to self‐mutilation rather than allow itself to die. Indeed, the survival through self‐effacement, as distinguished from self‐assertion (and power implies self‐assertion), is so frequent an occurrence in the life of Species, that I cannot read Nietzsche’s description of the methods towards survival attributed by him to primitive Christian communities, without thinking of some naturalist’s account of a sort of animal which, after living in decent independence on land or in water, has got itself imprisoned, by the ruthless Will to Existence, in the diseased body of some more powerful kind of creature. So that, if Zarathustra meant to replace Schopenhauer’s great Will, the Will to Existence, tingling (as we seem to feel it) throughout the universe, by his more “vornehm” Will to Power, he page: 165 must take back his remark; for Nature cares nothing for his new scale of values.

Nor is this all. The Will to Power may and does exist as an individual phenomenon. But (and here we begin our real examination of Nietzsche’s views in reference to that very “Life,” which he thought he so aristocratically accepted), whatever exists in the individual is, speaking metaphorically, yet very correctly, subject to the Will of the Species; and the Will of the Species is, as we have seen, the mere Will to Existence. Like any other peculiarity, the Will to Power develops so long as it conduces to survival, and atrophies to the extent to which it becomes a danger. The individual who possesses it either flourishes and hands it on to his descendants and his imitators, or comes to grief and carries the quality which has ruined him into helplessness or annihilation.

Thus the Will to Existence, of which, as of all other divinities, the exclusive pride of Nietzsche would not brook the reality, shows itself to be a god of most ruthless practicality; and every other kind of volition, every instinct, habit or tendency of living creatures, all the demiurgi, Olympian or subterranean, radiantly conscious or obscurely and blindly teeming, can hold their way only at its inexorable behest.

Translated into prosaic literalness, the question may therefore be stated as follows: Does the predominance of self‐consciousness and the assertion of the ego, which, taken together, constitute Nietzsche’s Will to Power, offer such advantages to the human race as to have fostered this Will to Power to an exorbitant page: 166 degree in the past, or as to foster it, so far as we can foresee, to still completer supremacy in the future? We may get an approximate answer to this question in the course of examining some of the mental and emotional tendencies and habits which Nietzsche condemns in mankind, as the unworthy rivals to the Will to Power, and perhaps arrive at some conclusion by subsequently glancing also at the position which Nietzsche takes up towards life as a whole, that is to say, towards that Will to Existence of which he so rudely denies the existence.

III

First and foremost among the opponents to the Will to Power is what we may roughly sum up as Duty. Conspicuous among the prophecies of Zarathustra are those concerning the great Lion from out of the desert, who fights and destroys the great Dragon whose wings are inscribed with commandments. “Thou Shalt” is the name of the great Dragon, but the spirit of the Lion says, “I Will.” While busy demolishing the Free Will of Christian and of Kantian ethics, Nietzsche had himself made a superb demonstration of the fundamental identity of that Lion “I Will” and that Dragon “Thou Shalt”; or, rather, he had shown that neither the Lion nor the Dragon had any kind of real existence. But, taken upon the plane of the illusion inevitable in our feeling, such a seeming division and opposition between the inner and the outer Will can and must be recognised; page: 167 and Nietzsche could legitimately split up the Chimæra, Free Will, into the solitary, rebellious Lion and the obsequious, philistine Dragon. But, if we are to discuss not the metaphysics of Free Will, but the phenomenon of apparent alternative as manifest in experience, the question of Thou Shalt and I Will takes a different aspect.

There is more than a rough and ready practicality (“pour encourager les autres,” like Voltaire’s court martial on Admiral Byng)in the legal limitation of responsibility to such individuals as are neither idiots nor maniacs. For, as the appearance of volition exists only in the face of two conceivable modes of action, which imply consciousness, there can be no will, no choice, in cases where the instincts have the blind, automatic action of reflexes. There is, therefore, a greater appearance of volition in obeying a law and conforming to a standard than in acting under the undivided pressure of a habit or an appetite. Nietzsche was thoroughly aware of all this, and had, moreover, the proud and combative and self‐centred man’s excessive and unphilosophical scorn for anything like habits, blind instincts and reflexes. He therefore formulated (I was, going to write: “he was therefore obliged to formulate,” but these are words he never would have admitted with reference to himself) something opposed to obscure instinctive preferences, but opposed also to all categorical imperatives: an individual standard and law (including pretended subversion of all previous standards and laws), a private categorical imperative so rigid that slavery, degradation, Dantesque dung‐ponds of igno‐ page: 168 miny, were the ineluctable punishment of their non‐recognition; let alone, of course, a fine preliminary bout of Zarathustrian philosophising on them “with the hammer.”

Thus Nietzsche was never able to carry his individualism (as his predecessor Stirner had done) to its logical conclusion of anarchy inside as well as outside the individual. He committed the inconsequence (to which we owe some of his most beautiful and perhaps immortal sentences) of preaching the most rigorous hierarchy, and hierarchic commanding and obeying, within the soul of the lawbreaker himself. I call this an inconsequence, and hope to demonstrate that it was one; fruitful, moreover, like many of the inconsequences of one‐sided thinkers. Nietzsche, of course, asserted that this régime of categorical imperatives was the outcome, solely, of the individual himself; and that the Zarathustrian person (to say nothing of the eventually coming “Uber‐Mensch”) went through this noviciate of purifications, professed this rule of vigils and chastenings (so singular in a theoretic opponent of asceticism), for the simple gratification of his own fine gentleman’s taste. But, if we look at facts, this superlative Zarathustrian “good form” (for as such this moral Beau Brummel gives it us) is, like every other kind of good form, a product for which no isolated individuality could suffice, and for which no pressure of merely individual preference could originally account. It is essentially an historical, sociological product. Intent upon his own moral posturings and gestures (in which the old Stoical mantle, and even sundry Christian academic properties, page: 169 were unconsciously made use of), Nietzsche found it convenient to take for granted the ready‐made Zarathustrian individual, attitudes, gestures, good taste and all; and therefore averted his glance from the genesis and evolution thereof. For, in that genesis and evolution of Zarathustra’s “good taste,” the principal part had been played throughout the centuries by that which Nietzsche most furiously disliked (reserving it to explain only the Socratic, Christian, Kantian, or other unclean spirits)—namely, the race at large, the instincts, claims and habits of the majority of human beings so utterly offensive to Nietzsche’s sense of smell and somewhat queasy stomach. And, in a way, Nietzsche actually placed himself in the impossibility of denying such villainous origin, which a thoroughpaced anarchic thinker like Stirner would have made short work of, together with formulas, standards, and good taste of any kind. Nietzsche, as was inevitable in one who frankly objected to gods of all sorts—because, “if there were gods, how could he have endured not being one of them,”—Nietzsche, filling up his own horizon, had pretty well sent Nature (and the Will to Existence) to the Coventry of the Lucretian gods, and very rarely referred to her or it. But the possession of the finest taste unfortunately requires, not merely recognition, but a standard; and thus the isolated superfine individual was betrayed into calling on Nature’s testimony to the correctness of his moral attitude and manner. “All the audacity, the fineness and keenness that have ever existed,” he writes, “all the masterly certainty and dancelike spirit, have page: 170 developed themselves, thanks to the tyranny of such self‐imposed law (Willkür‐Gesetze), and it is by no means improbable that just this, and not a system of laissez‐aller, is nature and natural.” Nietzsche did not know how large a door he was opening in this second part of the sentence: a door, a gate, through which what should sweep in but that deposed, rejected, utterly banished Will to Existence? For, if the individual has not grown as a mere random jumble of uncoordinated instincts, this is explained by his not existing as an isolated individual, companionless, in vacuo. Man is, more or less, a composite and orderly whole because he is an integral part of a whole which can be only composite and orderly. Naturalness, which Nietzsche invoked as a final condemnation of spiritual anarchy, is merely a word for suitability to the ways of other things, adaptation to that great abstract whole which allows insubordinate doings neither in single individuals nor in single instincts. The law‐to‐himself of the finer human being is the expression of a more perfect and well‐nigh automatic adaptation to the hierarchy outside. Nay, far below the sphere of such ethical good form, we find concentric circles of inner coordination, without which we could not move, stand, digest or grow, let alone perceive, feel, think or will. But if there did not exist, if there had not existed for æons, creatures more or less similar around us, if the universe had cared to produce only isolated higher individuals, or Super‐Men, would there have been a need for such a complex form of life; a need for reactions, so intricate and so subordinate to one another; a need for perception, will page: 171 or thought; an opening, so to speak, for such superfine moral manners?

IV

After the great Dragon, Duty, let us pass on to the consideration of what Nietzsche regards as the vilest of all small moral worms: Humility. The word “worm” is appropriate; for Nietzsche derives its origin from the practical wisdom of rolling up and shamming death in order to avoid a second crushing. Granted, as is very possible, that such is its real genealogy, there comes the question, why Nature (for even Nietzsche has unwillingly to admit that there is Nature) should have preserved this particular ditch‐begotten little virtue? The answer is, simply, that Humility happens to afford an excellent corrective for a particular optical illusion to which the human being, Mensch or Über‐Mensch, is condemned (with danger to his comfort and even his existence), by a trifling peculiarity of his constitution. I am alluding, of course, to the fact that we, all of us, happen to be enclosed in our own skin, and are therefore aware of our own existence in a more direct, intimate and forcible manner than of the existence of others. Those others, meanwhile, similarly enclosed, are afflicted by the selfsame unevenness of perception: the inside, namely, oneself, is thoroughly visible, audible, intelligible and imperative; the outside, or not‐oneself, becomes an accessory or background, and tends perpetually to vanish altogether. The virtue or vice of Humility serves to reverse, in part, this natural, but by no means page: 172 objectively correct, perspective; and thereby tends to diminish the wear and tear, nay, the sometimes fatal accidents, which it must otherwise occasion. The fact of being what house‐agents call “self‐containing,” makes us, each and all, the most important thing we can conceive. Humility whispers that, on the contrary, we are very probably by far the most unimportant thing in all the universe, and thereby halves our natural pretensions to something nearer our objective bulk and power. In this manner it enables us to find room to stand in, to thread our way among those too‐too solid ghosts, our fellow men, to exchange place, to move, to expand even—in short, to live. This is the service rendered by Humility, and this is why Humility has been fostered by the racial Will to Existence, by the great demiurgus, Life, who shuts his eyes to baseness of origin and primæval worm‐wriggling; Life, well aware that, if the haughty genealogist went far enough in his researches, he would find wrigglings of some kind, and animals less aristocratic than worms, in the first chapter of the most distinguished family histories.

The reason why Life can be less squeamish than Nietzsche, and yet, somehow, maintain a certain æsthetic dignity and have as grand an air as any Zarathustra brandishing his Will to Power, is that Life possesses the secret of great transmutations, transfigurations, of which Nietzsche gradually lost the very conception. After Humility, Compassion is, in his eyes, the vilest and most vicious of Christian virtues. Sickness, weakness, says Nietzsche, requires only one thing—to be cleared away. That depends, page: 173 common sense has answered for centuries, in fact for æons, how sick the sick, how weak the weak. It is the strength of the weak man, the healthiness of the organs still free from disease, to which Compassion addresses itself, and which, with help and time, effects survival and recovery. Nay, what we look upon as symptoms of disease, or as faintings and failings of weakness, are frequently, in the moral order as well as the bodily, adaptations to a difficult crisis, diminished claims, nay, even inverted instincts, fostered by the great Will to Existence. Take the “Imitation of Christ,” that almost complete, perhaps because almost posthumous, manifesto of the millenarian and ascetic and self‐humiliating sides of Christianity. To us, particularly to us when in health and prosperity, it may have a taste which is mawkish, a taste of physic, if not of poison; but for centuries it was, and in individual cases (till wisdom and gentleness invent a better compound) it still remains a pain‐killer, a sleeping draught which has saved from death or from madness. Christianity as defined by Nietzsche—that is to say, Christianity in its most questionable and perishable aspect—constituted, after all, only one of the many modus vivendi which the race made for itself at various stages of its difficult existence: regimens of brutality and narrow‐mindedness or of self‐suppression and mystic stultification, Spartan, early Aryan, early Hebraic, Buddhist, Christian—all representing a mutilation or a narcotising of some one of the soul’s possibilities; each of them furnishing, in its turn, a balance of desirable effects over effects undesirable or actually pernicious. Looked at dispassionately, there page: 174 is no grosser falsehood in the notion that the individual ego is necessarily sinful, than in the notion that the individual tribe or cast or race is necessarily impeccable; nor is it more lop‐sided to give unto others what would be best employed by oneself, than to take away from others what might best be employed by them. Indeed, one may ask oneself whether Tolstoi, let us say, is really less of a human being, if he is really more warped and maimed, more of a cripple and a monster than—well, than Nietzsche.

V

Let us leave the ground of human duty and virtue, and pass on, “Beyond Good and Evil,” to that which Nietzsche considered the only real one: the ground of human greatness. What did Nietzsche make of the Human Work? The work, which is the test and the reason of Carlyle’s Hero and of Renan’s Prospero‐Sage, had no intrinsic interest in Nietzsche’s eyes, no place in his philosophy. Its importance for him was merely as an expression of what he very erroneously took it to be, the outcome of an individual temperament, the manifestation of a Will to Power. Now, Nietzsche did not really want any Will to Power except his own, and he had a positively morbid dislike to coming in contact with other people’s temperament. It is understating the case to say that nineteen out of every twenty references he makes to the work of other men are expressions of aversion, contempt or disgust: and it is no mere coincidence that his ideal, Zarathustra, in all we are told about his life, preaches, page: 175 reviles, laughs, dances, nay, even lets himself once or twice be lured into the deadly sin of pity, but on no single occasion extracts pleasure or profit from any other human being or any human being’s work. The assimilation of other men’s greatness, the enriching oneself by appreciation, is never mentioned as part of the processes of growth of the great man, of the Super‐Man. His relations, when not of scorn and destruction, are entirely confined to his own solitary person; he develops merely by wrestling with himself and by expressing himself; he remains (even if multiplied to a possible race of Super‐Men) not merely isolated and solitary, but virtually alone in the universe; a colossal Michelangelesque figure, with immense sinews and rather academic draperies, filling up a narrow background entirely devoid of vegetation, houses, or any incident except two or three symbolical animals; he stands or, as Nietzsche represents him, he dances, in a dignified manner though a dreary one; and, when he is not inveighing against the sickening peculiarities of the human race he has turned his back upon, he is engaged in the one act for which he specially exists. The Super‐Man says “‘Yes’ to life.” But, before inquiring into the precise nature of this “‘Yes’ to life,” let us forestall all possibility of its being mistaken for any kind of philosophic or poetical act of contemplation of life’s loveliness or mystery. The more so that we shall incidentally gain some further, and some terribly significant, insight into the temperament with which Nietzsche himself had to face life. Here is his “genesis” of the Vita Contemplativa:

page: 176

“In primitive times, the individual, conscious of his own strength, is busy translating his feelings and thoughts (Vorstellungen) into acts, as in hunting, robbing, aggression, ill‐usage and murder, without counting such fainter imitations of such proceedings as he finds tolerated within his own community.” (Here I must open a parenthesis to remark upon the utter overlooking by Nietzsche of an activity which must necessarily have been enormously developed in primitive times, the activity of invention and manual dexterity.) “But if his vigour diminish,” proceeds Nietzsche in his account of the primæval man, “if he feel tired or sick or depressed or glutted, and therefore momentarily delivered of desire, then he becomes a comparatively better, that is to say, more harmless, creature. It is in this condition that he becomes a thinker and a reader of the future. But his thoughts, all the products of his mind, must necessarily reflect his momentary condition, that is to say, the beginning of cowardice and fatigue, the diminished importance in his feelings of activity and enjoyment.” Let us examine this statement. Nietzsche identifies, quite unwarrantably, the normal satisfaction of appetite with queasy and languid indigestion: according to him, the Berserker at rest must be the sick Berserker. Nietzsche has no recognition of the obvious fact that, in the healthy creature, the satisfaction of a want does not in the least mean the exhaustion of an energy (he sophistically or perhaps merely characteristically, autobiographically, identifies desire for objects with desire for action), and that, shelter, food, the first necessaries once obtained, this energy will be at liberty, will go into other things, page: 177 useful inventions, mechanical work, and, those having given their result, into the superfluous pleasantness of play, art and thought. Nietzsche is even guilty of self‐contradiction. He certainly seems to consider activity as due to a desire for asserting power; yet he supposes activity to flag with the satisfaction of definite material wants. However this be, he entirely ignores the fact of the transmission to another employment of whatever energy is liberated by the cessation of a want, a fact which is at the root of human history, and explains all the successive complexities of human activity, bodily and mental. But having established the origin of the Vita Contemplativa, of thought, imagination, all the higher powers, in the slackness and nausea of the savage weary of violence and sick with surfeit, “Pudenda origo!” he has the audacity to exclaim at his own libellous account! Having done this, he continues his attack on the life of the spirit by asserting that men of genius poison normal life by their demand for exceptional moments. “In the same manner,” he says, “as we see savages exterminating themselves by the use of alcohol, so mankind as a whole and in its more important qualities (im ganzen und grossen) has been slowly but thoroughly corrupted by the spiritual alcoholics of intoxicating feelings, and by the craving therefor. Who knows? Perhaps mankind will even be exterminated thereby.”

Thought, sympathetic perception, inventive calculation, imaginative and æsthetic joy, all that spiritual activity which enriches life, enabling it to bring forth more, demanding less weariness and waste, substituting enjoyment which can be shared for enjoyment which page: 178 must be fought for—all this an alcoholic unfitting mankind to live! Alas, alas! How deep must be the disease which thus converts his fellow‐creature’s best food into mere poison for this wretched Nietzsche’s nerves! “Pudenda origo!” one may, indeed, exclaim, not of the spiritual life, but of this man’s view of it. We can now understand what Nietzsche’s “saying ‘Yes’ to life” implies, and how it comes to be the culmination of a creed whose basis, as Nietzsche has told us, is “a certain pleasure in saying ‘No.’”

VI

According to Nietzsche’s belief, under the rubric of the “Eternal Return,” every item and every concatenation of items of the universe’s existence is bound to repeat itself in cycles of absolutely precise similarity. By this doctrine, therefore, Nietzsche is enabled (however unconsciously) to withdraw the one ideal and the one consolation which he had apparently conceded to the weakness of all philosophers: the Super‐Man and his “Yes” will indeed come, have indeed come, an infinity of times and already; but the Super‐Man and his “Yes” also pass, have passed, must pass, and be succeeded by a Da Capo, eternal like his comings and goings, of everything that is not Super‐Man and not “‘Yes’ to life.” This cosmic fact, as Nietzsche affects to consider it, implies necessarily a return of all those things which the Super‐Man appeared to have cleared away; indeed, the eight days’ illness which the discovery of the Eternal Return cost page: 179 Zarathustra is very clearly referred to that almost Super‐Man’s recognition of the return—infinitely repeated—of the meanness of spirit, the sympathy and desire for sympathy, the pity and humility, all the slave’s‐morality of that plebeian civilisation which offended the aristocratic Nietzsche by its stuffiness and evil smell. And it is this next to intolerable fact, it is this revolting habit on the part of “Life,” to which, above all else, the famous “Yes” of the Super‐Man is to be addressed with singing and dancing. The “‘Yes’ to life,” therefore, implies, quite consonantly with all we know of Nietzsche’s tendencies, a “No” not merely to all human hope and consolation, but a violent “No” to the assenting Super‐Man’s preferences and wishes. In fact, by an unexpected turn, we find that the “tendency to say ‘No,’” the “deliberate ruthlessness” which Nietzsche had attributed to the original thinker, has presented us, at the hands of the denouncer of all asceticism and pessimism, with but a new variety of the doctrine of renunciation.

“Not merely,” says Nietzsche, “to endure the inevitable, still less to hide it from ourselves ... but to love it.” The thought has never, perhaps, been put in a more striking form; but the thought is old, and it has seen an enormous amount of service, because it has been on occasions, a very consoling one. It runs through all Stoical literature, descending from the strained but magnificent reasonableness of Epictetus and Aurelius down to a denial of evil, like that of American Faith‐Healers; it takes another form, but remains essentially the same, in the Christian notion of Providence and Resignation, in all the paraphrases of page: 180 Dante’s “In la sua voluntade è nostra pace;” it reappears as Goethe’s “Entbehren sollst du,” and has even quite recently been dished up, a judicious mixture of Pagan and Christian, by that exquisite concocter of not very fresh moral and poetic dainties, M. Maeterlinck. And the ubiquitousness, the tenacity, of this doctrine is surely explicable by its belonging, most probably, to a category for which Ibsen has coined a name, to its being, although in the highest and most philosophical sense, a “vital lie”; one of those human inventions for making life’s occasional difficulties seem easier: a drug, a tonic, a stimulant or a sedative; not by any means a poison, but very far from being wholesome daily bread. Every form of the doctrine of renunciation, of saying “Yes” to that which naturally provokes a “No,” has undoubtedly done great service, and still must do, to mankind; making the human being, if not more fruitful, at all events (upon the whole) less weedy, less parasitic and, in so far, less wasteful of his neighbour’s time and his neighbour’s strength. But it seems to have the drawback of every lie, even of vital lies, the drawback, crudely, of not corresponding with facts. The facts are that combinations do occur which are dangerous to human life and power, and that pain and the revolt against pain have evolved themselves because they diminish the frequency of such evil combinations.

Sensitiveness to pain and abhorrence thereof are necessary; and, if they require occasional overcoming, it is merely to guard against some greater or more universal evil. It is right, therefore, despite Nietzsche, that there should be pity for others; and right, even page: 181 more, despite the Stoics, that there should be pity for ourselves. In the real “‘Yes’ to life” (not Zarathustra’s sham one) there must even be implied a “No,” instinctive, passionate, even more than reasoned, against such of life’s items as are hostile to its completeness and duration.

By all means, therefore, let us play a game of skill and patience with Destiny; turn Fate’s moves into gains when we can, and learn from our losses to play better in the future. But let us guard against the temptation, subtle and strong to our inertness and to our vanity, of thinking, or pretending to think, that we always gain. Making the best of things is intelligent and dignified, it is, above all, practical; but beyond this begins the uncouth folly of depreciating advantages which we must forego or denying reverses which we have to sustain. To say systematically “Yes” to the evils of life would not only break the fruitful continuity of similarity and sympathy, but mar the individual’s energy, and jumble the individual’s instincts. It would be a poor beginning for a Super‐Man to start with sensibilities so complacent, or illusions so complete, that other men’s poison should become his natural meat; and it would condemn him, in the long run, to receive of the life he thus stupidly accepted only the poisonous refuse. ’Tis a poor result of moralising to affirm that black is white, loss no loss, suffering no suffering; one feels it in all Stoicism from Epictetus down to Maeterlinck, and in all religious mysticism which insists on the goodness of a humanly good God. And if, following Nietzsche’s example, we lay ruthlessly analytic hands upon the latest expres‐ page: 182 sion of this venerable and indisputable piece of conventional morality, we shall find in the Zarathustrian precept, of “not merely enduring, but loving the inevitable,” something worse than the mere weakness and insincerity which are at the bottom of all the other embodiments of this particular “vital lie.” For, as the really difficult attitude towards life would be the simple, straightforward one of seeing it lucidly and feeling normally towards it, of hating its evil in proportion as we cherish its good, of continuing in our consciousness the great work of selection with a resolute “No” as well as a resolute “Yes”; as this would evidently be the attitude requiring perhaps almost superhuman strength and displaying almost superhuman dignity, there comes to be an element of positive vulgarity in the swagger of Zarathustra, shouting his “Yes” to the eternally recurring cycle of the universe’s intolerable evils. Nay, worse than this; is there not in these Zarathustrian antics of “laughter and dancing” in the face of the most desolating of all nightmare conceptions of the universe, and in this ugly misapplication of the high and happy word “love” to the object of hatred, is there not in all this famous “Yes,” a virtual “No” to everything natural, sane in spirit, nay, healthy in body?

VII

Can this be the great gift for which Nietzsche is evermore preparing us? Is it in favour of this that we are told to destroy all long‐established systems and page: 183 valuations? for this that we are to purify the world and our souls by ruthlessness, by “deliberate cruelty” towards others and ourselves? for this that the hills are to be levelled and the valleys raised up by methods not of engineering but of earthquake? Not in reality. For, more than in any other philosopher, we become aware that there is in Nietzsche’s mind something round which his system has grown, but which is far more essential and vital to him than his system: something continually alluded to, constantly immanent, round which he perpetually hovers, into which he frequently plunges, on whose bank he erects metaphysical edifices, lets off fireworks of epigrams, sets holocausts ablaze and sings magnificent dithyrambs; but which remains undefined, a vague It. Such an ineffable central mystery exists in the thought of many philosophers, and perhaps of all mystics (for Nietzsche is a mystic); a whirlpool explaining everything, but never itself explained; called, as the case may be, “Higher Law,” “Truth,” “Good,” sometimes merely “Nature,” and, in the remoter Past, most frequently called by the name of “God.” It is one of Nietzsche’s finest and profoundest achievements that he has, once or twice, called this transcending It by a new, surprising and, methinks, a correct name, “My Taste.”

In Nietzsche’s case, indeed, more perhaps than in that of any other philosopher, the living nucleus of all his teaching is not a thought, but an emotional condition, organic and permanent. Under all the arguments which have grown out of it, under all the facts and theories attracted to it like iron filings to a magnet, out of the refuse of old and the mess of new doctrines, page: 184 there is, if we look carefully enough, a chronic irritation and throbbing: “I dislike,” “I hate,” “I am made uncomfortable,” “I am incompatible,” “I want to get rid,” “I want to destroy,” “I want to be alone,” “I want room for my soreness and swelling.” The hypertrophied, hypersensitive ego, which cannot endure the contact of life, the presence of others and other things; the sick ego, in its feverish shiftings and feverish all‐overishness, capable of convulsive efforts passing the powers of health, incapable at the same time of the most normal and every‐day endurance; such is, I think, the living core of Nietzsche’s doctrines. And the various transcending messages he feels that he must bring, the great efforts of destruction and reconstruction he must accomplish, everything in short which he feels to be superhuman in himself, are merely the delusive birth‐throes, they are the massive, yet pervading pain of a soul which distorts and magnifies all things to the measure of its discomfort. We have seen how his “Will to Power,” remaining consciously such, fails to metamorphose itself into those desires for the not‐ego, into that striving after the external‐to‐oneself, into that thinking and feeling of the outside world, which is the process of exteriorisation of the subject into the object, normal and necessary in every healthy soul. We have seen similarly how, despite his extraordinary genius, the vastness of the universe and its complexity and vigour of life entirely escaped Nietzsche, until the world shrank to being little more for him than an inert, almost counterfeit, stage filled up by his own imaginary size and strength; the cooperation of every kind of existence, the give and take page: 185 of past and present, the ceaseless act of assimilation and reproduction, and their culmination in the immortally living human work, all this accessory, organic, endless and endless complex activity becoming replaced in his mind by the puny deed of volition of a mere individual Super‐Man. Nay, we have seen how he gravely asserted that this microscopic human detail could actually accept with a pompous “Yes” the inevitable course of life universal, of which he, his thought and volition, are but as the minutest bubble of froth; and we have seen also how this supposed “‘Yes’ to life” is in reality, and more than in any of the old ascetic doctrines, a “No” to the most strongly organised preferences and repulsions of the normal soul.

For Nietzsche, through the purely intellectual and often inherited parts of whose work we can trace the thread of that autobiographical philosophy he so greatly prized, gave with unerring truth the formula of his temperament. “A pleasure in saying ‘No,’ a certain deliberate ruthlessness.” The “No,” a “No” of his whole unhappy organism, exists not merely in this element of destructiveness; but even more subtly and characteristically in that sense of almost bodily disgust (Ekel) which the contact of his fellow‐men, of their thoughts and feelings, arouses in him, with significant metaphors of “lack of air” and “filthy smell.” Even more than that titillation of tearing and breaking perpetually in Nietzsche’s fingers, there is the unmistakable evidence of disease in this constant spiritual nausea in Nietzsche’s mouth. The two together mean that this man, so splendidly endowed page: 186 in intellect, was so unhappily constituted as to receive mainly painful impressions from the totality of his surroundings. I think I am justified in saying “mainly painful impressions,” despite the occasional praise which Nietzsche bestows upon classic literature, remote Alpine fastnesses, southern clearness and radiance, and more particularly upon certain music—Bizet’s, especially, and (partly from contradictoriness to the Wagnerians) Mozart’s. For such evidences of pleasure from outer things are not only rare, but they are never fused into any kind of pervading mood of gladness, of appreciation and gratitude towards the outer world. He has, indeed, put into words his incapacity of feeling anything save the fewest and most far‐between impressions of the goodness of things, and expressed the mass of discontented, depreciating self‐assertion in which these rare appreciative impressions were set. For such is the meaning, as indicative of Nietzsche’s personality, of that famous phrase about the glance of the true philosopher, “which rarely admires, rarely looks up, rarely loves.”

Let us think what that means; and, particularly, what is contained in that boast of rarely loving. And in this last item, especially, the secret of Nietzsche’s nature is out. One guesses it many times, but perhaps nowhere in his works is it so strongly suggested as in a certain beautiful chapter of “Zarathustra.” He shows himself in it surrounded by all the beauty of life, all the tenderness of life, and by the majestic fact of life’s eternal renovation; and he shows himself, at the same time, without the smallest thrill of emotional recognition, without the faintest sense of page: 187 being a part of it, without the faintest longing to merge himself therein, to take it in, to give himself to it, without a trace of the universal instinct to assimilate, to be renovated, to add to it in one’s turn. He shows himself separate, unmoved, impervious, unaltered, solitary, sterile. The reason why Nietzsche will always remain inferior to other thinkers, from Plato and Lucretius to Spinoza and Schopenhauer, is that, for all his talk of “loving the inevitable,” the man has no experience of the fact of love. I do not speak of love of human beings. Not to know that is certainly a lack and limitation, but there are lacks and limitations far deeper and graver still than that: not to unite in thought and feeling with the thought and feeling of which the world is full; not to appreciate, not to admire, not to reverence; not to unite in joy with what is lovely, in reverence with what, in man and nature, is powerful; nay, not to unite in the fruitful struggle of hatred with what is hateful.

But Nietzsche’s Super‐Man was to say “Yes” to the whole of life, “to love the inevitable”—that which, as he himself explained, most human beings could scarcely endure. He was to love rarely; or more correctly speaking—for those who have the power of loving must needs love whenever there is occasion, and the occasion is not rare, but common—he was not to love, in the word’s real sense, at all.

Haunted, hag‐ridden, by the sense of his own sore and struggling ego, Nietzsche, true to the autobiographical instincts which he discovered in all philosophic systematising, made life synonymous with that ego’s realisation and assertion. “Give,” he wrote in one of page: 188 his latest and finest works, “Give me, ye Gods, give me madness! madness to make me believe at last in myself.” But in this world of intuitive and imitative action, of reflex‐like instincts implanted inextricably deep below consciousness, there is no need for special self‐belief or self‐assertion; or, rather, self‐belief and self‐assertion are bound to exist, to push, to act, to speak, everywhere and in everything, whether they be conscious or not: they are implicit in every desire and every energy. The realisation of one’s own ego is—even when it is not the fly’s self‐realisation on the coach wheel—the most unnecessary epiphenomenon; nay, the least fruitful exercise of an idle dilettanteism. Believe in oneself! Why is it not enough that we believe in the objects of our love and our hate, in the aims of our impulses and actions? And does life depend upon the fiat of individual self‐realisation? What is this childish trifling about saying “‘Yes’ to life,” about loving the inevitable? Man, the inevitable can do without your approval! And Life has you safe in its clutches, Life, Death—and the madness you invoked, also.

VIII

Why have we spent so much time—which would have sufficed to collect a volume of sane and useful sayings out of Nietzsche’s work—upon the analysis of his unhappy, morbid and sterile personality? Partly because, in the universal and necessary reconsideration of all our previous habits of belief and standards of conduct, the imitation of Nietzsche’s attitude con‐ page: 189 stitutes a real, though a momentary, danger to some of us. But partly, also, because the attitude of Nietzsche suggests in its main characteristics, and helps us to construct even in some of its details, an attitude towards the universe of an exactly contrary nature. In analysing the sham “Yes” which this passionate No‐Sayer flung in the face of the life he had stripped of all living quality, we may have been led to conceive a more genuine “Yes” addressed to a more real life. And thus we may have come to reverse the prayer of Nietzsche, and to exclaim, in humility and confidence: “Give us, ye Gods, Sanity: so that we may believe in all which is not merely our own self.”

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