Dec 14, 2010

From Nietzsche

Imagine the most extreme example, a person who did not possess the power of forgetting at all, who would be condemned to see everywhere a coming into being. Such a person no longer believes in his own being, no longer believes in himself, sees everything in moving points flowing out of each other, and loses himself in this stream of becoming.

As the hundreds of different languages correspond to the same typically permanent needs of people, so that someone who understood these needs could learn nothing new from all the languages, so the superhistorical thinker illuminates for himself all the histories of people and of individuals from within, guessing like a clairvoyant the original sense of the different hieroglyphics and gradually even growing tired of avoiding the constantly new streams of written signals streaming forth. For, in the endless excess of what is happening, how is he not finally to reach saturation, supersaturation, and, yes, even revulsion, so that the most daring ones are perhaps finally ready, with Giacomo Leopardi, to say to their heart

Nothing lives which would be worthy
of your striving, and the earth deserves not a sigh.
Pain and boredom is our being and the world is excrement,
--nothing else.
Calm yourself.

As long as the soul of historical writing lies in the great driving impulses which a powerful man derives from it, as long as the past must be written about as worthy of imitation, as capable of being imitated, with the possibility of a second occurrence, history is definitely in danger of becoming something altered, reinterpreted into something more beautiful, and thus coming close to free poeticizing.

If we want to transfer into the area of culture the customs of popular agreement and the popular majority and, as it were, to require the artist to stand in his own defense before the forum of the artistically inert types, then we can take an oath in advance that he will be condemned, not in spite of but just because his judges have solemnly proclaimed the canon of monumental culture...

So they are knowledgeable about culture because they generally like to get rid of culture. They behave as if they were doctors, while basically they are only concerned with mixing poisons. Thus, they develop their languages and their taste, in order to explain in their discriminating way why they so persistently disapprove of all offerings of more nourishing cultural food. For they do not want greatness to arise. Their method is to say: "See greatness is already there!"

Only the man whose breast is oppressed by a present need and who wants to cast off his load at any price has a need for critical history, that is, history which sits in judgment and passes judgment. From the thoughtless transplanting of plants stem many ills: the critical man without need, the antiquarian without reverence, and the student of greatness without the ability for greatness are the sort who are receptive to weeds estranged from their natural mother earth and therefore degenerate growths.

The scholarly habit lives on without it and orbits in an egotistical and self-satisfied manner around its own centre. Then we get a glimpse of the wretched drama of a blind mania for collecting, a restless compiling together of everything that ever existed. The man envelops himself in a mouldy smell. With the antiquarian style, he manages to corrupt a significant talent, a noble need, into an insatiable new lust, a desire for everything really old. Often he sinks so deep that he is finally satisfied with that nourishment and takes pleasure in gobbling up for himself the dust of biographical quisquilien [rubbish].

For what means does nature still have at its disposal to deal with the super-abundance forcing itself outward? Only one means, to take it as lightly as possible in order to shove it aside again quickly and dispose of it. From that arises a habit of not taking real things seriously any more. From that arises the "weak personality," as a result of which reality and existence make only an insignificant impression. Finally people become constantly more venial and more comfortable and widen the disturbing gulf between content and form until they are insensitive to the barbarism, so long as the memory is always newly stimulated, so long as constantly new things worthy of knowledge flow by, which can be neatly packaged in the compartments of memory.

While never before has there been such sonorous talk of the "free personality," we never once see personalities, to say nothing of free people, but only anxiously disguised universal people.

No one is allowed to venture on fulfilling the law of philosophy on his own. No one lives philosophically, with that simple manly truth, which acted forcefully on a man in ancient times, wherever he was, and which thus drove him to behave as Stoic if he had once promised to be true to the Stoa. All modern philosophy is political and police-like, restricted to the appearance of learning through the ruling powers, churches, academies, customs, and human cowardice. It sticks around with sighs of "If only" or with the knowledge "There was once." Philosophy is wrong to be at the heart of historical education, if it wants to be more than an inner repressed knowledge without effect.

If the personalities are, first of all, as has been described, inflated to an eternal loss of subjectivity or, as people say, to objectivity, then nothing more can work on them. Let something good and right come about, in action, poetry, or music. Immediately the person emptied out by his education looks out over the world and asks about the history of the author. If this author has already created a number of things, immediately the critic must allow himself to point out the earlier and the presumed future progress of the author's development; right away he will bring in others for comparative purposes, he will dissect and rip apart the choice of the author's material and his treatment, and will, in his wisdom, fit the work together again anew, giving him advice and setting him right about everything. Let the most astonishing thing occur; the crowd of historical neutrals is always in place ready to assess the author from a great distance. Momentarily the echo resounds, but always as "Criticism." A short time before, however, the critic did not permit himself to dream that such an event was possible.

The work never achieves an influence, but only more "Criticism," and the criticism itself, in its turn, has no influence, but leads only to further criticism. In this business people have agreed to consider a lot of critics as an influence and a few critics or none as a failure. Basically, however, everything remains as in the past, even with this "influence." True, people chat for a while about something new, and then about something else new, and in between do what they always do. The historical education of our critics no longer permits an influence on our real understanding, namely, an influence on life and action. On the blackest writing they impress immediately their blotting paper, to the most delightful drawing they apply their thick brush strokes, which are to be considered corrections. And then everything is over once again. However, their critical pens never cease flying, for they have lost power over them and are led by them rather than leading them. In this excess of their critical ejaculations, in the lack of control over themselves, in what the Romans call impotentia [impotence], the weakness of the modern personality reveals itself.

Few people serve truthfulness, because only a few have the purity of will to be just. Moreover, even of these, the fewest have the strength to be able to be just.

There are many trivial truths; there are problems that never require effort, let alone any self-sacrifice, in order for one to judge them correctly. In this field of the trivial and the safe, a person indeed succeeds in becoming a cold demon of knowledge nonetheless. When, especially in favourable times, whole cohorts of learned people and researchers are turned into such demons, it always remains unfortunately possible that the time in question suffers from a lack of strong and great righteousness, in short, of the most noble kernel of the so-called drive to the truth.

As judges you must stand higher than what is being assessed, whereas, you have only come later. The guests who come last to the table should in all fairness receive the last places. And you wish to have the first places? Then at least do something of the highest and best order. Perhaps people will then really make a place for you, even if you come at the end.

An eminently learned man and a great numskull--those go together very easily under a single hat.

Anyone who has not experienced life on a greater and higher level than everyone else will not know how to interpret the greatness and loftiness of the past. The utterance of the past is always an oracular pronouncement. You will understand it only as builders of the future and as people who know about the present. People now explain the extraordinarily deep and far-reaching effect of Delphi by the particular fact that the Delphic priests had precise knowledge about the past. It is appropriate now to understand that only the man who builds the future has a right to judge the past. In order to look ahead, set yourselves an important goal, and at the same time control that voluptuous analytical drive with which you now lay waste the present and render almost impossible all tranquility, all peaceful growth and maturing. Draw around yourself the fence of a large and extensive hope, an optimistic striving. Create in yourselves a picture to which the future is to correspond, and forget the myth that you are epigones. You have enough to plan and to invent when you imagine that future life for yourselves. But in considering history do not ask that she show you the "How?" and the "With what?" If, however, you live your life in the history of great men, then you will learn from history the highest command: to become mature and to flee away from that paralyzing and prohibiting upbringing of the age, which sees advantages for itself in not allowing you to become mature, in order to rule and exploit you, the immature. And when you ask after biographies, then do not ask for those with the refrain "Mr. Soandso and His Age" but for those whose title page must read "A Fighter Against His Age." Fill your souls with Plutarch, and dare to believe in yourselves when you have faith in his heroes. With a hundred people raised in such an unmodern way, that is, people who have become mature and familiar with the heroic, one could permanently silence the entire noisy pseudo-education of this age.

They can only cackle more than before, because they lay eggs more often. Naturally, however, the eggs have become constantly smaller (although the books have become constantly thicker). As the final natural result, things resign themselves to the commonly loved "Popularizing" of science (in addition to the "Feminization" and "Infantization"), that is, the notorious tailoring of the scientific coat to the body of the "motley public"

The time will come in which people wisely refrain from all constructions of the world process or even of human history, a time in which people in general no longer consider the masses but once again think about individuals who construct a sort of bridge over the chaotic storm of becoming. These people do not set out some sort of process, but live timelessly and contemporaneously, thanks to history which permits such a combination. They live like the republic of geniuses, about which Schopenhauer once explained that one giant shouts out to another across the barren intervals of time, and undisturbed by the wanton and noisy midgets who creep around them, the giants continue their lofty spiritual conversation. The task of history is to be a mediator between them and thus to provide an opportunity and the energies for the development of greatness. No, the goal of humanity cannot finally be anywhere but in its greatest examples.

To me, the masses seem to be worth a glance in only in three respects: first as blurred copies of great men, presented on bad paper with worn out printing plates, then as the resistance against the great men, and finally as working implements of the great. For the rest, let the devil and statistics carry them off! How might statistics demonstrate that there could be laws in history? Laws? Yes, statistics prove how coarse and disgustingly uniform the masses are. Are we to call the effects of the powerful forces of stupidity, mimicry, love, and hunger laws?

Yes, people know what a certain predominance of history is capable of; people know it only too well: to uproot the strongest instincts of youth, fire, defiance, forgetting of the self, to dampen down the heat of their sense of right and wrong, to hold back or repress the desire to mature slowly with the contrary desire to be finished quickly, to be useful and productive, to infect the honesty and boldness of the feelings with doubts. Indeed, history is itself capable of deceiving the young about their most beautiful privilege, about their power to cultivate in themselves with complete conviction a great idea and to allow an even greater idea to grow forth out of it. A certain excess of history is capable of all this. We have seen it. And this is the reason: through its incessant shifting of the horizons of significance, through the elimination of a surrounding atmosphere, it no longer allows a person to perceive and to act unhistorically. He then draws himself from the infinity of his horizon back into himself, into the smallest egotistical region and there must wither away and dry up.

The German education of the young, however, begins directly from this false and barren idea of culture. Its end goal, imagined in all purity and loftiness, is not at all the freely educated man, but the scholar, the scientific person, indeed, the scientific person who is useful as early as possible, the person who sets himself apart from life in order to recognize it clearly. The product of this education, considered in a correct empirically general way, is the historically and aesthetically educated Philistine, the precocious and freshly wise chatterer about state, church, and art, the sensorium for thousands of sensations, the inexhaustible stomach which nevertheless does not know what an honest hunger and thirst are.

That monotonous orthodoxy would sound something like this: the young person has to begin with a knowledge of culture, not at first with a knowledge of life, and even less with life and experience themselves. Moreover, this knowledge about culture as historical knowledge is poured over or stirred into the youth; that is, his head is filled up with a monstrous number of ideas derived from extremely indirect knowledge of past times and peoples, not from the immediate contemplation of living. His desire to experience something for himself and to feel growing in him a coordinated and living system of his own experiences--such a desire is narcotized and, as it were, made drunk through the opulent deceptions about matters of fact, as if it were possible in a few years to sum up in oneself the highest and most remarkable experiences of all times, especially of the greatest ages. It is precisely this insane procedure which leads our young developing artists into the halls of culture and galleries instead of into the workshop of a master and, above all, into the extraordinary workshops of the extraordinary master craftswoman Nature.

This truthfulness may also occasionally seriously harm the idea of culture esteemed at the time; it even may be able to assist a totally decorative culture to collapse.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1886)
The Use and Abuse of History for Life

Dec 3, 2010


At the beginning of the path, a student perceives mountains and rivers. As he proceeds, he realises that mountains and rivers are not mountains and rivers. At the end of the path, mountains and rivers are mountains and rivers.

Although sinking back into the world looks like returning to the first position again, it is not so. Everything has changed irrevocably. Everything one experiences is as it is: totally transformed by understanding.

Karma is the return of the first position, and the need to go through the renunciation. In the Hindu tradition is the saying, "Neti Neti". This is the negative conceptualisation of all concrete existence, reminding oneself not to grasp to finitude. Another saying is "Tat tvam asi", which again reminds oneself not to grasp to finitude, but to see all as sharing the same nature.

Communication is rife with difficulties, because speaking of the truth is always negative. The hearer is not yet even in the first position, so hears only fixed and concrete realities. They have that deep prejudice and lack of insight. It takes skill to take away from the listener in all the negating conceptual gifts. This seems like a paradox, but it is a simple process of finding words that tear away the concreteness of a grasping mind's conceptualisations and by slipping and sliding and merging ideas so as to convey less.

Unfortunately, in negating and destroying, there are many listeners who so bring their objectifying mental habits to bear, that they see only "destruction", "death", "nay-saying", and "bleakness" in the negating dialectic. It is truly difficult to break apart the concretising habits of such an attitude; it is the social animal that wants merging, power, illusion, enchantment, magic and mystery. It is possible that such a base, emotional psychology is not close enough to the realms of reason to deal with God in the dialectical, indirect way. Probably one has to give them baby food like poetry, strongly positive (i.e. nondialectical) ideals, and take the level of personality in order to draw them to first base where mountains are simply mountains and not reminders of their childhood. Truly, one is speaking to little children with these.

It is wrong to be speaking directly and positively, quite wrong, because this is existentially revoking the meaning of one's communication. But if the listener is of low scope, then it is impossible not to work on a level they can step towards more easily.

One must always remember to be, at first call, in the relationship individually and authentically, to the truth. Only to that ground is one's message meaningful and right-oriented. One cannot speak as anyone but as that relationship of self to the Infinite. One cannot speak as a human finitude related to the crowd, or to another human finitude. That misplaces the truth of the message. One must always take one's stance in the meaning, taking away at every breath any tendencies or movements to reinforce or concretise, or even the movement of negating that would profer itself as substantial.

It truly takes mindfulness and consistency in faith to communicate. As another has said, only a wise person can speak the truth.

Kelly Jones