Kundera versus Nietzsche

Conclusion: The Unbearable Lightness of Being…

The Gay Science, Section 341 (Nietzsche)

The heaviest weight. – What if some day or night a demon were to steal into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it you will have to live once again and innumerable times again; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unspeakably small or great in your life must return to you, all in the same succession and sequence – even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!’ Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god, and never have I heard anything more divine.’ If this thought gained power over you, as you are it would transform and possibly crush you; the question in each and every thing, ‘Do you want this again and innumerable times again?’ would lie on your actions as the heaviest weight! Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to long for nothing more fervently than for this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?

Think about The Unbearable Lightness of Being and compare it to what Nietzsche calls, the Heaviest Weight. (341, Gay Science) Which is more unbearable, Nietzsche’s vision of life or Milan Kundera’s?

Nietzsche on the Modern European Identity

“Modern Europe”

From: The Gay Science (La gaya scienza) Book V ‘We Fearless Ones’, Friedrich Nietzsche (1882)


How morality is scarcely dispensable.— A naked human being is generally a shameful sight—I am speaking of us Europeans (and not even of female Europeans!). Suppose that, owing to some magician’s malice, the most cheerful company at table suddenly saw itself disrobed and undressed; I believe that not only their cheerfulness would vanish and that the strongest appetite would be discouraged— it seems that we Europeans simply cannot dispense with that masquerade which one calls clothes. Now consider the way “moral man” is dressed up, how he is veiled behind moral formulas and concepts of decency—the way our actions are benevolently concealed by the concepts of duty, virtue, sense of community, honorableness, self-denial—should the reasons for all this not be equally good? I am not suggesting that all this is meant to mask human malice and villainy—the wild animal in us; my idea is, on the contrary, that it is precisely as tame animals that we are a shameful sight and in need of the moral disguise,—that the “inner man” in Europe is not by a long shot bad enough to show himself without shame (or to be beautiful—). The European disguises himself with morality because he has become a sick, sickly, crippled animal that has good reasons for being “tame,” for he is almost an abortion, scarce half made up, weak, awkward … It is not the ferocity of the beast of prey that requires a moral disguise but the herd animal with its profound mediocrity, timidity, and boredom with itself. With morality the European dresses up—let us confess it!—to look nobler, more important, more respectable, “divine”—

From: Beyond Good and Evil, Preface Friedrich Nietzsche (1886)

… “the worst, most protracted, and most dangerous of all errors so far was a dogmatist’s error, namely Plato’s invention of the pure spirit and the good in itself. But now that it is overcome, now that Europe is breathing a sigh of relief after this nightmare and at least can enjoy a healthier—sleep, we, whose task is wakefulness itself, are the heirs of all that strength which has been fostered by the struggle against this error.”

To be sure, European man experiences this tension as a state of distress; twice already attempts have been made in the grand style to slacken the bow, once by means of Jesuitism, the second time by means of the democratic Enlightenment:—which, with the aid of freedom of the press and newspaper-reading, might indeed bring it about that the spirit would no longer experience itself so easily as “distress”! (The Germans have invented gunpowder—hats off to them! but then they made up for that—they invented the press.) But we who are neither Jesuits nor democrats, nor even German enough, we good Europeans and free, very free spirits—we still feel it, the whole distress of the spirit and the whole tension of its bow! And perhaps also the arrow, the task, who knows? the target …..

Sils Maria, Upper Engadine
June 1885

Nietzsche on the Modern European Identity – stateless, godless and free

From: The Gay Science (La gaya scienza) Book V ‘We Fearless Ones’, Friedrich Nietzsche (1882)


We who are homeless.— Among Europeans today there is no lack of those who are entitled to call themselves homeless in a distinctive and honorable sense, it is to them that I especially commend my secret wisdom and gaya scienza! For their fate is hard, their hopes are uncertain, it is quite a feat to devise some comfort for them—but what avail! We children of the future, how could we be at home in this today! We feel disfavor for all ideals that might lead one to feel at home even in this fragile, broken time of transition; as for its “realities,” we do not believe that they will last. The ice that still supports people today has become very thin: the wind that brings the thaw is blowing, we ourselves who are homeless constitute a force that breaks open ice and other all too thin “realities” … We “conserve” nothing, neither do we want to return to any past periods, we are not by any means “liberal,” we do not work for “progress,” we do not need to plug up our ears against the sirens who in the market place sing of the future—their song about “equal rights,” “a free society,” “no more masters and no servants” has no allure for us!—we simply do not consider it desirable that a realm of justice and concord should be established on earth (because it would certainly be the realm of the deepest leveling and chinoiserie [Chineserei]), we are delighted with all who love, as we do, danger, war, and adventures, who refuse to compromise, to be captured, reconciled, and castrated, we count ourselves among conquerors, we think about the necessity for new orders, also for a new slavery—for every strengthening and enhancement of the “human” type also involves a new kind of enslavement, does it not? with all this are we not bound to feel ill at ease in an age that likes to claim the distinction of being the most humane, the mildest, and the most righteous age that the sun has ever seen? It is bad enough that precisely when we hear these beautiful words we have the ugliest suspicions! What we find in them is merely an expression—and a masquerade—of a profound weakening, of weariness, of old age, of declining energies! What can it matter to us what tinsel the sick may use to cover up their weakness! Let them parade it as their virtue—after all, there is no doubt that weakness makes one mild, oh so mild, so righteous, so inoffensive, so “humane”!— The “religion of pity” to which one would like to convert us—oh, we know the hysterical little males and females well enough who today need precisely this religion as a veil and make-up! We are no humanitarians; we should never dare to permit ourselves to speak of our “love for humanity”—our kind is not actor enough for that! Or not Saint-Simonist enough [i.e., not a utopian socialist], not French enough. One really has to be afflicted with a Gallic excess of erotic irritability and enamored impatience to approach in all honesty the whole of humanity with one’s lust … Humanity! Has there ever been a more hideous old woman among all old women? (—unless it were “truth”: a question for philosophers). No, we do not love humanity; but on the other hand we are not nearly “German” enough, in the sense in which the word “German” is constantly being used nowadays, to advocate nationalism and race hatred and to be able to take pleasure in the national scabies of the heart and blood poisoning that now leads the nations of Europe to delimit and barricade themselves against each other as if it were a matter of quarantine. For that we are too openminded, too malicious, too spoiled, also too well-informed, too “traveled”: we far prefer to live on mountains, apart, “untimely,” in past or future centuries, merely in order to keep ourselves from experiencing the silent rage to which we know we should be condemned as eyewitnesses of politics that are desolating the German spirit by making it vain and that is, moreover, petty politics:—to keep its own creation from immediately falling apart again, is it not finding it necessary to plant it between two deadly hatreds? must it not desire the eternalization of the European system of a lot of petty states? … We who are homeless are too manifold and mixed racially and in our descent, being “modern men,” and consequently do not feel tempted to participate in the mendacious racial self-admiration and racial indecency that parades in Germany today as a sign of a German way of thinking and that is doubly false and obscene among the people of the “historical sense.” We are, in one word—and let this be our word of honor!—good Europeans, the heirs of Europe, the rich, oversupplied, but also overly obligated heirs of thousands of years of European spirit: as such, we have also outgrown Christianity and are averse to it, and precisely because we have grown out of it, because our ancestors were Christians who in their Christianity were uncompromisingly upright; for their faith they willingly sacrificed possessions and position, blood and fatherland. We—do the same. For what? For our unbelief? For every kind of unbelief? No, you know better than that, my friends! The hidden Yes in you is stronger than all Nos and Maybes that afflict you and your age like a disease; and when you have to embark on the sea, you emigrants, you, too, are compelled to this by—a faith! …

Nietzsche and his/the “German” Identity

From: Ecce Homo Why I am So Wise, 3 Friedrich Nietzsche (written in 1888) (published in 1908)

This dual series of experiences, this means of access to two worlds that seem so far asunder, finds an exact reflection in my own nature,—I am a Doppelgänger, I have a “second” face, as well as a first. And perhaps also a third … The very nature of my origin allowed me an outlook transcending merely local, merely national and limited horizons, it cost me no effort to be a “good European.” On the other hand, I am perhaps more German than modern Germans, mere citizens of the German Reich could possibly be,—I, the last anti-political German. And yet my ancestors were Polish noblemen: it is owing to them that I have so much race instinct in my blood, who knows?

From: Ecce Homo The Case of Wagner – A Musician’s Problem, 2 Friedrich Nietzsche (written in 1888) (published in 1908)

But here nothing shall keep me from becoming blunt and telling the Germans a few hard truths: who else would do it?— I speak of their indecency in historicis. Not only have the German historians utterly lost the great perspective for the course and the values of culture, nor are they merely, without exception, buffoons of politics (or the church—): but they have actually proscribed this great perspective. One must first be “German” and have “race,” then one can decide about all values and disvalues in historicis—one determines them … “German” has become an argument, Deutschland, Deutschland über alles a principle, the Teutons are the “moral world order” in history; the carriers of freedom versus the imperium Romanum, and the restoration of morality and the “categorical imperative” versus the eighteenth century … There is now a historiography that is reichsdeutsch; there is even, I fear, an anti-Semitic one,—there is a court historiography, and Herr von Treitschke [Heinrich von Treitschke (1834-1896): German historian] is not ashamed … Recently an idiotic judgment in historicis, a proposition of the fortunately late aesthetic Swabian, Vischer [Friedrich Theodor Vischer (1807-1887)], was repeated in one German newspaper after another as a “truth,” to which every German has to say Yes: “The Renaissance and the Reformation, only the two together make a whole—the aesthetic rebirth and the moral rebirth.”— When I read such sentences, my patience is exhausted and I feel the itch, I even consider it a duty, to tell the Germans for once how many things they have on their conscience by now. All great crimes against culture for four centuries they have on their conscience! … And the reason is always the same, their innermost cowardice before reality, which is also cowardice before the truth, their untruthfulness which has become instinctive with them, their “idealism” … The Germans did Europe out of the harvest, the meaning, of the last great age, the age of the Renaissance, at a moment when a higher order of values, the noble ones, those that say Yes to life, those that guarantee the future, had triumphed at the seat of the opposite values, those of declineand in the very instincts of those who were sitting there! Luther, this calamity of a monk, restored the church and, what is a thousand times worse, Christianity, at the very moment when it was vanquished … Christianity, this denial of the will to life become religion! … Luther, an impossible monk who, on account of his own “impossibility,” attacked the church and—consequently—restored it … The Catholics would have good reasons to celebrate Luther festivals, to write Luther plays … Luther—and the “moral rebirth”! To hell with psychology!— Beyond a doubt, the Germans are idealists. Twice, when an honest, unequivocal, perfectly scientific way of thinking had just been attained with tremendous fortitude and self-overcoming, the Germans managed to find devious paths to the old “ideal,” reconciliations of truth and “ideal,” at bottom, formulas for a right to repudiate science, a right to lie. Leibniz and Kant—these two greatest brake shoes of intellectual integrity in Europe!— Finally, when on the bridge between two centuries of décadence, a force majeure of genius and will became visible, strong enough to create a unity out of Europe, a political and economic unity for the sake of a world government, the Germans with their “Wars of Liberation” did Europe out of the meaning, the miracle of meaning in the existence of Napoleon,—hence they have on their conscience all that followed, that is with us today, this most anticultural sickness and unreason there is, nationalism, this névrose nationale [national neurosis] with which Europe is sick, this perpetuation of European particularism, of petty politics [der Kleinstaaterei Europas, der kleinen Politik]: they have deprived Europe itself of its meaning, of its reason—they have driven it into a dead-end street.— Does anyone besides me know the way out of this dead-end street? … A task that is great enough to unite nations again?

Excerpts from Beyond Good and Evil

Beyond Good and Evil, by Friedrich Nietzsche

Section 259: Will to Power. To refrain mutually from injury, from violence, from exploitation, and put one’s will on a par with that of others: this may result in a certain rough sense in good conduct among individuals when the necessary conditions are given (namely, the actual similarity of the individuals in amount of force and degree of worth, and their correlation within one organization). As soon, however, as one wished to take this principle more generally, and if possible even as the fundamental principle of society, it would immediately disclose what it really is—namely, a Will to the denial of life, a principle of dissolution and decay. Here one must think profoundly to the very basis and resist all sentimental weakness: life itself is essentially appropriation, injury, conquest of the strange and weak, suppression, severity, obtrusion of peculiar forms, incorporation, and at the least, putting it mildest, exploitation;—but why should one for ever use precisely these words on which for ages a disparaging purpose has been stamped? Even the organization within which, as was previously supposed, the individuals treat each other as equal—it takes place in every healthy aristocracy—must itself, if it be a living and not a dying organization, do all that towards other bodies, which the individuals within it refrain from doing to each other: it will have to be the incarnated Will to Power, it will endeavor to grow, to gain ground, attract to itself and acquire ascendancy—not owing to any morality or immorality, but because it lives, and because life is precisely Will to Power. On no point, however, is the ordinary consciousness of Europeans more unwilling to be corrected than on this matter, people now rave everywhere, even under the guise of science, about coming conditions of society in which “the exploiting character” is to be absent:— that sounds to my ears as if they promised to invent a mode of life which should refrain from all organic functions. “Exploitation” does not belong to a depraved, or imperfect and primitive society: it belongs to the nature of the living being as a primary organic function; it is a consequence of the intrinsic Will to Power, which is precisely the Will to Life.—Granting that as a theory this is a novelty—as a reality it is the fundamental fact of all history: let us be so far honest towards ourselves!

Section 260: Master and Slave Morality. In a tour through the many finer and coarser moralities which have hitherto prevailed or still prevail on the earth, I found certain traits recurring regularly together, and connected with one another, until finally two primary types revealed themselves to me, and a radical distinction was brought to light. There is master-morality and slave-morality;—I would at once add, however, that in all higher and mixed civilizations, there are also attempts at the reconciliation of the two moralities; but one finds still oftener the confusion and mutual misunderstanding of them, indeed, sometimes their close juxtaposition—even in the same man, within one soul. The distinctions of moral values have either originated in a ruling caste, pleasantly conscious of being different from the ruled—or among the ruled class, the slaves and dependents of all sorts. In the first case, when it is the rulers who determine the conception “good,” it is the exalted, proud disposition which is regarded as the distinguishing feature, and that which determines the order of rank. The noble type of man separates from himself the beings in whom the opposite of this exalted, proud disposition displays itself: he despises them. Let it at once be noted that in this first kind of morality the antithesis “good” and “bad” means practically the same as “noble” and “despicable”;—the antithesis “good” and “evil” is of a different origin. The cowardly, the timid, the insignificant, and those thinking merely of narrow utility are despised; moreover, also, the distrustful, with their constrained glances, the self-abasing, the dog-like kind of men who let themselves be abused, the mendicant flatterers and above all the liars:—it is a fundamental belief of all aristocrats that the common people are untruthful. “We truthful ones”—the nobility in ancient Greece called themselves. It is obvious that everywhere the designations of moral value were at first applied to men, and were only derivatively and at a later period applied to actions; it is a gross mistake, therefore, when historians of morals start with questions like, “Why have sympathetic actions been praised?” The noble type of man regards himself as a determiner of values, he does not require to be approved of he passes the judgment: “What is injurious to me is injurious in itself”; he knows that it is he himself only who confers honour on things; he is a creator of values. He honours whatever he recognizes in himself: such morality is self-glorification. In the foreground there is the feeling of plenitude, of power, which seeks to overflow, the happiness of high tension, the consciousness of a wealth which would fain give and bestow:—the noble man also helps the unfortunate, but not— or scarcely—out of pity, but rather from an impulse generated by the super-abundance of power. The noble man honours in himself the powerful one, him also who has power over himself, who knows how to speak and how to keep silence, who takes pleasure in subjecting himself to severity and hardness, and has reverence for all that is severe and hard. “Wotan placed a hard heart in my breast,” says an old Scandinavian Saga: it is thus rightly expressed from the soul of a proud Viking. Such a type of man is even proud of not being made for sympathy; the hero of the Saga therefore adds warningly: “He who has not a hard heart when young, will never have one.” The noble and brave who think thus are the furthest removed from the morality which sees precisely in sympathy, or in acting for the good of others, or in disinterestedness, the characteristic of the moral; faith in oneself, pride in oneself, a radical enmity and irony towards “selflessness,” belong as definitely to noble morality, as do a careless scorn and precaution in presence of sympathy and the “warm heart.”—It is the powerful who know how to honour, it is their art, their domain for invention. The profound reverence for age and for tradition—all law rests on this double reverence,—the belief and prejudice in favour of ancestors and unfavourable to newcomers, is typical in the morality of the powerful; and if, reversely, men of “modern ideas” believe almost instinctively in “progress” and the “future,” and are more and more lacking in respect for old age, the ignoble origin of these “ideas” has complacently betrayed itself thereby. A morality of the ruling class, however, is more especially foreign and irritating to present-day taste in the sternness of its principle that one has duties only to one’s equals; that one may act towards beings of a lower rank, towards all that is foreign; just as seems good to one, or “as the heart desires,” and in any case “beyond good and evil”: it is here that sympathy and similar sentiments can have a place. The ability and obligation to exercise prolonged gratitude and prolonged revenge—both only within the circle of equals,—artfulness in retaliation, effete refinement of the idea in friendship, a certain necessity to have enemies (as outlets for the emotions of envy, quarrelsomeness, arrogance—in fact, in order to be a good friend): all these are typical characteristics of the noble morality, which, as has been pointed out, is not the morality of “modern ideas,” and is therefore at present diff1cult to realize, and also to unearth and disclose.—It is otherwise with the second type of morality, slave-morality. Supposing that the abused, the oppressed, the suffering, the unemancipated, the weary, and those uncertain of themselves, should moralize, what will be the common element in their moral estimates? Probably a pessimistic suspicion with regard to the entire situation of man will find expression, perhaps a condemnation of man, together with his situation. The slave has an unfavourable eye for the virtues of the powerful; he has a scepticism and distrust, a refinement of distrust of everything “good” that is there honoured—he would fain persuade himself that the very happiness there is not genuine. On the other hand, those qualities which serve to alleviate the existence of sufferers are brought into prominence and flooded with light; it is here that sympathy, the kind, helping hand, the warm heart, patience, diligence, humility, and friendliness attain to honour; for here these are the most useful qualities, and almost the only means of supporting the burden of existence. Slave-morality is essentially the morality of utility. Here is the seat of the origin of the famous antithesis “good” and “evil”:—power and dangerousness are assumed to reside in the evil, a certain dreadfulness, subtlety, and strength, which do not admit of being despised. According to slave-morality, therefore, the “evil” man arouses fear; according to master-morality, it is precisely the “good” man who arouses fear and seeks to arouse it, while the bad man is regarded as the despicable being. The contrast attains its maximum when, in accordance with the logical consequences of slave-morality, a shade of depreciation—it may be slight and well-intentioned—at last attaches itself to the “good” man of this morality; because, according to the servile mode of thought, the good man must in any case be the safe man: he is good-natured, easily deceived, perhaps a little stupid, un bonhomme.

Quotations of ‘Ecce Homo’

Section 116

Herd Instinct. Whenever we encounter a morality, we also encounter valuations and an order of rank of human impulses and actions. These valuations and orders of rank are always expressions of the needs of a community and a herd: whatever benefits it most–and second most, and third most–that is also considered the first standard for the value of all individuals. Morality trains the individual to be a function of the herd and to ascribe value to himself only as a function. The conditions for the preservation of different communities were very different; hence there were very different moralities. Considering essential changes in the forms of future herds and communities, states, and societies, we can prophesy that there will yet be very divergent moralities. Morality is herd instinct in the individual.

Section 292

To those who wish to preach morals. I do not wish to promote any morality, but to those who do I give this advise: If you wish to deprive the best things and states of all honor and worth, then go on talking about them as you have been doing. Place them at the head of your morality and talk from morning until night of the happiness of virtue, the composure of the soul, of justice and immanent retribution. The way you go about it, all these good things will eventually have popularity and the clamor of the streets on their side; but at the same time all the gold that was on them will have been worn off by so much handling, and all the gold inside will have turned to lead. Truly, you are masters of alchemy in reverse: the devaluation of what is most valuable. Why don’t you make the experiment of trying another prescription to keep from attaining the opposite goal of your goal as you have done hitherto? Deny these good things, withdraw the mob’s acclaim from them as well as their easy currency; make them once again concealed secrets of solitary souls; say that morality is something forbidden. That way you might win over for these things the kind of people who alone matter: I mean those who are heroic. But to that end there has to be a quality that inspires fear and not, as hitherto, nausea. Hasn’t the time come to say of morality what Master Eckhart said: “I ask God to rid me of God.”

Section 352

How morality is scarcely dispensable. A naked human being  is generally a shameful sight. I am speaking of us Europeans (and not even of female Europeans!). Suppose that, owing to some magicians malice, the most cheerful company at table suddenly saw itself disrobed and undressed; I believe that not only their cheerfulness would vanish and that the strongest appetite would be discouraged–it seems that we Europeans simply cannot dispense with that masquerade which one calls clothes.

Now consider the way “moral man” is dressed up, how he is veiled behind moral formulas and concepts of decency–the way our actions are benevolently concealed by the concepts of duty, virtue, sense of community, honorableness, self-denial–should the reasons for all this not be equally good? I am not suggesting that all this is meant to mask human malice and villainy–the wild animal in us; my idea is, on the contrary, that it is precisely as tame animals that we are a shameful sight and in need of the moral disguise, that the “inner man” in Europe is not by a long shot bad enough to show himself without shame (or to be beautiful). The European disguises himself with morality because he has become a sick, sickly, crippled animal that has good reasons for being “tame”; for he is almost an abortion, scarce half made up, weak, awkward.

It is not the ferocity of the best of prey that requires a moral disguise but the herd animal with its profound mediocrity, timidity, and boredom with itself. With morality the European dresses up–let us confess it!–to nobler, more important, more respectable, “divine”.

Section 290

One thing is needful. “Giving style” to one’s character—a great and rare art! It is practiced by those who survey everything that their nature offers in the way of strengths and weaknesses, and then fit them all into an artistic plan, until each thing appears as art and reason, and even the wakness charms the eye. Here a great mass of second nature has been added, there a piece of first nature has been removed—in both cases, through long practice and daily work. Here the ugliness that resists removal has been hidden, there it has been reinterpreted into the sublime. Much that is vague and resists formation has been saved up and used for views from afar—it is meant to signal in the direction of the distant and the immeasurable. Finally, when the work is complete, it becomes clear how it was the compulsion of a single taste that was ruling and forming, in things both great and small. Whether the taste was a good or bad one means less than one thinks—it is enough that it is one taste!

It will be the strong domineering natures who, in such compulsion, in such a constraint and completion under their own laws, will savor their most refined joy. The passion of their formidable wills is relieved by the contemplation of all stylized nature, all conquered nature in a position of service; if they have to build palaces and lay out gardens, it also goes against their grain to set nature free. —In contrast, it is the weak characters, lacking power over themselves, who hate the constraint of style; they feel that if this grievous compulsion were imposed on them, they would have to be debased by it; they become slaves as soon as they serve, they hate service. Such spirits, who can be the spirits of first rank, are always out to fashion or explain themselves and their surroundings as free nature—wild, arbitrary, fantastic, disordered, and surprising. And this is good for them to do, for only thus can they do themselves good!

For one thing is needful: that human beings attain satisfaction with themselves—be it through this or that poetry and art—for only then can one stand to look at human beings! Those who are dissatisfied with themselves are constantly ready to take revenge for this; the rest of us will be their victims, if only by always having to stand the ugly sight of them. For the sight of the ugly makes one bad and somber.

Section 341

The heaviest weight. What if one day or one night a demon slinked after you into your loneliest loneliness and said to you: “This life, as you live it now and as you have lived it, you will have  to live once more and countless times more. And there will be nothing new about it, but every pain and every pleasure, and every thought and sigh, and everything unspeakably small and great in your life must come back to you, and all in the same series and sequence—and likewise this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and likewise this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over again and again—and you with it, you mote of dust!”

Wouldn’t you throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and damn the demon who spoke this way? Or have you ever experienced a prodigious moment in which you would answer him: “You are a god and I have never heard anything more godlike!” If that thought took control of you, it would change you as you are, and maybe shatter you. the question in each and every thing, “Do you will this once more and countless times more?” would lie as the heaviest weight upon your acts! Or how benevolent would you  have to become toward yourself and toward life in order to long for nothing more ardently than for this ultimate eternal sanction and seal?


Have you ever heard of the madman who on a bright morning lighted a lantern and ran to the market-place calling out unceasingly: “I seek God! I seek God!”—As there were many people standing about who did not believe in God, he caused a great deal of amusement. Why! is he lost? said one. Has he strayed away like a child? said another. Or does he keep himself hidden? Is he afraid of us? Has he taken a sea-voyage? Has he emigrated?—the people cried out laughingly, all in a hubbub. The insane man jumped into their midst and transfixed them with his glances. “Where is God gone?” he called out. “I mean to tell you! We have killed him,—you and I! We are all his murderers! But how have we done it? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the whole horizon? What did we do when we loosened this earth from its sun? Whither does it now move? Whither do we move? Away from all suns? Do we not dash on unceasingly? Backwards, sideways, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an above and below? Do we not stray, as through infinite nothingness? Does not empty space breathe upon us? Has it not become colder? Does not night come on continually, darker and darker? Shall we not have to light lanterns in the morning? Do we not hear the noise of the grave-diggers who are burying God? Do we not smell the divine putrefaction?—for even Gods putrefy! God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him! How shall we console ourselves, the most murderous of all murderers? The holiest and the mightiest that the world has hitherto possessed, has bled to death under our knife,—who will wipe the blood from us? With what water could we cleanse ourselves? What lustrums, what sacred games shall we have to devise? Is not the magnitude of this deed too great for us? Shall we not ourselves have to become Gods, merely to seem worthy of it? There never was a greater event,—and on account of it, all who are born after us belong to a higher history than any history hitherto!”—Here the madman was silent and looked again at his hearers; they also were silent and looked at him in surprise. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, so that it broke in pieces and was extinguished. “I come too early,” he then said, “I am not yet at the right time. This prodigious event is still on its way, and is traveling,—it has not yet reached men’s ears. Lightning and thunder need time, the light of the stars needs time, deeds need time, even after they are done, to be seen and heard. This deed is as yet further from them than the furthest star,—and yet they have done it!—It is further stated that the madman made his way into different churches on the same day, and there intoned his Requiem aeternam deo. When led out and called to account, he always gave the reply: “What are these churches now, if they are not the tombs and monuments of God?”—. . .