Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo:   How One Becomes What One Is.  Ecce homo: Wie man wird, was man ist.  

Written in 1888 and not published until 1908

  Friedrich Nietzsche Full Text EBook  
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1.

I now wish to relate the history of Zarathustra.  The fundamental idea of the work, the Eternal Recurrence, the highest formula of a life affirmation that can ever be attained was first conceived in the month of August 1881.  I made a note of the idea on a sheet of paper with the postscript: "Six thousand feet beyond man and time”.  That day I happened to be wandering through the woods beside the Lake of Silvaplana and 1 halted not far from Surlei beside a huge pyramidal block of stone.  It was then that the thought struck me.  Looking back now I find that exactly two months before this inspiration I had an omen of its coming in the form of a sudden and decisive change in my tastes—more particularly in music.  The whole of Zarathustra might perhaps be regarded as music.  At all events the essential condition of its production was a second birth within me— of the art of hearing.  In Recoaro a small mountain resort near Vicenza where I spent the spring of 1881, 1 and my friend and maestro Peter Gast—who was also one who had been born again, discovered that the phoenix music hovered over us in lighter and brighter plumage than it had ever worn before.  When I then calculate from that day forward, the sudden production of the book under the most unlikely circumstances in February 1883—the last part out of which I quoted a few lines in my preface was written precisely in the hallowed hour when Richard Wagner died in Venice—I come to the conclusion that the period of gestation covered eighteen months. This period of exactly eighteen months might suggest at least to Buddhists that  I am in reality a female elephant.  The interval was devoted to the Gaya Scienza which contains hundreds of indications of the proximity of something unparalleled; for after all, it shows the beginning of Zarathustra since it presents Zarathustra’s fundamental thought in the last aphorism but one of the fourth book.  To this interval also belongs that Hymn to Life (for a mixed choir and orchestra) the score of which was published in Leipzig two years ago by E.  W.  Fritsch and which gave perhaps no slight indication of my spiritual state during this year in which the essentially affirmative pathos which I call the tragic pathos filled me to the highest degree.  One day people will sing it to my memory.  The text, let it be well understood— as there is some misunderstanding about this point— is not by me; it was the astounding inspiration of a young Russian lady Miss Lou von Salome with whom I was then on friendly terms.  He who is in any way able to make some sense of the last words of the poem will divine why I preferred and admired it: they possess greatness.  Pain is not regarded as an objection to existence: "And if you have no happiness now left to crown me—Lead on!  You have still your pain”.  Perhaps my music is also great in this passage.  (The last note of the clarinet is by the way C sharp not C.  The latter is a misprint.)  During the following winter I was living on that charmingly peaceful Gulf of Rapallo not far from Genoa which cuts inland between Chiavari and Cape Porto Fino.  My health was not very good; the winter was cold and exceptionally rainy; and the small albergo in which I lived was so close to the sea that at night my sleep was disturbed if the sea was rough.  These circumstances were surely the very opposite of what one would desire; and yet in spite of it all and as if in proof of my belief that everything decisive comes to life in defiance of every obstacle, it was precisely during this winter and in the midst of these unfavourable circumstances that my Zarathustra came into existence.  In the morning I used to start out in a southerly direction up the glorious road to Zoagli which rises up through a forest of pines and gives one a view far out to sea.  In the afternoon or as often as my health allowed I walked round the entire bay from Santa Margherita to beyond Porto Fino.  This spot affected me all the more deeply because it was so dearly loved by the Emperor Frederick III.  In the autumn of 1886 1 chanced to be there again when he was revisiting this small forgotten world of happiness for the last time.  It was on these two walks that all Zarathustra came to me, above all Zarathustra himself as a type—I ought rather to say that it was on these walks that he waylaid me.  

2.

To understand this type one must first be quite clear concerning its fundamental physiological condition; this condition is what I call great health.  In regard to this ideal I cannot illustrate the concept more clearly or more personally than I have done already in one of the last aphorisms (No.  382) of the fifth book of the Gaya Scienza: "We new, nameless, ill-understood” so reads the passage, "we premature born, of a future yet unproved—we who have a new goal in view also require new means to that end, namely a new healthiness, a stronger, keener, tougher, bolder and merrier healthiness than any that has existed before.  He who longs to feel in his own soul the whole range of values and aims that have prevailed on earth and to have sailed around every coast of this ‘Mediterranean’ of ideals; who from the adventures of his own inmost experience wants to know how it feels to be a conqueror and discoverer of the ideal;—as also how feels an artist, the saint, legislator, sage, scholar, a man of piety and the divine Hermit of old;—such a man requires one thing above all for his purpose and that is great health—such health as he not only possesses but also must constantly acquire because he is continually sacrificing it again and again!  And now, after having been thus underway for some time, we Argonauts of the ideal, whose bravery is greater than prudence would allow and who are often shipwrecked and bruised but as I have said, healthier than others would like us to be, dangerously healthy, forever recovering our health—it would seem as if we had before us as a reward for all our toils a country still undiscovered the horizon of which no one has yet seen, a land beyond all lands and every refuge of the ideal that man has ever known, a world so overflowing with beauty, strangeness, doubt, the terrible and the divine that both our curiosity and our lust of possession are frantic with eagerness.  How, in the face of such vistas and with such burning desire in our conscience and knowledge could we still be content with the man of the present day?  Indeed, it is difficult to regard his worthiest aims and hopes with anything but ill-concealed amusement or perhaps it is inevitable that we give them no thought at all.  Another ideal now leads us on, a wonderful seductive ideal full of danger, the pursuit of which we would not want to urge upon anyone because we do not readily admit of anyone’s right to it: the ideal of a spirit who plays ingenuously, that is to say, involuntarily and as the outcome of superabundant energy and power, with everything that hitherto has been called holy, good, sacrosanct and divine; to whom even the loftiest thing that the people have with reason made their measure of value would be no better than a danger, a corruption, a degradation or at least a relaxation and temporary forgetfulness of self: the ideal of a humanly superhuman well-being and goodwill which often enough will seem inhuman—for example, when it stands beside all past seriousness on earth and all past solemnities in gesture, word, tone, glance, morality and task as their most lifelike and unconscious parody—but with which, perhaps the great seriousness first arises, the first question mark is placed, the fate of the soul changes course, the hour hand moves on, and tragedy begins”.  

3.

Has anyone at the end of the nineteenth century any distinct notion of what poets of a stronger age understood by the word inspiration?  If not, I will describe it.  If you had the slightest residue of superstition left in you it would hardly be possible to completely disregard the idea that one is the mere incarnation, a mouthpiece or a medium of an almighty power.  The idea of revelation in the sense of something which profoundly moves and provokes, becoming suddenly visible and audible with indescribable certainty and accuracy—is a simple description.  You hear—you do not seek; you take—and do not ask who gives: a thought suddenly flashes up like lightning, it comes as a necessity, without hesitation—I have never had any choice in the matter.  There is an ecstasy so great that the immense strain of it is sometimes relaxed by a flood of tears during which one does not know whether one is coming or going.  There is the feeling of completely being outside of oneself, with the very distinct consciousness of endless delicate shivers right down to one’s toes;—there is a depth of happiness in which the most painful and gloomy parts do not detract from the whole but are produced and required as necessary shades of colour amidst such an overflow of light.  There is an instinct for rhythmical relationships which embrace a whole world of forms: length, the need of an all-embracing rhythm, is almost the measure of the force of inspiration, a kind of compensation for its pressure and tension.  Everything happens quite involuntarily as if in a tempestuous outburst of freedom of absolute power and divinity.  The involuntary nature of the images and similes is the most remarkable thing; one loses all perception of what is imagery and metaphor; everything seems to present itself in the readiest, the truest and simplest means of expression.  It actually seems, to use one of Zarathustra’s own phrases, as if all things came together and offered themselves as images.  ("Here do all things come caressingly to your discourse and flatter you for they would wish to ride upon your back.  On every simile you rid here unto every truth.  Here fly open to you all the speech and word shrines of the world, here would all existence become speech, here would all Becoming learn of you how to speak”.)  This is my experience of inspiration.  I do not doubt but that I should have to go back thousands of years before I could find another who could say to me: "It is mine also”!  

4.

For a few weeks afterwards I lay an invalid in Genoa.  Then followed a melancholy spring in Rome where I only just managed to live—and this was no easy matter.  This city which is absolutely unsuited to the poet-author of Zarathustra and for the choice of which I was not responsible made me absolutely miserable.  I tried to leave it.  I wanted to go to Aquila—the opposite of Rome in every respect and actually founded in a spirit of hostility towards that city just as I also shall found a city some day as a memento of an atheist and genuine enemy of the Church, a person very closely related to me, the great Hohenstaufen Emperor Frederick II.  But Fate hung heavy over all: I had to return again to Rome.  In the end I was obliged to be satisfied with the Piazza Barberini after I had exerted myself in vain to find an anti-Christian quarter.  I fear that on one occasion to avoid bad smells as much as possible I actually inquired at the Palazzo del Quirinale whether they could not provide a quiet room for a philosopher.  In a chamber high above the Piazza from which one had a good view of Rome and could hear the fountains splashing far below the loneliest of all songs was composed—The Night Song”.  About this time I was obsessed by an unspeakably sad melody the refrain of which I recognized in the words "dead through immortality”.  In the summer, finding myself once more in the sacred place where the first thought of Zarathustra flashed like a light across my mind I conceived the second part.  Ten days were enough.  Neither for the second, the first, nor the third part did I require a day longer.  In the ensuing winter beneath the halcyon sky of Nice which then for the first time poured its light into my life I found the third Zarathustra—and came to the end of my task: the whole task having occupied me scarcely a year.  Many hidden corners and heights in the country round Nice are made sacred for me by moments that I can never forget.  That decisive chapter entitled "Old and New Tables” was composed during the arduous ascent from the station Tol Eza—that wonderful Moorish hill castle in the rocks.  During those moments when my creative energy flowed most plentifully my muscular activity was always greatest.  The body is inspired: let us leave the question of "soul” out of it.  I might often have been seen dancing in those days and I could then walk for seven or eight hours on end over the hills without a suggestion of fatigue.  I slept well and laughed a good deal—I was perfectly robust and patient.  

5.

With the exception of these periods of industry lasting ten days the years I spent during the production of Zarathustra and those after were for me years of unparalleled distress.  One pays dearly for being immortal: one must die many times during his life.  There is such a thing as what I call the rancour of greatness: everything great, whether a work or a deed once it is completed turns immediately against its author.  The very fact that he is its author makes him weak.  He can no longer bear his own deeds.  He can no longer look it full in the face.  To have something at one’s back which one could never have willed, something to which the knot of human destiny is attached—and to be forced afterwards to bear it on one’s shoulders!  It almost crushes you!  The rancour of greatness!  A somewhat different experience is the uncanny silence that falls about one.  Solitude has seven skins— which nothing can penetrate.  One goes among men; one greets friends: but are met with a desert, the looks of those one meets no longer bear a greeting.  At the best one encounters a sort of revolt.  This feeling of revolt I suffered in varying degrees of intensity at the hands of almost everyone who came near me; it would seem that nothing inflicts a deeper wound than suddenly to make one’s distance felt.  Those noble natures are scarce who do not know how to live without reverence.  A third thing is the absurd susceptibility of the skin to small pin-pricks, a kind of helplessness in the presence of all small matters.  This seems to me a necessary outcome of the tremendous expenditure of all defensive energies which is the first condition of every creative act, of every act which comes from the most intimate, most secret and most concealed recesses of one’s being.  One’s lesser defences are thus as it were suspended and no fresh energy reaches them.  I even think it probable that one does not digest so well, that one is less willing to move and that one is much too open to sensations of coldness and suspicion; for in a large number of cases suspicion is merely an error in etiology.  On one occasion when I felt like this I became conscious of the proximity of a herd of cows some time before I could possibly have seen it with my eyes simply owing to a return in me of milder and more humane sentiments: they communicated warmth to me.  

6.

This work stands alone.  Do not let us mention the poets in the same breath: nothing perhaps has ever been produced out of such a superabundance of strength.  My concept "Dionysian” here became the supreme deed; compared with it everything that other men have done seems poor and limited.  The fact that a Goethe or a Shakespeare would not for an instant have known how to take breath in this atmosphere of passion and of the heights; the fact that by the side of Zarathustra Dante is no more than a believer and not one who first creates truth—that is to say not a world-ruling spirit, a Destiny; the fact that the poets of the Veda were priests and not even fit to unfasten Zarathustra’s sandals—all this is the least of the matter and gives no idea of the distance, of the azure solitude in which this work dwells.  Zarathustra has an eternal right to say: "I draw around me circles and holy boundaries.  Ever fewer are they that mount with me to ever loftier heights.  I build a mountain range of holier and holier mountains”.  If all the spirit and goodness of every great soul were collected together the whole could not create a single one of Zarathustra’s discourses.  The ladder upon which he rises and descends is of infinite length; he has seen further, he has willed further and gone further than any other man.  He contradicts with every word that he utters, this most affirmative of all spirits.  Through him all contradictions are bound up into a new unity.  The loftiest and the basest powers of human nature, the sweetest, the lightest and the most terrible rush forth from out one spring with everlasting certainty.  Until his coming no one knew what was height or depth and still less what was truth.  There is not a single passage in this revelation of truth which had already been anticipated and divined by even the greatest among men.  Before Zarathustra there was no wisdom, no psychology, no art of speech: in his book the most familiar and most everyday things speak of things as yet unheard.  The sentence quivers with passion.  Eloquence has become music.  Lightning bolts are hurled towards futures of which no one has ever dreamed before.  The most powerful use of metaphor that has yet existed is poor beside it and mere child’s play compared with this return of language to the nature of imagery.  See how Zarathustra goes down from the mountain and speaks the kindest words to every one!  See with what delicate fingers he touches even his adversaries the priests and how he suffers from themselves with them!  Here at every moment man is overcome and the concept "Superman” becomes the greatest reality—out of sight, almost far away beneath him lies all that which before has been called great in man.  The halcyon brightness, the light feet, the presence of wickedness and exuberance throughout and all that is the essence of the type Zarathustra was never dreamt of before as a prerequisite of greatness.  In precisely this space and in this accessibility to opposites Zarathustra feels himself the highest species of all living things: and when you hear his definition of this highest you will realize that his equal will not be found.  "The soul which has the longest ladder and can descend the deepest, The most spacious soul that can run and stray and rove furthest in its own self, The most necessary soul that out of desire hurls itself into chance, The stable soul that plunges into Becoming, the possessing soul that has to taste of willing and longing— The soul that flies from itself and overtakes itself in the widest sphere, The wisest soul to which foolishness speaks most sweetly, The most self-loving soul in whom all things have their rise and fall, their ebb and flow”— But this is the very idea of Dionysus.  Another consideration leads to this same conclusion.  The psychological problem presented by the type of Zarathustra is how he, who in an unprecedented manner says no and acts no in regard to all that which has been affirmed hitherto, how he can remain nevertheless an affirming spirit?  How can he who bears the heaviest destiny on his shoulders and whose very life task is a destiny yet be the lightest and the most transcending of spirits—for Zarathustra is a dancer?  How can he who has the harshest and most fearful grasp of reality and who has thought the most "abysmal thought” nevertheless avoid taking these things as objections to existence or even as objections to the eternal recurrence of existence?  How is it that on the contrary he finds reasons for being himself the eternal affirmation of all things, "the tremendous and unbounded saying of Yea and Amen”.  "Into every abyss I still bear the blessing of my affirmation to Life”.  But this once more is precisely the idea of Dionysus.  

7.

What language will such a spirit speak when he speaks unto his soul?  The language of the dithyramb.  I am the inventor of the dithyramb.  Listen to the manner in which Zarathustra speaks to his soul Before Sunrise.  Before my time such emerald joys and divine tenderness had found no tongue.  Even the profoundest melancholy of such a Dionysus takes shape as a dithyramb.  As an example of this I take "The Night Song”—the immortal lament of one who, thanks to his superabundance of light and power, thanks to his nature as a sun, is condemned never to love.  It is night: now do all gushing springs raise their voices.  And my soul too is a gushing spring.  It is night: now only do all lovers burst into song.  And my soul too is the song of a lover.  Something unquenched and unquenchable is within me that would raise its voice.  A craving for love is within me which itself speaks the language of love.  Light I am: I would that I were night!  This is my loneliness, that I am girded around with light.  Alas, why am I not dark and hidden like the night!  How joyfully would I then suck at the breasts of light!  And even you would I bless, you twinkling little stars and glow worms on high!  And be blessed in the gifts of your light.  But I live in my own light, I drink my own flames ever back into myself.  I know not the happiness of the hand stretched out to grasp; and often have I dreamt that stealing must be more blessed than taking.  I am forlorn that my hand may never rest from giving: I am destined to be envious of the expectant eyes that I see and nights made bright with longing.  Oh, the wretchedness of all those that give!  Oh, the eclipse of my sun!  The craving for desire!  That burning hunger of satiety!  They take what I give them; but do I touch their soul?  A gulf stands between giving and taking; and even the smallest gulf must be bridged at last.  A hunger is born out of my beauty: I wish that I might rob them of the gifts I have given:—thus do I thirst for wickedness.  To withdraw my hand when their hand is already waiting, hesitating like the waterfall that hesitates even in its fall:—thus do I thirst for wickedness.  My fullness longs for such vengeance: my loneliness gives birth to such spite.  My joy in giving died with the deed.  By its very fulfilment did my virtue grow weary of itself.  He who gives always runs the risk that he will lose all shame; he who is always giving grows callous in hand and heart.  My eyes no longer melt into tears at the shame of suppliants; my hand has become too hard to feel the quivering of heavy laden hands.  To where have you fled the tears of my eyes and the blossom of my heart?  Oh, the solitude of all those who give!  Oh the silence of all that give out light!  There are many suns that circle in the barrenness of space; they have discourse with the darkness—to me alone are they silent.  Alas, this is the hatred of light for that which gives light: pitiless it goes its way.  Unjust in its very heart to all that shines; coldness toward suns—thus does every sun go its way.  Like a storm do the suns fly upon their course: for such is their way.  They follow their own unbending will: that is their coldness.  Alas, it is you alone, you creatures of gloom, you spirits of the night that take your warmth from that which shines.  You alone take your milk and comfort from the breast of light.  Alas, about me there is ice, its coldness burns my hands!  Alas, there is within me a yearning to have your thirst!  It is night: I am sad that I must be light!  And thirst after darkness!  And for solitude!  It is night: now does my longing burst forth like a spring—I long to speak.  It is night: now do all gushing springs try their voices.  And my soul too is a gushing spring.  It is night: now only do all lovers burst into song.  And my soul too is the song of a lover”.  

8.

Such things have never before been written, never before been felt and never suffered: only a God, only Dionysus suffers in this way.  The reply to such a dithyramb on the sun’s solitude in light would be Ariadne.  Who knows except me who Ariadne is!  To all such riddles no one has ever found an answer; I doubt even whether anyone even saw a riddle here.  On one occasion Zarathustra clearly sets out his life-task—and it is also mine.  Let no one misunderstand its meaning.  It is an affirmation to the point of justifying, to the point of redeeming even the entire past.  I walk among men as among fragments of the future: of that future which I foresee.  And all my creativeness and labour is but this, that I may be able to compose all these fragments and riddles and sorry accidents into one piece.  And how could I bear to be a man if man were not also a poet, a riddle reader and a redeemer of chance!  To redeem all the past and to transform every ‘it was” into ‘thus would I have it’—that alone would be my salvation!  In another passage he defines as strictly as possible what to him alone "man” can be—not a subject for love nor yet for pity—Zarathustra became master even of his loathing of man: man is to him a thing unshaped, raw material, unworked stone that needs the sculptor’s chisel.  No longer to will, no longer to evaluate, no longer to create!  Oh, that this great weariness may never be mine!  Even in the lust of knowledge I feel only my will’s delight in begetting and becoming; and if there be innocence in my knowledge it is because my procreative will is in it.  Away from God and gods did this will lure me: what would there be to create if gods existed?  But again to man am I driven by my burning creative will; thus it drives the hammer to the stone.  Ah, you men within the stone, there sleeps an image for me, the image of all my dreams!  That it should have to sleep in the hardest and ugliest stone!  Now rages my hammer fiercely against its prison.  From the stone the fragments fly: and what is that to me?  I will complete it: for a shadow came to me—the most silent and lightest thing on earth came unto me!  The beauty of the Superman came unto me as a shadow.  My brethren!  What are the gods to me now?  Let me call attention to one last point.  The line in italics is my pretext for this remark.  A Dionysian life task needs the hardness of the hammer and one of its first essentials is without doubt the joy to be found even in destruction.  The command ‘become hard! ’, the deep conviction that all creators are hard, is the really distinctive sign of a Dionysian nature.  
 

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