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

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I am one thing, my creations are another.  Here, before I speak of the books themselves I shall touch upon the question of their being understood or not understood.  I shall do this in as perfunctory a manner as the occasion demands; for the time has not yet come for this question.  My time has not yet come either; some are born posthumously.  One day institutions will be needed in which men will live and teach as I understand living and teaching; maybe also that by that time chairs will be founded for the interpretation of Zarathustra.  But I should regard it as a complete contradiction of myself if I expected to find ears and eyes for my truths today: the fact that no one listens to me, that no one knows how to receive from me today is not only comprehensible, it seems to me right that it is so.  I do not wish to be mistaken for another—and to this end I must not take myself for what I am not.  To repeat what I have already said, I can point to but few instances of ill-will in my life: and as for literary ill-will I could mention scarcely a single example of it.  On the other hand, I have met with far too much pure foolishness!  It seems to me that to take up one of my books is one of the rarest honours that a man can pay himself—I can even suppose that he takes his shoes off, not to mention boots.  When on one occasion Dr.  Heinrich von Stein honestly complained that he could not understand a word of my Zarathustra I said to him that this was just as it should be: to have understood six sentences in that book—that is to say to experienced them—raises a man to a higher level among mortals than "modern” men can attain.  With this feeling of distance how could I even wish to be read by the "modern men” that I know!  My triumph is just the opposite of what Schopenhauer’s was—I say "Non legor non legar”.  —Not that I should like to underestimate the pleasure I have derived from the innocence with which my works have frequently been rejected.  As late as last summer at a time when I was attempting perhaps by means of my weighty, all too weighty literature to throw the rest of literature off its balance, a certain professor of Berlin University kindly gave me to understand that I ought really to make use of a different form: no one such works as I wrote.  Finally, it was not Germany but Switzerland that presented me with the two most extreme cases.  An essay on Beyond Good and Evil by Dr.  V.  Widmann in the paper called the Bund under the heading "Nietzsche’s Dangerous Book” and a general account of all my works from the pen of Herr Karl Spitteler also in the Bund constitute a maximum in my life—I shall not say of what.  The latter treated my Zarathustra for instance as "advanced exercises in style” and expressed the wish that later on I might try and address the question of substance as well; Dr.  Widmann assured me of his respect for the courage I showed in endeavouring to abolish all decent feeling.  Thanks to a little trick of chance every sentence in these criticisms— with a consistency that I could not but admire— seemed to stand the truth on its head.  In fact it was most remarkable that all one had to do was to "revalue all values” in order to hit the nail on the head with regard to me instead of striking my head with the nail.  I am more particularly anxious therefore to attempt an explanation.  After all, no one can draw more out of things— books included— than he already knows.  A man has no ears for that which he cannot access through experience.  To take an extreme case, suppose a book contains only incidents which lie outside the range of general or even rare experience—suppose it to be the first language to express a whole series of experiences.  In this case nothing it contains will really be heard at all and thanks to an acoustic delusion people will believe that where nothing is heard there is nothing to hear.  This at least has been my usual experience and proves if you will the originality of my experience.  He who thought he had understood something in my work had as a rule adjusted something in it to his own image—not infrequently the very opposite of myself; an "idealist” for instance.  He who understood nothing in my work would deny that I was worth considering at all—The word "Superman” which designates a type of man who has turned out very well— as opposed to "modern” men, to "good” men, to Christians and other Nihilists—a word which in the mouth of Zarathustra, the annihilator of morality, acquires a very profound meaning—is understood almost everywhere and with perfect innocence in the light of those values, to which a flat contradiction was made manifest in the figure of Zarathustra—that is to say as an "ideal” type, a higher kind of man, half "saint” and half "genius”.  Other learned cattle have suspected me of Darwinism on account of this word: even the "hero cult” of that great unconscious and involuntary swindler Carlyle—a cult which I rejected with such roguish malice—was recognized in it.  Once, when I whispered to a man that he would do better to seek for the Superman in a Cesare Borgia than in a Parsifal, he could not believe his ears.  The fact that I am quite free from curiosity in regard to criticisms of my books, more particularly when they appear in newspapers will have to be forgiven me.  My friends and my publishers know this and never speak to me of such things.  In one particular case I once saw all the sins that had been committed against a single book—it was Beyond Good and Evil; I could tell you a pretty tale about that.  Is it possible that the National-Zeitung—a Prussian paper (this comment is for the sake of my foreign readers—for my own part I beg to state I read only Le Journal des Débats)—really and seriously regarded the book as a "sign of the times”, as a genuine and typical example of Junker philosophy— for which the Kreuzzeitung had not sufficient courage?  


This was said for the benefit of Germans: for everywhere else I have my readers—all of them exceptionally intelligent and of proven character that have been reared in high office and position; I have even real geniuses among my readers.  In Vienna, in St Petersburg, in Stockholm, in Copenhagen, in Paris and New York—I have been discovered everywhere: I have not yet been discovered in Europe’s flatland—Germany.  And to make a confession, I rejoice much more heartily over those who do not read me, over those who have neither heard of my name nor of the word philosophy.  But wherever I go, here in Turin for instance, every face brightens and softens at the sight of me.  A thing that has flattered me more than anything else is the fact that old market—women cannot rest until they have picked out the sweetest of their grapes for me.  To is the extent to which one must be a philosopher.  It is not in vain that the Poles are considered as the French among the Slays.  A charming Russian lady will not be mistaken for a single moment concerning my origin.  I cannot succeed in being solemn, the most I can do is to appear embarrassed.  To think German, to feel German—I can do most things; but this is beyond my powers.  My old master Ritschl went so far as to declare that I laid out even my philological treatises after the manner of a Parisian novelist— absurdly thrilling.  In Paris itself people are surprised at "toutes mes audaces et finesses”;—the words are Monsieur Taine’s;—l fear that even unto the highest forms of the dithyramb that powder will be found in my work which never becomes damp, which never becomes "German”—and I cannot do otherwise.  God help me!  Amen.  We all know, some of us even from experience what a "long-ears” is.  Well then I venture to assert that I have the smallest ears that have ever been seen.  This fact is not without interest to women—it seems to me they feel that I understand them better!  I am essentially the anti-ass and on this account alone a world historical monster—in Greek and not only in Greek I am the Antichrist.  


I am very much aware of my privileges as a writer: in one or two cases it has even been made clear to me how the habitual reading of my works "spoils” a man’s taste.  Other books simply cannot be endured after mine and least of all philosophical ones.  It is an incomparable distinction to cross the threshold of this noble and subtle world—in order to do so one must certainly not be a German; it is in short a distinction which one must have deserved.  He however who is related to me through loftiness of will experiences genuine raptures of understanding in my books: for I swoop down from heights into which no bird has ever soared; I know abysses into which no foot has ever fallen.  People have told me that it is impossible to put down a book of mine—that I even disturb the night’s rest.  There is no prouder or at the same time more subtle kind of books than mine: they from time to time attain to the highest pinnacle of earthly endeavour: cynicism; to capture their thoughts a man must have the most delicate fingers as well as the bravest fists.  Any kind of spiritual malaise utterly excludes one from them—even any kind of dyspepsia: a man must have no nerves and a cheerful stomach.  Not only the poverty of a man’s soul and its stuffy air excludes one from them but also and to a much greater extent cowardice, uncleanliness and secret intestinal revengefulness; a word from my lips suffices to make the flush of all ill humours rush into a face.  Among my acquaintances I have a number of experimental subjects in whom I see depicted all the different, interestingly different reactions which follow a reading of my works.  Those who will have nothing to do with the contents of my books, as for instance my so called friends, assume an "impersonal” tone: they wish me luck and congratulate me for having produced another work; they also declare that my writings show progress because they exhibit a more cheerful spirit.  The thoroughly vicious people, the "beautiful souls”, the false from top to toe do not know in the least what to do with my books—consequently with the beautiful consistency of all beautiful souls they regard my work as beneath them.  The cattle among my acquaintances, the mere Germans, leave me to understand if you please that they are not always of my opinion though here and there they agree with me.  I have heard this said even about Zarathustra.  "Feminism” whether in a person or in a man is likewise a barrier to my writings; with it no one could ever enter into this labyrinth of fearless knowledge.  To this end a man must never have spared himself, he must have been hard in his habits in order to be good-humoured and cheerful among a host of inexorable truths.  When I try to picture the character of a perfect reader I always imagine a monster of courage and curiosity as well as of suppleness, cunning and prudence—in short a born adventurer and explorer.  I could not describe better than Zarathustra has done to whom I really address myself: to who alone would he relate his riddle?  "Unto you daring explorers and adventurers and whoever has embarked beneath cunning sails upon dreadful seas; Unto you who revel in riddles and in twilight, whose souls are lured by flutes unto every treacherous abyss: For you do not care to grope around for a rope with a cowards hand; and where you are able to guess you hate to calculate”.  


I will now pass just one or two general remarks about my art of style. To communicate a state, an inner tension of pathos by means of signs, including the tempo of these signs—that is the meaning of every style; and in view of the fact that the multiplicity of inner states in my case is enormous,  I am capable of many kinds of style—in short the most manifold art of style that any man has ever had at his disposal.  Every style is good which genuinely communicates an inner state which makes no mistake over the signs, over the tempo of the signs, over gestures—all the rules of phrasing are the outcome of representing gestures artistically.  My instinct is here infallible.  Good style in itself is a piece of sheer folly, mere idealism like "beauty in itself”, "goodness in itself” or "the thing in itself”.  All this takes for granted of course that are ears that can hear, such men as are capable and worthy of a similar pathos, that those are not lacking unto whom one may communicate one’s self.  Meanwhile, my Zarathustra for instance is still looking for such people—alas!  He will have to look a long while yet!  A man must be worthy of listening to him.  Until that time there will be no one who will understand the art that has been squandered in this book.  No one has had more of the new, more innovative, purposely created art forms to fling to the winds.  The fact that such things were possible in the German language still waited to be proven; I myself would have denied most emphatically that it was possible.  Before my time people did not know what could be done with the German language—what could be done with language in general.  The art of grand rhythm, the grand style, expressing the tremendous rise and fall of sublime, of superhuman passion, was first discovered by me: with the dithyramb entitled—"The Seven Seals” which constitutes the last discourse of the third part of Zarathustra I soared miles above all that which has hitherto been called poetry.  


That their speaks in my works the voice of a psychologist without equal, this is perhaps the first conclusion at which a good reader will arrive—a reader such as I deserve and one who reads me just as the good old philologists used to read their Horace.  Those propositions about which all the world is fundamentally agreed—not to speak of the fashionable philosophy of moralists and other empty headed and cabbage brained people—are to me but naive blunders: for instance the belief that "altruistic” and ‘egoistic” are opposites, while all the time the "ego” itself is merely a "supreme swindle” an "ideal”!  There are no such things as egoistic or altruistic actions: both concepts are psychologically nonsense.  Or the proposition that "man pursues happiness”; or the proposition that "happiness is the reward of virtue”.  Or the proposition that "pleasure and pain are opposites”.  Morality, the Circe of mankind has falsified everything psychological root and branch—it has moralized everything— even to the terribly nonsensical point of regarding love as being "unselfish”.  One must first be firmly set in oneself, one must stand securely on one’s own two legs otherwise one cannot love at all.  This, the girls know only too well: they don’t care two pins about unselfish and merely objective men.  May I venture to suggest incidentally that I know these little women?  This knowledge is part of my Dionysian inheritance.  Who knows?  Perhaps I am the first psychologist of the eternally feminine.  All women all like me. But that’s an old story: except of course the abortive ones, the emancipated ones who are simply not up to having children.    Thank goodness I am not willing to let myself be torn to pieces!  The complete woman tears you to pieces when she loves you: I know these amiable Maenads.  Oh!  What a dangerous, creeping, subterranean little beast of prey she is!  And so agreeable with it!  A little woman pursuing her vengeance would force overtake even Fate itself.  Woman is incalculably more wicked than man, she is also cleverer.  Goodness in a woman is already a sign of degeneration.  All cases of "beautiful souls” in women may be traced to a physiological issue—but I go no further lest I should become medi-cynical.  The struggle for equal rights is even a symptom of sickness; every doctor knows this.  The more womanly a woman is the more she fights tooth and nail against rights in general: the natural order of things, the eternal war between the sexes in any case puts her in a position of advantage.  Have people heard my definition of love?  It is the only definition worthy of a philosopher.  Love in its means is war: in its foundation it is the mortal hatred of the sexes.  Have you heard my reply to the question how a woman can be cured - "saved” in fact?  Give her a child!  A woman needs children, man is always only a means— thus spake Zarathustra.  "The emancipation of women”—this is the instinctive hatred of physiologically defective—that is to say barren, women—for those women who are well constituted: the fight against "man” is always only a means, a pretext, a piece of strategy.  By trying to rise to "Woman in herself” to "Higher Woman” to the "Ideal Woman” all they wish to do is to lower the general level of women’s rank: and there are no more certain means to this end than university education, trousers and the rights of voting cattle.  In truth, the emancipated are the anarchists in the world of the "eternally feminine”, the most deep-rooted instinct of whom is revenge.  A whole species of the most malicious "idealism”—which by the way also manifests itself in men in— Henrik Ibsen for instance, that typical old maid—whose object is to poison the innocence, the naturalness of sexual love.  And in order to leave no doubt in your minds in regard to my opinion which on this matter is as honest as it is severe, I will give you one more clause out of my moral code against vice—with the word "vice” I combat every kind of opposition to Nature, or if you prefer fine words, idealism.  The clause reads: "Preaching of chastity is a public incitement to unnatural practices.  All contempt for the sexual life, all denigration under the concept ‘impure” is the essential crime against Life— against the Holy Spirit of Life”.  


In order to give you some idea of myself as a psychologist let me take this curious piece of psychological analysis out of the book Beyond Good and Evil in which it appears.  I forbid by the way any guessing as to whom I am describing in this passage.  "The genius of the heart as is possessed by that great solitary, the divine tempter and born Pied Piper of consciences whose voice knows how to descend into the inmost depths of every soul, who neither utters a word nor casts a glance in which some seduction is not to be found, a part of whose mastery is that he understands the art of seeming—not what he is but that which will bind his followers to press ever more closely upon him, to follow him ever more enthusiastically and whole-heartedly.  The genius of the heart who makes the loud and self conceited hold their tongues and listen, who polishes all rough souls and gives them a new desire to savour—the desire to lie placid as a mirror that the deep heavens may be reflected in them.  The genius of the heart which teaches the clumsy and too hasty hand to hesitate and grasp more tenderly; which scents the hidden and forgotten treasure, the pearl of goodness and sweet spirituality beneath thick black ice and is a divining rod for every grain of gold long buried and imprisoned in much mud and sand.  The genius of the heart whose touch enriches all, not ‘blessed” and overcome, not as though favoured and crushed by the good of others; but richer in himself, fresher to himself than before, opened up, breathed upon and warmed by a thawing wind; more uncertain perhaps, more delicate, more fragile, more bruised, but full of hopes as yet unnamed, full of a new will and striving, full of a new unwillingness and resistance”.  

Friedrich Nietzsche, "Ecce Homo" Ebook

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