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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Human, all—too—Human with its two sequels is the memorial of a crisis.  It is called a book for free spirits: almost every sentence in it is the expression of a triumph—by means of it I purged myself of everything in me which was foreign to my nature.  Idealism is foreign to me: the title of the book means: "Where you see ideal things, I see— human, alas!  All too human things”!  I know humanity better.  The expression "free spirit” in this book must not be understood as anything other than a spirit that has become free, that has once more taken possession of itself.  The tone the pitch of the voice has completely changed; the book will be thought wise, cool and at times both harsh and scornful.  A certain spirituality of noble taste seems to be ever struggling to dominate a passionate undercurrent.  In this respect there is some sense in the fact that it was the hundredth anniversary of Voltaire’s death that served so to speak as an excuse for the publication of the book in 1878.  For Voltaire, in contrast to everyone who wrote after him was above all a grandee of the spirit: precisely what I am also.  The name of Voltaire on one of my writings—that was truly a step forward—towards myself.  Looking into this book a little more closely you discover a merciless spirit who knows all the secret hiding places in which ideals can be found—where they find their dungeons and as it were their last refuge.  With a torch in my hand, the light of which is not by any means a flickering one, I illuminate this underworld of ideals with beams that pierce the gloom.  It is war, but a war without powder and smoke, without warlike attitudes, without pathos and contorted limbs—all these things would still be "idealism”.  One error after the other is quietly laid on ice; the ideal is not refuted—it freezes.  Here for instance "the genius” freezes; round the corner "the saint” freezes; under a thick icicle "the hero” freezes; and in the end "faith” itself freezes.  So-called "conviction” and also "pity” are considerably cooled—and almost everywhere the "thing in itself” is freezing to death.  


This book was begun during the first musical festival at Bayreuth; a feeling of profound estrangement from everything that surrounded me is one of the works first conditions.  Anyone who has any notion of the visions which flitted across my path will be able to guess what I felt when one day I came to my senses in Bayreuth.  It was just as if I had been dreaming.  Where on earth was I?  I recognized nothing that I saw; I scarcely recognized Wagner.  It was in vain that I called up reminiscences.  Tribschen—remote island of bliss: not the shadow of a resemblance!  The incomparable days devoted to the laying of the foundation stone, the small group of the initiated who celebrated them and who were far from lacking hands for the handling of delicate things: not the shadow of a resemblance!  What had happened?  Wagner had been translated into German!  The Wagnerian had become master of Wagner!  German art!  The German master!  German beer!  We who know only too well the kind of refined artists and cosmopolitanism in taste to which alone Wagner’s art can appeal were beside ourselves at the sight of Wagner bedecked with German "virtue”.  I think I know the Wagnerian, I have experienced three generations of them, from the late Brendel who confounded Wagner with Hegel to the "idealists” of the Bayreuth Gazette who confound Wagner with themselves—I have been the recipient of every kind of confession about Wagner from ‘beautiful souls”.  I would give an entire kingdom for just one intelligent word!  Truly blood-curdling company!  Nohl Pohl and Kohl and others of their like to infinity!  There was not a single abortion that was lacking among them—no, not even the anti-Semite—Poor Wagner!  Into whose hands had he fallen?  Better for him to have gone amongst swine!  But among Germans!  Some day for the edification of posterity one ought really to have a genuine Bayreuther stuffed or better still preserved in spirit—for it is precisely spirit that is lacking in this quarter—with this inscription at the foot of the jar: "A sample of the spirit whereon the German Empire was founded”.  But enough!  In the middle of the festivities I suddenly packed my trunk and left the place for a few weeks despite the fact that a charming Parisian lady sought to comfort me; I excused myself to Wagner simply by means of a fatalistic telegram.  In a little spot called Klingenbrunn deeply buried in the recesses of the Bohemian forest I carried my melancholy and my contempt of Germans about with me like an illness—and from time to time, under the general title of "The Ploughshare” I wrote a sentence or two down in my notebook, nothing but severe psychological stuff which it is possible may have found its way into Human, all—too—Human.  


What had taken place in me then was not only a breach with Wagner—I was suffering from a general aberration of my instincts of which a mere isolated blunder, whether it were Wagner or my professorship at Basel was nothing more than a symptom.  I was seized with a fit of impatience with myself; I saw that it was high time that I should turn my thoughts back to myself.  In an instant I realized with appalling clarity how much time I had already squandered—how futile and how senseless my whole existence as a philologist appeared when compared with my life-task.  I was ashamed of this false modesty.  Ten years were behind me during which the nourishment of my spirit had been at a standstill, during which I had added not a single useful fragment to my knowledge and had forgotten countless things in the pursuit of dry-as-dust scholarship.  Crawling with meticulous care and short-sighted eyes through old Greek metricians—that is what I had come to!  Moved to compassion, I saw myself quite thin, emaciated: realities were only too plainly absent from my knowledge and what the "idealities” were worth the devil alone knew!  A positively burning thirst overcame me: and from that time forward I have done literally nothing else than study physiology, medicine and natural science—I returned to the actual study of history only when my life-task compelled me to.  It was at that time too that I first divined the relation between an instinctively repulsive occupation, a so-called "calling”— which is the last thing to which one is "called”, and that need of lulling a feeling of emptiness and hunger by means of a narcotic art—by means of Wagner’s art for instance.  After looking carefully about me I have discovered that a large number of young men are all in the same state of distress: one kind of unnatural practice does lead to another.  In Germany, or to avoid all ambiguity, in the Empire, only too many are condemned to decide too soon and then to pine away beneath a burden that they cannot throw off.  Such creatures crave for Wagner as for an opiate—they are thus able to forget themselves, to be rid of themselves for a moment.  What am I saying!  For five or six hours.  


At this time my instincts turned resolutely against any further giving way, going along or any further misunderstanding of myself.  Any kind of life, the most unfavourable circumstances, illness, poverty—anything seemed to me preferable to that undignified "selflessness” into which I had fallen; in the first place thanks to my ignorance and youth and in which I had afterwards remained due to laziness—the so-called "sense of duty”.  At this juncture there came to my help in a way that I cannot sufficiently admire and precisely at the right time that unfortunate inheritance from my father’s side of the family and which at bottom is no more than a predisposition to die young.  Sickness slowly liberated me from my toils, it spared me any sort of sudden breach, any sort of abrupt and offensive step.  At that time I lost not a particle of the good will of others but rather added to my store.  Illness likewise gave me the right completely to reverse my mode of life; it not only allowed, it actually commanded me to forget; it gave me the compulsion to lie still, to be at leisure, of waiting and of being patient.  But all this means thinking!  The state of my eyes alone put an end to all book-wormishness or in plain English— philology: I was thus delivered from books; for years I read nothing and this was the greatest gift I ever gave myself!  That innermost self, as it were entombed and which had grown silent because it had been forced to listen perpetually to other selves (for that is what reading means!)  Slowly awakened; at first it was shy and doubtful but at last it spoke again.  Never have I been so happy with myself than during the sickest and most painful moments of my life.  You have only to examine Daybreak or perhaps The Wanderer and his Shadow in order to understand what this "return to myself” actually meant: in itself it was the highest kind of recovery!  My general recovery was simply the result of it.  


Human, all—too—Human, this monument to vigorous self-discipline by means of which I put an abrupt end to the "Swindle on High”, "Idealism”, "Beautiful Feelings” and other effeminacies that have infected my being was written principally in Sorrento; it was finished and given definite shape during a winter at Basel under conditions far less favourable than those in Sorrento.  Truth to tell, it was Peter Gast, at that time a student at the University of Basel and a devoted friend of mine who was responsible for the book.  With my head wrapped in bandages and extremely painful I dictated while he wrote and corrected as he went along—to be accurate, he was the real writer while I was only the author.  When the completed book ultimately reached me—to the great surprise of the serious invalid I then was—I sent among others, two copies to Bayreuth.  Thanks to a miraculous piece of intelligence on the part of chance there reached me precisely at the same time a splendid copy of the Parsifal text with the following inscription from Wagner’s pen: "To his dear friend Friedrich Nietzsche from Richard Wagner, Ecclesiastical Counselor”.  At this crossing of the two books I seemed to hear an ominous sound.  Did it not sound as if two swords had crossed?  At all events we both felt this was so for each of us remained silent.  At about this time the first Bayreuther Blatter appeared: and I then understood the move I had made and for which it was high time.  Incredible!  Wagner had become pious.  


My attitude to myself at that time (1876) and the tremendous certitude with which I grasped my life-task and all its world-historic consequences is well revealed throughout the book but more particularly in one very significant passage despite the fact that with my instinctive cunning I once more circumvented the use of the little word "I”—not however this time in order to shed world-historic glory on the names of Schopenhauer and Wagner but on that of another of my friends, the excellent Dr.  Paul Rée—fortunately much too acute a creature to be deceived— others were less subtle.  Among my readers I have a number of hopeless cases, the typical German professor for instance who can always be recognized from the fact that judging from the passage in question he feels compelled to regard the whole book as a sort of superior Réealism.  As a matter of fact it contradicts five or six points of my friend: only read the introduction to The Genealogy of Morals on this question.  The passage above referred to reads: What after all is the main proposition to which the boldest and coldest thinker, the author of the book 'On the Origin of Moral Sensations' (for which read Nietzsche, the first Immoralist) "has attained by means of his incisive and penetrating analysis of human behaviour?  "The moral man is no nearer to the intelligible world than is the physical man— for there is no intelligible world”.  This theory hardened and sharpened under the hammer-blow of historical knowledge (for which read The Transvaluation of all Values) may perhaps in some future time—1890!—  serve as the axe which is laid at the root of the ‘metaphysical need’ of man—whether more as a blessing than a curse to the mankind it is not easy to say; but in any case as a theory with the most important consequences, at once fruitful and fearful and looking out into the world with that Janus-face which all great knowledge possesses.  

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