Friedrich Nietzsche, Human All Too Human (Menschliches, Allzumenschliches), subtitled A Book for Free Spirits (Ein Buch für freie Geister).

First published in 1878.   A second part, Assorted Opinions and Maxims (Vermischte Meinungen und Sprüche), was published in 1879, and a third part, The Wanderer and his Shadow (Der Wanderer und sein Schatten), followed in 1880.

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Previous Section   111. THE ORIGIN OF THE RELIGIOUS CULT   Next Section

THE ORIGIN OF THE RELIGIOUS CULT.  If we go back to the times in which the religious life flourished to the greatest extent, we find a fundamental conviction, which we now no longer share, and whereby the doors leading to a religious life are closed to us once for all, it concerns Nature and intercourse with her.  In those times people knew nothing of natural laws; neither for earth nor for heaven is there a "must"; a season, the sunshine, the rain may come or may not come.  In short, every idea of natural causality is lacking.  When one rows, it is not the rowing that moves the boat, but rowing is only a magical ceremony by which one compels a daemon to move the boat.  All maladies, even death itself, are the result of magical influences.  Illness and death never happen naturally; the whole conception of "natural sequence" is lacking, it dawned first amongst the older Greeks, that is, in a very late phase of humanity, in the conception of Moira, enthroned above the gods.  When a man shoots with a bow, there is still always present an irrational hand and strength; if the wells suddenly dry up, men think first of subterranean dcemons and their tricks; it must be the arrow of a god beneath whose invisible blow a man suddenly sinks down.  In India (says Lubbock) a carpenter is accustomed to offer sacrifice to his hammer, his hatchet, and the rest of his tools; in the same way a Brahmin treats the pen with which he writes, a soldier the weapons he requires in the field of battle, a mason his trowel, a labourer his plough.  In the imagination of religious people all nature is a summary of the actions of conscious and voluntary creatures, an enormous complex of arbitrariness.  No conclusion may be drawn with regard to everything that is outside of us, that anything will be so and so, must be so and so; the approximately sure, reliable are we, man is the rule, nature is irregularity,- this theory contains the fundamental conviction which obtains in rude, religiously productive primitive civilisations.  We latter day men feel just the contrary, the richer man now feels himself inwardly, the more polyphonous is the music and the noise of his soul the more powerfully the symmetry of nature works upon him; we all recognise with Goethe the great means in nature for the appeasing of the modern soul; we listen to the pendulum swing of this greatest of clocks with a longing for rest, for home and tranquillity, as if we could absorb this symmetry into ourselves and could only thereby arrive at the enjoyment of ourselves.  Formerly it was otherwise; if we consider the rude, early condition of nations, or contemplate present day savages at close quarters, we find them most strongly influenced by law and by tradition: the individual is almost automatically bound to them, and moves with the uniformity of a pendulum.  To him Nature uncomprehended, terrible, mysterious Nature must appear as the sphere of liberty, of voluntariness, of the higher power, even as a superhuman degree of existence, as God.  In those times and conditions, however, every individual felt that his existence, his happiness, and that of the family and the State, and the success of all undertakings, depended on those spontaneities of nature; certain natural events must appear at the right time, others be absent at the right time.  How can one have any influence on these terrible unknown things, how can one bind the sphere of liberty?  Thus he asks himself, thus he inquires anxiously; is there, then, no means of making those powers as regular through tradition and law as you are yourself?  The aim of those who believe in magic and miracles is to impose a law on nature, and, briefly, the religious cult is a result of this aim.  The problem which those people have set themselves is closely related to this: how can the weaker race dictate laws to the stronger, rule it, and guide its actions (in relation to the weaker)?  One would first remember the most harmless sort of compulsion, that compulsion which one exercises when one has gained any one's affection.  By imploring and praying, by submission, by the obligation of regular taxes and gifts, by flattering glorifications, it is also possible to exercise an influence upon the powers of nature, inasmuch as one gains the affections; love binds and becomes bound.  Then one can make compacts by which one is mutually bound to a certain behaviour, where one gives pledges and exchanges vows.  But far more important is a species of more forcible compulsion, by magic and witchcraft.  As with the sorcerer's help man is able to injure a more powerful enemy and keep him in fear, as the love charm works at a distance, so the weaker man believes he can influence the mightier spirits of nature.  The principal thing in all witchcraft is that we must get into our possession something that belongs to someone, hair, nails, food from their table, even their portrait, their name.  With such apparatus we can then practise sorcery; for the fundamental rule is, to everything spiritual there belongs something corporeal; with the help of this we are able to bind the spirit, to injure it, and destroy it; the corporeal furnishes the handles with which we can grasp the spiritual.  As man controls man, so he controls some natural spirit or other; for this has also its corporeal part by which it may be grasped.  The tree and, compared with it, the seed from which it sprang, this enigmatical contrast seems to prove that the same spirit embodied itself in both forms, now small, now large.  A stone that begins to roll suddenly is the body in which a spirit operates; if there is an enormous rock lying on a lonely heath it seems impossible to conceive human strength sufficient to have brought it there, consequently the stone must have moved there by itself, that is, it must be possessed by a spirit.  Everything that has a body is susceptible to witchcraft, therefore also the natural spirits.  If a god is bound to his image we can use the most direct compulsion against him (through refusal of sacrificial food, scourging, binding in fetters, and so on).  In order to obtain by force the missing favour of their god the lower classes in China wind cords round the image of the one who has left them in the lurch, pull it down and drag it through the streets in the dust and the dirt: "You dog of a spirit” they say, "we gave you a magnificent temple to live in, we gilded you prettily, we fed you well, we offered you sacrifice, and yet you are so ungrateful".  Similar forcible measures against pictures of the Saints and Virgin when they refused to do their duty in pestilence or drought, have been witnessed even during the present century in Catholic countries.  Through all these magic relations to nature, countless ceremonies have been called into life; and at last, when the confusion has grown too great, an endeavour has been made to order and systematise them, in order that the favourable course of the whole progress of nature, i.  e.  of the great succession of the seasons, may seem to be guaranteed by a corresponding course of a system of procedure.  The essence of the religious cult is to determine and confine nature to human advantage, to impress it with a legality, therefore, which it did not originally possess; while at the present time we wish to recognise the legality of nature in order to adapt ourselves to it.  In short, then, the religious cult is based upon the representations of sorcery between man and man, and the sorcerer is older than the priest.  But it is likewise based upon other and nobler representations; it premises the sympathetic relation of man to man, the presence of goodwill, gratitude, the hearing of pleaders, of treaties between enemies, the granting of pledges, and the claim to the protection of property.  In very low stages of civilisation man does not stand in the relation of a helpless slave to nature, he is not necessarily its involuntary bondsman.  In the Greek grade of religion, particularly in relation to the Olympian gods, there may even be imagined a common life between two castes, a nobler and more powerful one, and one less noble; but in their origin both belong to each other somehow, and are of one kind; they need not be ashamed of each other.  That is the nobility of the Greek religion.  

Friedrich Nietzsche, "Ecce Homo" Ebook

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