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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RENAISSANCE AND REFORMATION.  The Italian Renaissance contained within itself all the positive forces to which we owe modern culture.  Such were the liberation of thought, the disregard of authorities, the triumph of education over the darkness of tradition, enthusiasm for science and the scientific past of mankind, the unfettering of the Individual, an ardour for truthfulness and a dislike of delusion and mere effect (which ardour blazed forth in an entire company of artistic characters, who with the greatest moral purity required from themselves perfection in their works, and nothing but perfection); yes, the Renaissance had positive forces, which have, as yet, never become so mighty again in our modern culture.  It was the Golden Age of the last thousand years, in spite of all its blemishes and vices.  On the other hand, the German Reformation stands out as an energetic protest of antiquated spirits, who were by no means tired of mediaeval views of life, and who received the signs of its dissolution, the extraordinary flatness and alienation of the religious life, with deep dejection instead of with the rejoicing that would have been seemly.  With their northern strength and stiff-neckedness they threw mankind back again, brought about the counter reformation, that is, a Catholic Christianity of self defence, with all the violences of a state of siege, and delayed for two or three centuries the complete awakening and mastery of the sciences; just as they probably made for ever impossible the complete inter growth of the antique and the modern spirit.  The great task of the Renaissance could not be brought to a termination, this was prevented by the protest of the contemporary backward German spirit (which, for its salvation, had had sufficient sense in the Middle Ages to cross the Alps again and again).  It was the chance of an extraordinary constellation of politics that Luther was preserved, and that his protest gained strength, for the Emperor protected him in order to employ him as a weapon against the Pope, and in the same way he was secretly favoured by the Pope in order to use the Protestant princes as a counter weight against the Emperor.  Without this curious counter play of intentions, Luther would have been burnt like Huss, and the morning sun of enlightenment would probably have risen somewhat earlier, and with splendour more beauteous than we can now imagine.  
 

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