Friedrich Nietzsche, Miscellaneous Maxims and opinions (Vermischte Meinungen und Sprüche).

Miscellaneous Maxims and Opinions, the first supplement to Human, All Too Human, first published in 1879.  A second supplement, The Wanderer and his Shadow (Der Wanderer und sein Schatten) followed in 1880.

  

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Previous Section   222. SIMPLICITY NOT THE FIRST NOR THE LAST THING IN POINT OF TIME   Next Section

Simplicity not the First nor the Last Thing in Point of Time.  In the history of religious ideas many errors about development and false gradations are made in matters which in reality are not consecutive outgrowths but contemporary yet separate phenomena.  In particular, simplicity has still far too much the reputation of being the oldest, the initial thing.  Much that is human arises by subtraction and division, and not merely by doubling, addition, and unification.  For instance, men still believe in a gradual development of the idea of God from those unwieldy stones and blocks of wood up to the highest forms of anthropomorphism.  Yet the fact is that so long as divinity was attributed to and felt in trees, logs of wood, stones, and beasts, people shrank from humanising their forms as from an act of godlessness.  First of all, poets, apart from all considerations of cult and the ban of religious shame, have had to make the inner imagination of man accustomed and compliant to this notion.  Wherever more pious periods and phases of thought gained the upper hand, this liberating influence of poets fell into the background, and sanctity remained, after as before, on the side of the monstrous, uncanny, quite peculiarly inhuman.  And then, much of what the inner imagination ventures to picture to itself would exert a painful influence if externally and corporeally represented.  The inner eye is far bolder and more shameless than the outer (whence the well-known difficulty and, to some extent, impossibility, of working epic material into dramatic form).  The religious imagination for a long time entirely refuses to believe in the identity of God with an image: the image is meant to fix the numen of the Deity, actually and specifically, although in a mysterious and not altogether intelligible way.  The oldest image of the Gods is meant to shelter and at the same time to hide the God — to indicate him but not to expose him to view.  No Greek really looked upon his Apollo as a pointed pillar of wood, his Eros as a lump of stone.  These were symbols, which were intended to inspire dread of the manifestation of the God.  It was the same with those blocks of wood out of which individual limbs, generally in excessive number, were fashioned with the scantiest of carving — as, for instance, a Laconian Apollo with four hands and four ears.  In the incomplete, symbolical, or excessive lies a terrible sanctity, which is meant to prevent us from thinking of anything human or similar to humanity.  It is not an embryonic stage of art in which such things are made — as if they were not able to speak more plainly and portray more sensibly in the age when such images were honoured!  Rather, men are afraid of just one thing — direct speaking out.  Just as the cella hides and conceals in a mysterious twilight, yet not completely, the holy of holies, the real numen of the Deity; just as, again, the peripteric temple hides the cella, protecting it from indiscreet eyes as with a screen and a veil, yet not completely — so it is with the image of the Deity, and at the same time the concealment of the Deity.  Only when outside the cult, in the profane world of athletic contest, the joy in the victor had risen so high that the ripples thus started reacted upon the lake of religious emotion, was the statue of the victor set up before the temple.  Then the pious pilgrim had to accustom his eye and his soul, whether he would or no, to the inevitable sight of human beauty and super-strength, so that the worship of men and Gods melted into each other from physical and spiritual contact.  Then too for the first time the fear of really humanising the figures of the Gods is lost, and the mighty arena for great plastic art is opened — even now with the limitation that wherever there is to be adoration the primitive form and ugliness are carefully preserved and copied.  But the Hellene, as he dedicates and makes offerings, may now with religious sanction indulge in his delight in making God become a man.  
 

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