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   224. BALM AND POISON   Next Section

Balm and Poison.  We cannot ponder too deeply on this fact: Christianity is the religion of antiquity grown old; it presupposes degenerate old culture-stocks, and on them it had, and still has, power to work like balm.  There are periods when ears and eyes are full of slime, so that they can no longer hear the voice of reason and philosophy or see the wisdom that walks in bodily shape, whether it bears the name of Epictetus or of Epicurus.  Then, perhaps, the erection of the martyr's cross and the "trumpet of the last judgment” may have the effect of still inspiring such races to end their lives decently.  If we think of Juvenal's Rome, of that poisonous toad with the eyes of Venus, we understand what it means to make the sign of the Cross before the world, we honour the silent Christian community and are grateful for its having stifled the Greco-Roman Empire.  If, indeed, most men were then born in spiritual slavery, with the sensuality of old men, what a pleasure to meet beings who were more soul than body, and who seemed to realise the Greek idea of the shades of the under-world — shy, scurrying, chirping, kindly creatures, with a reversion on the " better life” and therefore so unassuming, so secretly scornful, so proudly patient!  — This Christianity, as the evening chime of the good antiquity, with cracked, weary and yet melodious bell, is balm in the ears even to one who only now traverses those centuries historically.  What must it have been to those men themselves!  — To young and fresh barbarian nations, on the other hand, Christianity is a poison.  For to implant the teaching of sinfulness and damnation in the heroic, childlike, and animal soul of the old Germans is nothing but poisoning.  An enormous chemical fermentation and decomposition, a medley of sentiments and judgments, a rank growth of adventurous legend, and hence in the long run a fundamental weakening of such barbarian peoples, was the inevitable result.  True, without this weakening what should we have left of Greek culture, of the whole cultured past of the human race?  For the barbarians untouched by Christianity knew very well how to make a clean sweep of old cultures, as was only too clearly shown by the heathen conquerors of Romanised Britain.  Thus Christianity, against its will, was compelled to aid in making "the antique world" immortal.  There remains, however, a counter-question and the possibility of a counter-reckoning.  Without this weakening through the poisoning referred to, would any of those fresh stocks — the Germans, for instance — have been in a position gradually to find by themselves a higher, a peculiar, a new culture, of which the most distant conception would therefore have been lost to humanity?  — In this, as in every case, we do not know, Christianly speaking, whether God owes the devil or the devil God more thanks for everything having turned out as it has.  

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