Kriminalgeschichte, 13

Chapter 3:

First malicious acts of Christians against Christians

‘No heretic is a Christian. But if he is not a Christian, every heretic is a devil.’ ‘Cattle for the slaughter of hell.’

—St Jerome, Doctor of the Church

In the origins of Christianity there was no ‘true faith’

The Church teaches that the original situation of Christianity was of ‘orthodoxy’, that is, of ‘true faith’; later, the ‘heresy’ would appear (de aíresis = the chosen opinion)… In classical literature it was called ‘heresy’ any opinion, whether scientific, political or from a religious party. Little by little, however, the term took on the connotation of the sectarian and discredited.

Now, the scheme ‘original orthodoxy against overcoming heresy’, essential to maintain the ecclesiastical fiction of an allegedly uninterrupted and faithfully preserved apostolic tradition, is nothing more than an a posteriori invention and as false as that same doctrine of the apostolic tradition. The historical model according to which Christian doctrine, in its beginnings, was pure and true, then contaminated by heretics and schismatics of all epochs, ‘the theory of deviationism’, as the Catholic theologian Stockmeier has written, ‘does not conform to any historical reality’.

Such a model could not be true in any way, because Christianity in its beginnings was far from being homogeneous; there existed only a set of beliefs and principles not very well established. It still ‘had no definite symbol of faith (a recognised Christian belief) nor canonical Scriptures’ (E.R. Dodds). We cannot even refer to what Jesus himself said, because the oldest Christian texts are not the Gospels, but the Epistles of Paul, which certainly contradict the Gospels in many essential points, not to mention many other problems of quite transcendence that arise here.

The early Christians incorporated not one, but many and very different traditions and forms. In the primitive community there was at least one division, as far as we know, between the ‘Hellenizing’ and the ‘Hebrew’. There were also violent discussions between Paul and the first original apostles… Ever since, every tendency, church or sect, tends to be considered as the ‘true’, the ‘unique’, authentic Christianity. That is, in the origins of the new faith there was neither a ‘pure doctrine’ in the current Protestant sense, nor a Catholic Church. It was a Jewish sect separated from its mother religion…

At the end of the second century, when the Catholic Church was constituted, that is, when the Christians had become a multitude, as the pagan philosopher Celsus joked, divisions and parties began to emerge, each of which called for their own legitimacy, ‘which was what they intended from the outset.’

And as a result of having become a multitude, they are distant from each other and condemn each other, to the point that we do not see that they have anything in common except the name, since otherwise each party believes in its own and has nothing in the beliefs of others.

At the beginning of the third century, Bishop Hippolytus of Rome cites 32 competing Christian sects which, by the end of the fourth century, according to Bishop Philastrius of Brescia, numbered 128 (plus 28 ‘pre-Christian heresies’). Lacking political power, however, the pre-Constantinian Church could only verbally vent against the ‘heretics’, as well as against the Jews. To the ever-deeper enmity with the synagogue, were thus added the increasingly odious clashes between the Christians themselves, owing to their doctrinal differences.

Moreover, for the doctors of the Church, such deviations constituted the most serious sin, because divisions, after all, involved the loss of members, the loss of power. In these polemics the objective was not to understand the point of view of the opponent, nor to explain the own, which perhaps would have been inconvenient or dangerous. It would be more accurate to say that they obeyed the purpose ‘to crush the contrary by all means’ (Gigon). ‘Ancient society had never known this kind of quarrel, because it had a different and non-dogmatic concept of religious questions’ (Brox).
 
First ‘heretics’ in the New Testament

Paul the fanatic, the classic of intolerance, provided the example of the treatment that would be given by Rome to those who did not think like her, or rather, ‘his figure is fundamental to understand the origin of this kind of controversy’ (Paulsen).

This was demonstrated in his relations with the first apostles, without excepting Peter. Before the godly legend made the ideal pair of the apostles Peter and Paul (still in 1647, Pope Innocent X condemned the equation of both as heretical, while today Rome celebrates its festivities the same day, June 29), the followers of the one and the other, and themselves, were angry with fury; even the book of the Acts of the Apostles admits that there was ‘great commotion.’

Paul, despite having received from Christ ‘the ministry of preaching forgiveness’, contradicts Peter ‘face to face’, accuses him of ‘hypocrisy’ and asserts that with him, ‘the circumcised’ were equally hypocrites. He makes a mockery of the leaders of the Jerusalem community, calling them ‘proto-apostles’, whose prestige he says nothing matters to them, since they are only ‘mutilated’, ‘dogs’, ‘apostles of deceit.’ He regrets the penetration of ‘false brethren’, the divisions, the parties, even if they were declared in his favour, to Peter or to others.

Conversely, the primitive community reproached him those same defects, and even more, including greed, accusing him of fraud and calling him a coward, an abnormal and crazy, while at the same time seeking the defection of the followers. Agitators sent by Jerusalem break into his dominions, even Peter, called ‘hypocrite’, faces in Corinth the ‘erroneous doctrines of Paul’. The dispute did not stop to fester until the death of both and continued with the followers.

Paul, very different to the Jesus of the Synoptics, only loves his own. Overbeck, the theologian friend of Nietzsche who came to confess that ‘Christianity cost my life… because I have needed my whole life to get rid of it’, knew very well what was said when he wrote: ‘All beautiful things of Christianity are linked to Jesus, and the most unpleasant to Paul. He was the least likely person to understand Jesus’.

To the condemned, this fanatic wants to see them surrendered ‘to the power of Satan’, that is to say, prisoners of death. And the penalty imposed on the incestuous Corinth, which was pronounced, by the way, according to a typically pagan formula, was to bring about its physical annihilation, similar to the lethal effects of the curse of Peter against Ananias and Sapphira.

Peter and Paul and Christian love! Whoever preaches another doctrine, even if he were ‘an angel from heaven’, is forever cursed. And he repeats, tirelessly, ‘Cursed be…!’, ‘God would want to annihilate those who scandalize you!’, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not love the Lord’, anatema sit that became a model of future Catholic bulls of excommunication. But the apostle was to give another example of his ardour, to which the Church would also set an example.

In Ephesus, where ‘tongues’ were spoken, and where even the garments used by the apostles heal diseases and cast out devils, many Christians, perhaps disillusioned with the old magic in view of the new wonders, ‘collected their books and burned them up in the presence of everyone. When the value of the books was added up, it was found to total fifty thousand silver coins. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.’

The New Testament already identifies heresy with ‘blasphemy against God’, the Christian of another hue with the ‘enemy of God’; and Christians begin to call other Christians ‘slaves of perdition’, ‘adulterous and corrupted souls’, ‘children of the curse’, ‘children of the devil’, ‘animals without reason and by nature created only to be hunted and exterminated’, in which the saying that ‘the dog always returns to his own vomit’ and ‘the pig wallows in his own filth’ is confirmed.

“Her little child”

Excerpted from Werner Ross’s Der ängstliche Adler
– Friedrich Nietzsches Leben
(1980):

carl_ludwig_nietzsche

Carl Ludwig Nietzsche,
Nietzsche’s father

The boy does not remember the Röcken home dominated by women, but only the image of the father, idealized on par as it gradually fades out. The pious rural cleric remains completely safe from the uprising against Christianity, which would be the true mission of Nietzsche from his eighteen years. Since then, his father is for him an “ethereal angel.” One of the qualities that he has inherited from him is the kindness, the renunciation of revenge for nobility. So in the late self-portraiture of Ecce homo we read that, in case of offense, Nietzsche prohibits himself “any retaliation, any measure of defense.”

[Chechar’s note: Those who have read the passages of Alice Miller in The Untouched Key as to why Nietzsche went mad—just imagine a self-proclaimed Antichrist who, simultaneously, never defended himself before the father clergyman!—would treasure passages such as these.]

Another inherited quality is the love of music. In a postcard to Peter Gast [Heinrich Köselitz] of the time of Zarathustra an observation is included: “It is raining in torrents, music gets me away. I like that music and the way I like it is something I cannot explain based on my experiences: rather based on my father. And why should not…?”

The phrase is cut, but can be completed with another of Ecce homo in which he says: Why should not I continue to live in him and he in me after his untimely death?

And he was no less mystical in his later years, when he conceived the doctrine of eternal recurrence, so he could skip the generational order to become a descendant of Napoleon, Caesar or Alexander. But the same process also allowed otherwise: the mysterious identification with the father, either in the agonizing fear of premature death and madness, either in the gut, not even confessed to his friend Gast, that having survived the fateful thirty-third year of his life he would merge with his father to form a single figure with him.

The family was assured that Fritz (short for Friedrich) would be clergyman as the father. His mother, who was not limited to accompany him to the bed but every night carried him into it, panting said, “If you continue like this I’ll have to carry you up to bed until you study theology.” Fritz, meanwhile, was a precocious and obedient child; knew by heart passages of the Bible and religious songs so that their local school classmates called him the little shepherd. He was no friend of other children, and in school they laughed at him but then, at home, spoke wonders of the little sage.

Young Nietzsche, whose strange factions made one think of an owl, had an excellent performance. An anecdote belonging to the repertoire of Elisabeth [Nietzsche’s sister] tells us that, at one point, it started raining and as everyone ran from school to their homes, he continued to walk at a leisurely pace with the board over his hat and scarf on the blackboard. When Nietzsche got home was completely soaked. That why he had not run like the others? Well, because the school regulations say that, after school, children should go to their houses quietly and politely. The story seems credible; it was not normal behavior, but a show of obedience directed against his classmates’ behavior.

The little shepherd never tires of reciting pious maxims, edifying virtuous desires and prayers. Words like purpose, wise decision of God, beneficent hand of God, heavenly father come out of his lips with astonishing naturalness.

The strongest impressions were those that religious music gave Nietzsche. In the misty autumn evenings, the boy came sneaking into the cathedral to witness the rehearsals of the Requiem for the day of the dead; he was overwhelmed to hear the Dies irae and was deeply delighted with the Benedictus. It was not just a childish impulse that led him at fourteen, in Schulpforta, to write in all seriousness motets, chorale melodies and fugues and even try a Missa for solo, chorus and orchestra. At sixteen Nietzsche outlined a Miserere for five voices and, finally, began a Christmas oratory on which he worked for two years.

At seventeen, the son of the pastor received confirmation. His classmate Deussen, also a son of pastor says the two maintained a pious attitude, away from the world. They were willing to die immediately to go to meet Jesus. When his friend Wilhelm Pinder received confirmation, Nietzsche wrote: “With the promise you walk into the line of Christian adults who are considered worthy of the most precious legacy of our Savior, and through their enjoyment of life, achieve happiness of the soul.” Not even from the pastor’s pen would have come such pious words.

In High School Nietzsche had an “excellent” in religion. The commentary reports confirm that the student has shown, along with a good understanding of the New Testament, a keen interest in the doctrine of Christian salvation which he has easily and solidly assimilated, and is also able to express himself clearly on the subject.

The above was extracted from one of the first chapters of Ross’ book. Unlike Curt Paul Janz, hundreds of pages later Ross only dedicates a few paragraphs to Nietzsche’s life after his breakdown. He writes:

 

Nietzsche’s biography ends in the early days of 1889, although his life was extended until August 25, 1900. Paralyzed and demented, he died of pneumonia.

On August 10, 1889 Nietzsche entered the psychiatric clinic of the University of Basel; a week later he is taken to the Jena University Clinic where he remains for about fifteen months, and on March 24, 1890 he is discharged in writing and sent home. Nietzsche remains under the care of his mother until her death in 1897. In July 1897 the sister purchases a Weimar villa, “Silberblick,” for the Nietzsche Archive and in it she installs the patient.

About the demented Nietzsche several persons issued reports: (1) Turin dentist, Dr. Bettmann, who with Overbeck brought Nietzsche to Basel; (2) the diaries of Basel and Jena for the sick by the physician (and later professor) Ziehen; (2) the mother in his letters to Professor Overbeck, and (4) friends and visitors, from Gast to Deussen and from Overbeck to Resa von Schirnhofer.

The extracts that follow from 1889-1892 show on one hand the state of the disorder, but on the other they shed light on the “healthy” Nietzsche, specifically those oppressed and repressed aspects that madness liberated.

Dentist Bettmann’s opinion, in Turin:

The patient is usually excited, he asks much food but is unable to do something and take care of himself. He claims to be a famous man, and constantly asks a woman for him.

Basel journal for the sick, January 1889:

He only answers partially and incompletely or not at all to the questions addressed to him, insisting in his confused verbiage nonstop.

First day at Jena, January 19, 1889:

The patient walks on the department with many bows of courtesy. With majestic step, staring at the ceiling, enters the room and gives thanks for the “great reception.” He doesn’t know where he is.

Extracts from the diary for the sick at Jena, from January to October 1889:

He wants his compositions to be premiered. He has little understanding or memory of ideas or passages from his works. He always identifies the physicians correctly. He proclaims himself now Duke of Cumberland, now Emperor, etc… “At last I have been Frederick William IV,” “My wife Cosima Wagner has brought me here.” “At night they have uttered curses against me, have used the most horrible mechanisms.” “I want a gun if there is any truth in the suspicion that the very Grand Duchess commits these filthy acts and attacks on me.”

At night we always have to isolate him. He often smears himself with excrement. He eats excrements. He urinates in his boot or glass and drinks the urine or smears himself with it. Once he smeared a leg with excrement. He wraps excrements in paper and puts it all in the drawer of a table.

The mother to Overbeck, April 8, 1889:

About an hour ago my son has been taken to the department of the peaceful sick… The greatest joy you can provide is to speak in Italian or French to him… Gone are the ideas of grandeur that initially made him so happy…

On March 24, 1890 the mother takes Nietzsche out of the center to live with him in Jena. On one occasion Nietzsche undresses in public with intent of swimming and a guard is hired, who follows at a distance mother and son when they go for a walk. On June 17, 1890 she writes to Overbeck:

He plays a little of music every day, partly his small compositions or songs of an old book of songs… The religious sentiment is asserted more and more in him. During Pentecost, when we were sitting quietly in the balcony with me holding an old Bible [he says] that in Turin he had studied the whole Bible and taken thousands of notes, when I read this or that psalm; this or that chapter, I expressed surprise that he knew the Bible so thoroughly.

From 1892 Nietzsche can no longer feed himself. He has to be washed and dressed. The walks have to be abandoned because Nietzsche shouts and hits everything on his way. In 1894 Nietzsche recognizes Deussen, but in 1895 he no longer recognizes Overbeck.

In madness it clearly appears a regression to infantile and juvenile stages. In the time of megalomania Dionysus and Zarathustra are totally excluded. Instead it reappears Frederick William IV [discussed in Ross’ earlier chapters], and Nietzsche says to his mother he is twenty-two. The last letter to Jacob Burckhardt is written by a “student.” His fears (the light should remain lit at night, the door must be closed) belong to an early childhood stage, like the “magic of the pieces of glass.” It is also noteworthy the return to the old religion and a fearful, even radical avoidance of everything philosophical. As a sick man Nietzsche is an obedient or uninhibited child.

At the end he completely sinks into apathy.

nietzsche_dementedThe mother, fearful, “limited” (as seen in the Basel clinic) was at first mean, although she continued to receive Nietzsche’s pension. But when he was with her she cared for him, protected and looked after him with motherly love. Friedrich then again became what in her opinion should have always been: her little child.

Curt Paul Janz on Nietzsche, 2

nietzsche_after_catastropheExcerpted from Curt Paul Janz’s last volume of his biography, Friedrich Nietzsche. Biographie. Band 3: Die Jahre des Siechtums, Chapter “The Catastrophe”:


On Sunday January 6, 1889 Jacob Burckhardt received a long letter from Nietzsche. While it is true that, from the Genealogy [On the Genealogy of Morals] at least Burckhardt had not followed Nietzsche’s philosophical way, he did continue to be humanely united to his former colleague. For long Burckhardt had watched with concern his state and inquired about it, but this turn towards mental disturbance surprised and deeply affected him.

Burckhardt did immediately what was in his hand: he went immediately with the letter to see Franz Overbeck, whose close contact with Nietzsche he knew. Although their houses were not far apart—from the suburb of St. Alban to the Sevogelstrasse there are only a few hundred meters—, Burckhardt had never felt moved to walk that way. But now, the terrible impression he received prompted him to overcome that barrier. Also for Overbeck it was an alarming surprise to see Jacob Burckhardt into his home.

Following a review of the two letters to Burckhardt and Overbeck, Wille [Prof. Dr. Ludwig Wille, a psychiatrist] had no doubt about how he had to try the case and what they had to do. He urged Overbeck that, without loss of time, to bring the friend from Turin to Basel, before he disappeared in any one of the dubious Italian centers.

Overbeck immediately followed the advice, which seemed more like an order. By doing so he had to weight two considerations: firstly the question of costs. Neither he nor Nietzsche were doing well economically. Professorial fees were then rather scarce. And besides, surely it was not easy to a conscientious teacher to leave without official dispensation for a few days.

In spite of everything, in the night of January 7 he parted to Turin, where he arrived the next day around 2 pm. Given his perennially poor health, the feat demanded a great effort from Overbeck, especially in the middle of winter. 18 hours in those times when trains, insufficiently heated or not heated at all during the night (no sleeper), meant a real sacrifice. But the worst still awaited him.

By his own efforts Overbeck found Nietzsche’s housing in a city unknown to him. The landlord, Fino, was absent. Nietzsche, with his behavior, had finally put Fino in a state of despair, and he was now seeking help from the German consulate and police. The whole family was scattered so that it took some time for Overbeck to find the wife. Only then he approached his friend. In his letter of January 15 to Köselitz he narrates the encounter:

It happened in the last time when it was still possible to get him without official impediments, except his own state. I pass over the moving circumstances in which I found Nietzsche as a pupil of his landlords; which seem to be also characteristic of Italy in general. With the terrible moment as I saw Nietzsche I come again to the principal issue: a terrible moment like no other, and totally different from everything that happened afterwards.

I see Nietzsche in a corner of the armchair, curled up and reading—as it was apparent later, the latest proofs of Nietzsche contra Wagner—, tremendously deteriorated in external appearance. He sees me and rushes towards me, recognizing me he hugs me tightly, and becomes a sea of tears. He goes back then, in convulsions, to sink himself into the armchair. Neither do I find strength, because of the shock, to pull myself on my legs. Did it open at that moment the abyss in which he finds himself, or better, into which he has fallen? In any case, no such thing has been repeated. All of the Fino family was present.

Just as Nietzsche returned to rest there, moaning and with convulsive contractions, the watered bromide that was on the table was given to him. Instantly he relaxed, and, laughing, began to talk about the great reception that was prepared for him at night. Thus Nietzsche moved in a circle of delusions from which he never came out after I lost sight of him; being always clear of mind about me in general and other people, but caught in a full night about him. It happened that, exalting himself without measure, and with strong songs and frenzies on piano, shreds of the ideas were recovered from the world in which he had lived lately.

Then, in short sentences, uttered in a tone indescribably flat, he had us hearing sublime, wonderfully visionary things and unspeakably terrible about himself as the successor of the dead God, tapping all, so to speak, at the piano. Afterwards the convulsions and fits of indescribable suffering returned. But, as said, this only happened in rare and fleeting moments. While I was present, generally the profession statements that he awarded himself dominated: to be the jester of the new eternities, and he, the incomparable master of expression, was unable to represent the enthusiasm even from his joy otherwise than through the most trivial expressions or by a ridiculous dancing and jumping.

Overbeck’s report in his memoirs and letters to Köselitz is very summary. Carl Albrecht Bernoulli was able to complete it:

He then wrote to Peter Gast [Heinrich Köselitz] everything that happened in Turin during the terrible encounter; his hand refused to transcribe to paper the latest and most sordid details. Although occasionally he alluded to this in the most intimate circles, and to me personally he completed by word the description.

Overbeck was also more forthcoming with Möbius, who visited him on April 10, 1902. Möbius informs us:

In Turin he met a Jewish man who volunteered as a caregiver of the crazy (but he was not) and that with the help of his intervention they carried out the risky venture. Nietzsche was in bed and refused to get up. The Jew told him that they were prepared for large receptions and festivities, and Nietzsche got up, dressed and went to the station with them.

There he wanted to embrace all people, but the companion explained him how it was not appropriate for such an important man: and Nietzsche calmed down. Using large quantities of sleeping pills the patient remained quiet during the trip, and thus came the three happily to Basel.

Another visitor to Overbeck, the writer Eduard Platzhoff-Lejeune, based on an earlier conversation with Overbeck, presented the episode thus:

The Turin police was already aware, and only a true kidnapping could prevent a forced entry into a center of that place.

Then, miraculously, a stranger, a German Jew, apparently offered himself [for a fee] to transport the sick. Overbeck agreed and did not repent of his acceptance. With surprising touch the stranger immediately got influence on the wayward sick, something that the friend was not able to.

Nietzsche obeyed as a child, left the bed and dressed. A new outburst became a torture for Overbeck on the way to the station. Shouting and chasing them, Nietzsche was addressing the curious crowd, at the point of nearly thwarting the traveling. The train left while Nietzsche sang a fishermen’s Neapolitan song [?]. That deeply touched the excited friend. The caregiver tried a suggestion: “You’re a prince. In Basel station a festive crowd is expecting you. Come in before it without greeting to the car that is waiting to you!”

The trick worked better than expected. The morning of January 10, 1889, around 8, Nietzsche and his caretakers arrived to Basel. A ready-cab took them to “Friedmatt” where the patient could be entrusted to the care of specialists.

With that Nietzsche stopped being a person acting autonomously.

Dance over the abyss

der_kampf_mit_dem_daemon

If you look into an abyss, the
abyss, likewise, looks into you.



This self-addressed pæan of intoxicated happiness is, I know, regarded by modern physicians as a morbid euphoria, as the last pleasure in a decaying brain, as the stigma of that megalomania which is characteristic of the early stage of paralytic dementia. But Nietzsche talks clearly and incisively amid the ardours of intoxication. No other mortal, perhaps, has ever in full awareness and without a trace of giddiness leaned so far and seen so clearly over the edge of the precipice of lunacy.

No doubt the light that sparkles here is a perilous one. It has the phantasmal and morbid luminosity of a midnight sun glowing red above icebergs; it is a northern light of the soul whose unique splendour makes us shudder. It does not warm us, it terrifies us. It does not dazzle, but it slays. He is not carried away as was Hölderlin by an obscure rhythm of feeling, is not overwhelmed by the onrush of melancholy. He is scorched by his own ardours, is sunstruck by his own rays, is affected by a white-hot and intolerable cheerfulness. Nietzsche’s collapse was a sort of carbonization in his own flames.

He commanded the German emperor to go to Rome in order to be shot; he summoned the European powers to take united military action against Germany, to encircle his fatherland in a ring of iron. Never did apocalyptic wrath shout more savagely into vacancy, never did so glorious presumption scourge a mind beyond earthly bounds. His words issued like hammer-blows striving to demolish the edifice of established civilisation. The Christian era was to cease with the publication of his Antichrist, and a new numbering of the years was to begin.

“No one has written, felt, suffered in such a manner before; the sufferings of a god, a Dionysius.” These words, penned when his mental disorder had already begun, are painfully true. The little room of the fourth floor, and the hermitage of Sils-Maria, not only sheltered the man Friedrich Nietzsche whose nerves were breaking under the strain, but also served as the places from which were issued a marvellous message to the dying century. The Creative Spirit had taken refuge beneath the attic roof heated by the southern sun, and was bestowing its entire wealth upon a timid, neglected, and lonely being, bestowing far more than any isolated person could sustain.

Within those narrow walls, wrestling with infinities, the poor mortal senses were stumbling and groping amid the lightening-flashes of revelation. Like Hölderlin, he felt that a god was revealing himself, a fiery god whose radiance the eyes could not bear and whose proximity was scorching. Again and again the cowering wrench raised his head and attempted to look upon the countenance of this deity, his thoughts running riot the while.

Was not he who felt and wrote and suffered such unthinkable things, was not he himself God? Had not a god reanimated the world after he, Nietzsche, had slain the old god? Who was he? Who was Nietzsche? Was Nietzsche the Crucified; the dead god or the living one; the god of his youth, Dionysius; or both Dionysus and the Crucified—the crucified Dionysius?

More and more confused grew his thoughts; the current roared too loud beneath the superfluity of light. Was it still light? Had it not become music? The narrow room on the fourth floor in the Via Carlo Alberto began to intone; the shining spheres made music; all heaven was aglow. What wonderful music! Tears tricked down his face, warm tears. What sublime tenderness, what auspicious happiness! And now, what lucidity! In the street, everyone smiled at him in friendly fashion; they stood up to greet him; they made obeisance to him, the slayer of gods; they were all so delighted to see him. Why? Why?

He knew. Antichrist had appeared upon earth, and men acclaimed him with hosannas. The world hummed with jubilation, was full of music. Then suddenly the tumult was stilled. Something, someone fell down. It is he, himself, in the street, in front of the house where he lodged. He was picked up. He found himself back in his room.

Had he been asleep for a long time? It seemed very dark. There was the piano. Music! Music! Then, unexpectedly, people appeared in the room. Surely one of them must be Overbeck. But Overbeck is in Basel; and where is he, Nietzsche? He no longer remembers. Why does the company look at him so strangely, so anxiously? He is in a train, rattling along the rails, and the wheels are singing; yes, they are singing the “Gondolier’s Chanty,” and he joins in, signs in an interminable darkness.

He is in a strange room, and always it is dark. No more sunshine, no light at all, either within or without. People talk in the room. A woman among them, surely it is his sister? He had thought she was travelling. She reads aloud to him, now from one book, now from another. Books? “Was not I once a writer of books?” Comes a gentle answer, but he cannot understand. One in whose soul such a hurricane has raged grows deaf to ordinary speech. One who has gazed so intently into the eyes of the daimon is henceforth blinded.

Flight into music

der_kampf_mit_dem_daemon

For many years music remained a private amusement to which Nietzsche delivered himself up in a spirit of irresponsible pleasure, with the pure delight of an amateur, a pastime altogether outside his main “mission” in life. Music flooded his being only after the philological crust had been removed, only when his erudite objectivity of outlook had become disintegrated, when his cosmos had been shattered as if by a volcanic eruption.

Precisely because he had pent up these primal springs of his nature for so long behind the damns of philology, erudition, and indifference, did they gush forth so vehemently and penetrate into every crevice, irradiating and liquefying his literary style. It was as if his tongue, which had hitherto sought to explain tangible things, had suddenly refused its allotted task and insisted upon expressing itself in terms of music. Even his punctuation—unspoken speech—his dashes, his italics, could find equivalents in the terminology of the elements of music.

The details of each work are vibrant with music, and the works as a whole read like symphonies. They no longer belong to the realm of architecture, of intellectual and objective creations, but are the direct outcome of musical inspiration. Of Thus Spake Zarathustra he himself says that it was written “in the spirit of the first phrase of the Ninth Symphony.” And how better can I describe the opening of Ecce Homo than as a magnificent organ prelude destined to be played in some vast cathedral? “Song of Night” and “Gondolier’s Chanty” resemble the croonings of primitive men in the midst of an infinite solitude. When was his inspiration more joyous and dancing, more heroic, more like a lilting cadence of the Grecian music of antiquity, than in the pæan indited during his ultimate outburst of happiness, in the Dionysian rhapsody? Illuminated from on high by the pellucid skies of the South, soaked from beneath by the waters of music, his language became as it were a wave, restless and immense.

Music, limpid, freedom-giving, and light, became the dearest solace of Nietzsche’s agitated mind. “Life without music is nothing but fatigue and error.” “Was a man ever so athirst for music as I?” He, the solitary wanderer cast out by the gods desired only that they should not rob him of this one consolation, this nectar, this ambrosia which eternally refreshed and reinvigorated the soul. “Art, nothing but art! Art was given us that we might not be slain by truth.”

The world had forsaken him; his friends had long since gone their ways and ignored his existence; his thoughts strayed forth on interminable pilgrimages. Music alone walked by his side, accompanying him into his final, his seventh, solitude.

When in the end he fell into the abyss, she watched over his obliterated mind. Overbeck, coming into the room after the catastrophe, found the unhappy madman sitting at the piano, his fingers fumbling the keys in a vain effort to find the harmonies so dear to him.

Quotable quote

“Let’s shoot the German emperor and all anti-Semites.”

—Nietzsche
(letter to Overbeck,
January 1889)

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