Nietzsche on the institution of marriage

F. Roger Devlin’s views on marriage made a fairly deep impression in my worldview. So deep in fact that nothing has aroused more my emotions in the last few months than watching over and over both the British television series of Pride and Prejudice as well as the 2005 movie adaptation of the same novel, together with the well-known 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility: the classics of Jane Austen.

Presently I cannot stand a single minute of TV or Hollywood. Indeed, while imbued in the feeling that today’s West is like a Gomorrah that has to be burned to the ashes, these adaptations stir my soul to such degree that the stories’ conclusions—old-time traditional marriages—move me almost on the verge of tears.

It must come as a surprise that the anti-Christian Nietzsche maintained, like the Christian Devlin, a quite traditional view of marriage until the very end of his intellectual life. The following is a passage from section 39 of “Skirmishes of an Untimely Man” of his 1888 book Twilight of the Idols:


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39.-

Our institutions are no good any more: on that there is universal agreement. However, it is not their fault but ours. Once we have lost all the instincts out of which institutions grow, we lose institutions altogether because we are no longer good for them. Democracy has ever been the form of decline in organizing power: in Human, All-Too-Human (I, 472) I already characterized modern democracy, together with its hybrids such as the “German Reich,” as the form of decline of the state. In order that there may be institutions, there must be a kind of will, instinct, or imperative, which is anti-liberal to the point of malice…

The whole of the West no longer possesses the instincts out of which institutions grow, out of which a future grows: perhaps nothing antagonizes its “modern spirit” so much. One lives for the day, one lives very fast, one lives very irresponsibly: precisely this is called “freedom.” That which makes an institution an institution is despised, hated, repudiated: one fears the danger of a new slavery the moment the word “authority” is even spoken out loud. That is how far décadence has advanced in the value-instincts of our politicians, of our political parties: instinctively they prefer what disintegrates, what hastens the end.

Witness modern marriage. All rationality has clearly vanished from modern marriage; yet that is no objection to marriage, but to modernity. The rationality of marriage—that lay in the husband’s sole juridical responsibility, which gave marriage a center of gravity, while today it limps on both legs. The rationality of marriage—that lay in its indissolubility in principle, which lent it an accent that could be heard above the accident of feeling, passion, and what is merely momentary. It also lay in the family’s responsibility for the choice of a spouse. With the growing indulgence of love matches, the very foundation of marriage has been eliminated, that which alone makes an institution of it.

Never, absolutely never, can an institution be founded on an idiosyncrasy; one cannot, as I have said, found marriage on “love”—it can be founded on the sex drive, on the property drive (wife and child as property), on the drive to dominate, which continually organizes for itself the smallest structure of domination, the family, and which needs children and heirs to hold fast—physiologically too—to an attained measure of power, influence, and wealth, in order to prepare for long-range tasks, for a solidarity of instinct between the centuries.

Marriage as an institution involves the affirmation of the largest and most enduring form of organization: when society cannot affirm itself as a whole, down to the most distant generations, then marriage has altogether no meaning. Modern marriage has lost its meaning—consequently one abolishes it.

Nietzsche on the Aryan race

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Excerpted from
Twilight of the Idols,
chap. The “Improvers” of Mankind:




1.-

My demand of the philosopher is well known: that he take his stand beyond good and evil and treat the illusion of moral judgment as beneath him.

2.-

A first, tentative example: at all times morality has aimed to “improve” men—this aim is above all what was called morality.

To call the taming of an animal its “improvement” sounds almost like a joke to our ears. Whoever knows what goes on in kennels doubts that dogs are “improved” there. They are weakened, they are made less harmful, and through the depressive effect of fear, through pain, through wounds, and through hunger, they become sickly beasts. It is no different with the tamed man whom the priest has “improved.” In the early Middle Ages, when the church was indeed, above all, a kennel, the most perfect specimens of the “blond beast” were hunted down everywhere; and the noble Teutons, for example, were “improved.” But how did such an “improved” Teuton look after he had been drawn into a monastery? Like a caricature of man, a miscarriage: he had become a “sinner,” he was stuck in a cage, tormented with all sorts of painful concepts. And there he lay, sick, miserable, hateful to himself, full of evil feelings against the impulses of his own life, full of suspicion against all that was still strong and happy. In short, a “Christian”…

3.-

Let us consider the other method for “improving” mankind, the method of breeding a particular race or type of man. The most magnificent example of this is furnished by Indian [Aryan] morality, sanctioned as religion in the form of “the law of Manu.” Here the objective is to breed no less than four races within the same society: one priestly, one warlike, one for trade and agriculture, and finally a race of servants, the Sudras. Obviously, we are no longer dealing with animal tamers: a man that is a hundred times milder and more reasonable is the only one who could even conceive such a plan of breeding. One breathes a sigh of relief at leaving the Christian atmosphere of disease and dungeons for this healthier, higher, and wider world. How wretched is the New Testament compared to Manu, how foul it smells!

Yet this method also found it necessary to be terrible—not in the struggle against beasts, but against their equivalent—the ill-bred man, the mongrel man, the chandala. And again the breeder had no other means to fight against this large group of mongrel men than by making them sick and weak. Perhaps there is nothing that goes against our feelings more than these protective measures of Indian [Aryan] morality.

Manu himself says: “The chandalas are the fruit of adultery, incest, and rape (crimes that follow from the fundamental concept of breeding).”

4.-

These regulations are instructive enough: we encounter Aryan humanity at its purest and most primordial; we learn that the concept of “pure blood” is very far from being a harmless concept. On the other hand, it becomes obvious in which people the chandala hatred against this Aryan “humaneness” has become a religion, eternalized itself, and become genius—primarily in the Gospels, even more so in the Book of Enoch. Christianity, sprung from Jewish roots and comprehensible only as a growth on this soil, represents the counter-movement to any morality of breeding, of race, privilege: it is the anti-Aryan religion par excellence. Christianity—the revaluation of all Aryan values, the victory of chandala values, the gospel preached to the poor and base, the general revolt of all the downtrodden, the wretched, the failures, the less favored, against “race”: the undying chandala hatred is disguised as a religion of love.