[Note that phrases in square brackets have been added to the text by the translator. Nietzsche's longer paragraphs have been broken into shorter paragraphs. This text is in the public domain, released September 1998]
"Incidentally, I despise everything which merely instructs me without increasing or immediately enlivening my activity." These are Goethe's words. With them, as with a heartfelt expression of Ceterum censeo [I judge otherwise], our consideration of the worth and the worthlessness of history may begin. For this work is to set down why, in the spirit of Goethe's saying, we must seriously despise instruction without vitality, knowledge which enervates activity, and history as an expensive surplus of knowledge and a luxury, because we lack what is still most essential to us and because what is superfluous is hostile to what is essential. To be sure, we need history. But we need it in a manner different from the way in which the spoilt idler in the garden of knowledge uses it, no matter how elegantly he may look down on our coarse and graceless needs and distresses. That is, we need it for life and action, not for a comfortable turning away from life and action or merely for glossing over the egotistical life and the cowardly bad act. We wish to use history only insofar as it serves living. But there is a degree of doing history and a valuing of it through which life atrophies and degenerates. To bring this phenomenon to light as a remarkable symptom of our time is every bit as necessary as it may be painful.
I have tried to describe a feeling which has often enough tormented me. I take my revenge on this feeling when I expose it to the general public. Perhaps with such a description someone or other will have reason to point out to me that he also knows this particular sensation but that I have not felt it with sufficient purity and naturalness and definitely have not expressed myself with the appropriate certainty and mature experience. Perhaps one or two will respond in this way. However, most people will tell me that this feeling is totally wrong, unnatural, abominable, and absolutely forbidden, that with it, in fact, I have shown myself unworthy of the powerful historical tendency of the times, as it has been, by common knowledge, observed for the past two generations, particularly among the Germans. Whatever the reaction, now that I dare to expose myself with this natural description of my feeling, common decency will be fostered rather than shamed, because I am providing many opportunities for a contemporary tendency like the reaction just mentioned to make polite pronouncements. Moreover, I obtain for myself something of even more value to me than respectability: I become publicly instructed and set straight about our times.
This essay is also out of touch with the times because here I am trying for once to see as a contemporary disgrace, infirmity, and defect something of which our age is justifiably proud, its historical culture. For I believe, in fact, that we are all suffering from a consumptive historical fever and at the very least should recognize that we are afflicted with it. If Goethe with good reason said that with our virtues we simultaneously cultivate our faults and if, as everyone knows, a hypertrophic virtue (as the historical sense of our age appears to me to be) can serve to destroy a people just as well as a hypertrophic vice, then people may make allowance for me this once. Also in my defence I should not conceal the fact that the experiences which aroused these feelings of torment in me I have derived for the most part from myself and only from others for the purpose of comparison and that, insofar as I am a student more of ancient times, particularly the Greeks, I come as a child in these present times to such anachronistic experiences concerning myself. But I must be allowed to ascribe this much to myself on account of my profession as a classical philologue, for I would not know what sense classical philology would have in our age unless it is to be effective by its inappropriateness for the times, that is, in opposition to the age, thus working on the age, and, we hope, for the benefit of a coming time.
Observe the herd which is grazing beside you. It does not know what yesterday or today is. It springs around, eats, rests, digests, jumps up again, and so from morning to night and from day to day, with its likes and dislikes closely tied to the peg of the moment, and thus neither melancholy nor weary. To witness this is hard for man, because he boasts to himself that his human race is better than the beast and yet looks with jealousy at its happiness. For he wishes only to live like the beast, neither weary nor amid pains, and he wants it in vain, because he does not will it as the animal does. One day the man demands of the beast: "Why do you not talk to me about your happiness and only gaze at me?" The beast wants to answer, too, and say: "That comes about because I always immediately forget what I wanted to say." But by then the beast has already forgotten this reply and remains silent, so that the man wonders on once more.
But he also wonders about himself, that he is not able to learn to forget and that he always hangs onto past things. No matter how far or how fast he runs, this chain runs with him. It is something amazing: the moment, in one sudden motion there, in one sudden motion gone, before nothing, afterwards nothing, nevertheless comes back again as a ghost and disturbs the tranquillity of each later moment. A leaf is continuously released from the roll of time, falls out, flutters away--and suddenly flutters back again into the man's lap. For the man says, "I remember," and envies the beast, which immediately forgets and sees each moment really perish, sink back in cloud and night, and vanish forever.
Thus the beast lives unhistorically, for it gets up in the present like a number without any odd fraction left over; it does not know how to play a part, hides nothing, and appears in each moment exactly and entirely what it is. Thus a beast can be nothing other than honest. By contrast, the human being resists the large and ever increasing burden of the past, which pushes him down or bows him over. It makes his way difficult, like an invisible and dark burden which he can for appearances' sake even deny, and which he is only too happy to deny in his interactions with his peers, in order to awaken their envy. Thus, it moves him, as if he remembered a lost paradise, to see the grazing herd or, something more closely familiar, the child, which does not yet have a past to deny and plays in blissful blindness between the fences of the past and the future. Nonetheless this game must be upset for the child. He will be summoned all too soon out of his forgetfulness. For he learns to understand the expression "It was," that password with which struggle, suffering, and weariness come over human beings, so as to remind him what his existence basically is--a never completed past tense. If death finally brings the longed for forgetting, it nevertheless thereby destroys present existence and thus impresses its seal on the knowledge that existence is only an uninterrupted living in the past [Gewesensein], something which exists for the purpose of self-denial, self-destruction, and self-contradiction.
If happiness or if, in some sense or other, a reaching out for new happiness is what holds the living onto life and pushes them forward into life, then perhaps no philosopher has more justification than the cynic. For the happiness of the beast, like that of the complete cynic, is the living proof of the rightness of cynicism. The smallest happiness, if only it is uninterrupted and creates happiness, is incomparably more happiness than the greatest which comes only as an episode, as it were, like a mood, as a fantastic interruption between nothing but boredom, cupidity, and deprivation. However, with the smallest and with the greatest good fortune, happiness becomes happiness in the same way: through forgetting or, to express the matter in a more scholarly fashion, through the capacity, for as long as the happiness lasts, to sense things unhistorically.
The person who cannot set himself down on the crest of the moment, forgetting everything from the past, who is not capable of standing on a single point, like a goddess of victory, without dizziness or fear, will never know what happiness is. Even worse, he will never do anything to make other people happy. Imagine the most extreme example, a person who did not possess the power of forgetting at all, who would be condemned to see everywhere a coming into being. Such a person no longer believes in his own being, no longer believes in himself, sees everything in moving points flowing out of each other, and loses himself in this stream of becoming. He will, like the true pupil of Heraclitus, finally hardly dare any more to lift his finger. Forgetting belongs to all action, just as both light and darkness belong in the life of all organic things. A person who wanted to feel utterly and only historically would be like someone who was forced to abstain from sleep, or like the beast that is to continue its life only from rumination to constantly repeated rumination. For this reason, it is possible to live almost without remembering, indeed, to live happily, as the beast demonstrates; however, it is generally completely impossible to live without forgetting. Or, to explain myself more clearly concerning my thesis: There is a degree of insomnia, of rumination, of the historical sense, through which living comes to harm and finally is destroyed, whether it is a person or a people or a culture.
In order to determine this degree of history and, through that, the borderline at which the past must be forgotten if it is not to become the gravedigger of the present, we have to know precisely how great the plastic force of a person, a people, or a culture is. I mean that force of growing in a different way out of oneself, of reshaping and incorporating the past and the foreign, of healing wounds, compensating for what has been lost, rebuilding shattered forms out of one's self. There are people who possess so little of this force that they bleed to death incurably from a single experience, a single pain, often even from a single tender injustice, as from a really small bloody scratch. On the other hand, there are people whom the wildest and most horrific accidents in life and even actions of their own wickedness injure so little that right in the middle of these experiences or shortly after they bring the issue to a reasonable state of well being with a sort of quiet conscience.
The stronger the roots which the inner nature of a person has, the more he will appropriate or forcibly take from the past. And if we imagine the most powerful and immense nature, then we would recognize there that for it there would be no frontier at all beyond which the historical sense would be able to work as an injurious overseer. Everything in the past, in its own and in the most alien, this nature would draw upon, take it into itself, and, as it were, transform into blood. What such a nature does not subjugate it knows how to forget. It is there no more. The horizon is closed completely, and nothing can recall that there still are men, passions, instruction, and purposes beyond it. This is a general principle: each living being can become healthy, strong, and fertile only within a horizon. If he is incapable of drawing a horizon around himself and too egotistical to enclose his own view within an alien one, then he wastes away there, pale or weary, to an early death. Cheerfulness, good conscience, joyful action, trust in what is to come--all that depends, with the individual as with a people, on the following facts: that there is a line which divides the observable brightness from the unilluminated darkness, that we know how to forget at the right time just as well as we remember at the right time, that we feel with powerful instinct the time when we must perceive historically and when unhistorically. This is the specific principle which the reader is invited to consider: that for the health of a single individual, a people, and a culture the unhistorical and the historical are equally essential.
At this point everyone brings up the comment that a person's historical knowledge and feeling can be very limited, his horizon hemmed in like that of an inhabitant of an Alpine valley; in every judgement he might set down an injustice and in every experience a mistake, which he was the first to make, and nevertheless in spite of all injustice and every mistake he stands there in invincible health and vigour and fills every eye with joy, while close beside him the far more just and scholarly person grows ill and collapses, because the lines of his horizon are always being shifted about restlessly, because he cannot wriggle himself out of the much softer nets of his justices and truths to strong willing and desiring. By contrast, we saw the beast, which is completely unhistorical and which lives almost in the middle of a sort of horizon of points, and yet exists with a certain happiness, at least without weariness and pretence. Thus, we will have to assess the capacity of being able to feel to a certain degree unhistorically as more important and more basic, to the extent that in it lies the foundation above which something right, healthy, and great, something truly human, can generally first grow. The unhistorical is like an enveloping atmosphere in which life generates itself alone, only to disappear again with the destruction of this atmosphere.
The truth is that, in the process by which the human being, in thinking, reflecting, comparing, separating, and combining, first limits that unhistorical sense, the process in which inside that surrounding misty cloud a bright gleaming beam of light arises, only then, through the power of using the past for living and making history out of what has happened, does a person first become a person. But in an excess of history the human being stops once again; without that cover of the unhistorical he would never have started or dared to start. Where do the actions come from which men are capable of doing without previously having gone into that misty patch of the unhistorical? Or to set pictures to one side and to grasp an example for illustration: we picture a man whom a violent passion, for a woman or for a great idea, shakes up and draws forward. How his world is changed for him! Looking backwards, he feels blind; listening to the side he hears the strangeness like a dull sound empty of meaning. What he is generally aware of he has never yet perceived as so true, so perceptibly close, coloured, resounding, illuminated, as if he is comprehending with all the senses simultaneously. All his estimates of worth are altered and devalued. He is unable any longer to value so much, because he can hardly feel it any more. He asks himself whether he has been the fool of strange words and strange opinions for long. He is surprised that his memory turns tirelessly in a circle but is nevertheless too weak and tired to make a single leap out of this circle. It is the most unjust condition of the world, narrow, thankless with respect to the past, blind to what has passed, deaf to warnings, a small living vortex in a dead sea of night and forgetting: nevertheless this condition--unhistorical, thoroughly anti-historical--is the birthing womb not only of an unjust deed but much more of every just deed. And no artist would achieve his picture, no field marshal his victory, and no people its freedom, without previously having desired and striven for them in that sort of unhistorical condition. As the active person, according to what Goethe said, is always without conscience, so he is also always without knowledge. He forgets most things in order to do one thing; he is unjust towards what lies behind him and knows only one right, the right of what is to come into being now. So every active person loves his deed infinitely more than it deserves to be loved, and the best deeds happen in such a excess of love that they would certainly have to be unworthy of this love, even if their worth were otherwise incalculably great.
Should a person be in a position to catch in many examples the scent of this unhistorical atmosphere, in which every great historical event arose, and to breathe it in, then such a person might perhaps be able, as a knowledgeable being, to elevate himself up to a superhistorical standpoint, in the way Niebuhr once described a possible result of historical research: "In one thing at least," he says, "is history, clearly and thoroughly grasped, useful, the fact that one knows, as even the greatest and highest spirits of our human race do not know, how their eyes have acquired by chance the way in which they see and the way in which they forcefully demand that everyone see, forcefully because the intensity of their awareness is particularly great. Someone who has not, through many examples, precisely determined, known, and grasped this point is overthrown by the appearance of a mighty spirit who in a given shape presents the highest form of passionate dedication."
We could call such a standpoint superhistorical, because a person who assumes such a stance could feel no more temptation to continue living and to participate in history. For he would have recognized the single condition of every event, that blindness and injustice in the soul of the man of action. He himself would have been cured from now on of taking history excessively seriously. But in the process he would have learned, for every person and for every experience, among the Greeks or Turks, from a moment of the first or the nineteenth century, to answer for himself the question how and why they conducted their lives. Anyone who asks his acquaintances whether they would like to live through the last ten or twenty years again will easily perceive which of them has been previously educated for that superhistorical point of view. For they will probably all answer "No!", but they will substantiate that "No!" differently, some of them perhaps with the confident hope "But the next twenty years will be better." Those are the ones of whom David Hume mockingly says:
And from the dregs of life hope to receive,
What the first sprightly running could not give.
We will call these the historical people. The glance into the past pushes them into the future, fires their spirit to take up life for a longer time yet, kindles the hope that justice may still come and that happiness may sit behind the mountain towards which they are walking. These historical people believe that the meaning of existence will come increasingly to light in the course of its process. Therefore they look backwards only to understand the present by considering previous process and to learn to desire the future more keenly. In spite of all their history, they do not understand at all how unhistorically they think and act and also how their concern with history stands, not in service to pure knowledge, but to living.
But that question whose first answer we have heard can be answered again in a different way, that is, once more with a "No!" but with a "No!" that has a different grounding. The denial comes from the superhistorical person, who does not see healing in the process and for whom the world is much more complete and at its end in every moment. What could ten new years teach that the past ten years has not been able to teach!
Now, whether the meaning of the theory is happiness, resignation, virtue, or repentance, on that issue the superhistorical people have not been united. But contrary to all the historical ways of considering the past, they do come to full unanimity on the following principle: the past and the present are one and the same, that is, in all their multiplicity typically identical and, as unchanging types everywhere present, they are a motionless picture of immutable values and eternally similar meaning. As the hundreds of different languages correspond to the same typically permanent needs of people, so that someone who understood these needs could learn nothing new from all the languages, so the superhistorical thinker illuminates for himself all the histories of people and of individuals from within, guessing like a clairvoyant the original sense of the different hieroglyphics and gradually even growing tired of avoiding the constantly new streams of written signals streaming forth. For, in the endless excess of what is happening, how is he not finally to reach saturation, supersaturation, and, yes, even revulsion, so that the most daring ones are perhaps finally ready, with Giacomo Leopardi, to say to their heart
Nothing lives which would be worthy
of your striving, and the earth deserves not a sigh.
Pain and boredom is our being and the world is excrement,
However, let us leave the superhistorical people to their revulsion and their wisdom. Today for once we would much rather become joyful in our hearts with our lack of wisdom and make the day happy for ourselves as active and progressive people, as men who revere the process. Let our evaluation of the historical be only a western bias, if only from within this bias we at least move forward and not do remain still, if only we always just learn better to carry on history for the purposes of living! For we will happily concede that the superhistorical people possess more wisdom than we do, so long, that is, as we may be confident that we possess more life than they do. For thus at any rate our lack of wisdom will have more of a future than their wisdom. Moreover, so as to remove the slightest doubt about the meaning of this contrast between living and wisdom, I will reinforce my argument with a method well established from time immemorial: I will immediately establish a few theses.
A historical phenomenon, purely and completely known and resolved into an object of knowledge, is, for the person who has recognized it, dead. In it the person perceives the delusion, the injustice, the blind suffering, and generally the entire temporal dark horizon of that phenomenon and, at the same time, in the process he perceives his own historical power. This power has now become for him, as a knower, powerless, but perhaps not yet for him as a living person.
History, conceived as pure knowledge, once it becomes sovereign, would be a kind of conclusion to living and a final reckoning for humanity. Only when historical culture is ruled and led by a higher force and does not itself govern and lead does it bring with it a powerful new stream of life, a developing culture for example, something healthy with future promise.
Insofar as history stands in the service of life, it stands in the service of an unhistorical power and will therefore, in this subordinate position, never be able to (and should never be able to) become pure science, something like mathematics. However, the problem to what degree living requires the services of history generally is one of the most important questions and concerns with respect to the health of a human being, a people, or a culture. For with a certain excess of history, living crumbles away and degenerates. Moreover, history itself also degenerates through this decay.
However, the fact that living requires the services of history must be just as clearly understood as the principle, which will be demonstrated later, that an excess of history harms the living person. In three respects history belongs to the living person: it belongs to him as an active and striving person; it belongs to him as a person who preserves and admires; it belongs to him as a suffering person in need of emancipation. This trinity of relationships corresponds to a trinity of methods for history, to the extent that one may make the distinctions, a monumental method, an antiquarian method, and a critical method
History belongs, above all, to the active and powerful man, the man who fights one great battle, who needs the exemplary men, teachers, and comforters and cannot find them among his contemporary companions. Thus, history belongs to Schiller: for our age is so bad, said Goethe, that the poet no longer encounters any useful nature in the human life surrounding him. Looking back to the active men, Polybius calls political history an example of the right preparation for ruling a state and the most outstanding teacher, something which, through the memory of other people's accidents, advises us to bear with resolution the changes in our happiness. Anyone who has learned to recognize the sense of history in this way must get annoyed to see inquisitive travellers or painstaking micrologists climbing all over the pyramids of the great things of the past. There, in the place where he finds the stimulation to breath deeply and to make things better, he does not wish to come across an idler who strolls around, greedy for distraction or stimulation, as among the accumulated art treasures of a gallery.
In order not to despair and feel disgust in the midst of weak and hopeless idlers, surrounded by apparently active, but really only agitated and fidgeting companions, the active man looks behind him and interrupts the path to his goal to take a momentary deep breath. His purpose is some happiness or other, perhaps not his own, often that of a people or of humanity collectively. He runs back away from resignation and uses history as a way of fighting resignation. For the most part, no reward beckons him on, other than fame, that is, becoming a candidate for an honoured place in the temple of history, where he himself can be, in his turn, a teacher, consoler, and advisor for those who come later.
For his orders state: whatever once was able to expand the idea of "Human being" and to define it more beautifully must constantly be present in order that it always keeps its potential. The greatest moments in the struggle of single individuals make up a chain, in which a range of mountains of humanity are joined over thousands of years. For me the loftiest thing of such a moment from the distant past is bright and great--that is the basic idea of the faith in humanity which expresses itself in the demand for a monumental history. However, with this demand that greatness should be eternal there is immediately ignited the most dreadful struggle. For everything else still living cries out no. The monumental should not be created--that is opposition's cry.
The dull habit, the small and the base, filling all corners of the world, like a heavy atmosphere clouding around everything great, casts itself as a barrier, deceiving, dampening and suffocating along the road which greatness has to go toward immortality. This way, however, leads through human minds! Through the minds of anxious and short-lived animals, who always come back to the same needs and who with difficulty postpone their destruction for a little while. As a first priority they want only one thing: to live at any price. Who might suppose among them the difficult torch race of monumental history, through which alone greatness lives once more! Nevertheless, a few of them always wake up again, those who, by a look back at past greatness and strengthened by their observation, feel so blessed, as if the life of human beings is a beautiful thing, as if it is indeed the most beautiful fruit of this bitter plant to know that in earlier times once one man went through this existence proud and strong, another with profundity, a third with pity and a desire to help--all however leaving behind one teaching: that the person lives most beautifully who does not reflect upon existence.
If the common man considers this time span with such melancholy seriousness and longing, those men on their way to immorality and to monumental history knew how to bring to life an Olympian laughter or at least a lofty scorn. Often they climbed with irony into their graves, for what was there of them to bury! Surely only what had always impressed them as cinders, garbage, vanity, animality and what now sinks into oblivion, long after it was exposed to their contempt. But one thing will live, the monogram of their very own essence, a work, a deed, an uncommon inspiration, a creation. That will live, because no later world can do without it. In this most blessed form fame is indeed something more that the expensive piece of our amour propre, as Schopenhauer has called it. It is the belief in the unity and continuity of the greatness of all times. It is a protest against the changes of the generations and transience!
Now, what purpose is served for contemporary man by the monumental consideration of the past, busying ourselves with the classics and rarities of earlier times? He derives from that the fact that the greatness which was once there at all events once was possible and therefore will really be possible once again. He goes along his path more bravely, for now the doubt which falls over him in weaker hours, that he might perhaps be wishing for the impossible, is beaten back from the field. Let us assume that somebody believes it would take no more than a hundred productive men, effective people brought up in a new spirit, to get rid of what has become trendy in German culture right now , how must it strengthen him to perceive that the culture of the Renaissance raised itself on the shoulders of such a crowd of a hundred men.
Nevertheless, to learn right away something new from the same example, how fleeting and weak, how imprecise that comparison would be! If the comparison is to carry out this powerful effect, how much of the difference will be missed in the process. How forcefully must the individuality of the past be wrenched into a general shape, with all its sharp corners and angles broken off for the sake of the correspondence! In fact, basically something that once was possible could appear possible a second time only if the Pythagoreans were correct in thinking that with the same constellations of the celestial bodies the same phenomena on the Earth had to repeat themselves, even in the small single particulars, so that when the stars have a certain position relative to each other, a Stoic and an Epicurean will, in an eternal recurrence, unite and assassinate Caesar, and with another stellar position Columbus will eternally rediscover America.
Only if the Earth were always to begin its theatrical performance once again after the fifth act, if it were certain that the same knot of motives, the same deux ex machina, the same catastrophe returned in the same determined interval, could the powerful man desire monumental history in complete iconic truth, that is, each fact in its precisely described characteristics and unity, and probably not before the time when astronomers have once again become astrologers. Until that time monumental history will not be able to produce that full truthfulness. It will always bring closer what is unlike, generalize, and finally make things equal. It will always tone down the difference in motives and events, in order to set down the monumental effect, that is, the exemplary effect worthy of imitation, at the cost of the cause. Thus, because monumental history turns away as much as possible from the cause, we can call it a collection of "effects in themselves" with less exaggeration than calling it events which will have an effect on all ages. What is celebrated in folk festivals and in religious or military remembrance days is basically such an "effect in itself." It is the thing which does not let the ambitious sleep, which for the enterprising lies like an amulet on the heart, but it is not the true historical interconnection between cause and effect, which fully recognized, would only prove that never again could anything completely the same fall out in the dice throw of future contingency.
As long as the soul of historical writing lies in the great driving impulses which a powerful man derives from it, as long as the past must be written about as worthy of imitation, as capable of being imitated, with the possibility of a second occurrence, history is definitely in danger of becoming something altered, reinterpreted into something more beautiful, and thus coming close to free poeticizing. Indeed, there are times which one cannot distinguish at all between a monumental history and a mythic fiction, because from a single world one of these impulses can be derived as easily as the other. Thus, if the monumental consideration of the past rules over the other forms of analyzing it, I mean, over the antiquarian and the critical methods, then the past itself suffers harm. Really large parts of it are forgotten, despised, and flow forth like an uninterrupted grey flood, and only a few embellished facts raise themselves up above, like islands. Something unnatural and miraculous strikes our vision of the remarkable person who becomes especially visible, just like the golden hips which the pupils of Pythagoras wished to attribute to their master.
Monumental history deceives through its analogies. It attracts the spirited man to daring acts with its seductive similarities and the enthusiastic man to fanaticism. If we imagine this history really in the hands and heads of the talented egoists and the wild crowds of evil rascals, then empires are destroyed, leaders assassinated, wars and revolutions instigated, and the number of the historical "effects in themselves," that is, the effects without adequate causes, increased once more. No matter how much monumental history can serve to remind us of the injuries among great and active people, whether for better or worse, that is what it first brings about when the impotent and inactive empower themselves with it and serve it.
Let us take the simplest and most frequent example. If we imagine to ourselves uncultured and weakly cultured natures energized and armed by monumental cultural history, against whom will they now direct their weapons? Against their hereditary enemies, the strong cultural spirits and also against the only ones who are able to learn truly from that history, that is, for life, and to convert what they have learned into an noble practice. For them the path will be blocked and the air darkened, if we dance around a half-understood monument of some great past or other like truly zealous idolaters, as if we wanted to state: "See, that is the true and real culture. What concern of yours is becoming and willing!" Apparently this dancing swarm possess even the privilege of good taste. The creative man always stands at a disadvantage with respect to the man who only looks on and does not play his own hand, as for example in all times the political know-it-all was wiser, more just, and more considerate than the ruling statesman.
If we want to transfer into the area of culture the customs of popular agreement and the popular majority and, as it were, to require the artist to stand in his own defence before the forum of the artistically inert types, then we can take an oath in advance that he will be condemned, not in spite of but just because his judges have solemnly proclaimed the canon of monumental culture (that is, in accordance with the given explanation, culture which in all ages "has had effects"). Whereas, for the judges everything which is not yet monumental, because it is contemporary, lacks, first, the need for history, second, the clear inclination toward history, and third, the very authority of history. On the other hand, their instinct tells them that culture can be struck dead by culture. The monumental is definitely not to rise up once more. And for that their instinct uses precisely what has the authority of the monumental from the past.
So they are knowledgeable about culture because they generally like to get rid of culture. They behave as if they were doctors, while basically they are only concerned with mixing poisons. Thus, they develop their languages and their taste, in order to explain in their discriminating way why they so persistently disapprove of all offerings of more nourishing cultural food. For they do not want greatness to arise. Their method is to say: "See greatness is already there!" In truth, this greatness that is already there is of as little concern to them as what arises out of it. Of that their life bears witness. Monumental history is the theatrical costume in which they pretend that their hate for the powerful and the great of their time is a fulfilling admiration for the strong and the great of past times. In this, through disguise they invert the real sense of that method of historical observation into its opposite. Whether they know it or not, they certainly act as if their motto were: let the dead bury the living.
Each of the three existing types of history is only exactly right for a single area and a single climate; on every other one it grows up into a destructive weed. If a man who wants to create greatness uses the past, then he will empower himself through monumental history. On the other hand, the man who wishes to emphasise the customary and traditionally valued cultivates the past as an antiquarian historian. Only the man whose breast is oppressed by a present need and who wants to cast off his load at any price has a need for critical history, that is, history which sits in judgement and passes judgement. From the thoughtless transplanting of plants stem many ills: the critical man without need, the antiquarian without reverence, and the student of greatness without the ability for greatness are the sort who are receptive to weeds estranged from their natural mother earth and therefore degenerate growths.
History belongs secondly to the man who preserves and honours, to the person who with faith and love looks back in the direction from which he has come, where he has been. Through this reverence he, as it were, gives thanks for his existence. While he nurtures with a gentle hand what has stood from time immemorial, he want to preserve the conditions under which he came into existence for those who are to come after him. And so he serves life. His possession of his ancestors' goods changes the ideas in such a soul, for those goods are far more likely to take possession of his soul. The small, limited, crumbling, and archaic keep their own worth and integrity, because the conserving and honouring soul of the antiquarian man settles on these things and there prepares for itself a secret nest. The history of his city becomes for him the history of his own self. He understands the walls, the turreted gate, the dictate of the city council, and the folk festival, like an illustrated diary of his youth, and he rediscovers for himself in all this his force, his purpose, his passion, his opinion, his foolishness, and his bad habits. He says to himself, here one could live, for here one may live, and here one can go on living, because we endure and do not collapse overnight. Thus, with this "We" he looks back over the past amazing lives of individuals and feels himself like the spirit of the house, the generation, and the city. From time to time he personally greets from the far away, obscure, and confused centuries the soul of a people as his own soul, with a feeling of completion and premonition, a scent of almost lost tracks, an instinctively correct reading even of a past which has been written over, a swift understanding of the erased and reused parchments (which have, in fact, been erased and written over many times). These are his gifts and his virtues. With them stands Goethe in front of the memorial to Erwin von Steinbach. In the storm of his feeling the veil of the historical cloud spread out between them was torn apart. He saw the German work for the first time once more, "working from the strong rough German soul."
Such a sense and attraction led the Italians of the Renaissance and reawoke in their poets the old Italian genius, to a "wonderfully renewed sound of the ancient lyre," as Jakob Burckhardt says. But that antiquarian historical sense of reverence has the highest value when it infuses into the modest, raw, even meagre conditions in which an individual or a people live a simple moving feeling of pleasure and satisfaction, in the way, for example, Niebuhr admitted with honest sincerity he could live happily on moor and heath among free farmers who had a history, without missing art. How could history better serve living than by the fact that it thus links the less favoured races and people to their home region and home traditions, keeps them settled there, and prevents them from roaming around and from competition and warfare, looking for something better in foreign places?
Sometimes it seems as if it is an obstinate lack of understanding which keeps individuals, as it were, screwed tight to these companions and surroundings, to this arduous daily routine, to these bare mountain ridges, but it is the most healthy lack of understanding, the most beneficial to the community, as anyone knows who has clearly experienced the frightening effects of an adventurous desire to wander away, sometimes even among entire hordes of people, or who sees nearby the condition of a people which has lost faith in its ancient history and has fallen into a restless cosmopolitan choice and a constant search for novelty after novelty. The opposite feeling, the sense of well being of a tree for its roots, the happiness to know oneself in a manner not entirely arbitrary and accidental, but as someone who has grown out of a past, as an heir, flower, and fruit, and thus to have one's existence excused, indeed justified, this is what people nowadays lovingly describe as the real historical sense.
Now, that is naturally not the condition in which a person would be most capable of dissolving the past into pure knowledge. Thus, also we perceive here what we discerned in connection with monumental history, that the past itself suffers, so long as history serves life and is ruled by the drive to live. To speak with some freedom in the illustration, the tree feels its roots more than it can see them. The extent of this feeling, however, is measured by the size and force of its visible branches. If the tree makes a mistake here, then how mistaken it will be about the entire forest around it! From that forest the tree only knows and feels something insofar as this hinders or helps it, but not otherwise. The antiquarian sense of a person, a civic community, an entire people always has a very highly restricted field of vision. It does not perceive most things at all, and the few things which it does perceive it looks at far too closely and in isolation. It cannot measure it and therefore takes everything as equally important. Thus, for the antiquarian sense each single thing is too important. For it assigns to the things of the past no difference in value and proportion which would distinguish things from each other fairly, but measures things by the proportions of the antiquarian individual or people looking back into the past.
Here there is always the imminent danger that at some point everything old and past, especially what still enters a particular field of vision, is taken as equally worthy of reverence but that everything which does not fit this respect for ancient things, like the new and the coming into being, is rejected and treated as hostile. So even the Greeks tolerated the hieratic style of their plastic arts alongside the free and the great styles, indeed, they not only tolerated later the pointed noses and the frosty smiles, but made them into an elegant fashion. When the sense of a people is hardened like this, when history serves the life of the past in such a way that it buries further living, especially higher living, when the historical sense no longer conserves life, but mummifies it, then the tree dies unnaturally, from the top gradually down to the roots, and at last the roots themselves are generally destroyed. Antiquarian history itself degenerates in that moment when it no longer inspires and fills with enthusiasm the fresh life of the present. Then reverence withers away. The scholarly habit lives on without it and orbits in an egotistical and self-satisfied manner around its own centre. Then we get a glimpse of the wretched drama of a blind mania for collecting, a restless compiling together of everything that ever existed. The man envelops himself in a mouldy smell. With the antiquarian style, he manages to corrupt a significant talent, a noble need, into an insatiable new lust, a desire for everything really old. Often he sinks so deep that he is finally satisfied with that nourishment and takes pleasure in gobbling up for himself the dust of biographical quisquilien [rubbish].
But even when this degeneration does not enter into it, when antiquarian history does not lose the basis upon which it alone can take root as a cure for living, enough dangers still remain, especially if it becomes too powerful and grows over the other ways of dealing with the past. Antiquarian history knows only how to preserve life, not how to generate it. Therefore, it always undervalues what is coming into being, because it has no instinctive feel for it, as, for example, monumental history has. Thus, antiquarian history hinders the powerful willing of new things; it cripples the active man, who always, as an active person, will and must set aside reverence to some extent. The fact that something has become old now gives birth to the demand that it must be immortal, for when a man reckons what every such ancient fact, an old custom of his fathers, a religious belief, an inherited political right, has undergone throughout its existence, what sum of reverence and admiration from individuals and generations ever since, then it seems presumptuous or even criminal to replace such an antiquity with something new and to set up in opposition to such a numerous cluster of revered and admired things the single fact of what is coming into being and what is present.
Here it becomes clear how a third method of analyzing the past is quite often necessary for human beings, alongside the monumental and the antiquarian: the critical method. Once again this is in the service of living. A person must have the power and from time to time use it to break a past and to dissolve it, in order to be able to live. He manages to do this by dragging the past before the court of justice, investigating it meticulously, and finally condemning it. That past is worthy of condemnation; for that is how it stands with human things: in them human force and weakness have always been strong. Here it is not righteousness which sits in the judgement seat or, even less, mercy which announces judgement, but life alone, that dark, driving, insatiable self-desiring force. Its judgement is always unmerciful, always unjust, because it never emerges from a pure spring of knowledge, but in most cases the judgement would be like that anyway, even if righteousness itself were to utter it. "For everything that arises is worth destroying. Therefore, it would be better that nothing arose." It requires a great deal of power to be able to live and to forget just how much life and being unjust are one and the same. Luther himself once voiced the opinion that the world only came into being through the forgetfulness of God; if God had thought about "heavy artillery," he would never have made the world. From time to time, however, this same life, which uses forgetting, demands the temporary destruction of this forgetfulness. For it should be made quite clear how unjust the existence of something or other is, a right, a caste, a dynasty, for example, and how this thing merits destruction.
For when its past is analyzed critically, then we grasp with a knife at its roots and go cruelly beyond all reverence. It is always a dangerous process, that is, a dangerous process for life itself. And people or ages serving life in this way, by judging and destroying a past, are always dangerous and in danger. For since we are now the products of earlier generations, we are also the products of their aberrations, passions, mistakes, and even crimes. It is impossible to loose oneself from this chain entirely. When we condemn that confusion and consider ourselves released from it, then we have not overcome the fact that we are derived from it. In the best case, we bring the matter to a conflict between our inherited customary nature and our knowledge, in fact, even to a war between a new strict discipline and how we have been brought up and what we have inherited from time immemorial. We cultivate a new habit, a new instinct, a second nature, so that the first nature atrophies. It is an attempt to give oneself, as it were, a past a posteriori [after the fact], out of which we may be descended in opposition to the one from which we are descended. It is always a dangerous attempt, because it is so difficult to find a borderline to the denial of the past and because the second nature usually is weaker than the first. Too often what remains is a case of someone who understands the good without doing it, because we also understand what is better without being able to do it. But here and there victory is nevertheless achieved, and for the combatants, for those who make use of critical history for their own living, there is even a remarkable consolation, namely, they know that that first nature was at one time or another once a second nature and that every victorious second nature becomes a first nature.
These are the services which history can carry out for living. Every person and every people, according to its goals, forces, and needs, uses a certain knowledge of the past, sometimes as monumental history, sometimes as antiquarian history, and sometimes as critical history, but not as a crowd of pure thinkers only watching life closely, not as people eager for knowledge, individuals only satisfied by knowledge, for whom an increase of understanding is the only goal, but always only for the purpose of living and, in addition, under the command and the highest guidance of this life. This is the natural relationship to history of an age, a culture, and a people: summoned up by hunger, regulated by the degree of the need, held to limits by the plastic power within, the understanding of the past is desired at all times to serve the future and the present, not to weaken the present, not to uproot a forceful living future. That all is simple, as the truth is simple, and is also immediately convincing for anyone who does not begin by letting himself be guided by historical proof.
And now for a quick look at our time! We are frightened and run back. Where is all the clarity, all the naturalness and purity of that connection between life and history? How confusedly, excessively, and anxiously this problem now streams before our eyes! Does the fault lie with us, the observers? Or has the constellation of life and history altered, because a powerful and hostile star has interposed itself between them? Other people might point out that we have seen things incorrectly, but we want to state what we think we see. In any case, such a star has come in between, an illuminating and beautiful star. The constellation has truly changed through science, through the demand that history is to be a science. Now not only does life no longer rule and control knowledge about the past, but also all the border markings have been ripped up, and everything that used to exist has come crashing down onto people. As far back as there has been a coming into being, far back into the endless depths, all perspectives have also shifted. No generation ever saw such an immense spectacle as is shown now by the science of universal becoming, by history. Of course, history even shows this with the dangerous boldness of its motto: Fiat veritas, pereat vita [let the truth be done and let life perish].
Let us picture to ourselves the spiritual result produced by this process in the soul of the modern man. Historical knowledge streams out of invincible sources always renewing itself with more. Strange and disconnected things push forward. Memory opens all its gates and is nevertheless not open wide enough. Nature strives its utmost to receive these strange guests, to arrange and honour them. But these are at war with each other, and it appears necessary to overcome them forcibly, in order not to destroy oneself in their conflict. Habituation to such a disorderly, stormy, and warring household gradually becomes a second nature, although it is immediately beyond question that this second nature is much weaker, much more restless, and completely less healthy than the first. Modern man finally drags a huge crowd of indigestible rocks of knowledge around inside him, which then occasionally audibly bang around in his body, as it says in fairy tales. Through this noise the most characteristic property of this modern man reveals itself: the remarkable conflict on the inside, to which nothing on the outside corresponds, and an outside to which nothing inside corresponds, a conflict of which ancient peoples were ignorant.
Knowledge, taken up to excess without hunger, even in opposition to any need, now works no longer as something which reorganizes, a motivation driving outwards. It stays hidden in a certain chaotic inner world, which that modern man describes with a strange pride as an "Inwardness" peculiar to him. Thus, people say that we have the content and that only the form is lacking. But with respect to everything alive this is a totally improper contradiction. For our modern culture is not alive, simply because it does let itself be understood without that contradiction; that is, it is really no true culture, but only a way of knowing about culture. There remain in it thoughts of culture, feelings of culture, but no cultural imperatives come from it. In contrast to this, what really motivates and moves outward into action then often amounts to not much more than a trivial convention, a pathetic imitation, or even a raw grimace. At that point the inner feeling is probably asleep, like the snake which has swallowed an entire rabbit and then lies down contentedly still in the sunlight and avoids all movements other than the most essential.
The inner process, that is now the entire business, that essentially is "Culture." And everyone who wanders by has only one wish, that such a culture does not collapse from indigestion. Think, for example, of a Greek going past such a culture. He would perceive that for more recent people "educated" and "historically educated" appear to be mentioned very closely together, as if they are one and the same and are distinguished only by the number of words. If he talked of his own principle that it is possible for an individual to be very educated and nevertheless not to be historically educated at all, then people would think they had not heard him correctly and shake their heads. That famous people of a not too distant past, I mean those very Greeks, had in the period of their greatest power an unhistorical sense tried and tested in rough times. A contemporary man magically taken back into that world would presumably find the Greeks very uneducated. In that reaction, of course, the secret of modern education, so painstakingly disguised, would be exposed to public laughter. For we modern people have nothing at all which comes from us. Only because we fill and overfill ourselves with foreign ages, customs, arts, philosophies, religions, and discoveries do we become something worthy of consideration, that is, like wandering encyclopaedias, as some ancient Greek lost our time would put it.
However, people come across all the value of encyclopaedias only in what is inside, in the contents, not in what is on the outside or in the binding and on the cover. Thus, all modern education is essentially inner. The bookbinder has printed on the outside something to this effect: Handbook of inner education for external barbarians. In fact, this contrast between inner and outer makes the outer even more barbaric than it would have to be, if a rough people were evolving out of it only according to their basic needs. For what means does nature still have at its disposal to deal with the super-abundance forcing itself outward? Only one means, to take it as lightly as possible in order to shove it aside again quickly and dispose of it. From that arises a habit of not taking real things seriously any more. From that arises the "weak personality," as a result of which reality and existence make only an insignificant impression. Finally people become constantly more venial and more comfortable and widen the disturbing gulf between content and form until they are insensitive to the barbarism, so long as the memory is always newly stimulated, so long as constantly new things worthy of knowledge flow by, which can be neatly packaged in the compartments of memory.
The culture of a people, in contrast to that barbarism, was once described (and correctly so, in my view) as a unity of the artistic style in all expressions of the life of the people. This description must not be misunderstood, as if the issue were an opposition between barbarism and a beautiful style. The people to whom we ascribe a culture should be only in a really vital unity and not so miserably split apart into inner and outer, into content and form. Anyone who wants to strive after and foster the culture of a people strives after and fosters this higher unity and, for the sake of a true education, works to destroy the modern notion of being educated. He dares to consider how the health of a people which has been disturbed by history could be restored, how the people could find their instinct once again and with that their integrity.
Now I want to speak directly about us Germans of the present day. It is our lot to suffer more than any other people from this weakness of the personality and from the contradiction between content and form. Form is commonly accepted by us Germans as a convention, as a disguise and a pretence, and is thus, when not hated, then at any rate not particularly loved. It would be even more just to say that we have an extraordinary anxiety with the word convention and also with the fact of convention. In this anxiety, the German abandoned the French school, for he wanted to become more natural and thereby more German. Now, however, he appears to have included in this "thereby" a running away from the school of convention. Now he lets himself go how and where he has the mere desire to go, and basically imitates nervously whatever he wants in semi-forgetfulness of what in earlier times he imitated painstakingly and often happily.
Thus, measured against earlier times, people still live according to a slipshod, incorrect French convention, as all our moving, standing, conversing, clothing, and dwelling demonstrate. While people believe they are escaping back to the natural, they only think about letting themselves go, about comfort, and about the smallest possible amount of self-control. Wander through a German city: everything is conventional, compared to the particular national characteristics of foreign cities. This shows itself in negatives: all is colourless, worn out, badly copied, apathetic. Each man goes about as he wishes, but not with a forceful desire rich in ideas, but following the laws which the general haste, along with the general desire for comfort, establishes for the time being. A piece of clothing, whose invention required no brain power, whose manufacture took no time, one derived from foreigners and imitated as casually as possible, instantly counts among the Germans as a contribution to German national dress. The sense of form is disavowed with complete irony, for people have indeed the sense of the content. After all, they are the renowned people of the inward life.
However, there is a well known danger with this inwardness: the content itself, which people assume they cannot see at all from the outside, may one day happen to disappear. From the outside people would not notice either its absence or its earlier presence. But even if people think that, in any case, the German people are as far as possible from this danger; the foreigner will always have a certain justification when he levels the accusation at us that our inner life is too weak and unorganized to be effective on the outside and to give itself a shape. This inward life can to a rare degree prove delicately sensitive, serious, strong, and sincere, and perhaps even richer than the inward lives of other peoples. But as a totality it remains weak, because all the beautiful threads are not tied together into a powerful knot. Thus, the visible act is not the total action and self-revelation of this inner life, but only a weak or crude attempt of a few strands or other to will something whose appearance might pass muster as the totality. Thus, one cannot judge the German according to a single action. As an individual he is still completely hidden after the action. As is well known, he must be measured by his thoughts and feelings, and they speak out nowadays in his books. If only these books did not awaken, in recent times more than ever, a doubt about whether the famous inner life is really still sitting in its inaccessible little temple. It would be a horrible idea that one day it may have disappeared and now the only thing left behind is the externality, that arrogant, clumsy, and respectfully unkempt German externality. Almost as terrible as if that inner life, without people being able to see it, sat inside, counterfeit, coloured, painted over, and had become an actress, if not something worse, as, for example, Grillparzer, who stood on the sidelines as a quiet observer, appears to assume about his experience as a dramatist in the theatre: "We feel with abstractions," he says, "we hardly know any more how feeling expresses itself among our contemporaries. We let our feelings jump about in ways they do not affect us any more. Shakespeare has destroyed everything new for us."
This is a single example, perhaps too quickly generalized. But how fearful would his justified generalization be if the individual cases should force themselves upon the observer far too frequently, how despairingly the statement would echo: We Germans feel abstractedly; we have all been corrupted by history. This statement would destroy at the root every hope for a future national culture. For that kind of hope grows out of the faith in the authenticity and the immediacy of German feeling, from the belief in the undamaged inner life. What is there still to be hoped for or to be believed, if the inner life has learned to leap about, to dance, to put on make up, and to express itself outwardly with abstraction and calculation and gradually to lose itself! And how is the great productive spirit to maintain himself among a people no longer sure of its unified inner life, which falls apart into sections, with a miseducated and seduced inner life among the cultured, and an inadequate inner life among the uneducated? How is he to keep going if the unity of the people's feeling gets lost, if, in addition, he knows that the very part which calls itself the educated portion of the people and which arrogates to itself the national artistic spirit is false and biased. Here and there the judgement and taste of individuals may themselves have become finer and more sublimated, but that is no compensation for him. It pains the productive spirit to have to speak, as it were, to one class and no longer to be necessary within his own people. Perhaps he would sooner bury his treasure, since it disgusts him to be exquisitely patronized by one class, while his heart is full of pity for all. The instinct of the people no longer comes to meet him. It is useless to stretch out one's arms toward it in yearning. What still remains for him, other than to turn his enthusiastic hate against that restricting prohibition, against the barriers erected in the so-called education of his people, in order at least, as a judge, to condemn what for him, the living and the producer of life, is destruction and degradation? Thus, he exchanges the deep understanding of his own fate for the divine pleasure of the creator and helper and finishes up a lonely philosopher, a supersaturated wise man.
It is the most painful spectacle. Generally whoever sees it will recognize a holy need here. He tells himself: here it is necessary to give assistance; that higher unity in the nature and soul of a people must be established once more; that gulf between the inner and the outer must disappear again under the hammer blows of need. What means should he now reach for? What remains for him now other than his deep understanding? By speaking out on this and spreading awareness of it, by sowing from his full hands, he hopes to plant a need. And out of the strong need will one day arise the strong deed. And so that I leave no doubt where I derive the example of that need, that necessity, that knowledge, here my testimony should stand, that it is German unity in that highest sense which we are striving for and more passionately for that than for political reunification, the unity of the German spirit and life after the destruction of the opposition of form and content, of the inner life and convention.
In five ways the supersaturation of an age in history seems to me hostile and dangerous. Through such an excess, first, that hitherto mentioned contrast between inner and outer is produced; second, the personality is weakened; an age is caught up in the fantasy that it possesses the rarest virtue, righteousness, in a higher degree than any other time; third, the instincts of a people are disrupted, and the individual no less than the totality is hindered from developing maturely; fourth, through this excess the always dangerous belief in the old age of humanity takes root, the belief that we are late arrivals and epigones; fifth, an age attains the dangerous mood of irony about itself and, beyond that, an even more dangerous cynicism. In this, however, it increasingly ripens towards a cleverly egotistical practice, through which the forces of life are crippled and finally destroyed.
And now back to our first statement: modern man suffers from a weakened personality. Just as the Roman in the time of the Caesars became un-Roman with regard to the area of the earth standing at his disposal, as he lost himself among the foreigners streaming in and degenerated with the cosmopolitan carnival of gods, customs, and arts, so matters must go with the modern person who continually allows his historical artists to prepare the celebration of a world market fair. He has become a spectator, enjoying and wandering around, converted into a condition in which even great wars and huge revolutions are hardly able to change anything momentarily. The war has not yet ended, and already it is transformed on printed paper a hundred thousand times over; soon it will be promoted as the newest stimulant for the palate of those greedy for history. It appears almost impossible that a strong and full tone will be produced by the most powerful plucking of the strings. As soon as the sound appears again, already in the next moment it dies away, softly evaporating without force into history. To state the matter in moral terms: you do not manage to hold onto what is noble any more; your deeds are sudden bangs, not rolling thunder. If the very greatest and most wonderful thing is accomplished, it must nevertheless move to Hades without any fuss. For art runs away, when you instantly throw over your actions the roof of the historical marquee. The person there who wants to understand immediately, to calculate and grasp, where he should in an enduring oscillation hang onto the unknowable as something sublime, may be called intelligent, but only in the sense in which Schiller speaks of the understanding of the intelligent person: he does not see some things which even the child sees; he does not hear some things which the child hears; these "some things" are precisely the most important thing. Because he does not understand this, his understanding is more childish than the child's and more simplistic than simple mindedness, in spite of the many shrewd wrinkles on his parchment-like features and the virtuoso practice of his fingers unravelling all complexities. This amounts to the fact that he has destroyed and lost his instinct. Now he can no longer let the reins hang loose, trusting the "divine animal," when his understanding wavers and his road leads through deserts. Thus, individuality becomes timid and unsure and can no longer believe in itself. It sinks into itself, into the inner life. That means here only into the piled up mass of scholarly data which does not work towards the outside, instruction which does not become living. If we look for a moment out to the exterior, then we notice how the expulsion of instinct by history has converted people almost into nothing but abstraction and shadows. A man no longer gambles his identity on that instinct. Instead he masks himself as educated man, as scholar, as poet, as politician.
If we seize such masks because we believe the matter is something serious and not merely a marionette play (for they all paper themselves over with seriousness), then we suddenly have only rags and bright patches in our hands. Therefore, we should no longer allow ourselves to be deceived and should shout out, "Strip off your jackets or be what you seem." No longer should each serious person turn into a Don Quixote, for he has something better to do than to keep getting into fights with such illusory realities. In any case, however, he must keenly inspect each mask, cry "Halt! Who goes there?" and pull the mask down onto their necks. Strange! We should have thought that history encouraged human beings above all to be honest, even if only an honest fool. This has always been its effect. But nowadays it is no longer that! Historical education and the common uniform of the middle class together both rule. While never before has there been such sonorous talk of the "free personality," we never once see personalities, to say nothing of free people, but only anxiously disguised universal people. Individuality has drawn itself back into the inner life: on the outside we no longer observe any of it. This being the case, we could doubt whether, in general, there could be causes without effects. Or should a race of eunuchs be necessary as a guard over the great historical harem of the world? For them, of course, pure objectivity is well and truly established on their faces. However, it does seem almost as if it was their assignment to stand guardian over history, so that nothing comes out of it other than just histories without events, to ensure that through it no personalities become "free," that is, true to themselves and true with respect to others in word and deed. First through this truthfulness will the need, the inner misery of the modern man, see the light of day, and art and religion will be able to enter as true helpers in place of that anxiously concealed convention and masquerade, in order to cultivate a common culture corresponding to real needs, culture which does not, like the present universal education, just teach one to lie to oneself about these needs and thus to become a wandering lie.
In what an unnatural, artificial, and definitely unworthy position must the truly naked goddess Philosophy, the most sincere of all sciences, be in a time which suffers from universal education. She remains in such a world of compulsory external uniformity the learned monologue of a solitary stroller, an individual's accidental hunting trophy, a hidden parlour secret, or a harmless prattle between academic old men and children. No one is allowed to venture on fulfilling the law of philosophy on his own. No one lives philosophically, with that simple manly truth, which acted forcefully on a man in ancient times, wherever he was, and which thus drove him to behave as Stoic if he had once promised to be true to the Stoa.
All modern philosophy is political and police-like, restricted to the appearance of learning through the ruling powers, churches, academies, customs, and human cowardice. It sticks around with sighs of "If only" or with the knowledge "There was once." Philosophy is wrong to be at the heart of historical education, if it wants to be more than an inner repressed knowledge without effect. If the modern human being were, in general, only courageous and decisive, if he were in even his hostility not just an inner being, he would banish philosophy. Thus, he contents himself by modestly covering up her nudity. Yes, people think, write, print, speak, and learn philosophically; to this extent almost everything is allowed. Only in action, in so-called living, are things otherwise. There only one thing is always allowed, and everything else is simply impossible. So historical education wills it. Are they still human beings, we ask ourselves then, or perhaps only thinking, writing, and speaking machines?
Of Shakespeare Goethe once said, "No one hated the material costume more than he. He understood really well the inner costume of human beings, and here all people are alike. People say he presented the Romans excellently. I do not find that. They are nothing but inveterate Englishmen, but naturally they are human beings, people from the ground up, and the Roman toga suits them well enough." Now, I ask if it might be possible to lead out our contemporary men of letters, men of the people, officials, and politicians as Romans. It will not work, because they are not human beings, but only physical compendia and, as it were, concrete abstractions. If they should have character and their own style, this is buried so deep that it has no power at all to struggle out into the daylight. If they should be human beings, then they are that only for the man "who tests the kidneys." For everyone else they are something other, not human beings, not gods, not animals, but historically educated pictures, completely and utterly education, picture, form, without demonstrable content, unfortunately only bad form and, in addition, uniform. And in this sense may my claim may be understood and considered: History is borne only by strong personalities; the weak personalities it obliterates completely. It comes down to this: history bewilders feeling and sensing where these are not strong enough to measure the past against themselves.
Anyone who does not dare any longer to trust himself but who involuntarily turns to history for his feeling and seeks advice by asking "What should I feel here?" in his timidity gradually becomes an actor and plays a role, usually in fact many roles. Therefore, he plays each badly and superficially. Gradually the congruence between the man and his historical sphere fails. We see no forward young men associating with the Romans, as if they were their equals. They rummage around and dig away in the remnants of the Greek poets, as if these bodies were also ready for their post-mortem examination and were worthless things, whatever their own literary bodies might be. If we assume there is a concern with Democritus, then the question always on my lips is this: Why then just Democritus? Why not Heraclitus? Or Philo? Or Bacon? Or Descartes? and so on to one's heart's content. And in that case, why then just a philosopher? Why not a poet, an orator? And why particularly a Greek? Why not an Englishman, a Turk? Is the past then not large enough to find something, so that you do not make yourself so ridiculous on your own. But, as I have mentioned, it is a race of eunuchs; for a eunuch one woman is like another, in effect, one woman, the woman-in-itself, the eternally unapproachable, and so what drives them is something indifferent, so long as history itself remains splendidly objective and protected by precisely the sort of people who could never create history themselves. And since the eternally feminine is never attracted to you, then you pull it down to yourselves and assume, since you are neuters, that history is also a neuter.
However, so that people do not think that I am serious in comparing history with the eternally feminine, I will express myself much more clearly: I consider that history is the opposite of the eternally masculine and that it must be quite unimportant for those who are through and through "historically educated." But whatever the case, such people are themselves neither male nor female, not something common to both, but always only neutral or, to express myself in a more educated way, they are just the eternally objective.
If the personalities are, first of all, as has been described, inflated to an eternal loss of subjectivity or, as people say, to objectivity, then nothing more can work on them. Let something good and right come about, in action, poetry, or music. Immediately the person emptied out by his education looks out over the world and asks about the history of the author. If this author has already created a number of things, immediately the critic must allow himself to point out the earlier and the presumed future progress of the author's development; right away he will bring in others for comparative purposes, he will dissect and rip apart the choice of the author's material and his treatment, and will, in his wisdom, fit the work together again anew, giving him advice and setting him right about everything. Let the most astonishing thing occur; the crowd of historical neutrals is always in place ready to assess the author from a great distance. Momentarily the echo resounds, but always as "Criticism." A short time before, however, the critic did not permit himself to dream that such an event was possible.
The work never achieves an influence, but only more "Criticism," and the criticism itself, in its turn, has no influence, but leads only to further criticism. In this business people have agreed to consider a lot of critics as an influence and a few critics or none as a failure. Basically, however, everything remains as in the past, even with this "influence." True, people chat for a while about something new, and then about something else new, and in between do what they always do. The historical education of our critics no longer permits an influence on our real understanding, namely, an influence on life and action. On the blackest writing they impress immediately their blotting paper, to the most delightful drawing they apply their thick brush strokes, which are to be considered corrections. And then everything is over once again. However, their critical pens never cease flying, for they have lost power over them and are led by them rather than leading them. In this excess of their critical ejaculations, in the lack of control over themselves, in what the Romans call impotence, the weakness of the modern personality reveals itself.
But let us leave this weakness. Let us rather turn to a much praised strength of the modern person, with the truly awkward question whether, on account of his well known "Objectivity," he has a right to call himself strong, that is, just, and just to a higher degree than the people of other times. Is it true that this objectivity originates from a heightened need and demand for justice? Or does it, as an effect with quite different causes, merely create the appearance that justice might be its real cause? Does this objectivity perhaps tempt one to a detrimental and too flattering bias concerning the virtues of modern man? Socrates considered it an illness close to insanity to imagine oneself in possession of a virtue and not to possess it. Certainly such conceit is more dangerous than the opposite delusion, suffering from a mistake or vice. For through the latter delusion it is perhaps still possible to become better. The former conceit, however, makes a person or a time daily worse, and, in this case, less just.
True, no one has a higher claim on our admiration than the man who possesses the drive and the power for justice. For in such people are united and hidden the highest and rarest virtues, as in a bottomless sea that receives streams from all sides and absorbs them into itself. The hand of the just man authorized to sit in judgement no longer trembles when it holds the scales. Unsparingly he puts on weight after weight against himself. His eye does not become dim if he sees the pan in the scales rise and fall, and his voice rings out neither hard nor broken when he delivers the verdict. If he were a cold demon of knowledge, then he would spread out around him the ice cold atmosphere of a terrifyingly superhuman majesty, which we would have to fear and not to revere. But since he is a human being and yet has tried to rise above venial doubt to a strong certainty, above a patient leniency to an imperative "You must," above the rare virtue of magnanimity to the rarest virtue of all justice, since he now is like this demon, but from the very beginning without being anything other than a poor human being, and above all, since in each moment he has to atone for his humanity and be tragically consumed by an impossible virtue, all this places him on a lonely height, as the example of the human race most worthy of reverence. For he wills truth, not as cold knowledge without consequences, but as the ordering and punishing judge, truth not as a selfish possession of the individual but as the sacred entitlement to shift all the boundary stones of egotistical possessions, in a word, truth as the Last Judgement and not at all something like the captured trophy desired by the individual hunter.
Only insofar as the truthful man has the unconditional will to be just is the striving after truth, which is so thoughtlessly glorified, something great. In the vision of the duller person a large number of different sorts of drives (like curiosity, the flight from boredom, resentment, vanity, playfulness), which have nothing at all to do with the truth, blend in with that striving for truth which has its roots in justice. In fact, the world seems to be full of people who "serve the truth." But the virtue of justice is very seldom present, even more rarely recognized, and almost always hated to the death; whereas, the crowd of the apparently virtuous are honoured as they march in with a great public display. Few people serve truthfulness, because only a few have the purity of will to be just. Moreover, even of these, the fewest have the strength to be able to be just. It is certainly not enough only to have the will for justice. And the most horrible sufferings have come directly from the drive for justice without the power of judgement among human beings. For this reason the general welfare would require nothing more than to scatter the seeds of the power of judgement as widely as possible, so that the fanatic remained distinguishable from the judge and blind desire to be a judge distinguishable from the conscious power to be able to judge. But where would one find a means of cultivating the power of judgement! Thus, when there is talk of truth and justice, people remain in an eternal wavering hesitation whether a fanatic or a judge is talking. Hence, we should forgive those who welcome benevolently the "servers of the truth" who possess neither the will nor the power to judge and who set themselves the task of searching for pure knowledge with no attention to consequences or, more clearly, of searching for a barren truth. There are many trivial truths; there are problems that never require effort, let alone any self-sacrifice, in order for one to judge them correctly. In this field of the trivial and the safe, a person indeed succeeds in becoming a cold demon of knowledge nonetheless. When, especially in favourable times, whole cohorts of learned people and researchers are turned into such demons, it always remains unfortunately possible that the time in question suffers from a lack of strong and great righteousness, in short, of the most noble kernel of the so-called drive to the truth.
Let us now place before our eyes the historical virtuoso of the present times. Is he the most just man of his time? It is true that he has cultivated in himself such a tenderness and sensitivity of feeling that for him nothing human is far distant. The most different times and people ring out at once from his lyre in harmonious tones. He has become a tuneful passive thing, which through its resounding tone works on other passive things of the same type, until finally the entire air of an age is full of such delicate reverberations, twanging away in concord. But, in my view, we hear that original historical major chord only as an overtone, so to speak: the sturdiness and power of the original can no longer be sensed in the thin shrill sound of the strings. Whereas the original tone usually aroused actions, needs, and terrors, this lulls us to sleep and makes us weak hedonists. It is as if we have arranged the Eroica Symphony for two flutes and use it for dreamy opium smoking. By that we may now measure, among the virtuosi, how things stand with the highest demands of modern man for a loftier and purer justice, a virtue which never has anything pleasant, knows no attractive feelings, but is hard and terrifying.
Measured by that, how low magnanimity stands now on the ladder of virtues, magnanimity characteristic of a few rare historians! But for many more it is a matter only of tolerance, of leaving aside all consideration of what cannot be once and for all denied, of editing and glossing over in a moderate and benevolent way, of an intelligent acceptance of the fact that the inexperienced man interprets it as a virtue of justice if the past is generally explained without hard accents and without the expression of hate. But only the superior power can judge. Weakness must tolerate, unless it wishes to feign strength and turn justice on the judgement seat into a performing actress.
There is just one fearful species of historian still remaining: efficient, strong, and honest characters, but with narrow heads. Here good will to be just is present, together with the strong feeling in the judgements. But all the pronouncements of the judges are false, roughly for the same reasons that the judgements of the ordinary sworn jury are false.
How unlikely the frequency of historical talent is! To say nothing at all here about the disguised egoists and fellow travellers, who adopt a thoroughly objective demeanour for the insidious games they play; and by the same token to say nothing of the unthinking people who write as historians in the naive belief that their own age is right in all its popular views and that to write by the standards of the time generally amounts to being right, a faith in which each and every religion lives and about which, in the case of religion, there is nothing more to say. Those naive historians call "Objectivity" the process of measuring past opinions and deeds by the universal public opinion of the moment. Here they find the canon of all truths. Their work is to adapt the past to contemporary triviality. By contrast, they call "subjective" that way of writing history which does not take popular opinion as canonical.
And might not an illusion have occurred in the highest interpretation of the word objectivity? With this word, people understand a condition in the historian in which he looks at an event with such purity in all his motives and consequences that they have no effect at all on his subject. People mean that aesthetic phenomenon, that state of being detached from one's personal interests, with which the painter in a stormy landscape, under lightning and thunder, or on the moving sea looks at his inner picture and, in the process, forgets his own person. Thus, people also demand from the historian the artistic tranquillity and the full immersion in the thing. However, it is a myth that the picture which shows things in a person constituted in this way reflects the empirical essence of things. Or is it the case that, by some inner capacity at these times things depict themselves and, as it were, draw a good likeness of themselves or photograph themselves on a purely passive medium?
This would be a mythology and on top of that a bad one. In addition, people might forget that that very moment is the most artistic and most spontaneous creative moment in the inner life of the artist, a moment of composition of the very highest order, whose result will be an artistically really true picture, not a historically true one. To think of history as objective in this way is the secret work of the dramatist, that is, to think of everything one after the other, to weave the isolated details into a totality, always on the condition that a unity of the plan in the material has to be established, if it is not inherent in it. Thus, man spins a web over the past and tames it; in this way the artistic impulse itself expresses its drive for justice, but not its drive for truth. Objectivity and Justice have nothing to do with each other.
One might imagine a way of writing history which has no drop of the common empirical truth in it and yet which might be able to claim the highest rating on an objective scale. Indeed, Grillparzer ventures to clarify this point. "What is history then other than the way in which the spirit of man takes in the events which are impenetrable to him, something in which only God knows whether there is a relationship holding it together, in which that spirit replaces an incomprehensible thing with something comprehensible, underwrites with its ideas of external purposes a totality which really can only be known from within, and assumes chance events, where a thousand small causes were at work. At any one time everyone has his own individual necessity so that millions of trends run next to each other in parallel, crooked, and straight lines, intersect each other, help, hinder, flow forward and backwards, thus taking on in relation to each other the character of chance and, to say nothing of the effects of natural events, render it impossible to prove a compelling, all-encompassing necessity for events."
However, this necessary conclusion about that "objective" look at the matter in hand should be exposed right away. This is an assumption which, when it is voiced as a statement of belief by historians, can only assume an odd form. Schiller, in fact, is completely clear concerning the essential subjectivity of this assumption, when he says of historians: "One phenomenon after another begins to liberate itself from accidental and lawless freedom and, as a coordinated link, to become part of a harmonious totality, which naturally is present only in its depiction." But how should we consider the claim (made in good faith) of a famous historical virtuoso, a claim hovering artificially between tautology and absurdity: "The fact is that that all human action and striving are subordinate to the light and often unremarked but powerful and irresistible progress of things"? In such a statement we do not feel any mysterious wisdom expressing itself as clear illogic, like the saying of Goethe's gardener, "Nature lets itself be forced but not compelled", or in the inscription of a booth in a fair ground, as Swift tells it, "Here you can see the largest elephant in the world except itself." For what is, in fact, the opposition between the actions and the drives of men and the progress of things? In particular, it strikes me that such historians, like that one from whom we quoted a sentence, cease to instruct as soon as they become general and then, in their darkness, show a sense of weakness. In other sciences generalizations are the most important thing, insofar as they contain laws. However, if statements like the one we quoted were to serve as valid laws, one would have to reply that then the work of the writer of history is changed, for what remains particularly true in such statements, once we remove the above-mentioned irreconcilably dark remainder, is well known and totally trivial. For it is apparent to everyone's eye in the smallest area of experience.
However, for that reason to inconvenience entire peoples and to spend wearisome years of work on the subject amounts to nothing more than, as in the natural sciences, to pile experiment on experiment a long time after the law can be inferred from the present store of experiments. Incidentally, according to Zoellner, natural science nowadays may suffer from an excess of experimentation. If the value of a drama is to lie only in the main ideas of the conclusion, then drama itself would be the furthest possible route to the goal, crooked and laborious. And thus I hope that history can realize that its significance is not in universal ideas, like some sort of blossom or fruit, but that its worth is directly one which indicates a known, perhaps a habitual theme, a daily melody, in an elegant way, elevates it, intensifies it to an inclusive symbol, and thus allows one to make out in the original theme an entire world of profundity, power, and beauty. What is appropriate, however, in this process, before everything else, is a great artistic potential, a creative hovering above and a loving immersion in the empirical data, a further poetical composing on the given types--to this process objectivity certainly belongs, but as a positive quality.
However, too often objectivity is only a phrase. Instead of that innerly flashing, externally unmoving and mysterious composure in the artist's eyes, the affectation of composure emerges, just as the lack of pathos and moral power cultivates the disguise of a biting coldness of expression. In certain cases, the banality of the conviction ventures to appear, that wisdom of every man, which creates the impression of composure for unexcited people only through its tediousness, in order to pass muster as that artistic condition in which the subject is silent and becomes completely imperceptible. So everything which generally does not rouse emotion is sought out, and the driest expression is immediately the right one. Indeed, people go as far as to assume that the person whom a moment in the past does not affect in the slightest is competent to present it. Philologues and Greeks frequently behave towards each other in this way. They do not concern themselves with each other in the slightest. People call this real "objectivity," as well. Now, in those places where the highest and rarest matter is to be directly presented, it is absolutely outrageous to find the deliberate state of indifference, something put on for show, the acquired flat and sober art of seeking out motives, especially when the vanity of the historian drives toward this objectively indifferent behaviour. Incidentally, with such authors people should base their judgement more closely on the principle that each man's vanity is inversely proportional to his understanding. No, at least be honest! Do not seek the appearance of that artistic power truly called objectivity, and do not seek the appearance of justice, if you have not been ordained in the fearful vocation of the just. As if it also were the work of every age to have to be just in relation to everything that once was! As a matter of fact, times and generations never have the right to be the judges of all earlier times and generations. Such an uncomfortable task always falls to only a few, indeed, to the rarest people. Who compels you then to judge? And so, just test yourselves, whether you could be just, if you wanted to! As judges you must stand higher than what is being assessed, whereas, you have only come later. The guests who come last to the table should in all fairness receive the last places. And you wish to have the first places? Then at least do something of the highest and best order. Perhaps people will then really make a place for you, even if you come at the end.
You can interpret the past only on the basis of the highest power of the present. Only in the strongest tension of your noblest characteristics will you surmise what from the past is great and worth knowing and preserving. Like by like! Otherwise you reduce the past down to your level. Do not believe a piece of historical writing if it does not spring out of the head of the rarest of spirits. You will always perceive the quality of its spirit if it is forced to express something universal or to repeat once more something universally known. The true historian must have the power of reshaping the universally known into what has never been heard and to announce what is universal so simply and deeply that people overlook the simplicity in the profundity and the profundity in the simplicity. No person can be simultaneously a great historian, an artistic person, and a numskull. On the other hand, people should not rate as insignificant the workers who go around with a cart, piling things up and sifting through them, because they will certainly not be able to become great historians. Even less should we exchange them for numskulls. We should see them as the necessary colleagues and manual labourers in the service of the master, just as the French, with greater naïveté than is possible among the Germans, were accustomed to speak of the historiens de M. Thiers [historians of Monsieur Thiers]. These workers should gradually become very learned men, but for that reason cannot ever become masters. An eminently learned man and a great numskull--those go together very easily under a single hat.
Thus, the person of experience and reflection writes history. Anyone who has not experienced life on a greater and higher level than everyone else will not know how to interpret the greatness and loftiness of the past. The utterance of the past is always an oracular pronouncement. You will understand it only as builders of the future and as people who know about the present. People now explain the extraordinarily deep and far-reaching effect of Delphi by the particular fact that the Delphic priests had precise knowledge about the past. It is appropriate now to understand that only the man who builds the future has a right to judge the past. In order to look ahead, set yourselves an important goal, and at the same time control that voluptuous analytical drive with which you now lay waste the present and render almost impossible all tranquillity, all peaceful growth and maturing. Draw around yourself the fence of a large and extensive hope, an optimistic striving. Create in yourselves a picture to which the future is to correspond, and forget the myth that you are epigones. You have enough to plan and to invent when you imagine that future life for yourselves. But in considering history do not ask that she show you the "How?" and the "With what?" If, however, you live your life in the history of great men, then you will learn from history the highest command: to become mature and to flee away from that paralyzing and prohibiting upbringing of the age, which sees advantages for itself in not allowing you to become mature, in order to rule and exploit you, the immature. And when you ask after biographies, then do not ask for those with the refrain "Mr. Soandso and His Age" but for those whose title page must read "A Fighter Against His Age." Fill your souls with Plutarch, and dare to believe in yourselves when you have faith in his heroes. With a hundred people raised in such an unmodern way, that is, people who have become mature and familiar with the heroic, one could permanently silence the entire noisy pseudo-education of this age.
When the historical sense reigns unchecked and drags with it all its consequences, it uproots the future, because it destroys illusions and takes from existing things the atmosphere in which they alone can live. Historical justice, even if it is practised truly and with a purity of conviction, is therefore a fearful virtue, because it always undermines living and brings about its downfall. Its judgement is always an annihilation. If behind the historical drive no constructive urge is at work, if things are not destroyed and cleared away so that a future, something already alive in hope, builds its dwelling on the liberated ground, if justice alone rules, then the creative instinct is enfeebled and disheartened.
For example, a religion which is to be turned into historical knowledge under the power of pure justice, a religion which is to be scientifically understood through and through, is by the end of this process immediately destroyed. The reason for this is that in the historical method of reckoning so many false, crude, inhuman, absurd, and violent things always emerge that the fully pious atmosphere of illusion in which alone everything that wants to live can live necessarily disappears. But only in love, only in a love overshadowed by illusion, does a person create, that is, only in unconditional belief in perfection and righteousness. Anything which compels a person no longer to love unconditionally cuts away the roots of his power. He must wither up, that is, become dishonest.
In effects like this, history is opposed by art. And only when history takes it upon itself to turn itself into an art work and thus to become a purely artistic picture can it perhaps maintain the instincts or even arouse them. Such historical writing, however, would thoroughly go against the analytical and inartistic trends of our time; indeed, they would consider it counterfeit. But history which only destroys, without an inner drive to build guiding it, makes its implements permanently blasé and unnatural. For such people destroy illusions, and "whoever destroys illusions in himself and others is punished by the strongest tyrant, nature." True, for a fairly long time one can keep oneself really busy with history completely harmlessly and thoughtlessly, as if it were an occupation as good as any other. The newer Theology, in particular, seems to have become involved with history purely harmlessly, and now it will hardly notice that, in doing so, it stands, probably very much against its will, in the service of Voltaire's écrasez [i.e., Voltaire's extreme hostility to the church].
Let no one assume from this a new powerfully constructive instinct. For that we would have to let the so-called Protestant Union be considered the maternal womb of a new religion and someone like Judge Holtzendorf (the editor of and chief spokesman for the even more questionable Protestant Bible) as John at the River Jordan. For some time perhaps the Hegelian philosophy still clouding the brains of older people will help to promote that harmlessness, somewhat in the way that people differentiate the "Idea of Christianity" from its manifold incomplete "apparent forms" and convince themselves it is really just a matter of the "tendency of the idea" to reveal itself in ever purer forms, and finally as certainly the purest, most transparent, that is, the hardly visible form in the brain of the present theologus liberalis vulgis [liberal theologian for the rabble].
However, if we listen to this purest of all Christianities expressing itself concerning the earlier impure forms of Christianity, then the uninvolved listener often has the impression that the talk is not at all about Christianity, but of--now, what are we to think if we find Christianity described by the "greatest Theologian of the century" as the religion which makes the claim that "it can be found in all true and even in a few other barely possible religions" and when the "true church" is to be the one which "becomes a flowing mass, where there is no outline, where each part finds itself sometimes here, sometimes there, and everything mingles freely with everything else." Once again, what are we to think?
What we can learn from Christianity, how under the effect of a historicising treatment it has become blasé and unnatural, until finally a fully historical, that is, an impartial treatment, dissolves it in pure knowledge about Christianity and thereby destroys it, that fact we can study in everything which has life. It ceases to live when it is completely dissected and exists in pain and sickness, if we start to practice historical dissection on it. There are people who believe in a revolutionary and reforming art of healing in German music among German people. They get angry and consider it an injustice committed against the most living aspect of our culture when even such men as Mozart and Beethoven are inundated nowadays with the entire scholarly welter of biographical detail and are compelled through the systematic torture of the historical critic to answer to a thousand importunate questions. Through this method, is it not the case that something which has definitely not yet exhausted its living effects is dismissed as irrelevant or at least paralyzed, because we direct our curiosity at countless microscopic details of the life and work and seek intellectual problems in places where we should learn to live and to forget all problems? Set a pair of such modern biographers to thinking about the birth place of Christianity or Luther's Reformation. Their dispassionate pragmatic curiosity would immediately manage to make every spiritual action at a distance impossible, just as the most wretched animal can prevent the origin of the most powerful oak by gobbling down the acorn. All living things need an atmosphere around them, a secret circle of darkness. If this veil is taken from them, if people condemn a religion, an art, a genius to orbit like a star without an atmosphere, then we should no longer wonder about their rapid decay and the way they become hard and barren. That is the way it is now with all great things
as Hans Sachs says in the Meistersinger.
But every people, indeed every person, who wishes to become mature needs such an enveloping delusion, such a protecting and veiling cloud. But today people generally despise becoming mature, because they honour history more than living. Indeed, people exult over the fact that now "science is beginning to rule over living." It is possible that people will attain that goal but it is certain that a life so governed is not worth much, because it is much less living and it establishes a life for the future far less than does the previous life governed not by knowledge but by instinct and powerful illusory images. But, as stated, it is clearly not to be the era of fully developed and mature people, of harmonious personalities, but the era of common work which is as useful as possible. That, however, amounts only to the fact that people are to be trained for the purposes of the time, in order to get to work with their hands as promptly as possible. They are to labour in the factories of the universal utilities before they are mature, that is, so that they really no longer become mature, because this would be a luxury, which would deprive the "labour market" of a lot of power. We blind some birds, so that they sing more beautifully. I do not think that today's people sing more beautifully than their grandfathers, but I do know this: we blind them early. But the method, the disreputable method, which people use to blind them is excessively bright, excessively sudden, and excessively changing light. The young person is lashed through all the centuries. Youngsters who understand nothing about a war, a diplomatic action, or a trade policy are found fit to be introduced to political history. But then, just as the young person races through history, so we moderns race through the store rooms of art and listen to concerts. We really feel that something sounds different from something else, that something has a different effect than something else. Constantly losing more of this feeling of surprise and dislike, becoming excessively astonished no longer, or finally allowing oneself to enjoy everything--people really call that historical sense historical education.
Without saying anything to gloss over the expression: the mass of stuff streaming in is so great that what is surprising, shocking, barbarous, and powerful, "concentrated in a dreadful cluster," presses so overpoweringly on the young soul that it knows how to rescue itself only with a deliberate apathy. Where a keener and stronger consciousness is firmly established, then a very different feeling appears: disgust. The young man has become homeless and has doubts about all customs and ideas. Now he knows this fact: that at all times things were different, and they do not depend upon the way you are. In melancholy absence of feeling he lets opinion on opinion flow past him and understands Holderlein's pointed words in response to his reading of Laertius Diogenes concerning the life and teaching of the Greek philosophers: "Here I have also experienced more of what I have already come across sometimes, that what passes temporarily by and what comes and goes in human thoughts and systems strike me as almost more tragic than the fates which we usually call the only realities."
No, such an overwhelming, anaesthetizing, and powerful historicising is certainly not required for the young, as ancient times demonstrate, and is, indeed, dangerous in the highest degree, as newer ages demonstrate. But let us really look at the historical student, the inheritor of a blasé attitude, already apparent all too early, almost in childhood. Now the "method" in his own work, the right grip and the elegant tone of the master's manner, have become his own. An entirely isolated small chapter of the past has fallen victim to his keen mind and the method he has learned. He has already produced, indeed, in prouder language, he has "created." He has now become a servant of truth in action and master in the world empire of history. If, as a child, he was already "ready," now he is already over-ready. One only needs to shake him for wisdom to fall into one's lap with a rattle. But the wisdom is rotten, and each apple has its own worm. Believe me on this point: when people work in the scientific factory and are to become useful before they are mature, then science itself is ruined in the process, just like the slaves used these days in this factory. I regret that people even find it necessary to use the verbal jargon of the slave holder and employer to describe such relationships which should be thought of as free from utility, free from life's needs, but the words "Factory, labour market, bargain, exploitation," uttered like all the words assisting egoism, spontaneously press themselves on the lips when we want to describe the youngest generation of scholars. The stolid mediocrity becomes ever more mediocre, science becomes ever more practical economically. Essentially all the most recent scholars are wise in only a single point, and in that naturally wiser than all people of the past. In all other points they are, to speak with care, only infinitely different from all the scholars of the old school. Nevertheless they demand respect and perquisites for themselves, as if the state and official opinion were under an obligation to consider the new coins just as valuable as the old. The labourers have made a working compact among themselves and decreed that genius is superfluous because each labourer is stamped as a genius. Presumably a later time will consider the structure they have cobbled together, not built together.
To those who tirelessly proclaim the modern cry of combat and sacrifice "Division of labour! In rows and tiers!" we can once and for all say clearly and firmly: "Do you want to destroy science as quickly as possible, just as you destroy hens, which you artificially compel to lay eggs too quickly." Well, in the last century science has been promoted at an astonishing rate. But take a look now at the scholars, the exhausted hens. There are in truth no "harmonious" natures. They can only cackle more than before, because they lay eggs more often. Naturally, however, the eggs have become constantly smaller (although the books have become constantly thicker). As the final natural result, things resign themselves to the commonly loved "Popularizing" of science (in addition to the "Feminization" and "Infantization"), that is, the notorious tailoring of the scientific coat to the body of the "motley public" (I am attempting here to cultivate a moderately tailored German to describe a moderately tailored activity). Goethe saw an abuse in this and demanded that sciences should have an effect on the external world only through a higher praxis. Besides, to the older generation of scholars such an abuse appeared (for good reasons) difficult and tiresome. For similarly good reasons it comes easily to the younger scholars, because they themselves, with the exception of a really small corner of knowledge, are the motley public and carry its needs in themselves. They only need once to settle themselves down comfortably in order for them to succeed in opening up the small study area to that popular need for the variously curious. People pretend that below this action of making themselves comfortable stands the title "the modest condescension of the scholar for his people"; while at bottom the scholar, to the extent that he is not a scholar but a member of the rabble, is only descending into himself. If you create for yourself the idea of a "people" then you can never think sufficiently nobly and highly of it. If you thought highly of a people, then you would be also compassionate towards them and would be on your guard against offering them your historical aqua fortis [nitric acid] as a living and refreshing drink. But deep down you think little of the people, because you are permitted to have no true and confidently based respect for its future, and you operate as practical pessimists, I mean as people led by the premonition of destruction, people who thus become indifferent and permissive towards what is strange, even towards your very own welfare. If only the soil still supported us! And if it no longer carries us, then that is also all right. Thus they feel and live an ironic existence.
In fact, it must seem odd, although it is not contradictory, when to the age which so audibly and insistently is in the habit of bursting out in the most carefree exulting over its historical culture, I nevertheless ascribe an ironical self-consciousness, a presentiment which hovers all around it that this is not a matter for rejoicing, a fear that soon all the celebrations over historical knowledge will be over. Goethe proposed to us a similar enigma with respect to a single personality in his remarkable characterization of Newton. He found at bottom (or more correctly, at the top) of Newton's being "a dark premonition of his own error," as it were, the expression (noticeable in solitary moments) of a consciousness with a superior power of judgement, something which a certain ironical perspective had gained over the essential nature dwelling inside him. Thus we find particularly in the greater people with a higher historical development a consciousness, often toned down to a universal scepticism, of how much folly and superstition are in the belief that the education of a people must be so overwhelmingly historical as it is now. For the most powerful people, that is, powerful in deeds and works, have lived very differently and have raised their young people differently. But that folly and that superstition suit us--so runs the sceptical objection--us, the late comers, the faded last shoots of more powerful and more happily courageous generations, us, in whom one can see realized Herod's prophecy that one day people would be born with instant grey beards and that Zeus would destroy this generation as soon as that sign became visible to him. Historical culture is really a kind of congenital grey haired condition, and those who bear its mark from childhood on would have to come to the instinctive belief in the old age of humanity. An old person's occupation, however, is appropriate to old age, that is, looking back, tallying the accounts, balancing the books, seeing consolation in what used to be through memories, in short, a historical culture.
The human race, however, is a tough and persistent thing and will not have its steps forward and backwards viewed according to millennia, indeed hardly according to hundreds of thousands of years. That is, it will not be viewed at all as a totality from the infinitely small point of an atomic individual person. Then what will a couple of thousand years signify (or, put another way, the time period of thirty-four consecutive human lives, reckoned at sixty years each) so that we can speak of the beginning of such a time as still the "Youth of Mankind" and the end of it as already the "Old Age of Mankind." Is it not much more that case that in this paralyzing belief in an already faded humanity there sticks the misunderstanding of an idea of Christian theology inherited from the Middle Ages, the idea of the imminent end of the world, of the nervously awaited judgement? Has this idea, in fact, changed through the intensified need of history to judge, as if our time, the last of all possible, has been authorized to consider itself the universal judge of everything in the past, something which Christian belief awaits, not in any way from human beings, but from the "Son of Man." In earlier times this was, for humanity as well as for the individual, a loudly proclaimed "memento mori," [reminder of death] an always tormenting barb and, so to speak, the summit of medieval knowledge and conscience. The phrase of more recent times, called out in a contrasting response, "memento vivere" [a reminder of living] sounds, to speak openly, still quite timid, is not a full throated cry, and has something almost dishonest about it. For human beings still sit firmly on the memento mori and betray the fact through their universal need for history.
In spite of the most powerful beating of its wings, knowledge cannot tear itself loose in freedom. A deep feeling of hopelessness is left over and has taken on that historical colouring, because of which all higher training and education are now melancholy and dark. A religion which of all the hours of a person's life considers the last the most important, which generally predicts the end of earthy life and condemns all living people to live in the fifth act of the tragedy, certainly arouses the deepest and noblest forces, but it is hostile to all new cultivation, daring undertakings, and free desiring. It resists that flight into the unknown, because there it does not love and does not hope. It lets what is coming into being push forward only unwillingly so that at the right time it can push it to the side or sacrifice it as a seducer of being or as a liar about the worth of existence. What the Florentines did when, under the influence of Savonarola's sermons calling for repentance, they organized those famous sacrificial fires of paintings, manuscripts, mirrors, and masks, Christianity would like to do with every culture which rouses one to renewed striving and which leads to that slogan memento vivere. If it is not possible to achieve this directly, without a digression (that is, through superior force), then it attains its goal nonetheless if it unites itself with historical education, usually even with its knowledge. Now, speaking out through historical knowledge, with a shrug of its shoulders, Christianity rejects all becoming and thus disseminates the feeling of the person who has come much too late and is unoriginal, in short, of the person born with grey hair.
The stringent and profoundly serious consideration of the worthlessness of everything which has happened, of the way in which the world in its maturity is ready for judgement, has subsided to a sceptical consciousness that it is in any case good to know everything that has happened, because it is too late to do anything better. Thus the historical sense makes its servants passive and retrospective. Only in momentary forgetfulness, when that sense is intermittent, does the patient suffering from the historical fever become active, so that, as soon as the action is over and done with, he may seize his deed, through analytical consideration prevent any further effects, and finally flay it for "History." In this sense, we are still living in the Middle Ages, and history is always still a disguised theology, in exactly the same way that the reverence with which the unscientific laity treat the scientific caste is a reverence inherited from the clergy. What people in earlier times gave the church, people now give, although in scantier amounts, to science. However, the fact that people give was something the church achieved in earlier times, not something first done by the modern spirit, which, along with its other good characteristics, much rather has something stingy about it, as is well known, and is, so far as the pre-eminent virtue of generosity is concerned, a piker.
Perhaps this observation is not pleasant, perhaps no more pleasant than that derivation of the excess of history from the medieval memento mori and from the hopelessness which Christianity carried in its heart concerning all future ages of earthly existence. But at any rate people should replace the explanation which I have put down only hesitantly with better explanations. For the origin of historical education and its inherent and totally radical opposition to the spirit of a "new age," of a "modern consciousness"--this origin must itself be once again recognized historically. History must itself resolve the problem of history. Knowledge must turn its barbs against itself. This triple Must is the spiritual imperative of the "new age," if there is in it truly something new, powerful, vital, and original. Or if, to leave the Romance peoples out of consideration, it should be the case that we Germans, in all higher matters of culture, always have to be only the "followers" just because that is the only thing we could be, as William Wackernagel once expressed it all too convincingly: "We Germans are a people of followers. With all our higher knowledge and even with our faith, we are always still followers of the old world. Even those who are hostile to that and certainly do not wish it breathe in the spirit of Christianity together with the immortal spirit of the old classical culture, and if anyone were to succeed in separating out these two elements from the living air which envelops the inner man, then not much would be left over with which one might still eke out a spiritual life."
But even if we wanted to reassure ourselves happily about this calling to be the followers of antiquity, if we would only make up our minds to take the calling as something right, urgent, serious, and great, and would recognize in this urgency our designated and unique privilege, nonetheless we would find it necessary to ask whether it must always be our purpose to be pupils of a declining antiquity. At some time or other we might be permitted to aim our goal somewhat higher and further, at some time or other we might permit ourselves to praise ourselves for having reworked so fruitfully and splendidly the Alexandrian-Roman culture in ourselves also through our universal history, so that now, as the most noble reward we might set ourselves the still more monumental task of getting back behind and above this Alexandrian world and seeking out our models of the courageous gaze in the ancient Greek original world of the great, the natural, and the human. But there we find also the reality of an essentially unhistorical education, an education nevertheless (or rather therefore) unspeakably rich and vital. If we Germans were nothing but followers, then by looking at such a culture as a legacy appropriately ours, there could be nothing greater or prouder for us than to be its followers.
As a result we should say only this and nothing but this: that the often unpleasantly strange thought that we are epigones, nobly thought out, can guarantee important effects and a richly hopeful desire for the future, both for the individual and for a people, to the extent that we understand ourselves as the heirs and followers of an astonishing classical force and see in that our legacy and our spur, but not as pale and withered late arrivals of powerful races, who scrape out a cold living as the antiquarians and gravediggers of those races. Such late arrivals naturally live an ironic existence. Destruction follows closely on the heels of their limping passage through life. They shudder in the face of that, when they derive enjoyment from the past, for they are living memorials, and yet their thoughts are senseless without someone to inherit them. So the dark premonition envelops them that their life may be an injustice, for no future life can set it right. However, if we were to imagine such antiquarian late comers suddenly exchanging that painfully ironic moderation for impudence, and if we imagine them to ourselves as if they were reporting with a ringing voice: "The race is at its peak, because now for the first time it has the knowledge of itself and has become clear to itself," then we would have a performance in which, as in an allegory, the enigmatic meaning of a certain very famous philosophy is deciphered for German culture.
I believe that there has been no dangerous variation or change in German culture in this century which has not become more dangerous through the monstrous influence of the philosophy of Hegel, an influence which continues to flow right up to the present. The belief that one is a late comer of the age is truly crippling and disorienting; but it must appear fearful and destructive when such a belief one day with a bold reversal idolizes this late comer as the true meaning and purpose of all earlier events, when his knowledgeable misery is equated to the completion of world history. Such a way of considering things has made the Germans accustomed to talking of the "World Process" and to justify their own time as the necessary result of the world process. Such a way of thinking about things has made history the single sovereign, in the place of the other spiritual powers, culture and religion, insofar as history is "the self-realizing idea" and "the dialectic of the spirits of peoples" and the "last judgement."
People have scornfully called this Hegelian understanding of history the earthly changes of God; but this God for His part was first created by history. However, this God became intelligible and comprehensible inside Hegelian brain cases and has already ascended all the dialectically possible steps of His being right up to that self-revelation. Thus, for Hegel the summit and end point of the world process coincided with his own individual existence in Berlin. In fact, strictly speaking he should have said that everything coming after him should be valued really only as a musical coda of the world historical rondo, or even more truly, as superfluous. He did not say that. Thus, he planted in the generations leavened by him that admiration for the "Power of History", which transforms practically every moment into a naked admiration of success and leads to idolatrous worship of the factual. For this service people nowadays commonly repeat the very mythological and, in addition, the truly German expression "to carry the bill of facts" But the person who has first learned to stoop down and to bow his head before the "Power of History", finally nods his agreement mechanically, in the Chinese fashion, to that power, whether it is a government or public opinion or a numerical majority, and moves his limbs precisely to the beat of strings plucked by some "power" or other.
If every success contains within itself a rational necessity, if every event is the victory of the logical or the "Idea", then get down quickly now and kneel before the entire hierarchy of "success." What? Do you claim there are no ruling mythologies any more and religions are dying out? Only look at the religion of the power of history; pay attention to the priests of the mythology of the Idea and their knees all covered in cuts! Surely all the virtues come only in the wake of this new faith. Is it not unselfishness when the historical person lets himself be blown into an objective glass mirror? Is it not generosity to do without all the force of heaven and earth so that in this power people worship pure force in itself? Is it not justice to have a scale balance always in one's hands and to watch closely what sinks down as the stronger and heavier? And what a respectable school such a consideration of history is! To take everything objectively, to get angry about nothing, to love nothing, to understand everything, how gentle and flexible that makes things. And even if one man brought up in this school becomes publicly angry at some point and gets annoyed, people can then enjoy that, for they know it is really only intended as an artistic expression; it is ira [anger] and studium [study]. However, it is entirely sine ira et studio [without anger and study].
What antiquated thoughts I have in my heart about such a complex of mythology and virtue! But they should come out for once, even if people should just go on laughing. I would also say: history constantly impresses on us "It was once" and the moral "You should not" or "You should not have." So history turns into a compendium of the really immoral. How seriously mistaken would the person be who at the same time considered history as the judge of this factual immorality! For example, it is offensive to morality that a Raphael had to die at thirty-six years of age; such a being should not have died. Now, if you want history, as the apologist for the factual, to provide assistance, then you will say that Raphael expressed everything that was in him; with a longer life he would have been able to create something beautiful only as a similar beauty, and not as something beautifully new, and so on. In so doing, you are the devil's advocate for the very reason that you make success, the fact, your idol; whereas, the fact is always dumb and at all times has looked upon something like a calf as a god. Moreover, as apologists for history, you prompt each other by whispering this ignorance. Because you do not know what such a natura naturans [essential creative force] like Raphael is, it does not make you make you hot to hear that such a person was and will never be again. In Goethe's case, recently someone wanted to teach us that with his eighty-two years he had reached his limit, and yet I would happily trade a couple of years of the "washed up" Goethe for an entire cart full of fresh ultra-modern lives, in order to share in conversations like the ones Goethe conducted with Eckermann and in this way to remain protected from all the contemporary teachings of the legionaries of the moment.
In comparison with such dead people, how few living people generally have a right to live! That the many live and that those few no longer live is nothing more than a brutal truth, that is, an incorrigible stupidity, a blatant "That is the case" in contrast to the moral "It should not have been so." Yes, in contrast to the moral! For let people speak about whatever virtue they want, about righteousness, generosity, courage, wisdom and human sympathy--a person is always virtuous just because he rebels against that blind power of the factual, against the tyranny of the real and submits himself to laws which are not the laws of that historical fluctuation. He constantly swims against the historical waves, whether he fights his passions as the closest mute facts of his existence or whether he commits himself to truthfulness, while the lies spin around him their glittering webs. If history were in general nothing more than "the world system of passion and error," then human beings would have to read it in the way Goethe summoned us to read Werther, exactly as if it cried out "Be a man and do not follow me!" Fortunately history also preserves the secret of the great fighters against history, that is, against the blind force of the real, and thus puts itself right in the pillory, because it brings out directly as the essential historical natures those who worried so little about the "Thus it was," in order rather to follow with a more cheerful pride a "So it should be." Not to drag their race to the grave but to found a new race--that drove them ceaselessly forwards; and if they themselves were born as latecomers, there is an art of living which makes one forget this. The generations to come will know them only as first comers.
Is our age perhaps such a first comer? In fact, the vehemence of its historical sense is so great and expresses itself in such a universal and simply unlimited way that at least in this the coming ages will assess its quality as a first comer, if in fact there are going to be coming ages at all, understood in the sense of culture. But right here there remains a serious doubt. Close by the pride of the modern man stands his irony about his very self, his consciousness that he must live in a historicising and, as it were, a twilight mood, and his fear that in future he will be totally unable to rescue any more of his youthful hopes and powers. Here and there people go even further, into cynicism, and justify the passage of history, indeed, of the whole development of the world as essentially for the use of modern man, according to the cynical rule that things must turn out just as they are going right now, that man must be nothing other than what people now are, and that against this Must no one may rebel. In the sense of well being of such a cynicism a person who cannot maintain that view with irony curses himself. In addition, the last decade offers him as a gift one of its most beautiful inventions, a rounded and sonorous phrase for such cynicism: it calls his style of living mindlessly with the times, "the full dedication of the personality to the world process." The personality and the world process! The world process and the personality of the turnip flea! If only people did not have to hear the eternal hyperbole of all hyperboles, the word World, World, World, when really each person should speak in all honesty only of Men, Men, Men. Heirs of the Greeks and Romans? Of Christianity? That all appears as nothing to this cynic. But heirs of the world process! The high points and targets of the world process! High points and targets of the world process! Sense and solution of all riddles of becoming in general, expressed in the modern man, the ripest fruit of the tree of knowledge--I call that a swollen feeling of elation. By this symbol are the first comers of all ages known, even if they have come along right at the end.
Historical considerations have never flown so far afield, not even in dreams. For now the history of human beings is only the continuation of the history of animals and plants. Indeed, even in the furthest depths of the sea the historical universalist finds the traces of himself, as living mucus; he gazes in astonishment (as if at a miracle) at the immense route which human beings have already passed through and trembles at the sight of the even more astonishing miracle, modern man himself, who has the ability to survey this route. He stands high and proud on the pyramid of the world process. As he sets down on the top of it the final stone of his knowledge, he appears to call out to nature listening all around, "We are at the goal, we are the goal, we are the perfection of nature."
Arrogant European of the nineteenth century, you are raving! Your knowledge does not complete nature, but only kills your own. For once measure your height as a knower against your depth as a person who can do something. Of course, you clamber on the solar rays of knowledge upward towards heaven, but you also climb downward to chaos. Your way of going, that is, clambering about as a knower, is your fate. The ground and floor move back away from you into the unknown; for your life there are no supports any more, but only spider's threads, which every new idea of your knowledge rips apart.
But no more serious talk about this, for it is possible to say something more cheerful.
The incredibly thoughtless fragmenting and fraying of all the fundamentals, their disintegration into a constantly flowing and dissolving becoming, the inexhaustible spinning away and historicising of all that has come into being because of modern men, the great garden spiders in the knots of the world net, that may keep the moralists, the artists, the devout, as well as the statesman, busy and worried. Today it should for once cheer us up, because we see all this in the gleaming magical mirror of a philosophical writer of parodies, in whose head the age has come to an ironical consciousness of itself, a consciousness clear all the way to lunacy (to speak in Goethe's style). Hegel once taught us, "when the spirit makes a sudden turn, then we philosophers are still there." Our age has made a turn into self-irony, and, lo and behold, E. von Hartmann was also at hand and had written his famous Philosophy of the Unconscious, or, to speak more clearly, his philosophy of unconscious irony. Rarely have we read a more amusing invention and a more philosophically roguish prank than Hartmann's. Anyone who is not enlightened by him concerning Becoming, who is not really set right on the inside, is truly ripe for the state of existing in the past. The start and the goal of the world process, from the first motions of consciousness right to the state of being hurled back into nothingness, together with the precisely defined task of our generation for the world process, all presented from such a wittily inventive font of inspiration of the unconscious and illuminated with an apocalyptic light, with everything so deceptively imitative of a unsophisticated seriousness, as if it were really serious philosophy and not playful philosophy, such a totality makes its creator one of the pre-eminent writers of philosophical parodies of all times. Let us sacrifice on an altar, sacrifice to him, the inventor of a truly universal medicine, a lock of hair, to steal an expression of admiration from Schleiermacher. For what medicine would be healthier against the excess of historical culture than Hartmann's parody of all world history?
If we want a correct matter-of-fact account of what Hartmann is telling us about the noxious tri-legged stool of unconscious irony, then we would say that he is telling us that our age would have to be just the way it is if humanity is to ever get seriously fed up with this existence. That is what we believe in our hearts. That frightening fossilizing of the age, that anxious rattling of the bones, which David Strauss has described for us in his naive way as the most beautiful reality, is justified in Hartmann not only retrospectively ex causis efficientibus [from efficient causes, i.e., as the result of certain mechanical causes], but even looking ahead, ex causa finali [from a final cause, i.e., as having a higher purpose]. The joker lets his light stream over the most recent periods of our time, and there finds that our age is very good, especially for the person who wants to endure as strongly as possible the indigestible nature of life and who cannot wish that doomsday comes quickly enough. Indeed, Hartmann calls the age which humanity is now approaching the "maturity of humanity." But that maturity is, according to his own description, the fortunate condition where there is still only " pure mediocrity" and culture is "some evening farce for the Berlin stockbroker," where "geniuses are no longer a requirement of the age, because that means casting pearls before swine or also because the age has progressed to a more important level, beyond the stage for which geniuses are appropriate," that is, to that stage of social development in which each worker "with a period of work which allows him sufficient leisure for his intellectual development leads a comfortable existence." You rogue of all rogues, you speak of the yearning of contemporary humanity; but you also know what sort of ghost will stand at the end of this maturity of humanity as the result of that intellectual development--disgust. Things stand in a state of visible wretchedness, but they will get even more wretched, "before our eyes the Antichrist reaches out further and further around him"--but things must be so, thing must come about this way, because for all that we are on the best route to disgust with all existing things. "Thus, go forward vigorously into the world process as a worker in the vineyard of the Lord, for the process is the only thing which can lead to redemption."
The vineyard of the Lord! The process! For redemption! Who does not see and hear the historical culture which knows the word "becoming" only as it intentionally disguises itself in a misshapen parody, as it expresses through the grotesque grimacing mask held up in front of its face the most wilful things about itself! For what does this last mischievous summons to the workers in the vineyard essentially want from them? In what work are they to strive vigorously forwards? Or, to ask the question another way, what has the historically educated man, the modern fanatic swimming and drowning in the flood of becoming, still left to do, in order to reap that disgust, the expensive grapes of that vineyard? He has to do nothing other than continue to live as he has been living, to continue loving what he has loved, to continue to hate what he has hated, and to continue reading the newspapers which he has been reading. For him there is only one sin, to live differently from the way he has been living. But we are told the way he has been living with the excessive clarity of something written in stone by that famous page with the sentences in large print, in which the entire contemporary cultural rabble kingdom is caught up in a blind rapture and a frenzy of delight, because they believe they read their own justification, indeed, their own justification in the light of the apocalypse. For the unconscious writer of parody has required of each one of them "the complete dedication of his personality to the world process in pursuit of its goal, for the sake of the world's redemption," or still more pellucid, "the approval of the will to live is proclaimed as right only provisionally, for only in the full dedication to life and its pains, not in cowardly renunciation and drawing back, is there something to achieve for the world process," "the striving for individual denial of the will is just as foolish and useless, even more foolish, than suicide." "The thinking reader will also understand without further suggestions how a practical philosophy built on these principles would look and that such a philosophy cannot contain any falling apart but only the full reconciliation with life."
The thinking reader will understand it. And people could misunderstand Hartmann! How unspeakably amusing it is that people misunderstand him! Should contemporary Germans be very sensitive? A trusty Englishman noticed their lack of a Delicacy of Perception, and even dared to say "in the German mind there does seem to be something splay, something blunt-edged, unhandy and infelicitous" Would the great German writer of parodies really contradict him? In fact, according to Hartmann's explanation, we are approaching "that ideal condition, where the race of mankind consciously makes his own history." But obviously we are quite far from that state, perhaps even more ideal, where humanity reads Hartmann's book with awareness. If that state ever arrives, then no person will let the word "World process" pass his lips any more, without these lips breaking into a smile. For with that phrase people will remember the time when Hartmann's parodying gospel with its stolidly middle-class notion of that "German mind," and with "the distorted seriousness of the owl," as Goethe puts it, was listened to, absorbed, disputed, honoured, publicized, and canonized.
But the world must go forward. The ideal condition cannot be dreamed up; it must be fought for and won. Only through joy does the way go to redemption, to redemption from that misunderstood owl-like seriousness. The time will come in which people wisely refrain from all constructions of the world process or even of human history, a time in which people in general no longer consider the masses but once again think about individuals who construct a sort of bridge over the chaotic storm of becoming. These people do not set out some sort of process, but live timelessly and contemporaneously, thanks to history which permits such a combination. They live like the republic of geniuses, about which Schopenhauer once explained that one giant shouts out to another across the barren intervals of time, and undisturbed by the wanton and noisy midgets who creep around them, the giants continue their lofty spiritual conversation. The task of history is to be a mediator between them and thus to provide an opportunity and the energies for the development of greatness. No, the goal of humanity cannot finally be anywhere but in its greatest examples.
By contrast, our comic person naturally states with that wonderful dialectic, just as worthy of admiration as its admirers, "With the idea of this development it would be inconsistent to ascribe to the world process an infinite length of time in the past, because then each and every imaginable development must have already been gone through; that, however, is not the case (O you rascal). And we are no more able to assign to the process an infinite future period. Both of these raise the idea of development to a final goal (o, once again, you rascal) and makes the world process like the water drawing of the Danaids. The complete victory of the logical over the illogical (O, you rascal of all rascals), however, must coincide with the temporal end of the world process, the day of judgement." No, you lucidly mocking spirit, as long as the illogical still prevails to the extent it does today, for example, as long as people can still talk of the "world process" with a common understanding, in the way you talk, judgement day is still a long way off. For it is still too joyful on this earth; many illusions are still blooming (for example, the illusion of your contemporaries about you). We are not yet sufficiently ripe to be flung back into your nothingness. For we believe that things here will get even more amusing when people first begin to understand you, you misunderstood unconscious man. However, if in spite of this, disgust should come with power, just as you have predicted to your readers, if you should be right in your description of your present and future (and no one has hated both with such disgust as you have) then I am happily prepared to vote with the majority, in the way you have proposed, that next Saturday evening at twelve o'clock precisely your world will go under, and our decree may conclude that from tomorrow on there will be no more time and no newspaper will appear any more. However, perhaps the result will fail to materialize, and we have made our decree in vain.
Bit then at any rate we will not lack the time for a beautiful experiment. We take a balance scale and put in one scale pan Hartmann's unconsciousness and in the other Hartmann's world process. There are people who think that they will both weigh the same, for in each scale pan would lie an equally poor quotation and an equally good jest. When people first come to understand Hartmann's jest, then no one will use Hartmann's talk of "world process" as anything but a joke. In fact, it is high time we moved forward to proclaim satirical malice against the dissipation of the historical sense, against the excessive pleasure in the process at the expense of being and living, against the senseless shifting of all perspectives. And in praise of the author of the Philosophy of the Unconscious it should always be repeated that he was the first to succeed in registering keenly the ridiculousness of the idea of the "world process" and to allow an even keener appreciation of that ridiculousness through the particular seriousness of his treatment. Why the "world" is there, why "humanity" is there--these should not concern us at all for the time being. For it may be that we want to make a joke. The presumptuousness of the small human worm is simultaneously the funniest and the most joyful thing on this earthly stage. But why you, as an individual, are there, that is something I am asking you. And if no one else can say it for you, then at least try once to justify the sense of your existence, as it were, a posteriori by establishing for yourself a purpose, a final goal, a "To this end," and a high and noble "To this end." If you are destroyed by this, well, I know no better purpose for life than to die in service of the great and the impossible, animae magnae prodigus [a generous man with a great spirit].
If by contrast the doctrine of the sovereign becoming, of the fluidity of all ideas, types, and styles, of the lack of all cardinal differences between man and animal (doctrines which I consider true but deadly) are foisted on people for another generation with the frenzied instruction which is now customary, then it should take no one by surprise if people destroy themselves in egotistical trifles and misery, ossifying themselves in their self-absorption, initially falling apart and ceasing to be a people. Then, in place of this condition, perhaps systems of individual egotism, alliances for the systematic larcenous exploitation of those non-members of the alliance and similar creations of utilitarian nastiness will step forward onto the future scene. Let people just proceed to prepare these creations, to write history from the standpoint of the masses and to seek for those laws in it which are to be inferred from the needs of these masses, and for the laws of motion of the lowest clay and loam layers of society. To me, the masses seem to be worth a glance in only in three respects: first as blurred copies of great men, presented on bad paper with worn out printing plates, then as the resistance against the great men, and finally as working implements of the great. For the rest, let the devil and statistics carry them off! How might statistics demonstrate that there could be laws in history? Laws? Yes, statistics prove how coarse and disgustingly uniform the masses are. Are we to call the effects of the powerful forces of stupidity, mimicry, love, and hunger laws?
Now, we are willing to concede that point, but by the same token the principle then is established that as far as there are laws in history, they are worth nothing and history is worth nothing. However, precisely this sort of history nowadays is generally esteemed, the history which takes the large mass tendencies as the important and principal thing in history and considers all great men only like the clearest examples of bubbles which become visible in the watery flood. Thus, the mass is to produce greatness out of itself, and chaos is to produce order from itself. At the end, of course, the hymn is sung to the productive masses. Everything which has preoccupied such masses for a long time is then called "Great" and, as people say, "a historical power" has come into being. But is that not a case of quite deliberately exchanging quantity and quality? When the podgy masses have found some idea or other (for example, a religious idea) quite adequate, has tenaciously defended it, and dragged it along for centuries, then, and only then, the discoverer and founder of that idea is to be great. But why? The most noble and highest things have no effect at all on the masses. The historical success of Christianity, its historical power, tenacity, and duration, all that fortunately proves nothing with respect to the greatness of its founder. Basically, that would act as a proof against him. But between him and that historical success lies a very earthly and dark layer of passion, error, greed for power and honour, the persisting powers of the imperium romanum, a layer from which Christianity acquired that earthy taste and scrap of ground which made possible its perseverance in this world and, as it were, gave it its durability.
Greatness should not depend upon success. Demosthenes had greatness, although at the same time he had no success. The purest and most genuine followers of Christianity were always more likely to put their worldly success, their so-called "historical power," into question and to restrict it rather than to promote it. For they trained themselves to stand outside "the world" and did not worry themselves about the "progress of the Christian idea." For this reason, for the most part they are also unknown to history and have remained unnamed. To express this in a Christian manner: in this way the devil is the regent of the world and the master of success and progress. He is in all historical powers the essential power, and so it will substantially remain, although it may for some time sound quite painful to ears which have become accustomed to the idolatry of success and historical power. For in this matter these people have practised giving things new names and have rechristened even the devil. It is certainly a time of great danger: human beings seem to be close to discovering that the egotism of the individual, the group, or the masses was the lever of historical movements at all times. However, at the same time, people are not at all worried by this discovery. On the contrary, people declaim: Egotism is to be our God. With this new faith people are on the point of erecting, with the clearest of intentions, future history on egotism. But it is only to be a clever egotism subject to a few limitations, in order that it may consolidate itself in an enduring way. It is the sort of egotism which studies history just in order to acquaint itself with unclever egotism.
Through this study people have learned that the state has received a very special mission in the established world system of egotism: the state is to become the patron of all clever egotism, so that, with its military and police forces, it may protect against the frightening outbreak of the unintelligent egotism. For the same purpose history, that is, the history of animals and human beings, is also stirred into the popular masses and working classes, who are dangerous because they are unintelligent, for people know that a small grain of historical education is capable of breaking the rough and stupefied instincts and desires or to divert them into the path of improved egotism. In summa: people are paying attention now, to express oneself with E. von Hartmann, " to a deliberate looking into the future for a practical homely structure in their earthly home region." The same writer calls such a period the "full maturity of mankind" and makes fun about what is now called "Man," as if with that term one is to understand only the sober selfish person; in the same way he also prophecies that after such a period of full maturity there comes to this "Man" an appropriate old age, but apparently only with this idea to vent his ridicule on our contemporary old men. For he speaks of the mature peacefulness with which they "review all the chaotic stormy suffering of their past lives and understand the vanity of the previously assumed goals of their striving." No, a maturity of this sly egotism of a historical culture is appropriate for an old age of hostile craving and disgraceful clinging to life and then a final act, with its
last scene of all
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childhood and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
Whether the dangers of our life and our culture now come from these desolate, toothless and tasteless old men, whether they come from those so-called "Men" of Hartmann's, in opposition to both we wish to hold on with our teeth to our right to our youth and not to grow tired of defending, in our youth, the future against these forceful portrayers of the future. In this fight, however, we would have to acknowledge a particularly unpleasant perception: that people intentionally promote the excesses of the historical sense from which the present time suffers, they encourage them, and they use them.
However, people use history against the young, in order to train them for that maturity of egotism which is striven for everywhere; people use it to break the natural aversion of youth through a transfiguring, that is to say, a magically scientific illumination of that manly-effeminate egotism. Yes, people know what a certain predominance of history is capable of; people know it only too well: to uproot the strongest instincts of youth, fire, defiance, forgetting of the self, to dampen down the heat of their sense of right and wrong, to hold back or repress the desire to mature slowly with the contrary desire to be finished quickly, to be useful and productive, to infect the honesty and boldness of the feelings with doubts. Indeed, history is itself capable of deceiving the young about their most beautiful privilege, about their power to cultivate in themselves with complete conviction a great idea and to allow an even greater idea to grow forth out of it. A certain excess of history is capable of all this. We have seen it. And this is the reason: through its incessant shifting of the horizons of significance, through the elimination of a surrounding atmosphere, it no longer allows a person to perceive and to act unhistorically. He then draws himself from the infinity of his horizon back into himself, into the smallest egotistical region and there must wither away and dry up. He probably achieves cleverness in this, but never wisdom. He permits himself inner conversations, calculates, and gets along well with the facts, does not boil over, winks, and understands how to seek out his own advantage or that of his party amid the advantages and disadvantages of strangers; he forgets superfluous modesty and thus step by step becomes a "Man" and an "Old Man" on the Hartmann model. But he should become this--that is the precise sense of the cynical demand nowadays for "the complete dedication of the personality to the world process," so far as his goal is concerned, for the sake of the redemption of the world, as that rascal E. Hartmann assures us. Now, the will and goal of these Hartmann "men" and "old men" is indeed hardly the redemption of the world. Certainly the world would be more redeemed if it were redeemed from these men and old men. For then the kingdom of youth would come.
Imagining this reign of youth, I cry out "Land, land! Enough and more than enough of the passionate seeking and the wandering passage on the dark alien seas!" Now finally a coast reveals itself. Whatever it may be, we must land on it. The worst emergency port is better than returning to staggering in hopeless infinite scepticism. If now we only hold on to the land, we will later find the good havens and ease the approach for those who come later. This journey was dangerous and exciting. How far we are now from the calm contemplation with which we first saw our ship set out to sea. By investigating the dangers of history, we have found ourselves exposed to all these dangers as strongly as possible. We ourselves bear the traces of that illness which has come over humanity in recent times as a result of an excess of history. For example, this very treatise shows its modern character, the character of the weak personality (which I will not conceal from myself) in the intemperance of its criticism, the immaturity of its humanity, the frequent transitions from irony to cynicism, from pride to scepticism. Nevertheless I trust in the inspiring power which, rather than my genius, controls the vessel: I trust in youth, that it has led me correctly when it requires from me now a protest against the historical education of young modern people and if the protester demands that human beings above all learn to live and to use history only in the service of the life which he has learned. People must be young to understand this protest. In fact, among the contemporary grey-haired types of our present youth, one can hardly be young enough still to feel what is here essentially being protested against.
To help people understand this point I will use an example. In Germany it is not much longer than a hundred years ago that a natural instinct for what people call poetry arose in a few young people. Do people think that the previous generations up to that time would never have spoken of that art, inwardly strange and unnatural to them? We know the opposite is true: they thought about "poetry" with loving passion, wrote and argued about it with words, words, and more words. The appearance of that revival of words for living was not the immediate death of those word makers. In a certain sense they are still alive, because if, as Gibbon says, for a world to go under takes not just time but plenty of time, then in Germany, the "land of gradual change," for a false idea to be destroyed takes more than time; it takes a great deal of time. Today there are perhaps a hundred people more than a hundred years ago who know what poetry is; perhaps one hundred years from now there will be another hundred people more who in the meantime have also learned what culture is and that the Germans up to this point have had no culture, no matter how much they may talk and boast about it. For them the very general contentment of the Germans with their "culture" would seem just as incredible and stupid as the formerly acknowledged classicism of Gottsched or the appraisal of Ramler as a German Pindar seem to us. They will perhaps judge that this culture has been only a sort of knowledge about culture and, in addition, a completely false and superficial knowledge. I say false and superficial because people endured the contradiction of life and knowledge, for they did not see anything characteristic of a truly cultured people: that the culture can only grow up and blossom forth out of living. By contrast, with the Germans culture is put up like a paper flower or poured out like a sugar drink. Therefore it must always remain untruthful and infertile.
The German education of the young, however, begins directly from this false and barren idea of culture. Its end goal, imagined in all purity and loftiness, is not at all the freely educated man, but the scholar, the scientific person, indeed, the scientific person who is useful as early as possible, the person who sets himself apart from life in order to recognize it clearly. The product of this education, considered in a correct empirically general way, is the historically and aesthetically educated Philistine, the precocious and freshly wise chatterer about state, church, and art, the sensorium for thousands of sensations, the inexhaustible stomach which nevertheless does not know what an honest hunger and thirst are. The fact that an education with this goal and result is an unnatural education is felt only by the person who has not yet completed it; it is felt only by the instinct of the young, because they still have the instinct of nature, which is first artificially and powerfully broken through that education. But the person who wants to break this education in its turn must assist the young in expressing themselves. He must shine the bright light of ideas to illuminate their unconscious resistance and turn that into a conscious and loudly uttered consciousness. How is he to reach such a strange goal?
Above all through the fact that he destroys a superstition, the faith in the necessity of that method of education. People think that there would be no other possibility than our contemporary highly tiresome reality. Just let someone examine the essential literature of the higher schooling and education system in the last decades exactly on this point. For all the varieties of proposals and for all the intensity of the opposition, the examiner will to his astonishment realize how uniform the thinking is about the entire purpose of education, how thoughtlessly people assume that the present result, the "educated person," as the term is now understood, is a necessary and reasonable fundamental basis for that wider education. That monotonous orthodoxy would sound something like this: the young person has to begin with a knowledge of culture, not at first with a knowledge of life, and even less with life and experience themselves. Moreover, this knowledge about culture as historical knowledge is poured over or stirred into the youth; that is, his head is filled up with a monstrous number of ideas derived from extremely indirect knowledge of past times and peoples, not from the immediate contemplation of living. His desire to experience something for himself and to feel growing in him a coordinated and living system of his own experiences--such a desire is narcotized and, as it were, made drunk through the opulent deceptions about matters of fact, as if it were possible in a few years to sum up in oneself the highest and most remarkable experiences of all times, especially of the greatest ages. It is precisely this insane procedure which leads our young developing artists into the halls of culture and galleries instead of into the workshop of a master and, above all, into the extraordinary workshops of the extraordinary master craftswoman Nature. Yes, as if people were able to predict their ideas and arts, their actual life's work, as cursory strollers in the history of past times. Yes, as if life itself were not a craft which must be learned continuously from the basic material and practised without special treatment, if it is not to allow bunglers and chatterers to be produced
Plato considered it necessary that the first generation of his new society (in the perfect state) would be brought up with the help of a powerful necessary lie. The children were to learn to believe that they had all already lived a long time dreaming under the earth, where they had been properly kneaded and formed by nature's master worker. It was impossible to have any effect against this work of the gods. It is to stand as an inviolable law of nature that the person who is born a philosopher has gold in his body, the person who is born as a guard has only silver, and the person who is born as a worker has iron and bronze. Since it is not possible to mix these metals, Plato explains, then it should not be possible to overthrow or mix up the order of classes. The faith in the aeterna veritas [eternal truth] of this order is the basis of the new education and thus of the new state. The modern German similarly believes now in the aeterna veritas of his education, of his style of culture. Nevertheless, this faith would collapse, as the Platonic state would have collapsed, if in opposition to the necessary lie there was set up a necessary truth: the German has no culture, because he can have nothing whatsoever on the basis of his education. He wants the flowers without roots and stalk. So he wants them in vain. That is the simple truth, unpleasant and gross, a correct necessary truth.
In this necessary truth, however, our first generation must be educated. Certainly they suffer from it with the greatest difficulty, for they must educate themselves through it, in fact, divided against themselves, to new habits and a new nature derived out of old and previous nature and habits, so that they might be able to say with the ancient Spaniards: "Efienda me Dios de my," God, defend me from myself, that is, from the nature already instilled into me. They must taste that truth drop by drop, as if sampling a bitter and powerful medicine. Each individual of this generation must overcome himself, to judge for himself what he might more easily endure as a general judgement concerning an entire age: we are without education, even more, we are ruined for living, for correct and simple seeing and hearing, for the fortunate grasping of what is closest at hand and natural, and we have up to this moment not yet even the basis of a culture, because we ourselves are not convinced that we have a genuine life within us. Fractured and fallen apart, in everything carved up mechanically into an inner and an outer half, saturated with ideas like dragons' teeth producing dragon ideas, thus suffering from the sickness of words and without trust in any unique sensation which is not yet franked with words, as such a non-living and yet uncannily lively factory of ideas and words, I still perhaps have the right to say about myself cogito, ergo sum [I am thinking; therefore, I am], but not vivo, ergo cogito [I am living; therefore, I am thinking]. That empty "Being", not that full and green "Living" is ensured for me. My original feeling only guarantees me that I am a thinking thing, not that I am a living essence, that I am not animal, but at most a cogital. First give me life; then I will make a culture out of it for you!--so shouts each individual of this first generation, and all these individuals will recognize each other from this call. Who will present this life to them?
No god and no human being: only their own youth unleashes this life, and with it you will liberate life for yourself. For it only lay hidden in a prison. It has not yet withered away and died--inquire of yourself!
But this unbridled life is sick and must be healed. It is ailing from many ills. Not only does it suffer from the memory of its fetters; it suffers from what is here our principal concern, from the historical sickness. The excess of history has seized the plastic force of life. It understands no more to make use of the past as a powerful nourishment. The evil is fearsome, and nevertheless if youth did not have the clairvoyant gift of nature, then no one would know that that is an evil and that a paradise of health has been lost. This same youth surmises, however, also with the powerful healing instinct of this same nature, how this paradise can be won back. It knows the juices for wounds and the medicines to combat the historical sickness, to combat the excess of the historical. What are they called?
Now, people should not be surprised: they are the names of poisons: the antidotes against the historical are called the unhistorical and the super-historical. With these names we turn back to the start of our examination and to its close.
With the phrase "the unhistorical" I designate the art and the power of being able to forget and to enclose oneself in a horizon with borders; "super-historical" I call the powers which divert the gaze from what is developing back to what gives existence an eternal and unchanging character, to art and religion. Science (for it is science which would talk about poisons) sees in that force, in these powers opposing forces, for it maintains that only the observation of things is true and right, the scientific way of considering things, which everywhere sees what has come into being as something historical and never as something eternally living. Science lives in an inner contradiction against the eternalizing powers of art and religion just as much as it hates forgetfulness, the death of knowledge, when it seeks to remove all limitations of horizons and to hurl human beings into an infinite sea without frontiers, a sea of light waves of acknowledged becoming.
If he only could live there! As the cities collapse in an earthquake and become desolate and the human being, trembling and in haste, erects his house on volcanic ground, so life breaks apart and becomes weak and dispirited when the earthquake of ideas which science arouses takes from a person the basis of all his certainty and rest, his faith in the eternally permanent. Is life to rule over knowledge now, over science, or is knowledge to rule over life? Which of the two forces is the higher and the decisive one? No one will have any doubt: life is the higher, the ruling power, for knowledge which destroyed life would in the process have destroyed itself. Knowledge presupposes life and has the same interest in preserving life which every being has in its own continuing existence. So science needs a higher supervision and control. A doctrine of a healthy life is positioned close beside science, and a principle of this doctrine of health would sound like this: the unhistorical and the super-historical are the natural counter-measures against the excess cancerous growth of history on life, against the historical sickness. It is probable that we, the historically ill, also have to suffer from the counter measures. But the fact that we suffer from them is no proof against the correctness of the course of treatment we have chosen.
And here I recognize the mission of that youth, that first generation of fighters and dragon slayers, which brings forth a more fortunate and more beautiful culture and humanity, without having more of this future happiness and future beauty than a promise-filled premonition. These youth will suffer from the evil and the counter-measures simultaneously, and nevertheless they believe they may boast of a more powerful health and in general a more natural nature than their previous generations, the educated "Men" and "Old Men" of the present. However, their mission is to shake the ideas which this present holds about "health" and "culture" and to develop contempt and hatred against such hybrid monstrous ideas. The most strongly guaranteed mark of their own stronger health is to be precisely the fact that they, I mean these youth, themselves can use no idea, no party slogan from the presently circulating currency of words and ideas, as a designation of their being, but are convinced only by a power acting in it, a power which fights, eliminates, and cuts into pieces, and by an always heightened sense of life in every good hour. People may dispute the fact that these youth already have culture, but for what young person would this be a reproach? People may speak against their crudeness and immoderation, but they are not yet old and wise enough to be content; above all they do not need to feign any ready-made culture to defend and enjoy all the comforts and rights of youth, especially the privilege of a braver spontaneous honesty and the rousing consolation of hope.
Of these hopeful people I know that they understand all these generalities at close hand and in their own most personal experience will translate them into a personally thought-out teaching for themselves. The others may for the time being perceive nothing but covered over bowls, which could also really be empty, until, surprised one day, they see with their own eyes that the bowls are full and that attacks, demands, living impulses, passions lay mixed in and impressed into these generalities, which could not lie hidden in this way for a long time. I refer these doubters to time, which brings all things to light, and, in conclusion, I turn my attention to that society of those who hope, in order to explain to them in an allegory the progress and outcome of their healing, their salvation from the historical sickness, and thus their own history, up to the point where they will be again healthy enough to undertake a new history and to make use of the past under the mastery of life in a threefold sense, that is, monumental, or antiquarian, or critical. At that point of time they will be less knowledgeable than the "educated" of the present, for they will have forgotten a good deal and even have lost the pleasure of looking for what those educated ones above all wish to know, in general still in order to look back. Their distinguishing marks, from the point of view of those educated ones, are precisely their "lack of education," their indifference and reserve with respect to many famous men, even with respect to many good things. But they have become, at this final point of their healing, once again men and have ceased to be human-like aggregates--that is something! There are still hopes! Are you not laughing at that in your hearts, you hopeful ones!
And, you will ask, How do we come to that end point? The Delphic god shouts out to you, at the very start of your trek to that goal, his aphorism: "Know thyself." It is a difficult saying; for that god "hides nothing and announces nothing, but only points the way," as Heraclitus has said. But what direction is he indicating to you?
There were centuries when the Greeks found themselves in a danger similar to the one in which we find ourselves, that is, the danger of destruction from being swamped by what is foreign and past, from "history." The Greeks never lived in proud isolation; their "culture" was for a long time much more a chaos of foreign, Semitic, Babylonian, Lydian, and Egyptian forms and ideas, and their religion a real divine struggle of the entire Orient, something similar to the way "German culture" and religion are now a self-struggling chaos of all foreign lands and all prehistory. Nevertheless Hellenic culture did not become an aggregate, thanks to that Apollonian saying. The Greeks learned gradually to organize the chaos because, in accordance with the Delphic teaching, they directed their thoughts back to themselves, that is, to their real needs, and let the apparent needs die off. So they seized possession of themselves again. They did not remain long the over-endowed heirs and epigones of the entire Orient. After an arduous battle with themselves, through the practical interpretation of that saying, they became the most fortunate enrichers and increasers of the treasure they had inherited and the firstlings and models for all future national cultures.
This is a parable for every individual among us. He must organize the chaos in himself by recalling in himself his own real needs. His honesty, his better and more genuine character must now and then struggle against what will be constantly repeated, relearned, and imitated. He begins then to grasp that culture can still be something other than a decoration of life, that is, basically always only pretence and disguise; for all ornamentation covers over what is decorated. So the Greek idea of culture reveals itself to him, in opposition to the Roman, the idea of culture as a new and improved nature, without inner and outer, without pretence and convention, culture as a unanimity of living, thinking, appearing, and willing. Thus, he learns out of his own experience that it was the higher power of moral nature through which the Greeks attained their victory over all other cultures and that each increase of truthfulness must also be a demand in preparation for true culture. This truthfulness may also occasionally seriously harm the idea of culture esteemed at the time; it even may be able to assist a totally decorative culture to collapse.