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A Book for Free Spirits

A Book for Free Spirits

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Published by: spas21 on Oct 01, 2009
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05/04/2013

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A Book for Free Spirits
Compiled from translations by Helen Zimmern, R. J. Hollingdale, and Marion Faber.
PREFACE1Often enough, and always with great consternation, people have told me that there issomething distinctive in all my writings, from the “Birth of Tragedy” to the mostrecently published “Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future” [subtitle of 
 Beyond Good and Evil 
]. All of them, I have been told, contain snares and nets for careless birds, andan almost constant, unperceived challenge to reverse one’s habitual estimations andesteemed habits. “What’s that?
 Everything 
is only—human, all too human?” Withsuch a sigh one comes from my writings, they say, with a kind of wariness anddistrust even toward morality, indeed tempted and encouraged in no small way to become the spokesman for the worst things: might they perhaps be only the bestslandered? My writings have been called a school for suspicion, even more for contempt, fortunately also for courage and, in fact, for daring. Truly, I myself do not believe that anyone has ever looked into the world with such deep suspicion, and notonly as an occasional devil’s advocate, but every bit as much, to speak theologically,as an enemy and challenger of God. Whoever guesses something of the consequencesof any deep suspicion, something of the chills and fears stemming from isolation, towhich every man burdened with an unconditional
difference of viewpoint 
iscondemned, this person will understand how often I tried to take shelter somewhere,to recover from myself, as if to forget myself entirely for a time (in some sort of reverence, or enmity, or scholarliness, or frivolity, or stupidity); and he will alsounderstand why, when I could not find what I
needed 
, I had to gain it by forceartificially, to counterfeit it, or create it poetically. (And what have poets ever doneotherwise? And why else do we have all the art in the world?) What I always neededmost to cure and restore myself, however, was the belief that I was
not 
the only one to be thus, to
 see
thus—I needed the enchanting intuition of kinship and equality in theeye and in desire, repose in a trusted friendship; I needed a shared blindness, with nosuspicion or question marks, a pleasure in foregrounds, surfaces, what is near, what isnearest, in everything that has color, skin, appearance. Perhaps one could accuse mein this regard of some sort of “art,” various sorts of finer counterfeiting: for example,that I had deliberately and willfully closed my eyes to Schopenhauer’s blind will tomorality, at a time when I was already clear-sighted enough about morality; similarly,that I had deceived myself about Richard Wagner’s incurable romanticism, as if itwere a beginning and not an end; similarly, about the Greeks; similarly about theGermans and their future—and there might be a whole long list of such similarlies.But even if this all were true and I were accused of it with good reason, what do
 you
know, what
could 
you know about the amount of self-preserving cunning, or reasonand higher protection that is contained in such self-deception—and how muchfalseness I still
require
so that I may keep permitting myself the luxury of mytruthfulness?...Enough, I am still alive; and life has not been devised by morality: it
wants
deception, it
lives
on deception—but wouldn't you know it? Here I am,
 
 beginning again, doing what I have always done, the old immoralist and birdcatcher, Iam speaking immorally, extra-morally, “beyond good and evil.”2Thus then, when I found it necessary, I
invented 
once upon a time the “free spirits,” towhom this discouragingly encouraging book with the title “Human, All Too Human,”is dedicated. There are no such “free spirits” nor have there been such, but, as alreadysaid, I then required them for company to keep me cheerful in the midst of evils(sickness, loneliness, foreignness—acedia, inactivity) as brave companions and ghostswith whom I could laugh and gossip when so inclined and send to the devil when they became bores—as compensation for the lack of friends. That such free spirits
will be possible
some day, that our Europe
will 
have such bold and cheerful sights amongsther sons of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, actually and bodily, and notmerely, as in my case, as the shadows of a hermit’s phantasmagoria—I should be thelast to doubt thereof. Already I see them coming, slowly; and perhaps I am doingsomething to hasten their coming when I describe in advance under what auspices Isee them originate, and upon what paths I see them come.3One may conjecture that a spirit in whom the type “free spirit” will one day becomeripe and sweet to the point of perfection has had its decisive experience in a
 great liberation
and that previously it was all the more a fettered spirit and seemed to bechained forever to its pillar and corner. What fetters the fastest? What bonds are all but unbreakable? In the case of men of a high and select kind they will be their duties:that reverence proper to youth, that reserve and delicacy before all that is honored andrevered from of old, that gratitude for the soul out of which they have grown, for thehand which led them, for the holy place where they learned to worship—their supreme moments themselves will fetter them the fastest, lay upon them the mostenduring obligation. The great liberation comes from those who are thus fetteredsuddenly, like the shock of an earthquake: the youthful soul is all at once convulsed,torn loose, torn away—it itself does not know what is happening. A drive and impulserules and masters it like a command; a will and desire awakens to go off, anywhere, atany cost; a vehement dangerous curiosity for an undiscovered world flames andflickers in all its senses. “Better to die than to go on living
here
”—thus resounds theimperious voice and temptation: and this “here,” this “at home” is everything it hadhitherto loved! A sudden terror and suspicion of what it loved, a lightning-bolt of contempt for what it called “duty," a rebellious, arbitrary, volcanically erupting desirefor travel, strange places, estrangement, coldness, soberness, frost, a hatred for love, perhaps a desecrating blow and glance
backwards
to where it formerly loved andworshipped, perhaps a hot blush of shame at what it has just done and at the sametime an exultation
that 
it has done it, a drunken, inwardly exultant shudder which betrays that a victory has been won—a victory? over what? over whom? an enigmatic,question-packed, questionable victory, but the
 first 
victory nonetheless: such bad and painful things are part of the history of the great liberation. It is at the same time asickness that can destroy the man who has it, this first outbreak of strength and will toself-determination, to evaluating on one’s own account, this will to
 free
will: and howmuch sickness is expressed in the wild experiments and singularities through whichthe liberated prisoner now seeks to demonstrate his mastery over things! He prowls
 
cruelly around with an unslaked lasciviousness; what he captures has to expiate the perilous tension of his pride; what excites him he tears apart. With a wicked laugh heturns round whatever he finds veiled and through some sense of shame or other sparedand pampered: he puts to the test what these things look like
when
they are reversed.It is a matter of arbitrariness with him, and pleasure in arbitrariness, if he now perhaps bestows his favor on what had hitherto a bad repute—if he inquisitively andtemptingly haunts what is specially forbidden. Behind all his toiling and weaving— for he is restlessly and aimlessly on his way as if in a desert—stands the questionmark of a more and more perilous curiosity. “Can
all 
values not be turned round? andis good perhaps evil? and God only an invention and finesse of the Devil? Iseverything perhaps in the last resort false? And if we are deceived, are we not for thatvery reason also deceivers?
must 
we not be deceivers?—such thoughts as these tempthim and lead him on, ever further away, ever further down. Solitude encircles andembraces him, ever more threatening, suffocating, heart-tightening, that terriblegoddess and mater saeva cupidinum [“wild mother of the passions”]—but who todayknows what
 solitude
is?...4From this morbid isolation, from the desert of these years of temptation andexperiment, it is still a long road to that tremendous overflowing certainty and healthwhich may not dispense even with sickness, as a means and fish-hook of knowledge,to that
mature
freedom of spirit which is equally self-mastery and discipline of theheart and permits access to many and contradictory modes of thought—to that inner spaciousness and indulgence of superabundance which excludes the danger that thespirit may even on its own road perhaps lose itself and become infatuated and remainseated intoxicated in some corner or other, to that superfluity of formative, curative,molding and restorative forces which is precisely the sign of 
 great 
health, thatsuperfluity which grants to the free spirit the dangerous privilege of living
experimentally
and of being allowed to offer itself to adventure: the master’s privilegeof the free spirit! In between there may lie long years of convalescence, years full of variegated, painfully magical transformations ruled and led along by a tenacious
will to health
which often ventures to clothe and disguise itself as health already achieved.There is a midway condition which a man of such a destiny will not be able to recallwithout emotion: it is characterized by a pale, subtle happiness of light and sunshine,a feeling of bird-like freedom, bird-like altitude, bird-like exuberance, and a thirdthing in which curiosity is united with a tender contempt. A “free spirit"—this coolexpression does one good in every condition, it is almost warming. One lives nolonger in the fetters of love and hatred, without yes, without no, near or far as onewishes, preferably slipping away, evading, fluttering off, gone again, again flyingaloft; one is spoiled, as everyone is who has at some time seen a tremendous number of things
beneath
him—and one becomes the opposite of those who concernthemselves with things which have nothing to do with them. Indeed, the free spirithenceforth has to do only with things—and how many things!—with which he is nolonger 
concerned 
...5A step further in convalescence: and the free spirit again draws near to life—slowly,to be sure, almost reluctantly, almost mistrustfully. It again grows warmer around

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