Anyway, back to Nietzsche.
Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals, essentially, can be quickly summarized as follows: once upon a time, there were Masters who were powerful, healthy and who – as all healthy souls do –considered themselves and their actions to be good – strength, dominance, joy, lust for life, selfishness, etc. – and considered the opposite qualities (weakness, submission, sorrow, despair, resignation from life) to be bad.
Then along came the slaves – the weak people who were “bad” under Master morality – and they revaluated morality and, out of spite, applied the label “evil” to what the Masters called “good.” And these slaves also labeled “good” their own weaknesses, which the Masters had called “bad.”
Get it? So these slaves call weakness, sorrow, despair, resignation from life, meekness, pity, compassion and all the rest “good,” while condemning egotism, lust for life, strength, etc. They flipped morality on its head, essentially.
One tribe of slaves (i.e. the Jews) actually managed to make the whole (Western) world bow to their slave morality through the figure of Jesus. So now the whole (Western) world follows slave morality, and Nietzsche saw part of his “mission” as involving “righting” morality, turning it back the way it belongs.
[Incidentally, Nietzsche is always
insistent on Jesus’ Jewishness and on Christianity as an extension (the “finest flower,” in fact) of the slave religion of Judaism…it’s easy to see Nietzsche as being anti-Semitic here, but a much more nuanced (and true) reading is that Nietzsche liked to piss off Christian anti-Semites. He loved reminding anti-Semites that they worship a Jew and that their religion is even *more* Jewish than Judaism! More on Nietzsche’s hatred of anti-Semitism in a bit]
So, Nietzsche’s account is interesting, but as I indicated above, it’s overly simplistic and treats “slave morality” as a corruption of some “Master morality” when in fact what he calls “slave morality” has been demonstrated (since Nietzsche was alive) to be a natural development of evolution.
It’s far more interesting to see Nietzsche’s account of morality as metaphorical of the stages an individual goes through in relation to moral law, and here one should consider the “metamorphoses” at the beginning of Zarathustra. There, Nietzsche represents an individual’s journey as moving through the stages of Camel (having “thou shalts” piled onto one’s back, slave morality), transforming into a Lion (breaking the “thou shalts,” roughly corresponding to master morality), and finally transforming – interestingly enough for Thelemites – into a Child. A “Creator” who creates from the depth of his being.
Now obviously, I’m not trying to write off Nietzsche as being just some metaphorical writer. He clearly was not, and he was intensely critical of democracy, “goodness,” compassion, and all the rest. Or, to put it another way, he was intensely critical of the impulse to laud these things as unquestionably desirable. He wanted to ask where the desire for these things came from. Why does everyone hold up “compassion” as if it’s some great good, he asked. Why does everyone want to put an end to suffering, when all great accomplishments can only be achieved through suffering? Why, he asked, do all philosophers want to find “truth”? After all, so much of what we do is predicated on lies – even our perception of reality is, in a sense, a “lie” constructed by our brains that falsify what we see.
And one of the answers he came up with was “The Will to Power.” That’s why people want to end suffering and resign from life: to gain power over it. That’s why philosophers want to find “truth”: “truth” is their word for the concept by which they gain (at least imaginary) control over life itself.
Man, Nietzsche concluded, is the animal who esteems, the animal who sets value for himself, and it is that setting of value – that giving himself morality – that mastering himself by directing his impulses toward a goal…that is the motion of the Will to Power, the drive to constantly “overcome” himself by mastering himself and directing himself toward a goal.
And so, even though *everything* is a manifestation of this will to power – even slave morality – Nietzsche wanted to construct his own values in the face of nihilism (whose fruit was resignation from life). He wanted to construct life-affirming values.
It’s in this context that he thought “pity” and “sympathy” should be condemned. Here’s a great extract from Beyond Good and Evil on this subject:
OUR sympathy is a loftier and further-sighted sympathy:—we see how MAN dwarfs himself, how YOU dwarf him! and there are moments when we view YOUR sympathy with an indescribable anguish, when we resist it,—when we regard your seriousness as more dangerous than any kind of levity. You want, if possible—and there is not a more foolish "if possible"—TO DO AWAY WITH SUFFERING; and we?—it really seems that WE would rather have it increased and made worse than it has ever been! Well-being, as you understand it—is certainly not a goal; it seems to us an END; a condition which at once renders man ludicrous and contemptible—and makes his destruction DESIRABLE! The discipline of suffering, of GREAT suffering—know ye not that it is only THIS discipline that has produced all the elevations of humanity hitherto? The tension of soul in misfortune which communicates to it its energy, its shuddering in view of rack and ruin, its inventiveness and bravery in undergoing, enduring, interpreting, and exploiting misfortune, and whatever depth, mystery, disguise, spirit, artifice, or greatness has been bestowed upon the soul—has it not been bestowed through suffering, through the discipline of great suffering?
In other words, suffering is a part of life, and a key part of it. People who want to “end suffering,” who want to be relieved from all the pain and misery of existence – these people really want to deny life, to escape from it, to embody nihilism. These people with their “pity” feel so bad about the suffering that is not only inevitable but that feeds the higher achievements. Nietzsche recommends “pity” not for the creature in man, but for the Creator in man: he says that he has a *higher* kind of pity for the Overman, who can only be achieved *through* suffering.
Similar sentiments from the Gay Science
The "religion of compassion" (or "the heart") bids him help, and he thinks he has helped best when he has helped most speedily! If you adherents of this religion actually have the same sentiments towards yourselves which you have towards your fellows, if you are unwilling to endure your own suffering even for an hour, and continually forestall all possible misfortune, if you regard suffering and pain generally as evil, as detestable, as deserving of annihilation, and as blots on existence, well, you have then, besides your religion of compassion, yet another religion in your heart (and this is perhaps the mother of the former) the religion of smug ease. Ah, how little you know of human happiness - you comfortable and benevolent people! For happiness and unhappiness are brother and sister - or even twins who grow up together - or in your case - remain small together!
Fantastic stuff. Shortly thereafter in that section he critiques pity on the grounds that it diverts the individual from his or her path in life.
How is it at all possible for a person to keep to his path! Some cry or other is continually calling one aside: our eye then rarely lights on anything without it becoming necessary for us to leave for a moment our own affairs and rush to give assistance. […]
Indeed, there is even a secret seduction in all this awakening of compassion, and calling for help: our "own way" is a thing too hard and insistent, and too far removed from the love and gratitude of others, we escape from it and from our most personal conscience, not at all unwillingly, and, seeking security in the conscience of others, we take refuge in the lovely temple of the "religion of pity."
There’s much in this insightful passage that comments on the idea of compassion being “the vice of kings,” by the way: compassion is something pleasurable, seductive, but that ultimately diverts the individual from his own path.
But it would be a mistake to conclude from Nietzsche’s disdain for pity and compassion that therefore Nietzsche must have endorsed “being a dick,” as the kids say.
He himself – though forceful, prideful, and all the rest in his published writings that he directed toward people he considered his intellectual community – was quite kind to others in his daily life. There’s a famous line in his writings – so famous that I’ve forgotten where I read it initially…maybe Ecce Homo? – that runs something along the lines of, “my humanity consists not in feeling with other people but enduring that I feel with them,” suggesting someone who feels deeply for other people and who must “overcome” the weight of his natural sympathy in order to philosophize as he does, with a hammer.
And then this from The Antichrist:
When the exceptional man handles the mediocre man with more delicate fingers than he applies to himself or to his equals, this is not merely kindness of heart--it is simply his duty
Plus, Nietzsche was always very kind and gentle to his casual acquaintances. Hell, when he finally had his mental collapse, he broke down on his way to confront a guy who was beating a horse: he greatly disapproved of cruelty toward animals.
Now, obviously, I’m not trying to paint Nietzsche as some kind of PC, Tree-hugging Lefty because he obviously was not. But like a lot of great thinkers and writers, he was very, very good at articulating exactly what he *opposed*, but wasn’t so hot at giving the specifics of what he *advocated.* Sure, he talks up “nobility” and the aristocracy, Masters as opposed to slaves, and he drew a lot of inspiration from classical culture and their ideal of virility (that is, virtu
in its original sense of manly vigor and not the ridiculous Christian, middle-class “virtue,” which is an excuse to deny life)…but there’s nothing in Nietzsche resembling any sort of coherent plan for society or practical scheme for action in the real world. Nietzsche was a man who loved to think and think about thinking, and he loved kicking the asses of lame philosophers like Kant, who just dolled up their stupid Christianity and moral sensibilities in complicated language and tried to justify it thereby. But he wasn’t exactly filled with practical political schemes.
Since I brought up Shelley earlier in the thread, he’s a good example of this same phenomenon of not being able to articulate what he advocates: Shelley had no problem giving voice to *exactly* what he opposed. Read “The Mask of Anarchy” sometime: it’s a scintillating critique of capitalism, government corruption, and privilege, and it sounds like it could have been penned by a modern enthusiast of “Occupy Wallstreet” (if the OWS crowd actually had any talent for doing anything). Listen to the “chorus” of the poem, spoken by the earth itself:
'Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you -
Ye are many - they are few.
We are the 99% indeed. Shelley is writing before
Karl Marx, remember, but he anticipates many of Marxism’s critiques…hell, he even anticipates the whole “cast off your chains” business. It’s very clear what Shelley is against.
But what Shelley wasn’t good at was coming up with some kind of coherent plan of action for the future. His generally-considered-poor epic poem The Revolt of Islam
reimagines the French Revolution as a bloodless coup inspired by poets (of course), but Shelley can’t articulate anything to put in place of monarchy and religion once they fall: he just has his heroes become martyrs at the end, inspiration for the cause of some future revolution.
Compared to these writers, Crowley has the advantage of at least clearly articulating some fairly specific plans and clear ideas of what he advocated. So he gets a thumbs up for that. The only problem with Crowley is that his political writings are juvenile, unworkable, and on the whole pretty stupid and ridiculous. It’s for this reason, by the way, that people roll their eyes when trolls like Keith418 come into town and start lecturing everyone on how we ought to be taking Crowley’s political ideas “seriously” and how “challenging” they are. Or even better, how we really ought to “take seriously” Crowley’s typical, nineteenth-century casual racism.
Speaking of which! There’s one final point to make regarding Nietzsche and the Jews.
It’s certainly true that Nietzsche was critical of the Jews (who wasn’t he critical of?), but he seemed to have a lot of respect for them (for being strong enough to impose their morality on the world, for starters), and he definitely hated
anti-Semites and anti-Semitism in general.
Here’s a fascinating web page with quotes from Nietzsche on anti-Semites and how “disgusted” he was by them: http://www.nietzschespirit.com/files/Anti-Semites.html
I’ll close with a section from Human All Too Human in which Nietzsche discusses the Jews and advocates “the production and training of a European mixed race of the greatest possible strength” in which “the Jew is just as useful and desirable an ingredient as any other national remnant.”
I trust comment is not necessary on this extract and how it demonstrates that Nietzsche was very far from an anti-Semite:
EUROPEAN MAN AND THE DESTRUCTION OF NATIONALITIES. Commerce and industry, interchange of books and letters, the universality of all higher culture, the rapid changing of locality and landscape, and the present nomadic life of all who are not landowners, these circumstances necessarily bring with them a weakening, and finally a destruction of nationalities, at least of European nationalities; so that, in consequence of perpetual crossings, there must arise out of them all a mixed race, that of the European man. At present the isolation of nations, through the rise of national enmities, consciously or unconsciously counteracts this tendency; but nevertheless the process of fusing advances slowly, in spite of those occasional counter currents. This artificial nationalism is, however, as dangerous as was artificial Catholicism, for it is essentially an unnatural condition of extremity and martial law, which has been proclaimed by the few over the many, and requires artifice, lying, and force to maintain its reputation. It is not the interests of the many (of the peoples), as they probably say, but it is first of all the interests of certain princely dynasties, and then of certain commercial and social classes, which impel to this nationalism; once we have recognised this fact, we should just fearlessly style ourselves good Europeans and labour actively for the amalgamation of nations; in which efforts Germans may assist by virtue of their hereditary position as interpreters and intermediaries between nations. By the way, the great problem of the Jews only exists within the national States, inasmuch as their energy and higher intelligence, their intellectual and volitional capital, accumulated from generation to generation in tedious schools of suffering, must necessarily attain to universal supremacy here to an extent provocative of envy and hatred; so that the literary misconduct is becoming prevalent in almost all modern nations and all the more so as they again set up to be national of sacrificing the Jews as the scapegoats of all possible public and private abuses. So soon as it is no longer a question of the preservation or establishment of nations, but of the production and training of a European mixed race of the greatest possible strength, the Jew is just as useful and desirable an ingredient as any other national remnant Every nation, every individual, has unpleasant and even dangerous qualities, it is cruel to require that the Jew should be an exception. Those qualities may even be dangerous and frightful in a special degree in his case; and perhaps the young Stock Exchange Jew is in general the most repulsive invention of the human species. Nevertheless, in a general summing up, I should like to know how much must be excused in a nation which, not without blame on the part of all of us, has had the most mournful history of all nations, and to which we owe the most loving of men (Christ), the most upright of sages (Spinoza), the mightiest book, and the most effective moral law in the world? Moreover, in the darkest times of the Middle Ages, when Asiatic clouds had gathered darkly over Europe, it was Jewish free thinkers, scholars, and physicians who upheld the banner of enlightenment and of intellectual independence under the severest personal sufferings, and defended Europe against Asia; we owe it not least to their efforts that a more natural, more reasonable, at all events un mythical, explanation of the world was finally able to get the upper hand once more, and that the link of culture which now unites us with the enlightenment of Greco Roman antiquity has remained unbroken. If Christianity has done everything to orientalise the Occident, Judaism has assisted essentially in occidentalising it anew; which, in a certain sense, is equivalent to making Europe's mission and history a continuation of that of Greece.