Nietzsche in the Light of Spiritual Science
Berlin, 20th March, 1909
The only meeting with Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900, German philosopher) belongs to the experiences I do not forget again. At that time, he was quite mad. The sight was very important. Imagine a human being, a man who has dealt with the question the whole morning which immediately suggests itself, and who has the wish to rest some time after dinner and to let go on the thoughts sounding in himself: he lay there this way. I had the impression of a healthy man, and, besides, he was already completely mad; he recognised nobody. His forehead was moulded like that of an artist and a thinker, and, nevertheless, it was the forehead of a maniac. A riddle faced me. Human beings of his kind of insanity would have had to look completely different. Only by means of spiritual science, one can explain this unusual.
The etheric body, the carrier of memory, is connected with the physical body during the whole life, but it is connected different with the different human beings. With some, the relation is not very solid, with others very close. Now Nietzsche's etheric body was very movable from the start. Such human beings can have two qualities: the one is an ingenious, easily movable mental force and imagination, the ability to connect widely separated concepts and to get a synopsis of widely divergent perspectives. Such persons are not as easily restrained as others are by the gravity of the physical body in the conditions given by life.
Before Friedrich Nietzsche had done his doctorate, he was appointed professor of Classics in Basel. From his teacher, Professor Ritschl (Friedrich Wilhelm R., 1806–1876), information was gathered. This answered: Nietzsche is able to do everything he wants. Thus, it happened that he did his doctorate when he already held a chair. Nietzsche had an agile mind. Such a human being does not live in ideas, which are palpable. He lives, so to speak, separated like by a wall from the everyday life.
However, something else is connected with such a mental disposition: he is condemned to a certain life tragedy. He hard finds the way to the immediate things of existence, he easily lives in that which cannot be seen by the eyes, be seized by the hands what can be observed in the everyday life but in that which humanity has acquired as spiritual goods. He lives in certain ways like separated by walls from the sufferings and joys of life. His look wanders into the vast, more in that which humanity has gained and created for itself, than in the everyday. Hence, it could occur that Nietzsche was in a special situation towards the civilisation of the nineteenth century.
Someone who surveys the civilisation of the second half of the nineteenth century sees that an immense jerk forward is done in the conquest of the physical world. We take the year 1858/59. It was the year, which brought the work of Darwin (Charles D., 1809–1882, English naturalist) of the origin of species by which the look of the human beings was banished completely in the physical concerning the evolution idea. This year also brought the work by which the matters of our fixed stars and the most distant sky space were conquered: the spectral analysis by Kirchhoff (Gustav Robert K., 1824–1887, physicist) and Bunsen (Robert Wilhelm B., 1811–1899, German chemist). Only since that time, it was possible to say, the substances, which are found on earth, are also found on the other planets. Then appeared the book about aesthetics by Friedrich Theodor Vischer (1807–1887, 1846–1857: Aesthetics or the Science of Beauty) which wanted to found the science of beauty bottom up, while one had once explained beauty top down, from the idea. To complete the picture: that work appeared which wanted to force the social life into the only sensuous world, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy by Karl Marx (1818–1883). Briefly, the time in which Nietzsche grew up was the time in which the human beings directed their look completely to the physical world.
Now imagine which forms all that has accepted in the course of the second half of the nineteenth century: think of Haeckel (Ernst H., 1834–1919, German naturalist) and other researchers who only targeted what presented itself to their sensuous eyes; think of everything that natural sciences and technology have performed in the nineteenth century. It appears to us compared with these currents like an escape of humanity to spirituality if at that time wide circles are seized by the philosophy of Schopenhauer (Arthur Sch., 1788–1860). At that time, the mere interest in Schopenhauer's philosophy shows that the human souls escaped to something that should grant spiritual satisfaction. We see one of the great spirits of the nineteenth century, Richard Wagner (1813–1883, composer), attempting to let spirituality flow again into civilisation.
In this cultural trend, Nietzsche positioned himself. How did he do this? The just mentioned persons positioned themselves creatively in it, and creating is something blissful. Working makes the human being young and fresh. This becomes apparent with Haeckel. Somebody who works on the microscope and other instruments and does research can make himself happy and rejuvenate in this work, he is able to do all that also light-heartedly, and he forgets the need for a spiritual world; in him something lives that can animate the human being, creative enthusiasm, which has something divine-spiritual. Nietzsche's destiny was this cultural trend. He was destined to take joy and sorrow from this cultural trend because he was not directly connected with the everyday life. He had the nagging feeling, how can one live with that which the modern civilisation offers? Nietzsche's heart was involved in everything with joy or sorrow. He lived through everything with his soul that happened in the nineteenth century.
We see two spirits intervening early in Nietzsche's life: Schopenhauer whom he got to know not personally who had a deep effect on him by his writings, and Richard Wagner with whom he was tied together by the most tender bond of friendship. Both spirits induced Nietzsche to become engrossed in the riddle of ancient Greece in the beginning of our culture. He had done deep looks in the Greek world, from the oldest time up to those periods which history illumines brighter. The Greek of the oldest time seems to be much closer to divinity than later, when he tries to show pictures of the gods in his pieces of art: he makes them human-like, raises the form of the human being to the ideal image. The Greek was not that way in primeval times. He felt everything vividly flowing into himself what was outdoors what blows in the storm and grumbles with the thunder, what streaks in the flash what as harmonising wisdom has set up the world outdoors. At that time, in his original music the Greek expressed this harmony and created it in his temple dances.
Nietzsche called the ancient Greek the Dionysian human being. The later Greek, the Apollonian human being, reproduced what the original Greek was. He stood there considering and expressed it in his pieces of art. At this development Nietzsche looked like at a riddle, because he had no knowledge of that primeval culture which was the basis of the Greek and even earlier cultures from which it had taken its force. An expression of that primeval culture was also, what was expressed as wisdom in the Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries as myth creation and art. Nietzsche did not know this. He thought that everything was instinct, basic instinct with the ancient Greek. He knew nothing about that wisdom which was fostered by initiates originally in the mysteries, which then flowed into the world, illustrated in pieces of art and mystery plays. Nietzsche was not able to look into these mysteries, but he had a premonition of them. Hence, he felt worried, because he could not find the correct answer to his questions. In that primeval wisdom of the human being to which spiritual science goes back, he would have had to search the answer to his Dionysian human being and his Apollonian human being. He would have to get the solution of the riddle from the Eleusinian and Orphic mysteries. Then he could have seen how art fosters the beholding, and how science and religion look for that which can penetrate the human heart with devoutness.
Religion, art, and science were not yet separated in the old mysteries from each other. They originated from one root. The ancient mysteries are this root. With the leading peoples of antiquity, they were fostered in secret sites efficiently and were developed to ritual acts. The descent of the primeval wisdom was represented to the neophyte in pictures. This remained concealed to Nietzsche; therefore, he could not find the coherence, which he searched. Only tragically, the development of the Greek spiritual life could present itself to him. He stills sees Aeschylus (525–456 BC), who was close to the mysteries, creating his drama penetrated with inner wisdom. However, he also sees Sophocles (497–406 BC) and in particular Euripides (480–406 BC) already creating their dramas which only show the exterior. He recognises that the Socratics find concepts that are far from the world sources and that they place themselves like considering beyond the world content in the universe. It seemed to him in such a way that in Socrates the world itself does no longer pulsate, but only the concepts of it, that he leads the Greek pulsating life to dry, sober abstraction. Nietzsche was painfully affected by the fact that Socrates put up the sentence that virtue is teachable. He understood it in such a way that the old Greek felt what he should do; he did not ask whether it is right or wrong. Only a time estranged to divinity could ask, can one learn what is good? Hence, Nietzsche considered Socrates as the person of the decline of Greek culture.
Schopenhauer appeared to Nietzsche as a human being who had an idea of that what led to the sources of existence. He built the bridge from the abstract world of human mental pictures to the deeper sources of existence pulsating in the will. This satisfied Nietzsche's pursuit of truth. Richard Wagner appeared to him as a person risen from the old Hellenism. It was blissful for Nietzsche to develop according to such an exceptional person who walked along beside him in flesh and blood. A substitute of that which the external world is to the other human beings was this friendship with Richard Wagner.
As a deposit of his world of thought in this time we have the writing The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music, appeared in 1872, in which already the whole Nietzsche is included. There is already found the Apollonian and the Dionysian. Further Schopenhauer as Educator. Nietzsche writes empathically about Schopenhauer like someone who writes about his father. Then Richard Wagner in Bayreuth, it is regarded by everybody as the best writing about Richard Wagner.
No time is so closely related to philistines as the time of materialism. In no book, David Friedrich Strauss (1808–1874, German theologian) expresses this connection so strongly as in the book The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined (1835/36). Nietzsche named and shamed this philistine attitude in his writing about David Friedrich Strauss. Nietzsche who longed for the re-erection of the Dionysian human being could be outraged against the philistine attitude of David Friedrich Strauss. David Friedrich Strauss, the Confessor and the Writer is a redeeming essay.
Then he did something as an academician. He had experienced the time without fire and enthusiasm of the academics. If anybody said, there can be new ideas, one can do this or that, then the others came who said: however, history shows us that nothing can develop by leaps and bounds, everything goes on quietly. One was afraid of what one called a leap in history. Nietzsche wrote a book in which he said, pluck up courage, be a human being, do not only look for history, have the courage to be independent and to act independently! Again a releasing book, of a comprising radicalism in its demand for emancipation from history. He expressed that historical mood is an obstacle of everything original in the impulses of the human beings.
Nietzsche lived up to 1876 in such a way. His development was in such a way that he stood far from the events in the world. The easy mobility of his etheric body caused this. In 1876, when Wagner was at the peak of his creating and had realised in the outside world what lived in his soul, Nietzsche discovered, what faces you does not correspond to the picture, which has lived in you. — This was the case simply because he had built something like a wall against the demands of the external realities.
He could not recognise in the outside what he had formed inside as mental pictures. There Nietzsche became confused. What made him confused? Wagner? Not really. Richard Wagner never made him confused, because he did not know the objective Richard Wagner at all. He was confused by his idea, which he had got of Wagner. Now Nietzsche became confused by the whole perspective, which had led him to Wagner. He was confused by any idealism. With the idealistic Wagner, he lost all ideals which humanity can generally spin out. Thus, the feeling originated in him: idealism and all contemplation about the spiritual is a lie, is untruthfulness, illusion. The human beings have deluded themselves about that what is real, while they have made pictures of the real to themselves. Nietzsche began to suffer from himself.
Now he is engrossed in opposite currents of the spiritual life, in the positive natural sciences and the branches, which are built up on these. He becomes acquainted with an interesting spirit, with Paul Rée (1849–1901, German philosopher) who had written a book about moral sensations and the origin of conscience. This work The Origin of the Moral Sensations, 1877) is typical for the last third of the nineteenth century in which is searched and worked according to the methods of natural sciences. It completely gets the origin of moral sensations and conscience out of the impulses and instincts of the human being. Paul Rée makes this wittily. Nietzsche is delighted by this worldview about which he says to himself, there any illusion is overcome, and one can understand human life only from that which is palpable. Now I feel all ideals like masks of desires and instincts. In Human, All Too Human, a book which appears in aphoristic form, he tries to show how basically all ideals do not lead beyond the human being, but are something that is rooted in the all too human, in the feeling and in the everyday. Nietzsche could never find the way to the everyday immediately. He did not know the general-human from practice. He wanted to experience it now from theory with all joys and sufferings. In addition, life praxis became theory to him. This was wonderfully expressed in Daybreak (1881). Everything appears to him not only disproved, but got cold, as put on ice.
With particular satisfaction, Nietzsche now studies Eugen Dühring's (1833–1921) Philosophy of Reality (1878). In it, he delights himself; however, he is not a parroter of it. He writes many, partly extremely disparaging remarks in his personal copy. However, he tries to experience emotionally what is brought forward there as positive science. The French morality authors who aim at assessing moral of life not by standards, but by events become a stimulating reading for him. This becomes his tragedy or also his bliss. These are the essentials that he lives through all that. It works different on him from those who had created these works. He must always ask himself, how does one live with these things?
Now, however, we see significant ideas originating to him from such conditions, ideas from which we must say that Nietzsche knocked at the gate of spiritual science, just as he had once stood before it with his Dionysian human being, guessing the mysteries. The gates were not opened to him. With one of these ideas, one can prove almost how it has originated. In Dühring's book A Course of Philosophy as a Strictly Scientific Worldview and Way of Life you find a strange passage. There Dühring tries to put the question whether it is possible that the same combination of atoms and molecules, which has been there once, returns one day in the same way.
During three weeks in which I have ordered Nietzsche's library, I myself have seen that he had marked this passage in this book and had added remarks. From then on, at first in the subconsciousness, the idea of the so-called everlasting return worked in him. This idea, which he developed more and more, has imprinted itself on Nietzsche's soul in such a way that it became a creed to him; he has familiarised himself with it that it became his tragedy. It expresses that everything that was there once returns in the same combination and with all details repeatedly, even if after long intervals. As well as we are sitting here now, we would come again heaps of times. This was a feeling, which belonged to the tragedy of his soul, the feeling: with all grief which now you experience you will always return. — Thus, we realise that Nietzsche has become the materialistic thinker by Dühring's idea of return — which Dühring rejects. For him there was only this return of the same a consequence of a materialistic idea.
We see Nietzsche's ideas crystallising from the cultural trend of the nineteenth century. Darwinism shows how the evolution of the imperfect to the perfect takes place how evolution advances from the simple living being to the developed human being. As for Nietzsche, it is not speculation; this becomes a source of bliss for him. It is a satisfaction for him to see the world in its development. However, he cannot stop. He says to himself, the human being has become; should he not develop further? Should the development be concluded with the human being if we see that imperfect beings have developed up to the human being? There we must look at the human being as a transition to a super-human. — Thus, the human being became to him a bridge between worm and super-human.
Nietzsche stood with his idea of the everlasting return with his whole feeling and thinking before the gate of the spiritual-scientific truth of reincarnation. He stood also with the idea of the super-human before the gate of spiritual science, which shows us that in every human being something lives that we have to understand as a divine essence of the human being. This essence is a kind of super-human if we are allowed to use the expression. When the human being has gone through many incarnations and has become more and more perfect, he will ascend to even higher degrees of existence.
Nietzsche knew nothing about all these concrete secrets of spiritual science. He knew nothing about that what we know if we look behind the sensuous, palpable. He could only emotionally grasp what lived in his soul, not with his ego. Instead of the portrayals of the spiritual facts that can fulfil us with bliss, instead of the portrayal of that world of facts which shows us how within the planetary development the human being ascends from stage to stage, all that lived with Nietzsche in the feeling, and sounds lyrically from Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1885). It is an enthusiastic portrayal of the guessed that he could not behold. Like a question appears to us his hymn on the super-human.
How could this thirsty soul have been satisfied? Only if it had got to know spiritual science as contents. Nietzsche had to bleed out emotionally in his longing for it. Only spiritual science could have brought him what he strove for without being able to grasp it. In the last book, which he wanted to call Will to Power, it is especially clear how he could come to no fulfilment of his soul with the desired spiritual contents. Compare everything that spiritual science says about the higher human being and his affiliation to spiritual worlds with the abstract will to power, which has, actually, no contents. Power is something quite abstract if it is not said what should have power.
Just this posthumous work Will to Power shows Nietzsche's vain and fateful striving that is so great in its notions. Again, you can observe the tragedy, how this striving for an unknown land grows into insanity. Just at the example of Nietzsche, you can see where the civilisation of the nineteenth century had to lead the deeper feeling personalities. Therefore, many people who guessed something beyond the material, the palpable and could not find it because they stopped with this civilisation had to bleed out. That is why Nietzsche's tragedy also shows a big piece of the tragedy of the nineteenth century. This tragedy appears in particular, if we realise how Nietzsche with a boldness which only a human being can have who is not firmly connected with his etheric body, with the inhibitions of the physical body, how Nietzsche criticises Christianity in his Antichrist (1895). For Christianity is that what he says a harsh but comprehensible and extremely urgent criticism. A lot of that which this Antichrist contains is exceptionally worth reading. Nevertheless, the whole standpoint of Nietzsche shows us how a mind must behave to whom all philosophy appears as nihilism, who wants to search the spirit from reality and cannot find this spirit in the modern form of Christianity. It will turn out more and more that humanity recognises the big impulses and the whole deepness of Christianity only by spiritual science, so that one can say, Christianity has been recognised up to now only to a lesser extent. Nietzsche did not have this consciousness; he did not recognise Christianity properly. Why could he not recognise it? Because he could not anticipate the course of development — in the sense of spiritual science. I want to show it with an example.
About 600 years before Christ, Buddha appeared whom one cannot admire and revere enough if one recognises him really. He grows up as a king's son, surrounded by all joys of life. Any grief is kept away from him. It is ensured that he never leaves the gardens of his palace. Nevertheless, once he comes out of the sanctified area of the palaces and temples. He meets an old man, a sick person, a dead person. He sees: age is suffering, illness is suffering, and death is suffering. He recognises that in every rebirth the sufferings must come again. The great truth of the spiritual life reveals itself to Buddha. Therefore, he teaches that one should give up his longing for re-embodiment to be merged in the peace of the spiritual world.
We look at Christ now. We reincarnate in the substances of the earth. Our task is to purify, to internalise and to spiritualise this substance gradually. We carry the fruits of our pilgrimage on earth up to the spirit, and connect them thereby with the spiritual existence. May the earth then be only a vale of tears, which one should leave? No, the earth was blessed, because Christ walked about it, because his body was built from the substances of the earth, and because He permeated the earth with his forces. — The first Christians spoke that way. The human being absorbs something of the Christ principle in every life, purifies himself thereby gradually. Rebirth is not suffering, because only thereby we become able to recognise illness, age, evil as tests, as a means of education of our soul to become good and strong. The soul, which soars this knowledge, is healthy and fosters its surroundings.
Today the fear of hereditary predisposition penetrates humanity. If the human being opened himself or herself to the Christ impulse again, the illnesses would be overcome. On Golgotha, the symbol of death became the symbol of redemption. Being separated from that what one loves is suffering. However, one can be connected with those whom one loves if one is inspired by the Christ principle. One learns bit by bit to experience this union as reality. The Christ principle transforms the sufferings described by Buddha. Overcoming the sufferings one can reach not only by turning away from life, but also by the transformation of the soul. At the sight of the corpse of the crucified, we realise the riddle of the everlasting life going through death.
Nietzsche regards Christianity just as the opposite of that, what lies in its concealed deepness and what should be brought to light by spiritual science. He bleeds out because he could not recognise this. Nietzsche's grief is the deepest, most painful longing for the sources of life. Because his spirit was not firmly tied to his physical body, he does not come to the right solution of the world riddles tormenting him. Thus, it could happen that he did not find the right answer to his question to life which spiritual science could have given him, that he passed by. When the tools of the physical body could no longer serve him, he cast it off, so to speak, he divests himself of the physical body that has become useless for the thinker, and he hovers over it as it were. Thus, he appears to the viewer looking at him as healthy, as someone who only wants to rest from intensive work of thought. In such a way, he lay there like a picture of the tragedy of modern materialistic science, which cannot recognise the spiritual.