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myself! " It is on such soil, on swampy ground, that every weed, every poisonous plant grows, always so small, so hidden, so false, so saccharine. (GM III:14)

Morality as consequence, as symptom, as mask, as tartufferie, as illness, as misunderstanding; but also morality as cause, as remedy, as stimulant, as restraint, as poison. . . . (GM P:6)

"Which of us would be a free spirit," this free spirit asks, "if the church did not exist? It is the church, and not its poison, that repels us.—Apart from the church, we, too, love the poison.—" (GM I:9)

This triad of passages suggests the range of victims that the Genealogy's poisons afflict. One might see this triad as producing an inverse conjugation of poisonings: They are poisoned (passage one); you (assuming you take yourself to be moral) are poisoned (passage two); we (the free spirits) are poisoned (passage three). That Nietzsche intends to include himself among the poisoned free spirits is suggested by his remark, following the third passage: "This is the epilogue of a 'free spirit' to my speech; . . . he had been listening to me till then and could not endure to listen to my silence. For at this point I have much to be silent about" (GM I:9).

The most palatable contexts in which Nietzsche mentions poison are those in which some third person or group is contaminated. And the Genealogy is replete with such suggestions. Its "cool, scientific" accounts of slave morality, ressentiment , and asceticism are laced with "poisons" as a metaphor for these conditions. [3] For example, "poison" is the metaphor that a "free spirit" uses to summarize the Genealogy's master-slave analysis: "'The masters' have been disposed of; the morality of the common man has won. One may conceive of this victory as at the same time a blood-poisoning . . .—I shan't contradict" (GM I:9). Similarly, Nietzsche describes the paradigmatic spiritual ascetic, the believer who worships "holy God," as one who aims to poison everything:

In this psychical cruelty there resides a madness of the will which is absolutely unexampled: the will of man to find himself guilty and reprehensible to a degree that can never be atoned for; his will to think himself punished without any possibility of the punishment becoming equal to the guilt; his will to infect and poison the fundamental ground of things with the problem of punishment and guilt so as to cut off once and for all his own exit from this labyrinth of "fixed ideas"; his will to erect an ideal—that of the "holy God"—and in the face of it to feel the palpable certainty of his own absolute unworthiness. On this insane, pathetic beast—man! (GM II:22)

If we ponder these descriptions even a little, we are likely to doubt that they are only third-person reports. Quite a few of us consider ourselves, if not worshippers, at least moral. Nietzsche's descriptions of the poisoned may hit a bit close to home. And as we shall see shortly, he takes pains to ensure that we recognize ourselves.

Poison abounds, as apparently do its victims. But Nietzsche startles with his admission that he is among the poisoned. Besides his provocative claim about his own need to keep silent, he asserts with respect to "us psychologists nowadays" that "probably, we, too, are still victims of and prey to this moralized contemporary taste and ill with it, however much we think we despise it—probably it infects even us " (GM III:20). Before we can ascertain the significance of poison of the Genealogy , however, we need to determine what Nietzsche is revealing when he claims that he, too, is probably poisoned.

Nietzsche As Poisoned

Nietzsche's Genealogy is not the first occasion on which he described himself as infected. The preface to the second edition of The Gay Science begins with a depiction of himself as convalescing from a disease, and he describes the experience of disease as a precondition to his understanding of philosophy. [4] In Thus Spoke Zarathustra , Nietzsche's depiction of Zarathustra being bitten and poisoned by the tarantula against whom he preaches may suggest that Nietzsche sees himself in the similar condition of sharing the poison of the age he criticizes. This image of being bitten by the tarantula recalls an earlier section in which Zarathustra is bitten by a venomous snake. [5] But in the Genealogy , Nietzsche directly casts himself as one who, along with both Christians and free spirits of his age, has ingested poison. What are we to make of this?

Three observations can be made here. In the first place, Nietzsche admits that he is probably poisoned. The details of Nietzsche's inner life are left mysterious, more mysterious here than in most of his other writings. But he allows us to treat his discussions in the Genealogy as the products of a poisoned mind. No, it is incorrect to say that he allows us an ad hominem response to his writing. He demands that we respond in this way.

Second, Nietzsche suggests that he has reached his current physical condition deliberately. He casts the entire exploration that has led him to write the Genealogy as a Dr. Hyde-type experiment.

I distinguished between ages, peoples, degrees of rank among individuals; I departmentalized my problem; out of my answers there grew new questions, inquiries, conjectures, probabilities—until at length I had a country of my own, a soil of my own, an entire discrete, thriving, flourishing world, like a secret garden the existence of which no one suspected. (GM P:3)

This strategy itself produced disturbing symptoms:

Whoever sticks with it and learns how to ask questions here will experience what I experienced—a tremendous new prospect opens up for him, a new possibility comes over him like a vertigo, every kind of mistrust, suspicion,

fear leaps up, his belief in morality, in all morality, falters—finally a new demand becomes audible. Let us articulate this new demand : we need a critique of moral values, the value of these values themselves must be called in question . (GM P:6)

While the infection Nietzsche admits to having is most likely not self-inflicted, the symptoms he describes as the result of his experiment are remarkably akin to those produced by the poisons he considers elsewhere. The "poisoned" resentful gaze into a vertiginous well of suspicions:

The suffering scour the entrails of their past and present for obscure and questionable occurrences that offer them the opportunity to revel in tormenting suspicions and to intoxicate themselves with the poison of their own malice: they tear open their oldest wounds, they bleed from long-healed scars, they make evildoers out of their friends, wives, children, and whoever stands closest to them. (GM III:15)

And suspicion is the medium through which infection is transmitted. In discussing "all men of ressentiment, " Nietzsche asks when they would "achieve the ultimate, subtlest, sublimest triumph of revenge?" The answer:

Undoubtedly if they succeeded in poisoning the consciences of the fortunate with their own misery, with all misery, so that one day the fortunate began to be ashamed of their good fortune and perhaps said to one another: "It is disgraceful to be fortunate: there is too much misery! " (GM III:14)

But a third observation should be made about Nietzsche's description of his own situation in the Genealogy . He insists that his "subterranean" experiences have been a strange good fortune. [6] He concludes his description of the "secret garden" that he has constructed with the exclamation, "—Oh how fortunate we are, we men of knowledge, provided only that we know how to keep silent long enough!" (GM P:3). The admonition to keep silent here is reminiscent of alchemy, with its aim of self-transformation. Silence is essential to alchemic methodology, for it ensures the damming up of tremendous pressure, which provides energy to be used in the metamorphosis. But silence is also the harbor of suspicions. A suspicion confessed can be confronted and questioned; but a secret suspicion grows according to its own entelechy. And elsewhere Nietzsche (through Zarathustra) describes this development as itself a poisonous thing: "All truths that are kept silent become poisonous" (Z II:12).

Nietzsche's method here sounds like a recipe for magic of a double sort. One is reminded that the magician's potions include herbs that are both poison and healing, depending on how they are used. [7] What results they have depends on the magician's intentions and power. What kind of sorceror is Nietzsche?

Nietzsche the Poisoner

Let us consider the sorcery Nietzsche works upon us. That Nietzsche means to meddle with the reader's psychophysical condition is evident in Ecce Homo's self-congratulatory review of the Genealogy . There Nietzsche emphasizes his intention of luring the reader into experiences that are genuinely unnerving:

Regarding expression, intention, and the art of surprise, the three inquiries which constitute this Genealogy are perhaps uncannier than anything else written so far. Dionysus is, as is known, also the god of darkness.

Every time a beginning that is calculated to mislead: cool, scientific, even ironic, deliberately foreground, deliberately holding off. Gradually more unrest; sporadic lightning; very disagreeable truths are heard grumbling in the distance—until eventually a tempo feroce is attained in which everything rushes ahead in a tremendous tension. In the end, in the midst of perfectly gruesome detonations, a new truth becomes visible every time among thick clouds. [8]

Nietzsche describes himself in the Genealogy as a malicious musician. He "detonates" his verbal tones as one might detonate a hand grenade, and he manipulates us by means of rhythm, through our very physiology. Although, like a detective writer, Nietzsche draws various threads together into an ultimate tangle, he does not unsnarl it. And the knot we are left with is made up of our own nerves.

At first glance, Nietzsche appears to speak with the voice of demystification in the Genealogy . But he describes his analyses' beginnings as "calculated to mislead." They mislead us, I suggest, by concealing the fact that we are being poisoned as we read. We are being poisoned, that is, by Nietzsche.

Of course, much of the manifest content of the Genealogy concerns the ways in which our orientation has been poisoned by the worldview of our Christian tradition. I do not intend by what I say here to mitigate the force of this analysis. But I do wish to probe Nietzsche's authorial motive in presenting it. For the analyses of the Genealogy are not aimed merely at altering the reader's belief. It will not do simply to accept the fact that one's moral orientation is malignant, any more than it would do simply to accept that one has ingested poison. The only reasonable response is to attempt to undo the damage. If one is poisoned, one is in urgent need of an antidote. Nietzsche obviously intends that readers recognize the urgency of their position.

But instead of offering antidotes, Nietzsche seems bent on further infecting the reader. While tracing the progress of various moral poisons throughout the course of human history, the Genealogy contributes to the reader's disease.

In the first place, Nietzsche implicates us in the poisonous projects he

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