tional Zarathustra ); indeed, it appears that he "begets" this essay parthogenetically in the form of commentary on his own work. Here Nietzsche is ambiguously one of the philosophers—an ascetic—and a commentator upon them at the same time: as it were, a fertile and fecund hermaphrodite of the spirit. That "a certain asceticism, a serene and cheerful continence with the best will, belongs to the most favorable conditions of supreme spirituality, and is also among its most natural consequences" helps to explain why "philosophers have always discussed the ascetic ideal with a certain fondness" (GM III:9). However, further investigation reveals that, for historical reasons, this bond is even closer than this passage would suggest: "It was only on the leading-strings of this ideal that philosophy learned to take its first steps on earth" (GM III:9). Without such a disguise, Nietzsche argues, the philosopher would have been unable to be himself; his objectivity and neutrality would have contravened the demands of morality and conscience. What we value today is, in a sense, the reverse of what was valued before: "All good things were formerly bad things; every original sin has turned into an original virtue" (GM III:9). For most of human history, under the sway of the "morality of mores," values were different, even antithetical.

Contemplation, Nietzsche argues, had to disguise itself to avoid being either feared or despised; it had to appear in ambiguous form "with an evil heart and often an anxious head" (GM III:10). The contemplatives of the "frightful ages" understood that by controlling pain, even as it was inflicted upon themselves, they could turn even the social stigma against them to their advantage, finally arrogating to themselves powers that once belonged only to the gods: "As men of frightful ages, they did this by using frightful means: cruelty toward themselves, inventive self-castigation—this was the principal means these power hungry hermits and innovators of ideas required to overcome the gods and traditions in themselves, so as to be able to believe in their own innovations" (GM III:10). Thus, on this view, asceticism was a means of securing a belief in oneself by stimulating awe in others. Belief in one's own innovations is always blocked by internalized contemporary mores and values. How can our creations, our "innovations," be promoted and valorized as the verifies we receive from without? How can they be "naturalized"? Ascetic self-punishment, so much at odds with the typical attachment to ease and sensual pleasure, is understood as a sign of "possession" by a higher power or force—of "inspiration" in a literal sense.

If the philosopher uses asceticism as a means to an end without really being ascetic, however, the case of the genuine priest is quite different. For him the question of asceticism is deadly serious; his very existence depends upon it. The key to priestly asceticism is the valuation placed on life. The priest opposes life—nature, the world, becoming—to something else that

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment