Back to philosophy page

Friedrich Nietzsche:
The Antichrist


This book belongs to the most rare of men. Perhaps not one of them is yet alive. It is possible that they may be among those who understand my Zarathustra: how could I confound myself with those who are now sprouting ears? -- First the day after tomorrow must come for me. Some men are born posthumously.

The conditions under which any one understands me, and necessarily understands me -- I know them only too well. Even to endure my seriousness, my passion, he must carry intellectual integrity to the verge of hardness. He must be accustomed to living on mountain tops -- and to looking upon the wretched gabble of politics and nationalism as beneath him. He must have become indifferent; he must never ask of the truth whether it brings profit to him or a fatality to him... He must have an inclination, born of strength, for questions that no one has the courage for; the courage for the forbidden; predestination for the labyrinth. The experience of seven solitudes. New ears for new music. New eyes for what is most distant. A new conscience for truths that have hitherto remained unheard. And the will to economize in the grand manner -- to hold together his strength, his enthusiasm... Reverence for self; love of self; absolute freedom of self.....

Very well, then! of that sort only are my readers, my true readers, my readers foreordained: of what account are the rest? -- The rest are merely humanity. -- One must make oneself superior to humanity, in power, in loftiness of soul, -- in contempt.



-- Let us look each other in the face. We are Hyperboreans [Editor’s note: in Greek mythology, Hyperborea was a paradise located in the far north, “beyond the north wind”] -- we know well enough how remote our place is. "Neither by land nor by water will you find the road to the Hyperboreans": even Pindar, in his day, knew that much about us. Beyond the North, beyond the ice, beyond death -- our life, our happiness...We have discovered that happiness; we know the way; we got our knowledge of it from thousands of years in the labyrinth. Who else has found it? -- The man of today? -- "I don't know either the way out or the way in; I am whatever doesn't know either the way out or the way in" -- so sighs the man of today... This is the sort of modernity that made us ill, -- we sickened on lazy peace, cowardly compromise, the whole virtuous dirtiness of the modern Yes and No. This tolerance and largeur of the heart that "forgives" everything because it "understands" everything is a sirocco to us. Rather live amid the ice than among modern virtues and other such south-winds! . . . We were brave enough; we spared neither ourselves nor others; but we were a long time finding out where to direct our courage. We grew dismal; they called us fatalists. Our fate -- it was the fulness, the tension, the storing up of powers. We thirsted for the lightnings and great deeds; we kept as far as possible from the happiness of the weakling, from "resignation" . . . There was thunder in our air; nature, as we embodied it, became overcast -- for we had not yet found the way. The formula of our happiness: a Yes, a No, a straight line, a goal...


What is good? -- Whatever augments the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself, in man.

What is evil? -- Whatever springs from weakness.

What is happiness? -- The feeling that power increases -- that resistance is being overcome.

Not contentment, but more power; not peace at any price, but war; not virtue, but efficiency (virtue in the Renaissance sense, virtù, virtue free of the taint of morality).

The weak and the botched shall perish: first principle of our charity. And one should help them to it.

What is more harmful than any vice? -- Practical sympathy for the botched and the weak -- Christianity...


The problem that I set here is not what shall replace mankind in the order of living creatures (-- man is an end --): but what type of man must be bred, must be willed, as being the most valuable, the most worthy of life, the most secure guarantee of the future.

This more valuable type has appeared often enough in the past: but always as a happy accident, as an exception, never as deliberately willed. Very often it has been precisely the most feared; hitherto it has been almost the terror of terrors ; -- and out of that terror the contrary type has been willed, cultivated and attained: the domestic animal, the herd animal, the sick brute-man -- the Christian. . .


Mankind surely does not represent an evolution toward a better or stronger or higher level, as progress is now understood. This "progress" is merely a modern idea, which is to say, a false idea. The European of today, in his essential worth, falls far below the European of the Renaissance; the process of evolution does not necessarily mean elevation, enhancement, strengthening.

True enough, it succeeds in isolated and individual cases in various parts of the earth and under the most widely different cultures, and in these cases a higher type certainly manifests itself; something which, compared to mankind in the mass, appears as a sort of Overman. Such happy strokes of high success have always been possible, and will remain possible, perhaps, for all time to come. Even whole races, tribes and nations may occasionally represent such lucky accidents.


We should not deck out and embellish Christianity: it has waged a war to the death against this higher type of man, it has put all the deepest instincts of this type under its ban, it has developed its concept of evil, of the Evil One himself, out of these instincts -- the strong man as the typical reprobate, the "outcast among men." Christianity has taken the part of all the weak, the low, the botched; it has made an ideal out of antagonism to all the self-preservative instincts of sound life; it has corrupted even the faculties of those natures that are intellectually most vigorous, by representing the highest intellectual values as sinful, as misleading, as full of temptation. The most lamentable example: the corruption of Pascal, who believed that his intellect had been destroyed by original sin, whereas it was actually destroyed by Christianity! --


It is a painful and tragic spectacle that rises before me: I have drawn back the curtain from the depravity of man. This word, in my mouth, is at least free from one suspicion: that it involves a moral accusation against humanity. It is used -- and I wish to emphasize the fact again -- without any taint of morality: and this is so far true that the depravity I speak of is most apparent to me precisely in those quarters where there has been most aspiration, hitherto, toward "virtue" and "godliness." As you probably surmise, I understand depravity in the sense of decadence: my argument is that all the values on which mankind now fixes its highest aspirations are decadence-values.

I call an animal, a species, an individual corrupt, when it loses its instincts, when it chooses, when it prefers, what is injurious to it. A history of the "higher feelings," the "ideals of humanity" -- and it is possible that I'll have to write it -- would almost explain why man is so degenerate. Life itself appears to me as an instinct for growth, for survival, for the accumulation of forces, for power: whenever the will to power fails there is disaster. My contention is that all the highest values of humanity have been emptied of this will -- that the values of decadence, of nihilism, now prevail under the holiest names.


Christianity is called the religion of pity. -- Pity stands in opposition to all the tonic passions that augment the energy of the feeling of aliveness: it is a depressant. A man loses power when he pities. Through pity that drain upon strength which suffering works is multiplied a thousandfold. Suffering is made contagious by pity; under certain circumstances it may lead to a total sacrifice of life and living energy -- a loss out of all proportion to the magnitude of the cause (-- the case of the death of the Nazarene). This is the first view of it; there is, however, a still more important one. If one measures the effects of pity by the gravity of the reactions it sets up, its character as a menace to life appears in a much clearer light. Pity thwarts the whole law of evolution, which is the law of natural selection. It preserves whatever is ripe for destruction; it fights on the side of those disinherited and condemned by life; by maintaining life in so many of the botched of all kinds, it gives life itself a gloomy and dubious aspect. Mankind has ventured to call pity a virtue (-- in every noble moral system it appears as a weakness --); going still further, it has been called the virtue, the source and foundation of all other virtues -- but let us always bear in mind that this was from the standpoint of a philosophy that was nihilistic, and upon whose shield the denial of life was inscribed. Schopenhauer was right in this: that by means of pity life is denied, and made worthy of denial -- pity is the technique of nihilism. Let me repeat: this depressing and contagious instinct stands against all those instincts which work for the preservation and enhancement of life: in the role of promoter of misery and protector of everything miserable, it is a prime agent in the promotion of decadence -- pity persuades to extinction....Of course, one doesn't say "extinction": one says "the other world," or "God," or "the true life," or Nirvana, salvation, blessedness.... This innocent rhetoric, from the realm of religious-ethical balderdash, appears a good deal less innocent when one reflects upon the tendency that it conceals beneath sublime words: the tendency to destroy life. Schopenhauer was hostile to life: that is why pity appeared to him as a virtue. . . . Aristotle, as everyone knows, saw in pity a sickly and dangerous state of mind, the remedy for which was an occasional purgative: he regarded tragedy as that purgative. The instinct of life should prompt us to seek some means of puncturing any such pathological and dangerous accumulation of pity as that appearing in Schopenhauer's case (and also, alack, in that of our whole literary decadence, from St. Petersburg to Paris, from Tolstoi to Wagner), that it may burst and be discharged. . . Nothing is more unhealthy, amid all our unhealthy modernism, than Christian pity. To be the physician here, to be unmerciful here, to wield the knifehere -- all this is our business, all this is our sort of humanity, by this sign we are philosophers, we Hyperboreans! --


It is necessary to say just whom we regard as our antagonists: theologians and all who have any theological blood in their veins -- this is our whole philosophy. . . . One must have faced that menace at close hand, better still, one must have had experience of it directly and almost succumbed to it, to realize that it is not to be taken lightly (-- the alleged free-thinking of our naturalists and physiologists seems to me to be a joke -- they have no passion about such things; they have not suffered --). This poisoning goes a great deal further than most people think: I find the arrogant habit of the theologian among all who regard themselves as "idealists" -- among all who, by virtue of a higher point of departure, claim a right to rise above reality, and to look upon it with suspicion. . . The idealist, like the ecclesiastic, carries all sorts of lofty concepts in his hand (-- and not only in his hand!); he launches them with benevolent contempt against "understanding," "the senses," "honor," "good living," "science"; he sees such things as beneath him, as pernicious and seductive forces, on which "the soul" soars as a pure thing-in-itself -- as if humility, chastity, poverty, in a word, holiness, had not already done much more damage to life than all imaginable horrors and vices. . . The pure soul is a pure lie. . . So long as the priest, that professional denier, calumniator and poisoner of life, is accepted as a higher variety of man, there can be no answer to the question, What is truth? Truth has already been stood on its head when the conscious advocate of denial and nothingness is mistaken for thr representative of truth.


Upon this theological instinct I make war: I find the tracks of it everywhere. Whoever has theological blood in his veins is shifty and dishonourable in all things. The pathetic thing that grows out of this condition is called faith: in other words, closing one's eyes upon one's self once for all, to avoid suffering the sight of incurable falsehood. People erect a concept of morality, of virtue, of holiness upon this false view of all things; they ground good conscience upon faulty vision; they argue that no other sort of vision has value any more, once they have made theirs sacrosanct with the names of "God," "salvation" and "eternity." I unearth this theological instinct in all directions: it is the most widespread and the most subterranean form of falsehood to be found on earth. Whatever a theologian regards as true must be false: there you have almost a criterion of truth. His profound instinct of self-preservation stands against truth ever coming into honour in any way, or even getting stated. Wherever the influence of theologians is felt there is a transvaluation of values, and the concepts "true" and "false" are forced to change places: whatever is most damaging to life is there called "true," and whatever exalts it, intensifies it, approves it, justifies it and makes it triumphant is there called "false."... When theologians, working through the "consciences" of princes (or of peoples --), stretch out their hands for power, there is never any doubt as to the fundamental issue: the will to make an end, the nihilistic will seeks that power...


Among Germans I am immediately understood when I say that theological blood is the ruin of philosophy. The Protestant pastor is the grandfather of German philosophy; Protestantism itself is its peccatum originale [“original sin”]. Definition of Protestantism: hemiplegic paralysis of Christianity -- and of reason. ... One need only utter the words "Tübingen School" to get an understanding of what German philosophy is at bottom -- a very artful form of theology. . . The Suabians are the best liars in Germany; they lie innocently. . . . Why all the rejoicing over the appearance of Kant that went through the learned world of Germany, three-fourths of which is made up of the sons of preachers and teachers -- why the German conviction still echoing, that with Kant came a change for the better? The theological instinct of German scholars made them see clearly just what had become possible again. . . . A backstairs leading to the old ideal stood open; the concept of the "true world," the concept of morality as the essence of the world (-- the two most vicious errors that ever existed!), were once more, thanks to a subtle and wily scepticism, if not actually demonstrable, then at least no longer refutable... Reason, the prerogative of reason, does not go so far. . . Out of reality there had been made "appearance"; an absolutely false world, that of being, had been turned into reality. . . . The success of Kant is merely a theological success; he was, like Luther and Leibniz, but one more impediment to German integrity, already far from steady. --


A word now against Kant as a moralist. A virtue must be our invention; it must spring out of our personal need and defence. In every other case it is a source of danger. That which does not belong to our life menaces it; a virtue which has its roots in mere respect for the concept of "virtue," as Kant would have it, is pernicious. "Virtue," "duty," "good for its own sake," goodness grounded upon impersonality or a notion of universal validity -- these are all chimeras, and in them one finds only an expression of the decay, the last collapse of life, the Chinese spirit of Königsberg. Quite the contrary is demanded by the most profound laws of self-preservation and of growth: to wit, that every man find his own virtue, his own categorical imperative. A nation goes to pieces when it confounds its own duty with the general concept of duty. Nothing works a more complete and penetrating disaster than every "impersonal" duty, every sacrifice before the Moloch of abstraction. -- To think that no one has thought of Kant's categorical imperative as dangerous to life!...The theological instinct alone took it under protection! -- An action prompted by the life-instinct proves that it is a right action by the amount of joy that goes with it: and yet that Nihilist, with his bowels of Christian dogmatism, regarded joy as an objection . . . What destroys a man more quickly than to work, think and feel without inner necessity, without any deep personal desire, without joy -- as a mere automaton of duty? That is the recipe for decadence, and no less for idiocy. . . Kant became an idiot. -- And such a man was the contemporary of Goethe! This calamitous spinner of cobwebs passed for the German philosopher -- still passes today! . . . I forbid myself to say what I think of the Germans. . . . Didn't Kant see in the French Revolution the transformation of the state from the inorganic form to the organic? Didn't he ask himself if there was a single event that could be explained save on the assumption of a moral faculty in man, so that on the basis of it, "the tendency of mankind toward the good" could be proved, once and for all time? Kant's answer: "That is the Revolution." Instinct at fault in everything and anything, instinct as a revolt against nature, German decadence as a philosophy -- that is Kant! --


I put aside a few sceptics, the types of decency in the history of philosophy: the rest haven't the slightest conception of intellectual integrity. They behave like women, all these great enthusiasts and prodigies -- they regard "beautiful feelings" as arguments, the "heaving breast" as the bellows of divine inspiration, conviction as the criterion of truth. In the end, with "German" innocence, Kant tried to give a scientific flavour to this form of corruption, this dearth of intellectual conscience, by calling it "practical reason." He deliberately invented a variety of reasons for use on occasions when it was desirable not to trouble with reason -- that is, when morality, when the sublime command "thou shalt," was heard. When one recalls the fact that, among all peoples, the philosopher is no more than a development from the old type of priest, this inheritance from the priest, this fraud upon self, ceases to be remarkable. When a man feels that he has a divine mission, say to lift up, to save or to liberate mankind -- when a man feels the divine spark in his heart and believes that he is the mouthpiece of supernatural imperatives -- when such a mission in. flames him, it is only natural that he should stand beyond all merely reasonable standards of judgment. He feels that he is himself sanctified by this mission, that he is himself a type of a higher order! . . . What has a priest to do with science! He stands far above it! -- And hitherto the priest has ruled! -- He has determined the meaning of "true" and "not true"!


Let us not under-estimate this fact: that we ourselves, we free spirits, are already a "transvaluation of all values," an incarnate declaration of war and victory against all the old concepts of "true" and "not true." The most valuable intuitions are the last to be attained; the most valuable of all are those which determine methods. All the methods, all the principles of the scientific spirit of today, were the targets for thousands of years of the most profound contempt; if a man inclined to them he was excluded from the society of "decent" people -- he passed as "an enemy of God," as a scoffer at the truth, as one "possessed." As a man of science, he belonged to the Chandala... We have had the whole pathetic stupidity of mankind against us -- their every notion of what the truth ought to be, of what the service of the truth ought to be -- their every "thou shalt" was launched against us. . . . Our objectives, our methods, our quiet, cautious, distrustful manner -- all appeared to them as absolutely discreditable and contemptible. -- Looking back, one may almost ask one's self with reason if it was not actually an aesthetic sense that kept men blind so long: what they demanded of the truth was picturesque effectiveness, and of the learned a strong appeal to their senses. It was our modesty that stood out longest against their taste...How well they guessed that, these turkey-cocks of God!


We have unlearned something. We have be come more modest in every way. We no longer derive man from the "spirit," from the "god-head"; we have dropped him back among the beasts. We regard him as the strongest of the beasts because he is the craftiest; one of the results thereof is his intellectuality. On the other hand, we guard ourselves against a conceit which would assert itself even here: that man is the great second thought in the process of organic evolution. He is, in truth, anything but the crown of creation: beside him stand many other animals, all at similar stages of development... And even when we say that we say a bit too much, for man, relatively speaking, is the most botched of all the animals and the sickliest, and he has wandered the most dangerously from his instincts -- though for all that, to be sure, he remains the most interesting! -- As regards the lower animals, it was Descartes who first had the really admirable daring to describe them as machines; the whole of our physiology is directed toward proving the truth of this doctrine. Moreover, it is illogical to set man apart, as Descartes did: what we know of man today is limited precisely by the extent to which we have regarded him, too, as a machine. Formerly we accorded to man, as his inheritance from some higher order of beings, what was called "free will"; now we have taken even this will from him, for the term no longer describes anything that we can understand. The old word "will" now connotes only a sort of result, an individual reaction, that follows inevitably upon a series of partly discordant and partly harmonious stimuli -- the will no longer "acts," or "moves." . . . Formerly it was thought that man's consciousness, his "spirit," offered evidence of his high origin, his divinity. That he might be perfected, he was advised, tortoise-like, to draw his senses in, to have no traffic with earthly things, to shuffle off his mortal coil -- then only the important part of him, the "pure spirit," would remain. Here again we have thought out the thing better: to us consciousness, or "the spirit," appears as a symptom of a relative imperfection of the organism, as an experiment, a groping, a misunderstanding, as an affliction which uses up nervous force unnecessarily -- we deny that anything can be done perfectly so long as it is done consciously. The "pure spirit" is a piece of pure stupidity: take away the nervous system and the senses, the so-called "mortal shell," and the rest is miscalculation -- that is all!...

To proceed to page 2, click here.