'Degeneration' by Max Nordau (1892)

At the Moulin Rouge (1895), a painting by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

A selection from Degeneration by Max Nordau, 1892.
[It] is a mirror of conflicting attitudes which are, in fact, contemporary with our present cultural dilemmas. [...] Max Nordau presents us with a searchlight whose beams reflect the kind of world [we] have made for [ourselves.]"

George L. Mosse in his introduction to the 1968 edition.

As well as being a physician, Max Nordau was co-founder of the World Zionist Organization with Theodor Herzl and witnessed, along with Herzl, the Paris mob outside the École Militaire shouting "à morts les juifs!" ('death to the Jew!') during the degradation of the Jewish-French artillary officer Alfred Dreyfus wrongfully convicted for selling military secrets to the Germans and betraying his (adopted) mother country.

Nordau also wrote a book called The Conventional Lies of Our Civilization [see here for a selection]. He was a staunch Eugenicist, and coined the term "muscular Judaism" which he published an article on in the Jewish Gymnastics Journal. Here is an extract from the article (note, see also here: http://www.csjl.org/articlereader.php?item=4 ):
[Note: Jews were excluded from some gymnastics clubs, which took on an especial significance in Germany around this time]

In crowded Jewish quarters, deprived of air and sunshine, our bodies became weak. In darkened homes, we feared the persistent persecution in silent trembling. But now the chains of this duress are broken, now we fear no such constraints, we are allowed to live our lives fully, at least from a physical standpoint. Let us, therefore, re-establish the bonds with our ancient past; let us again be wide of body and strong of gaze.

The intention is to return to a proud past, as reflected in the name selected by the gymnastics association of Berlin: “Bar Kochba”, a hero who recognized no defeat. When victory turned in retreat, he accepted death. He embodied a Jewish history forged in war but taking up arms. If someone takes of the cry of Bar Kochba, then the striving for honor beats in his breast. Such a hope befits the gymnasts, who strive for advanced development.

In no other nation or race does physical exercise fulfill as educative a role as it must fulfill among us Jews. It must bring us to full upright stature, both physically and in our character. It must prompt a self-awareness. Our detractors claim that, in any event, we are too arrogant. But we would do well to acknowledge how distorted is such a claim. A quiet belief in our strength is lacking in us altogether.

Muscular Jews of our age have yet to reach the degree of heroism of our ancestors of old, who erupted into the arena to wrestle the well-trained Greek athletes and the strong barbarians of the north. But from a moral perspective we are their superiors, because they were ashamed of their Jewishness and tried, by way of undoing their circumcision, to hide the sign of the covenant that was sealed in their flesh while others, such as members of the “Bar Kochba” club have openly and freely proclaimed their ties to their people.

Let the association for Jewish gymnastics flourish and set an example in all centers of Jewish life.

By the late 19th century
dégénérescences ('degeneration') had become a well established theme in psychiatric literature. Benedict Morel's Traité des dégénérescences physiques, intellectuelles et morales de l'espèce humaine et des causes qui produisent ces variétés maladives, published just two years before Darwins Origin, was the definitive work in the field, whose influence can be seen in the writtings of Caesar Lombroso, the criminologist and founder of the Italian School of Positivists, and, in England, of the psychiatrist Henry Maudsley.

In 1896, Alfred E. Hake, a British economist, wrote a responce to Degeneration titled Regeneration. In it, t
he criticism which Nordau levels against Nietzsche is turned back at him: "He is himself an abnormality and a pathological type. Every large hospital for the insane knows his representative-- the one sane man in a world of lunatics." From the book:
V0LTAIRE said that if all the celestial bodies are inhabited, our earth must be the mad-house of the universe. [...] But, with regard to our own times, most of us would probably hesitate to brand our present state of culture, our modern civilization, as a fool's paradise.

It is a truism that an historical epoch can only be correctly studied at a distance in time, as the outlines of a mountain can only be studied at a distance in space. The actor in a piece, though intimately acquainted with his own part and the accessories with which he comes in contact, cannot form a just idea of the impression which the play, with its more or less successful rendering, its scenery, and other spectacular effects, produces on the mind of the average spectator. A super who is ignorant of stage management and of the precise results the manager aims at might deem many things going on behind the stage both foolish and ridiculous. To him the frantic efforts of some actor, or scene-shifter, to produce some ordinary effect might well appear as lunacy.

The judgment we form concerning the time we live in runs a great risk of being biased by the narrowness of the vista we can command.

[Work in Progress]


Degenerates are not always criminals, prostitutes, anarchists, and pronounced lunatics; they are often authors and artists. These, however, manifest the same mental characteristics, and for the most part the same somatic features, as the members of the above-mentioned anthropological family, who satisfy their unhealthy impulses with the knife of the assassin or the bomb of the dynamiter, instead of with pen and pencil.
Some among these degenerates in literature, music, and painting have in recent years come into extraordinary prominence, and are revered by numerous admirers as creators of a new art, and heralds of the coming centuries. This phenomenon is not to be disregarded. Books and works of art exercise a powerful suggestion on the masses. It is from these productions that an age derives its ideals of morality and beauty. If they are absurd and anti-social, they exert a disturbing and corrupting influence on the views of a whole generation. Hence the latter, especially the impressionable youth, easily excited to enthusiasm for all that is strange and seemingly new, must be warned and enlightened as to the real nature of the creations so blindly admired.

Now I have undertaken the work of investigating (as much as possible after your method) the tendencies of the fashions in art and literature; of proving that they have their source in the degeneracy of their authors, and that the enthusiasm of their admirers is for manifestations of more or less pronounced moral insanity, imbecility, and dementia.

...grievous is the fate of him who has the audacity to characterise aesthetic fashions as forms of mental decay. [...] ...and... the public is angered when forced to see that it has been running after fools, quack dentists, and mountebanks, as so many prophets.

The danger, however, to which he exposes himself cannot deter a man from doing that which he regards as his duty.



Chapter I


FIN-DE-SIECLE is a name covering both what is characteristic of many modern phenomena, and also the underlying mood which in them finds expression. [...] Fin-de-siecle is French, for it was in France that the mental state so entitled was first consciously realized. The word has flown from one hemisphere to the other, and found its way into all civilized languages-- a proof, this, that the need of it existed. The fin-de-siecle state of mind is to-day everywhere to be met with... .

No proof is needed of the extreme silliness of the term. Only the brain of a child or of a savage could form the clumsy idea that the century is a kind of living being, born like a beast or a man, passing through all the stages of existence, gradually ageing and declining after blooming childhood, joyous youth, and vigorous maturity, to die with the expiration of the hundredth year, after being afflicted in its last decade with all the infirmities of mournful senility. [...] Every day on our globe 130,000 human beings are born, for whom the world begins with this same day, and the young citizen of the world is neither feebler nor fresher for leaping into life in the midst of the death-throes of 1900, nor on the birthday of the twentieth century.

The disposition of the times is curiously confused, a compound of feverish restlessness and blunted discouragement, of fearful presage and hang-dog renunciation. The prevalent feeling is that of imminent perdition and extinction. Fin-de-siecle is at once a confession and a complaint. The old Northern faith contained the fearsome doctrine of the Dusk of the Gods. In our days there have arisen in more highly developed minds vague qualms of a Dusk of the Nations, in which all suns and all stars are gradually waning, and mankind with all its institutions and creations is perishing in the midst of a dying world.

Neither has it anything in common with the impressive twilight melancholy of an aged Faust, surveying the work of a lifetime, and who, proud of what has been achieved, and contemplating what is begun but not completed, is seized with vehement desire to finish his work, and, awakened from sleep by haunting unrest, leaps up with the cry: 'Was ich gedacht, ich eil' es zu vollbringen.' ['My thought I hasten to fulfil.']

Quite otherwise is the fin-de-siecle mood. It is the impotent despair of a sick man, who feels himself dying by inches in the midst of an eternally living nature blooming insolently for ever. It is the envy of a rich, hoary voluptuary, who sees a pair of young lovers making for a sequestered forest nook; it is the mortification of the exhausted and impotent refugee from a Florentine plague, seeking in an enchanted garden the experiences of a Decamerone, but striving in vain to snatch one more pleasure of sense from the uncertain hour. The reader of Turgenieff's A Nest of Nobles will remember the end of that beautiful work. The hero, Lavretzky, comes as a man advanced in years to visit at the house where, in his young days, he had lived his romance of love. All is unchanged. The garden is fragrant with flowers. In the great trees the happy birds are chirping; on the fresh turf the children romp and shout. Lavretzky alone has grown old, and contemplates, in mournful exclusion, a scene where nature holds on its joyous way, caring nought that Lisa the beloved is vanished, and Lavretzky, a broken-down man, weary of life. Lavretzky's admission that, amidst all this ever-young, ever-blooming nature, for him alone there comes no morrow; Alving's dying cry for 'The sun— the sun!' in Ibsen's Ghosts—these express rightly the fin-desiecle attitude of to-day.

...a contempt for traditional views of custom and morality.
Such is the notion underlying the word fin-de-siecle. [...] To the voluptuary this means unbridled lewdness, the unchaining of the beast in man; to the withered heart of the egoist, disdain of all consideration for his fellow-men, the trampling under foot of all barriers which enclose brutal greed of lucre and lust of pleasure; to the contemner of the world it means the shameless ascendency of base impulses and motives, which were, if not virtuously suppressed, at least hypocritically hidden ; to the believer it means the repudiation of dogma, the negation of a supersensuous world, the descent into flat phenomenalism; to the sensitive nature yearning for aesthetic thrills, it means the vanishing of ideals in art, and no more power in its accepted forms to arouse emotion. And to all, it means the end of an established order, which for thousands of years has satisfied logic, fettered depravity, and in every art matured something of beauty.
One epoch of history is unmistakably in its decline, and another is announcing its approach. There is a sound of rending in every tradition, and it is as though the morrow would not link itself with to-day. Things as they are totter and plunge, and they are suffered to reel and fall, because man is weary, and there is no faith that it is worth an effort to uphold them. [...] Meanwhile interregnum in all its terrors prevails; there is confusion among the powers that be... . Men look with longing for whatever new things are at hand, without presage whence they will come or what they will be. They have hope that in the chaos of thought, art may yield revelations of the order that is to follow on this tangled web. The poet, the musician, is to announce, or divine, or at least suggest in what forms civilization will further be evolved. What shall be considered good to-morrow—what shall be beautiful? What shall we know to-morrow— what believe in ? What shall inspire us ? How shall we enjoy? So rings the question from the thousand voices of the people, and where a market-vendor sets up his booth and claims to give an answer, where a fool or a knave suddenly begins to prophesy in verse or prose, in sound or colour, or professes to practise his art otherwise than his predecessors and competitors, there gathers a great concourse, crowding around him to seek in what he has wrought, as in oracles of the Pythia, some meaning to be divined and interpreted.

Such is the spectacle presented by the doings of men in the reddened light of the Dusk of the Nations. Massed in the sky the clouds are aflame in the weirdly beautiful glow which was observed for the space of years after the eruption of Krakatoa. Over the earth the shadows creep with deepening gloom, wrapping all objects in a mysterious dimness, in which all certainty is destroyed and any guess seems plausible. Forms lose their outlines, and are dissolved in floating mist. The day is over, the night draws on. The old anxiously watch its approach, fearing they will not live to see the end. A few amongst the young and strong are conscious of the vigour of life in all their veins and nerves, and rejoice in the coming sunrise. Dreams, which fill up the hours of darkness till the
breaking of the new day, bring to the former comfortless memories, to the latter high-souled hopes. And in the artistic products of the age we see the form in which these dreams become sensible.

It is true that the spirit of the times is stirring the nations down to their lowest depths, and awaking even in the most inchoate and rudimentary human being a wondrous feeling of stir and upheaval. [...] It is only a very small minority who honestly find pleasure in the new tendencies, and announce them with genuine conviction as that which alone is sound, a sure guide for the future, a pledge of pleasure and of moral benefit. But this minority has the gift of covering the whole visible surface of society, as a little oil extends over a large area of the surface of the sea. It consists chiefly of rich educated people, or of fanatics. [...] All snobs affect to have the same taste as the select and exclusive minority, who pass by everything that once was considered beautiful with an air of the greatest contempt. And thus it appears as if the whole of civilized humanity were converted to the aesthetics of the Dusk of the Nations.

Chapter II


The book that would be fashionable must, above all, be obscure. [...] Ghost-stories are very popular, but they must come on in scientific disguise, as hypnotism, telepathy, somnambulism. So are marionette-plays, in which seemingly naive but knowing rogues make used-up old ballad dummies babble like babies or idiots. So are esoteric novels, in which the author hints that he could say a deal about magic, kabbala, fakirism, astrology and other white and black arts if he only chose. Readers intoxicate themselves in the hazy word-sequences of symbolic poetry. ...Nietzsche is pronounced by German and even by French critics to be the leading
German writer of the day... .

But art exhibitions, concerts, plays and books, however extraordinary, do not suffice for the aesthetic needs of elegant society. Novel sensations alone can satisfy it. It demands more intense stimulus, and hopes for it in spectacles, where different arts strive in new combinations to affect all the senses at once. Poets and artists strain every nerve incessantly to satisfy this craving.

Chapter III


The manifestations described in the preceding chapter must be patent enough to everyone, be he never so narrow a Philistine. The Philistine, however, regards them as a passing fashion and nothing more ; for him the current terms, caprice, eccentricity, affectation of novelty, imitation, instinct, afford a sufficient explanation. The purely literary mind, whose merely aesthetic culture does not enable him to understand the connections of things, and to seize their real meaning, deceives himself and others as to his ignorance by means of sounding phrases, and loftily talks of a ' restless quest of a new ideal by the modern spirit,' 'the richer vibrations of the refined nervous system of the present day,' 'the unknown sensations of an elect mind.' But the physician, especially if he have devoted himself to the special study of nervous and mental maladies, recognises at a glance, in the fin-de-siecle disposition, in the tendencies of contemporary art and poetry, in the life and conduct of the men who write mystic, symbolic and 'decadent' works, and the attitude taken by their admirers in the tastes and cesthetic instincts of fashionable society, the confluence of two well-defined conditions of disease, with which he is quite familiar, viz. degeneration (degeneracy) and hysteria, of which the minor stages are designated as neurasthenia.

The conception of degeneracy, which, at this time, obtains throughout the science of mental disease, was first clearly grasped and formulated by Morel. In his principal work — often quoted, but, unfortunately, not sufficiently read—the following definition of what he wishes to be understood by 'degeneracy ' is given by this distinguished expert in mental pathology...:

The clearest notion we can form of degeneracy is to regard it as a morbid deviation from an original type. This deviation, even if, at the outset, it was ever so slight, contained transmissible elements of such a nature that anyone bearing in him the germs becomes more and more incapable of fulfilling his functions in the world; and mental progress, already checked in his own person, finds itself menaced also in his descendants.

That which distinguishes degeneracy from the formation of new species (phylogeny) is, that the morbid variation does not continuously subsist and propagate itself, like one that is healthy, but, fortunately, is soon rendered sterile, and after a few generations often dies out before it reaches the lowest grade of organic degradation [editors note: "like all monstrosities, it is doomed" Morel].

Degeneracy betrays itself among men in certain physical characteristics, which are denominated 'stigmata,' or brandmarks— an unfortunate term derived from a false idea, as if degeneracy were necessarily the consequence of a fault, and the indication of it a punishment.

There might be a sure means of proving that the application of the term ' degenerates ' to the originators of all the fin-de-siecle movements in art and literature is not arbitrary, that it is no baseless conceit, but a fact ; and that would be a careful physical examination of the persons concerned, and an inquiry into their pedigree. In almost all cases, relatives would be met with who were undoubtedly degenerate, and one or more stigmata discovered which would indisputably establish the diagnosis of 'Degeneration.'

Science, however, has found, together with these physical stigmata, others of a mental order, which betoken degeneracy quite as clearly as the former ; and they allow of an easy demonstration from all the vital manifestations, and, in particular, from all the works of degenerates, so that it is not necessary to measure the cranium of an author, or to see the lobe of a painter's ear, in order to recognise the fact that he belongs to the class of degenerates.

Maudsley and Ball call them ' Borderland dwellers '—that is to say, dwellers on the borderland between reason and pronounced madness. Magnan gives to them the name of 'higher degenerates' (degeneres superieurs), and Lombroso speaks of 'mattoids ' (from matto, the Italian for insane), and ' graphomaniacs,' under which he classifies those semiinsane persons who feel a strong impulse to write. In spite, however, of this variety of nomenclature, it is a question simply of one single species of individuals, who betray their fellowship by the similarity of their mental physiognomy.

That which nearly all degenerates lack is the sense of morality and
of right and wrong. For them there exists no law, no decency, no modesty. In order to satisfy any momentary impulse, or inclination, or caprice, they commit crimes and trespasses with the greatest calmness and self-complacency, and do not comprehend that other persons take offence thereat. When this phenomenon is present in a high degree, we speak of 'moral insanity' with Maudsley; there are, nevertheless, lower stages in which the degenerate does not, perhaps, himself commit any act which will bring him into conflict with the criminal code, but at least asserts the theoretical legitimacy
of crime; seeks, with philosophically sounding fustian, to prove that 'good' and 'evil,' virtue and vice, are arbitrary distinctions; goes into raptures over evildoers and their deeds; professes to discover beauties in the lowest and most repulsive things; and tries to awaken interest in, and so-called 'comprehension' of, every bestiality. The two psychological roots of moral insanity, in all its degrees of development, are, firstly, unbounded egoism, and, secondly, impulsiveness-- i.e., in-ability to resist a sudden impulse to any deed; and these characteristics also constitute the chief intellectual stigmata of degenerates.

Another mental stigma of degenerates is their emotionalism. [...] He is quite proud of being so vibrant a musical instrument, and boasts that where the Philistine remains completely cold, he feels his inner self confounded, the depths of his being broken up, and the bliss of the Beautiful possessing him to the tips of his fingers. His excitability appears to him a mark of superiority; he believes himself to be possessed by a peculiar insight lacking in other mortals, and he is fain to despise the vulgar herd for the dulness and narrowness of their minds. The unhappy creature does not suspect that he is conceited about a disease and boasting of a derangement of the mind; and certain silly critics, when, through fear of being pronounced deficient in comprehension, they make desperate efforts to share the emotions of a degenerate in regard to some insipid or ridiculous production, or when they praise in exaggerated expressions the beauties which the degenerate asserts he finds therein, are unconsciously simulating one' of the stigmata of semi-insanity.
Besides moral insanity and 'emotionalism, there is to be observed in the degenerate a condition of mental weakness and despondency, which, according to the circumstances of his life, assumes the form of pessimism, a vague fear of all men, and of the entire phenomenon of the universe, or self-abhorrence. 'These patients,' says Morel [Morel, 'Du Delire panophobique des Alienes gemisseurs,' Annales midico-psychologiques, 1871.], 'feel perpetually compelled . . . to commiserate themselves, to sob, to repeat with the most desperate monotony the same questions and words. They have delirious presentations of ruin and damnation, and all sorts of imaginary fears.' 'Ennui never quits me,' said a patient of this kind, whose case Roubinovitch describes, ' ennui of myself.' [...] And he further  calls to notice 'their unconscious fear of everything and everyone.' In this picture of the sufferer from melancholia ; downcast, sombre, despairing of himself and the world, tortured by fear of the Unknown, menaced by undefined but dreadful dangers, we recognise in every detail the man of the Dusk of the Nations and the fin-de-siecle frame of mind, described in the first chapter.
With this characteristic dejectedness of the degenerate, there is combined, as a rule, a disinclination to action of any kind, attaining possibly to abhorrence of activity and powerlessness to will (aboulia). Now, it is a peculiarity of the human mind, known to every psychologist, that, inasmuch as the law of causality governs a man's whole thought, he imputes a rational basis to all his own decisions. [...] The degenerate who shuns action, and is without will-power, has no suspicion that his incapacity for action is a consequence of his inherited deficiency of brain. He deceives himself into believing that he despises action from free determination, and takes pleasure in inactivity; and, in order to justify himself in his own eyes, he constructs a philosophy of renunciation and of contempt for the world and men, asserts that he has convinced himself of the excellence of Quietism, calls himself with consummate self-consciousness a Buddhist, and praises Nirvana in poetically eloquent phrases as the highest and worthiest
ideal of the human mind.

With the incapacity for action there is connected the predilection for inane reverie. The degenerate is not in a condition to fix his attention long, or indeed at all, on any subject, and is equally incapable of correctly grasping, ordering, or elaborating into ideas and judgments the impressions of the external world... . It is easier and more convenient for him to allow his brain-centres to produce semi-lucid, nebulously blurred ideas and inchoate embryonic thoughts, and to surrender himself to the perpetual obfuscation of a
boundless, aimless, and shoreless stream of fugitive ideas; and he rarely rouses himself to the painful attempt to check or counteract the capricious, and, as a rule, purely mechanical associations of ideas and succession of images, and bring under discipline the disorderly tumult of his fluid presentations. On the contrary, he rejoices in his faculty of imagination, which he contrasts with the insipidity of the Philistine, and devotes himself with predilection to all sorts of unlicensed pursuits permitted by the unshackled vagabondage of his mind; while he cannot endure well-ordered civil occupations, requiring attention and constant heed to reality. He calls this 'having an idealist temperament,' ascribes to himself irresistible aesthetic propinquities, and proudly styles himself an artist.

In view of Lombroso's researches, [Lombroso, 'La Physionomie des Anarchistes,' Nouvelle Revue, May 15, 1891, p. 227: 'They [the anarchists] frequently have those characteristics of degeneracy which are common to criminals and lunatics, for they are anomalies, and bear hereditary taints.' See also the same author's Fazzi ed Ajiomali. Turin, 1884.] it can scarcely be doubted that the writings and acts of revolutionists and anarchists are also attributable to degeneracy. The degenerate is incapable of adapting himself to existing circumstances. This incapacity, indeed, is an indication of morbid variation in every species, and probably a primary cause of their sudden extinction. He therefore rebels against conditions and views of things which he necessarily feels to be painful, chiefly because they impose upon him the duty of self-control, of which he is incapable on account of his organic weakness of will. Thus he becomes an improver of the world, and devises plans for making mankind happy, which, without exception, are conspicuous quite as much by their fervent philanthropy, and often pathetic sincerity, as by their absurdity and monstrous ignorance of all real relations.
Finally, a cardinal mark of degeneration which I have reserved to the last, is mysticism. Colin says: 'Of all the delirious manifestations peculiar to the hereditarily-afflicted, none indicates the condition more clearly, we think, than mystical delirium, or, when the malady has not reached this point, the being constantly occupied with mystical and religious questions, an exaggerated piety, etc' 

The reader can now judge for himself whether or not the diagnosis 'degeneration' is applicable to the originators of the new aesthetic tendencies. It must not for that matter be supposed that degeneration is synonymous with absence of talent. 'The degenerate,' says Legrain,| 'may be a genius. A badly balanced mind is susceptible of the highest conceptions... .' We shall find this reservation in all authors who have contributed to the natural history of the degenerate. 'As regards their intellect, they can,' says Roubinovitch, 'attain to a high degree of development, but from a moral point of view their existence is completely deranged. ... A degenerate will employ his brilliant faculties quite as well in the service of some grand object as in the satisfaction of the basest propensities.' ...the utterance of a French savant, Guerinsen, 'Genius is a disease of the nerves,' has become a 'winged word.' [...] Science does not assert that every genius is a lunatic; there are some geniuses of superabundant power whose high privilege consists in the possession of one or other extraordinarily developed faculty, without the rest of their faculties falling short of the average standard. Just as little, naturally, is every lunatic a genius; most of them, even if we disregard idiots of different degrees, are much rather pitiably stupid and incapable; but in many, nay, in abundant cases, the 'higher degenerate' of Magnan, just as he occasionally exhibits gigantic bodily stature or the disproportionate growth of particular parts, has some mental gift exceptionally developed at the cost, it is true, of the remaining faculties, which are wholly or partially atrophied.  [...] The lack of harmony, the absence of balance, the singular incapacity of usefully applying, or deriving satisfaction from, their own special faculty among highlygifted degenerates, strikes every healthy censor who does not allow himself to be prejudiced by the noisy admiration of critics, themselves degenerates: and will always prevent his mistaking the mattoid for the same exceptional man who opens out new paths for humanity and leads it to higher developments. I do not share Lombroso's opinion that highly-gifted degenerates are an active force in the progress of mankind. They corrupt and delude; they do, alas! frequently exercise a deep influence, but this is always a baneful one. [...] They, likewise, are leading men along the paths they themselves have found to new goals; but these goals are abysses or waste places. They are guides to swamps like will-o'-the-wisps, or to ruin... .

Such are the qualities of the most gifted of those who are discovering new paths, and are proclaimed by enthusiastic followers as the guides to the promised land of the future. Among them degenerates and mattoids predominate. The second of the above-mentioned diagnoses, on the contrary, applies for the most part to the multitude who admire these individuals and swear by them, who imitate the fashions they design, and take delight in the extravagances described in the previous chapter. In their case we have to deal chiefly with hysteria, or neurasthenia.

...among the hysterical, as among the degenerate, the first thing which strikes us is an extraordinary emotionalism. The leading characteristic of the hysterical,' says Colin, 'is the disproportionate impressionability of their psychic centres. . . . They are, above all things, impressionable.'

Added to this emotionalism and susceptibility to suggestion is a love of self never met with in a sane person in anything like the same degree. The hysterical person's own 'I' towers up before his inner vision, and so completely fills his mental horizon that it conceals the whole of the remaining universe. He cannot endure that others should ignore him. He desires to be as important to his fellow-men as he is to himself. 'An incessant need pursues and governs the hysterical —to busy those about them with themselves.' [...] ...this need of making a sensation... displays itself in eccentricities of dress and behaviour. 'Other hysterical subjects are passionately fond of glaring colours and extravagant forms; they wish to attract attention and make themselves talked about.'
It is certainly unnecessary to draw the reader's attention in a special manner to the complete coincidence of this clinical picture of hysteria with the description of the peculiarities of the fin-de-siecle public... .

There is no rational conviction arrived at by sound labour of intellect, which so completely takes possession of the mind, subjugates so tyrannically its entire activity, and so irresistibly impels it to words and deeds, as delirium. No contradiction, no ridicule, no contempt, affects him; the opinion of the majority is to him a matter of indifference; facts which do not please him he does not notice, or so interprets that they seem to support his delirium... . Weak-minded or mentally-unbalanced persons, coming into contact with a man possessed by delirium, are at once conquered by the strength of his diseased ideas, and are converted to them.

This is the natural history of the aesthetic schools. Under the influence of an obsession, a degenerate mind promulgates some doctrine or other... . [...] Other degenerate, hysterical, neurasthenical minds flock around him, receive from his lips the new doctrine, and live thenceforth only to propagate it.

It has now been shown how schools originate. They arise from the degeneration of their founders and of the imitators they have convinced. That they come into fashion, and for a short time attain a noisy success, is due to the peculiarities of the recipient public, namely, to hysteria.

Young persons without judgment, still seeking their way, go whither they see the multitude streaming, and unhesitatingly follow the procession, because they believe it to be marching on the right road. Superficial persons, fearing nothing so much as to be thought behind the times, attach themselves to the procession, shouting 'Hurrah!' and 'All hail!' so as to convince themselves that they also are really dancing along before the latest conqueror and newest celebrity.

And this crowd, because it is driven by disease, self-interest and vanity, makes very much more noise and bustle than a far larger number of sane men, who, without self-seeking after-thought, take quiet enjoyment in works of sane talent... .

[end of chapter]

Chapter IV


The inhabitant of a large town, even the richest, who is surrounded by the greatest luxury, is continually exposed to unfavourable influences which diminish his vital powers far more than what is inevitable. He breathes an atmosphere charged with organic detritus; he eats stale, contaminated, adulterated food; he feels himself in a state of constant nervous excitement, and one can compare him without exaggeration to the inhabitant of a marshy district. The effect of a large town on the human organism offers the closest analogy to that of the Maremma [a region of Italy which was hyperendemic for Malaria until the mid 20th century], and its population falls victim to the same fatality of degeneracy and destruction as the victims of malaria. The death-rate in a large town is more than a quarter greater than the average for the entire population; it is double that of the open country, though in reality it ought to be less, since in a large town the most vigorous ages predominate, during which the mortality is lower than in infancy and old age.

Now we know how, in the last generation, the number of the inhabitants of great towns increased to an extraordinary degree. At the present time an incomparably larger portion of the whole population is subjected to the destructive influences of large towns than was the case fifty years ago; hence the number of victims is proportionately more striking, and continually becomes more remarkable. Parallel with the growth of large towns is the increase in the number of the degenerate of all kinds—criminals, lunatics, and the 'higher degenerates' of Magnan [southern France]; and it is natural that these last should play an ever more prominent part in endeavouring to introduce an ever greater element of insanity into art and literature.
The enormous increase of hysteria in our days is partly due to the same causes as degeneracy, besides which there is one cause much more general still than the growth of large towns —a cause which perhaps of itself would not be sufficient to bring about degeneracy, but which is unquestionably quite enough to produce hysteria and neurasthenia. This cause is the fatigue of the present generation.

Now, to this cause—fatigue—which, according to Fere, changes healthy men into hysterical, the whole of civilized humanity has been exposed for half a century. All its conditions of life have, in this period of time, experienced a revolution unexampled in the history of the world. Humanity can point to no century in which the inventions which penetrate so deeply, so tyrannically, into the life of every individual are crowded so thick as in ours. The discovery of America, the Reformation, stirred men's minds powerfully, no doubt, and certainly also destroyed the equilibrium of thousands of brains which lacked staying power. But they did not change the material life of man. He got up and laid down, ate and drank, dressed, amused himself, passed his days and years as he had been always wont to do. In our times, on the contrary, steam and electricity have turned the customs of life of every member of the civilized nations upside down, even of the most obtuse and narrow-minded citizen, who is completely inaccessible to the impelling thoughts of the times.

Let us stop, for purposes of comparison, at the year 1840. This year has not been arbitrarily selected. It is about the date when that generation was born which has witnessed the irruption of new discoveries in every relation of life, and thus personally experienced those transformations which are the consequences. This generation reigns and governs to-day; it sets the tone everywhere, and its sons and daughters are the youth of Europe and America, in whom the new aesthetic tendencies gain their fanatical
In 1840 there were in Europe 3,000 kilometres of railway; in 1891 there were 218,000 kilometres. The number of travellers in 1840, in Germany, France and England, amounted to 2 1/2 millions; in 1891 it was 614 millions.

The humblest village inhabitant has to-day a wider geographical horizon, more numerous and complex intellectual interests, than the prime minister of a petty, or even a second-rate state a century ago. If he do but read his paper, let it be the most innocent provincial rag, he takes part, certainly not by active interference and influence, but by a continuous and receptive curiosity, in the thousand events which take place in all parts of the globe, and he interests himself simultaneously in the issue of a revolution in Chili, in a bush-war in East Africa, a massacre in North China, a famine in Russia, a street-row in Spain, and an international exhibition in North America. ...a petty tradesman travels more and sees more countries and people [today] than did the reigning prince of other times.

All these activities, however, even the simplest, involve an effort of the nervous system and a wearing of tissue. Every line we read or write, every human face we see, every conversation we carry on, every scene we perceive through the window of the flying express, sets in activity our sensory nerves and our brain centres. Even the little shocks of railway travelling, not perceived by consciousness, the perpetual noises, and the various sights in the streets of a large town, our suspense pending the sequel of progressing events, the
constant expectation of the newspaper, of the postman, of visitors, cost our brains wear and tear.

Its own new discoveries and progress have taken civilized humanity by surprise. It has had no time to adapt itself to its changed conditions of life. [...] No time was left to our fathers. Between one day and the next, as it were, without preparation, with murderous suddenness, they were obliged to change the comfortable creeping gait of their former existence for the stormy stride of modern life, and their heart and lungs could not bear it. The strongest could keep up, no doubt, and even now, at the most rapid pace, no longer lose their breath, but the less vigorous soon fell out right and left, and fill to-day the ditches on the road of progress. [...] The new aesthetic schools and their success are a form of this general hysteria; but they are far from being the only one.

It has become a commonplace to speak of the constant increase of crime, madness and suicide. [...] In the last twenty years a number of new nervous diseases have been discovered and named.* Let it not be believed that they always existed, and were merely overlooked. If they had been met with anywhere they would have been detected, for even if the theories which prevailed in medicine at various periods were erroneous, there have always been perspicacious and attentive physicians who knew how to observe. If, then, the new nervous diseases were not noticed, it is because they did not formerly appear. And they are exclusively a consequence of the present conditions of civilized life.

Many observers assert that the present generation ages much more rapidly than the preceding one. [...] Everyone who looks round the circle of his friends and acquaintances will remark that the hair begins to turn gray much sooner than in former days. Most men and women show their first white hairs at the beginning of the thirties, many of them at a very much younger age. Formerly white hair was the accompaniment of the fiftieth year.
All the symptoms enumerated are the consequences of states of fatigue and exhaustion, and these, again, are the effect of contemporary civilization, of the vertigo and whirl of our frenzied life, the vastly increased number of sense impressions and organic reactions, and therefore of perceptions, judgments, and motor impulses, which at present are forced into a given unity of time.

In the civilized world there obviously prevails a twilight mood which finds expression, amongst other ways, in all sorts of odd aesthetic fashions. All these new tendencies, realism or naturalism, 'decadentism,' neo-mysticism, and their sub-varieties, are manifestations of degeneration and hysteria, and identical with the mental stigmata which the observations of clinicists have unquestionably established as belonging to these. But both degeneration and hysteria are the consequences of the excessive organic wear and tear suffered by the nations through the immense demands on their activity, and through the rank growth of large towns.

We should not allow ourselves to be deceived by certain catch-words, frequently uttered in the works of these professed innovators. They talk of socialism, of emancipation of the mind, etc., and thereby create the outward show of being deeply imbued with the thoughts and struggles of the times. But this is empty sham. [...] It is a phenomenon observed in every kind of mania, that it receives its special colouring from the degree of culture of the  invalid, and from the views prevailing at the times in which he lived. [...] These so-called socialist and freethinking works of the degenerate as little advance the development of society..., as the complaints and descriptions of an individual suffering from persecutionmania, and who holds electricity responsible for his disagreeable sensations, advance the knowledge of this force of nature.



Chapter I.


We have already learnt to see in mysticism a principal characteristic of degeneration. It follows so generally in the train of the latter, that there is scarcely a case of degeneration in which it does not appear. [...] I will therefore only repeat one remark of Legrain's: 'Mystical thoughts are to be laid to the account of the insanity of the degenerate. There are two states in which they are observed—in epilepsy and in hysterical delirium.' When Federoff, who makes mention of religious delirium and ecstasy as among the accompanying features of an attack of hysteria, puts them down as a peculiarity of women, he commits an error, since they are at least as common in male hysterical and degenerate subjects as in female.
What is really to be understood by this somewhat vague term 'mysticism'? The word describes a state of mind in which the subject imagines that he perceives or divines unknown and inexplicable relations amongst -phenomena, discerns in things hints at mysteries, and regards them as symbols, by which a dark power seeks to unveil or, at least, to indicate all sorts of marvels... . This condition of mind is always connected with strong emotional excitement, which consciousness conceives to be the result of its presentiments, although it is this excitement, on the contrary, which is pre-existent, while the presentiments are caused by it and receive from it their peculiar direction and colour.
All phenomena in the world and in life present themselves in a different light to the mystic from what they do to the sane man. The simplest word uttered before the former appears to him an allusion to something mysteriously occult; in the most commonplace and natural movements he sees hidden signs. All things have for him deep backgrounds; far-reaching shadows are thrown by them over adjacent tracts; they send out wide-spreading roots into remote substrata. Every image that rises up in his mind points with mysterious silence, though with significant look and finger, to other images distinct or shadowy, and induces him to set up relations between ideas, where other people recognise no connection. In consequence of this peculiarity of his mind, the mystic lives as if surrounded by sinister forms, from behind whose masks enigmatic eyes look forth, and whom he contemplates with constant terror, since he is never sure of recognising any shapes among the disguises which press upon him. 'Things are not what they seem' is the characteristic expression frequently heard from the mystic. [...] In extreme cases this morbid attitude amounts to hallucinations, which, as a rule, affect the hearing; but it can also influence sight and the other senses. When this is so, the mystic does not confine himself to conjectures and guesses at mysteries in and behind phenomena, but hears and sees as real, things which for the sane man are non-existent.

Culture and command over the powers of nature are solely the result of attention; all errors, all superstition, the consequence of defective attention. False ideas of the connection between phenomena arise through defective observation of them, and will be rectified by a more exact observation.

The consciousness of a healthy, strong-minded, and consequently attentive man, resembles a room in the full light of day, in which the eye sees all objects distinctly, in which all outlines are sharp, and wherein no indefinite shadows are floating.

Attention, therefore, presupposes strength of will, and this, again, is the property only of  a normally constituted and unexhausted brain. In the degenerate, whose brain and nervous system are characterized by hereditary malformations or irregularities; in the hysterical, whom we have learnt to regard as victims of exhaustion, the will is entirely lacking, is possessed only in a small degree. The consequence of weakness or want of will is incapacity of attention. Alexander Starr published twenty-three cases of lesions, or diseases of the convolutions of the brain, in which 'it was impossible for the patients to fix their attention'; and Ribotf remarks: 'A man who is tired after a long walk, a convalescent who has undergone a severe illness—in a word, all weakened persons are incapable of attention. . . . Inability to be attentive accompanies all forms of exhaustion.'
Untended and unrestrained by attention, the brain activity of the degenerate and hysterical is capricious, and without aim or purpose. Through the unrestricted play of association representations are called into consciousness, and are free to run riot there. They are aroused and extinguished automatically; and the will does not interfere to strengthen or to suppress them. Representations mutually alien or mutually exclusive appear continuously. The fact that they are retained in consciousness simultaneously, and at about the same intensity, combines them (in conformity with the laws of conscious activity) into a thought which is necessarily absurd, and cannot express the true relations of phenomena.
Weakness or want of attention, produces, then, in the first place, false judgments respecting the objective universe, respecting the qualities of things and their relations to each other. Consciousness acquires a distorted and blurred view of the external world. And there follows a further consequence. The chaotic course of stimuli along the channels of association and of the adjacent structures arouses the activity both of contiguous, of further, and of furthest removed groups of cells, which, left to themselves, act only so long and with such varying intensity as is proportionate to the intensity of the stimulus which has reached them. Clear, obscure, and yet obscurer representations rise in consciousness, which, after a time, disappear again, without having attained to greater distinctness than they had when first appearing. The clear representations produce a thought, but such a one as cannot for a moment become firmer or clearer, because the definite representations of which it is composed are mingled with others which consciousness perceives indistinctly, or scarcely perceives at all. Such obscure ideas cross the threshold of even a healthy person's consciousness; but in that case attention intervenes at once, to bring them fully to the light, or entirely to suppress them. These synchronous over-tones of every thought cannot, therefore, blur the tonic note. The emergent thought-phantoms can acquire no influence over the thought-procedure because attention either lightens up their faces, or banishes them back to their under-world of the Unconscious. It is otherwise with the degenerate and debilitated, who suffer from weakness of will and defective attention. The faint, scarcely recognisable, liminal presentations are perceived at the same time as those that are well lit and centrally focussed. The judgement grows drifting and nebulous like floating fog in the morning wind. Consciousness, aware of the spectrally transparent shapes, seeks in vain to grasp them, and interprets them without confidence, as when one fancies in a cloud resemblances to creatures or things. Whoever has sought on a dark night to discern phenomena on a distant horizon can form an idea of the picture which the world of thought presents to the mind of an asthenic. Lo there! a dark mass! What is it? A tree? A hayrick? A robber? A beast of prey? Ought one to fly? Ought one to attack it? The incapacity to recognise the object, more guessed at than perceived, fills him with uneasiness and anxiety. This is just the condition of the mind of an asthenic in the presence of his liminal presentations. [...] Now, this state of mind, in which a man is straining to see, thinks he sees, but does not see—in which a man is forced to construct thoughts out of presentations which befool and mock consciousness like will-o'-the-wisps or marsh vapours— in which a man fancies that he perceives inexplicable relations between distinct phenomena and ambiguous formless shadows —this is the condition of mind that is called Mysticism.

From the shadowy thinking of the mystic, springs his washedout style of expression. [...] Language has no word for that which one believes he sees as through a mist, without recognisable form. The mystic, however, is conscious of ghostly presentations of this sort without shape or other qualities, and in order to express them he must either use recognised words, to which he gives a meaning wholly different from that which is generally current, or else, feeling the inadequacy of the fund of language created by those of sound mind, he forges for himself special words which, to a stranger, are generally incomprehensible, and the cloudy, chaotic sense of which is intelligible only to himself; or, finally, he embodies the several meanings which he gives to his shapeless representations in as many words, and then succeeds in achieving those bewildering juxtapositions of what is mutually exclusive, those expressions which can in no way be rationally made to harmonize, but which are so typical of the mystic. [...] ...he says, like the degenerate in the twenty-eighth pathological case of [Paul Maurice] Legrain, 'that God appeared to him in the form of luminous shadows'... .

The healthy reader or listener who has confidence in his own judgment, and tests with lucidity and self-dependence, naturally discerns at once that these mystical expressions are senseless, and do but reflect the mystic's confused manner of thinking. The majority of mankind, however, have neither self-confidence nor the faculty of judging... . The effect of the mystical method of expression on people who allow themselves to be bewildered is for this reason a very strong one. It gives them food for thought, as they call it; that is to say, it allows them to give way to all kinds of dream-fancies, which is very much easier, and therefore more agreeable, than the toil of reflecting on firmly outlined presentations and thoughts admitting of no evasions and extravagances. It transports their minds to the same condition of mental activity determined by unbridled association of ideas that is peculiar to the mystic. [...] All the weak-headed appear therefore 'deep' to the mystic... . Only very strong minds are really deep, such as can keep the processes of thought under the discipline of an extraordinarily powerful attention. [...] This true depth of strong select minds is wholly luminous. It scares shadows out of hidden corners, and fills abysses with radiant light. The mystic's pseudo-depth, on the contrary, is all obscurity. It causes things to appear deep by the same means as darkness, viz., by reason of its rendering their outlines imperceptible. The mystic obliterates the firm outlines of phenomena; he spreads a veil over them, and conceals them in blue vapour. He troubles what is clear, and makes the transparent opaque, as does the cuttle-fish the waters of the ocean. He, therefore, who sees the world through the eyes of a mystic, gazes into a black heaving mass, in which he can always find what he desires, although, and just because, he actually perceives nothing at all. To the weak-headed everything which is clearly, firmly defined, and which, therefore, has strictly but one meaning, is flat. To them everything is profound which has no meaning, and which, therefore, allows them to apply what meaning they please. To them mathematical analysis is flat; theology and metaphysics, deep. The study of Roman law is flat; the dream-book and the prophecies of Nostradamus are deep.

The naturalist who loses the faculty of attention becomes the...  discoverer, of a fourth dimension in space, like the unfortunate Zollner [
Johann Karl Friedrich Zöllner believed that all kinds of mystical phenomena could be explained if a fourth dimension existed which was inhabited by spirits of the dead. On this basis, he argued that what we see as ghosts are really just shadows projected into our three-dimensional spatial world]. The technologist who has fallen into mysticism... believes himself to be on the track of the solution of the problem of perpetual motion... . The astronomer becomes an astrologist, the chemist an alchemist and a seeker after the philosopher's stone; the mathematician labours to square the circle... .

The mysticism which I have hitherto investigated is the incapacity, due to weakness of will, either innate or acquired, to guide the work of the association of' ideas by attention, to draw shadowy liminal representations into the bright focal circle of consciousness, and to suppress presentations which are incompatible with those attended to. There exists, however, another form of mysticism, the cause of which is not defective attention, but an anomaly in the sensitivity of the brain and nervous system. In the healthy organism the afferent nerves convey impressions of the external world in their full freshness to the brain, and the stimulation of the brain-cell is in direct ratio to the intensity of the stimulus conducted to it. Not so is the deportment of a degenerate or exhausted organism.

A generally excessive excitability produces those morbidly-sensitive natures in whom the most insignificant phenomena create the most astonishing perceptions; who hear the 'sobbing of the evening glow,' shudder at the contact of a flower; distinguish thrilling prophecies and fearful threatenings in the sighing of the wind, etc. [authors note: Gerard de Nerval, Le Rive et la Vie, Paris, 1868, p. 53: 'Everything in Nature assumed a different aspect. Mysterious voices issued from plants, trees, animals, the smallest insects, to warn and to encourage me. I discerned mysterious turns in the utterances of my companions, and understood their purport. Even formless and inanimate things ministered to the workings of my mind.' Here is a perfect instance of that ' comprehension of the mysterious' which is one of the most common fancies of the insane.]

One may completely believe the assurances of great ecstatics, such as a St. Theresa, a Mohammed, an Ignatius Loyola, that the bliss accompanying their ecstatic visions is unlike anything earthly, and almost more than a mortal can bear. This latter statement proves that they were conscious of the sharp pain which accompanies nerve-action in over-excited brain-cells... .

We have now seen that mysticism depends upon the incapacity to control the association of ideas by the attention, and that this incapacity results from weakness of will; while ecstasy is a consequence of the morbid irritability of special brain-centres. [...]

All observers maintain that the 'higher degenerate' is frequently 'original, brilliant, witty,' and that whereas he is incapable of activity which demands attention and self-control, he has strong artistic inclinations. All these peculiarities are to be explained by the uncontrolled working of association.

Ignorant persons are inclined to call the rhyming and punning of imbeciles witty, not bearing in mind that this way of combining ideas according to the sound of the words frustrates the purposes of the intellect by obscuring the apprehension of the real connections of phenomena. No witticism has ever made easier the discovery of any truth.

All callings which require knowledge of fact, and adaptation to it, presuppose attention. This capacity is wanting in imbeciles ; hence they are not fitted for serious professions. Certain artistic occupations, especially those of a subordinate kind, are, on the contrary, quite compatible with uncontrolled association of ideas, reverie, or fugitive thought, because they exact only a very limited
adaptation to fact, and therefore have great attractions for persons of weak intellect.

[End of chapter]



Mysticism is the habitual condition of the human race, and in no way an eccentric disposition of mind. A strong brain which works out every presentation to its full clearness—a powerful will, which sustains the toiling attention—these are rare gifts. Musing and dreaming, the free ranging of imagination, disporting itself at its own sweet will along the meandering pathways of association, demand less exertion, and will therefore be widely preferred to the hard labour of observation and intelligent judgment.

Many erroneous explanations of natural phenomena, the majority of false scientific hypotheses, all religious and metaphysical systems, have arisen in such a way that mankind, in their thoughts and opinions, have interwoven, as equally valid components, ideas suggested by words only, together with such as were derived from direct perception.

Speech, that great auxiliary in the interchange of human thought, is no unmixed benefit. It brings to the consciousness of most men incomparably more obscurity than brightness.  It enriches their memory with auditory images, not with welldefined pictures of reality. A word, whether written or spoken, excites a sense (sight or hearing), and sets up an activity in the brain.

The desire for knowledge, without any hiatus, of all that is in the world, is irresistible; while the opportunities of perception at first hand, even in the most favourable circumstances, are limited. What we have not ourselves experienced we let others, the dead and the living, tell us. The word must take the place of the direct impressions of sense for us. And then it is itself an impression of sense, and our consciousness is accustomed to put this impression on a level with others, to estimate the idea aroused by this word equally with those ideas which have been acquired through the simultaneous co-operation of all the senses, through observations, and handling on every side, through moving and lifting, listening to, and smelling the object itself. This parity of values is an error of
thought. It is false in any case if a word do more than call into consciousness a memory -image of a presentation, which it has acquired through personal experience, or a concept composed of such presentations. Nevertheless, we all of us commit this fallacy. We forget that language was only developed by the race as a means of communication between individuals, that it is a social function, but not a source of knowledge. Words are in reality much more a source of error.

Many erroneous explanations of natural phenomena, the majority of false scientific hypotheses, all religious and metaphysical systems, have arisen in such a way that mankind, in their thoughts and opinions, have interwoven, as equally valid components, ideas suggested by words only, together with such as were derived from direct perception.

In one part or another of his mental field of vision each of us therefore is a mystic. From all the phenomena which he himself has not observed, everyone forms shadowy, unstable presentations. Nevertheless, it is easy to distinguish healthy men from those who deserve the designation of mystic. There is a sure sign for each. The healthy man is in a condition to obtain sharplydefined presentations from his own immediate perceptions, and to comprehend their real connection. The mystic, on the contrary, mixes his ambiguous, cloudy, half-formed liminal representations with his immediate perceptions, which are thereby disturbed and obscured. [...] All the genuine mystic's presentations, on the contrary, even those of daily experience, are permeated and overgrown with that which is incomprehensible, because it is without form. His want of attention makes him incapable of apprehending the real connecting links between the simplest and most obviously related phenomena, and leads him to deduce them from one or another of the hazy, intangible presentations wavering and wandering in his consciousness.




Chapter 5.


As in Ibsen ego-mania has found its poet, so in Nietzsche it has found its philosopher.

Consciousness has the thankless task of discovering rational and elucidatory grounds for the explanation of the impulses and acts springing up in subconsciousness. In the same way philosophy endeavours to find formulae of apparent profundity for the peculiarities of feeling, thought and deed, having their roots in the history of politics and civilization—in climatic and economic conditions — and to fit them with a sort of uniform of logic. [...] [Philosophical systems] furnish instructive evidence of the efforts of the racial consciousness to supply reason, skilfully or clumsily,
with the excuses it demands for the unconscious impulses of the
race during a given period of time.

From the first to the last page of Nietzsche's writings the careful reader seems to hear a madman, with flashing eyes, wild gestures, and foaming mouth, spouting forth deafening bombast; and through it all, now breaking out into frenzied laughter, now sputtering expressions of filthy abuse and invective, now skipping about in a giddily agile dance, and now bursting upon the auditors with threatening mien and clenched fists.

First of all it is essential to become habituated to Nietzsche's style. This is, I admit, unnecessary for the alienist. To him this sort of style is well known and familiar. He frequently reads writings (it is true, as a rule, unprinted) of a similar order of thought and diction, and he reads them, not for his pleasure, but that he may prescribe the confinement of the author in an asylum. The unprofessional reader, on the contrary, is easily confused by the tumult of phrases.

Rarely is a thought developed to any extent; rarely are a few consecutive pages connected by any unity of purpose or logical argument. Nietzsche evidently had the habit of throwing on paper with feverish haste all that passed through his head, and when he had collected a heap of snippings he sent them to the printer, and there was a book. These sweepings of ideas he himself proudly terms 'aphorisms,' and the very incoherence of his language is regarded by his admirers as a special merit.

Nietzsche's doctrine, promulgated as orthodox by his disciples, criticises the foundations of ethics, investigates the genesis of the concept of good and evil, examines the value of that which is called virtue and vice, both for the individual and for society, explains the origin of conscience, and seeks to give an idea of the end of the evolution of the race, and, consequently, of man's ideal—the 'over man' (Uebermensch).

He sees at the beginnings of civilization 'a beast of prey, a magnificent blond brute, ranging about and lusting for booty and victory.' These 'unchained beasts of prey were free from every social restraint; in the innocence of their wild-beast conscience they returned as exultant monsters from a horrible train of murder, incendiarism, rapine, torture, with an arrogance- and composure as if nothing but a student's freak had been perpetrated.' The blond beasts constituted the noble races. They fell upon the less noble races, conquered them, and made slaves of them. 'A herd of blond beasts of prey, a race of conquerors and masters, with military organization' (this word ' organization ' should be noticed; we shall have to revert to it), 'with the power to organize, unscrupulously placing their fearful paws upon a population perhaps vastly superior in numbers, but still amorphous and wandering—this herd founded the State.

In the State, then, thus estabhshed  here were a race of masters and a race of slaves. The master-race first created moral ideas. It distinguished between good and evil. Good was 'with it synonymous with noble; evil with vulgar. All their own qualities they felt as good; those of the subject race as evil. Good meant severity, cruelty, pride, courage, contempt of danger, joy in risk, extreme unscrupulousness. Bad meant 'the coward, the nervous, the mean, the narrow utilitarian, and also the distrustful with his disingenuous glance, the self-abasing, the human hound who allows himself to be abused, the begging flatterer—above all, the liar.' Such is the morality of the masters. The radical meaning of the words now expressing the concept 'good' reveals what men represented to themselves as 'good' when the moral of the masters still held sway. * The Latin bomis I believe I may venture to interpret as "the warrior." Provided I rightly trace bonus to a more ancient duonus (compare belhun, duelliim, duenlum, in which it seems to me that duonus is contained). Bonus, then, as a man of discord, of disunion {duo), as warrior: whereby it is seen what in ancient Rome constituted the "goodness" of a man.'
The subjugated race had naturally an opposing morality — the morality of the slaves. ' The slave looks with envy on the virtues of the powerful; he is sceptical and distrustful; he has the cunning of distrust towards everything honoured by them as "good." Conversely, those qualities were distinguished and glorified which served to ameliorate the existence of sufferers.

For a certain period the morality of masters and slaves subsisted side by side, or, more accurately, the one above the other. Then an extraordinary event occurred—slave-morality rebelled against master-morality, conquered and dethroned it, and set itself in the place thereof. Then ensued a new valuation of all moral concepts. [...] That which, under the master-morals, had passed for good was now esteemed bad, and vice versa. Weakness was meritorious, cruelty a crime ; self-sacrifice, pity for the pain of others, unselfishness, were virtues. That is what Nietzsche terms * the slave revolt in morality.' * The Jews have brought about that marvel of inversion in values. Their prophets have melted into one substance " rich," "godless," "wicked," "violent," "sensual," and for the first time minted the word "world" as one of opprobrium. In this inversion of values (to which belongs the use of the word " poor " as a synonym of "holy" and "friend") lies the importance of the Jewish race.' The Jewish 'slave-revolt in morality' was an act of vengeance on the master-race which had long oppressed the Jews, and the instrument of this vast vengeance was the Saviour. * Has not Israel, by the very subterfuge of this "Redeemer," this seeming adversary and destroyer of Israel, attained the final goal of its sublime rage for vengeance? Does it not belong to the secret black art of a truly grand policy of vengeance, of a far-seeing, underground, slowly-gripping, foreplanning vengeance, that Israel itself should deny the proper instrument of its vengeance before the whole world, as something deadly inimical, and nail him to the cross, in order that the "entire universe," viz., the enemies of Israel, might unhesitatingly bite at this very bait ? And on the other hand, would it be possible, by all the refinement of intellect, to imagine a more dangerous bait ? Something that should resemble in enticing, mtoxicating, bewildering, corrupting power that symbol of the "holy cross," that awful paradox of a " God on the cross," that mystery of an ineffable final and utmost cruelty, and self-crucifixion of God for the salvation of man? It is at least certain that sub hoc signo Israel, with its vengeance and transvaluation of all values, has hitherto triumphed again and again over all other ideals, over all nobler ideals.'
To this passage I would most specially direct the reader's attention, and beg him to transform into mental images all that jingle and clatter of words.

Since the Jewish slave-revolt in morality, life, till then a delight, at least for the powerful and bold, or the nobles and masters, has become a torment. Since that revolt the unnatural holds sway, under which man is becoming dwarted, enfeebled, vulgarized, and gradually degenerate. For the fundamental instinct of the healthy man is not unselfishness and pity, but selfishness and cruelty.

Thus the fundamental instinct of man is cruelty. For this, in the new slave-morality, there is no place. A fundamental instinct, however, is not to be uprooted. It still lives and demands its rights. Hence a series of diversions have been sought for it. 'All instincts, not discharged outwardly, turn inwards. Those terrible bulwarks with which political organization protected itself against the ancient instincts of freedom —and punishments belong to the front line of these bulwarks —had for their result, that all those instincts of the savage roaming at large were turned backwards and against man. Animosity, cruelty, the joy of pursuit, of sudden assault, of change, of destruction—all that turns itself against the possessors of such instincts is the origin of a " bad conscience."

Slave-morality, with its 'ascetic ideal' of self-suppression and contempt of life, and its tormenting invention of .conscience, allowed the slaves, it is true, to take vengeance on their masters; it also subjugated the mighty man-beasts of prey and created better conditions of existence for the small and weak, for the rabble, the gregarious animals; but it has been pernicious to humanity as a whole, because it has prevented the free evolution of precisely the highest human type. * The collective degeneration of man to that which, in the eyes of socialistic ninnies and blockheads of the present day, seems their "man of the future"—their ideal!—this degeneration and dwarfing of man to the perfect herd animal (or, as they say, to the man of "free society"), this brutalizing of man to the
animal pigmy of equal rights and pretensions,' is the destructive work of slave-morality. In order to discipline humanity to supreme splendour we must revert to nature, to the morality of the masters, to the unchaining of cruelty. [...] 'In opposition to the lying watchword of the privilege of the majority, in opposition to the desire for abasement, humiliation, levelling, for the downward and duskward of man,' we must sound forth 'the watchword of the privilege of the minority.' * As a last indicator of the other way appeared Napoleon, man most unique, and latest born of all time, and in him the incarnate problem of the aristocratic ideal as such,—Napoleon, that synthesis of the inhuman and the superhuman (Unmensch und Ueberniensch).'

This is Nietzsche's moral philosophy which (disregarding contradictions) is deduced from separate concordant passages in his various books (in pariicular Menschliches Allzumenschliches, Jenseits von Gut und Bose, and Zur Genealogie der Moral). I will take it for a moment and subject it to criticism... .
Firstly, the anthropological assertion. Man is supposed to have been a freely roaming solitary beast of prey, whose primordial instinct was egoism and the absence of any consideration for his congeners. This assertion contradicts all that we know concerning the beginnings of humanity. [...]  As far as our view penetrates into prehistoric time, every discovery shows us primitive man as a gregarious animal, who could not possibly have maintained himself if he had not possessed the instincts which are presupposed in life in a community, viz., sympathy, the feeling of solidarity and a certain degree of unselfishness. [...] Hence it is not true that at any time man was a 'solitary, roving brute.'
Now with regard to the historical assertion. At first the morality of masters is supposed to have prevailed, in which every selfish act of violence seemed good, every sort of unselfishness bad. The inverted valuation of deeds and feelings is said to have been the work of a slave-revolt. The Jews are said to have discovered ' ascetic morality,' i.e., the ideal of combating all desires, contempt of all pleasures of the flesh, pity, and brotherly love, in order to avenge themselves on their oppressors, the masters—the * blond beasts of prey.' I have shown above, the insanity of this idea of a conscious and purposed [--deliberated--] act of vengeance on the part of the Jewish people. But is it, then, true that our present morality, with its conceptions of good and evil, is an invention of the Jews, directed against 'blond beasts' an enterprise of slaves against a masterpeople? The leading doctrines of the present morality, falsely termed Christian, were expressed in Buddhism six hundred years prior to the rise of Christianity. [...] Is that a morality of slaves or of masters? Is it a notion of roving beasts of prey, or that of compassionate, unselfish, social human beings ? And this notion did not spring up in Palestine, but in India, among the very people of the conquering Aryans, who were ruling a subordinate race ; and in China, where at that time no conquering race held another in subjection. Self-sacrifice for others, pity and sympathy, are supposed to be the morality of Jewish slaves.

In the ' blond beast' Nietzsche evidently is thinking of the ancient Germans of the migratory ages. They have inspired in him the idea of the roving beast of prey, falling upon weaker men for the voluptuous assuaging of their instincts of bloodthirstiness and destruction. [...] Very well; history teaches that the ' blond beast,' i.e., the ancient German of the migratory ages, not yet affected by the 'slave-revolt in morals,' was a vigorous but peaceloving peasant, who made war not to riot in murder, but to obtain arable land, and who always first sought to conclude peaceful treaties before necessity forced him to have recourse to the sword.

Conscience is supposed to be 'cruelty introverted.' As the man to whom it is an irrepressible want to inflict pain, to torture, and to rend, cannot assuage this want on others, he satisfies it on himself If this were true, then the respectable, the virtuous man, who had never satisfied the pretended primeval instinct of causing pain by means of a crime against others, would be forced to rage the most violently against himself, and would therefore of necessity have the worst conscience [editors note: this is exactly what Freud says in his 'Civilization and its Discontents']. [...]  Nietzsche says, 'It is precisely among criminals and offenders that remorse is extremely rare; prisons and reformatories are not the brooding places in which this species of worm loves to thrive'... .

Now the biological argument. [...] ...the most perfect human type would, according to Nietzsche, be the 'magnificent beast of prey,' the ' laughing lion,' able to satisfy all his desires without consideration for good or evil. Observation teaches that this doctrine is rank idiocy. All 'over-men' known to history, who gave the reins to their instincts, were either diseased from the outset, or became diseased. Famous criminals — and Nietzsche expressly ranks these among the 'over-men' — have displayed, almost without exception, the bodily and mental stigmata characterizing them as degenerates, and hence as cripples or atavistic phenomena, not as specimens of the highest evolution and florescence. The Caesars, whose monstrous selfishness could batten on all humanity, succumbed to madness, which it will hardly be wished to designate as an ideal condition. [...] ...the 'splendid beast of prey' is pernicious to itself; it rages against itself, it even annihilates itself, and yet that cannot possibly be a useful result of highlytrained qualities. The biological truth is, that constant selfrestraint is a necessity of existence as much for the strongest as for the weakest. It is the activity of the highest human cerebral centres. If these are not exercised they waste away, i.e., man ceases to be man, the pretended 'over-man' becomes sub-human—in other words, a beast. By the relaxation or breaking up of the mechanism of inhibition in the brain the organism sinks into irrecoverable anarchy in its constituent parts, and this leads, with absolute certainty, to ruin, to disease, madness and death, even if no resistance results from the external world against the frenzied egoism of the unbridled individual.

The man whom the healthy-minded moralist has before his eyes is one who has attained a sufficiently high development to extricate himself from the illusion of his individual isolation, and to participate in the existence of the species, to feel himself one of its members, to picture to himself the states of his fellow-creatures — i.e., to be able to sympathize with them. This man Nietzsche calls a herd animal —a term which he has found used by all Darwinist writers, but which he seems to regard as his own invention. He endows the word with a meaning of contempt. The truth is that this herding animal — i.e., man, whose 'I' consciousness has expanded itself to the capacity of receiving the consciousness of the species—represents the higher development, to which mental cripples and degenerates, for ever enclosed in their diseased isolation, cannot ascend.

'Education . . . seeks to determine the individual to modes of thought and conduct which, if they have become habit, instinct, and passion, rule in him and over him, against his ultimate advantage, but "for the general good."' This is the old silly objection against altruism which we have seen floating in every gutter for the last sixty years. 'If everyone were to act unselfishly, to sacrifice himself for his neighbour, the result would be that everyone would injure himself, and hence humanity, as a whole, would suffer great prejudice.' Assuredly it would, if humanity were composed of isolated individuals in no communication with each other. Whereas it is an organism; each individual always gives to the higher organism only the surplus of his effective force, and in his personal share of the collective wealth profits by the prosperity of the whole organism, which he has increased through his altruistic sacrifice.

We have had quite enough tests of the 'depth' of Nietzsche and his system.

At one time the primitive aristocratic man is the freelyroving, splendid beast of prey, the blond beast; at another: * these men are rigorously kept within bounds by morality, veneration, custom, gratitude, still more by reciprocal surveillance, by jealousy inter pares ; and, on the other hand, in their attitude towards each other, inventive in consideration, selfcommand, delicacy, fidelity, pride, and friendship.' Ay, if these be the attributes of ' blond beasts,' may someone speedily give us a society of ' blond beasts'!

If the conceits which he wildly ejaculates—as it were, shrieks forth—are examined somewhat more closely, we cannot but marvel at the profusion of fabulous stupidity and abecedarian ignorance they contain. It is thus he terms the system of Copernicus (
Jenseits von Gut und Böse [Beyond Good and Evil]), 'which has persuaded us, against all the senses, that the earth is not immovable,' 'the greatest triumph over the senses hitherto achieved on earth.' Hence he does not suspect that the system of Copernicus has for its basis exact observation of the starry heavens, the movements of the moon and planets, and the position of the sun in the zodiac ; that this system was, therefore, the triumph of exact sense-perceptions over sense-illusions—in other words, of attentiveness over fugacity and distraction.

[Nietzsche] openly avows that this is not a matter of indifference
to him; he regrets it; it troubles him, that the earth is no longer the central point of the universe, and he the chief thing on the earth. 'Since Copernicus, man seems to have fallen upon an inclined plane; he is now rolling ever faster away from the central point—whither?—into the nothing? into the piercing feeling of his nothingness?' He is very angry with Copernicus concerning this. Not only with Copernicus, but with science in general, 'All science is at present busied in talking man out of the self-respect he has hitherto possessed, just as if this had been nothing but a bizarre self-conceit ' (Zur Genealogie der Moral, p. 173).

The similarity [between certain ideas expressed in Nietzsche's writings and those championed by the French Decadents and English AEsthetes], or rather identity, is not explained by plagiarism; it is explained by the identity of mental qualities in Nietzsche and the other egomaniacal degenerates.

This 'solitary one,' this 'dweller on the highest mountain peaks,' exhibits by the dozen the physiognomy of all decadents. He who is continually talking with the utmost contempt of the 'herd' and the 'herd-animal' is himself the most ordinary herd-animal of all. Only the herd to which he belongs, body and soul, is a special one; it is the flock of the mangy sheep.

[Nietzsche's ' originality'] consists in simple infantile inversion of a rational train of thought. [...] Nietzsche's system is the product of the mania of contradiction, the delirious form of that mental derangement, of which the melancholic form is the mania of doubt and negation... .

'My mode of thought demands a warlike soul, a wish to give pain, a
pleasure in saying, No' (Die frohliche Wissenschaft, p. 63). This confession may be compared with the passages from Ibsen: ...'Something shall happen which will be a slap in the face to all this decorum ' (The Pillars of Society).

Dr. Turck is right in admitting Nietzsche's innate moral aberration and the inversion in him of healthy instincts [Dr. Hermann Turck, Fr. Nietzsche unci seine philosophischen Irrwege, Zweite Auflage. Dresden, 1891, p. 7.]. [...] Incompetent critics eagerly point to the fact that many authors and artists live unexceptionable lives in complete contrast to their works, which may be immoral or contrary to nature, and deduce from this fact that it is unjustifiable to draw from his works conclusions as to the mental and moral Nature of their author.

The alienist, however, is familiar with the perversion in which the invahd experiences voluptuous stimulation from acts or representations of a cruel nature. Science has a name for it. It is called Sadism. Sadism is the opposite form of sexual perversion to masochism.f Nietzsche is a sufferer from Sadism in its most pronounced form, only with him it is confined to the intellectual sphere alone, and is satisfied by ideal debauchery. [...] ...in Nietzsche's consciousness no image of wickedness and crime can arise without exciting him sexually, and he is unable to experience any sexual stimulation without the immediate appearance in his consciousness of an image of some deed of violence and blood.

Hence the real source of Nietzsche's doctrine is his Sadism.

In the success of unhealthy tendencies in art and literature, no quality of their authors has so large and determining a share as their sexual psychopathy. All persons of unbalanced minds—the neurasthenic, the hysteric, the degenerate, the insane— have the keenest scent for perversions of a sexual kind, and perceive them under all disguises. As a rule, indeed, they are ignorant of what it is in certain works and artists which pleases them, but investigation always reveals in the object of their predilection a veiled manifestation of some Psychopathia sexualis. [...] Works of a sexually psychopathic nature excite in abnormal subjects the corresponding perversion (till then slumbering and unconscious, perhaps also undeveloped, although present in the germ), and give them lively feelings of pleasure, which they, usually in good faith, regard as purely aesthetic or intellectual, whereas they are actually sexual. Only in the light of this explanation do the characteristic artistic tendencies of the abnormals, of which we have proof, [Krafft-Ebing, Neue Forschungen, u.s.w., p. io8. (A sexual-psychopath thus writes): ' I take great interest in art and literature. Among poets and authors, those attract me most who describe refined feelings, peculiar passions, choice impressions: an artificial (or ultra-ariiricial) style pleases me. In music, again, the nervous, stimulating music of a Chopin, a Schumann, a Schubert [!], a Wagner, etc., appeal to me most. In art, all that is not only original, but bizarre, attracts me.'] become wholly intelligible. This confounding of aesthetic with sexual feelings is not surprising, for the spheres of these two feelings are not only contiguous, but, as has been proved elsewhere, are for the most part even coincident.

He is obviously insane from birth, and his books bear on every page the imprint of insanity. It may be cruel to msist on this fact. It is, however, a painful, yet unavoidable, duty to refer to it anew, because Nietzsche has become the means of raising a mental pestilence, and the only hope of checking its propagation lies in placing Nietzsche's insanity in the clearest light, and in branding his disciples also with the marks most suited to them, viz., as hysterical and imbecile.
Kaatzi affirms that Nietzsche's 'intellectual seed' is everywhere 'beginning to germinate. Now it is one of Nietzsche's most incisive points which is chosen as the epigraph of a modern tragedy, now one of his pregnant turns of expression incorporated in the established usage of language. ... At the present time one can . . . read hardly any essay touching even lightly on the province of philosophy, without meeting with the name of Nietzsche.'

A series of imitators are eagerly busying themselves to make Nietzsche their model... . Albert Kniepf, [Albert Kniepf, Theorie der Geisteswerthe. Leipzig, 1892.] another imbecile, has been smitten chiefly by Nietzsche's affected superiority, and with princely mien and gestures struts about in the most diverting manner. He calls himself 'a man of superior taste and more refined feeling'; he speaks contemptuously of the ' profane daily bustle of the masses'; sees 'the world beneath him' and himself 'exalted above the world of the multitude': he does not wish to 'go into the streets, and squander his wisdom on everyone,' etc., quite in the style of Zarathustra, the dweller on the highest peaks. The already mentioned Dr. Max Zerbst affects, like Nietzsche, to regard himself as terrible, and to believe that his opponents tremble before him. When he makes them speak he puts whimpering tones into their mouths,
and he enjoys with cruelly superior scorn the mortal fear with which he inspires them. In a maniac this attitude is natural and excites pity. But when a fellow like this Dr. Max Zerbst assumes it, it produces an irresistibly comic effect... . [...] And no professional has rapped with a ruler the knuckles of these youths, whose fabulous ignorance is surpassed only by their impudence!

It has, nevertheless, been reserved to a lady to beat the male disciples of Nietzsche, in the audacious denial of the most openly manifest truth. This feminine partisan of Nietzsche, Lou Salome, with a cool imperturbability fit to take away the breath of the most callous spectator, turns her back on the fact that Nietzsche has for years been confined in a lunatic asylum, and proclaims with brazen brow that Nietzsche, from the aristocratic contempt of the world belonging to the 'over-human,' has voluntarily ceased to write, and
withdrawn himself into solitude. Nietzsche is a man of science and a psycho-physiologist, and Nietzsche keeps silence, because he no longer finds it worth the trouble to speak to the men of the herd; these are the catch-words cried aloud throughout the world by the Nietzsche band.

Still more graphic is the description given by Krafft-Ebing. 'The content of consciousness is [in 'maniacal exaltation'] pleasure, psychical well-being. [...] ...the cheerful mood temporarily exalts itself to the height of pleasurable emotions (gay extravagance, exuberance), which find their motor exteriorization in songs, dances, leaps. . . . The patient becomes more plastic in his diction . . . his faculties of conception act more rapidly, and, in accelerated association, he is at once more prompt in repartee, witty and humorous to the point of irony. The plethora of his consciousness supplies him with inexhaustible material for talk, and the enormous acceleration of his ideation, in which there spring up complete intermediate forms with the rapidity of thought, without undergoing exteriorization in speech, causes his current of ideas, in so far as they find expression, to seem rambling. . . . He continually exercises criticism in respect of his own condition, and proves that he is himself aware of his abnormal state by . . . claiming, among other things, that he is only a fool, and that to such everything is permissible. . . . The invahd cannot find words enough to depict his maniacal well-being, his "primordial health."

In respect of form, Nietzsche's thought makes the two characteristic peculiarities of madness perceptible: the sole domination of the association of ideas, watched over and restrained by no attention, no logic, no judgment; and the giddy rapidity of the course of ideation.
As soon as any idea whatsoever springs up in Nietzsche's mind, it immediately draws with it into consciousness all presentations related to it, and thus with flying hand he throws five, six, often eight, synonyms on paper, without noticing how overladen and turgid his literary style is thereby rendered... .

Nietzsche's mysticism and megalomania manifest themselves not only in his somewhat more coherent thought, but also in his general mode of expression. The mystic numbers, three and seven, frequently appear. He sees the external world, as he does himself—vast, distant, deep; and the words expressing these concepts are repeated on every page... . The words ' abyss ' and 'abysmal ' are among the most frequent in Nietzsche's writings.

He also, in the manner of maniacs, excuses his mental disease: 'Finally, there would remain open the great question whether we could dispense with disease even for the development of our virtue, and especially if our thirst for knowledge and self-knowledge needed the sick soul as much as the healthy soul.'

...this unhappy lunatic has been earnestly treated as a ' philosopher,' and his drivel put forward as a 'system'—this man whose scribbling is one single long divagation, in whose writings madnjss shrieks out from every line! [...]  Ordinary university professors... extol Nietzsche as a 'bold and original thinker,' and with solemn seriousness take up a position in respect of his 'philosophy'... . In the face of such incurably deep mental obtuseness, it cannot excite wonder if the clear-thinking and healthy portion of the young spirits of the present generation should, with hasty generalization, extend to philosophy itself the contempt deserved by its officially-appointed teachers. These teachers undertake to introduce their students into mental philosophy, and are yet without the capacity to distinguish from rational thought the incoherent fugitive ideation of a maniac.
Dr. Hermann Turck* characterizes in excellent words the disciples of Nietzsche: 'This piece of wisdom ['nothing is true; all is permissible'] in the mouth of a morally insane man of letters has . . . found ready response among persons who, in consequence of a moral defect, feel themselves to be in contradiction to the demands of society. This aforesaid intellectual proletariat of large towns is especially jubilant over the new magnificent discovery that all morality and all truth are completely superfluous and pernicious to the development of the individual. It is true that these persons have always in secret said to themselves, " Nothing is true—all is permissible," and have also, as far as possible, acted accordingly. But now they can avow it openly, and with pride ; for Friedrich Nietzsche, the new prophet, has vaunted this maxim as the most exalted truth of life. ... It is not society which is right in its estimation of morality, science, and true art. Oh dear no! The individuals who follow their egoistical personal aims only—who act only as if truth were of consequence to them— ...they are the true heroes, the masters of the situation, the truly free spirits.'

In fact, Nietzsche's ranting includes some ideas which, in part, respond to a widespread notion of the age, and in part are capable of awakening the deception that, in spite of all the exaggeration and insane distortion of exposition, they contain a germ of truth and right ; and these ideas explain why many persons agree with them who can hardly be reproached with lack of clearness and critical capacity.

Nietzsche's fundamental idea of utter disregard and brutal contempt for all the rights of others standing in the way of an egoistical desire, must please the generation reared under the Bismarckian system.[...] In its author this system of the most primitive barbarism had ever a certain grandeur, for it had its origin in a powerful will, which with heroic boldness always placed itself at stake, and entered into every fight with the savage  determination to 'conquer or die.' In its  imitators, on the contrary, it has got stunted to 'swaggering' or ' bullying,' i.e., to that most abject and contemptible cowardice which crawls on its belly before the strong, but maltreats with the most extreme insolence the completely unarmed, the unconditionally harmless and weak, from whom no resistance and no dang:er are in any way to be apprehended. The 'bullies' gratefully recognise themselves in Nietzsche's 'over-man,' and Nietzsche's so-called 'philosophy' is in reality the philosophy of ' bullying.' His doctrine shows how Bismarck's system is mirrored in the brain of a maniac. Nietzsche could not have come to the front and succeeded in any but the Bismarckian and post-Bismarckian era.

Besides anarchists, born with incapacity for adaptation, his 'individualism,' i.e., his insane ego-mania, for which the external world is non-existent, was bound to attract those who instinctively feel that at the present day the State encroaches too deeply and too violently on the rights of the individual, and, in addition to the necessary sacrifices of strength and time, exacts from him such as he cannot undergo without destructive loss of self-esteem, viz., the sacrifice of judgment, knowledge, conviction, and human dignity. These thirsters for freedom believe that they have found in Nietzsche the spokesman of their healthy revolt against the State, as the oppressor of independent spirits, and as the crusher of strong characters. They commit the same error which I have already pointed out in the sincere adherents of the Decadents and of Ibsen; they do not see that Nietzsche confounds the conscious with the subconscious man ; that the individual, for whom he demands perfect freedom, is the man, not of knowledge and judgment, but of blind craving, requiring the satisfaction of his lascivious instincts at any price ; that he is not the moral, but the sensual, man.

There is at the present time a widespread conviction that the enthusiasm for equality was a grievous error of the great Revolution. A doctrine opposed to all natural laws is justly resisted. Humanity has need of a hierarchy. It must have leaders and models. It cannot do without an aristocracy. But the nobleman to whom the human herd may concede the most elevated place will certainly not be Nietzsche's 'overman,' the ego-maniac, the criminal, the robber, the slave of his maddened instincts, but the man of richer knowledge, higher intelligence, clearer judgment, and firmer self-discipline. [...] The 'over-man' of the healthy development of the species is a Paraclete of knowledge and unselfish love, not a bloodthirsty 'splendid beast of prey.' This is not borne in mind by those who believe that in Nietzsche's aristocratism they have found
a clear expression of their own obscure views as to the need of noble natures of light and leading.
Nietzsche's false individualism and aristocratism is capable of misleading superficial readers. Their error may be accounted a mitigating circumstance. But even taking this into consideration, it still ever remains a disgrace to the German intellectual life of the present age, that in Germany a pronounced maniac should have been regarded as a philosopher, and have founded a school.



Chapter I


Superficial or unfair critics have foisted on me the assertion that degeneration and hysteria are the products of the present age. The attentive and candid reader will bear witness that I have never circulated such an absurdity. Hysteria and degeneration have always existed; but they formerly showed themselves sporadically, and had no importance in the life of the whole community. It was only the vast fatigue which was experienced by the generation on which the multitude of discoveries and innovations burst abruptly, imposing upon it organic exigencies greatly surpassing its strength, which created favourable conditions under which these maladies could gain ground enormously, and become a danger to civilization.

We stand now in the midst of a severe mental epidemic; of a sort of black death of degeneration and hysteria, and it is natural that we should ask anxiously on all sides: 'What is to come next?'

It is possible that the disease may not have yet attained its culminating point. If it should become more violent, gain yet more in breadth and depth, then certain phenomena which are perceived as exceptions or in an embryo condition would henceforth increase to a formidable extent and develop consistently; others, which at present are only observed among the inmates of lunatic asylums, would pass into the daily habitual condition of whole classes of the population.

This will be, in the near future, the condition of civilized humanity, if fatigue, nervous exhaustion, and the diseases and degeneration conditioned by them, make much greater progress.

Will it come to this ? Well, no; I think not. And this, for a reason which scarcely perhaps permits of an objection: because humanity has not yet reached the term of its evolution; because the over-exertion of two or three generations cannot yet have exhausted all its vital powers. Humanity is not senile. It is still young, and a moment of over-exertion is not fatal for j^outh ; it can recover itself. Humanity resembles a vast torrent of lava, which rushes, broad and deep, from the crater of a volcano in constant activity. The outer crust cracks into cold, vitrified scoriae, but under this dead shell the mass flows, rapidly and evenly, in living incandescence.

As long as the vital powers of an individual, as of a race, are not wholly consumed, the organism makes efforts actively or passively to adapt itself, by seeking to modify injurious conditions, or by adjusting itself in some way... . Degenerates, hysterics, and neurasthenics are not capable of adaptation. Therefore they are fated to disappear. That which inexorably destroys them is that they do not know how to come to terms with reality.

They fritter away their life in solitary, unprofitable, aesthetic debauch, and all that their organs, which are in full regression, are still good for is enervating enjoyment. Like bats in old towers, they are niched in the proud monument of civilization, which they have found ready-made, but they themselves can construct nothing more, nor prevent any deterioration. They live, like parasites, on labour which past generations have accumulated for them; and when the heritage is once consumed, they are condemned to die of hunger.

The normal man, with his clear mind, logical thought, sound judgment, and strong will, sees, where the degenerate only gropes; he plans and acts where the latter dozes arid dreams ; he drives him without effort from all the places where the life-springs of Nature bubble up, and, in possession of all the good things of this earth, he leaves to the impotent degenerate at most the shelter of the hospital, lunatic asylum, and prison, in contemptuous pity.

Degenerates must succumb, therefore. They can neither adapt themselves to the conditions of Nature and civilization, nor maintain themselves in the struggle for existence against the healthy.

The end of the twentieth century, therefore, will probably see a generation to whom it will not be injurious to read a dozen square yards of newspapers daily, to be constantly called to the telephone, to be thinking simultaneously of the five continents of the world, to live half their time in a railway carriage or in a flying machine, and to satisfy the demands of a circle of ten thousand acquaintances, associates, and friends. It will know how to find its ease in the midst of a city inhabited by millions, and will be able, with nerves of gigantic vigour, to respond without haste or agitation to the almost innumerable claims of existence.
If, however, the new civilization should decidedly outstrip the powers of humanity, if even the most robust of the species should not in the long-run grow up to it, then ulterior generations will settle with it in another way. They will simply give it up. For humanity has a sure means of defence against innovations which impose a destructive effort on its nervous system, namely, ' misoneism,' that instinctive, invincible aversion to progress and its difficulties that Lombroso has studied so much, and to which he has given this name.[C. Lombroso and R. Laschi, Le Crime politique etc., p.8 et seq.] Misoneism protects man from changes of which the suddenness or the extent would be baneful to him. But it does not only appear as resistance to the acceptation of the new; it has another aspect, to wit, the abandonment and gradual elimination of inventions imposing claims too hard on man. [...] If future generations come to find that the march of progress is too rapid for them, they will after a time composedly give it up. [...] They will suppress the distribution of letters, allow railways to disappear, banish telephones from dwelling-houses, preserving them only, perhaps, for the service of the State, will prefer weekly papers to daily journals, will quit cities to return to the country, will slacken the changes of fashion, will simplify the occupations of the day and year, and will grant the nerves some rest again. Thus, adaptation will be effected in any case, either by the increase of nervous power or by the renunciation of acquisitions which exact too much from the nervous system.

I resist the temptation of looking into too remote a future. Otherwise I should perhaps prove, or at least show as very probable, that in the mental life of centuries far ahead of us art and poetry will occupy but a very insignificant place. Psychology teaches us that the course of development is from instinct to knowledge, from emotion to judgment, from rambling to regulated association of ideas. Attention replaces fugitive ideation; will, guided by reason, replaces caprice. Observation, then, triumphs ever more and more over imagination and artistic symbolism — i.e., the introduction of erroneous personal interpretations of the universe is more and more driven back by an understanding of the laws of Nature. [...] The fable and the fairy-tale were once the highest productions of the human mind. In them the most hidden wisdom of the tribe and its most precious traditions were expressed. To-day they represent a species of literature only cultivated for the nursery. [...] Under our very eyes the novel is being increasingly degraded, serious and highly cultivated men scarcely deeming it worthy of attention, and it appeals more and more exclusively to the young and to women. From all these examples, it is fair to conclude that after some centuries art and poetry will have become pure atavisms, and will no longer be cultivated except by the most emotional portion of humanity—by women, by the young, perhaps even by children.

Richard Wagner first spoke of 'the art-work of the future,' and hundreds of incapable imitators lisp the term after him. [...] But all these talks about sunrise, the dawn, new land, etc., are only the twaddle of degenerates incapable of thought. The idea that to-morrow morning at half-past seven o'clock a monstrous, unsuspected event will suddenly take place; that on Thursday next a complete revolution will be accomplished at a single blow, that a revelation, a redemption, the advent of a new age, is imminent—this is frequently observed among the insane ; it is a mystic delirium. [...] ...the spasmodic seeking for new forms is nothing more than hysterical vanity... .

...when many people in bewilderment exclaim hereupon, 'The art of to-morrow will be socialistic!' they utter unfathomable nonsense.

Art and poetry have emotion for their object, science has knowledge. The former are subjective, the latter objective. The former work with the imagination, i.e., with the association of ideas directed by emotion ; the latter works with observation, i.e., with the association of ideas determined by sense-impressions, of which
the acquisition and reinforcement are the work of attention.

Two tendencies which have long been rivals will presumably contend still more violently in the future for supremacy, viz., observation and the free flight of imagination, or, to speak more briefly, though more inaccurately, realism and romanticism. [...] the task of art in the coming century, will be to exert over men that charm of variety which reality will no longer offer, and which the
brain cannot relinquish. All that is called 'picturesque' will necessarily disappear more and more from the earth. Civilization ever becomes more uniform.

I can now sum up in a few words my prognosis. The hysteria of the present day will not last. People will recover from their present fatigue. The feeble, the degenerate, will perish; the strong will adapt themselves to the acquisitions of civilizations, or will subordinate them to their own organic capacity. The aberrations of art have no future. They will disappear when civilized humanity shall have triumphed over its exhausted condition. The art of the twentieth century will connect itself at every point with the past, but it will have a new task to accomplish—that of introducing a stimulating variety into the uniformity of civilized life, an influence which probably science alone will be in a position to exert, many centuries later, over the great majority of mankind.

[end of chapter]