Nietzsche The Antichrist [Trans. 1920 H.L. Mencken]

Achieving noteriety among the philosopher’s powerful arsenal of writings, The Antichrist remains, perhaps along with Thus Spoke Zarathustra, the strongest and most succint characterization of Nietzsche’s thought essence. Plainly stated, this work is at first glance ‘Nietzsche contra Christianity’; a more sensible and not necessarily spurious reading would find in it, in Nietzsche’s scourge of the characteristics and origins of Christianity, the exemplification of a sickness of the soul (weakness, and the resulting hatred for Life) in the civilization-deforming germ of that theological mode of thought. More clearly, while The Antichrist is, in effect, a direct criticism of Christianity in sixty-two parts, the thoughtful barrage is simply the vehicle that drives a more generalized message against all dogma and, moreover, against all idealism.

“This poisoning goes a great deal further than most people think: I find the arrogant habit of the theologian among all who regard themselves as “idealists”— among all who, by virtue of a higher point of departure, claim a right to rise above reality, and to look upon it with suspicion…” in No. 8

A far less popular, though unquestionably central, theme found in The Antichrist is one is that of anti-Judaism; not the “anti-semitism” of reductionists, misguided ‘racists’ and ‘anti-racists’, as well as Jewish propagandists, but strictly anti-Judaism. This starts by recognizing that the dissolving anti-realism of Christianity has its origin in the pernicious waters of Judaism. It is the mark of a real and lofty-thinking nihilist that Nietzsche could, in actuality and with an unflinching eye, with one hand uplift Jewish lore as excellent, grand and nuanced (q.v. Beyond Good and Evil), while with the other pointing out in their characteristic culture, thought and religion, a profound sickness (q.v. The Antichrist, The Will to Power).

“The Jews are the most remarkable people in the history of the world, for when they were confronted with the question, to be or not to be, they chose, with perfectly unearthly deliberation, to be at any price: this price involved a radical falsification of all nature, of all naturalness, of all reality, of the whole inner world, as well as of the outer. They put themselves against all those conditions under which, hitherto, a people had been able to live, or had even been permitted to live; out of themselves they evolved an idea which stood in direct opposition to natural conditions— one by one they distorted religion, civilization, morality, history and psychology until each became a contradiction of its natural significance.” —in No. 24

It is important to understand and distinguish that while Christianity really is merely ‘a religion’, the conscious ideological fabrication of dogma, and which understanding of religion as a thing of its own has become the standard understanding of all things spiritual in the West, Judaism is far more than ‘a religion’. It is intertwined deeply in the culture and modes of thoughts of the Jews, so that even the atheist or humanist essentially simply displays the views of Judaism from different angles and depths; either through the direct influence of Judaism as is the case with Socialism and more clearly with Communism as ideologies, or through Christianity in the ideology of Humanism.

“Precisely for this reason the Jews are the most fateful people in the history of the world: their influence has so falsified the reasoning of mankind in this matter that today the Christian can cherish anti-Semitism without realizing that it is no more than the final consequence of Judaism.” —in No. 24

“The whole of Judaism appears in Christianity as the art of concocting holy lies, and there, after many centuries of earnest Jewish training and hard practice of Jewish technic, the business comes to the stage of mastery. The Christian, that ultima ratio of lying, is the Jew all over again— he is threefold the Jew…” —In No. 44

Nietzsche is not moralizing when he talks thus of Christianity and Judaism, and the scathing words and descriptions offered throughout the work have to do with valuations based on his philosophy of the Will to Power, with perception of reality as consequential without falling into the trap of reductionism, and ultimately with nihilism but also and more esoterically with post-nihilism, the true essence of Nietzschean thought. As a consequence, Nietzsche also clearly distinguishes the former as the caricature of the latter. In Christianity he sees self-contradiction and wanton stupidity spiraling out of control in a cauldron of delusions, while in Judaism, an almost sinister spirit towards survival, a cameleon-like willingness to transformation to overcome all odds.

“Psychologically, the Jews are a people gifted with the very strongest vitality, so much so that when they found themselves facing impossible conditions of life they chose voluntarily, and with a profound talent for self-preservation, the side of all those instincts which make for decadencenot as if mastered by them, but as if detecting in them a power by which “the world” could be defied. The Jews are the very opposite of decadents: they have simply been forced into appearing in that guise, and with a degree of skill approaching the non plus ultra of histrionic genius they have managed to put themselves at the head of all decadent movements (— for example, the Christianity of Paul—), and so make of them something stronger than any party frankly saying Yes to life.” —in No. 24

The decadent and ultimately self-deprecating thread that links both is the idea of sin, fear of life, of the natural, of the courageous and of the real. The distinction that Nietzsche draws between Judaism and Christianity is that despite the shared seed of the ideology of sin, the foremer shows fangs and claws in its ‘eye for an eye’ policy, while the latter contrasts this with ‘turning the other cheek’, a recipe for destruction so sure that Christians, a.k.a. “little super-Jews ripe for some sort of madhouse”, have found it impossible to consistently follow Jesus’ mandate, lest they be destroyed by their own faith.

“It is not a “belief” that marks off the Christian; he is distinguished by a different mode of action; he acts differently. He offers no resistance, either by word or in his heart, to those who stand against him. He draws no distinction between strangers and countrymen, Jews and Gentiles (“neighbour,” of course, means fellow-believer, Jew). He is angry with no one, and he despises no one. He neither appeals to the courts of justice nor heeds their mandates (“Swear not at all”). He never under any circumstances divorces his wife, even when he has proofs of her infidelity.” —in No. 33

Interestingly, Nietzsche hammers down on the fact that this unique and powerful manifestation of decadence is linked inequivocably to the Jews as a race. It is understandable that these statements are met with confusion and apologies to no end by weak minds (the majority of minds), and as a consequence of post World War 2 culturized propaganda . The pertinent observations, however, are merely that, statements of facts, philosophy as a tool of dissection at its sharpest, and should not understood as the impulse to build a basis for ideologies, which the individualist mind-father of the concept of the Over-Man generally despised, though recognized as necessary to move the masses of feeble minds.

“Here we are among Jews: this is the first thing to be borne in mind if we are not to lose the thread of the matter. This positive genius for conjuring up a delusion of personal “holiness” unmatched anywhere else, either in books or by men; this elevation of fraud in word and attitude to the level of an art— all this is not an accident due to the chance talents of an individual, or to any violation of nature. The thing responsible is race.” —in No. 44

Even more interesting, beyond the tacit condemnation of Judaism, which almost any substantial attack on Christianity entails, is the appraisal of the Code of Manu as a substantial law based on reason, on reality. Furthermore, in it there is something nobler, more functional lie towards the edification of a people.

“I have a contrary feeling when I read the Code of Manu, an incomparably more intellectual and superior work, which it would be a sin against the intelligence to so much as name in the same breath with the Bible. It is easy to see why: there is a genuine philosophy behind it, in it, not merely an evil-smelling mess of Jewish rabbinism and superstition,— it gives even the most fastidious psychologist something to sink his teeth into.” —in No. 56

To the individual era raised in the politically-correct and heavily indoctrinated post-modernity of the West, such lines as the are illuminating, where the decidedly patriarchical laws and valuations of the Aryan Code of Manu fly in the face of all black-and-white claims about the oppresion of women in contrast to the liberty of man (in truth, Tradition proper merely upholds order, and function, no matter who you are). It is thus shown that the averse feeling that modernity has against Traidition and anything remotely identified as “patriarcal” or merely orderly, is based on ignorance and a general lack of intellectual balance.

“I know of no book in which so many delicate and kindly things are said of women as in the Code of Manu; these old greybeards and saints have a way of being gallant to women that it would be impossible, perhaps, to surpass.” —in No. 56

Ultimately, however, Nietzsche condemns all such dogmas in religions as lies and so averse to excellence and life to those who fall victim to them, because not truthful. Again, the best of Nietzsche arises from his often amusing, though no less on point, rants and digressions shines through, always keeping the reader on their toes, refusing to settle for a complete judgement that does not enter in full contact with realism, with honesty beyond morals and dogma of any kind (‘secular’ or ‘religious’, two sides of the same coin).

“The “holy lie”— common alike to Confucius, to the Code of Manu, to Mohammed and to the Christian church— is not even wanting in Plato. “Truth is here”: this means, no matter where it is heard, the priest lies….” —in No. 55

“A book of laws such as the Code of Manu has the same origin as every other good law-book: it epitomizes the experience, the sagacity and the ethical experimentation of long centuries; it brings things to a conclusion; it no longer creates.” —in No. 57

We should take the opportunity at this point to once again make a distinction that the philosopher himself made in regards to truth and lies: falsehood is in the end detrimental to those who fall under their spell, as they become slaves to something else, either to the abstraction itself, or to the intelligence wielding them. While it has become costumary to see Right-hand politics to be ‘close-minded’, and so wanting, by an increasingly blind impulse towards liberation, the Left-hand of politics has been especially blind itself .

“In point of fact, the end for which one lies makes a great difference: whether one preserves thereby or destroys. There is a perfect likeness between Christian and anarchist: their object, their instinct, points only toward destruction. One need only turn to history for a proof of this: there it appears with appalling distinctness.” —in No. 58

Bakunin would turn in his grave.

Regarding the genius of Nietzsche, one will meet few in life which can come to such nuanced yet at the same time penetrating distinctions on ideology and race, and only a limited group around those who can manage to properly digest such ideas without suffering from a mental breakdown as their programming crashes against the proper use of reason. Ironically, perhaps the problem that put on a limit on Nietzsche was that the only possible path of resolution to his post-nihilism would have been esotericism proper (the origin of, but beyond modern ‘occultism’), a mode of thought his own life and arrogance never gave him the chance of exploring.

“Christianity destroyed for us the whole harvest of ancient civilization, and later it also destroyed for us the whole harvest of Mohammedan civilization. The wonderful culture of the Moors in Spain, which was fundamentally nearer to us and appealed more to our senses and tastes than that of Rome and Greece, was trampled down (— I do not say by what sort of feet— ) Why? Because it had to thank noble and manly instincts for its origin— because it said yes to life, even to the rare and refined luxuriousness of Moorish life!… The crusaders later made war on something before which it would have been more fitting for them to have grovelled in the dust— a civilization beside which even that of our nineteenth century seems very poor and very “senile.”” —in No. 60

Thus, interesting and enchanting seeds and riddles rise in between the lines of The Antichrist. Even fewer still, will understand what they conjure up, what they imply, and why the true philosopher would join such lines; only the brave and agile of mind can grasp them.