Psychologists of Evil: Nietzsche and Dostoevsky on the Darkness of the Soul

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Introduction: “The Light Shines in the Darkness .  .  .”[1]

The study of politics presupposes the study of man.  The study of man demands we consider the nature of being as ensouled flesh.  This leads us into the realm of philosophy and, by extension, given that we are interested in man as a political being, political philosophy.  In our search for wisdom, we discover that we cannot rest content with conceptions of man that fail to consider the depth of his soul or the heights after which he strives.  Yet we recognize in horror that modernity contently rests on partial, fragmented, or false conceptions of man, which fail to grasp the categories of good and evil or the meaning of a world beyond both.  We witness the suffering man incurs when the systems “thinkers” devise to fulfill man’s deepest needs and yearnings murder the body or lull the soul to sleep.[2]  We mark the need for foundational thinkers, who are keen to remove the encrustation of ignorance, misunderstanding, and lies and reawaken man to the truth of existence.  We stumble upon Nietzsche and Dostoevsky as two such foundational thinkers, akin in spirit as explorers of the depth in search of truth, yet divergent in their respective ways unto light and life.  We understand the need to vicariously wander with them, and in so doing we discover that the timeless agon between good and evil reveals the meaning of “Dionysus versus the Crucified.”  We discover the meaning of great politics as a war of spirits—ein Geisterkrieg.[3]

In what follows, Nietzsche and Dostoevsky are our guides through the fractured landscape of modern philosophy, for they begin their philosophic wanderings with the foundational questions plaguing man as he strives for understanding, namely the existence of the good and God and evil and the Devil.  We follow these underground men as they illuminate the dark night of nihilism enshrouding modernity and modern man and discover that the death of Father God reveals the timeless struggle between divine-demonic sons, between Christ and Anti-Christ.  Perplexed by the meaning of this struggle in the lives of men, we follow these psychologists of the soul as they disclose the spiritual struggle in the heart and mind between good and evil.  In their respective ways unto life, we find commonality in their battle against evil, even as one would vindicate the Good and the other would vindicate the freedom of man to live beyond the evil that constitutes the very dichotomy.  As we contemplate their arguments, we glimpse that something demonic and divine is with us and we fall upon literary analogy to understand real horror and awe.  Ascending from the depth, we are not the same vicarious wanderers we were at the outset, for we understand the need to rightly order ensouled flesh.  Then and only then can we begin to contemplate the meaning of order in a political world that is ever fleeting.

Nihilism and the Confession of Underground Men

Talk of spiritual warfare in an age of material progress under the sway of materialism produces a discordant and disturbing sound, like a hammer falling on a crystal palace.  Not only do God and the Good sound antiquated but even more so Evil and the Devil.  Of course, we can invoke evil if we confine it to the realm of behavior (or repackage it as the “bad”) and in so doing neglect, for practical and instinctive reasons, to gaze into the depth of the soul and contemplate the root and meaning of all actions. Goethe’s Mephistopheles understood the difficulty of being the Evil One when evil is no longer in vogue.  In his retort to the witches, who proclaim the return of, “Noble Satan,” he disavows the name since it has “long been written in the book of fairy tales”:

Alone man is not better off,

They have rid themselves of the Evil One, the evil ones remain.

You call me Baron, then the matter is well;

I am a cavalier like other cavaliers.[4]

Dressed in timely fashions, Evil no longer seems truly evil.  The mortal-god Leviathan becomes the good master and in time the good politician, concerned with offering his fellow a commodious existence and the pursuit of all possible pleasures.[5]  Ivanov in his study of Dostoevsky notes that, “Ahriman’s entire programme” lies in this: “He sets out by sensual enticements to abduct the spirit into the chaos of matter not yet awakened into Being.”[6]  If not by name then by effect, modern man dwells in the City of the Colorful Cow and has his eyes turned upward, no longer to heaven but fixed on the spectacle of the tightrope walker and his undoing by a devilish jester.[7]  Our emotions are tame.[8]  Neither divine pity nor earthly laughter, hearty and deep, comes out of us; we are lukewarm, chuckling, blinking, and, at our most diabolical, exhuming a spiteful, icy laugh.[9]   We do not have ears for Dionysus or Christ.[10]  We fail to grasp that we stand over the abyss.  Thinking we stand on solid ground—or more often not thinking at all—we are in danger of being undone by the first jester that comes along.  Yet unlike Zarathustra’s tightrope walker, we are blind to the danger and so our demise is the death of somnolent souls lulled to sleep, amused by the spectacle of undoing but blissfully unaware that we ourselves are undone.  Our ears are beholden to the spirit of the age and, consequently, we are deaf to the Spirit compelling Dostoevsky to write tales of warning: “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”[11]  Believing we see, we fail to hear Zarathustra’s message: “Man is a rope, suspended between animal and Overman,—a rope over an abyss.”[12]

Zarathustra explicitly praises the tightrope walker for having gone “to ground [zu Grunde]”[13]: “You have made your profession out of danger, in that there is nothing to despise.  Now you are undone by your profession: for that I will bury you with my own hands.”[14]  And though Zarathustra praises him as one who is undone, he is now no more than a corpse in need of burial and Zarathustra realizes he needs “living companions,—not dead companions and corpses.”[15]  In contrast, Zarathustra’s prophecy of the coming Overman will not simply be a “Going-Under-One” [Untergehende] but a “Going-Under-One,” who “blesses himself” in going under and thereby becomes a “Going-Over-One [Hinübergehender].”[16]  His way is his own and he is not easily overcome by the next best jester.  Indeed, he counts himself as having overcome the father of all foolishness.[17]  Zarathustra has already revealed the heart of the lie to the tightrope walker: “There is no Devil and no hell,”[18] and no immortal soul that must concern itself with some eternal kingdom of God.  There is only the choice of nihilism’s encroaching darkness or the creation of new horizons . . . through “great politics.”

In all this, Nietzsche’s venture is not so much unique in its subject matter as in the depth of its articulation.  Nevertheless, the depth of spiritual and psychological insight into the nature of a world that is devoid of God and gods is shared by few thinkers.  Indeed, most twentieth century commentators, having foreclosed the possibility of the reality of a spiritual realm or spiritual struggles, succumb to the numbing habituation of all the Enlightenment’s children of “substituting the psychological for the moral, of interpreting a spiritual condition as a kind of behavior.”[19]  These words of Richard Pevear are directed to the failed “efforts to understand Dostoevsky,” by those habituated to a faulty method, which “has so bedeviled our century.”  They are equally applicable to Nietzsche, who, it should be noted, refers to Dostoevsky late in his life as “the only psychologist . . . from whom I had anything to learn.”[20]  As he writes Heinrich Köselitz after first coming across Dostoevsky in his reading of The Landlady and “Lisa” (out of Notes from Underground), he was immediately struck by “instinct suddenly speaking to me that here I encountered a relative.”[21]  Here is “a psychologist, with whom ‘I can get along.’”[22]    And they get along precisely therein that they are explorers of the deep things of the soul and of the high things of the earth.  “People call me a psychologist,” Dostoevsky writes in his diary, “this is inaccurate.  I am a realist in the higher sense: that is to say, I indicate all the depths of the human soul.”[23]

With respect to Notes from Underground,[24] in the introduction of which Pevear makes the above comment, Nietzsche will praise the work as a thing of blood and, in a letter to Köselitz, as “a stroke of psychological genius—an awful and savage piece of ridicule against ‘know thyself,’ but thrown down with a light temerity and bliss arising out of superior power.”[25]  Here is philosophy as life!  Here reside also the seeds of the confrontation of Christ and Anti-Christ by men who are groundhogs—Go-Under-Ones and underground men.  Here is the confrontation of the truth of existence expressed by men who venture into the abyss and from within the abyss contemplate the human condition and what man must do to be saved or to save himself.  As underground men, Dostoevsky and Nietzsche are kindred and “can get along” (for the way is very dark and very lonely and an encounter with another soul is a blessing without equal), yet when they see each other eye to eye in the dawning of discordant lights, their ways have already violently parted.  The one will call down the risen Christ; the other will call up from the depth Dionysus—the Anti-Christ.

Dostoevsky is quite clear regarding his intentions.  As he writes his brother complaining about the censorship of the tenth chapter of Notes from Underground, wherein “the most important one, where the essential thought is expressed”: “Where I mocked at everything and sometimes blasphemed for form’s sake—that is let pass; but where from all this I deduced the need of faith and Christ—that is suppressed.”[26]  Nietzsche will not suppress the question of faith in Christ (for suppression merely delays the struggle and does not resolve it) but will challenge and refute it.  Christ never came down from Golgotha, never rose on the third day, and never offered man even in the days of his ministry any hope other than the lie of an eschatological remaking of all things.  For Nietzsche, Christ is anti-life and so Anti-Christ is life.  And such a life is redemption and salvation worthy of men born as sons of the earth.  The self-proclaimed son of God died—that is all.[27]  As the Anti-Christ proclaims in his creed, “Is the cross an argument? — — But over these things one has already said the Word, which was necessary to be said for thousands of years,—Zarathustra.”[28]  Zarathustra is the Anti-Word—the redeemer of Dionysian passion.

Both Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, however, understand the integrity of form and substance and the reality that both flow from life even as they find expression in art and poetry.  By the age of thirteen, Nietzsche already observes of his own poetry that he finally has the experiences, the requisite ideas entailed in those experiences, and a grasp of the appropriate poetic form to express them: “true poetry lies with every word.”[29]  The historical and eschatological failure of Christ in word and deed (“In truth there has been only one Christian, and he died on the cross”[30]), leads Nietzsche in the days of the Antichrist to poignantly state that his “objection against” the means of Christianity resides in Christianity’s lack of “‘holy’ ends”[31]—“Death is no bridge, no going over [Übergang].”[32]  Form and substance, means and ends, and theory and praxis must be commensurate, for they are intricately interrelated.  This holds true for Nietzsche no less than Dostoevsky.  In Mikhail Bakhtin’s study of Dostoevsky’s poetics, he writes, “Artistic form, correctly understood, does not shape already prepared and found content, but rather permits content to be found and seen for the first time.”[33]  We can say the same of Nietzsche’s own works.  False aesthetics lead to death.  What is revealed by true aesthetics is the horrific richness of the darkness in the abyss no less than the splendid light of the coming dawn—and “many dawns that have not yet alighted.”[34]   If Dostoevsky and Nietzsche in the end offer different light, we do well to contemplate the way they each illuminate, for they are concerned with ultimate matters—issues of life and death and existence in truth.  We understand that the conflict transpires at the spiritual level in spirits that have lived through darkness and arise to new dawns, singing new songs and proclaiming new words.  We are forced to wrestle with psalms and the dithyramb—Christ and Dionysus.  We must contemplate with utmost care the meaning of “spiritual war,” which ever entails the timeless tale of the struggles and loves of fathers and mothers and their sons and the struggles between sons of different fathers and mothers striving to inherit the earth, as loving fathers in their own right.

Ivanov captures the heart of Dostoevsky’s struggle when he notes that for him individual destiny is determined for all time, beyond all time in the existential and eschatological choice of either deciding “for Being—that is to say, for being in God; or for nothingness—that is to say, for flight from God into Not-being.”[35]  In both form and substance (and, we should note, in mytho-poetic formulation), this choice is markedly similar to that offered by the prophet of Lachesis to the “souls that live a day,” who must “choose a demon,” to a “life to which he will be bound by necessity.”[36]  For Nietzsche (and it is on him that the following discussion will primarily focus), the choice is not either/or but other, for both the either and the or are enslaved to an understanding of the world shaped by the Spirit of Gravity, who weighs down flesh to think only of death and “frees” spirit to only think of the life to come, which is no life at all.

We should give due consideration to Zarathustra’s words to his potential disciples, who fall back into the “fog” of  “holed up communities” of “praying Brethren,”[37] that it is the “cowardly devil in you,” who tells you, “there is one God.”[38]  The God, “Thou Shalt” is in truth the Devil, who would be master over a kingdom of obsequious slaves—both mortal and divine.  It is then the Devil, who uttered “the most godless word that ever proceeded from a god—the Word, ‘There is one God!  You shall have no other Gods beside me!’”[39]  The other gods who heard these words did not “twilight” into “death.”[40]  The utterance of such a profound “truth” only awakened their laughter, for they knew the “truth” to be a lie.  The quest for truth leading unto goodness and a vision of the beautiful realizable in the eschaton are only the all too human longings for solidity—absolutes—in a world of passing desires and longings.[41]

Truthfulness demands that any proposition purporting to be true must be derived in accordance with the truthfulness of reality.  In Beyond Good and Evil, this demand for truthfulness with respect to the doctrine of the “will to power” receives its clearest articulation:

“Suppose, finally, that one succeeded in explaining our entire life of appetites as the embodiment and bifurcation of one foundational form of the will—namely, the will to power, as my proposition has it—; suppose that one could trace back all organic functions to this will to power and also find in it the solution to the problem of generation and nourishment—it is One Problem—then one would thereby have redressed the right to designate all efficient force unequivocally as: will to power.  The world viewed from the inside, the world defined and described by its ‘intelligible character’—it would simply be ‘will to power’ and nothing else.—”[42]

The great lie of the “Thou Shalt,” that he alone is God, entails the great lie that he alone is Will and he alone has Power.  If man seeks to be free of his restless appetites, he must become a slave to the cosmic Will of Power.[43]  In this man ceases to be man.  After two millennia of slavery, he has forgotten his true generation as a son of Earth.  It now proves impossible to simply remind him of the truth of his existence as a creature whose home is the eternal cycle of flux.  He believes he is a slave and, even if he does not believe he is a slave, he lives as one nonetheless.  He exists in despair and slavishly enslaves what is beneath him—nature and the beasts.  For Nietzsche, the logical end of God’s injunction to subdue nature is the brutalization of her.[44]

To free the slave—to free the Earth—the death of God must be proclaimed; the murder must transpire.  For Zarathustra, the somnolent souls in the “city he loved”[45] must be taught that once God is dead, he must also die in our hearts, minds, and souls.  Now something strange transpires, which if not quite miraculous remains mysterious.  If existence in truthfulness is embraced, true divinity may once again be possible, for with gods—as Zarathustra reminds—“death is always only a prejudice.”[46]  As Zarathustra intones time and again, “He who has ears, listen.—”[47]  The age of the lie—the monotheist, “Thou Shalt”—destroyed divinity, for divinity is that “there are gods but no God.”[48]  Having abided in silence the age of the Spirit of Gravity—an age that has now lasted two millennia—divinity awaits to return once again in laughter when the one God, who may not have been a god at all, but only a “cowardly devil,” has been murdered by the Ugliest Man and the memory of this God-Devil has passed away.

“I would only believe in a god, who understood to dance,” Zarathustra tells his listeners.[49]  “And as I saw my Devil, I found him earnest, thorough, deep, festive: it was the Spirit of Gravity,—through him all things fall.”[50]  But things must rise, become light (though not effervescent), fly, and dance: “Now I am light,” declares Zarathustra, “now I fly, now I see myself under me, now a god dances through me.”[51]  The dancing god in man must kill the old Grimbeard of a God who is too weighed down to dance.  He has become too “earnest” and as such a caricature of himself.  He has become a buffoon [ein Possenreißer] and all fools deserve the laughter of wise men, not their anger and scorn.  However, if the laughter itself is not the foolish laughter of foolish man laughing at a fellow fool but the laughter born of having overcome—of having become wise—then laughter kills.  Zarathustra the wise therefore cries out, “One kills not through anger but through laughter.  Up, let us kill the Spirit of Gravity.”[52]  Of this truth, the Ugliest Man also reminds Zarathustra: “From you yourself I learned, oh Zarathustra: he who wants to kill most thoroughly laughs.  One kills not through anger but through laughter.”[53]

With the murder of the Father through laughter, the way is prepared for the son.  If man would not look down and below or up and beyond but rather ahead to all that is and is yet to come in the world into which he is cast, he would see that beyond Being—that is God—and Non-Being—that is the Devil—there is the world of being eternally returning in the symbolism of Dionysian rebirth, illuminated by the Mother’s chosen: Dionysus, the prince of the earth.[54]

For Nietzsche, the timeless agon is then not between Theos and A-theos, Father God and the Earth Mother, Nature; between Jehovian rapture and Dionysian revel; between Demons and Daemons; but between sons.  The collapse of the transcendent horizon has led to the fall of the transcendent God and with it the naturalization of man as no longer a creature created imago Dei but a beast, which must will to be human and more than human.  Yet strangely, mysteriously, the incarnate son of God remains and incarnate deity must be opposed by incarnate deity— —“Has one understood me?—Dionysus against the Crucified. . . .”:[55]

“A fanatic does not speak here; here one does not ‘preach’; here faith is not demanded . . . a tender slowness is the tempo of these speeches.  This only reaches the most elect [“Auserwähltesten”]; it is a privilege without equal to be a hearer: no one is free to have ears for Zarathustra. . . with all this is Zarathustra not a seducer” [“Verführer”]?[56]

In seeing Nietzsche’s wanderings as a way of undoing and overcoming, we begin to understand the way we must pursue in search of Zarathustra’s wisdom.  In our wanderings in search of meaning we may discover that life lived is its own answer as we begin to “rightly hear the halcyonian tone” of Zarathustra.[57]  Zarathustra would charm us to embark with Nietzsche on his own journey down and up as proclaimed in his greatest gift, Zarathustra—the highest and deepest book.[58]   And what do we hear?  We hear the words of the Anti-Ass on whom rides the Anti-Christ, singing his new song.[59]  Zarathustra himself is the anti-prophet and the great seducer, who is Nietzsche’s “greatest gift” as the “disciple of the philosopher Dionysus.”[60]

It is Dionysus who is the truest Anti-Christ and who, as the son of Zeus, stands opposed to the son of YHWH.  In Nietzsche-Zarathustra’s own courageous stand in the desert of his own making, the most pious of the unbelieving must overcome even piety itself.[61]  Of necessity, this means overcoming incarnate piety if such a thing ever was.  God can be ignored if he remains beyond and murdered if his gaze attempts to penetrate within, but if some god-man claims to be incarnate and to have existed from the beginning and to be the author of all things and the one through whom all things are made and take their meaning, then the challenge cannot simply be ignored or overcome through proclamation.  God may be dead, but against Christ war must be waged.[62]

It is Christ and not God, let alone Christianity or the even more amorphous category of religion, which Dostoevsky also sees as the lynchpin in the divine-demonic drama of creation.  The eternal struggle is between incarnate sons of unseen fathers and mothers, who may have passed away—passed on, or simply passed out of memory.  As Ivanov discerns with great verve and insight, Stavrogin (the Überdemon amongst his fellow Demons) implants in the souls of Shatov and Kirillov (his two great disciples) “a deep sense of Christ—together with the most deep doubt of God’s existence.”[63]  For Christ is the only begotten son, the divine manifestation of the Father.  Anti-Christ, “The Prince of this World,”[64] is the divine-demonic oppressor of the Mother, Nature, which is the Earth.  Stavrogin is a demonic incarnation of this Prince, and as such a Prince himself.[65]

Psychologist of the Soul

It is dangerous to interpret the spiritual merely as a projection or manifestation of the psychological and beyond this initial misstep to use the psychological as a way of explaining that which is considered merely material.  Rather, when we talk of transcendent fathers and incarnate mothers and divine and demonic sons, we must be willing to delve into the depth of the psyche and explicate our discoveries in language that captures the spirit and substance of verities we only glimpse.  We must strive to offer what illumination is possible when dealing with such dark matters.  We move from the broad field of human endeavor to the increasingly narrow and partial science of understanding a piece of the whole.  In so doing we are forced of necessity to shift our vocabulary and our syntax to accommodate the constraints of the specific for the sake of precision.  And yet what if our very precision in terms of the specific fails to grasp the essence of what we are attempting to understand?  This holds especially true when the philosopher informs us that he is a psychologist of the soul and understands the specific science of the former as a means to investigate the universality of the latter.

Such is the case for Nietzsche, who uses psychology to dig into the depth of the psyche and therefore calls psychology the “queen of the sciences,” not as an end in and of itself but because it is “henceforth the way to fundamental problems.”[66]  Such is also the case for Dostoevsky.  As Ivanov notes, “He explores the human soul in its sickness, in its cataclysms, in the depths of ultimate self-awareness that these convulsions disclose.”[67]  Of such self-awareness are the revelations of the Underground Man: “I am a sick man . . . I am a wicked man.”[68]  Sojourning underground and exhuming the soul of one hidden in a corner of a dark room, we discover the intricate physico-spiritual interplay of man.  We are prepared for the coming of Ivan Karamazov and Nikolai Stavrogin and know in advance that in and through all the medical explanations and psychological excuses offered by the protagonists, antagonists, and narrators to explain their strange, abnormal, even abominable behavior, that the true answer lies just beyond the grasp of the doctor, the philosopher, and the psychologist.  In the moment before the onset of feverish delusion, in the very moment the suffering soul exhumes his last breath before the onset of madness, in that moment we hear the afflicted cry out that some devil—the Devil even—is plaguing his soul, and has been tempting and seducing him.[69]  The madman—der Geisteskranke—swoons and falls ill and all nod their heads that assuredly it has been a brain fever all along from which the unfortunate has been suffering and which explains his raving words and demonic actions.  He is not a wicked man, merely a sick man.  Still they wonder: what kind of sickness is this?[70]

When such wonder takes hold of man, his wanderings through life begin to transform from the merely happenstance to the quest to discover meaning.  Throughout, we should not forget that man does not discover answers to the riddles and meaning of life first and foremost in contemplation.  Indeed, no man has healed himself by the act of contemplation, only be wandering in search of wisdom and discovering his quest . . . by chance.  It is with this truth in mind that Dostoevsky reveals the undoing of men who fail to live.  They reverse, as Ivanov astutely deduces, the “worldly-wise precept ‘primum vivere, deinde philosophari.’”[71]  Such souls become foolish in their speculations and their foolish hearts are darkened.[72]  They live as dead souls, confronted with a physical death they cannot escape.  Awakening to wonder, the young Nietzsche wandered in search of meaning.  Writing a letter to his mother in which he praises Schopenhauer, Nietzsche closes with the note, “The true Saxons always say, ‘primum vivere, deinde philosophari’—‘first live, then philosophize.’”[73]

And what does life reveal?  As Ivanov notes, for Dostoevsky, the “psychologist and mystic,” who is in possession of a “powerful dialectic,” life leads each soul to confront a “fundamental question” and choice: “They will ‘accept’ as inevitable the world that presents itself before them, or will ‘refuse to accept this world.’”[74]  The seeker—the liver of life and the philosopher of such a life lived—will see in “moments of spiritual crisis . . . as if illumined by a flash of lightning, the only two ways open to mankind: the way of acknowledgment of God, and the way of refusal to acknowledge Him.”[75]  And the way of acknowledgement of God the Father is through Christ the Son.[76]

Per Dostoevsky, the philosophic life confronted with suffering faces the choice of either acknowledging a God given reality, which in the moment of submission reveals that the way unto the Father is through the Son, or denying this reality.  We embark upon the way unto life through faith in reality, which reveals God, which ascends to the highest revelation of God and the world in the God-Man Christ.  Yet it is only through Christ that this divine way unto life is discovered by the wanderer.  The Trinitarian primacy of Father God is secondary to the timeless truth revealed only in time that, “I am [Christ] the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”[77]  While for Nietzsche the murder of God left man to contend with the incarnation of the father in the son, for Dostoevsky the son is a way to return to the father.  As Ivanov explains:

“The peculiar quality of Dostoevsky’s apologetic lies in its characteristic urge, not to found the love of Christ on belief in God, but to arrive through Christ at the certainty of God’s existence. . . The hidden transcendent reality of God is attested by the directly perceived earthly reality of Christ.  None cometh to the Father save through the Son.  Ecce Homo.”[78]

It is undeniably a point of great import that Nietzsche entitles his own psycho-spiritual confession, Ecce Homo.  For Nietzsche-Zarathustra, the Christ Pilate proclaims to behold is but a man condemned to death.[79]  Already in his youthful composition, “Before the Crucifix,” Nietzsche’s deepest critique is that the supposed God-Son, who promised to come down from the cross, allowed himself to be mocked, murdered, and buried.  He is no more divine than Hans Holbein the Younger’s dead and buried Christ, of which Dostoevsky’s Prince Myshkin exclaims, “A man could even lose his faith from that painting!”  To which the demonic Rogozhin replies, “Lose it he does.”[80]  Christ lived courageously but died needlessly, foolishly.  His broken body, unlike that of the tightrope walker, holds on to belief in heaven and hell and the immortal soul.  At the end of “Before the Crucifix,” the drunk sinner despairs of Christ coming down from the cross.[81]  He reaches for the “cold foot” before which he can no longer grovel and it seems to him that “the savior” looks “down” and thanks him who is rising up.[82]  Christ—“the poor chap stays here, / alone.”[83]  In time the drunk sinner sobers and coldly proclaims, “In truth, there has been only one Christ, and he died on the cross.  The ‘Gospel’ [Evangelium; the Good News] died on the cross.”[84]

Yet the death of one Christ does not mean the end of divine-demonic sons. “I have the ambition of a worldly holy man,” Nietzsche writes[85] and as such he seeks to prepare the way for the holiness of his Dionysian son, Zarathustra, born of the Earth Mother.  Zarathustra is not a child of the Spirit of Gravity and therefore not the oppressor of his Mother but her redeemer.  Ecce Homo: behold the disciple of Dionysus who reveals the greater son.  As Nietzsche notes in a fragment entitled, “Prefaces and Afterwards,” “For my son Zarathustra I demand reverence and only the smallest number shall it be permitted to listen to him.”[86]  In the deference of a father who sees Dionysus’ greater son in his offspring, Nietzsche continues, “With respect to me, his ‘father’—you may laugh, as I do it myself: both in fact belong to my fortune.”[87]   As Zarathustra states, “What the father kept silent, that comes to voice in the son; and I have often found in the son the father’s exposed secret.”[88]

In the secret of the Dionysian son opposed to the only-begotten of Jehovah[89] the ways of Nietzsche and Dostoevsky part.  Yet in the parting of ways the primordial agon is revealed—les extrèmes se touchent.  We witness the eternal recurring cycle of death and resurrection in the timeless struggle between the would be son of earth and the would be son of heaven:

“Dionysus against the ‘Crucified’: there you have the antithesis.  It is not a difference with respect to martyrdom,—only this has a different meaning.  Life itself, its eternal fertility and return determines the torment, the destruction, the will to annihilate . . .”

“[I]n the other case, suffering counts, the ‘Crucified as the innocent one,’ as objection against this life, as formula of its condemnation.”

“One surmises: the problem is that of the sense of suffering: whether in the Christian sense, whether in the tragic sense . . . In the first case it is supposed to be the way to a spiritual existence [seligen Sein], in the later existence counts as spiritual enough, to justify a monstrosity of suffering . . . “

“The tragic man affirms [bejaht] even to the bitterest suffering: he is strong, full, divine [vergöttlichend] enough for that . . .”

“The Christian denies [verneint] even the most fortunate lot on earth: he is weak, poor, dispossessed enough, to still suffer in every form of life . . .”

“‘The God on the Cross’ is a curse on life, a pointer, to redeem oneself from him . . . ”

“The cut in pieces Dionysus is a promise in life: he will eternally be reborn and out of destruction come home . . . “[90]

In such metaphysically charged formulations, we confront in disturbing clarity the fundamental problem of misunderstanding and misusing psychology as an end in and of itself rather than as a means to understanding the spirit.  Clinical and empirical precision displace the spiritual heights and material depths of the needs, longings, and struggles of the human soul.  Illumination is foreclosed for the safe and sterile light of the laboratory.  In the all too narrow precision of scientism’s beam, the diffuse light of reality is dismissed.  It is the all too psychological—the merely psychological—which sees Nietzsche’s rejection of Christianity as a rational dismissal of a bygone faith reflective of the “scientific” spirit of his age and its Lucretian inspired materialism.

Nietzsche’s agonistic struggle and “rejection” of Christianity, Christ, and Kyrie, however, is far more complex.  “I fear,” writes Nietzsche, “even up into the highest forms of the dithyramb, one finds in me the admixture of that salt, which never becomes inane—‘German’—namely esprit . . .  I cannot be otherwise—God help me! Amen.”[91]  This spirit of Luther, that part of Luther’s spirit which was a free spirit, is here channeled and is inextricably mixed with his conception of the Dionysian.  He is a Jobian-Prometheus and an anti-Christian Luther.  Nietzsche thus awakens to the dance, to which the Word seems an imposition—a return to sophistry—and not the divine poetry of the manic soul.  For Nietzsche, the dithyramb is always Dionysian.  The admixture transforms Nietzsche into the “Anti-ass,” “a world historical beast,” which makes him, “in Greek, and not only in Greek, the Antichrist. . . .”[92]  Yet this culminating agon of Ass and Anti-Ass, Christ and Anti-Christ, is also the primordial agon.  We are left wondering about the meaning of Zarathustra’s recounting of the Ass’ Feast at the end of Zarathustra’s wanderings.  If it is not the wedding feast of the lion and the lamb, is it the lion’s feast in which the lamb is devoured?[93]  Whatever its meaning, the question is not of spirit versus matter or the divinity or demonism of the soul; the question is transcendence versus immanence.  The ass’s feast will be celebrated in the cave of a god; whether it will be that of Dionysus—the son of Mother Earth—or that of the Crucified—the son of Father God—remains for man to discover in his own wanderings as he follows those who have prepared the way . . . unto Truth or existence beyond Truth in unadorned truthfulness.[94]

In The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan’s Devil announces that the day is coming and even now is when man has “renounced God” and the “entire old world view will fall of itself, without anthropophagy, and, above all, the entire former morality, and everything will be new”:

“Man, his will and his science no longer limited, conquering nature every hour, will thereby every hour experience such lofty delight as will replace for him all his former hopes of heavenly delight.  Each will know himself utterly mortal, without resurrection, and will accept death proudly and calmly, like a god.  Out of pride he will understand that he should not murmur against the momentariness of life, and he will love his brother then without reward.”[95]

Yet the words of Ivan’s Devil are markedly similar to the words of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, delivering his Dionysian proclamation for those that have despaired of the herd, despaired of the Spirit of Gravity, despaired of existing in despair itself; despaired of being human, all too human.  Nietzsche’s God and Devil are one—the old Grimbeard, the Spirit of Gravity, who weighs all things down.  The good news is that those who strive after the Overman (who has prepared the way for the doctrine of eternal return), freed from the Spirit of Gravity, seek to live in truthfulness to the rhythm of the world—the eternal dithyramb reborn annually in the symbol of the dying and resurrected Dionysus.[96]  Of what Dostoevsky’s Ivan warns as man’s end, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, freed from the shackles of the old belief in a world beyond good and evil and so before God and Devil, presents as man’s new birth: “As soon as men have, all of them, denied God, man will be lifted up with a spirit of divine, Titanic pride, and the man-God will appear.”[97]

From what has been argued, the question of good and evil and the possibility of existence beyond both is then fundamentally a question of who arises victorious in the primordial struggle between incarnate sons.  That this struggle is at once something timeless, deep, and horrifically real, and therefore something other—something more—than merely the psychological manifestations of demons of the mind, is glimpsed in the reality of the lives of those who wander down into the abyss of the soul in search of light.  As the wanderer gazes into the abyss and the abyss gazes into the soul of the wanderer,[98] the wanderer discovers that the abyss does not seem to be the end, without-end.  The wanderer learns that the way deeper down may prove to be the way higher up: “Oh Heaven over me, you who is pure!  Deep!  You abyss of light!  Gazing at you, I tremble with divine longings.” [99]

It is divinity that is precisely revealed in Zarathustra’s “Sunrise,”[100] which transpires aboard a ship as he is sailing over dark seas.[101]  It is on this sea that Zarathustra “stands firmly again on his fate.”[102]  As Laurence Lampert insightfully explains (and which is worth quoting at length):

“He [Zarathustra] stands in the pure abyss of light that marks the transition between the starry blackness of night and the sun-dominated brightness of day, a moment in which no heavenly bodies are visible, . . . . Now that he has overcome his envy of night’s receptivity, he aspires to emulate the one thing still enviable, creative deeds that enclose the earth with a sacred canopy.  The religious language of this hymn to the sky expresses his experience of the sky as open and innocent, and experience utterly different from the experience of the heavens under which mankind has long labored.  For Zarathustra the open sky elicits a quickening of desire, an elevation and ennoblement of man as an earthly being.” 

“This new experience of the sky grants a twofold responsibility: first, to destroy the antique notions according to which mankind lives out his allotted days on the earth under the sway of the heavens; second, to confer a blessing on earthly things that will be like a heavenly dome in providing security and well-being, a sheltering vault of open sky over the earthly things. . . . Because the heavens do not speak, because they are absolutely silent, man is free to speak the blessing on things that they be just as they are.  His blessing does not do violence to things but allows them to become themselves, luminous and intense in their evanescence.  When Zarathustra prophesies the return of a god, it will not be a god who drops from the skies but one who appears from across the sea, a god born of the earth, whose return is made possible by the blessing on earthly things conferred by mortal man.  The blessing of eternal return permits mortal man to be at home on the earth under the open sky, and it permits the return of gods who consecrate the world of mortals.  Eternal return is the teaching that lets being be.”[103]

The doctrine of eternal return is the meaning of Dionysus as much as the doctrine of atonement is the meaning of Christ.  The atonement for Dostoevsky is the work of God through Christ in bringing the eternal return of suffering and death to an end.  It is this work of the atonement by the God-man that courses through Dostoevsky’s oeuvre in one form or another from the moment he faces the possibility of having only three minutes left to live.  As Pevear recounts from the memoirs of Fyodor Lvov, one of Dostoevsky’s fellow conspirators condemned to death, Dostoevsky on the scaffold turns to Speshnyov and says, “We will be together with Christ,” to which Speshnyov offers a “wry smile” and the response, “A handful of ashes.”[104]   It is precisely the question of Christ’s death and resurrection—the very heart of the work of the atonement[105]—which haunts The Idiot.  As Pevear notes of the novels “eschatological sense of time” of “Holy Saturday” when Christ lies in the tomb, “What if Christ was only a man?” [106]  And yet even the atheist Ippolit proclaims—as if in direct response to Speshnyov’s cynicism: “But if I do not recognize any judgment over me, I know all the same that I will be judged, once I have become a deaf and speechless defendant.”[107]

Dostoevsky’s Ivan Karamazov (The Brothers Karamazov), Pyotr Stepanovich and Nikolai Stavrogin (Demons), and Rodion Raskolnikov (Crime and Punishment) all suffer from the weight of the atonement and whether they can exist apart from the redemption it entails.  The question is not of the overt articulation of these themes—as is the case in The Idiot—but rather how the very reality of the truth of the world haunts protagonists and antagonists alike: “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.”[108]  For Dostoevsky, rebellion is to exist in the void of nihilism, and yet nature abhors a vacuum and a clean swept house cannot remain empty.[109]  In the works of both Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, we see that the emptiness of the soul, no less than the emptiness of the world, is not existentially viable.  In moments of noctilucent illumination, we glimpse that in the darkness of nothingness, something is.  And though we are not always able to grasp what is and what is not, we cannot help but to understand that herein resides the meaning of Nietzsche’s “great politics” as “Geisterkrieg.”  Furthermore, we cannot but help to understand that even in Dostoevsky’s Demons, his most politically informed work, framed as it is by the “political question,” politics is first and foremost the politics of the soul and the decisions of the heart.  We see the necessity of exploiting the tools of psychology to understand the struggles of the soul.

The Demon is Glimpsed . . . or is it a Demon?

It is because we are rarely allowed or able to gaze into the depth that  it is of great fascination and spiritual interest no less than awful wonder, to stumble across the following demonic expression inauspiciously tucked away in the middle of a long set of Nietzsche’s philological, philosophic, historic, and literary notes: “What I fear is not the dreadful figure behind my chair but its voice—not even its words but its ghastly, inarticulate and inhuman sounds.  Ye, if it only spoke like humans speak.”[110]  The statement, isolated as it is, raises far more questions than it answers.  Given its singularity, it is dangerous to appropriate it as the cornerstone upon which to erect an interpretive theory or to see in it the equivalent of the philosopher’s stone whereby to transform Nietzsche’s labyrinthine oeuvre into a systematic corpus.  We would find ourselves erecting another “thinker’s system” or, what is more likely, dwelling in the world of alchemy and magic and the magus.  We would be again in Faust’s study but without the illumination offered to us as observers witnessing the bellowing dog transforming into Mephistopheles right before our eyes.[111]  Nevertheless, the statement exists and to deny it the status of meaning is to engage in the fallacy of dismissing singularities as they present themselves in life and nature simply because they are singularities.  Singularities too are events.  The tools of empirical science may not serve as an adequate guide, for we are not dealing with a question of mere matter that can be reconstituted in the safety and sterility of the laboratory, controlling variables as we please.  We must use, as Aristotle reminds us, the method appropriate to the matter under consideration.  In the case of things dealing with the human psyche and soul, these are the tools of psychology.

Consequently, drawing on Dostoevsky, the one psychologist from whom Nietzsche noted that he had something to learn,[112] we can possibly gleam a bit of insight into the state of the soul, which gives rise to such words.  In this too, we are not imposing a method foreign to Nietzsche’s own scientific method.  As he writes in a note from the same time, “The task is to throw much material overboard and construct along the lines of analogies.”[113]  It is in Dostoevsky’s fiction that such an analogy has been constructed for us.  In Dostoevsky’s five great novels, there are, as we have already discussed, a consistent tendency to unveil a spiritual affliction through the analysis of psychological and physical illness and death.  In this method, we are reminded once again of Nietzsche’s own conception of the interplay of character, will, and action as they were formulated around the same time: “Not first the thought, no, already the constitution makes a murderer; he is guilty without the deed.”[114]

In the novels of Dostoevsky as in the life of Nietzsche, we witness the mysterious interplay of spirit and matter, thought and action, demons of the mind and man’s agency, physical illness and spiritual disturbance, and the abiding agon of Christ versus Anti-Christ.  Hence, Nietzsche notes that there is an “ethical aristocracy,” which is given the title of Lord and Baron and is based on mere physical generation.  There is also a “spiritual aristocracy” based on the underlying, unchanging character whose outward actions as often reveal as hide the spirit underneath.  Glimpses into the “underground” are provided for us by such Dostoevskyian characters as Stavrogin in Demons, Ivan in The Brothers Karamazov, and Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment.  In these works and these characters, the curtain is pulled back and we witness the unfolding of the mysteries of life where physical illness is linked to various states of psychosis and neurosis.  We observe the unfolding action and see how at a determinative moment an action on the part of a character causes such perplexity that we wonder whether the character’s cry that the devil made him do it is less a consequence of some fever of the mind than one of the deepest and darkest confessions of a soul in a moment of brilliant clarity and madness.

Keeping Nietzsche’s encounter with the dreaded voice in mind, we are well served to consider in some depth the particularly illuminating example of Raskolnikov and the opening action of Crime and Punishment leading up to and surrounding Raskolnikov’s murder of Alyona Ivanovna and her half-sister, Lizaveta.  What might seem like an all too long digression is in fact central to grasping what is in most cases difficult to even glimpse, namely the thoughts and underlying inspirations of the soul before they become incarnate in the actions of men. The brilliance of Dostoevsky lies precisely therein that he allows the reader to see the internal workings of the soul, which are usually only felt in their divine or demonic consequences, as thoughts transform into words and deeds.  And the choice of Raskolnikov is far from arbitrary, for in tracing Dostoevsky’s unfolding of his undoing, we (per chance) glimpse a certain spirit at work, which seemingly shares a measure of affinity with the one visiting Nietzsche.

The affinity begins with the respective loss of their childhood faith and the sorrow it causes their mothers.  What Raskolnikov’s mother writes in a letter to her son reminds in many ways of letters Franziska Nietzsche wrote to her Fritz:

“If only you are happy, then we shall be happy.  Do you pray to God, Rodya, as you used to, and do you believe in the goodness of our Creator and Redeemer?  I fear in my heart that you have been visited by the fashionable new unbelief.  If so, I pray for you.  Remember, my dear, in your childhood, when your father was alive, how you prattled out your prayers sitting on my knee, and how happy we all were then!”[115]

For Raskolnikov (no less than Nietzsche) those days of happiness had long passed.[116]  Beginning in chapter five of part I of Crime and Punishment, we witness the interplay of what Christianity refers to as the diabolic interaction of the Devil, the world, and the flesh on and in man as he makes his way through the world bound by Heaven and Hell.  Raskolnikov, we learn over the first fifty pages, has been contemplating the thought of murdering a pawn broker to ostensibly resolve his financial difficulties.  His conscience—wittingly and unwittingly—God acting through the conscience, and circumstances themselves offer Raskolnikov ways of avoiding his undoing.[117]  First he finds himself going to his “friend” Razumikhin’s home.  Why? “How can he help me now? . . . It’s ridiculous.”[118]  He is going to see if lessons are available by which he could earn money, at the very moment he is contemplating murdering for money.  It is indeed ridiculous, even “sinister,” lest there is truth in the hopeful curse that man can redeem himself by the “sweat of his brow.”[119]

But he abandons the journey and would head home, but home is “terribly disgusting,” for “it was there, in that corner, in that terrible cupboard, that for more than a month now all that had been ripening.”[120]  Refuge is not to be found.  The enemy lies in wait without and within.  Suffering under the burden of his willed fate, “his nervous trembling turned into some sort of feverishness” and having drunk but “one glass” of vodka, he succumbed to complete exhaustion and “collapsed on the grass, and in a moment was asleep.”[121]  There “Raskolnikov had a terrible dream.”[122]  He dreamt of the needless cruelty afflicted upon an old horse that was coldly, blindly beaten to death.[123]  Awakening from the dream, Raskolnikov wonders whether the fever was the cause of the “hideous dream!”[124]  Such is the nature of psychosomatic illness.[125]  We are not sure if it is a sickness of the spirit or of the body, which causes such thoughts to form.  Like Raskolnikov, we stand frozen, perplexed.

For Raskolnikov the fruit of psychosomatic perplexity results in his conscious decision to abandon the murder, for he has become aware of the horror he is about to beget: “‘God!’ he exclaimed . . . Lord, can it be?”[126]  He begins to reason: “Suppose there are even no doubts in all those calculations . . . true as arithmetic.  Lord!  Even so, I wouldn’t dare. . . . What, what has this been all along?”[127]  The soul alights as if “he had just thrown off the horrible burden that had been weighing him down for so long, and his soul suddenly became light and peaceful.”[128]   As narrator continues, “It was as if an abscess in his heart, which had been forming all month, had suddenly burst.  Freedom, freedom!  He was now free of that spell, magic sorcery, obsession! . . .’Lord!’ he pleaded, ‘show me my way; I renounce this cursed . . . dream of mine!’”[129]  The breaking of the abscess has, however, not broken the heart itself and in the fissure caused by the breaking of the abscess seven demons more evil than the first enter.[130]

In the action of the tale, the chain of “strange coincidences” illuminates the demon’s guile.  First, instead of returning home on the most direct route —“tired and worn out as he was”—he takes a detour through the “Haymarket.”[131]  Later Raskolnikov will remember how he was “struck by superstition by one circumstance which, though in fact not very unusual, afterwards constantly seemed to him as if it were a sort of predetermination of his fate.”[132]  For it is on the day of the terrible dream from which he awoke as if eased of his burden that his detour through Haymarket leads to the “accidental encounter,” which ever after seemed “as if it had been waiting for him there on purpose!”[133]  Crossing the Haymarket he espies Lizaveta Ivanovna and “when Raskolnikov suddenly saw her, some strange sensation, akin to the deepest amazement, seized him, though there was nothing amazing in this encounter.”[134]  He overhears a conversation and amazement gives way to:

“Horror, like a chill running down his spine.  He had learned, head learned suddenly, all at once, and quite unexpectedly, that tomorrow, at exactly seven o’clock in the evening, the old woman would be left at home alone. . . . He walked in like a man condemned to death.  He was not reasoning about anything, and was totally unable to reason; but he suddenly felt with his whole being that he no longer had any freedom either of mind or of will, and that everything had been suddenly and finally decided.”[135]

The immediate causes of the murder lie here but, in retrospect, Dostoevsky recounts the strange and mysterious causes, which had led Raskolnikov down this path in the first place.  To give an adequate treatment of Dostoevsky’s nuanced psycho-spiritual interplay in the time preceding Raskolnikov’s crime would take us too far afield of our present investigation.  Nevertheless, the more remote causes are important to appreciating Raskolnikov’s struggles (and by way of analogy Nietzsche’s) that we must attempt several cursory adumbrations aware that these can readily be fleshed out to provide a more detailed picture.  The narrative continues in flashback:

“But Raskolnikov had lately become superstitious. Traces of superstition remained in him for long time afterwards, almost indelibly.  And later on he was always inclined to see a certain strangeness, a mysteriousness, as it were, in this whole affair, the presence as of some peculiar influences and coincidences.[136]

What follows is the story of “chancing” upon the address of Alyona Ivanovna the “previous winter”[137] and, six weeks prior to the encounter at the Haymarket, visiting Ivanovna for the first time to pawn something.  After that meeting he again “chanced” upon a conversation between a young student and an officer who again, per “chance,” were discussing whether the murder of Ivanovna would not itself be a good thing:

“Kill her and take her money, so that afterwards with its help you can devote yourself to the service of all mankind and the common cause. . . . And what does the life of this stupid, consumptive, and wicked old crone mean in the general balance?  No more than the life of a louse, a cockroach, and not even that much, because the old crone is harmful.  She’s eating up someone else’s life.”[138]

The encounter took place “by chance, of course,” as Raskolnikov told himself, but “he could not rid himself of a certain quite extraordinary impression, it was as if someone had come to his service.”[139]

Returning to the present, Raskolnikov, engrossed in such thoughts, wanders back to his  “cupboard,” lies down and sleeps restlessly.  He again dreams a dream.  It constitutes the third strange and mysterious coincidence, for the dream evokes the image of living water which seemingly extends a muted offer of redemption.  He dreams of finding himself in the desert and resting in an oasis “drinking water right from the stream, which is there just beside him. . . .”[140]  His restless demon interrupts the vision: “All at once he clearly heard the clock strike.”[141] Fatedly, it was only six, not seven.  The final act of the restless one reveals that his restlessness has all along disrupted right reason itself.

We may note in passing, one peculiarity in regard to all the final resolutions taken by him in the matter; they had one strange characteristic: the more final they were, the more hideous and the more absurd they at once became in his eyes. In spite of all his agonizing inward struggle, he never for a single instant all that time could believe in the carrying out of his plans.  And, indeed, if it had ever happened that everything to the least point could have been considered and finally settled, and no uncertainty of any kind had remained, he would, it seems, have renounced it all as something absurd, monstrous and impossible. But a whole mass of unsettled points and uncertainties remained.[142]

“Meanwhile,” Dostoevsky tells us:

“It would seem, as regards the moral question, that his analysis was complete; his casuistry had become keen as a razor, and he could not find rational objections in himself. But in the last resort he simply ceased to believe in himself, and doggedly, slavishly sought arguments in all directions, fumbling for them, as though some one were forcing and drawing him to it.”[143]

Dostoevsky allows a glimpse into the mind of one Geistesgestört, that is “spiritually disordered,” suffering from a disease and revealing a sick man, a wicked man:

“Almost every criminal is subject to a failure of will and reasoning power by a childish and phenomenal heedlessness, at the very instant when prudence and caution are most essential. It was his conviction that this eclipse of reason and failure of will power attacked a man like a disease, developed gradually and reached its highest point just before the perpetration of the crime, continued with equal violence at the moment of the crime and for longer or shorter time after, according to the individual case, and then passed off like any other disease. The question whether the disease gives rise to the crime, or whether the crime from its own peculiar nature is always accompanied by something of the nature of disease, he did not yet feel able to decide.”[144]

In all this the demon remains hidden.  He does not reveal himself but lurks in the corners of the heart, mind, and actions—in chance encounters and coincidences.  We sense his presence even as Raskolnikov senses it; it is seemingly something less articulate than even Nietzsche’s inarticulate voice.  Only as the fated abyss opens before Raskolnikov, does he (and we with him) glimpse the Devil lurking in his thoughts—in his very reasons—as he reveals himself in a moment of unguarded exuberance.  Finding the caretaker’s ax, after he could not get the ax he planned on taking, we are allowed to hear Raskolnikov’s thoughts: “‘If not reason, then the devil!’ he thought, grinning strangely.  The incident encouraged him enormously.”[145]  Soon after, “A curse rose up in his soul,”[146] even as a curse was settling on him.

This brief excursion into Crime and Punishment is offered not to equate Nietzsche and Raskolnikov, but rather to illuminate a type of spirit struggling to determine the bounds of free will and fate, when fate seems destined and the will bound, and the struggle between good and evil and the power of will and re-creation required to exist beyond both.  Dostoevsky reminds us that the struggles and actions we witness are not the deepest struggles nor the decisive actions.  What we see—what we are allowed to see—is derivative.  We witness the outward manifestations of inner disorders—the effects of causes disturbing the soul.  Yet what we witness is real.  In the case of Raskolnikov, the two bludgeoned to death women are what scientists call facts.

However, Dostoevsky does not allow us to simply dwell on the “facts” as such.  Neither does he allow us to simply excuse Raskolnikov because he was suffering from fever; nor does he simply allow us to accuse him for allowing himself to be led by chance.  Rather, beyond excuses and accusations, we are allowed a glimpse into the life of a man who is more than the blood and bile, reason and appetite.  Something other lurks in the shadows of his room and the shadow of his soul—something dark and inhuman.  If nothing else, the comparison should challenge us to consider that the murder of a “woman unworthy to live” is far easier than the murder of a God, who is deemed more wicked, more unworthy to live.  If the sufferings of Raskolnikov can illuminate the struggle of a soul contemplating the murder of one who is human and wicked, what of one contemplating the murder of God?  God stands accused of far surpassing one woman’s wickedness, for he has consumed the lives of millions upon millions who have forsaken life for belief in the lie of the eternal goodness of revelation and the life to come.  How great, we wonder, is the demon spurring man to such a monstrous murder of such a monstrous being?  And let us not forget that what Nietzsche discloses of the murderer of God is true not only for himself but for us all: “We have killed him,—you and I!”[147]

As we wonder about the murderer of an old, wicked woman and how this can help us understand the murderer of God and the struggle of divine-demonic sons, we find ourselves wondering no less about the otherwise analytically stolid Nietzsche biographer Curt Paul Janz indulging in a bit of psycho-spiritual analysis along the lines of Dostoevsky.  Not only does Janz observe of Nietzsche’s tucked away note that it reflects a “nightmarish hallucinogenic condition,” but he also states that we should not forget the “strong states of excitement Nietzsche had already experienced at Pforta [his secondary school].” Moreover, he draws our attention to the words of the later “spiritually disturbed Nietzsche,” who notes that in “his youth he suffered epileptic conditions without losing consciousness.”[148]  What is more, he rightly reminds that Nietzsche’s sister was prone to expunge such statements, which can be more fully traced in her dealings with the records of her father’s sickness.[149]  Is it just possible that the relative obscurity of the notes in which the passage appears protected it from her editorial hand?  What is most likely, Janz writes, is that Nietzsche around the age of twenty-four, “not only this time, as he himself testifies, suffered from hallucinations, which deeply agitated him and filled him with fear.”[150]  Though we have no other record, either in letters, journals, or notes, whether from Nietzsche or from others, of such similar encounters or “spiritual disturbances,” Janz intriguingly writes:

“But he knew how to suppress this voice.  No one heard about the conversation with it [the voice].  The light of day scared it away again. We do not know, how often the demon out of the deepest depth or the dizziest heights stepped behind the chair of the working and thinking twenty-four year old; we do not know what he whispered to him; . . . we do not know how deep this demon touched him and how much he still felt him underneath [unterirdisch] on waking days; but we do know, that he fought with him, and we know, that he overcame him and that he bound him for 20 years.  But it may well be, that he never let his demon out of his eye during this long time and that he then, as he fully recognized him, united with him as with the most secret and trusted Du.[151]

Here seemingly resides the deepest, most decisive agon “in Greek, and not only in Greek.”[152]  Though the deepest depth of the abyss lie well shrouded, we cannot merely dismiss its existence because our tools of analysis are limited.  Rather, we must analyze as best as we are able with the tools at our disposal—or at least the ones we can acquire, even if only by diligent labor of living and contemplating philosophy as life and carefully studying analogies and paradigmatic examples.[153]

Conclusion: ” . . . And the Darkness Has Not Overcome It”

It is for this reason that we have pursued the undoing of Raskolnikov.  Dostoevsky’s writings are more than literature even as Nietzsche’s corpus is more than philosophy.  They both express in their own ways the truth of the soul that will will Nothingness itself rather than not will at all.[154]  For Nietzsche, the travesty of the human condition only fuels his zeal to overcome good and evil.  The oppressive gaze of the Good and the Good God, or the oppressive consumption of Nothingness, which is evil and the Evil One, are equally burdensome—equally avert men’s eyes away from life.  In his wanderings, he is spurred on by a dark and inhuman voice and if the dark voice and his dark thoughts are quickly re-veiled and shrouded in the cleanliness, orderliness, and precision of philological thoughts tucked away in philological notebooks, it is only to protect the author from ears that are unable to hear dark words and entertain dark guests.  And when they are glimpsed, as if from behind,[155] in seemingly tame analogies, we should not be too quick to think that the demon is no longer present but simply—possibly—better hidden, better guarded.

Even Zarathustra will see the need to keep a closer watch on his shadow.[156]  The shroud of philosophic language packaged by the rigorous method of a philological romancier should not blind us with the charm of its articulation.  We should not stop wondering whether the demon that led Raskolnikov to his ruin is not the same demon urging Nietzsche on. We do well to remember that the free spirit, however, conceals truths of great weight, for it is a deep spirit.[157]  And “all that is deep, loves masks.”[158]  Indeed, “Every deep spirit requires a mask: even more, around every deep spirit a mask continually grows, thanks to the consistently wrong, namely shallow, exegesis of every word, every step, every sign of life that he gives.—”[159]  In depths and heights not seen by eyes all too human, Nietzsche’s teachings reside and his spirit soars and the son of Earth violently conflicts with Heaven’s son—the Christ Dostoevsky extols.

Of the note mentioning the demon’s voice which Nietzsche fears,[160] Hans Joachim Mette and Karl Schlechta, the critical editors of Nietzsche’s collected works, can only note in their afterword that it “was doubtlessly written down in great agitation.”[161]  We are too quick to pass over such moments of excitable irruption, which seem only to vex us and cause us no less anxiety than the victim who suffers them.  Nevertheless, we should again be mindful of Nietzsche’s own insight into these matters.  Appearing on the same page as the cryptic note recounting the demon’s voice, Nietzsche writes with respect to Democritus: He “had dealings with the magicians and said much that was demonic; but was not himself a magician.”[162]  We must then consider as we are able what Nietzsche says and in what voice he says and does it.  We may not be able to satisfactorily answer whether or not Nietzsche himself is Faust but we are able to consider “his dealings.”  And yet we are not far from Faust’s world or even that of Byron’s Manfred, where ministering angels and demons call home the souls of men.[163]  Janz himself observes with respect to Nietzsche that the figure behind him is “like a messenger out of that kingdom, which he enters 20 years later.”[164]  We wonder whether truthfulness truly reveals an unembraced world.  The human-demonic drama may not be unique to Nietzsche (indeed, Dostoevsky achieves literary similitude in his great novels), but surely it is explored in ways that even few works of fantastical literature can aspire to achieve.  And Nietzsche is real flesh and blood.  He is not a type; he is not Faust, Manfred, or Raskolnikov.



[1] The views expressed in this paper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the United States Air Force Academy, the Air Force, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

[2] With respect to “thinkers” who build “systems,” see Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death, ed. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, vol. 19, Kierkegaard’s Writings (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), 43-44.  Cf. Shigalyov, Dostoevsky’s demonic system builder in Fyodor Dostoevsky, Demons, trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000), 402.

[3] “The term politics is then completely taken up in a spiritual war [Geisterkrieg]; all visions of power of the old order are exploded sky high—they rest altogether on the lie.  There will be wars, as there have not been on earth.  Only starting with me is there great politics on earth.”  Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, 15 vols., vol. 6, Kritische Studienausgabe (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1999), “Why I am a Destiny,” 1, p. 365-66.  Cf. Henning Ottmann, “Das Spiel Der Masken: Nietzsche Im Werk Eric Voegelins,” 191.  All translations from German sources are the author’s own, unless otherwise noted.

[4] Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Faust, ed. Erich Trunz (Munich, Germany: Verlag C.H. Beck, 1989), “Hexenküche,” I.2504-11.

[5] Cf. Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business.

[6] Yvacheslav Ivanov, Freedom and the Tragic Life, ed. S. Konovalov, trans. Norman Cameron (New York: The Noonday Press, 1957), 122.

[7] Friedrich Nietzsche, Zarathustra, ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, 15 vols., vol. 4, Kritische Studienausgabe (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1999), “Preface,” 6, p. 22.

[8] Cf. the opening of part IV of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot.

[9] Nietzsche, Zarathustra, 4, “Preface,” 5, p. 21.

[10] Ecce Homo, 6, “Preface,” 4, p. 260.  Also Matt. 13:9, 16-17.

[11] Matt. 16:26.

[12] Nietzsche, Zarathustra, 4, “Preface,” 4, p. 16.

[13] Ibid., “Preface,” 6, p. 22.

[14] Ibid.  Zarathustra does not end up burying him.  He places him in the hollow of a tree and goes on in search of living companions.  Ibid., “Preface,” 8-9, p. 25.  He follows the wisdom of the Crucified: “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  Luke 9:60.

[15] Ibid., “Preface,” 9, p. 25.

[16] Ibid., “Of the Giving Virtue,” I.22.3, p. 102.

[17] Cf. John 1 and 1 Corinthians 1:23-25.  Cf. Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot, trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001).

[18] Nietzsche, Zarathustra, 4, “Preface,” 6, p. 22.

[19] Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground, trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993), “Introduction,” p. xxii.

[20] Nietzsche, Götzen-Dämmerung, 6, 45, p. 147.  Cf. Nietzsche in Nice to Franz Overbeck in Basel, 23 February 1887.   Friedrich Nietzsche: Sämtliche Briefe, Januar 1887-Januar 1889, Nachträge/Register, ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, 8 vols., vol. 8, Kritische Studienausgabe (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 2003), 803, p. 27.  Cf. also “Rückblick Auf Meine Zwei Leipziger Jahre, 17 Oktober 1865-10 August 1867,” in Friedrich Nietzsche: Schriften Der Studenten- Und Militärzeit, 1864-1868, ed. Hans Joachim Mette and Karl Schlechta, Beck’sche Ausgabe Werke (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1994), September 1867-April 68, p. 298.

[21] Nietzsche in Nice to Heinrich Köselitz in Venice, 7 March 1887.  Friedrich Nietzsche: Sämtliche Briefe, Januar 1887-Januar 1889, Nachträge/Register, 8, 814, p. 41.  Nietzsche read the two works in French, in a translation published as one volume under the title, L’esprit souterrain.

[22] Nietzsche in Nice to Heinrich Köselitz in Venice, 13 February 1887.  Ibid., 800, p. 24.

[23] Ivanov, citing Dostoevsky’s Diary in a footnote.  Ivanov, Freedom and the Tragic Life, 37.  Ivanov refers to Dostoevsky as a mystical realist.  Ibid., 41.

[24] It is not amiss to see in Notes from Underground Dostoevsky’s manifesto and declaration of war against spiritual error.

[25] Nietzsche in Nice to Heinrich Köselitz in Venice, 7 March 1887.  Nietzsche, Friedrich Nietzsche: Sämtliche Briefe, Januar 1887-Januar 1889, Nachträge/Register, 8, 814, p. 41.

[26] Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground, “Introduction,” p. xviii.

[27] Nietzsche understood Paul’s emphatic argument in his letter to the Corinthian (see 1 Cor15:14-19).  Nietzsche is not concerned about proving the existence of God but about salvation.  In this he is Lutheran even as the Anti-Luther.  Also cf. Williams conclusion, in light of the work of Giles Fraser, on the central theme of redemption in Nietzsche in Giles Fraser, Redeeming Nietzsche: On the Piety of Unbelief (New York: Routledge, 2002).  Williams concludes, “Nietzsche’s concern is the business of salvation.  What he denies is a Savior; not a philosophical proposition.”  Stephen N. Williams, The Shadow of the Antichrist: Nietzsche’s Critique of Christianity (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2006), 97.

[28] Nietzsche, Der Antichrist, 6, 53, p. 235.

[29] “Aus Meinem Leben,” in Friedrich Nietzsche: Jugendschriften, 1854-1861, ed. Hans Joachim Mette, Beck’sche Ausgabe Werke (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1994), 15-16, 28.

[30] Der Antichrist, 6, 39, p. 211.

[31] Ibid., 53, p. 239.

[32] Ibid., 34, p. 207.  Cf. Zarathustra’s proclamation that man is no end [kein Zweck] but only a “Bridge,” who is a “Going-Over [Übergang],” which makes him a “Going-Under[Untergang],” for they are the “Going-Over-to-the-Other-Side [Hinübergehenden].”  Zarathustra, 4, “Preface,” 4, p. 17.  Cf. also the metaphor of man as his own bridge over the “river of life” in Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen Iii: Schopenhauer Als Erzieher, ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, 15 vols., vol. 1, Kritische Studienausgabe (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1999), 1, p. 340.

[33] Bakhtin quoted by Pevear in Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground, “Introduction,” p. xvii.

[34] Epitaph of Friedrich Nietzsche, Morgenröthe, ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, 15 vols., vol. 3, Kritische Studienausgabe (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1999).

[35] Ivanov, Freedom and the Tragic Life, 38.

[36] Plato, Republic, 617d.

[37] Nietzsche, Zarathustra, 4, “Von den Abtrünnigen,” 2, p. 228.  Consider Nietzsche’s demand for “careful readers.”  Morgenröthe, 3, “Preface,” 5, p. 17.

[38] Zarathustra, 4, “Von den Abtrünnigen,” 2, p. 228.

[39] Ibid., “Von den Abtrünnigen,” 2, p. 230.  Cf. Exodus 20:3.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Cf. Jenseits Von Gut Und Böse, ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, 15 vols., vol. 5, Kritische Studienausgabe (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1999), 35, 36, p. 54.

[42] Note Nietzsche’s emphasis on “One Problem” (“Ein Problem”) uncharacteristically capitalizing the article, “ein.”

[43] Romans 6:15-20.

[44] Cf. Genesis 1:28.

[45] Nietzsche, Zarathustra, 4, “Von den Abtrünnigen,” 2, p. 230.  Cf. “Of the Gifting Virtue,”  in ibid., I.22, p. 97.

[46] Ibid., “The Ass’ Feast,” IV.18.1, p. 391.  As Lampert observes of the “out of commission” Pope, “Fully a monotheist, with a monoculist way of seeing and explaining, he does not know that ‘when gods die they die many kinds of death,’ and he learns only later that with gods, with immortal ones, death is always only a prejudice (IV.18, §1).”  Laurence Lampert, Nietzsche’s Teaching: An Interpretation of Thus Spoke Zarathustra (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986), 296.  Lampert’s citation respecting the many deaths of gods is from Nietzsche, Zarathustra, 4, “Out of Commission,” IV.6, p. 324.  It is worth remembering that the Pope, “Was blind in one eye”—hence a “monotheist with a monoculist’s vision.”  Ibid., “Out of Commission,” IV.6, p. 321.

[47] Zarathustra, 4, “Von den Abtrünnigen,” 2, p. 230.

[48] Ibid., “Of the Apostates,” III.8.2, p. 230.

[49] Ibid., “Of Reading and Writing,” I.7, p. 49.

[50] Ibid.  In contrast, compare Christ as he who upholds all things by the power of his might (Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:2-4).

[51] Ibid., “Of Reading and Writing,” I.7, p. 50.

[52] Ibid., “Of Reading and Writing,” I.7, p. 49.

[53] Ibid., “The Ass’ Fest,” IV.18.1, p. 392.  See also the words of the Ugliest Man in ibid., “The Ugliest Man,” IV.7.

[54] “Out of the world we know, the humanitarian God is not demonstrable: one can force and drive you today so far:—but which conclusion do you draw?  He is not demonstrable for us: skepticism of knowledge.  But you all fear the conclusion: ‘Out of the world we know, an entirely different God would be demonstrable, one who is at least not humanitarian’— — and, short and sweet, that is you hold fast to your God and contrive for him a world, that is not known to us.”  Nachgelassene Fragmente, 1885-1887, ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, 15 vols., vol. 12, Kritische Studienausgabe (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1999), 2[153], p. 41.

[55] Ecce Homo, 6, “Why I am a Destiny,” 9, p. 374.  One should not forget that Dionysus is a hard and dark god—indeed he is “the god of darkness.”  “One knows this.”  Ibid., “Genealogy,” 352.

[56] Ibid., “Preface,” 4, p. 260.

[57] Ibid., “Preface,” 4, p. 259.   The Halcyon, a bird of the genus tree Kingfishers, has in mythology the power to calm the wind and the waves while it nests on the sea during the winter solstice.  Zarathustra’s new song will not offer eternal rest but respite in the midst of flux.

[58] Ibid.  “This book, with a voice going over thousands of years, is not only the highest book that exists . . . it is also the deepest, which, born out of the heart of the riches of truth, is an inexhaustible well.  No bucket can go down into it, without coming up filled with gold and excellence [Gute].”

[59]See  ibid., “Why I Write Such Good Books,” 2, p. 302.  Cf. Balaam’s Ass who saw the truth of the world, which his master, a prophet, could not.  Numbers 22.  One should also not forget that the reevaluation of all values of Christ began when he rode on an Ass into Jerusalem and made of the city of Peace a city of war.  Matthew 21:1-11.  See also Isaiah 42:10-17 and Revelation 5:9 and 14:3 for the new song unto the Lord, which is revealed as the new song unto Christ.

[60] Ibid., “Preface,” 3, p. 258; 4, p. 59, 60; ibid.

[61] Zarathustra, 4, “Out of Commission,” IV.6, p. 325.  Cf. Zarathustra’s call that the camel carrying the heaviest burden—the “Thou Shalt,” that substance and remembrance of all that is contained in the old Spirit of Gravity—into the deepest desert must transform into the Lion and devour the heaviest burden. See  ibid., “The Three Transformations,” I.1.  One should not forget: the coming hope lies in the coming child, the third transformation.

[62] Nietzsche, in a manner reflective of his guide in all things Greek, Diogenes Laertius, uses archetypes very effectively to reveal spiritual touchstones.  See Laertius’ pseudo-scientific classifications discussed in G.S. Kirk, J.E. Raven, and M. Schofield, The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).

[63] Ivanov, Freedom and the Tragic Life, 65.

[64] Ibid., 62.  Cf. John 12:31 and Eph. 2:2.

[65] Ibid.  Cf. The exchange between Marya Timofeevna and Nikolai Stavrogin.  Dostoevsky, Demons, 276-77.

[66] Cf. Nietzsche, Jenseits Von Gut Und Böse, 5, 23, p. 39.

[67] Ivanov, Freedom and the Tragic Life, 112.

[68] Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground, 5.

[69] Cf. Nietzsche, Jenseits Von Gut Und Böse, 5, p. 132-33.

[70] For the dark revelations of Ivan see Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Constance Garnett (New York: The Modern Library, 1996).  Cf. the tale of legion’s head, Nikolai, as recounted in Demons.  Consider also Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death, 19.

[71] Ivanov, Freedom and the Tragic Life, 112.

[72] Cf. Rom. 1.

[73] Nietzsche in Leipzig to Franziska Nietzsche in Naumburg, 31 January 1866.  Friedrich Nietzsche, Friedrich Nietzsche: Sämtliche Briefe, September 1864 – April 1869, ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, 8 vols., vol. 2, Kritische Studienausgabe (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 2003), 493, p. 109.

[74] Ivanov, Freedom and the Tragic Life, 112.

[75] Ibid.

[76] As Ivanov states, “The highest truth that an acknowledgment by the heart can reveal is Jesus Christ.”  Ibid., 114.

[77] John 14:6.

[78] Ivanov, Freedom and the Tragic Life, 114.  Cf. John 14:6.

[79] John 19:5.

[80] Dostoevsky, The Idiot, 218.  The painting in question is Christ’s Body in the Tomb (1521) by Hans Holbein the Younger, which enchanted and horrified Dostoevsky when he saw it in the Basel museum in 1867.  Dostoevsky is said to have uttered the very words he has Myshkin pronounce.  A short while after this encounter with Rogozhin, Myshkin observes to himself, “He [Rogozhin] say he ‘likes looking at that painting’; he doesn’t like it, it means he feels a need.  Rogozhin is not only a passionate soul; he’s a fighter after all: he wants to recover his lost faith by force.  He needs it now to the point of torment . . .Yes! to believe in something! To believe in somebody!”  Ibid., 230-31.  There is arguably a striking parallel to Nietzsche’s own struggles as expressed in such tormenting pieces of poetry as, “Before the Crucifix.”

[81] In a poem immediately following, “Before the Crucifix” and entitled, “Now and Evermore,” Nietzsche defines precisely that it is his own faith that has shattered on the Christ who lies eternally hanging on the cross.  Friedrich Nietzsche, “Jetzt Und Ehedem,” in Friedrich Nietzsche: Jugendschriften, 1861-1864, ed. Hans Joachim Mette and Karl Schlechta, Beck’sche Ausgabe Werke (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1994), April 1863, p. 190.

[82] “Vor Dem Crucifix,” in Friedrich Nietzsche: Jugendschriften, 1861-1864, ed. Hans Joachim Mette, Beck’sche Ausgabe Werke (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1994), April 1863, p. 188; ibid.

[83] Ibid., April 1863, p. 188; ibid.  The drunk, in the tradition of the Grand Inquisitor, cannot believe that Christ died for the mass of men—the masses.  They only seek the bread and drink of this life and care not for the bread and drink of the life to come, though they will gladly accept the latter if their bellies are fed and their thirst slackened, even by “bitter” waters.  As the Grand Inquisitor charges the silent Christ: “Thou didst promise them the bread of Heaven, but, I repeat again, can it compare with earthly bread in the eyes of the weak, ever sinful and ignoble race of man?”  Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, 281.  Nietzsche himself notes, “A piece of bread is always more important than a book.”  Nietzsche, “Zu Einer Geschichte Der Litterarischen Studien Im Alterthum Und in Der Neuzeit,” October 1867-April 68, p. 325.

[84] Der Antichrist, 6, 39, p. 211.

[85] Nietzsche in Genoa to Paul Rée, Beginning of December 1882 (Draft).  Friedrich Nietzsche: Sämtliche Briefe, Januar 1880 – Dezember 1884, ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, 8 vols., vol. 6, Kritische Studienausgabe (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 2003), 341, p. 286.

[86] Nachgelassene Fragmente, 1885-1887, 12, 6[4], p.254.

[87] Ibid.

[88] Zarathustra, 4, “Of the Tarantulas,” II.7, p. 129.

[89] See Psalm 2:7; cf. Hebrews 5:5.

[90] Friedrich Nietzsche, Nachgelassene Fragmente, 1887-1889, ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, 15 vols., vol. 13, Kritische Studienausgabe (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1999), 14[89], p. 266.

[91] Ecce Homo, 6, “Why I Write Such Good Books,” 2, p. 302.  “Ich kann nicht anders.  Gott helf mir!  Amen.”  These are the words uttered by Luther at the Diet of Worms, 18 April 1521.  See Heiko Oberman, Luther: Man between God and the Devil, trans. Eileen Walliser-Schwarzbart (New York: Image Books, 1989), 38-39.

[92] Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, 6, “Why I Write Such Good Books,” 2, p. 302.

[93] Zarathustra, 4, “The Ass’ Feast,” IV.18.  It will be the lion who chases away the “higher men,” who bowed the knee to the Ass.  Ibid., “The Sign,” IV.20, p. 407.  The higher men seemed to be on their way to “healing,” having told Zarathustra that they no longer sought after the “Kingdom of Heaven” but only the “Kingdom of the Earth.”  Ibid., “The Ass’ Feast,” IV.18.2, p. 393.  Yet, they required a god to worship and the kingdom of earth smacks too much of the new earth and heaven of Revelation 21.  They are chased away before the new sun dawns.  See Numbers 22:22-35 for the account of Balaam’s Ass and his wisdom.

[94] It is interesting to observe the similarity to the Platonic metaxy so carefully explicated by Voegelin.  The way unto truth is the way of ascent, the end of which is “the vision of what lies beyond (epekeina) being.”   Eric Voegelin, Order and History, Volume Iii: Plato and Aristotle, ed. Dante Germino, 34 vols., vol. 16, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000), 167.

[95] Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Richard Peavear and Larissa Volokhnosky (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1990), 648-49.  Cf. Ivanov’s discussion of this passage.  Ivanov, Freedom and the Tragic Life, 122.

[96] For Nietzsche, the historic intertwining of Christianity with the oriental, even philosophic, conceptions of good and evil leads to the coming of one who is at once before and against.  The result is the Crucified Dionysus, which Nietzsche knew to be Dionysus-Zagreus of the Orphic mysteries but was also called Savior (Sotēr).  Christ and Anti-Christ are both crucified, and arising from the tomb in the third coming is the Phoenix, already foreshadowed in part IV of Zarathustra.  The Phoenix, as one transformed by the spirit of Dionysus, is alone able to rise from the ashes, for such is the nature of Dionysus Zagreus.  Crucifixions are no indication of finality; the nature of the one crucified determines his fate.  Cf. Curt Paul Janz, Friedrich Nietzsche Biographie, Band 3: Die Jahre Des Siechtums, Dokumente, Register, 3 vols., vol. 3 (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1981), 17, 21, 22, and 25.

[97] Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, 648.

[98] Nietzsche, Jenseits Von Gut Und Böse, 5, IV.146, p. 98.

[99] Zarathustra, 4, “Before Sunrise,” III.4, p. 207.  Cf. Dante’s escape from the depth of hell by descending down the Devil’s backside and thereby ascending to the “world of light.” Dante Alighieri, The Inferno, trans. Anthony Esolen (New York: The Modern Library, 2002), Canto 34, line 134, p. 361.

[100] Nietzsche, Zarathustra, 4, “Before Sunrise,” III.4.

[101] Of “Before Sunrise” (Zarathustra III.4), Eugen Fink argues that it is “of the highest significance.”  “As the secret speech of Zarathustra’s aspiration, it is one of the rare speeches that makes explicit his most fundamental insight and mission.”  Lampert, Nietzsche’s Teaching: An Interpretation of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 173; ibid.

[102] Nietzsche, Zarathustra, 4, “Before Sunrise,” III.4.

[103] Lampert, Nietzsche’s Teaching: An Interpretation of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 173-74, 76; ibid.

[104] Richard Pevear, “Introduction,” in The Idiot, ed. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (New York: Everyman’s Library, 2001), xxiii.

[105] Cf. 1 Cor. 15:14.

[106] See Pevear, “Introduction,” xiii and xxiii.

[107] Dostoevsky, The Idiot, 412.

[108] John 1:9-10.

[109] Luke 11:14-26.

[110] Friedrich Nietzsche, Friedrich Nietzsche: Schriften Der Letzten Leipziger Und Ersten Basler Zeit, 1868-1869, ed. Carl Koch and Karl Schlechta, 5 vols., vol. 5, Beck’sche Ausgabe Werke (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1994), Fall 1868 – Spring 69, p. 205.  The comment, tucked away as it is in a philological notebook from the years 1868 or 69 on the second to last page of a notebook, was most likely overlooked by his sister’s redactions, as she tended to expunge such comments.  The statement is also mentioned in Curt Paul Janz, Friedrich Nietzsche Biographie, Band 1: Kindheit Und Jugend, Die Zehn Basler Jahre, 3 vols., vol. 1 (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1981), 265-66.

[111] Cf. Goethe, Faust, “Studierzimmer,” I.1238-58, p. 44-45.

[112] Nietzsche, Götzen-Dämmerung, 6, “Wanderings of an Untimely One,” 45, p. 147.

[113] Friedrich Nietzsche: Schriften Der Letzten Leipziger Und Ersten Basler Zeit, 1868-1869, 5, Fall 1868 – Spring 69, p. 213.

[114] Ibid., Fall 1868 – Spring 69, p. 177.

[115] Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993), 39.  “By the fashionable new unbelief” might better be translated per Garnett as, “By the new spirit of infidelity.”  Dostoevsky seems to be moving the reader to recognize the Devil in Raskolnikov and not the mere physio-psychological.  Hence, in the context of the passage, he is “visited” by an unwelcome guest, whereas unwelcome thoughts come over one or arise from within one’s dark heart.

[116] As the young Nietzsche composes with respect to having lost his earthly and heavenly father and the rest of the father’s home, “Barely can I control the pain that fills my soul. / Oh the father house is soon forever shut to me, / Homeless and orphaned I wander as a foreigner.” He will “often long after it” as one longs for “spiritual peace,” and though he tries to assure himself that time heals all wounds and the “pain sinks deep into the soul,” he already realizes that “nothing in this world has the power to free the soul” from this burden.  The “scars break open anew and bleed in streams. . . .”  Nietzsche, “Abschied,” 230-31.

[117] Cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13.

[118] Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, 52.

[119] Ibid.  Cf. Genesis 3:19.

[120] Ibid., 53.

[121] Ibid.

[122] Ibid., 54.

[123] Ibid., 54-59.

[124] Ibid., 59.

[125] Psychosomatic illness is also known as somatoform disorders or psychophysiologic disorders.

[126] Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, 59.

[127] Ibid.

[128] Ibid., 60.  Cf. the devouring of the greatest burden in Nietzsche, Zarathustra, 4, “Of the Three Transformations,” I.1, p. 30.

[129] Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, 60.

[130] Luke 11:24-26.

[131] Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, 60.

[132] Ibid.

[133] Ibid.

[134] Ibid., 61.

[135] Ibid., 62.

[136] Ibid., 63.

[137] Ibid.

[138] Ibid., 65.

[139] Ibid., 63.  “But why precisely now did he have to hear precisely such talk and thinking, when . . .  exactly the same thoughts had just been conceived in his own head?  And why precisely now, as he was coming from the old woman’s bearing the germ of his thought, should he chance upon a conversation with the same old woman? . . .  This coincidence always seemed strange to him.  This negligible tavern conversation had an extreme influence on him in the further development of the affair; as though there were indeed some predestination, some indication in it. . . .” Ibid., 66.

[140] Ibid., 67.

[141] Ibid.

[142] Crime and Punishment, trans. Constance Garnett, vol. 28, Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction (New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1917), 69.  In the Pevear’s translation, the “whole mass of unsettled points” is translated more literally and metaphorically as the “whole abyss of doubts.”

[143] Ibid., 70.

[144] Ibid., 70-71.

[145] Crime and Punishment, 72.

[146] Ibid.

[147] Nietzsche, Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft, 3, III.125, p. 481.

[148] Janz, Friedrich Nietzsche Biographie, Band 1: Kindheit Und Jugend, Die Zehn Basler Jahre, 1, 266.  Janz’ three volume biography is arguably the most comprehensive and thorough study of Nietzsche’s life available.  It stands on equal footing with Joseph Frank’s five-volume study of Dostoevsky.  Regarding Nietzsche’s epilepsy, one is reminded of Dostoevsky’s own struggles and illuminations, which he credited to the illness.  It is an illness that afflicts Prince Myshkin in The Idiot and one which Smerdyakov exploits in The Brothers Karamazov.

[149] Ibid.  With respect to Elisabeth’s treatment of the causes leading to the death of the father, see ibid., 44-47.

[150] Ibid., 266.

[151] Ibid., 266-67.  Whether Janz intends it or not, there are echoes of Christ’s battle against the “spirit, the prince of the air,” who too is bound for a time but will return to wage battle one final time against the substance of which he is only a shadow.  Cf. Revelation 20.  This tale, however, ends with the shadow being overcome and vanquished for all time, for time itself will be no more.  Nietzsche will only accept the victory of the other for a moment.  Dionysus will be reborn from the ashes and begin to once again wage war against the shadow . . . and do so again and again for all eternity.

[152] Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, 6, “Why I Write Such Good Books,” 2.302.

[153] Such are the tools of noetic and pneumatic analysis so powerfully developed by Eric Voegelin.  Cf. Eric Voegelin, Anamnesis, ed. David Walsh, trans. M.J. Hanak, 34 vols., vol. 6, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2002).

[154] Nietzsche, Zur Genealogie Der Moral, 5, III.28, p. 412.  Cf. David Walsh, After Ideology: Recovering the Spiritual Foundations of Freedom (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1990), 46-48.  It is worth considering that Augustine show us that nothingness is itself evil.  Augustine, Confessions, ed. Henry Chadwick (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), III.vii(12), p. 43.

[155] Cf. Exodus 33:18-23.

[156] Cf. Nietzsche, Zarathustra, 4, “Of Great Events,” II.18, p. 171.

[157] Lampert, with specific reference to Beyond Good and Evil writes, “In a book that assigns the greatest responsibility to the philosopher as the one who knows what religions are good for, who knows how to order the politics of fatherlands, who commands and legislates how the world ought to be, and who has the whole future of mankind on his conscience, the philosopher Nietzsche must conceal himself behind the mask of a free spirit.”  Lampert, Nietzsche’s Teaching: An Interpretation of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 247.

[158] Nietzsche, Jenseits Von Gut Und Böse, 5, 40, p. 57.

[159] Ibid., 40, p. 58.

[160] Friedrich Nietzsche: Schriften Der Letzten Leipziger Und Ersten Basler Zeit, 1868-1869, 5, Fall 1868 – Spring 69, p. 205.

[161] Ibid., 467.

[162] Ibid., 205.  It is interesting to consider Augustine’s thoughts on Zoroaster and the magic arts: “This life not with laughter but with tears, seems unknowingly to prophesy the evils upon which we are entering.  Zoroaster alone is said to have laughed when he was born; and that unnatural laugh portended no good to him.  For he is supposed to have been the discoverer of the magic arts.”  Augustine writes these words as he considers the sufferings of this world.  Augustine, The City of God against the Pagans, trans. R.W. Dyson (Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 2001), XXI.14, p. 1072-73.  It is intriguing if nothing else to observe that not Democritus but Zarathustra is Nietzsche’s son—not the one who “had dealings with magicians” but the ur-magician himself.

[163] Nietzsche’s “worship” of Byron, along with that of Shakespeare, is of extreme importance in understanding Nietzsche’s youth and the development of his thoughts.  With respect to Byron, Nietzsche will not only compose his own “Manfred Meditation” but also set Byron’s “Hebrew Songs” and “Foscari” to music.  Janz, Friedrich Nietzsche Biographie, Band 1: Kindheit Und Jugend, Die Zehn Basler Jahre, 1, 110.  For Nietzsche, Manfred will come to represent the logical end of Romanticism, namely the will to death, and would haunt him in his later years.  Manfred, unlike Mr. Kurtz, will not simply lie in the darkness “waiting for death” crying out in a whisper, “The horror!  The horror!”  Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, ed. Robert Kimbrough (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1988), 68.  Manfred wills death and oblivion.  This will not be sufficient for Nietzsche, who wills life.

[164] Janz, Friedrich Nietzsche Biographie, Band 1: Kindheit Und Jugend, Die Zehn Basler Jahre, 1, 266.


Also seeDostoevsky’s Heroines; Or, On the Compassion of Russian Women,” “The Politics and Experience of Active Love in The Brothers Karamazov,””This Star Will Shine Forth from the the East: Dostoevsky and the Politics of Humility,” Dostoevsky’s Discovery of the Christian Foundation of Politics,” and “The Apocalypse of Beatitude: Modern Gnosticism and Ancient Faith in Dostoevsky’s The Possessed.”

Rouven J. Steeves

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Rouven J. Steeves is Assistant Professor of Political Science and German at the United States Air Force Academy.