Sunday, May 27, 2012
The following is aphorism 143 from Walter Kaufmann's translation (as The Gay Science ) of Nietzsche's Die froehliche Wissenschaft :
" The greatest advantage of polytheism.— For an individual to posit his own ideal and to derive from it his own law, joys, and rights—that may well have been considered hitherto as the most outrageous human aberration and as idolatry itself; the few who dared as much always felt the need to apologize to themselves, usually by saying: "Not I! Not I! But a god through me!" The wonderful art and gift of creating gods—polytheism—was the medium through which this impulse could discharge, purifiy, perfect, and ennoble itself: for originally it was a very undistinguished impulse, related to stubbornness, disobedience and envy. Hostility against this impulse to have an ideal of one's own was formerly the central law of all morality. There was only one norm: "man"—and every people thought that it possessed this one ultimate norm. But above and outside, in some distant overworld, one was permitted to behold a plurality of norms: one god was not considered a denial of another god, nor blasphemy against him! Here the luxury of individuals was first permitted, here one first honored the rights of individuals. The invention of gods, heroes, and overmen of all kinds, as well as near-men and undermen, of dwarfs, fairies, centaurs, satyrs, demons and devils was the inestimable preliminary exercise for the justification of the egoism and sovereignty of the individual: the freedom that one conceded to a god in his relation to other gods one eventually also granted to oneself in relation to laws, customs, and neighbors. Monotheism, on the other hand, this rigid consequence of the doctrine of one normal human type— the faith in one normal god beside whom there are only pseudo-gods [falsche Lügengötter]—was perhaps the greatest danger that has yet confronted humanity: it threatened us with the premature stagnation that, as far as we can see, most other species have long reached; for all of them believe in one normal type [Ein Normalthier] and ideal for their species, and they have translated the morality of mores definitively into their own flesh and blood. In polytheism the free-spiriting and many-spiriting of man obtained its first preliminary form: the strength to create for ourselves our own new eyes and ever again new eyes that are even more are own: hence man alone among all the animals has no eternal horizons and perspectives. "
Nietzsche argues that polytheism liberated man to envision other types of humans even as he envisioned a manifold of gods. If man is created in the image of God, that is the end for any development of man. Perhaps even Christians felt this constraint in monotheism, the reason for their development of a kind of tritheism, supplemented by angels and demons. Even the Muslims supplement their monotheism with angels and the jinn.
Most intriguing is his roll call of man's inventions: gods, heroes, overmen, near-men, undermen, dwarfs, fairies, centaurs, satyrs, demons, devils. One thinks of the roll call of the monsters in imaginative fiction. The near-men ( Nebenmenschen ) I would call parahumans, perhaps a harbinger of a great and unoriginal sin of genetic engineering that looms in our future. Are Nebenmenschen, Uebermenschen, Untermenschen a kind of unholy trinity of Nietzscheanism?