Sunday, December 11, 2011

Nietszche comments on the Allistic style

The studious Daniel June to the students of Life:




I have written a difficult section about my own style (the allistic style) as it would be seen through Nietzschean eyes. After moving at length to discern what values Nietzsche gave to different styles, I show that this criterion was Nietzsche’s most important standard for evaluating Plato, Christianity, and Wagner – his three main enemies in life. The allistic style is put under his terrible eyes as well…


Take care, Caretakers!







Nietzsche comments on the Allistic Style



            The dynamo of truth versus beauty, at the heart of the heart of Nietzsche’s discourse, plays out, and never settles itself, in the very style of Nietzsche. He was certainly a style-conscious philosopher, the most style-conscious of all the great philosophers, and though Kant maybe said more influential things about beauty and the sublime, he didn’t touch the stuff when he set his pen to the page.

            William James characterized philosophies as so many styles of thought:

Not only Walt Whitman could write “who touches this book touches a man.” The books of all the great philosophers are like so many men. Our sense of an essential personal flavor in each one of them, typical but indescribable, is the finest fruit of our own accomplished philosophic education. What the system pretends to be is a picture of the great universe of God. What it is—and oh so flagrantly!—is the revelation of how intensely odd the personal flavor of some fellow creature is. Once reduced to these terms (and all our philosophies get reduced to them in minds made critical by learning) our commerce with the systems reverts to the informal, to the instinctive human reaction of satisfaction or dislike. We grow as peremptory in our rejection or admission, as when a person presents himself as a candidate for our favor; our verdicts are couched in as simple adjectives of praise or dispraise. We measure the total character of the universe as we feel it, against the flavor of the philosophy proffered us, and one word is enough.


            How accurate, how sublime, how self-nullifying! A sentiment worthy of a psychologist cum philosopher. Too bad he nearly nullifies the entire thing with his offhand dismissal of Nietzsche:

The mood of a Schopenhauer or a Nietzsche…though often an ennobling sadness, is almost as often only peevishness running away with the bit between its teeth. The sallies of the two Germans remind one, half the time, of the sick shrieking of two dying rats. They lack the purgatorial note which religious sadness gives forth.

            He lost me by his claim that Schopenhauer and Nietzsche share one mood: how could anything intelligent follow from such a dire clause? James at least gets a few people right, Hegel for instance, and James at least was a great reader, and could only think and philosophize through the texts of others – how scholarly! Yet better than anything the universities have presented since, excluding John Dewey alone. He wrote these words in 1902, to his credit, two years after Nietzsche died. Maybe he didn’t know better?

            For who spoke here, James, or his God? The painful fall of James beautiful ideas is his God, who is his original sin. When his God mutters up and interrupts his philosophy, James seems perhaps a bit, kinda, -- insincere.

            That Nietzsche somewhat resembling Schopenhauer – a bit! – in his early writings isn’t too surprising, since Schopenhauer gave Nietzsche his initial emancipation from Christianity. Nietzsche’s early books, which precede his apotheosis as a stylist, reference Schopenhauer and Wagner in the opposite light the mature Nietzsche would come to. Even his little smatter of notes on “The Tragic Age of the Greeks,” unpublished and brooding, seems a bit sullen, a bit bitter at present day Germany. In this I resonate. I prefer the American Renaissance spirit to the spirit of the resenters now in control of our universities. Nietzsche’s intent with this book was to present a “genuine culture” the genuine culture, the pre-Socratic Greeks, who are characterized like all genuine cultures with a “unity of style.” This “republic of creative minds,” from Thales to Socrates is undone, cheated, corrupted, ruined by Plato:

Plato himself is the first mixed type on a grand scale, expressing his nature in his philosophy no less than his personality. Socrates, Pythagorean and Heraclitic elements are all combined in his doctrine of ideas. This doctrine is not a phenomenon exhibiting a pure philosophic type. As a human being, too, Plato mingles the features of the regal exclusivity and self-contained Heraclitus with the melancholy compassionate and legislative Pythagoras and the psychological acute dialectician Socrates. All subsequent philosophers are such mixed types… the mixed types were founders of sects, and that sectarianism with its institutions and counter-institutions was opposed to Hellenic culture an  its previous unity of style. Such philosophers too sought salvation in their own way, but only for the individual or for a small inside group of friends and disciples. The activity of the older philosophers, on the other hand (though they were quite unconscious of it) tended toward the healing and the purification of the whole. It is the mighty flow of reek culture that shall not be impeded; the terrible dangers in its path shall be cleared away: thus did the philosopher protect and defend his native lang. But later, beginning with Plato, philosophers became exile, conspiring against their fatherlands.

            What Germany needed was a “unity of style which characterizes all its life. Now was this early condemnation of Plato as a stylist the adolescent gumption of an over avid youth. In the final section of Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols, entitled “What I owe the ancients,” specifically, in regard to the development of his own personal style, the greatest achievement of Nietzsche in his own eyes and ours, he praises a few Roman writers of the epigamic style – Sallust is praised, as well as Horace, and notably, no mention of the garrulous Cicero is listed. Then he specifically denounces the Greek style, and especially that of Nietzsche’s:

For heaven’s sake, do not throw Plato at me. I am a complete skeptic about Plato, and I have never been able to join in the admiration for the artist Plato which is customary among scholars. In the end, the subtlest judges of taste among the ancients themselves are on my side. Plato, it seems to me, throws all stylistic forms together and is thus a first-rate decadent in style…. To be attracted by the Platonic dialogue, this horrible self-satisfied and childish kind of dialect, one must never have read good French authors.

            Thucydides is than praised not only as a divine contrast to Plato, being the flower of the Sophist’s culture, but he is actually read as an anecdote from reading Plato, much the way Nietzsche refers to The Satyricon, as his fresh air after reading the epistles of Paul.

            The epigrammatic, the strong, severe, the utterly compact, this cheers Nietzsche’s heart and fills his lungs. Music, with tempo, with gallop, this is the art that alone redeems the world “Has it been noticed that music liberates the spirit? Gives wings to thought? that one becomes more of a philosopher the more one becomes a musician?”

            In precisely the same terms by which Nietzsche dismisses Plato, so he dethrones Wagner for his own affections:

If anything in Wagner is interesting it is the logic with which a physiological defect makes move upon move and takes step upon step as practice and procedure, as innovation in principles, as a crisis in taste.

For the present I merely dwell on the question of style.— What is the sign of every literary decadence? That life no longer dwells in the whole. The word becomes sovereign and leaps out of the sentence, the sentence reaches out and obscures the meaning of the page, the page gains life at the expense of the whole—the whole is no longer a whole. But this is the simile of every style of decadence: every time, the anarchy of atoms, disintegration of the will, "freedom of the individual," to use moral terms—expanded into a political theory, "equal rights for all." Life, equal vitality, the vibration and exuberance of life pushed back into the smallest forms; the rest, poor in life. Everywhere paralysis, arduousness, torpidity or hostility and chaos: both more and more obvious the higher one ascends in forms of organization. The whole no longer lives at all: it is composite, calculated, artificial, and artifact.—

            Wagner has no full picture, no gestalt master. Despite the panorama views of his drawn out operas – some last for days! – it is in a different direction that Nietzsche sees Wagner’s true greatness:

Once more: Wagner is admirable and gracious only in the invention of what is smallest, in spinning out the details. Here one is entirely justified in proclaiming him a master of the first rank, as our greatest miniaturist in music who crowds into the smallest space an infinity of sense and sweetness. His wealth of colors, of half shadows, of the secrecies of dying light spoils one to such an extent that afterward almost all other musicians seem too robust.

            And once again, Nietzsche condemns the writings of the New Testament, which he finds especially vomitous, in the same terms:

To have glued this New Testament, a kind of rococo of taste in every respect, to the Old Testament to make one book, as the "Bible," as "the book as such"—that is perhaps the greatest audacity and "sin against the spirit" that literary Europe has on its conscience.

On the contrary: the history of Christianity - and that from the very death on the Cross - is the history of progressively cruder misunderstanding of an original symbolism.  With every extension of Christianity over even broader, even ruder masses in whom the precondition out of which it was born were more and more lacking, it became increasingly necessary to vulgarize, to barbarize Christianity - it absorbed the doctrines and rites of every subterranean cult of the Imperium Romanum, it absorbed the absurdities of every sort of morbid reason.  The fate of Christianity lies in the necessity for its faith itself to grow as morbid, low and vulgar as the requirements it was intended to satisfy were morbid, low and vulgar.  As the Church, this morbid barbarism itself finally assumes power - the Church, that form of mortal hostility to all integrity, to all loftiness of soul, to discipline of spirit, to all open-hearted and benevolent humanity. - Christian values - noble values: it is only we, we emancipated spirits, who have restored this greatest of all value-antitheses! –

            The Christian church, the style of its scriptures, the absorption of its doctrines, have abiding style, no commanding and subordinating master artist to set it in place. Nietzsche’s great enemies – Wagner, Plato, and Christianity – all share a similarity in style, the “decadent” style. How does one recognize such a style, to know it, to avoid it?

            For surely, he speaks of “’Play,’ the useless-as the ideal of him who is overall of strength, as “childlike.” The ‘childlikeness’ of God as child playing.” This is a reference to Nietzsche’s favorite philosopher, or at least his least ambivalent precursor: Heraclitus, who said god plays the universe like chips on a checker board. Something playful, sarcastic, powerful mocking, innocent, childlike – these characterize Nietzsche’s style, and what he aspired for in his style. Yet there are more terms mixed into his vision.

            He differentiates the apollonian style of visual order versus the Dionysian orgiastic god of intoxication and music. Nietzsche himself was a believer in the God Dionysus, calls himself “the last disciple of Dionysus.” Dreams versus intoxications? Which will win? In the end, Nietzsche’s Dionysus incorporates the Apollonian, who is no longer mentioned, and Dionysus as yes-sayer of life is contrasted against the crucified, the no-sayer of life.

            Further divisions scalpel from his eyes. The classical style as a style of abbreviation and concentration is again the Roman, the grand style, the greatest, without struggle. This he sets up against the Romantic. The classical, the victorious and heroic, is harmonized, and coordinated. And yet the Dionysian is not far: “Artists, if they are any good, are (physically as well) strong, full of surplus energy, powerful animals, sensual; without a certain overheating of the sexual system a Raphael is unthinkable – making music is another way of making children.”

            Unlike the decadent French of the later modernism age (it died in its post-phase), the phallus is no “symbol for castration” but the utmost in power and love combined in creative greatness. The God Cock, the Dionysian riot, quick as thunder, slow as lightening, is henceforth the place and station of the creative great. The aesthetic is the intoxicating is the feeling of powers’ increase is happiness. Power over opposites, the mastery of tensions, the overpowering of violence.

            One may, after all, create art from pain and hate of life, rather than from the gratitude of celebration of the universe. Art can go both ways. The decadent is the life-denying. Nietzsche realizes the connection in aesthetic bliss of “a superabundance of means of communication, together with an extreme receptivity for stimuli and signs.” Not to escape life, but to feel more, to feel her intimately and intensely.

            Not that such an art will be freak and excess. “Every mature art has a host of conventions as its basis – in so far as it is a language. Convention is the condition of great art, not an obstacle.” “One never communicates thoughts: one communicates movements, mimic signs, which we then trace back to thoughts.” Convention is a necessary aid in expressing the subtle. Such explosive creativity, the “compulsion and urge to get rid of the exuberance of inner tension through muscular activity and movements of all kinds” is the artist who flows, who feels what he feels, doesn’t repress, doesn’t defend himself from reality, who loves the universe as his mother. “We possess art lest we perish of the truth,” he says, for art is the transfiguration of raw truth.

            The romantic, however, from a depressed spirit, seeks exciting material, erotica, socialism, external intoxicants and shocks, to revive the overworked, cramped, enfeebled, and weak of art and mind. “Weariness of will; all the greater excesses in the desire to feel, imagine, and dream new things.

            There are no longer the apollonian and the Dionysian, but Dionysus versus the Crucified: “Is art a consequence of dissatisfaction with reality? Or an expression of gratitude for happiness enjoyed? In the former case, romanticism; in the latter, aureole and dithyramb (in short, of apotheosis): Raphael too belongs here; he merely had the falsity to deify what looked like the Christian interpretation of the world He was grateful for existence where it was not  specifically Christian. The moral interpretation makes the world unbearable. Christianity was the attempt to “overcome” the world, to negate it. …which resulted in making man gloomy, small, and impoverished: only the most mediocre and harmless type of man, the herd type, profited by it, was advanced by it, if you like. Homer as an artist of apotheosis, Rubens also. Music has not yet had one. The idealization of the man of great sacrilege (a sense of his greatness) is Greek; deprecation, slandering, contempt for the sinner is Judeo-Christian.”

            And with this new category, apotheotic art, apotheotic philosophy, we are nearing allism. “I ask in each individual case, “has hunger or superabundance become creative here.” This is no matter of whether one chooses eternity and being, or chance and becoming, for the destructive “overfull power pregnant with e future….. “Dionysian.” Can also be the hatred of the apocalypse, which the ill-constituted and underprivileged destroy from resentment. “Externalization” on the other hand, can proceed from gratitude and love – an art of his origin will always be an art of apotheosis, dithyrambic, perhaps, with Rubens, blissful with Hafiz, bight and gracious with Goethe, and shedding a Homeric aureole over all things – but it can also be that tyrannical will of a great sufferer who would like to forge what is most personal, individual, and narrow – most idiosyncratic – in his suffering, into a binding law and compulsion, taking revenge on all things, as it were, by impressing, forcing, and branding into them his image the image of his torture. The latter is romantic pessimism in its most expressive form, whether Shopenhauerian philosphy of wil or as Wagenrian music.” Classical versus Romantic, Noble versus decadent, Dionysus versus the Crucified. It is not a matter if a man is religious or not, but whether he is Christain or pagan.

The two types: Dionysus and the Crucified – To determine: whether the typical religious man [is] a form of decadence (the great innovators are one and all morbid and epileptic); but are we not here omitting one type of religious man, the pagan? Is the pagan cult not a form of thanksgiving and affirmation of life? Must its highest representative not be an apology for and deification of life? The type of a well-constituted and ecstatically overflowing spirit! The type of a spirit that takes into itself and redeems the contradictions and questionable aspects of existence!

It is here I set the Dionysus of the Greeks: the religious affirmation of life, life whole and not denied or in part; (typical – that the sexual act arouses profundity, mystery, reverence).

Dionysus versus the "Crucified": there you have the antithesis. It is not a difference in regard to their martyrdom – it is a difference in the meaning of it. Life itself, its eternal fruitfulness and recurrence, creates torment, destruction, the will to annihilation. In the other case, suffering – the "Crucified as the innocent one" – counts as an objection to this life, as a formula for its condemnation. – One will see that the problem is that of the meaning of suffering: whether a Christian meaning or a tragic meaning. In the former case, it is supposed to be the path to a holy existence; in the latter case, being is counted as holy enough to justify even a monstrous amount of suffering. The tragic man affirms even the harshest suffering: he is sufficiently strong, rich, and capable of deifying to do so. The Christian denies even the happiest lot on earth: he is sufficiently weak, poor, disinherited to suffer life in whatever form he meets it. The god on the cross is a curse on life, a signpost to seek redemption from life; Dionysus cut to pieces is a promise of life: it will be eternally reborn and return again from destruction

            This sums it up, all the distinctions, all the forms and types, come down to this distinction: am I grateful for this life, proud of who I am, creative from joy; or am hateful of this “veil of tears,” am I a guilty sinner, do I create things “too good for this world.” This bifurcation, this disjunction between types is the crack of distinction, the divorce and final irreconcilability between the Beautiful versus the Sinners, the Powerful versus the Meek, the Grateful versus the hopeful.

            “Whatever was life in my last forty-four years has been saved, is immortal. The first book of the Revalution of all Values, the Songs of Zarathustra, the Twilight of the idols, my attempt to philosophize with a hammer, -- all presents of this year, indeed of its last quarter! How could I fail to be grateful to my whole life? – and so I tell my life to myself.” Indeed, Nietzsche achieved his apotheosis, and after a miserable death went on to become the abiding God who speaks to us still His is the universe of beauty, the cosmos, “the world as a work of art that gives birth to itself.”

            Who could not be shaken to the core with the triumph and majesty of such a view? How perfect! How sublime! What a laughing child Nietzsche was and always will be! Has not allism long sat student to such a prophet, such a revealer of glory?

            And yet is the allistic style decadent? Thus utter interpenetration of styles, these “allays” which transcend essays, which no longer attempt, but achieve in their very form the joy and triumph the see and breathe, are they not a mixed style? Quite the contrary. The allistic style does indeed absorb everything, it isn’t quite the Emersonian style, which Nietzsche describes as “enlightend, roving, manifold, subtle, and above all happy. One who instinctively nourishes himself only on ambrosia, leaving behind what is indigestible in things. A man of taste. Emerson has that gracious and clever cheerfulness which discourages all seriousness; he simply does not know how old he is already and how young he is still going to be….his spirit always finds reasons for being satisfied and even grateful; and at times he touches on cheerful transcendency.” Indeed, Allism has also sat long under the teaching of the Oversoul, the essays of the Sage of Concord, and also Whitman, and between the three of them, Allism has discovered many perfect tropes. And how dead on is Nietzsche’s insight into Emerson’s style, a man who “read for the glints,” and wrote down in his journals – a holy scripture if ever there was one! – the beautiful ideas, the best moments, the highlights of every man, what is best in the. He could affirm every religion, and like Whitman, exclude none.

            Allism includes the indigestible. Allism includes everything. Like the Master, the allistic style assimilates everything, wide materials, difficult materials, the worst, the most horrible, and digests them long and well, only to give birth to Baldr, the beautiful and perfect God of tomorrow. Yes, the methods of Allism are to study with the divine intensity of all the worlds wisdoms in order, not to end death, but to rescue from death a future beauty. Death too must be affirmed. Everything belongs, but some things must die. Everything is by necessity, yet freedom can prune the problems away. So much of the evil of the world are the cramps and birth pains of the motherverse, the Universe growing past he pains, and using pain to give birth to a higher good. All suffering, every travesty and horror, is affirmed as good in its place, and of some value. We fight like heroes against every injustice, and yet we would not desire a world were injustice was impossible. We affirm this world.

            The allistic style is not quite the classical, and is less harsh on romanticist passion as Nietzsche is. Passion too is good, and even decadence has its place, as Nietzsche said, his passing form sickness to health taught him all he knew, and by becoming decadent, he learned to overcome it. So long as a thing is, some necessity allowed it. What good will better satisfy that necessity. How can we accept and appreciate, how to receive and affirm all things, and yet move past them? By power, by creative interpretation, by bold courage, by ever striving and loving the game. This is allism. The style of allism is very much a Nietzschean style, is in the style of Emerson and Whitman, but with this distinction, -- perhaps it isn’t even a distinction! Allism affirms the necessity of decadents, of communists and socialists, of Christians and Buddhists, affirms it all as necessary for the All of Man, and yet knows that something more is needed to unify them all to one style. Allism is this unification. A million ideas, a single style: this is our promise.



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