Thursday, June 12, 2008

Humanism and the renaissance #2

Ludovici gives the following wonderful excert from Nietzsche, on the downfall of the Renaissance and the baleful rise of the Reformation. In classic style, Nietzsche lays into Luther:

The Germans have caused Europe the loss of the great harvest of civilisation that was to be garnered for Europe – the Renaissance. Do we understand – do we wish to understand what the Renaissance was? The transvaluation of Christian values, the attempt, undertaken with all means, with all instincts, with all genius, to bring about the triumph of the opposite values, the noble values. There has been no greater war, there has been no more decisive question than the Renaissance, - my question is the question put by the Renaissance: neither has there ever been a form of attack more fundamental, more direct, more strenuously delivered with a whole front upon the centre of the enemy! To attack at the most decisive place, at the seat of Christianity itself, and here to set the noble values upon the throne, i.e. to introduce them into the most radical longings of those sitting there…. I see before me a possibility of a perfectly supernatural enchantment and colour-charm: it seems to me to gleam forth in all tremors of refined beauty, that there is an art at work in it, so divine, so devilishly divine, that one might seek for millenniums in vain for a second example of such a possibility; I see a spectacle so ingenious, so wonderfully paradoxical at the same time, that all Divinities of Olympus would have had an occasion for immortal laughter – Caesar Borgia as Pope…. Am I understood? Well, that would have been the triumph for which I alone am longing at present – Christianity would thereby have been done away with! What happened? A German monk, Luther, came to Rome. this monk with all the vindictive instincts of an abortive priest in his nature, became furious against the Renaissance in Rome. Instead of, with the profoundest gratitude, understanding the prodigy that had taken place, i.e. the overcoming of Christianity at its seat, - his hatred knew only how to draw its nourishment from this spectacle. A religious person thinks only of himself. Luther saw the depravity of Popery, while the reverse was palpable: the old depravity, the peccatum originale, Christianity, no longer sat on the throne of the Pope! But life! The triumph of life! The great yea to all things high, beautiful and daring! And Luther restored the Church once more: he attacked it…. The Renaissance became an event without meaning – a great in-vain! Ah those Germans, what have they already cost us! In-vain – that has ever been the work of the Germans. – The Reformation; Leibnitz, Kant and so-called German philosophy; the wars of ‘Liberation’; the Empire – every time an in-vain for something that had already existed, for something irrevocable

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