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In 1882 the year when The Gay Science appeared Nietzsche met Lou Andreas Salomé a young, beautiful and brilliant Russian woman who caused him trauma and agony that not only affected him emotionally but also intellectually and more importantly personally as it created a drift between him and his beloved sister Elizabeth and his mother Franziska which despite their reconciliation later, could not be filled.
Stubborn and determined to get her own way, Lou Salomé sixteen years younger than Nietzsche and eleven years younger than Nietzsche's friend Paul Rée; was intelligent, clever, resolute , bold and was almost regarded as 'mannish' by the standards of the times. Nietzsche describes her as 'sharp eyed as an eagle and courageous as a lion', though at the same time 'very maidenly'. Strangely enough as a sharp contrast, Lou describes Nietzsche as 'very polite' and given to 'social formalities and careful dress' while displaying 'an almost feminine mildness and benevolent equanimity'. Initially Rée's inclination to Lou was intellectual but gradually both Rée and Nietzsche developed a personal interest in Lou. In Lucerne , the trio visited the Jules Bonnet's photographic studio where the infamous 'whip' photograph showing Lou holding a ' whip' made out of a sprig of lilac, standing in a small cart drawn by Nietzsche and Rée as horses. Given Nietzsche's remark in Zarathustra - 'Do you go to women? Don't forget the whip', there have been many speculations to this tableau vivant Nietzsche had arranged. In May all three left for various destinations and in July Elizabeth met up Lou in Leipzig to accompany her to Bayreuth for the first performance of Wagner's Parsifal after which they were supposed to join Nietzsche in Tautenburg. At first both of them pretended to like each other but within a week the friendship turned into rivalry as Elizabeth single at 36, poorly educated, old-fashioned and narrow minded felt jealous of young, beautiful and clever Lou who effortlessly charming the male members of the Wagner followers gained immediate access to Wagner's inner circle. Elizabeth was also upset by the gossip Lou had spread circulating the 'whip' photograph suggesting she had both Rée and Nietzsche in her control. Elizabeth sent a telegram to Nietzsche telling him that she could no longer manage the indecent Lou and was leaving Bayreuth. She had a hundred stories of Lou putting Nietzsche down in Bayreuth that created distances between Lou and Nietzsche which however were patched up soon as Nietzsche replied to Lou's letter in August inviting her to Tautenburg. On the way to Tautenburg Lou and Elizabeth arrived together to spend the night at Jena with family friends of Nietzsches. A violent argument occurred as Elizabeth praised her brother provoking Lou who spilled the beans about Nietzsche's two year marriage proposal to Lou and his dealings with prostitutes during his stay at Sorrento as told by Rée. Nevertheless, both the ladies arrived at Tautenburg where Lou stayed with Pastor Stölten close to Nietzsche's lodgings till August 26 1882. Nietzsche and Lou were able to pull all personal differences and passions aside and could engage in long and intense philosophical discussions that excluded Elizabeth for obvious reasons . Religion was the only topic they discussed. Lou had lost her faith in the Christian God in her adolescence and in Nietzsche she found the same sense of loss and the same search for a new God to fill the place left vacant because of the death of old God. It was the result of Lou's contact that Nietzsche's style underwent a radical transformation from witty aphorisms in The Gay Science to the prophetic and religious mode of expression in his next work Zarathustra. Lou asserted a deep intellectual affinity between Nietzsche and herself. And yet she realized that they were worlds apart and wrote about the shadows in between and the deep recesses in their nature in the detailed Tautenburg diary that she kept for Rée who had warned her that ever since she agreed to join him at Tautenburg, Nietzsche had started regarding her as his betrothed. Nietzsche she wrote, 'is a man of violent mood swings' and his nature contains 'many a dark dungeon and hidden cellar that does not surface in the course of a brief acquaintance, yet could contain his very essence'.
After Lou's departure, Nietzsche travelled home to Naumburg with a heavy heart fearing Elizabeth's embroidered account of Lou's alleged defamation of Nietzsche among his enemies in Bayreuth already given to their mother. Following Franziska's verdict that she would never allow Lou in her house and that Nietzsche was a disgrace to his father;s grave' , Nietzsche packed his bag and left for Leipzig where he stayed for almost two months. He wrote to Overbeck "I now have Naumburg virtue against me - provincial, small- town, petite-bourgeois, conventional, legalistic, narrow minded morality." Despite what happened back home , Nietzsche retained false hopes of forming a harmonious trinity and Lou and Rée giving in to his entreaties paid him a five week visit but the undercurrents of melancholy and strain soon made Nietzsche realize that he had been dumped by both of them. Having lost his love, his intellectual comrade , and his mother and sister to whom he was deeply attached, Nietzsche as Overdeck wrote to Rohde on Nietzsce's appearance in Basel on November 16th was: " condemned to a new kind of loneliness that even he can't bear. Following the events of this summer loneliness is the worst poison for himâ€¦I was powerless to help himâ€¦His health has astonishingly recovered and is the least of his worriesâ€¦ What has absolutely shattered him (next to the separation from the Russian - which in the circumstances is a blessing) is the complete break with his familyâ€¦ his future is a very dark place."
Hatred, self pity, attempts for reconciliation, loneliness all intermingled and made him miserable. He wrote to Rée: " â€¦ I have been suddenly deprived of [Elizabeth's] love and am thus in great need of love." ; to Lou , "Lou, dear heart, do create a clear sky above us." He wrote to Lou and Rée just before Christmas that he could neither sleep nor work, that he had taken a huge dose of opium, and they must just regard him as a crazy person ' driven half- mad by solitude' and that they were not to worry too much if he killed himself'. He wrote to Overbeck that he could not sleep despite the strongest sleeping drugs. Despite his efforts of self - overcoming Nietzsche remained in the grip of pain and pathos of Salome affair until at least the end of 1883. Nietzsche realized that he had been led into a nervous fever by Elizabeth and his doubts that he was being manipulated by Elizabeth into feeling and acting against his own best interests and about the way he had himself behaved under her influence started filling him with a deep sense of remorse. Referring to Lou Salomé his love interest with whom Elizabeth created differences and even bitterness because of jealousy Nietzsche wrote to Ida Overbeck , "My sister wants revenge on that Russian" â€¦
Julian Young ruling out the possibility of Nietzsche being a gay holds Elizabeth's jealousy, possessiveness and diplomacy as a major impediment to Nietzsche's marriage despite the concern of Wagners and his friends about Nietzsche's depressions insisting him to get married. Much before he met Lou, Nietzsche had almost decided to marry a Fräulein Berta Rohr he had met at Chur but Elizabeth's jealousy that did not allow any other woman to come closer to Fritz did not approve it.
Young observes that all of Nietzsche's women friends had one thing in common: they were all intelligent, highly educated and widely read. The roles in which he cast his women friends took several forms: Malvida von Meysenbug was a pure mother to him; Cosima was a sister lover, Marie was the mother lover, Meta von Salis, the pure friend, Lou Salome, the pure lover, Elizabeth the pure sister.
His estranged friend Wagner suffered a heart attack and died in Venice on 13th February 1883. The next day when Nietzsche read this news he immediately suffered one of his attacks that put him in bed for several days. He wrote to his faithful friend Malwida that it had been extraordinarily hard to be opponent of someone whom one has honoured and loved , adding however, that a deadly insult had come between them referring to Wagner's claim the root of Nietzsche's health problems were his sex problems.
Nietzsche suffered frequent dreadful attacks of depression that sometimes brought him close to suicide. His ill health, his bitter ideological and even personal differences with his friend Wagner, Wagner's death, his unreciprocated love for women he loved, his realization of falling a victim to his sister Elizabeth's jealousy and manipulations and even his memories of sad early childhood haunted by death of his father and brother rooted in his psyche, might have made his life traumatic.
In Nietzsche's view man should experience himself as the acting agent in his grasp of world. Nietzsche looks at man as a unique powerful individual, free and determined to make his choices. Man is confronted with choices and it is this freedom of will and choice that creates conflicts with the already existing system and surrounding. The individual is therefore constantly at a war between the imposed values and systems on his existence and his own free will to protest and make choice in order to assert his existence. Thus man has always been compelled by the need of making something out of nothing, and therefore the conflict between the self and the external world has been an essential condition of existence. But with greater unification of human spaces and actions, the awareness - of something beyond the material and immediate - as well as pre-requisites like time and sensibility - have slowly worn off. Nietzsche believes that an ontological dimension (Transcendence) has been forced out of consciousness by the institutions and systems of a society that overvalues prudence, efficiency, acquisitiveness, resolve and technological skill. It is because of obviating this essential dimension that the substantial unity between man and man, subject and object, present, past and future has been eroded.
Nietzsche opposed theory of evolution of human species propagated by Darwin. In Sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) he believed in an eternal recurrence with an accompanying positive power of heroic suffering. The ideal of 'man' for Nietzsche is to be overcome along with all idealism, as such concepts bear no correspondence to reality. Zarathustra - the superman is the stature and figure of the 'higher' man, and his thought is poetic. This superman denies faith and morality upon the assumption that "God is dead," and even if He exists His role in human life got over soon after the Creation. Nietzsche advocated that an ideal society should develop its own moral values independent of religious morality, The failure to live freely, dare, take risks and decisive actions is a failure to realize actual human potential - for nothing exists beyond life. Will to power can transform all sufferings.
For Nietzsche, the most consistently atheistic of the nihilists, 'life' is a phenomenon that cannot be perceived or explained, and the world and the mankind facts without meaning. Nietzsche undertakes the experiment of an anticipatory account of this nihilistic state of mind in an absurd universe. The corollary to 'nothing is true' is 'everything is permitted', and in describing this state of things Nietzsche becomes the 'prophet of great wars' and conflicts; he becomes a herald of nothingness: reiterating decline and collapse of morale through a consciousness of futility, meaninglessness and purposelessness. This feeling of diffidence, disintegration, and collapse of values that indicates unparalleled spiritual desolation, degeneration and a decay of faith generates a sense of insecurity, anarchy and chaos and one finds oneself uprooted, looking with dismay at the wholesale disintegration of all the values he had hitherto cherished and valued!
In nihilistic terminology, Nietzsche's distinctive message was that neither reason nor values, nor even faith, can endow life and world with meaning. The experience of nothingness or chaos animates almost every aspect of Nietzsche's existence. Nietzsche's man is uprooted and marooned spiritually as well as socially. Experiencing a total disintegration and disillusionment brought about with the collapse of traditional ethical values, creating a spiritual vacuum and complete loss of faith in conventional social system leaving him in a blind abyss disgusted and disillusioned and completely declining and denying any order be it metaphysical or social; Nietzsche proclaimed a war against the so called order and system and beliefs and moral values and that is his 'moral nihilism'. The degeneration of the moral law and order is a part of Nietzsche's elimination of all order. The experience of nothingness or chaos animates almost every aspect of his writing. Existential nothingness has made almost unprecedented impact on his consciousness.
At the same time, Nietzsche holds that the nothingness and meaninglessness which haunts the world, also points out the possibility of its own transcendence. This paradox is fundamental to Nietzsche's psychology. As a foil to man's ability to experience absurdity so intensely, it is argued that there must be some inherent propensity to order and meaning within him. Nihilism, in other words, is seen as the by-product of the conflict between this propensity and the factitious forms imposed upon man. It is "this propensity" that is said "to save men from nihilism, despair or escape into the ready-made values of the fallen world" The only relief possible for those who live authentically is derived from acknowledging it: Nietzsche sought to explain the greater attributes and achievements of mankind as the outcome of 'Sublimated will to power' - of the capacity to transform the force and the drive to rule over the world and fellow men into power over one's own self: he advocated 'strong will to power' . He personified this conception of a non- metaphysical transcendence in his work Übermensch: the 'Superman' who is at once the reality and symbol of sublimated will to power and thus the supreme and ultimate advocate of life - assertion through the acceptance of the totality of life, and especially of its miseries and agonies, in which aspect he is also described as 'the Dionysian man'. Dionysian acceptance of life is then put to the hardest test through the inference of the 'eternal recurrence of the same events'. It is difficult to derive and conclude a dogmatic doctrine out of the conflicts between nihilist and the transcendent aspects of 'Nietzsche's philosophy' and one finds oneself orienting and reorienting oneself within Nietzsche's world of ambiguity, absurdity and anarchy.
Nietzsche refused Prussian citizenship and spent a life of a vagabond wanderer belonging to no state, spending his summers at Sils in Switzerland and winters at Nice in Italy. Having written Parts II and III of Zarathustra in Nice where he spent the entire winter of 1883-4, he left Nice in April 1884, making a slow journey via Venice, Basel and Zurich to Slis Maria. In Zurich he met Resa's friend and fellow university student Meta von Salis, a passionate feminist who remained Nietzsche's friend for the remainder of his sanity. It was Meta who later in 1897 purchased Villa Silberblick in Weimar , which provided a home for Nietzsche and Elizabeth during the final three years of his life. Nietzsche stayed in Slis Maria from mid July to September end. He avoided most of the summer residents except two women - an elderly Russian spinster, the Countess Mansuroff and Helen Zimmern a Jewish bilingual feminist , who would often accompany him on his afternoon walks as she felt sorry for this man whom she found ' lonely, so terribly lonely'.
Nietzsche left Sils for Zurich on September 24 with an intention to attempt yet another reconciliation with Elizabeth. ' One must bury a great deal in order to live well, he wrote to Overbeck adding, ' one can't expect the old intimacy'. In Zurich Nietzsche met yet another member of Malwida von Meysenbug's circle of feminist admirers - Helene Druskowitz whom Nietzsche described as his new friend , a noble and honest person who ' of all the women I know , has had by far the most serious engagement with my books, and not without profit.' Coincidentally, shortly after Nietzsche's collapse, she suffered a mental breakdown forcing her to lead the rest of her life in a mental institution.
Nietzsche travelled to Menton's superb landscapes on November 9th but returned to Nice on November 28th and stayed there until April 8, 1885. He spent most of April and May in Venice which he loved on account of Köselitz's useful presence despite the fact that he did not find it favourable for his health. Nietzsche worked on Beyond Good and Evil and wrote Introduction for Human, All too Human in Sils which was now to absorb Assorted Opinions and Maxims and The Wanderer and His Shadow as a second volume. During this stay Nietzsche eagerly anticipated Emily Fynn and her daughter with whom Nietzsche had a relaxed, affectionate and charming relation.
Julian young calls Nietzsche's relation with women paradoxical owing to the fact that after the agony he suffered at the hands of Lou Salomé his previously sympathetic stance towards women's emancipation and education reversed itself and notwithstanding his attraction to feminist women he remained anti- feminist with offensive views on women that find expression in Beyond Good and Evil. Four major themes Nietzsche sounds about women:
Woman as such, the eternal feminine , lacks the capacity for manly pursuit
Women are terrifying and potentially barbaric
Women must be subject to tight masculine control
The emancipationist movement , equal rights, is a part of the democratic destruction of hierarchy , the levelling of Europe
In May 1885, Elizabeth married 'jingoistic, anti-Semitic, street brawler disgusting Bernhard Förster, a prominent member of the German anti-Semite movement, which Nietzsche hated. Nietzsche spent most of May 1886 keeping his lonely mother company in Naumburg. From there he headed to Leipzig to take charge of the printing of Beyond Good and Evil which appeared in August. In Leipzig Nietzsche had a few and final meetings with Rohde who had unhappily and foolishly moved from Tübingen and whom Nietzsche found distracted and homesick. Rohde, in turn, wrote to Overbeck about Nietzsche that he could not recognize his one -time best friend appearing 'as if he came from a land where no one else lives'.
Beyond Good and Evil talks of Nietzsche's concept of Will of Power that is conceived as a modified version of Darwinism. Not only God is dead in a world that is will to power and nothing besides, but the divine providence has even been replaced by 'the survival of the fittest'
On Köselitz's suggestion, Nietzsche landed up in Turin to spend the spring of 1888 and while the weather was miserably foggy and rainy , his health rapidly improved. Short sighted, dithery Nietzsche loved Turin's rich musical life and listened to Rossini, Tchaikovsky, and Goldmark and enjoyed them a hundred times better than Wagner.
Following his usual summer migration, Nietzsche's journey from Turin to Sils Maria left his health in a bad shape for next couple of months. His companions for his walk and discussions were Meta von Salis, Julisu Kaftan who was professor of theology in Berlin, Hamburg pianist Karl von Holten and a Leipzig publisher Fritz Baedecker.
The following accounts of a Herr Zuan , son of the local schoolteacher give the perspective through nasty sensibility of so called innocent children:
A band of children, to which he [ Zuan] belonged , had fun by practicing throwing stones into Nietzsche's closed umbrella, so that as soon as opened it they all fell on his head. Then he would run after the children threatening them with a raised umbrella, but he never caught them â€¦ walked for hours every day mostly in the direction of Chasté. There on the huge stone , known now as the Nietzsche stone, he would sit staring thoughtfully in front of him. And we children would then make fun of him, teasing him, pulling at his red umbrella, and would try to put stones in his pocket without him noticing. For the man with the huge moustache didn't notice what was going on around him. We called him just 'the idiot'.
Nietzsche's departure to Turin was delayed by massive flood in Sils in the autumn of 1888 and he reached Turin towards the end of spring where he waged a war against Wagner and set out to write The Wagner Case with resentment and a hidden motif and desire to be noticed. And the book indeed contributed to his fame [or notoriety]. The Wagner Case tries to prove Wagner a 'miniaturist' incapable of large scale organization. Wagner is the embodiment of the defining feature of decadence, the 'will to death'.
Throughout 1888 Nietzsche regards himself as 'at war' against the decay of culture, German chauvinism, anti-Semitism and The Anarchist finished on September 30 proceeds to offer an account of the origin of slave morality in resentment. The Anarchist's most serious charge against Christianity is that it cheated us out of the fruits of ancient culture. Nietzsche writes that the laws of Manu though an attempt to eternalise the supreme condition for a thriving life and organizing the society
Not only represents a tremendous social harm by creating and persecuting an underclass of 'untouchable' but also sows the seed of its own destruction at the hands of the slave revolt. The Anarchist calls Christianity the worst disaster ever to have befallen the human race.
What Nietzsche regarded as even more potent and powerful weapon in his war against present was his last work Ecce Homo - 'behold the man' that he completed in 1889 just before his collapse raising a question as to whether or to what extent Ecce Homo was infected by the approaching madness. Through the work Nietzsche tells the world how he became what he is and what it is that he has become.
By December 1888 Nietzsche had started showing signs of insanity as he asked his landlord to remove all the hangings from the walls of his room since he was expecting a visit from the queen and king of Italy. He started throwing torn up bank notes in the wastepaper basket and writing deranged letters that talked about abolishing the Emperor, ordering a public holiday, to celebrate the execution of the young emperor, throwing the Pope in jail, having Wilhelm [the Emperor], Bismarck and Stöcker [the anti -Semite] shot. The madness is combined with paragons of sanity for example the idea that war can be overcome through abolition of national and dynastic egoism are sane ideas that reach all the way back to Human All Too Human.
Towards Christmas, Nietzsche started losing contact with political and social reality, his body, and then he lost contact with his own identity. He underwent a transcendence to a new kind of universal identity showing a certain connect between his philosophy and his insanity, he became the god Dionysus - the nature-transcendent , meta physical, primal unity of The Birth of Tragedy.
New Year saw Nietzsche frenzied piano playing with his elbows, accompanied by wild singing, shouting, at all hours, jumping, dancing round the room stark naked.
In 1889 Nietzsche suffered a mental collapse in Turin. Nietzsche suffered a major mental breakdown on January 3rd, 1889 upon seeing a coachman whipping his horse brutally in a piazza Nietzsche sobbed his heart and brain out putting his arms around the poor creature's neck. On the January 7th Overbeck arrived to the great relief of Davide Fino and kept Nietzsche in an asylum and treated in a psychiatric clinic in Basel on January 10 and informed Nietzsche's only other remaining human contact Heinrich Köselitz to whom he wrote: 'I have never seen such a horrific picture of destruction.'
When Nietzsche's mother arrived, he spoke reasonably about family matters and then lapsed into incoherent mumbling, singing, dancing, leaping. He demanded more and more food and 'females'.
On January 18, 1890 Nietzsche was admitted to the psychiatric clinic at the University of Jena directed by Professor Otto Bin Swanger so that his mother would be able to visit him regularly from Naumburg. When the treatment failed to show any sign of improvement, his mother took him back to home in May 1890 - the house in the Weingarten street that he had left 32 years ago for Pforta.
He did not stop writing even in the state of insanity and wrote lunatic letters, also known as 'Wahnbriefe' to people he knew. In August 1890, Nietzsche's condition was further deteriorated by pneumonia. Nietzsche suffered two major strokes in the next two years which left him partially paralyzed unable to walk or speak and he was mainly wheelchair and bed ridden now.
Ironically, Nietzsche's mental and physical breakdown brought him unprecedented fame. People from all over Germany and beyond were fascinated and began to pay pilgrimage to Naumburg with a hope to catch a glimpse of the star philosopher. Georg Brandes, the Danish critic who lectured on Nietzsche in Copenhagen in 1888 rejuvenated and popularized him with the result that Nietzsche's work influenced political leaders like Adolf Hitler, Theodore Roosevelt, Mussolini, Richard Nixon, Charles de Gaulle and thinkers like Martin Heidegger, Leo Strauss, Jean-Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Thomas Mann, Herman Hesse, André Gide, Albert Camus, André Malraux, Rainer Maria Rilke, , Sigmund Freud, Stefan George to name a few. German soldiers were given to read Thus Spoke Zarathustra during World War I to motivate and inspire them.
Elizabeth's husband committed suicide and she now found Nietzsche business more lucrative and glamorous and decided to cash in. She snatched away the legal copyrights of Nietzsche's text from their mother Franziska, threw Köselitz out of production of Nietzsche's complete work, secured the rights to his unpublished literary works and edited them for publication and in the process rather disturbed their form and order. The supposed nature of the influence of Nazism complicated the interpretation of Nietzsche's texts.
Nietzsche's works Dithyrambs of Dionysus published in 1891 and Anti Christ in 1894 followed by Nietzsche Contra Wagner in 1895. Nietzsche's most influential work, The Will to Power, published posthumously in 1901, was based on a series of notes in his journals and contains his strongest oppositions to idealism. The will to power is an affirmation of life and it is fundamental to his anti-idealism.
Elizabeth's second objective was to gain control of her brother's sick body that she tried to achieve by persuading medical authorities that the care provided by Franziska, the devoted family doctor Oscar Gutjahr and the faithful servant Alwine was inadequate. While Nietzsche now failed to recognize his mother Franziska; her care, love and devotion for her son during those seven years until she died on April 2nd 1897 worn out by her daughter's campaigns of persecution, was out of this world and exemplary. Victorious, Elizabeth moved Nietzsche to Weimer where she had set up the Nietzsche Archive - a shrine for Nietzsche worship with Hitler's financial support.
Nietzsche suffered a major stroke in the summer of 1898 followed by a more serious one in May 1899. Nietzsche breathed his last on August 25th, 1900.
Although Nietzsche had written his wish to Elizabeth in 1886, to be buried on the Chasté peninsula in Sils Maria , Nietzsche was buried between his parents by the church in Röcken his birthplace.
Thirty five years later when Elizabeth died following her order, he was dug up and placed to one side, so that she could be buried between the parents.
This was probably the last of the many disgraces inflicted on Nietzsche by her beloved sister.