Book Two: A Criticism of the Highest Values That Have Prevailed Hitherto
I: Criticism of Religion
§229 Man did not know himself physiologically throughout the ages his history covers: he does not even know himself even today. The knowledge for instance, that man has a nervous system ( -— but no soul) is still the privilege of the best informed. But man is not satisfied, in this case, to not know. A man must be very human to be able to say: “I do not know this,” that is to say, to be able to admit his ignorance.
Suppose he is in pain or in a good mood, he never questions that he can find the reason of either condition if only he seeks -—. So he seeks for it. In truth he cannot find the reason; for he does not even suspect where it lies-—. What happens? He takes a result of his condition for its cause; for instance, if he should undertake some work (really undertaken because his good mood gave him the courage to do so) and carry it through successfully: behold, the work itself is the reason of his good mood -— As a matter of fact, his success was determined by the same cause as that which brought about his good mood — that is to say, the happy co-ordination of physiological powers and functions.
He feels ill: consequently he cannot overcome a care, a scruple, or an attitude of self-criticism -— He really fancies that his disagreeable condition is the result of his scruple, of his “sin” or of his “self-criticism”.
But after profound exhaustion and prostration, a state of recovery sets in. “How is it possible that I can feel so free, so happy? It is a miracle; only a God could have effected this change”. Conclusion: “He has forgiven my sin” -—.
From this follow certain practices: in order to provoke feelings of sinfulness and to prepare the way for crushed spirits it is necessary to induce a condition of morbidity and nervousness in the body. The methods of doing this are well known. Of course, nobody suspects the causal logic of the fact: the maceration of the flesh is interpreted religiously, it seems like an end in itself, whereas it is no more than a means of bringing about that morbid state of indigestion which is known as repentance (the “fixed idea” of sin, the hypnotising of the hen by means of the chalk-line “sin”).
The mishandling of the body prepares the ground for the required range of “guilty feelings” — that is to say, for that general state of pain which demands an explanation -—.
On the other hand, the method of “salvation” may also develop from the above: every dissipation of the feelings, whether prayers, movements, attitudes, or oaths, has been provoked and exhaustion follows; very often it is acute, or it appears in the form of epilepsy. And behind this condition of deep somnolence there come signs of recovery or, in religious parlance, “Salvation”.