… One must have loved religion and art like mother and nurse — otherwise one cannot grow wise. But one must be able to see beyond them, outgrow them; if one remains under their spell, one does not understand them. You must likewise be on familiar terms with history and with playing the cautious game with the scales “on one hand — on the other hand”. Turn back and trace the footsteps of mankind as it made its great sorrowful way through the desert of the past: thus you will learn the surest way whither all later mankind can and may not go again. And by your desiring with all your strength to see ahead how the knot of the future is going to be tied, your own life will acquire the value of an instrument and means of knowledge. You have it in your hands to achieve the absorption of all you experience — your experiments, errors, faults, delusions, passions, your love and your hope — into your goal without remainder. This goal is yourself to become a necessary chain of rings of culture and from this necessity to recognize the necessity inherent in the course of culture in general. When your gaze has become strong enough to see to the bottom of the dark well of your nature and your knowledge, perhaps you will also behold in its mirror the distant constellations of future cultures…

– Excerpt of aphorism 292 in Neitzsche’s Human, All Too Human (1878), R.J. Hollingdale trans. (Cambridge: 1996).

Our age gives the impression of being an interim state; the old ways of thinking, the old cultures are still partly with us, the new not yet secure and habitual and thus lacking in decisiveness and consistency. It looks as though everything is becoming chaotic, the old becoming lost to us, the new proving useless and growing ever feebler…. We are faltering, but we must not let it make us afraid and perhaps surrender the new things we have gained. Moreover, we cannot return to the old, we have burned our boat; all that remains is for us to be brave, let happen what may. — Let us only go forward, let us only make a move! Perhaps what we do will present the aspect of progress; but if not let us heed the words of Friedrich the Great and take consolation from them: “Ah, my dear Sulzer, you have too little understanding of this wicked race to which we belong.”

– Excerpt of aphorism 248 in Neitzsche’s Human, All Too Human (1878), R.J. Hollingdale trans. (Cambridge: 1996).

The strengths and weaknesses of spiritual productivity depend far less on inherited talent than they do on the power of expansion bestowed with it. Most educated young people of thirty go back at around this early solstice of their lives and are from then on disinclined to make new spiritual changes. That is why an ongrowing culture at once needs for its salvation another new generation, which in its turn, however, does not get very far: for to overtake the culture of his father the son must consume almost all the inherited energy the father himself possessed at the stage of life at which he begot his son; it is with the little bit left over that he goes past him (for, because the path here being traversed a second time, progress is a little quicker; the son does not need to expend quite as much strength on learning what the father has learned). Men possessed of great power of expansion, such as Goethe for example, traverse as much as four generations would hardly be able to equal; for that reason, however, they advance ahead too quickly, so that other men overtake them only in the next century, and perhaps do not even completely overtake them, because the chain of culture, the smooth consistency of its evolution, is frequently weakened and interrupted. — The ordinary phases of spiritual culture attained to in the course of history are overtaken more and more speedily. Men at present begin by entering the ream of culture as children affected religiously and these sensations are at their liveliest in perhaps their tenth year, then pass over into feebler forms (pantheism) while at the same time drawing closer to science; they put God, immortality and the like quite behind them but fall prey to the charms of a metaphysical philosophy. At last they find this too unbelievable; art, on the other hand, seems to promise them more and more, so that for a time metaphysics continues just to survive transformed into art or as a mood of artistic transfiguration. But the scientific sense grows more and more imperious and leads the man away to natural science and history and especially to the most rigorous methods of acquiring knowledge while art it accorded an even gentler and more modest significance. All this nowadays usually takes place within a man’s first thirty years. It is the recapitulation of a curriculum at which mankind has been labouring for perhaps thirty thousand years.

– Aphorism 272 of Neitzsche’s Human, All Too Human (1878), R.J. Hollingdale trans. (Cambridge: 1996).

It is a sign of superior culture consciously to retain certain phases of development which lesser men live through almost without thinking and then wipe from the tablet of their soul, and to draft a faithful picture of it: for this is the higher species of the art of painting which only a few understand. To this end it will be necessary artificially to isolate those phases. Historical studies cultivate the ability for this painting, for they constantly challenge us, when faced with a piece of history, of the life of a nation or of a man, to conjure up a quite distinct horizon of ideas, a distinct strength of sensations, the predomination of this, the stepping back of that. It is in this ability rapidly to reconstruct such systems of ideas and sensations on any given occasion, as for example the impression of a temple on the basis of a few pillars and pieces of wall that chance to remain standing, that the historical sense consists. The first result of it is that we comprehend our fellow men as being determined by such systems and representatives of different cultures, that is to say as necessary, but as alterable. And conversely, that we are able to segregate parts of our development and exhibit them in isolation.

– Aphorism 274 of Neitzsche’s Human, All Too Human (1878), R.J. Hollingdale trans. (Cambridge: 1996).

At home, or at least having been guests, in many countries of the spirit; having escaped again and again from the musty agreeable nooks into which preference and prejudice, youth, origin, the accidents of people and books or even exhaustion from wandering seemed to have banished us; full of malice against the lures of dependence that lie hidden in honors, or money, or offices, or enthusiasms of the senses; grateful even to need and vacillating sickness because they always rid us from some rule and its “prejudice,” grateful to god, devil, sheep, and worm in us; curious to a vice, investigators to the point of cruelty, with uninhibited fingers for the unfathomable, with teeth and stomachs for the most indigestible, ready for every feat that requires a sense of acuteness and acute senses, ready for every venture, thanks to an excess of “free will,” with fore- and back-souls into whose ultimate intentions nobody can look so easily, with fore- and backgrounds which no foot is likely to explore to the end; concealed under cloaks of light, conquerors even if we look like heirs and prodigals, arrangers and collectors from morning till late, misers of our riches and our crammed drawers, economical in learning and forgetting, inventive in schemas, occasionally proud of tables of categories, occasionally pedants, occasionally night owls of work even in broad daylight; yes, when it is necssary even scarecrows — and today it is necessary; namely, insofar as we are born, sworn, jealous friends of solitude, of our own most profound, most midnightly, most middaily solitude; that is the type of man we are, we free spirits! And perhaps you have something of this too, you that are coming? you new philosophers?

– Neitzsche’s aphorism 44 in Beyond Good and Evil (1886), Walter Kaufmann trans. (NewYork, 1966).

He who nowadays still commences his evolution from religious sensations, and perhaps after that lives for a time in metaphysics and art, has in any event gone back quite a distance and begins his race with other modern men under unfavourable circumstances: he appears to be at a disadvantage as regards both space and time. But because he has sojourned in those regions where heat and energy are unchained and power flows continually as a volcanic stream out of inexhaustible wells, provided he quits those domains at the proper time he moves forward all the faster, his feet have wings, his breast has learned to breather more placidly, with longer and more enduring breath. — He went back only so as to have sufficient ground for his leap: thus there can be even something fearful and threatening in this retrogression.

– Aphorism 273 of Neitzsche’s Human, All Too Human (1878), R.J. Hollingdale trans. (Cambridge: 1996).