This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Friedrich Nietzsche

You are a student of Nietzsche, for he is the unconscious spiritual father of us all. He is our martyr and heretic, the beginning and the inevitable end of the modern soul. In what he did and said, in how he died, we can learn everything we need to know about the problems of existence, and through his insanity we may find our salvation. Therefore, we will use his person as our point of departure through this study.

Nietzsche is a source of truth for us not because he is the light that shows the truth, but as a powerful soul whose life and death we can take lessons from. He was perhaps one of the most powerful spirits of our Age, and it cost him his life. He acts for us as an example not necessarily to be emulated, but to be studied as defective individual, defective because incomplete. He was a “short-circuit,” so to speak.

For Nietzsche, modern man has lost his soul because he refuses to acknowledge the tragic aspect of his own existence. He has divorced Apollonian rationality and idealism from his Dionysian instinct and emotion. Man has divorced, in short, body and soul. This fracturing of the human unity he traced back to the time of Socrates, who might symbolically be considered the Apollo which was destroyed by the Dionysian rationality of the masses. Without this tension between opposites man was destined to lose impulsion and spiritual energy, settling down into the constituent and mutually impotent parts of dead rationalism or aimless emotionalism.

Mediocrity and lukewarm-ness must ensue, and man is thenceforth destined to be incomprehensible and alien to himself. There will no longer be greatness. No heroes, villains, saints, or heretics. Everyone would become the same in mediocrity: “they made the wolf a dog, and man himself man’s best domestic animal.”

Nietzsche said that the society of the last man would be too barren to support the growth of great individuals. The last man is possible only by mankind’s having bred an apathetic creature who has no great passion or commitment, who is unable to dream, who merely earns his living and keeps warm. The last man claims to have discovered happiness, but he blinks every time he says so.

Nietzsche felt his own greatness when he lamented “everywhere do I see lower doorways: he who is of my type can still go there through, but—he must stoop! Oh, when shall I arrive again at my home, where I shall no longer have to stoop—shall no longer have to stoop before the small ones!”

“Some of them will, but most of them are willed. Some of them are genuine, but most of them are bad actors.”

This is what Nietzsche called the “last man.” The “last man” has no “inner tension” and therefore no impetus. He is inert and shallow. If he thinks, he reaches no meaningful conclusions (such is the history of modern philosophy). If he acts, he acts without real passion and thus operates on sentimentality. He cannot will, feel, or create with any depth.

As a solution to this decadent state, Nietzsche proposed the superman—the Ubermensch—who would reinstate the tension and therefore the creativity which is man’s highest calling.

Nietzsche was more alive than any of us, and in a world where God is dead there is no outlet for such energy. He sensed the danger.

Writing to Peter Gast in 1881 he had said: “I have the feeling of living a life that is risky to the highest degree—I am one of those machines that might explode.” And elsewhere he proclaimed that superior men “had no other resource—if they were not really mad—than to feign madness, or actually to become insane.” “Oh ye heavenly powers, grant me madness!”

He knew his condition. On January 3, 1889, his mind, with nowhere left to expand, became a singularity and imploded, collapsing upon itself and bringing his body with it. He was arrested trying to protect a horse from being beaten in the street. He began writing strange letters to his friends, and he went so far as to demand that the German emperor go to Rome and be shot. He was diagnosed initially with tertiary syphilis, and experts have since postulated manic-depressive illness, periodic psychosis, and dementia.

In mid-August of 1900, after a series of strokes, Nietzsche contracted pneumonia and died. His life may be taken symbolically as last spasmodic contortion of a recently deceased civilization. His philosophy was the last glowing ember in a bed of cold ash, evidence of once great spiritual edifice, now burnt out, unrecognizable, and defunct. He could not save. We shall try to understand why he failed, and how we may succeed.

Any time anyone uses the word “values” and “lifestyle”, as if speaking of one subjective possibility out of many, they are professing their impoverished Nietzscheanism. His ideas were incorporated into the mentality which he sought to destroy. His ideas were meant to bridge the abyss, but they were swallowed within it, as was the man himself. He saw the horror of nihilism but he could not save anyone from it.

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