2 Sep 2010

We Are the Transparent Mask Who Faces Us. Friedrich Nietzsche. The Birth of Tragedy. §9

by Corry Shores
[Search Blog Here. Index-tags are found on the bottom of the left column.]

[Central Entry Directory]
[Nietzsche Entry Directory]
[Nietzsche Birth of Tragedy, Entry Directory]

[Other Entries in the 'Time is Out of Joint' Series]

[The following is summary. My own notes are given in brackets. I give my deepest thanks to the sources of the images:
theartofhistory.com
beppyiram.blogspot
Image credits given below. The text in question is provided at the end.]



We Are the Transparent Mask Who Faces Us


(Thanks theartofhistory.com)


Friedrich Nietzsche
The Birth of Tragedy
§9


What’s this Section Got to do with You?

Sometimes we see injustice in the world, and it moves us to act. But because it requires a strong reaction, it means we must aggrandize ourselves so to meet the grave challenge. Our efforts make us bigger, in a sense. We are breaking out of those boundaries that normally keep us in. So in a sense we are striving toward a greatness that is almost universal, as if we want to become one with the being of the world. However, what is it that motivates us to act in the first place? We saw injustice, which means a greater power is overstepping its bounds and harming a lesser power. So we want to restore the situation back to when things stayed within their bounds. Hence on the one hand, we are striving toward breaking out of boundaries and for universality. While yet on the other hand, our motivation is restoring boundaries and individualities. Nietzsche construes these opposing forces as Apollinian and Dionysian. Often times in our lives, our actions are based on dualities of forces which are incompatible. And perhaps their incompatibility lends to the force of our actions.


Brief Summary

Nietzsche associates the “Apollinian” dimension of Greek tragedy with “individuation and just boundaries”. On the “Dionysian” side there is the titanic urge to break our human boundaries and transgress divine laws, disrupting the normal and stable order of things. Aeschylus’ Prometheus story shows how both Apollinian and Dionysian forces are found expressed in the same action of the hero. He is Apollinianly motivated by wanting to find justice for humanity, but he does so Dionysianly by transgressing boundaries.

Nietzsche considers the Prometheus story to have an “active” attitude. The hero performs the transgression, which consequently brings him great suffering. In contrast to this is Sophocles’ Oedipus. It has a “passive” attitude, because Oedipus passively receives his suffering.


Points Relative to Deleuze
[Under Ongoing Revision]

For Deleuze, we are internally different from ourselves, and this is based on a pure empty form of time. Our I is the formal unity of our conscious acts [their already belonging together], but our Self is our appearing to ourselves. We sense ourselves. In this way, our appearing-self is passive; it is sensed. And our self-appearings are in time. So insofar as we are appearances, we are in continuous variation, but insofar as we are the unity of our consciousness, we are unified and self-same. These two facets of ourselves are internal to us, but they are also different from each other. So they cannot occupy the same ‘space’ within us. In fact, there is no ‘space’ inside us. The way that our internal parts are divided is by taking different places in time. But it is not that our self-unity and our self-appearing are two temporally distinct moments within us. Perhaps these two different internal parts in a way want to push apart from one another. We might think of this pushing-apart as being what makes time what it is in its pure form. What makes pure a priori time ‘empty’ might not be that it has a lot of space in it, but rather that it has not yet extended out into an actual temporal extension. Rather, time in its pure form could just be the forces of difference that push things apart internally; and as internal, push them out to temporal successivity rather than into spatial relations. So, our most immediate experience is the experience of ourselves. Here we find ourselves being made of a fundamental difference, between unity of consciousness and self-appearings. This internal difference within ourselves is a tendency toward extending into time. But as a tendency, it is not yet temporal. It is more like the formal a priori conditions for time; it would be like our readiness to receive ourselves as temporal. And also, as formal and non-temporal, it is a pure and empty sort of time.



(Thanks beppyiram.blogspot, Бέþþŷ Ïяåm)


Friedrich Nietzsche
The Birth of Tragedy
§9

Nietzsche speaks of the Apollinian side of Greek tragedy, the part that “looks simple, transparent, beautiful”. It seems we can even look into the souls of Sophocles’ characters, as if there were only a thin transparent mask covering them. Yet when we probe deeper in the myths underlying Sophocles’ heroes, we peer deeply into the horrors of nature. There is a seriousness in Greek cheerfulness.

For Sophocles, Oedipus is the greatest sufferer.
Sophocles conceived doomed Oedipus the greatest sufferer of the Greek stage, as a pattern of nobility, destined to error and misery despite his wisdom, yet exercising a beneficent influence upon his environment in virtue of his boundless grief.
Oedipus in a sense is noble and innocent. [His accidentally and unknowingly killing his father was a rightful act of self-defense. And his marrying the queen whom he later learns is his mother— this deed was part of his reward for lifting the sphinx’ hold over the road to Thebes.] Yet his noble actions crush a former state of things and create a new one.
The profound poet tells us that a man who is truly noble is incapable of sin; though every law, every natural order, indeed the entire canon of ethics, perish by his actions, those very actions will create a circle of higher consequences able to found a new world on the ruins of the old.
The Greeks, Nietzsche writes, delight in the outcome, where Oedipus, once ruler of Thebes and the one who would judge the man bringing curses on the city, at the end becomes the guilty accused, who must receive punishment from his own self.

In Oedipus at Colonus, Oedipus is now decrepit and broken from undergoing his profound suffering. [In the end, he makes an easy and glorified transition into the afterlife, which he actively chooses to undertake. In a way, his passive suffering leads to an pleasant active outcome. Hence there is a sort of cheerfulness again in the suffering.]
In "Oedipus at Colonus" we meet this same cheerfulness, but utterly transfigured. In contrast to the aged hero, stricken with excessive suffering and passively undergoing his many misfortunes, we have here a transcendent cheerfulness issuing from above and hinting that by his passive endurance the hero may yet gain a consummate energy of action. This activity (so different from his earlier conscious striving, which had resulted in pure passivity) will extend far beyond the limited experience of his own life. Thus the legal knot of the Oedipus fable, which had seemed to mortal eyes incapable of being disentangled, is slowly loosened. And we experience the most profound human joy as we witness this divine counterpart of dialectics.
Nietzsche notes that extreme unnaturalness, like Oedipus’ incest, is required in these tales when the normal order of life and time is broken.
If we examine Oedipus, the solver of riddles and liberator of his mother, in the light of this Parsee belief, we may conclude that wherever soothsaying and magical powers have broken the spell of present and future, the rigid law of individuation, the magic circle of nature, extreme unnaturalness—in this case incest—is the necessary antecedent; for how should man force nature to yield up her secrets but by successfully resisting her, that is to say, by unnatural acts? This is the recognition I find expressed in the terrible triad of Oedipean fates: the same man who solved the riddle of nature (the ambiguous Sphinx) must also, as murderer of his father and husband of his mother, break the consecrated tables of the natural order.
Nietzsche goes on to contrast (Sophocles’) Oedipus’ glory of passivity with the glory of action in Aeschylus’ Prometheus. In this tale “Man, raised to titanic proportions, conquers his own civilization and compels the gods to join forces with him, since by his autonomous wisdom he commands both their existence and the limitations of their sway.” We find a human longing for justice above the divine, in a fate binding both mortals and the gods, which seemingly takes the form of a righteous impiety. Greek artists, in fact, felt there to be a mutual dependency between themselves and the gods. Nietzsche writes that “titanic” artists could reach divine immortal heights so long as they suffer profoundly. We might contrast then Aeschylus’ great power of doing with Sophocles’ glorification of holy men.
The glorious power "to do," which is possessed by great genius, and for which even eternal suffering is not too high a price to pay—the artist's austere pride—is of the very essence of Aeschylean poetry, while Sophocles in his Oedipus intones a paean to the saint.
Yet even the glorious power of doing in Aeschylus hides something dark underneath. It could be that this Aryan (Indo-European) tragic story of Prometheus is related to the Semitic (Middle-Eastern) legend of the Fall. Ancient men knew that fire is necessary for civilization. But fire naturally comes from divine sources, thunderbolts from the heavens where gods reside. For men to use fire freely in everyday affairs, then, seems a crime, given its heavenly origin. “Thus this original philosophical problem poses at once an insoluble conflict between men and the gods, which lies like a huge boulder at the gateway to every culture. Man's highest good must be bought with a crime and paid for by the flood of grief and suffering which the offended divinities visit upon the human race in its noble ambition.” Here something good for humanity, fire, must be acquired by means of a crime against the gods. This is a bit unlike the Semitic story of the Fall. In this case, our crime against God is the result of our weaknesses. [Continuing from the last quote:]
An austere notion, this, which by the dignity it confers on crime presents a strange contrast to the Semitic myth of the Fall—a myth that exhibits curiosity, deception, suggestibility, concupiscence, in short a whole series of principally feminine frailties, as the root of all evil.
In the Aryan story, there is an “exalted notion of active sin as the properly Promethean virtue; this notion provides us with the ethical substratum of pessimistic tragedy, which comes to be seen as a justification of human ills, that is to say of human guilt as well as the suffering purchased by that guilt”.

[Recall how the Oedipus myth involves a passive suffering and hence is contrary to the Prometheus tale, which has an active theme. The Aryan myth is contrasted with the Semitic myth. The Prometheus story, which is Aryan, involves an actively committed crime against the gods. The Oedipus story has the passive theme, so as contrary to the Prometheus story, perhaps we can consider Sophocles’ Oedipus to be like the Semitic tale. Deleuze writes in “On the Four Formulas”: “Nietzsche, in a similar sense, considered it [Sophocles’ Oedipus] to be the most Semitic of the Greek tragedies.” p.28bc]

In the Aryan tale, man and god live in different independent realms, although they encroach upon one another. The hero wants to de-individual himself by striving toward becoming a universal world-being. But in doing so, he learns of the tension between the divine and human worlds, the barriers the gods place in our human affairs. This compels the hero to transgress the limits and to suffer profoundly. The Aryan story assigns this primordial crime to a man, and the Semitic tale assigns it to a woman.

So in the Prometheus myth, there is “the imperative necessity of hubris for the titanic individual”. Nietzsche says that this contains a pessimistic idea with a non-Apollinian character.
It is Apollo who tranquilizes the individual by drawing boundary lines, and who, by enjoining again and again the practice of self-knowledge, reminds him of the holy, universal norms.
Yet Dionysian forces eventually disrupt the Apollinian tendency toward stasis in Hellenistic culture. So the titanic urge of the hero to become Titan Atlas bonds Promethean and the Dionysian forces. Yet deep down, this urge toward universality is based in the Apollinian desire for just boundaries and individuality. Hence Aeschylean tragedies unite both the Apollinian and the Dionysian.
In this respect the Aeschylean Prometheus appears as a Dionysian mask, while in his deep hunger for justice Aeschylus reveals his paternal descent from Apollo, god of individuation and just boundaries. We may express the Janus face, at once Dionysian and Apollinian, of the Aeschylean Prometheus in the following formula: "All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both."
That is your world! A world indeed! — [Goethe's Faust, I, 409]


From the Kaufmann translation:[Originally on Nietzsche Channel. Try also here if that link does not work.]
The Birth of Tragedy
9
Everything that rises to the surface in the Apollinian portion of Greek tragedy (in the dialogue) looks simple, transparent, beautiful. In this sense the dialogue is a mirror of the Greek mind, whose nature manifests itself in dance, since in dance the maximum power is only potentially present, betraying itself in the suppleness and opulence of movement. The language of the Sophoclean heroes surprises us by its Apollinian determinacy and lucidity. It seems to us that we can fathom their innermost being, and we are somewhat surprised that we had such a short way to go. However, once we abstract from the character of the hero as it rises to the surface and becomes visible (a character at bottom no more than a luminous shape projected onto a dark wall, that is to say, appearance through and through) and instead penetrate into the myth which is projected in these luminous reflections, we suddenly come up against a phenomenon which is the exact opposite of a familiar optical one. After an energetic attempt to focus on the sun we have, by way of remedy almost, dark spots before our eyes when we turn away. Conversely, the luminous images of the Sophoclean heroes—those Apollinian masks—are the necessary productions of a deep look into the horror of nature; luminous spots, as it were, designed to cure an eye hurt by the ghastly night. Only in this way can we form an adequate notion of the seriousness of "Greek cheerfulness"; whereas we find that cheerfulness generally misinterpreted nowadays as a condition of undisturbed complacence.
Sophocles conceived doomed Oedipus the greatest sufferer of the Greek stage, as a pattern of nobility, destined to error and misery despite his wisdom, yet exercising a beneficent influence upon his environment in virtue of his boundless grief. The profound poet tells us that a man who is truly noble is incapable of sin; though every law, every natural order, indeed the entire canon of ethics, perish by his actions, those very actions will create a circle of higher consequences able to found a new world on the ruins of the old. This is the poet's message, insofar as he is at the same time a religious thinker. In his capacity as poet he presents us in the beginning with a complicated legal knot in the slow unraveling of which the judge brings about his own destruction. The typically Greek delight in this dialectical solution is so great that it imparts an element of triumphant cheerfulness to the work, and thus removes the sting lurking in the ghastly premises of the plot. In "Oedipus at Colonus" we meet this same cheerfulness, but utterly transfigured. In contrast to the aged hero, stricken with excessive suffering and passively undergoing his many misfortunes, we have here a transcendent cheerfulness issuing from above and hinting that by his passive endurance the hero may yet gain a consummate energy of action. This activity (so different from his earlier conscious striving, which had resulted in pure passivity) will extend far beyond the limited experience of his own life. Thus the legal knot of the Oedipus fable, which had seemed to mortal eyes incapable of being disentangled, is slowly loosened. And we experience the most profound human joy as we witness this divine counterpart of dialectics. If this explanation has done the poet justice, it may yet be asked whether it has exhausted the implications of the myth; and now we see that the poet's entire conception was nothing more nor less than the luminous afterimage which kind nature provides our eyes after a look into the abyss. Oedipus, his father's murderer, his mother's lover, solver of the Sphinx's riddle! What is the meaning of this triple fate? An ancient popular belief, especially strong in Persia, holds that a wise magus must be incestuously begotten. If we examine Oedipus, the solver of riddles and liberator of his mother, in the light of this Parsee belief, we may conclude that wherever soothsaying and magical powers have broken the spell of present and future, the rigid law of individuation, the magic circle of nature, extreme unnaturalness—in this case incest—is the necessary antecedent; for how should man force nature to yield up her secrets but by successfully resisting her, that is to say, by unnatural acts? This is the recognition I find expressed in the terrible triad of Oedipean fates: the same man who solved the riddle of nature (the ambiguous Sphinx) must also, as murderer of his father and husband of his mother, break the consecrated tables of the natural order. It is as though the myth whispered to us that wisdom, and especially Dionysian wisdom, is an unnatural crime, and that whoever, in pride of knowledge, hurls nature into the abyss of destruction, must himself experience nature's disintegration. "The edge of wisdom is turned against the wise man; wisdom is a crime committed on nature" [see Sophocles' Oedipus the King, 316–17]: such are the terrible words addressed to us by myth. Yet the Greek poet, like a sunbeam, touches the terrible and austere Memnon's Column of myth, which proceeds to give forth Sophoclean melodies!
Now I wish to contrast to the glory of passivity the glory of action, as it irradiates the Prometheus of Aeschylus. Young Goethe has revealed to us, in the bold words his Prometheus addresses to Zeus, what the thinker Aeschylus meant to say, but what, as poet, he merely gave us to divine in symbol:
"Here I sit, forming men
in my own image,
a race to be like me,
to suffer, to weep,
to delight and to rejoice,
and to defy you,
as I do!"
Man, raised to titanic proportions, conquers his own civilization and compels the gods to join forces with him, since by his autonomous wisdom he commands both their existence and the limitations of their sway. What appears most wonderful, however, in the Prometheus poem—ostensibly a hymn in praise of impiety—is its profound Aeschylean longing for justice. The immense suffering of the bold "individual," on the one hand, and on the other the extreme jeopardy of the gods, prefiguring a twilight of the gods—the two together pointing to a reconciliation, a merger of their universes of suffering—all this reminds one vividly of the central tenet of Aeschylean speculation in which Moira [fate], as eternal justice, is seen enthroned above men and gods alike. In considering the extraordinary boldness with which Aeschylus places the Olympian world on his scales of justice, we must remember that the profound Greek had an absolutely stable basis of metaphysical thought in his mystery cults and that he was free to discharge all his skeptical velleities on the Olympians. The Greek artist, especially, experienced in respect of these divinities an obscure sense of mutual dependency, a feeling which has been perfectly symbolized in the Prometheus of Aeschylus. The titanic artist was strong in his defiant belief that he could create men and, at the least, destroy Olympian gods; this he was able to do by virtue of his superior wisdom, which, to be sure, he must atone for by eternal suffering. The glorious power "to do," which is possessed by great genius, and for which even eternal suffering is not too high a price to pay—the artist's austere pride—is of the very essence of Aeschylean poetry, while Sophocles in his Oedipus intones a paean to the saint. But even Aeschylus' interpretation of the myth fails to exhaust its extraordinary depth of terror. Once again, we may see the artist's buoyancy and creative joy as a luminous cloud shape reflected upon the dark surface of a lake of sorrow. The legend of Prometheus is indigenous to the entire community of Aryan races and attests to their prevailing talent for profound and tragic vision. In fact, it is not improbable that this myth has the same characteristic importance for the Aryan mind as the myth of the Fall has for the Semitic, and that the two myths are related as brother and sister. The presupposition of the Prometheus myth is primitive man's belief in the supreme value of fire as the true palladium of every rising civilization. But for man to dispose of fire freely, and not receive it as a gift from heaven in the kindling thunderbolt and the warming sunlight, seemed a crime to thoughtful primitive man, a despoiling of divine nature. Thus this original philosophical problem poses at once an insoluble conflict between men and the gods, which lies like a huge boulder at the gateway to every culture. Man's highest good must be bought with a crime and paid for by the flood of grief and suffering which the offended divinities visit upon the human race in its noble ambition. An austere notion, this, which by the dignity it confers on crime presents a strange contrast to the Semitic myth of the Fall—a myth that exhibits curiosity, deception, suggestibility, concupiscence, in short a whole series of principally feminine frailties, as the root of all evil. What distinguishes the Aryan conception is an exalted notion of active sin as the properly Promethean virtue; this notion provides us with the ethical substratum of pessimistic tragedy, which comes to be seen as a justification of human ills, that is to say of human guilt as well as the suffering purchased by that guilt. The tragedy at the heart of things, which the thoughtful Aryan is not disposed to quibble away, the contrariety at the center of the universe, is seen by him as an interpenetration of several worlds, as for instance a divine and a human, each individually in the right but each, as it encroaches upon the other, having to suffer for its individuality. The individual, in the course of his heroic striving towards universality, de-individuation, and wishing himself to be the world being, comes up against that primordial contradiction and learns both to sin and to suffer. The Aryan nations assign to crime the male, the Semites to sin the female gender; and it is quite consistent with these notions that the original act of hubris should be attributed to a man, original sin to a woman. Incidentally, the chorus of wizards says:
"If that is so, we do not mind it:
With a thousand steps the women find it;
But though they rush, we do not care:
With one big jump the men get there."
[Goethe's Faust, I, 3982-85]
Once we have comprehended the substance of the Prometheus myth—the imperative necessity of hubris for the titanic individual—we must realize the non-Apollinian character of this pessimistic idea. It is Apollo who tranquilizes the individual by drawing boundary lines, and who, by enjoining again and again the practice of self-knowledge, reminds him of the holy, universal norms. But lest the Apollinian tendency freeze all form into Egyptian rigidity, and in attempting to prescribe its orbit to each particular wave inhibit the movement of the lake, the Dionysian flood tide periodically destroys all the little circles in which the Apollinian will would confine Hellenism. The swiftly rising Dionysian tide then shoulders all the small individual wave crests, even as Prometheus' brother, the Titan Atlas, shouldered the world. This titanic urge to be the Atlas of all individuals, to bear them on broad shoulders ever farther and higher, is the common bond between the Promethean and the Dionysian forces. In this respect the Aeschylean Prometheus appears as a Dionysian mask, while in his deep hunger for justice Aeschylus reveals his paternal descent from Apollo, god of individuation and just boundaries. We may express the Janus face, at once Dionysian and Apollinian, of the Aeschylean Prometheus in the following formula: "All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both."
That is your world! A world indeed! — [Goethe's Faust, I, 409]



Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy. in Basic Writings of Nietzsche. Transl. & Ed. Walter Kaufmann. New York: The Modern Library, 1966.

Available online at:
[Originally]
http://www.geocities.com/thenietzschechannel/bt.htm
If that link does not work, try:
http://nietzsche.holtof.com/Nietzsche_the_birth_of_tragedy/the_birth_of_tragedy.htm

Alternate translation by Ian Johnston at
http://records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/nietzsche/tragedy_all.htm


Deleuze, Gilles. Essays Critical and Clinical. Tranls. Daniel Smith and Michael Greco. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.


Image sources
Double Mask Statue:
http://theartofhistory.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=163

Triple Mask:
http://beppyiram.blogspot.com/2010/07/disguise.html
Thanks Бέþþŷ Ïяåm


1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete