Book One: European Nihilism
§48 The most dangerous misunderstanding. — One concept apparently permits no confusion or ambiguity: that of exhaustion. Exhaustion can be acquired or inherited — in any case it changes the aspect of things, the value of things.
As opposed to those who, from the fullness they represent and feel, involuntarily give to things and see them fuller, more powerful, and pregnant with future — who at least are able to bestow something — the exhausted diminish and botch all they see — they impoverish the value: they are harmful.-
About this no mistake seems possible: yet history contains the gruesome fact that the exhausted have always been mistaken for the fullest — and the fullest for the most harmful.
Those poor in life, the weak, impoverish life; those rich in life, the strong, enrich it. The first are parasites of life; the second give presents to it. — How is it possible to confound these two?
When the exhausted appeared with the gesture of the highest activity and energy (when degeneration effected an excess of spiritual and nervous discharge), they were mistaken for the rich. They excited fear. — The cult of the fool is always the cult of those rich in life, the powerful. The fanatic, the possessed, the religious epileptic, all eccentrics have been experienced as the highest types of power: as divine.
This kind of strength that excites fear was considered preeminently divine: here was the origin of authority; here one interpreted, heard, sought wisdom. — This led to the development, almost everywhere, of a will to “deify,” i.e., a will to the typical degeneration of spirit, body, and nerves: an attempt to find the way to this higher level of being. To make oneself sick, mad, to provoke the symptoms of derangement and ruin-that was taken for becoming stronger, more superhuman, more terrible, wiser. One thought that in this way one became so rich in power that one could give from one’s fullness. Wherever one adored one sought one who could give.
Here the experience of intoxication proved misleading. This increases the feeling of power in the highest degree — therefore, naively judged, power itself. On the highest rung of power one placed the most intoxicated, the ecstatic. ( — There are two sources of intoxication: the over-great fullness of life and a state of pathological nourishment of the brain.)