Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche 1844 – 1900

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 was a German philosopher and classical philologist.

Nietzsche took homeopathic remedies (Walter de Gruyter, Nietzsche-Studien: Internationales Jahrbuch Fur Die Nietzsche-forschung, (GmbH & Co. KG, 30 Nov 2009). Page 397) in 1877 prescribed by Otto von Schron, a Professor at the  University of Naples Pathological Institute, a therapist recommended to Nietzsche by Wilhelm Richard Wagner (who also recommended he try the Water Cure), and Nietzsche also used electrotherapy recommended to him by Otto Eiser 1834- 1898,

Nietzsche’s friend Malwida von Meysenbug was governess to Adolf Salis Schwabe‘s children (Adolf Salis Schwabe was a Patron of the Manchester Homeopathic Hospital and Dispensary, and it is possible the Schwabes also knew Samuel Hahnemann)James John Garth Wilkinson had the name of Mrs. Salis Schwabe in his address book in 1895, at Glyn Garth, Bassetts Bury, High Wycombe, and also at Ex Collegio Medico Largo, S Aniello, Napoli, and 28 Clarges Street, W London (Swedenborg Archive Address Book of James John Garth Wilkinson dated 1895).

Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth Forster Nietzsche was a close friend of Rudolph Steiner, and she introduced them in 1896,

Nietzsche was a close friend of Carl von Gersdorff, whose father Baron von Gersdoff was a close friend of Samuel Hahnemann,

Nietzsche was a close friend of Hippolyte Taine, who was an ardent advocate of homeopathy,

Nietzsche was born on October 15, 1844, Nietzsche grew up in the small town of Röcken, near Leipzig, in the Prussian Province of Saxony. He was named after King Frederick William IV of Prussia, who turned 49 on the day of Nietzsche’s birth. (Nietzsche later dropped his given middle name, “Wilhelm”.)

Nietzsche’s parents, Carl Ludwig Nietzsche (1813–1849), a Lutheran pastor and former teacher, and Franziska Oehler (1826–1897), married in 1843, the year before their son’s birth, and had two other children: a daughter, Elisabeth Forster Nietzsche, born in 1846, and a second son, Ludwig Joseph, born in 1848. Nietzsche’s father died from a brain ailment in 1849; his younger brother died in 1850.

The family then moved to Naumburg, where they lived with Nietzsche’s paternal grandmother and his father’s two unmarried sisters. After the death of Nietzsche’s grandmother in 1856, the family moved into their own house.

Nietzsche attended a boys’ school and then later a private school, where he became friends with Gustav Krug and Wilhelm Pinder, both of whom came from very respected families. In 1854, he began to attend the Domgymnasium in Naumburg, but after he showed particular talents in music and language, the internationally recognised Schulpforta admitted him as a pupil, and there he continued his studies from 1858 to 1864.

Here he became friends with Paul Deussen and Carl von Gersdorff (whose father Baron von Gersdoff was a close friend of Samuel Hahnemann). He also found time to work on poems and musical compositions. At Schulpforta, Nietzsche received an important introduction to literature, particularly that of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and for the first time experienced a distance from his family life in a small town Christian environment.

After graduation in 1864 Nietzsche commenced studies in theology and classical philology at the University of Bonn. For a short time he and Paul Deussen became members of the Burschenschaft Frankonia. After one semester (and to the anger of his mother) he stopped his theological studies and lost his faith.

This may have happened in part because of his reading around this time of David Strauss‘s Life of Jesus, which had a profound effect on the young Nietzsche, though in an essay entitled Fate and History written in 1862, Nietzsche had already argued that historical research had discredited the central teachings of Christianity.

Nietzsche then concentrated on studying philology under Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl, whom he followed to the University of Leipzig the next year. There he became close friends with fellow student Erwin Rohde. Nietzsche’s first philological publications appeared soon after.

In 1865 Nietzsche thoroughly studied the works of Arthur Schopenhauer. In 1866 he read Friedrich Albert Lange‘s History of Materialism. Both thinkers influenced him. Arthur Schopenhauer was especially significant in the development of Nietzsche’s later thought. Friedrich Albert Lange‘s descriptions of Immanuel Kant‘s anti-materialistic philosophy, the rise of European Materialism, Europe’s increased concern with science, Charles Darwin‘s theory, and the general rebellion against tradition and authority greatly intrigued Nietzsche. The cultural environment encouraged him to expand his horizons beyond philology and to continue his study of philosophy.

In 1867 Nietzsche signed up for one year of voluntary service with the Prussian artillery division in Naumburg. However, a bad riding accident in March 1868 left him unfit for service. Consequently Nietzsche turned his attention to his studies again, completing them and first meeting with Wilhelm Richard Wagner later that year.In part because of Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl‘s support, Nietzsche received a remarkable offer to become professor of classical philology at the University of Basel. He was only 24 years old and had neither completed his doctorate nor received his teaching certificate. Despite the fact that the offer came at a time when he was considering giving up philology for science, he accepted. To this day, Nietzsche is still among the youngest of the tenured Classics professors on record.

Before moving to Basel, Nietzsche renounced his Prussian citizenship: for the rest of his life he remained officially stateless.

Nevertheless, Nietzsche served in the Prussian forces during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 to 1871 as a medical orderly. In his short time in the military he experienced much, and witnessed the traumatic effects of battle. He also contracted diphtheria and dysentery. Walter Kaufmann speculates that he might also have contracted syphilis along with his other infections at this time, and some biographers speculate that syphilis caused his eventual madness, though there is some disagreement on this matter.

On returning to Basel in 1870 Nietzsche observed the establishment of the German Empire and the following era of Otto von Bismarck as an outsider and with a degree of skepticism regarding its genuineness. At the University, he delivered his inaugural lecture, Homer and Classical Philology. Nietzsche also met Franz Overbeck, a professor of theology, who remained his friend throughout his life.

Afrikan Spir, a little known Russian philosopher and author of Denken und Wirklichkeit (1873), and his colleague the historian Jacob Burckhardt, whose lectures Nietzsche frequently attended, began to exercise significant influence on Nietzsche during this time.

Nietzsche had already met Wilhelm Richard Wagner in Leipzig in 1868, and (some time later) Wilhelm Richard Wagner‘s wife Cosima Wagner. Nietzsche admired both greatly, and during his time at Basel frequently visited Wilhelm Richard Wagner‘s house in Tribschen in the Canton of Lucerne.

Wilhelm Richard Wagner brought Nietzsche into their most intimate circle, and enjoyed the attention he gave to the beginning of the Bayreuth Festival Theatre. In 1870 he gave Cosima Wagner the manuscript of The Genesis of the Tragic Idea as a birthday gift.

In 1872 Nietzsche published his first book, The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music. However, his colleagues in the field of classical philology, including Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl, expressed little enthusiasm for the work, in which Nietzsche eschewed the classical philologic method in favor of a more speculative approach.

In a polemic, Philology of the Future, Ulrich von Wilamowitz Moellendorff dampened the book’s reception and increased its notoriety. In response, Erwin Rohde (by now a professor in Kiel) and Wilhelm Richard Wagner came to Nietzsche’s defense. Nietzsche remarked freely about the isolation he felt within the philological community and attempted to attain a position in philosophy at Basel, though unsuccessfully.

Between 1873 and 1876, Nietzsche published separately four long essays: David Strauss: the Confessor and the Writer, On the Use and Abuse of History for Life, Schopenhauer as Educator, and Richard Wagner in Bayreuth. (These four later appeared in a collected edition under the title, Untimely Meditations). The four essays shared the orientation of a cultural critique, challenging the developing German culture along lines suggested by Arthur Schopenhauer and Wilhelm Richard Wagner.

In 1873, Nietzsche also began to accumulate notes that would be posthumously published as Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks. During this time, in the circle of Wilhelm Richard Wagner, Nietzsche met Malwida von Meysenbug and Hans von Bulow, and also began a friendship with Paul Ree, who in 1876 influenced him in dismissing the pessimism in his early writings. However, he was deeply disappointed by the Bayreuth Festival of 1876, where the banality of the shows and the baseness of the public repelled him.

He was also alienated by Wilhelm Richard Wagner‘s championing of ‘German culture’, which Nietzsche thought a contradiction in terms, as well as by Wilhelm Richard Wagner‘s celebration of his fame among the German public. All this contributed to Nietzsche’s subsequent decision to distance himself from Wilhelm Richard Wagner.

With the publication of Human, All Too Human in 1878 (a book of aphorisms on subjects ranging from metaphysics to morality and from religion to the sexes) Nietzsche’s reaction against the pessimistic philosophy of Wilhelm Richard Wagner and Arthur Schopenhauer became evident, as well as the influence of Afrikan Spir‘s Denken und Wirklichkeit. Nietzsche’s friendship with Paul Deussen and Erwin Rohde cooled as well.

In 1879, after a significant decline in health, Nietzsche had to resign his position at Basel. (Since his childhood, various disruptive illnesses had plagued him, including moments of shortsightedness that left him nearly blind, migraine headaches, and violent indigestion. The 1868 riding accident and diseases in 1870 may have aggravated these persistent conditions, which continued to affect him through his years at Basel, forcing him to take longer and longer holidays until regular work became impractical).

Because his illness drove him to find climates more conducive to his health, Nietzsche traveled frequently, and lived until 1889 as an independent author in different cities. He spent many summers in Sils Maria, near St. Moritz in Switzerland, and many winters in the Italian cities of Genoa, Rapallo and Turin and in the French city of Nice.

In 1881, when France occupied Tunisia, he planned to travel to Tunis to view Europe from the outside, but later abandoned that idea (probably for health reasons). While in Genoa, Nietzsche’s failing eyesight prompted him to explore the use of typewriters as a means of continuing to write. He is known to have tried using the Hansen Writing Ball, a contemporary typewriter device.

Nietzsche occasionally returned to Naumburg to visit his family, and, especially during this time, he and his sister had repeated periods of conflict and reconciliation. He lived on his pension from Basel, but also received aid from friends.

A past student of his, Peter Gast (born Heinrich Köselitz), became a sort of private secretary to Nietzsche. To the end of his life, Peter Gast and Franz Overbeck remained consistently faithful friends. Malwida von Meysenbug remained like a motherly patron even outside the Wilhelm Richard Wagner circle.

Soon Nietzsche made contact with the music critic Carl Fuchs. Nietzsche stood at the beginning of his most productive period. Beginning with Human, All Too Human in 1878, Nietzsche would publish one book (or major section of a book) each year until 1888, his last year of writing, during which he completed five.

In 1882 Nietzsche published the first part of The Gay Science. That year he also met Lou Andreas Salome, through Malwida von Meysenbug and Paul Ree. Nietzsche and Lou Andreas Salome spent the summer together in Tautenburg in Thuringia, often with Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth as a chaperone. Nietzsche, however, regarded Lou Andreas Salome less as an equal partner than as a gifted student. Lou Andreas Salome reports that he asked her to marry him and that she refused, though the reliability of her reports of events has come into question.

Nietzsche’s relationship with Paul Ree and Lou Andreas Salome broke up in the winter of 1882/1883, partially because of intrigues conducted by Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth. Amidst renewed bouts of illness, living in near isolation after a falling-out with his mother and sister regarding Lou Andreas Salome, Nietzsche fled to Rapallo. Here he wrote the first part of Thus Spoke Zarathustra in only ten days.

After severing his philosophical ties with Arthur Schopenhauer and his social ties with Wilhelm Richard Wagner, Nietzsche had few remaining friends. Now, with the new style of Zarathustra, his work became even more alienating and the market received it only to the degree required by politeness. Nietzsche recognized this and maintained his solitude, though he often complained about it. His books remained largely unsold.

In 1885 he printed only 40 copies of the fourth part of Zarathustra, and distributed only a fraction of these among close friends, including Helene von Druskowitz.

In 1883 he tried and failed to obtain a lecturing post at the University of Leipzig. It was made clear to him that, in view of the attitude towards Christianity and the concept of God expressed in Zarathustra, he had become in effect unemployable at any German University. The subsequent “feelings of revenge and resentment” embittered him….

In 1886 Nietzsche broke with his editor, Ernst Schmeitzner, disgusted by his anti-Semitic opinions….

He then printed Beyond Good and Evil at his own expense, and issued in 1886-87 second editions of his earlier works (The Birth of Tragedy, Human, All Too Human, Dawn, and The Gay Science), accompanied by new prefaces in which he reconsidered his earlier works.

Thereafter, he saw his work as completed for a time and hoped that soon a readership would develop. In fact, interest in Nietzsche’s thought did increase at this time, if rather slowly and in a way hardly perceived by him.

During these years Nietzsche met Meta von Salis, Carl Spitteler, and also Gottfried Keller. In 1886 his sister Elisabeth married the anti-Semite Bernhard Forster and traveled to Paraguay to found Nueva Germania, a “Germanic” colony – a plan to which Nietzsche responded with mocking laughter. Through correspondence, Nietzsche’s relationship with Elisabeth continued on the path of conflict and reconciliation, but they would meet again only after his collapse.

He continued to have frequent and painful attacks of illness, which made prolonged work impossible. In 1887 Nietzsche wrote the polemic On the Genealogy of Morals.

During the same year Nietzsche encountered the work of Fyodor Dostoevsky, with whom he felt an immediate kinship. He also exchanged letters with Hippolyte Taine, and then also with Georg Brandes. Georg Brandes, who had started to teach the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard in the 1870s, wrote to Nietzsche asking him to read Søren Kierkegaard, to which Nietzsche replied that he would come to Copenhagen and read Søren Kierkegaard with him. However, before fulfilling this undertaking, he slipped too far into sickness.

In the beginning of 1888, in Copenhagen, Georg Brandes delivered one of the first lectures on Nietzsche’s philosophy.

Although Nietzsche had in 1886 announced (at the end of On The Genealogy of Morality) a new work with the title The Will to Power: Attempt at a Revaluation of All Values, he eventually seems to have abandoned this particular approach and instead used some of the draft passages to compose Twilight of the Idols and The Antichrist (both written in 1888).

His health seemed to improve, and he spent the summer in high spirits. In the fall of 1888 his writings and letters began to reveal a higher estimation of his own status and “fate.” He overestimated the increasing response to his writings, especially to the recent polemic, The Case of Wagner.

On his 44th birthday, after completing Twilight of the Idols and The Antichrist, he decided to write the autobiography Ecce Homo. In the preface to this work – which suggests Nietzsche was well aware of the interpretive difficulties his work would generate – he declares, “Hear me! For I am such and such a person. Above all, do not mistake me for someone else.”

In December, Nietzsche began a correspondence with August Strindberg, and thought that, short of an international breakthrough, he would attempt to buy back his older writings from the publisher and have them translated into other European languages. Moreover, he planned the publication of the compilation Nietzsche Contra Wagner and of the poems that composed his collection Dionysian-Dithyrambs.

On January 3, 1889, Nietzsche suffered a mental collapse. Two policemen approached him after he caused a public disturbance in the streets of Turin. What actually happened remains unknown, but an often-repeated tale states that Nietzsche witnessed the whipping of a horse at the other end of the Piazza Carlo Alberto, ran to the horse, threw his arms up around its neck to protect the horse, and then collapsed to the ground.

In the following few days, Nietzsche sent short writings – known as the Wahnbriefe (“Madness Letters”) – to a number of friends (including Cosima Wagner and Jacob Burckhardt). To his former colleague Jacob Burckhardt , Nietzsche wrote: “I have had Caiaphas put in fetters. Also, last year I was crucified by the German doctors in a very drawn-out manner. Wilhelm, Bismarck, and all anti-Semites abolished.” Additionally, he commanded the German emperor to go to Rome to be shot, and summoned the European powers to take military action against Germany.

On January 6, 1889 Jacob Burckhardt showed the letter he had received from Nietzsche to Franz Overbeck. The following day Franz Overbeck received a similarly revealing letter, and decided that Nietzsche’s friends had to bring him back to Basel. Franz Overbeck traveled to Turin and brought Nietzsche to a psychiatric clinic in Basel.

By that time Nietzsche appeared fully in the grip of a serious mental illness, and his mother Franziska decided to transfer him to a clinic in Jena under the direction of Otto Binswanger.

From November 1889 to February 1890 the art historian Julius Langbehn attempted to cure Nietzsche, claiming that the methods of the medical doctors were ineffective in treating Nietzsche’s condition. Julius Langbehn assumed progressively greater control of Nietzsche until his secrecy discredited him.

In March 1890 Franziska removed Nietzsche from the clinic, and in May 1890 brought him to her home in Naumburg. During this process Franz Overbeck and Peter Gast contemplated what to do with Nietzsche’s unpublished works. In January 1889 they proceeded with the planned release of Twilight of the Idols, by that time already printed and bound.

In February they ordered a fifty copy private edition of Nietzsche contra Wagner, but the publisher C. G. Naumann secretly printed one hundred. Franz Overbeck and Peter Gast decided to withhold publishing The Antichrist and Ecce Homo because of their more radical content. Nietzsche’s reception and recognition enjoyed their first surge.

In 1893 Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth returned from Nueva Germania (in Paraguay) following the suicide of her husband. She read and studied Nietzsche’s works, and piece by piece took control of them and of their publication. Franz Overbeck eventually suffered dismissal, and Peter Gast finally cooperated.

After the death of Franziska in 1897 Nietzsche lived in Weimar, where Elisabeth cared for him and allowed people, including Rudolf Steiner (who in 1895 had written one of the first books praising Nietzsche) to visit her uncommunicative brother. Elisabeth at one point went so far as to employ Rudolf Steiner – at a time when he was still an ardent fighter against any mysticism – as a tutor to help her to understand her brother’s philosophy. Rudolf Steiner abandoned the attempt after only a few months, declaring that it was impossible to teach her anything about philosophy.

Nietzsche’s mental illness was originally diagnosed as tertiary syphilis, in accordance with a prevailing medical paradigm of the time….

In 1898 and 1899 Nietzsche suffered at least two strokes, which partially paralysed him and left him unable to speak or walk. After contracting pneumonia in mid-August 1900 he had another stroke during the night of August 24/August 25, and died about noon on August 25. Elisabeth had him buried beside his father at the church in Röcken bei Lützen….

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