Featured Post


This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


...in his last work, Nietzsche insisted that his point was merely that there was more hope for the man of strong impulses than for the man with no impulses: one should look for 'even a Cesare Borgia rather than a Parsifal.' ...This leaves no doubt that Nietzsche considered Cesare Borgia far from admirable but preferred even him to the Parsifal ideal"-- Daniel Conway, NIETZSCHE: ON MORALITY, p. 125.

In Part 1 I cited Jack the Ripper as an example of a killer who, if he indeed wrote the famed "from hell" letter, was in essence seeking to "theatricalize" his propensity for murder, to portray himself as a virtual demon from hell. Since the Ripper was mentally adept enough to commit his crimes without being caught, I'd assume that he did not expect anyone reading that letter to literally believe that a demon was committing the murders. However, if he wrote the letter, then by that act he made himself more than just a random killer. The murders might have been forgotten a century later-- as indeed the deeds of many other serial killers have faded over time-- but "From Hell" makes the Ripper into a figure of immortal dread.

However, the psycho himself does not necessarily need to announce his dreadfulness to a waiting audience. Ed Gein's "theater of the dreadful" was intended only for his own viewership, but even a partial recitation of his ghoulish alterations of body-parts can bring forth the shivers of dread:

Bowls made from human skulls
A corset made from a female torso skinned from shoulders to waist
Human skin covering several chair seatsSkulls on his bedposts

In the first part of this essay-series, I quoted Virgil's famous line:

'If I cannot bend the will of Heaven, I shall move Hell.'-- Virgil's AENEID.

Interpreting this aphorism purely from a psychological standpoint--as indeed Sigmund Freud did, since he used the same motto to preface THE INTERPRETATION OF DREAMS-- the "hell" in one's own psyche is the realm of unrestrained desire. Long before Freud elaborated the three-part structure of the psyche as "id, ego, and superego," Nietzsche pursued a parallel line of thought. Nietzsche esteemed the ability of "the superman" to practice "self-overcoming" of his own impulses. Thus Borgia, who allegedly gave into his baser impulses, is no superman, any more than Ed Gein or the Ripper could be. But they were able to "move the hell" of their own desires in such a way that history still remembers their deeds.

Thus do real human beings take on the appearance of something beyond the ordinary, even though we know that they are, in the final analysis, human beings who are much more defined by contingent circumstances than fictional characters. Yet there is a degree of freedom in displaying the ability to "act" as if one is more than one is, and it can be used no less for producing the beneficent affect of *fascination* as for the destructive one associated with *dread.*  It would be interesting-- though beyond the scope of this essay-- to posit what sort of real-world "supermen" go beyond the level of mundane heroics, even as the Ripper acted the part of one beyond the mundane reality of a serial killer.

I said at the end of HELLFEAST PART 1 that I would explore these matters in terms of the question of freedom, but for now I will postpone that discussion to pursue other concerns.

No comments: