Nietzsche, Parody and Christianity

Post-Pauline Christianity is a perversion, one that takes the cult of Jesus as a fetish to be worshipped. In that, it finds its inverse in Nietzsche, the great pervert of the philosophical tradition. Nietzsche is a dream: a pervert beyond the perversion of Christianity, the pervert-beyond-perversion.

If Christ is an idol that forms a secret pact with the jouissance of the priest and Christian, it is the place of Nietzsche to start up a war machine that will destroy this idol, as if with a hammer, as a mallet or a tuning fork. There must be first of all a parody of Christianity, that does not merely satisfy staying on the surface of things, the image it presents to us, but the strata of forces that compose its long, tortured genealogy. If Christianity is a perversion, it is a perversion to be reversed. This is the joy in which Nietzsche indulges in the calumnies of his spirit, an act of épater les bourgeois, the relish with which he might imagine a horrified religious reading his lines. “Christianity has sided with all that is weak and base, with all failures…”

Perversion is almost always a play of masks; the pervert is one who flips between seriousness and jocularity and is off into his constructions of increasingly more artificial codes and territories. Against those who say “Nietzsche meant what he said here” and “Nietzsche did not mean what he said here”, we might as well affirm “Nietzsche meant and did not mean what he said here”, or even, “Nietzsche neither means nor doesn’t mean what he says here.” The sadist is the actor in the theatre, who prances here and there, who inflicts a certain quantity of pain and suffering—or maybe he hasn’t—or maybe we all “know” that he hasn’t but he secretly has. There are always three present: the pervert, the target, and the audience, and sometimes these terms are conflated with each other. The highest form of auto-perversion is when the pervert, target and audience are the same person…

If we have to talk about Nietzsche it cannot be Nietzsche the apostle of strength. We cannot forget Zweig’s description of his manifold suffering, inflicted by body and mind. And even his last letters, to Gast and others, signed, “The Crucified”. Nietzsche fails as the standard of masculine virility that one might wish to cast him as. There is Nietzsche the sufferer, the Nietzsche who is crucified and the Nietzsche who is Dionysus personified… Nietzsche passes through all these masks: there is no “true” Nietzsche, but there is an extra-textual Nietzsche that produces the conditions of possibility.

Parody comes into play here, to the extent that parody is perverse: a repetition that cuts against the original. Parody repeats a series of signs but in altered form, to align oneself with the person parodied while simultaneously undercutting them with their own words. There is a secret jouissance that is extracted from aligning yourself with this semiotic betrayal, which miraculously appears as the truth of the original discourse. More than the scientist it is the parodist who speaks the discourse of truth, but this truth is a truth that testifies to an origin in cruelty: the eye and the ear that can peer into one’s darkest secrets and strip them naked. The parodist does not only speak truth but speaks as the representative of truth, and appropriates the power of truth for himself. Truth is not a correspondence, enlightenment, or disclosure, but a violent power (however sublimated). The parodist has as his ancestors the various doctors of cruelty, the angels of the law courts, and the eyes of the shaman. The absolute law of truth.

The truth of the parodist is that the parodist does not exist: there is No-Thing under the panoply of masks. It is a play of simulacra, on the level of what is commonly associated with the signifier. There is a quantity of energy that is taken up as enjoyment, which is taken as the enjoyment of truth itself. When Nietzsche reveals the death of God there is a booming, chilling laughter in the background: the laughter of Nietzsche who has taken down one idol after the next, not only for the religious but for the atheists who appear in their wake. An oscillation between masochism and sadism: how can we not forget the demon who sits on your shoulder and offers eternal recurrence? A demon, not an angel—Nietzsche the man identifies with the demon of the eternal recurrence: he sees with the eyes of the demon, and extracts from his own suffering, from his own pain a certain quantity of surplus enjoyment that is taken up by the demon. Nietzsche is this very demon.

The righteous too has his own truth: God. The eyes of God promise an infinity of pain that offers itself up for an absolute survey, the suffering of sinners and enemies in hell. The ressentiment of the religious type is well-discussed in Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals and other works, and this ressentiment is itself a perversion, though not one that takes itself as perversion. Nietzsche turns this perversion against itself, a perversion against perversion (a radical counter-investment in the figure of Christ), a Nietzsche who takes the game of perversion to the highest level (perversion is after all always a game) and accelerates it to its limits, a game played with the limits of limits.

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