Oscar Levy

German physician, writer and journalist (1867-1946)

Oscar Ludwig Levy (1867 – 1946) was a German Jewish physician and writer, now known as a scholar of Friedrich Nietzsche, whose works he first saw translated systematically into English.

Quotes edit

  • Surely it is not every one who is chosen to combat a religion or a morality of two thousand years’ standing, fist within and then without himself.
    • Editorial Note, Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche (1909), vol. 1, p. ix.
  • You have noticed with alarm that the Jewish elements provide the driving forces for both communism and capitalism, for the material as well as the spiritual ruin of this world. But then you have at the same time the profound suspicion that the reason of all this extraordinary behaviour may be the intense Idealism of the Jew. In this you are perfectly right. The Jew, if caught by an idea, never thinks any more in watertight compartments, as do the Teuton and Anglo-Saxon peoples, whose right cerebral hemisphere never seems to know what its left twin brother is doing: he, the Jew, like the Russian, at once begins to practise what he preaches, he draws the logical conclusion from his tenets, he invariably acts upon his accepted principles. It is from this quality, no doubt, that springs his mysterious force — that force, which you no doubt condemn, but which you had to admire even in the Bolshevists.

The Revival of Aristocracy (1906) edit

  • While in the nineteenth century you [Englishmen] have been occupied in consolidating an empire, conquering new countries, and spreading civilization to all parts of the world, you have in true British magnanimity forgotten to confer this blessing upon yourselves.
    • Preface, p. v.
  • You English are never as thorough, never as decided, never as dead-set in your views as your cousins over the Channel. You are a people of compromises, of opportunism, of amiable and business-like settlements; you can even strike a bargain with your own conscience and live ever happy afterwards. … This is no doubt a great virtue, because it has preserved you from great follies, and it is no doubt a great vice, because it has sadly refrigerated your enthusiasm and your “feu sacré.”
    • Preface, pp. viii-ix.
  • I shall hate my brethren in St. Revoluzio, because they spoil all my pleasure in being disobedient and revolutionary myself; I shall love my enemies much better than those enthusiastic persons: but I shall console myself with the example of some one else, who also loved his enemies and, nevertheless, had, in propagating a new teaching, to suffer from the society of sinners, hysterical women, maniacs, and all the poor in spirit.
    • Preface, p. x.
  • In spite of my attack on Christianity: the Englishman who is a Christian is very much nearer to my heart than he who is not.
    • Preface, p. x.
  • If I have blamed here Christianity, Christian morals, Christian humanity and helpfulness; if I have spoken ironically of all the lighter, minor, and female virtues this teaching has produced and still produces—I have done so in the name of those who have lifted themselves above them, who have outgrown them, who have acquired greater than Christian virtues.
    • Preface, pp. x-xi.
  • Some one wrote to me upon the publication of my book two years ago: “But you live in England! Poor man: then you are a preacher in the desert!” So I am. But I owe something to my desert. The desert is an excellent place for anybody who can make use of it, as biblical and post-biblical experience proves. Without my desert I should not have written my book. Without coming to England I should have become a modern creature, going in for money and motor-cars. For I was born with a fatal inclination for such lighter and brighter kind of things. I was born under a lucky star, so to say: I was born with a warm heart and a happy disposition; I was born to play a good figure in one of those delightful fêtes champêtres of Watteau, Lancret, and Boucher, with a nice little shepherdess on my arm, listening to the sweet music of Rossini and drinking the inspiring “Capri bianco” or “Verona soave” of that beautiful country Italy. But the sky over here is not blue—nor grows there any wine in England—and no Rossini ever lived here; and towards the native shepherdesses I adopted the ways of the Christian towards his beautiful ideals: I admired them intensely but kept myself afar. So there was nothing to console your thirsty and disenchanted traveller in the British Sahara. In the depths of his despair, there was sent to him, as to the traveller in the desert, an enchanting vision, a beautiful fata Morgana rising on the horizon of the future, a fertile and promising Canaan of a new creed that had arisen in Germany (there too as a revulsion against the desert): the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche.
    So I owe something to the desert. Had I not wandered there so long, I could never have fervently wished to escape nor finally succeeded in coming out of it.
    • Preface, pp. xii-xiii.
  • We Neopagans … could even be mistaken for Christians, if our deeds did not differ so entirely from those of our more religious brethren. For we forgive those who have hurt us, we thank them for their neglect, we return good for evil, always supposed that the publication of an additional book is not an evil in itself. We even adapt ourselves to their wishes and tastes— we talk to them as they like to be talked to— we do not disdain to don the garment of Punchinello and make them laugh, where we perhaps have wept.
    • Preface, p. xiii.
  • Goethe, … who lived through the struggle against Napoleon, was once asked how he had managed to exist during the days of shame, defeat, and humiliation. He replied: “I have nothing to complain of. Like one who, from the fastness of a cliff, gazes down on the raging sea, unable to help the ship-wrecked crew, but also out of the reach of the billows—according to Lucretius, a not unpleasant feeling—I have been standing in security, and have watched the fury of the storm passing by me.” …
    It was not only on the political combats and storms of his emasculate fellow-countrymen that Goethe looked down with indifference; to those troubles of the heart, which Rousseau’s teaching had quickened, a philanthropic and educational enthusiasm, he was not merely apathetic ; he was positively hostile. … “As of old Lutherdom, so now French ideals are forcing us away from a peaceful development of culture,” he used to say.
    • pp. 29-30.
  • “Oh ! the years I have lost,” will be the exclamation of a man, if he be not philosophical, and not possess Friedrich Nietzsche’s appreciation of the value of sorrow in education.
    • p. 37.
  • Altruism itself was so insisted upon in the latter half of the nineteenth century that … theory and practice, words and deeds, stood in liveliest contradiction. … Everywhere a conflict rent the world in twain: it created abysses in every thinker’s scheme of things: it made its presence so unpleasantly real that the best brains gave up research and thinking, and crept for refuge into a profession, a craft, into libraries, or hid themselves in the mine-shafts of specialism.
    • p. 37.
  • Whose interest was it to protect the weak? It was the weak themselves, the slave and the woman. And was not this verdict in conformity with historical fact ? Who were the first Christians? Slaves and women. Who next swore that it was incumbent on men to love their neighbour as themselves, to break their bread with the hungry, to give them their cloak and their possessions? They who had nor bread nor cloaks, nor possessions, they who might win by the bargain.
    • p. 38.
  • With the great quality of egoism, great deeds and great merits became extinct.
    • p. 39.
  • It had become an indisputable dogma that every expression in the same language must bear the same meaning in all peoples. And this was really the greatest affliction of the Select of that epoch, that they had to converse in the same tongue as the rabble, which had so often been desecrated in Parliaments, and assemblies, and lectures, and railway carriages; all of them, like Stendhal, would have given a great deal to have a langue sacre, comprehensible only by the few. All of them, like Goethe, allegorized meanings into their best works, in order to give the slip to prying snouts, and endeavoured to make themselves, as did Nietzsche, inaccessible, in order that “the swine might not break into the gardens.”
    • p. 44.
  • One day, when Nietzsche was telling his friend Deussen that it was not abrogation of the will nor extinction of the passions he aimed at, but their ennobling, his friend, a learned man, fast in the trammels of Christian doctrine, answered—not without some justice—that the only means of ennoblement was abrogation and extinction. Nietzsche had a difficult position to maintain; for what he wished to ennoble was no longer there.
    • pp 48-49.
  • Nietzsche, unlike Jesus Christ, did not mistake his common folk and their ideals; he knew all they wanted was bread and fish, and that they spurned the bread which “cometh from Heaven.”
    • p. 49.
  • Greatness loves itself, and all healthy instincts decline to flagellate themselves daily with the whip of altruism. What is great must will to do more than its mere duty ; it must give, make others happy, and, be it at the cost of itself, its own wellbeing, its own money or life, it must will to pour forth its blessing over others, to the extent even of self-sacrifice—but not, as Christianity demands, from unegoistic motives; the impulse must come from a sense of pleasure, from overflowing energy, from need of bloodletting, so as to unburden the full heart. All acts then derived from conscience and duty, or done with a wry countenance out of obedience to the Categorical Imperative, seem to the great man, from his point of view, through this very fact contemptible, even as he has an unsurmountable prejudice against men and nations who are always prating of those words, conscience and duty.
    • p. 81.
  • A man was wise if heavy and tardy, like all phlegmatic temperaments; learned if he wrote books with one eye on the public and the other on his colleague.
    • describing the state of Germans in the 19th century, pp. 82-83.
  • German erudition of his time he held in little esteem. “They go to work like galley slaves,” was his charge. “They do not write on a theme because inspired; but the theme comes first, and with assiduous and laborious study they hope to evolve something brilliant out of it.”
  • Goethe … thought that the Englishman only observed without generalizing, whilst the German generalized without observing.
    • pp. 86-97.
  • As to the journalists, those gutter-boys who peeped into the work-shop of the spirit through the key-holes, in order to communicate to their fellow-urchins what they thought they had seen ...
    • p. 97.
  • What the aristocratic civilization of Rome and Greece had meant, only those greater minds, Goethe and Nietzsche, grasped: but to none were those feelings of manly vigour more unintelligible than to the womanish Armageddon of serfs of the nineteenth century ; to none less clear than to those unnatural products of that unnatural time, the learned men.
    The erudite was the absolute converse of the pagan positive. He studied the ancients because he could not feel them. … But not to all did antiquity remain dry and lifeless. Nietzsche lighted upon the slumber-bound beauty, and awoke her to new life, and released her from the arm of her unloved wooer.
    • pp. 104-105.

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