Faust, Nietzsche and the Psychology of Inspiration

The Inspiration of Saint Matthew by Caravaggio

With the slightest scrap of superstition in you, you would indeed scarcely be able to dismiss the sense of being just an incarnation, just a mouthpiece, just a medium for overpowering forces. The notion of revelation — in the sense that suddenly, with ineffable assuredness and subtlety, something becomes visible, audible, something that shakes you to the core and bowls you over — provides a simple description of the facts of the matter. You hear, you don’t search; you take, you don’t ask who is giving; like a flash of lightning a thought flares up, with necessity, with no hesitation as to its form — I never had any choice

Faust in his Study by Ary Scheffer
Friedrich Nietzsche (1899) by Hans Olde

[…] it was voluntarily, in full lucidity of mind, that he renounced a secure existence in order to build for himself a life apart, doing so out of a profound tragical instinct. With unprecedented courage he challenged the gods, so that he might, in his own person, “experience the highest degree of danger it is possible for man to live through”

there was about the widened gaze a fixity– or shall I say it was a stare?– the nature of which I puzzled over until it occurred to me that it depended on the unvarying size of the not quite round, rather irregularly lengthened pupils, as though they remained unaffected by any alteration in the lighting

Jack Nicholson in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining
Illustration by Helen Stratton

at seven hundred and fifty to seven hundred and sixty-five metres, came solid blackness all round, the blackness of interstellar space whither for eternities no weakest sun-ray had penetrated, the eternally still and virgin night, which now had to put up with a powerful artificial light from the upper world, not of cosmic origin, in order to be looked at and looked through



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