This will be a preliminary hermeneutic of note 1052 of The Will to Power. What we find here is one of Nietzsche’s greatest dichotomies: “Dionysus and the Crucified.” They represent two types of people. Both of these types are “religious” types, though antithetical to each other in their piety. The former is the pagan, and the latter is the Christian. Dionysus represents “a form of thanksgiving and affirmation of life,” whereas, Christ dead (or dying) on the Cross, represents “an objection to this life, as a formula for its condemnation.” The dichotomy is hence one of life-affirmation (the enhancement of life) versus life-abnegation (the denial of life). Nietzsche uses this antithesis to get to the psychology behind both of them, especially the hidden meaning behind the Crucifix, because the influence of its religiosity has been far too great, and, for Nietzsche, far too fascinating, to be ignored. The meaning of both ends up to be the expression of either strength (as with Dionysus) or weakness (as with the “Crucified”). The former is an abundance of vitality and strength to the point where no matter how much hardship the Dionysian spirit comes into contact with, life is perpetually affirmed, embraced and celebrated with an exuberant soul. This is amor fati: the love of fate.
Because “life itself” reoccurs in all “its eternal fruitfulness,” the Dionysian spirit feels him/herself affirmed within it, as within a whole, in which everything is a part of that whole as what must be, and so feels whole – feels complete. And so the Dionysian revels in life, with all its “torment, destruction,” and perpetual “will to annihilation.” The Dionysian’s inexorable exuberance of spirit demands this. All suffering can be for it is the constant tweaking and sedimentary use of it through creativity and destruction (even creativity in destruction). This is the joy of such a spirit (indeed life cannot help but be a joy for such a spirit). It is its overflowing will-to-power. And if such a type is not satisfied with meanings given to him or her from the outside, then (s)he creates new meanings, and justifies the whole of life through them, until the time comes to even destroy them, and create newer, even more profound meanings and values, and uses them to enter a new life-affirming stage. Perhaps they are even the expression of that new, wondrous stage, whatever it may be. Life is the Dionysian’s journey and adventure to be had. Hence, Dionysus represents the glorification and exaltation of life.
And then, on the antipodal side of this, with all its morbidity and castration of life, is the Crucifix: the glorification and exaltation of death, misery and suffering, and not as a justification of them in life, but as a confounding and eternal charge against life. People wear this symbol around their necks. But would they wear an aborted foetus around their neck? Would they nail one on top of their doorstep so it can bless them as they walk in and out of their home? Of course not. But the Crucifix is an abortion, where God has his son sadistically brought to his death. Comedian and social critic Lenny Bruce most astutely quipped in the 1960s that “If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.” “One will see,” Nietzsche says, “that the problem is that of the meaning of suffering.” Here, as the innocent writhes in pain on two slabs of wood, suffering is no longer affirmed, it becomes a weapon, and through it the type of life-sapped weakling, whom is exalted by this imagery, has a nihilistic mouthpiece, which says that all of life is nothing but suffering, and even denies joy as something that can only lead to more suffering, instead of the inverse of this, which is played out by the Dionysian. In this way, the only thing this paltry image justifies is its type’s incapacity to feel the joy of life, and, hence, his/her sloth, hypocrisy and cowardice in refusing to even try and justify it.
“The Christian,” whom Nietzsche believed to be a world-weary calumniator of the earth, “denies even the happiest lot on earth: he is sufficiently weak, poor, disinherited to suffer from life in whatever form he meets it,” even if that be joy and happiness. His constitution is too weak and fragile to handle it, as with any other potency which life may come in. The Dionysian, on the other hand, is a person of eternally durable, sound, self-empowered constitution, which can not only handle such potencies of life, in whatever form they may come, but embraces them, and affirms him/herself, and all the contingencies of life, through them and his/her actions. There is no being overwhelmed for the Dionysian. This is why Nietzsche writes that “the god on the cross is a curse on life, a signpost to seek redemption from life; Dionysus cut to pieces is a promise of life: it will be eternally reborn and return again from destruction.” That is, such a spirit lives as if each moment - is for eternity.