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to employ once more an old religious formula with a new and deeper meaning--it is some fundamental certainty which a noble soul has about itself, something which is not to be sought, is not to be found, and perhaps, also, is not to be lost.--THE NOBLE SOUL HAS REVERENCE FOR ITSELF (Beyond Good and Evil #287).

So, I get the aphorism. But I can't figure out his source. Is there some saying in a religion that this comes from?

  • I'm not familiar with a religious source but that sounds like an echo of Kant's account of morality to me. – virmaior Oct 8 '15 at 1:06
  • love and submission before the law (which i'd imagine is a fairly universal formula in religion) ??? – user6917 Oct 8 '15 at 3:49
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The religious formula in question could be the view that a person will be accepted by God not because of his works but because of his belief.

This view is expressed by the Christian apostle Paulus in several of his letters, e.g., Galatians 2.16, 3.10, Ephesians 2.8-9, Romans 4.4-6.

Nietzsche applies the formula without its religious context. He does not propagate belief in God but belief in oneself.

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    This is the correct answer imo: the formula that Nietzsche refers to directly precedes the quote in the OP's question: "Es sind nicht die Werke, es ist der Glaube, der hier entscheidet, der hier die Rangordnung feststellt, um eine alte religiöse Formel in..." ("It's not the works; it's the belief which decides here, which here establishes the order of rank, to take up once more an old religious formula...") – jeroenk Oct 12 '15 at 9:53
  • You are so right. I don't know how I missed this. It's not this excerpt at all, but the preceding context which he was referring to. Thanks for helping! – JamesRothering Oct 22 '15 at 5:39
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Nietsche may be alluding to formulas of Acquinas's theology, where one reads that "the science concerning the soul is most certain" and "mind is said to know nothing better than what is in itself". Acquinas however refers to the utmost certainty about soul's own existence and content (the idea goes back to Augustine, and was famously appropriated by Descartes), whereas Nietsche has in mind a "new and deeper meaning".

Earlier in the chapter What is Noble he mentions that "the multitude... have on their part learnt great reverence--reverence for "great men"". Alas, "SUCCESS has always been the greatest liar... the "work" of the artist, of the philosopher, only invents him who has created it, is REPUTED to have created it; the "great men," as they are reverenced, are poor little fictions composed afterwards". The reverence of works is therefore exposed as reverence of fakes. But by reverencing works artists and scholars betray a real longing, longing for nobleness. "But this very NEED of nobleness is radically different from the needs of the noble soul itself, and is in fact the eloquent and dangerous sign of the lack thereof".

And Nietsche has a remedy for this self-alienation. To satisfy the needs of the noble soul he suggests turning to the most fundamental certainty of all, the one from the "old religious formula", the certainty of self. "It is not the works, but the BELIEF which is here decisive and determines the order of rank--to employ once more an old religious formula with a new and deeper meaning--it is some fundamental certainty which a noble soul has about itself, something which is not to be sought, is not to be found, and perhaps, also, is not to be lost.--THE NOBLE SOUL HAS REVERENCE FOR ITSELF.--"

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Can you be your own judge and avenger of your law? Terrible it is to be alone with the judge and avenger of one's own law... Lonely one, you are going the way of the lover: yourself you love, and therefore you despise yourself, as only lovers despise.

In Zarathustra section 17: On the way of the creator.

I think that he's talking about something entirely general to religion: the submission and love of (the divine) law which is oneself.

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