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Nietzsche’s End Goal

So, we come to the fourth video in my series
on Nietzsche, and this is a video that I’ve been waiting to make for a long time. Because today, we are going to go where no
one has gone before. We are going to cut right into the heart of
Nietzsche’s thought, and ask: what is the end goal of his philosophy? What is the ultimate joy that he is offering
us? I say that no one has gone there before, because
as far as I’m aware, no one has offered the interpretation that I am about to present. No one got Nietzsche the way that I get him. No one has even come close. If there have been others who walked these
paths, please let me know about them. I had to find my way on my own. If you want a fuller picture, you can now
find my book on Amazon. Links below. The first six videos in this series, that
is, the three I already made, this one, and the next two, are meant to accompany the book. If you watch them and read the book, you should
get a pretty good understanding of Nietzsche’s epistemology, metaphysics and ethics. I will then continue to make videos in this
series, about other aspects of his philosophy. Today’s video will revolve around the book
that holds the key to Nietzsche’s thought – that is, Thus Spake Zarathustra. We’ve already interpreted parts of it, but
in this video we will discuss the main narrative, the main arc, which is the thing that I claim
everyone fails to fully understand. And they fail to understand it because Nietzsche
ciphers his message, hides it behind enigmatic lyrical prose, giving only clues to the reader. To break the code, we will have to read more
carefully, and we will have to start not with Zarathustra, but with the book that came before. In The Gay Science, we can find all the ideas
that will be developed, in beautifully poetic form, by Zarathustra. And above that, we will find the idea that
is the crux of his thought, the reason why he was brought into this world. The Gay Science will give us the code to understand
Zarathustra’s cryptic tongue. The Gay Science was published in 1882, and
it comes at the end of Nietzsche’s critical stage, the stage in which he attacks all previous
philosophies and refutes them. His main critiques focus on reason and morality,
and we shall get into the details in the next two videos. Here, I will just provide a quick overview,
and this overview will disregard the ideas that he developed in later books. We will just talk about his thought up to
The Gay Science. Nietzsche is a philosopher of Becoming. This means that he believes that everything
in the universe is always in flux, changing at every moment. The opposing camp is the philosophers of Being,
those who believe that the universe is made of objects that have steady attributes, and
operate according to eternal laws. The philosophers of Being believe that we
can explore the universe, and figure out the laws of nature and the attributes of the objects
that comprise it. The philosophers of Becoming believe that
the universe is essentially chaotic, and that the reason why we imagine that there is Being
is that our consciousness is structured in this way. It is structured not to see the minute changes
that a certain thing undergoes at any moment, and not to see the differences between two
similar things or processes, and so it imagines that there are objects, categories and laws
in the universe. Luckily, this mistake is usually not detrimental
to our survival and wellbeing. The philosophers of Enlightenment were philosophers
of Being. They believed that the universe has eternal
laws, and furthermore, that Man possesses the ability to discover these laws, if not
fully, then at least to the extent that will allow him to devise the best possible environment
and society for himself. But at the end of the 18th century, there
was a rebellion against the ideas of Enlightenment, in the form of the Romantic Movement. Romantic thinkers, like the Enlightenment,
sought Man’s redemption in this world and not in the afterworld, but unlike them they
were thinkers of Becoming, who looked for other ways to ensure Man’s happiness. The young Nietzsche was a Romantic, and he
was particularly aggressive towards thinkers of Being. Those thinkers, he charged, are acting out
of cowardice. They are unwilling to face the chaos of existence,
so they imagine a world ruled by logic, disregard everything in existence that does not fit
this picture, and pretend that these are the laws of nature. As an alternative, he proposed that we face
up to the chaos, and use art to mitigate it. We can create rules that would stamp beautiful
structures in the chaos, and thus turn our world into a beautiful world, and our life
into a life that is worth living. But as his thinking developed, Nietzsche started
to distance himself from the Romantic Movement. He saw it as a nihilistic movement that leads
nowhere, that doesn’t offer real solutions. He started to feel that there was something
in the culture that was preventing people from living out the ideal that he was espousing,
and this led to his critical stage. The main problem, he believed, was Western
morality. The Modern Age, led by Enlightenment and Romanticism,
has rebelled against Christianity, but maintained its morality. Because of this, it cannot provide a true
alternative. The book Dawn of Day, published in 1881, commences
Nietzsche’s attack on Western morality. We shall deal with this book in detail in
our next video, but here I will already draw a few things from it. Nietzsche presents this book as a thought
experiment, a critical look that does not presume to offer alternatives. His working hypothesis is that all human activities
are driven by selfish drives, and even the so-called collective feelings – compassion,
mercy, charity etc. – are actually selfish at their core. Current morality is based on these collective
feelings, and because of that it is a hypocritical morality, which doesn’t actually make us better
people. To create a truly moral system, we need to
build it on Man’s selfish drives. In his books of the critical period, Nietzsche
writes in short stand-alone aphorisms, each of them presenting a complete idea. Some aphorisms in Dawn of Day explore the
different selfish feelings, and there is one feeling that stands above the rest. In aphorism 262, titled ‘The Demon of Power’,
Nietzsche writes: Neither necessity nor desire, but the love
of power, is the demon of mankind. You may give men everything possible—health,
food, shelter, enjoyment—but they are and remain unhappy and capricious, for the demon
waits and waits; and must be satisfied. Let everything else be taken away from men,
and let this demon be satisfied, and then they will nearly be happy—as happy as men
and demons can be. The greatest joy, says Nietzsche in this book,
is gained by what he calls “the feeling of power”. When we achieve power, we feel joy. There are several ways to achieve power, among
them to dominate other people. But the greatest feeling of power is achieved
by overpowering something. That is, fighting someone or something powerful,
and subduing them to your will. Therefore, to achieve joy, Man must find formidable
enemies to fight. And Nietzsche, throughout his adult life,
was fighting such an enemy: his illness. In an aphorism called ‘On the Knowledge of
the Sufferer’, Nietzsche writes about the state of sickness, and thanks it for releasing
him from dealing with all the petty stuff of life, and forcing him to deal with real
existential issues. Then he adds:
Our pride revolts as it never did before, it experiences an incomparable charm in defending
life against such a tyrant as suffering and against all the insinuations of this tyrant,
who would fain urge us to give evidence against life,—we are taking the part of life in
the face of this tyrant. In this state of mind we take up a bitter
stand against all pessimism in order that it may not appear to be a consequence of our
condition, and thus humiliate us as conquered ones. The charm of being just in our judgments was
also never greater than now; for now this justice is a triumph over ourselves and over
so irritated a state of mind that unfairness of judgment might be excused,—but we will
not be excused, it is now, if ever, that we wish to show that we need no excuse. We pass through downright orgies of pride. In later years, Nietzsche commented that he
wrote this book after overcoming one of the worst bouts of the disease, so bad that he
could hardly function. But overcoming it filled him with joy, and
it is not a stretch to surmise that this is what gave him the intuition that the feeling
of power is the essence of happiness. He started to view Western culture as sick,
and his goal was to find a way to overcome the disease. In The Gay Science, he begins to sketch his
alternative. The opening aphorism states that:
Whether I look with a good or an evil eye upon men, I find them always at one problem,
each and all of them: to do that which conduces to the conservation of the human species. And certainly not out of any sentiment of
love for this species, but simply because nothing in them is older, stronger, more inexorable,
and more unconquerable than that instinct,—because it is precisely the essence of our race and
herd. Nietzsche is the first great philosopher to
come after Darwin, and to date the only important philosopher who brings biology into account
in his thinking. Humans, he says, have evolved over millions
of years, and our instincts were shaped in this process. Things like consciousness, language, culture,
philosophy and morality are a very late development, and we naively identify ourselves by them,
but our underlying instincts are still stronger. This is an idea that already appeared in Dawn
of Day, but here Nietzsche adds something more: since these instincts are primed to
benefit our survival as a species, they ensure that anything we do is still beneficial to
our preservation. Although we are accustomed readily enough,
with our usual short-sightedness, to separate our neighbours precisely into useful and hurtful,
into good and evil men, yet when we make a general calculation, and on longer reflection
on the whole question, we become distrustful of this defining and separating, and finally
leave it alone. Even the most hurtful man is still perhaps,
in respect to the conservation of the race, the most useful of all; for he conserves in
himself or by his effect on others, impulses without which mankind might long ago have
languished or decayed. Once it developed consciousness and moral
laws, humanity started to divide things into good and evil. But if you think about it, says Nietzsche,
even so-called evil people have merit for the human race. Hatred, delight in mischief, rapacity and
ambition, and whatever else is called evil—belong to the marvellous economy of the conservation
of the race; to be sure a costly, lavish, and on the whole very foolish economy:—which
has, however, hitherto preserved our race, as is demonstrated to us. There is no intelligent design here. Evolution is a chaotic process, and what it
creates isn’t perfect. But still, it knows better than us what is
good for the survival of humanity. I no longer know, my dear fellow-man and neighbour,
if thou canst at all live to the disadvantage of the race, and therefore, “unreasonably”
and “badly”; that which could have injured the race has perhaps died out many millenniums
ago, and now belongs to the things which are no longer possible even to God. Indulge thy best or thy worst desires, and
above all, go to wreck!—in either case thou art still probably the furtherer and benefactor
of mankind in some way or other, and in that respect thou mayest have thy panegyrists—and
similarly thy mockers! Now this means that the moral systems that
base their ethics on the good of the collective are bunk: everything that we do is for the
good of the collective. So we should not be afraid to pursue our inner
drives, and our moral system has to be based on other principles. But thou wilt never find him who would be
quite qualified to mock at thee, the individual, at thy best, who could bring home to thy conscience
its limitless, buzzing and croaking wretchedness so as to be in accord with truth! To laugh at oneself as one would have to laugh
in order to laugh out of the veriest truth,—to do this the best have not hitherto had enough
of the sense of truth, and the most endowed have had far too little genius! When Nietzsche speaks of “the veriest truth”,
he means the truth that there are no metaphysical laws to be found, that we are in a chaotic
universe. And therefore, all of our pretensions to seek
absolute truth, and pure virtue, should be mocked. At this point in time, he says, we have not
reached this level of awareness. We are not capable yet of fathoming this truth,
and laughing at our pretentiousness. There is perhaps still a future even for laughter! When the maxim, “The race is all, the individual
is nothing,”—has incorporated itself in humanity, and when access stands open to every
one at all times to this ultimate emancipation and irresponsibility. Nietzsche imagines a future in which humans
will realize that the actions of the individual do not affect the survival of the species,
because our biology takes care of it. The human race will become much happier then,
he says, because we will be emancipated to pursue our individual goals. But does this mean that he espouses total
anarchy, in which everyone just gives in to their urges? Perhaps then laughter will have united with
wisdom, perhaps then there will be only “joyful wisdom.” This English translation calls it “joyful
wisdom”, but the German phrase that Nietzsche uses translates more accurately into “gay
science”. So when Nietzsche tells us to accept the fact
that the universe is chaotic, it doesn’t mean that we should just mindlessly dive into the
chaos. No, we should establish a new kind of science,
a science that will enable us to navigate the chaos while experiencing joy and laughter. In the background of Nietzsche’s entire work
there is a fear. In The Gay Science he articulates this fear. Human consciousness, he says, is something
that developed out of the human organism, and it used to be just an instrument to serve
it in its survival. But over time, it took leadership, and started
to guide us. Man started to believe that his consciousness
is a spiritual entity, a “soul”, which is trapped in the material body. So to be free, the soul should learn to rule
the body, and the rest of the material world. This reached its apotheosis in the Age of
Enlightenment, when it was believed that God created human consciousness to be capable
of deciphering the laws of the universe and devising a perfect human society. But then, the pursuit of truth led to the
point where we could no longer believe in God’s existence, or as Nietzsche puts it in
one of the most beautiful aphorisms in the book – to the death of God. God was executed, and human reason was deified. However, since there are no laws of nature,
the pursuit of truth can lead only to a dead end, and the only options left then will be
either nihilism or falling back into religion, both options meaning the death of reason. To save reason, to save the Western spirit,
we must therefore find a new goal for science. And this is what Nietzsche attempts to do
here. But what is gay science? Well, it is a science that is meant to achieve
happiness for humankind, and its method is experiments in spirit. In traditional science, the scientist explores
the universe from an allegedly external point of view. In gay science, the scientist explores himself
as part of the universe. What we are trying to find is how to produce
happiness, and how to preserve it. By putting our spirit through tests, and learning
what makes it joyful, we will hopefully achieve our goal. The aphorisms of the first part of the book
expand on this new type of science. One important principle is that the scientist
must not feel bound by contemporary moral law. The traditional morality aims to end suffering,
by eliminating its roots. Therefore, every existing moral system divides
reality into good and evil, and forbids us to manifest the evil. But by that, says Nietzsche, it diminishes
human power, and thus turns Man into a miserable wretch. To achieve his full potential, and thus the
greatest happiness, Man needs all of his faculties, including those that are branded as evil. The scientist must therefore open himself
to all of them, and see how he can extract joy out of them. Thus, we are talking about an aesthetic process,
in which we reshape that thing that was branded as evil, as a cause of suffering, and turn
it into something that is good and induces joy. If you want an example of that, check out
the video I made on Pascal, where I’m essentially doing gay science, taking things that Pascal
defines as bad, and showing that they are actually good. So, let’s say that we feel a drive to do something,
but society tells us that this drive is evil and we must repress it. But our hypothesis, as gay scientists, is
that our biology knows better, so this drive must be good for us. This is where our reason comes in: it is used
to create new values, which will allow us to express this drive in a way that will cause
joy and not suffering. And so, Nietzsche finds a way to maintain
the relevancy of reason, even for those of us who do not believe it can decipher the
rules of the universe. In that he is already doing gay science, since
there were times in history in which reason was repressed, and humans were told that they
should have blind faith in their religious values, because questioning them will only
lead to misery. But we have a drive to think freely, and here
Nietzsche provides us with a way to do so in a manner that will bring us joy and not
suffering. Later we shall see how he salvages other drives,
and reappraises them as good. Note that when we are talking about happiness
here, we are talking about the happiness of the scientist himself, not about the people
around him. What about those other people? Is it alright to make them suffer in the process
of our experiments? This is a question that we shall deal with
in the next video. Here, we are focusing on the individual, and
his world. So basically, we are waging a philosophical
battle against what is seen as evil, as a cause of suffering, and vanquishing it not
by eliminating it, but by making it work for us. This victory induces the feeling of power,
and thus the greatest joy. Nietzsche likens it to conquering a mountain,
by climbing it and getting to the top. But, he says, once you’ve captured that peak,
it quickly loses its ability to give you that joy. It is no longer a challenge that you need
to overcome, so the feeling of power it induces is low. We then have to find new mountains to conquer. The scientist must always be attentive of
his body, because the body knows before we do when something no longer excites and elates
us, and the body also contains more repressed drives, which then come to the fore for us
to explore. The right kind of life, says Nietzsche, is
achieved by killing what has become old within us and embracing the new, like a serpent that
sheds its skin. Another metaphor that he uses is that of a
tree that grows upwards, and the stronger it becomes, the more it can send its roots
downwards, into the wells of evil, and draw powers that will make it grow even higher
and stronger. Another thing about our body is that it carries
within it the intellectual sins of our fathers. The laws that society creates, the customs
that it dictates, all leave their mark in the body, and this is then passed on to the
next generations. The scientist should therefore be a historian
as well, look into the maladies that our bodies have today, find out when they were stamped
into our biology, criticize the ideas that formed them, and liberate us from them. So the gay scientist is also a healer, helping
us to slowly transform our species and make it healthier, and thereby happier. As mentioned, this process is not just scientific
but also aesthetic, since we are creating new values, new ways of life. In the second part of the book, Nietzsche
focuses more on art. Previously, he regarded art as the thing that
helps us deal with the meaninglessness of existence, as it molds the chaos into something
beautiful. Now, in the Gay Science, it serves a different
function. It molds the drives in a way that will help
us achieve greater power, and thus greater joy. In the third part, Nietzsche focuses mainly
on the universe. The gay science isn’t just about self-reflection. Man is part of the universe, and the scientist
has to explore the reality around us, and make it part of his worldview. Here we can already detect the grains of the
ideas which Nietzsche will later develop in his book The Will to Power, the picture of
the universe that we portrayed in the previous video. Nietzsche describes a godless, meaningless,
chaotic universe, in which everything evolves by chance. At some point humans developed awareness and
logic, and started to interpret the world around them and find laws of nature in it. These interpretations were all wrong, but
some of them proved to be useful for survival, so they remained, and some of them eventually
became part of our consciousness, something that is biologically innate. In aphorism 113, Nietzsche writes:
The Theory of Poisons.—So many things have to be united in order that scientific thinking
may arise, and all the necessary powers must have been devised, exercised, and fostered
singly! In their isolation, however, they have very
often had quite a different effect than at present, when they are confined within the
limits of scientific thinking and kept mutually in check:—they have operated as poisons;
for example, the doubting impulse, the denying impulse, the waiting impulse, the collecting
impulse, the disintegrating impulse. Many hecatombs of men were sacrificed ere
these impulses learned to understand their juxtaposition and regard themselves as functions
of one organising force in one man! This aphorism talks about how science evolved. As we can see, it developed out of the human
drives, fighting each other in a battle for power. Many humans must have died, says Nietzsche,
before an inner harmony between those drives was achieved. But once it was, it made Man capable of thinking
in a scientific manner, and thus made him more powerful. This is what we talked about earlier: if we
allow our drives to guide us, we can destroy what is old and weak, and create something
better. Nietzsche describes this evolution of the
scientific mind as something that happened by chance, while the gay science wants to
do it consciously, to continue this process by purposefully working to achieve an even
greater harmony, which will incorporate even more drives:
And how far are we still from the point at which the artistic powers and the practical
wisdom of life shall co-operate with scientific thinking, so that a higher organic system
may be formed, in relation to which the scholar, the physician, the artist, and the lawgiver,
as we know them at present, will seem sorry antiquities! Here we find the end goal of gay science. By the end of the process, the gay science
will lead to a higher form of humans. It is a process done by brave individuals,
but it will eventually benefit all of humanity. If an individual will succeed in bringing
together the drives that are at the basis of science, art, morality and health, and
get all of them to work in harmony, he will be a new type of man, which the rest of humanity
can then emulate. The gay science, then, aims at elevating Man
to a higher level. The fourth and final part of the book deals
with the individuals who are preparing the ground for this Man of the future. Right now, says Nietzsche, it is still dangerous
to be an individual of this type, because society isn’t ready for it, but there are
already people who are working for the elevation of Man, who are bringing together science,
art, ethics and adventure to pave new roads for humanity. The end goal is to get to the point where
we will incorporate all of the human drives into one harmonious system. Then we will be able to affirm everything
in our existence, since none of it will cause us suffering. The worse that can happen is that something
will leave us indifferent, but we can simply ignore those things and focus only on what
brings us joy. “Looking aside, let that be my sole negation,”
says Nietzsche in the opening aphorism of this part, “And all in all, to sum up: I wish
to be at any time hereafter only a yea-sayer!” In the final aphorism of this part, the closing
aphorism of the book, Nietzsche writes: When Zarathustra was thirty years old, he
left his home and the Lake of Urmi, and went into the mountains. There he enjoyed his spirit and his solitude,
and for ten years did not weary of it. But at last his heart changed… Yup, it is the opening of Thus Spake Zarathustra,
Nietzsche’s next book. Nietzsche has been writing for about a decade
now, blazing his own path, but doing so in solitude. Very few people read his musings. He now tells us of a man named Zarathustra,
who went up the mountain to live in a cave, alone and above human society. But now, after ten years of solitude and at
the age of forty, around the same age Nietzsche was, he feels that his spirit has become so
rich and happy that he wants to share it with others. He wants to test the ideas that he developed
in his cave, see what happens when they brush against other humans. And so, he descends back into human society. So, by the end of The Gay Science, Nietzsche
already feels like he has something to tell humanity, that his spiritual experimentations
have yielded something worthwhile. And he is going to tell us about it the form
of lyrical prose, in the story of Zarathustra. It is to this story that we now turn. After descending the mountain, Zarathustra
goes into the nearest city, and has his first encounter with the masses… When Zarathustra arrived at the nearest town
which adjoineth the forest, he found many people assembled in the market-place; for
it had been announced that a rope-dancer would give a performance. And Zarathustra spake thus unto the people:
I TEACH YOU THE SUPERMAN. Man is something that is to be surpassed. What have ye done to surpass man? All beings hitherto have created something
beyond themselves: and ye want to be the ebb of that great tide, and would rather go back
to the beast than surpass man? What is the ape to man? A laughing-stock, a thing of shame. And just the same shall man be to the Superman:
a laughing-stock, a thing of shame. Ye have made your way from the worm to man,
and much within you is still worm. Once were ye apes, and even yet man is more
of an ape than any of the apes. All of the main ideas that were discussed
in The Gay Science are given literary form in Thus Spake Zarathustra, and sometimes even
a name. Zarathustra starts off with the idea that
we encountered only towards the end of The Gay Science, the idea that the goal of humanity
should be to evolve into a higher type of Man. And he gives this type a name: the Superman. Even the wisest among you is only a disharmony
and hybrid of plant and phantom. But do I bid you become phantoms or plants? Lo, I teach you the Superman! Even the best of men today is nothing compared
to what humans can be, compared to the Superman. Their drives are in disharmony, their body
is like a plant, and their soul is like a phantom. He will soon expand on why this is so. The Superman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: The Superman SHALL BE the
meaning of the earth! I conjure you, my brethren, REMAIN TRUE TO
THE EARTH, and believe not those who speak unto you of superearthly hopes! Poisoners are they, whether they know it or
not. Despisers of life are they, decaying ones
and poisoned ones themselves, of whom the earth is weary: so away with them! Once blasphemy against God was the greatest
blasphemy; but God died, and therewith also those blasphemers. To blaspheme the earth is now the dreadfulest
sin, and to rate the heart of the unknowable higher than the meaning of the earth! Religion has taught us to hate our earthly
existence, and aim for paradise in the afterlife. Now God has died, but the hate for the earth,
for our biology, lingers on. Many thinkers are still preaching that we
should negate it. This diminishes our happiness, because we
draw it from our connection to the earth. To fully defeat them, we must offer an alternative
to their paradise, replace it with an ideal existence within the earthly realm. The Superman is this ideal. Once the soul looked contemptuously on the
body, and then that contempt was the supreme thing:—the soul wished the body meagre,
ghastly, and famished. Thus it thought to escape from the body and
the earth. Oh, that soul was itself meagre, ghastly,
and famished; and cruelty was the delight of that soul! But ye, also, my brethren, tell me: What doth
your body say about your soul? Is your soul not poverty and pollution and
wretched self-complacency? Now he expands about body and soul. Our consciousness is just a limb of our body,
but at some point humans started to believe that it is a separate entity, a soul, and
identified themselves with this soul. They further told themselves that it is heavenly
and spiritual in nature, and that it fell to the earth and was trapped in a material
body. And so, humans hated and starved their body,
wishing to escape it. But since the soul is actually merely a limb
of the body, the starvation of the body meant that it starved itself as well, and thus it
became meagre, miserable and cruel. The body, which actually contains the wisdom
that can make us happy, is signaling to us that our soul is wretched. Verily, a polluted stream is man. One must be a sea, to receive a polluted stream
without becoming impure. Lo, I teach you the Superman: he is that sea;
in him can your great contempt be submerged. Man has been polluted by the bad ideas that
he formed about himself, and this turned him into a miserable wretch. The time draws near when he will realize his
sorry state, and this realization might destroy him, unless he has an ideal that is beyond
Man, a promise of a different state. Zarathustra now begins to talk about this
moment of realization: What is the greatest thing ye can experience? It is the hour of great contempt. The hour in which even your happiness becometh
loathsome unto you, and so also your reason and virtue. The hour when ye say: “What good is my happiness! It is poverty and pollution and wretched self-complacency. But my happiness should justify existence
itself!” The hour when ye say: “What good is my reason! Doth it long for knowledge as the lion for
his food? It is poverty and pollution and wretched self-complacency!” The hour when ye say: “What good is my virtue! As yet it hath not made me passionate. How weary I am of my good and my bad! It is all poverty and pollution and wretched
self-complacency!” The hour when ye say: “What good is my justice! I do not see that I am fervour and fuel. The just, however, are fervour and fuel!” The hour when ye say: “What good is my pity! Is not pity the cross on which he is nailed
who loveth man? But my pity is not a crucifixion.” All of the things which humans pride themselves
on today, especially reason and morality, are actually mere shadows of what they can
be. We could be so much more than this, and the
best thing that can happen to us is that we awaken to this fact, and start to have contempt
towards what we are today. This would be the first step towards healing. Have ye ever spoken thus? Have ye ever cried thus? Ah! would that I had heard you crying thus! It is not your sin—it is your self-satisfaction
that crieth unto heaven; your very sparingness in sin crieth unto heaven! Where is the lightning to lick you with its
tongue? Where is the frenzy with which ye should be
inoculated? Lo, I teach you the Superman: he is that lightning,
he is that frenzy!— Zarathustra is trying to wake the people up,
to show them that they have potential for something a lot better. Their complacency is making them decay, and
they need some madness to be injected into their veins, which will cause them to break
their current molds and seek elevation. He is hoping that the idea of the Superman
will create these emotions and longings in them. When Zarathustra had thus spoken, one of the
people called out: “We have now heard enough of the rope-dancer; it is time now for us
to see him!” And all the people laughed at Zarathustra. But the rope-dancer, who thought the words
applied to him, began his performance. And this is the reward that Zarathustra gets
for his efforts: the crowd makes fun of him. He tries again to reach them, makes a couple
of more speeches, but they continue to mock him. He realizes that humanity isn’t ready for
his message, and that he should not be talking to the masses. Instead, he should find students, young people
who want to hear what he has to offer. With this decision, the prologue ends and
the story begins. So, is this Nietzsche’s end goal? The Superman? The state in which nothing in our existence
can harm us, because we have turned it into something that brings us joy? The state where we are beyond good and evil,
because we see everything as good? The state where we are the most powerful,
and therefore the most joyful? It certainly looks that way. But let’s carry on reading. In the first part of the book, Zarathustra
goes around, Jesus styles, making speeches and gathering students. The speeches expand on the idea of the Superman,
and pretty much repeat the ideas that we already met in The Gay Science. One thing that he emphasizes is that no one
living in our time can become a Superman: it is a project that will take generations,
in which humanity will slowly shed its current ideas and become more and more powerful. Today’s people should therefore live as down-goers,
as those who want to bring the downfall of Man and pave the way for the Superman. They have to be adventurous in spirit, experiencing
the joys of being explorers and creators, but also prepared to succumb to something
greater, knowing that they do not represent the end goal. At the end of the first part, Zarathustra
bids farewell to his disciples, and tells them to go their own way and develop his ideas
in their own individual manner. He returns to his mountain, to his cave, to
give his spirit time to digest the new things that it encountered, and become even richer. What I like most about this book is that it
is a manifestation of a rich spirit, a spirit that accumulated so much experiences, knowledge
and beauty that it takes pleasure in itself. He remains in his cave for a few more years,
but then he is awakened to a new danger. He becomes aware that his ideas have been
defiled, incorporated by people and movements that twist them to advance their ideologies. Thus, he has to descend the mountain yet again,
to wage battle against this new enemy. And Zarathustra does indeed go down the mountain,
and reconnects with his disciples and friends, who live in a place called the Happy Isles. The entire second part will take place in
the Happy Isles, and in it Zarathustra, from the heart of happiness, criticizes all the
schools of thought that were prevalent at the time: socialists, nationalists, moralists,
Enlightenment thinkers, religious preachers, romantic poets, and more. Nietzsche wasn’t a known scholar back then,
and none of these movements actually incorporated his ideas yet, but he evidently feared that
they will in the future, and he wasn’t wrong. In a chapter titled ‘The Grave Song’, Zarathustra
talks about his feelings as he watches his ideas, which are so dear to him, being bastardized
and defiled by his rivals, twisted into ugly monstrosities. Every time this happens he feels mortally
wounded, but every time, he says, he managed to climb out of the grave. And this is because he has a force within
himself, a force that overcomes all of it. This leads us right to the next chapter, in
which he expands about this force. The next chapter is called ‘Self-Surpassing’,
and it is one of the most pivotal moments in Nietzsche’s work. We mentioned it before, but now we are going
to analyze it in full. “Will to Truth” do ye call it, ye wisest
ones, that which impelleth you and maketh you ardent? Will for the thinkableness of all being: thus
do I call your will! All being would ye MAKE thinkable: for ye
doubt with good reason whether it be already thinkable. But it shall accommodate and bend itself to
you! So willeth your will. Smooth shall it become and subject to the
spirit, as its mirror and reflection. Zarathustra is talking to those thinkers who
come from the Socratic tradition, like the philosophers of Enlightenment, those who believe
that they should search for the truth. In the past, Nietzsche had already attacked
these thinkers, pointing out that they rely on two unfounded axioms: first, that there
is Being, that there are steady things and laws in the universe; secondly, that the human
mind is capable of finding the truth about the universe. Here, Zarathustra goes a step further, and
says that what drives these thinkers is not the will to truth, but something else, a psychological
need: they want to be masters of the universe, and this is why they imagine that it is made
in a way that will allow them to understand it and control it. That is your entire will, ye wisest ones,
as a Will to Power; and even when ye speak of good and evil, and of estimates of value. Ye would still create a world before which
ye can bow the knee: such is your ultimate hope and ecstasy. The phrase ‘Will to Power’ has already been
uttered here and there by Zarathustra, and by Nietzsche, and it meant the will to experience
the feeling of power, that most joyful of feelings. Here, however, he talks about it as a Will
to Power, as a force unto itself. He says that the aforementioned thinkers want
to feel the feeling of power, and this is why they imagine that the universe can be
figured out and mastered. The moral laws that they create are also made
by this Will to Power. But note that here he talks not about laws
to master things, but laws that will master you, laws to bow before. This is not a contradiction: Zarathustra already
told us that one way to achieve the feeling of power is to obey a law that requires of
you to overcome yourself. The ignorant, to be sure, the people—they
are like a river on which a boat floateth along: and in the boat sit the estimates of
value, solemn and disguised. Your will and your valuations have ye put
on the river of becoming; it betrayeth unto me an old Will to Power, what is believed
by the people as good and evil. Zarathustra reminds us that the universe is
actually Becoming: it is an ever changing river where nothing is stable. The thinkers create values, and the common
people naively adopt them, believing that these values represent eternal truths. But they are actually just temporary structures
within the stream of Becoming. It was ye, ye wisest ones, who put such guests
in this boat, and gave them pomp and proud names—ye and your ruling Will! Onward the river now carrieth your boat: it
MUST carry it. A small matter if the rough wave foameth and
angrily resisteth its keel! It is not the river that is your danger and
the end of your good and evil, ye wisest ones: but that Will itself, the Will to Power—the
unexhausted, procreating life-will. From the beginning, Zarathustra was suggesting
that those thinkers, in their heart, knew all along that the universe is actually Becoming,
and are afraid that their truths and values will eventually wash away. But now he tells them that they are wrong
about the source of this Becoming. They believe that it is external to Man, but
actually, the thing that is responsible for the ever changing nature of existence is also
the basis of our consciousness: it is the Will to Power. The Will to Power is the life force that is
pounding in us, and because of it, we can never settle down. But that ye may understand my gospel of good
and evil, for that purpose will I tell you my gospel of life, and of the nature of all
living things. The living thing did I follow; I walked in
the broadest and narrowest paths to learn its nature. With a hundred-faced mirror did I catch its
glance when its mouth was shut, so that its eye might speak unto me. And its eye spake unto me. After he dismissed what those other thinkers
say, Zarathustra is finally ready to tell us what his explorations into nature revealed
to him. But wherever I found living things, there
heard I also the language of obedience. All living things are obeying things. And this heard I secondly: Whatever cannot
obey itself, is commanded. Such is the nature of living things. This, however, is the third thing which I
heard—namely, that commanding is more difficult than obeying. And not only because the commander beareth
the burden of all obeyers, and because this burden readily crusheth him:—
An attempt and a risk seemed all commanding unto me; and whenever it commandeth, the living
thing risketh itself thereby. Yea, even when it commandeth itself, then
also must it atone for its commanding. Of its own law must it become the judge and
avenger and victim. The universe is total chaos, but in nature,
we see order. We see that all living things are obeying
rules. Either rules that they impose on themselves,
or rules that are imposed on them by something more powerful. We further see that there are more powerful
living things, those that have the power to command, either themselves or others. But since nature is chaotic, the act of commanding,
of creating new values, is extremely dangerous. So the question becomes: why would the strong
ones do it? Why would they subject themselves to such
dangers? How doth this happen! so did I ask myself. What persuadeth the living thing to obey,
and command, and even be obedient in commanding? Hearken now unto my word, ye wisest ones! Test it seriously, whether I have crept into
the heart of life itself, and into the roots of its heart! Wherever I found a living thing, there found
I Will to Power; and even in the will of the servant found I the will to be master. That to the stronger the weaker shall serve—thereto
persuadeth he his will who would be master over a still weaker one. That delight alone he is unwilling to forego. And as the lesser surrendereth himself to
the greater that he may have delight and power over the least of all, so doth even the greatest
surrender himself, and staketh life, for the sake of power. It is the surrender of the greatest to run
risk and danger, and play dice for death. And where there is sacrifice and service and
love-glances, there also is the will to be master. By by-ways doth the weaker then slink into
the fortress, and into the heart of the mightier one—and there stealeth power. Zarathustra’s theory, then, is that we are
all driven by Will to Power. The weak surrender to the strong, because
by obeying something stronger they feel greater power. And the strong command the weak, and enjoy
the feeling of power that it gives them. But they also put their life on the line and
create new values for themselves, because they want even greater power. Love of power is the demon of mankind, we
earlier quoted Nietzsche saying. Zarathustra updates this idea: it is not a
demon, but the driving force of all life. And this secret spake Life herself unto me. “Behold,” said she, “I am that WHICH
MUST EVER SURPASS ITSELF. To be sure, ye call it will to procreation,
or impulse towards a goal, towards the higher, remoter, more manifold: but all that is one
and the same secret. Rather would I succumb than disown this one
thing; and verily, where there is succumbing and leaf-falling, lo, there doth Life sacrifice
itself—for power! The Will to Power is the essence of life,
and it can never be satisfied. It always wants more power, it always wants
to conquer higher mountains. But, as we’ve already discussed in The Gay
Science, once you conquer that mountain, the joy that you feel lasts only for a while,
and then this mountain is not so joyful anymore, and you want to climb higher. You want to surpass yourself, to be more than
you are now. That I have to be struggle, and becoming,
and purpose, and cross-purpose—ah, he who divineth my will, divineth well also on what
CROOKED paths it hath to tread! Whatever I create, and however much I love
it,—soon must I be adverse to it, and to my love: so willeth my will. And because this is the life force, the way
to express it, and thus live the most joyful life, is by constant self-creation. You have to create yourself in a form that
will surpass your former self, that will be more powerful. In other words, in a form that will achieve
greater harmony between your drives. It is a way of life in which you treat your
spirit as clay, which you reshape again and again. Once your reason manages to create a new worldview,
one that allows you to live in a way that gives a more harmonious expression to your
drives, imposing this worldview on yourself breaks the mold of who you were, and this
act of breaking out of your shell results in ecstatic joy. But eventually you settle in the new mold,
and then, says Zarathustra, you must become an enemy to the worldview that you’ve created,
and wage war on it to surpass it yet again. And even thou, discerning one, art only a
path and footstep of my will: verily, my Will to Power walketh even on the feet of thy Will
to Truth! Zarathustra once again addresses the Socratic
thinkers, and points out that what he is doing encompasses what they are doing. The gay science is also trying to find a theory
that explains all of the known facts. The joy that these thinkers feel when they
find a successful theory is not due to connecting to the truth, as they wrongly believe, but
because they managed to impose their Will to Power on reality. We discussed this in more detail in the first
video of the series. He certainly did not hit the truth who shot
at it the formula: ‘Will to existence’: that will—doth not exist! For what is not, cannot will; that, however,
which is in existence—how could it still strive for existence! Only where there is life, is there also will:
not, however, Will to Life, but—so teach I thee—Will to Power! Much is reckoned higher than life itself by
the living one; but out of the very reckoning speaketh—the Will to Power!”— Zarathustra now speaks against those who believe
that the Will to Existence is the main drive of living beings. Actually, this fight for existence is just
a manifestation of the Will to Power, that wants to live on in order to be powerful. Note that he says that the Will to Power exists
only within living beings. Later in Nietzsche’s writing, as we discussed
in the previous video, the Will to Power becomes the foundation of all existence. Thus did Life once teach me: and thereby,
ye wisest ones, do I solve you the riddle of your hearts. Verily, I say unto you: good and evil which
would be everlasting—it doth not exist! Of its own accord must it ever surpass itself
anew. With your values and formulae of good and
evil, ye exercise power, ye valuing ones: and that is your secret love, and the sparkling,
trembling, and overflowing of your souls. He reiterates his position that there are
no absolute good and evil. Every time we create a new worldview, there’s
a new value system that comes along with it, dividing reality into good and evil. But he is also talking about something else
here: he is talking about the ecstatic joyful feeling that accompanies these moments of
self-surpassing. And from here on, this feeling will replace
the feeling of power as the most joyful experience one can have. In self-surpassing, you experience the feeling
of power, as you impose a new worldview on reality. But you also experience a transformation,
as you create yourself anew. The accompanying ecstatic feeling is heavenly,
and we shall talk about it in more detail in a future video, when we talk about the
Dionysian. This is why Nietzsche is the philosopher that
speaks to me the most. As someone who creates, I know what it feels
like to go through the labor of creating, to carve something new out of myself, to find
the way to express that which was buried inside, and then give it beautiful form. It is a transformative experience, and when
you feel like you created something worthwhile, it is total bliss. When you create on the scale that Zarathustra
is talking about, forming an entirely new worldview, the elation is above and beyond
anything else. Elsewhere, he describes it as a divine experience:
you feel like you are a god, creating a new universe. Nietzsche’s philosophy is constructed around
this joyful feeling, offering a way of life that allows you to experience it again and
again. But a stronger power groweth out of your values,
and a new surpassing: by it breaketh egg and egg-shell. Once you create this new worldview, it transforms
you, and because of this transformation, new drives are awakened in your body, which can
serve future self-surpassings. And he who hath to be a creator in good and
evil—verily, he hath first to be a destroyer, and break values in pieces. Thus doth the greatest evil pertain to the
greatest good: that, however, is the creating good.— The gay science is about taking things that
were considered evil, and incorporating them into a worldview that will turn them into
something good. The resulting worldview will thus be more
powerful, and constitute self-surpassing. With the ethics of self-surpassing, Zarathustra
is already incorporating at least two drives that were considered evil. First, the selfish drive, which society tells
us is something we need to suppress, as it leads us to harm each other. The ethic of self-surpassing leads to an individualistic
way of life, that produces personal joy without harming others. Secondly, there’s the drive to dominance,
which we are told is a bad thing as it leads to the suppression of others. With self-surpassing, you feel dominance by
commanding yourself, creating laws that elevate you higher. Thus, with this ethic, Zarathustra elevates
himself above the people of his time, becoming more powerful, and therefore happier. Let us SPEAK thereof, ye wisest ones, even
though it be bad. To be silent is worse; all suppressed truths
become poisonous. And let everything break up which—can break
up by our truths! Many a house is still to be built!—
Thus spake Zarathustra. The original Zarathustra, the historic figure,
was a Persian spiritual leader, who lived sometime in the second millennium BC. He founded a religion known as Zoroastrianism,
and he is credited with being the first to divide reality into absolute good and evil. So why would Nietzsche name his hero after
him, when this hero actually wants to take us beyond absolute good and evil? – Simple, because with Zarathustra, the act
of going beyond good and evil becomes an act of self-surpassing. Zarathustra, said Nietzsche, was the first
to think about the issue of absolute good and evil, and he was an honest thinker. It is therefore only natural that he would
be the first to realize that they do not exist, and create a worldview that would surpass
his previous worldview. So the idea is that you open yourself up to
inner drives that were branded as evil, explore them, and then use your reason to create a
worldview that shows that they are actually good, and combines them with your other drives. This results in a transformation, as your
older self is reshaped into a newer self, and you experience ecstasy. The ecstasy eventually subsides, as your new
self settles within its borders, but you are still more powerful and happy than you were,
since you enjoy things that previously brought you suffering. The end result will be the Superman, when
we will no longer experience anything as evil, and thus be beyond good and evil. The Superman, then, is Man’s self-surpassing. The question is, what will the Superman do
then, how will he experience self-surpassing? But Nietzsche never bothered with this question
– he regarded the Superman as a being that we can know nothing about. As he develops his thought, Zarathustra then
adds something else: it is not enough that we reshape our thinking to regard all the
evil drives as good drives. To truly defeat evil, we also have to transform
our bad memories into good memories. Now, this is something that we all actually
do already. It’s what is called rationalization. When we turn lemons into lemonade, when we
use the lesson of a bad experience to achieve a good experience, we can then reshape the
memory of that bad experience, and regard it as a necessary step, and therefore as a
good thing. Zarathustra wants us to do the same for the
entire history of humanity. When we look critically at history, learn
from it about our nature, and then use this knowledge to create more powerful worldviews,
we are simultaneously redeeming history. The Superman will be the point when all of
human history is redeemed. This is similar to salvation ideas that we
find in religion. We are told that because of our deeds and
sufferings, we will get to heaven, or the Messiah will come and bring heaven on earth,
and that this will justify all of our misery today. The Superman is a secularization of this idea,
but here the salvation is achieved not by an external divine being rewarding us for
our good deeds, but rather by us actively transforming ourselves so that our bad deeds
and sufferings of the past are seen as good in the greater scheme of things. “To redeem what is past, and to transform
every “It was” into “Thus would I have it!”—that only do I call redemption!”
says Zarathustra. When we get to the point where we can say
“yes” about everything that was, when we affirm it as something that had to happen that way,
we will redeem not only ourselves, but all of the humans that ever lived, because their
deeds will be seen as part of the journey that brought us to this point. Throughout the second part of the book, Zarathustra
demolishes the logic of other ideologies and beliefs. But then, towards the end of this part, he
runs into a soothsayer, and finds himself stumped before what he has to say. The soothsayer essentially repeats the old
idea of “vanity of vanities, all is vanity”: nothing lasts forever, everything repeats
itself, everything that we do has already been done, so there’s no real value in anything. Zarathustra is troubled by these words, but
he can’t really explain why. His body is telling him that something new
has awakened in him, brewing deep inside. But he is afraid of facing it, so he suppresses
it. Which, of course, negates the ethics of Gay
Science, which demand of you to let your inner drives speak and allow your consciousness
and reason to deal with them. But Zarathustra refuses – he is too afraid. Once again, there are biblical overtones here,
as the prophet rejects his calling, refuses to be the mouth of a new gospel. His body, however, does not let him be. He is plagued with dreams, which give metaphorical
form to the thing that he is suppressing. Note that this was written a few years before
Sigmund Freud came up with the theory that dreams are a window to the subconscious. Nietzsche, along with Dostoevsky, preempted
Freud on this. Finally, he realizes that he must deal with
it. The second part ends with him bidding farewell
to his disciples once again, this time reluctantly, and telling them that the next stage in his
journey is something that he has to go alone. But this time he doesn’t return to his mountain
and his cave. The third and final part of the book begins
with him climbing a different mountain, and when he gets to the top, he looks down at
the sea below, and realizes that he must descend deeper than he ever did before, deep into
the abyss of evil and suffering, so that he can fight this thing that is challenging his
happiness, and then rise to heights of power he hadn’t known before. And so he descends the mountain, gets to the
shore, and boards a ship that takes him away from the Happy Isles. And here begins the chapter called ‘The Vision
and the Enigma’. When it got abroad among the sailors that
Zarathustra was on board the ship—for a man who came from the Happy Isles had gone
on board along with him,—there was great curiosity and expectation. But Zarathustra kept silent for two days,
and was cold and deaf with sadness; so that he neither answered looks nor questions. On the evening of the second day, however,
he again opened his ears, though he still kept silent: for there were many curious and
dangerous things to be heard on board the ship, which came from afar, and was to go
still further. Zarathustra, however, was fond of all those
who make distant voyages, and dislike to live without danger. And behold! when listening, his own tongue
was at last loosened, and the ice of his heart broke. Then did he begin to speak thus:
To you, the daring venturers and adventurers, and whoever hath embarked with cunning sails
upon frightful seas,— To you the enigma-intoxicated, the twilight-enjoyers,
whose souls are allured by flutes to every treacherous gulf:
—For ye dislike to grope at a thread with cowardly hand; and where ye can DIVINE, there
do ye hate to CALCULATE— To you only do I tell the enigma that I SAW—the
vision of the lonesomest one.— Once again, Zarathustra had an enigmatic dream. He wants them to help him decipher it, so
he can start dealing with that thing that is bothering him. Gloomily walked I lately in corpse-coloured
twilight—gloomily and sternly, with compressed lips. Not only one sun had set for me. A path which ascended daringly among boulders,
an evil, lonesome path, which neither herb nor shrub any longer cheered, a mountain-path,
crunched under the daring of my foot. Mutely marching over the scornful clinking
of pebbles, trampling the stone that let it slip: thus did my foot force its way upwards. Upwards:—in spite of the spirit that drew
it downwards, towards the abyss, the spirit of gravity, my devil and arch-enemy. Upwards:—although it sat upon me, half-dwarf,
half-mole; paralysed, paralysing; dripping lead in mine ear, and thoughts like drops
of lead into my brain. Throughout the book, Zarathustra tells us
about the joys of being an individualist, who thinks freely and bravely, who wanders
alone through paths that no one had explored, who creates new realms of spirit. But he also warns us about the dangers, about
the inner demons that you have to deal with when you are on your own. The worst enemy is the spirit of gravity,
which pulls you downward into the abyss on your most nihilistic thoughts. Here, this spirit is given the form of a dwarfish
creature, who sits on his shoulder as he climbs upward. “O Zarathustra,” it whispered scornfully,
syllable by syllable, “thou stone of wisdom! Thou threwest thyself high, but every thrown
stone must—fall! O Zarathustra, thou stone of wisdom, thou
sling-stone, thou star-destroyer! Thyself threwest thou so high,—but every
thrown stone—must fall! Condemned of thyself, and to thine own stoning:
O Zarathustra, far indeed threwest thou thy stone—but upon THYSELF will it recoil!” Then was the dwarf silent; and it lasted long. The silence, however, oppressed me; and to
be thus in pairs, one is verily lonesomer than when alone! I ascended, I ascended, I dreamt, I thought,—but
everything oppressed me. A sick one did I resemble, whom bad torture
wearieth, and a worse dream reawakeneth out of his first sleep.— This is what we saw until now: Zarathustra
was troubled by a problem, and feared that it is going to crush him. But he was unable to deal with it. Is he finally going to gather the strength
to face it? But there is something in me which I call
courage: it hath hitherto slain for me every dejection. This courage at last bade me stand still and
say: “Dwarf! Thou! Or I!”—
For courage is the best slayer,—courage which ATTACKETH: for in every attack there
is sound of triumph. Man, however, is the most courageous animal:
thereby hath he overcome every animal. With sound of triumph hath he overcome every
pain; human pain, however, is the sorest pain. Courage slayeth also giddiness at abysses:
and where doth man not stand at abysses! Is not seeing itself—seeing abysses? Courage is the best slayer: courage slayeth
also fellow-suffering. Fellow-suffering, however, is the deepest
abyss: as deeply as man looketh into life, so deeply also doth he look into suffering. This is a new abyss, deeper than he had ever
faced. But he has been rope dancing over the abyss
for a while now, daring it to take him, and so far managed to always emerge victorious
and more powerful. It is time to do the same with this abyss. Courage, however, is the best slayer, courage
which attacketh: it slayeth even death itself; for it saith: “WAS THAT life? Well! Once more!” In such speech, however, there is much sound
of triumph. He who hath ears to hear, let him hear.— “Was that life? Well! Once more!” Zarathustra believes that these words solve
the problem presented by the soothsayer. As we shall soon see, he is wrong. But we are also given a hint that there is
more to this saying than meets the ear. As we shall find out later, this saying is
actually the sward that will be used to slay the monster from the abyss. But for now, he says that it slays death. Let’s see what he means. “Halt, dwarf!” said I. “Either I—or thou! I, however, am the stronger of the two:—thou
knowest not mine abysmal thought! IT—couldst thou not endure!” Then happened that which made me lighter:
for the dwarf sprang from my shoulder, the prying sprite! And it squatted on a stone in front of me. There was however a gateway just where we
halted. “Look at this gateway! Dwarf!” I continued, “it hath two faces. Two roads come together here: these hath no
one yet gone to the end of. This long lane backwards: it continueth for
an eternity. And that long lane forward—that is another
eternity. They are antithetical to one another, these
roads; they directly abut on one another:—and it is here, at this gateway, that they come
together. The name of the gateway is inscribed above:
‘This Moment.’ But should one follow them further—and ever
further and further on, thinkest thou, dwarf, that these roads would be eternally antithetical?”—
“Everything straight lieth,” murmured the dwarf, contemptuously. “All truth is crooked; time itself is a
circle.” Zarathustra now turns to deal with the philosophical
question of time. He presents the traditional idea that time
is a straight line, and eternal. This is before modern physics presented the
idea of the Big Bang, and the belief was that time has no beginning or end. The past stretches back eternally, and the
future does the same forwardly. The dwarf, which, to remind you, is part of
Zarathustra’s mind, says differently: time is a circle, and everything returns. He is basically presenting the thought that
the soothsayer implanted in Zarathustra’s mind. Zarathustra calls it his abysmal thought – that
is, the thought from the abyss, that is torturing him. But he already warns the dwarf that this abysmal
thought goes deeper than he thinks. “Thou spirit of gravity!” said I wrathfully,
“do not take it too lightly! Or I shall let thee squat where thou squattest,
Haltfoot,—and I carried thee HIGH!” “Observe,” continued I, “This Moment! From the gateway, This Moment, there runneth
a long eternal lane BACKWARDS: behind us lieth an eternity. Must not whatever CAN run its course of all
things, have already run along that lane? Must not whatever CAN happen of all things
have already happened, resulted, and gone by? And if everything have already existed, what
thinkest thou, dwarf, of This Moment? Must not this gateway also—have already
existed? And are not all things closely bound together
in such wise that This Moment draweth all coming things after it? CONSEQUENTLY—itself also? For whatever CAN run its course of all things,
also in this long lane OUTWARD—MUST it once more run!—
And this slow spider which creepeth in the moonlight, and this moonlight itself, and
thou and I in this gateway whispering together, whispering of eternal things—must we not
all have already existed? —And must we not return and run in that
other lane out before us, that long weird lane—must we not eternally return?”— Zarathustra deals with the thought by taking
it to its most radical conclusion. Not only does everything return, but, since
everything is so tightly connected, it returns in the exact same order. Time is a circle, and everything repeats itself
to eternity. This is the idea that Nietzsche calls the
eternal return, and we presented the philosophical argument for it in our previous video. Now, if time is a circle, it means that we
will also be reborn, and live our life again in the exact same way. And with this, Zarathustra defeats one of
the biggest problems for a secular thinker: the problem of death. One of the main drives that we have is the
drive to keep on living, but this drive has to deal with the fact that we are inevitably
going to die. This is a cause of suffering, and one of the
main reasons why life is seen as meaningless. Schopenhauer, the philosopher that was Nietzsche’s
main influence, argued that the only way to deal with this suffering is to eliminate the
will to live, but this argument, of course, is an anathema to the gay scientist. Zarathustra, here, creates a worldview in
which this problem is eliminated, since life is actually eternal. In other words, Zarathustra dealt with the
problem like a gay scientist should: he took the idea that everything returns, and found
a way to incorporate it as a thought that induces joy and not suffering. And so it appears that he solved the problem
presented by the soothsayer. Or did he? Thus did I speak, and always more softly:
for I was afraid of mine own thoughts, and arrear-thoughts. Then, suddenly did I hear a dog HOWL near
me. Had I ever heard a dog howl thus? My thoughts ran back. Yes! When I was a child, in my most distant childhood:
—Then did I hear a dog howl thus. And saw it also, with hair bristling, its
head upwards, trembling in the stillest midnight, when even dogs believe in ghosts:
—So that it excited my commiseration. For just then went the full moon, silent as
death, over the house; just then did it stand still, a glowing globe—at rest on the flat
roof, as if on some one’s property:— Thereby had the dog been terrified: for dogs
believe in thieves and ghosts. And when I again heard such howling, then
did it excite my commiseration once more. Where was now the dwarf? And the gateway? And the spider? And all the whispering? Had I dreamt? Had I awakened? ‘Twixt rugged rocks did I suddenly stand
alone, dreary in the dreariest moonlight. At the moment of triumph, when it seems that
he has surpassed the fear of death by incorporating the idea of eternal return into his ethics,
the vision changes all at once, and becomes a nightmare. Something is still wrong, very wrong. Zarathustra’s subconscious is telling him
that this new idea that he adopted, the idea of eternal return, is a thief that is going
to rob him of his happiness. BUT THERE LAY A MAN! And there! The dog leaping, bristling, whining—now
did it see me coming—then did it howl again, then did it CRY:—had I ever heard a dog
cry so for help? And verily, what I saw, the like had I never
seen. A young shepherd did I see, writhing, choking,
quivering, with distorted countenance, and with a heavy black serpent hanging out of
his mouth. Had I ever seen so much loathing and pale
horror on one countenance? He had perhaps gone to sleep? Then had the serpent crawled into his throat—there
had it bitten itself fast. My hand pulled at the serpent, and pulled:—in
vain! I failed to pull the serpent out of his throat. Then there cried out of me: “Bite! Bite! Its head off! Bite!”—so cried it out of me; my horror,
my hatred, my loathing, my pity, all my good and my bad cried with one voice out of me.— The nightmare shows a shepherd who went to
sleep, and a serpent crawled into his mouth while he slept. The serpent keeps on creeping down his throat,
choking him, and there is no way to pull it out. The only way is to bite its head off. Ye daring ones around me! Ye venturers and adventurers, and whoever
of you have embarked with cunning sails on unexplored seas! Ye enigma-enjoyers! Solve unto me the enigma that I then beheld,
interpret unto me the vision of the lonesomest one! For it was a vision and a foresight:—WHAT
did I then behold in parable? And WHO is it that must come some day? WHO is the shepherd into whose throat the
serpent thus crawled? WHO is the man into whose throat all the heaviest
and blackest will thus crawl? —The shepherd however bit as my cry had
admonished him; he bit with a strong bite! Far away did he spit the head of the serpent—:
and sprang up.— No longer shepherd, no longer man—a transfigured
being, a light-surrounded being, that LAUGHED! Never on earth laughed a man as HE laughed! O my brethren, I heard a laughter which was
no human laughter,—and now gnaweth a thirst at me, a longing that is never allayed. My longing for that laughter gnaweth at me:
oh, how can I still endure to live! And how could I endure to die at present!—
Thus spake Zarathustra. So let’s do what Zarathustra bids us, and
help him interpret his dream. The shepherd is of course Zarathustra himself. His falling asleep symbolizes how he was too
complacent, enjoying his happiness and not dealing with a thought that crept in, threatening
to destroy him. The serpent is that thought, and it creates
a self-contradiction in his worldview, a self-contradiction that he must resolve, or everything he created
will fall into the abyss. But the dream also tells him that if he manages
to resolve it, he will be happier than he ever was, than anyone has ever been. To resolve it, he needs to bite its head off,
to find a way to overpower it. And this is the challenge that he has to deal
with, if he wants to achieve the happiness he dreamt of. But what is this abysmal thought that is plaguing
him? What is the self-contradiction that has crept
into his philosophy? Zarathustra doesn’t tell us. He is still repressing it, still unable to
deal with it. He spends the entirety of the third part roaming
around, troubled, trying to muster the courage to face it, and it keeps on creeping down
his soul. Finally he returns to his cave, and there,
at last, we get the big showdown that we were waiting for. One morning, not long after his return to
his cave, Zarathustra sprang up from his couch like a madman, crying with a frightful voice,
and acting as if some one still lay on the couch who did not wish to rise. Zarathustra’s voice also resounded in such
a manner that his animals came to him frightened, and out of all the neighbouring caves and
lurking-places all the creatures slipped away—flying, fluttering, creeping or leaping, according
to their variety of foot or wing. Zarathustra, however, spake these words:
Up, abysmal thought out of my depth! I am thy cock and morning dawn, thou overslept
reptile: Up! Up! My voice shall soon crow thee awake! Unbind the fetters of thine ears: listen! For I wish to hear thee! Up! Up! There is thunder enough to make the very graves
listen! And rub the sleep and all the dimness and
blindness out of thine eyes! Hear me also with thine eyes: my voice is
a medicine even for those born blind. And once thou art awake, then shalt thou ever
remain awake. It is not MY custom to awake great-grandmothers
out of their sleep that I may bid them—sleep on! Thou stirrest, stretchest thyself, wheezest? Up! Up! Not wheeze, shalt thou,—but speak unto me! Zarathustra calleth thee, Zarathustra the
godless! I, Zarathustra, the advocate of living, the
advocate of suffering, the advocate of the circuit—thee do I call, my most abysmal
thought! Joy to me! Thou comest,—I hear thee! Mine abyss SPEAKETH, my lowest depth have
I turned over into the light! Joy to me! Come hither! Give me thy hand—ha! let be! aha!—Disgust,
disgust, disgust—alas to me! Finally, he invites the abysmal thought to
rise, to come up from the depths of his subconscious and fill his consciousness. But when it does, it is too much to bear. The reading here isn’t dramatic enough. When Zarathustra is crying ‘disgust, disgust’
it is a scream of horror, as the thought is so dreadful that it overwhelms him. Hardly, however, had Zarathustra spoken these
words, when he fell down as one dead, and remained long as one dead. When however he again came to himself, then
was he pale and trembling, and remained lying; and for long he would neither eat nor drink. This condition continued for seven days; his
animals, however, did not leave him day nor night, except that the eagle flew forth to
fetch food. And what it fetched and foraged, it laid on
Zarathustra’s couch: so that Zarathustra at last lay among yellow and red berries,
grapes, rosy apples, sweet-smelling herbage, and pine-cones. At his feet, however, two lambs were stretched,
which the eagle had with difficulty carried off from their shepherds. At last, after seven days, Zarathustra raised
himself upon his couch, took a rosy apple in his hand, smelt it and found its smell
pleasant. Then did his animals think the time had come
to speak unto him. “O Zarathustra,” said they, “now hast
thou lain thus for seven days with heavy eyes: wilt thou not set thyself again upon thy feet? Step out of thy cave: the world waiteth for
thee as a garden. The wind playeth with heavy fragrance which
seeketh for thee; and all brooks would like to run after thee. All things long for thee, since thou hast
remained alone for seven days—step forth out of thy cave! All things want to be thy physicians! Did perhaps a new knowledge come to thee,
a bitter, grievous knowledge? Like leavened dough layest thou, thy soul
arose and swelled beyond all its bounds.—” The abysmal thought is so dreadful that his
consciousness cannot deal with it at first, and he faints. But he recuperates, and lies in a half awakened
state for seven days. And when he finally gets up, he is able to
enjoy the taste of things again, a sign that he has healed. The abysmal thought did not kill him, it only
made him stronger. What has happened in those seven days, to
bring about this change? We eagerly wait for him to tell us, but Zarathustra
takes his time. In the meantime, his animals run the scene. The animals are an eagle and a serpent, which
have been accompanying him from the start. They are actually metaphors. The eagle symbolizes his pride, and the serpent
symbolizes his wisdom. They have never spoken before, but now suddenly
they start talking, and Zarathustra understands them. It’s as if the process he went through has
given him the magical ability to talk to animals. Or perhaps, he finally understands what his
wisdom and pride were trying to tell him all along. The animals want to know what came over him
in those seven days, what new insight he has gained. —O mine animals, answered Zarathustra, talk
on thus and let me listen! It refresheth me so to hear your talk: where
there is talk, there is the world as a garden unto me. How charming it is that there are words and
tones; are not words and tones rainbows and seeming bridges ‘twixt the eternally separated? To each soul belongeth another world; to each
soul is every other soul a back-world. Among the most alike doth semblance deceive
most delightfully: for the smallest gap is most difficult to bridge over. For me—how could there be an outside-of-me? There is no outside! But this we forget on hearing tones; how delightful
it is that we forget! Have not names and tones been given unto things
that man may refresh himself with them? It is a beautiful folly, speaking; therewith
danceth man over everything. How lovely is all speech and all falsehoods
of tones! With tones danceth our love on variegated
rainbows.— Instead of answering them, Zarathustra starts
to talk about the nature of language. And, if we listen carefully, we will realize
why he doesn’t want to answer their inquiries. Since he is a philosopher of Becoming, he
does not believe that words can represent reality. Words are just approximations, with which
we try to transfer our thoughts to each other, but we can never fully understand the inner
world of someone else. And because of this, he fears that if he tries
to articulate his new insight in words, it will diminish it, and harm his newfound happiness. —“O Zarathustra,” said then his animals,
“to those who think like us, things all dance themselves: they come and hold out the
hand and laugh and flee—and return. Everything goeth, everything returneth; eternally
rolleth the wheel of existence. Everything dieth, everything blossometh forth
again; eternally runneth on the year of existence. Everything breaketh, everything is integrated
anew; eternally buildeth itself the same house of existence. All things separate, all things again greet
one another; eternally true to itself remaineth the ring of existence. Every moment beginneth existence, around every
‘Here’ rolleth the ball ‘There.’ The middle is everywhere. Crooked is the path of eternity.”— It turns out that the animals already know. They knew all along. Time is a circle, or, as they put it, the
ring of existence. The universe is eternal becoming, and it creates
itself anew at every moment. So if you create something, you are participating
in the act of creating the ring, you are doing something godly. What, then, has Zarathustra created? —O ye wags and barrel-organs! answered Zarathustra,
and smiled once more, how well do ye know what had to be fulfilled in seven days:—
—And how that monster crept into my throat and choked me! But I bit off its head and spat it away from
me. And ye—ye have made a lyre-lay out of it? Now, however, do I lie here, still exhausted
with that biting and spitting-away, still sick with mine own salvation. AND YE LOOKED ON AT IT ALL? O mine animals, are ye also cruel? Did ye like to look at my great pain as men
do? For man is the cruellest animal. Zarathustra finally realizes that he was the
shepherd in his dream, and that what he did in the last seven days was to bite off the
head of the serpent. Not his serpent, the other serpent. The one that crept into his mouth, the serpent
of the abysmal thought. He berates his animals for already turning
his insight into a song, something that can be repeated even without understanding the
magnificent feeling that he is currently experiencing. He says that they are being cruel, and with
this he segues to talk about the cruelty of Man. At tragedies, bull-fights, and crucifixions
hath he hitherto been happiest on earth; and when he invented his hell, behold, that was
his heaven on earth. When the great man crieth—: immediately
runneth the little man thither, and his tongue hangeth out of his mouth for very lusting. He, however, calleth it his “pity.” The little man, especially the poet—how
passionately doth he accuse life in words! Hearken to him, but do not fail to hear the
delight which is in all accusation! Such accusers of life—them life overcometh
with a glance of the eye. “Thou lovest me?” saith the insolent one; “wait a little,
as yet have I no time for thee.” Towards himself man is the cruellest animal;
and in all who call themselves “sinners” and “bearers of the cross” and “penitents,”
do not overlook the voluptuousness in their plaints and accusations! This, in a nutshell, is Nietzsche’s critique
of contemporary morality. Because he suppresses his drives, degrades
his own powers, Man has become miserable and resentful, and his soul is cruel. He imposes moral laws on himself to restrain
this cruelty, but his cruel nature is manifested in everything he does, even in his so called
good deeds. Zarathustra, who knows how happy and benevolent
Man can become, is disgusted and saddened by contemporary humans, which he calls the
little man. And I myself—do I thereby want to be man’s
accuser? Ah, mine animals, this only have I learned
hitherto, that for man his baddest is necessary for his best,—
—That all that is baddest is the best POWER, and the hardest stone for the highest creator;
and that man must become better AND badder:— Not to THIS torture-stake was I tied, that
I know man is bad,—but I cried, as no one hath yet cried:
“Ah, that his baddest is so very small! Ah, that his best is so very small!” The seeds for creating a more powerful, happy
and benevolent Man are contained in those that society brands as bad people. But even the bad people of today are not powerful
enough, for the human spirit has been diminished. Compared to the Superman, the ideal that he
has in his mind, today’s humans are all small and pitiful. The great disgust at man—IT strangled me
and had crept into my throat: and what the soothsayer had presaged: “All is alike,
nothing is worth while, knowledge strangleth.” A long twilight limped on before me, a fatally
weary, fatally intoxicated sadness, which spake with yawning mouth. “Eternally he returneth, the man of whom
thou art weary, the small man”—so yawned my sadness, and dragged its foot and could
not go to sleep. And here, at last, Zarathustra reveals his
abysmal thought, the cause of his agony. Remember what we said about the Superman:
he will be achieved at the moment when we learn to say yes about everything, including
the entirety of human history. And in that, he will redeem not just himself,
but all of that history, all human’s that ever lived, as he will show that the small
man of today was a necessary step in the ladder, and therefore a good thing. But if everything returns, then there is no
redemption. We will not be able to rejoice in redeeming
human history, because we will know that the small man will return, and everything that
we’ve achieved will be lost. And so we return to ‘vanity of vanities, all
is vanity’: the Superman is not the final salvation, he is merely a point in the circle. And thus, he does not justify the small man. A cavern, became the human earth to me; its
breast caved in; everything living became to me human dust and bones and mouldering
past. My sighing sat on all human graves, and could
no longer arise: my sighing and questioning croaked and choked, and gnawed and nagged
day and night: —“Ah, man returneth eternally! The small man returneth eternally!” Naked had I once seen both of them, the greatest
man and the smallest man: all too like one another—all too human, even the greatest
man! All too small, even the greatest man!—that
was my disgust at man! And the eternal return also of the smallest
man!—that was my disgust at all existence! The Superman ideal collapses into dust. Once he adopted the idea of eternal return
and tried to make it part of the web of ideas that will constitute the Superman, Zarathustra
had managed to overpower death, but at the same time introduced a self-contradiction
into the web, and caused it to fall apart. The past cannot be redeemed, and without redeeming
the past, there cannot be a Superman. The small man, with all its wretchedness and
cruelty, will remain a fact of existence, something that eternally returns. Everything that Zarathustra had built was
blown away, and he found himself in the pit of despair and sorrow. Ah, Disgust! Disgust! Disgust!—Thus spake Zarathustra, and sighed
and shuddered; for he remembered his sickness. Then did his animals prevent him from speaking
further. “Do not speak further, thou convalescent!”—so
answered his animals, “but go out where the world waiteth for thee like a garden. Go out unto the roses, the bees, and the flocks
of doves! Especially, however, unto the singing-birds,
to learn SINGING from them! For singing is for the convalescent; the sound
ones may talk. And when the sound also want songs, then want
they other songs than the convalescent.” —“O ye wags and barrel-organs, do be silent!”
answered Zarathustra, and smiled at his animals. “How well ye know what consolation I devised
for myself in seven days! That I have to sing once more—THAT consolation
did I devise for myself, and THIS convalescence: would ye also make another lyre-lay thereof?” But now he has overcome the sickness, and
he is happy again. What could have brought about this change? There is only one possible answer: a self-surpassing
has been achieved. Seven days, for a creator, are enough time
to create a new worldview, a new universe, and Zarathustra used these seven days to create
a worldview around a new idea, to surpass the worldview that had the Superman as its
main idea. And he still doesn’t want to put it in words,
and scolds his animals for talking too much. But I think it is time, finally, to explicate
Zarathustra’s poetry, and say what his new idea is, the idea which is at the heart of
his new worldview, the idea with which he slayed the monster from the abyss. And for that, we’ll first have to ask: why
was Zarathustra brought into this world? Obviously, he was created by Nietzsche in
order to express this new idea. Which means that we have to look for this
idea at the moment that Zarathustra was conceived. Do we have a recording of this moment? Yes, it is aphorism 342 in The Gay Science,
the aphorism that ends the book. Which means that to find the idea, we need
to look at the aphorism that precedes it, 341, the true ending of the book. This aphorism is titled ‘The Heaviest Burden’. What if a demon crept after thee into thy
loneliest loneliness some day or night, and said to thee: “This life, as thou livest it
at present, and hast lived it, thou must live it once more, and also innumerable times;
and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and every
sigh, and all the unspeakably small and great in thy life must come to thee again, and all
in the same series and sequence—and similarly this spider and this moonlight among the trees,
and similarly this moment, and I myself. The eternal sand-glass of existence will ever
be turned once more, and thou with it, thou speck of dust!”—Wouldst thou not throw thyself
down and gnash thy teeth, and curse the demon that so spake? This is the first utterance of the idea of
eternal return in Nietzsche’s writings. And he assumes that the reader will probably
find this idea horrific. Since we grew up into a world that has been
degraded by centuries of Christianity, a world that is seen as merely a passage to the afterworld,
life in this world is experienced as suffering, and the thought that we will have to live
it again and again to eternity is horrifying. Or hast thou once experienced a tremendous
moment in which thou wouldst answer him: “Thou art a God, and never did I hear aught more
divine!” But there is another option. There are moments, says Nietzsche, in which
you would welcome the thought of eternal return. What are these moments? This is the thing that every interpreter has
missed, because to understand this aphorism, you have to combine it with the story of Zarathustra. The tremendous moments that Nietzsche is talking
about are the moments of self-surpassing, the moment when you create a worldview that
transforms you into something greater. The joy of these moments is so great, the
story of Zarathustra shows us, that it supersedes any bad experience that you ever had. So if at those moments you will be given the
choice to experience the same life again, you will choose to do so, and say yes to everything
that was and everything that will be, including the suffering, because it is all worth it
to get to this point. You say yes to the ring of existence, and
this yes, after all, is what we defined as the essence of salvation. Salvation is possible, and not just for the
people of the future, but for every human at any time. When he understands this, Zarathustra overcomes
the crisis. In his idea of the Superman, Zarathustra made
the mistake of following tradition, and placing eternal paradise in the future, somewhere
out of our reach. But with this new idea, paradise becomes something
that you can experience during your present earthly life. And still, it is an eternal paradise, since
the eternal return means that you will experience it again and again, to eternity. So instead of the traditional idea, in which
you live a life of suffering and then rewarded with an afterlife of eternal happiness, Nietzsche
is offering us something else: you live a life in which you experience moments of eternal
paradise, which are a lot less boring than the traditional idea of paradise, since you
know that you will soon be banished from it. But when you fall back to earth, you know
that there are other paradises awaiting you, if you continue to live a life of creation
and self-surpassing. So the idea of the Superman is replaced by
the idea of eternal return. While the worldview constructed around the
Superman idea could not contain the idea of eternal return, the worldview constructed
around the eternal return incorporates the idea of the Superman. You basically still hold the Superman as the
ideal that you are striving for, and you keep surpassing yourself to achieve greater power. But you do it mainly to experience the moments
of self-surpassing, those moments of eternal paradise. After the ecstasy subsides and you are back
down to earth, you are still better than before, because you are more powerful. So you live a happier life, and you also start
working on a new self-surpassing, which will take you even higher. This is the ideal that Nietzsche creates at
the end of The Gay Science. And the aphorism continues… If that thought acquired power over thee,
as thou art, it would transform thee, and perhaps crush thee; the question with regard
to all and everything: “Dost thou want this once more, and also for innumerable times?”
would lie as the heaviest burden upon thy activity! Or, how wouldst thou have to become favourably
inclined to thyself and to life, so as to long for nothing more ardently than for this
last eternal sanctioning and sealing?— Once you internalize this idea, you will also
live a life which is dedicated not towards eternal happiness in the future, but towards
happiness in the present, since you realize that the present is eternal. And so you live a happy life, and then the
idea of eternal return becomes ever more enchanting. Nietzsche believed that this is the idea that
will defeat religion, and all the other ideologies which he despised. And so, in his later works, he set about to
create metaphysics based on the concepts of the Will to Power and the eternal return. I’ve described the essence of these metaphysics
in the previous video, and you can find a more detailed account in my book. With this idea, Nietzsche turns the focus
from striving for an ideal future, to living an ideal existence in the now. In that, he becomes one of the godfathers
of existentialism. Nowadays, after existentialism, we no longer
find eternity to be so important, so we don’t need such metaphysics. But if you are an atheist who feels that you
need metaphysics to counter religious metaphysics, metaphysics that offer eternal happiness,
Nietzsche’s philosophy provides you with this atheist alternative. This is the secret that Zarathustra is hesitant
to tell us, the source of his happiness. So now, let’s give the stage back to the eagle
and the serpent, and let them tell it to us in their way. They are not going to say it directly, but
now that our ears have been more finely tuned, we should be able to understand what they
are saying. —“Do not talk further,” answered his
animals once more; “rather, thou convalescent, prepare for thyself first a lyre, a new lyre! For behold, O Zarathustra! For thy new lays there are needed new lyres. Sing and bubble over, O Zarathustra, heal
thy soul with new lays: that thou mayest bear thy great fate, which hath not yet been any
one’s fate! For thine animals know it well, O Zarathustra,
who thou art and must become: behold, THOU ART THE TEACHER OF THE ETERNAL RETURN,—that
is now THY fate! That thou must be the first to teach this
teaching—how could this great fate not be thy greatest danger and infirmity! Behold, we know what thou teachest: that all
things eternally return, and ourselves with them, and that we have already existed times
without number, and all things with us. Thou teachest that there is a great year of
Becoming, a prodigy of a great year; it must, like a sand-glass, ever turn up anew, that
it may anew run down and run out:— —So that all those years are like one another
in the greatest and also in the smallest, so that we ourselves, in every great year,
are like ourselves in the greatest and also in the smallest. And if thou wouldst now die, O Zarathustra,
behold, we know also how thou wouldst then speak to thyself:—but thine animals beseech
thee not to die yet! Thou wouldst speak, and without trembling,
buoyant rather with bliss, for a great weight and worry would be taken from thee, thou patientest
one!— ‘Now do I die and disappear,’ wouldst
thou say, ‘and in a moment I am nothing. Souls are as mortal as bodies. But the plexus of causes returneth in which
I am intertwined,—it will again create me! I myself pertain to the causes of the eternal
return. I come again with this sun, with this earth,
with this eagle, with this serpent—NOT to a new life, or a better life, or a similar
life: —I come again eternally to this identical
and selfsame life, in its greatest and its smallest, to teach again the eternal return
of all things,— —To speak again the word of the great noontide
of earth and man, to announce again to man the Superman. I have spoken my word. I break down by my word: so willeth mine eternal
fate—as announcer do I succumb! The hour hath now come for the down-goer to
bless himself. Thus—ENDETH Zarathustra’s down-going.’”— In his Superman gospel, Zarathustra didn’t
think that the ultimate joy is possible for people of his time. The Superman can be achieved only in the distant
future, and the greatest thing that we can do is work towards it, finding joy in the
knowledge that we are succumbing to something greater than us. In this new gospel, the Eternal Return gospel,
we realize that this moment of succumbing, the moment when we self-surpass, is actually
the ultimate joy, the eternal paradise. Zarathustra feels like he can die happy at
this moment, but his animals ask him not to. After all, there could be more paradises in
the future. When the animals had spoken these words they
were silent and waited, so that Zarathustra might say something to them: but Zarathustra
did not hear that they were silent. On the contrary, he lay quietly with closed
eyes like a person sleeping, although he did not sleep; for he communed just then with
his soul. The serpent, however, and the eagle, when
they found him silent in such wise, respected the great stillness around him, and prudently
retired. While his animals are already talking about
the future, Zarathustra just wants to prolong the present, in which he basks in the Elysian
moment of self-surpassing. From here to the end of the book, he will
speak no more, but just listen to his soul singing its joy. It comes in waves of rapture, and culminates
in a song called ‘The Seven Seals’, made of seven verses that sum up his teachings, and
a chorus that celebrates his union with the ring of eternity, his saying ‘yes’ to the
marriage proposal of the eternal return. If ever I have spread out a tranquil heaven
above me, and have flown into mine own heaven with mine own pinions:
If I have swum playfully in profound luminous distances, and if my freedom’s avian wisdom
hath come to me:— —Thus however speaketh avian wisdom:—“Lo,
there is no above and no below! Throw thyself about,—outward, backward,
thou light one! Sing! speak no more! —Are not all words made for the heavy? Do not all words lie to the light ones? Sing! speak no more!”—
Oh, how could I not be ardent for Eternity, and for the marriage-ring of rings—the ring
of the return? Never yet have I found the woman by whom I
should like to have children, unless it be this woman whom I love: for I love thee, O
Eternity! FOR I LOVE THEE, O ETERNITY! Riding the waves of his happiness, Zarathustra
says yes to his existence, because everything bad he that experienced was worth it to get
to this moment. And with this yes, he redeems not just himself,
but the entire ring of existence, because it was all necessary to bring him to this
point. And this, being the savior and redeemer of
all existence, is Nietzsche’s end goal.

Reader Comments

  1. Senior Serpent, I think you only wish you understand Nietzsche… and I wish the same.

    [if there is anyone's brain I wish we froze, it is that of Nietzsche]

  2. you did it man! you fucking did it! Great job, great method and tactics when it comes to the strategy implemented on how to put forward this end game.

  3. Very interesting video.

    I'm not entirely convinced by Nietzsche's argument that all our urges are beneficial for the collective since they all evolved to help us carry on the species. That might have been true in an environment that's similar to the one we evolved in, but the world of today is quite different from the one where most our evolution happened. In nature the urge to eat more than you need is beneficial since we may not have enough food later, but today it is one of the the mot common sources of health problems in first world countries.

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  5. 57:22
    The impossibility to explain an event or thing by natural means makes such a thing/event supernatural.
    Not to be mistaken with paranormal things/events, for which there may be the possibility to explain them.
    If Nietzsche believes that it's impossible for us to explain the Superman, then his Superman is a god-like figure, because he's a being that is incomprehensible by natural means.
    This would render the Superman unattainable for natural beings, like humans.

  6. It is not a perfect solution to Eternal Recurrence but I like the VIctor Frankl quote: "Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!"

  7. 1:40:32
    If Eternal Return is true then you can't surpass yourself further, because it's an eternal circle. If you can change even a single aspect of a single life in the circle, then there is no return and no eternal circle at all. It'd be paradoxical, very similar to time travel.
    Eternal return is only possible if change is impossible. Otherwise time must be a straight line in which a person's life is forever over after death.

  8. Can you make a video on book recommandations on nietzsche philosophy that you have read? (not including nietzsche's books). And also יישר כח on the video :d

  9. Nice summary.

    I've read the german version some time ago and i think there are bits that are lost in translation especially when describing what a superhuman is supposed to be.
    The german version would translate more accurately into the above-human who can use his mind to see reality as it is, detached from his physical limitation and location without referring it to himself, thus having a pure perception.

    Apart from that I think what troubled him was the realization that his implementation of the circle of time and the connected predeterminism would inevitably lead into nihilism again if he did not manage to find a reason that justifies a desire to live. However this lead him into the same trap as many philosophers before him, trying to provide his mind with a reason or justification of this life where there is no need to.

    I cannot follow his leap into the concept of eternal repetition. But i can provide a different explanation that makes it unnecessary and seems closer to me.

    Mind and instinct work in conjunction and this is where instinct comes into play, because the sole realization that life does not follow reason would make ones existance miserable.

    Once you realize that only mind and instinct form completion together, his concept of the circle of time becomes unnecessary because at any point where the mind fails to find a reason for life, instinct will take over and is sufficient reason on its own.

    That's why i see his story as an (for me unsuccessful) attempt of reforming nihilism to not be an existential threat to life. But what he effectively has done is to switch from nihilism to predeterminism.

  10. Can you justify the holocaust and every such evil act and what more will the holocaust again and again forever? Cause it seems that that is what Nietzche is asking for. As I see it now the West would rather will itself out of existence rather than be a yea-sayer for such an evil history.

  11. Hey, so i thought the channel "Academy of Ideas" has a similar view of Nietzche to yours. By the way, is it fair to say that his philosophy is fundamentally hedonistic, with a mixture of natural science and a slight transhumanist bent?

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