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- Thus Spake Zarathustra - 70/76 -


In this discourse we get the best exposition in the whole book of Nietzsche's doctrine of the Will to Power. I go into this question thoroughly in the Note on Chapter LVII.

Nietzsche was not an iconoclast from choice. Those who hastily class him with the anarchists (or the Progressivists of the last century) fail to understand the high esteem in which he always held both law and discipline. In verse 41 of this most decisive discourse he truly explains his position when he says: "...he who hath to be a creator in good and evil--verily he hath first to be a destroyer, and break values in pieces." This teaching in regard to self-control is evidence enough of his reverence for law.

Chapter XXXV. The Sublime Ones.

These belong to a type which Nietzsche did not altogether dislike, but which he would fain have rendered more subtle and plastic. It is the type that takes life and itself too seriously, that never surmounts the camel- stage mentioned in the first discourse, and that is obdurately sublime and earnest. To be able to smile while speaking of lofty things and NOT TO BE OPPRESSED by them, is the secret of real greatness. He whose hand trembles when it lays hold of a beautiful thing, has the quality of reverence, without the artist's unembarrassed friendship with the beautiful. Hence the mistakes which have arisen in regard to confounding Nietzsche with his extreme opposites the anarchists and agitators. For what they dare to touch and break with the impudence and irreverence of the unappreciative, he seems likewise to touch and break,--but with other fingers--with the fingers of the loving and unembarrassed artist who is on good terms with the beautiful and who feels able to create it and to enhance it with his touch. The question of taste plays an important part in Nietzsche's philosophy, and verses 9, 10 of this discourse exactly state Nietzsche's ultimate views on the subject. In the "Spirit of Gravity", he actually cries:--"Neither a good nor a bad taste, but MY taste, of which I have no longer either shame or secrecy."

Chapter XXXVI. The Land of Culture.

This is a poetical epitome of some of the scathing criticism of scholars which appears in the first of the "Thoughts out of Season"--the polemical pamphlet (written in 1873) against David Strauss and his school. He reproaches his former colleagues with being sterile and shows them that their sterility is the result of their not believing in anything. "He who had to create, had always his presaging dreams and astral premonitions--and believed in believing!" (See Note on Chapter LXXVII.) In the last two verses he reveals the nature of his altruism. How far it differs from that of Christianity we have already read in the discourse "Neighbour-Love", but here he tells us definitely the nature of his love to mankind; he explains why he was compelled to assail the Christian values of pity and excessive love of the neighbour, not only because they are slave-values and therefore tend to promote degeneration (see Note B.), but because he could only love his children's land, the undiscovered land in a remote sea; because he would fain retrieve the errors of his fathers in his children.

Chapter XXXVII. Immaculate Perception.

An important feature of Nietzsche's interpretation of Life is disclosed in this discourse. As Buckle suggests in his "Influence of Women on the Progress of Knowledge", the scientific spirit of the investigator is both helped and supplemented by the latter's emotions and personality, and the divorce of all emotionalism and individual temperament from science is a fatal step towards sterility. Zarathustra abjures all those who would fain turn an IMPERSONAL eye upon nature and contemplate her phenomena with that pure objectivity to which the scientific idealists of to-day would so much like to attain. He accuses such idealists of hypocrisy and guile; he says they lack innocence in their desires and therefore slander all desiring.

Chapter XXXVIII. Scholars.

This is a record of Nietzsche's final breach with his former colleagues-- the scholars of Germany. Already after the publication of the "Birth of Tragedy", numbers of German philologists and professional philosophers had denounced him as one who had strayed too far from their flock, and his lectures at the University of Bale were deserted in consequence; but it was not until 1879, when he finally severed all connection with University work, that he may be said to have attained to the freedom and independence which stamp this discourse.

Chapter XXXIX. Poets.

People have sometimes said that Nietzsche had no sense of humour. I have no intention of defending him here against such foolish critics; I should only like to point out to the reader that we have him here at his best, poking fun at himself, and at his fellow-poets (see Note on Chapter LXIII., pars. 16, 17, 18, 19, 20).

Chapter XL. Great Events.

Here we seem to have a puzzle. Zarathustra himself, while relating his experience with the fire-dog to his disciples, fails to get them interested in his narrative, and we also may be only too ready to turn over these pages under the impression that they are little more than a mere phantasy or poetical flight. Zarathustra's interview with the fire-dog is, however, of great importance. In it we find Nietzsche face to face with the creature he most sincerely loathes--the spirit of revolution, and we obtain fresh hints concerning his hatred of the anarchist and rebel. "'Freedom' ye all roar most eagerly," he says to the fire-dog, "but I have unlearned the belief in 'Great Events' when there is much roaring and smoke about them. Not around the inventors of new noise, but around the inventors of new values, doth the world revolve; INAUDIBLY it revolveth."

Chapter XLI. The Soothsayer.

This refers, of course, to Schopenhauer. Nietzsche, as is well known, was at one time an ardent follower of Schopenhauer. He overcame Pessimism by discovering an object in existence; he saw the possibility of raising society to a higher level and preached the profoundest Optimism in consequence.

Chapter XLII. Redemption.

Zarathustra here addresses cripples. He tells them of other cripples--the GREAT MEN in this world who have one organ or faculty inordinately developed at the cost of their other faculties. This is doubtless a reference to a fact which is too often noticeable in the case of so many of the world's giants in art, science, or religion. In verse 19 we are told what Nietzsche called Redemption--that is to say, the ability to say of all that is past: "Thus would I have it." The in ability to say this, and the resentment which results therefrom, he regards as the source of all our feelings of revenge, and all our desires to punish--punishment meaning to him merely a euphemism for the word revenge, invented in order to still our consciences. He who can be proud of his enemies, who can be grateful to them for the obstacles they have put in his way; he who can regard his worst calamity as but the extra strain on the bow of his life, which is to send the arrow of his longing even further than he could have hoped;--this man knows no revenge, neither does he know despair, he truly has found redemption and can turn on the worst in his life and even in himself, and call it his best (see Notes on Chapter LVII.).

Chapter XLIII. Manly Prudence.

This discourse is very important. In "Beyond Good and Evil" we hear often enough that the select and superior man must wear a mask, and here we find this injunction explained. "And he who would not languish amongst men, must learn to drink out of all glasses: and he who would keep clean amongst men, must know how to wash himself even with dirty water." This, I venture to suggest, requires some explanation. At a time when individuality is supposed to be shown most tellingly by putting boots on one's hands and gloves on one's feet, it is somewhat refreshing to come across a true individualist who feels the chasm between himself and others so deeply, that he must perforce adapt himself to them outwardly, at least, in all respects, so that the inner difference should be overlooked. Nietzsche practically tells us here that it is not he who intentionally wears eccentric clothes or does eccentric things who is truly the individualist. The profound man, who is by nature differentiated from his fellows, feels this difference too keenly to call attention to it by any outward show. He is shamefast and bashful with those who surround him and wishes not to be discovered by them, just as one instinctively avoids all lavish display of comfort or wealth in the presence of a poor friend.

Chapter XLIV. The Stillest Hour.

This seems to me to give an account of the great struggle which must have taken place in Nietzsche's soul before he finally resolved to make known the more esoteric portions of his teaching. Our deepest feelings crave silence. There is a certain self-respect in the serious man which makes him hold his profoundest feelings sacred. Before they are uttered they are full of the modesty of a virgin, and often the oldest sage will blush like a girl when this virginity is violated by an indiscretion which forces him to reveal his deepest thoughts.

...

PART III.

This is perhaps the most important of all the four parts. If it contained only "The Vision and the Enigma" and "The Old and New Tables" I should still be of this opinion; for in the former of these discourses we meet with what Nietzsche regarded as the crowning doctrine of his philosophy and in "The Old and New Tables" we have a valuable epitome of practically all his leading principles.

Chapter XLVI. The Vision and the Enigma.

"The Vision and the Enigma" is perhaps an example of Nietzsche in his most obscure vein. We must know how persistently he inveighed against the oppressing and depressing influence of man's sense of guilt and consciousness of sin in order fully to grasp the significance of this discourse. Slowly but surely, he thought the values of Christianity and Judaic traditions had done their work in the minds of men. What were once but expedients devised for the discipline of a certain portion of humanity, had now passed into man's blood and had become instincts. This oppressive and paralysing sense of guilt and of sin is what Nietzsche refers to when he speaks of "the spirit of gravity." This creature half-dwarf, half-mole, whom he bears with him a certain distance on his climb and finally defies, and whom he calls his devil and arch-enemy, is nothing more than the heavy millstone "guilty conscience," together with the concept of sin which at present hangs round the neck of men. To rise above it--to soar--is the most difficult of all things to-day. Nietzsche is able to think cheerfully and optimistically of the possibility of life in this world recurring again and again, when he has once cast the dwarf from his shoulders, and he announces his doctrine of the Eternal Recurrence of all things great and small to his arch-enemy and in defiance of him.

That there is much to be said for Nietzsche's hypothesis of the Eternal Recurrence of all things great and small, nobody who has read the literature on the subject will doubt for an instant; but it remains a very daring conjecture notwithstanding and even in its ultimate effect, as a dogma, on the minds of men, I venture to doubt whether Nietzsche ever properly estimated its worth (see Note on Chapter LVII.).


Thus Spake Zarathustra - 70/76

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