It is no wonder that Thus Spoke Zarathustra was Nietzsche’s favorite of his creations, it is also one of my all time favourites. There’s so much we can learn today from this book.
It presents the journey of Persian prophet Zarathustra, who was in solitude in the mountains for a decade and has grown weary of his wisdom, beginning his down-going to humanity to teach them what he has learned. Mainly, three concepts: the Übermensch or Overman, the Will to Power and the Eternal Recurrence.
Man is something to be overcome. Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Overman – a rope over an abyss…, What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal: what is lovable in man is that he is an over-going and a down-going.
Thus, men are not equal. For in that case, the concept of the Overman would not be possible.
This concept of self-overcoming is present throughout the whole book. The Overman has never existed, and perhaps, will never exist (for even the greatest of man is all too human). However, we should all strive to it. Life must be difficult, only thus can man grow to the height where the lightning can strike and shatter him: high enough for the lightning!”
The antithesis of the Overman is the Last Man. A mediocre animal without dignity and comfortably surrounded by the herd, who despises everything the Overman has to say.
On the other hand, the will to power is becoming who you truly are, it is pure self-expression and self-overcoming, without being enslaved by things. In essence, it is the main drive force in humans.
And last of all, the Eternal Recurrence is the concept of loving earth, finding a new set of values in this life, not just accepting the good, but also that there is evil – they are entwined. And that the best afterlife we can experience is none other than another repetition of the same life we just experienced.
This ties in with his famous proclamation of the Death of God. After talking to a saint in the forest and parting ways, Zarathustra said to himself:
“Could it be possible? This old saint has not yet heard in his forest the God is dead!“
This event marks the historical event where God who played a central role in most people’s lives for many centuries, has now become one of many facets of some people’s lives. There are still believers and churches, but God no longer defines the role of our world, it is for this reason that God is dead.
Thus, people who believed in God no longer possess any value structure and many struggle to find meaning in life and are susceptible or at risk of falling into nihilism, the belief that life has no purpose. These three concepts: the overman, the will to power and the eternal recurrence are substitutes for this value structure, to avoid falling into the deadly trap of nihilism.
Another important aspect of the book is the Three Stages Of Life for self-overcoming: the camel, the lion and the child. Which are also explicit throughout the book.
To Nietzsche, most of us are going to die camels. Most people bear the burdens of others. A camel carries heavy stuff and it doesn’t complain it keeps on ahead. You’ve been getting weight after weight tied to your back, with people telling you all the stuff that you should do. To be free, we must say no to tradition.
Once you have unburdened yourself, you undergo a new transformation, you become the lion. For Nietzsche, the main struggle here is the existing lord, a dragon called “thou shalt”, which is the great barrier to true freedom. It sparkles with golden scales and on each scale is written a “thou shalt”, representing thousands of years of tradition. To conquer the dragon, one must build self-mastery and muster the courage to mutter the sacred No, asserting one’s independence outside external influences.
The final stage is the child. The child is innocence and forgetfulness, a new beginning, a game, a self-propelling wheel, a first motion, a sacred Yes.
He believed that the truly free spirit will resemble a child at play, who discovers the world for the first time, who is curious and filled with wonder. The child is not weighed down by rules and values, the child discovers for himself the meaning in things. Having uttered the “sacred No” to reject everything that came before, the child shouts the “sacred Yes” that affirms life.
These are the main concepts of the book. However, there is still much to learn – it is a book which has so much wisdom and life advise that it should be regarded as a life book, which ought to be revised ever so often. It talks about virtue, how to live life, solitude, marriage, how the simplest of things brings the highest of happiness, how to love everyone even thy enemy, how to be a creator of values, to dance and to sing, how to live dangerously, to rise high and use your own legs, to become a life-affirming individual and much more!
Truly, it is not just a book of philosophy, but rather a pragmatic book whose concepts one can use in their everyday life.