The Three Metamorphoses – Nietzsche

In Nietzsche’s book Thus Spoke Zarathustra, he presents three stages in life for self-overcoming: the camel, the lion, and the child.

1. The Camel

The spirit first becomes a camel, but not everybody can become a camel. There are many heavy things for the spirit, things that weigh upon us (our vanity, the satisfaction of our appetite, being the centre of attention). A camel requires us to be greater than ourselves, and that requires some sacrifice – the strength longs for the heavy.

“What is heavy? thus asks the weight-bearing spirit, thus it kneels down like the camel and wants to be well laden. What is the heaviest thing, you heroes? […] Is it not this: to debase yourself in order to injure your pride? To let your folly shine out in order to mock your wisdom?”

(Nietzsche, First Part, The Three Metamorphoses)

Nietzsche suggests that when we feel proud of ourselves, we are to take on even more weight to show that we are not that great after all. In other words, to humble ourselves.

The weight bearing spirit takes on these heaviest things like a camel hurrying laden into the desert. Here is where we undergo a new transformation, we become the lion.

2. The Lion

Now that those burdens are gone, the lion wants to take on freedom, but it is confronted by the mightiest of dragons, on every scale of which is a rule, every “Thou shalt” compiled since the beginning of time – the lion must fight back and oppose the dragon, saying I Will – uttering the “sacred No”. However, the lion lives in rebellion – it has yet to undergo a final and last transformation – becoming the child.

3. The Child

Nietzsche states that:

“The child is innocence and forgetfulness, a new beginning, a game, a self-propelling wheel, a first motion, a sacred Yes.”

(Nietzsche, First Part, The Three Metamorphoses)

Having uttered the “sacred No” to reject everything that came before, the child shouts the “sacred Yes” that affirms life. The loss of shame, compassion and child-like spirit will be the step that leads to freedom, by doing that it wins its own world, with no burdens or no’s, he can create his own values, and not to be left with superfluous pleasures that hinder a full enjoyment of the existence.

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Greatest Philosophers In History | Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche’s main concepts on living life revolve around self-overcoming, amor fati, perspectivism, human nobility, the will to power, the eternal recurrence, and the overman.

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