The controversial fiction book of Existentialist Friedrich Nietzsche titled Thus Spoke Zarathustra was originally written in German in late Eighteenth Century. This fiction book, which was completed between 1883 and 1885, tells about the authors philosophy of the eternal recurrence of the same, his most contentious story on the death of God, and his introduction of the concept of the overman (Repeboom, 2001).
Thus Spake Zarathustra represents the philosophy of its own author, as well as his concept of ethics and morality which” according to him” must be taken into account by men. The books main character personifies Nietzsches moral ideals as against the morality of his time. In presenting his philosophy and his ideals of morality, Nietzsche satirically and apparently appropriated for himself a biblical style. By doing so, Nietzsche showed his strong opposition to Judea-Christian concept of God and morality.
Thus Spoke centers on the conjured journey of Zarathustra” from his ten years of seclusion in the wilderness up to his long travels in the low-land where he met with several kinds of personalities and where he declared that God is dead and preached his own concept of morality. The name Zarathustra actually came from a historical figure Zoroaster, the Persian diviner who founded Zoroastrianism.
However the rationale of Nietzsche in writing the book is to present a new form or notion of Zarathustra, whose literary purpose is to introduce a new concept of morality that is totally different from Judea-Christian ethics and morality. With this Nietzsche claimed that it was his fictitious character Zarathustra who is the first moralist (Nietzsche et al, 1989, p.327). Nietzsche went on by saying that it was Zarathustra who thought and spoke of the eternal struggle between good and evil.
One of the popular lines or quotations in the book is that famous aphorism God is dead, a concept which was popularized by Nietzsche. However, the most significant pillar of the story is the concept of overman, translated from the German word Ubermensch (Nietzsche, 2004, p.56). According to Nietzsche, the overman is mans symbol of self, as well as the concepts of self-overcoming, self-direction, self-cultivation, and self-mastery (Nietzsche et al, 1989).
In the story, Zarathustra was 30 years old when he practically abandoned his home and decided to live in the mountains ((Nietzsche, 2004, p.1). After ten years of living in the wilderness, Zarathustra decided to leave the mountains to preach his new found knowledge and gospel to the people in the lowland. On his way down he met different kinds of individuals like a saint, the backworldsmen, the pale criminal, the preachers of death, the priests, and the virtuous, among others.
The finale the books main characters preaching is the principle of eternal recurrence. This doctrine postulates the eternal repetition of all events. Based on the philosophical concept of Nietzsche, only the overman cal fully understand said doctrine, because it is only him who has the will power to assume conscientiousness and accountability for all aspects of his life and to desire nonentity more than for every moment to happen over and over again. Zarathustra has a problem confronting this concept of eternal recurrence, since he cannot accept the notion that the weakness of the masses will happen again ad infinitum without any progress or development.
At the last part of the novel, Zarathustra gathers in his cavern in the mountain several individuals who have not yet achieve the status of an overman. In his cave, Zarathustra and his men enjoy a banquet and express their joy by singing several songs. At the end of the book, Zarathustra finally embraced the doctrine of eternal recurrence, as well as the notion that joy is deeper still that grief can be (Nietzsche, 2004, p.310).
The Concept of Overman
One of the most controversial ideas introduced by Nietzsche is the concept of overman. According to Nietzsche, the status of an overman is what men should achieve. However, one cannot achieve this status without forsaking the values instilled upon him by the contemporary religious and ideological structures that continuously poison his way of thinking and his values. During Nietzsches time, the concept of morality was dominated and dictated by the Catholic Church. All societal norms, doctrinal beliefs, religious traditions, and mystical ideas were deeply associated and strongly connected with the religious teachings and dogmatic beliefs of the Catholic Church.
With this, Nietzsche presented his idea of an ideal man” the overman” through his fiction book titled Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Nietzsche, 1967). In this book, Zarathustra at the age of thirty spent 10 years living in the wilderness and enjoying his independence and seclusion. When Zarathustra decided to leave the mountain to preach and spread his new-found gospel or idea to the mob of people below, he met a number of different types of people like the priests, the pitiful, the magician, the virtuous, the tarantulas, the last man, to name a few (Nietzsche, 1967).
One of the classes of person he met is a saint who devoted all his life and works to God. Zarathustra was greatly surprised that the man was never informed that God is dead. There, Zarathustra asserts that man is something which ought to be overcome (Rosen & Gillespie, 2000). By overcoming man, an individual must create his own virtuous according to his own will or purpose in life. By doing so, he becomes a creator of values and not an absorber of the same. Zarathustra also declares and claims that man is tied between the beasts and the overman, and thus the humanity must seek for the coming of the overman by being true to the world and this life and by deserting the morals and ethical standards that poisoned mans mind and his values.
In presenting the overman as the creator of virtues, Nietzsche also rebuked all the established values and morals of his time. The concept of overman is something that is higher in standards and in terms of values than the men who subordinated their will and live to a structure that preaches for the departure of human soul from earth. Being a creator of values, must live according to his morals and based on what he thinks is right, and nor according to anybodys will or to societys moral standards.
In some of his works which were published on the Gay Science, Nietzsche identified at least two structures that set the values and moral standards that should not be imbibed by any man who aspires to be an over man (Allison, 2001). One of which is the religious structure or the Catholic Church that preaches predominant Christian values. Christian dogma and other religious beliefs advocate for the virtue of meekness and pity. Nietzsche through Zarathustra contends the absence of any virtue in being humble if a person is too feeble to be able of being otherwise. Thus, this means that meekness is never a desired virtue if man fails to live as an individual who creates values.
The doctrinal foundation of Christian faith is against the values by which the overman lives for. Nietzsche enumerated the three sins that can be committed against God. These sins are the following” sex, the desire for power, and selfishness. These things, based on the existentialist moral code of Nietzsche, should neither be condemned nor abandoned. This is because all these three, when chased with good intent and a clear conscience, are essential to mans existence, power and life. The overman needs all three for his pursuit of happiness. This is to say” based on Nietzsches Existentialist ideals that happiness, therefore, is the goal of every virtuous man.
On the other hand, state or government is so strong a superstructure in setting substandard morale codes and values. This is the reason of Nietzsche in presenting his concept of overman. Based on the philosophers personal works, the state is a potent menace to a free and happy life because it seeks to shape populace into a middling, unthinking multitude. Apart from this, the state also advocates for the propagation of the egalitarian principle of democracy that glorifies the meekness of the weak and impedes the growth of the strong-willed and the creative.
However, it must be carefully noted that Nietzsches argument in his fiction novel that God is dead should not be taken literally. One of the central concepts of the book is the pronouncement made by Zarathustra in one of his many sermons that God is dead. This statement should be taken in its figurative sociological meaning or essence than as a spiritual, mystical account. In the book, god represents a metaphysical structure that continues to poison the minds of men. This doctrinal poison is what preventing from attaining the status of an overman.
By saying that God is dead, what Zarathustra means to say is that the arrival of the overman signals the end of the obsolete and old-fashioned moral code of the Christian faith that had become the binding force of all social, political and spiritual lives of people in the medieval ages (Nishitani, Parkes & Aihara, 1990). It means that the Christian concept of good and evil had already lost its grip on our culture and norms. According to Nietzsche, the societys and religious concept of the eternal struggle between good and evil was philosophically flawed and defective.
This is because the Christian faith and other religious doctrines consider many things that are good to man evil, like sex, power, and selfishness. Religious institutions, particularly the Chatholic Church, which was the dominant religious denomination during Nietzsches time, considered mans pursuit of happiness as evil. Everything that gratifies man is considered evil, while everything that highlights mans weaknesses and sacrifice is deemed good and virtuous” the meek and the poor in spirit are virtuous. On the other hand, those who seek to follow their will to power, and those who desire selfishness and power are considered evil-doers. They are societys troublemakers who need to repent for their sins in order to be saved by a higher being or a supernatural power.
Thus, Nietzsches purpose in presenting Zarathustra as the preacher of new yet controversial values, which must be achieved by man alone, and in introducing his concept of overman who must create his own values are the main foundation of his philosophy Existentialism. Existentialism is the philosophy that postulates that individuals themselves generate the significance and quintessence of their lives (Kaufman, 1989). It means that man must live according to his will. This is what Nietzsche actually posited in his book titled The Will to Power (Nietzsche et al., 1968).
By Nietzsches definition, Zarathustra is indeed overman” someone who creates values and who emphasizes the importance of self. The hero in his fiction book embodies what men should do or go through to attain the status or essential level of an overman. For about ten years, Zarathustra abandoned all his material possessions and went to live alone in the wilderness, away from the mob and safe from the values of the Christian faith and the indoctrination of the state.
Zarathustra did not suffer simply because he does not believe in suffering. His goal is the pursuit of happiness. An overman is someone who rebukes the sacrifice of an individual, and who cherishes personal gratification like sex, selfishness and desire for power. This is because these three elements of personal pleasure are considered evil by society and by the moral codes of the dominant religious institution. By presenting Zarathustra as a paradigm of an overman, Nietzsche means that man must live independently according to his will and not to the values and moral codes of the Church and the state (Emmanuel, 2001). To be an overman, man must create his own values according to his image and not to the image of the society where he lives.
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