My name is James Chester. I am a philosopher, and I use this website to publish my writing, primarily about my experience with Thus Spoke Zarathustra, which I have studied for forty-five years. My experience with this book has been different than all other experiences in that (1) it has lasted an entire lifetime, (2) it is based on reading the book as a dithyrambic drama, not a story, and (3) I have actually lived through it, not just read it, which is why it took so long. Lived through it? Yes, Thus Spoke Zarathustra is a dithyrambic drama, an entirely new art form, which requires acting out. Without enactment, it is not possible to delve deeper into the book. The dithyrambic drama also requires initiation. And without initiation, it is not possible to begin the enactment. Read more below.
Summary of Content
In 1883, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote a book called Thus Spoke Zarathustra, which turned out to be his magnum opus. But it was very difficult to understand, and, for more than a hundred years, nobody could figure out what it meant.
When I was a teenager, I found a passion for philosophy that led me to interests that most people did not find interesting, like theory of becoming and theory of being. This stuff lit a curiosity in me that sometimes seemed insatiable. And I knew that I would never find someone with whom I could share this interest. I knew I would be alone in this all my life.
Just a few years later, however, I discovered Nietzsche’s writing, and my passion became driven by love. Nietzsche became the one and only person with whom I could share my joy in philosophy. I was barely more than a teenager, with all the time in the world ahead of me, and I vowed that one day I would understand everything that Nietzsche ever taught. Were it not for that love, I might never have had the patience I needed to get through his extremely complicated books or the faith that there were indeed good ideas to be found in them.
Regarding Thus Spoke Zarathustra, early on, I realized that it was written entirely in metaphor, which had to be rendered, and was not meant to be read literally, which was the problem that no one recognized, thus preventing them from understanding. Then I discovered that the process of rendering these metaphors required an intense and protracted introspection that literally transported me within myself to a particular inner imbroglio of passion and conscience. Once I had finally entered into the imbroglio represented in the writing, rendering more metaphors in the same section of the book showed me a new way of thinking, which, in turn, led me out of the imbroglio and into some redemptive enlightenment where I became free of the conflict. And there were many, many imbroglios with their many respective new ways of thinking that had to be learned and practiced, which led to many, many new revelations and many new places within myself where I was free of conflict.
In most cases, however, these inner conflicts of passion and conscience were to be found in the subconscious, which meant raising long forgotten emotions that had subsided into oblivion. Though you may not know it, there are many emotions that lie deeply hidden within the subconscious. They often stir up trouble within you, but you are powerless against them because they are not a part of your consciousness, only your sub-conscience. Many of the passages in Thus Spoke Zarathustra teach the various new ways of thinking that empower you to raise the sub-conscience and integrate it into your consciousness. Of course, raising them also brings forward a deeper and more comprehensive sense of Self. And once subliminal emotions are raised into the light, then it is possible to wrestle with them and free yourself from their grip once and for all.
The manner of representing these imbroglios in metaphor is a new art form called the New Dithyramb. And the manner of rendering them and then acting through the inner imbroglios to a successful resolution is a new form of drama called dithyrambic drama.
I was the first to discover all of this, and I was the first to undertake it. I started when I was twenty, and I am now sixty-five years old and only just arriving at the consummate, triumphant ending. So yes, it took me an entire lifetime.
What I discovered on my journey was that I had been the victim of a crime when I was a small boy. Now, you might ask, how is that relevant to the study of Thus Spoke Zarathustra? Because Thus Spoke Zarathustra is written specifically for someone who was the victim of a crime. And, though I am not going to elaborate on that as a major thesis, I am going to prove later that it is an accurate statement and that Nietzsche intended it that way. Of course, Thus Spoke Zarathustra is also written for anyone who seeks out their Self, but it is especially poignant for someone who suffered the horror of crime. The genesis of a solemn serenity out of savage horror is a major theme in Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
And, since the effect of crime is a dimension of the subject matter of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I intend to write about what happened to me as it applies to Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
It happened in 1963 while I was attending a day camp at a clubhouse run by the Boys and Girls Club of Boston. One afternoon, two extremely sadistic camp counselors who had been testing the limits of their governance finally went hog wild on a group of about a dozen boys and proceeded to rape, mutilate, and torture them. I was one of those boys.
Obviously, I suffered unbearably and for a very, very long time as a result of the horrific indecencies that were deliberately inflicted upon me and the other boys that day. And letting go of that without obtaining some measure of justice would prove to be very difficult. When the senior board members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston launched a campaign to destroy me, lasting many years, it became impossible. And when they undertook to prevent me from advancing my work as Nietzsche’s one and only pupil, heir to everything he set out to achieve with the birth of a new culture, a new way of thinking, it became epic.
So there you have it in a nutshell. That is the gist of what you’ll find on this website. There is much to learn here about the meaning and value of suffering in life, something which I might say has never been more clearly enunciated. And there is much to learn here about a huge and venerable American charity setting out to literally destroy (both professionally and personally) one of its most accomplished alumnus, simply for telling the truth.
Kudos to Judith Malone and Jeffrey Jones of Palmer and Dodge and Peter L. Ebb of Ropes and Gray, who took a bad situation and managed it with absolutely devastating results. And special mention to William W. Bain Jr., who took his highly honed skills for ruthlessly destroying his competitors and applied them to of all things — an American philosopher. Good luck with that legacy, Bill.