Introduction and Abstracts of the First Exegesis of Zarathustra’s Prologue in Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Zarathustra’s Prologue, which is the first dithyramb in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, is very difficult to render. It took me nineteen years. During those two decades, I read the Prologue over and over, and then I started again. It may not take you that long, so you should not be dissuaded, but you will be required to read it repeatedly, over a long period of time, before your own rendition comes to you. When it does, when you finally achieve your own rendition, you will find that the revelations reap extraordinary rewards. Having said that, understand that what follows here is my rendition, which will not have the compelling effect upon you that it had upon me. You will experience no transport whatsoever by reading my rendition; that will come from your own rendition. My purpose in presenting this exegesis is not to tell you what the Prologue means but only to show you that it is rich in meaning and that its wealth must be mined.
First, I will present abstracts of both the representation and the rendition, then a full rendition, which will also include a philosophical proof. In the end, it will be readily apparent to you that a rendition of the Prologue initiates the actor into the drama by transporting him within himself to that particular circumstance of hope and desire out of which the will to power begins its ascent.
Abstract of the Metaphors
- Zarathustra goes into solitude high atop a mountain, and then he grows weary of the wisdom deriving from his solitude. That weariness compels him out of his solitude, whereupon he descends the mountain and returns to a town from which he came, at the base of the mountain, where he finds people with whom to share his wisdom and ease his wariness.
- During his descent, he enters a forest on the outskirts of the same town at the base of the mountain to which he seeks return. In the forest, he comes upon a hermit who exiled himself from the town and now worships God in his solitude within the forest. The hermit warns Zarathustra that being amongst men in the town will destroy him. But Zarathustra explains that he seeks men because he loves humanity, a clarification that the hermit does not understand. Zarathustra then passes by the hermit, surprised that the hermit has not yet heard that the God he worships is dead and without telling him about the death.
- Zarathustra enters the town at the base of the mountain and addresses himself to the people in that town who have assembled in the marketplace to watch a tight-rope walker. In his address, he speaks of the Superman as something toward which humanity must strive as a justification for its existence. The people mistakenly presume that Zarathustra is talking about the tight-rope walker, as does the tight-rope walker himself, who then begins his work.
- Zarathustra tries again to exhort the people in the marketplace to an aspiration for the Superman by speaking to them instead about the Ultimate Man, a lowly archetype into which humanity is in danger of devolving. But the people express a great desire for the Ultimate Man and reject Zarathustra’s appeal for the Superman. Zarathustra then ends his address to the people in the marketplace.
- The tight-rope walker begins his traverse. Halfway across, a buffoon appears and trips him up, whereupon the tight-rope walker falls to the ground, has a brief exchange with Zarathustra, and then dies.
- Zarathustra then takes the dead tight-rope walker as his companion and begins a brief journey to a place where Zarathustra intends to bury the dead man.
- On his way, at the edge of town, Zarathustra comes upon some gravediggers, who deride him for making company with the dead tight-rope walker. Zarathustra passes them by and then enters the woods outside of town, where he comes upon a house. He asks an old man who lives in the house for some food and the old man gives it to him. Then Zarathustra walks into the night, finds a hollow tree, and buries the dead tightrope walker within it.
- The next morning, Zarathustra awakens to an epiphany. He will no longer address himself to the people or to dead men. Instead, he will address himself only to those who aspire to the Superman, or at least seek to create or harvest something new.
- During his epiphany, an eagle and a serpent appear to Zarathustra. He converses with the two animals and then embraces them for their ability to lead him out of the wilderness into which he has journeyed.
Abstract of the Rendition: God is dead. Let there be life!
- Through a consummate engenderment of the will to power, at the end of the drama, the actor will ascend to a state of supra-individuated human being. Eventually, the massive accumulation of power within the actor’s spirit, which is what supra-individuation constitutes, will engender a need for chaos and compel the actor to devolve again into the same state of sub-individuated being out of which he arose, and that is what will happen. However, the actor will experience the devolution (or disintegration) through an entirely different perspective than what the actor experienced during his ascent, insofar as the devolution is needed and therefore willed. Thus, man delights in the process of becoming, the exercise of will that plays out in both the ascension and the disintegration, far more deeply than in the states of being, the gradations of Self.
- Within sub-individuated man, there is a duality of being: conceptual being, which is founded upon the postulation of being from the phenomenon of thought (see Descartes, “I think, therefore I am“) and mythical being, which is founded upon the postulation of being from the phenomenon of sensation (see Nietzsche, “I feel, therefore I live“). Conceptual being lacks life because it is entirely cerebral and devoid of the motion that inheres in sensation. In contrast, mythical being, which subsumes the sensate realm, is animated by emotion and therefore presents an object for contemplation that is also lively, alive. While both conceptual being and mythical being are illusions, and while both are interpretive, conceptual being presents a false countenance that bespeaks a higher, better and already existent state of being into which one may enter as if through a gateway — via one great leap — and whose contemplation commands a pious and protracted effort toward entry. In contrast, mythical being presents no countenance at all, so that all effort is directed away from beguiling image and into the will, the struggle between passion and conscience, during which an intuitive apprehension of triumphant being presents itself to the senses as a redemptive reflection of that strife, not as an object of contemplative worship.
- Life does not begin with an appeal to the passions as a whole but rather to a particular passion.
- A belief in conceptual being and a hope for its attainment is wayward, and all efforts toward its achievement lack a meaningful continuity.
- Life begins with a hope for reclamation and a desire for Self.
- Life does not proceed upon reasons for its undertaking but rather upon its passions. Knowledge of Self exalts the beholder and raises him out of the chaos of thought and passion that characterizes sub-individuation. That ascension generates a desire for “the heights,” and that desire leads to further Self-discovery, which, in turn, augments the same desire. Thus, life does not proceed upon reasons for its undertaking but rather upon a desire for “the heights.” In other words, life begins with a feeling, not a thought. Life has its genesis within the sensate realm, not the ideational realm.
The first sentence of the drama, “when Zarathustra was thirty, he left his home and the lake of his home and went into the mountains,” indicates that everything which is about to happen has already happened. In other words, the ascension from sub-individuation unto supra-individuation has already been undertaken and achieved. Thus, what follows here, from the beginning of the drama to its end, is from a supra-individuated perspective. There are several ways to interpret this fact. It clearly means that the dithyrambist is writing from experience, having already learned everything he is now attempting to teach. But it also means something much more important.
I have stated in my previous writing that life is a process of becoming and that the process is an ascension from sub-individuated human being unto supra-individuated being. But there is another process that is a part of becoming as well, and that is the process by which supra-individuated human being deteriorates again into sub-individuated being, but the deterioration is willful — and necessary. And just as Thus Spoke Zarathustra teaches the values by which life proceeds from sub-individuation unto supra-individuation, it also teaches the reverse process of deterioration, which means that it offers two experiences. It offers an experience for sub-individuated man, which he will understand as life, and it offers an experience for supra-individuated man, which he will understand as death, but not death as sub-individuated man understand it. Thus, at the outset, Zarathustra says “I must go down — as men to whom I want to descend, call it,” but he means something very different from what we understand of it.
It is incorrect to think that life moves toward the creation of some form of being and that all instincts within that being then work to maintain its existence under all circumstances. This is not the case, despite what you may be accustomed to thinking. In fact, the two processes of growth and deterioration are intractably entwined and forever inseparable. Thus, all becoming is like a wheel, in which growth is followed by disintegration and then growth again, ad infinitum.
But why or how, after achieving supra-individuated human being, would the will to power, which is the fundamental force of human nature that drives the process of becoming in man, compel the actor to willfully descend again into sub-individuated being? I don’t know because I have yet to achieve supra-individuation, and the pathos by which this deterioration is compelled and represented in the first part of Zarathustra’s Prologue is indigenous to supra-individuated being. But there are clues with which to garner some understanding of this pathos.
First, let us agree that the perspective through which the drama is presented is indeed supra-individuated. Toward that agreement, consider the following.
The first sentence, “when Zarathustra was thirty, he left his home and the lake of his home and went into the mountains,” is metaphorical, as is every other sentence in the book. The word “Zarathustra” is a metaphor for both the will to power and the perspective on the inner world that is afforded by the will to power. The whole of Thus Spoke Zarathustra is a drama premised on the supposition that the inner world of sub-individuated man is a maelstrom of drives, instincts, urges and impulses, each of which struggles to dominate the others and each of which has its own perspective on the world, through which values come into play. In the Will To Power, Nietzsche says as much:
It is our needs that interpret the world; our drives and their For and Against. Every drive is a kind of lust to rule; each one has its perspective that it would like to compel all the other drives to accept as a norm.
Another supposition upon which dithyrambic drama is premised is the supposition that it is possible to cultivate a confluence within this maelstrom, a singular will comprising all of the drives, instincts, and urges and moving the individual as its object toward a supreme and meaningful goal, an idea of the world through which all of it becomes comprehensible, while at the same time making those drives which created that idea meaningful. This is the premise upon which Nietzsche created the dithyramb, and he says so himself in Wagner in Bayreuth.
I wonder at the fact that it is possible to calculate the grand course of a total passion out of a multiplicity of individual passions each heading in a different direction.
At the very beginning we sense that we have before us individual conflicting [passions, goals, and values] but at the same time a [will] with a powerful directionality which is master of them all.
To reproduce a great vaulting arch of a passion, [I] really did discover a new means: [I] removed individual portions of its flightpath and illuminated these with the greatest distinctness, so that from them the [dithyrambic actor] would divine the entire curve.
Thus, in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, we have a plausibly embodiable representation of the will to power in metaphor. Specifically, what is represented is the grand course of its development, from beginning to end, through its perspective, through the perspective of the will to power, except that there really is no end to its development. In the course of undertaking the drama, many drives will grow stronger within the actor, but the will to power will become the strongest, to an extraordinary degree, and its growth will manifest itself in many ways, the most pronounced of which will occur as a vision or apprehension of being. But that vision is merely an illusion, though it be redemptive and though it seem profoundly real. That vision is a function of the will to power, something that the will needs to complete itself. Despite appearances, though, there is no being; there is only becoming, only the will. And so, when the will consummates itself, in a vision of being, it will then seek its deterioration, because the will desires life much more deeply than being desires it, and the will finds life in deterioration just as much as it finds it in growth. Becoming is like a wheel, in which growth is followed by death and then again by life, and that is why the first dithyramb depicts the destruction of supra-individuated being. Having said that, understand also that this willful disintegration that I have just described will come to the actor who has already undertaken the drama and achieved supra-individuation through a very different perspective, from a perspective afforded through an abundance of strength, from above, not from below. Thus, citing again what Zarathustra says in the first dithyramb, “I must go down — as men to whom I want to descend, call it.”
It is difficult to speak of passions that are indigenous to supra-individuated human being without having experienced that form of being. And that is what I am trying to do when I try to explain the need that compels the actor to willfully descend from supra-individuation once again into sub-individuation. Suffice it to say, then, that the drama offers two experiences, one an ascension and another a descent, and that each experience has its own perspective through which two entirely different meanings will be interpreted. In any case, let us agree, as I stated at the outset, that the perspective through which the drama is presented is indeed supra-individuated.
Now, then, let us get on with the rendition, beginning with the very first aphorism in the drama.
When Zarathustra was thirty years old, he left his home and the lake of his home and went into the mountains. Here he had the enjoyment of his spirit and his solitude and he did not weary of it for ten years. But at last his heart turned — and one morning he rose with the dawn, stepped before the sun, and spoke to it thus . . . .
“Home” is a metaphor for that corner of the inner world into which sub-individuated man retreats to find solace and comfort. “Lake” is a metaphor for the metaphysical or ideational reflection of that solace, though it be a miserable ease. And the word “mountains” is a metaphor for the inner heights, an ascension out of the chaos of thought and passion that characterizes sub-individuation. It is Self-discovery and the apprehension or embodiment of the grades of Self that elevate the actor out of that chaos. To my reading, this aphorism, the first in the drama, indicates that supra-individuation has already been achieved. Other aphorisms also indicate this fact. In the second part of Zarathustra’s Prologue, after descending from atop the mountain, Zarathustra comes upon a hermit who says to him the following.
‘This wanderer is no stranger to me: he passed by here many years ago. He was called Zarathustra; but he has changed.
‘Then you carried your ashes to the mountains: will you today carry your fire into the valleys? Do you not fear an incendiary’s punishment?
‘Yes, I recognize Zarathustra. His eyes are clear, and no disgust lurks about his mouth. Does he not go along like a dancer?
‘How changed Zarathustra is! Zarathustra has become — a child, an awakened-one: what do you want now with the sleepers?
Notice the last sentence in the above quote, “how changed Zarathustra is! Zarathustra has become — a child, an awakened-one.” I have already explained the metaphors camel, lion, and child in my summary on the dithyramb entitled Of the Three Metamorphoses. The child is a metaphor for supra-individuated being. The hermit is a metaphor also, but before I explain its meaning, suffice it to say that insofar as Zarathustra has become like a child, he has already undertaken an ascent from sub-individuation to supra-individuation.
Next, continuing with the first part of Zarathustra’s Prologue, Zarathustra, or supra-individuated human being states
“Behold! I am weary of my wisdom, like a bee that has gathered too much honey; I need hands outstretched to take it. . . . Behold! This cup wants to be empty again, and Zarathustra wants to be man again.”
Previously, in The Origin of Supra-Individuated Human Being in the Bad Conscience, I wrote that I had found two clear indications in the drama regarding the nature of supra-individuated human being in two aphorisms: “You look up when you desire to be exalted, and I look down because I am exalted,” and [Do you divine] “my heart’s twofold will? That my glance plunges into the heights and that my hand wants to hold on to the depths and lean there – that, that is my abyss and my danger.” As I explained in that essay, these aphorisms represent pathoi that are indigenous to supra-individuated being, which makes them difficult to understand and impossible to feel because supra-individuation exists high above the principium individuationis upon which human being is constituted. The pathos represented in the first part of Zarathustra’s Prologue, “Behold! I am weary of my wisdom . . . This cup wants to be empty again,” indicates another such pathos that is not only indigenous to supra-individuation but arises from deep within an advanced stage of that form of being. To my reading, it indicates a super-abundance that necessitates a discharge and that discharge is achieved through a willful deterioration into sub-individuation. It is for this reason that I say there will come a time, after the actor has achieved supra-individuation, when, being satiated, he will seek to descend again into sub-individuation, into the darkness, into chaos. In doing so, his second experience of the drama will be quite different than his first. But all of this is a long way off, what is important now is for the actor to learn where life begins, and that is what the remaining parts of Zarathustra’s Prologue teach.
Throughout the drama, there are references to many types of men: priests, poets, philosophers, the higher men, the compassionate, the sublime men, the preachers of death, and so on. Each reference to a type of man is a reference to a particular subliminal purpose, passion or belief, as Nietzsche himself hinted in On the Use and Abuse of History For Life, when speaking about the veil of consciousness as a horizon beyond which lies the subconscious realm:
the horizon is closed and whole, and nothing can serve as a reminder that beyond this horizon there remain men, [by which he means] passions, doctrines and purposes.
Keep in mind that the dithyrambic drama is a plausibly embodiable representation of the will to power and that, according to Nietzsche himself, each dithyramb represents one of the many individual and sometimes conflicting passions that must either be cultivated or hoed, leading to a confluence that constitutes the will to power. Thus, every representation that references a type of man is, in fact, an embodiable representation of some pathos or ethos. By creating metaphors to represent these passions and beliefs as “men,” the dithyrambist has created the false countenance of a story, in order to detract the dawdling reader, who may be incapable of the pathoi represented in those metaphors and might, therefore, misconstrue them if he were allowed. Moreover, the metaphorical representation compels the reader to render them, which, in turn, causes him to undertake a protracted exercise in introspection during which he is meant to focus on and then isolate the various pathoi and ethoi, subliminal or not, that are represented in the various metaphors. That is the work of rendition and acting: interpolation of the metaphors, introspection, focus, and isolation. Only then, after rendition has been completed, may the actor then either grow or hoe the various drives and thereby create within himself a meaningful confluence of passion and belief, the whole of which constitutes the will to power. Thus, when the dithyrambist speaks of types of men — and women too, he means particular pathoi and ethoi, each of which require an extreme focus leading to some manner of cultivation, be it positive or negative.
Continuing then with the second part of Zarathustra’s Prologue, the hermit is a metaphor for the obsequious contemplation of conceived being as an object of worship. The hermit is the tendency in man to believe that Self exists in and of itself at a higher grade of reality, quite apart from his emotions, and that it is accessible through thought alone, not as an intuitable apprehension that is reached through emotion. Thus, the hermit says, ” ‘Now I love God: mankind I do not love. Man is too imperfect a thing for me. Love of mankind would destroy me.’ “
Nietzsche uses the metaphor God to represent this conceived being that seduces its beholder into a protracted and ritualistic exercise in pure contemplation, and the metaphor mankind represents the entire chaos of thought and emotion resulting from sub-individuation. Thus, the hermit is an attempt to escape that chaos through contemplation of the conceivable Self, which one believes can be accessed through thought alone, in contrast to the mythical Self, which is derived through attribution of the sensations to an inferred being as cause of that sensation and which reveals itself in a gradually unfolding apprehension, not a concept.
Of this drive toward the worship of conceptual being, as represented by the hermit and God, Zarathustra advises that the conceptual Self you so mightily desire and strive to attain is dead in the sense that it lacks life, insofar as it is entirely cerebral and lacking emotion, and he passes by the hermit. Thus, the actor is meant to understand that he should not attempt to see the error of his pious adulation nor should he attempt to end his indulgence in it; he should merely pass it by. In other words, if life is will to power, as it is, and if the will to power is a confluence of passions and drives that moves man toward some goal, supra-individuated being, this drive toward the conceptual Self is not a part of that confluence. You will never succeed in eradicating or correcting this wayward belief in conceptual being, but you will find a way to pass it by, to let it go, to stop pursuing it. What is needed is a devaluation of conceptual being. Understanding that it lacks life, that it is an entirely cerebral state of being which exists in thought only, assists that devaluation, and it is in this sense that the dithyrambist says that God, which is a metaphor for conceived being, is dead. He means it lacks emotion, movement, liveliness.
Exhortations to the People
When Zarathustra arrived at the nearest of the towns lying against the forest, he found in that very place many people assembled in the market square: for it had been announced that a tight-rope walker would be appearing. And Zarathustra spoke thus to the people . . . .
Supra-individuated human being is characterized by an extremely close proximity with Self, which yields a communion through feeling instead of thought. Thought is merely the Ego interpreting into consciousness — or rationalizing — an emotion. In contrast, where there is a predominance of Self, there is less thought so that the emotions present themselves with an immediate apprehension, bypassing thoughtful consciousness. Thus, in the dithyramb entitled The Night Song, when the actor’s soul begins to speak to him beyond consciousness, Zarathustra says “It is night [beyond the luminescence of consciousness]: now do all leaping fountains speak louder. And my soul too is a fountain. ” He’s talking about unbridled emotion, emotion that is free to spring forth in the absence of consciousness, beyond consciousness. And, in another dithyramb, entitled Before Sunrise, Zarathustra says “The world is deep: and deeper than day [or consciousness] has ever comprehended. Not everything may be spoken in the presence of day.” I take this aphorism to mean that there are some immediately intuitive insights (not rationalized thoughts) which present themselves only beyond consciousness.
Thus, when Zarathustra descends from atop the mountain at the beginning of the drama (which is to say that the actor descends from supra-individuation into sub-individuation), the first “man” (or predominant driving force within sub-individuation) he encounters is the great abyssal thinker, the hermit, through which all the world is presented in thought and concept, in contrast to an immediately apprehensible and intuitable world.
Then, descending further, away from his close communion with Self and then further still, beyond the compound tendency both to cultivate thought through which conceptual being becomes an object of contemplative worship and to separate thought from the passions (the hermit, who says: “I love God [or conceptual being]. Mankind [or the passions] I do not love. Love of mankind [the passions] would destroy me.“), he comes upon a town called the Pied Cow, and, in that town he enters a market square where he finds an assembly of people who have come to watch a tightrope walker. This, too, is all metaphor.
The “town,” which lies at the base of the “mountain” that Zarathustra is descending from, is a metaphor for sub-individuated human being. Let me explain the sense in which sub-individuation is like a town.
I have explained repeatedly that sub-individuation is an unintelligible chaos of thought and passion. When the actor seeks out his Self amidst that chaos and succeeds, he beholds an apprehension of being, an image of being, amidst that chaos, and that image poses a stark contrast. On the one hand, there are thoughts and passions which direct him hither and thither, and then there are thoughts and passions in which he beholds his Self and direct him toward a further apprehension of Self, the whole of which constitutes a meaningful will, which is characterized on the one hand by passion and on the other by image. By heeding those thoughts and passions in which he beholds his Self, the image of his being becomes more and more apparent and animated as well. The effect is to raise him out of the chaos in which he began the culling process. Thus, in contrast to the heights of supra-individuation (the mountains), there is the chaos of sub-individuation (the town, where there are many people or passions, none of which are recognizable).
Notice also that the town is called the Pied Cow. The appellation is very significant. Its meaning is revealed in the first two paragraphs of Use and Abuse of History For Life, which I now cite in its entirety.
Consider the herd grazing before you. These animals do not know what today and yesterday are but leap about, eat, rest, digest and leap again; and so from morning to night and from day to day, only briefly concerned with their pleasure and displeasure, enthralled by the moment and for that reason neither melancholy nor bored. It is hard for a man to see this, for he is proud of being human and not an animal and yet regards its happiness with envy because he wants nothing other than to live like the animal, neither bored nor in pain, yet wants it in vain because he does not want it like the animal. Man may well ask the animal: why do you not speak to me of your happiness but only look at me? The animal does want to answer and say: because I always immediately forgot what I wanted to say — but then it already forgot this answer and remained silent: so that man could only wonder.
But he also wondered about himself, that he cannot learn to forget but always remains attached to the past: however far and fast he runs, the chain runs with him. It is astonishing: the moment, here in a wink, gone in a wink, nothing before and nothing after, returns nevertheless as a specter to disturb the calm of a later moment. Again and again a page loosens in the scroll of time, drops out, and flutters away — and suddenly flutters back again into man’s lap. Then man says “I remember” and envies the animal which immediately forgets and sees each moment really die, sink back into deep night extinguished forever.
“Then man says ‘I remember’ and envies the animal which immediately forgets and sees each moment really die, sink back into deep night extinguished forever.”
In contrast to the aborning will of the actor, which strives to bring the deepest and most quiet subliminal emotions to the fore [see the first aphorism of the dithyramb entitled Of the Sublime Men: “Still is the bottom of my sea: who could guess that it hides sportive monsters!“] into consciousness, within sub-individuated man, there is a strong proclivity to let everything go, so that what comes to the fore immediately sinks back down into oblivion. This proclivity is due to sub-individuated man’s predominant desire to maintain a comfortable ease, whose command dictates the following: “The least happiness, if only it keeps one happy without interruption, is incomparably more than the greatest happiness which comes to one as a mere episode?” This is what sub-individuated man wants more than anything else, a lasting and comfortable ease, such as one might imagine is possessed by the grazing cow who lives only in the moment and knows nothing of the past or the future. But it is a miserable ease, which comes at a great expense. Not only is your pain enfeebled by this proclivity, but so too are your hopes and passions, and this becomes a serious problem when you need to act on a problem and can’t find the motivation, either through belief or passion, with which to cause that action. By seeking a comfortable ease, sub-individuated man has emasculated his passions and reduced them to a level playing field [see the dithyramb entitled Of War and Warriors: “I see many soldiers: if only I could see many warriors! What they wear is called uniform: may what they conceal with it not be uniform too!“]. In a sense, they have become like a herd of pied cows: look closely and you will see that they are each different, with differently-colored patches, but, from a distance, they all look the same. It is for this reason that the town, which is a metaphor for sub-individuation, is called The Pied Cow, where the word “pied” means multi-colored.
Dithyrambic drama requires that you learn to look closely at everything within you and that you learn to grow or hoe what you find, according to one criteria, advancement of the will to power, as it is taught in the drama. When you learn this process of looking, culling, and cultivating, and then begin the ascent out of chaos, the analogy of sub-individuated being to a herd of cows will be more easily apparent to you.
And finally, notice also that when Zarathustra enters the town called the Pied Cow, he comes upon an assembly of people who have gathered in a marketplace to watch a tightrope walker traverse a great height along a very tenuous path. Once again, this is all metaphor.
The ability to act upon oneself, toward an inner goal or away from a bad inner circumstance, is the most important of all abilities, and it is lost upon sub-individuated man because it is imparted solely by mythical being, which is absent in him. Consequently, when sub-individuated man seeks to act, he seeks out within himself some motivating passion or inspiring belief on which to mount himself and ride to action. In such a way, he assembles or musters all the great passions and beliefs he has within him so as to evaluate each of them for their capacity to impart action to him. This is the sense in which Nietzsche uses the metaphor “assembly” and “market square” in the Prologue.
The next important metaphor for the actor to render is that of the tightrope walker, and, in fact, this is the most important of all the metaphors in the Prologue. But, before we move to that rendition, let’s take a close look at the third part of the Prologue, where Zarathustra addresses the assembly of people in the market square. As we do, keep in mind what I proffered as the meaning of the metaphors “assembly” and “market square.” It is here, in the third part of the Prologue, that Zarathustra makes his first address regarding the superman as the goal in life, as its meaning, and he makes that first address — or exhortation — to an assembly of all the motivating passions and inspiring beliefs. That is very significant. He is addressing all of them, not specific or particular ones. And what does he say?
In truth, man is a polluted river. One must be a sea, to receive a polluted river and not be defiled.
Behold, I teach you the Superman: he is this sea, in him your great contempt can go under. What is the greatest thing you can experience? It is the hour of the great contempt. The hour in which even your happiness grows loathsome to you, and your reason and your virtue also.
It is not your sin, but your moderation that cries to heaven, your very meanness in sinning cries to heaven!
Where is the lightning to lick you with its tongue? Where is the madness, with which you should be cleansed?
Behold, I teach you the Superman: he is this lightning, he is this madness!
In other words, Zarathustra says to sub-individuated man, your passions and abilities are inadequate because they are bounded by the extreme constraints imposed upon them by the Ego, the limits of sub-individuated being. He also says that if you attain to supra-individuated being, you will behold unbounded passions and extraordinary abilities. In response to this address, the “people” respond ” ‘Now we have heard enough of the tight-rope walker; let us see him too!” When the actor begins to contemplate as a supreme goal that which is called superman, he will think that it is that which he, as sub-individuated man, seeks more than anything else in life. And what is that? It is conceptual being, the same thing sought by the “hermit,” the general tendency in sub-individuated man toward abysmal thought and specifically toward a cerebral embodiment of conceptual being, which the dithyrambist has represented in metaphor as “God.”
Next, in the fourth part of the Prologue, Zarathustra, or the will to power, articulates some of the values by which life proceeds. For instance, “I love the great despisers, for they are the great venerators and arrows of longing for the other bank.” Despise what? Despise anything that is in the nature of sub-individuated man, such as the extreme limits within which it is bounded and the inability to act. And, in another instance, “I love those who do not first seek beyond the stars for reasons to go down and to be sacrifices: but who sacrifice themselves to the earth, that the earth may one day belong to the Superman. ” As I have said before, life does not proceed upon reasons for its undertaking. As the Ego begins to collapse, one should not look for reasons to hasten its collapse, nor should one look for reasons to initiate its collapse. Rather, one should learn to ride the will through which the collapse occurs or becomes necessary. Insofar as life is a process of becoming, of growth, it requires movement, and passion provides movement much more so than ideation, which is more reflective or contemplative than animated. And finally, in a third instance, Zarathustra says “I love him who lives for knowledge and who wants knowledge that one day the Superman may live. And thus he wills his own downfall.” The will to power values a desire for Self-discovery because that discovery leads to an apprehension of Self, which, in turn, leads to the collapse of the Ego. All of the aphorisms presented in the fourth part of the Prologue summarize the many dithyrambs which follow in the drama and which teach the values by which the will to power grows. But, in the beginning, when the actor knows nothing of life or that to which it grows, none of these values will seem comprehensible and he will not be moved by them.
When Zarathustra had spoken these words he looked again at the people and fell silent. There they stand (he said to his heart), there they laugh: they do not understand me, I am not the mouth for these ears.
And then, in the fifth part of the Prologue, Zarathustra speaks to the actor of the danger posed by the strong proclivity to maintain a comfortable ease within sub-individuated man.
It is time for man to fix his goal. It is time for man to plant the seed of his highest hope.
His soil is still rich enough for it. But this soil will one day be poor and weak; no longer will a high tree be able to grow from it.
Alas! The time is coming when man will no more shoot the arrow of his longing out over mankind, and the string of his bow will have forgotten how to twang!
I tell you: one must have chaos in one, to give birth to a dancing star. I tell you: you still have chaos in you.
Alas! The time is coming when man will give birth to no more stars. Alas! The time of the most contemptible man is coming, the man who can no longer despise himself.
Behold! I shall show you the Ultimate Man.
The “Ultimate Man” is a metaphor for the strong proclivity to maintain a comfortable ease within sub-individuated man. Remember what Nietzsche wrote in Use and Abuse of History For Life about the herd of grazing cows to which he compared sub-individuated man’s tendency to let go of every passion so that in comes in one moment and leaves in the next, leaving no effect on its beholder?
It is astonishing: the moment, here in a wink, gone in a wink, nothing before and nothing after, returns nevertheless as a specter to disturb the calm of a later moment. Again and again a page loosens in the scroll of time, drops out, and flutters away — and suddenly flutters back again into man’s lap. Then man says “I remember” and envies the animal which immediately forgets and sees each moment really die, sink back into deep night extinguished forever.
Continuing now with the Prologue, the aphorism immediately following those cited above reads:
What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?’ thus asks the Ultimate Man and blinks [or winks].
Who still wants to rule? Who obey? Both are too much of a burden.
No herdsman and one herd. Everyone wants the same thing, everyone is the same: whoever thinks otherwise goes voluntarily into the madhouse.
The tendency to maintain a comfortable ease within oneself precludes the engenderment of a ruling or dominant passion, which is what the will to power requires.
In response to this address by Zarathustra to the assembly of all the motivating passions and inspiring beliefs within the actor, the desire for a comfortable ease will become stronger and any exhortation toward attainment of supra-individuated being will be lost, not heeded.
It is at this point that the dithyrambist ends Zarathustra’s first discourse, which is marked by the end of all exhortations to an attainment of supra-individuated being. Everything else that happens in the Prologue appears as action instead of speech.
Devaluation of Conceptual Being
Following the end of all exhortations by Zarathustra upon “the people,” the actor is presented with a highly detailed and extremely complicated metaphor. Before an assembly of people in the market square, a tightrope walker appears and begins a dangerous traverse across a great height along a tenuous path. During his passage, a buffoon appears suddenly and trips him up, whereupon the tightrope walker falls to his death. Zarathustra then carries the dead tightrope walker into the woods where he buries him within a hollow tree, to prevent the wolves from getting at him, and then Zarathustra experiences an epiphany, which is marked by the appearance of “his animals,” the eagle and the serpent. Before I get to the epiphany, the metaphor comprising the tightrope walker must first be rendered.
Insofar as all the dithyrambs teach a value that imparts an essential step in the life process, I am disinclined to signify one dithyramb or another as the most important of all the dithyrambs. But, if I were forced to assign more significance to one dithyramb, I would assign here, to this particular part of the Prologue, to a rendition of the tightrope walker. And the reason I would make that assignment is because a rendition of the metaphor comprising the tightrope walker leads to a complete devaluation of conceptual being and the effort by which the actor attains to it, thereby liberating the will from an exercise in futility and redirecting it toward a more meaningful goal. It is that redirection that initiates the actor into drama insofar as the will whose development is taught through all of the dithyrambs begins its ascent only upon that devaluation. Hereafter, the metaphor “God is dead” will appear in many of the dithyrambs. That metaphor bespeaks a full devaluation of conceptual being, and it is due to the liberating effect of that devaluation upon the will that Zarathustra celebrates the death of God and rejoices in the metaphorical demise. In fact, all references to “God” are references to conceptual being. Here are some examples.
‘All gods are dead: now we want the Superman to live’ – let this be our last will one day at the great noontide!
In knowing and understanding, too, I feel only my will’s delight in begetting and becoming; and if there be innocence in my knowledge it is because will to begetting is in it. This will lured me away from God and gods; for what would there be to create if gods – existed!
To believe in conceptual being is to believe that there exists a state of being high above oneself into which one may pass as if through a gateway and upon some singular thought, belief or passion. [See Wagner in Bayreuth: “The myth is not founded on a thought, as the children of an artificial culture believe, it is itself a mode of thinking; it communicates an idea of the world, but as a succession of events, actions and sufferings.“] All of this is represented by Nietzsche in the metaphor of the tightrope walker and by Goethe in the following.
And shall not I, by mighty desire In living shape, that precious form acquire?
And how does this effort proceed? Sub-individuated man summons together all of his mighty passions and thoughts into an assembly and then evaluates each one for its ability to drive him toward and through this gateway as if between two towers. And, when he finds his ride, he begins his hurried traverse, extremely focused on his goal as if with horse blinders to prevent any peripheral vision, but the most insignificant distraction, like a buffoon, trips him up, and then he falls from his ascension, unable to hold on with either reason or might, like a vortex of legs and arms. And the reason he falls thusly, with no footholds, all the way back to the same endless assembly and evaluation of passion and thought, is because his effort lacks meaning, lacks continuity. The growth he attempts to undertake is extreme, not gradual or incremental. Realizing that his effort lacks meaning leads to a complete devaluation of the effort, so that the actor ends the effort. With this epiphany, the actor now realizes (1) that conceptual being is a mirage, a beguiling image that seduces his will into an obsequious contemplation and (2) that all effort toward a cerebral embodiment of this beguiling image is doomed to failure because it lacks meaning or continuity effects a full devaluation of conceptual being. As I have said, this devaluation liberates the will from an exercise in futility and initiates its meaningful ascent, which ultimately leads to mythopoeia, the creation of new and mythical being. To believe in conceptual being is to believe that human being is pre-existent or already existent, which completely precludes mythopoeia. And it is for this reason that Zarathustra, as a metaphor for the will to power, celebrates the “death of God” and rejoices in “his demise.”
I am Zarathustra, the Godless, who says ‘Who is more godless than I, that I may rejoice in his teaching?’
How in the world, you may wonder, do I see all of that in the representation presented by the tightrope walker? The answer is that after reading it repeatedly over a period of several years, while at the same time struggling to attain to conceptual being upon some one or another singular thought or drive, one day I suddenly saw the analogy. And that is what rendition of the dithyramb requires: rumination and introspection.
As regards my Zarathustra, I think no one should claim to know it who has not been, by turns, deeply wounded and deeply delighted by what it says. Only such readers will have gained the right to participate in the halcyon element from which it sprang, with all its sunniness, sweep, and assurance. Also, the aphoristic form may present a stumbling block, the difficulty being that this form is no longer taken “hard” enough. An aphorism that has been honestly struck cannot be deciphered simply by reading it off; this is only the beginning of the work of interpretation proper, which requires a whole science of hermeneutics. In the third essay of this book I give an example of what I mean by true interpretation: an aphorism stands at the head of that essay, and the body of the essay forms the commentary. One skill is needed – lost today, unfortunately – for the practice of reading as an art: the skill to ruminate, which cows posses but modern man lacks. This is why my writings will, for some time yet, remain difficult to digest.
The other question I put to you is “how do I know that my rendition is accurate?” Because it works! It’s effect, as I have said, is to completely devalue both the existence of conceptual being and the struggle by which its embodiment is attempted, which, in turn, liberates the will. But, if there any doubts of its accuracy, I would direct the reader’s attention to a passage in Twilight of the Idols, which is entitled History Of An Error.
HISTORY OF AN ERROR1. The real world, attainable to the wise, the pious, the virtuous man — he dwells in it, he is it.
(Oldest form of the idea, relatively sensible, simple, convincing. Transcription of the proposition ‘I, Plato, am the truth.’)
2. The real world, unattainable for the moment, but promised to the wise, the pious, the virtuous man (‘to the sinner who repents’).
(Progress of the idea: it grows more refined, more enticing, more incomprehensible — it becomes a woman, it becomes Christian . . . ) ,
3. The real world, unattainable, undemonstrable, cannot be promised, but even when merely thought of a consolation, a duty, an imperative.
(Fundamentally the same old sun, but shining through mist and skepticism; the idea grown sublime, pale, northerly, Konigsbergian.)
4. The real world – unattainable Unattained, at any rate. And if unattained also unknown. Consequently also no consolation, no redemption, no duty: how could we have a duty towards something unknown?
(The gray of dawn. First yawnings of reason. Cockcrow of positivism.)
5. The ‘real world’ — an idea no longer of any use, not even a duty any longer — an idea grown useless, superfluous, consequently a refuted idea: let us abolish it!
(Broad daylight; breakfast; return of cheerfulness and bon sens; Plato blushes for shame; all free spirits run riot.)
6. We have abolished the real world: what world is left, the apparent world perhaps . . . But no! with the real world we have also abolished the apparent world!
(Mid-day; moment of the shortest shadow; end of the longest error; zenith of mankind; INCIPIT ZARATHUSTRA.)
The last two words in this passage should not go unnoticed, nor is it any coincidence that the passage ends with “Incipit Zarathustra.” I take it to mean two things: (1) that the Prologue does indeed teach a devaluation of conceptual being, which initiates the actor into the drama, and (2) that this particular re-evaluation is the most important thing for Occidental thought to accomplish, because we have been wrong to have incorporated it into our thought for the last few thousand years. Indeed, the error has been catastrophic. It is singularly responsible for man’s failure to render his suffering valuable and meaningful. And who was responsible for this error? Parmenides! And all the Socratics (especially Plato), who then adopted it and developed it. In Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, Nietzsche refutes it, and he does it in the same dialectic (rather than in a intuitive and practical) mode of inquiry in which Parmenides proffered it as his doctrine of being, my understanding of which I now summarize entirely but concisely.
It is perhaps a phenomenon unique to philosophy that just a few individuals, whose lives are separated by hundreds or, in this case, thousands of years, will undertake a common inquiry and expend their entire lives on a contribution to that inquiry. This was the case with the Great Converse, whose participants were Thales, Anaximander, Heracleitus, Parmenides, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, and Democritus, and who, according to Nietzsche, undertook a common effort to answer one question, “Is the world driven by a process of Becoming or does it derive from a singular state of Being?” Thales initiated the inquiry with a proclamation that came to him, according to Nietzsche, as a mystical intuition rather than an inferential concept. “All is water,” Thales said, by which he meant that the world derives from one thing. From this came many questions. “Is the one thing a state of Being”, as Parmenides argued, or “is the one thing a process of Becoming, a process by which Being grows or deteriorates into another Being, as Heracleitus argued?” Practically speaking, the two questions being asked are “Does Self, by which I mean human being, exist eternally and in an unchanging state?” and “or is human being, by which I mean an idea and sense of Self, an illusory construction of time and space that does not exist at all, leaving only the process of growth as the one thing. That first question is tantamount to the original ancient question, “Is the one thing a state of Being?” If the one thing is Being, which means the Self is eternal and unchanging, then any degradation of Self, as we see in suffering man where Self devolves into Ego, is merely apparent, not real, insofar as the original Self has not changed at all. According to this dogma, through suffering, man falls from the state of being constituted by Self, and all the lesser gradations of being, including the Ego, which appear along the way of this devolution, are also mere appearance. Moreover, as Parmenides argues (and, later, Plato will argue the same thing), the key to life would lie in avoiding this semblance and finding one’s Self within the mind, focusing on it, and attaining to it via thought and contemplation, and especially pure contemplation. [See the dithyramb, Of Immaculate Perception.]
In Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, Nietzsche followed this great converse with the arguments proffered by Anaximander and Anaxagoras as well, recitations of which would deflect from our examination of the Prologue. However, Nietzsche’s refutation of Parmenides’ doctrine of being bears enormous significance for Western thinkers because they adopted and developed it, and so I will recite that doctrine fully, as Nietzsche understood it. Originally, like Heracleitus, Parmenides also ascribed to a theory of becoming, which he himself developed. Summarizing Nietzsche, and sometimes verbatim, he says that Parmenides categorizes all the opposites into two realms, existent and non-existent, according to whether they are respectively positive or negative, and thereby creates a duality. Becoming is driven by the attraction between opposites. Desire unifies contradictory elements and effects growth. And when the desire is satiated, inherent contradiction drives the same opposites apart and causes deterioration. In such a way, Becoming requires both good and bad elements. Thus, while there is a duality in Parmenides theory of Becoming, there is also a unity. However, Parmenides than faulted his theory of Becoming. By creating a dichotomy within the qualities, both positive and negative, and then, taking the dichotomy to the extreme, creating two realms, existent and non-existent, such as we might see in a comparison of hot and cold (a quality characterized by the absence of heat), he tripped himself up. Again, according to Nietzsche, that which is is, and that which is not is not. Therefore, there are no negative, non-existent qualities, and there is no duality. There is only Being and no Becoming.
Being is indivisible because it is the only thing that exists. Nothing else exists that could divide it. Therefore, Being exists in the absence of space because space would be a second existent. And the presence of two existents requires a third which would separate them, and so on. But there is only one existent and that is Being.
Being exists in the absence of motion because it is the only thing that exists. Nothing exists to which it could move, nor does any thing exist that could cause it to move.
Therefore, all that exists is also an eternal unity. Anything which declares otherwise is an illusion and those illusions are created by your senses. The senses cause you to mistakenly believe that Becoming possesses Being.
Parmenides’ doctrine of Being was created out of a need to find peace — and especially certainty — in Being, and it is characterized by schematics and abstraction.
Parmenides’ argued the existence of peaceful and certain Being because he was able to think it. Thus, his conclusion postulating its existence “rests on an assumption that we have an organ of knowledge which reaches into the essence of things and is independent of experience .”
The point regarding the identity of thought and Being is crucial here. According to Nietzsche, Parmenides is saying that there exists within us a state of Being from which we have descended, that life is a process of struggle by which one attempts an ascension unto that being, and that the attempt proceeds upon a process of thought and contemplation. Suffering man worships this concept of a higher being, his higher Self, in the same way that the pious worships his god, and he attains to an ascension unto it via thought and contemplation. But it does not exist.
How could Parmenides have erred so gravely? Because he employed dialectic as his mode of inquiry, though there were other reasons as well. For Nietzsche, dialectic is sophomoric and inadequate, and intuition is far more superior. Consider what he says about Heracleitus, who employed intuition for his inquiry and whom Nietzsche admired perhaps more than any other philosopher.
Heraclitus’ regal possession is his extraordinary power to think intuitively. Toward the other type of thinking, the type that is accomplished in concepts and logical combinations, in other words toward reason, he shows himself cool, insensitive, in fact hostile. . . . Intuitive thinking embraces two things: one, the present many-colored and changing world that crowds in upon us in all our experiences, and two, the conditions which alone make any experience of this world possible: time and space. For [time and space] may be perceived intuitively, even without a definite content, independent of all experience, purely in themselves. . . . [Heraclitus] repeatedly said of [time] that every moment in it exists only insofar as it has just consumed the preceding one, its father, and is then immediately consumed likewise. And that past and future are as perishable as any dream, but that the present is but the dimensionless and durationless borderline between the two. And that space is just like time, and that everything which coexists in space and time has but a relative existence, that each thing exists through and for an equally relative one. — This is the truth of the greatest immediate self-evidence for everyone, and one which for this very reason is extremely difficult to reach by way of concept or reason.
In the next passage, Nietzsche uses the example of a flying arrow to show even further the absurdity of Parmenides’ identity of thought and being, which I now cite in its entirety.
At each moment of its flight it occupies a position. In this position it is at rest. But can we say that the sum of infinitely many positions of rest is identical with motion? Can we say that rest, infinitely repeated, equals motion, which is its contrary? The infinite is here utilized as the catalyst of reality: in its presence reality dissolves. If the concepts are firm, eternal, and existent (remembering that being and thinking coincide for Parmenides), if in other words the infinite can never be complete, if rest can never become motion, then the arrow has really never flown at all. It never left its initial position of rest; no moment of time has passed. Or, to express it differently: in this so-called, but merely alleged reality, there is really neither time nor space nor motion. Finally, even the arrow itself is an illusion, for it has its origin in the many, in the sense-produced phantasmagoria of the non-one. Let us assume that the arrow has true being. Then it would be immobile, timeless, uncreated, rigid and eternal — which is impossible to conceive. Let us assume that motion is truly real. Then there would be no rest, hence no position for the arrow, hence no space — which is impossible to conceive. Let us assume that time is real. Then it could not be infinitely indivisible. The time the arrow needs would have to consist of a limited number of moments: each of these moments would have to be an atomon — which is impossible to conceive. All our conceptions lead to contradictions as soon as their empirically given content, drawn from our perceivable world, is taken as an eternal verity. If absolute motion exists, then space does not; if absolute space exists, then motion does not; if absolute being exists, then the many does not. Wouldn’t one think that confronted with such logic a man would attain the insight that such concepts do not touch the heart of things, do not undo the tangle of reality? Parmenides and Zeno, on the contrary, hold fast to the truth and universal validity of the concepts and discard the perceivable world as the antithesis to all true and universally valid concepts, as the objectification of illogic and contradiction. The starting point of all their proof is the wholly unprovable, improbable assumption that with our capacity to form concepts we possess the decisive and highest criterion as to being and non-being, i.e., as to objective reality and its antithesis. Instead of being corrected and tested against reality (considering that they are in fact derived from it) the concepts, on the contrary, are supposed to measure and direct reality and, in case reality contradicts logic, to condemn the former. In order to impose upon the concepts this capacity for judging reality, Parmenides had to ascribe to them the being which was for him the only true being. Thinking and that single uncreated perfect globe of existentiality were not to be comprehended as two different types of being, since of course there could be no dichotomy in being. Thus an incredibly bold notion became necessary, the notion of the identity of thinking and being. . . . [The fact that this notion of the identity between thought and being denies sensation any place in the world] guarantees better than anything else that this was a [notion] not derived from the senses.
Finally, using one argument based on the mobility of reason and another based on the origin of semblance, Nietzsche refutes Parmenides’ doctrine of Being, specifically his identity of thought and being and his contemptuous and absolute separation of ideation and sensation.
If the conceptual thought produced by reason is real then the Many and Motion must be a part of reality because reasoned thought is mobile, insofar as it moves from concept to concept and within a plurality of realities.
If the senses produce only fraud and semblance, and if truth proceeds only from the identity of Being and thought, then the senses are themselves a part of semblance because they do not coincide with thought and because the sensations they produce do not coincide with semblance.
But to whom or on what do the senses dissemble? Being unreal, how can they deceive? That which does not exist cannot even practice deceit. Therefore, the origin of illusion and semblance are an enigma and that enigma constitutes a contradiction. [Here is where Nietzsche snagged Parmenides.]
From the mobility of reason follows the reality of motion and from the enigma regarding the origin of semblance follows the impossibility of Parmenidean semblance.
In summa, the enigma posed by the origin of semblance — as it arises within Parmenides’ argument itself— refutes Parmenides’ argument, twenty-five hundred years later. And Parmenides’ argument is further refuted by the mobility of reason.
I have risked losing your attention with this proof of my rendition, which only the philosophers will grasp. It is not for the philosophers that I write my renditions. I write my renditions for the satyr, to give him hope and direction. But no one should proffer a rendition that does not include a proof, in my opinion.
On this point, I end the philosophical proof of my exegesis of the Prologue and now move to finish with a rendition of the remaining metaphors.
In the next dithyramb, following the demise of the tightrope walker, Zarathustra takes the corpse upon his shoulders and carries him into the woods, past the buffoon who tripped up the tightrope walker and past the town’s gravediggers, who refuse to bury the corpse, though Zarathustra does not ask for their help. Zarathustra also comes upon an old man in the woods, another hermit, who offers Zarathustra food and sends him on his way.
I see little significance in these metaphors, either because they lack much significance and were put into the drama in order to bolster its false appearance as a story or because they hold significance only from a supra-individuated perspective, for an actor who has already undertaken the drama. Having said that, I will say this much more. The buffoon is any manner of distractive thought, often a trivial or minor distraction that nonetheless exerts a powerful influence upon the will to power. In the brief exchange between Zarathustra and the buffoon following the tightrope walker’s demise, the buffoon warns Zarathustra that the people do not like him, especially the good and just people. The “good and just people” are metaphors for inner forces within sub-individuated man that work to esteem and maintain the comfortable ease I spoke about earlier. The will to power, which works to upset that ease, is deemed by those forces as bad and is “hated.” It is important to remember that all the drives have their own perspective on the world (hatred, hunger, love, sexuality), and each of those perspectives deem values. It is the struggle of the will to power against those estimations and the power they influence which affords the dithyrambist so much opportunity for metaphor as we will see later in the other dithyrambs, some of which are Of Poets, Of the Priests, and Of Scholars. All of these are metaphors for inner forces that are at work within sub-individuated man in opposition to the engenderment of the will to power.
Continuing with the rendition, following the exchange with the buffoon, Zarathustra then has an exchange with the gravediggers. The “gravediggers” is a metaphor for those forces within us by which we relegate things into the subconscious. The fact that Zarathustra passes them by without offering them the corpse of the tightrope walker may mean that the actor must be careful not to sublimate his worship and aspirations to conceptual being where it would be able to continue its exertion upon his will. Rather, he must put an end to it, once and for all. The devaluation of conceptual being must be final. And that is what Zarathustra does in the end. He finds a hollow tree, knowledge which no longer lives, and buries the corpse within that hollow tree, to protect it from the wolves. This, too, has meaning. The actor must be careful not to engage in self-condemnation after having seen the folly of his error, to protect himself against the wolves within him. Rather, he must simply put the old disesteemed value to rest.
And finally, Zarathustra also has an exchange with a hermit he finds in the woods. The hermit gives him food. Eating food, which we will encounter in other dithyrambs as well, is always a metaphor for feeling emotion. With so much ideation occurring throughout the course of the drama, it is important to maintain some proximity with sensation while under the light of those ideational manifestations. Moreover, the hermit is always a metaphor for abysmal thought, thought which becomes intractably mired in dilemma. The fact that Zarathustra does not leave the corpse with the hermit may be a warning to the actor that he should be careful not to let his devaluation of conceptual being lead him into some exercise in deep thought. Rather, again, he should just let it go. Do not hand it over to the hermit within you. Do not second-guess the validity of the devaluation.
We are now approaching the end of the Prologue, with only two dithyrambs left. In the first of the remaining two dithyrambs, Zarathustra awakes the morning after he buried the corpse of the tightrope walker and he has an epiphany. Then [Zarathustra] arose quickly, like a seafarer who suddenly sees land, and rejoiced: for he beheld a new truth.
In other words, the will to power moves toward a vision of being. Though the vision is an illusion, it is an illusion without which life is not possible. The vision of being is what makes life, the whole process of willful growth, worthwhile. But the only vision that was apparent to the actor is now dead, with the devaluation of conceptual being. Toward what then does the actor now direct his willful aspiration? For the actor, this moment in the drama is truly epiphanous. And then the answer comes to him, and it is in this sense that Zarathustra “sees land.”
A light has dawned for me: I need companions, living ones, not dead companions and corpses which I carry with me wherever I wish.
But I need living companions who follow me because they want to follow themselves -and who want to go where I want to go.
A light has dawned for me: Zarathustra shall not speak to the people but to companions! Zarathustra shall not be herdsman and dog to the herd!
To lure many away from the herd -that is why I have come. The people and the herd shall be angry with me: the herdsmen shall call Zarathustra a robber.
I will not be herdsmen or gravedigger. I will not speak again to the people: I have spoken to a dead man for the last time.
I will make company with creators, with harvesters, with rejoicers: I will show them the rainbow and the stairway to the Superman.
The epiphany that comes to the actor at the end of the Prologue tells him that the genesis of the will to power lies within individual thoughts and passions, particular thoughts and passions. Which ones? There probably will be a very few, perhaps even only one. But in that one thought or desire is where he begins his work. That one thought or passion is what he must now heed and develop. That one thought or passion is what will direct him henceforth. For me, it was a hope and desire for Self-reclamation, one which possessed a certain patience and forbearance, and it was on that hope and that desire that I ascended unto a state of supra-individuated being. I proceeded not toward a vision of being, but upon a sensation. Though it is true that thought plays a role in life, the more major role is played by sensation. All growth, by definition, requires motion, and it is sensation that imparts motion to life. In contrast, idea sustains the growth.
In summa, in this, the ninth part of Zarathustra’s Prologue, following the devaluation of conceptual being and all aspirations toward its attainment, the actor discovers that life, the ascent of the will to power, begins not with an appeal to all of the thoughts and passions but rather to particular thoughts and passions, perhaps even only one.
The Prologue ends in the tenth part with the legislation of two new values.
Zarathustra said this to his heart as the sun stood at noon: then he looked inquiringly into the sky -for he heard above him the sharp cry of a bird. And behold! An eagle was sweeping through the air in wide circles, and from it was hanging a serpent, not like a prey but like a friend: for it was coiled around the eagle’s neck.
‘It is my animals!’ said Zarathustra and rejoiced in his heart.
‘The proudest animal under the sun and the wisest animal under the sun -they have come scouting.
‘They wanted to learn if Zarathustra was still alive. am I in fact still alive?
‘I found it more dangerous among men than among animals; Zarathustra is following dangerous paths. May my animals lead me!’
It is important to understand that, in the course of life, in the course of growth, passions, thoughts, beliefs, and ideas come into play with which one has no previous experience. They are entirely new. For instance, in the course of discovering oneself, the desire for Self that led to that discovery is affirmed and becomes pronounced; it becomes a more dominant force within the sea of passions. Though the passion for Self may not be new to the actor, its growth is, and so are the discoveries of Self that he is led to by that desire. Those discoveries appear to him as if upon a height, insofar as they exalt his spirit and elevate him out of the chaos of sub-individuation. Thus, the desire for Self, which grows continually, leads to self-discovery and those discoveries of Self, in turn, grow or intensify the desire for Self. Nietzsche has represented the desire for Self, the desire for the heights, in the metaphorical eagle, and he has represented the discoveries effected by that desire (knowledge of Self that is rooted in reality, in the ground) in the metaphorical snake. Thus, the two are entwined, enjoined into a meaningful continuity.
When the actor becomes embroiled in some dilemma of thought, its resolution is not always the most important thing. Sometimes, and more often than not, what is important is to heed the call of the eagle, to raise oneself out of the chaos, to mount and then ride the desire for Self. Often, dilemmas of thought are resolved by further discovery, which can only be achieved through a desire for the discovery.
In summa, when growth is stalled, do not look for reasons to grow, look for a desire to grow. Life has its footings in sensation, not in ideation. Ideation provides a panoply with which to sustain life, but the driving force is always to be found in the roots, in sensation. On that point, my rendition of Zarathustra’s Prologue is now complete.