Rosicrucian Writings Online

'Thus Spake Zarathustra'

 By Raymund Andrea, Grand Master, AMORC of Britain
[From The Rosicrucian Digest February 1952]
ZARATHUSTRA, tired of his mountain solitude, went before the sun and declared that he, too, must go down among men, for he had grown weary of his wisdom and needed outstretched hands to take it. He then began his unique discourses to all manner of people whom he met on his journeyings through many lands. The discourses consist of four series. However, after completing the first series, another inspiration came to Zarathustra, perhaps as unexpected as the first, which had brought him forth from his mountain retreat. He was called back to his solitude.
Prior to that moment he had given lavishly of his wisdom to whosoever would listen to him. Daring, revolutionary, unaccountable words he had spoken, and few must have been those who could accept them. They had a dual meaning and only the wise could rightly interpret them. But he spoke right on the thunder strokes of inspiration as they descended upon him, caring nothing whether he was understood or not, whether praised or blamed.
When the fire of a higher wisdom takes hold upon a man, he cannot argue with it, nor can he mince or dilute it to please or conciliate those who hear it. And considering that a goodly portion of the Scriptures consists of this kind of utterance which people of all nations accept without much question, because it is believed to be inspired, we wonder at the inconsistency of human nature. Why should today the same spirit of inspiration, when it finds a voice among men, be met with a very different reception? It was so, too, with Zarathustra. For he looked at the people and said in his heart: "There they stand: there they laugh: they understand me not; I am not the mouth for these ears." That happened even during the prologue to his discourses: and he gave twenty-two discourses before his first return to solitude.
Years passed, and Zarathustra came again among men and gave a second series of twenty-two discourses. They were as daring and revolutionary as the first series. The concluding discourse of his series is entitled: "The great silence." It tells of the second retirement of Zarathustra to his solitude. I quote from it:
What hath happened unto me, my friends? Ye see me troubled, driven forth, unwillingly obedient, ready to go--alas, to go away from you!
Yea, once more must Zarathustra retire to his solitude: but unhappily this time doth the bear go back to his cave!
What hath happened unto me? Who ordereth this?--Ah, my angry mistress wisheth it so; she spake unto me. Have I ever told her name to you?
Yesterday towards evening there spake unto me my great silence: that is the name of my terrible mistress.
And thus did it happen--for everything must I tell you, that your heart may not harden against him who suddenly departs!
And after Zarathustra in his pride had several times questioned and repudiated the peremptory voice of the silence, it was said finally to him:
And there was spoken unto me for the last time: 'O Zarathustra, thy fruits are ripe, but thou art not ripe for thy fruits! So must thou go again into solitude: for thou shalt yet become mellow.'
Again and again this happened to Zarathustra: a wandering among many peoples in divers cities, and a retreating to the mountain and his cave. During this period he gave the third and fourth series of his discourses. Sometimes he gave them to odd characters he met on the way, sometimes to animals that conversed with him--and not infrequently in soliloquy with himself.
Now, whether or not the experience we have so often read of as "the dark night of the soul" be indicated in this periodical withdrawal of Zarathustra into the terrifying silence, such an interpretation immediately comes to mind and is impressed upon us. The development of Zarathustra proceeds in alternating cycles of activity and retirement: each period of solitude and silent meditation is followed by one of inspired activity and exhortation of his fellow men. Again the hour of inspiration passes: the message is delivered; and he is called back into the silence of the heart and the lonely communion with the spirit of wisdom.
Words and Enemies
My readers may know that the book entitled Thus Spake Zarathustra was considered by Nietzsche as his greatest work. I have characterized the discourses as daring, revolutionary, and unaccountable; they certainly were and are so to the general reader. But for those who have traveled a long way over the path of evolution, and are accustomed to the daring and revolutionary in the writings of seers and prophets, these discourses have a decided mystical quality and can be appreciated at their true value. Only a wise man and a seer could have written them.
That he knew he had a mission to fulfill is borne out by the fact that at thirty years of age Nietzsche left his home and spent ten years in mountain solitude and search after the truth of life. He had an extensive knowledge of literature. He had studied exhaustively religions of the East and the West and all the great philosophies. His strictures on orthodox Christianity are audacious and sometimes profane; so much so, that his bitterest enemies are to be found in Britain, where his books have for a long time been difficult to obtain. Nevertheless, he is a bold and original thinker who is recognized throughout the world today; and it may be noted that nearly every great writer in philosophy, religion, and art quotes him and values his vast erudition and his penetrating insight into every subject he handles.
Nietzsche is not an author to be recommended to every reader. To those of limited intelligence and appreciation some of his work may prove harmful and misleading. To the highly intelligent, albeit of closed mind and orthodox tendencies, he will be rejected as a dangerous and destructive innovator. To the professed religionist he will be anathema and denounced as a betrayer of the soul of man. To those who are witnessing the rapid decline of the West today and then consult his pages, his resounding word will prove so ominous as to make a Christian hate him. To those who seek the truth wherever to be found, who know it to be a two-edged sword which exposes the beauty and ugliness of life with supreme indifference, he can be an inspiration and very much of a guide. It all depends upon the size and quality of a man's thinking. And it can be said that those who have shown real appreciation of Nietzsche and quoted him the most in their own works, have been precisely those noted for their breadth of vision, depth of learning, and profound understanding of the nature and soul of man.
The nature of the development of Zarathustra is undoubtedly analogous to that phase of evolution known as the "dark night." And at once there comes to mind the classical mystical treatise of Saint John of the Cross which deals very fully with the subject. I do not doubt that Nietzsche was well acquainted with this work and made a particular study of it in the course of his omnivorous reading. For, granted that he was severely critical of certain religious teachings, having discerned in them that which hampered and fettered the mind more than it enlightened, his sharp-sighted intuition exposed the positive and negative phases of these teachings with ruthless indifference and utter disregard of the feelings of those who had been nurtured in them from childhood and rested all their hope of future salvation upon them.
Even so, we do see in the development of Zarathustra something analogous to the doctrine and mystical practice of Saint John of the Cross in his work. St. John comments upon certain imperfections which beset aspirants entering upon the way, imperfections such as pride, avarice and spiritual sluggishness, anger, envy, and spiritual lukewarmness. He shows why these imperfections assault the aspirant and hinder his progress. Zarathustra, in his discourses, alludes to the same imperfections with that originality of treatment, fineness of perception and nice discrimination as applied to individual development, as to make us feel that he is one who went into the mountain solitude for good purpose; and that purpose was to get down to the bedrock of truth about himself and life, and record it for the few who had ears to hear it.
But what was the point of this devastating criticism which called forth the bitter hatred and venomous denunciation of those who felt themselves so much better than he? What was his ideal? It was the greater man of the future, the superman. Now, if you want to bring the worst out of politician or religionist, and men of learning and science, you only need to point to a character that dwarfs and overshadows them. The reception given to Nietzsche's superman proves it. He thoroughly abhorred some of the sickly sentimental teaching of orthodox Christianity and he treated it mercilessly. Yet, he was seeking all the time the ideal man. At every step he struck hammer blows at the fetters which bound men and held them back from perceiving the truth. And when it is remembered that Christ said: "The truth shall make you free," I do not hesitate to say that the man who dares public opinion and imperils his reputation in a bold and honest search for it, as did Nietzsche, must command the respect of honourable men.
Nietzsche has been condemned because he was a pitiless destroyer of false values. He has been most condemned by those who feared to interrogate those values, who fear any who dare to interrogate them openly, because they have so long lived with them and know that certain worldly prosperity rests upon these values. He has been condemned by Christian communities because he levelled a bolt with startling effect against the rotten foundations of orthodoxy. Since his day (he died in 1900) those foundations have been subjected to relentless inquiry and criticism from left and right, from within the church and without. And it is interesting to note how scant has been the opposition raised against those declarations of thinking men and women. The fact is that much as we ourselves may recoil from some of the terms of vituperation which Nietzsche permits himself on the subject, we nevertheless find ourselves unable to refute his conclusions.
A False Disciple
The condemnation of Nietzsche in Britain has no doubt been enhanced by the fact that the perverted Hitler was known to be interested in his writings. With a characteristic devilish aptitude for twisting good into evil and converting the truth into a lie, Hitler assumed that he himself was the superman of his time; whereas, he was a common murderer. So the judgment of Nietzsche rests upon a logical fallacy. Hitler studied Nietzsche: Nietzsche taught the superman: Hitler believed himself to be superman, and therefore, Nietzsche was responsible for Hitler.
We have to thank Professor Lichtenberger of France, for an unbiased assessment and soundly balanced judgment of Nietzsche. A quotation from his book The Gospel of Superman will show at a glance what Nietzsche would have thought of Hitler as an exponent of his superman had he lived to witness the colossal vanity and impudence of this caricature of the great man of the future.
"Nietzsche's superman was essentially one of those great Initiators who, like Christ or even Buddha or Mahomet, have exercised power over the souls of men. Thus the kind of war that interested Nietzsche was not that which was enacted on the field of battle and which, in its blind fury, indiscriminately attacked wealth, the treasures of art, and the lives and happiness of men. This kind of war might be a fatality, but it was above all a barbarity of which the soul of Nietzsche, so easily moved to compassion, felt more than most men the tragic horror. But the kind of war that fired his enthusiasm was the silent, invisible, mysterious struggle which takes place in the depths of the soul between the great principles that govern human life, and which in the last resort decide the direction evolution will take. Material and visible warfare has for its object the hegemony of a people or a race. Spiritual warfare determines what might be called in the widest sense of the word the religious future of mankind. The true disciple of Nietzsche is the man who with all the force of his being aims at the creation of an idea that shall rule mankind, at the triumph of a religious ideal, ancient or modern. The man who is a fanatic in the cause of race or country has no right to connect himself with the name of Nietzsche."
Webmaster's Notes:
1. The above article was a follow-up to "The Rejected Gift".
2. Online copies of The Dark Night of the Soul by Saint John of the Cross are listed here (external link).

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