David Sarkies's Reviews > Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review

it was amazing
bookshelves: philosophy
Recommended to David by: Stewart Wymer
Recommended for: Philosophers of Modernism
Read 2 times. Last read February 20, 2014 to March 3, 2014.

The Evolution of Humanity
5 March 2014

It is from this book that one comes across the ideas that Fredrick Nietzsche is particularly famous for, that being the concept of the ubermensch and will to power as well as the idea that when one gazes into the abyss the abyss gazes into you (though that quote actually comes from 'Beyond Good and Evil' though there are references in this book about gazing into the abyss). This is probably the book that many of us who have heard of Nietzsche (which I suspect is quite a few of us, especially in this forum) immediately think of when his name comes up in conversation. On the other hand, when his name comes up in conversation, we also generally immediately think of this guy:

However the connection with Neiztsche and Hitler is tenuous at best, and as has been indicated by a number of people, the most direct connection was when Hitler met Neiztsche's sister. However, that does not necessarily mean that Hitler did not borrow Neiztsche's ideas and twist and corrupt them into his own (though taking somebody else's ideas is not necessarily a bad thing, and because somebody takes these ideas and puts them to evil uses does not necessarily mean that the progenitator of these ideas is evil themselves – I find it funny that fundamentalist Christians attack Neiztsche because Hitler uses Neiztsche's ideas to justify mass genocide yet they completely ignore the fact that others have done the same thing with ideas from the Bible, and to suggest that on the basis of the argument that they use to condemn Neiztsche they should also condemn the Bible).

Granted, Neiztsche does not think all that much about Christianity – in fact he believes the whole concept of meekness and gentleness to be a sign of weakness. For instance, the idea from this book is not that God created man but that man created God to comfort him in times of trouble, and to give himself hope when none existed. Further, the idea of the Priesthood is illogical because the priesthood is only created to give legitimacy to the idea of there being a God, and in the end the priesthood is a useless appendage, a cancer that latches itself onto society and effectively drains it of much of its productivity. This is moreso the case when the priesthood uses the offerings and gifts of the population to live a comfortable lifestyle while the rest of society struggles with their day to day life.

This is probably where is idea of 'God is dead' comes from (another famous saying from this book) though where this saying occurs, it is more to do with Zarathustra mourning a prophet and pitys him by saying 'does he not realise that God is dead'. Now, this idea is not that God himself is dead (because Neiztsche does not believe in God – he is an atheist) but rather that the god that was created by humanity is dead in that humanity has reached a point where they have realised that they no longer need their god and have walked away from him in unbelief, and as such because nobody believes in this god anymore there is no longer any belief to keep this god sustained, and thus god is dead. Though fast forward to our time and we discover that the need to believe in a god is alive and well, and as such the concept of god is still alive and well – and also notice that I am not capitalising god, because this is not the big G God that I believe in, but rather the concept of a god that society feels that they need to believe in to give them comfort and hope.

Now, let us ignore history for a second (namely the idea of Moses and Ankenhaten coming up with the idea of a single, monotheistic, god) and look at the period in which Zarathustra lived. Zarathustra lived in Ancient Persia at a time when Persia was a polytheistic society. However Zarathustra burst onto the scene with a radical new concept of not many gods but two gods who were equal and opposite and that these two gods were in a constant struggle, one representing good (Ahura-Mazda) and one representing evil (Angra Mainyu). Actually, I think the Wikipedia definition of the conflict between truth and lie is a much better because good and evil are not necessarily objective concepts. This philosophy caught on like wildfire and went on to influence the thinking of numerous Greek philosophers and in turn the entire Western World. The reason that this is important is because the previous attempts to create a monotheistic religion failed, but the rise of Zorastrianism in Persia caught on, and thus it is interesting to note that after Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to their homeland they became much more committed to maintaining their own monotheistic religion than they were before the Babylonian Captivity.

Now, two and a half thousand years later we are entering another siesmic shift in the thought of Western Civilisation, and Neiztsche is hailing back to the founding of Zorastrian philosophy to act as a basis for this new shift in modern thought. What was happening now as that the idea of the eternal conflict between the truth and the lie was changing to become not so much a conflict, but rather a means of progression. Truth and lie no longer stand forever opposing each other, but rather they act as opposing forces that seek to find a common ground, and once that common ground is found they come together to form a completely new truth – Hegel's dialectic.

I probably should say something about the plot and the structure of the book before I move on to the ideas of the ubermensch and the will to power. The book appears to be a collection of speeches made by the prophet Zarasthustra to his disciples who then go on to become higher men (though not ubermensch, as that appears to be another stage in the journey of humanity). This is not 'the' Zarathustra, but rather a vehicle through which Neiztsche is espousing his philosophy of change. However this is more than just a collection of sayings, but it is rather a novel through which we watch Zarathustra and his philosophy grow, and how his disciples come to understand and grow by being his disciples and listening to his philosophy.

Now, let us consider the doctrine of the ubermensch. I find that by translating the ubermensch to superman can be very misleading because many of us equate superman with this:

This is not the idea that that I believed Neiztsche was speculating on, just as I doubt Jerry Seigel had Neiztsche in mind when he created the eponymous superhero. However, the idea of the superhero, at least with regards to the idea that comes out in the comics, is what Neiztsche was exploring in his writings. In a way, my understanding of the ubermensch implies the idea of humanity evolving from its current state into a new state, and this evolution is a self conscious evolution that we decide we want to do. In a way it is reaching a point where we are in control of ourselves and not dominated by our lusts and passions. It is reaching the point where we can say no, and we can force that desire from our mind, and the more control we have over our desires, the less control those desires have over us. In a way it forms a basis for modern psychology where psychologists seek to teach us 'thought control' meaning that when an invasive thought enters out mind, we crush that thought before it dominates us.

This is where the concept of the will to power comes in. The will to power is where we exercise our will to control our desires and our passions, and in turn our thoughts. Thus by having the will we have power because we have power over our selves and our lives, and we are not dominated or controlled by the world around us. It is the point where were are bombarded with advertising to buy things that we don't need to be able to say 'I don't need that' and therefore do not buy it. It is the will to be able to control our passions and desires to the point where we are not living under perpetual debt.

If there is an unbermensch that has been in existence, that person, to me, would be none other than Jesus Christ. To me Jesus is the ultimate example of a man who enjoyed life and had fun, but did not let his passions or desires overcome him so that he was able to move through his life, teach and in teaching being able to live out an example of his teaching. He did not shy away from persecution, did not let himself be discouraged by mockers, and did not let himself get caught up with popularity. Most of all, he did not sell out to the religious and political heavyweights of his day, but he remained committed to accepting everybody on their own merits, and would live and associate with those whom society had ultimately rejected.
15 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

Finished Reading
February 20, 2014 – Started Reading
February 20, 2014 – Shelved
March 1, 2014 – Shelved as: philosophy
March 3, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Morgan Long review, but one of the best on here for this book.

David Sarkies Thankyou Morgan

back to top