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Excerpts from Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None, (Also sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen) was published in sections by Friedrich Nietzsche between 1883 and 1892. These excerpts are from a translation by Walter Kaufmann published in 1995 by The Modern Library division of Random House.
It is Nietzsche’s philosophy presented as the fictional story of Zarathustra, often presented in parable. Zarathustra urges his readers, among other things, to embrace this life (not some invented afterworld), and to follow one’s own creativity and passion and not some slavish devotion to custom and tradition and the crowd, and to thus usher in an era of transcendent humanity and morality.
My hope in creating these excerpts is that you will be motivated to buy a copy and read the entire text.
This page is still under construction.
1. on the three metamorphoses
Of three metamorphoses of the spirit I tell you: how the spirit becomes a camel; and the camel, a lion; and the lion, finally, a child.
There is much that is difficult for the spirit, the strong reverent spirit that would bear much: but the difficult and the most difficult are what its strength demands.
What is difficult? asks the spirit that would bear much, and kneels down like a camel wanting to be well loaded. What is most difficult, O heroes, asks the spirit that would bear much, that I may take it upon myself and exult in my strength? Is it not humbling oneself to wound one’s haughtiness? Letting one’s folly shine to mock one’s wisdom?
Or is it this: parting from our cause when it triumphs? Climbing high mountains to tempt the tempter?
Or is it this: feeding on the acorns and grass of knowledge and, for the sake of the truth, suffering hunger in one’s soul?
Or is it this: being sick and sending home the comforters and making friends with the deaf, who never hear what you want?
Or is it this: stepping into filthy waters when they are the waters of truth, and not repulsing cold frogs and hot toads?
Or is it this: loving those who despise us and offering a hand to the ghost that would frighten us?
All these most difficult things the spirit that would bear much takes upon itself: like the camel that, burdened, speeds into the desert, thus the spirit speeds into its desert.
In the loneliest desert, however, the second metamorphosis occurs: here the spirit becomes a lion who would conquer his freedom and be master in his own desert. Here he seeks out his last master: he wants to fight him and his last god; for ultimate victory he wants to fight with the great dragon.
Who is the great dragon whom the spirit will no longer call lord
Values, thousands of years old, shine on these scales; and thus
speaks the mightiest of all dragons:
My brothers, why is there a need in the spirit for the lion? Why is not the beast of burden, which renounces and is reverent, enough?
To create new values—that even the lion cannot do; but the
creation of freedom for oneself for new creation—that is
within the power of the lion. The creation of freedom for
oneself and a sacred
But say, my brothers, what can the child do that even the lion
could not do? Why must the preying lion still become a child?
The child is innocence and forgetting, a new beginning, a game,
a self-propelled wheel, a first movement, a sacred
Of three metamorphoses of the spirit I have told you: how the spirit became a camel; and the camel, a lion; and the lion, finally, a child.
Thus spoke Zarathustra. And at the time he sojourned in the town called the Motley Cow.
5. on enjoying and suffering the passions
My brother, if you have a virtue and she is your virtue, then you have her in common with nobody. To be sure, you want to call her by name and pet her; you want to pull her ear and have fun with her. And behold, now you have her name in common with the people and have become one of the people and herd with your virtue.
You would do better to say,
May your virtue be too exalted for the familiarity of names: and
if you must speak of her, then do not be ashamed to stammer of
her. Then speak and stammer,
Once you suffered passions and called them evil. But now you have only your virtues left: they grew out of your passions. You commended your highest goal to the heart of these passions: then they become your virtues and passions you enjoyed.
And whether you came from the tribe of the choleric or of the voluptuous or of the fanatic or of the vengeful, in the end all your passions became virtues and all your devils, angels. Once you had wild dogs in your cellar, but in the end they turned into birds and lovely singers. Out of your poisons you brewed your balsam. You milked your cow, melancholy; now you drink the sweet milk of her udder.
And nothing evil grows out of you henceforth, unless it be the evil that grows out of the fight among your virtues. My brother, if you are fortunate you have only one virtue and no more: then you will pass over the bridge more easily. It is a distinction to have many virtues, but a hard lot; and many have gone into the desert and taken their lives because they had wearied of being the battle and battlefield of virtues.
My brother, are war and battle evil? But this evil is necessary; necessary are the envy and mistrust and calumny among your virtues. Behold how each of your virtues covets what is highest: each wants your whole spirit that it might become her herald; each wants your whole strength in wrath, hatred, and love. Each virtue is jealous of the others, and jealousy is a terrible thing. Virtues too can perish of jealousy. Surrounded by the flame of jealousy, one will in the end, like the scorpion, turn one’s poisonous sting against oneself. Alas, my brother, have you never yet seen a virtue deny and stab herself? Man is something that must be overcome; and therefore you shall love your virtues, for you will perish of them.
Thus spoke Zarathustra.
8. on the tree on the mountainside
Zarathustra’s eye had noted that a youth avoided him. And one evening as he walked alone through the mountains surrounding the town which is called The Motley Cow—behold, on his walk he found this youth as he sat leaning against a tree, looking wearily into the valley. Zarathustra gripped the tree under which the youth was sitting and spoke thus:
Then the youth got up in consternation and said:
Zarathustra smiled and said:
Here the youth stopped. And Zarathustra contemplated the tree
beside which they stood and spoke thus:
When Zarathustra had said this the youth cried with violent
“Indeed, I know your danger. But by my love and hope I beseech you: do not throwaway your love and hope.
“You still feel noble, and the others too feel your nobility, though they bear you a grudge and send you evil glances. Know that the noble man stands in everybody’s way. The noble man stands in the way of the good too: and even if they call him one of the good, they thus want to do away with him. The noble man wants to create something new and a new virtue. The good want the old, and that the old be preserved. But this is not the danger of the noble man, that he might become one of the good, but a churl, a mocker, a destroyer.
“Alas, I knew noble men who lost their highest hope. Then they slandered all high hopes. Then they lived impudently in brief pleasures and barely cast their goals beyond the day. Spirit too is lust, so they said. Then the wings of their spirit broke: and now their spirit crawls about and soils what it gnaws. Once they thought of becoming heroes: now they are voluptuaries. The hero is for them an offense and a fright.
Thus spoke Zarathustra.
11. on the new idol
Somewhere there are still peoples and herds, but not where we live, my brothers: here there are states. State? What is that? Well then, open your ears to me, for now I shall speak to you about the death of peoples.
State is the name of the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly
it tells lies too; and this lie crawls out of its mouth:
It is annihilators who set traps for the many and call them
Where there is still a people, it does not understand the state and hates it as the evil eye and the sin against customs and rights.
This sign I give you: every people speaks its tongue of good and evil, which the neighbor does not understand. It has invented its own language of customs and rights. But the state tells lies in all the tongues of good and evil; and whatever it says it lies—and whatever it has it has stolen. Everything about it is false; it bites with stolen teeth, and bites easily. Even its entrails are false. Confusion of tongues of good and evil: this sign I give you as the sign of the state. Verily, this sign signifies the will to death. Verily, it beckons to the preachers of death.
All-too-many are born: for the superfluous the state was invented.
Behold, how it lures them, the all-too-many—and how it devours them, chews them, and ruminates!
It will give you everything if you will adore it, this new idol: thus it buys the splendor of your virtues and the look of your proud eyes. It would use you as bait for the all-too-many.
Indeed, a hellish artifice was invented there, a horse of death, clattering in the finery of divine honors. Indeed, a dying for many was invented there, which praises itself as life: verily, a great service to all preachers of death!
State I call it where all drink poison, the good and the wicked;
state, where all lose themselves, the good and the wicked;
state, where the slow suicide of all is called
Behold the superfluous! They steal the works of the inventors
and the treasures of the sages for themselves;
Behold the superfluous! They are always sick; they vomit their gall and call it a newspaper. They devour each other and cannot even digest themselves.
Behold the superfluous! They gather riches and become poorer with them. They want power and first the lever of power, much money—the impotent paupers!
Watch them clamber, these swift monkeys! They clamber over one another and thus drag one another into the mud and the depth. They all want to get to the throne: that is their madness—as if happiness sat on the throne. Often mud sits on the throne—and often also the throne on mud. Mad they all appear to me, clambering monkeys and overardent. Foul smells their idol, the cold monster: foul they smell to me altogether, these idolators.
My brothers, do you want to suffocate in the fumes of their snouts and appetites? Rather break the windows and leap to freedom.
Escape from the bad smell! Escape from the idolatry of the superfluous!
Escape from the bad smell! Escape from the steam of these human sacrifices!
The earth is free even now for great souls. There are still many empty seats for the lonesome and the twosome, fanned by the fragrance of silent seas.
A free life is still free for great souls. Verily, whoever possesses little is possessed that much less: praised be a little poverty!
Only where the state ends, there begins the human being who is not superfluous: there begins the song of necessity, the unique and inimitable tune.
Where the state ends—look there, my brothers! Do you not see it, the rainbow and the bridges of the overman?
Thus spoke Zarathustra.
12. on the flies of the market place
Flee, my friend, into your solitude! I see you dazed by the noise of the great men and stung all over by the stings of the little men. Woods and crags know how to keep a dignified silence with you. Be like the tree that you love with its wide branches: silently listening, it hangs over the sea.
Where solitude ceases the market place begins; and where the market place begins the noise of the great actors and the buzzing of the poisonous flies begins too. In the world even the best things amount to nothing without someone to make a show of them: great men the people call these showmen.
Little do the people comprehend the great—that is, the creating. But they have a mind for all showmen and actors of great things.
Around the inventors of new values the world revolves: invisibly
it revolves. But around the actors revolve the people and fame:
The actor has spirit but little conscience of the spirit. Always he has faith in that with which he inspires the most faith—faith in himself. Tomorrow he has a new faith, and the day after tomorrow a newer one. He has quick senses, like the people, and capricious moods. To overthrow—that means to him: to prove. To drive to frenzy—that means to him: to persuade. And blood is to him the best of all reasons. A truth that slips into delicate ears alone he calls a lie and nothing. Verily, he believes only in gods who make a big noise in the world!
Full of solemn jesters is the market place—and the people pride themselves on their great men, their masters of the hour. But the hour presses them; so they press you. And from you too they want a Yes or No. Alas, do you want to place your chair between pro and con?
Do not be jealous of these unconditional, pressing men, you lover of truth! Never yet has truth hung on the arm of the unconditional. On account of these sudden men, go back to your security: it is only in the market place that one is assaulted with Yes? or No? Slow is the experience of all deep wells: long must they wait before they know what fell into their depth. Far from the market place and from fame happens all that is great: far from the market place and from fame the inventors of new values have always dwelt.
Flee, my friend, into your solitude: I see you stung all over by poisonous flies. Flee where the air is raw and strong.
Flee into your solitude! You have lived too close to the small and the miserable. Flee their invisible revenge! Against you they are nothing but revenge.
No longer raise up your arm against them. Numberless are they, and it is not your lot to shoo flies. Numberless are these small and miserable creatures; and many a proud building has perished of raindrops and weeds. You are no stone, but you have already become hollow from many drops. You will yet burst from many drops. I see you wearied by poisonous flies, bloody in a hundred places; and your pride refuses even to be angry. Blood is what they want from you in all innocence. Their bloodless souls crave blood, and so they sting in all innocence. But you, you deep one, suffer too deeply even from small wounds; and even before you have healed, the same poisonous worm crawls over your hand. You are too proud to kill these greedy creatures. But beware lest it become your downfall that you suffer all their poisonous injustice.
They hum around you with their praise too: obtrusiveness is their praise. They want the proximity of your skin and your blood. They flatter you as a god or devil; they whine before you as before a god or devil. What does it matter? They are flatterers and whiners and nothing more.
Often they affect charm. But that has always been the cleverness of cowards. Indeed, cowards are clever! They think a lot about you with their petty souls—you always seem problematic to them. Everything that one thinks about a lot becomes problematic.
They punish you for all your virtues. They forgive you entirely—your mistakes.
Because you are gentle and just in disposition you say,
Even when you are gentle to them they still feel despised by you: and they return your benefaction with hidden malefactions. Your silent pride always runs counter to their taste; they are jubilant if for once you are modest enough to be vain. That which we recognize in a person we also inflame in him: therefore, beware of the small creatures. Before you they feel small, and their baseness glimmers and glows in invisible revenge. Have you not noticed how often they became mute when you stepped among them, and how their strength went from them like smoke from a dying fire? Indeed, my friend, you are the bad conscience of your neighbors: for they are unworthy of you. They hate you, therefore, and would like to suck your blood. Your neighbors will always be poisonous flies; that which is great in you, just that must make them more poisonous and more like flies.
Flee, my friend, into your solitude and where the air is raw and strong! It is not your lot to shoo flies.
Thus spoke Zarathustra.
17. on the way of the creator
Is it your wish, my brother, to go into solitude? Is it your wish to seek the way to yourself? Then linger a moment, and listen to me.
But do you want to go the way of your affliction, which is the way to yourself? Then show me your right and your strength to do so. Are you a new strength and a new right? A first movement? A self-propelled wheel? Can you compel the very stars to revolve around you?
Alas, there is so much lusting for the heights! There are so many convulsions of the ambitious. Show me that you are not one of the lustful and ambitious.
Alas, there are so many great thoughts which do no more than a bellows: they puff up and make emptier.
You call yourself free? Your dominant thought I want to hear, and not that you have escaped from a yoke. Are you one of those who had the right to escape from a yoke? There are some who threw away their last value when they threw away their servitude.
Free from what? As if that mattered to Zarathustra! But your eyes should tell me brightly: free for what?
Can you give yourself your own evil and your own good and hang
your own will over yourself as a law? Can you be your own judge
and avenger of your law? Terrible it is to be alone with the
judge and avenger of one’s own law. Thus is a star thrown out
into the void and into the icy breath of solitude. Today you
are still suffering from the many, being one: today your courage
and your hopes are still whole. But the time will come when
solitude will make you weary, when your pride will double up,
and your courage gnash its teeth. And you will cry,
There are feelings which want to kill the lonely; and if they do not succeed, well, then they themselves must die. But are you capable of this—to be a murderer?
My brother, do you know the word
And beware of the good and the just! They like to crucify those who invent their own virtue for themselves—they hate the lonely one. Beware also of holy simplicity! Everything that is not simple it considers unholy; it also likes to play with fire—the stake. And beware also of the attacks of your love! The lonely one offers his hand too quickly to whomever he encounters. To some people you may not give your hand, only a paw: and I desire that your paw should also have claws.
But the worst enemy you can encounter will always be you, yourself; you lie in wait for yourself in caves and woods.
Lonely one, you are going the way to yourself. And your way leads past yourself and your seven devils. You will be a heretic to yourself and a witch and soothsayer and fool and doubter and unholy one and a villain. You must wish to consume yourself in your own flame: how could you wish to become new unless you had first become ashes!
Lonely one, you are going the way of the creator: you would create a god for yourself out of your seven devils.
Lonely one, you are going the way of the lover: yourself you love, and therefore you despise yourself, as only lovers despise. The lover would create because ye despises. What does he know of love who did not have to despise precisely what he loved!
Go into your loneliness with your love and with your creation, my brother; and only much later will justice limp after you.
With my tears go into your loneliness, my brother. I love him who wants to create over and beyond himself and thus perishes.
Thus spoke Zarathustra.
14. on the land of education
21. on human prudence