In Ecce Homo, essentially
Nietzsche's autobiography, he expresses surprise that no one ever asked what
the real Zarathushtra meant to him (most folks wrongly thought it was just
Nietzsche having some fun). "What constitutes the tremendous uniqueness of
that Persian in history" Nietzsche wrote, was that "Zarathushtra was the
first to see in the struggle between good and evil the actual wheel in the
working of things....". And although Nietzsche was not a fan of the moral
categories that Judeo-Christians then seized upon, he pointed out that
Zarathushtra's teaching "and his alone, upholds truthfulness as the supreme
virtue... To tell the truth and to shoot well with arrows: that is Persian
virtue." He called Zarathushtra "more truthful than any other thinker." And
he announced that "the self-overcoming of morality through truthfulness is
what the name Zarathustra means in my mouth."
Nietzsche, in other words, praised Zarathushtra for what Nietzsche took to
be his willingness to take a fresh look at the world and to make
distinctions (as between "good and evil"). But the specific values of GOOD
and EVIL that evolved (through what I take to be Judeo-Christian
MIS-interpretation of Zarathushtra) --based upon a transcendental,
unchanging, objective, omniscient, supreme God-- were anathema to Nietzsche.
Because such values do not apply to what we as human beings are in real
life. We are not omnipotent beings--never will be. These kinds of values do
not promote growth but rather inhibit the realization of our potential as
human beings. They deny our nature.
ubermensch or overman
that Nietzsche spoke of (and which I take to be analogous to what
Zarathushtra wants us to aspire to) looks at the world as it is (and uses
what Zarathushtra would call his "good mind") to generate values from that
very environment--he then tests these values in the real world, avoiding
than deny the drives within him and his needs for gratification, the overman
joyously pursues the fullness of his potential--guilt and negativity are
avoided. Likewise, Zarathushtra himself was anything but an ascetic (and in
this aspect, at least, most
among the traditionalists, still agree. In the Judeo-Christian-Muslim
tradition, for example, sex is somehow sinful--something that both Nietzsche
and Zarathushtra would consider utterly absurd).
and evil" are not specifically, immutably defined terms (Dr. Jafarey's
definition, I think, is suitably generic)--not some higher authority, some
set of holy values for us to discover--rather, according to Nietzsche, the
overman trusts himself to make the distinction between good and evil. My own
personal take is that it is a pragmatic calculus--that which promotes the
welfare of the "living world," that which helps us realize our potential and
radiate happiness. But, in any case, values themselves are not
immutable--they can and should change as we make the world, as in Dr.
Jafarey's translation "ever fresh."
process of renovation of the world--reinvention and self-realization, taking
nothing for granted, is what it means to live (I think both to Nietzsche and
to Zarathushtra). It is life itself. This, I think, is what Nietzsche means
by the term "overcoming."
a brief summary of where I think Nietzsche is on Zarathushtra. Zarathushtra,
I believe, was a very powerful inspiration to Nietzsche and few westerners
(I dare say few people) have ever understood Zarathushtra so intelligently.
These notes were produced by Arthur Pearlstein. He has had an interest in
understanding Nietzsche’s philosophy starting in college when the trivial
fact that Nietzsche and him have the same birthday caught his attention.
into the significance of the term Overman provided courtesy of Mr. Alexander
Bard: Overman as in the English word ‘overcoming,’ meaning Man overcoming
his own predicament, understanding who he is, beyond his own actions. This
is the same as introducing words, deeds, actions as ethics. Strictly, seeing
the human condition as a series of cause and effect. Making ethics immanent.
Reducing the transcendental to a condition for the thought process. This is
the exact opposite of Judeo-Christian thought where Man is REMOVED from
Nature and Mind is turned into an independent capacity from, for example,
The Body or The Context. Nietzsche puts Mind back into The Body and makes it
a part of The Body, realizing that Mind, although its product is different
from Nature (Culture) is not in any way independent of Nature. Because
without Nature (as in Body or Society) there would be no Mind.
Superman, as in a transcendentally superior being to current Man, is a
totally absurd notion to Nietzsche. This is why for example Nazism (but also
much of current popular culture) or for that matter the worship of messiahs
as “men of God” is totally alien to Nietzscheanism, as it of course is to
Zarathushtra. The founder of our religion is our equal, not our superior.