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Jung on Nietzsche

By C.G. Jung

You know, Nietzsche in the first part of his life was a great and very intuitive intellectual, chiefly rebellious and critical of traditional values, and you still find that in Zarathustra. There was then little of what one would call positive in him; he could criticize with remarkable readiness, but he was not yet synthetic or constructive, and he could not produce values. Then suddenly, like an extraordinary revelation, all which his former writings omitted came upon him. He was born in 1844, and he began to write Zarathustra in 1883, so he was then thirtynine years old. The way in which he wrote it is most remarkable. He himself made a verse about it. He said: “Da wurde eins zu zwei und Zarathustra ging an mir vorbei,” which means: “Then one became two and Zarathustra passed by me,”meaning that Zarathustra then became manifest as a second personality in himself. That would show that he had himself a pretty clear notion that he was not identical with Zarathustra. But how could he help assuming such an identity in those days when there was no psychology? Nobody would then have dared to take the idea of a personification seriously, or even of an independent autonomous spiritual agency. Eighteen eighty-three was the time of the blooming of materialistic philosophy. So he had to identify with Zarathustra in spite of the fact that he felt, as this verse proves, a definite difference between himself and the old wise man.” Then his idea that Zarathustra had to come back to mend the faults of his former invention, is psychologically most characteristic; it shows that he had an absolutely historical feeling about it. He obviously felt quite clearly that the experience of that figure was archetypal. It brought something of the breath of centuries with it, and it filled him with a peculiar sense of destiny: he felt that he was called to mend a damage done in the remote past of mankind. Of course such a feeling is most uplifting to an individual; no wonder then that Zarathustra was the Dionysian experience par excellence. In the latter part, that Dionysian ekstasis comes in. Zarathustra really led him up to a full realization of the mysteries of the cult of Dionysos: he had already ideas about it, but Zarathustra was the experience which made the whole thing real. In one of his letters to his sister he gives a most impressive description of the ekstasis in which he wrote┬áZarathustra.

There are four parts in the book, and each of the first three parts was written within ten days, which is rather remarkable. The first was written on the Riviera, the second in the Sils Maria in the Engadine, and the third again on the Riviera; the fourth was written in different places and took longer. He says about his way of writing that it simply poured out of him, it was an almost autonomous production; with unfailing certainty the words presented themselves, and the whole description gives us the impression of the quite extraordinary condition in which he must have been, a condition of possession where he himself practically no longer existed. It was as if he were possessed by acreative genius that took his brain and produced this work out of absolute necessity and in a most inevitable way. We will now begin the first chapter, the introductory discourse of the Superman, the last man:

When Zarathustra was thirty years old, he left his home, and went into the mountains. There he enjoyed his spirit and his solitude, and for ten years did not weary of it. But at last his heart changed,-and rising one morning with the rosy dawn, he went before the sun, and spake thus unto it: Thou great star! What would be thy happiness if thou hadst not those for whom thou shinest! For ten years hast thou climbed hither unto my cave: thou wouldst have wearied of thy light and of the journey, had it not been for me, mine eagle, and my serpent. But we awaited thee every morning, took from thee thine overflow, and blessed thee for it. Lo! I am weary of my wisdom, like the bee that hath gathered too much honey; I need hands outstretched to take it. I would fain bestow and distribute, until the wise have once more become joyous in their folly, and the poor happy in their riches.

We must first try to construct the psychological situation. As I said, I am going to handle these chapters or experiences like the visions. Here the story of Zarathustra begins. The man who speaks or writes is Nietzsche; it is as if he were the historian of Zarathustra, describing what he had been doing. Zarathustra is obviously objectified here, the writer does not seem to be identical with him.

Published in C.G. Jung