Nietzsche and the Prophet
According to Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, the meaning of human existence is to make room for the “Superman”: a superhuman who perseveres in its capacity for unlimited self-creation. (Pg. 49) In order for humankind to embrace its self-creative nature and allow for the transcendence into this superhuman condition, however, we must first learn to destroy our present tables of values; it is our desperate adherence to traditional (religious) values which prevents us from actualizing our potential for self-creation. It is important to note, however, that it is not the creation of these traditional values in and of itself that Nietzsche condemns. After all, self-creation is not only a positive thing but, is the true essence and meaning of human existence. Rather, it is our insistence on treating these values and beliefs (e.g. the existence of God) as permanent and a priori which sickens him. When we perceive these values and beliefs as permanent, it numbs both the ability and motivation for human beings to self-create the future or, what he calls, the “self-creating will”. As Nietzsche’s protagonist states, “God is a supposition; but I want your supposing to reach no further than your creating will...Willing liberates: that is the true doctrine of will and freedom... (Pg.’s 110-11)
Manifest in Nietzsche’s vision of human self-creation, however, is a fundamental tension between the past and the future. On the one hand, he tells the reader that because everything is past and begs destruction, it is disgusting for anyone to blindly adhere to traditional value systems. Yet, on the other hand, the future (Superman) is fundamentally connected and, perhaps, even indebted to the past; the existence and destruction of present-day humankind is a necessary condition for the creation and emergence of the Superman. So, in spite of the immanent desire to be rid of the past, Nietzsche’s protagonist, Zarathustra, finds himself unable to completely sever himself from it. Hence Zarathustra’s struggle to affirm his past while pursuing a self-creating future.
The aim of this paper is threefold. First, I will provide evidence for the interpretation of The Prophet as an elucidation of the struggle of Nietzsche’s protagonist to reconcile this inalienable relationship between the past and the future. In doing so, I will focus on three main facets of the passage, namely, the prophet, Zarathustra’s dream and, the misinterpretation of the dream by the disciple. Second, I will demonstrate how The Prophet can simultaneously be interpreted so as to advance Nietzsche’s own view of human nature as self-creativity. Third, I will explicate what ramifications my interpretations of The Prophet has on the relationship between Nietzsche and his reader.
The Inalienable Relationship Between the Past and the Future
The Prophet begins with Zarathustra being told that “Everything is empty, everything is one,...