Nietzsche & The Higher Man

In the book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche put forth the idea of the overman or the higher man is what each individual should attempt to become. The higher man is an individual who follows his or her own path and not the path set by the mob. The higher man must face what makes him or her uncomforable or what they fear. Laslty, the higher man is a process, it is a becoming, you are constantly recreating the path and in doing so, taking action in your life.

One cannot be concerned with the mob, with the popular opinion, with popularity itself when it comes to becoming the higher man. The mob isn’t concerned about the higher man because the mob praises equality above the rest. But with equality comes the tearing down of someone who is attempting to achieve more, to become more than what he or she is. The insistence on equality results in the barrier against reaching ones full potential for equality is used as a weapon so the individual settles for contentment.

I stood in the market place. And I spoke to all, I spoke to none.

Of what concern to me are market and mob and mob noise and long mob ears?

The higher man must look inwards. This individual is concerned with himself and that may sound narcissistic however the idea is that in order to help others, one must help himself first. In this manner, when you focus on yourself and your own actions and you right your actions, then, it can have a trickle down effect on those around you. So, by helping yourself you come to help others.

I have the overman at heart, that is my first and only concern–and not man: not the neighbor, not the poorest, not the most ailing, not the best.

This desire to help others can be dangerous in a sense as well. What is the reason behind your help? Does your aid cripple the individual? Are you helping to make yourself feel better? Is your help a way to stay comfortable and not confront your own mistakes?

Both helping and equality are terms that are viewed highly in most cultures. However, this is what Nietzsche wants recreated by the individual. The reason being that one may help others and in doing so make themselves feel good but also take away the opportunity of growth from another and hence, be there to be helped again at a later point. While, equality is a good virtue but it can also mean stiffling your potential in order to fit in with the rest of the group rather then fully expressing yourself, attempting to reach your potential and becoming “unequal”.

Nietzsche furthermore put forth the idea that one must follow the “nausea” by which he meant that thing that is disagreeable to the mob. It is with this nausea as ones guide that you can discover what is truly important. In a way, one must keep open to exploring that thing which makes the mob uncomfortable, for it may be in this nausea that you find your way. The mob on the other hand is concerned with smaller virtues, they are small people who are enveloped in things that are of temporary concern.

Overcome these masters of today, O my brothers–these small people, they are the overman’s greatest danger.

You higher men, overcome the small virtues, the small prudence, the grain-of-sand consideration, the ants’ riffraff, the wretched contentment, the “happiness of the greatest number”!

The mob rules without reason and hence cannot be reasoned with. So, the higher man must have a mistrust towards such a group.

And in the marketplace once convinces with gestures. But reason makes the mob mistrustful.

In order to reach for the higher man, to become the overman, the individual must posses courage. For the path can be lonely and in more than one way, it must be lonely. The individual needs solitude in this attempt to be separated from the consensus thought and action so one can discover their own thoughts and their own “whys”. Furthermore, the higher man must have courage because the individual has to face the abyss. This must be done willingly, choosing to face the uncomfortable in their life. What they have been avoiding, what they fear, this is precisely what the higher man must encounter and then, attack. This courage is important when you are alone. When no one is watching. For the internal struggles are your own, so your courage must be your own too and not one that is inspired by others because that is not true courage. That courage will leave once people leave but that internal uncomfortability will still be there and that needs to be attacked with courage.

Do you have courage, O my brothers? Are you brave? Not courage before witnesses but the courage of hermits and eagles, which is not longer watched even by a god.

Cold souls, mules, the blind, and the drunken I do not call brave. Brave is he who knows fear but conquers fear, who see the abyss, but with pride.

Who sees the abyss but with eyes of an eagle who grasps the abyss with the talons of an eagle–that man has courage.

Furthermore, the higher man must go on his own. The path is unique to the individual and so, he must not rely on others to help him climb. When one rides the accomplishments of others in order to create their own self esteem or self-identity, they are essentially robbing themselves of the effort and with it the experience gained from the effort and the eventual reward. Also, through this when the time comes to walk on your own two feet, you will find the ground to be unstable, foot steps that don’t match your stride for you did not earn your place here. Then, keeping your place will be impossible because you did not know the struggle.

If you would go high, use your own legs. Do not let yourselves be carried up; do not sir on the backs and heads of others. But you mounted a horse? You are now riding quickly up to your goal? All right, my friend! But your lame foot is sitting on the horse too. When you reach your goal, when you jump off your horse–on your very height, you higher man, you will stumble.

The higher man needs to know himself. What he is capable of? What are his standards? His principles? What can he achieve? How much can you work? How many hours can you go for? This is important because by knowing your boundaries, then you can slowly push further, inch by inch, expanding yourself and what you know and what you can do. You do not overreach in this manner. Rather you use the zone of proximal development, carefully testing your limits and improving.

Do not be virtuous beyond your strength! And do not desire anything of yourselves against probability.

Lastly, the higher man must attempt. He must act. He must live. With this notion comes failure but failure needs to be viewed as possibility for growth. If you fail, then you recreate, you question what you knew that led to that failure, understand what you know now and attempt once more and when you fail again, you recreate once more, endlessly, recreating, questioning, attempting and recreating and in this manner, you are living or as Nietzsche puts it, dancing and laughing.

You higher men, the worst about you is that all of you have not learned to dance as one must dance–dancing away over yourselves! What does it matter that you are failures? How much is still possible! So learn to laugh away over yourselves! Life up your hearts, you good dancers, high, higher! And do not forget good laughter.

Essay: The Becoming of The Overman

In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche is able to establish the core of his philosophical doctrine through use of a parabolic story. The central point of the message is that of the overman and Nietzsche argues that the overman is the ultimate destination of humans (p. 12). Through the parable of Zarathustra, Nietzsche puts forth the idea that the overman is a state of becoming that can be attained by following ones own body and will.

Zarathustra claims that the human is something that must be overcome (p. 13). The reason for this is because the human being is considered a bridge between a beast and the overman. The human is still transforming and becoming and it is the overman that the human must become (p. 14). This becoming is accompanied by a degree of faith in the belief that the human can be something more than it is right now and through sacrifice, one can invent the overman (p. 15). Zarathustra demonstrates this sacrifice at the start of the parable, by first leaving mankind for the mountains and then, after many years, descending from the mountains. Each time sacrificing his comfort and his accustomed way of life in order to seek the uncomfortable unknown (pp. 9-10). Another comfort that must be sacrificed is the thought of the afterlife (p. 13).

The acceptance of the idea that God is dead is needed because Zarathustra believes that such a concept creates false hope. It is something that brings order through fear and with it, restricts the full experience of life (p. 261). Instead, the overman is loyal to the earth and understands that there is nothing outside of the earth so, one’s life must have meaning in the present instead of living for the afterlife (p. 31). It is through the body and senses that one comes to associate him or herself with the earth and dissociate themselves from God. Hence, the body becomes the guide and this parable can be viewed as empowering, for it means that all one needs is themselves, to look inwards to find their path in life (pp. 85-86). This concept of inner strength is visited throughout the parable and in particular, with the reference to the winter for like winter, Zarathustra believes that he has a strength which is yet to be uncovered because at the moment it is concealed (p. 174).

This inner strength leads towards the will to power, which, is the idea that one brings their own thoughts and observations towards everything they encounter in life (pp. 112-113). It’s almost a childlike curiosity where one does not take anything at face value but rather seeks a deeper understanding and explanation. Will to power is a procreative will of life. A life that is created by you, through your own experiences and your own reflections of those experiences. Thus, it’s a life that is your own (112-113).

Due to the emphasis on the individual, Zarathustra puts forth the argument that one cannot become the overman by following others because by following, one becomes an imitator, a trickster who does not comprehend the teachings, like the character of the Magician (p. 255) or “Zarathustra’s ape” (pp. 175-178). Instead one must follow their own command (p. 200). By following one’s own senses, Zarathustra opens himself towards chance. Although having trust in chance can be daunting, Zarathustra proceeds to teach that this trust is what is needed in order to become the overman for through the trust of chance, one comes to face what they wish not to face and this is when growth can take place (pp.154-155). Similar to Zarathustra, one must overcome the distrust towards uncertainty in order to move towards the overman (p. 163).

Through this trust and the will to power one comes to create their own path. A subjective path that only they can walk upon. The reason being, there is no universal “way” or “path,” rather it is all based on the individual and their own experiences, which adds to the idea that one has to lead their own life, rather than follow (p. 195). So, Zarathustra’s way of life is his own way.

Additionally, it is not enough to just create but one must also recreate (p. 202). The creation and recreation of one’s own thoughts are demonstrated when Zarathustra speaks of the three great human sins. Instead of thinking about them as sins, he puts forth this notion of how each can be considered good if one is able to go beyond the constraints of human thought. In this way, selfishness comes to be viewed as an important part of achieving the overman rather than simply considering selfishness as a character flaw (p. 193).

It is in the creation of the overman that one must be selfish. Zarathustra teaches how selfishness can be used as a filter to allow only those things that bring self-enjoyment into your life while casting away whatever is considered contemptible (p. 195). This is your own happiness. The things that you consider to be good for you or evil for you. Not what has been considered good or evil. It is a personal creation of life that one must seek and in order for this to take place, one has to be selfish (p. 193). It is a type of self-love that Nietzsche, through the parable fo Zarathustra, tries to teach.

However, this selfishness comes under contest if the herd is allowed to dominate. Hence,  the herd becomes something that one must avoid for the herd puts the “you” before the “I” (p. 60-61). The herd makes the individual follow established norms and takes away the creative process of life. Through this, one’s own intuition takes a back seat to the herd mentality of the group (p. 9).

This is why solitude is important to Zarathustra. Through solitude, Zarathustra is able to cleanse himself from the thoughts of the herd and the norms which have been established without the will to power (p. 145). It is in the solitude that one can connect with their intuitions or inner thoughts. The thoughts that come when the hour is the stillest bring with them humility for they allow one to realize what they already know, which, is that there is more to them. The human they are at the moment is not all they can be and through their own actions they can become more (pp. 145-147). Such an idea is central to the parable of Zarathustra for he urges all people to go beyond themselves. Solitude is one of the ways this can be accomplished.

Ultimately, the parable of Zarathustra is not one of the character, Zarathustra, becoming the overman. Rather it is the process of how one can become the overman. Zarathustra is a prelude to such a being (p. 209). Which is why when he speaks of the old tablets and the new ones, he shows that even these new tablets are unfinished. They are left uncompleted for the next being to write on and the tablets will always be uncompleted for the future generations to rewrite and recreate (p. 198). This recreation is fundamental to the concept of the overman and Zarathustra demonstrates this concept at the end of the parable as well when he detaches from his new friends because part of self-overcoming is not to get attached to established norms, even if they are created through the will to power (p. 327).

In this way, the parable of Zarathustra works as an example of becoming. Zarathustra is never satisfied with what he has said or what he has done rather he looks to create more and to question what he knows. As well, he uses his body as a guide. This process allows Zarathustra to edge closer to the fundamental concept of Nietzsche, the overman, for the overman is always becoming too.