Thus Spoke Zarathustra Summary and Analysis
Part 3, Speeches 1-8
Part three opens a short while after Zarathustra has left his disciples. He is venturing over a mountain ridge (echoing the previous part's theme of ascension) to get to the ports on the other side of the Blessed Isles. He plans to take a ship to cross the sea. Zarathustra reflects on his nature as a wanderer and a traveler and on the "last peak" that stands before him now. The one thing that must be mastered to reach his ultimate goal of the overman is his own self. Zarathustra is now alone and he knows he must ascend beyond "all things." As Zarathustra reaches the summit of the mountain, he gazes out over the sea and says that he "is ready" to descend into the pain and suffering that must accompany his final ascension. As he descends to the sea, he realizes that his great folly is his love of humanity. "Love is the danger of the loneliest one," he says. Zarathustra knows that he must overcome his desire to love the disciples he has left behind if he is to finally ascend and become the overman.
The opening speeches that make up this chapter set the stage for the hardship that Zarathustra will have to face in part three. In the end of part two, Zarathustra identifies his love and enchantment of humanity as the thing that ultimately holds him back from his destiny. This chapter gives Zarathustra time to reflect on that weakness as he journeys into loneliness and despair.
On the Vision and the Riddle
Zarathustra joins a ship that "[has] come from far away and [wants] to go still farther." For the first two days of his journey, Zarathustra refuses to speak to anyone on the ship because he is still so overcome with sadness. Yet, because he is "a friend of all who make distant journeys and do not like to live without danger," he speaks. Finally, "the ice of his heart" is broken. He tells the sailors a riddle that has come to him as a vision of the "loneliest one." Zarathustra tells his disciples of a dwarf who has accompanied Zarathustra on his journey. The dwarf mocks him by saying that even though he has tried to ascend to the greatest heights, he must now fall like a stone. Zarathustra eventually summons the courage to confront the dwarf. This courage, he says, is the pride of humanity because the "human being is the most courageous animal." Courage is the best slayer, he says; it can even slay death.
As Zarathustra confronts the dwarf, it hops down from his shoulder. They find themselves standing before a gateway. The gateway is marked "Moment" and there are two paths that have contradictory markings. They both claim to lead to an eternity. Zarathustra gives the dwarf a conundrum of time: "must not whatever can already have passed this way before? Must not whatever can happen, already have happened, been done, passed by before?"
This riddle is a presentation of Zarathustra's teaching of the "eternal return," the moment when the self accounts for and overcomes the restrictions of time. His teaching here is purposefully enigmatic because he wants the sailors to use their imagination to guess about whom Zarathustra is talking. Time is the great riddle; both he and his listeners must reckon with the concept of eternal time in order to achieve an eternal return. Later speeches will bring this riddle to light.
On Unwilling Bliss
Zarathustra continues to travel across the sea with bitterness in his heart until the afternoon of the fourth day. On that afternoon, he begins to enjoy being alone, remembering the time when he first found his disciples and taught them. This memory makes his heart happy. He knows now that he is going away from his disciples in order to "complete" himself. Such an act is actually an act of love for his disciples. Zarathustra is also overcoming his need for having disciples. Up to this point, his desire has been to teach others because of his love for mankind. Now he realizes he must cultivate himself. Zarathustra then compares his disciples to trees that must be replanted in order to stand on their own. This is what his journey will eventually accomplish. In part one, Zarathustra knows his disciples must betray him in order to grow. Now he sees a future time in which his disciples will be able to stand with him.
As the sun begins to set, Zarathustra knows his disciples are sad because of his imminent departure. He wishes that the happiness of the afternoon will leave him and enter his disciples. As night falls, Zarathustra waits for sadness to overtake him, but it never does. Zarathustra is again able to reflect. He ponders the signs that led to him to leave his disciples, and he thinks about his imprudent love for them that caused him to stay with them for so long. Now that he has found the strength to leave his disciples, his next feat of strength is to accomplish the task of overcoming himself, a task that he calls "something still greater."
Like the previous speech, "Night Song," this speech reveals something elemental about Zarathustra's teaching. While "Night Song" relates Zarathustra's teaching on envy, "Before Sunrise" outlines his "godlike desires." As Zarathustra looks into the sky at twilight, he uses religious language to speak of his desires for transcendence. He ascribes to the sky a kind of divinity.
Here, Zarathustra begins to understand the "silence" of the heavens and promises to emulate such silence. The sky's beauty is what gives the sky its power. Zarathustra is coming to understand himself as he is coming to understand the nature of the sky. He rejects the old notions of toiling underneath the sky. Instead, he embraces the sky as a divine presence and as a giver of life. Again, Zarathustra curses the scholars by comparing them to the clouds that "[strain]" the sky. These people "who learned neither to bless, nor to curse whole heartedly" rob Zarathustra of his "infinite...Yes and Amen." Zarathustra is seeking that which is beyond the middling values of this world, beyond such constructs as good and evil.
Zarathustra is now free to bask in his happiness. He seeks to baptize the world with his knowledge and with his eternal return. Zarathustra is on a journey to become like the heavens. He wants to become a being who is not governed by external reason or rationality. Zarathustra is seeking not to be responsible to any being higher than himself.
On Virtue that Makes Small
Zarathustra returns to his homeland, but instead of immediately venturing back to his mountain, he decides to stay and learn "what had transpired...among human beings...." He wants to find out if human beings have "become bigger or smaller." He sees a row of houses and he marvels at what they mean. He determines that, during his absence, human beings have become smaller. He then begins his speech on the virtue that makes humanity small.
In his speech, Zarathustra says that humanity is becoming smaller because of the teachings about happiness and virtue. These teachings are actually impediments to the true teaching of Zarathustra. They are "an obstacle to anyone who is in a hurry" to become the overman. The people do not forgive Zarathustra for shunning their ideas of virtue. The people envy the freedom that Zarathustra has attained. Humanity clings to the modern teachings of virtue, Zarathustra hypothesizes, because it wants to preserve comfort and prosperity. This has made humanity cowardly; it has taken away the courage needed to face death.
During the second part of the speech, Zarathustra mocks those that look down on him. The people, he says, are "amazed" to find that he has not come, like other prophets, to give them the same old teachings or praise them for their virtue. They do not understand that he is standing on the precipice of a new age. He taunts the people by telling them that he is "the godless one." He is not like the other prophets because his message is not about virtue or morality. He taunts them because they have not progressed; they have become "smaller." Zarathustra finishes by telling the people that he is an example of his own message and that the hour of his ultimate ascension is near.
This speech is a recognition that the old teachings of Christian virtue and modern philosophy's teachings of the self have failed to adequately advance the human race. Zarathustra, partly seeking to shock humanity into hearing his message and partly trying to offend those he sees as below him, chastises the people. Like John the Baptist, he announces the coming of a new age. Zarathustra will eventually eclipse these people and they will see the ultimate state of humanity: the overman.
On the Mount of Olives
This speech is a song for the season of winter, a season to which Zarathustra compares his own state. Winter, he says, is a hard-hearted state, a state full of silence that kills those who wish to make noise. Winter is an introverted season, encouraging a silent state that Zarathustra has come to love ever since the speech, "Before Sunrise."
Zarathustra sits in the market during the winter and practices this new state of being. He is talkative with the people, but only in a way that allows them to pity him while he keeps silent about the great secrets he holds. Zarathustra does not let his soul conceal anything, yet neither does he completely withdraw from the people. "Let them hear me chatter and sigh from winter cold," he says, "all these wretched, leering rascals around me! With such sighing and chattering I still escape their heated rooms."
Zarathustra is learning to temper his love of humanity while learning to live among men. Zarathustra says that winter is the perfect metaphor for such a state. It is a frigid season that repels people and causes their silence. It is a deathlike season, yet the cold must also necessarily live among the people, in their villages and in their marketplaces. Like Zarathustra, the cold is a state that the people cannot avoid.
On Passing By
After wandering among the people, Zarathustra comes to the gates of "the big city." There, at the gates, is a man who is supposedly a disciple of Zarathustra. This disciple tries to imitate Zarathustra's teaching. Zarathustra stops to listen to the man, and his words do resemble Zarathustra's teachings in some ways. The man curses the city and mocks its citizens for their decadence and their low spirit. The man implores his listeners to "spit on this city" and to look down upon it. The people call this teacher "Zarathustra's ape" because he imitates Zarathustra's words, yet his teaching is incomplete. While he mocks the city, he has no vision for what is next, for what is higher. Zarathustra looks at the city, and though he feels disgust and contempt for it, he gives the "ape" a piece of advice: "where one can no longer love, there one should... pass by!"
This speech shows how Zarathustra's teaching has been distorted in the public realm. The people mock this "ape" just as they mock Zarathustra, but Zarathustra is angry with this man. Though he echoes some of Zarathustra's words, he does not comprehend the ultimate sacrifice that is becoming the overman. Zarathustra's teaching to "pass by" shows that his own teaching has matured. Though he still despises the city just as this false disciple does, he no longer feels the need to condemn it publicly. Instead, he feels he can pass by the city as well as the fool who purports to be his disciple.
In "On Apostates," Zarathustra deals with those who have tried to learn from him during his journey. Perhaps driven to such a speech by the fool teacher in the previous chapter, Zarathustra gives a speech differentiating between those who follow him and those who are truly his disciples. The first kind of person, Zarathustra says, listens to his teaching at first, but then "[crawls] back to the cross" of traditional teachings and virtue when difficulty arises. For these people, the pressure and the temptation to embrace the old teachings is simply too much to bear. If a person follows his teaching, Zarathustra says, this person will also experience the hardships that he himself has had to go through. Those who waver cannot truly be called his disciples.
In the second part of the speech, Zarathustra speaks directly to these faltering disciples. He mocks them for their lack of courage. They want to believe in his teaching, but they also want to believe in the teaching of Christianity and hold on to the hope that there is a God. Zarathustra tells them that this is not the way. He predicts that a "dark night" is coming that will blacken the old ways of thinking. This is the threat of nihilism of which Zarathustra has been dreaming. Only through his teaching will anyone be able to escape such a fate, yet Zarathustra does not give hope to those who do not embrace his teaching.
This speech is the last speech that Zarathustra makes to men before he retreats into his solitudue. It is a warning of the onset of the dark night of nihilism that Zarathustra predicts will overtake the land. This event will ultimately kill God, just as in previous centuries the old gods of the Greeks were killed by the belief in one God. But Zarathustra is not hopeful that anyone who clings to the old virtues and values will survive. At the end of this speech, Zarathustra retreats from the town of The Motley Cow and travels towards his mountain home.
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