Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Thus Spoke Zarathustra Summary and Analysis of Part 3, Speeches 9-16

The Homecoming

Zarathustra returns to his cave and to his solitude, a state that he describes as having the qualities of a mother who nurtures her young. The solitude will nurture him and enable the great transcendence that he seeks. Once Zarathustra reaches this silence, however, he realizes that he no longer needs to be silent in the safety of his cave. The restrained silence he practiced in the market prepared him to be able to return to his cave and converse freely. He begins a conversation with solitude, saying that "all being wants to become word... [Here] all becoming wants to learn from me how to speak." He contrasts the freedom of speech that he has found in solitude to the restrictions of speech imposed upon him by humanity.

Zarathustra's speech here is the speech of true philosophy. He describes true being, a state that he could not attain without solitude. The speech of the regular world is simple prattle to Zarathustra. Though philosophers might try to find being in their words, their speech actually masks the true nature of being. As Zarathustra continues to speak in his solitude, new ways of being open up before him.

On the Three Evils

"On the Three Evils" has two parts. In the first part, Zarathustra has a "sweet dream" in which he stands on a mountain top overlooking the world. He finds that the world can be "weighed" and comprehended. Instead of prophesying an impending doom as other dreams have done, this dream confirms the power that Zarathustra has found in his solitude. Zarathustra's dream does not look upon the world "curiously" or "fearfully." In this dream, the whole world is his to comprehend.

When Zarathustra wakes, he undertakes the task of weighing the three most evil things in the world and trying to free them from the constraints of the old teachings of Christianity. These three great evils all have to do with passion: the sensual passion of sex, the passion to rule, and the passion of the self. Zarathustra must relieve these passions of the weight given them by the teachings of modern virtue and Christianity.

Earlier, Zarathustra talked about the benefit of chastity, but here he extols the virtues of sexual pleasure. In sexual pleasure, he says, humanity is moved forward through procreation. The pleasure felt between a man and a woman is symbolic of the greater pleasure that is felt when humanity "marries" Life and the overman is achieved. The passion to rule is the greatest of the passions that Zarathustra must free. What is truly evil about this passion is the necessity of rulers to stoop low to achieve their power. Zarathustra sees how this is similar to his own weakness: his love for humanity. The final passion that Zarathustra must rescue is the passion of the self (selfishness). This is a passion that has been called evil by society. For Zarathustra, however, this passion for the self is the essential thing that takes a person from the depths of life and propels him forward to the overman. By redeeming these three evils and rescuing them from the teachings of morality, Zarathustra seeks to use these former vices for the achievement of the overman. Such a redemption of these evils is necessary if humanity is to progress.

On the Spirit of Gravity

In this chapter, Zarathustra finally faces his greatest enemy: the Spirit of Gravity. This spirit appeared earlier as the dwarf on Zarathustra's shoulder, but his power was not diminished by the riddle of time that Zarathustra gave him. This spirit is the "devil" of all humanity because it binds men and keeps them from ascending to great heights.

Zarathustra begins this speech by recounting the way in which his body opposes the grave. He runs and speaks and writes, which are all actions that make him a being of life. Gravity is a teacher of the grave. It teaches about the grave because it teaches, as Platonism does, that humanity is a soul and that the body is something to be overcome. For gravity, the grave is the essential meaning of life. Man is divided into the body and the soul, and the soul is the greater of those two parts. An ascension to the soul is the necessary state of being that one can hope to accomplish. For Zarathustra, this is a lie and an evil that must be overcome.

This spirit of gravity is Zarathustra's greatest enemy because it centers all humanity around itself, weighing humanity down. In order to defeat such a spirit, Zarathustra must not only banish it. He must replace this spirit and become the new center of gravity for humanity, a center in which humanity is given a new weight in relation to Zarathustra. The weight that the old spirit of gravity gave to humanity was the weight of the self as a citizen. When a man thinks of himself in relation to the society around him, he is reliant upon an outside force to give life an ultimate meaning. Zarathustra knows he must replace this outside force with the truth that all such outside forces are dead. He will stress that the ascension to the overman is the essential state of being for humanity.

On the Old and New Tablets

This chapter, the longest chapter of the book, is a retrospective of Zarathustra's public teachings. Zarathustra reflects on everything that he has done and what it meant. He also revises his teaching, naming his past mistakes and showing a better way to move forward.

As the chapter opens, Zarathustra is sitting among broken tablets that represent the old laws of religion and modernity. He writes upon new tablets that establish the new laws and state of being for humanity. Zarathustra recounts his lessons about the creative power of good and evil. He realizes that he was a fool and a madman when he first began to teach to the crowds. Zarathustra then reflects on his teaching of the overman. He realizes that, while the overman is still the essential state of the new humanity, his teaching is much more centered on the eternal return. The eternal return will be realized when the new humanity returns to the earth to reconstitute it and redeem it from the old ways of teaching. This utopia is now the focus of Zarathustra's teaching.

The rest of the chapter is a summation of the major themes in Zarathustra's teachings. He says that lessons about topics such as envy, wisdom, and selfishness are necessary for the coming age, even if people do not fully comprehend them now. The chapter closes with Zarathustra praying that his will may deliver him to the future that awaits him as a being with great power. Zarathustra hopes that his will can "preserve" him from "small victories." He needs his will to help him achieve the great victory of the eternal return.

The Convalescent

Zarathustra is awakened one morning by a deep abyss rising inside of him. He runs out of his cave, screaming like a madman and frightening the animals around him. He pleads with the abyss to rise up so that he can confront it. After his yelling, he collapses "like a dead man and long [remains] as if dead." His animals stay by his side for seven days and bring him food. When he awakens they speak to him and tell him that "the world awaits you like a garden."

Zarathustra's sickness is representative of all humanity's sickness. It is a universal condition of seeking revenge for being imprisoned in time. When he awakens, it is the animals around him that begin to speak. It is their speech that gives the reader the fullest view of eternal return. The animals speak for "all things." They say that all of the earth is awaiting his return. The fact that the animals begin speaking does not represent a change of being for them. Instead, it represents Zarathustra's new ability to speak to all creation on a natural level. He can understand the animals just as he can understand the rest of nature.

Zarathustra criticizes the animals for having watched him suffer for seven days. Though this criticism seems unfair because the animals helped him during that time, Zarathustra is actually condemning mankind. It is humanity, he says, that needs to be helped by those who are less great. According to Zarathustra, society has created a great barrier. Society deems certain humans as being greater than others, but even these "great humans" are unable to attain the highest positions of power that gods occupy. This has made humanity a cruel race.

Zarathustra's sickness is actually a realization that hierarchy in humanity is still a necessity even in the eternal return. Zarathustra had envisioned a society free from the need of the lower ranks of humanity, but he finds that these lower ranks still exist. He is still consumed with the human desire for revenge, a state he must overcome if he is to will himself to ascend beyond humanity. Zarathustra's great challenge is to will the order of rank in humanity. He must allow the "small man" to exist, but only because he wills it.

On Great Longing

As Zarathustra finishes his song, he falls into a deep stillness where he contemplates the inner thoughts of his being. In this song, he celebrates the gifts that he has given his soul. Zarathustra has now been redeemed; his nature of revenge has subsided and he takes joy in the freedom he has given to his soul.

He prepares his soul now to sing a new song, a song that has not been sung before. He believes that this new song will make him a kind of new god. Zarathustra is now the master and redeemer of his own soul. This is the culmination of redemption that has been building up since the end of part two. Zarathustra has now discovered the will to power and knows the true nature of revenge, a nature that holds mankind captive within time. He has looked into the heavens and has seen that there are no gods there. Only speech constitutes being. Zarathustra knows that there is nothing in the skies that resembles a god. The earth is the only thing that can make mankind sacred. Zarathustra prophecies that he will return as a god through his music after he has attained the highest victory. Zarathustra's prophecy tells of the return of Dionysus, the Greek god. Dionysus will not return to a world of multiple gods as was ancient Greece. Instead, Dionysus will come to rule over a world burnt by the death of the one God and the vacuum of spirituality that is left by that death. Dionysus represents the ascension of mankind to a new kind of godlike state, the eternal return and the state of the overman.

The Other Dance Song

Zarathustra sings this song to himself when he is completely alone in his cave. It is a song of joy because he has been fully redeemed. Zarathustra has finally achieved the redeemed state he has sought ever since he left his disciples. The song is a conversation with Life. Unlike the previous conversation with Life, however, Zarathustra finds that Life is jealous of his great wisdom. Zarathustra calms her jealousy because his wisdom is no longer in opposition to Life. His wisdom now loves life more than anything. As the speech ends, Zarathustra and Life weep together as they gaze "at the green meadow" below them.

In this speech, Zarathustra has learned to love life completely, a state that he was not able to achieve before his enlightenment. For Zarathustra, life has been transformed, not through the force "of the whip," as Life says. It is Zarathustra's force that eventually tames her like a wild animal, and they eventually become lovers. Zarathustra marries Life, and their passion is symbolized by the sexual pleasure that a man and a woman can feel. For Zarathustra, this love of life is the greatest pleasure. The chapter ends when a clock strikes midnight. By the twelfth toll, Zarathustra proclaims that his joy has reached an eternal state.

The Seven Seals (Or: the Yes and Amen Song)

This final chapter of part three echoes the final book of the Bible, the book of Revelation (this is the 66th chapter of Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Revelation is the 66th book of the Bible). Each part of this chapter relates the breaking of a seal that brings about a new phase of the new humanity. Similarly, in Revelation, the breaking of the seven seals unleashes an apocalyptic terror upon the earth. Unlike Revelation, the breaking of these seals does not signal death to the earth. Instead, it signals the marriage between Zarathustra, the new god, and Life.

In the first part, Zarathustra is a soothsayer bringing redemption to the earth. The second part recounts Zarathustra's wrath for mankind, but his wrath is assuaged by his love for the woman of eternity. The third part affirms Zarathustra's "creative breath" and affirms his place as a divine being. The fourth part relates Zarathustra's mission as this new divine being; he is to free the nature of things from the constraints of the old world and bring about the truth of the eternal return. The fifth part relates life and nature like an ocean full of possibility to be discovered. The discovery of all that is infinite is Zarathustra's new goal. The sixth and seventh parts culminate with the image of Zarathustra flying over the world and over humanity, an image that has been a part of Zarathustra's ultimate goal since the beginning of the book. For Zarathustra and his new bride, there is neither "up" or "down" or "out" or "back." Zarathustra has fulfilled his destiny and has been wedded to life and eternity.

This final chapter of the book shows Zarathustra's ascension to the highest point of his divinity. He has now achieved the state of the overman. He no longer seeks revenge.