Friedrich Nietzsche is likely one of the most famous philosophers, among other things, in recent history. His words, “God is dead,” have echoed throughout the world since they were first uttered. But few who invoke these words understand their true meaning.
Nietzsche was not proclaiming a triumph of progress over archaic tradition, as many would have you believe; rather, he was issuing a warning. Nietzsche believed that the foundations of society—God—had begun to fail, and that with its failure there would be a collapse in values and rising nihilism.
He believed that this collapse in values would allow for the development of the “Overman” (a person of the highest mental caliber, capable of creating and living by their own values), but also feared what he called the doctrine of radical equality.
“Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None,”was written by Nietzsche between 1883 and 1885, and it expresses these concerns heavily. In it, there is a section of prose that is far and away one of my favorite that I have ever read. I have been thinking about it a lot recently, so in lieu of a traditional column I have reproduced it in more modern language. I want to share this excerpt. I’m not sure why exactly, but I do. I hope it is as striking to you as it is to me.
Behold; this is the hole of the tarantula.
Do you want to see the tarantula itself? Here hangs its web; touch it so that it trembles. There it comes willingly. Welcome, tarantula! Your triangle and symbol sits black on your back, and I also know what sits in your soul: revenge sits in your soul. Wherever you bite, black scabs grow, and your poison makes the soul dizzy with revenge. Thus I speak to you in a parable—you who make souls dizzy, you preachers of equality. To me you are tarantulas, and secretly vengeful. But I shall bring your secrets to light; therefore, I laugh in your faces with my laughter of the heights. Therefore I tear at your webs, that your rage may lure you out of your den of lies, and your revenge may leap out from behind your word:
For that man be delivered from revenge, that is for me the bridge to the highest hope, and a rainbow after long storms.
The tarantulas, of course, would have it otherwise. "What justice means to us is precisely that the world be filled with the storms of our revenge"—thus they speak to each other:
"We shall wreak vengeance and abuse on all whose equals we are not"—thus do the tarantula-hearts vow. "And 'will to equality' shall henceforth be the name for virtue; and against all that has power we will raise our clamor!"
You preachers of equality. The tyrannomania of impotence clamors thus out of you for equality: your most secret ambitions to be tyrants thus shroud themselves in words of virtue! Aggrieved conceit, repressed envy—perhaps the conceit and envy of your fathers—erupt from you as a flame and as the frenzy of revenge.
What was silent in the Father speaks in the Son, and I often found the Son to be the unveiled secret of the Father.
They’re like zealots, but it is not the heart that fires them, but revenge. And when they become elegant and cold it is not the spirit, but envy, that makes them elegant and cold. Their jealousy leads them even on the paths of thinkers. And this is the sign of their jealousy:
they always go too far,
till in their weariness they must in the end lie down to sleep in the snow.
Out of every one of their complaints sounds revenge; in their praise there is always a sting, and to be a judge seems bliss to them.
But thus I counsel you my friends: mistrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful! They are people of a low sort and stock; the hangman and the bloodhound look out of their faces.
Mistrust all who talk much of their justice! Verily, their souls lack more than honey. And when they call themselves “the good and the just,” do not forget that they would be pharisees, if only they had power.
My friends, I do not want to be mixed up and confused with others. Some preach my doctrine of life, and are at the same time preachers of equality, and tarantulas. Although they are sitting in their holes, these poisonous spiders, with their backs turned on life, they speak in favor of life, but only because they wish to hurt.
They wish to hurt those who now have power, for among those the preaching of death is still most at home. If it were otherwise, the tarantulas would teach otherwise; they themselves were once the foremost slanderers of the world and burners of heretics.
I do not wish to be mixed up and confused with these preachers of equality. For thus speaketh justice unto me: "Men are not equal." And neither shall they become so!
… On a thousand bridges and piers shall they throng to the future, and always shall there be more war and inequality among them: thus does my great love make me speak!
Inventors of figures and phantoms shall they be in their hostilities; and with those figures and phantoms shall they yet fight with each other the supreme fight!
Good and evil, and rich and poor, and high and low, and all names of values: weapons shall they be, and sounding signs, that life must again and again surpass itself!
Aloft will it build itself with columns and stairs—life itself into remote distances would it gaze, and out towards blissful beauties—therefore does it require elevation!
And because it require elevation, therefore does it require steps, and variance of steps and climbers! To rise striving for life, and in rising to surpass itself.
And just behold, my friends! Here where the tarantula's den is, risen above an ancient temple's ruins—just behold it with enlightened eyes!
Verily, he who here towered aloft his thoughts in stone, knew as well as the wisest ones about the secret of life!
That there is struggle and inequality even in beauty, and war for power and supremacy: that does he here teach us in the plainest parable.
How divinely do vault and arch here contrast in the struggle: how with light and shade they strive against each other, the divinely striving ones.—
Thus, steadfast and beautiful, let us also be enemies, my friends! Divinely will we strive against one another!—
Alas! There has the tarantula bit me myself, my old enemy! Divinely steadfast and beautiful, it has bit me on the finger!
"Punishment must there be, and justice"—so thinketh it: "not gratuitously shall he here sing songs in honor of enmity!"
Yea, it has avenged itself! And alas! Now will it make my soul also dizzy with revenge!
That I may not turn dizzy, however, bind me fast, my friends, to this pillar! Rather will I be a pillar-saint than a whirl of vengeance!
Verily, no cyclone or whirlwind is Zarathustra: and if he be a dancer, he is not at all a tarantula-dancer!—
Thus spake Zarathustra.
Stephen Strong is a senior majoring in Finance and International Business. He can be reached email@example.com.
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