This is my free rendering of the crucial passage ("The Vision & the Riddle") from Book III of Nietzszche’s famous revelatory prose-poem about Sri Zarathustra -- the post-metaphysical saint & trans-religious guru. We can speculate endlessly about whether this or that historical sage was aligned with "postmetaphysical spirituality" but it is obvious, overt and intended in the case of Zarathustra. Consequently he should hold a special place of honor in our hearts... and even perhaps a privileged status in the ethos of this online forum.

Fans of this luminous text (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) will know how this passage fits into the basic plot. After attaining illumination, the idiosyncratic and irreligious sage is moved by his natural compassionate abundance. He wishes to share his energy and depth in the human marketplace. But he soon discovers that the world is too full of disparate viewpoints. A superficial cacophony, a motley and bovine assemblage of diverse value systems swarms in the contemporary culture -- refuting all coherence and making mockery of authentic enactments of depth. So Zarathustra turns instead to the cultivation of a small band of friends (the free spirits) who are intellectually and spiritually attracted to his message. Over time, however, he begins to worry that their positive response to him may actually be impeding their own development. Even though they understand and agree with his teachings, they are not yet enough of themselves to really get where he is coming from. Thus he retires from being a “guru” and becomes a wanderer among the Happy Islands. He seeks to discover non-obvious truths which have not been revealed in his enlightenment. He is desperate to discover why higher transformative intelligence is not getting through to human civilization in a more dynamic manner. And he wants to overcome two lingering problems that he has diagnosed in his own psyche -- the egotism of his enlightenment & his sense of depression about modern humanity.

He sets out to sea. This is the setting of The Vision & The Riddle. The subsequent passage in the text is called Of Involuntary Bliss. That is very suggestive. The passage we will examine presents a secret that may generate unforced contentment. This prophetic writing by Nietzsche should be of particular interest to those who have studied Adi Da's description of the insights which led to his own laughing, dancing and peculiar awakening. 



When it became rumored aboard the ship that the controversial sage Zarathustra was among them, a great curiosity and expectancy arose. Yet Zarathustra was brooding on his rare troubles and behaved as if cold and deaf to those around him. He did not respond to glances or queries. However, on the evening of the second day at sea, he relaxed and opened his ears again. He discovered that many strange things were buzzing on board that ship -- which had already come far and still had very far to go. Despite himself, he had always been a friend to those who take long journeys and do not want to live without danger. So behold! By listening to his fellow travelers he found his tongue loosened and his icy solitude broken. Thus he spoke with them, saying:

To you, bold venturers & adventurers, I speak! I speak to whomever has ever embarked with cunning sails upon dreadful seas, to you who are intoxicated by puzzling riddles, who take pleasure in the twilight of dusk, whose soul is lured by flutes into every treacherous abyss. You do not desire to grope for a rope with cowardly hands, and where you can guess you hate to calculate. To you alone do I tell this riddle of what I saw -- the vision of the Most Solitary Man.

Lately, I was walking gloomily through a deathly gray twilight. Gloomily & sternly. With compressed lips. Not only one sun had gone down for me! My path was mounting a mountain defiantly through stark boulders and rubble. It was a wicked, solitary path no longer cheered by any bush or plant -- a mountainous path crunching under my defiant foot.

Striding mutely over the mocking clatter of pebbles, trampling stones and making them slip, my feet forced themselves upward with great effort. Upward -- despite the spirit that drew them downward... down toward the abyss. It was the Spirit of Gravity! My old devil and arch-enemy. Upward I climbed although he sat heavily upon me, half dwarf & half mole, crippled & crippling. He poured lead drops into my ear and leaden thoughts into my brain.

O Zarathustra!” he said mockingly, sounding it out syllable by syllable, “you stone of wisdom! You have thrown yourself so high… but every stone that is thrown must FALL! O Zarathustra, you stone of wisdom, you great projectile, you star-destroyer! You have thrown yourself so high but every stone that is thrown MUST fall! Condemned by your self, condemned to your own stone throwing… O Zarathustra, you has thrown you stone so far but it will fall back upon you!

The dwarf then fell silent for a long time. His silence oppressed me. To be silent like that in company is truly more lonely than to be alone… So I climbed. I climbed, I dreamed & thought, but everything oppressed me. I was like a man with an awful illness who awakens from a nightmare to find himself in an even worse dream.

But there something in me that I am willing to call “courage”. It has always returned to destroy whatever is discouraging in me. This courage at last made me stop and say:

Dwarf! You -- or I!”

Courage is the best destroyer -- a courage that attacks. In every attack there is a small triumphant shout.  

The human being is the most courageous animal. Armed with his courage, he has overcome every beast. With his triumphant shout he has conquered so many natural pains. But inside him is a special human pain that is deeper than all others.

Courage also destroy the giddiness we feel in the face of an abyss. And where does a man not stand facing an abyss? To be able to see oneself -- doesn’t that meaning finding an abyss everywhere?

Courage is the best destroyer. Courage also destroys pity. Pity is the deepest abyss, for as deeply as a person looks into Life they will see into suffering.

Courage is the best destroyer, I say, a courage that attacks. For it destroys even Death when it declares, “Was that life? Very well then -- once more!” There is a great triumphant shout in such a saying. Whomever has hears, let him hear.


“Stop, dwarf!” I said. “It is I - or you! And I am the stronger one -- for you do not know my abysmal thought. You could not endure to know what I am now thinking…

Then I felt suddenly lighter. The dwarf jumped down from my shoulder to examine something. That inquisitive dwarf! He squatted upon a stone and we beheld a strange portal which stood where we had halted.

Behold this gateway, dwarf!” I announced. “It has two sides. Two paths come together here and no one has ever gone to the end of either. This long pathway behind us goes on for an eternity. And that long lane ahead -- that is another eternity. They are opposed to each other but they touch each other. They diverge in conflict but in this gateway they come together. The name written above this threshold is: The Moment. If one were to follow them further and ever further do you suppose, dwarf, that they would remain in opposition?

Everything straight lies,” muttered the dwarf disdainfully. “All truth is crooked and time itself is a circle…

Spirit of Gravity,” I cursed angrily. “Do not treat this so lightly! Or perhaps I will leave you here, squatting where you are on your lame feet. I have carried you so very high!”

That silenced him. I continued:

Behold this moment! From this portal a long eternal lane runs back -- and an eternity lies ahead. Must not all things that can pass not already have passed along this lane? Must not all things that can happen have already happened, been done, gone passed? For they have had forever to do it! And if all things have been here before then what do you think of this moment, dwarf? Must not this gateway have been here before? Are not all things entangled so tightly that this moment pulls with it all future things and also itself?

For all things that can pass must run once again forward along this long lane. And that slow spider creeping in this moonlight, and this moonlight, and I & you whispering at the gateway together, whispering of eternal things -- must we not have already been here? And must we not return and pass forward eternally along that long terrible lane that reaches ahead...

Thus I spoke, more and more softly, trailing off… for I was suddenly afraid of my own thoughts and many concerns about this matter. But my worry was interrupted by the sound of a dog howling nearby.

Had I ever heard a dog howl thusly? My memory ran backwards -- yes! Once when I was a child… in my most distant childhood… I heard a dog howling in this way. And I saw it too! Bristling. Its head raised. Trembling in the stillness of midnight when even dogs believe in ghosts. It moved me to pitiful empathy.

The full moon had just gone over the roof of the house, silent as death, and stopped. A still round glow upon the flat roof as if upon a forbidden place. An intrusion. That was what terrified the dog -- for dogs believe in thieves and ghosts. And so when I heard that howling again on the mountain I was again moved to pity.

Where had the dwarf gone? And the gateway? And the spider? Had I only been dreaming? Had I now awoken? All at once I found myself standing alone between wild barren cliffs -- desolate in the most desolate moonlight.

And I spotted a man lying on the ground. Beside him the dog was leaping, bristling, whining, imploring. It saw me coming and howling again. It cried out!  Had I ever heard a dog cry out for help like that?

Truly, I had never seen such a spectacle as I did then:

The man was a young shepherd, the master of a flock, and he was writhing, choking, convulsing with his face distorted. And why? Because a heavy black snake was hanging from his mouth, caught in his throat.

I had never seen so much disgust and pallid horror on a face. Had he been asleep, perhaps? Had the serpent crawled into his sleeping maw and bitten into his throat, locking itself in place?

I rushed to his side and tugged and yanked on the snake but in vain. Those yanks could not tug the snake from the shepherd’s throat. And then I heard my own voice call out:

Bite! Bite its head off! Bite!" All my horror, hate, disgust and pity, all my good and evil cried out of me with a single cry.

You bold men around me on this ship, you venturers & adventurers, those of you who have embarked with cunning sails upon undiscovered seas! You who take pleasure in puzzles -- solve for me the riddle that I saw that night. Interpret for me the vision of the most solitary man!

For it was a vision and a premonition.

What did I see in this allegory? Who is it that must one day come? Who is this shepherd into whose mouth the snake thus crawled? Who is the man into whose throat all that is heaviest and blackest will thus crawl?

The shepherd bit as my cry had advised him. He bit with a good bite -- spitting away the snake’s head and springing to his feet. No longer a shepherd, no longer a man! He was a transformed being surrounded by light. Laughing.

Never yet on Earth has any man laughed as he laughed.

O my brothers, I heard then a laughter that was no longer human and it awoken in me a terrible thirst. My thirst for that laughter consumes me. This longing is never stilled. My longing for this laughter consumes me.

How do I even endure to live without it?

And how could I possibly endure to die now?

Thus spoke Zarathustra.

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We first discover thresholds either by virtue of the intimidating admonitions of others -- or by having noticed that we have already crossed them.  Many thresholds are retroactive.  Enough of these and we become convinced that the process will happen again...

The entry on N's "hierarchy" hints at the different ways he envisioned the clearing being held.  It is, shall we say, assimilated into the overman, approximated by the integral higher man, experimented with by the free spirit and dismissed or ignored, cleverly, by the "folk".  Etc. 

As we grow into the Emergent it becomes a more obvious, less abstract fact of ordinary life.  We could say that the Zen masters find it present while chopping wood & carrying water.  Yet when it still remains a kind of alternative to daily life then we must not contaminate our response to everyday crises by a moot contrast against quasi-being.  Up to a certain point the logic associated with the stabilization of any given situation must hold true... until we look back and see that no longer happening the same way.

However the emergent or the overman or the clearing are, for N, only valuable and interesting insofar as they represent new peak depths of the healthy empowering integration of our parts, our instincts.  So they obey the same logic as the one which drives all other behavior.  Every little success shows the same form.  The tightly regulated life has a certain victory to it.  We would be fools to abandon this unless we felt we might have some success in embracing fluidity and mystery.  Each potential increase comes with a risk (as Wilber is always saying about the "levels").

To go along with destiny, to "amor fati", is a more graceful packaging which is healthier and amplifies the beingness-empowerment more coherently.  But, of course, if our beautiful story involves the grace of being dragged kicking and screaming (as we all might do under certain conditions) then we have transmuted that into destiny. 

The old (normal) experience of Gods gives us a way to enfold the daily fates that encroach upon us...

Hi Layman - I just noticed your reply.

OK - to follow this, I need again to come loose from my and the conventional connotations of 'will' and willing something into being. Will, some might observe, is a coincidence of intention, action, and circumstance. It is not simply intentionality toward self-satisfying, on steroids. Somewhat like 'power' is not just the exaggerated capacity towards force - another word that elicits conventional connotations in me.

"Which means that over-identification and failure to process the energies of the events of our life leave us unable to responsibly incorporate them (naturalize them) into our general self-definition. And that naturalization is essential for restoring the flow of our good-timing and sense of empowerment." 

Yes - I am wondering about this more than ever lately. From everyday interactional glitches, to common neurotic fixations and worries, to vague existential collapses, shutterings, and full-imbueing dreads, there is the challenge to process and maybe integrate. For me, I spend quite a lot of time (again, for me, relatively) allowing these left-overs from yesterday to surface and pester, gut-and-mind-grip, and swirl about me. I am often reticent to, or unable to, address these in systematic even 'therapeutic' ways because it is the surround of tumult that seems to be an important part of it all. Often I am reticent to or unable to organize the tumult - sorta trusting (perhaps over time and perhaps in the slightest faithes of grace) that there is a level of 'self'-organization that is effectuating the integration. (Or in the face of huge angst or overpowering nihilism, I feel lazy, impotent, collapsed - I'm not sure. This manner of being with the mess, especially in the early morning hours, may be proving to be of some value - TBD)

eh, ambo

Layman Pascal said:

Ambo Suno said:

Do you feel seriously ambivalent about, "I WILLED IT THUS"? I do.

The notion of will can be misleading (even when we are Friends of Ambivalence).  It seems to imply a forceful and decisive do-er... but actually it is observed to mean a kind of co-incidence between intention and action.  Babies learn to move their limbs before they learn to move them "on purpose".  Purpose can come after the fact.  For Nietzsche this means almost the same thing as "integration" -- in the sense of assimilating, digesting, working an event or quality into the weave of your life until it has a natural charm to it.  Making it mutual with your other experience.  And only sometimes does this involve a spiritual practice of "allowing, welcoming, affirming". 
To quote Lester Levenson -- What we resist, persists.  Which means that over-identification and failure to process the energies of the events of our life leave us unable to responsibly incorporate them (naturalize them) into our general self-definition.  And that naturalization is essential for restoring the flow of our good-timing and sense of empowerment.

Ambo Suno

This is the one of rare and beautiful about Nietzsche's work -- that we are continually asked to operate with a good conscience beyond our conventional connotations.  Your description of indigested left-overs of experience, however much that is true of you, is true of everyone. And anyone with a fairly healthy psycho-organism must come to trust that, like digesting solid food, it kinda goes by itself.  The churning is part of the process.  On the other hand, surely, we are all too lazy and prone to various levels of despair in the face small and large forms of vital shock. 

We are led, in a way, to that familiar crossroads between "going through" and "changing direction".  I believe the world has yet to make a decision on that...

Well, said, layman - makes sense. Thank you.

Blessings with us, d

Layman Pascal said:

Ambo Suno

This is the one of rare and beautiful about Nietzsche's work -- that we are continually asked to operate with a good conscience beyond our conventional connotations.  Your description of indigested left-overs of experience, however much that is true of you, is true of everyone. And anyone with a fairly healthy psycho-organism must come to trust that, like digesting solid food, it kinda goes by itself.  The churning is part of the process.  On the other hand, surely, we are all too lazy and prone to various levels of despair in the face small and large forms of vital shock. 

We are led, in a way, to that familiar crossroads between "going through" and "changing direction".  I believe the world has yet to make a decision on that...


Nietzsche proposes that the normal (i.e. non-pathological, non-nihilistic) form of cultural evolution involves qualitative upgrades and complexification in which things are born out of their apparent opposites. His primary example is the way that "modern values" emerge naturally from "christian theocratic values". To whit:

The notions of equality before God, a Law higher than politics, Ultimate Truth & and the death of the mythological God in the form of the divine human being (Jesus) are all factors which almost predictably become the rational enlightenment -- with its notions of individual equality, freedom from ethnic customs, the radical search for truth and the divinity of Man freed from myth.

The same understanding is presented in his frequent discussions about how hypocrisy, hype and deception are creative conditions that give rise -- over time -- to truth, authenticity and new structures. We are reminded immediately of Marx's belief that the implicit structural contradictions within Capitalism would press forward naturally toward a more Socialist society -- wherever they are not thwarted.

Anyone conscious of the unfolding-emergent "vertical" axis of personal and cultural levels of cognition and values will resonant with this idea that the "next vMeme" naturally unfolds from even the problematic or superficial structures of the previous level. And when this does not happen we should suspect nihilism/pathology.


If you read Nietzsche's summary analysis of "noble qualities" from cultures around the world (present in his "Will to Power" notebooks) you will find, interestingly -- dandyishness, foppishness.

He says that depth naturally feels the need to veil itself in frivolity. This is often overlook as a sign of a "noble nature". However we may read that Julius Caesar first became well-known in Rome for his outlandish dress sense.

Likewise we might also think of Hugh Laurie & Stephen Fry -- whose early escapes of utter silliness gave way to Laurie's brooding complexity of "House" and the serious civilization-building efforts of Fry.

There is a saying in Europe that the only real philosophers in America are comedians. And that is no surprise to anyone in America!

Depth must learn to hide, play, mock. It must protect itself from its intense seriousness by taking serious things lightly. It must win a space for its whims so that a deeper will has room to operate. Etc. Again I would point to the critical section in Zarathustra concerning "The Ass Festival" as the temporary solution to the problem of the Higher Human Being.

$33. From the notebooks -- a fascinating definition of "Dionysus":

From [that] height of joy where man feels himself to be altogether a deified form and a self-justification of Nature, all the way down to the joy of healthy peasants and healthy half-human animals, this whole, long, tremendous light and color scale of happiness, the Greeks, not without a grateful shudder of him who is initiated into a Mystery, not without much caution and pious silence, called by the Divine Name: DIONYSUS. What do any latter day men, the children of a fragmentary, multifarious, possibly sick and strange age, know of the sheer RANGE of Greek happiness; what could they know of it!

This slice out of a longer passage is remarkable for its articulation of a central principle of Integral Spirituality. Dionysus is the "range" of happiness. This is deity understood as a spectrum (the whole, long, tremendous light and color scale of happiness).

Those who have glimpsed the potential validity of every value can relate easily with this position. This is not a God beyond or atop the spectrum of realities but one which already is the diverse self-authenticating and healthy happiness which manifests in various degrees and ways. The peasants and humanimals are as Dionysian as the sages and seer... when they are "healthy". Any doctrine of the "whole Spiral" must think in this form. Our God is something alive that works same-differently in all perspectives, quadrants, levels, etc. Dionysus.

"Dionysus is the "range" of happiness. This is deity understood as a spectrum (the whole, long, tremendous light and color scale of happiness)."

Layman, this touches closely enough with a couple of phenomena/events in my immediate life that I feel inspired to talk about me, my self. Hah (these happenings also seem to relate some, within myself, to, "Depth must learn to hide, play, mock. It must protect itself from its intense seriousness by taking serious things lightly. It must win a space for its whims so that a deeper will has room to operate. Etc.")

This morning was a skate sandwich - on surfbread.

I did a dawn patrol session alone - only one out in the high-tide reverb zone by shore. When done a skate and surf buddy texted me about having tea - I countered with, how bout a skate at the mall parking lot. Did some shopping then met for a few groovy runs before we acquiesced to a circling security vehicle. Next we sandwiched with a surprisingly sweet and glassy session of nicely shaped waves around 11 am. Ok, good and pretty unusual for me to double-dip.

What my energy, affect, arousal, and "surplus coherence" was doing almost incrementally after each progressing episode was to climb.There was a trackable spectrum of happiness-likeness occurring right inside this bag of skin over a noticeable time period.

Let me go back further to the rain and poor wave conditions for a couple of days, staying out of the H2O and working on some integral powerpoint applications for Hospice training and Osteopathy training for a friend. Though yesterday I surfed, my head uncharacteristically ached and felt thick from, I speculated, too much brain and eye work and my habitual associated concentration constrictions/contractions. I slept barely ok last night and during my common 3:30-4:30 am casual meditation/contemplation/prayerish/breathwork time I felt like there was maybe some depth and yet personalization, but nothing I would call happiness - yet it and the heavier crappiness from prior days is within a lower range of spectrums of happiness (affect etc.)

I didn't feel quite like surfing this am, though it was gonna happen, and I actual felt pretty poor viscerally and about my general state and life as I made my way to the uninviting surfline. Noone was out - that must mean something. I suited up anyway. I semi-consciously monitored my well-being and happiness gauges as I often do, while I paddled out.

Eh, meh. Got dumped a couple of times in my disarray and in the high-tide backwash turbulence. Then got a few ok rides. I was feeling a little better inside myself physically and mentally. I did a short session and got out. What I concluded was, "I feel pretty good - yeah - smooth and good and a bit mellow. Yay, because I haven't been."

Low key well-being accompanied me as I did my trader joes' shopping run and getting my first caffeine of the day with a free sample. I cruised the lot, feeling smooth (that seems to be an operative description for this moment on the spectrum), went to WinCo, got the frozens, and returned to meet the skater brah.

He was late so I tried some cheater hang-tens on the longboard without bustin dees ole bones, and was feeling mellow good. Don shows up and we carve some lines, him in his usual elegant, low, and powerful speed generations. When we call it off because the security van had been riding right behind me as I played my way back up the hill, I was feeling quite well, indeed.

"Hey, shall we check out C st?" "Yeah, when I got out and the tide was turning around, some sets were coming through, and the wind wasn't on it - could be really good." "Hey, you wanta take me over and get my board and gear and we'll go in." [Brief hesitation, I say] "Yeah - let me put my frozen stuff in the freezer first."

We get there (skipping a lot of poignant micro-story-details), suit up uncharacteristically fast for me and paddle out. Sweeet! [said in clipped, faux high voice] After the skate sandwich with surf bread, I was almost bursting with affective charge, thinking in various permutations and saying some of them aloud, "I can't believe how lucky we are! I can't believe this is me doing this!" Bubbling like a happiness cauldron. WTF, laughter, a little disorientation - is this really me? Is this ok that I feel so giddy-good?

I'm then thinking, ok, I have spent my allotted wad and received way more than my allotted happiness contract, I'm gonna go home and eat and lay down for a read and a nap - let this ungodly joy-like happiness thing calm down and balance it with some dread-time. Shheet! D, says, "You want to stop for a breakfast burrito and I, after a nano of reluctance, say, guess what. Sure!" And in my surpluses of various denominations, drive a bit maniacally quick, reflexive, and erratic to Los Corales. D's laughing but glad to climb down from the jeep after it catches a curb corner turning into the parking lot.

He asks if I want to come over to his back yard to eat the burritos. I said, after a mini-nonce, OK. We chuckle and churtle and chew before I get to finally escape this scary level of happiness, fun, and deliciously regressive camaraderie.

I get home, recline, and begin to cooperate with a re-setting of the biopsychophysiological rheostat to light up this reality tunnel at levels that are familiar.

Like the goldilocks spectrum - too little happiness, too much happiness, and, ahh, there I am under the safe umbrella of a well-visited bell-shaped curve.

Don's reality corroborating text in low key: "Fun day Sir 'Ambo'. Real fun."

If you know what I mean. ambo

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What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

This group is for anyone interested in exploring these questions and tracing out the horizons of an integral post-metaphysical spirituality.

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