Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
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.
THE VISION & THE RIDDLE
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.
The Three Great Transformations in Nietzsche's Anticipatory Aesthetics
The emerging potential style which, like postmetaphysical philosophy and embodied trans-perspectival spiritual, characterizes the transfigured and healthy new culture spirit of the planetary ethos is characterized by:
1. CLASSICAL ABSORBS MODERN.
2. NORTH ABSORBS SOUTH.
3. DIONYSUS ABSORBS APOLLO.
Let's break that down a little:
1. CLASSICAL ABSORBS MODERN.
By "classical" Nietzsche always means "the Grand Style". This is what the great and ancient imperial harmonies suggest to us -- a sense of eternity, a calm potency, a thirst to forge examples into types, slowness of response, trans-personal, trans-national, trans-temporal, integrated militarism, integrated creative oppression, steadyness, a sense of looking upon vast distance and looking down at many things without contempt or rancor, a sense of good conscience about the harmonization of all aspects of life. So THAT must re-establish itself by incorporating and redeeming the particularities of the modern style. Modernity is characterized aesthetically by (a) decadence (b) nuance (c) fragmentation.
Decadence must be explored, known, separated into its strengthening and weakening aspects, and enfolded back into a classical intensity and harmony. Stings, poisons, ugliness and obscenity must be teased apart into Indulgence vs. Epiphany.
Nuance -- the modern genius for idiosyncratic detail, referentiality, and micro-contextualization -- must become a element of classicism which no longer appears to be a critique, revolution or alternative.
Fragmentation (e.g. the divisions within academia and the sciences which, according to Jose Ortega y Gasset are the culprit behind the rise of trivial "mass taste" in art and culture) must be spanned and challenged without losing the element which has permitted technologically innovation to flourish.
2. NORTH ABSORBS SOUTH.
The sense of exploratory individualism, structure-building, rigor and icy clarity found among northern "races" must overcome itself, get free of its depressive aspects and turn to the warmth symbolized by the Mediterranean sun. This means, in Nietzsche's terms, a voluntary migration of aesthetics toward the following qualities -- halycon mood, super-potent tranquility, non-tempestuous energies, confidence in calm golden seas even when storms rage, willingness to repeat, endless horizons, mild ecstasy, dry bliss, dancing gods, continuity, coherence, serene expansiveness...
3. DIONYSUS ABSORBS APOLLO.
The famous transition in Nietzsche between his first book (his neo-romantic attempt to diagnose pluralistic modernity) and his post-Zarathustra writings (in which he feels he now possess the Great Answer) is marked by a shift from Apollo & Dionysus... to simply Dionysus. What is the significance of this transformation?
Dionysus -- the reveller, the dancing man of the woods, the spirit of the world tree, the lord of nymphs, the branching one (dendrites - the fractal god, the endlessly bifurcating god), the green man, the many-one who is whole despite being torn apart, the prince of intoxicated states, the master of peak experiences, the cultivator of advanced potency, the soul of Becoming, the friend of Endless Time -- this ecstatic Being no longer stands opposed to the disciplined, form-giving, social spirit. Nietzsche begins to refer to "the philosopher Dionysus". The satyrs no longer oppose the professors, priests and politician... they replace the professors, priest and politicians and do their own kind of professing, priesting and politicking.
LSD-takers become scientists and city-planners. Complexity algorithms pumping out consumer products where no two are the same. Computers become slaves and generators of naturalness. Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, ZZ Top, Guns'n'Roses replacing music critics. Pornography moving from the ghettos back into the living rooms. Festival culture starting to dominate the economy. Reichians as the new Puritans. Carnival culture inhabiting and dominating "the news".
The ongoing blur of the differential between Bacchanalia and the productive forces of social organization and depth.
Nietzsche came to refute everything about Schopenhauer's philosophy -- but he remained enthusiastic about the style & personality-presentation in those works.
We start to see something, I think, if we imagine Schopenhauer-as-DJ.
Just as we begin to understand THELEMA a little better when we take Crowley's lyrics out of the realm of "bad poetry" and ask ourselves whether or not he was a hip hip artist ahead of his time...
From THE WAGNER CASE:
May I venture to say that Bizet's orchestra music is almost the only orchestration I can still endure?
That other orchestra music which is all the rage at present, the Wagnerian orchestration, is at once brutal, artificial and "innocent " -- thereby speaking to the three senses of modern soul at the same time. How detrimental to me is that Wagnerian orchestration! I call it the Sirocco. An unpleasant sweat breaks out on me. My good weather is gone.
Bizet's Carmen seems to me to be perfect. It approaches lightly, nimbly, and with courtesy. It is amiable, it does not produce sweat. "What is good is easy; everything divine runs with light feet." This is a first principle in my aesthetics. This music is evil, subtle, and fatalistic; it remains popular at the same time. It has the subtlety of a race, not of an individual. It is rich. It is precise. It builds, it organizes, it completes. It is thus the antithesis to the polyp in music -- the "infinite melody."
Have more painful, tragic accents ever been heard on the stage ? And how are they obtained? Without grimace! Without counterfeit coinage!... Finally, this music takes the auditor for an intelligent being, even for a musician...
SOCRATES, LEARN MUSIC
In The Birth of Tragedy from Out of the Spirit of Music, Herr Nietzsche (the first spiritual anti-Platonist) describes his devaluation of Socrates. There are many ways to unpack this complaint but in the end what is suggested? Nietzsche returns to the final message of Socrates' daemon. This soul has offered Socrates only negative advice, what to avoid, what to disagree with, but as he waits to die it finally makes a positive suggestion: "Socrates, learn music".
He is advised by his muse to study and compose popular songs.
We who hold our intellectual acuity alongside our joy in song, dance, humor, love & art will take some satisfaction in this whole situation. But the suggestion goes deeper than to simply graft music upon the Socratic intelligence. It means something more profound than to be dancer by night and professor by day. The full accomplishment of what Nietzsche calls "the musical Socrates" involves the return of the Dionysian spirit within-and-as the intellectual efforts.
What does it mean to philosophize as a Satyr? To compose essays as a Satyr? To generate conceptual distinctions in the mode of the sacred popular musician rather than the mode of the analytical investigator?
In distinguishing between the Apollonian worshiper and the Dionysian worshiper, it is said:
The Dionysian experiences himself as a satyr -- and as a satyr, in turn, he sees the God.
Who is this God? It is the Spirit of growth, convergence-divergence, the multiplicity-of-unity, the seductively questionable spirit, the dancing spirit, the transformational spirit, the self-transcending spirit.
We, upon the theme of this website, are such worshipers. When we say "embodied" or "enactive" or "postmetaphysical" or "nondual" or "almost" or "fractal" or when we "split the difference" -- we are Dionysians. We honor the cleft of the cleft hoof and the branching connection that resembles growing horns of wisdom on an archaic, prancing, evolving, profoundly life-friendly Being.
This is the God we would like to see, to honor, to know better, to convey, to communicate and with which to enrich the world.
So how can we be better Satyrs, more dithyrambic, more Bombadillish in the context of our sacred work (including theory, including proposals, including analyses, including posts and emails, including systemic insights)?
We can discover new dawns in Nietzschean texts when we observe their relation to each other. In the latter years of his productive life, Mr. Mustachio Nietzsche composed "Attempt at a Self-Criticism". It forms the new preface to his first book... on the revaluation of pessimism.
His self-critique should be understood in the hybrid manner I have been exploring in this thread -- as a combination of revisiting his earlier philosophical conclusions expressed in the content of that work AND a philosophical revisiting of the aesthetic "ethos" of the text.
He remains quite content with the contents. The basic project is affirmed. It was that of reversing basic assumptions about cultural health, re-invoking the uniquely generative cult-energies which gave birth to Ancient Greece and looking for ways to regenerate this energy as the crucial missing link that carries human across the bridge of postmodernity. But since he began this project he has learned what he considered to be the secret to carrying it out. And on that basis he critiques his earlier self.
What does the inner ear birthed on the far side of Zarathustra hear when it turns back to the beginning of its Dionysus project?
His complaints are these: ponderous, sentimental, lacking the will to logical cleanliness, uneven tempo, a book for initiates, "music" for those dedicated to music, too concealed under the scholar's hood, too heavy with German dialectical spirit, too Wagnerian, too romantic
He also considers that it might go a little too far in trying to bypass the profanum vulgus of the "educated" but nonetheless does succeed in bypassing the mass of presumed thinkers and making contact with fellow rhapsodizers and those seeking secret paths, those sensitive to the strange voice of a still Unknown God.
So what navigational instructions are concealed in these complaints?
The philosophical presentation of the Dionysian should be lighter (less ponderous), less sentimental, cleaner, more even in tempo, less focused on initiates, its music should appear for those who are not just dedicated to music, less identified with scholarship, less concerned with dialectics, post-romantic...
In addition to this thread I've written Nietzsche's Jukebox thread& played in Nietzschean Facebook. But I also started a Facebook group to store my, perhaps uncommon, observations about this undervalued progenitor of integral altitudes, metatheory & postmetaphysical spirituality for a planetary age. That group is HERE. But I will, if I get a chance, post some its entries in this NING thread.
#1. Reading Nietzsche can be very misleading. One must understand very consciously that he is not writing for a general audience. He considered it "poor taste" to write in manner that could be easily embraced by the general literate public or mainstream academia. So the first rule of reading in Nietzsche Club is -- REJECT OBVIOUS MEANINGS & COMMON EMOTIONAL ASSOCIATIONS.
#2. Nietzsche is very scrupulous in his word choices. He takes the time to balance, unpack & revalue words before use. Often he considers it is "unclean" to present a term which simply expresses one feeling on a subject. He fully expects his readers to be well-versed in this technique and eager to practice it.
Words like "evil" or "cunning" or "stupid" as well as references to race, gender, etc. are assumed to be a communication from one person who understand how they are both valid & invalid to others who shared the same understanding. "Bestial", for example, is a word he uses because it has popular negative connotations but he will try to use it only to express beast-like qualities which has experimentally viewed as healthy and unhealthy in different contexts.
So the second rule of reading in Nietzsche Club is -- APPARENTLY NEGATIVE QUALITIES ARE CONSIDERED INVALID, VALID & POTENTIALLY POSITIVE.
#3. The "rare" target audience to which Nietzsche addressing his mature writings is that group of "attempters, new philosophers, adventurers and perspectival-experimenters" who have seriously wrestled with relativism, nihilism and contemporary values and now seek to surpass them in a new, healthy classicism. So the third rule of reading in Nietzsche Club is -- UNLESS YOU ARE POST-METAPHYSICAL, INTEGRATIVE, CULTURALLY CONCERNED & SPIRITUALLY-ORIENTED YOU WILL NOT KNOW WHAT HE IS TALKING ABOUT.
#4. Nietzsche writes for what he calls "the third ear". He considers philosophical tempo to be as (or more) important than conceptual content. The Spirit of the Philosophical Dionysus is not a doctrine but an orientation and a mood. So the fourth rule of reading for Nietzsche Club is -- ALWAYS TRY TO "HEAR" THE DANCE, PLAY, VELOCITY AND TURNS IN THE TEXT.
#5. One of the trickiest things for many people is that fact that Nietzsche changes and develops so quickly over the course of his writings. Yet this should pose no mystery to the integral thinker. In his first book he expresses his project as a romantic, neo-pagan revival. He quickly understands this is a potentially dangerous limitation and deliberate uses optimistic scientific humanism to critic it. Then these positions rapidily fuse and are united by his expansive developmental (geneaological) phase. So the fifth rule of Nietzsche Club is -- REMEMBER THAT HE IS GROWING THROUGH STAGES AND SHARING THEM WITH US.