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Origin and Destination of Humanity
GA 53

VIII. Friedrich Nietzsche in the Light of Spiritual Science

1 December 1904, Berlin

Someone who puts the task to himself to describe the relation of the modern cultural life to the theosophical view of life must not pass the phenomenon Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900). Like a big riddle Friedrich Nietzsche stands in the cultural development of the present. Without doubt, he has made a deep impression on all our thinking contemporaries. For the ones he was a guide, for the others a person against whom one has to fight most intensively. He stirred up many people, and left many very effective results of his work. An extensive literature about Nietzsche has appeared, and today one can open almost no newspaper some years ago this was even more the case without stumbling against the name Nietzsche or without finding cited his way of thinking directly with his sayings, with his thoughts, or, otherwise, any echo of him. Friedrich Nietzsche has deeply taken root in the whole structure of our age. He stands there like a phenomenon, also already for a mere viewer of his life.

He came from a Protestant parsonage. In 1844 born, he already shows a great interest in all religious questions on the high school. Some notes of this time show not only a premature lad, but also a human being illuminating some fields of the religious questions with brilliant brain waves. During his university studies, he is not only interested in his professional studies so that he belongs to the most excellent students but also in the general problems of the human development. He already performs a lot in the field of philology in his youth, more than others can perform in a whole life. Before he conferred a doctorate, a chair was offered to him at Basel. His teacher Ritschl (Albrecht R.,1822–1889, German theologian) was asked whether he could recommend that Friedrich Nietzsche should take this. The famous philologist answered that he could only recommend Nietzsche, because Nietzsche knew everything that he himself knew. When he was already a professor and wanted to confer a doctorate, it was said to him: we are not able to examine you! Nietzsche, the associate professor, conferred a doctorate; one reads that on the certificate! This is a sign how deeply one esteemed his mind. Then he made an acquaintance that was decisive for his whole life. He made acquaintance of Schopenhauer's philosophy, in which he settled in such a way that he made not the philosophy but the personality of Schopenhauer (1788–1860) his guide, so that he regarded him as his educator.

The second important acquaintance was that of Richard Wagner (1813–1883). From these both acquaintances the first epoch of Friedrich Nietzsche's spiritual life developed. This happened in a quite personal way. When Nietzsche was a young professor in Basel, he went, so often he was able at times any Sunday , to Triebschen near Lucerne. At that time, Richard Wagner occupied himself with Siegfried. There the most works of Wagner and the deepest problems of the cultural life were discussed with the young Nietzsche in the spirit of Schopenhauer's philosophy. Wagner often said that he could find no better interpreter than Friedrich Nietzsche.

Considering the writing The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music (1872), we find that Richard Wagner's art is moved into such a light that it appears directly as a cultural-historical action which shines for centuries, even for millennia. Seldom such an intimate relationship existed like that between the younger pupil and the older master who got to know his ideas, with which he was bubbling over, anew in an intellectually stimulating way, so to speak. They faced him friendly with their effects like from without, so that he was able to arrange them in the right light. It was a phenomenon that had never existed before. Wagner was happy who could say that he found somebody understanding him, as few people were in the world; Nietzsche was not less happy who looked back at the times of the ancient Hellenism of which he believed that the human beings still created divine things at that time, in contrast to that time he calls the decadent one. In Richard Wagner he saw a resurrection of the rarest kind, a human being who owned such a pure spiritual content in himself as it is seldom found in life.

Only from 1889 on, a lot was written about Nietzsche. People who repeat his words pay attention to his works only after this point in time. However, those who already occupied themselves with Nietzsche about 1889 knew that he had lighted up like a comet beside Richard Wagner, up to about 1876, that, however, he was nearly forgotten then. Only in the smallest circles one still spoke of him. Then he wrote his work Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883) by which he became known again. Then a writing appeared by which he seemed to smash everything that he had considered once as his own. This was The Case of Wagner (1888). Thereby he became known again. Those who occupied themselves with Nietzsche separated in two factions. Georg Brandes (1842–1927, Danish critic and scholar) held lectures on Nietzsche at the University of Copenhagen. Nietzsche had become not only a university professor in young years even if he retired soon for reasons of health he also was accorded the honour of becoming an object of university lectures. This news probably brought consolation to his darkened soul; however, it could not save him from the menacing mental derangement. Then the news came that Nietzsche went incurably insane. This is more or less the outline of his outer life.

As I have already mentioned, The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music was his first writing. This was born from a rare absorption in Schopenhauer's philosophy and from an absorption in art as it faced him in the work of Richard Wagner. Who wants to understand what this writing means as Nietzsche's daybreak, and also wants to understand his life must explain it out of a threefold consideration. First he must explain it out of his time with which Nietzsche lived intimately. I myself have tried to explain Nietzsche in this way objectively. One can show him secondly as a being which one allows to arise from his personality. There he is one of the most interesting psychological, psychiatric problems. I have also tried to show this in a medicinal magazine in an article about Friedrich Nietzsche. Thirdly one can show him from the spiritual world view.

His first writing The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music delivers important clues from the theosophical point of view, from a spiritual world consideration. Our age is the age of the fifth principal race of humankind of which two others have led the way which had to develop other forces than our principal race. Our fifth principal race has preferably to develop thinking and reason. The preceding principal race is the Atlantean one which lived on the continent that is now on the ground of the Atlantic. These human beings did not yet have reason, had not yet developed intellectuality, but memory preferably. One of these preceding principal races was the Lemurian one. This still was on the level of imagination.

Our principal race has to develop the intellectual life. Since some centuries in particular, the European humanity is developing the intellectual force, intelligence. Our great philosophers, up to Kant and Schopenhauer, are completely involved in this development of our principal race.

As to them the big problem became the question: what is the significance of the human thought, how can the human being recognise anything? These questions became the big riddles of existence to them. Now, however, something quite peculiar takes place for our principal race. Thinking which the philosophers have brought to the highest development was detached for our time, so to speak, from its mother soil. Our time has developed thinking in the purest and most marvellous way in science concerning the external technical life. But these thoughts or, actually, these ideas tore us out of nature.

The human thought is only a picture of something much higher that we have discussed in the preceding talks; it is a shade, an image of the spiritual world. The thought is a spiritual being. Modern times developed thinking powerfully; however, one has forgotten that this thought is nothing but the shadow-image of the spiritual life. This life transmits, so to speak, the spiritual forces to us, and then we get the idea. That is why the origin of the thought, of the idea was mysterious, in particular for the philosophy of the 19th century. The thought, the idea itself became appearance. One forgot that the thought has its origin in spirit as Jacob Böhme says. When one had tried in the modern times to look for the primary sources of existence, to penetrate to that primary source which one had lost and about which one did no longer know that it has its origin in the spirit one could find it only according to Schopenhauer's philosophy in the unreasonable blind will; however, the thought is nothing but a simulacrum which our imagination offers to us. Thus the world became idea on one side and will on the other side. But both do no longer have their origin in spirit, only in the mere appearance. How could it be otherwise that this materialistic philosophy sought for a support of the spirit in an element which any unbiased observer can find directly in the world where the spirit exists as such only in the form of a blind will, as a proliferation of nature? This is just the personality. Indeed, one had forgotten that something spiritual is in the personality; but one was not able to deny the personality as such.

In Schopenhauer's philosophy, the spiritual human personality was at least accepted as the highest; the personality that stands out by its ingenuity or devoutness or holiness and shows as it were a level of development within the rest of humanity. Thus Schopenhauer became hard and showed the average human being as manufactured goods of nature; however, from the dark impulses of nature single great personalities emerge. This view had an effect on Nietzsche.

But something else had an effect on him. By means of thoughts and ideas we can never experience anything of that which flows in the unreasonable will. Schopenhauer finds the true being of the chaos of the basic instincts in music. That is why Schopenhauer was not able to penetrate this simulacrum to the being which expresses itself in the will, but the being of music became a solution of the riddle of the world to him. Everybody who is familiar with the questions of mysticism knows how somebody can get to the view that music offers a solution of the riddle of the world.

There is music not only on the physical plane or the sensuous world but also in the higher worlds. If we ascend through the soul-world to the higher spiritual worlds, something of a higher music sounds to us. Not the music which we perceive on the physical plane; for it is no allegory but reality: the movement of the stars in the world, the growth of plants, the feeling of the human beings and animals appear like sounding words! That is why the occultist says: the human being finds out the secrets of the world only if the mystic word which exists in the things speaks to him. What Schopenhauer found is an expression of a higher fact, something that is much more significant than what he understood of it; for it sounds with him only into the physical ear. We call the principle manas that outlasts time and extends to the eternal. This manas finds its physical expression in the sounds of music which come toward us from the outside world. Schopenhauer expressed something absolutely right, and Nietzsche took up this thought. He felt with the whole wealth of his mind that somebody who wants to express himself about the world's secrets with mere words is not able to do this in the same way as the master of the sounds can express himself about the world's secrets. Therefore, Friedrich Nietzsche just as Schopenhauer regards the musical expression as the expression of the higher world's secrets. Thus the way was shown to them to the ancient times of the old Greeks where art, religion and science were a whole where in the mystery temples the mystery priests, who were scientists and artists, arranged the destiny of the human being and of the whole world in grand pictures before the soul.

If we look into the temple, we find shown the destiny of the god Dionysus. This was the solution of the riddle of the world. However, Dionysus had descended to the matter and had been dismembered, and the human mind is destined to release him who is buried in the matter and to lead him up to the new splendour. While the human being seeks for his divine nature in himself, he wakes the god in himself, and this awakening is the awakening of the god who had found a kind of grave in the low nature. This big destiny of the world was shown to the mystes not only sensually, but also spiritually in a magnificent way. This was the primal drama of the ancient Greece. We go back to far-off times, and from this core the later Greek drama comes. The drama of Aeschylus, of Sophocles was only art; however, it had arisen from the temple art. Art, science and religion had separated from the temple art. Who looks back at these primeval times sees something more profound from which the human understanding and conduct of life have come. The living god Dionysus was the great figure of the Greek mysteries. Nietzsche within the circle of Wagner did not recognise but suspect this.

It was a big dark inkling, and from it his view of the nature of the Greeks before Socrates resulted. At that time, the human being was not one-sided, but the Dionysian human being drew on unlimited resources. Because everything is imperfect, the Greek created the redeeming religion and wisdom and later also the redeeming art to himself. Hence, what later appeared as art Nietzsche regarded as an image of the primal art only that he calls the Dionysian one. This still seized the whole human being not only the imagination one-sidedly, but all spiritual forces. Later art was only an image.

Thus the concepts Dionysian and Apollonian face us in his works. By means of them he has an inkling of the origin of all artistic life and the language by which the old Greeks expressed themselves. This was a language that was music at the same time. In the middle, the drama was staged, around was the choir, which showed life and death in powerful sounds.

Then others who were familiar with the circle of Wagner also showed this destiny intimately. Above all, you find it described out of the spirit of the Eleusinian mysteries in the book: The Sanctuaries of the East (1898) by Schuré. Edouard Schuré (1841–1929, French esoteric) not only described what Nietzsche only suspected from imagination but from spirituality. Nietzsche just wanted that, but he did not achieve it. On this basis, the whole materialistic way of thinking of our time became a big riddle to him: How did the human being come from this time in which he expressed himself as a riddle of the world to the prosaic materialistic time? For others this may be a prosaic riddle of reason; however, what others want to treat and solve with reason, mind and imagination it became a problem of the heart to Nietzsche. Nietzsche had merged with his time like parents with their children. However, he could not be glad about the time, but only suffer from it. Nietzsche was able to suffer; but not to be glad. The solution of the Nietzsche problem lies therein.

He regarded Wagner as the renovator of the old Greek art which expresses the highest secrets in sounds. The old human being should ascend to the superman, to the divine human being. One needed the human being who extended beyond the average human beings. There Schopenhauer came in the nick of time. According to Schopenhauer the human being was average manufactured goods. The human being became the psycho-spiritual human being who is not on the earth but floats above the earth, and the dramatic music was used as means to get beyond the human being. Nobody wrote so reverentially about Richard Wagner like Friedrich Nietzsche in his essay: Wagner in Bayreuth in 1876. However, the everyday had become something deeply detestable to him. Therefore, he also combated what David Friedrich Strauss (1808–1874) expressed in his work The Old and the New Faith (1872).

There exists another writing from the beginning of the seventies, a writing without whose knowledge one cannot understand Nietzsche at all. From this writing it follows that Nietzsche suspected that problem of our time which we recently called the Tolstoy problem also just like the great problem of the Greek culture. He suspected that our time, which just passes, is lacking something. The external figures are that in which birth and death prevail forever. We have seen how any plant lives in its figure between birth and death, how whole nations pass between birth and death, how the most marvellous works are subjected to birth and death. But we have also seen how one thing remains that defeats birth and death and makes the old rise again in new incarnations. Tolstoy showed this life which the seed of a plant carries over to a new plant and appears there again.

And again: our present human race is embodied in forms which have birth and death in themselves. We rush towards a point in time which will recognise life itself. Nietzsche had recognised that our time suffers from the consideration of the figures, not only from the consideration of the figures in the natural sciences, but also in history. From this sense he wrote his significant writing about the advantage and disadvantage of history, about the historical illness. The human beings go back to the most distant primeval times and want to look at the rudiments of culture, from people to people, from state to state. However, birth and death live in everything. While we stuff ourselves with historical knowledge, we deaden that life which we have in ourselves. We deaden what lives in eternal present in us. The more we stuff our brains with history, the more we deaden the will for life in ourselves. If we look back and estimate what that means, then we see that we can only find anything considering the human life, considering ourselves directly. Thereby we get closer to a new future.

Nietzsche points to this new culture-epoch which we have to regard as that of form and figure. That lives in Nietzsche. He believed in the art of Richard Wagner, he regarded it as the renewal of life, as a new Renaissance. Wagner was much more realistic than Nietzsche. He stood completely in his time; he said to himself: the artist cannot do the third step before the first. And when Nietzsche came to Bayreuth in 1876, he saw something strange. He saw that the ideal he had got of Wagner was too big, that it was bigger than what Wagner could fulfil. As Nietzsche had a dark inkling of the origin of the Greek tragedy from the mystery time and of our whole time from the primeval times, he also had an inkling of the fact that a future culture, which is not based only on reason, must come from the spiritual powers slumbering in the human being even today.

He suspected this, and he confused this with that which was there already. He believed that the big riddle of the future was already solved in the present. What he had to argue against Socrates is that our culture had become one-sided by his influence that it had split on the one hand in a culture of reason and on the other hand in a soul movement. Therefore, he also mocks Socrates and combats the Socratic culture, the culture of reason.

When Wagner's pieces of art set faced him in Bayreuth, he became disloyal, not really disloyal, because he had never seen Wagner correctly, he had assumed that Wagner had realised what he had dreamt of as a future ideal; there Nietzsche said to himself: I have seen something wrong.

The adult Nietzsche became disloyal to the young Nietzsche, and the hard words are not directed so much against Wagner than against what he himself had been in his youth as an admirer of Wagner. One cannot really be an adversary of anybody; one can only be his own adversary. He said to himself: I feel all my youth ideals compromised. He stood in midst the ruins of a world view and had to look around at something else. Then this became the “new Enlightenment.” He wanted now to inspire and enliven what he had rejected once. He wanted to obtain life out of the dead matter as science treats it. He himself became a student of the form, of the external figure which passes us by in birth and death forever.

And now understand the profound theosophical truth that three essential conditions exist in the world: the external figure which is subjected to birth and death which comes into being and passes, appears again, which rushes from form to form in life. The second is life which is the expression of the soul. The soul breaks the form to be reincarnated in a new form. And the third is consciousness of its different degrees. Any stone, any plant and in the higher degrees any human being has consciousness. So we have three conditions in the world: form, life and consciousness. These three represent a world of the bodily, a world of the soul and a world of the spirit.

This is the wisdom that is made gradually accessible to the world again. This is also the ancient wisdom of the mysteries of which Nietzsche had a dark inkling which he could not express clearly from which he suffered and which he longed for as a new life that should arise from our culture. Now he himself was entangled in the natural sciences. He had no eye for the fact that consciousness lives in life and ascends to higher and higher figures. This is the course of the world. Consciousness takes that from the form which is worth to be pulled out to higher formation. Thereby we have a development of the things from form to form, from one condition of life to another condition of life where life remains and the forms and figures show higher formation. He did not understand the consciousness that develops and goes into higher and higher figures. Nietzsche saw the form only; he did not understand the moving agent that comes to the fore in always higher form.

Thus he realised the return of the things and beings, but did not realise that they re-embody themselves in higher and higher forms. Hence, he taught the “eternal recurrence of the self-similar form.” He did no longer know that the consciousness returns on higher levels. This is the thought to which he was influenced by the natural sciences: as well as we are here, as we are sitting here, we were there countless times and will be there again. This must impose on the thinker who does not know that the consciousness does not return in the same figure, not in the same form, but in a higher figure, in a higher form. This was the second state of Nietzsche's development.

The third state is that in which still spiritual life was inside of Nietzsche's soul which he could not get out, however, in such a world view of the mere form. Indeed, he did not know that the higher fields of existence were closed to his mind; however, the mighty urge lived in him for these higher fields of existence. The human being developed higher with his figure, from the animal up to the human being, however, this development cannot be finished. As the worm developed to the human being, the human being must develop further. From that his idea of the “superman” (Übermensch) originated. This Übermensch is the future human being. Compare him with the corresponding mystic idea, and then you find that they border on each other closely. The urge in the human nature which expresses itself also in us is the urge for spiritualisation, so that one can even now find the God-man on the bottom of the soul who appears from the future world as Nietzsche's big spiritual ideal which he strives for.

If you do not only look at form and figure but also at life and consciousness, at soul and spirit, this superman appears in his true figure, he appears as the whole human being who hastens to the higher spheres of existence. As to Nietzsche this thought existed in the seminal state, but he could express himself only with words of the naturalist. As the human being has developed from thousand and thousand figures, he must also develop in higher figures to the superman. When Nietzsche wrote The Birth of Tragedy, he stood before the gate of the Greek mysteries, he stood before the gate of the temple of Dionysus, but he could not unlock the front gate. Then he struggled on and wrote Thus Spoke Zarathustra: once again he stood before the gate of the temple and could not unlock it. This is the tragedy of his life, his destiny. If the ego of a single human being is suffering vicariously, is sympathetic to his time, to the psycho-spiritual, then something particular happens to this ego. Everybody who knows the phenomena of the astral world knows what must ensue to this human ego if it faces nothing but riddles and gates which do not open themselves to it: before every question is something in the world of soul and spirit that is like the shade of this question that appears as a pursuer of the soul. This seems to the materialistic thinker a little bit peculiar at first. But this man who stood before Christianity and did not know how it develops, before our philosophy, before the materialism of our time and desired a new Dionysus and was not able to bear him from himself this man stood there like before shades of the past. Thus as to Nietzsche, indeed, beside the figure of Christ that of the Antichrist stood in the astral world, beside the figure of the moralist the immoralist. What he knew as philosophy of our time stood besides as negation. That tormented him like a pursuer of his ego.

Read Nietzsche's last writings, his Will to Power (posthumous fragments), and his Antichrist where he describes the ghost, the criticism of Christianity, the criticism of philosophy in his nihilism. He does not get out from these matters; the moral of our time inhibits him which cannot get out from good and evil which does not want to recognise karma, although it strives for it. Finally, the eternal change of the figure appeared to him like the recurrence of the eternal similar figure. The fourth work has not come to an end. He wanted to call it Dionysus or the Philosophy of the Eternal Recurrence. Thus only the urge of the single ego for the superman remained.

Nietzsche would have had to see into the human self and to recognise the divine human being, then that would have lighted up to him which he longed for. So, however, it seemed inaccessible to him. It was only the urge of his inside for seizing these contents. He called it his will to power, his striving for the superman. With the whole intensity of his nature he found a lyrical expression in Thus Spoke Zarathustra which is soul-raising, is soul-amusing and soul-consuming as well, also sometimes paradoxical. This is the shout of the present human being for the God-man, for wisdom who, however, only got to the will to wisdom, to the will to power. Something lyrically brilliant can arise from this urge. But something that can seize the human being in his deepest inside and lead up to these heights cannot arise from this urge. Thus Nietzsche's figure is the last great empathy out of materialism, the human being, who suffered tragically, perished tragically in the materialism of the 19th century and points with all longing to the new mystic time. Master Eckhart (1250–1327, German mystic) says: God has died so that I also die away toward the world and become a god. Nietzsche also says this in a prose saying: “If there were a God who could stand it to be no god?” Nietzsche says that there is no God! He did not understand Goethe's saying:

Unless the eyes were like the sun,
How could we see the light?
Unless God's own force lived in us,
How could delight us the divine?

What brightened up in our time so much and what he felt as grief had to be consumed. I do not want to say that his illness has to do anything with the cultural life. What he longed for but could not get was the theosophical world view. He felt longing for something that he could not find. He himself felt this in some nagging expression of his life. That is why his last writings also contain a longing for life which he wants to conjure up from the form, and then still a lyrical outcry for the God-man in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Then the destruction of everything that the present cannot give him which he attempted in the writing The Will to Power or in The Eternal Recurrence which remained fragments and were published now from the estate. All that lived in the last time in this tragic personality of Nietzsche and shows how one can suffer in our time if one does not rise to a spiritual view. He himself expressed this in a poem Ecce homo in which he shows his riddle of life to us:

Yes, I know where from I hail!
Ever-hungry like the flame
I glow and consume myself.
Light becomes all I can catch,
Coal all that I leave behind:
There's no doubt, a flame I am!