Friedrich Nietzsche in the Light of Spiritual Science
1st, December, 1904
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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!