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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Book Study Quote #4

Adolf Hitler was inspired in part by the philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Arthur Schopenhauer. Both are associated with the philosophical school known as Nihilism. O’Connor, in a letter to A. dated 28 August 55, stated that “if you live today you breathe in nihilism,” that is, she saw it as the overwhelming philosophical outlook of her time. With this in mind, we will continue with a quote from Nietzsche. Take particular note of the evolutionary theme. See if you can parallel this with any dialogue or character(s) from O’Connor’s story. The quote is from Thus Spake Zarathustra, translated by Thomas Common, revised by H. James Birx, published 1993 by Prometheus Books, pp. 35-37.

When Nietzsche speaks of the “superearthly”, he is referring to anything spiritual or heavenly. He does not believe in anything superearthly – there is no God, no soul, no heaven. When he speaks of these things ceasing to exist, he is referring to the death of the idea of them in the consciousness of mankind.

I teach you the overman. Humankind is something that is to be surpassed. What have you done to surpass humankind?

All beings until now have created something beyond themselves: and you want to be the ebb of that great tide, and would rather go back to the beast than surpass humankind?

What is the ape to our species? A laughing stock, a thing of shame. And just the same shall our species be to the overman: a laughing stock, a thing of shame.

You have made your way from the worm to man, and much within you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even yet man is more of an ape than any of the apes.

Even the wisest among you is only a disharmony and hybrid of plant and phantom. But do I bid you become phantoms or plants?

Lo, I teach you the overman!

The overman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: The overman shall be the meaning of the earth!

I conjure you, my brothers, remain true to the earth, and believe not those who speak to you of superearthly hopes! Poisoners are they, whether they know it or not.

Despisers of life are they, decaying ones and poisoned ones themselves, of whom the earth is weary: so away with them!

Once blasphemy against God was the greatest blasphemy; but God died, and with that also those blasphemers. To blaspheme the earth is now the most dreadful sin, and to rate the heart of the unknowable higher than the meaning of the earth!

Once the soul looked contemptuously on the body, and then that contempt was the supreme thing: - the soul wished the body meager, ghastly, and famished. Then it thought to escape from the body and the earth.

Oh, that soul was itself meager, ghastly, and famished; and cruelty was the delight of that soul!

But you, also my brothers tell me: What does your body say about your soul? Is your soul not poverty and pollution and wretched self-complacency?

Surely, a polluted stream is humankind. One must be a sea, to receive a polluted stream without becoming impure.

Lo, I teach you the overman: he is that sea; in him can your great contempt be submerged.

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