A Dialogue on Nietzsche’s Depth Psychology

It was September. This week Café metaphysics was to be held at the bar Soren and I use frequent. Sad memories lingered as I walk up the hill to its doors. Daedalus recalled The last time the entire group met there in our discussion on depth psychology in Greek tragedy. Daedalus then looked up in awe as day began to turn into night, we were to finally come upon Nietzsche, and discuss his work Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Daedalus was right on time as usual. We all sat at a big table ordering our drinks. After the meet and greet I saw a concerned look upon Henry, the most religious amongst us. After reading this work, I could sense his concern, and I understood why.

Frank cleared his voice and gave us a brief introduction of the man. “Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a German philosopher who grew up in a religious house. At the age of 24 he became the professor of classical philology at the University of Basel. He is a powerful writer of dark suggestive ideas; a passionate aesthete. Picking up where the Greek tragedians left off, he became a depth psychologist who believed society and religion domesticates mankind and denies man of their native capacity to strive towards greatness. This capacity is the will to power, which culture sublimates. Spencer here will give us a better description of what depth psychology is given it’s his area of study.”

Spencer then cleared his voice and began to speak, “To review, we’ve already talked about Depth psychology in the Greek tragedies, as we did when Medea killing her own two children, when Antigone is summed to do what good sisters do, answering the ancient command to ‘Know Thyself.’ There are many parts to our complex nature. We are driven to love, driven to knowledge, and to what is beautiful, but also there are baser drive such as towards power and revenge to seek to do proportionate harm as one received, as we see with Medea. There is an African proverb that is something like, ‘When one isn’t embraced by the community, then one seeks to destroy it to feel its warmth. So, it seeks justice, but in a wild.

The Romantic Rebellion began to see beneath the mirror reflection of man. Romantics, but it wasn’t until Nietzsche burst onto the stage that we really examine the anatomy of the soul. Nietzsche’s path is through a dark, brooding, chthonic journey into the depth of our soul to discover our hidden nature. It embraces Eros, the god of destruction and creation, and would have us succumb to suffering for the sake of overcoming. Nietzsche believed that suffering could make or break a person to finally see what steel their soul was made from. He believed to forge a man to find his steel one had to suffer the mistrust of others, and loathe oneself to finally overcome oneself. Battling one’s hidden assumptions was the only way to make progress with who oneself was, what oneself was made of, and what oneself was made to do with their life.

One must always be critical, and criticism can be seen in the darkness of the night, or equally under the light of day. The aim of life isn’t simply to be happy. The aim of life is to live a complete, flourishing form of life, which gives happiness a certain stripe. Nietzsche believed the flame of Chaos had to be ever present in that life. The Greeks believed that one had to harmonize the Chaos within. Both have their place, but even stepping into the darkness should be for the sake of the light.”

Nima then came into the bar. Watching Nima was amazing: her swagger, her head held high, her style, and attraction. He could see she had an omnipresent effect in the bar, as everyone looked her way, as other men looked with jealousy when she sat next to Percy. Remembering that force to be reckoned with when Percy first introduced her, well, it was well deserved…

“I see Percy already ordered me a drink, ah, so wise, to order something stronger this time around. Thank you, dear. We were truly meant to be.” She smiled and put her hand on Percy’s arm.

Percy replied, “Without you I’d be less.”

Spencer then continued, “Nietzsche influenced the psychoanalytic movement.”

Nima then interjected, “Ah, yes. Freud, surely a pervert who ran with Darwin—sexualizing ever human impulse! He surely was driven by an element of the Dionysian impulse, but saw it entirely too narrowly.”

Percy then said, “Maybe intellectually, but not subconsciously, Nima.”

“O Percy, how can we really know these things?” Nima Asked. Not even you, my love, can truly be certain. Still, you’re so smart that I keep you around. What would I do without you?(!)”

Spencer then focused and began the conversation, “He was integral in Edmund Freud, and Carl Gustav Jung’s movement in psychoanalysis. However, it was Nietzsche who first used the word sublimation in the way that they used it. He gave credit to the Greek tragedians who were able to capture what most move us, by praising attic tragedy by their fusion of the two art deities, Apollo and Dionysus. The main ingredient in the mixture of the Apollonian and the Dionysian, is a raw catharsis that arises within theater goers in order to experience the tragedy on a human level, so they may purge the inessential and grow beyond their follies. 

Nima then interrupted and said, “Percy, isn’t it just obvious we were made for each other? Honestly, look at us!

Percy replied, “It is interesting how opposites attract.”

“You complete me,” Nima then touched Percy’s forearm again and kissed him on the Cheek—only to then punch him on the shoulder to show dominance.

There are two ways to enter the domain of philosophy, to use analytic genius with the tools of Reason in order to tap into who we are essentially. The biggest debt to do this starts with Socrates when he begins his battle with the sophists, politicians, and the youth to learn who we are, and what kind of life we should live, and how we should govern. Aristotle runs with this train of thought rigorously. However, there is another way to learn who we are and what motivates us through a dark and brooding method by discovering our impulses and motivations. We can feel it in the air, in what surrounds us, in what drives us. It takes an intuitive genius to discover it, but it’s always been there, it’s always ever-present.

“I’m getting goosebumps from just listening!” Nima exclaimed.

“There is a certain truth about it, isn’t there?” Percy replied curiously. 

“Nietzsche is of the later kind, an intuitive genius. He was a hyper-sensitive being able to write with a dark suggestive style. He is like a canary in a coal mind, a prophet, who senses the fate of man who will not overcome himself. In this sense, he pitied man. He sees in modern society a decline that would have us repress our animal instincts. He used aphorisms and aggressive prose to capture his reader’s attention. Many great philosophers have their own style. Like Socrates used Irony, Plato using myth and metaphor’s; Nietzsche used aphorisms. These tools are meant for the reader to peel their eye and see what’s beneath the surface. Nietzsche’s health was always poor, Later in life he found he had a syphilitic infection which might have driven him mad. Towards the end of his life he collapsed on the street protecting a horse from being abused by its owner. From that event he never recovered.”

Frank then looked on with a serious face, “Now that we have a brief background on this man, let’s critically examine his depths. Daniel, you brought your copy of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Will you tell us about its opening?”

“It begins with a man named Zarathustra who is an ancient prophet. His religion had an influence on Judaism. One day Zarathustra climbed atop a mountain in solitude to attain wisdom of God. Ten years passed and he rose one dawn day, weary and restless of wisdom, and says:

Thou great star! What would be thy happiness if thou hast not those for whom thou shinest!

For ten years hast thou climbed hither unto my cave: though wouldst have wearied of thy light and of thy light of the journey, had it not been for me, mine eagle, and my serpent.

Lo! I am weary of my wisdom, like the bee that hath gathered too much honey; I need hands outstretched to take it. I would fain bestow and distribute, until the wise have once more become joyous in their folly, and the poor happy in their riches.

Therefor must I descend into the deep: as thou doest in the evening, when thou goest behind the sea, and givest light also to the nether-world, thou exuberant star!”[1]

Percy, an English professor, steps into the conversation, “The metaphors here are that the mountain resembles elevation upwards to commune with God. However, Zarathustra does not find God. Instead, he discovers the sun illuminating nature and all things on earth. This is his epiphany as he rose up and decided to descend to the depths of the earth where he belongs. The cave could be a metaphor for Plato’s cave but he flips the table over and says that the cave is that otherworldly place where nobody belongs, because it doesn’t exist. Instead of living a lie, we ought to live a life in tune with Nature’s plan. The depths, the underworld he speaks of, is that sublimated instinctual power man once freely expressed. Zarathustra now feels it is his mission to share this message and bring man back to their natural state.”

Frank looks to Daedalus and asks, “Do you mind continuing with another passage?”

“Of course. After he descends down the mountain, he is greeted by an old, saintly, hermit who saw him ten years ago traveling up the mountain. Zarathustra says he has a gift for mankind, and the hermit rebuffs and says of man that they are a wretched lot, and that he’d rather stay in the forest. There he says, ‘I make hymns and sing them; and in making hymns I laugh and weep and mumble: thus do I praise God.’ Zarathustra walks away contemplating and thought to himself, ‘Could it be possible! This old hermit in the forest hath not yet heard of it, that GOD IS DEAD!’”

Henry, a priest, rubbing his forehead said, “His explanation for the reason God is dead will be an interesting one.”

Everyone around the table knew Henry had his reservations with Nietzsche. He wasn’t grinding his axe, but still, he was sharpening his mind. The couple years I’ve been a part of this group of interesting people, of friends, I’ve never once seen him lack restraint. He just had this look of pained patience as he rested his right hand on the table.

“As Zarathustra enters town,” Daedalus said, “he finds a crowd assembled where a tight rope walker is about to perform. Getting their attention, Zarathustra says:

I TEACH YOU THE SUPERMAN. Man is something that is to be surpassed… What is the ape to man? A laughing-stock, a thing of shame.

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

The Superman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: The Superman SHALL BE the meaning of the earth!

I conjure you, my brethren, REMAIN TRUE TO THE EARTH, and believe not those who speak unto you of superearthly hopes! Poisons are they, whether they know it or not. …

Once blasphemy against God was the greatest Blasphemy; but God died, and therewith also those blasphemers. To blaspheme the earth is now the dreadful sin, and to rate the heart of the unknowable higher than the meaning of the earth![2]

Henry then spoke, “These otherworldly hopes, Nietzsche argues, are handed down to us from Plato on into the Christian ethos, they created this realm of forms and God’s grace promising a heaven that no wise man has ever penetrated. He wants us to let go of these otherworldly beliefs, get our heads out of the clouds, and come back here to earth where we belong. These men who believe in some otherworldly ethos, Nietzsche believes, are pitiable laughingstocks, who believe in religions of servitude and guilt, and it is only the rare few who rise above common convention and superstition—and oneself—in order to become one of the ubermensch, or in the English what we refer to as the superman or overmen. This is what I take from it. Judaism was a religion of slaves who were illiterate. The story of Christ was oral in its beginning, and only later written down. However, should man be a laughing stock? All of mankind, I believe, has dignity within that ought not to be scoffed at.”

A moment of silence came to be as Nima finished her first drink and put her empty glass on the table.

Henry continued, “How ironic it is that Nietzsche calls this exceptional type of person the overman, yet really it seems to me to be the opposite in a way. For the overman doesn’t rise above humanity, it reaches down into the underworld or netherworld, in to the depths of the psyche, for a primitive, earthy instinct that he wishes humanity could once again wield. Wouldn’t it be more fitting that this exceptional person be named the underman? I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. At base, that is what the overman must do to regain his will to power.”

The waiter places another drink in front of Nima and she gives him a devilish smile. She then returns her gaze to the group of men, and responds to Henry’s insight into the overman, “You are quite right, Henry. This individual must reach for something beneath the surface of herself, and tap into something that has a dark, powerful influence that civilization has often tried to tame. That descent is the catalyst; it is acknowledgement of what has been sublimated her entire life. It’s only then one can begin to live an authentic life true to their nature. There’s a line from Seneca that I’ve always been fond of, ‘We must touch the depths in order to reach the heights.’”

Frank interjected, “Nietzsche’s style and ideas were supposed to entice the reader to overcome a life that left a void in their inauthentic life—a life of servitude. He entices his readers to dare to overcome their circumstances and their epoch. On the overman:

The “Ubermenschen” of optimal power do not respond to this enticement sense they do not require it. They are already endowed with the highest capacity for self-creation, and overcome even this Nietzschian enticement by creating their own perspective and values. Here the rejection of Nietzsche’s challenge does not stem from cowardliness or weakness…, but of a surplus of power and an abundance of self that requires no psychological crutches—not even Nietzsche’s.[3]

The search for authenticity is even seen as the wish to reflect one’s own indeterminancy by spontaneous choice of one out of the many possible ways of life. Individuals are types of artists who freely shape themselves as works of art.”[4]

Nima then then raised a finger and noted, “Long, intense suffering is the means in which a fish is forced to jump out of the water of convention and superstition. Suffering almost has to be the goal to finally force us to reflect on our situations we find ourselves in. It forces us to reflect on our relationships, to ourselves, and our place here on earth in society. However, since God is dead, we must create our own aim.”

“But why is God dead?” Spencer asked.

              Nima tiredly put her drink down and replied, “It was the fault of Many, even the church, and the Enlightenment with its scientific and philosophic achievements, that Nietzsche believes put God into a coffin. To harken back to Romanticism, Kant put a barrier between what we can know through science and what is beyond the grasp of man in the noumenal realm. God would be in the latter category of that which we cannot know.

              After the “death of God” one has to adopt for oneself the Godlike role of being the originator of truth and of one’s own self. The absence of a “pre-established harmony” between our cognition and reality permits us to shift our emphasis to the creation of our own genuine selves.’[5]

“Furthermore,” Albert added, “Darwin’s functional teleology, its purpose, does not suppose a God. Darwin actually was asked why God couldn’t have set evolution into motion. Darwin simply responded:

I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.[6]

What Darwin saw as nature’s purpose was survival through conflict and competition, and later in his book The Descent of Man we have a more focused method through sexual selection. He believed all of this to be driven instinctually.”

“Yes,” Henry replied, “but I know a few priests and ministers who wouldn’t want to live in a world without sorrow and suffering. We must experience the bitterness of life to enjoy the sweetness.”

“It is interesting,” Albert said, “that evolution had no predictive power at that time. Darwin’s method was called the natural history method for a reason. It could only look at history and then try to explain, by hindsight, what had happened in nature.”

“What has evolution and history showed?” Henry asked. “Maybe something is moving its way through the history of man instead of the rest of the animal economy, guiding us along a path that further humanizes, and cultivates us progressively through time. Our reason shows there are limitations and holes in evolution, as great and ever present as it is. Furthermore, there are two ways we can look at our humanity. We can start with the primitive goo and where it went from thereafter, and then there is the way through culture which guides us and gives us examples of great people and their ideas that never should be forgotten.”

              Albert, knocks on the table twice, “Interestingly Nietzsche believes it to be Christianity’s own fault for the death of God. Nietzsche points out this passage in the bible:

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.[7]

Nietzsche is saying that the snake bit its own tail, because Christianity gave aid to the rise of science due to its domain over the earth and its animals. Darwin was just the culmination of what Christianity started. The Darwinian evolution took away God’s providential plan. Darwin’s effect on our thought, Nietzsche believes, has us believe that we are just like any other creature, except for the fact we deny our will to power. Darwin is saying, we are not made in God’s image but instead something more like primordial pond scum. Furthermore, the next universal historian shouldn’t first look to Babylon for our origins, but to some kind of primordial goo which we came from. Why look to pond scum? Because that’s where nature gave birth to the will to power, to ourselves.”

Frank replied, “Philosophy can only get us so far. We all play in the turbid, turbulent waters of metaphysics, even Nietzsche must. The philosopher, scientist, poet, and priest all play this game whether they know it or not. Metaphysics are the underlying theoretical principles of all theories of knowledge. Entering into these modes and categories of thought one must think about these things not with certainty, but with caution. To doubt is to be a rational human being. The folly is that Nietzsche has come to a conclusion with such moxie that it often become an act of hubris, a Greek term that he is well acquainted with. Any man who does not have his doubts may fall into folly.”

Nima then emotionally objects, “Nietzsche is only a seismograph, not the earthquake. He is the canary in a coal mine. The canary is the first to be effected by the poisonous gas. He is the first to see where western civilization is headed. He’s merely connecting the dots between the historical growth of science and philosophy, and where it took him given the information of his time.

After the dust settled, and more rounds were ordered, Daedalus finds another highlighted line in the book. He continues:

What is the greatest thing ye can experience? It is the hour of the great contempt. The hour in which even your happiness becometh loathsome unto you, and so also your reason and virtue.

The hour when ye say: ‘what good is my happiness! It is poverty and pollution and wretched self-complacency. But my happiness should justify existence itself!’…

Man is a rope stretched between the animal and Superman—a rope over an abyss.

A dangerous crossing, a dangerous wayfaring, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous trembling and halting.

What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal: what is lovable in man is that he is OVER-GOING and a DOWN-GOING. …

I love those who do not first seek reason beyond the stars for going down and being sacrifices, but sacrifice themselves to the earth, that the earth of the Superman may hereafter arrive.’”[8]

Nima nods in agreement with rosy cheeks. “That is essential Nietzsche. Why must our greatest experience be the hour of the great contempt? He believes that one attains the key through contempt, through suffering that which unlocks the overman inside oneself.”

Spencer then replies, “However, isn’t there another way? Isn’t there another way than looking at oneself with such hatred and suffering? Is there another way to drive us across the tight rope towards becoming that exceptional one? We’ve seen great people do this through other means have we not?”

Without hesitation, Percy calmly says, “Yes, through love of others, of one’s attachment towards great examples and even ideas and Beauty. We’ve seen it through many of the great books and stories that love leads us aloft. Love pushes us towards what elevates and uplifts. It has the power to drive us \ farther than we’ve gone ever before. Where Nietzsche believes we should go through some kind of ritual death in order to be reborn. Plato, on the other hand, believes we ought to go through some kind of purification that begins with love and beauty and then through the dialectic one can go from a the man of iron or bronze, slowly up towards a man of silver or even gold, where his dark horse can be tamed. A dark horse, Nietzsche believes, to be blunted by the current epoch. However, Love unshackles us and uplifts us into something almost divine. In Plato’s Symposium we have one of the greatest lovers, Socrates, being instructed by the mysterious women from Mantinea named Diotima. She teaches him how love is to be cultivated.”

“Furthermore,” Henry said, “the old testament god may reign with fear, but through the new testament we get a quite different message, one driven by love through the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

Remember that evening with Soren, Daedalus tells the table, “Which path is the right one? One through devotion towards love or one through the pains of suffering? I belief both may lead us to a life where one is worthy of oneself. However, the question is: which one would you rather choose or which one may be effective? Which one is in line with the nature of human nature? Whichever one is adopted, that person still needs to have the sight to see past the surface of life and love, or else the suffering is meaningless and the love just superficial. It was Soren’s idea that one needed the darkness with the hope of the light.”

The table suddenly grew silent, everyone, even Nima, gave a furrow brow as they looked at Daedalus as he saw through the human condition and strife.  

Frank said, “Keep picking out the lines that are important to you, Daniel.”

Daniel continued:

“The time has come for men to set himself a goal. The time has come for man to plant the seed of his highest hope. His soil is still rich enough. But one day this soil will be poor and domesticated, and no tall tree will be able to grow in it. Alas, the time is coming when man will no longer shoot the arrow of his longing beyond man, and the string of his bow will have forgotten how to whir!”[9]

Nima then hit the table and said, “Nietzsche, is recounting that we can no longer aim our arrows towards God, for God is dead. We must set a new goal. However, if we don’t do it soon then we may domesticate ourselves so much that no tall tree will ever grow, no overman will ever come. This is because our soil, or rather, our basic impulses nature endowed us with, have been so hidden, denied, and repressed in ways that are treasonous to ourselves, that we may fall off the tightrope and never have the strength to get back up and try again. Culture suppresses our true potential, our true natures, Nietzsche believes. Since there is no God, no heaven, then we must string our bows and aim our arrows at an aesthetic, authentic life true to our nature, that is our salvation. The future is realized when one becomes a passionate aesthete, an overman who walks on earth with a purpose, as if man is a work of art to always struggle with so to evolve and overcome.“

As we drank, I could feel everyone’s brain cells warming up as we thought about that metaphor. Nietzsche is, after all, one of the most read philosophers in Western civilization, and the goal here was to put why that is on the table. Furthermore, to ask the question if his philosophy is worth living.

Daedalus opens the book back up and flips through the pages to find more highlighted segments:

“I say unto you: one must still have Chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. I say unto you: You still have chaos in yourselves.

Alas, the time is coming when man will no longer give birth to a star. Alas, the time of the most despicable man is coming, he that is no longer able to despise himself. Behold, I show you the last man.’” [10]

“Again,” Frank said, “he is turning the table on Plato. Plato wants us to harmonize the Chaos within so that we may become ever great lovers, friends and thinkers. Nietzsche, on the other hand, wants to hold on to that Chaos, hold on to what most moves us in our psyche, this primitive will to power, so that we can overcome all obstacles and roadblocks that have put a stop to the will to power. Parents, teachers, and even how society has raised us, has shackled us to an inauthentic life that isn’t our own. Nietzsche wants to free these bonds that have shackled us for millennia’s in order to free ourselves from fear, guilt, sloth, and habit.”

Albert slightly raised his hand and asked, “What is this ‘will to power’?”

“This Chaos,” Nima said, “that gives birth to a dancing star has Greek influences. This goes back to the Greek theogony, first there was Chaos, an abyss. Out of this abyss arose Tartarus and Eros and Earth. Eros is at once a creative power and yet a destructive power. It’s behind rape and pillage, war and conquest. In turn, overmen are the courageous and creative. The metaphor here is that we must look inside ourselves, stare unflinchingly into the dark abyss of Chaos until it stares back. It’s then that you can give birth to that dancing star that arises out of Chaos, this instinctual power we all have, which is still there. To see it, to embrace it, and to wield it is to obtain the will to power.

Forget about those other unearthly realms, Nietzsche says, your place is here on earth. The rare individuals, who experience the hour of their great contempt, they have walked the tight rope to the other side. They are intimately acquainted with self-loathing, the mistrust of others, and the misery of one’s own life. Those are the few who have seen the abyss staring back at them, realizing what they’ve become and the inauthentic life they have lived. When that hour of great contempt comes, they discover what truly has a grip on their life, and see all that gave way to an inauthentic life. It must be thrown to the waste side! This is the beginning of what is to be right and true. Once you do that you have overcome yourself, and can finally live a life worthy of oneself. It’s a life of struggle, suffering and strife, but through the struggle you can finally live a life authentically one’s own, one with dignity.”

“Maybe now would be a good time to introduce two terms again, which later influenced everything he wrote,” Percy said. He took a book out of his briefcase and opened it up. “In Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy he makes the distinction between the two art deities, Apollo and Dionysus, both sons of Zeus.”

Nima and Percy then looked at each other, and Percy began to speak once again, “The two contribute to Greek tragedy in different ways, but weave harmonically together through the tragedies both of Aeschylus and Sophocles. The Apollonian is based on reason and logic, within the framework of story and plot. The Dionysian is based on chaos and the irrational within emotion and instincts. Nietzsche believed the Greek spectators of these tragedies stared into the abyss of human suffering, seeing their own humanity in it and affirming life here on earth where they belong. However, it was the fault of Socrates to give too much to the Apollonian over the Dionysian. He states so when he talks of the triumph of the Platonic drama here:

Socrates, the dialectical hero in Platonic drama, reminds us of the kindred nature of the Euripidean hero, who has to defend his actions by arguments and counter-arguments, and thereby so often runs the risk of forfeiting our tragic pity; for who could mistake the optimistic element in the essence of dialectics, which celebrates a jubilee in every conclusion, and can breathe only in cool clearness and consciousness: the optimistic element, which, having once forced its way into tragedy, must gradually overgrow its Dionysian regions, and necessarily impel it to self-destruction—even to the death-leap into the bourgeois drama. Let us but realise the consequences of the Socratic maxims: “Virtue is knowledge; man only sins from ignorance; he who is virtuous is happy”: these three fundamental forms of optimism involve the death of tragedy.[11]


Socratism of morality, the dialectics, contentedness and cheerfulness of the theoretical man—indeed? might not this very Socratism be a sign of decline, of weariness, of disease, of anarchically disintegrating instincts? And the “Hellenic cheerfulness” of the later Hellenism merely a glowing sunset? The Epicurean will counter to pessimism merely a precaution of the sufferer? And science itself, our science—ay, viewed as a symptom of life, what really signifies all science? Whither, worse still, whence—all science? Well? Is scientism perhaps only fear and evasion of pessimism? A subtle defence against—truth!”[12]

              “Percy’s selection of quotes are superb,” Nima said, ”This Platonic cheerfulness is the beginning, Nietzsche believes, of the end of catharsis, of pent up emotions, and the sight of suffering. It forgets what most deeply moves us for a different direction towards the dialectic where suffering can’t be found, where the reader or spectator no longer stares into the abyss of suffering to see their own life; to see through self-loathing, mistrust, and pain—that their life too is like a tragedy that needs to be worked out in a better way! It’s a way to hide from nature’s realities and political necessities. The Chaos that Nietzsche talks about is what the Dionysian element needs, and what the apollonian dialectic suppresses and denies.”

“The overman,” Percy said, “is one that lives somewhere in between the apollonian and the Dionysian elements. If Nietzsche had to pick an overman I’d think he’d choose Johann Wolfgang Johann von Goethe. The story of Goethe’s Faust was an allegoric autobiography of his own life. In this allegory he showed what was beyond the surface reading of his own life, and what motivated and drove him. He was an original thinker and true to his vocations as a botanist, scientist, politician, painter, director, and writer. He was a polymath with a restless spirit that was a force which couldn’t be stopped. No matter how many obstacles Goethe was faced with he showed a resilience to overcome. He was able to overcome himself and finally live a life worthy of dignity.

That’s a particular instance of an overman, but let’s look at this with a wider lens. Take the overman writ large and let’s see where it leads us. The Golden Age of Greece lasted from the 6th century to the 5th century BCE. The later part of that was called the Age of Pericles. Pericles ruled in Athens from 461 to 429 BCE. He encouraged the arts and education through tragedies, the acropolis, and great sculptures made from the finest artists of his time. My thoughts on this is that if we can’t feel catharsis through examples of great figures, art, and architecture, then we lose sight of who we are.”

Nima then interjected, “Or what we can become!”

Percy continued, “Nima is correct. That’s why, when Athens was destroyed, Pericles looked at the pitiable rubble and decided to rebuild something that the Athenians stood for, rather than stand for what they merely endured.”

Feeling the heat in the room, Frank decided to turn it up a notch. He knocked on the table twice to get everyone’s attention. “Now that we know what the will to power is, this primitive, instinctual force endowed to us by nature, that is hidden, repressed, and denied to us by what we now call civilization, what of Nietzsche’s theory on slave morality?”

I could see Henry take a subtle breath in order to calm his reservations. His eyes didn’t say it was out of anger, but instead of disappointment on Nietzsche’s behalf.

Nima, taking one drink of her vodka tonic, and putting it down followed up with. “Slave morality is what is common in herd mentality. It’s all those people that Nietzsche believes to be living an inauthentic life of unrealized potentialities. Their all too domesticated, living under a blanket of sin, and guilt, and a God which might punish them. All of this because they are out of tune with their instinctual will to power.”

“Sorry, Nima,” Henry said, “may I interject here?”

“Pious to the end?” Nima asked.

“Are the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and charity—the last one being the symbol of love—are these signs of weakness and decay? What about compounding them with the other virtues: prudence, justice, courage and temperance, are these just intellectual and religious rehearsal to keep me and other pious Christians in our place? I think Nietzsche is sadly mistaken, and there is a line to be drawn that Nietzsche never makes since he’s focused on fear and self-loathing. The line is between two different kinds of saints. One saint acts in accordance to the lord out of fear and punishment. The second type of saint thinks differently. He does what he does, not out of fear, but out of love. Feeling duty towards mankind, he strives to help others; him being happy is just a byproduct of his virtue. There are two rules, love God and love people. Is that really a staple of a domesticated servile slave? We are social animals, inclined to the company of others. It’s in our nature to empathize and commune together as neighbors and friends. The highest form friendship can take is love. Isn’t love the other side of Eros that Nietzsche forgets?”

“Henry,” Albert said, “we come full circle back to love once again.”

After everybody finished their drinks and wobbled out of the bar, Daniel, Nima, and Percy sat together and shared another drink while the euphoria overcame us. We wondered if there were any modern overmen that Nietzsche would accept in his few elite cast of characters.

“Certainly, he wouldn’t allow many, if any, great philosopher to be one,” Nima exclaimed. “especially not Kant.”

“What about Socrates?” asked Daniel.

“What about Socrates?,” Nima replied, “Nietzsche vehemently blames Socrates for the mess we’re in! How would his prodigal overman be Socrates if he is the one to blame for the degeneration of our instincts? He’s the one that gave too much to the apollonian at the expense of the Dionysian.”

“Still,” Percy said, “he had the will to power, did he not? He moved people, and through his ideas, he gave birth to a world view that shifted Western civilization. His echo is felt when you go to church, when you read Plato’s dialogues, when you take any intro to political science or philosophy course.”

“Maybe,” Nima said, “However, he denied this world, this nature, for something imaginary. It’s almost as if Socrates distained this world.”

“It’s just an idea,” Percy said.

              “Daniel,” Nima asked, “Have you read Goethe’s Faust?”

              “Actually yes. I read him a short time ago. He is the soul of the Romantic rebellion.”

Nima then gave Daniel a pained look and said, “He became an icon after writing The Sorrows of Young Werther. Even Napoleon wanted to sit with him and talk about it. It was semi-autobiographical as him in his youth. It was about a man suffering from unrequited love. He lived and loved for a woman named Lotte. She was all he ever thought about. Everything he did was for her. However, as fate would have it, she was to be married to another man. After various attempts to sway her, he found himself in a hopeless situation. With his blue jacket on, which he wore the first day he met her, he borrowed Lotte’s husband’s gun, went home, and ended his story. It’s a tragic tale about a love that Goethe had. Later in Goethe’s life, Lotte, the real Lotte, came to visit him at his estate. There, with her daughter, she takes one final stab just to add to her own self-repute.”

“Interesting,” Percy said, “That it’s as if Goethe overcame himself after writing this novel. Maybe, that suffering he endured in this semi-autobiographical novel was the catalyst which made him walk the tight rope…”

 Nima then asked Daedalus, “Have you heard of Nietzsche’s theory of eternal recurrence?”

“No, I haven’t. What is it?” Daedalus asked.

For the first time, Daedalus saw in Nima something he hasn’t seen before. A reflection of pain and regret. She then touched his hand gently and said, “Nietzsche believes that the eternal recurrence is the closest thing to eternity. Imagine how, given enough time, all the stars and planets will align again, and everything will happen once again as it did before. Now, if you had to live your life as if it repeated for eternity, how would you live it? This bears weight on every decision you make. This is Nietzsche trying to wake us up, trying to shake us out of sloth and habit, and whatever convention serves up, to finally affirm life here on this earth—worry about this life, not some afterlife.”

“I’m torn, Nima. Nietzsche is addressing the many, shaking them to wake up. Yet he addresses these people as ‘the herd’. He doesn’t see the importance of the civilizing nature of religion and the virtues that come along with it. Nor does he see other institutions as helpful. More so, the way he scorns philosophy in lines such as, “What are man’s truths but irrefutable errors,” as he scorns Kant and Socrates relentlessly, without seeing the good parts.

“That winged chariot,” Nima said, “which Socrates talked about and Plato wrote about in Phaedrus, with Reason and the white horse at the helm—with the dark horse under control of the reins, Nietzsche disagrees with. He wants to liberate the dark horse so that we can live a life with passion and feeling once again. It’s been far too long since we’ve let it roam about spread its wings. The dark horse completes the picture, and adds a level of realism and grit that helps the hero feel and overcome.”

“But isn’t that a dangerous game? What happens if we let that happen?”

“Ah, Daedaulus,” Nima said as she rested her hand on his arm, “Close your eyes, breathe it in. Do you feel it stirring within you, all around you?

Daedalus closed his eyes and he felt the hairs on his arm rise up as he felt the Chaos within storming.

“Do you feel it, the resonance within your body? I feel it within you, the strong currents of emotions as wave after wave hits your shores.” Both of them opened their eyes and Nima said, “I thought you’d see it by now, but let me be more direct: Nietzsche wants to give more to the Dionysian, that dark horse within, for the purpose to feel catharsis so that we may progress and overcome. The Dionysian path, from which your story first began, is where one’s greatest hour is that of their great contempt. Yes, one more piece of the puzzle fits in its place in the story.

Even the Symposium’s ladder of love is disputed by Nietzsche because it’s not enough to wake a person from their bonds they’ve been living in their entire life. For Nietzsche, the way to unshackle and break free from Plato’s cave isn’t by love, but suffering. And coming out of the cave isn’t when one sees the platonic forms but to live in accordance with Nature once again. Only through long-sustained suffering can one really see what truly has a grip on one’s life, in order to break the bonds and live an authentic life. I’ve watched you closely, Daedalus, watching what moves you. The last bit of light, that hope you so cling to, is what the darkness inside feeds upon, that which is always stirring and storming. That’s where your true power resides.”

 Percy then made his presence be known, “Finally, since god is dead, what of our morals? Is it by ‘might makes right’ now? That the weak shall perish if the few overmen take what they can? That doesn’t sit well with me. Any person wanting the aristocrats to rule is an aristocrat. You don’t see plebeians asking for an aristocracy. I may not agree with Nietzsche on every single idea. However, I believe what I’m about to say is important. My home is built with many bricks, Daniel. These bricks are composed of beauty and intellect. Nietzsche’s idea on the Apollonian and the Dionysian are an interesting part of that house, and so is this idea of the eternal recurrence. However, never anchor your gaze to a fixed star. There is much to learn from him and some to be weary of too.

You are a philosopher, Daedalus. The core of a philosopher is criticism. Nietzsche is a powerful writer, but he despises the herd for their ‘slave’ mentality and that is dangerous. The primary quality of one who ought to lead is, most importantly, a man or woman fit for friendship. This is where we should remind ourselves of Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics. The Kalos kagathos, translated as noble gentlemen, or the megaloppsychoi, translated as the great-souled man, both of which are like chivalric knights, both of which are most fitted out for friendship—they are the ones most fit to lead.”

“Percy,” Nima said while exhaling, “suffering and knowing yourself are uniquely intertwined, as it’s through suffering that we derive strength, thus leading us to knowing ourselves on a higher lever!”

Percy then replied, “Yes, you’re onto something, my dear love, but it still irks me to think that it is suffering that may be the final means to force a fish out of water, to realize what the water is like, that water has a quality of wetness. It irks me to think that it may be what finally makes us see more clearly what truly matters in life, and what life is really like. It irks me that a correct education can’t simply be the means to finally compose the soul. So, I stubbornly agree.

“Daedalus, me and Percy have some things to do. it’s been a pleasure,” Nima said.

She then stood up, and said, “Come on Percy, there’s much we have to do tonight!”

“I’ll see you soon, Daedalus,” Percy said as he stood up to help Nima put on her jacket, and both left.

[1] Nietzsche, Friedrich and Thomas Common. “Prologue” Thus Spake Zarathustra, A Book for All and None. Macmillan, New York, 1911.

[2] Nietzsche, Friedrich and Thomas Common. “Prologue” Thus Spake Zarathustra, A Book for All and None. Macmillan, New York, 1911.

[3] Golomb, Jacob, Weaver Santaniello, and Ronald Lehrer. “Introductory Essay: Nietzsche’s New Psychology” Nietzsche and Depth Psychology. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999. Print. Pg. 11

[4] Pg. 12-13

[5] Pg. 12

[6] Darwin, Charles. The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin. Ed. Francis Darwin. 1887.

[7] Genesis 8:17.

[8] Nietzsche, Friedrich and Thomas Common. “Prologue” Thus Spake Zarathustra, A Book for All and None. Macmillan, New York, 1911.

[9] Nietzsche, Friedrich W., and Walter Kaufmann. Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None. New York: Modern Library, 1995. Print. Pg. 17.

[10] Nietzsche, Friedrich W., and Walter Kaufmann. Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None. New York: Modern Library, 1995. Print. Pg. 17.

[11] Nietzsche, Friedrich W., and William A. Haussmann. “Section 14” The Birth of Tragedy. New York: Modern Library, 1968. Print. Pg. 110.

[12] Nietzsche, Friedrich W., and William A. Haussmann. “An Attempt at Self-Criticism” The Birth of Tragedy. New York: Modern Library, 1968. Print. Pg. 3.