Chapter 10 begins with narrative, but very quickly becomes speeches, or sermons, and these make up the majority of the first part of the four parts of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The speeches are introduced with an unusual formula that resembles the “toletoth” forumlae that punctuate Genesis (“These are the generations of…”); here, the formula says, “Thus began Zarathustra’s going under”. Like Genesis, the formula here seems somewhat ambiguous as to whether it refers forwards or backwards. I have finished the first speech: “Of the Three Metamorphoses”.
This speech really surprised me because the first stage of human transformation, Zarathustra says, is that of the spirit that is like a camel: a humble beast of burden. This section of the speech is very much in the tradition of Jesus’ “turn the other cheek” and Paul’s “bears all things”: “What is heavy? thus asks the carrying spirit. It kneels down like a camel and wants to be well-loaded.”
But Zarathustra says that it is not enough for humanity to have this spirit of the meek, for the spirit requires something else: it requires a lion. Why, Zarathustra asks, is a lion required? Because only a lion has the ability to rebel against traditional religious values and systems, characterized as a dragon: the lion wants to fight its former master and devour its old god. In doing so, the lion creates the space for creativity. To the “thou shalt!” of the dragon, the lion says consciously and assertively, “I will!”
The child is the third stage of human transformation: unlike the lion, the child can “create freedom”; it is only the child, with its “innocence” and its lack of knowledge of how things are supposed to be, that can set the stage for the introduction of the Overman. (This is why a “starbaby” is the final image of 2001: A Space Odyssey.)
Counterpoint: C.S. Lewis in The Magician’s Nephew, a children’s book in the Narnia series, goes to great pains to make bad-guy characters Queen Jadis and Uncle Andrew both feel that they are a law unto themselves. “Ours is a high and lonely destiny”, they say as they use others for their own ends without compunction. I am certain that Lewis had something similar to the doctrine of the Übermensch in mind, just as Dostoevsky did in Crime and Punishment. For Lewis and Dostoevsky, morality cannot exist on a human level without a divine framework, and both authors feared society would simply come apart at the threads without the influence of traditional religion. I think Lewis misunderstood the idea of the Overman, for the Overman has within himself the spirit of the camel, and is thus neither a murdering Nazi nor a criminal with no compunction about committing immoral acts.
I forgot to say in my previous post that Zarathustra’s presentation of man as being a stage between ape and Overman reminds me a lot of Darwin’s theory of evolution, which had been published some decades earlier in his book The Origin of the Species. In Nietzsche, we begin to see how the new scientific theory was beginning to take hold on the human imagination.