Composed in four parts between 1883 and 1885, Thus Spoke Zarathustra is the most famous and influential work of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. The work is a philosophical novel in which the character of Zarathustra, a religious prophet-like figure, delivers a series of lessons and sermons in a Biblical style that articulate the central ideas of Nietzsche's mature thought. Key to the philosophy of Thus Spoke Zarathustra is a rejection of traditional systems of religious morality, the idea of the will to power, and a vision of a new, higher mode of being, the "übermensch" or "Superman," one of Nietzsche's most famous and controversial figures. As innovative stylistically as it is philosophically, Thus Spoke Zarathustra is both a literary masterpiece and an enduring classic of moral thought.
This version of Thus Spoke Zarathustra is the translation by Thomas Common.
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About the Author
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a German philosopher whose best-known works include Beyond Good and Evil and Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
John Lee has read audiobooks in almost every conceivable genre, from Charles Dickens to Patrick O'Brian, and from the very real life of Napoleon to the entirely imagined lives of sorcerers and swashbucklers. An AudioFile Golden Voice narrator, he is the winner of numerous Audie Awards and AudioFile Earphones Awards.
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Cambridge University Press
0521841712 - Friedrich Nietzsche - Thus Spoke Zarathustra A Book for All and None - Edited by Adrian Del Caro and Robert B. Pippin
Thus Spoke Zarathustra A Book for All and None First Part
When Zarathustra was thirty years old he left his home and the lake of his home and went into the mountains. Here he enjoyed his spirit and his solitude and for ten years he did not tire of it. But at last his heart transformed, – one morning he arose with the dawn, stepped before the sun and spoke thus to it:
“You great star! What would your happiness be if you had not those for whom you shine?
For ten years you have come up here to my cave: you would have tired of your light and of this route without me, my eagle and my snake.
But we awaited you every morning, took your overflow from you and blessed you for it.
Behold! I am weary of my wisdom, like a bee that has gathered too much honey. I need hands that reach out.
I want to bestow and distribute until the wise among human beings have once again enjoyed their folly, and the poor once again their wealth.
For this I must descend into thedepths, as you do evenings when you go behind the sea and bring light even to the underworld, you super-rich star!
Like you, I must go down1 as the human beings say, to whom I want to descend.
So bless me now, you quiet eye that can look upon even an all too great happiness without envy!
Bless the cup that wants to flow over, such that water flows golden from it and everywhere carries the reflection of your bliss!
Behold! This cup wants to become empty again, and Zarathustra wants to become human again.”
– Thus began Zarathustra’s going under.
Zarathustra climbed down alone from the mountains and encountered no one. But when he came to the woods suddenly an old man stood before him, who had left his saintly hut in search of roots in the woods. And thus spoke the old man to Zarathustra:
“This wanderer is no stranger to me: many years ago he passed by here. Zarathustra he was called; but he is transformed.
Back then you carried your ashes to the mountain: would you now carry your fire into the valley? Do you not fear the arsonist’s punishment?
Yes, I recognize Zarathustra. His eyes are pure, and no disgust is visible around his mouth. Does he not stride like a dancer?
Zarathustra is transformed, Zarathustra has become a child, an awakened one is Zarathustra. What do you want now among the sleepers?
You lived in your solitude as if in the sea, and the sea carried you. Alas, you want to climb ashore? Alas, you want to drag your own body again?”
Zarathustra answered: “I love mankind.”2
“Why,” asked the saint, “did I go into the woods and the wilderness in the first place? Was it not because I loved mankind all too much?
Now I love God: human beings I do not love. Human beings are too imperfect a thing for me. Love for human beings would kill me.”
Zarathustra replied. “Why did I speak of love? I bring mankind a gift.”
“Give them nothing,” said the saint. “Rather take something off them and help them to carry it – that will do them the most good, if only it does you good!
And if you want to give to them, then give nothing more than alms, and make them beg for that too!”
“No,” answered Zarathustra. “I do not give alms. For that I am not poor enough.”
The saint laughed at Zarathustra and spoke thus: “Then see to it that they accept your treasures! They are mistrustful of hermits and do not believe that we come to give gifts.
To them our footsteps sound too lonely in the lanes. And if at night lying in their beds they hear a man walking outside, long before the sun rises, they probably ask themselves: where is the thief going?
Do not go to mankind and stay in the woods! Go even to the animals instead! Why do you not want to be like me – a bear among bears, a bird among birds?”
“And what does the saint do in the woods?” asked Zarathustra.
The saint answered: “I make songs and sing them, and when I make songs I laugh, weep and growl: thus I praise God.
With singing, weeping, laughing and growling I praise the god who is my god. But tell me, what do you bring us as a gift?”
When Zarathustra had heard these words he took his leave of the saint and spoke: “What would I have to give you! But let me leave quickly before I take something from you!” – And so they parted, the oldster and the man, laughing like two boys laugh.
But when Zarathustra was alone he spoke thus to his heart: “Could it be possible! This old saint in his woods has not yet heard the news that God is dead!” –
When Zarathustra came into the nearest town lying on the edge of the forest, he found many people gathered in the market place, for it had been promised that a tightrope walker would perform. And Zarathustra spoke thus to the people:
“I teach you the overman.3 Human being is something that must be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?
All creatures so far created something beyond themselves; and you want to be the ebb of this great flood and would even rather go back to animals than overcome humans?
What is the ape to a human? A laughing stock or a painful embarrassment. And that is precisely what the human shall be to the overman: a laughing stock or a painful embarrassment.
You have made your way from worm to human, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now a human is still more ape than any ape.
But whoever is wisest among you is also just a conflict and a cross between plant and ghost. But do I implore you to become ghosts or plants?
Behold, 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 beseech you, my brothers, remain faithful to the earth and do not believe those who speak to you of extraterrestrial hopes! They are mixers of poisons whether they know it or not.
They are despisers of life, dying off and self-poisoned, of whom the earth is weary: so let them fade away!
Once the sacrilege against God was the greatest sacrilege, but God died, and then all these desecrators died. Now to desecrate the earth is the most terrible thing, and to esteem the bowels of the unfathomable higher than the meaning of the earth!
Once the soul gazed contemptuously at the body, and then such contempt was the highest thing: it wanted the body gaunt, ghastly, starved. Thus it intended to escape the body and the earth.
Oh this soul was gaunt, ghastly and starved, and cruelty was the lust of this soul!
But you, too, my brothers, tell me: what does your body proclaim about your soul? Is your soul not poverty and filth and a pitiful content- ment?
Truly, mankind is a polluted stream. One has to be a sea to take in a polluted stream without becoming unclean.
Behold, I teach you the overman: he is this sea, in him your great contempt can go under.
What is the greatest thing that you can experience? It is the hour of your great contempt. The hour in which even your happiness turns to nausea and likewise your reason and your virtue.
The hour in which you say: ‘What matters my happiness? It is poverty and filth, and a pitiful contentment. But my happiness ought to justify existence itself!’
The hour in which you say: ‘What matters my reason? Does it crave knowledge like the lion its food? It is poverty and filth and a pitiful contentment!’
The hour in which you say: ‘What matters my virtue? It has not yet made me rage. How weary I am of my good and my evil! That is all poverty and filth and a pitiful contentment!’
The hour in which you say: ‘What matters my justice? I do not see that I am ember and coal. But the just person is ember and coal!’
The hour in which you say: ‘What matters my pity? Is pity not the cross on which he is nailed who loves humans? But my pity is no crucifixion.’
Have you yet spoken thus? Have you yet cried out thus? Oh that I might have heard you cry out thus!
Not your sin – your modesty cries out to high heaven, your stinginess even in sinning cries out to high heaven!
Where is the lightning that would lick you with its tongue? Where is the madness with which you should be inoculated?
Behold, I teach you the overman: he is this lightning, he is this madness! –”
When Zarathustra had spoken thus someone from the crowd cried out:
“We have heard enough already about the tightrope walker, now let us see him too!” And all the people laughed at Zarathustra. But the tightrope walker, believing that these words concerned him, got down to his work.
Now Zarathustra looked at the people and he was amazed. Then he spoke thus:
“Mankind is a rope fastened between animal and overman – a rope over an abyss.
A dangerous crossing, a dangerous on-the-way, a dangerous looking back, a dangerous shuddering and standing still.
What is great about human beings is that they are a bridge and not a purpose: what is lovable about human beings is that they are a crossing over and a going under.
I love those who do not know how to live unless by going under, for they are the ones who cross over.
I love the great despisers, because they are the great venerators and arrows of longing for the other shore.
I love those who do not first seek behind the stars for a reason to go under and be a sacrifice, who instead sacrifice themselves for the earth, so that the earth may one day become the overman’s.
I love the one who lives in order to know, and who wants to know so that one day the overman may live. And so he wants his going under.
I love the one who works and invents in order to build a house for the overman and to prepare earth, animals and plants for him: for thus he wants his going under.
I love the one who loves his virtue: for virtue is the will to going under and an arrow of longing.
I love the one who does not hold back a single drop of spirit for himself, but wants instead to be entirely the spirit of his virtue: thus he strides as spirit over the bridge.
I love the one who makes of his virtue his desire and his doom: thus for the sake of his virtue he wants to live on and to live no more.
I love the one who does not want to have too many virtues. One virtue is more virtue than two, because it is more of a hook on which his doom may hang.
I love the one whose soul squanders itself, who wants no thanks and gives none back: for he always gives and does not want to preserve himself.4
I love the one who is ashamed when the dice fall to his fortune and who then asks: am I a cheater? – For he wants to perish.
I love the one who casts golden words before his deeds and always does even more than he promises: for he wants his going under.
I love the one who justifies people of the future and redeems those of the past: for he wants to perish of those in the present.
I love the one who chastises his god, because he loves his god: for he must perish of the wrath of his god.
I love the one whose soul is deep even when wounded, and who can perish of a small experience: thus he goes gladly over the bridge.
I love the one whose soul is overfull, so that he forgets himself, and all things are in him: thus all things become his going under.
I love the one who is free of spirit and heart: thus his head is only the entrails of his heart, but his heart drives him to his going under.
I love all those who are like heavy drops falling individually from the dark cloud that hangs over humanity: they herald the coming of the lightning, and as heralds they perish.
Behold, I am a herald of the lightning and a heavy drop from the cloud: but this lightning is called overman.–”
When Zarathustra had spoken these words he looked again at the people and fell silent. “There they stand,” he said to his heart, “they laugh, they do not understand me, I am not the mouth for these ears.
Must one first smash their ears so that they learn to hear with their eyes? Must one rattle like kettle drums and penitence preachers? Or do they believe only a stutterer?
They have something of which they are proud. And what do they call that which makes them proud? Education they call it, it distinguishes them from goatherds.
For that reason they hate to hear the word ‘contempt’ applied to them. So I shall address their pride instead.
Thus I shall speak to them of the most contemptible person: but he is the last humanbeing.”
And thus spoke Zarathustra to the people:
“It is time that mankind set themselves a goal. It is time that mankind plant the seed of their highest hope.
Their soil is still rich enough for this. But one day this soil will be poor and tame, and no tall tree will be able to grow from it anymore.
Beware! The time approaches when human beings no longer launch the arrow of their longing beyond the human, and the string of their bow will have forgotten how to whir!
I say to you: one must still have chaos in oneself in order to give birth to a dancing star. I say to you: you still have chaos in you.
Beware! The time approaches when human beings will no longer give birth to a dancing star. Beware! The time of the most contemptible human is coming, the one who can no longer have contempt for himself.
Behold! I show you the last human being.
‘What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?’ – thus asks the last human being, blinking.
Then the earth has become small, and on it hops the last human being, who makes everything small. His kind is ineradicable, like the flea beetle; the last human being lives longest.
‘We invented happiness’ – say the last human beings, blinking.
They abandoned the regions where it was hard to live: for one needs warmth. One still loves one’s neighbor and rubs up against him: for one needs warmth.
Becoming ill and being mistrustful are considered sinful by them: one proceeds with caution. A fool who still stumbles over stones or humans!
A bit of poison once in a while; that makes for pleasant dreams. And much poison at the end, for a pleasant death.
One still works, for work is a form of entertainment. But one sees to it that the entertainment is not a strain.
One no longer becomes poor and rich: both are too burdensome. Who wants to rule anymore? Who wants to obey anymore? Both are too burdensome.
No shepherd and one herd! Each wants the same, each is the same, and whoever feels differently goes voluntarily into the insane asylum.
‘Formerly the whole world was insane’ – the finest ones say, blinking.
One is clever and knows everything that has happened, and so there is no end to their mockery. People still quarrel but they reconcile quickly – otherwise it is bad for the stomach.
One has one’s little pleasure for the day and one’s little pleasure for the night: but one honors health.
‘We invented happiness’ say the last human beings, and they blink.”
And here ended the first speech of Zarathustra, which is also called “The Prologue,” for at this point he was interrupted by the yelling and merriment of the crowd. “Give us this last human being, oh Zarathustra” – thus they cried – “make us into these last human beings! Then we will make you a gift of the overman!” And all the people jubilated and clicked their tongues. But Zarathustra grew sad and said to his heart:
“They do not understand me. I am not the mouth for these ears.
Too long apparently I lived in the mountains, too much I listened to brooks and trees: now I speak to them as to goatherds.
My soul is calm and bright as the morning mountains. But they believe I am cold, that I jeer, that I deal in terrible jests.
And now they look at me and laugh, and in laughing they hate me too. There is ice in their laughter.”
Then, however, something happened that struck every mouth silent and forced all eyes to stare. For in the meantime the tightrope walker had begun his work; he had emerged from a little door and was walking across the rope stretched between two towers, such that it hung suspended over the market place and the people. Just as he was at the midpoint of his way, the little door opened once again and a colorful fellow resembling a jester leaped forth and hurried after the first man with quick steps. “Forward, sloth, smuggler, pale face! Or I’ll tickle you with my heel! What business have you here between the towers? You belong in the tower, you should be locked away in the tower, for you block the way for one who is better than you!” And with each word he came closer and closer to him. But when he was only one step behind him, the terrifying thing occurred that struck every mouth silent and forced all eyes to stare: – he let out a yell like a devil and leaped over the man who was in his way. This man, seeing his rival triumph in this manner, lost his head and the rope. He threw away his pole and plunged into the depths even faster than his pole, like a whirlwind of arms and legs. The market place and the people resembled the sea when a storm charges in: everyone fled apart and into one another, and especially in the spot where the body had to impact.
But Zarathustra stood still and the body landed right beside him, badly beaten and broken, but not yet dead. After a while the shattered man regained consciousness and saw Zarathustra kneeling beside him. “What are you doing here?” he said finally. “I’ve known for a long time that the devil would trip me up. Now he is going to drag me off to hell: are you going to stop him?”
“By my honor, friend!” answered Zarathustra. “All that you are talking about does not exist. There is no devil and no hell. Your soul will be dead even sooner than your body – fear no more!”
The man looked up mistrustfully. “If you speak the truth,” he said, “then I lose nothing when I lose my life. I am not much more than an animal that has been taught to dance by blows and little treats.”
“Not at all,” said Zarathustra. “You made your vocation out of danger, and there is nothing contemptible about that. Now you perish of your vocation, and for that I will bury you with my own hands.”
When Zarathustra said this the dying man answered no more, but he moved his hand as if seeking Zarathustra’s hand in gratitude. –
Meanwhile evening came and the market place hid in darkness. The people scattered, for even curiosity and terror grow weary. But Zarathustra sat beside the dead man on the ground and was lost in thought, such that he lost track of time. Night came at last and a cold wind blew over the lonely one. Then Zarathustra stood up and said to his heart:
“Indeed, a nice catch of fish Zarathustra has today! No human being did he catch, but a corpse instead.
Uncanny is human existence and still without meaning: a jester can spell its doom.
I want to teach humans the meaning of their being, which is the overman, the lightning from the dark cloud ‘human being.’
But I am still far away from them, and I do not make sense to their senses. For mankind I am still a midpoint between a fool and a corpse.
The night is dark, the ways of Zarathustra are dark. Come, my cold and stiff companion! I shall carry you where I will bury you with my own hands.”
When Zarathustra had said this to his heart, he hoisted the corpse onto his back and started on his way. And he had not yet gone a hundred paces when someone sneaked up on him and whispered in his ear – and behold! The one who spoke was the jester from the tower. “Go away from this town, oh Zarathustra,” he said. “Too many here hate you. The good and the just hate you and they call you their enemy and despiser; the believers of the true faith hate you and they call you the danger of the multitude. It was your good fortune that they laughed at you: and really, you spoke like a jester. It was your good fortune that you took up with the dead dog; when you lowered yourself like that, you rescued yourself for today. But go away from this town – or tomorrow I shall leap over you, a living man over a dead one.” And when he had said this, the man disappeared, but Zarathustra continued his walk through dark lanes.
At the town gate he met the gravediggers. They shone their torches in his face, recognized Zarathustra and sorely ridiculed him. “Zarathustra is lugging away the dead dog: how nice that he’s become a gravedigger! For our hands are too pure for this roast. Would Zarathustra steal this morsel from the devil? So be it then! And good luck with your meal! If only the devil were not a better thief than Zarathustra! – he’ll steal them both, he’ll devour them both!” And they laughed and huddled together.
Zarathustra did not say a word and went on his way. By the time he had walked for two hours past woods and swamps, he had heard too much of the hungry howling of wolves and he grew hungry himself. And so he stopped at a lonely house in which a light was burning.
“Hunger falls upon me like a robber,” said Zarathustra. “In woods and swamps my hunger falls upon me and in the deep night.
My hunger has odd moods. Often it comes to me only after a meal, and today it did not come the whole day: just where was it?”
And so Zarathustra pounded on the door to the house. An old man appeared, bearing a light, and he asked: “Who comes to me and to my bad sleep?”
“A living man and a dead one,” replied Zarathustra. “Give me food and drink, I forgot it during the day. Whoever feeds the hungry quickens his own soul – thus speaks wisdom.”
The old man went away but returned promptly and offered Zarathustra bread and wine. “This is a bad region for those who hunger,” he said. “That is why I live here. Beast and human being come to me, the hermit. But bid your companion eat and drink, he is wearier than you.” Zarathustra replied: “My companion is dead, I would have a hard time persuading him.” “That does not concern me,” snapped the old man. “Whoever knocks at my house must also take what I offer him. Eat and take care!” –
Thereupon Zarathustra walked again for two hours, trusting the path and the light of the stars, for he was a practiced night-walker and loved to look in the face of all sleepers. But as dawn greyed Zarathustra found himself in a deep wood and no more path was visible to him. Then he laid the dead man into a hollow tree – for he wanted to protect him from the wolves – and he laid himself down head first at the tree, upon the earth and the moss. And soon he fell asleep, weary in body but with a calm soul.
Long Zarathustra slept, and not only the dawn passed over his face but the morning as well. At last, however, he opened his eyes: amazed Zarathustra looked into the woods and the silence, amazed he looked into himself. Then he stood up quickly, like a seafarer who all at once sees land, and he rejoiced, for he saw a new truth. And thus he spoke to his heart:
“It dawned on me: I need companions, and living ones – not dead companions and corpses that I carry with me wherever I want.
Instead I need living companions who follow me because they want to follow themselves – wherever I want.
It dawned on me: let Zarathustra speak not to the people, but instead to companions! Zarathustra should not become the shepherd and dog of a herd!
To lure many away from the herd – for that I came. The people and herd shall be angry with me: Zarathustra wants to be called a robber by shepherds.
Shepherds I say, but they call themselves the good and the just. Shepherds I say: but they call themselves the faithful of the true faith.
Look at the good and the just! Whom do they hate most? The one who breaks their tablets of values, the breaker, the lawbreaker – but he is the creative one.
Look at the faithful of all faiths! Whom do they hate most? The one who breaks their tablets of values, the breaker, the lawbreaker – but he is the creative one.
Companions the creative one seeks and not corpses, nor herds and believers. Fellow creators the creative one seeks, who will write new values on new tablets.
Companions the creative one seeks, and fellow harvesters; for to him everything stands ready for harvest. But he lacks the hundred scythes, and so he plucks out spikes and is angry.
Companions the creative one seeks, and those who know how to whet their scythes. They shall be called annihilators and despisers of good and evil. But they are the harvesters and the celebrators.
Fellow creators seeks Zarathustra, fellow harvesters and fellow celebrators Zarathustra seeks: what need does he have of herds and shepherds and corpses!
And you, my first companion, take care! I buried you well in your tree, I concealed you well from the wolves.
But I am leaving you, the time is up. Between dawn and dawn a new truth came to me.
I shall not be a shepherd, nor a gravedigger. I do not want to even speak again with the people – for the last time have I spoken to a dead person.
I shall join the creators, the harvesters, the celebrators: I shall show them the rainbow and all the steps to the overman.
I shall sing my song to lonesome and twosome hermits, and for him who still has ears for the unheard of, I shall make his heart heavy with my happiness.
I want to go to my goal, and I go my own way; over the hesitating and dawdling I shall leap. Thus let my going be their going under!”
Thus Zarathustra had spoken to his heart when the sun stood at noon, then he gazed at the sky with a questioning look, for above him he heard the sharp cry of a bird. And behold! An eagle cut broad circles through the air, and upon it hung a snake, not as prey but as a friend, for the snake curled itself around the eagle’s neck.
“It is my animals!” said Zarathustra, and his heart was delighted.
“The proudest animal under the sun and the wisest animal under the sun – they have gone forth to scout.
They want to determine whether Zarathustra is still alive. Indeed, am I still alive?
I found it more dangerous among human beings than among animals; Zarathustra walks dangerous paths. May my animals guide me!”
When Zarathustra had said this he recalled the words of the saint in the woods, sighed and spoke thus to his heart:
“May I be wiser! May I be wise from the ground up like my snake!
But I ask the impossible, and so I ask instead of my pride that it always walk with my wisdom!
And if some day my wisdom abandons me – oh it loves to fly away! – may my pride then fly away with my folly!”
– Thus began Zarathustra’s going under.
© Cambridge University Press
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It has been said that Thus Spoke Zarathustra is best read in high school because it is the only time a reader can tolerate such transparent exposition. This is probably accurate. I would recommend The Gay Science to a new reader of Nietzsche, but Thus Spoke Zarathustra is shorter and more popular.
A classical work of filosophical significance. A treasure for the interested 'few'.
Love it! Translators seem to be enjoying something of a bitchfest contra Walter Kaufmann's earlier beautiful English translation, which doubles the fun really. Incorrigibly weird and deliriously funny - woe to anyone who teaches this as philosophy! No no no! No
I find a lot that is admirable in Nietzsche's philosophy... and there's some that i think Nietzsche was a bit naieve about. I found this book to be incredibly hard going, despite its easy 350 pages, it probably took me two weeks or more to finish. Mostly, i suppose, because the book is almost entirely composed of sermons by Nietzsche's Zarathustra with almost no motion or narration apart from his speaking. Also, Nietzsche seems to have written this book in almost a sort of prose-poetry, relying heavily on metaphor, his meaning is not always clear. I might have had an easier time of it if i were more familiar with some of his other works, so i could readily identify what he was refering to.In any case, this is a famous, important book for Western thought, arts, culture etc. You should read it, even if its hard. Some things that are worthwhile are.
I am always hopeful that a philosophy will confirm my beliefs and put them better than I can put them myself. I am always dissapointed that what I read fails to meet my expectations. I enjoyed this book a little more than most because of the way it was written. There were parts of the book where I did feel that Nietzsche did confirm my beliefs, and put things well. Much of the book either missed my expectation, or I simply couldn't see things the way they were intended. Interestingly enough, immediately after this I read Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People" where Ibsen outlines "the strongest man in the world". Contrasting that with Nietzsche's superman helped me get more out of each book.
I love Nietzsche’s work so I am probably biased. Thus Spoke Zarathustra is a tough read but it is worth it. If you want to read something that will make you think then you can’t get much better than this.
Does the writing seem immoral? You have to keep an open mind.
Inspirational in a different way. You'll have to read it to understand.