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Friedrich Nietzsche:
Thus Spoke Zarathustra (excerpts)

Zarathustra’s Prologue


When Zarathustra arrived at the edge of the forest, he came upon a town. Many people had gathered there in the marketplace to see a tightrope walker who had promised a performance. The crowd, believing that Zarathustra was the ringmaster come to introduce the tightrope walker, gathered around to listen. And Zarathustra spoke to the people:

I teach you the Overman! Mankind is something to be overcome. What have you done to overcome mankind?

All beings so far have created something beyond themselves. Do you want to be the ebb of that great tide, and revert back to the beast rather than overcome mankind? What is the ape to a man? A laughing-stock, a thing of shame. And just so shall a man be to the Overman: a laughing-stock, a thing of shame. You have evolved from worm to man, but much within you is still worm. Once you were apes, yet even now man is more of an ape than any of the apes.

Even the wisest among you is only a confusion and hybrid of plant and phantom. But do I ask you to become phantoms 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 beg of you my brothers, remain true to the earth, and believe not those who speak to you of otherworldly 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 those blasphemers died along with him. Now to blaspheme against the earth is the greatest sin, and to rank love for the Unknowable higher than the meaning of the earth!

Once the soul looked contemptuously upon the body, and then that contempt was the supreme thing: -- the soul wished the body lean, monstrous, and famished. Thus it thought to escape from the body and the earth. But that soul was itself lean, monstrous, and famished; and cruelty was the delight of this soul! So my brothers, tell me: What does your body say about your soul? Is not your soul poverty and filth and wretched contentment?

In truth, man is a polluted river. One must be a sea to receive a polluted river without becoming defiled. I teach you the Overman! He is that sea; in him your great contempt can go under.

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

The hour when you say: What good is my happiness? It is poverty and filth and wretched contentment. But my happiness should justify existence itself!

The hour when you say: What good is my reason? Does it long for knowledge as the lion for his prey? It is poverty and filth and wretched contentment!

The hour when you say: What good is my virtue? It has not yet driven me mad! How weary I am of my good and my evil! It is all poverty and filth and wretched contentment!

The hour when you say: What good is my justice? I do not see that I am filled with fire and burning coals. But the just are filled with fire and burning coals!

The hour when you say: What good is my pity? Is not pity the cross on which he is nailed who loves man? But my pity is no crucifixion!

Have you ever spoken like this? Have you ever cried like this? Ah! If only I had heard you cry this way!

It is not your sin -- it is your moderation that cries to heaven; your very sparingness in sin cries to heaven!

Where is the lightning to lick you with its tongue? Where is the madness with which you should be cleansed?

Behold, I teach you the Overman! He is that lightning, he is that madness!

And while Zarathustra was speaking in this way, someone in the crowd interrupted: "We've heard enough about the tightrope walker; now it's time to see him!" And while the crowd laughed at Zarathustra, the tightrope walker, believing that he had been given his cue, began his performance.


Zarathustra, however, looked at the people and wondered. Then he spoke thus:

Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Overman -- 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 an over-going and a down-going.

I love those that know not how to live except as down-goers, for they are the over-goers.

I love the great despisers, because they are the great adorers, and arrows of longing for the other shore.

I love those who do not first seek a reason beyond the stars for going down and being sacrifices, but sacrifice themselves to the earth, that the earth may become the Overman's.

I love him who lives in order to know, and seeks to know in order that the Overman may hereafter live. Thus he seeks his own down-going.

I love him who labors and invents, that he may build the house for the Overman, and prepare for him earth, animal, and plant: for thus he seeks his own down-going.

I love him who loves his virtue: for virtue is the will to down-going, and an arrow of longing.

I love him who reserves no share of spirit for himself, but wants to be wholly the spirit of his virtue: thus he walks as spirit over the bridge.

I love him who makes his virtue his inclination and destiny: thus, for the sake of his virtue, he is willing to live on, or live no more.

I love him who desires not too many virtues. One virtue is more of a virtue than two, because it is more of a knot for one's destiny to cling to.

I love him whose soul is lavish, who wants no thanks and does not give back: for he always gives, and desires not to keep for himself.

I love him who is ashamed when the dice fall in his favor, and who then asks: "Am I a cheat?" -- for he wants to perish.

I love him who scatters golden words in advance of his deeds, and always does more than he promises: for he seeks his own down-going.

I love him who justifies the future ones, and redeems the past ones: for he is willing to perish through the present ones.

I love him who chastens his God, because he loves his God: for he must perish through the wrath of his God.

I love him whose soul is deep even in the wounding, and may perish through a small matter: thus he goes willingly over the bridge.

I love him whose soul is so overfull that he forgets himself, and all things are in him: thus all things become his down-going.

I love him who is of a free spirit and a free heart: thus is his head only the bowels of his heart; his heart, however, causes his down-going.

I love all who are like heavy drops falling one by one out of the dark cloud that lowers over man: they herald the coming of the lightning, and perish as heralds.

Lo, I am a herald of the lightning, and a heavy drop out of the cloud: the lightning, however, is the Overman!"


When Zarathustra had spoken these words, he again looked at the people, and was silent. And to his heart he said:

There they stand; there they laugh: they do not understand me; I am not the mouth for these ears.

Must one first batter their ears, that they may learn to hear with their eyes? Must one clatter like kettledrums and penitential preachers? Or do they only believe the stammerer?

They have something of which they are proud. What do they call it, that which makes them proud? Culture, they call it; it distinguishes them from the goatherds.

They dislike, therefore, to hear of “contempt” of themselves. So I will appeal to their pride.

I will speak to them of the most contemptible thing: that, however, is the Last Man!"

And thus spoke Zarathustra to the people:

It is time for man to fix his goal. It is time for man to plant the seed of his highest hope.

His soil is still rich enough for it. But that soil will one day be poor and exhausted, and no lofty tree will any longer be able to grow there.

Alas! there comes the time when man will no longer launch the arrow of his longing beyond man -- and the string of his bow will have unlearned to whiz!

I tell you: one must still have chaos in oneself, to give birth to a dancing star. I tell you: you have still chaos in yourselves.

Alas! There comes the time when man will no longer give birth to any star. Alas! There comes the time of the most despicable man, who can no longer despise himself.

Lo! I show you the Last Man.

"What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?" -- so asks the Last Man, and blinks.

The earth has become small, and on it hops the Last Man, who makes everything small. His species is ineradicable as the flea; the Last Man lives longest.

"We have discovered happiness" -- say the Last Men, and they blink.

They have left the regions where it is hard to live; for they need warmth. One still loves one's neighbor and rubs against him; for one needs warmth.

Turning ill and being distrustful, they consider sinful: they walk warily. He is a fool who still stumbles over stones or men!

A little poison now and then: that makes for pleasant dreams. And much poison at the end for a pleasant death.

One still works, for work is a pastime. But one is careful lest the pastime should hurt one.

One no longer becomes poor or rich; both are too burdensome. Who still wants to rule? Who still wants to obey? Both are too burdensome.

No shepherd, and one herd! Everyone wants the same; everyone is the same: he who feels differently goes voluntarily into the madhouse.

"Formerly all the world was insane," -- say the subtlest of them, and they blink.

They are clever and know all that has happened: so there is no end to their derision. People still quarrel, but are soon reconciled -- otherwise it upsets their stomachs.

They have their little pleasures for the day, and their little pleasures for the night, but they have a regard for health.

"We have discovered happiness," -- say the Last Men, and they blink.

And here ended the first discourse of Zarathustra, which is also called "The Prologue," for at this point the shouting and mirth of the multitude interrupted him. "Give us this Last Man, O Zarathustra," -- they called out -- "make us into these Last Men! Then will we make you a gift of the Overman!" And all the people exulted and smacked their lips. Zarathustra, however, turned sad, and said to his heart:

They do not understand me: I am not the mouth for these ears.

Perhaps I have lived too long in the mountains; I have hearkened too much to the brooks and trees: now I speak to them as to the goatherds.

My soul is calm and clear, like the mountains in the morning. But they think I am cold, and a mocker with terrible jests.

Now they look at me and laugh: and while they laugh they hate me too. There is ice in their laughter.


Long slept Zarathustra; and not only the rosy dawn passed over his head, but also the morning. At last, however, his eyes opened, and amazedly he gazed into the forest and the stillness, amazedly he gazed into himself. Then he arose quickly, like a seafarer who all at once sees the land; and he shouted for joy: for he saw a new truth. And he spoke thus to his heart:

A light has dawned upon me: I need companions -- living ones; not dead companions and corpses, which I carry with me whereever I go.

But I need living companions, who will follow me because they want to follow themselves -- and to the place where I will. A light has dawned upon me. Zarathustra is not to speak to the people, but to companions! Zarathustra will not be shepherd and hound of the herd!

To steal many from the herd -- for that purpose I have come. The people and the herd will be angry with me: the shepherds shall call Zarathustra a robber.

Shepherds, I say, but they call themselves the good and just. Shepherds, I say, but they call themselves the believers in the orthodox faith.

Behold the good and just! Whom do they hate most? The man who breaks their tablets of values, the breaker, the lawbreaker: -- yet he is the creator.

Behold the believers of all faiths! Whom do they hate most? The man who breaks up their tablets of values, the breaker, the law-breaker -- yet he is the creator.

The creator seeks companions, not corpses -- and not herds or believers either. The creator seeks fellow-creators -- those who grave new values on new law-tablets.

The creator seeks companions and fellow-reapers: for everything is ripe for the harvest with him. But he lacks the hundred sickles: so he plucks the ears of corn and is vexed.

The creator seeks companions, and such as know how to whet their sickles. They will be called destroyers, and despisers of good and evil. But they are the reapers and rejoicers.

Zarathustra seeks fellow-creators, fellow-reapers and fellow-rejoicers: what are herds and shepherds and corpses to him!

And you, my first companion, rest in peace! I have buried you well in your hollow tree; I have hidden you well from the wolves.

But I leave you; the time has arrived. Between rosy dawn and rosy dawn there came to me a new truth.

I am not to be a shepherd, I am not to be a grave-digger. No longer will I speak to the people; for the last time I have spoken to the dead.

I will join the creators, the reapers, and the rejoicers: I will show them the rainbow, and all the steps to the Overman.

I will sing my song to the lonesome and to the twosome; and to whoever who still has ears for the unheard, I will make his heart heavy with my happiness.

I make for my goal, I follow my course; over the loitering and tardy I will leap. Thus let my on-going be their down-going!

I. 4: The Despisers of the Body

To the despisers of the body I speak my word. I wish them neither to learn afresh, nor teach anew, but only to bid farewell to their own bodies, -- and thus become silent.

"Body am I, and soul" -- so says the child. And why should one not speak like children?

But the awakened one, the knowing one, says: "Body am I entirely, and nothing more; and soul is only the name of something about the body."

The body is a great wisdom, a plurality with one sense, a war and a peace, a flock and a shepherd.

An instrument of your body is also your small wisdom, my brother, which you call "mind"-- a little instrument and toy of your great wisdom.

"I," you say, and are proud of that word. But the greater thing -- in which you are unwilling to believe -- is your body with its great wisdom; that does not say "I," but does "I."

What the sense feels, what the mind knows, never has its end in itself. But sense and mind would rather persuade you that they are the end of all things: so vain are they.

Instruments and toys are sense and mind: behind them there is still the Self. The Self seeks with the eyes of the senses, it listens also with the ears of the mind.

Always the Self listens and seeks; it compares, masters, conquers, and destroys. It rules, and is also the mind's ruler.

Behind your thoughts and feelings, my brother, there is a mighty lord, an unknown sage -- it is called Self; it dwells in your body, it is your body.

There is more wisdom in your body than in your best wisdom. And who then knows why your body needs precisely your best wisdom?

Your Self laughs at your mind, and its bold leaps. "What are these leaps and flights of thought to me?" it says to itself. "A detour to my end. I hold the puppet-strings of the mind, and am the prompter of its notions."

The Self says to the mind: "Feel pain!" Then the mind suffers, and thinks how it may put an end to its suffering -- and that is why it is made to think.

The Self says to the mind: "Feel pleasure!" Then the mind is pleased, and thinks how it may be pleased again -- and that is why it is made to think.

I want to speak to the despisers of the body. Their contempt is caused by their respect. What is it that created respect and contempt and worth and will?

The creating Self created for itself respect and contempt, it created for itself pleasure and pain. The creative body created the mind as a hand for its will.

Even in your folly and contempt you each serve your Self, you despisers of the body. I tell you, your very Self wants to die, and turns away from life.

No longer can your Self do that which it desires most: -- create beyond itself. That is what it desires most; that is its fervent wish.

But it is now too late to do so: -- so your Self wishes to perish, you despisers of the body.

To perish -- so wishes your Self; and therefore you have become despisers of the body. For you can no longer create beyond yourselves.

And that is why you are angry with life and the earth. An unconscious envy is in the sidelong glance of your contempt.

I do not go your way, you despisers of the body! You are no bridges to the Overman!

Thus spoke Zarathustra.

I. 9: The Preachers of Death

There are preachers of death: and the earth is full of those to whom renunciation of life must be preached.

The earth is full of the superfluous; life is marred by the all-too-many. May they be tempted out of this life by the "life eternal"!

In yellow do the preachers of death garb themselves, or in black. [Editor’s note: yellow is the color worn by Buddhist clergy; black is the color worn by Christian clergy.] But I will show them to you in still other colors.

There are the terrible ones who carry about in themselves the beast of prey, and have no choice except lusts or self-laceration. And even their lusts are self-laceration.

They have not yet become men, those terrible ones: may they preach renunciation of life, and pass away themselves!

There are the spiritually consumptive ones: hardly are they born when they begin to die, and long for doctrines of weariness and renunciation.

They would rather be dead, and we should welcome their wish! Let us beware of awakening those dead ones, and of damaging those living coffins!

They meet a sick man, or an old man, or a corpse [Editor’s note: the three sights that, according to Buddhist tradition, first set the young Buddha on the path to renunciation] -- and immediately they say: "Life is refuted!"

But only they are refuted, and their eyes, which see only one side of existence.

Shrouded in thick melancholy, and eager for the little casualties that bring death: thus do they wait, and clench their teeth.

Or else, they grasp at sweetmeats while mocking their childishness: they cling to their straw of life, and mock at their clinging.

Their wisdom speaks thus: "He who remains alive is a fool; but we are all such fools! And that is the most foolish thing in life!"

"Life is only suffering": say others, and do not lie. Then see to it that you cease! See to it that the life which is only suffering ceases!

And let this be the teaching of your virtue: "Thou shalt kill thyself! thou shalt steal away from thy life!"

"Lust is sin," -- so say some who preach death -- "let us go apart and beget no children!"

"Giving birth is troublesome," -- say others -- "why still give birth? One bears only unfortunates!" And they also are preachers of death.

"Pity is necessary," -- so says a third party. "Take what I have! Take what I am! So much less does life bind me!"

If they were overflowing with pity, they would make their neighbors sick of life. To be evil -- that would be their true goodness.

But they want to be rid of life; what do they care if they bind others tighter with their chains and gifts!

And you also, to whom life is unending work and dissatisfaction, are you not very tired of life? Are you not very ripe for the sermon of death?

All you to whom unending work is dear, and all that is quick, new, and strange -- you endure yourselves badly; your diligence is escape, and the will to forget yourself.

If you believed more in life, then would you fling yourselves less to the moment. But you do not have enough capacity for waiting -- or even for idling!

Everywhere resounds the voices of those who preach death; and the earth is full of those to whom death must be preached.

Or "life eternal"; it is all the same to me -- if only they pass away quickly!

Thus spoke Zarathustra.

1. 11: The New Idol

Somewhere there are still peoples and herds, but not with us, my brothers: here there are states.

A state? What is that? Well! open now your ears to me, for now I will speak to you about the death of peoples.

State is the name of the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly it lies; and this lie slips from its mouth: "I, the state, am the people."

It is a lie! It was creators who created peoples, and hung a faith and a love over them: thus they served life.

Destroyers are they who lay snares for the many, and call it state: they hang a sword and a hundred cravings over them.

Where there are still peoples, the state is not understood, and is hated as the evil eye, and as sin against laws and customs.

This sign I give to you: every people speaks its own language of good and evil, which its neighbor does not understand. It has created its own language of laws and customs.

But the state lies in all the tongues of good and evil; and whatever it says it lies; and whatever it has it has stolen.

Everything in it is false; it bites with stolen teeth, and bites often. It is false down to its bowels.

Confusion of tongues of good and evil; this sign I give you as the sign of the state. This sign points to the will to death! it points to the preachers of death!

All too many are born: for the superfluous the state was created!

See how it entices them to it, the all-too-many! How it swallows and chews and rechews them!

"On earth there is nothing greater than I: I am the governing hand of God." -- thus roars the monster. And not only the long-eared and short-sighted fall upon their knees!

Ah! even in your ears, you great souls, it whispers its gloomy lies! Ah! it finds out the rich hearts which willingly squander themselves!

Yes, it finds you too, you conquerors of the old God! You became weary of conflict, and now your weariness serves the new idol!

It would set up heroes and honorable ones around it, the new idol! Gladly it basks in the sunshine of good consciences, -- the cold monster!

It will give everything to you, if you worship it, the new idol: thus it buys the lustre of your virtue, and the glance of your proud eyes.

Through you it seeks to seduce the all-too-many! Yes, a hellish artifice has been created here, a death-horse jingling with the trappings of divine honors!

Yes, a dying for many has been created here, which glorifies itself as life: verily, a great service to all preachers of death!

The state, I call it, where all drink poison, the good and the bad: the state, where all lose themselves, the good and the bad: the state, where the slow suicide of all -- is called "life."

Behold the superfluous! They steal the works of the creators and the treasures of the wise. Education, they call their theft -- and everything becomes sickness and trouble to them!

Behold the superfluous! They are always sick; they vomit their bile and call it a newspaper. They devour each other and cannot even digest themselves.

Behold the superfluous! They acquire wealth and become the poorer for it. They seek power, and the lever of power, much money -- these impotent ones!

See them clamber, these nimble apes! They clamber over one another, and thus pull each other into the mud and the abyss.

They all strive for the throne: this is their madness -- as if happiness sat on the throne! Often filth sits on the throne. -- and often also the throne on filth.

Madmen they all seem to me, and clambering apes, and too eager. Foul smells their idol to me, the cold monster: foul they all smell to me, these idolaters.

My brothers, will you suffocate in the fumes of their maws and appetites! Better to break the windows and jump into the open air!

Escape from their foul stench! Escape from the idolatry of the superfluous!

Escape from their foul stench! Escape from the steam of these human sacrifices!

The earth is yet free for great souls. There are still many empty sites for the lonesome and the twosome, surrounded by the fragrance of tranquil seas.

A free life is yet possible for great souls. He who possesses little is that much less possessed: blessed be a little poverty!

There, where the state ends -- there only begins the man who is not superfluous: there begins the song of the necessary, the single and irreplaceable melody.

There, where the state ends -- look there, my brothers! Do you not see it, the rainbow and the bridges of the Overman?

Thus spoke Zarathustra.

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