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Upon the Blessed Isles: Interpreted

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By nickbbk
Words 1249
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Nicolas Kouatli
PHIL 315: Kant and 19th Century European Philosophy
Upon The Blessed Isles: Interpreted
Thus Spoken Zarathustra thoroughly illustrates Friedrich Nietzsche’s core philosophical beliefs, utilizing scripture-like parables and mystical narratives that outline the travels and experiences of the quasi-fictional philosopher Zarathustra. Nietzsche’s philosophy is quintessentially immoralist and inescapably the story unraveling it would have to denounce morality as a whole. In Nietzsche’s eyes, the historical Zarathustra would serve as the perfect figurehead for his personal teachings. Historically, Zarathustra (or Zoroaster as the Greeks knew him) was an influential Persian philosopher credited with popularizing the ideas of individual judgement, “Heaven and Hell”, the future resurrection of the body, and the afterlife – essentially paving the path for all modern religious doctrines. In Thus Spoken Zarathustra, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra attempts the polar opposite – effectively dismantling the “out-dated” concept of morality and bringing all moral-powered beliefs down with it. Nietzsche’s Zarathustra doesn’t stop there; he goes on to introduce the concept of the “overman” as the necessary answer to the death of God and illuminates a cyclical explanation of time, which he refers to as “eternal return”. Thus Spoken Zarathustra was originally composed of four separate books, each written apart from each other – which have since been compiled into one comprehensive work. In the second book, the story “Upon The Blessed Isles” passionately breathes life into some of Nietzsche’s most fundamental beliefs: namely a rejection of God, a defense of creativity and a shift in focus to achieving the overman.
Book two of Thus Spoken Zarathustra picks up several years after Zarathustra originally left his disciples - seeking further wisdom in quiet solitude in his cave. Upon his mountain, Zarathustra has a powerful dream in which a child holds a mirror and says to him, “look at yourself in the mirror” (83). However, Zarathustra is horrified upon his realization that it is not his reflection gleaming back, rather he sees “… a devil’s grimace and scornful laughter” (83). Zarathustra interprets this dream to mean that his teachings are in grave danger and decides to descend into town to rescue his teachings from the perversions of his enemies. Once in town, Zarathustra begins to speak to his disciples, but in a much bolder tone than previously.
“Upon The Blessed Isles” begins with a metaphor in which Zarathustra refers to himself as the “north wind to ripe figs” (85), setting his teachings as figs and his delivery as the wind shaking the tree itself. By stating that he, Zarathustra, is not the tree from which his teachings bloom but rather the wind that knocks them off suggests that these teachings are already attainable, it just takes a disturbance of some type to get them within reach of the masses. This metaphor also necessarily separates Zarathustra and his teachings, while simultaenously casting them as two “earthly” phenomena – maintaining the series of ongoing “natural” allusions that are employed throughout Thus Spoke Zarathustra. This separation gives light to the fact that Zarathustra and his teachings are not dependant on each other; the tree will continue to bear fruit without the north wind and the winds will persist regardless of fig trees. Making use of “earthly” imagery, Nietzsche shows that the teachings of Zarathustra are part of a natural cycle that cannot be stopped – even with no wind the figs will eventually fall down and be consumed by those who seek figs. In much the same way, Nietzsche views the overman as the necessary next step in human consciousness but is worried that if it is not achieved soon enough, then humankind may be condemned to live as the “lastman” – a dead-end race. In metaphor, Nietzsche fears that the ripe figs may rot and lose all substance before falling to the ground.
Continuing on from the original fig tree metaphor, Zarathustra utilizes even more natural imagery and exclaims that there is “fullness” in the world around us. Zarathustra invites the reader to “…look out upon distant seas”, enjoy the natural beauty and when pondering the vastness, to think about the overman, instead of God. Nietzsche writes, “Once one said God when one looked upon distant seas; but now I have taught you to say: overman” (85). As religious thinkers look to God as providing the overarching fabric of fatalism, the enlightened thinker, in Zarathustra’s eyes, would instead look to the overman and understand the fact that as humans, we ultimately control our own destiny. In the absence of God, Zarathustra suggests that humans should take control of their own future and shape themselves into transcendental overmen. Zarathustra moves on, condemning the belief in God as a mere conjecture and an unachievable conjecture at any rate. Instead of God, Nietzsche suggests that man should conjecture about something that is attainable – namely the concept of the overman. Nietzsche writes, “God is a conjecture; but I desire that your conjectures should not reach beyond your creative will. Could you create a god? Then do not speak of me of any gods. But you could well create the overman” (85). Nietzsche uses tongue-in-cheek language to suggest that God is nothing more than man’s speculation and by definition is not achievable by man. “Could you create a god?” serves as an important double-entandre; alluding somewhat mockingly to the fact that the idea of God was created by man, but also suggesting that this creation lacks necessary substance. In other words, man can create the idea of God but cannot bring an actual God into fruition. However, the overman can be both thought of and “created” by man. After toying around with several more passages that utilize a similar “God as a conjecture...” framework, Zarathustra defends creativity and the act of creation as the “… great redemption from suffering” (87). Continuing with this theme, Nietzsche writes, “Whatever in me has feeling, suffers and is in prison; but my will always comes to me as my liberator and joy-bringer. Willing liberates: that is the true teaching of will and liberty – thus Zarathustra teaches it” (87). In this passage, Zarathutra suggests that it is his will to be creative and determine his own future that allows him to escape mortal “imprisonment”. Zarathustra recognizes the fact that if God were to be real then all creation would ultimately be His own creation, leaving men trapped by their own mortality with nothing left to create. Nietzsche writes, “Away from God and gods thus will has lured me; what could one create if gods existed?” (87). Zarathustra uses his creative path as a denouncement of God within itself. After all, if God has created everything and continues to do so – what is left for man to create? For these very reasons, Zarathustra suggests that man need forget about God and focus his creativity instead on achieving the overman.
Although rather short, “Upon The Blessed Isles” successfully illustrates several foundational principles of Nietzsche’s over-arching philosophy. The story itself paves the way for the rest of the book, acting as an important fulcrum in the machine of Nietzsche’s philosophy. Using clever language, Zarathustra positions himself as a much-needed force for change and offers alternatives to the popular world-views. Zarathustra then introduces the overman as an answer to the “death of god” and speaks great lengths about human creativity. “Upon The Blessed Isles” successfully rejects God, repositions Zarathustra as a natural force, proposes attainment of the overman as a noble goal and defends the human will to create - all in roughly three pages.

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