Members of the Walker Group will recall that yesterday I described in some detail the strange synchronicities (or more accurately described as "synchrondipities") that led to my writing ITLAD. Well something really weird has just taken place that I really must comment upon. Yesterday there were a series of exchanges I had either in private with individual members or collectively with the Group. In themselves these comments were of no immediate significance. However there may be more to this (or simply me being hyper-attentive).
This morning a Facebook Friend Stephen Bowman sent me a message. This was a link to a piece of visual art that he had devised. He calls it "Love-Fate" and it involves an itladian theme of rebirth and the eternal recurrence:http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=149801251723705&set=a.149801171723713.23229.100000814935475&theaterI was very impressed with this and I contacted Stephen to congratulate him. I had assumed that both the art and the poem were his own. He came back to me to point out that the poem was taken from Nietzsche's "The Riddle and the Vision" from Thus Spoke Zararthustra. I was not aware of this. I then went onto Google to get more info. The first reference I found took me to an article written by a scholar called N. F. Gier. I began reading it and I was both stunned, and a little disturbed, by the links in this article to our discussions yesterday.
This is the article. I have highlighted in red the synchrondipidies: A New Interpretation of Nietzsche's "The Riddle and the Vision"
Excerpted from N. F. Gier, Spiritual Titanism: Indian, Chinese, and Western Perspectives (SUNY Press, 2000).
Zarathustra proclaims: "I overcame myself, the sufferer; I carried my own ashes to the mountains; I invented a brighter flame for myself. And behold, then this ghost fled from me." Self-overcoming is of course self-transformation, and Zarathustra has carried to the mountains the ashes of the conventional self that he has destroyed. There he has fashioned a new self: "How could you want to become new without first becoming ashes." Like the Daoist sage whose self has become "daemonic,"
so has Zarathustra's self attained a "brighter flame" for itself. (This is the closest the Übermensch comes to divinity: just as the Daoist sage is filled with shen so is the Overman the supreme embodiment of the will to power.) And just as the Daoist sage rejects the superstitions of gui, so too is Zarathustra freed from the ghosts of popular religion.
In one of Nietzsche's most powerful parables--"The Vision and the Riddle"--we find Zarathustra walking a mountain path with a crippled dwarf riding on his shoulder. Our initial impression of the dwarf is a negative one: he is "the spirit of gravity" and he is Zarathustra's "devil and archenemy." He is "half dwarf, half mole, making lame, dripping lead into [Zarathustra's] ear."
Earlier in the book Zarathustra says that his "devil" is a serious and solemn "spirit of gravity"; and this spirit is opposed to his dancing god and to his newly found power to fly. Zarathustra's powers are very similar to Zhuangzi's zhi ren: "Now I am light, now I fly, . . . now a god dances through me." (Zarathustra's bright flame and his power to fly is the Nietzschean equivalent of the spiritual enhancement [shenming] of the Daoist sage.) The spirit of gravity also "orders" that our children be taught self-loathing so that they then become camels of slave morality--loaded down with "too many alien grave words and values." The person who has discovered herself says: "This is my good and evil," but the "mole and dwarf," representing the spirit of gravity, counters with moral universalism: "Good for all, evil for all."
Returning to "The Vision and the Riddle," Zarathustra finally challenges the dwarf: "Stop, dwarf! It is I or you! But I am the stronger of us two: you do not know my abysmal thought. That you could not bear!" Zarathustra then presents the dwarf with a vision of eternal recurrence
, but, curiously and surprisingly, the dwarf is not only able to bear this terrible truth but he also appears to know all about it and its implications. Speaking like a Daoist sage he declares: "All that is straight lies . . . All truth is crooked; time itself is a circle."
(Laurence Lampert's cannot possibly be correct in claiming that the dwarf is somehow the spirit of rationalism. The rationalist prefers a "straight" idea of truth and a linear view of time.) In the Joyful Wisdom it is a demon who brings the news of eternal recurrence, but those strong enough to accept the message will declare: "You are a god, and never have I heard anything more godly." Zarathustra's devil-dwarf may have a more positive role to play than we first thought.
Earlier in the story the dwarf offers other sagely advise: "O Zarathustra. . . you philosopher's stone! You threw yourself up high, but every stone that is thrown must fall." Is it possible that Zarathustra by climbing too high and by presuming to fly needs to be reminded by this alter-ego dwarf of his own motto "Be true to the earth"? Commentators have identified several alter-egos in Zarathustra, so it is quite possible that the dwarf is yet another one of Zarathustra's multiple selves. We should always remember that all overcoming is self-overcoming, and that even Overmen will have "overdragons" who are worthy of them. Zarathustra goes on to advise the higher men that they should not fear the devil, and that they should not be so obtuse as to call the Overman a devil, as surely the people of the plains will do.
Could it be that the dwarf is a symbol of Zarathustra's most abysmal thought that he has always "carried"? After all, the motto "What goes up must come down" is simply the vertical version of "What goes around comes around." Earlier in "The Way of the Creator" Zarathustra warned his "brothers" that "lusting for the heights" is "so many convulsions of the ambitious."The dwarf's point is confirmed in the section "The Spirit of Gravity," which reminds us that even when humans learn to fly "the boundary stones themselves will fly up into the air before [them], and [they] will rebaptize the earth--'the light one.'" Even those who fly should remain true to the earth; for all those who fly, Johnathan Livingston Seagull and Zhuangzi's Peng bird notwithstanding, will eventually have to make a landing.
"The Vision and the Riddle" ends with a shocking scene where Zarathustra comes upon a shepherd with a snake in his throat. The snake--"the heaviest and the blackest"--could symbolize the choking effects of the slave morality, and, as my students have suggested, the snake's head, which Zarathustra exhorts the shepherd to bite off, could represent the Christian God himself. At the passionate urging of Zarathustra, the shepherd does decapitate the snake and is immediately transformed: "No longer shepherd, no longer human--one changed, radiant, laughing . . . a laughter that was no human laughter." After the death of God, there is only eternal recurrence, and this "cosmic" laughter of Hesse's immortals is the only proper emotional response to such a meaningless existence. As Graham Parkes says: "laughter [is] an often necessary concomitant of insight into the way things are." Eternal recurrence is meaningless only in the sense of being nonteleological
, not in the sense that humans cannot create meaning from it, as Nietzsche's Übermensch and even Camus' absurdist heroes must do. Only the Daoist sage must repress the urge of value creation.
Even with this new interpretation of the dwarf's identity, his negative attributes may still outweigh his positive ones. In Thus Spake Zarathustra the camel is the one who accepts the lie that "life is a grave burden," and this is a load that the camel carries "faithfully . . . on hard shoulders and over rough mountains
." Is the dwarf crippled because of the slave morality, or is he more like Zhuangzi's sage-cripples? Recall that the hesitant and fearful tightrope walker in the town of Motley Cow is called "lame foot" by the jester, who taunts the man for his lack of courage and knocks him off the rope. (Zarathustra promises to give the mortally wounded man a proper burial but leaves his body in the crook of a tree!)
Nevertheless, as with all things Nietzschean, we must interpret the dwarf dialectically not dualistically. The latter view, expressed by Lampert, sees the confrontation between Zarathustra and the dwarf in a Manichean
way: "To club the Dwarf to death is to club to death the whole rational, Socratic tradition . . . ," which is seen as an evil that must be completely destroyed. We have already objected to seeing the dwarf as a rationalist, and we now must question whether the dwarf's disappearance actually means that he has been annihilated. Nietzsche hated dualism just as much as he did rationalism, so the best solution is that the dwarf dissolves into the dialectical unity/difference that is Zarathustra's character.
One way to see this dialectical interpretation is the Tantric one, expressed most appropriately in the Hevajra Tantra: "whatever demon should appear before him" is an integral part of himself
. The eschatological pilgrims in the Bardo Thödol are told to take the wrathful deities that threaten them as simply psychological projections of their own evil deeds
. (Even in dualistic Zoroastrianism the soul sees his good and evil deeds projected as a lovely maiden and an ugly hag respectively.) As Zarathustra is beyond good and evil, the dwarf is an alter ego projection of his most abysmal thoughts; or he is, as suggested earlier, a counter to his attempts to climb ever higher and to ignore the truth of "What goes up must come down."The first card in the Tarot deck is the Fool
. Representing the number zero, the symbolic referent could be the Buddhist sunyata, the Goddess in her nirguna form, the hundun, or the Dao itself. In Vicki Noble's feminist recreation of the Tarot, the fool is a child walking on its hands in a stream filled with lotus flowers and sacred mushrooms (amanita muscaria) growing on its banks. There is a mountain in the background and the Fool is accompanied by a cat, a vulture, and a crocodile. The Fool represents psychic wholeness, so one is reminded of the Daoist sage who preserves his child-like demeanour and who is not bothered by wild animals. We might also think of Zarathustra himself in his mountain retreat surrounded by his animal friends and Parkes description of the Third Metamorphosis as child-like innocence "joined with the archaic wisdom of the animals." Recall Nietzsche's enigmatic description of the child as an "innocence and forgetting, a new beginning, a game [of creation], a self-propelled wheel, a first movement, a sacred Yes." Noble's comments are illuminatingly parallel: "the Fool is perpetually young, always starting fresh, like the sunrise. It represents innocence, without ideas of sin or transgression." The Fool also represents the openness and daring that is required in all creative enterprises
, so we have chosen to interpret the child metamorphosis as one that goes beyond innocence to experience as well. In the Zhuangzi a sagely crone appears as a Woman Crookback. She is asked how it is that she has the face of a child. Representing the marriage of innocence and experience, she responds that she has simply heard (not learned) the Dao.MY OBSERVATIONS (FOR WHAT THEY ARE WORTH)
1. Like the Daoist sage whose self has become "daemonic,"
. There are many variations in spelling of the word "Daemon". Here the author specifically uses the itladian version to describe how a sage changes into a "Daemon" to attain a "brighter flame" and become closer to the "Übermensch" - a concept we call the Über-Daemon.
2. Speaking like a Daoist sage he declares: "All that is straight lies . . . All truth is crooked; time itself is a circle."
. Central to itlad is this concept of the Eternal Recurrence and we discussed this in some detail yesterday.
3. Eternal recurrence is meaningless only in the sense of being nonteleological
. Some of you may recall that I specifically used the term "non-teleological when describing ITLAD/CTF. I find this reference the must uncanny of all as it echoes exactly what I said yesterday.
4. the camel is the one who accepts the lie that "life is a grave burden," and this is a load that the camel carries "faithfully . . . on hard shoulders and over rough mountains
. This is another odd one. When Martyn arrived we had to re-arrange the tables. He said to me that he felt like "the straw". I added "that broke the camel's back" and we had a very short discussion about camels and "burdens". Not an unusual phrase but one that becomes significant in relation to my finding of this article. By this stage in my reading of it I was waiting for the "message" that all these markers were leading up to.
. Earlier in the morning I had mentioned to somebody the teachings of the Iranian mystic Mani. Yet another, more subtle, marker.
6. whatever demon should appear before him" is an integral part of himself
. What was the major theme of our discussion - the relationship between the Eidolon and the Daemon. This section of the article surprised me as I had never encountered anywhere that Nietzsche had discussed the concept of human psychic duality.
7. in the Bardo Thödol are told to take the wrathful deities that threaten them as simply psychological projections of their own evil deeds
. You will all recall Ed's description of how his son seems to be recovering from his issues with his "inner demons". We went on to discuss (as we have done many times) in some detail how psychological issues such as these are internal manifestations of our own guilts and frustrations. Indeed this is central to Tony (Cawley)'s model of the self.
8.The first card in the Tarot deck is the Fool
. And this is where, I believe, the actual message starts. In earlier posts on this Forum and on the Blogsite I have likened myself to the "Fool" in the Tarot deck. Others have explained the role of this card before. You will recall that Dante and Amanda brought with them (for reasons I am yet to understand) an amazing deck of Tarot cards with stunning art work. This deck is known as the "Bohemian Gothic". When I first saw the box containing the cards I read this as the very itladian "Bohmian Gothic" only then to realise my mistake. But was it? Is this similarity simply part of the synchrondipity? In a private conversation with Amanda I discussed how I believe that my card is "The Fool". I pointed out that the normal image is of a man looking up at the sky as he walks over a cliff. Amanda, as others have done in the past, explained to me that is only part of the interpretation. She told me that .....
9. The Fool also represents the openness and daring that is required in all creative enterprises or words very close to that in the article. Indeed the article describes the Fool as "innocence and forgetting, a new beginning, a game [of creation], a self-propelled wheel, a first movement, a sacred Yes" and"the Fool is perpetually young, always starting fresh, like the sunrise. It represents innocence, without ideas of sin or transgression." This is the way I have always seen myself to be (Whether others agree is another matter).
Over the last few weeks I have felt rather over-awed with what is taking place both here on this Forum and generally within my life. Indeed at times I have found the burden almost too much. However in my own naive and innocent way I see a message to me in all this ...... and that is "keep going, and if you fall off the cliff so be it ..... because then you will fly!"
As one interpretation of the card states:"Moment to moment, and with every step, the Fool leaves the past behind. He carries nothing more than his purity, innocence and trust, symbolized by the white rose in his hand. The pattern on his waistcoat contains the colors of all four elements of the tarot, indicating that he is in harmony with all that surrounds him. His intuition is functioning at its peak. At this moment the Fool has the support of the universe to make this jump into the unknown. Adventures await him in the river of life.
The card indicates that if you trust your intuition right now, your feeling of the 'rightness' of things, you cannot go wrong. Your actions may appear 'foolish' to others, or even to yoursef, if you try to analyze them with the rational mind. But the 'zero' place occipied by the Fool is the numberless number where trust and innocence are the guides, not skepticism and past experience."
(Osho Zen Tarot : The Transcendental Game of Zen, by Ma Deva Padma).