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Quotes from the Masters: Friedrich Nietzsche

May 16, 2013

NietzscheThe individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.   

Friedrich Nietzsche
German philosopher (1844 – 1900) 



Nietzsche is one of the most fertile sources for artistic and incisive quotes. So I am going to go through a few of them. This first one, I think, applies as much as ever. We pride ourselves on our individualism in modern society. But in truth, for the most part, we still let ourselves be guided by and dictated by the needs of the tribe. Now it comes in many forms other than just religion. Such as science, media, education, medicine. The central feature remains the same, and the result for ourselves is the same if and when we try to fight against its influence. People withdraw their support from us, we are greeted with dismissive looks and gestures by others, rather than smiles. Little things like this can have a huge influence on us, but still I agree with the spirit of what Nietzsche says, and think it is worth the effort to resist this and to fight through the loneliness to own ourselves.

The visionary lies to himself, the liar only to others.

This is a typical Nietzchean quote where he turns on its head what traditional morality tells us, to get us to think things through anew. The visionary, in other words, can often be an even more deceptive individual, because they have to lie to themselves in order to believe the things they believe, to give them the ability to preach and express it with such a seeming confidence. The liar, on the other hand, at least has the virtue of being true to himself. Of course, there can be exceptions to this. But Nietzsche is just trying to stop us in our moral stride, so to speak, to make us more aware of all the things we often assume without adequate reason or justification, such as the assumption that a visionary is a good person.

In truth, there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross.

Another controversial quote from Nietzsche. What it points out to me is that ever since the historical Jesus, by becoming ever more institutionalized, Christianity, loses touch with its spiritual and moral origins. Nietzsche was not a big fan of the apostle Paul, who transformed Jesus and Christianity into something very different, and it has been diverging from its origins more and more since this time. I think there is some truth to this in a certain aspect. But then in another aspect you could argue that down to this day the story of Jesus and Christianity can inspire compassion in some individuals. Of course, it has also inspired people in not so good ways. Becoming martyrs, fighting crusades etc. 

There are a few tastes of the often subversive and morally controversial opinions of Nietzsche. He very often does not express unconditional truths. But more half-truths that are accompanied by a depth of incisive insight that helps us to think through again and reassess our own thoughts on these subjects. This is the ultimate virtue of Nietzsche, he will get you to rethink over some of your assumptions. Many of which up to then you will have held on to more unconsciously than anything else.

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