Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Zarathustra and the Three Transformations
In Nietzsche's "Thus Spake Zarathustra" he imagines the metamorphosis of the human spirit, in the guise of first a camel, second a lion and thirdly a child. The camel is loaded down with the great commandments and the intellectual encumbrances of the past. As it enters the desert the camel becomes a lion that must slay the dragon named "Thou Shalt", on whose every scale is written a law. Joseph Campbell gives an incredibly lucid and beautiful gloss on this text. Once the dragon is slain the spirit is transformed into a beautiful child... echoing the verse in Isaiah which imagines a millenial kingdom: "And a little child shall lead them."
Nietzche says the child is like "a wheel rolling out of its own center."
Internal autonomy and spiritual apotheosis seem to have been achieved.
German composer Richard Strauss was inspired to write his great work of music bearing the same name as Nietzsche's book. In 1968 when Stanley Kubrick used that music for his epic space opera 2001: A Space Odyssey it became an instantly recognizable composition.
Here is an interesting essay on the themes of Thus Spake Zarathustra as seen in unfolding narrative of Kubrick's famous film.