In 1883 Friedrich Nietzsche’s book Also Sprach Zarathustra was published. In this discursive book he advocated the evolutionary concept of the Übermensch, the superior man of earth. He had no patience with evolution and its lengthy eons of progress. For him his Übermensch or Superman would bypass the evolutionary time scale and emerge like a Caesar but with the wisdom and passion of Jesus as expressed in the Gospels.
He believed that Jesus was the Übermensch of his day. However, Christianity over the centuries had distorted who the true Jesus was, and the Apostle Paul had hijacked the teachings of the Nazarene Teacher for his own political ends. So the true message of the Man of Sorrows had been lost.
Over the course of human history individuals, both men and women, have arisen who touched their generation and the generations to come. These individuals embraced their heritage as star children, the lost children of the stars.
Their thoughts were more than just words and actions. They touched the essential core, the ousia, of the deep recesses of the human genome.
Men and women dwell on the earth. The earth is filled with wonders as well as the drudgery of daily existence.
It is when men and women allow themselves to embrace cosmic concepts and use those ideals to inspire others that they become the supermen or superwomen of their generation. For Nietzsche these supermen or women were of the earth and had no need of god or gods and their capricious nature.
For Nietzsche was inspired by the exploits which Homer penned, the human tragedies presented by Shakespeare and the heroic movements of Wagner.
Perhaps, it was while reading Goethe’s FAUST that the concept of Übermensch found a notch in his growing philosophy. For Faust was an Übermensch who sought more than just the daily toil of human life.
In 1903 George Bernard Shaw took the Übermensch concept and wrote the brilliant play—Man and Superman.
In Act III there is a conversation between the devil and the statue about Nietzsche:
“It was he who raked up the Superman, who is as old as Prometheus; and the 20th century will run after this newest of the old crazes when it gets tired of the world, the flesh, and your humble servant.”
The Statue asks to meet Nietzsche to explore this Superman concept. The devil replied that Nietzsche met Wagner and a quarrel ensued.
“Oh, it was not about music. Wagner once drifted into Life Force worship, and invented a Superman called Siegfried. But he came to his senses afterwards. So when they met here, Nietzsche denounced him as a renegade; and Wagner wrote a pamphlet to prove that Nietzsche was a Jew; and it ended in Nietzsche’s going to heaven in a huff. And a good riddance too. And now, my friend let us hasten to my palace and celebrate your arrival with a grand musical service.”
Shaw’s play is a masterpiece which explores the human as well as the divine. It has many facets like a well-crafted prism.
It is true that Nietzsche and Wagner had a falling out. Nietzsche viewed Wagner as a father-figure, but like all fathers eventually the son comes to see the flawed man behind the Oz persona when the curtains are drawn back to see the reality of the paterfamilias myth.
And what of the Superman of earth? I will close this post from a 15 year-old Nietzsche:
“We are pilgrims in this world: we have our homeland everywhere and nowhere: the same sun shines over us all. We are citizens of the world – the earth is our realm.” Capri and Hegoland, a short story Nietzsche wrote at 15
G. D. Williams © 2013
Lord Byron’s Manfred
Man and Superman