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Zarathustra Seminars

[Carl Jung: Life that doesn’t overcome itself is really meaningless: it is not life; only inasmuch as life surpasses itself does it make sense.]

Aloft will it build itself with columns and stairs-life itself: to remove
distances would it gaze, and out towards blissful beauties therefore
doth it require elevation.
And because it requireth elevation, therefore doth it require
steps, and variance of steps and climbers! To rise striveth life, and
in rising to surpass itself. [Nietzsche’s Zarathustra]

Just before, he said that people will always fight, that life is a conflict, a battlefield.

That is a very pessimistic statement which would not fit into Nietzsche’s point of view, for he is not pessimistic at all: he sees an ultimate goal for which he is striving.

So naturally he cannot leave that statement about the ultimate meaning or purpose of the world in such a form.

He has to add that life wants to build itself aloft, and he uses a somewhat astonishing metaphor, “with columns and stairs.”

Life here becomes a sort of edifice, suddenly changing its aspect.

It is no longer that up and down movement that it was before, everybody fighting against everybody; it takes on now a static aspect, the aspect of a building, and the movement of life is on the stairs of that building.

Also it is no longer striving to get something, to acquire or to conquer something.

It is rather to create a high standpoint, to gaze into the distance, as if man himself were becoming a watchman on the height of that tower, man looking out toward blissful beauties and therefore requiring elevation, to get to a higher point of view or, anyway to a point of view.

Therefore he says steps are required and variance of steps and climbers, and of course fighting among the climbers, because the meaning of life seems to be to surpass itself.

Life that doesn’t overcome itself is really meaningless: it is not life; only inasmuch as life surpasses itself does it make sense.

That is the way one could formulate this thought, but this is of course an extraordinary statement; it seems to be quite against everything he has said before.

Now he says And just behold, my friends!

Here where the tarantula’s den is, riseth aloft an ancient temple’s ruins [Whoever would have thought that?]-just behold it with enlightened eyes!

Just where the cave is, the hole in the ground where the tarantula lives, just there are the ruins of a temple.

It is so unexpected that it almost seems like bad taste; one cannot associate the two things at all, but it is one of Nietzsche’s intuitions.

Happily enough he doesn’t run right away from it at once.

He amplifies this vision a bit: namely, he discovers now an entirely different aspect of the tarantula.

He discovers first of all that the point of view he proclaimed as belonging to the tarantula, is his own point of view-that one should make use of all moral or ethical values in order to make the fight a better one, to give some pep to the fight.

To have a good feeling when you are fighting, you must be able to say you are fighting for a very good or just cause.

That puts some juice into it; you must not allow any relativity of standpoint, but must be convinced that what you do is wonderful and ideal and just the right thing.

Otherwise it would not pay to fight; everybody must be convinced of the entire goodness of his cause.

That is what he is now preaching, and then suddenly the whole vista changes, all that turmoil appears in a static thing, as if time had come to a standstill, as if there were practically no fight, as if people were climbing only to get to the next step in the building, where the only thing they possibly can do is to reach the widest platform of the highest tower in order to have the best view. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Pages 1105-1106

Prof.Jung: Exactly. To say that life shall surpass itself means that you have a standpoint outside of life, you are no longer in life.

As long as you are in life you cannot imagine anything that would surpass it: life is the highest thing.

He has been talking of his doctrine of life-he was entirely in the movement of life-and then suddenly it strikes him that there is a point of view outside or above it, a life that can surpass its own life.

This is an element which obviously is not life, for to overcome itself it must be capable of a counter movement, and that is here represented in the static building.

Those among you who have read Das Reich ohne Raum by Bruno Goetz, will remember the same conflict there, the conflict between the Puer Aeternus that is nothing but life, life in a blind spreading form, full of conflict, full of worry, full of nonsense; and over against that life is the Christian world.

I recommend that book to you. It was written immediately after the war and is a remarkable anticipation of the political conditions prevailing in Germany.

And there you find that same peculiar conflict.

First, you have the feelings of the extraordinary uprush of life symbolized by the Puer Aeternus: you feel that this is the thing, or you expect that it will now grow into something-and then the thing you discover is the Christian world, which is of course the world of ideas, entirely static, cold, rigid, a world which is simply the opposite.

That is invariably so, because life is on the one side the most intense movement, the greatest intensity, and on the other side it is utterly static.

Of course that is exceedingly difficult to see, but the more life becomes intense, the more there is of that up and down movement, the more you are in conflict, then the more you are squeezed out of life in a peculiar way; you begin to get outside and to look at it, and you ask yourself in the end, for God’s sake what is it all about?

Why all that turmoil and nonsense? What is the meaning of the whole thing? And that is the life that surpasses itself. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Page 1107.