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"The Three Metamorphoses", by Friedrich Nietzsche

Dernière mise à jour : 26 janv. 2021

Extract from:


by Friedrich Nietzsche

The Three Metamorphoses

"OF THREE metamorphoses of the spirit do I tell you: how the spirit becomes a camel, the camel a lion, and the lion at last a child. Many heavy things are there for the spirit, the strong reverent spirit that would bear much: for the heavy and the heaviest longs its strength.

What is heavy ? so asks the spirit that would bear much, and then kneels down like the camel, and wants to be well laden.

What is the heaviest thing, you heroes ? asks the spirit that would bear much, that I may take it upon me and exult in my strength.Is it not this: To humiliate oneself in order to mortify one's pride ? To exhibit one's folly in order to mock at one's wisdom ?

Or is it this: To desert our cause when it triumphs ? To climb high mountains to tempt the tempter ? Or is it this: To feed on the acorns and grass of knowledge, and for the sake of truth to suffer hunger in one's soul ?

Or is it this: To be sick and send away the comforters, and to make friends of the deaf, who never hear your requests ? Or is it this: To go into foul water when it is the water of truth, and not avoid cold frogs and hot toads ? Or is it this: To love those who despise us, and to give one's hand to the phantom who tries to frighten us ?

All these heaviest things the spirit that would bear much takes upon itself: like the camel, that, when laden, hastens into the desert, so speeds the spirit into its desert.

But in the loneliest desert happens the second metamorphosis: here the spirit becomes a lion; he will seize his freedom and be master in his own wilderness. Here he seeks his last master: he wants to fight him and his last God; for victory he will struggle with the great dragon. Who is the great dragon which the spirit no longer wants to call Lord and God ?

"Thou-shalt," is the great dragon called. But the spirit of the lion says, "I will."

"Thou-shalt," lies in his path, sparkling with gold- a scale-covered beast; and on each scale glitters a golden "Thou-shalt!" The values of a thousand years glitter on those scales, and thus speaks the mightiest of all dragons: "All values of all things glitter on me. All value has long been created, and I am all created value. Verily, there shall be no more 'I will'."

Thus speaks the dragon.

My brothers, why does the spirit need the lion ? Why is the beast of burden, which renounces and is reverent, not enough ?

To create new values - that, even the lion cannot accomplish: but to create for oneself freedom for new creating - that freedom the might of the lion can seize. To create freedom for oneself, and give a sacred No even to duty: for that, my brothers, the lion is needed.

To assume the right to new values - that is the most terrifying assumption for a load-bearing and reverent spirit. To such a spirit it is preying, and the work of a beast of prey. He once loved "Thou-shalt" as the most sacred: now is he forced to find illusion and arbitrariness even in the most sacred things, that freedom from his love may be his prey: the lion is needed for such prey.

But tell me, my brothers, what the child can do, which even the lion could not do ? Why must the preying lion still become a child ?

The child is innocence and forgetting, a new beginning, a game, a self-rolling wheel, a first movement, a sacred Yes. For the game of creation, my brothers, a sacred Yes is needed: the spirit now wills his own will; the world's outcast now conquers his own world.

Of three metamorphoses of the spirit I have told you: how the spirit became a camel, the camel a lion, and the lion at last a child.

Thus spoke Zarathustra."

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