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The meaning of Power
on February 2, 2004
There is a common view that Nietzsche was an atheist. He certainly encourages this view, but as Walter Kaufmann says, he commonly attacked what he valued. There is no doubt that Nietzsche opposed the Jewish and Christian Gods. He said he opposed the Jewish religion because it gave rise, in his view, to Christianity. The view of Paul Tillich that he opposed the god who deprives the individual of subjectivity is beyond much doubt. Kaufmann puts it in terms of Nietzsche's struggle for creativity. He opposed the god which is identified with natural law and causality. To understand this opposition one must understand the God whom Tillich says Nietzsche says must be destroyed, which is natural law, spacial relationships and most of all the mechanistic nature of causality. To understand this one must visualize the balance, the principal characterisktic of God in the Old Testament of the Bible. To grasp this takes more than a little doing. It is hidden in texts. If, however, you try a little experiment, you will be able to actually see the God whom Nietzsche thought had to be destroyed. Take a pencil and hold it at the center between your fingers and move one end up and the other down. Notice that if one end goes up the other goes down. This is IF and THEN; between them is the shaft of the pencil, which is AND. The movement of the pencil is a moving syllogism. It is the beginning of the infinity of causal relationships which Spinoza considers. It is also a lever, the fundamental machine, the basis of the mechanical nature of the universe. It is also the principal of economics; let yourself think of the balance for trade and you will see. Money on one side and goods on the other. If the fulcrum is in the center, the match is even; if the fulcrum is nearer one end, mechanical advantage and economic advantage can be seen and understood. It is also the principle of justice.
It is the breaking of the balance, the breaking of the visualized relationship between cause and effect which is the essence of Christianity. Nietzsche opposed Christianity not because it anulled visualizing the mechanical relationship between cause and effect, but rather because it changes the meaning of the word "meek" to be what it has come to mean in the expressionin "The meek shall enherit the earth" rather than the Old Testament meaning of "logical". Moses, the author of logic in the Bible was said to be the meekest man who ever lived. "Meek" in Judaism meant subordinate to God, not subordinate to other humans. God in the Old Testament shows himself in balance, so Moses is the lawgiver of logic, not humility before other men and his people before other peoples. Nietzsche says "Fight! Do not work" and he means create from nothing, do not move around things already created. "I love that which creates something greater than itself and dies," says Nietzsche. The human mind independent of the rule that governs the universe and not timid before others--this is what Nietzsche meens by "The Will to Power". It is also what Nietzsche means by "God is dead." As Kaufmann points out, it is more than the Protestant "invention" of the individual, it is the knowing self, aware of the governing power of the universe, creating in spite of this knowledge, refusing to be timid before other men whom Nietzsche calls the "Ubermench" or Superman.
The "Ubermench" KNOWS, but he and CREATES rather than simply moving about "dead ideas", he acts knowing that the LAW of the universe may destroy him. But the "Ubermench" will CREATE before he is destroyed by the world whose governing law he understands. The "Ubermench" is not an ignorant man not seeing the order of the universe, whose mind and spirit are where "Ignorant armies clash by night." Nietzsche knows that pain is part of his creativity. He accepts that pain. He knows that the mockery of the crowd who do not know as he knows may come, but he is willing to suffer that. If this interests you, see my review of Paul Tillich's "Courage to Be".
Historian Will Durant in his book "The Story of Philosophy" has a very different and unflattering view of Nietzsche. Durant thought Nietzsche was simply a neurotic who had nothing wrong with him which could not have been cured by the love of a good woman.