5 Nietzsche Quotes on Being a Man
Friedrich Nietzsche is a colossus of Western Civilization, a philosopher and poet who influenced more people than perhaps any other with his devastatingly deep insights on the conflicting nature of man’s mind, body and soul, which is why these 5 Nietzsche quotes can guide us as men in facing the hard truth, finding meaning and orienting ourselves towards growth and grit.
Born in 1844, Nietzsche became the first of what was later termed ‘the anti-philosophers’, an enigmatic term in describing the turn away from abstract philosophy to psychology, existentialism and materialism.
For this reason, Nietzsche has held huge and enduring influence on some of the 20th century’s most famous figures.
Freud, Jung, Sartre and Camus all referenced Nietzsche heavily, yet most famously, it was Adolf Hitler’s skewed reading of Nietzsche’s ‘Man and Superman’ that has kept Nietzsche’s name in the mind of the mainstream.
Man and Superman & ‘God is Dead’
The notion of man and superman came after Nietzsche’s proclamation ‘God is Dead‘.
While atheists often reference this in somewhat glowing terms, Nietzsche, an atheist himself, did not mean it as a cause for celebration, quite the contrary in fact.
Nietzsche declared that it was the West itself that had killed God and that without this central figure of Western Civilization – God the Father – we would be in mortal danger, with the state (and a leading tyrant) ready to step into the vacuum and persecute millions.
The solution to this was in the notion that man must transcend morality and thus become a ‘superman’.
This notion was twisted by none other than Hitler into his racialist Aryan philosophy, which ironically led to the very tyranny Nietzsche warned of, with fascism on one side and communism on the other, with the deification of Marx, Lenin, and later Stalin.
As men of the 21st century, we can now appreciate the full magnitude of what Nietzsche was truly warning about and seek to learn from his deepest of lessons.
In this pursuit, we seek to grow in character, grit, authenticity and focus on the development of our soul.
Such a mission aids us in building integrity and moving further from the brink of the tyranny of the 20th century, understanding more about how societies and individuals become corrupt.
5 Nietzsche Quotes on Being a Man
The first of our Nietzsche quotes opens us up to the most fundamental of human realities – do we live in truth or perception?
With predictable immediacy, the ego tells us we live in truth while others live in illusion, yet as Socrates famously said ‘All I know is that I know nothing’, and if that was the ‘wisest man in Greece’ and the father of Western philosophy, we should take note.
The reality is that we do indeed live in illusion, that is a fundamental part of being human.
Secondly, we presuppose we can handle the truth should we hear it, yet this belies a fundamental misunderstanding of what truth really is.
The truth of a situation is often brutal and unfair, with ideology providing a much more safe and secure buffer for us in perceiving our place in the world.
So how can we combat this and deepen our character?
The intellectual plane is one dimension we can work on, yet it is much more profound when we go beyond the intellectual realm.
Here, we aim to transcend mere perception and dwell in pure reality, the Silent Prayer is one way we can begin to do this.
The next step for us as men in the journey of growth is that once we accept truth, we will undoubtedly next face harsh realities
Such harshness may come in the form of people, ideas or situations and as we learn to contend with such things and not be destroyed by them, we grow in stature, confidence and capability.
Such a process takes time, yet it is the unstoppable reality if we are persistent and willing to learn.
The problem is that as we become more capable, we are granted power, and power corrupts.
An example of this in my own life that springs to mind is that of a particularly aggressive and cruel boss I once had.
This guy was a classic sociopathic personality, charming one second and extremely abusive and cruel the next – I saw him break many young men and women down to tears and leave their roles depressed and dejected.
Now, to keep my earnings coming in I realised I had to show my teeth as well so that I couldn’t be so easily dominated.
This process took me a while, I went too far some days, not far enough the next, yet in time I showed I too was a force to be reckoned with.
However, in gaining this prowess, I also realised my work persona had changed in its essence, I had opportunities to progress I hadn’t seen before and people looked at me in a different way.
Now, as men, we must walk a fine line between dark aggression and authoritative assertiveness – we must be capable of standing up for ourselves and others, yet not become bullies in the process.
This is what Nietzsche is teaching us here, albeit in a way that is much deeper than my example.
Nietzsche takes it to its ultimate conclusion in that when we look into the deepest, scariest part of life – it’s ultimate meaning (or lack of, in his belief) – we mustn’t succumb to a sense of egocentric narcissism that circumvents fear into tyrannical action in the world.
As we make ongoing progress, our mentality, aura and approach to life begin to change.
In fact, the pursuits that interest us become more arcane, our willingness to reject the excess and ‘pleasure’ of the modern world grow and our way of life can seem all the more strange to the uninitiated.
Perhaps there is no greater example of this than humility, the state in which the egocentric, self-centered version of you lessens while a tangible sense of peace and stability around you grows.
Humility is often the result of sincerely looking into and learning about your soul, it makes us less cocky, more experienced and more understanding of ourselves and others.
However, beware of this eventuality, for in our growth we may see others fail to understand us, view themselves as better than us and so forth, but we must also be aware we are not seeing ourselves as superior to them.
The phenomenon of spiritual pride is similar in essence to intellectual pride.
While a smartass may well know a thing or two, talking to such a person is suffocating because there is no room for new ideas to develop and our character to grow.
Such people have made an ego-identification as ‘the intelligent one’ and hence reign a tyranny on the naturally free and multifaceted reality of life.
Spiritual pride is exactly the same, which is why yoga nuts and ‘present’ people can be a bit annoying, we know authenticity when we see it and it usually emanates from silence.
So, we must be aware we are not engaging in this sort of growth to laud it over others, but to meet truth in our own hearts, minds and souls, to meet existence on its own terms and ‘fly’ as Nietzsche puts it.
The next of the Nietzsche quotes follows on from the shadow work previously discussed.
We simply cannot produce well-rounded, integrated and calm personas if we haven’t gone to the depths of our traumas, nature and souls.
In this quote, one can feel the influence of Jung when he stated ‘No tree, it is said, can reach to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.’
And one can see the influence of Nietzsche via Jung in Joseph Campbell’s famous quote ‘The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek’.
While all of these points to different dimensions, they all come back to the same essential truth – that we must first face ourselves before taking on the world.
It is indeed the heart, or the subconscious as we call it today, that holds our truth.
If we do not understand what is in there, face it, and work through it, we are damned to relive this pain in our conscious reality, our thoughts and our dreams.
As Jung himself said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate.”
However, if we are willing to face the fear and look at the truth in the face, we will be forced to grow or perish.
This process is the essence of transformation, sometimes it takes months, sometimes minutes, yet once we have faced the deepest truth we can see and remoulded that into our being, we become deeper, more confident and actualized characters.
This is the ‘beautiful surface’ Nietzsche speaks of in No. 4 of these Nietzsche quotes.
The final of the Nietzsche quotes on being a man ends with us completing the circle.
We started with the notion of not wanting to hear the truth because it will destroy our illusions and we end with the heroic call to live as we are authentically.
If you still do not understand the magnitude of this I have failed in this review (let me know in the comments), yet in this pursuit, Nietzsche informs us we must live by our conscience first and foremost.
This innately means we must be willing to be wrong and have the faith that honesty, persistence and effort will see life put us right again, gifting us with character, humility and inner peace in that pursuit.
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