Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Is Nietzsche’s "Übermensch” Shiva?


To most of us Nietzsche immortalizes the atheistic right. It was he who first said, ”God is dead”. A literal interpretation of this statement should make one accept that Nietzsche did not believe in the concept of an overarching force that runs this universe and if at all there ever was one, Nietzsche just declared him dead. Could it be that it was the existing concept of God (in Nietzsche’s era and his geographical space) that Nietzsche did not conform to or believe in. Was Nietzsche simply anti-Christian or was he anti-God?

His criticism of Christianity was primarily on the grounds that it lay too much of emphasis on morality and he on the contrary praised the Greek Hyperborean and even Pre-Christian Paganism. His extolling of the Apollonian and Dionysian philosophies leads us to somehow believe that it was Abrahamic religions that he seemed to be against and not God. Am I being too simplistic in understanding Nietzsche or have I eaten the flesh and thrown the bones to the dogs.

In his pioneering work “Thus Spake Zarathustra” Nietzsche talks of the concept of Übermensch(translated as Superman or Overman or Superhuman).He describes human beings as a stage of transition from apes to Ubermensch. The metaphor or the symbol of the Ubermensch stems from the Nietzschean idea of self-overcoming. One of the passages where Zarathustra speaks to the Ubermensch reads like this,” "All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is the ape to man? A laughing stock or a painful embarrassment. And man shall be just that for the overman: a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment. You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape.”

In all these questions Nietzsche exhorts a human being to achieve what he/she is capable of becoming ie The Ubermensch. How similar is the concept of Ubermensch to the concept of Shiva (especially in Kashmir Saivism) or is there no connection whatsoever? I am tempted, maybe out of my ignorance or non-Saivahood or not being an Ubermensch, to believe that the concepts are similar. I will try and explain to myself.


According to Kashmir Saivism all of us have the capacity to become Siva. Depending upon what state and stage of consciousness any living form is, determines his distance from Shivahood (I am using this word for lack of a better word in my epistemological vocabulary).So we are somehow somewhere between the apes and the Siva. Are we? Are we in the process of attaining The Ubermensch. Are so much of us still a worm, a worm whose consciousness is limited? From what I understand of the concept of Ubermensch is the freedom to be or Swantatrya as we would call it in Kashmir Saivism. Only when one attains the state of Ubermensch can one claim to attain freedom from bondage. Am I getting it right?


Shiva as we know him today hasn’t been the same through the ages. Many scholars have compared Shiva to the Greek God Dionysus and not without reason. The early iconography and attributes of Rudra Shiva are in many ways similar to that of Dionysus. Both are Patron agricultural gods, have a certain sense of madness associated with them but it is the ecstasy factor that makes the resemblance quite striking. The bull, the serpent and the wine are iconographic similarities that are too hard to miss. Nietzsche has placed great virtue in Dionysian philosophy and its concepts of celebration of nature, intuitiveness, chaos and intoxication. Was Nietzsche’s Ubermensch a celebrant much like Abhinavgupt’s Bhairava(or Shiva) in Vypat Charachar Bhav Vishesam or am I intoxicated too much by Dionysus-Shiva?

6 comments:

J.J. said...

This isn't an accurate depiction of Nietzsche's ideas. The expression "God is dead" is often taken out of context. What Nietzsche meant by this is that, given human development and where it had ended up in modernity, "God" was no longer a needed source from which to derive morality. Nietzsche's critique of Christianity (and Platonism) is that it is death affirming- it focuses more on the next life than this life. Now, when the masses recognize the "death of God", meaning they understand the idea of a deity to be useless as a moral guide, they enter a state of 'existential nihilism', where no moral action can be demonstrated to be superior to (or 'more right than') another. The ubermensch (overman or superman) is the being that emerges from existential nihilism by creating his own values that are life affirming, i.e. interested in this world.

Rashneek said...

Dear JJ,

Thanks for your comment.I beg to differ.It could be a classical case of us interpreting the same message in different ways.In the Anti-Christ he is clearly critical of how religion has made us dumb(if thats the right word to use).While I agree that Ubermensch evolves from existensial nihilism I stick my neck out to re-affirm that the form of christianity in Nitzsche's time suffocated him into being critical of it and into praising more open systems(where there was a deity if not a God)

Rashneek

Irene said...

At least both Siva and Nietzsche's God can dance: "I would believe only in a God that knows how to Dance" (F.Nietzsche).

Anonymous said...

Good Afternoon

Awesome blog, great write up, thank you!

diksha said...

i cannot stop reading your blog! i dont know what to say.

Shailendra Dhar said...

Rashneek , JJ and you may not be saying different things. As you say was forthright in the second edition of The Joyous Science,  Book V begins with the  statement: "The greatest recent event—that God is dead, that the belief in the Christian God has become unbelievable..."  In The Antichrist the next year Nietzsche is more specific: "The Christian conception of God... is one of the most corrupt conceptions of God arrived at on earth..."

His denial of law as against necessity and causality were cry against stifling hold of deductive reasoning ( much like god narratives ) not necessarily against science or religion but gainst god , unlike Hume before him who denied god nietzsche declared God dead. but übermensch like rebirth and morality remerges in Nietzsche ...remerges like Rudra, In another form to be not god for then it will have to be dead again but as recreated essence of redefined values

Dead End

Dead End
The road to what was once my home in Kashmir....zuv chum bramaan ghare gachehae..