Over-Soul and Overman

Little Friedrich Nietzsche

The Burning Block Vol II No. 8

Out of all of Nietzsche's ideas, the Overman is the least provocative. It would seem odd to then consider it one of his most nuanced ideas, and yet, this may just be precisely what it is; yet it is a nuance which speaks with a loud voice, announcing and protesting with equal vigor, all the while hiding that within it which is most quiet - that which most thrives on the silence of the abyss in which horrors create monsters, or where jubilation is given the breadth to accumulate to a point of the maximum possible expenditure.

Because Nietzsche diagnoses the cause of society's sickness, his amor fati is, before anything else, a love of the future. Of course, Nietzsche remedies his crisis of impotence in the face of modern nihilism through the eternal return, in which the trauma of presence, its pillars of suffering a past which cannot forget itself ever anew, collides with a future determined and placed precisely as an overcoming by way of affirmation. Nietzsche is always dependent on the movement of becoming, not out of a fear of stasis, but rather, because stasis itself would seem to be a net result of suffering. Perhaps the question of being, picked up more thoroughly in Heidegger, is altogether dismissed in Nietzsche's work due to the very fact that Nietzsche closed himself off to the question of a true consummation of presence in being because he saw consummation only ever in the trading of past for a hopefully brighter future - and if the past was, in fact, better, the eternal return provided for him the solace that what has passed will be, in effect, the future, not once more, but infinitely.

The Overman was a terrific remedy, a great medicine for Nietzsche. Had Zarathustra never uttered a word about him, content to go mad on his endless sojourns between the mountain and the market, he would have, perhaps, been much closer to the truth. To assign a vehicle, an object like the Overman a sense of subjectivity to sought, Nietzsche gives him a series of attributes which in no way go beyond the crisis of nihilism. He offers us a passion-play of self-evident signifiers - an experiential truth which is definite in form, a summit which is not so much a shedding of millennia of lies as their ultimate consequence; the maximum accumulation of values not for the sake of a moral system, but directed toward the agency of all coveted power in its historical manifestation. If the Overman is no longer a passive nihilist, he is no less passive in his relationship with being. Being is, for him, a mere platform by which he can orchestrate the various values which have arisen in history thus far for the sake of a master value one suspects is not even entirely personal, but rather, a further accumulation toward a point of power beyond being but not grounded in it. If man is only a rope to the Overman, surely the Overman is only a rope to something else - the eternal return in Nietzsche's thought does not escape the mania for presencing the future any more than progressive ideology, but merely radicalizes it in terms of conscious mythification. The bridge between man and Overman is not so much determined by an innate recognition of that in their relationship which depends on a transcendent quality, but rather, an evolutionary relationship which posits the linearity of quality in decay. It was pertinent that Nietzsche posit a conspiracy of Judeo-Christian exegisis in order to give form to the privation, the lack, in which being itself fell away along with presence. Robbing man of ultimate agency, as Nietzsche found him to be a mere composite of many warring drives and inclinations, proved to be the most convenient way to pit a morality of heroism against a morality of slavery. It is then not so surprising that Nietzsche made mythic use of Zarathustra who was, admittedly in his own work, largely a reversal of all current values, a potent and prominent voice of that Manichean morality which pits good against an ultimate evil.

Nietzsche posits one who may go beyond good and evil in the future, as he can only find it within himself to give morality a sort of ontological makeover - Ontology, if it makes any vague appearance in his work, is an ultimate net result of the values which, in their emotive becoming, are all that have any real life, any real meaning.

Nietzsche sees reality as being determined by warring values which announce their position to reign within a realm of radical historicity. He is ultimately a hermeneutic thinker whose thought, grounded in the authoritative markers of this radical historicity, is always operating with authority on the horizon. He knows which army he is loyal to even if he is the only soldier in that army, and that army is the values of antiquity.

Emerson, of whom Nietzsche was a long time admirer, relied on no historical hermeneutic as his authority. At most, it could be said that he redressed perennial philosophy of the east in western transcendentalist language with the Over-soul, and yet by this very cosmic sequence he goes into territory Nietzsche is either not equipped to go or doesn't care to go. His thoughts on the Over-soul are not so much weighted with the tone of prophecy or the foreboding hint of an apocalyptic nihilism, as one finds in Nietzsche's latter works, but rather, its tone is one which marries the rawest of present experience with that happy measurement against which we can't help but indicate all finite phenomena - the Absolute.

Nietzsche's allergy to the monad merely caused his moving thought to acquire a conceptual formula which already posited too much at once when it was named a 'will to power.' As the will itself requires significant phenomena to distinguish itself from base phenomena, there is, from the outset, the implication that a base agency is to be distinguished, even if only conceptually, from the phenomena being acquired as a property worth appropriating. Nietzsche's philosophy thus posits an ever-present, insatiable thirst for the infinite, which he is resolved to find significant insofar as it reveals the agency in motion throughout its scale of becoming. A sort of homeless, baseless, being-less movement becomes the stirring principle of Nietzschean doctrine; a doctrine of constant motion which does not believe in that truth which cannot be exhausted.

The Over-soul, along with the cosmology which inspired it and other of Emerson's writings, posits a root, a source rather than a goal - thus discursive and even active exhaustion is cancelled by the very act, the very leaping over in time and space to the place of conceptual rest which is an origin. Now, the mind immediately hears concepts such as the 'Absolute' and 'Over-soul' and wishes to place them in time and space. The conceptual emanation rather, which posits a subject, an object and an object/subject framework in which it is possible for both of them to fulfill their roles, already implies a beginning and an end, a consummation of this relationship, however, it is one which is always being played out beyond any emanational sequence which can be mapped in a chronological manner and completes itself only upon recognition of its own limits.

If Nietzsche's Overman seeks to be a cephalic answer, a projection of a value to be consumated in the future, Emerson's Over-soul provides the root, the soil in which that value emerges, thus making equally baseless the need for any cosmic 'return,' as the base, the root, does not lack and acquire, but fills space with its own abundance, and is always, at every point, fulfilling its own destiny. And yet, perhaps, Nietzsche's Overman may just represent the very moment of forgetting, the very will to forget as the Absolute's challenge to itself; to give itself over abundantly to the limitless space before it, knowing even all the while that this will shall be completely forgotten and will have to, someday, in an actual linear sequence which denies this reality, remember itself again. Nietzsche's philosophy is the ultimate anti-nihilism, if only for the fact that it cancels any excuse to consider consciousness itself a hateful thing in need of fixing. He affirms the very dysfunction of its privation of Over-soul and favors, rather, the particular case which is lost but cannot go back the way it came. Even if his will to power is only a will to exhaustion, it is an exhaustion which hopes to replicate and endlessly dramatize the experiential overcoming of its own finiteness through no authority but that of a warrior's advancement. The Over-soul is the father of the prodigal Over-son.