Nihilism, Nietzsche

& Ride the Tiger's Individual Possessing Two Natures:

One 'Personal' and One Transcendent

(from "The Path of Cinnabar") 




These preliminary remarks led to the more general section of Ride the Tiger, entitled 'In the World Where God Is Dead'. In this section, I described the various phases that modern nihilism has gone through following the severing of all true bonds between man and the transcendent. Here, morality can be seen to lose all superior legitimacy - the surrogate morality based on the 'autonomy' of reason soon leading to social or utilitarian morality, and the process progressing until the existence of any genuine principle has been denied. As a counterpart to this process, man experiences the spiritual 'trauma' of his growing awareness of the absurdness and irrationality of existence: a feeling that characterizes significant segments of the younger generations in their more anarchic, feverish and desperate manifestations. Likewise, I felt the need to denounce the nihilism implied by the economic myth prevalent both in the ‘West' (the idea of prosperity) and in the 'East' (Marxism): a myth merely serving as a degrading an-aesthetic to prevent the spread of existential crises in a world where God is dead.

In the same chapter, and for the last time, I examined Nietzsche, whose thought remains as valid today as it ever was. The central question Nietzsche raised was: What shall come after European nihilism? Or more exactly: Where shall it be possible to find an adequate meaning for life after having experienced nihilism - an awareness destined to produce irrevocable and irreversible results?

I do not wish to dwell on my analysis of the existential problem posed by Nietzsche in any detail. After all, if Nietzsche's definition of the problem is clear, the solutions he suggested are both hazy and dangerous - particularly in the case of his theory of the Übermensch and the will to power, and his naturalistic, almost physical praise of 'life'. To 'be oneself' and to follow one's own law as an absolute law can certainly be a positive and legitimate option - or, rather, the only remaining option: but this is true only in the case of the human type I addressed in Ride the Tiger: an individual possessing two natures, one 'personal' and one transcendent. The idea of 'being oneself', therefore - of achieving self-realization and of severing all bonds - will have a different meaning according to what nature it is that expresses it. Transcendence ('that which is more than life’), understood as a central and conscious element present within immanence ('life'), provides the foundation for the existential path I outlined - a path that includes elements such as: 'Apollonian Dionysism' (i.e., an opening towards the most intense and diverse aspects of life, here experienced through the lucid inebriation brought about by the presence of a superior principle), impersonal activism (pure action that transcends good and evil, prospects of success or failure, happiness and unhappiness) and the challenging of oneself without any fear that the 'I' might suffer (internal invulnerability). The origin of some of these ideas should be self-evident to those who have followed my discussion so far.

In Ride the Tiger, I attributed Nietzsche's more ambiguous views, as well as various individual traits of his character and his fate, to the awakening of a form of transcendence that was never consciously and actively embraced by Nietzsche. Such a situation inevitably leads to tragedy and distortion, if not utter destruction. A similar case, after all, is that of existentialism, which I discussed in a different section of the book - existentialism, however, understood not as a philosophical system, but as a distinguishing trait of the times we live in. Again, the ground of existentialism is essentially a passive form of transcendence that is experienced 'unwillingly': here, the freedom achieved by the means of nihilism can be seen to turn against the 'I' - to the point that it was described by Sartre as something to which we are 'condemned'. This process engenders disgust and an increased feeling of existential absurdity and non-involvement: a negative feeling of non-involvement, which is not marked by the calm presence of a superior principle. It is only natural, therefore, that existentialism has proven incapable of maintaining its position. In Ride the Tiger, I spoke of both the 'dead end' and 'collapse' of existentialism: on the one hand, a 'dead end' that - as in the case of Heidegger - leads one to envisage 'living to die' as the sole meaning of life - death being regarded as the sole means towards 'de-conditioning' (as if any death might serve such a purpose!); on the other hand, a 'collapse' that leads individuals - such as Jaspers and Marcel (among many others) - to turn to religious worship.

What I considered next in the book was the ambiguity of the whole process that began with Humanism and the Renaissance. Naturally, from the perspective of the philosophy of civilization, this process is entirely negative: I here confirmed the points I had raised in Revolt Against the Modern World, and which are accepted by all traditionalists. However, I also pointed out that this very process might be seen as putting to the test certain individuals whom it historically affects with its nihilism (the test of fire or emptiness, as it were): for nothingness and freedom can either be the cause of inner defeat, or provide the incentive for the manifestation of a hidden and superior dimension of being. In the latter case, new inner developments occur, such as the transcendence of both theism and atheism: for the individual comes to realize that the only god who 'is dead' is the humanized god of morality and devotion, and not the god of metaphysics and traditional inner doctrines.




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