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After Zarathustra’s prologue and the events of the rope dancer’s death, Nietzche’s book continues with Zarathustra’s discourses. The first of these is titled The Three Metamorphoses.
I will tell you about three metamorphoses of the spirit: how the spirit becomes a camel, the camel a lion, and the lion at last a child.
There are many things that are heavy for the spirit, the strong, load bearing spirit in which reverence dwells. Its strength longs for the heavy and the heaviest.
“What is heavy?” asks the load bearing spirit.
Then it kneels down like the camel, and wants to be well laden.
“What is the heaviest thing, you heroes?” asks the load-bearing spirit, “so I may take it upon me and rejoice in my strength.”
Is it this: To humiliate oneself in order to mortify one’s pride? To exhibit one’s folly in order to mock one’s own wisdom? Or is it this: To desert your cause when it celebrates its triumph? To ascend high mountains to tempt the tempter?
Is it this: To feed on the acorns and grass of knowledge, and for the sake of truth to suffer hunger of soul? Or is it this: To be sick and dismiss comforters, and to befriend the deaf, who never hear your requests?
Is it this: To go into foul water when it is the water of truth, and not deny cold frogs and hot toads? Or is it this: To love those who despise you, and give your hand to the phantom when it is trying to frighten you?
All these heaviest things the load-bearing spirit takes upon itself. Like the camel, which, when laden, hastens into the wilderness, the spirit hastens into its wilderness.
In the loneliest wilderness, the second metamorphosis occurs. Here, the spirit becomes a lion. It will win freedom and lordship in its own wilderness. It seeks its last ruler here, and it will be hostile to it, and to its last God. It will struggle for victory with the great dragon.
What is the great dragon that the spirit is no longer inclined to call Lord and God? The great dragon is called “you shall”. But the spirit of the lion says, “I will.” “You shall” lies in its way, sparkling with gold, a scale covered beast. On every scale, “you shall!” glitters in gold. The values of a thousand years glitter on those scales.
“The values of all things glitter on me,” says this mightiest of all dragons. “All values have already been created, and I represent all created values. Truly, there shall be no ‘I will’ any more.”
My brothers, why is there need for the lion in the spirit? Why isn’t the beast of burden, which renounces and is reverent, sufficient?
Even the lion cannot create new values. But the might of the lion can give the spirit the freedom to create them. The lion is needed to create freedom, and give a holy “No” even to duty. Assuming the right to new values is the most formidable assumption for a load bearing and reverent spirit. To such a spirit this is preying, and the work of a beast of prey.
The spirit once loved “you shall” as its holiest. Now is it forced to find illusion and arbitrariness in even the holiest things, so that it may free itself from loving them. The lion is needed for this.
Tell me, my brothers, what the child can do that even the lion cannot? Why must the preying lion become a child? The child is innocence, forgetfulness, a new beginning, a game, a self rolling wheel, a first movement, a holy “Yes”. For the game of creating, a holy “Yes” to life is needed: The spirit now wills ITS OWN will. The world’s outcast wins HIS OWN world.
I have told you of the three metamorphoses of the spirit: how the spirit becomes a camel, the camel a lion, and the lion at last a child.
So said Zarathustra when he lived in the town called The Pied Cow.
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