Nietzsche: the Devil's Prophet

Darwin's "Origin of Species" was published in 1859 and instantly and uncritically accepted by people such as T.H. Huxley, Herbert Spencer and Ernst Haeckel in Germany.  For antitheist and atheist alike, Darwin's theory was a wish come true and so became the center of their worldview. 

But Nietzsche (1844–1900), the German philosopher made famous by declaring the death of the God of Revelation harshly criticized Darwin's idea:

"What surprises me most when I survey the broad destinies of man is that I always see before me the opposite of that which Darwin and his school see or want to see today: selection in favor of the stronger, better-constituted, and the progress of the species. Precisely the opposite is palpable … I incline to the prejudice that the school of Darwin has been deluded everywhere … ." (Nietzsche: The evolutionist who was anti-God and anti-Darwin, Russell Grigg,

Though he vehemently opposed Darwin’s conception Nietzsche was not anti-evolution as he had his own mystical conception of evolution which he called “the will to power."   

While Darwin received his idea from his pantheist grandfather Erasmus Darwin, Nietzsche's conception was preceded by mystical ecstasy:

" the same way as, with Spinoza, the pantheistic state of his sentiments preceded his system and his geometric form, thus, with Nietzsche mystical ecstasy preceded his scientific reasoning." (Charles Andler cited by Henri De Lubac, "The Drama of Atheist Humanism," p. 481)

Nietzsche experienced two mystical encounters.  The first occurred in August, 1881. 

Lubac records that an object was revealed to him that he was "....the first of men to know.'   The shock of it was sudden and profound.  Though no direct document relates his experience sure evidence is found in an agitated page of Ecce Homo where Nietzsche wrote:

"Suddenly, with sureness, with indescribable delicacy, a thing makes itself seen, makes itself heard.  It shakes you, it overwhelms you right to your innermost depths.  You hear it...You let it fill you....A thought blazes forth like a flash of lightening...It imposes itself as a necessity...I never had to choose it.  It is an ecstasy....You are enraptured, taken outside of yourself...All of accompanied by a tumultuous feeling of liberty, of independence, of divinity...There you have my experience of the inspiration." (Lubac, p. 472)

In the months that followed he remained silent about the message he received.  But in August of 1882 he discussed his experience with Lou Salome.  Salome writes that Nietzsche spoke of it only in obscure words and with hushed voice.  Giving "every indication of the most profound horror"  Nietzsche described the terrible and marvelous revelation he had received with two words: Eternal Return. (ibid, p. 473)

In the autumn of 1882 he experienced his second encounter which he described to Lou Salome in the poem Sils Maria:

"I was sitting and waiting, without waiting for anything/Beyond good and evil, tasting Light sometimes and sometimes shade/Absorbed by this brew...When suddenly...what was one became two, And Zarathustra passed before me..." (ibid, p. 475)

It was a vision without a doubt, precise and sudden:

"I could tell you the day and the hour....Zarathustra has fallen on me, he assaults me.."  (ibid)

Zarathustra came to confirm to him the revelation already received, which included man's evolution from worms:

You [mankind] have made your way from worm to human, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now the human being is still more of an ape than any ape is." (Nietzsche,Thus Spake Zarathustra, Zarathustra’s Prologue section 3, trans. by G. Parkes, Oxford University Press, New York, 2005, p. 11)

Henceforth, Nietzsche is an inspired prophet who knows for certain that God is dead and that he is Jesus Christ's successor.    Within ten days he has drafted the whole first book of his prophecy.  He calls his finished work Zarathustra, the  new Bible, and told the world to throw away all other books, you have my Zarathustra, "a new Holy Book." 

Calling himself the Antichrist, the dark prophet declared the death of God and saw that His death had already begun to,

 "....cast its first shadows over Europe," and though "the event itself is far too great, too remote, too much beyond most people's power of apprehension, for one to suppose that so much as the report of it could have reached them," still its advent was certain, and it was men like Nietzsche who were "the firstlings and premature children of the coming century," the century of the "triumph of Nihilism." (Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age, Eugene Rose, p. 44)

The inspired prophet went on to say that because God had died in the 19th century there would be two direct results in the 20th century.

First, the 20th century would become the bloodiest, most catastrophically destructive century in history, and second, that a universal madness (moral imbecility) would break out and turn the West upside-down.  Truth would become lie and lie truth; evil would become good, the unnatural would become natural, and the unholy would become holy.    

The Antichrist  has been right on both counts. But what is ironic about his prophetic vision concerning universal madness is that Zarathustra's dark prophet spent the last eleven years of his life insane.

Could it be as C.S. Lewis wryly observed, that when the devil is through with his tools he breaks them, breaks their minds? 

@Linda Kimball