Always Look On The Bright Side Of Nietzsche

In Friedrich Nietzsche’s book Thus Spoke Zarathustra, the chapter titled The Bestowing Virtue has the protagonist Zarathustra suddenly announcing to his few disciples that he is to leave them. He observes that they’re no longer thinking for themselves, due to their idolising and adulation of his teachings. On reading it I was reminded of the “You’re all individuals” scene in the film Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

Below is Zarathustra’s address to his followers, deliberately expressed in archaic language which is used throughout the book. I’ve omitted a couple of sentences but the basic gist of his message is contained in the quote:

‘I now go alone, my disciples! Ye also now go away, and alone! So will I have it. Verily, I advise you: depart from me, and guard yourselves against Zarathustra! And better still: be ashamed of him! Perhaps he hath deceived you. The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies, but also to hate his friends. One requiteth a teacher badly if one remain merely a scholar…. Ye venerate me; but what if your veneration should some day collapse? Take heed lest a statue crush you! Ye are my believers: but of what account are all believers! Ye had not yet sought yourselves: then did ye find me. So do all believers; therefore all belief is of so little account. Now do I bid you lose me and find yourselves; and only when ye have all denied me, will I return unto you.

Zarathustra’s followers were initially inquiring of mind, curious and questioning that which they’d learnt, but had over time become content to assume that everything Zarathustra told them was correct. Psychologists might describe this as ‘vicarious learning’, to learn in a second-hand way rather than one’s own experience. It is a common trait among the majority of people, especially in how they relate to authority figures, individuals of clout, etc.

“…be ashamed of him! Perhaps he hath deceived you. The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies, but also to hate his friends. One requiteth a teacher badly if one remain merely a scholar. ”

Why would Zarathustra caution his followers to be on their guard against him, and even be ashamed? My own interpretation: No matter how correct a teacher may be in many areas, ultimately it is their experience and not our own. Not only that, the teacher may even get some things wrong. It’s akin to the musician who’s so in awe of their favourite instrumentalist that they indiscriminately copy everything their hero plays, even the mistakes! Also, perspectives that ring true at one period may be of less validity with the passage of time, so it’s a good idea to periodically examine your beliefs to see if they still hold relevance to your life. To love enemies and hate one’s friends I feel is symbolic of not staying with the familiar and being open to learn from sources that are outside of your regular mental terrain.

The overall message is to find your own truth. It doesn’t preclude learning from others, but as it’s been expressed by different individuals throughout history, ultimately all the knowledge you’re looking for is already within. The best teachers are those that act as a catalyst for the student to unlock it.

Imagine any educational institution or any other seat of learning today saying to its students, “Sorry, we’re closing down for a while, and I think you should all go home until you stop believing every single thing we tell you.” A tad impractical, yes, but not a bad idea at all, in theory.

“Conscious Music” In A Shifting Age

In my blog from November 2020, Cancelled Culture, OR: ‘Stand up for your rights’, said Fred, I commented on how the vast majority of popular artists (UK and abroad) associated with ‘protest music’, ‘socially conscious music’ have been, for the most part, in unquestioning support of the government’s lockdown mandates. One artist after another repeated the mantras of ‘stay at home/stay safe/get the jab’. As I write in 2022 this is still much the case, despite the wealth of evidence detailing the governmental tyranny masquerading as concern for the public well-being.

At first glance this seems totally inconsistent with artists that have always spoken out about social injustice and government abuses, although a different picture starts to emerge when one looks closer. As critical of government as many protest-related artists are in songs and public statements, the majority still tend to hold a belief in the established institutions, and see current affairs within the traditional left-right paradigm. The problem is that the scamdemic doesn’t neatly lend itself to a left-versus-right analysis, especially with left-oriented politicians often demanding ever greater restrictive measures in the UK and elsewhere. This might account for the silence, and in many cases compliance of “conscious artists”.

Yet this is as it should be, and it is indicative of a shift that has occurred. I am not an astrologer but I have a great interest in this area. In the spirit of “as above, so below”, astrology holds some revealing insights on the subject at hand.

According to many astrologers we are now in the Aquarian age or at the very least on the cusp of it, having previously been in the age of Pisces. For those unfamiliar with astrological terms, let me briefly explain the basic concept of an ‘age’. Just as the year is subdivided into 12 zodiacal signs, an astrological age is a much longer period of time, lasting 2160 years. During an age, life falls under the influence of one particular sign of the zodiac and human life reflects the attributes and themes peculiar to that sign.

So, for instance the Piscean age runs roughly from 50 BCE to 2100 and was all about following messiahs, saviour figures and political structures to which people gave their power away. What we had was top-down systems where the beliefs of the collective were determined and often imposed by an authority. The rise of Christianity and Islam are good examples, as well as governmental and, in more recent times mass media institutions. The sphere of popular music also has its Piscean associations, and not all negative; artistic expression has been taken to great heights during the age. Pertinent to this blog is the mass worship of famous musicians in a manner that has all the trappings of religious devotion, something that came to the fore from the latter half of the 20th century onwards. Some artists were seen by their fans virtually as musical messiahs, saviours and prophet figures in a secular context.

By comparison, the themes we would expect to see in the Aquarian age would be an emphasis upon individuals finding their own unique truth, rather than looking to the existing established institutions. So, as artists urged their fans to get vaccinated, not all of them followed suit, thankfully! Where the popular artists parroted the government, a less-acquiescent section of the public sought a second opinion outside of the orthodoxy. Social media has been the main means by which a truer picture emerged, itself a strong Aquarian association with cutting-edge technology and networking amongst people. We have seen this abundantly, owing to the failure of the established institutions to be transparent.

The planet Uranus rules Aquarius. The Uranus energy can be associated with unexpected upheaval in a person’s life, removing outmoded ideas, structures, relationships etc that no longer serves them. For many, this has meant the turning away from orthodoxy that has led to tyranny. The phrase “I believe” is said by astrologers to represent the Piscean age, whereas “I know” is what defines its Aquarian counterpart, the latter being an intuitive process.

Given what we’ve seen over the past two years, where does this leave the concept of ‘conscious music’ and the artists that create it? I personally see it as a stark lesson in trusting one’s own judgement and not looking outside for saviours, for people to do or say things that you can do yourself. To see people seeking information for themselves, drawing their own conclusions rather than looking up to celebrities who mostly echoed the government line, surely speaks to the themes associated with Aquarius.

The Wisdom of Mistakes

One of my favourite musician stories is an anecdote Herbie Hancock shared about a concert he played in 1964 as the pianist in Miles Davis’ group in Stuttgart, Germany. It has an unconventional twist to it because rather than the usual recalling of how on top of their game the band was, his recollection actually centres around a wrong chord he played.

Many musicians have had the experience of mistakenly playing the wrong chord, note or beat during a performance (or for that matter a writing session) and finding that the thing they played ended up sounding better than what they’d intended. Herbie’s account runs on similar lines but takes the meaning of the event much further.

He takes up the story at 2:06 up to 5:34.

What’s remarkable is Herbie uses this experience on the bandstand as an analogy for what takes place in the process of everyday life. The phrase “turning poison into medicine” draws upon his Buddhist practice. I’m also reminded of the Kybalion (ancient Egyptian-based hermetic writings), and two of its seven principles/laws – ‘correspondence’ and ‘polarity’ respectively. The law of correspondence relates to how you can draw analogies from one life situation as a way of teaching you about something else that may be ostensibly unrelated. In this case we have the details of a musical performance being put forward as a metaphor for life. There’s also the law of polarity, which the Kybalion presents as follows:

“Everything is dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; extremes meet; all truths are but half-truths; all paradoxes may be reconciled.” (The Kybalion)

Let’s say someone finds themselves in a challenging situation, due to their own or others’ mistakes and bad choices. By being open enough to reflect and learn the lessons contained therein, the person can grow and the same situation becomes transformed from being “poisonous” to its polar opposite – medicine i.e. something that’s healing. The important point being that they had to make the mistake in order to then experience the growth. Just as Miles might not have played those amazing melodies without Herbie’s ‘wrong chord’.

Perhaps Miles Davis was right when he said “Do not fear mistakes. There are none.”. Then again, all truths are but half-truths.