Nietzsche’s three metamorphoses of the spirit is so epic, even enigmatic, describing the stages of our life journey. In Thus Spake Zarathustra, it starts as follows:
Three metamorphoses of the spirit do I designate to you: how the spirit becometh a camel, the camel a lion, and the lion at last a child.Thus Spake Zarathustra
The spirit becomes a camel, the camel a lion, and the lion finally a child. How should we interpret these stages?
Being the spirit, there was no awareness of the Great Other in life. People merely lived their lives, seeking everyday comforts.
Once, however, facing life’s fundamental questions, the spirit became a camel. The camel was suddenly aware of the significant burdens of life. It is a realization that life is wandering around the desert with heavy loads. To survive in the wilderness, there are the laws and duties people have to follow. It is a sudden relization that the Great Other controls the earth, the world, and the universe.
Zarathustra enumerated these burdens one by one:
What is heavy? so asketh the load-bearing spirit; then kneeleth it down like the camel, and wanteth to be well laden. What is the heaviest thing, ye heroes? asketh the load-bearing spirit, that I may take it upon me and rejoice in my strength.Thus Spake Zarathustra
- Is it not this: To humiliate oneself in order to mortify one’s pride? To exhibit one’s folly in order to mock at one’s wisdom?
- Or is it this: To desert our cause when it celebrateth its triumph? To ascend high mountains to tempt the tempter?
- Or 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 make friends of the deaf, who never hear thy requests?
- Or is it this: To go into foul water when it is the water of truth, and not disclaim cold frogs and hot toads?
- Or is it this: To love those who despise us, and give one’s hand to the phantom when it is going to frighten us?
All these heaviest things the load-bearing spirit taketh upon itself: and like the camel, which, when laden, hasteneth into the wilderness, so hasteneth the spirit into its wilderness.Thus Spake Zarathustra
Nietzsche described such heaviest things as each scale of the Great Dragon. This Great Dragon represents the Great Other that controls the earth, the world, the universe. And each scale of this creature shines indicating Thou-shalt.
The camel could survive and find the meaning of life only by following these scales of the Great Dragon in the wilderness. The scales were so heavy, almost breaking the backbone of the camel.
One day, however, the camels realized that they were born as the slave of this Great Dragon and would have to end their lives being the slave camels. At this moment, the camels became a lion.
The lion roared out loud, “No!” It is the holy, sacred Nay.
What is the great dragon which the spirit is no longer inclined to call Lord and God? “Thou-shalt,” is the great dragon called. But the spirit of the lion saith, “I will.”… To create itself freedom, and give a holy Nay even unto duty: for that, my brethren, there is need of the lion.Thus Spake Zarathustra
As the lion, people realized that they were not longer followers but creators. They must seek their freedom for life by their wills. Roaring the scared Nay, they also realized that God created them in His image.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.Genesis 1:27
Not only God, but the lion should be responsible to control the earth, the world, and the universe. As the lion, one’s fate should no longer be under the Great Other, the Great Dragon.
Life became a series of constant battles.
Each scale of the Great Dragon told the lion Thou-shalt. Against it, the lion must answer back, I will. It is the sacred Nay. Life is the lion’s will to the Great Power. In the mind of the lion, God is dead. Who murdered God? The lion killed Him.
God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?The Joyful Wisdom by Nietzsche
Still, there is another metamorphose. Paradoxically enough, the lion became a child.
The sacred Nay was the will to Great Power in overcoming the burdens of various Thou-shalt scales. The scared Nay was the reason why the lion roared to seek the Great Power. Saying this Nay, however, includes even Nay to life. Ultimately, it would deny life itself. Suddenly, the lion became a child.
As its holiest, it once loved “Thou-shalt”: now is it forced to find illusion and arbitrariness even in the holiest things, that it may capture freedom from its love: the lion is needed for this capture.
But tell me, my brethren, what the child can do, which even the lion could not do? Why hath the preying lion still to become a child?
Innocence is the child, and forgetfulness, a new beginning, a game, a self-rolling wheel, a first movement, a holy Yea.Thus Spake Zarathustra
The child is innocent and forgetful. It a new beginning; moreover, a constant beginning and becoming without one’s willful self. The child can joyfully utter such holy, sacred Yea.
The child rests on neither the scales of the Great Dragon nor the will to the Great Power, but on the ultimate spontaneity, uttering the sacred Yea to life. The spirit in the form of the child has realized we are life; moreover, Life alone. There is nothing else but the sacred Yea to Life alone.
And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.Matthew 18:3