Saturday, October 20, 2012
Ouspensky on Nietzsche
( Originally written and posted on MySpace on April 13, 2008 )
Of all the occult and New Age materials which I have read (by authors such as H. P. Blavatsky, Fabre d'Olivet, Ignatius Donnelly, Edgar Cayce, Rudolf Steiner, Sylvia Browne, Courtney Brown), the most impressive work for me, by far, has been P. D. Ouspensky's A New Model of the Universe. Dover Publications has recently republished an English translation of this work, originally published in 1931 by Alfred A. Knopf.
A New Model of the Universe is divided into twelve chapters, but each of them can be read as a separate essay. Among them I recommend "Esotericism and Modern Thought," "Superman," "Christianity and the New Testament," and "What is Yoga?" Much plain common sense is contained in these essays.
"Superman" acknowledges Nietzsche's use of that concept, which he probably took from Goethe's Faust in which the word Uebermensch appears in the opening scene, but dispels several popular misconceptions. Nietzsche would agree with Ouspensky that the Superman is not to be understood as a biological type, but Ouspensky offers other corrections which are possibly not so Nietzschean.
Ouspensky opens his essay by noting that "Side by side with the idea of hidden knowledge there runs through the whole history of human thought the idea of superman. . . . The idea of superman is as old as the world. Through all the centuries, through hundreds of centuries of its history, humanity has lived with the idea of superman. Sayings and legends of all ancient peoples are full of images of a superman. Heroes of myths, Titans, demi-gods, Prometheus, who brought fire from heaven; prophets, messiahs and saints of all religions; . . . . " (p. 113).
Ouspensky stresses the role of esoteric knowledge in understanding the superman: "The idea of superman is directly connected with the idea of hidden knowledge. The expectation of superman is the expectation of some new revelation of new knowledge" (p. 125). In a footnote (p. 127), he argues that Nietzsche knew contemporary occult literature. Ouspensky, obviously, rejects the monistic epistemology of Nietzsche: " . . . . the idea of superman has never existed apart from the idea of higher consciousness" (p. 140). "Superman in the past, or in the future, does not stand in contradiction to the possibility of higher consciousness in the man living now. On the contrary, the one reveals the other" (p. 145).