Nietzsche, Dance & Divinity

Thus Spoke Zarathustra was a book by the renowned philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche that encompasses a plethora of subjects including nilihism, Christianity, evolution, morality, religion in general and even attacked the notion of altriuism. He first published the three parts distinctively apart from 1883 to 1885 and eventually added a fouth part (final) and he supposedly wrote it in 10 days! However, a lesser known fact about the book is the concept of how dancing reflects divinity of the spirit.

Nietzsche, who was trained as a classicist,
may have been thinking of the traditional tragedy competitions in ancient
Greece, where entrants submitted three tragedies and a fourth play, a
comic and somewhat bawdy satyr play. At any event, he thought of this
final section as in some sense the “Fourth Part” and any interpretation
must come to terms with it

Thus Spoke Zarathustra

I am intrigued with his tendency to associate lightness with dancing , where he felt that those who were too burdened by absolutes would not be able to dance. What are absolutes ? Well they are concepts , or things that remains unchanged regardless of the circumstances ; basically they are never ever-changing. An example I can give is that human life will eventually expire as we are not immortal or a triangle will never be a circle. Thus, according to Nietzsche a free man is one that can be malleable and fluid in his perception of ideas and thoughts and hence able to move , therefore dance. It is an emphasis to see things in various perspectives even from a foreign focal point that differs from your very own eyes, and that there are different experiences to encounter by looking at the same thing from another angle e.g looking down and having a bird’s eye view on a city’s landscape from a high skyscraper vs standing at the traffic junction looking up at the very same skyscraper.

Here are some quotes from the book with regards to dancing

This is how I want man and woman: fit for war the one, fit for bearing children the other, but both fit to dance in head and limb. And let each day be a loss to us on which we did not dance once! And let each truth be false to us which was not greeted by one laugh!

Thus Spoke Zarathustra, chapter 56 (Old and new tables), number 23

“I tell you: one must still have chaos in one, to give birth to a dancing star. I tell you: ye have still chaos in you”

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, p.10

“I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance.
And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity – through him all things fall.Not by wrath, but by laughter do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity! I learned to walk; since then have I let myself run. I learned to fly; since then I do not need pushing in order to move from a spot. Now I am light, now do I fly; now do I see myself under myself. Now there danceth a God in me.”

Chapter 7: On Reading and Writing

In his other works:

Dancing in all its forms cannot be excluded from the curriculum of all noble education; dancing with the feet, with ideas, with words, and, need I add that one must also be able to dance with the pen?

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (2007). “Twilight of the Idols with the Antichrist and Ecce Homo”, p.47, Wordsworth Editions

Eastern Thought

I find it almost fascinating that Nietzsche who was a known atheist came up with the idea that if god did exist he would be one that dances and I guess you could say in the most sporadic of thought that dancing is uplifting and hence higher, while brooding and serious is heavy and thus downwards. If you would look to the eastern religions , say hindhuism which is also the oldest religion, dancing is a common characteristic of gods and goddesses. The Lord of Dance (divine dancer) and popular hindu God “Shiva” or “Nataraja” is also known as one of the main godheads of hinduism and of which Shaivities worship as the supreme. He too is known as the master of fertility. His dancing represents removal of maya (illusion) and converting it to enlightenment. I guess dance really do give birth to creation in that sense.

Lo, the God is dancing
— shiva the all – destroyer and Lord of creation,

The Master of Yoga and the wielder of Pinaka.

His flaming locks have filled the sky,

Seven worlds play the rhythm

As the trembling earth sways almost to dissolution,

Lo, the Great God Shiva is dancing.

The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda by Swami Vivekananda
Volume 8, Writings: Prose And Poems

If we were to look at the feminine aspect, because there is a duality involved when it comes to eastern thought/ religions such as buddhism of which taoism branched out with their yin and yang (feminine and masculine) , so does hinduism (of which buddhism originated out from) with their Shiva and Shakti (masculine and feminine). Shakti represents the primordial divine feminine which even aspect dynamics such as birth , destruction and sustenance and dance is still very much in alignment with her. Kali an embodiment of Shakti who is worshipped mostly in India and Nepal as a mother figure and a great protector is often protrayed dancing.

The stars are blotted out,
The clouds are covering clouds,
It is darkness vibrant, sonant.
In the roaring, whirling wind
Are the souls of a million lunatics
Just loose from the prison-house,
Wrenching trees by the roots,
Sweeping all from the path.
The sea has joined the fray,
And swirls up mountain-waves,
To reach the pitchy sky.
The flash of lurid light
Reveals on every side
A thousand, thousand shades
Of Death begrimed and black —
Scattering plagues and sorrows,
Dancing mad with joy,
Come, Mother, come!
For Terror is Thy name,
Death is in Thy breath,
And every shaking step
Destroys a world for e’er.
Thou “Time”, the All-Destroyer!
Come, O Mother, come!
Who dares misery love,
And hug the form of Death,
Dance in Destruction’s dance,
To him the Mother comes.

Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 4

I find the polarising and yet similar notions of dance between Friedrich Nietzsche and hinduism bewildering and exciting to uncover. I am no philosopher but I think it is beautiful that dancing can be view as a divine attribute for it is undeniably an expression of freedom, letting go, embracing oneself as well as creation. It is also so humanistic and yet regal in nature as elaborated beautifully in Nietzsche’s works which uniquely supports why it is an integral part in most forms of worship especially in the East.

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