Insanity is depicted in the bible exactly twice. Both cases involved the sanity of kings. The first was King David who, as the possible inspiration to Corporal Klinger, feigned insanity in order to escape an undesirable situation before another King. The second was King Nebuchadnezzar. His insanity was quite real. As the story goes he looked out upon the vast landscape of his own sprawling achievements and granted to himself a crown of immanence. His pride, like a dull gem encrusted knife, seemed to have finally cut through the last fiber of the rope that moors a man to the actual. Once adrift he quickly became a sputtering lunatic. Living in the wild for seven years, he ate grass as an ox while his nails and hair grew long and feral. At the end of the seven years we are told that He looked up to heaven and gave glory to God and it was only then that the gravity of the divine brought his mind back into it’s proper orbit and equilibriums.
One might think of this as merely another strange fable of the Jewish religion. However, it should be noted that Judaism has had more than it’s share of great psychologists and it should also be noted that the pattern of this story serves as a germane context with which to consider the life, philosophy and outcome of the German philosopher Friedrich Neitzsche.
Neitzsche was obsessed with moving beyond good and evil as a framework for reason and purpose. He declared God as dead, having been murdered by the weapons of human progress and self determination. Yet despite the fact that he saw God as a myth, he recognized the gravitational force with which this myth held humanity in order. He saw the need for an iron core to our collective consciousness and he thought it could be recreated by compositing the totality of human will towards it’s own greatest potential.
What Nietzsche seems to have missed is that it is not enough for humanity to have an internal source of gravity. Any old space rock has that. But the external gravity of a power source and life force seems to be what keeps us locked upon our exquisite, invisible rail of viability. To break out of this clearly engineered goldilocks zone is to become either dark and frozen, or to drift into the fate of the Phoenix.
Nebuchadnezzars object of reverence was his own glorious empire building achievement. Nietzsche envisioned humanity building a civilization we could worship as the consummation of our own glorious potential. The Babylonian civilization reportedly had an early attempt of such visions as well. Long before the emperor, his ancestors set out to build a tower that would reach the heavens. The Tower of Babel looms as a memorial to the proto-Neitzschian quest for self actualization apart from God. This effort was allegedly diffused by the sudden confusion of language. However Neitzsche himself might well point out that the only reason God confused the tongues was because he Himself saw that mankind could achieve what he set out to do because they were unified in a grand goal.
However possible it was, for some reason it was not advisable at that juncture. I say at that juncture because man has since done far more than the ancient Babylonians attempted.
Maybe the tale is merely a legend about technology getting ahead of our morality and progress outpacing our maturity.
Based on the progress we have made thus far we couldn’t conclude God wanted to keep us down in the clay but that he merely throttled our progress on his time table.
However Nietzsche ran into some trouble as well. Before his grand plans could be perfected and published he began to drift away from the moors of sanity with no engine, sail, or paddle to bring him back. He was growing more and more maniacle. His own language and communication became severed from those around him. His neurotic and lucrative sister made merchandise of both his conditions and his writings. She invited people to come and see the famous philosopher babbling in a language known only to him. She later gathered his writings and acted as editor of unfinished works without regard to her brothers logical intent but merely to get them into a publishable form.
Elizabeth Neitzsche appeared to be the fruit of her brothers philosophy. She was beyond good and evil and chose to engage in the exploration of her own potential. She later sided with the Nazis and provided Hitler with her brothers writings, which tragically became selectively appropriated as the philosophical underpinnings of the Nazi quest for the pure race of Supermen. Jews and other undesirables need not apply. Hitler found Nietzsche’s soaring vision of human potential aside from all moral and spiritual constraints a perfect trumpet with which to rally a rudderless and impoverished German population.
In fairness, philosophers and biographers contend Nietzsche would have rolled over in his grave had he known how his words were twisted. His was a cooperative vision of education and personal development not a eugenic cleansing of the race. Even the most virtuous, godly thinkers in history have been the victims of misappropriations and forgeries. Just ask Jesus.
Yet when declaring God as dead, Nietzsche forgot to kill the devil while he was at it. Because while good was willing to lay down like a lamb for the slaughter, evil wasn’t standing still for anything. Evil seems inherent in the human condition, whereas good must be imparted, acquired and protected. Evil appears to be the default status of mankind left to himself. Furthermore evil does not cede it’s territory to the good but when all attempts to reclaim it fails, evil retaliates through infiltration and corruption of the good even while allowing it to maintain all it’s outward appearances.
Nietzsche’s words are still revered today as the clarion of a new age of post-Christian enlightenment. But if his own life and the legacy of his thoughts are any indication of where we are headed, the world should read up on Nebuchadnezzars remedy for lunacy.