Thursday, February 28, 2019

Free Spirit vs. Fettered Spirit

Having read the later Nietzsche -- Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil, The Genealogy of Morality, etc. -- I have gone back to the start of his thinking, specifically Human, All Too Human: A book for free spirits.

I realize, as I read Human, All Too Human, that this is where Nietzsche first develops the ideas that are tossed around like fireworks in his later work. And by the way, the guy that was publishing his later work was encouraging him to amp up the controversial in order to improve book sales. Titles like Thus Spake Zarathustra sold about 125 copies out of a print run of 1,000.

My interest in Nietzsche derives partly from my project to read and understand the German Miracle, from Kant to quantum mechanics, and partly a project to mine him for ideas with which to broaden and deepen my own Three Peoples notion: that We Humans can be divided, admittedly in a reductive manner, into People of the Creative Self, artists and writers; People of the Responsible Self, the solid middle class; and People of the Subordinate Self, workers and peasants and victims.

For it is obvious to me that Nietzsche's basic aim is to prophesy the transition from the responsible life of good and evil to the creative live of imagining something new.

So, about a quarter of the way through Human, All Too Human, Nietzsche prophesies the "free spirit:"
He is called a free spirit who thinks differently from what, on the basis of his origin, environment, his class and profession, or on the basis of the dominant views of the age, would have been expected of him. He is the exception, the fettered spirits are the rule[.]
Pretty obviously, this aligns with my idea of the People of the Creative Self. Then Nietzsche anathematizes the "fettered spirit" through its accusations against the free spirit: that the free spirit wants "to shock and offend... in actions incompatible with sound morals." Or maybe the free spirit arrived at his correct ideas by wrong paths.
As a rule, though, [the free spirit] will nonetheless have truth on his side, or at least the spirit of inquiry after truth: he demands reasons, the rest demand faith.
You can see that in the time that Nietzsche was writing, the free spirit was clearly the creative artist or thinker, and the fettered spirit was clearly the ordinary bourgeois trapped in the coils of good and evil; that is what Nietzsche assumes when he rails against "the priests" that taught us to hate ourselves and fetter ourselves in the prison of good and evil.

But, for the 21st century, I propose a different analysis. In my view the People of the Responsible Self are not fettering themselves with the notions of good and evil, they are instead putting on the armor of light that protects them on the journey from subordination to responsibility. That is why enthusiastic Christianity is the religion of emerging Africa and the populist movement in Brazil. And why it was the religion of the hero and heroine of George Eliot's Adam Bede: Adam, the worthy carpenter exploring his way to responsibility; and Dinah Morris, the Methodist lay preacher; both children of the farm making the journey from agricultural idiocy to middle-class responsibility.

No, today the fettered spirits are the believers in progressive or lefty orthodoxy, that imagine they are creative and contrarian, but in fact are merely the rank-and-file of the secular religion that superseded the God-based religion of Christianity. Your progressive thinks and believes exactly "what, on the basis of his origin, environment, his class and profession, or on the basis of the dominant views of the age, would [be] expected of him." Or Twitter will know the reason why.

The free spirit has been further developed by the Jungians to be the sacrificial hero who, in the Hero's Journey into the underworld of the unconscious, learns how to benefit mankind by a perilous adventure on the border between Order and Chaos.

So I propose to define the free spirit as the creative person truly trying to think new thoughts and ideas, and the fettered spirit as a fake creative that really is completely fettered by the conventional wisdom of the age.

So I would divide the People of the Creative Self into two parts; the free spirits or true creatives living on the border of Order and Chaos; and the fettered spirits, or fake creatives living in a fantasy world.

But then I would, wouldn't I.


  1. In all three divisions of human spirit-- Creative, Responsible, and Subordinate-- wisdom is required in order to be effective. While wisdom may differ in some respects among the divisions, success attends each under three constants they hold in common:
    1) Just because a thing can be done doesn't mean it ought to be done.
    2) Just because a thing can be imagined doesn't make it so.
    3) Just because a thing cannot be imagined doesn't mean it can't obtain.

    Wisdom is understanding and appropriately applying each of the three constants throughout life's endeavors. This is true for all the divisions, Creative, Responsible, and Subordinate.

    When a Subordinate refuses to adhere to the constraints, he may break tools unnecessarily and not accomplish his assigned tasks. His failure is easily observed.

    When a Responsible fails in wisdom he may overextend and bankrupt himself or others. Also easy to see the failing.

    But when a Creative fails to exercise wisdom, he may promulgate crackpot ideas and produce intellectual fraud barely distinguishable from insanity. His failure in wisdom may seem attractive and spread among the gullible like a virus. This can result in outlandish fads sweeping through a population leading, say, many Bruces to become convinced they're really Caitlyns... among other harmful notions that flood and take hold in a befuddled society.

    1. ...Wisdom, then, is a social necessity that fetters even the free spirit, meaning that as social animals we are all properly captive in a crucial and central way.