Chapter 5: Just a Little Knack of Losing Yourself
Nietzsche wrote: “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster, and when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.” The last phrase seems such a beautiful description of the art of meditation. Would you comment?
Friedrich Nietzsche is a strange philosopher, poet and mystic. His strangeness is that his philosophy is not the ordinary rational approach to life; his strangeness is also that he writes poetry in prose. He is also a strange mystic, because he has never traveled the ordinary paths of mysticism. It seems as if mysticism happened to him.
Perhaps being a philosopher and a poet together, he became available to the experiences of the mystic also. The philosopher is pure logic, and the poet is pure irrationality. The mystic is beyond both. He cannot be categorized as rational, and he cannot be categorized as irrational. He is both, and he is neither.
It very rarely happens that a philosopher is a poet also, because they are diametrically opposite dimensions. They create a tremendous inner tension in the person. And Nietzsche lived that tension to its very extreme. It finally led him into madness, because on the one hand he is one of the most intelligent products of Western philosophy, without parallel, and on the other hand so full of poetic vision that certainly his heart and his head would have been constantly fighting. The poet and the philosopher cannot be good bedfellows. It is easy to be a poet, it is easy to be a philosopher, but it is a tremendous strain to be both.
Nietzsche is not in any way mediocre - his philosopher is as great a genius as his poet. And the problem becomes more complicated because of this tension between the heart and the mind. He starts becoming available to something more - more than philosophy, more than poetry. That’s what I am calling mysticism.
His statement is of tremendous importance: “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster.”
I have always been telling you that you can choose a friend without being too cautious, but you cannot afford an enemy without being very alert - because the friend is not going to change you, but the enemy is going to change you. With the friend there is no fight, with the friend there is no quarrel; the friend accepts you as you are, you accept the friend as he is. But with the enemy the situation is totally different. You are trying to destroy the enemy and the enemy is trying to destroy you. And naturally you will affect each other, you will start taking methods, means, techniques from each other.
After a while it becomes almost impossible to find who is who. They both have to behave in the same way, they both have to use the same language, they both have to be on the same level. You cannot remain on your heights and fight an enemy who lives in the dark valleys down below; you will have to come down. You will have to be as mean, as cunning as your enemy is - perhaps you will have to be more, if you want to win.