Chapter 4: Contrary to Expectation
Each human being has to draw upon and assimilate the cultural heritage of his society - his culture, his religion, his people. He has to assimilate all that the past makes available. He has to assimilate the past; this is what Nietzsche calls the camel stage. The camel has the power of storing up in his body enormous amounts of food and water for his arduous journey across the desert. The same is the situation of the human individual - you have to pass across a desert, you have to assimilate the whole past.
And remember, just memorizing is not going to help.assimilation. Also remember: the person who memorizes the past memorizes only because he cannot assimilate. If you assimilate the past you are free from the past. You can use it, but it cannot use you. You possess it, but it does not possess you. When you have assimilated food you need not remember it. It does not exist separate from you: it has become your blood, your bone, your marrow; it has become you.
The past has to be digested. Nothing is wrong with the past. It is your past. You need not begin from ABC, because if each individual had to begin from ABC there would not be much evolution. That’s why animals have not evolved. The dog is the same as it was millions of years ago. Man is the only evolving animal. From where does this evolution come? It comes because man is the only animal who can assimilate the past. Once the past is assimilated you are free from it. You can move in freedom and you can use your past. Otherwise you will have to pass through so many experiences; your life will be wasted.
You can stand on the shoulders of your fathers and forefathers and their fathers and their forefathers. Man goes on standing upon others’ shoulders, hence the height that man achieves. Dogs cannot achieve that, wolves cannot achieve that; they depend on themselves. Their height is their height. In your height, Buddha is assimilated, Christ is assimilated, Patanjali is assimilated, Moses is assimilated, Lao Tzu is assimilated. The greater the assimilation the higher you stand. You can look from the peak of a mountain, your vision is great.
Assimilate more. There is no need to be confined by your own people. Assimilate the whole past of all the peoples of the whole earth; be a citizen of the planet earth. There is no need to be confined by the Christian and the Hindu and the Mohammedan. Assimilate all! The Koran is yours, the Bible is yours, so is the Talmud, and so are the Vedas and the Tao Te Ching - all is yours. Assimilate all, and the more you assimilate the higher will be the peak on which you can stand and look far away, and distant lands and distant views become yours.
This, Nietzsche calls the camel stage. But don’t be stuck there. One has to move. The camel is the larva, the camel is a hoarder. But if you are stuck at that stage and always remain a camel, then you will not know the beauties and the benedictions of life. Then you will never know godliness. You will remain stuck with the past. The camel can assimilate the past but cannot use it.
In the course of his personal development the time comes when the camel has to become the lion. The lion proceeds to tear apart the huge monster known as “thou shalt not.” The lion in man roars against all authority.