One morning not long after his return to his cave, Zarathustra passes through a period of seven days when he is as dead. When he finally comes to himself, he finds he is surrounded by fruits and sweet-smelling herbs brought to him by his animals. On seeing him awake, his animals ask Zarathustra if he would not now step out into the world which is waiting for him: “The wind is laden with heavy fragrance that longs for you and all the brooks would like to run after you,” they tell him….
“For behold, O Zarathustra! New lyres are needed for your new songs.
“Sing and bubble over, O Zarathustra, heal your soul with new songs, so that you may bear your great destiny, that was never yet the destiny of any man!
“For your animals well know, O Zarathustra, who you are and must become: behold, you are the teacher of the eternal recurrence, that is now your destiny!
“That you have to be the first to teach this doctrine – how should this great destiny not also be your greatest danger!
“Behold, we know what you teach: that all things recur eternally and we ourselves with them, and that we have already existed an infinite number of times before and all things with us.
“You teach that there is a great year of becoming, a colossus of a year: this year must, like an hour-glass, turn itself over again and again, so that it may run down and run out anew:
“so that all these years resemble one another, in the greatest things and in the smallest, so that we ourselves resemble ourselves in each great year, in the greatest things and in the smallest.
“And if you should die now, O Zarathustra: behold, we know too what you would then say to yourself – but your animals ask you not to die yet!
“You would say – and without trembling, but rather gasping for happiness: for a great weight and oppression would have been lifted from you, most patient of men!
“‘Now I die and decay,’ you would say, ‘and in an instant I shall be nothingness. Souls are as mortal as bodies.
“‘But the complex of causes in which I am entangled will recur – it will create me again! I myself am part of these causes of the eternal recurrence.
“‘I shall return, with this sun, with this earth, with this eagle, with this serpent – not to a new life or a better life or a similar life:
“‘I shall return eternally to this identical and self-same life, in the greatest things and in the smallest, to teach once more the eternal recurrence of all things,
“‘To speak once more the teaching of the great noontide of earth and man, to tell man of the superman once more.
“‘I spoke my teaching, I broke upon my teaching: thus my eternal fate will have it – as prophet do I perish!
“‘Now the hour has come when he who is going down shall bless himself. Thus – ends Zarathustra’s down-going.’”
When the animals had spoken these words they fell silent and expected that Zarathustra would say something to them: but Zarathustra did not hear that they were silent. On the contrary, he lay still with closed eyes like a sleeper, although he was not asleep: for he was conversing with his soul. The serpent and the eagle, however, when they found him thus silent, respected the great stillness around him and discreetly withdrew.
…Thus spake Zarathustra.
There are many beautiful parables in the ancient literature. People have enjoyed them, but have rarely understood them. A parable is something like poetry; it is more symbolic. One has to dig deep to find the treasure hidden in it. Apparently, it is only a story and it appears that it is only for entertainment, but this is not true.
The ancient parables of Panchtantra, or the parables in the life of Gautam Buddha, or the parables of Aesop in the West, all have tremendous spiritual significance. They have been written in such a way, or told in such a way that even children can enjoy them – but to find their meaning, a sage is needed.
It was just an old device used when there were no written books, when writing was not yet invented, and things had to be told from the teacher to the disciple. The parable greatly served the purpose, because it can be easily remembered, and because it has many layers of meaning – at least at the lowest everybody can remember it.
At its highest, only those who have that quality of consciousness…. For example, all these parables are based on dialogues between animals, or between animals and man. And we know that animals don’t speak. Still, around the world the same pattern has been followed; and great truths have been expressed through the animals.
The animal is a symbol of absolute innocence. Even a child is not so innocent; even a child starts becoming diplomatic, political from the very beginning, because he’s surrounded by an atmosphere which contaminates his consciousness.
The smallest child will smile at the mother – not that he really feels like smiling; his smile is no different from the smile of Jimmy Carter – he knows that by smiling he persuades the mother. His smiling is diplomatic; it is not from his heart. It is not that he is very happy, seeing the mother, but he depends on the mother. His whole nourishment is in the hands of the mother – he has to keep her happy. He smiles, not without some reason – his smile is not innocent.
In the parables animals have been used because they are absolutely uncontaminated by human cunningness, diplomacy, and dirty politics. They are absolutely simple and innocent. They represent innocence – an innocence which, even though it may not speak, its very presence radiates truth. Today’s fragment on Zarathustra starts with a small parable.
One morning not long after his return to his cave, Zarathustra passes through a period of seven days when he is as dead.