Why Nietzsche is Hard

The experience of reading and contemplating Nietzsche is fundamentally different to that of the majority of thinkers. A natural consequence of this is the unprecedented degree to which Nietzsche is misunderstood.

Appreciating Nietzsche isn’t a simple matter of considering a number of competing claims to the truth and deciding if his case is the strongest. He is not such a man that will brook standing in the dock while his ideas are tried by plebs.

Nietzsche is hard for the same reason that integrating a psychedelic trip is hard. This is because to understand him, first you have to concede to his basic contention: that everything you know might be wrong. This makes Nietzsche appear to be a nihilist for anyone who stops reading him at this point, which most people do.

But to appreciate Nietzsche, at least initially, you have to accept that the very way you think may be fundamentally flawed.

His contention is that people have been lied to so often by the church, by the state, by centuries of half-wit philosophers, by power-crazed kings and by the bleating of the herd, that they’re too confused to even begin thinking their way out of it. The way people think is so fundamentally flawed that to make progress the first point of order is to forget all the lies that they currently consider to be true – and there are many.

In fact, you can’t merely forget them – you have to deliberately and purposefully smash them. To get to the truth you have to escape the labyrinth of lies, and so you have to “philosophise with a hammer”.

Understanding the truth of Nietzsche is thus not a pleasant and straightforward experience like sitting in a kindergarten listening to the sweet voice of a kind teacher guiding you gently away from ignorance. It’s more like Hell Week of the Navy Seals, in which a person’s entire personality has to be torn to the ground so that a new, stronger one can be rebuilt in its place.

Regular readers of this column will recognise this phenomenon as the task of the mystic, the shaman or the schizophrenic. Nietzsche himself clearly recognised this when he subtitled Thus Spake Zarathustra as “A Book fof Everyone and No-one.”

This is very evidently not a task for the man of clay; Nietzsche had no intention of founding his own religion for the masses (probably this explains the appeal of Nietzsche among those of the left-hand path).

All of this helps to explain why the name of Nietzsche has been associated with the Nazis.

Any political power who seeks to tear down the established order (which in Hitler’s time was the Anglo-American Empire) and impose their own based on transvaluated values (the Nazi Empire) has one immense – but superficial – connection with Nietzsche’s philosophy in so far that both are revolutionary.

Both seek to tear down old ways that they see as corrupt or decadent. Indeed, crusades against ‘decadent’ art was one of the ways the early Nazis built outrage in their favour, and rhetoric about the corrupting effect of Jews on German society was regular.

Moreover, Nazism was one of the most striking historical examples of a supremacist movement, and supremacists of all stripes find a superficial interest in Nietzsche’s talk of the ‘Superman’.

The great irony here is that Nietzsche would likely have considered the Nazis – like all egoic supremacists – a pack of plebs.

If We Are in A Period of Excess Yin, How Would We Know?

If Francis Fukuyama is correct, and the Great Pendulum of the World swings back and forth every 60 or 70 years or so, then this would suggest right now that we are at a period of peak yin. We can surmise this because the last time there was clearly a period of excess yang it ended in the violent paroxysm of World War II, 71 years ago.

It is certainly not a time of excess yang right now in 2016. We know what that would look like – violence. This is literally the least violent time in human history (however, there is absolutely no evidence that things are guaranteed to remain this way indefinitely).

What are the characteristics of an age of excess yin? As below, so above – we can guess that the characteristics of the world would be a macrocosm of the characteristics of all of us.

Yang is also characterised, especially in Western alchemy in its aspect as the masculine principle, as order. Thus we can expect that excess yin might manifest itself as destructive, senseless chaos.

This would not manifest as the proportionate yin of a predatory beast who destroys with a view to impose a higher form of order, but more like the mindless rage of a school shooter or an Islamic suicide bomber, or even like the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which made little sense to anyone at the time and makes none now.

The masculine discriminates, the feminine does not discriminate. Therefore, in a time of excess yin, the fundamental error is to fail to discriminate when one should have discriminated. Perhaps this is what has happened with the immigration policies of the Western world in recent decades.

It’s especially evident in Europe, for example, where the man in the street has seen his quality of life drop sharply as a consequence of his nation’s naive lack of discrimination and foresight (and it’s been worse for the womenfolk).

The attitude from Western politicians towards people claiming to be refugees over the past 20 years was to open the bosom to allcomers, and to use social pressure to cow into submission anyone questioning this policy.

If yang is the heavens and yin the earth, the immense materialism of our age is perhaps also evidence that this is a period of excess yin. Our mainstream religious traditions are so thoroughly and irrevocably corrupted that expressing a will to become a priest is tantamount to a confession of sexual deviancy – whether justified or not.

There isn’t a skerrick of spirituality to be found in any of the long-dead rituals or in the emotional and manipulative rhetoric, yet our priests ride around in massive Mercedes and fly private jets, and lecture us on our duties to the poor from thrones of solid gold.

So materialistic are we that even most people who educate themselves to postgraduate level – much less the others – cannot conceive of an origin of consciousness different to the current “magic brain” model, in which one has unshakable, 100% confidence and faith in the belief that science will one day prove that the brain generates consciousness through electrobiochemical means.

Finally, we can see it with the rampant overpopulation of the Earth. The yin is associated with love and reproduction, but it is obvious that our recent interest in this is excessive. There are so many of us that we are in the middle of one of the six biggest extinction events in the history of the planet.

Despite the carnage that we are wreaking virus-like on the planet as we consume everything that lives on or under its surface, few seem to have any compunction about bringing another litter of kids into the world to compete for ever-diminishing resources.

Taken together, the reasons to think that we are in a time of excess yin seem overwhelming. This means that the world is about to start heating up – alchemically, if not physically.

Is It Time For Gay and Lesbian New Zealanders to Lose Their Victim Status?

Apart from Rugby World Cup trophies, the one thing that New Zealanders fight for with the most intensity is victim status. Being a victim in our society is to wield the power of laying guilt trips on people, which often brings with it a free media platform to convince people to stop their behaviour and adopt others more to the guilt-tripper’s liking.

Once you have achieved the status of victim no-one can disagree with you without feeling ashamed because if they disagree with you they automatically become part of the oppressor class, who all New Zealanders have been conditioned since kindergarten to reflexively despise.

This social pressuring has an extremely powerful influence on the thoughts and feelings of the individual, but the problem with this cozy arrangement is this.

The reason why gay and lesbian New Zealanders have, as of right now, an impregnable position at the very summit of Mount Victim is that being gay and lesbian is not highly correlated with significant measures of social deprivation in the country today.

The average homosexual is actually fairly wealthy on account of being both better educated than average and being less likely to have children, a phenomenon known as the pink dollar.

There’s no denying being gay and lesbian once was highly associated with measures of social deprivation and disenfranchisement. This is inevitable when you can literally get locked in a cage for being who you are. The contention of this column, however, is that this battle has long been won.

Homosexuality became illegal in 1840 in New Zealand and legal again in 1986 – now thirty years ago – so the people that enforced the legal prohibition on it are all long ago dead and buried.

In the 2011 General Election, seven gay or lesbian MPs were elected to Parliament, which is almost six percent of the total – over twice the actual proportion of gay and lesbian New Zealanders (and this is ignoring the known homosexual MPs who are just not public about it).

If your marginalised group is represented in Parliament at 250%+ of its proportion among general society, so much so that when a law is passed in your favour the entire Parliament will band together and sing a song of regret that they didn’t do it sooner, are you really that marginalised?

The irony of the eternal battle for victimhood is this: once your victim status is recognised by your society at large, you are automatically no longer a victim, because you are instantly doing much better than all the oppressed people whose victim status is not recognised.

The reverse of this is also an irony: in order to get into a position where you can do anything about being a victim, you have to get into a position where you are no longer a victim.

This is why the physically and mentally infirm will always be at the bottom of society – simply because they are in the weakest position to advocate for themselves. It is exceptionally rare to meet a sick person wearing a suit and who is articulate as Grant Robertson.

So perhaps it’s time for another marginalised group of New Zealanders to get some attention?

If you are one of New Zealand’s 400,000 medicinal cannabis users, getting completely ignored by all parties is galling when you can turn the television on and hear Jacinda Ardern passionately arguing for legalising gay adoption – an issue which affects perhaps 50 people a year.

Every day you are ignored is another slap in the face, another insult. But no-one will bring up your plight in Parliament, ever, and merely to point out that it’s time for you to displace some of the wealthy and powerful people raking it in at the victim table is seen as effrontery (no doubt many people will read the headline of this article and become outraged without reading the body).

That’s a real victim of societal prejudice.

Why There Always Has Been War And Always Will Be War

It’s as simple as looking at a yin-yang, and knowing that the yin represents chaos and the yang represents order. Keeping in mind the Fifth Hermetic Principle – the Principle of Rhythm – we can surmise that it is true of order and chaos that “the measure of the swing to the right is the measure of the swing to the left.”

In a Taoist sense this is to say that an excess of order, by its very nature, leads to a minuscule element of chaos arising within it, which grows, and soon takes on a momentum of its own, only to itself crystallise from a tiny seed into order, and ever more rigid order, until the cycle begins anew.

Too much masculinity in the alchemical world is represented as fire and iron, and these stand as metaphor for how too much masculinity in the physical world leads to violence.

An excess of masculinity is like fire when it has too much energy because it causes violence which burns flesh and sears souls, and is what the ancient physicians meant when they diagnosed a person with a choleric personality.

It is also like iron when it imposes too much order because it is harsh and cuts mercilessly, and when it breaks down it shatters, as with an excess of masculinity one loses one’s ability to yield and to withdraw and breaks like a tree that cannot yield to a storm.

This is evident in the natural world even when one looks at biological life in the simplest way. A seed that sprouts and begins to grow towards the light must eventually break the surface if it is to survive (for a literary description of this phenomenon see Chapter 21 of Anna Nilsen’s Writing With The I Ching: Biting Through).

As below, so above: the world of men is no different. If a person observes the current order of the day and finds it unworthy of continued existence, then – if they are intelligent – they will soon come to appreciate the degree to which, and the vigour with which, the established order maintains itself (indeed, that’s all that order is).

But like the rising yin, the desire to break the established order – once it takes hold – grows ever more powerful by virtue of its position within nature. As the dusk darkness consumes ever more of the light, so does the chaos dissolve ever more of the existing order, until it breaks through and imposes an order of its own.

If you look at the current state of world history, there is an established Anglo-American order, which has dominated world affairs for about 200 years. This order is generally known as ‘The West’, because it represents the powers on the Western side of the world when viewed as a chessboard.

This world order arguably began at Waterloo, when the then wielder of the Spear of Destiny – Napoleon Bonaparte – was defeated in battle and the First French Empire sundered.

The nature of yang is to decline into yin – we know this, and already it’s possible to observe an America in cultural decay. Already the American Empire has degenerated in certain ways further than any empire in history, with the most recent 50 years giving us everything from Charles Manson and Ted Bundy to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

The nature of yin is to rise into yang – and this can be observed with the awakening of the sleeping giants of China and India. These countries were poor and were always going to remain poor as long as they were too corrupt to organise any meaningful invest in the human capital of the young. This was how it was when the Spear of Destiny was held in Europe, but now, as it crosses the Pacific, the East is awakening.

There is every chance that a rising Eastern power that wants its place in the Sun will naturally come into conflict with the established Western one that wants to hold onto power. Indeed, many believed that the Japanese action in the Western Pacific theatre of World War II was this event playing out (this column is far, far from the first to suggest it).

The collapse of the established order is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. The established order never collapses peacefully (observe adult male elephants for an analogy in the natural world).

Therefore, war is a fundamental aspect of life, and always will be, as long as there are masculine and feminine.

Psychedelics or Meditation: Which is More Transformative?

Some people wonder which is the more transformative out of psychedelic sacraments or meditation. The apparent forced choice comes from the proscription against intoxication that can be found in many spiritual traditions. This article suggests that a skilled synergistic approach is better still.

Psychedelics can be transformative in an extremely dramatic way. It’s possible for someone who takes a powerful psychedelic to permanently change into an entirely different person in the space of an hour.

One drawback with the psychedelic experience is that, because the new impressions come so overwhelmingly fast and intensely they are mostly forgotten the next day (a similar but less dramatic phenomenon can be observed with naive cannabis users).

This can lead to a sense that one is forever grasping for a truth that remains, ghost-like, just out of reach. One is haunted by the idea that perhaps everything one knows is wrong, perhaps the world is entirely upside-down, and that, no matter how much sense it seemed to make at any one time, it could potentially be tipped upside-down again at any moment.

Such an experience can be unsettling, to say the least.

Meditation is the opposite in many ways. One cannot count on an immediate, life-shattering breakthough within an hour of sitting down to meditate for the first time, but one can usually count on some kind of permanent insight once one gets it right.

Some people take a long time to feel anything pleasant from meditation at all. Certain people have been lurching from one attachment to another for so long with so little questioning that their habits are far too deeply ingrained to simply quit.

Related to this, often it isn’t the actual meditation itself that brings a change but a secondary insight that comes from meditating upon the meditation. After one has had the experience of sitting down meditating and coming away feeling really good, it is only a small cognitive step to the insight that one doesn’t actually need external stimulation in order to feel at peace.

This insight is the beginning of liberation from identification with the contents of consciousness.

This column will resist the temptation to declare that meditation is somehow more ‘natural’ or ‘wholesome’ than taking a psychedelic. For one thing, much of the pleasure that comes from meditation is because the act facilitates the release of the neurotransmitter 5-hydroxytryptomine, which results in the familiar feelings of peace and serenity that accompany it (the main reason is that the topic has been discussed at length here).

In retrospect, a good way to explore the world within might be this. Take a psychedelic in the correct set and setting and let your thoughts flow freely as they do. Allow your mind to be expanded. Allow yourself to become awestruck by the infinitude of psychic impressions, allow yourself to become terrified, allow yourself to feel like God.

Then, meditate upon it all. Meditate upon the question of why ordinary life is not usually as awesome as it appears to be on psychedelics, and on the question of what is ultimately terrifying about the contents of consciousness, and on the question of what, if anything, is the difference between you and God anyway.

Allowing yourself to be shocked by psychedelic insights and then to take the fear out of them by making sense of why they occur is part of the shamanism of the 21st century. It is how modern shamans travel to the spirit world and wrestle demons for the benefit of their loved ones back in the material world.

The Naturalistic Fallacy and Consciousness-Altering Drugs

A great and famous observation in philosophy is known as Hume’s guillotine, and it can be found “In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with” (Hume’s words). This observation is that people aren’t very good at describing reality as it is, but rather seem to prefer to describe it as it ought to be.

This general confusion of how things are and how they ought to be has led to all manner of incorrect thinking. One assumption, when applied to drugs in general (not just drug law in particular) seems to be that the human mind works most rationally and correctly when not under the influence of any external drugs – which is, as this reasoning glibly assumes, its ‘natural’ state.

An implication of this assumption is that any person under the influence of a psychoactive drug is ‘high’ or ‘intoxicated’ and thus cannot be trusted to do anything at all competently, perhaps not even verbally describe reality or their own will.

As any psychonaut can tell you, this is complete shit.

For one thing, we are almost always under the effects of one psychoactive drug or another. At any one point in time, close to half of us are either somewhat drunk or somewhat hungover, most of us have a least a buzz going from a solid dose of caffeine at some point in the morning or a haze going from a sleeping pill at some point in the evening, about a quarter of us smoke tobacco, and over a third of us are under the effects of psychoactive medicine prescribed by a doctor.

We’re never clean – so how do we know it’s better?

Secondly, there are already powerful psychoactives that are natural, and our brains are full of them. Our brains are naturally a store of psychoactive chemicals called neurotransmitters, of which there are over 100 known.

Some of them are well known, such as adrenaline. Yes, the rush you get from fighting or from nearly being killed is literally just a drug rush: adrenaline binds to adrenergic receptors, which causes the blood flow to heart and lungs to increase and the muscles to surge with energy in preparation for possible mortal combat.

Few would argue that this burst of manic energy, which often brings with it cerebral haemorrhages and heart attacks, could possibly be more healthy than smoking some Northern Lights and relaxing for the evening. But some will.

Thirdly, there are many ways of altering consciousness that don’t even involve psychoactive drugs. There is music, meditation, physical exercise, and if one has never altered consciousness from making love one simply hasn’t done it right.

If it’s possible to significantly alter consciousness by ‘natural’ means then it can hardly be argued that sobriety is itself natural. Indeed, the idea that humanity’s natural state is to wallow in mind-rotting tedium is probably a masochistic artifact of Abrahamic influence or a consequence of the brainwashing that was done to condition people to industrial era labour.

A fourth and final point is that in some cases the human mind demonstrably works better when influenced from the outside. When a child is born, the act of nursing and being nursed releases oxytocin in both mother and baby.

Oxytocin is known as the “love drug.” Large doses of it in the brains of females while making love will induce them to favour a monogamous pair bond with their partner. This neurotransmitter appears to play a role in all kinds of emotional bonding and interpersonal solidarity, as it is released by pleasant physical contact like being caressed or stroked and brings with it a reduction in anxiety and fear.

The baby needs this release of oxytocin in order to be healthy, because, without it, they tend to develop to be suspicious and cold, probably because they have internalised a moral value that the world is a place where no-one really cares about each other.

Thus it can be seen that, in some cases, a drug that requires an external influence is a natural part of the human experience as a consequence of humans evolving as a mammalian, and thus social, species.

All of these arguments taken together suggest that the received wisdom of “Drugs bad no drugs good” is not only far from the truth but could be dangerously counterproductive.

There is actually a lot of merit to the counterargument. Looking at the drug intake of most of our greatest cultural icons demonstrates clearly that the unique and original thoughts common to many drug experiences is a powerful facilitator of creative achievement.