A reading of Schopenhauer, inspires a different view of old Nietzsche.
Every single thought, idea, concept, image, symbol, representation, are fundamentally distractions in themselves that prevent people from looking all the way down the rabbit hole, into the heart of the black hole, the bottomless chasm, the very abyss in itself. Ideas and images constantly flicker to and fro, unceasingly, incessantly, always coming and going, for the consciousness is a vaporous quicksilver that is essentially preoccupied with mental activity, in a permanent state of distraction. Yet, reflection has a strange function that quells this constant activity, and peels the layers away, resulting in the realization of the true essence of reality that is both beyond all temporary illusions and in between all those artifacts of consciousness….
Schopenhauer himself teetered on the brink with his philosophy when he attempted to articulate the unsayable, homogenize the unnamable incarnate and I must say, much better than any other thinker of modernity. Our slavery to our distractions obscure Schopenhauer’s insightful revelations, preventing us from ever coming to terms with them. We are reminded of Nietzsche’s chilling reminder: Lest not look into the abyss, cause the abyss peers back…
However, perhaps Nietzsche himself did not look deeply into the abyss long enough because he tiptoed back into the warm crevasses of his own illusory phantasms, the “eternal recurrence,” the “will to power,” and the “Ubermensch,” thereby restricting his understanding of Schopenhauer.
What Schopenhauer calls wille, a visceral articulation of that subterranean energy, a demonic ur-force, I call the abyss, a bottomless gulf, completely vacant of meaning, the unfathomable void. If the abyss is unknowable in any direct way, then we experience it only indirectly, through representations, concepts. In the medieval age, the abyss was chaos – that which lies beyond the edge of the world, beyond creation. Here, there be monsters!
For Nietzsche, the abyss is nihilism – the awesome consequences when foundations of civilization collapse and the bottom of culture falls out from under it. With the existentialist’s mask Nietzsche accepts the all-too-early message that God is dead and peers into the abyss of nothingness, only to find meaninglessness and valuelessness. The hope of redemption, afterworld, salvation are empty concepts or fictions that conceal the ugly realization that existence is pointless. All our greatest values – truth, enlightenment, wisdom, knowledge, progress – lose their moorings, as hollow as the hollowest idols. We end up walking up and down the cliffs aimlessly, without direction, in the grips of uncertainty.
Zarathustra is the tightrope walker who was ideally the courageous hero, for he not only look deep into the abyss, but cross it… Yet… alas, Nietzsche always slips and falls headlong into the void. The yawning black hole of nihilism is infinite… He falls for an eternity, for time always recurs eternally. However……. beyond the death of God… possibly lies redemption…