3. The Prophet
It can be said that the Faustian Zeitgeist reached its apotheosis in Friedrich Nietzsche ~ except that spiritually it was a nadir. When he lost the naïve religious faith of his childhood, he found himself in the God-forsaking wasteland of the Endarkenment that had begun in the eighteenth century and swept the West. Most of the protagonists were content with the doctrine of the non-existence of God, but Nietzsche escalated the avidya (spiritual ignorance) by mistaking his own fall from grace for the death of God, conceived as a metaphysical event.
Because his soul was cut off from Caritas (divine love), Nietzsche found it fulfilling to advise his followers to drive from their hearts the last shreds of compassion and humanity, magnifying their egos by scathing contempt for the wretched of the earth. Because his inner eye was blind to Supernal light, he was trapped in the delusion that physical life in the body was all there is. Because he was deficient in the manly attributes of physical strength, martial ability, and sexual prowess, he compensated intellectually with a philosophy that glorified rigid self-discipline, stoic endurance, and iron will.
In his most popular work, Nietzsche put the core of his credo into the mouth of a character modeled on the Avatars of God, with the twist that his Zarathustra is an Avatar against God. And not only God but the Gods ~ the “idols” of faith, the spirits of nature, the souls of the dead, and the hopes of the living for a better life in a higher world: all are consigned to oblivion by the mockery of Zarathustra. Lest anyone imagine that the target was merely the outer form of faith, or dogmatism or superstition, Zarathustra also rails against the inner essence of Spirit conveyed by Eastern concepts which Nietzsche associated with Buddhism. Incapable of grasping these esoteric truths, he rejected them with what for him was the ultimate insult, calling Buddha a Christian before his time!
In The Story of Philosophy Will Durant called Nietzsche “the child of Darwin and Bismarck”. It was Darwin’s discoveries that revealed the falsity of the physical underpinnings of the Christian creation mythos, and cast doubt on the whole belief-system in the minds of the multitude. They now fell under the spell of the Endarkenment, and, unlike the Faustian elite, most of them were driven to despair. The path of Western culture thence began the downward tilt that would spill into the abyss in the aftermath of World War I.
Meanwhile, Nietzsche’s philosophy was enormously popular among the legions of lost souls who were eager to blame the emptiness of material life on the death of God, and became enthralled by Zarathustra’s teaching that his place would be filled by the Übermensch. Darwin had come to the rescue: all those willing to harden their hearts, deny their souls, and forsake the Spirit like Nietzsche could join the ranks of the Faustian Elect destined to evolve into superhuman beings.