Existentialist thought is not a particularly easy or simple concept for the aspiring philosopher to apply generally while promoting universal principles. Frederick Nietzsche is considered by most as the purest form of an existential philosophical author. Nietzsche's works, although extremely aesthetically pleasing, are also a practical but mystical approach to metaphysics and the inner workings of the mind. In another example, Aleister Crowley, in his own and unique voice, echoed many of the existential thought processes Frederick Nietzsche emotionally and effectively created in his brilliant works of philosophical writings. The purpose of this essay is to promote Aleister Crowley as an existentialist thinker in the same vein as Nietzsche. I will describe and highlight Frederick Nietzsche most prominent and distinguishable traits that significantly align with those of Crowley's to demonstrate this relationship in order to promote and create new applications towards understanding and relating important information in an academic setting.
Existentialist thought and existentialism in general may be defined in a varying fashion that is relative to the purpose of the users intent. In order to perform a baseline of comparison, I will choose the definition from the American Heritage dictionary: "a philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of individual experience a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts." In comparing these two authors I will distinguish their writings using the aforementioned definition and parsing from this definition the three categories suitable to accurately and effectively explaining my position: a) individualism, b) an indifferent or hostile world, and c) the general inexplicable nature of the human experience. By synergizing and relating these concepts of existentialist thought to the explicit writings of both Nietzsche and Crowley, a unique and interesting pattern of similarity and comparability will help bring into focus and generalize the most important and relevant usages of their understanding towards a practical and relevant application in today's world. [1: "Existentialism." The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th ed.2007. Web]
I will first analyze Nietzsche in these three aforementioned categories by relatively describing and interpreting his works for my personal standpoint. It is my opinion that philosophy is a relative art and individual interpretations describing general patterns provide more academic and pragmatic worth then insisting a certain interpretation is correct. Furthermore, the individual stances of both of these authors encourage this approach of individual distinguish ability in their analysis by creating a demonstration of their techniques inherent within this piece of writing.
"God is dead." This quote, and personal mantra, from several of Nietzsche's works accurately described his individual approach to existential thought. The idea of individual responsibility and personal investigation into phenomenon and experience is how I understand his proclamation of God being dead. Intense Christian criticism flowed freely in many of his bitter and vitriolic diatribes aimed at not necessarily denouncing dogma, but rather to inspire individual choice and to identify the sometimes hard to discover but nonetheless beneficial ways of its followings.
Thus Spoke Zarathustra stands as the Prussian born author's most powerful call for individual thought in his personal library. The development of a "Superman" paralleled by the story of Dante's Inferno characterized this philosophical tour de force. According to Nietzsche, humankind's potential lied in its ability to reach a Superman status. He described the Superman as a true individual, guided by his inner voice and determined to fulfill his destiny . The Superman revealed and interpreted all of the patterns within its experiences in its own individualistic terms. Unloading that particular grief and guilt associated with religious followings is a prerequisite in both existential thought and described the thematic approach of this story. [2: Nietzsche, Friedrich. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Translated by Thomas Common 1891. Web]
The artistic beauty of this instruction manual of sorts of attaining enlightenment reinforced the individual artistic slant necessary to achieve Superman status. Nietzsche became his own Superman by ignoring convention and seeking his own true personal path not reminiscent of anything past, present or future. The Superman, in other words, is the true individual and hence, the core of existential thought. As he poetically cried, " My suffering and my fellow-suffering- what matter about them! Do I then strive after happiness? I strive after my work!" Zarathustra and hence Nietzsche attained some sort of glorious revelation in realizing the individual power of relative interpretation and thought. [3: Neitzsche.]
The next key concept dealing with existentialism deals with the indifferent or hostile environment necessary as a background for human interaction to develop. This is a key concept because it ultimately placed responsibility once again on the individual to negotiate and overcome personal conflicts within one's own life in order to give it some sort of its own purpose or meaning. Arthur Schopenhauer's description of the will in his philosophical writings inspired Nietzsche in many ways. Schopenhauer was a distinct pessimist and saw the world as a horrible and dark trap. Nietzsche advanced on Schopenhauer's terminology of the will and individualized this concept even more by creating the Will of Power . To me, this will most essentially do the same for us but is being defined in different ways by two different philosophers. The Will to me is an energy force that drives and sustains life within the concept of experience. Nietzsche creatively used this term, a will to power, to help promote and explain this energy force in the terms of his particular environment. [4: Schopenhauer, Arthur. The World as Will and Idea. New York, Dolphin Books, 1961. Print..]
The environment at the time of Nietzsche's writings could be described as dark and predatory. Inhumane treatment of others, highlighted by the European wars of the time, influenced the character of his writings inescapably and effectively created a gloomy environment to understand this philosophical perspective in my opinion. It is the context of dark and troubling times in which a hero can be born, thrive and flourish. Zarathustra presented many different levels of torment to help contextualize and rationalize the individual plight which paradoxically experiences violations of the Will on a fairly consistent basis. Knowing that darkness and light are both the same sides of one concept, was expressed in a famous quote from Nietzsche's Ecce Homo: "the man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends." Understanding balance and harmony must include visions of despair darkness and death. The cyclical nature of life is sometimes hostile and often indifferent, celebrating this in all of its glory and pain seemed essential for existentialist thought as personified by Frederick Nietzsche. [5: Nietzsche, Friedrich. Ecce Homo. The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche vol 8, 1911. Web.]
The third category of existential thought includes the idea and conception of the inexplicable source of life and existence. To me, this involves spiritually adopting a certain naivete or willingness to learn and understand new concepts. Flexibility and understanding new and helpful skills that may discern patterns, that are always changing, appears as probably the best explanation to help us understand why the world exists as it does. It seems Nietzsche attained an understanding of the limitations of the written word and therefore attempted to inspire his readers to attaining a certain feeling to capture the essence of his thoughts. Artistic expression appears as the mode of this attempt to capture the reader's attention.
Focusing on the artistic wonderment of Nietzsche's writings itself represents existential thought by often going over the top and using ancient and mystic sources to develop key principles relevant in his world. Here we should note his courage as well. His daring and courageous anti-Christian and anti-institutional stances seemed to magnify the daring nature and ultimately inexplicable source of willpower he held himself and ultimately gave him a sense of worth and power. A sense of desperation seems almost present in all of Nietzsche's works. The Anti-Christ, Nietzsche's work of intentional and desperate criticism dared the reader to take his scathing side of Christianity and the Church . This radicalism, contained the keys to understanding of the frivolity and ultimate relativeness of the human experience. [6: Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Antichrist. Project Gutenberg. Web]
Understanding existential thought is quite simply attained by understanding Frederick Nietzsche's works. His intentional characterization and proclamation of individuality, individual freedom and the importance of self development are essential in this description. An indifferent and often pessimistic contextual background for understanding is necessitated by Nietzsche's translation of experience. Furthermore, the mysterious and paradoxical phenomenon seen in the world are more felt than understood in his writings as this is perhaps the only way to translate such ideas, through the use of artistic expression along with vibrant detail and adventure personified in individual and relative nature.
Aleister Crowley's contribution to mankind, as noted in his writings, are rich and numerous. Understanding Crowley's work is not a task taken lightly nor briefly. In my opinion, that the best way to comparing and successfully contextualizing Crowley's philosophical stance with those…