Re: Quoting Nietzsche is a perilous business

From: Jacques Du Pasquier (
Date: Sun Jan 06 2002 - 17:03:05 MST


Thanks for sharing your interpretation.

For the record :

I've checked the context : there is none. The text of that book makes
perfect sense in general, but this is in a special section called
"Maxims and interludes", which is all made of very short paragraphs,
often quite elliptic. A note in my edition says that it was in fact
written several years before the rest, so it wasn't written as part of
the book and was added there afterwards. So it may, or may not, relate
to the particular ideas expressed in the rest of the book.

I find your interpretation surprising, because you suggest that this
"abyss gazing into you" be something positive, while the whole
paragraph seems to suggest the opposite :

> "He who fights monsters should be careful lest he thereby becomes a
> monster. And if thou gaze long into the abyss, the abyss will also
> gaze into thee"

If the second sentence is a kind of rephrasing of the first (which I
think it is), then for the abyss to gaze into you seems to be compared
to becoming a monster, something one should be "careful" to avoid. My
take would be that it refers to a kind of "discipline" or "warning" he
is giving to himself, that he should avoid a particular personal risk
linked to his research.



Amara Graps wrote (6.1.2002/08:29) :
> From: "Jacques Du Pasquier" <>, Sun, 6 Jan 2002:
> >Amara Graps wrote (5.1.2002/15:47) :
> >> "If you gaze for long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into
> >> you." - -Nietzsche
> >
> >What do you think he meant ?
> Spike and I had discussion of that quote some time back on this list.
> I'm somewhat sure I know what Nietzsche meant, although I use that quote
> differently than how Nietzsche uses it.
> ----------------------
> Date Wed, 18 Apr 2001 21:42:56 +0200 (MET DST)
> From Amara Graps <>
> Subject Re: CHAT: What statement? abyss staring
> (going back in time.. off the list, presently)
> From: Spike Jones (, Sat Apr 07 2001
> >Followed to its logical extreme, one concludes if the universe is
> >closed, we have been here before, having this exact
> >discussion. Furthermore we have been here an *infinite* number of
> >times before. Still further, we will be here again, having this exact
> >discussion and an unimaginably large number of similar but slightly
> >different versions thereof. Thinking about it causes one to zone
> >out. Amara has so aptly described the feeling as staring into the
> >abyss until it stares back.
> I borrowed the expression from Nietzche, although our context was
> likely different.
> "He who fights monsters should be careful lest he thereby becomes a
> monster. And if thou gaze long into the abyss, the abyss will also
> gaze into thee" _Beyond Good and Evil_ Nietzsche
> I didn't read _Beyond Good and Evil_, but he uses the abyss often in
> his writings, and he has a fondness for this particular state of
> mind. See _Thus Spake Zarathustra_
> Nietzsche was also a little bit insane, but then ...
> "I prefer to be only slightly insane. (Don't we all?)"
> --Characters Captain Sheridan and Garabaldi on Babylon 5
> (see my special quotes
> My context for the abyss is close to the Zen practices and their use
> of the deep abyss. The deep abyss is that psychological place where
> there's no support, no nothing, a complete free-fall, and you realize
> that no one is going to save you but yourself. It can be a terrifying
> realization, and it might require sitting there for a while and not
> run away from yourself, in other words: 'having a tea with yourself'
> (my context of staring into the abyss). However, once one realizes
> that they are all they have, then the abyss is a very rich place to
> plant seeds of yourself to grow. Then what comes of that abyss is
> someone/something genuine and an integrated whole.
> Actually everyone has that psychological place of the deep abyss, but
> I would guess that many people don't notice because their lives have
> many kinds of supports and distractions.
> Amara
> ----------------------
> ********************************************************************
> Amara Graps, PhD email:
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> "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." --Anais Nin

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