Fiery Furnaces

In Nietzsche’s  Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Part II, section 4 (Parkes translation, Oxford 2006)), we read:

Zealously and with much shouting they drove their herd over their bridge: as if to the future there were but one bridge! Verily, these herdsmen thesmelves still belonged among the sheep!

Little minds and capacious souls these shepherds had: but, my brothers, what little domains have even the most capacious souls been up to now!

Blood-signs they wrote on the way that they walked, and their folly taught that one proves the truth with blood.

But blood is the worst witness of truth; blood poisions the purest teaching, turning it into hearts’ delusion and hate.

And if one goes through the fire for one’s teaching—what does that prove! It is more, verily, if one’s own teaching comes out of one’s own blaze!

Sultry heart and cold head: where these come together there arises the roaring wind, the ‘Redeemer’.


Here Zarathustra challenges what Nietzsche in The Antichrist calls the “seduction” of the martyr, the false logic that if some one is willing to die for a belief that it therefore has some credibility. People can hold beliefs and be willing to die for them for all sorts of psychological and social reasons that have nothing to do with the love of truth first and foremost. A herdish, follower of a person can march off to the stake out of blind obedience, as can the suicidal, the delusional, or the foolish and easily persuaded.

In contrast, the ideal here, is not someone willing to die for a “teaching” but someone willing to make the pursuit of her perspective into a matter of fire and passion and intense internal struggle and experiment and risk. It’s the willingness to embrace Zarathustra’s insight earlier when he declares that “one must still have chaos within, in order to give birth to a dancing star.” The embrace of this sort of passionate approach to life and personally developed knowledge as summed up by Nietzsche in these lines sum up the priorities and the spirit that motivate me.  It’s all about the sultry heart and the cold head.

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