15 October 2014

Nietzsche: A Brief Life Story/Biography

Today is the 170th birth anniversary of the great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900). A brief life story/biography:

Nietzsche (pronounced 'neecha') was born on 15 October 1844 in a village called Roecken in the kingdom of Prussia (today's east Germany). His father, a priest, passed away when he was 5 years old. The family then moved to a nearby town called Naumburg. There he studied at Prussia's most prestigious school - Schulpforta - and excelled as a student. He then went to Bonn University to study philology – the study of the ancient Western languages: Greek and Latin. After one year, he moved to the University of Leipzig.

At age 23, Nietzsche joined the Prussian army and excelled as a cavalry officer. But a horse-riding accident injured his chest severely and forced him to quit the army. The injury would stay with him all his life. 2 years later, he volunteered as a paramedic in the Franco-Prussian war and contracted dysentery and diphtheria. These diseases too stayed with him till the end.

[That year (1870), Otto von Bismarck (Prime Minister of Prussia) completed unifying the 40 different kingdoms of Germany into a single kingdom – for the first time in history. Germany was now Europe's largest – and most powerful – country]

Nietzsche finished his PhD at age 25. He became a professor of philology at the University of Basel in Switzerland. He was the youngest philology professor in Europe. But he suffered a lot from his injury and diseases. 10 years later, at age 35, he retired and got a small pension. He spent the next 10 years (age 35 to 45) living in different places in Italy, France and Switzerland. This was the period when he wrote his greatest books: Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1885), Beyond Good And Evil (1886) and others.

At age 45, when he was in Turin (Italy), Nietzsche had a mental breakdown and became insane. His mother took him to Naumburg and looked after him. 10 years later, he passed away at age 55 in Weimar, on 25 August 1900. His body was buried in the Roecken churchyard. His notes were published as Will To Power the next year.

Nietzsche is the greatest thinker produced by Western civilisation. He went far ahead of Western philosophy. He had the honesty, the courage and the intelligence to ask the right questions. Unfortunately, 19th century Europe was unaware of Hindu/Indian philosophy – which has the answers. So he had only the pain of his questions (which finally drove him insane). He never found the peace of the answers (which he so richly deserved).

We are filled with respect and admiration for Nietzsche's genius. Equally, we are filled with sadness at his tragic fate. My pranaams to this great Rishi of the West.

See Nietzsche's Superman theory.

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