Many books have been written on the life and work of Friedrich Nietzsche, and it would be justifiable to ask what prompts yet another publication on this extraordinary figure.
In reading the first draft of this book, it was clear to us that the writer was providing not merely one more biographical sketch of Nietzsche. On the basis of the inexorable development of this particular individual, Liliane Frey-Rohn debates several questions central to life itself, questions that are of relevance to us all. One essential problem concerns the nature of good and evil, another, the notion of truth, and a third question discussed is the problem of nihilism as a direct consequence of losing the value of truth and of the death of God. Finally, the author examines, in the context of Nietzsche's great visions, the dangers arising from an identification of the personality with the numinosity of existence.
The life of Friedrich Nietzsche, with its incessant searching, its inner struggle, its critical debate with a world he saw as mendacious, and its many other deceptions and disorders, thus becomes exemplary for the striving of all humanity towards truth and meaning. Liliane Frey-Rohn has succeeded in using one individual's confrontation with the problems of good and evil to directly address the reader, and in such a way as to allow a clearer appreciation of our own life. She demonstrates various facets of this question with the subtle and discriminating insight of a psychologist who has herself experienced the depth of this issue in long years of work with her own analytical cases. As a result, the discussion goes well beyond a presentation of one man's fate: it addresses and brings understanding of an existential problem that faces us all and continues to pose ever new challenges to humankind.
Of further psychological and philosophical interest is the debate on the question of how we recognize truth, which was a quest fundamentally important to Nietzsche all his life. After first having sought an absolute truth, Nietzsche came to realize, in the course of his life, how fragile this ideal was in the light of the subjective impulses that emanate from the instincts. This ultimately led him to refute the possibility of true knowledge. His life is an illustration of how close the annulment of truth lay to nihilism. Although Nietzsche attempted to overcome his own nihilistic impulses, it provides an important insight into his own failure.
A third essential issue discussed by Liliane Frey in this book is that of the danger which can result from experiencing the eternal or the divine. Using the example of Nietzsche's own experiences, she displays the often unconscious tendencies of persons so affected to acquire notions of their own heroic and superior natures, and to fall prey to delusions of grandeur and fantasies of divinity. This psychic phenomenon of inflation is a particularly portentous stage in the development initiated by the identification of the ego with an externally projected, godlike image. If, in a period of enlightened positivism, one attributes to oneself these numinous experiences, and in so doing forgets one's own limitations and ignores the shadow side, then the chances of repeating the conflictual fate of a Friedrich Nietzsche in one's own particular way are considerable. How might we come to terms with these indelible experiences, so that they could be profitably integrated into human existence? The author denies that a generally valid answer can be given. She proceeds to guide the reader to an individual appraisal of this profound problem: she does so by highlighting important aspects in the psychological development of a man who was destroyed by his own search for his soul. Not only, therefore, does the author cast new light on the life of Friedrich Nietzsche as reflected in his works, but she also illuminates some of the problem areas of psychology that are of great concern to us all.
We are very pleased that this passionate and genuine contribution by Liliane Frey is now becoming available to English-language readers.
Robert Hinshaw and Lela Fischli
In On the Genealogy of Morals (1887), Nietzsche wrote:
"Our educated people of today, our 'good people,' do not tell lies - that is true; but that is not to their credit! A real lie, a genuine, resolute, 'honest' lie (on whose value one should consult Plato) would be something far too severe and potent for them: it would demand of them what one may not demand of them, that they should open their eyes to themselves, that they should know how to distinguish 'true' and 'false' in themselves. All they are capable of is a dishonest lie; whoever today accounts himself a good man is utterly incapable of confronting any matter except with dishonest mendaciousness - a mendaciousness that is abysmal but innocent, true-hearted, blue-eyed and virtuous. These 'good men' - they are one and all moralized to the very depths and ruined and botched to all eternity as far as honesty is concerned: who among them could endure a single truth 'about man'? Or, put more palpably: who among them could stand a true biography?"
A hundred years later, an "educated person of today" has written a monograph of Nietzsche's work which, it seems to me, fully deserves to be called a "true biography" - not because it traces the dates and events of Nietzsche's life, but because it reconstructs his inner development.
Nietzsche is treated here neither with "true-hearted" nor "blue-eyed" nor "virtuous mendaciousness," but, as the careful reader will note, by an author who knows how to "distinguish 'true' and 'false' in [her]self" because she has "opened [her] eyes to (her)self."
Just as Nietzsche himself struggled with terrifying intensity to gain knowledge of himself, so his work is analyzed here in the pursuit of self-knowledge: neither objective learning nor subjective attachment and aversion are displayed in this book, which represents a search for "truth about man."
The tools employed in the course of this search consist predominantly of insights gained from depth psychology, those insights into the soul that Nietzsche had intuitively anticipated in such diverse and painful forms, but which were only fashioned into manageable implements after his death, during the development of the spirit From Freud to Jung (Liliane Frey's previous major work).
However, the apparatus of depth psychology has not, as often happens, become an end in itself by the insidious means of moulding the examined phenomena to close the circle and fit the initial theory. Quite the opposite is true: using the example of Nietzsche's life and fate C.G. Jung's psychology has once more demonstrated its validity, since it can help to "open [one's] eyes to [one]self" and give a clearer impression of "true biography," including one's own.