Joseph Anton Schneiderfranken (1876 – 1943): Himavat (1925)
Romanticism revived, or attempted to revive, the sacrality of the countryside, re-establishing the tutelary spirits of river, forest, grotto, and hill. As Ralph Waldo Emerson writes in Nature (1836), whose epigraph he draws from Plotinus, the ecstatic contemplation of natural phenomena entails redemption from routine, to which the ego maintains a spiritually diminishing attachment. Emerson writes: “The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable… They nod to me, and I to them.” The encounter with natural forces, such as “the waving of the boughs in the storm,” carries with it the paradoxical character of being “new to me and old.” The renewed familiarity, as Emerson divulges, “Takes me by surprise and yet is not unknown,” having an “effect… like that of a higher thought or a better emotion coming over me, when I deemed I was thinking justly or doing right.” Friedrich Nietzsche, who prized Emerson highly, distills the general figure of Nature into the particular figure of the Earth. In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Book I (1883), Nietzsche gives it to his eponymous spokesman to say, “The superman is the meaning of the earth” and, “My brothers, remain true to the earth.” (Hollingdale’s translation) The superman in Nietzsche’s rhetoric participates however in another figure. “I teach you the superman,” says Zarathustra: “He is the sea.” If mere man were “a polluted river,” then the superman, Nietzsche emphasizes, “must be a sea,” for only such “can receive a polluted river and not be defiled.” For Nietzsche, modern civilization has cut itself off from the sources of vitality; modernity lives – not quite the right word – in vacuous abstractions and needs to re-root itself in the elemental bases of the cosmos.