Prometheus, Galileo, and Nietzsche
Verses Zeus, God, and Nihilism

This is my confession. I spent over a dozen years in college, graduate school, and post-graduate school. My majors were all in the humanities. However, most of my classes were in history, philosophy, and theology. Therefore, I am more than familiar with Friedrich Nietzsche. Nonetheless, my knowledge base was essentially lacking a great deal of any substantive grasp of Nietzsche. That being said, compared to the rest of Americans, I know a lot. Still, my limited understanding was severely limited.

However, in the twilight years of my life, I received a gift from a former colleague of mine several weeks ago. It was A Music Lover’s Diary. She knew that I loved music. However, if my knowledge of Nietzsche was limited, my knowledge base about classical music was nearly none existent. Liking some classical music does not mean that I am some musical aficionado.

Nevertheless, A Music Lover’s Diary has dozens of famous one-liners from famous people. Interestingly, Nietzsche was one of them. He wrote, “Without music, life would be a mistake…I would only believe in a God who knew how to dance.” After all the decades devoid of any meaningful understanding regarding Nietzsche, I have spent a great deal of time attempting to comprehend him.

According to Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Zarathustra retreated into the mountains at the age of thirty. He lived a life of isolation from the rest of the world for ten years. However, having comprehended his Weltanschauung, Zarathustra decided to return to the world and to tell them of his wondrous insights, which he discovered living an ascetic life.

Great star! What would your happiness be, if you had not those for whom you shine!

You have come up here to my cave for ten years: you would have grown weary of your light and of this journey, without me, my eagle and my serpent…

Behold! I am weary of my wisdom, like a bee that has gathered too much honey; I need hands outstretched to take it.

As Zarathustra approaches the rest of humanity, an old sage tells him that he will be wasting his time due to the reality that no one will believe him. And yet, that didn’t stop him from attempting the seemingly impossible attempt to teach the world.

The basis of Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra is that he employees Prometheus of Greek mythology as the main thesis. Prometheus stole fire from Mt. Olympus, which he gave to humankind as a gift, because he wanted to help human beings.


While fire was a blessing for humankind, it rattled Zeus into rage. As a result, Zeus punished Prometheus by chaining him to rocks and sending an eagle to peck him to death.

Zeus’ punishment of Prometheus

Nietzsche sees Prometheus as intellectually superior to Zeus whose power is simply brute strength. Once he presents his main thesis, he shows how it parallels with the Old Testament story of Adam and Eve eating from the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden, which is a Judea-Christian myth. Prometheus gave fire to enlighten humans, and Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge. Guess what, God was furious and caused the banishing of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.

God’s punishment of Adam and Eve

Another more recent version is that of Galileo facing the Roman Catholic Inquisition in 1633. Galileo bought into science over religion. Galileo faced being burned at the stake or recanting his notion that the Bible was wrong and that we live in a heliocentric universe. Zeus and the Catholic Church were both outraged with the issue of science replacing religion.

The Catholic Church’s punishment of Galileo

The Protestants had issues with Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species published in 1859. Again, the conflict was that science proved that evolution was correct and not the six-day creation myth. While Catholics finally gave in to Galileo’s scientific concept of the universe, many Protestants still maintain the creation story. The Scope’s Monkey Trial is an example of the creation myth.

Darrow defends Scope

Nietzsche claimed that God was dead due to science. Nonetheless, with the death of God, it created a vacuum called nihilism. Nietzsche knows that something must replace the dysfunctional God of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Enter Übermensch, which is German for beyond man, superman, or overman. Nietzsche wrote in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, “Man is a rope, tied between beast and Übermensch—a rope over an abyss…what is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end.”

Then Nietzsche concludes which addresses a seeming contradiction.

The most intelligent men, like the strongest, find their happiness where others would find only disaster: in the labyrinth, in being hard with themselves and with others, in effort; their delight is in self-mastery; in them asceticism becomes second nature, a necessity, an instinct. They regard a difficult task as a privilege; it is to them a recreation to play with burdens that would crush all others.

Thanks to my friend’s gift, A Music Lover’s Diary, I am attempting to become an Übermensch. I am 76 and know that I need to work overtime to move even a short distance to becoming Übermensch. Nevertheless, I’m moving, which raises the question whether you are starting to move.