Nietzsche and the Baha'i Writings:
An Introductory Exploration

By Ian Kluge

Presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #130
Bosch Bahá'í School: Santa Cruz, California
May 22–25, 2015
(see list of papers from #130)

published in Lights of Irfan, volume 17, pages 111-178
under new title
"Nietzsche and the Bahá’í Writings: A First Look"
© 2016, ‘Irfán Colloquia

republished in Lights of Irfan, volume 18, pages 351-424
© 2017, ‘Irfán Colloquia

    First appearances to the contrary, the Baha'i Writings and Nietzsche's philosophy share a surprising number of features in common that allow Baha'is to re-vision Nietzsche from a new perspective. The basis of this re-visioning are the Aristotelian elements in the Writings which I have documented in a previous paper and similar elements underlying the works of Nietzsche who calls on man to "become what he is," i.e. to actualize his potential to become an Uebermensch.* In other words, both the Writings and Nietzsche analyze reality in Aristotelian terms: actuality and potential; essence/substance and attribute; matter and form; essential and accidental as well as causality. Both have a dynamic understanding of reality and both see human life as a process towards a new and superior form of mankind, i.e. as a quest for greater actualization of our powers. Viewed from a Baha'i perspective, being "beyond good and evil" also takes on a new meaning. Interestingly enough, the Baha'i Writings offer a way to interpret the "will to power" in a way that resolves various contradictory understandings. They also agree on the need for 'superior individuals' —called 'Manifestations' by the Writings —to guide humankind. Of course, there are significant differences between the Writings and Nietzsche, the most obviously being Nietzsche's sometimes hysterical tone in which he reaches rhetorical excesses that seem to lead his thinking into absurdity. One of these is the "eternal recurrence" which not only contradicts the whole tenor of his philosophy but also is negated by the second law of thermodynamics of which Nietzsche was aware.

      * I shall use the word Uebermensch because, as a native German speaker, I know there is no satisfactory or even adequate English translation of this word.

    Note: This article was published twice: in Volume 17 without footnotes, and in Volume 18 with notes. The PDF below is the newer version. [-J.W., June 2017]