Curriculum - Switzerland

Curriculum - Switzerland

Arête & the Intellectual Giants of Switzerland

“Nietzche put it this way – ‘that your very self be in your actions, as the mother is in the child’; the self which is arete (virtue), is the self which surpasses itself.” -William Taylor

Study and Discussion Assignments with Comments from WMT

When Sheehan Mitchell gave her report on the great Swiss theologian, Karl Barth, I was able to break in at one point with the information that he spoke to the San Francisco Theological Seminary student body in the early 1960's on the hill right above our seminar room in San Anselmo. Sheehan brought out how Barth had "opposed the Nazi regime and that he refused to take the oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler.”

The theologian/philosopher, Paul Tillich, was my favorite while attending the seminary between 1957 and 1960, while my fellow students were more sold on Barth for the most part. I presented Tillich’s view of Nietzsche at this seminar.

Nietzsche is the most impressive 'philosopher of life' according to Tillich. Nietzsche saw each life as a "process". One must actualize her own power in order to be. But this only comes if one takes on that which negates life, yet is a part of life.

Self-affirmation is the affirmation of life and of death - which belongs to life! The self has itself, yet tries to reach itself.

I shared my Nietzsche run thirty-two years ago when Zorathustra confronted me with the charge to go fully into myself as he stood in the shadows of the forest above Sils Maria. As I returned along the sparkling, fresh stream, I felt chilled by such a challenge.

Nietzche put it this way --- "that your very self be in your actions, as the mother is in the child"; the self which is arete (virtue), is the self which surpasses itself.

This will to power, or more life, becomes its own judge, its own victory. And, it stands beyond a bad conscience.

Tillich says that "Nietzsche is the existentialist who looks in the abyss and can say that 'God is dead'".

But there were five other great intellectuals who lived in Switzerland --- Lenin, Calvin, Einstein, Jung and Wagner.

Jenny Marshall, a sophomore at Drake, told us that "Lenin favored mass terror against enemies of the revolution". The 2007 group has no awareness of the narrow street that Lenin raced out of in Zurich in 1917 to bring about this earth shattering event. Last night on the news a Chavez of Venezuela was pledging full dedication to Socialism for the rest of his life. I think the students were surprised at what an impact Lenin had on the world. Jenny pointed out that Lenin was opposed to racism, was committed to the salvation of the worker.

Another junior, Max Slaughter, went after Calvin and the Reformation in a serious report on the lawyer in Geneva. I pointed out that the Reformation theology of the soventry of God is captured more fully in the Moslem devotion to Allah than in most Christian churches this day. That the Holy is holy for most Moslems. God cannot be compromised. Slaughter pointed out that the Calvinistic view of predestination left it all up to God, whether you were "saved" or not "saved". As a Moslem would say, "it is written". And some of us would say as Lawrence did on his way to Akaba, "if it is written, I will write it". Yet Tillich speaks of Absolutes (e.g., beauty). Do we not want to capitalize some words (e.g., the Serious, the Sacred, etc.)?

Stefan Cheplick, a senior, caught up in the "relativity" of basketball, told of Albert Einstein at the University of Zurcih. And then his time in the United States. For a brief time we discussed Einstein's support of the Jews going to Palestine, and his warning that they should not form a state in the Arab world. I mentioned that when Einstein talks about God, he is speaking as a physicist, not a theologian (e.g., "God didn't throw dice"). Well, as many Arete trips heard from me, "and what of Auschwitz"?

A third junior, Jane Elliott, told of Karl Jung and his early friendship with Freud - then their separation. Jane, who wants to go to Africa some day and swing around with Tarzan, said that Jung "concentrated on two dimensions of the unconscious (e.g., personal with forgotten contents and one's mental and personal life; and archetypes, the images, symbols and patterns of dreams).

Jane said that Jung is more popular with religious people today because of his emphasis on the collective unconscious, the images, symbols mentioned above, rather than with patients in therapy.

Jung concluded that the most important task for any person is to fulfill the process of individuation - harmony with one's conscious and unconscious, a person being whole. Thanks, Jane.

Senior Nick Giuiliani is not running for president, but he did tell of Richard Wagner and his home on Lake Lucern in Switzerland. Jung, incidentally, had his home on Lake Zurich. He told of the estrangement with Nietzsche, how he was hostile to the French and became very German in his orientation. Nietzsche was upset with Wagners emerging anti-Semitism and the Christian symbols and military hype he was presenting in his music. Nick also told of the pilgrimages to Bayreuth and the on-going Wagner cult.

Kristine Nowlain, a senior, provided biographical information on Nietzshe. The high school 5:26 miler told of his sickness during the Franco-Prussian war, his turning on Wagner, Germany, spending some ten years up in the Alps in Sils Maria in the summer, then the Winter in Nice (i.e., "niki", goddess of winged victory, Turin and elsewhere in Italy), and his dramatic loss of consciousness and the story of how he tried to protect a horse from a whipping on the streets of Turin.

The "Seven Giants of Switzerland" made for a compact seminar on a group of the most incredible figures in history. So much for the Alps and the Matterhorn.