Nietzsche vs. Jung: The Revaluation of All Values

Values are born not made

- 9 min read

I shall probe these things more thoroughly and severely in another connection (under the title “On the History of European Nihilism;” it will be contained in a work in progress: The Will to Power: Attempt at a Revaluation of All Values
On The Genealogy of Morals §3.27

Towards the end of his career, Nietzsche presaged a great destiny for himself — the revaluation of all values (aka the transvaluation of all values). This was to be the ultimate transformation of Europe’s value system to move it beyond Christianity.

A few decades later, Carl Jung picked up the thread of this work and his work gives a more fleshed out and elaborated understanding of this work of the revaluation.

In this article, we will explore what the revaluation is, how Nietzsche thought about it, and how Jung’s work explains the deeper dynamics of this process of the transvaluation of all values.

What we are talking about when we talk about values?

A tablet of the good hangs over every people. Behold, it is the tablet of their overcomings; behold, it is the voice of their will to power.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra, On the Thousand and One Goals

Every culture has its own set of values. The phrase “Western values” is thrown around quite a bit in the multicultural melting pot of modern life. A people’s value system guides the direction of the culture’s development and highlights what is important on the landscape.

In the chapter of Thus Spoke Zarathustra entitled On the Thousand and One Goals, Nietzsche gives a few examples of values that cultures have had through the ages:

“You shall always be the first and excel all others: your jealous soul shall love no one, unless it be the friend”—that made the soul of the Greek quiver: thus he walked the path of his greatness.

“To speak the truth and to handle bow and arrow well”—that seemed both dear and difficult to the people who gave me my name [the Persian Zoroastrians] —the name which is both dear and difficult to me.

“To honor father and mother and to follow their will to the root of one’s soul”—this was the tablet of overcoming that another people hung up over themselves and became powerful and eternal thereby.

“To practice loyalty and, for the sake of loyalty, to risk honor and blood even for evil and dangerous things”—with this teaching another people conquered themselves; and through this self-conquest they became pregnant and heavy with great hopes.

In this context then, when we talk about values, we are talking about the matrix of shared values that guide the trajectory of a community. If you excel in the values of a community, you will have high status and be highly esteemed among that group.

But these values are not eternal. There’s an old Middle Eastern saying that goes, “the nature of the rain is the same but it grows roses in the gardens and thorns in the marches.” Your action may be the same but depending on whether it happens in 21st century Manhattan or 11th century Mongolia, the fruits of the action will be different.

Values determine the meaning of an action in a community.

The revaluation of all values

Another point worth noting in the context of this discussion is that God is already dead here; the threat of Nihilism is very much active and this is what Nietzsche is overcoming through Zarathustra.

The great challenge of Nihilism is that with God out of the picture, values seem to be arbitrary. There is no universal guarantor of meaning. And so we are fronted with a life and a world that has no intrinsic meaning.

Verily, men gave themselves all their good and evil. Verily, they did not take it, they did not find it, nor did it come to them as a voice from heaven. Only man placed values in things to preserve himself—he alone created a meaning for things, a human meaning. Therefore he calls himself “man,” which means: the esteemer.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra, On the Thousand and One Goals

There are a number of answers to this question; the existentialist answer — the category Nietzsche falls into here — says that we must create our own values. We give our own lives meaning.

The Nietzschean Revaluation

We know that values differ between eras and cultures. With the dark dawning of Nihilism, we also see now that these values didn’t come from God. So where did they come from?

For Nietzsche, the creators of the value systems were the collectives “First, peoples were creators”. But this has changed. Now it is possible for individuals to create values. And this is where Nietzsche’s life work comes into the equation.

Nietzsche’s vision of his work from the time of Zarathustra (1882) until the time of his slip into madness (1889) was the work of the revaluation. Zarathustra is the yes-saying part of this; the works that follow are no-saying.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra is the birthing of a new tablet of values but the work of revaluation is not just creative.

Change of values—that is a change of creators. Whoever must be a creator always annihilates.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra, On the Thousand and One Goals

And this is what Nietzsche is doing in works like Beyond Good and Evil, The Twilight of the Idols: How to Philosophise with a Hammer, and The Antichrist. These works attack the old value systems and clear the ground for the new.

But it is with Thus Spoke Zarathustra that Nietzsche creates values. We have come to an age where the individual creates values. This is the work that Nietzsche takes upon himself and it is what he had planned to do with his work The Revaluation of All Values which he abandoned before slipping into insanity.

The actual content of this revaluation for Nietzsche was the replacement of Christian values as our highest values. In Christianity Nietzsche saw a value system that said no to this world and looked beyond into the metaphysical hereafter for meaning.

The value system he wanted to enshrine affirmed this world, this life; it would be able to say yes to life and all that it brings whether that’s the highs or the lows. It was a value system that did not capitulate under duress to sweet little lies about an afterlife and a higher meaning.

For Nietzsche the highest value was health; by this he meant how much truth, how much life one had the stomach for.

To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities-I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not-that one endures.

The Will to Power §910

Jung and the Collective Unconscious

Carl Jung takes a different tact. With the emergence of psychoanalysis and the unconscious, the landscape of the individual and the psyche changes. While Nietzsche had intimations of the unconscious and the unconscious drives, it was not reified in the way it was with the psychoanalysts.

And with Jung the unconscious is not just a storehouse of repressions but it is founded on the archetypal layer called the collective unconscious. The collective unconscious isn’t a shared unconscious — as it is commonly misunderstood to be — but it is the blueprint out of which consciousness grows.

The word archetype is found in Plato and Augustine and points to the Platonic realm of ideas. The idea of the collective unconscious is analogous to DNA; it is the structure of the mind that we inherit; it is our instincts.

It is out of this layer that the archetypal patterns of mythology and “big dreams” emerge. The ubiquitous symbols of the dragon and the hero that is sacrificed, dies and is reborn — these are deeply charged symbols that bubble up from the collective unconscious.

The Jungian Revaluation

Gazing through the lens of the collective unconscious, the transvaluation of all values takes on a very different dynamic.

The work of revaluation is not done by an individual per se. It is not the ego that creates values. If this were possible, everyone who tried positive thinking would be as happy as Larry but that is not the case.

The unconscious is not so easily programmable by the conscious. Consciousness can cut to a certain depth but even this may be steered by forces outwith its control. What makes something interesting? What is the source of motivation and fascination?

These are things that are beyond the pale of consciousness. We might be able to influence them but we cannot control them.

And so when it comes to the transvaluation of all values, Jung tells us that we must not look to the conscious ego for the revaluation but to the deeper layers of the unconscious.

It is out of the primality of the collective unconscious that new values bubble up — new fascinations, new symbols, new values emerge and reshape our meaning of life.

We find this idea in utero in Nietzsche in §3 of Beyond Good and Evil he notes that:

most of the conscious thinking of a philosopher is secretly guided and forced into certain channels by his instincts.

While he does not connect it directly with his idea of the revaluation of all values we can see that for Nietzsche there is some appreciation that the revaluation cannot come from the individual but is still guided by something deeper.

This something deeper is the matrix of the unconscious as pioneered by the psychoanalysts with their excursions into the worlds of dreaming, mythology and the unconscious.

It is out of these depths that the revaluation occurs. It is not a process of creation in the sense of deliberate conscious work but a work of midwifery in which the values emerge out of the collective unconscious.

Nietzsche’s vision of transvaluation sees a new world of individual-based value systems; it’s a world where there are many creators going about creating their own values. And so it is not an updating of the tablets of values but a splitting off into many different tablets:

“Companions, the creator seeks, not corpses, not herds and believers. Fellow creators, the creator seeks —those who write new values on new tablets.”

Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Zarathustra’s Prologue §9

This collective unconscious is to some degree shared. The values of culture reorient together as new bits of insights and innovations arise. This is how culture proceeds — in a great stream together. A society does need multiple Socrates’s or Jesus’s; it needs one individual around whom the projections of the culture can collect.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.