It bears little wonder that the chapter “On the Three Metamorphoses” from Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None”, (in the German original: Also sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen) has been referred to by various eastern mystics – it very accurately outlines the path to (spiritual) awareness.
Nietzsche describes a person’s life as three successive metamorphoses of the spirit. He calls the stages of this development the camel, the lion, and the child.
If this sounds too esoteric we might as well replace “spirit” with “awareness”. And awareness is what we need to succeed in life in general and in business in particular. It can be safely assumed that thriving entrepreneurs of course analyse the environment and rationalize, but that to a substantial extent decisions are taken on the basis of intuitive awareness of the situation at hand. Malcolm Gladwell calls this “the power of thinking without thinking”.
“Thus spoke Zarathustra” was published in sections by Friedrich Nietzsche between 1883 and 1892. More than 100 years later the relevance of the three metamorphoses has even been highlighted in a world of information overflow.
Here are the underlying assumptions of what Nietzsche is saying: Humans are born incomplete, we merely come into this world as a process with the potential for development. Evolution, however, is intrinsic to our nature. And a person’s evolution is realized through the stages of the camel, the lion, and the child.
The camel is all about assimilation of the past – assimilation of knowledge given by society. This stage is predominantly about memory and dependence upon the prevailing opinion about the world we live in. The camel is about being a good citizen in the sense that the greater the assimilation the higher a person stands in the esteem of the society.
The lion is a rebellion against the stage of the camel. The assimilation of common knowledge has reached a level that the inner self of a person rebels against the environment and discovers itself as a guide for authenticity and independence. Nota bene, the majority of people remain camels all their life. The lion is for example the entrepreneur who is being laughed at for doing something that “will never work”. The lion switches from heteronomy to an internal locus of control. The ego becomes self. Lions are perceived as a danger by camels and sometimes the lion can feel the camel inside “Can I really just make money from home on the Internet? Or should I rather pursue a respected career?” – It is indeed very difficult to rid oneself of the camel completely. The camel is about memory, the lion is about knowledgeability.
The last stage of the child is not merely a rebellion but a true revolution and might as well be described as enlightenment in eastern philosophy. So, according to Nietzsche the second childhood is the real one, and for Westerners this might even ring a “biblical bell”. In the stage of the child a person becomes utterly free from past and the future. This is the stage of creativity and interdependence, this is when personal happiness and economic success truly coincide. This is the stage of wisdom.