The eagle: the proudest animal; the serpent: the most discerning animal. And both conjoined in the circle in which they hover, in the ring that embraces their essence; and circle and ring once again interfused.

The riddle of who Zarathustra is, as teacher of eternal return and overman, is envisaged by us in the spectacle of the two animals. In this spectacle we can grasp more directly and more readily what our presentation tried to exhibit as the matter most worthy of question, namely, the relation of Being to that living being, man.

And behold! An eagle soared through the air in vast circles, and a serpent hung suspended from him, not as his prey, but as though she were his friend: for she had coiled about his neck.

"These are my animals!" said Zarathustra, and his heart was filled with joy.

*    *    *


Nietzsche himself knew that his "most abysmal thought" remains a riddle. All the less reason for us to imagine that we can solve the riddle. The obscurity of this last thought of Western metaphysics dare not tempt us to circumvent it by some sort of subterfuge.

At bottom there are only two such routes of escape.

Either one avers that this thought of Nietzsche's is a kind of "mysticism" that our thinking should not bother to confront.

Or one avers that this thought is as old as the hills, that it boils down to the long-familiar cyclical notion of cosmic occurrence. Which notion can be found for the first time in Western philosophy in Heraclitus.

This second piece of information, like all information of that sort, tells us absolutely nothing. What good is it if someone determines with respect to a particular thought that it can be found, for example, "already" in Leibniz or even "already" in Plato? What good are such references when they leave what Leibniz and Plato were thinking in the same obscurity as the thought they claim to be clarifying with the help of these historical allusions?

Who Is Nietzsche's Zarathustra?

GA 7 p. 123