Tell me: How did gold come to have the highest value? Because it is uncommon and useless and shining and mellow in luster; it always bestows itself.
Only as an image of the highest virtue did gold come to have the highest value. Gold-like gleams the glance of the giver….
The highest virtue is uncommon and useless, it is shining and mellow in luster: the highest virtue is a bestowing virtue.
Truly, I divine you well, my disciples, you aspire to the bestowing virtue, as I do….
You thirst to become sacrifices and gifts yourselves; and that is why you thirst to heap up all riches in your soul.
Your soul aspires insatiably after treasures and jewels, because your virtue is insatiable in wanting to give.
You compel all things to come to you and into you, that they may flow back from your fountain as gifts of your love.
Truly, such a bestowing love must become a thief of all values; but I call this selfishness healthy and holy….
Our mind flies upward: thus it is an image of our bodies, an image of an advance and elevation.
The names of the virtues are such images of advances and elevations.
Thus the body goes through history, evolving and battling. And the spirit – what is it to the body? The herald, companion, and echo of its battles and victories.
All names of good and evil are images: they do not speak out, they only hint. He is a fool who seeks knowledge from them.
Whenever your spirit wants to speak in images, pay heed; for that is when your virtue has its origin and beginning.
Then your body is elevated and risen up; it enraptures the spirit with its joy, that it may become creator and evaluator and lover and benefactor of all things.
When your heart surges broad and full like a river, a blessing and a danger to those who live nearby: that is when your virtue has its origin and beginning.
When you are exalted above praise and blame, and your will wants to command all things as the will of a lover: that is when your virtue has its origin and beginning….
When you are willers of a single will, and you call this dispeller of need your essential and necessity: that is when your virtue has its origin and beginning.
Truly, it is a new good and evil! Truly, a new roaring in the depths and the voice of a new fountain!
It is power, this new virtue; it is a ruling idea, and around it a subtle soul: a golden sun, and around it the serpent of knowledge.
…Thus spake Zarathustra.
Man has always thought about the meaning of virtue, but no man has ever brought the dimension that Zarathustra brings to the world of virtues. Virtue has always been preached by the religions as a means to reward, as a means to heaven, as a means to become a favorite of God, of existence.
But all these religions have given virtue an extrinsic meaning, a meaning that comes from outside, not a meaning that grows from within. Zarathustra brings a meaning to the word virtue intrinsically, just the way flowers blossom, and are connected deep down with roots, deep into the earth. They are not separate; the earth may not show the colors and the perfume, the beauty; but it is all hidden in it and becomes expressed in the flowers. The seed of virtue is within you, it has nothing to do with any reward. It is a reward unto itself. It is not a means to anything, it is an end in itself.
Zarathustra has to be understood very deeply, because this understanding will change your whole concept of a religious life, of a spiritual revolution, of a new man who will be religious but without religions; who will be religious but without any objectives; whose religiousness will be just a fragrance of his innermost being. And his virtue will be to share it, to bestow it over the whole existence.
Zarathustra asks his disciples;
Tell me: how did gold come to have the highest value? Because it is uncommon and useless and shining and mellow in luster; it always bestows itself.
The things that he is saying about gold are true about the highest virtues of truth, of beauty, of good, of love.
Contemplate on each single point that he is making: it is uncommon, it is unique, it is rare. The moment a virtue becomes common, it ceases to be a virtue. Its being uncommon, its being a rarity, its being something unique is its very nature. If everybody in the world is truthful, truth will not be a virtue anymore. Who will call it a virtue?
If being compassionate was a common quality of human beings, compassion would disappear from the list of great virtues. In other words, virtues are of the individual, not of the common crowd.
And secondly, it is useless. Zarathustra’s insight into things is so clear, so transparent, so uncompromising, that he has the courage even to say that virtues are useless. Because anything that is useful, is only a means to something else. The useful is always the means, never the end.