Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Thus Spoke Zarathustra (In German: Also Sparch Zarathustra) is a book written by the existential philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, published between 1883-1885. Unusual for a book of philosophy, it is also a novel, telling the story of the titular Zarathustra (named after the founder of Zoroastrianism), who after living high up in the mountains for some time, comes down and tells people of his ideas (particularly, the Übermensch). After he is at first mocked by the people at the first town he goes to, he eventually forms a small group of followers which he details his ideals to.
The book is written in a simple style, with simple characterization and a simple plot. The ideas are presented in passages spoken by Zarathustra to his followers which always ends in 'thus spoke Zarathustra.'
The book details many ideas. Nietzsche himself called it 'the deepest ever written.'
The Übermensch (translated as Superman or Overman) is the first idea that Zarathustra details to other people, and also the most ubiquitous idea expressed in the novel, and is probably the point of the whole novel. The Übermensch is one who goes beyond conventional morality and creates his own values.
From 'Thus Spoke Zarathustra' chapter 3:
'I teach you the Übermensch. Man is something that is to be surpassed...All beings hitherto have created something beyond themselves: and ye want to be the ebb of that great tide, and would rather go back to the beast than surpass man? What is the ape to man? A laughing stock, a thing of shame. And just the same shall man be to the Übermensch: a laughing stock, a thing of shame...Once were ye apes, and even yet man is more an ape than any of the apes.'
The Übermensch according to the last sentence in the quote seems to be connected to Evolutionary theory, though the sayings on the Übermensch doesn't seem to support this and is more of an overcoming of morality than of an Evolutionary step.
God is Dead
First appeared in his book The Gay Science, in the parable of The Madman. The idea appears again in the second chapter of the novel, where after Zarathustra comes down from his mountain, meets a saint who is singing hymns to God. After the saint leaves, Zarathustra remarks:
'Could it be possible! This old saint in the forest hath not yet heard of it, that God is dead!'
Another idea which first appeared in The Gay Science. It is the idea that your life, every single action that you take, will be repeatedly again forever. Faced with this knowledge, one must come in turns with it to become an Übermensch, to live your life in a way that you would want it to be repeated over and over again, with no fears or regrets.
Richard Strauss wrote a symphonic poem called 'Also Sparch Zarathustra.' in 1896. The opening was made famous by 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The DC Comics superhero Superman in his earliest incarnation was written specifically as a repudiation of the Übermensch concept from Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
Thus Spoke Zarathustra can be read here: