When you stare into the abyss (& other Philosophical Musings)

In this brief guide, we will look at the quote “When you stare into the abyss”, and some other philosophical quotes and theories.

“When you stare into the abyss…”

The quote “When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you” is a shortened and slightly different version of one of Freidrich Nietzsce’s quotes that actually is “And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

However, the meaning of “When you stare into the Abyss” is similar to what Nietzsche has said, in that when you spend long enough battling demons you eventually start to look and think like one.

Meaning of “When you stare into the Abyss” quote

The full quote that starts with “When you stare into the Abyss” goes “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” and it was said by Friedrich Nietzsche.

The meaning of the “When you stare into the abyss” quote is that when you spend too long dealing with harsh realities and tough circumstances, you eventually start thinking that way too.

It essentially alludes to the tendency of human beings to internalize the rough times and wrong values that they are exposed to constantly when they spend too long battling these beliefs.

The word “abyss” refers to a deep, almost endless cavern or hole and therefore, the literal meaning of this phrase, is to stare into endless darkness, or into a chasm that seems to go on into the dark forever.

To understand the actual meaning of the phrase, it helps to know the full sentence: “When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back”, or better yet, the original text that is mentioned at the beginning of this section.

This quote may therefore be rephrased as “When you confront evil, make sure it doesn’t influence you.”

A real world example of a situation in which this quote might apply is if a politician is investigating corruption, they may begin to see it everywhere and may themselves become corrupt as a result.

According to some other philosophers, this Neitzsche quote can also be used to mean the effect that study of anything at all can have on your mind and some others are of the opinion that it refers to when you go seeking out the truth in an “abyss” and it leads you to unpleasant truths.

“When you stare into the abyss” means to deeply contemplate something foreign to yourself, and which may have consequences on your concept of your own self.

Freidrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a German philosopher, cultural critic, composer, poet, and philologist whose work has been extremely significant in modern intellectual history and the study of philosophy.

While Friedrich Neitzsche is one of the most well-respected philosophers, he has also been criticzed fairly often for expressing somewhat anti-semitic opinions and his frequent crtiicism of women.

Earlier in his career Friedrich Neitzsche was a classical philologist before turning to philosophy and he was also the youngest person ever to hold the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel in 1869 at the age of 24.

He also had health problems that plagued him most of his life, and this actually changed his career direction significantly as well, and he completed much of his core writing in the following decade.

He also suffered from a complete nervous breakdown in 1889, when he was 44, and completely lost his mental faculties after which he lived his remaining years in the care of his mother until her death in 1897 and then with his sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche. 

Nietzsche died in 1900, but his writing spans philosophical polemics, poetry, cultural criticism, and fiction while displaying a fondness for aphorism and irony, and it has lived on through centuries, touching philosophers all over the world.

His philosophy tended to favor the critique of truth in favor of perspectivism and he also touched upon the related theory of master–slave morality.

Friedrich Nietzsche Philosophy

The Nietzschean philosophy is centered around the fact that truth is what you make of it, and that interpretation is essential to getting to the bottom of reality, which means that he ascribes to a very relativistic approach to philosophy.

Nietzsche described his approach to life and existence simply as, “there are no facts, only interpretations.”, which means that experience was far more important to him than the reality of things and how the world worked.

Also central to Nietzsche’s philosophical leanings is the criticism of traditional religion and traditional moral values and he was also strongly opposed to nationalism and centralized forms of government.

These ideas make their appearance in Nietzsche’s writings frequently in the form of phrases like “God is dead” and “Everything the State says is a lie, and everything it has it has stolen.”

Nietzsche’s philosophy may feel depressing and when he says things like “When you stare into the abyss” and so on, it may seem like this is a man with some of his own personal demons in his mind, but when one realises that his writings end in the “affirmation of life,” just as often, it makes sense that he sees both the positive and negative.

When you stare into the abyss and other quotes by Freidrich Neitzsche

Here are some other quotes by Freidrich Nietzsche apart from “When you stare into the abyss”:

“He who has a reason to live can bear almost any how.”

“To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.”

“He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.”

“Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.”

“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”

“We love life, not because we are used to living but because we are used to loving.”

“The future influences the present just as much as the past.”

“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh.”

“The true man wants two things: danger and play. For that reason he wants woman, as the most dangerous plaything.”

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives; who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves?”

“All credibility, all good conscience, all evidence of truth come only from the senses.”

“On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain: either you will reach a point higher up today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow.”

“In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”

“Ah, women. They make the highs higher and the lows more frequent.”

“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy.”

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”

“A woman may very well form a friendship with a man, but for this to endure, it must be assisted by a little physical antipathy.”

“Let us beware of saying that death is the opposite of life. The living being is only a species of the dead, and a very rare species.”

“Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter.”

“There cannot be a God because if there were one, I could not believe that I was not He.”

“One should die proudly when it is no longer possible to live proudly.”

“It is impossible to suffer without making someone pay for it; every complaint already contains revenge.”

“A pair of powerful spectacles has sometimes sufficed to cure a person in love.”

“There are various eyes. Even the Sphinx has eyes: and as a result there are various truths, and as a result there is no truth.”

“We often refuse to accept an idea merely because the tone of voice in which it has been expressed is unsympathetic to us.”

“When a hundred men stand together, each of them loses his mind and gets another one.”

“Those who cannot understand how to put their thoughts on ice should not enter into the heat of debate.”

“The world itself is the will to power – and nothing else! And you yourself are the will to power – and nothing else!”

“Our treasure lies in the beehive of our knowledge. We are perpetually on the way thither, being by nature winged insects and honey gatherers of the mind.”


In this brief guide, we looked at the quote “When you stare into the abyss”, and some other philosophical quotes and theories. If you have any questions or comments about Friedrich Nietzsche or Philosophical quotes like when you look into the abyss, please feel free to reach out to us at any time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): When you Stare into the Abyss

When a man stares into the abyss and sees nothing but darkness?

“When a man stares into the abyss and sees nothing but darkness” is a quote by Hal Holbrook, and the entire thing goes something like this “Man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.”

When you stare into the abyss meaning?

The meaning of when you stare into the abyss is that be careful of who you are fighting because we might become like those we fight against, or in other words, eventually we all become who we least wanted to be like.

The full When you stare into the abyss quote by Nietzsche goes like this, “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby becomes a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”.

Who said when you stare into the abyss?

Friedrich Nietzsche said “When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you”.

Although the quote when you stare into the abyss is widely credited to Freidrich Nietzsche, the truth is that his real quote when something like this: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”





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