Nietzsche and the Eternal Recurrence

June 19, 2012 — 1 Comment

Text: The Gay Science; section 341

The demon:

A demon appears to you in your bed and puts to you that everything, every thought and every sigh, whether unspeakably small or great, must return to you, all in the same succession and sequence.

“The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over again and again.” (p194)

The idea that everything in your lived experience will happen again and again will either crush you, or be embraced as a divine occurrence. Think of your life as a whole, is it good or bad? Existential formula: Nietzsche doesn’t assert the eternal recurrence as a truth, but more as a hypothetical question to illuminate whether you are living in a life affirming way or not.

Text: Thus Spoke Zarathustra; On the Vision and the Riddle

What is the philosophical significance of Nietzsche’s idea of an ‘eternal recurrence’?

A challenge to theology, metaphysical systems from history, and science.

What the eternal recurrence is:

The eternal recurrence is put foward by Nietzsche in the form of a riddle in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. A dwarf is taunting Zarathustra as he climbs a mountain, comparing him to a stone of wisdom hurled in the air that must through force of gravity come hurtling back down to earth. Zarathustra then invokes courage; courage that slays dizziness at the abyss, of which pity is the deepest abyss. As deeply as humans look into life, so deeply too they look into suffering.

Zarathustra asserts to the dwarf that the dwarf does not know his most abysmal thought. A gateway appears which is inscribed ‘moment’. Stretching out in each direction from the gateway is an eternity. These eternities blatantly contradict one another. Zarathustra frames the eternal recurrence in reference to the gateway, when he becomes afraid and the dwarf disappears. In his place there is a dog. Then there is a shepherd with a snake hanging from his mouth. The shepherd bites down on the snake and is transformed into a laughing being.

Such is the riddle as it appears in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The idea of eternity repeating itself is not new. It comes up in many theologies, philosophies and myths across history.

What differs in Nietzsche’s conception of the eternal recurrence?

Text: Beyond Good and Evil: The Religious Character

In section 55 Nietzsche claims that sacrifice is characteristic of religion, all religion, starting with the prehistoric phenomenon of sacrificing the firstborn. During the moral epoch of humanity people sacrificed their strongest instincts; their nature to God. Finally, the time comes to sacrifice God Himself, for nothingness.

In section 56 Nietzsche identifies pessimism as Christian, and naive. Morality is delusion. The most high-spirited, world-affirming individual wants again what was and what is, through all eternity.

The individual existential view:

The idea that everything in your lived experience will happen again and again will either crush you, or be embraced as a divine occurrence. Think of your life as a whole, is it good or bad? Existential formula: Nietzsche doesn’t assert the eternal recurrence as a truth, but more as a hypothetical question to illuminate whether you are living in a life affirming way or not.

Cosmological thesis: that the eternal recurrence is a fact of existence.

This threatens free will, suggests that free will is merely an illusion at best. Purpose is questionable. Repetition renders the universe pointlessness, and so the eternal recurrence becomes an extreme form of nihilism.

There is a presupposition, connected previously with Schopenhauer, which no one would want to live again, as the suffering in the world out ways the good.

Msg of Zarathustra is that you have to face up to your most abysmal thought: this is what eternal recurrence does for you.

The interconnectedness of things is related to the highest formula of affirmation. He who is high-spirited, vital and life affirming will insatiably call for what was and what is through all eternity to happen again. This is the individual who says yes to everything.

Interconnectedness increases the scope of the individual, existential position to encompass the whole cosmological picture.

The eternal recurrence has to be affirmed, the world embraced, in spite of suffering. This separates the weak from the strong.

As a cosmological thesis the eternal recurrence replaces theological cosmology, we lose the idea of a creative act. This surpasses the difference between being and becoming.

We lose the idea of progress and goal setting. An alternative to the worldview stated by physics.

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One response to Nietzsche and the Eternal Recurrence

  1. 

    Here is a scientific as well as Vedic and Biblical approach to eternal recurrence. For little more details take a look at https://theoryofsouls.wordpress.com/

    Every object is periodic with birth maturity and death process. Every object also reincarnates after death. There is also a dark time between a death and next rebirth. Since the summation of multiple periodic events is also periodic, therefore there will be a longest period. This longest period is called Brahma day in Vedas. Similarly there will be a longest dark period which is called Brahma night. The length of the day and night must be same also, because the number of souls is fixed and finite. The day is about 8.6 billion years long.

    Thus we can think of this universe as something like that toy instrument with cylindrical rotating drum, with pins attached to it, over which a comb like reeds roll and create music. The drum continuously rotates and plays the same music over and over. Except that half of the drum is blank with no pins, which represent the Brahma night.

    The millions of destiny examples show that every event is precisely predictable. When and where a person will die and also when and where the same soul will be born next time have also been predicted precisely. A high level yogi can see all such events using divine vision or third eye. Thus all events are fixed and recorded in the universe. Memory is not in the brain it is in nature.

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