• Jack Cummins
    1.4k
    Nietzsche said,,'What if some day or night a demon were to steal after your loneliest loneliness and say to you that this life as you now live it you will have to live once more and innumerable times more.' In other words, our particular individual lives are lived over and over again in exact detail. In he suggested, 'Everything becomes and recurs eternally_ escape is impossible.'

    Here, he is drawing upon the idea that time is cyclical, but he is saying more than that ultimately because to say that there are cycles.What he is saying that the universe, including our lives will be repeated again in eternal circles. As such, it is a particular slant for perceiving our mortal condition, giving a certain immortality to us if we perceive them in the context of not really ending in a final way because they will recur again eventually.

    I grew up believing in resurrection, having been brought up in the Roman Catholic tradition. But even then, I was confused about the idea of life after death because there was conflict about whether souls were immortal, or whether we remained dead until a resurrection at the end of the world. However, I did start wondering about reincarnation when I was about 12 years old. I wondered whether I could have been my grandfather, who died 6 weeks, before my birth because family members said that I reminded them of him. Also, one of my earliest memories is of being in a cot and of one of my mother's friends offering me a biscuit and I was thinking, 'I am coming around again,' Was I simply waking up or recalling a past life existence? Anyway, I have remained puzzled and perplexed about the mystery of life after death and it is in this context that I wonder about Nietzsche's idea of eternal recurrence as a solution to the mystery of mortality or immortality.

    My objection to his idea would be that it seems to be a bit too like clockwork, if lives recur in a static manner. But at the same time I do wonder if it could be true. If it was true it could help explain feelings of deja vu and precognton because the person would be tapping into the memory of previous cycles of their existence.

    The idea of eternal recurrence is not unique to Nietzsche's system of thought because others, especially in Eastern philosophy and one recent thread writer mentioned the idea being suggested in a book about block universe theory.

    The question is does the concept of eternal recurrence make sense for understanding our lives in the grand scheme of things?Does it sound possible as a literal truth, as a form of immortality? Or can it be seen as conveying a symbolic truth ?
  • Jack Cummins
    1.4k
    One question I will ask before giving up this thread is whether the life we are living is the ultimate one, or is it part of a larger picture from which to see out own mortality? Should we wonder about further lives or some larger frame of reference or should the question of any possible afterlife, in any all practical or abstract terms, be seen as part of delusion, imagination or even as an aspect of esoterica?
  • johnny
    1
    'What if some day or night a demon were to steal after your loneliest loneliness and say to you that this life as you now live it you will have to live once more and innumerable times more.' In other words, our particular individual lives are lived over and over again in exact detail. In he suggested, 'Everything becomes and recurs eternally_ escape is impossible.'Jack Cummins
    I believe this (Nietzsches) quote is highly metaphorical. By reading your arguement I fall in the conception that your view on this quote is literal. I think in this quote Nietzsche argues that we must act as if we will live this life repeadetly forever thus we have to make it worthwhile. In the original quote the Nietzsche asks us either if we would damn the demon (because we are not happy with our 'fate') or consider him a saint (because we are happy with our 'fate'). And also whether we would want to live this life again and again repeadtly throughout eternity. Nietzsche suggest that our answer should be an ultimate 'YES'. I believe the moral in this story is that if we are not able to answer this question with a strong yes, we should reconsider our life and make some radical changes.


    PS: I have just opened this account and this is my first post.
    Please excuse my bad English ( as it is not my native language) and my misconceptions in the post.
  • Jack Cummins
    1.4k

    Welcome to the forum, and I actually wrote this thread about 3 months ago and you are the first person to comment about it. Since that time, someone explained to me how Nietzsche's at some points in his life saw the idea of eternal life as literal and, later saw it more as metaphorical.

    However, you are correct to say that at the time I wrote the thread I was contemplating the idea as an objective one. I was wondering what it would be like to live the same life over and over again forever more. Deep down, I probably do see it more as symbolic.

    Your idea that if you would not want to live this life over and over again is a sign that it needs changing is one which I had not considered in relation to the idea of eternal recurrence. Nevertheless, I have been in many situations in which I wish to make changes in life and don't always find it easy because obstacles keep appearing stopping the changes. Changes do occur but slower than I would like and they seem to often involve new problems, like knots. So perhaps I am not living the path of eternal recurrence but a mythical life of knots. But the moral you point to is a good suggestion.
  • Joshs
    1.1k
    Your idea that if you would not want to live this life over and over again is a sign that it needs changing is one which I had not considered in relation to the idea of eternal recurrence.Jack Cummins

    Here’s an an interpretation of the eternal return from Deleuze that kind of plays havoc with the above thought. According to Deleuze , what is returning isn’t the same life but the ‘same’ always new becoming. Nietzsche believed that becoming was more fundamental than being, and that becoming wasn’t an arrow pointed at some end goal but self-overcoming for its own sake. That’s what Will to Power is about , not power over others but a continual self-overpowering and self-transformation. Heidegger says that it is Will to Power that recurs as the same. So imagining the eternal return of the same is becoming comfortable with the idea that life always ‘repeats’ itself as something utterly different.
  • Valentinus
    945

    As a matter of ethics, the idea challenges the notion that our life in "this world", as articulated by Paul, is an entry exam for the next life.
    On one level it is a joke. Nietzsche is suggesting that the exam that is supposed to validate entry into heaven amounts to repeating your life after it ends through a process of judgment. On another level, the idea is to accept your life as it is given and not compare it to something you are not a witness to. The repetition happens during your life. The uses of eternity toward different observations.
  • Nikolas
    85
    There is good movie on this idea called Groundhog Day" In this move our hero is an obnoxious weatherman. For some reason he is forced to relive Groundhog day again and again while gradually beginning to see the external world more realistically and less egoistically. Naturally his attitude gradually changes. Lots of inner meanings in this movie
  • Gregory
    2.2k
    Nietzsche was profoundly influence by Hegel, who's philosophy I can best express simply by the saying "your mind is changing as you read this sentence". I found that phrase and its idea in a book called Evolve your Brain, which I read a long time ago. It's connection to how Hegel works out his ideas came to me much matter.

    "Integrative changes in the brain come from integration of consciousness" is another phrase I just came across tonight. The spectrum of our perceptions is very wide and we quite literally desire infinite things. The idea that we live in an eternal cyclic universe sounds good, if only we can find satisfaction. Our mind is like a fountain, and our experiences are like water. "Movement is the language of the brain" (Anat Baniel)
  • Jack Cummins
    1.4k

    Actually, I am inclined to think that life repeats itself until something becomes 'entirely different.' This is based on my own experience of noticing repeated situations and patterns in this life. It is perhaps when we learn certain things from them, that changes and new circumstances occur. I am not thinking that this occurs through some divine hand of fate, but from within the depths of our own consciousness and being, which brings forth shifts in our circumstances.
  • Jack Cummins
    1.4k

    The way you are viewing eternal recurrence in the movie based on repeated patterns until one becomes less egoist sounds similar to the idea of karma. Do you think that the underlying truth of the two principles is the same?


    I would also say that your view of the essential underlying truth of the principle seems based on the importance of satisfaction. I am just wondering to what extent would this be about satisfying it, or of relinquishing it?I am inclined to believe that we are left with this conundrum because it is not easy to overcome desires, and do we really desire to overcome all of our desires?
  • Gregory
    2.2k
    I would also say that your view of the essential underlying truth of the principle seems based on the importance of satisfaction. I am just wondering to what extent would this be about satisfying it, or of relinquishing it?I am inclined to believe that we are left with this conundrum because it is not easy to overcome desires, and do we really desire to overcome all of our desires?Jack Cummins

    The school of thought embodied in the writings of Napoleon Hill says that we must make our desires stronger so that we can attain what we desire. This belief is based on the thought that our desires can be satisfied. It does seem very anti-Buddhist, but I don't want to speak for the latter's tradition. Whether a person should start throwing fuel on his desires or cast out the flame would depend on the desire and the person. Freud said that to suppress most of our desires results in rebellion of our unconscious. He wasn't very spiritual I don't think nonetheless, and might have basically been a quack
  • Jack Cummins
    1.4k

    I am inclined to agree with Freud that suppression of our desires results in the subconscious rebelling. I am sure that Freud had many weaknesses in his ideas. However, I think that if one reads his writings he does have a lot to say that is worthwhile.
  • Gregory
    2.2k
    I think that if one reads his writings he does have a lot to say that is worthwhile.Jack Cummins

    Ive only read his General Introduction book. It was balanced
  • Nikolas
    85
    ↪Nikolas
    The way you are viewing eternal recurrence in the movie based on repeated patterns until one becomes less egoist sounds similar to the idea of karma. Do you think that the underlying truth of the two principles is the same?
    Jack Cummins

    Why time can be defined as the repetition of a moment is really another deep topic but I do believe that karma describes what takes place below Plato's divided line.

    The universe as I understand it is governed by mechanical laws assuring everything turns in cycles as well as consciousness which makes conscious evolution beyond mechanical evolution possible.

    Our hero in Groundhog Day gradually freed himself from the effects of imagination through eternal repetition of the day so was no longer prisoner of karma and a creature of reaction but could become a conscious human being
  • Proximate1
    7
    Suddenly the thread comes to life.
    We make assumptions in that there is this phenomenon called 'time' which proceeds from the past into the future. Sensible because that is endemic to the human condition.
    But the universe may already be fully expressed and changeless. What we perceive as a changing universe is really our 'proximate' [I'm using this word right away] interpretation of what is occurring. As our experience seemingly rides over what our physical presence allows, we see an illusion of time unfolding.
    What may seem to be a Hinduesque cycle of life, may be more in the vein of a Taoist concept 'the Tao that can be experienced is not the ultimate Tao.
    Victor
  • Valentinus
    945
    It is perhaps when we learn certain things from them, that changes and new circumstances occur. I am not thinking that this occurs through some divine hand of fate, but from within the depths of our own consciousness and being, which brings forth shifts in our circumstances.Jack Cummins

    I don't think Nietzsche was proposing a fatalism for creatures in the circle he proposes. He expressly opposes a simple mechanistic view of the universe and uses the idea of the eternal recurrence of circumstances to bring the matter into focus. Consider the following entry from Nietzsche's notebook, The Will to Power:
    If the world had a goal, it must have been reached. If there were for it some unintended final state, this also must have been reached. If it were in any way capable of "being", then all becoming would long since have come to an end, along with all thinking, all "spirit." The fact of "spirit" as a form of becoming proves that the world has no goal, no final state, and is incapable of being.

    The old habit, however of associating a goal with every event and a guiding, creative God with the world, is so powerful that it requires an effort for a thinker not to fall into thinking of the very aimlessness of the world as intended. This notion--that the world intentionally avoids a goal and even knows artifices for keeping itself from entering a circular course--must occur to all those who would like to force on the world the ability for eternal novelty, i.e., on a finite, definite, unchangeable force of constant size, such as the world is, the miraculous power of infinite novelty in its form and states. The world, even if it is no longer a god, is still supposed to be capable of the divine power of creation, the power of infinite transformations; it is supposed to consciously prevent itself from returning to any of its old forms; it is supposed to possess not only the intention but the means of avoiding any repetition; to that end it is supposed to control every one of its movements at every moment so as to escape goals, final states, repetitions--and whatever else may follow from such an unforgivably insane way of thinking and desiring. It is still the old religious way of thinking and desiring, a kind of longing to believe in some way the world is after all like the old beloved, infinite, boundlessly creative God--that in some way "the old God still lives"--that loning of Spinoza which was expressed in the words "deus sive natura" (he even felt "natura sive deus").

    What, then, is the law and belief with which the decisive change, the recently attained preponderance of the scientific spirit over the religious, God-inventing spirit, is most clearly formulated? Is it not: the world , as force, may not be thought of as unlimited, for it cannot be so thought of; we forbid ourselves the concept of infinite force as incompatible with the concept "force." Thus--the world also lacks the capacity for eternal novelty.
    — Friedrich Nietzsche, Will To Power, section 1062
  • Jack Cummins
    1.4k

    Hello, I see that you are both new to the forum and first incarnated onto a thread which I wrote 3 months ago. No one seemed to notice and respond to it and it lay dormant and sprung to life a couple of days ago. Perhaps it was all part of an organic process. Personally, I am inclined to think that nothing is chance and we are all complex parts within wider cycles of time, but probably more complex than the idea of the eternal recurrence itself. I definitely don't his idea is an important symbolic truth.

    I hope that you find many fascinating discussions. It took me a while to get my way around the forum but it was the first forum I found. It is sometimes like digging below the surface of thread headlines to find the Philosopher's stone.
  • Jack Cummins
    1.4k

    Yes, I don't believe that Nietzsche's perspective was intended to be fatalistic. I am inclined to think that he was juggling between pessimism and optimism.
  • synthesis
    348
    Everything becomes and recurs eternally_ escape is impossible.'Jack Cummins

    Perhaps he referring to the little voice in our minds that play events over and over and over...
  • Jack Cummins
    1.4k

    I am not sure about a mechanistic picture, although of course there are fundamental laws in the physical universe. The idea of karma is meant to be about cause and effect. I am inclined to the view that this is complex and it is a bit simplistic to see it as reward and punishment. However, I do believe that inner consciousness has a determinant aspect and we have a role in creating what becomes manifest in lives. I think it goes beyond chance and that evolution is not a random process. Also, we are within cycles within larger cycles and it is often hard to see the wider picture.
  • Jack Cummins
    1.4k

    That's an interesting take on his idea. I certainly am bombarded by the little voices within which play back experiences over and again. Psychotherapy is all about this too and we could even consider the role of eternal recurrence within the therapy process as it may be about breaking the repetition of our thoughts about the past and patterns in our behaviour.
  • synthesis
    348
    And isn't one of the great benefits of mindfulness?

    Being present (cultivating awareness) creates a true past.
  • Proximate1
    7
    Ha. There is definitely room for all possibility in an 'infinite' universe. So your musing must be correct! [provided the universe is infinite- which I am inclined to accept on flimsy evidence].
    You specifically say- 'nothing is chance and we are all complex parts within wider cycles of time.' Looking at the semantics of the first part of your statement- nothing [probably meant in the context of 'excluding no elements'], is chance [where any outcome is derived from a set of circumstances which cannot be random]. This would set up a reality then excluding chance as being a factor in all real circumstances, yes?
    And so it is.
    Should your own proximate reality be able to create this possibility, which it does, then this scenario does exist in fact. What it says to other possibilities can only be derived locally- in effect by our own limited sensibilities in the present mind, as we all must as part of the human condition.
    Bully then, I can buy into this sentiment as you express it.
    But for fun I will deconstruct the semantics of your sentence to create something other...
    'nothing is chance and we are all complex parts within wider cycles of time'. nothing [in this case meaning 'no thing', which as I now interpret as intended to mean 'that which lies outside the universe of things']. Such universes would be totally alien to our understanding and yet still possible in an infinite universe, then the word combo 'is random' [in this case now reversing your original intent and affirming randomness by just rejiggering the context of 'is random'.
    So then these other universes can be totally random in the infinite domain and not even violate your original proximate construct.
    Now as for the later part of the sentence- 'we are all complex parts within wider cycles of time'... wow, that is a concept begging more contemplation- like a semester courses worth at university scale.
    As for myself, I'm not one to pigeon hole reality instead letting it prosper under its own accord. The capacity of people to muse at the horizons of oblivion is inspiring.
    Victor
  • Jack Cummins
    1.4k

    Actually I have to say that I find mindfulness more helpful than psychotherapy. I had some Jungian therapy while I was doing an art therapy course and it made me feel depressed, all this focusing on the past. It is important to focus on the present and that is hard because that is only a bridge between the past and the future. The now vanished before us. I think that if anything I have more difficulty switching off the worries about the future than the past, so that is perhaps 'eternal precurrence' or imaginary possibilities. It is probably through the what ifs of the future that I first began really wondering about the idea of eternal recurrence. I do believe in cycles though and I was even aware of them as a child, but the momentary reality of awareness is central, as even though it collapses and vanishes, all we ever have is moment to moment existence within the eternal 'now'.
  • Jack Cummins
    1.4k

    The one thing which I do have to point to is that we have moved away from the idea of eternal recurrence as expressed by Nietzsche. But having voiced an idea, that doesn't mean that it cannot be developed in a different way, but I think it is important to acknowledge doing so.

    In understanding life in cycles in this universe and in any others we have history and certain knowledge from physics but beyond that a lot is left up to imagination. I am also influenced by Eastern philosophy and, in particular, Hinduism sees time and life within cycles. I was aware of the Hindu view of cyclical time before I read Nietzsche's idea of eternal recurrence. Of course, I am aware that even though I have dipped into these areas I haven't studied them in depth, so I would not wish to present my own interest as expertise in any way. However, with ideas such as recurrence, I think that there needs to be scope for imagination. I just think that even though many people think that human knowledge is so vast we probably have so much that we don't know, and perhaps eternal recurrence can even be seen as an idea pointing to the infinity of unknown possibilities.
  • Proximate1
    7
    You are correct- we have moved away from the idea of eternal recurrence as expressed by Nietzsche. I just liked the idea as a lead in to understanding of deeper reality and used this thread as a pathway to explore it.
    Forgive me for not really having an opinion on the concept. This is mostly from the standpoint that the idea of eternal recurrence as expressed by Nietzsche has its place in reality but entertaining the thought that this or any reality conform to a given interpretation becomes mute as we move into deeper ontological precepts like the notion of infinite possibility.
    If infinite exists then if you move far enough you will encounter diametric opposites eventually to everything you perceive.
  • synthesis
    348
    Whereas I do believe people need to come to grips with their past, it seems like the most important part of growing-up is when you finally acknowledge that the past is past and your future is going to be determined (to a great extent) by what your own actions.
  • Jack Cummins
    1.4k

    Actions may determine the future but only partially. In particular, the events of the last year have thrown countless numbers of people's lives into jeopardy in a way which was not related to their actions. Life has and always will be unpredictable, even with the best will and action. People encounter all kinds of unexpected misfortunes often. I am not saying that there is no karmic law of cause and effect but it does not seem that the balance is always a fair outcome.
  • Valentinus
    945

    Well, he put himself up as an encumbrance, a bridge not easily crossed. I don't completely understand what he was saying. But he has had made my life more difficult.
  • synthesis
    348
    Just the same (and no matter what's going on), you have to play the cards you're dealt, right?

    Forward movement is the way.
  • TheMadFool
    8.6k
    I don't think time is cyclical and it doesn't have to be for eternal recurrence to be true. All that's required is for matter to, well, recycle and time can go on, like it does, to infinity in linear fashion.
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