Lecture Ten: Life 10.3

10.3 Eternal recurrence of the same

We can now come back to the problem we encountered at the end of the previous Lecture. The will to power is constrained by its own past; that is, by its embeddedness in a network of conditions and relations that the will itself does not seem to have created, but that nonetheless determine what the will can or cannot create.

In a moment of high dramatic intensity, just after a powerful dream, Zarathustra announces the fundamental problem that afflicts human will. If will is will to power, and hence naturally driven to creation, this creative drive is also constantly held back and contrasted by the way in which the past constrains the will. On the one hand, every creative act is situated and one’s situation is a given, is something that comes from the past, something that can be dealt with, but cannot be avoided or ruled out at will. On the other hand, anything that is created becomes past, and is thus added to the way one’s situation constrains one’s creative power. While the future can be seen as open and contingent, the past seems to be necessary, since it can no longer be changed. In this respect, the past is the indefinite landscape that remains impenetrable to the creative will and actually contradicts its creative drive. If the will to power must be free to create and invent something new, it must also become free from the way in which the past conditions and determines it. But willing the past (or undoing the past at will) seems an impossible task; hence the will to create, the will to power, is actually imprisoned.

This realization is the great sleekness that Zarathustra diagnoses in humanity:

To redeem that which has passed away and to re-create all “It was” into a “Thus I willed it!”–that alone should I call redemption!

Will–that is the liberator and joy-bringer: that is what I taught you, my friends! And now learn this as well: the will itself is still a prisoner.

Willing liberates: but what is it called that puts even the liberator in fetters?

“It was:” that is the will’s gnashing of teeth and loneliest sorrow. Powerless with respect to what has been done–it is an angry spectator of all that is past.

Backwards the will is unable to will; that it cannot break time and time’s desire–that is the will’s loneliest sorrow.

Willing liberates: what does willing itself devise, that it might be free of its sorrow and mock at its dungeon?

Alas, every prisoner becomes a fool! Foolish too the way the imprisoned will redeems itself.

That time does not run backwards, this arouses the will’s fury; “That which was”–that is the stone which it cannot roll away.

And so it rolls stones away in fury and ill-humour, and takes revenge on whatever does not, like itself, feel fury and ill-humour. (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, II.20, transl. Parkes 2005, 121)

Life contradicts the human will to power (as part of Life’s contradicting herself)—this becomes clear from the way that the circumstances of human flourishing are constantly changing and thus devalue those values that have been established at some point. However, this is only the outer shell of a more fundamental contradiction which has to do with the very temporal structure of the process of becoming and change. All that the will creates becomes past, and what is past cannot be changed anymore since it falls beyond the scope and the reach of the will that created it. Now it can only be a burden, a fate, something that in turn will add new constraints to the will’s power to create. Even values themselves, once they have been created as an expression of the will to power and to affirm a certain life-form, become something of the past and a burden for the will, which has to conform with those values and is ultimately constrained by them. Insofar as willing the past seems impossible, the will is imprisoned by this temporal structure. The experience of imprisonment gives rise to the feeling of revenge, which defines the ultimate scope and aim of any conservative moral code aimed at the Transcendent. Zarathustra explains:

Thus did the will, the liberator, take to hurting: and upon all that can suffer it takes revenge for its inability to go backwards.

This, yes this alone, is what revenge itself is: the will’s ill-will toward time and its “It was.”

Verily, a great folly dwells in our will; and it has become a curse for all that is human that this folly has acquired spirit!

The spirit of revenge: that, my friends, has been up to now humanity’s best reflection; and wherever there was suffering, there was always supposed to be punishment.

For “punishment” is what revenge calls itself: with a hypocritical word it makes itself a good conscience.

And because there is suffering in whatever wills, from its inability to will backwards–thus willing itself and all life were supposed to be–punishment!

And then cloud upon cloud rolled across the spirit, until at last madness preached: “Everything passes away, therefore everything deserves to pass away!”

“And this is itself justice, that law of time that time must devour its children:” thus did madness preach.

“Morally things are ordered according to justice and punishment. Oh where is there redemption from the flux of things and the punishment ‘existence’?” Thus did madness preach.

“Can there be redemption when there is eternal justice? Alas, the stone ‘It was’ cannot be rolled away: eternal must all punishments be, too!” Thus did madness preach.

“No deed can be annihilated: so how could it be undone through punishment! This, this is what is eternal in the punishment ‘existence:’ that existence itself must eternally be deed and guilt again!

“Unless the will should at last redeem itself and willing should become not-willing–:” but you know, my brothers, this fable-song of madness! (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, II.20, transl. Parkes 2005, 121-122)

Revenge is ill-will against (or aversion to) the impossibility of changing the past and not being able to escape its determination, which is why it is experienced as a chain that limits (or imprisons) the will’s ability to create novelty. Revenge gives rise to the idea of an inherent guilt in life: since life makes it impossible to actually express the creative drive of the will (and life itself is nothing over and above the manifold unfolding of the will), life itself is suffering, and this suffering must be a form of punishment. From here, a whole moral of life-negation unfolds, in which the impermanent nature of reality is condemned as worth passing away, and the whole of existence ‘must eternally be deed and guilt again.’ The sorrow for the lack of power of the will to power when faced with its own past is thus at the heart of the conservative strategy that seeks some form of relief in a transcendent world, which can promise a future redemption while at the cost of blaming and condemning all that actually is and is experienced in this world.

The whole possibility for humankind to escape this conservative and self-destructing whirlpool hinges upon the possibility of learning a new way of facing the past, and somehow overcoming the impossibility of willing backward. This is what prompts Zarathustra’s own distinctive teaching: eternal recurrence.

The idea of eternal recurrence can be envisioned as a thought experiment or as a cosmological doctrine. However, limiting the teaching to a thought experiment only does not seem to do justice to the profundity that Nietzsche attributes to it, although accepting its cosmological value might lead to a series of metaphysical puzzles and problems that will eventually divert attention from how the thought of eternal recurrence should be used. In fact, it might be best to interpret this thought as a meditative practice of sort, that is, as a performative way of shaping one’s interpretation of experience so to make it favorable for the growth of the will to power and its affirmative and expansive effects. As a meditative practice, eternal recurrence does not need to be judged ontologically or cosmologically true to work, since its main goal is to reshape one’s overall way of understanding experience, and this understanding comes before any ontological or cosmological theory.

The thought of eternal recurrence is introduced at the beginning (§2) of the third part of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Nietzsche uses the image of a gateway (echoes of Parmenides’s poem are difficult to avoid), at which the path of the past and the path of the future meet in the present moment. From this standpoint, time is essentially circular, hence, willing something in the future involves creating and willing the past from which this same will arises.

To better understand how this might be the case, consider first the more usual linear progression past-present-future. Whatever is willed in the present will determine the future, but since there is no causal connection running from future to past, the act of will has no impact on the past itself. In fact, the will is conditioned by the past as the underpinning context in which it is necessarily embedded (given the relational nature of the will itself, as already discussed).

But assume now that time is not linear, but circular or cyclical.[1] This is best captured by thinking of time as a three-dimensional spiral, rather than a flat circumference. Under this assumption, willing in the present to bring about a certain state of affairs in the future entails that the future will eventually evolve in such a way that the same set of conditions that currently hold in the present will be instantiated again. It is not the case that we literally go back from the future to the past, but rather that the natural evolution of future states leads to a re-occurring of the same set of conditions that have already occurred. Hence, becoming does not evolve in an infinite manifold of new and different possibilities, but it maintains a spiral-like shape in which at some subsequent moment in time, the same set of conditions that occurred once will be instantiated again. Eternal recurrence is eternal because the process goes on indefinitely and forever; it is a re-occurrence because it re-enacts anew the same set of configurations that already occurred previously; and in this sense is a recurrence of the same. Notice that sameness here is not ‘absolute sameness’ (à la Parmenides), but a sameness that involves some degree of diversity (since the re-occurrence of something entails that minimal difference constituted by the fact that what re-occurs is a further or new instance of the otherwise identical configuration). This suggests that Plato’s theory of the five kinds and its accompanying relational ontology can provide a crucial framework for better understanding Nietzsche’s idea of eternal recurrence. In fact, Plato’s theory can provide a way of uncovering the conceptual connection between the will to power and this doctrine.

One intuitive way of justifying the assumption of the cyclicity of time is by assuming that if time is infinite and matter is finite, then in due course matter will have to assume once again all its past configurations, and this recurrence will itself go on indefinitely. However, this intuitive approach does not make apparent the further (and deeper) ontological connection that binds the will to power to eternal recurrence. Consider instead the structure of change and action outlined above. To create something new, the will to power has to will something different from the set of conditions that determine its current state. However, if the will to power wants novelty not only occasionally (or just once), but always, as its default way of operating (and this is precisely what the will to power wants), then willing a future to be different from the present will necessarily move it within a spectrum of options encompassed by the opposite extremes of sameness and diversity, change and rest. If the present is at rest, the will to power shall create change, but if the present is itself already changing, the will to power shall create a new form of rest. If the present is based on the establishment of transcendental values, then the will to power shall create change and destroy these values. But when the present is based on the absence of established values (nihilism), then the will to power will create new values. If these new values must be different from the old values, they will be based on the earth, and not on a world behind it. But once these new earthly values are be established, then the will to power, in order to bring forth something new, will have to destroy them and create new values, which will now be based on something beyond the earth. By willing new earthly values, the will to power thus sets itself on the track of eventually creating those same transcendent values that it now wants to reject and destroy. This is the terrifying implication of the eternal recurrence that is so difficult for Zarathustra (and for Nietzsche) to accept.

Eternal recurrence, by binding temporality into a spiral, dissolves the problem of the impossibility of willing backward. By willing the future, the will to power also set out the long-term conditions for the re-occurrence of what is now its own departing state. Hence, this very situation that is now present must also be understood as the result of the will’s own wanting it. The past (the set of conditions and situations that now binds the will) is not something gone forever but rather the long-term consequence of the will’s own resolution to always create something new. To foresee its distant future, the will needs to look to its own past. The past is what has been willed once, and also what has to be willed again and again in the future. As an immediate corollary, one can derive the theorem that becoming is not escapable.

In the third part (§13), Zarathustra is finally able to face this thought in all its implications, and he explicitly acknowledges that eternal recurrence is not really a choice, but rather a fate, since it follows from the very ontological structure that the will to power operates in. The real choice, thus, consists only in turning a blind eye to it (and thus ignoring or dispensing with it) or fully embracing its meaning and consequences. He also explains why it was so difficult for him to fully embrace this thought:

A long twilight limped ahead of me, a death-weary, death-drunken mournfulness that was talking with a yawning mouth.

‘“Eternally it recurs, the human being you are so weary of, the small human being”– thus yawned my mournfulness and dragged its feet and could not go to sleep.

‘The humans’ earth became for me a cave, its chest sank in, all that was alive became for me humans’ decay and bones and mouldering past.

‘My sighing sat upon all humans’ graves and could no longer stand up again; my sighing and questioning croaked and choked and gnawed and carped by day and night:

‘–“Ah, the human being recurs eternally! The small human being recurs eternally!”–

‘Naked I once saw them both, the greatest and the smallest human being: all-too-similar to each other–all-too-human, even the greatest!

‘All-too-small the greatest!—That was my loathing for the human! And eternal recurrence even of the smallest!—That was my loathing for all existence!

‘Ah, disgust! disgust! disgust!’– –Thus spoke Zarathustra and sighed and shuddered, for he remembered his sickness. But then his animals did not let him talk any further. (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, III.13.2, transl. Parkes 2005, 191-192)

As we saw in Lecture Nine, Zarathustra’s anthropology focused on human evolution and aims at creating the conditions for the arising of the overhuman. For instance, overcoming nihilism and asserting a new age of creativity (the evolution from lion to child) is set in stark contrast with the sense of resignation and failure of mere incomplete nihilists. However, if one scrutinizes the thought of eternal recurrence (and this thought is also seen as a consequence of that same relational ontology that underpins both the notion of will to power, and sets the problem of how the past constraints the will) then it becomes apparent that Zarathustra’s own project of renewal and assertion of a new tragic age will also eventually lead to the re-occurrence of that same conditions that led to the beast, to the last man, and to the camel, to the world-transcending view of religions, to the life-negating and earth-negating values that Zarathustra so passionately wants to rejects.

Notice the supreme Platonic irony of this observation. Wanting the new, it is impossible not to recreate the conditions for the re-occurrence of the old. The opposition between ‘new’ and ‘old’ cannot be conceived as the rigid contrast between two entirely unrelated states (or even ideas), which might at some point be divorced from one another. Both new and old are just elaborations on the more fundamental kinds of identity and diversity, and these are relationally nestled amongst one another. Hence, one cannot want to bring forth something new without also having to set the very conditions that will eventually led to the re-occurrence of the old as well. This point applies not only to the end-states or goals aimed at by the will, but also to all the intermediary steps, including all the struggles, destructions, wars, and devastations potentially entailed in (at least some) attempts to create something new. To put it shortly, passive nihilism and metaphysical escapism will not be left behind by the will to power that wants to supremely assert its resounding ‘yes’ to life. That very ‘yes’ will be the cause that will eventually set in motion the re-occurring of life-negating worldviews, and the same struggle to overcome it, again, and again.

Faced with this heavy thought, Zarathustra is encouraged by his animals (the serpent and the eagle) not to be afraid but to embrace his fate:

Your animals know well, O Zarathustra, who you are and must become: behold, you are the teacher of eternal recurrence—that is now your fate!

‘That you must be the first to teach this teaching–how should this great fate not be your greatest danger and sickness too!

‘Behold, we two know what you teach: that all things recur eternally and we ourselves with them, and that we have already been here an eternity of times, and all things with us.

‘You teach that there is a Great Year of Becoming, a monster of a Great Year, which must like an hour-glass turn itself over anew, again and again, that it may run down and run out ever anew:–

‘– such that all these years are the same, in the greatest and smallest respects–such that we ourselves are in each Great Year the same as ourselves, in the greatest and smallest respects.’ (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, III.13.2, transl. Parkes 2005, 192-193)

At this point we find the shift between the more cosmological and ontological dimensions of the eternal recurrence, and its moral and practical implications. Eternal recurrence can only be ignored or dismissed out of fear of its consequences, or else it can be fully embraced as a form of amor fati. The only genuine way of allowing the will to be actively creative, is by accepting that creating the future will lead to the re-occurrence of the past. But in order to accept this, one needs to accept and embrace that very past, namely, those sets of conditions and constraints that the creating will is determined to overcome and leave behind. Since the past is the will’s cage and the source of its sense of revenge and guilt, accepting the past requires accepting the heaviest and most dreadful burden that the will could experience.

The path that leads from the child to the overhuman does not consists in rejecting the past but rather in being able to say ‘yes’ to the most difficult and least bearable of all realities, namely, that same set of past conditionings that the will experiences as its archenemy, given that such a past imposes a stark limit on the will’s ability to create. Fully accepting eternal recurrence means accepting not just the ability to create something radically new but also the ability to accept those same realities that creation wants to replace and, further, accepting that any act of creation will eventually dissolve itself and lead to the re-occurrence of the same problems and old situations that the will now wants to challenge and leave behind.

As Zarathustra’s animals suggest (and notice that here Nietzsche stresses that Zarathustra himself is the learner who receives this teaching, not its proponent), the only way of facing this challenge is by embracing the whole of it, down to all its consequences, including the emerging idleness of creating something new only for the sake of allowing it to grow old, be overcome, and eventually contribute to restore the old point of departure. Why should one ever embrace such a view? Zarathustra’s animals answer: because there is no other way, this is your fate! Compare this answer with Kriṣṇa’s ultimate teaching to Arjuna we discussed in Lecture Six: action must be undertaken not for its consequences, but in order to actualize one’s own law, one’s own fate, and only in this lies genuine freedom and salvation. Nietzsche most likely did not know much about the Bhagavad-Gītā, but he nonetheless reaches a strikingly similar conclusion (even if his justification for it is different). Unlike Kriṣṇa, Zarathustra does not build his doctrine of eternal recurrence on the appeal to an ultimate unchanging reality, but rather on the ontological structure of becoming itself, which rules out even the possibility of such an unchanging reality (unless one sees these two opposite metaphysical views as two expressions of the same will to power, which in time is led by its own self-overcoming, to put forward one against the other, again and again).

Compare this also Clytemnestra’s wish in the end of the Agamemnon. She prays for the Daimon of the house to go away, to leave her and the rest of her community with their sorrow. She would be happy to live with less wealth if only the new precarious equilibrium established by the killing of Agamemnon could be maintained. But to some extent she knows that this condition will be overthrown. The beginning of Women at the Graveside explains that Clytemnestra dreamt of giving birth to a serpent, who sucked from her breast a blend of milk and blood. She, who has been compared to the lion (behold!) who eventually kills the family that raised it, is now the mother of another animal that symbolizes betrayal and, in this case, kin-murdering. Seeking the new, the same old scenario will have to be repeated. In this perspective, it takes Aeschylus’s invention of Orestes’s trial in Athens to suggest one possible way of seemingly stopping the cycle. But we can now wonder whether stopping it is possible at all. Perhaps Clytemnestra’s wish was more modest and precarious, but more sincere and commensurate to the nature of life and her inherent self-overcoming.

As Zarathustra’s animals stress (and as Greek tragedy amply illustrates), having to undergo one’s own destiny again and again is ultimately unavoidable. If eternal recurrence is the upshot of the relational structure of becoming and reality, then it will hold regardless of one’s preferences. One’s genuine choice, thus, has to do with one’s attitude towards it, and one’s ability to withstand this thought or not. Zarathustra’s fate seems to be that of one who should be able not only to withstand it, but also teach it to others. As the animals say (presenting what Zarathustra himself could or should say):

“Now I die and fade away,” you would say, “and in an instant I am nothing. Souls are as mortal as bodies are.

“But the knot of causes in which I am entwined recurs–it will create me again! I myself belong to the causes of eternal recurrence.

“I come again, with this sun, with this earth, with this eagle, with this serpent–not to a new life or a better life or a similar life:

“–I come eternally again to this self-same life, in the greatest and smallest respects, so that again I teach the eternal recurrence of all things–

“–so that again I speak the word of the Great Earth-and Humans-Midday, and again bring to human beings the tidings of the Overhuman.

‘“I have spoken my word, I now shatter on my word: thus my eternal lot wills it–as a herald I now perish!”

‘So the hour has come when the one who goes under blesses himself. Thus–ends Zarathustra’s going-under.’– –” (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, III.13.2, transl. Parkes 2005, 193)

The will to do away with the world and escape into some other world (the basis for the conservative strategy that poisons humanity) is based on the possibility of avoiding recurrence. Trapped in the prison of not being able to will backward, the will invents an after-life, a world-beyond, in which it could flee after death. The thought of eternal recurrence blocks this option and counters its possibility, thus evoking a more profound dilemma: faced with the repetition of exactly this same life, with all its joys and sorrows, would you be willing to will all of this again? Knowing that whatever you try to create will be destroyed, and whatever you try to destroy will be created anew by your very acts, can you still wish to fulfil your plans? Eternal recurrence is a way of putting the will to power in a corner, blocking any possible escape to a heavenly world, and forcing it to acknowledge its ability to embrace and will this earth, and nothing else. This earth is contradictory, dissonant, unpleasing, but also pleasing, harmonious, wise. The Heraclitean tone of Zarathustra’s insight emerges again:

Pain is also a joy, curse is also a blessing, night is also a sun–be gone! or you will learn: a wise man is also a fool.

Did you ever say Yes to a single joy? Oh, my friends, then you said Yes to all woe as well. All things are chained together, entwined, in love–

–if you ever wanted one time a second time, if you ever said ‘You please me, happiness! Quick! Moment!’ then you wanted it all back!

–All anew, all eternally, all chained together, entwined, in love, oh then you loved the world–

–you eternal ones, love it eternally and for all time: and even to woe you say: Be gone, but come back! For all joy wants–Eternity! (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, IV.19.10, transl. Parkes 2005, 193)

At first, the thought of eternal recurrence might seem to dismantle the very idea of the will to power. After all, if everything is doomed to eternally come back again, what is the point of willing anything in particular? Does not this thought take away any residual possibility for genuinely creating something new?

To answer these questions, it is necessary to look at the eternal recurrence as a performative thought, as a belief aimed at enabling a certain way of acting, rather than simply as a theory (a way of looking at a given reality). As a performative thought (a sort of meditation), eternal recurrence enables the will to power to achieve two goals. First, to overcome its imprisonment with regard to the impossibility of willing the past, and thus the sense of guilt and punishment felt with respect to the way the past determines present conditions. Second, by blocking to escape from the round of becoming, eternal recurrence presents the will to power with the possibility of willing sorrow itself and all the most disturbing aspects of life, instead of trying to flee from them (suggesting that power lies precisely in the strength to withstand the inherent dissonance of life). Both aspects counter any form of aversion that might be at play towards experience and its structure, and instead foster the ability to equally embrace both joyful and painful aspects of reality. The performative result of the meditation on eternal recurrence is a profound transformation of the emotional and conative structure that provides the background for one’s understanding of experience. The underpinning attitude towards experience in general changes; it is freed from revenge and ill-will and infused with a sense of freedom, lightness, creativity, like someone released from a cage and allowed to roam freely.

After all, at the basis of the conservative mode of the will to power there is both a certain susceptibility to suffering, and the inability to overcome it other than by seeking a world beyond. If this conservative mode is what makes humanity sick, the way out of this impasse is an empowering thought that can help the will to power to recover its more creative mode, and apply it to the very core of suffering, the contradictory nature of life and existence itself, embracing and saying ‘yes’ to it. From this point of view, eternal recurrence is not only a performative thought, but also the most tragic form of thought. It takes as its object the need to create a new way of listening to the inherent dissonance of life and becoming. It is a thought somehow enacted on the stage of life, suspended between semblance and truth, like in the best tragedies.

The expected outcome of this performance of the eternal recurrence is the creation of a new type of humanity, or perhaps something that can only be negatively related to what humanity is and it has been so far. Zarathustra calls this new product the ‘overhuman.’ Zarathustra himself is not yet that product, but the prophet of its coming. The overhuman is both a need and a possibility. As a way of reasserting the creative dimension of the will to power, it is the necessary way out from the swamp of nihilism into which humanity has fallen. And yet, there is no linear and deterministic path that simply leads towards the overhuman. Work (creative work) is required for this to happen. Zarathustra’s teaching of the eternal recurrence is presented as the key to unlocking the potential for humanity to overcome itself, as Life itself requires. However, Zarathustra (and Nietzsche himself) is not very explicit about how this overcoming can be concretely achieved. The meditative performance of eternal recurrence points in a certain direction, which has much to do with a reshaping of the human attitude towards suffering and contradiction, changing it from the no-saying mode into the yes-saying mode. But this is still little more than a fairly general pointer.

After having introduced the thought of eternal recurrence in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche does not elaborate at great length on it in his subsequent works. Rather, he devotes much effort to preparing his readership for the correct reception and understanding of this doctrine. Nietzsche mentally collapsed in 1889, five years after completing the fourth part of the Zarathustra. He did not offer a detailed account of the sort of practice that it is supposed to accompany and enact the understanding of eternal recurrence. This result can be interpreted as a failure on Nietzsche’s own part and thus as a symptom of the untenability or unviability of his ultimate teaching. However, if Nietzsche’s critique of metaphysical escapism is sound and we want to explore the possibility of some revival of tragic culture, not having a way to actually practice these views is even more disappointing, since they were actually meant to be enacted and performed. A possible solution in this respect comes from early Buddhist thought. But to appreciate how this could be, we need to first reflect on some unquestioned assumptions in Nietzsche’s view, and on the appropriate hermeneutic framework for bridging Nietzsche’s thought and Buddhist practice. This is the task for the next lecture.

  1. Thomas McEvilley, The Shape of Ancient (2002), chapter 3 illustrates how the cosmological view of the cyclicity of time was diffused at a very early stage, possibly since Neolithic and Bronze Age period, especially in Mesopotamian cultures. Two natural phenomena underpin this view: the observation of the Precession of the Equinoxes (roughly, the phenomenon in which the point in the sky where the sun raises moves slightly over time, and this leads to the sun raising eventually in a different constellation each 2000 years or so) and the problem of perfect tuning (roughly, the fact that musical intervals of octave proceeds by 1:2, while intervals of fifth by 1:3, but the two progressions cannot be matched perfectly to produce the whole scale). McEvilley stresses that human observation of natural regularities was key to the development of most ancient worldviews, and hence the observation of natural irregularities (as in the phenomena of the Precession or the problem of perfect tuning) would have led to intense reflection and speculation. The solution consisted in devising broader systems in which the irregularities can be subsumed in a superior form of order. The idea of a ‘Great Year’ in which a whole world cycle is accomplished could provide such a view. Notice that the idea of cyclicity can be associated both with an idea of decline (the current age is worse than the primeval time, the ‘golden age’) and renewal (in a perhaps still distant future, a new world-cycle will begin anew). Both aspects are at play in Nietzsche’s view of eternal recurrence.


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