Eternal return (also known as "eternal recurrence") is a concept which posits that time is circular, and that all history very literally repeats itself. In other words, the dinosaurs have lived an infinite number of times in the past, and they will live an infinite number of times in the future.
Likewise, the assassination of Julius Caesar has happened an infinite number of times already, and it will happen an infinite number of times in the future.
The basic premise is that the universe is limited in extent and contains a finite amount of matter, while time is viewed as being infinite. Since the number of possible changes is finite, sooner or later the same state will recur--must recur.
Indian religions Edit
The concept of cyclical patterns is very prominent in Indian religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism among others. The Wheel of life represents an endless cycle of birth, life, and death from which one seeks liberation. In Tantric Buddhism, a wheel of time concept known as the Kalachakra expresses the idea of an endless cycle of existence and knowledge.
Classical antiquity Edit
Friedrich Nietzsche Edit
The thought of eternal recurrence is central to the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche.
Nietzsche calls the idea "horrifying and paralyzing," and says that its burden is the "heaviest weight" ("das schwerste Gewicht") imaginable. The wish for the eternal return of all events would mark the ultimate affirmation of life:
- What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: 'This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more' ... Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: 'You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.' [The Gay Science, §341]
- Hatab, Lawrence J. (2005). Nietzsche's Life Sentence: Coming to Terms with Eternal Recurrence. New York : Routledge, ISBN 0-415-96758-9.
- Lorenzen, Michael. (2006). The Ideal Academic Library as Envisioned through Nietzsche’s Vision of the Eternal Return. MLA Forum 5, no. 1, online at http://www.mlaforum.org/volumeV/issue1/article3.html.
- Lukacher, Ned. (1998). Time-Fetishes: The Secret History of Eternal Recurrence. Durham, N.C. : Duke University Press, ISBN 0-8223-2253-6.
- Magnus, Bernd. (1978). Nietzsche's Existential Imperative. Bloomington : Indiana University Press, ISBN 0-253-34062-4.
- Jung, Carl. (1988). Nietzsche's Zarathustra: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1934 - 1939 (2 Volume Set). Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0691099538.