Thursday, October 25, 2012

Nietzsche VII: The Final Recurrence - Yes!

Scott Bradley


Perhaps the concept that has proven the most controversial among students of Nietzsche is his "eternal recurrence of the same", the idea that not only does history repeat itself, but that it repeats itself endlessly and in precisely the same way; you will eternally live again your life exactly as you are living it now.

It would be ridiculous, to my thinking, to believe that Nietzsche actually believed this to be the case. In fact, where he introduces the idea he begins with the hypothetical, "What if . . . ?" What if a demon visited you in your "loneliest loneliness" and told you this, how would you react? "Would it change you as you are or perhaps crush you? The question in each and every thing, 'Do you desire this once more and innumerable times more?' would lie upon your action as the greatest weight. Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?"

This is a test by which to measure "how well disposed you are to yourself and life" in this very moment. If you are affirming this very moment and all of life as it presently is, then you have discovered and become "the sacred Yes" of the liberated human being. If instead, it causes you to despair, are you able to see and embrace this other possibility, this life of affirmation?

As is generally the case, what is missing is the "how". But perhaps there really is no "how", or at least no means to state it; this is a psychological exercise, the effectiveness of which depends entirely upon the immeasurable workings of you. Can this exercise help to “change you”? But what’s this about change? Affirmation begins here at the root, where you presently are, and where change is no longer an issue, and thus change spontaneously happens.

What Nietzsche has presented here is yet another spin on the task of self-examination, not at all unlike Byron Katie’s questions intended to lead us to a life of “loving what is”.

I was surprised to discover this Yes!, so much a part of my philosophy, in Nietzsche, though I have read him in the distant past. We can be sure that he did not read Zhuangzi, but did he read Zhouzi?

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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