Eternal Recurrence

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The use of eternal recurrence as a method of psychological healing in Irvin Yalom’s masterpiece “When Nietzsche Wept” continues to fascinate me, I want to expound more about it.

click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The illustration above is one of the great thought experiments of Friedrich Nietzsche. The concept of Nietzsche’s Eternal Recurrence simply rejects the concept of an afterlife, of paradise and inferno. Eternal recurrence means repeating all the events in our lifetime again and again, from the time of birth to death, consciously, without altering anything that transpired within that lifetime. This sort of reminds me of Albert Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus is a mythological creature punished by the gods. For eternity He carries a boulder up a mountain aware that it will roll back down. His task is to carry the rock up the hill in all eternity. To rebel against the gods,expecting the misery and futility in such as task, Sisyphus rolls the rock up the mountain with a choice to be happy.

In the novel “When Nietzsche Wept”. Dr. Breuer wanted to eliminate his thoughts of alienation, infidelity and the feelings of purposelessness of his life. Nietzsche urges him to think of the psychological consequences of eternal recurrence.

Breuer: You suggest, that every action I make, every pain I experience, will be experienced through all infinity?

Nietzsche: Yes, eternal recurrence means that every time you choose an action you must be willing to choose it for all eternity. And it is the same for every action not made, every stillborn thought, every choice avoided. And all unlived life will remain bulging inside you, unlived through all eternity. And the unheeded voice of your conscience will cry out to you forever.”

I always want to keep in mind this thought experiment. It will make my choices wiser, regret less and live life to the fullest.



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