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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Nietzsche’s Notion

Nietzsche’s Zararathustra is the teacher and advocate of the eternal return, “that everything that has ever been, and that is will return eternally and identically” (Chapelle, 1993, p. 17). This is similar to the ancient cosmological view “that all things and events are renewed manifestations of recurring archetypal happenings,” so the cosmology of eternal return thus provides a larger context for both Nietzsche and depth psychology

(p. 7).

According to Chapelle, “Nietzsche’s thought of the eternal return is among the most important items in Western thought,” it is “a radical response to the history and tradition of Western metaphysics. It is the lion’s roar, which frees the camel of its burden in order to liberate the playful creativity of the child” (p. 51).

The first part of Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1892/1978) occurred to him, or rather overtook him, while he was walking around Rapallo bay. Nietzsche took the same walk each day, along the same road, seeing the same scenery. A similar scene repeats itself in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, where Zarathustra is wandering in the hills and his awareness of his own repetition lead to an increase in consciousness and the notion of the eternal return and its affirmation of life. From this we see a connection between the idea of the eternal return, coming about both in Nietzsche’s life and mirrored by Zarathustra as coming about in everyday life, repeating itself over and over (Chapelle, 1993, p. 102).

Jung (1988), when discussing a passage from Thus SpokeZarathustra, about a river flowing back into itself, noted that the river “returns to the place where it started and so forms something like a circle—even if interrupted by many meanderings” (p. 1340). This sounds a lot like my dissertation! Jung then goes on to explain:

the idea that life, or the life of the psyche more probably, is an eternal return, a river which seeks its own source and not the goal, the end. It returns to the source, thereby producing a circular movement which brings back whatever has been. Here we can use another nice Greek term the apokatastasis, which means the return of everything that has been lost, a complete restoration of whatever has been. (p. 1341)

This is an important point to which we will return in the "Kaleidoscope of Culture" section, and while we are jumping ahead of ourselves, Jung saw in this circular movement, a circumambulatio, which Jung likened to the individuation process.

Nietzsche advocated the eternal return because a way to overcome historical time. Myths perform this function as they take place in a primordial non-temporal time, and thus take man out of his own “historic time.” They are a breakaway from time and the surrounding world into the sacred Great Time, at the beginning or in illo tempore. By listening to myths, the sacred stories of a culture, we are put in touch with the sacred dimension; this allows us to transcend our profane historical condition and contact a superhuman and suprahuman Reality that is inaccessible at the level of profane, normal, timebound human existence (Eliade, 1963). Profane time creates a veil in which we get wrapped up, much like Bentov’s (2000) idea of God underneath a pile of blankets. We become wrapped up in our own little world where we think that we’re “it” and take ourselves "oh so seriously" as a result. Depth psychology attempts to reconnect to the sacred, eternal patterns, helping us see that we are part of a larger picture, which helps us to not get so caught up in what we call reality. Nietzsche would have liked depth psychology.


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