The story of Violet


Were the Timekeepers of the Ancient World Autistic?
Archaeologists ask where ancients got the math for complex calendars.

When we read of ancient civilizations, there are many mysteries. One perennial question is how societies with (supposedly) no technology, no system of writing, and no known system of calculation managed to develop the mathematical ability to calculate movements of stars and planets. There is overwhelming evidence that many early civilizations did this with great precision; we did not surpass them until quite recently.

One question I’ve never seen asked in that context is this: Is there reason to think those early mathematicians and engineers were autistic?

During the past few years I have been studying the role of autistic people in history; particularly in the church. There’s a good body of evidence to suggest that churches have been home to autistics for thousands of years, and indeed we neurodivergents may have had a hidden hand in shaping many of the world’s religions.

For example, Isaac Newton is widely believed to have been autistic, based on accounts of his behavior and his own written words. Today we know Newton for setting down a description of calculus. Some say he invented calculus, but there are many autistics (me included) who can manipulate waveforms in our heads, and the written calculus may just be a way to share that ability with others. If that’s true in Newton’s case as well, then what he did was lay out for others an ability he was born with. In that sense, he didn’t invent anything. Instead, he described his different way of thinking.

But that’s “Newton now.” In his time, Newton wrote considerably more on theology and religion than he did on science. In his day he was more known as a theologian than a mathematician. When we go back in time, we find most scientists and deep thinkers were supported by churches. Prior to 1800, churches were the world’s centers of logic, reason, and abstract and scientific thought.

With that in mind, we can find many descriptions of autistic behaviors alongside the achievements of early churchmen. We even find evidence of accommodation. For that, look no farther than the silent orders of monks, or the reflective orders that spent their days in cool shade. Today we’d call that sensory-friendly. What did that call it then? It’s reasonable to ask how far back that connection may reach. York University archaeologist Penny Spikins posits that sustainable autistic traits made their appearance in the human genome some 100,000 years ago.

When we reach back a few thousand years, the written record gets mighty thin. There are few descriptions detailed enough to retrospectively consider whether any particular person of that day was on what we now call the autism spectrum. Yet there is a very strong sign that autism was there in the background. We see it in the calendar. And remember – the calendars were traditionally kept by the priests.

Ancient civilizations had very sophisticated calendars that were tied to long and short term celestial events. They forecast the years and the seasons with extraordinary accuracy. They also noted much slower changes in the sky – the cycles of precession that unfold over thousands of years.

It’s interesting to consider how calendars have changed over the ages. Today we use calendars to plan our days and weeks. We schedule what we will do at 10, and where we will go at 3. We note the day of a birthday or an anniversary. The events we record seem trivial, except to ourselves.

The ancient calendars recorded dates of more moment. Calendars counted the days since the beginning of the world, or they counted the hours till the end. They forecast the changing of constellations and the arrival of comets. Calendars told our ancestors when to plant, and even how to navigate. If you’ve never done so I encourage you to explore Mayan, Egyptian, or Indian calendars – you’ll find them incredibly fascinating.

Early calendars tended to be far more complex than the calendars we use today. They were also harder to maintain and calibrate, in the absence of electronics and standards such as we rely on in the modern era. At the most basic level, ancient calendars were tied to the sky, and built upon knowledge that must have been gathered and passed down for many generations.


Flexible Brains and Adjusting to a Changing World
Archaeologists ask why early societies needed such complex and far-reaching calendar systems. While that is a good question, a more interesting question (to me at least) might be, what kind of person could build and run such a calendar?

To find that answer, we need only turn to the autism community. Psychiatrist Michael Fitzgerald has studied calendar calculating abilities and other savant skills. He’s found that calendar skills are almost exclusively the province of certain autistic people. In his experience the people with the greatest calendar skills were often quite disabled in present society, but they could tell you the moon phase or day of the week for any date 500 years in the past or present with complete accuracy.

Archaeologists and historians have puzzled about where ancient people got the mathematical skills to construct and run their calendars. After all, they were not even known to have written language. So how could they have higher math? The answer is simple. The math was in the autistics. It was inborn, in their minds. Practice makes better, but formal teaching was not needed. That’s evident in today’s calendar calculators.

article continues after advertisement

Need evidence of that? Ask an autistic with calendar calculating abilities to show his work. He (she) can’t. It’s like asking me to show my work when I added musical waves in my head. It’s a thing we can do, but we can’t necessarily set down a written path for someone else to do it. Newton did for calculus, and changed the world. I’ve yet to see something similar for calendar calculation.

In the absence of that, it’s reasonable to turn the traditional archaeologist’s question around and ask: Who but an autistic person could have run the calendars of ancient times in his (her) head? The historians say, “there was no evidence they had math” and they may well be right. They didn’t need math. They had autistics.

And yes … science does suggest that. We may not have found evidence of computers in prehistory, but for some of us, the autism is in our genes, and for genetic evolution, prehistory was just the blink of an eye away.

So look where it’s brought us …

Dr. Fitzgerald noted that most of the autistic calendar calculators he found were living in group homes or institutions. They were said to be totally disabled, with average IQs below 70. Yet a Mayan or Egyptian calendar would be play for them. Indeed, play is probably a very apt term.

2,000 years ago, would that person be disabled or venerated, for the same ability?

It’s an interesting cultural commentary. We talk about all our challenges. Seizures, depression, language. But if you could keep a calendar in the time of the Pharaoh, there might well be some honor and accommodation beyond what we see today.

Not that it makes life easy – the lives of early shamans and priests are often described as tortured and painful. Honored didn’t necessarily mean comfortable. But it means we had a place in the world; something many of us feel we’ve largely lost today.

What do you think?

John Elder Robison

John Elder Robison is an autistic adult and advocate for people with neurological differences. He’s the author of Look Me in the Eye, Be Different, Raising Cubby, and the forthcoming Switched On. He serves on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee of the US Dept of Health and Human Services and many other autism-related boards. He’s co-founder of the TCS Auto Program (A school for teens with developmental challenges) and he’s the Neurodiversity Scholar in Residence at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

John Elder Robison is the author of Look Me In The Eye: My Life With Asperger’s, and Be Different.

Do Environmental Changes Explain the Rise in Autism Diagnoses?

Do You Think of Narcissism as an Autistic problem?

Psychology Today © 2021 Sussex Publishers, LLC

She took my gun away. Was trying to do well …now I am … but im reluctant this story.

Not making it up. This is no fiction. But gotta get it off my chest. Carleas knows about it.

I needed a gun. For self protection. And i hope this guy, my ex son in law who has got my grandson deals. He took my daughter’s life because she dumped him , found someone she lived, and could support her.

He moved in after her ex moved out.

Then on one Sunday night he took the little kid the apple of my eye, on Sunday night.

There was a flurry of communication between my Isabella my daughter and alwx, my son in law for the delivery.

It was supposed to be the unicorn

We didnt know a thing, not a thing, until it became too late.

The gun thing set it off. Originally I bought it for he is a rough crowd and it is a family business.

But she found me cleaning it, and says afterbdecades of marriage " It’s either the gun that goes or You will.

So i gotta get at least a quater of the price back fof I gotta fix her car’s door handle, someone tried to break into it. So I go sure, for i can’t afford to be thrown out at this stage.

Plus I love her cause I promised not to make the same mistake like my old man made walking out on mom.

But back to the story, just get to sidetrack at times?
Now I don’t feel that bad, cause I am not afraid to be shot, and now I’m clean in their eyes.

And Natalia says, that’s my wife, that if I get mad I’d shot her.

She can hardly wait for him to get arrested, but I kind of feel half heartedly sad for the kid for one time, were talking, and he says to his dad " are You also going to die daddy( for they told him, being 5 years old

Violet was here other name. She went to live in Asia, she was beautiful
She was in centerfolds. She lived her 15 minutes of fame, when with her girlfriend dressed only in lettuce, paraded near the basilica to protest cruelty to animals.

Then I got an urgent call for help. She worked six months in Manila in a TV show, and her agent, an older woman raped her and stole her wages, leaving her penilless. The maid who took care of her, wrote me that all she dies is view a movie called ’ into the wild’ , over and iver, and her flat was haunted and she was afraid to go into the sunlit street for barrages of autograph seekers tormented her constantly.

So I went, brought her back after two years of the suicide of her brother , my youngest son, fir they were so close.

She and her high school swearheart tied the knot soon after, and we were all concerned and hoped that he may help her forgett her brother.

He had issues, wrote a book , that I published under his name post humorously.

But Violet was really a gentle soul,l a sort of underlying sadness betook her, she tattooed her back in Thailand with the same pattern that Angelina Jolie did on her back.

So she goes and marries than, whom she was supposed to know, and everything unraveled for her. He was a dealer, drove i3 new infinities for which she paid, and proceeded to total one after an other.

She became an interior decorator, did well did some exteriors later on, in upscale places like along PCH, and her portfolio spoke of volumes.

Her last night . Seeking the unicorn, he was supposed to bring oxy, but brought fentanyl, and she and her current boyfriend couldn’t tell the difference for they wete both of purple color. She never woke up, and i found her as i did her brother a few years hence. Now the noose is tightening around her ex, who has costudy of the kud, and that brings it to this bitter closing.

All hoping for clisure, and I regret the Missus found me cleaning the gun, I promised to take it back and get at least a few hundred back so that I can fix the broken handle of her gun.

Why I bought it last year was a general fear if a possible social uprising where people will run out of food, and they may break into the house for food. Did not anticipate further use, but now, maybe it’s a good thing, fof now my only remaining worry, that if they get me, what will happen to my dear wife of many decades, to whom I have sort of become an emotional anchor.

I had a lot if legal hurdles to overcome, before I succeeded to gain 1 hour of visitation rights per month with the kid, my dears wonderful grandson, with whom I was supposed to attend child psychiatric sessions, but that promise became as empty and broken as his dad is.

I knew him since high school days and he passed for ok. but who would have thought he would eventually bring Violet down to drug dependency.

As it turned out, that was the only hold of control he had in her, and niw that she is gone along with her financial support, he is back with his son, my grandson living with his parents whom he detests.

The only comfort I have here that soon Violet , as portrayed in this narrative will here be soon firgot, her life, her sweet face, because this is only one little story within the thousands of forums buried here, and really who will unearth the volumous archives ?

I am kind of paranoid of the search my writings, but really it is my paranoia kicking in.
I know her soul is around fof we’ve had some occasional paranormal events like a strange owl staying with us, perched on the fence a few says, …

I have never seen that bird befire or since that event. Maybe she is with him now fir like i said they were cliss, very close.

The gun: I mentioned to someone here about it, but it became an obsession of retribution or protection for us, and I have to let that pass, as well, along with Buddha’s promise of redemption, if one can just let everything go, including deaf for one’s spoucd, progeny and most important : one’ self.

The story of the diamond, not flawless really. But it does have a story.

The story is simple. The diamond is not really much on terms of value. In a mall maybe 3M but maybe a third of that to sell. Ill go by the mall prize, thr gun was a glittering jewel to reflect the difference between my Christian love for him, and his otherworldly yhought, based on an ancient ethical code. That preceded the Talmud.

The story of violet and the story of the diamond can be similarly discounted" the diamond is really both shine. ,…i cannot go on tonight , the diamond has been sleeping underground, pressed against the inner layers of deeply buried diff, while violet the pure hearted kid, my grandsons mother has still can be heard as the sweet child waking to the early white glow of the sun, and the little kid on her bosom resting on the dew of promises those eternal rays.

The angels that know cant stand the burst of powder the gun emits , as christiam soldiers took back the holy land in the ages before the afterglows of civilized man.

The diamond Sutra.:

The Jesus/Joshua contraversy:

."The Platonistic philosopher Celsus, writing circa 150 to 200 CE, wrote a narrative describing a Jew who discounts the story of the Virgin Birth of Jesus.[117] Scholars have remarked on the parallels (adultery, father’s name “Panthera”, return from Egypt, magical powers) between Celsus’ account and the Talmudic narratives.[111] In Celsus’ account, the Jew says:

“… [Jesus] came from a Jewish village and from a poor country woman who earned her living by spinning. He says that she was driven out by her husband, who was a carpenter by trade, as she was convicted of adultery. Then he says that after she had been driven out by her husband and while she was wandering about in a disgraceful way she secretly gave birth to Jesus. He states that because he [Jesus] was poor he hired himself out as a workman in Egypt, and there tried his hand at certain magical powers on which the Egyptians pride themselves; he returned full of conceit, because of these powers, and on account of them gave himself the title of God … the mother of Jesus is described as having been turned out by the carpenter who was betrothed to her, as she had been convicted of adultery and had a child by a certain soldier named Panthera.”[118][119]

At this point, there is no point to reassert a common theme, for the cut off method and free association produce a sketch, merely a sketch of that impression that only a partially differentiated life can be inferred, where an alpha/omega structure will do away with such inference. By that, is meant the rigorous way that the beginning and the end has been instilled into every narrative. whereas cyclicality or eternal repetition is more likely.

Gertrude Stein comes ti mind.

"Making Sense: Decoding Gertrude Stein
Carly Sitrin
Read the instructor’s introduction
Read the writer’s comments and bio
Download this essay

On Saturday evenings in number 27 rue de Fleurus on the Left Bank of Paris, Gertrude Stein and her partner Alice B. Toklas played host to a gathering of noteworthy artists and writers. It was here in the early decades of the century that people flocked to view the women’s unrivaled display of modern art and share in their conversations as the expatriates waxed poetic about art, science, and philosophy. By surrounding herself with such avant-garde culture and innovative perspectives, Stein created a laboratory of conceptual and intellectual thought which heavily influenced her own writing. Although her opinions were coveted by the great thinkers of her time, Stein’s abstract poetic style has had a polarizing effect on those who encounter her work. In his critique entitled “Art by Subtraction: A Dissenting Opinion of Gertrude Stein,” B. L. Reid finds most of Stein’s writing to be “unreadable” and of no intellectual value (93). He claims that her poetry is “not for the normal mind” and asserts that it is not worth the time it takes to read it (93). Similarly, Michael Gold in his article “Gertrude Stein: A Literary Idiot” echoes Reid’s claims, and argues that “her works read like the literature of the students of padded cells in Matteawan” further stressing the insanity of Stein’s prose.

Reid’s and Gold’s analyses, however, are far too reductive. I agree that at first glance, and without any background knowledge, Stein’s poetry is challenging and seemingly senseless; however, I argue that Stein’s writing demands context to be fully appreciated. Since she was a highly educated woman who spent her days with some of the greatest artistic minds of the century, it is not surprising that her technique requires that the reader have a foundation of artistic and scientific comprehension. To dismiss her work as unintelligible is to refuse to put in the effort to understand it. Her poems and novels demonstrate that her educational background studying psychology under William James, her time spent around artists such as Pablo Picasso, and her years studying the language centers of the brain all played a significant role in how she constructed her writing.

Jamesian Psychology

As a student at Radcliffe College, Gertrude Stein studied under the influential psychologist William James and, in her Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, stated:

The important person in Gertrude Stein’s Radcliffe life was William James. She enjoyed her life and herself. She was secretary of the Philosophical club and amused herself with all sorts of people. She liked making sport of question asking and she liked equally answering them. She liked it all. But the really lasting impression of her Radcliffe life came through William James. (73)

Her years spent at Radcliffe saw Stein working closely with James, taking part in several experiments, and publishing her own articles in scientific publications. These experiments focused on “normal and induced motor automatism,” or actions located on the threshold between consciousness and unconsciousness (Weinstein 16). The experiments made use of automatic reading and writing phenomena for the most part, but it was James’ Psychology (1892) that contained a chapter that would most heavily influence Stein’s later poetic career. This chapter entitled “The Stream of Consciousness” combined his fascination with the psychology of consciousness with the psychology of language and use of words. The questions that plagued James—What is consciousness? How does consciousness relate to the whole personality? Is consciousness continuous or discontinuous?—are directly explored in the works of Gertrude Stein.

The concept of stream of consciousness starts with the idea that “consciousness of some kind goes on. ‘States of mind’ succeed each other.” He argues that as “ideas recur, although the ideas may be the same, we see them in different relationships” (Miller 13). More simply stated, the repetition of words and concepts can change their implications, just as the physical act of repeating a word aloud can alter its meaning. In Gertrude Stein’s writing, she utilizes this strategy of repetition to inject a deeper and more expansive significance to her words. For example, her poem “Sacred Emily” recounts in minute detail the everyday actions of a woman in her home. The piece consists of exactly 367 staccato lines repeating phrases such as “push sea” eight times in one line (33). While this statement may at first seem to be nonsense, according to Jamesian psychology, the more often it appears, the more the meaning expands. In this way, the phrase “push sea” transforms from the literal vision of a breaking wave to the kneading motion of the poem’s subject as she prepares dinner and, later, the motion of her knitting needles.

Following the Jamesian theory of transformational meaning, the famous line “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose” appears for the first time in “Sacred Emily” and is later found in several of her other works as well. This line can be interpreted as epitomizing the infinite forms of a word. The capitalization of the first “Rose” is in reference to a name while the following three refer to the past tense of the verb “to rise,” the color rose, and the flower (Ramazani 34). As a result, the constant repetition of the word causes it to alter its significance in the mind of the reader, thus imbuing what appears to be nonsense with more symbolic meaning.

The notion of repetition is further expanded upon in Stein’s use of Jamesian characterology. Along with his concept of “stream of consciousness,” James pioneered the assumption of a pluralistic universe, saying the “world is teaming with possibilities that can be actualized by man,” basically signifying that the personality is the product of what a person most emphasizes in his field of consciousness (Weinstein 17). He purports that habit plays a large role in defining a person. When utilized as a lens to analyze Gertrude Stein’s poetry, the seemingly tedious repeating phrases become the defining forces in a character’s existence. The most glaring example of this use of habit to define a person comes in Stein’s piece Melanctha, a portion of her larger work Three Lives. Taken at face value, not much is actually accomplished throughout the plot. Melanctha, an African American servant girl, tends to her ill mother, pursues three men, and falls in love with one of them. She then falls out of love, contracts tuberculosis, and dies. The story itself is simple; however, the art lies in Stein’s unique form of characterization. Rather than revealing the character’s personalities in their actions, Stein chooses to place the focus on the characters’ stream of consciousness and an omniscient narrator to divulge their traits rather than a sudden epiphany or willful action.

Paramount in Stein’s longer writing is her belief in the stability of a character. She accepts the Jamesian notion of characterology and expands upon it by asserting her conviction that, once a character is set in his archetype, the possibility of any major changes is unlikely. This again is evidenced by her use of repetition and habit in “Sacred Emily” and Melanctha. “Melanctha Herbert was a graceful, pale yellow, intelligent, attractive,” Stein writes continually throughout the piece (Three Lives). Despite the environment, Melanctha is always described exactly the same way. While this constant affirmation may at first appear to be monotonous nonsense, Stein utilizes this structure to convey her beliefs about humanity. Namely, because a person is permanently stuck in their character type, defining him or her consists of a constant cycle of assertion and realization of the same simple thing. The character’s thoughts may drift from subject to subject, but their core personality is always constant. Melanctha may fall in and out of love, she may live or die, but she will always be “graceful, pale yellow, intelligent, attractive” (Three Lives).

More specifically, Stein uses her verb tenses and word choice in Melanctha to dictate the characters’ personalities. Melanctha’s lover, Jeff, believes in “loving” and “being good to everybody” and “trying to understand” (Three Lives). His consciousness is filled with participles, qualifying adjectives and clauses as he struggles to achieve his emotions, rather than simply feeling them. In contrast, Melanctha says, “I certainly do understand,” thus asserting her definitive and logical nature through her verbs rather than through her actions (Three Lives). As a result of the importance placed on word choice, the events of the story can come in any sequence. Melanctha is the same person throughout the story, unchanged by her environment, which Stein proves by removing the logical progression of time.

A final tenet of Jamesian psychology used to portray characters in Stein’s writing is his notion of a “continuous present” (Miller 19). At its core, “continuous present” is the visualization of time as fluid and all encompassing. Rather than a traditional linear structure of “first, next, then, last,” James promotes the concept of every event occurring simultaneously in the mind. Stein utilizes this ideology in Melanctha by creating discontinuities in narrative time. The piece begins:

Rose Johnson made it very hard to bring her baby to its birth. Melanctha Herbert who was Rose Johnson’s friend, did everything any woman could . . . the child though it was healthy after it was born, did not live long. (1–3)

Nearly a hundred pages later, this information is relayed again almost identically. Although Melanctha and Rose’s friendship does not flourish until late in Melanctha’s life, the piece opens with their relationship and the eventual death of Rose’s child. This purposeful removal of chronological continuity, while seemingly nonsensical, is integral to Stein’s style. By presenting the reader with all of the important character information at once, the reader is forced to consider all of the facts equally. This closely follows James’ concept that what is emphasized in the consciousness, regardless of time or event, is the best measure of characterization. In this way through his notions of “stream of consciousness,” “characterology,” and “continuous present,” Jamesian psychology serves as a key to decode Stein’s seemingly erratic writing style.


Of secondary importance in Gertrude Stein’s life and poetic style was the cubist work of artists such as Pablo Picasso and Juan Gris. The artists were close friends with Stein and her partner Alice Toklas and frequently displayed their work in the couple’s apartment. As W.G. Rogers asserted in his book When This You See Remember Me: Gertrude Stein in Person, “Tender Buttons is to writing…exactly what cubism is to art,” stressing the connection that the artists forged. A basic description of cubism is the destruction, dissection, and reassembling of an object with the intention of capturing its essence. The idea falls in line with Stein’s belief of the “continuous present.” As Picasso wrote in his 1923 Statement to Marius De Zayas, “to me there is no past or future in art. If a work cannot live always in the present it must not be considered at all,” thus stressing his belief in the timelessness of any artistic style (“Picasso Speaks”). At its core, cubism operates on the notion that an object is not the sum of its parts, but rather every atom of an object contains within it the essence of the whole, and therefore can be rearranged at will while still maintaining the overall sense of the thing.

This concept of the strategic reassembling an object is explored at length in Stein’s book of poetry Tender Buttons. Take, for example, Stein’s description of “A Handkerchief”: “A winning of all the blessings, a sample not a sample because there is no worry” (24). What the piece lacks is cohesion. The words themselves are not challenging, just as a piece of cubist art is nothing more than a simple color or shape; the art comes from the organization as a whole. Stein’s work is not meant to be analyzed word by word, connecting the concepts of “blessings” to the common phrase “bless you” following a sneeze. Rather, she intends her poetry to be digested all at once, in the “continuous present” with every word carrying the same weight because every word contains within it the essence of the whole.

Another crucial principle of cubism is the concept that the subject is “veiled by the medium of description” (Lewis). For Picasso, the “veils” were the planes into which the painter broke up the canvas, while Stein’s “veils,” according to Marjorie Perloff in her book The Poetics of Indeterminacy, are the abstract patterns of her words. Perloff asserts that Stein’s objects “not only are fragmented and decomposed as they are in cubist still-life; they also serve as false leads forcing the reader to consider the very nature of naming.” In this way, Stein’s manipulation of her syntax, while seemingly random and senseless, is actually a calculated strategy enacted to shake up the reader’s preconceived notions of the subject. Eyeglasses become “A color in shaving, a saloon is well placed in the centre of an alley,” rather than two clear glass lenses in metal frames (Tender Buttons 21). This conscious action of portraying glasses without the expected combination of words forces the reader to see the subject in a new light. The initial confusion caused by the apparent lack of cohesion acts as a fog or veil through which the reader must actively try to see through. Stein is attempting to make her audience sit up and pay attention, to read critically and engage their minds just as Picasso wanted to engage his viewers in his art.

Linguistic Relativity

A final influence that gives context to Gertrude Stein’s writing is the psychological theory of Linguistic Relativity pioneered by Benjamin Lee Whorf and Edward Sapir, sometimes referred to as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Throughout her studies at Johns Hopkins medical school and her interactions with William James, Stein focused much of her education on uncovering the mysteries of the brain, with a specific concentration on the neural connections between consciousness and language (Weinstein 52). Among the theories gaining popularity during her time in school was the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of linguistic relativity, which, summarized, states that language influences thought. In this way, people speaking different languages would therefore have different perceptions of the world around them. With this in mind, what Stein seeks to accomplish in her writing is a completely novel view of reality. She intends to explore the limits of language in the hope that it will lead to an entirely new understanding of the world in which we live.

Among Whorf and Sapir’s more controversial assertions is the notion that, if a word for an object does not exist in a given language, then the individuals who speak that language must not think about that object. This concept is not proven or refuted by Stein’s writing, but rather explored. In her poetry in Tender Buttons, Stein purposefully avoids using common nouns when defining her objects and instead chooses to talk around the subject while still alluding to its existence. For example, in her poem “A Red Stamp,” the omission of words is just as important as the words she chooses to include. Consider a stamp. The words most commonly associated with it would likely include envelope, letter, send, mail, corner, etc. Stein, however, seems to be playing a form of the game Taboo in which she avoids these words of association at all costs. In doing so, she asserts that the sense of an object can be gleaned without typical or expected explanation. And, while Whorf and Sapir would argue that a culture with no word for telephone must not think about telephones, Stein would answer by stating that it is possible to indicate an object without stating it outright.

This strategy of talking around a subject to capture its essence adds to her desire to depict an object in its entirety. As expressed by her cubist influences, Stein’s writing revolves around the concept of the subject as a whole, completed, entity. Her pieces in Tender Buttons represent the reality of a specific item as reflected by her consciousness. This concept is most thoroughly explored in her poem “A Carafe, That is a Blind Glass.” Structured as a definition, she first gives the object (a Carafe) followed by its description. However, her description is not the general depiction commonly found in a dictionary. The key to Stein’s poetry is understanding that she is not defining a carafe. She is defining her carafe. The glass that she sees at a certain time, in a certain light, through her eyes, is different from any old glass on a table. With this in mind, the description becomes purely experiential and personal. Phrases such as “an arrangement in a system to pointing” may mean nothing to a reader sitting in a library because they were crafted to capture a certain subject in its full essence at one moment in time (Tender Buttons 9). Her poetry therefore is not meant to be understood and accessible to all, but rather a way of transmitting across time and space the experience of life itself.

With the consideration that Stein’s poetry is meant to capture an experience, what follows is the notion that traditional grammar rules do not and should not apply. Critics of Stein will point to her omission of traditional punctuation and abundant usage of verbs as crass or meaningless; however, this could not be further from the truth. Her refusal to abide by the laws of coherent language frees her to create new meaning with her poetry and stand as a maverick forming new methods of thought. Just as notes can be combined to form melodies and symphonies, words too can create music. However, the desire to form a “logical” sentence restricts the writer to using melodies that have already been written. When these restrictions are removed, the writer is free to conduct symphonies that have never before been heard. The cadence of her poem “Vegetable” is a perfect example. She writes, “it was a cress a crescent a cross and an unequal scream,” which, at first glance is complete nonsense (Tender Buttons 53). But, read aloud, read as music, the sentence is melodic and unfamiliar. It is a combination of simple words that has never before been written simply because of the fear inherent in not being understood. Therefore, Gertrude Stein uses her language to shatter the preconceived notions of reality and create a new perception of the world through her word choices.

By taking into consideration the influences of psychology and art on Gertrude Stein’s poetry, her words are transformed from puzzling gibberish to works of deep intellectual merit. In many ways, however, Stein’s stream of consciousness writing can even be taken as a form of Taoist meditation, as her exploration of the inner consciousness leads to her perceptual formation of her own personality. Perhaps Stein’s writing cannot possibly be understood by anyone other than herself. Therefore, the harder we struggle to understand her words, the more meaning we inject in our desperate attempts to stave off the emptiness that encroaches in the absence of complete understanding. Like Jeff Cambell in “Melanctha,” we are “trying to understand” and are constantly fighting our natural state of emptiness, when maybe what we should be doing is turning inward to embrace our inner chasms as Stein did with her poetry. After all, it was Robert Frost who said,

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces

Between stars—on stars where no human race it.

I have it in me so much nearer home

To scare myself with my own desert places. (13–16)"

The deepest emotion I have is my malice against the well-constituted as compared with the ill-constituted…Dwarfs, morons, idiots, imbeciles, hunchbacks, degenerates, perverts, paranoiacs, neurasthenics, every type of individual upon whom the world looked down, I loved…admired…and imitated.” – John Cowper Powys

Now, violetta, looks away.

She disdains the obvious.

"Look, those who can so easily dismiss a-priori or on the spot judgements, are simply very hollow men.

This is the very elementary preview of a dialectically meaningful felationship:

Either aim fof some kind of objective, implicit in the notion of objectivity, OR, you have only yourself to blame for the fear inspired state of mind to abandon any attempt to leap out of Your particular existentially determined contfaption, within Your particular context of merely implicit generally in some shared environment,.

Unless I may be wrong to state we are in the same boat, me in aft, appearing backward driven but forward seeking by obligatory presumptions, and You in front seeking freedom from determinating the course of action to take.

Of course, I have to suffer the indignity of bearing the drive shat through my heart of didection, as if such was beneath or beyond a post ascribed capacity to lead, which position obviously you have so magniminiously have reserved!

Of course, I have to suffer the indignity of bearing the drive shat through my heart of didection, as if such was beneath or beyond a post ascribed capacity to lead, which position obviously you have so magniminiously have reserved!

The reduction to the absolute 0 depends on eternal reoccurance, or, vice versa.



A Question of Nietzsche’s Texts

  6000 feet beyond man and time.

Ecce Homo

In Ecce Homo Nietzsche reviewed his own philosophical development with characteristically outrageous immodesty and equally characteristic literary brilliance. The book was written just before insanity was to stay his provocative hand forever. Less than two months span the first completed draft and madness; less than four weeks intervene between Nietzsche’s consuming illness and the published version of Ecce Homo. It isone of the most extraordinary intellectual “autobiographies” ever written, the penultimate work of an incredibly productive year.1 Only Nietzsche contra Wagner stands between Ecce Homo and Nietzsche’s collapse on a Turin street in the first week of January 1889. The preface to that last work is dated Christmas 1888, less than two weeks before his breakdown.

The origin of the doctrine of eternal recurrence is cited in Ecce Homo: “The concept of eternal recurrence belongs in August 1881. It was jotted down on a page with the inscription ‘6000 feet beyond man and time.’ I walked through the woods at Silvaplana lake that day; I stopped at an enormous pyramidal rock not far from Surlei. There the thought came to me.”2

Disagreements concerning the meaning of this thought, which seems almost to have invaded Nietzsche, continue to be rehearsed in the literature. Debates are often spirited and prolonged. Some early Nietzsche commentators dismissed the doctrine of eternal recurrence outright as a quasi-religious experience which is opaque to philosophical analysis,3 or worse still considered it “a deceptively mocking mystery of delusion.”4 Contemporary analytical philosophers tend for the most part to ignore the doctrine altogether, as indeed they tend to ignore Nietzsche altogether, too. It represents for most of them simply another conceptual excess in the work of a chronically excessive polemicist. Even among analytically inclined philosophers who find Nietzsche a valuable and suggestive philosopher, Arthur Danto and Robert Solomon for example, the doctrine of eternal recurrence poses a puzzle and somewhat of an embarrassment. The doctrine once unpacked is said to raise the question why Nietzsche should have been so enthusiastic about such a manifestly dubious, if not trivial, notion.

Some lines of disagreement are fairly well drawn among recent commentators as among past commentators. Nietzsche enthusiasts often wave the banner of “profundity,” sometimes as if they had a monopoly onit. “Conceptual analysis” often is a pejorative expression in their vocabulary, and conceptual analysis of thedoctrine of eternal recurrence is therefore viewed as a superficial and futile procrustean exercise; as impertinent child’s play. Eternal recurrence must be experienced, they often tell us. To the analytically inclined commentator, on the other hand, the uncritical Nietzschephile is a person who is addicted to clever prose, who falsely believes that a dazzling play of metaphors is an adequate substitute for philosophical analysis. The Nietzschephile’s paean to recurrence seems from this perspective to be little more than uncomprehending praise of incoherence or contradiction.

It is sometimes difficult to say who are Nietzsche’s worst detractors, Nietzschephobes or Nietzschephiles. For it is clear that even some of Nietzsche’s most ardent admirers often present us with a disingenuous antinomy: either contradiction and depth, or shallow coherence and lucidity.

The position argued in this manuscript insists that the contrary is true; that Nietzsche’s doctrine of eternal recurrence can be reconstituted as at once coherent and profound. This is particularly truewhen it is understood in terms of a specific strategy, a strategy which motivates much of his writing; namely, the presentation of an existential imperative and ontology in allegory which is designed to function as an alternative to the dominant tradition. When the doctrine of eternal recurrence is understood in such a context, the sometimes testy differences between analytically and existentially inclined philosophers appear irrelevant, perhaps even petty. For the critique of traditional metaphysics, religion and morality, which Nietzsche sought to provide is entirely consistent with both traditions. Nietzsche’s rejection of the dominant tradition eschews habitual ways of thinking and speaking about man and world. His rejection of traditional ways of thinking about knowledge, values, truth andother basic issues, is due in part to his critique of our traditional linguistic habits. An ontology of sorts comes ready-made within each natural language and is concealed within that language so as to be scarcely noticed any longer, Nietzsche argues. The theory which pervades our theory-laden perception and speech appears to the perceiver and speaker to be entirely natural. Like Kant’s forms of perception (Anschauung), perceiving, thinking, and speaking seem to us to be scarcely possible in ways other than the way in which we perceive, think, and speak. So for those who stress Nietzsche’s attempt to liberate us from former metaphysical habits and do so in the linguistic idiom, his intention is not irrelevant to the philosophy which has come to dominate Anglo-American philosophy from Carnap and Wittgenstein, (early and late) to Quine, Kripke and Unger. On theother hand, Nietzsche’s critique is certainly not restricted to nor motivated by linguistic considerations alone. Such considerations play a role, to be sure. But the habits which Nietzsche would have us transform are habits of living. The form which has to be overcome is a form of life, not just of thought and speech. Habits of thought and speech may imprison us in their nihilistic grip. But redemption from nihilism, overcoming alienation by retrieving a paradigmatic way of being human, involves more than overcoming traditional thought and speech, for Nietzsche frequently suggests that metaphysical thinking and speaking are an expression of nihilism, not the cause of it. And consideration of such matters does not seem alien to Heidegger, Jaspers, Sartre, or Habermas, for example. My general point, then, is that Nietzsche straddles both traditions (and many others besides).5 The presentation of what I am calling an ontology in allegory, a “theory” which is designed to liberate us from the dominant tradition, should therefore be of considerable interest and significance to philosophers generally, quite apart from ideological and methodological predilections.

Much preliminary work needs to be done, however, before many of these bare assertions can make much sense. In particular, we need to ask once again what it is that recurs. And since Nietzsche himself tended to distinguish between the foundation of the doctrine and its effect,6 we too shall employ that heuristic and consider first the cluster of problems which the foundation of the doctrine raises: the empirical version of the doctrine of eternal recurrence.


Commentators quarrel not merely about the nuances of the doctrine of eternal recurrence but about its gross outlines. There are those who believe that Nietzsche’s doctrine is intended to sanction the view that nothing in fact recurs empirically.7 There are those, however, who believe that Nietzsche’s doctrine of eternal recurrence is intended to sanction the view that some specific thing or things recur;8 and there are those who believe that Nietzsche’s doctrine of eternal recurrence is intended to sanction the view that everything recurs.9 The logically possible options, grosso modo, have been exhausted in answer to our question, “What recurs?”

Many Nietzsche scholars, however, tend reluctantly to advance the view that Nietzsche had hoped to demonstrate that everything in fact recurs eternally under the yoke of his doctrine. At the same time, it is commonly held that eternal recurrence simultaneously and primarily asserts that we ought to behave as if everything recurs eternally. Let us use a convenient and commonly employed distinction here and characterize the factual claim as “empirical,” the other as “normative.” Within the mainstream of Nietzsche scholarship, then, the doctrine of eternal recurrence has been approached from two points of vantage, normative and empirical.

A distinction between normative and empirical versions of the doctrine of eternal recurrence is neither generic nor immune to counter examples, to be sure. Even a moment’s reflection indicates that the empirical and normative versions are not mutually exclusive. If, for example, there are thought to be a finite number of possible world-states, states ofthe universe, which recur eternally, and if human actions are conceived by Nietzsche to be a part of any such given world-state, then human actions are in some sense fated, governed, or bound within the doctrine of eternal recurrence. If the answer to our empirical-looking question, “What recurs?” is “Everything,” then that alleged fact presumably impinges on a quite different normative question, namely, “How ought I to behave?” In thiscontext the cosmology of the doctrine has a bearing on normative considerations, and the distinction between empirical and normative renditions and criteria seems to collapse. For it is hard to know what to make of the exhortation to live as if our lives recur eternally if that advice entails or implies a cyclical cosmology a priori. The difficulty is plain enough. It is hard to know what to make of the exhortation to live as if our lives recur eternally if they do in fact recur eternally. Consider a most unsympathetic analogous example. What sense could be made of the exhortation to live as if subject to the law of gravity? Nietzsche’s uneasy merger of normative imperative and cyclical cosmology is expressed stunningly in KGW V2, p. 403 and GOA Nachlass XII, 64: “My doctrine declares: the task is to live in such a way that you must wish to live again—you will anyway.” The critic’s reply is that how I now live is a recurrence, too. Then how I now live must be how I lived an infinite number of previous occasions. But I can only live in such a way that I must wish to live again if, in previous recurrences, I lived in such a way that I must wish to live again. And so on. The descriptive version of recurrence appears to embrace a fatalism which defeats the imperative force of the normative rendition. This will be considered later in detail, of course.

Distinguishing two versions of Nietzsche’s doctrine, empirical and normative, is useful primarily in differentiating the emphasis of each Nietzsche entry which has the doctrine of eternal recurrence as its subject. So, for example, when Nietzsche asserts above that “The task is to live in such a way that you must wish to live again,” this part ought to be construed as a normative entry. Where, on the other hand, Nietzsche seems to argue primarily from empirical considerations, as when he speaks in terms of a finite sum of energy, a finite number of energy configurations, and finite space, all of them in infinite time, such entries may reasonably be regarded as primarily empirical in intention. That is our proposed method to sort through the texts for now.

All of these preliminaries may appear to be overly careful or subtle, a case of excessive attention to detail. Too many trees, no forest. It might even appear to be much ado about nothing. But the curious fact is, that while much has been written about the cosmological version of Nietzsche’s doctrine of eternal recurrence, and much more claimed about it still, insufficient attention has been devoted to the language in which that doctrine is couched. Yet it is an axiom of scholarship in the history of philosophy that where one is confronted with conflicting interpretations of fundamental doctrines the texts must be scrutinized more closely, not less.

Nietzsche commentators have generally supposed that the language of his cosmology of recurrence is clear and that for the most part other interpretative questions alone remain. I do not believe that that is the case, however. The purpose of the textual analysis which follows, then, is neither irrelevant digression, nor a confusion of textual and conceptual analysis. Rather, careful attention to the language of Nietzsche’s alleged “proof” of recurrence seems to show that no such “proof” exists unambiguously. Further, and more troubling, the textual evidence may be taken to suggest that perhaps there can be no unambiguous empirical argument for recurrence in Nietzsche’s works at all, and that he was himself aware of this fact.

Of the two versions of the doctrine of eternal recurrence which we have distinguished, normative and empirical, no sustained argument for the cosmological status of eternal recurrence exists in any work published by Nietzsche or authorized by him for publication. References to the empirical requirements of the doctrine are to be found only in the Nachlass.10 Specifically, the doctrine of eternal recurrence is unmistakably presented in the form of an empirical hypothesis in the notes from the period during which Nietzsche wrote Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft (The Gay Science) and in notes published initially by his sister in his behalf under the title The Will to Power. In the published version of The Gay Science the doctrine of eternal recurrence is presented in hypothetical language only, as we saw in a previous chapter. Recall, if you will, from Chapter One11 that in The Gay Science you are asked toimagine the following situation: A demon “sneaks after you” one day or night and asks you “what if” the life you are presently leading you would have to live not simply once more but innumerable times more. Nothing would be different, you are told. Every sigh, every joy, each sorrow will be relived in the same sequence and order. Considering this state-of-affairs, the demon then asks whether you would prostrate yourself and gnash your teeth in the face of such an unwelcome depiction. Or would you find such a picture exhilarating beyond belief, saying to the messenger “You are a god and never have I heard anything more godly”? For the aphorism in question advises us that the demon’s possible-world description conceals a question which, when posed, would weigh upon our actions as the greatest stress: Do you want this once more and innumerable times more? Facing this question openly and in candor would, perhaps, crush us. Perhaps it would transform us. But to crave this imagined state-of-affairs fervently, passionately, how well disposed toward life would we have to become?

This extremely rich and compact aphorism entitled “the greatest stress,” which was reproduced in the first chapter, is typical of the references to recurrence found in Nietzsche’s published writings; typical in its hypothetical form, graphic imagery, poetic intensity and immediacy. By contrast, the unpublished reflections, which were penned at about the same time and are preoccupied with the empirical requirements of the doctrine of recurrence, tend to be declarative in form, are largely argumentative, are at once bold and halting.

Consider if you will some of the pertinent material which consists of three entries from the Nachlass of the fall of 1881, which I insert here at length at the risk of trying the reader’s patience. These entries present some of the most essential elements in Nietzsche’s empirical formulations which have not been adequately represented hitherto.

A.* The amount of total energy is limited not infinite. Let us beware of such conceptual vagaries! Consequently, the number of states, changes, combinations and developments of this energy is incredibly large and practically unmeasurable, but nonetheless limited and not infinite. However, time, in which the totality exerts its energy, is infinite. That is, energy is eternally equal and eternally active. Up tothis moment an infinity has passed, i.e., all possible developments must already have come to pass. Consequently, the present development must be a repetition and also the one which bore it and the one which will originate from it, and so on forward and backward! Everything has come to pass in so far as the total configuration of all energy eternally recurs. Whether, quite aside from that, anything identical has come to pass is entirely indemonstrable. It would appear that the configuration structures attributes anew in the greatest detail, so that two different configurations cannot contain anything identical. Whether anything identical can exist within a configuration, for example two leaves—I doubt it. . . ,12

B. The external world of energies leads back to a simplest state of these energies; and alsoforward to a simplest state. Could not and must not both states be identical? Out of a system of fixed energies, i.e., out of a measurable energy, no innumerability of states can arise. Only in the case of the false presupposition of an infinite space, in which energies evaporate as it were, is the last state an unproductive one, a dead one.13

C. If an equilibrium of energy had ever been reached it would still exist. Thus, it never occurred. The present state contradicts such an assumption. (However,) if one assumes that a state has existed absolutely the same as the present one, this assumption would not be contradicted by the present state. But, among the infinite possibilities this must have been the case, because an eternity has already passed until now. . . . And, if the present state has already occurred, then also the one which bore it and the one which preceded it and so on, backward. From this there emerges the fact that it has already occurred a second and third time; also, that it will occur a second and third time—innumerable times, backward and forward. That is, all becoming moves in a fixed number of entirely identical states. . . . Assuming an incredible number of cases, arriving accidentally at the identical condition is more probable than (arriving at) the absolutely never identical.14

Apart from these three entries, the first of which (“A”) we shall have to dissect in some detail, there is an entry in The Will to Power which is invariably cited by Nietzsche commentators. Although it adds nothing in principle which is not rehearsed far more adequately in the previous entries, I shall include it for the record also, since it receives such frequent mention. We will have occasion to refer to it later ourselves, in any case, so once again I must ask for your indulgence. This time, however, only the relevant paragraph of that longish aphorism need be quoted:

If the world may be thought of as a determinate quantity of force and as a determinate number of centers of force—and every other idea is indeterminate and therefore useless—it follows that, in the great dice game of existence, it must pass through a calculable number of combinations. In infinite time, every possible combination would at some time or other be realized; more: it would be realized an infinite number of times. And since between every combination and its next recurrence all other possible combinations would have to take place, and each of these combinations conditions the entire sequence of combinations in the same series, a circular movement of absolutely identical series is thereby demonstrated: the world as a circular movement that has already repeated itself infinitely often and plays its game in infinitum. This conception is not simply mechanistic; for if it were that, it would not condition an infinite recurrence of identical cases, but a final state. Because the world has not reached this, mechanistic theory must be considered an imperfect and merely tentative hypothesis.15

At least the following broad empirical assumptions expressly appear in the above texts.


Energy is finite (in A).


The number of energy states (Lagen) is finite (A, B, and C).


Energy is conserved (in A).


The number of energy combinations and developments is finite (in A).


Time is infinite (in A).


Space is finite (in B).


Energy has infinite duration (in A).


Change is eternal (A and C).


Novelty is inadmissible (A and C).

Put informally and oversimply, if there are a finite number of configurations possible, a finite number of states of the universe at an instant, whose order and sequence is fixed, and if time is infinite, each configuration will have to occur an infinite number of times: “the eternal recurrence of the same.” But the same configuration will not only recur an infinite number of times, it must have occurred an infinite number of previous times. Accordingly, this moment may be viewed as one repetition of an infinity of identical moments in the “past” which are fated to recur eternally in the “future.”

Three issues need to be separated. First, are these nine premises derivable from A, B and C, as I claim they are? Second, do these nine premises taken together justify the conclusion which they are designed to warrant—eternal recurrence? Third, can the premises themselves be justified?

The second and third questions fall outside the scope of this chapter, although they will occupy us later. Only the first question bears on our present inquiry, and it can be disposed of rather quickly. It deserves comment primarily because Danto believes that (seven of) these nine assumptions would be sufficient to generate the doctrinal conclusion Nietzsche needs, while Danto at the same time finds premises (i)-(iii) only in the text itself. That is curious, for (v) is unmistakably present in A: “However, time, in which the totality exerts its energy, is infinite.” Similarly, the infinite duration of energy claim (premise vii) is easily deduced from the assertion that “energy is eternally equal and eternally active.” In order to be active eternally energy must surely have infinite duration. The supposition that change is eternal (premise viii) seems likewise to be contained in C: “If an equilibrium of energy had ever been reached it would still exist.” For since “all possible developments must already have come to pass” (A) an equilibrium of energy cannot have occurred, because if it had, it would still exist. An end-state would have been reached. It could also be argued that the eternal activity of energy which Nietzsche alleges in A precludes a circumstance in which no change could occur. Here, however, “change” and “activity of energy” would have to be equated. Finally, no new energy configuration can arise (premise ix) since Nietzsche asserts in A that all of the possible developments and combinations of energy have already occurred. The same point is made in C: “all becoming moves in a fixed number of entirely identical states.” If the fixed number of possible states has been exhausted, then no others are possible. In consequence, there can be no new energy states.

Now even if all nine premises can be derived successfully from the texts, that sheds little light on the question of how these empirical formulations are to be understood. What purpose are they designedto serve? Entry A, for example, has generally been construed as the basis for the cosmological version of Nietzsche’s doctrine of eternal recurrence. But this paradigm demonstration has always been presented in a truncated version, from Löwith through Danto and Pfeffer. For reasons which are not at all clear to me, Nietzsche commentators appear uniformly to have ignoredthe last four sentences of A, presented above. But in my opinion, these four sentences need at least as much attention as do the preceding ones, since their meaning is unclear.

The conclusion of entry A can be interpreted in at least two incompatible ways, either as consistent or inconsistent with the remainder of the entry. But if the reading which holds that the conclusion of A is inconsistent with its remainder is the correct reading, then we simply have no proof, no demonstration of recurrence at all. For such a construction turns the last four sentences of A into a rejection of the sentences which precede.

Having argued that energy is finite, that the states (Lagen), changes, and evolutionsof this energy are likewise finite, and that these states unfold in an eternity, Nietzsche says: (1) “Everything has come to pass in so far as the total configuration of all energy eternally recurs.” The next three sentences, if consistent with the preceding ones, assert the following: (2) The sentence, “Whether quite aside from that, anything identical has come to pass is entirely indemonstrable,” would mean, simply, that it is impossible to give empirical evidence in support of the eternal recurrence hypothesis. The phrase which begins with “davon abgesehen” would mean “apart from the fact that the total configuration of all energy eternally recurs.” In short, the sentence could easily be rendered, “Whether anything identical has come to pass is entirely indemonstrable, apart from the fact that the total configuration of all energy eternally recurs.” This rendering is consistent with the remainder of the entry, since the doctrine would then a priori preclude the possibility of finding empirical evidence in its support. Since identical recurrent world-states presumably exist within all configurations, each item of evidence in one state would have an identical counterpart in every other world-state. Stated differently, in the absence of differential empirical evidence, we cannot demonstrate the existence of an earlier identical world-state, because the evidence required is identical within each world-state. There are no “outside” spectators. An identity of indiscernibles would thus hold within any configuration. The thrust of this sentence is therefore directed exclusively at the impossibility of giving a proof, any empirical proof, I should add, of the hypothesis. (3) The next sentence (“It would appear that the configuration structures attributes anew in the greatest detail, so that two different configurations cannot contain anything identical”) would mean, then, that two discrete world-states (a and b) do not possess an identical content since they are different—since “the configuration structures attributes anew in the greatest detail.” (4) The final sentence, then, merely asserts that the same rule applies within a given configuration (a or b)—that no identical elements are to be found within a single configuration.

An interpretation of this sort renders the entire quoted entry A consistent. It argues that Nietzsche is advancing three theses: first, the indemonstrability of the eternal recurrence hypothesis by empirical means, that is, the indemonstrability of the putative fact that the existence of configuration “a” supports the existence of an earlier configuration “a”; it argues, second, that there exists more than one discrete configuration (at least a and b) in which all elements are differentiated and between which there is no carry-over; and, third, it argues that within any configuration (a or b) its content is sufficiently diversified so as to preclude identities within elements of that configuration (“for example, two leaves”).

Such an interpretation, however prima facie plausible, must first be related to the text and the terms it introduces. Specifically, what does the crucial term Gesamtlage (configuration) mean, and what is its relationship to the term Lage (state) and its surrogates? Does the term “two different configurations” refer to configurations in the sense of disjuncts a or b? The expressions Gesamtlage and Lage (and its surrogates) are crucial here. Their meaning has been traditionally conflated, yet their intension and denotation differ, as I hope to show.

The term Gesamtlage is first introduced in our sentence “(1)” which precedes the three concluding sentences of A. It appears only in these sentences. It refers, specifically, to “the total configuration of all energy.” Before introducing that term, Nietzsche had spoken of the relationship between two orders of phenomena. On the one hand we have “Das Mass der All-Kraft,” the total amount of energy constituting the universe, and on the other hand we have the various states (Lagen), changes (Veränderungen), developments (Entwicklungen) and combinations (Combinationen) of this energy. If the term Gesamtlage is meant to refer to either order of phenomena, Lage or Das Mass der All-Kraft, which it plainly does, it refers to the latter and not the former; that is, it refers to the gesamte Lagen, hence Gesamtlage, of energy— the total ensemble of states. It would, therefore, be mistaken to assume that the term “configuration” (Gesamtlage) can be employed in the same sense as the term Lage (state) and its surrogates. “Configuration” and “state,” Gesamtlage and Lage, are not synonymous expressions. The term Gesamtlage introduces not a given configuration among many (a or b, etc.) but the total ensemble of these states. It is a macrocosmic and not a microcosmic term.16

To illustrate this point, imagine three states (Lagen) of energy—each one corresponding to an historical period, X, Y, and Z. To render each one more graphic, let X represent the period from the dawn of human life to the beginnings of recorded, written, history; let Y represent the period from recorded history to the death of Socrates; let Z represent the period from 399 B.C. to Nietzsche’s discovery of eternal recurrence in 1881.

Each phase, X, Y, Z, represents a Lage (state), according to Nietzsche.17 Nietzsche subsequently and consistently uses the term Zustand as a synonym for a specific energy state (Lage) in the material quoted above, A, B, and C. Each state (Lage or Zustand) is a change, development, or combination of the amount of total energy. “Consequently,” says Nietzsche, “the present development (Z) is but a repetition and also the one which bore it (Y) . . .” The term Gesamtlage is introduced at this point: “Everything has come to pass in so far as the total configuration of all energy (Gesamtlage aller Kräfte) eternally recurs.” Can the term here still refer to X or Y or Z? Certainly not. The term, here, must refer to X, Y, and Z, taken collectively. Each individual Lage (X, or Y, or Z) forms a link in the chain Gesamtlage aller Kräfte, the total ensemble of states of energy. The words Lage, Entwicklung, Veränderung, Combination and Zustand, are fairly well interchangeable without loss of sense precisely because—as modalities of energy—they are the forms that energy can assume. And the forms which this one determinate amount of energy assumes, the ensemble of its states, is the Gesamtlage aller Kräfte —the total configuration of all energy. Note also that the term Gesamtlage is singular—as indeed it ought to be. The sum of Lagen forms one Gesamtlage. That much seems plain. Parenthetically, the plural Gesamtlagen is not introduced until the penultimate sentence of this entry and raises an additional difficulty in understanding Nietzsche’s empirical formulation. Up to the penultimate sentence, then, Nietzsche seems to be talking about two distinguishable orders of phenomena, the “form” and its “content.” The “contents” are the Lagen (states) and their transformation, the “form” is the Mass der All-Kraft or the Gesamtlage aller Kräfte. Thus Lagen X, Y, Z constitute the single Gesamtlage X-Y-Z.

If the above interpretation is plausible, the three concluding sentences of A which we numbered earlier assert something like the following. (2) Whether anything identical has ever come to pass—apart from the hypothetical recurrence of Gesamtlage X-Y-Z—is indemonstrable. (3) The next sentence introduces the plural form, Gesamtlagen, for the first time, and declares that “It would appear that the Gesamtlage structures attributes anew in the greatest detail, so that two different Gesamtlagen [(pl.)] cannot contain anything identical.” This sentence is somewhat puzzling. On the one hand, says Nietzsche, it would appear that a Gesamtlage (X-Y-Z) structures its attributes (X and its content, Y and its content, Z and its content) in such a way that two distinct Gesamtlagen share nothing identical. That is odd. On the basis of the hypothesis Nietzsche had just presented, one would be inclined to conclude that any two Gesamtlagen would have to “contain something identical.” In terms of our illustration, Gesamtlage X-Y-Z could recur in any sequence within the following order: X-Y-Z, X-Z-Y, Y-X-Z, Y-Z-X, Z-X-Y, Z-Y-X. This much would seem to follow from Nietzsche’s argument. But in that case any “two different Gesamtlagen” would have to share, at a minimum, a specific Lage—X or Y or Z. To rescue the apparent inconsistency we would, it seems to me, either have to eliminate the distinction advanced above between Lage and Gesamtlage, or we would have to show that the distinction does not, in fact, materially affect the argument. Since the first alternative seriously alters the text, perhaps the second alternative is viable.

We might want to suggest that the distinction between Lage and Gesamtlage is a different sort of relationship of form to content. Perhaps amore felicitous distinction is “part” to “whole,” not content to form. In terms of our illustration, we might want to identify a Lage as an event within a Gesamtlage; for instance, the death of Socrates (Lage) as an event in Gesamtlage Y. In that case, the doctrine of eternal recurrence would assert that discrete world-events (Lagen) recur because the Gesamtlage eternally recurs. An insurmountable difficulty then arises, however. The difficulty is that it would become completely impossible to speak of the plural Gesamtlagen in this case. For if a Lage is a discrete world-event, and a Gesamtlage is the ensemble of Lagen, how can there be more than one ensemble of all discrete world-events? On this construction, either Gesamtlage X or Y or Z is the only possible ensemble of Lagen, or we wind up with the dilemma suggested by our earlier interpretation. If we admit three (or more) Gesamtlagen containing discrete world-events, the recurring Gesamtlagen have to duplicate one another.

If we now reflect on the penultimate sentence of entry A, we are left with at least two options. Either Nietzsche has introduced an inconsistency in the formulation of which he is unaware, or he is aware of some difficulty. I prefer to suggest that Nietzsche was probably aware of some inadequacy in the argument (even if it is not the one advanced here) and, in consequence, chose not to publish it in any shape or form. If this is a plausible view, any number of ambiguities in the cosmological formulation may have given rise to Nietzsche’s reluctance to develop it further and, ultimately, to publish his “discovery.”

For example, in addition to the apparent inconsistency which a distinction between Lagen and Gesamtlage introduces, there is an ambiguity suggested by the sentence “Everything has come to pass in so far as the Gesamtlage aller Kräfte eternally recurs.” In the opening passages of the entry under discussion, Nietzsche had claimed that a finite number of Lagen constitute eternally recurring elements of one sum of energy (All-Kraft). Nietzsche merely asserts that there are a finite number of such Lagen. No attempt to justify this assertion is made, beyond the declaration that a finite amount of energy, somehow, implies a finite number of energy states. In the sentence quoted above, however, the finite number of Lagen is made to depend explicitly upon the eternal recurrence of the Gesamtlage (everything recurs because—“in so far as”—the Gesamtlage recurs). This introduces an important source of errors. As has been shown repeatedly, the mere finiteness of the quantity of energy does not entail a finite number of possible configurations of this energy.18 If Nietzsche’s formulation of the doctrine of eternal recurrence is based on the fact that energy is finite, then he is simply mistaken in deducing a finite number of world-states from it. But, and this is an interesting and subtle feature of Nietzsche’s argument, the notion of a finite quantity of energy is silently dropped subsequently in favor of a Gesamtlage of this energy. In consequence, the sentence “Everything has come to pass in so far as the Gesamtlage of all energy eternally recurs,” introduces a new material condition. In this formulation, the number of Lagen (states) is finite not because the amount of energy is finite, but because the ensemble, the collection of Lagen is a finite number. Of course, the argument is then circular. It merely asserts that there are a finite number of members in the class Gesamtlage, because the set consists of a finite number of members.

If we now step back from this alleged “proof,” it seems that we have opened a Pandora’s box. If Nietzsche had perhaps scribbled the term Gesamtlage in haste, he would have fallen into an invalid deduction by eliminating it and speaking only of the relationship of “states” to the totality of energy. We can’t deduce a finite number of states from a finite amount of energy constituting them. On the other hand, by introducing the term Gesamtlage, he begs the question by assuming that a finite energy sum consists of a finite number of energy states.

Nietzsche may have been aware of the difficulties of this argument. Perhaps, and this is unsupported speculation, the term Gesamtlage was introduced specifically to avoid the false assumption that a finite sum of energy somehow entails a finite number of energy states. Certainly in The Will to Power a finite sum of energy and a finite number of energy states are asserted independently: “If the world may be thought of as a determinate quantity of force and a determinate number of centers of force . . . it must pass through a calculable number of combinations.”

The conclusion of A should now be reinterpreted as follows:

(1)“Everything has come to pass in so far as the total configuration (Gesamtlage) of all energy eternally recurs.” That is, the reason for affirming the eternal recurrence hypothesis is that the Gesamtlage eternally recurs. There is no independent evidence to justify the claim that a finite sum of energy necessarily consists of a finite ensemble of energy states, and yet this must be assumed if we are to argue for eternal recurrence.

(2)“Whether, quite aside from that, anything identical has come to pass is entirely indemonstrable.” That is, there is no way to demonstrate the recurrence of anything if we do not first assume that the finite sum of energy is a sum whose member states are also finite. Only on the assumption of a Gesamtlage aller Kräfte, a finite total ensemble of states of energy, can we entertain the hypothesis.

Within this context, the penultimate sentence may be read as expressing Nietzsche’s own reservations about the cogency of his formulation. In short, it could be read as an attempt to relate the hypothesis to the testimony of experience.

(3)“It would appear that the configuration structures attributes anew in the greatest detail, so that two different configurations (Gesamtlagen) cannot contain anything identical.” The sentence now asserts that any Gesamtlage is so rich in novelty and detail that two Gesamtlagen cannot possibly contain anything identical. In short, there are no good empirical reasons for suggesting the recurrence hypothesis in the first place. It seems that each Gesamtlage, configuration, structures its Lagen, states, in such a way that we have only novelty rather than identities.

If such a reading of the penultimate sentence is plausible, the last line merely elaborates on this point. That is, the last sentence, (4), asserts that it seems doubtful that anything identical exists in a Gesamtlage; even leaves are not identical!

To sum up: If Nietzsche’s distinction between Lage and Gesamtlage is accidental and irrelevant, his formulation becomes a reductio ad absurdum which asserts, in effect, that a finite number of energy states recurs eternally because . . . a finite number of energy states recurs. Or, again if we ignore the distinction, Nietzsche is simply wrong. A finite sum of energy does not entail a finite number of energy states. Since the distinction introduced by the term Gesamtlage appears in the last four sentences, and thereafter the term silently slips from view, we are perhaps justified in attaching importance to it. In any case, it cannot be ignored. If, then, the distinction between Lagen, Gesamtlage, and Gesamtlagen is significant, the argument is, at a minimum, a petitio principii and, at worst, inconsistent.

In the light of these considerations, coupled with the fact that these are unpublished entries, I have suggested that Nietzsche may have been aware of the difficulties in the formulation, and an attempt was made to interpret the last three lines of A as the expression of such an awareness. But certainly Nietzsche expressed his own reservation about the persuasiveness of his formulation more poignantly than we have done, in a note which follows the quoted material: “Isn’t the existence of any variation at all in the world which surrounds us, rather than complete circularity, already a sufficient refutation of a uniform circularity of all that exists?”19

I have spent a decent amount of time considering the last three sentences of entry A primarily to show that the cosmological/empirical argument was written more in the spirit of a thought experiment—and many of Nietzsche’s notes assume this character—than as a sustained argument in support of a definite thesis. Still less should it be construed as a “proof” or “demonstration.” My reasons for doing this textual analysis, as has been stated earlier, are to point out that previous interpretations have relied too heavily on Nietzsche’s alleged cosmological hypothesis, assuming that it possessed a greater degree of intelligibility and freedom from ambigiuity than do the normative formulations of the doctrine of eternal recurrence. I do not mean to imply, of course, that the cosmological argument is of no value in understanding Nietzsche’s admittedly difficult teaching, but the methodology espoused here subordinates its importance to those reflections concerning the doctrine of eternal recurrence which Nietzsche chose to publish. They appear one and all to be normative in emphasis.


There is another strategy commonly pursued by Nietzsche scholars which should not be ignored. It is closely connected with the easy but mistaken view that a clear (whether valid or invalid) “proof” for recurrence exists in the Nachlass. The strategy is to appeal to Nietzsche’s claim that the doctrine of eternal recurrence is the most scientific of all hypotheses to support the view that he must have had a cosmology in mind after all.

To be sure, the Nachlass supports the view that Nietzsche regarded the doctrine of eternal recurrence as “the most scientific of all hypotheses,”20 and further exhibits Nietzsche’s view that “the law of conservation of energy demands eternal recurrence.”21These often-quoted phrases, whether offered as evidence to support the logical or chronological priority of the cosmological version of the doctrine, simply won’t do. First both phrases were written in the late eighties, long after the cosmological and normative versions had been composed and after the normative dimension had been explored in print.

Second, Nietzsche’s claim that the doctrine of eternal recurrence is “the most scientific” hypothesis does not necessarily imply that it is an empirical/cosmological hypothesis. The term wissenschaftlichste (most scientific) carries a far more restricted meaning in English than it does in German. The term “scientific” has been preempted, in English, by the “exact” sciences, the “natural” and “mathematical” sciences. In English the term “the most scientific” immediately suggests methodological rigor, empirical verification, or an axiomatized deductive system. However, the noun Wissenschaft (“science”) also means “knowledge,” “learning,” or “scholarship.” We would probably wince if the arts and humanities were referred to as “sciences” in ordinary English usage. Yet, the philologisch-historische Wissenschaften are, precisely, the “Humanities.” Similarly, the adjective “scientific” has a much more restricted meaning in English than does its German counterpart, icissenschaftlich. In German it suggests “scholarly,” “learned,” as well as “scientific.”

Nietzsche’s assertion that the doctrine of eternal recurrence is “the most scientific” hypothesis leaves in doubt the discipline to which it belongs. No one would cringe at the suggestion that the wissenschaftlichste hypothesis is a normative or metaphysical principle—if he were Nietzsche’s German contemporary. It is a feature peculiar to English language usage that we do encounter considerable embarrassment in suggesting “the most scientific” normative or metaphysical hypothesis. Since the term “the most scientific” can apply with equal force to an hypothesis in either of the two versions we suggested—empirical and normative—it does not follow that Nietzsche’s claim to have discovered “the most scientific” hypothesis means, specifically, an empirical postulate.

Finally, it should be noted that the opinion that the law of conservation “demands” eternal recurrence surely does not entail the “how" or why of that demand. It doesn’t even suggest how the former “demands” the latter. Are we to understand that the cosmological entries, dissected earlier, are the explications of the “how” of that demand? Or is this simply another suggestive entry, which Nietzsche later ignored? If the former is the case, then no new light is shed on the empirical arguments. If the latter alternative is the case, again, nothing new in principle is introduced.

So the problem of relating the “cosmology” of recurrence to the “axiology” remains. If we reject the view that the implications of the doctrine of eternal recurrence express Nietzsche’s overblown psychological response to his empirical cosmology; as we will do in the next chapter, we are left with only two options. We can hunt, in vain, for evidence that Nietzsche presented “transformation” rules which would relate the empirical to the normative version of eternal recurrence. We would have to find a great many premises, I am afraid; among them that all human actions are reducible to energy transformations within a configuration, that all qualities are reducible to quantity transformations and, at least, that no novel quality-action-matter-energy configuration can ever emerge. There would have to be a great many more assumptions, I regret to say, the nature and force of which we shall soon have to explore. If Nietzsche had deduced an imperative from his empirical formulations he would indeed have taken quite a leap.

The second alternative, for which we have tacitly been arguing all along, is to suggest that Nietzsche’s cosmological argument is a consequence or corollary of, not the cause of, some more basic insight. Indeed, the thought of eternal recurrence occurred to Nietzsche in August 1881 “6000 feet beyond man and time.”22 This is hardly empirical terrain. And as Nietzsche himself asserts, his published works are an attempt to articulate this insight—the doctrine of eternal recurrence: “I now relate the story of Zarathustra. The basic conception of this work (is) the eternal recurrence notion.”23 Of course, I do not mean to suggest that Nietzsche was uninterested in finding empirical confirmation for his doctrine. On the contrary, he was very much interested in finding empirical confirmation, but apparently for a doctrine which he had embraced for reasons other than empirical cogency.

  • The letter “A” is supplied by this writer, not by Nietzsche, as well as “B” and “C” in theother passages to be discussed here.

Powered by Manifold Scholarship.

Violet yawns. She takes a deep drag of the cigarette she holds sooooo elegantly between her index and middle finger and let’s the rock throw strobic light through the greyish curling smoke.

“I knew it, she almost whispets, you just can’t quit the obsession. that it’ s all your fault. Nothing will drive it out of your mind.”

He nods .

" It’s more a matter of logistics. Of filling in the pieces. The rest will follow"

And turning his head on the rest attached to the swivel chair, his blue eyes straight ahead, on the darkening street, while fixating on where the kid should be going to sleep now, probably without the usual hamstrung , made up fairy tale.

Violet starts to weep, ever so softly