The ascetics Proclus and Nietzsche on eternal recurrence

Proclus 412-485 C.E.

Proclus (412-485)

‘Prop. 199. Every intra-mundane soul has in its proper life periods and cyclic reinstatements.

For if it is measured by time and has a transitive activity (prop. 191), and movement is its distinctive character (prop. 20), and all that moves and participates time, if it be perpetual, moves in periods and periodically returns in a circle and is restored to its starting-point (prop. 198), then it is evident that in every intra-mundane soul, having movement and exercising a temporal activity, will have a periodic motion, and also cyclic reinstatements (since in the case of things perpetual every period ends in a reinstatement of the original condition).’

‘Prop. 206. Every particular soul can descend into temporal process and ascend from process to Being an infinite number of times.

For if at certain times it is in the company of gods and at others falls away from its upward tension towards the divine, and if it participates both intelligence and unintelligence (prop. 202), it is plain that by turns it comes-to-be in the world of process and has true Being among the gods. For it cannot (have been for an infinite time in material bodies and thereafter pass a second infinite time among the gods, neither can it) have spent an infinite time among the gods and again be embodied for the whole time thereafter, since that which has no temporal beginning will never have an end, and what has no end cannot have had a beginning. It remains, then, that each soul has a periodic alternation of ascents out of process and descents into process, and that this movement is unceasing by reason of the infinitude of time. Therefore each particular soul can descend and ascend an infinite number of times, and this shall never cease to befall every such soul.’

Proclus, The Elements of Theology, Trans., E.R. Dodds, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004, 175, 181

‘At the twilight of antiquity there were still wholly unchristian figures, which were more beautiful, harmonious, and pure than those of any Christians: e.g., Proclus. His mysticism and syncretism were things that precisely Christianity cannot reproach him with. In any case, it would be my desire to live together with such people. In comparison with them Christianity looks like some crude brutalisation, organised for the benefit of the mob and the criminal classes.

Proclus, who solemnly invokes the rising moon.’

Friedrich Nietzsche, ’We Philologists’, Trans., J.M.Kennedy, The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Delphi Classics, Hastings, East Sussex, 2015, 7535



“What if some day or night a demon were to steal into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it you will have to live once again and innumerable times again; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unspeakably small or great in your life must return to you, all in the same succession and sequence – even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!’ Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god, and never have I heard anything more divine.'”

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Trans., Josefine Nauckhoff, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2007, 194-195


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5 thoughts on “The ascetics Proclus and Nietzsche on eternal recurrence

    • Hi Inese,

      I have simply allowed Proclus and Nietzsche to ‘speak’ for themselves in order to exemplify the relationship I think exists between the bowerbird and prose poet Nietzsche and Neoplatonism – more broadly, to exemplify the relationship between those who are held up in secular societies as ‘great philosophers/reasoners’ and mysticism – one the academic ideologues of the bourgeoisie and of patriarchal Western supremacism have so successfully downplayed and denied.

      Which is why I call it the pornography of academic philosophers.

      While he is famous for his hatred of Christianity, Nietzsche loved Christ (you most probably know he came from a family of Lutheran pastors and was himself nicknamed ‘the little pastor’ when he was a boy).

      My use of the category and tag ‘concealed priesthood’ is emphatic and is not directed at those who have religious beliefs, who are honest and open about their beliefs – whatever they may be – but at those who fail to acknowledge the significance of mysticism to them or worse, deny it when asked about it and particularly at those who more than likely have no religious beliefs and who, as the well-paid ‘priests’ not of God but of the dominant capitalist class, maintain the ideological lie that mysticism is something other than it is, that it is the most disciplined linguistic, conceptual ‘reason’.

      In so doing, these lovers of knowledge are, increasingly, impediments to knowledge.

      I should add that in Asian and Indian cultures there is none of this shame and dishonest appropriation towards this ‘brilliant idea’ of Nietzsche’s – what is known to them as samsara.

      Best wishes, Phil

      Liked by 1 person

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