Nietzsche’s demon: the eternal return

Arc De Triomphe @ FineArtAmerica

Arc De Triomphe @ FineArtAmerica

Alexis was in love with life. Fresh out of art school in Fremantle, Australia, she’d picked up a scholarship to study photography under a famous Parisian photographer. Her mother had urged caution but Alexis persisted – and thank goodness! The course – and Paris itself – was everything that she’d dreamed. Her French sponsor found her an apartment in the Latin Quarter, just a stone’s throw from the Place Saint-Michel. Alexis would stroll along the Seine in the evening, up the Champs Elysées to take pictures of the Arc de Triomphe in the flurry of lights.

After two months documenting daily life on the streets of Paris, she had enough material for an exhibition. Alexis felt like she was at the heart of life. Things could go anywhere from here.

One night Alexis was speaking to a friend in Australia. They were reminiscing about their student days, which her friend dearly missed.

‘Do you remember Nietzsche’s idea of the eternal return?’ the friend asked. ‘If I had to choose one time of my life to live out again and again forever, it would be art school’.

Alexis, for her part, was ambivalent about the ‘good old days’. She realized then that if there were a time in her life that she would have again and again, it would be her time in Paris, not Fremantle. The more that she reflected on this, the more her life seemed to come into focus. Looking out the window at the bustling streets, Alexis imagined Nietzsche’s demon coming into her room and making her the offer of Eternal Return. Alexis could hear herself reply, like Nietzsche:

‘Yes. You are a god and I have never heard anything more divine’.


This post is excerpted from Chapter 3 of Life Changing: A Philosophical Guide


  1. David Airth says:

    Tim, I found this post difficult to understand. I was trying to imagine my ‘eternal return’. I guess my eternal return is the culmination of everything I have experienced, not just a particular event like my living in New York for a year.

    Did Nietzsche have his own eternal return? Perhaps it was his depressed state or his lust to understand the disfunction of the world.

  2. David Airth says:

    Why is ‘eternal return’ Nietzsche’s demon?

    By not growing up was Peter Pan in the state of eternal return? Is it also like the movie Groundhog Day where a weatherman finds himself living the same day over and over again? If that is so, eternal return is quite a curse. But then it couldn’t happen and is imaginary like it was with Alexis’ friend thinking about her school days. But if that mentality stays in the head it can be sad and dangerous. It is like mentally remaining in the past. Nietzsche seemed to be like that, not believing in progress.

    • Hi David,

      Apologies for the tardy response. I’ve been enjoying a true Aussi holiday, braving sharks, wildfires, and giant monitor lizards. Had a great time but it’s also great to be back!

      Apologies also for this rather mystifying post. It’s actually a vignette from my book, Life Changing – it prefaces Exercise three. I probably shouldn’t have posted it without some kind of framing discussion of Nietzsche’s Eternal Return, but I love the story it presents – I couldn’t help myself. Nietzsche’s idea of the Eternal Return is something very close to my heart, and Alexis’ tale touches me deeply. So I posted. I trust I’ll be forgiven. 🙂

      If you’d like to get the full story (or the story behind the story), check out the sections on the Will to Power and Eternal Return in Chapter 3 of Life Changing. If you don’t have the book, you can download a free PDF here.


  3. Eternal return is a wonderful concept. I find this idea, living a life so well you would choose to re-enter it eternally, so much better than heaven which pretty quickly devolves into velvet lined boredom in my imagination.

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