The Best Question of Conscience

The heaviest weight. — 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.” If this thought gained power over you, as you are it would transform and possibly crush you; the question in each and every thing, “Do you want this again and innumerable times again?” would lie on your actions as the heaviest weight! Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to long for nothing more fervently than for this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?1

A friend mentioned the Eternal Recurrence today, and so I reread this passage. It still strikes me as the greatest question of conscience imaginable and the truest test of happiness I know.

  1. Friedrich Nietzsche : The Gay Science : Section 341

2 responses to “The Best Question of Conscience”

  1. Lindsay

    Wow, pretty great test of happiness. Although I don’t think it’s fair that the demon steals into your life at the loneliest time. Can’t he come in and ask you these questions when you are at your happiest? The whole scheme seems biased from the beginning.

  2. Lindsay

    ok…i should have read the whole thing carefully.