Chapter 20: The Convalescent
“Sing and bubble over, O Zarathustra, heal your soul with new songs, so that you may bear your great destiny, that was never yet the destiny of any man!
“For your animals well know, O Zarathustra, who you are and must become: behold, you are the teacher of the eternal recurrence, that is now your destiny!”
This concept of eternal recurrence has to be understood. This is one of the most significant contributions of Zarathustra to humanity. There are religions which believe that there is only one life: Christianity, Judaism, Mohammedanism. They think life begins when you are born and ends when you die. Of course your soul does not end, but you will not have another life. Your soul will be presented before God to be judged.
The three other religions, Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, believe in reincarnation - man goes on being born. Just as Charles Darwin thinks that man has evolved out of the chimpanzees, or apes, or monkeys, these three religions, for centuries, have believed that man’s soul has been passing through different forms according to his actions. And man is the highest form that human consciousness comes to, but it has been moving from other animals.
Perhaps the differences in human beings are based on their coming through different sources: somebody’s soul has moved from the elephants, somebody’s soul has moved from the lions, somebody’s soul has moved from the eagles. Naturally, they will be carrying some characteristics of their past life. And there is not only one past life, there are thousands of past lives. You have moved from one animal to another, each higher than the first.
And man is not the end. Just as you have been transcending other animals, one day you have to transcend man, too. The idea of evolution is not new; it has dominated the whole East for as far back as there are any references available. Man has been moving on from lower forms of animals to higher forms. This is called the theory of reincarnation.
Zarathustra has a third concept, and he’s the only one as far as the theory of recurrence is concerned. But his theory has something beautiful about it, and it has to be understood without any prejudice. Just as seasons move: after summer come the rains, after rains comes the winter, after winter comes the summer - it is a circle. Zarathustra says, just like modern science, that everything moves in a circle. The earth goes around the sun, and the sun itself is going around some sun about which science has only guesswork. We have not yet been able to discover that faraway sun, around which our sun is moving. And all the stars are moving in circles. The circle seems to be the natural way of movement.