Eternal Recurrence and Noah's Deluge: A Platonic Perspective
It is on two occasions , in his dialog The Laws and in Timaeus , Plato gave a hint towards an understanding of history as recurrence. And on both occasions a mention to the great deluge of Noah is also present.
The Idea of eternal recurrence in its current form is attributed to Nietzsche. According to this idea , everything , every moment will recur eternally, so what one is doing now , he is likely to do it again and again eternally. The same life will repeat itself after death and nothing will change, everything will happen in the same manner and order.
It is strange that Plato also had a similar idea of history and the emergence of human civilization. In his Laws, Plato answers the question about the beginning of the city states. He says that city states don't come into being from nothing , they always already exist.
The reason is that the earth has seen a lots of disasters, in the forms of deluge , earthquakes and heavenly catastrophe. A mention of a heavenly catastrophe can be found in Timaeus. This catastrophe took the shape of a myth according to which the Sun god Apollo lost the control of his chariot and burnt everything in the way creating a great havoc both in the heavens and on the earth. An Egyptian old man was reported saying this that later on this incident was converted into a myth but it was an actual incident, a catastrophe that devastated the whole civilization.
In the Laws and also in Timaeus , there is a mention of the great deluge. It is the same biblical deluge of Noah, and in Plato it is reckoned as a cause behind the disappearance of Atlanta creating a great Mud accumulation in the Atlantic ocean. which kept this ocean practically impossible to navigate for thousands of years.
In the Laws , and also in the Timaeus it is emphasized that the last Deluge(Noah's) was not the only deluge. There had been innumerable such deluges in the past causing ruins to different civilizations. So, whenever a civilization is ruined because of a great deluge , writes Plato, its survivors are mostly those who live on mountains or somehow reach there.
These people live there for centuries and when their fears are alleviated they come down to re establish their states on the land. On the mountains they live a life of perfect goodness; for there they have everything in abundance, trees, animals, clothing, owing to the fact that only few families and people live their. Due to this super abundance they are like gifts to each other and they don't fight or quarrel with each other on any issues. There are no contentions there.
That is why , when they start their new dwellings on the land , they have to develop their laws ab initio, from the very beginning. However, they had some idea of city states and previously destroyed civilizations, for their elders have told them the stories of their ancestral places.
So, no state is established for the first time; all city states are revived , allowed to recur. This gives the idea that Plato also had a recurrence sort of view about the origins. Civilization dis not start from nowhere ; it already existed and then destroyed, and created again.
By: Khalid Jamil Rawat