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"All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again".
Multiple characters, Battlestar Galactica (and the narrator of the 1953 film Peter Pan)
"Yet one shall be born to face the Shadow, born once more as he was born before, and shall be born again, time without end.".

A major catastrophic event (normally, The End of the World as We Know It) happens not once but on regular basis. It is not the "end" in linear sense but rather a cycle of endless Reincarnation, a Reset Button for the universe pressed over and over again.

The idea goes back to Hindu and Buddhist traditions. In Hinduism, there is the Maha Yuga concept where the universe is destroyed and recreated by Brahma every 4.32 million years. Buddhism has a similar notion of Kalachakra ("wheel of time"). Some New Age interpretations of ancient Mayan religion suggest that the world is due for a Continuity Reboot at 11:11am GMT on December 22nd, 2012, although the Maya themselves don't believe this. This is also known as "eternal return". Many such systems divide these periods of existence into 'Ages'. The Yuga system, for example, shows the world evolve and devolve within each cycle (see Gotterdammerung). Of course, a more Theme Park Version-esque view on these traditions boils down to "History Repeats."

The term Eternal Recurrence was itself coined by Friedrich Nietzsche, who, while never suggesting this theory was true, adopted it as a thought experiment to test one's willpower. For example, a truly virtuous, life-loving person would be able to endure reliving his entire experience and mistakes over and over, with neither bitterness nor regret. A person capable of this degree of engagement with the world demonstrates mastery of amor Fati and the 'self-affirming Yes'. It's also to prevent Nietzschean philosophical concepts, such as the Ubermensch, from becoming overly-idealistic.

This may cause a Medieval Stasis.

Compare Groundhog Day Loop and Vicious Cycle. Has to have happened at least twice, otherwise it's simply The End of the World as We Know It.

Examples of Eternal Recurrence include:


Anime & Manga

  • Happens in Gall Force, multiple times, often in silly ways.
  • Given the story structure for Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, one would think this is happening. Actually, that's absolutely right. Though it equally falls into Groundhog Day Loop zone.
  • When the creators of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann needed to explain the opening scenes which depict events similar, but for the most part completely different from what ends up happening, it was implied that this may have been a previous, unsuccessful iteration, which failed for one reason or another.
    • Most due to something similar to Lexx below, the spiral nemesis is spiral power being so over used that universe collapses into a big crunch due to the extra energy created
  • This is an important part of Enrico Pucci's plans in part 6 of Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure. The trick is to make the universe reach the parallel point in the next cycle so quickly that spirits don't have time to die.
  • In Naruto the ultimate plan of Pain was to create such a phenomenon. By gathering the Bijuu into a single weapon, he would wipe out the existing system and then ensure it remained intact for future generations. Every time tensions led to open conflict, one side would find and use the weapon, only to blast themselves back into peace.
  • In Uzumaki, it is made clear that what happens to the town has already happened, and it will happen again.
  • A Bleach Omake has then-Lieutenant Aizen taking a stroll with the then-much younger Gin. The stroll takes place in winter and Gin remarks that to him, winter and the cyclical seasons is like Hell, which to him is the same stuff repeating over and over again.
  • Kannazuki no Miko (manga version) has a cycle of the world being destroyed by Orochi, one miko sacrificing her life to seal away Orochi, the other miko choosing one of eight possible worlds to revive, and the reincarnation of both mikos in the new world. At the ending, it's suggested that the cycle is now broken… for now, at least.
  • Happens as an result of Canon Welding between Devilman, Violence Jack and Devilman Lady - world constantly resets itself and in every new version of it Akira Fudou and Satan reincarnate to fight each other.
    • In AMON the world is on an extendeed version of Groundhog Day Loop, spanning millions of years from Satan's betrayal to Akira's death, so everything that happened once will happen all over again and again.
  • One of possible explanations of what happened at the end of Getter Robo Armageddon where main characters are dragged into another dimension in which endless war between an army of horrenderous monsters and an army of Getters takes place is this - it may be possible that they are Getter Teams from previous versions of the world. It doesn't help that Getter Robo has crossed over with viarous Go Nagai works, including abovementioned Devilman.


Comicbooks

  • In the mainstream Marvel Universe, Galactus is the sole survivor of the universe that existed before the Big Bang and also the seed for the universe that will come into being when the current one is destroyed.
    • Ragnarok used to do this to Asgard in the Marvel Universe, until Thor broke the cycle.
  • In Lucifer, the Silk Man and at least three of the Jin En Mok are the only survivors of Yahweh's previous creations (although the Jin En Mok may have existed before even those). It isn't entirely clear how many creations there have been already, but we're given the impression He's been doing this for quite a while.
    • It might not have even been Yahweh's creation, considering that the comic gives us two new fully fledged Creators. Some interpret this as the Creation where Yahweh originally came from.
  • In Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers meta-project, the Sheeda (the species that inherit the Earth in the far-fetched future when the sun has become a red giant) travel through time in their Castle Revolving to plunder humanity's technology whenever we reach a sufficiently advanced point of development - first they raided a Kirby-esque society of Neanderthal super-scientists, then a utopian, world-wide Kingdom of Camelot as ruled by the original progenitor of the Arthur myth, and then finally our world shortly after the turn of the millennium - that's where the eponymous heroes come in.


Fan Fiction

  • The Decemberists The Hazards of Love fanfiction "The Certainties treats the events of the album as an Eternal Recurrence, a chain of events that Margarets and Williams are forever doomed to repeat, until finally one set breaks the cycle.


Films

  • The Reveal at the end of The Matrix Reloaded is that Neo isn't the second "One", he's the sixth. Not only that, but the program in charge of the Matrix allows him and the other rebels to exist, since giving the Matrix's inhabitants an unconscious choice of realities is what keeps the system going. Each "One" is meant to find the Architect shortly before the Machines invade Zion, at which point he will be allowed to select survivors to repopulate the rebels and begin the process all over again. Neo's love for Trinity, a connection his predecessors didn't have, makes him say Screw Destiny.
  • Guy Maddin's Brand Upon the Brain! features the odd quote, "Everything that happens will happen again. Twice."
  • In The Fifth Element, the evil planet reappears every 5,000 years.


Literature

  • In Michael Ende's The Neverending Story, it is implied that Fantasia is destroyed on regular basis whenever the balance between worlds gets bad enough, so someone has to be sent a book and travel there to create everything anew.
  • The world of The Wheel of Time series has a cyclic system of time. The seven spokes of the Wheel represent the seven eras, and the turning of the Wheel is the course of history repeating over and over again. The Dark One's foremost human minion, Ishamael, was a philospher who thought too deep into how meaningless human life is in the grand scheme of things, and wants to help his master undo creation because of it.
  • Something like this happens at the end of the Robert Heinlein short story "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag", when the universe is remade to get rid of the Sons of the Bird.
  • The Golems in Discworld believe that the universe is circular, and one (Anghammarad, in Going Postal) has been carrying a message to a long since deceased king with him for over nine thousand years, reasoning he'll get it right the next time.
    • I Remember When All This Will Be Again - the last words of Reaper Man, delivered by the Death of Universes.
  • One of the many computer generated worlds in Otherland is based on Through the Looking Glass. Every time one king or the other dies, the world is reset to how it was at the beginning of the game.
  • In David Eddings' Belgariad and the sequels and prequels, this is used to explain why the same situation tends to reoccur over and over again. This was used partially as a wry acknowledgement of, and excuse for, David Eddings' lack of creativity, as he himself admits that he basically wrote it as an attempt to make the most generic fantasy plot of all good.
  • In Haruhi Suzumiya, one of Haruhi's first truly chilling manipulations of reality has to do with this phenomenon. Not wanting to go back to school before experiencing a truly full summer, she forces the cast to repeat the last two weeks of summer vacation. More than 15,000 times. Kyon eventually pieces together his sense of deja vu, and asks Yuki what is going on. Yuki, who retains full memory of the situation, tells him that they have repeated the summer over and over again. And how many times have they realized they're stuck in a time loop? Over 8000.
    • This was portrayed in the anime by animating the same episode 8 times, but showing different parts of the same day and from different camera angles.
  • In Isaac Asimov's short story Nightfall, a well-known cult claims that all civilization is destroyed every 2049 years when the Stars come out and cover the planet (which never experiences true darkness) in fire. At the beginning of the story, an archaeologist discovers this has indeed happened several times already. Turns out, every 2049 years all 6 of its suns experience solar eclipse, and the planet is covered in fires from all the people going crazy and looking for a new source of light.
  • A major theme of A Canticle for Leibowitz. The novel chronicles humanity's recovery from a nuclear apocalypse and ends with a second nuclear apocalypse which, it's pretty strongly implied, will kill everyone on Earth. The church has sent out colonists to other worlds, though, so it's possible that humanity may survive.


Live-Action TV

  • Battlestar Galactica is an example. The Colonial scriptures talk about the cycle of time as a story told again and again throughout eternity, though with different players. Similar "death, exodus, and rebirth" events have occurred on Kobol, the Thirteenth Colony, and the Twelve Colonies, and could still happen in the future.
  • In Lexx, the Time Prophet tells the future by looking into the previous "cycle of time." Events in each cycle are absolutely identical.
  • Discussed and defied on Lost. Jacob's enemy says that a series of events repeats itself because of the actions of humans, and it always ends the same. Jacob replies "It only ends once. Anything before that is just progress." Not that we have any idea what they're talking about yet.
  • The classic series and expanded universe of Doctor Who imply that the Guardians and/ or the Eternals are the last survivors of the Universe before the Whoniverse. The new series also has the Beast from "The Impossible Planet", who is said to come from before time and matter itself.


Music

  • Eternal Recurrence is a very common element of Sound Horizon albums, starting with their very first (Chronicle).


Religion

  What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. {10} Is there anything of which one can say, "Look! This is something new"? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. {11} There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow. {12} I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. {13} I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! {14} I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.


Tabletop Games

  • The dream plane of Dal Quor in the Eberron cosmology is said to work like this; aside from mortals' dreams, there's also the Quor Tarai, the big dream of the plane itself. When that changes, so does the nature of every single native of the plane!
  • In Shadowrun and Earthdawn, magic flows and ebbs. At its peak, the nature of reality becomes thin enough for the Horrors to come through, and they do. The indigenous population of Earth must then hide, if they do not want to be eaten.


Videogames

  • In Sonic Unleashed, Chip is in fact Light Gaia, and his job is to recreate the world after Dark Gaia has finished destroying it.
  • The whole point of Xenosaga games.
  • In Mass Effect, a hyper-advanced race of machines called the Reapers exterminate all sentient life in the Milky Way once they have reached the Citadel and established themselves throughout the galaxy. The last time this happened was 50,000 years ago, but is implied to have gone on for far longer - millions, or even billions of years.
    • In Mass Effect 2, evidence of resistance from a previous cycle is found. 37-million-year-old evidence. More overlooked is the "Leviathan of Dis" which is a ship estimated to be a billion years old. It's an inactive Reaper that the accidental activation of which causes the batarians to be the first victims in the war that follows.
    • Furthermore, in Mass Effect 3, direct parallels are drawn between the events of the current cycle and the previous, Prothean one: namely, the extremely late discovery of the Crucible blueprints, the hasty construction, the frantic search for the Catalyst, and, finally, an indoctrinated splinter faction believing they can control the Reapers and sabotaging the Crucible. It is further implied that the Crucible was built in each cycle but much too late to stop the Reapers; the species of the current cycle are the first ones who actually manage to complete the Crucible (sans Catalyst) while preserving most of their forces for the Final Battle.
  • Final Fantasy X is an example that's less The End of the World as We Know It and more 'a bunch of people die and there's some colorful explosions' thing. SIN arrives, spreads terror, Summoner gets Final Summon and spectacularly fights it, defeats it, dies in the process, several years of Calm follows, then SIN resurfaces and it all repeats again. So it goes until Tidus comes along and along with Auron convinces Yuna and the rest of the group to break the cycle.
  • In Dissidia Final Fantasy, it turns out that there have been numerous repetitions (or cycles) of the war between the Gods Cosmos and Chaos. This shows up in the title of the sequel, where the 012 specifically refers to the 12th cycle.
  • In Mega Man Legends, it turns out that the catastrophe that is occasionally alluded to is actually the work of Mega Man Juno who periodically activates a machine called EDEN to wipe out life on the island.
  • In Treasure of the Rudras, all life is annihilated every four thousand years so the Gods can reseed the world with a new dominant race. The current race is Humanity, and there are only sixteen days left before their time runs out. It turns out that all along, the Gods were hoping to create a race strong enough to break the cycle by killing them.
  • Anachronox builds on the "Big Crunch" theory (see below) with a notable exception: a previous universe, i.e. one from before the most recent Big Bang, is trying to prevent their Big Crunch by teleporting a lot of matter through some kind of time hole into our universe, in order to prevent the next universe (which they are at war with) from ever existing. So our Big Crunch gets accelerated, while their is prolonged indefintely. Of course, they didn't count on the teleported matter granting magic powers, and the ending leaves the whole thing on a Cliffhanger, due to Executive Meddling.
  • In Nexus War, the current iteration of the universe is ending. The eponymous war is to see which of the Elder Powers will shape the next one.
  • Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne implies the death and rebirth of the world has occurred multiple times. If you get the True Demon ending though you break the cycle, which pisses off YHVH something fierce.
    • Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, states outright that the Schwarzwelt has consumed sinful civilizations innumerable times, and humanity is simply experiencing its latest iteration. This is demonstrated when the crew of the Red Sprite finds evidence of those previous civilizations, different from our own but with the same failings. However, it subverts its predecessor's example by having the Chaos faction instigate and perpetuate the Schwarzwelt and the "punishment" of failed civilizations, while Lawful and Neutral paths seek to break the cycle (with vastly different motivations and results.)
  • This is EXACTLY what happens in the popular online RPG series, Dragon Fable and Mechquest, where an event called 'the Reset' causes the Lorian people to revert back to magic in order to compensate for their Lost Technology and reincarnate... TWICE. Ironically only the NPCs just don't realize this situation, so it'll happen again in the future.
  • In The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles, the Daedric Prince Sheogorath is cursed to have his Oblivion realm destroyed by himself at the end of every age.
    • And for the series as a whole, this happens depending on who you ask. Nords say that Akatosh (yes, the head of the Imperial/High Elven Pantheons) eats the universe and makes a new one, and was only stopped from doing so ever again by, guess who? Mehrunes Dagon. So is this subverted, stopped, or what?
      • All of the above. All Myths Are True in The Elder Scrolls, even ones that are explicitly mutually exclusive, precisely because they are myths. So the Nords are right, but so are the Altmer who say that Akatosh/Auriel is the ancestor of Elvendom, the Imperials who say that mortals were created as servants and not children for the gods, the Dunmer who say that anything that didn't happen on Morrowind is superfluous and unimportant in the big picture, the Dwemer who are super-Agnostic, and the Psijics who have as good an explanation as any for why those can all be true at once.
      • Skyrim states that the imperials misunderstood Alduin, whose not Akatosh. Rather Alduin is the equivalent of Lucifer to Akatosh, the best and brightest who fell to evil, and is to come again at the end to eat the world.
  • The creation and destruction of Dark and Light Gaia in Terranigma. The two worlds exist in a cyclic existence where one world exists, the other is resurrected, the older one is destroyed, the new one lives on for an unknown period of time, the other one is resurrected again and the older one destroyed. Each world has its own The Chosen One, who is responsible for resurrecting the other world and destroying their own (and will therefore die along with their own world), and the protagonist Ark is the Dark Gaia version.
  • In Bomberman 64: The Second Attack, in one of the endings Bomberman has to face off against the "Angel of Light and Shadow", the being that is responsible for the creation and destruction of the universe in its lifecycle.
  • The events in the Kingdom of Loathing. You beat The Naughty Sorceress, free the king and Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, and peace returns to the Kingdom. Then you check the news: The NS is back, she;s recaptured King Ralph, The Cyrpt has been redefiled, ect. It's an in-world excuse for a New Game+.
  • Radiant Silvergun. The entire plot of the game is one of these, thanks to the "big bad" (if it can be considered that) warping you back to 100,000 BC at the end of the game. The clones of the player characters - the originals of both having died in the Stone-Like's penultimate onslaught - are the genesis of humanity.
  • Captain Forever opens up with you being a survivor of a sector-wide explosion, and every time you die you cause ANOTHER sector-wide explosion, and the game starts all over again. The readme confirms the eternal nature of this predicament.
  • In The Legend of Spyro trilogy, it turns out that purple dragons are supposed to destroy and rebuild the world periodically. The problem is, the last one appointed to the position, Malefor, didn't exactly do his job properly...
  • The basic premise of The Legend of Zelda canon. Every so many generations a great evil (usually Ganondorf/Ganon) will consume Hyrule, and reincarnations of Link and Zelda will defeat it.
  • The Castlevania canon is similar, with Big Bad Dracula destined to be reborn (at least) once every hundred years and defeated by some iteration of the Belmont clan and their allies. Worth noting is the fact that Dracula himself is canonically Deader Than Dead as of 1999, but the cycle seems to be going on even without him.
  • The Circle of 60 Years in Gensokyo is closer to Vicious Cycle. But if things in the PC-98 games are considered as have happened, then Touhou is an example of this trope in a strangely meta way: PC-98 are no longer used nor manufactured today and software written to run on it are Deader Than Dead (bar emulator). But Gensokyo itself has new iteration...
    • At least one fanwork were written to discuss this trope. Basically, Gensokyo is not a stable realm, being severed from reality by the Yakumo boundary. Gensokyo is constantly "wounded", and it tries to kill itself (i.e. by summoning Shinki, in 5; or by inciting Yuuka's rampage in 9) to return to the rest of reality and make it whole again. The real purpose of Shrine Maiden of Hakurei is to be sacrificed to cleanse this wound... by making Heroic Sacrifice to take down the aforementioned destroyers. Poor Reimu.
  • The Fae in Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning do not truly die like mortals. They are fated to repeat their lives endlessly in the "Great Cycle". The appearance of the Tuatha Deohn, Winter Fae who have managed to break their own Cycle thanks to the power of their new god Tirnoch, is taken as a sign by other Fae that the Cycle is ending.


Webcomics

  • This is likely the single best illustration of this concept you'll ever find.
  • Unicorn Jelly: both a select few of the human race fleeing the destructive "Stormfall" to colonize a new world and guide it towards being able to construct more arks when the stormfall catches up to them and the discovery of a weapon that creates such a "stormfall", which destroys everything in the universe only for life to eventually return when the "hyperspace raindrops" phenomenon transports species from another cosmos once again--though the latter isn't apparent until the final arc of the strip.
  • This strip from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal combines it with Lensman Arms Race.
  • Universes in Homestuck are eventually destroyed due to Lord English, but universes are also created constantly due to Skaia. This process of Sburb has no known beginning or end, though the sessions shown in the comic are instrumental to certain conditions perpetuating it. It is implied all universes and reality itself is merely the shape of another, higher being / force known only as Paradox Space, implicitly responsible for the settings immutable fate.


Western Animation

  • In Futurama, when Bender, Fry, and Farnsworth travel to the end of the universe in a forwards-only time machine, they witness a new Big Bang, allowing them to return to the year 3010.
    • Then they go too far and have to "bring her around again" and witness another Big Bang. But this time the new universe is about ten feet lower than their old one.


Real Life

  • Many versions of the Real Life "Big Crunch" hypothesis of how the universe will end postulate that our own universe started with a Big Bang an indeterminate amount of time after a previous universe's Big Crunch...
    • This may have been disproved by the recent discovery of Dark Energy, which seems to be increasing the speed of universal expansion over time, rather than slowing it down.
  • Another cosmological theory suggests that our cosmos is one of an unknown number of universes which emerge from an eternal quantum vacuum independently of each other.
    • And yet another suggests that, since the Universe is accelerating its expansion, space will eventually expand so quickly that it will repeat the conditions of the Big Bang and start the whole thing all over again.
    • And yet another theory (or variation of the above) notes that what we call a void really isn't, but is filled with quantum energy, and particles that come and go in picoseconds. In untold trillions of years it will form conditions somewhere, which will produce another universe. When there's an infinity of time, even the utterly improbable will become a certainty.
  • One of the schisms from the Last Thursdayist religion believes that this happens every week.
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