The image of the Vortex was used a fair amount in Modernist literature, most importantly by Pound and Lewis, who numbered Joyce and Eliot in their circle.

I was wondering if a "vortex" was -- implicitly or otherwise -- meant here as a figure for Nietzschean ideals of creativity.

The vortex -- in its early modes at least -- is meant to be still at its centre. See Perloff The Dance of the Intellect, p. 40. I think that

  1. it's a bad figure for willing the eternal return, and it was not meant that way. Because
  2. the eternal return becomes easier to genuinely will as pressure -- relevance or meaning -- increases as the agent is now.

Are the two sentences in 2 and 1 incorrect?

The eternal return is meant to be a test, can you [we can't] will the eternal return of all human history including oneself, without giving up.

  • 1
    Pound early on was really a salesman for the new poets. He wore wild outfits, brightly colored velvet suits and so on. He was not known for being a poet. He had a long development, now we can say he was never any good. But he had a good ear for new poetry. Eliot was always conservative. He was reacting against the modern. His style may have been modern.
    – Gordon
    Nov 4, 2019 at 11:07
  • thanks Gordon... you're sure Pound was never any good?
    – user38026
    Nov 4, 2019 at 11:24
  • 2
    @another_name: Ezra Pound was known for making radio broadcasts on behalf of Italian fascism... Nov 4, 2019 at 11:31
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    Yeah I knew he tended that way (the fascist stuff). But when that began to happen, his own personal development, I don’t know. There may be some newer biographies on him. || overall I would say that artists who become famous are doers, and not readers of philosophy books. A gross generalization I know.
    – Gordon
    Nov 4, 2019 at 11:40
  • "ear for talent" good phrase, thanks gordon
    – user38026
    Nov 4, 2019 at 11:49

2 Answers 2


No, vortex does not represent eternal return, or something else Nietzschean, although there is a quaint common cause connection in the 19th century physics. Although Nietzsche did influence some modernists, but that influence was not "global". The "ideals of creativity" propounded by modernists weren't specifically Nietzschean either, the artistic genius worship ran through German romanticism since the 18th century.

Pound was the one who brought the vortex into the artistic circles, and its origin was the by then outdated vortex theory of atoms, due to Kelvin (William Thomson). It was developed in the glory days of ether, which was supposed to provide the first theory of everything, and the vortices in ether were to be the building blocks of tangible matter. For Pound, the starting point was a pop-version of Kelvin's theory as presented in Balfour-Tait's The Unseen Universe (1875), where they connected the creation of vortex atoms to spirituality and the divine agency. Of course, Pound's vortex theory had no more in common with ether physics than Nietzsche's eternal return had with statistical mechanics, which inspired the idea mainly because Nietzsche misunderstood it. Curiously, Kelvin stood at the origins of both thermodynamics and the vortex theory.

For general information on vorticism see Into the Vortex: Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis and the Modernist Avant-Garde by Southgate, and Pfannkuchen's detailed study From Vortex to Vorticism: Ezra Pound’s Art and Science. There is also a shorter version, Pfannkuchen, The Unseen Universe of art: Vortex motion in the Ether:

"Pound invented the name and for him – as I will argue – the Vorticist art theory he developed became the basis for most of his later work. He built a theoretical foundation before starting to write his major opus “The Cantos... Some of Pounds central artistic ideas come out of 19th century science that he translated into his art theory... his ‘translations’ from science which were anything but literal. Pound may not have understood every detail of 19th century physics but he was very good at identifying what of this – at the time already a bit outdated physical theory – ‘matters now’ and he uses exactly that part to define his own artistic project.

[...] The vortex appears in Pound’s published writings for the first time in a poem from 1905,[17] and later, after his arrival in London in two letters before it culminates in the movement of Vorticism—named by Pound—in 1914. In the abovementioned letter to his fiancée he explained his concept of being an artist and argued that: “Energy depends on ones ability to make a vortex — genius même.”[18] So for Pound—just as for Stewart and Tait—the central question was: who produces the vortex. Pound was not interested in God or another divine agency, instead he declares—propagandistic and programmatic at the same time—the ability to make a vortex for an indication of the true artist. From the perspective of the Unseen Universe Pound puts art in the place of religion and the artist in the place of the divine agency. A little less dramatic it could be said, Pound derives the vortex from a key position, where in the Unseen Universe it stands for the assertion “god exists,” and transforms it into his very worldly claim “true art exists.

[...] In the first Vorticist publication, the magazine BLAST, it is very clear that the vortex is Pound’s brainchild... Pound sets out with the statement that “The vortex is the point of maximum energy.” His further description refers to such technical terms as “efficiency”, “mechanics” and “fluid force.” He calls for a “primary pigment” of art: “The Vorticist relies on this alone: on the primary pigment of his art, nothing else.” This primary pigment of the Vorticist is “the most highly energized statement, the statement that has not yet SPENT itself in expression, but the one which is the most capable of expressing.” For readers familiar with Pound this description refers of course also to his earlier imagist theory. But with the vortex he seems to have found the proper name and concept for what he wanted to express.”


Great Question.

Starting from a platonic perspective of strict form the vortex begins with a 0d point and ends with a 0d point...it is circular in nature as the end point is the same as the premise. This is from a standard geometric perspective.

In non scientific symbolism, ie religious (Hinduism, Paganism, etc), the vortex is viewed as both a creative and destructive force. A creative it results in the formation of form through a self negation. Void is voided.

This double negation is observed within the groundings of intuitionist logic. It is also observed in the simple axiom of a line (segment) between two points in Euclidian geometry where the point negates itself (formless negating itself) into a line (form).

The new form in turn is negated into a new form, as void is not subject to time or space...and the process spirals.

The spiral is thus a perpetual curve between two points, as observed by the golden ratio...and as such is circular. This is considering the beginning and end point of a line or spiral are both a 0d point or "void" in more abstract terms.

This force is a universal platonic form.

Jung, in his formulation of the word "archetype" observed these platonic forms under the context of psychology and observed its creative potential.

Eastern Philosophy observes Kundalini energy as a spiral as well.

We see these vortex forms replicate in a myriad of ways within nature ranging from tornadoes to hurricanes to sea shells.

These natural phenomena show a destructive nature (storms wiping out buildings, sea shell ending the assault from a predator) and creative (storms creating new clear space as well as watering potential vegetation, sea shell protecting life).

It is observed with the golden ratio of math, as well as the progressive cycling of 1 through the number line.

It is observed in the rotary movements of sports, as well as the cycles that consist of the human body.

It occurs within the nature of tautology, as observed by Wittgenstien as well as the progressive spiraling of definition we see whenever we loop up any word within a dictionary.

This can be observed simply in aristotelian identity properties:




In observing the identity of P a cycle occurs, as something cannot equal itself unless it is self referencing. This identity is thus a context of self-referentiality.

Thus one context leads to another context as a variation of the original.

This is a tautauolgy and recursive.

One context breaks down into another with a new context being created.

The examples are boundless.

However, considering Neitzche's premise of everything being a contradiction we are left to pointing towards the fallacies. The simplest of these fallacies being the Trillemas of Munchausseen, Agrippa and Frie.

They observe directly or implicitly:

  1. All is assumed points of observation.
  2. All is regressive definition.
  3. All is circular.

We are left with a spiral form in understand the core foundations of what composes the fallacy.

Thus Neitzches work, intentionally or not, is premised on these fallacies and his perspectivism is grounded in them. This is reflected further in his pessimism of society spirally to destruction as well as the modernist, as you claim, interest in the spiral.

The modernist view, premised on industry being the foundation of modernism, is grounded in the spiral use of resources where we use resources to create technology that uses more resources in order to create more technology to acquire more resources.

These resources can be from anything physical, to simply being the harvesting of humans attention through consumerist entertainment industry (we spend resources on entertainment in order to promulgate more resources on entertainment...etc.)

Thus to address your two sentences.

  1. The eternal return is natural as evidence by the forms in nature.

  2. To will the eternal return is to force the internal return, but to force what is already occurring is to break it.

  3. But is cannot be broken as we end up using spirals (see argument above with industry and logic) to do it.

  4. Thus we create many forms out of one causing the return to become more complex.

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