I'm looking for a word that describes terror at the idea of being infinitely born back into the world, trapped in a cycle that never ends and is inescapable.

Possibly a word that relates to religion or philosophy.

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    You might wanna ask the guys at Buddhism SE or Hinduism SE about this. If such a word exists, it's almost certainly of religious origin. – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica Jun 8 '16 at 19:20
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    @HotLicks If you feel OP's question is not useful, you can explain it to them in a serious way. Sarcasm is probably not the best idea towards new users whom we should welcome to the site. – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica Jun 8 '16 at 19:23
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    @Fiksdal It's ok. He has a right to express himself and how he feels. – user180045 Jun 8 '16 at 19:25
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    Samsaraphobia does have a nice ring! – GrimGrom Jun 8 '16 at 19:30
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    Actually, even the Buddhists/Hindus probably wouldn't have a word for this exact thing, due to the criterion of "inescapable". In those religions, said cycle is in fact said to be escapable. (I.E. when attaining Enlightenment/Liberation.) So you're looking for a word to describe the mental state of a follower of a Dharmic religion who is suffering from phobia due to a misunderstanding of the teachings of his religion. I feel for that guy. – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica Jun 8 '16 at 19:45

There's no single word as far as I know. You might call it metaphysical dread/horror/panic to emphasize that the dread/horror/panic is rooted in a metaphysical possibility.

Nietzsche called the burden of experiencing your own life infinitely many times the greatest weight:

The greatest weight—What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you 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 more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to 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 upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!" (here)

The reason I mention this is because perhaps some of the literature on Nietzsche will contain a term describing the potential horror one feels at the idea of cyclic rebirth or the similar idea of eternal return.

  • Very interesting. I presume this would be "the greatest weight" only if one knew with certainty that it was happening? Or is the mere possibility of being a meaningless player in this endless scheme "the greatest weight?" – anongoodnurse Jun 12 '16 at 19:00
  • @medica, certainly the very possibility is terrifying. But Nietzsche actually thought that it was both true and provable. He even took a break from philosophy in order to study physics in an attempt to prove it! But for him, it was only "the greatest weight" if one was not embracing their life. Once one begins to embrace life and approves of every one of one's own actions, the fact of eternal recurrence actually becomes exhilarating. That's a lot of what's behind Nietzsche's idea of amor fati (love of fate), IMO. – GrimGrom Jun 12 '16 at 21:37
  • I love the diverse things I learn here. Thanks so much. Amor fati. I will read about that. – anongoodnurse Jun 13 '16 at 2:21

As I suggested in a now deleted comment, you could use the word Samsaraphobia.

Please note that this is not an established word, by any means. (The adjective Samsaraphobic has been used a little bit online, but it's definitely not in any dictionary.)

Samsara: (Dharmic religions) The endless series of births, deaths, and rebirths to which all beings are subject.

Phobia: A persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it.

Please note that even this word might not fully satisfy your criteria in OP.

This is due to your criterion:

a cycle that never ends and is inescapable.

The word "Samsara" stems from the Sanskrit language and the religious texts of Dharmic religions. In those religions, Samsara is not at all seen as inescapable. On the contrary, the major teaching of those religions is that Samsara is in fact escapable. Not only that, doing so is in fact the ultimate goal of those religions. Hence, samsara can by no means be described as something inescapable.

However, phobia can mean an "irrational" fear. So that might make sense, then.

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