13 | CR Book VI
We may first assume that eternity excludes the temporal order, and
study the mental states in which we are unaware of time. If eternity
excludes time, and if it is taken as the standard that reveals the true
being of things, everything would be one from its viewpoint, all change
would be illusory, all multiplicity would fade into unity, all content into
In view of the multiplicity of times, we must wonder whether there
is at all one common time. If there is not, there will be no objective
simultaneity, and it would have no sense to speak of material contra-
dictions, except in each case in reference to one collective time. If, on the
other hand, all times are one time - eternity - all events will be simul-
taneous, all the apparently incompatible potentialities will be realised at
the same time, and the world will be full of material contradictions.
Things, further, would be nothing compared with eternal reality.
They would appear annihilated, by comparison with eternity. We here
assume that the relation of things to eternity reveals their true essence,
that they have their being not in their own right, as independent entities,
but only in comparison with and in relation to something else.
We may, on the contrary, take it that time and eternity are somehow
united, and include each other in some way. Their unity can be, and has
been, experienced. This experience has been translated into the intel-
lectual phraseology of philosophical tradition. eternity is then under-
stood as a total and perfect possession of an endless life all at once.
In the experience of "eternal life", or of "life in eternity"
tradition, attempted to combine time and eternity in actual living
experience. This experience involves some contradictions which are
brought out in the Christian account of the incarnation of Christ, and
in the description of eternal life after death which turns out to consist
of a combination of incompatibles. It is only when we use rational
language that these contradictions come out, and one might say, with a
certain degree of justification, that this kind of language is inadequate.
Yet we should not be prejudiced against contradictions. Their presence,
while it is a sign of imperfection, is a sign of life, too. Our attempts to
reach eternal life before death, and to have a glimpse at timeless reality,
are also full of contradictions. Eternity itself, truly understood, is self-
contradictory and its concept does not give sense. It is qualitatively
different from time, and yet it does not contrast itself with non-eternity
or impermanence. It is "eternity unthinkable", and yet it alone can
restore peace of mind.
[1941 Note on eternity]
BOOK VI - LEVELS OF GENERALITY
The size of objective units further depends on the level of generality.
This is first shown for ourselves.
The concrete self, like everything else, in itself, simply looked at
without reflection, is neither singular nor universal. As soon as we
describe it in words, and reflect on it, it will be either, or both. It will be
regarded either in those features which combine it with others, or in
those which separate it from others. It will be defined either as one among
many, or as uniquely standing by itself alone. The question arises
whether its universal features are the more essential ones, or whether its
being can be got at only in its singularity. It is impossible to decide
whether the features which we share with others, or those which we have
all to ourselves are the more essential ones. The more we dwell on what