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6092Re: Relativity and Neoplatonism (Mether vs. Chase, III)

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  • Thomas Mether
    Oct 29, 2013
      John Dillon writes:

      "If I may intervene in this interesting discussion: Iamblichus seems to have
      been striving towards some such insight in proposing the concept of
      Transcendent Time, a sort of ŒIdea¹ of Time, which was not Eternity, but
      rather the intellectual state of Pure Soul, the hypostasis Soul, which could
      presumably enjoy a global comprehension of the whole extent of temporal
      succession ‹ for it time would be a circle rather than a straight line. Cf,
      In Tim. 
      And how would the Zoroastrian concept of Zervan fit into all of this? JMD"

      The first does not seem to get at the issue. As far as Zurvan akarana, the
      Zoroatrian materials left on this are suggestive but incomplete. For understanding
      Zurvan materials, the typical method has been to look at the Indian materials
      they seem borrowed from. Zurvan seems borrowed from Prajapati. Still, as Cohn
      argues in his Cosmos and Chaos, the contrasting religious shape of time, time
      as apocalyptic (of the future disrupting the developmental trends of the past), 
      Zoroastrianism seems to be the origin of this "apocalypytic time" that contrasts with 
      the "myth of return" described by Eliade. Bultmann, in his Primitive Christianity (as well
      as D.S Russell in his Between the Testaments on late Jewish apocalyptic literature),
      makes the same contrast Cohn does but not in as developed form.

      So, we briefly turn to the Indian context where the same issue is brought up. In the Brahmanas,
      Prajapati IS Time Itself as a sadguna (essential divine attribute). In the Nirukta and in the Srauta Sutras
      (ritual "how to texts" for doing the Vedic sacrifice), a question arises whether Prajapati in being Time itself
      is just the whole temporal framework timelessly or whether Prajapati also has to somehow incarnationally
      also be of passing time. The answer is the later in order for Prajapati to actually be this manifest world
      and interact with it. Just to know the entire sequence of events from beginning to end without knowing
      what time it is *now* would not enable Prajapati to interact with the world that is his own body. This
      means that divine time has to be inclusive of - rather than exclusive of - passing time in which now is
      a finite location between past and present. The next phase of the Discussion in the Indian tradition
      develops within the Vaisnavite context coming out of the Mahabharata and the Gita within it. Vishnu
      is the incarnating God, hence Krsna. In the Mahabharata and in the Visnu Purana, it is again affirmed
      being according to the categories includes substances, qualities, relations, etc. Then it affirms that time is
      not a relation in the manner of the Greeks but is a dravya (a substance). In fact, it is a "being-attribute" of God
      and Visnu IS Time itself. Then the same question is rehearsed as with Prajapati. Since, contrary to Sankara's
      Advaita Vedanta, the world is not an illusion but a real manifestation and in fact actually the body of Visnu,
      what is the relation of his being time itself and the passing time and seasons and yuga ages of time world.
      It is affirmed that Visnu must include within himself the temporal finitude of a finite temporal location of *now*
      finitely located between passing past and coming future to both animate his world/body from within and to
      know what where in the successive sequence of world events and ages is *now* the time to be born an

      That is the same issue I was raising in terms of contemporary discussions of time. Charles Taliaferro,
      in his Contemporary Philosophy of Religion textbook (which is the one I use) (Blackwell) devotes chapters
      5 and 6 to discussing the same issues and challenges this issue raises for traditional Christian concepts
      of eternity and transcendence, divine omniscience. Peter K. McInerney deals with the same issue in developing
      a Husserlian criticism of MacTaggart's A-Series, B-Series, and C-Series (where in essence macTaggart argues passing time of present dynamically sandwiched between a passing away past and a coming future is an illusion based on a tenseless before-after sequence that can be further redecuded to somekind of ordinal C-seies.). McInerney argues it is essentially the reverse in his Time and Experience. 

      Contemporary philosophers of time have argued that realtivity theory is evidence for atheism because it makes a divinely omniscient being of this world impossible. Stump and krestman rather unsuccessfully try to take up the challenge from a Thomist view in "Prophecy, Truth, and Eternity (Philosophical Perspectives 5 1991) and "Eternity, Awareness, and Action" (Faith and Philosophy 9 1992), See also Richard Gale, "The Static vs. Dynamic Temporal" in The Philosophy of Time. eidted by Richard Gale. and Biran Leftow Time and Eternity, Cornell Studies in the Philosophy of Religion. 

      BTW, aspects of the same debate began with John Duns Scotus's reaction to Aquinas's dealing with time and eternity (Ordinatio 1. 38-39, 9-10).

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