“He who participates in God, participates in eternity.” – Paul Tillich, The Courage To Be.
In the last post, we looked at the sempiternal elements of man; today we will consider views of the eternal for man.
Eternity is manifest for human beings within the metaphysical nature of time and the meaning of infinity. If reality follows the arrow of time, I was born at point A and will die at point B. If moments in time have no duration (time is continuous rather than discrete) and I live always in the present moment, then there are an infinite number of moments between points A and B. But an infinite number of moments can never be exhausted and thus I can never run out of metaphysical time. In other words, the duration of life consists of an infinite set of moments which defines our transcendental eternity.
This can be alternately reconfigured by considering being and non-being. If I know non-being only as that state before my existence and death simply as the return to that state, I know being as simply that which occurs between my birth and death. Therefore, I have been, am, and will exist at every moment of being…analogous to eternity for the number ‘2.’ If this argument fails because ultimate being existed before and will exist after my existence unlike the number ‘2’, we can introduce a corollary from Paul Tillich that my being participates in ultimate being and thereby partakes of eternity.
A final perspective is found in Nietzsche’s theory of the eternal recurrence. In infinite time, a finite number of particles will reconfigure themselves an infinite number of times into any state of reality and thus we have infinite identical lives. This once questionable cosmology has gained traction recently given physicist speculation of the multiverse as an infinite number of universes. Of course, identical copies or oneself in identical circumstances may not signify eternal existence.
In closing, these last two posts demonstrate that we are sempiternal as physical bodies via our elemental parts, emanations of energy, and chains of causation; and eternal by virtue of the infinite number of moments we live, our experience of being, nonbeing and participation in ultimate being, and perhaps by eternal recurrence. However none of these quite corresponds to an infinite number of years of life or consciousness.
Before we define the best approach to death, we still need to explore a few alternative conceptions of immortality which is the subject of the next post.