5. Infinity And Eternity

People inevitably confuse Divine Infinity with infinity of space. And because they do not conceive of infinity of space as anything other than nothingness, as indeed it is, neither do they believe in Divine Infinity. The same applies to Eternity. They cannot conceive of it except as an eternity of time, but it is manifested continually by means of time to those who dwell within [space and] time. (Arcana Coelestia 1382)

A natural man inevitably falls into a nonsensical way of thinking about God when with notions involving the passage of time he contemplates what God was doing before the creation of the world, that is, what He was engaged in from eternity up to then. Nor can he be extricated from that tangled knot until notions of time and space are banished. When angels contemplate that eternity they never do so with notions of time but with ideas of state. (Arcana Coelestia 8325)

Anyone who does not know this, and who cannot from any perception think of God independently of time, is utterly incapable of conceiving of eternity other than as an eternity of time. In that case he also cannot help but think irrationally of God’s being from eternity, for he thinks in terms of a beginning, and a beginning is characteristic solely of time. His irrational thinking continues to the point of judging that God originated from Himself, and from that it slips headlong into supposing the origin of nature to be from itself. From this idea he can be extricated only by a spiritual or angelic concept of eternity, which is one independent of time; and when thought of independently of time, eternity and Divinity are one and the same, the Divine being Divine in itself, and not from itself. Angels say that they can indeed conceive of God’s being from eternity, but not in any way of nature’s being from eternity, still less of nature’s originating from itself, and not at all of nature’s being nature in itself. For what exists in itself is being itself, the origin of all else, and being in itself is life itself, which is the Divine love belonging to Divine wisdom and the Divine wisdom belonging to Divine love. This to angels is eternity, being thus independent of time, as the uncreated is independent of the created, or the infinite independent of the finite, which do not have even a mathematical relation (ratio). (Divine Love and Wisdom 76)

Since God is eternal, He is, also, infinite; but as there is a natural idea as well as a spiritual idea of what is eternal, so is there also of what is infinite. The natural idea of what is eternal is derived from time, but the spiritual idea of this is not from time. The natural idea also of what is infinite is derived from space, but the spiritual idea of it is not from space. For as life is not nature, so the two properties of nature, which are time and space, are not properties of life, for they are from the life which is God, and were created with nature. The natural idea of the infinite God, derived from space, is, that He fills the universe from end to end; but from this idea concerning the infinite the thought arises, that the inmost of nature is God, and that therefore He is extension, whereas all extension is a property of matter.  Thus because the natural idea does not at all agree with the idea of life-wisdom and love – which is God, therefore what is infinite must be viewed from the spiritual idea, in which, as there is nothing of time, so there is nothing of space, because there is nothing of nature. It is from the spiritual idea, that the Divine Love is infinite, and that the Divine Wisdom is infinite; and since the Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom are the life which is God, therefore the Divine Life is also infinite; God therefore is consequently infinite. That the Divine Wisdom is infinite, is evident from the wisdom of the angels of the third heaven. Because these excel others in wisdom, they perceive that there is no comparison between their wisdom and the Divine Wisdom of the Lord, for there can be no comparison between infinite and finite. They say also that the first degree of wisdom is to see and acknowledge that this is the case; it is similar in regard to the Divine Love. (Apocalypse Explained 1131{2&3})

Divine Transcendence: Spiritual Christianity asserts that the Divine Being (Jehovah) transcends space and time, which are properties of the finite, natural world, not of the Divine.

Misconceptions in Theology and Philosophy: Common theological and philosophical perspectives erroneously apply concepts of space and time to the Divine, leading to misunderstandings about Divine Infinity and Eternity.

Negative Theology: Spiritual Christianity uses a negative approach, defining the Divine by what He is not, rather than by positive attributes, to emphasize the absence of spatial and temporal limitations.

Infinity and Eternity: Infinity means the absence of spatial extension in the Divine, while Eternity denotes the absence of temporal progression, distinguishing Divine nature from the finite experience of time and space.

Avoiding Perplexities: Misinterpreting Divine Infinity and Eternity through natural reasoning leads to confusion and paradoxes about the nature of the Divine.

1. What does Spiritual Christianity teach about the Divine Being in relation to space and time?
a) The Divine Being exists within space and time.
b) The Divine Being transcends space and time.
c) The Divine Being creates space and time but is bound by them.
d) The Divine Being only exists in time, not in space.
Answer: b)

2. How does Spiritual Christianity suggest that we understand the terms Infinity and Eternity in relation to the Divine?
a) As extensions of space and time.
b) As concepts relevant only to human experience.
c) As finite extensions of Divine properties.
d) As complete absence of space and time.
Answer: d)

3. What is the common mistake in theological and philosophical reasoning that Spiritual Christianity addresses?
a) Associating the Divine Being with finite properties of space and time.
b) Considering the Divine Being as having physical form.
c) Believing the Divine Being is subject to moral laws.
d) Imagining the Divine Being as an abstract concept without real existence.
Answer: a)

4. What does the term ‘negative theology’ mean in the context of the teachings for Spiritual Christianity’s teachings?
a) Describing the Divine through positive attributes.
b) Focusing on what the Divine is not.
c) Denying the existence of the Divine.
d) Using negative experiences to understand the Divine.
Answer: b)

5. According to Spiritual Christianity, what leads to dangerous perplexities in understanding the Divine?
a) Scientific approaches to theology.
b) Political interpretations of religious texts.
c) Natural reasoning based on space and time.
d) Mystical experiences without doctrinal basis.
Answer: c)

1. How does Spiritual Christianity’s concept of Infinity and Eternity challenge your current understanding of the Divine?
• Reflect on how this perspective affects your view of the nature of God and the limitations of human understanding.

2. What implications does the absence of space and time in the Divine Being have for your personal spiritual beliefs or practices?
• Consider how this idea might change the way you perceive spiritual experiences or the practice of prayer and meditation.

3. How might recognising the limitations of natural reasoning in theological contexts alter your approach to spiritual or philosophical questions?
• Think about how acknowledging these limitations could affect your engagement with complex or paradoxical theological issues.

Each day, set aside 10-15 minutes for a meditative practice. Focus on the idea that the Divine transcends the spatial and temporal dimensions of your immediate experience. Reflect on the notion that all changes and variations you perceive are aspects of your finite existence, not applicable to the Divine. Write down any insights or feelings that arise from contemplating the Divine as beyond space and time.

Steps:

  1. Find a quiet place and sit comfortably.
  2. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
  3. Contemplate on the idea that the Divine exists beyond any spatial or temporal constraints and that any changes you perceive are due to your finite existence.
  4. Observe your thoughts and feelings without judgment.
  5. Conclude the session by noting down any reflections or new understandings.

Choose one of the key points from the video and try to express and integrate it creatively through your senses. Pick a modality to do this through, perhaps a different one from what you have chosen previously. Consider drawing or painting, making or listening to music, poetry, exercise, gardening, cooking, or even just watching the colourful or dramatic impressions of the natural world. There are so many ways you can engage with it. Record your insights from this exercise and also document any differences in what is awakened in you with this new modality.

You will have your own personal preferences, but here are two pieces of music and art that you might like to use for inspiration to get you started…

Music

“The Unanswered Question” by Charles Ives

This piece captures a sense of mystery and transcendence, with its meditative quality and juxtaposition of tonal and atonal elements, reflecting the tension between the finite human understanding and the incomprehensible nature of the Divine.

Visual Art

“The Persistence of Memory” by Salvador Dalí

This surreal painting, with its melting clocks and dreamlike landscape, evokes the fluidity and distortion of time, inviting reflection on the concept of Eternity as the absence of time.

To make it clearer still what appearances of truth are, let the following example be added: It is well known that the Divine is infinite as regards Being (Esse) and eternal as regards Manifestation (Existere), and that what is finite is incapable of comprehending what is infinite, or indeed of comprehending what is eternal, since what is eternal is the Manifestation (Existere) of what is infinite. And because the Divine itself is infinite and eternal, so are all things which proceed from the Divine infinite and also eternal. And as those things are infinite angels are quite incapable of grasping them, for they too are finite beings. That being so, things that are infinite and eternal present themselves to angels within appearances that are finite, though within appearances such as are very far above the range of what man can comprehend. For example, man is quite incapable of possessing any idea of what is eternal except from what is temporal. And being incapable of having any idea other than this he is incapable of comprehending what ‘from eternity’ is and so what the Divine prior to the existence of time or creation of the world is. And as long as his thinking contains any idea at all that is formed from what is temporal, he slips inevitably, if he thinks about what is eternal, into errors from which he cannot be rescued. But the angels, whose ideas are not formed from anything temporal but from timeless state, are enabled to perceive it supremely well, for to them eternity is not eternity of time but eternity of state devoid of any idea of that which is temporal. From this one may see what the appearances existing with angels are like compared with man’s, and how superior their appearances are to man’s. For man cannot have one shred of thought, not even the least shred, that is not in some way temporal and spatial in origin, whereas angels’ thought has no such origin at all. Instead their thought has its origin in timeless state, in which the being (esse) and the manifestation (existere) of things is the only consideration. (Arcana Coelestia 3404{2&3})

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