Fragments: Eternity Shining into Time

A. N. Whitehead’s cosmology stands out in the history of the discipline in that the former places metaphysical value on experience. Many cosmological conceptions reject precisely this most immediate advent of reality and attempt instead to replace immediate experience with an hypothetical model of reality outside of experience. As tempting as it would be to polemicise this tendency, I hereby vow to exercise some restraint. I will abstain from a critique of surreptitious metaphysics masquerading as science and proceed, therefore, to consider why Whitehead values personal identity. The reason is the same as that wherefore Whitehead’s cosmology is so unique amongst its counterparts: experience matters, and personal identity is the venue of experience. Personal identity concentrates actual occasions in qualitative intensity in the same way that a theatre concentrates an audience. The latter can comprehend a drama in its entirely despite that the condition for its performance demanded a sequential unfolding. In the same way that the timeless idea of the drama is transposed into temporal sequence as a condition for its presentation, so the primordial nature of God pours into actuality through the aperture of sentient beings. Eternal objects shine into time via the experience of ephemeral subjects, like the sunlight streaming through stained-glass windows at Chartres Cathedral. Thus, God’s primordial nature becomes God’s consequent nature, and the subject is the vessel of this transmutation. As Meister Eckhart writes:

It must therefore be known that to know God and to be known by God is the same. We know God and see Him in that He makes us to see and to know.

Or as Jesus says in the Gospel According to St. John:

…the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. (14:10)

Addendum: What sublime meaning might the season of Christmastide endow the thoughts above withal?


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