“Eternity and Time: two entirely separate things, we explain, ‘the one having its being in the everlasting kind, the other in the realm of process, in our own universe’. … What then does Eternity mean to those who describe it as something different from Time? … What definition are we to give to Eternity? … It must be at once something in the nature of unity and yet a notion compact of diversity, of a kind. … We sum all into a collected unity once more, a sore life in the Supreme; … a life never varying, nor becoming what it previously was, the thing immutable itself, broken by no interval; and knowing this, we know Eternity.” ~Plotinus
Eternity and Time
Plotinus’ explanation of time and eternity is difficult to follow and the above quote is only a small part of it. The basic idea is really simple. Most people tent to relate the two words and think that Eternity simply means a very long time. A length of time so great that it cannot be measured. But that is not correct. Eternity is not a measurement of time, but a complete denial of it. In short, in a place where eternity exists, time cannot. Likewise, in a place where time rules, eternity cannot dwell. So what are they?
Plotinus goes through a long explanation of why eternity cannot be considered repose simply because time is often thought of as measuring movement. It would mean that the eternal cannot move, yet there are eternal principles or forces that are in constant motion. Eternity is not divisible, while time is. We can break up a year into months, months into weeks, weeks into days and so on. We cannot do that with eternity. You cannot have a half-eternity, or a tenth of eternity. That turns eternity into a large amount of time, and that is not what it is. You might even think of it as anti-time, a force that opposes time and all it stands for.
While eternity is difficult to grasp, time is not. It is actually quite simple. Time is not a way of measuring movement, but of change. It is that simple. Movement may be a type of change, but eternal movement is not changing and therefore not subject to time. Movement that changes is subject to time. Anything that changes is subject to time. In a realm of time, thing grow old and die. Under the control of time, things rot away and are replaced with other things. This is quite different from being eternal.
The Strange Paradox of Time
We often here, with regard to time, that we can only function in the present, not in the past, and not in the future. But science has proven that wrong.
While it may be only a fraction of a second, it takes a certain amount of time for the knowledge of an event to register on our brain and for the brain to react to it. This means that while we are reacting in the present, we are reacting to the past. We touch a hot stove, then feel the burn, then react by pulling the hand away. We are reacting to a past event. We always react to a past event. Even a person who is psychic and can see future events is not reacting to the present, but to the future. And what is the present exactly?
Science cannot agree on how long the present is. Even to say that defies the concept of the present. Some say it is about 200 milliseconds: the time it takes for an event to register on the brain. Other say we perceive the present as being about two or three seconds long. But perception is often not reality. We have electronic timers now that an break seconds us into nanoseconds. A nanosecond is one billionth of a second. Logically, if a devise can count nanoseconds, then what happened one nanosecond ago is in the past, not the present. So by the time our brain is aware of something, it is in the past. This is the strange realm of time we have to deal with in the world of matter. In the spiritual realms, there is no time, only eternity.