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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Eternity personified, holding the ourobouros. Caryatid in the apse of Milan Cathedral (1611).

While in the popular mind, eternity often simply means existence for a limitless amount of time, many have used it to refer to a timeless existence altogether outside time. There are a number of arguments for eternity, by which proponents of the concept, principally Aristotle, purported to prove that matter, motion, and time must have existed eternally.

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The idea of eternity

The metaphysics of eternity might be summarized by the question: can anything be said to exist "outside of" or independent of Time/Space, and if so how and why? Some consequential metaphysical questions of some importance are then: can "information" be said to exist without, or independent of, the human mind, and, if so, what would be the content and "purpose" of such information?

God and eternity

Part of a series on
God

General conceptions
Atheism · Deism · Henotheism · Monolatrism
Monotheism · Panentheism · Pantheism


Specific conceptions
Creator · Architect · Demiurge · Devil
Sustainer · Lord · Father · Monad
Oneness · Supreme Being · The All
Personal · Unitarianism · Ditheism · Trinity
in Abrahamic religions
(Bahá'í Faith, Christianity, Islam, Judaism)
in Ayyavazhi · in Buddhism · in Hinduism
in Jainism · in Sikhism · in Zoroastrianism


Attributes
Eternalness · Existence · Gender
Names ("God") · Omnibenevolence
Omnipotence · Omnipresence · Omniscience


Experience and practices
Faith · Prayer · Belief · Revelation
Fideism · Gnosis · Metaphysics
Mysticism · Hermeticism · Esotericism


Related topics

Philosophy · Religion · Ontology
God complex · Neurotheology
Euthyphro dilemma · Problem of evil
Portrayal in popular media
List of religious texts


Theists say that God is eternally existent. How this is understood depends on which definition of eternity is used. On one hand, God may exist in eternity, a timeless existence where categories of past, present, and future just do not apply. On the other hand, God will exist for or through eternity, or at all times, having already existed for an infinite amount of time and continuing to exist for an infinite amount of time. One other definition states that God exists outside the human concept of time, but also inside of time. The reasoning for this definition is that if God did not exist both outside time and inside time, God would not be able to interact with humans.

Whichever definition of eternity is understood, it is an understatement to say that humans cannot fully understand eternity, since it is either an infinite amount of time as we know it or something other than the time and space we know. For the infinite definition, there are parallels that give some notion of an infinity—of at least a potential infinity, or a series that begins and has not ended. A series of moments that has begun and not ended is, however, not potentially eternal by that definition. A series of moments that has begun and not ended cannot be eternal, because even if it were to continue for the rest of (infinite) time, there would still be time prior to the initial moment in the series. The series of moments could not ever exist for all eternity because no matter what happened during the series of moments, nothing would ever cause the series of moments to have existed since the beginning of "eternity", and thus could never achieve the status of eternal or even potentially eternal.

Augustine of Hippo wrote that time exists only within the created universe, so that God exists outside time; for God there is no past or future, but only an eternal present. One need not believe in God in order to hold this concept of eternity: for example, an atheist mathematician can maintain the philosophical tenet that numbers and the relationships among them exist outside time, and so are in that sense eternal.

Related to the notion of eternal existence is the concept of God as Creator, as a being completely independent of "everything else" that exists because God created everything else (as against panentheism). If this premise is true, then it follows that God is independent of both space and time, since these are properties of the universe. So according to this notion, God exists before time began, exists during all moments in time, and will continue to exist if somehow the universe and time itself were to cease to exist.

Related to 'eternal life', the biblical revelation first indicated that Man as a special created being is able to grasp the abstract concept in contrast with the lower animal world which did not have the ability to understand the concept of "eternity". See book of Ecclesiastes 3:11 "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men .." (from Bible translation in the N.I.V.). Contrast this with the timeless existence definition, which would imply animals are blessed with eternal life from birth (because of their inability to grasp the concept of eternity or even time), which is something mankind gave up when he was cast out of the "Garden of Eden." It is commonly believed among theists that although mankind can grasp the abstract concept of "eternity", one may only obtain "eternal life" once returned to God.

Sempiternity

An eternal being exists outside time; by contrast, a sempiternal being exists throughout an infinite time. Sempiternity is also known as everlastingness.[1]

Symbolism and eternity

Eternity is often symbolized by the image of a snake swallowing its own tail, known as Ouroboros (or Uroboros), though the symbol can also carry a number of other connotations.

The circle is also commonly used as a symbol for eternity. The related concept, infinity, is symbolized by \infty, which may be based on the Ouroboros.

See also

References

External links

Vocab word for 6th grade

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell, where his influence stops. ~ Henry Brooks Adams
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour. ~ William Blake
Eternity is in love with the productions of time. ~ William Blake
If we consider eternity, into that time never entered; eternity is not an everlasting flux of time, but time is as a short parenthesis in a long period; and eternity had been the same as it is, though time had never been. ~ John Donne
Do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
~ T. S. Eliot in The Four Quartets
Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,
Stains the white radiance of eternity. ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley
Love is the emblem of eternity; it confounds all notion of time; effaces all memory of a beginning, all fear of an end. ~ Anne Louise Germaine de Staël
In time there is no present,
In eternity no future,
In eternity no past.

We laugh, we cry, we are born, we die.
Who will riddle me the how and the why? ~ Alfred Tennyson

Eternity is a word often used to indicate notions of "limitless" or "endless" time, and also ideas of realms of Reality which are beyond those of Time and Space.

Quotes

Arranged alphabetically by author
  • A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell, where his influence stops
  • Eternity! thou pleasing dreadful thought! Through what variety of untried being, Through what new scenes and changes must we pass!
  • 'Tis the divinity that stirs within us;
    'Tis Heaven itself that points out an hereafter,
    And intimates eternity to man.
  • Eternity is really long, especially near the end.
  • A photograph can be an instant of life captured for eternity that will never cease looking back at you.
  • To see a world in a grain of sand
    And a heaven in a wild flower,
    Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
    And eternity in an hour.
  • Eternity is in love with the productions of time.
    • William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, "Proverbs of Hell"
  • Yes, from the mountain of eternity we shall look down, and behold the whole plain spread before us. Down here we get lost and confused in the devious valleys that run off from the rdots of the hills everywhere, and we cannot make out where the streams are going, and what there is behind that low shoulder of the hill yonder. But when we get to the summit peak and look down, it will all shape itself into one consistent whole, and we shall see it all at once.
    None can comprehend eternity but the eternal God.
    • Thomas Boston, p. 212.
  • The created world is but a small parenthesis in eternity.
  • Eternity forbids thee to forget.
  • Eternity looks grander and kinder if Time grow meaner and more hostile.
  • What a sublime doctrine it is, that goodness cherished now is eternal life already entered on!
  • Consider and act with reference to the true ends of existence. This world is but the vestibule of an immortal life. Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.
  • Nothing is there to come, and nothing past, But an eternal Now does always last.
  • I am doomed to an eternity of compulsive work. No set goal achieved satisfies. Success only breeds a new goal. The golden apple devoured has seeds. It is endless.
  • If we consider eternity, into that time never entered; eternity is not an everlasting flux of time, but time is as a short parenthesis in a long period; and eternity had been the same as it is, though time had never been.
  • With our short sight we affect to take a comprehensive view of eternity. Our horizon is the universe.
  • At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
    Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
    But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
    Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
    Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
    There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
    I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
    And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
  • Beyond the grave! As the vision rises how this side dwindles into nothing — a speck — a moment — and its glory and pomp shrink into the trinkets and baubles that amuse an infant for a day. Only those things, in the glory of this light, which lay hold of immortality, seem to have any value.
    • Randolph Sinks Foster, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 212.
  • Every situation, every moment — is of infinite worth; for it is the representative of a whole eternity.
  • The tree will not only lie as it falls, but it will fall as it leans. What is the inclination of my soul?
    • J. J. Gurney, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 213.
  • I was suddenly arrested by what seemed to be an awful voice proclaiming the words, "Eternity! Eternity! Eternity!" It reached my very soul — my whole man shook — it brought me like Saul to the ground. The great depravity and sinfulness of my heart were set before me, and the gulf of everlasting destruction to which I was verging. I was made to bitterly cry out, "If there is no God — doubtless there is a hell." I found myself in the midst of it.
    • Stephen Grellet, in Memoirs of the Life and Gospel Labors of Stephen Grellet (1860), p. 20
  • Eternity invests every state, whether of bliss or of suffering, with a mysterious and awful importance, entirely its own. It gives that weight and moment to whatever it attaches, compared to which all interests that know a period fade into absolute insignificance.
    • Robert Hall, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 212.
  • Eternity has no gray hairs! The flowers fade, the heart withers, man grows old and dies, the world lies down in the sepulchre of ages, but time writes no wrinkles on the brow of Eternity.
    • Bishop Heber, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 213.
  • Summarum summa est æternum.
    • The sum total of all sums total is eternal.
    • Lucretius in De Rerum Natura (III, 817)
  • Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.
  • Yet some there be that by due steps aspire
    To lay thir just hands on that golden key
    That opes the palace of Eternity.
    To such my errand is; and but for such,
    I would not soil these pure ambrosial weeds
    With the rank vapours of this sin-worn mould.
  • From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity.
    • Edvard Munch, quoted in Sustainable Landscape Construction: A Guide to Green Building Outdoors (2007) by William Thompson and Kim Sorvig, p. 30
  • The time will come when every change shall cease,
    This quick revolving wheel shall rest in peace:
    No summer then shall glow, not winter freeze;
    Nothing shall be to come, and nothing past,
    But an eternal now shall ever last.
    • Petrarch in Triumph of Eternity (l. 117)
  • The youth of the soul is everlasting, and eternity is youth.
    • Jean Paul Richter, reported in Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895) by Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, p. 213.
  • Eternity gives nothing back of what one leaves out of the minutes.
  • Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,
    Stains the white radiance of eternity.
  • The Pilgrim of Eternity, whose fame
    Over his living head like Heaven is bent,
    An early but enduring monument,
    Came, veiling all the lightnings of his song In sorrow.
  • We feel and experience ourselves to be eternal. (Latin: "Sentimus experimurque nos æternos esse.")
  • Love is the emblem of eternity; it confounds all notion of time; effaces all memory of a beginning, all fear of an end.
  • I am any man's suitor,
    If any will be my tutor:
    Some say this life is pleasant,
    Some think it speedeth fast,
    In time there is no present,
    In eternity no future,
    In eternity no past.

    We laugh, we cry, we are born, we die.
    Who will riddle me the how and the why?

  • And can eternity belong to me,
    Poor pensioner on the bounties of an hour?
    • Edward Young, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 212.

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Up to date as of January 22, 2010

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Eternity
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This is a disambiguation page, which lists works which share the same title. If an article link referred you here, please consider editing it to point directly to the intended page.


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