Linked Glossary of Terms
(references to De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee, unless indicated. See concordance for correlation with pages in the New Critique. The concordance is in pdf format.)
|aevum||Not in WdW, but in other writings of Dooyeweerd
“Het tijdsprobleem en zijn antinomieën,” Phil. Ref. I, (1936) 65-83, (IV) (1939) 4-5
The Idea of the aevum comes from medieval thought.
Our supratemporal selfhood is not within cosmic time. Our selfhood is in the aevum, which is in between cosmic time and eternity. We should not think of aevum as a place, but as a state of being and of consciousness.
Dooyeweerd speaks of the aevum as an intermediate state between eternity and cosmic time. See “Het tijdsprobleem en zijn antinomieën,” Phil. Ref. I, (1936) 65-83, (IV) (1939) 4-5:
Ik zou nochtans den term ‘aevum’ in den zin van een tusschen toestand tusschen tijd en eeuwigheid, gaarne willen overnemen. Ik meen, dat daartegen te minder bezwaar kan bestaan, omdat hij in dezen zin juist in den Christelijken gedachtengang is opgekomen, die behoefte gevoelde aan een onderscheiding tusschen hetboventijdelijke in creatuurlijken zin en de eeuwigheid in den zin van het zijn Gods.
In het menschelijk zelfbewustzijn als centrum der religieuze concentratie aller tijdelijke functies ontmoeten wij dan inderdaad het boven-tijdelijke in den zin van het aevum. Dit aevum is dus als actueele toestand niets anders dan de creatuurlijke concentreering van het tijdelijke op de eeuwigheid in religieuze transcendeering van de tijdsgrens.
Waar in het hart de eeuw gelegd is, behoort deze aevum-toestand tot de ingeschapen structuur van onze zelfheid, die zich telkens moet actualiseeren, wanner ons zelf-bewustzijn in religieuze concentratie werkzaam is, zelfs al openbaart het aevum-bewustzijn zich in een afvallige richting, doordat het het eeuwige in den tijd zoekt. Immers ook de vergoddelijking van het tijdelijke is slechts in religieuze transcendeering van de tijdgrens mogelijk al blijft deze transcendeering, als concentratie der tijdelijke functies, haar band aan die tijdsgrens behouden. In dit leven is de aevum-toestand dus steeds aan den tijd gebonden. Een speculatie over den aevum-toestand bij de scheiding van ziel en lichaam, of bij de engelen, is wijsgeerig onvruchtbaar, een ‘meteorica et vacua speculatie’ in Calvijn’s taal gesproken, omdat het hier gaat over ‘verborgenheden’, die ons nog niet geopenbaard zijn. Al onze voorstellingen, begrippen, en ideeën zijn in dit leven in den tijd gebonden, en ook ons zelfbewustzijn blijft op den tijdshorizon betrokken, al transcendeert het den tijd in het aevum.
[I would nevertheless gladly be willing to adopt the term ‘aevum’ in the sense of an intermediate state between time and eternity. I believe that less objection can be taken against the term in this sense, for it was just in this sense that it arose in Christian thought, which felt the need to distinguish between the supratemporal in a creaturely sense and eternity in the sense of the Being of God.
In human self-consciousness as the center of the religious concentration of all temporal functions we really meet with the supratemporal in the sense of the aevum.Hence, in the current condition, this aevum is nothing other than the creaturely concentration of the temporal upon the eternal in religious transcending of the boundary of time. Since eternity is set in the heart, the aevum-state belongs to the created structure of our selfhood, which must again and again actualize itself, whenever our self-consciousness is active in religious concentration. This is so even when the aevum-consciousness reveals itself in an apostate direction when it seeks the eternal within time. For the deifying of the temporal is always only possible in the religious transcending of the boundary of time, although this transcending, as the concentration of the temporal functions, retains its connection to this boundary of time. In this life, the aevum-state is thus always bound to time. A speculation about the aevum-state when the soul is separated from the body, or of the aevum-state of the angels, is philosophically unfruitful. In Calvin’s terminology, it is ‘meteorica et vacua speculatio‘ [Institutes I,X,2], because we are here concerned about ‘hidden things,’ which are not yet revealed to us. In this life, all our representations, concepts and ideas are bound to time, and our self-consciousness also remains related to the temporal horizon, although it transcends time in the aevum.]
Here are some observations about this text, with comparisons to what Dooyeweerd also says elsewhere:
1. The aevum is an intermediate state between eternity and cosmic time. But we must not understand Dooyeweerd to be merely speculating about the aevum as some future state. It is (or at least ought to be) a present state of our self-consciousness. “In human self-consciousness as the center of the religious concentration of all temporal functions we really meet with the supratemporal in the sense of the aevum.”
2. Thus, the aevum is not just a state that we are meant to achieve after death. It is experienced and actualized now in our religious self-reflection. The aevum belongs to “the created structure of our selfhood.” In our religious self-reflection, we must actualize this created structure “again and again.” We need to continually remind ourselves of the true state of our selfhood, to awaken to our true selfhood [ware menschelijke zelfheid, WdW I, vi] from which we are fallen.
3. Everyone makes use of this aevum-consciousness. Even those who, in an apostate direction, seek to find the eternal within the temporal, are relying on this aevum-consciousness. For “the deifying of the temporal is always only possible in the religious transcending of the boundary of time.” The apostate misuse of this consciousness is also a kind of concentration of the temporal functions, but in an absolutizing way, where some functions are reduced to another function that is deified. But although those who deify the temporal seem to recognize the need to go beyond the temporal, they have not recognized or awakened to the true nature of their selfhood. Nor do they properly know God or the temporal cosmos. For we do not have true knowledge of ourselves nor of the cosmos unless we have true knowledge of God. We do not see the world as it truly is. True knowledge of the cosmos is bound to true knowledge of the self which is bound to true knowledge of God (WdW II, 492). Dooyeweerd’s emphasis is that in our current condition, where we are bound to the temporal body, there is a concentration of the temporal functions, and this concentration can be done in either an apostate direction or in the true direction in religious self-reflection when we experience our true relation to the aevum.
4. The current condition [actueele toestand] is our present actual state. The reference is to the preceding sentence. It is in our human self-consciousness as “the center of the religious concentration of all temporal functions” that we really meet with the aevum. In our present consciousness, we are aware of the aevum as a religious concentrating of the temporal. But this kind of concentration of the temporal can occur only in this life, in our current condition. As humans, we exist in both the supratemporal and the temporal. Our selfhood is supratemporal, but it expresses itself and functions within the temporal body or “mantle of functions” [functiemantel]. In our present existence then, there is a reciprocal relation between supratemporal center and temporal periphery of our existence.
5. In this current condition, where we exist as both supratemporal selfhood and temporal body, the aevum is “nothing other than the creaturely concentration of the temporal upon the eternal in religious transcending of the boundary of time.” That is how we experience the aevum during this life [dit leven].
We transcend time in the center of our existence at the same time as we are enclosed within time. Dooyeweerd says this in many other places. For example,
Ons Archimedisch punt, dat ons zelfbewustzijn (de crux van alle humanistische kennistheorie!) bepaalt, doet ons de tijdelijke werkelijkheid zien als een uiterst gedifferentieerde zin-breking van de religieuze zin-volheid van onzen kosmos door het prisma van den kosmischen tijd, welken tijd wij in den religieuzen wortel van ons zelfbewustzijn, in boventijdelijke zelf-heid transcendeeren, doch waarin wij met al onze tijdelijke bewustzijns- en andere kosmische functies tevens immanent verkeeren (Crisis, 93).
[Our Archimedean point, which determines our self-consciousness (the crux of all humanistic epistemology!), allows us to see temporal reality as an extremely differentiated meaning-refraction of the religious fullness of meaning of our cosmos by the prism of cosmic time. This time is transcended in the religious root of our self-consciousness, in our supratemporal selfhood. Yet at the same time we move immanently within this time with all our temporal consciousness- and other cosmic functions.]
Het zelfbewustzijn draagt noodzakelijk tegelijk een den tijd transcendeerend en den tijd immanent karakter. De diepere identiteit, welke in de zelf-heid beleefd wordt, is een trans-functioneele, het is een zich een-en dezelfde weten in en boven alle kosmisch-tijdelijke zinfuncties en het zich zijn tijdelijke zinfuncties als eigen weten. (Crisis, 97).
[Self-consciousness necessarily carries with it at the same time a character of transcending time and a character immanent within time. The deeper identity, which is experienced in the self-hood, is a trans-functional one, it is a knowing oneself as one and the same in and above all cosmic-temporal meaning functions and it is a knowing of one’s temporal functions as one’s own.]
6. In our actualization of the created structure of our true selfhood, we really [inderdaad] meet with the supratemporal aevum. We really transcend the boundary of time. I would compare this to Meister Eckhart’s idea of the “breakthrough.” In his Second Response to the Curators of the Free University, (Oct. 12, 1937), Dooyeweerd says that we really transcend time:
According to my modest opinion, and in the light of the whole Scriptural revelation concerning human nature it is just this possession of a supratemporal root of life, with the simultaneous subjectedness to time of all its earthly expressions, that together belong to the essence [wezen] of man, to the “image of God” in him–by means of which he not only relatively but radically to go out above all temporal things. And that is how I also understand Ecclesiastes 3:11. (p. 34).
We can also see this reference to transcendence in other references by Dooyeweerd, such as
In the Biblical attitude of naïve experience the transcendent, religious dimension of its horizon is opened. The light of eternity radiates perspectively through all the temporal dimensions of this horizon and even illuminates seemingly trivial things and events in our sinful world [NC III, 29].
En slechts in en uit Hem leren wij in de gemeenschap van de H. Geest verstaan, in welke zin wij in het centrum onzer existentie de tijd te boven gaan, ofschoon wij tegelijk binnen de tijd besloten zijn [italics Dooyeweerd’s][And only in and from out of Him do we learn to understand, in the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, in what sense we transcend time in the center of our existence, whereas we are simultaneously determined (limited) within time.]
7. This transcending of the boundary of time always “retains its connection to the boundary of time.” The word ‘binden‘ means “to fasten.” So to say that the transcending is “aan den tijd gebonden” means that it is linked to or connected with time. We must not misunderstand Dooyeweerd here. He is not saying that the transcending is limited to the boundary of time. To interpret Dooyeweerd in this way would be to temporalize his philosophy, and to miss its religious, supratemporal foundation in our experience of the supratemporal selfhood. As he says a few sentences later in this quotation,
In this life, all our representations, concepts and ideas are bound to time, and our self-consciousness also remains related to the temporal horizon, although it transcends time in the aevum.
8. Elsewhere, Dooyeweerd says that we are limited by the temporal, but not limited to the temporal. Our theoretical thought may be limited by time. But we ourselves, in our selfhood that transcends theoretical thought, are not limited to time. Our selfhood is supratemporal. Our intuition exceeds conceptual limits within time (WdW II, 408). All human experience is restricted relativized by our temporal cosmic existence, but it is not restricted and relativized to such temporal cosmic existence:
But like all human experience in this earthly dispensation, our knowledge of God, although directed to the absolute Truth, is also restricted and relativized by (but not at all to) our temporal cosmic existence (NC II, 561).
9. Our being bound in this life to cosmic time limits and determines us.
10. The passage makes it clear that Dooyeweerd’s reference to the transcending “retaining its connection” to the boundary of time is a reference to our present existence as both supratemporal and temporal beings. For he goes on to refer to the state after death, when our soul [supratemporal heart; NC II, 111] is separated from our body. He does not speculate about what such a wholly supratemporal state may be like, once we have left our temporal mantle of functions. But the passage necessarily implies that when the soul or heart is separated, then the transcendence will no longer need to be kept in relation to the boundary of time. Cosmic time, and the temporal mantle of functions, will be at an end. At death, all of the individuality structures that make up our body are dissolved. All functions of cosmic time are gone. Our total temporal existence is “laid down at death.” The temporal body which we put off at death is the entire “mantle of temporal functions” [functiemantel]. (“Het tijdsprobleem en zijn antinomieën op het immanentie-standpunt,” Philosophia Reformata (1939), 4-5). Or supratemporal selfhood will no longer express itself in this earthly mantle of temporal functions.
Maar naar onze beschouwing, de Christelijke opvatting der persoonlijkheid, kan evenmin het ‘individueele ik’ in den tijd worden gezocht en daarmede nemen wij principieel tegen de ‘geesteswetenschappelijke sociologie’ positie, die zulks met de geheele immanentie philosophie juist wel doet. De individueele zelfheid is door en door religieus, boventijdelijk. In de kosmische tijdsorde kan nòch aan den individueelen mensch, nòch aan het verband zelfheid, ikheid toekomen. Dit is het cardinale uitgangspunt voor iedere wezenlijk Christelijke beschouwing der tijdelijke samenleving. (De Crisis der Humanistische Staatsleer (Amsterdam: Ten Have, 1931), p. 113.
[But according to our view, the Christian understanding of a person, the ‘individual I’ can no more be sought within time. And we thereby stand in principle against the position of sociology in the humanities, which seeks to do just this in its immanence philosophy. The individual selfhood is through and through religious, supratemporal. In the cosmic temporal order, selfhood or I-ness cannot be reached by [sociological conceptions of] either individual man, or of societal structures. This is the principal point of departure for any truly Christian view of temporal society.]
In this same book, Dooyeweerd says that the individual human selfhood is “through and through religious, supratemporal.”
12. In his first response to the curators of the Vrije Universiteit (April 27, 1937), in response to Valentin Hepp’s complaints, Dooyeweerd wrote that the WdW makes a radical break with immanence philosophy in its idea that it understands that our whole temporal human existence proceeds from out of the religious root, the heart. And the fall consisted in the falling away of the heart from its Creator. That is the cause of spiritual death [geestelijken dood]. He says that this spiritual death cannot be confused with bodily [lichamelijken] death nor with eternal [eeuwigen dood]. The acknowledgement of the spiritual death as the consequence of the fall is so central to the WdW that if it is denied, no single part of his philosophy can be understood (Verburg 212). Bodily death is therefore different from the spiritual death that occurred in the fall when there was a falling away of the heart from its Creator. It is because of that spiritual death that we are now bound to the temporal body. The body will fall away in its totality at death.
13. At death, our temporal existence in cosmic time ceases. Dooyeweerd does not speculate on what the afterlife is like, although he does indicate that it will go on, apparently with a new ‘body’ or nature. Dooyeweerd refuses to speculate what our experience may be like once our supratemporal heart is separated from our body, the earthly mantle of functions. And he refuses to speculate about the nature of the experience of the angels, whose present existence is in the aevum. But to speak about our present experience, where our body is in cosmic time and our supratemporal self is in the aevum, is not speculation! Our aevum consciousness is something that can be and should be experienced, made actual “again and again.”
14. In the Philosophia Reformata article about the aevum, Dooyeweerd says that the aevum is a “created eternity.” He distinguishes it from medieval conceptions that were too tied to Aristotle’s conception of eternity and time, and of his conception of soul and body. Dooyeweerd says that Aristotle still sees the concentration point to be reason, whereas in Dooyeweerd’s view, our heart is not to be identified with any one of our functions, but rather is their concentration point in which they come to a radical unity.
Some similar ideas are expressed in NC I, 31 ft. 1, where Dooyeweerd opposes Vollenhoven’s idea of a pre-functional unity. Dooyeweerd says that we have no experience of such a temporal pre-functional unity. By implication, we do have experience of the supratemporal concentration of the modal aspects in our heart. And in the quotation cited above regarding the aevum, Dooyeweerd confirms that our self-consciousness transcends time in the aevum.
15. Dooyeweerd distinguishes the aevum, as a created eternity, from God’s eternity. The aevum is also distinguished from cosmic time. This distinction between eternity, the created supratemporal and cosmic time is also found in Franz von Baader. Although I have not found references to the aevum in Baader’s work, he refers to the supratemporal as “true time.” And this true time is distinguished from God’s eternity, in the same way that Dooyeweerd distinguishes aevum from eternity. Baader says that to identify true time with eternity would amount to pantheism, which he rejects.
16. In a video interview of Dooyeweerd on his 80th birthday, he mentions the impact made on him when he first read Kuyper’s “Pentecost Meditations” (“Dagen van goede boodschap: op den Pinksterdag”). There are numerous references to our “heart” in that text.
In this Pentecost meditation, Kuyper speaks of the difference between our temporal world and our true home, which is a created eternity. He calls this created eternity “heaven” in contrast to the temporal ‘earth.’
Een geschapen hemel dus, die zijn ordeningen en afmetingen, zijn aanwezen, aard en wezen heeft, zijn eigen huishouding en bestaanswijs, evengoed als deze aarde, en die niets gemeen heeft noch met het uitspansel, dat pas op den tweeden dag aanzijn verkreek, noch met den starrenhemel, dien God opriep, dat hij zijn zou, den vierden dag.(p. 18)
Therefore, a created heaven, which has its ordering and bounds, its existence, nature and being, its own administration and mode of being, just like this earth, and which has nothing in common with the firmament, which only came into existence on the second day, nor with the starry heavens that God called into being on the fourth day.
The heavens, the world above, is the real world, whereas the temporal world is a drably lit cellar (p. 14).Earth is a lower creation (p. 21). This created heaven is not merely spiritual, but is more real than this world in which we live (p. 124).
From where did Kuyper get these ideas? I would suggest from Franz von Baader, although Dooyeweerd is a more faithful follower of Baader. Whereas Kuyper believes that we cross over to this created eternity only at death, Dooyeweerd recognizes that even now we simultaneously live both in the aevum as well as in the temporal world.
I believe that Dooyeweerd obtained his distinction between eternity, the supratemporal and cosmic time from Baader, although he found parallels in Kuyper’s ideas of a created eternity. In my article “Dooyeweerd, Spann and the Philosophy of Totality,” Philosophia Reformata 70 (2005), 1-22. I have shown that Dooyeweerd obtained some knowledge of Baader’s ideas through his reading of Othmar Spann, who edited the Herdflamme series of books. That series also included a volume on Baader, including Baader’s work on time, “Elementarbegriffe über die Zeit.” I believe that many of Dooyeweerd’s ideas on time are derived from that article. See my translation of it and other articles by Baader, where he distinguishes the supratemporal from God’s eternity, as well as from cosmic time. I recommend that the Baader articles be read in the following order:
1. Concerning the conflict of religious faith and knowledge as the spiritual root of the decline of religious and political society in our time as in every time (1833) [Über den Zwiespalt des Religiösen Glaubens und Wissens als die geistige Wurzel des Verfalls der religiösen und politischen Societät in unserer wie in jeder Zeit]
2. Concerning the Concept of Time (1818) [Über den Begriff der Zeit]
3. Elementary concepts concerning Time: As Introduction to the Philosophy of Society and History (1831) [Elementarbegriffe über die Zeit: als Einleitung zur Philosophie der Sozietät und Geschichte]
For Baader, purely temporal time is “appearance time,” or “Scheinzeit.” It corresponds to Dooyeweerd’s Idea of ‘cosmic time.’ In the fall, man fell into appearance time, and we need to return to true time. In the meantime, we exist in both kinds of time. We are ‘versetzt‘ [displaced] beings.
Dooyeweerd also says that we fell into time. In the fall, the human selfhood “fell away into the temporal horizon.” (NC II, 564). In the fall, we fell away from our true self (WdW I, vi; II, 496). This is not translated in the NC. We discover our self to our self in the anastasis (standing again, resurrection) (WdW I, 80). Such resurrection occurs even in this present life. And Dooyeweerd also holds that cosmic time will end. The temporal cosmos is only our situation in this “earthly dispensation” (NC II, 560).
Dooyeweerd later said that the idea of cosmic time constitutes the basis for his philosophical theory of reality (NC I, 28; not in the WdW). He does not use the term ‘aevum‘ in the WdW, published in 1935-36. He does use the term ‘aevum‘ in the 1939 installment of the article in Philosophia Reformata that I have cited at the outset of this note regarding aevum. In the WdW and later in the NC, Dooyeweerd does use the idea of supratemporality, as distinct from both God’s eternity and from cosmic time. Dooyeweerd’s use of the term ‘aevum’ appears to derive from his reading of the book by J. Alexander Gunn: The Problem of Time: an Historical & Critical Study (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1929). Dooyeweerd specifically cites Gunn in his article on the aevum. And although Dooyeweerd does not use the term ‘aevum’ in the New Critique, he does refer to Gunn’s book (NC I, 31-33 fn. 1; this is the long footnote where Dooyeweerd sets out his disagreements with Vollenhoven about time). For these reasons, it is worthwhile to look in some detail at Gunn. At p. 38, under the heading “Medieval conceptions of time,” Gunn says the following about the aevum:
During the Dark Ages philosophy was in abeyance, but it is worth noticing that in the sixth century Boethius, the author of The Consolations of Philosophy, has some remarks to make on the subject of time and Eternity. He regards Eternity as the completely simultaneous and perfect possession of interminable life (interminabilis vitae tota simul et perfecta possessio). “The now,” says Boethius, “that flies away makes time; the now that stands still makes Eternity.” He also introduced the curious conception of Aevum as a mean between Time and Eternity, and this was later developed by the great doctor of the church, St. Thomas Aquinas.
Gunn says that the phrase tota simul was used by Aquinas to describe Eternity, and that he was probably influenced by Boethius, whom he quotes, when opening his own discussion in his great Summa Theologica (Par I first number QQ. 1-SSVI, pp 96-109; English Dominicans’ edition). At page 40, Gunn cites Aquinas regarding the aevum:
Spiritual creatures as regards their affections and intellections, in which there exists succession, are measured by Time; as regards their natural being, they are measured by the Aevum; and as regards their vision of glory, they participate in Eternity. Summa Qu X, art 5
Gunn says that for Aquinas, the aevum differs both from time and from eternity as the mean between them both. He regards aevum as “a more simple thing than time, and as nearer to Eternity.” Eternity has no beginning or end; time has both; aevum has a beginning but no end.
For the orthodox scholastics, time had a beginning. This was denied by Averroes (p. 41). The Jewish thinker Gerson said that both time and motion were strictly finite. For Maimonides, time was relative to motion. And Gunn says that Suarez anticipated the modern discussion of the specious present and of la durée, and tentatively suggested that succession might be experienced as a duration or that successive parts might be experienced in a whole which is changeless (p. 42; the word ‘duration’ is underlined).
But although Dooyeweerd appears to be indebted to Gunn for the term ‘aevum,’ Dooyeweerd had earlier already distinguished between supratemporality, eternity and cosmic time. And yet we must also look at Gunn for additional ideas on time. Dooyeweerd’s copy of Gunn’s book (now in the library of the Vrije Universiteit) has many underlinings. And it appears that Gunn was important for other information that Dooyeweerd used about time, such as his discussion of theories of time in Aristotle, Augustine, Bergson and Einstein.
For example, Gunn refers to Augustine at p. 33. Dooyeweerd underlines Civitas Dei. On p. 34, Gunn says that Augustine remarks “non in tempore sed cum tempore finxit Deus mundum,” repeating a thought derived from Plato’s Timaeus. Dooyeweerd underlines Timaeus. Gunn says that Augustine contributed to the psychological experience of time. The words ‘psychological’ and ‘experience’ are underlined. Gunn says (p. 37) that the psychological aspect, however, can never be a substitute [substitute underlined] for the metaphysical discussion. This Augustine fails to realize. The following words are underlined: “he is a better psychologist than metaphysician.”
Gunn refers to Aristotle’s view of time as the measure of motion, but says (p. 37) that Plotinus correctly shows how Aristotle tended to confuse movement measured and the measuring magnitude. For Plotinus, time is a continuum in which events happen (p. 24). Events do not create time. Their existence, their happening , is conditioned by it. Time is thus an ultimate datum of existence, for the soul cannot create time by acting purposively. Time is given, and is the medium in which we realize our purposive actions. There is thus established a definite objectivity in regard to time. [The word ‘objectivity’ is underlined]. Gunn says that time is not number, nor is it movement or a measure of movement. It is unique. It serves towards measurement, but is not itself a measure. And Plotinus says that time is not itself reality, for we transcend it. The soul transcends space and time because its home is not in the world of space and time; it is not actually in space and time at all (he held), but they are fields for its effort and activity (p. 30).
This information is important. The fact that Gunn links to Plotinus the idea of time as a medium in which events occur and which conditions events, does not prevent Dooyeweerd from affirming a similar view of time.
Another passage underlined by Dooyeweerd is on page 379, where Gunn wrote the following regarding mystics: “they are not, however actually out of time; they are merely unaware of it.” It seems to me that those philosophers who reject Dooyeweerd’s idea of supratemporality, and who try to temporalize his philosophy, must take some such position–that although a mystic believes that he or she is outside of time, in fact there is only an unawareness of being in time. But although Dooyeweerd was aware of this view, and underlined it in Gunn’s book on time, he did not adopt it. There is no such statement in his views of the supratemporal. On the contrary, Dooyeweerd says that we really transcend time in our religious self-reflection.
For Further Study:
There are several good articles about the aevum in The Medieval Concept of Time, ed. Pasquale Porro (London: Brill, 2001). We must of course bear in mind that in using the word aevum, Dooyeweerd did not intend to take over all meanings from medieval philosophy. But a careful study of these articles will provide many useful comparisons and contrasts with Dooyeweerd’s ideas.
(1) Carlos Steel: “The Neo-Platonic doctrine on Time and Eternity and its Influence on Medieval Philosophy.” Here is a summary of some of the ideas in this important article:
Steel says that neo-Platonism sought to understand the origin or creation of time. This problem is not itself found in Aristotle. Aristotle defined time as the measure of movement (Physics IV, II, 219 a31-62, 68-9).
Steel says that in early neo-Platonism, time was not believed to be primarily physical. Rather, time originated with the life of the soul; through the movement of the soul is was communicated to the physical world. But in later neo-Platonism (after Iamblichus), time was regarded as being prior to the soul, since the soul itself was regarded as restless.
Augustine said that there may be forms of time not linked to space, such as the time in which the angels operate (see his De Genesis ad litteram).
In the 13th century, at the University of Paris, three meanings of time were developed. The following division is attributed to Alexander of Hales:
–eternity is without origin or end
–sempiternity has an origin but no end
–time has both an origin and an end.
Albert the Great distinguished time, eternity (aeternitas) and perpetuity (aevum) in his commentary on the Physics. The aevum is the time that souls and angels experience.
Steel also discusses the development of the distinction between continuous and noncontinuous time in such thinkers as James of Vilberbo. Giles of Rome and the Pseudo-Simplicius. Aristotle had regarded all time as continuous. With the development of the idea of noncontinuous time, the idea of discontinuous instants or leaps was distinguished from the flowing nature of time. It was believed that rational souls had to think in a discontinuous process, jumping from one act to another, thinking discursively and construing syllogisms. But the divine intellect could think all objects at once in one “now.”
Ockham wanted to abolish all intermediaries between God and creation. Thus, the rejection of the idea of aevum is linked to nominalism.
(2) Maria Bettetini: “Measuring in Accordance with Dimensions: Augustine of Hippo and the Question of Time”
Bettetini refers to Augustine’s De immortalitate anima. Augustine distinguishes between intentio, the gathering together in a subject’s consciousness of a past, present or future action, from distention, an outward-directed dissipation or dispersion.
In my view, it would be useful to compare this distinction with Dooyeweerd’s ideas of intentionality and dis-stasis. I expect that the correlation is more with the outward-directed dissipation in dis-stasis. Dooyeweerd’s idea of intentionality, although certainly related to an inner-directedness, seems to go beyond Augustine in relation to relation to Brentano’s idea of Inexistenz.
In any event, Bettetini argues that Augustine’s view of time should not be seen as subjective, because Augustine also has the idea of the soul’s reaching out beyond its own inner unity to the unity of the One.
(3) Cecilia Trifolgi: “Averroes’s doctrine of time and its reception in the scholastic debate”
Trifolgi points out that Ockham denied that time is an extramental thing distinct from motion. He says that it can only be predicated of motion, although motion and time are not synonymous. For Ockham, if the soul does not exist, then time does not exist. Trifolgi says, “in the nominal definition of time it is necessary to posit an activity of the soul.” And yet measuring the duration of motion is not entirely subjective.
(4) Henry Anzulewica : “Aeternitas-Aevum-Tempus: The Concept of Time in Albert the Great”
Anzulewica says that Albert builds on Boethius’ Trinitarian doctrine in The Consolation of Philosophy V, prosa 6. There is it said that eternity is a “complete, undivided and simultaneously whole possession of unlimitable life.” Eternity possess the now. The aevum is an “improper” eternity, which is preceded by non-being. And time [as distinct from the aevum] surrounds every being which left to itself, tends towards nothingness.
(5) Pasquale Porro: “Angelic Measures: Aevum and discrete time”
Porro says that aevum is a transliteration of the Greek aion. It is ambiguous as between long temporal duration or eternity without end. Aeternitas is a different Latin translation of this same Greek word aion. Both come from the same Indo-European root. Another word used to translated aion is saeculum [from which we get our word ‘secular’].
At p. 138, Porro refers to Gregory of Nazianzus, for whom aion is neither time nor part of time, but that which is “extensive” with eternal realities.
And at p. 139, Porro cites Paul’s words in Titus 1:2: ante tempora aeterna [“In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.”
At p. 140, Porro says that for Augustine, aevum is stable whereas tempus or time is intrinsically changeable or mutable. Augustine says that Heaven and earth were created before the 6 days of Genesis, that is, before time.[Confessions XII ]
This is interesting, since Dooyeweerd also holds that creation was outside of time. That is why he was opposed to the speculation of creation scientists, who try to interpret God’s creation in temporal terms.
Porro says that for Augustine, heaven and earth were not the literal sky and earth. Rather, they refer respectively to the intellectual creature closest to God and to formless matter. This “heaven” participates in eternity, but it is created. Our earth and sky, the second heaven and earth were created out of matter (Confessions XII, 8, 8).
Now although Dooyeweerd avoids using the term ‘matter’ in relation to the earthly, he does use the terms earthly and heavenly in a similar way as referring to our supratemporal heavenly nature in the aevum and our temporal earthly nature as a mantle of functions [functiemantel].
Porro says at p. 150 that the time of the angels, the tempus angelorum is “discrete time”; it is distinct from cosmic time. Angels are spiritual creatures intermediate between God and time. They are eternal in terms of their substance, aevum and temporal in the “operations.”
Porrus refers to Augustine’s view in De Genesis ad litteram VIII, 20  that
a) God moves neither in time nor space
b) bodies move in both time and space
c) spiritual creatures move only in time. This last movement is thinking, willing and remembering (no direct reference to space)
Porro says that Aquinas has this same definition of time in De istantibus. Now Dooyeweerd certainly does not accept a static view of God’s eternity. For Dooyeweerd, God is not the Unmoved Mover. But it is interesting that Dooyeweerd says that our acts, which proceed from out of our supratemporal selfhood, occur in three directions: knowing, willing and imagining. There may be similarities with Augustine here that need to be explored.
With respect to the idea of angels moving only in time but not in space, Porro refers to Giles of Rome who says that discrete time does not concern the duration of single operations, but only their succession [of instants]. Angels can travel through space, and thereby have extrinsic operations. But they do not have to traverse intermediate points of space in order to do so.
This is the kind of speculation of the state of the angels that Dooyeweerd avoids. But there is also some justification for this speculation. In my view, it is trying to give an account of the many Biblical texts regarding appearances of angels, such as Acts 5:19 and Acts 12:7, where angels open prison doors, and the account of the glorified body of Christ, who appeared to the disciples after his resurrection, “the doors being shut.” (John 20:26).
(6) Niklaus Largiere: “Time and Temporality in the ‘German Dominican School: Outlines of a Philosophical Debate between Nicolaus of Strasbourg, Dietrich of Freiberg, Eckhart of Hoheim, and Ioannes Tauler”
Nicolaus of Strasbourg called the aevum “created eternity.”
As we have seen, Dooyeweerd also describes the aevum as a created eternity.
For Nicolaus, God’s eternity is beyond all change. Thus, aevum is not the absolute actuality and totality of God. But it is simultaneity and permanence.
Largiere’s article is especially interesting in his discussion of Eckhart. Largiere refers to Tauler’s criticism of those who try to understand Eckhart’s thought “from the point of view of time rather than the point of view of eternity.” Tauler says that the unity with God spoken of by Eckhart cannot be grasped by the intellect. In Tauler’s Sermon 15, he proposes a return to “ways and modes.”
At p. 246, Largiere says that for Eckhart, God is the fullness of Being and of time. The angels and other aeviterna [beings in the aevum] are in tempus discretum or discrete time. And temporality is measured by tempus continuum or continuous time. For Eckhart, the soul is on the edge of time and eternity. Fullness characterizes the eternal within man’s soul. Eckhart’s idea of the birth of God in the soul refers to both the transcendence of and liberation from time.
In his book Über Ewigkeit und Zeit: Enneade III, 7(Frankfurt: Kostermann, 1995), Werner Beierwaltes has some interesting things to say about the idea of ‘aevum.’ Although for Plotinus, time is an ‘image’ of eternity, he makes a sharp distinction between time (chronos) and eternity (aion) (Enneads 1,18). “Is,’ ‘now,’ and ‘always’ are given only a nontemporal (entzeitlichtem) meaning. Eternity does not seek a futurity (Enneads 4,34) , and ‘always’ is not an infinitely extended time (Enneads 6, 47). Plotinus followed Plato in this sharp distinction between time and eternity. Aristotle, however, thought of eternity in analogyuto time. Aristotle refers to eternity as “unending time,” although eternity is unchangeable. But “changeable time”, as the number of movement, has a definite beginning and end. In Gnostic Hermeticism, time and eternity completely turn into each other. Numenios speaks of time not as a timeless present, but rather as a present time. So Plotinus rejects that kind of attempt, and his followers continue the separation between time and eternity. But the reception of Aristotle’s idea of eternity led in the Middle Ages to the introduction of the aevum, as a mediating idea between the timeless eternity of God and time. Aevum is the mode of being of the heavenly bodiesand the pure intelligences. See for example Aquinas. (p. 145-147).
I have argued that Dooyeweerd’s philosophy stands in a tradition going back from Othmar Spann and the Philosophy of Totality to Franz von Baader to Jacob Boehme and Meister Eckhart.See my article, “Dooyeweerd, Spann and the Philosophy of Totality,” 70 Philosophia Reformata, 2005. The relation between Meister Eckhart and Dooyeweerd is something that needs to be investigated further. Eckhart’s idea of time is one theme that should be investigated as it was used in this tradition of thought. Dooyeweerd certainly regards supratemporality or the aevum as the fullness of the temporal. The supratemporal is where all of the temporal modes or aspects of reality coincide in a radical unity.
Revised June12/10; Dec 23/16