It all comes down to time, doesn't it? If we could just figure out that one enigma, then the rest might fall like dominoes.
You can understand why no real progress has been made on the subject since Aristotle or Augustine or Aquinas. If you want to get a sense of how little we really know about time, just ask a childlike question such as, is the past real? Where is it then? Does the present emerge from the past or does it come into being from the future? Either way, how can choice exist?
When we arrive at a fruitless paradox, it's probably a sign that we're going about things the wrong way. It's not that the questions are wrong, but that our whole paradigm is off. We need to examine our assumptions at the very foundation of things.
Existence "takes place" in space and time. Or, one could say that we are "contained" in these two. But being contained in space is very different from being contained in time. Schuon writes that space is "static and conserving" while time is "dynamic and transforming."
That's helpful, for it suggests that classical liberal conservatism is woven into the very fabric of existence, i.e., change within conservation.
Must you politicize everything, God?!
YES and NO.
We are subjectively at the center of space, otherwise we could never conceive it. Objectively -- or abstractly -- we can see that space has the three dimensions of height, width, and depth, but subjectively (or concretely) we experience things from our center to the periphery, the latter extending up and down, forward and back, left and right (paraphrasing Schuon).
Likewise, time has subjective and objective modes. Concretely, time is "the changing of phenomena," whereas abstractly it is simply the "duration" or measurement of the change.
Now, just as abstract space has the three dimensions of height, width, and depth, abstract time has the three dimensions of past, present, and future.
Is time nested in another kind of time -- divine time, say? Think of how the rotation of the earth measures our days. But this takes place in the more expansive time it takes for the earth to circle the sun. And the sun too orbits the center of the Milky Way, one cosmic year taking around 225-250 million years, give or take.
But that's objective time. What about subjective time? Does our time have something analogous to the cycles within cycles? Yes, in the obvious sense that we celebrate birthdays, or the sabbath, or the new year, or bar mitzvahs, or anniversaries, or beer o'clock, etc. Thus, there is the "ordinary time" of mere duration, nested in more concrete markers of slackramental time.
Yes, but are there only these manmode markers, or are there objective, which is to say, God-given ones?
Hmm. Schuon suggests that time is not just abstract duration, but that it has four phases. We may think that our experience of the seasons gives rise to the idea of temporal phases, but Schuon says it is the other way 'round, so that time unfolds as spring, summer, fall, and winter; or morning, day, evening, and night; or childhood, youth, maturity, and old age; etc.
Is it just me, or is it getting a little chilly in here?
What about all of history? This is where I would tremulously disagree with Schuon, for he regards it as essentially cyclical, whereas I can't help seeing it as spiroidal.
In short, we both believe time necessarily has an "origin" or source. But Schuon believes that history is essentially a departure from the source, and therefore a privative and degenerative phenomenon. However, the whole idea of Resurrection seems to me like the hope of an eternal spring coiled inside that last cold winter we endark upon