I Was So Much Older Then
Rather, it is "nothing but the fullness of being itself, existence come into its own, allowed to be what it is by 'nature' when not restricted by the limitations proper to the material mode of being" (Clarke).
There is no reason to assume that what comes first in time is ontologically prior. We certainly don't do this with (other) organisms. (I believe Whitehead made the crack that biology is the study of the larger organisms while physics is the study of the smaller ones.)
Rather, for an organism, what comes last -- i.e., its mature state -- is the telos, the meaning, the summation of what comes before.
To paraphrase something I said in the book, who's to say whether this isn't what a ripe old cosmos looks like up close -- i.e., alive, conscious, and personal?
Personhood is simply the perfection of being. For what would being be like if it weren't in principle alive and conscious? It would not only be dead but incapable of life and mentation, like a vast liberal university campus from which we can never graduate.
"To be fully, without restriction, therefore, is to be personal" (ibid.). And personhood is characterized by a freely active and luminous self-presence that is ordered to the true, good and beautiful, the latter of which giving it its evolutionary movement in time.
Personhood is existence ratcheted up to the highest degree of intensity. In this regard the existentialists have it precisely backward, because existence is "like a person," not vice versa.
Each of us is a kind of window on and in existence: "thus any finite being is really a limited act of existence, existing now as a new whole distinct from all other real beings" (ibid.).
And God is "unlimited existence," or existence not limited by any particular essence; or, as they say, his essence is existence (he cannot not exist).
If we consider the whole existentialada, i.e., the nonlocal metacosmic hierarchy, man is the highest of material beings (woo hoo!) but the lowest of spiritual beings (d'oh!).
Your cosmic mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make your "way back to God by a journey through the material world, coming to know and work with the latter through the mediation of its multi-sensed body" (ibid.).
So, whatever else existence is, it's a ladder of personhood with degrees of intensity and rungs of cooncentration.
As we know, the soul doesn't "have" a body, nor does the body have a soul; rather, the soul is the form of the body. The two are complementary, but, as in the case of all complementarities, one must be prior, in this case, Mr. Soul. Thus,
"the soul must possess its own spiritual act of existence, transcending the body, which it then 'lends' to the body, so to speak, drawing the latter up into itself to participate in this higher mode of being as the necessary instrument for the soul's own journey of self-realization through the material cosmos..." (ibid.).
Just as we need an instrument in order to actually play music, we need a body in order to play the game existence to the end of the beginning. It is Not Dying, not to mention the Meaning of Within.
"Thus we are magnetized, so to speak, by our very nature toward the Infinite Good, which draws us in our very depths, at first spontaneously below the level of consciousness and freedom, but then slowly emerging into consciousness as we grow older" (Clarke).
Or younger, depending upon how you look at it.