A Very Brief History of Eternity


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Skickas inom vardagar. What is eternity? Is it anything other than a purely abstract concept, totally unrelated to our lives?


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A mere hope? A frightfully uncertain horizon?

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Or is it a certainty, shared by priest and scientist alike, and an essential element in all human relations? Eire depicts monasticism as an institutional form transitional between eternity and the temporal: The monastic religious are, in some senses, already dead and therefore partakers of eternity. Eire also claims that the development of sacramental liturgy during this period focuses on the making present of eternity to the temporal, as does church architecture.

It is in these ways that ideas about eternity have effects on material culture.


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  • Such ideas also have effects, Eire shows, on politics. The endlessly fractious disputes between popes and emperors can be construed as attempts to relate properly those who hold temporal power to those who mediate the eternal order. And, of course, during this time the shaping of the material culture of Europe by relics and pilgrimages continues and deepens. The Reformation, Eire argues, effectively removes the ligature between the living and the dead and, by doing so, also removes one of the most important connections between time and eternity.

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    He has an appropriately and usefully subtle understanding of these relations, being concerned to resist both materialist reductionism, which gives no agency to ideas, and an ethereal immaterialism that treats ideas in complete abstraction from their material context. Eire is fond of quoting Pascal, but very selectively.

    All Eire has to offer at the end of the book is a brief and slightly breathless survey of what some contemporary physicists are saying about time. It contains many good things and is especially good on the symbiosis between understandings of eternity and the ways the dead and the living relate.

    His father appears to have overcome this difficulty by being a believer in reincarnation. Paul J.

    A Very Brief History of Eternity

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    A very brief history of eternity

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