Friday, November 9, 2007

Time and Eternity

Where Did We Get Our Division of Time?

Our present division of time into 60 seconds, 60 minutes and 6 days +0 (which would be 7 for us) is based on the ancient Afro-Asiatic system, of which the Sumerian civilization (about 7000 - 2000 B.C.) is a good example. This sexagesimal system was based on a calendar with 360 (60x6) days in a year (with a few days added when the priests realized that the calendar needed adjusting according to the discrepancy between the lunar phases and the solar cycle). The duplication of 6 is 12, so the number 12 is a feature of this system, with 12 hours assigned to "day" and 12 hours assigned to "night", and roughly 12 months.

The oldest time counting device ever found dates to about 80,000 years ago and was found in a cave in the Lebombo Mountains of southern Africa. This lunar phase binary calendar is also based on the number 6.

What is Time?

Time can be defined in different ways, depending on the discipline from which one is approaching the subject. In Physics time is often spoken of as a fourth dimension, yet the existence of time depends on electromagnetic radiation, an aspect of the three-dimensional world in which we live. So no matter how time is defined, time is something that humans cannot escape. It is an aspect of the universe that God created.

St Augustine wrote, “God moves the spiritual through time." As we are spiritual as well as fleshly creatures, God moves us through time toward His eternal Being. At some point, as St. Paul reminds us, we must put off this perishable body for the imperishable body.

Solar time is the measurement of time according to the earth’s rotation around the sun. Sidereal time is the measurement of time relative to a distant star. It is used in astronomy to predict when a star will be overhead. Due to the somewhat wobbly rotation of the earth around the sun, a sidereal day is slightly less than a solar day. This means that time is relative to where we are in the universe.

What is Eternity?

Many people think that eternity is endless time, but that is not correct. Eternity is perfect timelessness. This means that eternity cannot be an aspect of the creation in which we live. However, it is an aspect of God’s nature. In fact, theologians say that God is eternity.

While eternity pertains to God and not to the creation, we can’t say that eternity is beyond humans. If that were true, we wouldn’t be able to recognize the difference between time and eternity. The Bible teaches that we were made to enjoy God in eternity. That is why Jesus came, so that everyone who believes in Him and lives according to His Spirit will have eternal life.

Eternity pertains to the blessed Trinity. In his creed, Saint Athanasius says: "The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, the Holy Ghost is eternal." Paul tells us that, “as many of you who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.” In our baptism we come to God naked and we are given the undergarments of eternity, but we have yet to put on the fine outer garments that God will give us on the Last Day, when Christ returns.


Dharmashaiva said...

Any guess on why the number "6" was chosen to be so important in calendar construction, especially given the numerological denotations of 6 as being "less perfect" than the perfect number 7 (which happened to be, among other things, the number of planets + sun + moon)?

Alice C. Linsley said...

Most ancient tribal peoples marked time by the phases of the moon. This applies even to tribes that also used a solar calendar (which is less exact). Tribal peoples in Africa were doing complex mathematical notations around 35,000 B.C.E. using bone tally sticks with notches to mark days in the moon phases. These bones showed 2 groupings of 6 with what appears to be, not a notch, by a longer dividing line in the center.

My guess is that the number 6 reflects the binary worldview of these ancient Afro-Asiatics. They observed 12 moon cycles and divided them into 2 supplementary units of time. Likely the units were conceived as pertaining to the binary distinctions of male and female, dry and rainy periods, and hunting and reproduction. Binary calendars correlate antithetical metaphysical realities. Perhaps one period was regarded as pertaining to earth and the other to heaven, or one to this life and the other to the after-life?

The number 6 has other unusual properties that they likely observed. It can be further divided into 2 units of 3. This means that the number 3 must also have figured in their number symbolism. The number 3, when replicated, is the number 9 and we know that 9 is an almost magical number. The number 9 is a sacred number throughout the ancient world.

The binary opposition of the two halves of the year is sometimes portrayed using animal symbols. In southern Africa the monozoomorphic symbolism involves 2 serpents forming a circle. Among the Eurasians, the bear is a common symbol. A hibernating bear represents winter and a standing bear represents summer.

Alice C. Linsley said...

I failed to mention that in the mystical number symbolism of the Afro-Asiatics, as it is reflected in the Ten Siferot, the number 6 isn't regarded as evil or flawed. It represents earth, all flesh and reproduction. It is correlated with the South. It is "less perfect" because the earth and this flesh is not yet perfected, teleologically speaking. For that to be accomplished, there must be ascension to the number 7. For people who use base 6, the number 7 represents a new beginning. the number 6 would be shown a 6 + 0. 8 would be shown a 6 + 00 and so forth.

Dharmashaiva said...

Binary calendars correlate antithetical metaphysical realities. Perhaps one period was regarded as pertaining to earth and the other to heaven, or one to this life and the other to the after-life?

You may be on the something. I'm reminded of chapter 8, verses 23-26 of the Gita, where Krishna mentions that the enlightened die during the northward course of the sun, which was the six months from winter solstice to summer solstice; and that the non-enlightened die during the six months of the southward course of the sun (summer solstice to winter solstice).

Alice C. Linsley said...

The passage you are referring to reads: "Hear now of a time of light when Yogis go to eternal Life; and hear of a time of darkness when they return to death on earth.(23) If they depart in teh flame, the light, teh day, teh bright weeks of the moon and the months of increasing light of the sun, those who know Brahman go unto Brahman.(24) But if they depart in the smoke, the night, the dark weeks of the moon and the months of decreasing days of the sun, they enter the lunar light, and return to the world of death.(25) These are the two paths that are for ever: the path of light and the path of darkness. The one leads to the land of never-returning: the other returns to sorrow." (26)

There is an older Vedic text (perhaps in the Brahmanas?) that uses similar language. Do you know where I could find it?

Many Native Americans hold this idea also. It seems to be characteristic of peoples who watch the stars to know when to plant, when to observe sacred festivals, when to marry and when to die.

Dharmashaiva said...

Yep, you're right. There's an upanishadic reference also. I didn't realize that. Verses 15 and 16 of the Second Brahmana of the Sixth Adhyaya of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad refers to the double six-month periods:

15. 'Those who thus know this (even Grihasthas), and those who in the forest worship faith and the True 2 (Brahman Hiranyagarbha), go to light (arkis), from light to day, from day to the increasing half, from the increasing half to the six months when the sun goes to the north, from those six months to the world of the Devas (Devaloka), from the world of the Devas to the sun, from the sun to the place of lightning. When they have thus reached the place of lightning a spirit 3 comes near them, and leads them to the worlds of the (conditioned) Brahman. In these worlds of Brahman they dwell exalted for ages. There is no returning for them.

[p. 209]

16. 'But they who conquer the worlds (future states) by means of sacrifice, charity, and austerity, go to smoke, from smoke to night, from night to the decreasing half of the moon, from the decreasing half of the moon to the six months when the sun goes to the south, from these months to the world of the fathers, from the world of the fathers to the moon. Having reached the moon, they become food, and then the Devas feed on them there, as sacrificers feed on Soma, as it increases and decreases 1. But when this (the result of their good works on earth) ceases, they return again to that ether, from ether to the air, from the air to rain, from rain to the earth. And when they have reached the earth, they become food, they are offered again in the altar-fire, which is man (see § 11), and thence are born in the fire of woman. Thus they rise up towards the worlds, and go the same round as before.

'Those, however, who know neither of these two paths, become worms, birds,, and creeping things.'

Alice C. Linsley said...

Thank you, Dharmashaiva! I couldn't find it when I was searching for it last week. I appreciate your help. I'll mark the verses so I can find them again.

I probably haven't answered your questions satisfactorily but this conversation has been enlightening.

Best wishes,

Alice C. Linsley said...

There is this also:

Amrita: If all death is the same, regardless of how one dies, why did Bhisma wait for sixteen days on his bed of arrows for the auspicious hour to die?

Baba: There is only one death. Death is only of one kind. But the manner of dying depends on karma. Different kinds of inner minds are reflected in the manner of dying... Bhisma waited not for death, but for an auspicious hour, when the sun turned towards its northward course. Everything should be done at the auspicious hour because that has great power.

Swami Muktananda (

Dharmashaiva said...

Thanks, Alice. Never thought I'd see Baba Muktananda referenced on an Orthodox blog. :-)

Alice C. Linsley said...

Evidence of a binary worldview among the Afro-Asiastics is substantial. Binary calendars is but one piece of the puzzle. The ancient Afro-Asiatic Dominion extended from the Atlantic coast of modern Nigeria to the Indus River Valley, but clearly their binary worldview and cosmology was carried through sacred texts into Cambodia, Mongolia and China.

This is why I find it easier to discuss Christianity with Hindus and Buddhists than with modern secular humanists. The new world order has not roots in the old.

Dharmashaiva said...


How do you think language plays in all of this? Is Indo-European demonstratively related to Afro-
Asiatic? (I think I can see some connection between the Semitic 'slm', 'peace'; and the Indo-Aryan 'santi', or even 'sarva'; and the similarity between the Hebrew 'echad', 'one'; and the Sanskrit 'eka', 'one', surely is not coincidental.)

Alice C. Linsley said...

That is the topic for Friday's post. And you beat me to the echad-eka connection!

Anam Cara said...

the enlightened die during the northward course of the sun, which was the six months from winter solstice to summer solstice; and that the non-enlightened die during the six months of the southward course of the sun (summer solstice to winter solstice).

Is this real or only a "belief" held by these people? Are you saying that one can tell by the time of death whether or not one is "enlightened"/"saved"?

(Sorry I'm so late commenting - I've been traveling and didn't have easy computer access.)

Alice C. Linsley said...

This was and continues to be the belief in Hinduism, Buddhism and among many Native Peoples. We may test it on the Buddha. The time of his death is not known, but it is celebrated on February 15 which marks the beginning of the winter to summer soltice (time of ascension). He was cremated on the 7th day, the day that symbolizes new life.

Dharmashaiva said...


It's not a direct one-to-one correspondence. That is, simply because someone died during a particular sixth-month period, would not mean that that person was/is necessarily "enlightened". But one might notice that Jesus died during the Northward course of the sun; and (as a modern example) Ramana Maharshi (a twentieth-century realizer considered "enlightened" by many Hindus) died during this same sixth-month period. Of course, these are just two examples of individuals whom many people (either Christian, or Hindu) consider to be either "enlightened" or a presently-active manifestation of an analogous state of being; and since I've mentioned only two examples, so one could hardly claim that the Northward/Southward course of the sun necessarily is connected with one's state of spiritual realization/manifestation, but it's an interesting possibility to explore.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Anam Cara, it is never too late to comment at Just Genesis. Some comments arrive months after the piece is posted and I'm almost always challenged or informed by them.

May your travels be safe!

Anam Cara said...

I for one am very uncomfortable with all of this. To me it sounds like some New Age mumbo-jumbo.

I took some time (way too much that I can never get back!) and went through the list of saints in wikipedia. I only looked at saints recognized by all churches listed (Anglican, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic). I figured that while everyone who knew my mother considered her a saint, it made more sense if I used people recognized world-wide as being "enlightened."

I only used a death date if given (not a feast date) and found an astonishing list of people who died between 21 June and 21 December including the apostles Peter and Paul, the Theotokos, and John Chrsysostom.

If what has been said here is true, none of those people is "enlightened" and none has made it to heaven.

Also noted that you said Feb 15 is the beginning of ascencion. This is rather silly dating. The winter solstice is around Dec 21-22. From that point on we are in ascension or, as I call it, "coming out of the tunnel." June 21-22 solstice marks the beginning of "going into the tunnel." even if you wanted to use the equinoxes, you would have to use March and September.

I cannot understand why a Christian would want to dabble in such teachings. it is like a form of astrology and horoscopes - which certainly can't be true in this century (if they ever were!) since all the formulas are based on star positions that changed millenia ago.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Christians use calendars based on astrological observations. The first calendars, like the first alarm clock invented by monks, served a religious purpose.

My objective is not to elevate pagan polytheism or animistic henotheism, but to try to understand how God self-revealed to ancient Afro-Asiatic peoples in the time of Abraham and before.

The Christian view is unlike these older views, because it represents Trinitarian comprehensiveness. Yet we have some things in common.

Dharmashaiva said...


I'm the source of the "New Agey"-like language, not Alice. I'm not Orthodox, but I find Alice's work very insightful, so I was just speculating from my own non-Orthodox point of view.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Dharmashaiva, I'm so glad that you appreciate my research. It is a strange world when I can have a deeper conversation with a well-informed Hindu than I can with the average American "Christian" whose worldview is so often secularized, humanistic and Protestant.

A reader emailed me about your comment, refering to this blog as an "Orthodox" site. I'm Orthodox certainly, but there are many Orthodox people who would not agree with or understand much of what is posted at Just Genesis. I'm sure that you understand.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Anam Cara, you wrote: "I cannot understand why a Christian would want to dabble in such teachings. it is like a form of astrology and horoscopes - which certainly can't be true in this century (if they ever were!) since all the formulas are based on star positions that changed millenia ago."

You are refering to tropical astrology, but this does not apply to sidereal astrology. Sidereal astrologers believe that the exact positions of the stars and planets are critical. They have little interest in the charts and tables of tropical astrologists, and maintain charts and tables that reflect the effects of precession and the true positions of the heavenly bodies relative to the Earth.