I came across the schema below in Olaf Stapledon’s book Star Maker. The book in general made a very favourable impression on me, as you can read in the short review I wrote on Goodreads. However, this one bit in particular I wanted to highlight on this blog, as it speaks directly to the title, Sub Specie.
The schema illustrates the iterations of creation undertaken by the Star Maker, creator of the universe in which we live. Each creation or cosmos has its own local time, but the Star Maker itself is outside of his creations’ time. He has the timeless creator’s perspective, the viewpoint of eternity.
What follows is Stapledon’s own subscript to this schema:
The circle represents the time proper to the Star Maker as creative. Its uppermost point is the beginning and the end of the Star Maker’s time. The passage of time is clockwise. Each ‘broken spoke’ of the wheel represents a cosmical time. The cosmical times are, of course, incommensurable; but the progress in the Star Maker’s creative activity is represented by making the cosmical lines increasingly long as the creation becomes more mature. The increase of length represents the increasing complexity and subtlety of successive creations. The ‘View Point of Eternity’ represents the Star Maker’s ‘timeless’ apprehension of all existence, in his capacity of eternal and absolute spirit. The goal of the creative spirit is the complete fulfilment of its capacity, and the attainment of the eternal view through the climax of the ultimate cosmos. Earlier creations approach, but do not reach, this climax. Each cosmical history is represented as lying in a dimension at right angles to the Star Maker’s own time. He can, of course, ‘live through’ a cosmical history, but he can also apprehend it all at once. Some of the cosmical histories might have been represented by circles, since the times of some are cyclic. Other might have been areas, since the have more than one temporal dimension. I have only represented a few of the infinite number of creations.
Though I didn’t know it when I originally wrote the description of this blog, Stapledon’s conception of sub specie æternitatis seems remarkably close to my own. I got the idea from the book that the communal spirit inside creation, through the aggregation of a myriad of individual consciousnesses, could approach that viewpoint of the Star Maker, and perhaps in the ultimate cosmos, they coincide.
Most likely, it is no accident that a thoroughly pantheistic myth like Star Maker is inspired by a turn of phrase coined by perhaps the most famous pantheist of all time, Spinoza.