AstronomyMythologyPoetry & ProseScience

The Viewpoint of Eternity

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.