“What is eternal is circular, what is circular is eternal”.
The traditional European vision of life and of time is circular, without a beginning and without an end: a circle that completes its course eternally. An example in support of this: for the ancient Romans the particle “an” meant “circum” (“around”) and from “an” derive the Latin “annus” (“year”), with the meaning of circle, and “annulus” (“ring”), symbol of eternity both for its circularity and the metal with which it is identified, i.e. gold. The year was therefore seen as a circle without beginning and end, not as a finite line, and represented a temporal cycle destined to repeat itself without end.
The Sun, the Moon, the Seasons, the Ice Ages and even the Civilizations: their manifestations are marked by cyclical rhythms. Also men and animals, thanks to their offspring, fall into this universal cyclicity. Everything that in the Universe is animated moves in circular and eternal cycles, this being also the meaning of the swastica/hooked cross (the “wheel of time”) in all its forms and depictions: the four branches symbolize the eternal ciclicity and rebirth of all the powers in the Universe.
-Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn and again Winter.
-Night, Morning, Day, Evening and again Night.
-New Moon, Rising Moon, Full Moon, Waning Moon and again New Moon.
-Spiritual Life, Rebirth, Life, Death and again Spiritual Life.
“The archaic time is the universe, and as the universe it is circular and definite. Classical antiquity didn’t believe in progress, but in the eternal returns”.
-Giorgio De Santillana
“The conception of time of our ancestors was very different from the modern one, linear and monotonous. They had done of time a structure, a cyclical time, where past and future called each other”.
-Giorgio De Santillana
Philosophers like Plato and Aristotle saw this as the state of Becoming (state to which belong our body and identifiable with the moon and the four arms/branches of the swastica), characterized by mobility, mutability, temporality and multiplicity. Its inevitable opposite is the state of Being (state to which belong our spirit and identifiable with the sun and the central point of the swastica), characterized by immobility, immutability, eternity and uniqueness. According to them the Becoming is the opposite and reflection of the Being and vice versa, whereby one can not exist without the other, they are two faces of the same reality, just like the waves and the sea are a single water: there are no waves without sea, and there is no sea without waves. The waves are simply sea but despite this live their existence as waves, likewise we are simply part of a single living organism (the Universe) but despite this we live our existence as human beings. The Being is the One (indefinable, because each definition includes an opposite/contrary and is therefore included in the context of multiplicity) of Plato and the Unmoved Mover (“that which moves without being moved”, a concept equivalent to the wei wu wei [“action without action”] of Taoism and to the axis mundi [the motionless center around which revolves the Earth, exactly like, on a bigger scale, the motionless Sun that by means of its gravitational attraction forces the planets of the Solar System to accomplish their motions of revolution around it]) of Aristotle.
Center/Being and Circumference/Becoming:
Note: the ancient sacred groves (like the Roman lucus and the Celtic nemeton), at whose center there was a circular clearing that allowed the Sun’s rays to penetrate, were a physical image of the metaphysical principles of the center and the circumference.
“Listening not to me, but to the lógos, it is wise to agree that all things are one“.
“And from all things the one and from the one all things”.
Two faces of the same coin but what was the real meaning of those concepts? Maybe they saw the Universe as container and content, as matrix of all that exists and all that exists? Space and Matter being synonyms, the exact same thing, two names for the same reality, each one existing to the extent that the other exists? But in this case it would not really exist only the state of Becoming, independent and unbegotten? Or, on the other hand, exists only the state of Being, past and future (i.e. the Becoming) being nothing but illusory representations of the mind, the present instant being the only true reality?
As Plato understood: time/becoming is the moving image of eternity/being. This seems to be the answer.
The Neanderthal man (i.e. the Proto-European) was originally able to fathom and deeply understand eternity and infinity, and the concept of “year”, for example, was alien to him, and as a consequence that of a beginning and an end of a year, because he lived only the instant, the true present, elusive for us today. In his perspective “past” and “future” don’t exist, both being born from the finite perspective in which today we found ourselves involved. If you think well about it, past and future really don’t exist, except in our minds as a consequence of the fact that we are trapped in a linear and finite time. The concept of “past” (i.e. imaginary replica/representation) exists but not the past in itself, the concept of “future” (i.e. future projection) exists but not the future in itself: only the “present” exists, the eternal and immutable instant.
However, we can discuss about these concepts but we can’t really understand and grasp their essence: we are stuck with a past, an elusive present and a future as we all intend them (i.e. time and history, because history as we intend it started together with the birth of time, with our transition/fall into a temporal perspective). We are able to briefly experience eternity, I think, only when we remain enthralled by what I would define as platonic ideas. Plato’s ideas are forms/elements having an immutable, eternal, out of time, archetypical existence (therefore the deities fall into this category when are seen/interpreted as archetypes, role models, stages of life, ideals, etc.), in opposition to beings and objects that are mutable, finite/linear, within time, vectors/manifestations of every particular idea. Platonic ideas as ideas in itself, separated from the beings and things in which the ideas manifest themselves, are described in this ancient Chinese text: “Wanting to prove, starting from the idea [in itself] that the ideas [in things] are not at all ideas [in itself], is worth less than wanting to prove starting from the non-idea that the ideas [in themselves] are not the idea [in itself]. Wanting to prove starting from the horse [in general] that [a white] horse is not [a] horse [in general] is worth less than wanting to prove starting from the non-horse that [a white] horse is not [a] horse [in general]”.
If you’ve ever been in a temporary condition of astonishment, enchantment, metaphysical joy and serenity, characterized by the sensation of being out of time, followed by a sort of awakening that leaves you with a particular melancholy and the regret for having lost that condition, then you have probably experienced a platonic idea, a particular astonishment due to a metaphysical intuition (“metaphysics” means “the science [i.e. knowledge] of what goes beyond the physical”, in philosophy “the meaning and ultimate principle of the ideas”). It’s something that happens briefly and quite unconsciously, without really realizing it, often while you are looking intensely at something or someone. I’m not able to explain it in a better way!
Part 1: Eternal Regret (Part 1 of 2)