“The past has no existence except in our memory; the future is not yet, nor is it certain that it will be.” – Berdyaev

“The Evil of Time, Change and Eternity: from a review of Solitude and Society: http://www.hermitary.com/bookreviews/berdyaev.html

“Existential philosophy identifies human destiny in terms of time. Time exists because of activity, because of the passage from non-Being to Being. Christian philosophy also supports historical dynamism and evolution in time. But time is disintegrated eternity, fragments inevitably decomposed and tragic. Time objectifies experience, yet an act in the present can overshadow the past and future.

Time is evil because it is a degradation, “a degraded state of human destiny.” Humanity strives to “experience the plenitude” in a single moment, in the creative act, whether the basest experience of eros or the divine element of mysticism, dispensing with time and circumstance, overcoming death for authentic Being.

Memory consolidates past into present, relieving “temporal disintegration.” Memory brings knowledge — which is always past — into personality and the Ego. Knowledge constitutes the ontological ground for creativity and communion. Yet the past is non-existent, only apprehended by memory, only resolved by knowledge. As merciless change, time is gathered up into present by knowledge, which is memory. “The eternal present thus revealed is not a static present,” Berdyaev says, but one in the process of incessant creation outside the frontiers of disintegrated time.

Berdyaev argues that free spiritual activity, the inner life — not evolution, determinism, or natural causality, which objectify change — alone transcends time, determines time. No instant of time has intrinsic value, and today technology, which is “entirely orientated towards the future,” materializes and objectifies human existence more and more, so that time accelerates, and the Ego loses the creative capacity.

As life becomes more technical and mechanical, so the evil of time becomes increasingly virulent. The full implication of this, however, can only be grasped from within by means of Existential philosophy.

Berdyaev argues that experiencing the present without the future or eternity is oblivion — the discarding of memory, which is the essence of personality. Identifying the present with the eternal overcomes time and asserts not oblivion but plentitude. Past and future have no ontological existence: states of Heaven and Hell are false objectifications, constituting an “exteriorization of inner events.”

Berdyaev notes pointedly that despite rich and pregnant symbolism, “Christian eschatology throws no light” on these profound issues of time, future, destiny, and eternity. Rather each of us confronts the mystery of personality alone, or in communion with others also directing themselves to this mystery.”

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