A Very Brief History of Eternity

By Carlos Eire | Go to book overview

II
Eternity Conceived

In principio

Some time in the twelfth century, an English cleric from Lincoln named Philip embarked on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, which was then considered the holiest place on earth, and the most direct and intense link to heaven and eternity. Like many other pilgrims of his day, Philip never made it to the Holy Land, or back home. But the reasons for his failure were somewhat unique. Much to his surprise, he had found a superior destination in Champagne, of all places, at the relatively new Cistercian monastery headed by Bernard of Clairvaux. Writing to the bishop of Lincoln to explain why his canon Philip would not be returning, St. Bernard had the confidence to say:

He [Philip] has taken a short cut and arrived quickly at the
place of his destination. … He has entered the holy city, he
has chosen his heritage with those of whom it is rightly said:
“You are no longer exiles or aliens; the saints are your fellow
citizens, you belong to God's household” (Ephesians 2.19)…
Therefore, rather than a curious spectator, he is a devout
inhabitant and an enrolled citizen of Jerusalem, not of this
earthly Jerusalem to which Mount Sinai in Arabia is related,
which is in bondage with her children, but of that free Jerusa-
lem, which is above…And if you insist on knowing: this is no
other than Clairvaux. She herself is Jerusalem, affiliated to the
Jerusalem which is in Heaven, by the complete devotion of the
mind, by the imitative way of life and by a spiritual affinity.1

-28-

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A Very Brief History of Eternity
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • I - Big Bang, Big Sleep, Big Problem 1
  • II - Eternity Conceived 28
  • III - Eternity Overflowing 67
  • IV - Eternity Reformed 100
  • V - From Eternity to Five-Year Plans 157
  • VI - Not Here, Not Now, Not Ever 220
  • Appendix - Common Conceptions of Eternity 229
  • Notes 233
  • Eternity a Basic Bibliography 255
  • Index 259
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