© J. Glenn Friesen 2003-2008
Glossary of Terms
The supratemporal is that which is above the temporal, above cosmic time. The supratemporal includes the eternity of God, as well as the intermediate realm of the aevum, which is the realm of our supratemporal selfhood or heart. It is also the realm of other created beings such as angels, although Dooyeweerd does not speculate on their nature.
Dooyeweerd had planned to devote a whole book to his philosophical anthropology (See NC III, 781). This was to be Volume III in the planned trilogy Reformation and Scholasticism. Volume III was never completed, although in his 1964 lecture, Dooyeweeerd said that he still planned to do so. Dooyeweerd did draft a lot of material that was intended for the book. That material has been thoroughly investigated by W.J. Ouweneel, who has incorporated many excerpts from it in his doctoral thesis, De Leer van de Mens ((Amsterdam: Buijten & Schippheijn, 1986). An extract from this thesis was published in English in W. J. Ouweneel: “Supratemporality in the Transcendental Anthropology of Dooyeweerd, ” Philosophia Reformata 58 (1993) 210-220, where Ouweneel says (at p. 213),
As Ouweneel points out, Dooyeweerd’s whole transcendental critique depends on this Idea of the supratemporal heart. I agree with that, since the three transcendental Ideas of Dooyeweerd’s transcendental critique depend on distinguishing eternity, supratemporality and cosmic time. The question of the Origin refers to God’s eternity; the question of Totality refers to the supratemporal selfhood and religious root in the aevum or created eternity; the question of coherence relates to cosmic time. Those who deny the supratemporal selfhood, and who start from some other basis for Totality have fallen back into what Dooyeweerd calls “immanence philosophy.”
The supratemporal is therefore contrasted with the temporal or the immanent.
The supratemporal is sometimes also called the ‘heavenly’ as opposed to the temporal ‘earthly.’ The cosmic order of time is the limit to our ‘earthly’ temporal cosmos; cosmic time cannot contain the religious fullness of meaning.
Dooyeweerd considered using the words “central trans-cosmic time” for the supratemporal, but chose the term ‘supratemporal’ instead; to speak of central trans cosmic time still refers to cosmic time; that would be a duplication of the temporal horizon (NC I, 32-33).
The supratemporal is “the central sphere of occurrence.” (NC I, 32). All of our acts come out of our supratemporal center. They are expressed in our temporal functions.
Dooyeweerd emphasizes that the Idea of cosmic time is the basis of his philosophical theory of reality (NC I, 28), and that the idea of the supratemporal selfhood must be the presupposition of any truly Christian view of society:
In “De Zin der Geschiedenis in de ‘Leiding Gods’ in de Historische Ontwikkeling” (1932), Dooyeweerd said that the Christian religion has always taught that the supratemporal creaturely root of creation is not found in temporal reality nor in the temporal function of reason, but in the religious root of the human race. For out of the heart (which he says is the religious root of existence) are the issues of life. (Verburg 149)
And in Twilight of Western Thought (p. 125), Dooyeweerd says that the supratemporal selfhood as the religious root is the “key of knowledge” even for understanding the Christian Ground-Motive of creation, fall and redemption.
Some people argue that there is a difference between supertemporal and supratemporal, and that only the former really transcends time. This is wrong for three reasons: (1) The New Critique does use the term supertemporal in two places, but these are inconsistent translations for what in one case is the same word that is translated elsewhere as supratemporal [boventijdelijk], or for the same idea of transcending time that is elsewhere translated as 'supratemporal.' It is therefore an inconsistent translation (2) Elsewhere, Dooyeweerd confirms that our supratemporal heart really does transcend time [see discussion below]. (3) The argument doesn't work as these critics would like. Their goal is to show that our supratemporal heart does not really transcend time. But these two quotations say precisely the opposite. It is our selfhood, our I-ness that is here said to be supertemporal. Our selfhood really does transcend time, and for the sake of consistency, the same word should be used: ‘supratemporal.’
If the concern of these critics is that our supratemporal heart is not eternal, then of course that is correct. But they make the mistake of assuming that the only two options are eternity and cosmic time. The supratemporal is the third option, that of the aevum [see discussion below].
See the following references where Dooyeweerd says that our selfhood transcends time:
In the 1946 edition of the Encyclopedia, he says
In his 1940 article on time, he says at p. 179:
At p. 181 of the same article, he says,
In our selfhood, we really transcend time:
Totality is supratemporal, but we also function within temporal diversity. Man transcends time in his selfhood, but within the temporal coherence, man is universally-bound-to-time (NC I, 24). Dooyeweerd also says this in his 1960 article, “Van Peursen’s Critische Vragen bij “A New Critique of Theoretical Thought,” Philosophia Reformata 25 (1960, 97-150, at 103:
We are restricted and relativized by (but not at all to) our temporal cosmic existence (NC II, 561). We live in two worlds, the supratemporal and the temporal, and it is only because we have a supratemporal selfhood that we can have the Gegenstand-relation! The Gegenstand-relation allows us to form Ideas of the transcendental supratemporal conditions, while nevertheless remaining bound to philosophy:
Elsewhere, Dooyeweerd makes the same point. It is only because we both transcend time and are immanently fitted into temporal reality that we can perform the theoretical act of synthesis of meaning:
And this last quotation also emphasizes that because we exist as both transcendent and immanent beings, we need to know our temporal functions as “our own.” Our temporal and immanent functions have to be related to our supratemporal selfhood, and this relation is done by our intuition:
Dooyeweerd distinguishes among eternity, aevum and cosmic time. These distinctions are related to the idea of our creation in the image of God. Just as the meaning of our selfhood is found only in God, so the meaning of the temporal world is found in humanity, its Root (NC I, 55). To reject Dooyeweerd’s view of levels of time, the supratemporal, and eternity will therefore entail a rejection of Dooyeweerd’s view of the image of God, the Christian Ground Motive of creation, fall and redemption, the Idea of religious root, and his ideas of Incarnation and Redemption. It also will affect our understanding of his view of theoretical thought and the nature of our pre-theoretical thought. We cannot even understand modal aspects without relating them to the supratemporal religious root. In 1975, two years before his death, Dooyeweerd wrote his last article, “De Kentheoretische Gegenstandsrelatie en de Logische Subject-Objectrelatie,” Philosophia Reformata 40 (1975) 83-101. He says that the ideas of the irreducibility of the modal spheres and their coherence are not to be separated from the transcendental idea of their root-unity in the religious center of human existence. As we have seen, this “religious center” is what Dooyeweerd calls the “key of knowledge.”
These philosophical Ideas are therefore all inter-related. We cannot reject Dooyeweerd's Idea of supratemporality without affecting the rest of his philosophy.
If we reject the Idea of supratemporality, our philosophy will be what Dooyeweerd calls 'immanence philosophy.' See my article "Dooyeweerd versus Strauss: Objections to immanence philosophy within reformational thought." And see also my article, "Why did Dooyeweerd want to tear out his hair?"
There is a good possibility that Dooyeweerd obtained his term ‘supratemporal’ from Baader. Or, he may have obtained the word from J.H. Gunning, Jr., who was influenced by Baader, and who in turn influenced both Abrham Kuyper and Dooyeweerd. The term ‘supratemporal’ is a literal translation of the word ‘überzeitlich’ that is used by Baader. This word, 'überzeitlich,’ is very unusual. . You will not find it in German dictionaries. I don't know whether this means that it was coined by Baader or whether he obtained it from older, obsolete German usage. The Dutch word used by Dooyeweerd, ‘boventijdelijk’ is also an unusual word; it has the same meaning. Gunning acknowledges that this word ‘boventijdelijk’ is unusual. In “Concerning the Concept of Time,” Baader uses the phrase, ‘über die zeitliche,’ or 'above the temporal’ [See Endnote 20 in my translation, or footnote 5 in the original]. In section 18 of “Elementary Concepts Concerning Time,” Baader refers to the supratemporal [überzeitlichen] region. And as is done by Dooyeweerd, this supratemporal region is distinguished both from God's Eternity and from the temporality of the cosmos.
For Baader, the true time is this supratemporal (überzeitlich); it encompasses a past, present and future. Our heart, the religious root, exists in this supratemporal, or true time.
Then there is cosmic time, which Baader also calls ‘appearance time’ [Scheinzeit]. It is the time governing the world in which things appear. It has only a past and a future, but no present (Werke II, 27). In cosmic time, there is only a present-less and separated one thing after another [“nacheinander und auseinander”] (Zwiespalt 57). That is the status of the temporal world other than humans.
Finally, there is the false time, or subtemporal, in which the demons live. It has only a past. Baader obtained the idea of these three levels of time from St. Martin (Fermenta VI, 17).
Dooyeweerd does not specifically refer to a false time. But he does say that the law for cosmic time is a restraint that keeps reality from falling into nothingness (Roots 37). He does not speculate on what reality will be like when this restraint no longer exists. He says he does not know what the full effect of unrestrained sin on reality would be like. Thanks to God this unhampered influence does not exist in our earthly [temporal] cosmos [NC II, 33].
Cosmic time is thus in between the supratemporal and the subtemporal, and we are preparing for our final state. Sometimes we have glimpses of the supratemporal. This is the Silberblick. Or we have glimpses of the truly horrible, the infernal or what Baader called the subtemporal. Kuyper refers to Baader's ideas about this.
Baader says that our Existenz relates to our central being that is free of time and space (Elementarbegriffe 560). Both Baader and Dooyeweerd distinguish supratemporality from the eternity of God. Baader says that Spinoza's idea of a “temporal eternity” confuses the Creator with the creature in a pantheistic way (Elementarbegriffe, 538).
And both Baader and Dooyeweerd reject the Greek view of eternity as static and unchanging. Baader says, “Eternity has previously been mistakenly represented as an unmoving and static present” (Zeit, 21). Dooyeweerd emphasizes that eternity as not static like the Greek metaphysical view of time (NC I, 31 ft, and 106).
Dooyeweerd also speaks of the eschatological aspect of time, that which happens beyond the limits of cosmic time. It is known in faith (NC I, 32, 33). The eschatological is what happens beyond the limits of cosmic time. It is in this sense that we are to understand the “days of creation,” the initial words of the book of Genesis, and the order in which regeneration precedes conversion.
Revised Sept 10/09