Time and Eternity is the culminating work of Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy’s career, a career increasingly dedicated to an advocacy of the perennial philosophy. The essence of the perennial philosophy is vitalist and mystic rather than empirical or rationalistic (in the modernist sense). The mystic begins with the premise that reality is necessarily singular although it appears to be multiple and identifies with the universal and enduring absolute in order to escape the illusory world of multiplicity, conflict, and death. Once one gains a proper understanding of the illusory appearance of the world of multiplicity, conflict, and death, one comes to the mystic realization that becoming is not a contradiction of being but the epiphany of being.
This work, published in the last year of Coomaraswamy’s life, is a comparison of the notions of time and eternity across several cultures. According to the philosopher, the key to happiness is in imitating and identifying with the living and enduring principle that informs reality and life. That vitalistic force, variously labeled, passes out of eternity into time in order to help beings pass out of time into eternity. This passage is crucial for obtaining genuine happiness and bliss.
The book opens with a brief introduction, followed by chapters on Hinduism, Buddhism, Grecian philosophy, Islam, and Christianity and modernity. In each chapter, Coomaraswamy examines the culture’s understanding of time and eternity, making numerous cross-cultural comparisons. The introduction defines the terms that are the central focus of the book and defends the appropriateness of philosophical discourse on the topic of time and eternity.