One of the most interesting features of archaic civilization was its view of time. In archaic societies, time is generally governed by supernatural forces. The precision necessitated by pagan ritualistic practice produced both a regimented focus on “calendar-time” as well as the cyclical fatalism commonly associated with pagan religion. In essence, time is the power of the gods.
In the era of the medieval church, we see a decisive split between the powers of the church and the powers of the state. No longer do the gods rule over “things”, for it is now understood that mankind has been given certain things of which he is now a steward. Money is now in the hands of man. However, time is still seen as originating in the realm of the supernatural – the church still controls time. The historical bifurcation between money and time was a direct result of the medieval mind. Scholastic Christianity understood some things as existing under the purview of man, and other things as under the purview of God – the natural/supernatural distinction. This is most evident in the thought of Aquinas (and I do not believe that this division was overcome until De Lubac). Reason is univocally man’s ability to understand God’s creation, while Grace derives solely from God. This is why, in Aquinas, reason can enable man to know of God (e.g. the theistic proofs), even if it is unable to reveal the method of salvation that He has wrought (that is Grace/Revelation). In this way, we can understand that, in medieval Catholicism, time is grace, but money is reason – the authority of the state. In essence, time is the gift of the gods, but money is the power of man.
After the Enlightenment, we have another decisive move in this dialectic. The Age of Reason denounced the gods’ dominion over the realm of Grace. If the gods had decided to give man a taste of freedom through the authority of the secular, then they must allow him to have more. If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to want a glass of milk. Man will not be satisfied with a bargain between the secular and the sacred – he wants it all. Therefore, we have the rise of nascent capitalism. But how is the emergence of the free market any different than the medieval idea of secular control of the economy? Because, in the post-Enlightenment world, the secular now has control of both time and money – and this is seen in the artificial creation of what we know as “clock-time”. The church-ruled time of yesteryear, with its saints and holidays, are gone. The market rules time now, and since it is no longer either the power or the gift of the gods, time can now be sold (the essence of the concept of “interest”).
And here is where we arrive at today – our nation’s Day of Atonement. Modernity will tell you that progress has brought us to the era of the globalised market, but, in reality, it is just another paganism. Just as the priest would go into the temple year after year to offer a sacrifice to and receive propitiation from the gods (and this was how time was measured), so on April 15, year after year, we enter into the virtualized temple of the market, offering our sacrifice to the Lacanian Big Other in hopes that it will again accept our offering, allowing our crops to grow and our children to remain healthy. The meta-narrative of Reason is just another form of archaic religion – only this time, time and money are neither the power of the gods, nor the gift of God, but the dominion of man. Man has realized that his once beloved idols are, in fact, deaf and dumb. He has raided the temples of his gods and placed himself in the palace of the pagan deities. Now he rules both time and money – a terrifying thought, indeed.