6. Now the Principle this stated, all good and beauty, and everlasting, is centred in The One, sprung from It, and pointed towards It, never straying from It, but ever holding about It and in It and living by Its law; and it is in this reference, as I judge, that Plato- finely, and by no means inadvertently but with profound intention- wrote those words of his, "Eternity stable in Unity"; he wishes to convey that Eternity is not merely something circling on its traces into a final unity but has [instantaneous] Being about The One as the unchanging Life of the Authentic Existent. This is certainly what we have been seeking: this Principle, at rest within rest with the One, is Eternity; possessing this stable quality, being itself at once the absolute self-identical and none the less the active manifestation of an unchanging Life set towards the Divine and dwelling within It, untrue, therefore, neither on the side of Being nor on the side of Life- this will be Eternity [the Real-Being we have sought].
Truly to be comports never lacking existence and never knowing variety in the mode of existence: Being is, therefore, self-identical throughout, and, therefore, again is one undistinguishable thing. Being can have no this and that; it cannot be treated in terms of intervals, unfoldings, progression, extension; there is no grasping any first or last in it.
If, then, there is no first or last in this Principle, if existence is its most authentic possession and its very self, and this in the sense that its existence is Essence or Life- then, once again, we meet here what we have been discussing, Eternity.
Observe that such words as "always," "never," "sometimes" must be taken as mere conveniences of exposition: thus "always- used in the sense not of time but of incorruptibility and endlessly complete scope- might set up the false notion of stage and interval. We might perhaps prefer to speak of "Being," without any attribute; but since this term is applicable to Essence and some writers have used the word "Essence" for things of process, we cannot convey our meaning to them without introducing some word carrying the notion of perdurance.
There is, of course, no difference between Being and Everlasting Being; just as there is none between a philosopher and a true philosopher: the attribute "true" came into use because there arose what masqueraded as philosophy; and for similar reasons "everlasting" was adjoined to "Being," and "Being" to "everlasting," and we have [the tautology of] "Everlasting Being." We must take this "Everlasting" as expressing no more than Authentic Being: it is merely a partial expression of a potency which ignores all interval or term and can look forward to nothing by way of addition to the All which it possesses. The Principle of which this is the statement will be the All-Existent, and, as being all, can have no failing or deficiency, cannot be at some one point complete and at some other lacking.
Things and Beings in the Time order- even when to all appearance complete, as a body is when fit to harbour a soul- are still bound to sequence; they are deficient to the extent of that thing, Time, which they need: let them have it, present to them and running side by side with them, and they are by that very fact incomplete; completeness is attributed to them only by an accident of language.
But the conception of Eternity demands something which is in its nature complete without sequence; it is not satisfied by something measured out to any remoter time or even by something limitless, but, in its limitless reach, still having the progression of futurity: it requires something immediately possessed of the due fullness of Being, something whose Being does not depend upon any quantity [such as instalments of time] but subsists before all quantity.
Itself having no quantity, it can have no contact with anything quantitative since its Life cannot be made a thing of fragments, in contradiction to the partlessness which is its character; it must be without parts in the Life as in the essence.
The phrase "He was good" [used by Plato of the Demiurge] refers to the Idea of the All; and its very indefiniteness signifies the utter absense of relation to Time: so that even this Universe has had no temporal beginning; and if we speak of something "before" it, that is only in the sense of the Cause from which it takes its Eternal Existence. Plato used the word merely for the convenience of exposition, and immediately corrects it as inappropriate to the order vested with the Eternity he conceives and affirms.