My mind is basically organized around three great books: Capital Volume One, Bleak House, and On the Origin of Species. Let's have a quick look at something in the third book, Origin. Inside the chapter "The Imperfection of the Geological Record," there's a wonderful section called "On The Lapse of Time." This section is connected to what James Hutton called "deep time." The idea that the earth might be older than "sacred time" was not born in the 19th century but proved in that century. The day sacred time died was April 27, 1859. And the location of the death was a gravel pit in northern France. What was found in that pit was a tool from a remote region of time. The moment the tool was photographed (the very new validating the very ancient) is the moment sacred time closed.
Archaeology (in conjunction with geology, biology and anthropology) having, in effect, established in 1859 the abyss of ‘deep time’, then went on to fill its void with such read ‘Stages of mankind’ ethnographic projections as ‘savagery’, whose legacy still casts a shadow (e.g. Murray 1993). Indeed, threatening the foundations of deep-seated cultural belief and identity, the temporal void first breached in the mid-nineteenth century continues to frame the human condition. We should never forget that the in situ discovery of a stone tool in April 1859 produced, for creationists, the most dangerous stone in the world. This is why the events of 1859 still resonate and deserve marking by us.
The year 1859 not only broke the barrier between present time and inhuman time, but also saw the first edition of Origin and the completion of Big Ben. Professor Clive Gamble, who studies the history and development of the "social brain," is correct to see a link between the opening of deep time and the establishment of "public time." In the 19th century, clocks are more and more used to reorganize and standardize the working day. The working day under capitalism breaks with the natural day of rural life. The working day does not change with the changes of the seasons—it's the same all year around.
So, Capital connects with the arrival of public time (the working day); Bleak House connects with the growing presence of the unseen (crime scenes, waves of light, the extremely small and complicated), and Origin of Species with the discovery of deep time. Darwin writes:
I have made these few remarks because it is highly important for us to gain some notion, however imperfect, of the lapse of years. During each of these years, over the whole world, the land and the water has been peopled by hosts of living forms. What an infinite number of generations, which the mind cannot grasp, must have succeeded each other in the long roll of years! Now turn to our richest geological museums, and what a paltry display we behold!
Beyond deep time, which is really the time or age of the earth, which is estimated to be 4 or so billion years, there is cosmic time. A slice of this form of time Alfred North Whitehead called the electromagnetic epoch ("...our present epoch is dominated by a society of electromagnetic occasions"). There are other types of cosmic epochs formed by constants (or compossibles) that are not the same as those which make an "electromagnetic society" possible.
As a whale dwarfs an elephant, cosmic time dwarfs deep time, which in turn dwarfs (as an elephant dwarfs a human) sacred time. Sacred time is tiny. Sacred time is God's time. God is new to the world. Spinoza saw this littleness and newness as a big problem and tried to expand God into cosmic time. But too much God turned out to be as bad as no God. Spinoza was labeled an atheist. Pierre Bayle:
[i]n Spinoza's system all those who say the Germans killed ten thousand Turks speak badly and falsely... unless he means 'God modified into Germans has killed God modified into ten thousand Turks.'
Even deep time is too much for God. Dinosaurs and God do not mix.
It turns out that Hegel was correct to criticize Spinoza's God ("..the light which illumines itself") and to commit the bulk of his intellectual project to the confinement of God within a historical and worldly development. There is no other God but one that exists in sacred time. What Hegel got wrong was the location that would mark the end of sacred time (geist). It was not his desk but a pit in northern France.
Quentin Meillassoux claims God does not exist but might exist in the future. This is not possible. Scared time is in the past and has no future to speak of. What replaced it was public time (citizens time, state time), which came to end in 1989. Our time is the time of the inhabitants.