Definitions & Etymology:
1a : of or relating to time as opposed to eternityb : of or relating to earthly lifec : lay or secular rather than clerical or sacred :
: the force within a person that is believed to give the body life, energy, and power
temporal (adj.) (temporary)
late 14c., “worldly, secular;” also “terrestrial, earthly; temporary, lasting only for a time,” from Old French temporal “earthly,” and directly from Latin temporalis “of time, denoting time; but for a time, temporary,” from tempus (genitive temporis) “time, season, moment, proper time or season,” from Proto-Italic *tempos- “stretch, measure,” which according to de Vaan is from PIE *temp-os “stretched,” from root *ten- “to stretch” (see tenet), the notion being “stretch of time.”
c. 1300, “of or concerning the spirit” (especially in religious aspects), from Old French spirituel, esperituel (12c.) or directly from a Medieval Latin ecclesiastical use of Latin spiritualis “of or pertaining to breath, breathing, wind, or air; pertaining to spirit,” from spiritus “of breathing, of the spirit”
Guénon, in the footsteps of many others, observes that history, like myth, constantly stages an opposition or rivalry between temporal and spiritual powers. In ancient India, this opposition placed the Brahmins and Kshatriyas, i.e., the priests and warriors, at odds. This opposition appears again in Celtic society with the symbolic rivalry of the boar and the bear (Merlin and Arthur in the tales of the Round Table). In medieval Europe, it forms the framework for the struggle between the Priesthood and the Empire. This struggle, Guénon writes, “invariably takes place in the same fashion: we see the warriors, the holders of temporal power, after initially submitting to spiritual authority, rise up against it and declare themselves independent of any higher power, or even seek to subordinate this authority which it had originally recognized as the legitimate keeper of power and convert it into a tool that serves their domination.”
By the term “spiritual authority,” Guénon does not mean simple religious authority. With respect to the royal function, symbolized by the scales and the sword, which includes martial and military activity but also administrative, judicial, and governmental activity, spiritual authority can be defined as what appears first and foremost as “knowledge of principles, free of any contingent application.” This gives the priesthood the essential function of “the preservation and transmission of the traditional doctrine, in which all regular social organization finds its fundamental principles”—and it is this doctrine that possesses a literally sacred character. Between spiritual and temporal there is thus the same distance that separates authority and power; whereas the latter manifest externally, with recourse to external means, the former is by essence internal and only asserts itself on its own.
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