Caveat: an infinity of worlds or creatures

Below is an early, European effort at conceptualizing the bigness of the universe. Though there are passages in the Buddhist scripture (the Pali Canon) that are somewhat similar – without reference to the unitary God – that date to a much earlier era, of course. Anne Conway is an interesting character from the history of philosophy. It’s argued that she had a profound influence on e.g. Leibniz. But she’s somewhat erased from the standard histories – possibly in part because of her gender.

Since [God] could have created worlds or creatures from time immemorial, before 6,000 – before 60,000 – before 600,000 – years ago, he has done this. God can do anything that doesn’t imply a contradiction. ‘Worlds or creatures will exist continuously through an infinite time in the future’ – there’s nothing contradictory about that; so there’s no contradiction, either, in ‘Worlds or creatures have existed continuously through an infinite past time’.

From these divine attributes, properly understood, it follows that God has made an infinity of worlds or creatures. He is infinitely powerful, so there can’t be any number n of creatures such that God couldn’t create more than n creatures. And, as we have seen, he does as much as he can. His will, goodness, and kindness certainly extend… as far as his power does. Thus it clearly follows that he has infinitely many creatures of infinitely many different types, so that they can’t be counted or measured, either of which would set a limit to them. Suppose that the universe of creatures is spherical and is this big: ‘Its radius is n times the diameter of the earth, where n is the number of grains of dust in the entire world.’

And suppose that its ultimate parts, its atoms, are this small: ‘A single poppy seed contains 100,000 atoms.’

That yields an immensely large finite number of very small atoms; but it can’t be denied that God with his infinite power could make this number greater and greater by multiplying to infinity…. And since (as I have said) God is a necessary agent who does everything he can do, it follows that he did and always does multiply and increase the essences of creatures to infinity. – Anne Conway, from The Principles of the most Ancient and Modern Philosophy, 1690