Text only (printer-friendly)
Video:

Copyright by:
R.F. Bronkhorst
P.O. Box 9274
5000 HG Tilburg
The Netherlands

Contact (e-mail)

The Structure of Time

The sense that time is passing is the by-product of the process of perceiving and subsequently changes when situations one perceives change.

When you would understand this sentence above, you would not need to continue reading. But even when you think you understand this, you don't. The problem is the definition of the word time, the word points to three completely different phenomena. First there is the ticking of the clock, that aspect of time everyone shares. Then there is the fact that you feel time passing, the subjective perception of time. This is an individual experience; the same situation can be very fast to one and boringly slow to another. Third there is this concept of eternity, which does not mean an unlimited amount of time but rather the absence of time altogether.

So when we discuss the structure of time we have to see how these three independent phenomena relate to each other. First of all one has to understand one thing clearly: when there is no form of perception there is obviously also no sense of the passing of time. To a person deep asleep, time does not exist. To a person looking at that person fast asleep, the speed of time depends on if he is bored or enjoying himself. The clock ticks not matter if someone is looking or not. Those that understand the laws of relativity can also consider this: When the speed of the ticking of a clock depends on what speed this clock travels, than what is it indicating? Surely not something fixed, how could the traveling speed of an instrument for measurement influence the object it is measuring if that is fixed and stable. Imagine the thermometer to measure your temperature would fly around you at an enormous speed, that fact would not influence your temperature. So why would the time that a clock measures be different when that clock gains extreme velocity.

It helps if one compares time with a wave of the ocean. Water is a very real existing reality, a lot of water together we call an ocean and also that is a real existing reality. But a wave is not a thing as such; a wave is just a form that water can take. You could not exactly say where a wave begins or ends because it is all just water. You could not exactly locate a wave because it is not a thing as such but a movement of something. The wave is a result of the speed of the movement of water, when the wind pushes the water faster forwards the waves are higher.

Time is also no thing as such; time is the sequence of events. What is real existing reality is the fact that the position of the clock changes and the time that it indicates keeps moving. What we call time is just as real as the fact that we call a particular form of water a wave. If we say "water is real, a wave is only a name for water and no thing as such" we could also say "the sequence of events is real, time is only a name for that change, no thing as such". A clock is a part of reality, what the clock measures is not another part of that reality but the state of reality. What the clock tells us is this: In the last second things have changed. The next moment it will have the same message again. Obviously, the faster the velocity of the clock the faster things change from its point of view. Since the world turns nothing stays at its position, everything is constantly moving. It is this movement of everything that can be compared with the movement of water that forms waves. The water is the medium; the wave is its form. The movement of water is the cause, the wave the effect. Similarly, the universe is the medium, change is its form. Time is the appearance of that continuous change. Time is the state of that reality. The changing of reality is the cause, the sense that time is passing is the effect.

TIME

As we have mentioned before is there objective and subjective time, the objective fact the clock is ticking and the subjective feeling that time is passing. The comparison between time and a wave is true for both kinds of time, even though they are very different phenomena. Objective time is a wave of the universe; subjective time is a wave of the mind. With the ticking of the clock kind of time, the reality of the universe is the medium that waves. Perceptions are a mental reproduction of a little aspect of reality, a subjective view of it. Subjective time is the name for the sequence of that perceptions, the change between one perception and the next.

So both objective as subjective time are not existing realities
but rather the state of something else.

Objective time is the state of the universe, the fact that things are constantly changing positions. Subjective time is a state of the mind, the fact that we constantly perceive different impressions. If the objects of the universe would not move, not only the clock would not tick, there would be no such thing as time. Time does not exist without movement, like a wave-less ocean.

In deep sleep we have no sequence of impressions and therefore no sense that time is passing. During sleep there is still brain activity, but there are no impressions. The only impression that makes sleep to what it is, is the fact that the senses are disconnected. This impression of disconnected senses is continued throughout the period of deep sleep, there is no changing flow of perceptions, just one continued impression. This lack of change results in the disappearance of the feeling time is passing.

To make it clear to you how subjective and objective time interacts, and to reveal the fundamental structures of time, we have to compare your perception of time with exceptional situations. In order to crystallize basic truth out of this confusing complex of objective and subjective realities it is good to have a clear picture.

So, at this point in the discussion the plan was to continue to compare situations where time exists with situations where it does not exist. It seemed logical to mention that both in the external as the mental universe places exist that are devoid of time, like the inside of black holes. In the inner mental reality there are situations devoid of time, like future predictions. But people living in the time frame where this is written would not understand. Therefore let me explain why people living in a fixed time frame cannot understand certain information:

Say I predict you will fall down tomorrow. You believe me and stay in bed with the result you don't fall down. Therefore the prediction is incorrect and useless, maybe you would not have fallen down, you never know. Read this previous sentence again.

Do you see the implications? The prediction is correct or incorrect depending on if someone believes it or not, regardless what happens. Say I predict you will fall down tomorrow, you don't believe it and it really happens. Then the same prediction would be correct, but still useless because it did not really warn you. To be clear: I don't predict such kind of things because it is useless no matter what the reaction. You won't fall. So let's try something more realistic. I predict really that over the period of the first one and a half centuries of the third millennium people will gradually loose all trust. People will stop believing in religion, politics and advertising, and for good reason. Science, public administration and even daily used technical devises are far beyond the grasp of those that are not directly involved. This will result in the collapse of culture.

The reason I pick this aspect of the future to predict is that negative correct predictions have more impact. There you have it, a prediction similar to the one where someone falls down but on a world wide scale this time. Does it have any use that I took the time to write this down? No, it is clearly useless. During those 150 years, nothing is going to change and the prediction will come true. But if people after that period of one and a half century remember this prediction they will make a larger than life legend out of me, and pay attention to what else I had to say. Thus re-introducing religion.

I don't get it

Buddha

Do you understand such kind of prediction implies that no one will believe it? If it would be believed and prevented, the prediction would be incorrect. For the same reason it would be impossible to write something down here that does not belong in this time frame, reality would prevent me from doing it. And if I would push and write it down anyway it would be certain no soul on this earth would believe it. Unless it is something on a scale that large, it cannot be influenced. So it is possible to predict falling meteors, early springs or very large social events. But it is not possible to predict an accident in order to save your life, or science that belongs to the future.

This is the reason why I cannot discus situations devoid of time because such a thing is unimaginable to people in my time frame. That is knowledge that belongs in the future just like it would be absolutely impossible to teach micro electronics to a person from the Middle Ages. He would simply miss the mind set necessary to understand one word of it. Therefore if I state that future prediction means introducing a situation devoid of time into a time line, then those are bound to be hollow words without meaning. Until a time line has arrived were such a statement would fit into the already known science.

From this example however we can crystallize the most basic pattern of time: the less developed stages are previous to the more developed ones. The flow of time goes in the direction of increasing complexity and development. That may sound like an obvious statement to you, but it needs to be pointed out this is the most fundamental structure of time. You are way more developed as your ancestors and your offspring will be way more developed than you. So from an evolutionary point of view we could define time as the one factor necessary to change from the state of minimum development to maximum development. Or to formulate it abstractly: when you subtract the essence of that what is evolving from the goal of evolution, what remains is time.

The sequence of events that lead up to the state of maximum development has a fixed order. Because of this fact it is possible to predict what is coming. In any given situation the next event will be that what is needed to lift it to the next level of development! Problem is you can't use this rule to predict your own future because you cannot possibly know what your next stage of development will be. But in situations where we know the pattern of development , we can also know what to expect. Individuals and objects may show signs of decay, the totality of the situation will always show increasing complexity and development.

This is true both on a big as well as on a small scale. Group-dynamics shows that while the individual members of a group are just looking to optimize their personal situation, the group tends to progress as a whole. All this little selfish motivations combined are a strong force to improve the situation for the entire group. This happens even when the members of the group exchange and there is an inflow of new members. So the group progresses even while the individual members get older and finally even die, and get replaced. From the point of view of the individual there is no progress whatsoever, what kind of progress ends up in death?

Clock

Jewel
Tibetans call consciousness "the jewel within the lotus flower"

Maybe the individual experiences some temporary improvement of his situation, before old age spoils all that is gained. In the end the individual experiences only benefit the progress of the human race, wanted or not. Selfish people are focused mainly on themselves, they are more strongly identified with their personal situation and think in terms of "I''. While more social oriented people are interested in the welfare of the group they are part of, they think in terms of "we". As we have seen, the outlook for the individual is grim, old age and death are his faith. So the selfish people are more intensely aware that considering the entire life span there is no such thing as progress. That is what makes them so grumpy and scared. On the other hand are more socially focused people aware that throughout history there was progress even though a lot of bad things happened. When one understand that society is progressing, the personal decay by aging seems less relevant. Contrary to selfish actions, social involvement can achieve results that are lasting.

To the individual person time is a strange thing; reality seems to have started to exist at his birth. The strange thing is: he can't remember his birth and early childhood. So reality seems to have some very hazy beginning from the point of view of the individual. During his entire life span there is only one event in future he can be completely sure of it will happen, he will die one day. Anything can happen in the future but only one thing is certain, mortality. Therefore time is by definition something limited and temporary from the point of view of the individual. Time had a misty beginning somewhere in the past and will end a few decades from here, so it looks like.

That there is also a non-individual time stretching trillions of years into the past and continuing forever even after all humans have died, is something a person is only vaguely aware of. It is something we read about but can't really make a clear mental picture of. We certainly don't experience anything of that grand eternity of time that we are part of. Again, the more we are identified with our own little lives, the less we notice the totality of time. Time seems too big and too vague for us to grasp. Not being identified is just another way of saying someone is aware of the existence of the totality of time, where our own life is just a tiny little component of. That way our vision is less limited by our own personal horizons.

That great big unlimited amount of time really exists. That limited amount the individual experiences, forms in no way an indication for the actual size of time. Our life is too short to make an impression what a billion years are. It is like trying to imagine what an ocean looks like when all you know is one drop of water. We have mentioned before time is not a thing as such, but the state of something. Reality looks like a universe, and what reality does is moving through time.

Eternity is a whole different concept as time, eternity does not mean a very big amount of time, eternity means no time at all. If we say time is the state the universe is in, we mean that time exists because everything is constantly moving. This means that in that stage of development of the universe where matter did not yet existed, there was nothing that could move and therefore there was no such thing as time.

We could compare this with the relation between vacuum and air. A vacuum is a space without air, it is pure space. We could say that the air is inside the vacuum, the air fills it, and it replaces the vacuum. The state of a certain space can be either filled with air, or it can be a vacuum. Now replace the word vacuum with the word eternity and the word air with time: Time is inside eternity, it fills it, and it replaces it. The state of the universe can either be eternal and non-moving or the universe can be in the state of experiencing time and movement. Before there was time there was eternity, then movement of matter split that eternity into individual moments. These moments are tiny little parts of eternity; this eternity is what they are made of. So time is crystallized eternity, time is eternity or at least a little part of it. A moment in time is a chip of eternity so small that our senses can detect it.

When we discuss time we are not talking about some abstract concept, the passing of time is something you are aware of right now. We have said that universal time is the result of movement, the universe starts out as chaos and moves in the direction of more complex order. Since the end result cannot immediately follow the beginning, there is movement and time appears. The fact that you feel time passing however, is the result of the process of perception. When one impression follows the previous one, this change in perception gives us the feeling time has passed. Without perception there is no such feeling.

The universal time is something we can only make theories about but our personal experience of time is something we can examine. Since you experience it, you can tell what its structure is; you can tell if what I am telling you here is right. We have said before that universal time is made out of eternity; a moment in time is only a little part of eternity. Your personal life span is also a little part of time in general; your life is an aspect of eternity like a bubble is part of the ocean. This means that also time as you experience it, is made out of eternity, this eternity is the essence of your life time. Which would also suggest that we could experience eternity, we should be able to know what time-less-ness is like. And you know what? Yes, you do know what eternity feels like because you are experiencing it while you are reading this. I just help you focus your attention to that aspect of your experience that was there all the time.

So, I tell you: you do experience eternity at this very moment. Eternity feels like "now"! The continuous sense of now you have, the unchanging sensation that it is now, that is what eternity feels like. Eternity is not a whole lot of time but it means time-less-ness, eternity means it is constantly now. One big, constant, unchanging, unending sensation of now, that is accompanying every perception you ever made. The sense of now is there all the time, whatever the date, whatever the clock says, one thing is sure: to you it is always now. That is the most basic characteristic of reality, its most obvious feature: reality is right now and right here. Everything that is not here now, is a thought, a concept or a fantasy. Thoughts are also really existent but the thought about reality is not the same as reality itself.

The reality of one minute ago is not real anymore; it is just a memory, a thought. At the moment this past was living reality the feeling of now prevailed, as soon it was not now anymore it was also not real anymore but became a thought. Tomorrow is also just an expectation, a fantasy, a mere thought; tomorrow does not really exist yet. When tomorrow has became the real reality we can be sure it has one obvious feature, it will be now. It is only in the present were you actually live, everything else is just mere thinking. So again, the main fact we can say about eternity is it is here now. Eternity manifests itself by constantly giving the impression it is now, no matter what else we experience at that moment. By isolating this sensation from other impressions we can actually experience eternity, by focusing the attention on this sense of now we can know what eternity is. There is an exercise that makes you see beyond the ever changing phenomena of the senses and reveals the underlying permanent and unchanging reality. During our daily life we are so bombarded with impressions, our mind is never silent enough to be able to see what is beyond all that thinking and perceiving. Eternity is at the back ground of all we do, unchanging. This exercise calms the mind to the extent that the eternal now becomes the most dominant impression on the mind. For the first time the mind does not constantly change shapes but remains in the same form during the exercise. The form the mind takes when not changing is the reflection of the eternity that makes up that time.

ADVANCED EXERCISE TO EXPERIENCE ETERNITY

The world is a chain of action and reaction, every situation is the result of something and causes something else. A person is the combined result of the past, a combination of evolutionary and personal experiences. It was the past that shaped the present and today we decide together what the future will look like. This is the way the different moments in time are linked to each other; a moment is the end result of all what happened before that. A moment is linked to all the time that has passed before, because together they are shaping the future. So from any given situation, object, idea or action, we can always ask what might be its cause. We know for certain it is caused by something, just as we know it will become the cause of something else. Everything is simultaneously both result of something as the cause for something else.

So what is the cause of the experiencing of eternity? Even a thought is caused by something, obviously there has to be a cause to trigger a particular experience. When you slap yourself you cause that you experience pain. It is a particular thought that causes the experience of eternity, because the whole process is within the mind. This experience is internal therefore its cause is also an internal one; it is a thought that triggers this sensation. But it is no ordinary thought of course, it is a very particular, very hard to think kind of thought. You can't expect an experience that important comes to you without much effort.

AUM

What I want you to think is a sound, a very complex sound that you would not be able to produce with your mouth. The sound is AUM. First you take the A like it is pronounced in America. Continue to think this sound: aaaaaaaa. Now take the sound OU as it is pronounced in You, continue to think this sound: uuuuuu. Then take the sound M and continue to think this sound: mmmmmmm. Now simultaneously.

This is the exercise: think those three sounds simultaneously, continuously and uninterrupted for a period of time, 10 minutes or 20, a half hour or maximum one hour. So, think aaaaaaa and at the same time think uuuuuu and simultaneously think mmmmmm. Together this will form the sound AUM an ancient mystery that was long ago part of different religions. The very advanced might even add a fourth element: the fact that this sound is conscious, it is made out of consciousness. This can be achieved by remembering that the whole process is within your mind; it is as real as a dream is real. To the outside world a sound inside your mind is not real, not part of common reality. So, think a, think u and think m while you are aware of your consciousness and flashes of eternity will enter your mind, I can promise you this. This experience will not be a thought but rather a form of awareness, a heightened awareness of now. Being completely and totally in the present in such an intense way that the present becomes without limits. The present becomes the screen on with the movie of daily life is projected, the one thing that is motionless and permanent in this constantly changing world of perceptions.

First this experience of eternity will come as a flash between two thoughts, suddenly you realize you experience now only. But the thought of that realization brings you back inside your mind again and the eternal now will be gone. This could be accompanied by a slight shake of the spine, a little shock of switching between being aware of the now only, and the thought about that. Don't expect something spectacular, the whole experience is more subtle as thoughts, better yet, don't expect anything at all because that is what it is. The experience of nothing, its only significance is the fact that it makes you realize you are actually standing still in time and the events are moving in front of you.

Those that are more experienced in this exercise will sink even deeper in the ocean of calmness you will find inside your mind. They completely loose the sense that time is passing, an hour of meditation seems like a few minutes. After a while by making it habit the sensation becomes permanent, the meditator does not move through time any longer but dwells inside the now permanently. The world still moves as always but to him it remains now, the movements are within the now, not within time. To others this change is invisible; they are stuck in their experience of time.

Finally the experience of eternity influences the way one perceives one self, the way one defines this self. First the meditator sees flashes of eternity, then the experience of eternity influences the way he looks at reality. Finally the meditator becomes eternal now himself, he becomes spiritual immortal. Not to be confused with physical immortality of course, that does not exist. Spiritual immortality means that a person has realized he has a body, he is not a body. A person perceives his body, he sort of dwells inside it. Those that define themselves as spiritual beings are essentially that what perceives, consciousness. On the other hand the body is a mere perception. To spirituals being the death of the body is as real as the dead of a movie character, it does hardly influence the viewer.

When one is completely submerged in the eternal now, there is nothing anymore that could be of great significance. Everything is just a perception, even dying is something that one sees happening. The now remains untouched by what it is witnessing; those events belong to the domain of time. With submerged in the eternal now I mean the way a raindrop submerges in the ocean, it becomes the ocean. It is simple: where there is no time there is also no death. Being without time can be subscribed as permanent, eternal, everlasting and unchanging. What remains when time has gone just is, it is not something, no, it just is. Those that are identified with their body have form, everything that has form changes and finally disappears. Those that gave up identification see themselves as the one that perceives, consciousness, the see-er, and therefore without form. That what is without form is not open to changes, only the form can change while the essence remains the same. During the course of your life the form of your body will change radically but you will never become another person. In the same way, the body of someone that has dissolved in the eternal now will be alive or be dead, but he will not become something else. To such a person dying looks like the way you look at puberty: It is a big change, but the only thing that changes is what you see, you remain the same person. Different but not somebody else.

And remember, this eternal now that we talk about is not some sort of mystical mystery, no, you experience it right now. With the word now is just meant the present, that what is neither the past nor the future because those are mere thoughts. Every experience you have of reality is accompanied by this sense that it is eternally now.

We could not discuss the subject of time without mentioning the future, because that is what you want to know. Every person is more or less curious about what the future has in store for him. Obviously I can only mention those aspects of the future that all people have in common, this is a text and I am not a fortune teller. But I can tell you however what the future will look like, take for instance the period between the year 2000 and 3000.

This is a time period so big it can be predicted because no one would attempt to change it and thus make the prediction false. The main aspect of the character of the 3rd millennium, that what makes this millennium differ from other millennia, is the domination of very big things over the inhabitants of the world. With big things are meant big companies, big projects, big national and international structures and governments. The third millennium is just one in a row of millennia that are needed to fully develop human culture and create increasingly complex worldwide social structures. The third millennium is that stage in development where people learn to control human nature. Everybody agrees that this history filled with wars and deception, cruelty and criminality cannot continue this way, therefore control is the big issue. When this time period started the word control meant the government controlling the people and that has already taken dictatorial forms when I write this. This is bound to be taken to the most extreme levels until the whole system collapses. Gradually the emphasis is put on inner mental control instead of outer forceful ways of controlling. Needless to say, with this text I already anticipate that development. The bad thing about the third millennium is that people with power over others tend to forget there is a difference between being big and strong, and being just and right. In other words: already right now at its very beginning I can see democracy crumbling, and slowly being replaced by new forms of technocratic dictatorship. This trend will obviously continue until people are getting fed up with being told what to do, instead of making their own decisions. The good aspect of the third millennium will be that at the end of this development there will be permanent peace and stability. The whole period is a transition between its bad aspects towards its good aspects. This means that at the beginning of this millennium we can witness forms of crime bigger and more evil as anything we have seen before. There will also be a slow but steady scientific progress that will shift its focus gradually from physical subjects to more subtle concepts such as harmony and causality, justness and astro-dynamics.

So, to make the end conclusion we can sum up the facts that we have discovered so far: The word time indicates two different concepts, the fact the clock is ticking and the fact you feel time passing. They are different because the clock always ticks at the same speed, but your sense of passing time changes depending on what you do. One is objective time and is a side effect of the movement of matter; the other is subjective time that is a side effect of the process of perception. So the time you actually experience is an aspect of the qualities of perceptions. To sum up some of the qualities of what you perceive right now: you see text, you think all this is very difficult, you feel slightly bored etc. All these are qualities of your perception right now and one of those sensations is that you feel time is passing. When you perceive nothing during your sleep or deep meditation you have no such feeling.

The essence of your being is consciousness, which is what you are. You have a body and you have a mind but you are consciousness. The only thing this consciousness does is being conscious of things, being aware of the perceptions the senses deliver to you. So there are two different things here, there is the consciousness itself, and there is that sensory input it is conscious of, the perceptions. One aspect of what is perceived is this impression of passing time. So time is an aspect of the perceptions not an aspect of consciousness itself. Consciousness sees time passing when you are awake, it is itself separated from that perception. What you see is not what you are, you yourself are just that: the one that sees, the receiver of impressions. One of those impressions is time.


Consciousness is like light; it takes the colour from what it comes
in contact with, but contains all colours

The time is always now, whatever name we give it. That is how consciousness experiences its own position towards impressions, the perceptions change constantly but it is always now. That is the one constant at the background of all what you experience, this sense of now is unchanging and unlimited. The collective universal present will remain, even after the dead of an individual. From the point of view of this eternal now even our own dying is something we only experience, it does not really change the viewer of that event.

If we consider the world is a chain of action and reaction, cause and result, than what is the result of being aware of this inner eternal now? Awareness of the now gives you spiritual immortality. You will realize that the essence of your being does not disappear after death. Seeing the eternal now is like stepping out of the dimension of time, every moment is just a speck of eternity.

The universe is in a state of a certain harmony, stars and planets circle neatly within their galaxies. It was not always like that, the stars were formed from a big chaotically moving gas cloud. It is clear that the universe tends towards a more harmonious and complex state, it is in a transition from chaos to order. So there once was a situation of maximum chaos and minimum order and at that point there was a force pushing it towards minimum chaos and maximum order. Since the first state of the universe could not abruptly morph into its end situation, matter had to move to another position. And that change took time. That was the way time was created. The process from chaos to order creates time. The process from chaos to order is just a complicated way of saying: movement. In the same way as a moving object makes the air respond that is pushed aside, make all the moving objects together that the universe responds with being in the state of flowing time.

It is always now. Sometimes this now is marked by inhalation; sometimes the now is filled with exhalation. That is what makes moments differ from each other. But that is an illusion, it is always now.

Close
Close
Close
Close
Close
Close
Close
Close