Time and the Cyclic Structure of Cosmic Process - 1
Man's most primary experience is the experience of change. It is a disturbing experience for the mind that wants to establish itself in a secure and dependable position from which it can objectively consider, remember, and give value to the mass of impacts, sensations, and feelings which unceasingly reach the consciousness. In human beings consciousness becomes what Teilhard de Chardin has called "reflective consciousness," a consciousness able to sufficiently separate itself from the data it receives to consider that data as something apart and thus reflect on it. Such a consciousness in order to function adequately must acquire an at least relatively unchanging frame of reference; and no frame of reference can appear securely stable unless it is centered around some kind of fundamental realization or intuitive feeling — the feeling that there is an "I" which is the experiencer of the ever-changing impressions reaching the consciousness.
In its attempts to maintain its position of at least relative changelessness while coming to terms with its experience of unceasing change, the human I-consciousness and its tool, the mind, devised or became receptive to the idea of "time." Time is the universal experience of change transformed by the mind into an abstract concept. In becoming an abstract concept time seems to refer to something within which actual, perceptible changes occur. Thus time is made by the abstract mind to be the "container" of changing events. In the same way, the concept of space arises in order to attribute an external "place" to sets of experiences which it seems necessary to bind together into entities essentially different from "I, myself". Relationships of a particular character had also to be established between the "I" and other entities in order that the mind would know how to come to terms with them. Space therefore was thought of as some kind of container within which relationships with external entities occupying a definite place could be given definite values.
The concept of space is an abstraction of the experience of relationship, just as the concept of time is an abstraction of the experience of change. As relationships also change, man had therefore to think of change in terms of time and space. A further abstraction led to the concept of "process." This concept refers to changes which have repeatedly been known to occur in a clearly definable sequence in which each change is structurally and purposefully related to all others in the series.
Strictly speaking, the concept of process implies a closed series of activities requiring a more or less definite expenditure of energy for a definable purpose. If we speak of "life processes" it is because we are referring to series of activities performing an organic function within some kind of organism. The term organism, however, should be extended to any (at least relatively) closed system of interrelated and interdependent activities having some overall purpose — for instance, that of perpetuating its specific character and rhythm of operation, of expanding the scope of its activities through increasing productivity, and in most cases of reproducing itself or creating multiple reflections of its own image by following characteristic procedures or techniques.
It should be obvious — though it does not seem to be so for some philosophers, so confused and ambiguous is the concept of time — that there can be no sequence of activities, thus no process, without time; that is, without one event or phase of a process succeeding and preceding another. Change — actual, perceptible, feeling engendering change — not only implies time; it is time in operation within some kind of field of energies acting upon substantial units at whatever level of substance this may be — from the grossest matter to the most subtle and imponderable "primordial stuff" which, in comparison, we are likely to think of as "spiritual."
When the Hindu philosopher speaks of an endless series of manvantaras and pralayas (states of cosmic manifestation and nonmanifestation), and of "the Great Breath" — the exhalations and inhalations of a Creative God — then speaks of time and the sequence of past, present, and future as an illusion, he is simply attempting to force the student to modify his strictly human and experiential concept of time by confronting him with a paradox — a technique often used in occult teaching and spiritual development. HPB's The Secret Doctrine is full of such a procedure which is traditional and particularly used in Zen Buddhism. We find it also in Christian Gospel, especially in the Beatitudes and related sayings.
This technique implies that the way the mind interprets and conceptualizes its basic experiences must be transformed when the consciousness passes from one level of activity and organization to the next. Nothing at the level of the vibrational quality 5 can be apprehended, understood and formulated in the same manner as at the 4 level. A change of basic frame of reference must occur — a metanoia — and this requires "taking a step ahead" in man's evolution. The whole of Indian philosophy and yoga is polarized by that one purpose of taking the next step ahead. Everything else — including what we in the West usually mean by "truth" — is secondary, in spite of many references to a capitalized Truth. This Truth is simply the particular frame of reference as far as anything in the solar system is concerned — unless an individual mind somehow succeeds in piercing through the Ring-Pass-Not of our heliocosm and begins to resonate the galactic level of truth. But what must appear "universal" for entities that are "cells" operating within this heliocosmic field of activity, becomes a particular statement and interpretation of existential fact for Minds that would operate at the level of galaxies.
We seem to have to pass from particular to universal values and interpretations — of spirit, matter, time, space, process, etc. — as our consciousness expands according to its normal and steady rhythm of expansion and always greater inclusiveness — but in fact the change is one that leads from or narrower particular to a wider particular. Yet there are critical points in this process leading from level to level at which the mind may suddenly break through the boundaries of the lesser field and become illumined by the realization of the transcending character of existence in the greater Whole. This is what most likely is meant by satori, or the experience of "the unitive state" experienced by the mystic. It may be a deep realization of what essentially wholeness means; or a feeling-experience (to use inadequate terms) of the light and activity of the greater Whole flooding — or reflected upon — the consciousness of the mystic.
What the mystic confusingly calls the timeless state, or "the instant" of illumination, is no denial of the existence of time as normally experienced by human beings in the Earth's biosphere. When the mystic "returns" to the normal state of the human mind in this fourth Round of the Earth's evolution he finds that his clock has not stopped, nor has the Earth-globe ceased rotating according to his day-night rhythm of revolving around the Sun (the cycle of the year). Earth-time has not been affected, but the individual consciousness has temporarily transcended it by becoming attuned and responsive to a quality of existence far more inclusive than these Earth-rhythms. In the Bible and other Sacred Books, it is stated that a Day of the Lord is like a thousand years of men. Thus is accepted the fact that time exists also in the "divine" world of existence. Time must exist if this is a world of activity; whether we call that activity cosmic, mental, or spiritual does not matter as long as there is action and therefore change of some sort. But the character of this divine time must evidently differ from that of our human time, and the processes operating in the divine world inevitably have to be of a nature which it is most difficult, if not impossible, for us, as humans, to conceive.
One may nevertheless imagine a divine world in which time would have no past, in the sense that to the consciousness operating in that world there are only creative processes in which what is released "in the beginning" as seed-potentiality of existence unfolds in a straight line — or as many radii emanating from one center — in progressive stages of actualization until what is potential in the beginning (alpha state) becomes perfectly actualized (omega state), and therefore activity totally ceases. In such a divine time-sequence, there would be no looking back and no regressive step. Activity would exclusively be the exteriorization or expression of an initial impulse containing in latency all that would gradually unfold in creative time.
We could likewise imagine a kind of space measurable only by the intensity and direction of the divine, creative intent. If at any particular moment, God seeks relationship with any entity in the universe (or in His universe), at once God is there. In such a space, distance becomes determined by intention, and attention. In a sense it is a one-dimensional space, but this dimension can operate in any desired direction. Activity is always straightforward, even if conceivably it could be multilinear should the divine consciousness be able to intend to act simultaneously in several directions.
In contrast to this we can think of time as absolutely cyclic and totally repetitive, and of space as rigidly bound by unbreakable boundaries. This would be the time of Nietzsche's Eternal Return, according to which every aspect of a one and only universal cycle of existence would be infinitely repeated without any possibility of change. Undoubtedly some ancient philosophers, perhaps in India and most likely in Greece, have presented such a concept of time; but it is difficult to know the real reasons for their doing so and to what extent they actually believed in its absolute character. It is a typically rationalistic concept produced by a type of mind which, as it were, worships its own power of formulation and definition. It is a mind intent upon bringing every phase of human experience to a clear and logical focus, and dismissing any possibility not included in a definite form. This form could be immense and cosmic, or it might be individualized by a particular set of human circumstances and conditioning; but in either case it would be finite, definitely structured according to rational principles (however suprarational and cosmic these might be), measurable and inescapable.
By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill
Copyright © 1975 by Dane Rudhyar
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