Saturday, September 27, 2008

Stop Time Before it Stops You

Here is an old post that conveniently touches on yesterday's topic of organismic and spiroidal time. In rereading it, I added in a lot of second and third thoughts as they occurred to me.


Time is the substance of which I am made. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which mangles me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire. The world, unfortunately, is real; I, unfortunately, am Borges. --Jorge Luis Borges

In any attempt to bridge the domains of experience belonging to the spiritual and physical sides of our nature, time occupies the key position. --A. N. Whitehead

I forget. Have we discussed the nature of time yet, except in passing? It seems that we’ve been skirting around the topic for the last dozen or so posts, and you may have noticed that my Minister of Doctrinal Enforcement has made several cogent comments about it. Perhaps it is time to evade the issue head on.

Let us begin with a bobservation from a while back, when I wrote that:

“To beat this conundrum, one must understand the distinction between time and eternity. Eternity is not time everlasting, but timelessness. Time and eternity are actually aspects of one another; they are dialectically related, although eternity naturally takes priority, as time may be derived from it, but the converse could never occur."

In one sense, time may be thought of as the serial deployment of something that lies outside time. Thus, eternity is not located in the past or future, because no matter how far you go, you are still dealing with chronological time. Rather, the only possible place eternity could be is now -- not in a temporal now, but in an eternal now (to put it another way, the now has nothing fundamentally to do with the category of time, and it merely obscures matters to think of it in that way).

As it so happens, the mysterious now, so inexplicable in terms of any model physics has ever come up with, is the intersection of time and eternity, and human beings are the self-aware locus where this occurs -- where the vertical world of principles meets the horizontal world of contingency; or, where your mamamaya met your papurusha and had a lila trinity.

So much trouble is caused by our reliance upon language, which, in its superficial sense, is geared to the problems of matter, not consciousness, much less the ground of consciousness. We often mistake a deficiency of language for a key to truth. In order to discuss these deeper ontological questions, language must be deployed in a special, nonlinear, non-dualistic and poetic way. I attempted to achieve this in my book, whether successfully or unsuccessfully I cannot say (at least for others -- it works for me). The ground of existence may be ineffable, but not completely uneffinbelievably so.

Clearly, time is at the heart of the mystery of existence. In fact, time is indistinguishable from existence, which is one of the things that makes it so difficult to describe. And yet, to a certain extent, you must be outside or “above” time in order to perceive it, which in itself provides a key to the mystery. After all, animals are just as much entangled in time as we are, except that they don’t know it. Why? Because an animal is incapable of lifting itself above its own subjectivity, while humans are specifically capable of objectivity. We can “see” time “passing” so to speak, just as we can sit here on this bank of sand with Bob Dylan and watch the river flow. Except that we are also floating on the river we observe, and the river doesn’t run in a straight line but in circles within circles.

As above, so below. Just as the cosmos is organized in circles within circles -- the rotating earth circling around a star inside a galaxy that is also a revolving and rotating spheroid -- our lives consist of circular days within weeks within years within a full trip around the block called a natural lifetime. Esoterists believe that our lives consist of fractal time cycles of varying length, each a reflection of the other; thus, for example, a lifetime can also be thought of as a single day, with the morning of childhood, the day of youth, the evening of maturity, the twilight of old age, and the night-womb of death. Or our lives can be thought of as a year: spring, summer, autumn and winter. I guess I'm in the autumn of my Thursday afternoon.

But the ancients believed only in the closed circle of eternal return, not the line of growth, which is to say the open spiral. Here again, what distinguishes man is not that we are immersed in the cycles of time, but that we may utilize time to experience endless cycles of growth, or what I call inward mobility. Doing so is the whole point of your existence, assuming you belong to the contemplative or sacerdotal caste to whom I address my blog (most of my detractors are simply innocent members of other castes, i.e., menial or tenured laborers, unnatural scientists, shopkeepers, craftsmen, administrators, servants, bitter comedians, etc.).

Now, if you are at all like me -- an interior cosmonaut or daring pilot of the higher planes -- you obviously do not measure your flight against some worldly errport, but in the light of the Absolute rungway.

Let me back up a bit. A couple of weeks ago I made a rash statement to the effect that I had abandoned the monastic “ascending” approach that had guided my spiritual practice for some ten years, in favor of a “descending” bobhisattvic approach. That’s true as far as it goes, but it doesn’t really go very far in describing the sort of person I'm not. In fact, our Minister of Doctrinal Enforcement immediately corrected me -- I forget what he said exactly -- but it was something to the effect that we must always be grateful to the spiritual hermit who gives his life entirely to God and blazes a trail from time to eternity for the rest of us.

For I actually try, insofar as it is possible, to spend as much timelessness in eternity as I can, given the constraints of worldly existence. I was recently discussing this with a friend in a different context. I was trying to explain to him, without success, that there is no such thing as “quality time” with a child, only quantity time in which you will have randomly magical moments of quality timelessness, which is to say, eternity. It is my belief that the concept of quality time was simply invented by guilty parents to convince themselves that they do not have to put in the quantity of time it takes to nurture a deep and profound relationship with your child. It is really a statement about how people still deprive children of their innate dignity and stature. After all, assuming you love your spouse, you don’t just give them an hour of “quality time” here and there and hope for the best.

Well, it’s the same with the Divine, don’t you know. This, of course, is the limitation of mere churchianity, in which you spend 60-90 minutes per week of quality time with God, or even meditation, in which you spend 20 or 30 minutes a day with him. Doesn’t really work, in my opinion. You and God need some quantity time to really get to know one another.

Now, this is somewhat easy for me to say, because I long ago made a crucial decision that worldly success meant nothing to me if it would deprive me of the time and space I would require to embark on a feckless Adventure of Consciousness. Thus, as long ago as high school, I thought to myself, “I have no idea what I want to do in terms of a career, but whatever it is, it cannot be a normal nine to five full time job working for someone else. The Subgenius must have Slack." Believe it or not, I have kept to this vow. With a few exceptions, I have avoided full time work my entire life.

Or at least paid work. In fact, I am always working, except that it cannot be seen by my in-laws. For Bob is never doing so much as when it looks as if he is doing nothing. As I have mentioned before, members of other castes might look at my life and conclude that old Head-in-Clouds has a pretty boring existence.

But nothing could be closer to the unTruth. From where I cit, I am embarked on the adventure of a lifetime, except that it is an interior adventure, the progress of which is measured in light of the absolute, not by some relative external standard. I'm always looping for that "hole" in existence. A good day at the orifice is one in which I have made progress towards that nonlocal goal, and shared the joy with others. A bad day is one in which I have been pulled away from the center and origin because of some worldly obligation or other exigency. But outward appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, I am always doing something: tilling the soil, planting seeds, fertilizing, pulling weeds, topping the leaves, smoking them, etc.

Now, broadly speaking, there are four kinds of men: pneumatic man, intellectual man, emotional or vital man, and the man of action. And there is an appropriate practice for each -- or raja, jnana, bhakti, and karma yogas, which any full-service religion will offer. Each type of yoga, in its own way, tries to provide an appropriate means for experiencing eternity within time. To live “within” religion is to find a way to be, or think, or feel, or act within eternity.

Now, no one has been more shocked than I have about what happens when you begin “thinking” within religion, because to a certain extent, this blog is nothing more or less than that. Like so many people in the modern west, I started off in a place that pretty much equated religion and ignorance. But as it so happens, knowledge of religion is knowledge that is both fruitful and efficacious, not to say transformational. It is nothing at all like “book learning,” or mere mental knowledge. If we grasp religion only with the mind, it is not really "interior" knowledge to which we may validly lay claim.

With the type of thinking I am describing, one is vaulted, so to speak, into a different space, the space from which the eternal mystery perpetually arises. What I have discovered, to my everlasting surprise, is that once in this space, one finds that it actually has its own very real characteristics and attributes. I know this because every day I receive confirmation from fellow explorers who see and experience the same thing. It's as if we are all setting voyage into an unknown sea but all returning with vaguely similar -- sometimes strikingly so -- descriptions of the flora and fauna on the other side. I can only reemphasize that this is most mysterious indeed.

Look at it this way. Europe only made its way westward to the New World in 1492. The westward exploration continued until the late nineteenth century, when the external frontier was closed. Thus the exploration began delving "within" matter and time with Einstein's revolution, outward into space, and back to the origins of the material universe with big bang cosmology. The systematic exploration of the unconscious only got underway with the publication of Freud's Interpretation of Dreams in 1900. 21st century spirituality will provide the opportunity for more people to embark on the interior journey, thus situating their lives within the grand evolutionary epic in which we are the central prayers. If that doesn't happen, then earth will be in for a very bumpy ride.

To summarise: time is not actually possible without eternity, but evolution is not possible without time. Therefore, there is a need to be saved from our apparent separation from the eternal, as we make the evolutionary sprint from monkey to manhood to monad. This salvolution perennially occurs in the eternal ground in which we participate at our deepest level. We may be sons of God "through adoption," and thereby be saved from the ravages of time, here and now. We may make the eternal present in us. But it must be "realized” in order to be effective.

The fully realized person has effectively reversed the fall, or turned figure and ground (or time and eternity, absolute and relative) inside out and upside down. He has reversed the vector flow that misleadingly draws consciousness down and out to the terminal more and moraine of the senses. In short, he has realized that the cosmos is tree with its roots aloft, its branches down here below. And it is a Tree of Life for those whose wood beleaf. So don’t be an existential sap. Stop time before it stops you!

There where all ends, all is eternally beginning. --Hermes

Men perish because they cannot join the beginning and the end. --Alcmaeon

Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginnng were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden.


jwm said...

Coffee thoughts on a post I remember.
Our perception of time is determined by the human lifespan. The number of our days is the measure, the standard for what is short, or long. To our cats and dogs we must seem eternal. If a redwood were capable of noticing us we'd seem like so many mayflies- here and gone quickly, almost beneath notice. And even within the span of our days, our perception of time is like a fluid that changes viscosity moment by moment depending on our situation. Happy= low viscosity (water). Miserable= high viscosity (honey). See Bill Whittle's new essay, "Pain" for some high viscosity time. (too lazy to link- it'd take too much time) ;) Most Coons have been there.
One more random thought- Patience- linked indissoluably to time. Or, to the perception of time, which is fluid- the perception, that is. When the viscosity is low, you don't need patience-
This stuff runs quickly into circles. I'm getting out while there's still time.


Petey said...

Temporal dilation is the essence of Slack.

jwm said...

One more note-
The first paragraph of yesterday's post is magnificent. It'd make a great masthead for the blog. That paragraph is the Gettysburg Address of Coonhood.
(I was going to say, "Coondom", but I didn't want to leave such a ripe drop of troll bait laying around.)



Gagdad Bob said...

"The activity of the brain during intense religious experiences is often (though not always) similar. The frontal lobes are activated, indicating attention and focus. The thalamus shuts down normal sensory input. And the parietal lobes -- which ground us in time and space -- are less active. In this state, people describe a sense of timelessness, a suspension of self, a feeling of bliss and oneness with the universe."

Robin Starfish said...

earth and moon spiral
dna around the sun
starway to heaven

jwm said...

From the Gerson article:
We have seen this debate before. Sigmund Freud believed that a deep, psychological desire for God proved that God is an illusion -- merely the projection of our deepest wishes into an empty universe. But the intensity of a desire or an experience does not make it a lie. And perhaps the frontal lobes and the thalamus and the parietal lobes are responding to a reality, not conjuring it.

It strikes me that right here we have all of Ray's posts reduced succinctly into this one either/or choice. So, with two paths before you- which will you choose?


Gagdad Bob said...

Precisely. It's a -- no, the -- existential choice.

Anonymous said...

Regardng bran function and religious experience: there are four hyotheses:

1. The brain manufactures the experience; it has no reality outside the brain.

2. The experience is caused by phenomenon outside of the brain, and is the brain's response to the stimulus.

3. The brain manufactures one half of the experience, which is matched by one half generated by an external influence of an as yet unkown source.

4. The brain manufactures religious experiences, some of which become reality in the outside world.

I favor hypothesis #3. It fits best with observations I have made over the years.

We all know our brains; they generate thoughts, and we can imagine experiences. A vivid imagination and the ability to suspend disbelief can produce a faux religiouss experience easily enough.

Yet, that there is also an external nonsensory source of experience is incontrovertible; I have had intimations leading to outcomes that could not be self-generated.

These kinds of intimations are known to us all; we've all had some. We know their source instinctively. It is not us. Some outcomes: visions of where to find things, what book to read that proves helpful, what person to see that provides an essential bit of help or information, an arrangment of happenstance, etc. Random chance accounts for some of these, but a percentage are of incalcuably small liklehood and must be sensibly taken as non-random.

I notice experiences come in response to a need or thought in the mind of an ordinary nature, which is then taken up and completed or augmented by the visiting power. Therefore, I thend to think of experiences as collusive or cooperative in nature; brain and the power outside of it meeting up; call and response.

These experiences are not replicable on demand, so although I have adequate proof for myself, I cannot meet the burden of proof for others. There is no methodology for proving out the hypothesis.

How about other readers experiences and thoughts on the matter?

Gagdad Bob said...

I think the fundamental mystery is how "existence" becomes "experience," since you could never really derive the latter from the former. Therefore, experience, or being, must simply bifurcate into subjective and objective modes, which is more or less what Whitehead believed.

River Cocytus said...

Anony: yes. In fact, I would love it if every high school student was required to read Polyani's 'Meaning' - the chapter on Personal Knowledge explains what you're talking about very clearly. Knowledge is action, fundamentally, and tacit knowledge is, while unreproducable, real. For instance there are degrees - the religious vision being the highest. Can I explain to you how it feels to properly use a hammer? Probably not. And in fact, I can't reproduce for you the facts of experience that I have when skillfully using one, unless I am able to translate it into some common language. But the actual experience itself is not scientifically reproducable in another subject, as how I experience this is subject to me and me alone. When adding the action of an outside, spiritual source - whether good, evil, or whatever, which is a free will, it would be like trying to reproduce the expression in your wife's face when you told her you love her but while blind and deaf and unsure if she's in the room. So add multiple wills and tacit experience and rational scientific explanation is basically utterly useless except as a kind of road sign : "Go this way. Don't go that way!"

Anonymous said...

I have excitedly seized jwm's "coondom" in my scaly paws. What can I do with it? There must be something...

Yes, yes. Spirit people, better use a coondom when you come to ths blog to ejaculate your god-loving spew. That way you won't inseminate the innocent materialist with your vile ontological gametes... so as not to beget a forlorn brainchild in the hapless existentialist with her legs brutally pried open by your henchmen.

Ladies, make sure your coons wear their overcoats before they begin their coonjugal duties. Don't buy in to their madness lest you fall prey too.

Having made the lucky find, the lizard melts away into anonymous cyberspace, never to return.

ge said...

She Don't Care About Time
[Gene Clark, El Mejor]

Hallways and staircases everyday to climb
To go up to my white walled room out on the end of time
Where I can be with my love for she is all that is mine
And she`ll always be there, my love don`t care about time
I laugh with her, cry with her, hold her close she is mine
The way she tells me of her love and never is she trying
She don`t have to be assured of many good things to find
And she`ll always be there, my love don`t care about time
Her eyes are dark and deep with love, her hair hangs long and fine
She walks with ease and all she sees is never wrong or right
And with her arms around me tight I see her all in my mind
And she`ll always be there my love don`t care about time

Gagdad Bob said...


Good call! I love that song. And Gene Clark.

jwm said...

You know, anon- Much as I hate to admit it, that was some pretty darn good trolling:


ge said...

Cheers, Bob! You got the taste.
At risk of luck-pushing, I'll pop a couple of Osho quotes here:
"The heart knows nothing of the past, nothing of the future; it knows only of the present. The heart has no time concept."
"A child lives in eternity; for him, there is no time."

will said...

>>Bob is never doing so much as when it looks as if he is doing nothing. As I have mentioned before, members of other castes might look at my life and conclude that old Head-in-Clouds has a pretty boring existence<<

Yup, boring and useless, they'd say. Of course, it's anything but useless. Anybody who seriously embarks on the Adventure is, via spiritual osmosis, doing more to bring balance and Light to the world than all the world's "community organizers" - all the politicians as well - put together.

Fact is, at some point in the Adventure, the pilgrim is most likely to be incapacitated in some way. The incapacitation would probably be physical, but an emotional, mental incapacitation is not out of the question. To undertake the Adventure is to take up one's Cross, which is another way of saying "activating one's karma", which means having to deal with a lot of dross that had previously been buried in the unconscious - and not only in one's personal unconscious, but in the collective unconscious. Obviously, there's a lot of wear and tear involved. It can render one an "invalid" in the eyes of the world.

That's a word I don't care for, "invalid". One is "un-valid" - no longer a valid person, ie., you've got nothing to contribute, you're useless baggage. In a generally Spirit-less world, small wonder things are trending toward mandated death by the actuarial table.

Not to be a buzz-kill, but in my old 'hood, there's been a rash of attempted suicides lately. As I might have previously mentioned, the zeitgeist has been unusually airless and flat as of late, so I suppose depressions are to be expected. Still . . . I think many suicides are the result of fear of being incapacitated in some way, of being "un-validated", whether by disappointment, emotional loss, etc. Depression itself is incapacitating. If we don't know how to suffer, how to be incapacitated - if we don't understand the meaning of suffering - then I think it's easy to see how suicide would be a logical way out of the mess. Ultimately, of course, suicide is a refusal to pick up and carry one's own Cross. When we do accept the Cross of our own suffering, it doesn't matter even if we are completely physically incapacitated, we add immeasurably to the reservoir of Light that nurtures the entire world.

Anonymous said...

Bob, I'm getting scared. Please tell me this is not true:

Magnus Itland said...

When I was a boy, I heard that time flies so much faster when you grow old, but I did not really care.

It turns out the truth is even more terrifying. There is a "default network" in our brains that automatically throws up memories, plans and daydreams when it detects slack. And it grows stronger over time, until it is always on and interferes with any attempt to wake up.

This is not O. It is an alternative source of slack content. It is the "time thief", and if death had not mercifully freed the ordinary human, they would eventually be completely automated, their bodies running through time with no one at home, their mind trapped forever in the dreamworlds.

Time does not merely fly faster because we have so much to do, but because we are not conscious while doing it.

A child is painfully present in the Now and cannot escape even if trying. But on the other end of the scale, we risk being locked out of the Now with no way in.

walt said...

Morning, Magnus!

A very succinct description! I agree with your entire statement.

Although, I would add this, from my own experience:
Having recognized some years ago the dilemma you described, and having become convinced that it was so, and was truly scary, I have attempted to find what can be done. For there are, as you know, persistent reports and rumors that attaining to some degree of silence, or stillness, or tranquility -- if it can be real-ized, in fact -- provides a basis for modifying your "descent into default".

Personally, I believe our "error" is to solely attempt this through the mind. My experience is: that to whatever extent we can re-claim the NOW, we have to approach it via the emotions and the body -- since it is there that it can be "received" and "contained."

That's my 2-cent addendum. I applaud your original comment!

QP said...

Be whare all of ye are Now. Good Magnus/Walt exchange.

julie said...

Today's news of sanity. Or perhaps I should say, news of the Truth standing up to a big lie.

I notice the music selection has taken a more serious turn today. I recommend Walt's place, for anyone who hasn't stopped by for the Frothy goodness.

Magnus Itland said...

Morning, Walt!
Yes, doing something about the great time robbery is the hard part. The world has seen various useful approaches, from the Asian monks who sweep the floor consciously to the Jews who not only hold a strict Sabbath but also make sure to say prayers before various everyday actions. Any good ideas are of interest, since this matter is so serious and (in my age at least) so urgent. I have done some time dilation exercises through the years, but I did not really take seriously the strength of the undercurrent - that we have to run even to stay in place, so to speak.

The last wrist watch I bought had an option to discreetly beep every hour. I would use this interrupt to quickly check up on my consciousness: Where is my mind now? But of course after a while, I stopped hearing the beep. No, my hearing is fine; I became immune. One can only wonder how many other such filters there are in life.

julie said...

Magnus, I think the actual number is probably uncountable. It's just human nature. I bet if you switched your wristwatch off after a while, you'd notice when it didn't go off.

jwm said...

I'm letting Magnus' "thief of time" sink in a little. There is something in it that ties to Will's post from last night, and hits me where I live. What is the thread? Suffering. Viscosity. The place between the ears where it all takes place.
(I had some time alone)
It's the end of the world as we know it.
Can't say I feel fine.
The heart episode wiped out my savings two years ago. I've been working for the local elementary school district, subbing for the janitorial and maintenance departments ever since. Lately I've been on the night shift.
I used to do night custodian in my early twenties. It was a slacker's paradise. All alone on a school grounds. slow. easy. dark. quiet. I could noodle along with the chores of the shift while my mind was free to roam. I loved the freedom I had in my head. It was easy to fill those hours with- I don't recall what. But it was easy.
It's not so easy, now.
The work hasn't changed, but the space between my ears isn't the playground it once was. Now it's haunted- a war zone- maze full of minotaurs, and all that. Time on the shift thickens to peanut butter viscosity. Sometimes it just hurts, and I pray out loud.
I think there's a misconception about gettin' religion. It isn't like free prozac, and it sure isn't any kind of opiate for pain, physical or otherwise. It will not cure your emotional ills any more than it will cure your physical ills.
So why do it?
Because there are two paths. On one there is God who suffers with us, and the promise that the mystery is all to a purpose greater than that which we can comprehend.
The other path leads to The Nothing. And ends there.


ge said...

of year: autumn...the ruling Archangel: Mi-cha-el
& Libra specifically-- musicians who have this swell sign, include [from memory]: Glenn Gould, John Lennon, Marc Bolan, Chuck Berry, T.S. Eliot, F. Nietzsche, Paul Brunton, Ally Crowley [the last 2 mortal enemies! heheh opposite scales?]

will said...

Personally I wouldn't worry about achieving "time dilation" too much. For one, like so many New Agey pursuits it can become a solipsistic feedback loop, a pain-avoidance self-obsession.

Also, time seems to be speeding up for everyone - there's been surveys that indicate that even children and teens are experiencing a sense of accelerating time. Maybe like a tape seems to speed up as it nears the end? End of an age, another soon to begin . . .

I think we get to a point - as JWM clearly has - that we just have to take the hit, that nothing stands between us and the ghosts we have accrued. It's an effen' agony, for sure - but it's a spiritual challenge we have *earned*. The Divine-Powers-That-Be trust us enough to handle the challenge. (and as the gnosis-enti inform us, having to deal with the ghosts while we're still corporeal is actually a blessing; it's far far worse having to deal with the ghosts once we've left the building. Of course, there is a chance that the Universal Kundalini will intensify to the point where everyone has to face their ghosts head-on, ready or not)

In any event, for whatever we have to suffer, it's a relatively short ride - we're eventually going to get all the time-dilation we can handle.

Magnus Itland said...

Will - expanding the Now is quite important as far as the container goes, but it is of course not the content. Rather it allows us to grab hold of more at a time of whatever we turn to. If we expand and strengthen our soul but do not continue to have it filled from the Light, it will get its fill from elsewhere, and our wisdom will do far more harm than our ignorance did. Or that's what the voice in my head claims, more or less.