Space, Time, and Consciousness, Part 3

Recently some theoretical physicists have begun to recognize that not only does matter consist of energy, but energy consists of consciousness. Others have recognized that physical events change by virtue of being observed, with what is called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Einstein discussed the relative nature of space and time based on the status of the observer as well.

Sri Aurobindo describes these issues as follows: “It would seem as if Time had no objective reality, but depends on whatever conditions may be established by action of consciousness in its relation to status and motion of being: Time would seem to be purely subjective. But, in fact, Space also would appear by the mutual relation of Mind-space and Matter-Space to be subjective; in other words, both are the original spiritual extensions, but it is rendered by mind in its purity into a subjective mind-field and by sense-mind into an objective field of sense-perception. Subjectivity and objectivity are only two sides of one consciousness, and the cardinal fact is that any given Time or space or any given Time-Space as a whole is a status of being in which there is a movement of the consciousness and force of the being, a movement that creates or manifests events and happenings; it is the relation of the consciousness that sees and the force that formulates the happenings, a relation inherent in the status, which determines the sense of Time and creates our awareness of Time-movement, Time-relation, Time-measure. In its fundamental truth the original status of Time behind all its variations is nothing else than the eternity of the Eternal, just as the fundamental truth of Space, the original sense of its reality, is the infinity of the Infinite.”

The implications of these concepts are just now being pondered by physicists who are beginning to grasp the spiritual Reality of consciousness constituting, creating and manifesting the universe. When we loosen the grip of material consciousness, we can begin to understand how the apparently unbreakable laws of Time and Space are actually relativities that respond to movement in consciousness. And this becomes the key to liberation.

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 2, Brahman, Purusha, Ishwara–Maya, Prakriti, Shakti, pg. 362


Space, Time and Consciousness, Part 2

For those of us habituated to the system of time measurement based on precise atomic clocks, we simply assume that time is a fixed mechanical procession that always moves at the same speed. Sri Aurobindo points out that if we draw back from the physical reality, “we discover that Time observation and Time movement are relative, but Time itself is real and eternal. Time observation depends not only on the measures used, but on the consciousness and the position of the observer: moreover, each state of consciousness has a different Time relation; Time in Mind consciousness and Mind Space has not the same sense and measure of its movements as in physical Space; it moves there quickly or slowly according to the state of the consciousness.”

We recognize a subjective alteration in the flow of time, based on our awareness and experience. I am sure all of us have had situations where time seemed to “fly” while there are others where it is “dragging”. For instance, young people in love frequently find their brief opportunities to meet “too short” because the time disappears on them. When we are concentrating on some task, we do not pay attention to the flow of time and suddenly we find that hours have gone by. On the same token anyone who has taken a long flight across the globe, sitting in an uncomfortable airline seat can testify how slowly time is moving. Sri Aurobindo points out the experience of Time in the dream state where long sequences of events take place in what turns out to be just seconds in physical time.

Recently the physicist Stephen Hawking provided some theoretical models showing that the speed of time can be speeded up or slowed down in various circumstances relating to physical mass or speed of movement. He was able to show that Mass changes the flow of Time; as well as speed approaching the speed of Light. Clearly Sri Aurobindo’s observation of Time being affected by Consciousness is the ultimate result of following the line taken by Stephen Hawking, since Consciousness moves faster than Energy, and is not limited by physical Space or its properties; and thus can move commensurate with the speed of light in principle.

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 2, Brahman, Purusha, Ishwara–Maya, Prakriti, Shakti, pp. 361-362

Space, Time and Consciousness, Part 1

Sri Aurobindo makes the connection between the physical reality of matter and the fact that matter is effective energy. This reality was described by Albert Einstein and has become a basic tenet of modern physics. Sri Aurobindo goes further however to ascribe the energy and the subsequent forms of matter as statuses of consciousness. In recent years science has begun to follow this line of understanding and recognize that in fact, consciousness is the reality that creates both energy and matter.

One of the more intriguing modern theories in physics is called string theory, which essentially holds that there are multiple different dimensions of reality (may we say “consciousness”) that each have their own laws of action, which may interact with one another but also maintain their own separate reality.

Sri Aurobindo has anticipated this line of understanding when he says “…there is a different Time and Space for each status of our consciousness and even different movements of Time and Space within each status; but all would be renderings of a fundamental spiritual reality of Time-Space. In fact, when we go behind physical space, we become aware of an extension on which all this movement is based and this extension is spiritual and not material; it is Self or Spirit containing all action of its own Energy.”

The implications of this are enormous because it gives us the insight to see that what we believe to be the inviolable laws of matter are in fact a specific formulation of energy and organisation that can vary depending on different statuses of consciousness and different dimensions of Existence.

The next implication is that consciousness being the primary and ultimate creative force, it exceeds any specific formulation of Time and Space and thus, can modify, change, enhance and develop the manifestation through an evolving awareness.

More next time as this subject is not yet fully explicated.
reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 2, Brahman, Purusha, Ishwara–Maya, Prakriti, Shakti, pg. 361

Time and Space

It must be remembered that Sri Aurobindo wrote the Life Divine in the Middle of the 2nd decade of the 20th Century, between 1914 and 1918 essentially. His discussion of Time and Space in fact foreshadows the debates in modern physics about the nature of matter, energy, time and space that essentially addresses major concepts of both quantum physics and string theory, both at the “state of the art” in modern-day physics.

The general definition is “Space would be Brahman extended for the holding together of forms and objects; Time would be Brahman self-extended for the deployment of the movement of self-power carrying forms and objects; the two would then be a dual aspect of one and the same self-extension of the cosmic Eternal.” (as we discussed in the prior post).

Sri Aurobindo continues however to discuss the nature of Space: “A purely physical Space might be regarded as in itself a property of Matter; but Matter is a creation of Energy in movement. Space therefore in the material world could be either a fundamental self-extension of material Energy or its self-formed existence-field, its representation of the Inconscient Infinity in which it is acting, a figure in which it accomodates the formulas and movements of its own action and self-creation. Time would be itself the course of that movement or else an impression created by it, an impression of something that presents itself to us as regularly successive in its appearance,–a divison or a continuum upholding the continuity of movement and yet marking off its successions…Or else Time could be a dimension of Space necessary for the complete action of the Energy…”

“In any case, if Spirit is the fundamental reality, Time and Space must either be conceptive conditions under which the Spirit sees its own movement of energy or else they must be fundamental conditions of the Spirit itself which assume a different appearance or status according to the status of consciousness.”

We shall continue tomorrow with the discussion about how Space and Time represent extensions of consciousness.
reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 2, Brahman, Purusha, Ishwara–Maya, Prakriti, Shakti, pp. 360-361

Time and Timelessness

As we have seen in the discussion of the “refusal of the ascetic”, there is a real experience and behind it a reality to the timeless, silent, unmoving Non-Manifest Reality, and this experience is so overwhelming that it makes the manifestation, the movement through Time, seem somehow unreal or illusory.

Where Sri Aurobindo goes with this issue is to recognize that the manifestation itself is real and derives from the transcendent timeless Reality, and thus, cannot simply be disposed of by a sole focus on the unmanifest transcendent.

This brings us then to the relation between Time and Timelessness. Timelessness represents the transcendent Reality in its static poise of conscious awareness. Time represents the self-extension of this Reality as a manifestation of the essential power and creative capacity of that transcendent conscious awareness of being.

Sri Aurobindo describes it thus “…what we mean by the Timeless is a spiritual status of existence not subject to the time movement or to the successive or the relative time-experience of a past, present and future. The timeless Spirit is not necessarily a blank; it may hold all in itself, but in essence, without reference to time or form or relation or circumstance, perhaps in an eternal uity. Eternity is the common term between Time and the Timeless Spirit. What is in the Timeless unmanifested, implied, essential, appears in Time in movement, or at least in design and relation, in result and circumstance. These two then are the same Eternity or the same Eternal in a double status; they are a twofold status of being and consciousness, one an eternity of immobile status, the other an eternity of motion in status.”

The two, Time and Timelessness, then can be seen as a “dual aspect of one and the same self-extension of the cosmic Eternal.”

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 2, Brahman, Purusha, Ishwara–Maya, Prakriti, Shakti, pp. 359-360

The One and the Many

Sri Aurobindo takes up the issue of the relationship between the individual and the Divine Being. “In the normal theistic conception the Many are created by God; made by him as a potter might make a vessel, they are dependent on him as are creatures on their creator. But in this larger view of the Ishwara the Many are themselves the Divine One in their inmost reality, individual selves of the supreme and universal Self-Existence, eternal as he is eternal but eternal in his being: our material existence is indeed a creation of Nature, but the soul is an immortal portion of the Divinity and behind it is the Divine Self in the natural creature.” For those of us who may have grown up with and been taught that God is other and separate from Nature, and that creatures are separate creations, it is somewhat difficult to truly grasp the significance of this insight. To recognize that the entire creation, all the creatures, including ourselves, are in our inmost essence that One, and that the Many consist entirely of the substance of the One, and exist solely by the Will of the Lord of Existence, without duality, is in fact almost an impossible task for us.

It is not through the process or modalities of the ego that we can gain this knowledge, which must be a knowledge by Identity rather than through abstraction. Rather, “it is through self-giving or surrender of soul and nature to the Divine Being that we can attain to our highest self and supreme Reality, for it is the Divine Being who is that highest self and that supreme REality, and we are self-existent and eternal only in his eternity and by his self-existence.”

Finally, “It is this truth of the consciousness of the Infinite that creates the possibility of all relations between the Many and the One, among which the realisation of oneness by the mind, the presence of oneness in the heart, the existence of oneness in all the members is a highest peak, and yet it does not annul but confirms all the other personal relations and gives them their fullness, their complete delight, their entire significance.”

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 2, Brahman, Purusha, Ishwara–Maya, Prakriti, Shakti, pp. 358-359

Intellectual Abstraction or Mystical Vision

As we have seen in many of these issues, one of the biggest problems we face is trying to adequately describe and understand “the logic of the Infinite” using the tools of the finite mind. We continue to create oppositions when they should be complements. We set up “either or” when in fact it should be ‘both and”.

Sri Aurobindo takes this point further “A certain difficulty arises for our mind in reconciling these different faces or fronts of the One Self and Spirit, because we are obliged to use abstract conceptions and defining words and ideas for something that is not abstract, something that is spiritually living and intensely real.”

Seekers throughout the ages have come across this difficulty and tried to stretch the conceptual language, or moved into the realm of poetic expression or imagery to try to more closely convey the living reality of the experience they had. “The impersonal truth of things can be rendered into the abstract formulas of the pure reason, but there is another side of truth which belongs to the spiritual or mystic vision and without that inner vision of realities the abstract formulation of them is insufficiently alive, incomplete. The mystery of things is the true truth of things; the intellectual presentation is only truth in representation, in abstract symbols, as if in a cubist art of thought-speech, in geometric figure. It is necessary in a philosophic inquiry to confine oneself mostly to this intellectual presentation, but it is as well to remember that this is only the abstraction of the Truth and to seize it completely or express it completely there is needed a concrete experience and a more living and full-bodied language.”

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 2, Brahman, Purusha, Ishwara–Maya, Prakriti, Shakti, pg. 357