While we tend to look upon our experience of the past, present and future as something unstable, fleeting and unknown, because of the limitations of our mental experience of Time, in reality, Sri Aurobindo reminds us “we shall find, he is always the same Eternal who is for ever stable and self-possessed in His supramental knowledge and what he seizes on is also for ever stable and eternal; for it is himself that he is mentally experiencing in the succession of Time.”
The fact of the Unity of the Eternal, unchanging, unmoving Absolute, with the expression of the multiplicity through the instrumentality of Time, means that the self-experience we have is generally rooted in Ignorance, but is not an ultimate Reality.
Sri Aurobindo discusses the functioning and purpose of Time in the Self-Experience of the Infinite Being as follows: “Time is the great bank of conscious existence turned into values of experience and action: the surface mental being draws upon the past (and the future also) and coins it continually into the present; he accounts for and stores up the gains he has gathered in what we call the past, not knowing how ever-present is the past in us; he uses as much of it as he needs as coin of knowledge and realised being and pays it out as coin of mental, vital and physical action in the commerce of the present which creates to his view the new wealth of the future. Ignorance is a utilisation of the Being’s self-knowledge in such a way as to make it valuable for Time-experience and valid for Time-activity; what wedo not know is what we have not yet taken up, coined and used in our mental experience or have ceased to coin or use.”
In reality, however, the deeper truth is that the experience of the surface mentality is artificially restricted and limited, but is not actually separated from the Oneness that supports all this experience. “Behind, all is known and all is ready for use according to the will of the Self in its dealings with Time and Space and Causality. One might almost say that our surface being is only the deeper eternal Self in us throwing itself out as the adventurer in Time, a gambler and speculator in infinite possibilities, limiting itself to the succession of moments so that it may have all the surprise and delight of the adventure, keeping back its self-knowledge and complete self-being so that it may win again what it seems to have lost, reconquering all itself through the chequered joy and pain of an aeonic passion and seeking and endeavor.”
reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 8, Memory, Self-Consciousness and the Ignorance, pp. 509-510