Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How Time Unfolds

Recently, I've started to see time in a very different way than I used to. Before, I thought that time was a line, a series of causes and effects that--while perhaps able to go in different directions--is just one-dimensional. But that's not how it is at all. I've come to see that time is more profound than most think it is, since most of time is actually below the surface of our awareness.

Meaningful Coincidences

Let me explain what I mean by appealing to some concrete events as examples. In the past year or so, I slowly began realizing that crucial events in my life--meeting people, encountering books, or learning about opportunities--came at exactly the right point when they needed to come in order for me to get the most benefit out of them. For instance, there's a teacher who I first had in middle school whom I've kept running into, first in high school and then in college, each time without either of us deliberately seeking the other out. It turns out that he's a great friend and that he has become one of the most powerful influences on my personality. Events like these are shocking, and they're happening with increasing frequency in my life. And their frequency got me thinking: how do these events "work?" What is the metaphysics behind these meaningful coincidences, what Jungians call "synchronistic events?"

Events as Seeds

Pondering on this, an intuition slowly dawned on me. I came to the conclusion that these weird coincidences weren't "caused" by past events as if past events determine what will happen in the future. No, I realized instead that it's quite the opposite: the future determines the past. To put it differently, my meeting with this teacher had always been going to happen; the event itself "gathered" the circumstances it needed to happen for it to occur, and the event made them occur so it could come into existence itself. I guess you could say that this process is like the growth of a seed: a seed is planted imperceptibly in the ground, and there it invisibly grows until it reaches the surface of awareness.

This idea has a few interesting consequences: first, it means that the circumstances leading up to a coincidental event like my meeting with my teacher had a goal or a telos in them; they came into being in order to usher yet another event into being. Think of that--if I'm right, the actions you perform today might have a goal in them you yourself aren't aware of! Random impulses to pick up a book, chance meetings with a stranger on the street, or even freak illnesses might be the initial sprouting of a seed which will mature into something magnificent.

Second, it means that there might be any number of "goals" that are unfolding in a situation. My decision to pick up a book on my shelf might be a way that three or four significant events come into fruition (I think my first encounter with Swedenborg's Heaven and Hell in April 2013 was like that). This idea also suggests that future events could "fight" for temporal "real estate" by trying to determine which one of them gets precedence over the other in their unfolding.

Third, my notion of time leads me to think that, just as we know the way a seed unfolds into a plant, we can theoretically figure out the way these event seeds unfold into actual events. Assuming that there are only so many different "species" of event, if you notice the way a situation is beginning to unfold, you could use your knowledge of events' temporal "growth" to discern what will tend to happen in the future. Thus, this notion of time gives a metaphysical foundation for both divination and prophecy. Visions of the future from John the Revelator to Nostradamus to Joseph Smith then don't need to be exact; aside from the heavy use of symbolism inherent in communications with the divine, seeing the seed of an event that's just beginning to grow doesn't rule out any number of variations on how that seed unfolds. Thus, depending on what other events or "seeds" interfere, I imagine that the "end of the world" could turn out in many different ways, despite the fact that the prophecy remains essentially true.

The Science

Finally, I don't think that there's any way this necessarily conflicts with any science. As far as I can tell, most science assumes that time progresses from the past to the future; it doesn't often stop to consider the possibility that the future can affect the past. Though I'm not a physicist, I've heard that some there are some surprising conclusions drawn in quantum physics that support the idea of a past being "caused" by the future.

That's it for this post! If you're curious about these ideas, check out the I Ching, a Chinese oracle text. The theory behind it influenced a lot of my conclusions here.

1 comment:

  1. I like that image. To me, a synthesis of a linear view of time emphasizing line-upon-line eternal progression and a cyclical view of time emphasizing an eternal round of repetition forms an ever-enlarging spiral.