Tuesday 3 May 2022

Cyclical Time and Linear Time

In many traditional spiritualities time was regarded as flowing in cycles with a primeval Golden Age when man walks with the gods descending to a spiritually darkened time in which matter becomes more dense and impenetrable and consciousness collapses in on itself. Then the process concludes in cosmic destruction and a new era commences with another Golden Age.

Christianity rejected that idea, presenting a new understanding in which time progresses in a linear fashion from creation in the Garden of Eden leading eventually through a historical process to the city of the New Jerusalem in which creation is transformed and drawn up into divine reality.

Many people in the spiritual world nowadays reject the Christian view and prefer the cyclical one, seeing it as making more metaphysical sense. Strangely enough, one approach that roughly mirrors the Christian idea is the modern materialistic understanding of human life which would maintain we are progressing to a better human form in which science and technology correct all the faults of our physical bodies and give us, if not immortality, at least a more perfect vehicle to house our consciousness which will also be tweaked and improved though technological means whether that be drugs or even by blending us with machines. This is transhumanism, a great spiritual evil because it denies the spirit replacing it entirely with matter, but one to which the modern world seems inevitably to be tending.

Which of these two ideas about time is the more accurate? My answer is that both are true. Time is indeed cyclical but it also moves forward and if there is a spiritual descent the purpose of that is to bring about conditions in which consciousness can become more individualised with a greater sense of personal freedom in the constricted material conditions. Then there can be a reascent but with the fruits of greater self-awareness.

Most people interested in traditionalist metaphysics believe that all religions convey the same essential truths. There is a perennial philosophy which is the root of them all and they differ only in externals and certain relatively unimportant doctrines. I think this is a mistake. There is something qualitatively different about Christianity and what Christ brought to human consciousness. It has to do with freedom, it has to do with love and it has to do with time. In traditional metaphysics time is something to be transcended. One goes beyond all aspects of the material to enter into complete spiritual consciousness. But Christ redeemed creation which means the qualities of the relative world are not completely transcended and effectively lost but they are spiritualised and thereby add something to divine reality, something that was not there before.

Time is certainly a great mystery in that there is a state beyond earthly time which is the state of divine being. But it is not simply an illusion from the spiritual point of view. It is not just swallowed up in eternity. Through time creation is brought to fulfilment but then at the end of worldly time something happens that is similar to what happened to Christ's body at the Ascension. Time will be taken up into eternity but it will thereby enrich eternity, its quality sweetening eternity as sugar when dissolved sweetens tea.


lea said...

All i can do right now is post B5 clips, and i am sure they relate to the topic well enough.
This mentions entropy and a quantum clock principle of sorts. It does not mention syntropy, as it is with almost anything i read or see. Entropy is presented as an unstoppable force with no counter and that is one of the big lies presented to us all; just cold matter moving from state to state with no other force ever changing the assumed trajectory of all things.. really?
This mentions reasons for living opposing reasons for not dying, ties in well to the recent nonsense. If none are safe before all are safe, a significant portion of whatever you might be not dying for gets shut down, but what are you really living for?

I think i found out my personal answer. As far as time cycles go, my memory is too vague to say anything about that. Perhaps that was part of the package to make this turn on the merry-go-round more challenging and interesting. Nothing happens without a reason is what my granddad used to say, he got alzheimers at some point and just adressed me with 'hey you!'. He was teaching our family a lesson in an unpleasant way; that condition will kill most people eventually. The argument derived from that extends to why being on psychedelics in a quaint part of the jungle forever does not work either; humans need to recognize and interact with peers, or they will wilt and slowly back out of life, usually. In order to be lonely and stay sane you have to be very special or quite weird. Undecided on my own categorization, but i digress. Claiming a special status while not being perfect tends to get you tarred and feathered, say i would be capable of being the next Buddha, that will evoke almost violent reactions even from very 'awake people'. I would posit hundreds of fantastic (in)carnations have been put down throughout history; and more recently straight up sequestered in the name of 'science' but no one will believe that from a background of materialist reductionism.

Of course the ones that should not be in power do not believe in scientism, neither do they operate on timelines that we can relate to, but all of that is going to change.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - I think a third kind of time came between cyclical and linear - which is that time is ultimately an illusion and ultimate reality is changeless (e.g. Plato and his many derivatives). This seems different from cyclical time - and I think it sometimes goes with a different world view than cyclical time.

I don't think it is possible really to *combine* the different views of time, because they underpin such absolutely distinct world conceptions - what I think happens is that people *alternate between* them. For instance, people who live by linear time in the daily lives - but when challenged to give an account of their spiritual beliefs will claim to believe that the linearity and sequence of time is illusory/ maya, and after death they will be assimilated into a changeless divine eternity - where everything is simultaneous.

William Wildblood said...

Bruce, there's no doubt that time is a great mystery which is why we have these absolute/ relative, cyclical/ linear views of it. I imagine that in some way they are all true but how to reconcile them is the question. The closest I can come at the moment is to say different concepts of time apply to different levels of reality but reality is not just levels. It is also a whole which must be how God sees it. And in that sense time is not an illusion any more than matter is, and if matter when transmuted gives something extra to spirit then I theorise that time can also give something to eternity.

But really I'm just paddling at the edge of the ocean and already out of my depth!

lea said...

"Life is the only game where the rules are to find out what the rules are...."
Quoting someone i found recently, and it's elegant. It fits into every non-materialist cosmology, and correctly ridicules the other side of the argument. Rules and infinite randomness coalescing can't be a thing. Paddling out of your depth is the most fun :)

I agree on the mutable quality of things, the opposite of the cold uncaring universe from the viewpoint of traditional science has to be syntropy. Still a word that does not exist in dictionaries. The concept that everything 'naturally' degrades into complete stillness over time with no counter-acting mechanism seems absurd and will be disproven soon enough. I don't care about the 'evidence' anyway, it has a higher hearsay factor then ancient history. Anselm's ontology and perhaps Langan's still overshadow these weird considerations; whatever we don't see yet is either undescribable with current language, or not imagined yet, or perhaps both, but underpin reality by definition, at least in our current realm.

I don't know what a proverbial Iain Banks sublimation would look like, not sure he knew himself, but he imagined alot, some of it fitting the tech agenda, some of it free flowing.
Can there be a happy marriage or does our part of the universe decide on a fork in the road, does it have to?