In the dream, I’m sitting on a long couch next to three people: William S. Burroughs, Timothy Leary, and Oprah Winfrey. The room is smoky, and I’m allowed a question.
“How do I take all this knowledge I have and make the world a better place?” I ask. A child’s question, How does this work?
Leary, with whom I am the least acquainted, answers. “You have to find a way to step outside of time.”
I’m about to ask what he means, and in the waking world, a sharp and harsh call pulls me out of sleep. The red-numbered digital alarm I’ve set insists itself. Wake. Up.
I hit the snooze button and when I lie back again, the dream is still there and still complete.
Leary leans toward me. “You see?” He asks. Oprah nods her head knowingly while Burroughs takes a long drag from his cigarette, eyes forward, catatonic.
* * * * *
In the beginning there was stone, or nothing, or God, or the loud unspeakable banging of things. There was an origin. And inside of us, somewhere, is that origin. We couldn’t be here without containing it. Every moment of time and all the interactions of nature have led themselves to us, to the person reading these words in the space they’re being read in. And so the very history of the universe stands in our bones, like a ghost standing inside of a wall.
This is philosopher Jean Gebser’s “ever-present origin” from his book of the same name. The point from which all lines and planes and cubes emerge, the one that still pours forth our being, but which, at some moment, we became unaware of, and which, if we want to speak spatially about such things, we have “grown distant” from.
Somewhere in this great divorce, we developed our current concept of and feeling for time, which so intensely typifies our current way of life, on the peninsular stretch away from the origin that we live on. Gebser’s focus on time impelled him to write the book.
There’s too much history to go over, too many potshots to take at the thing, and too many expressions of time from culture to culture to get into the nitty gritty of the history of time (for a great and exhausting study of just that, I recommend A Sideways Look at Time by Jay Griffiths). I don’t have time (or space) to do it. But we can look at what time is to us — how it feels, how it “ticks away,” how it becomes something beyond claiming as it falls into the past. We can, perhaps, even learn to interact with time in a new way. “Time may change me, but I can’t trace time,” David Bowie sang. Oh no?
Gebser claimed that we were entering into a new understanding of time and that it would change our consciousness utterly. He claimed, like the theosophists, anthroposophists, Hindus, and others, that human consciousness has changed throughout our long history. Our new perspective on time would herald a “mutation” — the “integral” — through which we could see the ways we used to think — the past mutations of consciousness. “Mutations” not because they follow the reductive concepts of genetic mutation, nor because they have the same feel as physical evolution; they are, instead, changes in the inner landscape of the psyche and spirit. They are shifts in the pattern of thinking and being that change those patterns utterly. Our selves change in accordance to these mutations; our structures of perception, our personalities, our relationships, all uproot and become undone. That is, they no longer feel finished, and they become again. As goes our structure of consciousness, so goes the world.
Gebser’s arguments — intensely detailed examinations of art history and language — are compelling and powerful, and in themselves contribute to changes in the consciousness of any reader strong-willed enough to make it through the wordy book (for gentler but just as profound renderings of the evidence, see Owen Barfield’s Saving the Appearances, History in English Words, or Poetic Diction). His main point with the integral is that when we change our vision of time, we change our world, and that this perspective is changing whether we like it or not.
Physicist Stephen Hawking speculates that the “‘psychological arrow of time’ is pointed in the same direction as the cosmological and thermodynamic arrow of time…from the past to the future.” Gebser and others ask — what happens when the psychological arrow changes direction? Or we aim the bow upward? Or more than that — what happens when we put down our weapons all together?
* * * * *
I am sitting at the Urban Plaza near 50th Street and 10th Avenue in New York City. There’s a Starbucks and a restaurant nearby and the ground beneath the metal chair I’m sitting on is cobblestone. It is October 20th.
Pigeons fly around the fountain. Everyone is reading and talking to one another or on the phone. Some are eating. A few are doing nothing at all, except listening maybe, or watching the sky.
None of it feels like time.
I can write the word, but it’s distant or even empty, like a bit of nonsense…until I think time is happening.
Or sometimes I’ll get the notion of it when a person leaves. The seat is empty; it didn’t used to be empty. There was somewhere to go! That exclamation point feels like time as I look at it. Moreso, definitely, than the absolute blackness of the period. The exclamation point is an event! It’s an instant! The register rises at the end of the sentence!
I think about when I need this essay done and there it is. A future. When I double myself — me and me soon — there is time. And here’s a waiter, approaching a table. A man has paid with a hundred dollar bill and accidentally left the change in the folder with the check. Time: What he did then unfolding now.
The pigeons are moving from ground to awning to tree top, and there’s no time until I think about where they were or where they are going.
Time is the animal moving out of sight and into inner vision. It’s an engagement with the invisible.
* * * * *
In 1759, a pillar of wisdom, mystical and otherwise, Emmanuel Swedenborg revealed that he’d been communing with angels. He was a respected man who wore a wig. He tended to stutter, but besides that was the calm figure of a scientist. He’d engineered bridges, he’d calculated the longitudinal axis based on the movements of the moon, and discovered that the two hemispheres of the brain react differently. He was one of the most famous and well-respected engineers and scientists of his time, and he had a habit of entering into the world of the angels and sometimes even into Hell.
It was there that he began to understand time. In the spiritual world, he found that our ideas and concepts had the curious state property of realness — that is, they weren’t simply thought about, but they were factual expressions. Austrian mystic, natural philosopher, educator, architect and seer Rudolf Steiner would confirm this in later years, stating that in the spiritual world, our concepts are “objects”. Time is as real as a chair in the spiritual world, because in the spiritual world we do not only use the same senses as we do in the material world, as "real” evinces itself as an intense fact of feeling in the spiritual senses.
“A pleasant state,” Swedenborg wrote in one of his many voluminous descriptions of the spiritual world, “makes time seem brief, and an unpleasant one makes it seem long. We can therefore see that time in the spiritual world is simply an attribute of state.”
Even Einstein could not deny this — an attribute of state. Like solidity, density, color, tone. Time is a feeling. Wilson van Dusen, Swedenborg scholar and psychologist would later elaborate by examining dimensionality from a Swedenborgian point of view. Though Swedenborg never schematized the dimensions, van Dusen deduced the implicit dimensionality from combing relentlessly over Swedenborg’s work along with the work of other mystics.
The dimensions start off as mathematical dimensions — they are simple: Point, line, plane, cube. The point is a zero-dimension. It has a distinguished nothingness to it. It’s not even the period at the end of this sentence, though we draw it that way. It’s not a thing, it’s not a spot, it’s not a moment. Instead, the point is a gesture of separation — an instance of being pulled from the whole. This bears a striking resemblance to Gebser’s archaic mutation of consciousness or what Steiner refers to as the Saturnian period of consciousness. The Saturnian being had a consciousness “duller than dreamless sleep”–and occult historian Gary Lachman states that the archaic being was “little more than the first slight ripple of difference between origin and its latent unfolding.”
Van Dusen, in ascending through the dimensions, treats the problem algorhythmically. The line is all the points. For Steiner and the theosophists, the line is instead the point turned or bent. Either way, when one lives on the line-state of consciousness (like in Edwin Abbot’s Flatland), all one can see is points. This corresponds well with — though he did not characterize it this way — Gebser’s theory of magical consciousness, the next mutation in the sequence. The magical mutation is typified by synchronicites. They’re discreet instances of consciousness which do not only relate, but overlay one another. For an example of magical consciousness, Gebser presents an indigenous people who draw an antelope and plunge a spear into the drawing, then spear an antelope later in perfect reciprocity. This may be difficult at first to understand — but understand it as the moment when you are thinking of someone and then they call out of nowhere, only more intense. The thought process and the events are so intertwined that they cannot possibly be seen to be independent. In fact, they are interdependent. (This is why in magical rituals, we still see much iconography–sigils or voodoo dolls are symbolic art created to affect life.)
The second dimension is the plane. All of the lines together cannot help but form a sort of vaster line–thicker and full of itself. For Steiner, we can say that the plane is the line turned. If a line continues on and on, Steiner explains, it “curves” until it meets itself again. In this way, it forms a circle; “…a straight line can be interpreted as a circle whose diameter is infinitely large…we can imagine that if we move ever farther along a straight line, we will eventually pass through infinity and come back from the other side.” Steiner’s way of examining lines, in other words, brings in our experience as a higher dimension which defines the lower.
These dimensions are not separate but in fact beautifully complex in that they all determine each other — they are neither “top down” nor “bottom up,” particularly since in their totality they defy the spatial laws of structure and hierarchy.
On the plane, we find Gebser’s mythic consciousness. The plane pulls the mythic human around and around. A square, not a circle, is the best image for mythic time, because it is a shape punctuated by familiar instances: seasons, directions, colors. Rhythm is felt by the rounding of a corner. In a sense, these corners are the gods. While in the magical mutation of first-dimensional thinking synchronicities “popped up”, in the mythic, synchronicities acquired a new intensity — rhythm. If in magical consciousness synchronicity was punctuated percussing noise, then in mythcial consciousness, at the corners, the noises found a beat.
Infintize the plane, a la van Dusen, or curve it a la Steiner, and we have a cube: the plane that boldly faces itself. And here Gebser’s perspective meets Duhrer’s little squares across the maiden, breaking her form into bits of light and shadow. We became “heavy” with matter as the plane beheld its own eminence. As Gebser deftly points out, (he lays the blame and credit first on Petrarch) we began at this point in history to ascend mountains. No more were the impossible Mt. Olympuses, where we’d be struck down, even for daring to scale. We started to see a vast panorama of space. We were no longer countrymen, united, but individuals, separated by harsh outlines. And what a view! For proof, look at the dramatic shifts in western art around the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries: suddenly, everything jumped out of the frame or slinked backward into it. Light and shadow took the place of color. Instead of color against color: distance and curvature. A perspective of irrevocable spatiality. This is Gebser’s mental mutation, which we’re now in — albeit its “deficient” mode. Deficient because we’ve lost ourselves in it, forgotten the wonder of it.
What’s next on the agenda of dimensions? Time. This was illustrated profoundly to me by a teacher who explained van Dusen’s expressions of dimensions. She held a book.
“This book’s the cube; it’s space,” she said. “What happens when you add all the space and all the space?” Of course I had no idea.
Then she dropped the book.
“When space passes through itself, you have time.”
* * * *
I’m at the Esalen Institute with about a hundred others. We’re here to spend time with a woman who — how can I put this? — is like a glowing white light.
Her name is Byron Katie, and she has a beautiful comforting smile. She undoes things.
“Good evening,” she says from the stage. We all say good evening back.
“Is it true?” she asks, and those of us who know what’s happening laugh.
What’s happening is this: Katie, as she prefers to be called, describes the world as Epictetus did. “It is not events that upset us, it is our thoughts about events which upset us.” Katie has a system for parsing the two. When people ask her if she’s enlightened, she says, “I don’t know what that means; I’m just a person who knows the difference between what hurts and what doesn’t.” She often wears shawls. If you saw a picture of her, you might think she was a flake or a saint.
The system is The Work. It’s just four questions, and they shine an intense light on the mind of the mental mutation because they use the mental mutation’s own clarity and sharp outlines against itself. The master’s tools dismantling the master’s house (well they’re lying around, anyway, why not?). The questions are applied to a stressful concept — and it’s easier, she tells us, to apply it to someone else before we apply it to ourselves. My husband shouldn’t cheat on me. My children should listen to me. That woman shouldn’t talk so much. My mailman should say hello when he sees me.
Out of context, the questions aren’t so impressive. They are 1. Is it true? 2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? 3. How do you feel when you think that thought? 4. Who or how would you be without that thought? And they are followed by a “turnaround”, where the original statement is brought back to the self.
For example, “My wife shouldn’t have left me” turns into “I shouldn’t have left me” or “I shouldn’t have left my wife” or even “My wife should have left me.”
What occurs through The Work is obvious around me. We listen to Katie, facilitate with her and then with each other. We cry and light up. There’s nothing phony about it, nothing new age, it’s simply an intense engagement with the mental world. Everything in the world is. There’s no sense arguing with it. A woman, while doing the work with me sees her husband isn’t selfish, but profoundly giving. She also sees that she needs to give herself everything she expected him to give and to set her boundaries with him. I forgive myself for the first time for being crazy around an old boyfriend. I think, I’d like to be a different way around the people I love.
This is postmodernism used to its most profound effect. It’s the deconstruction of thought — but not to the point of meaninglessness — rather to its true essence. We are not our thoughts, but we do interact with them. The thoughts rise and fall within us, like weather. But they do not come from us. It’s as if thoughts are curtains billowing inward — the curtains are blowing in the apartment, but the impetus for their movement comes from somewhere else. When we attach to a thought, that’s when the trouble begins. We stop moving, and we’re caught in Lucifer’s perversion (literally translated as a turning away). Lucifer, instead of turning all the way around to face God once again, stopped and became stuck. And so, evil was born. When we attach to our thoughts, we get stuck and create a fundamentalist belief, and belief can bring pain.
“Anything is true if you believe it,” Katie says. “Nothing is true whether you believe it or not.”
And she’s funny.
It’s much easier to understand The Work by doing, so I won’t record the dialogues here. Go to her website, listen to her audiobooks. But something occurs to me at the conference — Katie is not anxious or depressed about anything. Somehow, she doesn’t seem to feel stress. Doesn’t she engage with time? Looking backward to regret, forward to worry?
“Do you know about time?” she asks us.
“Look,” she begins, each utterance a complete sentence. “I. I am. I am a woman. I am a woman who wants a glass of water. I am a woman who is going to reach for a glass of water. Do you see how I’m creating time?”
Time is the attachment to a thought. The moment we say, “I am,” we position ourselves temporally. And it expands from there into, “I am a man. I am a man who wants.” We begin to create a past — the collection of inherited concepts, such as “man”. We create a future by thinking of what we’d like to have, by becoming, “a man who wants.” And so forth until we’re in the very practical world of someone who is going to reach for a glass of water. This is the world of materialisms–everything happens outside of inner being — “sticking” to itself. All the space and all the space. Katie would say this happens when, “we believe what we think.”
Of course, we’re paralyzed without concept–and there is a rightness to concept. Katie tells us that our feelings are alarms. A stressful feeling is the sign of attaching to a stressful thought. “Keep the dreams,” she says, “and investigate the nightmares.”
* * * * *
Back to the fourth dimension: all the cubes at once. For Steiner, the fourth dimension is the astral world. This presents the first disagreement in dimensionality for van Dusen and Steiner — while for van Dusen time is the fourth dimension, for Steiner, time appears differently in the fourth dimension.
And here’s my leap: human time in the mental mutation of consciousness seems to me to be a combination of the anthroposophical fourth dimension or astral plane and the etheric.
The etheric, as described by Steiner, is tricky business. Not because it’s theoretical but because it’s so apparent to our being, but not our senses. We perceive the etheric with our senses only through the distinction in forms and movements in a developing living being. Plants are perhaps the best example, and it is felt that they reside in the etheric “realm” (that is, their consciousness is an etheric consciousness) most squarely.
With high speed recording, we can “see” plant development — the life of the etheric. But while the etheric evinces itself in the material world as temporal, it stands outside of time. That is, it streams with purpose within a completed whole. In fact, it is not so much “streaming towards” as it is “swirling within.” This is close to what Goethe referred to as the “archetypal plant” — a plant that “contains” all other plants — a living pool of possibility.
Gebser’s origin bears many similarities to the etheric — it is the unmanifest, formless being from which all forms manifest. Imagine a skyscraper building itself into an invisible blueprint, which is pressed onto the ground, the sky, and the workers that carry out the labor, making them part of the whole. Or, if you like, Marvel Comics has a character named Eternity — he has a human form, but is vast, infinite, and in the outline of this form are all the planets and stars and all that has ever happened and will happen. The idea here is that things form themselves within a finality. In this sense, the etheric and origin are the ground-level “proofs” of a teleological point of view. They are fractally experienced versions of physicist and philosopher David Bohm’s “implicate order.”
A good way to observe this sensually is to notice the differences between a plant and a rock. Rocks do change, but we do not sense within them an inner growth. Even developing crystals form from the outside. The plants, on the other hand, draw from something within themselves to develop as well as from the outside world. Biologist Wolfgang Schad writes, that the etheric has and is, “…an autonomous capacity to behave within matter, physical energy, space and time in a way different from that of lifeless objects.” Because of this, we must observe that time exists in a different way for the plant–just as time exists in a different way for the animal and human.
This is because the rock and the animal and the human live in different realms of being than the plant. The animal and the human both have an astral body, and the human alone has a mental body (or “ego-organization”) on which I will present more on later (and through which the distinction is made, as opposed to standard evolutionary thinking that humans are animals). The astral body is the body through which we experience feeling and dreaming.
The fourth/astral dimension is a strange place, and when entered into wholly, it is not unlike cartoons where Bugs Bunny goes to a distant planet. Bugs Bunny sees a hammer chasing a nail, a bizarre animal, and people with entirely different rules of living.
Steiner explains, “You must become used to reading each number symmetrically, as its mirror image. This is the basic prerequisite…relationships in time…must also be interpreted symmetrically — that is, later events come first and earlier events appear later…There, the old emerges from the new…It is said of Kronos that he devoured his children. In the astral realm, offspring are not born but devoured.”
Events of great emotional weight also appear backwards. “Imagine, for example, that we see a wild animal approaching us in the astral realm, and it strangles us. That is how it appears to someone who is used to interpreting external events…In reality, the wild animal is an internal quality, an aspect of our own astral body is strangling us. The attacking strangler is a quality that is rooted in our own desires. If we have a vengeful thought, for example, the thought may appear in an external form, tormenting us as the Angel of Death.” The astral world is full of these reverse animals, which feels exact when you remember that the animal is a being of astrality that does not pulse strongly with a mental body.
Time apparently flows backwards in the fourth dimension or the astral realm because of that dimensional “bend” or “curve.” To ascend in dimensionality, the dominant form (point, line, plane, cube) must be algorhythmically added to itself. Easy enough to imagine when we bend a point to make it a line or bend a plane to make it a cube. Bending the cube is not so easy to imagine, but we can understand it through mirrors. When we bend spatiality, we create a mirror image — like a right-handed glove appearing as a left-handed glove in the mirror. Time flows in the reverse to the lower dimensions.
So even as the animal runs towards us to tear at our throat, Steiner reminds us that our being is primary and that our freedom determines the animal. “In reality, everything in the astral world radiates from us…It comes back to us on all sides as if from the periphery, from infinite space. In truth, however, we are confronting only what our own astral body has given off.”
The invention of anxiety — our astral body is the imagined future. We imagine it, yet it appears to be rushing towards us.
This is what Byron Katie means when she says, “We keep thinking, why is this happening to me? What we begin to understand through The Work is that it is happening for us.”
* * * * *
Just as it’s important to not confuse the fourth dimension with time itself, it’s important to not conceive of the etheric as space, simply because growth flows “into” it.
“Strictly speaking,” Hermann Popplebaum, botanist, writes, “the joining of the forms is the task of the perceiver and concerns him only; nature on the other hand, evolves the individual forms out of the totality, because for her the totality is primary.” (p. 220, Poppelbaum, 1985) That is, the perceiver understands relationships and forms through separateness — a bud and a flower, say — even though they are not separate. Nature works out of totality. Poppelbaum continues, “The temporal succession of forms is the result of an unfolding into the spatial dimension — a true ‘ex-plane-ation.'”
Anthroposophists also assert the appearance of the etheric after death — when “the soul experiences its whole past life spread out before it in a vast ‘panorama’ or ‘tableau.’ The etheric body of man is present as a continuous whole before him…” (Popplebaum) How like Gebser’s observations of Picasso’s work, in which smashed-together faces were painted to present all aspects of time. That is, what we perceive in the circling of a three-dimensional form (a face) presented all at once.
The astral moves backwards, the etheric moves forward. These two movements give us our curious sense of time. The astral: the anticipation of the future brought on by what radiates from us but feels like it is coming at us. The etheric: the notion of the past rushing to meet us when we compare distinctions in form which are present within a whole. Here’s what happens when we put those two together — we get a feeling that the future is coming to us and that the past is always behind us. At curious moments, we feel the collision of the two and a sort of “canceling out.” The collision of the etheric and the astral gives us the present–a sort of no-time, a spot of negation and canceling out of memory and anticipation and inner and outer.
What’s more, with humans, there is the addition of the mental body, which perceives the astral and etheric. Our sense of time is therefore different than that of the plant or the animal. But it includes those senses of time as well, and we have passed through Gebser’s mutations, so that the effects of time are curious.
* * * * *
How can you be here, reading this essay when you’ve got to get it all done? Shouldn’t you be making a list? And what about yesterday? You didn’t quite get it all in yesterday did you — if only you would have managed it all a little more wisely. Look at all the time you wasted doing things that weren’t really beneficial to you!
There, feel it. It’s in your body, in your heart, in your lungs. Perhaps your hands were a little shaky or you looked away from the words of this essay to contemplate how to better manage the rest of the day. Maybe you were even sweating.
Remember, the experience of time is only “here” when we’re aware of it. We consider time as something that pulses through but time does not really “exist” wholly apart from our experience. For example, for the all-present zen master, there can exist a “space” in which there is only one moment which encompasses everything. Like the room outside the one you’re sitting in, reading this, time’s existence is questionable. When we forget about it (or can’t “see” it in our awareness), it seems to disappear. When we remember it, it appears: the room next to this one exists now internally and springs to being when we enter it again. Furthermore, it feels familiar because we compare it to our memory. When the past seems to match the present, this is looping — the recursion of the imagined, visualized past into the immediate present.
Different societies have different ways of looping. For example, the Australian aborigines, a society for whom the mythic and magical are more diaphanous than our own, sing the landscape into being. The world is interacted with if it is to exist at all. This process only seems foreign to us because our songs are hummed internally. We also sing, but with our memories, hidden and silent.
Just as we “see” familiarity with memory, we sense time with bodies. Think again of everything you need to get done today and feel the changing pace in your chest. Rudolf Steiner describes the heart and the lungs as our “rhythmic system.” The rhythmic system, a system of regularity, is sensitive to our ideas about time. Try to contain the future or the past, and it alerts us to the action by speeding up.
If you’re running and stop suddenly, you will feel the same thing — the forward flow of the past and backward flow of the future have an inertia to them. Hold them in your heart and you’ll begin to shake, shiver, sweat. You’ll feel the heat of the energy you’ve contained. Time only feels good when it passes through us effortlessly. Like food, if time gets caught in you, you will begin to choke.
* * * * *
Popplebaum writes, “The bark of the tree…though it is leaving the etheric realm, is still on the way back to the physical; it has not yet arrived there. Only when it decomposes in the soil has it fully arrived in the physical realm.” In other words, without the astral, the etheric leads back to the physical. When the functioning astral is combined with the functional etheric, the astral is always on the way back to the etheric — that is, the feeling astral is what contributes to growth. When the mental body is added, the mental flows back toward the astral. Thought lapses back into feeling.
So it is for the human being that feeling (the astral) should be dominant — that even though we have a thinking capacity, feeling is so powerful in comparison to thinking without proper training. Thinking is our highest capacity, but thinking flows into feeling just as bark flows into ground.
This is why if we look behind a stressful feeling, we will find a stressful thought. The feeling is the alarm that the thinking is unhealthy–just as the decomposition in soil is the alarm that the bark of a tree is unhealthy.
* * * * *
“Wherever the astral body sets limits to growth, the etheric forces are set free from their original task and are able to become a kind of matrix for the formation of thoughts. The capabilities of thinking (e.g. repetition, variation, logical opposition) reveal the formative activities which were previously working in the physical body.” –Popplebaum (emphasis mine)
When the astral and etheric become transparent to the mental, that is, when we begin to emit or divest time from our being, we can set ourselves free through intention. We’re not always up to this task: For example, we feel awful because we keep dwelling on a past incident — when we lied to a loved one, perhaps. When we do this rather than confront the wrong and move on, we halt time. A loop, in a sense is created — but a smaller, more constricted one. When, in the human, the astral encounters the etheric without the assistance of the mental, it’s like a skipping record. The astral tries to overwhelm the etheric and becomes stuck in a dark, contracted version of it: Hell. It’s a burning that never goes out. It is how we react when we think that thought and attach to it. It is the feeling of trapped time.
But when we approach time with intention, we become heroic: the mental body (and mutation) engage with astral and etheric bodies or magical and mythical time. The hero enters the cave with an iron sword and slays the dragon. This act as a whole is the entering into the mental body — a place of freedom. There, we become capable of a new way of being.
What is this way of being? Something, God or the angels or I don’t know what, begins to flow into the mental body, just as before the mental flowed naturally into the astral. In other words, the astral is no longer the overwhelming default. Instead of feeling, thinking comes naturally. We may engage with desire (as we know it now) however we please. We do not want out of fear, but rather out of curiosity and interest. Where once there was terror and intensity of mood, there will be loving engagement. Where once there was necessity driven by impulsive feeling, soon there will be freedom.
“…in a space-and-time-free aperspectival world,” Gebser writes, “…the free (or freed) consciousness has at its disposal all latent as well as actual forms of space and time without having either to deny them or to be fully subject to them.”
* * * * *
I am sitting at a Tibetan restaurant. The ting mo — steamed white bread — has just arrived. It’s not supposed to come with the hot pepper oil, but I’ve asked for it. An experiment. What happens when I apply The Work to physical pain? I add as much pepper as possible to the ting mo. A flaring alert shows up on my tongue.
I’m in pain, is it true? Can I absolutely know that I’m in pain? How do I feel when I think that thought — I’m in pain? Who or how would I be without the thought, I’m in pain? Can I turn that thought around?
And the pain is gone. I didn’t compare the moment to the past or the future, I didn’t think, “I shouldn’t feel this way,” or “I felt better a moment ago.” I’m seeing all time states at once and choosing the one that feels the most free to me. And with that, even the physical sharpness of the pepper oil coating the back of my throat and my tongue becomes warming.
To love time, to put down the psychological arrow, is to marry the physical world and the inner world. It’s to see the mineral body’s clearest spiritual face; from afar, from geological time. “Go inside a stone/That would be my way” poet Charles Simic writes. We must see such a broad field of space and time that it begins to not seem like time at all. In fact, we must, in a way, conceptualize it all at once. When we refer to “geological time” what we mean is the near-absence of the astral and the etheric, the near-abandonment of our notions of time all together.
* * * * *
As a possible doorway to a new time-consciousness, consider money.
“Time is money,” Benjamin Franklin famously said. It’s an often-despised quote, but Franklin was not only a politician but an esotericist. His statement is a mystical truth: money is a time-container. We focus time thinking onto money because it is meant to hold future promise and past labor. We misinterpret in it the etheric and astral bodies. Money does have its own being, but this being–one of brotherliness–is opaque to us. And so real money is actually invisible. We perceive, instead, money as the container of past debt. The things we desire, when linked with “I don’t have enough money” create a future anxiety.
When we have money, we are still burdened. Again with the constant burning–the money is “burning a hole in your pocket.” Notice this burning in our misinterpretations of time. When we try to contain time, we sweat, we get chills. The future cannot be held in the present — because it is meant to radiate — when we hold it, we feel its heat. Dwelling on the past brings a coldness flowing at us, the loneliness and solitude of depression and guilt and regret.
Our misconstrued perception of money is so embedded into the deficient mental mutation that to lose it would be to lose a spiritual arm. If we can learn to shed our perception of money through intention, we can feel a lighter, more integral vision of time. If not, our experience of the integral will be more like William Irwin Thompson’s metaphor of the speeding car. We’ll slam on the breaks and everything in the back will fly forward and into the front. But even this could be fun. When we’re teenagers (the time when we’re most present in our astral dimension), we drive our cars through empty parking lots and slam on the brakes and laugh.
* * * * *
Time is not a minute or an hour. It is not the past or the future. It is not even the rising of the sun or the blooming of the apple blossoms. All of these, yes, are gestures of time — but they all seem so not us somehow.
Time is the feeling and thoughts we have as the book falls to the floor.
This is good news for us when we realize that those thoughts and feelings are up to us to radiate and attach to or let go of.
“You have to find a way to step outside of time,” Timothy Leary said to me in the dream-world; a world which is woven — in its being — into the astral world.
Then the alarm, then the snooze button, then the dream again.
“You see?” he asked.
I see. The waking and the dreaming world, combined. The astral and the etheric and the mineral all diaphanous in the illuminating mental at the moment of intention: that snooze button. Not a button to sleep or to wake, but to hover in all worlds at once, answering our own questions with a slight and effortless gesture.
* * * * *
Bockemuhl, Jochen, edt, Toward A Phenomenology of the Etheric World (Great
Barrington: Anthroposophic Press, 1985) (Including Popplebaum and Schad)
Gebser, Jean, The Ever-Present Origin (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985)
Griffiths, Jay, A Sideways Look at Time (New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 2002)
Hoffman, Eva, Time (New York: Picador, 2009)
Katie, Byron, A Thousand Names for Joy: Living in Harmony with the Way Things Are (New York: Random House, 2007)
Lachman, Gary, A Secret History of Consciousness (Great Barrington: Lindisfarne Press,
Simic, Charles, The Voice at 3:00 A.M.: Selected Late and New Poems (New York:
Steiner, Rudolf, The Fourth Dimension: Sacred Geometry, Alchemy, and Mathematics
(Great Barrington: Anthroposophic Press, 2001)
Swedenborg, Emmanuel, Divine Love and Wisdom (West Chester: Swedenborg
Toms, Michael, edt, Money, Money, Money: The Search for Wealth and the Pursuit of Happiness
(Carlsbad: Hay House, Inc., 1998)
Van Dusen, Wilson, The Design of Existence: Emanation from Source to Creation (West
Chester: Swedenborg Foundation, 2001)
Van Dusen, Wilson, The Presence of Other Worlds: The Psychological/Spiritual Findings
of Emmanuel Swedenborg (New York: Swedenborg Foundation Inc., 1977)
Image by Darrren Hester, courtesy of Creative Commons license.