by Pantea Modiri

St Augustine, the Roman philosopher, once wrote:

What is time? If no one asks me, I know; if I wish to explain, I know not.

Is it much different today in the 21st Century than in the 4th Century?

This is a question that has fascinated humans for millennia, and was explored in depth at a recent conference on consciousness in the heart of Northern England. The event, titled “Science and Consciousness,” was organized by Ubiquity University and hosted at the picturesque Broughton Sanctuary in Yorkshire. It brought together a diverse group of illustrious speakers, including philosophers, researchers, mystics, a Buddhist Rinpoche, scientists, and even a professor emeritus who had completed his PhD studies under Prof. Stephen Hawking.

The conference delved into a topic that in our modern era we have become obsessed with: time. Apparently, it is one of the most frequently used nouns in the English language. But what do we really know about it? How do we experience it? And how does it relate to our consciousness?

a sandtimer
The Mystery of Time

One of the main speakers at the conference was Professor Bernard Carr, a renowned mathematician and astronomer, who has a different perspective on time from most physicists. He challenges the conventional understanding of time, which is based on Newton’s 3-dimensional and Einstein’s 4-dimensional theories.

According to Professor Carr, the linear cause-and-effect view of time, which is widely accepted by the scientific community, is incomplete and fails to account for consciousness and mental or spiritual experiences. He says that physics traditionally has a 3rd person perspective, which is objective and detached, and that it does not include the 1st person perspective, which is subjective and involved. Carr cautions that not all physicists will accept this view, but says that we need to expand science, especially physics, to include both perspectives, and become more inclusive and holistic.
Professor Carr has his own theory, which is based on higher dimensions. He points out that M-theory invokes more than the four dimensions of space and time that we are familiar with, and argues that these could provide an arena for mental and spiritual experience.

He is part of a small but growing group of scientists who are seeking to understand the nature of time, and who are willing to expand their horizons beyond the materialistic view of the world.
Professor Carr is not alone in questioning the conventional notion of time. Carlo Rovelli, author of ‘The Order of Time’, wrote: “We conventionally think of time as something simple and fundamental that flows uniformly, independently from everything else, from the past to the future, measured by clocks and watches. In the course of time, the events of the universe succeed each other in an orderly way: pasts, presents, futures. The past is fixed, the future open … And yet all of this has turned out to be false.”

Even in conventional science, time is a great mystery. Einstein, in his general theory of relativity (published over a century ago in 1915), predicted that time passes more quickly “high up” than below, nearer to the Earth. This means that time is not absolute, but relative to the observer and the gravitational field. It also means that the past, present, and future are not fixed, but depend on the frame of reference.

The Nature of Time and Consciousness

The conference also featured Rev. Dr. Calen Rayne, a member of Ubiquity University faculty and creator of The Monk Library, He further illuminated the concept of universal consciousness. Rayne emphasized that the concept of space-time is not universally agreed upon, and that it may be a science-fiction term, as Jonathan Oppenheim has suggested. He believes that the idea of a beginning or an end of time is a social construct and that we are, in actuality, a constant, continuous infinite energy that never dies, but merely transforms.

Marc Wittmann, Research Fellow at the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health in Freiburg, emphasized that theories of consciousness often overlook the essential dimension of time and its bodily basis. Consciousness is not just limited to the brain; it is extended over time and embodied, intimately connected to the body.

Wittmann echoed the thoughts of philosophers and physicists throughout history, quoting the German philosopher von Schelling: “We as humans are not separate from nature. We are nature. Our whole body is part of nature. We inhale and exhale, ingest and digest, we are part of nature’s ongoing processes. So, when we become aware of ourselves as being nature, nature becomes aware of itself.”

antique pocket watch on a map

The Evolution of Time and Consciousness

At the beginning of the conference, Dr. Paula Petry asked the question whether we wanted to be slaves of time or masters of time?

Perhaps the time was really only born at the Royal Observatory with the establishment of a standardised reference time, Greenwich Mean Time, in 1847. This was driven by the needs of industrialization, commerce, and communication. Then in 1884, standardized time zones were adopted at the International Meridian Conference.

They created a sense of uniformity, synchronicity, and efficiency, but also of alienation, fragmentation, and stress. They also reinforced the linear and mechanistic view of time, which is often at odds with the natural rhythms of life and the cycles of nature.

According to Dr. Peter Merry, the organizer of the event, “The annual Science and Consciousness event is designed to bring together academic researchers in the area of consciousness together with consciousness practitioners to explore what we are learning about the nature of the human experience and our interconnectedness with the world around us. It combines talks, discussion and experience designed to engage the whole person. Each year a new theme is chosen to focus the explorations.”

The theme of this year’s conference was to expand our understanding of both Excitatory linear time and the Kairos time. “Kairos” is what many philosophers and mystics would refer to as “deep time”, a timeless dimension of reality that transcends the ordinary flow of events. So perhaps it is the mystics and poets who have the answer in the end?

The poet Rumi once wrote:

Past and future veil God from our sight; burn up both of them with fire.

So after five full days of exploring time, were we any closer to solving its secrets? Many members expressed that while they were even more mystified by time, they felt a deep satisfaction with the journey. Maybe Nietzsche was right when he said:

Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived.

by Pantea Modiri

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