Time and Consciousness




Questions about the nature of time have always been an important part of physics and philosophy, but they have never been resolved satisfactorily. This book discusses eight such questions:

  • Does Time Pass?
  • How Does Time Pass?
  • Do Past and Future Change the Present?
  • Does Time Pass Uniformly?
  • Is Time Absolute or Relative?
  • Is Time Discrete or Continuous?
  • Is Time Reversible or Irreversible?
  • Is the Universe Eternal or Cyclical?

These problems span classical mechanics, thermodynamics, quantum theory, special and general relativity, and geometry, and each theory brings a different perspective to the problem, however, these perspectives are also contradictory. For example, thermodynamics leads to the idea that time has an arrow, but fundamental physical theories are reversible. Quantum mechanics indicates that space and time must be discrete, but all geometry and calculus depend on space and time continuity. Relativistic mechanics leads to the notion that there is no objective space and time ‘out there’ and all we can talk about is our relative coordinate reference frames, but if reality is all that appears to us, then what causes this appearance, and why does reality seem to persist even when we are not observing it?

Similarly, there are contradictions with experience, because past and future exist in us as memories and goals, and they have causal influences, but according to physical theories, only the present is real. Therefore, past and future cannot have causal influences. There are also fundamental questions about how time passes, and why it seems to pass faster when we are happier, and slower when we are unhappier. How is the passing of time-related to the nature of our choices, mental states? Can we create eternity by changing our choices?

These and many other fascinating questions are discussed in this book, and a solution to each of the problems is described. We discuss how the notion of ‘reality’ must be divided into three parts: possibility, choice, and responsibility, whose combination produces our experience. The possibility exists independent of the observers, and it constitutes ‘space’, but this space is closed and hierarchical. This possibility evolves due to the effect of time, which is cyclical and hierarchical, but because it causes the evolution of possibilities, it is also causal.

We split the problems of causality into three questions—what, how, and why—and attribute them to time, matter, and observers. Time determines what will happen, matter decides how it will happen, and an observer determines whether it happens to them, or whether they participate in these events. Thus, causality is not just in matter, not just in time, and not just in observers; it is in all three of them. And yet each type of causality is an incomplete answer to the full question of causation. The three agencies of causality are the answers to three different questions, therefore, they are all necessary, and they are collectively sufficient to answer all the questions.

A tripartite causal model overturns the assumptions about space, time, causation, and natural laws in modern science; but this shift is imperative to address all the questions of causation satisfactorily. The succession of questions in this book is not an accident. We start with the simplest questions about time’s passing and use that to build our understanding of reality based on the problems these questions pose, and the solutions that are necessary to solve the problem, as well as compatible with our ordinary, everyday experience.

The title Time and Consciousness derives from the fact that just the existence of awareness and choice changes our theories of nature, and this is nowhere truer than in the study of time because time touches everything–from objective reality to sense perceptions to our deepest feelings. Understanding the nature of time, therefore, gives us that cohesive thread that can unify these diversities coherently.