Einstein’s theory of special relativity states that Time slows down and length contracts with increasing speed of the observer. At the speed of light, time is said to come to a standstill. Something similar occurs in the occult worlds which stand behind the physical world. There are several different worlds organized like the rings of an onion. As we go higher up the planes of consciousness, Time slows down while Space becomes more flexible or amorphous and no longer possesses the fixed laws that we see here in the physical world. At the summit of manifestation, it is possible to see the past, present and future in a single glimpse. This is denoted as Triple Time Vision (Trikal-drishti) by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother Mirra Alfassa and was known in ancient scriptures as Trikala-Jnana.
The subjective view of Space-Time
Sri Aurobindo (with slight editing): The mental view of Space and Time is determined by the idea of measure which is inherent in the action of the analytical dividing movement of Mind. Time is for the Mind a mobile extension measured out by the succession of the past, present and future in which Mind places itself at a certain standpoint whence it looks before and after. Space is a stable extension measured out by divisibility of substance; at a certain point in that divisible extension Mind places itself and regards the disposition of substance around it.
This subjective view is the natural consequence of division of consciousness: the consciousness of Man which stands divided from the Conscious-Being which has created and also become this Universe.
It is possible in pure Mind to disregard the movement of event and the disposition of substance and realize the pure movement of Conscious-Force which constitutes Space and Time; these two are then merely two aspects of the universal force of Consciousness which in their intertwined interaction comprehend the warp and woof of its action upon itself.
[Sri Aurobindo. Life Divine, The Supreme Truth Consciousness]
The real nature of Space-Time
Sri Aurobindo: Time and Space are not limited, they are infinite – they are the terms of an extension of consciousness in which things take place or are arranged in a certain relation, succession, order. There are again different orders of Time and Space; that too depends on the consciousness. The Eternal is extended in Time and Space, but he is also beyond all Time and Space. Timelessness and Time are two terms of the eternal existence. The Spaceless Eternal is not one indivisible infinity of Space, there is in it no near or far, no here or there – the Timeless Eternal is not measurable by years or hours or aeons, the experience of it has been described as the eternal moment. But for the mind this state cannot be described except by negatives, – one has to go beyond and to realise it.
[Sri Aurobindo. Letters on Yoga, Reason, Science and Yoga]
Sri Aurobindo: The world is a cyclic movement (samsāra) of the Divine Consciousness in Space and Time. Its law and, in a sense, its object is progression; it exists by movement and would be dissolved by cessation of movement. But the basis of this movement is not material; it is the energy of active consciousness which, by its motion and multiplication in different principles (different in appearance, the same in essence), creates oppositions of unity and multiplicity, divisions of Time and Space, relations and groupings of circumstance and Causality. All these things are real in consciousness, but only symbolic of the Being, somewhat as the imaginations of a creative Mind are true representations of itself, yet not quite real in comparison with itself, or real with a different kind of reality.
[Sri Aurobindo. The Upanishads, Analysis Prefatory]
Causality as a consequence of Space-Time
The development and progress of the world according to an original truth of its own being implies a succession of Time, a relation in Space and a regulated interaction of related things in Space to which the succession of Time gives the aspect of Causality.
[Sri Aurobindo, Life Divine, Supreme Truth Consciousness]
Causality is represented mythologically by Vishnu on the causal Ocean sitting on the hood of Ananta, the infinite snake whose endless folds are Time, and are also Space and are also Causality, these three being fundamentally one, — a Trinity.
[Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, The Triple Brahman]
The Beginning of Time
Mother (on Creation): It is exactly as if you are like this (gesture of being doubled up), and then you do this (gesture of opening) ― and so what was there comes out. So these two movements are literally opposite, but it is the same thing in two opposite attitudes which are simultaneous: it remains like this (inward gesture), and at the same time it is like this (outward gesture); the one does not cancel out the other and they exist simultaneously. But in one direction it is imperceptible because it is contained within itself, in the other movement it is thrown outside, and so it can be seen. And when it is self-contained, it is co-existent in a perfect simultaneity; and in the other movement, it unfolds itself in a constant being. And when it unfolds itself, it necessarily creates Time and Space, while there it is outside Space, outside Time and beyond all possible perception. But it is the same thing in two opposite movements.
(Collected Works of the Mother, Question and Answers, 11 April 1956)
Question: At what moment does Time begin? The Consciousness that chooses – is it in Time as soon as the unrolling begins?
Mother: No, Time is a succession; you must be able to conceive that the Supreme Consciousness, before objectifying itself, becomes aware of Itself in Itself. There is a global, total and simultaneous perception and there, there is no Time. Likewise one cannot speak of “Space”, for the same reason, because all is simultaneous. It is something more; it corresponds to a state of consciousness subjective rather than objective, for the aim, the motive of creation is objectivisation; but there is a first step in this objectivisation in which there is a plenary consciousness, total and simultaneous, beyond Time and Space, of what will constitute the content of this universe; and there, the universe is pre-existent, but not manifested, and Time begins with objectivisation.
(Collected Works of the Mother, Question and Answers, 1 March 1951)
Time and Space have different orders in the occult worlds
Question: Mother, are Time and Space particular only to the physical world or to other worlds also?
Mother: As there are forms, there is necessarily a Time, a Space, but it is not at all the same as the physical. It is neither the same Time nor the same Space.
For example, as soon as you come to the vital world there is a Time and Space which are similar to the physical but without that fixity and hardness and irremediability which are here. That is, for instance, in the vital a strong intelligent will has an immediate action; here, in the physical, it takes sometimes extremely long to be realised, an entire process has to be followed. In the vital it is direct, the will acts directly on the circumstances, and if it is truly of a very strong kind, it is instantaneous. But there is still a Space, that is, one has the impression of moving to go from one place to another, and that necessarily, as one moves, a certain time intervenes; but it is an extremely short time compared with physical time.
On the mental plane the notion of Time disappears almost totally. For example, you are in your mental consciousness, you think of someone or something or of a place, and immediately you are there. There is no need of any time between the thought and the realisation. It is only when the mind is mingled with the vital that the notion of time is introduced; and if they go down into the physical, before a mental conception can be realised a whole process is necessary. You do not have a direct mental action on matter. For instance, if you think of someone who lives in Calcutta, well, physically you have to take a plane and some hours must pass before you can be there; while mentally if you are here and think of someone in Calcutta, instantaneously you are there with him. Instantaneously, you see. But if you go out in the vital from your body and want to go somewhere, well, you have the feeling of moving, and of the time it takes you to reach the place you are going to. But it is incomparably fast in relation to the physical, to the time necessary to do things physically.
Only right at the top of the ladder, when one reaches what could be called the centre of the universe, the centre and origin of the universe, everything is instantaneous. The past, present and future are all contained in a total and simultaneous consciousness, that is, what has always been and what will be are as though united in a single instant, a single beat of the universe, and it is only there that one goes out of Time and Space.
Question: On the psychic plane is there a past, present and future?
(The psychic world is where souls reside between incarnations)
Mother: In the psychic plane? Yes, you have even the consciousness of all the lives you have lived. When you enter into contact with the psychic you become conscious of all the lives you have lived, it keeps the absolutely living memory of all the events in which the psychic took part – not the whole life, not that one can tell little stories to oneself: that first one was a monkey and then later something a little higher, and so on, the cave-man… no, no stories like that. But all the events of former lives in which the psychic participated are preserved, and when one enters into conscious contact with his psychic being this can be called up like a sort of cinema. But it has no continuity except in lives in which the psychic is absolutely conscious, active, permanently active, that is, constantly associated with the consciousness; so naturally, being constantly associated with the consciousness, it consciously remembers everything that has happened in the real life of the person, and the memories – when one follows these things – the memories of his psychic being are more and more coordinated and closer and closer to what could be a physical memory if there were one, in any case of all the intellectual and emotional elements of life, and of some physical events when it was possible for this being to manifest in the outer consciousness; then, at these moments, the whole set of physical circumstances in which one was is kept absolutely intact in the consciousness.
(Collected Works of the Mother, Question and Answers, 29 June 1955)
Mother: Space and time do not begin and end with the mental consciousness: even the Overmind has them. They are the forms of all cosmic existence: only, they vary on each level. Each world has its own space and time.
Thus the mental space and time do not tally with what we observe here in the material universe. In the mind-world we can move forward and backward at our own will and pleasure. The moment you think of a person you are with him; and no matter how near you may be to somebody, you can still be far away if your thoughts are occupied with someone else. The movement is immediate, so very free are the spatio-temporal conditions there. In the vital world, however, you have to use your will: there, too, distance is less rigid, but the movement is not immediate: the will has to be exercised.
(Collected Works of the Mother, Question and Answers, Different Kinds of Space and Time)
Going out of Space-Time
Sweet Mother, can one go out of Time and Space?
Mother: If one goes out of the manifestation.
It is the fact of objectivisation, of manifestation which has created time and space. To go out of it one must return to the origin, that is, go out of the manifestation. Otherwise from the very first objectivisation time and space were created.
There is a feeling or a perception or an experience of eternity and infinity in which one has the impression of going out of time and space.…It is only an impression.
One must pass beyond all forms, even the most subtle forms of consciousness, far beyond the forms of thought, the forms of consciousness, to be able to have this impression of being outside space and time. This is what generally happens to people who enter into samadhi – the true samadhi – and when they come back to their normal consciousness, they don’t remember anything, for, in fact, there was nothing they could remember. This is what Sri Aurobindo says here: If Brahman were only an impersonal abstraction, the one reasonable end would be annihilation. For it is obvious that if one goes out of time and space, all separate existence automatically ceases.
There, now. So one can, without much result!
Is that all? Have you tried to go out of time and space?
(The child shakes his head vigorously.)
(Collected Works of the Mother, Question and Answers, 2 January 1957)
- Spacetime in occult worlds
- Perception of Time changes with the concentration of consciousness