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Reply To: The Air We Breathe

Richard Sumpter

Hi Mary,

Thanks for your comments on my conundrum regarding the one and the many.  I really appreciate your free-association.  Your comments to Johanna regarding Jung and death many contain a partial answer.  I don’t recall who sad it, but a quote that helps is: “In birth I became a part of the many; in death I join the one.”  While still alive, the means of dispelling the illusion of multiplicity and seeing all as one is at best transitory.  Any approach requires a contemplative mysticism which engages the soul much more than the mind.  I suspect that even the mystic who achieves a sense of union may be also dealing with an illusion – just a more satisfactory one.

The other day news channels were reminding us that there are only 100 days left until the election (THANK GOD).  That fact got me to thinking about the concept of time.  Is it linear or cyclical?  Those raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition mostly treat it as linear – with a beginning and an end.  The Book of Genesis starts with the words “In the beginning…” and we frequently hear the phrase “the end of time.”  I believe the Book of Revelation speaks of “the end of days.”  Thus, it would seem that our religious context treats time as linear.  Other belief systems – Native Americans for example – see it as cyclical, based on recurring natural events; the phases of the moon, the seasons of the year, the equinoxes and solstices. I’m not sure if they think of time as being “timeless” – having no end.

Even though the Christian tradition holds that time is linear and will eventually end, it observes the cyclical idea as well.  I visualize it like a slinky – a circular shape stretched out over a linear plane.  It goes from beginning to end but with repeating cycles, largely based on nature.  Before the invention of the digital watch, our time-telling devices were indeed circular, marking the recurring hours of the day (I’m an analog person trapped in a digital world) .  And time and religious celebrations are based on recurring natural events.  While Christmas is anchored to December 25, it was originally tied to the winter solstice; and Easter is a movable feast, being calculated each year based on the first full moon of the Spring equinox.  So, our concepts of time and its measurement is a mix of both linear and cyclical.

But that leads to the question “Is there time after time?”  Christians talk about “eternity.”  But we almost always think and speak about eternity as if it were a very, very long time.  But eternity has nothing to do with time.  Time is defined as the measure of matter in motion.  If God is pure spirit – non-material, then eternity is a totally other dimension that transcends time.  Within the time dimension Einstein speaks of the space-time continuum.  We measure space in three dimensions: width, length and breadth.  But Einstein postulates time as a fourth dimension.  Eternity exists outside of time and space.  These are categories of thought which we have created in an effort to understand reality.  They are human constructs.

The same is true of the concept we call God.  The word God stands for an idea that transcends reality.  All of the attributes we ascribe to God are human constructs we have devised to speak about what is fundamentally unspeakable and beyond understanding.  St. Augustine said, and I paraphrase, “If you think that you understand God, then it’s not him.”

So as you opined earlier, death may be the doorway to understanding.

I apologize for monopolizing so much “time and space” on this platform.