Time & Consciousness

The object that I see in front of me I see as something in space, but my seeing of it is not something in space. What is seen is seen to be an spatial entity; however, seeing itself is not something spatial. We tend to treat objects of the world as independently existing entities as if our consciousness could stumble upon them by chance!

Consciousness cannot make as its object something that is not already prefigured in it. I see the world through my perceptions but I do not see my perception through any intermediary mechanism. It is due to the self-evident and immediate givenness of perception that I come to know the world and know that I know it. That I perceive an object is because the object is something constituted within the temporal flow of perception. Even the spatiality of an object is something itself first perceived and only later spoken of. In this sense, the world and its objects are essentially temporal extensions before they are spatial.

To put it more precisely, world and its object are made of time, for it is in and through time that they appear within the field of perception. To exist means to be, to keep being in time, to endure in time. From here we can see more clearly how world is constituted in consciousness and not outside it. Time and being in time have no meaning and existence apart from consciousness, for the passage of time is something meaningful only in and through experience. Time is what we experience and not something we perceive out there in the world. Only a consciousness that subsists the flow of time can experience the passage of time.

Time is nothing but the ecstasy of consciousness, that is consciousness experiencing itself as conditioned and partitioned. It is this partitioned and fragmented consciousness that appears to us as diverse experiencing subjects. In reality there is only one subject, but this subject cannot experience itself unless it objectifies itself into the manifold of its own infinite possibilities. Each person is one possibility for the being of one and the same consciousness.

Consciousness undergoes the same self-objectification into multitudes in the case of dream experience: In a dream one and the same consciousness, that of the dreaming subject, projects itself into a world of diverse objects and experiencing subjects. All the conscious agents that appear in our dreams are the possibilities inherent within the dreaming consciousness. It belongs to the nature of consciousness to project itself outwardly in such a way that it appears to itself as something fragmented and embedded inside a world as if it were only a part of that world. In our dream we appear as a person among others inside an infinitely extended world of objects, but all persons and objects are one and the same consciousness, only appearing to itself as if it were outside itself. Consciousness inside itself is the dreamless sleep, but consciousness outside itself is the world. It is in this sense that I see the world as the ecstasy of consciousness.

10 thoughts on “Time & Consciousness

  1. This is a fantastic post.
    I have a question: At my level, my self-identity, though virtual or projected, is real.
    There are times when I project my consciousness outside, which is my waking state and times when I project my consciousness inside, the dreamless sleep where there is no self-identity ( which I wonder sometimes only through an instinctive realization later in waking that I did not have my identity there, although there is no feeling there of ‘I am that everything’ there :))
    So I am able to alter between states of hoisting my identity and forgetting my identity. Why is this not a case with the supreme consciousness. Had it been the case, there should be a state of pure consciousness where there should be no experience for all of us simultaneously, at the same time.
    There is only one supreme ultimate and we are all its entity. If we, the entity, even one of us experience a state of transcendence, it should happen to the rest, wholly and in entirety. Why is this not the case ? So doesn’t it mean even if the ultimate consciousness is whole and complete, somewhere at a baser level, it is divisive? To ask with an analogy, if there are two persons swimming at two extreme ends of an island, their perspective that they are swimming in two different seas. Only to a person looking up from above will understand there is only one sea. But fact remains, even if the sea is one, it appears as two with a piece of land in the middle.

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    1. Thanks RamG for leaving your comment. I am not sure if I can properly answer your question but I will just share with you my thoughts on this matter and insofar as I have understood it: When speaking of hoisting the identity between different states of consciousness it is not you, as this particular person and individual, who does the hoisting as you cannot make changes in the waking state or decide whether to dream or not. This hoisting is itself done, as it were, by that supreme consciousness. In other words, the three states of waking, dream, and dreamless are the three modalities of the supreme consciousness. There is a fourth state, called Turiya in Upanishads, whereby consciousness is in its pure form, without having any experience, i.e. empirical knowledge which presupposed the duality of subject-object. Attainment of this state is what is known as liberation or enlightenment. Though in its form it is very similar to dreamless sleep, because it is a nondual state, but it is also different from it because dreamless state is associated with ignorance while Turiya is associated with knowledge: If we say that dreamless state is our unconscious, then we can say that the fourth state is the superconscious state. There is no experience in that state but there is direct and sharp awareness of it; it is like void but impossible to describe or impossible to try to imagine what’s it like until a person sees it for him/herself. But in all these cases it is not your individual person who alters between these states but the supreme consciousness. And above all, this supreme consciousness does not really leave the fourth state to come into the lower states; the three states of waking, dream, and dreamless are all within the fourth state; there is nothing except the fourth state. We can view the three states as the three levels of supreme consciousness; It contains these states as its intrinsic possibilities much like the human subconscious that contains unrealized possibilities for a particular individual.
      So all these states being the modalities of supreme consciousness, and your individual person and mind are only phenomena within these modalities, having no will or identity of itself. The same way that in your dream, the dream characters do not really have identities; they only appear to possess identities but when you wake up you know that they were only modalities of your own consciousness. Now, we all have the same relationship with supreme consciousness: We are like characters in the dream, or imagination, of that supreme consciousness.
      Now, when a person wakes up to the fourth state, the pure state of consciousness, this attainment is not an attainment for that particular person; the fourth state is attained only when the individuality is destroyed; so we cannot say that the fourth state is attain by this or that particular individual because the fourth state is not really anyone’s possession but is the ground of everyone’s empirical experience. In other words, we are all in the fourth state, simply because there are no other state other than the fourth (the other three states being only the faces or possibilities of this fourth state. So, we never leave the fourth state, and in the fourth state there are not many individuals but the supreme consciousness. So we are all always already in the enlightened state; we never lost it; it is only a case of forgetfulness. So when one person attains to that fourth state he only remembers it or becomes aware that he/she has been in that state always, but not as an individual, only as that supreme and impersonal consciousness. That why this attainment by one person doesn’t awaken others, the idea is that other are already awakened and in the fourth state where there is no two; no two individuals; they only are’t aware of it. So enlightenment is really not an individual achievement; but rather it is individuality that appears to us as a result of forgetting we are in the fourth state.
      To give an analogy about what it’s like to awaken to the fourth state: I am sure we all have had this experience whereby you are staring at an object in front you but you are really absorbed deep in some thought or imagination. The object is in front you and your eye is perceiving it but You are not aware of it because your mind is elsewhere. The moment “you come to yourself” leaving that thought or imagination you see the object but not in the sense that you just started looking at it or it just appeared; you realized you have been staring at it at all times but simply not aware of it. The situation with fourth state is similar: The fourth state is in front of us, if it were, and we are all looking at it, i.e. in that state; but consciousness is preoccupied with another thought or imagination; this thought or imagination is the world phenomenon, the three states. Consciousness is simply preoccupied with these, like an imagination; but in reality it is always in its pure form, staring at the fourth state (I say staring only within the framework of my analogy because there really not sight or sensible perception in the fourth state.) So awakening to the fourth state is like “coming to your Self,” letting go of that imagination which we call the world; in that moment we suddenly realize the truth has been in front of us all along, us not as individuals but as one supreme consciousness, the multitude existing only in its imagination. The general idea was that we never lost the fourth state or left it, so there is no regaining it, whether by one person or many, as there are no many; there is only one.
      I am not quite sure if this was of any use or if I explained anything. Please forgive me for lack of clarity; this is what I have thought so far about the subject matter. One obstacle in my own thinking about metaphysics, which took a long time to recover from because our education system spoils the intellect, was the we cannot but think about reality in terms of individual entities, this and that, the many. I have personally seen that many of my own misunderstandings arise from this presupposition that reality is composed of individual entities, so how is that one attains liberation while others don’t. But if dispel this ingrained dualistic way of thinking a lot of metaphysical concepts become clear. In the case of your analogy I think, and I could be very wrong, that you are giving priority to individual existence than a nondual reality which cannot be spoken of in terms of existence or non-existence. Existence really applies to world object, i.e. natural objects, that are subject to spatio-temporal conditions. Consciousness itself, being the substratum of reality, is not a natural object; we cannot speak of it as here or there, or as mine or yours. The categories of understanding which we use in natural sciences do not apply to consciousness itself, this being one of the reasons of failure of cognitive science and other natural sciences that try to explain consciousness in terms of matter or other natural objects.
      Please feel free to throw your criticism or clarify my comment.

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  2. Thank you Tomaj, for taking the effort explaining it to me comprehensively. I understand your explanation, it’s quite clear, especially with the explanation of self-remembrance and the analogy of ‘coming to self’. My mind is completely marinated in the gravy of duality :), that makes me ask such questions, and my conviction that you take great efforts to make us readers all understand what you have experienced, the inexplicable, only encourages me to post questions, with the hope that it does not sound too silly to you.
    This particular question I asked here comes in the backdrop of something I would like to mention to you first. There have been atleast two ‘saints’ (for a lack of better word) here who lived through the 20th – 21st century. I do not enough about your spiritual inclinations, so I will refrain from naming them here. But I will tell you this, I have revered them as God themselves along with a sea of other people, and not without reason. There have been miracles witnessed. Of course, skeptics have remained among a numerous other lot, but I have witnessed enough myself for a personal conviction. What I have seen or heard from other people’s experiences, have defied logic. After reading your articles, I was convinced of one thing. If indeed consciousness is real and everything else is an illusion, for a saint who has truly transcended, miracles could be like a child’s play, for He has realized the world as we know is like a simulated game play of the supreme ultimate. Now I have read another discussion in this blog somewhere, where you were discussing if it is possible to influence events in the outside with an individual consciousness. I distinctly remember you mentioning that it is indeed possible to alter a event if we all direct our consciousness together (or something like that). Sorry if I have misinterpreted this, but this is what I understood. So a transcendence to a state where there is pure consciousness and nothing else is not only a state of pure awareness, but also a state of potentiality to influence the apparitions of illusion the rest of us all experience in our waking states (a.k.a what we call as creation and destruction in this world). Am I right? I would love to know your opinion on this. Again I apologise if I have misinterpreted something here. Thanks.

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    1. Thanks RamG for your reply. About duality I must say all of us are marinated in this way of thinking, most of all myself I guess, because the universal mandatory education that consumes the youth of our intellects is almost exclusively based on duality and a separative view of reality. I myself always struggle with this brainwash, but from personal experience I realized that most, but not all, of my own misconceptions about metaphysics and nonduality come from the fact that in my thinking I am used to giving priority to duality and individual existence while from a truly metaphysical point of view individual existence is only secondary, and ultimately purely phenomenal and illusory. So, it cannot be the basis of true understanding. But as I said I am myself struggling to remove these bad habits of thinking introduced to our minds through education. So never think your post are silly because they are far from that and in fact I enjoy reading them and learn a lot from them, and I say this with honesty. I love your comments because they create intelligent interaction and conversation, something I need the most rather than passively posting in my blog. So please keep it up with your wonderful comments and I always look forward to reading them and conversing with you on these fascinating topics.
      About your question I must say I myself used to be strong critic of miracles, etc. But not anymore. I have myself never witnessed miracles of a phenomenal sort in which physical changes are made, though many events in my own life imply the working of a miracle from above. Despite the lack of evidence for miracles but I do believe in them due to matters of principle: As I said if consciousness is the basis of reality, and if the individual person is in essence identical with that reality, then it should be possible to make changes through the focus and intensity of consciousness. Now this intensity can come either through the accumulation of collective desire, like all people praying for one thing, or through the very strong and intense desire of one person, say the saint. Now this saint if capable of miracle I don’t think he/she does it from the platform of his individual existence but from a more transcendent plane from which he wills and his will manifests.
      We also know from many spiritual people saying that you become as you think. This too points to the same intrinsic possibility within consciousness, that it can create or change by focusing on an idea.
      Now, within the Hindu context it is said that the Jiva, the individual unit of conscious existence, may make changes and perform miracles but he/she can never have the power of universal creation and destruction that God has. This is a doctrine, but I have no comment to make on it as I do not know whether it is true or false. One thing is sure, the Jiva who becomes liberated and perceives his identity with God, this identity is being a matter of essence and not of form, will have no desire in that transcendent state, therefore he sees no reason interfering with the flow of reality, and hence no desire to create or destroy. But miracles are in principle possible and they function both as reinforcing people’s faiths and also removing obstacles in spiritual path. For example, saints like Sri Ramakrishna are said to be able to remove ignorance with one touch, and whoever relies on them are sure to be liberated simply because as Avatara he has come for the liberation of mankind; and as we know the principle of avatara is that it shows up when there is degeneration in faith and spiritual state of a people. So they should technically be able to perform miracles, but they also emphasize that miracles and super powers are ultimately an obstacle for those seeking the truth. A spiritual aspirant is advised against seeking to obtains these powers; and of these powers I have never seen any but that doesn’t allow me to deny their reality. It is enough that many people have reported such phenomena, including saints and sages, and there is no reason for me doubt them since they are many. But on the other hand, and as I am advised by my spiritual master, I personally like to ignore these powers or to seek them. Though I am more inclined toward metaphysics but I am inspired very much by people like Ramakrishna’s love for the lotus feet of God, so I like to develop that kind of love. And considering that a few years ago I was a total hardcore, stupid atheist and now I think of God during the day (of course spiritual experience was the main cause of this shift in me, and in all I guess), this change itself is not short of a miracle for me. In my case I think Sri Ramakrisha is the principle behind this miracle. 🙂
      I hope I addressed your question. But these are just random thoughts I have on the subject; there is really nothing that I know more than you.
      All this said, there is always curiosity in me to perceive miracles and see them for myself, especially miracles involving physical changes, etc. If I can have one wish to be satisfied by God that would be having the power to fly everywhere. 🙂 But ultimately, when one attains to that ultimate reality, that blessed point of eternal present, that dimensionless point in which everywhere and every-when is concentrated, then all desires are satisfied: There, I won’t need to fly anywhere because I am already everyone and everywhere.
      Best,

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