top of page

Time is an illusion

Updated: Jan 26

-In Tune Series Part 6-


Demystifying controversial beliefs within the field of sound healing and modern-day spirituality.



Have you got some time? You might as well read about psychoactive plants, their connection to timeless mystical experiences, fear of death and the illusionary nature of time.





Are you as obsessed with time as I am? I don’t know about you, but my mind is stumbling on it very regularly. I’m reminded about the existence of time everywhere. Time is ruling the world, isn’t it? Right now, as I’m writing on my laptop I’m watching the time passing by in the down right corner. In my house there are clocks everywhere. In our western society time seems to be speeding up these days. People are burning out by masses. Like headless chickens we seem to run around, pushed forward by the pressure of time. By obeying time, what are we serving, really?


Now, what if this thing called ‘time’ is not even existing? What if it’s merely a human invention, cut-off from the natural reality? What if time is a collective dream, uprooted by a mechanical quest for an unattainable objective truth?


A mystical experience


When I was 18 years old I ate some magic mushrooms at a friend’s house on the countryside. I suddenly found myself in a profound state of timelessness and unity with nature. Then something happened that changed my perception on life forever. Above the kitchen door there was a big clock hanging on the wall. I looked at it from the timeless perspective of a baby (or an animal, plant or a mushroom perhaps). A profound realisation dawned on me. ‘Time is an illusion.’ In that instant I just knew it so clearly. This ticking clock with its numbers suddenly seemed hilarious. I started to laugh, as I couldn’t take this thing seriously, and I’ve been taught to take it very seriously. It suddenly became so clear that time is merely a human invention, a creation of the human mind. It doesn’t have any existence through the eyes of nature. It doesn’t have any foundation in reality. Underneath the illusionary layer of time and human thoughts there is an unchangeable timeless reality, in which nature abides.


It dawned on me that this ticking clock is ‘the’ object of worship of modern man. This object and what it is indicating makes the world go crazy. People run off their asses to be ‘on time’. The modern man is willing to give up his well-being and happiness entirely for the sake of the clock. He would do anything to obey the clock, as it is ‘time’ that brings about the deepest fear of man; the fear of impermanence. It’s the fear of death.



I just knew I touched on something really profound that was real beyond the effect of the substance that influenced my perception. Yet I realised I had been taking a shortcut. I wanted to be able to reach this timeless state without eating anything magical, so I continued my inquiry on the subject. A long-term daily practice of meditation grounded my experience later on. The study of eastern mysticism confirmed it. One can even reason himself out (of time) with the help of scientific knowledge. Whatever is the entrance door, if you dig deep enough, one truth becomes apparent; time is an illusionary man-made-construct. All of the practices mentioned above may direct the seeker of truth to an underlying reality, beyond time.


Our modern-day obsession


Did you know that only about 150 years ago almost nobody had a clock around? If you’d asked what time it was, they might have laughed at you and possibly just pointed at the sun. Can you imagine? Time does seem to have a strong grip on us today. Collectively (as people in a western society) we are connecting with the time-system so intensely, so obsessively, so continuously that it started to uproot many people from the natural rhythms of life.


With an obsessive connection to time I refer to:

- Checking the time constantly.

- Craving to control the future, thus working on a full agenda.

- Employing a whole bunch of technological devices that are connected to time.


The clock is the ultimate symbol of the modern-day human being. It symbolises the power of the intellect, the power of control and technology. In an attempt to control life as much as possible, the 21st century homo sapiens started to see great benefit in applying the time system. The days can be structured and regulated as much as possible. Through creating a full agenda one’s future can be scheduled systematically. Planning ahead as far as possible is giving him a false feeling of security. Working together with time enables him to have a false sense of control over his life. The mind is kept busy somewhere in the future. This (he believes) enables him to avoid the unexpected, or ‘worse’; the (timeless) present moment.


Why time is not natural


Here comes why connecting intensively with time is actually really unhealthy. Time (as we think it to be; static and objectively) is not natural.


You might reason that time is a natural phenomenon as it is based on the natural rotation of the earth. Well… this is only partially true. Time is indeed based on the earth’s rotation, but to measure this exactly is a more complicated matter. A full earth’s rotation that we call ‘a day’ is only 24 hours when it’s brought in relationship with the sun. In relationship with a distant star – and thus closer to ‘objective’ reality - the exact time for a day is actually 23 hours and 56 minutes. This more precise calculation is called a sidereal day. (*1)


Other than that, from a macroscopic perspective, the earth’s rotation is slowing down slightly by time. In other words; a century ago a day was shorter than this day (1,7 milliseconds to be precise). (*2) This is showing that the time system we know isn’t a constant factor.


We are dividing time in segments of 24 and 60. This is not because time is dividing itself naturally in these segments. As far as we know historically, the Egyptians were the ones that started to divide a day and night cycle in 24 segments. 12 segments for the day, 12 for the night. 12 was used because of the 3 finger parts of each of the 4 fingers (apart from the thumb). The thumb was used for counting. 3 x 4 = 12. In ancient Egypt, during the summer the hours were naturally longer than in winter. The system was there only to divide the day or night in equal parts. (*3)


Also the Sumerians came up with a system to navigate through time. They used the number 60 and 360 (6 x 60). The year and the day was separated in 360 segments. Later on, around 140 BC a Greek named Hipparchus divided the hour in 60 segments, thus creating the minute. He divided the minute in 60 segments, thus creating the second. However, these theories were not at all applied by the average person for timekeeping. This appeared only since the 14th century with the invention of the mechanical clock. (*4) But it wasn’t up until the 19th century that the laymen in this matter slowly got familiarised with the clock in daily life.


The story continues and brings us here in the early ‘20’s with an extremely precise method for calculating time (which is called atomic timekeeping). But I think I made my point clear by now; our current time system is a human invention that doesn’t match the natural rhythms. It is based on it, but it’s not exactly matching. It is a mechanical system. Since the earth is an organic system, it is not in tune with our time-calculation-method. Since you (or at least that part of you we call ‘the body’) are a part of the earth, your natural self is naturally not in tune with our time-calculation-method.


Time perception


Scientific studies on time perception between different animal species (and human beings) are showing that time is a subjective experience, differing from species to species. In general bigger animals (e.g. elephants) are experiencing time way faster than we do.

Smaller animals (e.g. flies, birds or squirrels) generally experience time slower than we do.

That explains why a bird can fly so tremendously fast through a forest without hitting any tree. From our perspective the bird would be flying in slow-motion when it is experiencing its own natural time perspective. This subject is studied within vision science through the phenomenon called critical flicker frequency (CFF). An excellent video on this topic was made by Benn Jordan. (*5)


So is time entirely illusionary? That doesn’t make sense either, as we ‘perceive’ it as real, right? We are experiencing it. We witness the rhythm of the seasons, we can recall events from our history through our memory and we can tell that certainly things are changing throughout the course of time. One of my spiritual teachers repeatedly stated that “there is only one constant in the universe, and that is change.” What else is time than the ever-changing reality we are perceiving, moment by moment? It’s the sense of ‘change’ itself. The subjective perception of movement.


Objectively speaking, time seems to be an illusion indeed. Yet it is experienced by everyone and thus has a subjective reality.


The spiritual quest for eternal life


“When all the knots that strangle the heart are loosened, the mortal becomes immortal, here in this very life.”

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (*6)


Then what is timelessness? Eternity… does it even exist? Many ancient cultures seemed to be highly interested – I’d almost say ‘obsessed’ sometimes – with ‘becoming immortal’. The subject of eternity and immortality seems to be very important, often central, to many spiritual quests. Christ, among many other saints, is promising ‘eternal life’. Often times Western people look down on this quest, as it is regarded as a childish and impossible goal. If you consider yourself to be merely a physical body, it indeed sounds naïve to believe one could live forever. Though, the mystics are usually talking about another kind of immortality. Many mystic texts (like the words of Christ) may give rise to various interpretations. Others are more clear in what is actually meant with immortality.

Image from movie The Fountain, in which the main character is on a quest for the Tree of Life.

Drinking the sap of this tree would give eternal life.


A more clear explanation is given in the Upanishads – the most ancient mystical texts from India. In the oldest Upanishads – dating back to around 3500 years ago - becoming immortal is one of the central themes. These ancient yogis usually didn’t intend to extend the lifespan of their physical body as long as possible. Rather they realised their ‘true’ immortal nature, beyond the physical body. The central question really is ‘Who am I?’ Beyond the body and the mental labels you are carrying with you, who are you?


“As the skin of a snake is sloughed onto an anthill, so does the mortal body fall; but the Self, freed from the body, merges in Brahman (God), infinite life, eternal light.

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (*7)


The Upanishads clearly state that the spiritual path (or the path of Self-realisation) leads to the realisation that essentially, beyond all surface layers, one has a divine and eternal soul. This soul (Atman) is one with God (Brahman). Through this realisation one can indeed become immortal.


Soma – the psychoactive doorway to timelessness


In the very oldest Indian texts (as in the Rigveda) it is repeatedly described how the state of immortality (amrita) is brought about; through the consummation of a sacred drink. This drink, called Soma, is extracted from a plant that is now unknown to us. Soma was considered both a plant and a god. You might wonder: “So which plant would it have been?!” Although there is a lot of debate among scholars around this topic, many of them believe this plant to be a psycho-active plant. It could be amanita muscaria or psilocybin (magic) mushrooms, according to many. (*8)


“We have drunk the Soma; we have become immortal (amrita); we have gone to the light; we have found the gods.”

Rigveda

We might never know for sure which plant was used to brew the Soma. We do know quite a bunch of ritual drinks today that are brewed from psychoactive plants: Ayahuasca, magic mushrooms, the cactuses containing mescaline, among others. It is also known that the consummation of all of these plants drastically influences the perception of time. In fact, timelessness is a very common experience (or call it realisation) during such an inner journey. Through the influence of the plant, if consumed in a safe and ceremonial setting, one’s true nature can be experienced. As identification with the body as well as mental labels lose their grip, immortality (amrita) can be experienced.


In the ancient times the word Soma was equalled to Amrita (immortality). Later on, when the drink seemed to have disappeared, the word ‘amrita’ survived and related to more than just the drink. Amrita, also called the divine nectar, started to be seen as the essential substance of consciousness. Amrita is the immortal nature within all life, and is also often seen as a physical or energetic substance. Physically, some argue, Amrita could be DMT (Dimethyltryptamine). This is the psycho-active substance in the ayahuasca drink. DMT is also produced within the human brain and is believed to be substance related to consciousness itself.


Becoming immortal, right now


It doesn’t need a psychoactive drink to become timeless, immortal and thus liberated from death. "Eternity is a permanent now," goes a metaphysical statement. (*9) This permanent now can be brought about through a retainment of consciousness. Meditation can be practiced while sitting still on a cushion, but consciousness (and thus meditation) could as well be retained during the daily action.


“As our meditation deepens, we shall find we are delivered from time into the Eternal Now.”

Eknath Easwaran (*10)

It has become a cliché – living in the NOW – and yet there is so much in it. Any truthful spiritual practice brings you entirely right here, right now; conscious of this unique, magnificent moment. It is through relaxing in this eternal moment – NOW – that one finds salvation from any kind of suffering. Doubts and fears can only dissolve in THIS MOMENT. This only happens by being conscious right NOW.


The Indian writer Eknath Easwaran states: “One of the ways to test our progress on the spiritual path is to see how much we are able to free ourselves from the oppressive pressure of time. The clock is the most eloquent symbol of the tyranny of time.” (*11) Our mind is always navigating somewhere on the timeline, trying to escape this moment. Through meditation we are transcending the mind, going beyond the timeline, dropping into the eternal part of yourself (also called the ‘Self’).


“There has never been a time when you and I have not existed, nor will there be a time when we will cease to exist.”

Bhagavad Gita (*12)


Conclusion


By investigating the phenomenon of time we come to the same conclusion as in earlier articles; objective reality is illusionary. There is no such thing as objective time. The time-system we are using as a modern-day society might be beneficial in some areas of life, but is not matching the natural cycles and thus has no connection to a deeper reality. Therefore, a constant connection to this unnatural phenomenon might cause a serious disbalance, personally and collectively.


We do experience time as a subjective reality. Yet, the one that ‘thinks’ to experience time is actually abiding in the present moment. We human beings are often so immersed in thought processes, that the present moment – and thus the background consciousness - gets usually overrun. A meditation practice as well as a psychoactive ceremonial drink may serve to remind oneself to the timeless presence that underlies all existence. Yet, nothing ‘has’ to be done to reach it, as it is always (NOW) already available.


It is by fully and consciously arriving in this present moment that one can see clearly, beyond all illusions, the reality of the immortal Self. This reality is timeless. Here is everlasting joy, peace and happiness, for once and for all! Right NOW!


Eternal Joy,



Sources


6) The Upanishads – Eknath Easwaran

7) The Upanishads – Eknath Easwaran

9) Thomas Hobbes

10) The end of sorrow - Eknath Easwaran

11) The end of sorrow - Eknath Easwaran

12) The end of sorrow - Eknath Easwaran



Images from Gerd Altmann, Anja, Susan Cipriano, Evgeni Tcherkasski and Pexels from Pixabay



About the In Tune Series


This series contains articles and occasionally videos on vague, mystic and often controversial topics within the field of sound healing and modern-day spirituality. I’ll shine some light on some very ‘settled’ beliefs within this field, and investigate whether or not they really are ‘in tune’ with ‘truth’

166 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page