Three Kinds of Time|
by Arthur M. Young
As I've said before, the use of progressions in astrology involves two more kinds of time, possibly three, in addition to the kind of time already known, to which we refer when we give the year, the day, and the time of day of an occurrence. In astrology one uses transits, which are described by the position of the sun, moon, and planets as they move with respect to the positions these bodies had at the time of birth. One also uses what are called secondary progressions, the day-for-a-year progression by which the positions of planets 30 days after birth, and their relation to birth positions, correlate to events or developments in the life 30 years after birth. Secondary progressions are also the basis of solar arcs, which are obtained by moving all planets at the rate the sun moves in the days after birth. Then there are primary progressions, based on the rotation of the earth on the day of the birth, at the rate of four minutes of time for each year of the life. Both kinds of progression are based on angle -- primary on the rotation of the earth and secondary on its revolution around the sun.
Whether or not you believe in astrology, these different time rates call our attention to the fact that we use different time rates in normal life and with no reference to astrology. We go to the theater and see a two-hour play or opera which can deal with a time interval of almost any length -- what might be years of real life. Again we can read a synopsis or program of the opera or play in a few minutes. Such time shrinkage seems entirely arbitrary, but it does occur and is very necessary to human evolution.
With astrology, however, the time rates are not arbitrary. Secondary progressions are 365¼ times faster (or slower) than transits, and primary progressions 365¼ times that. This usage presents a challenge to discover whether there may not be some non-arbitrary factor in these other time rates.
This challenge is supported by the observation that what might be called dramatic time has a fairly constant length. Almost all movies and plays are about two hours in length. The same applies to games, sports events, lectures, and the like. If it took as long to portray Napoleon's career as it did in real life, it would not be dramatic. The dramatization of any real life requires a different timing from the measured time of the incidents and has its own requirements, dictated by emotional reaction rather than historical fact.
I also took note of the fact that the time rate of plant life is quite different from that of animals. The seed grows to a mature plant -- in the case of an annual plant such as the vegetables grown in a garden, in a few months, or in years if a tree. The animal "moves" much more rapidly, growing in months or years like the vegetable, but moving on a different time scale in its pursuit of quarry, food, a mate. Such pursuit could be likened to the dramatic time of theater and sports; even in fox hunting there is a coincidence of human and animal drama.
This distinction between vegetable and dramatic time led me to invoke the levels of the theory of process and to see these levels (on the right side of the arc) as using different time rates to provide the increased freedom which characterizes these levels. Thus plants conquer time by producing seed, which enables the plant to survive through its offspring. Animals add to this the freedom of choice, as in choice of which direction to move in the pursuit of immediate goals, and so forth. Man can add yet another freedom, that of thought, and with it obtain a freedom to pursue goals beyond his own lifetime.
I suppose the reason I need to establish a value for the duration of dramatic time is that this ties in with the notion of the freedom of movement and choice which is implicit in Level II, and possibly the same could be said for intellectual time. Both of these times are different from clock time.
Then I need to show that we employ these two more rapid time rates in actual life -- in fact, we employ one more, a very rapid time, which enables us to plan ahead. In obtaining patents one has sporadic periods of activity when one draws up the description, writes the claims, and then one mails it to the Patent Office. In due course, sometimes over a year later, the government responds. The same is true for writing a book. Several months may be sufficient to write the book, but years go by while finding a publisher, getting it printed, etc. The life of the book does not end there; perhaps a reasonable figure to take is the 28 years allowed by the copyright.
Why 28 years? It doesn't matter; the point is that it would be impossible to live if we were "subject to" time in the sense that material objects move in space, according to exact laws. While we too obey such physical laws -- we fall if we jump out a window, and we cannot be in two places at once -- we have all sorts of equipment and methods for getting around such laws, or for using them to move ourselves or our goods, to communicate and have an effectiveness that is not confined to our immediate contacts.
This use of the laws of nature to make and use means of manufacture, or transport, of communication, of the arts, which is possible because we know what the laws are and can employ them to our ends, would not be possible if we were confined to the same time rate as are physical objects. We need to be able to see ahead of the car we are driving, anticipate -- not only to avoid colliding with other vehicles or running over pedestrians, but just to follow the road. When we see a turn coming we slow down if need be, start to turn the wheel before reaching the turn, etc. Cosmologies based on the "laws" of science neglect these more rapid times and therefore completely misinterpret determinism as negating free will, whereas these additional time rates make it possible for free will to use determinism to extend the scope of free will.
This freedom to employ determinism extends in many ways -- ways which have become so automatic or instinctive that we've all but forgotten the period of learning that was required. Take the recognition of an object as an example. A chair, a table, most objects look quite different when seen from different angles, as when seen at different times, yet we early learned to recognize these different forms as the same object. This too is a transcendence of time.
Then there is also the freedom from time that we exercise in planning ahead -- thinking about what we will do during the coming day, or even a year.
This whole subject is completely neglected by science. To science clock time is the only time, and that's that. But to understand life we need to recognize not only that we can escape from clock time, but also that we share with other living creatures various degrees or orders of time transcendence. We share with vegetation the capacity to grow, to store order; we share with animals the ability to move and choose where to move; and as humans we develop the ability to plan ahead, to figure on courses of action which may have results reaching far into the future.
Can such different orders of time transcendence be singled out and described in a constructive and meaningful way -- that is, in a way that will enable the different kinds of time, if such there are, to be correlated with something else that is fundamental? I believe so, and thus they can be incorporated into cosmology.
I was first alerted to the possibility of different kind of time by the use in astrology of primary and secondary progressions, but it soon became obvious that the freedoms regained by the fifth and sixth stages can be viewed as the use of time to conquer time in the fifth stage, and its use to conquer space in the sixth.
The notion of dimensions is basic to science. Points with no dimensions, lines (one dimension), and surfaces (two dimensions) are basic to the ancient science of geometry. Adding another dimension extends the subject to volumes, as in solid geometry. So matters stood until Riemann and others proposed "non-Euclidean geometries" in which space itself was curved. Then Einstein applied the notion of curved space to "explain" gravitation. Somehow the notion of "higher dimensions" got started and was seized on by writers of science fiction, and is even used by proponents of ESP and such higher faculties to account for the apparent violation of laws established by science. I am opposed to this slipshod evasion of accountability, both in science and elsewhere. Higher dimensions are not involved in relativity. The formula for the volume of the Einstein-Eddington hypersphere (i.e., the universe) makes no reference to any but the three dimensions of space; there has been no constructive use of higher dimensions; and last but not least, the merit of the concept of dimension, which is that it helps to clarify and solve problems, is absent in the notion of higher dimensions. If anything it obscures the issue in meaningless verbiage.
Questioning the assumption that there can be any number of dimensions is basic to The Reflexive Universe -- so basic that it could be said that the key concept behind The Reflexive Universe is that dimensions are constraints, and that the "fall," which is a central thesis in myth, is the fall into, or acquisition of, constraint, which makes the laws of determinism possible, with the "turn" the point at which these laws are recognized and used for regaining the freedom that was lost. The problem of escape from determinism then is not to acquire more dimensions, but to recognize the laws that dimensions (i.e., constraints) impose, and through this recognition, escape. Thus Rhea in the Greek myth of Cronos recognizes that Cronos (time) will eat his own children, and feeds him a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes. The ruse works; Zeus escapes, ultimately to rule over time.
Recognizing that dimensions are constraints, it follows that since no more than three dimensions are required to locate an object in space -- or in space-time if we realize that one of the space dimensions (distance away) is always associated with time -- we can then stop dreaming about "higher" dimensions, and get free of the spell that science has cast on our thinking. It is not that dreams are not in order; dreams are essential, but they are not in higher "dimensions." They are less constrained, have fewer dimensions. As was pointed out earlier, the second level became caught in time. The third level, by creating mental space, provides the possibility of concepts; and concepts, though free of time, introduce the constraint of consistency. Dreams at Level II are free of consistency but are in time. At Level IV we have both the constraint of time and of space, making possible the world of definite objects, occupying positions in space and time and subject to laws.
This, the world of determinism, ceases to be a limitation on freedom when its laws are recognized; it becomes the means necessary for increasing the scope of freedom. Rather than repeat the usual description of the later stages, let me now introduce the different kinds of time in this context.
The fifth stage, exemplified by plants, as was said, conquers time by storing order (or energy) and creating seeds. This is the first kind of extra time.
The sixth stage, exemplified by animals, and which we described as conquering space in the sense that animals acquire the ability to move under their own volution (as against the random motion of particles), can just as readily be thought of as creating an added time dimension. The growth of plants is motion of a kind; but it is very slow, commensurate with the change of season, or even, in the case of a flower following the sun, of daily motion, but so slow that only when sped up in a motion picture can we see it in motion. Not so animal motion, which not only moves much faster than plants but can choose which direction to move; it can attack or retreat, move in any direction to obtain food or escape a pursuer. One more point: despite its greater swiftness than that of plants, this motion of animals is finite: the animal, as we earlier said, is free to pursue goals in any direction but of limited radius. The plant of course remains fixed in the earth, but its growth (or motion) is not limited to any fixed limit; we have to mow the lawn every week. Were trees not limited by the fact that as their size increases their weight increases as the cube of the height whereas their strength only as the square, they would grow indefinitely. Even this limitation is transcended in the plants' ability to produce seed which produces new plants and new seeds.
The distinction between plants and animals that we earlier described as the difference between an infinite goal in a fixed direction and a finite goal in any direction, can equally well be described as two different kinds of time.
The seventh stage also can be thought of as creating a still different time dimension, which we must remember is a different degree of freedom. By combining the unlimited extent of time (or generation) with the free choice of animals, we remove all constraints and achieve total freedom. The seventh-stage being can achieve any goal in any direction. Such a being is outside of space and time. Such are the gods. Even though to us it would take time to evolve a universe, to a god the elapsed time is zero. (This is the explanation given as to how creatures from other solar systems or even galaxies can visit earth; they move at speeds greater than the speed of light).
Man partakes of this insofar as he is able to work toward goals beyond his own lifetime. (A way to characterize genius is to define a genius one whose works retain their vitality, their beauty or truth, long after the death of their creator.)
But coming down from this to mortal man, we can observe a difference in stages of individual evolution by the degree to which persons can think ahead. Let's face it, despite democracy there are differences in people. Some wage earners have difficulty getting home with the paycheck; they may spend it getting drunk. In fact industry distinguishes between wage earners paid by the week and salaried employees paid by longer intervals. Artists, writers, entrepreneurs and other more creative individuals have to survive on quite irregular and often widely spaced remuneration.
Of course such considerations do not concur with the doctrine "All men are born equal," if we insist on misinterpreting this phrase; for it more reasonably applies to rights rather than competence. However, young souls do have compensation; people of all classes manage to find reasons to regard their own group as superior. (This reminds me of my father's story of the visit of Henry James to Philadelphia. The bluebloods of the city flocked eagerly to his lecture. Henry James peered over his glasses and opened his lecture: "I trust, ladies and gentlemen, that I am addressing the middle classes.")
But what is more important is that all mankind shares in varying degrees this added dimension, that of thought. Thought is still another way of conquering time. The speed of thought may be infinite; the range it can encompass is comparable. It can deal with changes that may take a long period of time to bear fruit. Thought reaches ahead, thus controls things that can move very quickly or very slowly; and this increased range is its true contribution to freedom.
Further enrichment of detail could be supplied from the concepts set forth in "Constraint and Freedom, an Ontology Based on the Study of Dimension," an essay in my book Which Way Out? In this essay I show that if we take into consideration how we actually employ dimension we must distinguish the one-dimensionality of depth, or "distance away," from the two-dimensionality of the field in view, its horizontal and vertical dimension, which we see as on a screen and measure by angular displacement (by turning our gaze from one direction to another). The depth dimension is obtained by moving toward the object, or by the stereographic vision possible because we have two eyes, each seeing the object from a different angle. It is by measuring this angle that we know the distance of an object.
This distinction between one- and two-dimensionality also emerges in description, as for example in a color chart, where the colors (hues) are displayed on a two-dimensional plane or circle, and the admixture of white (intensity) is displayed on the vertical axis (one-dimensional).
Thus the three dimensions said to describe space are not the same. Dimensionality is of two kinds, either one-dimensional or two-dimensional. So fundamental is this distinction that it can be said to generate the properties of Level II and Level III, Level II being time-like, one-dimensional, dealing with value, attraction, and asymmetry; Level III being space-like, two-dimensional, dealing with concepts, form, and symmetry, etc.
Applied now to the kinds of time on the right side of the arc, we have at Stage 5 the conquest of time, which was the first constraint imposed at Stage 2, Level II; and at Stage 6, the conquest of space, which was the constraint imposed at Stage 3, Level III.
We can also make a connection with astrology in that the signs of the zodiac, which describe different qualities of being -- i.e., active or passive, being or knowing, etc. -- resemble directions in space, or vectors, require two dimensions, and denote the time of the year or phase in a cycle, whereas the number of years is a one-dimensional count.
This explanation enables us to distinguish the time of Stage 5, plants, as generic or negentropic (storing order), and the time of Stage 6, animals, as dramatic and dealing with values (which have to be one-dimensional). In The Geometry of Meaning and elsewhere I have expanded on the distinction between Level II as mythos or emotion and Level III as logos or intellect; and I believe we can now add that the two kinds of time which the levels distinguish apply also to the two ways of knowing, mythos versus logos.
While the three kinds of time evolve sequentially -- the first, which we may call generic time, with plants; the second, or dramatic time, with animals; and the third, that of thought, with man -- since each stage incorporates what has gone before, we can appreciate that animals also employ generic time in that they grow and reproduce. Man employs all three, in that he grows and reproduces, is capable of voluntary motion, and is developing the power of thought.
But we would be short of our goal if we stopped here. We need to know that these kinds of time are used in man for different purposes and in different ways. Thought time, being only in man, needs no further illustration. But the time for voluntary motion includes what I've become accustomed to as dramatic time; this is involved with timing, suspense, the buildup of climax and other subtleties of drama -- not to forget games. The time of growth and storage of order become in man the time involved in learning. It is most important in children and in young people, who are not only building order in the sense of plants growing and storing energy, but they are getting an education, learning. The term generic time can include all these, since the term generate applies equally to a growing organism, a body of knowledge, or the storage of order. In any case it is primarily an emphasis on mind as is suited to its placement at Level III.
Dramatic time is closely related to motion and to emotion; it moves at a much faster rate than generic time. The play or the sports contest with its average duration of two hours is fast compared with the months or years required for learning a subject.
In closing this discussion of different kinds of time, and lest it be thrust aside as an emergent property of humans and therefore not important for science, let me touch once more on astrology, which first induced me to think about the subject. In astrology the primary and secondary progressions are quite precise. While they prescribe events in such loose terms that prediction of the precise nature of the event is scarcely possible, they do predict the time with great accuracy. The tolerance or "orb" of plus or minus two weeks, which does hold, is, in a life of 50 years, an accuracy of one-fifth of one percent -- so close that in charting such events I have found one can get no more than five years on an 8 x 10 page, which is ten times the accuracy that can be read on a dial, like that of a good voltmeter. The physical basis for the ratio of 365¼ to 1 between the three rates is of course the rotation of the earth:
4 minutes of time : 1 day : 1 year = 365¼
The implication of this for cosmology is profound. I see no way that such significance could be drawn from current science. Since it is important for evolution, and evolution is a most important function of the universe, I'm afraid we cannot draw on science for the solution of this problem -- the function of the universe. What's it for? Science can be a great help; as I said, it has set the type. But to read its message is a challenge that carries us far beyond science, as Bacon said, into primary causes.
©1996 Anodos Foundation