Space, Time and Creation
by P.T. Mistlberger
Time cannot be outwardly intuited, anymore
than space can be
intuited as something “in” us. What, then, are space and time? Are
they real existences?
Creation and the Origin of Space and Time
Why the ego arises and how it was created is a mystery that every spiritual tradition and religion has attempted to explain in their own way. However all such explanations are limited as they are attempts to express something through the mind that cannot be understood via conventional thought.
What we do know, however, is that there was an apparent beginning to the experience of separate existence, and for each of us—as apparently separate beings locating ourselves in separate bodies—the very idea of a beginning has profound personal significance as well. It speaks to the distant reaches of our memory, of our physical births, and of our early childhoods.
From the spiritual viewpoint, however, the ultimate beginning speaks to the Creation of the universe, what religions have described in their Creation myths and what science has (currently) defined as the Big Bang, the primal massive explosion that birthed the universe billions of years ago. For both religion and science, this Point of Origin is very real, a definable and measurable beginning to all things. Religion and science are pointing to the same thing, if using different languages. Both are defining a genesis event, an absolute beginning to everything. Scientific cosmology may not be concerned with consciousness per se and religion may not be concerned with the physical characteristics of the universe, but both are concerned with the origin and unfolding of the universe.
Science speaks of the “unfolding” of dimensions immediately following the Big Bang, and religion speaks of the creation of the heavens and the earth, or of the various worlds fashioned by the Creator deity. As such religion and science are again referring to the same thing—a primal event that preceded both time and space.
From the spiritual perspective space and time are the fields of limitation through which the ego undergoes its experience of reality, an experience that is essentially a kind of dreaming. This dreaming is concerned completely with the external world. It requires an external universe—from sub-atomic particles all the way to galaxies—and a body of some sort in which to experience this universe. The process of consciousness associating with a body of some sort—identification—is the process that becomes the foundation of the ego, the isolated, separate “I.”
But from a spiritually practical viewpoint the actual reason for the Creation of the universe is much less relevant. All that matters is that we wake up to our spiritual potential. As the old saying has it, “When you find yourself in a burning building, don’t worry about how the fire started. Just concern yourself with getting out.”
The Creation of the Universe
Let’s have some linear fun here. Let’s say that (according to the current scientific paradigm) the Big Bang, the creation of the universe, occurred fifteen billion years ago in time as we measure it. Let’s further assume that human beings more or less appeared (by whatever means) about five million years ago. Let’s also assume for a moment that these current scientific time estimates are reasonably accurate. A little basic arithmetic then tells us that humanity is only about 1/3000th as old as the known universe. Just a tiny fraction of the age of what is around us. The equivalent of this is if the age of the universe was measured on a 24 hour clock, beginning at 12am, then humanity shows up about thirty seconds before midnight at the end of the entire day.
What do you suppose has been going on for the previous 23 hours, 59 minutes and 30 seconds? Probably quite a bit. The Biblical book of Genesis referring to Man being created on the sixth of seven days seems to be a good metaphor for the sequence of the development of life. Earthly human life is apparently a late bloomer in the cosmic scheme of things.
Astronomers currently estimate that there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the known universe. Each galaxy is itself an island-universe with millions or billions of individual suns, much like the Milky Way galaxy that our sun is part of. So what about those other billions of suns in our galaxy, and the billions of other galaxies on top of all that? Do they have life or are they just a display of pretty lights put up there for our enjoyment?
If we make a safe bet and assume that the entire staggeringly huge universe was not created to provide an attractive canopy just for us and our night sky, and that there is plenty of life and likely many, many intelligent civilizations in the universe, then it is a short leap to suppose that many must have developed before us, given that we know that the known universe is so much older than the human race.
Many of what we might call extraterrestrial races from other worlds must have developed to high levels of intellectual and technical attainment. It is entirely reasonable to assume that many of them have developed the capacity to engineer life forms on their own, or to modify existing organic templates, or even to exercise genetic interventions (something humanity has already begun to do, via cloning). If their technical sophistication was matched by moral and spiritual excellence, then we have the makings of a quasi-divine race—or at least, one appearing so from our vantage point.
Thus the human race itself may very well be the product of such genetic alteration at some key juncture in the past. The gods of ancient legends and religious scriptures may well be echoes of the memories of the presence on Earth long ago of such master engineers or custodians. But although this addresses some of the issues of human evolution (and some of the difficulties that remain in fully linking early humans with apes), it does not satisfy the theological concerns. Such as, from where, and how, did the quasi-divine races themselves develop?
Ultimately we are led back to the common Origin Point for all, the Big Bang or God’s Creation. But neither science nor religion have satisfactorily addressed the conundrum of what came before the Big Bang, or what was God doing prior to it all? The “Inflationary” theory of current time Big Bang cosmology has traced the origin of the universe down to a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang, but does not know what happened before that, at time zero. From the religious perspective, if there was no beginning to God, then why after existing for eternity did God suddenly create the universe? What was he doing before that? Was he on an extended coffee break? And if so, taking a break from what?
Put simply and in a nutshell—why is there something rather than nothing?
The problem is a logical absurdity. It defies reason.
Both science and religion have attempted to get around the issue—science by theorizing that both time and space unfolded in the massive primordial explosion of the Big Bang. In other words, prior to the Big Bang, there was no space, and no time, so the idea of what was before is rendered meaningless.
Religion deals with it by the ex nihilo, or “something from nothing”
premise, which basically is a way of declaring that God’s mind is unknowable by
our limited reason. We simply can’t figure it out, so should resort to trust or
faith and not concern ourselves with the
But clearly, neither of these answers satisfy. They are tacit admissions that by trying to penetrate to the idea of some ultimate Origin Point to all things we are, philosophically speaking, barking up a wrong tree. Something is wrong in our very approach.
The Wisdom of
The key faulty premise is that time is absolutely real, that is, that time is more than just a conceptual construct. Put simply, we can’t know the meaning of the Origin of all things by the usual intellectual processes, which includes the deeply conditioned view that linear time—past, present, future—is somehow ultimately real. Our brains exist in the physical universe that is based on cause and effect, and the progression of events and growth through what we come to label “time.” Our conventional thinking mind is an agent of our physical brain, and as such cannot really grasp eternity, no-time, or infinity and no-space. These notions are purely abstractions that the conventional thought on the surface can accept but in no way understands. We have been deeply conditioned to believe that things progress in time from stage 1, to stage 2, and so on, and that further all this is occurring within something we’ve come to believe is space (the physical universe).
A simple thought-experiment can point our consciousness toward the unknowable Origin of everything. We have only to focus our minds on what lies outside of the universe, or what came before Creation. If we stay focused on these paradoxes, eventually our deductive, linear reasoning process falls quiet, as it realizes that it simply can’t get out of the box of its conditioning to understand things in terms of spatial dimension—height, width, and depth—and linear time—beginning, middle and end. According to our minds, everything must have a position within the known boundaries of the universe, and everything must have a start point and a finish point in time. That is, there can be nothing outside of the universe, and there is no way something can come from nothing. Therefore the universe must be infinite in spacial dimension, and time must be an illusion. But now that we’ve reasoned that out, then what?
At the moment of reaching this simple but unavoidable reasoning conclusion, our mind hits a wall and falls still. This stillness is full of energy, and has the possibility of penetrating the barrier between the duality of conceptual thought and the nonduality of pure consciousness. This is what mystics have tried to express for thousands of years. In the East, in particular, they have made a prolonged study of this breakthrough event and have known it by many names. The anonymous medieval Christian mystic who wrote the classic book beautifully titled The Cloud of Unknowing, was speaking from this expanded awareness that transcends reason when he titled his book. It is truly the limited boundaries of reasoning that blocks us from the understanding of what lies beyond our accepted notions of time and space.
These intellectual boundaries are where many pure rationalists have gotten snared, ending up disdainfully dismissing religious Creationism because of its more absurd and childish scenarios—and in so doing, missing the very valid point that conventional thinking alone cannot solve these ultimate problems. These same intellectual boundaries have also entangled many Creationists, who have ended up rejecting and condemning scientific ideas because such ideas do not align with their literal interpretations of religious scriptures. This kind of religious literalism is again a misuse of, and over-identification with, the intellectual function of the mind.
So when Creationists and Evolutionists reject each other’s views wholesale, they are both doing the same thing—getting caught in the limitations of the mind. Seeing beyond the mind, by learning to disidentify with conventional thinking, is to understand the timelessness and limitlessness of the Bigger View.
Non-Duality and the Bigger View
As our reasoning mind typically works, it can’t get it. As we are—we identified with conventional reasoning—we can’t get it either.
The key to this problem lies in a change of state on behalf of the subject itself, the one who is trying to understand the problem—me. The object—in this case, the problem of the origin of the universe—cannot be understood as long as it remains separate from the subject (me) who is trying to figure the problem out. That doesn’t mean that our body has to die in order for this to change. But our identification with conventional thinking has to “die,” even if only momentarily, in order to directly know what eternity and infinity actually are.
Eternity and infinity are not just ideas. That’s the whole point! The conventional concepts of infinity and eternity are the mind’s attempt to produce a photocopy of ultimate reality. When we investigate the nature of our ego-identity we will gradually begin to see into its basic emptiness—its fabricated nature. As this awareness deepens, so too does the basic understanding that this emptiness is also an indescribable vastness.
Once we attune our awareness to this empty-vastness—which is nothing other than consciousness itself—it becomes possible to locate this same essential empty-vastness within all apparent bodies or objects in space and time. It becomes, in a sense, a process of ‘folding’ space and time. Put another way, in seeing our own true nature, we begin to see this true nature wherever we look as well.
Typical thought, as we normally experience it, is the fastest thing in the universe—much faster than the speed of light, which science has already measured. We can, in a sense, “travel” anywhere in the universe instantaneously just by thinking about it via imagination. Light takes just over a second to get from the Moon to us. However imagine yourself on the Moon, and there you are, instantaneously, in your imagination. However consciousness itself is even faster than thought. It is, strictly speaking, beyond all speed as it is already beyond all space. It is everywhere. It is ultimately understood to be the one fundamental essence of Reality itself. Or, as the Advaita masters put it, “Only Consciousness Is.”
via realizing our essential nature as
consciousness, we simultaneously go beyond all space. As time is but the
measurement of the relative movements of objects in space, we simultaneously go
beyond time as well.
What, then, is the answer to the question of how the universe began? The realization of our true nature as pure consciousness is the answer—or even more accurately, it is the dissolving of the question itself in the fire of pure Self-inquiry. To recognize our true nature as consciousness is to locate ourselves as prior to all conventional thinking, all identification, all projection—and prior to all space and time, as these latter two are functions of identification with conventional thought and separation. Consciousness free of obstructing ego-distortions does not recognize separation. It knows itself as the sole unqualified Reality, absolutely indivisible and whole, as well as unborn and undying. Beyond space, and beyond time.
By locating itself as prior to space and time, this obstruction-free consciousness is revealed to be the Source that is also prior to Creation—whether this Creation is understood as God’s Creation, or the Big Bang of science.
This direct knowing of our true nature as consciousness prior to all creation is both pure unqualified wisdom and pure unqualified love. It is the basis of the understanding that to truly love God (Truth) is to truly know God, or to truly know God is to truly love God, something that extends all the way down to the simplest levels. To truly and empathically know someone is to love them in the ultimate sense—by directly knowing yourself as not separate from them. The same thing applies to when gazing at a sunset, or a flower, or a leaf, or a rock. To truly be present with it, free of any mental projection or entanglement in linear time, is to recognize and know that vast field of pure consciousness from which all things are arising. It is to know the One behind the many, the One that is both unborn and undying as it exists outside of time altogether.
What is the Big Bang, truly?
From the perspective of non-dual enlightenment, it’s seen that the Creation or the Big Bang is going on all the time! The Creation, the birth of separation resulting in the origins of the ego, is actually happening every moment. Each moment that we are effectively choosing to stay separate from our natural state is each moment that the Big Bang or Creation is being reenacted within our own psyche. It is the ultimate symbol for the process of the ego as it creates its own reality—microcosmically in one human being, macrocosmically as the entire universe of galaxies, stars, planets, life forms, elements, and so forth. The whole universe perceivable through the senses of the body is an extension of the ego-mind—the universe of the many, the universe of duality and separation. Does that make the creation of the universe all one colossal mistake? That depends crucially on how we view it. It only seems to be a mistake if we believe in the reality of the need for a supposed correction in the first place. Non-dual enlightenment is the direct realization that the so-called error—the very apparent messiness of this universe of separation—is itself an illusion, deriving from a faulty perception. What most people think they are—an isolated ego-identity—is finally seen to be based on a profound misunderstanding. Likewise, what we typically see as the world and the universe is not actually there. What is there is something much simpler, much greater, completely harmonious, and much more intimate—precisely because it’s our actual very nature. It’s us as we really are—simply pure consciousness itself. The universe is an extension of us, or as the old Hermetic expression has it, “as above, so below.”
From the point of view of the ego-mind, the universe, and life, are deeply flawed. But from the point of view of pure consciousness, our natural state, everything is exactly the way it should be.
So the shift we’re considering is ultimately one of understanding and perception. The problem is not with the universe, or with life. The problem is purely and simply with the way we are looking at it.
Life After Death and Higher Dimensions
The general view transmitted by mystics who have penetrated into the subtle realms has been that so-called higher dimensions are more plastic and subtle in form, and less tightly structured. But from the standpoint of non-dualism even these higher dimensions, should they exist, would not be ‘more real’. Their conditions may more closely approximate pure Being and pure consciousness itself, but it is still an approximation. Any kind of dimension implies some degree of separation. Heaven is, in the end, not a place located anywhere. It is the natural state, our birthright, pure Being itself.
Realization of non-dual consciousness yields direct insight into the illusory nature of physical death as an apparent end of life, and more understanding of the true function of physical death as a portal from this to more subtle dimensions—and thus of a deeper understanding of what life actually is. Physical life is only one small manifestation of true life. True life is all an expression of the One Source of pure Being and pure consciousness. It is not found within physical life. It’s the other way around—physical life exists within the greater life of pure Being that is beyond all space and time, unlimited, without beginning or end.