What is Time?

There is no question about it, time is a funny old substance. As any follower of science-fiction knows, it is relative. That means, of course, that it goes much faster when you are enjoying yourself. Time is the fourth dimension of the container that holds the material universe and it consists of three-dimensional space plus the dimension of time.

In Stephen Hawkins’ A Brief History of Time, he proposed that time had no beginning and that it also has no end in exactly the same way that a ring or a ball has no beginning or end. Thinking in this way about a ball is using an analogy, but nevertheless, it is a good one. Just as the physical substance of the surface of a ball curves, so too does time according to Hawkins.

But hang on a moment, how can time be curved? When we think of physical things that are curved, we think of that curvature within the context of the three dimensions of space. If the fourth dimension (time) turns out to be non-linear, into which dimension(s) does it curve? The answer from Hawkins is that it curves into the dimension he calls ‘imaginary time’.

Time is circular according to Hawkins. The further we go backward in time, the more we curve away from the real dimension into the imaginary one. If you are well-versed in mathematics, then this concept should not be too difficult, after all, we have imaginary numbers. It is the same basic idea.

We know that time, joking apart, is relative, not absolute. Experiments have gone a long way towards confirming Einstein’s special relativity theory. We also know that huge gravitational fields affect time. It should not really surprise us because one of the first bits of evidence for Einstein’s theories came from observations of gravity bending light. Since time is relative to the speed of light, if gravity affects light, it must also affect time.

So thinking of time as the fourth dimension of an interwoven fabric that constitutes the container of the rest of the universe (matter and anti-matter) seems to make a good deal of sense. However, let’s now go a step further. If everything we can observe came from the Big Bang singularity, then that must also include both time and space, so in its original state, the essence of the universe must have been a single substance.

Of course, any truly scientific thinker would say that it makes absolutely no sense to talk about what happened before the Big Bang. I think Hawkins makes that point too. Why? Because, there never has been a time before the Big Bang. Time came into existence at the instant of the Big Bang as part of the created fabric of the universe.

Now, why have I been rambling on about the question: what is time? After all, the overarching theme of this blog is personal development. Well, because for millennia, we have known that the universe is composed of one stuff. According to Deepak Chopra, “that is why the ancient seers exclaimed, I am that, you are that, all this is that, and that’s all there is.” This idea is apparently taken from Vedic literature, but it is probably also to be found in other ancient texts. And that’s why matter affects spacetime (gravity) because it is fundamentally the same stuff.

What is this stuff? You might call it energy, you might call it the “thinking stuff” as Wallace D Wattles does in his classic book, you might call it the multiverse, you might call it God. But we are all a part of that stuff. We are all a part of that grand matrix, the “field of pure potentiality” in the words of Deepak. This basic fact, that everything is interconnected in some way, is right at the heart of the quantum explanation of the Law of Attraction. Time it seems, is a particular manifestation of the one universal stuff from which we are all made.

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2 Thoughts on “What is Time?

  1. subhash chandra singh on November 26, 2011 at 5:03 am said:

    We should be ever grateful to Great Einstein for his concept of 4th dimension of matter and called it TIME. Since like a matter occupies space ( which has 3 dimension) to have its existence, it also has a span of time i.e. it occupies time too so long it exist.

    Now when the learned scholar talks about singular-substance state prior to Big Bang and he sees no sense to talk about time & space before the Big Bang and Esteemed scholar Will Edwards tries to have rest by taking reference from Vedic literature saying I am that , you are that– i.e. Aham Brahm asmi (i am Brahma/God) –tat twam asi Swetketu / you are very that (the same) O Swetketu.

    Sir may i humbly submit that we may call pre Big Bang state like a child in the womb –silently undergoing the process of self development–a wait-in process –sleeping state–waiting for a right moment to come out like a Big Bang. We may call every birth a small replica of Big Bang having all potential quality of the Universe– as Vedic literature says –yathaa aande tatha Bramande –(that which is in this ovum(primary state of our being/conceiving state in our mother-womb) the same is in Universe). Sir i have named this state as sleeping state also when there there is no time or time is also sleeping when we are asleep.

    It is also a state of Cosmic Samadhi deep meditation. As during deep slumber or deep -meditation feeling of time is also asleep means we don’t have feeling of of time. So can’t we call the pre Big Bang State — the sleeping state of baby universe or like a saintly person/yogi in a deep meditation Sir?

    Subhash Chandra Singh

  2. Hello Subhash

    Of course, since spacetime did not exist before the singularity, not only do we have no vocabulary for discussing events before the Big Bang, but in addition there can be no ‘before’ because ‘before’ implies time i.e. something cannot exist ‘before’ if there is no time. Thus the single substance represents an initial state in the evolution of the cosmos that did not exist before the Big Bang, but after.

    That said, talking about it by analogy, I like your sleeping baby.

    Will :)

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