Our lives upon this earth are but brief moments in eternity. As well, we can only live in the present. The present moment is all we have.
When one looks up at the night time sky and sees stars that are billions of years old, or when walks on fossilized sand dunes that are hundreds of millions of years old, one’s human ego is challenged and made uncomfortable. We are reminded of our mortality and our finitude. Man wonders if his consciousness will continue once his body dies, and if so, what will he experience or encounter. Perhaps he also wonders if, on the other side of death, he will be cured of his ignorance as to ultimate reality, meaning, and purpose. (Will he see the Beatific Vision and will it set him free?)
We often think of forever as meaning a never-ending progression of linear time as in a continuous succession of years, one after the other without end. We experience time this way as we go through life. (Every moment, the future breaks into the present and the present slips away into the past.) Thus, this idea of forever does not seem strange to us.
But, consider the term, eternity. There is a definition of this term that goes like this: a state to which time has no application; timelessness. This definition presents a challenge to us. It is difficult to get one’s mind around this concept. Our experience cannot help us here. How do we think about or envision a state outside of time? (Perhaps someone might make a zen koan out of this.) For religious persons, this may seem an irrelevancy or a nonsensical exercise. But, if only for the purpose of exercising the mind, there might be some value in considering a timeless state.
Without some frame of reference, or some sort of contrast within our field of current sensory experience, we are lost. Consider being in a dark space, a dark “room” but with a difference. What if in this dark space there are no walls, nor floor nor ceiling? As well, what if there are no sounds, no smells? None of our senses can help us here. We would have no way of delimiting this space. We would not know of any boundaries to it. With no stimuli to inform us, we would also not be able to infer anything about this dark space, at least not with any confidence.
Considering a state outside of time baffles the conscious, rational mind because we have no experience of such a state, and because we cannot find any meaningful frames of reference in our minds to make sense of such a state. Yet, the writings of mystics sometimes allude to states of consciousness where the mystic felt as though he were outside of time. Spiritual experiences may shed some light here for those open to considering these.
Perhaps time and its parameters and constraints are only required in a physical universe such as the one we find ourselves in. A spiritual plane of existence or spiritual dimension would not be defined or limited by time and would thus be outside of time.
Here we become speculative, perhaps highly so.
To step out of time. out of our normal (and familiar) frame of reference may mean to become undifferentiated, to lose our individual identity. Perhaps, to do so would be to return not to nothingness but to pure being. After karmic debts are paid and karmic rewards enjoyed, who is to say that our individuality will continue? If God desires this, it will be so. And, of course, we all (or at least most of us) desire that our consciousness and our individual identity will continue.
For this brief moment in time that is ours, we ought to cultivate a little humility. And, as we try to learn to be more loving beings, we can also be on guard against inflating our egoistic sense of self-importance.
a few words on the images used
These images were captured at the Legion of Honor museum in San Francisco on New Year’s Day, 2017. The sarcophagus recalled to mind one of the art history classes I took many years ago as an undergraduate student. In the course, Early Christian and Byzantine Art, there were many pictures of carved sarcophagi in addition to frescoes, mosaics and sculpture from the early centuries of the Christian era.
Here is another view of the stone sarcophagus (Roman) from further away.
A case for a mummy from ancient Egypt (behind glass). Mummification as a sign of man’s hope for a continued existence in an afterlife?
copyright 2017 – larrysmusings.com