"What is time and its relation to history? A, perspective."
by Dr. Parviz Dehghani

What is time and its relation to history? A, perspective.
By Parviz Dehghani

For thousands of years we have been asking this very significant question and the mystery of time still lingers on. As I type, I’m conscious of the passage of time. I check the clock. Right now, it is 4:12 p.m. on the fourth of July 2018. One year flew by like the wind. I was in Atlantic City a year ago. I’m not there this year. I’m sitting at my desk typing. Am I going to be around next year at this time? Who knows? Is time the shadow of motion? What would time be if the earth wouldn’t be revolving around itself and the sun? We have invented the clocks and later on watches. Prior to these we had sundial to show us the passage of time. Animals are also aware of changes around them and perhaps they ask the same question but in their own languages. We, however, build our history upon time.

For thousands of years we have been asking this very significant question and the mystery of time still lingers on. As I type, I’m conscious of the passage of time. I check the clock. Right now, it is 4:12 p.m. on the fourth of July 2018. One year flew by like the wind. I was in Atlantic City a year ago. I’m not there this year. I’m sitting at my desk typing. Am I going to be around next year at this time? Who knows? Is time the shadow of motion? What would time be if the earth wouldn’t be revolving around itself and the sun? We have invented the clocks and later on watches. Prior to these we had sundial to show us the passage of time. Animals are also aware of changes around them and perhaps they ask the same question but in their own languages. We, however, build our history upon time.
Some believed in linear and others cyclical time. There was a time when we thought the earth was flat. The shortest distance between two points was straight line according to Euclid, student of Plato at the academy. But when it comes to the earth being flat, didn’t people see the shadow of the earth on the moon in a lunar eclipse? Who knows, may be Euclid knew about the lunar eclipse and then he told Plato regarding the straight line being only a postulate or an assumption. Based on the discoveries of the modern mathematicians, there is nothing in the universe that is straight, namely, everything is curved.
Is time an abstract phenomenon? Well, I don’t see time. Nor do I smell it. I can’t hear it. Nor can I taste it. Can I touch it? Of course, the answer is negative. No wonder, in Hinduism time and motion are considered illusions. Time and space were absolute for Isaac Newton (1642-1727). Let us say, his theory lasted a few centuries, nothing more, and nothing less. May be his idea of time paved the way for Hegel (1770-1831) in his philosophy of history. Some scholars believe that God became time and history with Hegel. We really don’t know whether that is the case. However, once Christ, as Holy Spirit, entered the flow of time, then it must have been hard to separate the two, because he was then in the realm of the time and the history of mankind and the world. This reminds me of when the reality of Plato’s Forms, we were told by Aristotle, was in the objects of the world. Of course, Plato’s Form, being looked at here singularly, was no longer the same Form, because it was in the world and became form, which was not transcendent any more. In other words, we can’t have our cake and eat it too.
In Christianity, this is where infinite meets finitude and eternity is with time. This in fact is the meaning of the cross, that is, the vertical crossing the horizontal. Is it rationally possible? It depends on your belief and faith. Yes, it is not logically plausible. The finitude, nevertheless, is the possibility of the Ultimate Reality. Time and space are possibilities of the absolute. The Ultimate Reality is absolute. What happens to transcendence here? This is where some philosophers tilt towards Pantheism or all is God and others would prefer to keep the God away from the realm of imperfection. However, remember that reason divides, to Kant, our German thinker of the 18th century. What if we just, at least for a moment, forget about logic and try to see things beyond our five senses. I was dreaming the other nights and whatever I touched seemed to disappear as soon as I pointed at them. There was no time and history in their places. When you see a tree, you point at it and there is suddenly nothing there, as if everything is nothing in one second. Suddenly there’re no before and after. There’s no time. Space is unlimited, and it is not surrounded by walls. History and time vanish in one shot. Toddlers point at objects they see. Maybe they’re not interested in what those are. They are just fascinated by making them become an illusion. Let us say we don’t know about Adam and Eve story in the Garden of Eden. Nonetheless, I know this much that I was born on such a date. I entered this world at some point. I was born in time and space in some location in a country in the world. This became my world. People are getting old and sick and dying around me. Before I know my cute days come to an end. No matter how many times I throw myself on floors, and hear one of my parents say, honey are you alright, I soon realize my cute days now belong to my little sister or brother? I grow fast and forget about the fact that my parents are rapidly going gray and getting old. I want to hold on to the past, but before I know, I’m ready to graduate from high school and I’m in my first year at college. Change is the only thing I see forgetting that things as well as I change in time too. Calendars become reality of every day and the history of my life is written. I’m reminded of my age by myself, folks, and relatives. ‘Act your age’ is what I hear till I’m eighty years old. I feel I’m already in a coffin, which I don’t have to be in one. This person has not even reached seventy and he is told by his wife to get ready to sell the house and look for 50+ residential places for the elderly. Do something about your valuables, things you have cherished all your life. We should be ready for the grave. We can’t dump all the responsibilities on our children for our burial or cremation. Where am I going after I’m dead? Don’t worry so much. If you believe in karma, you’ll come back either to this world or another, of course, not another planet, based on what you have done in this world. If you believe in the God of the Abrahamic Religions, then you shall be judged by the supreme judge of all. But who asked to come to this world to be ripping what I sowed in my past life or to be judged? I’m thrown into this ocean of time and I’m not free from this past and the future. I’m stuck here. I feel we have been selected to be dropped into this abyss of nothingness. What if I were able to stop the earth from moving, would there be time still?  However, I forget the fact that the earth is not the only reality that has been moving for millions of years, but the whole universe and the atoms are also have been in motion, perhaps they have always been that way from eternity. It is a bit scary, to think this way.  A ball moves from ‘A’ to ‘B’. The question is: how long did it take? The element of time is present here as you can see. Did time also change?  I asked someone the same question and the answer was: Time, I think, doesn’t move. Things that move are the arms in a clock, then again I don’t know. However, in our everyday conversation we talk as if time is also moving. But what is time? We treat this abstract idea as if it is an agent or a person. For example, we say, time will tell. Does time speak? Time went by, really?  Ben Franklin believed life was made of time. He told us not to squander time; because this is the stuff life is made of. I waste things like food or money. But how can I waste that which is not tangible? How can an abstract idea make my life? Was our good friend Ben aware of these philosophical intricacies? It seems we have quantified time and turned it into an idol. It is said that what we do in life, echoes in eternity. (The movie, the gladiator) Of course, we knew about this long before it was used in the movie. As we know, time and eternity are not proportional. Nonetheless, they meet in a cross. Cross is an ancient sign or symbol. There’re scholars who trace it back to the Religion of Jainism in India. If we were to make a cross out of wood and create a rotating device in the center of it, once it is connected to a standing rod, we can easily spin it, clock wise or counter clock wise for that matter. If we decide to spin it clock wise and set fire to each tip before we start, given the formation of the smoke following each tip, we have what it was called ‘Swastika’, which is the original symbol. If we spin the cross counter clock wise, then what we have is the same image but in a mirror, which is not the traditional one. These two can easily be confused. The former was the symbol of Samsara, which literally means ‘running together’. In Hinduism it means “the endless series of births, deaths, and rebirths to which all beings are subject”.  (The Random House, College Dictionary). For some strange reason this sacred sign was turned around and became the symbol of Arian race, which put it mildly, it didn’t match what had been the belief of millions of Hindus for thousands of years. Nazi movement was domed to destruction according to Hindu saintly figures, because of its tampering with the sacred symbol, while claiming to clear off the whole of Europe from non-Arian race. This contradiction was bound to catch up with Nazi movement which was responsible for the death of millions of innocent people, which had nothing to do with the religion of the Jewish people or the death of Jesus in their hands, which is totally absurd.
This symbol was also used  by the Romans for crucifixion. Was there a connection between the real meaning of Swastika and crucifixion? Ideas have always been subject to misuse, abuse, and misinterpretation, whether by the Romans or the Nazis.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) almost went into history as an anti-Semitic thinker, and thanks to some great scholars, he was vindicated and exonerated later on. In fact it was his sister who had anti-Semite ideas not his brother, who even broke off his friendship with Richard Wagner (1813-83) over this matter.
We have drifted away from the cyclical idea of the cross. Some scholars go so far to relate the original meaning of cross to the resurrection of Jesus after the three days. This is based on the idea that Christianity somehow was influenced by Hinduism, which had reached Egypt and later Greece thousands of years ago. Remember, a circle is the sign of eternity. An oval, in contrast, is the symbol of time. When you hold a ring, what you have is a circle. When you tilt it a bit, you have an oval reality, which in Latin is ‘ovum’ or egg, or elliptical shape. (Webster’s new world dictionary) Circle gives you the vertical aspect of a cross and oval provides you with the horizontal reality of the material world, or a perspective. It gives you eternity and oval directs you towards time and change.
Time is like energy, namely, we know about its functionality but we’re ignorant of its essence or whatness.  What is time? Is different from, what does time can do? Time is an abstract reality. So is mathematics. We’re able to tell the locations of some planets through it even though we can’t observe them. For instance, evil exists, but has no substantiality. (St. Augustine) It is like a hole in my shirt. Although my shirt is a brand new one, but there’s a hole in it, a defect as it was made in the factory. I still have that shirt. What did I do about the hole? Very simply I found a nice big size button and saw it right on top of the hole. Don’t ask me how I did it. I just did. I learned this from the lecture of a professor, who was speaking of St Augustine’s idea of good and evil.
Time is also a reality, though it is like the hole we talked about, but it exists. It may not be absolute, but it is real. Does it have a mental existence? We’ll get to it later in this article. The whole universe of reality is in motion and this can’t occur without time, which itself is not moving. Perhaps it was the philosophy of Hegel (1770-1831), the German philosopher that made 19th century to become so involved with time and history. It seems with Hegel transcendence becomes so mixed with time and history that its reality gets compromised. It is like we have Pantheism(everything or all is God) or Panentheism  (everything or all is plunged into God) (Nasr) all over again after the philosopher Spinoza (1632-77) . It is as if Hegel thought this was the best way to solve the problem raised by Rene Descartes (1596-1650), that is, the separation between mind and body, namely, having two different substances. We know once we separate mind and body, death is the result. Perhaps, distinction is better word.
Spinoza thought Pantheism was the solution, which cost him excommunication from the Jewish community.
Hegel broke the wall between noumenon and phenomenon and unified mind and body by just bringing transcendence and immanence together. After all, these two terms are to be one, God being both at the same time. Let us say, if we had the power to stop the movement of the earth, time is not going to disappear, because the whole universe is in motion. Can we stop the universe from changing and moving? The most important question, however, is: How can there be motion, if there’s no rest?
Let us look at the following passage from the Bible:
“And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day and the darkness he called Night. (Genesis 1:3)
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:1) (J. Marmysz, The path of philosophy, p.4)
According to Genesis, even God had to take a rest on the 7th day, namely, Saturday, after He created the heaven and the earth plus a few others in six days, given the fact that week days begin on Sunday.
Can we say that the whole universe of being began to move only when God rested? This personal God is not subject to becoming, change, and motion. Movement belongs to the realm of imperfections, opinions, opposites, contradictions, time, space, history, and relativity. God seems to be conveying a message that unless He is at rest, the whole universe and everything in it, will not move. Motion and rest go hand in hand, that is, one wouldn’t make any sense without the other from our perspective.
We live in the world of contrasts. The Ultimate Reality, however, is not a personal God. It is beyond rest and motion and all dualities. It is One. If it is beyond rest and motion, then it can’t be at rest. And since it is not at rest, the question is: How can the universe be in motion? We’re left with the fact that from the point of the view of the Ultimate Reality the world is nothing or it is an illusion or perhaps it is like a dream.
In the movie, Mrs. Sundance (1973), she looks back at the time she lived with her parents and the rest of the family. She found the house she was born in. The house, of course, was left to ruin. She went from one room to another remembering the past. She saw the little grave yard with the tomb stones. This was also expressed in a movie called, ‘How the west was won’. As the people migrated from east to west, they confronted many difficulties. They lost their loved ones and mothers lost their sons in the Civil War. They remembered the past and wept. Yes, this Shiva figure or time heals and destroys. We’re so driven that gradually we tend to forget what we cherished once, because life takes us to all different directions. We’re sandwiched between the past or its regrets and the future or its anxieties such that we have no time to even acknowledge the presence of the passing moments. We constantly worry about the future and its unknown character. On the other hand, we keep using the kind of grammar, which is very negative and pessimistic like for example when someone says: I wish I had changed my major earlier. Now it is too late to do anything about it. I’m sure I would have done a lot better, if I had a chance to go to Kaplan before I took my medical school exam.
Look at the psychological effects of this way of thinking on our mind. We’re tossed into the world with time that is everywhere and is playing the role of God in our life. Not only is time not God, but it is like the hole in my shirt. It exists but we shouldn’t let it run our lives. We ought to make the best of it and then keep our distance from this double edged sword. It depends on how we use time to our advantage before it has a chance to consume us. Killing time is when time is eating us alive. By watching so many hours of T.V or playing games on the computer or waste a lot of time on our cell phones idle chatting ,we let precious time destroy us. And yet time can become a valuable asset, if we use it to our advantage. It heals if we let it, and it can also ruin our lives, if we allow it. So, good old Ben was right when he said, don’t squander time, this is the stuff life is made of.
We go through stages of life as we get older. It is almost as if we’re in a movie theater where after each episode the stage changes behind the curtain. In the first show this six year’s old little girl is in the kitchen learning from her mom how to prepare the dough in order to make bake cake. Of course, certain events occur during this time. The next stage is when she is married with two children as her parents look gray and older. These stages are made ahead of time and all we see is when one stage rotates and the next appears.  All these stages of life are engulfed by time while we’re longing for eternity and try so hard not to let the good time pass so quickly, which they do any way. We say later on, good old days. When times are rough, we tend to wish them to speed up and go away as fast as possible, as if we control time. Time is moving like a tread mill and if we don’t resist, we are gone as if we were in a river. We try to swim to the opposite direction, but to no avail. This world only let you have a little taste of eternity and then we have to face the reality that we’re in this world. In the air ports we have the opposite of tread mill movement in the middle of the long passage ways. We can get on the moving forward, wide rubber belts, with our luggage to get to the end of the corridor faster. There’re times we see people walking or running on them. Time is going any way, then why are we hurrying? You noticed we have been using time here as if it is an agent while it is not. However, this is common in our every day conversations. Years ago we had a commercial in which the actor would say; let us not drink our wine before its time. So, let us not die before its time.
Just like history, time can be subjective and objective. When I say, time went by so quickly, because I had a lot to do, I know very well that this is my assessment of the passage of time, which is subjective. It is like saying, when a room is empty, it echoes and looks big. When it is not, it looks small and doesn’t echo at all. When you’re busy, time flies, and when you’re not, time drags. What is going on here? Therefore, time has a lot to do with the way we experience it.
May be time and space are just categories of our mind. (Kant) It is possible that there’s no substantiality in time like we said before when talked about the hole in a shirt. It is almost like the rules of morality among people. We need to know what is good and what is bad, what is good and what is evil so we can organize our life around them. These rules are very much like the lights at the intersections. God has created time and everything in it. The Ultimate Reality is beyond time and space. Time and motion could be nothing but illusions. May be beyond our five senses there’s no time.
If Kant was right, these a priori categories are innate and born with us. Our mind is equipped with idea of time, so we can then experience the world around us and gain knowledge. Our mind basically colors the world with time and space, according to Kant. Unless we already have time as one of the categories of our mind, we’re unable to experience motion or change in our world. If time is the measure of motion, then it would make sense to think of it as being independent of movement and becoming. Kant’s subjectivism here teaches us not to take time as objective as we once thought it was.
Whether time is subjective or objective or both or neither, we can’t deny the fact that it runs our life. We think about our past memories with regret and satisfaction. If we had good memories, we regret they didn’t endure and went by so quickly. Why the good times didn’t last? If we have bad memories, we’re so glad the bad times didn’t continue.
How can the subjective time of Kant be absolute? Isaac Newton (1642-1727), the British physicist and mathematician argued that both time and space are absolute. Perhaps there is no objective time and space to begin with. Let us say we’re equipped with our mind’s categories so we can experience the world around us. For instance, if my mind lacks the category of causality, then I can’t know what happens in the world, according to Kant. He argued that we don’t learn about cause and effect by just experiencing and observing what occurs before us. Kant refuted David Hume’s argument exactly on this point. Kant pulls back into rationalism to find the answer within his own mind. He believed our knowledge starts with experience but it doesn’t come from it. Our knowledge, in other words, is not rooted in experience. Experience somehow induces the labor so the baby of knowledge is born. Then reason takes over and put things together so they make sense. We experience time because we’re already hard wired with the category of time and space. We have been, let us say, wearing a pair of glasses that can change color for each category since we were born. Even though it sounds odd, Kant’s position here somewhat reminds me of Plato’s philosophy of Forms. In other words, we don’t come into this world carrying nothing on our souls.
This is totally different from John Locke, the British empiricist, who argued that when we enter this life our mind is like a blank tablet. Whatever, we know is from this realm. In other words, we have no innate ideas what so ever.
Of course, Kant was not a Platonist. Nevertheless, he didn’t believe we arrive here unprepared and unequipped. Kant didn’t believer we had lived before we were born. He never argued that we’re reborn or reincarnated as Plato did. But nonetheless, at one point he had said that even if we didn’t perfect our moral duties in this world, we could do that in the next life. I have not seen this in his writings; however I have heard it mentioned by a professor of philosophy lecturing on Kant’s philosophy.
What is time finally? I tend to agree with Immanuel Kant up to certain point. Perhaps there is no reality to time just like St. Augustine’s notion of evil, which has no substantiality. It is like a hole in my short which still exists.
In one interpretation, God or the Holy Spirit, namely, Geist ended up becoming time with Hegel. While for Kant, who had came before Hegel, the same time is what we have been born with in order to experience the world around us. Perhaps from Hegel’s perspective we can observe life with our third eye or God (time) within us. Does this make sense?
Time and motion are illusions to Hindus. They’re Maya in Hinduism. As a non-Hindu I can think of time as nothing but an abstraction. If the Ultimate Reality or Brahman is beyond being and non-being and rest and motion, then this world of change and becoming can’t exist.
The personal God of the Bible has to rest in order for what He had created to be in motion. Once the whole universe began to move, then we needed to measure it by time. In the presence of the Ultimate Reality or Brahman in Hinduism, the entirety of life is only an illusion. We’re nothing before the Ultimate Reality. I woke up this morning and remembered I had a dream of a butterfly. I wondered, however, whether I was dreaming of this butterfly or I was in the butterfly’s dream. (A Chinese sage)  What is really going on here?  May be life is but a dream.
What is space? “ One of the things that reason tells us, according to Plato, is that the  “world of becoming”—the world of sight and sound, feel and smell—requires space in which to unfold. Space is not something that we can see, taste, touch, or feel in itself, but nevertheless it is something that logically must exist in order for the things in the sensory world to exist. Space is like the ointment maker’s base substance. It remains hidden while allowing particular properties to become manifest in the world. All physical objects that come into being do so only insofar as they occupy a particular location. If space didn’t exist, then physical objects would not exist. Because our physical world depends on the Pre- existence of this spatial, non-physical reality, spatial reality is, therefore, more foundational than the physical objects it allows to be. Yet we could never know space simply through observation. If we never attempted to abstract away from the phenomena of sense, using the powers of the mind to figure out the logical conditions that make those phenomena possible, then we would never understand the reality that underlies the physical world around us. For this reason Plato tells us that the study of abstract sciences dealing with spatial reality, like geometry, are at a higher level of sophistication than those dealing with merely gross, physical reality. In this he claimed that the underlying unity of the world could be expressed in terms of geometrical and mathematical formulas. Mathematical order is more stable, lasting, and therefore more real. Because we can explain the physical world by reference to the nonphysical world of geometry and mathematics, the visible world around us must be dependent on non-sensible realm of numbers and geometrical laws.” (J. Marmysz, ‘The path of philosophy’, p. 46) Of course, what we just mentioned in regard to Plato’s idea of space is a quotation from the above referred book by the author. Ideally we could quote what Plato himself wrote in his dialogue.
Sometimes space is defined by an object standing by itself like , for instance, Washington monument in Washington D.C. Another example could be the beautiful mosque looking building in India called, Taj Mahal. What sticks up defines the space around it. Space is also defined by what surrounds it, very much like an empty barrel, which defines what is in it. Taoist temples are like caves in the belly of mountains in China. The vacuums in them teach us what the Tao, which is pronounced as the Dao, is all about. Empty space represents the existence of the Tao. However, it seems space adopts different meanings as we perceive and conceive it.
Our mind has a lot to do with our perception of time and space. Buddha urged his followers to purify their minds. Once our consciousness is purified from the negative karmas or actions, then we see the world in a different way. Through intensive meditation Buddha became enlightened. And once he reached this goal, the reality beyond the apperences was revealed to him. Using Plato’s allegory of the cave, Buddha was able to get out of the cave. Perhaps time and space lost their meanings once he saw the reality of what Kant named ‘noumenon’.  He possibly realized time and space belonged to our world, because in the final analysis there is only one reality and that is the One without any duality. Who knows, may be Plato was right in thinking that we must have known the reality of time and space before we entered this life. Otherwise it would be very difficult to experience what we observe in this realm. We ought to remember the past, unlike the Freudian method, which only goes as far as our childhood.
For Buddha we should introspect and meditate in order to be able to purify our minds. It is then and only then that we can have some knowledge of what time and space are and whether they exist at all.
What is history? It is “The study of past events, especially the political, social, and economic development of a country or nation.” (Oxford, Advanced Learner’s Dictionary) In Greek it means ‘learned’, an account of what has happened, esp. in the life of a people, country, etc and all recorded past events. (Webster’s New World Dictionary). History, in a nut shell, is the records of the events occurred in time. It is about learning or the knowledge of what has happened in the past. So history and time are interwoven. Time is more general, because it covers past, present, and future. History, in contrast, concerns events that have gone with the wind, using the title of Margaret Mitchell (1900-49), the American novelist. Things happen in time. Events are taking place now and as I type, they’re becoming part of the past. I can do nothing to change them once they’re gone. I can learn from my experiences and try not to repeat my mistakes.
When Jesus appeared to Thomas, his body still had the stigmata of the crucifixion and the right side of his torso, which had been opened by a soldier’s lancer. Job’s children were never raised from death. God didn’t change history. Nevertheless, Christ raised Lazarus from death, even though he died later on for some complication. Jesus himself, according to the Christian dogma, also died on the cross and was resurrected after three days. Perhaps God wanted to show us He is not slave to time and history. But did the God of Genesis create time? Well, it is a good question to which we have no answer. Nonetheless, He says in Genesis that He created. This is a past tense. In Latin, the word ‘tense’ means time. This alone is an indication that creation took place in time. Remember this narrative or story was related for us, because there’s no time and history for the Ultimate Reality. We’re, yet again, faced with the fact that time is an abstract and mind bound reality. It exists and yet has no substantiality. There’s no past, present, and future for the non-dualistic reality of the Ultimate. We’re in the realm of many not the One. We’re born in time and die in time. We get old from the time we’re conceived, whether we like it or not. Even the mother’s eggs and father’s sperms are in the process of getting old before conception. Bear in mind, as we move and change, we get old. No one is getting younger.
Old and new have no meaning in the cyclical notion of reality. Time becomes immaterial. We’re in this torture chamber called the world, locked up between the past and the future trying to make sense out of the present reality.
We come into this world equipped with five senses, which are plugged into the wall of the impermanent reality. We have absolutely no idea what reality is once the five senses are unplugged. May be there’s no truth to time and history. We make an attempt to fight the aging process to no avail.
Perhaps Pythagoras was wrong in thinking that numbers were transcendent realities. However, Plato believed it was true. Who knows what the truth is all about? It is possible that Parmenides along with the ancient Hindus were right in arguing that motion and time were nothing but illusions.
Hegel believed movement was the result of conflicts in history. We have thesis and anti-thesis, which results in a synthesis, namely, becoming. What is being in itself? It is nothing. So, being is the thesis and non-being is the anti-thesis, and their synthesis is becoming. For instance, we have Plato here as thesis, who is confronted by Aristotle as anti-thesis. The combination of the two will give us the synthesis, who is Plotinus (205?-270?), the Roman philosopher. He was born in Egypt and was the founder of Neo-Platonism. (The Random House, Biographical Dictionary.)  In the third century A.D, the Church fathers reached the conclusion that Jesus was fully man and fully God. This is a contradictory statement, given the Aristotelian logic. Nevertheless, this was regarded as a paradox. What is a paradox? It is “a statement or proposition seemingly self-contradictory or absurd but in reality, expressing a possible truth.” (The Random House, College Dictionary)           
Hegel tried to resolve this contradiction, by using a neither/nor logic, that is, neither being and nor non-being, therefore, becoming. Becoming carries within itself both being and non-being. Hegel, of course, was not the one who used this formula of thesis, anti-thesis, and synthesis in his philosophy of history. Some scholars, however, believe Hegel made Geist or the Holy Spirit, a subject of time and history, at the risk of losing its transcendence in the process.
On the other hand, conflicts were never the moving engine of history in the past. In fact  it was vice versa, namely, it had always been the case that movement and change produced conflicts, not the other way around.
In Hinduism we have something similar to Christ, as God entering in the stream of time and history except the fact that cyclical reality prevented the Hindus from falling into such a problem, which Hegel had to face. Jesus to Hindus is regarded as an Avatar of Vishnu. Nevertheless, Krishna, the incarnation of Vishnu, and Jesus had two different destinies. To Hindus, as we mentioned before, time and history are illusions. But in linear understanding of history, time and history are of great significance without realizing that in reality nothing is linear in the universe any way. Therefore, the shortest distance between two points is not really straight line, as Euclid, the student of Plato, taught us more than two thousands years ago. Ironically, Euclid himself knew this was only an assumption or a postulate.  At the end of the day, everything seems to be cyclical in our universe. If time is cyclical, then history, which is the records of things passed, falls into the cyclical reality. In Hinduism, when the end of this cycle arrives, then there’s going to be a new cycle.  Kali, the Avatar or incarnation of Shiva, shall swallow the whole universe.
Einstein almost laughed at Isaac Newton’s idea of time and space being absolute.
All I know we’re decaying as the young ones are growing, whether in time or out of time. Movement and motion are real as we look through the window of common sense. The sun rises and set through the same window.
The ancient Hindus experienced the illusionary reality of time and motion through their spiritual discipline and intense meditation. Just as Copernicus discovered the fact of heliocentric reality of our cosmos in a macrocosm way, those great ancient seers and sages explored the microcosmic reality of their beings and reached what we take for granted. May be life would be easier, if we just consider time and history as real. Why do I feel sad when I look back at my memories of the past events in my life? What is this attachment, I experience, to the changing world?
What did Buddha feel when he saw the four sights? Was he a subjectivist like Kant? He couldn’t have been, because of the fact that he was able to penetrate the wall standing between him and the objective world. He simply became enlightened and saw the reality hidden behind the appearances. Apparently he pierced through the Berlin wall Emmanuel Kant saw between our phenomenal world and the noumenal realm. This is what the 19th century German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), was not able to understand or he just didn’t want to know about it. He tried to bring together the philosophy of Plato, Kant, and Hinduism. (J. MARMYSZ, THE PATH OF PHILOSOPHY, p. 282) Where are the similarities among them?
This article is not about Schopenhauer’s philosophy. However, it is noteworthy to mention that so far, we have not come across the most important similarity between what is discussed in Bhagavad-Gita of the Upanishad, composed between the 8th and 6th centuries and Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative. In the dialogue between Krishna, the Avatar or incarnation of Vishnu and Arjuna, Kant’s categorical imperative was somewhat anticipated. However, the main difference between the two is the fact that this was a dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna whereas there’s no God or god present when we read about Kant’s categorical imperative. Let us not forget that For Kant God was only a postulate or an assumption in his ethics. Karma yoga is a non-consequentialist project  in the Bhagavad-Gita or the song of the Lord. We ought to give without expectation for any results or consequences. This is very different from Karma, which is consequentialist and based on cause and effect. Karma falls into the hypothetical imperative while Karma yoga is close to Kant’s categorical imperative. Did Schopenhauer see this resemblance between Hinduism and Kant’s categorical imperative? Kant’s position here is also of non-consequentiality. Nonetheless, Kant’s imperative or commandment doesn’t come from God while Karma yoga does. You might argue that Hinduism is a Religion where as Kant’s is a philosophy. However, there was no separation between philosophy and religion in Hinduism. After Renaissance Religion, Philosophy, and Science went their own separate ways in Europe. Even if we regarded Kant as a religious thinker, like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, which he was not, we still would have problems with Kant’s philosophy.
Schopenhauer must have been fascinated by Buddha ideas in Dhammapada, the twin verse- canto I:  All the phenomena of existence have mind as their precursor, mind as their supreme leader, and of mind are they made. (Trans by Harischandra Kaviratna) This is not manmade ideas.
Schopenhauer was aware of Kant’s subjectivism and rationalism, in which mind is of great importance. Was Buddha reducing everything to mind, like what happened to Idealism in the west after Descartes? Not really! He didn’t have to face the Cartesian dualism like Descartes’ successors. Mind, to Buddha, doesn’t mean storage room of ideas. Buddha is simply saying that whatever exists in the universe is manifestation of the mind. In other words, if, for instance, mind is like the ocean, the world is like the crashing waves and surfs. Mind is the supreme leader of everything. They’re all made of mind.  “Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought.” (Trans by Sri Acharya Buddharakkhita) Is mind the Ultimate Reality? Is mind what the Hindus called ‘Brahman’? But Buddha is said to have refuted Brahman, or did he? Did he deny the existence of the Ultimate Reality or people’s opinions of what Brahman is? If everything is in the process of change and becoming, then what is the Reality that is not moving? From our point of view there must be something at rest in order for things to be in motion. Is mind that reality? But the Ultimate Reality is beyond rest and motion. If this is the case, then what justifies the change in this world? Buddha’s answer should obviously be, this world and everything in it are nothing bur illusions.
When it comes to time, Kant ,very cleverly, made it one of his 12 categories of our minds. He moved ‘time’ and ‘space’ away from the objective world and made them part of the reality of our mind. Then what is the reality of time in the world independent of my mind? I believe Kant would answer by saying that time is the property of our minds. Time, to him, is only a window through which we can make sense of the changing world we live in. We measure the movements of the objects around us by the tool of time, which is a given. Time organizes the world even if what it observes is not a fact in the outside world.
I got up in the middle of the night once with vertigo, which is some kind of dizziness, and I saw the whole room turning and spinning as fast as possible. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. Nevertheless, it made me pause, later on, to think that what I had experienced was deceiving my senses. Whether I experience the real world or not, time still is measuring the events of history. Of course, time does that but not as an agent. It is our rational faculties equipped with the categories among which time coordinates motions and historical events.
For the Hindus time and motion as well as historical events are illusions. For Buddhists, in contrast, motion is real at first. Time is expressed cyclically. Cyclical understanding of the passage of time is the sign of eternity. A circle represents eternity while that which is oval or elliptical manifests linearity or depth. However, from a non-commonsensical aspect, even linearity falls into the category of circularity, the earth being curved. Mathematically, nothing is straight in the universe, which means everything is pointing to eternity, not time. If there’s nothing at rest to measure motion with, then what is the meaning of change? If the Ultimate Reality is beyond rest and motion, then how can we explain movement and time around us? This is where Nagarjuna, the 2th century A.D Mahayana philosopher was right to say that there’s nothing in the river to step in. Those who believe we can never step into the same river twice, argue that motion is real. Cratylus, who was Heraclitus’ student, had correctly anticipated Nagarjuna. They both believe there’s nothing to step in.
All we have is an idea of time in our mind whereas in reality there’s an absence of time. As you can see, there’s some similarity between Kant’s understanding of time and Buddha’s. Time, to Buddha, is like a hole, though is nothing in itself, nevertheless, it exists. It is like St. Augustine’s idea of evil, which has no substantiality but exists. By the way, what time is it? It is 5:50 am, the second of August 2018.


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