Time – linear or psychological – in relation to spiritual growth

I had a busy day yesterday. The General Council of the Theosophical Society stands to make some decisions which, if accepted, will change it into an autocratic organisation I no longer want to be a member of. But since those decisions haven’t been made yet, now is action time. (*)

So I’ve written about my decision making process online in several places. In those posts I’ve described how first I came to one realization and then made that decision and then did such and such.

In writing in Germanic languages like English it makes sense to use sequential statements. This implicitly strengthens a sense of linear time.

In this post I have bolded all words relating to time.

I’ve used words which describe linear time in the practical sense – and words that describe time in a psychological sense. Today is Friday, yesterday was Thursday. That’s time as we know it and there’s no escaping it. I also think it’s fair to say that time in this sense is true. It is valid to talk about Thursday as yesterday when it’s Friday.

But when I said that one insight followed another as I did in a few posts on forums and community sites yesterday, I wasn’t speaking the strict truth.

I can’t really remember which insight followed which. I was up most of the night between Wednesday and Thursday anyhow, and who can remember the order of insights that happen during the night?

So my writing wasn’t factual as far as the order of the conclusions and insights I drew.

However, there’s more to it than that. I’m not sure these insight had a particular order to them. As I pondered the situation various aspects of it presented themselves to my conscious mind. That’s what one might call an insight: a way of looking at something which seems to suddenly clarify things. But I’ve long known that an insight doesn’t just happen – it’s merely that the unconscious is for some reason ready to make an aspect of a situation or problem clear to the conscious mind.

Notice that I didn’t use any words relating to time in the previous paragraph – except for one, but that one got denied earlier in the sentence.

In complicated psychological processes linear time isn’t a meaningful concept. Various forces in the person interact, perhaps fight, take in new information, look at something from various if not all sides and a conclusion is reached. The conclusion might be located in time. I’m not even sure. Perhaps it depends on the process in question. The action following from the conclusion is located in time though. This is where we get back to ordinary clock time.

On Fridays I usually write about Blavatsky. This is cyclical time: every Friday the same pattern. Blavatsky wrote about time too. She didn’t have the psychological terminology I have at my disposal because it hadn’t been invented yet. She did however note about visions that:

a seer may perceive objects and scenes (whether past, present or future) which have no relation whatever to himself; and perceive, moreover, several things entirely disconnected with each other at one and the same time, so as to produce the most grotesque and absurd combinations. But drunkard and seer, medium and adept see their respective visions in the astral light; only while the drunkard, the madman, and the untrained medium, or one in a brain fever, see, because they cannot help it, and evoke jumbled visions unconsciously to themselves without being able to control them, the adept and the trained Seer have the choice and the control of such visions. They know where to fix their gaze, how to steady the scenes they wish to observe, and how to see beyond the upper outward layers of the astral light. With the former such glimpses into the waves are hallucinations; with the latter they become the faithful reproduction of what actually has been, is, or will be taking place. The glimpses at random, caught by the medium, and his flickering visions in the deceptive light, are transformed under the guiding will of the adept and seer into steady pictures, the truthful representation of that which he wills to come within the focus of his perception.

In other words: in the spiritual adept (or master) the conscious mind puts the visions in order. In a similar way normal (mentally reasonably healthy) people put their thoughts in order. Let’s be honest: our own thoughts are often enough of a jumble. We don’t need visions in the mix.

There are two sides to this. On the one hand it is often helpful to force thoughts into conscious linear time. This is why keeping a journal is such a great tool for gaining self knowledge.

On the other hand our unconscious is actually quite smart on its own. When it comes to difficult decisions it’s a good idea to just let all the information sink in and make a decision after a good nights sleep (or several). I’ve also noticed in my teaching practice (I used to be quite a good math tutor) that however hard a student works, it often just takes time for the concepts to sink in. I had one student who did several years of pre-college math in one year. He barely passed the final test. That was partly because he had had such a short time to get all that information in. After a summer of relaxing he did quite well in college: his brain had been working while he had been relaxing and had understood things that he hadn’t yet for the test.

The unconscious can only do this, however, if we supply it with the right food. In the case of my student the food was the hard work at the math problems he had put in. On a spiritual path the general advice is to just read a line of some spiritual book before bed time each night.

(*) Formerly at: http://www.squidoo.com/theosophical-organisation-08

One thought on “Time – linear or psychological – in relation to spiritual growth”

  1. Nisargardatta and Buddha made a big deal about being fooled by the concept of time. Time may be a social convention to order events, that inherently don’t have order. There have been attempts made to develop a physics without time. And of course, Einstein talked about space-time as the invariant, not time alone. In a spiritually practical sense, the concept of time keeps us in the conceptual realm and away from timeless realm of the eternal now where the Self, God, Love, Unity reside.

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