Sufism and New Physics
by Professor Arthur Kane Scot

from Vol. 7, No. 1

The Hidden Treasure that
Loved to Be Known

by Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid

from Vol. 8, No. 3

The Meaning of Time,
Part Two

by Arife Ellen Hammerle
from Vol. 8, No. 2

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The Meaning of Time, Part One
by Arife Ellen Hammerle
It has been understood among the theologians, philosphers and scientists that time and space are interrelated phenomena. These great thinkers have searched for meanings embedded in different paradigms of thought. St. Augustine wrote

eloquent and rich texts of meaning about time, inspired by his connection and devotion to God. His work is based on his contemplation of the meaning as derived from scriptural texts. In this article I attempt to understand time by returning to the ancient wisdom of St. Augustine and the wise and glorious teachers of Sufism. St. Augustine wrote about the change of perception from a limited time-space Newtonian concept to the evolutionary and transforming understanding of post-modern thought. This reflects his consciousness although unfortunately it became mired in and hidden by the religious teachings of his time. This paper will explore his awareness of time as articulated throughout several of his books. Based on St. Augustine's teachings, it seems that conscious awareness of time can be integrated through spiritual devotional experience. The teachings of the great Sufis are included precisely because they relfect the eternal rules of the existence as they relate to universal unity beyond limited time. I also include aspects of my own experience and awareness through comtemplation and meditation on the subject of time.

I wonder about the mystery of time from within my being as did St. Augustine. What does time mean? The answer to this inquiry seems to lie at the heart of the question. For what is time? Who can explain it easily and briefly? Who can grasp this and offer a verbal explanation of it? If the present must exist, such that it passes over into the past, then how can we say that it is? The logic of St. Augustine is revealed once we recognize that time exists, then we become conscious so that it stops being; that is to say, we say that time exists only because it naturally moves into nonexistence by passing from future into present into past. It semms that the heart of the question reveals timeless eternity in unity with time as the past, present and future. St. Augustine explored the depths of the meaning of time in many of his works. His writing elucidate an understanding of the above questions that is representative of consciousness beyond that cultivated by the general mythology of his time. He elucidated an important philosophical point, namely that time exists only in the present and did not exist before creation. He opened up the mysterious realm of knowledge beyond the limitations of the objective or sensory based paradigms of knowledge.

Time is measured by our quantification of it as a real entity into long and short, day and night. St. Augustine asserted that time measured according to the day, sun, moon or stars is not a fact but rahter they are merely signs of the movements of the sun from east to west. However, once the human being experiences the conclusion of an event, time does not stop. "I see then that time is some sort of extension" (Augstine, 1964, p. 236). Time is an extension of mental events. According to St. Augustine, God is prior to all time and of all time as the eternal creator. Man was first created in time and did not exist before time. "The distinguishing mark between time and eternity is that the former does not exist without some movement and change, while in the later there is no change at all. . . .The fact is that the world was made simultaneously with time, if, with creation, motion and change began" (Augustine, 1958, p. 211-2). He stated: "I see dawn: I foretell that the sun will rise. What I see is present, what I foretell is future; not that the sun is future-it exists now but rather its rising which is not yet occurring." (Augustine, 1964, p. 232-233) Augustine proceeded to conclude that the future cannot yet exist or be seen, it is merely predicted by the image of the past in the present.

Throughout his writings, St. Augustine reviewed the scriptural explanation of the creation of heaven and earth. At the moment of creation time exists. He explained that the day and night are the light and dark, as alternating movements in time. He then concluded that the world was created together with time, but not in time. Twilight turns into morning when our knowledge turns toward the love of the Creator. Light and day represent the unchangeable and timeless knowledge of God. HOwever, he believed that the human being's knowledge is "as dim as twilight" (Augustine, 1958, p. 213) compared to that of the Creator. St. Augustine searched to discover the light of God through his contemplation of the scriptures. This light has a quality that is timeless or beyond the limitations of time as defined and confined into day, night, past, present, future, etc.

St. Augustine sought God's guidance and light in order to understand the meaning of time. He remains humble in seeking to know the meaning of time by remembering his own insignificance in the breath of awareness granted by understanding the meaning of imte. "In the inward man dwells truth. If you find that you are by natuer mutuable, transcend yourself. But remember in doing so that you must also transcend yourself even as a reasoning soul. Make for the place where the light of reason is kindled (August, 1966, p.xvii). St. Augustine's cosmology is a complex theory of the unity of matter and form within the human being. Therefore, the human being is in the process of becoming; which seems similar to Platonic assertions of virtue and wisdom. "For the light is God himself . . . .When therefore, it [soul] is thus carried off and, after being withdrawn from the sense of the body, is made present to this vision in a more perfect manner (not by a spatial relation, but in a way proper to its being), it also sees above itself that Light in whose illumination it is enabled to see all the objects that it sees and understands in itself (Augustine, 1964, p. 97).

St. Augustine reveals an awareness that light transcends space and time. time is something because we can measure it based on its passing. Augustine eloquently analyzes the fact that all that exists is time passion; not the past, present or future. If we measure silence it is intervals in space and time. As it proceeds, whether it is linear, circular or spherical is of little consequence, because the cycle reflects the fact that the future continuously fades into the present then into the past and eternally is a wave of time. (See Augustine, 1961, p.203-205). All actions and life itself are composed of part of the whole exsistence.

In order to fully understand the teachings of St. Augustine within my inner contemplation of the meaning of time, I have come to understand that time is the intersection between the univers and the human being in a timeless dimension of space. When I sit and imagine the creative moment when the univers came into being there is a sense of transcending any temporal sense of time that limits my being. IN this moment of self-reflection I am struck with an awesome and profound wave of conscious self-awareness of the existence of timelessness. When I engage from within my own center of my being I become connected to a web of life interwoven into the fabric of cosmological eternity. "The birth of the universe means not only the birth of all elementary particles of the univers and not only the birth of all light and energy of the universe, it also means the birth of the space and time of the universe" (Swimme, 1996, p.85). This inquiry leads me to the study of time as a fundamental aspect of consciousness to derive meaning through knowledge witnessing this with conscience.

Every human being, whether St. Augustine or another person devoted to abstract knowledge, is inextricably linked together as a multifaceted jewel; at the center is the universal divine illumination which is timeless because it is always immeasurably and imperceptibly present. The center is surrounded by a field of life in which we are embedded. Whether we talk about light, space, time, energy or matter, we are talking about the source of energy that links all creatures together. This link is a wisdom
. . .

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. . . to be continued.

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Angha, Moulana Shah Maghsoud. (1975). The Hidden Angles of Life. Pomona Multidisciplinary Publications.
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Article: Ghotbeddin, Hazrat Mir. Harmony and Understanding. Sufism Journal, Vol. VII, No. 4, 10-11.