A different perception of time

“Today there is a wide measure of agreement, which on the physical side of science approaches almost to unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter; we are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail it as a creator and governor of the realm of matter… “

Sir James Jeans, The Mysterious Universe, p. 137,  1937

I’ve pondered on the meaning of life and death since I was a child.  What is the purpose of our birth?  Why are we born?  Why have I always felt that there is more to life than just our one-dimensional experience of it?  Why do I feel that the universe is a living being, that it pulses and throbs?  Why do other-worldly experiences occur?  What generates them?

I can’t imagine a time when I haven’t felt or thought about these philosophical questions, particularly death, however it wasn’t until my husband died that not only did death become personal, but also that rather unexpectedly my perception and understanding of time underwent a paradigm shift.

The event which prefaced this shift began when I woke from sleep with an unexpected feeling of foreboding.  As the day wore on the foreboding not only increased in intensity, it seemed to seep into my being until it reached a crescendo.  When that occurred, I stopped in the middle of what I was doing and saw what appeared to be a great dark mass on the horizon moving toward me; this was not physical phenomena but a vision.

The foreboding, which obviously acted as an alarm, occurred in response to the threat of danger which was looming over me, and I knew that something terrible was going to happen to someone close to me that I loved.  I also knew instinctively that I had absolutely no control over what was going to occur, that I could not change the impact, that I could not prevent it.  It was of a power or force beyond this world, and nothing here was equal to or greater than it.

Not even thinking at the time that it might be regarding my husband, I contacted my son, warning him to be careful as I feared an imminent accident.  Although shaken, the next couple of days passed uneventfully and I began to wonder whom the vision referred to because all seemed well.

I was at work when I received a phone call from the hospital.  My husband had been admitted with a broken arm.  Diagnostics revealed metastasized cancer which had spread to his bones and brain.  Up until the time when he fell and broke his arm, there had been no indication of anything being medically wrong.  The diagnosis was terminal, he had twelve months at best.  I realised then that the vision wasn’t warning me about my son, it was warning me about my husband.

My husband died in my arms 11 months after being diagnosed and since then I have frequently reflected not only on the nature and circumstances of his death, but on the vision which pre-heralded it.  It was not just knowing that I had to relinquish any possibility of trying to control the situation so as to change the outcome, it was something else as well.

I learnt that when you experience a present moment such as this that there is no future as such, because when you see events that are to come to pass you are actually standing in the present looking back at the past; you ‘see’ them because they’ve already occurred.  It’s a complete contradiction and one which stretches the mind.

The event has already happened because it’s able to be seen and nothing can change what it is or what its outcome is.  Because it has already happened, everyone involved simply goes through the motions until they catch up with time.  It’s like watching the pre-screening of a movie prior to it being released to the general public; you know the characters, you know the story-line, and you know how it ends.  What’s more, you know it before everyone else does and the fact that you’ve seen it before them doesn’t change any aspect of the movie, how can it?  The movie is an event, much like a spiritual vision or a precognitive experience is.  Seeing it before others, knowing the characters, the story-line and how it ends cannot change what occurs in the movie.  All it means is that you’ve seen it before others have and in truth, it’s a done deal; there’s no escaping, there’s no wishing it won’t happen.

I have pondered on this one event, this spiritual vision, deeply and continuously since it occurred.  It challenged my understanding and sense of time, it challenged the notion of what ‘the future’ meant as I had been taught, and it challenged the notion of being able to ‘change the future so as to change the present’.  I am not a quantum physicist or a scientist, and I cannot explain in such terms what happened, I only have the lived experience of it.  But what I do know is that there are immense forces at work, forces which we don’t understand, forces which are perhaps beyond our comprehension.

Such events invite us to consider ourselves and our existence from an alternate perspective and to perhaps reflect on the words of the English physicist and mathematician Sir James Jeans who wrote that the universe is more like a highly organised mind, than a machine.

Michele T Knight Written by:

Dr Michele Knight is a Social Worker, Social Scientist, researcher and independent scholar. Her interest and research in the end-of-life has its origin in the lived experiences of her own bereavements, her near-death and shared-death events, the returning deceased and attitudinal responses to those experiences. Since 2006, she has been extensively involved in community development, support and advocacy in both a professional and community services/voluntary capacity in the areas of bereavement and grief, hospital pastoral care, and academic lecturing/tutoring. Her PhD, Ways of Being: The alchemy of bereavement and communique, explores the lived experience of bereavement, grief, spirituality and unsought encounters with the returning deceased.

Comments are closed.