Time is a Holy Substance

By Dustin Pickering

If any diagram were even to suggest my meaning, it would be a spiral, with unity to begin with, a spiral enlarging itself as a consequence of its selective open-ness to the press it responds to. The image of rings of growth in a tree would be helpful if they did not suggest more or less even growth around a center, when in fact concrescence witnesses to the fact of its uneven career in the environment. Thus, the ground for affirming the continuity of the datum-person (a) with the subsequent growth now (b) is that (b) is a unity with datum-person (a) with (b) as its new change growth. The route or series of successive experiences is possible because each moment in the succession is the original and creative unity that is able to maintain its essential activity-potentials as it interacts with its ambient.

 — Peter A. Bertocci, “The Essence of a Person”

In truth, in the actual present the self transcends change or mutually external time-lapses, through the act of synthesis by which it grasps a succession as one and continuous. The simultaneity, or so-called timelessness of a self, consists in this power of continuous synthesis.

 — Joseph A. Leighton, “Time, Change, and Time-Transcendence”

Our notion of time, then, is the empty form into which we project from the living present the continuity of our interests, aims and values. Actual time can have no more continuity than human ideas and purposes and the ideas and purpose of other psychical beings may have. Time is the shadow cast by the unsatisfied will of man across the world of becoming. It is the mark of the incomplete moving towards completion. And the so -called direction of time’s flow is determined by the tensions of human interest and aim. Hence, the movement of history and biography appears as an irreversible series of qualitatively individual acts and never-to-be repeated events, in contrast with the reversible character of a purely mechanical system.

 — Joseph A. Leighton, “Time, Change, and Time-Transcendence”

The doctrine of the Trinity is difficult and perhaps there is no way to firmly master it. However, the creative potentiality in the human mind enables reflection and steady thought on deep subjects. If we apply our reflections to God as essentially one in essence but three in Personhood, we can arrive at a few conclusions concerning the nature of time, the limitations of Being, and the wisdom of our destiny.

The human mind is both conservative and liberal in its tendencies. It both desires static predictability and motion forward. Our minds individually are therefore two value sets within one another. We want motion and change yet long for the past and its certainty. Time is an empty concept without its tensions. Its ability to both Be and Become, to sustain moments while lifting out of them to the next enjoyment, is something unique about the experience of living. These steady tensions make advancement possible and preserve the good foundations of our being.

It must be noted that these tensions originate somewhere. We can safely attribute them to motion and flux throughout time—that is, Becoming. Yet we know Being has its place too. The present moment is composed of the fading past and the emerging future. This seems to imply that time can be both divided and united through the same dichotomy.

This dichotomy is the dissolving crux of Being. The continuous flexing of moment after moment offers an array of possible definitions. We “will” them into existence. Time creates its own environs but it is the human mind that interprets and decides the fact from the excess. History is an accumulation of determined patterns reconciled with human nature. The facts are arranged to suit narratives that are pre-assumed by values. These values shape our thinking and organize events into lucid structures. We are able to affirm and imperil powers depending on values we choose. Our constructs serve a larger purpose of arranging and envelope planning and expectation. We are thus limited on how we imagine events because our nature is confined.

Perhaps it is possible that the Trinity creates an environment of divinity similar to how time creates one for us? The three-in-one essence defies logic on first glance. But what if these three persons create a set of relations: that is, an environment where creativity emerges? There is more to divinity than mind or thought. Essence is an all-encompassing question that ambitiously defines selfhood. An environment is a structure one relates to and with, and it also limits the person within it. Will is free but also limited. You must circumcise your dreams before they can fly.

The Trinity then, by being three Persons united (and thus creating Selfhood), initiates a constructive conversation between the Godhead and His separate aspects. Are these roles chosen for the Ultimate? No, because then they are chosen by the Ultimate. What after all is timeless existence? In one verse, God is described as “the Alpha and the Omega.” Beginning and end are the determinants of causality and God is the Ultimate. Therefore, the end of time is the final recognition of all that takes place—that cyclical, static embrace. Time is shot like an arrow and as in the poem, “falls I know not where.” The seemingly aimless nature of time is actually due to its hidden dimension as God. God is an extension of reality rather than the embodiment of it. An appropriate analogy is the unconscious mind that conceals yet drives being overmuch.

Time then, as we know it and conceive it, is a phenomenon chained to itself and unable to escape the influence of our creative mind. Mind (is it true?) is a substance, a mere signifier for material processes. Language structures are hardwired into the brain and form a complex sum of orientations. If language is mind’s product, then it is a product developed and sustained by the neural structures of the brain. Their patterns of being and developing are what make language possible for an individual.

Now I may interject that I believe God is a substance. That is, what T. S. Eliot called a “stillpoint.”  It is a feathery substance but a highly charged, hyper-velocity, moment in the purity of being itself. Its fundamental nature, however, is as we described. Underneath the dense layers of our physical existence, within them, is an intense reverberating energy that individuates all things. Although the human capacity to think is granted in our divine nature, self-awareness stops short of perceiving its source. Limitations are natural to that which is created but not to that which is self-created. All is the fluctuation of mind, yet the mind is not ours. Our imperfect ability to perceive, understand, and know is due to being separate of God yet of the same essence. We know the Tree of Immortality is guarded by a cherub with a flaming sword.

This individuation is the product of a triple tension: a tension that springs from duality, and a third that releases creative potential. The third tension is the Son released into the world. All three have existed since time immemorial but remain within the material our known being constitutes. This divine conversation is the height of what is holy. In Hinduism the Trinity exists as three separate beings known as Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva; together, they form the essence of Godhead which is Being that unites, calibrates, and also tears apart order to restore it. The Godhead floats through being as Being itself. The supreme Godhead is never found. Rather it is felt through its powers. It’s being is substance, but its actions and motions are ephemeral and glorious. Is Desire something transformed, or something we can understand logically?

Holiness is something beyond our own understanding because our being limited through its engagement with the divine. This dialectical understanding is a communication between Creator and Created. It is this relationship that develops our free will and determined existence. All things must have foundation for the sake of stability. The foundation of Godhead is groundless being. It restores and spans eternity. To communicate with it through your individual existence is the most powerful and blessed thing offered to the human frame.


Dustin Pickering is the founder of Transcendent Zero Press and editor-in-chief of Harbinger Asylum. He has authored several poetry collections, a short story collection, and a novella. He is a Pushcart nominee and was a finalist in Adelaide Literary Journal’s short story contest in 2018. He is a former contributor to Huffington Post. 



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