What Is Really Going On With Time?




From Groundhog Days – Intercourse on Time

By Melina Costello & David Arthur Walters

September 18, 2003



Dear Madame Melina,

I trust this letter finds you well and profitably engaged in your metaphysical endeavors.

I was going through our Groundhog notes again yesterday. I came across this statement by the great Ouspensky:

“… it is possible to say that our usual conception of ‘dimensions of time’ are wrong. For instance, for us time can have different duration – five years, ten years, a hundred years – but it always has the same speed. But where are proofs of this? Why not suppose that time in certain limits (for instance in relation to human life) always has the same duration but DIFFERENT SPEED? One is not more arbitrary than the other, but with the admission of this possibility the question disappears…..”

You have already supposed, after perusing John McTaggart’s Unreality of Time, that McTaggart, despite his logic or even because of it, is muddle-headed. Now we may also suppose that Ouspensky is a muddle-headed man, and that the Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence itself is absurd.

But Ouspensky may have known better. He may have been a wily trickster or charlatan intentionally attempting to deceive us by making an impression that he knows more than he does, that he has insight into truths that remain a mystery to us, wherefore we should regard him as an authority, buy his book, sign up for the Work, or whatever.

On the other hand, it is we who are muddle-headed and in want of a better elucidation by the great master of enlightenment. Yet another possibility is that he is trying to get us to think for ourselves by positing impossibilities or by posing ridiculous insoluble riddles for us to solve.

Alright, then, he suggests that we suppose that time flows or endures at different speeds, as if time were a thing such as a stream of water flowing along something stationary, say, over the land. We ask, if time is flowing at different speeds, different speeds in relation to what? The land is may be the ruler but is not the timer. A thing moving in space moves in respect to time. A car speeds along at so many miles per hour. A man ages or changes over the years and we do not expect him to endure much longer than 100 years. We have an objective standard for duration upon which we all agree; for instance, we measure change by a certain quantity of units for which we have an atomic or astronomical reference. That is to say that a moving object does not move at different objective speeds for each observer of the motion, nor are the observers living at different speeds. Or are we monads without windows and without relations to one another, monads whose only internal movement is changing delusions? I think not.

Now, then, since a motion or change in space occurs in relation to time, is it safe to say that time also moves in respect to time, or hypertime? So does hypertime move in respect to hyper-hypertime? And so on ad infinitum? Does change change relative to change? I think not. I do not think that time is a thing that is moving in space, something that is rushing by each and every one of us like the wind. I post that the “flow of time” or the “stream of time” into which we cannot step into the same place twice, is a metaphorical conception, a myth about something that does not substantially exist; the connotation is adjectival rather than nominative.

What, then, is time? Whatever it is, it seems that the notion of time moving at different speeds, and the attempt to make a difference between duration and speed, is sheer nonsense; or that yours truly, for instance, is in need of further enlightenment.

However that may be, and given human ingenuity, surely there is some way to solve the riddle Ouspensky poses, if there is a solution. I was thinking that each person at death might not be reborn instantly, but another universe would start up with a big bang, and the soul of the deceased would be suspended from animation or in a timeless state until the history of the new universe caught up and he was born again into the usual world, say, on Groundhog Day.

I am no mathematician like Ouspensky was; however, if my scenario were true, I think there might be a number of universes approaching infinity in some sort of hyperspace. I don’t know if that would pose a spatial problem. As for the waiting souls, since they are non-dimensional, I imagine they could all fit onto the head of a pin.

And that is question within your domain, my dear metaphysician. Pray tell how many souls can fit on a head of a pin.

Your Faithful Groundhog


Sisyphus and Ouspenskys’ People of Byt



From Groundhog Days – Intercourse on Time

By Melina Costello & David Arthur Walters

October 17, 2004

Dear Madame Melina,

Your remarks in previous letters raising questions about the Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence have got me thinking about Ouspensky yet again, and his boring People of Byt, as well as Sisyphus in the context of our intercourse on time.

Sisyphus’ pathetic story always bears repeating though we have heard it time and gain. He cheated time by tying up death, at least for the time being, that is, until the god of war hauled him back to the underworld because Hades complained of the shortage of bodies in the interim; from whence Sisyphus escaped by breaking his oath to Persephone that, if he were allowed to ascend to make sure his body was properly buried, he would return to shady Hades; but the perjurer did not, hence Hermes hauled him back to hellish haunts; and there Sisyphus the Runaway, now Sisyphus the Rock-Roller, is seen to this very day, serving his sentence of eternal repetition, rolling his shameless stone, evidence from the scene of a crime against Zeus, to the top of a hill; whereupon, rather than rolling down the other side, it rolls back down his side again – maybe there is no other side; thus is labor lost and Sisyphus must begin again while the gods laugh at his miserable plight. Camus says Sisyphus turned the tables on the gods, that he runs down the hill laughing at them all the way, then sets his shoulder willingly to the futile task in order to mock them yet again.

Now Ouspensky, discussing the ancient Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence, drew some vicious circles for us to contemplate, each spinning in its respective place in the vertical fifth dimension, each place being a moment along the horizontal continuum of the fourth dimension, allowing him to conjecture that we each might be reborn again at the moment of death, to live the same life over again, and again, and again, so on and so forth, until, perhaps with his help, we become aware of our habit and are saved.

Yes, saved, for even Ouspensky will not abandon the psychological essence of time, which is not the past exactly repeated, but is rather the expectation of something in part unknown and new, namely the future life, which so happens, as some of us have noticed, to fly from its past like a bat out of hell; naturally there are certain differences between birds: the Jayhawk flies backwards because he loves the past and doesn’t give a damn where he is going.

The doctrine of eternal recurrence is absurd because, as everyone knows, time moves in one direction only along its line; history does not repeat itself – time reversed would destroy the universe. But Ouspensky conjured up some sort of clearing house where times speed up and slow down and all times are instantaneously adjusted after each death, where the relationships between people’s deaths are kept constant; for instance, if I die two years before my eighty-year-old mother, I will still be born again to her when she is twenty.

There is perhaps a better solution, but we might want to drop the doctrine altogether for it is a stumbling block in several ways. If it were true and if we knew we were doing nothing but repeating ourselves, life might be hell indeed if salvation were wanting.

Now if Ouspensky had said that his doctrine was a merely a metaphor for bad habits together with lessons on breaking them with new works, we might thank him very much and proceed. But he is pushing this rolling stone at us as if he wants us to embrace it.

No thank you, Mr. Ouspensky. Maybe we do not want to repeat ourselves eternally, so why keep reiterating the doctrine? If there is a life after this one, who wants to take herself along just as she is? We dream of better conditions, yet each person is one of the conditions.

And despite the apparent progress we seem to enjoy in a lifetime, many are those who would start anew with a clean slate if only they could. And if they did start afresh, they would not know their pervious life, so why all the fuss? What is the difference between a clean slate and eternal death if one has no memory of a previous life? All do not fear death; many behold it as the ultimate salvation. Not that suicide is the solution. Hamlet’s theological studies included a course in eschatology; he then had reason to worry the question as to whether to be or not to be; his sighting of a ghost gave him even further cause for concern.

In any case, a Christian has a future for good or ill, and is not consigned to eternal repetition of the past. Ouspensky noted that Christians speak of a life after death but not of a life before birth. He found hints, however, of the doctrine of eternal recurrence in the New Testament. He claimed that the doctrine was known to the ancients; they knew it well but could not communicate the occult knowledge to others because those others were still dead caterpillars in contrast to wise butterflies that are in the know because of their transformation into a new life.

“The idea of recurrence cannot be popular in its pure form,” he wrote, “primarily because it seems absurd…. According to the ordinary wisdom of the world ‘nothing ever returns’ …. Buddhists have rejected the ‘absurd’ idea of a return into the past, and their ‘wheel of life’ rolls along with the calendar…. We are one-dimensional beings in relation to time; we have no knowledge of parallel lines…. In my book Tertium Organum I described what the universe of one-dimensional beings must be. These beings know nothing besides their own line…. There can be nothing parallel to us…. It is very difficult to accept the idea of the absolute and inevitable repetition of everything.”

It is indeed difficult, yet Ouspensky has a way out, a “necessary” way out. “The idea of absolute repetition does not agree with the idea of growing tendencies, which is also necessary.”

He does not propose that the growth itself might repeat itself; that everything possible whether growing or decaying has already happened countless times and is being repeated endlessly in eternity. According to him, “It must be recognized that as regards the character of the repetition of their lives people fall into several types or categories.”

Now only certain, “unsuccessful” types of people are subject to inevitable eternal repetition. Consider the “people of byt.” The Russian word can mean a habitual lifestyle, say, peasant-life, merchant-life, rut-life and so on; or, in theatrical life, the typical voice or tone, the typical bit part, and so on.

“There are, first of all, people of byt, of deeply rooted, petrified, routine life. Their lives succeed one another with the monotony of the hand of the clock moving on the dial. There can be in their lives nothing unexpected, nothing accidental, no adventures. They are born and die in the same house where their fathers and grandfathers were born and died and where their children will be born and will die. National calamities, wars, earthquakes, plagues, sometimes wipe thousands and hundreds of thousands of them from the face of the earth at one stroke. But apart from such events their whole life is strictly ordered and organized on a plan…. It is just this absoluteness of repetition that creates in them some vague consciousness of the inevitability of everything that happens, a belief in fate, fatalism and, at times, as strange sort of wisdom and calmness, in some cases passing into an ironical contempt for people who are restless, seeking for something, striving for something.”

Ouspensky seems to admire for this repetitious type of person, the “unsuccessful” person whose consciousness of repetition seems to save him from fate by resigning him to it. Yet Ouspensky is divided against himself. He seems to push the doctrine of eternal recurrence to rid himself of it, and then it rolls right back on him.

Was Ouspensky a Russian fatalist who dreamed of the New World? When East looks West, does West look right back? I am hoping you will look into it when you have time.


Mister Groundhog

Maybe This Time Is Different


Me Hawaii



From Groundhog Days – Intercourse on Time

By Melina Costello & David Arthur Walters

October 1, 2003



Dear Madame Melina,

You seem to believe that the Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence is fallacious nonsense. This groundhog would fain beg to differ with you, not on logical grounds, but due to his experience.

Although I have been repeating myself ad infinitum, at least on this subject, there was a time that I thought, “This time will be different!”

You know I used to venture up the Hudson from Manhattan on the railroad to Cold Spring for weekends from time to time, hoping to get away from New Yorkers, only to find the town packed with them, of course, and then return again, but after I returned the last time, I flew off on a tangent to Honolulu yet again, and do not think I shall see Cold Spring again.

I wish I had finally left Cold Spring when I was a much younger man, for then it would not have been my last departure: I would be bound to return to Cold Spring on yet another train up from Grand Central Station. And then I would have purchased that little stone house near the Cold Spring railroad station, the one within walking distance from the pub. It would have served as my author’s den three days a week. On the other days I would have slept in my tiny studio Uptown, on West 84th Street, christened Edgar Allan Poe Street; I would have worked my part-time job and continued with my dancing, singing, and acting avocations, in that order. There is nothing inherently wrong with repeating oneself, is there?

I threw it all away again. I am back in paradise again, and I feel too old to start all over again. I have ping-ponged between Hawaii and New York several times. That last stay in New York was my fourth, at least as far as I can remember, or maybe the fifth time. I stayed for twelve years that time, or maybe more; I have difficulty remembering time as it is all the same to me. I do recall that I managed to go from nice guy to New York jerk again; one becomes a jerk there when he acts like one and doesn’t believe he is one.

Not only have I actually shuttled back and forth between the same two islands on opposite sides of the world, my dreams have taken me hither and thither too many time to recount. Last night I dreamed that I was sorting files in Midtown; I took a cab to La Guardia; I dozed off and missed my plane because the Iraqi cab driver, a trainee, got lost under the Triborough Bridge.

However that may be, wherever I might be, the place from where I came is always more attractive than where I am. Paradise can be a pleasant hell, whereas Manhattan can be a hellish paradise. I seem compelled by some deadly instinct to repeat my first move, to go back and forth instead of directly ahead to some new adventure; if my former wives were of the same mind, I would marry and divorce them over and over again.

Yes I would return again, but I was not so young when I left, and six years have passed since then. I don’t know how I survived the shock of returning to the city the last time, after a several years in the pretty Pacific. Those in the know say either god or chance or I had worked a miracle, that I should have been a goner for good. I wound up standing homeless on 57th and Broadway with $40 in my pocket. I walked into the Fisk Building and got a job. A few years later, after taking considerable pains to increase pay, I was still on that part-time job, earning about $70,000 per year including benefits. I managed to stash some money away.

I was compelled to quit, to throw it all way, because that is what I do; take a job to save up some money to do what I want to do. I felt like I was in the wrong place, that I was not being all I could be, either a successful business leader or a famous author. I found an excuse for not being a good little parasite on a humble easy street. I made an ass out of myself, and resigned, and made a worse ass out of myself before my two week’s notice expired. Fortunately my employers understood; if they had not owned the company, they might have done the same thing themselves: both are frustrated artists in their own right.

I invested my savings again in the same old dream, of being a great author, since business was getting me nowhere. And now I am almost back where I started, almost broke in a dead-end paradise with a probability, according to the average rate of response to my resumes, of getting another good job sometime in the next seventeen years or so, just in time to die on the street; at least this is a good place to die without shoes.

Of course I could be on the top of this little heap if only I were a hustler, but I’m not: I’m a book worm, a writer, quite shy except on stage, where I am quite the ham. This time is a bit different: I have a huge inventory of essays and stories, and I can write well for hours on end at break-neck speed – who needs nicotine and alcohol? If only I could attend to marketing, I might return to New York in style, or live both there and here, or go somewhere new, visit Europe! But alas, I am a groundhog!

Now it seems too late, although I take some comfort in the notion that I shall repeat this life time and again. A military historian I knew might have been right when he said history is just one mistake after another which we are doomed to repeat.

Every time I have left one sister island to return to the other, my friends say I am nuts, that I am making a big mistake to throw away my life again and again and again. It does seem suicidal in a way. Maybe Freud was right. Should I go back to New York? I’ve always done well there during recessions. I don’t know if I can survive another mistake. I feel like I’ve been here before.

This feels like Groundhog Day as usual. But this time I really believe I am stuck in it. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe this is my last Groundhog Day, or maybe this is not Groundhog Day after all, since this feeling of being stuck is new, sort of….

Your Desperate Groundhog


The Case of The Prescient Cock




From Groundhog Days – Intercourse on Time

By Melina Costello & David Arthur Walters

October 9, 2003



Dear Madame Melina,
At the risk of repeating myself, I must say that the Devil’s Advocate is Catholic and I don’t think Immanuel Kant will be canonized any time soon if the Advocate has his way. Kant’s version of the Golden Rule is not bad although overwrought; and it is almost miraculous that he got people to misinterpret his obtuse text, deny common sense, and fancy they were in direct communication with Reason, the Enlightenment’s favorite name for God in lieu of Logos – the god of his system was actually the unknown Thing-in-Itself or Thingie. But making a pope of every man did not sit well with the established hierarchy; there was something awfully anticlerical about it, the light of the Enlightenment seemed to be coming from Hell’s Furnace.

Now I am inspired for the sake of argument against my intuition to play the Devil’s Advocate in respect to one of Kant’s favorite categories: Kantian Time A Priori. Not that I hope, at the same time, to shed any light on the question of God’s priority by denying that Time existed before God, and affirming instead the contrary, that God was before Time, and is in fact the Parent or Origin of Time born conjoined to World.

The Zoroastrians resolved their Dualism with a confounding heresy devoted to a single Father of Good and Evil called Zurvan, or Time. In fact, the Devil’s Advocate is prejudiced: he does not believe Time is God or is a god of anything except worldly intercourse. That is, absent the World as we know it, in sum, the Phenomenon, there is no god or thing called Time.

As for the transcendental realm, that belongs to God alone. Yet Kant was so bold as to scoff at the Transcendent, drawing a distinction between the numinous noun and his transcendental adjective while admitting that his transcendental logic was an illusion! If he had limited his intercourse to sensible matters and left well enough alone, this Devil’s Advocate would have little to object to. Instead, to begin with, we have this tedious nonsense about time, indited by Kant in his infernal Critique of Pure Reason, to contend with:

“Time is not an empirical concept deduced from any experience, for neither coexistence nor succession would enter into our perceptions, if the representation of time were not given a priori.”

Good grief! The concept of time is induced from experience, not deduced from experience! And that is why the concept is in fact empirical, meaning that it is based on sense experience.

‘Time’ is not a thing that can be bottled and sold at Florida’s Fountain of Youth. Rather, it is the name for the experience of relations from which we derive our empirical concepts of time. The concepts follow and evolve from the experience – there is no concept of time prior to experience, nor is there experience of time prior to the experience of time. Experience provides the child with successive impressions, and culture teaches him to “tell time.” Of course after that he might try to kill time trying to define it – he cannot succeed short of eternity although his abstractions might have some timely consequences.

Again, the empirical concept we have of time is induced from our sense experience. The cock crows at the crack of dawn and the Sun rises shortly thereafter; and, after the regular repetition of that succession a few times, we expect the repetition to continue in a timely manner, just as we expect our lives to continue after waking up time and time again from sleep.

So the expectation of the repetition of an experience – the expectation of a becoming future – is our sense of time or experience of time.

People might even believe that the crow of the cock causes the Sun to rise. That happened near Sunnydale: a certain farmer owned a prescient cock that always crowed just prior to the crack of dawn and then again when the Sun rose on the horizon. He idolized his cock; other farmers placed idols of the prescient cock on the roofs of their barns to face the wind and catch bolts of enlightenment from heaven! Unfortunately, the farmer who owned the prescient cock was murdered.

In contrast to deduction, induction is reasoning from particular experiences to a general rule or conclusion. The truth of the conclusion, however, can only be verified by future experience. “Every time the cock crowed, the Sun rose; therefore: IF the cock crows, THEN the Sun will rise.” If the cock dies and the Sun still rises, another theory must be devised. As a matter of fact, the crocodile swallows the moon, cries tears to flood the Nile, and causes the Sun to rise.

Kant is correct to say that the concept of time is not “deduced” from experience; for a deduction is a mental process of reasoning from a general rule to the particular instance. It is a logical conclusion drawn from a premise(s) which contain and imply the conclusion which may or may not be true. No further information is added in order to make the deduction. For instance: “All men are cocks. You are a man; therefore, you are a cock.”

Now an experience is something we undergo or encounter, something we are generally aware of or know. Brilliant deductions may be drawn from rules known in advance by Dr. Watson because of some particular sense experience which he relates to his preconceived rule. We only hope that the conclusions embedded in his premises are sensible ones.

In The Case of the Prescient Cock, a witness heard the farmer scream bloody murder just after his cock crowed, and Dr. Watson deduced that, since all men are cocks, a man had probably killed him; as it turned out, the man’s wife, who was accustomed to affectionately call him a prick, had done the deed. That sort of misunderstanding is why Aristophanes ridiculed the sophist and master grammarian Protagoras for objecting to the use of ‘cock’ indifferently as to gender, and proposing instead ‘cock’ and ‘cockess.’

Kant goes on: “Time is a necessary representation on which all intuitions depend. We cannot take away time from phenomena in general, though we can take phenomena away out of time. Time is given therefore a priori. In time alone is reality of phenomena possible. All phenomena may vanish, but time itself (as the general condition of their possibility) cannot be done away with.”

But there is no re-presentation of a pre-existing thing called ‘time.’ There is a presentation or intuition, or an immediate (supposedly) awareness of sensation that is experienced or perceived.

Perception is a function of mind and body as a unity. Mystics, as you, my dear Madame, well know from your personal experience, claim supernatural intuition or direct revelation, i.e. intuition of knowledge without sensory or mental mediation. The intuition may seem immediate although it is in fact subconsciously or unconsciously mediated by the previous experience of the individual, or of the race, or mediated by unknown factors which may be adequately explained and controlled by scientists in the future.

In any event, phenomena is experienced and that experience is ‘timely.’ There is no ‘time’ separate from or prior to phenomena. If phenomena which can be experienced by all possible creatures vanishes, there can be no times or worlds.

I hope I have made myself perfectly clear. Madame. I am tempted to repeat here, but must take a time out to rewind my clock.

Mister Groundhog


Maybe Jesus Knew About Groundhog Days

Me Collins Park Pensive


From Groundhog Days – Intercourse on Time

By Melina Costello & David Arthur Walters

September 17, 2004



Madame Melina,

Oh, no, Hello, here I go again! (:

The hypothesis of eternal recurrence has enjoyed considerable support throughout the ages and has had an influence on a number of well-known thinkers whether they believed that the hypothesis was valid or not. Ouspensky and Nietzsche are the best-known modern thinkers who expounded the doctrine. The funny movie, Groundhog Day, collapses the concept into a single day. Finnegan’s Wake, James Joyce’s novel, is based on the idea.

Since Christianity is a salvation religion, it does not support the doctrine of vicious cycles. Nonetheless, Ouspensky cited the Gospels to support his opinion that Christ was familiar with the doctrine of endless repetition. And he thought that Origen was attempting to discredit the idea in a part of his On First Principles.

Excuse me for repeating myself endlessly, Madame, but the doctrine of eternal recurrence posits that each death ends in another birth into the same life ad infinitum – the same life is lived over and over again. A person gradually becomes aware of the fact that she was born and will die, but she does not know that her life is a repetition of previous lives; therefore she may believe that she will have a different life in the next life, or eternal life in the hereafter, or no life at all. She might, however, get an occasional feeling of déjà vu – that she has experienced something in her present life before.

The $64,000 question for those who believe in eternal recurrence is, Can the cycle be intentionally broken? If not, the individual has no free will, and there would be no moral incentive for improvement although the person might be predetermined to think she is acting morally on her own accord. The same can be said for all theologies and ideologies which espouse predestination, determinism and the like, yet contradict themselves in an effort to justify having any morals at all. You are doomed, unless you buy my book and take my advice to heart.

Ouspensky provides a way out of perpetual recycling. He opposes the doctrine of eternal recurrence with the doctrine of possibilities. An individual can become aware of the fact that she is constantly repeating herself; it follows that she must be aware, at the same time, of something besides, of something to compare the repetition with – possible alternatives. Hence you are doomed to repeat history unless you become aware of it and take advantage of the alternatives. If you do just that, so much for the doctrine of eternal recurrence – maybe – you might be repeating yourself again. Oh, no! Not again!

Your Devoted Groundhog

Madame Pokes Hole in Timely Theory

Diamond Thunderbolt


From Groundhog Days – Intercourse on Time

By Melina Costello & David Arthur Walters

September 17, 2004



Sir Groundhog,

I have been carefully considering your last letter, and have concluded that the Eternal Recurrence Theory is fraught with problems. If my memory serves me correctly, there is no mention of parallel realities, which would have to be a part of the equation if we are to satisfy logic.

For instance, Ouspensky postulates that when one dies, he is reborn into the life he just lived, ad nauseum, until he “gets it,” which may then lessen, if not obliterate, his go-rounds on the wheel of karma: death and rebirth. It might also offer offer him “choices” he might not have made in previous go-rounds, which would alter the “predetermined” course of his fate.

Okay, let’s say my father, who was born in 1925, dies in 1992. He is once again born in the Midwest to Italian immigrants in the same house, on the same street, with the same siblings, and so on. At some point along the time line, he meets my mom and I am conceived, which would then posit another Me in the world of form whilst the “me” who is writing this message yet lives.

Now there are two Me’s living in flesh and blood bodies in a three dimensional quantum of space – NOT – unless, of course, we’re talking about parallel realities. Again, there’s no contingency in the argument for this apparent conundrum.

Additionally, let’s consider the following: “It might also offer him ‘choices’ he might not have made in previous go-rounds, which would alter the ‘predetermined’ course of his fate.”

Well that’s an awfully powerful factor, however untenable, in the equation, wouldn’t you say? Let’s test it: Say my father is born in 1925 and in 1945, at age 20, he has an epiphany – he “gets it.” This profound alteration of his habitual mode of consciousness causes him to consecrate himself to, say, the Catholic priesthood. Thereon he remains celibate and, in fact, does not proffer his seed to womankind; therefore I am not conceived, at least not through his ancestral line.

One need not be a rocket scientist to figure out that the *slightest* alteration of one’s choices in the given scenario has far-reaching consequences to so many lives, ala It’s A Wonderful Life. My present mother would not be my mother (to say nothing of the fact that her entire life experiences from the age of 19 onward would not have occurred), nor would she have given birth to 12 children who are presently my siblings (sans one who drowned) – and what of their fates, let alone their conceptions?

Eternal Recurrence seems to be mounted on the concept that each person is a separate unit operating in some hermetically sealed universe upon which others’ lives have no impact, no meaningful interface.

Unless, of course, there ARE parallel realities. Either Ouspensky closed the book before penning the last chapter, or I need to go back and read A New Model For The Universe – perish the thought.

Madame Melina

The Serious Contradiction of Time

Sebastian Three Faces Opposition
Past Present Future by Sebastian Ferreira




From Groundhog Days – Intercourse on Time

By Melina Costello & David Arthur Walters

August 9, 2004



Dear Madame Melina,

I beg your pardon for wasting time with time, but I would fain add to my previous letter about the Series A Contradiction of Time. McTaggart’s logical contradiction – between past, present, and future – which he asserted to prove that “time” is “unreal,” is based on an linguistic error. He posits that the three tenses are three different things which simply cannot exist at the same time. But the tenses are not things but are something that can be said about things. I mean, the tenses are adjectival, or predicate classes indicating or indexing the relation of a continuously existing thing to a particular point in time, say, the time you might speak of it as something that existed, exists, or will exist.

Do you agree?

In other words, the thing which you might refer to might be a past thing, a present thing, or a future thing in reference to yourself as you read this note. That a thing was red, is white, and will become blue, does not contradict the existence of the colored thing itself simply because the qualities or colors changed. The categories past, present, future, do not contradict the existence of the continuant or thing existing in time in reference to your perception at a certain time.

Do you follow me on this?

In other words, I think McTaggart errs in ignoring the three tenses as tenses, or categories of existence in time. But to ignore the tenses is absurd because that defeats their purpose, which is to serve as indexes. Why McTaggart, a master logician, did not recognize his error I do not know. Perhaps, being the mystic that he was, he proceeded with a prejudice or foregone conclusion, that the changes we describe when we use the term ‘time’ do not really exist, that all action or motion is some sort of illusion. Since that is contrary to common sense, perhaps he contrived an abstract logical argument, one unconsciously designed to fall into a contradiction in order to avoid change and embrace eternity (hence avoid the implication of death). Such a trap might be easily constructed, since “time” does not exist as a thing but as a general term referring to change in general. A time refers to a change of one process in respect to another, say, the rain which began to fall when the clock read 0745 yesterday.

If McTaggart had said, “What we mean by time is ‘unreal’ because it is an ideal,” I might agree with him, for time is not a concrete thing, but is a notion of change. Time is not some-thing that passes us by. Perfect or metered time is an abstract ideal. Furthermore, time is something which cannot be rightly said to exist in itself or to refer to itself as a passage or flow, as if we could measure time with time, or compare a change to its change, or have a ruler measure itself, and so on.  To say that change changes, or that what becomes becomes, is redundant. I mean to say that the “passage of time” is a myth.

Of course I might be mistaken, wherefore I look forward to your advice, in the name of the past, the present, and the future, as one.

Your Truest Groundhog!