by Marinus Jan Marijs
In 1928, astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington succinctly declared in his highly popular work, The Nature of the Physical World (based on his 1927 Gifford Lectures):
The stuff of the world is mind-stuff.
He went on to explain,
The mind-stuff of the world is, of course, something more general than our individual conscious minds…. The mind-stuff is not spread in space and time; these are part of the cyclic scheme ultimately derived out of it…. It is necessary to keep reminding ourselves that all knowledge of our environment from which the world of physics is constructed, has entered in the form of messages transmitted along the nerves to the seat of consciousness…. Consciousness is not sharply defined, but fades into subconsciousness; and beyond that we must postulate something indefinite but yet continuous with our mental nature…. It is difficult for the matter-of-fact physicist to accept the view that the substratum of everything is of mental character. But no one can deny that mind is the first and most direct thing in our experience, and all else is remote inference.
– A.S. Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World, Cambridge Univ., 1928, pp. 276-81.
Laws of physics
Mathematical equations and rules which predict the behaviour of the universe. They refer to quantities which can be observed and measured. The laws of physics are thought to have been shaped during the fleeting instants, known as the Planck time, following the big bang. It is a basic presupposition of science that the laws are invariant over all time and space. Planck time: The interval of time within which the laws of physics break down. It is equal to 10-43 seconds and is important in the big bang theory.
Within several academic disciplines we will find descriptions of phenomena that transcend space and time:
- Philosophy: Plato’s eternal forms
- Theoretical physics: Non-locality, collapse of a wavefunction
- Cosmology: Space and time did not exist “before” the big bang
- Theology: The “Absolute” transcends space and time
- Parapsychology: Extrasensory perception
- Biology: Sheldrake’s morphogenetic fields transcend space but not time
- Consciousness studies: Consciousness transcend space and time
- Logic: Kurt Gödel philosophy
- Psychology: Synchronicity
From: Time and Causation in Gödel’s Universe.
By: John L. Bell:
In 1949 the great logician Kurt Gödel constructed the first mathematical models of the universe in which travel into the past is, in theory at least, possible. Within the framework of Einstein’s general theory of relativity Gödel produced cosmological solutions to Einstein’s field equations which contain closed time-like curves, that is, curves in spacetime which, despite being closed, still represent possible paths of bodies. An object moving along such a path would travel back into its own past, to the very moment at which it “began” the journey. More generally, Gödel showed that, in his “universe”, for any two points P and Q on a body’s track through spacetime (its world line), such that P temporally precedes Q, there is a timelike curve linking P and Q on which Q temporally precedes P.
This means that, in principle at least, one could board a “time machine” and travel to any point of the past. Gödel inferred, in consonance (as he observes) with the views of Parmenides, Kant and the modern idealists, that under these circumstances there could be no such thing as an objective lapse of time, that time or, more generally, change, is an illusion arising from our special mode of perception. For consider an observer initially at point P (with time coordinate t seconds as indicated by his own clock). At point Q (with time coordinate t′) he boards a time machine and travels back to point P, taking time t′′ to do so. In that case, according to his own clock, t′– t + t′′> 0 seconds have elapsed, and yet an identical clock left at P would show that 0 seconds have elapsed. In short, there has been no “objective” lapse of time at all. Gödel remarks that in his universe this situation is typical: for every possible definition of an “objective” time one could travel into regions which are past according to that definition. He continues: This again shows that to assume an objective lapse of time would lose every justification in these worlds. For, in whatever way one may assume time to be lapsing, there will always exist possible observers to whose experienced lapse of time no objective lapse corresponds… But if the experience of the lapse of time can exist without an objective lapse of time, no reason can be given why an objective lapse of time should be assumed at all. Gödel also raises the issue of whether the fact that objective lapses of time fail to exist in his universe has any consequences for the universe in which we live—for us, at least, the real one. He points out that, while our universe differs observationally in certain respects from his model, there might be models containing closed timelike curves which are observationally indistinguishable from ours (a possibility later confirmed). In that case, it is already possible that our universe is one in which objective time is an illusion. And in any event, he goes on to say,
The mere compatibility with the laws of nature of worlds in which there is no distinguished absolute time and in which, therefore, no objective lapse of time can exist, throws some light on the meaning of time also in those worlds in which an absolute can be defined. For, if someone asserts that this absolute time is lapsing, he accepts as a consequence that whether or not an objective lapse of time exists (i.e., whether or not a time in the ordinary sense of the word exists) depends on the particular way in which matter and its motion are arranged in the world 1. This is not a straightforward contradiction; nevertheless, a philosophical view leading to such consequences can hardly be considered as satisfactory. Such a philosophical view is called materialism.
But it would be a bizarre materialism indeed which made the very existence of objective time depend on the distribution of matter!
There are even more disturbing features to Gödel’s universe than the illusory nature of time. To begin with, there is the possible presence of closed causal loops, that is, circumstances in which the relation of causation is symmetric: two events A and B for which A causes B and B causes A. Such a causal loop, one that could conceivably arise in Gödel’s universe
This is because in general relativity the geometry of the universe is determined by the distribution of matter in it.
While causal loops engendered by trips into the past may be bizarre, paradoxical even, the above example shows that they are not necessarily inconsistent. However, certain uses of time travel into the past do seem to be barred on the grounds of outright inconsistency. Gödel remarks: This state of affairs [i.e., backward time travel] seems to imply an absurdity. For it enables one, e.g., to travel into the near past of those places where he has himself lived. There he would find a person who would be himself at some earlier period of his life. Now he could do something to this person which, by his memory, he knows has not happened to him. Indeed, granted the very possibility of travel into the past, what agency would then actually prevent me, say, from travelling into the past and killing my infant self? Gödel makes the intriguing, and characteristic suggestion that self-contradictory trips into the past of this sort may be prevented by a kind of macrocosmic version of the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics, elevating what would at first sight seem to be a mere practical limitation into a limitation in principle.
He observes: But the practical difficulties [in travelling into the past] would hardly seem to be trifling
Moreover, the boundary between difficulties in practice and difficulties in principle is not at all fixed. What was earlier a practical difficulty in atomic physics has today become an impossibility in principle, in consequence of the uncertainty principle: and the same could one day happen also for those difficulties that reside not in the domain of the “too small” but of the “too large.”
There is, however, an important difference between the limitative principles of physics and any principles (call them “temporal interdicts”) invoked to block changes of the past. In the first case it is logically possible that, for example, a body’s velocity could exceed that of light or that an electron’s position and momentum could be simultaneously measured with pinpoint precision. But any violation of a temporal
Gödel actually calculated how much energy would be required to make the trip into one’s own past and complete it in one’s lifetime; it turns out to be vast and apparently far beyond the realm of feasibility. interdict would involve a logical contradiction. If I was as a matter of fact alive as an adult at a certain time, then I cannot (as a consequence of being murdered as a baby) be dead at that same time. If this were possible, then not only time, but what we call objective reality itself, would have to be counted an illusion.
While closed causal chains are, on the face of it, consistent, and accordingly not excluded as possible outcomes of trips into the past, it is difficult to see how any temporal interdict devised expressly to prevent time travel for the purpose of changing the past would not at the same time also frustrate time travel for the purpose of setting up closed causal chains.
Gödel, K.  An example of a new type of cosmological solutions of
Einstein’s field equations of gravitation. Reviews of Modern Physics 21, 447-450. Reprinted in Feferman et al., eds.,
Kurt Gödel Collected Works, Vol. II, Oxford University Press, 1990.
—— (1949a) A remark about the relationship between relativity theory
and idealistic philosophy. In Schilpp, ed., Albert-Einstein, Philosopher-Scientist, Library of Living Philosophers, Vol. 7, Norethwestern University Press. Reprinted in Feferman et al., eds.,
Kurt Gödel Collected Works, Vol. II, Oxford University Press, 1990.
——(1946/9) Some observations about the relationship between the
theory of relativity and Kantian philosophy. In Feferman et al., eds.,
Kurt Gödel Collected Works, Vol. III, Oxford University Press, 1995.
——(1949b) Lecture on rotating universes. In Feferman et al., eds.,
Kurt Gödel Collected Works, p.202→ Vol. III, Oxford University Press, 1995.
Here the picture emerges that a great part of reality consists of processes in space and time, but at a deeper more fundamental level, space and time do not exist, or can be transcended.
“If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.”
― Ludwig Wittgenstein