Time and consciousness



CSH: When consciousness identifies itself with the sensation of corporeal solidity … Think about what it’s like being a solid. You think your body/consciousness is solid. But you know that the solid is constantly passing away in time. That’s fantastic.

How deeply does this passing-out-of-existence cut? Your very substance is actually flashing in and out of existence at a rate of 10^44 times per second.

Each proton (or neutron) is made of three quarks, the masses of these quarks only add up to about 1% of the proton's mass. The rest of the mass comes from gluons holding the quarks together. Gluons are virtual particles that randomly pop into and out of existence. Finally, the mass of quarks and electrons is itself contributed by the Higgs field, comprised of Higgs bosons, which are also virtual particles. Thus all material reality is virtual.

This fact of physics, that you are literally passing away and out of particulate existence at a velocity of 10^44 Hz, is the basis for the construction of TIME. The physical passing of your corporeal substance is the condition for the possibility of the cognition of TIME. You’re passing away. To the extent that you identify with (your concept of) material solidity, a concept that itself builds upon our impression of counter-force to our pushing, you perish—because the referent of our fiction “solidity” does perish. It’s constantly perishing.

So what’s the part of consciousness that remains? Part of it seems really, deeply, time-transcendent. Because we can cognize time, because time is an object for us, we think that we’re somehow outside of it, or above it. That’s implied by the cognition. We are aware that time is passing. Well, who are you that you are outside of time so that you can collect it like that?

Time is passing away. There is the conviction: “Time is passing!” Well shit—the guy who says that is not in the stream. He’s collecting from the outside.

We can bring these two selves into high contrast:

  1. there is the subject that witnesses and is aware of passing, and
  2. there is the subject that passes.

Corresponding to these two selves are two types of real presence:

  1. we identify empty space as that which does not pass, and
  2. we identify solid matter as that which passes.

There is empty space, which does not pass, and there is impenetrability, which occupies space and passes. The being that is in time is solidity. The being that is outside of time, the container that time is passing through, is empty space.

Consciousness is (like) empty space. And sensation is (like) solidity.

Fara: And you cognize time, and consciousness.

CSH: The cognition of time is: watching solidity pass.

Fara: Without being part of it.

CSH: If you were, then you couldn’t watch it pass, you couldn’t be collecting it. And Kant says that the basic activity of presence in reality is the synthesis of apprehension. You’re constantly holding that porous sack out as stuff is rushing through it, and yet something remains behind and is collected. And this remnant that is collected is “in the past.” In the past means—in the sack. In the sack means—the sack-holder is established outside the stream.

Fara: So how do you define time, then?

CSH: Time is the product of synthesis by the witness.

Fara: So a witness is needed for time to exist?

CSH: Ung. In fact time is the fundamental form of the witness, the dimension of plurality by which it is cut. Time has to be a feature of the witness because it is meaningful for the witness. Time is internal to the witness. So time is a form of the witness; Kant calls it inner sense.

  • Inner sense is what time is the form of.

This is really bizarre form to internalize, because really it is the whole universe that is passing away, not just what is internal to the subject. The whole of physical space passes in time, so physical space is inside something larger. Time. Time is the container of the whole universe, and the next universe, and the next universe. It’s a massive container. And it’s internal to the witness. Why? Because it’s meaningful.

We know what time is because we are its author.

What is the act that produces time? It’s apprehension. It’s a synthesis. You’re just collecting. Isn’t that nice? Such a minimal activity, synthesis, something a baby could do. Synthesis is just adding one thing to another, and one more thing to that, and so on. The act of synthesis is what hammers together the actual being of time. Addition is time. Time and addition are two words for the same process. Yet when synthesis operates on the material of passing sensation, it is the whole of spacetime that the emergent product.

This is called intuitionism in the philosophy of mathematics. Magnitude, or quantity, is cut from the material cloth of time. Time is the cloth of quantity—this is Kant’s idea. I think it’s right—we could not have the notion of number without reliance on passing/apprehension.

Fara: When you’re unconscious, you’re part of time, and you’re fully aware of your senses. Because you said when you’re out of your body is when you’re conscious, when you can perceive time. When you can perceive time …

CSH: The consciousness that is transparent is the one that apprehends. That consciousness that is sense content is that which is apprehended, the stuff that gets added together and which makes a world line. The world line is made out of slices. Sensation is the stuff in a slice. The activity that does the synthesizing is the world-creating subject. Consciousness is what adds time slices.

Fara: When are we ever in that state?

CSH: Right now! We’re synthesizing time. Can you see it flowing away, like that special effect in LOTR? There’s a smoky smearing away of solids towards the bottom left of our bodies. Imagine that my body is drifting away into nothingness. That’s actually happening. You’re smearing right now. You’re smearing on down the time snake.

Fara: No, we can’t be what passes away, because we’re always aware of time.


CSH: But you can visualize it. You can visualize the time snake right now … IT’S FREAKY. You can see my series of selves actually as an extended series. Right now, I see you as a series.

It’s actually horrifying.



My God …

It’s too intense …