Space and time are dual concepts. This means that they are like the two sides of the same coin—they are the same but seen from two different points of view. It is because of this that many cultures applied the same concept to refer to both. Two examples are the Quechua word pacha and the Sanskrit term akasha. Science named them simply space-time, although it wasn’t until just a little more than a century ago that the connection was made.
Being the two sides of the same coin means that both share similarities; as with a coin, one side cannot be round without the other being round also. From this fact, to think that time is linear—like an arrow—is the same as thinking that space is flat—like a plate—which we know is not true. Nevertheless, there were many cultures that believed in a flat Earth, and there are still those that continue believing in linear time. Linear time means that the past never repeats itself, but that we find ourselves in a constant process of evolution, towards something new that we have never been before.
The Possession of Space
This duality of space and time means that when we think we possess one, we end up being possessed by the other. By wanting to possess one, without recognising that the other is also an expression of the same thing—its dual expression—we end up being possessed by the other. This is the simple consequence of the law of reciprocity, according to which we obtain what we give and lose what we take away.
And in the same way, duality combined with the law of reciprocity that governs the Universe also guarantees that when we allow ourselves to be possessed by one, we gain possession of the other. For example, many traditional cultures on the planet recognised that as sons and daughters of Mother Earth, they belonged to her. They belonged to space, something that prevented them from leaving their homeland.
Nevertheless, they had the freedom to navigate in time, to plow through the dreamtime. This permitted them to travel through what we call the past and the future. They did not end up being dominated by time, but instead they had the freedom to travel through time as they pleased.
On the other hand, in today’s modern society we possess the freedom to travel in space, for we don’t think that we belong to a place, but rather we believe that the place belongs to us. But we end up being possessed by time, the dual concept of that which we thought we could possess. How is that possible?
Possessed by Time
This phenomenon is quite recent. We can say that everything started in England in 1750. During the following 110 years, the British Parliament passed a series of laws called the “Enclosure Acts,” which did away with the communal rights to the land. Upon fencing off the land, one was literally saying, “this is mine”, and this allowed the owner to do whatever he wanted with his land. The land became something to be possessed, a different idea than what was thought in the Middle Ages, during which the land belonged to God, and the king was responsible for safeguarding it. This caused a lot of deforestation, since the moment a plot of land was fenced off, its owner quickly proceeded to cut down the forest in order to farm it or to graze livestock on it.
Fencing off the land and believing that we were its owners unleashed the Industrial Revolution, which also started in England, and which took place during the same period, from 1750 to 1860. Upon losing the right to use the land that they had been working for generations, the peasants migrated to the city centres, where they became factory workers.
At that time, we thought we could possess space, and two centuries later, time has come to possess us. Our lives are so reliant on the clock that we have ended up measuring time not only in hours, but also in minutes, seconds, and milliseconds. We constantly strive for more and, thanks to technology, we try to be in several places at the same time, which is a clear attempt to possess or dominate space. We also travel by airplane in order to cover distances in hours that before would have required months. That is to say, we haven’t just tried to possess space but, in addition, we haven’t wanted to accept the limitations that it imposes on us. However, in modern society, no one has time. Time has ended up dominating us completely, by imposing on us its own limitations.
Perhaps we have increased our horizontal space, or at least the 3-dimensional space that we can see, but to end up being possessed by time has reduced our temporal horizon. Thus, at the present time, the longest natural cycle that we recognize is the year, and we are far more attentive to the hours, minutes, and seconds than to the months and years. Why should we pay attention to the months if we can now eat any fruit or vegetable during any season of the year? To do so, we simply need to grow our food in greenhouses, keep it in refrigeration chambers, or bring it from the opposite hemisphere, where it will be summer when it is winter here. And don’t the years add up one after the other, in a line that never repeats? It is the line of progress, thanks to which we now live better than in the past. Now we are more intelligent, more sophisticated, less barbaric, less primitive… But I ask myself, “Is that true?”
No! It can’t be true. Even taking into account all that we know, we ignore a lot of what we knew in the past. In this blind search for progress we have forgotten most of the old wisdom. Among other things, we have forgotten how to live in harmony with Nature, in harmony with our fellow beings and with ourselves. We have forgotten how to be happy. We think instead that happiness will come to us with the possession of space and the objects that it contains. We have remained in the material aspect of that duality, which we don’t know how to recognize. From this material aspect emanates space, making us forget the immaterial aspect, which defines time.
Time is something that we can’t touch but which, nevertheless, governs our lives. It is something we can’t see, even though it is impossible for us to escape its gaze. We try to deny it, covering the wrinkles in our face. We try to control it, marking it with the hands of a clock. Nevertheless, it controls us; it rules over us with a baton that ticks 60 times per minute, to the beat of our heart. It governs us, for time is no more than a product of the mind, and the mind governs us.
The Australian Aborigines never let their minds project such a concept. They never created a Titan named Cronos (Saturn to the Romans), son of the Earth (Gaia) and the Sky (Uranus), who castrated his father and took his place. Cronos ended up devouring his own children for fear they would do to him what he did to his father, Uranus. Among them, he devoured Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, and Hera, the goddess of women and marriage. Cronos represents time devouring everything, for he destroys the environmental equilibrium and the system of matriarchy, to create a patriarchal society detached from Mother Nature.
That is the dream that has ended, a false dream that is over. To understand how the dream changes requires that we understand another type of time, which I call “sacred time.”
Translation assisted by Sarah Hirsch.