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Time — A Brief Look at the Fourth Dimension

By Alan Thurley

Time is your name for the movement of Consciousness.

Richard Bach

Before 1915 when Albert Einstein published his famous General Theory of Relativity, time was accepted as simply a fact of existence. Mankind has always been aware of the passing of the seasons, and built monuments to record the movements of the Sun and Moon at least five thousand years ago. However it was not until the middle ages that mechanical clocks were made, capable of dividing the day reliably into shorter periods. In the present century this sub-division of the units of time has been extended to an incredible degree of precision and accuracy.

In his General Theory of Relativity, Einstein shows there to be an intimate relationship between time and the dimensions of space, such that time itself must be viewed as a dimension.

Hence today we refer to time as the fourth dimension, but understand it only as we have always done. No-one seems to have looked into the properties of time as dimension. The conclusions expressed in this article should therefore be treated as tentative and subject to revision.

How can one visualise four dimensions?

A line (one dimension) can be considered to be made up of an infinite number of points (zero dimension) along its length. A plane is bounded by lines and can be viewed as having an infinite number of lines across its face. Likewise a volume can be viewed as an infinite number of planes (two dimensions) stacked together. Four dimensions therefore, will be equivalent to an infinite series o three dimensional spaces extending in the fourth dimension, and similarly for higher dimensions.

In this instance we are viewing the fourth dimension as the dimension of Time. As we shall see later, this generates limitations which can be resolved by resorting to a fourth dimension of space, thus making Time the fifth dimension in fact.

What then, are the characteristics of Time?

Time bestows Continuity and Duration on the Dimensions of Space, thus permitting the constructs of Space validity. For without durability how can it be said that anything can exist in the dimensions of Space?

Without Time the world could not be; and neither could we!

Let us try to visualise a four dimensional world; that is three dimensions of Space and one of Time.

This can best be done by thinking in terms of the duration of some object, of its ‘life’ so to say. Let us consider an ordinary kitchen knife. It is ‘born’ in two (or more) parts, a blade and a handle being the most evident. So the knife comes into being when the blade and handle are united. Its first experiences are sharpening, honing, and cleaning. It will be packaged in some way, and find itself eventually being bought and used for the first time.

Throughout its ‘life’ it will experience the cutting of many things; meats, vegetables, breads, perhaps even paper or plants. It may be misused as a lever or a screwdriver, or to do injury to some person. It will be washed and sharpened on many occasions, and the blade and handle will become marked and worn. Its shape will change as time progresses. Eventually, when it no longer functions as a ‘knife’, we may consider it to be ‘dead’.

In order to visualise Time as a fourth Dimension, it is first necessary to form a view of the many changes in the shape of the knife throughout its ‘life’. Next we must try to form a view of all these shapes extending in time. Somewhat like viewing a ‘sausage’ with a knife-shaped cross-section which varies along its length according to the physical state of the knife, gradually changing shape as it is blunted and re-sharpened, bent or chipped. Thus the ‘sausage’ represents the life of the knife, and every possible cross-section (slice) represents a moment in its ‘life’.

It is not too difficult to achieve this view, since we are all familiar with a sausage and slices of sausage. It’s just a matter of labelling one end ‘birth’ and the other end ‘death’, and visualising the ‘sausage’ in between as varying with the changes in shape of the knife throughout its ‘life’.

This still is a three-dimensional view however. The more difficult art is in coming to accept each infinitely thin slice of the ‘sausage’ as a solid three-dimensional moment in time. That is, to visualise the changing shape of the three-dimensional knife in the fourth dimension of Time. It sounds complicated, but it isn’t really. We do it unconsciously all the time:

“Do you remember when little Johnny had measles?”

This is taking a three-dimensional slice out of Time. A process very aptly called ‘re-member-ing’; putting back together. So when we look back on life, we re-view ourselves in the fourth dimension. We are just not used to thinking in those terms.

Having discovered that a life can be viewed in this way, it should not be too surprising to find that this ‘sausage’ of three-dimensionality in Time does not disappear when the object it represents ceases to exist in ‘our’ time. It remains unchanged.

This is much the same as driving along a country lane and passing a cottage. When it is passed it leaves our consciousness, but it does not cease to exist.

Similarly, the cottage was there before we came to it; it didn’t suddenly materialise. So also, if we could move at will through Time, we could pass and re-pass the cottage at all stages of its ‘life’.

Another way to look at this, is to liken a life to a page of text. The reading of the page sequentially from top to bottom represents the motion of consciousness throughout the life. When the age has been read, the life’s consciousness is ended; it is the end of that life. But the whole of the page, the life, is still there to be read again, perhaps incompletely this time. Perhaps a word, or the punctuation, is read incorrectly. It is still the same life, but the reading (consciousness) is different.

In reality, of course, things are much more complicated than this because each person inter-relates with other people, and the environment, throughout Time.

To return to the ‘sausage’ analogue, this would now look like a tangled mass of ‘sausages’, and the Time-slice would now intersect many of them. Because there are so many inter-relations throughout life, the true visualisation would probably be equivalent to a three-dimensional Hologram, varying in the dimension of Time.

A consequence of this view of time is that we do truly have Eternal Life; a short section in the holographic four dimensional space-time framework of the Universe. However, we should be very careful as to our ideas of who or what it is that experiences that life.

Now all this may seem difficult to understand and too complicated to cope with. How can we ever be expected to visualise our life as an entity in both Space and Time that remains unchanging in terms of the Universe?

Let us take another analogy. Let us assume that our life is a car travelling round the M25 motorway, and that the Dartford Tunnel is the limbo between lives. Let us join the car as it leaves the Tunnel on the Essex side. As it proceeds it passes various junctions, adjusts speed in relation to other traffic, passes through two short tunnels, changes lane, finds the road become wider for a while, and eventually, after many adventures, approaches the Dartford Tunnel from the Kent side, and enters ‘oblivion’ in the Tunnel itself.

This is equivalent to one lifetime. The experiences of the car are the ups and downs and changes of life. On this occasion there was little traffic, perhaps mid afternoon, with little reason to change lane or alter speed.

Rather like an ordinary uncomplicated life in the country perhaps.

The car leaves the Tunnel again and the journey is repeated. However, this time the traffic is much heavier and the journey seems longer and more difficult. Perhaps there are traffic jams, or an accident. Maybe the weather has changed or it has become dark. Perhaps the engine isn’t running smoothly or the windows keep misting up.

There are so many possibilities for change in this very simple analogy, that it suggests there may be more to our picture of life as a fixed invariant space-time entity.

Can the car leave the M25 for good? What allows the variation evident in the analogy?

One should be very careful about reading too much into analogies, however there is a parallel here with Indian teachings of transcending the “cycle of rebirth”. The choice lies with the driver, who may prefer the M25 as a ‘safe option’; even though he knows it does not lead to his destination!

In the analogy, the car experiences the ‘life’ of each individual circuit of the motorway differently. How is it that there can be a correspondence between the ‘lives’ of the car and the lives of ourselves?

Where is there the possibility for change to occur in our picture of a fixed lifetime in space-time? Surely we could only experience an exact repetition if our consciousness could rejoin our life at the beginning?

Perfectly true of course in a four-dimensional space-time, where life is predetermined rigidly and choicelessly by ‘Fate’.

But not in a space-time of five dimensions.

© 1992 Alan Thurley


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