We cannot, either, effect a reconciliation or explanation of the original contradictions of existence by taking refuge in our concept of Time. Time, as we know or conceive it, is only our means of realising things in succession, it is a condition and cause of conditions, varies on different planes of existence, varies even for beings on one and the same plane: that is to say, it is not an Absolute and cannot explain the primary relations of the Absolute.
We are speaking about the reconciliation of contradictions in this world. Can we reconcile the contradiction between the Absolute and the relative by taking refuge in our concept of Time? Can we say that the Absolute became the relative at some point of Time and would again become the Absolute at some other date in Time?
How do we conceive Time in our normal human perception? We conceive Time as our means of realising things in succession; Time serves as the cause of conditions and varies on different planes of existence. For example Time in physical plane is different from Time in mental plane. Even within a plane it varies from one being to another. This means that Time is not an Absolute and cannot explain the primary relations of the Absolute (Time is a divine instrument, a mobile extension of Consciousness and hence it is written with a capital letter by Sri Aurobindo).
(At what moment does Time begin? The Consciousness that chooses—is it in Time as soon as the unrolling begins?
No, Time is a succession; you must be able to conceive that the Supreme Consciousness, before objectifying itself, becomes aware of Itself in Itself. There is a global, total and simultaneous perception and there, there is no Time. Likewise one cannot speak of “Space”, for the same reason, because all is simultaneous. It is something more; it corresponds to a state of consciousness subjective rather than objective, for the aim, the motive of creation is objectivisation; but there is a first step in this objectivisation in which there is a plenary consciousness, total and simultaneous, beyond Time and Space, of what will constitute the content of this universe; and there, the universe is pre-existent, but not manifested, and Time begins with objectivisation.
You say that “time is relative”. What does that mean?
The sense of the length of time depends upon your consciousness. If you are in the ordinary human consciousness, time is measured by the number of years you expect to live. So, what requires, let us say, fifty years to be realised, seems terribly long, for you think, “Fifty years… where will I be in fifty years?” Even without your being clearly aware of it, it is there in your consciousness. But if simply you look from the point of view of a mental consciousness, of something which lasts like a written work, for instance—a work of truly fine quality can last for hundreds and even thousands of years; so, if you are told, “For your ideas to spread it will take a hundred years”, this will not seem to you so very long. And if you succeed in uniting your consciousness with the psychic consciousness, a life is only one moment among so many similar moments which have gone before; and so one life more or less is not of much importance. And if, still further, you unite with the consciousness of eternity, time no longer has any reality. All is relative.
The Mother: CWM: Vol 4: p. 161, 232)
They work themselves out in detail by Time and seem to our mental and vital being to be determined by it; but that seeming does not carry us back to their sources and principles. We make the distinction of conditioned and unconditioned and we imagine that the unconditioned became conditioned, the Infinite became finite at some date in Time, and may cease to be finite at some other date in Time, because it so appears to us in details, particulars or with regard to this or that system of things.
The contradictions develop in detail by Time. But it seems to our mental and vital being that the contradictions are determined by Time. But we do not trace back to their sources and principles.
We make the distinction of conditioned and unconditioned, the Infinite and the finite. We imagine that the unconditioned (the Absolute) became conditioned (the relativities in this world), the Infinite became finite at some date in Time; it may cease to be finite at some other date in Time. Because it appears so to us in details, particulars or with regard to this or that system of things.
But if we look at existence as a whole, we see that infinite and finite coexist and exist in and by each other. Even if our universe were to disappear and reappear rhythmically in Time, as was the old belief, that too would be only a large detail and would not show that at a particular time all condition ceases in the whole range of infinite existence and all Being becomes the unconditioned, at another it again takes on the reality or the appearance of conditions. The first source and the primary relations lie beyond our mental divisions of Time, in the divine timelessness or else in the indivisible or eternal Time of which our divisions and successions are only figures in a mental experience.
If we look at existence as a whole (not in parts as we see now) we would realise that infinite and finite coexist; they exist in and by each other. Assuming the universe were to disappear and reappear rhythmically in Time that too would be only a large detail. It would not show us that at a particular time finite ceases in an infinite existence and all relatives become the Absolute and at another point of Time it takes on the appearance of relativities. It is not that all relatives dissolve in the Absolute at one go and reappear at one lot.
The first source and the primary relations (with the Absolute) lie beyond our mental divisions of Time, in the divine timelessness. Or they lie in the eternal Time of which our divisions and successions are only figures in a mental experience.
(Is the unfolding of the universe continuous or does it stop somewhere? What is it that gives us the impression of a beginning, of a decision to begin?
Where does the decision to begin come from?… (laughing) From the Supreme probably, I do not know! It may be that one day He decided to have a universe of the type we have and He began to objectify himself in order to have a universe.
Each element of this universe is eternal because the universe is the Eternal. Now, in the Eternal it is difficult to speak of a “beginning”. Evidently It has always been and It will always be. Only, take for example (this is an image, remember, do not make me say things I do not say), take a sphere which is full of infinitesimal things in an incalculable number. If you change the relation of all these elements, well, the number is so great, the possibilities of relations so many that you may easily speak of an infinite, although from a philosophical point of view it is not an infinite; yet from a descriptive point of view one may say that it is infinite. Each element is eternal. All the combinations are infinite, but the same combination never repeats itself twice. Thus the universe is eternally new and yet it is eternally the same.
According to tradition it is said…
Yes, yes, but it is not a question of tradition. There are people who speak of Pralaya, I know, but that simply means (excuse me, but one must speak a little lightly, otherwise this becomes insufferable) that one day perhaps the Supreme may feel tired, dissatisfied with the kind of universe He has made and may want to create another! Then, as it is He Himself, He takes everything back into Himself and puts it out again! That is what people call “pralaya”, but it changes nothing: all the elements of the universe are eternal and eternally will the combinations be different.
The Mother: CWM : Vol 4: p 217-218)