‘Sunset’ – Claude Monet, 1880 – WikiArt
“The Soul, which is eternal Spirit,
Standeth above Time’s sovranty:
Already in this present world
She liveth in Eternity.”
~ Angelus Silesius
There seems to be an inescapable canvas that allows our life to take place and unfold in the world. This is the concept of time and space. It is the frame in which our seeming existence can spread its tentacles in every directions of our four dimensional reality. At least this is what thought tells us. This is our representation of reality. But is that truly so?
Time seems to work vertically, allowing experiences and events to unfold one after the other, in sequences, allowing for birth and death, progress and becoming. It is intimately related to space, which works more horizontally, allowing objects and selves to move in different directions and places. And of course, time and space require that things and selves in the world are made out of matter and have all a separate, independent existence. Things and selves are like the set and actors on the stage of life, the never ending search for happiness being the script or the story, space being the place of the representation, and time the duration of the play that allows the story to unfold before the audience. As for the latter, it is composed of us all. We are all watching the representation of our existence.
So our whole life seems to be happening within the frame of time and space. There seems to be no question about it. Without them, we are as nothing. So the least thing we can ask for is that they should be experienced within ourself. Not deduced or mentally represented, but actually experienced, felt within. And yet they aren’t. Actually, space and time are nowhere to be found in our present experience, except at the level of mind, or measure. If we stop the play for a while, and rest in the stillness and experiential reality of our own being, we don’t experience the unfolding of time. We don’t see a distance anywhere. Time and space are not in the picture. They are always the result of a projection. They move and thrive inside ourself, but not we inside them.
It seems that the now is the only thing that is truly experienced. Whatever takes place, at any point in our existence, is always happening now. My actual experience ‘is’ this ’now’. For where have you seen a past? The past is gone irremediably. We can only assume its existence. If it ever existed, it did so quietly at rest in the now. As for the future, there won’t be any. Or rather, we will find it in the only place where it resides, which is the ‘now’. It’s all now! And with space, the same thing applies. Even our biggest and most perilous trip will only take us to the place where we started, which is here. Wherever we happen to be, it is always experienced as ‘here’. There will never be a place that stands at a distance of our present being. In a way, we could say that deep down, ‘here’ is another name for ‘now’, and both are names for the ‘I’ experience, for consciousness itself. So we are eternally merged in ‘here and now’. It is the actual and original frame of existence. If we exclude the mind, time and space are never experienced. For the simple reason that I can never say that I am not ‘here and now’. At no moment, and in no place, can I say I have escaped from this reality and experience of being ‘here and now’. It is my condition. I can’t move away from it.
By conceptualising, separating, or believing in, a body in a world, the mind brings in the necessary concepts of time and space. But if we stick to what we deeply and truly feel to be, we only experience a seamless presence and reality, the consciousness that we are. Could it be that the world — although of an objective quality — was never a tangible, material reality? Could it be that it was never located outside ourself? Could it be that the physical reality of time and space is therefore null and void, that time is only a thought, a simple thought? If thinking comes to a standstill, if we don’t conceptualize our experience, if we stop projecting our conscious self into a body, then time — or space — is not brought into existence. It is simply not there. Experientially, time is redundant with our actual experience of reality. It is only when we put in motion the thinking process, along with the conceptualising of our current experience, that we give birth to a body-mind separate from experience, and that we need the concepts of time and space in order to relate with the world and perform specific actions.
‘Landscape at Giverny’ – Claude Monet, 1887 – WikiArt
“‘Time flieth fast’ we say, but who
Hath seen the fleeting of Time’s wings?
Time standeth moveless in a view
That visioneth the Whole of Things.”
~ Angelus Silesius
Our life experiences, that take place in and as consciousness, are better equated with waves forming in and as the ocean, rising into shape fo a moment, and receding back within the formless expanse of the ocean. It is more difficult to solidify the concepts of space or time with the ocean analogy, for the ocean is full, and the waves are an intrinsic part of it. In the fullness of consciousness, nothing can appear that would not be consciousness itself. In the absence of separation and solidity, where could the notions of space and time come in? They just have no place and no time to exist. When you are melted in dimensionless presence, when you espouse the whole space of being, where could you go? Where is the distance to cover? And where is the time to cover that distance, be it a physical distance or a psychological one like becoming?
So experientially, when the totality is present in and as ourself, we have no experience of time and space. We can stay all along in the still, motionless presence that we truly are. Time and space are none of our concern. For everything that is necessary for the making of this present experience is included now, is included here, in the very consciousness that we are. ‘Now and here’ is the container of the totality of experience. And this container, this awareness of being here and now, is not located inside our body. The passage from the existence of time or space to the absence of time or space is the passage from being identified to a body to being consciousness itself. Body, mind, things, time, space, all find their seeming existence and reality in the ethereal presence of awareness. This presence is the true stage where the play of life with its myriads of objects and selves is acted out. And this presence is ourself.
“When there is destruction of time, as thought,
there’s no movement in any direction, no space to cover,
there’s only the stillness of emptiness.”
~ J. Krishnamurti
But let’s make another little experiment. Let’s look at experience from another angle, at the level of things and selves. Let’s look at the world conventionally, as if it were made out of things and selves existing independently, as if time and space were the actual frame of existence, as if causality was the governing factor of life. Let’s have a look at my current experience, as I am writing. I see that I am surrounded by objects that have been processed by man. The table was assembled by the strong hands of a factory worker, with the help of machines that were themselves fabricated and invented by other men over the course of time and space. The vinyl discs on the shelves involved the same course of time and space and men to be made, including the singers and musicians that played and were one day, one place recorded as they were performing.
Every single thing around me involved the same pyramidal connections and causality that required the existence of both time and space. The carpet under my feet is no exception. All these objects involved the presence of cotton fields, of trees that grew over decades, and of countless human bodies responsible for planting, creating, harvesting, processing, assembling, delivering, and witnessing it all over many years and centuries. Only go back in time along this immense chain of causality which is responsible for this whole world to come to life, and you’re bound to find yourself in a place of no-thing-ness. At some point, all the seeming objects present in my experience are all bound to be drawn back into thin ether and void, into source, including the time and space that were necessary for them to be created and acquire shape and existence.
‘The Sea at Saint-Adresse’ – Claude Monet, 1868 – WikiArt
“Nowise dost thou inhabit Place,
Place doth inhabit thee.
Cast Place away!—then now and here
~ Angelus Silesius
The presence of this no-thing-ness is still accessible now. By simply watching our present experience, with its various and different objects and selves, we are also, by definition, contemplating the very source and creative force of it all. So in spite of all apparent odds, there are here no objects, and therefore no time or space. All these are appearing in my experience, but they have no independent reality. Their reality — and the totality of my experience — is made out of a substance called awareness, or source. And this substance contains in itself such qualities of infinity, eternity, freedom, and creativity, that it can contain everything. Absolutely all possible, seemingly existing things that are, have ever been, and will ever be.
And the more remarkable thing is that this no-thing-ness can be directly experienced by another seeming object that is just a part of its fabric, namely the very body-mind that we, human beings, are. But in truth, we are not the one that is seeing. Consciousness is too immense, or rather dimensionless, for a separate person to encompass and comprehend. Furthermore, it can never be experienced as an object. So it has to be felt by this no-thing-ness itself, by consciousness itself. This infinite, eternal presence has the power to know itself and to ‘give’ to some seemingly existing beings the capacity to experience it as if it were their own. And this presence needs no-thing for the completion of its task. Absolute stillness is its only requirement. And as if it was not enough, this dimensionless presence makes sure that the experiencing of its reality by any other seeming being included in itself, is an experience that contains in itself the ecstasy of joy, love, peace, freedom, and beauty in infinite quantity.
So when you look at a simple cup of tea, and the myriads of events and things unfolding in time and space that were necessary for it to appear here and now, then a cup of tea is never just a cup of tea. A cup of tea is made of pure no-thing-ness in which lies the totality of the universe. A universe was necessary in the making of this cup of tea. And this universe is present here and now as you experience the cup of tea, or anything else that can be experienced. If you only see a cup of tea, if you only see a world, then you have placed yourself as an object in time and space. Why being so specific? Enlarge your vision by seeing the universe in the cup of tea. Not a universe as a thing in time and space, but the universe as the hidden potentiality, expansion, and creativity of this no-thing-ness itself — the awareness that can be experienced here and now as your own self.
So remember: you have never been shaped by space and time. Maybe your body has. Maybe your mind has. Maybe your story has. For they are the result, the unfolding, of a whole universe. But what about you? ‘You’ have been shaped by here and now. Do you hear it? ‘You’ have been shaped by here and now. Now how does it feel to be shaped by here and now? How much shape are you going to acquire? What story are you going to be the result of? Our deepest self is not the result of a universe. If anything, it is rather the cause of it. But not even. And the reason is: our profound nature has no cause. That would diminish it. And having no cause, it is not itself the cause of anything. It would place it in the claws of time. It just is. It is whole and contained within itself. And every apparent things and selves dance in it, in the same way that the waves and currents, made of water, dance in the ocean.
So time and space only seem to be a means, not a reality. A means for this reality to experience itself in countless ways, in the boundless ecstasy of its own conscious presence. Isn’t it remarkable that in all analysis, time unfolds in and out of timelessness, just as place unfolds in and out of placelessness. Time and space are concepts that are so powerful that they allow the myriads of objects, beings, and selves to have an apparent and separate existence, and to relate. But although powerful instruments, they never had a reality of their own. They are only tools in the hands of the one and only true reality: this no-thing-ness that can be experienced here and now. This is a dumbfounding thing to envisage, let alone picture or understand. And yet, what gift it is that it can be experienced. Not by a ‘me’, a person — that can never happen — but by this no-thing-ness itself. And we are linked to it in the most extraordinary manner. This is the true miracle of God’s presence and immanence, of the intelligence and creative power of life.
‘Morning on the Seine near Giverny 02’ – Claude Monet, 1897 – WikiArt
Text by Alain Joly
Paintings by Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Quotes by Angelus Silesius (1624-1677) and J. Krishnamurti (1895-1986)
– “The Cherubinic Wanderer” – by Angelus Silesius (Translated by J.E. Crawford Flitch) – (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform)
– ‘The First and Last Freedom’ – by J. krishnamurti – (Rider Book)
– Claude Monet (Wikipedia)
– Angelus Silesius (Wikipedia)
– Jiddu Krishnamurti
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10 thoughts on “A Frame for Life”
This leaves me breathless and my head spinning in a myriad of beautiful ways!! Thank you, Alain.
Thank you for your comment! So lovely to hear… 🙏
So beautifully said. I love this blog!
Thank you for reading and connecting. 🙏
Thank you dear Alain.
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Thank you dear Louisa! 💗
Alain, So much depth in the article. I have to read it in doses to absorb it. Ultimately our awareness of “self ” is the means as well as the end in human birth
Thank you Prema for your kind comment! 🙏
Deeply grateful to be able to read such a beautiful exposition on the no-thing-ness from where all things arise and return
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Thanks for your comment Ananda! 🙏