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Time is a dimension in which events can be ordered from the past through the present into the future, and also the measure of durations of events and the intervals between them.

General Description

H. P. Blavatsky talks about an absolute background for time which she called "Duration." Within this timeless framework manifest two types of time--the universal and the conditioned:

Esoteric philosophy . . . divides boundless duration into unconditionally eternal and universal Time and a conditioned one (Khandakâla). One is the abstraction or noumenon of infinite time (Kâla); the other its phenomenon appearing periodically, as the effect of Mahat (the Universal Intelligence limited by Manvantaric duration).[1]

Just as the universal time is the effect of the Universal Mind (Mahat), conditioned time is dependent on individual consciousness. Blavatsky wrote:

Time is only an illusion produced by the succession of our states of consciousness as we travel through eternal duration, and it does not exist where no consciousness exists in which the illusion can be produced.[2]

Regarding the "passing" of time she wrote:

The real person or thing does not consist solely of what is seen at any particular moment, but is composed of the sum of all its various and changing conditions from its appearance in the material form to its disappearance from the earth. It is these “sum-totals” that exist from eternity in the “future”, and pass by degrees through matter, to exist for eternity in the “past”. No one could say that a bar of metal dropped into the sea came into existence as it left the air, and ceased to exist as it entered the water, and that the bar itself consisted only of that cross-section thereof which at any given moment coincided with the mathematical plane that separates, and, at the same time, joins, the atmosphere and the ocean. Even so of persons and things, which, dropping out of the to-be into the has-been, out of the future into the past—present momentarily to our senses a cross-section, as it were, of their total selves, as they pass through time and space (as matter) on their way from one eternity to another: and these two constitute that “duration” in which alone anything has true existence, were our senses but able to cognize it there.[3]

The future lies in the present and both include the Past. With a rare occult insight Rohel made quite an esoterically true remark, in saying that “the future does not come from before to meet us, but comes streaming up from behind over our heads.” For the Occultist and average Theosophist the Future and the Past are both included in each moment of their lives, hence in the eternal PRESENT. The Past is a torrent madly rushing by, that we face incessantly, without one second of interval; every wave of it, and every drop of it, being an event, whether great or small. Yet, no sooner have we faced it, and whether it brings joy or sorrow, whether it elevates us or knocks us off our feet, than it is carried away and disappears behind us, to be lost sooner or later in the great Sea of Oblivion. It depends on us to make every such event nonexistent to ourselves by obliterating it from our memory; or else to create of our past sorrows Promethean Vultures—those “dark-winged birds, the embodied memories of the Past,” which, in Sala’s graphic fancy “wheel and shriek over the Lethean lake.” In the first case, we are real philosophers; in the second—but timid and even cowardly soldiers of the army called mankind, and commanded in the great battle of Life by “King Karma.”[4]


Mme. Blavatsky wrote:

The present is only a mathematical line which divides that part of eternal duration which we call the future, from that part which we call the past. Nothing on earth has real duration, for nothing remains without change—or the same—for the billionth part of a second; and the sensation we have of the actuality of the division of “time” known as the present, comes from the blurring of that momentary glimpse, or succession of glimpses, of things that our senses give us, as those things pass from the region of ideals which we call the future, to the region of memories that we name the past. In the same way we experience a sensation of duration in the case of the instantaneous electric spark, by reason of the blurred and continuing impression on the retina.[5]

In her book The Secret Doctrine she quotes "the words of a Sage, known only to a few Occultists" saying:

The present is the child of the past; the future, the begotten of the present. And yet, o present moment! Knowest thou not that thou hast no parent, nor canst thou have a child; that thou art ever begetting but thyself? Before thou hast even begun to say "I am the progeny of the departed moment, the child of the past", thou hast become that past itself. Before thou utterest the last syllable, behold! Thou art no more the present but verily that future. Thus, are the past, the present, and the future, the ever-living trinity in one—the Mahamaya of the absolute IS.[6]

Foreseeing the future

Events can be foreseen before they take place on the physical plane. This is because they are first formed on the astral plane before being "precipitated" on the physical:

According to the kabalistic doctrine, the future exists in the astral light in embryo, as the present existed in embryo in the past.[7]

It is on the indestructible tablets of the astral light that is stamped the impression of every thought we think, and every act we perform; and that future events—effects of long-forgotten causes—are already delineated as a vivid picture for the eye of the seer and prophet to follow.[8]

This was echoed by A. P. Sinnett:

The more or less effective clairvoyance of the augurs or diviners put them in touch with the foresight which is possible for people whose consciousness can reach that region of Nature which occultists call "the Astral Plane."
In that state of consciousness which we call in occult terminology "being on the Astral Plane," or "reading in the Astral Light," the inevitable result of any body of causes then in operation—that is to say, the effect they would have if nothing happens to disturb them—can be perceived in a way impossible down here. . . . The clairvoyant, seeking to follow out the progress of events, sees what must happen, if things are left to themselves, from the operation of the body of causes in existence at any given moment.[9]

According to Annie Besant, even without clairvoyance it is possible to "feel" the effects of events that have not yet happened:

Now very often such a mood is simply an overshadowing from the astral plane with which we have really no more to do ourselves than the stream which is shadowed by the cloud has directly to do with the cloud. These clouds come over us from the astral plane, sometimes because one we love at a distance is suffering, sometimes because some misfortune is on its way to us and the shadow foreruns it—we have seen and felt it on the astral plane before it comes into view on the physical.[10]

Origin of time

Scientific view of time

Around 1665 Isaac Newton developed the first clear formulation for mathematical physics of time, which was seen as a linear flow that moved independent from anything external, that is, an absolute magnitude.

Albert Einstein's 1905 special relativity challenged the notion of absolute time. Time in a "moving" reference frame is shown to run more slowly than in a "stationary" one. In other words, moving objects show a slower passage of time. This is known as time dilation. Einstein's equations also predict that time should be altered by the presence of gravitational fields, running slower as the latter gets stronger. All this lead to the development of a mathematical model where time and space are interwoven, known as the spacetime continuum.

Today, the two pillars of modern physics (the general theory of relativity, and the standard model of quantum physics) describe reality in the same way regardless of whether the variable called “time” increases or decreases. This time-independent description of the cosmos is sometimes called a “block universe”—a static block of space-time in which any flow of time, or passage through it, must presumably be a mental construct or other illusion.[11]

See also

Online resources



  1. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 62.
  2. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 37.
  3. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 37.
  4. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 70.
  5. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 37.
  6. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 16.
  7. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972), 184.
  8. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972), 178.
  9. A. P. Sinnett, Nature's Mysteries (London and Benares: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1901), 83-84.
  10. Annie Besant, On Moods Adyar Pamphlet No 46 (October 1914).
  11. See A Debate Over the Physics of Time in Quanta Magazine