It is important to remember that chronological time is contained within eternity, which is to say, within timelessness. It is a distinction, like the distinction of the self, upon which the appearance of the cosmos depends.
Another way to say this is that the present contains the past and the future because both are projections (one apparently forward, one apparently backward) that can only ever happen in the present moment.
Chronological time has value in the same way a fork or a spade does. It’s a useful tool according to context, but we have so thoroughly conflated it with psychological time that it has become a sort of enemy, obstructing the very insights it might otherwise facilitate.
Chronological time is a form of segmentation. Most of us divide our lives into decades, the decades into years, the years into months, the months into weeks, the weeks into days, the days into hours, the hours into minutes and the minutes into seconds.
Given this distinction, which appears to us as not as a distinction but as reality, clocks and calendars become virtual idols. We attend to them as if they were gods, or tools which measure the activity of gods. Who among us can stop time? Who among us is not subject to its steady march?
Time is helpful when it allows you and I to have tea at 4 p.m. or meet at the library in an hour. It is helpful when we use it to bring forth love. It is less helpful when we perceive ourselves as victims trapped in and by its ceaseless progression. Then we begin to resist it: we get angry at it. We stop using it as a tool and allow it to use us. Like Dr. Frankenstein, we make time and then lose control of it. The result is terrifying and murderous.
In terms of A Course in Miracles, the egoic mind uses time to remind us of our impending physical death and, to the extent it allows for eternity, hell (T-15.I.3:3-5). Time is suffering, nothing else.
Yet there is – there is always – another way.
The other way in this case is to give attention to time and in particular to the way that we relate to it. How do we make use of it? What do we believe about it? For example, it can be helpful to see in a deep and sustainable way that we are always relying on the past to “tell us” what we are seeing in the present.
Noone really sees anything. He sees only his thoughts projected outward. The mind’s preoccupation with the past is the cause of the misconception about time from which your seeing suffers. Your mind cannot grasp the present, which is the only time there is. It therefore cannot understand time, and cannot, in fact, understand anything (W-pI.8.1:2-6).
In A Gift for All Mankind Tara Singh said something interesting about the eighth daily lesson of A Course in Miracles. He said that our minds are bored and listless and easily distracted. But if they can become interested in something – understanding the truth of “my mind is preoccupied with past thoughts,” for example – then they became dynamic and alive. “Interest and attention,” he said, “are essential first steps to bring you to a creative action where you can extend the Will of God.”
If your interest is in something meaningful, you will awaken wisdom and the real abilities that you brought with you at birth to express. You will extend your God-nature upon the earth. Your interest and its energy will bring you to the present and to meaningful, intrinsic expression. You were born with a purpose and a function. You are part of the One Awareness in which minds are joined (169).
A Course in Miracles does not deny the existence of what it calls “the temporal sequence (T-1.II.6:10). It does, however, suggest that miracles – shifts in perception – can undo time, and that they function within the temporal sequence (T-1.II.6:5) and, finally, outside of it (T-15.I.8:1-3). The Holy Spirit is the means by which this undoing is made possible (T-1.I.38:1).
It is my experience that what the course calls the Holy Spirit is never not operative in what we call our lives. What we are in truth is forever working its way to the surface of awareness. God wants to be remembered. It is also my experience that this process of awakening – of remembering what we are in Love – can be sped up (within the temporal sequence) through what Singh calls “interest and attention.” When our desire to wake up outweighs our desire to sleep, then awakening is the sure and natural result and it happens independent – outside – of chronological time.
This makes sense when we accept that neither God nor the Holy Spirit are separate from us in any meaningful way. You could call them “interest” and “attention” and not diminish either. It is not necessary to understand this intellectually. It doesn’t have to make sense anymore than understanding how electricity works is necessary in order to flick a switch and have the room fill with light.
Nothing is required to access God and the Holy Spirit, other than genuine willingness. I say “genuine” because it is always possible to say we are willing when we are not. It behooves us to be honest in this regard. If we are not ready to know God, and if we say that gently and clearly and without worry, then we will discover that our unreadiness has been undone for us. There is tremendous power is honesty. It, too, is the Holy Spirit.
The only thing we need to do with respect to chronological time is not get hung up on it. We need to use it according to the purpose of awakening, which is to say, to remembering that we are not apart from God. Time can be put to learning. When I need to clear deadwood I use a chainsaw. I don’t head into the forest with a spoon. The saw does what I ask it to do, which is why and how it was made. I don’t pretend it has a mind of its own.
Thoreau understood this.
Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.
Thus, chronological time is a tool that can be used within eternity to remember eternity. It can be used helpfully or unhelpfully. We can project onto it qualities it does not have. It can gently facilitate awakening or impede it altogether. The choice is ours.