One of the most vexing problems to most physicists is the notion of time and its absolute relativity, depending on the subjectivity of the observer. In the normal course of events, we experience time as a flow, or arrow.
But during extraordinary experiences — during a mystic revelation, while taking a mind-altering drug, in a moment of madness, or even during a near-death experience (NDE) — all of us experience time rather differently: as an eternal moment of now or even, in the case of clairvoyants, as a moment in the future.
To a person on a hallucinogenic drug, time can even feel as
though it is flowing backward. However, mainstream physics does not have a theory able to embrace either our ordinary or extraordinary perception of time.
Time as a cube
Time to the physicist is still described in accordance with Einstein’s concept of space–time, where time and space represent one giant cube, and the moments we experience are dots residing somewhere inside it, a bit like a Christmas pudding (or a chocolate chip Brownie, to you lot in America).
There is no physics equation to account for the ‘flow’ of time or, indeed, for those anomalous moments when time stops, speeds up, or even suddenly jumps backward or forward. Indeed, to most physicists, time as a forward arrow is an illusion.
Frustrated by the Einsteinian view of time, a Slovakian physicist has come up with another model that embraces both our conventional notion of time as an arrow as well as the subjective time experienced by humans undergoing extraordinary anomalous events.
A new model of time
Metod Saniga, an astrophysicist at the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Bratislava, studied the NDE research of Dr Raymond Moody and others, and came up with his ingenious mathematical model of time.
Saniga began by poring through a batch of accounts of people who’d described extraordinary moments of time. After gathering a large sample of these data, he began to construct a mathematical model of time elastic enough to represent time as either a flow or a moment, as an ordinary experience or an extraordinary state of consciousness.
But to do this, he required something more sophisticated andthree-dimensional than a linear model.
He played around with fractal geometry until, in the mid-1990s, he discovered a picture in a book of what is known as a ‘pencil’ of conics, where each different conic section has four points in common.
Once he saw this pencil, Saniga realized that he had his model—something pliable enough to create a unified representation of time.
Saniga then resorted to a specialized branch of mathematics called ‘algebraic projective geometry’. Rather than delineating each event in time as a single point, he considers it more accurate to represent it as a curved line within an infinite series of curves arranged in a plane.
These curves are called ‘conic’ sections — circles, ellipses, parabolas and hyperbolas —formed whenever a circular cone is intersected by a plane. Geometry, which describes the mathematics of curves, and algebra, which describes the mathematical relationships between the curves taken together, could most accurately portray this new sense of time.
In the eye of the beholder
This is how Saniga’s model works. When you draw a pencil, each curve represents a moment in time. A dot on one of the curves is your own perspective, your place in the present moment as it is to you. The infinite number of conic sections outside of the point represents the past, and the infinite number of sections that the point lies inside of represent the future.
To represent an altered state of consciousness, take a point (your place in time) and place it on top of one of the four points in the pencil where all the curves meet. From that perspective, every moment exists as the present, so time is experienced as an eternal ‘now’.
To represent time standing still, says Saniga, you move the point (your perspective) to one of the two lines which cross at the centre of the picture.
Saniga has devised a similar description of space as an infinite set of lines that all pass through one point. To represent three dimensions, he has created three pencils of straight lines over three planes. At the point where all three pencils intersect, you are standing at the place where all space feels like one big
Now, to create a complete model of space–time, as Saniga
describes, draw your pencil of conics, then draw three more pencils of straight lines on three other sheets of paper. Slot them into the pencil of conics so that all four pencils share the points where the lines intersect.
Then take a piece of uncooked spaghetti (representing yourself) and
slot it through the entire model. If you place yourself on one
conic and straight line, you are in a position of ‘ordinary’
perception of time and space.
But if your spaghetti lands in a place where more lines intersect, you may be at a point where you experience time as an eternal ‘now’ or space as a giant stretched-out ‘here’.
According to Saniga, there are 19 possible places to put your
spaghetti—analogous to 19 different possible experiences of
time and space.
If we can adopt this all-embracing science of time, all of our experiences outside of time — near death experiences, forecasting, retroactive intention — begin to make perfect sense.