The Theory of Persistence: Part Two

For clarification of the ideas in the document below, please see the following articles:

"Temporal Passage"
"The Nature of Reality"
"The Perception of 'Change'"
"Time Travel I"
"Time Travel II"
"Parallel Universes and the Mind"
"Space, Time, Matter and Mind"




Since time has only one aspect--the present--then the physical universe, if it exists, must exist at the present. The universe cannot exist in either the past or the future (or anywhere else for that matter) because there is no past or future. Clearly, there is no place other than the present at which the universe can possibly exist. I have defined "the present" simply as "conscious experience." It follows therefore that, if the present is conscious experience, the universe can exist at the present only if the universe is consciously experienced (i.e., if it is observed by a mind): only a consciously experienced (observed) universe can in any sense be said to exist at the present.(19) It is now clear why the existence of the universe is consciousness-dependent: it must be consciously experienced by a person in order to exist at (or with) the present.(20)

I refer to this process, i.e., where the universe is consciously experienced by a mind, as a process of "interaction" between an observer (the mind) and A-space. A point in A-space achieves a concrete existence through this process of "interaction." The point acquires "presentness" and "persistence" through this process, and thus achieves existence. (By "presentness" I mean "existing at the present"; "persistence," of course, simply means "existence.")

For convenience and to aid visualization, we may describe the process of "interaction" as a "linking" between an observer and a point on A-space.(21) A point may then be said to acquire its persistence directly from the observer by being "dragged" by the observer.(22) (Remember that Point M--the observer--is always in motion, and this motion is "imparted" to a point on A-space because of the "linkage." See Example 6.)



Let me define the Principle of Displacement. A thing, (anything: matter, energy, space, consciousness) must remain in existence if it is to exist: it must persist in order to exist. If a block of wood, for example, remains in existence, time will necessarily elapse. The durational distance between the present moment and Point I will steadily increase.(23) The block must always change its location with respect to Point I if it remains in existence. (When I use the term "location," I specifically mean locations on the time line; I do not mean locations in A-space or locations in O-space.)

As previously stated, the definition of existence is "the act of remaining in existence" (persistence). Thus existence implies movement away from Point I. This may be stated formally as a principle--the Principle of Displacement: a thing (anything--matter, energy, space, consciousness, etc.) can exist only if it changes its location with respect to I: it must constantly change its location, going farther and farther away from I. If this requirement is not met, the thing will not exist.(24)


New Depiction

In Example 7, I have chosen to depict the relationship between the observer and the observed (matter, energy and space) in a somewhat different way. This new visual depiction may make this relationship clearer to the reader. In this example, M is represented by a box rather than a point. When M observes Point A in A-space, Point A enters the present. In the diagram we see Point A located in the box: thus Point A exists at the present (or in the present) when it is observed by M. M, of course, always moves away from I; and, since Point A is "attached" to M, Point A also moves away from I. That is, since Point A exists inside (or at) the present, Point A moves away from I. Both Points A and M are thus in a state of constant motion away from I. Point A exists because it moves (persists): but it moves (persists) only because it is attached to M--which is, itself, in motion.

Quantum theory tells us that a point in A-space(25) must be observed in order to exist. Now we know why this is so. Matter, energy, and O-space persist (i.e., they enter into a state of motion away from I)--but only when M interacts with them (only when M observes them).

Let me now describe in greater detail how the link between mind and physical reality might be understood to operate.(26) At a given durational distance from Point I, Point M (a consciousness) interacts or "links up" with a particular point in A-space--6:00 P.M. March 1, 2000, for instance (see Example 6). At this particular point in A-space (as at all other points), there exist matter, energy, and O-space. (By matter, of course, we mean all the atoms in the universe, including those which make up people's bodies.) At the time of the link-up, a mental state is created which persists for a given duration; this psychological state is an individual's mental awareness of the physical situation at A. The persistence of this mental state results in the persistence of the fixed potential state of the universe at A. This fixed potential state of the universe is thereby "brought into existence": it now has persistence. (As I have remarked before, persistence is necessary for existence.) The persistence of the physical world can only be accomplished through the "linking-up" process with consciousness. When a given point in A-space is "attached" to the human mind, it is "dragged" along with the persistent mind, and itself acquires persistence.

An individual--an observer--can repeat this process at a later point on her time line by interacting with a different point in A-space (although she can interact with the same point, A); a new persistent external reality is thus created--along with a new mental state. (It is, of course, possible to experience a mental state without interacting with A-space: one may close one's eyes and ears and still experience thoughts and emotions and feel oneself enduring. However, no external physical reality is created.)


Observations Over an Extended Period of Time

The physical realities we have discussed so far last only as long as the mental states last; as observers, however, we usually see material objects persist over much greater durations. Since individual mental states last no longer than a small fraction of a second, we must define the experience of a prolonged persistent physical situation as a succession of mental states. (Recent work by psychologists suggests that the human "present moment" [i.e., a single mental state] lasts much less than a second, and not 2 or 3 seconds as is commonly believed.(27))

In Example 8 a consciousness interacts with Point A in A-space; the physical situation at A consequently persists for the duration A-1. Following this we see the mind link up with point B; point B contains the same physical matter as A, in the same physical setting, and persists for the duration B-1. A third interaction then takes place with C, which also contains the same matter in the same physical circumstances. The observer's impression, of course, is that of a single physical situation which persists for an extended period (A-C), although in reality several physical situations and mental states occur.

Points A, B and C, as I have said, contain the same physical situation, but it must be clearly appreciated that these points exist at different locations in A-space: A, for instance, occurs at the location 4:00 P.M., B at exactly 2 seconds after 4:00 P.M., and C at exactly 3 seconds after 4:00 P.M. Each event takes place at a different "moment" or place in A-space.

Let us now apply these same ideas to motion over extended durations; Example 9 will serve as illustration. At Point A, a consciousness receives the impression of a single, instantaneous physical motion of an object between points 1 and 2. That physical event persists, as remarked earlier, for a short duration (often only a small fraction of a second) until it is replaced by a new physical state with the interaction at B. Here, at B, the consciousness senses motion between points 2 and 3; the process is repeated at C, and so on. Clearly, the observer's total experience will be that of a single sustained motion of the object between points 1 and 8, even though several individual motions actually occur.

As we know from our experience, these individual impressions of motion (i.e., the individual mental states which collectively constitute the entire motion from point 1 to point 8), actually, do not have precisely defined endpoints. Our faculty for sensing motion, although highly accurate, cannot be used to determine the physical displacement of an object with absolute precision. Only specially built physical detection instruments can make absolutely precise determinations of the points from which and to which objects are displaced.(28)

This circumstance creates a certain flexibility (see Example 10). Suppose M were to interact with point A-1 (a point very close to A on the A-axis). The individual motion perceived at A-1 would be slightly different from the motion which is sensed at A. If M (consciousness) interacts with A-1, the object will appear to move roughly between points 1-1 and 2-1 (instantaneously, of course) rather than roughly between points 1 and 2. (By points 1-1 and 2-1, I mean points very close to points 1 and 2, respectively.) This is so because point A-1, itself, is very close to point A. As we know, physical situations at adjacent points in A-space (A-space is often mistakenly called "time") are, in general, very similar to each other: the physical state of the physical world at 2 seconds after 6:00 P.M. (Point A-1) is likely going to be very similar to its state at 1 second after 6:00 P.M. (Point A). However, as I have pointed out, the beginning and ending locations of an individual sensation of motion are not defined with absolute precision. In general, therefore--regardless of the particular sequence of interactions of M with A-space (whether in the sequence A, B, C, etc. or A, A-1, B, C, etc.), our impression is that of a consistent, smooth advance of the object between points 1 and 8: we do not sense an abrupt break in the motion at A-1.

Normally there is a regular pattern of interaction between M (a conscious mind) and points in A-space. Small deviations from this regular pattern will not noticeably affect the normal progress of the physical world that we perceive. However, radical departures from the normal pattern of interaction with A-space create an irregular sequence of perceived physical events in the world: bizarre environmental effects are seen, and we become physical/geometric-time travelers. Subjective, temporal time of course maintains its relentless, steady and unidirectional flow, even under these circumstances.



Having described in detail the relationship between the observer and the physical universe, I can now put forth my definition of history. Let me first define a historical event: a physical situation (or physical event) at a point in A-space which acquires the status of reality through the act of observation. (A historical event is only potentially real before it is observed: it does not actually exist when unobserved.) History is then the collection of historical events--i.e., individual points--which together make up the A-axis (see Example 2). Each observation or interaction with a point (say Point A) in A-space creates a new physical reality at that point; and history is consequently altered. (We will refer to physical realities which existed at A earlier as "old" realities; they were created at A during earlier interactions with the point and no longer exist.) There are, therefore, as many versions of history as there are interactions with A-space.(29) It should be noted, as well, that a given historical event exists only as long as it is observed, since it persists only when it is "linked up" with a conscious mind.

Clearly, then, travel into the geometric past creates no paradoxes in history. The theory of relativity states, in essence, that we are free to choose the point in A-space with which to interact at any given point on our time line. Certainly, interacting with lower points on the A-axis (i.e., "traveling into the geometric past") will not disturb the universe's consistency, since all interactions create new histories (see example 12).


Time Travel

Because of our physical/kinesthetic sensations, we experience ourselves as though we exist in space, at a particular location. It should be understood, however, that experiencing oneself as located at a particular place in space is not the same as being at a particular location. Only an entity which has volume and location (and perhaps a point-like entity which has location but no volume) can be said to actually be somewhere in space. Experiences are not physical objects with volume and location and, thus, cannot properly be said to exist or be within space. Rather, it is the physical world (at least the part of it that we perceive) that exists, in a sense, within consciousness (within conscious experience, or time).(30) Yet it must be admitted that a fundamental part of the human experience is that we experience ourselves as a localized phenomenon in space--we view the world from the perspective of our bodies.

Einstein showed that the nature of the physical world that surrounds us (its particular physical characteristics) depends on our velocity with respect to that same world.(31) The world appears different, as well, if we view it from within a strong gravitational field.(32) Similarly, passage through wormholes can severely distort the world we see. In fact, the world that presents itself to our senses when we emerge from a wormhole may be a world which exists in the distant geometric past. (By "past," of course, I mean lower points on the A-axis, not lower points on the time line). The theory of relativity predicts precisely the sequence of points from the A-axis that manifest themselves to our senses during the above physical circumstances.



Let me conclude my paper by summing up the essential points discussed.

1. Most importantly--I have defined "existence" as "persistence" and warned that we must not try to distinguish between these two concepts. I have explained that a thing cannot exist if it does not remain in existence; in fact, the circumstance that it remains in existence is what establishes (i.e., defines) its existence: persistence creates existence.

2. In addition, I have indicated that "time" and "A-space" are two different concepts. Time is the persistence (existence) of the present, whereas A-space is simply a type of physical space, like O-space.(33)

3. Thirdly, I have explained that physical/geometric history can be changed. Each interaction of a consciousness with a point in A-space creates a new (a different) concrete physical reality at that point.

4. Fourthly, I have argued that the non-physical mind can observe points in geometric time in any sequence.

5. And finally, in this connection, I've indicated that whatever the sequence of observations may be, subjective time always maintains its steady, relentless, and unidirectional flow.

We see, therefore, that physical/geometric "time" travel introduces no problems of a temporal nature. It appears that geometric time travel is in fact possible in our universe.

Diagrams for Part Two
Temporal Passage: Geometric Considerations
Home Page

Endnotes 19-33

19. I refer to the physical universe as existing at the present. Conceptually, however, it is perhaps more accurate to speak of the physical universe as existing with the present: the universe coexists with the present (the observer). If the present ceases to exist, the universe ceases to exist.
20. The existence of the physical universe presupposes the existence of a present moment; clearly, in the absence of a present moment (an observer), the universe cannot exist. (Where could it exist?)
21. An observer creates an external physical reality. This external physical reality "tags along," so to speak, with the observer wherever he goes. (As Point M--the observer--moves across the page in the diagram [see Example 6], the external physical universe which he creates also moves across the page, in parallel with him.) If the observer ceases to exist, the external physical universe which accompanies him also ceases to exist.
22. Consciousness (the present) persists; if the physical universe becomes attached to an observer (if it becomes attached to the present moment), naturally it will also persist.
23. The block and M exist together at the same place--at the present moment, M; the relationship between the block and I is, therefore, identical to the relationship between M and I. It follows, then, that the durational distance between the block and I will increase (see Example 2) if the block remains in existence.
24. The Principle of Displacement asserts that a thing must always move if it is to exist; existence implies change of location. "Persistence" is synonymous with "existence." We may define persistence, therefore, as the process of changing one's location with respect to I, or the process of moving away from I.
25. or rather, the matter, energy, and O-space which exist at a particular point in A-space
26. As I have already remarked, the physical universe (A-space, O-space, matter and energy) exists in a potential state of reality. Quantum theory (as interpreted by von Neumann) tells us that the mind must interact with this potential world if the world is to become real.
27. Paul Davies, About Time: Einstein's Unfinished Revolution (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), 272.
28. It seems to me, in other words, that (as far as an individual sensation of motion is concerned) there is a certain vagueness about the place from which, and to which an object is displaced. However, we may consider a situation in which an object is perceived as specifically at rest at point A, then in motion between A and B, and finally at rest at point B. In this case, the endpoints of the displacement are precisely defined since the object is at rest at both places. (Incidentally, in order to avoid possible confusion, I should point out that the "vagueness" referred to above has nothing to do with the "uncertainty" of quantum theory; it is simply in the nature of a sensation of motion that the endpoints are only vaguely perceived.)
29. If two minds, M-1 and M-2, interact with A-space (say with Point A in Example 11), two independent physical realities (i.e., historical events) will be created--physical realities A-1 and A-2 (A-1 is created by M-1, and A-2 is created by M-2). These two realities may be thought of as two projections of Point A (Bohr would refer to them as "phenomena"), which itself exists only in a quasi-real state. A-1 will attach itself to M-1 and persist with it; similarly A-2 will attach itself to M-2 and persist with it. The reader should note that events in M-1's consciousness cannot be temporally coordinated with events in M-2's consciousness. We cannot say that M-1 and M-2 interact with A-space simultaneously; neither can we say that one mind interacts with A-space before or after the other mind interacts.
30. The present moment is not restricted to a small region in space. Rather, the present encompasses the entire physical universe. "Consciousness" is synonymous with "the present." Therefore, consciousness encompasses the entire (perceived) physical universe: consciousness is not restricted to the small space occupied by the human body.
31. Albert Einstein, Relativity: The Special and the General Theory, trans. Robert W. Lawson (New York: Rown Publishers, Inc, 1961), 53.
32. Ibid., 82.
33. If we do not distinguish between A-space and time--if we insist that A-space is time--we are forced to a conclusion which is entirely unsatisfactory. Let us say an individual (Tom) lives between the years 1950 and 2030. If A-space is time, an infinite number of Toms must exist, each with his own mind (consciousness): each Tom (each mind) is located at a particular point ("moment") in A-space, between the points 1950 and 2030, and can never move from that one location. This is clearly an absurd conclusion: it is in stark contradiction with experience. The fact is that only one Tom (one mind) exists--and certainly, he observes a succession of points ("moments") in A-space as time passes; his experience of the world is not limited eternally to just one point ("moment") in A-space.