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) Nature of Time: What is time?

What is time? Who can explain this easily and briefly? Who can comprehend

this even in thought so as to articulate the answer in words?

Yet what do we speak of, in our familiar everyday conversation, more than of

We surely know what we mean when we speak of it.

We also know what is meant when we hear someone else taking about it.

What then is time? Provided that no one asks me, I know.

If I want to explain it to an inquirer, I do not know

(Confessions,11.14.17, p. 230)[4]

Following these famous lines from Book XI of the Confessions St. Augustine
goes on to meditate on the intricate connections between past, present and
future in human consciousness. Unlike at least one tendency in Augustine,
seen in Book XI of the Confessions, I think that it is a mistake to try to
understand the nature of time abstractly, that is, I come to understand time
by abstracting myself from the stream of life and thereby think of time as
something out there as the object of my intellect. This object of time is
observed by the thinker as a neutral observer who steps back from himself
and meditates upon the object thrown before his consciousness. However,
Augustine also is concerned with the relation of time to creation and
eventually concludes,[5] as the quote indicates, that the thinker is always
implicated by time since he is in time. In other words, time itself is
meaningless unless it presupposes created things in time including the
thinker.[6] Indeed, Augustines meditation on time in the Confessions begins
with the attempt to understand the relation of God to the world He created.
Augustine attempts to respond to the question: What was God doing before
He created all things?[7] To which Augustine responds: nothing as doing (sc.
creating) implies time. Time came to be with Gods act of creation, for God is
timeless or immutable and changeless unlike creation, which is temporal,
mutable or changing.[8]
Butif Augustine does acknowledge the connection of time to creation, for him
this meant our consciousness of creation, which led him to collapse time past
and future into the eternity of the present moment.[9] In the present
moment, I am aware of myself as made in the image of God so that time, as
the triune reality of past, present and future, becomes unreal next to the
eternal image of the Trinity. This eternal image is in the mind as a present
moment of self-consciousness.[10] I dont think this solution should be
accepted because it essentially says that all change is unreal[11] since
whatever is real is wholly eternal and only God is wholly eternal and we
share in Him through our unchanging meditation on him.[12] In short, the
past and future, according to one traditional theology of time, are unreal and
only the present moment as an image of eternity is real.

It is arguable, however, that if God created all things very good and to be
created is to be mutable or changeable then change as variation (past,
present and future) must be good in itself. Thus the Platonic tendency to see
time as a moving image of eternity[13] should be avoided theologically
insofar as it leads to unreal creation being collapsed into real eternity
thereby ending creations variable createdness. This collapse of time into
eternity is believed by some thinkers to be necessary because temporal
creation is viewed as metaphysically evil[14] insofar as it is not eternal
which is to be good, real and invariable. On the contrary, it is arguable that
the division between past, present and future in time does not point to the
unreality of physical creation as time bound, but instead, as Fr. Pavel
Florensky argued,[15] to real otherness, distinction and difference in God
himself as the Holy Trinity. God's life as Trinity is "perichoretic" (i.e.
indwelling, co-inherent) with each person being in the other person and all
being in each and each existing in all and all subsisting in all and all being
one in this division in the perfect unity of love.[16] Therefore, in contrast to a
certain tendency in Augustine and both Eastern and Western theologies,
perfection, for the created, is not to be collapsed into the one presence of
the Uncreated, insofar as God is one, present and invariable and so that time
finds its true end in its negation. Rather, the created images the Uncreateds
perfection in creaturely otherness and movement towards goodness, that is,
man reflects His Creator precisely in his temporality and mutability which are
"very good."[17]

[5] cf. conf. 11.30.40.

[6] cf. Mantzaridis, Time and Man, p.39.

[7] cf. conf. 11.10.12ff. and civ. Dei 11.6.

[8] cf. conf. 11.30.40.

[9] cf. conf. 11.20.26.

[10] cf. Trin. 14.5.8ff.

[11] Distentio Augustine calls it (cf. conf. 11.22.30ff.). The more positive
Greek Patristic concept is diastema. Diastema is the interval, distance, gap
or extension characterizing the different modalities of creaturely being (time
or age/eternity) where there is duration and progression.

[12] Intentio for Augustine (cf. conf. 11.27.36ff. and Trin. 14).

[13] cf. Timaeus 37.

[14] G. W. Leibniz, Theodicy: Essays on the Goodness of God the freedom

of Man and the Origin of Evil, ed. Austin Farrer, trans. E. M. Huggard (La Salle,
Illinois: Open Court, 1993), p.136.

[15] through space and time, everything bears the stamp of the number
three, and trinity is the most basic general characteristic of being (Pavel
Florensky, The Pillar and Ground of the Truth, trans. Boris Jakim (Princeton:
Princeton UP, 1997, p.422 [Stolp i utverzhdenie istiny: opyt pravoslavnoi
theoditsei v dvenadtsati pismakh (Moscow: Put, 1914 Reprint in Moscow by
Lepta, 2002), p.596]).

[16] The life of God is one where singula sunt in singulis et omnia in
singulis et singula in omnibus et omnia in omnibus et unum omnia
(Trin.; cf. and John Damascene, De Fid.
Orth. (and the source in Ps-Cyril of Alexandria, De Sacrosanto
Trinitate, 10, PG 77.1144B), Athanasius, Against the Arians, 3.3, Gregory
Nazianzen, Or. 31, 14; For commentary see Verna Harrison, Perichoresis in
the Greek Fathers, St Vladimir's Theological Quarterly, 35.1 (1991), pp.53-65
and R. E. Otto, The Use and Abuse of Perichoresis in Recent
Theology,Scottish Journal of Theology, 54.3 (2001), pp.366-384.).

[17] For further discussion see Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo-Drama:
Theological Dramatic Theory, Volume V: The Last Act, trans. Graham Harrison
(San Francisco: Ignatius Press, [1983] 1998), pp.66-109, 212ff., 373ff.
1. Chronos (chronic time/Saturn): quantitative, homogeneous, secular time.
The modern age has entirely succumbed to the rule of chronic time. Chronic
time is empty, passing meaninglessly and without narrative arc. Chronic time
is mere conventional measurement, a means of counting time so as to be
able to use it as we see fit for our private economic or public political ends,
as something to be spent (time is money) or wasted (time is a resource).
Chronic time is laid out on a grid upon which unremarkable change can be
plotted; it is time as materialistic physical science knows it, where the past is
imagined to be no different ontologically from the present or the future (that
is, there is no creativity, no teleology). Chronic time is utterly indifferent to
what happens, a passive background rather than an active and interested
participant. With Chronos, the temporal situation is indifferent to the subject.
Chronic time is ruled by death anxiety: Chronos is the time of the ego.

2. Kairos (kaironic time/Uranus)- qualitative, heterogeneous, seasonal,

archetypally informed time. Kaironic time is full of potential, such that it
beckons us to participate in special moments more pregnant than others.
Kairos reveals to us that there are certain times when the order of things, the
cosmos, the would-soul, is attempting to persuade we human souls to
participate in the unfolding of events in a particular way, times when a
certain mood descends as though from heaven to characterize earthly
events. Kairos allows for a subject-situation correlation. Kaironic time
introduces novelty into the banality of linear, chronic time. It is time as
creative advance, to use A.N. Whiteheads phrase. It is timeliness. We
might even refer to the planetary archetypes as kairoi, as principles of
timeliness, rulers of the different ways eternity puts on the dress of time.
When we ask, what time is it?, we receive an answer in chronic terms;
when we ask what kind of time is it?, we receive an answer in kaironic
terms. If Chronos is the time of the ego, Kairos is the time of the Soul.

3. Aion (aionic time/Neptune)- unbounded, sacred or eternal time. Aion is

time as a moving image of eternity, as an eternal circle that, when we
contemplate it, grants us eternal life. Aion is time as experienced by the
archetypes themselves (rather than, as with Kaironic time, when the
archetypes spill out of eternity to participate in our more mundane
experience). Aionic time is a sphere whose center is everywhere, and whose
circumference is nowhere. Aionic time is our immeasurable movement of
experiential intensification toward our unique but no less cosmic destiny. If
Chronos is the time of the ego, and Kairos is the time of the Soul, Aion is the
time of the Self.
Minding time means learning to participate again, to collaborate with the
stars in the making of meaningful time. Without the promethean aid of
astrology, the texture of time would remain invisible to our minds eye, its
music inaudible to our hearts ear. Astrology makes time sensible,
meaningful, and moral. The archetypal astrological perspective teaches that
each of us expresses our own time signature; transits make us aware of how
our own psychic rhythms attune to planetary rhythms. Each of our beating
hearts is a microcosmic Sun, which is to say that we are each at the center of
our own mini-universe. Time doesnt just happen to us, we help generate its
meaningful passage. Only chronic time seems to happen to us, while kaironic
time requires our participation. Aionic time dissolves any difference between
what happens to us and what we make happen.

One practical way forward for our civilization would be to consider the
difference between Conventional and Cosmological calendars: Ancient
peoples tended to have calendrical systems based upon natural or cosmic
rhythms (the Egyptians started their year with the periodic flooding of the
Nile, for example). Modern people have introduced calendrical systems that
are more mathematically regular, but bear little if any relationship to the
cosmos itself (the Roman Empire introduced the Gregorian calendar, whose
year begins arbitrarily on Jan 1, a date which doesnt correspond to any
significant cosmological or ecological event, for example). Today the modern
world measures time in merely conventional terms, reducing it to a cultural
construct. If we are to re-invent ourselves and bring forth a more ecological
civilization, turning again to the cosmos for our sense of timing will be one of
the most crucial steps.
The Time Is Now

Of these three divisions of time [past, present, and future], then how can
two, the past and the future, be, when the past no longer is and the future is
not yet? As for the present, if it were always present and never moved on to
become the past, it would not be time but eternity. If, therefore, the present
time is time only by reason of the fact that it moves on to become the past,
how can we say that even the present is, when the reason why it is that it is
not to be? In other words, we cannot rightly say that time is, except by
reason of its impending state of not being. St. Augustine; The Confessions,
Book XI

The word now is often used to denote the present. It also implies that
whatever is being referred to in the now can be seen or experienced by the
person doing the referring. Since the word now is such a commonly
accepted word, why is it that when you look below the surface, there is still
so much controversy and misunderstanding surrounding the word? Even St.
Augustine, after giving such detailed accounts of what his contemplative
efforts led him to believe the nature of time was, said I know well enough
what time is, provided that nobody asks me. The question of whether time
is even real, and if it is, how to define it, is a question that has not yet been

It is often argued that the present does not even exist, because by the time
an instant is experienced or thought about, it is already over. Therefore
everything is either past or future. This is the question of the now.
According to this theory, whenever things are changing, the present
becomes the past as soon as it has happened, and whatever is happening at
the present moment is the only now that exists; everything that has
already happened is no longer real. And if the past is the keeper of change,
and the past is no longer real, then nothing is changing. If nothing is
changing, then time is not passing and so it no longer exists. St. Augustines
opinion that the present is merely a knife-edge between the past and
future, and that it is incapable of containing any duration of time, illustrates
this view. Any possibility for time travel is essentially erased, because if the
past and future do not exist, then there is no possible way to get there.

Other arguments advocate that the present is the only thing that exists. This
is the presentist standpoint, that the past cannot be real, because having
already happened it is no longer accessible and therefore no longer a part of
reality. The future, as well, is not real, for if it were real it would be
unchangeable, but in reality no one knows what the future is going to bring.
In opposition to Saint Augustines knife-edge theory are Buddhists of the
Indian tradition. Stcherbatsky, a scholar of Buddhist philosophy, explains that
according to their presentist ideas, "Everything past is unreal, everything
future is unreal, everything imagined, absent, or mental is unreal. Ultimately
real is only the present moment of physical efficiency.

If the present does exist, the question then becomes How long does it last?
The idea that it is extended, and not already in the past before a person
realizes it, gives rise to the modern idea of a fourth dimension of time
where people at different locations can possibly disagree about whether or
not two events occurred at the same time. This view of time, commonly
known as the eternalist perspective, is essentially synonymous with the
Block Universe view, which gets most of its support from physicists. Unlike
the common mans idea that the past is gone and the future is yet to come,
the Block Universe theory does not include a flow or passing of time, but
rather insinuates that all events are equally happening all the time. It is
similar to looking at time as if it were a painting, seeing dinosaurs, the
Renaissance, and cell phones all in the same picture.

Such theories, though they might seem to be irrelevant in terms of a

persons every day life, actually hold within them vast consequence. If the
Block Universe theory were to be the globally accepted truth, that would
mean that each individual would still exist after death, making any fear of
death completely irrational. Such thoughts would drastically affect the
standing of religion, invariably causing unpredictable change in world