On the Real and Unreal Existence of Time

It is our observation and experience that time plays a significant, influential and useful role in living and non-living systems. Daily routine of us, worldly or scientific, is time-based, time-related and time-bound. The origin, being and cessation of things, objects, events, processes, thoughts and life systems are time-specific. All natural and non-natural processes are assumed by us to take place in accordance with time and its passage. In all disciplines of learning and activity time has been playing a prominent role.

Earth spins around itself and simultaneously revolves round the Sun. Based on these movements, day and night are created and the passage of time is observed, experienced and measured by us. We have knowledge of the extent of passage of time by referring to watches, clocks, various time-measuring devices, calendars, almanacs etc. The awareness of Time through these measures is only a facet of nature of Time and is not comprehensive and complete. Awareness of nature of Time is varied and is not unique. Like the understanding of Divinity, the understanding about Time is multiple. Time has many forms, structures, natures and has been viewed, defined and understood variedly.

Evolution of Concept of Time

Time has many forms, structures, natures and has been viewed, defined and understood variedly. Ancient Indian thinking contributed to the concept of time. The essence of ancient Indian thought on time appears to be the identification of three major characteristics of processes i.e., the beginning, the ongoing and the end. Ancient Indians stated that time passes in a cyclic way.

Ancient Chinese felt that time is discontinuous. It is with the Greek philosophers, the different and mutually contradicting views about time started flourishing. Plato is the first to distinguish time as it is in itself from our awareness of time and from events in Time. He regarded Time as being actually produced by the revolutions of the celestial sphere. Zeno related Time to motion. Pythagoras tended to identify the chronological with the logical. Aristotle, possibly influenced by Pythagoras felt Time as counting of motion in respect of before and after. He regarded Time and motion as reciprocal. He concluded that Time does not exist without motion. Thus for Aristotle, Time is a numerable aspect of motion. Plotinus objects to this aspect of Time when he says “motion time cannot be, since motion takes place in time”. For Heraclites time signifies the period of world from its function to its destruction and rebirth.

Galileo has represented time as a geometrical straight line. Barrow said that time is the continuance of anything in itself in its own being. Newton felt that an “absolute time” exists, whose equable flow is independent. Thus he says “Absolute, true and mathematical Time of itself and from its own nature flows equably, without relation to anything external. Leibniz felt the order of successive existents as time. Kant perceived time as an aspect of our experience and denied it an existence in external reality. Einstein criticized the classical concept of universal simultaneity. He provided the term relative time. Human experience and observation sense two existences of time. They are physical existence and psychological existence. Modern physicists like Stephen Hawking talk about real and imaginary times and also about the shape of time.

Thus the nature of time is as perplexing today as it was at the beginning and during the evolution of civilizations, to scholars, scientists and philosophers. Ordinary people do not even dream that they do not know about the nature of time. But passage of time bears powerfully on human emotions in the form of past and future. The nature, structure and manifestation of time are seldom of interest to normal human-beings. But many intellectuals have been and still are wondering about what time is, how it began, where it is leading us, will it end and also does a quantity like universal time actually exist at all in the sense as is understood, practiced, kept and applied by us presently.

“Our present picture of physical reality, particularly in relation to the nature of time, is due for a grand shake-up—even greater, perhaps, than that which has already been provided by present-day relativity and quantum mechanics” (Penrose) [1].

This article is written in this spirit to give a fresh insight of time, its passage and consciousness by critically studying the mathematical constructions of time and the evolution of relativity concept. Time is considered as one of the fundamental quantities in physics. Second, which is the duration of 9,192,631,770 cesium-133 atomic oscillations, is the unit. We generally believe that we know what time is. But our understanding of time is not unique.

In light of expression of varied, contradicting and different views of time, philosophers tended to divide themselves into “process philosophers” and “philosophers of the manifold” to understand and express about the nature of time. “Process philosophers” hold that the flow of time (or human advance through it) is an important metaphysical fact. But the “philosophers of the manifold” hold that flow of time or human advance through time is an illusion. This article is an attempt to consolidate currently available different views, concepts and senses in relation to time in natural sciences, cosmology, ancient Indian expressions of time and comment on our keeping universal time, the notion and experience of passage of time and on the existence of absolute, true and mathematical time separate from processes.

Thus thinkers have been attempting to understand the nature of time since the start of civilizations. Many intellectuals through generations have been expressing thoughts which aid us in the understanding of the nature and structure of time. Ancient Indians, the Chinese and the Greeks and many western and eastern scientists and philosophers have made substantial contributions in this regard An attempt is made in this article to get an understanding of time and thought process using basic physics principles and ancient Indian wisdom as revealed in the Upanishads and related Indian philosophical and spiritual texts. Our observation and experience recognize physical and psychological existences to time.

Present Perception (Modern Science and Philosophy)

Time is movement, change or becoming.

The construction and structure of time in other disciplines is different from that of modern physics and cosmology. It is discussed here various constructions and structures of time in natural systems, including manmade.

Construction of natural scientific systems or processes as time: Physical Existence:

Human observation and experience recognize physical and psychological existences of time..

Natural sciences such as physics, chemistry and biology give us insight of time variedly. Movement, change and becoming are three classifications of time available. These classifications can be understood by observing physical, chemical and biological processes as follows.


Matter and energy are engaged in all natural or non-natural processes. Matter can exist as solid, liquid, gas (vapour) or plasma (ionic form) at a given time and space; energy can exist in many forms.

Matter and energy can be in (i) a state of rest or (ii) a state of motion. Aristotle opined time as counting of and reciprocal to motion. Motion associated with matter can be translation, rotation and vibration and periodic or non-periodic. Plato opined time is generated by cosmological movements. Thus movement has been construed to be time and also the cause of time.


The phase or state of matter is changed by energy and the form of energy is changed through matter. Thus transformation of phase or state of matter or form of energy takes place with mutual help. Natural or non-natural processes involve transformation of both matter and energy bringing out changes to within or without of matter.

Thus all physical and chemical changes are constructed as time.


Biology is the natural science dealing with living systems. We will be aware of physical changes of an organism – the result of physicochemical changes within - as growth or decay. A plant becomes a tree. A girl becomes youthful. These two becomings (transformations) are growth of organisms. Tree becomes dead-wood. Youthful woman becomes an old woman. These two becomings are decay or degeneration of the organisms.

The psychological process of a human being becoming angry and being peaceful after the anger subsides, is also biological process involving changes in and changes of psychic energy. Human knowing, learning, thoughts, perceptions, understandings and experiences are other mental processes which are two way-becoming of psychic energy [9]. Thus all physical, chemical and biological matter has phases of origin, being/becoming and dissolution (cessation) which are becomings associated with matter and energy. Thus becoming is construed as time.

Ramabrahmam: Es gibt keine Zeit. Es gibt nur prozeβe. There is no time. There is only ongoing of processes. Time and Space Perceptions are relative to conscious state of mind.

The following phenomena are normally assumed as the passage of time:

  • Movement –translation, rotation or vibration– (or transition) of matter in space.

  • Changes in the state or phase of matter (by the aid of energy).

  • Transformation of energy from one form to another form either through matter or otherwise.

  • Being and becoming (growth and decay) of organisms.

  • The in-built order of happenings guided by natural forces in natural or non-natural processes.

  • The ability of human mind to perceive, record, retrieve and expect various happenings taking place in physical time.


  1. Movement has been construed to be time and also the cause of time.

  2. All physical and chemical changes are constructed as time.

  3. All physical, chemical and biological matter has phases of origin, being/becoming and dissolution (cessation) which are becomings associated with matter and energy. Thus becoming is construed as time.

The above three insights of time as time essentially concern changes. Thus changes of place or phase of matter or change of form of energy can be construed as time. External monitoring of duration of these changes are measurements of time and passage of time. All these measurements concern physical existence of time. Thus physical existence of time consists of changes and measurement of duration of such changes. Simply, change is time. Energy-form-change through matter or changes in or to matter by energy is time.

Durational and Metrical Aspects of Time

The nature of time when studied reveals two aspects of itself – durational (period) and metrical (counting). We are aware of both these aspects in our daily worldly and scientific usage. We have clocks, watches, calendars, almanacs…. to monitor and measure time as a duration and flow.

The durational aspect of time comes into picture when the period of a process concerning matter or anti-matter or energy in space is compared with an external uniform process- the process going on in a time-measuring device. Actually processes, natural or non-natural, are initiated and go on guided by natural forces and cease to happen because of natural forces. It is known to us that the nature of such natural forces varies depending on the size and form of matter and the domain of activity and magnitude of energies and time-periods involved. So far we have identified four such natural forces- the gravitational, electro-magnetic, strong- and weak- nuclear forces. These four natural forces cause movement (transition), change (in phase and state of matter and form of energy) and becoming (ex: growth of organism) to matter and/or energy.

We utilize the durational aspect of time also to ‘record’ the periods of various processes taking place in the universe, which none of us need experience. We have identified many periods of happenings, from the period of nuclear transition (10-23 sec) to the age of the universe (1017 sec). The machines developed by us can ‘experience’ the durations of happenings whose magnitude is in tiny fractions of a second. The machines can follow and monitor such durations. The interval between two moments, the beginning and cessation, is the duration of that process or ‘absolute period’ of that process.

Time, in the sense of instants of time, is the numerable or metrical aspect of time. These instants serve exactly the same purpose as page numbers do to a book. Imagine that a book is bound properly in the order of narration and the page numbers are not put. Does the absence of page numbers on the pages of such a book change, alter or influence the course of narration? No. The page numbers just facilitate us for quick reference. Similar purpose is served by instants of time which facilitate us to refer to what had happened prior to our presence, what is happening in our presence and what will happen later to our presence. As individual numbers do not have any other significance except for being in sequential order so also individual instants of time do not have any other significance than being the divisions of duration, of movement of earth round the sun or of the process going on in a clock.

Thus instants of time are just ‘numerals’ that are used to signify or characterize durations of various processes. This type of metrical aspect of time is the other sense in which time is understood. It is important here to realize that any movement, change or becoming concerning matter or anti-matter or state or form of energy create time. In other words time is caused by the processes, natural or non-natural.

A period is absent in the absence of a process. Duration is absent in the absence of a period. ‘Time’ is absent in the absence of duration. Thus time is missing in the absence of a process, natural or non-natural. Time is dependent on a natural or non-natural process for its being. It has no independent existence from the process or event or happening- physical, chemical, biological, psychological, cosmological, social, political or likewise. Such a physical existence as flow and period of a happening is the physical time. Thus the being and becoming of matter and energy is physical time.

Time takes various loci (paths - straight line, circle, reversal) of time while ‘flowing’. Ancient Indians proposed cyclic path. We all modern people are following the idea of Galileo that path of time flow is a straight line, i.e., linear passage of time.

The observation of them demonstrates that the locus of time-flow is none other than the course of the path and direction of the course of the process selected.

Actually there is no passage of time. There is only ongoing of processes involving changes to matter and energy.

Physical Time Measurement and Flow of Time

When we analyse it would be interesting to note that in all time-measuring devices, internally an energy transformation takes place. This energy transformation within takes place as a non-periodic, linear or periodic process. The energy-presence (being) and energy transformation (becoming) there-in, are the result of a mechanical, electrical, electronic or atomic process taking place and going on within the clock and the same is manifested as movement of hands or display of digits on the dial depending on the technology used. Thus energy-presence and transformation of that energy from one form to another form are essential for time-measurement, to monitor passage of time and even for time to exist.

Energy-Presence (Being) gives scope for durational aspect of time. Thus Energy-Presence is Time-Space. Time-space as Energy-Presence can be termed Static Time or Time at Rest. Transformation of such an Energy-Presence creates time-flow or passage of time. This time-flow within a clock monitors the time-flow or time-taken concerning an external on-going process-physical, chemical, biological, astronomical, cosmological or psychological. Energy-Transformation is the time-flow aspect of time which when divided as seconds etc., becomes metrical aspect and is the dynamic aspect of time. So energy-transformation is Dynamic Time or Time in Motion. The measure of this Energy-Transformation decides the speed of respective time-flow.

From Newton’s laws of motion we know that a body is in a state of rest or uniform motion unless acted upon by external force. Inertia signifies the state of rest and velocity signifies the state of motion. Potential energy is the state of rest and kinetic energy is the state of motion for energy. State of rest or uniform motion (being) gives time-space and change in these (becoming) gives time-flow. Thus inertia (potential) and movement (kinetic) are implicit and associated with a body/charge/particle in a physical phenomenon. Mass is inherent to inertia and location and shape of matter and static-charge to potential energy and velocity is inherent to movement and time is explicit and non-inherent to a physical phenomenon. Change of velocity and/or acceleration can influence movement but change of time ca not and will not. Thus the above discussed nature of time as dependent on energy and energy transformation points to review the status of time as a fundamental physical quantity.

The concept and notion that processes take place in time is not the reality. Time does not pre-exist processes-natural or non-natural- and is only constructed as duration by natural forces initiating, sustaining and terminating such respective processes. The reality that change - as movement or change or becoming – defines, manifests and constructs time is to be realized. Time is a consequence and not cause of processes. The presence of a universal time passing either absolutely or relatively is to be denied. A lot of contemplation about the non-presence of time: annihilation of time; eternity; instantaneous happening; absence of happening must take place for arriving at a clear insight of nature of time.

Matter or energy at rest or in motion or under transformation is the physical manifestation of time and constitutes physical time. The physical manifestation of flow of time or passage of time is ongoing of processes involving transformation of energy through matter or change of phase of matter by the aid of energy. Matter- or Energy-Presence is Time at Rest or Static Time or Time-Space or Durational aspect of time. Matter- or Energy-Transformation is Time in Motion or Dynamic Time or Time Created or Metrical aspect of time. Time-Space is defined, created, controlled and ceases to be depending on Energy-Presence and the energy/matter available and amenable for and cause of transformation.


Time is not a physical quantity. Time is awareness. Time is a sense. Passage of time is an observation and a mental experience in a particular conscious state of mind. Rise and fall of and flow of conscious states of mind and thoughts and other mental functions constitute psychological time. Psychological past is a record of happenings and psychological future is an apprehension about happenings caused by the egoistic mind during the passage of physical time. Both psychological past and psychological future are thought-forms in the physical present involving psychic energy transformations in the wakeful and dream conscious states of mind.

Physical present is same everywhere in the universe and only observation and counting are at different instants. Counting of physical present is a function of geographical location. Continuous presence or continuous flow of matter or energy without transformation or change is Time-transcendence or Thought-transcendence or Timelessness. That means continuous state of rest or of uniform motion is Timelessness.

Time flow signifies the speed of conversion of energy in a process. It is manifested as acceleration in movement and as entropy in change and becoming. Time flow is a measure of Being (presence) and Becoming (transformation) of matter and energy in space. An energy- presence and the transformation of that energy from one form to another form are essential for time flow, time-measurement, to monitor the passage of time and even for time to exist.

Time is explicit and non-inherent to a physical phenomenon. Time is a consequence of and consequence with processes. There is no time exclusive of process influencing the process. Inertia, static charge or non-activity concerning matter/antimatter or energy or atomic and nuclear energy levels confers the scope for time-space. Change or transformation of inertia or static charge or activity of matter/antimatter or energy or energy transitions creates time-flow. There is no time by itself. And there is no passage of time. There is only ongoing of processes.

Psychological or Mental Time

Philosophy of mind and thought processes:

Ideas of Indian schools of thought on the nature of time:

(a) Upanishads:

Prajnaanam Brahmaa : Awareness of Self (Atman) is Time (Upanishads).

Prajnanam is divided as Jagrat, Swapna, Sushupthi and Jagrat-sushupthi is, Atma Dasa.

Dristyaha –

Consciousness and Awareness – Atma Dristihi Sadaa Vidyate

Maanasika dristihi atmadristehe upari adhyasa
Mental awareness is superposition over the Cosciousnsess.

Atma dristihi Visranta dristihi (Unoccupied awareness):
Maanasika driste dve; Bahirmukha Dristihi (awareness of without of the body)
Aantarmukha Dristihi (awareness of within of the body) iti.

Pure Consciousness transcends Time and Space Consciousnesses.


Consciousness of Time and Space are not real.


Percepton of time and space are synonyms of energy and its transformation.


Transformation of Chit (psychic) energy is Time (Vedanta Darsana).

Kaalah parinaamaha (Time is transformation); kaalaha saktyaaha parinaamaha
(Time is transformation of chit-energy. (Viswa Meemaamsa).

Nyaya - Vaiseshika System:

In the nyaaya-vaiseshika pluralistic school time along with space are but two of nine equally fundamental realities. As one of the transcendent realities, time is conceived as static; it does not flow as described by western scientists like Newton. As such Time cannot be directly perceived but only inferred from motion or change. Nevertheless, time is regarded as a necessary condition for change and movement. In other words, changes are time, time itself cannot change.

Samkhya-Yoga System

For the dualistic Samkhya-Yoga schools, time and space are irreducible realities. Purusha (Consciousness) and prakruti are the underlying ground or principle which makes possible all movement and becoming. In these traditions, time is considered absolutely inseparable from change, or becoming or motion which are essential characteristics of prakruti. It has been said that the contact of prakruti and purusha is affected through the element of time. (this is nothing but consciousness becoming, the combination of awareness – mood, thought/feeling, utterance).

Advaita school of Samkara:

Only timeless Brahman is real, time itself has no absolute reality. The ultimate individual Self, also beyond the ensnaring concerns of this world, is Atman -- the indestructible spirit of Brahman present in men and women.

Time, Space and the Universe are seen as but transient manifestations which arise from repetitively during the jagrat (bahirmukha dristi state) and swapna (antarmukha dristi state) conscious states and return to Brahman durng sushupti and jagrat sushupti consious states of mind also known as visraanta drishti states. Kaalaha tu avidyaiva tasyaa eva sarvaadhartvaatSiddhanta Bindu, Pa: 16

The individual’s experience and observation of time and passage of time:

Human-beings perceive past, present and future during the course of their lives. Past and future exist only because of human observation, concern, monitoring, counting, recording and expectation in the physical present.

Human experience of time as past, present or future and observation of time as an elapse taking place during course of a process are different. The physical time flow associated or absorbed in an ongoing process is never experienced by humans. It is only measured. Natural or non-natural processes are eternally present guided by respective natural forces irrespective of human observation.

Ancient Indian View:

All the events that take place during the physical time are followed by humans with an egoistic mind. Such an identification of ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’ with individual (himself or herself), objects, persons, events, ideas, nations… etc., creates a “psychological time in us. Such a ‘mental time’ is created in the Jagrat (Wakeful/Awakened) Conscious State of mind. Wakeful/Awakened, Dream (Swapna), Deep Sleep (Sushupti) and Wakeful Sleep (Jagrat Sushupti) - are different conscious states of mind creating different phases of mind. They are structure and phases of Mental Time-Space.

Humans know/learn and express/teach in these conscious states of mind. These conscious states or phases of mind are the result of transformations of mental energies in the Unchanging and Ever-Present Awareness present as Energy-Presence during all these conscious states,. Upanishadic wisdom calls such an Awareness as Atman or Brahman. Atman is normally referred to as SELF. Atman is present in us and is the result of the breathing process. According to Upanishads Atman is the Source of Mental-Energy. In modern scientific terms Atman can be termed as a bio-oscillator/bio-maser, which issues out psychic or mental energy pulses. Atman is the oscillating psychic Energy-Presence denoting and providing Mental Awareness and Time-Space.

As Prajnanam, or Continuous Conscious Awareness, Atman witnesses all our mental activities, related body activities and happenings within and without body and body’s reactions as thoughts and organ-movements to these happenings. Being such an Awareness, Atman provides the energy required for guiding the mind to know/cognize/learn through sense organs, perceive, think, experience, understand, etc., and store such an information and retrieve the same in the conscious states described above and makes us conscious of ourselves and within and without ourselves. Such continuous and simultaneous or alternate rise and set of the conscious states or phases of mind is an aspect of psychological time and its flow.

Upanishads term Awareness of Self (Atma Drishti) as time. Awareness of the Self (Atma Dristi) is the mental phase without cognitions or cognition-related experiences taking place or retrieved (the Wakeful Sleep Conscious State). The three other conscious states – the Wakeful/Awakened, the Dream and Deep Sleep-Conscious states are alternate super-impositions over this continuously present conscious state. This Wakeful Sleep conscious state of mind transcends both physical and psychological times and time-flows. This is the original, normal or ground state of mind and all mental activities are excited states of mind.

Antahkaranas (inner mental tools) perform various mental activities which are transformations of psychic energy (virtual chit-energy-maya) to cognize and create or retrieve thoughts/perceptions/experiences/understandings/meanings/urges etc., in us. Thought-flow within us, which is the psychic-energy change during conscious states, also constitutes and constructs psychological time, time-flow and sense of passage of physical time. Thought process and thought-flow is the becoming of mental energy which makes us conscious of time and time-flow.

Feeling of passage of time-Time-conscious, time-unconscious and time-transcendent phases of mind

We are not conscious and aware of passage of time in the sense of physical time and also as the rise and set of conscious states or phases of mind and flow of thoughts/other functions of mind in the sense of psychological time, in deep sleep (Sushupti) conscious state of mind. Actually physical time measurement is only our concern and monitoring of various physical, chemical, biological, psychological, cosmological, political, historical, social etc., happenings. We are used to physical time being associated with the simultaneous revolution of earth around itself and the Sun and appearance and disappearance of Sun. This is a highly simplistic view. A more comprehensive view based on a cosmological happening which gets repeated every sixty years is the basis for the preparation of Indian almanacs. Universal Time is our creation and maintained by atomic clocks for our usage and reference.

Consciousness becomes consciousness plus awareness during mental functions. Such a phase of awareness is the series of durations of single chit (psychic)-energy pulses of period 1/10th of a second. These energy pulses when reflected in Medha (medulla oblongata / reticullar formation?) form Chidabhasa (reflected chit) pulses. Chidabhasa is also called as Maya (the Current of Awareness) and Pranavam (Primordial Sound).

When the reflected chit-energy (mental energy) pulses, constituting the current of awareness, are not transformed in Medha as antahkaranas and flow untransformed in the body, this phase of Mental Time-Space is known as Wakeful Sleep( Jagrat Sushupti ) conscious state. When these reflected chit-energy pulses or chidabhasa or maya (virtual chit-energy) transform in Medha as antahkaranas – inner mental tools - manas, buddhi ahamkaram and chittam - the Awakened/Wakeful (Jagrat) and Dream (Swapna) conscious states are on and function. These inner mental tools in the interplay of these two phases of mind in the ever-present Wakeful Sleep (Jagrat Sushupti) conscious state cognize/know/learn objects and object-energy forms through active participation of sense and action organs, react through action organs , be aware of mental processes such as thoughts, perceptions, meanings, understandings experiences etc., During this phase of mental activity we are Time-Conscious, both of physical and psychological times which are energy transformations within and without body.

When the above mental activities involving reflected or virtual chit (mental) energy -maya- transformation cease to be and we are conscious but not aware of the calmness within us which is the result of such a cessation of mental activities, this phase of mind gives rise to Deep Sleep (Sushupti) conscious state. This conscious state is similar to zero in number system and vacuum in physical science. This absence of mind conscious state is useful in the cognition activities. This phase of mind is thought-free. Hence is time–consciousness-free mental state. During this mental state we are unaware of the passage of physical time and no psychological time passage takes place in the form of change of conscious states or rise and set of thoughts. Then experience of peace of mind exists and experienced and though we are unaware of this peace during this phase we will be aware of remnants of this blissful, peaceful, silent and time-conscious-free experience during the twilight of Deep Sleep and Awakened/Wakeful conscious states. This twilight phase is the phase of experience of the Self (Atman), also known as unoccupied awareness or pure consciousness. This is the already referred to Wakeful Sleep (Jagrat Sushupti) conscious state. Peace, Bliss, Silence and Time-transcendence are experienced during this phase because of absence of transformation of psychic energy maya (reflected or virtual chit-energy pulses) into antahkaranas (inner mental tools); and hence mental activities are also absent but mind is alert possessing awareness and functions producing respective mental activities if willed and required. This state of mind transcends both physical and psychological times and time-flows.

Ego, the self-consciousness, the collection of thoughts about ‘I’ as body and associated personality traits, social status, ‘me’ and ‘mine’, creates vasanas (impressions/experiences/memories) within us. All cognition/perception/volition/urge-related experiences are created and retrieved by the antahkarana (inner mental tool) chittam. Egoistic thoughts and actions (with the thought and sense of ‘I’, where ‘I’ is identified with respective individual) in Awakened/Wakeful and Dream conscious states creates memories (vasanas). These memories get activated later (with reference to physical time passage) and cause happiness or unhappiness accordingly in the present of physical time. The phase of mind bereft of egoistic thoughts, memories or other cognitions /perceptions/experiences is the state of Self (Atman, Ego-free, blissful, peaceful and is Time-transcendent). The three other conscious states – the Awakened/Wakeful, the Dream and Deep Sleep Conscious states are transient super-impositions over this state simultaneously/alternately.

Memories and record of our experiences is our psychological past and our fears, anxieties, imaginations, expectations etc., are our psychological future. The thought-flow concerning these past and future in the form of memories activated as remembrances and fear, anxiety, anticipation, apprehensions, imaginations etc., consist of our psychological past and future and gives us the awareness of time and feeling of passage of time. Thus thought-flow (reflected chit-energy transformations) is the psychological time and its flow.. Living in the ‘past or future’ in the present leads to peacelessness. The aim of spirituality is to enable one to cultivate the habit of living in the physical present with peace.


Construction of classical, quantum, cosmic and psychological times:

The structure and manifestation of time is different in different domains of activity and they constitute different branches of physics and other natural, cosmology and social sciences and philosophy. Time is also manifested as change and becoming in addition to movement. The two manifestations of time as change and becoming play important role in understanding the various physicochemical processes going on in living organisms and man-made systems too and in the ageing process of organisms. Many biological processes are irreversible and time-asymmetric.

Matter or charge or energy in a state of rest is in potential form. Matter or charge or energy is in kinetic form in a state of motion or change. The potential form of matter or charge or energy is available and amenable to move, change or become resulting in a physical process. Similarly matter, charge and energy in kinetic form, under transformation or change or in the process of becoming in forward or reverse directions are Time in Motion and constitute physical and psychological times. These transformations, transitions, changes or becomings have finite durations and are physical manifestation of time and construct physical and mental times.

Thus Matter- or Energy-Presence without transformation is Infinite Time-Space and Time at rest. Matter- or Energy-Transformation is Time in Motion or Dynamic Time or Time Created or Metrical aspect of time. In this form time has finite nature. Finite Time-Space as duration of a happening is defined, created, controlled and ceases to be depending on Energy-Presence and the energy/matter/antimatter available and amenable for and cause of transformation guided solely by the four natural forces. Continuous presence or continuous flow of matter or energy without transformation or change or activity is Time-transcendence or Timelessness. That means continuous state of rest or of uniform motion is infinite presence of time or Timelessness.

Time flow signifies the measure of conversion of energy in a process. Time flow is a measure of Being (presence) and Becoming (transformation) of matter and energy in space. All physical, chemical, biological and cosmological processes create, contain and manifest time and its passage. Time has no existence in the absence of processes. Time becomes extinct when activity involving matter or energy ceases to be. Activity is manifestation of transformation of energy.

If the transformation of energy is continuous and finite classical time is created. If the transformation of energy is discontinuous, discrete and finite, quantum time is created. The changes of and to the universe which are infinite in nature create cosmic time. If mental or psychic energy is modulated/demodulated as experiences, thoughts, feelings, psychological time is created as series of conscious states and thoughts/feelings.

Thus depending on the nature of energy transformation in the process, time can be classified as classical time, quantum time, cosmic time or psychological time [7]. Classical time is created and constructed when energy absorption or emission or transformation is continuous. Quantum time is created and constructed when energy absorption or emission or transformation is discrete or discontinuous. Cosmic time is created and constructed by respective natural actions and interactions when happenings to Universe are concerned and observed. Psychological time is created because of ego and its relations to self, individuals, places, ideologies, religions, regions, languages and the like self-conscious and individualistic concerns, had, noted and felt, during the course of physical time.

And it should be noted that these “times” are created and constructed by respective natural forces causing respective actions and interactions involving matter or anti-matter in respective processes taking place in respective ranges of space and durations of time-periods, and exist simultaneously independent of one another without influencing one another in any way, and observed just as durations of respective processes. There is no single independent universal time whose equable flow is absolute, or relative, true and mathematical of itself and of its own nature, flowing equably without relation to anything external. All “times” are the reflection and result of energy transformation taking place through matter or change of phase of matter or anti-matter by the aid of energy or otherwise.. Acceleration manifests and represents passage of time during motion or movement. Change of entropy manifests and represents passage of time in all other natural or non-natural systems. Systems change not because time is progressing but because of and under the influence of respective natural forces, forms of energy, nature of energy-transformation, absorption and emission, and phases and properties of matter involved.

In the light of understanding the nature of time in this way, it becomes essential to have an idea of the energy transformation during a process more, than the notion of progress of time. The progress of or passage of time is just the result of processes taking place or phenomena happening or occurring and human concern and observation of such happenings, involving processes-physical, chemical, biological, cosmic, psychological, social etc., and there is no passage of time in an universal way and sense and such a passage even if cultivated, monitored and felt is not physically real [7]. The insight that time is energy and energy transformation is passage of time, creating a sense of time and consciousness of time are further advanced to understand the creation and functioning of various human conscious states or phases of mind and functional and cognitive states of consciousness and mind.

Concept of time cannot be based on pure mathematics and geometry without reference to matter/antimatter, energy and their actions and interactions under the influence of respective natural forces. Any nature of time conceived ignoring or not considering physics involved will be at most a mathematical time and cannot be a physical time.

The physical manifestation of flow of time or passage of time is ongoing processes involving transformation of energy through matter or change of phase of matter by the aid of energy and time evolves as duration as the process progresses. Time in motion is a measure of conversion of energy/matter/antimatter in a physical/chemical/ biological/ cosmological process.


Real and Imaginary Times: Origin of Universe etc. and Nature of Cosmic Time:

Origin of the universe or other phenomenon concerning universe as expansion or contraction or beginning or end seem to dominate the expressions about the concept, nature and structure of time. Thus the observation of micor-wave spectrum which existed billions of years ego was characterised by Stephen Hawking et al., as past and plotted along the y- or imaginary axis [3,5] and the real time is plotted on x-axis or the real axis.

Concerning time solely with the universe is side-stepping the study of nature of time. Deciding nature of time in relation to universe alone is incomplete assessment of nature of time and understanding of time. Our imprecise understanding of origin etc., of universe need not prevent us to have a clear understanding of the nature of time. The notion that higher and advanced mathematics alone can lead us to definiteness about the nature of time seems to be not in tune with the reality. Clubbing time with details of universe can be unnecessary. Nature of time can be conceived independent of origin of and other matters related to universe. Understanding the nature of time is different and separate to understanding the nature of origin of universe etc,.

On observation of nature including cosmos, it is evident that what can have a beginning and/or end is process, event or happening and not time. Time is as long as the process lasts and is absolute to the process. Zillions and zillions of such absolute times exist simultaneously associated with zillions and zillions of respective processes going on in the universe simultaneously, some affecting each and one another and most others not affecting any other at all.

What exists, therefore, is ongoing of processes - physical, chemical, physicochemical, biological, cosmological etc.,; that is all. There is no passage of time. The time associated with the origin etc., of universe is solely associated with the respective phenomenon concerning universe. String theory, M-theory, imaginary time, etc., cannot make sense when time in music or ageing process or evolution is studied, defined and counted. Universal time in the sense we are keeping can in no way influence the zillions and zillions of physical and chemical and other natural and non-natural processes taking place in the universe. Only the natural forces initiate, sustain and cause cessation to the processes. Time period of happening is the consequence and not the cause of the processes. The shape of time etc., relating to time concerning the universe can not be a model for times associated with the infinite number of various other macroscopic and microscopic simultaneous processes taking place in the universe untouched by the happenings to or in the universe. Theories of relativity, quantum gravity, String theory, M-theory, brane theory etc., have no relevance when nature of time is to be understood and expressed and explain the happenings, their sustenance and cessation in various living and non-living systems taking place in the universe individually, independently and simultaneously.

Just as different biochemical and biophysical processes take place in the human body simultaneously and parallel in a related or independent way so also zillions and zillions of physical and chemical and physicochemical processes take place simultaneously in the universe independently or affecting one another together with changes to universe.

Physical present is the real time. This is what we deal with in all disciplines of natural and social sciences and technology. The physical present is stated to last for one tenth of a second and flows as a series of awareness and this awareness changes every one tenth of a second or the mental pulse frequency is of the order of 10 Hertz; the brain waves get frequency modulated/demodulated during mental functions and the frequency ranges from 3 Hz to 40 Hz depending of mental functions and conscious state of mind. Both past and future exist only as thought forms.

Thus both past and future are imaginary times. The real time becomes past as memory and real time becomes future as fear, imagination, apprehension, doubt or worry. Both past and future are thought forms in the physical present. Imaginary nature of time is psychological; it is neither real nor physical. In the absence of human concern or monitoring or memory or apprehension or planning no past or future exist. Then even their imaginary nature becomes extinct. The reality which was, is and will be, is simultaneous ongoing of process, physical, chemical, biological, cosmological etc.,, unrelated or unconnected or non-influencing, each other or one another. Classical, quantum and cosmic times are originated, created, constructed, sustained and terminated depending on the phases of matter, forms of energy, their actions and interactions in the domain of activity, solely initiated, guided, and terminated, by relevant nature forces. Physical present is Being and past and future are becoming of mental awareness.


Expressions about the Nature of Time through Generations

  1. Plato: Time is produced by revolutions of celestial sphere.
  2. Zeno: Time is related to motion.
  3. Pythagoras: Time is the identification of the chronological with the logical
  4. Aristotle: Time is counting of motion in respect of before and after and is reciprocal to motion.
  5. Polonius: Motion time can not be, since motion takes place in time.
  6. Heraclites: Time signifies the period of world from its function to its destruction and rebirth.
  7. Galileo: Time is a geometrical straight line.
  8. Barrow: Time is the continuance of anything in itself in its own being.
  9. Newton: Absolute, true and mathematical Time of itself and from its own nature flows equably, without relation to anything external
  10. Leibniz Order of successive existents is Time.
  11. Kant: Time is an aspect of our experience and time has no existence in external reality
  12. Einstein: Special Theory of relativity: Time is relative (because of motion between event and observer).
  13.  General relativity: Space and time are always together and inseparable. Spacetime continuum is the reality.
  14. Stephen Hawking: One cannot say what time actually is and all one can do is to describe what has been found to be a very good mathematical model for time and say what predictions it makes. Time has a beginning and end. Time has shape. Past can be visualized by the concept of light cones.
  15. String theory: If original strings are viewed as uninterrupted in history in time, the resulting strings are a string world sheet.
  16. M-theory: There is a web of relationships, so-called dualities that connect all five string theories as well as eleven-dimensional super-gravity. The dualities suggest that different string theories are just different expressions of the same underlying theory.
  17. Imaginary and real time: One can construct a mathematical model in which there is an imaginary time direction at right angles to ordinary real time. The model has the rules that determine the history in imaginary time in terms of the history in real time and vice versa.
  18. Brane theory: 3-brane—a four dimensional (three space plus one time) surface that is the boundary of a five dimensional region, with the remaining dimensions curled up very small.
  19. Time is movement, change or becoming.
  20. Ramabrahmam : Es gibt keine Zeit. Es gibt nur prozeβe. There is no time. There is only ongoing of processes. Passage or flow of time is actually conversion or transformation of energy or ongoing processes influenced by energy associated with masses / charges / particles and respective natural forces. If the transformation of energy is continuous, nature of time is continuous. If transformation of energy is in steps or bits, the nature of time is discontinuous, discrete or quantum.


[1] Penrose, R, The Emperor’s New Mind (Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 371.
[2] Zwart, P.J., About Time, North-Holland Publishing Company, (Amesterdam-Oxford, 1976).
[3] Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History of Time (Bantam Books, New York, 1989).
[4] Peter Covency and Roger Highfield, The arrow of time: A voyage through Science to solve Time’s greatest mystery (Fawcert Columbine, New York, 1991).
[5] Stephen W. Hawking, The Universe in a Nutshell (Bantam Books, New York, 2001).
[6] Ramabrahmam, V., ‘Being and Becoming: A Physics and Upanishadic Awareness of Time and Thought Process’, Ludus Vitalis, XIII, (24), 139 (2005).
[7] Ramabrahmam, V, The myth of keeping universal time- The absence of absolute, true and mathematical time: A physics and physicochemical insight. Communicated
[8] Ramabrahmam, V, The Significance and Use of Absence, Bharatiya Bauddhika Sampada , November, 7 (2003).
[9] Ramabrahmam, V., The science of human consciousness, Ludus Vitalis, XV, (27), 127 (2007).
[10] Suresh D Heroor, Vedic (Ancient Indian) Approach to the concept of time, (private communication).


More by :  Dr. Varanasi Ramabrahmam

Top | Education

Views: 3568      Comments: 3


sanjay kumar jha
09-Jun-2015 08:48 AM

Comment Dr. Ramabrahmam,
You might find the article posted on the site

interesting, particularly its section on "Time."

Raj Vatsya
21-Oct-2013 22:09 PM

Comment Very good analysis on Time! As for me there is no beginning and end for Space, Time and Spirit because all in one activating, controlling all things and surveying all in the past, present and future !

21-Oct-2013 15:15 PM

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