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Causality and Time




The way bricks are laid... and the way thoughts arise...

Pete:
Concerning how our thoughts follow up on each-other and whether or not we are in control of their sequence...
Forget for a moment about the brain, and think of a brick house, each brick laid dictates the position of the next one, but it's the bricklayer who places the bricks. So, in the case of the brain, it's the thinker, his thinking skills and his practice that play the role of bricklayer.

E.J.:
Yeah but it seems to me that there has to have been a brick or two already laid before a particular pattern (practice) becomes evident. I mean I worked with bricklayers and there's always a layout guy that goes ahead and sets up the pattern. Not to mention bricks already made and abundant enough and in the same area. So, I'm saying that if practice makes patterns then there must be a pattern already made to start a practice.

Pete:
Look at it this other way, although, things arise co-dependently, they also happen sequentially.

Wim:
Ah, Pete, just what I was waiting for... :), I also see that simultaneity!

The issue of cause-and-effect... (the way we nowadays tend to see how an unfolding of action is brought about by something prior to that action; the way we tend to see action as a re-action or follow-through-action to a previous action) ... was not known to early non dualist thinkers like the Buddha or Nagarjuna... at least not the same way we currently explain 'causation' or 'causality'.
When they spoke of causality they spoke of co-dependent arisings or interdependent origination (that's how pratitya-samutpada usually gets translated). They did not speak about 'cause and subsequent effect' or 'action and subsequent reaction' in a time-wise unidirectional linear sort of sense. Their notion of co-dependent or interdependent arisings also always included more than two linked dependencies. Pratitya-samutpada was seen as a complex web of interferences... the way my mother said it once,
"Everything has got everything to do with everything else, but the way we see time, messes things up in such a way that we don't see anything anymore the way things actually happen."
(In Dutch,  "Alles heeft met elkaar te maken, maar hoe we met tijd omspringen,
is hoe we er geen touw meer aan vast kunnen knopen.")
Our way of looking at 'happenings' linearly and one-directionally time-wise, is also steeped in a rather recent materialistic way of looking at what is, a paradigm that excludes 'anything considered to be opposite to the materialist definition as non-existent or not-extant and thus deniable, dubious or at least negligible.
The dualist paradigm made us divide the world into materialistic and non-materialistic 'notions'... a dualism that over time easily invited either one monism (materialism) or the other (spiritualism) to be deemed the only reality - either one judged by some kind of socio-moral acceptance, resistance, skepticism or denial.
This is not to say that before those divergent paradigms developed so contrastingly, that the world was seen more whole... obviously not... otherwise people like a Buddha or a Nagarjuna would not have arrived on the scene up expounding their insights.
One thing though, in their days - before the 'age of the clock' - time was experienced differently. That is... if time was experienced at all !!!
To us - who are so bonded to the clock from birth on (birth all too often scheduled by appointment, our feeding patterns, breast or bottle, so timely regulated) - when we look back into history (something that we clearly make up as we go) we all too much project our description of time onto whatever we may see as experienced in our stories of the past.
That means that if we want to understand "co-dependant arisings", etc., we have to clear our understanding of the insights of Buddha incarnations from our 'time' interpretations.
When we do that, when we take our understanding of time out of their causality/causation equation, then, as a consequence, we also subtract our assumed one-directional temporal linearity from it. Thus we will end up seeing and understanding their 'pratitya-samutpada' more clearly. When we also, in order to even better understand, include that in those days less materialistic 'drivers-and-drivens' were not denied, it might become evident that even non-material elements (so to speak) were part of the web of mutual reciprocal simultaneous interferences...

To illustrate the multi-directionality of time in structures operating in dimensions less tiny than the sub-nuclear, let me mention autopoiesis and teleodynamics, creative dynamics in which future patterns influence past arrangements or arrangements still to take place. (Geometrically Penrose (1989) identified such teleo-patterning in the way certain aperiodic crystals foresee their final non-periodic quasi-crystalline formation and set up beforehand to reach that shape.)

At any rate, I suggest it behooves us to wake up or re-awaken some intuitions, notions or ideas that we may very well harbor, conceptions perhaps that could be in line with a reality that differs radically from the assumptions that we held for real while they adulterated our observations of and in reality.
As well, we should hone our non-dual paradigm and ensure that, as we profess our nondualism, that we exclude dualist remnants that might still stick to us by force of habit, which only by way of habitual thinking seem to make sense - in spite of them being mental residue, being no more than non-sensorial nonsense.

Pete:
Well Wim, let's keep this simple and let us stick to the point I was trying to make. As far as sequentiality and cause and effect goes, watching a ballet, it seems that the beginning of a certain melodic theme causes the entrance of a certain dancer, and that a dimming of the lights causes the exit of another, etc.

Wim:
As we play life, that might indeed seem so... artistically, artificially in an artsy sense.

Pete:
Well, no, I don't think it just seems so. I mean, although this is still a metaphor, in the biological ballet that takes place in our head, neuronal connections always precede mental acts, and mental acts call for more neuron connections. No ticket, no laundry; no brain, no consciousness.

Wim:
It looks to me that in what you just said, that you include a certain 'webbedness' as well as some very welcome physical/mental integrative considerations.
Your view though seems to be in a one dimensional temporal way, albeit... bi-directional and that is great!
You may remember that I once suggested time to be two dimensional and that time - the square of time actually - is part of that 11 dimensions space-time String Theory, the extra dimension being an additional temporal dimension - orthogonal to our usual description of time. I said something like, "Heck, there might even be some kind of multi-dimensionality to time. The collapse of the wave function always involves a squaring of space/time vectors. We have to square with time... square off with time, really!
In Quantum Mechanics with certain complex representations of probability functions 'upon collapse', time also gets squared and... that's the crux of the matter... time's linearity and sequentiality disappear... and it is that what allows for that coincidental simultaneity of what is usually seen as dichotomous, dual, linear and sequential."

What we as humans tend to do in an attempt to gain a simple grasp of seemingly complex reality is to do something that is akin to taking the 'square root of it'...: something comparable to how we find it easier to visualize the size of a 225 square mile forest fire when we take the root of 225 and visualize the size of the forest fire to be 15 miles long by 15 miles wide.
The way we attempt to understand the dynamic 'a m b i e n c e' of life (the totality of surrounding conditions and circumstances affecting growth or development: atmosphere, climate, environment, medium, milieu, mise en scène, surroundings, world ~ Houghton Mifflin) is something similar: we take the square root of it: the nine dimensions of 11 D space-time (M theory) become three dimensions (the remaining six becoming hidden) and t (time) to the power of two become just t (time).
That 'root taking' produces a modicum of simplicity: we can follow it, there is sequence and linearity, order is simpler in lower orders of magnitude, we can 'geometrically' oversee it... forgetting though that this calculated simplicity only represents the square root of totality... and thus we, analyzing and simplifying, we live now in and according to a derivation of reality...

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