Updated: Dec 2, 2020
The past is pervasive. It is the basis of our knowledge and provides the context of our life.
We are beings who live in bodies that manifest in space and time. These bodies are enabled with the capability of sensation, feeling, and thought, each of which is experienced by that part of us that observes. However what we experience is recognized based on self- knowledge, and that knowledge comes from our personal past, as remembered from past experiences.
We compare what we experience now to what we already know in memory. That gives us the recognition of something as familiar. To cognize is to know. It happens in our biology and brain functions. In effect when we recognize something, it is what we remember, and we are essentially re-knowing something from the past. The memory of something forms the basis by which we contrast and compare our current experience to our memory. We then add our new experience to our accumulated past experiences by creating another layer of memory. In doing so we validate what we already know with more evidence. This process occurs automatically in us. Said another way, when I recognize something, I see that it is the same or different than what I have already experienced before. To do so I make use of my memory in referencing the past. And so, the past is never absent from the present for me. In fact, the past is the very basis of my thinking and personal identity. It is how my consciousness becomes aware of being consciousness. I remember myself.
Our human condition is that of being thrown into existence in an already existing world, which is at each moment caused by the past and simultaneously also forming the future. At least this is true in our perception of time as a mental abstraction. This is the nature of what we call causality. It has been known for thousands of years as the law of cause and effect or as karma. The Buddhists say that actually nothing on examination can be found to exist that has no cause. Even the western idea of a creator God comes from the notion that there must be a first cause. Our minds simply cannot conceive of an eternal causeless cause, and thus we create an endless loop of causality to explain everything to ourselves, because we require the certainty of explanation, and this explanation is also all based on the past.
The world we experience is our place of existence. It is manifested and seems to have always been manifested from events occurring in passing time. We think of it as existing in dimensional space/time, as Einstein described. Yet this exists by virtue of still higher dimensions of form and thought that reach down to us from the most high. This is the world that Plato imagined. In our day to day life, these ineffable dimensions are not apparent to us. We simply do not have memory of experiencing them in our life. However, there is certain geometry that exists that is found in space/time. Our transcendental ideas are in effect the creations of a thought reaching down to us from higher levels of consciousness that makes use of us and our lives. We believe there must be something higher than us, yet resist the idea of impersonal laws that operate on us from above. Yet we experience our personal, individual lives all within a notion of time, and we experience it as time. Time is one of these dimensions, and it is the limiting constraint of our existence. We cannot directly experience the transcendental, which is beyond time as we know it, but only our time stamped perceptions, that we experience and then label with language as stages in a description having a beginning, middle and end are what we consider valid.
In this sense, we understand existence only in relationship to the "living that we are living now." It is something that for us seems to exist until it ends for us at the completion of our life, as if our death is an entrance to a terminal state of non-existence, which is all we can imagine without beliefs in religion. That is, not as a phenomenological fact, as if existence is eternal. Based on what we perceive, we can only say it's like the status of non-being in time for us. So, as Gurdjieff said, that "time is the unique subjective." It occurs for us like a living world in our perception! We exist within it! We cannot see any escape from the past or for that matter, the future that we are living into moment by moment. It is our subjective experience of it that we see and not an eternal world that transcends our subjective experience. We only know the subjective first person experience.
Given this condition we are born into, of living within a subjective experience of living time, we see that we inherit all our meaning, all our language, all our ideas of what is real and true, all our superstitions & beliefs, and all our learned behavior. Our morality and ethics! The context for all of this is the human past. We share it with our lineage of beings from whom we came. It all came from that which came before us. It is not their fault either for what it is There is no blame in causality. There can be no original sin, though a belief in such a thing can be inherited even if it never actually occurred. Our minds are controlled by such beliefs, yet we are blameless for anything that happens to us that occurs out of the past that caused us, or our inherited beliefs. The simple state of things is that they are exactly as they are. What is is! What isn't, isn't. That's all there is.
We can either see or not see how it actually is. However, since to see is to learn newly, what is learned from what we see immediately then becomes the past for us. For better or worse, in this way "time has no mercy". We will be caused by the past all the time. We will always attribute meaning to occurrences based on knowledge from the past. Perhaps as we evolve, we can begin to find a new way to create meaning. In effect, we will continue to function as we have in the past unless we evolve in our state of being to generate meaning by another means. Probably this is beyond our possibilities, as we would need to exist in a higher dimensional reality than the world we actually live in and experience given our biology.
Is it possible to recognize this phenomena of the past as cause in the matter of our programming and intentionally begin to interpret the content of the knowledge we possess to design our future? Is it possible to begin to generate that future from this wish instead of only recreating and reacting based solely on the past?
For human beings, as "languaging beings", it is meaning that ultimately matters! Our very future depends on how we observe, and the nature of the questions we ask, and what we ultimately accept as being true. In this way, we could possibly invent the future we will live into. Can we invent a future that builds on what we wish, in relation to what exists now? Or can we develop the will to cause what might exist from our capacity to generate, rather than only based on the pervasive influence of the past in our minds?
To build a future based on what we generate by our conception, rather than based on an inherited past, would truly be something new under the Sun!
© Copyright 2006 Robert Fertman, All Rights Reserved