Consider Chapter 0 a reference point.
March 4, 1789, is a day that more than 331,000,000 people relive every day. From the moment they wake up till they lie down to sleep, a past over 231 years ago—raw as ever. They have moved past the moment, but it still resides within them. It is an experience that controls their behavior and understanding of the world. One is manipulated to a point where it strangles them, a binding imprisonment they know but do not see. On March 4, 1789, the United States Constitution went into effect, providing the framework for the United States as we understand it. All of the good and bad that the world has experienced through this political technology began within a moment long ago, yet its influence still dominates much of the world stage. This single example illustrates a central theme of this text: our experience of time as both the independent observer within the moment and as the totality of happenings throughout the history of the universe. Many challenges face humanity today, and if we examine them from a bird’s-eye view, we can see that they cumulatively form what we will refer to as the crisis. At the very core of our journey toward self-actualization in the age of crisis is the reimagination of how we frame and conceptualize the human relationship with time.
Time through the lens of the observer is both the expansion of singular moments and the simultaneous experience of all moments prior. Each individual observer inhabits a fraction of the nearly infinite happenings occurring simultaneously throughout the universe within a given moment. These event chains coalesce as an experience containing both the immediate present and pasts, far gone but as real as ever. The immediate present of intersecting realities occurs through each observer bringing their own complex and unique histories to the moment with an unavoidable bias toward specific ways of thinking and acting based on their inheritance of being. As our earlier example of the United States Constitution highlights, we experience past moments in real time alongside new ones formed in the immediate present. For better or (more often) worse, we are bound to frozen moments in time that we had no voice in crafting.
Our time experience is an intersection of vast event chains spanning eons and the immediate present. We can imagine many alternative histories but may only draw from ours. This inheritance of history extends far beyond humanity's existence and applies to both individual and collective history. And yet our experience of time is also uniquely individual, subject to our perceptions and understandings. We are forced to act within the constraints of our immediate present, ensuring that our capacity to fully express our humanity directly correlates with our access and agency within a given moment. This combination of perpetual inheritance of the moment and individual access and agency existing in relation to our specific circumstances illustrates how the systems surrounding us are part of the individual. They define our capabilities and power and mold our imaginations into more rigid understandings of the world over time. Every individual exists within a greater ecosystem of happenings that shape their entire being, much of which is entirely out of their control. Interactions with the world and others perpetually change who we are. When we speak of observing as the experience of being time, we draw from the knowledge that each of us inhabits a space that is the culmination of every universal event since the initial singularity and proceeding expansion. Our exploration of the possible occurs at the apex of universal history. Nothing exists beyond this moment. There is a certain gravity to embracing the fact that no matter where your conscious coordinates place you within the moment, you are a unique fraction of the pinnacle of all information and knowledge.
Exploring our perceptions of the time experience requires that we decouple time from the idea of numbers on a clock. While the cataloging of earthly rotation is a great organizing technology, it is an inadequate definition of the moments we inhabit. When we use the language of “time experience” in this text, we refer to the moment, the space you occupy within the immediate present. Our ability to self-actualize in the age of crisis depends highly on our ability to embrace the nature of being as we understand it. Time is the foundational human experience. We are both in it and of it, and each of us possesses the divinity to direct it. Awareness of our ability to change anything and everything by choosing to redirect our focus and energy at any time is the most fundamental power we possess. Through this power, we birth creation, reshaping the universe in our image. In this, we are more godlike than we give ourselves credit for. Embracing this truth will change everything. In many ways, self-actualization in the age of crisis is a call to a higher time sense. Throughout the text, we will explore philosophies and practices to further embrace and apply this knowledge to our individual and shared experience.
The idea that the human being is aligned with the totality of the cosmos is not new. The first historical notions of individual universal significance took place in the spiritual technology labeled the Upanishads, a collection of works from mystics of ancient Vedic religions, formed in present-day India. Central to the philosophy was the knowledge of Brahman as the ultimate reality and the Atman as the individual self.1 Early in the Upanishads, it is stated that these two are one. The totality of the being created through the wholeness of the individual and their external universe could only be described as “neti neti,” which translates to “not this, not this.”2,3 This supreme intelligence was understood to be embodied by individuals as evidenced by the phrase, “Tat tvam asi”—“That you are!” 4 These philosophies were passed down orally through generations and are considered the oldest earthly spiritual philosophy. Their findings were rooted in meditative practice, breathing exercises, and various methods of exploring altered states of consciousness. By connecting the dots between the internal and external, these individuals developed a vision of humanity worthy of our potential: creator and creation of our own doing. As the cosmologist Carl Sagan once said, “We are the way for the universe to know itself.”
There is a distinct experience of reality when embracing your individual identity as a part of a larger cosmic whole. Our personal perspective as a fraction of the totality is as much of us as the entirety of our surroundings within the moment because everything we do will be in relation to these circumstances. This conceptualization of self may seem difficult to wrap your head around at first, but consider the relationship between microorganisms and humans. The difference in size between a virus and a human being is roughly equivalent to the difference in size between a human and the Sun.
When a virus infects a human host, it becomes part of that individual, a tiny component of a larger biological ecosystem, that attempts to exert its will on its environment—our bodies. The virus is simultaneously independent of its universe and an indistinguishable part of it, depending on what perspective you view it from. Despite inhabiting radically different scales of reality, humans and viruses operate with similar wholeness to their environment.
This mutual integration of being extends beyond the invasive virus. Consider our symbiotic relationship with bacteria. There is a one-to-one ratio between bacteria and human cells inhabiting our bodies.5 Meaing the individual is as much bacteria as they are human. Bacteria inhabit our bodies from birth until death and provide us with protective, structural, and metabolic benefits. We possess a symbiotic relationship with bacteria; we offer them a universe to live within, and they contribute to the progress of the higher self.
Symbiosis is also one of the foundational theories of nature. The first multicellular organisms were likely cooperative groups of single cells that each performed different roles. As time progressed, these organisms became dependent upon each other to the point where individual survival was no longer viable, eventually incorporating their genomes into a unique multicellular organism.6 When we consider the combination of individual and system as a larger self through the lens of biology, we observe examples all around us. The existence of life and matter, which exist in various degrees, is always related to the place and space it inhabits. There is no separating the two.
The acknowledgment of our time experience being at the same time individual, collective, and total within a given moment helps break the dualism commonly reinforced by present philosophy and practice. It also conflicts with historical philosophies of meaning and organization, which presently support the notion of being as a primarily individual experience—able to influence others and the environment but ultimately isolated from them. Reframing our relationship with time requires us to peel back layers of understanding that we may consider natural or necessary within the present day. Fortunately, modern science and collective connectivity provide us with knowledge frameworks to do just that. The human experience of being as both the fractional individual and the totality of the moment repositions our understanding of being into a much more expansive vision of ourselves, providing a cornerstone to create new frameworks of meaning and value necessary to transcend the crisis.