Sacred Dimensions of Time and Space - Cover



The knowledge that seems most self-evident is this: 'I am here'. Suppose we make this knowledge our starting point. Can we let this fundamental axiom of first-level knowledge open into deeper, more penetrating knowledge? Can we awaken a curiosity about the significance of this statement, which so strongly sets in place a personal understanding of what knowledge is all about? If we let the knowledge that 'I am here' expresses speak, what does it have to tell us?

In 'I am here', we can take 'I' as the point of view operating at this particular point, 'am' as being alive in time 'now', and 'here' as the zero-point in space from which we begin. So far we have a zero-dimensional world, a zero-point that manifests not only in space, but also in time and in knowledge. But a point 'here' makes little sense without another point 'there', and making this connection also gives us a baseline between these two points. Now there is subject and object, self and world, knower and known. Interestingly, this simple shape a line marked off by two identified locations, could be seen as the letter 'I' turned on edge, and this letter (in English, the language of this inquiry), designates the point of view of the self. Perhaps we can take this as a message from knowledge, an indication that our line of inquiry may prove fruitful.                 

In identifying 'here' and 'there' and the baseline between them, we have assumed that these two points can be located. But to locate along the line requires another structure off the line, one that intersects the line at a specified place. Thus, a zero-point is typically located at the juncture of an x-axis with a y-axis, two lines that serve to specify the location of the point. However, the axes themselves, considered as structures, depend on four end-points, and each of these four points will require its own locating axes. In this way we arrive at sixteen points in all. When we explore the structure we have set in place in other ways (for instance, by bringing in the baseline and the 'there', or by treating the zero-point as three-dimensional), we arrive in each case at sixteen. Let us take this sixteen to indicate completion.

When we consider the movement along the baseline from 'here' to 'there', we find that the zero-point can also be opened up along the axes. If the zero-point is not non-dimensional, this opening will be a radiating out, in the shape of a cone. Such cones can be generated along lines in each of sixteen directions. Having emerged from zero, the face of each cone (which is also the 'there') remains zero; thus, each zero gives rise to sixteen zeros.

This whole construction, based on the 'I am here' as zero-point, remains fully reducible to zero. Without the zero-point, no lines or cones can develop; at the same time, until lines have been generated, zero cannot be located, and the cones that give rise to further zero-points cannot emerge. Since each line can potentially be analyzed into zeros, we could consider the whole of this interdependent structure a reflection of zero.

Nonetheless, the 'basis' generated in this way makes it possible to establish a viewpoint, and also to identify, measure, and describe qualities. In other words, it makes possible the activities of knowledge and the arising of forms that make themselves available to be known. What is more, the simplicity of the structure means that form can readily duplicate itself in all directions, creating intricate structures built up through radiating cones and zero-point spheres.

We have no basis for calling this zero-point structure 'true', but we also have no reason to call it false. In any case, such conclusions seem secondary. What matters is that such a structure allows for a very far-reaching inquiry into the operations of time, space, and knowledge, one not bound to the usual assumptions that tend to close down questioning in advance. And because this inquiry is founded in 'I am here', it is one that any 'I' can make. Although it is 'my' inquiry, it belongs to no one.

Perhaps this unusual structure can grant knowledge unusual access. Perhaps it will allow us to listen more closely as knowledge speaks. For although at one level time, space, and knowledge must remain unaffected by the lines and marks we make to divide or organize them, knowledge could also be said to respond to the measures we take. In the structure sketched out above, the particular forms identified, together with their interconnections, allow us to explore shape, character, form, substance, distance, direction, motion, dimension, change, continuity, rhythms, transitions, observation, perceptions, conceptions in short, the fundamental elements that make up the world that time, space, and knowledge present. The present work is a record of one such set of explorations.

Objective and Subjective

As a starting point for inquiry, the zero-point can be all investigated equally well in terms of space or time or knowledge. However, since we begin with the 'I am here', it seems natural to place special emphasis on the zero-point as the subjective knower, the 'I' whose existence seems to us so certain.

Does a focus on the subjective knower mean giving up on the possibility of objective knowledge? That would be true only if objective knowledge could be divorced from the subject who engages in the act of knowing. But this would be a faulty approach. It is a little like looking at the moon through a telescope without first determining whether the telescope is functioning properly, whether its lens has been properly ground, and whether we are sufficiently skilled to operate it. When that is our approach when we try to observe objective reality without first understanding the process of observation and the qualities and limitations of the instruments we are using can we really expect to get reliable results?

The 'I am here' is the lens through which we look out on the world. Suppose our lens is defective; suppose, for instance, that it induces a kind of astigmatism. Inevitably our knowledge of the world would be deficient. To our astigmatic vision, much that we saw would be enigmatic. Based on this faulty foundation, the understandings we developed would be unreliable: short-lived and liable to lead us into contradiction. As one faulty observation gave way to another, we would find ourselves mired in confusion and uncertainty.

Anyone interested in objective knowledge must face head on the possibility that we are operating under just such defective conditions, without even realizing it. Do we know how subjective knowledge works? Do we know what it takes to be a fully qualified observer? If we learned that we could improve the quality of subjective knowledge could take it to a different level could we afford to pass up the opportunity?

At the same time, those who stress the importance of developing 'objective' knowledge have a point. If we focus too strongly on the concerns of the self, or let ourselves get caught up in its stories, its needs, its biases, and its predispositions, knowledge will almost certainly be obscured.

One reason the inquiry presented here may prove fruitful is that it does not attempt to move to the objective pole of knowledge too quickly, but also does not get caught up in the endless webs of first-level subjectivity. Our starting point is the 'I am here', but our method is to investigate this 'I am here', in its component parts, as the zero-point for first-level time, space, and knowledge. This approach takes us to a level where the usual structures of the self do not operate. We might say that we are conducting an objective inquiry into structures usually considered subjective, but even that is misleading, since the distinction into subjective and objective is one of the structures being investigated. Perhaps it is enough to say that we are investigating 'here' as well as 'there', that our aim is to clarify the 'from' from which our ordinary knowledge proceeds.

We could also put it very differently. In conducting the inquiry, we are simply listening to a story told by knowledge, or watching a play put on by time and presented by space. The cast of characters is rather unusual: Zero-point, axes, baseline, and cone appear early on, and sixteen and ratio have important parts to play as the drama unfolds. But this is only at one level. At another level, the actors are time, space, and knowledge, who play the role of audience as well as players. And what of 'I am here', whose story we thought we were going to hear? It too has a role to play. But it may not be the one for which it thought it was auditioning.

When our inquiry can proceed on all these levels at once, it begins to develop real power. As we see how the 'I am here' generates a cone of subjective knowledge, the very act of seeing begins to open that cone into zero. The immediate effect is to release an energy and intelligence that has been bound up in conventional structures. We are still operating at the first level of knowledge, but we have begun to put time, space, and knowledge at the center of our inquiry. There they can freely interact. From our first-level perspective the result may be a kind of explosion, a dynamic liberation of light, as being comes alive.

Foundation for Inquiry

How can an inquiry that starts with a kind of space-geometry lead to a new way of being? The answer may unfold more clearly as this book proceeds, but for now we can at least point toward the special qualities of space that found our inquiry.

Although the investigation conducted here applies to space and time and knowledge alike, the language of points and cones and lines that it adopts belong primarily to space. That seems only natural, for space is the background for our very existence, the precondition for our embodiment. Whatever we make of our lives, whatever we discover in the world around us, it is because space has made it available.

Space is the opening through which existence can appear and experience take place. Space allows 'here' to make contact with 'there', so that directions and dimensions become possible. We could even say that the 'there' allowed by space is a precondition for the 'here' of 'I am here'.

Space gives shape and form, distance and qualities. It communicates reality. The zero-point, which establishes nothing but still allows form to unfold, could be understood as a representative of this space openness. The process through which zero expands into 16, radiating forms and structures that never depart from zero, parallels the way that conventional space allows an infinite play of appearance to manifest, without ever becoming something other than space.

If we take this lead, we can investigate the 'I am here' without turning it into an abstraction. We can rely on the experience of our body and our senses: not because they give us truth about what is 'there', but because they are vital to our 'here'. We can question vigorously, but we can also appreciate what space makes available, and our appreciation can deepen into love.

When time gives space the opportunity to open in our hearts, we discover the field of space as identical with the play of time. We know that we do not have to rely on someone else's understanding or vision, but can journey into knowledge on our own.

In psychological terms, this means that life becomes more rich, and also more manageable. But this is not to say that our inquiry becomes psychological, or that we return to subjectivity after all. Instead, we recover the 'I am here' as an expression of space-time-knowledge: not an abstract proposition to be analyzed or a claim to insist on, but the truth of our being.

When we let the 'here' of 'I am here' open into the fullness of space, the juncture that presents the zero-point becomes the meeting point of time and space and knowledge, and the baseline becomes our connection with others, a link that has been there from the beginning. The space and senses and perception we ordinarily operate open differently, ready to accommodate joy. We find that we are at home in the universe.

Beauty of Inquiry

The beauty of time-space-knowledge inquiry is that absolutely everyone shares in this same structure, and so everyone is free to question, free to grow in knowledge. Each of us is born from time-space-knowledge, and each of us is bonded to time-space-knowledge. First-level knowledge may dispute the style of inquiry we adopt or the conclusions we reach, but it seems difficult to dispute this fundamental starting point. And that is enough. For if we start from time, space, and knowledge, inquiry itself will do the rest. Space and time and knowledge themselves will be transformed.

One reason 'I am here' seems a fruitful starting point is that it clarifies this ongoing intimacy of human being with time, space, and knowledge. It invites the dialogue of time and space and knowledge to begin, and invites us all to listen in. But there are other modes of inquiry as well. Others can question differently, bringing to their investigation the precision that comes from different disciplines. Acknowledging their debt to knowledge, they can make their own contribution, sharing the fruits of their inquiry with others.

There are times in history when knowledge seems poised to open in new directions. For example, exactly 360 years ago, the French philosopher Rene Descartes published Discourse on Method, a path-breaking work that sought to create a new basis for knowledge by starting with the existence of the 'I' as the only indisputable reality. As an appendix to that work, Descartes included a short treatise that laid out the new science of analytic geometry, which he hoped would provide a starting point for sure and precise knowledge. Though they certainly built on the work of distinguished predecessors, those two works taken together could be seen as inaugurating a new era in knowledge.

Today, when so much in our understanding of the world seems uncertain and unfounded, the time seems right for a similar breakthrough. Perhaps we can invite knowledge to step forward once again, sharing with us a new method of inquiry that can open an unparalleled investigation into our being and destiny as human beings. It is too soon to say what form such inquiry may ultimately take. But what is presented here could be understood as one possible model. At the least, it is one way of telling the story. True, the 'I' of 'I am here' starts off liking the old way; it sees no need for a change. But as the inquiry proceeds, that first-level point of view can be recast; the story can be retold. 'I am here' is given by space and time and knowledge. Knowing this, we have already entered more deeply into knowingness.

The inquiry that follows proceeds by way of language and illustrations, and in this sense it is sharply limited. Yet even within these limits, so many kinds of knowledge are available! We are free to speculate and reflect, to visualize and think. We are all familiar with time, space, and knowledge, and we all have our own perspective, our own field of vision. We can go in any direction and explore any dimension. We can play the game in any way we like.

We start from a first-level understanding. But the more we can open to space, the more knowledge can communicate with time, the more readily a second-level openness begins to operate. A sign that this is so may be the realization that space and time cannot be separated, that they are bound to one another, and that the knowledge that lets us identify this particular time and space grows out of this union.

As knowledge deepens into space and time, it touches the first baseline of thought. Then the point-being of time can change, opening space and the objects that appear in space. This dynamic feeds back to the 'I am here'. It reveals 'here' as the thought, the perception, the position, and the interpretation.

At this point knowledge can ask questions that would not make sense earlier, questions that point toward a third level. Are there really only three dimensions of space? Is time confined to past and present and future? How does existence emerge out of nothing? Where do time and space and knowledge meet?

Throughout history, human beings have sensed a dimension to experience that their knowledge cannot grasp, a 'secret' understanding that many traditions call sacred. But that dimension must also be open to knowledge, space, and time. It may be secret, but it is not beyond the range of inquiry.

The Gift of Knowledge

If knowledge can unite with space and time, the benefits for our time and our world could be significant. Space seems naturally to be healing, letting the tension of restriction melt away. Time brings new vitality, richness, and beauty. And knowledge changes our orientation to our own lives, revealing what we need to know.

These changes first develop 'here'. But once our 'here' has been restored to health, we can extend the benefits 'there' as well. It might be the 'there' of other human beings that we benefit, or the 'there' of our surrounding world, or even the 'there' of our own senses, or of other parts of our lives from which we have somehow become cut off. However it manifests, such a union of 'here' and 'there' is sure to bring a greater sense of harmony and peace, a gentle texture to experience loving, soft, and welcoming.

The path toward such fundamental change proceeds step by step. Reading what is presented here may be an inspiration to take the first step, and that may be enough. Space will accommodate our efforts, and time will transform all obstacles. We all have the knowledge that will let us begin. There is no reason to delay.


Dharma Publishing