The Screen of Time

Anyone, a child or a man partially blind, can poke a stick through a bicycle-wheel that is in repose. But when the wheel is in movement a stick will not pass. But if the movement of the stick were more rapid than the movement of the wheel, for instance if it were an arrow shot from a bow, it could pass.

Similarly anyone can throw a stone between the blades of an aeroplane propeller that is in repose, whereas if the propeller is in motion it will be rejected. But a bullet from a machine-gun, fired from behind the propeller, can pass, on account of its speed.

The spokes of the wheel, and the blades of the propeller, are clearly visible when they are not in movement or when the movement is slow, but as soon as the movement becomes rapid they become invisible. That is because the human eye does not react with a rapidity sufficient to seize the moving image. If the rapidity of reaction of the eye were increased, or the movement of the object retarded, the spokes or the blades again become visible. Artificially this can be done by means of photography, for the shutter of a camera can be operated at a greater velocity than the reaction of the human eye.

These common phenomena, and the so-called 'laws' which appear to regulate them, may have a certain universality of application. In particular they may apply to our perception of Time. Phenomena are separated from noumena, or we from Reality, by the screen of Time. But this 'screen', although a function of our own apparatus, should be like the 'screen' formed by the revolving spokes or blades. If we could speed up our perception or slow down the apparatus we should be able to make contact with what is beyond.

But what is beyond? Undoubtedly what is beyond is a further dimension that is screened from us by our self-made time. Our whole lives are bounded by our time. Nowhere can we look, or perceive sensorially, without coming up against the limitation that is Time. But its frequency is too high for our senses to traverse. It seems just possible that the speed of light, regarded by Relativity as the ultimate velocity, may only be ultimate in the sense that we can experience no higher: and that because it may approach the velocity of Time itself, and so represent the frontier between our three sensorially perceptible dimensions and the next further. (The subjective character of Time cannot prevent it from having attributes.)

The 'screen' in question is only impermeable in certain conditions; as the term implies in science it is also the nature of a sieve. Just as many things, from light to bullets, can pass through the spoke and propeller 'screens', so elements can pass through the 'screen' of Time. One of these we sometimes term 'intuition'; presumably because it has a higher frequency than thought it is able to pass. Reasoning is much slower, and the results obtained therewith are either false or have a degree of truth that is entirely relative.

In fact, however, everything of which we can have cognisance must have traversed our screen of Time, for on this side are phenomena and on the other is Noumenon. But such penetration is indirect. In the normal process of manifestation the 'screen' has also the characteristics of a prism, a prism which splits up a motionless, colourless and formless unity, like light, into multiplicity and diversity.

A further example of the same phenomena is a simple apparatus called a phenakistoscope, in the form of a revolving cup with vertical slits in the side. On the inside of the cup is a series of designs in consecutive attitudes so that when the cup is revolved the illusion of movement is produced in anyone looking through the slits. This again is an effect of the insufficient rapidity of reaction of the human eye, the cinema-film being yet another. Were the ratio of the velocities to be readjusted - that of the eye augmented, that of the revolving cup reduced - the designs would be seen for what they are.

The purpose of this Note is to suggest that if a similar readjustment of frequencies were to take place in our consciousness - the rapidity of our perceptions increased, or that of our time-apparatus decreased - we should simply perceive Reality as it is!

(© RKP, 1958)

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