Walking Backwards Into the Future


Do we not see it the wrong way round? We think we must do something, or not do something, so that a subsequent eventuality may, or may not, result.

But may not the contrary be what is required? Should not whatever we do, or refrain from doing, be in accordance with whatever eventuality is about to occur?

Is it not with what is in process of becoming apparent in the time-sequence of manifestation that we should be in accord, rather than be concerned about the gratuitous and imaginary effect of some action we may envisage in a 'present' that will already be in the 'past' by the time that its performance has been cognised?

Do we see the essential absurdity of this conditioned notion that our apparent action could effect what is evolving in future time, which apparent action itself will already be in our 'past' when we have experienced and cognised it?

The future is awaiting us in the sequence of 'time', like a house that is being built for us, or a repast that is being prepared. The idea that we are building our house or cooking our repast - we who have no idea how to build unbuilt houses or to cook anything unforeseeable - is surely an illusion, a reversal of seriality, based on false premises - the false premises of autarchy and the recompense-or-retribution of volitional ethics, all of which looking-in-the-wrong-direction constitutes the chains of our pseudo-bondage.


Should we not reverse this retroactive error, abandon retrospection, and live prospectively instead, adapting our psychology to what is ahead instead of gratuitously assuming that what is ahead depends upon what has already occurred? We appear to assume that the 'past' influences the 'future', even that the 'future' is the effect of the 'past' which we are conditioned to see as its cause, but surely the contrary is at least as plausible if not altogether more evident.

Theoretically, of course, the future is neither more nor less dependent on the past than the past is dependent on the future. They are not two, they are not separate or different in nature, and the 'present' which we imagine as an essential and factual link between them as two entities, has no more veritable existence than the equator.

Does the captain of a ship travelling South imagine that his ship can bring its own weather into the Southern hemisphere, instead of preparing it for the weather which is in store for it when it crosses the 'line'?

We seem to imagine that we 'belong' to the past, because we remember it, and that the future is non-existent because our memory does not record it, but that somewhat primitive reasoning may have led to an unjustifiable conclusion. The past has 'passed' and should be left behind in our apparent temporal transit: the future approaches and it is for that we should be prepared and to which we need to adapt. We think we 'belong' to the past, but there is no valid reason to suppose that such is the case: we have had it; surely do we 'belong' to the future: which is about to have us. Such surely is our phenomenal position?


Noumenally no such discrimination can be in question, for there is no distinction between 'past' and 'future', and neither is either present or absent, for they represent our extension in duration, the temporal aspect of our intemporality, and their phenomenal separation is based on spatial extension in temporal sequence, in which neither 'past' nor 'future' could have any causal function in regard to the other. Rather have they - in their apparent sequence - a mutual or reciprocal relation.

Therefore what we become is as much and as little an effect or result of what we have been, as what we have been, or think that we are, is an effect of what we are becoming or shall have become when that becoming is passed. Otherwise expressed, our conceptual existence is as much or as little dependent on what it has apparently been in the 'past' as on what it is about apparently to become in the 'future'.

What we appear to be, composed of mutual conceptions, can have no factual past or future, i.e. other than conceptual - or psychic if you prefer the image - since duration is only a sequential appearance in mind; the sequence of our appearance could be regarded, theoretically at least, in either direction, and its evolution may seem to depend causally on either what has appeared or on what has not yet appeared. Growing older may appear to depend on our having been younger, or our having been younger may appear to depend on our being about to be older.

We find it difficult to envisage this? That is only because it is inhabitual, which also is why it should help to break down conditioned thinking which gives us the illusion of bondage.

If we lay a bet and win, or lose, was not the laying of the bet as much due to our winning it, or losing it, as the winning or losing of it was due to its having been laid? Would the bet have been laid but for its winning or losing?

Why do all things eat and reproduce? In order that living things may live at all. Is not their living as much the reason for their eating and reproducing as the latter is for the former? Which comes first - the living, or the eating and reproducing, the acorn or the oak, the egg or the chicken, and which is the cause of the other? Causation is an illusion - as every notion based on 'time' as something objectively existing must necessarily be.

But if we were to live as belonging to the 'future' instead of as belonging to the 'past' - should we not live more freely?

And if we were to live knowing that we 'belong' to neither, but that, being that of which we ourselves conceptually are composed, they belong to us, should we not thereby find that there is no freedom to be 'found' - since all that 'freedom' could be is precisely this which we are?


So much for 'living'.
And 'dying'? Is the trouble due to regret for what we are leaving, or for what we shall not have in the future? To worry about what we are losing, or to worry about what may be coming?

Is dying to the past so tragic for us - or is it dying to the future which we shall not know? Would we care so much if it were only the former, of which we may have had enough?

Would we accept it more serenely if we saw it as only the latter? If so, we are now dying to the past, as we have lived to the past, rather than to the future.

But if we lived to the future, then our dying, as our living, should be more serene.

Then instead of 'my past obliges me to do this, I am acting so that the future shall be as I wish or think it ought to be', we might say 'The future requires that I shall do this, that I shall act in this manner in order that I may become what I must become and that everything may be as it is due to be.'

Would not conflict have vanished, strife have disappeared? We might be humble and more resigned? For is not humility just absence of anyone to be proud, and is not relinquishment just absence of anyone to renounce?

Note: The notion that the future is the result of the past is itself the result of deeply-rooted conditioning. It may be seen as fundamental in our thought. As has been pointed out, it is based on the evident fact that 'memory' is only retroactive. But this deep-rooted conviction need not be any the less unfounded for being deep-rooted. Deep rooted it is, and unfounded also, for it has no sound basis whatever. It is a temporal illusion, a deviation of the psyche, and it should rapidly disappear - along with others of its kind - if we were to break through the conditioning which binds us, and see clearly, without bias, our relationship with what we know as 'time'. That should be non-objective relation and, so-looking, we should find that our future no longer depends on our past, and our past can no longer be held responsible for our future.

The situation would not then in fact be 'reversed', but such temporary 'reversal' may be needed as a measure whereby a readjustment of our inaccurate perspective may occur, for this error in our direction of living in itself may be held responsible for our apparent condition of bondage.

An attempt to apply the foregoing analysis by means of isolated volitional actions would be unlikely to effect the psychological re-orientation which is here suggested.

(© T.J. Gray, 1968)

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