Space has three dimensions, and time was layered on as a fourth dimension by mathematicians and physicists in the early 20th century. Forms in the spacial dimensions change, and that is what constitutes our idea of time.
Each spatial dimension has forms: in the first dimension, a form can only be a line that changes in length. In the second, there are flat forms such as a square. Three-dimensional forms like tables are what we are used to in reality. If time is defined as the fourth dimension, how does the concept of form apply to it?
When the time dimension is included, a three dimensional form will change in some way. The apple falling from the tree includes the time dimension. This total picture can be seen as a four-dimensional form. Three spatial dimensions of the apple, plus a fourth dimension of time through which the movement of the apple occurs.
The three-dimensional apple form can still be identified, independently of its movement in time. The fourth dimensional form could also be isolated out from the event. It would simply be a duration. Translated into visual terms, it would be a one-dimensional form: a line extending from a point to another point. This would represent the temporal form of the apple falling from the tree.
A progress bar, used in computer interfaces, is exactly this. It is employed to give the user of the computer a sense of the time that will be required for a software process, such as installing a program, to complete. This bar is required because the software process takes place behind the scenes and cannot be perceived by the senses. The progress bar maps a time form to a space form, so we can perceive it.
With any physical process, there is a time form that is independent of the space form. But to what extent does it correspond to our concepts of form? A simple linear duration, a movement from A to B, is only one way that form exists in time. As with forms in space, time forms are distributed in nature according to ratios. And as with space forms, forms in time can be perceived by humans and animals.
Temporal Ratio in Nature
Nature is based on organized spatial forms. Some of the more striking examples of spatial organization are the regularity and symmetry of crystals, or the spiraling of sea shells. But nature at all levels is organized; from the atomic, to the biological and the cosmic level.
This organization extends into the time dimension. Where we see spatial organization, we see temporal organization that is just as precise.
There are natural units of space, mass and energy, such as the Planck length or the elementary charge. There is a lesser known natural unit of time, known as the Planck time, which spans 10<sup>-43</sup> seconds. According to quantum theory, it is not possible to measure a value of time shorter than this. Like space and energy, time is quantized.
There are many cases of resonance among the orbital periods of the bodies in our solar system. The most immediate example is the moon, which is in a 1:1 spin-orbit resonance with Earth. This means that the moon spins on its axis at the same rate at which it orbits the earth. This is why we only ever see one side of the moon. This resonance is a result of the gravitational pull on the moon from Earth.
Venus and Earth's orbital periods are in an almost exact 8:13 ratio, meaning 8 Earth orbits take the same amount of time as 13 Venus orbits. The ratio is only 0.032% from being a perfect integer ratio.
Temporal ratios are also central to life itself. As biological organisms scale up and down in size, they also scale up and down in time. Life span and metabolic rate scale with the size of an organism according to a simple, universal exponential equation.
Biologist James Gillooly is one researcher who has found that the metabolic rate across organisms of all different sizes, including microscopic organisms, plants, and animals, scales at a 3/4 power to the mass.
"We've found that despite the incredible diversity of life, from a tomato plant to an amoeba to a salmon, once you correct for size and temperature, many of these rates and times are remarkably similar," says Gillooly.
He has stated that "metabolic rate is, in our view, the fundamental biological rate."
"There is a universal biological clock", he says, "but it ticks in units of energy, not units of time."
Life lives according to this energy clock.
Distribution of Chaotic Events in Time
Chaos science finds patterns in complex systems that do not appear to operate in an orderly way. One finding is that earthquakes are distributed in time and severity according to a power law. This means that if earthquakes are plotted on a logarithmic graph, with frequency of occurrence on one axis, and the magnitude of the quake on the other, the results will form a straight line on the graph. There is a mathematical distribution of earthquakes by time and energy.
This type of power law is actually found in many complex systems, such as avalanches, the distribution of trees in a forest, and even to mass extinctions.
There have been many mass extinctions throughout our planet's history, of varying sizes. Study of the sizes and temporal distributions of these events have shown them to be also following a power law according to frequency and size. The extinction of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous is commonly thought to have been caused by a meteor impact, but there are problems with this theory. The dinosaurs were already in decline before the meteor impact, and many animal and plant species survived the event that should not have, if it was strong enough to kill the dinosaurs.
The fact that mass extinctions follow a power law raises the question of a kind of overall temporal structure governing the duration of life at a macro level. This would be beyond the scope of a particular species, since mass extinction events can cut across all forms of life. It could be that life forms on a larger scale are subject to a duration, the origins and execution of which are beyond our current understanding.
The recent instances of mass animal deaths in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world were very close together in time, happening mostly within a week, and did not appear to have any causal consistency among them, or any cause at all. Large numbers of birds fell out of the sky, and vast numbers of fish washed up on shore, with no easy explanation. Even if explanations can be thought of in each individual case, these are still speculative, and they don't explain the simultaneity.
The Sense of Time
The way that we conventionally experience time is by perceiving the unfolding of a process as compared to another process. A process on its own does not constitute what we call time; a comparison is required. Clocks, which are mechanized processes, are used only as a comparative standard by which to measure the unfolding of other processes. The seasons on their own are simply an endlessly revolving cycle. The concept of time enters when we measure other things against them such as planting and harvest periods. We know by the progression of seasons when it is time to sow crops and when it is time to harvest them.
This is in fact not an experience of time, but essentially a system by which we arrange things around other things. I propose that we have a true sense of time, and it is our ability to perceive time forms of physical world processes unto themselves, with no reference to other processes.
Anything with a visibly regular cycle grants us visual perception of a time form. A clock; the sun; deciduous tree leaves; day and night; aging. Through their regularity, they are mapped to our sense of space and not to our time sense. The time sense directly perceives forms in time with no link to the spacially-oriented senses.
Perception by Relevance
We continually process innumerable spatial forms in waking life. We do not take on conscious awareness of most of the forms we perceive. We can perceive the same object at different levels of form in different situations.
A tree consists of endless subforms of leaves, branches, bark and roots, each with their own subforms. If we are out for a walk and simply trying not to bump into a tree, we will perceive the tree form at a very general level and we will not make conscious note of the type of leaves or bark. If we are examining a tree for pruning, we will look at the health of its leaves and branch structure. What level of form we perceive the tree at is determined by relevance.
In this same way, perception of time forms is determined by relevance. Time forms are as innumerable as spatial forms. If I am waiting for someone to return from errands, I do not sense the time form of each step of the sidewalk, I sense the time form of the entire trip, or perhaps the time form of the return trip.
Biologist Rupert Sheldrake has studied the commonly reported phenomenon of dogs apparently anticipating when their owners are returning home. Around ten minutes before the owner returns from being out, dogs will often go and wait at the door or window until the owner returns. Sheldrake interprets this as a form of telepathy between owner and dog, whereby the dog is sensing the owner's intention to return home, and this seems likely. However I would like to reframe this within the concept of time forms.
In one series of tests reported by Sheldrake, the experimenters used a pager to give the dog owner a signal to return home at a randomly determined time. In some cases, the dog would start to wait by the door after the owner had been paged and had formed the intention to return home. However there were also some cases where the dog would move to the door before the owner was paged, yet still within a few minutes of the page. This calls into question whether or not the dog is reacting to the owners change of intention or to the approaching event of the owner setting out to return home.
Sheldrake reasons that before receiving the page, the owner may be anticipating the signal and may be thinking about going home. However the dogs behaviour makes sense in all cases if we think of it as perceiving the time form of the owner returning home.
The link between dog and owner is still the crucial factor, since this results in the time form becoming relevant to the dog. The difference is that rather than reacting to the newly formed intention of the owner, the dog is perceiving that the particular process that he is interested in is beginning. This detection can slip backwards or forwards in time; it is not limited to a strict action-reaction sequence, since it exists independently of the flow of linear time. Thus a time form can be perceived from future or past. When it is perceived also depends on relevance. For the dog, it is relevant to perceive the owner's return in and around the start of the process of the owner's return. It could be slightly before or after.
In The Sense of Being Stared At, Sheldrake presents
"a large body of evidence for unusual animal behaviour before earthquakes, including recent earthquakes in California, the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan and the 1997 earthquake in Assisi, Italy. In all cases there were many reports of wild and domesticated animals behaving in fearful, anxious, or unusual ways several hours hours or even days before the earthquakes struck. The same is true of the 1999 earthquake in Turkey, with its epicentre near Izmit. Dogs were howling for hours before the earthquake, and many cats and birds were behaving unusually.
"No one knows how some animals sense earthquakes coming. Perhaps they pick up subtle sounds or vibrations in the earth; maybe they respond to subterranean gases released prior to earthquakes, or react to changes in the Earth's electrical field. They may also sense in advance what is about to happen in a way that lies beyond current scientific understanding, through some kind of presentiment."
However this sense also appears to extend to man-made disasters:
"Animals can also anticipate man-made catastrophes such as air raids. In my book Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home, I describe how during the Second World War, many families in Britain and Germany relied on their pets' behaviour to warn them of impending air raids, before official warnings were given. These warnings occurred when enemy planes were still hundreds of miles away, long before the animals could have heard them coming. Some dogs in London even anticipated the explosion of German V-2 rockets. These missiles were supersonic and hence could not have been heard in advance."
I think that the animals here are using the same sense that tells them when their owner is returning home. This is the sense of an approaching time form of high relevance. The nature of the relevance is also sensed by the animal, and this is why the behaviour is different in the two situations.
In recent experiments by Dr. Daryl Bem, college students were asked whether a computer will flash a picture on the left or right hand of the screen. When the pictures contained erotic content, the guessing was accurate 53% of the time, compared to 49% for neutral content. I suggest that this is because the content of the erotic picture has a relevance to the consciousness of the student, in that it causes arousal.
Other experiments have shown that physiological responses to erotic pictures actually begin seconds before the picture is shown, indicating an unconscious anticipation of the time form.
A highly relevant time form would be that of your own life span. There are stories indicating that people's behaviour changes in the weeks leading up to accidental or sudden death, when they have no foreknowledge.
Near-death experience researcher P.M.H. Atwater has interviewed many people who have had near-death experiences, and also people who have recently lost loved ones. She found a pattern of behaviour displayed by people who were approaching actual death, but not displayed by people approaching a near-death experience. She writes in Coming Back to Life:
"Accidental or sudden death is 'known' about in advance by the one about to die, and that knowing is displayed in subconscious behavior clues. . . . I discovered that people who sense their coming demise usually express this 'knowing' in a particular behavior pattern similar to the following:
--Usually, about three months to three weeks before the death event, individuals begin to change their normal behavior.
--Subtle at first, this behavior change begins as a need to reassess affairs and life goals and, at the same time, become more philosophical.
--This is followed by a need to see everyone who means anything special to them. If visits are not possible, they begin writing letters or calling on the phone.
--As time draws near, the people become more serious about straightening out their affairs and/or training or instructing a loved one or a friend to take over in their stead. This instruction can be most specific, sometimes involving details such as what is owed and what is not, what insurance policies exist and how to handle them, how possessions should be dispersed, what goals, programs, or projects are yet undone and how to finish them. Financial matters seem quite important, as is the management of personal and private affairs.
--There is a need, almost a compulsion, to reveal secret feelings and deeper thoughts, to say what has not been said, especially to loved ones. There is usually also a need for one last 'fling' or to visit special places and do what is most enjoyed.
--The need to settle affairs and wind up life's details can become so obsessive as to appear 'spooky' or weird to others. Many times there is a need to talk over the possibility of 'what if I die,' as if the individual had a dream or premonition. The person may on occasion seem morbid or unusually serious.
--Usually, about twenty-four to thirty-six hours before the death event, the individuals relax and are at peace. They often appear 'high' on something because of their unusual alertness, confidence, and sense of joy. They exude a peculiar strength and positive demeanor as if they were now ready for something important to happen. This pattern has held true in people from the age of four on up, regardless of intelligence level."
These observations from P.M.H Atwater hint at a deep unconscious awareness of the time form of one's own earthly existence.
Zooming In and Out of Time
Einstein revealed that time does not pass at an absolute rate, and passes faster for an object in motion relative to a stationary object. A space traveller going at close to light speed would age less than someone remaining on Earth. While these effects are much too small to be noticed in everyday experience, they have been demonstrated in experiments.
Subatomic particles called muons have a very short existence: two millionths of a second after their creation, they explode. But when sped up to 99.5% of light speed in a particle accelerator, their life span increases by a factor of ten, relative to a stationary muon.
In the case of people traveling at different speeds and aging at different rates, the people involved would not experience time differently. They would both have a normal experience of the passage of time on their own. They would however perceive the other person as moving through time at a faster or slower rate. Their motion would be faster or slower, and a watch on their wrist would tick at a faster or slower rate, due to their relative difference in motion through space.
But there are situations where people do experience time at a faster or slower rate. It is commonly reported by people who have been in life-threatening situations that they experience a slowing down of time.
In Into the Kill Zone, criminologist David Klinger interviewed police officers who had experienced this kind of time dilation. This example, quoted by Malcolm Gladwell in Blink, is graphic but illustrates the change in the experience of time.
"Instead of continuing to push the gun at [my partner] Dan's head, he started to try to bring it around on me. This all happened real fast -- in milliseconds -- and at the same time, I was bringing my gun up. Dan was still fighting with him, and the only thought that came through my minds was 'Oh, dear God, don't let me hit Dan.' I fired five rounds. My vision changed as soon as I started to shoot. It went from seeing the whole picture to just seeing the suspect's head. Everything else just disappeared. I didn't see Dan anymore, didn't see anything else. All I could see was the suspect's head.
"I saw four of my five rounds hit. The first one hit him in his left eyebrow. It opened up a hole and the guy's head snapped back and he said, 'Ooh,' like, 'Ooh, you got me.' He still continued to turn the gun toward me, and I fired my second round. I saw a red dot right below the base of his left eye, and his head kind of turned sideways. I fired another round. It hit on the outside of his left eye, and his eye exploded, just ruptured and came out. My fourth round hit just in front of his left ear. The third round had moved his head even further sideways to me, and when the fourth round hit, I saw a red dot open on the side of his head, then close up. I didn't see where my last round went. Then I heard the guy fall backwards and hit the ground."
In this situation there is a complete redirection of the senses to the situation at hand, compared to normal life where we tolerate varying amounts of irrelevance and distraction. This sequence spanned maybe two seconds, yet he perceived in great detail each miniscule movement and and placement of each bullet.
Also in Blink, from another officer:
"When he started towards us, it was almost like in slow motion, and everything went into a tight focus. When he made his move, my whole body just tensed up. I don't remember having any feeling from my chest down. Everything was focused forward to watch and react to my target. Talk about an adrenaline rush. Everything tightened up, and all my senses were directed forward at the man running at us with a gun. My vision was focused on his torso and the gun. I couldn't tell you what his left hand was doing. I have no idea. I was watching the gun, the gun was coming down in front of his chest area. And that's when I did my first shots.
"I didn't hear a thing. Not one thing. Alan had fired one round, when I shot my first pair but I didn't hear him shoot. He shot two more rounds when I fired the second time but I didn't hear any of those rounds either. We stopped shooting when he hit the floor and slid into me. Then I was on my feet standing over the guy. I don't even remember pushing myself up. All I know, the next thing I know, I was standing on two feet, looking down on the guy. I don't know how I got there. Whether I pushed down with my hands, or whether I pulled up my knees from underneath. I don't know. But once I was up, I was hearing things again, because I can hear brass still clinking on the tile floor. Time has also returned to normal by then, because it has slowed down during the shooting. That started as soon as he started towards us. Even though I knew he was running at us, it looked like he was moving in slow motion. Darndest thing I ever saw."
The officer distinctly noted that the culprit "looked like he was moving in slow motion." This slowing down is due to the very high relevance of the time form involved. Everything that occurs during the life-threatening situation is of the highest importance to person experiencing it. A zooming-in occurs in which the time form is seen in greater detail, allowing more room for thought and necessary action. Sight is narrowed to the target, blocking out everything else. Hearing is shut down, because sound isn't relevant in this situation.
Relativity says that a person in motion will age at a different rate relative to a person who is stationary, but in this situation the two people do not experience time differently. Relevance says that a person in a situation of higher relevance will zoom into the form of time more so than someone in an everyday state.
With people who have a recently identified form of synaesthesia known as time-space synaesthesia, time periods are seen as spacial forms. Most commonly, months of the year appear as forms around or in front of their body, or simply in their mind's eye. They can be arranged in ovals, oblong shapes, circles or towers, and can take of different colours.
One synaesthete describes her experience:
"When someone mentions a year, I see the oval with myself at the very bottom, Christmas day to be precise. As soon as a month is given, I see exactly where that month is on the oval. As I move through the year, I am very aware of my place on the oval at that current time, and the direction I am moving in. For example, now I am moving upwards, in a northwesterly direction. It is always anti-clockwise."
A 2009 study from the University of Waterloo concluded "that time-space synaesthesia is real, and that it may provide a cognitive advantage for manipulating time-based information."
One test for manipulating time-based information was to recite every second month in reverse chronological order. For example, if the month of July was presented, the correct response would be ‘‘July. . .May. . . March. . . January. . . November. . . September. . . July".
It was found that the non-synaesthetes would use numerical or verbal strategies for manipulating the months, such as mapping January to 1, February to 2, and so on. The time-space synaesthetes would commonly use visual/spatial strategies to compete the task, and achieved better results.
Whether the time-space synaesthetes actually experience time in a different way isn't shown in the material available. But it is clear that they are mapping some time forms to spacial forms as part of a natural function of their minds. This gives weight to the idea that forms do exist in the time dimension and that they can be perceived by our senses.
The Mayans may have been time-space synaesthetes of a much more advanced kind, able to perceive multiple temporal cycles embedded in the fabric of reality, from periods in the distant past, and extending into the future.
Coordination of Time Forms in Experience
Many people have experienced what seems to be a natural coordination of events in time. There is a synchronization that appears to be present in the fabric of existence that results in things lining up with no planning on our part. This coordination is also based on relevance.
During the writing of this article, I experienced a striking example of this. On my way to work, I stopped at Canada's third largest shopping mall, Toronto Eaton's Centre, to run some errands. I go there once or twice a year. While there I decided to get something to eat. I spent a couple minutes looking for a table as it was crowded. Finding a seat, I thought about the great numbers of people walking through -- one million per week, it turns out -- and how it decreased the odds of running into someone you know. Although, would it decrease or increase the odds? Seemingly both at the same time.
I looked through my bag for something to read and pulled out an article I had printed off about Paul Kammerer's Law of Seriality. This law states that there is a natural clustering of like things, and this extends to people in crowds. For example, he observed that people with red hair tend to fall into clusters within a crowd.
As I finished up my food, I looked across the food court and saw my wife sitting directly in my line of sight, having lunch with her girlfriend. She worked in a completely different part of town and I had no idea she was going to be nearby, and nor did she know that I would be there. I walked over and we all showed our surprise at this odd meeting up when we would both normally be at our jobs in other parts of town.
Just then her phone rang. It was our daughter's daycare calling: our daughter had pink eye and had to be picked up. My wife had an important meeting, so I needed to do the pickup.
If this meeting and phone call hadn't occurred in that sequence, I would have continued on to work, taking me another 20 minutes further away from the daycare, at which point I would get a phone message saying I had to turn around and go back. My cell phone was broken at the time, so I could not have received a call while traveling.
In this situation, we need to look at the factors involved. Both of us being at an unusual location at the same time; both of us choosing seats facing the other in a crowded food court; the timing of the phone call.
A synchronicity of the Jungian kind tends to be thought of as a symbolic and meaningful experience, somewhat like a waking dream. Yet, synchronized events also occur that do not carry symbolism or depth, but simple practical value. Both, however, operate by the principle of relevance.
The scarab beetle that landed on Jung's window sill as his patient talked about her scarab dream was relevant to a deeper process of the patient's psyche. As in dreams, the relevance may be disguised in symbols and not plainly obvious. However, as with a dream telling you where you left your keys, it may simply help you with your day.
The purpose of our clock and calendar processes is the coordination of time forms with other time forms. In allocating a process to a given span of clock time, say 3pm to 5pm, we are attempting to fit a given process into the borders of a specified time form. We have worked out the time form in advance, and we are saying "This process will line up to the duration of two clock hours, starting at the third clock hour after noon."
It is important to differentiate between measurement of forms and experience of forms. A clock is the temporal equivalent of a tape measure. A tape measure is a comparative tool and does not reveal any experiential qualities of spatial form. A clock is the temporal equivalent and does not provide the direct experience of time that is available with all processes.
With measurement-based time, we are creating artificial time structures which are the equivalent of artificial structures in space such as buildings or cars. These spacial structures involve the construction and coordination of spacial forms. Our spacial experience in a modern environment tends to be pre-measured: we have highways and exits; blocks and intersections; floors of a building; rooms in a floor.
As a result, in addition to our artificial spatial environment, we have created an artificial temporal environment.
Synchronicities are a manifestation of a kind of background guidance system based on the unconscious needs of the individual. The person experiencing the event has not consciously created it, and yet it is relevant to the individual and brings an unconscious need into consciousness.
Sheldrake's dogs sensing the return of their owners represent a coordination of time forms based on a conscious need of an individual. The dog consciously wants the owner to return, and senses the time form that is relevant to the fulfillment of that need.
The existence of a natural, background system of event coordination, and a conscious, individual sense of forms in time, both based on relevance, open up the possibility of a way of life that is less reliant on measurement, and more based around the conscious and unconscious needs, and therefore the development, of the individual.