Experience of the subtle realms: Contents
This chapter is partly
experiential, partly conceptual - as with many of the earlier chapters prior
to Chapter 10 - but the conceptual component is rather more pronounced. In and
among, I report some unusual experiences that seem to go beyond our ordinary notion
culture has one primary concept of causation, that of efficient causation, in
which one event earlier in time causes the occurrence of another event later on.
Not only does the cause precede its effect, but it is also linked to it by some
detectable transmission of physical energy through physical space.
there are certain experiences where it is as
if this is not the case, where it seems that the effect precedes its cause,
and that there is no physical transmission from cause to effect. In the next two
sections, I give some examples - from the arena of creativity.
years ago, I rented a studio over a barber's shop, just opposite King's Cross
Station in London. I spent two or
three days a week there doing oil paintings.
The canvasses I bought from a firm in the Old Kent Road: they were made
up from awnings left over from stands
that had lined the coronation procession route through London in 1951. On this material that had witnessed a royal event I did much
before the easle, with the rumble of traffic outside, and faint echoes of conversation
from the barber's shop below, I would get this unmistakable sense of creative
foreboding, although not of anything sinister.
Rather it was the presentiment of a painting, the detail and content of which I could not grasp - but I knew that it was already
complete. All I had to do was let
my hand and heart and arm follow
the creative dictates of the premonition - and there would emerge before me a
total painting, integrated in form and colour, striking, surprising and
reminded me of the old Aristotelian notion of
entelechy. This is the idea that a seed, for example, contains its end
state of a flowering plant as a dynamic potential within it, and that this
causes the seed to develop into the plant.
I thought, too, of how Driesch revived the idea of entelechy in twentieth
century biology to explain the development of form in organisms.
But it was a bit more than this.
was as if the painting was already done, and I was copying its future form.
I was busy peering at my own achievement in time to come, in order to
copy it in the present. I was
encountering myself later on in order to realise myself now.
I was engaged in a sort of creative precognition.
wondered whether it would develop into a full-blown doppelganger
effect. This is the experience,
sometimes called autoscopy, in which a person encounters their double. Many creative writers have reported this event.
Goethe met himself on the road riding a horse.
Shelley was approached by a hooded figure who pulled back the hood to
reveal himself. Dostoievsky encountered himself, so too de Maupassant, and
several others. I wondered whether such writers are so busy with creative
precognition, with reproducing their future achievements, that they create a
mental set suddenly to meet themselves.
may say that my having a creative presentiment of a painting is scarcely the
same as my copying now my painting in the future.
But this germinal state was not like ordinary planning, or like
thinking out a design, or like visualising an effect to be achieved. It was like
knowing where things - lines, colours, spaces - are to go because they are
already there in time to come. The
art of painting became closely aligned to precognitive skill.
became circular, curling back on itself, as if the future created the present.
You may then ask how the painting that already exists in the future was painted:
was it copied too? But this misses
the point. There can be no infinite
regress here. It is not the case that the future painting is a copy of itself
further in the future, and so on.
is only one act of painting. But
this creative act extends the specious present, enlarges my grasp of matrix
time, so that I apprehend the whole sequence of events from conceiving the
painting to completing it, and this while going through the sequence.
In this state of mind, I am aware of the actual end state while I am busy
realising it. And so I can depict
what will be.
refer the reader back to sections 3 and 17 in Chapter 9 where I introduced the
idea of matrix time. This is the time in which a whole sequence in clock time
co-exists. What is serial in clock
time becomes concurrent in matrix time, but it is a concurrence in which we can
still distinguish between before and after.
In other words, in matrix time we know what is earlier and what is later
in serial time, but we apprehend
them in the same matrix moment.
time is rather like a well from which you can draw up buckets of clock time.
To use another metaphor, it is womb-like, generative.
It gives birth to whole sequences, and to batches of sequences.
was staying in the city of Munster in West Germany.
It was late August and I was lying in bed in the early morning,
examining three chakras. The
abdominal chakra yielded spontaneous dream-like imagery, the spleen chakra was
for formal projection and reception, and from the brow chakra
visions of inner space unfolded.
unexpectedly, in the area of the spleen chakra, I received the word 'Vega'.
I knew it was the name of a star, but I didn't know to which
constellation it belonged. At the end of the day, when I went back to bed, I
focussed my mind on the star Vega wondering what its
name is: the name it gives itself, or is given to it by those close to it.
I felt the quality of energy of a luminous orb and fell into a deep
next few days I was busy with other inquiries,
mostly out in the woods, but a lingering curiosity about Vega haunted me, like
a phantom pregnancy of the mind. After
five days I felt I must take some practical initiative.
I went to the local reference library and looked up everything that
included the name Vega.
was, of course, the star - in the constellation of Lyra, the lyre.
There were some Spanish poets; and two towns in Puerto Rica.
The Spanish poets intrigued me; and the trail took me to lyric poetry and
the 'Lyrical Ballads' of Coleridge and Wordsworth.
There I let the matter rest - and returned again to the woods.
after another three days, I had come to full term with my Vega pregnancy. I had
to give birth. I started to write
poetry. It poured out, as from an
inner well whose hidden waters were rising up to burble over the rim.
The welling up continued throughout the whole of a second day and into a
third. By the time the well had
emptied itself, I had written forty four poems.
was a curious mixture, much of it lyric verse of many different styles.
Some stanzas had compelling, original force. Some were like pastiches of
Blake, Swinburne, Housman, Osbert Sitwell, and others. Whether pastiches or not,
some were good and others not so good. Some
were slight and some were silly. But
the whole batch as a batch impressed me with its power and its delivery.
the act of writing words and lines were 'coming' from inner space, on my right
side, quite close. But more
fundamentally, I was suspended between clock time and matrix time. I was at the
mouth of the womb of inner time which had already creatively spawned its batch
of poems, and I was recording myself
having recorded them. A sort of autoscopy, to be sure.
of the poems were about Apollo, sun-god of the Greeks and Romans, the patron
of poetry and music, who said at his birth 'Dear to me shall be the lyre and
bow'. Here is one of them, which appealed to me:
words across chasms
the cleavage of aspirated vowels,
the howl of nouns
mad with their first birth
empires and sepulchres
in the extremes
shouting from the poles.
madman of the word,
your sweet pronunciation.
is interesting, too, that many of the poems were about the destiny of the soul,
the drama of its sequence in physical time.
was the summer of 1971. I was
attending the annual conference of the British Association of Social Psychiatry
in Oxford. It was the second year of the arrival of the human potential
movement in England. This
conference had boldly decided to provide a forum for several of the movement's
American practitioners. As well as more formal presentations, there were a
number of experiential groups in the programme, several of them improvised on
evening I participated in one of these impromptu groups. It was to be about encounter,
or body work, or psychodrama, or some mixture of all these - I forget precisely
what. What I do most vividly recall
was finding myself, as a result of one of the group exercises, suddenly
precipitated into deep regression. I
was reliving and releasing a
profound fear, pain and horror of my infancy, with trembling and screaming and
much agitation of the body.
also recall that while this deep distress was radically shaking its way out of
my system, part of my attention was poised in a luminous zone in subtle space a
little above and forward of my cathartic release in physical space.
Poised in that subtle light, I was also in matrix time, comprehending the
whole sequence from birth to that moment and beyond. This comprehension was
both a total temporal grasp of the sequence, and also a bundle of insights into
the catharsis subsided and I came back into present physical time from the
regression, a deep layer of my attention was still centred in matrix time.
I went out alone into the quadrangle of the Oxford college where the
conference was based - to rejoice in this temporal emancipation, this insightful
grasp of past, present and future, this unitive delight in the configuration of
my personal destiny.
remember, too, that while this inner rejoicing was afoot, there was a slight
uneasiness in the lower reaches of my awareness that I would sooner or later
slip out of matrix time - and back into the anxious seriality of clock time.
And this indeed did happen. The
claims of succession, of before and after, are inescapable.
events - that is, regression to very early traumatic experiences - often open up
awareness of matrix time, and in interesting sorts of ways. Once at a
Co-counselling International workshop based in the Royal Veterinary College
north of London, just before disappearing under pile of cushions to re-run my
birth tapes, my awareness suddenly opened up to embrace the temporal form of
my life as a whole, and this before it had begun.
It was as if I was poised at an
entry point into clock time just before my conception, and my plunge into
there are peculiar interrelations of physical time and matrix time.
You may comprehend matrix time from
different nodal points in clock time. To
use a visual and spatial metaphor,
your matrix perspective on a whole temporal sequence in everyday time can be
from this or that particular viewpoint in the sequence. In the experience just
mentioned, I saw my life ahead of me from a quite precise vantage point in clock
time before I had been conceived - and this with the whole emotional tone of
that moment included. Access
to matrix time can be heterogeneous, selective.
You can cut into it in many different chunky ways.
another occasion, this time of LSD-induced regression, I was spread-eagled on
the king-sized waterbed which I had in those days in my flat in Hampstead,
London. The undulations of the water in the bed threw me back into the primal
mode. My arms, legs and head
spontaneously reproduced neo-natal, followed by
pre-natal movements and postures. I then went back beyond conception,
before physical incarnation. In
this regression, there were three quite distinct matrix time vistas.
matrix-time view of my life-sequence was from the standpoint of the moment of
birth, with its critical question - which was
'Can I trust you to care?' So
here again, there was a highly selective grasp of the sequence from a nodal
point within it. The sequence was taken in and understood from the
standpoint of the birth query.
next comprehension of my life-sequence was altogether different.
It was as if from a point in
another order of time: a point at which it was as
if I became separated from beings in some other spatial dimension, beings
with whom I had and have a profound affinity.
My life-sequence was now grasped and understood from the standpoint of
what was involved in this separation.
you could say that this transcendental separation also occurred in
everyday time, that is, at some time before my physical conception. And
in a limited sense this is correct. But
in a wider sense it misses the point. You
cannot make any obvious one-to-one correlation between
happenings in transcendental time, and succession in ordinary time.
For it seemed that the moment
of separation in transcendental time coincided with the whole of my life in
clock time. I really can't get much
clearer about it than that.
third experience of my life-sequence was as
if from a point in transcendental time when my physical life was over. In
the company of those beings I knew so well, I was in a remarkable state of
exultation and uninhibited celebration, contemplating the completion of my
life. Yet this vantage point in
transcendental time was also somehow concurrent with the unfolding of my life in
time grasp can occur, then, either from a point in clock time, or from a 'point'
in transcendental time. But now I
think a little speculative clarification is appropriate - in order to sort these
three concepts out. So the next
three sections try to make sense of what seemed to be implicit in my
understanding of the above sorts of experience as they occurred.
time is clock time, which as I said in section 17 of Chapter 9, is based on the
period of the earth's rotation, and is used to measure our perception of the
succession of physical events. Matrix
time is the time in which we grasp whole sequences - temporal forms - in clock
time. It is also generative: the time of entelechy, morphogenesis
and human creativity. It formulates the destiny that is spread out in clock
time. Transcendental time is the
time-framework for the perception of events in subtle domains.
grasp of matrix time is tacit - in ordinary states of consciousness.
But in order to grasp temporal succession in clock time, we need some of
our awareness extended into matrix time. Usually
this extension is only sufficient to give us a modest grasp of the form
of successive events in clock time.
altered states of consciousness, we can extend our awareness of matrix time and
get a larger grasp of it, not just the immediate pattern of events around the
present physical moment. And we can
apprehend all-at-once these larger temporal forms from the 'perspective' of any
one of a great number of different clock-time points within them.
And this 'perspective' is not only a perspective of apprehension or
perception, it is also a perspective of comprehension - we understand the
temporal form from a certain interpretative viewpoint (as when I grasp my
life-sequence construed from the viewpoint of the birth-query, as described
can also grasp matrix time, whole sequences in clock time, from different
vantage points in the transcendental time of subtle domains.
And this gives another kind of comprehension of temporal forms in clock
time: we understand them at a different level of destiny, in terms of a
different order of values, norms and 'facts'.
this all brings out is that there is no one proper or objective account of the
matrix grasp of a temporal form, a sequence in clock time. There are
innumerable, heterogeneous accounts, from
different points in clock time or in transcendental time, each
viewpoint yielding a different understanding of the sequence as a whole.
Each person has no single destiny, but innumerable destinies. Destiny -
the pattern of one's life as a whole - is not a single line.
It is a concatenated web. It
is an anastomosis of veins of understanding: a whole network of interacting
themes in different temporal dimensions.
some of these themes may stand in startling and dramatic contrast to each other.
Thus the theme of my life from the clock time vantage point of the
birth-moment and the birth-query - with its uncertainty, insecurity and lack of
trust - is very different from the theme of my life from the exultant
transcendental vantage point overarching the completion of my earthly existence.
The mystery and drama of personal destiny derives from its multi-levelled and
means also that any notion of unilateral predestination is a total distortion
and misrepresentation of the richness of our immersion in the manifold of
interacting times. There is only multilateral, heterogeneous predestination.
There are many predestinations for each person's life, each one the
pattern of a different theme. And
since there can be an endless number of themes of varied content, it scarcely
makes sense to talk of predestination at all.
an important sense, there is not just one set or series of successive events in
a person's life. For there is no such thing as a single occasion.
Each daily episode - such as
my getting up this morning - is embedded in the manifold of interacting times.
It is in clock time, in matrix time and within transcendental time. It is itself a collective and multitudinous happening, in
which its status as an episode is a function of innumerable different possible
temporal perspectives. Hence my
life as a whole is a multitudinous bundle of sets
of successive events.
way of saying all this is that an event is a temporal
meaning. And a temporal meaning
is a function of a temporal perspective. Once
our consciousness launches itself into the manifold of interacting times, we
realise the heterogeneity of temporal perspectives. There is no one meaning to
any one occasion. Rather each happening is defined in terms of a family of
overlapping meanings arising from overlapping temporal perspectives.
may say that surely there is just one destiny for a person: the composite
destiny of all the themes of their life taken together. And that surely just as
I can grasp the matrix space of the room as a whole - with a four-dimensional
grasp of its total three-dimensional reality - so too I can grasp the temporal
form of the day (or my life) as a whole, without that grasp being from the
vantage point of a particular time within it, before it, after it (or beyond it
in transcendental time).
don't think this is so, and because of a fundamental difference between space
and time. Time fills space with content and meaning. It is always telling a
story. And a story always has a line, a perspective of meaning, whether it is
unfolded serially in clock time; or grasped all at once in matrix time. So when
I grasp the complex story of the multiple themes of my life, I will still do so
from some selected combination of vantage points.
As such it will only be one version of the complex story.
you go to the theatre to see a play, you can get a four dimensional grasp on the
matrix shape of the stage as a whole; but you grasp of the temporal form of the
play as a whole will consist of overlapping perspectives from various nodal
points within it. Time, in matrix
mode, will always tell a story: whose meaning is articulated and spread out from
critical incidents within it, and is therefore always relative to the selection
of those incidents. Space, in matrix mode, can be apprehended in
undifferentiated unities of shape, which are absolute in themselves and relative
only to the logical parameters that define the space as a whole. Time is
inherently and selectively dramatic, space not so.
an architect has drawn up plans for a theatre, there is only one shape in which
it can appear, whoever builds it. Once
a dramatist has written a play, there are innumerable ways of presenting and
acting it. The womb of matrix time
spawns a protean abundance of alternative scenarios.
way of putting all this, albeit somewhat crudely, is to say that space is the
home of consciousness, ultimately universal consciousness; while time is the
home of the soul, the individual centre of reference, always distinct,
idiosyncratic. Through space we enter the generality of cosmic awareness;
through time the particularity and polymorphous relativity of personal destiny,
both individual and corporate.
while the soul may transcend the illusory state of separateness of being, and
enter unitive reality, this does not mean loss of distinctness and uniqueness of
being - a point the Buddhist doctrine of anatta
fails to grasp. There is a better metaphor than that of the dewdrop disappearing
into the shining sea. It is that of
the individual note whose resonance is enhanced by the harmony within an
traditional argument about responsibility and freedom goes something like this.
I am not responsible for my actions and cannot properly be held
accountable for them unless they are the product of my freedom of choice. And I
only have real freedom if, on any occasion of exercising it, I could have chosen
other than I did: to be truly free to choose, I must have genuine options,
genuine alternative futures ahead of me. So
if the universe is such that it is in principle possible for me to have
precognition, before I choose, of what I will have chosen, then I am not really
a free or responsible being.
argument is based on a strong allegiance to the serial experience of time time
as the succession of present moments which become past and which can determine
what the future will be. But we
could have an alternative view of responsibility and freedom, derived from an
allegiance to matrix time awareness in which the expanded present includes
past and future in its encompassing simultaneity.
this view, choice itself is born out of matrix time.
When I freely choose to do something, it is always in the context of
some minimal matrix grasp of the past-present-future sequence of events in
relation to which the choice is made. And I experience the greatest freedom of
choice when I choose on the basis of a tacit precognition of what I will have
chosen. The freedom is not so much in the act of choice but in the experience of
being chosen, as it were, by my own ends.
ends come out of deeper, more archetypal levels of being, and I apprehend what
they will have been - by the tacit entry of my awareness into matrix time.
Such apprehension is my guide to choice in physical time. My freedom is
my election by my ends. My
responsibility is the claim such election has upon me.
A bizarre doctrine, to be sure.
approach to freedom is to say that any occasion which occurs through my choice
is itself a multitudinous happening: it can be construed in terms of many different
temporal perspectives, as I proposed in the previous section.
And although when I chose
it, I did so in terms of only one such perspective, my freedom consists in the
fact that I could have chosen it in the light of a different perspective.
Therefore, I am responsible for construing it the way I did. On this
view, freedom and responsibility are to do with the options I have in organising
my consciousness within the manifold of interacting times - the manifold that
makes any event of choice itself a variegated collective.
time and matrix time come together. It is similar to being tacitly in
five-dimensional space as soon as you enter the four-dimensional matrix of a
three-dimensional object. So
when, in matrix time, I am grasping a sequence in physical time as a whole, I am
also tacitly laid back in transcendental time.
defined transcendental time in an earlier section in this chapter, as the
time-framework within which events in subtle domains are perceived. It
provides those temporal properties of the other world, which, along with its
spatial and energetic properties, entitle us to say that it is a world.
you can talk of subtle space in terms of interpenetrating planes
in contrast to the mutual exclusivity of point-centred
objects in physical space. In the
same way you can bring out a polar contrast between transcendental or subtle
time, and physical or clock time. So here follows a highly speculative model.
archetypal forms of time are succession, duration and simultaneity.
Succession is to do with events coming before and after each other.
Duration is to do with how long an event lasts before the next event
comes after it. And simultaneity is to do with events - whether before, now or
after - occurring at the same time, alongside each other, as it were.
physical time, succession is primary. But is not just that events are
permanently linked by the relation of before and after. We are also in the
serial flux of change: what was after is continually absorbed by the present and
becomes before. The future comes into the present and leaves it as the past.
Duration is next in significance: we are inescapably pre-occupied with how
much time there is for this or that, how long we have got, how long an occasion
will last before the flux of change throws up another occasion.
Simultaneity, in physical time, seems only a necessary buttress to
succession and duration. It provides, so to speak, the lateral spread of events that
makes it possible to experience the
first two dimensions of time.
transcendental time, by contrast, simultaneity is primary.
We are in a total pattern of occasions occurring at the same time.
And within this whole configuration we can distinguish differences of
duration among events, and differences of before and after.
Such differences of before and after simply help, in an ancillary way, to
make sense of differences of duration within the total simultaneous pattern.
Both sets of differences, in transcendental time, are aspects of the same
time. They are distinct yet interpenetrate co-temporaneously.
and after, in subtle time, constitute a pattern of meaning apprehended simultaneously
- not a sucession or series grasped at different times.
When we understand a whole drama - say Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' - before
and after within that drama are elements of a temporal pattern in our
understanding which we realise all at once. They are not serial mental events.
This analogy affords some insight into my model of subtle time.
Transcendental time, matrix time and physical time
physical time, the time now is reduced to a point moving from the past through
the present to the future, in relation to the two dimensions of succession and
duration. In transcendental time,
the time Now is comprehensively expansive, including all realtions of
succession and duration, which are thus different kinds of meaningful experience
within the total field of simultaneous occasions. Matrix time is a half-way
house, in which larger or smaller sequences in physical time can be grasped as a
concurrent whole. Figure 11.1 illustrates these three sorts of time.
just as, in physical time, with its primary dimension of succession, there is an
experience of the specious present - the sense that the present already
includes bits of the past and of
the future adjacent to it - so in subtle time, with its primary dimension of
simultaneity, there is an experience of specious succession, which is the sense
that the field of simultaneity has contracted to exclude some before occasions
and some after occasions. Rather
than calling these two complementary experiences 'the specious present' and
'specious succession', it is better perhaps to call them, respectively, 'the
expanded now' and 'the contracted Now', where 'now' with a small 'n' is the
present moment of ordinary consciousness, and 'Now' with the big 'N' is the
field of simultaneity in transcendental time.
just as a human person immersed in the serial flow of physical time can learn to
extend their awareness into matrix time beyond the ordinary narrow limits of the
everyday 'expanded now', so a subtle being in the simultaneous spread of
transcendental time may be able further to contract their awareness
into a prolonged serial flow of events, beyond what may be only a brief
serial flow in their normal 'contracted Now'.
a subtle domain is co-located with, interpenetrating in a fixed mode (in the
sense defined in the previous chapter), a physical area, then presumably its
time framework is also interrelated to the physical time involved.
The presences in that domain have many options for temporal experience.
They may choose to experience their own subtle domain in its fundamental temporal
format of a simultaneous spread that includes before-and-after and duration as
dimensions of its meaning, and with only a brief serial flow in their
'contracted Now'. But this will always be done from one or more nodal
simultaneous events within the total spread.
So it will always be an interpretation, a perspective of meaning on the
drama of their destiny in their domain. Since
there is no limit to the number of possible perspectives of meaning, there is
no limit to the ever-present ways in which the subtle beings can have temporal
experience of their world. An
extraordinary kind of life.
They may decide to contract their normal 'contracted Now' even further and experience
their own subtle domain in terms of whatever duration of serial temporal flow
they choose. So they could opt to
live in a subtle domain with the kind of temporal experience of succession
that we have in the physical world.
They could choose to live in their world in terms of a point to point
correlation between their chosen
serial flow of subtle events and our serial flow of physical events. Perhaps
these correlations could be made in all sorts of different ways, with the subtle
flow fitted, or staggered or geared. to the physical flow of time in many
configurations, each with different dynamic effects.
They could choose to experience physical events in our world either serially as
we do, or in matrix mode, with varying degrees of simultaneous spread over past,
present and future, from different standpoints and levels.
a world of simultaneous events, causation is synchronous - a kind of mutuality
of resonance. Various metaphors can be invoked here: events echo within
each other, shine off each other, enhance each other's declaration of intent -
and so on. It is the mutual impact
of tone upon tone in a harmony, colour upon colour in a painting,
gaze upon gaze in a moment of personal
synchronous or resonant causation is the primary kind of causation in the other
world. It is a matter of affinity:
it is something to do with similarity of form.
Differences of resonance, I surmise, are due to differences of form.
a world of serial events, causation is efficient, mechanical, as we know it in
this world. The cause precedes its effect in time, and produces its
effect by some energetic transmission through space.
for human beings, who live in both worlds at once, there is an intermediate and
third kind of causation: formal causation - making ends actual by choice and
action. Or perhaps we should say: ends making themselves actual through choice
fourth kind of causation is formative causation: whereby physical organisms develop,
sustain and regenerate their physical forms.
In my view, such causation operates into the physical body from its
subtle matrix. Formative causation
is closely connected with rhythm, with periodicity.
organism is a whole interdependent set of oscillations, frequencies, rhythmic
patterns - from the vibrating structure of the molecule, through the
periodicities of cellular function, the rhythmic contractions of involuntary
muscle, the heartbeat, breathing, eating and defaecating, sleeping and waking.
human being is at the cross-over point of these four causes, integrating and
interrelating them all in the process of living. It is my own view that
synchronous causation, as yet little understood in our culture, can have a
profound effect on mechanical causation, an effect which constitutes a whole
new technology. Similarly formal
causation - the impact of human intention - can have a profound effect on
formative causation, thus inaugurating a whole new science of self-healing in
Experience of the subtle realms: