17 July 2018http://www.humanthoughts.org/words2.htm© Huw Powell
Language barriers:
The difficulty of discussing what lies beyond space and time

Since most of our language tools have developed in response to the environment in which we must survive, make our living, and reproduce our species, they tend to fall apart pretty quickly when attempting to discuss clearly what is involved in transcendental experiences.

It is so easy to start using phrases like "out there" to refer to the part of reality that does not have space and time, and the danger is that using them metaphorically will start to make the reader think they are meant literally, which they cannot be.

For a good place to start, consider all the ways we might try to refer to these things and the information derived from them:

  • It is not another place: 'place' is a space time word.

  • You do not go somewhere: 'to go' is a space time concept, as is 'somewhere.'

  • You cannot be there before or after someone else: see, I'm already calling it 'there' - a space and time concept. Anyway, since it is outside time, two visits are not related by our sense of time - all 'events' interweaving the two kinds of reality are coincidental - they all occur at once. I can call them events by thinking only of the space time end of the experience - there is no such thing as an 'event' outside of space and time.

  • Even to call it infinite or eternal is a mistake: while both terms are outside of our normal experience in a way, they are just extensions of space time concepts. What is a short time? A minute. What is a really long time? A year, or better yet, several generations. What is a really, really long time? Eternity. There is no eternity where there is not time. There is no infinity where numbers and counting have no meaning. Some traditions have provided a way to use language artfully to 'describe' this - by the use of apparent contradictions they indicate that the words fail to apply with any sense of how they are normally used: for example, "the Infinite One," or "the Eternal Moment," either of which introduces the sort of sense that is needed to cope with our language's inadequacies.

  • You cannot 'go there': the very idea of self (or ego) is a space time based concept - it is distance and time that separate us from each other, and from other things, allowing the very real world based observation that we are not 'all one,' and the scramble for survival requires that we consider the needs of our one animal body (and those of those close to us) above others - hence the evolution of the ego in conscious creatures. When you have an experience that has no space or time, there is no sense of self, you are not divided from any other element of the experiences reality. This, of course, can be overwhelming!

  • It's not out there: those are both space words...

Without going further, I hope you get the point, and also forgive my endles use of quoted space and time language to try to metaphorically refer to something (there's another one, it's not a 'thing'!) language is just not suited for.

12/26/01

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