One of the hottest topics in pure science is the question of what came before the Big Bang. Philosophically, the question is nonsensical, because the Big Bang gave rise to time and space. But of course that’s only intrigued philosophers, physicists, and mathematicians all the more.
With the altered states of consciousness that come about in meditative states (not trances, ‘breathwork,’ mantras, or any condition produced by a method), time, which we usually take for granted, becomes very problematic.
Obviously, everything, from flowers to stars, has a lifespan. But if you think about it, a lifespan can be viewed in terms of a cycle of unfolding, rather than a beginning and an end, as linear time.
Clearly, the universe itself has no beginning or end, but is a cycle of unfolding on an unimaginably huge scale. The very fact that the human mind can grasp such a concept indicates that consciousness is more than a mechanical process involving linear time.
So is time a construct of the human mind, convenient for building and artificially ordering our world, but irrelevant if not erroneous where the cosmos and consciousness are concerned?
There is every reason to feel so, and not just by pejoratively labeled mystics who push the envelope of our understanding of consciousness. No rational person can accept the premise that the universe sprang into being completely ‘ex nihilo’—from nothing.
At the same time, from a scientific point of view, the entire question of cosmological birth founders on the paradox of time. Whether conceived in terms of the sudden inflation of space, or by positing ‘branes’ of different dimensions contacting and exploding, all matter, space, and time emerged at the moment of the cosmic singularity.
In a black hole, space shrinks and time stops. In the same way, it’s nonsensical to speak of time before the Big Bang, because the Big Bang gave rise to space/time.
Up to about a decade ago, there wasn’t any serious consideration of what came before the Big Bang (or more accurately, given that time itself emerged from it, what conditions gave rise to that supreme event). But in the last few years such investigation has almost become mainstream.
The dilemma is almost inconceivable to us psychologically, since our psychological existence turns on time. But I submit that reflecting on this issue of time, though it flirts with eschatology (the theological concern with the final events in the history of humankind), is useful and helpful for our own consciousness.
The reason is simple. The consciousness of man is the problem, causing completely untenable fragmentation of the earth, culture, and the individual; the cornerstone of our psychology is time; therefore insights into time can radically and beneficially change our psychology and consciousness.
But the most practical reason to reflect on time is that a deep insight into it eliminates, or at least greatly reduces, the fear of death. For if there is no time, and no beginning and end, then death takes on a completely different meaning.
To my mind, the essential quality of genuine meditation is timelessness. With the cessation of separation and the center as self, thought falls silent, and time ends. One realizes that the present contains all that ever was, and in a sense, all that will ever be (the continually creative emergence of the new notwithstanding).
So is time just an invention and byproduct of ‘higher thought?’ Einstein proved that space can bend, and time can contract. The closer one gets to a black hole, the more time slows. And in the singularity of a black hole, which replicates the beginning of the universe as a whole, time completely stops. Therefore the answer is yes.
But because time stops, does it mean cause and effect ends? How can there be cause and effect without time? Obviously there can be, or the universe could not have come into existence.
The idea of the mind of God willing the cosmos into existence is philosophically juvenile. That doesn’t mean there is no such actuality as God; it just means that a separate ‘Supreme Being’ saying, “Let There Be Light” is silly. The ‘Spirit of God’ predates and permeates universes inseparably; it does not create them separately.
God is inextricably part of everything, except thought, which only extricates. That’s why it’s so important for thought to be quiet, and go beyond its psychological constructions based on time.
Consideration of what ‘came before the Big Bang’ presents, in clear relief, the inner limits of the scientific endeavor. Philosophy can go further, but it too ends … in silence.