JM: We think we know what time is, but we don’t. There is what could be called “real” time, which is really all time-past, present and future-rolled into one fantastic, simultaneous pattern. And there are “raying out” all around us just about numberless futures and numberless pasts, and numberless parallel and alternate probabilities. All, as mind-boggling as it may seem, are real dimensions of existence.
FC: When you talk about the simultaneity of real time, I’m reminded of the story you once told me about an experience you had in high school, which seems to summarize what you’re talking about.
JM: It happened on my last day at high school, after graduation. I lived about 20 miles from the school in the country in Northern California. That evening when I got off the school bus, my mind was full of thoughts about where my life might go next. I was thinking big, wondering thoughts. “Is there a God?” “What is the nature of everything?” I stood next to the almost-deserted highway for quite a while, looking off to the west toward the mountains, where the setting sun was turning the sky into a beautiful riot of color. And a strong, curious feeling came over me: I felt like I was being watched from behind, from up in the sky. It unnerved me a little, but it was kind of a spiritual and good feeling, as if God were watching me. And that, for a while, was that.
Then one evening about 15 years later, I was in a contemplative state, remembering things, and I remembered that experience. And in remembering, I did what I think people often do, which is to remember from the outside, as if viewing a photograph of the event. So I saw myself standing there by the road, looking at the sunset, with the countryside spread out all around me. I drew the scene into focus in my mind, pulling it closer into view, moving closer to it. As I did this, I suddenly realized that I was “coming into” the scene exactly at the point in the sky from which I had felt I was being watched 15 years before. I was utterly shocked. Something like a lightning bolt snapped between me and my past self, and I felt myself rubber-banding perceptually back and forth from one location to the other-from one body to the other. In a flabbergasted state I realized I had been watched then, and that the watcher was me, my future self.