“The distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” ~Albert Einstein

Linear time, as we know it, is largely an illusion of a linear self image. We usually think of time as having three parts – Past, Present, Future. But what is the Past – only a collection of memories. We can’t experience the Past, we can only remember it. And we can only remember it in the Present (furthermore, our memories are noticeably unreliable). There is no objective thing that we call the Past; it can’t be measured in any way; our only contact with it is in the Present.

And what is the Future – only a mental construct in the Present. We can’t experience the Future until it “becomes” the Present. Until then it only a hope and dream. We can project what the Future may be like, but we are considerably less accurate than when we remember the Past. There is no objective thing that we call the Future; it can’t be measured in any way; our only contact with it is in the Present.

That leaves us with only the Present – the ever changing Present. Linear time is an illusion we created to try and measure the rate of change of the Present. It’s always NOW. But it’s an ever changing NOW. In a effort to cope with the change, we have invented time. It’s a handy mental device that helps us deal with the continuous rate of change.

This illusion of time keeps us disconnected from our awareness of the present but instead stuck in a linear self thinking about regrets, misgivings, or wistful longing. It is an illusion where true happiness and fulfillment always seems to be in the future or the past.

“The present moment is the thing. Its like a portal to infinity. It already contains the past and the future.” ~Ekhart Tolle

Related Pages:
Living in the Present
What is Reality?
Social Illusions
Our Delusional Self
Illusion of Reality

6 Responses

  1. Time is a direction in space

    If we try to control our direction,we live in time,but if we let the direction move without a preconceived goal,we are free of time.

  2. Probably a better term would be the ‘”experienced now”. We can hear thunder in the now but it may be miles away and actually happened seconds earlier. It is an intellectual (and perhaps scientific) exercise to parse out the “now” experience into various time lags due to physical factors. The experiential aspect of “now” is key to how we live and even though it might encompass more then each second as it happens, we still call it the “now.”

  3. Hi Steve,

    If time is a direction in space and everything is on the move where is the now? Truth in its essence is on the move.

    I am familiar with the scientific theory of timeless and space-less but unable to relate to it in my personal experience…perhaps the word “flow” as used in this blog would be an acceptable alternative to the idea of the “present”.


  4. Hi Nostra,great resource, thanks for sharing! That’s a right brain quality! :O) According to Stephen Hawkin’s ‘If you take away the imaginary component of time, you are left with a direction in space’.

    The right hemisphere works with directions in space and the qualitative realm and its language is gap-less and experienced through feelings. The Tao as you write about is a right brain based philosophy.

    If time is a direction in space and everything is on the move where is the now? Truth in its essence is on the move.

    The Mayan’s mention about ‘time being not as we know it, after 2012 and the Hopi and Aboriginals speak about the end of dream time? Is there going be a reawakening of the right hemisphere? Where there right hemisphere dominant cultures way back in the distant past?


  5. Hi Nostra,

    Thanks for your excellent comment…I agree with you the “present” is an illusion for the reasons you gave…in addition the brain interprets what it is perceiving based on its own inventive processes so we don’t know what really exists on the outside…neuroscience is only beginning to understand the brain mechanism but promises some shocking new insights as to the nature of consciousness…our inner space has yet to be explored.


  6. The present is an illusion percieved by our minds – the light we see and sound we hear has to travel through the air for us to see or hear it and the things we smell taste and touch have to travel through our nervous system for them to be registered this means that although these things happen very quickly, everything we see, hear, taste, smell and feel is actually in the past – As such I would suggest that the understood definitions for the past present and future be redefined or that the present be dropped from the list of vague timelines used. I do however understand that this in a real world situation is implausible and that although the present is defined as the now, it should be redefined as the time at which our minds understood the immediate past.

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