Franklin Merrell-Wolff (1887-1985)

Franklin Merrell-Wolff

Writings on Time (1936)

Edited by Peter Y. Chou

...I do not regard space and time as external to consciousness, but rather as modes and forms determining the play of relative consciousness or, in other words, as setting the stage for the drama of evolution. Neither space nor time are limitations imposed upon the ultimate Reality. On the contrary they have their origin within that Reality and are simply the most primary circumscribing forms that serve the purpose of delimiting consciousness or nature as this appears to human consciousness...

Time is involved whenever we speak of 'becoming,' 'periodicity,' 'life,' 'birth,' 'decay,' 'evolution,' 'progress,' 'loss,' 'gain,' and so on through a multitude of terms implying process in some sense. On the other hand, space underlies notions, such as, 'law,' 'all at once,' 'essential identity of cause and effect,' 'freedom from sin, guilt, or karma,' 'immortality,' 'logic,' 'calculation,' 'reversible time,' etc. Tragic time or the time that is one with embodied life, birth, death, etc., is irreversible. It is tragic because of the irreversibility. That which has happened cannot be recalled; the unused opportunity of the moment is gone forever; death closes relationships, etc. If time were ultimately real, it would never be possible to transcend the tragic drama of life. In such a case, to be sure, creative becoming would have genuine reality, but as the becoming always involves a complemental destroying, the joy of the former would always be dogged by the pain of the latter without hope of any ultimate resolution of this pain. Spengler, on his part, recognizes this tragic quality of chronological time. He realizes that it entails essential pessimism, but glories in acceptance of that pessimism, holding that it is the nobler part and the more heroic to accept this frankly. He definitely asserts the primacy of time and thus predicates its ultimate triumph in the conflict with space...

Unlike Spengler, Buddha refused to acquiesce in the tragedy. He searched for and ultimately found a power superior to the tragic field of Sangsara [world-life]. This Power was a State of Consciousness that transcended the whole domain under the sway of time. This State of Consciousness is known to us today by the symbolic designating name, Nirvana. Now, while it is true that in the highest sense Nirvanic Consciousness transcends space as well as time, it is nevertheless approachable by human consciousness as being of a space-like quality. Nirvanic Consciousness implies a comprehension of beginning and end at once, thus destroying the tragic quality of time. But 'comprehension' is essentially spatial. Further, the differentiation of levels of Nirvana also involves a fundamentally spatial notion. It is possible for embodied man to attain some degree of Nirvanic Consciousness while still possessing embodied consciousness... Buddha brought a message of Liberation and Immortality, and hence in the proper sense he is optimistic. But the significance of the immediate step He offered mankind lies in the fact that He opposed the tragic time-world with a more poetent Space-World. Liberation and Immortality are space-notions, freed from time-bondage...

I have developed the present thesis in terms of a conflict or war between two principles [time & space]. Obviously, this is valid only from the relative perspective or as it appears in the time-stream. Metaphysically considered, there is no victory to be achieved, for Primeval Consciousness never has in reality been bound. Time-bondage is only an effect existing for relative consciousness. Arriving at a State of Liberation has meaning for self-conscious consciousness, but not for Primeval Consciousness, which, like Space, is unaffected by the presence or absence of events.

SPACE remains the highest Divinity that is in any sense knowable, however dim that knowledge may be. Beyond lies the Eternally Unknowable, surrounded by impenetrable Darkness, Silence, and Voidness.

Franklin Merrell-Wolff (1887-1985)
Pathways through to Space, LXXXVII
"The Conflict between Space and Time" (November 13, 1936)
2nd Edition, Julian Press, NY, 1973, p. 229-241

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