Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Challenging our concept of time

Guest blog by author DavidLeadbetter
Paranormal Purbeck: A Study of the Unexplained

Following publication of my book by Roving Press, a number of people have written to me, giving details of experiences that occurred to themselves or members of their family. One of the most bizarre accounts was sent by Barry Goldsmith from Southampton, who described what happened in his parents' house one summer day in 1961. 

Barry's father had been working in the garden and his mother was out shopping. At about 11 am his father came indoors to prepare the vegetables for their midday meal, removing his gardening boots before going into the kitchen in his stockinged feet. He had just finished peeling the last potato and stepped back to pick up the saucepan lid when he trod on something sharp, which really hurt his foot. When he looked down, he saw it was a wedge-shaped piece of a china plate with a scalloped edge about the size of a cheese triangle. He realised it had come from one of their dinner plates and that his wife must have broken it. Thinking no more about it, he threw the broken piece in the pile of vegetable refuse and wrapped it all up before putting it in the dustbin.      Later, when Barry's parents were having dinner, his father casually mentioned the broken plate. Barry's mother immediately said she had not broken any plate and pointed out that they were actually using both their plates at that moment for their meal. It was thought that the broken piece must somehow have come in from the garden on his father's clothes.     Later that evening, they were both in the lounge watching television when they were startled by a loud crash from the kitchen. They went to see what had happened and found to their amazement that one of their two dinner plates had leapt from the rack above the cooker and now lay in three pieces about 6 ft away near the kitchen sink. Barry's mother picked up the pieces and placed them together. They fitted perfectly, with the exception of one small triangular piece which they could not find. Barry's father said he knew where it would be and went out to the dustbin and retrieved the parcel of peelings. There amongst the rubbish was the piece he had put there that morning. It fitted the plate perfectly!

In writing to me, Barry emphasised that he and other people have found it very hard to take in this experience, but that it happened exactly as he told it. What happened to Barry's parents challenges our whole concept of linear time and cannot be explained rationally. There are well-documented cases of objects mysteriously materialising and dematerialising, but it must be very unusual for a piece of a broken object to appear some hours before the object itself broke!

 There are examples of where people seem to have been transported backwards or forwards in time: Paranormal Purbeck has a story about how a family appeared to be taken back in time in a garden, and there is the famous example of a time-slip where two ladies who visited Versailles in 1901 saw people dressed in 18th-century costume and both experienced a dreamlike sensation. 

In the case of Barry's parents, though, it would seem that the piece of china plate was somehow transported into the future: in other words, part of the event happened in the wrong sequence. This tells us that there is something fundamentally wrong with our 'normal' understanding of time.

Those who undergo mystical experiences or practise deep meditation describe how time becomes meaningless and there is no sense of past, present or future: time is seen as an unbroken whole, not divided into parts. In the physical world and our everyday lives, time is conceived as moving in a certain direction, but is it 'time' that moves, or ourselves? If the latter, which part of us 'moves'? Clearly, the physical body, ages with time, but consciousness does not, though it can undergo growth and evolution. It seems that it is consciousness that is timeless, resulting in our concept of linear time being inadequate at a deeper level.

    The present is constantly moving away from us (becoming past) and at the same time we may be anticipating the future; the present is therefore actually very difficult to conceive and may not really exist. In higher consciousness states such as meditation and mysticism, where there is a great sense of being and oneness, time becomes an illusion for the person having the experience and there is no sense of awareness of the present. This also seems to be the case in the dream state: consciousness (or the subconscious mind) creates a blend of images from the past and, on occasions, the future in a mix of time where there is clearly no present for the dreamer.

   The conclusion must be that time has a certain validity for our normal waking consciousness, but only in the sense that out physical bodies are constantly experiencing change and therefore movement through what we term 'time'. The linear concept is only valid in a limited sense, and unusual experiences, such as the one that occurred to Barry's parents, point towards a higher, transcendent, perhaps multidimensional form of time, almost beyond normal human perception. The question of why the piece of broken china appeared when it did on that particular day and whether there were unseen forces behind it will probably go unanswered, but it does have profound implications for our understanding of time. Physicist David Bohm argued that total order is contained in some implicit sense in each region of space and time: in the case of a hologram, for instance, each part of it contains the image of the whole, so perhaps each moment in (linear) time holds information about all of time.

Paranormal Purbeck: A Study of the Unexplained is published by Roving Press, priced £9.99.

David is part of the line-up for the Purbeck Literary Festival. Explore Wareham with his walk and talk on 1 March.