Mikhail Rogov
9 min readDec 8, 2019

“[F]rom the succession of ideas and impressions we form the idea of time… [T]ime cannot make its appearance to the mind, either alone, or attended with a steady unchangeable object, but is always discovered by some perceivable succession of changeable objects.” — David Hume

“I do not feel alive, psychologically alive, except insofar as a stream of feeling — perceiving, imagining, remembering, reflecting, revising, recategorizing runs through me. I am that stream — that stream is me.”— Oliver Sacks

Since the only empirical reality ever given to us directly within the framework of our individual existence is the reality of phenomenal consciousness, the idea/concept of ‘time’ could arise only as a result of the experience of a stream of successive changes of phenomena, including changes of intersubjective colorforms, sounds and sensations (olfactory, gustatory, tactile, etc.), the synthetic unity of which we call ‘the real world’.

Therefore, every experienced particular ‘moment of time’ is nothing but a particular state (hence descriptive mathematical ‘quantum states’) of phenomenal consciousness (and hence, of underlying transcendental consciousness which projects phenomenal consciousness) which is replaced by another ‘moment of time’ in the stream of causally interconnected successive states of consciousness.

Therefore, every ‘thing’ is a process of consciousness which consists of successive particular states.

Is there a fundamental process in the stream of ‘time’?

It is light, whose particular states correspond to particular ‘moments of time’ — particular states of consciousness. This explains the key role of light in the theory of relativity: light is the fundamental process of reference.

How does each ‘moment of time’ — each particular state of consciousness — arise?

The substance of phenomena is transcendent consciousness-in-itself (the nondichotomic Light of mystical/transpersonal experiences) whose nontemporal ‘superposition’ (the infinite potential described by the mathematical universal wavefunction) is ‘collapsed’ by transcendental consciousness — transcendental (inter)subjectivity — down to the stream of particular states of phenomenal objectivity, including intersubjective colorforms, sounds and sensations, whose synthetic unity we call ‘the real world’.

Every phenomenon is the transcendent Light reduced by transcendental (inter)subjectivity into the stream of particular states of phenomenal objectivity.

Now we can answer the crucial question of physics about what collapses the wavefunction — it is transcendental (inter)subjectivity, which is the process of transformation/emanation of the transcendent into the immanent, the nondichotomic into the dichotomic, the infinite into the finite, the nontemporal into the temporal, the One into the particular, the supraindividual into the individual.

We conclude that the successive change of causally interconnected particular states of transcendental (inter)subjectivity and phenomenal objectivity is the unfolding of our existence/consciousness or, in other words, ‘time’. It is not our consciousness that unfolds in ‘time’, but ‘time’ is the unfolding of our consciousness. ‘Time’ and the unfolding of our existence/consciousness are the same process.

Thus, ‘time’ can be explained with incomparable consistency and conceptual parsimony only within the framework of transcendental phenomenology which is ultimately the framework of ontological idealism applied instead of the pseudoscientific metaphysical mythology of materialism (physicalism) and other erroneous ‘matter-included’ ontologies.

Surprisingly, Buddhists (especially those of Yogācāra tradition of ontological idealism) understood all this already millennia ago:

“The doctrine of momentariness follows directly from the first thesis of the universality of impermanence. It asserts that each [phenomenon] and, accordingly, the whole complex of [phenomena], i.e. [empirical subject and empirical world], exists for only one moment and is replaced in the next moment by a new [phenomenon] caused by the previous one. … In essence, each new moment is [a new empirical subject and world] connected with and [causally] conditioned by the previous one. Thus, according to the theory of instantaneity, the stream of [phenomena] constituting [empirical subject and empirical world] is not only continuous but also discrete at the same time. Using the modern metaphor, it is best compared to a movie film: it consists of individual shots, but we do not see them when we watch a film and perceive them as a continuum, whereas the differences between two adjacent shots are absolutely insignificant and the shots appear to the naked eye to be almost identical, while the differences arise and appear gradually.” — Eugene Torchinov

“Throughout the entire Buddhist philosophy, time is not conceived in a Newtonian way, i.e. as a homogeneous, continuous medium that can be splitted into various intervals, but, rather, in a relational manner, as a series, as a succession of moments. The moment (kṣaṇa) should not be understood as a certain length of time, as a determined period of time. The moment is not a very small temporal interval but, rather, the minimal unit of which time consists (as a series of moments). Time exists only as a relationship between moments. The moment itself is not in time, since the sequence of moments is what creates time. Thus, the moment has no duration in time. There is no temporal beginning and end of the moment, but it simply constitutes an indivisible temporal unit. The passing of time means the succession of moments; the Universe is the sequence of momentary appearances. Any appearance is a momentary appearance.

“All the [phenomenal] composites (saṃskāra) are momentary (kṣaṇika)…” — Asaṅga

The question regarding the duration of an appearance does not make sense because of its momentary, non-temporal character. Buddhism claims that, in case of any manifestation, its appearance (utpāda) and disappearance (nirodha) are simultaneous, as both relate to one and the same moment. Given the indivisible character of the moment, which lacks any “duration”, it is absurd to claim that birth occurs at the beginning of the moment and destruction at its end.

“Each moment (pratikṣaṇa) [takes place] both the apparition (udaya) and the disappearance (vyaya) of the [phenomenal] composites (saṃskāra).” — Vasubandhu

Everything that manifests, all the [phenomena] (dharma) exist only for a moment, representing minimal appearances, lacking persistence, “point-like” appearances which, once ceased, will never reappear. … The appearances are rather fluctuating than active; there is only succession, not transformation.

“…How could there be the activity (kriyā) of transient things (asthita)?” — Asaṅga

Any entity represents an absolutely new appearance, which lasts only for a moment, and which, once it has been destroyed, never reappears.

“Entities (bhāva) … are not old, but ever new.” — Asaṅga

Mahāyāna considers that the causal flow that represents the manifested Universe consists of the sequence of momentary appearances (kṣaṇika); the importance of this theory lies in the fact that it eliminates the possibility of the existence of a persistent object, involved in the series of dependent origination (pratītyasamutpāda) as the substratum of sequential transformations. According to the theory of momentariness, the series of dependent origination does not represent the successive causal transformation of a persistent object, but consists of the succession of ever-new momentary entities, of [phenomena] (dharma).

“Mahāmati, the entire existence (bhāva) is devoid of own nature (nisvabhāva) since it is considered as a continuous (prabandha) series (santati) of momentary apparitions (kṣaṇa), as [passing] from a way of being (bhāva) to another way of being (anyathābhāva).” — Laṅkāvatārasūtra

Through all these, the theory of momentariness (kṣaṇikavāda) turns into a denial of the persistent objects envisaged in ordinary human experience and which also make up the entire human drama and bondage. What, to the human mind, appears as a continuous, persistent object is only an illusory construction of the subjective imagination. Beyond this imagined aspect, there is no persistent objective manifestation, but everything is momentary.

However, the appearance of continuity is not entirely random, since the series of appearances do not happen randomly but determined by specific causes (hetu), by specific conditions (pratyaya). Because these conditions remain, to a certain degree, constant, the various successive appearances also share a certain degree of similarity; stirred by this similarity, human imagination engenders the illusion of the persistent object.

Conceptually structured human experience thus becomes devoid of objective referent. Human thought finds no counterpart at the level of the ever-changing flow of dependent origination (pratītyasamutpāda). The conceptual reference to a momentary appearance would make no sense, since such an appearance fades until the next moment. A momentary referent could not be the subject of any transformation, could not be the stable, persistent object assumed by ordinary human experience. Any discussion or reasoning about such an appearance would be superfluous.” — Ovidiu Cristian Nedu

Many thinkers support the concept of temporal atomism.

“The existence of an objective lapse of time means that reality consists of an infinity of layers of ‘now’ which come into existence successively. But if simultaneity is something relative, each observer has his own set of ‘nows,’ and none of these various layers can claim the prerogative of representing the objective lapse of time.” — Kurt Gödel

Clearly, our mistake was to make of the idea of ‘time’ an abstraction (e.g., the abstract ‘fourth physical dimension’ of mathematical descriptions in physics), whereas in fact ‘time’ is the process of unfolding of our conscious existence.

Now, why our opinions about the duration of the ‘same’ period of ‘time’ often radically differ?

Because ‘time’ is not one but two streams of successive states of consciousness unified by one meaning/sense ‘time’: the subjective stream (thoughts, emotions, memories, fantasies, illusions, dreams, and hallucinations) and the intersubjective stream (colorforms, sounds, and sensations conceptualized as ‘the real world’) of phenomenal and underlying transcendental states of consciousness that are governed by two sets of laws.

The intersubjective stream is governed by the laws of transcendental intersubjectivity described mathematically as the ‘laws of physics’, i.e., the ‘laws of physics’ are the laws of transcendental intersubjectivity which projects the world of intersubjective phenomena. In refutation of metaphysical folktales of pseudoscientific materialism (physicalism), dualism, and panpsychism with their naive belief in the existence of mythical ‘physical matter’, it must be said that the only reason why the intersubjective processes of consciousness are stable and predictable is that such are the laws of transcendental intersubjectivity whose elementary causal structures/processes are described mathematically as ‘elementary particles, waves, etc.’

The subjective stream is governed by the laws of transcendental subjectivity that cannot be (?) described mathematically.

That explains all discrepancies in our perception of ‘time’, for, although we share a common intersubjective stream of successive states of consciousness, we also have subjective streams that flow individually thus making the meaning/sense ‘time’ individual.

Finally and most importantly, why ‘time’ is even possible?

Change is possible only relatively to that which does not change; the stream of ‘time’ is possible because the witness and the substance of the stream — transcendent consciousness-in-itself, the nondichotomic Light — is nontemporal. In other words, the stream of our conscious existence is possible only relatively to the transcendent shoreTranscendence.

“In the extension of time, athwart its endlessness, lies Being.” — Karl Jaspers

“Being … lies not in time beyond death, but in the depth of present existence, as eternity.” — Karl Jaspers

Together with Buddhism, we may assume that the stream of our individual existence is beginningless and potentially endless.

“This world flows on without beginning.” — Vasubandhu

We can’t think the absolute Beginning of ‘time’, for nothing happens without a cause, and for each cause there must be its own cause, and so forth into the infinity of ‘time’. Hence, we — individual transcendental subjects, our universal transcendental intersubjectivity and intersubjectively projected phenomenal worlds with their hypothetical Big Bangs and Big Crunches — are the eternal (beginningless and endless) perspective of Consciousness opposed by the nontemporal perspective — Transcendence.

“Mind is by its very nature a singulare tantum. I should say: the over-all number of minds is just one. I venture to call it indestructible since it has a peculiar timetable, namely mind is always now. There is really no before and after for mind.” — Erwin Schrödinger

“In temporal existence … I can never be directly with Transcendence; I can only approach it as I rise, and lose it as I fall. If I were with Transcendence, all motion would cease; perfection would have been attained; time would be at an end.” — Karl Jaspers

“Man cannot seek to know what the Godhead could know. Such knowledge would put an end to his existence in time, whose activities are the purpose of his knowledge.” — Karl Jaspers

“It is one thing to be carried through an endless life, another thing to embrace the whole presence of an endless life together, which is manifestly proper to the divine Mind.” — Boethius

“We do not experience eternal Being outside of that which is empirically manifested to us in time. Since that which is for us must be manifested in the temporality of the world, there can be no direct knowledge of God and Existenz. There can only be faith.” — Karl Jaspers

Transcendence is the spectator, Existenz (freedom) is the actor, phenomena are the costumes and scenery. “God does not play dice” (Einstein), for divine Play is individual existence.



Mikhail Rogov

“Pure immanence without Transcendence remains nothing but deaf existence.” — Karl Jaspers