fare forward, voyagers

I got to thinking after listening to a wonderful episode of Seriah Azkath’s podcast Where Did the Road Go? where he talked about time travel with the philosopher and all-around extremely cool person Micah Hanks. Micah went over an idea that I was only faintly familiar with: the so-called “Thermodynamic Arrow of Time”. Essentially this idea is taken from the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that in an isolated system (one in which energy is not being fed) entroy tends to increase with time. The implication is that time itself is asymmetrical with entropy. Since as far as we know, our universe is an isolated system, entropy is always increasing, so it is with time.

Since we evolved within this entropic, isolated system, we experience this Thermodynamic Arrow of Time and perceive time in a linear fashion: the “Psychological Arrow of Time” in which human perception and memory operates. It appears that the Psychological Arrow of Time aligns with the Thermodynamic Arrow of Time.

This article describes an experiement to demonstrate this: Scientists set up a system in which there are two chambers seperated by a wall with a rotor that shows a counter. One chamber is filled with an ideal-N number of particles that then, due to the entropy of the closed system, will eventually move to the empty chamber and create an equilibrium within the system. The rotor will show an abstracted, net number of particles that have migrated. The rotor will also impose generality – a requirement that states memory must have the capability of storing more than one variable – by measuring the momentum transfer of the particle movement on the rotor. This allows strong correlation of the results due to its direct interaction with the particles. All this goes to show that you could not correlate data if you had the ability to see directly into the “future” since would need to know exactly every state of each particle in the system at all times – an impossibility given the Uncertainty principle. This would imply that the Thermodynamic and Psychological Arrows of Time due to memory being unavailable without there being an ability to measure the system before equilibrium is reached.

Put even more simply, consider the basic problem of any sort of divination: if you were able to truly see “the future”, then you are also implying you know the state of each and every particle leading up to that future situation – an impossibility. Also, what’s to stop you from changing those factors, making your perceived future state moot? One might say that yes, obviously you’re only seeing one possible outcome among many, just one hallway down the Garden of Forking Paths. In that case, what’s the point? It’s no better than a guess. All things are possible, so this information from the future is not useful.

This would seem to say that “remembering forwards” is impossible, but is it?

More recently the field of quantum mechanics has put forth that the true putative cause of the Arrow of Time is actually quantum entanglement. The idea is that the Second Law of Thermodynamics does not explain entropy, rather entanglement is the cause of entropy, thus entanglement is the mechanism of the Second Law. Furthermore, it appears that entanglement is directly related to the process of causality. The perception of causality is a direct result of the Arrow of Time, a consequence of the Second Law, and thus caused by increasing entanglement. In other words “causing Change to occur in conformity with Will” creates those correlations between the subject and object that memory subsystems rely upon. Thus, per Seth Lloyd, “The arrow of time is an arrow of increasing correlations.”

“Finally, we can understand why a cup of coffee equilibrates in a room,” said Tony Short, a quantum physicist at Bristol. “Entanglement builds up between the state of the coffee cup and the state of the room.”

Now scientists are examining the possibility of temporal entanglement – the idea that the quantum correlations that make up entanglement can actually span time as well as space. This idea postulates that not only can two quantum events become correlated on a casual level, but they can become correlated in such a way that it is impossible to determine the cause and the effect. In fact, this perhaps suggest that the space-time we experience and inhabit is somehow constructed of this web of temporal correlations. Quantum field theory describes this to a greater effect. Effectively a field is a highly entangled (read: correlated) system. These correlations span not only physical space, but time as well.

This idea, that space-time is a web of entanglements stretching backwards and forwards and that we only perceive the arrow due to the forwards nature of these correlations is not a new one. For instance, consider the fact that in Hindi, the words for “yesterday” and “tomorrow” translate to the same word: कल or “kal” meaning “the day remote from today”. Embedded within that very language is the idea that time is not a linear process but rather a field that we are experiencing linearly.

The Buddhist concept of Samsara – that there is a constant cycle of death and rebirth in which we are all trapped – is similar to this. If time is indeed this flat circle, if past and present are only concepts for measuring our relation to this quantum field, then this cyclical idea makes sense. Maybe you have lived this life many times. Maybe you have lived many lives. Is consciousness bound to this cycle, trapped within (or limited to) this field? Memory certainly seems to be, but are memory and perception distinct from each other? Memory seems to be a consquence of the Arrow of Time, built and stored using our organic bodies, but perhaps perception can extend along the tangled web of quantum correlations.

Within Buddhism, the idea of Nirvana – or enlightenment – is the freeing of consciousness from the trappings of Samsara. The liberation of perception beyond the wheel of death and rebirth into a higher state, not bound by time or space. Many occult systems have similar end goals for the development of the operator; the works of Carlos Castenada and his descriptions of the teachings of Don Juan come to mind. Don Juan Matus explains that the final goal for a magician was to retain consciousness past death. In other words, not be reborn into another physical body and the suffer the loss of memory that is stored in the physical apparatus of the body.

I’ve been inching towards this, but I have a strong feeling that perhaps this web of quantum entanglement can help explain the underlying mechanics of PSI phenomena, or at the very least the phenomena of precognition. If all of the actions you have taken have entangled you with particles in a causal chain stretching back into the past to the beginning of time, is it possible to then examine the “state” of that entanglement? Perhaps the strength of correlation affects the ability to perceive that information. Perhaps this is why, if we have lived past lives, we don’t perceive that information readily due to having very weak casual correlations with those entangled particles. But, that correlation is there, allowing some mechanism within your consciousness to recall information that isn’t temporally local to you.

I find it striking that most precognitive experiences are subjective ones – that is, they are visions of the viewers future possibilities. Perhaps it is as simple as this: You remember the future because, in a sense, you’re already taken the actions that resulted in that future. You have to stop thinking about time as a linear function, but rather as a field. Those causal relationships that form entanglement don’t exist temporally, meaning that you are entangled with particles from the future as well as the past. I have a feeling that emotion also somehow functions on these entanglements. I couldn’t state any mechanism upon which this would work, just call it a hunch. Most people have visions of extreme events: disasters, love, sex, death, apocalypse, fire. The psychic strength these events generate perhaps serve to strengthen these entanglements, as if Thanatos and Eros were two beams of force within this temporal web.

But again, the transmission of information from the future along these entanglements is extremely tricky. As we’ve stated before, the web of future events relative to the viewer is a Garden of Forking Paths. It is made up of probabilities. Again though, perhaps more highly probable events create stronger correlations, making them “more visible” to the viewer. Or, another idea: Perhaps the cycle has run many times, the more probable events have occured many more times than improbable ones, strengthening the correlation due to repetition.

Once more, I feel science is finally catching up to what humans have known for thousands of years. It excites me. Rather than destroy the mystery of these occult practices, continued exploration into them – at least tangentially – by science allows us to better understand the framework upon which they operate. This allows us to use them more effectively and more precisely than ever before.

In closing, I’d like to leave you with a bit from T.S. Eliot’s poem “Four Quartets”:

O voyagers, O seamen,
You who came to port, and you whose bodies
Will suffer the trial and judgement of the sea,
Or whatever event, this is your real destination.’
So Krishna, as when he admonished Arjuna
On the field of battle.
Not fare well,
But fare forward, voyagers.