The illusion of time travel

Krishnamurti is unapologetic about his wholesale rejection of psychological belief. It is this ‘rational’ approach to the examination of human experience that has caused many, myself included, to take what he has to say seriously.

Take, for example, this observation as to the nature of thinking:

K: Our thinking is based on remembrance of things past - which is thinking about what happened a week ago, thinking about it modified in the present, and projected into the future. This is actually the movement of our life.

Most of us accept this as a reasonable statement, rightly identifying this ‘what is/should be’ dichotomy as the primary source of disorder in our lives. Unfortunately, this understanding does not bring lasting relief, most likely because the understanding itself morphs into a ‘should be’. Alternately labeled as #authority, #path, #belief, #positive thinking, etc. in the teaching.

One possible reason for this disconnect is that the logical exposé of the thinking process is glossing over delusions lurking beneath. Consider what is involved when we reach into the past or project into the future: thought has an uncanny ability to span vast expanses of time and space in an instant. Though we would not describe this phenomenon as such, it is as if we are actually teleporting ourselves backward to a previous time and forward to a future one, creating (virtual) occurrences of actual life instances. It is akin to a hallucination in that the construct has to be felt as real for it to have any weight. All the same, this feeling of traveling through space and time is nothing but a grand illusion. There is no actual past or future being accessed - there is just thinking occurring in the present. In fact, this brings into question the very existence of time itself. It may not exist at all. It may be an illusion made possible by thought segmenting the present into three distinct spatial and temporal partitions. Psychological time, that is, not chronological time obviously, in the sense of I did exist, I do exist and I will exist. It is thought and thought alone that is producing this sense of an unbroken continuum, a timeline that is essential to create, sustain and maintain the enduring sense of self that we all feel lies at the center of thought. Like time then, the self may be nothing but a construct of thought, made possible by the delusion that continuous psychological time exists.

Google: ‘Delusion is a fixed belief, which can be either false or fanciful’

As noted above, the rational man eschews belief. To believe is to have faith, to accept that something exists, to overlay reality with a mental construct. Thinking then satisfies the definition of delusion. A necessary fabrication in practical cases for sure, but mostly not:

K: How does one deny? Does one deny the known, not in great dramatic incidents but in little incidents? Do I deny when I am shaving and I remember the lovely time I had in Switzerland? Does one deny the remembrance of a pleasant time? Does one grow aware of it, and deny it? That is not dramatic, it is not spectacular, nobody knows about it. Still this constant denial of little things, the little wipings, the little rubbings off, not just one great big wiping away, is essential. It is essential to deny thought as remembrance, pleasant or unpleasant, every minute of the day as it arises. One is doing it not for any motive, not in order to enter into the extraordinary state of the unknown. You live in Rishi Valley and think of Bombay or Rome. This creates a conflict, makes the mind dull, a divided thing. Can you see this and wipe it away? Can you keep on wiping away not because you want to enter into the unknown? You can never know what the unknown is because the moment you recognize it as the unknown you are back in the known. The process of recognition is a process of the continued known. As I do not know what the unknown is I can only do this one thing, keep on wiping thought away as it arises.


Very nicely said. I do wonder if resolution of the self results in lack of all images entirely. Aren’t images memories? And memories are of the past. We cannot have a memory of the present or future. I’m not sure inquiring into a state without memory is for me. Are some images “loaded” and some not? In other words, psychologically active?

Nor me. That would be rather prescriptive and contrary to what Krishnamurti advocates as well imo. The difficulty with referencing a passage from K apart from his broader body of work is that it is all too easy to cherry pick according to one’s own fancies so as to find some executable action.

A statement like this for example, ‘I can only do this one thing, keep on wiping thought away as it arises.’, taken in isolation, makes it all too easy to ignore his larger message. Which is much more complicated and simpler all at once. A sort of non-deliberate, non-directed, non-interference with the present.

My understanding in regard to this ‘wipings’ is that it is something that is being discovered over and over again as thought arises - a sort of ever re-occurring ‘insight’. This would also mean that, unfortunately, there is no “set it and forget it” button.

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