ARE SPACE AND TIME DIFFERENT IN THE ETERNAL WORLD?
Space and time are the foundation of human identity and perception. We never have a perception that does not have each of these elements in it. The element of space means that we are always in a state of separation. I am here. You are there. Even the person that you are closest to, the one you love, is still a separate world from you. That is the poignancy of love. Two people become so close that they really want to become one; but their separate spaces keep the distances between them. In space we are always separated. The other component of perception and identity is time. Time always separates us too. Time is primarily linear, disjointed and fragmented. All of your past days have disappeared; they have vanished. The future has not come to you yet. All you have is the little stepping-stone of the present moment.
When the soul leaves the body, it is no longer under the burden and control of space and time. The soul is free; distance and separation hinder it no more. The dead are our nearest neightbours; they are all around us. Meister Eckhart was once asked, where does the soul of a person go when the person dies? He said, no place. Where else would the soul be going? Where else is the eternal world? It can be nowhere other than here. We have falsely spatialized the eternal world. We have driven the eternal out into some kind of distant galaxy. Yet the eternal world does not seem to be a place but rather a different state of being. The soul of the person goes no place because there is no place else to go. This suggests that the dead are here with us, in the air that we are moving through all the time. The only difference between us and the dead is that they are now in an invisible form. You cannot see them with the human eye. But you can sense the presence of those you love who have died. With the refinement of your soul, you can sense them. You feel that they are near.
My father used to tell us a story about a neighbour who was very friendly with the local priest. There is a whole mythology in Ireland about Druids and priests having special power. But this man and the priest used to go for long walks. One day the man said to the priest, where are the dead? The priest told him not to ask him questions like that. But the man persisted and finally, the priest said, 'I will show you; but you are never to tell anyone.' Needless to say, the man did not keep his word. The priest raised his right hand; the man looked out under the raised right hand, and saw the souls of the departed everywhere all around as thick as the dew on blades of grass. Often our loneliness and isolantion is due to a failure of spiritual imagination. We forget that there is no such thing as empty space. All space is full of presence, particularly the presence of those who are now in eternal, invisible form.
For those who have died, the world of time is also different. Here we are caught in linear time. We have forgotten the past; it is lost to us. We cannot know the future. Time must be totally different for the dead because they live now within a circle of eternity. Eariler we talked about landscape and how the Irish landscape resisted linearity. How the Celtic mind never liked the line but always loved the shape of the circle. Within the circle, beginning and ending are sisters and they belong within the shelter of the unity of the year and the earth, which the eternal offers. I imagine that in the eternal world time has become the circle of eternity. Maybe, when a person goes into that world, he can look back at what we call past time here. He may also see all of future time. For the dead present time is total presence. This suggests that our friends amongst the dead know us better than they can ever have known us in life. They know everything about us, even things that may disappoint them. But since they are now transfigureed their understanding and compassion is proportionate to everything they come to know about us.