The Two Aspects of Reality
An excerpt from the book of Lama Anagarika Govinda

Since in an outward direction we cannot go beyond the three dimensions of what we call space from the standpoint of our usual consciousness, the only other direction in which we can move is inward, namely, in the reverse direction of extension, i.e. in a direction which is completely different from that of physical time and three-dimensional space: the direction toward the center and the origin of everything. If we - to use a simile - regard the horizontal as the direction of our space-time development or individual unfoldment, then the vertical represents the direction of our inner, concentrative absorption into the universal center of our essential being and therewith the process of our becoming conscious of the timeless presence of all possibilities of existence in the organic, all-embracing structure of the living universe. But while the horizontal, for all that we know - i.e. according to the laws of all spatial movement - has the tendency to move in an unimaginably big circle (which, therefore, appears to us like a straight line) or in a spiral, in which certain pleases repeat themselves rhythmically, though without being identical, the vertical represents the central axis of this revolving movement, namely the timeless, ever-present origin, inherent in all living processes. It is what poetically has been expressed as the "eternity of the moment," which can be experienced in a state of perfect inwardness or absorption, in which we turn toward the center of our own being, as realized in states of meditation and creative inspiration.
In a former work I have depicted both these directions in a diagram, in which the movement parallel to or following the periphery represents the space-time development of the individual, while the movement which runs at right angles or perpendicular to this in the direction toward the center indicates the ever increasing states of absorption or inwardness. The further this inwardness proceeds, i.e. the nearer it moves toward the center, the more universal becomes our experience. In reaching the center, the completeness and universality of consciousness is being realized.
Consciousness thus proceeds from the more limited to the more comprehensive, from lesser to greater intensity, from lower to higher dimensions, and each higher dimension includes the lower ones by coordinating its elements in a wider and more intricate structure of relationships. The criterion of a consciousness or recognition of a higher dimension, therefore, consists in the coordinated and simultaneous awareness of several directions of movement or extension within a higher unit, without annihilating the features which constituted the character of the integrated lower dimensions. This may be illustrated by the simple fact that the two-dimensional square is not annihilated in the three-dimensional cube.
Thus the reality of a lower dimension is not devaluated or eliminated by the higher one, but only relativized. This is not only true with regard to spatial dimensions, but even more so in regard to time-dimensions, or what we experience as different forms or principles of time. "Only the recognition of all those time-forms which constitute man, liberates him from the exclusive validity of the mental time-form, creates distance and enables him to integrate those other time-forms. The courage to recognize the actuality of pre-rational magic timelessness and of the irrational mythic time-principle, besides the mental time-concept, makes the leap into the a-rational time-freedom possible. This is not a freedom from earlier time-forms which are inherent in every human being's constitution; it is first of all a freedom towards them. From this kind of freedom which as such can only be achieved by a consciousness that is capable of placing itself independently ‘above' the earlier time-forms, only from such a freedom can a conscious approach to the origin succeed."
"Origin," however, does not mean a beginning in time, but the ever-present origin (sahaja), in which sense the much misunderstood terms sahaja-kaya and Adibuddha have been used in the terminology of the Kalacakra School of medieval Buddhist philosophy (about tenth century A.D.). Sahaja-kaya means literally the "inborn," "innate" body, that is, the natural - universal body, the embodiment of universal order (which is also expressed in the term dharma-kdya), underlying every individual consciousness, but realized only by the Enlightened Ones who are fully awakened to their inner reality and are, therefore, called Buddhas. Adibuddha, which literally means "first, foremost or original Buddha," has similarly nothing to do with a sequence in time-and can, therefore, not be regarded as a kind of God-Creator from which the universe has sprung (as many scholars have surmised), but represents the ever-present dynamic principle of enlightenment (bodhicitta: the urge for the realization of enlightenment) at the center of every form of consciousness, from which time (kala) and space (symbolized as cakra) emerge.
In other words: we do not live in time, but time lives within us: because time is the innermost rhythm of our conscious existence, which appears outside of ourselves as space and materializes in the form of our body and its organs. From this point of view we may say that the body is the crystallization of our consciousness, namely, the sum total of former volitions, aspirations and actions, of our conscious mind (what is called karma or consciously motivated "action" in Buddhism).
It is remarkable that Gebser - though coming from a different cultural background and starting from entirely different premises - arrives at similar conclusions and finally even at a world-view in which Eastern and Western thought become equal partners - equal, because each of them has attained to the same fundamental insight in his own way. Gebser expresses this in the following words: "The body (in so far as we conceive it also in terms of space) is nothing but solidified, coagulated, thickened, materialized time, which requires space for its unfoldment, formation and materialization, because space represents a field of tension, and due to its latent energies it is the medium or carrier of the active time-energies, in which both these dynamic principles, the latent one of space and the acting one of time, condition each other.
We also could say: space is the possibility of movement, time the actuality or the realization of movement; or, space is externalized, objectivated time, time projected outward. Time, on the other hand, is the internalized, subjectivated space - the remembrance and inner transformation of spatial movement into the feeling of duration or continuity. Time and space are related to each other like the inside and the outside of the same thing. Reality comprises both and simultaneously goes beyond both of them. Those who experience this reality live in a dimension beyond the space-time continuum and experience the universe as a timeless body. This is the ultimate teaching of the Kalacakra philosophy.
Here we may be reminded of Fa-tsang's interpretation of the message of the Avatamsaka-Sutra, according to his monograph, called "The Meditation by which Imagination Becomes Extinguished and One Returns to the Source":
There is one Mind which is ultimate reality, by nature pure, perfect and bright. It functions in two ways. Sustained by it, the existence of a: world of particulars [extended in space] is possible; and from it originates all activity [extended in time], free and illuminating, making for the virtues of perfection paramita. In these two functions which we may call existential and moral, three universal characters are distinguishable. Existentially viewed, every particular object, technically called anuraja, "particle of dust" [the smallest possible unit or atom, as we would call it nowadays] contains in it the whole Dharmadhatu [ultimate reality]. Secondly, from the creational point of view, each particle creates all kinds of virtues [or "qualities," in a more general sense] therefore, by means of one object the secrets of the whole universe are fathomed. Thirdly, in each particle the reason of sunyata [the incommensurable element of metaphysical reality, in contrast to its phenomenal or formal elements] is perceivable. (Explanations in brackets are mine.)
Sunyata is that incommensurable element of metaphysical reality which, in contrast to its phenomenal or formal elements, can only be circumscribed as "emptiness from all conceptual designations," similar to "space" which includes and contains all things and movements and is at the same time contained in them. Sunyata is, so to say, the spiritual space whose emptiness (this is the literal equivalent of sunyata) makes possible the wealth of forms and activities and the freedom which exists prior to any law ("at the first step we are free, at the second we are slaves"), the purity and liberty of action of the Origin. It is, in order to put it into Gebser's words, that which is 'before' time and space, that thanks to different structures of consciousness has become more and more realizable through timelessness, time-awareness, time and space," and that "in the conscious achronicity becomes experienceable. The unoriginated becomes time-free, emptiness becomes fullness, in the transparency the 'diaphainon,' the spiritual becomes perceptible: Origin and Presence. We preserve the whole, and the whole preserves us.
Sunyata is the emptiness of all conceptual designation, because it is the essence of the whole, which lies hidden in the center of each individual, in the innermost depth of our consciousness, which Fa-tsang calls "the Source." Time and space, therefore, extend between this timeless and spaceless center and the infinity (or ultimate distance) which we experience in the expansion of space and the accumulation of time-remembrance, constituting the infinity in time-extension. Thus time does not move from the future (as if it were existing there already) into the past-as it would appear if time had independent reality, instead of being a property of things or the intrinsic nature of living beings-but it is, as Bergson puts it, "the continuous progress of the past," from the center of all being, as we might say, "which gnaws into the future and which swells as it advances.-The piling up of the past upon the past goes on without relaxation. In reality, the past is preserved by itself, automatically. In its entirety, probably, it follows us at every instant. - Doubtless we think with only a small part of our past, but it is with our entire past, including the original bent of our soul, that we desire, will and act."
Here again we see that the future does not play any role in the actual process of time, and why the entire past has to be raised into the light of consciousness, before the control of desire, will and action can be achieved and perfect enlightenment can be attained. Enlightenment means to bridge the two poles of time - past and present - as well as the two poles of space: the near and the far. The "here" of space and the "now" of time correspond to each other, like the infinite distance in space and the infinite past in time. In other words, both time and space swing between the poles of ultimate nearness and ultimate distance.
The relationship between time and space is a double polarity, and the more we can see this, the more we shall realize that, as we said before, the three dimensions of space do not correspond to the threefold division of time. Nobody has made this clearer than Ludwig Klages, from whose significant work Der kosmogonische Eros I translate the following passage:
Space and time, belonging together as two poles, have this in common, that each of them is stretched out between the poles of nearness and distance. As certainly as nearness is only one, irrespective of where I am, and as, on the other hand, [the concept of] spatial distance is only one, irrespective of whether we look towards the east or the west, towards the north or the south, in the same way there can be only one distance in time, in relationship to one and the same temporal nearness (presence). If there were two, namely, besides the distance of the past, another distance of the future, then the character of the distance of a future point of relationship would in some way be contrary to the character of the distance of a past point of relationship. But since the opposite is true, the duality of time-distance is a pure invention, and one of them must be an illusion! For the following reasons we must regard the future as such. If I think of the past, I remember a reality that existed; if, however, I think of the future, I think of something unreal, i.e. of something that exists only in the act of thinking. If all thinking beings would suddenly disappear, the past that really existed would remain exactly as it was before, while the name 'future' would simply lose its meaning, if there were no beings with the thought of a future! The future is not related to the past like one distance of time to another opposite distance of time, but as a mere concept is related to reality: the future is not a quality of real time. The past and the present, and not the past and the future, are the poles of time, and therefore temporal distance is the same as distance in the past. Only in images, i.e. in images of the past, can time be realized and made visible. Reality is eternal, and real time is the pulsating of eternity. The illusion 'future' created the spectre of death, or annihilation of existence, and the passionate desire for immortality.
What we call "future" is only a possibility, inherent in the direction of our movement. To give a concrete example: if we are moving in a certain direction, or let us say, on a road with a bridge at some distance ahead of us, then this bridge (as well as any other feature of this road) becomes a part of our future, provided we persist in following the chosen road or direction. On the other hand, once we have crossed the bridge, this fact becomes an irreversible, undeniable and ineradicable part of our past. The past possesses reality not only as a fact, as something that has undeniably happened or existed, but even more so as something that acts upon future happenings, whose course is determined to an overwhelming extent by the actions and conditions of the past. The future, however, being only a potentiality, cannot act upon the present (except as an expectation, based on previous experience and conclusions drawn from it) and much less upon the past. It is in this sense that we cannot ascribe reality to the future. The real time, however, is more than all our conceptual ideas about it, but, as Klages metaphorically and profoundly expresses it, is "the pulsating of eternity."
Thus it depends on the nature' of time which we create through the inner rhythm of our life and the depth of our consciousness, whether we are mortal or immortal. Those who live in the illusory time of their peripheral consciousness, of their intellect, and in the space-time continuum of an assumed external world, identify themselves with what is mortal. Those who live in harmony with the pulse of eternity, identify themselves with what is immortal. They know that the whole of eternity is within themselves. In this connection, the words of another modern writer will gain special significance: "It may be we shall find our immortality not in some miraculous proof of survival after death, but in -some changed apprehension of the nature of time."
Consciousness is the primary and space-time a secondary quality of reality. The movements and conformations within the all-embracing depth-consciousness (alaya-vijnana) - which modern psychology has rediscovered, but at the same time degraded into the concept of the unconscious - appear as the notions of time and spatial extension to the individual mind, who separates the various phases of movement and momentarily appearing forms, thus limiting his vision and breaking up reality into transitory phenomena. These phenomena, though not real in the ultimate sense, are not to be dismissed as mere hallucination, because they do not appear without causes, and these causes are the expression of an inherent order, the immanent law of reality. In other words, these phenomena have a relative reality, and only for those who take them as ultimate truth do they turn into a misleading illusion (samsara).

For those who are caught up in their own individual past, because they cling to isolated aspects without seeing the whole picture of the interdependent origination of all phenomena, the future will appear as fixed and unalterable as the past, and indeed, by clinging blindly to those aspects, they themselves produce such a future. In this way an endless cycle of cause and effect, birth and death is created, from which there is only one way that leads out of this vicious circle: The "letting-go," the giving up of all entanglements through craving or possessiveness, which again and again entraps us in the ephemeral, in the chain-reactions of cause and effect, and which prevents us from seeing and realizing the all-embracing wholeness and universality of our true nature.
Liberation from those entanglements is possible only "if we are ready to accept that the whole of our human existence, i.e. all levels of our consciousness, which form and support our present as well as our coming consciousness, should be integrated into a new reality. This requires the full depth of our past, which we must experience over again in a decisive sense. He who denies or condemns his past, deprives himself of his future. This is true for each single human being as much as for humanity."
For the wise, who have penetrated the realm of ultimate causes, down to the ever-present origin, who have raised into the light of full awareness what to others appears as the dark realm of the past-of them is true what Asvajit said of the Buddha, when asked to sum up the quintessence of the Buddha's teaching:

Ye dharma hetuprabhava, hetum tesam Tathagato hyavadat,
Tesam ca yo nirodha, evamvadi mahasramanah.

"The causes of all cause-originated things have been revealed by the Tathagata (the Buddha), and also their cessation. This is the teaching of the Great Ascetic."
The liberation from the power of those causes lies in the recognition of their true nature. As long as they are seen under the aspect of time (i.e. incompleteness) or, more correctly, under the aspect of temporal and spatial isolation, and not in their dynamic and ever-present relationship, we fail to understand the profound significance of the law of Dependent Origination (pratityasamutpada), proclaimed by the Buddha, which is far more than the proclamation of a merely mechanical law of causality, as superficial observers are apt to think.
Even Ananda, The Buddha's closest disciple, seems to have been in danger of this misconception when he proudly proclaimed how self-evident and easily understandable the Pratityasamutpada appeared to him; whereupon the Buddha rebuked and warned him: "Do not speak thus, Ananda; do not speak thus! Deep is the Law of Dependent and Simultaneous Origination and profound in its appearance. It is because people do not perceive and realize this Dharma, that they are overwhelmed by suffering and unable to free themselves from the rounds of rebirth and death."
The idea of causality appears simple to those who are accustomed to think in terms of abstract logic and mundane commonsense. This kind of causality presupposes a temporal and unchangeable course of events, a sequence which is fixed and foreseeable. The Pratityasamutpada, however, does not depend on any temporal sequence (though it may unfold in time), but may just as well be understood as the simultaneous cooperation of all its factors, each link representing the sum total of all the others. Or, if we want to express this from the standpoint of time: each form of appearance is based on an infinite past and thus on an infinity of causes, conditions and relationships, which does not exclude anything that has been or ever will come into existence. This is the basis of Rilke's pyramid of individual consciousness (mentioned previously).
But when the past is realized in its all-encompassing cornpleteness, it loses its time-quality and is converted into something which we can only call a higher dimension of space, for the simple reason that all that apparently has happened in time is seen or sensed simultaneously, and therefore experienced as timeless presence (in contradistinction to the mere concept of the "present," as something in-between the past and the future). If this were not so, the causes of an infinite past would be forever beyond our control, could never be reached or modified, and still less neutralized. They would go on forever with unfailing necessity. But by raising them again into the present, the "one-after-another" is transformed into "the-one-within-the-other," a relationship so beautifully and profoundly described in the Avatamsaka Sutra in the vision of Maitreya's Tower (representing the universe), in which all things reflect and penetrate each other as well as the experiencing subject, without losing their respective individuality. Thus the universe and the experiencer of the universe are mirrored in every phenomenon, and therefore, nothing can be said to "originate" or to be "destroyed" in a final or absolute sense. What is destroyed is only our dependence on any single phenomenon or motive.
The perfect mutual interpenetration of forms, processes, things, beings, etc., and the presence of the experiencing subject in all of them-in other words, the simultaneity of differentiation and oneness, of individuality and universality, of form and emptiness-is the main thesis of the great Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna, who lived in the second century of our era. His philosophy of the "Middle Way" consists in a new orientation of thought, freed from the rigidity of the concept of "substance" or that of a static universe, in which things and beings were thought of as more or less independent units, so that concepts like "identity" and "non-identity" could be applied to them and form the basis of discursive thought. Where, however, everything is in flux, such concepts-and a logic derived from them-cannot be adequate and, therefore, the relationship of form to emptiness and vice-versa cannot be conceived as a mutually exclusive nature or as absolute opposites, but only as two aspects of the same reality, co-existing in continuous co-operation. Because "form" (rupa) must not be confused with "thing-ness" or materiality, since each form is the expression of a creative actor or process in a beginningless and endless movement, whose precondition, according to Nagarjuna, is precisely that mysterious "emptiness" (or "plenumvoid," as it has been aptly called) expressed in the term Sunyata.
In this experience of timeless reality beyond the realm of opposites, the relative is not annihilated in favor of the absolute nor is the manifoldness of life sacrificed to an abstract unity, but the individual and the universal penetrate and condition each other so completely that the one cannot be separated from the other. They are as inseparable as time and space, and like these they represent two aspects of the same reality: time is the dynamic aspect of individual (and therefore incomplete) action and experience; space is the sum total of all activity in its ever-complete and therefore timeless aspect.
The incomplete, however, is as necessary and important an element as that of completeness. It is that which supplies the impetus, the desire for completeness, for perfection. This impetus is the very essence and the conditio sine qua non of life. Therefore Novalis says in one of his "Fragments": "Only that which is incomplete can be understood and can lead us on. What is complete can only be enjoyed." And at another place: "All illusion is as necessary to truth, as the body to the soul." (Is not this also the function of maya?) If we modify this thought with regard to the concept of time, we might formulate it thus: Transiency is as necessary to immortality (or to the experience of eternity), as the body is to the soul, or as matter is to mind. And in saying so, we might note that these are not irreconcilable or totally exclusive opposites, but rather the extreme points in the amplitude of the swinging of a pendulum, i.e. parts of the same movement. By becoming conscious of the inner direction and relationship of our transient life, we discover the eternity in time, immortality in transiency -and thus we transform the fleeting shapes of phenomena into timeless symbols of reality.
Liberation is not escapism, but consists in the conscious transformation of the elements that constitute our world and our existence. This is the great secret of the Tantras and of the mystics of all times. Among modern mystics nobody has expressed this more beautifully than Rilke, though few may have recognized the profound truth of his words, when he said:
Transiency hurls itself everywhere into a deep state of being. And therefore all forms of this Our world are not only to be used in a time-bound (time-limited) sense, but should be included into those phenomena of superior significance in which we partake (or, of which we are part). However, it's not in the Christian sense, but in the purely earthly, profoundly earthly, joyfully earthly consciousness, that we should introduce what we have seen and touched here, into the widest circumference. Not into a 'beyond' whose shadow darkens the earth, but into the whole, into the universe. Nature, the things of our daily contact and use, all these are preliminaries and transciencies: however, they are, as long as we are here, our possession, our friendship, participants of our pain and pleasure, in the same way as they were the trusted friends of our ancestors. Therefore we should not only refrain from vilifying and deprecating all that which belongs to this our world, but on the contrary, on account of its very preliminary nature which it shares with us, these phenomena and things should be understood and transformed by us in the innermost sense. - Transformed? - Yes, because it is our task to impress upon ourselves this preliminary, transient earth in so deep, so painful, so passionate a manner, that its essential nature is 'invisibly' resurrected within us.
This resurrection takes place in every act of retrospective insight and spiritual awakening, as we have seen in the process of the Buddha's enlightenment. It is an act of resurrection, in which the ultimate transformation takes place and in which all causes come to rest in the light of perfect understanding and in the realization of sunyata, in which all things become transparent and all that has been experienced, whether in joy or in suffering, enters into a state of transfiguration. Then all the worlds of the universe hurl themselves into the invisible as into their next deeper reality," a reality that is ever-present within us, beyond time and space.