Guest Author - Tracy Webb
Presentism is the belief that the past and future do not exist, and the present moment is all there is. Eternalism on the other hand, believes that everything; past and future exist eternally.
Presentism, as advocated by many spiritual teachings, particularly Buddhist teachings, talks of the importance of this moment as being all there is. Nothing else exists except as a memory trail or as a projected expectation of a future event dependant on beliefs and past experiences.
Each of us are experiencing the present moment in different ways, in different time zones, at the same time. Eckhart Tolle’s teachings in The Power of Now, is based around the belief that nothing ever happens in the future or in the past, it can only happen now.
When we are pre-occupied with thoughts of the past or future we miss the eternal and ever unfolding present moment. Presentism is hard for most of us to believe as life seems to revolve around what happened in the past, or planning for some future event. So, If you are planning for an event in 6 months time, but die before the event, will the event still exist? Throughout the planning process, would the event already exist without you there?
The teachings in A Course In Miracles are framed around the supposition that everything exists only in our mind, and when we leave this body that we are occupying now, all the ‘stuff’ we are concerned with disappears. They cease to exist since the mind is not supporting their existence any more.
There are criticisms of the Presentism theory as it does not account for the continual passing of time, and how to explain past experiences and events as non existent. Perhaps they do not exist as an entity now, although the perceived experience and learning that came from them are carried forward and integrated for learning purposes.
Since there were so many unanswered questions brought up with the Presentism theory, Eternalism was borne. Eternalism is the opposite of Presentism and supposes that all points of time exist eternally. The theory believes that future events already exist.
Teachers of the Law of Attraction take this further, and believe that our thoughts and beliefs about the future are actually creating the future event and the outcome. The consciousness we carry now, will continue to bring us more of the same experiences. Is the event already in existence or are we unconsciously bringing it into existence with our thoughts about it?
If all exists eternally, does that not indicate that all exists now, and is just perceived in sequence? For us to be able to create our reality according to Law of Attraction teachers, does the creation not happen in every moment?
Photographs capture past experiences and images, so does the photograph continue the existence of the image, or does the image cease to exist as a past entity?
Time is a fascinating subject and there are lots of theories and suppositions related to it. When considering the above, if the future already exists do we really have free will or is it all already pre-destined?