Before he died, Einstein said “Now Besso [an old friend] has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us … know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” In fact, it was Einstein’s theory of relativity that showed that space and time are indeed relative to the observer.
Quantum theory ended the classical view that particles exist if we don’t perceive them. But if the world is observer-created, we shouldn’t be surprised that it’s destroyed with each of us. Nor should we be surprised that space and time vanish, and with them all Newtonian conceptions of order and prediction.
It’s here at last, where we approach the imagined border of ourselves, the wooded boundary where in the old fairy tale the fox and the hare say goodnight to each other. At death, we all know, consciousness is gone, and so too the continuity in the connection of times and places. Where then, do we find ourselves? On stairs that, like Emerson said, can be intercalated anywhere, “like those that Hermes won with the dice of the moon, that Osiris might be born.” We think that the past is past and the future the future. But as Einstein realized, this simply isn’t the case.
Without consciousness, space and time are nothing; in reality you can take any time — whether past or future -− as your new frame of reference. Death is a reboot that leads to all potentialities. That’s the reality that the experiments mandate.
A pair of German physicists claim to have broken the speed of light – an achievement that would undermine our entire understanding of space and time.
According to Einstein’s special theory of relativity, it would require an infinite amount of energy to propel an object at more than 186,000 miles per second.
However, Dr Gunter Nimtz and Dr Alfons Stahlhofen, of the University of Koblenz, say they may have breached a key tenet of that theory.
The pair say they have conducted an experiment in which microwave photons – energetic packets of light – travelled “instantaneously” between a pair of prisms that had been moved up to 3ft apart.
Being able to travel faster than the speed of light would lead to a wide variety of bizarre consequences.
For instance, an astronaut moving faster than it would theoretically arrive at a destination before leaving.
The scientists were investigating a phenomenon called quantum tunnelling, which allows sub-atomic particles to break apparently unbreakable laws.
Dr Nimtz told New Scientist magazine: “For the time being, this is the only violation of special relativity that I know of.”
“I’m not an atheist and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.”
~ Albert Einstein
Pisces represents two fishes swimming in opposite directions, bound by a cord. The dualism implicit in its symbolism is a weakening principle, because the fishes strain against each other rather than support each other’s motion. This adds an element of vacillation to the way a Piscean thinks and acts, but it also suggests the ability to receive influences from multiple sources which, whilst tending to undermine self-will, gives the capacity for rounded awareness and instinctive understanding of how gain in one area results from loss in another.
As such a trait suggests, Pisceans are not known for being quick and decisive problem solvers. They are apt to see everything as a dilemma, riddled with numerous options and shades of possibility. A complex and idealistic sign, Pisces sets a high store on conscience and consequence, with the fear of causing upset to others often gaining the upper hand over the desire to assert one’s own interests. Highly sensitive and impressionable, Pisceans are either commended for their compassionate humility and sympathetic consideration, or berated for being weak-willed, gullible and lacking in focus.
Kindness, trust and a ‘willingness to believe’ has contributed to Pisces’ reputation as one of the most spiritual signs of the zodiac. This is not some modern derivation from the attributes of Neptune; its ancient history is riddled with allegiance to spiritual principles, and the symbol for fishes is often taken as an icon for churches and priests, predating the sign’s traditional connection with Jupiter, (itself a significator for priests and religious matters); and the adoption of the sign of the fish by Christianity, where it is seen as an emblem for gentility, peace and denial of the ego in favour of the collective’s needs.
The notion of meekness arises from the creature’s easy representation of the pacifist – the fish is not an aggressive animal and has no natural defenses except its fluid movement, coupled with an instinct to swim away from trouble. Its astrological reputation acknowledges the noble attributes of personal sacrifice and resolution to suffering without retribution, but it also recognizes that human beings seldom live up to highest principles – timidity often appearing at a lower scale under the guise of cowardice, avoidance of personal responsibility or, as Lilly would have it, ‘idle effeminacy’ … ‘representing a party of no action’.* Pisceans certainly don’t fit comfortably in the role of challenging hero who rushes headlong into battle. Their strength is borne from reflection, consideration, and resistance to actions that perpetuate pain.
But pacifism only represents one element of Pisces’ spiritual reputation. A deeper significance lies in the fact that the fish is a creature of the ocean, which since ancient times has been taken as the symbolic realm of emotional and spiritual energy that lies beneath physical existence, where all is connected and nothing moves without creating a tide of motion that pulls or pushes against another. The sea as the magna mater, the primary source, signifies the boundless essence of soulful creativity and elemental life force from which everything emerges and eventually returns. Fishes, as intrinsic parts of this fertile yet deeply mysterious realm, were regarded as sacred representations of the soul and the spiritual connection that animates society.
Being natives of the world of water, Pisceans are highly responsive to their environment, easily influenced by the moods and expectations of others. The element of water signifies dissolution of personal barriers that exist to detach us from the physical pain and emotional suffering of others. Lacking the hardened shell of Cancer and Scorpio, Pisces has least resistance amongst the water-signs to surrounding impressions, making them almost as responsive to excitement, fear, anticipation, joy, hurt and laughter originated from without as that generated from within. If they see tears they will cry, if they see a smile they will smile back; no other sign is so prone to the infectious nature of human emotion.
The ‘boundless ocean’ represents a very open and fluid environment where instincts reign. Changeable and unpredictable, it lacks structure, control and conformity. So too the Piscean finds it hard to cope with discipline, routine and order. Their emotional capacity gives a strong imagination that often finds expression through escapist tendencies or dreamy, hopeful visions. Capable of great inspiration and idealism, they are often accused of lacking realism and being too trusting in the conviction that the power of belief, hope, or love can transcend all bounds and borders. Jupiter, as the traditional ruler of the sign, promotes the urge for freedom from restraint and mundane obligations. But Jupiter struggles to find conscious direction in Pisces, where the emphasis falls upon faith over reason, and freedom of the soul through denial of earthly shackles. Unless a proclivity for self-imposed structure and regulation are suggested by more earthy qualities in the chart, Pisces often wastes its potential by failing to give lasting definition to its latent creativity. It will ‘go with the flow’ and when interest or energy levels drop, so too does application. Pisceans are great starters of projects and initiators of ideas, but they lack the sustained energy that is required to fulfill many of their long-term objectives.
The same is suggested by Pisces’ highly fertile reputation. Pisces and Jupiter are both prime significators for fruitfulness, easy conception, an abundance of offspring, creativity and ideas. Whilst offering a blessing for pregnancy matters, multitudinous fecundity suggests problems through being too easily impressed, too quickly receptive to a host of potentials – to the detriment of the one worthy project that demands singular attention. As the fish spawns numerous eggs, Pisceans are never short of creative possibilities to explore and develop. Most will admit that they abound with inspirational ideas and imaginative thoughts, but they lose motivation once projects begin to require more mundane maintenance than creative investment.
This can present itself as restlessness and unreliability. Most professional Pisceans need to find a career path that allows for flexibility and a constant exploration of new interests and emotional stimulation. They excel in design and development, but suffer in management and administration. Their fields are the arts and the caring professions, where they can fulfill their urge to nurse, heal or soothe, or absorb and reflect the power of the psyche. Although they may be unreliable in time-keeping, often best when working to their own agendas or allowed flexible hours, once roused to action they will give their all, because everything they do is invested with feeling and emotion.
The modern rulership of Neptune over the sign demonstrates the close affinity that exists between Pisces’ soft and subtle nature and the observable effects of this nebulous outer planet. Neptune’s principle is dissolution into collectiveness. Although often marveled as a planet of great spiritual mysticism, mundane astrology accepts that part of its influence is to weaken vital force and strive towards communism, where all are equaled, segregations and barriers are broken down and no one shines brighter than the rest. Neptune can bring depression and Pisceans are known for having low vitality which makes them easy prey to lethargy. Their temperament is defined as phlegmatic, which is associated with delicate constitutions, pale complexions and inertia. The poor generation of heat describes the sign as one that is slow to rouse to temper, but easily susceptible to emotional hurt. Other negative Piscean traits include carelessness, inattention to details, manipulation, and an easy dependence upon drugs, alcohol, and artificial stimulants. Part of the latter problem is due to a casual disregard for regulation and self-imposed limitation, the rest is due to their extreme sensitivity which makes them readily responsive to addictive substances. The reputation for manipulation arises less as a result of an inclination towards dishonesty, but as reluctance to deal directly with uncomfortable issues that feel too painful and distressing to tackle head-on. Instead the Piscean will introduce a softening principle, distorting little realities so that the truth seems easier to swallow.
Pisceans are rarely motivated by pure self-interest but they are easily distracted, effortlessly led, and subject to the powerful temptation of aroused emotion. Venus has played an important part in the ancient myths surrounding the constellation Pisces and is considered exalted in this sign because its delicate and tender nature is so responsive to romanticized visions of love and attraction. Pisces needs a soul mate, and they take no greater pleasure than when sacrificing everything for that which they find attractive and beautiful. Unfortunately, Pisces is not a sign of clear and rational vision. When they fall in love they often, quite literally, fall into an abyss of intense confusion and distorted reality that allows no room for critical reasoning. Pisceans can make the most generous, open and tenderhearted lovers but they can suffer in relationships, either by clinging to false dreams that bear no basis in actuality, or through the inability to deal with the practical rules of engagement that remain in relationships once the initial blush of romantic sensation has faded.
The modern world, with its message that anyone can have anything they want so long as they demand it aggressively enough, take no prisoners and impress their will firmly upon everyone else, can be a hard and hostile environment for the gentle, non-confrontational Piscean. But this sign has been blessed with great intuition and a deep spiritual source from which to draw calm resolution. The cord that binds the two opposing fishes shows that although they are open to a wide range of emotions and psychic impressions, they are forever tied to the process of centering themselves and bringing equilibrium to their own lives, and those of others around them.
Famous Pisces: Albert Einstein, Elizabeth Taylor, Nicholas Copernicus, George Harrison, Prince Edward, Liza Minelli, George Washington, Jean Baptiste Morin..and ME!.
“Longer periods away from home – just over two weeks in Japan and Korea in this case – always make me think about time and our experience of it. On the larger scale, one experiences the elasticity of time complicated by homesickness, jet-lag, work schedule and the personal, emotional shape of absence (the last couple of days always fly by as far as I am concerned). On the smaller scale, trips away are almost the only periods in which I experience regular, abstract exercise, usually swimming. If I swim 20 minutes a day for a week or more, the weirdness of time very quickly becomes apparent: the subjectivity of the time I experience, weaving in and out of my thoughts, is totally at odds with the stop-clock ahead of me, ticking away the seconds, and the ordinary clock to my left or right, converting time elapsed into portions of a circle, slices of a pie.
This is, it might seem, pretty banal stuff. The subjectivity of our experience of time is widely acknowledged. As we get older, time seems to go faster – or is it that we seem to move faster in time? The spatial metaphors we use are confused and confusing. The theories to explain this change range from the physiological (the body cools as we age) to the arithmetical (each moment is a smaller proportion of a lengthening lifespan).
If time is so mutable, so much a matter of the ebb and flow of consciousness, is it in fact illusory? The commonsense view has long been that of classical science. Isaac Newton contrasted “absolute, true, and mathematical time” which “in and of itself and of its own nature, without reference to anything external, flows uniformly and by another name is called duration” with what he called “relative, apparent and common time”. This is the view he bequeathed to the industrial age, the world of clocks, measurement and effective time management, but one which was exploded in its metaphysical aspects by Einstein’s musings on relative motion and the speed of light, by the space-time continuum, and the uncertainties of quantum mechanics.
Time is the stuff of music: music manipulates our experience of time; it plays with the rhythm of experience; it stretches and complicates our relationship to the passing of time. If the world of physics is a space-time continuum, music is a pitch-time continuum. We use spatial metaphors to express our experience of frequency – notes are higher and lower, something expressed formally in staff notation, and deeply inscribed in our experience of music as performers and listeners. A large interval between two notes is a gulf to be stretched over. The quintessential musical form, melody, as it moves up and down in pitch space, over time, is a sort of quasi-miraculous bridging of the gap between the abandoned past, the ungraspable present and the as-yet-to-be-achieved, utterly unreal future. We grasp it and, as we do so, time is attended to and made palpable and affective.
It’s no coincidence that the great age of music as metaphysics – Schopenhauer above all – coincided with the construction of larger and more complex forms in classical music. These brought a specialised form of rationality, musical rationality, to the subjective experience of time, through both the eked out, endless melody of Wagner, and the great symphonic structures of Bruckner and Mahler. Nineteenth-century music’s ambitions for itself were in many ways as cosmic as the Pythagorean vision of an art form in tune with the construction of the universe itself, the music of the spheres. It wanted to mirror the ebb and flow of being itself.
While this all seems impossibly grandiose in a postmodern age, classical music still has the capacity to generate visions of the sublime. Here is Daniel Barenboim, recently quoted in the International Herald Tribune: “Since every note produced by a human being has a human quality, there is a feeling of death with the end of each one, and through that experience there is a transcendence of all the emotions that these notes can have in their short lives; in a way, one is in direct contact with timelessness.”
There does seem a sort of affinity here between musical ambitions and the kind of metaphysics disdained by Anglo-American analytic philosophers. Karl Jaspers (1883-1969), for example, wrote of the possibility of certain experiences as “instants of eternity in time”, of a human capacity to be transported to an eternal present. Surely music is one of these routes to epiphany?
The problem in Barenboim’s analyis though, is the very humanity of the musical experience he identifies. Because surely, when we get metaphysical about music, what we are looking for is an escape from ourselves, a direct glimpse of something transcendental, something objective if inchoate, a grappling with time and timelessness, with being and not-being, which goes beyond the messy subjectivity of our day to day perceptions and our all too limited language. We still long to grant musical discourse a special relationship with the world, we hanker after the music of the spheres. “Such harmony”, Lorenzo says to Jessica in The Merchant of Venice, “is in immortal souls;/But whilst this muddy vesture of decay/Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.” Romanticism’s claim for our musical tradition is that in it, we hear some echo of the cosmos.
In the baldest sense this is pretentious nonsense. Music is a language, with a syntax which, whether generated by culture or embedded in our genetic make-up – or, most likely, a combination of both – is just as bound to us, to our humanity and our limited cognition, as ordinary language. There is no magical escape from the bounds of the human, from the veil of unknowing, the bonds of time.
And yet: In the same way that the metaphysicians – Schopenhauer, Heidegger, Jaspers – try to approach the unsayable and the unknowable, to break out of the limits of language and give at least an inkling, however illegitimate an inkling, of the nature of being and time (and I have to say that their attempts have never persuaded me, not that I’m a philosopher), music grapples with the sublime and the transcendent. In doing so it uses a language which, in its very lack of a proper semantics, its lack of definition, its continual striving to speak without actually speaking (or in the case of vocal music, saying so much more than is actually said), reaches outside itself more credibly than the jargon of the philosophers.”