Time wields immense power over us, an unyielding force we cannot halt or invert. It distinguishes us from the divine, shaping events across cosmic expanses. The universe and our planet span billions of years, dwarfing our brief lives. Gods resemble celestial bodies, enduring eons, occasionally bending time. They perceive time cyclically, unlike our linear view. Scientific theories like Einstein’s hint at time’s nonlinearity, yet we’re trapped in its apparent unidirectional flow. Our fleeting lives compared to celestial giants prompt questions about our perception of time and reality. Immersed in aeons like gods, our reality would transform profoundly.
Time holds a godlike power over us—we cannot slow down or escape its passage, nor can we reverse the direction of its flow. One mark of what separates us from the divine, then, is time. Events on a cosmic scale occur along hyperbolically long timelines. This is true for the physical universe which is billions of years old, as is our planet. Our lifetimes are mere blips in comparison. Gods, on the other hand, are closer to planets and celestial bodies in their endurance over unfathomable lengths of time. Sometimes they even have the power to manipulate time. They experience time cyclically rather than in a straight line from past to present to future. Modern scientific theories and models, including Einstein’s theory of relativity, suggest that time is in fact not linear. Still, for most of us it is impossible to experience time beyond this illusory one-way flow. The minuteness of our lifetimes in contrast to cosmic bodies and gods calls into question the relative nature of our experiences of time and reality. If indeed we could live for aeons as do gods, we would surely see reality much differently than we currently do.
“While standing by a river, the Master said, ‘What passes is perhaps like this: day and night it never lets up.’” (9:17)
— Confucian text
“Suppose, monk, there was a great stone mountain a yojana long, a yojana wide, and a yojana high, without holes or crevices, one solid mass of rock. At the end of every hundred years a man would stroke it once with a piece of fine cloth. That great stone mountain might by this effort be worn away and eliminated but the eon would still not have come to an end. So long is an eon, monk. And of eons of such length, we have wandered through so many eons, so many hundreds of eons, so many thousands of eons, so many hundreds of thousands of eons. For what reason? Because, monk, this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning.”
“The earth life lasts but a short time, even its benefits are transitory; that which is temporary does not deserve our heart’s attachment.”
—‘Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i leader
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
—Ecclesiastes 3:11, The Hebrew Bible
“Twelve thousand divine years constitute a period of the four Ages, and a thousand of the four Ages is called a day of Brahman, or an aeon (kalpa), in which there are fourteen Manus. At the end of the aeon there occurs the occasional dissolution brought about by Brahman.”
—The Puranas, Hindu text
“It will fall on the disbelievers––none can deflect it––from God, the Lord of the Ways of Ascent, by which the angels and the Spirit ascend to Him, on a Day whose length is fifty thousand years.”
“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”