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.

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The New Testament
Christian scripture

“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority."

The New Testament
Christian scripture

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”

The New Testament
Christian scripture

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

C.S. Lewis
Christian theologian and writer

“We picture God living through a period when His human life was still in the future: then coming to a period when it was present: then going on to a period when He could look back on it as something in the past. But probably these ideas correspond to nothing in the actual facts. You cannot fit Christ's earthly life in Palestine into any time-relations with His life as God beyond all space and time. It is really, I suggest, a timeless truth about God that human nature, and the human experience of weakness and sleep and ignorance, are somehow included in His whole divine life. This human life in God is from our point of view a particular period in the history of our world (from the year A.D. one till the Crucifixion). We therefore imagine it is also a period in the history of God's own existence. But God has no history.”

The Qur'an
Islamic scripture

“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."

The Hebrew Bible
Jewish scripture

“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.”

Sefer Ha-Aggadah
Collection of Jewish writings

“The tree of life—meaning the tree that spreads its branches over all things alive. R. Judah bar Ilai said: The tree of life spread over an area that at an ordinary rate of speed would require five hundred years to traverse, and all the primeval waters branched out in streams from under it. It was not only that its boughs required a five hundred years' journey—even to go around its trunk required a five hundred years' journey.”

Baha'i leader

“The earth life lasts but a short time, even its benefits are transitory; that which is temporary does not deserve our heart's attachment.”

The Puranas
Hindu scripture

“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.”

Joseph Campbell
Scholar of comparative mythology and religion

“The equating of a single year in Paradise to one hundred of earthly existence is a motif well known to myth. The full round of one hundred signifies totality. Similarly, the three hundred and sixty degrees of the circle signify totality; accordingly the Hindu Puranas represent one year of the gods as equal to three hundred and sixty of men.”

The Bhagavad Gita
Hindu scripture

“Those who understand the cosmic laws know that the Day of Brahma ends after a thousand yugas and the Night of Brahma ends after a thousand yugas.”

Swami Vivekananda
Hindu monk

“The Vedanta teaches that Nirvana can be attained here and now, that we do not have to wait for death to reach it. Nirvana is the realization of the Self; and after having once known that, if only for an instant, never again can one be deluded by the mirage of personality.”

The Lotus Sutra
Buddhist scripture

“ ‘O monks, it has been an extremely long time since this buddha entered nirvana. Suppose there were a man who ground the earth of the entire great manifold cosmos into powdered ink, and he were to then pass through a thousand worlds to the east, where he let fall a single particle of ink, the size of a speck of dust. After passing through another thousand worlds, he let fall another particle; and he continued in this way until he had completely used all the ink.

‘What do you think about this? Do you think that a mathematician or a mathematician’s pupil would be able to count those worlds to the last particle or not?’

‘O Bhagavat! No, they could not.’

‘O monks! Suppose that all the worlds this man passed through, whether letting fall a particle or not, were all ground into dust, and one speck of this dust were equal to one kalpa. The time since the parinirvāṇa of this buddha surpasses this number by immeasurable, limitless, incalculable hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of kalpas; and through the power of the Tathāgata’s wisdom and insight, I can see his distant past, as if it were today.’”

In the Buddha's Words
Collection of Buddhist texts

“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.”

Shunryu Suzuki
Zen master

“Everything is just a flashing into the vast phenomenal world” means the freedom of our activity and of our being. If you sit in the right manner, with the right understanding, you attain the freedom of your being, even though you are just a temporal existence. Within this moment, this temporal existence does not change, does not move, and is always independent from other existences. In the next moment another existence arises; we may change to something else. Strictly speaking, there is no connection between I myself yesterday and I myself in this moment; there is no connection whatsoever. Dogen-zenji said, ‘Charcoal does not become ashes.’ Ashes are ashes; they do not belong to charcoal. They have their own past and future.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Russian novelist
Art & Literature

“In his attacks of epilepsy there was a pause just before the fit itself (if it happened while he was awake) when suddenly in the midst of sadness, spiritual darkness, and a feeling of oppression, there were instants when it seemed his brain was on fire, and in an extraordinary surge all his vital forces would be intensified.  The sense of life, the consciousness of self were multiplied tenfold in these moments, which lasted no longer than a flash of lightning.”

Pierre Hadot
French philosopher and historian
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“For Marcus [Aurelius], by contrast, the consideration of the infinity of time and space is an active process; this is made quite clear by his repeated admonitions to ‘represent to himself’ and ‘think of’ the totality of things. We have to do here with a traditional spiritual exercise which utilizes the faculties of the imagination. De Quincey speaks of a distortion of the instant, which takes on monstrous proportions. Marcus, by contrast, speaks of an effort to imagine the infinite and the all, in order that all instants and places may be seen reduced to infinitesimal proportions. In Marcus' case, this voluntary exercise of the imagination presupposes a belief in the classical Stoic cosmological scheme: the universe is situated within an infinite void, and its duration is comprised within an infinite time, in which periodic rebirths of the cosmos are infinitely repeated. Marcus' exercise is intended to provide him with a vision of human affairs capable of replacing them within the perspective of universal nature.”

Jill Bolte Taylor
Harvard neuroscientist
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“The present moment is a time when everything and everyone are connected together as one. As a result, our right mind perceives each of us as equal members of the human family. It identifies our similarities and recognizes our relationship with this marvelous planet, which sustains our life. It perceives the big picture, how everything is related, and how we all join together to make up the whole. Our ability to be empathic, to walk in the shoes of another and feel their feelings, is a product of our right frontal cortex.”