Astounding Stories of Super-Science May 1931, by Astounding Stories is part of HackerNoon’s Book Blog Post series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. The Exile of Time - Chapter X: Events Engraven on the Scroll of Time
Before continuing the thread of my narrative—the vast sweep through Time which presently we were to witness—I feel that there are some mental adjustments which every Reader should make. When they are made, the narrative which follows will be more understandable and more enjoyable. Yet if any Reader fears this brief chapter, he may readily pass it by and meet me at the beginning of the next one, and he will have lost none of the sequence of the narrative.
For those who bravely stay with me here, I must explain that from the heritage of millions of our ancestors, and from our own consciousness of Time, we have been forced to think wrongly. Not that the thing is abstruse. It is not. If we had no consciousness of Time at all, any of us could grasp it readily. But our consciousness works against us, and so we must wrench away.
This analogy occurs to me: There are two ants of human intelligence to whom we are trying to explain the nature of Space. One ant is blind, and one can see, and always has seen, its limited, tiny, Spatial world. Neither ant has ever been more than a few feet across a little patch of sand and leaves. I think we could explain the immensity of North and South America, Europe, Asia and the rest more easily to the blind ant!
So if you will make allowances for your heritage, and the hindrance of your consciousness of Time, I would like to set before you the real nature of things as they have been, are, and will be.
Throughout the years from 1935 to 2930, man learned many things. And these things—theory or fact, as you will—were told to Larry and me by Tina and Harl. They seem even to my limited intelligence singularly beautiful conceptions of the Great Cosmos. I feel, too, that inevitably they must be included in my narrative for its best understanding.
By 2930, A. D., the keenest minds of philosophical, metaphysical, religious and scientific thought had reached the realization that all channels lead but to the same goal—Understanding. The many divergent factors, the ancient differing schools of philosophy and metaphysics, the supposedly irreconcilable viewpoints of religion and science—all this was recognized merely to be man's limitation of intellect. These were gropings along different paths, all leading to the same destination; divergent paths at the start, but coming together as the goal of Understanding was approached; so that the travelers upon each path were near enough together to laugh and hail each other with: "But I thought that you were very far away and going wrongly!"
And so, in 2930, the conception of Space and Time and the Great Cosmos was this:
In the Beginning there was a void of Nothingness. A Timeless, Spaceless Nothingness. And in it came a Thought. A purposeful Thought—all pervading, all wise, all knowing.
Let us call It Divinity. And It filled the void.
"We are such stuff as dreams are made of...."
Do you in my Time of 1935 and thereabouts, have difficulty realizing such a statement? It is at once practical, religious, and scientific.
We are, religiously, merely the Thought of an Omniscient Divinity. Scientifically, we are the same: by the year 1935, physicists had delved into the composition of Matter, and divided and divided. Matter thus became imponderable, intangible—electrical. Until, at the last, within the last nucleus of the last electron, we found only a force. A movement—vibration—a vortex. A whirlpool of what? Of Nothingness! A vibration of Divine Thought—nothing more—built up and up to reach you and me!
That is the science of it.
In the Beginning there was Eternal Divinity. Eternal! But that implies Time? Something Divinely Everlasting.
Thus, into the void came Time. And now, if carefully you will ponder it, I am sure that once and for all quite suddenly and forcefully will come to you the true conception of Time—something Everlasting—an Infinity of Divine existence, Everlasting.
It is not something which changes. Not something which moves, or flows or passes. This is where our consciousness leads us astray, like the child on a train who conceives that the landscape is sliding past.
Time is an unmoving, unchanging Divine Force—the force which holds events separate, the Eternal Scroll upon which the Great Creator wrote Everything.
And this was the Creation: everything planned and set down upon the scroll of Time—forever. The birth of a star, its lifetime, its death; your birth, and mine; your death, and mine—all are there. Unchanging.
Once you have that fundamental conception, there can be no confusion in the rest. We feel, because we move along the scroll of Time for the little journey of our life, that Time moves; but it does not. We say, The past did exist; the future will exist. The past is gone and the future has not yet come. But that is fatuous and absurd. It is merely our consciousness which travels from one successive event to another.
Why and how we move along the scroll of Time, is scientifically simple to grasp. Conceive, for instance, an infinitely long motion picture film. Each of its tiny pictures is a little different from the other. Casting your viewpoint—your consciousness—successively along the film, gives motion.
The same is true of the Eternal Time-scroll. Motion is merely a change. There is no absolute motion, but only the comparison of two things relatively slightly different. We are conscious of one state of affairs—and then of another state, by comparison slightly different.
As early as 1930, they were groping for this. They called it the Theory of Intermittent Existence—the Quantum Theory—by which they explained that nothing has any Absolute Duration. You, for instance, as you read this, exist instantaneously; you are non-existent; and you exist again, just a little changed from before. Thus you pass, not with a flow of persisting existence, but by a series of little jerks. There is, then, like the illusion of a motion picture film, only a pseudo-movement. A change, from one existence to the next.
And all this, with infinite care, the Creator engraved upon the scroll of Time. Our series of little pictures are there—yours and mine.
But why, and how, scientifically do we progress along the Time-scroll? Why? In 2930, they told me that the gentle Creator gave each of us a consciousness that we might find Eternal Happiness when we left the scroll and joined Him. Happiness here, and happiness there with Him. The quest for Eternal Happiness, which was always His Own Divine Thought. Why, then, did He create ugliness and evil? Why write those upon the scroll? Ah, this perhaps is the Eternal Riddle! But, in 2930, they told me that there could be no beauty without ugliness with which to compare it; no truth without a lie; no consciousness of happiness without unhappiness to make it poignant.
I wonder if that were His purpose....
How, scientifically, do we progress along the Time-scroll? That I can make clear by a simple analogy.
Suppose you conceive Time as a narrow strip of metal, laid flat and extending for an infinite length. For simplicity, picture it with two ends. One end of the metal band is very cold; the other end is very hot. And every graduation of temperature is in between.
This temperature is caused, let us say, by the vibration of every tiny particle with which the band is composed. Thus, at every point along the band, the vibration of its particles would be just a little different from every other point.
Conceive, now, a material body—your body, for instance. Every tiny particle of which it is constructed, is vibrating. I mean no simple vibration. Do not picture the physical swing of a pendulum. Rather, the intricate total of all the movements of every tiny electron of which your body is built. Remember, in the last analysis, your body is merely movement—vibration—a vortex of Nothingness. You have, then, a certain vibratory factor.
You take your place then upon the Time-scroll at a point where your inherent vibratory factor is compatible with the scroll. You are in tune; in tune as a radio receiver tunes in with etheric waves to make them audible. Or, to keep the heat analogy, it is as though the scroll, at the point where the temperature is 70°F, will tolerate nothing upon it save entities of that register.
And so, at that point on the scroll, the myriad things, in myriad positions which make up the Cosmos, lie quiescent. But their existence is only instantaneous. They have no duration. At once, they are blotted out and re-exist. But now they have changed their vibratory combinations. They exist a trifle differently—and the Time-scroll passes them along to the new position. On a motion picture film you would call it the next frame, or still picture. In radio you would say it has a trifle different tuning. Thus we have a pseudo-movement—Events. And we say that Time—the Time-scroll—keeps them separate. It is we who change—who seem to move, shoved along so that always we are compatible with Time.
And thus is Time-traveling possible. With a realization of what I have here summarized, Harl and the cripple Tugh made an exhaustive study of the vibratory factors by which Matter is built up into form, and seeming solidity. They found what might be termed the Basic Vibratory Factor—the sum of all the myriad tiny movements. They found this Basic Factor identical for all the material bodies when judged simultaneously. But, every instant, the Factor was slightly changed. This was the natural change, moving us a little upon the Time-scroll.
They delved deeper, until, with all the scientific knowledge of their age, they were able with complicated electronic currents to alter the Basic Vibratory Factors; to tune, let us say, a fragment or something to a different etheric wave-length.
They did that with a small material particle—a cube of metal. It became wholly incompatible with its Present place on the Time-scroll, and whisked away to another place where it was compatible. To Harl and Tugh, it vanished. Into their Past, or their Future: they did not know which.
I set down merely the crudest fundamentals of theory in order to avoid the confusion of technicalities. The Time-traveling cages, intricate in practical working mechanisms beyond the understanding of any human mind of my Time-world, nevertheless were built from this simple theory. And we who used them did but find that the Creator had given us a wider part to play; our pictures, our little niches were engraven upon the scroll over wider reaches.
Again to consider practicality, I asked Tina what would happen if I were to travel to New York City around 1920. I was a boy, then. Could I not leave the cage and do things in 1920 at the same time in my boyhood I was doing other things? It would be a condition unthinkable.
But there, beyond all calculation of Science, the all-wise Omnipotence forbids. One may not appear twice in simultaneity upon the Time-scroll. It is an eternal, irrevocable record. Things done cannot be undone.
"But," I persisted, "suppose we tried to stop the cage?"
"It would not stop," said Tina. "Nor can we see through its windows events in which we are actors."
One may not look into the future! Through all the ages, necromancers have tried to do that but wisely it is forbidden. And I can recall, and so can Larry, as we traveled through Time, the queer blank spaces which marked forbidden areas.
Strangely wonderful, this vast record on the scroll of Time! Strangely beautiful, the hidden purposes of the Creator! Not to be questioned are His purposes. Each of us doing our best; struggling with our limitations; finding beauty because we have ugliness with which to compare it; realizing, every one of us—savage or civilised, in every age and every condition of knowledge—realizing with implanted consciousness the existence of a gentle, beneficent, guiding Divinity. And each of us striving always upward toward the goal of Eternal Happiness.
To me it seems singularly beautiful.
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Various. 2009. Astounding Stories of Super-Science, May 1931. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved May 2022 from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/30532/30532-h/30532-h.htm#The_Exile_of_Time
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