V.H, February 2016 – August 2016. Alabaster on oxidized bronze, 6″ diameter.
This project began as an exploration of the nature of space and time in the physical dimension, and its relation to that in the spiritual. Specifically, this exploration was rooted in a curiosity of causality between physical and emotional events and one’s soul. The assumptions and beliefs of the latter has its influences based on the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, two Central Figures of the Baha’i Faith. Attempting to grasp the many competing theories on time and space, and not just the psychological and social phenomena we experience, proved to be an ambitious endeavour. Let alone, attempting to discover its relation to the spiritual realm, which lacks either of these dimensions:
“In the world of God there is no past, no future and no present; all are one” i
“…the Kingdom is not a material place; it is sanctified from time and place.” ii
I felt that studying the physics and nature of time and space would have shed some light as to how causality between our actions and the progress of our soul bound in world without time and space could exist. More central to this exploration, was the question as to how our thoughts and actions in this world, a world bound by space and time, influences our souls, whose existence is not that of this world:
“The soul… will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter.” iii
There are many competing philosophies and theories of time and space, many of which, due to their highly scientific nature, I found difficult to understand. For example, Presentism argues that only objects and present experiences truly exist, then immediately falls out of existence and consequently past events do not exist. Eternalism, on the other hand, argues that past events do exist, and it’s the flow of time, a mere illusion of consciousness, in which the universe expands and encounters the pre-existing, uncertain and inaccessible future which has yet to become a part of the universe itself.
Newtonian and Relativistic theories of space and time either perceive these dimensions as either continually progressing, or as a single element of a fourth dimension of time-space. It’s the latter theory and my limited comprehension of it that raised my curiosity. The two main consequences of this model are that time is not dependant on physical events or space. In Einstein’s theory of relativity, if the speed of light is absolute, both space and time must be flexible: if we could move at the speed of light, time would stop. Here, time is not considered to be passing or flowing: both past and future are simply “there”. The concepts of “past, present, and future are merely an illusion, although a convincing one.” This being said, it is important to emphasize that these are examinations on the physics of time, and not the psychology in which we perceive time, and how we apply narrative structures and explanations on it to make it within our reach and comprehension.
Far more interesting and counterintuitive phenomena occur at the atomic and subatomic levels, where the rules of time and space don’t seem to agree with our psychological experiences. Without going into detail due to its technical nature, the fact that electrons are able to occupy more than one position simultaneously, or that other subatomic particles, such as B mesons, don’t adhere to the symmetry of time (or what we would call the directionality or arrow of time as moving forward, and being irreversible due to the laws of thermodynamics). Studies of these particles have shown that “nature does not treat the direction of time equally…In particular, subatomic particles called K and B mesons behave slightly differently depending on the direction of time. When this subtle behaviour is included in a model of the universe, what we see is the universe changing from being fixed at one moment in time to continuously evolving.”vi
What is more fascinating, moreover, is how these phenomena are occurring all around us and within us, yet it is an entirely different world despite its closeness to us. I recalled to mind:
“…the center of the Sun of Truth is in the supernal world—the Kingdom of God. Those souls who are pure and unsullied, upon the dissolution of their elemental frames, hasten away to the world of God, and that world is within this world. The people of this world, however, are unaware of that world, and are even as the mineral and the vegetable that know nothing of the world of the animal and the world of man.” iv
Just as the minerals and vegetables are unaware, and lack any capacity to understand the nature and world of man, despite our presence and influence, so too must our comprehension of the spiritual world, the world of God, be severely limited despite its apparent presence and influence. And since it is our soul that belongs to this spiritual world, its very essence must be far greater than that of this physical world, which brought to mind the following:
“Dost thou reckon thyself only a puny form
When within thee the universe is folded?” v
The above passage set the groundwork for this sculpture: a hand carved alabaster sphere that at once collapses into itself, and is penetrated by the space around it. The decision to use a spherical shape was intuitive – the lack of edges lent itself nicely to an idea of timeless (i.e no beginning and no end). Likewise, the sphere is an allusion to the atoms, electrons, and the other subatomic particles which at once make our world and yet are in a world of their own, free from the restraints of space and time. Although I feel that the goal of my efforts, to further my understanding of how causality between the physical and spiritual realms exists, has not provided much clarity, merely becoming acquainted with the notion that laws of time itself being strict and simple as we believe has lent itself to an attitude of humility towards what I “know” (or more appropriately “don’t know”) of one of the most fundamental aspects of physical reality that I’ve taken for granted and as a given.
As for the spheres collapse, or, more appropriately, its folding within itself, is a very direct reference to the Bab’s passage above. The enfoldment here is both symbolic of one’s own spiritual mystery and nature as gleaned from the trajectory of this exploration, as well as their inner condition. Furthermore, the observer is encouraged to view this folding not as separate from its surrounding. Rather, I attempt to create aduality of the space surrounding the sphere penetrating the sphere, at once becoming part of the sphere and flowing through it. In forcing the viewer to begin thinking about the object’s place in, and relation to, space, it is my hope that an appreciation for the interconnectedness of our reality, and that the delineation between time and space, material and spiritual, are not necessarily dichotomous, a part of two separate and independent realities.
i. “Some Answered Questions, (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1990), Sec. 39, pp. 154
ii. “Some Answered Questions, (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1990), Sec.67, pp. 241
iii. “Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1990), Sec. LXXXI, pp. 155
iv. “Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, (Haifa: Bahá’í World Centre, 1982), Sec. 163, pp.193
v. “The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys, (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1991), pp.34
vi. “Albert Einstein and the Fabric of Time” Last modified April 10, 2007. http://phys.org/news/2016-01-space-universal-symmetry.html