The Yoga of Time Travel: How the Mind Can Defeat Time

The Yoga of Time Travel: How the Mind Can Defeat Time

By Fred Alan Wolf, Ph.D.
Wheaton, IL: Quest Books, 2004, Paperback, 258 pages.

The term "time travel" conjures up all kinds of tantalizing images: elaborate contraptions that can whisk intrepid adventurers from era to era before you can say "H. G. Wells”; direct encounters with historical figures; and the handy ability to correct past mistakes, avert future disasters, and ascertain the numbers of next week's lotto drawing. These scenarios appear often in science fiction and Wishful thinking, but time travel also plays a role in mystical traditions such as yoga (knowledge of past and future events, certainly a type of time travel, is among the powers that a yogic master may develop, according to Patanjali). Also, in the wake of twentieth-century advances in theoretical physics, it figures in some scientific thinking as well.

In The Yoga of Time Travel: How the Mind Can Defeat Time, National Book Award recipient Fred Alan Wolf examines time travel from both a scientific and a spiritual perspective, demonstrating that while we probably shouldn't expect front-row seats for the Gettysburg address any time soon) certain forms of time travel may well be within our reach.

As you might suspect, this is mind-boggling stuff, Wolf, who appears in the recent film What the Bleep Do We Know!?, kindly prepares the way for readers like me whose knowledge of physics would barely fill a thimble, He explores the strangely malleable quality of time and its integral connection to space, matter, and mind, He also points to striking parallels between physics and some of the world's spiritual traditions, including the Australian aborigines' concept of dreamtime and Krishna's teachings in the Bhagavad Gita.

Wolf writes that there are two types of time travel: the ordinary and the extraordinary. Ordinary time travel falls within the domain of theoretical physics and involves such intriguing phenomena as black holes, wormholes (like a cosmic subway tunnel, a wormhole is a type of black hole that could theoretically enable travelers to traverse vast spans of space and time almost instantaneously), quantum computers (computers that function as if they exist in an infinite number of parallel worlds), and the "sphere of many radii," a giant, probably impossible-to-build device of incredible mass that, when hooked up to a quantum computer, could perhaps propel the minds of time voyagers forward or backward through time. Of course, the knowledge and technology to achieve this kind of time travel, if it's possible at all, is many years and a plethora of paradoxes away. However, Wolf tells us that extraordinary time travel, where science and mysticism converge, not only is possible but happens all the time.

From the standpoint of physics, Wolf writes, this form of time touring involves the "squaring" or modulation of possibility waves (for some scientists, these are imaginary constructs; for others, including Wolf, real waves, capable of moving forward or backwards in time, that arise out of the "infinitely dimensional" subspace realm, from which consciousness and matter also emerge); the complementary principle (the idea that we gain and lose knowledge of something as our observations of it change); parallel universes (which Wolf contends may resolve many of the paradoxes besetting "ordinary" time travel); and the discombobulating notion of a fundamentally timeless universe in which the past is being created in the present, and the present and future are somehow creating each other.

From a mystical perspective, however, things may be a bit less complicated. According to Wolf, this form of time travel (subjective, internal time, rather than objective, clock/calendar time) can be seen as bringing to light and overcoming habits of thought through relinquishing the ego.

Wolf writes that mind yoga helps practitioners to shift possibility waves-essentially, to change their ego-based ideas about themselves and the world. According to Wolf, when we focus on an object, a person, or an aspect of ourselves (much the same, he says, as entering into a pose in yoga), our impressions of it gradually become habits of thought and its range of possibilities diminishes. However, when we let go of our habitual viewpoints and expectations, such as during the act of forgiveness, its possibilities increase concomitantly, and in a sense we "reverse time" by returning to an earlier, more receptive mind-set. Wolf believes that this process of focusing and defocusing is also what gives us our objective sense of time. Additionally, Wolf writes that, following Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, we may, at times, actually change the past by changing our present perceptions, and that the act of letting go may even enable us to enter parallel universes, though he admits that we probably wouldn't know it if we did.

This book is teeming with ideas. I've read it twice and feel as if I've just scratched the surface. It's a great introduction to theoretical physics, it points the way, at every turn, to new ways of thinking, and it resonates with a deeply spiritual impulse.

"Give up your ego," Wolf suggests, "enter the sacred timeless realm, and forgive. Such is the path to true freedom."


January/February 2006