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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

Appendix A — Notes on a New Theory of time — Time and Consciousness

page 33

Appendix A

Notes on a New Theory of time

Time and Consciousness

The consciousness of an individual human ego consists of a succession of flashes separated by blank intervals many billions of times as long as a flash. A flash lasts for a length of time equal to the absolute indivisible unit of Time. How short this unit is, we cannot know; but it must be shorter—probably much shorter—than the period of vibration at the ultra-violet end of the spectrum, i.e. it must be less than the seven hundred billionth part of a second (using the word billion in its English sense as meaning the square of a million, and not in its French or American sense as meaning a thousand millions only). The interval between two successive flashes varies, being sometimes much shorter in morbid and other exceptional states of consciousness than in normal waking life. Thus in certain dreams one lives through & much larger number of flashes in a given time by the clock, than in waking consciousness. Even in waking consciousness the interval between two successive flashes must obviously be a tolerably small fraction of a second—say the fifth or sixth part of a second: for we are probably aware of fully five or six successive distinguishable units of consciousness during the tick of a second-pendulum. As we are, by hypothesis, unconscious during the intervals between the flashes, the thread of consciousness necessarily seems to us unbroken (and in that sense "continuous") when we look back upon it in memory. But it obviously does not seem to us "continuous" in the mathematical sense of "infinitely divisible." On the contrary, in ordinary page 34 waking consciousness there are, in every second of [unclear: tim] only a very few (say at the utmost ten) successive units [unclear: o] duration distinguishable by introspection.

Further, Time, like all else, has existence only in minds But for reasons made clear by Neo-Hegelians, all mind except One, are contained in that One Mind, and [unclear: hen] there is a single stream of Time in which all the flashes [unclear: o] consciousness of all minds find their place. To each of [unclear: th] subordinate minds, therefore, the single stream of [unclear: Tim] common to them all is an objective fact: though to the [unclear: On] All-embracing Mind it is a purely subjective fact.