Maurice Nicoll : what we call the present moment is not now

No reveries, no conversations, no tracing out of the meaning of phantasies, contain this now, which belongs to a higher order of consciousness. The time-man in us does not know now. He is always preparing something in the future, or busy with what happened in the past. He is always wondering what to do, what to say, what to wear, what to eat, etc. He anticipates; and we, following him, come to the expected moment, and lo, he is already elsewhere, planning further ahead. This is becoming— where nothing ever is.


We must come to our senses to begin to feel now. We can only feel now by checking this time-man, who thinks of existence in his own way. Now enters us with a sense of something greater than passing-time. Now contains all time, all the life, and the aeon of the life. Now is the sense of higher space. It is not the decisions of the man in time that count here, for they do not spring from now. All decisions that belong to the life in time, to success, to business, comfort, are about ‘tomorrow’. All decisions about the right thing to do, about how to act, are about tomorrow. It is only -what is done in now that counts, and this is a decision always about oneself and with oneself, even although its effect may touch other people’s lives ‘tomorrow’. Now is spiritual. It is a state of the spirit, when it is above the stream of time-associations.
Spiritual values have nothing to do with time. They are not in time, and their growth is not a matter of time. To retain the impress of their truth we must fight with time, with every notion that they belong to time, and that the passage of days will increase them. For then it will be easy for us to think it is too late, to make the favourite excuse of passing-time.

The feeling of now is the feeling of certainty. In now passing-time halts. And in this halting of time one’s understanding has power over one. One knows, sees, feels in oneself, apart from all outer things; and above all, one is. This is the state of faith, as I believe was originally meant—the certain knowledge of something above passing-time. Faith is now.
What the time-man understands about faith is something quite different. Faith has to do with that which is alone in oneself and unknown to anyone else. ‘Every visible state, every temporal, every pragmatic approach to faith, is, in the end, the negation of faith’ (Karl Barth). All insight, all revelation, all illumination, all love, all that is “genuine, all that is real, lies in now—and in the attempt to create how we approach the inner precincts, the holiest part of life. For in time all things are seeking completion, but in now all things are complete.

So we must understand that what we call the present moment is not now, for the present moment is on the horizontal line of time, and now is vertical to this and incommensurable with it.

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