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The Secret of the Universe, by Nathan R. Wood, [1932], at

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How Time comes in the physical world—The organic relation of space, matter and time—What Time does—The triunity of the three—How Time connects the mind with the universe—The true and universal Relativity—The Vast Outline of the Universe—Why we can comprehend the universe—A real universe.

There remains a third set of relations with the third element in this triunity.

Time is clearly the third element. But what is time? What is the essential nature of time in the physical universe?

Time, of course, has many aspects. But essentially time is consecutiveness or successiveness. In eternity things may be, in a way which we cannot really comprehend, largely simultaneous. But here in this time-world, the world which we know so well, all things,—thoughts, motions or actions,—are one after another. They are successive or consecutive. And time is essentially that successiveness or consecutiveness.

In the physical universe time is the successiveness of motion in space. Motion in space occupies one location after another. In that is consecutiveness, or successiveness, or time. For each successive location of the motion is later than those before it. Time, then, proceeds from motion. Time may equally be called the successiveness of the locations of motion in space. Time is not a thing. Therefore, some say, it inheres entirely in the mind. But that is obviously not true. It does inhere in the mind, which is successive in its thinking, but it inheres also in motion. It is the successiveness of motion in space. If Kant could have known matter not as "objects" but as motion, he would have known that space

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and time not only inhere in the mind but that they also inhere in motion. Motion involves space. It proceeds from space. Successiveness, which means time, is inevitable in motion. It is the inevitable outcome of motion. Space produces motion, then, and space and motion produce time.

This is what the principle of Triunity reveals very clearly. It reveals space, through energy, as producing motion, and space and motion as producing time. The principle of Triunity, as we have seen it working in the original Source, and in the various reflections, leads to further analysis of the relations of space, and of matter or motion, to time.


For in the Three in One the Spirit proceeds from the Father, through the Son. That is the very definite presentation of them. So, in the universal reflections of triunity in matter, phenomena come from energy, through motion. So, in the reflection in the triunity of time itself, the past comes from the future, through the present. And in the wonderful triunity in man the personality comes from the nature, through the person. So now, in the combined triunity of space, matter or motion, and time, we find that time proceeds from motion, or from space through motion. It is the direct result of motion in space. It is the result of the emergence of space, or outspread power, through energy, into motion.


But the relations revealed to us in this way are still more remarkable. Time is invisible and inaudible. Yet, invisible and inaudible as it is, it is time which reveals motion, and reveals space through motion, and makes

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motion and space visible and audible. As in the Divine Triunity Father and Son touch us and influence us and are revealed to us by the invisible and inaudible Spirit, so in the physical universe, in vast reflection of the Trinity, space and matter touch us and influence us and become visible and audible to us entirely through invisible and inaudible time. It cannot be questioned. The vibrations of matter or motion touch and influence us and become visible and audible to our senses through consecutiveness, through successiveness of impact, that is, through sensations of time. The differences of colour or of sound are differences purely in the time of the vibrations. They are differences, indeed, of space length. But they strike us, and strike other objects, as differences in time length. The differences in wave lengths or vibrations reach us or other objects which they touch purely as faster or slower. A long wave is to us a slow one. A short wave is to us a quick one. They come to us as variations in time. So that both space and matter become real to us and affect us, and affect other things, through time. In the Trinity the Spirit, Himself mysterious, unseen and unheard by us, reveals the Son, and through Him the Father, to us. So, in the physical world, time, itself mysterious, unseen and unheard by us, reveals matter or motion to us, and through that reveals space. Invisible and inaudible itself, time alone makes the world of space and of matter or motion visible and audible to us.


How closely bound together space, matter and time prove to be! Space, the omnipresent outspreading of Creative power, emerges into energy. Energy passes into motion. Motion becomes phenomena, waves of

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sound, of light, of colour, of all the infinite variety of the universe. Phenomena consist of successive vibrations, fast or slow. That successiveness, that fastness or slowness, is time. Everything we see, or hear, or touch, is known to us through the time length of its vibrations. So closely are space, matter and time bound to each other.

We may put this relationship very clearly in terms of motion. Potential motion is space. Actual motion is the tangible universe. Successive motion is time.

The Triunity of the Three

In all these things, the principle of Triunity points out both the absolute threeness and the absolute oneness of space, motion and time. The three are so much three that no one of the three can exist without the other two. For space, potential activity, comes into full existence only in actual motion; and this motion exists inevitably as successiveness, which is time. Space then is completely real only as motion and as time. Secondly, matter or motion is of course that potential activity of space realized. It cannot exist except as the embodiment of space. And on the other hand motion exists as successiveness, or time. Motion without successiveness is impossible. Thirdly, time in turn exists only as space comes into motion and motion into successiveness. Time in the physical world cannot exist except as the result of space and motion.

Each of the three, space, matter or motion, and time, then necessitates the other two. It is absolute threeness.

The principle of Triunity in the same way points out the oneness of the triunity of space, motion and time.

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[paragraph continues] Each one of the three is itself the whole. For the physical universe is all of it space, the outspreading of power, realized in motion and in successiveness. It is also all of it matter or motion, embodying space, and existing as successiveness. It is also all of it time,—space and motion acting in the form of successiveness.

It is absolute threeness, then, and absolute oneness. It is a triuniverse.

These three are of course three modes of being. They are three things which the physical universe is.


Yet more wonderfully and mysteriously we find the Triunity of God explaining the nature and working of time. In the Triune God the Spirit enters the very being of our souls, and not only influences them, but is a part of their very life. And this leads us to a remarkable thing in the nature of time. In the triune universe time enters the being of the soul and becomes a part of its very life. Neither space nor motion so enters the soul. They stay outside the windows of the senses. Neither of them becomes a part of the very existence of the mind. It is possible to think thoughts which have nothing to do with space or motion. But the mind can do nothing at all without consecutiveness, succession of thoughts. Time belongs to the mind as well as to the physical universe. As the soul was created to have the Spirit of God dwelling in it, and that Spirit, who is also the third in the Three in One, works to bring the soul to know Father and Son, so also the soul was created with time existing in it as a part of its consecutive inner life, and that element of time, which is also in the physical universe as the third great element there, works to bring the mind to know space and motion.

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So the Triunity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, whose reflection is the universal triunity, reveals one after another the subtle but absolute relations which space, matter and time bear to each other. Excepting three centres of personal consciousness in one Being, not one of the Triune distinctions is found in God which does not reveal its counterpart in the triune relations of space, matter and time, as we have seen them.

The True and Universal Relativity

The great fact of relativity has long been neglected. Now it is being felt everywhere in the world of thought. Its hour has come. No longer to-day can we think of things in the physical universe by absolute and rigid formulae. The great fact that all things of sense and space and time exist in relation to each other has found in recent years its new and right emphasis, and its priests and prophets.

It is true that those who have rescued the fact of relativity from neglect now make too much of it. They go to the other extreme. That is always done when a truth has been ignored and is again affirmed. One need not adopt every extreme speculative conclusion which has been linked with the new emphasis upon relativity, in order to give the fact of relativity its due. Nor need one make relativity the basis of all beliefs. It is only one among other facts of the universe.

But there is indeed relativity. We have seen it. We have seen it remarkable and universal in the relationship of space, motion and time in their infinite triunity. Everything in each of the three in that absolute triunity exists in relation to the other two. Nothing in any one of the three in that triunity can be computed

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except in terms of the other two. Space is abstract, unmeasured, unrevealed, but for motion, or matter, and time. It comes into full reality only when it is embodied in matter or motion, and consecutive motion from point to point in space, which means time. As for motion, it can be stated in the abstract as energy. But that energy is meaningless, its rapidity, and therefore its impact, cannot be measured or stated, except by space and time, the length or shortness of time required for the motion to cover a certain space, or the length or shortness of space which it covers in a given time; or the space-length and the time-length of its vibrations. And time,—this too exists in the abstract as consecutiveness; but it becomes real and measurable in the physical universe only as it results from the combination of space and motion. A unit of time is the piece of consecutiveness resulting when a certain motion of a pendulum goes a certain distance, or as a certain star moves from one point in the universe to another. Time in the physical universe is especially relative. For the momentum of the pendulum grows less. The elasticity of the spring decreases. The star moves in a universe not static but shifting in a million million orbits. Space and motion and time are to us wholly relative to each other, and we can know no one of them except in terms of the other two.

Professor Einstein reasons that since motion is all that we know in the physical universe,—space and time being intangible,—and since motion is relative, therefore all that we know in the world of sense and substance is purely relative. And since we have no absolute standards of space and time, therefore, he reasons, there is nothing definite in the physical universe.

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This is a healthy scepticism. It does away with our scientific arrogance. We do not get and we cannot get absolute accuracy in our scientific measurements. We can only get almost or relative certainty.

But this which is a healthy scepticism cannot itself be made an absolute view of things. You need not sit down under the juniper tree, or throw away your test-tube, or go out and riot around in daily life as though there were no standards for you, no meaning in the universe, and no God. It is true that everything in space or motion or time is relative to everything else in each of the other two. But this does not mean that the world is one vast shifting irregularity, one infinite indefiniteness. Very much the contrary. There is an exceedingly definite thing in all this shifting interplay of space, motion and time. It is Triunity. This universal triunity, which is the reflection of the Divine Triunity, reveals to us those relations of space and matter and time. All this interplay of relativity is but the omnipresent, living, constant outworking of that absolute triunity which is the structure of the physical universe. It is, of course, not a rigid structure, but a living one, the image not of a rigid but of a living God. All of this relativity, this shifting and partially elusive interdependence, is the absolute operation of an absolute, never-changing, never-failing, universal triunity, the reflection and immanent working of an absolute, glorious Triune God.

The Vast Outline of the Universe

From this Relativity, this Triunity of Space, Matter and Time, a vast Outline of the universe dawns upon

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us. It is an infinite circuit going out from the life and outspread power of God, through the physical universe, and back into the eternity and life of God.

This is the outline:

The power of God is spiritual. It also from eternity spreads out into dimensions. That is space.

Acting as energy, or power to move, that outspread power proceeds, as God wills, into actual motion. Then we have a universe of motion.

The motion works out in phenomena. Then we have light, heat, colour, sound and substance.

Both the motion and the phenomena mean and are successiveness. That successiveness, of the locations of motion, of the impacts of vibration in phenomena, is time in the physical universe.

But time, like space, is both physical and spiritual. It is successiveness of mind as well as of motion. As space issues from the mind and power of God into physical dimensions, so time passes again from physical successiveness into mental successiveness, and so into the eternal mind of God.

This is the vast outline. From the all-powerful mind of God, through space, through energy, motion and phenomena, through time, back into the eternal mind of God. Out from the omnipotence of the Creator, back into the eternity of the Creator.

It is a continuous process, a vast unchanging Circuit. The universe is forever emerging, and forever returning, through space, through motion, through time, back into its Source.

"For of Him and through Him and unto Him are all things."

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Why We Can Comprehend the Universe

For this same reason, because space at the source of the physical universe and time at the exit of it are both of them of the mind as well as of the physical world, the mind of man can grasp and comprehend the universe. Man can comprehend the universe, not in its extent, but in its nature.

For the comprehension of space is possible to us because space is of the mind as well as of the physical world.

And the comprehension of time is possible to us because time is of the mind as well as of the physical world.

And because motion comes out of space and passes into time, both of which we grasp, we can comprehend motion. We can comprehend it in terms of space and time. We define it as a motion of so many miles of space in so many moments of time. We can do this because space and time blend into our minds as they do into God's, and because the triune space-motion-time universe issues from the mind of God into reality, and returns again to that mind of God as its eternal goal, and the mind of man reflects the mind of God.

That is why we can comprehend the universe.

A Real Universe

It is necessary to be very clear about what all this means. It is not pantheism. It is not a vision of the physical universe as a mere manifestation of the being of God showing itself in unreal appearances which are but parts of Him, a universe which seems to be space, matter and time, but is not. It is quite the contrary.

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It is reality. It is the perception of how the mind of God through its omnipresent, outspread power projects into reality a universe which is not mind, and is not God, but is physical motion, and of how that universe of physical reality returns through phenomena and time into the mental eternity of God.

The physical universe becomes, then, a vast circuit from the mind of God to the mind of God, and this vast circuit is in the absolute likeness of the Three in One.

Space, or the outspreading of power, is the source, like the Father in the Three in One.

Motion or matter is the visible, active embodiment, like the Son in the Three in One.

Time is from space, through matter, as the Spirit is from the Father through the Son in the Three in One.

And as the Spirit is the return of the Godhead again into the life of God, so time is the return of the physical universe into the life of God.

"For of Him and through Him and unto Him are all things."

Next: IV. The Secret of the Universe and the Problem of Relativity