| up a level
from the 3-is-a-magic-number dept.
Time, Space, and Knowledge
Eighteen years ago, I attended a summer long human potential intensive in Sugar Maples, New York, and commented to a fellow participant that I was a bit dissatisfied with the lack of a theoretical underpinning to the course of study. This participant, named Tomas (who also claimed to be a practitioner of Golden Dawn style magick, at a time when that meant little to me), presented me with a copy of the book Time, Space, and Knowledge by Tarthang Tulku. He said, "If it's theory you're looking for, this ought to keep you busy for a little while." It turned out to be enough to keep anyone busy for a lifetime, and also to be much more than theory.
Time, Space, and Knowledge is a profoundly intricate and nuanced work. In rough terms, it has always seemed to me to be the attempt of a highly advanced Tibetan adept to take up the tools of Western philosophy, particularly epistemology, and use them to express the depths of his understanding, creating an entirely new field of human inquiry as a result.
Tarthang Tulku is a consciously reincarnated Tibetan lama who escaped from Tibet at age 25, then taught in Benares, India, until coming to America in the late '60s, eventually establishing the Nyingma Institute and Dharma Publishing in Berkeley, as well as the Odiyan Monastery. At the Nyingma Institute, Tarthang Tulku worked with his student Steven Tainer to form what began as a series of presentations, and eventually became the book, Time, Space, and Knowledge.
One important theme of the book seems to be this: by undertaking a thorough-going study of our knowledge, our relationship to knowledge can change, and this change can have a transformative effect on every aspect of our being.
It is a marvelous experience to see language being used with such precision. The author constantly treads very closely to areas where words have no meaning, and yet is able to penetrate the boundaries of our conventional definitions to arrive in ever greater refinements toward the perspective he envisions.
This vision is essentially three-fold. The components, Time, Space, and Knowledge, are much more than the usual understanding of the words would suggest, and yet for each, the usual understanding is a touchstone toward opening to the enormity of what Great Space, Great Time, and Great Knowledge have to offer.
Space is more than an emptiness to be filled. It is the allowing that makes all existence possible; the allowing that is all existence. Time is not an index against which events emerge and perish, but rather the dynamic expressiveness that give voice to all manifestation and possibility. And Knowledge does not consist of those propositions that we hold in mind, but is the knowingness that is innate within all points, and through which all points are interconnected.
To accompany the detailed expositions of these three principles, an exercise series is provided. The beginning exercises build up the image of a 'giant body' that is made more vivid by building up attention to all its anatomical details, investigating its cellular structure, going even to the sub-atomic level and beyond. In this way, it reminds me of the preliminary practices of Tibetan Deity Yoga, which involve the visualization of the godform in as much detail as possible. But in this case, the giant body is used as a platform for beginning an in-depth investigation of the qualities of embodiment, leading into astonishing directions.
It is tempting to try to map this triadic vision with other, more familiar trinities. Are Time, Space, and Knowledge, Hadit, Nuit and Ra-Hoor-Khuit? Hoor, Asi, Thoth? Sulphur, Salt, Mercury? But the author cautions:
However, when such parallels occur to you, it might be helpful to reread and investigate the discussions and exercises all the more closely, in order to determine the differences (as well as the similarities) in insight, context, and application between the ideas presented here and those presented elsewhere. In this way, premature interpretations can be avoided, and this vision's more unique applications, values, and effects can be seen and applied.
Time, Space, and Knowledge was the original work that launched a great many other books, both by Tarthang Tulku as well as others working to explore the vision. But there is a freshness and a rigorous intellectual honesty in the original that makes it stand out from the rest, possibly due to the participation of Steven Tainer. (For another work that deals with some of these considerations from a more psychological perspective, see The Void by A. H. Almaas, which may have in part been inspired by Time, Space, and Knowledge.)
Ever since this book came into my life, it has been for me the greatest expression of clarity of anything I have ever read; a standard by which I have evaluated everything else since.
Thank you, Tomas. I wonder what you are doing now?
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