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What If…The Present Could Influence the Past?

This is the first in a series of articles I plan to do over the coming years where I talk about various theories I have been mulling called What If... I normally keep these ideas to myself because I feel they are too underdeveloped or overly complex. However, since we’ve experienced growth within the Restorative Faith community, I feel it’s worth taking a chance and stretching you all with some conceptually difficult material.

For this What If… I want to take you on a journey that may seem odd at first, but if you follow the trail I’m laying before you, the result might be an entirely new way of perceiving how the universe functions.

Step 1: Rethinking Major World Events

During everyone’s lifetime, there are major world events that shape our lives. For example, Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 or the Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Both of these moments had huge ramifications for the geopolitical world order. In both instances, the consequence of these events propelled the United States to commit massive resources to fighting wars in foreign countries resulting in the deaths of millions of people around the world.

We are used to thinking of events like Pearl Harbor or 9/11 as linear points in time. The event occurs and there are reverberations from that event impacting the future. For instance, we feel the ripple effects of 9/11 every time we board an airplane. From showing your ID with your ticket to the security process to the doors separating the cockpit from the rest of the plane, the entire aviation system was revamped to avoid repeating the same type of catastrophe.

However, there are deeper psychological ramifications for these events. Most everyone remembers where they were when they saw the images of the planes flying into the World Trade Center. As the towers collapsed and 3000 people met their demise, those images were seared into our brains. There was a deep sense that we had witnessed a dividing line. There was the world before 9/11 and the world after. I know the same is true for those who were alive when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The world would never be the same.

An unknown navy photographer snapped this photograph of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941, just as the USS Shaw exploded. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

But what if these major world events have the ability to not only impact the future, but also the past? In other words, what if these major world events can reach backwards in time, impacting and influencing the world in ways that we cannot necessarily appreciate or understand until the event is fully manifested?

I know this might seem like a strange idea. Since our experience of time is always moving forward, once the present has become the past, that moment is now locked and cannot be changed. I’m going to offer some specific examples of how this idea might function utilizing 9/11 once I’ve fleshed out a few more supportive concepts. For now, I simply want you to hold onto the notion that major world events can reverberate forwards and backwards.

Step 2: Rethinking Time

Albert Einstein’s best friend was Michele Besso, a Swiss engineer who died in 1955. Upon his death, Einstein wrote a letter to Besso’s family in which he famously states: “Now [that Besso] has departed this strange world a little ahead of me. That signifies nothing. For us believing physicists, the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

Einstein 1921 by F Schmutzer - Public Domain

Admirers of Einstein have pondered those words and wondered, “What did he mean that past, present and future are stubbornly persistent illusions?” One reading is that Einstein’s theories of relativity revealed an incredible facet of reality: Because time is relative to the individual, there really is no such thing as time. Indeed, physics proposes that, even though humans experience life as a progression of moments strung together, one after the other, our perception of time is nothing more than an illusion.

What physics suggests is that all moments in time exist perpetually and eternally. In other words, even though we experience time as a sequence of events, the moment you are experiencing right now has always existed and will always exist forever. This is not only true of you reading this article, but also of your first kiss, your first heartbreak; all the happiest and saddest moments of your life that have already happened continue to exist. Since the human mind is trapped in three dimensions and always moving forward, we simply lack the capacity to perceive the static nature of time.

This means that when you die, like Michele Besso, you’re not really dead because all those moments that comprise your life will exist in perpetuity. Needless to say, this theory has major implications when it comes to free will, but the point of this synopsis is for you to rethink the way we approach time, which is to say time, as we experience it, is an illusion.  

Step 3: Rethinking Consciousness (Part 1)

If you have read my new book Restorative Beauty, I spend a lot of time describing the new science emerging around the topic of consciousness. I’m not going to rehash everything I describe in the book, but perhaps the most important idea that I promote is dispelling the notion that consciousness is relegated to the brain.

Our experience would suggest that consciousness is something experienced by organisms whose brains have evolved in a particular direction. Similar to the way humans experience time, this is an illusion. In reality, there is no such thing as multiple conscious entities. There is only one consciousness. Your experience of that singular consciousness as an organism is based on the machinery within your body. The more complex the machinery, the greater your experience of that singular consciousness.

For example, the machinery of our brains is quite complex, which means we experience consciousness differently than a dog with a smaller, less complex brain. Moreover, a dog experiences consciousness differently than a tree or bacteria that experiences consciousness through chemical exchanges. Finally, a bacteria experiences consciousness differently than a rock or metal because they have no machinery.

To be clear, all of these things (humans, dogs, trees, bacteria, rocks, metal) have consciousness. This idea is based on an emerging theory that consciousness is a constituent part of all matter. Like gravity or electromagnetism, consciousness is a force that undergirds the function of the universe. In other words, any place where you find matter, you find consciousness.

This is a very condensed version of what I describe in my book, but it’s a massive cognitive shift that I believe has a huge impact on the way we see the world. I would encourage you to read the book so that you can appreciate the full implications of this theory for our spirituality.

Step 4: Rethinking Consciousness (Part 2)

The reason I am discussing this idea here is because I recently had a new insight into this theory that came after rewatching Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. If you have not seen the movie, the plot is both simple and complex all at once. Due to ecological collapse, NASA sends a group of scientists to potentially habitable planets in other solar systems to determine their viability for saving the human species from extinction.

At the end of the movie, we are introduced to the idea that gravity waves are not bound by time. According to the film, gravity waves have the capacity to transcend spacetime and move from the present into the past. It’s an interesting plot device that is integral to the film’s remarkable conclusion, but, scientists have only recently observed gravitational waves with little being known about them, so Christopher Nolan’s use of gravity in Interstellar is not an actual scientific principle.

However, after the conclusion of the film, I started thinking about if this same concept could be applied to consciousness. What if consciousness is not bound by time? To fully appreciate why this idea might be possible, I need to spend a little more time describing the theory of consciousness I propose in my book.

I explained above that the new way of thinking about consciousness is as a force in the universe, like gravity. In Restorative Beauty (trailer below), I refer to this force as the consciousness field, which is a term borrowed from the astrophysicist Gregory Matloff. The basic theory of my book is that all life emanates from and is made possible by the consciousness field. Indeed, I suggest that what every religion defines as a “spiritual experience” is when humans are able to transcend our bodily shells and have a direct experience of the consciousness field.

These spiritual experiences of the consciousness field are often brief, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours, but they are transformative. I dedicate many pages to describing how these experiences fundamentally alter a person’s perception of reality. Perhaps the most important takeaway from their experiences is that everything is one. They comprehend that there is no distinction between themselves and the rest of universe.

Watching Interstellar, I began to think: Perhaps if we had the capacity to experience the consciousness field in its purest form, time as we understand it would dissolve and we could experience reality as it is without time? Would a direct encounter with the consciousness field give us the perspective Einstein references in his physics where we see time all at once?

Box with prepared specimens mounted on microscope slides. This photograph was taken during an antiques fair in Cambados, Galicia, Spain. User: Iago Pillado, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

A good analogy might be to think of viewing a box of glass microscope slides. Each slide represents a sliver of time where, if you zoomed in, you could see all of reality across the entire universe frozen in place. Our experience as humans is that we are inside the glass slides, moving through them, one after the other. Entering fully into the consciousness field would allow us to rise above the slides moving to any point in time throughout the history of the universe.

This thought led me to an interesting conclusion. If consciousness is a fundamental force of the universe that transcends time, then perhaps the consciousness field is like a conduit that can transmit information back and forth through time? In other words, maybe this is how a major event, like 9/11, has the ability to reverberate forwards and backwards through time?

Step 5: Integrating Steps 1-4 Together through Synchronicity

When the twin towers collapsed on 9/11, I was in my senior year of college at Rice University. I didn’t have a television, so I ran upstairs to my friends’ dorm room. They were watching CNN, which was replaying the footage of the second plane flying into the south tower. Within a few minutes, the south tower collapsed. Our mouths were agape as we watched all those innocent souls perish in real time.

UA Flight 175 crashing into the south tower - rds323, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The University of Georgia estimated that about two billion people watched the attacks in real time or through the news that evening. The remaining four billion people who didn’t see the towers collapse on 9/11 would inevitably encounter the videos over the coming days and weeks. This is arguably the first event in history that almost the whole of humanity experienced together.

Why does this matter? One of the fundamental aspects of the consciousness field that I discuss in my book is that it acts like a network, connecting us with each other. We experience this connection through moments of synchronicity, odd occurrences where we find ourselves inexplicably linked to other people.

For example, have you ever had a dream about someone from your past who lives in another part of the world and the dream is so vivid that you take it upon yourself to contact that person? On occasion, when I have made contact with the person from my dream, they will say, “You know, it’s so strange that you reached out to me, because I was thinking about you the other day,” or even more perplexing, “Wow, what a coincidence! You were in my dream last night as well.”

These types of events are, in my opinion, a result of the connections created by the consciousness field. Since there is only one consciousness in which we all participate, the more in-tune we are with the consciousness field, the more likely we are to experience these moments of synchronicity.

Carl Jung (1875-1961) coined the term synchronicity to describe to describe circumstances that appear meaningfully related yet lack a causal connection. ETH Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Generally, when we talk about synchronous events, we are talking about a brief point of connection between two people. An event involving a few people causes a reverberation within the consciousness field that is small and isolated. But what happens when the entire species experiences the exact same traumatic event simultaneously? How does that event reverberate throughout the consciousness field?

If my theory that the consciousness field transcends time is accurate, then an event like 9/11 should have the capacity to reverberate backwards through time in ways that smaller synchronous events cannot. The question then becomes: How exactly does this event rippling into the past manifest itself?

Well, this is just speculation (as is this entire article), but my guess is that the ripple of the event would find its way into our subconscious. Likely, no one in the past would have a fully formed conscious understanding of the future event, but it would bubble up to the surface of our conscious thoughts in inexplicable ways that could only be understood and realized after the event itself.

For example, in the mid to late 1990s, there were a number of strange references to the twin towers in art and music. Below is a good summary of all the references in music, some of which are quite eerie in their predictions:

Although likely less substantive, there have even been connections made to the movie Back to the Future:

This idea that the reverberations of 9/11 bleed backwards into elements of our subconscious and then become expressed through artistic representations rings true to me. Art is often formed in the subconscious. The artist may consciously be trying to produce art with a particular intention, yet, when the art is observed, it unknowingly expresses a prophetic message that the artist never intended.


Clearly, there are a lot of assumptions and a ton of speculation at play in this theory. To understand how they are all connected, I will show how they flow together:

  1. Base Assumption: Consciousness is a force undergirding the universe

  2. If 1 is true, then consciousness is a constituent part of all matter

  3. If 2 is true, then there is only one consciousness that we all experience

  4. If 3 is true, then there is a consciousness field

  5. If 4 is true, then the consciousness field connects all humans (and all living things) together

These are all assumptions I outline in Restorative Beauty. What I am proposing in this article is that if 1-5 are true, then that opens the possibility that:

6. The consciousness field can transcend time

The possibility that the consciousness field can transcend time is buttressed by physics which suggests:

7.  There is no such thing as time and every moment exists eternally

8.  If 1-7 are true, then events have the capability to reverberate forward and backwards through the consciousness field (the bigger the event in terms of witnesses and impact, the further into the past the event can reverberate)

9.  Evidence for 8 can be seen in various artforms and media that seem to anticipate the event

10. The way 9 manifests is the event bubbling up into our subconscious through the consciousness field (the mechanism responsible for carrying the event backwards)  

Obviously, one could argue that the evidence being cited is a weak correlation. If this theory is true, shouldn’t there be a lot more references surfacing in multiple different contexts? Perhaps these are simply coincidences or connections are being made where none exist? Similar to the way Christians read the Old Testament prophets and interpret their words as forecasting the coming of Jesus, we could be looking at modern events and retrofitting them into our narrative. Had 9/11 never happened, we would never have made those connections.

Vice-versa, using my theory, one could argue that, if 9/11 had never happened, those artistic correlations would have never surfaced. Ultimately, I find this theory tantalizing because it conveys a sense that the universe is designed so that we can reach backwards and still influence the past. Even though our experience suggests that life is linear and the past is fixed, if this theory is correct, then we are simultaneously swimming in the ether of future events that we have yet to experience, while, at the same time, influencing the past that has come and gone.

Thanks for taking this dive with me. True or not, this idea strikes me as beautifully mysterious.

Let me know what you think in the comments.



CODA: If you’re trying to apply this theory to our lives right now, the thought has occurred to me that the reason we are seeing so much discussion of atomic weaponry in art and media is not just because of Russia’s war with Ukraine, Israel’s war in Gaza or because of the movie Oppenheimer, but because there is a future nuclear war reverberating backwards through time. We may unknowingly be swimming in the conscious thoughts and feelings of our species years or decades in the future reeling from a nuclear holocaust.

If this is true, one can only hope that these feelings bubbling up through our subconscious are of one possible future. Rather than a fixed endpoint, perhaps these events, as they reverberate backwards, can change our decision making going forward so that we can make different choices, impacting the future for a better outcome.

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Well, this was a wild ride, haha. Always intriguing ideas upon which to think

Replying to

Yeah, it's a lot for sure. I don't know how much of it is plausible, but it certainly is an interesting concept. I figured for those who read Restorative Beauty, it would be an interesting addendum! Thanks for reading and supporting!

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