It is called Eternalism. It’s the philosophy adopted from the quantum theory that the past, present, and future all exist at the same time. In other words, the past, present, and future are not linear. One does not take place right after the other, rather they all exist equally.

In the past (Ha!), time was regarded as a force that acted upon the other three dimensions. With quantum mechanics and the space time continuum, time is considered the fourth dimension, referred to as a “block,” unchanging, like the other three.

One way to think about it is to consider time as we do a place. Different places are real. They exist. They are already there. For instance, your neighbor’s house. It’s there. It’s real. However, until you look at it, it is not part of your consciousness. But does that make it any less there when you are not looking at it? When it is not part of your consciousness?

This seemingly weird—and counterintuitive—way of looking at the world started with Albert Einstein.

According to the article, “Albert Einstein and the Fabric of Time,” from, “Einstein’s belief in an undivided solid reality was clear to him, so much so that he completely rejected the separation we experience as the moment of now. He believed there is no true division between past and future, there is rather a single existence.”

The article further avows that Einstein proved that time is relative, not absolute as Newtonian thought suggested in the past (there’s that pesky word again) and invoked a thought exercise—Einstein was extremely fond of them—I have written about in past (jeez!) columns:

“With the proper technology, such as a very fast spaceship, one person is able to experience several days while another person simultaneously experiences only a few hours or minutes. The same two people can meet up again, one having experienced days or even years while the other has only experienced minutes. The person in the spaceship only needs to travel near to the speed of light. The faster they travel, the slower their time will pass relative to someone planted firmly on the Earth. If they were able to travel at the speed of light, their time would cease completely and they would only exist trapped in timelessness.”

Although, to Einstein’s disbelief, his theory on “timelessness” initially had very little impact on other physicists and the scientific community, it has since progressed through the likes of Richard Feynman and Stephen Hawking, as well as through Einstein’s own commitment to it, particularly to its impact on the lives of ordinary people. 

Suggested by Forbes as a way Einstein “can help people cope with loss,” and dubbed by the article as “His most descriptive testimony to this faith [in his theory]” was a letter penned by Einstein to the family of his best friend, Besso, upon his death. Einstein wrote that although Besso had preceded him in death, “it was of no consequence...for us physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.” 

Einstein’s theory can also have an impact on metrology, as suggested by this month’s Quality article “In-Process Gaging: Past, Present, and Future.”

Enjoy and thanks for reading!