DynaPsych Table of Contents

Why Time Moves Forward

Mark Germine, M.D.

P.O. Box 7176

Loma Linda, CA 92354

Copyright Dynamical Psychology 1995

In his theory of relativity, Einstein defined reality in terms on events, which are localized in space and time only with respect to the observer (1). Time does not move forward, but is part of an existent space time continuum. Einstein suggested that the apparent forward movement of time was actually a movement of the observer with respect to the field of observation. This suggestion resonates with the suggestion by Freud that, although time appears to move forward for the observing Ego, no such movement occurs in the field of observation, the unconscious. The sequencial train of thought characteristic of consciousness arises through the action of the observing Ego on the "timeless" unconscious. In this paper we will explain these parallel observations in terms of the mechanism that gives rise to consciousness.

The only physical parameter that distinguishes the anterograde or positive and retrograde or negative directions in time is the tendency for entropy to increase in the anterograde direction (2). This tendency does not explain why time moves forward, however, since it can be also expressed as entropy decreasing in the retrograde direction. Any explanation of the forward motion of time with respect to the observing Ego must incorporate the concepts of the observer and anterograde increase in entropy. The act of observation is dependent on the passage of time according to the following equation (3):

I = (1- R) k Pt ln g,

where I is information in bits; R is relative entropy and is equal to actual entropy divided by maximum entropy, or entropy of the most likely state; k is a constant; P is the number of state changes per unit time; t is time; and g is the number of microstates in the most probable state (3).

It has been shown that brain states occupy discrete intervals punctuated by changes in state (4,5), that is to say they evolve in a saltatory manner. There is convincing evidence that these states are chaotic basins or attractors (5,6) that are punctuated by chaotic bifurcations (5). In information theory, a mental state is a macrostate, which is comprised on a number of microstates (3). The number of microstates comprising a macrostate is a measure of the probability that the state will occur (3).

To the extent that the process that occurs in the generation of mental states is a statistical process influenced by events of a quantum mechanical nature, consciousness must materially influence the generation of new brain states (4). Were conscious observation to have no influence on brain states, conscious information would have to arise out of nowhere, or be generated spontaneously without relation to the observer and the act of observation.

The influence of consciousness can be related to collapse of the quantum wave function as a result of conscious observation (7,8), according to the model of Von Neuman (9) and Bohm (10). There is experimental evidence that conscious experience is referred backward in time, or has a retrograde influence (11). This retrograde influence is best explained by the quantum theory of subjective antedating (12).

Given the above theoretical and experimental considerations, the process by which conscious information arises through retrograde influence can be conceived as shown in Figure 1 [Note: This figure is not yet on-line, but presumably will be eventually -- The Editor]. The diagram shows that, in the process of evolution of a new mental state, early influences on order are amplified over the time period required to generate the state. This phenomenon relates to dependence on initial conditions in determining the relative entropy of the system, and to the increase in entropy over time (13). This sensitivity to initial conditions is particularly relevant to chaotic attractors (5), and is shown in Figure 1 in the movement of the system after bifurcation to an attractor of sub- maximal entropy (attractor 2a). Since entropy increases over time, the retrograde influence of consciousness on the order of initial conditions is amplified in an anterograde direction, leading to the creation of information, which is the content of consciousness.

The above considerations indicate that the information of conscious observation is created in an anterograde direction and destroyed in a retrograde direction as a result of the increase in entropy with time during the genesis of a mental state. Thus the observing Ego and the observed event are a unitary process which moves forward in time. The action of the observing Ego in the sequencing of events occurs on a physical substrate in which no such sequence exists, but yet in which events are actualized by conscious observation. Actualized events are existent, but do not move. It is the Ego that moves. The unconscious mind, devoid of Ego, is timeless in a real since, that is to say, it is not subject to the constraints of sequencing that govern consciousness.

The individual, conscious mental state is subject to two influences, and influence from the past involving memory, and an influence from the future which involves the succession of referal of conscious influence backward in time throough the process of subjective antedating. The latter influence, the influence from the future, gives rise to intuitive perception, without which the forward movement of the observing Ego is devoid of direction. Within the unconscious, a multiplicity of intuitively perceived realities, or "worlds," can be said to exist. However, the trace of memory, as a product of conscious observation and its physical manifestation in the brain, is limited to one perceived reality. The multiplicity is the wave- nature of reality, while the singularity is its particle nature.

Process in the mind, as in quantum physics, involves the multiple, statistical, wave- nature of reality. Perception and memory are limited to the singular, particle nature of reality, just as the act of observation collapses the quantum wave function to a singular event. In humans, the development of an anticipatory intellect, conditioned by the memory of reward and punishment, has superceded and masked the intuitive perception of the future which is unmasked in the lower animals. Consciousness is thus separated from its organic link to the ground of reality by the the stream of consciousness, by thought.

Thought perceives itself as existing sequencially, from moment to moment, separated from the flux of process, in continuous danger of extinction.

Separated from its ground, thought seeks its preservation in objects, leading to all manners of folly. Reunion with this process, religion, occurs outside of thought, in intuition. In the past, this intuitive link has been realized in thought through the its representation as objects, symbols, and sequences of events, myths, which can be accepted by the intellect as real.

In the current age, we have become too sophisticated to believe in symbols and myths, and, since thought has masked intuition, as individuals and as a species we have lost both our grounding and direction in reality. Validation of intuition, and of myths and symbols as reprentations of something which thought cannot otherwise understand, will be needed if we are to regain our grounding and direction.

Science has come full circle. A new age of enlightenment is at hand.


1. A. Einstein, in The Principle of Relativity, W. Perrett and G.B. Jeffery, Ed. and Trans. (Methuen and Company, London, 1923), pp. 111- 164.

2. I. Prigogine, From Being to Becoming: Time and Complexity in the Physical Sciences. (W.H. Freeman and Company, New York, 1980).

3. M. Germine, J. Nerv. Ment. Dis. 181, 382 (1993).

4. D. Lehmann, in Machinery of the Mind, E.R. John, Ed. (Birkhauser,

Boston, 1990), pp. 209- 224.

5. F.D. Abraham, A Visual Introduction to Dynamical Systems Theory in

Psychology. (Aerial Press, Santa Cruz, CA, 1990).

6. E. Basar et al, in Machinery of the Mind, E.R. John, Ed. (Birkhauser,

Boston, 1990), pp. 91- 114.

7. P. Ball, Nature 347, 330 (1990).

8. M. Germine, Med. Hypoth. 36, 277 (1991).

9. J. von Neumann, Mathematische Grundlagen der Quantummechanic,

(Julius Springer, Berlin, 1932).

10. D. Bohm, Quantum Theory, (Dover, New York, 1979).

11. B. Libet et al., Brain 102, 193 (1979).

12. F.A. Wolf, J. Theor. Biol. 136, 13 (1989).

13. D.R. Brooks, E.O. Wiley, Evolution as Entropy: Toward a Unified Theory of

Biology, (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1986).

Fig 1. Diagram showing the evolution of brain states by bifurcation from chaotic attractors. Retrograde influence of conscious observation leads the system to an attractor or state of relatively low entropy. The difference between the entropy of this state (attractor 2a) and the entropy of the most probable state (attractor 2b) expresses its information content (S - Smax ). Because entropy and information increase with time, as shown in the lower left (13), anterograde amplification of information occurs.