Time behaves in enigmatic ways. We've all had some strange experience where time did not behave the way it is supposed to. As conscious beings, we take for granted the consensual assumption that time flows in one direction, in a linear fashion - from past to present to future, but does it really?
Physicists increasingly hypothesize that time may flow in both directions and that the present may indeed influence the past. A 2010 article in Discover noted: “A series of quantum experiments shows that measurements performed in the future can influence the present.” Does that mean the universe has a destiny? Are the laws of quantum physics pulling us inexorably toward a scripted fate?
The ability of present events to affect those that happened in the past is known as retrocausality. While physicists have more work to do to flesh out this theory, proponents say that a double-headed arrow approach to time explains many other largely unexplained concepts in quantum mechanics, including entanglement.
Entangled particles are those that share a special relationship. Their entanglement begins while they are close together, but even when they are separated by vast distances, measurements made of one particle can affect the other particle in predictable ways.
Physicists have struggled to explain this behavior, with some suggesting that information passes between the particles to keep them in sync. That, however, would require information to move faster than the speed of light, which violates Einstein’s theory of relativity.
Retrocausality may hold the solution to that problem. According to the theory, when something is done to one particle in the present, the effects travel back in time to a point when the two particles were close together. In that way, information from the future is transferred between the two particles. These effects then carry forward into the future - without violating relativity.
This, of course, appears to replace one strange phenomenon - particles communicating instantaneously across vast distances, with another - the present affecting the past. But if you look at time as laid out in the same way as space, with past, present and future all existing at once, it’s easier to comprehend. Movement of information across time, even into the past, is similar to movement of information across space.
Retrocausality may not open the way for a broad reshaping of our past, as one might at first imagine. Proponents admit that we would only have a “limited amount of control over the past.” Such effects would be more noticeable at the quantum level. This would also preserve the movement of the universe from its highly ordered initial state following the Big Bang to a more chaotic future.
From a non-dual perspective (which is free of the mind’s conceptual filtering and therefore not really a perspective) there is only the ceaseless eternal moment; there is not a series of moments, only the incessant now beyond the narrative of time. In this sense, all phenomena are causeless and all stories (including those about the past, present, and future) coexist momentarily, flickering in and out of eternal existence.
At this point we need no longer use temporal words or terms, or at least we can employ them with lightness while we are deeply rooted in this enduring stability. The pull of the ticking clock and its dizzying force, which seems to push us toward the future, bringing with it remnants of the distant past, decelerates. Or rather, our expanded focus seems to alter the very time mechanics of the universe effecting all that was, is, and will be. All impermanent phenomena arise and dissolve in us, are made interdependent by us, without cause. For cause and effect are a single movement, an interwoven dance of being, expressions of a single unified creative existence.
As we dive deeper down the quantum rabbit hole, things become stranger and stranger as we discover that:
Now is not a time. Here is not a place.