1WALKING IN THE ETERNAL NOWAn Address Delivered at the Spirit of Life Unitarian Fellowship,Kirribilli, New South Wales, on Sunday, 28 April 2013By The Rev. Dr Ian Ellis-JonesBA, LLB (Syd), LLM, PhD (UTS), DD, Dip Relig Stud (LCIS)Solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and the High Court of AustraliaLecturer and Legal Adviser, New South Wales Institute of Psychiatry, North Parramatta NSWFormer Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Technology, SydneyFounder, Minister and Convener, Sydney Unitarian Chalice Circle, Sydney NSW‘When the mind is completely quiet there is the vastness of spaceand silence … This silence is the benediction.’ – J. Krishnamurti.‘What is the Path? What is Truth?’ asked the disciple. ‘Walk on!’ said the Zen master.It was the spiritual psychologist and teacher Vernon Howard, whose ideas about lifehave had a big impact on my life and thinking, who said, ‘Real life is a timeless renewalin the present moment.’ I like that. And Mary Baker Eddy got this much right when shewrote, ‘Now is the only time.’ I also like these words from the English poet AbrahamCowley: ‘Nothing is to come and nothing past: But an eternal now, does always last.’The Genevan philosopher, writer and composer Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote, ‘Themoment passed is no longer; the future may never be; the present is all of which man isthe master.’ In a similar vein, Meher Baba said:What happened yesterday? Nothing. What will happen tomorrow? Nothing. Allhappens now---the eternal Now from the beginningless beginning to the endlessend.I think so-called ‘time’ and ‘space’ – which are really one – are no more than mediumsin which all things exist. That was the view of philosopher John Anderson and manyother philosophers and cosmologists, and it makes sense to me. Life is movement---ceaseless movement--- and life itself is timeless and spaceless. That much is clear.Another thing is clear---everything is contained within ‘the Now.’ In Conversations withGod we read, ‘All time is Now.’ All duration – or time – is total and complete in the Now.There is an ‘eternal’ quality about the Now---the word ‘eternal’ meaning not immortal but
2ever-present. The Now is forever present---and forever new. The present moment hasits unfolding in the Now. The past, in the form of memories, inherited characteristics andtendencies, the karmic consequences of past actions---all that is no more than theexpression of a ‘present’ reality, being a present ‘window link’ to the eternity of the Now.It’s the same as respects the future---any ideas about or hopes for the future arepresent ideas and hopes. Yes, the present is simply that which presents itself before usin the Now---so the present embraces past, present and future. Amazing! Here’s whatDr Annie Besant, Theosophist, says about the matter:In the All everything IS always; all that has been, all that now is manifest, all thatwill be, all possibilities as well as all actualities, are ever in being in the All.My favourite Christian theologian Paul Tillich says as much in his wonderful book TheEternal Now. Tillich writes, The mystery of the future and the mystery of the past areunited in the mystery of the present. Our time, the time we have, is the time in which wehave "presence." Each of the modes of time has its peculiar mystery, each of themcarries its peculiar anxiety. Each of them drives us to an ultimate question. There is oneanswer to these questions -- the eternal. There is one power that surpasses the all-consuming power of time -- the eternal ... . Yes, everything is a projection of the EternalNow, which always has been, and always is. It is all that is. It is everything. Everythingis One in the Eternal Now, which is a ‘point’ in relative time that stays constantly in thepresent (regrettably, a time word). Another way of saying that is this---eternity, or theeternal now, is instantaneous. The Eternal Now is the only time in which all things exist.As I’ve said, everything---including the memory of things past and any hopes for thefuture---exist in the ‘now.’ In the words of the New Testament (Jn 7:6), ‘your time isalways ready’---that is, is now. Dr Alan Watts, writer on Zen and many other subjects,wrote:In the Eternal Now we shall find that straight and narrow gate, that needle’s eye,through which we are taken into the infinite life of God.…The eternal life of God is GIVEN to us here and now in the ‘flesh’ of eachmoment’s experience.
3Here are some other words I like. They really resonate with me. The words come fromthe influential New Thought minister, lecturer and writer Dr Emmet Fox, who had this tosay about the Now:Has it ever occurred to you that the only time you ever have is the presentmoment? We have all heard this said many times but probably few of us realize,even slightly, all that it implies.It means that you can only live in the present. It means that you can only act inthe present. It means that you can only experience in the present.Above all, it means that the only thing you have to heal is the present thought.Get that right and the whole picture will change into one of harmony and joy.When some students hear this statement they may think, ‘Oh yes, I know that. Ihave known it for years’; but the chances are that they have not yet understood itthoroughly.When they do, remarkable results will follow. All that you can know is yourpresent thought, and all that you can experience is the outer expression of all thethoughts and beliefs that you are holding at the present time.What you call the past can only be your memory of the past. The seemingconsequences of past events, be they good or bad, are still but the expression ofyour present state of mind (including, of course, the subconscious). What are allthe future things that you may be planning, or things that you may be dreading -all this is still but a present state of mind. This is the real meaning of thetraditional phrase, The Eternal Now.The only joy you can experience is the joy you experience now. A happy memoryis a present joy. The only pain you can experience is the pain of the presentmoment. Sad memories are present pain. Get the present moment right. Realizepeace, harmony, joy, good will, in the present moment. By dwelling upon thesethings and claiming them-and forgetting during the treatment, all other things-thepast and future problems alike will take care of themselves.If you are listening to this, you are alive---although it is necessarily the case that somepeople are more alive than others. (Sorry, the motivational preacher in me gets carriedaway at times.) Also, where you are right now is where you are---right now. (Deep stuff,all this.) These things must be taken to be axiomatic. Further, we can never escape theNow, so why not live fully---and mindfully---in it ... now! We do not truly live in the Nowwhen our minds are on other things. Unless we are mindfully present, from one momentto the next, we are not truly alive. Our attention---which must be choiceless and non-discriminating---has to be right here---right in the here-and-now. Guy Finley, author ofsuch wonderful books as The Secret of Letting Go, writes, ‘Attention is the anchor ofNOW.’ Without that bare attention to what is, we can never really be said to be truly
4living in the Now. In addition, if we are to find any meaning or purpose in life we mustfind it in the eternity of the Now. The Now is omnipresence itself, the ‘I AM-ness’ of allthings. No wonder mystics and holy ones have referred to God as the ‘Eternal Now’ orthe ‘Eternal Presence.’ God eternally subsists and expresses Itself in Its own Being---inthe Eternity of the Now---in all things and as all things. To quote from the NewTestament: ‘in him we live, move and have our being’ (Acts 17:28). We have our beingin God, and God has Its being in us---as us.Scott Shaw, a Zen master and teacher, has written, Time is a scale we created in orderto measure our worldly accomplishments. Ha! Very Zen. Yes, time – as we ordinarilyunderstand it – is a somewhat ‘relative’ construct, but I still think it is ‘real.’ The truth iswe live both in time and eternity. Now, eternity is not something we enter when we die.No, eternity is ‘something’ we are in---right now! You are part of life’s Self-expression,and life cannot die. Your body will die, and, I think, also your mind, but the life in you---well, that’s an entirely different matter. Stop identifying with your body and your mind---they are not you. Stop identifying yourself with time, for the less you think about time,and the less you concern yourself with time, the freer you will be. You cant see time.Even if you watch the hands of a clock move, you are seeing just that---movement. Youare not seeing time. The fact is that if you live entirely in time, you will be afraid of death.If, however, you live fully and mindfully in the abundance of the Eternal Now, you willknow that you live forever! There’s a big difference.As already mentioned, the disciple asked the master, ‘What is the path?’ The Zenmaster replied, ‘Walk on!’ Yes, the ‘meaning’ of life lies in the living---the ‘walking’---oflife. Life is endless movement, and so we must walk---from one moment to the next.Any ‘meaning’ we find must and will be found in the moment-to-moment experience ofthe Now. Eternity is not the present time plus all the past and all the future, nor (asalready mentioned) is it a postmortem experience. It is a present---indeed, ever-present---reality. In truth, there is no time after time after time. No, eternity transcends timealtogether---and is despite time! The mystics and holy ones have known this forcenturies---there is an ‘eternal’ element to life which moves us beyond spacetime to‘something’ which is the very ground of our being---indeed, Being itself. No wonder
5Jesus exclaimed, Before Abraham was, I am (Jn 8:58). He didnt say, I was beforeAbraham was. No, he said---altering the order of the words---I am before Abrahamwas. He understood his essential and existential pre-existence, and I do not believe hewas claiming that fact uniquely and exclusively for himself. No, he never did that! Thatwas not his way. He never asserted a fact about himself which was not also applicableto---you and me! Never forget that.Vernon Howard is right. The Eternal Now is that ‘present’ which is forever renewingitself in and as each new moment. The Eternal ‘now’ and the temporal ‘now’ are oneand the same, for everything occurs in the now. This Eternity supersedes time itself.Never forget that every moment of time reaches into the eternal---the same eternal thatis ‘before’ our past and ‘after’ our future. To understand the ‘eternity’ of the Now, youneed to know that there is a ‘present’ in the present as well as a ‘present’ beyond the‘present,’ but if you try to chase the next present you will fail. Dont even bother---thereis no need. This concept needs to be experienced as a present reality. Intellectualunderstanding only takes you so far. In a very real sense, the Eternal Now and the so-called temporal now are---one and the same! Everything is---here now! Life is eternal,and we are alive in eternity---now! What Life---God, if you like---offers us is the EternalNow, which is anything but a time on the clock.H P Blavatsky, in the first volume of Isis Unveiled, said it all when she wrote, ‘Thehuman spirit, being of the Divine, immortal Spirit, appreciates neither past nor future, butsees all things as in the present.’ No wonder the New Testament says, ‘Exhort oneanother daily, while it is called today’ (Heb 3:11). We live for so long as it is still---today!Here are some wonderful words from the Book of Isaiah in the Hebrew Bible:To whom [God] said, This is the rest with which you may cause the weary to rest;and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.’ (Isaiah 28:12)[King James Bible/Cambridge edition]‘This is the refreshing.’ The renowned pastor, lecturer and author Dr Norman VincentPeale wrote, ‘These few words remind us of a spring of cool water because of their
6renewing quality.’ Yes, each new day---indeed, each new moment in the eternal now---is, or at least can be experienced as, a ‘refreshing,’ for that is what it truly is. Each newmoment is a renewal. The moment is so brief---as I speak these words, many suchmoments have come and gone----it is virtually timeless. Time is simply a medium inwhich all things live, move and have their being. So, what we call ‘life’---or reality, truthor God---is nothing other than a timeless renewal in the present moment. Each newmoment is a re-creation---or a refreshing.The only power that can be ours is that which is found in the reality of the presentmoment that is ever-before us ‘in’ the now. That is the only ‘place’---for want of a betterword---in which we can find ‘refreshment.’ Indeed, it is a refreshing. That is the only‘place’ wherein we can find help in time of trouble, for if we seek that help in the past orin the future we look in vain. Indeed, trouble really only occurs when we allow ourselvesto dwell in either the past or the future. True peace and acceptance can only be found inthe calm acknowledgment of the omnipresent reality of the present moment. I have saidas much on so many occasions. Not only peace and acceptance, but innertransformation as well. In one of his many classes Vernon Howard said this:Truth exists at this very present moment. Truth, which is the great power, theonly power, therefore exists right now by man-made time, about a quarter afternine, exists for anyone in this room who is no longer living in man-made time,that is in his acquired sense of self, developed from experiences of past andhopes of the future.Truth not only exists at this present moment; it is this present moment---at least whenwe are mindfully aware of what is going on. Awareness---a word I will refer to and use anumber of times. It has been said that pure awareness is ‘the real Buddha.’ Now,mindfulness itself is a refreshing, for it is the choiceless awareness of awareness itself.If we stay fixed and focused, and fully grounded, in the reality of the eternal now---thatis, if our minds are fully and mindfully engaged in what is taking place in and around usnow---we will experience a refreshing, no matter what happens. Yes, we live in the nowwhen we are not thinking of other things, when our mind is not desiring to be in someother place or some other state.
7Yes, truth is a ‘pathless land’ and you cannot approach it by any creed or pathwhatsoever. Direct perception of truth is, however, possible, when there is whatKrishnamurti called ‘choiceless awareness’ of life as it really is. The important thing islife itself. Whatever ‘it’ may be, it is all here now, and all we have to do is to learn toperceive it here and now. We need to see each thing as it really is---as a new moment.If you really want to come alive, start to experience each new moment as a refreshing.However, this can only be done from one moment to the next. It cannot be done ‘in’ themoment itself---despite the omnipresent reality of the present moment---simply becausethe so-called ‘moment’ is so brief, so ephemeral, that no sooner has it arrived, its gone.Its the past. One cannot experience or live ‘in’ the moment because the moment,although ever-present, is always changing ... into the next moment ... and the next ...and then the next!I mentioned Alan Watts earlier. Here’s something else he wrote:The presence of God as the Eternal Now is a truth which … should be able topenetrate our consciousness with ease.And here’s Paul Tillich again:Eternal life is beyond past, present, and future; we come from it, we live in itspresence, we return to it. It is never absent---it is the divine life in which we arerooted and in which we are destined to participate in freedom … .You are here---right now! This is now. As the Bible says, ‘Now is the accepted time …now is the day of salvation’ (2 Co 6:2). You are living what you are living---right now!Who you are---in this moment---is what the next moment will be for you. Hear the wordsof Eckhart Tolle: ‘The past has no power over the present moment.’‘What is the Path? What is Truth?’ asked the disciple. ‘Walk on!’ said the Zen master.-oo0oo-