Is time travel into the past possible?

by Chaitanya CharanMarch 17, 2015

Answer Podcast:

Transcription by- Keshav Gopal Das

Question- Is time travel into the past possible?

Answer (short) –

  • There is a fundamental problem with the concept of time travel in the past, which is called as Grandfather Paradox. This paradox is explained as follows- if a person goes back into past and kills his grandfather then the person should not exist, but he does exist- which is a paradox.
  • Science although has theories like space-time continuum, but still in science the understanding of time are not reflecting the complexities in the concept to time.
  • In Vedic tradition, time is equated with God. It is a system created by God through which He manifests His will. Time is also understood as cyclic, wherein there are various yugas which repeats themselves like various seasons.

Answer (long)-  We look at this from the point of view of first science and then scripture.

In science often in the mind of the general public, the distance between science and science fiction gets merged because sci-fi movies or novels claim to use scientific technology whereas scientific insights and scientific technology are far from actual. With respect to time travel, although it is depicted in some movies that traveling back to time is possible, but there is a fundamental logical problem with time travel in the past, which is called as Grandfather Paradox.  Suppose a person goes into the past when his grandfather is still single, and then he kills his grandfather. If the grandfather is killed before marriage then he does not have a son and for this person if his father is not there then he himself will not be there. But he himself exists, so how he came into existence if his father is not into existence. This is the logical flaw with the idea of travel into the past.

There are some scientific concepts with the idea of dropping into the past without changing it are talked about. Conceptually if we look at the idea of time itself, it’s a philosophical conundrum within science. Einstein mentions time as the fourth dimension along with space. Although space-time continuum idea has been widely accepted in science today, still the problem is that time is unlike other dimensions. With other dimensions we can travel backwards, but in time we do not know of any means by which we can travel backwards. The time does seem to be a distinct kind of dimension within science also. Leave alone telling anything about time travel, science doesn’t even have a clear understanding of what time is. Just calling it another dimension doesn’t reflect the complexity of concept of time.

In the Vedic tradition, in Srimad Bhagvatam, time is repeatedly equated with God. Time is an energy of God. kalo ’smi loka-ksaya-krt pravrddho (BG 11.32), Time I am, destroyer of the worlds, Krishna says.  And the Bhagvatam also states – manye tvam kalam isanam (SB 1.8.28)- Queen Kunti prays, that O Lord You are eternal time, the controller (isanam). What is the philosophical and practical implication of the idea that God is Time.

It implies that the irreversibility of time is the will of God. At one level we could say that if time travel is possible for God then anything is possible. That argument falls flat on the face when we understand that it is by God’s will time is irreversible. Irreversibility of time is manifestation of the will of God. It is God who has created this system and it is His will that manifests in the onward flow of time. To say that can God cause time to move backwards  is equivalent to asking- can God be not omnipotent? God’s omnipotence is His defining characteristics and by his omnipotence time’s irreversibility is His defining characteristics. When we understand this principle then we are not stuck by logical paradox in the idea of backward time travel,  we understand that the onward time travel is the unfolding of will of God, who acts in this world through the agency of time.

There is also further understanding in the Vedic tradition that movement of time is cyclic. We have four yugas -satya, treta, dwapara and kali. The cycle starts with satyayuga and ends at kaliyuga but then again goes back to satyayuga. This is not same as going back into the past, we are still going onwards and while going onwards the same cycle has come. It is not that in the new cycle the same souls are there or same conditions are there. No. It is like when the same season comes again and again but we come forward in time and not go back into past. Time keep moving cyclically but the movement is always onwards not backwards.

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Chaitanya Charan

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