What is time, really? How do we describe time, and time travel, and the experiences of a person who is somehow liberated from the arrow of time in a coherent and believable way?

If one’s normal material body is trapped in time: remembering the past, experiencing the fleeting present, and anticipating the future, what is necessary to lift the mind out of time? Is there a Cartesian duality: a super-mind that is liberated from the arrow of time that somehow is associated with the time-trapped body?

Such a mind would experience time not as a flow, but as an equally accessible flat field, where it could pick and choose what to ‘experience’ in whatever ‘order’ it pleased. What would this feel like to the time-trapped ordinary body (the one we have right now)? Is this deja vu: the literal touching of future events? What does this do for determinism and free will?

There is nothing new in any of this. It is undergraduate stuff.

However, what is new is this if we take this model: since one’s super-mind is in contact with one’s entire life and can pick and choose to experience it in any order (where the material body is forced to slog on through life the linear way), it will apprehend life rather differently from the material component. It will see cause and effect in a different light. Cause and effect occur in the order that the mind encounters the elements, not as a consequence of the passage of time (from which the super-mind is liberated).

Let’s take this further. Let’s imagine that the super-mind is active in this life rather than just a voyeur with a seemingly random access pattern. Let’s imagine that the super-mind is genuinely making decisions and evoking (or influencing) material behaviour, but doing so in this more complex time-free environment. What this means is that literally the ordinary material self can experience the effect of an action chronologically before the cause – because the super-mind was the active agent and experienced them in the “correct” order. What this means is that one can do something without materially, consciously, knowing why, only to discover the reasons much later. What it means is that the super-mind can lay clues for the material self to follow. We might call this “following a hunch”.

And is this a model that can be used in a novel? I think it is. But I don’t know how yet.