(The Abell 2744 cluster of Galaxies. From https://www.spacetelescope.org/images/heic1401a/)
In a Topsy-turvy world of philosophy and science as the two try and find an equilibrium with agreeances (which is rare) . The topic of Time and the self as an illusion often gels (in a loose way) the empirical with the philosophical. A common belief that not only is time an illusion but the self is too. Often compounded by philosophers and scientists alike to the point of absurdity of late, with some elements of cognitive science lending a hand in, as a final attempt at winning the freewill debate, that you and I, our actions, no matter how we perceive the self, are made up entirely of the predetermined impulses of our neurons. Which are viewed as deterministic actions that overwrite the self and freedom of will. So, anything you impose onto the self is an illusion, reaffirmed, in their opinion, that within the cognitive actions there is no “I” and no “self”. As the mind does not factor the self as an entity, so therefor they believe it is only an illusion that we visually perceive ourselves as a self willed being. A spiritualist/philosophical belief also held by Buddhists for thousands of years, that there is the “no self” or Anattā, detachment from the self would reconcile the Dukkha, which is the continuous attachment to suffering of pain and desire. That in turn will lead to Anicca or Impermanence, the release from the cycle of attachment to human self imposed suffering. As once achieved you’ll see the self as a temporary illusionary state of mind.
A lot of the fusion between neuroscience and the metaphysics of Anatta/’non self’ originates from the newly formed mindfulness ‘movement’ (?) that, as discussed, has borrowed heavily from Buddhist meditation and practice of attaining Anicca. How helpful would it be to reinforced the message from a practitioner of atheist Mindfulness to their ‘flock’ that they are an illusion. Is most likely counter-intuitive. When the meditations should be the other way around, that the world and the Universe are an illusion, the only certainty is within a moment in time that we know the self exists – as the observer.
In relation to time as an illusion, in part the popular culture impression (at the time), came form a famous letter that Albert Einstein wrote to his friend Michele Besso’s family after he passed away.
“Now he has departed this strange world a little ahead of me…That signifies nothing. For us believing physicists, the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
Einstein was able to define a time-symmetric Universe in both General relativity and the standard particle physics model. Which is a Universe that both, simultaneously, slows and speeds up time. With that equation essentially leaving out the moment in time that is the “now” the equation reveals a ‘block-Universe’ where the flows of time are at different perceptions, as they move in out of it’s timeless existence. Thus, in turn creates an illusion for the observer as we would only follow the arrow of time in one direction, unaware that time is relevant at all points of the past and the future.
Still, as a first person experience. I know time is real as much as the self is. In time, experiences are learned, you shape your perception of reality within what you observe. A constant movement that in all retrospect forces one to be within the “now”, it is our primitive and flawed parts of our minds that over compensate, with fears, of a future that may not exist. Whist clinging to a past that is only memories. It is not that the future is an illusion, it simply, as mentioned, does not exist. We make the self paramount and our experience of the self being real. So, when we do turn our attention to the Universe, knowing that from a first person human experience, that the Universe may not be a constructed illusion. But a presence that, under what we have learned and what we know, we control. As we determine it’s observation. And make it ours.
I’ll leave it with this quote from the American/Russian physicist Anrei Linde
“The universe and the observer exist as a pair…You can say that the universe is there only when there is an observer who can say, Yes, I see the universe there. These small words — it looks like it was here— for practical purposes it may not matter much, but for me as a human being, I do not know any sense in which I could claim that the universe is here in the absence of observers. We are together, the universe and us. The moment you say that the universe exists without any observers, I cannot make any sense out of that. I cannot imagine a consistent theory of everything that ignores consciousness. A recording device cannot play the role of an observer, because who will read what is written on this recording device? In order for us to see that something happens, and say to one another that something happens, you need to have a universe, you need to have a recording device, and you need to have us. It’s not enough for the information to be stored somewhere, completely inaccessible to anybody. It’s necessary for somebody to look at it. You need an observer who looks at the universe. In the absence of observers, our universe is dead.”
Author of SATRAN KAEVON (2017) and Voids of the Elysium (2017)
Also, please refer to the article “Would The Universe Still Exist If No Life Existed To Observe It?”