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We have lost our identity’, Paul Langevin (6) said to me one day. They have lost everything, even themselves. In the course of the black work of destruction in which they are engaged, following so many others who have gone before them, they have rediscovered, and correctly named, the two categories space and time. But have they understood their natures and their positions? Have they imagined what they are dependent on? What is their cause? Space without a cause! Time without a cause! Just like the pot without a cause! The physicist has wanted to justify the pot in itself. Up until now, his explanation has been empty. We cannot explain created things if we expel the Creator from His creation, even when we pursue them through orders of magnitude that go well beyond our human proportions. Any more than the pot can be explained without the potter.

(6) Paul Langevin, an eminent French physicist based in the Sorbonne, is best known for the 'Langevin paradox' - that an astronaut, outside the Earth’s atmosphere, would age more slowly than he would if he remained on Earth. Langevin played an important part in introducing the Theory of Relativity into France shortly after the First World War, at a time when he was a close friend of the Gleizes’. Together with the Gleizes, he was later active in the Prince de Rohan’s movement of ‘European Intellectual Unions’ - Translator's note.

We had come, Hoyack and I, to discuss those key-words, space and time, which have been much in demand these last few years. I think they must be given their real meaning, stripped of attributes that deform their nature, and restored in their purity and simplicity to their proper owner, man, the man who does not use them intellectually, but objectively, as a necessity of everyday life. 

What is space? We will never be able to reply objectively to this question if we do not immediately refer to the primary distinction we have made between absolute and relative. We will not know our own limits, and we will have a mistaken notion of our possibilities. We will talk of space as if it was accessible to us, and we will think that we have conquered new territory merely by enlarging our field of action and of intellectual investigation. In reality, the word space is a sign that is as inexpressible as the word God. It is God designated by a different sign, revealed in a metaphor. Space is absolute. We tend towards it, but we must never forget that it is transcendental to this place in which the body - our own, taken individually, to begin with - finds itself. This was once understood in different terms when it was said: ‘the microcosm resembles the macrocosm’; or, to put it more simply: ‘Man is like the creation’, which is a way of returning to the common ground: ‘God made man in His own image’. Absolute and relative. Space is absolute body; carnal man and his whole environment, relative body or bodies. There is no bridge to be thrown, materially or intellectually, between the absolute body and the relative bodies. Quantity can never aspire to quality. For all the ingenuity or heroic effort of our calculations, they cannot bring the frontiers of space closer by an inch, because those frontiers are not of a nature that is within our possibilities. Note that we have dawn the idea of space from our own body, as an extension in a place which we have baptised with the name of 'space'. It is our senses, nothing else, which, identified as corporeity, are the cause of the body - the body understood in the relative condition that we call immobility. As the glassmaker is the cause of the glass, corporeity is the cause of the body. Without the body, no corporeity; without corporeity, no body. Between them is to be found the same tie of love that binds the glassmaker to the glass. Space is the absolute, found again, thanks to its image and resemblance, the object, realised by corporeity, cause of the body.

But corporeity, cause of the body, is only one aspect of the phenomenon we wish to study - man, who has two natures that are quite distinct. In this case, we see him by means of the senses, in a state of relative immobility. Space is the absolute which can be deduced from relative, corporeal, material immobility. Time corresponds to the relative mobility of memory.

What is time? Do not forget those postulates that cannot be attacked - absolute and relative. Otherwise, we will immediately start thinking about time in itself, and looking for it, forgetting that it is only in ourselves that it has any reality. The disputes about time that divide philosophers and physicists can only give rise to an endless partisan war. They lead to the heresy of an accessible absolute time that we try to seize, like the child who has been told that all he has to do to catch a bird is to put a pinch of salt on its tail. In reality, absolute time is only another metaphor to indicate the Absolute, God, the Creator. We tend towards this absolute time but precisely because it is absolute, it is inaccessible to us. We would do better to turn towards relative time, which we will find inside ourselves, a result of that nature that is complementary to the nature of space. Just as the idea of space derives from our senses whose totality is the body, so the idea of time derives from our faculties of memory and anticipation. To remember and anticipate are the necessary conditions of all action, consequently of all movement. Such a suppression of memory and anticipation is realised in sensation, which is immediate, instantaneous; it suspends movement - hence the sentiment which it gives of immobility. Memory is the negative phase of movement which is, nonetheless, its point of departure, the spring that enables a leap into the future, into the positive phase of movement, into action. 

It is because we remember and anticipate that we have made time - that is its cause, its origin. But in our intellectual speculations we have searched elsewhere to explain it. We have tried to explain the appearance of a child without taking account of the mother’s womb which held it. We have explained it by the cradle, where it was laid by the midwife. We have explained time through astronomical movements - among others, the rising and the setting of the sun; without ever thinking that if man were not there to see it, the sun would not rise and, consequently, would have no reason to set - if the memory of man had not retained a succession of images which enable him to anticipate the development of a regular phenomenon. The fact that we can register certain astronomical periods is only an application of our faculty for remembering and for anticipating, the source of time, which is not at all mysterious once we place it where it is. Just as the glassmaker is the cause of the glass, this faculty is the only cause of time. Without it, there would be no time. Without time, there would be no memory and anticipation. Relative time, I mean, whether it is expressed in the clocks of the physicists or in the psychological explanations of the philosophers. In fact, relative time results from our need to reduce movement to successions of periods. Whether these periods are slow or fast, short or long, changes nothing; we must not forget our limits. It is in vain that we set up an opposition between the continuous and the discontinuous - these are only changing levels of intensity in the practical applications of movement. So, this relative time is only a way of speaking. We have become so used to it that we never question it. But it would be better to reduce this relative time to periodicity and frankly recognise time itself to be absolute in its essence. Time, thus restored, would be the absolute recovered thanks to its image and resemblance, the object, in this case, periodicity, realised by the memory, negative and positive.

Once we have situated precisely the causes of space and time and distinguished their natures, which are none other than the two essential natures of man, we no longer run the risk of falling into heresies with regard to them - heresies of which the least we can say is that they give rise to confusion. The most common of them is the juxtaposition of three words which, given their proper meaning, cannot logically be interconnected one with the other: past, present, future. The present - in the relative sense of the word, of course - belongs to space, to extension, to corporeity, to the body. So it is immobile, relatively. Past and future are of the order of memory and of anticipation; they belong, incontestably, to time, to periodicity, to relative movement. It shows a strange ignorance of words, a total inability to recognise the object, on the part of our contemporaries that they place an immobile extension in between two periods whose regular succession realises movement. The immobile present placed between the mobile past and future is a barrier placed in front of an intention which prevents it from ever being fulfilled. That may be why we used to talk about intentions, often good, which only end up as paving stones in Hell.


This observation, critical of a phrase which is often used and which seems to have little importance, nonetheless has consequences in those high intellectual spheres where we use a language that is no longer supervised to express hypotheses and observations of a supposedly scientific nature that are in reality built, with talent and with subtle ingenuity, on improbable postulates that strike them with impotence even before they have begun. There was a particular point in my life at which I began to be unpleasantly surprised by reading the ‘Prefaces’ of works written by scientific specialists, even by those of very great talent, builders of theories that are supposed to have overthrown those of the day before. In these prefaces, the scientist makes a statement in simple language with a view to establishing his position, his way of interpreting the words he will use, his understanding of certain everyday phenomena, and the consequences he will draw from them, hoping to raise them to further heights. In fact, he is trying to win his reader’s confidence by showing him, on a level which is not reserved to specialists, the rightness of his thought, the care he takes to consider the facts. But I, for my part, was shocked by the feebleness of reasoning and argument these great scholars revealed in this way. Although it would have been very difficult for me to follow them in the field of their specialised knowledge, I was still quite able to understand when they spoke a language that was supposed to be human. To confine my remarks simply to their understanding of time, I have to confess that I found it absolutely wrong, at once primitive and intellectual, deprived of all living truth. It could give rise to a mechanical theory or application but this, whether intentionally or not, can only be a piece of trickery that has nothing to do with life. So, for example, they have laboriously put together a space-time continuum, which is certainly the most paradoxical mind-game one could imagine. The paradox - space/time - has come from the unconscious, from unconsciousness of the value of words and of what they enclose. Let us try to show where they have gone wrong.

Space-time’ may be translated ‘immobility-mobility’. It is the merest mechanics to place on the same level, alternatively following each other, an immobility and a mobility, a mass drawn by an energy, a static state pushed by a dynamic factor. Things do not happen like that in the living man. If relative immobility comes from his body, relative mobility comes from his memory, which is passive, and from its complementary - action. In man, relative image of the absolute Creator, there is no simultaneity of space and time. That is the prerogative of the absolute, in which they are combined ineffably. Equally, there is no succession. They are natures that are autonomous and different. Body is space; memory and its action are time. When it is a question of the body, it is not yet a question of the memory and of its action; when it is a question of the memory and of its action, it is no longer a question of the body. The memory and its action are independent of the body. The resonances of the experience of the senses on the objective nature of memory and of action are only motives, variable and accidental, subjective contingencies. The space-time of the physicists is a subjective construction. It implies a relative and artificial space interwoven with a periodicity which does nothing to destroy its static character. A space like that of a room, for example, empty of all furniture or objects, bounded by its walls. These walls, however, do not define the room as a space, but rather as a figure - a rectangle or a square or whatever you want. If the common run of mortals can say that the room is or isn’t 'spacious', the philosopher ought to attach more importance to the meaning of his vocabulary and, instead of space, use the term extension - geometry demands it. But, before being anything else, the extension in itself is a body, it is not a place, even if it can become one through being filled with other bodies. This room, this extension, this body are inert; their property is relative immobility. But if a person, opening a door in the wall, crosses the extension of the room - then periodicity enters on the scene. Taking the step as the unit of measurement, each step is a period in the succession of steps which are going to take place. An observer will count the number of steps needed to cover the distance and will conclude: ‘So many steps are needed to pass from one wall to another, to cross the field of the room.’ This periodicity belongs to memory and to action. It is relative movement. We calculated its passing by using the step but we could equally well have referred to another unit of duration - a chronometer, for example, or an hourglass. The instant is a mere convention that cannot be defined. Here, then, is an experiment in which, as seen from the common point of view, a space-time continuum was realised: the space of the room and the time - the totality of the steps - that was needed to cross it. Superficially and for all practical purposes, space and time have never ceased to live with each other, their association seems obvious. Superficially and for all practical purposes, it is with time-periods that we evaluate an extension in space - metres, steps, seconds. Also for practical purposes, and superficially, something that is inert is put into movement when either its properties or its magnitude are changed. The physicists, confined as they are to the practical level, can transpose indifferently geometry into numbers and numbers into geometry. But this does not give us the slightest idea as to the living nature of the operation that occurs. And yet it is this nature that matters, life being of much greater interest than its mechanical substitutes, however amazing these may be. Is it possible that the aim of science is to hide life from us behind certain long elaborated caricatures that seize our attention, seduce us, cause us to forget? And was the imperative warning - ‘Do not cultivate the tree of science’ - uttered because of this appalling curse? As a result of ignoring it, man has intellectualised himself beyond all measure and finished by disappearing altogether in the midst of his delights. 

When we bring this ‘space-time’ back to life, that is to say, to the man who is responsible for it, the distinctions of nature between these two terms, space and time, become clear. If they coexist as natures, they can never come together as a couple. They are not linked horizontally, but space resonates, vertically, on time. Space disappears the moment that time intervenes negatively, as memory, and it reappears the moment that time acts positively, to reveal as being of the nature of space whatever does not yet exist. That is the very essence of the two natures. If mechanical science can adopt orders of magnitude so subtle that they have become wholly hypothetical, why should life, asserting its primacy, not oblige man to consider himself as active, not only in great things, but also subtly, to touch that reality that is inseparable from his own reality? There is today a very marked tendency towards introspection. Since subjectivism has brought nothing but trouble, since no certitude has resulted from it, it has finished by going back to its cause - the subject, in this case, subjective man, dominated and deformed by sensation. This psychological introspection has concentrated its attention on subjective rubbish, swamps, things in a state of decomposition. We search the cause for what are only motives, or points of view. This tendency to introspection is a sign. It could only become a true remedy if it worked on the object - on objective, active man. To the present psychological introspection, we must oppose a biological introspection which rests on cause and effect, which builds, which gives birth to the real. Space and time, before they exist anywhere else, exist in the microcosm, man. Relative space is the consequence of his body as it is experienced by the senses. So long as it is simply a question of that, it is space that is. To conjugate a verb in the present indicative is to bear witness to space, the immobility of extension: ‘I am’. Affirmation that is relative but precise, exact, real. It is time stopped. Time stopped? A strange expression, but we know what it means. The other presents - imperative, subjunctive, infinitive and participle - are impure. ‘I am’. Subtly, in an introspective manner, I am, which implies corporeity, is instantaneous. What calculator, what inspired geometer, could tell us the magnitude, as a quantity, of this instant, ‘I am'? Relative time, the result of memory and action, suddenly picks up its ears. It awakens and gives forth sound. ‘I am’ does not evoke an echo in it, but a reply. The verb is conjugated in time; imperfect, past, all ‘the pasts’, near or far, conditional, subordinate, indeterminate, participle: ‘I used to be’, ‘I was’, ‘I have been’, ‘I could have been’, ‘I had been’, ‘I would have been’, ‘I ought to have been’, ‘If only I had been’, ‘to have been’, ‘having been’ - ‘I am’, ‘I was’, space and time, immobility. Mobility stirs. Action begins. The future opens. ‘I will be’, ‘Let us be’, ‘If only I were’. And once again, at the next stage, the affirmation reappears: ‘I am’. Let the inspired geometer, the calculator on whom I called, tell us what the instant of the past or the instant of the future are worth. While we wait for our reply, one thing is clear. That is that space and time, in any order of magnitude, do not enter one into the other in their living action; each has its own nature, and when I say ‘I am’, it is clear that I am not in time; and when I say ‘I was’ or ‘I will be’, it is clear that I am no longer in space. When I am stopped I do not walk, and when I walk, I am no longer stopped. That is the living principle that none of the magnitudes or appearances that have been raised up in the practical order can gainsay. ‘Space-time’, which subjects a certain space to the annihilating and creative action of time, may be practical, but it is not real in the living sense of the word. It may lead to a mechanical realisation; it cannot enable the formulation of a scientific theory. It is subjective and, consequently, it is only a mirage deprived of life and soul. 


Today more than ever we need to get our feet back onto solid ground. The abyss is beginning to open beneath us and the majority of men will fall into it. That is why at this moment the most important thing is once again to become conscious of ourselves, as I have already said, to recognise what is forbidden to us and what is allowed. The source of everything which, by an aberration, we have ended up by considering as external, can be found only in ourselves. All the laws of physics and of chemistry depend much more on ourselves than we might think. Our destiny is much more our own work than the result of chance. We gather the fruits of the seed we have sown. When man knew his limits and his possibilities - the distinction between the absolute and the relative; when he recognised it through his experience and through the instruction he received from guides who had a sense of their responsibility towards him; then he had within his reach the means to recover after his moments of failure. All that was needed was a simple phrase coming to his lips with a profound and life-giving meaning: ‘mea culpa’, and, instead of complaining against other people or against bad luck, it was towards himself that he turned, himself that he accused, himself that he punished.

We need principles that are impregnable, postulates that are not subject to discussion, the clear vision of our acts. Following enticing ways that reveal only mirages seen in a perspective that can never be grasped, we have forgotten the great rough way that is marked by realities which are at once accessible to the senses and full of delight for the soul. The subjective deception has seemed to us to be a progress on the objective truth. From one fall to another, we have finally arrived at our present brutalised state. There are many who are quite happy with it. There are few who try to recover themselves. One or two, but that is enough: a little yeast lifts plenty of dough. As far as space and time are concerned, we have tried to understand them in their natures and reciprocal reactions. We can sum it up simply by saying: ‘We must die to space to be reborn to time, and die to time to be reborn in space.’ But that only takes account of the action of these two natures in the relative life of man. It is a postulate of a constructive order which can be adapted to anything, a rule which enables the realisation of any sort of object. We can complete this circular movement and bring it to an accomplishment if we say: ‘We must die to space to be reborn to time, and die to time to be reborn to Eternity.’ In renouncing itself, the relative becomes one with the absolute. Perhaps it is in these two formulae, the second completing the first,that ‘the express terms in which the act of living can be conceived’ can be found, definitively. The first formula is especially concerned with earthly acts, of whatever order. The second gives us a glimpse of the sole condition that is demanded of relative man, if he is to gain his eternal salvation. But that is a field that goes far beyond that to which I have confined myself so far, in which I have obliged myself not to use any term that is too specifically metaphysical.

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