The Eternal Present

Last Updated on June 24, 2022 by Jason Harris

Hourglass on Ocean Beach (image labeled for reuse)

Noah Rasheta and the Secular Buddhism Podcast

Noah Rasheta used to be Mormon. He runs the Secular Buddhism Podcast and is an example of someone who appears to have done a fantastic job reconstructing a healthy view and paradigm of life after the experience of Mormonism. His podcasts are focused on mindfulness and being grounded in the present moment, observing what is happening within and without ourselves with a sense of compassionate curiosity. He starts out each podcast with a quote from the Dalai Lama, “Do not try to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist; use it to be a better whatever-you-already-are.”

Do not try to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist; use it to be a better whatever-you-already-are.

Dalai Lama

To me, most of Noah’s podcasts seem to be using Secular Buddhism as a paradigm and framework to convey many mental health principles that have strong evidence of being valid. These include principles of mindfulness, dialectical behavior therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. Noah doesn’t delve much into some of the more esoteric principles, beliefs and narratives sometimes found within some branches of Buddhism.

There is Only Now

In one of Noah’s podcasts, he mentioned something to the effect that “All of the past and all of the future is contained in the present moment, there is only now.” The present moment is only possible due to everything that has happened leading up to the present moment. Everything is inter-causally connected and related. And in the present moment is contained all future possibilities, also inter-causally related. There is actually no past or future. These are illusions. There is always only now. And now is always changing. All of our past and all of our future is contained within now.

All of the past and all of the future is contained in the present moment. There is only now.

Noah Rasheta

Free Will

I agree with Rasheta’s sentiments and thoughts. To me they seem self-evident. Does this mean then a specific future is pre-determined? I don’t believe this is what it means. I believe there are a near infinite possible number of futures, some far more likely than others. Yet, as we look back, there is always only one past… the one that led up to the present we now experience. Yet even that past will be perceived differently depending on who is doing the looking. I believe that single past along with the near unlimited futures is a reflection of our choices as well as factors well beyond our control. In fact, I would argue almost all of the present we inhabit is composed of factors beyond our control.

I don’t believe in unlimited unconstrained free will, but I do believe in free will within the bounds we are able to act. (These are also sentiments Rasheta echoes at times in his podcast.) For instance, I can’t choose to become the King of England. Never gonna happen. But I can choose what I’m going to eat for breakfast (within the constraints of the food available to me).

As extensive research shows, I don’t have a great deal of choice into “The Big Five” key personality traits I possess, but I do have a certain amount choice as to the range of how these can express themselves and be shaped over time… of how I am expressed and manifest over time.

I believe in a universe that has constraints, but also allows for free will. I believe even at a quantum level, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle provides good evidence the future exists as a range of possibilities rather than just one specific pre-determined causal outcome.

Information is Eternal

Something I have thought of throughout the years is the importance of information. According to physicists, information can’t be created or destroyed (The No-Hiding Theorem). It just is. These aren’t new ideas. This is similar in some ways to the Mormon teachings on “intelligence” as Joseph Smith taught in D&C 93: 29-31. For instance, 2+2=4 is an intrinsic truth independent of any physical reality. It just is. Information. And all of reality can be represented by math, or other forms of information. Information can take many forms and be represented in many ways.

Take me for instance… I have a genetic code. Information. This in turn codes for mRNA which codes for proteins… which leads to function and behavior… Information. And the genetic code itself can be represented within a molecular double helix… more information.

The information that is me has ALWAYS existed. It is eternal. It can be represented as math (or in other forms) independent of any physical reality. And the physical manifestation of this information in the present moment is inter-causally related to an unfathomable number of factors before. The information that is the foundation of who I am existed at the Big Bang … as one of a near infinite range of future possibilities in a causal universe… a universe that can trace every current condition to a former cause… yet a universe that has future potentials for so may different outcomes and probabilities.

Thus I believe while every possible future outcome is already pre-determined, the specific outcome my consciousness resides upon and can help choose is not. We look back and see a single past because that is the one that led to the present we now inhabit. This doesn’t mean the present we now inhabit was the only possible causal future of the past we look back upon.

Where We Exist

As far as I can tell, our consciousness doesn’t exist in the past or in the future. Only in the present. Yet all of our past and future is contained within the present moment as an unfathomable number of causations and possibilities… so I guess one could objectively argue our consciousness ALSO exists within the past and future, even if we are unaware of it.

I also believe it is clear our consciousness is part of a much larger universe.

God in the Present

Part of what is often taught in Mormonism is that God knows the future not because God predicts the future, but rather because God is already there. To God, the past, present and future are one eternal present.

I still believe in God, though my conceptions have changed over time. I no longer believe in the literalism of Mormonism (or any other literalistic religion of the world). I believe the religions and stories of the world create narratives and personifications to try to explain and represent reality, sometimes consciously, sometimes sub-consciously. I believe science also tries to describe reality, but using different (more objective) tools. The more I am aware of and attending to each present moment, the more I believe I am attending to and one with God.

As far as I can tell, Reality is now. Heaven and hell are now. God is now. Interconnectedness of all things and all people is now.

As the Biblical Jehova and Jesus once said: “I AM.”

Jason Harris lived as an orthodox Mormon for forty years. He writes about his experiences leaving the Mormon Church and reconstructing a new World-View. He believes all religions and scripture are man-made, potentially helpful and harmful. He believes there is Divinity in all of them and everywhere.