The Nature of Time

This is an excerpt from one of the presentations featured in the Pari Center’s event Psyche and Time, in Pari from June 14 to 20, 2022.

with Shantena Sabbadini

Time is the ultimate enigma for contemporary physics. In the formalism of quantum physics it is treated differently from all other variables. In the fundamental equations of physics there is no arrow of time, time can flow forward or backward in a perfectly symmetric way. Yet in the Second Law of thermodynamics and in our lived experience it very definitely flows in one direction and not in the opposite one. We remember the past and not the future. We grow older and not younger. A cup of tea left on the counter cools down by warming the surrounding air, but we never see the surrounding air warming up a cold cup of tea. Does the key to the enigma reside in the Big Bang? Does it imply multiple universes?

Shantena Augusto Sabbadini graduated from the University of Milan in 1968 and was awarded his PhD in physics from the University of California in 1976. In Milan he researched the foundations of quantum physics, laying the base for what is currently known as the decoherence interpretation of quantum physics. At the University of California, he contributed to the theoretical work behind the first identification of a black hole, the X-ray source Cygnus X-1. In the 1990s he was scientific consultant for the Eranos Foundation, an East-West research center founded under the auspices of C.G. Jung in the 1930s. In that context he produced various translations and commentaries of Chinese classics in Italian and English, including the Yijing and the trilogy of Daoist classics, the Laozi, the Zhuangzi and the Liezi. From 2002 onwards he collaborated with F. David Peat running the Pari Center for New Learning and in 2017 he succeeded his friend and colleague as director of the center.

Shantena leads workshops and courses on the philosophical implications of quantum physics, on Daoism, and on using the Yijing as a tool for introspection. His most recent book in English, Pilgrimages to Emptiness: Rethinking Reality through Quantum Physics, was published by Pari Publishing in 2017.