The Hopi Concept of Time

  The Hopi’s universe has only two great temporal forms: the manifest and the manifesting (or not yet manifest). Manifest is everything which we perceive with the senses; it is objective and past. The manifesting is purely subjective and is a content of our heart. It is simultaneously present in the “Heart of Nature,” in the “powerful something” (a’ne himu) or Spirit of Breath (hi’wsn); it embraces everything of the future. The razor’s edge situation between the subjective and its having become objective is what we would call the present. But the Hopi circumscribe it by indicating either that the causation of something has stopped or by an inceptive suffix telling us that the end situation is beginning to manifest. The Hopi verb tunátya means “think,” “wish,” and “cause”; it is the word for what is subjective and not yet manifest.

 The past, on the contrary, is manifest and perceptible until, in its most remote forms, it re-disappears into the realm of the Origins, into the time and place of myths. There it becomes again “subjective” because it is only known to our consciousness after having come to visible forms in the world. It is as if from the original divine “Heart of Nature” a stream of events would flow out, becoming manifest and thus already past, while ever-new events still press forward from the realm of the subjective into actual manifestation. The remote past is, as I said, again “subjective” because no longer perceptible. One is reminded there of the Aljira of the Australian aborigines, who know a mythical Dreamtime (Aljira) where the great mythical figures walked about and created the world and from which the souls of the children still come and to which the souls of the dying return. It is the sphere from which dreams come. This is just another instance of the relative timelessness of what we would now call the collective unconscious.

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