Backwards Causality

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It’s quite fruitless, that thing we do, trying to control what’s happening in the present in order to make the future into what it ought to be, when it’s the future that’s causing the present, and not the other way around.

Isn’t it obvious? Or at least plausible – that what’s happening now is merely the prelude and lead-up of what’s about to become? That it merely serves to be in accordance with whatever eventuality is about to occur?

Of course, these ideas of causality, whether of the backwards or the ordinary kind, are merely ways of framing experience in terms of some kind of narrative structure. But as I get to pick and choose between them, this backwards way is how I like to think about it.

The way I figure, we’ve been conditioned to think about cause and effect the wrong way around. An anemic and depressing metaphysic wherein the action determines the outcome comes imposed through culture and language; but there’s no reason why we can’t unwind that philosophy and instead take on this more fascinating outlook on the whole thing. Because that’s what I feel; that thinking in terms of a backwards causality is much more fun than the other way around.

Under this view, things are allowed to happen for a reason. What lies ahead isn’t the result of what’s happening now, but what’s occurring in the present is the necessary alignment with what’s about to come into form. There’s something happening in the future with which the present must be in accord, that requires things to happen the way they do such that what lies ahead can be what it is due to become.

This also allows us to answer why-questions in terms of what we can expect from the future, rather than what follows from the past. Questions about the past—why it happened, and so on—are perfectly answered in terms of what the future and the present brought into being. Why did the house burn down? It wasn’t because you were playing with matches – but you were playing with matches because you were about to find a new place to live.

Why did you break up with your girlfriend? It wasn’t because of that fight you had. You fought because you were about to move on to something greater and more fulfilling.

And why did you get sick? It wasn’t a virus. That virus merely appeared to provide a narrativistic reason for the forthcoming episode of suffering and pain; which in turn established a way for a further element in the arc, and so on in an ever revealing storyline dictated by an obvious intelligence.

And You, as a distinct character inhabiting this dreamstate, is not the result of what happened before – rather, the past is what the future called for, such that you could arrive as you are in the present – and here, in the now, the future continues to shape your actions and your choices so as to set the stage for an ever unfolding account of how you will come to be what-you’re-about-to-become.

On board yet? I don’t really know how otherwise to sell it, except to tell you that if there ever was an easy way of seeing more magic in life, I’d say this is it.

 

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9 Responses to Backwards Causality

  1. This is wonderful, Göran!

    With a view like this – what is there to resist?

  2. RC says:

    “Why did my girlfriend break up with me? It wasn’t because of that fight we had. We fought because she was about to move on to something greater and more fulfilling and I was going to do something stupid and unforgivable.”

    Hi Goran: (Been waiting for a long time)

    I was inclined to believe attitude matters too when one is facing adversity, don’t you think so?

    • Slim says:

      I agree with you on attitude. To me – and I wish I could be more advanced and see it differently, it’s a bit Pollyanna-ish to assume there’s something better coming because of a bad event.
      If you’ve lived through enough trauma, then the inherent fear of what’s next is only heightened by the concept and idea that “life” is only about building on succeeding good events.
      Perhaps with an attitude of equanimity it would be easier, but tougher times and the forgetting of the nature of the illusion, don’t always lead to “better” events. As such the idea of something better happening becomes dismissive.

  3. Tom Jackson says:

    Of course, since there’s only Now, it’s really Now causing Now causingNow

    And since Cause & Effect imply time maybe it’s Now unfolding into Now unfolding into Now

    Or just: Unfolding.

  4. Wesley Baker says:

    I can see how it would be a great relief to strongly believe/ apprehend that this is how it goes. It would destroy the drama of free will though. This sounds a bit like what I’ve heard philosophers call fatalism. I’ve heard a drug addict use fatalism as a sort of excuse, allowing him to fuck his life away (excuse my french) and avoid a feeling of responsibility. But I’d also guess that if he fully understood/played with the idea, he’d probably end up alleviating much of the recurring suffering which drove him to addiction.

    Ok I diverge, probably not useful to think of others here. Can I believe/see this for myself? Makes total sense to me looking back. But it’s not fully an intellectual matter. Whenever I’m concerned about how the future plays out, I am seized with fear and go on to assume that “I” play a crucial role in the unfolding of events, whether I do one thing or another. In each of those moments, is it possible to be released from this worrying program currently in place, while I contemplate the possibility that the unfolding future is predetermined? Hmm, I’ll let you know how it goes.

    Love ya,
    Wes

  5. Jeanne Reese says:

    Yes. The ‘future’ is happening now. Everything that has ever happened, or ever will, is happening now.

  6. Michael Devincent says:

    This IS the most interesting article and thought provoking TOO. I’m impressed.

  7. J says:

    But what if the future sucks?

  8. Eli Sutton says:

    As I see it: When consciousness rests in the now, is the now, and is, out of the stillness, a prime mover of the now then there is only the arising, unfolding, fluidic nature of what is…now. Therefore, there is no impulse to reference the past or the future, and there is not that which would look for or perceive causation. Yet, as the personal self (a creature of time and space) I am pleased to embrace this notion of backwards causation. It is a much more agreeable construct for one cultivating a playfully magical relationship with the unfolding story. Thank you, Göran.

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