Augustine made one of the best known and most insightful comments about time. “What then is time?” he wondered. “If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know.”This is fascinating stuff, to be sure, but in my opinion it's even more fascinating to think that if it's true that the universe is a "block" and the distinction between past, present and future is an illusion what would happen if there really is life after death? Do we pass out of this "block universe" and into an eternal present where all of cosmic history falls simultaneously before our gaze, like taking in an entire page of a book at once?
He puzzled over this most fundamental, and yet mysterious, aspect of the human condition in his Confessions, and arrived at a notion that was similar to Plato’s: the ancient Greek sage had defined time as “the moving image of eternity.” That fitted with Augustine’s conception of God, who had created time when He created the universe. To ask what God was doing before that great act is simply meaningless.
It’s an idea that’s stuck. And to some, it is entirely commensurate with the way modern physics grapples with the mystery. Here, time is typically envisaged as a relationship between events. Einstein presented what is referred to as the “block universe” – the notion that all times exist equally. (For comparison, Augustine wrote: “In the Eternal nothing passeth away, but that the whole is present.”)
So, what you see just depends on what you set t to in any given equation. “The distinction between past, present and future is only an illusion, however persistent,” the genius of relativity mused. He was so clear about the illusory nature of time that the thought even provided him with comfort in the face of death.
If so, if we are at that point conscious beings which transcend the space-time manifold, would not all events in the history of the world be in our present? If that's so, then when we die every future event, including the future deaths of our loved ones, must happen simultaneously with our death. If that's so, when we die we could be immediately united with those who, on earth, still grieve our passing. But this would mean that our loved ones must have a kind of dual existence.
They would exist here on earth awaiting the future and simultaneously they'd exist in eternity where the future is in the present. In fact, if this is the case, all of us must have a dual existence, like quantum particles which can exist in more than one place at the same time. Perhaps the self that exists "there" is just as unaware of our existence "here" as our self here is unaware of our existence there.
Who knows? It seems to me, though, that if time is a block, an objective reality, and if there's some sense in which we survive physical death, there's no reason why this couldn't be the way things are.
Anyway, I better stop speculating about all this before you start to think that I'm dabbling with some mind-altering substance while sitting at my computer.