The treatment of time in various religions offers interesting cues regarding time cyclicality.

The local priest is happy with the crisis. “People are coming back to churches and the faith is increasing”. The nine-year cycles linked with religion and credit witness increase (decrease) in deposits every nine years linked with the decrease (increase) in the number of people going to church. Bloomberg has repeatedly reported the Hedge funds come-to-Jesus partners meeting, a time for unpleasant confessions and admittance that “I screwed up”.

Religion is an extension of human faith which rides on psychology. This means just like gold, oil, dow are connected economics, psychology and religion are tied up in the same social chain. The fractal chain which started from our understanding of the Euclidean triangle brings us back to the same question of time. Is religion to an expression of time?

Though it is all about understanding the time we live in, time expresses itself through aspects of nature implicitly not explicitly. Humans don’t love what is obvious. We love what is hidden, concealed, what excites and challenges us, what we don’t understand is what we want to understand. This is why we have religion, an attempt to understand God, a power of last resort which (who) is ahead of what Indian spirituality might say the path of pure consciousness.

Understanding religion is important for markets, as religion has a lot to do with social upheavals. Religion defines us an individual. People may change their faith from one religion to another, create a new religion, but before everything comes faith and then comes nationality. We are assuming 80% (majority) as believers. The rest 20% (nonbelievers) can give us a few more lines of patience. So what is so intrinsic about masses cannot be too detached from how the majority thinks. The attempt is not to see the rationality or irrationality of our faiths, but to see if there is some proportion, some mathematics, some cyclicality and time in religion too.

Humans attempt to understand God through time. If we can understand the link maybe it will improve our understanding of life, nature, and economics. We could see further, overcoming genetic myopia we suffer as a behavioral species. It is like understanding religion back in time, studying the past to understand the present to envision the future. This journey might bring us to the similar street we call as Dalal Street or Wall Street.

Time has always been an intangible subject, even in religion. Any theistic view of the world includes some notion of how God is related to the structures of the universe, including space and time. The various religions of the world discussed time as being either linear or cyclical, infinite (immortality of time) or limited (end of the world, end of time). Some ancient civilizations even worshiped time as one of their Gods, other cultures see God as being above time.

Starting with the ancient Egyptians and ending with today’s modern cults, all religions had some belief regarding the concept of time. The ancient Egyptians believed in the force of Mayet, the eternal order of the Universe which encompassed the cyclical patterns of time, the cycles of day and night, the cycles of the seasons and of human generations. Time is represented by Ra, the sun God who travels over the earth during the day. The ancient Greek mythology had Khronos (or Chronus), the personification of time and the ages, who was seen generally as destructive and all-devouring. Khronos also has a correspondent in Zurvanism, Zurvan, who is the hypostasis of time and space. According to Zurvanism, time is the source of all things, limitless, eternal and uncreated and it influences human destinies, appearing under two aspects, limitless time and time of a long reign.

The Greek language makes a difference between two distinct principles regarding time, Khronos and Kairos, the first representing the chronological time, while the latter is referred to as divine time or the right or opportune moment. Kairos is qualitative and opposed to the quantitative Khronos.

One particular civilization obsessed with the question of the time were the Maya, who had the first exact calendar in the ancient times and took Time worship to a different level. The Maya understood a linear (past, present, future) and a cyclical nature of time, highlighting several calendar cycles and believing in the precedence of worlds. The present world had a tenuous existence and the Maya believed that the maintenance of continuous existence can be achieved by periodic human sacrifices. They sacrificed human lives in order to help the sun God travel across the sky (in order to help time pass). One Mayan prophecy sees the year 2012 as the end of an important cycle, the end of time, the shift of the ages, judgment day or time of great purification. This was seen more as a transforming biological process, the end of a great evolutionary cycle and the beginning of a new age. In the article ‘A Dow Theory’ a simple rate of change quantitative exercise points to the same 2012 lows as being a key 10 year and 30 year time low.

The same religious beliefs were then taken over by the Aztecs, who also used an adaption of the Mayan calendar to measure the passing of time. The ancient Chinese culture also believed in the cyclicality of time. The concepts of Yin and Yang signify the forces of the universe repeating themselves and always returning to their source. The Tao can be interpreted as union of opposites by the middle way, illustrated by the metaphor of the flowing stream, the curse of life and time. Lao Tzu in “Power of the Way” expresses what we call the proportionality of time. “Completed cycles reflect a harmonious relationship in time and amplitude but are independent of both fixed periodicity and fixed amplitude.” There are many references to triangles in religion. The Chinese culture also sees time as part of an existential triangle. The triangle is framed by time, environment and fortune. For the last many thousand years the Chinese have been making continuous efforts to evolve a benign spiral out of this triangle. Hinduism also has a cyclical view on time, with cycles of the universe going through rebirth, growth, decay and destruction. The concept of reincarnation has its basis in this pantheistic point of view. The cyclicality of time is sometimes symbolized by the “Uroboros”, the snake chasing its own tail, meaning that the beginning leads back around to the end and the cycle starts all over again.

The largest religion in the world by the number of followers, Christianity believes in linear time, more exactly in the concept that time moves from event to event in a line towards the future. Saint Augustine was among the first ones to insist on linear time as opposed to cyclical. Christians see God above time, as an all mighty and all knowing Creator who has power over everything, including time. Augustine refers to God as being timeless, unchanging and everlasting. He also states that there was no time before the creation of the universe and that God created time.

As opposed to the ancient Greeks, Christians see time as being only quantitative. According to them, time simply exists, it cannot do anything. It only provides the historical framework in which things happen but has no innate ability itself. Dr. George Wald disagrees with this concept, as he states in his article called “The Origin of Life”, published in Scientific American. “Time is, in fact, the hero of the plot. Given so much time, the impossible becomes possible, the possible becomes probable and the probable virtually certain. One has only to wait, time itself performs the miracles.”

How did such a key idea of time lose its significance? Did popular religions like Christianity bias research thought with linearity? Would it change as cycles of power and knowledge shift from west to east? Will the Asian beliefs influence the way we look at economics and markets? How does it all sum up? Well, we don’t have much to wait, 2012 is almost here.