There is no simple answer. Our experience of temporality is complex and it varies from one situation to another. The variations are so important that we should not speak of time in the singular, but distinguish different times and different kinds of time.
Careful observation shows that time experience comprises three main characters that can vary independently. When such characters can be measured and expressed in numbers they are called parameters and a system with n independent parameters is called n-dimensional. We can therefore say that time is three-dimensional. As there are also three dimensions of space, there are in all six dimensions in terms of which measurable, that is physical, events can be described. My co-workers and I have shown that a six-dimensional geometry will serve to describe not only the movements of bodies, but also other physical situations such as atoms and quanta, and the properties of matter generally.
This raises the question whether the three kinds of time apply to other situations such as those of life, consciousness and human free-will. To answer this, we must see what the three kinds of time mean in terms of experience. I shall describe them without attempting to prove that the descriptions are either adequate or exhaustive. I have adopted three names for the different forms of time on the principle that the best way of avoiding confusion is to call different things by different names.
TIME. We experience events as successive. This gives rise to the sense of 'before and after'. The present 'exists' and the past and future do not 'exist' or at any rate do so in a different way from the present. If there were no other time but this existence would be whittled away into an elusive 'present' that is gone as soon as we reach it.
ETERNITY. We are aware of persistence. Without persistence there could be no change - only the meaningless present. Moreover, there is in every situation a potential for a variety of actualizations. Potential does not come and go as does the actual moment. Pure potential is eternal and imperishable. I have called eternity the 'storehouse of potentialities'. This means that there can be many lines of successive time simultaneously present in eternity. Our experience of changes of consciousness gives us direct confirmation of alternative times. Furthermore, in all living things there is a persisting pattern that directs their development and regulates their lives. It is impossible to make sense of this self-regulating property of life within the limitations of successive time.
HYPARXIS. The simplest approach to the third kind of time is to consider the requirements of free-will, and with it of ethics and responsibility. Successive time does not allow choice. Eternity presents us with the choice, but gives us no room to make it. A third degree of freedom is needed to pass from one line of time to another. This leads to the notion of a third kind of time connected in some way with the power to connect or to disconnect potential and actual. To understand fully the importance of the third kind of time, that I have called hyparxis, we must observe that being itself has gradations. We ourselves can be aware of states when we are wholly controlled by casual influences, and other states when we cannot only entertain purposes, but deliberate and choose our actions with the aim of realizing them. I call this variable factor the 'ableness-to-be' present in different beings. It can be traced throughout all levels of existence from atoms through the simplest living forms up to man, and it is this factor that entitles us to look beyond man to the attainment of superhuman levels. Without this factor everything would be compelled to remain wholly determined by its own eternal pattern.
The three kinds of time are strictly quantitative - that is, capable of being measured and expressed by numbers - only in the physical world. They change from quantity to quality as we mount the scale of existence. Even successive time is not measurable in terms of our most intimate experiences. We can travel in eternity: not in our physical bodies but in our consciousness. We can move in hyparxis by an act of will. But although consciousness cannot be measured they are elements of our experience no less real than sensations of sight and touch by which we know the physical world.
One of the great merits of the scheme of three kinds of time is that it enables the whole range of human experience to be brought into a coherent system of explanation and understanding.