Most of us have probably heard the term multiverse. But what is it?
Well, that might depend on who you are and how you look at things.
In the most general sense, the multiverse is a hypothesis that describes many possible universes that may or may not interpenetrate one another. But as we shall see, there are a few twists to its meaning.
A Little History
In 1952, the Nobel physicist Erwin Schrödinger said his equations seemed to depict different histories that are “not alternatives, but all really happen simultaneously.”²
In the 1960s and 70s the idea of parallel universes hit the radar with paranormal writers like Jane Roberts and science fiction TV shows like Star Trek TOS. This cosmological innovation never went away.
Since then, more philosophers and scientists have championed and critiqued the notion that our universe exists with others.
Stephen Hawking may not believe in God but he believes in a multiverse. And in sci-fi and fantasy, the idea grows with a vengeance.³
Myth, Philosophy and Science
Depending on how one interprets the meaning of the word, the multiverse arguably crops up in Celtic myths about the otherworld. For instance, in Pagan Ireland the afterlife region of sidh closely resembles earthly life. And every November 1st, during the festival of Samhain, spirits from both worlds apparently mingle.4
In philosophy, Leibniz (1646-1716) argues that God conceived of many possible worlds but only created the best of all possible worlds.5
In New Age literature Jane Roberts‘ Seth Books advance the notion that parallel universes not only exist, but interact.
For Roberts, the soul observes a person’s experiences in many universes. So on a higher level, the oversoul learns from different lives in the multiverse.
Roberts also says we can be influenced by our other selves in parallel universes. For example, The EDM musician in universe A may connect with her other self as an astronaut in universe B, along with her vocation as a psychological time traveler in universe C. Her mind-expanding experiences as an astronaut (B) and time traveler (C) could influence her musical creativity in A.6
The possibilities of a multiverse are enjoyable to think about. But we have no way to empirically demonstrate our beliefs and suppositions. This is one of the greatest critiques of multiverse theory. Fascinating speculation, yes. But the multiverse is not scientific because, detractors say, we cannot prove it.7
What’s Missing in Mainstream Theories?
My critique of mainstream multiverse theory – as we usually find it through places like Flipboard and Feedly – is that it rarely accounts for heavenly and hellish dimensions.
Heaven, hell and additional in-between realms, I would argue, play a huge role in our day-to-day lives and should figure prominently in multiverse theory.
We might call these oft overlooked aspects vertical instead of the more commonly described horizontal dimensions. After all, most spiritually aware people say that they feel heaven above and hell, below.
To help bring this back down to Earth, consider an analogy:
Some scientists, oblivious to genuine religious or spiritual experience, seem like ants trying to map out the world from the height of a few millimeters. The ant can’t see what the human being sees.
The ant may know about anthills, but it knows little about mountain peaks; river valleys; streams; oceans; the rich colors of the Earth’s topography; waves on water; blue skies, sun and cloud; moon and stars; Andromeda…
So an ant’s theory is pretty ant-like. Not at all like a human being would comprehend the world through the five senses.
From this analogy, we can say that those with genuine spiritual sensibilities take the observable universe as a bit of an anthill. There’s a lot more to consider. And that’s why so many current cosmologies fall short.
Hope Springs Eternal
There is hope, however. Recent trends like String and M-Theories seem to be heading in the right direction. These theories point to higher dimensions that interact with dimensions found in simpler multiverse theories.
So different interpretations for the word multiverse might someday coalesce. Instead of merely being the stuff of science geeks and sci-fi fans, the idea of the multiverse may soon reap practical benefits.8
² I’m linking to my highlighting and notes at Diigo so more relevant info that didn’t make this entry is easily found. https://www.diigo.com/user/earthpages
³ Some feel that sci-fi and fantasy is nature’s way of acclimatizing us to new ideas and cosmologies that initially seem too far-fetched, especially with ETs and UFOs. For examples in sci-fi, fantasy, TV and movies, see:
4 Wikipedia outlines more examples of the multiverse in myth and religion, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiverse_(religion). But these examples interpret the meaning of multiverse differently than, say, a contemporary physicist would. The difference, without getting too complicated, is that a physicist’s definition is usually closer to the idea of parallel universes. The other interpretation is about layers of reality (or higher and lower dimensions) that saints and mystics can consciously experience in the here and now. See, for instance, the Hindu idea of lokas.
6 (a) Some wonder if David Bowie really was The Man Who Fell To Earth. Could simultaneous experiences in other places have informed his work here?
(b) In the 1980s something strange happened with my Dual turntable, a popular brand of record players. It was a long time ago and, to be honest, I can’t remember exactly. But this is a true story: In one instant the machine was revolving at 33 rpm and the next instant the dial was at 45 rpm, without my touching it. It just instantly changed, as if a TV channel had been changed from universe A to universe B. There was no visible acceleration or audible change in sound. Just an immediate, uninterrupted speed change. Next, I looked at the Dual logo and, in my youthful open-mindedness, got the unnerving feeling that the universe was trying to teach me something.
Admittedly it sounds a bit far-fetched. But in an instant I interpreted these events as a kind of holistic teaching. Today, I’m not so sure. Possibly I changed the turntable speed with my hand and, for some reason, momentarily blanked out, forgetting that I had changed it. Then noticing the Dual logo, I might have put these events together into some kind of paranormal teaching about parallel universes. Maybe my brain misfired from fatigue or something else. That’s my skeptical side. But it’s more accurate to say that I don’t what happened. I remember feeling temorarily unsettled afterward, like the underpinnings of all that I believed in were pulled away. Luckily, it was a one-time experience! 🙂
7 Adherents of multiverse belief might note we can’t prove the idea of love, either. And it’s pretty hard to imagine a world without love.
8 From Wikipedia:
These theories require the presence of 10 or 11 spacetime dimensions respectively. The extra 6 or 7 dimensions may either be compactified on a very small scale, or our universe may simply be localized on a dynamical (3+1)-dimensional object, a D3-brane. This opens up the possibility that there are other branes which could support other universes. This is unlike the universes in the quantum multiverse, but both concepts can operate at the same time.
See also, note 4 (above).
Are You Ready For The Technological Singularity? (huffingtonpost.com)
Humans have 100 years left (foxnews.com)
Disabled teen keen to emulate his hero Stephen Hawking (telegraph.co.uk)
Will Intelligent Aliens Actually Give a Shit About Us? (gizmodo.co.uk)