The Religious Implications of the Multiverse Theory
So many arguments and wars in this world seem to center around differing religious ideals, and varying scientific theories. Like political views, when these subjects are brought up, the passion people feel toward their own perspective can often make even the most rational conversations turn aggressive. When science and religion collide during these debates, the effects can turn violent, however; the argument can be made that scientific theory and religious ideals may be fundamentally based on the same principle, making almost all arguments appear moot to a casual observer. As a casual observer and researcher of both theology and cosmology; I have noticed numerous similarities between Abrahamic religious views and the multiverse theory, in that both theories offer humanity the potential ability to traverse dimensional boundaries. The only significant difference between the two theories that I have observed is that one theory requires you to die before reaching your destination, and the other will likely kill you in the attempt.
The Multiverse Theory Briefly
If you have ever read comic books or watched science fiction movies, you likely already have a basic idea of what the multiverse theory consists of. However, if you don’t subscribe to these things, I will briefly explain. The multiverse theory basically theorizes that the continuous expansion of the universe has created various pockets of energy that are still expanding at even faster rates and have created several other pocket universes of their own. This cosmic inflation is what makes the multiverse possible. The idea of there being multiple universes all co-existing simultaneously are also a fundamental factor in determining the overall effects of string theory. Within the multiverse theory (which has its counterpart in Supersymmetry), our universe is joined by other simultaneously existing universes-each existing within their own specific physical laws. For example, in one universe; you exist just as you are now and the world is as you currently view it. In another universe, the laws of physics may work differently in that perhaps gravity causes everything to exist upside down (the sky and the ground are reversed). The possibilities are boundless with the multiverse theory. Basically, any world and variations of laws found within that world that you can imagine may and probably do exist.
According to MIT cosmologist Max Tegmark, there are four levels of parallel universes:
Level 1: Describes an infinite universe that, by the laws of probability, must contain another copy of Earth somewhere
Level 2: Other distant regions of space with different physical parameters, but the same basic laws
Level 3: Other universes where each possibility that can exist does exist, as described by the many worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum physics
Level 4: Entirely distinct universes that may not even be connected to ours in any meaningful way and very likely have entirely different fundamental physical laws
The Multiverse According to Religion
In Abrahamic religions, the multiverse or parallel universe (commonly referred to as heaven or paradise) exists as a reward given to the faithful, obedient, and righteous individual. This utopia or return to Eden is only available to the dead who subscribe to the idea of a monotheistic God or Creator, and who abide by this deity’s laws. The laws having been handed down to man via the Old Testament Prophet Moses (The Ten Commandments), also known as the Decalogue, are a set of rules that are described as being given to the Israelites by God at the biblical Mount Sinai. These laws are first mentioned in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:4-21. In the Qu’ran, these verses can be found in Surah Anaam, 6:151-153 and Surah Isra’, 17:23-39. The Surah Isra’ is more like a commentary on the verses found in Surah Anaam. If these laws are followed by the faithful in these religions, they shall reach the paradise known as Heaven for Christians (reached after global judgement upon the end of days, Gan Eden (Paradise or Eden upon Messianic resurrection after the end of days for the Israelites), and Jannah (Paradise reached after death, and upon the appointed resurrection on Yawm al-Qiyāmah.) for Muslims.
In these VIRTUALLY IDENTICAL variations of heaven/paradise, the physical laws we currently experience in this universe exist differently. For example, thoughts and wishes may be granted up conceptualization and humanity exists in a spiritual form rather than a physical one. However, the spiritual form that humanity exists in hasn’t been properly defined. Some people seem to believe that we will exist in a form of light, while others think that we will retain our physical holographic identities (appearance), but without the presence of outward physical matter. Still, some others believe we will exist in the same physical manner, just without the infirmaries like disease, illness, disability, or other human frailties that the physical is normally subjected to. These versions of paradise and heaven can only exist in another dimension or universe when you consider the changes in the physical laws that govern us now. Should this paradise or heaven exist simultaneously alongside our own universe, the living and the dead may exist simultaneously with little more than dimensional walls separating the two. Since all three of these religions require the resurrection of a Messianic deity before a species-wide day of judgement and subsequent ‘re-awakening’ it can start getting difficult to discern just who ‘ascends’ who doesn’t, and when. Is it immediately upon one’s death, or later?
Christians: Ascension to heaven may occur directly upon one’s death if they are righteous enough in their lifetime (as in the cases of Enoch, Jesus and Elijah). Some sects believe that the soul will first go to purgatory (which a version of the Judaic Gehinnom that is a 12 month period of purgation —Mishnah Eduyot 2:9, Shabbat 33a), while still others believe that faithful Christians will ascend after death causes the spirit to ‘sleep’ until the second coming of Christ.
Judaism: Ascension to the afterlife or Gan Eden occurs immediately upon death for the righteous, but the average soul must first descend to a place of punishment and/or purification called Gehinnom. This purification lasts for 12 months before the purified ascend to Olam Ha-Ba (the afterlife).
Muslims: Ascension to Jannah is first preceded when death brings the spirit of a deceased Muslim to both Heaven and Hell, where it experiences visions of the bliss and torture awaiting humanity at the end of days” This is a waiting period between death and the afterlife. However, before the body is buried, the soul returns to the body of the deceased and encounters angels Munkar and Nakir who test their faith. Eventually the soul waits to awaken in Jannah (paradise) or Jahanam (hell or ‘the fire’) after the day of judgement by Allah (God). For some, this may be immediate, while others must await the day of judgement.
What all of these Abrahamic religions have in common is a dormant period between death and the afterlife where the deceased wait till the end of days before this ascension can take place. Only Judaism seems to offer the average individual a 12 month wait for ascension. For the others, they must wait in a sort of sleep stasis till the end of days, this lengthy period feels like little more than a good night’s sleep.
The Crazy Yet Complicated Similarities between the Religious Afterlife & Multiverse
The multiverse theory implies that all of the universes (heaven and hell included) may exist simultaneously, which would also suggest that it is possible for each of us exist simultaneously in each of them at some point. When I view this concept from a bastardized version of Einstein’s relativity theory on simultaneity, I believe that this type of co-existence is possible, but exists only in relation to the observer (i.e., whether you are alive, dead or in transition to observe it). What this means for me is that in observing the afterlife, one has to be dead or asleep for the veil of our reality and the laws that govern it to be altered enough for us to perceive this altered reality, but we also have to be alive on a conscious level in order to rationalize that anything has changed. What I mean, is that heaven and hell would have to exist simultaneously with our perception of earth as it is now for the theory of the righteous to immediately reach heaven to be accurate. But the fact that one has to first be dead, dying or asleep (yet still conscious and sentient) to perceive this altered reality makes the non-dead, non-dying or awake unable to perceive it in any physical manner but in thought alone. While the religious believe this to be reality, it is merely theory since no one (other than ancient prophets) has actually been there other than in non-conscious manner.
An interesting concept for me in terms of the simultaneous existence of heaven, hell and multiverses refers to Erwin Schrodinger’s paradigm in that a person can exist in heaven/hell and on earth simultaneously when the body’s physical matter and mind/spirit are viewed separately as Descartes’ concept of metaphysical dualism suggests is possible. As Descartes believed that the very concept of anything makes it technically exist, it does little when bringing that thought into our physical reality. However, the holographic principle as first suggested by Gerard ‘t Hooft, and reinterpreted by Leonard Susskind suggests that our current physical reality may not exist either. The holographic principle basically states that we are in fact existing in 2 dimensional space instead of the 3 dimensions that we perceive ourselves in, and this changes in accordance to the information our minds receive. (We actually exist on the surface of space rather than within it). From this theory, we are to understand that heaven, hell and purgatory are little more than a change in perception of reality and not necessarily a physical removal from this earthly reality.
According to a paper (The Holographic Principle Theory of Mind,) by Mark Germine, Institute for Psychoscience) “Our now is the outer surface in time of a series of nows. This series of nows is time. As this outer surface moves ever further outward, things appear to be created, things appear to be destroyed. The body dies and decays. This all is an illusion of our perception. When the curtain is lifted [perhaps at death], we pass into eternity, which is our home. Eternity is here, right here, all around us, spread like a blanket that covers the Earth. We call this blanket the noosphere (Teilhard, 1955/1961), the blanket of knowing. It is a blanket upon blankets upon blankets of nows, built up like the strata that lie beneath our feet, each reaching to a higher dimension of knowing. This is the most fundamental basis of evolution.”
Once you get past the technical jargon, you find yourself at a junction of sorts. For religious claims to have merit, we have to accept that the mind and body are separate entities entirely, allowing for Descartes’ theory for these qualities to exist separate from one another, while still maintaining the individual consciousness to ascend with you in a less than physical form; whereas, the holographic principle, combined with the theory of mind allows for only one individual consciousness to exist at a time (you can’t exist in more than one place in time as your individual conscious self), making the theories about multiple simultaneous existences’ (as offered in the multiverse theory) impossible. That doesn’t remove the universes’ themselves, just our ability to exist in all of them as we do now in just this one. That is the only difference between the religious views of the afterlife and the multiverse that I can fully see. The religious afterlife, allows for one of you to exist in a sentient manner like Germine states, just with an altered perception, whereas the multiverse allows multiple you’s to exist (but also with different perceptions).
The religious afterlife implies that this paradise or Eden that we will ascend to at the end of days will leave our minds and current consciousness’ in tact, whereas the multiverse doesn’t require death first. The holographic principle as written by Mark Germine allows us to live this eternal afterlife even as we are alive, and implies that this ‘ascension’ is little more than a change of perception and not physical death at all, implying that the multiverse versions of ourselves might also be an illusion. No matter how you look at it, heaven, hell and purgatory are all just different dimensions; each existing within their own physical laws….much like the multiverse theory. Basically its the same thing, just in varying numbers and with a different degree of consciousness involved in order to perceive it.
The Multiverse Seemed to Evolve from Abrahamic Religion
Even as most people don’t associate religious idealism with scientific theory, it appears as if religious idealism is the foundation of some scientific theories, including the multiverse. As explained above, religious idealism offers another dimension as the final place of conscious existence upon the second coming or after the end of days. It is clear that the religious ideal of heaven or paradise evolved into the multiverse theory over time, so it stands to reason that at least the idea of other dimensions began with religious idealism before being fully explored through modern scientific means. I find it to be an interesting idea since the two ideologies rarely resonate with one another. The multiverse theory may not have existed at all had not the philosophical prospect first brought out by ancient religious ideals broached the subject first. In fact, many scientific theories may have gotten their start from religious idealism, even if not openly expressed as having been that way. What this proves is that our ancient writers and scribes viewed the world in much the same way that we do now, and were scientifically minded while moving just a little bit further than what reality at that time could comprehend to create a league of religious zealots and faithful subjects to carry the world into the future. Now that the future (from their perspective is here) we have the means to test those theories and take them even further. Or at least we could, if the faithful would stop referring to the research as abominations and people playing God. And yes, I see the irony in that, don’t you?
The very idea that the ancient scribes of the Bible, Qu’ran, and Hebrew Torah/Tanakh were very focused on cosmology and the physical laws of the universe seems to be lost on many, yet the proof of it is very clear. Even as those scribes wrote about how to save the individual souls of men beyond death, they were in fact, starting the very first conversations into the multiverse theory, which is a byproduct of string theory. Those early theories gave men like Sir Isaac Newton, Einstein, Galileo, Plato, Aristotle, and even philosopher Rene Descartes [and numerous others] heir first glimpses of scientific theory that could eventually prove or disprove the existence of heaven/hell, and purgatory that those scribes spoke of in the first place. This is the natural evolution of those early ideas and it is why it makes no sense for religious individuals to reject the research. The research itself only validates the previous claims that religion has already laid claim to.
I will fully explore these topics in further articles. Keep an eye out for the next one, which talks about the very irony I just mentioned. It certainly makes for an interesting subject, but deserves an article of its own in order to fully explore the topic. This article was written as a means of beginning a conversation, not a finalized concept.