Many Worlds, Many Selves
It is the carefully considered opinion of many physicists that there exist any number of “probable worlds” and also “probable selves” living in those probable worlds, each following its own time thread. This “Many Worlds Theory” might even be said to be traceable back to the martyred Dominican monk and philosopher Giordano Bruno (1548 – 1600), a quite remarkable figure for his time (who paid the price for being a “mutant”). But, it is not just idle speculation that leads so many physicists to adhere to the Many Worlds Theory. The very mathematics of the quantum order require it.
Moreover, it is the experience of many so-called “mystics”, (including my own experience), that the Many Worlds, Many Selves Theory is true. This is the topic I want to explore in The Chrysalis today as it pertains to the conflict between The Mechanical Philosophy and the Holistic Philosophy.
I consider the proper comprehension of the Many Worlds Theory to be quite essential to the emerging holistic/integral consciousness. What pretty much defines The Holistic Philosophy is its willing acceptance of paradox, or what I’ve been referring to as coincidentia oppositorum (or conjunctio oppositorum) — “coincidence of opposites”. The paradoxical has been, conventionally and traditionally, denied by The Mechanical Philosophy for violating the so-called “law of contradiction” — contraries cannot both be true at the same time. Something cannot be true and false at the same time. This also means that the ancient paradox of the unity of the One and the Many is not accepted as valid by the Mechanical Philosophy, since that identity of opposites violates the law of contradiction. In fact, one might say that it is this very paradox that finally distinguishes what is called “mysticism” from “logic”.
The Many Worlds, Many Selves Theory, however, requires the acceptance of the paradoxical as against the Newtonian-Cartesian paradigm. In fact, quantum theory as a whole requires the acceptance of the paradoxical as the-way-things-actually-are. Things are, and also are not. I would say that this acceptance or rejection of paradox is the crucial difference between the Mechanical-Analytical and the Holistic-Intuitive Philosophies. And the chief paradox of all, perhaps, is the unity or difference of The One and the Many, or the Unity of the Multiplicity and Multiform (the “Myriad” as I’ve called it, or what Taoists call “the Ten Thousand Things”).
So, let’s try to grasp as best we can the importance of this paradox of the identity of the One and the Many.
Now, it is the direct experience of so-called “mystics” that the Many Worlds, Many Selves speculations of the scientists and philosophers are, in fact, true. Moreover, it is also your experience as well, for every night when you dream, you are “visiting” your other probable selves in their own probable time threads.
It is the testimony of the Seth Material, of Carlos Castaneda, of the Buddhist who experiences “satori” (and sometimes the intuitive experience of the poets), that we are not one “self”, but a potentially infinite number of “selves”, each living within its own “Now” thread. This accords with the speculations of the physicists (for example, listen to the CBC Ideas radio programme “Living on Oxford Time“) on the existence of potentially infinite probable worlds inhabited by potentially infinite probable selves.
Recalling his notorious “leap into the abyss”, Castaneda remarked on his surprise at discovering that he was not one self or identity, but a veritable “city of selves”, as he put it. Yet his core awareness knew itself as being identical with that multiplicity — a singular awareness expressed through any number of forms, some of them not even necessarily “human”. The preliminary requirement for this insight was his training in “losing the human form” or “human mold”, as his teacher put it. That is to say, to become empty, to become nothing — the state associated with “the nagual”. Castaneda’s teacher, don Juan Matus, referred to this training as “Not-Doing”, which seems to correspond to what Buddhists call “No-Mind”. There are also references to this condition in the poetry of Rumi.
For don Juan, a human being is constituted by two fundamental principles, one called “the nagual” and one called “the tonal”. These are probably the same as the “two souls” of Goethe’s aforementioned poem, and which we sometimes refer to as Self and Ego-Nature. Infinity and Eternity and the Unoriginated belong to the Nagual side of the human, while all that is time-bound, secular, and originated belongs to “the Tonal” side of the human form. So, the human form is itself a coincidentia oppositorum or conjunctio oppositorum, in that respect. This, also, Nietzsche recognised in his distinction between the “Dionysian” and the “Apollonian”, and in describing the human body as both “a war and a peace”. The “nagual” is actually undescribable, and all attempts to do so merely draw it into the “tonal” and distort it. Nonetheless, it is the basis for our intuitions about the infinite and the eternal as distinct from the finite and time-bound or secular. This coincidentia oppositorum is also represented in William Blake’s poetry as “the infinite in all things” or “eternity in the hour”, and so on.
As don Juan put it to Castaneda, there are any number of worlds in which “a man may struggle and die”, and yet he also insisted there was only “one world”. That is the paradox of the Many Worlds, Many Selves Theory. “Parallel universes” are really time-threads rather than spatially arrayed.
Seth speaks in very similar terms about the “multi-dimensionality of consciousness” and of the ability of the core “entity” or awareness to live and act in many different roles in many different environments simultaneously. That, as you may recall from very old posts, was my experience in what I called “the Dream of the Fish”. The person we are here and now is only one aspect or probable self of the core entity. We may assume that the “core entity” is the same as Castaneda’s “nagual”. “Intent” as described earlier is a function of the nagual, whereas “will” belongs to the tonal side. This same unity with multiplicity is represented in the Buddhist symbol of the “Jewel in the Lotus”, where each petal of the Lotus represents some ray or dimension of consciousness. In fact, one might even think of probable selves as “rays” or radiations. Blake would call them “emanations”. Other terms are “avatars”, and so on.
Other, similar metaphors are “Diamond Mind” (each facet of the diamond is a probable self as used by A.H. Almaas or Eckhart Tolle) or “ruby” (Rumi’s often preferred metaphor for the core awareness). “Indra’s Net” is also another frequent metaphor for this unity of multiplicity,
Lastly, I want to mention the experience of a Zen monk who achieved satori and tried to describe it. He saw countless numbers of people walking towards him from every direction of the cosmos as he was meditating, and every one of those people was himself. A very simple insight, but to the point.
“The same but different”. Adherents of the Mechanical Philosophy have trouble wrapping their noodle around that offence to logic. I even recall from a textbook on logic how the saying “the same but different” was deemed irrational or evidence of sloppy thinking. But, it can still be true despite being illogical or sloppy. As the physicist Werner Heisenberg once put it, “Is Nature really this absurd?”, by which he meant “paradoxical”. Well, yes it is, and that recognition is now called The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.
In effect, the metaphor of the “Holographic Universe” is also a version of the Many Worlds, Many Selves Theory, and it seems fast becoming the preferred model of the cosmos, as much as we can envision one at all. “Visualisation” is very important to science, and especially to the eye-dominant mental-rational consciousness, and this may account for why so many contemporary scientists are looking to Buddhism for models, because the quantum world is damned hard to visualise.
I would say that embracing the paradoxical identity of the One and the Many (or the coincidentia oppositorum in general) is a key feature of the Holistic Philosophy, and the one thing that distinguishes it absolutely from the Mechanical Philosophy. Coincidentia oppositorum is also acknowledged in Hinduism, where it is known as Tat Tvam Asi — “Thou Art That”.
No “integral theory” or “holistic philosophy” is worthy of that name if it ducks the paradox of the One and the Many (which is why I never mention Ken Wilbur or his AQAL model in my posts).