“We are confronted by the greatest paradox of human life. It is our conditioning which develops our consciousness, but in order to make full use of this developed consciousness, we must start by getting rid of the conditioning which developed it.” Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) “Knowledge and Understanding”. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Other Essays. 1956
All comments welcome.
A few days ago I recorded a podcast with Jamie Butler and Andrew Santamaria. Though touching on a variety of subjects, the main theme was to be the concept of parallel lives in parallel universes. The fact this discussion was taking place is an example of how the recent popularization of the new physics has permeated society and stimulated a resurgence of interest in existential questions. Jamie Butler is a world renowned Medium, a Professor in the truest sense of the word, and the organizer and driving force behind the Love and Light Institute. I have known her and observed her work for 20 years. Andrew Santamaria, who runs a media studio, is knowledgeable in the areas discussed and participated as well as performing the technical work.
The idea of existence on some concurrent plane other than the one to which we direct our daily focus is not new. Plato’s (the philosopher, not my dog Plato – although he is philosophical about life) Allegory of the Cave suggested that our “reality” is an illusion informed by a larger reality of which we are unaware. The subliminal anxiety which underlies so much of existential speculation has driven people to many answers: some sort of omniscient god(s) who amuses itself as a cosmic playwright for whom we are bit players; and the Fates, common throughout European polytheism and manifesting as the Moirai – Greek, the Parcae – Roman, the Sudice – Slavic, and the Norns – Norse. Interestingly, they were all female and all were individual manifestations of a Triune entity. As later Christianity, better called Paulianity after its true Founder, cobbled itself together by “borrowing” and modifying far older traditions this entity emerged as the Trinity – in male form.
These systems were the inheritors of traditions thousands of years older which, preserved in visual art and/or in folklore, attested to the alternate realities found through the successful entry into altered states. These altered states could be attained through meditation, chanting, repetitive motion – especially involving light and dark such a strobe lights at a “rave”, incubation dreaming, and simple dreaming. Some go so far as to say we actually travel in our dreams, via the “etheric body on the astral plane”. If this had any validity it might explain contemporaneous dreams, even dreams of “past” events, but would be harder put to explain pre-cognitive dreams. Of course, there’s always the claim that everything is happening at once. Einstein supposedly said Time is Nature’s way of keeping everything from happening at once – at least in our Newtonian linear perception.
But these were alternate states experienced by an enhanced or altered self, not a discreet and autonomous identical other. And therein lies the problem posed by the proponents of the “multi-verse” concept. Indeed, this must be narrowed further as the multi-verse, visualized as an infinite number of co-existent universes like the tiny bubbles in an ocean of foam does not inherently specify that any two universes must be identical. The advocates of the “infinite versions of you” are very much in the minority. Taking this to a more personal level, when we say we “know” someone we are fooling ourselves. For me to know you I would have to be you. But, since you in no way include me in whole or in part, becoming you would mean leaving me completely behind; I could not say, now I am you so I know you. There would be no I for me to bring along and realize that, much less think it. The recognizable intrusion of any part of me into you would alter you and you would not be the person I sought to know. Furthermore, since I do not include any part of you I could not “come back” to being me while bringing along any part of you. In short, the span of time I passed in such a venture would be very similar to the last time you had Propofol: Lights On – Lights Out – Lights On. I could not, and could never account for anything during the Lights Out period.
From a different, but still Newtonian angle, I am physically and mentally the product of my conception, upbringing, environment, and life experiences. Indeed, it would be easy to extend that back into the dim past when a butterfly flapped its wings and I much later took my first breath. Do my parallel selves have scars literally from feet to head? That anyone, anywhere, anytime could be another Me is absurd. And, horror of horrors, why should I even care? Let’s say Jamie and I sit for a session and she tells me: You’ve had five children on five continents but only one is living now. I’ve known only of the one child, the one living now, so why should I care if there were others I never knew about? I’m not looking for a virility Merit Badge.
Do any of my actions have any meaning for any of my other concurrent selves? Do any of their actions have meaning for me? In an existence which is totally autonomous these questions are moot, even silly.
Perhaps most importantly, I always first question the reason(s) a person is attracted to a new idea, especially one like parallel lives. Is this, like reincarnation, a way people so in love with themselves can assure themselves they will always be around, always be the same lovable self? If this is the driving force we may be looking at a person who is very poorly prepared to accept and work with the changes which normally come in life. Thanatology has a word for these changes: Mini-death. These include a wide variety of events and changes such as loss of certain body functions subsequent to accident or injury, death of a significant other, diminished capacity as part of the aging process, and so on.
Is the person expressing interest in parallel lives doing so from a sense of an unfulfilling life? If so, here’s a perspective: Each of us is living an untold number of parallel lives right now. We can take that image of cosmic foam, composed of infinite bubbles containing full universes and apply it to the myriad of people with whom we have interacted directly or indirectly in some way, people who think they know us. Each of these people is a universe unto himself, unknowable in the way I earlier pointed out. And, for those with whom we have interacted we are living in their universe as the person they think we are. Years ago people I knew told me of the latest accusations and claims they had heard about me. My answer was: If I did a fraction of the things people think I did I would have died of exhaustion years ago. I have encountered people who, after a span of years, were surprised I was alive. In their universe I had died. Funny, I didn’t feel a thing. I am sure many reading this have been surprised on finding what someone they know thinks they did or how they are. And, at times we have tried to “set the record straight”. But did we? And what about all the others, even “close” to us, who have erected a profile, even a full biography of us to which we are not privy because we have never probed deeply enough? We only assume the life we are living in their universe is fully recognizable and agreeable to the life we assume we are living in ours.
I know people who seem so consumed with anxiety over what other people think of them they seem to neglect living their own lives. Sad. I place more value on people who seem able to hear the impressions others have of them, act on what they find valid and in need of correction, and disregard the rest.
Yes, we live parallel lives. An untold number of parallel lives most of which we will never have an inkling of. So what? Some day I will go behind Door Number 4 and relinquish the possibility of setting the record straight. Should I worry about my posterity, my legend?
Those of you wandering about Austria with time on your hands might consider visiting the grave of Franz Joseph Haydn. A stone tablet was placed there in 1814 by Sigismund Neukomm, saying simply: “Non omnis moriar” – Not all of me shall die.