Neurophysiology, the multiverse, and spirituality

CAUTION: SPOILERS AHEAD

This weekend I read Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. It’s a science fiction thriller that uses quantum mechanics and the multiverse theory as its organizing plot device. In short, this theory posits that our current understanding of space-time and quantum mechanics requires that every time a quantum wave function collapses as its observed, a new universe branches off that’s different from the one where the function could have collapsed differently which continues on its course. As a result, an infinite number of universes are branching off at every moment in time that represent every possible combination of wave function collapses throughout the entirety of history and the cosmos. (I am not doing this explanation justice, I apologize. Refer to better treatments for more information.)

These universes exist alongside ours at the same moment in time, but on a different dimension of reality, meaning that they’re all right here are now but we’re not able to observe them. At one point, Crouch hypothesizes (by way of his characters) that ability to perceive these different universes is constrained by our neurophysiology: our brains are adapted by evolution to not be able to observe these alternate realities because it would overload our ability to understand and make sense of the world (definitely an evolutionary disadvantage).

That prompted me to consider: does spirituality/God work similarly in any way? In other words, is our ability to perceive and understand God constrained to one degree or another by the realities and limitations of the way our brains are structured?

For example: sound waves exist regardless of whether an organism possesses the mechanisms to perceive and interpret them (in our case: ears). Ditto for light: photons do their thing even if an organism doesn’t have the organs and hardware online to be able to perceive those photons. That all said, even for us humans there are sound waves and light waves that operate at frequencies that our ears and eyes are not able to perceive.

What if God and/or “divine cosmic energy” (pick your metaphor) operate to some degree in a similar way? They are existing and operating on some sort of dimension that we simply lack the capacity to fully perceive and interpret. Through the capacities that we do have (i.e. certain types of physical and psychological sensations perceived and interpreted by our brains), perhaps we’re able to pick up on a very, very little slice of the bigger picture, but ultimately that slice is incomplete and does not allow us to comprehend the full picture. Our brains do their best with what they’ve got and interpret these things as religious stories, spiritual feelings, “hearing the voice of God,” within the images and metaphors from our cultures, the building blocks that our brains have to work with.

This could help explain why one person’s spiritual experience in one culture turns into Buddhism and another person’s experience in another culture turns into Christianity.

It’s also fascinating to contemplate the technological possibilities. We’re able to perceive different frequencies of light and sound because we built the tools that can do so. Might we someday be able to use technology to access different portions of the “God-spirituality-energy” spectrum? (Here’s one interesting avenue.)

Either way, the novel is engaging and a fun read. It prompted me to think about my life and my choices and the various directions it could have gone at various points along the way.

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