Thursday, December 29, 2016

The coincident universe and the nature of God

Our Lady of the Dry Tree
Petrus Christus c. 1450

I was engaged in an exchange with J, one of my readers from Spain, last month, who asked about any further ponderings I might have on the coincident multiverse.

The general point of the post on the coincident multiverse is that one can't have an infinite number of universes, all of which are different.

The universe we are in is already a precise model of all the universes that can ever be, in the same way that every individual is the model of God. The laws and principles of world creation and world maintenance are constrained by objective facts; hence, one can't create 6 billion (or an infinite number) of different versions of varieties of humanity or sentient beings, each one of which is a microcosmic representation of God; it would be as preposterous as attempting to create 6 billion different replicas of the great pyramid, each of which wasn't a pyramid, but represented some other geometric form.

This is quite an exact analogy. Think it over.

There are some subtleties to this question. If God is all powerful, infinite, expresses all possibilities, etc. – that is to say, if He expresses the complete range of both the possible and the impossible (which is technically correct), why can't He also express universes and Beings which are outside of, or dissimilar to, His nature? You can see how complicated this question is. We would have to tie ourselves into knots to truly answer it accurately. Nonetheless, I'll try to give you a few thoughts that one hopes are not just tangled fishing line.

First of all, since God is the source of all Being—all Being originates in and emanates from Him— there can be no Being of any kind which is dissimilar to His nature.

Furthermore, God cannot give up His essential nature and His essential Being even more than we can give up our own. Even the devil will not give up his nature and his being, because it is what makes him who he is.

In the same way, although God allows His Being to pour into all of creation, He cannot flow into a creation that doesn't most perfectly reflect His nature and His Being. They are one and the same. In this way, being in this universe, which perfectly reflects God's nature and Being, we see that all universes must be—in their inmost structural and functional sense—identical to this universe.

Yes—an infinite number of differences in detail arise and express themselves—but every universe has to be identical in the sense that it perfectly reflects God's Being, so we can't have a multiverse with an infinite level of diversity. Laws govern its making.

In the passage from "In Search of the Miraculous," the seminary student points out that even God can't beat the ace of spades with a deuce. Beelzebub Tales to his Grandson, while not addressing this issue specifically, effectively delivers to us a universe with both a flawed God and concrete limitations on His abilities. The idea of the lawfully consistent, coincident multiverse is a firm adjunct to this proposition.

Modern science fiction writers like to propose all kinds of preposterous alien creatures that can't possibly exist given the constraints of physics, chemistry, and evolutionary mechanics—which in the real world inevitably produce similar types and forms, even over hundreds of millions of years, from completely different classes of animals and plants. Perceptive science writers, biologists, and so on have pointed out how utterly ridiculous this proposition is, but fantasies continue to dominate people's thinking. Humans quite simply love the absurd and won't give it up; it's part of our egoism.

The world of physics hasn't quite caught up to these facts and the way they affect the expression of the multiverse, but I believe they eventually will. Novelty without precedent for reason may be attractive and exciting, but it doesn't reflect the realities of creation. Things look the way they do for a reason. The arguments for accident are clearly absurd, but contemporary convictions that drive them in the sciences—all conceits of one kind or another—are powerful. They represent an immaturity of both thought and understanding that will not be surpassed until man's being grows a great deal more.

 Let's put it this way. We have to be what we are.

We cannot be any way else. And investment in the sensation of our own being — which is, in its essence, what self remembering consists of — helps us to reveal this. If we are going to develop self understanding and self knowledge, it has to center around this precise fact that we are what we are, and that nothing can be different.

That particular understanding — which needs to be absorbed intellectually (including the ideas of the coincident multiverse), emotionally, through surrender to God, and physically, through the sensation of the fact of our being— is one of the routes of humility that can help us better understand our position.

Even the universe must be humble in the face of its own nature.

PS: Bonus material today—click on the link for an essay on Allegory of the Intellect in Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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