In my post, Aspects Of Consciousness, I related the story of Sarah, a woman who was artificially allowed to die for seventeen minutes during brain surgery. Even though her brain showed no signs of activity, she was able to relate bits of conversations that took place during that time. Cases like this provoke the exploration of the nature of reality. What if there is more to our existence than the time-space, linear model that we know to be real? What if we are open to the possibility that there are varieties of existence beyond what the masses refer to as “normal” by consensus?
The Vedic scriptures tell us that this world is an illusion. The Buddhist Heart Sutra tell us that form is emptiness. How can this be true you say? It is very real if your basic needs for food and shelter are not met, and the taxman comes knocking if you do not pay taxes. In the big picture, physical reality is but one facet of the infinite variety within Consciousness. In fact, Quantum Physicists are discovering the possibility of alternate realities, and String Theory is at the leading edge in this school of thought.
Without getting into the complexity of String Theory, basically, physicists have discovered that everything in the universe is connected by strings of energy that vibrate at different frequencies. The theory suggests that there must be a minimum of ten dimensions and the possibility of an infinite number of parallel universes other than the three dimensional reality that we know of. It is suggested that for every choice we make, a number of universes are created for each possible option. And for those possible options, the potential for more choices that create a universe for each possible outcome, so that an infinity of universes can exist from any choice that we make.
The possibility of infinite parallel universes is fascinating. If infinite universes are created when we choose an option in any given decision, then there is no need for regret. All options are available to us if we are open to experiencing that the reality we choose to call “real” is but one facet of consciousness.
In Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Carl Jung related a story which I think illustrates the possibility of parallel universes. He visited the basilica of San Giovanni in Ravenna, Italy with a friend and there he had an extraordinary experience in the Baptistery of the Orthodox. A mild blue light filled the room, though there was no account for its source. It amazed him that in place of the windows he remembered from his previous visit, twenty years ago, there were now four great mosaic frescoes of incredible beauty. He was vexed at himself for his poor memory, that he did not remember these beautiful mosaics from his previous visit in 1913. After he left the baptistery, he went in search of photos of the mosaics so that he could purchase some to take home. He could not find any and decided to order them from Zurich later. When he returned home, he asked an acquaintance who was going to Ravenna to buy him some photos of the mosaics. The man could not find any, for he discovered that the mosaics that Jung described did not exist.
Jung consulted with the friend who accompanied him on that visit to the basilica and she could not believe that what she had seen with her own eyes, did not exist. Jung said that it was among the most curious events of his life and may possibly be explained by an incident in the story of Empress Galla Placidia(d. 450). “During a stormy crossing from Byzantium to Ravenna in the worst of winter, she made a vow that if she came through safely, she would build a church and have the perils of the sea represented in it. She kept this vow by building the basilica of San Giovanni in Ravenna and having it adorned with mosaics. In the early Middle Ages, San Giovanni, together with its mosaics, was destroyed by fire; but in the Ambrosiana in Milan is still to be found a sketch representing Galla Placidia in a boat.”
Did Jung and his friend, on that visit to the basilica in Ravenna enter an alternate reality, one which no longer existed in “normal” reality but continued on in an alternate universe? If so, how subjective are the varieties of consciousness if his friend entered the same alternate reality with him that day, and saw the same mosaics with her own eyes? Is it possible that Sarah entered an alternate reality during her brain surgery and was able to relate the snippets of conversation back to her doctor, even though in one reality she was “dead’?
This story that Jung told and Sarah’s story, begs the question, what is real? Is the waking state real? Is the dream state real? The ancient scriptures of the East shed light on these questions and I will continue to look at this intriguing subject in my next post.