Multiverse of Angles

Alternate realities. The concept fits well with astrophysical views of the multiverse that posit undiscovered dimensions and all their implications. Last night my family finished its group reading of Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife, as alternate a reality as might be imagined. Plucking Lyra from the uncertain ending of The Golden Compass, Pullman draws his readers into alternate worlds where everything is tied together by the consequences of “the fall” in Eden and where a new battle against the divine is about to take place. In an ambitious attempt to shift perspectives, we are told that the forces against God are, in fact, good. The magisterium, as its uncompromising strength in Lyra’s world demonstrates, will always seek to rule the world. It is an unsettling picture that Pullman paints, a reality where what we thought was Ormazd turns out to be Ahriman.

At the same time, I have caved in and begun reading The Watchmen. Not a great fan of graphic novels, I have been faced with a mounting curiosity after watching the movie a few times. In this alternate reality, God is simply irrelevant. Doctor Manhattan elaborates on the nature of a universe without a deity more fully in the novel than audience forbearance would allow on the big screen. This is a world perpetually on the brink of self-destruction, where God is absent and human ambition becomes the driving force behind a petty, short-sighted reality. Despite the comic-book feel, the story is profound and the concepts disturbing. Alan Moore’s dark vision of other worlds allows unrestrained human desire free reign with no divine restraints.

Such alternate realities underscore just how much of our reality is structured by religious beliefs. They resemble our world in significant ways, but their lack of divinity forces a nascent nobility from human characters who are only too aware of their own weaknesses. Flawed people try to create a better world. Some theoretical physicists suggest that all imaginable realities likely exist in the infinitude of universes that crowd in on our limited view of the way the world actually is. The ideas are mind-bending since even the worlds imagined on our own limited universe have both created and destroyed concepts of God. What might God’s role be, should the multiverse (or even a Stephensonian metaverse) turn out to be the true reality?

One thought on “Multiverse of Angles

  1. Beedo

    I remember reading the Watchmen comic back in the 80’s; it was groundbreaking for it’s time. In the transition to the big screen, it’s a bit late to the dance; super heroes have already showed up in their spandex (Spiderman), went grim and gritty (the Dark Night), and gone post-modern (Hancock). From that perspective, Watchmen’s schtick is a bit old hat.

    I never got caught up in the theology, but in the ethics of the story. If you postulate the existence of ‘costumed crime fighters’, isn’t it a bit ridiculous they should worry about back-street muggers and cats in the tree, when a world war is about to break out? I’m sure introductory ethics classes debate such issues that drive the big reveal in Watchmen – Kant vs Consequences – but for me, coming out of high school, it was heady stuff to think through. And out of a comic book, too.


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