Introducing the Meta-Universe
Mother of All Universes
If you’re after for a deep download, you’ve come to the right place. I haven’t come across many concepts as mind-blowing as Duane Elgin’s concept of the Meta-Universe. It’s explanatory scope and power is really quite something.
I’m going to use a short autobiographical piece to walk through the concepts of the “universe” and then the “multiverse”, in order to build us up to the concept of “meta-universe”. From there, I will quote Elgin directly. Prepare to be amazed…
Back when I was studying physics, my life revolved around the concept of “the universe”. I spent four whole years immersed in the study of the patterns, laws, and evolution of this utterly mysterious and exquisite system. I can’t understate how amazing an experience this was, how much beauty and elegance was revealed to me in the interlocking mechanisms and underlying patterns of materiality.
Driven by curiosity I went as deep as I could, searching always for the fundamental principles that would explain the larger, more chaotic and complicated phenomena around me — like ideas, people, and societies. Arriving at these deep equations often felt like discovering the “source code” of reality: the few lines of information from which, after countless repeated iterations, the entire hypercomplex show of Life on Earth emerges.
My Master’s degree culminated in some really hardcore cosmology courses — some of the most amazing pieces of human knowledge I’ve ever been exposed to. These courses revealed wild, audacious — and architecturally elegant — theories such as eternal inflation, quantum inflation, and multiverse theory.
Ah yes, multiverse theory. To be actively working with the notion that our universe is but one of an infinite number of universes, and to see this notion strongly suggested by the best theories that fit astronomical data and early-universe modelling (that is, quantum inflation theory). It’s quite an experience.
Just when you were studying the universe at the largest possible scales and feeling small (but embedded in something outrageously beautiful and intelligent), the multiverse comes along and blows the whole thing out of the water. Now the universe itself is an infinitesimal speck in an infinite sea of universes.
The multiverse is a dizzying idea. It’s also awe-inspiring, to me. Whatever it evokes in us, we can be sure to take it as a reminder of our lack of understanding of our existential situation, a call to humility, awe and wonder. You can find a good summary video on the multiverse here. For a deeper dive try this.
Despite the amazingness of multiverse theory — and everything else that was tumbling out of my study of cosmology and fundamental physics — I couldn’t quite carry on with it. Something essential to life — and the universe — was missing from the whole paradigm. A few things, actually. These were complexity, creativity, consciousness and compassionate, world-building action.
At some point, the course of my investigation changed when I discovered meditation as means of investigating the universe directly, through my own lived experience. Through consciousness.
I had this sense that, no matter, how deep I go into the study of physics, these phenomena weren’t going to be discussed or investigated. So — off I went on a journey of self-guided study and creative action which continues to this day, much of which is captured or reflected on in my articles here on Medium.
On the brink of accepting a place on a Neuroscience PhD, I went to London and joined a newly-formed climate activism movement called Extinction Rebellion. I didn’t look back. But I did keep reading. And lo and behold, I’ve arrived back at the multiverse, only this time I’ve got consciousness, creativity, and compassion deeply embedded in my worldview. And it’s only recently that I have found a conceptual structure to communicate, express and understand that worldview. That conceptual structure is the idea of the “Meta-Universe” as described by Duane Elgin’s in his book Awakening Earth.
This book is a revelation and a masterwork. And the meta-universe concept is a profound level-up from the concepts of “universe” and “multiverse” as they are described within modern physics and philosophy. Yet probably because the meta-universe concept takes neither matter nor consciousness as primary, it is yet to be thoroughly digested and accepted by our materialist (“matter is primary”) culture — not to mention the scientific establishment!
Elgin is a pioneer and a deeply radical thinker. I’m writing this article to share and explain his work as best I can. I’m now going to quote Elgin liberally in order to preserve the precision of his words. Time to dive in.
Before the Big Bang that gave birth to our cosmos there existed an unimaginably vast, incomprehensibly intelligent, and infinitely creative Life- force that chose to bring our cosmos into manifest existence.
It is the Meta-universe that created, and now continuously sustains, our cosmos as a unified organism. It is quite conceivable that the Meta-universe has created an array of cosmic systems of which ours may be only one.
Moment-by-moment, the entire cosmos is being regenerated by an infinite field of Life-energy. The Meta-universe is assumed to have been present before the big bang and is the generative ground out of which our universe (including the fabric of space-time) emerges in a flow of continuous creation. The Meta-universe thus infuses, underlies and transcends our cosmos.
When our cosmos blossomed into existence from an area smaller than a pinpoint some 15 billion years ago, it emerged out of an infinitely deep domain of vast intelligence, creativity and energy. The term universe is used to refer to the still-expanding system that emerged roughly fifteen billion years ago with the Big Bang.
Here are some of the key properties of the Meta-universe that seem congruent with insights from both East and West:
- Profoundly Creative — Because we humans do not know how to create a single flower or cubic inch of space, the creative power of the Meta-universe is of incomprehensible magnitude, depth and subtlety.
- Everywhere Present — The clear, unbounded Life-energy of the Meta-universe is present in all material forms as well as in seemingly empty space.
- Non-obstructing — The Meta-universe is a living presence out of which all things emerge, but it is not itself filled in or limited by these things. Not only are all things in it; it is in all things — mutual interpenetration without obstruction.
- Utterly Impartial — The Meta-universe allows all things to be exactly what they are without interference. We have immense freedom to create either suffering or joy.
- Ultimately Ungraspable — The power and reach of the Meta-universe is so vast that it cannot be grasped by our thinking mind. As the source of our physical existence, thinking process, and reflective consciousness, it is beyond the ability of our limited faculties to capture and concretize conceptually.
- Beyond Form — The Meta-universe is the source of both material forms and the space-time within which those forms present themselves. Being the source and the context of all forms, the Meta-universe transcends the world of form.
- No Objective Measurement — It is impossible to prove the existence of the Meta-universe through objective measurements since it is the source and basis for all objective phenomena. The Meta-universe is of infinite dimensionality, so we cannot limit it to the few dimensions that we inhabit so as to measure “it.”
- More Than Nothing — Because the Meta-universe can generate an entire cosmos with billions of galactic systems and life-forms, it is much more than simple emptiness.
- Immanent — The Meta-universe is not separate from us, nor is it other than the “ordinary” reality continuously present around us.
- Transcendent — The Meta-universe is of infinite dimensionality and reaches far beyond our dimensionally bounded cosmos.
- Compassionate — To experience the subtle and refined resonance of the Meta- universe is to experience unconditional love. Boundless compassion is the essence of the underlying generative ground.
These extraordinary characteristics of the Meta-universe are useful in awakening our everyday thinking to the profound miracle in which we are immersed.
Our existence at each moment is a priceless gift spontaneously given by the Meta-universe. Because we are continuously created from the unbounded Life-energy of the Meta-universe, our essence is invisible — or more accurately, “trans-material” — not because we are of lesser significance than matter, but because we are much greater.
To give an important analogy: just as clear light can be divided with a prism to reveal a rainbow of colors hidden within its transparent nature, so too can the clear light of the Meta-universe be divided into matter and consciousness so as to produce the rainbow of material expressions that is our manifest existence.
The Meta-universe seems fiercely dedicated to the evolution of self-referencing beings that achieve self-knowing in their own time and manner. Because we must each live with ourselves for eternity, it is important that we discover and develop ourselves in true freedom.
There is a natural sequence to the awakening of our core identity. Initially, we tend to identify ourselves with the physical and feeling aspects of existence. When we deplete the learning potentials of these, we move on to mentally-oriented foundations for identity formation. In experiencing the limitations of an intellectual basis for our identity, we then move on to discover our capacity for reflective consciousness. We then identify ourselves with both the material and the consciousness aspects of existence, and our sense of self evolves into the back and forth dynamic between observer and observed, knower and known. As we come to the precise center of the polarity of knower and known, we discover that, ultimately, we are created from the Meta-universe whose nature is infinite and eternal.
Everything we do is unavoidably woven into the living field of resonance that is the Meta-universe. We each learn and act on behalf of the totality. What we learn is kneaded into the fabric of the infinite ecology of the Meta-universe. In the long sweep of cosmic evolution, everything material will eventually vanish. However, the intensity, character and texture of knowing-resonance that we experience and nurture within ourselves feeds into the deep fabric of the Meta-universe, and thereby lives in eternity.
When we achieve self-referencing knowing — when we “know that we know” — we no longer require the density of our material world and physical body to center our knowing process upon itself. The body that provided the aligning structure to awaken self-referencing knowing can then die, and “we” will then endure as a subtle body of light and knowing.
The goal of evolution is not to move from matter to consciousness; rather, it is to integrate matter and consciousness into a co-evolving spiral of mutual refinement that ultimately reveals the generative ground [the meta-universe] from which both continuously arise.
Matter and consciousness are the vehicles through which the clear Life-energy of the Meta-universe reveals itself to itself.
Matter and consciousness are mutually supportive of one another: matter can only know itself through its interaction with consciousness and, conversely, consciousness can only know itself through interaction with matter. Just as a mirror reveals the presence of an object and, conversely, the reflection of the object reveals the existence of the mirror, so too do matter and consciousness mutually illuminate one another.
The synergy achieved through the simultaneous development of the material and the consciousness aspects of life is enormous. Material evolution provides the physical necessities of life that support the wide-spread realization of psychological and spiritual potentials. Consciousness evolution provides the insight, compassion and creativity needed to orient material development into a sustainable pathway for the future. Co-evolution is a balanced, middle path that integrates matter and consciousness into a co-evolving spiral of mutual refinement. Rather than competing with one another, the material and the consciousness aspects are mutually enabling of one another.
Elgin makes a very helpful distinction between consciousness and awareness:
Consciousness — This is the “knowing faculty” and is always connected with an object of knowing. Elementary consciousness as well as rudimentary matter both emerged with the Big Bang. Matter and consciousness then coevolve to reveal their underlying source, the Meta-universe, whose nature is pure awareness.
Awareness — This is the ability to “know that we know.” Because awareness does not depend upon reference to anything to be self-confirming, it is “pure” or “unconditioned.” Awareness is an intrinsic property of the Meta-universe and is the clear Life-energy out of which both matter and consciousness arise.
This distinction can directly inform how we conceive of our meditative/spiritual practice, and the process of awakening:
When, through disciplined effort, we learn the skills of quieting our mind and turning the knowing faculty squarely back upon itself, a profound transformation in consciousness occurs — the distance between observer and observed is gradually reduced to nothing. Knowingness ultimately becomes identical with and transparent to the deep generative ground that continuously gives rise to all that exists.
Although we are created from the transparent energy of the generative ground — pure awareness — we may not recognize this is our true nature. We are like clouds that do not realize that we are made from the sky. It is the gift of this world to provide us with innumerable opportunities to encounter ourselves so that we can discover the remarkable nature of our being.
When our knowing so knows itself that it can recognize itself even without our physical body to provide an aligning structure for knowing, then we are identical with the Meta-universe, whose nature is infinite and eternal.
We are learning to recognise our identity with the infinitely deep and dimensionally unbounded meta-universe within this dimensionally bounded 4D spacetime — and also without out.
I invite you to read the above list of qualities of the meta-universe again, but this time as an exercise in learning about something that is not external to you. Rather, I invite you to read it as a description and reflection of your own deepest nature.
O, dear reader!
O Meta-universe Incarnate!
You are profoundly creative, everywhere present, non-obstructing, utterly impartial, ungraspable!
You are beyond form, beyond measurement, beyond nothingness!
You are immanent, transcendent and compassionate!
you are human.