The Quantum Multiverse and Dependent Coorigination

Eliot Kersgaard
5 min readNov 19, 2019
Photo by the author

It is a humbling observation that in the long history of human thought, many common themes have independently arisen. In this article we explore the connections between the universal wavefunction of the quantum multiverse and the Buddhist principle of dependent coorigination. We will do so by introducing the conceptual framework leading to the development each of these theories, and then examine the complementarity of their results.

It is reasonable to first ask: why present philosophy of quantum mechanics in the context of Buddhism? As are many other religions, Buddhism is first and foremost concerned with individual liberation. However, unlike other religions, Buddhism approaches the problem from the perspective of psychology, the human experience being the context in which the search of liberation takes place. The Buddhist teacher has therefore commonly been referred to as a psychotherapist as much as a religious leader. Buddhism’s approach to psychotherapy is overcome suffering through realization of the nature of things. The “nature of things” refers to understanding reality. Quantum mechanics describes basic reality of spacetime, matter, and energy. Buddhist philosophy describes basic reality of experience and relationship. I wish to offer a taste of how these two seemingly disparate fields may in fact have striking complementarity.

The measurement problem of quantum mechanics stems from the fact that the dynamics of interaction between a system and a measuring device are not described by the known laws of quantum mechanics. These laws appropriately describe the time evolution of a system but are apparently unable to explain the sudden “collapse” of a system from a superposition state to an eigenstate upon measurement. The multiverse interpretation addresses this problem by introducing a universal wavefunction which encodes the state of the multiverse as a whole — different eigenstates correspond to different universes, and collapse does not take place, since all universes evolve together. The introduction of the universal wavefunction motivated study of a related issue, the preferred basis problem. The preferred basis problem states: “for a world to split based on the measurement of a system in superposition, there must be a specific basis in which the universal wavefunction is treated. Otherwise, there…

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