Choosing a different direction

We are so used to seeing the world one way, that it can be quite a shock to see it the other way; as if you thought your world was the vase, but then discovered that actually - it’s the faces. Once you can come to terms with seeing the world in this new way, understanding the process of magic will become much easier.

To introduce yet another metaphor, you can think of the multiverse as being like the world’s biggest “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, our choices moving us from page to page, forming our memories. The whole book (the Timeless Multiverse) already exists; but, due to the physical limitations of our brains, we are only able to experience the single path we take through it. Perhaps that’s just as well, otherwise we would experience the past, the future, and all possible pasts and futures simultaneously; experiencing every version of ourselves all at once. There would be no “passage of time” as we experience it normally, and if it could even be said that we were able to ‘think’ at all in this state, it would be completely alien to our normal experience.

Although each possible outcome is experienced by a version of ourselves, the timeline leading up to each of those versions will, by and large, be internally consistent. Each version of you will remember a consistent history, which allows them to explain why they ended up making that choice. If you could look at the Timeless Multiverse from the outside, it would be possible to trace each person’s consistent timeline. Everyone considers themselves to have this kind of personal consistency because their own memory makes sense to them. The key to this is the description ‘each possible outcome’. Although it is technically possible (for example) for everything in the world to turn into strawberry ice-cream at any moment, there would have to be a previous sequence of events that led to it occurring if we want to have any chance of observing it. It is far more likely for the world of strawberry ice-cream to be a result of, say, a supervillain with a strawberry ice-cream conversion gun, than it would be for the world to spontaneously undergo a strawberry ice-cream quantum fluctuation. And considering that you would have to wait (on average) for longer than the age of the universe just to be able to observe a single molecule in the air spontaneously turn into gold, let alone strawberry ice-cream, I think we can put a certain amount of trust in the macroscopic narratives that we observe in our normal life.

However, even within the set of normal, observable narratives, as we interleave amongst them, constantly changing timelines, the versions of people you meet will not be the same versions you met yesterday, or even a few moments ago! Luckily, because we are all constantly being entangled with our environment (the decoherence that I talked about earlier), the limitations imposed on us by that entanglement means that despite navigating our own unique personal path through the multiverse, our experiences tend, on the whole, to mesh with what I refer to as ‘The Consensus’, and what everyone else would refer to as ‘normal life’ i.e. everyone else’s experiences agree, so that we end up assuming that we are all living in a single universe. Even if the versions of people you met yesterday are not the same versions as those you meet today, they will be sufficiently similar, so as to be consistent with your memories of how they were yesterday. And vice versa - their memories of you will, in most cases, be sufficiently similar that they consider you too, to be the same person they met the day before.

This means that whichever timeline you end up in, whether by normal or by magical means, that timeline will almost always contain versions of everyone who will agree that is how it is and furthermore, that’s how it always was. And vice versa - when you discover that a magician has failed to implement his magic, and you were not involved in the magic, the Consensus is on your side - you have not been included in the set of paths where his magic succeeded. This is also why magic needs to be experienced - any magician who has success after success in their work will end up interacting with more and more different sections of the Consensus. Everyone else, who are outside the magician’s path, will, statistically, not interact with the version of the magician that has all the successes.

Ironically, quantum decoherence means that we can experience real coherence in our daily lives. Magically, however, the Consensus is like the tar baby that Brer Fox set as a trap for Brer Rabbit, in the Uncle Remus story. The more Brer Rabbit struggled with the tar baby, the more he became stuck to it. It’s difficult to break away and choose a different direction when you are entangled with everyone else.