Is there one universe or many universes? What is time? Is it all pre-determined or do I have free will? Do I create my reality, attract it, or is it all already there? What am I? What is consciousness? Maybe they're hard questions, but here is one answer, in metaphorical form, in part inspired by the string theory idea that the universe has 10 dimension, and the quantum physics idea that the observer changes what is observed. With a bit of added metaphysical speculation.
Imagine you sit down to watch a DVD in your living room on your big screen TV. In front of you, you'll have a 2D display made up of a number of pixels. You'll be watching it from the sofa from what we could say is a point, a viewpoint, yours. The film you're watching is what could be considered a one-dimensional story-line. That is, it has a start, an end, and some points in-between, a bunch of frames, basically. With your remote control you can move back and forth in the storyline, but only in one dimension.
Now, imagine instead a universe as a virtual reality display, with a movie playing. It has huge amounts of very small pixels, sub-atomic particles. And nothing so crude as little colored dots that try to simulate a 2D picture. No, every single one of these little pixels have 10 dimension. These pixels are so versatile that they're not just going to show colors, they can be pretty much anything one can imagine, depending on how one looks at them. Time, space, mass, forces, colors, sounds, smells, etc. Because of their multi-dimensionality, they can be different things to any number of different observers. Because of the abundance of dimensions, they can also appear as being connected with one-another, in any of myriads of different constellations.
You're looking at them, and you're probably in the belief that you're looking at a 3D reality. 3D visuals with sounds and smells and touch and much more. But your storyline appears one-dimensional, just like with the movie. That's called Your Life. And you're still seeing it from what seems to be one point.
But, get this, you're watching 3D in what really has 10, or however many, dimensions. That is profoundly important.
The 3D you see, however vivid and lively it is, is nowhere near what really is there, by a long shot. It is just one angle of what is there. Or, we could say, it is a shadow of what is really there. You see, shadows of higher dimensional phenomena can easily be 3 or 4 dimensional, just like you see a 2D shadow on the ground of your 3D body. How the shadow looks depends on from where we shine the light, and from where we look.
If we were both sitting in the couch watching a movie, if it is a 2D screen, we'd expect to see more or less the same thing. But if the display had more dimensions, there'd be nothing at all to hinder that we could watch apparently different movies on the same screen, just because we looked from slightly different angles.
There are many ways that a higher dimensional object can create shadows in a lower dimension. The more dimensions, the more possibilities there are for casting huge numbers of shadows into lower dimensions. And shadows might be full 3D feel-o-rama realities if the objects casting the shadows have more dimensions than 3.
Consider a simple example of seeing fewer dimensions than are really there. A dice has 6 sides. It is a 3D object. But yet we're looking for it to show us one of its 2D sides. We throw it, see how it lands, and for a moment we agree to forget the other 5 sides, and pretend that it only presents 1 side to us, the one on top. So, we can say, "Ah, it is a Six!". The dice still has the same 6 sides, at the same time, but we choose to only show one of its 2D projections. The same dice can present 6 different realities, just by turning it.
As I said, your DVD movie has one one-dimensional story-line. But you might have the speech available in several different languages, and you might have sub-titles in several different languages, and maybe you can choose the version where the director blabbers at the same time. This adds an additional dimension, even if a rather barebones one. What else could one do with more dimensions? Well, how about if you had options for which direction the story goes at particular key plot points?
Back to the universe. The universe is made of little units with 10 dimensions or more. Meaning that whichever way you see them (in 3D), it is just a tiny fraction of what is really there. But, still, those little pixel units can provide you with what we'd consider a very full experience. Visuals, sounds, touch, smells, space, time. All of that is really just the information applied to that particular pixel. If you go small enough, the sub-atomic particle doesn't really care if it is considered to appear right now, or a million years ago, whether it is right here on your desk, or a billion light-years away, whether it is red or green or blue, whether it is hard or soft, etc. It can be all of those at the same time. All of that is just something to project on the display. Just information. Just a perspective, a way of viewing.
And since you're only experiencing 3 or so dimensions, the rest adds up to alternate plotlines, foreign sub-titles, voice-overs, trailers, bloopers and whatever else you might imagine, and a whole lot more.
People who have thought about the possibility of multiple universes, possibly being alternate versions of our world here, have usually imagined that it would be necessary that these would be 'stored' as whole, complete universes somewhere, with stars and planets and everything. Really, with enough dimensions involved, it is a lot more elegant and compact than that.
Lets say that today there was an important phone call you needed to make. Maybe your future would be different depending on whether you made it or not. It would make the difference between whether you kept your job as an accountant or whether you went off on an expedition in the Amazon jungles. Or maybe something less dramatic, but it would still be different depending on what you chose. Would you be creating a whole different universe depending on your choice, or would you choose a path that already was there, fully made? And what you chose, was that already pre-determined by the nature of the universe, and maybe you didn't really have a choice? Actually, if the universe is a multi-dimensional display, several of these can be true at the same time.
The film is already playing. But it is full of interesting plot points where you have a choice. What you have a choice about is really just what angle to see something from that already is there, and what track to continue on next. The universe is in one piece, but in 10 dimensions. Whether you go left or you go right, or up or down, it is part of the same story, just seen from a different vantage point. No reason to create whole new copies of the universe to accommodate that you might go one way or another. From a higher dimensional perspective, that exists at the same time, without conflict.
It can be hard to understand, but if we translate it to the limited number of dimension we understand, it is like you have a house with many rooms and corridors. There are many ways you can walk through the house, but it is still the same house. Whether you walk into one room or another, there's no reason to construct an alternate house to accommodate it. Several other people can walk around bewildered in the same house, and still there's no reason to construct extra houses - it can all happen in the same house. Reality is just like that, except for that the house has 10 dimensions, and every room is a holodeck. So, any number of people can walk around and make different choices, and see different things, and even start remodeling, and it all still remains the same house. Even if you're talking about the same room, it can have alternate 3D versions, simply because it really has more dimensions than that. There can be an infinity of different versions without any need for really constructing a new room.
Or you might understand it with the film metaphor again. Different things go on in different parts of the film. The beginning is different from the end. Each frame is different, for that matter. But still it is the same film with a 1 dimensional storyline. If you had something like 10 dimensions, you could have all possible plotlines, and much, much more, and it would still be the same film. If the real structure is multi-dimensional, you can construct any number of paths through it. There's no need for storing all those paths separately, as separate movies, because they're more economically stored in a multi-dimensional structure. Things really get simpler if you add more dimensions, not more complicated. Complications appear when you don't have enough dimensions to encompass what you're doing.
Now, if you're watching a multi-dimensional film, and even participating in it, it might seem like you have free will because you can choose different things along the way. We could say that this is simply an illusion because you're only watching a few dimensions, 2 or 3 for watching it, and 1 for the evolution of the story. So, you can, by your choices, construct your very own path through the movie. And it will seem like it was created by your very own choices, which it was. But the movie was already recorded. Every single choice was simply that you chose to look in the direction of one of the dimension the movie provides. You chose what channel to tune into it, but all the channels were already there. But nobody had decided which exact path you would take.
So, free will is then the perception one has when, in a limited number of dimensions, one chooses an option. If you were seeing the whole thing at the same time, in all dimensions, there would be no options, because all the options would be activated at the same time. That both validates the feeling that we have a free choice for creating our own life, and at the same time the idea that the universe is coherent and logical and physical. Your choice doesn't change the whole universe, you just pick one of the available paths.
We could say that you are a viewpoint, an observer, who interacts with the multi-dimensional universe, and that you are presented with a hologram of reality, which depends on how you look at it, or from what angle you look at it.
For that matter, we could say that your attention or your perceptions are like a laser beam that shines on the universe, as if it were a hologram. You have some choice over where it shines. And depending on where it hits, you're presented with a different version of what is there. A 3 or 4 dimensional image. The universe can easily contain fantastic amounts of possible variations, and lots of laser beams can be shone on the 'same' thing, getting quite different results.
That sort of implies that YOU are of a different nature than that which you perceive, the universe or a limited picture of it. Which might bother the physicists, but there's probably no way around it. Things are different depending on how you observe them, as quantum physics well seems to have grasped. So, obviously there needs to be an observer. I'm not here going to try to answer where the observers come from, but I think it has to be part of the equation that they're there, and that they're more than merely another hologram.
Quite possibly any form of life involves a unit of awareness. You know, the laser beam that shines on the screen of the universe to light up a particular virtual hologram. But the simplest forms might be doing nothing else. Like, imagine whatever is driving a bacterium or a virus. If it is an awareness, it is a pretty zero dimensional awareness. But it is some form of Being, nevertheless. Higher lifeforms, like humans and probably some of the smarter animals, have an additional thing, an awareness of being aware. We could say that this adds a dimension. Instead of just being a unit that perceives, it becomes something that is aware of doing so, being able to perceive itself doing so, and thus becoming capable of deliberate choices, abstract reasoning, etc. And of course we can imagine more dimensions than that, like somebody who becomes aware of that phenomenon, who arrives at a certain spiritual awakening. Somebody who doesn't just exist, but somebody who knows that they exist. And of course one could go further than that and arrive at some kind of enlightened existence, which simply could be considered as existing in a sufficient number of dimensions.
So, this all says that the universe already exists, including what you would consider the past and the future, and many of each. All pre-determined, you could say, because it already is there. But it has a lot of dimensions. So, it isn't just one fixed storyline. Rather it is ALL possible story lines, all possible combinations of all the elements. If you move around in 3-4 dimensions and that's all you perceive, then 10 dimensions is plenty for interconnecting every possible 4D phenomenon with every other possible 4D phonomenon, in every possible way, several times over. And thus providing you with an endless number of choices for how to move your awareness through this whole thing. An endless number of possible stories and possible lives.
And despite that it might all already be there, what isn't already there is what one might get out of it when one plays a laserbeam of awareness over it in a new and unexpected way. Every possibility is new and unexpected in some way, and this gives rise to surprise and learning, and evolution of consciousness. Because I'm postulating here that consciousness is something that exists that is inherently not just a projection, but something that can be aware, something that can observe. By exercising awareness, by thinking, feeling and living, consciousness can go through this 10D movie in any number of ways, and discover great things in the process, which adds value to ... something.
It is logical enough that there would be little point in a 10D movie if there were nobody to watch it. It only makes sense if there's somebody there. But ultimately I think it is all made of the same stuff. You know, like if we jump to the 11th dimension, it would be obvious that the strange quantum holodeck universe and the beings who're playing in it are one and the same thing. Just sort of a trick to play on oneself if one is a Universal Consciousness. Split yourself into zillions of different viewpoints, each one going through life experiencing a complex universe in different ways, and then get them together comparing notes, and learn how to improve on immortality. Probably there isn't really a before and after, but rather a continous feedback process. So, even though I said the film was already recorded, the universe already in existence, it has to be evolving as well. Evolving by the trial and error of many units of awareness looking for a 4D path through the 10D holographic maze.