I experienced eight different worlds one morning, one right after another. The overall circumstance in which this happened was strikingly similar to what is found in the dream-layers of the movie "Inception," but this was several layers deeper and took place long before the movie came out. I'm telling you this right at the outset so you understand my experience was a true, organic encounter with our meta-reality, not merely an artifact of an overactive imagination operating creatively upon elements from a movie or a good piece of science fiction. Honestly, until that morning, I had never experienced or read anything structured in this way, and the whole experience was very, very real. In fact, it was so real that the insights I gained from the experience put the nature of reality itself into question.
Before we go further, I want to be clear that I've always thought the Eastern concept, embedded in the Sanskrit word maya, which says that this world is an illusion -- or a dream -- is a woo-ey New Age concept in which I have little interest. In other words, I am philosophically opposed to thinking of the world as a dream, and have developed several reasons to support this perspective.
For example, those who know me know I pursue philosophical and mathematical ideas from a view where I believe this world is completely real -- so real that the Creator incarnated into this world specifically to clarify that it is very real, and to connect with us on the level where it is very real for us. In that place of equality, he brought a message about a greater spiritual reality in which this physical reality is embedded -- for the purpose of giving us hope, not for the purpose of denying its realness. Again, I'm saying all this so you understand I'm not associating myself with the New Age concept of maya -- the illusion, which my story would otherwise be confirming.
My purpose in writing is that of a writer in journalist mode: I experienced an extremely rare insight into the true structure of the universe, which will be of benefit for others to know, and so I write it. For those who come across these words searching for a narrative form where they can see and feel the experience, like walking beside Dante as he travels through the nine circles of hell, my words will be disappointing; I cover that angle only very briefly. Perhaps I will write that narrative some other day, but today, my purpose in writing is to convince you of the reality, structure, and nature of the nine worlds. I believe we each have access to these same nine worlds within our souls. Our life's labor is to grow in character so that we can migrate from this present eighth world into the ninth one existing "above" us, which to us appears to be analagous to heaven.
I was geniunely in each world, as much as I am in this one. Each was a completely separate world, so distinct and separated from each other that I sometimes wonder if the only common element between the worlds was me, navigating between them, carrying only memories from one world to another in the manner we carry memories of our dreams -- loosely.
Navigating from one level to the next was similar to waking up from a dream... only to find I was in another dream, very complete, aware of a whole different world history and an all new cast of characters surrounding me. The depth of awareness of each world was as complete as this one in which I write these words, the one in which you read.
In one early level I was escaping an abyss, in another I was being tortured, in another I was being chased by hounds after escaping from somewhere, in another I was flying and singing a song with all my heart that was powerfully changing the world around me, as though the words were shaping the world. Then I "woke up" into this level just like I had awakened when exiting and entering the previous seven worlds. We're in number eight. The part of me that was aware of the big picture, which was moving me between the worlds, knew I could use the same very difficult technique1 to go up into at least one more -- number nine. But the peculiar nature of this level was so attractive I chose to stop my journey here, and years later I have never gotten into those worlds again... yet. Several of them were unpleasant enough that I am not seeking them until I am stronger in character, better able to face some of the great challenges that were presented to me in the lower levels. I believe they are parallel lives, happening simultaneously, and I assume I occasionally visit those worlds while dreaming but don't remember it the next day in this world.
There may be more levels beyond nine but I do not know, I only knew I was about to go upward into that next world when I chose to stay here instead, and each world was increasingly better than the one before. I was definitely at the bottom of the worlds when I started, analagous to the "limbo" world from the movie, because an angel was pulling me upward from a dark, endless abyss beneath me, into which everything was collapsing, like being on the edge of a black hole. Very scary.
The immense freedom of this world
Compared to the other levels, the unique nature of this current level is a compelling, attractive, and pervasive freedom which became suddenly obvious to my awareness because it was such an immediate contrast with all of the preceding dreams. On the previous levels, destinies are not easily changed (to understand this, simply imagine the comparative lack of freedom which was pervasive in medieval Europe as an example).
The freedom is so intense in this world; it is very attractive, like a high quality 360-degree seduction, hard to leave behind because it is really quite beautiful. It is in everything, every breath we breathe, everything we see, feel, think, say, hear, or do. Freedom over our present and future, nearly absolute freedom to do whatever we want, however we want, whenever we want. For example, we can completely change our destiny here, whereas not so easily in the preceding dimensions.
Upon awakening, I understood I could change the storyline of those levels from within this dream world, depending on choices I made here. In a similar manner to how we "feel" the same from within, over the years of our life, even though our body is changing and growing and maturing, etc., my awareness of identity remained the same even though I was surrounded by very different circumstances. External things like clothing were part of the world -- only the me within me remained the same across the worlds.
This nine-layered dream-world adventure was one within a series of several unusual spiritual or alternate-dimension experiences which I have written about in other places. For a period of a few years, these kinds of things happened a lot, until I learned techniques like how to intentionally forget dreams so they didn't leak into this world, and how to meditate so I could be more stable and keep from bumping into other worlds, and other such measures which effectively keep me centered within the range of 'normal' everyday experiences. How this came about is part of a larger story that is hard to tell. I was not using drugs or anything to cause this, and overall I was overwhelmed and miserable a lot until I gained enough equilibrium to finally hold a job.
Walking sideways through time
One of the strangest of all such experiences was when I briefly "walked sideways through time." I can hardly describe what that experience actually was, except to say that history was sideways, so it was possible for Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln to be contemporaries. Not merely as individuals, but their entire slices of time were next to each other, and they could influence each other's entire dimension if they so chose and devoted enough effort to the challenge. I still have a hard time understanding that one, but it was vivid and although it happened years ago, I can recall the experience distinctly. That was what I would call a horizontal division (the slices of time were vertical, but the slicing happened along a horizontal plane, like slices of bread).
The experience of the nine vertical levels (or concentric?) is much easier to understand, and ever since the movie Inception came out, very easy to communicate to other people if the occassion arises, because with that movie, people have a reference point. However, people tend to think I just have an active imagination inspired by that movie, because the experience is so... out-of-the-box.
Some thoughts on navigating
After years of such practice, I am convinced that a few minutes of daily, good quality meditation cultivates a steady, abiding, inner peace; an anchor. This is a very good use of the freedom we have here, as it provides an effective way of changing the destiny of other levels where scary and less-free things are happening, like the torture experience or the collapsing-into-the-abyss experience. Likewise, things like addiction, etc., can have opposite effect, changing the destiny of my character(s) within other levels toward the worse due to negative things happening in this world.
I suspect that different aspects of our complex souls, archetypal elements understood by people like Joseph Campbell, are being challenged/explored/defined in each level, and maybe the upper levels are where we begin to integrate them all into one? Perhaps a truly holy person is someone who is aware of all these levels and navigating a multidimensional storyline; maybe that is an exercise that the people whose awareness is on the next level up do. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had continued upward one more layer. Would I have died on this layer, or had some kind of spiritual awakening?
I do not think this experience is evidence of the "simulation" hypothesis discussed in popular science, which I don't like because I believe there is deep meaning linking all these layers together, in an integrated way that wouldn't be available to a simulation, or would make the structure of simulation so complex that the idea of it being simulated begins to fall apart.
Some time after this experience, the movie "Inception" came out. I recognized its overall accuracy immediately and told everyone around me, but nobody cared. "So what," says the normal world and goes back to arguing about gun control or whatever. As this is a component of the immense freedom, I've learned not to argue with it. I just post things like this on my blog and hope some day it's useful in a good way for other people.
1the technique to move between levels required an enormous amount of willpower, an exertion of pure faith, reminding me of what Jesus probably meant when he said of us: "Oh ye, of little faith." I was utterly exhausted upon awakening, in a way that took days to recover, and I've never done anything like it since. I'm not describing the technique because it needs context; people might misuse it. My purpose here is not to teach anyone techniques, but to make available the idea of the nine worlds for those seeking information or confirmation that such things are real.