If the kingdom of heaven exists, is it located in a place somewhere “out there,” in some remote location of the universe, inaccessible until after death? A large segment of society thinks it is so. Not only that, many believe it is only accessible by those who hold a certain set of beliefs. I used to feel that such ideas could not be taken seriously and any religion that professed them was on dubious ground. At the same time, I cannot say that I was very curious about what my own beliefs actually were – until fairly recently when I began a serious quest for answers. After much contemplation of spiritual ideas and of the world of physics, I’ve concluded that, yes, there definitely is a heaven but it is not “out there” somewhere. It is hiding right here, in plain sight. As the nineteenth century poet Elizabeth Barrette Browning said, “Earth is crammed with Heaven.” It is inside each of us, a place closer to us than our own skin. It is not waiting for us after death; it is accessible right now, at a time when it can do us some good. One of the greatest spiritual teachers of all time told us this 2000 years ago but most refused to listen.
A couple years ago, I read an article in Discovery Magazine entitled “Newsflash: Time and Space May Not Exist.” In it, the author, Tim Folger, winner of the prestigious American Institute of Physics writing award for 2007, explores the nature of time and space on the smallest scales. He discusses the Planck scale and that, according to certain quantum physics theories, our concepts of time and space no longer apply at that extremely small size. What does this have to do with God and heaven? Read on and you will find out.
In the world of our everyday experience, time and space appear smooth and continuous. At the exceedingly small Planck level, many physicists say that time and space are made of quanta, that is, discrete particles. Pieces of time? Pieces of space? Whoa! Yes, there are good scientific reasons to believe this is how it is. Therefore, our notion of time and space dissolves into nothingness at this Planck scale. Finding particles where they are not expected is not new. About a hundred years ago, physicists discovered photons. They are discrete particles – quanta – of energy. That was a big surprise too. In fact, that is how quantum physics got its name. When physicists first proposed that energy came in small packets, many thought it was a nutty idea. It made no sense. It is true, of course, as every high school physics student knows. Nevertheless, the notion that time and space are made of discrete particles caused my mind to spin.
How small are these particles of time and space? Staggeringly small. For comparison, the tiny nucleus of an atom is usually represented in scientific shorthand as 10-12 meters, or stated numerically, 0.000000000001 meters. That is, of course, extremely small. Yet, the Planck scale is a billion trillion times smaller. The Planck space dimension is 10-35 meters. The Planck time dimension is 10-43 seconds. The latter is the length of time it takes a photon to travel the Planck distance. It is worth noting that there are not separate particles of space and of time. Einstein showed the world that space and time are not separate things at all but are two aspects of one “fabric” of the universe. He coined the word, “spacetime,” to make the point. Therefore, each individual particle of spacetime includes both space and time.
Given that spacetime is made of tiny particles and is not smooth and continuous, this question came to my mind: What separates these particles? What is the void between them made of? Whatever it is, it cannot be more spacetime. I have come to call this void the Planck realm.
Since you and I are products of spacetime, we cannot venture into the Planck realm but we can make up a thought experiment to get us there. I imagine shrinking and drifting into the realm and looking around, sort of like being inside a transparent substance. Here we find that all eternity (the past, present and future plus the vast expanse of the physical universe) is superimposed at one unbounded, dimensionless place. It is not a big place, nor is it small. Remember, the concept of space violates the rules here. I am observing from within that place. Looking around, I can see many particles of spacetime suspended in the substance. There is activity. New particles of spacetime are forming, percolating out of the substance like air bubbles boiling into existence inside a pot of hot water. The place is not still, it is seething with activity.
What is the substance that makes up the Planck realm? It has to be made of something that is not of the physical world. Both energy and matter are part of spacetime so the Planck realm is made of neither of those. My conclusion is that the substance is consciousness. Some may say that since people are conscious and are at least aware of consciousness, it too must be part of the physical world. I disagree. Consciousness is the one thing that transcends both realms.
Where is this Planck realm? Even though the examples here have to do with shrinking to a small size, it is a mistake to conclude that one needs to travel somewhere to get to it. It is not somewhere else. It is right here, right now, inside me and inside you. If I go deep within during my imaginary journey here and now and you go to the other side of the galaxy at some other time and do the same, once we cross into the Planck realm, both of us will be in the exact same location. In the Planck realm, there is no space or time to separate us.
So, just what is this Planck realm? Here is where my contemplation has led: It is the Kingdom of God; it is heaven. It is consciousness, God’s means of expression into the spacetime realm. Out of the substance of consciousness is formed the particles of spacetime and all the elementary particles that constitute the matter of the universe. Certainly not everyone will agree with this line of reasoning and I’m fine with that. However, some wise spiritual teachers have taught surprisingly similar ideas. For one, I believe that this is what Jesus was referring to when he said,
The kingdom of God cometh not with observation. Neither shall they say, lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
Given the era in which he spoke those words, how could he have been clearer?