First, imagine the conceivable dimensions of space geometrically: a line connecting two points is the first dimension - it has length but no width or depth. If we add a line branching from this original line, we have created the second dimension - on a plane, these two lines taken as a whole have length and width but no depth. Visualizing the third dimension is the easiest since we live in this dimension, but if we think of this dimension not as a third line on another plane, but as a fold connecting the two original lines, it will help us to imagine dimensions higher than the fourth. So, imagine that we cannot simply draw another line along another plane to give it depth. Now, imagine the third dimension, instead, as a fold of one of the original lines to meet the other line (like a two dimensional ant on the surface of a two dimensional newspaper, or Mario in one of the wrap around screens) being able to seemingly blink from one section to another if we were to fold those two points together. Still, with me? If we imagine the fourth dimension, time or duration, as another geometric line, then the fifth dimension is a line branching from our fourth dimensional line of time. There are infinitely many branches, all of which exist and represent all of the possible future available to us in this universe, but they are inaccessible to us, since we are bound by three dimensions. Getting to any of these branches requires only "choice , chance, and the actions of others", although we can only travel down one of these branches at any given moment. This is another way of saying that free will is our access point to the fifth dimension. We'll return to this notion at the end to demonstrate the conceptual possibility of viewing free will outside the realm of our own three dimensional universe. The implications of these amorphous suppositions have roots in both scientific and religious disciplines, and I wish to explore these in their totality.
In the discourse of the modern day discussion of free will vs. determinism, one must begin with the Church Fathers and Christian theologians of the Middle Ages. And, if we begin with the most influential of them all, Augustine, we immediately run into contradictory interpretations of the phenomenon. On the one hand, Augustine seems to deny free will, giving all power over the past, present, and future to God. He states that the number of saved souls is fixed, has been since the beginning of time, and that all are predestined to go either to heaven or hell. But Augustine, perhaps counterintuitively from a contemporary perspective, differentiates between determinism and predestination. The former is an absolute fixity in the future of the universe, which he denies, whereas the second only refers to the ultimate fate of individual souls, whose choices, freely made, determine their final location. The Catholic Church, which holds the existence of free will to be compatible with its doctrine, regards the writings of Augustine as affirming free will, in that he asserts that "any can be saved if they wish." Indeed, the Calvinist view of hard determinism would be diametrically opposed to the Catholic doctrine of free will beginning in the 16th century. The difference is merely in the perspective - our lack of knowledge as to our ultimate fate renders free will a reality, while from God's perspective, it is already known and decided. While contradictory, this nevertheless represents Augustine's and the Church's position, as Augustine constantly refers to free will as the ability of any person to accept Christ and thus be saved through grace. He says as much in his theological treatise "On Free Choice of the Will". The pre-determinism found in his writings is usually contextualized with the contemporary heresy of Pelagianism that Augustine was combating - Pelagius taught that humans could be saved of their own accord and did not need the saving grace of Christ, which Augustine rejected.
If free will is equivalent to freedom of choice, then perhaps the question lies in cause and effect. Here, however, the verdict, both philosophical and scientific, is still out. One of the earliest and most influential conceptions of cause and effect, is Aristotle's "Unmoved Mover," an imagined originator of the universe, defined as the original cause through which all existence may be termed an effect. Though the idea may seem similar to the concept of "God", it must be noted that Aristotle's "Unmoved Mover" was not anthropomorphic and did not play an active role in creation as the Judeo-Christian God did. Thus, it was originally considered incompatible with the creator God until the the great Scholastic Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas did Aristotle one better, or five better as it were. Aristotle had contended that the universe was eternal and had proposed the idea of a hypothetical "Unmoved Mover" as a necessary attribute of any universe that did have a temporal beginning. Aquinas, who as a Christian believed in a finite universe with a definite temporal beginning, took the "Unmoved Mover" concept as a given and as his starting point for his Quinquae Viae, or the Five Ways. The Five Ways, originally conceived as a rational approach to proving the existence of God, also contains major implications for the conflict between free will and determinism. Polkinghorne simplifies them thusly: "1) The existence of change...conclude[s] that there must be a first originator of change; 2) the existence of causation...conclude[s] that there must be a first cause; 3) the existence of coming to be and ceasing to be...conclude[s] that the world's actual continuance requires an unchanging ground of its existence; 4) the existence of gradations and qualities...conclude[s] that there must be one whose perfection is the ground for all partial qualities; 5) the existence of purpose in this world...conclude[s] the necessity of an intelligence directing it." (I plan on posting more on this later). A "first cause" equivalent to God implies a certain top-down control in the matter if we accept Aquinas' version of a "first cause" rather than Aristotle's, though I think Polkinghorne is right when he points out that Aquinas was more concerned with a "logical hierarchy" than a "temporal priority." This continues to muddy the argument and even though the official Catholic position is one of free will, the greatest writings on the matter do not shed any particularly coherent light on the issue.
Science, however, is no clearer. Traditional Newtonian physics is fairly cut and dried. It is classically mechanistic: 1) a body at rest or in uniform motion stays in that state unless acted upon by an external force, 2) force equals mass times the acceleration of a given object (F=ma), and 3) for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. These are Newton's three laws of motion simplified, and these, in some ways, also seem to imply determinism. The late 18th century French physicist and astronomer Pierre-Simon Laplace used these physical laws to create his own thought experiment, oftentimes called "Laplace's demon", which posits that if a demon with unlimited calculating power were given the location and momentum of every atom in the universe, he could predict the entire future of that universe. Carried further, this suggests that, of course, no human (Hari Seldon aside) could ever have this knowledge considering our own intellectual limitations, but an infinitely superior being with such power could in fact have such knowledge. Laplace called this being a demon, but what is to stop us in our conceptual language from granting this ability to God? Again, is this not exactly the God described by the Calvinists? This is where the conflict between knowing the future and controlling the future comes into play, which Augustine and other Christians have explained simply as a difference in perception. But, we must push this idea even further. As it turns out, Newtonian physics only describes the universe in general macroscopic terms, and at very small sizes and very fast velocities, it does not describe reality accurately. The determinism of Laplace's demon is overturned by Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, which states that if one knows the location of a subatomic particle, one cannot know its precise momentum, and if one knows the momentum of a subatomic particle, its precise location is indeterminate. So much for a demon with a calculator knowing our future - he can never input both variables into his equation. Einstein famously mused, in regards to quantum mechanics, that "God does not play dice." By playing dice, though, quantum physics, at least in this respect, affirms a universe of free choice.
The truth of the matter remains murky, and even more recent scientific discoveries swing the pendulum back in the direction of determinism: certain electrons seem to be able to "communicate" with each other no matter the distance and in certain experiments involving these electrons, effects are quite capable of appearing before causes (according to some). Recent studies by neurobiologists and cognitive scientists in the realm of simple voluntary movement have shown that the brain is aware of the movements we are about to make before our conscious minds are. Chance is another conundrum. What we call chance, may not really be chance at all (though I don't suspect a coin flip in our universe will come up heads ninety-two times in a row) but "infinitely complex order." When odds are calculated in a coin flip, for example, one would say that the odds of a coin coming up heads is 1 in 2, all things being equal. In reality, all things are never equal, and variations in the weight of the coin, the strength and direction of the toss, which side it is on to begin with, how many times it bounces, etc. will have an effect on the outcome. Only the hypothetical continuation of the flip for all eternity will give a statistical average of 1 in 2. Chance is simply infinitely complex order, indistinguishable from what we may call chaos but which is not chaos. In other words, order and disorder are not mutually exclusive, but "disorder" is simply order so complex as to be unpredictable and thus equivalent to what we would call chance. Perhaps free will is this very form of "unpredictability", so complex at a universal scale, that only God Himself is capable of discerning the order from the disorder. The acausal connecting principle synchronicity, by this definition, could be defined as more than chance - it could be a pattern found in the apparent disorder of the universe, a glimpse at the infinite complexity of reality. In short, science is no clearer than religion is on this matter.
In closing, let us return to the thought experiment we began with. Beyond our perceivable three spatial dimensions and the fourth of time, superstring theory posits the existence of 10 dimensions (or 11 if time is included as a dimension rather than a "direction"). The fifth dimension, according to the geometric concept laid out in the opening paragraph, consists of branches extending out from the "line" of time. In the totality of the universe, the point from which we start "contains" all of three dimensional space starting with the big bang and the point where the line ends is the temporal and spatial end of the universe. But, since time is not fixed (at least from our three dimensional perspective), there are an infinite number of "branches" from this line that creates the fifth dimension (heat death, big crunch, etc.). A "folding" of this fifth dimensional line to meet another fifth dimensional line takes us into the sixth dimension, and this would be the equivalent of a warp or wormhole leading to another timeline within our own universe. Then, taking all these branches as a new geometric point (just as we did to the first three dimensions), we could term this "infinity", since every timeline that could possibly exist within our universe exists within this point. We can then draw a line from this infinity to entirely different infinities. How is this possible? Because the first "infinity point" contains only all possible timelines in our current universe and does not contain timelines from other universes (the "multiverse"), where the initial conditions following the big bang are different and create different physical laws (for example, another universe may have a light speed faster than ours or a boiling point of water higher than 100 Celsius or where gravity is stronger than the electro-magnetic force, etc.) Following the original premise, branches and folds produce the eighth and ninth dimensions, which, when collapsed into a point, creates the tenth dimension. No more lines can be drawn from here, since we have already exahausted "all possible timelines for all possible universes". Does this make sense? No, not really. . . just watch the video. It will be easier to understand it conceptually as opposed to reading an imperfect verbal description. So what's the point in describing all these dimensions? Because, according to this conceptualization of supersting theory's "higher dimensions," everything that exists beyond the fifth dimension is dependent upon "choice, chance, and the action of others" in order to exist. All of the possible future timelines (the fifth dimensional branches from our fourth dimensional "line" of time) require our active choice to occur. Or, put another way, the indeterminate nature of the future is simply another way of envisioning the necessity of choice. If we could picture an entity or being that exists in or beyond the 10th dimension, who would necessarily have access to the lower dimensions (as we have access to the second and first), does their knowledge of time, our future, all possible futures, and all possible other universes abrogate our own free will? At least in this respect, I'm not sure that knowledge equals control, even if creation is implied.