Friday, August 20, 2010

The Holographic Universe

Book Review: The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot (Harper 1991)

This is perhaps one of the most important books of recent years – perhaps ever. Here various phenomena of the body, brain function, quantum physics, OBEs, NDEs, miracles, lucid dreams, psychic phenomena, reincarnation, hallucinogenic drug experiences, psychoses and multiple personality disorders, ghost/spirit/ancestor communication, UFO encounters, shamanic initiation, hypnotism, and mystical experience are all examined from the perspective of the holograhic model of reality. The main early architects of this holographic view of reality are physicist David Bohn and neurophysiologist Karl Pribram who arrived at their ideas independently. The qualities of interconnectedness and non-locality are important to the theory. In a hologram each part in a sense contains the whole. The relationship between matter and consciousness changes as consciousness becomes a subtler form of matter. The barrier between subject and object is blurred and new terms like “omnijective” come about to describe an integrated reality. Such is the imaginal” realm of the Sufis, the near-death realm of those who have had near-death experiences and the non-duality of eastern mystics. Time and space are said to be transcended or at least experienced differently in these realms.

Bohm noticed interconnectedness regardless of locality at the quantum level – among packets of energy/matter. From this he devised the idea of the "quantum potential" a field like gravity that pervades all space as possibility. Pribram found that memories had no location in the brain where they were stored – and that any part could in a sense recall the whole – indeed he noted that the brain is holographic in many ways – as is vision and the nature of memory. Each part of the system has access to the whole without the other parts. Holographic theory also explains phantom limb syndrome where people who have lost a limb can still feel it, and photographic memory, and selective memory of trauma victims.

Bohm proposed two realities – the explicate order (the unfolded order) and the implicate order (the enfolded order from which the explicate order comes). This is virtually identical to the Vedic/Buddhist idea of the two truths of ultimate and relative reality. According to the dharma it is our habitual consensual notions of reality over vast amounts of lifetimes that keep the veils between the two firmly in place. Indeed books such as this one offer just a bit of reprogramming in that we can observe our own science in which we believe in so whole-heartedly – coming to terms with its own limits – with having to look at things in new ways in order to truly understand them. Indeed cold hard objective science will never penetrate many of these veils without the scientist actually experiencing the implicate reality. Of course, in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s – the work of Pribram, Bohm, and others was met with disdain in the scientific community. This book serves to remind us that there are amazing things – very well-documented- that are entirely beyond explanation through our ordinary science. People with multiple personality disorders can manifest and unmanifest diseases and bodily functions with the changing of their personalities. People can find things through dreaming. Psychics can see a person’s history and medical problems in their aura. Positive attitudes and mental imagery can heal serious conditions. The placebo effect can work better than all drugs. The question arises – Does the consciousness of physicists actually create various sub-atomic particles? One can only observe in so much detail before one becomes part of the observation. Does Bodhidharma have a beard?

The author describes the miracles performed by the Jansenists – a puritanical sect of Dutch/French Catholics in 18th Century France. They would go into convulsions and do all sorts of psychokinetic miracles – apparently documented with many volumes. He also describes the supposed miracles of the Indian guru Sai Baba, the two coexisting realities postulated by don Juan and Carlos Casteneda, discovery of the past through retrocognition, and prediction of the future. Apparently retrocognition has been used successfully in archaeology studies and has even been the basis for several famous archaeological discoveries. This is perhaps a good reason to visit the known sites of the ancients. Indeed experiments have shown that most everyone has the capacity to be precognitive – in dreams, feelings, etc.

There is a big section on the Human Energy Field and its holographic properties and comparative configuration across several cultures. There is quite a bit of data in the book as a whole and so many other fascinating books are mentioned – most about specific areas that fall into the holographic reality model. The data on near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, UFO encounters, and reincarnation/past life memories is quite fascinating and compelling. There is some mention of stigmatists – those devout Christians who bleed and exhibit wounds like Christ and also some analysis of various manifestations of the Virgin Mary where many people claim to have experienced the same vision. Mass belief in a phenomena can be very powerful. There is also a fascinating study of past-life regression through hypnosis with remarkable verifiability. Another peculiar study mentioned is where suggestive folk were hypnotized to go to the future and the results were compiled in a book called “Mass Dreams of the Future.”

The Australian Aboriginal idea of the – Dreamtime, the fascinating mystical experiences of the 17th Century Swedish mystic – Swedenborg, the OBEs of Robert Monroe, the yogic travels of Sri Auribindo, the musings of William Blake, the mystical travels of Sufis, and the inner visions of shamans and seers the world over are examined.

One idea from the Mahayana Buddhist tradition is that of reality being experienced as a net or interconnected web – called Indra’s Net – where each part reflects the whole – Holographic. Buddha said “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world. The Sufi mystics say that the world is made from the subtle matter of thought – called alam almithal. People who have had near-death experiences very often describe a realm made of thought. One researcher called it the frequency domain – similar to the New Age idea of the Higher Vibrational Frequency of the subtle beings, angels, ascended masters, adepts, etc. Experiments have also proven that the “OtherWorld” one sees and experiences will appear in many ways according to the way they expect it to appear according to their cultural conditioning – ie. Christians will see angels, etc. This is certainly true of those who see spirits – quite obviously there is a subjective component. As the Zen Master may say – all that appears is mind. As the Mahamudra siddha may say – all that appears is not separate from my mind – or – all that appears before me is reality itself. Or as the Moody Blues said – thinking is the best way to travel.

This is a great book that reminds us that life is not what it seems and that we should spend our time learning (and unlearning) as much as we can and (as many who return from NDEs say) learning how to be spontaneously kind and compassionate as Love is the Key to the Mysteries.

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