The Universe as a Hologram

 Does Objective Reality Exist, or is the Universe a

 In 1982 a remarkable event took place. At the
 University of Paris, a research team led by physicist
 Alain Aspect performed what may turn out to be one of
 the most important experiments of the 20th century.
 You did not hear about it on the evening news. In
 fact, unless you are in the habit of reading
 scientific journals you probably have never even heard
 Aspect's name, though there are some who believe his
 discovery may change the face of science.

 Aspect and his team discovered that under certain
 circumstances subatomic particles such as electrons
 are able to instantaneously communicate with each
 other regardless of the distance separating them. It
 doesn't matter whether they are 10 feet or 10 billion
 miles apart. Somehow each particle always seems to
 know what the other is doing. The problem with this
 feat is that it violates Einstein's long-held tenet
 that no communication can travel faster than the speed
 of light. Since traveling faster than the speed of
 light is tantamount to breaking the time barrier, this
 daunting prospect has caused some physicists to try to
 come up with elaborate ways to explain away Aspect's
 findings. But it has inspired others to offer even
 more radical explanations.

 University of London physicist David Bohm, for
 example, believes Aspect's findings imply that
 objective reality does not exist, that despite its
 apparent solidity the universe is at heart a phantasm,
 a gigantic and splendidly detailed hologram. To
 understand why Bohm makes this startling assertion,
 one must first understand a little about holograms. A
 hologram is a three-dimensional photograph made with
 the aid of a laser.

 To make a hologram, the object to be photographed is
 first bathed in the light of a laser beam. Then a
 second laser beam is bounced off the reflected light
 of the first and the resulting interference pattern
 (the area where the two laser beams commingle) is
 captured on film. When the film is developed, it looks
 like a meaningless swirl of light and dark lines. But
 as soon as the developed film is illuminated by
 another laser beam, a three-dimensional image of the
 original object appears.

 The three-dimensionality of such images is not the
 only remarkable characteristic of holograms. If a
 hologram of a rose is cut in half and then illuminated
 by a laser, each half will still be found to contain
 the entire image of the rose. Indeed, even if the
 halves are divided again, each snippet of film will
 always be found to contain a smaller but intact
 version of the original image. Unlike normal
 photographs, every part of a hologram contains all the
 information possessed by the whole.

 The "whole in every part" nature of a hologram
 provides us with an entirely new way of understanding
 organization and order. For most of its history,
 Western science has labored under the bias that the
 best way to understand a physical phenomenon, whether
 a frog or an atom, is to dissect it and study its
 respective parts. A hologram teaches us that some
 things in the universe may not lend themselves to this
 approach. If we try to take apart something
 constructed holographically, we will not get the
 pieces of which it is made, we will only get smaller

 This insight suggested to Bohm another way of
 understanding Aspect's discovery. Bohm believes the
 reason subatomic particles are able to remain in
 contact with one another regardless of the distance
 separating them is not because they are sending some
 sort of mysterious signal back and forth, but because
 their separateness is an illusion. He argues that at
 some deeper level of reality such particles are not
 individual entities, but are actually extensions of
 the same fundamental something.

 To enable people to better visualize what he means,
 Bohm offers the following illustration. Imagine an
 aquarium containing a fish. Imagine also that you are
 unable to see the aquarium directly and your knowledge
 about it and what it contains comes from two
 television cameras, one directed at the aquarium's
 front and the other directed at its side. As you stare
 at the two television monitors, you might assume that
 the fish on each of the screens are separate entities.
 After all, because the cameras are set at different
 angles, each of the images will be slightly different.
 But as you continue to watch the two fish, you will
 eventually become aware that there is a certain
 relationship between them. When one turns, the other
 also makes a slightly different but corresponding
 turn; when one faces the front, the other always faces
 toward the side. If you remain unaware of the full
 scope of the situation, you might even conclude that
 the fish must be instantaneously communicating with
 one another, but this is clearly not the case.

 This, says Bohm, is precisely what is going on between
 the subatomic particles in Aspect's experiment.
 According to Bohm, the apparent faster-than-light
 connection between subatomic particles is really
 telling us that there is a deeper level of reality we
 are not privy to, a more complex dimension beyond our
 own that is analogous to the aquarium. And, he adds,
 we view objects such as subatomic particles as
 separate from one another because we are seeing only a
 portion of their reality. Such particles are not
 separate "parts", but facets of a deeper and more
 underlying unity that is ultimately as holographic and
 indivisible as the previously mentioned rose. And
 since everything in physical reality is comprised of
 these "eidolons", the universe is itself a projection,
 a hologram.

 In addition to its phantomlike nature, such a universe
 would possess other rather startling features. If the
 apparent separateness of subatomic particles is
 illusory, it means that at a deeper level of reality
 all things in the universe are infinitely
 interconnected. The electrons in a carbon atom in the
 human brain are connected to the subatomic particles
 that comprise every salmon that swims, every heart
 that beats, and every star that shimmers in the sky.
 Everything interpenetrates everything, and although
 human nature may seek to categorize and pigeonhole and
 subdivide, the various phenomena of the universe, all
 apportionments are of necessity artificial and all of
 nature is ultimately a seamless web.

 In a holographic universe, even time and space could
 no longer be viewed as fundamentals. Because concepts
 such as location break down in a universe in which
 nothing is truly separate from anything else, time and
 three-dimensional space, like the images of the fish
 on the TV monitors, would also have to be viewed as
 projections of this deeper order. At its deeper level
 reality is a sort of superhologram in which the past,
 present, and future all exist simultaneously. This
 suggests that given the proper tools it might even be
 possible to someday reach into the superholographic
 level of reality and pluck out scenes from the
 long-forgotten past.

 What else the superhologram contains is an open-ended
 question. Allowing, for the sake of argument, that the
 superhologram is the matrix that has given birth to
 everything in our universe, at the very least it
 contains every subatomic particle that has been or
 will be -- every configuration of matter and energy
 that is possible, from snowflakes to quasars, from
 blue whales to gamma rays. It must be seen as a sort
 of cosmic storehouse of "All That Is."

 Although Bohm concedes that we have no way of knowing
 what else might lie hidden in the superhologram, he
 does venture to say that we have no reason to assume
 it does not contain more. Or as he puts it, perhaps
 the superholographic level of reality is a "mere
 stage" beyond which lies "an infinity of further
 development". Bohm is not the only researcher who has
 found evidence that the universe is a hologram.
 Working independently in the field of brain research,
 Standford neurophysiologist Karl Pribram has also
 become persuaded of the holographic nature of reality.

 Pribram was drawn to the holographic model by the
 puzzle of how and where memories are stored in the
 brain. For decades numerous studies have shown that
 rather than being confined to a specific location,
 memories are dispersed throughout the brain. In a
 series of landmark experiments in the 1920s, brain
 scientist Karl Lashley found that no matter what
 portion of a rat's brain he removed he was unable to
 eradicate its memory of how to perform complex tasks
 it had learned prior to surgery. The only problem was
 that no one was able to come up with a mechanism that
 might explain this curious "whole in every part"
 nature of memory storage.

 Then in the 1960s Pribram encountered the concept of
 holography and realized he had found the explanation
 brain scientists had been looking for. Pribram
 believes memories are encoded not in neurons, or small
 groupings of neurons, but in patterns of nerve
 impulses that crisscross the entire brain in the same
 way that patterns of laser light interference
 crisscross the entire area of a piece of film
 containing a holographic image. In other words,
 Pribram believes the brain is itself a hologram.

 Pribram's theory also explains how the human brain can
 store so many memories in so little space. It has been
 estimated that the human brain has the capacity to
 memorize something on the order of 10 billion bits of
 information during the average human lifetime (or
 roughly the same amount of information contained in
 five sets of the Encyclopaedia Britannica). Similarly,
 it has been discovered that in addition to their other
 capabilities, holograms possess an astounding capacity
 for information storage -- simply by changing the
 angle at which the two lasers strike a piece of
 photographic film, it is possible to record many
 different images on the same surface. It has been
 demonstrated that one cubic centimeter of film can
 hold as many as 10 billion bits of information.

 Our uncanny ability to quickly retrieve whatever
 information we need from the enormous store of our
 memories becomes more understandable if the brain
 functions according to holographic principles. If a
 friend asks you to tell him what comes to mind when he
 says the word "zebra", you do not have to clumsily
 sort back through some gigantic and cerebral
 alphabetic file to arrive at an answer. Instead,
 associations like "striped", "horselike", and "animal
 native to Africa" all pop into your head instantly.
 Indeed, one of the most amazing things about the human
 thinking process is that every piece of information
 seems instantly cross- correlated with every other
 piece of information -- another feature intrinsic to
 the hologram. Because every portion of a hologram is
 infinitely interconnected with every other portion, it
 is perhaps nature's supreme example of a
 cross-correlated system.

 The storage of memory is not the only
 neurophysiological puzzle that becomes more tractable
 in light of Pribram's holographic model of the brain.
 Another is how the brain is able to translate the
 avalanche of frequencies it receives via the senses
 (light frequencies, sound frequencies, and so on) into
 the concrete world of our perceptions. Encoding and
 decoding frequencies is precisely what a hologram does
 best. Just as a hologram functions as a sort of lens,
 a translating device able to convert an apparently
 meaningless blur of frequencies into a coherent image,
 Pribram believes the brain also comprises a lens and
 uses holographic principles to mathematically convert
 the frequencies it receives through the senses into
 the inner world of our perceptions.

 An impressive body of evidence suggests that the brain
 uses holographic principles to perform its operations.
 Pribram's theory, in fact, has gained increasing
 support among neurophysiologists. Argentinian-Italian
 researcher Hugo Zucarelli recently extended the
 holographic model into the world of acoustic
 phenomena. Puzzled by the fact that humans can locate
 the source of sounds without moving their heads, even
 if they only possess hearing in one ear, Zucarelli
 discovered that holographic principles can explain
 this ability. Zucarelli has also developed the
 technology of holophonic sound, a recording technique
 able to reproduce acoustic situations with an almost
 uncanny realism.

 Pribram's belief that our brains mathematically
 construct "hard" reality by relying on input from a
 frequency domain has also received a good deal of
 experimental support. It has been found that each of
 our senses is sensitive to a much broader range of
 frequencies than was previously suspected. Researchers
 have discovered, for instance, that our visual systems
 are sensitive to sound frequencies, that our sense of
 smell is in part dependent on what are now called
 "osmic frequencies", and that even the cells in our
 bodies are sensitive to a broad range of frequencies.
 Such findings suggest that it is only in the
 holographic domain of consciousness that such
 frequencies are sorted out and divided up into
 conventional perceptions.

 But the most mind-boggling aspect of Pribram's
 holographic model of the brain is what happens when it
 is put together with Bohm's theory. For if the
 concreteness of the world is but a secondary reality
 and what is "there" is actually a holographic blur of
 frequencies, and if the brain is also a hologram and
 only selects some of the frequencies out of this blur
 and mathematically transforms them into sensory
 perceptions, what becomes of objective reality? Put
 quite simply, it ceases to exist. As the religions of
 the East have long upheld, the material world is Maya,
 an illusion, and although we may think we are physical
 beings moving through a physical world, this too is an
 illusion. We are really "receivers" floating through a
 kaleidoscopic sea of frequency, and what we extract
 from this sea and transmogrify into physical reality
 is but one channel from many extracted out of the

 This striking new picture of reality, the synthesis of
 Bohm and Pribram's views, has come to be called the
 holographic paradigm, and although many scientists
 have greeted it with skepticism, it has galvanized
 others. A small but growing group of researchers
 believe it may be the most accurate model of reality
 science has arrived at thus far. More than that, some
 believe it may solve some mysteries that have never
 before been explainable by science and even establish
 the paranormal as a part of nature.

 Numerous researchers, including Bohm and Pribram, have
 noted that many para-psychological phenomena become
 much more understandable in terms of the holographic
 paradigm. In a universe in which individual brains are
 actually indivisible portions of the greater hologram
 and everything is infinitely interconnected, telepathy
 may merely be the accessing of the holographic level.
 It is obviously much easier to understand how
 information can travel from the mind of individual 'A'
 to that of individual 'B' at a far distance point and
 helps to understand a number of unsolved puzzles in
 psychology. In particular, Grof feels the holographic
 paradigm offers a model for understanding many of the
 baffling phenomena experienced by individuals during
 altered states of consciousness.

 In the 1950s, while conducting research into the
 beliefs of LSD as a psychotherapeutic tool, Grof had
 one female patient who suddenly became convinced she
 had assumed the identity of a female of a species of
 prehistoric reptile. During the course of her
 hallucination, she not only gave a richly detailed
 description of what it felt like to be encapsuled in
 such a form, but noted that the portion of the male of
 the species's anatomy was a patch of colored scales on
 the side of its head. What was startling to Grof was
 that although the woman had no prior knowledge about
 such things, a conversation with a zoologist later
 confirmed that in certain species of reptiles colored
 areas on the head do indeed play an important role as
 triggers of sexual arousal.

 The woman's experience was not unique. During the
 course of his research, Grof encountered examples of
 patients regressing and identifying with virtually
 every species on the evolutionary tree (research
 findings which helped influence the man-into-ape scene
 in the movie Altered States). Moreover, he found that
 such experiences frequently contained obscure
 zoological details which turned out to be accurate.

 Regressions into the animal kingdom were not the only
 puzzling psychological phenomena Grof encountered. He
 also had patients who appeared to tap into some sort
 of collective or racial unconscious. Individuals with
 little or no education suddenly gave detailed
 descriptions of Zoroastrian funerary practices and
 scenes from Hindu mythology. In other categories of
 experience, individuals gave persuasive accounts of
 out-of-body journeys, of precognitive glimpses of the
 future, of regressions into apparent past-life

 In later research, Grof found the same range of
 phenomena manifested in therapy sessions which did not
 involve the use of drugs. Because the common element
 in such experiences appeared to be the transcending of
 an individual's consciousness beyond the usual
 boundaries of ego and/or limitations of space and
 time, Grof called such manifestations "transpersonal
 experiences", and in the late '60s he helped found a
 branch of psychology called "transpersonal psychology"
 devoted entirely to their study.

 Although Grof's newly founded Association of
 Transpersonal Psychology garnered a rapidly growing
 group of like-minded professionals and has become a
 respected branch of psychology, for years neither Grof
 or any of his colleagues were able to offer a
 mechanism for explaining the bizarre psychological
 phenomena they were witnessing. But that has changed
 with the advent of the holographic paradigm.

 As Grof recently noted, if the mind is actually part
 of a continuum, a labyrinth that is connected not only
 to every other mind that exists or has existed, but to
 every atom, organism, and region in the vastness of
 space and time itself,the fact that it is able to
 occasionally make forays into the labyrinth and have
 transpersonal experiences no longer seems so strange.

 The holographic paradigm also has implications for
 so-called hard sciences like biology. Keith Floyd, a
 psychologist at Virginia Intermont College, has
 pointed out that if the concreteness of reality is but
 a holographic illusion, it would no longer be true to
 say the brain produces consciousness. Rather, it is
 consciousness that creates the appearance of the brain
 as well as the body and everything else around us we
 interpret as physical.

 Such a turnabout in the way we view biological
 structures has caused researchers to point out that
 medicine and our understanding of the healing process
 could also be transformed by the holographic paradigm.
 If the apparent physical structure of the body is but
 a holographic projection of consciousness, it becomes
 clear that each of us is much more responsible for our
 health than current medical wisdom allows. What we now
 view as miraculous remissions of disease may actually
 be due to changes in consciousness which in turn
 effect changes in the hologram of the body.

 Similarly, controversial new healing techniques such
 as visualization may work so well because in the
 holographic domain of thought images are ultimately as
 real as "reality". Even visions and experiences
 involving "non-ordinary" reality become explainable
 under the holographic paradigm.  In his book "Gifts of
 Unknown Things," biologist Lyall Watson describes his
 encounter with an Indonesian shaman woman who, by
 performing a ritual dance, was able to make an entire
 grove of trees instantly vanish into thin air. Watson
 relates that as he and another astonished onlooker
 continued to watch the woman, she caused the trees to
 reappear, then "click" off again and on again several
 times in succession.

 Although current scientific understanding is incapable
 of explaining such events, experiences like this
 become more tenable if "hard" reality is only a
 holographic projection. Perhaps we agree on what is
 "there" or "not there" because what we call consensus
 reality is formulated and ratified at the level of the
 human unconscious at which all minds are infinitely
 interconnected. If this is true, it is the most
 profound implication of the holographic paradigm of
 all, for it means that experiences such as Watson's
 are not commonplace only because we have not
 programmed our minds with the beliefs that would make
 them so. In a holographic universe there are no limits
 to the extent to which we can alter the fabric of

 What we perceive as reality is only a canvas waiting
 for us to draw upon it any picture we want. Anything
 is possible, from bending spoons with the power of the
 mind to the phantasmagoric events experienced by
 Castaneda during his encounters with the Yaqui brujo
 don Juan, for magic is our birthright, no more or less
 miraculous than our ability to compute the reality we
 want when we are in our dreams. Indeed, even our most
 fundamental notions about reality become suspect, for
 in a holographic universe, as Pribram has pointed out,
 even random events would have to be seen as based on
 holographic principles and therefore determined.
 Synchronicities or meaningful coincidences suddenly
 makes sense, and everything in reality would have to
 be seen as a metaphor, for even the most haphazard
 events would express some underlying symmetry.

 Whether Bohm and Pribram's holographic paradigm
 becomes accepted in science or dies an ignoble death
 remains to be seen, but it is safe to say that it has
 already had an influence on the thinking of many
 scientists. And even if it is found that the
 holographic model does not provide the best
 explanation for the instantaneous communications that
 seem to be passing back and forth between subatomic
 particles, at the very least, as noted by Basil Hiley,
 a physicist at Birbeck College in London, Aspect's
 findings "indicate that we must be prepared to
 consider radically new views of reality".

 Larson Publications

 Wisdom's Goldenrod

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