The Holographic Universe, Michael Talbot-
HarperCollins, 1991 (338 pp)
The Holotropic Mind, Stanislov Grof-
HarperCollins, 1992 (240 pp)
Reviewed by Bryan Geer
Our understanding of the universe is only as fine as the ìmodelsî we build to explain it to us. Plato likened the universe to a giant bowl, in which the one true god-like a master chef-mixed together the ingrediants of creation. Later, after Newton and up through the Industrial Revolution, the universe was likened to a giant clockwork mechanism, and god was reduced to the role of the Prime Clockmaker, content now to do nothing but watch creation wind down.
In the early twentieth century, new wrinkles were added to the fabric of the universe: quantum mechanics, the Uncertainty Principle, and Relativity, to name a few. The old mechanistic, deterministic view of the universe was shattered forever-but what new model do we have not to replace it with?
In the mid-1960ís, a powerful new technology was developed: HOLOGRAPHY, in which the interferance patterns of twin laser beams create realistic three-dimensional images. Interestingly enough, any fragment of the holographic film can be used to create the entire original 3-D image.
When University of London physicist David Bohm, a protege of Einsteinís and one of the worldís most respected quantum physicists, encountered holography for the first time, he was electrified (figuratively): here at last was a new process on which to model our understanding of the universe-THE UNIVERSE IS LIKE A HOLOGRAM.
This fascinating theory is the subject of Michael Talbotís absorbing book, The Holographic Universe. Talbot explains the origin of the holographic model in the work of Bohm-dissatisfied with the standard theoriesí inability to explain all of the phenomena encountered in quantum physics-and the work of Karl Pribram, a neurophysiologist at Stanford University, who was likewise dissatisfied with the inability of standard theories of the brain to explain various neurophysiological puzzles... like for instance the appaarent NON-LOCAL existance of memory within the brain.
Prior to the work of Pribram, it was generally assumed that specific memories had specific locations somewhere within the brain tissues-called ìengrams.î For example, a rat trained to run a maze would have an ìengramî of the maze in its brain; find that engram and cut it out, and the rat should become lost. But a series of experiments conducted by Pribramís mentor, Karl Lashley, at the Yerkes Laboratory of Primate Biology, demonstrated that this was not so: the rat brains could be sliced, diced, shuffled, and fricassed-yet the rats still could navigate the maze.
To Pribram, the only explanation was that the memories were NOT located at specific sites within the brain, but were somehow spread out or distributed throughout the brain. The problem was that he knew of no process or mechanism that could account for such a state of affairs-until he encountered holography.
Just as one fragment of a hologram can create the entire holographic image (with admittedly less detail and lower resolution), so too can one fragment of the brain remember the contents of the brain as a whole (ditto on the lower resolution). Ergo: THE BRAIN IS LIKE A HOLOGRAM.
And that is the thesis of Stanislov Grofís book The Holotropic Mind. Grof, a former Freudian dissatisfied with traditional psychoanalysisí inability to explain many psychological problems, is widely known as the father of transpersonal psychology-the idea that a personís psyche is not necessarily limited to his own brain. Under the right conditions (psychoactive drugs or Holotropic Breathwork TM, e.g.), a person can experience ìtranspersonalî states of consciousness, and think the thoughts of other people, past lives, plants and animals, the planet itself, or even the entire cosmos.
The holographic model came into existance when Pribram-already convinced of the holographic nature of the brain-encountered the work of Bohm, and discovered that the entire universe was like a hologram.
To the naked eye, an un-illuminated piece of holographic film appears to have no order or meaning. Its order is implied within the apparently random interference patterns; illuminated by the proper light, the implicate order becomes explicate and the image appears. Our three-dimensional universe, likewise, is the explicate construction of a vaster and more mysterious dimensionless realm, illuminated by the light of consciousness.
[See also the Bose-Einstein Condensate model of consciousness within The Quantum Society]
Bohm and Pribram realized that the holographic model explained a number of mysteries both mundane and profound: how people with hearing in only one ear can determine the direction from which a sound originates, our ability to recognize the face of someone we have not seen in many years even if they have changed greatly, and the apparent inability of any theory, no matter how comprehensive, to account for all the phenomena encountered in nature.
Michael Talbot takes these ideas one step further, and demonstrates how the holographic model can explain telepathy, precognition, mystical feelings of oneness with the universe (a specialty of Grofís as well) and even psychokinesis. Naturally, these ideas have no place in the old Newtonian model of the universe; but if the psi phenomena is real, how else can we explain it?
The holographic model is highly controversial, and is by no means accepted by a majority of scientists. However, many important and impressive thinkers DO support it and believe it to be the most accurate picture of reality to date.
Begin by reading The Holotropic Mind. After Grof has convinced you of the reality of the brain-as-hologram idea you will be ready to delve into the universe-as-hologram theory as explained by Talbot-these two volumes are quite complementary. Once you grasp the essential whole-in-part of the holographic model, you will be ready, in the words of the poet William Blake:
To see the World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an Hour.