Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Holographic Universe

We now know that under certain circumstances subatomic particles, such as electrons, are capable of instantaneously communicating with one another other regardless of the distance separating them. They can be 5 miles or 5 billion miles apart, it doesn’t matter. Each particle always knows what the others are doing. This perfect synchronicity violates Einstein's theory that no communication can travel faster than the speed of light and has left many scientists questioning their most basic understanding of the universe.

University of London physicist David Bohm has taken these findings and along with his own research has come to believe that objective reality does not exist. That despite its apparent solidity the universe is, at heart, a gigantic and splendidly detailed hologram. And holograms have some incredible characteristics. If a hologram of a daisy is cut in half and then illuminated by a laser, each half will still be found to contain the entire image of the daisy, every part of a hologram contains all the information possessed by the whole. Western science has long believed 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, only smaller wholes.

Bohm believes the reason subatomic particles are able to remain in contact with one another regardless of the distance separating them is 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. Bohm says that we view objects such as subatomic particles as separate from one another because we are seeing only a portion of their reality. They are facets of a deeper and more underlying unity. Since everything in physical reality is comprised of these "eidolons" the universe is itself a projection, a hologram.

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. Concepts such as location break down in a universe in which nothing is truly separate from anything else. At its deeper level reality is a sort of superhologram in which the past, present, and future all exist simultaneously.

Stanford 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. 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.

The hologram theory 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. 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. And 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. 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.

So 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 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 superhologram.

In a universe in which individual brains are actually indivisible portions of the greater hologram and everything is infinitely interconnected, the collective unconscious, out of body experiences, precognitive glimpses of the future, and regression into apparent past life incarnations don’t seem so unbelievable. 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.

And 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. Maybe “reality” is nothing more than a consensus among humanity, 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 there are no limits to the extent to which we can alter the fabric of reality. What we perceive as reality is only a canvas waiting for us to draw upon it any picture we desire.