Today nearly everyone is familiar with holograms, three-dimensional
images projected into space with the aid of a laser. Now two of
the world's most eminent thinkers - University of London physicist
, a former protege of Einstein's and one of the
world's most respected quantum physicists, and Stanford neurophysiologist
, one of the architects of our modern understanding
of the brain - believe that the universe itself may be a giant
hologram, quite literally a kind of image or construct created,
at least in part, by the human mind.
Intriguingly, Bohm and Pribram arrived at their conclusions independently
and while working from two very different directions. Bohm became
convinced of the universe's holographic nature only after years
of dissatisfaction with the standard theories' inability to explain
all of the phenomena encountered in quantum physics. Pribram became
convinced because of the failure of standard theories of the brain
to explain various unsolved neurophysiological puzzles.
However, after arriving at their views, Bohm, Pribram, and other
researchers who came to support their idea, realized the holographic
model explained a wide range of other phenomena as well, including
telepathy, precognition, psychokinesis (the ability of the mind
to move physical objects without anyone touching them), mystical
feelings of oneness with the universe, spontaneous healings, synchronicities,
and even shamanic and near-death experiences. Indeed, it has become
apparent to the ever growing number of scientists who have come
to embrace the holographic paradigm that it helps explain virtually
all paranormal and mystical experiences.
How did Bohm and Pribram arrive at their startling new view of
the universe and what is it about the holographic model that enables
it to explain so many extraordinary and disparate phenomena? To
answer these questions we must look at the areas of research that
first occupied Bohm and Pribram's attention.
THE BRAIN AS HOLOGRAM
The puzzle that started Pribram on the path to concluding that
the universe is a hologram was the questions 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 conducted from the 1920s through the 1940s, brain
scientist Karl Lashley found that no matter what portion of the
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 state of affairs.
Pribram, who studied under Lashley, puzzled over this dilemma
for years. Then, in the 1950s, he read an article on the fledgling
new science of holography, and realized he had found the explanation
he had been looking for. To understand why Pribram saw holography
as the answer, one must understand a little more about holograms.
As stated, a hologram is a three-dimensional image 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 tree-dimensionality of such images is not the only extraordinary
characteristic of the hologram. 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, and then again, each piece of
film will always be found to contain a smaller but complete version
of the entire original image. Unlike normal photographs, every
part of a hologram contains all the information possessed by the
It was this "whole in every part" nature of a hologram
that gave Pribram the explanation he had been looking for. Lashley's
experiments had shown that every portion of the brain also appears
to contain the whole of the brain's memories. Thus, Pribram concluded
that the brain is itself a kind of hologram. How might memories
be stored in a holographic brain?
Pribram now 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.
The storage of memory is not the only neurophysiological puzzle
that becomes more tractable in light of Pribram's holographic
view 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. In fact, neurophysiologists have discovered
that the brain uses the exact same mathematical language (known
as "Fourier transforms") to decipher perception as are
involved in the making of laser holograms. Given that Mother Nature
has countless different mathematical languages at her disposal,
this is as peculiar as if one discovered Eskimos speaking Swahili.
What does it all mean? Pribram believes it is not only further
evidence that the brain is a kind of hologram, but suggests that
the brain is actually a sort of lens, a translating device that
takes the cascade of frequencies we receive through our senses
and converts them into the familiar reality of our inner perceptions.
Put another way, quasars, coffee cups, and oak trees do not exist
objectively. They are only holograms we create inside our heads,
for "out there" is just a frequency domain, a flowing
and kaleidoscopic ocean of energy and vibration.
SUBATOMIC REALITY AS HOLOGRAM
The path that led Bohm to conclude that the universe is a hologram
began at the very edge of matter, in the world of subatomic particles.
Shortly after its inception quantum physics (the study of subatomic
particles) made a striking prediction. Nearly everyone has heard
accounts of identical twins who are able to instantly register
one another's pain no matter how much distance separates them.
Similarly, the mathematical formulations of quantum physics predicted
that certain kinds of subatomic processes will in essence produce
twin particles, particles that are also mysteriously connected
so that one particle will always instantaneously register what
is happening to its twin regardless of the distance separating
The problem with this feat is that according to Einstein's theory
of relativity no signal or communication can travel faster than
the speed of light is tantamount to breaking the time barrier,
Einstein himself refused to believe that such connections between
particles could exist.
When the existence of such twin particles was first predicted,
physicists did not possess the technological capability to test
this controversial hypothesis, and for the better part of the
century most researchers focused on quantum physics' less troubling
predictions. However, in 1982 at the University of Paris a research
team led by physicist Alain Aspect found a way to test the hypothesis
and proved that such twin particles are indeed able to instantaneously
register what is happening to one another.
Because most physicists refuse to believe Einstein's theory of
relativity is wrong, many tried to come up with elaborate ways
to ignore Aspect's findings and sweep them under the rug. Bohm,
however, chose another route. Inspired by the strange properties
of the hologram, he formulated a way to explain Aspect's findings
without abandoning relativity's ban against faster-than-light
Bohm believes subatomic particles can instantaneously register
what is happening to one another, 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.
In terms of the hologram, just as every portion of a hologram
contains the information of the whole, every member of a set of
twin particles contains all information of both twins. Thus, 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 holographic level analogous
to the aquarium. We view objects such as subatomic particles
as separate from one another because we are not seeing the proverbial
piece of cosmic holographic film in which they are embedded. We
are seeing only the illusory and shimmering image that comes out
of the film.
THE COSMOS AS HOLOGRAM
Considered together, Bohm and Pribram's tandem discoveries -that
our brains appear to be programmed to decipher something holographic
and the very fabric of reality is structured like a hologram-
seem more than just striking coincidences and suggest perhaps
that the universe is itself a kind of giant hologram. This is
not to say that it is composed of laser light, but that it possesses
the properties of a hologram. Such a possibility has been greeted
with scepticism by many scientists. However, it has galvanized
others, and some are beginning to believe it may be the most accurate
model of reality science has arrived at thus far.
As mentioned, one reason for taking the idea seriously is that
if appears to solve virtually the entire range of parapsychological
phenomena. In a universe in which individual brains are actually
indivisible portions of the greater hologram and everything is
holographically interconnected, telepathy may merely be the accessing
of the holographic level. Put another way, in a universe that
is a hologram, our brain, indeed every neuron and every atom in
our brain, contains in some semblance the whole universe, and
we are truly all part of a global mind. Poet William Blake's assertion
that the universe can be found in a grain of sand becomes literally
true. Thus, the ability of one brain to access information
from another is not such a problem because every brain already
contains every other brain.
Bohm and Pribram have also suggested that many religious and/or
mystical experiences, such as a feeling of transcendental oneness
with the universe, may also be due to the accessing of the holographic
realm. As they note, perhaps the reason so many great mystics
of the past have talked about experiencing a feeling of cosmic
unity with all things is simply that they have learned how to
reach that part of their minds in which all things really do possess
Michael Talbot was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1953.
He published seven books: Mysticism and the New Physics, Beyond
the Quantum, Your Past Lives: A Reincarnation Handbook, The Holographic
Universe, The Delicate Dependency, The Bog, Night Things.
His work appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Village
Voice, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, and Omni magazine. He
died in 1992.
Text originally published in ArtFutura's 1992 catalog.