by Michael Talbot
reviewed by Michael Kisor
Holographic Universe is a "must
read" for anyone with an open, inquiring mind and a curiosity about
the cosmos in which we reside.
You are likely to find the material
presented here to be nothing short of astounding. The ramifications
for humanity are staggering as this book seriously challenges the
basis for our cultural view of reality: materialism.
The Holographic Universe, you will understand why so many people are
starting to say that a paradigm shift in our science and culture is
Science's orthodoxy still resists abandoning materialism, but the
scientific handwriting has been on the wall ever since 1905 when
Einstein delivered his papers on Special Relativity and The
Subsequent research in Quantum Mechanics
(sub-atomic physics) continues to usher us away from materialism and
toward something far more interesting. History has shown us that
radically new advances in worldviews almost never occur with the
blessing of the Old Guard; it invariably takes fresh new minds to
accept change of such magnitude. So it is with our society.
move into the next millennium, concepts similar to those presented
by Talbot will become mainstream and commonplace. As a result, our
society will also be transformed.
The concepts presented in this book are a cornerstone of Quanta-Gaia
- the quest to better understand the cosmos and our role in it.
After reading this book, you will either dismiss it as fantasy, like
so many dismissed Einstein's papers in 1905, or you will be
impressed by the magnitude of change which is at hand.
comments on The Holographic Universe
Lyall Watson, author of
"For a while now, science has been
converging with common sense, catching up at last with
experience, confirming a widespread suspicion that things are
far more connected than traditional physics ever allowed.
Holographic Universe is an elegant affirmation of this process,
a lifeline that helps to bridge the artificial gap that has
opened up between mind and matter, between us and the rest of
Larry Dossey, M.D., author of
Space, Time & Medicine writes:
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 David Bohm, a former
protégé of Einstein's and one of the world's most respected
quantum physicists, and Stanford neurophysiologist Karl Pribram,
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.
This remarkable new way of looking
at the universe explains not only many of the unsolved puzzles
of physics, but also such mysterious occurrences as telepathy,
out-of-body and near-death experiences, "lucid" dreams, and even
religious and mystical experiences such as feelings of cosmic
unity and miraculous healings.
"We desperately need new models
of reality to fire the imagination of what is possible and
to give us new visions of our place in the cosmos.
Talbot's The Holographic Universe does this. It is a wake-up
call to wonder, an adventure in ideas.
If you need to
maintain your idea that science has proved that 'It's all
mechanical,' that there is no room in the universe for
consciousness, soul, and spirit, don't read this book."
Fred Alan Wolf, Ph.D., author of
Taking the Quantum Leap writes:
"The concept of the universe as a
giant hologram containing both matter and consciousness as a
single field will, I am sure, excite anyone who has asked the
question, 'What is reality?'
This book may answer that question
once and for all."
to The Holographic Universe
In the movie Star Wars, Luke Skywalker's
adventure begins when a beam of light shoots out of the robot Artoo
Detoo and projects a miniature three-dimensional image of Princess Leia.
Luke watches spellbound as the ghostly sculpture of light begs
for someone named Obi-wan Kenobi to come to her assistance. The
image is a hologram, a three-dimensional picture made with the aid
of a laser, and the technological magic required to make such images
But what is even more astounding is that some
scientists are beginning to believe the universe itself is a kind of
giant hologram, a splendidly detailed illusion no more or less real
than the image of Princess Leia that starts Luke on his quest.
Put another way, there is evidence to suggest that our world and
everything in it - from snowflakes to maple trees to falling stars
and spinning electrons - are also only ghostly images, projections
from a level of reality so beyond our own it is literally beyond
both space and time.
The main architects of this astonishing idea are two of the world's
most eminent thinkers: University of London physicist David Bohm, a
protégé of Einstein's and one of the world's most respected quantum
physicists; and Karl Pribram, a neurophysiologist at Stanford
University and author of the classic neuropsychological textbook
Languages of the Brain.
Intriguingly, Bohm and Pribram arrived at
their conclusions independently and while working from two very
Bohm became convinced of the universe's
holographic nature only after years of dissatisfaction with 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 neurophysiological
However, after arriving at their views, Bohm and Pribram quickly
realized the holographic model explained a number of other mysteries
as well, including the apparent inability of any theory, no matter
how comprehensive, ever to account for all the phenomena encountered
in nature; the ability of individuals with hearing in only one ear
to determine the direction from which a sound originates; and our
ability to recognize the face of someone we have not seen for many
years even if that person has changed considerably in the interim.
But the most staggering thing about the holographic model was that
it suddenly made sense of a wide range of phenomena so elusive they
generally have been categorized outside the province of scientific
These include telepathy, precognition, mystical
feelings of oneness with the universe, and even psychokinesis, or
the ability of the mind to move physical objects without anyone
Indeed, it quickly became apparent to the ever growing number of
scientists who came to embrace the holographic model that it helped
explain virtually all paranormal and mystical experiences, and in
the last half-dozen years or so it has continued to galvanize
researchers and shed light on an increasing number of previously
In 1980 University of Connecticut
psychologist Dr. Kenneth Ring proposed that near-death
experiences could be explained by the holographic model.
who is president of the International Association for Near-Death
Studies, believes such experiences, as well as death itself, are
really nothing more than the shifting of a person's
consciousness from one level of the hologram of reality to
In 1985 Dr. Stanislav Grof, chief of
psychiatric research at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center
and an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins
University School of Medicine, published a book in which he
concluded that existing neurophysiological models of the brain
are inadequate and only a holographic model can explain such
things as archetypal experiences, encounters with the collective
unconscious, and other unusual phenomena experienced during
altered states of consciousness.
At the 1987 annual meeting of the
Association for the Study of Dreams held in Washington, D.C.,
physicist Fred Alan Wolf delivered a talk in which he asserted
that the holographic model explains lucid dreams (unusually
vivid dreams in which the dreamer realizes he or she is awake).
Wolf believes such dreams are actually visits to parallel
realities, and the holographic model will ultimately allow us to
develop a "physics of consciousness" which will enable us to
begin to explore more fully these other-dimensional levels of
In his 1987 book entitled
Synchronicity: The Bridge Between Matter and Mind,
Dr. F. David Peat, a physicist at Queen's University in Canada, asserted that
synchronicities (coincidences that are so unusual and so
psychologically meaningful they don't seem to be the result of
chance alone) can be explained by the holographic model.
believes such coincidences are actually "flaws in the fabric of
reality." They reveal that our thought processes are much more
intimately connected to the physical world than has been
These are only a few of the
thought-provoking ideas that will be explored in this book.
these ideas are extremely controversial. Indeed, the holographic
model itself is highly controversial and is by no means accepted by
a majority of scientists. Nonetheless, and as we shall see, many
important and impressive thinkers do support it and believe it may
be the most accurate picture of reality we have to date.
The holographic model has also received some dramatic experimental
In the field of neurophysiology numerous studies have
corroborated Pribram's various predictions about the holographic
nature of memory and perception. Similarly, in 1982 a landmark
experiment performed by a research team led by physicist Alain
Aspect at the Institute of Theoretical and Applied Optics, in Paris,
demonstrated that the web of subatomic particles that compose our
physical universe - the very fabric of reality itself - possesses
what appears to be an undeniable "holographic" property.
findings will also be discussed in the book.
In addition to the experimental evidence, several other things add
weight to the holographic hypothesis. Perhaps the most important
considerations are the character and achievements of the two men who
originated the idea. Early in their careers, and before the
holographic model was even a glimmer in their thoughts, each amassed
accomplishments that would inspire most researchers to spend the
rest of their academic lives resting on their laurels.
In the 1940s Pribram did pioneering work on the limbic system, a region of the
brain involved in emotions and behavior. Bohm's work in plasma
physics in the 1950s is also considered landmark.
But even more significantly, each has distinguished himself in
another way. It is a way even the most accomplished men and women
can seldom call their own, for it is measured not by mere
intelligence or even talent. It is measured by courage, the
tremendous resolve it takes to stand up for one's convictions even
in the face of overwhelming opposition.
While he was a graduate
student, Bohm did doctoral work with Robert Oppenheimer. Later, in
1951, when Oppenheimer came under the perilous scrutiny of Senator
Joseph McCarthy's Committee on Un-American Activities, Bohm was
called to testify against him and refused. As a result he lost his
job at Princeton and never again taught in the United States, moving
first to Brazil and then to London.
Early in his career Pribram faced a similar test of mettle.
a Portuguese neurologist named Egas Moniz devised what he believed
was the perfect treatment for mental illness. He discovered that by
boring into an individual's skull with a surgical pick and severing
the prefrontal cortex from the rest of the brain he could make the
most troublesome patients docile. He called the procedure a
prefrontal lobotomy, and by the 1940s it had become such a popular
medical technique that Moniz was awarded the Nobel Prize.
1950s the procedure's popularity continued and it became a tool,
like the McCarthy hearings, to stamp out cultural undesirables. So
accepted was its use for this purpose that the surgeon Walter
Freeman, the most outspoken advocate for the procedure in the United
States, wrote unashamedly that lobotomies "made good American
citizens" out of society's misfits, "schizophrenics, homosexuals,
During this time Pribram came on the medical scene. However unlike
many of his peers, Pribram felt it was wrong to tamper so recklessly
with the brain of another.
So deep were his convictions that while
working as a young neurosurgeon in Jacksonville, Florida, he opposed
the accepted medical wisdom of the day and refused to allow any
lobotomies to be performed in the ward he was overseeing.
Yale he maintained his controversial stance, and his then radical
views very nearly lost him his job.
Bohm and Pribram's commitment to stand up for what they believe in,
regardless of the consequences, is also evident in the holographic
model. As we shall see, placing their not inconsiderable reputations
behind such a controversial idea is not the easiest path either
could have taken. Both their courage and the vision they have
demonstrated in the past again add weight to the holographic idea.
One final piece of evidence in favor of the holographic model is the
paranormal itself. This is no small point, for in the last several
decades a remarkable body of evidence has accrued suggesting that
our current understanding of reality, the solid and comforting
sticks-and stones picture of the world we all learned about in
high-school science class, is wrong.
Because these findings cannot
be explained by any of our standard scientific models, science has
in the main ignored them. However, the volume of evidence has
reached the point where this is no longer a tenable situation.
To give just one example, in 1987, physicist Robert G. Jahn and
clinical psychologist Brenda J. Dunne, both at Princeton University,
announced that after a decade of rigorous experimentation by their
Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory, they had
accumulated unequivocal evidence that the mind can psychically
interact with physical reality.
More specifically, Jahn and
found that through mental concentration alone, human beings are able
to affect the way certain kinds of machines operate. This is an
astounding finding and one that cannot be accounted for in terms of
our standard picture of reality.
It can be explained by the holographic view, however. Conversely,
because paranormal events cannot be accounted for by our current
scientific understandings, they cry out for a new way of looking at
the universe, a new scientific paradigm. In addition to showing how
the holographic model can account for the paranormal, the book will
also examine how mounting evidence in favor of the paranormal in
turn actually seems to necessitate the existence of such a model.
The fact that the paranormal cannot be explained by our current
scientific worldview is only one of the reasons it remains so
controversial. Another is that psychic functioning is often very
difficult to pin down in the lab, and this has caused many
scientists to conclude it therefore does not exist. This apparent
elusiveness will also be discussed in the book.
An even more important reason is that contrary to what many of us
have come to believe, science is not prejudice-free. I first learned
this a number of years ago when I asked a well-known physicist what
he thought about a particular parapsychological experiment.
physicist (who had a reputation for being skeptical of the
paranormal) looked at me and with great authority said the results
revealed "no evidence of any psychic functioning whatsoever." I had
not yet seen the results, but because I respected the physicist's
intelligence and reputation, I accepted his judgment without
Later when I examined the results for myself, I was
stunned to discover the experiment had produced very striking
evidence of psychic ability. I realized then that even well-known
scientists can possess biases and blind spots.
Unfortunately this is a situation that occurs often in the
investigation of the paranormal. In a recent article in American
Psychologist, Yale psychologist Irvin L. Child examined how a
well-known series of ESP dream experiments conducted at the
Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, had been treated by
the scientific establishment. Despite the dramatic evidence
supportive of ESP uncovered by the experimenters, Child found their
work had been almost completely ignored by the scientific community.
Even more distressing, in the handful of scientific publications
that had bothered to comment on the experiments, he found the
research had been so "severely distorted" its importance was
How is this possible?
One reason is science is not always as
objective as we would like to believe. We view scientists with a bit
of awe, and when they tell us something we are convinced it must be
true we forget they are only human and subject to the same
religious, philosophical, and cultural prejudices as the rest of us.
This is unfortunate for as this book will show, there is a great
deal of evidence that the universe encompasses considerably more
than our current worldview allows.
But why is science so resistant to the paranormal in particular?
This is a more difficult question. In commenting on the resistance
he experienced to his own unorthodox views on health, Yale surgeon
Dr. Bernie S. Siegel, author of the best-selling book Love,
Medicine, and Miracles, asserts that it is because people are
addicted to their beliefs.
Siegel says this is why when you try to
change someone's belief they act like an addict.
There seems to be a good deal of truth to Siegel's observation,
which perhaps is why so many of civilization's greatest insights and
advances have at first been greeted with such passionate denial. We
are addicted to our beliefs and we do act like addicts when someone
tries to wrest from us the powerful opium of our dogmas. And since
Western science has devoted several centuries to not believing in
the paranormal, it is not going to surrender its addiction lightly.
I am lucky. I have always known there was more to the world than is
generally accepted. I grew up in a psychic family, and from an early
age I experienced firsthand many of the phenomena that will be
talked about in this book. Occasionally, and when it is relevant to
the topic being discussed, I will relate a few of my own
Although they can only be viewed as anecdotal
evidence, for me they have provided the most compelling proof of all
that we live in a universe we are only just beginning to fathom, and
I include them because of the insight they offer.
Lastly, because the holographic concept is still very much an idea
in the making and is a mosaic of many different points of view and
pieces of evidence, some have argued that it should not be called a
model or theory until these disparate points of view are integrated
into a more unified whole.
As a result, some researchers refer to
the ideas as the holographic paradigm.
Others prefer holographic
analogy, holographic metaphor, and so on. In this book and for the
sake of diversity I have employed all of these expressions,
including holographic model and holographic theory, but do not mean
to imply that the holographic idea has achieved the status of a
model or theory in the strictest sense of these terms.
In this same vein it is important to note that although Bohm and
Pribram are the originators of the holographic idea, they do not
embrace all of the views and conclusions put forward in this book.
Rather, this is a book that looks not only at Bohm and Pribram's
theories, but at the ideas and conclusions of numerous researchers
who have been influenced by the holographic model and who have
interpreted it in their own sometimes controversial ways.
Throughout this book I also discuss various ideas from quantum
physics, the branch of physics that studies subatomic particles
(electrons, protons, and so on).
Because I have written on this
subject before, I am aware that some people are intimidated by the
term quantum physics and are afraid they will not be able to
understand its concepts. My experience has taught me that even those
who do not know any mathematics are able to understand the kinds of
ideas from physics that are touched upon in this book.
You do not
even need a background in science. All you need is an open mind if
you happen to glance at a page and see a scientific term you do not
know. I have kept such terms down to a minimum, and on those
occasions when it was necessary to use one, I always explain it
before continuing on with the text.
So don't be afraid. Once you have overcome your "fear of the water,"
I think you'll find swimming among quantum physics' strange and
fascinating ideas much easier than you thought. I think you'll also
find that pondering a few of these ideas might even change the way
you look at the world.
In fact, it is my hope that the ideas
contained in the following chapters will change the way you look at
It is with this humble desire that I offer this book.
reviewed by Bryan Geer
Our understanding of the universe is
only as fine as the 'models' we build to explain it to us.
likened the universe to a giant bowl, in which the one true god-like
a master chef-mixed together the ingredients of creation.
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-1960's, a powerful new technology was developed: HOLOGRAPHY, in which the
interference 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 protégé of
Einstein's and one of the world's most respected quantum physicists,
encountered holography for the first time, he was electrified
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 Talbot's absorbing
book, The Holographic Universe.
Talbot explains the origin of the
holographic model in the work of Bohm-dissatisfied with the standard
theories' 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 apparent
NON-LOCAL existence 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
For example, a rat trained to run a maze
would have an 'engram' 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 Pribram's 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 fricasseed-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
And that is the thesis of Stanislov Grof's book
The Holotropic Mind.
Grof, a former Freudian dissatisfied with traditional
psychoanalysis' inability to explain many psychological problems, is
widely known as the father of transpersonal psychology-the idea that
a person's psyche is not necessarily limited to his own brain.
the right conditions (psychoactive drugs or Holotropic Breathwork
TM, e.g.), a person can experience 'transpersonal' 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 existence 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
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.
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 Grof's 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.