One area of research on which the holographic model has had an impact is psychology.
This is not surprising, for, as Bohm has pointed out, consciousness itself provides a perfect example of what he means by undivided and flowing movement. The ebb and flow of our consciousness is not precisely definable but can be seen as a deeper and more fundamental reality out of which our thoughts and ideas unfold.
In turn, these thoughts and ideas are not unlike the ripples, eddies, and whirlpools that form in a flowing stream, and like the whirlpools in a stream some can recur and persist in a more or less stable way, while others are evanescent and vanish almost as quickly as they appear. The holographic idea also sheds light on the unexplainable linkages that can sometimes occur between the consciousnesses of two or more individuals.
One of the most famous examples of such linkage is embodied in Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung’s concept of a collective unconscious. Early in his career Jung became convinced that the dreams, artwork, fantasies, and hallucinations of his patients often contained symbols and ideas that could not be explained entirely as products of their personal history. Instead, such symbols more closely resembled the images and themes of the world’s great mythologies and religions. Jung concluded that myths, dreams, hallucinations, and religious visions all spring from the same source, a collective unconscious that is shared by all people.
Since circumstances made it extremely unlikely that the man had had contact with the text containing the ritual, Jung concluded that the man’s vision was not simply a product of his unconscious mind, but had bubbled up from a deeper level, from the collective unconscious of the human race itself. Jung called such images archetypes and believed they were so ancient it’s as if each of us has the memory of a two-million-year-old man lurking somewhere in the depths of our unconscious minds.
Or as Bohm puts it, “Deep down the consciousness of mankind is one.”1
Anderson calls this selective process personal resonance and likens it to the fact that a vibrating tuning fork will resonate with (or set up a vibration in) another tuning fork only if the second tuning fork possesses a similar structure, shape, and size,
Ullman’s initial interest in the holographic concept stemmed also from its suggestion that all people are interconnected in the holographic order. He has good reason for his interest Throughout the 1960s and 1970s he was responsible for many of the ESP dream experiments mentioned in the introduction. Even today the ESP dream studies conducted at Maimonides stand as some of the best empirical evidence that, in our dreams at least, we are able to communicate with one another in ways that cannot presently be explained.
For example, when the target painting was Tamayo’s Animals, a picture depicting two dogs flashing their teeth and howling over a pile of bones, the test subject dreamed she was at a banquet where there was not enough meat and everyone was warily eyeing one another as they greedily ate their allotted portions.
Over the course of several nights the test subject dreamed repeatedly about things French, French architecture, a French policeman’s hat, and a man in French attire gazing at various “layers” of a French village. Some of the images in these dreams also appeared to be specific references to the painting’s vibrant colors and unusual features, such as the image of a group of bees flying around flowers, and a brightly colored Mardi Gras-type celebration in which the people were wearing costumes and masks.3
But no matter how spiritually blind a person may be, or unwilling to recognize his or her own shortcomings, dreams invariably depict their failings honestly and contain metaphors that seem designed to prod him or her gently into a state of greater self-awareness.
He also agrees with Bohm on the importance of wholeness and feels that dreams are nature’s way of faying to counteract our seemingly unending compulsion to fragment the world.
What is the source of the unending flow of wisdom that bubbles up in our dreams?
Ullman admits that he doesn’t know, but he offers a suggestion. Given that the implicate order represents in a sense an infinite information source, perhaps it is the origin of this greater fund Of knowledge. Perhaps dreams are a bridge between the perceptual and non-manifest orders and represent a “natural transformation of the implicate into the explicate.”6
If Ullman is correct in this supposition it stands the traditional psychoanalytic view of dreams on its ear, for instead of dream content being something that ascends into consciousness from a primitive substratum of the personality, quite the opposite would be true.
Both Bohm and Pribram have noted that the experiences mystics have reported throughout the ages - such as feelings of cosmic oneness with the universe, a sense of unity with all life, and so forth - sound very much like descriptions of the implicate Order.
They suggest that perhaps mystics are somehow able to peer beyond ordinary explicate reality and glimpse its deeper, more holographic qualities. Ullman believes that psychotics are also able to experience certain aspects of the holographic level of reality. But because they are unable to order their experiences rationally, these glimpses are only tragic parodies of the ones reported by mystics.
And instead of viewing- people, objects, and concepts as individual things, they often view them as members of larger and larger subclasses, a tendency that seems to be a way of expressing the holographic quality of the reality in which they find themselves.
The idea of one event following another in any kind of time sequence is meaningless, for all points in time are viewed equal. The same is true of spatial relations. If a man’s head is above his shoulders, then his shoulders are also above his head. Like the image in a piece of holographic film, things no longer have precise locations, and spatial relationships cease to have meaning.
In turn, the manic becomes depressed after he returns from this surreal vacation and once again faces the hazards and chance occurrences of everyday life.
Ullman also theorizes that when we dream, most of us have a natural protective mechanism that keeps us from coming into contact with more of the implicate order than we can cope with.
Unlike normal dreams in which the dreamer is primarily a passive participant, in a lucid dream the dreamer is often able to control the dream in various ways - turn nightmares into pleasant experiences, change the setting of the dream, and/or summon up particular individuals or situations.
Lucid dreams are also much more vivid and suffused with vitality than normal dreams. In a lucid dream marble floors seem eerily solid and real, flowers, dazzlingly colorful and fragrant, and everything is vibrant and strangely energized. Researchers studying lucid dreams believe they may lead to new ways to stimulate personal growth, enhance self-confidence, promote mental and physical health, and facilitate creative problem solving.7
One difference between the two is that the light waves that compose a virtual image seem to be diverging from an apparent focus or source. As we have seen, this is an illusion, for the virtual image of a hologram has no more extension in space than does the image in a mirror. But the real image of a hologram is formed by light waves that are coming to a focus, and this is not an illusion.
The real image does possess extension in space.
Unfortunately, little attention is paid to this real image in the
usual applications of holography because an image that comes into
focus in empty air is invisible and can only be seen when dust
particles pass through it, or when someone blows a puff of smoke
The unusual vibrancy of the lucid dream is due to the fact that the waves are converging and not diverging.
Like Pribram, Wolf believes our minds create the illusion of reality “out there” through the same kind of processes studied by Bekesy.
He believes these processes are also what allows the lucid dreamer to create subjective realities in which things like marble floors and flowers are as tangible and real as their so-called objective counterparts.
In fact, he thinks our ability to be lucid in our dreams suggests that there may not be much difference between the world at large and the world inside our heads.
Wolf postulates that lucid dreams (and perhaps all dreams) are actually visits to parallel universes. They are just smaller holograms within the larger and more inclusive cosmic hologram.
He even suggests that the ability to lucid-dream might better be called parallel universe awareness.
This and other similar ideas about the ultimate nature of dreaming will be explored in greater depth later in the book.
He is 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.
The purpose of his research was to determine whether LSD had any therapeutic applications. When Grof began his research, most scientists viewed the LSD experience as little more than a stress reaction, the brain’s way of responding to a noxious chemical. But when Grof studied the records of his patient’s experiences he did not find evidence of any recurring stress reaction.
Instead, there was a definite continuity running through each of the patient’s sessions.
This suggested that repeated LSD sessions had important ramifications for the practice and theory of psychotherapy, and provided Grof and his colleagues with the impetus they needed to continue the research.
The results were striking. It quickly became clear that serial LSD sessions were able to expedite the psychotherapeutic process and shorten the time necessary for the treatment of many disorders.
Traumatic memories that had haunted individuals for years were unearthed and dealt with, and sometimes even serious conditions, such as schizophrenia, were cured.13 But what was even more startling was that many of the patients rapidly moved beyond issues involving their illnesses and into areas that were uncharted by Western psychology.
Patients accurately described certain characteristics of the heart
sounds of their mother, the nature of acoustic phenomena in the
peritoneal cavity, specific details concerning blood circulation in
the placenta, and even details about the various cellular and
biochemical processes taking place. They also described important
thoughts and feelings their mother had had during pregnancy and
events such as physical traumas she had experienced.
For example, Grof had one female patient who suddenly became convinced she had assumed the identity of a female prehistoric reptile.
She not only gave a richly detailed description of what it felt like to be encapsulate in such a form, but noted that the portion of the male of the species’ anatomy she found most sexually arousing was a patch of colored scales on the side of its head. Although the woman had no prior knowledge of such things, a conversation Grof had 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.
One woman experienced what it was like to be her mother at the age of three and accurately described a frightening event that had befallen her mother at the time. The woman also gave a precise description of the house her mother had lived in as well as the white pinafore she had been wearing - all details her mother later confirmed and admitted she had never talked about before. Other patients gave equally accurate descriptions of events that had befallen ancestors who had lived decades and even centuries before.
And again the descriptions frequently contained obscure historical facts and a degree of knowledge that was often completely at odds with the patient’s education, race, and previous exposure to the subject.
For instance, one uneducated patient gave a richly detailed account of the techniques involved in the Egyptian practice of embalming and mummification, including the form and meaning of various amulets and sepulchral boxes, a list of the materials used in the fixing of the mummy cloth, the size and shape of the mummy bandages, and other esoteric facets of Egyptian funeral services.
Other individuals tuned into the cultures of the Far East and not only gave impressive descriptions of what it was like to have a Japanese, Chinese, or Tibetan psyche, but also related various Taoist or Buddhist teachings.
More than that, they displayed the ability to transcend space and time, and occasionally they related uncannily accurate precognitive information. In an even stranger vein they sometimes encountered nonhuman intelligences during their cerebral travels, discarnate beings, spirit guides from “higher planes of consciousness,” and other suprahuman entities.
Suddenly he sensed a presence very close to him, and to his surprise it began to communicate with him telepathically. It asked him to please contact a couple who lived in the Moravian city of Kromeriz and let them know that their son Ladislav was well taken care of and doing all right. It then gave him the couple’s name, street address, and telephone number.
Still, Grof could not put it out of his mind.
In the 1960s Grof was offered a position at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center and moved to the United States.
The center was also doing controlled studies of the psychotherapeutic applications of LSD, and this allowed Grof to continue his research. In addition to examining the effects of repeated LSD sessions on individuals with various mental disorders, the center also studied its effects on “normal” volunteers - doctors, nurses, painters, musicians, philosophers, scientists, priests, and theologians.
Again Grof found the same kind of phenomena occurring again and again. It was almost as if LSD provided the human consciousness with access to a kind of infinite subway system, a labyrinth of tunnels and byways that existed in the subterranean reaches of the unconscious, and one that literally connected everything in the universe with everything else.
Grof coined the term transpersonal to describe such phenomena, experiences in which the consciousness transcends the customary boundaries of the personality, and in the late 1960s he joined with several other like-minded professionals, including the psychologist and educator Abraham Maslow, to found a new branch of psychology called transpersonal psychology.
Grof believes it is the holographic model. As he points out, the essential characteristics of transpersonal experiences - the feeling that ail boundaries are illusory, the lack of distinction between part and whole, and the interconnectedness of all things - are all qualities one would expect to find in a holographic universe.
In addition, he feels the enfolded nature of space and time in the holographic domain explains why transpersonal experiences are not bound by the usual spatial or temporal limitations.
A single image experienced during an LSD session might contain information about a person’s attitude toward life in general, a trauma he experienced during childhood, how much self-esteem he has, how he feels about his parents, and how he feels about his marriage - all embodied in the overall metaphor of the scene. Such experiences are holographic in another way, in that each small part of the scene can also contain an entire constellation of information. Thus, free association and other analytical techniques performed on the scene’s minuscule details can call forth an additional flood of data about the individual involved.
When this is done the developed piece of film will contain the image of an individual that represents not one member of the family, but all of them at the same time.
If each exposure is taken at a slightly different angle, instead of resulting in a composite picture, the piece of film can be used to create a series of holographic images that appear to flow into one another.
Grof believes this illustrates another aspect of the visionary experience, namely, the tendency of countless images to unfold in rapid sequence, each one appearing and then dissolving into the next as if by magic.
He thinks holography’s success at modeling so many different aspects of the archetypal experience suggests that there is a deep link between holographic processes and the way archetypes are produced.
Individuals who have experienced various non-ordinary states of consciousness, including well educated and sophisticated scientists from various disciplines, frequently report that they entered hidden domains of reality that seemed to be authentic and in some sense implicit in, and supra-ordinated to, everyday reality.18
To this end, Grof and his wife, Christina, have developed a simple, nondrug technique for inducing these kolotropic, or nonordinary, states of consciousness.
They define a holotropic state of consciousness as one in which it is possible to access the holographic labyrinth that connects all aspects of existence. These include one’s biological, psychological, racial, and spiritual history, the past, present, and future of the world, other levels of reality, and all the other experiences already discussed in the context of the LSD experience.
Grof describes his current work and gives a detailed account of his methods in his book The Adventure of Self-Discovery.
For example, New York psychiatrist Edgar A. Levenson believes the hologram provides a valuable model for understanding the sudden and transformative changes individuals often experience during psychotherapy.
He bases his conclusion on the fact that such changes take place no matter what technique or psychoanalytic approach the therapist uses. Hence, he feels all psychoanalytic approaches are purely ceremonial, and change is due to something else entirely.
The therapist is not saying anything new to the patient, but instead seems to be resonating with something the patient already unconsciously knows:
Levenson believes these three-dimensional representations of experience are holograms buried deep in the patient’s psyche, and a resonance of feeling between the therapist and patient causes them to emerge in a process similar to the way a laser of a certain frequency causes an image made with a laser of the same frequency to emerge from a multiple image hologram.
Psychiatrist David Shainberg, associate dean of the Postgraduate Psychoanalytic Program at the William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry in New York, feels Bohm’s assertion that thoughts are like vortices in a river should be taken literally and explains why our attitudes and beliefs sometimes become fixed and resistant to change.
Studies have shown that vortices are often remarkably stable. The Great Red Spot of Jupiter, a giant vortex of gas over 25,000 miles wide, has remained intact since it was first discovered 300 years ago.
Shainberg believes this same tendency toward stability is what causes certain vortices of thought (our ideas and opinions) to become occasionally cemented in our consciousness.
A particularly powerful vortex can dominate our behavior and inhibit our ability to assimilate new ideas and information. It can cause us to become repetitious, create blockages in the creative flow of our consciousness, keep us from seeing the wholeness of ourselves, and make us feel disconnected from our species.
Shainberg believes that vortices may even explain things like the nuclear arms race:
Like Bohm, Shainberg believes our consciousness is constantly unfolding out of the implicate order, and when we allow the same vortices to take form repeatedly he feels we are erecting a barrier between ourselves and the endless positive and novel interactions we could be having with this infinite source of all being.
To catch a glimmer of what we are missing, he suggests we look at a child.
Children have not yet had the time to form vortices, and this is reflected in the open and flexible way they interact with the world. According to Shainberg the sparkling aliveness of a child expresses the very essence of the unfolding-enfolding nature of consciousness when it is unimpeded.
They are committed to exploring conversational interactions, rather than endlessly repeating a static litany of opinions.
Another psychological phenomena that bears several earmarks of the implicate is multiple personality disorder, or MPD.
MPD is a bizarre syndrome in which two or more distinct personalities inhabit a single body. Victims of the disorder, or “multiples,” often have no awareness of their condition. They do not realize that control of their body is being passed back and forth between different personalities and instead feel they are suffering from some kind of amnesia, confusion, or black-out spells.
Most multiples average between eight to thirteen personalities, although so-called super-multiples may have more than a hundred subpersonalities.
By dividing up into one or more personalities the psyche is able to parcel out the pain, in a way, and have several personalities bear what would be too much for just one personality to withstand.
Although these wholes are not identical copies of the original personality, they are related to the dynamics of the original personality, and this in itself suggests that some kind of holographic process is involved.
Startlingly, but regular as clockwork, most multiples are diagnosed when they are between the ages of twenty-eight and thirty-five, a “coincidence” that suggests that some inner alarm system may be going off at that age, warning them that it is imperative they are diagnosed and thus obtain the help they need.
This idea seems borne out by the fact that multiples who reach their forties before they are diagnosed frequently report having the sense that if they did not seek help soon, any chance of recovery would be lost.23
Despite the temporary advantages the tortured psyche gains by fragmenting itself, it is clear that mental and physical well-being, and perhaps even survival, still depend on wholeness.
This is surprising, for as Frank Putnam, a National Institutes of Health psychiatrist who has studied this phenomenon, points out, normally a person’s brain-wave pattern does not change even in states of extreme emotion. Brainwave patterns are not the only thing that varies from personality to personality. Blood flow patterns, muscle tone, heart rate, posture, and even allergies can ail change as a multiple shifts from one self to the next.
In other words, perhaps what we call “self” is also a hologram, and when the brain of a multiple clicks from one holographic self to the next, these slide-projector-like shuttlings are reflected in the global changes that take place in brain-wave activity as well as in the body in general (see fig. 10).
The brain-wave patterns of four subpersonalities in an individual suffering from multiple personality disorder.
Is it possible that the brain uses holographic principles to store the vast amount of information
necessary to house dozens and even hundreds of personalities in a single body?
(Redrawn by the author from original art in an article by Bennett G. Braun in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis)
The physiological changes that occur as a multiple shifts from one personality to the next also have profound implications for the relationship between mind and health, and will be discussed at greater length in the next chapter.
As mentioned in the introduction, synchronicities are coincidences that are so unusual and so meaningful they could hardly be attributed to chance alone.
Each of us has experienced a synchronicity at some point in our lives, such as when we learn a strange new word and then hear it used in a news broadcast a few hours later, or when we think about an obscure subject and then notice other people talking about it.
A few years back I experienced a series of synchronicities involving the rodeo showman Buffalo Bill. Occasionally, while doing a modest workout in the morning before I start writing, I turn on the television.
One morning in January 1983, I was doing push-ups while a game show was on, and I suddenly found myself shouting out the name “Buffalo Bill!” At first I was puzzled by my outburst, but then I realized the game-show host had asked the question “What other name was William Frederick Cody known by?”
Although I had not been paying conscious attention to the show, for some reason my unconscious mind had zeroed in on this question and had answered it. At the time I did not think much of the occurrence and went about my day.
A few hours later a friend telephoned and asked me if I could settle a friendly argument he was having concerning a piece of theater trivia.
I offered to try, whereupon my friend asked,
I thought this second encounter with Buffalo Bill was odd but still chalked it up to coincidence until later that day when a Smithsonian magazine arrived in the mail, and I opened it.
One of the lead articles was titled “The Last of the Great Scouts Is Back Again.”
It was about... you guessed it: Buffalo Bill. (Incidentally, I was unable to answer my friend’s trivia question and still have no idea whether they were Barrymore’s dying words or not)
Jung was treating a woman whose staunchly rational approach to life made it difficult for her to benefit from therapy. After a number of frustrating sessions the woman told Jung about a dream involving a scarab beetle.
Jung knew that in Egyptian mythology the scarab represented rebirth and wondered if the woman’s unconscious mind was symbolically announcing that she was about to undergo some kind of psychological rebirth. He was just about to tell her this when something tapped on the window, and he looked up to see a gold-green scarab on the other side of the glass (it was the only time a scarab beetle had ever appeared at Jung’s window). He opened the window and allowed the scarab to fly into the room as he presented his interpretation of the dream.
The woman was so stunned that she tempered her excessive rationality, and from that point on her response to therapy improved.
During the course of her therapy she told
Meier of a dream in which she had seen the hospital with one of its
wings destroyed. Because her identity was so intertwined with the
hospital, Meier felt her dream was telling her she was losing her
sense of self, her American identity, and that was the cause of her
depression. He advised her to return to the States, and when she did
her depression quickly vanished, just as he had predicted. Before
she departed he also had her do a detailed sketch of the crumbling
Years later the Japanese attacked China and bombed Wuchang Hospital. The woman sent Meier a copy of Life magazine containing a double-page photograph of the partially destroyed hospital, and it was identical to the drawing she had produced nine years earlier. The symbolic and highly personal message of her dream had somehow spilled beyond the boundaries of her psyche and into physical reality.24
But now that the existence of nonlocal connections has been established, some physicists are giving Jung’s idea another look.*
* As has been mentioned, nonlocal effects are not due to a cause-and-effect relationship and ate therefore acausal.
Physicist Paul Davies states,
Another physicist who takes synchronicity seriously is F. David Peat.
Peat believes that Jungian-type synchronicities are not only real, but offer further evidence of the implicate order. As we have seen, according to Bohm the apparent separateness of consciousness and matter is an illusion, an artifact that occurs only after both have unfolded into the explicate world of objects and sequential time. If there is no division between mind and matter in the implicate, the ground from which all things spring, then it is not unusual to expect that reality might still be shot through with traces of this deep connectivity.
Peat believes that synchronicities are therefore “flaws” in the fabric of reality, momentary fissures that allow us a brief glimpse of the immense and unitary order underlying all of nature.
According to Peat, when we experience a synchronicity, what we are really experiencing,
This is an astounding notion.
Virtually all of our commonsense prejudices about the world are based on the premise that subjective and objective reality are very much separate. That is why synchronicities seem so baffling and inexplicable to us. But if there is ultimately no division between the physical world and our inner psychological processes, then we must be prepared to change more than just our commonsense understanding of the universe, for the implications are staggering.
Imagine also that you experience a synchronicity in the dream; perhaps you are served a particularly unpleasant dish, and when you ask the waiter what it is, he tells you that the name of the dish is Your Boss.
Realizing that the unpleasantness of the dish betrays your true feelings about your boss, you become embarrassed and wonder how an aspect of your “inner” self has managed to spill over into the “outer” reality of the scene you are dreaming.
Of course, as soon as you wake up you realize the synchronicity was not so strange at all, for there was really no division between your “inner” self and the “outer” reality of the dream. Similarly, you realize that the apparent separateness of the various objects in the dream was also an illusion, for everything was produced by a deeper and more fundamental order - the unbroken wholeness of your own unconscious mind.
According to Peat, this does not mean the material universe is an illusion, because both the implicate and the explicate play a role in creating reality. Nor does it mean that individuality is lost, any more than the image of a rose is lost once it is recorded in a piece of holographic film. It simply means that we are again like vortices in a river, unique but inseparable from the flow of nature.
Or as Peat puts it,
And so we have come full circle, from the discovery that consciousness contains the whole of objective reality - the entire history of biological life on the planet, the world’s religions and mythologies, and the dynamics of both blood cells and stars - to the discovery that the material universe can also contain within its warp and weft the innermost processes of consciousness.
Such is the nature of the deep connectivity that exists between all things in a holographic universe.
In the next chapter we will explore how this connectivity, as well as other aspects of the holographic idea, affect our current understanding of health.