If we were to look closely at an individual human being, we would immediately notice that it is a unique hologram unto itself; self-contained, self-generating, and self-knowledgeable.


Yet if we were to remove this being from its planetary context, we would quickly realize that the human form is not unlike a mandala or symbolic poem, for within its form and flow lives comprehensive information about various physical, social, psychological, and evolutionary contexts within which it was created.
• Dr. Ken Dychfwald
in The Holographic Paradigm (Ken Wilber, editor)


3 - The Holographic Model and Psychology

While the traditional model of psychiatry and psychoanalysis is strictly personalistic and biographical, modern consciousness research has added new levels, realms, and dimensions and shows the human psyche as being essentially commensurate with the whole universe and all of existence.
• Stanislav Grof

Beyond the Brain

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.

One experience that led Jung to this conclusion took place in 1906 and involved the hallucination of a young man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. One day while making his rounds Jung found the young man standing at a window and staring up at the sun. The man was also moving his head from side to side in a curious manner. When Jung asked him what he was doing he explained that he was looking at the sun’s penis, and when he moved his head from side to side, the sun’s penis moved and caused the wind to blow.

At the time Jung viewed the man’s assertion as the product of a hallucination. But several years later he came across a translation of a two-thousand-year-old Persian religious text that changed his mind. The text consisted of a series of rituals and invocations designed to bring on visions. It described one of the visions and said that if the participant looked at the sun he would see a tube hanging down from it, and when the tube moved from side to side it would cause the wind to blow.


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.

Although Jung’s concept of a collective unconscious has had an enormous impact on psychology and is now embraced by untold thousands of psychologists and psychiatrists, our current understanding of the universe provides no mechanism for explaining its existence. The interconnectedness of all things predicted by the holographic model, however, does offer an explanation. In a universe in which ail things are infinitely interconnected, all consciousnesses are also interconnected. Despite appearances, we are beings without borders.


Or as Bohm puts it, “Deep down the consciousness of mankind is one.”1

If each of us has access to the unconscious knowledge of the entire human race, why aren’t we all walking encyclopedias? Psychologist Robert M. Anderson, Jr., of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, believes it is because we are only able to tap into information in the implicate order that is directly relevant to our memories.


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,

“Due to personal resonance, relatively few of the almost infinite variety of ‘images’ in the implicate holographic structure of the universe are available to an individual’s personal consciousness,” says Anderson.


“Thus, when enlightened persons glimpsed this unitive consciousness centuries ago, they did not write out relativity theory because they were not studying physics in a context similar to that in which Einstein studied physics.”2


Dreams and the Holographic Universe
Another researcher who believes Bohm’s implicate order has applications in psychology is psychiatrist Montague Uilman, the founder of the Dream Laboratory at the Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, and a professor emeritus of clinical psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, also in New York.


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.

In a typical experiment a paid volunteer who claimed to possess no psychic ability was asked to sleep in a room in the lab while a person in another room concentrated on a randomly selected painting and tried to get the volunteer to dream of the image it contained. Sometimes the results were inconclusive. But other times the volunteers bad dreams that were clearly influenced by the paintings.


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.

In another experiment the target picture was Chagall’s Paris from a Window, a brightly colored painting depicting a man looking out a window at the Paris skyline. The painting also contained several other unusual features, including a cat with a human face, several small figures of men flying through the air, and a chair covered with flowers.


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

Although Ullman believes such findings are evidence of the underlying state of interconnectedness Bohm is talking about, he feels that an even more profound example of holographic wholeness can be found in another aspect of dreaming. That is the ability of our dreaming selves often to be far wiser than we ourselves are in our waking state. For instance, Ullman says that in his psychoanalytic practice he could have a patient who seemed completely unenlightened when he was awake - mean, selfish, arrogant, exploitative, and manipulative; a person who had fragmented and dehumanized all of his interpersonal relationships.


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.

Moreover, such dreams were not one-time occurrences. During the course of his practice Ullman noticed that when one of his patients failed to recognize or accept some truth about himself, that truth would surface again and again in his dreams, in different metaphorical guises and linked with different related experiences from his past, but always in an apparent attempt to offer him new opportunities to come to terms with the truth.

Because a man can ignore the counsel of his dreams and still live to be a hundred, Ullman believes this self-monitoring process is striving for more than just the welfare of the individual. He believes that nature is concerned with the survival of the species.


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.

“An individual can disconnect from all that’s cooperative, meaningful, and loving and still survive, but nations don’t have that luxury. Unless we learn how to overcome all the ways we’ve fragmented the human race, nationally, religiously, economically, or whatever, we are going to continue to find ourselves in a position where we can accidentally destroy the whole picture,” says Ullman.


“The only way we can do that is to look at how we fragment our existence as individuals. Dreams reflect our individual experience, but I think that’s because there’s a greater underlying need to preserve the species, to maintain species-connectedness.”4

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.



Psychosis and the Implicate Order
Ullman believes that some aspects of psychosis can also be explained by the holographic idea.


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.

For example, schizophrenics often report oceanic feelings of oneness with the universe, but in a magic, delusional way. They describe feeling a loss of boundaries between themselves and others, a belief that leads them to think their thoughts are no longer private. They believe they are able to read the thoughts of others.


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.

Ullman believes that schizophrenics try to convey their sense of unbroken wholeness in the way they view space and time. Studies have shown that schizophrenics often treat the converse of any relation as identical to the relation.6 For instance, according to the schizophrenic’s way of thinking, saying that “event A follows event B” is the same as saying “event B follows event A.”


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.

Ullman believes that certain aspects of holographic thinking are even more pronounced in maniac-depressives. Whereas the schizophrenic only gets whiffs of the holographic order, the manic is deeply involved in it and grandiosely identifies with its infinite potential.

“He can’t keep up with all the thoughts and ideas that come at him in so overwhelming a way,” states Ullman, “He has to lie, dissemble, and manipulate those about him so as to accommodate to his expansive vista. The end result, of course, is mostly chaos and confusion mixed with occasional outbursts of creativity and success in consensual reality.”7

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.

If it is true that we all encounter aspects of the implicate order when we dream, why don’t these encounters have the same effect on us as they do on psychotics? One reason, says Ullman, is that we leave the unique and challenging logic of the dream behind when we wake. Because of his condition the psychotic is forced to contend with it while simultaneously trying to function in everyday reality.


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.



Lucid Dreams and Parallel Universes
In recent years psychologists have become increasingly interested in lucid dreams, a type of dream in which the dreamer maintains full waking consciousness and is aware that he or she is dreaming. In addition to the consciousness factor, lucid dreams are unique in several other ways.


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

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 may help explain this unusual phenomenon. Wolf, an occasional lucid dreamer himself, points out that a piece of holographic film actually generates two images, a virtual image that appears to be in the space behind the film, and a real image that comes into focus in the space in front of the film.


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 through it.

Wolf believes that all dreams are internal holograms, and ordinary dreams are less vivid because they are virtual images. However, he thinks the brain also has the ability to generate real images, and that is exactly what it does when we are dreaming lucidly.


The unusual vibrancy of the lucid dream is due to the fact that the waves are converging and not diverging.

“If there is a ‘viewer’ where these waves focus, that viewer will be bathed in the scene, and the scene coming to a focus will ‘contain’ him. In this way the dream experience will appear ‘lucid,’ “ observes Wolf.8

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.

“When the observer and the observed can separate and say this is the observed and this is the observer, which is an effect one seems to be having when lucid, then I think it’s questionable whether [lucid dreams] should be considered subjective,” says Wolf.10

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.

“I call it parallel universe awareness because I believe that parallel universes arise as other images in the hologram,” Wolf states.11

This and other similar ideas about the ultimate nature of dreaming will be explored in greater depth later in the book.



Hitching a Ride on the Infinite Subway
The idea that we are able to access images from the collective unconscious, or even visit parallel dream universes, pales beside the conclusions of another prominent researcher who has been influenced by the holographic model.


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.

After more than thirty years of studying non-ordinary states of consciousness, Grof has concluded that the avenues of exploration available to our psyches via holographic interconnectedness are more than vast. They are virtually endless.

Grof first became interested in non-ordinary states of consciousness in the 1950s while investigating the clinical uses of the hallucinogen LSD at the Psychiatric Research Institute in his native Prague, Czechoslovakia.


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.

“Rather than being unrelated and random, the experiential content seemed to represent a successive unfolding of deeper and deeper levels of the unconscious,” says Grof.12

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.

One common experience was the reliving of what it was like to be in the womb. At first Grof thought these were just imagined experiences, but as the evidence continued to amass he realized that the knowledge of embryology inherent in the descriptions was often far superior to the patients’ previous education in the area.


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.

Whenever possible Grof investigated these assertions, and on several occasions was able to verify them by questioning the mother and other individuals involved. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and biologists who experienced pre-birth memories during their training for the program (all the therapists who participated in the study also had to undergo several sessions of LSD psychotherapy) expressed similar astonishment at the apparent authenticity of the experiences.

Most disconcerting of all were those experiences in which the patient’s consciousness appeared to expand beyond the usual boundaries of the ego and explore what it was like to be other living things and even other objects.


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.

Patients were also able to tap into the consciousness of their relatives and ancestors.


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.

Other experiences included the accessing of racial and collective memories. Individuals of Slavic origin experienced what it was like to participate in the conquests of Genghis Khan’s Mongolian hordes, to dance in trance with the Kalahari bushmen, to undergo the initiation rites of the Australian aborigines, and to die as sacrificial victims of the Aztecs.


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.

In fact, there did not seem to be any limit to what Grof s LSD subjects could tap into. They seemed capable of knowing what it was like to be every animal, and even plant, on the tree of evolution. They could experience what it was like to be a blood cell, an atom, a thermonuclear process inside the sun, the consciousness of the entire planet, and even the consciousness of the entire cosmos.


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.

On occasion subjects also traveled to what appeared to be other universes and other levels of reality. In one particularly unnerving session a young man suffering from depression found himself in what seemed to be another dimension. It had an eerie luminescence, and although he could not see anyone he sensed that it was crowded with discarnate beings.14


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.

The information meant nothing to either Grof or the young man and seemed totally unrelated to the young man’s problems and treatment.


Still, Grof could not put it out of his mind.

“After some hesitation and with mixed feelings, I finally decided to do what certainly would have made me the target of my colleagues’ jokes, had they found out,” says Grof.


“I went to the telephone, dialed the number in Kromeriz, and asked if I could speak with Ladislav. To my astonishment, the woman on the other side of the line started to cry. When she calmed down, she told me with a broken voice: ‘Our son is not with us any more; he passed away, we lost him three weeks ago.’ “15

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.

After personally guiding over three thousand LSD sessions (each lasting at least five hours) and studying the records of more than two thousand sessions conducted by colleagues, Grof became unalterably convinced that something extraordinary was going on.

“After years of conceptual struggle and confusion, I have concluded that the data from LSD research indicate an urgent need for a drastic revision of the existing paradigms for psychology, psychiatry, medicine, and possibly science in general,” he states.


“There is at present little doubt in my mind that our current understanding of the universe, of the nature of reality, and particularly of human beings, is superficial, incorrect, and incomplete.”16

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.

If our current way of looking at reality cannot account for transpersonal events, what new understanding might take its place?


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.

Grof thinks that the almost endless capacity holograms have for information storage and retrieval also accounts for the fact that visions, fantasies, and other “psychological gestalts,” all contain an enormous amount of information about an individual’s personality.


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.

The composite nature of archetypal images can be modeled by the holographic idea. As Grof observes, holography makes it possible to build up a sequence of exposures, such as pictures of every member of a large family, on the same piece of film.


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.

“These genuinely composite images represent an exquisite model of a certain type of transpersonal experience, such as the archetypal images of the Cosmic Man, Woman, Mother, Father, Lover, Trickster, Fool, or Martyr,” says Grof.17

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.

Indeed, Grof feels that evidence of a hidden, holographic order surfaces virtually every time one experiences a non-ordinary state of consciousness:
Bohm’s concept of the unfolded and enfolded orders and the idea that certain important aspects of reality are not accessible to experience and study under ordinary circumstances are of direct relevance for the understanding of unusual states of consciousness.


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



Holotropic Therapy
Perhaps Grofs most remarkable discovery is that the same phenomena reported by individuals who have taken LSD can also be experienced without resorting to drugs of any kind.


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.

The Grofs call their technique holotropic therapy and use only rapid and controlled breathing, evocative music, and massage and body work, to induce altered states of consciousness. To date, thousands of individuals have attended their workshops and report experiences that are every bit as spectacular and emotionally profound as those described by subjects of Grofs previous work on LSD.


Grof describes his current work and gives a detailed account of his methods in his book The Adventure of Self-Discovery.



Vortices of Thought and Multiple Personalities
A number of researchers have used the holographic model to explain various aspects of the thinking process itself.


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.

Levenson believes that something is resonance. A therapist always knows when therapy is going well, he observes. There is a strong feeling that the pieces of an elusive pattern are all about to come together.


The therapist is not saying anything new to the patient, but instead seems to be resonating with something the patient already unconsciously knows:

“It is as though a huge, three-dimensional, spatially coded representation of the patient’s experience develops in the therapy, running through every aspect of his life, his history and his participation with the therapist. At some point there is a kind of ‘overload’ and everything falls into place.”19

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.

“The holographic model suggests a radically new paradigm which might give us a fresh way of perceiving and connecting clinical phenomena which have always been known to be important, but were relegated to the ‘art’ of psychotherapy,” says Levenson.


“It offers a possible theoretical template for change and a practical hope of clarifying psychotherapeutic technique.”20

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.

He feels the virtual permanence of some vortices is often detrimental to our growth as human beings.


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:

“Look at the nuclear arms race as a vortex arising out of the greed of human beings who are isolated in their separate selves and do not feel the connection to other human beings.


They are also feeling a peculiar emptiness and become greedy for everything they can get to fill themselves. Hence nuclear industries proliferate because they provide large amounts of money and the greed is so extensive that such people do not care what might happen from their actions.”21

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.

If you want to become aware of your own frozen vortices of thought, Shainberg recommends you pay close attention to the way you behave in conversation. When people with set beliefs converse with others, they try to justify their identities by espousing and defending their opinions. Their judgments seldom change as a result of any new information they encounter, and they show little interest in allowing any real conversational interaction to take place. A person who is open to the flowing nature of consciousness is more willing to see the frozen condition of the relationships imposed by such vortices of thought.


They are committed to exploring conversational interactions, rather than endlessly repeating a static litany of opinions.

“Human response and articulation of that response, feedback of reactions to that response and the clarifying of the relationships between different responses, are the way human beings participate in the flow of the implicate order,” says Shainberg.22

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.

One of the most telling statistics regarding multiples is that 97 percent of them have had a history of severe childhood trauma, often in the form of monstrous psychological, physical, and sexual abuse. This has led many researchers to conclude that becoming a multiple is the psyche’s way of coping with extraordinary and soul-crushing pain.


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.

In this sense becoming a multiple may be the ultimate example of what Bohm means by fragmentation. It is interesting to note that when the psyche fragments itself, it does not become a collection of broken and jagged-edged shards, but a collection of smaller wholes, complete and self-sustaining with their own traits, motives, and desires.


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.

Bohm’s assertion that fragmentation always eventually proves destructive is also apparent in the syndrome. Although becoming a multiple allows a person to survive an otherwise unendurable childhood, it brings with it a host of unpleasant side effects. These may include depression, anxiety and panic attacks, phobias, heart and respiratory problems, unexplained nausea, migraine-like headaches, tendencies toward self-mutilation, and many other mental and physical disorders.


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.

Another unusual feature of MPD is that each of a multiple’s personalities possesses a different brain-wave pattern.


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.

Since brain-wave patterns are not confined to any single neuron or group of neurons, but are a global property of the brain, this too suggests that some kind of holographic process may be at work. Just as a multiple-image hologram can store and project dozens of whole scenes, perhaps the brain hologram can store and call forth a similar multitude of whole personalities.


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.  



A Flaw in the Fabric of Reality
Another of Jung’s great contributions was defining the concept of synchronicity.


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,

“Is it true that John Barrymore’s dying words were, ‘Aren’t you the illegitimate son of Buffalo Bill?’ “

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)

As incredible as this experience was, the only thing that seemed meaningful about it was its improbable nature. There is, however, another kind of synchronicity that is noteworthy not only because of its improbability, but because of its apparent relationship to events taking place deep in the human psyche. The classic example of this is Jung’s scarab story.


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.

Jung encountered many such meaningful coincidences during his psychotherapeutic work and noticed that they almost always accompanied periods of emotional intensity and transformation: fundamental changes in belief, sudden and new insights, deaths, births, even changes in profession. He also noticed that they tended to peak when the new realization or insight was just about to surface in a patient’s consciousness. As his ideas became more widely known, other therapists began reporting their own experiences with synchronicity.

For example, Zurich-based psychiatrist Carl Alfred Meier, a longtime associate of Jung’s, tells of a synchronicity that spanned many years. An American woman suffering from serious depression traveled all the way from Wuchang, China, to be treated by Meier. She was a surgeon and had headed a mission hospital in Wuchang for twenty years. She had also become involved in the culture and was an expert in Chinese philosophy.


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 hospital.

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

Because of their striking nature, Jung became convinced that such synchronicities were not chance occurrences, but were in fact related to the psychological processes of the individuals who experienced them. Since he could not conceive how an occurrence deep in the psyche could cause an event or series of events in the physical world, at least in the classical sense, he proposed that some new principle must be involved, an acausal connecting principle hitherto unknown to science.

When Jung first advanced this idea, most physicists did not take it seriously (although one eminent physicist of the time, Wolfgang Pauli, felt it was important enough to coauthor a book with Jung on the subject entitled The Interpretation and Nature of the Psyche).


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,

“These non-local quantum effects are indeed a form of synchronicity in the sense that they establish a connection - more precisely a correlation - between events for which any form of causal linkage is forbidden.” 25

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.

Put another way, Peat thinks that synchronicities reveal the absence of division between the physical world and our inner psychological reality. Thus the relative scarcity of synchronous experiences in our lives shows not only the extent to which we have fragmented ourselves from the general field of consciousness, but also the degree to which we have sealed ourselves off from the infinite and dazzling potential of the deeper orders of mind and reality.


According to Peat, when we experience a synchronicity, what we are really experiencing,

“is the human mind operating, for a moment, in its true order and extending throughout society and nature, moving through orders of increasing subtlety, reaching past the source of mind and matter into creativity itself.” 26

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.

One implication is that objective reality is more like a dream than we have previously suspected. For example, imagine dreaming that you are sitting at a table and having an evening meal with your boss and his wife. As you know from experience, all the various props in the dream - the table, the chairs, the plates, and salt and pepper shakers - appear to be separate objects.


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.

If there is no division between the mental and physical worlds, these same qualities are also true of objective reality.


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,

“the self lives on but as one aspect of the more subtle movement that involves the order of the whole of consciousness.”27

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.


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