by Michael Talbot
In 1982 a remarkable event took place.
At the University of Paris a research team led by physicist Alain
Aspect performed what may turn out to be one of the most important
experiments of the 20th century. You did not hear about it on the
evening news. In fact, unless you are in the habit of reading
scientific journals you probably have never even heard Aspectís
name, though there are some who believe his discovery may change the
face of science.
Aspect and his team discovered that under certain circumstances
subatomic particles such as electrons are able to instantaneously
communicate with each other regardless of the distance separating
them. It doesnít matter whether they are 10 feet or 10 billion miles
Somehow each particle always seems to know what the other is doing.
The problem with this feat is that it violates Einsteinís long-held
tenet that no communication can travel faster than the speed of
light. Since traveling faster than the speed of light is tantamount
to breaking the time barrier, this daunting prospect has caused some
physicists to try to come up with elaborate ways to explain away
Aspectís findings. But it has inspired others to offer even more
University of London physicist David Bohm, for example, believes
Aspectís findings imply that objective reality does not exist, that
despite its apparent solidity the universe is at heart a phantasm, a
gigantic and splendidly detailed hologram.
To understand why Bohm makes this startling assertion, one must
first understand a little about holograms. A hologram is a three-dimensional photograph made with the aid of a laser.
To make a hologram, the object to be photographed is first bathed in
the light of a laser beam. Then a second laser beam is bounced off
the reflected light of the first and the resulting interference
pattern (the area where the two laser beams commingle) is captured
When the film is developed, it looks like a meaningless swirl of
light and dark lines. But as soon as the developed film is
illuminated by another laser beam, a three-dimensional image of the
original object appears.
The three-dimensionality of such images is not the only remarkable
characteristic of holograms. If a hologram of a rose is cut in half
and then illuminated by a laser, each half will still be found to
contain the entire image of the rose.
Indeed, even if the halves are divided again, each snippet of film
will always be found to contain a smaller but intact version of the
original image. Unlike normal photographs, every part of a hologram
contains all the information possessed by the whole.
The "whole in every part" nature of a hologram provides us with an
entirely new way of understanding organization and order. For most
of its history, Western science has labored under the bias that the
best way to understand a physical phenomenon, whether a frog or an
atom, is to dissect it and study its respective parts.
A hologram teaches us that some things in the universe may not lend
themselves to this approach. If we try to take apart something
constructed holographically, we will not get the pieces of which it
is made, we will only get smaller wholes.
This insight suggested to Bohm another way of understanding
discovery. Bohm believes the reason subatomic particles are able to
remain in contact with one another regardless of the distance
separating them is not because they are sending some sort of
mysterious signal back and forth, but because their separateness is
an illusion. He argues that at some deeper level of reality such
particles are not individual entities, but are actually extensions
of the same fundamental something.
To enable people to better visualize what he means, Bohm offers the
Imagine an aquarium containing a fish. Imagine also that you are
unable to see the aquarium directly and your knowledge about it and
what it contains comes from two television cameras, one directed at
the aquariumís front and the other directed at its side.
As you stare at the two television monitors, you might assume that
the fish on each of the screens are separate entities. After all,
because the cameras are set at different angles, each of the images
will be slightly different. But as you continue to watch the two
fish, you will eventually become aware that there is a certain
relationship between them.
When one turns, the other also makes a slightly different but
corresponding turn; when one faces the front, the other always faces
toward the side. If you remain unaware of the full scope of the
situation, you might even conclude that the fish must be
instantaneously communicating with one another, but this is clearly
not the case.
This, says Bohm, is precisely what is going on between the subatomic
particles in Aspectís experiment.
According to Bohm, the apparent faster-than-light connection between
subatomic particles is really telling us that there is a deeper
level of reality we are not privy to, a more complex dimension
beyond our own that is analogous to the aquarium. And, he adds, we
view objects such as subatomic particles as separate from one
another because we are seeing only a portion of their reality.
Such particles are not separate "parts", but facets of a deeper and
more underlying unity that is ultimately as holographic and
indivisible as the previously mentioned rose. And since everything
in physical reality is comprised of these "eidolons",
is itself a projection, a hologram.
In addition to its phantomlike nature, such a universe would possess
other rather startling features. If the apparent separateness of
subatomic particles is illusory, it means that at a deeper level of
reality all things in the universe are infinitely interconnected.
The electrons in a carbon atom in the human brain are connected to
the subatomic particles that comprise every salmon that swims, every
heart that beats, and every star that shimmers in the sky.
Everything interpenetrates everything, and although human nature may
seek to categorize and pigeonhole and subdivide, the various
phenomena of the universe, all apportionments are of necessity
artificial and all of nature is ultimately a seamless web.
In a holographic universe, even time and space could no longer be
viewed as fundamentals. Because concepts such as location break down
in a universe in which nothing is truly separate from anything else,
time and three-dimensional space, like the images of the fish on the
TV monitors, would also have to be viewed as projections of this
At its deeper level reality is a sort of superhologram in which the
past, present, and future all exist simultaneously. This suggests
that given the proper tools it might even be possible to someday
reach into the superholographic level of reality and pluck out
scenes from the long-forgotten past.
What else the superhologram contains is an open-ended question.
Allowing, for the sake of argument, that the superhologram is the
matrix that has given birth to everything in our universe, at the
very least it contains every subatomic particle that has been or
will be -- every configuration of matter and energy that is
possible, from snowflakes to quasars, from blue whales to gamma
rays. It must be seen as a sort of cosmic storehouse of "All That
Although Bohm concedes that we have no way of knowing what else
might lie hidden in the superhologram, he does venture to say that
we have no reason to assume it does not contain more. Or as he puts
it, perhaps the superholographic level of reality is a "mere stage"
beyond which lies "an infinity of further development".
Bohm is not the only researcher who has found evidence that the
universe is a hologram. Working independently in the field of brain
research, Standford neurophysiologist Karl Pribram has also become
persuaded of the holographic nature of reality.
Pribram was drawn to the holographic model by the puzzle of how and
where memories are stored in the brain. For decades numerous studies
have shown that rather than being confined to a specific location,
memories are dispersed throughout the brain.
In a series of landmark experiments in the 1920s, brain scientist
Karl Lashley found that no matter what portion of a ratís brain he
removed he was unable to eradicate its memory of how to perform
complex tasks it had learned prior to surgery. The only problem was
that no one was able to come up with a mechanism that might explain
this curious "whole in every part" nature of memory storage.
Then in the 1960s Pribram encountered the concept of holography and
realized he had found the explanation brain scientists had been
looking for. Pribram believes memories are encoded not in neurons,
or small groupings of neurons, but in patterns of nerve impulses
that crisscross the entire brain in the same way that patterns of
laser light interference crisscross the entire area of a piece of
film containing a holographic image. In other words, Pribram
believes the brain is itself a hologram.
Pribramís theory also explains how the human brain can store so many
memories in so little space. It has been estimated that the human
brain has the capacity to memorize something on the order of 10
billion bits of information during the average human lifetime (or
roughly the same amount of information contained in five sets of the Encyclopaedia Britannica).
Similarly, it has been discovered that in addition to their other
capabilities, holograms possess an astounding capacity for
information storage--simply by changing the angle at which the two
lasers strike a piece of photographic film, it is possible to record
many different images on the same surface. It has been demonstrated
that one cubic centimeter of film can hold as many as 10 billion
bits of information.
Our uncanny ability to quickly retrieve whatever information we need
from the enormous store of our memories becomes more understandable
if the brain functions according to holographic principles. If a
friend asks you to tell him what comes to mind when he says the word
"zebra", you do not have to clumsily sort back through one gigantic
and cerebral alphabetic file to arrive at an answer. Instead,
associations like "striped", "horselike", and "animal native to
Africa" all pop into your head instantly.
Indeed, one of the most amazing things about the human thinking
process is that every piece of information seems instantly cross-correlated with every other piece of information -- another feature
intrinsic to the hologram. Because every portion of a hologram is
infinitely interconnected with every other portion, it is perhaps
natureís supreme example of a cross-correlated system.
The storage of memory is not the only neurophysiological puzzle that
becomes more tractable in light of Pribramís holographic model of
the brain. Another is how the brain is able to translate the
avalanche of frequencies it receives via the senses (light
frequencies, sound frequencies, and so on) into the concrete world
of our perceptions. Encoding and decoding frequencies is precisely
what a hologram does best. Just as a hologram functions as a sort of
lens, a translating device able to convert an apparently meaningless
blur of frequencies into a coherent image, Pribram believes the
brain also comprises a lens and uses holographic principles to
mathematically convert the frequencies it receives through the
senses into the inner world of our perceptions.
An impressive body of evidence suggests that the brain uses
holographic principles to perform its operations. Pribramís theory,
in fact, has gained increasing support among neurophysiologists.
Argentinian-Italian researcher Hugo Zucarelli recently extended the
holographic model into the world of acoustic phenomena. Puzzled by
the fact that humans can locate the source of sounds without moving
their heads, even if they only possess hearing in one ear, Zucarelli
discovered that holographic principles can explain this ability.
Zucarelli has also developed the technology of holophonic sound, a
recording technique able to reproduce acoustic situations with an
almost uncanny realism.
Pribramís belief that our brains mathematically construct "hard"
reality by relying on input from a frequency domain has also
received a good deal of experimental support.
It has been found that each of our senses is sensitive to a much
broader range of frequencies than was previously suspected.
Researchers have discovered, for instance, that our visual systems
are sensitive to sound frequencies, that our sense of smell is in
part dependent on what are now called "osmic frequencies", and that
even the cells in our bodies are sensitive to a broad range of
frequencies. Such findings suggest that it is only in the
holographic domain of consciousness that such frequencies are sorted
out and divided up into conventional perceptions.
But the most mind-boggling aspect of Pribramís holographic model
the brain is what happens when it is put together with Bohmís
theory. For if the concreteness of the world is but a secondary
reality and what is "there" is actually a holographic blur of
frequencies, and if the brain is also a hologram and only selects
some of the frequencies out of this blur and mathematically
transforms them into sensory perceptions, what becomes of objective
Put quite simply, it ceases to exist. As the religions of the East
have long upheld, the material world is Maya, an illusion, and
although we may think we are physical beings moving through a
physical world, this too is an illusion.
We are really "receivers" floating through a kaleidoscopic sea of
frequency, and what we extract from this sea and transmogrify into
physical reality is but one channel from many extracted out of the
This striking new picture of reality, the synthesis of Bohm and
Pribramís views, has come to be called the holographic paradigm, and
although many scientists have greeted it with skepticism, it has
galvanized others. A small but growing group of researchers believe
it may be the most accurate model of reality science has arrived at
thus far. More than that, some believe it may solve some mysteries
that have never before been explainable by science and even
establish the paranormal as a part of nature.
Numerous researchers, including Bohm and Pribram, have noted that
many para-psychological phenomena become much more understandable in
terms of the holographic paradigm.
In a universe in which individual brains are actually indivisible
portions of the greater hologram and everything is infinitely
interconnected, telepathy may merely be the accessing of the
It is obviously much easier to understand how information can travel
from the mind of individual íAí to that of individual íBí at a far
distance point and helps to understand a number of unsolved puzzles
in psychology. In particular, Grof feels the holographic paradigm
offers a model for understanding many of the baffling phenomena
experienced by individuals during altered states of consciousness.
In the 1950s, while conducting research into the beliefs of LSD as a
psychotherapeutic tool, Grof had one female patient who suddenly
became convinced she had assumed the identity of a female of a
species of prehistoric reptile. During the course of her
hallucination, she not only gave a richly detailed description of
what it felt like to be encapsulated in such a form, but noted that
the portion of the male of the species' anatomy was a patch of
colored scales on the side of its head.
What was startling to Grof was that although the woman had no prior
knowledge about such things, a conversation 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.
The womanís experience was not unique. During the course of his
research, Grof encountered examples of patients regressing and
identifying with virtually every species on the evolutionary tree
(research findings which helped influence the man-into-ape scene in
the movie Altered States). Moreover, he found that such experiences
frequently contained obscure zoological details which turned out to
Regressions into the animal kingdom were not the only puzzling
psychological phenomena Grof encountered. He also had patients who
appeared to tap into some sort of collective or racial unconscious.
Individuals with little or no education suddenly gave detailed
descriptions of Zoroastrian funerary practices and scenes from Hindu
mythology. In other categories of experience, individuals gave
persuasive accounts of out-of-body journeys, of precognitive
glimpses of the future, of regressions into apparent past-life
In later research, Grof found the same range of phenomena manifested
in therapy sessions which did not involve the use of drugs. Because
the common element in such experiences appeared to be the
transcending of an individualís consciousness beyond the usual
boundaries of ego and/or limitations of space and time, Grof called
such manifestations "transpersonal experiences", and in the late
í60s he helped found a branch of psychology called "transpersonal
psychology" devoted entirely to their study.
Although Grofís newly founded Association of Transpersonal
Psychology garnered a rapidly growing group of like-minded
professionals and has become a respected branch of psychology, for
years neither Grof or any of his colleagues were able to offer a
mechanism for explaining the bizarre psychological phenomena they
were witnessing. But that has changed with the advent of the
As Grof recently noted, if the mind is actually part of a continuum,
a labyrinth that is connected not only to every other mind that
exists or has existed, but to every atom, organism, and region in
the vastness of space and time itself, the fact that it is able to
occasionally make forays into the labyrinth and have transpersonal
experiences no longer seems so strange.
The holographic paradigm also has implications for so-called hard
sciences like biology. Keith Floyd, a psychologist at Virginia Intermont College, has pointed out that if the concreteness of
reality is but a holographic illusion, it would no longer be true to
say the brain produces consciousness. Rather, it is consciousness
that creates the appearance of the brain -- as well as the body and
everything else around us we interpret as physical.
Such a turnabout in the way we view biological structures has caused
researchers to point out that medicine and our understanding of the
healing process could also be transformed by the holographic
paradigm. If the apparent physical structure of the body is but a
holographic projection of consciousness, it becomes clear that each
of us is much more responsible for our health than current medical
wisdom allows. What we now view as miraculous remissions of disease
may actually be due to changes in consciousness which in turn effect
changes in the hologram of the body.
Similarly, controversial new healing techniques such as
visualization may work so well because in the holographic domain of
thought images are ultimately as real as "reality".
Even visions and experiences involving "non-ordinary" reality become
explainable under the holographic paradigm. In his book "Gifts of
Unknown Things," biologist Lyall Watson
describes his encounter with
an Indonesian shaman woman who, by performing a ritual dance, was
able to make an entire grove of trees instantly vanish into thin
air. Watson relates that as he and another astonished onlooker
continued to watch the woman, she caused the trees to reappear, then
"click" off again and on again several times in succession.
Although current scientific understanding is incapable of explaining
such events, experiences like this become more tenable if "hard"
reality is only a holographic projection.
Perhaps we agree on what is "there" or "not there" because what we
call consensus reality is formulated and ratified at the level of
the human unconscious at which all minds are infinitely
If this is true, it is the most profound implication of the
holographic paradigm of all, for it means that experiences such as
Watsonís are not commonplace only because we have not programmed our
minds with the beliefs that would make them so. In a holographic
universe there are no limits to the extent to which we can alter the
fabric of reality.
What we perceive as reality is only a canvas waiting for us to draw
upon it any picture we want. Anything is possible, from bending
spoons with the power of the mind to the phantasmagoric events
Castaneda during his encounters with the Yaqui brujo
don Juan, for magic is our birthright, no more or less miraculous
than our ability to compute the reality we want when we are in our
Indeed, even our most fundamental notions about reality become
suspect, for in a holographic universe, as Pribram has pointed out,
even random events would have to be seen as based on holographic
principles and therefore determined. Synchronicities or meaningful
coincidences suddenly makes sense, and everything in reality would
have to be seen as a metaphor, for even the most haphazard events
would express some underlying symmetry.
Whether Bohm and Pribramís holographic paradigm becomes accepted in
science or dies an ignoble death remains to be seen, but it is safe
to say that it has already had an influence on the thinking of many
scientists. And even if it is found that the holographic model does
not provide the best explanation for the instantaneous
communications that seem to be passing back and forth between
subatomic particles, at the very least, as noted by Basil Hiley, a
physicist at Birbeck College in London, Aspectís findings "indicate
that we must be prepared to consider radically new views of