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Book Review: The Holgraphic Universe

Kathleen Myers's picture

  Book Review: The Holographic Universe 

     I’ve chosen to review Michael Talbot’s The Holographic Universe because I am deeply interested in scientific models of the cosmos that attempt to provide an explanation for experiences typically deemed mystical or supernatural. Most of the traditional scientific literature with which I am familiar ignores, minimizes or disavows the existence of a diverse array of experiences: precognition, retrocognition, psychometry, psychokinesis, clairvoyance, lucid dreaming, etc. Talbot’s theory (which he also describes as a “paradigm”, “analogy” and “metaphor”, in acknowledgement of the fact that it is “still an idea in the making”[p.7]) offers us a compelling “story” about the source of these, and many other anomalous phenomena.

   Talbot divides the book into three major sections. In the first, he addresses both the brain and the universe; in the second, he talks about the implications that a holographic theory of the universe holds for increasing our understanding of consciousness and perception; in the third, he discusses space and time from a holographic standpoint. He concludes by making several recommendations for the “restructuring” of scientific enterprise, claiming the first necessary step in this process is for scientists to acknowledge the existence of psychic and spiritual phenomena. He also calls on scientists to begin understanding themselves as experiencers (or participants), rather than observers. This demand seems to dovetail nicely with our “seriously loopy science” idea that the unavoidable “crack” of subjectivity that penetrates scientific enterprise can be a source of fruitfulness and information, rather than an impediment to understanding.

     Inspired primarily by the work of neuroscientist Karl Pribram and physicist David Bohm, Talbot contends that the universe can be understood as a kind of holograph. He writes, “…there is evidence to suggest that our world and everything in it- from snow flakes to maple trees to falling starts and spinning electrons- are only ghostly images, projections from a level of reality so beyond our own it is literally beyond both space and time.” (p. 1) In other words, what we perceive as a world “out there”, brimming with discrete objects, is nothing but the imprecise reflection of the deeper, unified reality that gives rise to it. Just as with a holographic image, he claims, the universe is comprised of  an unbroken field of wave interference patterns nested within one another. The tangible stuff of ordinary life is the secondary, explicate manifestation of a primary, implicate order. Talbot explains, “A piece of holographic film and the image it generates are also an example of an implicate and explicate order. The film is the implicate order because the image encoded in its interference patterns is a hidden totality enfolded throughout the whole. The hologram projected from the film is an explicate order because it represents the unfolded and perceptible version of the image.” (p.47)

      As Talbot describes it, a holographic model of the cosmos can successfully account for many of the theoretical oddities of quantum physics, such as the seemingly organized, organic behavior of plasma electrons, and the phenomenon of nonlocality (for ex.: twin photons emanating from positron decay  seem to transmit their angle of polarization to one another across large regions of space instantaneously when they assume the form of particles in the presence of an observer) Talbot (making use of Bohm) argues that these electrons and photons are not “communicating”. Rather, these quanta are enfolded and sustained by a quantum field; “they” are, in fact, a wholeness that presents two different angles to the observer.

      Holography also provides us with a cogent model for understanding the human brain, according to Talbot. In the brain, he argues, just as within a holographic image, each part contains the whole within it.(If you were to cut a holograph of an owl in half, each half of the image, when exposed to laser light, would reveal the entire original image of the owl. You could then cut that half into halves and still discover the whole image on each of the pieces, and so on.) Talbot bases this idea on the observation that memory, vision, recognition, and many other cognitive functions are distributed throughout the brain, as opposed to localized to specific regions. (As we discussed in class.) He contends that a brain-damaged person doesn’t seem to lose specific memories; rather, her memory seems to grow hazy in a more general way.

     While this may true, I’d like to point out that the distribution of complicated cognitive functions like memory across regions of the brain need not entail the notion that each “part” of the brain contains the “whole” of it. Instead, we might understand the complexity of any given memory as involving an array of operations in the visual, language, emotional and conceptual (and other) “centers” of the brain. The dizzying interconnectivity of our  neural circuits ensures a great deal of overlap and communication among these areas. Where Talbot posits a kind of micro/macro wholeness, we might look to the redundancy and creativity of memory. If an area of the brain is damaged, but a person is still able to remember things typically associated with that region, perhaps the brain is “filling in the gaps” – generating patterns- with what it would expect to find there, just as it does with the blind spot of the optical nerve. (The brain is a storyteller, as we discussed in class.)

     Talbot’s holographic theory does, however, provide us with satisfying (and I think rational) ways of explaining a host of  purportedly “extra”sensory experiences. Fully two-thirds of the book explores the traditionally scientifically taboo subjects of precognition, retrocognition, telemetry, out-of-body experiences, the ability to perceive auras, lucid dreaming, alternative and healing techniques, altered states of consciousness and shamanism, among other things, and explains how the interconnectivity of the holographic universe can account for these phenomena. If separation in space and time is nothing more than an illusory projection from a unified field of (sentient?-Talbot sometimes claims this…) energy, and if as Talbot argues, each part IS the whole, such paranormal activities become, suddenly, a lot less mysterious. Talbot argues that the ability to access “psychic” perceptual states is innate in each of us, but that civilization has caused these capacities to atrophy in most. His hope is that a holographic model can assist in restoring us to a state of awareness of own vast potential. As he points out, many ancient religious and wisdom traditions, such as Hinduism, Tibetan and Zen Buddhism, aboriginal shamanism and the mystery cults of ancient Greece shared some of the beliefs about illusory nature of the material world and the unified composition of the cosmos put forth by the holographic universe theory.

     Talbot makes use of the stories of quantum physics, neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, philosophy, theology and spirituality in order to craft an exciting model of the cosmos and of consciousness- one which can provide us with the means of understanding a host of anomalous experience. The Holographic Universe is a fascinating and inspiring book, and especially recommended to readers with an interest in the relationship between science and spirituality.


Rebecca Hunter's picture

The Holographic Universe

The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot is an intricate explanation of the scientific world and how the holographic paradigm can explain numerous phenomenas. He discusses LSD, memories, dreams and how these all relate to our brain's activities. He thorougly explains Bohm's and Pribam's scientific discoveries in physics and neuroscience. He tries to convey that the Holographic Universe theory relates everything to each other; that all things are interconnected. It is a fascinating explanation of unanswered scientific phenomena and is a must-read for anyone who is introspective and has a questioning mind.

Karen Mahendrarajah's picture

An Uncreated Multiverse?

An Uncreated Multiverse?

The three projections of the Supreme Reality in Hinduism are Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer. They are the three central characters in relation to the cosmos in the divine play known as Lila. Shiva is also known as the Dance King. The dance of Shiva symbolises the rhythm and movement of the Universe in its various stages of cosmic evolution. In his upper right hand he carries a drum. This is a symbol of the sound of creation. The cosmic symphony of the heavens that heralds the beginning of a new cycle. In his upper left hand he carries a flame. This symbolises the annihilation of the Universe in billions of years. Hindu philosophers have always maintained that the Universe is of a cyclic nature. Unborn, ever-existing and eternal.

The holistic approach used by Eastern philosophers in relation to everything in the Universe is the only way to unlock its secrets. The method of reductionism that has been used by scientists has not solved the mysteries. The fabric of hyperspace and the multiple universes that exist beyond our visibility can only be comprehended by those who have the insight to perceive the unity of everything that is seen and unseen.
Karen Mahendrarajah

Karen Mahendrarajah's picture

Hindu Philosophers have

Hindu Philosophers have always maintained that the material world is an illusion.Yes, the material world does exist but it is still unreal. Is it possible for something to exist and still be unreal? This can be proved mathematically using complex numbers.

Z = x + iy
Z is a complex number. A complex number is made up of a real part and an imaginary part.
Here i is equal to the square root of -1.
Therefore, the imaginary numbers do exist, but they are still unreal. So it is possible for something to exist and still be unreal. The material world is unreal because it is transient, impermanent and constantly changing. There is no fundamental reality in our lives. The only reality in our lives is the present. What is it that exists between the past and the present? Only memories. Memories are not real. They only exist in our minds. All reality is fleeting. The mind of God that is unfolded in the intricately woven tapestry of hyperspace can only be understood by those who are liberated from self-delusion. The music of the heavens can only be heard by those who see the unity of everything in the Universe.

Karen Mahendrarajah MSc(Astrophysics)BSc (Mathematics) PGCE (Secondary)

Karen Mahendrarajah's picture

Einstein's famous equation

If as you say God = m x c x c = E

If God = Total energy in the universe = E and m = total mass of matter in the universe

m = m1 + m2 +

(1, 2 ....... n are subscripts)where n tends to infinite values. m1, m2 etc is mass of individual matter in the universe.

Therefore m is greater than m1. So God is greater than the individual.

Can we say that we are all parts of God, but God is greater than us. Can we say that if this is the case, Hinduism is panentheistic? Please reply. Thank you.

Ronald's picture


You say, "Can we say that we are all parts of God, but God is greater than us."
I reply: Can we say that the sparks of a fire is the fire? Can we say that thoughts are the thinker?
More? Well I would probably be into a book by then.
Best Wishes, Ronald

Fausto Intilla's picture


a)The Jungian Theory of Syncronicity, is a clear demonstration that
everything in this Universe is predeterminated.The Heisenberg's
Indetermination Principle comes from the human ignorance
(we cannot see the reality in its totality) only an ignorant,can believe in Free Will.

b)Matter is a complex form of energy; Energy
is a complex form of Information; God's Thought.

The Universe is we are parts of God.

c) Every kind of "human desire",is followed by a Chain of "Electron wave
functions collapses" (in agreement with Schrödinger's Theory) which will not
follow ours expectations! ...So the paradox is: if we want to get hold of
something,we shouldn’t have to search for it. (Men stay still,and the mountains move...).
A curiosity: The connection between the electron
wave-function and the human intent has to do with the fact that
experiments have proved that the intentions of the operator of a radio
transmission facility, directly and instrumentably alter the
"footprint", the radiation pattern of the antenna. It has also been
shown that the intent of the human being causes a divergence in
the quantum field (which is the information field).
Any divergence in the information field results in
alterations of "probability", which directly influences
the outcome of any system which contains any element
of chance, directly influencing the resulting observable
events. (See the work of Princeton Engineering Anomalies
Research at


"In agreement with Henri Bergson's thought (see the last pages of "Entre
le temps et l'éternité" of Ilya Prigogine ,Librairie Arthème Fayard,Paris),
we can accept the idea of a "Space-time absolute value", where
all the "Space-time relativ values" are incorporated (in agreement with Einstein’s
theory of relativity); the conclusion is that there is only one Real
Matrix of the every other possible /potential parallel
"event/dimension/future" it's only a human illusion.

All the other parallel Universes (or Multi-Universes,as Phd. Everett said)
can only exist in our minds...perhaps whilst dreaming.

Unfortunately several physicists are conditioned by Heisenberg's Principle of
Indetermination...which, as you will know, is enough explain the
existence of Free Will.

Well, the Principle of Indetermination is hardly bound by the limits of
observations made by the human brain.

(We cannot see the reality in its totality...Bohm taught).

If we accept the idea that our Universe really is God,well,in a infinite
Caos of Energy too, there must to be a logical (but not for human
brain),exact,specific,and perfectly organized ...Plan.

How many significant (important) coincidences can happen to a person in his
life,living in a unorganizated and stupid Universe?...I think no-one.
Every synchronism in our life, is like an open-eyes-dream (Jung
taught)...and we can thank the fine intelligence of our Universe...if
they happen."

Fausto Intilla
(Inventor-scientific divulger)