A Holographic View of Reality

David S. Walonick, Ph.D.


For thousands of years, philosophers have pondered our role in the

universe. The study of social structures began as the study of our

souls. Only by turning inward could we unravel the mysteries of our

institutions. Society was viewed as a reflection and extension of our



A few hundred years ago, Descartes introduced the scientific method of

inquiry and dramatically changed the way that we searched for answers.

The scientific method stressed the individuality and separateness of

things. Institutions could be understood by dissecting and analyzing the

individual components. The inquirer was simply a passive observer of

external phenomena. This paradigm went unchallenged for over three

hundred years.


The twentieth century began with Einstein's theory of relativity. The

observer was no longer external to the phenomena being studied. In fact,

all patterns could be described only relative to the observer. At first,

Einstein's theory was confined to the physical world, however, twenty

years later, von Bertalanffy extended the idea of relativity to the

social sciences. General systems theory could be used to examine both

the physical and social sciences. The role of the mind in the

construction of reality became an issue of concern. In fact, for some

scientists, it had now become a central theme.


In the 1920's Wilder Penfield presented convincing evidence that

memories were stored in specific locations in the brain. Penfield

performed surgery on epileptic patients and found that when he

stimulated the temporal lobes, the patients relived experiences from the

past. He found that whenever he stimulated a specific region of the

brain, it evoked the same memory. In his book The Mystery of the Mind

(1975), Penfield described the patients experience as a "flashback",

where the patient actually re-lived the experience. Penfield concluded

that this meant that all experiences were stored in specific locations

of the brain in memory engrams.


In an effort to verify Penfield's experiments, biologist Karl Lashley

(1950) began searching for the elusive engrams. He had trained rats in

maze-running abilities and then attempted to surgically remove the

portion of the rat's brains that contained the maze-running knowledge.

Lashley found that no matter what portion of the brain he removed, the

rats retained their maze-running knowledge. Even when massive portions

of the brain were removed, the rats were still able to navigate through

the maze.


Karl Pribram (1969), a student of Penfield, was astonished by Lashley's

research. Pribram noticed that when brain-injured patients had large

sections of their brain removed, they did not suffer a loss of any

specific memories. Instead, the patient's memory became increasingly

hazy as greater portions of the brain were removed. Further research

indicated that Penfield's experiments could be only duplicated on

epileptic patients. Pribram (1977) came to the conclusion that memories

are not localized in any specific brain cells, but rather, memory seemed

to be distribution throughout the whole brain. The problem was that

there was simply no known mechanism that would explain how this was



Pribram remained puzzled until the mid 1960's, when he ran across an

article in Scientific American describing the construction of laser

hologram. He immediately synthesized the information and hypothesized

that the mind itself was operating in a holographic manner.


Anatomist Paul Pietsch (1981) simply could not believe Pribram's theory,

and he set out to disprove the holographic theory of the brain. After

performing thousands of operations on salamanders, he became convinced

that the mind perceives and stores information by encoding and decoding

complex interference patterns.


A hologram is created by splitting a laser beam into two separate beams.

One beam is bounced off an object, and the other serves as a reference

beam. An interference pattern is created that bears little resemblance

to the object, however, it contains all the information necessary to

recreate the image of the object. The most remarkable feature to Pribram

was the idea that a photographic plate containing a laser image could be

broken in two, and each half would contain the complete image of the

object, but with less resolution. This was identical to the way that

memory in the brain seemed to be operating. Regardless of how many times

the photographic plate was broken, each piece contained the information

necessary to reconstruct the entire image.


Pribram hypothesized that the neurons, axions, and dendrites of the

brain create wave-like patterns that cause an interference pattern. In

1966 he published his findings and during the next few years he refined

his theory. According to Pribram, a holographic theory explains many of

the mysteries of the brain, including the enormous capacity of the brain

for the storage and retrieval of information.


By the 1970's several other researchers had expanded Pribram's theory.

British physicist Pieter van Heerden (1970) proposed that our ability to

recognize familiar objects is similar to recognition holography. A

similar technique known as interference holography could explain our

ability to perceive differences in a object that has changed. Harvard

researchers Daniel Pollen and Michael Tractenberg (1972) studied

individuals with eidetic (photographic) memories and proposed the idea

that memory is related to an individual's ability to create holographic

images in the brain. People with outstanding memories are better able to

access larger portions of their brains.


One distinguishing characteristic of a hologram is the ability to create

a virtual image. A virtual image is a three-dimensional extension in

space that appears to exist, yet contains no substance. We generally

believe that we are able to clearly distinguish between external and

internal events, however, considerable research has shown that the

division is not as well-defined as we perceive. The "world-out-there"

and the "world-in-here" are not always clearly delineated.


In the late 1960's Georg von Bekesy demonstrated that blindfolded

subjects could be induced to experience sensations in areas outside of

the body. By attaching vibrators to their knees, von Bekesy was able to

alter subject's perceptions of the location of the vibrators so they

believed that they were experiencing sensations in the space between

their knees. This artificially created phenomena is similar to the

phantom limb pain experienced by amputees. (Talbot, 1991, p.25)


Research in the 1960's had shown that each brain cell in the visual

cortex responds to a specific pattern. Some brain cells fired when

horizontal lines were perceived, while others responded to vertical

lines. Berkeley neurophysiologists Russel and Karen DeValois (1979)

demonstrated that the brain was using Fourier mathematics to decode

visual images. Recently, Fourier analysis has been used to explain our

perception of hearing and smell. The brain operates as a complex

frequency analyzer.


The problem with the holographic model comes when we try to understand

what the brain is actually perceiving. The holographic model implies

that our perceptions are merely an illusion. If we are perceiving an

interference pattern, what is the true nature of thing we are

perceiving? The hologram consists of both a reflected and reference

beam. What is the nature of the thing being reflected? Or equally

illusive, what is the brain's equivalent of a reference beam?


Quantum physics has presented us with a puzzling picture of the nature

of reality. Physicists have demonstrated that quanta can manifest

themselves as either particles or waves. When scientists are not looking

at electrons, they always exist as a wave, and whenever they design an

experiment to observe the elections, they always appear as particles.

Danish physicist Niels Bohr pointed out that it is meaningless to talk

about the properties and characteristics of a particle that is not being

observed. Einstein did not accept Bohr's argument. He believed that Bohr

had to be wrong because the implications of quantum theory were simply

too astounding (Talbot, 1991, p.35-38).


At the heart of the controversy was the idea of instantaneous

communication between particles. When two complimentary particles were

allowed to travel apart, their polarizations could be simultaneously

measured. Quantum theory predicted that regardless of the distance

between the particles, their polarizations would always be the same. The

act of measuring one would force the polarization of the other. Einstein

(1935) interpreted this to mean that quantum theory was incorrect

because nothing could travel faster than the speed of light. Bohr argued

that Einstein was incorrect in thinking of the particles as separate. He

maintained that they were part of an indivisible system. Quantum theory

proved to be incredible successful and became the accepted theory even

though the technology did not exist to actually perform the experiment.


Princeton physicist David Bohm (1980) became a believer in holographic

systems during his study of plasma systems. He found that when a gas

became a plasma, the individual electrons began behaving as a unified

whole. The electrons became engaged in a process of self-organization.

Bohm became disillusioned with quantum theory because it attempted to

isolate cause-and-effect relationships from the universe as a whole. He

maintained that only a holistic view would explain the electron

co-ordination in high energy plasma systems. Furthermore, Bohm argued

that space itself was an illusion, and that it was meaningless to

discuss the separateness of things at the quantum level. Physicists

began describing the quantum potential in terms of nonlocal connections.


By the 1960's Bohm began to view chaos as a misnomer. He believed that

"randomness" contains a hidden order, and that we perceive disorder only

because of our limited understanding of the complexity of the processes

involved. In 1980, Bohm published his first book on the holographic

nature of the universe entitled Wholeness and the Implicate Order. In

it, he referred to our level of existence as the explicate (unfolded)

order. He maintained that there was a deeper level of order in the

universe which he called the implicate order. The constant flow of

energy between the explicate and implicate levels of reality offered an

explanation of nonlocal phenomena. Bohm referred to the universe as a

dynamic holomovement.


Our Cartesian view of the world makes it difficult to comprehend the

implications of Bohm's theory. We have a tendency to divide things into

parts and give them unique names. "If we think of reality as constituted

of independent fragments, we will think in fragmented ways." (Ferguson,

1992) According to Bohm's theory, the separateness of things is but an

illusion, and all things are actually part of the same unbroken

continuum. Holographic theory is an extension of general system theory

because it recognizes that the boundaries of a system are an artificial

construct. System theory stresses the relationships between the

components of the system, however, the boundaries of the system are

defined to suit the researcher's purpose. In holographic theory, the

fragmentation created by the boundary definitions does not exist. Each

component is part of an unbroken whole. Systems theory stresses the

individuality of the system components. Holographic theory stresses the

oneness of its components. Component A is not simply related to

component B--A is B.


In 1982, Alain Aspect and a team of physicists were able to actually

carry-out the polarization experiment that Einstein had proposed nearly

fifty years before (Talbot, 1991, p.52-53). Photon pairs were created by

heating calcium atoms with a laser, and then allowed to travel in

opposite directions. Aspect discovered that the polarization of one

photon immediately polarized the other--just as quantum theory had

predicted. The photons were somehow communicating with each other at

speeds exceeding the speed of light, or nonlocal connections existed

between the electrons, or the separateness of the particles themselves

was an illusion.


Bohm (1987) concluded that the implications of nonlocal connections are

that objective reality itself is entirely a construct of the human

brain. The true nature of reality remains hidden from us. Our brains

operate as a holographic frequency analyzer, decoding projections from a

more fundamental dimension. Bohm concludes that even space and time are

constructs of the human brain, and they may not exist as we perceive



We normally perceive things as existing in the four dimensions of

space-time. Holographic theory, however, presumes that there is at least

a fifth dimension that represents a more fundamental aspect of reality.

Normally, we do not possess the sensory skills to perceive this

dimension, and it remains hidden from our awareness. The holographic

model of reality stresses the role of beat frequencies in our

construction of reality. Suppose the fifth dimension consists of

extremely high frequency energy far outside our range of normal

perception. When two or more wave fronts interact, a third frequency is

created that consists of the difference in frequencies between the two

waves. Since the beat frequency is all we can perceive, we construct

reality based on these illusory waves without any awareness of their

true source.


A problem with holographic theory is that we have little understanding

of why some energy fields appear as stationary matter, while others are

manifested as electromagnetic waves. Einstein spent the latter part of

his life looking for the unified theory that would link matter, energy,

and gravity. How does energy become matter and visa versa?


Bohm (1978) came to the conclusion that the black hole provides an

answer. The black hole is an area of collapsed matter where the density

and gravity become so great that nothing (not even light) can escape.

The escape velocity from a black hole is greater than the speed of light

itself. Within the black hole, space and time become distorted and merge

into a singularity. While we generally refer to black holes as an

astronomical phenomena, there is no reason to believe that these are the

only black holes. Stephen Hawking has demonstrated that mini black holes

are equally feasible (Milton, 1979).


Suppose that the center of every atom contained a mini black hole. Space

and time would merge into a singularity and would become

indistinguishable. This would explain how instantaneous travel is

possible below Plank's distance. It may be that the atom itself is a

wave form that has collapsed into a mini black hole. The apparent

solidity and permanence of matter may be the singularity of the black

hole. Matter itself may be gravitationally trapped light. (Toben, 1975)


One exciting prospect of quantum theory is the construct of zero-point

energy (Boyer, 1975). According to this theory, the fabric of space

itself contains enormous energy. "Zero-point" refers to the idea that

this energy exists even at a temperature of zero degrees Kelvin

(absolute zero). Quantum theory predicts this energy, and some

researchers have suggested that it may be possible to tap this energy.

Ilya Prigogine's work with dissipative systems led physicist Moray King

(1989) to believe that under certain conditions, nonlinear systems could

be induced into coherence. The two critical conditions are that the

system is far away from equilibrium, and dissipative (i.e., there is a

constant flow of energy through the system). King has suggested that

bucking magnetic fields through a caduceus coil may be one method to tap

this energy.


Holograms are not necessarily created by light, but can be formed in the

presence of any wave action. To view the brain as a hologram, we must

develop an understanding of the mechanisms that create an interference

pattern. The holographic process involves both a reflection and

reference beam. In the brain, past experience might serve as the

reference beam. New incoming information is combined with the

experiences (memories) of the past to create an interference pattern.

Almost immediately, the new information becomes part of the "reference

beam" and learning has occurred. As each new piece of information

arrives at the brain, a new interference pattern is created and again

becomes part of the reference background. A constantly shifting

interference pattern provides the mind with a continually changing model

of reality.


One of the most central themes of modern physics is to be able to

describe the mechanics of our perceived universe. In the 18th century,

Leibniz first maintained that space, time, matter, and energy were

merely intellectual constructs (Talbot, 1991, p. 291). Modern quantum

theory supports this proposition, where matter exists only as a

probability on a continuum. For example, when we attempt to observe an

electron, it becomes impossible to pinpoint its exact location. Bohm

remarked that "what appears to be a stable, tangible, visible, audible

world is an illusion. It is dynamic and kaleidoscopic--not really

there". Bentov (1982, p. 56) describes reality as a vast empty space

filled with oscillating fields.


If matter is a set of interacting fields, then we must make a

distinction between our perceived universe and the actual universe that

lies beyond our normal perception. Quantum theory states that when

individual particles move over distances less than Plank's distance

(10-33 cm), they can do so instantaneously. In order for this to be

possible, the particle must either be traveling at infinite velocity, or

the distance itself is but an illusion. Furthermore, it would seem

possible that a particle could make an infinite number of these tiny

jumps without time passage. If each change of location happens

instantaneously, then an infinite number of location changes can also

happen instantaneously. A particle could exist in all places



The holographic model of the universe views matter as the constructive

and destructive interference patterns created by interacting energy

waves. Standing waves occur when a wavefront takes on a stationary

appearance. Energy continues to pass through the system, however,

because each successive wave takes exactly the same position of the one

before, there is an illusion of stability. Holograms depend on standing

waves for their existence.


Physicists have confirmed that atoms are in a constant state of

vibration. Each atom is a micro-oscillator with its own characteristic

frequency. When similar atoms begin to vibrate in unison they form a

"tuned resonant system", where all atoms are oscillating in phase with

each other. Furthermore, the system becomes increasingly stable as more

oscillators are added to the system, and it becomes increasingly

difficult to disturb. The situation is analogous to plucking a tuning

fork and observing how a second tuning fork begins to oscillate in phase

with the first. At the atomic level, harmonic resonance may be

responsible for stable particle behavior.


The atoms of our bodies are very high frequency oscillators that vibrate

at a rate of about 1015 Hertz. It is quite possible that our bodies

blink on and off at this frequency. We currently have no technology to

measure such rapid phenomena. (Unterseher, et al., 1982, p. 364)


Carl Jung's theory of the collective unconscious is compatible with



theory . Jung observed that certain dreams, myths, hallucinations and

religious symbols are shared by many people and cultures. According to

Jung, these archetypes represent part of the collective unconscious

derived from our two-million-year-old collective history (Jung and

Pauli, 1955). Only a limited glimpse of the implicate order is available

to us because we lack the knowledge to perceive or decode the frequency

interference patterns. Dreams may be one way that we counteract our

tendency to fragment the world. Bohm has noted that dreams often reflect

a hidden wisdom that exceeds our waking consciousness.


New York psychologist Edgar Levenson (1977) believes that the

psychoanalytic process is best represented by the holographic model. He

points out that the therapeutic process is "capricious and unreliable."

When therapy is going well, the therapist is not really saying anything

new to the patient, but rather, the therapist somehow resonates with

something that the patient already knows. "The change results as a

consequence of the expansion of configurational patterns over time."

(Ferguson, 1992) The patient's insights (or revelation) can be viewed as

a holographic process.


Synchronicities are coincidences that are so meaningful that it is

unlikely that they can be attributed to chance alone. Jung was the first

to perceive these events as more than simple coincidence. He proposed

that some unknown mechanism buried deep within the psyche was

responsible for these events, and that they were controlled by some kind

of acausal mechanism. Physicist Paul Davies (1988) agrees that

"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." (Talbot, 1991, p. 79)


Another physicist, F. David Peat (1987), believes that synchronicities

represent "flaws" in the fabric of reality. These fissures give us a

momentary connection to the underlying nature of the implicate order.

They demonstrate the possibility of connecting with the true nature of

the universe. Peat believes that the scarcity of synchronicity

demonstrates the degree to which we have cut ourselves off from the

deeper orders of mind and reality.


Pribram (1977) believes that our brains have learned to edit out many of

the frequency patterns in the implicate order, leaving only a selective

subset of information available to our conscious awareness. By

perceiving only a fraction of the information, we often believe that we

are observing chaos without any underlying pattern. It may be that

seemingly random phenomena only appear chaotic because we are have

filtered out a portion of the information necessary to discern the true

underlying pattern. Bohm asserts that there is no such thing as

disorder, only orders of infinitely higher degree. (Talbot, 1991)


Valerie Hunt, a professor of kinesiology at UCLA, became interested in

human energy fields (Miller, 1983). While using an electromyograph (EMG)

to measure muscle activity, she discovered that the energy radiating

from the body was far more complex than originally believed. The highest

frequency for muscle activity was believed to be around 250 Hertz. Hunt

found that there were also very low amplitude fields emanating from the

areas of the body associated with the chakras. These fields were of a

much higher frequency, often averaging as high as 1600 Hertz.

Furthermore, Hunt found that the frequency of these energy fields

depended upon the psychological state of the person. When a person's

consciousness was directed towards the material world, the fields were

near 250 Hertz. Psychic healers emanated fields in the 400 to 800 Hertz

range, and people who claim to channel information from a higher source

emanate frequencies in the 800 to 900 Hertz range. Hunt's most

extraordinary finding came when she used a Poincar? map to examine these

frequencies. Instead of randomness, she found a dynamic pattern typical

of a strange attractor (Talbot, 1991, p. 177).


Life itself may be based on a holographic system consisting of coherence

and interference. Order and patterns are the cornerstone of holography.

Evolution itself might not be based on the Darwinian concept of random

mutations, but rather, environmental stress and disequilibrium might

have given rise to higher orders of organization.


Many scientists now believe the brain and body operate on holographic

principles on the cellular, molecular, and neural levels. In Space-Time

and Beyond, Bob Toben (1975, p. 130) describes how DNA contains the

coding for orderly growth. "Nonlinearity in electrochemical reaction

pathways of biological processes provides feedback patterns that are

responsible for self-organization. On a deeper level, there may be

self-organizing biogravitational fields whose structure determines the

shape of biological molecules, cellular differentiation, and the overall

shape of living systems".


Dissipative structures may provide a clue to the nature of Bohm's

implicate order. Nobel prize winning chemist Ilya Prigogine (1980)

discovered that some chemical systems develop into a more ordered

arrangement, not a more disordered one. But how do these systems come

into being? How can anything just suddenly pop into existence?

Prigogine, like Bohm and Pribram, believes that dissipative structures

are evidence of a deeper, more fundamental aspect of reality. "The

increased limitation of deterministic laws means that we go from a

universe that is closed, in which all is given, to a new one that is

open to fluctuations, to innovations."


Prigogine's theory of dissipative structures applies to open systems

that exchange energy with the environment. As systems become

increasingly complex, they require more and more energy to maintain

their structure. Complex systems are highly unstable and this gives rise

to internal fluctuations within the system. A slight perturbation can

drive the system into a sudden nonlinear change, where the new stability

is even more coherent. This higher order is even more sensitive to

perturbations. Internal fluctuations can force the system to even

greater complexity. At each level of complexity, there is greater

potential for new organization and change.


Israeli researcher Aharon Katchalsky (1972) first learned of Prigogine's

work with dissipative structures in 1971. He organized a workshop at MIT

to discuss Prigogine's theory's and how the brain might be viewed as a

dissipative structure. The brain displays characteristics of

non-linearity, sudden shifts, oscillations, and self-organization... the

same features that Prigogine had discovered in chemical systems.


The key characteristic of Prigogine's (1977) findings was that

dissipative structures can shift into higher levels of organization when

perturbed. Society can be viewed as an open system exchanging energy

with the environment. Fluctuations can be created by a small group of

people, and this in turn has the potential to change society as a whole.

If the perturbations exceed society's ability to "dampen" the

fluctuations, then a new level of social order can evolve. As social

organization becomes increasingly complex, it becomes more likely that

small perturbations can lead to higher orders of complexity. Social

change and evolution will happen at an ever increasing pace.


Holographic theory helps social scientists to understand organizational

and social systems by stressing the wholeness of the systems. Individual

components of a system cannot be manipulated without affecting all other

components in the system. Prigogine's work with dissipative structures

has revealed a new way of looking at planned change, whereby the

conditions of self-organization and nonlinearity can be used

advantageously. It suggests that we might be able to solve many

organizational and social problems through the use of strategies that

apply these concepts.


Prigogine is currently working on a way to link deterministic processes

and probability theory. He now believes that it is not possible to know

with complete certainty the initial starting conditions for a system. If

this turns out to be true, then many of our current theories will need

revision. Science has been under the belief that the initial conditions

of deterministic processes are knowable, and therefore, in order to

predict the future of a system, all we need to do is discovery the laws

under which the system operates.


Many physicists have begun to describe the universe in words that

resemble Eastern philosophy. Bohm talks about the "dimension of

consciousness beyond the concrete world of our ordinary experience".

Capra discusses the "web of connectedness which cannot be described in

words". Beauregard quotes from ancient Indian scriptures about the

"illusionary nature of separateness". John Wheeler summarized the

holographic view of the universe when he said, "There may be no such

thing as the 'glittering central mechanism of the universe.'... Not

machinery but magic may be the better description of the treasure that

is waiting." (Toben, 1975)




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