Sunday, September 14, 2008

New Age Doctrines - Part 4 - The Holographic Universe

Now, this is where it all gets fun & juicy! One of the most basic assumptions that most of us hold about the world is that it is completely objective and solid in the sense that what we think and feel about it does not change the way it actually is. Amazingly, the New Age paradigm actually questions this fundamental notion, and proposes in it's place that in fact reality is like a cosmic dream, a hologram projected into reality by Consciousness/Mind. According to this theory it only appears as if it's solid and real, whilst in fact being fluid and ever changing, the material world is simply the densest and most stagnant layer in the cosmic holomovement.

The Holographic idea was coined virtually simultaneously by Physicist David Bohm and Psychologist Karl Pribram, and made famouse by now deceased author Michael Talbot with his book "The Holographic Universe". David Bohm discovered that there were several unique features of holograms that could help explain some of the obscure elements of quantum physics. Similarly Karl Pribram also felt that the Brain could use Holographic principles to store information. The main features that were found to be of interest is that Holographic plates record information in a series of interference wave patterns. Each portion of the plate can be used to bring up the entire picture, only that the clarity of the hologram diminishes with the proportion of the holographic plate that is used. So this produces a principle, every part contains the whole. Also, holograms can appear to be 3 dimensional objects, when in fact they have no structure or mass, they are essentially visual illusion.

A common feature of the worlds Mystic traditions is the belief that the Universe is fundamentally a Mental creation, ie that Mind is in fact the absolute reality, and matter is a creation of it. This is diametrically opposed to the Naturalistic notion of the universe, whereby matter (or in truth, energy and natural law) are the fundamental realities, operating without any form of Consciousness, and that Mind / Consciousness comes into being when Energy/Matter has evolved to a suitable state as to bring into being all the necessary elements for "life" to exist. So Michael Talbot essentially linked the Holographic ideas to the Mystical concept of the Mental nature of the Universe, essentially taking Bohms work a few steps further (it must be noted that Bohm was a student of J.D.Krishnamurti, a teacher of Mysticism, so he would have been exposed to Eastern Philosophical ideas.)

Along with this Holographic idea goes the idea that our thoughts actually have some level of objective reality, and to some degree a direct effect on the world around us. This concept has become quite popular in the New Age, and you could be forgiven for thinking that this is actually a new concept, that the traditional Mystical teachings don't support it. There are countless books and DVD's written about Manifestation, creating the world which you desire, however, sometimes (in the case of the best seller "The Secret") the message has been unfortunately dumbed down for a mass audience.

This concept is in fact found in the older, traditional Mystic/Occult texts, although it's presented on a much deeper level, with a completely different focus, and is generally far more philosophically sound. In "The Secret", the draw card was encouraging people to believe that they could become rich by simply thinking it! (And suprise suprise, the author Rhonda Burne made a fortune of it!) The traditional context for such teachings was to enable the student to transcend suffering on the physical plane, and to realize how much power they have in changing their life. The Kybalion, for example teaches that there are laws that govern the unseen worlds / higher dimensions and that these laws can be used to affect the physical world. The New Age concept of the creation is that it begins initially with thought, and then descends in levels of density until it manifests on the Physical plane. The "law of attraction" that is so popular today, is proposed therefore to work via correspondence through different dimensions of reality.

Developing clarity of mind is a central theme in New Age, realizing that all the messy "monkey mind" junk that goes on actually has a unwanted effect upon the circumstances in our lives. Therefore the student concentrates on taking full conscious control of their mental and emotional procceses, so that they "create" the life that they consciously desire, rather than be effected by their individual neurosis.

Those with a Naturalistic worldview view this kind of talk as pure nonsense, responding that whilst positive thinking is always a good thing, it's not going to change our external world, for that we need actions. Perhaps this is where "The Secret" let down the New Age movement, for it came across as if it was saying that all you need to become rich is to think it, and not go out and make it happen. Whilst I usually shun the tabloid trash of current affairs shows, they did expose David Schirmer (one of the "Guru's from The Secret) as a Conman, a good example that not all that glitters is gold!

Alternatively, the Conservative Christian ranks tend to mostly follow Dualistic ideas of Mind and Matter, saying that Mind does not naturally effect matter directly, and that "paranormal" phenomena occur only by the intervention of Spiritual beings, Angels, Demons or God Himself.

As always I welcome feedback, if you have any comments or criticisms, please send them on to me. I might have to edit this post later, as I have rushed a bit to publish it.


Monday, September 8, 2008

New Age Doctrines - Part 3 - Quantum Metaphysics

Hello all. It has been a while since my last post, I have been very busy of late, overstretched perhaps. But, I have been getting alot done though. There have been several people who have been writing emails to me, which has been good, the material from these emails will find there way into posts in the near future.

Now, Quantum Metaphysics. Ever since Fritjof Capri's groundbreaking book "The Tao of Physics" the question as to whether or not the findings of quantm physics supports the New Age paradigm has been a controversial one related to the New Age movement. This is due to the apparent parrallels between the philosophy of easter mysticism and the philosophical implications of modern advanced physics. Since Capri's book there have been countless books released following this theme. Now skeptics maintain that it is a coincidence that there appear to be similarities , saying that in reality the two fields are discussing completely different things. The New Age movement therefore gets accused of making huge leaps between fact and conclusion. Often this certainly is the case. What I would like to do is therefore go through the points slowly, moving gradually from fact to conclusion, as the weaker writers within New Age tend to make huge leaps in this regard. As with the other topics, I'll start off with general descriptions and then try and go deeper into the specifics.

To quickly summarise, the main points which are put forth as being complematary between these two fields are the following:

1) The relativity (or lack of absolute reality) of Space & Time.

2) The interconnectedness of all energy / matter.

3) The importance of the "observer". In quantum physics this concept is central to wave/particle duality, first introduced in relation to light, then later to all sub-atomic particles. In Mysticism the Observer is the deepest aspect of Consciousness, the Spirit, which is unaffected by the constant change of the world, remaining in it's peacefull bliss regardless of outward circumstances.

Now, the major dispute is that the Scientists who don't support these parralles maintain that these attributes only apply to the sub-atomic world, and do not have any macroscopic effect or importance outside of the applications in advanced technology, or that they simply are being misinterpretated (I have heard someone argue that the oberserver in Quantum Physics is actually the equipment interfering in the experiment, must look this up). If, in fact the observer effect could be proven 100% to be general consciousness effecting reality (even just at the quantum level), than this on it's own would be a major concession, as one of the central premises of the Naturalistic worldview which is so prevalent in modern Science is that Consciousness is created by the brain and is thus limited to the brain.

The third point here is probably the most significant, the observer effect in wave/particle duality (popularly known by the twin slit experiment and Schrödinger's Cat), there is much debate over the implications of this. New Age movies such as "What The Bleep..." and "The Secret" have concluded that we create our own reality and that Quantum Mechanics supports this conclusion. The Scientific field however reacts with horror when such statements are made, particularly seeing such an advanced Science being used to support what many Scientists view as quackery.

Fritjof Capri received both praise and criticism for "The Tao of Physics". His critic's did however acknowledge that he did in fact have a strong understanding of both Physics and Mysticism. And it must be said that he was correct when he pointed out that when you place the statements of Physicist's and Mystics side-by-side, you can't tell who said what. A few examples should suffice to convince anybody of this at least. The question is, does it mean anything? Is it a coincidence, are the concepts found in completely different contexts as the Naturalist maintain, or is it an example of inner and outer Sciences coming to the same conclusions, albeit through different means as the New Age movement proclaims?

From what I've seen, conservative Christians seem to support the skeptics on these kind of issues, not wanting to support anything that would give evidence towards the New Age worldview. (However, I do know of some more liberal Christian books written which have a very similar theme to the New Age quantum metaphysics.) I'd like to leave it here for today, nice and short. Please comment if you feel so inclined, and I'd love to be sent any related links that you know of. I am writing mostly off the top of my head, so if you see any mistakes please point them out to me and I will attempt to resolve them.