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.



WWu777 said...

Hi Jim, I've always been very fascinated by the Holographic Universe concept. I've read the entire book "The Holographic Universe" by Michael Talbot. One thing it never addresses is: If matter is not solid and if the universe is a hologram, then why do objects appear to be solid? Why can't we pass through walls?

But like most New Agers, Talbot merely brushes off and says if our power of belief were increased multiple times, then we could pass through walls, but that's hogwash. No one has ever been able to demonstrate that. Any rational person knows full well that you can believe 100 percent that the wall is not there, yet if you try to walk through it you will still bump your head.

Also, if I put a brown table in a room full of 100 people without saying anything, they will all see the brown table, even if I tell them it's a blue table. That implies that the brown table has an existence in objective reality. Talbot and the other holographic universe theorists don't explain their theory in light of this.

Also, the "thought creates reality" principle is too popular among New Agers, yet it's never really defined nor has its limitations been clarified. And New Agers avoid any hard questions about it. I just wrote an essay about this, posing a dozen unanswered questions for New Agers, here:

Check it out sometime Jim and maybe you can comment on it sometime.


WWu777 said...

Hi again Jim,
I wanted to share this awesome video on youtube with you and your readers called "The Matrix of Illusion". It's a series of clips from various spiritual leaders about the nature of reality. You will love it I'm sure.

Check it out.