A Holographic View
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
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
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 possible.
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
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
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
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
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
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 them.
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,
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
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
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 simultaneously.
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
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 holographic
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
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
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 Poincaré map to examine these
frequencies. Instead of randomness, she found a dynamic
pattern typical of a strange attractor (Talbot, 1991, p.
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
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
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
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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