Holographic Universe

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by Michael Talbot

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060922580
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/06/1992
Series: Harper Perennial
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 7.98(w) x 10.90(h) x 0.89(d)

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Chapter One

The Brain as Hologram

It isn't that the world of appearances is wrong; it isn't that there aren't objects out there, at one level of reality. It's that if you penetrate through and look at the universe with a holographic system, you arrive at a different view, a different reality. And that other reality can explain things that have hitherto remained inexplicable scientifically: paranormal phenomena, synchronicities, the apparently meaningful coincidence of events.

--Karl Pribram
in an interview in Psychology Today

The puzzle that first started Pribram on the road to formulating his holographic model was the question of how and where memories are stored in the brain. In the early 1940s, when he first became interested in this mystery, it was generally believed that memories were localized in the brain. Each memory a person had, such as the memory of the last time you saw your grandmother, or the memory of the fragrance of a gardenia you sniffed when you were sixteen, was believed to have a specific location somewhere in the brain cells. Such memory traces were called engrams, and although no one knew what an engram was made of -- whether it was a neuron or perhaps even a special kind of molecule -- most scientists were confident it was only a matter of time before one would be found.

There were reasons for this confidence. Research conducted by Canadian neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield in the 1920s had offered convincing evidence that specific memories did have specific locations in the brain. One of the most unusual features of the brain is that the object itself doesn'tsense pain directly. As long as the scalp and skull have been deadened with a local anesthetic, surgery can be performed on the brain of a fully conscious person without causing any pain.

In a series of landmark experiments, Penfield used this fact to his advantage. While operating on the brains of epileptics, he would electrically stimulate various areas of their brain cells. To his amazement he found that when he stimulated the temporal lobes (the region of the brain behind the temples) of one of his fully conscious patients, they reexperienced memories of past episodes from their lives in vivid detail. One man suddenly relived a conversation he had had with friends in South Africa; a boy heard his mother talking on the telephone and after several touches from Penfield's electrode was able to repeat her entire conversation; a woman found herself in her kitchen and could hear her son playing outside. Even when Penfield tried to mislead his patients by telling them he was stimulating a different area when he was not, he found that when he touched the same spot it always evoked the same memory.

In his book The Mystery of the Mind, published in 1975, just shortly before his death, he wrote, "It was evident at once that these were not dreams. They were electrical activations of the sequential record of consciousness, a record that had been laid down during the patient's earlier experience. The patient 're-lived' all that he had been aware of in that earlier period of time as in a moving-picture 'flashback.'"

From his research Penfield concluded that everything we have ever experienced is recorded in our brain, from every stranger's face we have glanced at in a crowd to every spider web we gazed at as a child. He reasoned that this was why memories of so many insignificant events kept cropping up in his sampling. If our memory is a complete record of even the most mundane of our day-to-day experiences, it is reasonable to assume that dipping randomly into such a massive chronicle would produce a good deal of trifling information.

As a young neurosurgery resident, Pribram had no reason to doubt Penfield's engram theory. But then something happened that was to change his thinking forever. In 1946 he went to work with the great neuropsychologist Karl Lashley at the Yerkes Laboratory of Primate Biology, then in Orange Park, Florida. For over thirty years Lashley had been involved in his own ongoing search for the elusive mechanisms responsible for memory, and there Pribram was able to witness the fruits of Lashley's labors firsthand. What was startling was that not only had Lashley failed to produce any evidence of the engram, but his research actually seemed to pull the rug out from under all of Penfield's findings.

What Lashley had done was to train rats to perform a variety of tasks, such as run a maze. Then he surgically removed various portions of their brains and retested them. His aim was literally to cut out the area of the rats' brains containing the memory of their mazerunning ability. To his surprise he found that no matter what portion of their brains he cut out, he could not eradicate their memories. Often the rats' motor skills were impaired and they stumbled clumsily through the mazes, but even with massive portions of their brains removed, their memories remained stubbornly intact.

For Pribram these were incredible findings. If memories possessed specific locations in the brain in the same way that books possess specific locations on library shelves, why didn't Lashley's surgical plunderings have any effect on them? For Pribram the only answer seemed to be that memories were not localized at specific brain sites, but were somehow spread out or distributed throughout the brain as a whole. The problem was that he knew of no mechanism or process that could account for such a state of affairs.

Lashley was even less certain and later wrote, "I sometimes feel, in reviewing the evidence on the localization of the memory trace, that the necessary conclusion is that learning just is not possible at all. Nevertheless, in spite of such evidence against it, learning does sometimes occur." In 1948 Pribram was offered a position at Yale, and before leaving he helped write up thirty years of Lashley's monumental research.

Holographic Universe. Copyright © by Michael Talbot. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Lyall Watson

Elegant...helps to bridge the artificial gap that has opened up between mind and matter, between us and the rest of the cosmos.

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Holographic Universe 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read The Holographic Universe from front to back 4 times and spot-read several times throughout the years. Each time awakens a new sense of wonder and excitement about what is going on 'around' us (though as you will read, the world 'out there' is really an illusion). It reads as easily as fiction and is as informative as any non-fiction I've seen. Talbot is an expert at relating real-life experience to the physics and concrete research on which is book is based. It follows the studies of Bohm and Pribram, both formulators of the Holographic 'theory', though they arrived at the same conclusion through very different means (lending even more credibility to the idea). I cannot praise this book enough. Pick it up and discover the interconnectedness of all things!
Guest More than 1 year ago
everyone whos interested in anything that tempts the mind to think, or steps outside the normal western pholosophy needs to check this book out. it is a must for anyone, and everyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
michael talbot's research for this book had to have taken the kind of passion i only dream of. his words are concise, but always offer the possibility what he researched could be untrue. after completing this book over 5 times, i find myself viewing life in a new light (even if it's the kind of light i find difficult believing).
Guest More than 1 year ago
coming from a family that openly discussed seeing ghosts, i have always been open to new and unusual ideas about the world around me. in sixth grade i had my first and unfortunately only so called "deja-vu" experience in which i was saying what the teacher was lecturing an entire word or more ahead of her. i know of three OBE's(wish i could figure out how to do that agian) and heard a ghost or something that after reading this book can only be descibed as a 3D voice. dolby surround and THX could not touch this. this book explained how all these things and more is possible, do to the Whole of the universe being contained in every part. the inter-connectedness of things. if anything like this has ever happened to you or you ever wondered about them, this is with out a doubt a book that you must read. my view of the world has been solidified or in light of this view of things...NOT.
helenaharper on LibraryThing 27 days ago
This must be one of the most fascinating, if not the most fascinating book I have ever read, and it is a must-read for anyone who is even remotely curious about who and what we really are or who wants to see spirituality meeting science. The claims that are made are backed up by numerous scientific studies, but it doesn't blow you away with scientific jargon. It's written in an easy-to-read style and the different chapters are split up into subsections, which also helps. Michael Talbot explains what a hologram is and then goes on to argue that the holographic model can be used to explain multiple personality disorders (extraordinary! - if you know nothing about MPD, then you absolutely must read this section), psychokinesis, miracles, the human energy field (or energy bodies), past/present/future existing seemlessly together, near death experiences (NDEs), UFO sightings and much more. Whether you accept the holographic theory or not, just reading the results of the various scientific studies mentioned in the book is fascinating and for me, personally, as a poet and author, it was also inspiring. The idea that everything is interconnected in this holographic universe of ours and is part of the same continuum inspired me, for example, to write a poem called 'My Life' to try and make sense of it ('...all that I see and don't see, hear and don't hear, touch and don't touch, smell and don't smell, taste and don't taste I am - I am the eternal energy of everything...'), whilst the story of the woman in the NDE chapter who said that 'she hadn't danced enough yet', making the being of light she was talking to laugh heartily and enabling her to return to physical life, gave me an idea for a children's story. In short, I found the book riveting and inspirational - jam-packed full of extraordinary scientific fact way more mind-blowing and thrilling than any science fiction I've ever read - and I am now reading it for a second time and will probably read it a third and fourth time as well!
edwbaker on LibraryThing 27 days ago
Well written, but pure nonsense.
CosmicBullet on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I know intellectually that quantum physics is the domain of some of the strangest phenomena imaginable. I know it may be possible to create a sub-atomic particle merely by searching for it, and that two particles separated by many miles can apparently influence each others behavior in ways that suggest faster-than-light interaction. I know intellectually that space as we know it may be illusory, that time as a linear process may also be an illusion. All of these things fascinate me, and I find myself wondering: can such knowledge make a difference in how I live? Books like 'The Dancing Wu-Li Masters,' The Tao of Physics,' and 'The Holographic Universe' by Michael Talbot feed that fascination. These works are challenging, exciting and, by their extraordinary nature, suspect. We live in an age of cynicism, rationality, and materialism. Simply by virtue of being alive in the 21st century, it is both normal and easy to participate in the hard-edged thinking that characterizes modern thought. So, on one hand, my responsibility as a rational human is to dismiss the ideas of writers like Talbot, who take cutting edge physics as a point of departure and spin it into parallel universes, telepathic and clairvoyant explanations, and into all manner of strange and wonderful possibilities. Like the other books I have mentioned, 'The Holographic Universe' suggests that mysticism and spirituality in fact provide appropriate metaphors for processes that scientific investigation is only beginning to sense the existence of, processes which lie well beyond our normal perceptions. Apparently, these implications remain largely ignored by mainstream physics. They fall too far outside the known. With one or two exceptions, it is not comfortable for a professional to publicly hold them; espousing these ideas encourages ostracism. It is always safer in the short term to reject an idea than to allow it. On the other hand, there is something that rings so true concerning the idea that mind determines its reality. Is it possible that perception and creation are two sides of one coin? Are we so in charge of our world that it is exactly as we have judged? And then, is it possible that rejecting spiritual ideas entirely becomes a self-reinforcing position? Perhaps James Randi's skeptical challenge to 'prove it,' in fact insures the very outcome that he expects. I wonder. Talbot's observations about the way in which quantum particles appear to behave according to how the observer thinks about them certainly provokes some thought along these lines. There is in cosmology a dividing line, which separates individuals by the way they choose to think about reality. Either 1) we populate a mechanistic universe in which consciousness has arisen out of matter, or 2) the universe as we know it is a property of mind, and matter arises from consciousness. Which of these is the fundamental property of reality? It is not provable, one way or the other. As an adult, I have tended to oscillate back and forth on that question. Indeed, reading Talbot's book and writing this review marks my most recent return from the atheistic, existential domain. Shall I embrace the possibility once again that something unimaginably wonderful is going on? Some of the new science begins to point that way. But as yet, in order to accept the possibility of the miraculous, of alternate dimensions and the validity of near-death experiences, a rational thinker must make a decision to accept an argument which is based on circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence is the stock-in-trade of 'The Holographic Universe,' if not most calls for acceptance of the numinous. Talbot cites volumes of near-death accounts in which the experiencer corroborates exact operating room procedures; countless telepathic and clairvoyant 'coincidences'; accounts of past-lives remembered under hypnosis in which buildings and geographical layouts are later supported by visits to actual l
PurpleV on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Think you know what reality is? Think again. If you have ever questioned the power of the mind and that relationship to reality, this is a must read.
co_coyote on LibraryThing 3 months ago
One of my favorite physics books, I first read this in a period of time when I was (for whatever reason!) interested in shamans and altered states of reality. I've read it since then, and it is still as good as I remember it. It just goes to show that some very serious people think the Universe is stranger than we sometimes make it out to be. And with recent reports of tangled photons and spooky action at a distance, who knows what will actually will turn out to be the case..
eumin on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is a fascinating and frustrating book. The author has some genuinely interesting ideas about the nature of reality. On the other hand, there is also a great deal of weird paranormal stuff, including a passage about how the author was able to conjure cold spaghetti out of thin air, that almost made me throw the book away. The book is still worth reading, though, because of its many interesting ideas and insights - just read it with a grain of salt.
talltrickster on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Well-written, comprehensive overview of metaphysics. I hadn't read much about Stanislav Grof until this book, and Talbot's description of Grof's work prompted me to read Grof's book, "The Holotropic Mind." Consciousness appears to be not only located in our mind, but is connected throughout the universe.
jeffreybrayne on LibraryThing 6 months ago
A truly interesting theory about the energy that comprises life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
a terrific book that opens your mind and gets you thinking out of the box
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Woody68 More than 1 year ago
Puts the life of humans into perspective. Without our 5 sense only bodies we are infinite, we are all one. This book explains this concept to the reader, in very easy to understand terms.
Anthony-Wedgeworth More than 1 year ago
For the record, I loved this book and it complements my own theories of how things really work in this universe of ours. This book presented a concept that explains many unresolved mysteries of science. Even when it begins to get technical and ventures into some quantum physics, I found myself still nodding my head in agreement with the theories. That said, some of the assumptions where a little much for me, but at the same time I had no way to disprove them. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to expand their view of how the world around us really works. I personally enjoyed it and utilize these concepts when writing my fantasy adventure novels as well as in understanding the real world around me. Put your nerd hat on and read this book! You'll love it.
dokmeg More than 1 year ago
I'm re-reading this for the second time. First time around was about 15 years ago. I'm older, and am more into research then I was back then. I still can't grasp the scientific stuff, but the rest is as logical as any other unprovable theory. I believe he died at age 39, not long after the book was published. Even on-line, I am not having any luck finding out how. Please let me know if you do. Thanks
Burnout More than 1 year ago
I loved it, probably my favorite book, it does have outdated information but minimal, the research this book touches bases with is extensive.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
My favorite Talbot book! I was so sad to hear he'd passed, and I miss him greatly. Granted, for someone of a sceptical bent, several parts of this book read like a hodgepodge of fantasy mixed with a layman's physics science (my favorite was the noodles falling out of mid-air into his lap), but it still contains a great deal of engaging ideas even for those who don't necessarily believe everything they read, but enjoy being entertained by an author's style. Open-minded only need apply.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Amalgam of events with little or no critical view. E.g.: a few paragraphs about the 'holy' man Sai Baba supposed miracles. These have been debunked since as hoaxes and magician tricks. The 'promotion' of this guru feels 'funny' in light of the many sexual mollestation charges and suspicious deaths around that guy. Ideas are interesting but that's about it.