The Holographic Universe and the Otz Chi'im
How modern ideas in Quantum Physics are merging with the Mystery Tradition & Ancient Wisdom

The concept of the mind of man as viewed from the more dramatic of the psycho-physiologists, the concepts of the structure of the Universe as viewed from the experimental edge of quantum physics and the concepts of the Qabbalah and the Otz Chi'im as presented by the studies of the Martinists and Cohens, are beginning to merge. How close they are now to each other is concealed partly by the differences in language and partly because each rarely looks closely at what the other is saying. In particular, of course, modern science hardly glances in the direction of the esoteric. I wish, for a few moments, that we should look carefully in the other direction.


Let us deal first with the mind or, more accurately, the memory. In the early part of this century it was assumed that memory had a specific location in the brain, as a book may have a specific location on a library shelf, and some experimental evidence with epileptics seemed to bear this out.

Psychologist Karl Pribram established beyond doubt that memory within the brain is not localised. He taught rats to run through a maze for their food, and then cut out different parts of their brains. He found they still remembered how to run through the maze. No matter what part of their brains or even how much he removed, they remembered all that they had learned. He noted that no patient ever came out of surgery, in which part of the brain was removed, with a selective memory loss. No head injury victim who suffered brain damage ever forgot half of his family or half of a novel he had read.

Pribram was at a complete loss to understand this until, in 1956, he read an article about the first holographic picture. In a flash he understood. To understand what he understood, we need to go into brief detail about a hologram.

A Hologram and how it is made

A laser shines directly towards a photographic plate. However, between the laser and the plate is a beam splitter. Most readers will have noticed the mirror effect of a partially silvered window, in a toilet attendant's window, for example, enabling a watch to keep through the window, against vandalism or loitering. At the same time, it still functions as a mirror. A beam splitter in the production of a hologram works on much the same principle. Part of the beams continues in a straight line and falls on the photographic plate. The other part of the beam is mirrored at 90 degrees, bounced off the subject of the hologram and is reflected onto the plate. The resulting pattern of interference is photographed. By shining a laser onto the negative at exactly the same angle as the original laser, a 3D image of the subject is produced and, as the viewer walks around it, the angles of what is seen change with the viewer. The appea-rance of something real is produced.

There are several properties of a hologram which are not immediately obvious and which were unknown to me a year ago. I suspect that many of you may not be aware of them either.

1. The negative of a hologram is just a collection of interference patterns, not a picture.

2. If you cut off part - say, a fifth - of the negative of an ordinary photograph of a banana and use that fifth, you will get a picture of a fifth of a banana: if you take a fifth of the negative of a hologram of a banana, you will see the whole banana still, though not as sharply.

3. If you change the angle of the laser slightly, you can fit another hologram onto the same negative - and another - and another. You could theoretically fit thousands of images into a very small space.

It's easy to see why Karl Pribram was so excited. The brain (or mind) can store endless 'bits' of information in a lifetime. Other re-searchers have estimated it at 28 x 1023 bits in an average lifetime. Personally, I can't see how anyone can begin to estimate (and anyway, what is 'average' ?) but I agree it's a lot. If the memory works holo-graphical, Pribram reasoned, that would provide enough storage 'space'. Then, if the memory is not localised - if every part contains the whole image - that provides a mechanism for a non-localised memory, his biggest puzzle of all.

As a result of reading this article, and as holograms and waves are the domain of physics, Pribram started reading into physics. He was directed by his son to the work of quantum physicist David Bohm. Bohm was suggesting that the whole universe might be holographic.

The Problems of Quantum Physics

Quantum Physics challenge established scientific ideas. The most significant challenge involves the fact that sub-atomic particles sometimes behave as waves and not as separate entities at all, hence the name quanta for these 'things', which are sometimes no 'thing'. Evidence tends to suggest that observing these quanta causes them to change their behaviour.

As an analogy, imagine yourself at a bowling alley, about to roll a ball. You sprinkle the alley with talcum powder, so that the ball leaves a track, then you roll the ball.

While you watch the ball, it is a ball and leaves a trail where it rolls through the talcum powder. When you blink or otherwise stop watching the ball for a moment, the trail becomes the zigzag pattern of a wave. As soon as you start watching the ball again, it is a ball, leaving a single trail. Continuing the analogy, you place a sheet of plywood across the alley, with two ball-sized holes in it. Attached to each hole there is an alarm that lights up or rings a bell when a ball passes through. You roll one ball and both bells ring simultaneously.

A less striking problem, but more important to this paper is that, under specific circumstances, two electrons, moving apart at the speed of light, behave as if they are in touch. If Einstein's formula for the General Theory of Relativity is correct, then they can't be in touch, because nothing can move faster than light. Bohm suggests a very far-reaching alternative solution, and it underlies something very important.

Imagine you have an aquarium tank with one fish in it and two TV cameras recording its movements from two different angles - one at the side of the tank, the other at the end - and two separate monitors in another room. It will appear from the two monitors that you are watching two different fish, apparently in contact and communicating and moving together. Only in the context of the aquarium can they be understood as one fish.

Just as the two fish are one in the context of the aquarium, Bohm suggests that the two particles are one wave at a higher level.

Wholeness and the Implicate Order

Bohm urges the replacement of the current 'paradigm', on which scientific experiment and argument are based, with something more easily changed. He suggests that we need a conditional worldview he calls an 'insight'. This would be seen as a sort of temporary worldview that can be changed more readily when it is overtaken by experimental results, which don't fit. This, he argues, is not the case with the current paradigm, which scientists spend much time defending and causes them to question experimental results or summarily reject ideas, which do not fit the paradigm. He proposes, as a general new 'insight' an 'Undivided Wholeness':
"The new form of insight can perhaps best be called 'Undivided Wholeness in Flowing Movement'. This view implies that flow is, in some sense, prior to that of the 'thing' that can be seen to form and dissolve in this flow. This flux of awareness is not precisely definable, and yet is evidently prior to the definable forms of thoughts and ideas, which can be seen to form and dissolve in the flux,like ripples, waves and vortices in a flowing stream. As happens with such patterns of movement in a stream, some thoughts recur and persist in a more or less stable way, while others are evanescent.

The proposal for a new general form of insight is that all matter is of this nature: that is, there is a universal flux that cannot be defined explicitly but can only be known implicitly, as explicitly definable forms and shapes, some stable and some unstable, that can be abstracted from the universal flux. In this flow mind and matter are not separate substances. Rather they are different aspects of one whole and unbroken movement." 1

Bohm thinks that there is no question that 'thought' (which he sees as a movement towards becoming, involving the relation of data to memory) is distinct from intelligence. Moreover, he is clear that the latter not only is not but also could not be contained within the purely mechanistic functions of the brain. He says:

"There is a great deal of evidence indicating that thought is basically a material process. For example, it has been observed in a wide variety of contexts that though is inseparable from the electrical and chemical activity in the brain and nervous system ... Would one say that intelligence is a similar process, though perhaps more subtle?
It is implied in the view that we are suggesting here that this is not so. If intelligence is to be an unconditioned act of perception, its ground cannot be in structures such as cells, molecules, atoms, elementary particles etc. Ultimately, anything that is determined by the laws of such structures must be in the field of what can be known, i.e. stored up in memory ...

The actual opera-tion of intelligence is thus beyond the possibility of being determined or con-ditioned in any knowable law. So, we see that the ground of intelli-gence must be in the undetermined and unknown flux, that is also the ground of all definable forms of matter." 2

I would ask you to dwell for a moment on this statement. What this Professor of Theoretical Physics - a quantum scientist - is saying is what Martinism has always maintained: that intelligence resides in an imperishable part of us which is a part of whole of the creative force underlying the Universe (in religious terms, our souls) and not part of mortal bodies.

Bodies is just one of a growing number of quantum scientists who are starting to think along these lines. Fritjof Capra has said:

"Quantum theory thus reveals the basic oneness of the universe. It shows that we cannot decompose the world into independently existing smallest units. As we penetrate into matter, nature does not show us any isolated 'basic building blocks' but rather a complicated set of relations between the quantum particles.
These relations always include the observer in an essential way." 3

Bohm's insistence that the mind and perceptions are part of continuum with all things has some esoteric implications. I am not sure that SRIA looks for scientific evidence to support the contentions of ancient wisdom, of alchemical allegory of what Aleister Crowley called magick with a 'k', but the evidence is there.

You will possibly recall the children's game in which a subject - even a willing adult - sits in a chair and four individuals try to lift her or him with one finger each, placed behind the knees and under the armpits. They find it impossible and each uses one hand to press down on the subject's head for a full. They then use one finger each again and are quite able to raise the subject.

Clearly the subject has not changed in essence. What has changed is the four people's perception of the subject. Bohm's work suggests that, since a continuum exists between the subject and the experimenters, changing the perspective of the participants may change the hologram (or at least their view of it), even though the reality is unchanged at the implicate level.

Aleister Crowley says that:

'Magic is the art and science of causing change in accordance with the will.' 4

If he is right and such changes are possible, then Professor Bohm's argument that the mind is part of the same continuum as everything else (in creation, though he does no quite say that), even things like rocks, which are generally assumed to have no consciousness, suggests that the way in which we perceive their accidents can indeed change them.

This would explain why telepathy, distant viewing, divining, psycho-kinetics and a hundred other psychic phenomena are real. It would also explain why the saint, the guru and the true adept are able to change the world and produce what appear to be miracles.

Bohm makes the point that he is not calling for a new paradigm, but something less permanent: a 'statement of how things appear to be on the basis of present knowledge' that he calls an 'insight'. On this basis it is much easier to compare Qabbalistic ideas with his Implicate Order, or concept of the Universe as a Hologram, since the Otz Chi'im goes into considerable detail not included in Bohm's insight. The importance is that, despite differences of language, nothing in Bohm's insight contradicts outright Qabbalistic teaching; the latter simply covers in detail areas not covered by his thinking.

It is worth considering the implications of the 'Emerald Tablet' (whatever the origins, it undoubtedly sums up traditional western esoteric thinking):

"Verum est ... quod superius est sicut quod inferius et quod inferius est sicut quod superius, ad perpetrando miracula rei unius."
(The truth is ....that what is above is like to what is below and what is below is like to what is above, to accomplish the miracles of the one thing)

The significance to things occult is obvious - as David Conway remarks: "The 'miracles' of magic are governed by this principle, although far from being miraculous, they are merely the results of applying certain natural though occult laws." 5

The Qabbalistic theory of Creation holds that an awareness of the All flows (or flashes like a lightning streak) through a series of developing stages, becoming more substantial and ever closer to the material world, until it reaches full manifestation. The whole of creation is, therefore, composed of essentially the same self-awareness of God.

This is, of course, precisely what David Bohm is saying though, as a scientist, he does actually mention either God or Creation.


1 Wholeness and the Implicate Order; David Bohn; London, Routledge & Kegan Paul; 1980; Page 11
2 Ibid. Page 52
3 The Tao of Physics; Fritjof Capra; London, Wildwood House; 1975; Page 71
4 CROWLEY, Alistaire; Magick in Theory and Practice; Secancs NJ, Castle Books: 1991
5 Magic: An Occult Primer; David Conway; London, Jonathon Cape; 1972; Page