The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot: a book review

14 Mar

Photo by Argonne National Laboratory

Photo by Argonne National Laboratory

The Holographic Universe by Michael TalbotWith the Holographic Universe, Michael Talbot has succeeded in creating a wonderful book of what I call mind candy.

He pieces together an explanation for events, experiences, and phenomena that have no accepted explanation – or even an acceptance of existing – by modern science. Ironically, at base, his explanation is rooted in the quantum physics theory stating that the universe operates holographically.

He uses this platform to explain all sorts of strange things: out of body experiences, lucid dreams, near death experiences, the placebo effect, the power of the mind to control the body, psychic abilities, and other so-called “fringe” ideas.

This is based on the idea of reality as a kind a hologram, where the whole is contained in every part. And so like a hologram, we are deeply, deeply embedded and intimately connected to all the matter in the entire universe.


The book begins with an excellent introduction to quantum physics. I recommend this book on that point alone for anyone who is interested but confused by quantum physics. (And that covers probably everyone who is interested in it – we’re all confused!)

Talbot first introduces some of the basic weirdness of quantum physics (i.e. the only time quanta ever manifest as particles is when we look at them) and then gets into some great stuff such as non-locality when he explains:

“….at the subquantum level, the level in which the quantum potential operated, location ceased to exist. All points in space became equal to all other points in space, and it was meaningless to speak of anything as being separate from anything else. Physicists call this property nonlocality.”

The physics addressed here is primarily based on the research of David Bohm, a famous physicist, well known for contributing the idea of the “implicate order.”

On this theory, he writes that “underlying (reality) is a deeper order of existence, a vast and more primary level of reality that gives birth to all the objects and appearances of our physical world in much the same way that a piece of holographic film gives birth to a hologram.”

David Bohm called this the implicate order, meaning the unfolded order. Conversely, our everyday experience of reality is understood as the explicate, or unfolded, order.

Putting Bohms ideas together with another researcher named Pribram, he comes up with what is to be the foundation for explaining everything else in the book:

We – or more precisely, our brain – construct objective reality via an interpretation of frequencies “that are ultimately projections from another dimension, a deeper order of existence that is beyond both space and time.”

In sum, he states the “the brain is a hologram enfolded in a holographic universe.”

It’s rare to find someone who is able to write about quantum physics such as Talbot. He goes on to explain some interesting details about the personal lives of physicists at the time they were doing their most famous work. I wish someone would write an entire book in this manner – covering the theories and the individuals behind them.

One of the first ideas he explores is the relationship between the holographic principle of reality and dreams.

To my enjoyment, he begins this by bringing in ideas from quantum physicists Fred Alan Wolf, author of The Dreaming Universe and The Eagles Quest, although more well known for his appearance as Dr. Quantum in the controversial film What The Bleep.

He quotes Wolf at a 1987 conference (1987!) where he speaks of dreams as internal holograms, stating that “ordinary dreams are less vivid because they are virtual images,” and continuing on to state that lucid dreams are possible because the “brain also has the ability to generate real images.” I don’t really follow him on this point.

More interestingly, Wolf says that lucid dreamers are able to create realistic subjective realities inside their mind because in our waking lives our mind is already creating the illusion of reality that is “out there.” The processes inside our brain that make sense of reality do so by creating that sense internally, with the illusion of an “out there” projected onto our consciousness.

In regards to lucid dreaming, to me it sounds like it’s recreating this illusion from the inside out.

Wolf goes on to speculate that lucid dreams may actually be visits to parallel universes – holograms inside inside another hologram. I’m not too sure I understand this point either – it seems to contradict the other points he’s making about dreams and reality being an internal process.

The book contains a lot of speculation like this. Much of it may be interesting, but ultimately, I’m not sure how useful it is. Speculation is good but gets worse the further out you go. This book is guilty of going off the edge at some points. He presents way too much anecdotal evidence.

A theme running through The Holographic Universe is how the mind affects the body.

One of the more interesting points he makes in this regard deals with multiple personality disorder.

Different personalities have been shown to have different brain-wave patterns, memories, and abilities. This is in additional to having different names, ages, and gender identities. Beyond this we may see differences in handwriting and even foreign language fluency and IQ.

This is weird enough but consider this:

A Chicago researcher at the International Society for the Study of Multiple Personality documented a patient whose personalities had an allergic reaction to orange juice.

When any of the other personalities drank orange juice, his body reacted by breaking out in hives. That is all but one of them.

Amazingly, one of the personalities had no such reaction at all, and if this personality surfaced at a point in which hives were present on the body, the hives immediately began to fade away and drinking more orange juice had no effect at all on him.

This point alone is incredibly odd.

It brings up a thousand questions – some of them not too comfortable to contemplate – on the nature of mind and personal identity. It makes me think just what could be possible by the mind alone, IF we understood how to harness whatever it is that allows such a thing to occur.


After discussing LSD, Carl Jung, positive visualization, the placebo effect, multiple personality disorder, human auras, telekinesis, the nature of time (a fascinating venture into the idea of the past, present, and future as different aspects of the hologram), out of body experiences, near death experiences, the dreamtime, Zen Buddhism, UFO experiences, shamanism, even God, angels, and beings of light…

…I found that it’s a lot to take in.

His speculations fascinating but they often ventured too far off from their base.

I also noted too many examples that lacked any evidence whatsoever. An un-cited story about someone who did something amazing that no one else saw 80 years ago is a story not worth repeating. It certainly shouldn’t be considered supporting evidence! This willingness to accept hearsay and use it as evidence drive me crazy. I am all for speculating but there must be a foundation to it!

Criticisms aside, this book is worth reading for its great introduction to quantum physics, the theories of David Bohm and the holographic principle of reality, and the exploration of these ideas as related to dreams, lucid-dreaming, and the shamanic idea of the dreamtime.

All in all, a pleasure to read.

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Photo by Argonne National Laboratory

2 Responses to “The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot: a book review”

  1. Rory March 16, 2007 at 2:17 pm #

    I was going to mention that this is based on the physics of David Bohm. (Obviously that is already discussed) Bohm’s interpretation of quantum mechanics is based on “global realism” which is in opposition to the Copenhagen interpretation, which posits “that there is no deep reality” and that statistics truly rules the subatomic world. Global realism is an idea that attempts to contextualize the apparent weirdness of quantum mechanics as being symptomatic of our local, incomplete perceptual powers. Importantly, Bohm thinks pursuing a “theory of everything” is a chase down a rabbit hole. And with him on that I agree. The notion of describing completely the entire universe has logical obstacles.

    Bohm’s arguments hinge on the Bell Inequality, which was a test of the Einstein Podolski Rosen Paradox (EPR) thought experiment. The Bell Inequality checks the phenomena known as quantum entanglement. There have been a number of experimental violations of the Bell inequalities to date. These violations are themselves subject to differing interpretations.

    All in all, there is a lot of debate on the subtleties of interpretation. It is definitely critical to understand the dispute in coming to a rational conclusion on the feasibility of Bohm’s controversial ideas. I for one, intend to look into it, because I am very intrigued by Bohm’s powerful synthesis of consciousness, physics, metaphysics, and philosophy.

    I haven’t read Talbot’s book, but I would suggest first reading Bohm’s Wholeness and the Implicate Order.


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