Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Holographic Universe

I haven’t been writing much lately, for a combination of reasons.  One, a change at work that may open a door of opportunity but requires right now, extra dedication (read: long hours).  Two, I’ve enrolled the doglets into some training classes.  They each go to their own class, on separate nights.  Raising littermates has been a lot of fun, but just as it was important with my two-footed children to spend time with them, separately, so it is with my lil’ Jacks.  Plus, it’s so much fun.  Perfect de-stressing after work.  And, I’m getting my exercise.  We’re doing agility!  Have you ever tried running as fast as a Jack Russell Terrier?

So, I have found that in whatever down time I do have, a new desire for more contemplative activities.  I love writing.  It is positive, creative work.   But it does require an outlay of your personal energy.  Yes, that investment is rewarded in various ways, but you still have to drum up and put the energy out there.  This past week I needed to recharge my batteries.  Read.  Reflect. Ritual.  Recognize the deities that are special in my life.

But, I reserve the right to be both female and Gemini, and so…. I’m back!  At least for the weekend.   I’ve been reading different permutations of a concept that is both the core of the practice of magic, and at the heart of some popular self help authors:  the law of attraction.

A lot of those authors over simplify some of these concepts, and it is refreshing to find new presentations that actually create an “a ha!” moment.  Which I did find this week.  I’m still reading them, and maybe will post about them at some point later on, after I’ve had a chance to thoroughly digest and understand these authors’ works.  But, their work reminded me of a book I read a few years back, which perhaps deserves a re-read, considering the road I’ve traveled since I first read the book.

It’s The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot.  The book begins with an introduction to quantum physics.  What does quantum physics have to do with Paganism, magic, or spiritual matters in general?  Turns out, quite a bit.

Just what is a hologram?  A hologram is produced when a single laser light is split into two separate beams.  The first beam is bounced off the object to be photographed, then the second beam is allowed to collide with the reflected light of the first.  When this happens, the colliding waves of light produce an interference pattern which is recorded on a piece of film.  But what do you see on that film?  Concentric rings – nothing that looks in the least way like the photographed object. But, as soon as another laser or a source of bright light is shined through the film, a three dimensional image of the object appears.  This was the first concept – the energy of the light waves captured the image of the object in a way that looked nothing like the object – until additional energy in the form of light was applied.

The concept that the entire universe functions like a hologram perhaps began with the physicist Bohm, in his study of subatomic particles.  Bohm observed that while electrons sometime behave like concrete little particles, in accordance to conventional atomic theory, sometimes they behave as though they possess no dimension at all – acting more like a wave.  This was not his only observation.  There seems to exist a strange state of interconnectedness between apparently unrelated atomic particles or events.  Not only that, but the physicist Bohr pointed out that subatomic particles only come into existence in the presence of the observer….. much as the three dimensional object in the hologram is observed only when an additional light source is applied.  Consciousness itself seems to have an effect on the subatomic world.  In fact, Bohm believed that consciousness itself is a more subtle form of matter.

This is a significant oversimplification of the first several chapters of the book,
which must be read with attention to detail to successfully lay the groundwork for what follows.  Despite this, the book is written in a manner that individuals with very little scientific background can grasp.  The essential construct is that everything in the universe is part of one continuum.  Despite the apparent separateness of the world we observe, everything is a seamless extension of everything else.  The universe is in essence, a giant flowing hologram, a collection of wave energy.  The tangible reality of our everyday lives is really a kind of illusion, a holographic image if you will – an image that was concealed in the wave patterns of energy but is now apparent.  What we appear to see and feel is referred to as  the explicate level of reality.  Underlying this level is a deeper level of reality, the implicate or enfolded order, which contains and 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.

Mind you, this book was written many years before the “Matrix” movies came out….

After laying out the construct of a holographic universe, Talbot applies this model to many areas – psychology, medicine, miracles, as well as paranormal phenomenon.  For example, a number of researchers have used the holographic model to explain various aspects of the thinking process.  Just as most people perceive only the physical reality of the material world, so too do collections of thoughts, ideas, and opinions become cemented in our consciousness.  Psychiatrist David Shainberg believes that the virtual permanence of some of these patterns are often detrimental to our growth as human beings.  They can inhibit our ability to assimilate new ideas and information, create blockages in the creative flow of our consciousness, and make us feel disconnected from others.  Shainberg believes our consciousness is constantly unfolding out of the implicate order, but when we allow the same “vortices” of thought to form repeatedly (thereby assuming permanence) we are erecting barriers between ourselves and the endless positive and novel interactions we could have with the implicate order – which is referred to as “the infinite source of all being.”

Here, I was reminded of the concept of the Seven Planes of existence, and the journey we all take through our lifetimes, as we progress to higher states of being.   Higher levels of consciousness are described in several places throughout the book, as Talbot applies the holographic model to experiences of out of body travel as well as near death experiences.

Talbot, as well as the researchers he references, embrace these as very real experiences.  In a holographic universe, a material location is an illusion.   Although we are taught that we “think” with our brains, under the right circumstances the thinking, perceiving part of ourselves – our consciousness – can detach from the physical body and travel wherever it wants to.   Talbot recounts many fascinating examples of out of body and near death experiences that various researchers have documented.

In the practice of magic, visualization is often a key technique.  Visualization is especially effective if the practitioner utilizes and focuses their own emotions and energy in the process.  What was personally fascinating to me was that the model of the holographic universe offers an explanation for why this technique can be effective.

The first examples were medical cases – cancer patients that in addition to receiving conventional modalities of treatment, employed visualization, imagining the cancer cells growing weaker and their normal cells grower stronger.  Individual instances of dramatic recovery were described, as well as studies that compared patients that were taught to use mental imagery techniques to those who were not.  In one study, the survival rate of the mental imagery group was twice as long.  Other researchers investigating this phenomenon found that the physiological effects produced by the use of imagery can be powerful.  Why would this be so?  How can an image formed in the mind have an effect on a difficult cancer?

It may be that the brain itself operates holographically.  Talbot quotes Bohm:  “Every action starts with an intention in the implicate order.  The imagination is already the creation of form; it already has the intention and the germs of all the movements needed to carry it out.  And it affects the body… so that as creation takes place in that way from the subtler levels of the implicate order, it goes through them until in manifests in the explicate.” 

Thoughts clearly can be powerful things.  Edgar Cayce spoke of thoughts as tangible things, a finer form of matter, and when in trance, told clients that “thought is the builder”, and that their thoughts created their destiny.  He was not alone.

The tantric mystics of Tibet referred to thoughts as “tsal” and believed that every mental action produced waves of mysterious energy.  They believed that the entire universe is created by the collective tsal of all beings.  Tibetan tantric texts are filled with visualization exercises, designed to perfect visualization abilities.  Persian Sufis also stressed the importance of visualization in altering and reshaping one’s destiny, and described reality as being a series of subtler planes of being, and that the plane directly adjacent to our current plane was where the subtle matter of one’s thoughts formed into idea-images, which in turn eventually determined the course of one’s life.  Is it possible that visualization coupled with proper concentration can enable us to materialize thoughts, not only as dreams or visions, but as experiences in the material realm?
This question is best answered with Talbot’s own words:  “…in a holographic universe – a universe in which the mind participates with reality and in which the innermost stuff of our psyche can register as synchronicities in the objective world – the notion that we are also sculptors of our own fate is not so far-fetched.  It even seems probable.”

Which means to me, I need to do some housecleaning in my own head.  Clean out the thought patterns that are clearly not serving me well, and make space for cleaner, clearer thinking, that will help me realize my goals in the world of form.

So mote it be.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cross Posting: I Keep Vigil to the Fire

Teo Bishop posted an invite over at Bishop in the Grove for readers to contribute to I Keep Vigil to the Fire, offering a suggested format to write poetry in honor of Brighid.

I am an eleventh hour contributer, but I was inspired, so offered my own writings, copied below.  But you should check out all the other entries, they are wonderful.

Imbolc Poetry for a Goddess:

I keep vigil
To the fire
In my heart.

I keep vigil
Tho all seems lost
Forever dark.

I look into the deep night
For Brighid
The Shining One

She comes in silence,
And kindles the Flame
Once quenched by despair.

I keep vigil
To the fire
In my heart

I feed the flame
As a mother nurses a child
With the milk of hope.

I feed the flame
Tho storms rage outside
And the candles flicker with uncertainty.

I feed the flame
And see the strength of her forge
With the creation of new found faith.

I keep vigil
To the fire
In my heart.

I keep vigil
May Brighid bless
My home, my hearth, my heart.

Ground Hog's Day

Happy Imbolc everyone!  I celebrated this sabbat last night, in my own way.  It was a quiet satisfying evening, reflective, during which many candles burned, and the fire in the woodstove burned through to the wee hours of the morning.

The evening was complimented with a reappearance of the Skunk (see my previous post).  Pups and I went out to the backyard on our evening jaunt.  After “doing their duty” they went on “alert”.  They were clearly seeing something I couldn’t see, despite the light of the half moon.  I didn’t personally see Mr. Stinky, but, I have seen plenty of his tracks in the snow, around the brushy area that borders our property.  Thanks but no thanks, Mister.  My new winter coat still stinks!

I suppose I should be grateful that the evening was warm enough that skunks would roam.  Normally the beginning of February is too cold to see them come out of their semi-hibernation.  But I don’t like this warm weather now.  It’s sort of like an unpleasant bill, ok you don’t have to pay now, but it may end up being more painful to pay later.  If I am going to have huge snowbanks in my yard, I’d rather see them in January thru February.  Rather than in March, lasting into April.  (And yes, in years past, I’ve had residual snow banks up to and even beyond tax day.)

So I am happy that January is over.  There is not much good that’s happened the past few January’s.  The arrival of W2’s,  prospect of filing taxes, the need to do the FASFA’s with not much hope of good news back….yuck. 

But I am still hopeful.  I am feeling that getting skunked is actually an omen of good fortune.  Although I don’t have the final answer, things still look good on the job front.  The timing of getting skunked, so close to Imbolc and Groundhog’s Day, seems propitious to me.

Today’s traditions have their earliest roots with the Romans, who believed that the conditions the first few days of February were good indicators of the upcoming weather patterns.  However, they looked to the habits of hedgehogs for their predictions.

It was in Germany that these traditions were firmly cemented; German immigrants brought the origins of the tradition of Groundhog’s Day with them to America.  Our native groundhog (or woodchuck, as he is otherwise known) was the closest in kind to the hedgehog on this side of the Atlantic.  And since the 18th century, if the groundhog emerges from his burrow in sunlight, and sees his shadow, then we have six more weeks of winter to endure.  If it is cloudy, and no shadow is seen, winter is over.

In 1887 a group of groundhog hunters formed the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club and dubbed Phil the “one and only” official weather prognosticating groundhog.  A four day festival has evolved over time.  Phil is supposedly immortal, due to an “elixir of life”  served at the annual Groundhog Picnic.  Other than these two outings, Phil resides in the Groundhog Zoo, an annex of the town library.  All in all, not a bad life for a groundhog, who normally are targets of both their natural predators, and sometimes, frustrated gardeners……

Phil now has rivals….there’s Staten Island Chuck, and Woodstock Willie (from the Chicago area), among a few others.  I guess, why should Punxsutawney have all the fun?

OK then, what does the Groundhog have to say?  That’s the 64 dollar question on February 2.  Well this morning, I got up and went out with the dogs.  The sky was completely leaden.  Didn’t feel like snow, and it was just cold enough not to rain, but the air was not that bitter cold dry air either.  At any rate, there was no chance of any sunlight penetrating.  No chance that my local groundhog, the one who makes bad eating choices in my gardens, would see any shadow, if he bothered getting up today….

We watched Punxsatawney Phil and his keepers on TV… who declared that Phil did indeed see his shadow, and six more weeks of winter are our fate.  Although, Woodstock Willie disagreed – he did not see his shadow!

Sorry, Phil.  This year I will beg to differ with you.  And guess what.  I’ve got Mr. Stinky to back me up.  Come on, Spring!

Happy Groundhog’s Day anyways!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Crossposting: Happy Imbolc

Fellow blogger Aine posted this at The Deepest Well; it's not to be missed.  A moving, inspirational post, that perfectly captures the spirit and intent of this sabbat.  Please see Happy Imbolc
May all your candles burn brightly tonight!