I’ve had a taste of the mysterious interconnectedness of things this week. It began on Monday with a poster on a website which quoted Rumi, the 13th century Persian Sufi Mystic and which said: “What you seek is seeking you.” I’m fond of Rumi quotes, but didn’t see the personal significance in this until much later in the week, when I realised what I’d been seeking had indeed been seeking me. And what I’ve been seeking is insight into the nature of reality, as one does.
In particular, I was interested in learning more about the holographic theory of the universe and the psyche, as first proposed by the quantum physicist David Bohm, and the neurophysiologist Karl Pribram. A quick shufty around the Google box pointed me in the direction of a book called “The Holographic Universe” by Michael Talbot, which promised to explain the background to the men’s work and lead me on to some of the implications of the theory. I ordered the book from Amazon on Wednesday, then thought no more about it. I was hoping the holographic model might give me some clues for resolving the philosophical knots I’ve tied the characters of my latest work-in-progress up in. They’ve been looking back at me for a while now, telling me they’re struggling to maintain any kind of plot, and need more material to play with.
Anyway, on Thursday I was driving to work, sitting in traffic as usual and tuned into Radio 4’s Today program. I was just in time to hear the writer and journalist Hunter Davis being interviewed by way of a plug for his latest book about the Beatles. He was telling a story about the hit “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, and how it was assumed by the counter-culturati of the times – we’re talking early seventies here – to allude to the then trip-vehicle of choice: LSD. John Lennon however explained to Davis that the title of the song was taken from a painting his son Julian had done. The story was interesting, but didn’t strike me as being of any personal significance at the time, as I am neither a Beatles fan nor a former acid-head. Little did I know however that what I sought had already begun the flirtation process, after being flagged somewhat teasingly by that Rumi quote.
Friday, I was driving home from work, simply glad to have nailed the week. I hit the button and the Radio was now broadcasting a play called Julie (note the similarity here to the name Julian). The play was based on one of the biggest drug busts in history, not on the streets of Miami or darkest Columbia, but rural West Wales from where, up to 1977, staggering quantities of LSD were being manufactured and distributed worldwide. LSD again! Curious theme emerging here. The play at one point even had the main protagonist, chemist Richard Kemp, uttering in exultation the title of the song: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. In the play this was a thinly veiled reference to LSD, also, for me, a nodding reference to that interview with Davis the day before.
It was Kemp who first synthesised LSD in 1969 and, along with the writer David Solomon, set up the manufacturing and distribution network. The title of the play was taken from the police operation which eventually broke the ring up – operation Julie which was named after one of the officers on the team. The story explored the counter-cultural issues of the times and sought to suggest the protagonists were motivated less by money and more by the desire to simply free people’s minds. The police took a more prosaic view however, and the subsequent prosecutions yielded substantial prison terms for all concerned.
So, as I arrived home, I was now thinking about LSD and its mind altering properties, and what that revealed about the nature of the mind and its relationship with reality. I was also thinking about people like Aldous Huxley whose experiments with the drug helped form his own ideas regarding the ultimate nature of reality, as explored in his book “the doors of perception”. Then I pushed open my own front door and there was my little package from Amazon. I broke it open at once and settled down with coffee to see if the book would live up to its promises. And it did. The book took me through the work of Bohm and Pribram, then introduced me to Stanislav Grof, another proponent of the holographic model of reality.
Grof is not a physicist or a neuroscientist but a pioneering psychiatrist and one of the founding fathers of Transpersonal Psychology, a field that has been steadily exploring the mind matter interface and the ways in which the psyche transcends the individual. Grof’s early work involved the use of LSD – work whose findings lent credence to the holographic theory. As I read on I realised the book was answering the questions posed in my mind by that radio play, and that the answers had been subliminally hinted at all week.
Of course this does not mean LSD is literally the answer to all my questions, that I should abandon my writings and become a dope-head, or that the characters in my story should become dope-heads. It tells me only that the holographic model, as suggested in part by early experiments with the drug – before such experiments were banned – is one worth becoming more familiar with.
I suspect it’s true then: what you seek is also seeking you! It pays to be careful therefore what you go looking for. The holographic model is looking like a can of worms, and something I’m going to be thinking about for a long time, and there’s a fair chance I might get lost – after all, there are whole universes in it.
If I don’t post for a while, you’ll know why.