AN OUTLINE OF A HOLOGRAPHIC PSYCHOLOGY - PART II
Tuesday, July 7, 1984
Location - FNCA 1984
I suspect you won't mind if I review very briefly what I covered Monday morning. I'm
working in these lectures on the assumption that we understand ourselves as spiritual
beings by means of models drawn from sensory experience. Newtonian physics, which treats
matter as exclusively made up of particles, has provided us with most of the models that
are currently popular. Contemporary physics, though, finds that matter also has wave
properties; and this discovery has unlocked unexpected potential.
I find Swedenborg describing spiritual reality as having conspicuous and important wave
properties, especially in dealing with influx and with the nature and the communication of
love and wisdom. I might mention one explicit instance of this, from T.C.R. 173.2, where
Swedenborg states that in heaven, no one can pronounce a trinity of persons each of whom
separately is God, because "the heavenly aura itself, in which their thoughts fly and
undulate the way sound does in our air, resists it."
As my title indicates, the particular wave phenomenon I'm working with is the hologram.
This is a recording on photographic film of the interference pattern between two sets of
light waves, one coming directly from the source, and the other indirectly, reflected off
the object being recorded. The resultant plate has two distinctive characteristics. Light
shining through it in a particular way will recreate a three-dimensional image of the
object recorded, and the whole image is recorded on every segment of the plate.
I find this phenomenon helpful in understanding a number of things Swedenborg says about
immediate and mediate influx, about the pervasiveness of the human form in macrocosm and
microcosm, and about the communication of thoughts and feelings in the spiritual world. I
got as far as talking about boundaries, and that is where I want to pick things up this
morning. By way of review, I'll just quote my summary sentence from Monday's lecture: "To
summarize the suggestion, it is that we need boundaries, that the holographic model is
open to a multiplicity of boundaries, and that it is then vital that we stop regarding our
boundaries as somehow inherent in the nature of things, and start evaluating them for
Our sensory experience is a continuum. Day and night, our senses send us continuous
signals, without any gaps. We make sense out of this by means of our selectivity, which
takes at least two distinguishable forms. One is that we mark things off from each other
and group them into categories. The other is that we ignore a large percentage of what is
going on. I'll pursue the former device in a minute, but I'll remind some of you and
inform others of the fovea of the eye. This is the area in the center of the retina, the
only area where the photosensitive cells are packed densely enough to allow us to see
detail. It constitutes one forty-thousandth of the total area of the retina. If you want
to check this out, sort of, take a printed page, fix your gaze on one letter, and see how
many words you can read without shifting your center of focus.
As to the other device, we need only to look at the way language works. There is a
spectrum of colors, a continuum shifting from one end to the other. We draw boundaries in
it, and label red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Other languages divide it
differently. In a book called The Universe Within, Morton Hunt has a page filled with line
drawings of objects, the central theme being "cups." But these are all of different
proportions. Take one of our coffee cups here, broaden the base, and at some point it
won't be a cup but a mug. Make it gradually taller and slimmer, and at some point it will
be a vase with a little handle on it. Make it flatter and broader, and it will be a bowl
with a handle.
The point is that the word "cup" does not refer directly to one particular object
different by creation from all other objects, but to a mental category of objects. The
boundaries of this category are quite arbitrary, but they are also widely accepted among
the native speakers of a given language. Further, it turns out to be best to regard the
meaning of any given word as having a kind of core meaning or center, with rings of
extended meaning spreading out from that center, oddly like what happens when you drop a
pebble in a pond. And finally, these areas of meaning overlap all over the map. I can
refer to our cat as a cat, a pet, a problem, an idiot, a lump, a fierce hunter, a snob,
and so on-- always referring to the same furry object, but putting her in different
Now if this is true of the way language relates to observable physical reality, where we
can point to something and say, "Now that is a cat" (or "Now that is a baby"), it must
inevitably be more true of the way language relates to things we cannot see. It is not
easy at all to decide what someone else means by the word "love," for example. Theology is
very largely a matter of drawing such boundaries in the unseen realm, and it behooves us
to do so with some care, always with attention to the appropriateness, to the use, of such
The boundaries we draw around ourselves are particularly important-- what I call "me" and
"mine." Swedenborg is quite clear and consistent in telling us that spiritually, we decide
who we are. We "appropriate" certain qualities to ourselves; we claim tham as our own, and
they are then functionally our own. Now I'd like to call your minds back to that pond with
all the pebbles dropping in, and suggest that each of us is like the impact of one of
those pebbles-- an area in this continuum of reality where the Lord's direct inflow
intersects the horizontal, indirect inflow.
In this model, what gives us our individuality is not our boundaries, which are really
quite arbitrary, but our center, our location. This again gives a particualar cogency to
some of Swedenborg's descriptions. From the Arcana (n. 2057.2), "The very form of heaven
is of such nature that everyone there is like a center, a center especially of
communication of happiness to all, arranged according to all the differences of . . .
love, which are beyond counting." Or try this one (A.C. 3833):
When we are being led into the true and therefore into the good, everything we then learn
is fuzzy; but when the good is united to us and we look at the true from that standpoint,
then things become clear, more and more so as time goes on; then we are no longer in doubt
as to whether things are true or not, but we know what exists and that it is true. When we
are in this state, then we begin to know countless things, because we are proceeding then
from the good and the true which we believe and perceive as if from a center to
surrounding things, and as we proceed, we see the surrounding things over a wider and
wider area, constantly extending and expanding our boundaries.
I'd also refer you to the discussion recorded in C.L. 380.7 on the relationship of center
and expanse, quoting only the question, "What is crazier than saying that the center is
derived from the expanse?" If it is true that we are centers, that we are held in being
through our inmost, then what could be crazier than trying to define ourselves by our
Monday I promised you something I hoped would be a surprise, and this is the place for it.
Listen for a moment to a paragraph from Heaven and Hell (n. 438).
I may add to this that every individual, as long as he or she is living in the body, is as
to spirit in a community with spirits without knowing it-- good people in an angelic
community and evil people in a hellish community-- and that each one arrives in that same
community after death. People who are arriving among spirits after death are often told
and shown this. People are not visible in this community as spirits while they are living
in this world because then they are thinking naturally; but people who are thinking
withdrawn from the body, being then in the spirit, are sometimes visible in their
communities. When they are visible, they can be readily distinguished from the spirits who
are there because they move along lost in thought, silently. They do not look at others:
it is as though they did not see them. And the moment any spirit talks to them, they
This, for me, raises a question. What happens to these silent individuals when they
vanish? They can't stop existing on that level of reality-- we all exist there. That is
where we now are as to our spirits (cf. T.C.R. 1). In fact, if any level of our being
ceased to exist or were missing, we would cease to exist. Swedenborg says we have all
these levels, but that they are opened only by the way we live. Why aren't we always
visible on all levels?
I begin to get a glimmer of an answer from our wave properties, namely, that it is our
consciousness that draws boundaries around us and makes us visible. Otherwise we are just
part of the general pattern. We sort of blend into the landscape.
It would seem as though things are different here in the physical world, as though our
bodies continue to be discrete from other bodies whether we're conscious or not. But
listen to this sentence from A.C. (n. 7270): "Inflow is patterned by these stages [namely
"discrete degrees"], for the divine-true that emanates directly from the divine-good flows
in by stages, and in its course, or at each new stage, it becomes more general and
therefore coarser and hazier, and it becomes slower, and therefore more viscous and
If you'll cast your minds back a bit to that pot of white sauce cooking away on the stove,
it will serve as an illustration. When it is just starting, it's pretty thin. You stir it,
and you get lots of quick little ripples that bounce off the sides of the pan. You stop
stirring it, and it quiets down pretty quickly. As it gets thicker, two things happen.
The ripples get slower, and they last longer. They have pretty slow reflexes.
This suggests to me that we should regard matter as viscous rather than as permanent. It
does respond to spirit, but slowly. It is our consciousness that holds our bodies
together; but when that consciousness leaves, it takes these sluggish bodies quite a while
to disintegrate and become part of the landscape again. By contrast, spiritual substance
is immeasurably more responsive. All kinds of effects are quite promptly visible that
might take years to manifest themselves in this material realm.
Another of my favorite little passages supports this-- one that has been mistranslated by
reason of the mortal sin of ignoring the subjunctive. It's from N.J.H.D. (n. 36), and
reads as follows:
We are so created as to be in the spiritual world and in the natural world at the same
time. The spiritual world is where angels are, and the natural world is where mortals are.
And since we are created in this way, we have been given an internal and an external-- an
internal through our involvement in the spiritual world, and an external through our
involvement in the natural world. Our internal is what is called the inner person, and our
external is what is called the outer person.
Everyone has an internal and an external-- good and evil people alike. . . . But for evil
people, the internal is in the world and its light, and their external is too. So they
don't see anything from heaven's light, only from the world's light. . . . This is why
matters of heaven are in thick darkness for them, and matters of this world are in the
light. We can see from this that good people have an inner person and an outer person, but
that evil people have no inner person, only an outer one.
I'd paraphrase this in our present context by saying that we all have these levels all the
time, but that we gather as persons, we come into human form with human boundaries, only
as we begin to become conscious-- to see in the appropriate light.
Even as physical creatures, we are in a constant process of change. We eat, digest, and
eliminate matter. If we were to draw a simple diagram of this, matter would be flowing
into us and out of us, and it would be "alive" while it was inside us. For me, at least,
this makes it easier to understand my physical body as something whose integrity and
boundaries are maintained by my consciousness rather than as something inherently discrete
from the rest of the world.
To return to more general considerations, though, to live and to function as finite
creatures we need boundaries. I don't find this problematic in the holographic model,
which is susceptible to all kinds of boundaries. It becomes possible and necessary,
though, to use boundaries with sensitivity to their effects, realizing that they are
concessions to our need rather than intrinsic features of the Lord's creation.
I want to illustrate this by returning to the example of "my" lectures, which in a way
contain nothing I can call exclusively "mine." But in order to see more clearly what is
involved, I think it will help to have another look at the holographic model.
I've made only slight reference to one of its startling and paradoxical features, the
presence of the whole image in every segment of the plate. I mentioned in Monday's
lecture, but not in today's review thereof, that the smaller the segment, the less detail
So let's look at a familiar principle and see what we can do with it. It's succinctly
stated in N.J.H.D. 11. "Everything in the universe that is in accord with the divine
design goes back to the good and the true. Nothing exists in heaven, and nothing in this
world, that does not go back to these two. The reason is that these two, the good and the
true, emanate from the divine, the source of everything." An implication of this is
explicitly stated in D.L.W. (nn. 77ff.): "The divine is the same in the largest and the
This means that a baby opening its eyes for the first time sees a complete image of the
divine. It means that the divine is wholly present in each one of us. It means that it is
absolutely pointless for me to try to give you anything good and true that is not already
within you, because there's no such thing. The D.L.W. passage continues,
It does seem as though the divine were not the same in one person as in another-- that it
were different, for example, in a wise person than in a simple one, different in an
elderly person than in an infant. But this appearance is deceptive. The person is a
recipient, and the recipient or recipient vessel may vary. A wise person is a recipient of
divine love and divine wisdom more aptly and therefore more fully than a simple person,
and an elderly person who is also wise more than an infant or child. Still, the divine is
the same in the one as it is in the other . . . .
It seems to me that in order to deal with things and people as they are, we need to take
this into account. We need, that is, to recognize what's the same in all of us, and what's
different. To this extent, I'm even prepared to be guided by something like common sense.
And for me, the clear implication of this section of D.L.W. is that while I can't give you
anything that isn't already in you, I may be able to help you recognize what is.
There's a confirmation of this from common experience. Think of a recent time when you've
been "enlightened," when some book or person has presented a new idea that really worked
for you. If your experience is anything like mine, along with the sense of newness there
is also a very strong element of recognition. This is something I've been looking at all
my life, but I've never been quite able to see it. I almost knew it, but not quite.
If I think of this in terms of that pond with all the ripples, what has happened is that
instead of seeing a mass of confusion, I suddenly see a pattern. It's as though someone
pointed out to me the place where one pebble had landed, and I saw its ripples as primary
and others as secondary. What I'm seeing is in a way no different; how I'm seeing it has
So I do have a potential use in your lives, and you in mine. That use does not depend on
what I possess in the way of knowledge, not in any mechanistic sense. It is not that I
have more of one thing inside my boundaries, and you more of something else. That's an
awfully common assumption which I'd suggest is awfully misleading. Everything I "have,"
everything you "have," is flowing in from the outside-- from each other, and ultimately
from the Lord.
No, what's distinctive about me is not how much my boundaries include, but where my center
is, where I am in the overall pattern. So I don't need to defend my identity by defending
my boundaries, by claiming anything as exclusively mine. The only way my identity could be
threatened would be for someone else to be exactly where I am spiritually-- to have led my
life and made my decisions just as I have. I don't think I need to lie awake nights
worrying about that.
In my closing lecture, I'll suggest some things it probably is worth worrying about, which
will finally get us a bit closer to the matter of health and healing. By that time, I hope
some of all this will have begun to come together a bit.