# On the Nature of Information and Consciousness

Abstract: The nature of information and consciousness are explored based on recent discoveries in theoretical physics, including the holographic principle, the nature of dark energy, and non-commutative geometry. In this scenario, all bits of information for an observer’s world are encoded on an observer-dependent cosmic horizon that acts as a holographic screen, while the observer can only be identified as a focal point of consciousness that arises in relation to the screen at the central point of view. To give a complete description of this scenario, it is argued that the “light of consciousness” emanating from this focal point of consciousness is reflected back to the observer from the screen and projects all images of the observer’s world, while the holographic screen and the focal point of consciousness arise in an empty space of potentiality that is called the void. It is also argued that the potentiality of the void to create all images of the observer’s world (as projected from the observer’s holographic screen) and observe the images of that world (as projected to the observer’s central point of view) is the nature of undifferentiated consciousness.

We normally think of the world as composed of matter and energy existing within some kind of space-time geometry, and think of matter and energy as composed of some kind of fundamental particles, but that is not what recent discoveries in modern physics tells us about the nature of the world. Recent developments tell us that the holographic principle is more fundamental than matter, energy, particles or even space-time geometry. This fundamental principle explains the nature of all matter, energy, particles and space-time geometry, and so it helps to review exactly what it is telling us about the world.

The key idea with the holographic principle is to focus on the nature of information. The idea of information has a long history in physics, dating back to Boltzmann’s analysis of thermodynamic entropy. In a similar way, the idea of information is crucial in computer science. What most physicists did not realize until very recently is the close connection between these ideas, which naturally come together in the holographic principle.

An important example to consider is the information encoded in bound states of particles, such as give rise to atomic configurations characterized by a state of entropy. Although we normally think of thermodynamic entropy in terms of a change in entropy that arises as heat flows in a thermal gradient, every bound state of fundamental particles is also characterized by a state of entropy, which is a state of information. Until the holographic principle was discovered, how this information is fundamentally encoded was a mystery.

Modern physics tells us that all the information for any atomic configuration of matter is encoded in bound states of fundamental particles. This happens under the influence of the electromagnetic force at the atomic level and the strong nuclear force at the subatomic level. Until very recently, the big mystery in modern physics was about the fundamental (holographic) mechanism by which information is encoded for these bound states.

The standard model of particle physics, which includes the electromagnetic, strong and weak nuclear forces, is fundamentally formulated (in quantum field theory) in terms of non-Abelian gauge theories, while the gravitational force is fundamentally formulated in terms of Einstein’s field equations for the space-time metric. The only known mechanism that unifies gravity with the other fundamental forces is a geometrical mechanism that utilizes super-symmetry and the Kaluza-Klein mechanism of extra compactified dimensions of space. Whenever the standard model of particle physics is unified with gravity in a unified geometric theory (along the lines of M-theory or non-commutative geometry), this unification always implies the holographic principle. The holographic principle fundamentally reduces all the information for atomic configurations in any bounded region of space (as formulated by quantum field theory) to bits of information encoded on the bounding surface of that space, which is called a holographic screen.

It helps to review exactly how this geometrical unification mechanism arises. To do so, we’ll have to begin with space-time geometry. Relativity theory is the branch of physics that describes the space-time geometry of the world. Relativity theory formulates the space-time geometry of the world in terms of Einstein’s field equations for the space-time metric. The space-time metric is a measure of the curvature of space-time geometry, and allows us to calculate the distance along some path that arises in a curved space-time geometry, like the path of a geodesic on the surface of a sphere. The surprising thing is the space-time metric is also the gravitational field that represents the force of gravity.

The space-time metric is a field like any of the particle fields that arise in the quantum field theory description of particle physics (for example Maxwell’s field equations for electromagnetism that represent the photon and Dirac’s field equations that represent the electron). We understand that all particle excitations arise from fields as excitations of field energy that are localized in space and time and quantized in terms of energy and momentum. An excitation of field energy is often called a wave-packet.

Wave-packet

In much the same way the photon is the force particle of electromagnetism (that arises as a localized excitation of electromagnetic field energy) we can imagine the graviton is the force particle of gravity (that arises as a localized excitation of gravitational field energy). The space-time metric is the gravitational field, and obeys Einstein’s field equations for the space-time metric just as the electromagnetic field obeys Maxwell’s field equations. In the sense of quantized particle excitations that transmit forces, the force of gravity is therefore nothing more than the quantized curvature of space-time geometry.

Einstein’s field equations for the space-time metric describe the space-time geometry of the world, but also represent the force of gravity in the world. We understand the force of gravity arises as the curvature of space-time geometry. The reason particles follow curved paths when influenced by gravity is because space-time geometry is curved and the shortest distance between two points in a curved space-time geometry is a curved path. This space-time curvature is what the space-time metric measures. While particles follow curved paths in a curved space-time geometry, the mass and energy of the particles in that geometry are what curves the geometry, so the motion of the particles and the curvature of the geometry are coupled together.

All of this is described by Einstein’s field equations for the space-time metric. The big question is: are Einstein’s field equations fundamental? Until the holographic principle was discovered, most physicists thought Einstein’s field equations were about as fundamental as physics gets, but we now know that they are not. Einstein’s field equations are not fundamental, but are derivative of the holographic principle.

Physicists describe this state of affairs as a duality. The basic idea is any region of space is bounded by a bounding surface of space, like the volume inside a sphere is bounded by the surface of the sphere. Einstein’s field equations for the space-time metric describe the nature of gravity in the bounded space, but there is an alternative (dual) description for gravity defined on the bounding surface. This surface description is the essence of the holographic principle. Einstein’s field equations describe gravity in the bounded space, but the surface (holographic) description is the more fundamental description of gravity.

The holographic principle simply says the bounding surface defines the nature of gravity in the bounded region of space in terms of bits on information encoded on the bounding surface of that space. Bits of information are encoded in a binary code of 1’s and 0’s in a pixelated way (like the bits of information encoded on a digital computer screen), where each pixel on the screen encodes a single bit of information.

Holographic Principle image from ‘t Hooft

The total number, n, of bits of information encoded is given in terms of the screen area, A, as n=A/4ℓ^{2}, where ℓ^{2}=ћG/c^{3} is the Planck area (given in terms of Planck’s constant, the gravitational constant and the speed of light). This tells us the pixel size is about a Planck area. The remarkable discovery of modern physics is this relation for how bits of information are encoded on a bounding surface of space implies Einstein’s field equations for the space-time metric in the bounded space, but only as a thermodynamic average.

Einstein’s field equations for the space-time metric in the bounded space arise from the bits of information encoded on the bounding surface of that space as a thermodynamic average. The second law of thermodynamics is a very general statistical relationship that describes how the entropy of any region of space changes as heat flows through that space (for example under the influence of a thermal gradient). As heat flows under the influence of a thermal gradient (from a hotter region to a colder region), the entropy of that region of space tends to increase (the region becomes more disordered in terms of the way information is organized in that region of space). For example, a snowball becomes more disordered (it turns into a puddle of water) as heat flows into the snowball. This increase in entropy can occur at constant temperature (the melting point of frozen water). Increased disorganization of water molecules has to do with breaking electromagnetic (chemical) bonds between electrically charged particles, which requires energy (heat).

The holographic principle tells us that the maximum entropy of any region of space is defined in terms of the number of bits of information encoded on the bounding surface of that space as n=A/4ℓ^{2}. Entropy is defined in terms of the area, A, of the bounding surface. As heat flows through that bounding surface, the second law of thermodynamics tells us the entropy of that region of space must also change, which implies the surface area must change. As the surface area changes, the geometry of the bounded space also changes.

Remarkably, this simple relationship implies Einstein’s field equations for the space-time metric in the bounded space, but only as a thermodynamic average, which is called a thermodynamic equation of state. Einstein’s field equations in the bounded space are a direct consequence of encoding bits of information on the bounding surface in a pixelated way, but only arise as a thermodynamic average.

This tells us Einstein’s field equations for the space-time metric in the bounded space are not really fundamental, as they only arise as a thermodynamic average. Einstein’s field equations only have a limited (low energy) range of validity. The more fundamental description is in terms of the bits of information encoded on the bounding surface of that space, which is the holographic principle.

What about the other field theories that describe the nature of particle physics, like Maxwell’s field equations of electromagnetism for the photon or Dirac’s field equations for the electron? The answer is the unification of the laws of physics solves this puzzle. The only known mechanisms of unification are the Kaluza-Klein mechanism (extra compactified dimensions of space) and super-symmetry. All the usual quantum field equations of the standard model of particle physics are generated from Einstein’s field equations from these unification mechanisms.

Extra Compactified Dimensions of Space

If we apply the Kaluza-Klein mechanism and super-symmetry to Einstein’s field equations for the space-time metric, this generates all the usual quantum field equations of particle physics (like Maxwell’s equations for the photon and Dirac’s equations for the electron). To generate the strong and weak nuclear forces in addition to the electromagnetic force requires six extra compactified dimensions of space. Super-symmetry generates all fermion fields in addition to boson fields when spatial coordinates have commuting and anti-commuting components. Even the Higgs fields are generated when non-commutative geometry is invoked. The final result of unification is called 11-dimensional super-gravity, which is understood as a low energy limit. This low energy limit (which describes the nature of gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the nuclear forces in the bounded space) is now understood to arise (as a thermodynamic average) from the holographic principle (the way bits of information are encoded on the bounding surface of that space).

Equations of Quantum Electrodynamics

This state of affairs is a duality. Within the bounded space, the usual laws of physics govern the behavior of everything that appears within that space. For example, the law of gravity is governed by Einstein’s field equations for the space-time metric, while the laws of electromagnetism and the nuclear forces are governed by the usual quantum field theories (like quantum electrodynamics) that represent the standard model of particle physics. The problem with this description of what appears to happen in the bounded space is the holographic principle tells us this description is only a low energy limit that arises as a thermodynamic average. The more fundamental description is the holographic description of bits of information encoded on the bounding surface of that space.

How are we to understand what appears to happen in the bounded space in terms of the holographic principle? It helps to review what quantum theory and the usual laws of physics tell us about what appears to happen in the bounded space. The standard interpretation of quantum theory tells us that everything in that bounded space is characterized by a quantum state of potentiality. For example, everything in the bounded space is a bound state of fundamental particles (like electrons and photons) and those particles are represented by quantum fields that obey field equations. We understand that particles are localized excitations of field energy (wave-packets).

The standard interpretation of quantum theory tells us this excitation of field energy (the wave-packet) specifies the quantum probability with which the particle can be measured (observed) at some point in space and at some moment of time. The actual measurement (observation) of the particle at some point in space and some moment of time is called the collapse of the wave function (a quantum state reduction), as the probability wave collapses to some specific space-time point. The wave function (the probability wave) only specifies the quantum probability with which this wave function collapse can occur. The standard interpretation of quantum theory says the wave function collapse occurs randomly, which is like the random (unbiased) measurement of a probability distribution.

The dilemma of the standard interpretation of quantum theory is that it does not address the nature of the observer. Quantum theory tells us about the nature of all observables (like a particle measured at some point in space at some moment of time) and the nature of that observation (as the collapse of the particle’s wave function), but tells us nothing about the nature of the observer. Quantum theory does not even address how the collapse of the wave function occurs or even what collapses the wave function. Does the observer collapse the wave function?

This dilemma is not totally unexpected since the wave function (as represented by a quantum field probability wave for the case of a fundamental particle) is not really a fundamental thing. The Kaluza-Klein mechanism and super-symmetry tell us that all the usual quantum fields of particle physics are components of the space-time metric in extra dimensions. For the usual 3+1 extended dimensions of space-time, the space-time metric represents the gravitational field, but with extra compactified dimensions of space, the space-time metric also represents all the quantum fields of the standard model of particle physics (which includes the electromagnetic and nuclear forces). The problem is the space-time metric (arising with Einstein’s field equations) can only arise as a low energy limit (a thermodynamic average) in the bounded space from the holographic way bits of information are encoded on the bounding surface of that space.

What then is the holographic principle telling us about the nature of observation in the bounded space? The answer seems strange, but there is no other possible answer. The observation of anything in that bounded space is like the projection of an image encoded on a holographic screen to the central point of view of an observer. A holographic screen is a bounding surface of space that encodes bits of information. An image encoded on a holographic screen is composed of bits of information encoded on the screen.

Holographic Projection image from Susskind

Until observed, that image only exists in a quantum state of potentiality (like a quantum field wave function) that describes all possible ways bits of information can become encoded on the screen. The actual observation of the image by an observer (like the collapse of the wave function) reduces the quantum state of potentiality to an actual observable state (an observable image defined by the way bits of information are actually encoded on the screen). The observation of the image by an observer thus corresponds to the projection of the image from the holographic screen to the point of view of an observer. In computer terms, observation of the image of something by an observer is like a screen output from a holographic viewing screen to the point of view of an observer.

Observer’s Screen image from Smolin

There are three aspects of the nature of observation the holographic principle helps to clarify. The first aspect: What is the nature of a holographic screen (encoding all the bits of information organized into the observable form of images)? The second aspect: What is the nature of a screen output (projecting images from the screen to the point of view of an observer)? and How are the screen outputs ordered in a sequence (like the animated frames of a movie displayed on a screen)? The third aspect: What is the nature of the observer (observing the projected images)? These three aspects will be discussed in turn.

Wheeler’s Universal Observer

The first aspect of the nature of observation is mathematically described by relativity theory. A holographic screen is a bounding surface of space that encodes bits of information, which relativity theory describes as an event horizon, like a black hole horizon. Since we want to discuss an observer’s world rather than black holes, instead of black hole horizons we need to discuss cosmic horizons. While black hole horizons arise from the force of gravity, cosmic horizons arise from the force of dark energy.

The connection to cosmology naturally arises with unification because there is another force in addition to gravity in the unified field equations, called the force of dark energy. Dark energy is like a force of anti-gravity, and is understood in relativity theory as a cosmological constant that gives rise to the exponential expansion of space, which always expands relative to the central point of view of an observer. Due to the limitation of the speed of light, the force of dark energy gives rise to an observation-limiting cosmic horizon, with the observer always at the central point of view. If the observer’s cosmic horizon acts as a holographic screen, then all the bits of information that define all the atomic configurations of bound states of fundamental particles that define everything that appears in the observer’s world are encoded on the observer’s holographic screen.

Not only are all the bits of information for the observer’s body encoded on its holographic screen, but also all the bits of information for everything else in the observer’s world are encoded on its holographic screen. This gives a natural (thermodynamic) explanation for the animating energy of the observer’s body, and how this animating energy is connected to the normal flow of energy for everything else in the observer’s world.

Dark energy is like a repulsive force of anti-gravity causing space to expand at an accelerated rate relative to the central point of view of an observer. Although this may seem strange, relativity theory describes the effect of dark energy (called a cosmological constant) in terms of the exponential expansion of space. Space appears to expand away from an observer (at the central point of view) at an accelerated rate. The farther out in space the observer looks at things, the faster space appears to expand away from the observer. At some point, space appears to expand away from the observer at the speed of light. Since nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, this point defines the boundary of a cosmic horizon that limits the observer’s ability to see things in space.

Expansion of Space

How can space appear to expand? Relativity theory gives the answer in terms of the curvature of space-time geometry, which is measured by the space-time metric. Einstein’s field equations for the space-time metric give a mathematical description of geometric curvature. In effect, space appears to contract with the attractive force of gravity, while space appears to expand with the repulsive force of dark energy. This apparent contraction or expansion of space occurs relative to the point of view of an observer.

Just as the event horizon of a black hole represents a boundary in space where the contraction of space (due to the attractive force of gravity) is so strong that light cannot cross the boundary (and escape away from the black hole as observed from the point of view of a distant observer), so too a cosmic horizon represents a boundary in space where the expansion of space (due to the repulsive force of dark energy) is so strong that light cannot cross the boundary (and reach the central point of view of an observer).

Unlike a black hole horizon (defining a region of space from which light cannot escape as observed by a distant observer), a cosmic horizon could be understood as a white hole (defining a region of space into which light cannot enter as observed by the observer at the central point of view), but in light of the holographic principle, a cosmic horizon is best understood as defining a region of space for an observer and its observable world.

The strange thing relativity theory tells us about dark energy is every observer is at the central point of view of its own cosmic horizon. The cosmic horizon is a bounding surface of space that surrounds the observer at the central point of view and limits the observer’s observations of things in space. This limitation in the observer’s observations of things in space is due to the limitation of the speed of light (which is like the maximal rate of information transfer in a computer network) and the exponential expansion of space (which is unlimited). Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light except for empty space (the expansion of which is unlimited). Since every observer is surrounded by its own cosmic horizon, the observer’s cosmic horizon is called observer-dependent.

The holographic principle tells us the observer’s cosmic horizon is a bounding surface of space that acts as a holographic screen encoding bits of information for everything the observer can possibly observe in that bounded space. Each observation of something is like a screen output (that projects the image of the thing) from the holographic screen to the central point of view of the observer.

Just like a screen output from a computer screen, the image is projected to the point of view of an observer. Just like an image displayed on a computer screen, the image is composed of bits of information. Just like a movie displayed on a computer screen, the image is animated over a sequence of screen outputs.

It helps to examine the holographic principle more closely and examine exactly how bits of information are encoded on a bounding surface of space that acts as a holographic screen. Although the holographic principle was first demonstrated in string theory (that has been generalized to M-theory), it is much more general than any specific theory and is a property of any unified theory that includes gravity (which means it is a property of all geometric theories that unify relativity theory with quantum theory). The most general way to understand the holographic principle is with non-commutative geometry (string theory and M-theory are special cases of non-commutative geometry).

The basic idea is that position coordinates on a bounding surface of space (like a cosmic horizon) can be represented by non-commuting variables. This is similar to dynamical variables defined in quantum theory (position and momentum of particles as represented by non-commuting operators). The difference is the non-commuting variables defined in a non-commutative geometry represent the position coordinates of space itself, while the non-commuting operators defined in quantum theory represent position and momentum coordinates of particles localized in a space-time geometry. Quantum theory allows us to understand how position and momentum of particles are quantized, but does not allow us to understand how space-time geometry is quantized. In this sense, non-commutative geometry is to ordinary space-time geometry (whether curved or not) as quantum theory is to classical (Newtonian) physics, and is the natural way to unify relativity theory with quantum theory and understand how a space-time geometry is quantized.

If the bounding surface of space is a spherical surface, position coordinates on the surface can be represented by an (x, y) coordinate system (like latitude and longitude on the surface of a sphere). In a non-commutative geometry, the coordinates obey an uncertainty relation of the form ΔxΔy≥ℓ^{2} (analogous to the uncertainty relation between the position, x, and momentum, p, of a particle in ordinary quantum theory ΔxΔp≥ћ). The amount of coordinate uncertainty is defined by the Planck area, ℓ^{2}=ћG/c^{3}. This inherent coordinate uncertainty smears out the (x, y) point into an area element (pixel) of size ℓ^{2}. The (x, y) position coordinates defined on the bounding surface are no longer infinitesimal points, but are smeared out into n pixels of size ℓ^{2}. The non-commutative geometry is defined by n non-commuting variables, and the n pixels defined on the surface correspond to these n non-commuting variables that define the geometry.

Horizon Information

The holographic principle specifies the number of pixels, n=A/4ℓ^{2}, in terms of the area of the bounding surface. Each pixel encodes a bit of information in a binary code of 1’s and 0’s. In a non-commutative geometry, this information is typically specified by the n eigenvalues of an SU(n) matrix. Since an SU(2) matrix can represent spin in quantum theory and encode information in a binary code (the two eigenvalues of the SU(2) matrix represent spin up and down, like a switch that is either on or off), and since an SU(n) matrix can always be decomposed into SU(2) matrices, the n eigenvalues of an SU(n) matrix can also encode n bits of information in a binary code.

An interesting aspect of the quantization of space-time geometry that follows from the holographic principle (and non-commutative geometry) is this mechanism cures the infinities of quantum field theory. If space-time geometry is a continuum, there are an infinite number of space-time points in any finite region of space-time, and so there are an infinite number of field variables, ψ(x, t), defined at these space-time points, each of which is a dynamical variable. On the other hand, with the holographic principle any finite region of space is bounded by a surface of space defining a finite number of bits of information (one bit per pixel on the surface), and so there are a finite number of dynamical variables (the n bits of information defined by the eigenvalues of an SU(n) matrix in non-commutative geometry). With the holographic principle, the bounding surface acts as a holographic screen and each event in time is understood as a screen output, so the apparent continuum of space-time points is reduced to a finite number of bits on information encoded on the screen and a finite number of screen outputs.

It is worth a brief review of the second law of thermodynamics as it applies to the holographic principle, since it answers many questions. Basically, the second law is a statistical (thermal average) description of how bits of information (describing the nature of things in any region of space) become more disorganized as heat (thermal energy) flows through that region of space. This description is written as a mathematical relation that involves entropy, S, (which measures the number of bits of information needed to describe things in a region of space), heat content, Q, (which measures the random kinetic or thermal energy of motion of things in that region of space), and absolute temperature, T, (which also measures the random thermal motion of things). This relation describes how entropy changes, ΔS, with the transfer of heat, ΔQ, as ΔQ=TΔS.

It is this simple relation that implies Einstein’s field equation in any bounded region of space from the way bits of information are encoded on the bounding surface of that space. The holographic principle tells us the maximal entropy of any bounded region of space is determined by the surface area, A, of the bounding surface as S=kn=kA/4ℓ^{2}, where k is called Boltzmann’s constant. As heat flows through the bounding surface and the heat content, Q, of the bounded space changes at some absolute temperature T, there must be a corresponding change in the entropy, S. Since entropy is defined by the surface area, A, of the bounding surface, that surface area must change as heat flows through the bounding surface, and so the geometry of the bounded space must also change. This change in the geometry of the bounded space is described by Einstein’s field equations for the space-time metric, which relates a change in the space-time geometry of that bounded region of space to a change in the energy content of that space.

Einstein’s Field Equations

This simple relationship, ΔQ=TΔS, also allows us to calculate the absolute temperature of the bounding surface as observed by a distant observer. The reason the bounding surface has a temperature is because the bits of information encoded on the surface are encoded in a binary code of 1’s and 0’s, just like switches that switch back and forth between the on and off positions, or spin variables that switch back and forth between the up and down positions. The absolute temperature of the surface measures the thermal energy (random kinetic energy) with which the bits of information switch back and forth. At thermal equilibrium, the thermal energy of the bits of information encoded on the surface must correspond to the thermal energy of motion of all the things observed in the bounded space. The observed motion of all those things that appear in the bounded space is then determined by the way bits of information are encoded on the bounding surface.

To calculate the temperature of the surface, we use this connection between the thermal energy of the bits of information encoded on the bounding surface and the thermal energy of the thermal radiation that appears in the bounded space at thermal equilibrium. The total number of bits of information encoded is given in terms of the surface area, A, as n=A/4ℓ^{2}, and the entropy as S=kn. The smallest possible change in entropy is given by Δn=1. As observed by a distant observer, this smallest possible change in entropy must correspond to the radiation of thermal energy away from the surface. Quantum theory tells us the energy of this thermal radiation is quantized in terms of the frequency, f, of the radiation as E=hf. For the radiation of light (thermal photons), frequency is related to the wavelength, λ, of light waves as f=c/λ, and so E=hc/λ. The energy (heat transfer) of the smallest possible thermal photon that can be radiated away from the surface is then given by ΔQ=hc/λ. For this smallest possible change in entropy, Δn=1, the relationship ΔQ=TΔS then tells us that the absolute temperature of the surface is kT=hc/λ.

How do we calculate the wavelength of the smallest possible thermal photon that can be radiated away from the surface as observed by a distant observer? The simplest way to understand this calculation is for a black hole, but the analysis for a cosmic horizon is much the same. A black hole horizon is a bounding surface of space where the force of gravity is so strong that even light cannot cross the horizon and escape away from the black hole as observed by a distant observer. Light waves inside a black hole horizon are gravitationally bound to the black hole. This bound up light must have a wavelength that is less than the size of the black hole horizon. A light wave that is just barely bound to the black hole and is just barely able to escape away has a wavelength about equal to the size of the horizon. For an event horizon of radius R, this size approximately corresponds to the circumference of the horizon, and so the wavelength of a light wave that is just barely able to escape away from the black hole is approximately given by λ=2πR.

A light wave that is just barely able to escape away from the black hole corresponds to the smallest possible thermal photon that can be radiated away from the surface of the horizon. If we put these results together, we find the absolute temperature of the horizon surface is approximately given in terms of the horizon radius as kT=ћc/2πR. This temperature corresponds to the thermal energy of the bits of information encoded on the horizon surface (as they tend to switch back and forth between 1 and 0), but also to the thermal energy of things observed within the bounded space at thermal equilibrium (as these things are encoded for by bits of information defined on the bounding surface).

Although the approach here is to assume the holographic principle (the way bits of information are encoded on a bounding surface of space) which implies Einstein’s field equations for the space-time metric in the bounded space (the nature of gravity), we can also use the reverse approach. From Einstein’s field equations we can infer the holographic principle. The basic idea is to examine the entropy of a black hole.

For a black hole of mass M, Einstein’s field equations give the radius of the black hole’s horizon as R=2GM/c^{2}. An easy way to see this is in terms of the escape velocity of a particle of mass m that moves in the black hole’s gravitational field.

Black hole singularity

Classical physics gives the particle’s total energy in terms of kinetic and potential energies as E=KE+PE=½mv^{2}−GMm/r, where v is the particle’s velocity, r is the distance from the center of the black hole to the particle, and the minus sign indicates the force of gravity is attractive. Escape velocity is determined by E=0, (where the particle has just enough kinetic energy to escape away from the black hole’s gravity), which gives v^{2}esc=2GM/r. The black hole’s horizon is defined by a surface in space where even light cannot escape away from the black hole, or where escape velocity equals the speed of light, vesc=c. With r=R, this gives the horizon’s radius as R=2GM/c^{2}.

The idea of the black hole’s entropy arises since the horizon has a temperature, T, and so as observed by a distant observer, the horizon must radiate away thermal radiation. We again use the relation that tells us the energy of this thermal radiation is quantized in terms of its wavelength as E=hc/λ. This thermal radiation has an effective mass given by E=mc^{2}, which gives its mass as m=h/cλ. The basic idea is that as the horizon radiates away thermal radiation into cooler space, the black hole also radiates away mass.

Hawking Radiation

We can then calculate how a change in the black hole’s mass is related to a change in the radius of its horizon as ΔR=2GΔM/c^{2}. If we equate this change in black hole mass with the effective mass of a particle of thermal radiation radiated away from the black hole, ΔM=m=h/cλ, this tells us how the horizon’s radius changes as a particle of thermal radiation is radiated away as ΔR=2hG/c^{3}λ. At the black hole’s horizon, the force of gravity is so strong that even light cannot escape. If we use the previous result that the wavelength of a thermal photon just barely bound to the black hole is given approximately by the horizon’s radius as λ=2πR, this gives ΔR=2ћG/c^{3}R. The surface area of the horizon is given in terms of its radius as A=4πR^{2}. As the radius changes, the surface area changes as ΔA=8πRΔR, and so ΔA=16πћG/c^{3}=16πℓ^{2}.

The idea of the holographic principle arises from this result if we assume each particle of thermal radiation radiated away from the horizon corresponds to a bit of information encoded on a pixel of size ΔA (about the size of a Planck area ℓ^{2}=ћG/c^{3}). As a particle of thermal radiation is radiated away from the horizon, the black hole’s mass decreases and its surface area also decreases by about a Planck area. If each surface pixel encodes a bit of information, then the total number of bits encoded on the horizon’s surface is given in terms of its surface area as n=A/4ℓ^{2}, which is the holographic principle. This back of the envelope calculation is off by a factor of 4π, which isn’t too bad, all things considered.

Black hole entropy

Although this calculation was performed for the force of gravity and a black hole horizon, the same analysis also applies to the force of dark energy and a cosmic horizon. The holographic principle tells us about how the horizon (as a bounding surface of space) encodes bits of information (for everything that appears within that bounded space). The horizon acts as a holographic screen that encodes bits of information for everything observed in that bounded space (as observed by the observer at the central point of view).

Although we can start with Einstein’s field equation in the bounded space (as they describe the nature of gravity, and with unification, all other things in the bounded space) and then infer the holographic principle, the correct way to understand the holographic principle is to start with the holographic principle and then infer Einstein’s field equations (and with unification, the standard model of particle physics). The logic works both ways, but the holographic principle is more fundamental than Einstein’s field equations, just as a computer screen that displays the images of a movie is more fundamental than the movie. The bits of information defined on the screen (and the flow of energy through the screen that organizes bits of information into the observable form of images) are more fundamental than the projected images of the movie. The holographic principle also tells us that the consciousness of the observer (present at the central point of view of the screen) is more fundamental than the projected images of the movie.

To put it simply, the consciousness of the observer cannot arise from an observed image. The observed images arise from the way bits of information are encoded on a holographic screen, but the consciousness of the observer (like the holographic screen that encodes bits of information for those images) must arise from something more fundamental. The really big question is about the nature of this most fundamental thing. The irony is this most fundamental of all things can only be described as void or nothingness.

To be clear about things, this most fundamental of all things can only be described as an empty space of potentiality called the void. The potentiality of the void is the potentiality to create everything that appears in a world (images of things in a world projected from a holographic screen like the animated images of a movie) and the potentiality to perceive things in that world (as images of things in that world are projected to the central point of view of the observer of that world). The consciousness of the observer is differentiated (as it always arises at a focal point in relation to a screen), while the consciousness of the empty space of potentiality can only be described as undifferentiated. The potentiality of the void to create and perceive a world is the nature of undifferentiated consciousness. As the most fundamental of all things, the undifferentiated consciousness of the void is the primordial nature of existence. Before an observer and its world can exist, the void must exist.

The only part of this explanation that is not a standard part of modern physics is that the primordial existence of consciousness is undifferentiated, and that this primordial, undifferentiated nature of consciousness is identical to what physicists call the void.

We can now describe the scientific mechanism that explains how a holographic screen arises. Whenever dark energy is expended (the exponential expansion of space), a cosmic horizon arises (a bounding surface of space) that surrounds the observer at the central point of view. If we invoke non-commutative geometry (the quantization of space-time geometry) this explains how bits of information are encoded on the horizon (which acts as a holographic screen that projects the images of all the things observed in that bounded space to the central point of view of the observer). The observable images of things are defined by the way bits of information encoded on the screen are organized into the form of images. Although the bits of information are encoded on a two dimensional screen, the observed images appear three dimensional since their nature is holographic.

The observation of images by the observer is really no different than the way images are projected from a computer screen to the point of view of an observer in a screen output. In this sense, an observational event is a screen output, and the animation of the images over time takes place over an ordered sequence of screen outputs, just like the animated frames of a movie displayed on a digital computer screen.

The next big question is: What gives rise to this animation? The answer is the animation naturally arises in the normal flow of energy. What exactly is the normal flow of energy? The one-world-per-observer paradigm and the natural flow of energy through the observer’s world answer this question.

The one-world-per-observer paradigm says everything the observer can observe in its world is defined on its own holographic screen. With the expenditure of dark energy, an observer-dependent cosmic horizon always surrounds the observer at the central point of view, and with non-commutative geometry, this bounding surface of space acts as a holographic screen encoding all bits of information for everything the observer can possibly observe in that bounded space (defining the observer’s world).

In the sense of a Hilbert space, these observations are defined by the n eigenvalues of an SU(n) matrix that is the result of quantizing the n non-commuting variables defined on the observer’s holographic screen. Every observer has it own holographic screen.

What about a consensual reality shared by many observers? The answer is many observers can share information (in the sense of a Venn diagram) to the degree their respective holographic screens (cosmic horizons) overlap. This is just like the kind of information sharing that occurs in an interactive computer network. Each observer observes its own holographic screen, but the interactive nature of information sharing within the network of screens allows different observers to interact with each other and share a consensual reality to the degree their screens overlap.

Overlapping Bounded Spaces

The natural flow of energy through the observer’s world is best explained by the second law of thermodynamics. The observer’s world is limited by its own cosmic horizon, which can only arise with the expenditure of dark energy (the exponential expansion of space). In relativity theory, dark energy is represented by a cosmological constant Λ, which determines the radius R of the cosmic horizon.

The normal flow of energy through the observer’s world arises from an instability in the amount of dark energy. This instability in the cosmological constant is how the big bang event is understood in inflationary cosmology. This instability is like a phase transition from a meta-stable false vacuum state to a stable true vacuum state.

Meta-stable state

Relativity theory determines the radius of the observer’s cosmic horizon in terms of the cosmological constant as R^{2}/ℓ^{2}=3/Λ. At the time of the big bang event (that creates the observer’s world) inflationary cosmology hypothesizes that R is about a Planck length and Λ is about 1. Due to an instability in the cosmological constant, Λ decreases in value and R inflates in size. As Λ decreases in value to zero, R inflates in size to infinity, which represents the true (stable) vacuum state.

This idea is also consistent with the current measured value of Λ=10^{−123} (based on the rate with which distant galaxies are observed to accelerate away from us), which also corresponds to the size of the observable universe (about 15 billion light years).

Accelerating Universe

The normal flow of energy in the observer’s world arises due to this instability in the cosmological constant. The holographic principle determines the temperature of the observer’s cosmic horizon in terms of its radius as kT=ћc/2πR. At the time of the big bang event (Λ=1) the horizon temperature is about 10^{32} degrees Kelvin. As the cosmological constant decreases in value, the horizon inflates in size and cools in temperature. When the stable true vacuum state (Λ=0) is finally reached, the horizon inflates in size to infinity and cools to absolute zero.

The normal flow of energy through the observer’s world reflects the normal flow of heat (under the influence of this thermal gradient), as heat flows from a very hot state of the observer’s world (at the time of the big bang creation event) to a final stable state of absolute zero (called the heat death of the observer’s world).

If we take the big bang theory seriously, we understand at the moment of creation of the observer’s world, that world is about a Planck length in size, but that world then inflates in size because of an instability in dark energy. This instability in dark energy is like a process of burning that burns away dark energy, which occurs as a phase transition from a meta-stable false vacuum state to a more stable truer vacuum state. The nature of this phase transition is the foremost example of symmetry breaking.

The expenditure of dark energy breaks the symmetry of empty space by constructing an observation-limiting cosmic horizon surrounding the observer at the central point of view. The instability in dark energy is like a process of burning that burns away the dark energy and “undoes” this broken symmetry. As the dark energy burns away to zero, the cosmic horizon inflates in size to infinity, and the symmetry is restored. We understand this “undoing” of symmetry breaking is like a phase transition from a false vacuum state to a true vacuum state. As the phase transition occurs, dark energy burns away.

The second law of thermodynamics simply says that heat tends to flow from a hotter object to a colder object because the hotter object radiates away more heat, which is thermal radiation. The instability in dark energy explains the second law as dark energy burns away, the observer’s world inflates in size and cools in temperature, and heat tends to flow from hotter states to colder states of the observer’s world.

The normal flow of energy through the observer’s world simply reflects this normal flow of heat as the dark energy burns away and the observer’s world inflates in size and cools. This normal flow of energy naturally arises in a thermal gradient. One of the mysteries of the second law is understanding time’s arrow, or how the normal course of time is related to this normal flow of energy. The burning away of dark energy explains this mystery. As far as the holographic principle goes, a thermal gradient is also a temporal gradient. The holographic principle reduces concepts of temperature, the normal flow of energy and the course of time to geometry, and so these concepts are intrinsically related.

To say the course of time arises in a temporal gradient is the same as to say the flow of energy arises in a thermal gradient. This is what the holographic principle, the burning away of dark energy and the second law of thermodynamics tell us. As dark energy burns away, the observer’s cosmic horizon inflates in size and cools in temperature, which drives the normal flow of energy and course of time in the observer’s world. This is like the flow of a river down a mountainside under the influence of gravity, except the force of dark energy is repulsive, like a kind of anti-gravity. The gradient is established as dark energy burns away, which is like a decrease in the repulsive force of anti-gravity.

What are we to make of the expenditure of other forms of energy besides dark energy? Modern cosmology and physics again give an answer in terms of symmetry breaking. All forms of positive energy arise from dark energy through a process of symmetry breaking. This allows an observer’s world to spontaneously emerge from the void along the lines of the inflationary scenario, but only if the total energy of that world adds up to zero.

The remarkable discovery of modern cosmology is cosmic observations indicate the total energy of the observable universe is exactly zero. This is possible in relativity theory as the negative potential energy of gravitational attraction can exactly cancel out the total amount of dark energy and all other forms of positive energy that arise from dark energy.

How do other forms of energy, like mass energy, arise from dark energy? The answer is symmetry breaking. As dark energy burns away, high energy photons are created, and these photons can create particle-antiparticle pairs, like proton-antiproton pairs. One of the mysteries of cosmology is why there are so many protons in the universe and so few antiprotons. Symmetry breaking again gives the answer. At high energies, antiprotons can decay into electrons and protons into positrons, but there is a difference in the decay rates due to a broken symmetry, and so more antiprotons decay than protons. As the universe cools, protons become relatively stable, and so that is what is left over. Even the mass of the proton arises through a process of symmetry breaking called the Higgs mechanism. The expenditure of energy that characterizes all the fundamental gauge forces, like electromagnetic energy in a living organism, or nuclear energy in a star, all arise from dark energy through a process of symmetry breaking, but all of this positive energy is exactly cancelled out by the negative potential energy of gravitational attraction.

The fact that the total energy of the observable universe exactly adds up to zero tells us something important. Since everything in the world is composed of energy and all energy ultimately adds up to zero, this tells us that everything is ultimately nothing.

Ying-Yang

The normal flow of energy through the observer’s world (that arises as the observer’s cosmic horizon inflates in size and cools in temperature and heat flows from hotter states to colder states of the observer’s world) allows us to understand how the observer’s world is animated. In the sense of images encoded on the observer’s holographic screen and projected to the central point of view of the observer, this animation occurs while the observer appears to follow an accelerated world-line through the space-time geometry of its world (as projected from its holographic screen). Each observational event on that world-line is like another screen output, but the observer’s holographic screen (event horizon) can only arises because the observer is in an accelerated frame of reference.

Accelerating Observer’s Horizon image from Smolin

This idea of the normal flow of energy is what relativity theory has been telling us about all along. Whenever an observer enters into an accelerated frame of reference, whether characterized by the contraction of space (the attractive force of gravity) or the expansion of space (the repulsive force of dark energy) an event horizon (such as a black hole or cosmic horizon) arises that acts as a holographic screen (encoding bits of information defining everything in the observer’s world). The observer’s holographic screen not only projects images of all things in the observer’s world to the observer’s central point of view, but also projects the observer’s space-time geometry. The observer only appears to follow an accelerated world-line through its projected space-time geometry.

This space-time geometry is defined by the spatial relationships among all the images of things (as encoded on the holographic screen) and the way those images are animated over a sequence of screen outputs (as projected to the central point of view of the observer). This projection and animation of the observer’s space-time geometry is really no different than the kind of observable space-time geometry that is projected from and animated on a digital computer screen, except the images are holographic.

This projection and animation of the observer’s space-time geometry (and all images of things in the observer’s world) from a holographic screen only arises in the normal flow of energy that gives rise to the observer’s holographic screen and animates all the images projected from that screen to the central point of view of the observer. We understand the screen only arises (as an event horizon) in the observer’s accelerated frame of reference (which requires the expenditure of energy), and this flow of energy in turn animates everything in the observer’s world (over a sequence of screen outputs) as the observer appears to follow a world-line through its projected and animated space-time geometry.

Observer’s Holographic Screen image from Smolin

The equivalence principle tells us the observer’s accelerated reference frame (equivalent to the exertion of a force) requires the expenditure of energy, just like a rocket ship that expends energy through the force of its thrusters as it accelerates through space.

Principle of Equivalence

We now understand how the observer’s world is animated by the expenditure of this energy (the normal flow of energy through the observer’s world). This energy only arises from an instability in the cosmological constant that causes the observer’s cosmic horizon to inflate in size. As the observer’s cosmic horizon inflates in size and cools, heat flows from hotter states to colder states of the observer’s world, which drives the normal flow of energy through the observer’s world. This thermal expenditure of dark energy is what ultimately animates everything in the observer’s world.

The holographic principle tells us the animation of everything in the observer’s world arises as a sequence of screen outputs (projecting the images of things from the observer’s holographic screen to the observer’s central point of view). This sequence of screen outputs occurs in the normal flow of energy animating everything in the observer’s world, as the observer appears to follow a world-line through its projected space-time geometry.

Quantum theory tells us there is a subtle aspect of this animation of things over a sequence of screen outputs. The way information is organized on the observer’s holographic screen is always described by a quantum state of potentiality that includes all possible ways bits of information can become organized on the screen. With each screen output a choice is made as an actual state of organization is chosen from this quantum state of potentiality. This choice is called a quantum state reduction (which is the collapse of the wave function). In the sense of a sum over all possible paths, each choice is a decision point that chooses a particular path.

Decision Point

This is like a quantum state of potentiality that describes the motion of a particle through a space-time geometry. The quantum state (as it describes the motion of the particle as it follows some possible path between two points) can always be formulated as a sum over all possible paths that connect two points in the geometry. Each possible path in the sum is weighted with a probability factor that is the essence of the particle’s wave function.

Sum Over all Paths image from Penrose

If we want to observe the actual path the particle follows through the space-time geometry (a path that is an ordered sequence of observations of the particle at a series of points in space over a series of moments in time), that observation of the motion of the particle requires a series of quantum state reductions (that collapse the particle’s wave function). Each such observation of the particle (at some point in space on the path and at some moment of time) requires a choice that chooses an actual path for the particle from the sum over all possible paths.

What is the meaning of the particle’s wave function? The wave function is only a probability wave that specifies the quantum probability that the particle will follow a particular path (rather than all other possible paths). The essence of the wave function are the probability factors that weight each possible path in the sum over all possible paths formulation of the particle’s quantum state.

Each observation of the particle (at some point in space and at some moment of time) requires a choice that chooses an actual path for the particle from the sum over all possible paths. The probability factors (that weight each possible path) only specify the quantum probability that a particular observation will occur. Each observation requires choosing a particular path from the quantum state.

How are the choices made? The standard interpretation of quantum theory says the choices are made randomly. Each observation of the motion of the particle randomly chooses an actual state of motion for the particle (an actual path) from the quantum state of potentiality (the sum over all possible paths), and is like a random measurement process that randomly measures a probability distribution.

As long as the choices are made randomly, the probability factors (in the sum over all possible paths that specify the quantum probability with which the motion of the particle can be measured) are accurately reflected in the actual path the particle is observed to follow. This means the probability distribution is accurately measured. What this actually means is that if the measurements are performed many times, the resulting measured probability distribution accurately reflects the way different possible paths are weighted by the probability factors.

The reason this is important is because we want quantum theory to reduce down to classical physics in the limit that Planck’s constant goes to zero. In classical physics (which is purely deterministic) the particle can only follow a uniquely defined path (determined by classical equations of motion). This classical path is called the path of least action, and is like the shortest distance between two points.

Path of Least Action

The laws of physics only have predictability because they are incorporated into the probability factors in the sum over all possible paths. The laws of physics can always be formulated by an action principle, and this concept of action is what determines the probability factors. In classical physics, the classical path is called the path of least action (which is like the shortest distant between two points). Even in relativity theory (with a curved space-time geometry) the classical path of a particle through the geometry is determined by the path of least action (which is like the shortest distance between two points in a curved space-time geometry).

The concept of action is critical to the formulation of all laws of physics (as formulated with an action principle). Action is a measure of distance along some path that connects two points in some geometry. This is the case in relativity theory, in quantum theory, and in all quantum field theories. A quantum state of potentiality can always be formulated as a sum over all possible paths in that geometry that connect two points, where each path is weighted with a probability factor (the wave function) that depends on the action. This probability factor is fundamentally written in terms of the action S as the exponential function ψ=exp(iS/ћ), where ψ acts like a wave function due to the Euler identity ψ=exp(iθ)=cosθ+isinθ. The phase angle θ=S/ћ depends on the action (which measures the distance along some path between two points in the geometry). The path of least action arises (in the classical limit) from the sum over all paths since this path corresponds to minimizing the action (which determines the shortest distance path between two points in the geometry). This formulation takes advantage of the magic of the complex plane.

Principle of Least Action image from Penrose

This formulation of the quantum state as a sum over all possible paths explains the very strange findings of the double slit experiment, where a particle’ wave function interferes with itself as it passes through the double slit. We see the interference pattern on a screen behind the double slit, but this interference pattern only specifies the quantum probability with which the particle can be measured at some specific point on the screen.

Double Slit-Wave aspect

If we measure these specific points on the screen particle by particle (the specific location on the screen where each particle is measured), we reconstruct the interference pattern. We measure the probability distribution predicted by quantum theory. The interference pattern is only telling us about the quantum probability with which the particle can be measured at some specific point on the screen. Until the location of the particle is measured, its quantum state can only be described by the wave function, which is a state potentiality. The particle can be measured to be located anywhere on the screen, but with a quantum probability that varies from one location to another, as specified by the interference pattern. This explains the so called wave-particle duality of quantum theory.

Double Slit-Particle aspect

The only problem with this very elegant formulation of the quantum state is that for it to make any sense at all, the measurements must be performed randomly. The quantum probability (specified by the interference pattern) only makes any sense (as a probability distribution) if the measurements are performed in a random (unbiased) way. If there is any bias in the way the measurements are made, then all bets are off, and the quantum probability distribution loses predictability.

Classical physics (like the classical path of a particle determined by classical equations of motion) is always determined by the path of least action, which is like the shortest distance path between two points in the geometry. In quantum theory, the particle can follow any possible path, but we want the classical path to be so strongly weighted (by the probability factors in the sum over all paths) that the particle really has no choice but to follow the classical path in the classical limit. We want the probability distribution to reduce down to only the classical path in the classical limit. The problem is this only happens if the choices (that choose an actual path from the sum over all possible paths) are made in an unbiased way. If there is bias in the way the choices are made, the probability distribution is measured with bias and loses predictability.

The basic problem is even if the classical path is weighted with a humongous probability factor and non-classical paths are weighted with tiny probability factors, if there is sufficient bias in the way choices are made, a non-classical path can be chosen from the sum over all possible paths, and the classical limit is not guaranteed. The laws of physics (inherent in the probability factors) lose predictability. In gambling terms, if there is bias in the way the probability distribution is measured, all bets are off. In more metaphorical terms, if there is bias in the way the probability distribution is measured, the laws of physics (like the law of gravity) can be bent, and it may be possible to walk on water.

If we apply this analysis to the holographic principle, this tells us each screen output (which is an observational event that projects images of things in the observer’s world to the observer’s central point of view) is a choice that chooses a particular way in which information is organized on the observer’s holographic screen (chosen from a quantum state of potentiality that is a sum over all possible ways in which information can become organized on the screen). Each possible way in which information can become organized on the screen is weighted with a probability factor that is the essence of the wave function. The basic problem again is that these probability factors are only accurately measured if the choices (that choose an actual state of information) are made randomly. If there is bias in the way the choices are made, the laws of physics lose predictability.

As the observer (the focal point of consciousness present at the central point of view of its holographic screen) appears to follow a world-line through it space-time geometry (projected from its holographic screen), the observer observes images of things in its world (defined by the way bits of information are encoded on its holographic screen). Each such observation of things occurs in a screen output (which chooses a specific way in which information is organized on the screen from a quantum state of potentiality describing all possible ways in which information can become organized). If different choices are made, different screen outputs occur and the observer follows the path of a different world-line. Each choice is a decision point on the observer’s path. The observer’s time-line is only an ordered sequence of choices (screen outputs) on its world-line. The big problem with choice is bias, and it is the observer that expresses its own bias.

What is the nature of this bias? The answer is the observer expresses bias with its focus of attention. The observer only observes its own holographic screen, but as the observer shifts the focus of its attention onto different things displayed on the screen, the observer expresses its bias. If the observer directs the focus of its attention in an unbiased way, no bias is expressed, but if the observer directs the focus its attention in a biased way, then bias is expressed. The expression of bias in the observer’s focus of attention is the process by which bias is expressed as choices are made that choose a particular screen output (a particular way in which information is encoded on the observer’s holographic screen) from the quantum state of potentiality that encompasses all possible screen outputs (all possible ways in which information can be encoded on the holographic screen).

In terms of the world-line the observer appears to follow through its projected space-time geometry, each screen output (each observational event on the observer’s world-line) is a decision point where the observer chooses to follow a particular path on that world-line (chosen from all possible paths the observer can possibly appear to follow). At each decision point on the path, the observer chooses a particular screen output and therefore chooses to follow a particular path.

Environmental decoherence explains how the observer’s focus of attention on objects in its world causes those objects to appear distinct, well-defined and classical in nature. This is the problem of how a quantum state of potentiality (characterized by the coherence inherent in the interference pattern of a wave-function) is reduced to an actual classical state. The observer’s focus of attention on objects in its world cuts-off interactions of the environment with the object except for random thermal interactions. The effect of these random thermal interactions (of the environment with the object) then leads to environmental decoherence, which occurs by averaging over the random thermal interactions. In effect, the entangled quantum state of the combined system of object and environment is reduced to the quantum state of only the object, while the random thermal interactions of the environment with the object causes the quantum state of the object to reduce to an apparent classical state.

If there is bias in the way choices are made, then the observer follows a biased path and observes biased screen outputs. As mentioned above, whenever bias is expressed in the way screen outputs are chosen, the laws of physics (which only arise from the way information is encoded on the screen) lose predictability.

Recall that the laws of physics (which all arise from Einstein’s field equations for the space-time metric) only arise as a thermodynamic average from the way bits of information are encoded on the observer’s holographic screen. If there is bias in the way bits of information are encoded (bias in the way choices are made that choose a particular screen output), the laws of physics lose predictability.

Bias in the observer’s focus of attention explains the self-limiting emotional body feelings that arise as the observer focuses its attention on its life-form (or on its mentally constructed body-based self-concept) and as its life-form (or self-concept) is emotionally related to the form of other things in its world. The net effect of the observer limiting its focus of attention to its life-form (or its self-concept) and to the emotional expressions that relate its life-form to the form of other things in its world is the observer perceives self-limiting emotional body feelings to arise from its life-form, which is the only way the observer can identify itself with its life-form. Only perception of self-limiting body feelings can lead the observer to identify itself with its life-form.

How is bias in the observer’s focus of attention expressed? The answer is all bias is emotional bias. Emotional bias is like an emotional feedback loop that directs the observer’s focus of attention in an emotionally biased way.

How does this emotional feedback loop operate? Emotional energy is the energy localized to a life-form that flows through the life-form and animates all the behaviors of the life-form. Just like the animated form of images displayed on a computer screen, the expression of this emotional energy is the flow of energy through the screen (or through a network of screens in an interactive computer network) that relates the life-form to the form of other things displayed on the screen. These relations are always emotional. The observer only observes the form of things (defined by the way information is encoded on the screen) and the flow of energy (that animates things and relates them to each other as displayed on the screen), but something very odd happens as the observer perceives the flow of emotional energy that relates the form of things displayed on the screen.

This odd thing is the observer identifies itself with the form of its life-form. The observer’s life-form is like the central character of an animated movie of images the observer perceives on its holographic screen. The observer always perceives its world through the organs of sensory perception of its life-form. Some organs of sensory perception transfer external perceptions, like sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, and some transfer internal perceptions, like emotional body feelings, thoughts, memories, and other images of mental imagination. The observer’s life-form is very much like its avatar in a virtual reality world displayed on a computer screen, but the analogy of its central character in a movie projected on a screen is also a good analogy. In reality, the observer only observes the form of things in its world (which include the animated image of its life-form) from its central point of view (that arises in relation to the screen). The big question is why does the observer identify itself with the animated form of its life-form?

The observer identifies itself with its life-form because it really feels self-limited to the form of its life-form as it perceives the flow of emotional energy through its life-form that animates all the behaviors of its life-form and emotionally relates its life-form to the form of other things the observer perceives in its world. The observer feels self-limited to the form of its life-form as it perceives emotional body feelings transferred by internal organs of sensory perception within its body. Those sensory perceptions make the observer feel like it is really embodied. That is the only reason the observer identifies itself with the form of its body.

How does the observer’s self-identification with its life-form express an emotional bias in the way choices are made? The observer’s bias is expressed with the observer’s biased focus of attention, but this bias is always emotionally directed. The nature of the expression of emotional energy is the expression of desire. The expression of desire always emotionally relates the observer’s life-form to the form of some other thing the observer perceives in its world. When desires are satisfied, feelings of connection are expressed (as the flow of emotional energy through the observer’s life-form comes into alignment with the flow of energy through the other thing). These feelings of connection feel “good”. When desires are frustrated, feelings of disconnection are expressed (as the flow of emotional energy through the observer’s life-form goes out of alignment with the flow of energy through the other thing). These feelings of disconnection feel “bad”.

The observer is emotionally biased to choose feelings of connection (that feel “good”), which is how the observer expresses its emotional bias (as its focuses its attention on feeling “good”). The observer is biased to direct the focus of its attention on feeling “good”, and to avoid feelings of disconnection that feel “bad”. Emotional bias (in the observer’s focus of attention) arises out of its desire to feel “good” (connected).

There are several things worth pointing out about this emotional bias in the observer’s focus of attention. The first is that emotional bias in the observer’s focus of attention leads to the expression of more biased emotions. That is how the emotional feedback loop operates. Only the observer’s biased focus of attention on the expression of its own biased emotions can energize the expression of these biased emotions. The observer’s biased focus of attention on the expression of its desires is an investment of emotional energy in its world that allows it to live a life in its world. The expression of this biased emotional energy is essential for the animation of the observer’s life-form (its character) in its world.

The second thing to point out is that emotional bias in the observer’s focus of attention can only lead to the expression of more biased emotions. Everything the observer can possibly observe in its world is chosen from a quantum state of potentiality. The essence of this state of potentiality are quantum probability factors that give the probability that some particular observation can occur. These probability factors typically give rise to an interference pattern. The problem is quantum probability factors only have predictability if choices are made in an unbiased way. All the choices the observer can make in its world (at every decision point on the observer’s world-line as the observer chooses to follow some particular path) can only arise with the observer’s focus of attention on its world. If there is emotional bias in the observer’s focus of attention (bias in the way the observer makes choices in its world), the quantum probability factors lose predictability.

In metaphorical terms, every such emotionally biased choice the observer makes (with its biased focus of attention) is an interference with the normal flow of things in its world. The expression of biased emotional energy is always an interference with the normal flow of energy through its world. The normal flow of energy (which can only arise as a thermodynamic average) is inherently unbiased in nature.

Only the observer can interfere with the normal flow of energy through its world with its emotionally biased focus of attention on its world. When choices are made in the normal (unbiased) way, energy flows in its normal way. In a state of non-interference, all things tend to follow the path of least action. Since the path of least action expends the least amount of energy needed for the observer to experience its world, a state of interference is always a waste of energy. When the observer interferes with the normal flow of energy through its world (with its biased focus of attention), it only wastes its time and energy.

Another thing to point out is that only a state of non-interference can lead to the “best of all possible worlds”. Only if the observer stops interfering with the normal flow of energy through its world (and stops expressing an emotional bias with its focus of attention) can the flow of energy through all things in its world come into alignment, which gives rise to non-specific feelings of connection. Since feelings of connection feel “good”, this is the best possible world the observer can ever experience.

The last thing to point out is that the observer can only identify itself with its life-form if it expresses biased emotional energy. These biased emotions not only express the desire to feel “good”, but also the desire to survive and live a life in the observer’s world. Biased emotions are inherently self-defensive in nature since they are emotionally biased in favor of the survival of the observer’s life-form (its character). It is only the expression of biased emotions that makes the observer feel self-limited to its life-form and identify itself with its character. The observer’s self-identification with its life-form can only arise out of the expression of self-limiting emotions that arise with its biased focus of attention.

The observer’s self-identification with its life-form is inherently emotional. The observer feels self-limited to its life-form as it perceives self-limiting emotional body feelings expressed as desires are frustrated or as self-defensive emotions are expressed in response to the frustration of desires or a threat to survival. The emotional bias that arises out of the observer’s self-identification with its life-form can only arise if there is an assumption (on the part of the observer) that its existence depends on the survival of its life-form.

This is a critical point that cannot be emphasized enough. The observer can only identify itself with its life-form if there is an assumption (on the observer’s part) that its existence depends on the survival of its life-form. This assumption is what drives the observer’s emotionally biased focus of attention, its desire to interfere, and its desire to defend itself. Self-limiting emotional expressions only reinforce the observer’s self-identification with its life-form (since their expression makes the observer feel self-limited to its life-form), and in the process lead to the expression of more self-limiting emotions. This vicious circle is driven by the observer’s emotionally biased focus of attention and is based on the observer’s mistaken assumption that its existence depends on the survival of its life-form.

Without this mistaken assumption, there really is nothing to defend or interfere with in the observer’s world, as that world is no more real than the images of a movie displayed on a screen the observer is watching or a virtual reality game displayed on a screen the observer is playing. The observer’s existence does not really depend on what it observes.

Can the observer really stop existing? Clearly the observer’s life-form can appear to be born, develop, survive and eventually die, but that life-form is just the way bits of information are encoded and organized on the observer’s holographic screen with the tendency to self-replicate form, which we call coherent organization. Just as life-forms can develop coherent organization and appear to be born, develop and survive, life-forms can lose coherent organization and appear to die. Coherent organization is a fundamental aspect of life in a holographic world that arises from quantum entanglement. Coherence is a result of how bits of information are encoded and entangled on a holographic screen.

The holographic principle (as formulated in terms of non-commutative geometry) tells us that these bits of information are defined by the n eigenvalues of an SU(n) matrix, where n=A/4ℓ^{2} depends on the surface area of the observer’s holographic screen. For any macroscopic observation, this is a huge number since the Planck area is about 10^{−66} cm^{2} in size. Just like the eigenvalues of a spin matrix, these n eigenvalues are entangled with each other, which means they have a tendency to align together over the course of time (a sequence of screen outputs). In the sense of a spin network, entangled bits of information (like entangled spin variables) tend to point in the same direction over time. Coherent organization arises out of this tendency to align. Coherence is a very general property of any holographic world, and explains why the flow of energy through that world (along with the bits of information that define that world) tend to come into alignment.

Entanglement

In the conventional physics of relativity theory and quantum theory, we understand the development of coherence as the binding of fundamental particles (that appear to move around in space), but with the holographic principle, we understand the development of coherence as the alignment of bits of information (encoded on a bounding surface of space). Not only do bits of information align together on the bounding surface (which gives the appearance of particles binding together in the bounded space), but the flow of energy also aligns. As bits of information align together into coherent forms, the coherent flow of energy through those forms allows for the self-replication of the forms. Both the alignment of bits of information into form and the flow of energy through those forms is coherently organized. In physics, the development of coherent organization is understood as symmetry breaking.

In atomic terms, increased organization develops with the binding of particles, which releases energy. This binding occurs either under the influence of the electromagnetic or nuclear forces. Increased disorganization has to do with the breaking of electromagnetic or nuclear bonds between particles, which requires energy. In thermodynamic terms, that energy is heat and the degree of the organization of information is measured by entropy.

There is always a balance between the organization of information into form (with the development of coherence) and the disorganization of information that disorders form (resulting in an increase in entropy). This balance occurs even at constant temperature (which measures the random thermal motion of things, whether those things are bits of information defined on a holographic screen or the projected images of particles that appear to move around in space). Forms typically become organized or disorganized at constant temperature. Physicists call the organization or disorganization of form a phase transition (symmetry breaking), but these organization (formation) and disorganization (un-formation) processes not only apply to physical forms but also to life-forms.

Fundamentally, the balance between the organization and disorganization of form is the balance between potential and kinetic energy. Thermal energy (heat) is only random kinetic energy. Potential energy is the energy of alignment (whether we understand that alignment as the alignment of bits of information on a holographic screen or the binding of particles that appear to move around in space). When potential energy is favored in the balance, organization of information into form develops (the development of coherence arising from the alignment of information and resulting in a local decrease in entropy). When random kinetic energy is favored in the balance, the disorganization of form occurs (with a loss of coherence and a local increase in entropy). For example, recall the snowball that melts into a puddle of water as heat flows into the snowball.

A key aspect of the second law of thermodynamics is entropy tends to globally increase, even when there is a local decrease in entropy (as occurs with the organization of a form). This means that as the form develops, the total entropy of the universe must increase. For a physical form (like the freezing of water into ice), this occurs as heat is radiated away from the form into the cooler environment.

For a physical form, the only way organization into form can occur is to change the balance between potential and kinetic energy by decreasing the amount of random thermal energy in the form (the radiation of heat away from the form). Life-forms are different than physical forms, in that a life-form not only can radiate away heat, but can also add potential energy to itself. The balance between potential and kinetic energy is altered either as heat is radiated away or as potential energy is added to the life-form. We call the process of adding potential energy to the life-form the process of eating. The organization of the life-form is critically dependent on eating (adding potential energy), but even this process cannot violate the second law of thermodynamics and the relentless increase in (global) entropy forever. Every life-form must eventually become disordered due to this relentless increase in entropy.

The nature of life does not really violate the second law of thermodynamics. In contrast to apparently static forms of information, life-forms are constantly changing and undergo continuous cycles of birth, development, self-replication, death and reproduction. There really is no such thing as a static form of information. Even very stable forms that appear unchanged over long periods of time undergo continuous microscopic changes and are subject to the second law as entropy increases and the form is eventually disorganized. Even apparently stable life-forms (that have repair mechanisms inside them that repair the damage created as they become more disordered) eventually become disorganized as the repair mechanisms break down. An infinite number of repair mechanisms would be needed to avoid eventual disorganization, which is impossible. Nothing lasts forever.

How does an ecosystem of life-forms maintain an apparent stability over long periods of time even as individual life-forms go through their cycles of birth, development, death and reproduction? The answer is cycles of birth, death and rebirth are energized by the flow of energy through them and takes advantage of the second law of thermodynamics. These are cycles of constant creation and destruction, building up and then tearing down and rebuilding the structure of the ecosystem so that it has an appearance of stability. These cycles of construction, deconstruction and reconstruction are like a great cyclical machine that operates at a microscopic level, but a machine with cycles that must be energized by the flow of energy so that they can continue to operate in a seamless way.

Where does this flow of energy come from? The answer always comes back to the second law as heat flows in a thermal gradient. The most important example of this phenomena for planet earth is the sun. Heat flows from the hot surface of the sun to the cooler surface of planet earth, energizes cycles of creation and destruction inherent in planet earth ecosystems, and is then radiated into the colder night sky. The heat that arrives to the earth from the sun is in the form of photons of electromagnetic radiation. These photons arise from nuclear fusion reactions occurring deep in the sun’s very hot core as atomic nuclei bind together (under the influence of the attractive strong nuclear force), heat is released and is radiated to planet earth.

In planet earth ecosystems, radiated photons energize cycles of photosynthesis, as simpler molecules like carbon dioxide are bonded together into more complex molecules like carbohydrates. This occurs as carbon atoms bind together under the influence of the electromagnetic force. In the process of photosynthesis, higher energy photons are converted into lower energy photons and some of this energy is stored in the biological molecules. This requires the input of photon energy, since a biological molecule is held in a meta-stable state, which is like a higher potential valley.

Biological molecules can burn as the higher potential energy meta-stable state transitions into a lower potential energy more stable state. As the biological molecule burns, heat or kinetic energy is released, which can energize the performance of work. In the process of burning, the ecosystem is torn down, and in the process of performing work, the ecosystem is built back up. These processes can occur simultaneously, and so the ecosystem can have the appearance of stability.

The net result of these processes is higher energy photons are radiated away from the hot surface of the sun, energize cyclical processes in planet earth ecosystems, and lower energy photons are radiated into the cold night sky. These processes do not violate the second law of thermodynamics because the overall flow of heat is from a hotter body to a colder body. This flow of heat in a thermal gradient is how planet earth ecosystem cycles of creation and destruction are energized.

Why does entropy increase as heat flows in this thermal gradient? The answer is the conservation and quantization of energy. The same total amount of energy arrives to the earth from the sun as is eventually radiated back into the sky, but since the energy of each photon is quantized in terms of its frequency as E=hf, and the frequency of the radiated photons is less than the frequency of the photons that arrive from the sun, more photons are eventually radiated into the sky than arrive from the sun. Since these dispersed photons are radiated in random directions (and there are more of them), the total amount of disorder (entropy) tends to increase through this dispersion of energy process.

Second Law of Thermodynamics image from Penrose

What is the ultimate source of this flow of energy? The answer is dark energy (the expansion of space) and the instability in the amount of dark energy. With the expenditure of dark energy, space appears to expand relative to the central point of view of an observer, which gives rise to a cosmic horizon that acts as a holographic screen that encodes information for (and defines everything in) the observer’s world. Due to the instability in the amount of dark energy, the cosmic horizon inflates in size and cools in temperature, which gives rise to the thermal gradient that drives the normal flow of energy through the observer’s world.

Eventually, the flow of energy through the observer’s world must come to an end when all the dark energy is used up. Eventually, the observer’s cosmic horizon must inflate in size to infinity and cool in temperature to absolute zero. Since the observer’s horizon acts as a holographic screen that encodes bits of information, the entropy of the observer’s world must relentlessly increase. Every life-form must eventually become disordered due to this relentless increase in entropy.

All that really happens in a holographic world is bits of information tend to become organized into the form of life-forms encoded on a holographic screen, but eventually (due to the relentless increase in entropy or disorder in that world) these forms must become disorganized. Coherent organization not only describes the way the bits of information are organized into the form of life-forms, but also the flow of energy through the life-form that allows for the self-replication of the life-form.

What really happens to the observer as its life-form appears to be born, develop, survive and eventually dies? Is it possible the observer does not exist before its life-form appears to be born and stops existing after the life-form appears to die?

The simple answer is no.

Spooky Action at a Distance

Nothing can ever really happen to the observer. The observer is only a focal point of consciousness that exists in relation to a holographic screen upon which all the images of the observer’s world appear. The observer always exists (and is always present) as a focal point of consciousness as long as it observes the images of things in its world (as those things appear when images are projected from its holographic screen to its central point of view). Only when the observer’s world disappears (and the observer is no longer present for its world) does the existence of the observer undergo a transformation. The observer no longer exists as a focal point of consciousness, but dissolves back into the empty space of potentiality within which both the focal point and the screen arise.

We’ve finally reached the point where (in a scientific way) we can discuss the true nature of existence. The true nature of existence is the undifferentiated consciousness of the void. The undifferentiated consciousness of the void is often referred to as Brahmanic consciousness, or more simply as Brahman. In scientific terms, we can refer to the void as an empty space of potentiality, but with the understanding that this potentiality is what we mean by undifferentiated consciousness. This is the potentiality to create a world (as encoded on a holographic screen) and the potentiality to observe that world (from the central point of view of the observer that arises in relation to the screen). The focal point of consciousness of the observer is often referred to as Atmanic consciousness or simply Atman. Atmanic consciousness is individual consciousness (an observer observing its own world), which is differentiated from undifferentiated Brahmanic consciousness.

Atman-Brahman

Nisargadatta Maharaj identifies the observer (Atman) as a focal point of consciousness:

Nothing perceivable is real.

Only the onlooker is real, call him Self or Atman.

That which makes you think that you are a human is not human.

It is a dimensionless point of consciousness, a conscious nothing.

All you can say about yourself is ‘I am’.

Whatever happens, I remain.

At the root of my being is pure awareness, a speck of intense light.

This speck, by its nature, radiates and creates pictures in space and events in time, effortlessly and spontaneously.

Nisargadatta also describes the true nature of being as the potentiality of the void (pure awareness), and that the world only appears like images reflected from a surface to the central point of view of an observer:

In pure being consciousness arises.

In consciousness the world appears and disappears.

Consciousness is on contact, a reflection against a surface, a state of duality.

The center is a point of void and the witness a point of pure awareness; they know themselves to be as nothing.

But the void is full to the brim.

It is the eternal potential as consciousness is the eternal actual.

Nisargadatta describes the undifferentiated consciousness (awareness) of the void:

Awareness is beyond all.

Awareness is primordial; it is the original state.

Awareness is undivided-aware of itself.

Not only is the individual Atmanic consciousness of the observer differentiated from the undifferentiated Brahmanic consciousness of the void, but the observer’s holographic screen also arises from the void as a result of this differentiation process. Fundamentally, this differentiation process is the expression of dark energy, which we scientifically understand as the exponential expansion of space. It helps to give a brief review of this differentiation process as it goes forward (toward differentiation) and as it reverses itself (toward undifferentiation).

In the beginning (so to speak) only the void exists. We understand the void as an empty space of potentiality, which is undifferentiated consciousness. For some unknown reason, dark energy is expressed and space begins to expand. Maybe this is the primordial desire to experience the somethingness of a world rather than the nothingness of the void, or the void expresses it power (with the expansion of space) because it can, or because it feels good to express its power in this way. Whatever the reason, the expression of dark energy is the fundamental differentiation process that differentiates the individual Atmanic consciousness of the observer from the undifferentiated Brahmanic consciousness of the void, and in the process creates the observer’s world (as images of things in that world are projected from the observer’s holographic screen to the observer’s central point of view).

The expansion of space always occurs relative to the central point of view of an observer. With the exponential expansion of space, a cosmic horizon arises that surrounds the observer and limits the observer’s observations of things in space. The observer’s consciousness is always present at the central focal point of its own cosmic horizon. The observer’s cosmic horizon acts as a holographic screen that projects the images of things in the observer’s world to the observer’s central point of view. Just as the expression of dark energy (and the expansion of space) differentiates the individual consciousness of the observer from the undifferentiated consciousness of the void, the expression of dark energy also gives rise to the observer’s holographic screen that projects all the images of things in the observer’s world, and in the process creates the observer’s world.

The individual consciousness of the observer is always present at the central focal point of its own cosmic horizon (that acts as a holographic screen). Just like the central point of singularity of a black hole horizon, this central focal point of the observer’s consciousness is also a point of singularity, localized at the central point of view of the observer’s cosmic horizon. The expansion of space always expands relative to this central focal point of singularity. We understand that at the time of the creation of the observer’s world (the big bang event), that space only had expanded to the size of the Planck length, but due to an instability in the amount of dark energy, the observer’s world relentlessly inflates in size, until no more dark energy is left, and space expands in size to infinity.

This expansion of space (the expression of dark energy and its instability) drives the normal flow of energy through the observer’s world (which we understand in the sense of the thermodynamic flow of energy as the observer’s cosmic horizon inflates in size and cools in temperature). Expansion of space is the nature of the process that differentiates the individual consciousness of the observer from the undifferentiated consciousness of the void and creates the observer’s world.

The reverse process leads back toward undifferentiation. The reverse process occurs as the expression of dark energy comes to an end. Due to an instability in the amount of dark energy, the expression of dark energy must eventually come to an end, which is like a phase transition from a false (meta-stable) vacuum state to a true (stable) vacuum state. As this happens, the observer’s cosmic horizon (its holographic screen defining all thing in the observer’s world) inflates in size to infinity and cools in temperature to absolute zero (the heat death of the observer’s world). At this point, the observer no longer has a holographic screen (defining everything in its world) and the observer’s world disappears.

The big question is what happens to the observer when its world disappears? When dark energy is expended and the observer’s world appears, the observer is always present for its world at the central point of view or singularity of that world. When dark energy is no longer expended and the observer’s world disappears, the observer is no longer present for its world. What happens to the observer?

The only possible answer is the differentiated consciousness of the observer returns to the undifferentiated consciousness of the void. This return to an undifferentiated state of existence is call dissolution. The differentiated consciousness of the observer dissolves back into the undifferentiated consciousness of the void, much like a drop of water dissolves into the ocean. This undifferentiated state of existence (dissolution) is described by all truth-realized beings that have undergone the experience.

Nisargadatta describes that beyond the focal point of consciousness of the observer is the ocean of pure awareness (the undifferentiated consciousness of the void):

First we must know ourselves as witnesses only, dimensionless and timeless centers of observation, and then realize that immense ocean of pure awareness, which is both mind and matter and beyond both.

Osho describes dissolution into this empty space:

The inner emptiness itself is the mystery.

When the inner space is there, you are not.

When you dissolve, the inner emptiness is there.

When you are not, the mystery will be revealed.

You will not be a witness to the mystery, you will be the mystery.

Jed McKenna describes the nature of truth:

The truth of the situation is that eventually, there’s nothing.

Infinity. Eternity. The void.

Time and space come and go but what’s true is true and all the rest is but a dream.

Truth is one, is non-dual, is infinite, is one-without-other.

Truth is dissolution, no-self, unity.

You are true or you’re a lie, as in ego-bound, as in dual, as in asleep.

Truth-realized beings also tell us that this state of dissolving back into the void occurs through a process of free fall. This is described as the observer freely falling into the void. Remarkably, science explains this ultimate state of free fall. The observer’s world only appears (and the observer is only present for its world) because the observer is in an accelerated frame of reference. Whether we speak of the force of gravity or the force of dark energy, we are speaking about an observer in an accelerated frame of reference that appears to follow an accelerated world-line through the space-time geometry of that reference frame (as projected from the observer’s screen).

The observer’s holographic screen is an event horizon that only arises because the observer is in an accelerated frame of reference. An accelerated frame of reference requires the expenditure of energy, just like a rocket ship that expends energy through the force of its thrusters as it accelerates through space. The observer’s world is only created (and appears) because dark energy is expended, which gives rise to the observer’s cosmic horizon (that acts as a holographic screen). When energy is no longer expended, the observer no longer has a horizon, and its world must disappear.

When energy is no longer expended, the observer is no longer in an accelerated frame of reference, which is called a freely falling frame of reference. In an ultimate freely falling frame of reference, the observer’s world disappears, and the observer is no longer present for its world. This is how truth-realized beings describe the experience of falling (dissolving) into the void.

It is only the observer’s focal point of consciousness (arising in relation to a holographic screen on which all images of the observer’s world are encoded) that can enter into an ultimate freely falling frame of reference and dissolves back in the undifferentiated consciousness of the void. This focal point of consciousness can only be differentiated from undifferentiated consciousness when dark energy is expended (the observer is present for its world whenever its world appears), but must return to its primordial state of undifferentiated consciousness when dark energy is no longer expended (the observer is not present for its world when its world disappears). When energy is expended, the observer exists as the point of singularity at the center of its world, but when energy is no longer expended, only the undifferentiated consciousness of the void exists.

Osho describes this ultimate state of freely falling and dissolving into the void:

You fall into an abyss, and the abyss is bottomless: you go on falling.

That is why Buddha has called this nothingness emptiness.

There is no end to it. Once you know it, you also have become endless.

At this point Being is revealed: then you know who you are, what is your real being, what is your authentic existence.

That Being is void.

Nisargadatta describes this experience as the path or return:

For the path of return naughting oneself is necessary.

My stand I take where nothing is.

To the mind it is all darkness and silence.

It is deep and dark, mystery beyond mystery.

It is, while all else merely happens.

It is like a bottomless well, whatever falls into it disappears.

The undifferentiated consciousness of the void is the primordial nature of existence and the true nature of one’s underlying reality. This nothingness is what remains when everything else (in one’s world) disappears from existence.

The undifferentiated consciousness of the void creates the universe. In its primordial formless form, Consciousness is undifferentiated, which is both the potentiality to create a world (as observable images of things are projected from a holographic screen) and the potentiality to perceive that world (from the singularity or the central point of view of the observer of that world). The observer’s world is always limited by a cosmic horizon that arises with the expenditure of dark energy (the expansion of space that expands relative to the central point of view of an observer), and so that world is observer-dependent.

We could call Consciousness in its primordial formless form God, but the term God (as conventionally used) implies an individual personality, while the term Brahman is much better, as it implies undifferentiated, impersonal Being (the idea of Unity or One Being, which includes the nature of all being). The only sensible way to discuss individual being (as differentiated from One Being) is as a focal point of perception that is differentiated from the all-encompassing empty space of potentiality whenever a holographic screen arises in that empty space (with the expenditure of dark energy and the expansion of space). This is the concept of Atman. If that focal point of perception does not identify itself with its character in its world, we call it Atman. If it does identify itself with its character, we call it a person. This is the basic non-dual (Advaita) concept of Shankara.

Shankara summarizes the true nature of reality in a few succinct non-dual concepts:

That which permeates all, which nothing transcends and which, like the universal space around us, fills everything completely from within and without, that Supreme non-dual Brahman−That thou art.

Brahman is the only truth, the world is illusion, and there is ultimately no difference between Brahman and Atman.

Jed McKenna also succinctly summarizes these non-dual concepts:

The you that you think of as you is not you.

The you that thinks of you as you is not you.

It’s just the character the underlying truth of you is dreaming into brief existence.

Enlightenment isn’t in the character, it’s in the underlying truth.

The direct experience the true nature of one’s underlying reality is called truth-realization. This experience is also called awakening, liberation or enlightenment. The term awakening (in the sense of the Buddha) is used because the experience is analogous to awakening from a dream. When one awakens from one’s dream, the dream reality disappears, and only the true nature of one’s underlying reality remains. This true reality is the true nature of what one is (one’s true existence), while the dream reality is like a virtual reality that one only perceives, like a movie that one is watching on a screen.

Nisargadatta describes the screen as a distant horizon:

I am like a cinema screen-clear and empty.

The pictures pass over it and disappear, leaving it as clear and empty as before.

All this I perceive quite clearly, but I am not in it.

I feel myself as floating over it, aloof and detached.

There is also the awareness of it all and a sense of immense distance as if the body and the mind and all that happens to them were somewhere far out on the horizon.

To myself I am neither perceivable nor conceivable.

There is nothing I can point out and say “this I am”.

The term liberation (in the sense of Plato and the Allegory of the Cave) is used, since when one takes one’s dream world to be the only reality and one identifies oneself with one’s character in the dream, one is a prisoner. One’s self-identification with one’s character in the dream is a state of bondage. The term liberation or freedom is used when one no longer identifies oneself with one’s character in the dream, but knows the true nature of one’s underlying reality or existence.

Plato’s Cave

The Bhagavad-Gita clearly makes this distinction between the unreality of one’s world (like a dream-state or a virtual reality) and the true nature of one’s underlying reality. The critical difference is that animated images of one’s virtual reality (as projected from a screen) only have brief apparent existence, while the underlying reality of consciousness has timeless existence (the sense of being present), which one can experience for oneself:

The unreal has no being

The real never ceases to be

Nisargadatta describes this timeless state of being:

The Supreme state neither comes nor goes. It is.

It is a timeless state, ever present.

I am timeless being.

Before the mind happens, I am.

Before all beginnings, after all endings, I am.

All has its being in the ‘I am’ that shines in every living being.

Nisargadatta describes the great illusion (of the world) as the totality of all mental projections (the consensual reality of projections from all the overlapping holographic screens that share information, with each observer at the center of its own screen, and with each screen arising in the void):

The totality of all mental projections is the Great Illusion.

When I look beyond the mind I see the witness.

Beyond the witness is infinite emptiness and silence.

Osho describes awakening as the direct experience of this empty space of potentiality:

We call Buddha the awakened one.

This awakening is really the cessation of inner dreaming.

When there is no dreaming you become pure space.

This non-dreaming consciousness is what is known as enlightenment.

Nisargadatta says the same thing about awakening:

The dreamer is one.

I am beyond all dreams.

I am the light in which all dreams appear and disappear.

Osho describes the illusion of everything in a world as the unreality of a dream:

Only that which cannot be taken away by death is real.

Everything else is unreal.

It is made of the same stuff dreams are made of.

The term enlightenment (as in the “light of consciousness”) is used when one has the direct experience of one’s true nature. As long as one is present for one’s world, that true nature is experienced as a focal point of consciousness (the singularity) at the center of one’s world. Since that focal point of consciousness is experienced as the “light of consciousness” that illuminates one’s world (analogous to how the light of a projector illuminates the images of a movie displayed on a screen or the light of a laser illuminates the images of a hologram), the direct experience of this “light” is called enlightenment.

Singularity-Light of Consciousness

Nisargadatta describes how all images of the observer’s world are projected from a screen to the observer’s central point of view (in this reflected light of consciousness):

Once you realize that there is nothing in this world which you can call your own you look at it from the outside as you look at a play on the stage or a picture on the screen.

To know the picture as the play of light on the screen gives freedom from the idea that the picture is real.

In reality I only look.

Whatever is done is done on the stage.

Joy and sorrow, life and death, they are real to the man in bondage

To me they are all in the show, as unreal as the show itself.

This experience of oneself (as a focal point of consciousness arising in relation to a screen that projects all images of things in one’s world) is also called ascension. One ascends to a higher level of consciousness as one knows oneself to be this focal point of consciousness that is outside the screen (and outside one’s world). With ascension, one has the experience of looking down on everything in one’s world from a higher level, like a spectator in an audience that only watches the animated images of a movie on a screen.

Nisargadatta describes the ascension of consciousness:

Awareness comes as if from a higher dimension.

The witness that stands aloof-is the watchtower of the real-the point at which awareness, inherent in the unmanifested, contacts the manifested.

Osho describes ascension as a state of non-interference:

Witnessing is not an interference.

You go beyond; you become a watcher on the hill.

You are just an onlooker.

Things go on, but they don’t belong to you.

It is as if they are happening in a dream, or in a film on the screen.

You are not interfering.

You are not within the drama-you have come out.

Now you are not an actor, you have become a spectator.

You are just a witness.

McKenna gives an overview of the awakening process that culminates in truth-realization (dissolution into the underlying reality of undifferentiated consciousness) and is followed by ascension (observing one’s world from a higher point of view outside one’s world):

Before enlightenment I believed my ego was me, then enlightenment comes along and no more ego, only the underlying reality.

Now it’s after enlightenment and this ego might be slightly uncomfortable or ill-fitting at times, but it’s all I’ve got.

The idea that your ego is destroyed in the process of becoming enlightened is roughly correct, but it’s not complete.

Before enlightenment, you’re a human being in the world, just like everyone you see.

During enlightenment you realize the human being you thought you were is just a character in a play, and that the world you thought you were in is just a stage, so you go through a process of radical deconstruction of your character to see what’s left when it’s gone.

The result isn’t enlightened-self or true-self, it’s no-self.

When it’s all over it’s time to be a human being in the world again, and that means slipping back into costume and getting back on stage.

Now you’re actually in the audience, watching the drama.

I could never mistake the play for reality again, or my character for my true state.

McKenna describes living a life in the world (the dream of self-identification which disappears during awakening) is like a delusional disorder (identifying oneself with one’s character while watching a movie on a screen). With ascension, one only watches the movie from the audience (one’s point of view outside the screen):

The enlightened view life as a dream.

You wake up and the dream is gone as if it never was.

All the characters and events that seemed so real have simply vanished.

The enlightened may walk and talk in the dream world, but they don’t mistake the dream for reality.

Members of movie audiences don’t leap out of their seats to save characters in the film.

If they did, they would be hauled off to the nearest mental health facility and treated for a delusional disorder.

Extending this argument further, we can identify the “light” experienced in enlightenment as the “light of consciousness” emanating from the observer’s central point of view. This “light” is reflected off the observer’s holographic screen, projecting all images of things in the observer’s world, like the light of a laser projects the images of a hologram. In psychological terms, the light of consciousness is the observer’s focus of attention. When the observer’s focus of attention becomes emotionally biased, the “light of consciousness” is focused in an emotionally biased way, which results in the expression of biased emotions. It is only this emotional bias in the way the “light of consciousness” is focused that allows for the expression of biased emotional energy in the observer’s world.

In the same sense that the observer’s own “light of consciousness” is the observer’s focus of attention, the observer is a focal point of consciousness that arises in relation to a holographic screen. This tells us that both the observer’s point of view and its holographic screen arise in an empty space of potentiality called the void.

In the sense of Unity (non-duality), the potentiality of the void (the potentiality to create an observer’s world as projected from a holographic screen and the potentiality to observe that world from the observer’s central point of view) is understood to be undifferentiated consciousness.

When one is no longer present for one’s world (and one’s world disappears) the true primordial nature of one’s existence (one’s true underlying reality) is experienced (in a state of dissolution) as the undifferentiated consciousness of the void.

This experience of one’s true underlying reality is called truth-realization. As Shankara makes clear, the undifferentiated consciousness of the void (Brahman) is the only truth. In other non-dual traditions (such as Zen or the Tao), the undifferentiated consciousness of the void is called no-self. The only way to solve the riddle of self is with a non-dual classification scheme: self-identification of consciousness with character is lower self (the person), ascension of consciousness is higher self (Atman), and dissolution into undifferentiated consciousness is no-self (Brahman).

Chuang Tzu describes the nature of truth as no-self:

The man of Tao remains unknown

Perfect virtue produces nothing

No-self is true-self

And the greatest man is Nobody

As McKenna points out: “the end of illusion is the end of you”. Self-identification of consciousness with character is an illusion (that can only arise from the illusion of control).

McKenna describes self-identification as a state of ignorance:

Ignorance isn’t an aspect of self; it’s the essence of self.

It’s not nothing where there should be something.

It’s the delicate weaving of something from nothing.

That nothingness woven into somethingness is what you call reality.

The part you call you is ego.

Nisargadatta describes that the observer mistakenly identifies itself with its character:

You are the source of reality-a dimensionless center of perception that imparts reality to whatever it perceives-a pure witness that watches what is going on and remains unaffected.

It is only imagination and self-identification with the imagined that encloses and converts the inner watcher into a person.

The person is merely the result of a misunderstanding.

In reality there is no such thing.

Feelings, thoughts and actions race before the watcher in endless succession.

In reality there is no person, only the watcher identifying itself.

Nisargadatta describes self-identification as a form of bondage:

Self-identifications are patently false and the cause of bondage.

Your attachment is your bondage.

Liberation is never of the person, it is always from the person.

Nisargadatta describes the vicious circle of self-identification:

Abandon all self-identifications. It is a vicious circle.

Only Self-realization can break it.

Nisargadatta describes that only emotional attachments can create problems:

There is trouble only when you cling to something.

It is your desire to hold onto it that creates the problem. Let go.

When you hold onto nothing, no trouble arises.

As long as there is the sense of identity with the body, frustration is inevitable.

It is because of your illusion that you are the doer.

McKenna describes that all attachments to the dreamstate are emotional:

All attachments to the dreamstate are made of energy.

That energy is called emotion.

All emotions, positive and negative, are attachments.

McKenna also describes that awakening (from the dream of self-identification) is the detachment process:

The process of awakening looks like it’s about destroying ego, but that’s not really accurate.

You never completely rid yourself of ego-the false self-as long as you’re alive, and it’s not important that you do.

What matters is the emotional tethers that anchor us to the dreamstate; that hold us in place and make us feel that we’re a part of something real.

We send out energetic tendrils from the nexus of ego like roots to attach ourselves to the dreamstate, and to detach from it we must sever them.

In this sense, freeing ourselves from attachment is indeed the process of awakening, but such attachments aren’t what we have, they’re what we are.

Nisargadatta also describes the nature of freedom as a state of detachment:

Freedom means letting go.

Spiritual maturity lies in the readiness to let go of everything.

Discrimination will lead to detachment.

You gain nothing.

You leave behind what is not your own and find what you have never lost:

Your own being.

Nisargadatta describes awakening as a giving up (letting go) process:

Give up all and you gain all.

Then life becomes what it was meant to be:

Pure radiation from an inexhaustible source.

In that light the world appears dimly like a dream.

McKenna states the “price of truth is everything”. In the journey of awakening, every step is a loss. Everything is ultimately lost and nothing is gained:

With every step we leave behind that which we move beyond.

Every step is a loss and as long as there’s more to lose, there are more steps to take.

Everything is lost. Nothing is gained.

Nisargadatta describes the search for truth as a self-destructive process:

The way to truth lies through the destruction of the false.

To destroy the false you must question your most inveterate beliefs.

Of these the idea that you are the body is the worst.

It is the clinging to the false that makes the truth so difficult to see.

There is a deep contradiction in your attitude which you do not see.

See your world as it is, not as you imagine it to be.

See the person you imagine yourself to be as a part of the world you perceive within your mind and look at the mind from the outside, for you are not the mind.

McKenna says the same thing:

To know the lie is to hate it; to see it is to slay it.

McKenna describes awakening as a process of ego-death and spiritual rebirth:

Battling past the ego to get to the truth has been at the heart of countless spiritual teachings.

Ego-death as a means to no-self is what this journey is all about.

Anyone headed for truth is going to get there over ego’s dead body or not at all.

The caterpillar doesn’t become a butterfly, it enters a death process that becomes the birth process of the butterfly.

One thing ends and another begins.

Nisargadatta describes only the fear of impersonal being prevents awakening:

Go beyond, go back to the source, go to the Self that is the same whatever happens.

See everything as emanating from the light which is the source of your own being.

Find the immutable center where all movement takes birth.

Be the axis at the center-not whirling at the periphery.

Nothing stops you except fear.

You are afraid of impersonal being.

McKenna describes this fear as the fear of non-being:

It is the emotional energy of fear that erects and maintains the egoic shell.

We are madly, desperately, insanely afraid of the truth, and it is that fear that walls us off from our unbounded nature.

Fear of what? Fear of no-self. The nameless, faceless dread of non-being.

Not just fear of death, which anyone can deny or explain away, but fear of nothingness, which no fairytale can fix.

McKenna describes that only fear of nothingness (no-self) prevents awakening:

Humans are emotion-based creatures and all emotions derive their energy from one core emotion; fear.

Fear cannot be confronted or slain because it is fear of nothing, of no-self.

Fear can only be surrendered to; the thing feared, entered.

Beyond the ascension of consciousness, the ultimate experience of “I am not” occurs in a state of dissolution. The observer’s world disappears and the individual consciousness of the observer dissolves back into the undifferentiated consciousness of the void.

How is the experience of truth-realization (dissolution) even possible? As discussed above, the secret of truth-realization has to do with the expenditure of energy. The most important kind of energy for living a life in the world is the expenditure of emotional energy, which is the expression of desire. As we’ve been told over and over again (for example by the Tao-Te-Ching), the only way one can realize the truth (and directly experience the mystery) is if one becomes desireless:

Ever desireless one can see the mystery

Ever desiring one can see the manifestations

These two spring from the same source but differ in name

This appears as darkness

Darkness within darkness

The gate to all mystery

The only way one can pass through this gateless gate is if one becomes desireless:

The great path has no gates

Thousands of roads enter it

When one passes through this gateless gate

One walks the universe alone

Nisargadatta describes that desire underlies the nature of all creation:

The very purpose of creation is the fulfillment of desire.

Things happen by their own nature.

From my point of view everything happens by itself, quite spontaneously.

I do nothing. I just see them happen.

Only the observer’s biased focus of attention on the expression of its own desires can energize the expression of its desires. The withdrawal of the observer’s focus of attention away from the expression of its desires is also a withdrawal of the observer’s investment of emotional energy in its world. The observer’s willingness to give up the expression of its desires requires a shift in the focus of its attention away from the expression of its desires. As the observer shifts the focus of its attention away from the expression of its emotionally biased desires to live a life in its world, in effect it turns away from its world and no longer invests the biased emotional energy that energizes its life in its world. This shift in the observer’s focus of attention (onto itself) is the nature of turning around.

The only other place the observer can focus its attention is on its own sense of being present as a focal point of consciousness (the singularity) at the center of its world. In metaphorical terms, the observer turns around and looks within as it shifts the focus of its attention onto its own sense of being present as a focal point of consciousness.

Nisargadatta describes that the awakening process (as in breaking the hypnotic spell) is only possible if one shifts the focus of one’s attention away from the screen and onto one’s own sense of being present as a focal point of consciousness:

You are and I am only as points in consciousness.

I see only consciousness, and know everything to be but consciousness, as you know the pictures on the cinema screen to be but light.

It is enough to shift attention from the screen onto oneself to break the spell.

Once the observer (the focal point of consciousness) brings itself into focus (and knows itself to be nothing more than a point of consciousness) it brings itself right to the edge of the abyss that separates the existence of its world from the void and the non-existence of its world. The observer brings itself right to the edge of the abyss that separates being present for its world from the disappearance of its world and not being present. At that point, the observer can freely fall into the void and dissolve into undifferentiated consciousness.

References

Raphael Bousso (2002) The Holographic Principle. arXiv:hep-th/0203101

Amanda Gefter (2014) Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn (Random House)

Gerard ‘t Hooft (2000) The Holographic Principle. arXiv:hep-th/0003004

Ted Jacobson (1995) Thermodynamics of Spacetime. arXiv:gr-qc/9504004

J Madore (1999) Non-commutative Geometry for Pedestrians. arXiv:gr-qc/9906059

Nisargadatta Maharaj (1996) The Experience of Nothingness (Blue Dove Press)

Nisargadatta Maharaj (1973) I Am That (Acorn Press)

Jed McKenna (2013) Theory of Everything (Wisefool Press)

Jed McKenna (2002, 2004, 2007) Spiritual Enlightenment Trilogy (Wisefool Press)

Osho (1974) The Book of Secrets (St. Martin’s Griffin)

Roger Penrose (2005) The Road to Reality (Alfred A Knopf)

Lee Smolin (2001) Three Roads to Quantum Gravity (Basic Books)

Leonard Susskind (2008) The Black Hole War (Little, Brown and Company)

Leonard Susskind (1994) The World as a Hologram. arXiv:hep-th/9409089

A. Zee (2003) Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell (Princeton University Press)

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