Holographic Principle and Advaita Vedanta

Black Hole

by Jayaram V

Summary: In this essay the author discusses the Holographic Principle or the idea that the universe is a hologram projected by a black hole and its correlation with the Advaita Vedanta of Hinduism.


You may be familiar with block holes, those super gigantic and awe-inspiring holes or vortexes in the fabric of spacetime, which are so dense that nothing, even light, can escape from their gravitational pull. You might have also seen images of black holes in magazines or science fiction movies. Not many people understand the working of black holes or their implication to our existence. Let me begin with a brief description of what black holes are and what they do.

Black holes

The outer boundary of a black hole beyond which nothing can escape is called the event horizon. The event horizon covers a massive area. It works like a grinder mixer, taking in the objects and crushing them into primal soup, before letting them glide into the depths of the black hole. No one knows what happens after that. Visualize a whirlpool of hot golden molten lava, circling around a deep and round abyss and falling continuously into an unknown void.

Black holes are so powerful that they can gobble entire solar systems, stars and even whole galaxies. No one clearly knows what happens to the matter that falls into the vortex of the black holes. Some believe that black holes are windows into another dimension or universe, and according to some, one may become eternal or immortal by passing through it since time reaches zero or a constant in the event horizon.

Big Bang

The existence of black holes initially gave credibility to the Big Bang theory that some fourteen billion years ago, the universe was just a speck, and due to the intense pressure exerted on the quantum particles in its densest mass by gravitational force resulted in a massive explosion, hurtling stars, galaxies, dust and other objects into various directions. It was like the sudden burst of a super gigantic firecracker, which lit the universe with light and thunder. The explosion was so powerful that the universe (or rather the spacetime) has been expanding continuously since then. It is believed that the outward expansion of the universe will continue for several billion years more, until the initial thrust loses momentum. Then the universe starts falling back and ends up as a big black hole. All the matter becomes condensed again into a tiny speck, and another universe may emerge from it.

However, although scientists initially believed that the expansion of the universe should eventually slow down and reverse at some point, evidence suggests otherwise. According to the recent studies, the rate of expansion has not been slowing down. Rather, it has been accelerating. In the quantum sense, it means that the fabric of spacetime has been stretching further and further, thereby spreading out matter and energy thinner and thinner.

In layman’s terms it means that in billions of years the distances between galaxies and interstellar dust clouds will increase, and the sky will look rather dimmer and darker with fewer visible stars and star systems. Since the spacetime has been accelerating rather than decelerating, the chances of the universe collapsing into a black hole are remote. Hence, it is difficult to predict how and when the universe will end.

Holographic principle

Due to such inconsistencies, scientists now doubt whether the Big Bang explosion ever happened and whether there is any justification for it. The Big Bang theory seems plausible and humanly rational, but then logic is something which the universe seems to defy repeatedly and throw our models and theories about it into disarray. The quantum world, which constitutes the underbelly of the universe, is a different beast, where known laws of physics do not work consistently.

Therefore, to explain some of the anomalies in their existing theories of the universe, astrophysicists came out in recent times with a new theory, based upon their observation and study of black holes and the way they attract objects and consume them. According to it they presume that the universe may be just a three-dimensional projection of a black hole. The information stored in the event horizon of a super sized black hole may be acting as the source from which it is outwardly projected as a matrix or a hologram, giving the impression that it is a universe in itself. The black hole itself may be part of a four-dimensional universe, and the information for the projection may be coming from a giant star that might have fallen into the black hole and crushed into a subatomic primal soup, with all the information about it remaining intact at the subatomic level.

These ideas may sound absurd, but they have a mathematical basis and can be validated with our current knowledge of black holes and their mechanism. The black holes in our universe have only two-dimensional event horizons since our universe is only three dimensional. According to the mathematical models a three dimensional universe can only have a two-dimensional event horizon from which only a two dimensional reality can be projected. Had our universe been four dimensional, the event horizons of the black holes in our universe would have also been three dimensional and they too would have projected universes like our own.

The boundary surrounding a black hole in our universe is two-dimensional, into which objects from our three-dimensional universe are pulled by the force of gravity. Event horizons are presumed to be massive information systems or gigantic data warehouses. They not only draw in the objects but also store information regarding them in a two-dimensional form, before letting them collapse into the vortex of the black hole. To those who find this confusing, the following explanation may be helpful. When objects collapse into a black hole, information about every object becomes stored in the event horizon in a two-dimensional format. If you have the power to tap into that massive data, you can wholly recreate that object in a two-dimensional form.

The process is somewhat similar to how a computer system displays a 3D-image on the screen, from the data that is stored in the computer hard-disk. The comparison may not be entirely correct because the information stored in the computer is partial and does not truly represent the original image. For all practical purposes it is a ghost image. You can only see it, but cannot touch it or smell it because that particular information is not stored in the system. Hence, although you may see the image, it is truly a highly downsized and diluted version, with none of the original material that went into the formation of the object being present.

In case of black holes, the information stored in the event horizon is complete. The original matter, which constituted the object also remains, although it is highly compressed and broken down into subatomic state. Hence, the reality that becomes projected by it is close to the original object, minus one dimension. It contains not only its physical properties but also its subatomic configuration, state and other information. Therefore, when it is projected outwardly, it is exactly the same as the original object, with every minute detail to the quantum level.

The ideas presented in this section may appear farfetched, but they have a theoretical and mathematical basis. With a few exceptions and anomalies, they can be mathematically proved. The theory that the universe is a hologram is now known as the Holographic Principle, and it is widely accepted as plausible. According to some, it may eventually settle the fundamental differences between Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Quantum mechanics. To some extent, it also explains the "information paradox" or the question of what happens to the information pertaining to the matter when the matter itself is absorbed and dissolved into a quantum state by a black hole.

Summary

The purpose of our discussion is to correlate these ideas with existing concepts of the Advaita Vedanta. I have presented them so that readers can understand the context and the meaning of the terms so that they can find parallels between the two. Hence, without going further into more complicated aspects of these theories, let us summarize what we have discussed so far.

  1. Somewhere in the fabric of time and space in a four-dimensional universe there is a gigantic black hole, which was formed by the collapse of matter from a four-dimensional universe.
  2. The universe in which we live is probably a matrix or a 3D hologram. It is probably projected from the event horizon of the massive black hole.
  3. The event horizon of that gigantic black hole is three dimensional since the black hole itself exists in a four-dimensional universe and was formed out of it
  4. When objects from the four-dimensional universe collapsed into the black hole, information about them remained in the event horizon in a three-dimensional form.
  5. The event horizon was also an information system which contained massive amounts of information about all the objects which collapsed into it.
  6. Information from the event horizon became projected outwardly creating the illusion of a three-dimensional holographic universe, or simply the universe in which we live.
  7. Thus, the universe in which we live was not produced from the Big Bang but rather from a super black hole that gobbled up massive amounts of data and matter from a four dimensional universe.

In other words, the event horizon of the massive black hole seems to be replaying the events that have already happened in another universe. They are projected from the event horizon into the fabric of our space time.

The theory seems plausible. The only problem is that so far, we have not found any black hole in our own universe, projecting an entire universe or an alternate reality. It they exist, it must be on the other side of the black holes, which we cannot see. However, scientists are able to prove their theoretical possibility through mathematical calculations.

Advaita Vedanta

According to the holographic principle which we have discussed before, the reality  or what we experience as the world or the universe is a gigantic 3D-hologram or matrix. We may consider it not real, because it is a projection, illusion or mirage. The idea that the universe is a projection or massive holograph is stunningly similar to the basic premise of the Advaita Vedanta, according to which the world in which we live is a mere projection or an illusion or the play of Maya. Hence, it suggests that we should not be fooled by the appearance of things. Rather we should perceive the truth behind them and cultivate detachment and sameness.

Advaita Vedanta affirms that the world is an illusion (Maya). Reality is one and only, which is Brahman. He is eternal, indestructible, unchanging, stable, self-existent and without divisions, qualities and attributes. In creation, that reality becomes many or appears as many. It arises from God as a projection or a dream and subsides when he withdraws it. The worlds and beings thus appear in the ocean of God's pure consciousness as rising and falling waves. Although he is real, what emerges from him as a projection or a spider's web is temporary and destructible. Due to our limitations of knowledge and knowing, we cannot grasp the reality of Brahman. We go by our perception and become deluded and bound.

Coincidentally, in Hinduism the Manifested Brahman is described as the Lord of Death (Kala). Technically, a black hole is a symbol of death only. The Lord of Death is also described as a voracious devourer, which is also the case with the black holes. Just as everything here is food to the Lord of Death, everything in the vicinity of a black hole is devoured by it. It is not my intention to suggest that the ancient seers of Hinduism were aware of black holes. Surely, they were not.

Yet, some how, they made some observations about the universe and its creation in religious or philosophical terms which have striking similarities with the modern theories of the quantum universe. It may be that the human mind is modeled on the universe itself and its functioning, whereby in rare moments of Déjà vu we accidentally step into its inner workings and come out with brilliant theories such Einstein's Theory of Relativity or the Heisenberg's quantum theory of indeterminism or the Chaos Theory.

The Advaita Vedanta Philosophy has been in existence for nearly two thousand years. Many writings on the Holographic principle quote Plato, but ignore the Advaita philosophy or Shankara, who was one of the greatest thinkers of the ancient world. Whether they admit or not, ancient Indians believed that the world was an illusion or a projection, an idea that finds its acceptance and validation in the present day quantum physics.

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