The Immortal Mind, by Ervin Laszlo and Anthony Peake, is a briskly paced, logically structured exploration of the issue of postmortem survival that presents some of the best empirical evidence and then ties it in with information theory. Since I'm interested in the idea of an information field as the fundamental substrate of physical reality, I found the latter section of the book particularly interesting.
It's by no means a difficult read. The style is conversational, and even the more complex case studies (such as the cross correspondences) are boiled down to their essentials. For readers of this blog, many — perhaps most — of the specific cases will be familiar, though there were a few that were new to me. One is a case investigated by Erlendur Haraldsson involving the Icelandic medium Indridi Indridason. In a 1905 sitting, the entranced medium began speaking in Danish, though Indridason knew only a few words of that language. The communicator, a "Mr. Jersen," reported that a major fire was underway in a factory in Copenhagen. An hour later he returned to say that the fire was now under control. He described himself as having been a "fabricant" or manufacturer. In a subsequent sitting Jensen
informed the group that his Christian name was Emil, that he was a bachelor with no children, and that he was "not so young" when he died. He added that he had siblings but they were "not here in heaven."
Because communication between Iceland and Denmark was so slow, it took more than a month after the first séance for news from Copenhagen to reach Iceland. The Danish paper Politiken carried a report on a fire at a lamp factory that took place on November 24 and was contained by midnight. This was the same date as the first sitting, and Jensen's update on the fire's status had come in at midnight, Copenhagen time. Haraldsson looked through copies of the same newspaper for the period two weeks before and two weeks after the fire and found none that matched the timing or details of the one reported by Jensen. He then went through the records in the Royal Library in Copenhagen and found an entry for a manufacturer named Emil Jensen, who had lived only two doors down from the factory that caught fire. Jensen had died in 1898 at the age of 50, was indeed a childless bachelor, and his six siblings were in fact alive ("not … in heaven") in 1905.
Other cases of interest are presented also. In general, I found the authors' choices to be quite good, though I would not have included the ITC investigations of Jules and Maggie Harsh-Fischbach, whose work has always seemed dubious to me.
The last third of the book offers a theoretical basis for these empirical anomalies. The authors talk about an underlying plane of pure information that gives rise to the space-time universe. They call this plane the Akasha — a matrix that is "more fundamental than any of the particles that appear in it; the latter are critical points, crystallizations or condensations within it." The Akasha
harbors all the fields and forces, constants, and entities that appear in spacetime. It is not part of physical spacetime; the cosmic matrix is beyond spacetime and prior to it.
Recent discoveries and innovations in physics are cited to provide support for the Akasha:
In the fall of 2012 a discovery was made of a new state of matter, known as the FHQ (fractional quantum Hall) state. This discovery suggests that the particles that compose "matter" in spacetime are excitations of an underlying non-material matrix. According to the concept ..., the entire universe is made up of these excitations [which] appear as waves as well as particles ...
The matrix itself is a string-net liquid in which particles are entangled excitations: "whirlpools." Empty space corresponds to the ground state of this liquid, and excitations above the ground state constitute particles ...
[A] new discovery – the geometrical object called amplituhedron – suggests that spatiotemporal phenomena (the world we observe) are consequences of geometrical relationships in a deeper dimension of the cosmos. Encoded in its volume are the basic measurable features of the universe: the probabilities of the outcome of particle interactions.
The discovery of the amplituhedron permits a great simplification in the calculation of the "scattering amplitudes" in particle interactions. Previously, the number and variety of the particles that result from the collision of two or more particles – the scattering amplitude of that interaction – were calculated by so-called Feynman diagrams … But the number of diagrams required for these calculations is so large that even simple interactions could not be fully calculated …
In the mid-2000's patterns emerged in particle interactions that indicated a coherent geometrical structure. This structure was initially described by what came to be known as the "BCFW recursion relations" … The BCFW diagrams abandon variables such as position and time and substitute for them strange variables – called "twistors" – that are beyond space and time. They suggest that in the non-spacetime domain two fundamental tenets of quantum field physics do not hold: locality and unitarity. This means that particle interactions are not limited to local positions in space and time, and the probabilities of their outcome do not add up to one. The amplituhedron is an elaboration of the geometry of the BCFW twistor diagrams. Thanks to these diagrams, physicists can now calculate the scattering amplitude of particle interactions in reference to an underlying non-spacetime geometrical object.
A multidimensional amplituhedron in the Akasha could enable the computation of the interaction of all quanta, and of all systems constituted of quanta, throughout spacetime. The locality and unitarity that appears in space-time appear as consequences of these interactions.
According to Nima Arkani-Hamed of the Institute for Advanced Study and his former student Jaroslav Trnka, the discovery of the amplituhedron suggests that spacetime, if not entirely illusory, is not fundamental: it is the result of geometrical relationships at a deeper level.
All of this is tied in with the perhaps more familiar idea of the holographic universe – the idea that the physical world is projected out of a nonphysical substrate that has many of the properties of a holographic plate.
But the information field called the Akasha is not simply a geometrical structure, cosmic hologram, or giant database; it is a cosmic consciousness — ultimately the only consciousness there is.
As the authors put it:
The beyond-the-brain consciousness – the consciousness we encountered in our review of near-death experiences, after-death communication, medium-conveyed and instrumental transcommunication, past-life recollections, and experiences suggestive of reincarnation – is not a material entity in the manifest world. It is an intrinsic element in the Akasha, the deep dimension of the cosmos ...
Just as particles and systems of particles in spacetime are projections of codes and relations in the Akashic deep dimension, so the consciousness associated with living organisms is a manifestation – a holographic projection – of the unitary consciousness that does not merely exist in, but actually is, that dimension ...
The deep dimension of the cosmos ... receives information from the manifest dimension, and it "in-forms" the manifest dimension. In the perspective of the manifest world the deep dimension is an information field or medium; it "in-forms" things in the world. But "in itself," this dimension is more than a network of in-forming signals. It is a consciousness in its own right.
This tenet is supported by the experience of our own consciousness. We ... do not observe our consciousness – we experience it. We also do not observe the Akasha (it is a "hidden" dimension), but we experience it: more precisely, we experience its effect on things we can experience: things in the manifest dimension … If we were the cosmos, we could introspect on its deep dimension. Our introspection would very likely reveal what introspection reveals in regard to our own experience: not sets and flows of signals, but the qualitative flow we know as our consciousness. Our cosmic-level introspection would reveal a cosmic consciousness.
This elaboration of the information-field idea in terms of a creative, self-aware consciousness is something I've been thinking about myself. The most common objection to the idea of a plane of pure information is that, as far as we know, information always has to be stored in some medium. So how can it exist independent of any medium, as "pure" data?
But if we say that the storage medium is consciousness – if the information is a vast array of ideas "contained' in a cosmic Mind – then that particular objection seems to go away. Instead of consciousness being an emergent property of the information field (which is how I've tended to think of it), it may be more correct to say that the information field and consciousness are the same thing viewed from two different perspectives, as Laszlo and Peake suggest.
The Immortal Mind is a worthwhile contribution to the growing literature on both the empirical evidence and the theoretical underpinnings of an afterlife. I enjoyed it, and I think you will too.