In the comments thread of the last post, Bruce Siegel made an interesting point. Saying he trusts direct experience over intellectual theorizing, he wrote, "I've yet to hear someone emerge from a deep mystical experience and say: 'Wow. Now I understand! It's all about information!'"
This got me wondering if anyone actually has emerged from a mystical experience talking about information as the essence of reality. Google searches for "pure information" (bracketed by quotes) in conjunction with terms like "mystical insight" and "near-death experience" supplied a few possible examples, though none of them is a slam-dunk case.
First, an account found on NDERF, a database of NDEs:
White light is what I remember and the simplest way I can explain the moment is to say, "I saw God." This is what I ultimately came to understand as a mystical experience but at the time, I had never heard of such a thing. This is what Siddhartha Gautama, Jesus Christ, Meher Baba and many others were talking about. This is what Meister Eckhart wrote about only I didn’t know about Eckhart at the time. It is what I have referred to as a non-experiential experience and there is nothing to be remembered. The moment is eternally now and memory serves no function. I am, however, left with impressions. I sense that in some way I was exposed to pure information at a rate that far overloads the capacity of any physical entity. It was all that is all at once and it is Love.
Here the reference to "pure information" is a bit ambiguous. Does he mean that he felt immersed in a sea of information, or does he simply mean that a lot of ideas were conveyed to him very rapidly or even instantaneously?
In an interview, Eben Alexander, author of Proof of Heaven, discusses the ideas that he was led to by his NDE:
At the core, it’s all One and at the deepest Core it’s all divine — all One with God. Even the materialists — the scientists, cosmologists, those who do string theory and quantum gravity; they’re all basically converging to say that pure information is the core of all that exists. Everything we see as space, time, mass, energy … can be essentialized into vibrating strings of energy and higher dimensional space-time. And at the very deepest level, everything is entangled into one. Sir James Jeans said long ago, “The Universe begins to look much more like a great thought than a great machine.” That’s a crucial understanding of what this all really is. And if you’re able to go far enough, it all is around that Consciousness — that One is divine, that this whole material world is a very cleverly wrought illusion, that time and space are all illusion. You have to know that Consciousness is not this epiphenomenon of the brain, but is, in fact, a far richer thing that completely precedes and is outside of (and supporting) all of the material realm and this apparent reality.
This is a more explicit statement about pure information as "the core of all that exists." Of course, it could be objected that Alexander came to this viewpoint as a result of intellectual study after having his NDE, rather than from the NDE directly.
Next, we have a passage from an unlikely source - a book by Mark Singer called Grant Morrison: Combining the Worlds of Contemporary Comics. It's about a comic book artist with a unique vision. Singer writes,
His comics dramatize his beliefs in magic and occultism, share his stories of divine revelations and near-death experiences, and articulate a quasi-Gnostic cosmology that maintains the physical universe is a construct suspended in a higher-dimensional space of living information ...
The incident that reshaped his world-view and inspired many of his comics transpired in 1994 on a hotel roof garden in Kathmandu, Nepal. As he tells it, he was visited by silvery blobs who took him outside of spacetime and into a medium of pure information, where they explained the structure of the universe to him ... He not only insists that the encounter happened, he rejects the possibility that it was a hallucination caused by the hashish pellets he had eaten ... Morrison argues that the contact had much more in common with shamanic initiations and alien abduction experiences than with any drug trip, a subject in which he claims some expertise.
Whatever we may think of Morrison's silvery blobs, we do have here an intense subjective experience that apparently left the experiencer convinced that pure information is the matrix out of which the space-time universe arises. The idea was so powerful to him that it became the basis of much of his creative work.
Finally, we have a discussion of experiences reported by people who've used the powerful psychoactive drug ketamine. One person, who took 100 mg of ketamine via intramuscular injection, said he encountered something like ...
a cosmic assembly line that was constantly churning out the alternate universes that some physicists theorise about in which every conceivable possibility becomes an actual reality. I even had brief flashes in which I experienced some of these alternate realities as they sprouted forth out of this cosmic womb ... quick glimpses into what felt like other incarnations, other lives I could have led, darting journeys through seas of pure information.
Naturally, it's always possible to question whether a ketamine-induced experience is anything more than a vivid hallucination. (The same is true of NDEs, but at least in that case, there are sometimes veridical observations to lend weight to the testimony.) But if we take this story seriously, it sounds as if the experiencer was exposed to a realm of "pure information," in which all potentialities were explored simultaneously, much as a quantum entity (photon, electron, etc.) exists as a cloud of potentia plotting all possible trajectories and positions, until interaction with other quantum entities or with an observer causes the wave function to collapse to a single discrete point.
I would bet that more extensive searches, using a wider variety of search terms, would turn up more stories of this kind. But I'd also say that we ought to be careful about taking such accounts at face value. By their nature, these experiences are ineffable; any translation into language is automatically going to limit, redefine, and reshape them. Presumably the expectations and beliefs of the experiencer have a considerable effect on the words chosen to express the inexpressible.
There's also the problem of knowing which revelations to believe. If two experiencers have dramatically different stories to tell, whom do we trust? There's no objective standard by which to discriminate, so we're left to our own judgment, which often means preferring the story that just happens to match our own preconceived assumptions.
Still, I think there is at least some basis for saying that the information-matrix idea receives support from people who've "been there" - people who have had powerful NDEs or vision quests.