Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Theology, Philosophy, and Physics explain the world we live in in The Black Book by Ivomir

Nobody ever sees anything. Nobody every hears anything. Nobody ever tastes anything. Nobody ever smells anything. The material world as we know it doesn't exist. Merely, it is a hologram created in our mind. Yes, you heard right. I am not touching or seeing my laptop while I am writing this. I am not seeing the words on the screen. I am merely in touch with the computer's energy field. You can shape the world any way you want it because this world exists only in your mind.

Basing his research on philosophy, theology, and physics, Ivomir carefully proves that all of our senses are biased. Quantum theory itself states that electrons have both wave-like and particle-like characteristics and they behave as particles only when we observe them. The common idea that we see the world because it exists turns to the world exists because we look at it. In fact electrical signals are sent to our eyes, nose, ears, fingers. These signals then interact with the mind to produce images, smells, sounds, and feelings. According to this theory, one is perfectly capable of controlling his world, because it only exists in his/her mind. As Salman Rushdie himself said it: "Memory has its own special kind. It selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes, glorifies, and vilifies also; but in the end it creates its own reality, its heterogenous but usually coherent version of events; and no same human being ever trusts someone else's version more than his own." In other words, I can't complain the world is like this; the world is like this because I myself created it in my mind.

One of the questions that has tormented human kind for centuries is where we came from. Stephen Hawking, the brilliant scientist and Cambridge professor gives a plausible answer in A Brief History of Time, a book I highly recommend. Similarly, Ivomir draws on physics and religion to explain our existence. The author places cogitality at the center of the world (rather than logic). According to the laws of physics (and most specifically quantum physics) even in vacuum there must be something. Ivomir assumes that at the beginning the vacuum was filled with still cognitive (thinking) particles. Since they were not in motion, time for them was moving with infinite speed and they possessed all the knowledge in the world. Hence, they didn't feel any emotion. Intuitively, since these cognitive particles hadn't felt emotion, they didn't know everything. So they moved. And what is the primary reason to move - to accomplish something. Through this movement energy was released and BOOM (or in other words The Big Bang).

I have got to say, even though it took me a lot of time to grasp the theory, I actually really liked it. My logical mind (which even now refuses the accept that the material world doesn't exist) was extremely satisfied with this explanation. Until God came along. Hawking also incorporates religion and God in his theory but to a rather minimal and acceptable level. Ivomir goes way too far. He draws on physics and philosophy to explain the beginning of the world but at times he gives examples from the Bible. To be honest, I am not sure how the fact that God himself said let there be light proves that we came from cognitive particles that started moving. I was rather annoyed at that point, which in fact ruined my opinion for the rest of the book.

Going back to the idea that the material world doesn't exist, Ivomir comes to the conclusion that our physical body doesn't exist either and that we can change it anyway we want. Philosophically, I embraced that idea and I prepared myself for something very good to come. Indeed it did. Fortunetellers. People who don't eat for more than 30 years and don't die. Psychics who help solve crimes or see that your heart is bad. Moreover, psychics who tell you to be gentle to your heart and tell IT nice stories so that it feels better. People that see other people's aura (i.e the energy field) and are able to predict their future. Don't get me wrong. I am one for positive thinking and I am one that believes that stress is the cause for all illnesses. However, 1)believing that by talking positively to my heart I am going to cure it and 2) believing in psychics, fortunetellers, etc is simply something I don't do. I would be a perfect victim for Ivomir, who challenges us to let go of the logic, that in his opinion, only obstructs us from seeing the world. However, basing one's theory on such stories merely ruins the good impression from the extensive philosophical and scientific research.

If you manage to disregard God and the psychics (who occupy one good 50% of the novel) you can get some valuable ideas from it. Mostly I was impressed by the theory of negative and positive feelings. When we feel said, depressed, or pessimistic, our brain cells create a very strong connection to these negative thoughts. The more we thing that way, the stronger these links become. Think about it as a habit. It becomes much easier to go to the gym if you have been doing it for a couple of months, than if you started yesterday. In the same way, negative feelings tend to stick and more and more energy is required to break these links and turn them to positive thoughts. In fact, the more we train that, the weaker the negative links will be and the stronger the positive. A rather simple explanation for depression and how easily one falls in the trap of pessimistic thinking.

At some point, Ivomir resembles Jorge Bucay and Andy Andrews, especially when he starts giving advice on how to be happy, nice, and thankful for the little things. By now you should know my great hatred towards the shallow so called self-help books so I was rather annoyed when Ivomir began giving to-do lists on how to change your life for good.

Overall, The Black Book started very promising. Impressive theories, backed up by extensive research, paradoxes explained and proven, and plausible explanations about how and why we came to life. However, the frequent use of God's words, the implausible stories about psychics, fortunetellers, aura-feelers, or crazy people who don't eat or drink for 30 years and are still alive, made Ivomir look more like a fraud rather than like an inspirational writer, who is here to free us from all our logical biases.


  1. The part where you talked about the theory of "negative and positive feelings" and how they can be used to do (or not do) certain things is widely used in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). My best friend has done an extensive training course on NLP and is currently helping me to use it to achieve my goals.

    The problem of why we can not easily just do what we plan is linked to something known as "anchoring" (which is what I think the theory you discussed is about). Anchoring is the feeling, emotion, memory or association we have with the thing we are going to do. For most things, usually we do not know it without a deep study of ourselves, however it is possible to "re-wire" your brain and anchor, for example, relaxing when stressed, to something we understand and know. In my case I squeeze the index finger and thumb of my left hand. I have gone through a process where I associated very happy, relaxed and good feelings with this anchor, so when I get stressed I can anchor myself to those feelings through this simple action.

    If you are interested in this kind of thing, NLP is a very powerful too.

    1. NLP is just pseudo science.

    2. I think that's quite a narrow response. I'm curious, do you believe:

      (a) science currently explains everything in the universe with no room for things that can not YET be proven?
      (b) reading Wikipedia is sufficient to pass judgement on anything
      (b) do you have any experience with NLP at all or are you a scientist?

      Just curious...

  2. I also did a bit of NLP (amateur of course) but I have got to say that with a lot of practice it actually gives results. Thanks for the response, Niki