Fortean Times, February 2004

The phaselock code: Through time, death and reality, the metaphysical adventures of the man who fell off Everest
Roger Hart
Paraview Pocket Books 2003
PB, $14, pp356 ISBN: 0 7434 7725 1

Any work combining the more speculative areas of science with spirituality risks crossing that line between, on the one side, being a genuinely sincere and progressive synthesis of differing philosophies and worldviews; and on the other, being 'The Celestine Prophecy'. It's to Roger Hart's credit that despite such a remit, and a truly off-putting title to his book, he just about manages to pull it off.

Hart is a geophysicist and adventurer with an impressive CV – writer, explorer, research professor, and, at the age of 21, member of the first US attempt to scale Mount Everest. It's with this moderately botched expedition that Hart's autobiographical tale begins, when an lapse of climbing protocol sends him hurtling off an ice cliff, and into some form of out-of-body experience that sparks a lifelong interest with the true nature of reality and consciousness.

Other significant and spooky events follow as Hart lives through the '60s and '70s – during another cockup-prone expedition to Tierra del Fuego; at a showing of 'If...' in New York; at the Woodstock music festival; and in a hash-addled car accident in Morocco. Add in plenty of meaningful dialogues with sundry wise men and particle physicists, infuse with a plethora of fortean events and synchronicities, including a fleeting appearance by a yeti, and you get a heady though not groundbreaking brew of pulp metaphysics.

Hart's conclusion, in a nutshell, is that the underlying reality of the universe (or rather, branching multiverse) is a field of hidden information mediated by waves of quantum potential. What we interpret as everyday reality is made up of a network of such quantum waves which have become phaselocked and act as a single entity, as a collection of photons become phaselocked in a laser. And such a phaselocked system can be affected as a whole by the human brain acting on one small part of it through an act of disassociated concentration.

'The Phaselock Code' is a much more enjoyable read than I was expecting. Hart writes elegantly and honestly for the most part, although his dialogue is often alarmingly clunky when the emphasis is on exposition rather than human interaction. More worryingly, the science is occasionally confused or vague – the brief account of Cepheid variables is particularly poor. It also falls into the trap of silly extended metaphors based on quantum physics rather too often – calling on the dual nature of matter as both wave and particle as an argument for the separation of mind and body just doesn't convince, I'm afraid. But on the whole, it's a stimulating and entertaining read, as much a tale of boy's-own adventure as metaphysical speculation – ripping holiday reading for the fortean traveller.