‘Science against Obscurantism’ – Giacomo Balla, 1920 – WikiArt

To see a World in a Grain of Sand 
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower 
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 
And Eternity in an hour

~ William Blake 


It really was a thrill. The day when David Bohm was announced to come and participate at our staff meeting. This was back in the years when I was working in Brockwood Park, the school founded in England by J. Krishnamurti. Just realise: one of the greatest theoretical physicist of the 20th century, who worked closely with Albert Einstein and had numerous insightful dialogues with Krishnamurti — participating in creating this very school we were in — was here a humble friend amongst us. My poor English at the time was making rather challenging the understanding of this man’s soft, monotonous voice. But the quality of his thinking and analysis, the speed with which he would come up with and express meanings to the questions that were raised during our dialogues, were indeed impressive. Above all, his humble and unassuming demeanour was touching beyond measure. He was truly a gentle man. 

David Joseph Bohm was born in 1917 in Pennsylvania, USA to a Jewish family of Eastern European descendance. His early career around the Second World War started rather spectacularly, since he was asked by Robert Oppenheimer to work with him in the secret laboratory created to design the atom bomb, but was refused access because of his youthful acquaintances with communist ideas. Soon after this, while completing his Ph.D., he made some calculations that proved useful to the very project which he had just been barred from! But because they were now classified, he “was denied access to his own work; not only would he be barred from defending his thesis, he was not even allowed to write his own thesis in the first place!” wrote his biographer F. David Peat.


David Bohm – Wikimedia

Science itself is demanding a new, non-fragmentary world view, in the sense that
the present approach of analysis of the world into independently existent parts
does not work very well in modern physics
~ David Bohm (Wholeness and the Implicate Order, 1980)


For David Bohm, his work and endeavour as a scientist ought to be pursued with creativity, aimed at understanding the nature of reality, but without ever turning away from truth and beauty. He regarded the scientist’s craft and mission highly. In his book ‘On Creativity’, he wrote: “[The scientist] wishes to find in the reality in which he lives a certain oneness and totality, or wholeness, constituting a kind of harmony that is felt to be beautiful. In this respect, the scientist is perhaps not basically different from the artist, the architec, the musical composer, etc., who all want to create this sort of thing in their work.” Early in his career, he worked mainly with quantum mechanics and relativity where his contributions have been valuable. It is very interesting to note that for him, the word ‘theory’ – which comes from a Greek root meaning ‘theatre’, ‘to view’ – doesn’t imply “a form of knowledge of how the world is” but rather “a form of insight, i.e. a way of looking at the world”. This view shows the quality of his mind as a theoretical physicist, but also as a man eager to uncover the more practical truths of living.

David Bohm was amongst the first scientists to take seriously the hypothesis that objective reality, the whole world, is not as solid and separate from the mind as it appears to be, that matter may be made of pure consciousness only. According to Michael Talbot, Bohm believed that “Despite its apparent solidity the universe is at heart a phantasm, a gigantic and splendidly detailed hologram.” It took courage at the time. Swami Abhayananda noted: “The science of physics, for all its denial of the supernatural reality, has done more in the last one hundred years to dispel the notion of the substantiality of the material world than all the theologians throughout history.” This is a truly high responsibility resting on the scientists’ shoulders for they are the ones that are today listened to and trusted, and this is a responsibility that David Bohm has always and naturally valued, assumed and expressed. Bohm also showed courage when in 1949, he refused to testify against his communist acquaintances, was arrested and acquitted a year later. In spite of Einstein backing him up, he was advised by Oppenheimer to leave the country. Being forced to give up his U.S. citizenship, he was exiled and spent years in Brazil, then in Israel where he met his wife Saral — all these years continuing working and making significant discoveries — to finally settle in London as professor of theoretical physics at Birkbeck College in 1961. He could reclaim his US citizenship only decades later, in 1986.


Deep down the consciousness of mankind is one. 
This is a virtual certainty because even in the vacuum matter is one; 
and if we don’t see this, it’s because we are blinding ourselves to it
~ David Bohm (Wikiquote)


Bohm’s scientific artistry has always been connected with a general concern with the state of the world and the health of the human mind. He always thought in terms of the totality and would reject or challenge anything that is not in line with his own experiential understanding, or which would lack logic or precision. These qualities have remained with him and guided his choices all his life.


The notion that all these fragments are separately existent is evidently an illusion, and this illusion cannot do other than lead to endless conflict and confusion. Indeed, the attempt to live according to the notion that the fragments are really separate is, in essence, what has led to the growing series of extremely urgent crises that is confronting us today. Thus, as is now well known, this way of life has brought about pollution, destruction of the balance of nature, over-population, world-wide economic and political disorder and the creation of an overall environment that is neither physically nor mentally healthy for most of the people who live in it.” 
~ David Bohm (Wholeness and the Implicate Order)


What I am proposing here is that man’s general way of thinking of the totality, i.e. his general world view, is crucial for overall order of the human mind itself. If he thinks of the totality as constituted of independent fragments, then that is how his mind will tend to operate, but if he can include everything coherently and harmoniously in an overall whole that is undivided, unbroken, and without a border (for every border is a division or break) then his mind will tend to move in a similar way, and from this will flow an orderly action within the whole.”
~ David Bohm (Wholeness and the Implicate Order)


It is not possible to do justice here to the scientific work of David Bohm, let alone delve into the subtlety and complexity of it. But some aspects of his work have proved of great significance for anyone interested in the spiritual inquiry. The first is his description of the implicate (enfolding) and explicate (unfolded) orders of reality. The explicate order could be likened to everything with a physical, objective appearance, the implicate order being the ‘ground’ from which everything spring from, the whole process being expressed by Bohm as ‘Undivided Wholeness in Flowing Movement’. This representation of reality is of course very similar to the experiential non-dual understanding that ‘everything objective appears in, and is made of consciousness, or awareness itself’. Bohm has always had the vision and intuition that his work had to reflect what was happening inside him. He was truly experiential in his analysis of reality and that made him particularly suitable to any form of spiritual investigation.


I had always had a tendency to say that what I was thinking about in physics should be taking place within me. I felt that there was a parallel between what is in consciousness and what is in matter in general, and I felt movement was also a question, that the movement that you see outside, you feel inside. In general therefore, I felt that we directly apprehended the nature of reality in our own being.” 
~ ‘David Bohm interviewed by Evelyn Blau’ (kfoundation.org)


According to Bohm, the ground of the cosmos is not elementary particles but pure process, a flowing movement of the whole. Within this implicate order, Bohm believed, one could resolve the Cartesian split between mind and matter, or between brain and consciousness.”
~ F. David Peat (Infinite Potential: The Life and Times of David Bohm, 1997)


‘Vortex, space, form’ – Giacomo Balla – WikiArt

The essential feature in quantum interconnectedness
is that the whole universe is enfolded in everything,
and that each thing is enfolded in the whole
~ David Bohm 


Ultimately, the entire Universe (with all its particles, including those constituting human beings, their laboratories, observing instruments, etc.) has to be understood as a single undivided whole, in which analysis into separate and independent existent parts has no fundamental status.” 
~ David Bohm (Wholeness and the Implicate Order, 1980) 


The notion of a separate organism is clearly an abstraction, as is also its boundary. Underlying all this is unbroken wholeness even though our civilization has developed in such a way as to strongly emphasize the separation into parts.” 
~ David Bohm (The Undivided Universe: An Ontological Interpretation of Quantum Theory)


Another of David Bohm’s findings brought him even closer to spiritual inquiry. This is the question of ‘the observer is the observed’, which J. Krishnamurti had stated so many times and in so many ways in his teachings. “In [quantum] theory, for the first time in the development of physics, the notion that these two cannot be separated has been put forth as necessary for the understanding of the fundamental laws of matter in general.” noted David Bohm. In his book ‘Wholeness and the Implicate Order’, he wrote: “Both observer and observed are merging and interpenetrating aspects of one whole reality, which is indivisible and unanalysable.” Aroused by his curiosity, he endeavoured to meet Krishnamurti in 1961, which was the start of a cooperation that took place over a span of nearly 25 years.  David Bohm had many insightful dialogues with Krishnamurti, who loved Bohm’s qualities of scientific incisiveness and relentless truthful inquiry, qualities that were also found in Krishnamurti. These dialogues have been recorded and published in many books. ‘The Ending of Time’ is one of such books and a read of some of the chapters speaks for itself: ‘The Ground of Being, and the Mind of Man’, ‘Death has very Little Meaning’, ‘Cosmic Order’, or ‘The Mind is the Universe’.


I was struck by the great ease of communication with [Krishnamurti], which was made possible by the intense energy with which he listened and by the freedom from self-protective reservations and barriers with which he responded to what I had to say. As a person who works in science I felt completely at home with this sort of response, because it was in essence of the same quality as that which I had met in these contacts with other scientists with whom there had been a very close meeting of minds. And here, I think especially of Einstein who showed a similar intensity and absence of barrier in a number of discussions that took place between him and me.” 
~ David Bohm on K (Krishnamurti Foundation of America)


We are infusing our imagination, our past, our knowledge into what we see … that isn’t necessarily bad, it may be very necessary in many contexts. However when we fail to see that this is happening, then we are in danger. Especially if there is resistance to seeing it, and we are conditioned to resist seeing that this is happening. That’s really when the self deception arises.”
~ David Bohm (bohmkrishnamurti.com) 


“DB: This knowledge creates the ‘me’, and the ‘me’ is experienced as an entity which seems not to be knowledge but some real being.
JK: Are you saying that this ‘being’ is different from knowledge?
DB: It appears to be; it feigns a difference.
JK: But is it?
DB: It isn’t, but the illusion has great power.”
~ David Bohm and J. Krishnamurti (The Ending of Time)


This meeting with Krishnamurti gave rise in David Bohm to new fields of interest, particularly the one pertaining with the thinking process, whose nature and contradictions interested him highly. He could relate this to himself and to the world in an impeccable way, also to the spiritual endeavour and the so called matter, since thought is nothing but an object, or rather a material process as Krishnamurti put it. He described thought as a ‘system’ whose fault proved to have a fundamental and debilitating effect in the functioning of the mind and the human society at large.


It is here that I encountered what I feel to be Krishnamurti’s major discovery. What he was seriously proposing is that all this disorder, which is the root cause of such widespread sorrow and misery, and which prevents human beings from properly working together, has its root in the fact that we are ignorant of the general nature of our own processes of thought. Or to put it differently it may be said that we do not see what is actually happening, when we are engaged in the activity of thinking.” 
~ David Bohm


There is the further question of what is the relationship of thinking to reality. As careful attention shows, thought itself is in an actual process of movement. That is to say, one can feel a sense of flow in the stream of consciousness not dissimilar to the sense of flow in the movement of matter in general. May not thought itself thus be a part of reality as a whole? But then, what could it mean for one part of reality to ‘know’ another, and to what extent would this be possible? 
~ David Bohm (Wholeness and the Implicate Order)


What I mean by ‘thought’ is the whole thing – thought, felt, the body, the whole society sharing thoughts – it’s all one process. It is essential for me not to break that up, because it’s all one process; somebody else’s thoughts become my thoughts, and vice versa. Therefore it would be wrong and misleading to break it up into my thoughts, your thoughts, my feelings, these feelings, those feelings… I would say that thought makes what is often called in modern language a system.“ 
~ David Bohm (Thought as a System)


“…the general tacit assumption in thought is that it’s just telling you the way things are and that it’s not doing anything – that ‘you’ are inside there, deciding what to do with the info. But you don’t decide what to do with the info. Thought runs you. Thought, however, gives false info that you are running it, that you are the one who controls thought. Whereas actually thought is the one which controls each one of us.”
~ David Bohm (Thought as a System) 


That’s the difficulty. Thought is participating and then saying it’s not participating. But it is taking part in everything. Fragmentation is a particular case of that. Thought is creating divisions out of itself and then saying that they are there naturally. … I’m saying thought has the character that it is doing something and saying it isn’t doing it. Now, we really have to go into that, to discuss it a great deal, because what thought is actually doing is very much more subtle than what I’ve described — that’s only the beginning.” 
~ David Bohm (Thought as a System) 


In 1987, David Bohm retired from Birkbeck College in London, one year after Krishnamurti ‘s death, but continued his work in quantum physics. The last part of his life gave rise to Bohm’s last contribution to the world, the practice of dialogue, which he felt could help people and society to meet and solve problems in a way that is truly creative and equal. For him, dialogue means that we “engage in a new dynamic relationship in which no speaker is excluded, and in which no particular content is excluded.” In his book ‘On Dialogue’, he wrote: “Dialogue is really aimed at going into the whole thought process and changing the way the thought process occurs collectively.” He explains further how a North American tribe would meet all together from time to time, with no agenda. “They just talked and talked and talked, apparently to no purpose. They made no decisions. There was no leader. And everybody could participate. There may have been wise men or wise women who were listened to a bit more – the older ones – but everybody could talk. The meeting went on, until it finally seemed to stop for no reason at all and the group dispersed. Yet after that, everybody seemed to know what to do, because they understood each other so well.” In 1990, he conducted a seminar at the Oak Grove School, founded by Krishnamurti in Ojai, California.  This was later published as the book ‘Thought as a System’.


Culture is shared meaning. Suppose we were able to share meanings freely without a compulsive urge to impose our view or conform to those of others and without distortion and self-deception. Would this not constitute a real revolution in culture.” 
~ David Bohm (Changing Consciousness)


Yes, dialogue is necessary for creativity in the socio-cultural sphere;
that is, this creativity cannot be sustained without dialogue.
We may get a burst of creativity but it will not be sustained
~ David Bohm (bohmdialogue.org)


In the beginning, people were expressing fixed positions, which they were tending to defend, but later it became clear that to maintain the feeling of friendship in the group was much more important than to hold any position. Such friendship has an impersonal quality in the sense that its establishment does not depend on a close personal relationship between participants. A new kind of mind thus begins to come into being which is based on the development of a common meaning that is constantly transforming in the process of the dialogue.”
~ David Bohm (Unfolding Meaning: a weekend of dialogue with David Bohm (1985)


Dialogue may not be concerned directly with truth—
it may arrive at truth, but it is concerned with meaning
If the meaning is incoherent you will never arrive at truth
~ David Bohm (bohmdialogue.org)


We have only begun to explore the possibilities of dialogue in the sense indicated here, but going further along these lines would open up the possibility of transforming not only the relationship between people, but even more, the very nature of consciousness in which these relationships arise.”
~ David Bohm (Unfolding Meaning)


David Bohm’s trajectory is indeed limpid. He really has aimed at building a bridge between the believed reality of this world, divided, fragmented, and the true nature of reality, unbroken, complete. Be it in his exposition of the explicate and implicate orders of reality, or his meetings with Krishnamurti, be it in his exploration of the flaws of thought, or his experimenting with dialogue, his constant pursuit was for wholeness. David Bohm was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1990. He died in London in 1992, at 74.


Individuality is only possible if it unfolds from wholeness.”
~ David Bohm (Dialogue with Renée Weber)

‘Marombra’ – Giacomo Balla – WikiArt



Quotes and excerpts by David Bohm (1917-1992)

Paintings by Giacomo Balla (1871-1958)

Text by Alain Joly



Read ‘David Bohm interviewed by Evelyn Blau’ from the Krishnamurti Foundation.

Read these pages from Miriam Louisa Simons’ blog ‘The Awakened Eye’: ‘scientist meets philosopher’, ‘misinformation and the creative mind’, and ‘David Bohm: On Creativity’.

– ‘Wholeness and the Implicate Order’ – by David Bohm – (Routledge)
– ‘An Uncommon Collaboration: David Bohm and J. Krishnamurti’ – by David Edmund Moody – (Alpha Centauri Press)
– ‘On Dialogue’ – by David Bohm (edited by Lee Nichol) – (Routledge)
– ‘Thought as a System’ Broché – by David Bohm – (Routledge)
– ‘On Creativity’ –  by David Bohm – (Routledge)
– ‘The Ending of Time: Where Philosophy and Physics Meet’ – by J. Krishnamurti and David Bohm – (HarperOne)

David Bohm (Wikipedia)
David Bohm Society
The Bohm–Krishnamurti Project
Bohm Dialogue
Giacomo Balla (Wikipedia)


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2 thoughts on “Insights into Wholeness

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