David Bohm and Emergent Knowledge

So far in our inquiry into David Bohm’s masterwork, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, Bohm has been eager for us to understand what he means by “wholeness” by contrasting this with its manifestly contrary state “fragmentation”. Bohm has not yet introduced in the book his understanding of “implicate order” within this foundational reality of wholeness or one-ness (which is where matters will become very interesting indeed).

Let us, then, first become very clear about the meaning of “Undivided Wholeness in Flowing Movement” (also called “the holomovement”) before we turn to the issue of the implicate order within this Universal Flux.

Bohm’s “Undivided Wholeness in Flowing Movement” is a particular instance of a much broader issue associated with what I’ve referred to as “the return of the repressed”, which we will describe here as “emergent knowledge”. In essence, “Undivided Wholeness in Flowing Movement” or fundamental one-ness is also the meaning of Carl Jung’s “Collective Unconscious” and Jean Gebser’s “ever-present origin”. These are basically the same, and yet different interpretations or aspects of this same matter of the holomovement. These may, then, be all subsumed under or embraced within the single term “holomovement”. The holomovement we may understand as a singular field of energy that is boundless and without formal definition, and which some physicists even hold is an energy field that is aware (eg. Amit Goswami’s The Self-Aware Universe, and I suspect Bohm also wants to attest to that implicit awareness of the holomovement).

The parallels between Bohm’s Wholeness and Gebser’s The Ever-Present Origin are quite remarkable (and between these and such things as Buddhism and Taoism or Hermeticism in the West, in fact). It is the testimony of all the great sages of human history that every manifested thing rests upon a foundation of undivided wholeness called “the One”, but also called by various other names, and there is definitely a strong element of Taoism in Bohm’s writing as well. If Buddhism is also called “entering the stream” and Taoism is also called “the watercourse way” (and this is probably the original symbolic meaning of Christian baptism which has now mostly decayed into a mere superstition) Bohm uses much the same language to describe the holomovement as, for example, here on page 24 of his chapter on “Fragmentation and Wholeness”

“One might here consider the image of a turbulent mass of vortices in a stream. The structure and distribution of vortices, which constitute a sort of content of the description of the movement, are not separate from the formative activity of the flowing stream, which creates, maintains, and ultimately dissolves the totality of vortex structures. So to try to eliminate the vortices without changing the formative activity of the stream would evidently be absurd. Once our perception is guided by the proper insight into the significance of the whole movement, we will evidently not be disposed to try such a futile approach. Rather we will look at the whole situation, and be attentive and alert to learn about it, and thus to discover what is really an appropriate sort of action, relevant to this whole, for bringing the turbulent structure of vortices to an end. Similarly, when we really grasp the truth of the one-ness of the thinking process that we are actually carrying out, and the content of thought that is the product of this process, then  such insight will enable us to observe, to look, to learn about the whole movement of thought, that will end the ‘turbulence’ of movement which is the essence of fragmentation in every phase of life.” (p. 24)

This remark about the “vortices” of thought (Freud’s “complexes” in effect) is also what Buddhism calls the “aggregates” or “kleshas“. These are just different terms for the same thing — Bohm’s “vortices” of the mind, and this statement about how these vortices arise within the context of the whole movement very much buttresses the ideas not just of quantum field theory, but also Sheldrake’s ideas about “morphic fields”. (And here again, I will refer you also to theoretical physicist David Tong’s wonderful lecture on quantum fields and quantum field “fluctuations” as being the basic “building blocks” of the universe to get a better idea of what is really going on with post-Cartesian modes of thought in which the energetic field approach is displacing atomistic, particularte, or corpuscular theories that Bohm associates with fragmentation). In these terms, too, “fragmentation and wholeness” are the polar states of existence that Buddhism also refers to as “samsara” and “nirvana” respectively and samsaric existence (or “fragmentation”) is also what Blake calls “Ulro” or “Vala”– the shadow world which is the present state of corruption, opacity and ignorance called “the kaliyuga“.

So, it may facilitate understanding Bohm by knowing that the condition of present disintegration or fragmentation corresponds to the kaliyuga, to the state of “delusion” also known as “Maya“, and to condition of ignorance and opacity known as “samsara” and its associated state of dukkha (or malaise). This is also the condition described by Gebser as the “deficient mode of the mental-rational consciousness structure”.

“But where the danger is, also grows the saving power.”

Friedrich Hölderlin

Into the midst of this extreme fragmentation, though, has emerged (or “irrupted” in Gebser’s terms) the countervailing power — wholeness, for in some very paradoxical way, our disintegration had to be total before the underlying or background wholeness could begin to manifest itself. As Leonard Cohen put it equivalently: “There is a crack, a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in”

Now, we have said that Bohm’s Undivided Wholeness in Flowing Movement is fully the equivalent, too, of Jung’s Collective Unconscious and of Gebser’s Ever-Present Origin, and this Ever-Present Origin Gebser also identifies with the “archaic structure of consciousness” before differentiation emerges. The archaic structure of consciousness is thus very difficult to characterise and can only be intuited, really, from the standpoint of the present ego-consciousness structure, but can be directly experienced directly by those who have learned to suspend or silence the ego-consciousness. It is not so much the “beyond” of things as it is the “before” or “beneath” of things. The best description I have ever read of the archaic is Blake’s: “when the soul slept in beams of light”. That is to say, it was a state of consciousness AS being, but not OF being, and in consequence there was no segregation at all between the “inhere” and the “outthere”. Gebser for this reason calls it “zero-dimensional”, and you can’t have a kosmos (“order”) with zero-dimensions. So, “undivided wholeness is flowing movement” is not a kosmos and is not an “ordering” or arrangement of things. It is pre-grammatical and pre-linguistic but is yet the source and the background from which these things emerge. And this is also what Blake describes in his proverb that “the cistern contains, the fountain overflows”. The “Fountain” is this same “undivided wholeness in flowing movement”.

This “Fountain” abides in us and all around us still as also Jill Bolte-Taylor’s “Life Force Power of the Universe” but which now has the potentiality of becoming fully self-aware through human consciousness. This is also what Nietzsche discovered as the “Dionysian”, it’s “will to power”, and its consummation in the “transhuman” or “overman” who has become a different entity. This corresponds in meaning to Aurobindo’s “supramental consciousness” as well.

We see pretty clearly through these matters that the new foundations for this new “transhuman” consciousness are being laid in our time, and coincident also with the disintegration of the old foundations (which has also resulted in the “identity crisis”). And the new foundations are being laid in this idea of “undivided wholeness in flowing movement”, ie, the holomovement. But at the same time, this also means that Jung’s Collective Unconscious is emerging from this background state and also becoming manifest, and this makes it a very dangerous time for the ego-consciousness. obliterating it and resulting in a regression to the archaic state. The foundations of the new consciousness are not to be considered a regression but a retrieval and a recovery through which Blake’s and Aurobindo’s ideas of “the Universal Humanity” is realised in its fullness.

So, we now presently find these extreme polarisations and tensions between what Rosenstock-Huessy calls “trajective” types (backwards movement) and “prejective types” (forwards movement) that, in their extremity become reactionary or revolutionary respectively. But the key difference lies in the processes of regression or retrieval. The former would only be another instance of Blake’s Single Vision, while the need is actually towards Fourfold Vision.

This then becomes the key issue — the “implicate order” within the Universal Flux, and how a kosmos or order begins to emerge from out of this undifferentiated wholeness. This is, after all, the meaning of the two words “existence” and “ecstacy” — ie “to step out” or “to stand out”. This is exactly what Nietzsche means in saying “One must have chaos within oneself to give birth to a dancing star”.

Undivided Wholeness in Flowing Movement — the holomovement — is Simplicity itself: the One-Without-Another. This is not the mysterious factor, though. The great mystery is the “implicate order” within the holomovement which raises the question of how Complexity (a kosmos) can emerge from Simplicity. Both Bohm and Gebser know also that this has something to do with consciousness itself and with the process of articulation, for articulation is also differentiation and yet “conjoining” also.

Now, we have pointed out that what Bohm calls “the implicate order” is also what Gebser calls the “pre-existing pattern” he discovered in his study of the various “mutations” of consciousness over the ages (and as “ages”). For Gebser, these post-archiac mutations — the magical, the mythical, the mental-rational or perspectival — are various articulations of this underlying “pre-existing structure” expressed through the incremental disclosure of different “dimensions”. Thus from the zero-dimensionality of the archaic (non-articulate) through the one-dimensional magical, the two-dimensional mythical, and the three-dimensional perspectival (or “mental-rational”) describes a process of gradual articulation until now we have the four-dimensional which, in Gebser’s estimation, now allows for the prospect of the “integral consciousness” and the self-manifestation of this “pre-existing pattern” (or Bohm’s “implicit order” become also explicit order, or what Gebser refers to as the “latent” and the “manifested”). These parallels in Bohm and Gebser’s thought are quite remarkable.

To put it simply, this “implicate order”/”pre-existing pattern” is that which governs the manifestation of a kosmos or “order” from out of the undivided wholeness. This process constitutes a process of “articulation” of the simplicity of the one-ness into the complexity of a manifest kosmos. This “implicate order’/”pre-existing pattern” thus corresponds to the Heraclitean Logos. And by most accounts, this is a tetramorph — a fourfold structure (from Brahman emerges the “fourfold Atman” (as Christ is called “the tetramorph”) and from this fourfold Atman emerges the manifested orders of the times and spaces of the physical universe (and perhaps even as the four funamental cosmic forces or formative fields or forces — gravitation, electro-magentism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces — as well as Blake’s own “fourfold vision” or his notion of “Albion divided fourfold”. These matters would seem to have some bearing, too, on the mystery of the “Anthropic Principle” in current cosmology.

So far in our review of Bohm’s Wholeness and the Implicate Order, we have only hints at what Bohm believes this implicate order to be, and its connected with what he refers to as “formative causation” which is something of a synonym for “articulation” of the undivided wholeness into the plurality of elements and forms, but which also underlies Blake’s aphorism: “Eternity is in love with the productions of time”. Eternity is, of course, this same “undivided wholeness in flowing movement”.

We have a great mystery here: firstly, what is this implicate order? Secondly, how and why this implicate (or latent or unmanifested) order should develop within the universal flux and the undivided wholeness? And thirdly, how does this implicate order become explicate to form a “cosmos”? Bohm has yet to address this in his book, so we can look forward to his thoughts on the matter. But in many respects this “implicate order” is very likely the same “cross of reality” and the “grammatical method” disclosed by Rosenstock-Huessy as well.

But that comparison remains to be tested.

18 responses to “David Bohm and Emergent Knowledge”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    A note here. Oddly, Bohm rejects the terms “integralism” or “holism” to describe his approach, which is quite a puzzle until one understands that he’s objecting to any idea of a “synthesis” as tends to be the Cartesian-like interpretation of integralism or holism in current usage. Otherwise, his approach to knowledge is very akin to Gebser’s “integral”. But likewise, Gebser rejects any idea that the “integral” is a synthesis. This can be a stumbling block to understanding both Bohm and Gebser. It’s not a synthetic approach but a relational one — closer to Whitehead’s ideas.

    In this case Bohm’s arguments against synthesis are exactly the same as Gebser’s.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Further to this. Bohm hasn’t actually used the term “ecology” (and I don’t recall that Gebser does either) but this is comparable to their thinking and why an “integration” isn’t a synthesis. Take the phases of the Holling Adaptive Cycle for instance. A “synthesis” of these phases would only create an impossible muddle. Just so, Bohm thinks that various “theories” (as “ways of looking”) have validity within the domains proper to them, but transgress when they attempt to usurp other domains. So even though these theories (in this case, Newtonian, Einsteinian, and Quantum) may radically contradict one another, they are valid within the domains proper to them.

      That would be very similar to the phases of the Holling Adaptive Cycle or to Rosenstock-Huessy’s various “fronts” of is “cross of reality” model.

    • Antonio Dias says :

      I’m glad you’ve brought up the distinction between a synthesis and integration as we’ve come to use it here. I’ve not seen this distinction made before. It makes a lot of sense. It also points to the way the Moment of Cubism got sidetracked after WWI when “Analytic” Cubism turned in “Synthetic” Cubism. Neither term was correct. A case of the work outstripping the conceptual tools available to critics at the time in the first case and a fall back into old patterns of “Progress” by the artists in the latter. It took…, really until now for a way to grasp what had happened in painting and in physics between 1906 and ’09.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    I am not yet very familiar with Whitehead’s process philosophy, so I don’t feel comfortable commenting on any connection there with Gebser or Bohm. Hopefully, I’ll become more acquainted with Whitehead’s works in the future. The only real book I’ve read by him is The Adventure of Ideas.

  3. Steve says :

    “There are no fixtures in nature. The universe is fluid and volatile. Permanence is but a word of degrees. Our globe seen by God is a transparent law, not a mass of facts.”

    Ralph Waldo Emerson in his essay, Circles

  4. Scott Preston says :

    One thing I will point out is that there is a scientific revolution in progress, and Bohm is a representative of this, and as we know, scientific revolutions have a way of preceding social revolutions (or actually anticipating them). In this case, turning Descartes on his head and, in fact, the whole “tradition” that begins with assuming “the facts and nothing but the facts” and attempting to reach the whole from the basis of the elementary facts.

    So, Bohm represents also this process I’ve come to call “ironic reversal” in which this “tradition” is inverted or overthrown. One begins with the whole and works down towards the facts within the context of the whole. this is the “aperspectival” approach to method.

    We actually couldn’t arrive at the idea of “fields” from the mere analysis and interpretation of the factoids.You don’t get a “field” that way but, at best, a jigsaw puzzle. Something else is going on here, and this has more to do with Gebser’s idea of the “irruption” — something discontinuous and non-linear.

    And this is very interesting indeed.

  5. Scott Preston says :

    This book being released tomorrow MIGHT actually have wider application than mind-body medicine or post-trauma psychotherapy. It seems to fit in exactly with what we’ve been exploring here in Bohm’s work


  6. Scott Preston says :

    Currently reading Bohm’s account of the origin of “measure” and the idea of measure and moderation. Gebser, you might recall if you’ve read EPO, also has a section on “Measure and Mass” beginning p. 129. It will be interesting to compare what Bohm and Gebser say about measure in a forthcoming post.

  7. Steve says :

    The Nothingness Beyond God: An Introduction to the Philosophy of
    Nishida Kitaro. By Robert E. Carter

    Nishida Kitaro: The Man and His Thought by Nishitani Keiji.

  8. Scott Preston says :

    Xenphobia. It’s not just here, or Europe, or in India. It’s everywhere — one irony after another. So, here’s a mob of black South Africans rioting against “immigrants”


  9. Steve says :

    ” Nothing exists but individuals in the making. All things live, yes, even those we call inanimate. A soul, or a myriad souls, inform the rocks and streams and winds. Innumerable centres of life leap in joy down the torrent; or it may be some diffused and elemental spirit singly sustains the ever-flowing form. The sea is a passion, the air and the light a will and a desire. All things together, each in his kind, each in his rank, press upward, moved by love, to a goal that is good. What that goal is, I do not to closely inquire; neither do I ask after the origin or meaning of the Whole. I cling to the facts I know, to movement and its cause; the fact I know from the soul of Man and infer from Nature. What He is, She is; and what He is I know. He is discord straining to harmony, ignorance to love, fear to courage, hate and indifference to love. He is a system out of equilibrium, and therefore moving towards it; he is the fall of the stone, the flow of the stream, the orbit of the star, rendered in the truth of passion and desire. To apprehend Reality is the goal of his eternal quest. ”

    G. Lowes Dickinson

  10. Scott Preston says :

    There is a book by Paul Halpern which looks quite interesting: The Quantum Labyrinth, and the reason I like the title is because Descartes also compared his won time to a “labyrinth” and set out to resolve it. His solution worked fine for a time, until it didn’t, and now we are back in the labyrinth again.
    So, it’s time for a new approach again, and that’s Bohm’s project.

  11. Scott Preston says :

    There is the case to be made (and I am certainly trying to make it here in The Chrysalis) that we are departing the Age of the Trinity and entering the Age of the Tetramorph (which would correspond to the meaning of a “Johannine Age”). As we work through Bohm’s idea of implicate order, we’re in for a few stunning revelations in respect of the tetramorph. .

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