Field Consciousness and Ethics
(Print in italics are my own thoughts, all else are attributed quotes)
I recently shared the following with a friend. I have been trying to hack the planetary mindplex, which can seem, at first glance, as full of irresolvable contradictions. Good thing I’m really stubborn, cause there were times when, as they say, I wasn’t sure if I was eaten the bear or the bear was eating me. But I’ve had a breakthrough and the following is an attempt to begin to communicate what I’ve learned.
“For a long time we have been accustomed to the compartmentalization of religion and science as if they were two quite different and basically unrelated ways of seeing the world. I do not believe that this state of doublethink can last. It must eventually be replaced by a view of the world which is neither religious nor scientific but simply our view of the world. More exactly, it must become a view of the world in which the reports of science and religion are as concordant as those of the eyes and the ears.”
–Alan W. Watts
I was a student of the sufi mystic Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, who was the son of Hazrat Inayat Khan, who came from India with the message he called the unity of religious ideals. But simply espying commonalities and ignoring real difference will, I believe, leave us short of our goal, which is uniting as one people in heart, mind and spirit.
“The canons of a culture pass from heart to heart by way of the mind, and when the mind admits impediments those canons fail, and the culture along with it.”
The Masks of God, Joseph Campbell
So here is my offering. I do not see ideas as ‘correct’ representations of reality. I see them as pieces of furniture in the planetary (and cosmic) commons which, properly rearranged using a sufficiently skillful feng shui, restores the energy flow.
If we find our way in this dimension I envision a future where the differences and distinctions between religions, and between religion and science, will evaporate–truth is one.
There is a mode of perception that might be called the naive ‘I’—naïve because it has a false interior as opposed to the real ‘I’ that is the true interior. The false interior entails a literal enfolding of the external, phenomenal world. Following the Scottish philosopher David Hume, psychology ‘bottoms out’ in the human version of animal instinct, that is, the biological; following the British philosopher Bertrand Russell, the biological bottoms out in what he called ‘chemical imperialism (exploitation of the outside for benefit of the inside)—that is, chemistry; and, according to all scientists, the chemical bottoms out in physics, which, until quantum mechanics, implied a totally mechanical, material, clockwork universe. What do I mean when I say the false interior entails an enfolding of the phenomenal world? Take the ‘eye’—no pun intended. The eye began as a concave surface on an amoeba’s skin, the better to allow the amoeba to locate the direction of the sun’s rays and move toward or away from light. Of course an amoeba lacks a brain or central nervous system, but these developed for the same sort of reasons—because they endowed an evolutionary advantage. The eye then can be seen as a fold in (or enfolding of) the external skin surface—just as the first one celled animal (the biosphere) can be seen as a fold in (or enfolding of) the physiosphere. So, by the time the biosphere reaches something like a human being with a brain and a central nervous system, this biological entity has evolved into a virtual neural network with messages from the ‘external’ (unfolded) world filtered through this enfolded space, creating a feedback loop between the enfolded biological order and the physiosphere. This in turn creates a sense of separate self so real that when a limb is lost it takes a long time for this neural network to adjust to the objective change in the physiosphere (referring here to the ‘phantom limb syndrome’). This ‘false interior’ is similar to a vortex in a river where an empty funnel creates a ‘center’ that is, in fact, a relatively stable and enduring pattern of the whole river, which maintains the funnel by simultaneously flowing into and out of the vortex. This false interior—this ‘I’—does not, as we all know, grasp that it is something like a nested set of Chinese boxes. This naïve ‘I’ sees itself as independent and endowed with a generative force. It doesn’t grasp that it is simply acting out biological dictates which bottom out in chemical dictates which bottom out in physics, all the way down. It does not see it is a mere robot driven by a series of ancient, elemental forces.
Or is it?
The advent of quantum entanglement calls into question the whole mechanistic, reductionist, logical positivist physics that led to the development of quantum mechanics itself—curiouser and curiouser. The mechanistic view asserts that the universe can be best understood as a machine composed of ever more elementary parts that evolved naturally in space over time and that, ultimately, when all parts are known and properly labeled life will be perfectly understood and totally predictable.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_entanglement Quantum entanglement occurs when particles such as photons, electrons, molecules…interact physically and then become separated; Quantum entanglement is a form of quantum superposition. When a measurement is made and it causes one member of such a pair to take on a definite value (e.g., clockwise spin), the other member of this entangled pair will at any subsequent time be found to have taken the appropriately correlated value (e.g., counterclockwise spin). Thus, there is a correlation between the results of measurements performed on entangled pairs, and this correlation is observed even though the entangled pair may have been separated by arbitrarily large distances. In quantum entanglement, part of the transfer happens instantaneously. Repeated experiments have verified that this works even when the measurements are performed more quickly than light could travel between the sites of measurement.
Unfolding Meaning, David Bohm
…I’ll begin by listing the principal characteristics of mechanism …and contrast its main features with those of an organismic type. Now firstly, the world is reduced as far as possible to a set of basic elements. Typically, these have been taken as particles, such as atoms, electrons, protons, quarks, and so on. But you can also add various kinds of fields that extend continuously through space, such as electromagnetic and gravitational. Secondly, these elements are basically external to each other, not only in being separate in space but, more importantly, in the sense that the fundamental nature of each is independent of that of the other. Therefore the elements don’t grow organically as part of a whole, but rather…they may be compared to parts of a machine. The forms are determined externally to the structure of the machine in which they’re working. Now finally…the elements interact mechanically, and are therefore related only by influencing each other externally—for example, by forces of interaction that do not deeply affect their inner natures. In contrast, in an organism, the very nature of any part may be profoundly affected by changes of activity in other parts, and by the general state of the whole, and so the parts are basically internally related to each other as well as to the whole. Of course in a mechanistic view the existence of organism is admitted since it is obvious. But it is assumed, in the way I just described, that ultimately you can reduce it all to molecules such as DNA and proteins, and so on. So eventually the organism is a convenient way of talking about a lot of molecules. They may even say that some new properties and qualities have emerged, but they are always implicit in the molecules. In addition, it’s admitted that this goal of a complete mechanistic description is yet to be fully achieved, as there is much that is still unknown. So it’s essential for the mechanistic-reductionist program to assume that there is nothing that cannot eventually be treated in this way. Of course, there is no way to prove this assumption. So to suppose that this assumption holds without limit is an article of faith which permeates the motivation of most of modern science and gives energy to the scientific enterprise. This is a modern counterpart of earlier faith in religious belief based on more organismic types of view, which also in their time gave energy to vast social enterprises. That is, we have not lost the age of faith; we have really changed from one faith to another. And faith is, according to Tielhard de Chardiin, just holding the intelligence to a certain world view—that’s his definition of faith. The quantum theory, however, actually overturned mechanism in a much more thorough way than the theory of relativity. I’ll give here its three main features. First of all, all action was in the form of what is called discrete quanta. For example, one found that the orbits of electrons around the nucleus would have to be discrete, as there were no allowed orbits in between, and yet, somehow, the electron jumped from one to the other without passing in between—according to this view. And the light shown on these things was also shown in the form of quanta, and in fact, every form of connection of energy was in the form of quanta. Therefore you could think of it as an interconnecting network of quanta weaving the whole universe into one, because these quanta were indivisible. So this led to some sort of indivisibility of the universe—though it doesn’t show up in large scale because the quanta are very small and, once again, it looks continuous, like the grains of sand in the hour-glass.
Secondly, all matter and energy were found to have what appears to be a dual nature, in the sense that they can behave either like a particle or like a field—or a wave—according to how they are treated by the experiment. The fact that everything can show either a wave-like or a particle-like character according to the context of the environment which is, in this case, the observing apparatus, is clearly not compatible with mechanism, because in mechanism the nature of each thing should be quite independent of its context. But it is quite like an organism, because organisms are very dependent on their context.
The third point is that one finds a peculiar new property which I call non-locality of connection. In other words, the connection can be between two particles at considerable distances in some cases. This violates the classical requirement of locality—that only things very close to each other can influence one another.
There is another point we can bring out in this connection, which is that the state of the whole may actually organize the parts, not merely through the strong connection of very distant elements, but also because the state of the whole is indifferent to exactly where the parts are. These are some new features. And all of this shows up in understanding chemistry for example. So when the chemists are using their laws, what underlies them is this peculiar quantum mechanical feature.
Now I want to show how this contradicts the basic mechanist assumption. Firstly, the action is through indivisible quanta, so as I said, everything is woven together in indivisible links. The universe is one whole, as is were, and is in some sense unbroken. Of course, only under very refined observation does this show up. Now the second point was the wave-particle nature, and the third was non-locality. So you can see all these things deny mechanism.
The people who founded quantum mechanics, such as Schrodinger, Dirac and Pauli, and so on all understood this; but since that time this understanding has gradually faded out as people have more and more concentrated on using quantum mechanics as a system of calculation for experimental results, and each time a new text book is written, some of the philosophical meaning gets lost. So we now have a situation where I don’t think the majority of physicists realizes how radical the implications of quantum mechanics are.
Most scientists have come to the conclusion that there are only two possible interpretations regarding the meaning of quantum entanglement.
Researchers look beyond space and time to cope with quantum theory
…if the quantum nature of the world is confirmed – what will it mean?
Here, there are two choices. On the one hand, there is the option to defy relativity and ‘unhide’ the influences, which means accepting faster-than-light communication. Relativity is a successful theory that researchers would not call into question lightly, so for many physicists this is seen as the most extreme possibility.
The remaining option is to accept that influences must be infinitely fast – or that there exists some process that has an equivalent effect when viewed in our spacetime…it would mean that the Universe is fundamentally nonlocal, in the sense that every bit of the Universe can be connected to any other bit anywhere, instantly. That such connections are possible defies our everyday intuition and represents another extreme solution, but arguably preferable to faster-than-light communication.
“Our result gives weight to the idea that quantum correlations somehow arise from outside spacetime, in the sense that no story in space and time can describe them,” says Nicolas Gisin, Professor at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, and member of the team.
I was first exposed to Bohm’s ideas in the late seventies. I have been reading on this topic for fifteen years and have come to the conclusion that, for some reason, only those who founded quantum mechanics (Schrodinger, Dirac, Pauli) understand how the radical implications are for the whole foundation of western science.
The Quantum Self, Dana Zohar
The immutable laws of history portrayed by Marx, Darwin’s blind evolutionary struggle, and the tempestuous forces of Freud’s dark psyche all, to some extent, owe their inspiration to Newtonian physical theory. All, together with the architecture of Le Corbusier and the whole vast array of technological paraphernalia that touches every aspect of our lives, have so deeply permeated our consciousness that we each see ourselves reflected in the mirror of Newtonian physics. We are steeped in what Bertrand Russell called the “unyielding despair” to which it gave rise.
“The world which science presents for our belief, “ Russell wrote at the turn of the century, tells us…
that man is the product of causes which had no provision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms, that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve the individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins…
“How,” he asked, “in such an alien and inhuman world can so powerless a creature as man preserve his aspirations untarnished?” To a large extent we have not.
The mechanistic model depends on the idea that life evolved as an ‘an accidental collocation of atoms’ within the evolutionary framework of the space/time continuum, yet non-locality and other factors suggest elementary particles arise outside the 3-dimensional space/time continuum; which begs the question—from what (or whom), if not space/time, does the universe originate?
The Cosmic Interiority
The Cosmic Plenum: Bohm’s Gnosis: The Implicate Order
…Referring to quantum theory, Bohm’s basic assumption is that “elementary particles are actually systems of extremely complicated internal structure, acting essentially as amplifiers of information contained in a quantum wave.” As a conseqence, he has evolved a new and controversial theory of the universe–a new model of reality that Bohm calls the “Implicate Order.”
The theory of the Implicate Order contains an ultraholistic cosmic view; it connects everything with everything else. In principle, any individual element could reveal “detailed information about every other element in the universe.” The central underlying theme of Bohm’s theory is the “unbroken wholeness of the totality of existence as an undivided flowing movement without borders.”
During the early 1980s Bohm developed his theory of the Implicate Order in order to explain the bizarre behavior of subatomic particles–behavior that quantum physicists have not been able to explain. Basically, two subatomic particles that have once interacted can instantaneously “respond to each other’s motions thousands of years later when they are light-years apart.” This sort of particle interconnectedness requires superluminal signaling, which is faster than the speed of light. This odd phenomenon is called the EPR effect, named after the Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen thought experiment.
Bohm believes that the bizarre behavior of the subatomic particles might be caused by unobserved subquantum forces and particles. Indeed, the apparent weirdness might be produced by hidden means that pose no conflict with ordinary ideas of causality and reality.
Bohm believes that this “hiddeness” may be reflective of a deeper dimension of reality. He maintains that space and time might actually be derived from an even deeper level of objective reality. This reality he calls the Implicate Order. Within the Implicate Order everything is connected; and, in theory, any individual element could reveal information about every other element in the universe.
Borrowing ideas from holographic photography, the hologram is Bohm’s favorite metaphor for conveying the structure of the Implicate Order. Holography relies upon wave interference. If two wavelengths of light are of differing frequencies, they will interfere with each other and create a pattern. “Because a hologram is recording detail down to the wavelength of light itself, it is also a dense information storage.” Bohm notes that the hologram clearly reveals how a “total content–in principle extending over the whole of space and time–is enfolded in the movement of waves (electromagnetic and other kinds) in any given region.” The hologram illustrates how “information about the entire holographed scene is enfolded into every part of the film.” It resembles the Implicate Order in the sense that every point on the film is “completely determined by the overall configuration of the interference patterns.” Even a tiny chunk of the holographic film will reveal the unfolded form of an entire three-dimensional object.
Proceeding from his holographic analogy, Bohm proposes a new order–the Implicate Order where “everything is enfolded into everything.” This is in contrast to the explicate order where things are unfolded. Bohm puts it thus:
“The actual order (the Implicate Order) itself has been recorded in the complex movement of electromagnetic fields, in the form of light waves. Such movement of light waves is present everywhere and in principle enfolds the entire universe of space and time in each region. This enfoldment and unfoldment takes place not only in the movement of the electromagnetic field but also in that of other fields (electronic, protonic, etc.). These fields obey quantum-mechanical laws, implying the properties of discontinuity and non-locality. The totality of the movement of enfoldment and unfoldment may go immensely beyond what has revealed itself to our observations. We call this totality by the name ‘holomovement.'”
Bohm believes that ”The Implicate Order has to be extended into a multidimensional reality;” in other words, the holomovement endlessly enfolds and unfolds into infinite dimensionality. Within this milieu there are independent sub-totalities (such as physical elements and human entities) with relative autonomy. The layers of the Implicate Order can go deeper and deeper to the ultimately unknown. It is this “unknown and undescribable totality” that Bohm calls the holomovement. The holomovement is the “fundamental ground of all matter.”
Finally, the manifest world is part of what Bohm refers to as the “explicate order.” It is secondary, derivative; it “flows out of the law of the Implicate Order.” Within the Implicate Order, there is a “totality of forms that have an approximate kind of recurrence (changing), stability, and separability.” It is these forms, according to Bohm, that make up our manifest world.
Summarizing, Bohm uses analogies most ingeniously as he attempts to simplify his theory. Bohm suggests that instead of thinking of particles as the fundamental reality, the focus should be on discrete particle-like quanta in a continuous field. On the basis of this quantum field, Bohm breaks down the Implicate Order into three categories:
The first category is the original, “continuous field” itself along with its movement. Bohm likens this continuous field to a television screen displaying an infinite variety of explicate forms.
The second category is obtained by considering superquantum wave function acting upon the field. (“This is related to the whole field as the original quantum wave is related to the particle.”) More complex and subtle, this second category applies to a ‘superfield’ or ‘information’ that guides and organizes the original quantum field. Bohm considers it to be similar to a computer which supplies the information that arranges the various forms–in the first category.
And last, Bohm believes that there is an underlying cosmic intelligence that supplies the information–the Player of this game who is the third category. Following this analogy, Bohm sees the whole process as a closed loop; it goes from the screen to the computer to the Player and back to the screen.
Bohm’s theory of the Implicate Order stresses that the cosmos is in a state of process. Bohm’s cosmos is a “feedback” universe that continuously recycles forward into a greater mode of being and consciousness.
Bohm believes in a special cosmic interiority. It is the Implicate Order, and it implies enfoldment into everything. Everything that is and will be in this cosmos is enfolded within the Implicate Order. There is a special cosmic movement that carries forth the process of enfoldment and unfoldment (into the explicate order). This process of cosmic movement, in endless feedback cycles, creates an infinite variety of manifest forms and mentality. Bohm is of the opinion that a fundamental Cosmic Intelligence is the Player in this process; it is engaged in endless experimentation and creativity. This Player, the Cosmic Mind, is moving cyclically onward and onward accruing an infinity of experienced being!
Field Consciousness And Field Ethics
Renee Weber, 1978, Revision Journal
Atom-smashing can occur only in the present and must occur ever afresh. The analogy of the atom with thought, and with the alleged thinker who authors the thought, is crucial. The thinker is the atom cohering in time through its binding energy. When the binding energy of the physical atom is released in the accelerator, the resultant energy, staggeringly huge, becomes freed. Analogously huge amounts of binding energy are needed to create and sustain the “thinker” and to maintain his illusion that he is a stable entity. That energy being tied up, is unavailable for other purposes, pressed into the service of what Bohm terms “self-deception” (a phenomenon described by Buddha as ignorance, avidya, literally “not really seeing.”). Thought, or what Bohm terms the 3-dimensional mind, mistakenly believing itself autonomous and irreducible, requires and hence squanders vast amounts of cosmic energy on this illusion. Energy thus preempted cannot flow into other grooves. The consequence is an unsound cosmic ecology, polluting the holomovement in at least two destructive directions. First, the holomovement misunderstands itself, choosing fiction over fact, and therefore enslaves itself. Second, the holomovement lacerates itself, substituting the isolated self for the consciousness of mankind in an abstraction founded on fallacy, enslaving others through its anger, greed, competitiveness and ambition. The result of both these missteps is a world of personal and interpersonal suffering.
The first misstep, the illusion of an ego, I, personal self or thinker, is intimately related with time and death. Let us be clear. The thinker, not consciousness, is death-bound. Death, according to these views, is precisely the psychological atom-smashing described above and need not be synonymous with the dissolution of the physical body (as has been noted by many recorders of the esoteric tradition). Psychological death occurs when consciousness keeps step with the ever-moving and self-renewing present, allowing no part of itself to become caught or fixated as residual energy. It is residual energy that furnishes the framework for what will become the thinker, who consists of undigested experience, memory, habit-patterns, identification, desire, aversion, projection, and image-making. This is not a purely personal process but the energy of aeons of such processes sclerosed through time, persisting on both personal and collective levels. Ego-death dismantles this superstructure, moving it into its rightful place in the background of our lives, instead of dominating and disordering the foreground as is presently the case. Bohm argues that such a move entails greater not reduced biological adaptation and health, and it need not threaten us. On the contrary, “death” thus conceived is really its negation, ushering us into the timeless present beyond death’s reach.
Our second point concerns ethics. Through the centuries, the thinker has prattled on about absolutes unquestionably noble—God, cosmic consciousness, universal intelligence, love—but the domain where he daily dwells has remained destructive and chaotic. This need not surprise us. The 3-dimensional quality of thought necessarily blocks the thinker’s own experiencing of reality about which he has chattered for centuries. Logical and substantive incommensurability, not ill-will nor insufficient effort account for this. The nonmanifest, as Bohm painstakingly argues, is n-dimensional and atemporal, and cannot be handled in any way whatever by 3-dimensional thought. Consciousness functioning a thought (as opposed to insight) cannot know truth or compassion at first hand, and herein lies the root of its failure to embody these energies in its daily life.
Only when the individual has dissolved the 3-dimensional self consisting of gross matter, can the ground of our being flow through us unobstructedly. To a theoretical physicist, the parallel of this state of affairs with quantum mechanics is evident. Bohm extends its applicability to psychology, urging us to the dissolution of the thinker as the highest priority the seeker for truth can undertake. With this he teeters on the very edge of what is culturally acceptable, in the interface between physics and religion. It is a strange terrain, since our current culture, lacking any conceivable concept to explain it, rejects such a link a muddled if not absurd. However strange and novel it may be, this integration is justified by Bohm’s model of the universe as a holomovement. The dismantling of the thinker yields energy that is qualitatively charged, not neutral or value-free. It is energy unbound and flowing, characterized by wholeness, n-dimensionality, and the force of compassion. Physics and ethics also become one in this process, for the energy of the whole is somehow bound up with what we term holiness. In short, the energy itself is love.
The atom-smashing applicable to consciousness Bohm and Krishnamurti term “awareness.” Such a process provides consciousness with direct access to that energy, leading it to experiential certitude based on evidence, that the ultimate nature of the universe is an energy of love. Mystics have proclaimed this with one voice. What is interesting is that a contemporary physicist finds such a theory and its method of interest. It is of course true that in many respects the aims of the mystic coincide with those of the physicist, i.e., contact with what is ultimate. But there is one critical difference. Smashing the atom is a dualistic enterprise; the physicist (subject) works on an object considered to lie outside himself. Changing the object does not fundamentally change him. By contrast, destructuring the thinker necessarily involves the operator or experimenter himself, for he is the test-object in question, at once the transformer and what is undergoing transformation. Hence the resistance, arduousness and great rarity of the event.
Though rare, it does occur, and as suggested above, Bohm relates its achievement to ethics. Psychological atom-smashing unpollutes what countless illogical egoic clusters (analogous to spasms that reduce the flow within the whole) have polluted with their misplaced sense of separateness and their ego-borne priorities, resulting in universal sorrow. The psychological atom-smasher thus coincidess with the saint, who no longer adds to the collective sorrow of mankind and instead becomes a conduit for the boundless energy of compassion. Consciousness becomes a conduit aligned with the energy of the universe, radiating it to the creature and human world without distorting it or diverting it for its own self-centered pursuits.
Oddly, in spit of Bohm’s conviction that this is the true and desirable state of affairs with which our knowledge has simply not caught up, he is reluctant to discuss it other than in brief allusions to it. His emphasis is on methodology of the self-conditioning process, not on the promised land which might lie at the end of it. His rationale for this is simple. In its conditioned state, the mind can in any case do no more than translate what is unconditioned into conditioned patterns and, thus, lose the essence of what is sought. Faithful to the credo of science, Bohm holds out for the experiential, not verbal proof. The consequence of this position is strange if not bizarre. Nothing in the realm of knowledge, not even the elusive paradox of quantum mechanics, can rival it. On some level it seems at odds with our psychological makeup, for even those in full intellectual accord with this view encounter difficulties coming to grips with it on the existential level of their lives, as anyone who has experimented with Krishnamurti’s teachings will attest. What is this paradox? Just this: that the more we talk about or even think “the truth” the further away we push it from ourselves (the analogy with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is obvious). It is I, the thinker, the creator of the thought about the holy or God who, in that act itself, introduces the impurities (time, self, language, dualism) and thus beclouds what would otherwise be unsullied (Krishnamurti himself used that word in this context in a talk we had together in Ojai in 1976).
This claim is hardly novel, but its articulation has rarely been put forward with such single-minded eloquence as that found in the tone and language of Krishnamurti or with the clarity of Bohm. We need in fact not roam far afield. Kant comes to mind. Already in the late eighteenth century he insisted on our impossibility—grounded in logic or the laws of thought and thus constituting an obstacle that cannot be overcome—to experience what is ultimate. Kant called that domain the-thing-in-itself, i.e., what Krishnamurti and Bohm call intelligence or compassion (Buddha, the dharma and Plato “the good”). Kant killed metaphysics by carefully demonstrating in the Critique Of Pure Reason that whatever is thinkable and nameable must necessarily conform to the inherent structure of the mind: space, time, quality, quantity, causality, etc. The Kantian categories are what Bohm refers to as the realm of 3-dimensionality, with the distinction that the later is wider, containing emotion, will, intent and other psychological as well as cognitive qualities. All these concern the world of sensible experience (the manifest or explicate order in Bohm’s language), and they account for our ability to function in the phenomenal domain. In that dimension, we have no choice but to filter that which is through the universal perceiving apparatus just described. Our capacity for translation is useful when properly employed (i.e., biologically or in certain practical affairs of daily life). But we do so at a heavy price, as Kant realized. The noumenon or thing-in-itself, not capable of being caught in our net, remains inscrutable to us. Knowledge for Kant and Bohm is the process of tuning in on the manifestation (phenomenon) of the nonmanifest in order to make it accessible to creatures structured as we are. This filter and consequent distortion is inbuilt and universal. By definition, the thing-in-itself can never apper to us as it would be without our “tuning in” on it with out finite receiving apparatus.
Here the ways part. Krishnamurti, Bohm, and the whole mystical tradition agree with Kant’s analysis regarding phenomenal experience. They move beyond Kant, however, to proclaim the possibility of a state of consciousness lying outside there barriers. For Kant, whose views on the subject have been accepted as definitive by western philosophy, no other capacity in us is available on which to draw in order to approach the noumenon. Bohm, and those mentioned maintain that such a capacity exists in the universe, not in us strictly speaking. The challenge for the individual locus of consciousness is to provide the condition that allows the universal force to flow through it without hindrance. The result is not knowledge, in the Kantian sense, but direct nondualistic awareness, as state for which Kant made no provision and for which he had no vocabulary. Its precondition is emptiness, as Bohm repeatedly insists, which entails a suspension of the Kantian categories and of 3-dimensional space-time. Such emptiness brings about the cessation of consciousness as the knower and transforms us into an instrument receptively allowing the noumenal intelligence to operate through us, irradiating our daily lives and those of others. The specific mechanism at work is difficult to understand. Perhaps we become akin to electrical “transformers” capable of stepping down the staggering cosmic energy in ways that permit us to focus it on the microcosmic level where we live and act. However this may be, the rare individual who functions as such a channel seems to those who come in contact with him to belong to a new species of man (Krishnamurti, for anyone who has met him, clearly is a case in point). Such a human being radiates clarity, intelligence, order and love by his mere presence. He seems capable of transmuting our chaotic interpersonal world into an ethical realm by his very atmosphere, which unmistakably is charged with energies for which we have neither names nor concepts. At best we can vaguely capture the presence and power of that atmosphere in metaphorical and approximate terms.
Kant, by contrast, leaves us no doubt as to his unfamiliarity with such states of being, which a handful of humanity has recorded with remarkable consistency and intersubjective agreement. Bohm, like Kant, performs an invaluable service in delineating clearly where the limits of knowledge must lie. To paraphrase Kant: humankind is in a bind symbolized, as we might state it today, by a species universally endowed with contact lenses. Without these lenses, we cannot see at all, i.e., we can have no knowledge whatever. But as the lenses come pre-equipped with their own built-in tinted filters, with their aid we can “see” only what the filters permit. Thus we see either nothing or else “distortedly. In neither case do we contact what is ultimate.
Perceiving (not visually, of course) things as they really are, requires inactivating these lenses, in Bohm’s terms, by-passing the ego or self that manipulates the world through them, and becoming the empty channel for the wholeness which is our source. Nothing in that emptiness can be characterized, as already explained, because characterization is the translation of noumenon into phenomenon, of nonmanifest into manifest. Therefore all languages will fail to capture the essence of the whole, even the purest of languages, mathematics, as Plato conceded in the Republic. Only silence is commensurate with its nature and appropriate to its universe of “discourse” (samadhi, the rapturous culmination of yogic meditation described by Pantanjali, literally means “total silence” or “complete stillness”).
These remarks shed light on Bohm’s uncompromising stance. The hope of apprehending the noumenon through phenomenal eyes is founded on a logical absurdity, what Bohm calls confusion and self-deception. The age-old philosophical effort to tune in on the purity of being and perceive it as it would be in itself without being perceived by the knower is therefore a vain hope. To approach the infinite cosmic intelligence, love, or insight of which Bohm speaks entails that the knower has stepped aside altogether in favor of pure nondualistic awareness. In the light of this necessity, Bohm’s priorities become understandable and seem inevitable. Atom-smashing confined to gross matter—the province of the particle physicist—is but a first step in our reaching out to reality, and it is the path presently pursued by the community of physicists. But Bohm runs far ahead of the pack. The shape-shifting (cf. Tibetan Book of the Dead) of subatomic particles (gross matter) will not yield up the secrets of the universe. All it can offer us is knowledge, restricted to the 3-dimensional realm, as we have seen.
Bohm holds out for atom-smashing of a subtler kind: to slow down and ultimately to still the shape-shifter’s dance itself, i.e., the death of the 3-dimensional thinker and his rebirth within the n-dimensional domain of consciousness. Such an event would usher in the dynamic state Bohm refers to, in which creation and dissolution and creation would flow through us simultaneously, like quanta of energy born and borne away in the split micro-second, ever welling up afresh without being arrested, clutched at, or sullied. The consequence—were such a task successful—is a new paradigm of the universe, of consciousness and of human reality. No longer is it a question of a knower observing the known across a gulf of knowing which separates them. That model of consciousness has failed us through the centuries in which we have stubbornly clung to it.
It must be swept aside, as Bohm so clearly argues. Its replacement is the austere paradigm of a unified field of being, a self-conscious universe realizing itself to be integrally whole and interconnected. Knower and known thus are falsehoods: crude constructs based on abstraction. They are unwarranted by the way things really are, namely the monism which Bohm claims is most fully compatible with the message of modern physics, base on its penetration into nature thus far. Although the data is accepted by physicists, their interpretation of it remains restricted to realms that excluded themselves as conscious beings.
It is this reluctance and restriction that Bohm is challenging. He is willing to explore all the consequences of quantum mechanical theory and is risking his reputation on his commitment to the holomovement. His vision of a unified field theory undreamed of by science, in which the searcher and what is sought are apprehended as one, the holomovement becoming translucent to itself. That unified field is neither neutral nor value-free as current scientific canon requires, but an intelligent and compassionate energy, manifesting in an as yet unborn realm where physics, ethics and religion merge. For human life, widespread awareness of such a realm will be revolutionary, leading us to information to transformation and from knowledge to wisdom.
Sex, Ecology, Spirituality; The Spirit of Evolution, Ken Wilber
Two Arrows of Time
The new systems sciences are, in a sense, the sciences of wholeness and connectedness. If we now add the notion of development or evolution—the idea that wholes grow and evolve—we have the essence of the modern systems science. As Ervin Lazlo puts it, “A new system, scientific in origin and philosophic in depth and scope, is now on the rise. It encompasses the great realms of the material universe, of the world of the living, and the world of history. This is the evolutionary paradigm…notice that Lazlo refers to the “great realms of evolution: material, biological, and historical…I will refer to these three general domains as the physiosphere (matter), the biosphere (life), and the noosphere (mind)…
Now historically it had been maintained, from the time of Plato and Aristotle until around the end of the nineteenth century, that all of these great domains—physiosphere, biosphere, noosphere—were one continuous and interrelated manifestation of Spirit, one Great Chain of Being that reached in a perfectly unbroken or uninterrupted fashion from matter to life to soul to spirit…
I’m going to interject something here. This notion of the Great Chain of Being is what the French deconstructionist Derrida would refer to as ‘the myth of presence’ or ‘myth of the given.’ Let me quote from a review of the book ‘Derrida’s Axioms’ in the London Review of Books…
“He (Derrida) belongs to a school of modern philosophy that has representatives in both the Anglo, American and Continental camps and includes such diverse names as Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Quine and Sellars—all of whom, despite their diversity, are united in their criticisms of the idea that knowledge can have a firm foundation in anything. Not in sense data, nor intuition nor divine revelation. Everything we know is already theory-laden, imprinted with foreknowledge, already an interpretation rather than a given…Derrida, in criticizing ‘presence’ and ‘Western Metaphysics,’ is, along with Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Sellars and Quine, criticizing the ‘myth of the given,’ the myth that knowledge can be based on something to which we could have direct access. I believe this attack on the given has succeeded, and that it marks a genuine advance in the history of philosophy.”
Postmodernism is a criticism of what seems a naïve belief in an idea of ‘progress’ itself rooted in the enlightenment faith in reason, as well as to the ‘myth of the given’ that can be traced back as far as Plato. Bohm would say that while thought seems personal, it is predominantly a collective phenomena; and while thought seems volitional, it is more of the nature of reflex. Our faith in reason, the belief that thought can give us direct access to truth, is, therefore, bound to disappoint. Now, following what I said at the top, if we see the rational as bottoming out in the irrational, that is, psychology bottoming out in biology, biology in chemistry, and chemistry in a physics that describes a world comprised of a random collocation of atoms then, yes, I would agree that there can be no firm foundation for any sort of knowledge.
But the search for the real is a dead end only as long as the seeker is the false interior, as long as the seeker is unable to intuit and deconstruct the false interior (the explicate order), revealing the true interior (the implicate/superimplicate order).
Now, as long as we exist as a reified self (false interior) we are, as Derrida claimed, living ‘the myth of the given.’ Simple belief in a soul or spirit or a Great Chain of Being will not, in itself, actualize that presence, granting us access to a real interior with real determinative force. Rational thought is a kind of memory,a form of reflex, and cannot lead to the real. Only the deconstruction of the false interior in sunyata can reveal the true interior—the implicate and superimplicate order that is the source of and interpenetrates space time. And, as long as physics seemed to point to a mechanistic world, we might concur there could be no possibility of a direct perception of reality or truth, this no longer obtains when existence is seen as organismic.
“The nature of the Divinity in the world is an enigma to the mind, but to our enlarging consciousness it will appear as a presence, simple and inevitable…The true knowledge of things is denied to our reason; because that is not our spirit’s greatest essential power but only an expedient, a transitional instrument meant to deal with the appearance of things and their phenomenal process.”
Essays Divine and Human, Sir Aurobindo
Returning now to ‘Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality’…
But with the rise of modern science—associated particularly with the names of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Bacon, Newton, Kelvin, Clausius—this great and unified worldview began to fall apart, and fall apart in ways, it is clear, that none of the pioneering scientists themselves either foresaw or intended.
And it fell apart in a very peculiar way. These early scientists began their experimental studies in that realm which is apparently the least complicated: the physiosphere, the material universe, the world of inanimate matter. Kepler focused on planetary motion and Galileo on terrestrial mechanics; Newton synthesized their results in his universal law of gravitation and laws of motion; and Descartes worked all the results into a most influential philosophy. In all of these endeavors, the physiosphere began to look like a vast mechanism, a universal machine governed by strict causality. And worse, a machine that was running down.
Here was the problem: in the material world, science soon discovered, there are at least two very different types of phenomena, once described by the laws of classical mechanics and the other by the laws of thermodynamics. In the former, in classical Newtonian mechanics, time plays no fundamental role, because the processes described are reversible. For example, if a planet is going one way around the sun or the reverse way around the sun, the laws describing the motion are the same, because in these types of “classical mechanics” time changes nothing essential; you can as easily turn your watch forward as you can turn it backward—the mechanism and its laws don’t care which way you turn it.
But in thermodynamic processes, “times arrow” is absolutely central…time’s arrow is a crucial part of these types of physical processes, because these processes always proceed in one direction only. They are irreversible.
And the infamous Second Law of Thermodynamics added a dismal conclusion: the direction of time’s arrow is downward. Physical processes…always go from more ordered…to less ordered. The universe may be a giant clockwork, but the clock is winding down…and eventually runs out.
The problem was not that these early conceptions were simply wrong. Aspects of the physiosphere do indeed act in a deterministic and mechanistic-like fashion, and some of them are definitely running down. Rather, it was that these conceptions were partial. They covered some of the most obvious aspects of the physiosphere, but because of the primitive means and instruments available at the time, the subtler (and more significant) aspects of the physiosphere were overlooked.
And yet, as we shall see, it was precisely in these subtler aspects that the physiosphere’s connection to the biosphere could be established. At the time, however, lacking these connections, the physiosphere and the biosphere simply fell apart—in the sciences, in religion, and in philosophy. Thus it was the partialness of the early natural sciences, and not any glaring errors, that would inadvertently contribute to the subsequent…fracturing of the Western worldview.
Against this early…scientific understanding of the physiosphere, which was now seen as a reversible mechanism irreversibly running down, came the work of Alfred Wallace and Charles Darwin on evolution through natural selection in the biosphere. Although the notion of evolution, or irreversible development through time, had an old and honorable history (from the Ionian philosophers to Heraclitus to Aristotle to Schelling), it was of course Wallace and Darwin who set it in a scientific framework backed by meticulous empirical observations, and it was Darwin especially who lit the world’s imagination with his ideas on the evolutionary nature of the various species, including humans.
Apart from the specifics of natural selection itself (which mos t theorists now agree can account for microchanges in evolution but no macrochanges), there were two things that jumped out in the Darwinian worldview, one of which was not novel at all, and one of which was very novel. The first was the continuity of life; the second, speciation by natural selection.
The idea of the continuity of life—the web of life, the tree of life, the “no gaps in nature” view—was at least as old as Plato and Aristotle…Spirit manifests itself in the world in such a complete and full fashion that it leaves no gaps in nature, no missing links in the Great Chain. And, as Lovejoy noted, it was the philosophical belief that there are no gaps in creation that directly led to the scientific attempts to find not only the missing links in nature (which is where that phrase originated) but also evidence of life on other planets. All of these “gaps” needed to be filled in, in order to round out the Great Chain, and there was precisely nothing new or unusual in Darwin’s presentation of the continuous tree of life.
What was rather novel was his thesis that the various links in the Great Chain, the various species themselves, had in fact unfolded or evolved over vast stretches of geological time and were not simply put there, all at once, at the creation. There were precedents for this thesis, particularly in Aristotle’s version of the Great Chain, which, he maintained, showed a progressive and unbroken development of nature through what he called metamorphosis, from inorganic (matter) to nutritive (plant) to sensorimotor (animal) to symbol-utilizing animals (humans), all displaying progressive organization and increasing complexity of form. Leibniz had taken profound steps to “temporalize” the Great Chain, and with Schelling and Hegel we see the full-blown conception of a process or developmental philosophy applied to literally all aspects and all spheres of existence.
But it was Darwin’s meticulous descriptions of natural species and his unusual clarity of presentation, combined with his hypothesis of natural selection, that propelled the concept of development or evolution to the scientific forefront. Of the biosphere.
And in the biosphere Darwin (and many others) noticed that there is also a crucial time’s arrow. Evolution is irreversible. We may see amoebas eventually evolve into apes, but we never see apes turn into amoebas. That is, evolution proceeds irreversibly in the direction of increasing differentiation/integration, increasing structural organization, and increasing complexity. It goes from less ordered to more ordered. But obviously, the direction of this arrow was diametrically opposed to time’s arrow in the (known) physiosphere: the former is winding up, the latter is winding down.
It was at this point, historically, that the physiosphere and the biosphere fell apart. It was an extremely difficult situation. For one thing, both physics and biology were supposed to be part of the new natural sciences, relying on empirical observation, measurement, theory formation, and rigorous testing (this overall procedure was indeed novel, dating from 1605 with Kepler and Galileo). But although the methods of physics and biology were similar, their results were fundamentally incompatible, saddled, as Lazlo put it, with “the persistent contradiction between a mechanistic world slated to run down and an organic world seeming to wind up.”
In the article “I Nanobot” published in Salon.com, scientist Alan H. Goldstein had a different take on this supposed contradiction. He viewed the biosphere as a somewhat inconsequential negantropic vortex within the vast entropic sea of the physiosphere. As I view the ‘biosphere’ as an enfolding of the physiosphere, I see the biosphere bottoming out in the physiosphere, and therefore feel Wilber’s dichotomy here to be a false one. Goldstein also felt we were too easily seduced by the allure of ‘complexity,’ causing us to underestimate the power of simpler forces, like chemical imperialism for example. The matrix of space/time ‘appears’ mechanistic, not because the Newtonian/Cartesian view is ‘partial’—it appears mechanistic because it is mechanistic, through and through. What has changed is not our ideas about space/time itself, per se, but the scientific realization implicit within quantum mechanics; that the fundamental particles of what we call the material world do not exist in space/time and, therefore, space/time is a suborder of a larger dimension that Bohm calls the implicate order. The Newtonian/Cartesian view accurately depicted space/time as mechanistic. It was partial only in that it did not have the types of instruments to access the subtler orders or dimensions.
Space/Time is ruled by the second law of thermodynamics—it is running down. Fortunately, space/time unfolds from larger dimensions from which negantropic forces can be drawn. Who, with half a brain, is not stunned by the incredible uptick in senseless violence and violent irrationality? My suggestion is that this is only a mystery as long as we fail to grasp the biosphere as a flimsy craft circling the entropic drain of the physiosphere; as long as we fail to grasp that Bohm has it dead right when he says there is only one way out–an atom smashing of the ego that dismantles the entropic structures of the explicit order, allowing the inrush of the negantropic force of the implicit and superimplicit orders.
Thought As A System, David Bohm
…clearly, the human being actually is there in some sense—he is actual. The question is: does the human being exist with a permanent identity? And, if there is one, what would it be? We said that this whole notion of identity doesn’t seem to be very coherent. The whole basis is very ephemeral, insubstantial in thought.
…there was the suggestion of another way of looking at the human being. The ground of any person is really unknown. It might be in the whole totality of whatever is—of all matter, even beyond matter. We ourselves are matter which has come together from all over the world…so materially our ground is really the whole universe. Thus, you could follow it through scientifically and say that it came from the earth, and that the earth was formed from hot gas which came from the stars…and those came from interplanetary dust…back to the big bang and even beyond…Thus, we would have to say that in some sense this matter is actual.
But our thoughts about it are not actual. They are representations, they contain forms. The thought about the table contains a form. But the table doesn’t actually end the way we see it—at the atomic level it would sort of shade out a bit.
And in modern physics, one of the things they say is that empty space is full of energy, a vast amount of energy. Each wave in empty space has a certain amount of minimum energy even when it’s empty, and if you add up all the waves it would be infinite. But if you add up waves down to a certain length called the Plank length (the to the minus thirty-three centimeters—a very short distance beyond which we might expect the laws of physics not to hold) the total in a cubic centimeter would be more than the energy of all the matter in the universe. The idea, then, is that space is mostly full, and that matter is a small ripple on it. You can make a very strong case for that according to modern physics.
Similarly, we could say that whatever is behind the mind—the consciousness, or whatever you want to call it—is a vast stream; and on the surface are ripples which are thought…Even when we talk of things being ‘here,’ they are really small ripples on some vast energy which is circulating. The only reason this energy doesn’t show up is because matter and light go right through it without deflecting. What we experience is empty space. But it may also be regarded as the fullness of space, which is the ground of all existence. Matter is, then, a small variation on this ground.
…Now, maybe mind is another ‘side’ of that same thing—that which we call energy on one side is mind on the other side. That is, energy is pervaded with a kind of intgelligence out of which perhaps insight comes, or deeper perception of truth. That’s the suggestion.