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August 4, 2010

God, Science & The Secret Doctrine  IV-chapter 6

also Microcosm/Macrocosm II - 3b

6.  David Bohm on Wholeness
and the Implicate Order

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.  (Bohm, 1980, p. 174)
a.  The Basic Paradigm

            Dr. David Bohm was an associate of A. Einstein and author of the acclaimed Wholeness and the Implicate Order (1980).  One of the w­orld’s foremost theoretical physicists, Bohm published classic works on quantum and relativity theory and was an important contributor to the debate concerning hidden variables in quantum theory.  Because of his eminence as a physicist, David Bohm was in the privileged position of being able to espouse his radical theoretical model–one that postulated the undivided wholeness of reality.  Dr. Bohm’s ideas generated widespread interest not only amongst scientists but also within philosophical, religious and New Age circles. Bohm’s work figured prominently in the holographic model of consciousness which arose during the 1980s.   Bohm’s conclusions about the unity and interrelatedness of all things have profound implications for the study of both physics and human consciousness.            

Bohm’s model of wholeness and the implicate orders arose from his attempt to reconcile relativity and quantum theory while accounting for non-local effects and other quantum paradoxes.  He distinguished between the outward, manifest physical reality—the “explicate order”—and the underlying, un-manifest realm—the “implicate order.”  In the explicate order, we have separate little bits—the isolated quanta existing outside of each other in separate regions of spacetime and interacting only through local effects.  However, Bohm suggests that beyond the explicate order, beyond the quantum level, are the implicate and super-implicate orders.  Quanta which appear in the explicate order to be separate in space and time are interconnected within the underlying implicate and super-implicate orders.  There is thus a deeper reality which plays a determining role in relationship to the manifestation of material particles or quanta within spacetime. 

The implicate orders underlie the explicate orders and material reality in a sense unfolds from WITHIN/WITHOUT.

 ... a new notion of order is involved here, which we called the implicate order (from a Latin root meaning ‘to enfold’ or ‘to fold inward’). In terms of the implicate order one may say that everything is enfolded into everything. This contrasts with the explicate order now dominant in physics in which things are unfolded in the sense that each thing lies only in its own particular region of space (and time) and outside the regions belonging to other things. (Bohm, p. 177)

Within Bohm’s framework, all manifest phenomena of the explicate order (the manifest physical world) must be understood as particular cases of the unfolding of a more general set of implicate orders (the unmanifest underlying realm). The fundamental relationships are between the implicated structures, which interpenetrate each other throughout the whole of space and time. The explicate order flows out of the laws and processes of a multi-dimensional implicate order—as apparent differentiations of an undivided whole!  Bohm explains:

 ... the central underlying theme (is) the unbroken wholeness of the totality of existence as an undivided flowing movement without borders. ... in the implicate order the totality of existence is enfolded within each region of space (and time). So, whatever part, element, or aspect we may abstract in thought, this still enfolds the whole and is therefore intrinsically related to the totality from which it has been abstracted. Thus, wholeness permeates all that is being discussed, from the very outset. (1980, p. 172)

Bohm’s basic thesis is that even the whole of the Universe is implicated within any point. Such a view is remarkable–a profound revision of centuries of fragmentary little-bit scientific thought. Bohm turns everything upside down:  whereas we had viewed causes as deriving from motion within the explicate order, now the causes are within the hidden implicate orders.  Manifest reality is but a shadow of the deeper underlying realities.

            Within Bohm’s framework, there is a most unusual conception of time and space, matter and energy being unfolded out of the hidden implicate order. In Bohm’s view, the fundamental reality is that of undivided wholeness and all quanta are interconnected within multidimensional implicate orders, instead of simply being isolated elements within spacetime.

b. On Relativity and Quantum Theory

             Bohm was led to the wholeness paradigm through his efforts to understand the paradoxes of modern relativity and quantum theory. These theories are the foundations of modern physics and yet have never been reconciled within a unifying theoretical framework. Bohm’s major orientation in trying to unify these theories was to demonstrate how they both lead to a view of the fundamental unity of reality:

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. It is shown that both in relativity theory and quantum theory, notions implying the undivided wholeness of the universe would provide a much more orderly way of considering the general nature of reality. (1980, pp. xi-xii)

In his attempt to integrate relativity theory and quantum mechanics within one framework, Bohm noted that despite their perceived differences, they shared the notion of wholeness:

It is instructive to contrast the key features of relativistic and quantum theories. ... relativity theory requires continuity, strict causality (or determinism) and locality. On the other hand, quantum theory requires non-continuity, non-causality and non-locality. So the basic concepts of relativity and quantum theory directly contradict each other. It is therefore hardly surprising that these two theories have never been unified in a consistent way. ... What is very probably needed instead is a qualitatively new theory, from which both relativity and quantum theory are to be derived as abstractions, approximations and limiting cases.

The basic notions of this new theory evidently cannot be found by beginning with those features in which relativity and quantum theory stand in direct contradiction.  The best place to begin is with what they have basically in common. This is undivided wholeness. Though each comes to such wholeness in a different way, it is clear that it is this to which they are both fundamentally pointing.

To begin with undivided wholeness means, however, that we must drop the mechanistic order. But this order has been, for many centuries, basic to all thinking on physics.  (p.176)

Einstein proposed that, instead of taking reality as composed of particles, we should take fields as the starting point. However, Bohm notes that Einstein’s views of fields retained an essential feature of the mechanistic order—the belief in only ‘local effects.’  This is because:

 ... the field concept, which is his basic starting point, still retains the essential features of a mechanistic order, for the fundamental entities, the fields, are conceived as existing outside of each other, at separate points of space and time, and are assumed to be connected with each other only through external relationships which indeed are also taken to be local, in the sense that only those field elements that are separated by ‘infinitesimal’ distances can affect each other. (p. 174)

    Bohm notes that the unified field theory was not successful in the attempt to provide an ultimate mechanistic basis for physics in terms of the field concept, since it implied that “no coherent concept of an independently existent particle” is possible.  However, unified field theory “showed in a concrete way how consistency with the theory of relativity may be achieved by deriving the particle concept as an abstraction from an unbroken and undivided totality of existence.” (pp. 173-4)  

            In Bohm’s analysis, a unified field theory of relativity leads to one view of wholeness. However, it is quantum theory, which Bohm describes as posing a second and “much more serious challenge to this mechanistic order, going far beyond that provided by the theory of relativity.” (p. 175) According to Bohm, there are three features to quantum theory which challenge the mechanistic view within science.

 1.  Movement is in general discontinuous, in the sense that action is constituted of indivisible quanta (implying also that an electron, for example, can go from one state to another, without passing through any states in between).


2.  Entities, such as electrons, can show different properties (e.g., particle-like, wavelike, or something in between), depending on the environmental context within which they exist and are subject to observation.

3.  Two entities, such as electrons, which initially combine to form a molecule and then separate, show a peculiar non-local relationship, which can best be described as a non-causal connections of elements that are far apart (as demonstrated in the experiments of Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen). (Bohm, 1980, p.175)

 The first point concerns the quantized or discontinuous nature of movement. The fact that actions are in the form of discrete quanta suggests to Bohm that the interactions between different entities constitute “a single structure of indivisible links, so that the entire universe has to be thought of as an unbroken whole.” (p.175)  For example, in the explicate order, an electron will appear in one energy state one moment and then instantaneously appear in another–disappearing between states. This discontinuous (or quantized) jump of an electron from one orbit to another, with the particle leaving no traces of its path, points to underlying dimensions of existence which links the orbital arrangements into a larger whole. The implicate orders are beyond the level of the quantum. The discontinuous or quantized nature of movement, in the atom and more generally in quantum interactions, is one feature of quantum theory which suggests the underlying wholeness and the necessity for implicate orders to exist in relationship to the explicate orders.

            The second point made by Bohm with respect to quantum theory concerns how entities, like electrons or photons, can exhibit the properties of waves or particles,  or what he describes as “something in between”–depending on the environmental context within which they exist and are subject to observation.  Einstein’s view of an objective reality was of one that existed in a definite way independently of how it was being observed or known. The role of the observer in influencing the observed is a second aspect of quantum theory which challenges the mechanistic view of creation and which points towards an underlying wholeness—which includes even the consciousness and mind of the observer.

            The third feature of quantum theory, which challenges the mechanistic order, has to do with non-local relationships and the E-P-R (Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen) paradox.  In discussing the nature of the implicate order, Bohm uses the example of the EPR paradox and explains that the electrons which influence each other non-locally and instantaneously must both be regarded as “projections of a higher dimensional reality:” i.e., these particles do not simply interact between themselves but rather are projections of the same higher dimensions (infolded into each). The particles then refer to a single actuality, which is the common ground for both. A multidimensional implicate order thus projects into lower dimensional elements and is the basis for non-local relationships.

            Bohm suggests that relativity and quantum theory, the two major foundations of modern physics, both ultimately lead to a view of wholeness.  Bohm then argues that if we begin with this notion of wholeness as the fundamental reality, then both theories can be derived as abstractions or limiting cases explained from this starting point. 

c. Active Information,
the Quantum Potential & Deep Reality

... the causal interpretation suggests that nature may be far more subtle
and strange than was previously thought.  (Bohm & Peat, 1987, p.93)

            In Bohm’s view, there is a deep reality beyond the level of the quanta, which exerts determining, causal influences on the manifestations of the wave/particles in space/time. Thus, while the uncertainty principle is a limiting principle evident in the explicate order, there are hidden implicate orders beyond the physically observable realm. 

            Bohm emphasized that a quantum was indeed a real particle plus a real wave (Herbert, 1987), but it is linked to a new field composed of the pilot wave which guides the movement of the particle.  Bohm viewed the electron or quantum as an ordinary particle but it is guided by a very non-ordinary wave. The ‘pilot wave’ was regarded as instantaneously affected whenever a change occurred within the whole environment and it communicates this change to the particle altering its position and momentum. Thus, Bohm put forth a non-local causal model accepting the implications of quantum theory’s baffling holism and non-local effects.

            Bohm uses various analogies to explain his non-ordinary waves–the pilot waves that carry the quantum potential.  These pilot waves carry information rather than energy or mass and serve to guide the particle. The quantum potential is this information content. Thus, we have a triad of matter, energy and information—in contrast with the traditional matter-energy duality:

 By way of illustration, think of a ship that sails on automatic pilot, guided by radio waves. The overall effect of the radio waves is independent of their strength and depends only on their form. The essential point is that the ship moves with its own energy but that the information within the radio waves is taken up and used to direct the much greater energy of the ship.  In the causal interpretation, the electron moves under its own energy, but the information in the form of the quantum wave directs the energy of the electron. (Bohm, Peat 1987, p. 90)

There are three elements: i) information in the pilot wave, ii) energy in the engines of the ship, and iii) the mass of the ship itself.  The external direction of the matter of the ship is determined by the energy expenditure of the engines, which is informed by information content within the quantum potential.

            The influence of the quantum potential does not depend on the energy of the field but on the form of the field, and the transfer of information is not limited by the speed of light.  The quantum potential or pilot wave embodies “active information” and with little (if any) energy.  Similarly, a quantum such as an electron moves under its own energy but the information in the “quantum potential” directs its energy expenditure.

            The equation for the quantum potential is highly unusual in that its strength is independent of distance.  This contrasts with the strength of other physical fields (e.g., electromagnetism or gravity) which depend upon distance; such that the further two quanta (or two cosmic bodies) are apart, then the weaker the force between them.  Further, the quantum potential embodies information, not limited by the speed of light, but instantaneously present throughout the field.  Time itself has a different meaning within this domain. 

            Bohm explains the profound implications of this view:

The quantum field contains information about the whole environment and about the whole past, which regulates the present activity of the electron in much the same way that information about the whole past and our whole environment regulates our own activity as human beings, through consciousness. (p. 39)

 ... the higher level simply transcends the lower level altogether. It’s immensely greater and has an entirely different set of relationships out of which the lower level is obtained as a very small part, in an abstraction.  (p. 40)

... what is going on in the full depth of that one moment of time contains information about all of it. ... In nonmanifest reality, it’s all interpenetrating, interconnected, one.  (In Weber, 1986, p. 41)  1

 According to this formulation, information about the whole informs any part and is more primary.  Material reality is “unfolded” then from within/without: with the implicate orders “informing” the explicate order.  Bohm takes quantum interconnectedness to the extreme by suggesting that any particular quanta (element, particle) is ultimately interconnected through the implicate and s­uper-implicate orders to the whole of the universe!  2   It is as if the universe somehow concentrates itself within every point. 

All phenomena of the explicate order (the manifest physical world) involve the unfolding of a more general set of implicate orders (un-manifest, subtle dimensions).   In Bohm’s initial formulation, he posited the existence of only the implicate and explicate orders, but later added a third level of dimensions–the super-implicate orders beyond the implicate orders.   He describes this higher order as:

... a super-information field of the whole universe, a super-implicate order which organizes the first level (of the implicate orders) into various structures and is capable of tremendous development of structure.  The point about the super-implicate order is that if we take the holographic theory, though we have an implicate order, nothing organizes it.  It is what’s called “linear” ... but it does not have an intrinsic capacity to unfold an order.  The super-implicate order, which is the so-called higher field ... makes the implicate order non-linear and organizes it into relatively stable forms with complex structures.  (In Weber, 1986, p. 33)

According to this scheme, the physical world is the external manifestation of multidimensional hidden dimensions.  The explicate order flows out of the laws and processes of multi-dimensional implicate and super-implicate orders–apparent differentiations of an undivided whole:

 ... in the implicate order the totality of existence is enfolded within each region of space (and time). So, whatever part, element, or aspect we may abstract in thought, this still enfolds the whole and is therefore intrinsically related to the totality from which it has been abstracted.  Thus, wholeness permeates all that is being discussed, from the very outset.  (1980, p. 172)

 According to Bohm, reality as it appears to our senses–the everyday world of matter and energy in time and space–is essentially a holographic image projected out of vast interconnected hidden dimensions.  The separateness of quanta is an illusion produced by severing the relationship of the parts to the underlying whole.

            Bohm’s model of the implicate orders suggest that there is indeed a more fundamental hidden reality–inner worlds beyond the level of the quanta.  Since all things are interconnected in informational fields that inform material/energetic processes, then there must be some inner dimensions of being capable of responding to this active information–some kind of receiver or resonator system.  Bohm uses a radio analogy to explain this.  The radio wave carries information or a signal which might be considered to be potentially available everywhere. However, for this potential information to have an active informational influence, there has to be a radio set with electrical energy capable of responding to this informational field.  In this case, we might hear singing (molecular sound vibration) propagated from a radio. We require the harmonic resonator (the radio set), the information and the energy (electrical power) to produce a manifestation within the explicate order (sound).  This analogy with a radio set has startling implications for the necessity of other deep levels of reality. Bohm and Peat note:

The quantum wave carries “information” and is therefore potentially active everywhere, but it is actually active only when and where this energy enters into the energy of a particle. But this implies that an electron, or any other elementary particle, has a complex and subtle inner structure that is at least comparable with that of a radio. Clearly this notion goes against the whole tradition of modern physics, which assumes that as matter is analyzed into smaller and smaller parts, its behavior grows more elementary.  By contrast, the causal interpretation suggests that nature may be far more subtle and strange than was previously thought.

But this inner complexity of elementary matter is not as implausible as it may appear at first sight. For example, a large crowd of people can be treated by statistical laws, whereas individually their behavior is immensely subtler and more complex. Similarly, large masses of matter reduce to simple Newtonian behavior whereas atoms and molecules have a more complex inner structure. And what of the sub-atomic particles themselves? It is interesting to note that between the shortest distance now measurable in physics (10-16 cm) and the shortest distance in which current notions of space-time probably have meaning, (10-33 cm), there is a vast range of scale in which an immense amount of yet undiscovered structure could be contained.  Indeed this range is roughly equal to that which exists between our own size and that of the elementary particles. (1987, pp. 93-4)

 It seems that the world within is potentially as complex as the world without.  Only such inner dimensions of being could allow for a quantum to be responsive to the active information of the quantum potential containing information about the larger whole. 

Bohm in fact predicted new levels of complexity as suggested now within superstring and M-theories, and by the holographic paradigm, which provide such complex resonator systems with structures at least as complex as that of a radio.  Such complex resonator systems are indeed now suggested by such concepts as that of the seven dimensional Calabi-Yau spaces, and in M-theory, by the concepts of multidimensional ‘branes’ extended within the hyperspace dimensions.   Obviously there are complex implicate and super-implicate orders beyond the quantum for non-local effects to occur. 

            The whole argument of Bohm, as to the undivided wholeness of life, is certainly consistent with The Secret Doctrine of H. P. Blavatsky—who describes One Omniscience as thrilling throughout every finite point of the Kosmos—a view which is entirely consistent with Bohm’s vast information fields underlying and sustaining all things from within without.

1    This illustration depicts the invisible information field of the quantum potential for an electron in the two slit experimental situation widely used in physics to demonstrate quantum paradoxes.  This complex information field serves to guide the electron’s behaviour.

2   In terms of earlier discussion of quantum interconnectedness, the implicate orders are related to the configuration spaces wherein particles are phase entangled.  Hence, what happens anywhere in the universe might instantaneously effect through active information, the manifestations of matter and energy within time and space. The configuration space contains information about the whole.  Since all quanta emerged from a singularity condition at the beginning of time, all things are phase entangled in configuration space and are thus interrelated in the implicate order.

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