(Copyright © 2000 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
This book collects essays written by the US
physicist David Bohm in the 1960s and 1970s that stradle the line between
philosophy and cosmology. Bohm originally proposed his theory of matter in
1952 and these essays simply refine it.
Quantum and Relativity theories may be very different, but they agree denying the existence of single static particles, they agree in describing the world as an undivided whole in constant flux (albeit in completely different ways) in which all parts of the universe are constantly interacting; and that includes the observer, the "I". The universe is characterized by a "flow" that integrates everything: individual forms are the equivalent of the still photograph of an object in motion. It turns out that we perceive the "flow" of reality through those static images, but those still images are only a simplification of motion. By analogy, what goes on in our mind is a stream of consciousness, from which we can abstract concepts, ideas, etc (forms of thought) that are mere instances of that flow of thought. Thought is a kind of movement, and concepts are kinds of objects. Bohm believes that there is just one flow, in which both matter and mind flow, and that this flow can be known only implicitly through the forms (the still photographs) that we can grasp out of this flow.
Bohm therefore rejects the distinction between what we are thinking and what is going on, as well as the notion that one part of reality (my mind) can know another part of reality: it is wrong to separate the thinker from the thought. The thinker is not separate from the reality that he thinks about, the thinker and that reality are parts of the same flow.
Bohm points to the "fragmentation of consciousness" that our view of the world has caused as an illness of our times. The conviction that thinker and object of his thinking (between thought and non-thought) are separate permeates our mental life. This conviction comes from the structure of language itself: modern language is based on the pattern "subject- verb- object", that clearly separates the subject and the object, whereas in realty the key actor is the verb, not the subject, and the verb unites the subject and the object in one undivided action.
To support his claims, Bohm offers a new interpretation of Quantum Theory based on "hidden" variables. He assumes that the wave function does not represent just a set of probabilities: it represents an actual field. This field exists and acts upon particles the same way a classical potential does. The "quantum potential" associated to this field is function of the wave function. This value fluctuates rapidly and what Quantum Theory observes is merely an average over time (just like Newton's physics reads a value for quantities that are actually due to the Brownian motion of many particles). Quantum Reality deals with mean values of an underlying reality just like Newton's physics deals with mean values of thermodynamic quantities. The behavior of the particle as observed by Quantum Mechanics is determined by the particle's position and momentum (that are not incompatible in Bohm's theory), the wave field and the sub-quantum fluctuations.
After all, the study of "elementary" particles has shown that even elementary particles can be destroyed and created, which means that they are not the ultimate components of the universe, that there must be un underlying reality, or, in Bohm's terms, an underlying "flux". Bohm finds that the basic problem is in an obsolete notion of "order".
Cartesian order (the "grid" of space-time events) is appropriate for Newtonian physics in which the universe is divided in separate objects, but inadequate for Quantum and Relativity theories to reflect their idiosyncrasie and in particular the undivided wholeness of the universe that Bohm has been focusing on.
Bohm's solution is to contrast the "explicate order" that we perceive (for example, the Cartesian order) and that Physics describess with the "implicate order", which is an underlying, hidden layer of relationships. The explicate order is but a manifestation of the implicate order. Space and time, for example, are "forms" of the explicate order that are derived from the implicate order.
The implicate order is similar to the order within a hologram: the implicate order of a hologram gives rise to the explicate order of an image, but the implicate order is not simply a one-to-one representation of the image. In fact, each region of the hologram contains a representation of the entire image. The implicate order and the explicate order are fundamentally different. The main difference is that in the explicate order each point is separate from the others. In the intricate order, the whole universe is "enfolded" in everything, and everything is enfolded in the whole. in the extricate order "things" become (relatively) independent.
Bohm suggested that the implicate order could be defined by the quantum potential, the field consisting of an infinite number of pilot waves. The overlapping of the waves generates the explicate order of particles and forces, and ultimately space and time.
At the level of the implicate order, which is now a sort of "higher dimension", there is no difference between matter and mind. That difference arises within the explicate order. As we travel inwards, we travel towards that higher dimension, the implicate order, in which mind and matter are the same. As we travel outwards, we travel towards the explicate order in which subject and object are separate.
Mental and physical processes are essentially the same. Therefore, a mind-like quality is present in every particle, and it becomes more "mind-like" as we travel to lower levels of reality.
There is an inherent affinity between consciousness and implicate order. For example, when we listen to music we directly perceive the implicate order, not just the explicate order of those sounds.