3. No Escape from Reality
Life is real. Something really happens.
The new physics made it clear that the world we see is defined by the instrument we observe it with. This led Bohm to study mind and consciousness. This was an abomination to many of his colleagues.
Bohm began to read material outside physics, asking questions like: What is truth? Why are we here? How does the mind work? Is there something beyond our perception?
His interest was professional and also personal due to his traumatic experiences of being exiled.
Everything is internally connected to everything.
Bohm started his exploration from what it means that the universe is one undivided whole where everything is connected to everything. How are we connected?
The relationships between part and the whole are not only external but in essence, internal.
According to The Oxford Companion 'internally related' means that two internally related items would not be the same item without their relationship to the other. They not only affect each other, they are even more than interdependent. Their whole existence depends on the other!
Internal connection means that everything in the world gets its form and nature from its surroundings and connections. The relationship may be close even if the items are far away in space and time.
It is easy to see this. We may feel very close to a person whom we saw for a very short time many years ago yet we have no contact with a person next to us on a bus.
This means that our contacts with people, nature and things are not based on space and time but depend more on the meaning we give to them. Often we realize the importance of our relationships when they are over. Losing someone dear leaves a hole in our heart.
Always the same, never the same
The second insight Bohm made was that the whole is never still. Its basic feature is movement. He called it the holomovement. It is never the same. You cannot step into the same river twice.
The whole is never still, never the same.
We see objects moving, but that is only an idea of something moving. The separate objects are our own creations. They are not actually separate but internally connected to each other.
When I meet a person, we affect each other by the way we watch and act. We send signals and react to them. There are two movements: one in space and time and the other in our mind.
The movement is essential.
In the Bohmian world the essence of the universe is not matter nor energy but the endless movement of wholeness. What we see and sense are manifestations of this movement. The foundation of everything is far beyond our senses, not in space and time.
The source of the show is beyond our grasp.
The world we perceive with our senses is only a show but it has become all-important to us. However, the invisible is the stage on which our lives unfold.
Giving emphasis to the visible show is a fatal mistake that seriously damages our mind. It cuts our link to the depths of the world, to other people, to nature and even to ourselves.
In science, everything has to be proven to be true. This leads to a limited worldview because there is a great deal in the universe that we cannot prove. We need science and proof, but all scientific results are based on some assumptions. If the assumptions are limited, the results are limited, too.
If there is a true mystery, there is no way science can get evidence for it. Yet, life is a mystery, we don't understand it fully.
Many people have a definite map in their mind of how the world works. It is always an assumption but the person does not regard it so.
Most religions assume that there is an entity or reality that cannot and even should not be proven to be correct. It is enough if we just believe there is something that is beyond our grasp.
Our worldview is a combination of belief and knowledge. Scientists don't mind that they privately believe in something that has no scientific validity.
In quantum theory, the reality depends on the measuring instruments. In studying the world we actually study our selves.
We don't invent our worldview, we adopt it.
Nobody has invented their own worldview. We adopt it from our culture.
The foundation of our life is built on a shaky basis. It depends on where we happened to be born, with whom we have lived, what we have read, and what we have experienced.
Truth is not an opinion, something dependent on circumstances. It is not to be found in some ideology or theory. It is everywhere, in every stick and stone, every brick and bone. The truth is a solid ground on which to build our worldview.
Empty is full
The manifest world is just a tiny ripple in an enormous sea of energy. The empty space between material objects is not empty. It is full of energy and information.
"Empty" space is full of energy and information.
In modern physics empty space is full of energy. Each wave in empty space has a certain minimum energy and if you add up all the waves it would be infinite.
Bohm calculated that the total energy in one cubic centimetre of 'empty' space would be more than the energy of all the matter in the universe. Thus, space is actually full and matter is just a small ripple on it.
The space between people connects us.
The only reason that we cannot see this energy is because matter and light go through it without deflecting. We see only empty space, but it may also be regarded as the fullness of space, which is the ground of all existence. Matter is just a small variation of this ground.
In fact, the space between people does not separate people. It connectsus, unites us. What a beautiful idea!
This may sound odd enough but Bohm goes one step further, saying that the information in this "empty" space is potentially active. It is not waiting passively but affects and gives form to the things we see.
He gives an analogy. There are radio waves in the air. We can hear them only when the waves are transformed into sound in a receiver, but they are there all the time ready to be activated. Information is ready to be used all the time, whether we use it or not.
The same principle works in our mind. We pick something up and give it meaning. The difference is that there is a button to turn the radio off but no button to turn off our mind.
Most of what is in the mind does not manifest to us. It is potentially active. Yet it affects how we see, experience and act.
The chaos we made
We see a narrow reflection of the world and give undue value to our own experiences. We live in our own little bubble not knowing much about what is going on in the world. This causes a fatal flaw in our human system.
The first step in correcting this would be if we were able to see that our worldview is merely an interpretation, rather than an absolute, objective fact.
Science is a serious attempt to find the facts but no good scientist thinks she knows or understands everything. Scientists focus on some aspect or detail and in doing so they ignore some part of actuality. The whole is always more than our perception.
Bohm challenges the atomistic ontology prevalent in Western philosophy and science. To him, the picture of externally related elements is not only limited but also wrong and dangerous.
Society is a reflection of the human mind. Our cultures are a complex mixture of facts and fiction. Nations are divided both geographically and psychologically. There are dividing borders inside and outside but they do not prevent the spreading of pollution and violence.
Most problems are common to us but they are by no means only personal. We are internally connected to the whole, so there is no place to escape from reality.
We live in the world and affect it even when we don't do or think anything!
Living in a mental cage
It is easy to think that outward problems are not our fault because we did not produce them. It is not that simple!
We are creating the world.
What we think creates our reality. We are not separate from society. We are the society, and its divisions and corruption are our babies. The world chaos is not only outside, it is very much inside us all. There is no order outside because there is chaos and disorder inside us.
We are not just passive bystanders, but actively taking part in the world when we have opinions and take sides. We are creating the world.
If we lived and acted just factually there would be no conflict in the world. There is conflict because we all live in our own personal box: national, religious, political, scientific or social foxhole.
We may have positive self-images but they make working together difficult or impossible. Our life is based on mental programs which make and shape our worldview. To us they are not programs but our true observations.
The beliefs we identify with are not negotiable. We defend them at any cost! You cannot force a fanatic to see how his mind creates illusions and chaos. We don't see what our convictions do to us. They are our security, our human rights.
We are ready to fight or kill for our convictions, but not to question their relevance. We would rather die than abandon our basic beliefs, even when they harm or destroy us.
This reaction is coded into our ego-system. If we saw this we would do something. But it is very difficult to see something that is well hidden in the recesses of our mind. We need a serious push to get us going.
Good will is not good enough
Our traditional way of solving problems is to find the cause and use our willpower to overcome it. This works only on easy problems. I can lose weight or get rid of certain fears if I am ready to make certain sacrifices.
This method is based on conflict. We are programmed to live in conflict, both inner and outer. We are so used to it that we do not even question it, although the evidence is obvious and imposed on us.
The same method does not work with global problems like poverty, pollution or violence. There are two reasons. The first is that we want contradictory things, to 'have our cake and eat it, too'. We want peace and war. We can hate the person we love. We want to drink and have fun but not the hangover and remorse.
If we find the why, you may find a way.
The second reason is that global problems are systemic. There is not one specific reason that you can find and fix but rather many mixed reasons. There is no button that could end poverty or save the environment. If we find the cause we will sooner or later find a cure, but it is not easy to find the essential faults in a complicated system.
In both of his books, Thought as a System and Changing Consciousness, Bohm points out that to solve the world crisis we must dig deep into our consciousness to find the root cause. Dealing with the symptoms may ease but does not cure the disease.
We do not see the common denominator of human tragedy. For centuries we have been programmed to accept incorrect assumptions of the world.
We think that we are the centre of the whole universe and have a special role here. We are definitely NOT the centre and we definitely DO NOT have the role we imagine we have!
Focus on facts
The first step in breaking this false pattern is to see the difference between the two worlds. What happens is absolute. What we think is happening is where our troubles come from.
Hunger, wars, hate, envy, sorrow and suffering are facts, but they are also concepts and projections of our mind. We can talk about food and love but it does not take away hunger or wars.
It is selfish to close our eyes and escape the world by seeking only our own pleasure and happiness. If you feel you are the world, you feel responsible for every move you make.
But we must be clear here: we cannot act if we worry too much or feel desperate. The clue is in seeing the world correctly, not as we imagine it or want it to be.
Facts are neither good nor bad. They are facts. How we react to them is all-important. If facts are not pleasant, we want to escape them. There are certain things we do not want to speak or hear about.
Being positive is not the answer. It is an easy escape from the ugly facts. We are fooling ourselves if we believe in something that is not true but only the other side of the coin.
Self-deception leads to a collective illusion. If many people believe in something false, it becomes collusion, a collective form of delusion.
Why do we deceive ourselves? Sometimes truth is too harsh, shameful or depressing to cope with. We would rather choose the easy way out than face the facts and change them.
The world offers many choices to escape: entertainment, beer, career, religion, politics, arts, sports or meditation. They may ease the pain but not remove the deep cause.
Change starts from clarity
We can change the world - and the world changes whether we want it or not.
We are the problem of the world. We created the ecological and the economical catastrophes. As Bohm puts it, "ecology is no problem, rather it has a problem with us".
We are the problem - and the solution.
The best way to change the world is to see how the world works and act coherently.
Coherence is a key concept in Bohm's thinking. Actions are coherent when they produce the results we want.
To create a good society, we need a coherent mind. We also need clarity. We must be aware of what we do. This is prevented because we hold onto our opinions and preferences.
There is one deep obstacle to changing the world that we are not aware of: our blind zones. They are areas we do not see.
Sometimes we cannot see them because they are beyond our senses and concepts. Often, we do not even want to see the facts because they challenge our identity and security. We try to avoid unpleasant experiences but cannot, of course, succeed in it.
Our thinking changes the world. This is an automatic process, but our blind zones prevent us from changing our thinking profoundly. We can choose some thoughts and affect our feelings, but not all. Our deepest emotions react more quickly than we can and do not take orders from us. There is a biological reason for this mechanism.
Deep change begins at the root of thinking but we cannot get there using thinking. We must use other tools like attention, awareness, insight, intelligence, love, and compassion. Bohm´s sensational insight was that thinking prevents us from using them.
Our mind separates the thinker from thinking. Our ego seems to be looking at our thoughts. That may be a delusion. To see the truth of this we need these new tools.
Seeing this whole process as one movement changes our thinking profoundly and removes the dividing line between us and the world. When this process of separation ends, the problems disappear. It is as simple as that.
Is this the world we want?
In watching the daily news we may ask if this is the world we want to live in. Could there be a better way to live? Can we solve this dilemma?
Yes, of course, there is and we can. Simply put: putting thinking in its right place.
Thinking is necessary in remembering, planning, inventing, imagining, measuring, writing, speaking and artistic expression. It is very harmful when it creates conflicts, feelings of fear, horror, sorrow, pain, anxiety, prejudices - and pleasure, too.
We would be in trouble if we had no memory. We are also in trouble when memory makes us violent or worried.
To find the right place of thinking we must first understand our mind better.