Bohm on the Enfolding-Unfolding Universe


 I consider David Bohm a prime example of a “wise man and scribe,” the class of teachers alluded to by Jesus in scripture. Bohm’s views, expressed in his book Wholeness and the Implicate Order, fit perfectly into the secret teaching.

(If you happen to be interested in Bohm’s life and background, there is a large article on him in Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

In his book, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, first published in 1980, Physicist David Bohm makes the following statement, which summarizes his theory of a new physics paradigm:

How, then, are we to consider the evolution of life as this is generally formulated in biology? First, it has to be pointed out that the very world ‘evolution’ (whose literal meaning is ‘unrolling’) is too mechanistic in its connotation to serve properly in this context. Rather, as we have already pointed out above, we should say that various successive living forms unfold creatively. Later members are not completely derivable from what came earlier, through a process in which effect arises out of cause (thought in some approximation such a causal process may explain certain limited aspects of the sequence). The law of this unfoldment cannot be properly understood without considering the immense multidimensional reality of which it is a projection (except in the rough approximation in which the implications of the quantum theory and of what is beyond this theory may be neglected).

Our overall approach has thus brought together questions of  the nature of the cosmos, of matter in general, of life, and of consciousness. All of these have been considered to be projections of a common ground. This we may call the ground of all that is, at least in so far as this may be sensed and known by us, in our present  phase of unfoldment of consciousness. Although we have no detailed perception or knowledge of this ground it is still in a certain sense enfolded in our consciousness, in ways in which we have outlined, as well as perhaps in other ways that are yet to be discovered.

Is this ground the absolute end of everything? In our proposed views concerning the general nature of ‘the totality of all that is’ we regard even this ground as a mere stage, in the sense that there could in principle be an infinity of further development beyond it. At any particular moment in this development each such set of views that may arise will constitute at most a proposal. It is not to be taken as an assumption about what the final truth is supposed to be, and still less as a conclusion concerning the nature of such truth. Rather, this proposal becomes itself an active factor in the totality of existence which includes as well the objects of our thoughts and experimental investigations. Any further proposals on this process will, like those already made, have to be viable. That is to say, one will require of them a general self-consistency as well as consistency in what flows from them in life as a whole. Through the force of an even deeper, more inward necessity in this totality, some new state of affairs may emerge in which both the world as we know it and our ideas about it may undergo an unending process of yet further change.

With this we have in essence carried the presentation of our cosmology and our general notions concerning the nature of the totality to a natural (though of course only a temporary) stopping point. From here on we can further survey it as a whole and perhaps fill in some of the details that have been left out in this necessarily sketchy treatment before going on to new developments of the kinds indicated above. (1)

Bohm defines and describes various aspects of his theory without pushing his reader into quantum-theory mathematics. He suggests that the nonphysical realm is composed of an infinite hierarchy of orders or systems. He calls these systems Implicate Orders.

The basic implicate order is the level from which our three-dimensional world manifests. This lower order is multidimensional, and it is connected to every other order, level, or system that makes up the nonphysical realm. The implicate order is identified with the mathematical wave function of quantum theory.

What appears to be happening in the nonphysical can be described mathematically though it cannot be proved experimentally in all cases.

According to Bohm, the implicate order, through a process he calls unfoldment, creates the explicate order—our physical universe. This is the quantum leap of particles into the physical on a universal scale. The quantum leap of  particles out of the physical is called enfoldment. Energy and information are exchanged between the realms.

Also observe that there are no real distinctions between consciousness, energy, and matter. They are different aspects of this fundamental ground, or nature of Being. This idea of aspects is demonstrated, to some degree, in the nature of light. It has the capacity to exist as either a wave or as a particle. This complementary nature exists in all matter. (Recall that the light waves of a star can travel billions of light years across space and then collapse into particles when they strike our eye.)

This cycle of unfoldment and enfoldment takes place instantaneously, and everything in the physical appears—to us—stable. Tables, chairs, and mountains stay the same though there is a constant exchange of energy going on at the quantum level.

Bohm’s Quantum Potential

Classical potentials are defined as conditions of space capable of causing physical events (e.g. gravity, electromagnetism, etc.) Classical potentials have no existence without a source. According to Bohm, the source of classical potentials lies in the Holomovement, the field of the quantum waves that underlie our physical reality.

Following are some of the characteristics of the non-classical quantum potential: It…

•  Does not have a source within the 3-dimensional world.

•  Is not directly connected to the movement of charged particles, radiation waves, or gravity.

•  Does not have motive power; does not carry a force to move particles.

•  Is a field that carries information telling particles how to move.

•  Depends on all the particles in the system, as well as all the particles in the universe—part of the unbroken wholeness.

•  Is multidimensional and organized into multidimensional patterns.

•  Causes some patterns to take on the characteristics of space-time.

•  Expresses some patterns as human beings, etc.

•  All patterns are expressions of consciousness (Even all DNA sequences are creations initiated from the non-physical.)

•  Expressions are hierarchical and cooperative—consciousness interacting with itself in unlimited ways.

•  The particles projected from the quantum potential are conscious at their own level.


(1) David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, (New York: Routledge, 1980), 212-213.


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