"Implicate Order" and the Good Life
Chapter 2: David Bohm on the Implicate Order in Ontology, Physics, Epistemology and Human Existence
This chapter reviews David Bohm's writings on the implicate order. The chapter is intended as an introduction to this and several related ideas that will be used extensively later, and it will, therefore, occasionally draw on material that is not Bohm's own, but which explains in more detail certain basic topics in physics treated only cursorily in his writings.
First we present the context for Bohm's inquiries, quantum mechanics, and the problem of what kind of ontology is implied by the quantum theory. His proposal for such an ontology is outlined next. It involves three main ideas--order, wholeness and movement--which are described in terms of three images: a glycerine device, a hologram and a river with vortices. In combination, these three images describe the concept of implicate order.
Bohm's use of this concept to throw light on fundamental problems in quantum physics is reviewed next, as are his attempts to use it to elucidate the scientific process, knowledge, mind and the human condition. We conclude with a critical review of his approach to the problem of fragmentation in human society.
This chapter presents a fair amount of physics so that we may not only understand Bohm's thinking in context, but also appreciate the broad physical relevance of the concept of implicate order. However, the many examples of the physical meaningfulness of the concept should not lead the reader to think that the concept can be proved valid or otherwise scientifically correct. As the section on its application in quantum physics (2.7) will make clear, the concept is still, by Bohm's own assessment, a tentative concept, "a general framework of thought... [that] lacks a well-defined set of principles... (Bohm, 1986b, pp. 3-4). In our terms, it is primarily a general ontological concept, rather than a precise physical concept. Its value derives from its potential to throw new light on the foundations of quantum mechanics and from its suitability for a general discussion of the nature of reality.
Some biographical notes on Bohm are in order. He was born in 1917 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Obtaining his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Berkeley in 1943 he subsequently taught at Princeton and universities in Brazil, Israel, and Wales, UK. In 1961 he became professor of physics at London University's Birkbeck College, from which he retired in 1984 (cf. Hiley & Peat, 1987a). His scientific work covers topics in plasma physics, collective phenomena and relativity, but his main concern has been the quantum theory and its interpretation. His considerable reputation in the physics community is mostly based (Jammer, 1975) on a so-called hidden-variables theory that he proposed in the 1950's (and which his peers generally considered "perverse," as Toulmin put in in the quotation on p. 1 of Chapter 1).
Throughout his career he has increasingly addressed problems outside physics and the philosophy of physics, especially after his introduction in 1973 of the concept of implicate order. Some public, if not scientific, recognition has come to Bohm after the publication of a collection of articles, "Wholeness and the Implicate Order" in 1980, which, among other things, applies the concept of implicate order to the study of thought and consciousness.
2.2 The Interpretation of the Quantum Theory
Simply stated, quantum mechanics (popularly referred to as quantum physics) is the study of matter and energy at the sub-atomic level. The body of theory describing this level of the physical world is called the quantum theory, and so well-established is this theory that the term "quantum theory" is often used as a synonym for "quantum mechanics."
The theory was created in the 1920's and 1930's by a number of European physicists including Paul Dirac, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Max Born, Erwin Schrödinger, Louis de Broglie, and many others. It involves a range of extraordinary equations, concepts and ideas that are far removed from the much more intuitively accessible ideas of classical Newtonian mechanics (three-dimensional space, causality, solid particles, matter in motion, etc.). So taxing to the mind are these ingredients of the quantum theory that they are often referred to as "quantum paradoxes." Since Bohm's work revolves around the possible resolution of these paradoxes we will consider some of them.
The classical idea of solid particles received a series of serious blows in the early 1920's. de Broglie pointed out that it is possible to ascribe a frequency to a particle, which is to say that particles are wave-like as well as point-like (de Broglie, 1930). The so-called double-slit experiment confirmed that electrons sometimes behave as waves, while on other occasions, such as in the photoelectric effect, they clearly behave as particles. Schrödinger devised an equation that casts all particles and quantum systems as a wave with phase and amplitude. The quantum-mechanical wave function specified by the Schrödinger equation is now considered the very basis of quantum mechanics (e.g., Beiser, 1981).
Not only did all matter have to be conceptualized as waves, but these waves were not at all like classical physical waves. Schrödinger argued that the waves described by his equation depict the mass of the electron as being smeared out over the area covered by the wave function (Cooper, 1969, pp. 486-491). This interpretation had serious difficulties, and so Max Born (1926; 1962, chap. 4) suggested an alternative, which interpreted the square of the wave as the probability that the electron is found in a given region. Only when a measurement is made does the electron come into concrete existence (in the so-called collapse of the wave function), and where it shows up can be predicted with the probabilities that Born attributed to Schrödinger's equation. Although contested by Einstein, Max Planck, de Broglie and Schrödinger, Born's interpretation of the quantum-mechanical wave function won the day and has reigned supreme ever since.
One of the most well-known paradoxes of quantum mechanics concerns motion. The motion of a classical object is thought to be continuous, that is, to proceed as a series of infinitesimal changes in the spatial location of the object. But in the "quantum leap" discovered by the new physics, an electron passes from one orbit around the atomic nucleus to another without going through any intermediate states. Its motion is completely discontinuous as it snaps into the new state.
Among the other strange features of quantum mechanics Heisenberg's uncertainty relation must be mentioned. It states that certain pairs of particle properties (so-called conjugate properties), for example position and momentum, cannot be determined simultaneously with an arbitrarily high degree of precision. If we know an electron's momentum very precisely, its position must be correspondingly imprecise. A very precise measurement of the momentum implies that the particle is "smeared out" over a volume of, say, many cubic feet.
The Heisenberg uncertainty relation further imposes a "slack" on physical reality, a "crack" through which particles may appear during what is known as particle production. Empty space, which in the quantum view is not quite empty, fluctuates spontaneously, and in these vacuum fluctuations "solid" particles may appear, seemingly out of nothing (DeWitt, 1983). The classical dichotomy between matter and empty space must be dispensed with.
Like many others, Einstein was strongly dissatisfied with the quantum-mechanical depiction of reality, especially the Born interpretation of nature being inherently probabilistic. In order to demonstrate the incompleteness of the quantum theory he proposed a provocative thought experiment (Einstein, Podolsky & Rosen, 1935). This experiment, later to become known as the EPR-paradox, deduced from the quantum theory a situation in which the behaviors of two widely separated particles would be instantly correlated, independent of space. This would violate the relativistic principle of locality, according to which no signal can move across space at more than the speed of light (and certainly not instantly). Thus the absurdity of the quantum theory would be demonstrated, or so Einstein thought.
As it turned out, recent experiments have confirmed the prediction made by Einstein (Aspect, Dalibard & Roger, 1982). The conclusion drawn by most physicists (Rohrlich, 1983) is that the quantum theory is correct and that in the quantum world, locality is indeed violated: events may be correlated in a manner independent of space.
All these paradoxes and principles and many more (see, e.g., Herbert , 1985 and Pagels, 1981) occasioned a great many debates among the quantum theory's founding fathers on the deeper nature of the physical world (see, e.g., Gamov, 1968; Heisenberg, 1971; Jammer, 1966). How could one think about such a world? There had always been convenient pictures in physics--particles as billiard balls, continuous trajectories, stable orbits, spatial contiguity, etc. Now they all seemed useless. The problem of finding intuitive, visual or immediately sensible pictures or images by means of which to think about the quantum world in a coherent way is known as the problem of interpreting the quantum theory.
Over the years, the debates about the interpretation of the quantum theory settled into what became known as the Copenhagen interpretation, named for the home of Niels Bohr who played a key role in its formulation. Bohr went to great lengths to emphasize that one could not apply classical or common-sense images to quantum reality, which he held to be ultimately ambiguous and unspecifiable. We cannot talk about reality in any simple or realist way; what reality "is" depends critically on the means by which we observe it.
What we can talk about are the instruments of observation and the mathematical formalisms of quantum theory by means of which the behaviors of quantum phenomena are manipulated, observed and predicted. Ask a particle question and you will get a particle answer; ask a wave question and you will get a wave answer, as Bohr's associate Heisenberg (1958) put it. Bohr (1934) codified this duality in his famous principle of complementarity according to which natural phenomena always contain two sides that are equally constitutive of the phenomena.
Today, the Copenhagen School is by far the dominant position in quantum mechanics, so much so that many physicists seem hesitant about calling it a "school" at all and simply equate it with quantum mechanics per se (but see Herbert, 1985). Bohm maintains, however, that the Copenhagen School represents merely one interpretation of the quantum theory and that others are possible. According to Bohm, little of the founders' openness to epistemological and ontological questions has been retained in the Copenhagen interpretation today. Its modern-day adherents are, by and large, uninterested in the implications that quantum physics may hold for our intuitive understanding of the physical world and reality at large. What remains, says Bohm, is the instrumentalism that holds the business of physics to be the prediction and production of experimental results. Pondering the nature of reality is believed to lead nowhere and is held to be largely irrelevant to physics, according to Bohm (in Davies & Brown, 1986; in Temple, 1982). In an interview Bohm elaborates:
Essentially what they [contemporary physicists] are saying, although it doesn't make sense, is that man's reality is confined to the results of some operations of scientific instruments but they wouldn't seriously argue for that either. It's confused. See, on Sundays when they are being philosophical, they say that man's reality is confined to the results of scientific instruments; and on weekdays they say it's really made of hard solid little particles, which they know cannot be so because they have all properties of waves and many properties that particles could never have (Bohm, in Weber, 1978, p. 29).
They do use the idea of fields and particles and so on but when you press them they must agree that they have no image whatsoever what these things are, and that they have no content other than the results of what they can calculate with their equations (Bohm, in Weber, 1978, p. 28).
This is Bohm's current position on modern physics, but it goes back a long way. One of his early dissatisfactions with the Copenhagen interpretation was...
...the inability to conceive of motion at all.... There was no real way of representing or understanding what is meant by movement or process in the quantum mechanics. One could only discuss an observation, and then another one, and then another one, with the wave function collapsing from one to the other, and it seemed to make the whole of existence depend on the observer being around to observe it (Bohm, in Temple, 1982, p. 362).
An additional problem for Bohm was the quantum theory's incompatibility with Einstein's theory of relativity. For example, relativity presupposes continuous motion and the independent existence of the universe, whereas quantum physics stipulates the discontinuous quantum leap and an inseparable relationship between observer and observed. Yet both relativity and quantum mechanics are regarded as fundamental (Bohm, 1985a, p. 112).
After writing a philosophically oriented textbook, called Quantum Theory (Bohm, 1951), Bohm met with Einstein and discussed the book as well as Einstein's views on the incompleteness of the quantum theory (Bohm, in Temple, 1982, p. 362). "This encounter with Einstein had a strong affect [sic] on the direction of my research, because I then became seriously interested in whether a deterministic extension of the quantum theory could be found" (Bohm, 1985a, pp. 113-114.)
For the next decade or so, Bohm's efforts were directed toward providing what he hoped would be a more complete version of the quantum theory. This expansion would identify, at a sub-quantum level, certain "hidden variables" that would structure and determine the apparently random behavior of particles at the quantum level (Bohm, 1952, 1957, pp. 111-129; 1962b).
Bohm (1952) interprets the Schrödinger equation, which describes the behavior of all particles in the quantum world, in a way that associates with every particle a new field, which he calls the quantum potential. Like other physical potentials, such as the gravitational and electromagnetic potentials, the quantum potential acts on the particle and "causes" it to behave in a particular way. For this reason, and because of the central role of the quantum potential in his work, Bohm often refers to this interpretation of the quantum theory as the "causal interpretation" (1953, Bohm & Vigier, 1954; Bohm & Hiley, in preparation), to contrast it with the conventional probabilistic interpretation advocated by the Copenhagen School. However, as he is keen to point out, the causality involved is nothing like the mechanical determinism of Newtonian physics (Bohm & Peat, 1987, pp. 88-89).
The new kind of causality is due to the special nature of the quantum potential as conceived by Bohm. Unlike other potentials, such as gravitational and electromagnetic ones, the quantum potential acts not on the particle through a force, but through what Bohm calls "active information." The quantum potential's action or influence on the particle is thus a kind of guidance that gives form to, or "in-forms," the particle's behavior. This influence or guidance does not depend on the magnitude of the quantum potential, only its form, and hence it does not fall of with distance, like, say, the gravitational force. Hence, very distant events can have an immediate impact on the behavior of the particle, as required by the EPR paradox.
Bohm suggests the analogy of a radar that guides the movements of a ship (Bohm, Hiley & Kaloyerou, 1987, p. 326). The effect of the radar is not dependent on the distance between the ship and the radar, but only on the form of the radar wave, that is, on the information transmitted to the ship about course, speed, etc. Like a radar, the quantum potential can have quite considerable effects even over long distances, but unlike the radar, however, the effects of the quantum potential are not propagated through space. The quantum potential is, in other words, a non-local field, whose state at any time depends on the state of the whole. This intrinsic dependence of any part of the universe on the whole was to become, as we shall see, a cornerstone in Bohm's later proposals for an ontology appropriate for the quantum theory.
2.3 In Search of a New Ontology
The concept of the quantum potential and the analogy of the radar were attempts by Bohm to give an alternative interpretation of the quantum theory. By and large, Bohm's contemporaries considered this to be a regression to the determinism and simple realism of Newtonian physics (Jammer, 1966). In retrospect, Bohm points out that his intention in the 1950's was not to take quantum physics back to its deterministic predecessor, but simply to find a consistent and intuitively meaningful way of imagining physical reality, even if it required going beyond quantum theory and relativity as currently known and practiced (Bohm, 1985a).
Sometime in the beginning of the 1960's Bohm seems to have grown dissatisfied with the causal interpretation and the deterministic overtones attributed to it. What he saw as a very limited response to his ideas from his peers in the physics community also did little to encourage him to go on (Bohm, 1985a, p. 117). In his publications up through the 1960's one notices an expanding interest in going beyond the discipline of physics to other schools of thinking and experimenting with alternative and more fundamental ways of thinking about the structure of the world (1960, 1962a, 1965a, b, 1968a, b, 1969).
These intellectual explorations addressed a number of ontological and epistemological issues which, for convenience, may be grouped in three themes: movement, wholeness and order. Subsequent sections of this chapter will present Bohm's attempts to fashion, from each of these themes, images and concepts by means of which the quantum theory could be given a consistent and intuitively meaningful interpretation.
Regarding the first theme, movement, a childhood experience related by Bohm is worth citing in extenso. It expresses in simple terms the central intuition underlying both Bohm's entire philosophy as well as the extension of it to be presented in later chapters.
[I shall describe] an experience that I had when I was eleven or twelve years old. As I recall, at that time I had developed a habit of always wanting to be able to map out my actions beforehand, to know exactly what I could expect so that I would feel quite secure before I actually did anything. I remember once when I was with some other boys and we had to cross a stream by leaping from rock to rock. I could not map this out, but started to follow the others with great trepidation. Suddenly in the middle of the stream I had a flash of insight that what I am is to be in a state of movement from one rock to the next and that as long as I do not try to map out what I will do, I can cross safely, but that if I try to proceed from such a map, I will fall. Just in that very moment of being on the rock, there was a sudden change in the whole attitude of my body, along with all my thinking and feeling on the subject, which not only immediately removed difficulties with crossing the stream on rocks, but also affected my whole life thereafter.... Since then, a great deal of my work has been directed toward the understanding of movement, with the aid of this particular insight, that is, that undivided flowing movement is what is primary, while its "map" in thought is merely an abstraction of distinct "markers" that indicate certain salient features of the movement... (Bohm, 1981a, p. 391)
The second theme that Bohm explored in the 1960's was the notion of wholeness. He seems to have been encouraged to use this concept after meeting the Indian philosopher and mystic Krishnamurti in 1961. Bohm explains his interest in Krishnamurti:
He said there is no distinction between the observer and the observed, which quantum theory is always saying, which really I felt was one of the essential new features of quantum theory. He was referring of course to the psyche, but I felt a great similarity (in Temple, 1982, p. 363).
In the following twenty-five years they became close friends and held numerous discussions, many of which have been published (Krishnamurti & Bohm, 1985, 1986). Like other mystics, Krishnamurti emphasized the essential unity and wholeness of all things and saw in man's inability to let go of fixed ideas and preconceptions--the "maps" that chart our movements across the stream of life--an impediment to the realization of this wholeness in life and society (Krishnamurti, 1975). As will be apparent later, these are central notions in Bohm's view of the cosmos.
The third theme explored by Bohm is order. Inspired by a long correspondence with an artist, Charles Biederman (Bohm, 1985a, p. 117. See Biederman, 1948), he addressed, in the quantum context, notions such as order and disorder, connection and separation, symmetry and asymmetry, probing still deeper into the foundations of science and knowledge (Bohm, 1965b). In the late 1960's he got an idea for a novel concept of order that was to become the ontological core of his proposal for an alternative to the Copenhagen interpretation.
One or several of these three themes--movement, wholeness and order--can be identified in practically all of Bohm's writings after the late 1960's. Each of the themes can be associated with a model or analogy or image introduced by Bohm to aid the imagination when thinking and talking about the quantum world. The image for movement is a river with vortices; for wholeness, a hologram; and for order, a special glycerine device. The following sections describe each of these images in turn.
As stated, Bohm's general ambition is to fashion a positive ontology of the quantum domain to replace what he sees as the Copenhagen injunctions against thinking about reality at all. The three themes and the associated images are of a general ontological nature, referring to the way reality may be constituted and arranged. Although Bohm's primary intention with the three images and the concepts they illustrate was to address foundational problems in physics, they represent, as will be argued later, general ways of understanding reality that are relevant in areas outside of physics, including the human world.
2.4 Order and the Image of the Glycerine Device
Bohm draws attention to the problem of order in physics by pointing to the ways in which order in the universe has been conceived through the ages.
The ancient Greeks thought in terms of an essential order of aesthetic and moral perfection, which is least on the surface of the Earth and increases progressively toward the Heavens. And so, they were led to suppose that Heavenly bodies should express the perfection of their nature by moving in what they thought to be the most perfect of of geometrical figures--the circle.... As is well known, this view was overturned by the Copernican idea that the Sun is at the centre (and ultimately that there is no determinate centre at all). This idea led to the development of an entirely new notion of essential order, which was expressed in terms of a detailed description of the mechanical motions of bodies through space. This order was first given a precise mathematical form by Descartes, through this invention of coordinates. The coordinates are pictured with the aid of a grid... The orbit of a body is described by a curve, given algebraically by an equation determining a "coordination" between two orders, that of the position, x, and that of the time, t. (Bohm, 1977a, p. 37).
In this manner, objects are understood in terms of their locations in an extended space, in which different objects occupy different locations. These objects may interact by crossing the distances that separate them and touch the outsides of each other.
Classically, the Cartesian grid has three straight spatial dimensions with time as an independent dimension flowing through it. Einstein revised this by including time in a four-dimensional "spacetime," and managed to account for gravity by bending or curving the dimensions of spacetime around objects. Whether Cartesian and rectilinear or Einsteinian and curvilinear, such coordinate systems are the basis of practically all descriptions in physics. Bohm points out that...
...while almost all the detailed content of physical thinking has changed fundamentally in the past few hundred years, the idea of coordinates is the one thing that has remained essentially constant. And this need not be felt to be surprising, if one takes into account that basic notions of order tend to be among the most strongly retained features of our thinking (1977a, p. 37).
However, it is clear that many of the problems in the interpretation of the quantum theory are related to the use of these coordinates and the associated assumptions about the extended nature of space and time. For example, in the quantum leap, the continuity of space seems to be annulled as the electron "skips" points in between. The EPR paradox and the quantum connectedness between spatially distant particles is a problem related to our notions of space and separability. Likewise, the enormous "stretch" in the position of a particle occasioned by the Heisenberg uncertainty relation is hard to understand if the coordinate system is the backbone of physical reality.
Bohm suggests that the Cartesian coordinates are in no way indispensable or necessarily correct. "[They] are primarily forms of insight, and it is possible that they, too [like the Greek notion of Heavenly order], are being extended beyond the context in which their meanings are free of confusion" (1976, p. 5). In other words, the difficulties associated with finding intuitively meaningful images by which to understand the quantum world may lie in the fact that inappropriate notions of order are being used. The question is now, what to use instead?
"Being thus alerted to the importance of order, I saw a program on British Broadcasting Corporation television, showing a device in which an ink drop was spread out through a cylinder of glycerine" (Bohm, 1985a, p. 117). This device gave Bohm the idea for a new concept of order, the implicate order (Bohm, 1973, 1980b, pp. 179-186).
Imagine a device consisting of two upright glass cylinders, a smaller one placed inside a larger one. The space between the walls of the cylinders is filled with a viscous liquid such as glycerine. The inner cylinder has a handle on top by means of which it can be rotated. When the inner cylinder is rotated, the friction between the glycerine and the walls of the cylinders will cause the glycerine near the inner cylinder to move along, while glycerine near the outer cylinder will stay. This results in a "twisting" of the glycerine.
Now deposit a drop of insoluble ink on the surface of the glycerine. It just sits there. If we turn the handle, the drop will be stretched along with the twisting glycerine and will elongate more and more, becoming a long fine thread, which ultimately disappears from sight. However, if the motion of the handle is reversed the glycerine twists back and causes the thread of ink to thicken and ultimately aggregate into a point again. If we keep going in the same direction, the drop will of course stretch out to the other side and eventually disappear from view.
We may place several drops of ink in different locations in the glycerine and turn the handle, say, a hundred times. We can imagine that the long threads, invisible to the naked eye, merge and interpenetrate and eventually weave their way into the entire volume of the glycerine. However, they do this in an orderly manner, because it is still possible (at least in principle) to turn the handle back and make the ink appear as separate points again.
Now, a description of the state of the glycerine device calls for two different approaches (Bohm, 1980b). When the ink appears as discrete drops, the Cartesian grid is an appropriate descriptive framework, because the drops are rather like objects in an extended space separated by measurable distances. However, when the drops have been distributed throughout the glycerine by the turning of the handle, another descriptive framework is called for. A description in terms of Cartesian coordinates would not reveal the fact that the threads of ink are capable of appearing as discrete and disentangled points in the Cartesian order. In other words, the Cartesian order only deals with what is manifestly or explicitly present.
Bohm derives a name for the non-Cartesian order of the threads of ink from the fact that, with the turning of the handle, the ink drops are folded into the glycerine, somewhat like an egg is folded into a batter. Bohm refers to the resulting order of penetrating threads of ink as an "enfolded" order. For "enfolded" he more commonly uses the neologism implicate, from the Latin "plicare," which means "to fold," as in "multiplication," meaning "folding many times" (1980b, p. 149). This is also the root of "implicit," which is related in meaning to "implicate." What is implicate is implicit, "folded into" itself and hidden from view. Correspondingly, the Cartesian order that describes the drops of ink when they are "folded out" of the implicate order is called an "unfolded" or explicate order. The etymological (and semantic) similarity with "explicit" is obvious here, too, and may be used as a mnemonic for the meaning of "explicate." What is explicate is explicit, folded out for all to see.
In the glycerine device, the implicate order and the explicate order are related by gradual emergence and disappearance. One order emerges from the other as the threads of ink contract or elongate. The process by which an explicate order of distinct ink drops appears is referred to as unfoldment by Bohm. The opposite movement is enfoldment, by which explicate drops of ink stretch out and become enfolded into the glycerine.
This new order, the implicate order, may be considered to underlie the traditional Cartesian, explicate order. In the following passage, Bohm gives an example that explains how the image of the glycerine device is relevant to the interpretation of quantum mechanics.
We first insert a droplet A in a certain position and turn the cylinder n times. We then insert a droplet B, in a slightly different position and turn the cylinder n more times (so that A has been enfolded by 2n turns). We then insert C further along the line AB and turn n more times, so that A has been enfolded by 3n turns, B by 2n turns and C by n turns. We proceed in this way to enfold a large number of droplets. We then move the cylinder fairly rapidly in the reverse direction. If the rate of emergence of droplets is faster then the minimum time of resolution of the human eye, what we will see is apparently a particle moving continuously and crossing the space.
Such enfoldment and unfoldment in the implicate order may evidently provide a new model of, for example, an electron, which is quite different from that provided by the current mechanistic notion of a particle that exists at each moment and that changes its position continuously with time. What is essential in this new model is that the electron is instead to be understood through a total set of enfolded ensembles [in the glycerine device: collections of threads of ink], which are generally not localized in space. At any given moment one of these may be unfolded and therefore localized, but in the next moment, this one enfolds to be replaced by the one that follows. The notion of continuity of existence is approximated by that of a very rapid recurrence of similar forms, changing in a simple and regular way (rather as a rapidly spinning bicycle wheel gives the impression of a solid disc, rather than of a sequence of rotating spokes) (Bohm, 1980b, p. 183).
Thus, ...we have a movement in which the results visible in certain regions (e.g., ink droplets) originate in and depend on the whole fluid in an inseparable way. The particle-like aspect is evidently implicit or enfolded in this whole (Bohm, 1977a, p. 39).
In other words, the glycerine device provides us with a way of thinking about particles: as localized unfoldments from a deeper non-local, implicate order. In this view, a particle is not a static object, but an event that is being created and destroyed all the time as new unfoldments replace older ones. Motion is hence not the transfer across space of something solid and existing, but a series of unfoldments that manifest themselves at neighboring points in space, in the explicate order.
The problem of the discontinuity of motion represented by the quantum leap can now be given an intuitively meaningful interpretation:
Although successive localized manifestations of an electron, for example, may be very close to each other, so that they approximate a continuous track, this need not always be so. In principle, discontinuities may be allowed in the manifest tracks --and these may, of course, provide the basis of an explanation of how... an electron can go from one state to another without passing through states in between. This is possible, of course, because the "particle" is only an abstraction of a much greater totality of structure. This abstraction is manifest to our senses (or instruments) but evidently there is no reason why it has to have continuous movement (or indeed continuous existence) (Bohm, 1980b, p. 184).
Bohm's proposal is to use this notion of implicate order as a new context for thinking about the nature of reality. The examples given, concerning the nature of a sub-atomic particle and of motion, demonstrate that one may think of the physical world, as it reveals itself to our senses and measuring instruments, as emerging from a deeper reality, the implicate order. In the implicate order everything penetrates and enfolds everything else, and only during unfoldment do objects with independent existences arise. Our common-sense world of tables and chairs located outside of each other, as depicted in Newtonian physics, is an explicate order of objects abstracted from or unfolded from a deeper order of reality, the implicate order.
To Bohm, the implicate order is both a conceptual tool for describing a physical state, such as the ink when stretched out into the glycerine, and a domain of reality called "the implicate order," with the definite article. He hardly distinguishes between these two uses and moves freely from one to the other. This usage is in indirect support of a point he makes repeatedly in his writings: the implicate order does not represent an attempt to find a final ontological concept, but an imaginative idea by means of which we may achieve a better understanding of the nature of reality and give some flesh to the mathematical formalisms of the quantum theory. "I regard the implicate order as a new form of imagination" (Bohm, in Weber, 1983, p. 40), a form of imagination to supplement or subsume the Cartesian system of coordinates.
The question of the existence and motion of a particle is only one example of how the implicate order may be put to use in physics. More will follow below. Since there are obvious limits to the usefulness or applicability of the image of the glycerine device, as there are with all images and analogies, we must now introduce the two remaining images illustrating the themes identified in Bohm's writings, wholeness and movement.
2.5 Wholeness and the Image of the Hologram
Bohm (1980b, p. 144) points out that the worldview popular in a given age is related to the instruments and imaging technologies available. For example, lenses have been used extensively since the birth of modern science to capture what is too distant, too small or too fast to see with the naked eye. A lens focuses on a small part of a larger whole and thus tends to support the reductionism and atomism common in the physical and biological sciences.
If placed in a camera, a lens produces an image that stands in a one-to-one relation to the object captured by it. To every point on the object corresponds one and only one point on the photographic image. Such a collection of points, whether making up an object or a picture of an object, constitute an explicate order, because the various parts or points of the object (or the picture) are outside of each other and occupy distinct locations in space, just like the ink drops in the glycerine device.
Bohm suggests (1971a, p. 441, 1980b) that another imaging technology, holography (Gabor, 1948; Leith & Upatnieks, 1965; Smith, 1975), may provide an alternative, non-reductionistic metaphor for a view of reality. A hologram stores information about an object in the form of an implicate order, each part of which contains or enfolds the whole. Bohm introduces the hologram to serve as an analogy for this special, implicate wholeness, but spends comparatively little time with it. Since the hologram has been used as a metaphor by writers whose work we shall review in Chapter 4, it is important to get a solid grasp of the physical details of holography. This may help correct some common misunderstandings.
An explanation derived from Bentov (1977) follows. This explanation starts from a consideration of a pebbles and waves, proceeds through an example featuring a sunlit room and concludes with holography proper. The hologram is thus our second image or analogy, corresponding to the theme of wholeness, and the pebbles and the sunlit room are auxiliary examples intended to facilitate the understanding of the principles of holography.
Throw a pebble into a pan with water and a few concentric waves will spread away from the point of impact. Imagine quick-freezing the surface of the water at some instant shortly after the impact. If we break this sheet of ice and take out a small part of it with a section (an arc) of a wave on it, the curvature of the arc will allow us to deduce the location of the center of the circle, that is, the point where the pebble was dropped. Thus, we may say that the wave carries information about its point of origin, in that the shape of the wave tells us where the wave started from. This is a general principle of wave mechanics: a wave spreads in an orderly manner, carrying information about the location of its origin.
Let us drop two pebbles instead of one. The waves set up by each will interact, or interfere, in an orderly manner and produce an interference pattern that preserves the information carried by the waves. If we inspect a part of the quick-frozen surface, the interference pattern is such that we can derive from it the locations of the two points of impact. Any part of the ice sheet with a bit of the interference pattern on it can be used. In principle, this is true no matter how many pebbles we drop into the water; we can always find where the participating waves came from.
Now, there are two ways we can describe the positions of the pebbles in the pan. That is to say, there are two kinds of order in this model. One way is to look at the points of impact (or the pebbles) themselves. They are distinct and outside each other and thus constitute an explicate order. The second way is to consider the waves and the interference patterns generated. Interference patterns look messy but still contain information, in a subtle way, as we saw. Their order is implicate.
If we consider a part of the implicate order in the pan, e.g., some section of the interference patterns stored in the sheet of ice, we find that it contains information about the positions of all the pebbles, the whole constellation of pebbles. In other words, in an implicate order, a part contains information about the whole. This characteristic is not found in explicate orders, where a part, say a few pebbles, only tells us where those pebbles are and nothing about the positions of all the other pebbles.
Before we make any further progress in our explanation of the principles of holography, we must pause to compare the two models of implicate and explicate order advanced so far: the glycerine device and the pebbles in the pan. In both there is an explicate order of distinct and spatially localized points: ink drops and pebbles. Related to this order of explicate points is another order, an implicate order of a more subtle, complicated and interpenetrating nature.
It is not clear from these two models why the implicate order should be considered more fundamental than the explicate order, as stated above. After all, we start from discrete, explicate points in both cases--ink drops and pebbles--and only later derive the implicate order. The inability of these models or images to give primacy to the implicate order will be rectified by the introduction of the third image, in the next section. It is because of the inevitable limitations of all models or analogies that we need to consider three of them (and some auxiliary ones, like the pebbles in the pan).
Both the glycerine and the pebble models illustrate that in the implicate order, a part contains information about the whole. In the pan, this happens through the waves and interference patterns, as explained. In the glycerine model this property was not explained above, but imagine that hundreds of differently colored ink drops have ben deposited all over the glycerine, constituting a complex explicate order of points outside of each other. Turning the inner cylinder hundreds of times, we observe how they all interpenetrate, in the usual well-ordered way, so that at some stage all the ink drops have become threads that have stretched out into every little volume of the glycerine. Thus, every such volume will contain threads of ink of all the different colors. We may say that each part of the whole glycerine, each little volume of it, contains information about the many ink drops contained in the entire glycerine. This information cannot be derived from an inspection of the individual ink drops in their explicate state, where each, like the pebbles, will be relevant only to itself, not to the whole.
Next step required in our explanation of the principles of holography is an appreciation that implicate orders (that is, instances of implicate order) are really quite common, despite the more immediate familiarity of explicate orders. The second auxiliary analogy or image is about the ubiquitous phenomenon light, which, like the case of the pan, involves waves: light waves. As we shall see, holography is a technique that utilizes the wave nature of light in a manner unknown in regular photography.
Imagine that you are sitting in a sunlit room. You notice how the things in the room seem to be neatly arranged in an explicate order. They all have relatively well-defined boundaries and are spatially separated from each other: here is a desk, there is a computer, and the desk is not enfolded in the computer or merged with it in any other way. The parts of this room seem to reveal nothing about each other or about the room as a whole. The position of the desk does not tell us much about the arrangement of the furniture in the room as a whole.
However, the light by means of which you experience this explicate order is itself not ordered in an explicate way. The sunlight coming through the window hits the exposed surfaces in the room and is reflected in all directions. Each illuminated point in the room can be likened to a pebble that generates a wave, but in this case it is a light wave, not a wave in water. The light waves reflected from all these "points" in the room interact and form an enormously complex, but still highly ordered, interference pattern in the space between the objects in the room.
The order of this interference pattern of light is exactly like that of the interference pattern in the water. That is, each part of it contains information about the whole, as we find in any implicate order. You can convince yourself of this by placing your eyes anywhere in the room. No matter what little volume of space your eyes occupy a view of the entire room is available to you, because light from every illuminated point in the room spreads as concentric rings and carry information about its origin to every other point in the room and to every (unobstructed) volume of space. Information about the whole room is distributed in the form of light waves to every part of the open space in the room. Such a part thus contains information about the whole, just like we found in the interference patterns in the sheet of ice.
Apart from identifying the implicate nature of light and electromagnetic radiation generally, the example of the sunlit room underscores the dynamic character of implicate order. The waves in a pan die out, but the sun keeps generating light (electromagnetic radiation). Even in the absence of the sun, which eventually dies out, too, there is a spontaneous generation of radiation occurring in all of space, as we shall see in the next section. This intrinsically dynamic character of implicate orders will be discussed below in the context of the third theme in Bohm's thinking, movement.
Holography is essentially a tool for arresting the flow of the dynamic implicate order and displaying its interesting characteristics. In this, holography is similar to the freezing of the waves in the pan, only the display created in holography is much more spectacular than the sheet of ice. In the holographic process objects and scenes are recorded on a film in such a way that the implicate character of light is retained and displayed in manner unknown in ordinary photography.
To make a hologram (Caulfield, 1979, Abramson, 1981), a beam of coherent light emitted from a laser is split in two and passed through lenses that widen the otherwise quite narrow beam. One beam, the "reference beam," continues straight on. The other beam, the "object beam," is directed so as to illuminate the object to be holographed. Having hit the object, light waves are reflected in all directions from it, and where this reflected light crosses the path of the reference beam, an interference pattern is formed in space. This interference pattern contains information about all the illuminated points on the object, as do the waves emanating from the pebbles in the pan. In the interference pattern is placed a light-sensitive film, which in principle is like any ordinary photographic film, only it has a very high resolution. During exposure (the room is otherwise dark), the interference pattern is recorded on the film. When the film has been developed, it is called a hologram. It is a static record of a dynamic interference pattern occurring in the space in which the film was placed.
Under proper viewing conditions, the hologram will render a three-dimensional image of the original object. This image is projected away from the plane of the hologram by some distance, for example, six inches behind it, depending on the recording conditions and the type of hologram. The hologram will seem like a window through one sees the object, and the sense of depth obtained is given by the size of the "window": the bigger the window, the more depth. By moving one's head in front of the hologram, the perspective will change and new aspects of the object will appear while others disappear, exactly as if it were a real three-dimensional object.
If part of the hologram is covered up or broken off, the remaining part will still yield a view of the object, just as a window will if partially covered. Only the perspective obtained will be more restricted; one will see the object from fewer angles, but it is still an image of the entire object. In principle, this is possible no matter how small a part of the hologram remains. In other words, in the hologram the part contains information about the whole; the whole is enfolded in part.
The explanation is the same as in the case of the pebbles in the pan and the sunlit room. During exposure, light waves from every illuminated point on the object being holographed spread like concentric rings into space and wash over the entire surface of the film. Every little part of the film receives information from each illuminated point on the object and is therefore capable of producing a image of the entire object.
A hologram is a snapshot of the dynamic interference pattern of light whizzing by at 300,000 kilometers per second. The purpose of the reference beam is to "regiment" the light waves from the object in such a way that they can be recorded in an orderly fashion that enable the viewer's eyes to "decode" them under the proper viewing conditions and thus obtain a faithful image. The advantage of the hologram is, in other words, that it records a static version of the dynamic, implicate interference pattern on a film. This record can be put away and inspected later and used for pedagogical purposes to illustrate some interesting properties of implicate orders. However, and this is important, there is nothing about the hologram that cannot also be said by reference to the light in the room. But the hologram is a clever little thing that has served others as an eye-opener to new aspects of the structure of reality, and understandably so.
As regards the relation between imaging technology and views of reality, Bohm (1980b, p. 144) points out that while in photography there is a one-to-one correspondence between the object and the image, in holography the correspondence is one-to-many, as light waves from each point on the object are spread to all points the hologram. The object is an explicate order that is transformed into the implicate interference pattern which, in turn, renders a view of an explicate order in the form of an 3-D image of an object.
As mentioned, Bohm himself makes relatively little explicit use of the analogy of the hologram, beyond comparing it with the lens and using it to point to an alternative notion of order (this he does frequently, e.g., Bohm, 1980a, pp. 74-75; 1980b, pp. 142-144; 1985b, pp. 10-11; 1986a, pp. 23-24; in Davies & Brown, 1986, p. 122). However, we will later discuss at length two interesting characteristics of implicate order, and both of these are found in all of the three images or analogies discussed in this chapter. These characteristics are the fact that a view of the whole can be obtained from each part, and the fact that different parts of an implicate order yield different perspectives of the same whole. These two characteristics will become the basis of our discussion of the use of implicate order in the human world. For now, we turn to the image illustrating the third theme identified in Bohm's work, movement.
2.6 Movement and the Image of a River with Vortices
Recall Bohm's childhood experience that what he is is the movement from rock to rock, while the map describing these rocks is merely an abstraction from this movement. In his later reflections on the nature of reality, Bohm (1980b, p. 150) uses the example of holography to make a similar point about the primacy of movement. As we noted, the information recorded on the film during exposure is carried by the light waves reflected off the illuminated object, and the hologram is merely a snapshot or an abstraction of this moving light.
Bohm points out that the same holds for radio signals, which are modulated to carry a verbal message or visual images. This information or order is enfolded within the electromagnetic waves and can be picked up and unfolded by a radio or a TV set placed anywhere within the broadcasting range.
More generally, such order and measure can be "enfolded" and "carried" not only in electromagnetic waves but also in other ways (by electron beams, sound, and in other countless forms of movement). To generalize so as to emphasize undivided wholeness, we shall say that what "carries" an implicate order is the holomovement, which is an unbroken and undivided totality (Bohm, 1980b, p. 151).
In holography, the light carrying information to the film is the holomovement, as are all the other forms of energy and movement that can carry information in an implicate form. On the question of the relationship between the holomovement and the implicate order, Bohm simply says, "Since the implicate order is basically dynamic in nature, I called it holomovement" (1986b, p. 3). In other words, the terms refer to essentially the same idea. One may use "holomovement" to call attention to the dynamic or processual character of the implicate order, and "implicate order" to refer to the fact that the holomovement contains order and information in the special enfolded fashion.
The holomovement should not be thought of as a movement of something from one location to another. It is to be understood as movement per se, a dynamic or a process that does not primarily involve any objects. For this reason Bohm sometimes calls it the "holoflux," as the term "flux" connotes spontaneous, uncaused process, more so than the mechanistic-sounding "movement."
The idea of reality as flux goes back to the presocratic philosopher Heraclitus (Kirk, Raven & Schofield, 1983, p. 195), whose monistic process thinking is epitomized in the slogan, panta rhei, everything flows. Bohm's work seems compatible with this idea, which, however, he extends considerably by going on to search for a physical basis for the holomovement in the quantum mechanics of energy and electromagnetic radiation. To understand this search, we must leave his work for a moment and look at the relationship between energy and matter as currently understood in physics.
In classical physics, matter and energy are fundamentally different. Matter is seen as ontologically primary, and the energies that move matter are accidental and secondary, something that happens to matter. This view of matter as more "real" than energy has all but reversed in modern physics. Einstein's famous equation, E = mc2, shattered the dichotomy of matter and energy (Einstein & Infeld, 1961). This equation expresses the fact that a tiny bit of matter is equivalent to (that is, can be transformed into) a tremendous amount of energy. A nuclear bomb and a nuclear reactor work by transforming matter into energy according to this equation.
The primacy of energy in modern physics is most evident in the quantum-mechanical understanding of empty space. According to quantum physics, the "empty" space that remains if all matter is removed from a region of space has turned out to be anything but empty. "The vacuum of modern physics is not identical with empty space... it is to be taken for the 'ground state of the Universe' and it possesses structure" (Hönl & Dehnen, 1983, p. 150).
This so-called quantum vacuum is understood to be a field of electromagnetic radiation that is never still (DeWitt, 1983). Physicists speak of the field as consisting of an infinite collection of field oscillators, each of which corresponds to a particular frequency of radiation. Every oscillator oscillates or fluctuates spontaneously and thus emits a certain amount of energy that can never go below a so-called zero-point level. In other words, "empty" space generates energy spontaneously. (This cannot be observed directly by instruments, but there is complete agreement among physicists that the quantum theory requires it.)
Now, what does this mean? How can something (energy) be created from nothing (empty space)? How can there be an infinite number of oscillators? "The problem of unravelling this infinite number of harmonic oscillators is one of the most famous problems of physics" (Slansky, 1984, p. 93). Here is a leading physicist's account of how this problem is commonly dealt with:
The ground-state [i.e., spontaneous] fluctuations of the oscillators give the quantum field a residual energy known as the zero-point energy. Because the number of field oscillators per unit volume is infinite, the energy density of the vacuum would also seem to be infinite. An infinite energy density is an embarrassment. Theorists have introduced a number of technical devices to exorcise it. The devices are part of a general program, called renormalization theory, for handling various infinities that crop up in quantum field theory (DeWitt, 1983, p. 116).
This is an unusually candid account of the standard solution to the problem of the zero-point energy; candid because DeWitt admits that the infinite energies are so embarrassing to physicists that they need to be "exorcized," which is hardly the textbook attitude to scientific problems.
If DeWitt is frank about the shortcomings of the standard approach to infinities in quantum physics, Bohm downright castigates his colleagues for not facing up to the conceptual challenge of this enormous amount of spontaneously generated energy (Bohm, in Weber, 1978). He addresses this problem by speculating that this energy may not be infinite, after all. There is a minimum length (the so-called Planck length, about 10-35 m) allowed by theory of gravitation, beyond which the very idea of space, and hence length, has no meaning. If the radiation emitted by the vacuum oscillators only includes waves of a wavelength longer than the Planck length, the energy of the quantum vacuum is finite and can be calculated. Bohm suggests a way of calculating the energy present in a cubic centimeter of "empty space" (1978, p. 98) and arrives at a figure that is 1040 times larger than the amount of energy tied up in all matter in the entire known universe.
Asked how one may understand the presence of such tremendous amounts of energy in the vacuum, Bohm replies:
You understand that by saying: the present theory says that the vacuum contains all this energy which is then ignored [by mainstream physicists] because it cannot be measured by an instrument. The philosophy being that only what can be measured by an instrument can be considered real, except that physics also says there are particles that cannot be seen in instruments at all. What you can say is that the present state of theoretical physics implies that empty space has all this energy and matter is a slight increase of the energy, and therefore matter is like a small ripple on this tremendous ocean of energy, having some relative stability and being manifest. Therefore my suggestion is that [the] implicate order implies a reality immensely beyond what we call matter. Matter itself is merely a ripple in this background.... And the ocean of energy is not primarily in space and time at all. It's primarily in the implicate order (in Weber, 1986, p. 28).
In this passage, Bohm points out that the vast energies of the quantum vacuum are of the implicate order. We remember that the implicate order is merely another word for the holomovement, and the holomovement comprises all forms of waves, including the electromagnetic radiation found in so prodigious amounts in empty space. The vacuum energy, the holomovement, and the implicate order are roughly comparable terms.
Bohm likens the vacuum energy to an ocean with material particles appearing as tiny ripples on the surface, so much vaster is the energy of the vacuum than the energy of the particles. This illustrates the switch in ontological primacy mentioned above: energy, and with it the holomovement and the implicate order, is to be considered primary, and material particles and objects are simply relatively stable abstractions and unfoldments from it.
Many observations are compatible with this view. "Under special conditions elementary particles with finite rest mass can be produced out of the vacuum spontaneously. The generation of electron-positron pairs by strong electromagnetic fields is the best know example for this process" (Hönl & Dehnen, 1983, p. 150). "The most perfect vacuum allowed by the [quantum field] theory is not completely empty and unchanging, but is rather a stage for the spontaneous creation of particle/anti-particle pairs." (Tryon, 1984, p. 15.)
Particles generated from the vacuum energy may be more than anomalies or rare occasions: "It is not implausible that particles created in this way could account for all the matter in the universe" (DeWitt, 1983, p. 120). As we shall see, Bohm goes so far as to suggest that the birth of the entire universe in the Big Bang may be seen as the convergence of many little ripples that burst into being all at once, creating our present universe.
Although the image of the ocean with ripples on top illustrates the difference in magnitude between energy and matter quite well and gives an intuitive sense of the primacy of energy, another image used by Bohm better captures the dynamic quality of the energy, that is, the dynamic nature of the holomovement and the implicate order:
[Consider] vortex structures in a flowing stream. [The] vortices correspond to stable patterns of the flow of the fluid.... [They] are to be considered as abstractions, made to stand out in our perception by our way of thinking. Actually, of course, the... abstracted flow patterns merge and unite, in one whole movement of the flowing stream. There is no sharp division between them, nor are they to be regarded as separately or independently existent entities (Bohm, 1980b, p. 10).
The flow of the river stands for the holomovement, and the relatively stable vortices forming on its surface are the material particles and other objects of the explicate order. In this image, the energy lies in the sense of flow associated with a river, not the material water molecules. The flow or flux is the primary reality, giving rise to explicate patterns that seem separate, but are really fed by the same underlying stream.
This classical river image, popular with process thinkers, is the image that illustrates the third theme in Bohm's thinking, movement. This analogy expresses Bohm's conviction, as related in the childhood experience of jumping from rock to rock, that what is is movement, and stability and permanence are abstractions from the flow, islands of apparent fixity in a larger context of flux. Movement is not something that happens to otherwise still objects, but the primary reality from which objects are formed and into which they eventually dissolve.
The river image is closely related to the image of the ocean of energy, in that both point to a deeper background of energy as well as a surface of explicate phenomena (vortices and ripples, respectively). The image of the river, however, conveys a more dramatic sense of flow and turbulence than an ocean, which seems a relatively quiescent thing.
Let us now relate the river image to the other two main images discussed in this chapter, the glycerine device and the hologram. The gradual appearance or unfolding of explicate objects, which was illustrated in the glycerine model by the slow contraction of the enfolded ink threads, corresponds to the appearance and formation of a vortex in a river. But each image illuminates different aspects of this process: the glycerine device highlights the distributed or enfolded origin of the ink threads, thus reminding us why it is called an "implicate" order (because the ink drops are "folded into" the glycerine), while the river image calls attention to the fact that all explicate objects, in this case the vortices, are only relatively stable abstractions from a deeper flow that feeds them all and relates them to each other.
The river image, and even more so the ocean image, corrects the impression given by the glycerine device that the explicate order (distinct ink drops) is primary and the implicate order follows later. This sequence of events is merely required by the glycerine device; whereas in the ontological context, the implicate order is primary, just as an ocean is more basic than the ripples on its surface and a river is needed for there to be vortices. In other words, the relationship between implicate and explicate order intended by Bohm is best portrayed by the ocean or river image.
Further, the river image calls attention to the point that the implicate order is not a "thing," despite its status as a noun with a definitive article. It is not a metaphysical object, some final essence from which the universe is built. We cannot point to the implicate order, even though the hologram makes it seem that way because we can see the recorded interference patterns on the film in a microscope. As mentioned, the implicate order recorded on the hologram is a static version of the implicate order in the interference pattern caused by the light from the reference and object beams. This electromagnetic energy is but one of the many kinds waves that constitute the holomovement. This energy is of the implicate order and may become unfolded in particular cases, such as the material particles that appear spontaneously from the vacuum, whether they did so individually yesterday or along with the rest of the universe in the Big Bang billions of years ago.
As in the case with the hologram, Bohm makes infrequent reference to the river image, apparently preferring to express the relevant ideas in more abstract terms. However, in the next chapter the notion of a flow channelled by vortices will become a central metaphor for the understanding of human activity and its expression through cognitive and social forms.
2.7 Applying the Implicate Order in Quantum Physics
Bohm emphasizes that one has to understand the implicate order as a proposal for a framework for the new view of reality required by the quantum theory. As described in Section 2.2 on Bohm's early work in quantum physics, he was led to consider more fundamental ontological questions by his inquiry into the quantum potential. He writes in 1976:
I was led to see what I felt to be a key new feature of a quantum mechanical system; i.e., that the 'quantum potential' now implied... that the force acting on any particle is a function of the state of the system as a whole as well as of the positions of all the particles in the system. So one could say that as it was necessary in Newton's time to question the generally implicit and unconsciously held view that Heavenly objects do not fall, so the facts now available imply the need to question the notion that the behavior of a system can be understood by analysis into parts, which interact through 'forces' that are fixed in nature, and not dependent on the state of the system as a whole. In other words, one has to look at the whole world in an new way, which is as different from that perceived by Newton, as that of Newton was from the views generally accepted earlier (1976, p. 4).
The implicate order was the concept that Bohm invented or discovered to express this dependency of the part upon the whole. The implicate order, however, remains a primarily visual or intuitive notion that can serve as an ontological background for quantum physics, the same way as the Cartesian co-ordinates of time of space provided the background for classical mechanics. How exactly to use this imaginative idea in technical work appears not to be entirely clear to Bohm. Thus, in 1986, some fifteen years after his introduction of the implicate order, he writes:
At this stage, however, the implicate order is still largely a general framework of thought... it lacks a well-defined set of general principles which would determine how the potentialities enfolded in the implicate order are actualized as relatively stable and independent forms in the explicate order (1986b, pp. 3-4)
That the general principles mentioned here have still not been formulated underscores the still very tentative and exploratory nature of the concept of implicate order. It is interesting to note that Bohm's discussions of the implicate order are often found in non-technical papers written for wider audiences (such as Bohm, 1978, 1980a, 1980b, 1982, 1986a), while his technical work makes only sparse mention of the implicate order (such as Bohm, Dewdney & Hiley, 1985; Bohm & Hiley, 1984, 1985, Bohm, Hiley & Kaloyerou, 1987, Philippidis & Bohm, 1982). (Exceptions to this tendency are the early papers 1971a, 1973).
Nevertheless, the conceptual connection between the implicate order and the quantum potential is clear in outline. The fact that in the quantum potential every point depends on the whole is, as we have seen, also a primary characteristic of the implicate order. On the relationship between the quantum potential and the implicate order Bohm says:
I now regard much of my earlier work on hidden variables and quantum potentials as a simplification and abstraction from a more fundamental process, in which the 'particles' of physics would be recurrent moments, unfolding from an implicate order and enfolding back into it (Bohm, 1986c, p. 172)
However, soon after his introduction of the implicate order Bohm found that for this concept to be useful in the quantum mechanical field theory (which is an extension of the quantum theory that views particles as fields), he needed to distinguish between two kinds of implicate order (Bohm, in Weber, 1983). There is an implicate order for the fields themselves, and there is a "superimplicate order" that organizes the first implicate order. Along with the superimplicate order goes a superquantum potential that organizes the quantum potential of the individual particles/fields (Bohm, 1986c, p. 173; Bohm, Hiley & Kaloyerou, 1987). Bohm makes the further suggestion that there may be a whole range of still deeper implicate orders that may reveal themselves to us as we inquire deeper into the nature of reality (in Weber, 1983, p. 40).
Some of the paradoxes of quantum mechanics outlined in Section 2.2 can be given a fairly satisfying intuitive interpretation in terms of the implicate order as described by means of the three images. We already outlined Bohm's use of the glycerine device to reconceptualize the apparent permanence of a particle as well as the nature of motion. A particle can be seen as successive unfoldments and reenfoldments of the implicate order in the same spot, which creates the impression of solidity and permanence, just as a figure on a TV screen seems to enjoy independent existence and solidity despite its being created by successive sweeps of the electron beam inside the television set.
Motion can be understood as the appearance produced by the implicate order as it unfolds a "particle" in slightly different space-time locations at every new instant, which creates the impression of a solid particle moving across space. A figure on a TV screen may likewise seem to move across the screen, although it is simply different manifestations of the activity of the electron beam. On the assumption that motion in space-time consists of successive unfoldments of an implicate order, discontinuous motion, such as the quantum jump, may be understood in terms of constraints on the unfoldment of a particle, causing it to display a "quantum jump." In the glycerine device, such a constraint may be visualized as some sort of obstacle being placed in the glycerine which distorts the otherwise smooth and continuous unfoldment of a particle (Bohm, 1980b, p. 184).
The vacuum fluctuations that create particles from "nothing" present no major difficulties of intuitive comprehension if the implicate order is adopted as a framework for understanding. These evanescent particles are simply momentary unfoldments from the implicate order; single ink drops that appear from their thread-like state of potentiality and whirl into drop-like existence in the explicate order for an instant, before they are dissolved into the implicate order again. In terms of the ocean of energy, they are transient ripples on the surface, born from the energies of the depths, and becoming one with the ocean again shortly after.
This notion of particles unfolding from an implicate order may help visualize the phenomenon described by the Heisenberg uncertainty relation. The fact that one of two conjugate properties of a particle becomes blurred if the other is measured very precisely may be expressed in terms of different degrees of unfoldment. Just as particles go through states of varying unfoldment (when an ink thread, a particle is very implicate; when an ink drop, it is highly explicate), so the properties of particles may exist in varying degrees of un- and enfoldment. The uncertainty relation says that if one property is very well-defined (that is, explicate), the other must remain correspondingly imprecise and smeared-out (implicate). As explained by an interviewer:
[Bohm] views the position and the momentum of the electron in the way he views the two drops of ink dropped into the glycerine at different stages of turning; if the position is clearly observed, the momentum is still "smeared," whereas by the time the turning has progressed far enough for the momentum to become clear, the position has become "smeared" (Temple, 1982, p. 365).
This relationship between degrees of unfoldment in different aspects or properties of a particle may be understood in terms of constraints on unfoldment, just as discontinuous motion was understood. In the case of the uncertainty relation, these constraints simply specify that conjugate properties cannot be unfolded simultaneously: the more unfolded one is, the less the other must be. (Of course, these constraints must be expressed mathematically. As presented, the notion of constraints on is merely an intuitive image of the sort Bohm finds no room for in the conventional interpretation of the quantum theory.)
In the light of the quantum potential, Niels Bohr's complementarity principle, which states that an electron can only be described in the complementary terms of particle and wave, no longer need to be taken as fundamental. An electron is not a particle in one experimental situation and a wave in another. According to Bohm, an electron is both a wave and a particle. The wave-like aspects of the electron's behavior are attributed to the quantum potential and the particle-like aspects to the electron as guided by the quantum potential (1976, p. 4, Bohm, Hiley & Kaloyerou, 1987).
The EPR-paradox, which says that in special circumstances two widely separated particles may still be correlated through an instantaneous, non-local connection, is rendered intuitively acceptable by the notion that these particles are only separate in the explicate order of space-time, not necessarily in the implicate order (Bohm, 1980b, p. 186). In the river image, the vortices (corresponding to particles) may appear separate on the surface of the river, but they are all fed by the same underlying stream connecting them all. Generally, locality is a property of explicate space-time, while the implicate order is characterized by non-local connections enfolding the whole in the parts.
For this non-local connection mediated by a deeper order of reality Bohm offers yet another image (1980b, p. 187). Imagine we are looking at two TV screens. One has a fish swimming about, seen from the side; the other has a similar fish seen from the front. It appears their behaviors are related: when one dips, so does the other; when one opens its mouth, so does the other. They do all this at exactly the same time. What is this non-local effect that correlates their behaviors so magically?
Well, it is of course the same fish, filmed from the side and from the front. This we could not know because we had only access to a two-dimensional reality, the flat TV-screens. As a third dimension is included, we realize that the two fish are different manifestations of the same three-dimensional fish. In like manner we live in a low-dimensional reality of space-time, an explicate order, behind which things may be connected in ways beyond our immediate grasp. Hence the need to consider deeper, higher-dimensional orders of reality, such as the implicate order.
It should be noted that the above attempts to visualize or "interpret" the classical quantum paradoxes--the quantum leap, vacuum fluctuations, the uncertainty relation, the wave-particle duality, the EPR-paradox --do not alone count as explanations. Bohm intends them as ways of providing an ontological context, a visually and intuitively meaningful background that must go along with a mathematical treatment of the ideas.
Bohm and his co-workers are currently trying to give more precise physical and mathematical meaning to the concept of the quantum potential and the causal interpretation of quantum mechanics. A number of technical papers attempt to throw new light on various classical problems in quantum physics, such as the measurement problem (Bohm, Dewdney & Hiley, 1985; Bohm & Hiley, 1976, 1984; Dewdney, Holland & Kyprianidis, 1986; Hiley, 1985), the role of non-locality (Bohm & Hiley, 1975; Hiley, 1985), quantum interference (Philippidis, Dewdney & Hiley, 1979; Dewdney, 1985), the Aharonov-Bohm effect (Philippidis & Bohm, 1982), barrier penetration (Hiley, 1985), and the relation between classical and quantum levels (Bohm & Hiley, 1985, in preparation; Bohm, Hiley & Kaloyerou,1987). These publications may be considered preliminary results in an ongoing research program aimed at giving mathematical and scientific substance to the many intuitive ontological analogies offered by Bohm, as reviewed in the previous sections.
2.8 Knowledge, Science, Mind, and Experience
From the early 1960's, Bohm's writings on topics outside physics began to include discussions of the nature of knowledge, science, the human mind, and so on. He has continued these explorations to this day, in parallel with his more technical and scientific work. His publications on these topics are not conventional academic contributions written from within a particular intellectual tradition and with reference to its literature. They range wide and are difficult to classify and compare with other work.
Bohm's problems with the Copenhagen interpretation and the limited scientific response to his proposed alternatives made him reflect on the nature of the scientific process (1985a; in Temple, 1982). This led him to suggest that the proper aim of scientific inquiry is not the establishment of reliable facts once and for all, but rather the unending process of inquiry in which ideas are proposed and elaborated and eventually replaced by other ideas (1960, 1977b, Bohm & Peat, 1987, chap. 2).
Bohm found support for his view of the dynamic and probing character of the scientific process in the work of Piaget (1952, Piaget & Inhelder, 1956). Piaget's research on perception and reality construction in the child and in science at large (see, e.g., Piaget, 1970) inspired Bohm to express the essence of science, as well as of perception, in terms of the tentative establishment of invariant relationships between our movements, activities, probings, etc. (1965a). These relationships appear in our awareness as a "constructions." If in our subsequent movements and probings we encounter contradictions to these "constructions," we must invent new ones to accommodate the new experience (1965a, p. 217).
Bohm argues that scientific theories should be seen as forms of insight or ways of looking at things that serve to organize our understanding of a given domain (1976, p. 1). Rather than being concerned with fixed facts, theories can be seen as acts of perception that penetrate and throw light on the order or organization of the topic under study. "...Scientific investigation is basically a mode of extending our perception of the world, and not mainly a mode of obtaining knowledge about it" (Bohm, 1965a, p. 219) (emphases in original).
...insight is an act of perception, permeated with intense energy and passion, that brings about great clarity. This makes possible the dissolution of strong but subtle emotional, linguistic, intellectual, social, and other pressures that tend to hold the mind in rigid grooves and fixed compartments, and so to cause it to avoid fundamental challenges (Bohm, 1981a, p. 387).
The scientific process goes astray when too much emphasis is placed on the products of insight, that is, on particular insights, rather than on the process of achieving insight. This results in the rigid grooves and fixed compartments mentioned in the passage quoted above. Bohm finds that this is what happens when physicists hold on to such notions as locality and the space-time view of the order of reality, which are also best seen as "forms of insight [that possibly] are being stretched beyond the context in which their meanings are free of confusion" (1976, p. 5).
This view is evidently compatible with Kuhn's (1962) view of the scientific process, according to which paradigms order the scientist's understanding and activities, until anomalies inexplicable in terms of the current paradigm accumulate and an alternative paradigm candidate is proposed and eventually takes over. Bohm makes reference to Kuhn in his original discussion (1965a, p. 219), but later takes issue, as others have done (Feyerabend, 1975; Musgrave, 1970), with the monolithic view of paradigms as ruling a science. He argues instead that shifts in models and conceptions come much more gradually and that a scientific discipline can indeed benefit from entertaining several competing theories or paradigmatic frameworks at the same time (Bohm & Peat, 1987, chap. 1).
In an essay on the relationship between science and art he argues that science and art are similar in that the quest in both is to perceive new forms of order, new conceptual structures to replaced the old (Bohm, 1968b). Inspired by Charles Biederman, the artist mentioned earlier, Bohm (1985a, p. 117) later expressed the perception of order as the perception of similar differences and different similarities. In several papers in the early 1970's this view of order is presented as a prelude to his proposal of the implicate order (1971a, 1971b, 1972, 1973).
Having outlined the implicate order, Bohm soon decided that it was relevant to a discussion of the relationship between to mind to matter. In a retrospective paper from 1985 a section called "Analogies to Consciousness" begins thus:
....I had long felt that the quantum theory describes processes that are, in certain key ways, analogous to those arising in our experience of consciousness.... When I came to the idea of implicate order, I could immediately see that this analogy can be carried very much further. Thus, the very word implicit, which we apply to certain kinds of thought, has the same root as implicate, and means "enfolded." This suggests that a given thought somehow enfolds ["implies"] further thoughts. As these unfold, they in turn enfold still further thoughts, and so on, thus giving rise to a whole train of thought. This train is, in many ways, rather like the quantum mechanical field, which unfolds into a sequence of particle-like manifestations, each of which enfolds to be replaced by the succeeding one.
So, the analogy of a photon (or an electron) and a train of thought is thus a good one. Indeed, it goes even further than what has just been described. For one has the distinct impression that the conscious content of thoughts emerges from a greater whole of which we are not fully conscious (1985a, pp. 121-122).
In terms of the glycerine device, individual thoughts are like threads of ink that unfold from a deeper implicit or implicate whole and manifest as ink drops for a moment in the explicate order, that is, in the explicit foreground of our thinking. In a train of thought, each thought is followed by another one in the manner suggested by this analogy, not by stimulus-response association, but unfolding from a deeper whole that enfolds them all in a more subtle order.
...Descartes [held] that matter and mind are separate substances. Indeed, the current usage of the word "psychosomatic" exemplifies such a notion, implying as it does that "psyche" or "mind" and "soma" or "body" are separate entities that can nevertheless somehow interact. In our view, however, the mental and the material are two sides of one overall process, that are... separated only in thought and not in actuality. Rather there is one energy which is the basis of all reality (1986b, p. 24).
...[T]he implicate order is common to both mind and to matter. This means that ultimately, mind and matter are not nearly so different as they might appear to be under superficial examination. Therefore, it seems reasonable to suggest that the implicate order may serve as a means of expressing the relationship between mind and matter (p. 3).
The rootedness of human beings in the implicate order can also be brought out by a consideration of thought and perception. As mentioned, Bohm sees the succession of thoughts that normally fill our minds as the explicate surface of a deeper implicate or implicit background. Our perception also appears to be an explicate order, because what we experience in sight, hearing, etc. are mostly discrete and explicate phenomena, such as objects of various shapes and colors, recognizable sounds, particular smells, etc.
However, as Bohm points out with Piaget, this explicate order in human experience is not primitive or original in human experience; it is the product of learning. Piaget's studies have shown that the objects and discrete phenomena that seem to meet the senses of an adult are constructions created in childhood. To the infant, the world presents itself largely as a blurred flux, which only after years of experimentation and observation by the child congeals into the objects and discrete events that adults take for granted. This flux is of the implicate order.
Although the explicate content of perception and thought usually dominates, the flux of the implicate order is what underlies our experience of movement, Bohm says. As we saw in the previous chapter, movement in classical physics was conceived in terms of (explicate) objects travelling through space, in time. Movement is discerned when the location of an object is different from its location at some earlier time (Bohm, 1980b, pp. 201-202) However, Bohm argues, our experience of movement is very different from this:
Consider, for example, what takes place when one is listening to music. At a given moment a certain note is being played but a number of the previous notes are still "reverberating" in consciousness. Close attention will show that it is the simultaneous presence and activity of all these reverberations that is responsible for the direct and immediately felt sense of movement, flow and continuity. To hear a set of notes so far apart in time that there is no such reverberation will destroy altogether the sense of a whole unbroken, living movement that gives meaning and force to what is heard.
It is clear from the above that one does not experience the actuality of this whole movement by "holding on" to the past, with the aid of a memory of the sequence of notes, and comparing this past with the present. Rather, as one can discover by further attention, the "reverberations" that make such an experience possible are not memories but are rather active transformations of what came earlier, in which are to be found not only a generally diffused sense of the original sounds, with an intensity that falls off, according to the time elapsed since they were picked up by the ear, but also various emotional responses, bodily sensations, incipient muscular movements, and the evocation of a wide range of yet further meanings, often of great subtlety. One can thus obtain a direct sense of how a sequence of notes is enfolding into many levels of consciousness, and of how at any given moment, the transformations flowing out of many such enfolded notes interpenetrate and intermingle to give rise to an immediate and primary feeling of movement....
[In music, an implicate order] is sensed immediately as the presence together of many different but interrelated degrees of transformations of tones and sounds.... In listening to music, one is therefore directly perceiving an implicate order (Bohm, 1980b, pp. 199-200) (emphases in original).
Bohm argues that for all the senses, the experience of movement is similarly based in the direct perception of the implicate order (Bohm & Peat, 1987, pp. 188ff). He finds support in the work of Piaget for the notion that "...the experiencing of the implicate order is fundamentally much more immediate and direct than is that of the explicate order, which... requires a complex construction that has to be learned" (Bohm, 1980b, p. 206). These constructions are regularities and invariants that have been abstracted from the flux of the implicate order, whereby an explicate order of stable concepts and symbols are created (cf. the map Bohm tried to create when crossing the stream as a boy).
2.9 Bohm on Ending Fragmentation in Life and Society: A Critique
Although the experience of the implicate order really is fundamental, "...through our thought and language, we tend to fill consciousness mainly with explicate content, and thus, we eventually come to feel that the explicate order is the basic reality in all areas of experience" (Bohm, 1985a, p. 123). Bohm sees this as the essential mistake that people make in dealing with the world: taking the explicate order of thoughts and concepts to be the primary reality. This occurs when the distinctions contained in thought and language are projected on to the world and are believed to be properties of the world "as it really is" (1980b, chap. 1).
This is what happens when the scientific process goes astray and scientists begin to hold on to particular theories or insights, rather than see them as temporary and tentative ways of looking. When insights freeze, the energy that created them them is diverted to the maintenance of the particular idea that it represents, which come to be seen as a fact describing the world as it supposedly is.
Every form of theoretical insight introduces its own essential differences and distinctions.... If we regard our theories as "direct descriptions of reality as it is," then we will inevitably treat these differences and distinctions as divisions, implying separate existence of the various elementary terms appearing in the theory. We will thus be led to the illusion that the world is actually constituted of separate fragments and... this will cause us to act in such a way that we do in fact produce the very fragmentation implied in our attitude to the theory (Bohm, 1980b, p. 7).
From this fragmentation of the "unbroken wholeness in flowing movement" (1980b, p. 11) of reality proceeds a great many of the problems of the world today, Bohm believes:
Our fragmentary way of thinking looking, and acting, evidently has implications in every aspect of human life (1980b, p. 16).
...[S]ociety as a whole has developed in such a way that it is broken up into separate nations and different religious, political, economic, racial groups, etc. Man's natural environment has correspondingly been seen as an aggregate of separately existent parts, to be exploited by different groups of people. Similarly, each individual human being has been fragmented into a large number of separate and conflicting compartments, according to his different desires, aims, ambitions, loyalties, psychological characteristics, etc., to such an extent that it is generally accepted that some degree of neurosis is inevitable... (p. 1).
...[I]t is not an accident that our fragmentary form of thought is leading to... a widespread range of crises, social, political, economic, ecological, psychological, etc., in the individual and in society as a whole. Such a mode of thought implies unending development of chaotic and meaningless conflict, in which the energies of all tend to be lost by movements that are antagonistic or else at cross-purposes (p. 16).
We cannot in the end do anything but destroy if we have a fragmentary approach (Bohm, in Weber, 1983, p. 44).
The question of what can be done to end the pervasive fragmentation in human life and society is a subtle one, Bohm points out, for if a large part of the problem lies in our manner of thinking about the world, any attempt to solve the problem of fragmentation through conscious thought runs the risk of becoming trapped in the very fragmentation it was intended to resolve. Therefore, thought is not likely to produce any results. Instead, Bohm proposes that we must give attention to the very processes that produce a fragmented and confused state of mind. Referring to this state of mind as self-deception, he writes:
What is called for to break through self-deceptions is not an effort of will, choice, or decision. Rather it is to pause and to give attention to the fact that one's thinking, feeling, desire, and will are dominated, through and through, by a set of self-contradictory demands or "needs," so that as long as such content prevails, there is no way to put things right. Every attempt to work from this basis constitutes an evasion of the real source of the difficulty. It takes a great deal of energy and seriousness to "stay with" an awareness of this fact, rather than to "escape" by allowing the mind to dart into some other subject, or otherwise lose awareness of the actual state of affairs. Such serious and sustained attention, going immensely beyond what is merely verbal or intellectual, can actually bring the trap into awareness, and the trap dissolves when its ultimate reality and absurdity are clearly seen, felt and understood. Krishnamurti  has been pointing this out for many years and develops this approach in The Impossible Question (1981b, p. 433).
As is evident from this passage, Bohm' analysis of the root problem of human existence and the approach to solve it are highly influenced by the philosophy of Krishnamurti. In this view, conscious and deliberate thought, as based on a willed intention or desire to change, merely perpetuates the fragmentation and confusion underlying the problems of society. With Krishnamurti, Bohm suggests that giving attention to a problem is a different and more subtle approach that will expose the contradictions and traps that characterize normal thinking and spontaneously free the mind from these traps.
Bohm further argues that attention not only is capable of exposing the fragmentation and confusion in the explicate order of thought, but may also provide access to the flux or energy that underlies the explicate order. In this, attention is similar to (or may lead to) insight, as discussed previously. Insight and attention are the mind's avenues to the implicate depth and wholeness that lie beyond the fragmentation of the everyday world. The mind may be stuck in fixed grooves, such as habits of thought, cultural prejudices, learned responses, etc., all of which are of the explicate order, but it is ultimately capable of freeing itself from these pressures to conform to standard and rigid modes of thought:
...we could say that all pressure has basically one germ, all the confusion. And the insight into that germ will remove that germ and allow the whole thing to clear up. Now, when that clears up, you know, even as you start to clear it up, energy starts to rise and builds up, you see. Energy has also been called passion. In other words, clarity and passion together are needed (Bohm, in Weber, 1978, p. 39).
Since fragmentation is considered by Bohm to be a fundamental problem of society today, his recommendations as to how to get out of fragmentation and restore wholeness may be thought of as general guidelines for human action. However, Bohm is extremely reluctant about calling fragmentation "bad" and wholeness "good," since he considers precisely this kind of division of the world into opposing categories the essence of the fragmentary approach. Thinking in terms of good and evil only propagates the antagonisms and conflicts between people and within the individual.
Instead, he prefers to speak of the mind as being in a state of "confusion" or "clarity," respectively, the latter describing the state associated with direct insight and "serious attention." In another analogy, he speaks of the confused mind as missing the point and being "off the mark." In a conversation he remarks: "There are not two things, good and evil, but rather there is... attention which keeps you on the mark, or failure of attention which makes you go off" (1985b, p. 157).
Likewise, with respect to the notion of values, he is cautious not to advocate any particular value, since such advocacy has a tendency to consolidate and cement the values advocated. This turns the values into what he calls "supreme values," which are then pursued relentlessly and so act to block the free flow of reason (1981a). Answering his own very direct question, "How can we then determine an appropriate set of values?" (1979, p. 416), he repeats the advice cited above to the effect that we must be "free of attachment to past conclusions" and "what is needed is an intelligent perception [insight, attention], from moment to moment, of what the right values are for the actual situation at that moment." This is about as far as Bohm goes on the question of human values, a question which, as we shall see, is central to the argument in the later chapters.
As we have seen, Bohm's use of the concepts of implicate and explicate order in the human context allows him to identify the foreground of human thinking--explicit thoughts, ideas, habits of mind--as explicate and the background "stream of consciousness," from which these ideas are supposed to originate, as implicate. A major problem of the world today, according to Bohm, is that our minds as well as society have become overly explicate, so to speak, or fragmented, in Bohm's terms. This happens when the order of our thoughts is projected onto reality, that is, when we think that the world actually has compartments and divisions that correspond to the concepts we use to grasp it. The remedy proposed against fragmentation is, to put it simply, getting in touch with the energy of the implicate order. This will dispel confusion and fragmentation, bring about clarity and help people realize their "true potential for participating harmoniously in universal creativity..." (Bohm, 1986d, pp. 207-208).
Bohm paints a picture of the human condition as stretched out along a dimension of order that goes from implicate to explicate. For example, in perception we may occasionally experience the implicate order directly, as in the experience of music. Through insight and attention we may reach through to the implicate order, but mostly we hang on to rigidified insights that we believe to be true descriptions of the world as "it really is." Clinging to this explicate order leads to fragmentation, and to improve matters one must reconnect with the implicate energy.
In other words, it seems as if there can be "too much" explicate order (that is, fragmentation). To remedy that, one must "go back" and pick up some implicate energy. These are not Bohm's terms, but his use of the concepts suggests this one-dimensional conceptualization of implicate and explicate order. We get a sense that human existence involves sliding back and forth along a scale from implicate to explicate order, with people trying to find a place where there is enough explicate order for there to be a human world at all, but also enough implicate order for the human world not to rigidify and become fragmented. See Fig. 2.1.
Implicate order Explicate order
(all implicate, (all explicate,
no explicate) no implicate)
A One-Dimensional Conceptualization of the Relationship Between Implicate and Explicate Order
Bohm exemplifies this conception of there being a delicate balancing act between too little and too much explicate order by comparing Eastern and Western cultures. What is emphasized in the West is outward movement and dynamism and a reliance on "...explicate orders, which are especially suitable for large-scale organization and technology" (Bohm & Peat, 1987, p. 190), whereas "...the East is inclined toward suspension of overt or explicate activity in favor of a kind of movement at subtler levels" (p. 258) (such as occurs in meditation). He proposes a reconciliation of the two cultures in terms of a "...broad 'middle ground' between Western dynamism and Eastern suspension of outward activity, as well as between the timeless [implicate] and the temporal [explicate] orders..." (p. 260).
While Bohm's analysis rightly, in this author's opinion, identifies the fragmentation occasioned by the projection of static concepts onto a dynamic reality as a key problem in modern life and society, the idea of searching for a "middle ground" or compromise between too much and too little explicate order seems somewhat impoverished. Is humankind really condemned to engage in some eternal balancing act between extremes? This is indeed a common way of viewing the human condition, but a most unsatisfactory one, in this author's opinion. Opposites must be handled carefully. and to see them in more-or-less-terms, as if they were a pie of limited size, like the earth's natural resources, is not likely to be the best approach.
To argue what is lacking in this conceptualization we must first propose an alternative. This alternative requires clarification of a number of other issues, to be discussed in Chapters 3 and 4. An alternative conceptualization then follows in Chapter 5, after which we will return, in Chapter 6, to the present critique and substantiate it through a comparison of Bohm's conceptualization and the proposed alternative.
Bohm's analysis of human existence lacks contact with extant scholarly analyses of human experience and consciousness (which Bohm, being first and foremost a physicist, of course cannot be blamed for). Our next chapter will attempt to fill this lacuna by relating the implicate order to the literature in phenomenology and interpretive studies, so as to articulate a more comprehensive context for a discussion of the use of implicate and explicate order in the human world.
Another unexplored aspect of Bohm's work that will be examined in the next chapter is the connection between the world of physics and the human world. Bohm applied the implicate order first in physics and then discovered, as the passages quoted above revealed, that the implicate order seems relevant to the human mind also. From this realization he derived his analysis of the human condition. However, he deals only in the most cursory way with all the levels in between, as they have appeared during evolution, that is, from the beginning of matter through the evolution of life to the human world. An account of this evolution in terms of implicate and explicate order would be highly desirable from the point of view of theoretical completeness.
Bohm's reflections on the problems of human life and society set an important agenda for others to explore: how may the ontological concepts of implicate and explicate order be applied in the human context? This question, as was discussed in Chapter 1, is indeed the starting point for the research to be presented next. The emphasis in the following chapters is not the relatively minor omissions or inadequacies identified in Bohm's treatment of the implicate order in human life, but the much greater potential that this concept holds for our understanding of the human world.
2.10 Summary and Conclusions
This chapter has reviewed Bohm's explorations in ontology and their applications in physics and the study of knowledge, mind and the human condition. His ontological ideas are well summarized in the introduction to a popular paper from his own hand:
In my work in physics, which was originally aimed at understanding relativity and the quantum theory on a deeper basis common to both, I developed the notion on the enfolded or implicate order (Bohm, 1980b). The essential feature of this idea was that the whole of the universe is in some way enfolded in everything and that each thing is enfolded in the whole. From this it follows that in some ways, and to a certain degree, everything enfolds or implicates everything. The basic proposal is that this enfoldment relationship is not merely passive or superficial. Rather it is active and essential to what each is. It follows that each thing is internally related to the whole and therefore to everything else. The external relationships are then displayed in the unfolded or explicate order in which each thing is seen as separate and extended and related only externally to other things. The explicate order, which dominates everyday experience as well as classical physics, is however secondary in the sense that ultimately it flows out of the primary reality of the implicate order.
Since the implicate order is basically dynamic in nature, I called it the holomovement. All things found in the unfolded explicate order emerge from the holomovement in which they are enfolded as potentialities, and ultimately they fall back into it. They endure only for some time, and while they last, their existence is sustained in a constant process of unfoldment and reenfoldment, that gives rise to the relatively stable and independent forms in which they appear in the explicate order (Bohm, 1986b, p. 2-3).
Bohm's writings on ontological matters were grouped into three themes, each of which was conveyed by a major intuitively understandable image or analogy. In the interest of maximum clarity the review of his work on these ontological images was augmented by reference to other related work by other authors (principally the pebble analogy, a overview of the holographic recording technique, and the current physical understanding of the vacuum energy). Table 2.1 summarizes the main and auxiliary images introduced under each of the three themes.
Theme Image Implicate Explicate
Order ¥ Glycerine device Stretched-out Point-like
ink threads ink drops
Wholeness ¥ Pebbles in pan Spreading waves Positions of pebbles
¥ Sunlit room Interference pattern Experience of of light in space objects in room
¥ Hologram Recorded interference 3-D image
pattern on film
Movement ¥ Ocean of energy Ocean's depths Ripples
¥ River Flow Vortices
Main and Auxiliary Images Illustrating Implicate and Explicate Order
Individually, most of these images have been proposed by others than Bohm (except possibly the glycerine device). For example, the notion of a whole being represented in its parts is found in the classical Greek idea of the microcosm that mirrors the macrocosm, and the dynamic view of reality implied by the river analogy is not at all unknown in Western philosophy (although it has always taken a back seat to essentialistic and elementaristic views). Bringing together, however, the notion of a whole enfolded in its parts and an explicit process philosophy provides, as will be argued in Chapter 3, a unique ontological framework suitable for an understanding of the human world.
As to the application of this framework, we saw that while the implicate order is capable of yielding some intuitive insights into the paradoxes of the quantum theory and may provide a more meaningful ontological background for contemporary physics, the implicate order is mostly a vehicle for thinking about the world, not a precisely worked-out physical (or, indeed, epistemological or psychological) concept. Its scientific application in physics largely remains a promise to be developed.
Some of Bohm's other uses of the implicate order were presented, such as its application to science, knowledge and the mind. His thoughts on the human condition included speculations of the role of the implicate order in human experience, life and society. His point was that modern man mistakenly fills his life with explicate content by projecting the concepts and ideas used in language and thought onto the world and then believing it to be as compartmentalized as these concepts. To remedy this, Bohm proposes, we must obtain deeper insight and give serious attention to the traps of the explicate order, and the energy from the implicate order will help us dissolve these traps.
This conceptualization was found deficient. What exactly is wrong with it can best be explained by comparing it with an alternative use for the implicate order in the human world. Such a comparison will be presented in Chapter 6. This indirect mode of critique may seem somewhat peculiar unless it is remembered, as was stated in Chapter 1, that the starting point for this research is not an identified inadequacy in Bohm's work, or elsewhere; not a research problem, but a research opportunity. Thus, what is most salient about the implicate order considered in the context of the human world is not Bohm's particular use of it for this purpose, but its tremendous general potential for useful application. This potential will be developed in the following chapters, which therefore focus, to repeat, not on deficiencies in Bohm's work, but on its positive heuristic and explanatory powers.
Technically, quantum physics is the study of physical processes that significantly involve Planck's quantum of action, which expresses the lowest possible energy exchange between two interacting physical systems.
In keeping with Bohm's usage, we shall often refer to the concept of the implicate order, not as "the concept of the implicate order," but as "the implicate order." This usage implies a blurring of the difference between the implicate order as a fact "out there" and the implicate order as a concept used in thinking about the world, which is the difference between a thing and its name. This usage seems appropriate for a topic that seems very difficult to pin down in traditional ontological terms. (Is the implicate order a thing? Is it really out there? Or is it merely a convenient concept for describing reality?.) This problem of the ontological status of the implicate order is one that cannot be settled easily and is perhaps best suspended for the moment. The use of a noun ("the implicate order") to denote something that cannot meaningfully be thought of as a thing or a substance is problematic but not uncommon in philosophical discourse. This problem, which follows from the structure of the English language, is well known from other phenomena that are highly dynamic or process-like in character ("a flash of lightning," "a sunbeam,") and should not confuse the reader into reifying the implicate order. Also, not too much significance should be attached to Bohm's varying use or non-use of articles (an implicate order, or the implicate order), or whether "implicate order" appears in the singular or the plural.
Elsewhere, the holomovement is equated with the folding back and forth of the implicate and explicate order, such that the holomovement could be best illustrated by the movement that the glycerine undergoes when the inner cylinder is turned (in Weber, 1978). In still other places, Bohm seems to reserve the term "holomovement" for the unfathomable and completely unspecifiable, at the same time referring to several degrees of implicate order: the first implicate order, the second implicate order, etc. (in Weber, 1983 and 1986, Bohm & Peat, 1987). As one critic points out, in this sense, "the term 'holomovement' is itself misleading--what is undefinable and immeasurable cannot be said to move" (Schumacher, 1983, p. 10). It may be to avoid this paradox that Bohm apparently experiment with the meanings of these core ontological terms. This, one might suppose, is to be expected in work as deliberately tentative and probing as Bohm's. His reluctance to fix the meanings of these terms once and for all is in line with his general philosophy of avoiding fixed maps of reality. Thus, on the last page of "Wholeness and the Implicate Order" he says: "Is this ground [the implicate order] 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" (Bohm, 1980b, p. 213).
A literature search turned up no published reactions to this calculation. From this author's conversations with physicists it became apparent that it is not considered proper to take the (infinite?) vacuum energy to be real. Most physicists seem to regard it as an an artifact of the equations of quantum theory that should treated lightly and not be "ontologized" - which is, of course, exactly the position that Bohm castigates, i.e., the evasion of the ontological implications of quantum mechanics. However, if asked where particles ultimately come from, most physicists, it seems, acknowledge that their origin or source is indeed in this background or vacuum energy, as we shall see in Section 3.2. Although physicists thus balk at attributing specific values to the magnitude of this energy, they all seem to acknowledge it is there somehow. This "somehow," this inability to conceive of a plausible way that all this energy can be possible right there in empty space, is precisely the problem of the interpretation of quantum theory that Bohm is addressing in no uncertain terms. In sum, what is at issue here is not the precise magnitude of the vacuum energy, but just how this energy may be conceptualized and taken into account.
In the present work we shall restrict ourselves to just one implicate order. The additional levels of implicate order suggested by Bohm may be required by the quantum mechanical field theory, but they do not seem imperative for the general ontological discourse undertaken in this dissertation.