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Thomas J. Germine


For the Eye altering alters all.

William Blake, The Mental Traveller


David Bohms posthumously-published paper on Soma-Significance[1] represents an invaluable legacy, a veritable foundation plan of the immense metaphysical edifice which was taking shape in the authors mind during the final days of his life. As is also evident in the unfinished collaborative work which Bohm was completing at the time of his death, his thinking was rapidly evolving in the direction of an entirely new paradigm of Mind and Matter pointing the way to the shores of a yet unexplored scientific/philosophical landscape. Perhaps it was somehow decreed that Bohm, like Moses, would be granted only a distant view of the land to which his vision had led him. If so, then it is left for us, as if by Bohms magnanimous bequest, to complete his singular voyage of discovery on the vast, uncharted seas of what I will call Quantum Metaphysics.

The Duality of Mind and Matter


But the proposal in this paper is that the notion of soma-significance will make possible a kind of appearance that puts us into a much better contact with the basically unknown reality than does the duality of mind and matter, with its further division between actor, action, and that which is acted upon.

David Bohm, Psychoscience, 1, 27 (1994)


The metaphysical problem of Mind-Matter Dualism is inherent in the classical physics of Isaac Newton and its philosophical counterpart, the empiricism of John Locke. Under this paradigm, which has dominated Western thinking for the past three centuries, reality is essentially viewed as external to and independent of the observer. Indeed, the observer is reduced to one relatively insignificant facet of a vast universe, only a miniscule corner of which is imperfectly comprehended by his/her thought processes. In the universe of Newton and Locke, then, consciousness is at best a merely subjective epiphenomenon of an objective reality, i.e., Mind is dwarfed, if not annihilated, by Matter.

This Mind-Matter Dualism had derived its philosophical pedigree from Ren Descartes, for whom it was a natural corollary to his formulation of the constructs of Space and Time as pure mathematical abstractions. Viewed through the mesh of the Cartesian rectilinear grid, objective reality became not only external but also absolute, following an inexorable code of universal laws from which all outcomes could be positively determined. From this vantage point, human consciousness was shrunk down to the status of a crude tool for discerning a thing from another.

Drawing upon Bohms image of the Mind-Matter relationship as analogous to opposing magnetic poles, one might well anticipate that the Newtonian-Cartesian endeavor to cut the magnet, so to speak, by assigning paramount reality to the material pole, would simply result in a reconstituted opposing mental pole. And in fact the extreme Mind-Matter polarization of scientific materialism did engender its opposite: the rise of an equally radical idealism, as espoused by Bishop Berkeley and the neo-Platonists, which denied that the material world had any reality outside of the human mind. For, if the materialists could point to Democritus for the view that matter consists of discrete, localized particles, the opposing school could invoke Plotinus:[2]

Since matter is neither soul nor intellect, but a certain indefiniteness, it cannot merit the appellation of being, but is deservedly called non-entity abiding without station, of itself invisible, and avoiding the desire of him who wishes to perceive its nature. Hence when no one perceives it, it is then in a manner present: but cannot be viewed by him who strives intently to behold it.

It is difficult to resist savoring the supreme irony here: the anti-materialist metaphysics of Plotinus uncannily anticipates the quantum mechanics of Newtons intellectual heirs, with the foregoing quote being a virtual text-book recital of the theory of Schrödingers wave and Heisenbergs uncertainty. But perhaps we should not be so surprised, since radical idealism is founded on Mind-Matter Duality every bit as much as is its polar opposite, radical materialism. Hence, the dualities of particle-wave and observer-observable can be seen to follow inexorably from the underlying split of consciousness away from the natural world regardless of which side of the rift one proceeds from.

For David Bohm, the polar dichotomy of Mind and Matter, while being an arbitrary cut in the flow of an indivisible field of being, was nonetheless useful (in the same way as is the artificial idea of magnetic poles) as an aid in conceptualizing the ineffable workings of a deeper subtle level of reality.[3] Thus, we may accurately say that Bohm bridged the Mind-Matter chasm by going beneath it, into the subtext of reality from which the manifest is woven. Underlying the familiar world of manifest reality, or the explicate order in Bohms terminology, he postulated the existence of a non-material realm of pure information, the implicate order from which unfold all observable phenomena.[4]

It is important to understand that Bohm conceived the implicate subtext underlying manifest events not merely as a useful paradigm for explaining quantum phenomena, but as a literal description of what is. This boldly ontological approach stands in stark contrast with the mainstream thinking of 20th Century physics, which has all but abandoned ontology in favor of a purely epistemological approach.

Defining a Quantum Reality

Implicit in the Newtownian-Cartesian mechanical model of the universe was the ultimate goal of deriving one equation which would describe all material phenomena. In the 20th Century, theoretical physicists achieved this goal, in the form of the Schrödinger Equation, but they found the reality which the equation describes is random, indefinite, inscrutable, and indivisible to be a far cry from what they had expected. Virtually overnight, the comforting world of discrete localized particles had evaporated into an omnipresent phantasmic haze of statistical probabilities, which an incredulous Einstein referred to as a Gespensterfeld Ghost-field.

Reacting somewhat like the fictional Dr. Frankenstein, the mainstream quantum theorists, led by Neils Bohr, endeavored to confine their unseemly creation to the laboratory: accepting Shrödingers spectral waveform as a useful mathematical formulation for predicting experimental outcomes, but in the same breath denying that this probability wave actually reflects a quantum reality. Thus under the banner of Bohrs Copenhagen Interpretation, the inability of modern physics to put the quantum genie back into an ontological bottle was resolved by throwing away the bottle. At the quantum level, at least, reality was deemed inherently unknowable.

Nonetheless, there remained a strong attachment among many of Bohrs colleagues to a more traditional notion, namely, that the scientific pursuit consists of developing a coherent model of what is, and not merely an incestuous set of rules for explaining the results of its own contrived experimental configurations.[5] For those disinclined to follow Bohr into a metaphysical blind alley, the alternative inevitably involved revisiting the twin Cartesian pillars of scientific materialism: Mind-Matter Dualism and Objective (albeit not, after Einstein, Absolute) Space/Time.[6]

The obvious alternative to the know-nothing approach of the Copenhagen Interpretation was to view the wave function defined by the Schödinger Equation as itself representing, mathematically, a Quantum Reality. But the characteristics of such a quantum realmindeterminacy, non-locality, a-temporality, universal interconnectednessare so fundamentally at odds with the attributes of the macroscopic world, that the ontological approach seemingly must engender yet another breach in the fabric of a unified reality, this time in the selection of the appropriate dividing line between the quantum and classical domains. With his characteristic directness, Bohr had severed this Gordian knot by arbitrarily assuming, in the aggregate, a statistical convergence of quantum phenomena on purely classical behaviorthe so-called Correspondence Limit. Given this assumption, a macro-scale measuring apparatus may be viewed as purely classical, and the cut between the quantum and classical realms can be conveniently located at the boundary between the experimental equipment and the subatomic particle.

Unfortunately, the mathematical formulation of quantum mechanics, as developed by John von Neumann in the early 1930s, failed to support the supposed existence of a bright line dividing the well-defined attributes of the measuring instrument from the indeterminate potentialities inherent in the Schrödinger wave function. Instead, von Neumanns mathematical rendering of the universe completely jettisoned the twin Cartesian pillars of classical physics, replacing four-dimensional Space/Time with infinitely-dimensioned Hilbert Space, and emphatically rejecting the paradigm of a divided reality. Hence, the von Neumann formulation demands that all physical processes be described in terms of an infinite array of potentialities, inherently incapable of actualizing without the intercession of a non-physical entity associated with the measurement processan entity which von Neumann was logically compelled to identify with consciousness. Thus, we have the sublime irony of a rigorous mathematical elaboration of a purely materialistic model of the universe yielding a radically idealistic paradigm: Consciousness creates Reality!

Does quantum ontology then inexorably drive us to a contra-Copernican revolution, once again assigning to humanity, or more precisely, to human consciousness, the central place in the universal scheme? And the problematic implications of the von Neumann formulation do not end there, because unless we deny the physical existence of the Universe prior to the biological evolution of human consciousness we are compelled to define Consciousness more broadly than in the context of the individual human mind. In fact, we are obliged to at least entertain the possibility that the Universe is in some sense Conscious a Consciousness which manifests itself in the undivided Whole, but which also permeates down into the increasingly finer, subtler levels of reality. Under such a quantum animism, human consciousness may be seen to emerge from the all-pervading Universal Consciousness by a process similar to the collapse of a quantum waveform into the localized form of an observed particle.

Complementarity and Space/Time


There is a place where Contrarieties are equally True.

William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell


The fundamental unity and interdependence of what Blake styled Contrarieties is a concept which originated with Heraclitus and Pythagoras and became a central tenet in the alchemy of Paracelsus: That which is beneath is like that which is above; and that which is above is like that which is beneath.[7]

Unlike the idealist-materialist poles of conventional philosophy, this esoteric tradition viewed spirit and matter, light and darkness, time and eternity, above and beneath as complementary principles, both alike rooted in a divine essence. Universal intelligence, the alchemists deus absconditus, is hidden and operating in matter, no less than in the realm of consciousness or, as Blake expressed it poetically:[8]

God is in the lowest effects as well as in the highest causes.

In this visionary school of thought, the myth of Osiris, whose divine body was dismembered and scattered throughout the material world, was the archetype for the influx of Mind into Matter. Though hidden in Matter, the Light shineth in the Darkness, in the words of St. Johns gospel, conferring Form upon the otherwise watery material world.

Proceeding from the same fundamental Principle of Complementarity, David Bohm arrives at a remarkably similar paradigm of Mind and Matter, with subatomic particles guided in their movements by active information encoded in a field of quantum potential which communicates with the entire universe. Characteristically, Bohm (1994) chooses his words carefully, explaining the special nuances which he attaches to the notion of information:

What is crucial here is that we are calling attention to the literal meaning of the word, i.e., to in-form, which is actively to put form into something or to imbue something with form.[9]

It is easy to misconstrue this so-called pilot wave theory as a revival of the familiar certainties of classical physics, with a localized, tangible particle pushed around by a physical energy field. But in his final writings, Bohm takes great pains to explain that the quantum field exerts no force on the particle, and that both particle and field exist only in the implicate order which underlies manifest reality. Indeed, far from reverting to the pre-quantum Cartesian grid of Space/Time, Bohms theory for the first time proposes a non-Cartesian ontology of Space/Time which corresponds to von Neumanns mathematical formulation of Hilbert Space:

The basic idea is to introduce a new concept of order, which we call the implicate or the enfolded order. This is to be contrasted with our current concepts of order which are based on the ideas of Descartes. The Cartesian grid (extended to curvilinear coordinates), which describes what is essentially a local order, has been the one constant feature of physics in all the fundamental changes that have happened over the past few centuries. In the quantum domain, however, this order shows its inadequacy, because physical properties cannot be attributed unambiguously to well-defined structures and processes in space-time while remaining within Hilbert space.[10]

What we are proposing here is that this disparity between physical concepts (e.g., particle/wave, position/momentum) and the implications of the mathematical equations arises because the physical concepts are inseparably involved with the Cartesian notion of order, and this violates the essential content of quantum mechanics. What we need is a notion of order for all our concepts, both physical and mathematical, which coheres with this content.

Just as the conventional photograph may be viewed as a paradigm of the Cartesian order, with its point-to-point correspondence between image and object, Bohm draws upon the hologram as the paradigm of his implicate order, in which the entire form of the object is enfolded within each point of the image.[11] Thus, coordinates of Space/Time do not appear discretely in the implicate order, but are enfolded in a unbroken wholeness, a sort of pre-space, each dimensionless part of which embraces all of Space/Time.[12] The trajectory of a particle through Space/Time can therefore be seen as a holomovement,[13] i.e., the sequential unfoldment in Space/Time of a unitary eternal form in pre-space:[14]

Whatever persists with a constant form is sustained as the unfoldment of a recurrent and stable pattern which is constantly being renewed by enfoldment and dissolved by unfoldment. When the renewal ceases the form vanishesThe notion of a permanently existing entity with a given identity, whether a particle or anything else, is therefore at best an approximation

Although Bohm had only the opportunity to draw out some of the initial implications of this revolutionary new paradigm, it is possible to see in the holomovement a sort of cinematic, i.e., frame-by-frame, sequential rendering of an implicate subtext which exists outside of Space/Time or, expressed more figuratively, the progressive unfoldment of Eternity in Time and Infinity in Space.[15] Again, the poetic inspiration of William Blake proves amazingly prescient:[16]

How do you know but evry Bird that cuts the airy way,

Is an immense world of delight, closed by your senses five?

It may perhaps also be discerned that the sequential nature of the unfolding of the holomovement in Space/Time is a logical corollary of Bohrs Principle of Complementarity (of which Heisenbergs Uncertainty Principle is but a special case). Pursuant to Complementarity, certain groups of physical observables cannot be known at the same Space/Time juncture, because the mathematical operators which correspond to these conjugate attributes do not commute, i.e., the order in which the operators are applied makes a difference. That being the case, the occultation of past events in Space/Time, which is the hallmark of the explicate or manifest order, may be seen as necessary to prevent the violation of Complementarity which would result from the persistent observation of conjugate attributes.

But Bohrs Principle of Complementarity also dictates that the knowledge of all complementary attributes is essential to render a complete picture of reality. Hence, since opposing potentialities cannot be manifested in the same Space/Time, the complete picture must be presented in installments, so to speak, with each frame disappearing from view before the manifestation of its complementary construct. Accordingly, manifest reality is not continuous, but instead composed of a cinematic progression of avatars from the implicate subtext, each avatar being separated by what Bohm characterizes as a free flight-time related to the Planck time.

The apparent continuity of reality, therefore, must be ascribed to the same sort of persistence of vision which accounts for the illusion of cinematic continuity. This, then, suggests itself as a paradigm for the role of Consciousness, which, like the goddess Isis, voyages through the formless waters of Space/Time, gathering up and reconstructing the dismembered body of Osiristhe undivided Whole of the implicate order:[17]

Such mental processes of indefinitely deep inwardness and subtlety can, however, incorporate the content of memory along with the rest of perception into wholes...

Consciousness and the Implicate Order

Proceeding along the lines of Bohms rejection of Mind-Matter Duality, it is reasonable to hypothesize that, just as material phenomena are manifestations of an unfolding implicate order, so the phenomena of Consciousness may be seen as the unfoldment of a timeless, space-less, apparently random subtext (apparently, that is, because the text of this page, viewed as the cumulative occurence of individual letters, could also be interpreted as a random statistical process). Ultimately, at the most subtle levels, the implicate orders of the material and psychic universes are one, but it may be inferred that there are also intervening gradations of ever-more-subtle levels, in which common pools of information link waking consciousness with the unconscious, and the individual mind with a collective psyche.

The individual psyche erects the abstraction of selfhood only by severing itself from what Blake describes as the scattered portions of his immortal body, i.e., the seeds of Universal Consciousness sown ubiquitiously into even the minutest furrows of Matter. But the infinite potentialities of the scattered portions of Mind which the Self must define as external will now represent inactive information, in the same sense as do the un-actualized quantum potentialities of the observed electron in Bohms theory.[18] Thus, as suggested earlier, individual consciousness may be abstracted from an underlying pool of consciousness, in the same way as the observed Quantum wave packet is collapsed from an overall wave function.

The consciousness of self in turn implies the unconsciousness of those portions of Mind which are not self, again because it is inherent in all observable phenomena that complementary attributes cannot be manifested at the same time. Conversely, the experience of the Unconscious, i.e., the Mind beyond the limits imposed by the limits of the Self, is the sleep or occultation of consciousness. Just as the form of a particle is sustained by continually converging and diverging waves unfolding from an implicate field of quantum potential, consciousness may be seen as an explicate form sustained by continually converging and diverging waves unfolding from an unconscious field of psychic potential.

Individual consciousness, then, like its counterpart, the individual particle of matter, has no continuous existence, but rather is a continual cinematic unfolding of the infinite content of the Unconscious or, as Bohm puts it, the action of the infinite within the sphere of the finite.[19] Thus, during waking hours, the implicate content of the Unconscious ostensibly random, non-local, a-temporal, thing-less and all-entangled unfolds to sustain, by continual re-creation, the explicate form of Consciousness. Here, then, is a paradigm which accounts for that most-enigmatic characteristic of consciousness: that of being, from instant to instant, continually different, yet (absent pathology) replicating a constant form.

Applying Bohms holomovement consistently to Mind as well as Matter, therefore, compels us to consider the central role of what Freud called the dream-work in sustaining healthy consciousness; for the recurrent and stable pattern which unfolds during waking hours must be renewed during sleeping hours (or daytime rveries) by the enfoldment of waking experience into the seamless subtext of the Unconscious. The alternative to the dreams enfoldment of waking experience follows inexorably from the nature of the holomovement: When the renewal ceases, the form vanishes.[20]

Once again, ancient metaphysical traditions prove uncannily prescient of our emerging formulations. In Hindu mythology, the manifest world unfolds, like a lotus flower, from the universal dream of Vishnu:

Vishnu being the cosmic water itself, the infinite ocean of that liquid life-substance out of which all the differentiated phenomena and elements of the universe arise, and back into which they must again dissolve.[21]

Like Bohms pilot wave, which guides and in-forms the path of the electron, the subtextual symbolic language of dreams informs the conscious mind: Dream symbols are the essential message carriers from the instinctive to the rational parts of the human mind, and their interpretation enriches the poverty of consciousness.[22]

Since consciousness is continually re-created out of the implicate order of the unconscious, the potential for the constantly-regenerated form to disperse or dissociate is always real and imminent. Based on the holomovement paradigm, we might expect such dissociation to result from either defective enfoldment of waking experience arising, e.g., from dream disorders, or defective unfoldment of the unconscious subtext in waking life. While the former tends to be a source of pathology in the individual psyche, the latter may also manifest itself as a disorder in the mass psyche of humanity.

An obvious example of such a psychic unfoldment disorder on the societal level is what Jung refers to as the loss of the primitive psyche,[23] a syndrome which effectively cuts modern humanity off from the infinite energy of the deeper levels of the Unconscious. As David Bohm observed, within the strait-jacket of the conventional 20th Century persona, the individual sees the world a set of disjoint mechanical fragments, one of which is oneself.[24] Severed from its link to the infinite, the psyche shrinks to insignificance in its own perception. Drained of the energizing penumbra of the Unconscious, the material world takes on a cold, distant, alien and monotonous cast, devoid of affect or color.[25]

This deadening of psychic energy or the blockage of its unfoldment reinforces itself in the complementary process of enfoldment: the lifeless mechanical meaning applied to conscious experience imprints its rigidity on the subtext of the psyche, so that its unfoldment in consciousness becomes incompatible with creative perceptions.[26]

Amazingly, the quantum mechanics of David Bohm led him to the same insight which inspired the visionary poetry of William Blake: Mankinds fallen state is a condition of amnesia, a forgetfulness of our infinite source in the conscious depths of the implicate order. The reversal of this amnesia, the psyches reawakening to its eternal wellsprings, begins with a radically new mode of perception (Bohm, 1994):[27]

We have seen that man is potentially infinite. Is man actually finite or infinite? As long as the significance of the finite is what dominates his consciousness, then he will actually be this finite significance. But when a human being truly sees the new meaning that mankind need not be limited in this way, he will actually cease to be limited. He will begin to open to the infinite, and he will be able to act creatively in every phase of life, individual and collective.

We may perhaps discern the approach of a new Millennium, with its archetypal nexus to the cyclical movements of the implicate order, in the first rays of a dawning new perception of Mind, a perception in which humanity rediscovers the active power of Consciousness to transform Reality.

*** *** ***



-          D. Bohm and B.J. Hiley, The Undivided Universe, Routledge, London, 1993.

-          M. Kafatos and R. Nadeau, The Conscious Universe: Part and Whole in Modern Physical Theory, Springer-Verlag, New York, 1990.

-          N. Herbert, Elemental Mind: Human Consciousness and the New Physics, Dutton, New York, 1993.

[1] D. Bohm, Psychoscience, 1, 6-27 (1994).

[2] Plotinus, Concerning the Beautiful, Enneads, lib. vi., 3 (Taylor translation).

[3] D. Bohm, Psychoscience, 1, 8 (1994).

[4] D. Bohm and B.J. Hiley, The Undivided Universe, 353-365.

[5] M. Kafatos and R. Nadeau, The Conscious Universe, 44-45.

[6] N. Herbert, Op. cit., 5; M. Kafatos and R. Nadeau, Op. cit., 175-182.

[7] Roger Bacon, The Mirror of Alchemy, quoting the Smaragdine Table of Hermes.

[8] Wm. Blake, Annotations to Lavater, 630.

[9] D. Bohm and B.J. Hiley, Op. cit., 35.

[10] Cf. D.Z. Albert, Bohms Alternative to Quantum Mechanics, Scientific American, 58-67 (May 1994).

[11] D. Bohm and B.J. Hiley, Op. cit., 31-40.

[12] Id. 367-368.

[13] Id., 350-351.

[14] D. Bohm and B.J. Hiley, Op. cit., 71, 386.

[15] Id., 357.

[16] Wm. Blake, The Four Zoas, VIII.

[17] D. Bohm and B.J. Hiley, Op. cit., 367.

[18] D. Bohm, Quantum Theory, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1951; Dover Ed., New York, 1989, 158-168.

[19] D. Bohm, Soma-Significance, Psychoscience, 1, 26.

[20] D. Bohm and B.J. Hiley, The Undivided Universe, 357.

[21] J. Campbell, The Mythic Image, Bollingen, Princeton, 1974; quoting H. Zimmer, The Art of Indian Asia, 165.

[22] C.G. Jung, Man and his symbols, Dell, New York, 1964.

[23] C.G. Jung, Op. cit., 89.

[24] D. Bohm, Soma-Significance, Psychoscience, 1, 25.

[25] D. Bohmand B.J. Hiley, Op. cit., 104-106.

[26] Id.

[27] Id., 27.



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