The neglected case of David Bohm

During the past century, a relatively small number of highly insightful books have been published among the gigantic piles of senseless information and other bullshit. One of the most comprehensive texts is without a doubt “Thought as a System”, by David Bohm,  which brings together his theories of wholeness & implicate order and the essence of his dialogues with J. Krishnamurti. Since i somehow overlooked the importance of this highly underrated quantum physicist slash critical thinker in my last post, this is a little tribute.

And for the last time i am exposing some essential parts of my personal history to explain where i am coming from and what i am aiming at (after this one, no more exhibitionism or story telling, i don’t see the point).
You may wonder: what’s the link between the two? Well, noticing how very little interest people show(ed) for what Bohm had to say raises some serious questions and doubts about my own endeavors and where we are (not) going.

It is peculiar how i failed to recognize the impact of David Bohm’s words during his conversations with K. (cfr. “The Limits of Thought”, “The Ending of Time”, “The Future of Humanity”). He kept himself in the background, hesitating, always leaving the final word to Krishnamurti. He did steer things though, trying to get something “useful” out of the circular mystical answers. Only recently did i finally start reading his ideas on wholeness and the nature of thought, and i was surprised, because they very much resonate with what i am trying to convey. “Thought as a System” is a masterpiece in my opinion. It may only be a redacted transcript of a weekend of questions and answers among friends and colleagues, with its consequent shortcomings, but i do not know of a book that deals with thought in a more clear and concise way. Maybe Charles Tart gets very close as well. It is far from complete, but it highlights most crucial of  errors or illusions in collective and individual thought, in only 240 pages. The difficulty is to help it get understood, to get it all across without falling back into the old traps of thought. The main point of the book is this: how can insight and creativity come about when there is all this confusion going on, both consciously and unconsciously, inside and outside? How can one become aware of thought’s deceptions and become free from all that, free from the past, and face the unknown? Bohm proposes the concept of “proprioception of thought, which comes down to thought being aware of itself, just like one can be aware both consciously and unconsciously of his own body and movements with “classic proprioception”.In other words: no method, only permanent alertness, awareness, observation. Ontoscopy, yes sirree. Maybe “holoproprioception” would be a better term, but that sounds even more complicated i suppose.

Bohm’s seemingly outlandish physical theories of wholeness, his political stances and his inquiries into mysticism made it very simple for the establishment to ridicule him and neglect his contributions. Time will tell if it remains that way or not.
Are there any noteworthy scientists alive today that try to study the whole instead of focusing on a little fragment of reality? In the study of consciousness, nearly all energy is put into scientific research of other people’s brains and philosophical theories. The past centuries, there have been tremendous insights into the exterior world, giving rise to most of the scientific branches we have today. The past decades, there have been tremendous insights into the functioning of our minds and our consciousness, but these are all “external” looks the inside, no insights from the inside concerning the whole. Okay, there is some research being done on the effects of longtime meditation and mindfulness, and tons of data are coming out of all these and other studies, but who is putting this knowledge into action?
And with all due respect, but from what i have read and heard about mindfulness, it is primarily a series of methods to calm the mind, to have a few insights into life here and there. I can’t help but find most of the contemporary efforts superficial, not really addressing the deeper problems of our way of living and thinking. There is a lot of compromise and superficiality within 99% of the available teachings (if i am wrong on this, please correct me).
We should realize that science will never succeed at explaining the inner ways of the mind, as the observer cannot be separated from the observed in this case. The growing evidence of great plasticity of the mind and brain should only encourage people to look further and consider the possibility of radically transforming their way of thinking and doing, from within.
It can happen.

The last few months i personally have been somewhat trying to reverse engineer my own path to radical change, and i must say that, at this moment, seeing how predecessors such as Bohm have been set aside, i am less confident in continuing this thing i am doing right here. I begin to wonder if it really amounts to anything, as it diametrically opposes most of what society stands for.  At the same time i know that there is not really anything else i can or will do, because nothing feels more urgent than this, but still… Maybe it’s just a phase i have to go through, i don’t know. It takes time to become a good “teacher”, to integrate all the pieces into a complete whole, and sometimes i lose patience, not acknowledging the necessity of the deepening process, of further meditation. To me this is serious business, and it involves a lot of responsibility, even if there is nobody around to correct me.
In retrospect, i guess a somewhat extraordinary combination of events and DNA has brought me to where i am now. I’ll try to recapitulate in a nutshell.
Not long after i went to university i started to discover the problems of adult life, on many scales, and somehow my inward rebellion and anger pushed me further to get to “truth”, what’s really real.
My intelligence is above average, and i have always felt somewhat an outsider, partly due to that i suppose. To make things worse, the repeated rejections by a number of girls made loneliness my main course for many years. This resulted in two booklets full angry, dark poems and prose, dissecting my own faults and pains and desires and the hypocrisy of the surrounding world. Maybe i got caught in a self-fulfilling reality from time to time, but the alienation was not really a choice to my knowing. Also, the realization that i had lost nearly all interest in my studies (IT), the effects of my weak digestive system and not having any worthwhile perspectives made my frustration rise sky high. Probably that has been a blessing in disguise, as i did not want to settle for anything less than the truth, and since my needs were never met, the fire of discontent kept burning strongly. I stayed off booze and other drugs, i did consume a lot of sugar,  TV (praise is due to Seinfeld) and porn. Maybe i would have been diagnosed as “depressed”, i’ll never know, i refused to fall back into some sort of compromise, of being distracted from all the issues that were bothering me. I continued to do my thing, i wrote, i drew, i made music, got onstage a few times, i met people, …, i got my degree, i moved on,  i pushed my limits and undid a lot of my inhibitions, but the blues stayed with me. And i watched it, watching myself and the world vigorously.
After these 4 or 5 years of wanting to get rid of my loneliness, a whole lot of questioning in all directions, trying to bring myself to complete integrity, reading some insightful texts (including J.K. and Bohm of course, but no traditional “spiritual” literature), and a short adventure at art college, i finally started to cut through the whole of my confusion and eventually everything changed forever at one point: gone were the artistic aspirations and gone were the deepest pains of loneliness. I was very skeptical at the time, brushing it off as a temporary thing that had happened. I somehow knew it was wrong to interpret in any way. It was as if i no longer consciously clung to anything, and gone were all inner conflicts and worries (in retrospect, i should say most of them). It felt so amazing, too good to be true, that i didn’t even write it down in my journal. I only proclaimed to my closest friends that i literally knew that i “would never be depressed again”. Things progressed further a year or two afterward and it was only then that i realized the significance of what had changed in me. My life would never be the same again. (see FAQ for a little more info)

This brings me back to the difficulty of what i am trying to say.  I don’t know how much it takes for someone else to get to the same point, should they want to go there. On one hand, during those years i had the luxury few people have: a whole lot of solitude and time to think (i wasted most of the time though), but on the other hand, it is really a matter of not wasting time, of asking the right questions and seeing a lot of harmful patterns. I don’t think it has much to do with IQ or intellectual capacity, on the contrary. The smarter you are, the better your mind is at fooling yourself, at escaping in endless analysis and hiding behind tons of old and incoming knowledge. In the end, to get to the root of your suffering is somewhat a “battle” against yourself, against your wrong ways of thinking and seeing.
I have been my own teacher more or less throughout, and perhaps that is the safest way, to not lean on somebody else’s authority and to question everything, with the danger of getting totally lost of course. Maybe it would have helped if i had more “illusion cutting tools” at my disposal, it’s a tricky affair. Maybe now there is your potential “advantage” of me helping you cut away some of the confusion that still exists and is very much alive, but i could also involuntarily add to your confusion. Tricky indeed.

The whole “E” thing is not so perfect or lovely as most people fantasize it to be. I would never want to go back to my days of blindness, that’s for sure, but  it is not so easy to position myself in society, for example. If i can’t get to share my insights – not the words, but the underlying truth – what is their meaning, what’s the use? Meaning only has real meaning when it is shared among a group of people, or am i missing something here? This is a serious question i am meditating over.
And in the end, i am still the outsider, maybe more than ever before, who still moves in solitude most of the time, and who still gets lonely every now and then. It is strange, the distance between me and people has never been further and it has never been closer.
I don’t buy the permanent happy buddha selfless doubtless mind state crap. It is all too easy to let all your feelings go, to ignore the facts and adhere to some self-aggrandizing belief.  Facts remain facts, flesh and blood is flesh and blood.  There is always some meaning to be found behind personal unease or worry, even in a messed up society. Oh well… We’ll see where it takes us. The doing is the seeing, to paraphrase an old friend i have never met.

Whether or not Bohm went beyond the “point of no return” does not matter, really. He had a very clear view on what is fundamentally going wrong with the mainstream way of thinking and acting. Rumor goes that K. got tired of Bohm because he did not “get it” and did not see through the whole thing, but from my point of view that is not essential. He was looking and moving in the right direction, and that is already a huge step to take, considering the immense outward and inward pressure not to do so.

Nowadays a lot of people are saying that human consciousness is changing at last. I have my doubts about that. It is not because we have become more aware of our environmental problems that we have suddenly turned or will turn to the root cause: the dangerous  inconsistencies and blind reflexes in human thought. The danger of constantly living, thinking and communicating in images and not being aware of this and the underlying realities and truth.
As long as collective thought, which is corrupted in so many ways, weighs so heavily on all facets of our daily lives, and as long as there are not enough sincere voices that point out the incoherence, without getting into fluffy spiritual nonsense and beliefs, the chances of people getting free is around zero to none.

15 thoughts on “The neglected case of David Bohm”

  1. Indeed, I think as long as we have a feeling body and thinking mind that we'll have to watch out for downward spirals and less conscious episodes.

    Bohm proposes the concept of “proprioception of thought“, which comes down to thought being aware of itself, just like one can be aware both consciously and unconsciously of his own body and movements with “classic proprioception”. In other words: no method, only permanent alertness, awareness, observation.

    I agree with this, but it's good to have a decent tool/method (f.e. a meditation technique like taught by Shinzen Young) that you deepen and make your second nature for those moments you have been drawn down a spiral (personal or cultural, semi or fully unconscious). Also "thought" is important, but it's not the whole story.

    I recently read 'Island' by Aldous Huxley and wonder what you think of it?

  2. On the topic of mindfulness: here we have to watch out with words again. The word 'mindfulness' in our place and time is usually understood more or less as John Kabat-Zinn presents it. In many forms of Buddhism it's just a part of the package. Shinzen Young views it from yet another angle, so does David Rock, so does David Demets. 😉

    But yes, it can remain superficial and even then many people drop out after a short while. This doesn't take away that it can be a good starting point for more insight and important (little) changes in one's life.

  3. Hi David,

    i should clarify, the word "thought" is a bit problematic: Bohm (& me) see "thought" as the whole of "thinking" and memory (images) & reaction patterns, embedded in everything, as a system that runs throughout our brains and bodies and reality – there is no clear division between body and mind, nor between the collective and the individual.

    You are absolutely right about the decent tools to get things done. I am quite confident that i am endowed with a large capacity of concentration and meditation, which made it somewhat unnecessary to "train" myself. Along my path i did have the difficulty of keeping focused on something interior, and by trial and error i got further. Perhaps my most practical credo was to always move beyond repetition of thought, to focus in and out on a pattern, seeing the relationship with the whole.

    One of my main interests right now is in fact the usefulness of the techniques such as Shinzen Young teaches.

    Much more about this in the posts to come:)-

    One question: what do you mean by "second nature"? A sort of basic, "clean" identity state to fall back on?

    "Mindfulness" is a very broad concept indeed. I am quite harsh in my evaluation, but i can only encourage the efforts of course, even when it's a light version of something much more powerful. I wanted to make a clear statement that there is more to it than that. Most of these mindfulness teachers go on quoting Buddha, Krishnamurti, etc, thereby flattening, reducing the significance of their words. It is very simple to quote dead people who can't respond to your likely incomplete apprehension. Maybe it is "better" than not bringing them in, i don't know. It sells, that's for sure:).

    I agree. The more we see, the farther we'll go.

    Genuine insight is a one-way street, that is something i confided in and this idea has never proved me wrong.

    My guess about "Island" is that it regards everything in absolute terms, projecting impossible human ways of living (isn't the upbringing of children very problematic?). I'll probably read it one day though, just to spout my criticism:P.

    Thx for all the constructive and complementary comments!

  4. <cite>One of my main interests right now is in fact the usefulness of the techniques such as Shinzen Young teaches.</cite>

    Ditto!

    <cite>One question: what do you mean by "second nature"? A sort of basic, "clean" identity state to fall back on?</cite>

    Well, we have our autopilots of doing things in daily life. If we don't pay attention these can be quite bad unconscious habits, so it's good to 'install' habits that bring us back to objectively and consciously experiencing actual data in stead of getting stuck in a subjective emotional or thinking loop. For most people this requires (years of) effort, because they're so used of functioning on autopilot.

    <cite>It is very simple to quote dead people who can’t respond to your likely incomplete apprehension. Maybe it is “better” than not bringing them in, i don’t know. It sells, that’s for sure:).</cite>

    True!

    <cite>I’ll probably read it one day though, just to spout my criticism:P.</cite>

    I think so too. 😉

  5. I was a good friend of Krishnamurti and Dave Bohm…. Matter of fact JK introduced me to DB and for a number of years I was deeply involved in writing Dave's biography with him…. The rumor that JK grew tired of Db is silly… The kind of friendship they had was beyond what Thought thinks actual relationship is…. You can read more about it on my blog…

  6. Hi Bill,

    thanks for sharing! I've been browsing your blog and it looks interesting, although i'm not quite sure yet what it is you are actually trying to convey?:)

    What biography are you talking about…? Is it in print?

    + Have you read F. David Peat's biography "Infinite Potential: the life and times of David Bohm"? Surely some nasty things were going on. One of the things that struck me most was the fact that K's entourage did everything to portray K as the absolute authority so that they refused to publish a couple of K-Bohm dialogues where Bohm was too prominent.

    And apparently DB was very shocked to find about about K's long hidden affair and the many abortions, no?

    Good luck!

    1. I am in touch with Peat about the errors he made re: the relationship between Bohm and Krishnamurti… The posting of the entire video on my blog is Step One in a project I am working on to set the record straight. I've invited Peat to join me…

      Re; JK's "long hidden affair"… If you read what JK had to say about ":celibacy" – as I'm sure Dave had… he may have been deeply disappointed but certainly not shocked…. The thing that people don't understand about JK is that he was a mortal soul -like you and I – who was born with a unique way of perceiving the world "directly"; – unlike most of us who filter our perceptions through our self-image – meaning our conditioned mind! Even JK often said (half-jokingly)he was born "a freak" . Later on Dave B. would explore the phenomenon of "direct perception" and find a way of defining it scientifically — He called it "Proprioception of Thought".- And P of T is in actuality the also the frist step in approaching what JK called "Meditation"…. It's all touched upon in my one-hour conversation with Dave… I will soon be adding more ….

      Please know that both JK and DB were friends/mentors for almost 20 years… so I am not exactly speaking from conjecture…

      Bill

      1. Hi again,
        the whole freak-theory of Krishnamurti is too exaggerated in my opinion and perhaps a misunderstanding of what was going on in his mind, which is very hard to put down in words, not to say impossible. If it were to be true, nobody would be able to see through the illusory constructs of thought. From my own experience, that appears to be false to a large extent. JK has made hugely important contributions, but it would be naive to suppose that his views were free from any biases or illusions.
        And i don't think Bohm's disappointment had to do with the public discord between K's teachings and his actions, it was probably the fact that he must have shared some very intimate things about his life and struggles, while K never left his untouchable teacher role – a serious matter of trust between friends.

        I am curious to see more footage, that's for sure:).
        In the meanwhile, i am furthering my own project, which is to bring together the essence of JK's and DB's ideas, creatively integrating them with the findings of contemporary scientists (psychology, neurology, biology, quantum physics, …) and my own perception.

        Since i am taking this very serious, i am very skeptical about anything i read or think, so please don't take my scrutiny personal. DB & JK are not there anymore to comment or rectify, which makes it very tricky to interpret their words in one way or another.

        Greetings!

        1. Madman…

          I have many hours of audiotape of David Bohm telling me about the entire sweep of his lifework, which included the more than two decades of Dialogues between him an JK… If I told you what it was that caused the temporary break (five years!) in their relationship you'll probably laugh – But to "Dave" it was no laughing matter… Nor was it to Krishnamurti when he found out about it… The upshot of it – was that Krishnamurti invited Dave back to "talk" after the five year break..That "talk" evolved into the extraordinary series of Dialogues called The Ending of Time – which were followed by "The Nature of The Mind" Series which were followed by The Future of Humanity Series – which were followed by the seven years of Seminars that Dave conducted on the Nature of Consciousness after Krishnamurti had passed in 1986 until his own passing in 1992.

          Now if you want to talk seriously about all this – I can be reached at via my email address below….

  7. My current project will allow JK and DB to speak fro themselves re: their relationship. In the meanwhile I will soon be posting part of a letter from Bohm's wife Saral that refutes all the nonsense that's circulating on the web and in David Peat's bio of Bohm about that relationship . These men remained close friends to the end of their lives. I was there to witness that relationship – to that very end.

  8. Still waiting for my last note mto be posted….Also, if someone can tell me how to post a .jpg file, I'll gladly upload the letter from Saral B. I mentioned before….

    PS: FYI – Re: Your ideas vs. Krishnamurti's…. Krishnamurti didn't have any "ideas".

    1. Hi Bill, i am terribly sorry for leaving these comments pending for so long. I got no notifications from the system, and i hadn't checked since new year…

      + We could go into semantics, but surely Krishnamurti had his ideas = views – without concepts he would not have been able to convey anything. And of course, the word is not the thing, or no-thing, i know…

      I am curious about that letter & i have sent you an e-mail…

  9. I knew a person I considered a friend who swore only by Krishnamurti and his writing, he was also the most hypocritical fellow I knew in that circle.

    I thought I would learn a tad more about David Bohm from this article but it is written in a way which assume the reader is already in the known and I have only learned at tad more about you 😉

    My opinion is that we already enlightened.

    What does ‘The whole “E”’ means?

    Did I see خواجه نصرالدین‎ ?

    1. 🙂 You find hypocritical fanatics everywhere.

      The idea that everybody is already enlightened is problematic imho, i prefer to talk about the movement of enlightening (as described on other pages here).

      This text is indeed a teaser to dive into the theories of Bohm:]

      What does the arabic mean??

      Thank you for the feedback!

  10. Wow now took time to look and read after that book, looks like some very interesting topic and I have it now on my ‘want-list’ … Thanks beauty.

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