Rolf Von Eckartsberg

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Part II

David Bohm's Suggestive Metaphors and Constructs

A Psychological Reading.


Dr. Rolf Von Eckartsberg

Summer 1983 APA Convention, Anaheim, CA

This evidence comes from the testimonials of the sages and saints and our encounter with them, from the accounts of the life and impact of the great founders of our spiritual-religious tradition. This is evidence based on testimony of experience.

Bohm indeed distinguishes two types of empiricism: Outer and Inner Empiricism thus extending the epistemological limits tradional for pysics, to include the truth-revealing expressions of the arts and the humanities which are metaphorical, symbolic and connotatively intelligent, as contrasted to the denotative rationality of the calculating mind fullness. He accepts the evidence of scientific observation and experimentation (Outer empiricism) but he also invites the evidence of self-observation of the stream of consciousness and experience, which is often better able to explicate nuance, atmosphere, implication, based on insight and the intuition of wholeness. This is the way of the artist, or the mystic, and in its moral-ethical form it is the way of the saint, the person who no longer contributes to the collective sorrow of mankind. Bohm sees these two approaches as linked in their shared concern for and contact with what is ultimate. The whole domain of phenomenological psychology is concerned with "inner empiricism," as is the meditation-literature.

Consider the description of Bohm's method of using "inner empiricism":

"Of course, consciousness is more than what has been described above. It also involves awareness, attention, perception, acts of understanding, and perhaps yet more...

It is difficult to say much about faculties as subtle as However, by reflecting on and giving careful attention to what happens in certain experiences, one can obtain valuable clues. 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 reberberation will destroy altogether the sense of a whole unbroken, living moment that gives mear,ing 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 mmory of the sequence of the notes, and comparing this past with the present. Rather, as one can discover by futher 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 their 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 enfolded into many levels of consciousness, and of how at any given moment, the transformations flowing out of many such enfolded notes interpenetrate and commingle to give rise to an immediate and primary feeling of movement." (1980, P.198-199).

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Compare this to the work of Merleau-Ponty(1962), master phenomenologist, who writes:

"Similarly there is in an objective souna wnlcn 1 BETWEEN the object and my body, a sound which vibrates in me "as if I had become the flute or the clock"; and finally a last stage in which the acoustic element disappears and becomes the highly precise experience of a change permeating my whole body." (1962, P.227).
Merleau-Ponty also suggest the existence of an implicate order. In discussing the famous case of Schneider who is, by a brain trauma, condemned to concreteness and who cannot abstract and generalize any more, he writes:
"Thus all Schneider's troubles are reducible to a unity, but not the abstract unity of the "representative function": he is "tied" to actuality, he "lacks liberty", that concrete liberty which comprises the general power of putting oneself into a situation. Beneath intelligence as beneath perception, we discover a more fundamental function, "a vector mobile in all directions like a searchlight, one through which we can direct ourselves toward anything, in or outside ourselves, and display a form of behavior in relation to that object." Yet the analogy to the searchlight is inadequate, since it presupposes given objects on to which the beam plays, whereas the nuclear function to which we refer, before bringing objects to our sight or knowledge, makes them exist in a more intimate sense, for us. Let us therefore say rather, borrowing a term from other works, that the life of consciousness-cognitive life, the life of desire or perceptual life-is subtended by an "intentional arc" which projects around about us our past, our future, our human setting, our physical, ideological and moral situation, or rather which resuls in our being situated in all these respects. It is this intentional arc which brings about the unity of the senses, of intelligence, of sensibility and motility. (1962, P. 135-136).

"We discover both that sexual life is one more form of original intentionality, and also bring to view the vital origins of perception, motility, and representation by basing all these "processes" on an "intentional arc" which gives way in the patient, and which, in the normal subject, endows experience with its degree of vitality and fruitfulness." (1962, P. 157).

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Thus Merleau-Ponty describes his discovery of the pre-conscious and pre-reflective and, we might add, "implicate" world-contstucting power inherent in our life of consciousness. His distinction between the visible and the invisible and their integration by means of the notion of "flesh" also parallels Bohm's way of thinking.

Bohm is preoccuped with epistemological questions - how can we know? What is the relationship of thinking to reality? He comes to the conclusion that we have to reject the notion that the one who thinks - the ego- is completely separate from and independent of the reality he thinks about. He argues that if it is the ego, in the correlation of subject-object that has a tendency to categorize and fragment, and isolate objects from one another and up root them from their organic matrix in order to make them the object of its intentions and its will, then we have to learn to deconstruct the thinker, the ego, in order to find attunement with what is. We have to engage in "psychological atom smasing."

As Weber describes this idea of Bohm's:

"Atom-smashing can occur only in the present, and must occur ever afresh. The analogy of atom with thought, and with an alleged thinker who authors thought, is crucial. The thinker is like the atom, cohering in time through its binding energy. When the bonds of the physical atom are released in an accelerator, the resultant energy staggeringly huge- becomes freed. Analogously, huge amounts of binding energy are needed to create and sustain the "thinker" and to maintain his illusion of stability. That energy being tied up, it is unavailable for other purposes, and pressed into service of what Bohm terms "self-deception" (a phenomenon described in detail by the Buddha as ignorance, avidya, literally, "not really seeing things as they are"). Thought, or what Bohm terms the three-dimensional mind, mistakenly believing itself autonomous and irreducible, requires and hence squanders vast amount of cosmic energy on this illusion. Energy thus pre-empted cannot flow into other grooves.

The consequence is an unsound cosmic ecology polluting the holomovement in at least two destructive ways. First, the holomovement misunderstands itself, choosing fiction (maya) over fact, and therefore enslaves itself. Second, the holomovement lacerates itself, substituting the isolated self for the consciousness of mankind in an abstraction founded on fallacy, enslaving others through its competiveness, anger, greed, ambition, indifference. The result of both these missteps is the world of personal and interpersonal suffering that Bohm and Krishnamurtj, echoing the Buddha, see as the primary fact of our lives. (Weber, 1981, p. 126-127).

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Overcoming the restrictions of the ego is the age-old quest of mysticism. The dissolution of the ego releases us into a wider realm of Being, Brahman, purusha, Buddha-nature, the Tao, etc. in which the I merges into its divine ground its transpersonal radiant center. This is tantamount to entering into an altered state of consciousness, into an experience of cosmic consciousness which allows us to glimpse the truth of ultimate reality in our own stream of experiencing. In this higher state of consciousness we transcend the three-dimensional restrictions of the Cartesian explicate order and mege with the multi-dimensional posibilitis of "quantum-physical psychology" and we intuit order in a totally new way, as holomovement. In Krishnamurti's way of describing the primal awareness of the immediate and unsullied presence to what is, the experience of wholeness that occurs when we obtain "freedom from the known," i.e. freedom from the rational-categorizing mind which always stretches us into the tension of past and future, of not being here and now. Our psychological state is the crucial difference, in matters of epistemology as well as in ethics, with regards to the holocosm, the dynamic totality of all that is:

"(Bohm's) vision is a unified field theory surpassing that of current science, in which the searcher and what is thought are apprehended as one, the holomovement becoming transparent to itself and acting upon the implications of its vision. That unified field is neither neutral nor value-free as current scientific canon requires, but an orderly and compassionate energy articulating itself in a new domain where physics, psychology, ethics, and religion merge." (Weber, 1981, p. 134)

The work of Tart (1975) on "altered states" and his notion of "consciousness state-specific sciences" is relevant to this issue.

The direct experiential intuition of our involvement in wholeness, whether achieved by careful contemplative thinking in the manner of Krishnamurti or Heidegger, (vonEckartsberg, 1981b) or through meditation and mystical intuition or through self-induced psychedelic epiphany, i.e. by whatever means, is an important existential impact-experience in which we enjoy epistemological fulfillment-- insight.

In this context I find the mapping of the psychedelic states proposed by Leary (1977) in Exopsychology particularly kin and relevant to Bohm, especially since Leary believes that psychedelic amplification of consciousness can lead us to the direct experience of somatic, neuro-electric, neuro-genetic, and neuroatomic "circuits." The last-named--the neuroatomic level--"is activated when the nervous system imprints subnuclear, quantum-mechanical and gravitational signals, thus transcending biological existence: 'quantum consciousness'." Leary's metaphorizing seems closer to Bohm's than the psychedelic cartography of Grof (1976) who uses the insights of depth psychology and the testimony of the humanitfes and spiritual traditions in establishing the three domains of psychodynamlc, perinatal, and transpersonal experiences which allow us to go beyond individual boundaries. Wilber (1977) provides the integration of the multiple domains of consciousness in terms of a presumed "spectrum of consciousness" manifesting several levels: external world, five senses, shadow, ego, biosocial, existential, transpersonal and mind (eternity-infinity). The last named and highest state is the level of cosmic consciousness at which one identifies with the entire universe and feels experientially fully interconnected with it.

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But knowledge, even if it is "knowledge of salvation" (Scheler) rather than "knowledge of control" is not enough. Insights have to become incarnated in and through a personal value-oriented life praxis, a way of life. Bohm realizes the importance of the moral and actional dimension -the value-dimension- which needs to be included in any formulation of a unified field theory of reality.

On this ontological level of our participation in the creation of an ethically founded way of life, our criteria of fulfillment become: passionate lnvolvement, couraaeous action, and relatlonshlp and culture-buildinq commitments. We enter the domains of love, compassion, hate, warfare, loyalty, betrayal, i.e. "politics," and domestic and international relations: governance. Bohm, as a physicist, recognizes these realities of epistemology and ethics as essential and so should we as psychologists.

Thus he offers us a great challenge to build a holocosmic understanding of our universe which includes human consciousness and human moral action in a global, solar, and ultimately universal context.

According to the principle of holographic and holonomic enfoldment the whole is implied in each part: All in one, and one in all. This means that every single individual, each person, and each sub-totality or ensemble of persons as a selfconscious group is responsible for the whole universe. Each person occupies the dynamic center of a vast personal Psychocosm, i.e. the total psychological field ongoingly projected which does not even collapse in sleep and is independent of the specific attention we direct to it in any one moment. This personal psychocosm is open to and partically includes the psychological field of specific other persons which whom we are involved, and other groups. Ultimately, in its most unconscious and implicate domains, the whole of cosmic reality is included. We co-inhere in each other and affect one another and are affected by the totality of what happens. The manifest, explicit, conscious order of attention is only a minute part of the immensity of the personal psychocosm which itself is permeated by the totality of all other psychocosms as well as the even more imlicated holocosm in its vibratory totality.

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Bohm prefers the holographic metaphor over the traditional view of the lense. The holonomic-vibratory universe is perceived by "lenseless vision," by tuning in on the total enfoldment process of atmospheric and omni-channel perception or world-openness that we are. We have to relinquish the glasses and lense of egoicwillful perception and theorizing. We have to learn to accept the primacy of the implicate order, the primacy of the wholeness over any sort of fragmentation. Bohm teaches us that we have to begin by thinking in holistic and holonomic terms, in which the whole precedes the division into parts, and in which the whole is retained by implication in each part. In the concrete terms of political reality this would mean that we have to learn to think in terms of the primacy of the reaity of mankind as the always already implicit context of our thinking and doing, and the reality and integrity of the cosmos, and our planetary ecological household, over the interests and privileges of any group.

While Bohm is very articulate and inspiring in his message is a general sense, he lacks a certain concreteness in historical political terms. The "sorrow of mankind" as a quasi-energy field is not a specified enough constructs to help us discern our tasks and destiny. Bohm's solution of the self-transformation of the individual, the thinker, though valid in the tradition of the Eastern wisdom traditions, lacks the activism and utopian impetus of Western societies, which are engaged in the political, economic and social development to achieve the peaceful integration of the efforts of all of mankind. Rosenstock-Huessy, in a historical study of Western Europe: Out of Revolution, An Autobiography of Western Man (1969) sketches the implicate order and movement--the uncorious guiding inspiration of our shared political history coming to a planetary perspectlve of global economic integration, but regional political and spiritual solidarity, that seems viable as a personal and collective effort to achieve the "fullness of time" prophecied in the Judeo-Christian tradition when we become the conscious heirs of the collective fruits of all of mankind's accomplishments, and the responsible stewards of the plenitude of life-possibilities. This Western view of the unfoldinq Wholness that is emerging in our understanding is also fully compatible with David Bohm's notions.

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David Bohm's ideas about wholeness and the implicate order constitute a challenge for us as psychologists to work out a more adequate picture of the dynamic interplay of knowledge--and culture-building in the context of a harmonious universal flux of radiant healing and peace-making energy. It also challenges us to encourage and further the unfoldment and release of radiant divine power: love, compassion and inspired passion in individual and corporate persons leading to a more interconnected and peaceful cooperative mankind, engaged ln responsible ecological spiritual householding and stewardship.


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