The Implicate Order

Based on:- Wholeness and the Implicate Order – David Bohm

David Bohm took the view that quantum theory and relativity contradicted one another, and that this contradiction implied that there existed a more fundamental level in the physical universe. He claimed that both quantum theory and relativity pointed towards this deeper theory. This more fundamental level was supposed to represent an undivided wholeness and an implicate order, from which arose the explicate order of the universe as we actually experience it. The explicate order is seen as a particular case of the implicate order.

The implicate order applies both to matter and consciousness, and it can therefore explain the relationship between these two apparently different things. Mind and matter are here seen as related projections into our explicate order from the underlying reality of the implicate order. Bohm claims that when we look at the extension of matter and separation of its parts in space, we can see nothing in these concepts that helps us with understanding consciousness. Bohm compares this problem to Descartes discussion of the difference between mind and matter. Descartes to some extent relied on God to resolve the gap. Bohm says that since Descartes time the idea of introducing God into the equation has been let drop, but he argues that as a result conventional modern thinking has no way left to it for bridging the gap between matter and consciousness.

In Bohm’s scheme there is an unbroken wholeness at the fundamental level of the universe, in which consciousness is not separated from matter. Bohm’s view of consciousness is closely connected to Karl Pribram’s hologaphic conception of the brain (27-9). Pribram sees sight and the other senses as lenses, without which the universe would appear as a hologram. Pribram thinks that information is recorded all over the brain, and that this information is enfolded into a whole, also in the manner of a hologram, although it is suggested that the physical function involved is more complicated than a hologram.

In Pribram’s scheme, it is suggested that the different memories are connected by association and manipulated by logical thought. If the brain is also attending to sensory data, all of these facets are proposed to fuse together in an overall experience or unanalysable whole. This is suggested to be closer to the essence of consciousness than the mere excitation of neurons.

In trying to arrive at a description of consciousness, Bohm discusses the experience of listening to music. He thinks that the sense of movement and change that constitutes the experience of the music relies on notes both from the immediate past and the present being held in the brain at the same time. Bohm does not view the notes from the immediate past as memories but as active transformations of what came earlier. He proposes that a given moment can cover an extended duration, as opposed to the more conventional ‘now’ concept of something instantaneous. The moment is proposed to have extension in time and space, but the amount of this extension is not precisely defined. One moment gives rise to the next, with content that was implicate in the immediate past becoming explicate in the present. The sense of movement in music is the result of the intermingling of transformations. Bohm likens these transformations to the emergence of consciousness from the implicate order. He thinks that in listening to music people are directly perceiving the implicate order. The order is thought to be active and to flow into emotional and physical responses.

Bohm also discusses the problem of time, the concept of ‘now’ and the difficulty of distinguishing ‘now’ from the immediate past, which no longer exists. In classical physics this problem is overcome via the calculus, with its concept of ‘the limit’, which is effectively a zero change in time or space. This is successful for calculating the movement of material objects in classical physics, which comprises the explicate order. However, it is not applicable to quantum theory in which movement is not seen as continuous. In the implicate order intermingled elements are present together, and processes are the outcome of what is enfolded in the implicate order. In this structure, there is a flow between experience and logical thought that is considered by Bohm to hold out the possibility of a bridge between matter and consciousness.

Bohm also advances the idea of overall necessity driving short-term brain processes. Thus it is proposed that an ensemble of elements enfolded in the brain will constitute the next development of thought, and that these elements are bound by an overall necessity that brings them together, and also determines the next moment in consciousness.

Bohm relates movement to the implicate order; for movement, we can also read change or flow or the coherence of our perception of a piece of music over a short period of time. Evidence for this is claimed to derive from studies of infants (30. Piaget, 1956), who have to learn about space and time, which are seen as part of the explicate order, but appear to have a hard-wired understanding of movement that is implicate. Bohm’s view is that the movement and flow of the implicate order are hard-wired into human brains, in the same way that Chomsky asserts that grammar is hard- wired into the human brain, but that by way of contrast, the classical space and time of the explicate order are something that has to be learnt by experience.

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