Bohm: And the track of particles on the photograph. Now what instrument would illustrate wholeness? Perhaps the holograph. Waves from the whole object come into each part of the hologram. This makes the hologram a kind of knowledge of the whole object. If you examine it with a narrow beam of laser light, it’s as if you were looking through a window the size of that laser beam. If you expand the beam, it’s as though you are looking through a broader window that sees the object more precisely and from more angles. But you are always getting information about the whole object, no matter how much or little of it you take.
But let’s put aside the hologram because that’s only a static record. Returning to the actual situation, we have a constant dynamic pattern of waves coming off an object and interfering with the original wave. Within that pattern of movement, many objects are enfolded in each region of space and time.
Classical physics says that reality is actually little particles that separate the world into its independent elements. Now I’m proposing the reverse, that the fundamental reality is the enfoldment and unfoldment, and these particles are abstractions from that. We could picture the electron not as a particle that exists continuously but as something coming in and going out and then coming in again. If these various condensations are close together, they approximate a track. The electron itself can never be separated from the whole of space, which is its ground.
About the time I was looking into these questions, a BBC science program showed a device that illustrates these things very well. It consists of two concentric glass cylinders. Between them is a viscous fluid, such as glycerin. If a drop of insoluble ink is placed in the glycerin and the outer cylinder is turned slowly, the drop of dye will be drawn out into a thread. Eventually the thread gets so diffused if cannot be seen. At that moment there seems to be no order at all. Yet if you slowly turn the cylinder backward the glycerin draws back into its original form and suddenly the ink drop is visible again. The ink had been enfolded into the glycerin and it was unfolded again by the reverse turning.
B/P: Suppose you put a drop of dye in the cylinder and turn it a few times and then put another drop in the same place and turn it. When you turn the cylinder back wouldn’t you get a kind of oscillation?
Bohm: Yes, you would get a movement in and out. We could put in one drop of dye and turn it and then put in another drop of dye at a slightly different place, and so on. The first and second droplets are folded a different number of times. If we keep this up and then turn the cylinder backward, the drops continually appear and disappear. So it would look as if a particle were crossing the space but in fact it’s always the whole system that’s involved.
We can discuss the movement of all matter in terms of this folding and unfolding, which I call the holomovement.
B/P: What do you think is the order of the holomovement?
Bohm: It may lie outside of time as we ordinarily know it. If the universe began with the Big Bang and there are black holes, then we must eventually reach places where the notion of time and space breaks down. Anything could happen. As various cosmologists have put it, if a black hole came out with a sign flashing Coca Cola, it shouldn’t be surprising. Within the singularity none of the laws as we know them apply. There are no particles; they are all disintegrated. There is no space and no time. Whatever is, is beyond any concept we have at present. The present physics implies that the total conceptual basis of physics must be regarded as completely inadequate. The grand unification [of the four forces of the universe] could be nothing but an abstraction in the face of some further unknown.
I propose something like this: Imagine an infinite sea of energy filling empty space, with waves moving around in there, occasionally coming together and producing an intense pulse. Let’s say one particular pulse comes together and expands, creating our universe of space-time and matter. But there could well be other such pulses. To us, that pulse looks like a big bang; in a greater context, it’s a little ripple. Everything emerges by unfoldment from the holomovement, then enfolds back into the implicate order. I call the enfolding process ‘implicating,’ and the unfolding ‘explicating.’ The implicate and explicate together are a flowing, undivided wholeness. Every part of the universe is related to every other part but in different degrees.
There are two experiences: One is movement in relation to other things; the other is the sense of flow. The movement of meaning is the sense of flow. But even in moving through space, there is a movement of meaning. In a moving picture, with twenly-four frames per second, one frame follows another, moving from the eye through the optic nerve, into the brain. The experience of several frames together gives you the sense of flow. This is a direct experience of the implicate order.
In classical mechanics, movement or velocity is defined as the relation between the position now and the position a short time ago. What was a short time ago is gone, so you relate what is to what is not. This isn’t a logical concept. In the implicate order you are relating different frames that are co–present in consciousness. You’re relating what is to what is. A moment contains flow or movement. The moment may be long or short, as measured in time. In consciousness a moment is around a tenth of a second. Electronic moments are much shorter, but a moment of history might be a century
B/P: So a moment enfolds all the past?
Bohm: Yes, but the recent past is enfolded more strongly. At any given moment we feel the presence of all the past and also the anticipated future. It’s all present and active. I could use the example of the cylinder again. Let’s say we enfold one droplet N times. Then we put another droplet in and enfold it N times. The relationship between the droplets remains the same no matter how thoroughly they are enfolded. So as you unfold you will get back the original relationship. Imagine if we take four or five droplets—all highly enfolded—the relationship between them is still there in a very subtleway, even though it is not in space and not in time. But, of course, it can be transformed into space and time by turning the cylinder. The best metaphor might involve memory. We remember a great many events, which are all present together. Their succession is in that momentary memory: We don’t have to run through all to reproduce the time succession. We already have the time succession.
B/P: And a sense of movement—so you have replaced time with movement?
Bohm: Yes, in the sense of movement of the symphony, rather than the movement of the orchestra on a bus, say, through physical space.
B/P: What do you think that says about consciousness?
Bohm: Much of our experience suggests that the implicate order is natural for understanding consciousness. When you are talking to somebody, your whole intention to speak enfolds a large number of words. You don’t choose them one by one. There are any number of examples of the implicate order in our experience of consciousness. Any one word has behind it a whole range of meaning enfolded in thought.
Consciousness is unfolded in each individual. Clearly, it’s shared between people as they look at one object and verify that it’s the same. So any high level of consciousness is a social process. There may be some level of sensorimotor perception that is purely individual, but any abstract level depends on language, which is social. The word, which is outside, evokes the meaning, which is inside each person.
Meaning is the bridge between consciousness and matter. Any given array of matter has for any particular mind a significance. The other side of this is the relationship in which meaning is immediately effective in matter. Suppose you see a shadow on a dark night. If it means ‘assailant,’ your adrenaline flows, your heart beats faster, blood pressure rises, and muscles tense. The body and all your thoughts are affected; everything about you has changed. If you see that it’s only a shadow, there’s an abrupt change again.
That is an example of the implicate order: Meaning enfolds the whole world into me, and vice versa—that enfolded meaning is unfolded as action, through my body and then through the world. The word hormone means ‘messenger,’ that is, a substance carrying some meaning. Neurotransmitters carry meaning, and that meaning profoundly affects the immune system. This understanding could be the beginning of a different attitude to mind and to life.