David Bohm (1917-1992) was a physicist heavily involved with quantum mechanics, systems processes, and, in the latter stages of his life, the relationship between consciousness and his theory of matter. Having spent the early part of his career in the laboratory examining the behavior of subatomic particles, gaining recognition and winning awards for his work (including the Nobel), his views regarding the direction of physics and the fundamental nature of reality eventually caused him to diverge from the traditional scientific community. Reacting to the “Copenhagen interpretation,”—the consensus of his peers that the paradox as to how matter simultaneously exists in both static as well dynamic form could be explained—as well as physics continued inability to discover the “ultimate particle,” Bohm retreated from the scientific community to develop his ideas independently.
Believing that “a more harmonious and orderly approach to life as a whole, rather than to a static and fragmentary view which does not treat knowledge as a process, and which splits knowledge off from the rest of reality” was the key to overcoming the anomalies encountered by classical physics, in 1980 Bohm published Wholeness and the Implicate Order (81). Combining knowledge from the immeasurable, “i.e. that which cannot be named, described or understood through any form of reason,” with the tested outcomes of scientific research, Bohm proposed a theory of reality compatible with both the phenomena of matter scientifically proven to date and the empirical results of intuitive experience (29).
Under intense microscopic examination, all matter exhibits behavior indeterminate to human analysis: sub-atomic particles simultaneously exist in both wave and particle form, a paradox which cannot be overcome according to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. Thus, in order to surmount the impasse, Bohm proposed that a deeper, indefinable, order-defining structure underlies all definable movement and existence. This structure he called the “implicate order.” Patterning all that is both comprehensible and incomprehensible to humans, implicate order is the primary causative structure to reality. Emulating the polarized wholeness of Daoist thought, Bohm’s theory posits that what is comprehended and scientifically quantifiable is the unfolded, or explicate order, and what cannot be comprehended scientifically—dependent on intuition to perceive—is the enfolded, or implicate order. According to Bohm, in the enfolded order “space and time are no longer the dominant factors determining the relationships of dependence or independence of different elements;” as a result, “a more basic connection of elements is possible.” It is this underlying fundamentalism—its primary causative nature—which defines the implicate order as “a harmoniously organized totality of order and measures,” patterning and structuring reality (xviii).
Bohm goes onto define the sub-categories of his theory, including interactivity—the movement of the system in which content and meaning are conveyed between the implicate and explicate order—and the degrees of applicability. Furthermore, as Bohm forever sought to avoid the compartmentalization and isolation of knowledge, he sees the “fragmentary view” as a perspective “which creates an endless series of problems and interferes with our clarity of perception so seriously as to prevent us from being able to solve most of them.” Thus, the wholeness and interconnectedness he purports in his theory of implicate order can thus be perceived as a remedy to that worldview which “has brought about pollution, destruction of the balance of nature, over-population, worldwide economic and political disorder, and the creation of an environment that is neither physically nor mentally healthy for the majority who live in it” (1-2). As Bohm makes clear at the outset of his book, “what is primarily needed is a growing realization of the extremely great danger of going on with a fragmentary process of thought” (24). Those interested in similar ideas would do well to invest in this book as the details of Implicate Order are more interesting than the outlay.