Continuation of Nate Cull on Metanoia
Bohm talks about the problem of the world, as he sees it, in terms which though inspired by the philosophy of Krishnamurti, seem to me to map very closely onto the Jewish-Christian idea of sin and repentance:
We could call that the corruption of mankind, that the brain and the consciousness and the deeper levels, not only in the manifest levels of the brain but also in the non manifest, that there has been left this pollution, which is this whole view which leads to all this violence, corruption, disorder, self-deception. See, you could say that almost all of mankind’s thought is aimed at self-deception, which momentarily relieves pressures arising from this way of thinking, of being separate, and it produces pressures. When a person is under pressure, any thought that comes in to relieve that pressure will be accepted as true. But immediately that leads to more pressure because it’s wrong and then you take another thought to relieve that thought….
…And that whole corruption of the non manifest - that pollution which has accumulated over the ages - we could call the sorrow of mankind. It is not just in an individual. It is in the non manifest consciousness of mankind.
The view Bohm is talking about here is very much like that of A Course In Miracles (and Mary Baker Eddy): that mind and matter are linked (in fact that matter is sort of a final product of mind; we can see that this is obviously true in, for example, built human structures like cities and machines, less obvious but still present in ecology and mind-body diseases, and startling to contemplate when looking at ‘purely physical’, apparently non-living, non created systems). Like them, he also goes further: he believes all human minds are also ultimately linked, in fact, ultimately one.
This sort of philosophy maps very nicely onto Jesus’ teachings about ‘doing unto others’ and ‘loving our neighbour as ourself’, and onto the reports of near-death experiencers and afterlife communications that describe the world as seen from the realms of spirit as composed primarily of intentions and being interlinked, interpenetrating and ultimately one. There can be no ‘individual salvation’ (though there is an individual saving work to do, as we personally confront our own view of the darkness and lighten it, starting from the inside) - any more than there can be ’self-righteousness’, because none of us stand apart from the whole of humanity, judging it, separating from it. We all share in the sin, and we all share in the redemption.
Sin, war, disease and all forms of badness are in this world-view all corruptions of humanity’s shared consciousness - from which (or perhaps more strictly, through which, since the creative Intelligence which makes the world doesn’t seem to originate in us as much as it acts in us) all that we see as ‘physical’ and ‘real’ ultimately appears.
This is a very strong view of the reality and power of ‘mind’ compared to ‘matter’, but I think Bohm (alongside Eddy, and Dunne, and the writer of ACIM, and any number of mystics) makes a very strong argument that it is in fact the case: and that coming to terms with this apparently bizarre idea will lead to a huge simplification in basic physics as well as an apparently new (though in fact very old) approach to human relations: love your neighbour because at some level we don’t understand but which is literally and really true, we are all parts of each other.
Alfred Korzybski’s General semantics, from the 1930s like Dunne, makes a very similar argument to Bohr about the ultimate oneness and non-describability in symbols of reality, and I think it comes from similar roots. There seems to have been a huge explosion in serious academic understanding of mystical experience and its relation to philosophy and physics around the turn of the century to World War II, feeding into and out of the new ideas of physics, the quantum and relativity revolutions — but the generation that followed seems to have lost ground, or at least, those ideas were laughed out the academy and took to the street in the form of the New Age movement and a scattering of new religious groups and cults, where they continue to have huge popular appeal but are laughed and scorned (and deeply feared) in the halls of learning.
And interesting enough, with the abandonment of the mystics, our fundamental physics also seems to have struggled: General Relativity was in 1916, quantum mechanics seems to have been mostly complete by 1932, and the two are fundamentally incompatible; the Trinity explosion in 1945 marks the high-water mark of radically new physics; everything else since then, with the billions of dollars of research spent on nuclear weaponry and high energy particle physics, has been just tweaking the parameters of the Standard Model, and a deep scepticism about the mere existence of any other ways of conceptualising physics seems to have replaced the playful experimentation of those early decades. The leading contender for an integration of the whole system, String Theory, appears to have spectacularly lost its way. We’ve innovated hugely in engineering and in materials science, but practising physicists, though they may watch Star Trek in private and long for hyperspace, tend to pour venomous outrage onto concepts like anti-gravity and cold fusion, with the anger Scientific American normally reserves for religion and the paranormal. Why is this? Why aren’t mainstream physicists jumping all over Lifters and low energy nuclear reaction? Surely even the merest hint of a shadow of a possible new physical effect should attract hordes of well-funded researchers desperate for a scoop - but it doesn’t. Yet.
But is the tide turning, and are we at least seeing a way to integrate seriously thought out mystical concepts both with practical, lived common-sense science, and with traditional religion? For my part, discovering all these documents feels like a literal answer to prayer: ideas which bridge the gap between religion and science without compromising either.
The more I think about this though the sadder I get when I look at my life and see how little I actually practise anything like teshuvah, metanoia, and living forgiveness. To take something like oneness seriously would entail, as Jesus said, forgiving ’seventy times seven’: and what does that do to my relationship to order, justice, law, orthodoxy, economics, and all the social apparatus of judgement, scarcity and punishment which keeps our world running?