Bohm, Cezanne and Biderman: The Implicate Order

By David Peat December 8, 2013

While in Bristol Bohm had been deeply concerned that, despite decades of work, physics had failed to reconcile the two great theories – relativity and quantum theory.  Bohm believed that what was needed was not some new mathematics or a new theory but a radical new order to physics. But what was this order?

Bohm had published Causality and Chance in Modern Physics and the artist Anthony Hill thought it may be of interest to an American artist, Charles Biderman, and so he sent him a copy. Biderman himself had written a book, The New Cezanne. As a result of Hill’s intervention Bohm and Biderman entered into a correspondence together. It was an incredibly active exchange with Bohm often mailing more than one long letter a day. In particular Biderman wrote about Cezanne’s approach to painting and could it have been this which gave Bohm a hint about his New Order?

Cezanne had been painting the art dealer Ambroise Vollard in over one hundred sittings, to the point where Vollard’s suite had begun to disintegrate. Finally Cezanne stopped, leaving two tiny areas on the hands unpainted. He declared that if he were to touch those two areas he would have to repaint the entire canvas for the whole was contained in each of the parts. Could this have inspired Bohm?

For Bohm the world we see around us, of well defined objects in space and time, was more of a surface reality he called the Explicate Order. Beyond it lay something deeper, the Implicate Order. What was involved was a continuous process of enfolding and unfolding as the Explicate manifested itself out of the Implicate.

By way of an illustration he compared a photograph of a person to a holograph of the same person. The photograph is a sort of Explicate expression where distant points on a person’s body are equivalent to points distant from each other on the photograph. But in a holograph these distant points are all enfolded together. Likewise take a small portion of the holograph and one can recover the entire image of the person, albeit with less definition. Thus the whole is contained in each part of the holograph.