David Bohm Inner Explorer: Mind as Process

By David Schrum January 8, 2014

As a boy David Bohm was physically awkward, and he often tried to compensate by planning in advance each movement. Once, in the midst of crossing a stream by a series of stepping stones, he saw that this piecemeal rational approach would surely fail and, hence, kept on crossing in one continuous movement, and in this found success. His discovery of the power of consciousness as flowing movement, rather than as incremental as when we reason and piecemeal apply knowledge, had a profound effect on him, and in later life he would relate this story. In adulthood, he took an interest in the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, and, later yet, in Birkbeck College in the early 1970’s, he would often talk of consciousness operating in “undivided flowing movement.”

For decades Bohm dialogued with the sage Krishnamurti on the subject of consciousness, which it seems was Bohm’s central interest and concern, beyond even his physics. At one time he even considered dropping the science. Krishnamurti emphasized thought as a movement and often stated, “Life is a movement in relationship.” He indicated that how one thinks is much more important than what one thinks, again emphasizing process above content. I suspect this fundamental commonality—their perception of the significance of mind as process—was one feature that made possible their years of productive dialogue.

As a physicist Bohm considered the importance of movement/process to be primary, and he described the fundamental order of the universe as a holomovement (holos meaning whole in Greek). He and co-worker Basil Hiley opened a creative exploration into the development of new physics based on the mathematics of nineteenth century mathematicians Clifford, Grassman and Hamilton, who were concerned with representing processes of movement and transformation. For Bohm this mathematics was not separate from the inner exploration but was, in fact, informed by it.  Furthermore, he felt that, as we are of the universe and are universe, exploration of the order of movement within us, is in some sense exploration of a subtle level of the order of the universe.