Where is The Implicate?

By Beth Macy April 7, 2014

Where is that mythical territory David Bohm called The Implicate? If we were to draw a map would it be upward or downward from our home base location in The Explicate? North or south of us?

In his theory of the Undivided Universe, Bohm posited that the whole of reality is a nesting of increasingly subtle layers. Our most immediate and familiar layer is what he called “explicate.” Beyond it were the layers of the “implicate,” the “super-implicate” and perhaps many more layers, each progressively more subtle, more general, and more powerful.

The explicate is our perception of the material world, a vast variety of separate and distinct “things” outside of us and outside of each other (1) which is best described through Newtonian physics. In his words, “Clearly the manifest world of common sense experience refined where necessary with the aid of the concepts and laws of classical physics is basically in an explicate order.” (2)

Behind the explicate world is the implicate, the layer or order which holds the patterns that give form to our perceptions. He gave examples of the implicate and explicate. Think of a seed. Within it lies the essential pattern (implicate level) of a particular species of plant which will guide its growth into form (explicate level). Another example: The television set acts as a receiver of broadcasted image patterns (implicate level) which are displayed on the TV screen (explicate level).

Bohm used the term “below” to describe the relationship of the explicate to the implicate, but his use of this term refers to levels of subtlety, not to location. In fact, once we cross the barrier between explicate and implicate, there is no such thing as “location” per se. Location is a spatial descriptor of separate physical objects in the manifest world. Separation, space and time are attributes of Newtonian physics, thus are attributes of the explicate level. Once into the implicate domain, Bohm would likely say that there is no such thing as “location,” but rather, there is only information that sets relationships of parts into patterns of movement or flow. The subtle implicate and super-implicate fields are not manifest, and so they cannot be drawn nor mapped. These fields are matter-less and unmanifest.

So where is the implicate? It is everywhere in which there is a “where.” Think of the many fields that are ubiquitous in our world. Within the fields are waves carrying information and patterns from the higher levels. Everywhere there are radio waves, light waves, heat waves, television waves, etc., all co-present everywhere. Also within our manifest world are receivers (such as television sets, i-phones, human intelligence, etc.) which, if matched to the fields, receive and translate their waves so that our senses make sense of them.

Such it would be with Bohm’s conception of the implicate, the super-implicate, the super-super-implicate. The various levels or orders are all co-present everywhere though we are not able to apperceive or translate all of them. Some of the more subtle fields are likely beyond unfoldment by human consciousness. And as well, humans differ in their abilities to unfold the fields that do fit within our species’ range of apperception.

(1) David Bohm and B.J. Hiley, The Undivided Universe: An Ontological Interpretation of Quantum Theory, Routledge, London and New York, 1993, p. 361
(2) David Bohm and B.J. Hiley, The Undivided Universe: An Ontological Interpretation of Quantum Theory, Routledge, London and New York, 1993, p. 362