Forwarded from Siddhartha Chatterjee

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Mon Jan 1 10:12:56 MST 2001


Louis, please forward to your list. Thanks. Sid

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The core issue of the highly interesting discussion of the relation of
religion and Marxism is: what is the nature of physical reality. After the
discoveries of the last century (quantum theory, relativity), the notions
of what is materialism has undergone a profound change. Marxism, if it is a
science and needs to advance, has to be cognizant of it.

Is physical reality to be caught by just the five senses, or do there exist
phenomena which cannot be apprehended directly by the senses and belong to
a higher order which is implicate (as opposed to explicate)? This question
is becoming increasingly important as the current fragmented and
mechanistic approach of science leads to confusion and crisis in different
fields of research.

Bourgeois economists, who count reality by the five fingers of the hand
(pragmatism), find the concept of 'value' mystical or metaphysical. But it
is precisely this 'metaphysical' concept of value (which lies beneath the
multitude of the millions of financial transactions every day and which
cannot be observed directly) that is the linch-pin of the Marxian theory
which explains the overall motion of the capitalist economy which the
bourgeois economists are incapable of explaining inspite of their elaborate
mathematical structures, because they are constructed on (imaginary)
dubious assumptions about the nature of reality. Finally, in the last
decade of the last century, the haughty pronouncements of the Samuelsons
and Friedmans were finally silenced when Anwar Shaikh and his team at
Columbia University calculated value and surplus value using data of the US
economy.

Most serious science is thus a probing for the underlying laws and
relationships which lie below the surface phenomena of nature. It appears
that the practitioners of yoga and the other practices that go under the
generic rubric of 'mysticism' are somehow capable of tuning into this
higher and invisible implicate order(s) that surround us and permeates the
universe. But such can be the dogmatism of traditional and orthodox western
scientists and Marxists that if some phenomenon or theory does not fit the
canons of their established science or its procedures, it is greeted with
derision and arrogantly dismissed of as the works of 'fakirs' (we are
assuming genuine fakirs here, not the con-men like Rajneesh and Deepak
Chopra).

I am reminded of the reception given by the Marxists (some of whom are in
this list) to the discovery of Viraj Fernando who had found one such
implicate order (geometric blueprint) of the sun-moon-earth system which
explained the wobbles of the earth's rotational axis. This phenomenon has
confounded geophysicists to this very day and the reason for this is
because they are trying to apply the Newtonian dynamical laws to a
phenomenon which cannot be described within the Newtonian framework. In the
August 2000 issue of the American Geophysical Letters appeared an article
by a scientist at JPL who claimed that he had finally (after a century
since the wobble was first observed by S.C. Chandler at Harvard) solved the
enigma of the Chandler wobble. According to his theory (actually a
correlation), pressure fluctuations in the oceans were partly responsible
for the wobble. The statement can of course be turned around: can the
wobble cause the pressure fluctuations? Are the motions of the earth around
the sun responsible for the weather or is the weather causing the motions
of the earth? What is the chain of causality?

There is another noticeable feature. The West, by its dominance in all
spheres of life today, tries to drown out all other alternative discourse.
This is in all areas, including science.This chauvinism and arrogance is
unconsciously absorbed by even some of the most intelligent Marxist
thinkers and scientists. The West only relents somewhat when one of their
own great thinkers or scientists agrees with the viewpoint of the 'fakir'.
Only then the sayings of the 'fakir' is considered worth paying some
attention to.

Such a great scientist was the North American physicist David Bohm who was
Einstein's contemporary. Bohm did not agree with the Cophenhagen
interpretation of quantum theory with its assumptions of chance and
indeterminancy at the quantum level. He was the originator of the causal
theory of quantum mechanics whose central concept is the quantum potential.
Bohm's other major contribution was that of undivided wholeness and the
implicate order. According to this concept, the universe is a undivided
whole and consists of an explicate order (gross physical reality which
surrounds us), and behind this explicate order lies increasingly finer
implicate orders of reality which cannot be directly perceived. Bohm's
'mystical' theories were greeted in the beginning with disapproval from the
scientific orthodoxy but now appear to be becoming 'respectable'.

Below is an article written by David Pratt (Bohm's collaborator) which
summarizes the central concepts of Bohm's theories. Perhaps, the 'fakirs'
were on to something after all.

Sid

David Bohm and the Implicate Order

By David Pratt

The death of David Bohm on 27 October 1992 is a great loss not only for the
physics community but for all those interested in the philosophical
implications of modern science. David Bohm was one of the most
distinguished theoretical physicists of his generation, and a fearless
challenger of scientific orthodoxy. His interests and influence extended
far beyond physics and embraced biology, psychology, philosophy, religion,
art, and the future of society. Underlying his innovative approach to many
different issues was the fundamental idea that beyond the visible, tangible
world there lies a deeper, implicate order of undivided wholeness.

David Bohm was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in 1917. He became
interested in science at an early age, and as a young boy invented a
dripless teapot, and his father, a successful businessman, urged him to try
to make a profit on the idea. But after learning that the first step was to
conduct a door-to-door survey to test market demand, his interest in
business waned and he decided to become a theoretical physicist instead.

In the 1930s he attended Pennsylvania State College where he became deeply
interested in quantum physics, the physics of the subatomic realm. After
graduating, he attended the University of California, Berkeley. While there
he worked at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory where, after receiving his
doctorate in 1943, he began what was to become his landmark work on plasmas
(a plasma is a gas containing a high density of electrons and positive
ions). Bohm was surprised to find that once electrons were in a plasma,
they stopped behaving like individuals and started behaving as if they were
part of a larger and interconnected whole. He later remarked that he
frequently had the impression that the sea of electrons was in some sense
alive.

In 1947 Bohm took up the post of assistant professor at Princeton
University, where he extended his research to the study of electrons in
metals. Once again the seemingly haphazard movements of individual
electrons managed to produce highly organized overall effects. Bohm's
innovative work in this area established his reputation as a theoretical
physicist.

In 1951 Bohm wrote a classic textbook entitled Quantum Theory, in which he
presented a clear account of the orthodox, Copenhagen interpretation of
quantum physics. The Copenhagen interpretation was formulated mainly by
Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg in the 1920s and is still highly
influential today. But even before the book was published, Bohm began to
have doubts about the assumptions underlying the conventional approach. He
had difficulty accepting that subatomic particles had no objective
existence and took on definite properties only when physicists tried to
observe and measure them. He also had difficulty believing that the quantum
world was characterized by absolute indeterminism and chance, and that
things just happened for no reason whatsoever. He began to suspect that
there might be deeper causes behind the apparently random and crazy nature
of the subatomic world.

Bohm sent copies of his textbook to Bohr and Einstein. Bohr did not
respond, but Einstein phoned him to say that he wanted to discuss it with
him. In the first of what was to turn into a six-month series of spirited
conversations, Einstein enthusiastically told Bohm that he had never seen
quantum theory presented so clearly, and admitted that he was just as
dissatisfied with the orthodox approach as Bohm was. They both admired
quantum theory's ability to predict phenomena, but could not accept that it
was complete and that it was impossible to arrive at any clearer
understanding of what was going on in the quantum realm.

It was while writing Quantum Theory that Bohm came into conflict with
McCarthyism. He was called upon to appear before the Un-American Activities
Committee in order to testify against colleagues and associates. Ever a man
of principle, he refused. The result was that when his contract at
Princeton expired, he was unable to obtain a job in the USA. He moved first
to Brazil, then to Israel, and finally to Britain in 1957, where he worked
first at Bristol University and later as Professor of Theoretical Physics
at Birkbeck College, University of London, until his retirement in 1987.
Bohm will be remembered above all for two radical scientific theories: the
causal interpretation of quantum physics, and the theory of the implicate
order and undivided wholeness.

In 1952, the year after his discussions with Einstein, Bohm published two
papers sketching what later came to be called the causal interpretation of
quantum theory which, he said, "opens the door for the creative operation
of underlying, and yet subtler, levels of reality." (David Bohm and F.
David Peat, Science, Order & Creativity, Bantam Books, New York, 1987, p.
88.) He continued to elaborate and refine his ideas until the end of his
life. In his view, subatomic particles such as electrons are not simple,
structureless particles, but highly complex, dynamic entities. He rejects
the view that their motion is fundamentally uncertain or ambiguous; they
follow a precise path, but one which is determined not only by conventional
physical forces but also by a more subtle force which he calls the quantum
potential. The quantum potential guides the motion of particles by
providing "active information" about the whole environment. Bohm gives the
analogy of a ship being guided by radar signals: the radar carries
information from all around and guides the ship by giving form to the
movement produced by the much greater but unformed power of its engines.

The quantum potential pervades all space and provides direct connections
between quantum systems. In 1959 Bohm and a young research student Yakir
Aharonov discovered an important example of quantum interconnectedness.
They found that in certain circumstances electrons are able to "feel" the
presence of a nearby magnetic field even though they are traveling in
regions of space where the field strength is zero. This phenomenon is now
known as the Aharonov-Bohm (AB) effect, and when the discovery was first
announced many physicists reacted with disbelief. Even today, despite
confirmation of the effect in numerous experiments, papers still
occasionally appear arguing that it does not exist.

In 1982 a remarkable experiment to test quantum interconnectedness was
performed by a research team led by physicist Alain Aspect in Paris. The
original idea was contained in a thought experiment (also known as the "EPR
paradox") proposed in 1935 by Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan
Rosen, but much of the later theoretical groundwork was laid by David Bohm
and one of his enthusiastic supporters, John Bell of CERN, the physics
research center near Geneva. The results of the experiment clearly showed
that subatomic particles that are far apart are able to communicate in ways
that cannot be explained by the transfer of physical signals traveling at
or slower than the speed of light. Many physicists, including Bohm, regard
these "nonlocal" connections as absolutely instantaneous. An alternative
view is that they involve subtler, nonphysical energies traveling faster
than light, but this view has few adherents since most physicists still
believe that nothing-can exceed the speed of light.

The causal interpretation of quantum theory initially met with indifference
or hostility from other physicists, who did not take kindly to Bohm's
powerful challenge to the common consensus. In recent years, however, the
theory has been gaining increasing "respectability." Bohm's approach is
capable of being developed in different directions. For instance, a number
of physicists, including Jean-Paul Vigier and several other physicists at
the Institut Henri Poincaré in France, explain the quantum potential in
terms of fluctuations in an underlying ether.

In the 1960s Bohm began to take a closer look at the notion of order. One
day he saw a device on a television program that immediately fired his
imagination. It consisted of two concentric glass cylinders, the space
between them being filled with glycerin, a highly viscous fluid. If a
droplet of ink is placed in the fluid and the outer cylinder is turned, the
droplet is drawn out into a thread that eventually becomes so thin that it
disappears from view; the ink particles are enfolded into the glycerin. But
if the cylinder is then turned in the opposite direction, the thread-form
reappears and rebecomes a droplet; the droplet is unfolded again. Bohm
realized that when the ink was diffused through the glycerin it was not a
state of "disorder" but possessed a hidden, or nonmanifest, order.

In Bohm's view, all the separate objects, entities, structures, and events
in the visible or explicate world around us are relatively autonomous,
stable, and temporary "subtotalities" derived from a deeper, implicate
order of unbroken wholeness. Bohm gives the analogy of a flowing stream:

 On this stream, one may see an ever-changing pattern of vortices, ripples,
waves, splashes, etc., which evidently have no independent existence as
such. Rather, they are abstracted from the flowing movement, arising and
vanishing in the total process of the flow. Such transitory subsistence as
may be possessed by these abstracted forms implies only a relative
independence or autonomy of behaviour, rather than absolutely independent
existence as ultimate substances.

 (David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, Routledge & Kegan Paul,
London, Boston, 1980, p. 48.)

We must learn to view everything as part of "Undivided Wholeness in Flowing
Movement." (Ibid., p. 11.)

Another metaphor Bohm uses to illustrate the implicate order is that of the
hologram. To make a hologram a laser light is split into two beams, one of
which is reflected off an object onto a photographic plate where it
interferes with the second beam. The complex swirls of the interference
pattern recorded on the photographic plate appear meaningless and
disordered to the naked eye. But like the ink drop dispersed in the
glycerin, the pattern possesses a hidden or enfolded order, for when
illuminated with laser light it produces a three-dimensional image of the
original object, which can be viewed from any angle. A remarkable feature
of a hologram is that if a holographic film is cut into pieces, each piece
produces an image of the whole object, though the smaller the piece the
hazier the image. Clearly the form and structure of the entire object are
encoded within each region of the photographic record.

Bohm suggests that the whole universe can be thought of as a kind of giant,
flowing hologram, or holomovement, in which a total order is contained, in
some implicit sense, in each region of space and time. The explicate order
is a projection from higher dimensional levels of reality, and the apparent
stability and solidity of the objects and entities composing it are
generated and sustained by a ceaseless process of enfoldment and
unfoldment, for subatomic particles are constantly dissolving into the
implicate order and then recrystallizing.

The quantum potential postulated in the causal interpretation corresponds
to the implicate order. But Bohm suggests that the quantum potential is
itself organized and guided by a superquantum potential, representing a
second implicate order, or superimplicate order. Indeed he proposes that
there may be an infinite series, and perhaps hierarchies, of implicate (or
"generative") orders, some of which form relatively closed loops and some
of which do not. Higher implicate orders organize the lower ones, which in
turn influence the higher.

Bohm believes that life and consciousness are enfolded deep in the
generative order and are therefore present in varying degrees of unfoldment
in all matter, including supposedly "inanimate" matter such as electrons or
plasmas. He suggests that there is a "protointelligence" in matter, so that
new evolutionary developments do not emerge in a random fashion but
creatively as relatively integrated wholes from implicate levels of
reality. The mystical connotations of Bohm's ideas are underlined by his
remark that the implicate domain "could equally well be called Idealism,
Spirit, Consciousness. The separation of the two -- matter and spirit -- is
an abstraction. The ground is always one." (Quoted in Michael Talbot, The
Holographic Universe, HarperCollins, New York, 1991, p. 271.)

As with all truly great thinkers, David Bohm's philosophical ideas found
expression in his character and way of life. His students and colleagues
describe him as totally unselfish and non-competitive, always ready to
share his latest thoughts with others, always open to fresh ideas, and
single-mindedly devoted to a calm but passionate search into the nature of
reality. In the words of one of his former students, "He can only be
characterized as a secular saint." (B. Hiley & F. David Peat eds., Quantum
Implications: Essays in Honour of David Bohm, Routledge & Kegan Paul,
London, 1987, p. 48.)

Bohm believed that the general tendency for individuals, nations, races,
social groups, etc., to see one another as fundamentally different and
separate was a major source of conflict in the world. It was his hope that
one day people would come to recognize the essential interrelatedness of
all things and would join together to build a more holistic and harmonious
world. What better tribute to David Bohm's life and work than to take this
message to heart and make the ideal of universal brotherhood the keynote of
our lives.

 (Reprinted from Sunrise magazine, February/March 1993. Copyright c 1993 by
Theosophical University Press)

Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org/





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