David Bohm – Post Modern Gnostic

Reinventing the Sacred in the Age of the Cosmos

 
First a quote from the January 20, 1961 Inaugural address of John F. Kennedy.
He ended it with the words:

“…. asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”

They were prescient words: “here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.” Was the new President aware the moment he was speaking of the need for an American response to the ecological challenges facing the Nation? We do not know. However, it all became clear one year later when Rachel Carson published her seminal book Silent Spring. Along with many other Americans, the President too read the book. It had become an instant best-seller and the most provocative book in decades. It began the environmental movement in America.

She had spent over six years documenting how humans were using powerful chemical pesticides before knowing the full extent of their environmental harm.

The audience at the Kennedy Inauguration was largely Christian. They saw their God as the intervener, also the provider of the American largess they so much enjoyed. But the world was rapidly changing. It was about to take that largess away from them. Rachel Carson had given them the first clue. The greatest industrial nation in the world was dangerously altering the ecological systems of Planet Earth. Post Enlightenment scientism was not working; nor was Abrahamic belief. And, many of the Christian faith were beginning to understand that Intercession will not be coming from a heavenly deity. Nor will Apocalypse be the answer. For species survival we are on our own.

Since then the facts have become the more clear: CO2 in the atmosphere now at 400 parts per million and moving higher, Methane gas beginning to bubble in the Arctic that could lead to a runaway methane feedback hydrate loop, Fish in our lakes and oceans poisoned by Mercury, Acidification of our oceans threatening to wipe out large populations of phytoplankton that are the basis of food webs supporting fish dolphins whales and other marine life, Increasing autism among our children and cancer among our adults, Melting Arctic and Antarctica ice caps bringing about rising ocean levels that will within the next several generations inundate coastal cities around the world, Glaciers continuing to melt in the Alps and Himalayas, Aquifer levels continuing to drop under vital agricultural lands, Droughts vast wildfires and unprecedented “Frankenstorm’s” occurring with increasing frequency, And the list goes on.

So now over fifty years after the Carson book, many Americans are asking the question; how are we to proceed? How can we be sure of our continuance on Planet Earth?

As they try to find an answer that question, they are beginning to realize that we humans are all alone in a vast Universe and change can only come by way and through and inner search that brings the consciousness of everyone into the consciousness of the cosmos.

How can we begin this search?

Let us start with the insights of the scientist and Einstein colleague David Bohm (1917-1982). In many ways his solution was one we have over the ages called Gnostic. If we examine his thought process carefully, we find that he was in many respects a modern Gnostic.

Inner search leading to participation in what he called Cosmic Consciousness was his way to frame an answer to the problem.

Like the early Gnostics, and those today; David Bohm saw human progression essentially as a struggle to gain wholeness, to achieve fullness of being, to discover divinity not outside in some separate dimension but within the human psyche.

He believed that space and time has a deeper level of objective reality than is understood by most humans. He saw space and time not as a reflection of a Deity, but of as a reflection of cosmic intelligence.

Bohm described this intelligence as a “holiness” (being beyond what can be grasped in thought) present in the continuing process of the cosmos moving into higher forms of complexity. He wrote that this holiness is a pure and active intelligence. He further described it as reality.

He believed that the individual who uses his/her inner energy and his/her human intelligence can participate and be a part of this reality.

He would have agreed with Jesus when Jesus said in the Gospel of Thomas discovered in 1945 in Egypt at Nag Hammadi: (Remains declared heretical by the Roman Catholic Church)

(41) Whoever has something in his hand will receive more, and whoever has nothing will be deprived of even the little that he has.

He believed that collectively we as a species on Planet earth have reached the point where our universal consciousness is close to, as he phrased it: entering into a stage of cosmic transformation and “putting out the fire.” He saw some of us breaking through to an understanding of this cosmic existential reality.

The reality is now plainly visible. We Post Modern humans suddenly find ourselves living in a state of planetary unsustainability. As the agricultural and then industrial revolution took hold, by ignoring the sacredness of Nature and therefore the need to define Homo sapiens in relation to it, the legitimacy of its exploitation was given full reign.

David Bohm did find some encouraging news. He saw increasingly large numbers of us breaking through to an understanding of cosmic existential reality.

To follow his reasoning; let us begin with what he referred to as the most essential building-block of matter, the particle. He considered its understanding an abstraction. He saw the whole cosmos as a singularity of particle ensembles, all together existent in a series of stages of enfoldment and unfoldment, intermingling and interpenetrating throughout the whole of time and space. He believed that at the very depths of the ground of their existence is energy. He described the cosmos as an “immense background of energy” with the energy of this background likened to one whole and unbroken “holomovement.” He described holomovement as a cosmic consciousness carrying on the Implicate Order of the Universe.

From this holomovement emerges the action/reaction between what Bohm called the Implicate and Explicate order.

Bohm believed there is a cosmic interiority within the holomovement. It results in Implicate Order. From that order comes matter. Matter brings forth a process of enfoldment in endless feedback cycles, creating an infinite variety of manifest forms of materiality. Bohm was of the opinion that fundamental Cosmic Intelligence is the Player in this process; intelligence engaged in endless experimentation and creativity. He defined this as the Cosmic Mind, a Mind moving cyclically onward.

Where do we as humans on this Planet fit into the Bohm equation? He believed that those who use their inner energy and intelligence can be at one with this cosmic mind and its Implicate Order.

He suggested that in our Post Modern World now for the first time in human history one can observe indications of a shaking off of, as he termed it, the “pollution of the ages” (wrong worldviews that propagate ignorance) by way of the beginning of a trusting relationship with one another. He saw this as having the capability to generate the immense power needed to ignite a cosmic consciousness in our species toward a new order.

It was Bohm’s thesis that the ignorance of humanity prior to this Age has been a matter of closedmindedness. He considered closedmindedness the “darkness in the human brain,” that is human ego closed to the Universal Mind and to a supreme intelligence that communicates through the mode of insight.

He believed that our species will eventually be released from this darkness upon the completion of what he called a cosmic “noogenesis.” This term refers to the movement of all the elements of the cosmos, including the biological human, toward ultimate totality, Bohm noted that as humanity takes part in this process, it will be changed by a consciousness inherent in that reality. He intuited that the human person, and humankind collectively upon accomplishing successful noogenesis, will come to fullness within the greater dimension of reality; the Cosmic Apex

Using the analogy of the transformation of the atom ultimately into the power of chain reaction, Bohm believed that those individuals who use their inner energy and intelligence can be in a position to transform humankind and that altogether after two million years or more of sapiens history humans can realize that power and reach a new consciousness.

Are we about to shake off Bohm’s “pollution of the ages”? Has the “chain reaction” begun? There are signs that it is moving in the right direction.

In recent years scientists throughout the world have been coming together and defining with precision the biosphere destruction. And as for a necessary breakthrough in human consciousness, well before the Rachel Carson book, the psychologist Carl Jung (1875-1961) was in a sense echoing David Bohm, speaking to us about what he called “Individuation,” defined as a process of transformation whereby the personal and collective unconscious are opened.

Also, movement toward cosmic consciousness since her book can be seen more recently in Pope Francis’ LAUDATO SI in 2015 and the COP21 meeting in Paris the same year. All of this gives us hope that a paradigm shift is in the making.

But the question remains; how close are we to having finally solved the Homo sapiens survival problem?

We remain far from it.

Visit David’s Blog Inquiry Abraham

Review & Commentary

  • Newton Finn

    Albert Schweitzer, in his epic philosophical work, “Philosophy of Civilization,” turned his back on precisely this kind of metaphysical/epistemological speculation, having come to the realization that it had little to do with the central, concrete question of human existence: ethics. Thus his elemental ethical value, reverence for life, was to be embodied in the everyday behavior of individual human beings toward other human beings and all living things. For Schweitzer, the quest for cosmic union with being itself led away from the particularity of ethics and into the abstraction of a diffuse spirituality unrelated to the teaching of Jesus. Have we become so postmodern that we can no longer relate to language concerning God the Father and the brotherhood of man, even if we add Mother to Father and sisterhood to brotherhood? I fear that removing the personhood of God does not magnify the deity or the sacred but rather diminishes it. Is our salvation to be found in the God of Jesus or the God of the scientists? Is this not a classic example of a Kierkegaardian either/or?

    • David Anderson

      I do not
      see the difference between the God of Jesus and the God of Bohm. When early
      Christianity declared the Gospel of Thomas heretical, it decided to draw the
      line. Gnosticism was a heresy. I have decided to stay on the Jesus Thomas
      Gospel gnostic side. That is the connection Bohm was attempting to make. He was
      not defining the ethics, but he was pointing to from where it need come. Where
      did we go wrong? What we ended up with in the fourth century was an anthropomorphic
      God defined by our own personhood of God. How did this definition come about? It came from the
      anthropomorphic depths of the human mind itself as Judaism then Christianity attempted
      to define their God. Their God became a personification of the neurotic/
      psychotic human mind, a: Rorschach test god bringing to the surface its best
      and its worst. In recent US history we had the Salem Witch Trials. Western
      history with the Iraq invasion validated this deception. We know
      that George W Bush had a strange conversation in a
      telephone call to French President Jacques Chirac just before the war when he
      suggested that the coming War was “biblically ordained” according to the story
      of “Gog and Magog.”

      • Newton Finn

        Thank you for responding to my comment. Let me first say that I am in total agreement with you concerning what we have done and are doing to our sacred environment (and thus to ourselves) and also concerning what happened tragically to the early church as it first courted, then married, empire. The latter goes a long way toward explaining the former. And as you know, it was Schweitzer who inspired Rachel Carson to courageously write “Silent Spring” (dedicated to him) while battling terminal cancer.

        Perhaps Teilhard, who also spoke of noogenesis, provides the best vehicle to explain what I perceive (perhaps misperceive) to be our theological difference. While Teilhard’s writings were censored by the Catholic Church during his lifetime, he was a rare scientist who not only believed in God but also refused to depersonalize the deity. His position was that God (metaphorically speaking, as is all God-language) was more personal (super-personal) than human beings, and to conceive of the deity as impersonal was to place the divine milieu below the human. Indeed, it was Schweitzer’s devotion to the person of Jesus–specifically, his will–that formed the basis of his profound environmental ethic.

        Thus I am leery of God-language which seems to move away from the intensely personal relationship between a child of God and, to use Jesus’ tender word for the deity, “Abba.” This issue has troubled me ever since my seminary days, because I believe that the power of religion (and yes, unfortunately, that power that can be both good and bad) lies in the existential dimension of faith, the subjective relationship to God that Kierkegaard so passionately explored. I love to dabble in quantum physics and have read widely in that fascinating, mind-blowing area, but IMHO (contrary to much New Age thought) it has little to do with the struggle of faith and imperfectly following Jesus.

        Again, I deeply appreciate your engaging me in dialogue, and nothing would please me more than to have you be right and me be wrong with regard to humanity achieving a higher level of consciousness and spirituality through increasing knowledge of the countless miracles of creation.