LIGHT AND MYSTICISM – Inspirational Quotations From David Bohm

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Bohm was born in the 1920s in America. He showed immense early promise in maths and physics when a child and was fascinated by science and science fiction. He was part of the Manhattan Project, lead by Oppenheimer, which saw America drop the first nuclear bomb, believing at the time that it might be the means to bring an end to world conflicts. He since recognised that he was wrong. A lifelong Marxist who was interested in ideas which might bring us to coexist in a more humane and harmonious way, he fell foul of the MacCarthy trials of the 50s and was forced to leave the country, never to return (Oppenheimer himself is thought to have been instrumental in informing upon him). As his career as a scientist progressed, he became more and more fascinated by the findings of Quantum Science, seeing in it a radical challenge to the prevailing Mechanistic view of the Universe that had begun with Newton. For Bohm, that model for understanding the Cosmos and our place in it was gone. Relativity and Quantum Theory had demonstrated that the true nature of Reality was fundamentally different from that with which we had been operating with since Newton and Descartes. Not only did he see this as a major revolution in Science, but he hoped that it would lead to a similar revolution in human Consciousness and how we lived together. For Bohm, how we saw the Universe was simultaneous with how we saw each other.


“WEBER: Speaking of mysticism, there is an important idea that I would like to discuss and understand and that is the idea of light. That is especially important to me because you are a physicist. Light has been used as THE privileged metaphor in the language of mysticism and experimental religions, going back to the Greeks and the east. In all these, light is the symbol for our union with the divine. They talk about light without shadow, an all-suffusing light, and it comes up as the central metaphor in near-death experiences. Do you have any hypothesis as to why light has been singled out as the privileged metaphor?

BOHM: If you want to relate it to modern physics (light and more generally anything moving at the speed of light, which is called the null-velocity, meaning null distance), the connection might be as follows. As an object approaches the speed of light, according to relativity, its internal space and time change so that the clocks slow down relative to other speeds, and the distance is shortened. You would find that the two ends of the light ray would have no time between them and no distance, so they would represent immediate contact (this was pointed out by G N Lewis, a physical chemist, in the 1920s). You could say that from this point of view of present field theory, the fundamental fields are those of very high energy in which mass can be neglected, which would essentially be moving at the speed of light. Mass is a phenomenon of connecting light rays which go back and forth, sort of freezing them into a pattern. So matter, as it were, is condensed or frozen light. Light is not merely electromagnetic waves but in a sense other kinds of waves that go at that speed. Therefore all matter is a condensation of light into patterns moving back and forth at average speeds which are less than the speed of light. Even Einstein had some hint of that idea. You could say that when we come to light we are coming to the fundamental activity in which existence has its ground, or at least coming close to it.”

Earlier Weber asks Bohm:

“WEBER: What you have been saying sounds like mysticism – that we are grounded in something infinite. How does it differ from what the great mystics have said?

“Bohm replies:

“BOHM: I don’t know that there’s necessarily any difference.”

And yet elsewhere there is this exchange:

“WEBER: Is the super-implicate order a euphemism for God?

BOHM: I don’t know what the meaning of the question is since the super-implicate order is in turn part of a still greater implicate order. It’s not a euphemism for God because its limited.

WEBER: Then let’s shift the question to the ultimate super super-implicate order.

BOHM: But we can’t grasp that in thought. We’re not saying that any of this is another word for God. I would put it another way: people had insight in the past about a form of intelligence that had organised the universe and they personalised it and called it God. A similar insight can prevail again today without personalising it and without calling it a personal God.”


7 thoughts on “LIGHT AND MYSTICISM – Inspirational Quotations From David Bohm

  1. The inability or unwillingness of many physicists to see a viable alternative to the Copenhagen style of interpretation results from lack of exposure to any technically sophisticated metaphysics of being. Most scientists, like people in general, hold a commonsensical binary notion of existence and a mechanistic notion of causality, both of which break down under quantum mechanics. A technically sound philosopher, however, is aware of multiple modes of being.

    That’s why Bohm at the end of his years come with The Undivided Universe: An Ontological Interpretation of Quantum Theory,
    As to what degree it’s considered by scientist now days it’s debatable.

    Thank you for the post! šŸ™‚


    Liked by 1 person

  2. no comments

    this goes over my head. sometimes i wish i wasnt so dumb šŸ˜¦

    The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra discusses the parallels between quantum physics and eastern mysticism in an interesting manner, which i managed to read when a student and understood a little bit.

    This link gives a summary of that book:

    Click to access 1353756583.pdf

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yes, the idea of light and mysticism is a bit over my head too. I posted it because it does hold some appeal and i wanted to get back to it another time.. thanks for stopping by. eve


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