David Bohm on Insight

One of the best ways of understanding what insight means is to look at certain theories, especially those which deal with universal order. The word “theory” comes from the same root as the word theater. It means to look, to make a spectacle. You could say a theory was originally a way of looking at the world. The idea that theories could be proposed and discussed freely began with the ancient Greeks. Before that time, theories of universal order were incorporated into religious systems which were not freely discussed or questioned. The Greeks proposed and discussed, with great passion, a wide range of fundamental theories. In these discussions a certain notion of universal order developed which was carried forward into medieval Europe.

It was believed that heavenly matter, being most perfect, would move in perfect orbits, and the most perfect orbit was considered to be a circle. Actual observations showed, even to the ancient Greeks, that the planets were not moving in circular orbits, but this did not prevent them from holding onto the idea of perfection. Rather, they accommodated the idea by saying they are circles superimposed on circles called epicycles. By adding enough epicycles you could still account for the heavenly motions and retain the notion of circularity. In a deeper sense however, it was an evasion of afundamental challenge.

One reason why observation didn’t lead the Greeks to question increasing perfection was their belief that reason was of highest value, while the senses were regarded as unreliable and deceptive, which they often are. The very idea of universal order also generates strong feelings and any challenge may be sensed as a threat to the whole of existence. Therefore, there is a great reluctance to question notions of universal order.

Toward the end of the Middle Ages Roger Bacon suggested that observation and experience could criticize ideas that appeared to be reasonable. This was revolutionary and the beginning of the scientific approach. It made it possible to correct the Greek bias toward reason and to limit the extreme power of knowledge, which at that time was so great that nothing could really challenge it.

As this approach began to take hold, observation and experience accumulated showing there was nothing particularly perfect about heavenly matter. In general, people were not aware of how this knowledge was a fundamental challenge to prevailing ideas about the nature of matter. Newton sensed this challenge and was the first to face it fully.

According to the story, he saw an apple falling, and by implication must have asked himself, “Why isn’t the moon falling?” And his answer was very simple, “The moon is falling,”and, indeed, because all matter is basically the same, every such free body is falling toward every other, which implies a universal force of gravitation. This discovery was a flash of perception, an insight.

David Bohm on Science

From all that has been said about the role of insight in science, it should now be clear that although Roger Bacon’s suggestion of experience and experiment as a means of criticizing ideas that appear to be reasonable was an important contribution to making modern science possible, it was not enough to prevent the blocks inherent in the active functioning of common knowledge from imprisoning us in fixed beliefs and false presuppositions. These are generally unyielding, even in the face of a great deal of experimental evidence that should reasonably lead them to be questioned. What is needed further is the energy of insight, which dissolves such blocks. This has to be emphasized very strongly, as there is now little realization of the ultimate inability of the scientific approach to avoid the tendency to self-deception inherent in the active functioning of knowledge, if this is not penetrated by insight. – David Bohm

A New Book About David Bohm and Jiddu Krishnamurti’s Collaboration

David Moody has released the book An Uncommon Collaboration: David Bohm and J. Krishnamurti.  This book is currently available on Amazon.

For more than two decades, renowned theoretical physicist David Bohm engaged in a close collaboration with psychological philosopher J. Krishnamurti. The two men participated together in 144 recorded dialogues and many unrecorded conversations, and the transcripts of their discussions appear in several published volumes. Their mutual interests encompassed the whole of human consciousness, its nature and structure, and the sources of illusion and conflict in the individual and in society. An Uncommon Collaboration: David Bohm and J. Krishnamurti describes the course of their relationship from beginning to end, including the substance of their dialogues as well as the uneven quality of their personal interactions. Author David Edmund Moody worked with both men for more than a decade, and his observations of them inform and supplement his description of their relationship. Bohm’s background as a physicist was characterized by his close associations with Oppenheimer and Einstein, his revolutionary contributions to the foundations of quantum mechanics, and his clash with the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities, an event which ultimately deprived him of his American citizenship. Krishnamurti’s background was notable for his break with the Theosophical Society, which had nurtured him as a youth and hailed him as the World Teacher. He developed his own independent philosophy, one which offered penetrating insights into the human condition and emphasized freedom from all authority in psychological and religious matters. An Uncommon Collaboration: David Bohm and J. Krishnamurti describes the life stories of the two men individually as well as the nature and quality of their relationship. The book concludes with a critical assessment of each man’s contribution to the work they were engaged in, their mutual accomplishments, and the issues that remain unresolved. Moody’s work with Bohm featured several recorded dialogues that examined Bohm’s views on Krishnamurti’s philosophy and his personality. Complete transcripts of these conversations provide a rich, illuminating supplement to the text.