Essentially continuing from where David Bohm left off in ‘Thought as a System’, ‘On Dialogue’, ‘On Creativity’, etc., ‘THE ORDER OF THOUGHT’ continues to explore and develop a new way of looking at thought and consciousness.
At first glance this book could be regarded simply as an exercise in cartography: the aim is to produce a map of thought that is hopefully significantly more coherent than all the various explicit and implicit maps already in circulation in our global culture. This task, of course, could well be seen, even dismissed, as rather a tall order, if it weren’t for the radical “material” left by J. Krishnamurti and David Bohm concerning the human condition and our current predicament.
So the basic idea is that a radically new map of thought, of human consciousness is possible, not to mention that a new map, offering a new course, is indeed badly needed in the face of the various global crises of the world of today. The book also argues that the single most important development of the 21st century will be the emergence of a new model of individuality, based on a new understanding of the actual nature and consequent limitations of the activity of thought.
If the crises confronting humanity indeed originate in our incoherent age-old “intellectual” maps of the world and ourselves, examining the map-maker—i.e., the system of thought—must be an essential step towards ending our confusion, suffering and sorrow, both individually and collectively.
After an initial “setting of the scene” looking at what we will refer to as the “Bohmian Theory of Meaning” and what has been called the process-view of reality, the core of the book is developed around four main notions, indeed four illusions, that are apparently shared by and are common to just about all human beings. In fact these four illusions seem to be “included”, one way or another, in just about all our maps of the human mind as it is. To put it yet another way, the book abstracts and identifies four main “psychological” misconceptions that can be said to underlie and perpetuate just about all the various meanings operating in, and in fact sustaining consciousness as we know it.
The 1st illusion has to do with the question as to whether there is or isn’t a centre to consciousness—which centre, on a personal level, people may refer to as “I”, the self, “my soul”, etc. Put briefly, one of the pivotal contentions of this book is that in actual fact there is no centre to the process we might call “the self”, the same way that there is no centre to a river. Of course, the idea that this culturally-assumed and taken for granted centre to consciousness isn’t actually “there” isn’t in itself new. However it is only now that various ideas from holarchies, to the resonant effect of the past, to quantum theory, etc., can be brought together to provide a far more coherent theory capable of superseding all existing theories that claim that “I” as a centre is both real and necessary for the order of the mind.
The 2nd idea, or again illusion, has to do with the continuity of this assumed centre, or self. While there is obviously what we might call a “material” (i.e., recursive), temporal process “behind” consciousness, I suggest that the apparent linear continuity of the “traditional” self is indeed just that, an appearance. Which point obviously also follows from the 1st illusion: If there isn’t an actual something that is the centre of consciousness, then it will be rather incoherent to speak of the continued temporal existence of it. Drawing on various findings and notions from the fields of neuroscience, artificial intelligence and so on, the book suggests that the continuity of self, of oneself, is basically an incoherent systemic prediction, or to put it in a way more aligned with our technological age, it could be regarded as a computing mistake.
The 3rd illusion concerns the notion of choice. Here the book explores an alternative theory as to how the system of thought may produce particular responses, which responses we have until now ascribed to an assumed and taken for granted transcendental (non-material) self “choosing” to respond this way or that. Through the notions of morphic resonance and formative causation, Bohmian Mechanics (Pilot Wave Theory) and the notion that thought can be regarded as a holarchically organised material process, the book suggests that any so called “choice” arising in the system of thought can be accounted for perfectly well, and perhaps a great deal more coherently, without recourse to notions around some fixed entity, beyond or over and above the process of thought, choosing. Thus the illusion of choice (indeed of “free will”) arises in a mistaken attribution of an essentially “material” (i.e., recursive) process of “selection” (or probabilistic “collapse”), to some fixed, transcendental entity that in fact isn’t there.
The aim isn’t to negate entirely the idea of free will—rather the emphasis is on the suggestion that free will “begins” when the conditioned movement of consciousness ends (or, in any case, is in abeyance).
The final, 4th illusion is concerned with “creativity”, particularly in terms of psychological change—when it comes to our attempts to change, to better the human condition, the workings of consciousness, in ourselves and in others. If thought is indeed limited—for example because of an inherent systemic demand for perception and action to be confined to content and rules arising from fragments (quanta) of idiosyncratic accumulated experience—can then thought ever come to an action that is truly original and creative? Can we solve our problems arising as a result of a general incoherence in thought, just with more thought, however elaborate? Or does creativity begin where the self-referential movement of thought ends?
If the essential trait of intelligence and creativity is that both arise from an unlimited ground, orderly thought will require a careful consideration of the relationship of the finite (consciousness, thought, etc.) and the infinite (ground of existence) in a new light.
When Michel Faraday first demonstrated the phenomenon of electricity to the public, a member of his audience is said to have responded: ‘It’s all very interesting Mr. Faraday, but what’s the use of it?’ Faraday’s reply was witty, yet ambiguous:
‘Madam, what is the use of a baby?’
One possible moral of this story is that Faraday could not have foreseen the exact way his discovery would eventually revolutionize human lives-he was not necessarily thinking about TVs, mobile phones, computers, and things yet to come. The “discovery” of electricity had to come first, before its real and radical power would be unleashed. The above story helps to make a simple point: We might have a very similar situation with regard to J.Krishnamurti’s insight of historic originality (after ken Robinson) into thought and the human condition. More to the point, Krishnamurti’s legacy might in part also incorporate a complete revolution in the mapping of the human mind. The new map-made-possible is different not just in terms of quality and detail, it is not simply the difference between a 5000-year-old map and a It is now that the nature and possible implications of Krishnamurti’s original insight can be enquired into and unravelled, so that its transformative power may unfold.modern internet map incorporating satellite photos. This time the map also incorporates vital information about itself-“the word is not the thing”-and about its relevance and place in the very much emphasized undivided totality of life.
Therefore a new significance emerges: Having mistaken our complex maps of reality for actuality, we seem to have got stuck, lost, powerless to develop, to learn, to end psychological conflict, and so on. Now that the grip of that illusion is loosened, the possibility of disentanglement from the stalemate beckons. In the light of the above we may regard David Bohm’s later work concerning thought-similarly to the intention behind this book-as some logical continuation of Krishnamurti’s discoveries. It is now that the nature and possible implications of Krishnamurti’s original insight can be enquired into and unravelled, so that its transformative power may unfold. Which notion, of course, evokes an important matter that needs clarification, and maybe all the more so for those already interested in the work of Krishnamurti. Any present or further investigations into thought, which may include or refer to what Krishnamurti had to say about it and the human condition, is neither necessarily an attempt to add to Krishnamurti’s work, nor an attempt to try to simply develop some interpretation of his material. All that would betray-in particular in view of Krishnamurti’s own statements on the matter-lack of understanding and logical inconsistency. Instead we could, and maybe need to approach this issue as follows. Faraday discovered electricity, but that it was him that discovered it “doesn’t really matter”, it is likely that someone else would have made the discovery otherwise. Furthermore, we may note that no amount of consequent investigations of the phenomenon of electricity, nor any past, present, or future application of it, have changed, or can change the actuality behind electricity itself. Not to mention—and this is a little appreciated fact—that despite all the common uses of it, to this day we don’t know exactly what electricity is. But the point is this. If we were to put it that Krishnamurti may have discovered a new possible source of energy, or ground, or basis for the order of the human mind, then in as much as that energy, or ground, or basis, is an actuality, then essentially “it”-in itself, or in its fundamental nature-may in any case be incorruptible.