Why is an enquiry into the workings of the human mind, or more specifically, into thought as a system relevant in the 21st century? What has the order (or disorder) of this system got to do with our personal, situational and societal difficulties and troubles? What is the place and relevance of the legacies of J. Krishnamurti and Prof. David Bohm today? Can we—individually and collectively—move beyond the fatal paradox of a seemingly concurrent rationality and irrationality of the human mind?
A new way of looking at meaning—which we may refer to as the “Bohmian Theory of Meaning” (BTM)—is a central theme of The Order of Thought. Based on three interrelated aspects of Bohm’s exploration of meaning as a fundamental aspect of the totality of existence, this chapter explores the logic, beauty and coherence of approaching meaning not as something static, to be captured in experience or to be reduced to knowledge, nor as something to be measured (as true or false) against some external measure of truth—but rather as a dynamic actuality behind every manifestation we may abstract from the mental-physical continuum of the world.
Wherever there is “anything” there is meaning: a dynamic activity holding together and sustaining the “thing”—from atoms to organisms to psychological patterns. It is this inherent dynamic (and its mutually informing structural and functional aspects) that we need to explore in any enquiry into order—not in terms of our age-old, divisive and essentially dualistic concerns with “external” fixed truths and accumulative right or wrong knowledge, but through a diligent enquiry into and attending to what we may regard as “currents” of coherence and incoherence.
To explore a possible, more coherent view of the general structure of consciousness (conditioning), this chapter contrasts some of Arthur Koestler’s notions concerning holarchies and holons (as discussed in Koestler’s ‘The Ghost in the Machine‘) with Bohm’s contention that we may best regard thought as a system.
Our current hierarchical view of ourselves and of our consciousness (with “I” at the apex, and “my ideas, my emotions, my experiences, and accumulated skills, etc.”, below) can now be shown to be fundamentally incoherent in a number of ways—the central contention being that in actual fact there isn’t and there can be no centre to our consciousness the same way that there is no centre to a river. Breaking away from the cul-de-sac of the this current/common hierarchical view, this chapter outlines a new model in which conditioned responses of memory—e.g., in the form of holarchically ordered, fundamentally interconnected basic assumptions and emotional attitudes—provide a continually shifting “structure” of consciousness (akin to the changing (infinite, yet finite) structural patterns which may arise in a kaleidoscope).
This chapter looks at issues around the general function of consciousness (conditioning). Through a discussion of various developments in the fields of neurology, artificial intelligence and biology of consciousness, the chapter extends on the possible implications of the theory that we may best regard the “more material” aspect of consciousness: the brain, as essentially a hierarchical-temporal-memory system (that doesn’t compute answers, but retrieves them from memory), whose common, systemic algorithm is aimed at pattern-prediction. The chapter also explores questions of coherence and incoherence around the effects the (“biological”) environment of the brain may have on its overall functioning, especially in terms of an essentially “blind” regulation of the meaning (i.e., dynamic activity) of thought, through what is termed here ‘homeostatic coercion’.
One of the core suggestion arising from this chapter is that the “perceived” (or desperately-tried-to-be-secured) continuity of “the self” might just be a mistaken systemic prediction, perpetuation or pursuit of which inevitably pushes the system into greater and greater degrees of incoherence and spreading confusion. On the other hand, the observable discontinuous movement of the fragmentary system of memory (which makes up consciousness) suggests a possible new “quantum” view of the dynamics of consciousness, which not only echoes indeed strongly aspects of quantum mechanics but fundamentally challenges our notion of psychological continuity and thus of psychological time.
5) ACTUALITY AND
THE RESONANCE OF THE PAST
Having looked at the general structure and function of thought, this chapter deals with the question of how consciousness (conditioning)—responding from a general, i.e., implicit ground of thought and other biological processes—produces a particular response in a given instance. Combining ideas of Bohm with notions of morphic resonance (Rupert Sheldrake), here we discuss a radically different theory regarding a fundamentally non-local process whereby a particular instance (or response) of “self”—with its relevant structure and function—unfolds and enfolds from moment to moment.
Might a possible extension of the theory of formative causation give a more coherent view of the dynamics of consciousness than classical mechanical ideas of linear causation? Might we regard the previously discussed (the more habitual, the more “structural”) basic assumptions and emotional attitudes as chreodes of thought? Is morphic resonance “responsible” for the relative consistency and predictability of, and possibility of relative, incremental changes in our so-called personal, individual(?) psychology? Does the accumulation of memory provide what we might regard as a complex epigenetic landscape of thought? The contention here is that the combination of the idea that thought is best regarded as a material process, with ideas of morphogenesis (i.e., of the coming into form of material systems), enables us see questions around the day to day operation of consciousness—e.g. around free will and choice—in a radically new light.
6) THE PROBLEM OR PARADOX
This chapter draws together the material of the preceding four chapters to argue that our generally accepted notions of psychological change are incoherent and in fact deeply paradoxical. If there isn’t an actual “thing” of the self (quantum wholeness of consciousness vs. the general pyramidical view), if that “self” has no, and can “rely on” no actual continuity (discontinuity of fragmentary memory), and if the actions of “self” are in fact determined through formative causation (resonance) of the totality of the past (no “I” controlling “me”), can our current notions around psychological change but run into incoherence?
If indeed the brain is caught in a paradox, anything “new” can only come about not through an attempt to find solutions, but by “dropping” the paradox and thus ending its hold. What of a radically different view of the nature of thought (and consciousness) can now supersede and show up as fundamentally paradoxical our existing-traditional, views?
7) DISORDER TO ORDER:
This final chapter argues that Krishnamurti and Bohm’s interrelated legacies incorporate what is essentially a new theory of thought. In turn, I contend that this new theory is heralding a major turning point in the history of humanity: we are either faced with a radical, revolutionary change in our species, or fatal degeneration.
Of course, changes in human consciousness of such magnitude might well take centuries to unfold—similarly to the way the notions of logical reasoning and evidence took close to three hundred years to fully replace our medieval world-view. However, there are already new possibilities and developments that we are able to discern as “approaching on the horizon”. One such possibility I suggest is a proposed new model of individuality: creative individualism.
There are two essential features of this proposed model of creative individualism that break with our current models—which arose from the rationalist traditions of the Enlightenment (‘the rational individual’) and the expressive traditions of Romanticism (‘the natural individual’). First, the new model isn’t a-cultural: the individual is not defined as something independent of culture, rather is seen as a particular manifestation of that culture. In other words, we are now able to see that the culture and the individual are indeed one, or as Krishnamurti put it, “You are the World”. Second, the model no longer promotes what Ken Robinson calls the ‘catastrophic division’ between intellect and emotion: both intellect and emotions are now seen as mutually informing aspects of the self-same movement of thought.
A new way of looking inevitably entails a new way of doing. A shared exploration into a new and more coherent “theory of thought”—in which exploration The Order of Thought hopes to play an active part—might well mean that our irrationality born of a fragmentary mindset can finally begin to ebb away.