The Forces That Are The Creator: Bohm’s Implicate Order
If we learn to stay true to ourselves, to feel when new insight lines up inside, or in Emerson’s words, ‘to detect and watch that gleam of light’ when it flashes across our minds, we are less likely to become controlled by others. We get a ‘feel’ for when something is right for us, or not. While we maintain our alignment, the ‘relationship’ of mind and heart, Adam and Eve, remains harmonious and effective. What is happening inside us is that we have taken on the identity of a creator — some one who authors and shapes their own world. This is the meaning of the word ‘authenticity’.
The book of Genesis does not begin with the story of the fall, but with a creation myth. Chapter One is the account of the creation of the Earth and all its inhabitants, which includes the creation of human kind, who are male and female — and plural: ‘male and female created he them’. They are also made in the image of the creator:
‘And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.’
The texts as they have come down to us were retold and pieced together from many ancient fragments and oral myths, and not surprisingly they have internal contradictions and repetitions. Scholars debate whether one hand shaped the writing of them or whether they are simply collections of stories and myths from many sources that at some point, maybe in the 7th Century BCE, maybe earlier, got written down. This latter possibility would explain the disconnect between the creation story in Chapter One, and the story in Chapter Two in which the plural has become archetypal, and the figures of Adam and Eve are created in another version of a creation myth. The story of the fall then follows in Chapter Three. However, in an echo to the verse in Chapter One where humankind have dominion ‘over every living thing that moveth upon the earth’, Adam and Eve are there to ‘dress and keep’ the Garden.
The point is that in both creation stories, humankind or the generic energies of Adam and Eve were themselves either creators, or extensions of the creator. In the first version, they are ‘made in the image and likeness’ of the creator, and had responsibility for the whole of manifested creation on the Earth; in the second creation story, they participate directly in helping with the creator’s work: naming the animals, looking after the garden. Therefore the first condition, before the ‘fall’ of consciousness, was the identity of the creator. This is who we are and who we know ourselves to be unless our own consciousness ‘malfunctions’.
Over the past few essays I have been exploring the way the ancient myth of the fall expresses the same insights of Tibetan Buddhist thought. How, if awareness of the inner world fades, and we become emotionally and intellectually over-involved in the outer, the balance of ‘intuitive mind’ is lost, and the problems of ‘defiled mind’ take over. In the Genesis text it was said that a flaming sword was placed ‘at the east of the garden of Eden’. East, as I already explored, means the realm that precedes form — the awareness of the inner or transcendent dimension. The image evokes a gateway or opening that is now inaccessible, guarded by fire. We can envision that oval shape created in the center of the ‘vesica’ symbol to be that gateway or opening — the gate of paradise itself, the sense of connection to the vibrational realm which we can no longer find when we fall in consciousness:
Using the shape of the ‘vesica piscis’ to symbolize this gateway turns out to have a fascinating correlation in Egyptian hieroglyphic language. The Egyptian glyph for the word ‘gate’ is the same fish or almond shape created by the overlapping circles of the ‘vesica piscis’: (). Literally, an opening or aperture. But then, if we upend the ‘vesica’ shape, so that one circle sits on top of the other the shape created by their over lap becomes a pointed oval:
This shape is the same as the Egyptian glyph for the word ‘mouth‘ . It is a pictorial representation of a mouth which is also a kind of opening. Interestingly, the same Egyptian glyph can also represent the word ‘Neter’ which means something like ‘the forces that are the creator’. So now that overlap shape created in the vertically drawn ‘vesica’ symbol denotes both the idea of mouth and creator.
Putting all three meanings together — ‘gate’, ‘mouth’ and ‘forces of the creator’ — we have the sense of the field or opening between the worlds being the creator’s mouth! The field of our conscious awareness, mediated by mind and heart, is the creator’s mouth. And the creator ‘speaks’ through this mouth by our processes of thinking, feeling, perceiving. In other words, we are an aspect of ‘the creator’ and can draw on ‘the forces that are the creator’ when the ‘gate’ or aperture of the field of conscious awareness is open between the worlds.
The correspondence of meanings from these glyphs takes us still deeper into a consideration of identity and consciousness, as we see that the way I have been using the ‘vesica piscis’ symbol is starting to reveal the need for a more complex interpretation.
Up until this point I have been explaining that the wellspring of the flow rises in the ‘inner’ realm, represented by the left hand circle of the ‘vesica’ symbol. But the symbolism of the Egyptian glyphs suggests something less linear than this. The ‘forces that are the creator’ are plural, and seem to arise within the field or aperture of conscious awareness itself. Heart and mind form both the centers of the two circles and the poles of the field of consciousness — as if they draw down perception from deeper levels of awareness:
The flow of being arises from a non-dimensional place and expresses and moves through the whole circuitry of inner and outer awareness. This implies that while the inner circle is transcendent, or non-manifest, it still has a kind of dimensionality to it. It is the ‘heaven’ or energetic pattern to the ‘earth’ of manifest form.
In his profound analysis of the issues raised by the quantum theory, David Bohm evolved a radically new way of understanding which involved a deeper order of interiority within the universe itself. For Bohm, the encounter with the forces of the subatomic world, that had begun in the early part of the 20th century, required a less linear insight into ourselves and our interactions with the material world than had prevailed for so long, as part of our inheritance from Newton’s classical or mechanical model of the universe. It certainly warranted a deeper response than merely careening on in the search for some ultimate bottom level of reality:
‘It is not commonly realized, .. that the quantum theory implies that no such bottom level of unambiguous reality is possible.’
The three main features of the quantum theory are the way electrons act as discrete quanta, able to jump from one circuit to another around a nucleus without passing between them, as if some other order of relationship was in place that could not be discerned; the context-dependence of any measurement in the subatomic realm, whereby what was being measured sometimes appeared as a particle, sometimes as a wave; and the property of non-locality, in which particles demonstrated a connection between themselves even though they were at considerable distances apart. All three features overturned the classical and mechanical worldview. Bohm’s insight into what is being revealed at the subatomic level involved what he termed the implicate order:
‘In terms of the implicate order, an alternative interpretation is possible in which one can ascribe the phenomena [ie. behaviour of sub-atomic particles]to a deeper reality that underlies them. However, this reality is not mechanical. Rather, its basic action and structure are understood through enfoldment and unfoldment.’
According to Bohm, the implicate order is constantly unfolding into the forms and appearances around us. Everything — from the brief glimpse of an electron, to an idea in thought, to a sunflower, to a human being — is unfolded from a deeper order and will be enfolded back into it. Each relatively stable sub-whole of this flowing movement that Bohm called the holo-movement, is explicate, and enfolds within it qualities of the larger whole of the implicate order. Everything is related by an interior dimension that is not to do with space and time, but some other order of relationship.
In this view of things, however, the implicate order is shaped and changed by the expansion of itself by means of the sub-wholes, or parts, or aspects of the explicate order. In other words, the whole order is not static, but endlessly expanding and changing. In fact in both directions, from the explicate into the implicate, and vice-versa, meaning can be continuously extended:
‘What this implies is that meaning is capable of a indefinite extension to ever greater levels of subtlety as well as of comprehensiveness — in which there is a movement from the explicate toward the implicate…’
And, equally, there can be an indefinite extension of subtlety of meaning moving from the implicate toward the explicate, which the mysterious behaviour of subatomic particles seems to bear out — with no sign of an ending, a final, finite building block.
The translation of meaning and matter into other levels goes on all the time in the natural world. Plants turn water, oxygen, minerals, sunshine into themselves and their fruit; we eat them or their fruit, and turn them into the energy of our physical actions and our thoughts, which then create still more levels of meaning. Our bodies turn what is left into waste fecal matter, which returns substances to the ecosystem via the sewage plants. If a horse or a cow is doing the eating, then their waste matter is used directly as fertilizer.
The implicate order is at work within the world of the cosmos and nature, but human consciousness has a particularly advanced ability to ‘grow’ meaning. In fact, our consciousness is designed to participate in the expansion of meaning out of the interchange of the inner and outer realms. Therefore, we can paint in more texture to the symbol of the ‘vesica’ by naming the two dimensions implicate and explicate:
What is manifest or explicate helps to clothe and gives evidence of, the transcendent or implicate, but also serves to engender new starting points that are incubated within the implicate. And what is stored as essence, as new possibility within the transcendent, is the shaping blue print to create new forms in the outer. They are equal partners, as it were. The meaning and significance does not just move one way — all flowing out from the transcendent to make the outer worthy — but the flow is both ways, moving also from the outer or explicate into the implicate to expand its possibility as well. Like the figure eight of infinity, meaning, including the sense of who we are, unfolds and enfolds in an endless process of expansion. In this way, we live between what is, and what is becoming. The future is always casting its shadow before us, and we are constantly guiding our lives towards the unfoldment of their unending potential.
So then the question arises, what are the ‘forces of the creator’ that express through the ‘mouth’ of our conscious awareness? David Bohm spoke of something he called the ‘force of necessity’ which he admitted he did not have a firm definition for:
‘This force of necessity is of course a somewhat vague idea in my mind too. If I see an implicate becoming explicate, then I think of a still deeper implicate from which arose the force which made it move from the implicate to the explicate …’
In other words, identity or the ‘forces of the creator’ reach to infinite depths within us: ‘And I am suggesting that these processes have access to an, in principle, unlimited depth in the implicate order’. There are heavens upon heavens. What is explicate at one level, is implicate to another, and vice-versa. My thought is implicate to the action it might produce. My action through, say a phone call, becomes a new level of implicate causing new unfolding into form: arranging to meet my friend for coffee. My action of having coffee is explicate to the thought it engenders of meeting regularly, or, perhaps a more subtle or deeper level of implicate, suddenly, sitting there in conversation, a line for a poem occurs to me.
The universe, implicate and explicate, is like an intricate celtic knot, endlessly forming and dissolving, flowing, indivisible and alive with the expansion of meaning. Here again is that sense of something ‘embroidered’ or meaningfully interconnected that was the original connotation of the Greek ‘Kosmos’.
The notion of an implicate and explicate order deepens what is meant by the idea of the inner and outer worlds. There are not, and never really were, two worlds except as a metaphor. There is one intertwined reality, some of it in forms that we perceive, some of it, that our senses anyway, cannot perceive.
There are interesting parallels here with what we now know about the way our brain works. According to McGilchrist, the right brain maintains a broad open awareness of everything, it recognizes what is new, understands what is implicit. The left brain is able to focus very narrowly and exactly, and is more logical, it prefers what is predictable. (We could even liken the brain itself to the symbol of the ‘vesica’, with its two hemispheres, linked by the corpus callosum.) In a sense one could say, that the left brain is more at home in the explicate world, in what has already formed, already happened; and the right brain is at home in the implicate, it is better at perceiving the shape of things to come, and arriving at new contexts and ways of seeing. Both hemispheres are processing the same reality, but in two different yet potentially complementary ways. And it is not so much a case of inner and outer, but larger and narrower.
In this way the brain itself seems to be designed to help us continue to grow meaning, and expand the world we live in, by means of the interaction between the two halves of itself. The right brain is more attuned to what McGilchrist calls the ‘Other’, which means ‘all that is’ as opposed to this little bit that we can know in this moment — the infinity of the universe, or this one little pixel that Hubble has photographed.
Therefore the structure of the brain reflects nature of universe in which it came about and, I would add, our own identity. It helps us give temporary perceptual clothing to the infinite of both ourselves and the universe. As Krishna found, the infinite is not knowable in its fullness by our mind but knowable in the moments of perceptions, of joy, of flow, and knowable in the sense of our ability to participate in the act of creating and expanding which is also the nature of the universe.
Even the idea of linear time is modified, as if there is not a simple uni-directional spooling out of events passing, but more an emergence, submergence and re-emergence, that is never quite the same. Similar to the way an Amaryllis unfolds from its bulb according to a precise design, fades away, and unfolds again, but never in exactly the same version. As human beings, we have the ability to contribute to the emergence of cycles of time and creation. We can unfold forms out of ideas, turn invisible ‘seed’ possibilities into events.
The notion that there might be cycles of time and emergence, some of which our consciousness itself participates in, seems to be at the root of the poetic evocation of the creative process in Chapter One of Genesis:
‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.’
The implicate and the explicate. And out of this first heaven and first earth, comes the further expansion of heavens and earths in a seven stage process. The number seven is associated with creation. There are seven endocrine glands in the human body, seven notes in the musical scale, seven colours in the rainbow and our seven week days still echo the seven ‘days’ of creation. Each of the seven stages is prefaced by the phrase: ‘And God said,’ the forces of the creator ‘speaking’ through the mouth of the creator, the field of awareness between heart and mind:
‘And God said, Let there be light, and there was light;…’
The forces from deep within the implicate, become aware — ‘Let there be light’ : a new insight, ‘and there was light’. Let there be a firmament, a possibility, and there was. Let there be a form, details, grass, herbs, and there were. Every time God says, Let this or that happen, it does. The light appears, the firmament divides the waters, the grass and herbs spring up. The ancient, repetitive words form a poetic evocation of the cascading levels of the creative process. Later on in Genesis 28, this same process is seen in a dream by Jacob as a ladder:
‘ And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.’
And the same fundamental idea of the way the undimensional is gradually translated into form lies behind the different worlds of making from the Kabbalah and the inner hierarchies of Buddha nature. Therefore to participate in creation is to participate in a source of insight that goes beyond definition and yet which is also common, shared both with nature and other people:
‘In that deep force, the last fact behind which analysis cannot go, all things find their common origin. For the sense of being which in calm hours rises, we know not how, in the soul, is not diverse from things, from space, from light, from time, from man, but one with them and proceeds obviously from the same source whence their life and being also proceed. We first share the life by which things exist and afterwards see them as appearances in natureand forget that we have shared their cause.’
Emerson, from ‘Self-Reliance’
This source of wholeness and this commonality are why the impulses and inspirations we have when in the identity of the creator are coherent ‘seed bearing fruit‘. They are drawn out of a matrix that is generative. They arise from and express the harmony of the fundamental unit of measure, which is also the fundamental unit of meaning and of relationship — so our thoughts partake of this same quality, as do the words and actions that spring in turn from our thoughts.
It is simply not possible to participate in the identity of the creator — who we deeply are — and produce destructive things or do harm to others.