A Coherent Approach to Reality

June 28, 2011

David Bohm on Coherence and Consciousness:

If we can have a coherent approach to reality, then reality will respond coherently to us.

But nature has been tremendously affected by our way of thinking. There is very little left on earth, that isn’t affected by how we were thinking.

The major source of unhappiness is that we are incoherent and therefore produce results that we don’t really want. And then, trying to overcome them, we keep on producing them.

We need a period of emptiness and quiet where we can go into this.

Wholeness will arise between us all, in participation rather than separation. We are internally, not externally, related to everything by consciousness. Consciousness is an internal relationship to the whole.

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David Bohm about coherence from Art, Science and Spirituality / Music from Schubert’s 8th Symphony (Unvollendete) / Image Source / More videos / More David Bohm Blogposts

A coherent approach to reality


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben Tremblay

I’m trying to remember something from Rumi, along the lines of “Certainty is knowledge, but doubt is insight”.
What came to mind when I read “… a coherent approach to reality, then reality will respond coherently to us” is that we’re quite capable of reframing our experience (via “cognitive schema”, using tactics like selective attention) so that our depiction of “reality” affirm our world view, as though our “coherent approach” acts like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As for “trying to overcome them, we keep on producing them” huh huh I’m sure many wise teachers have said something like, “Insanity is doing the same thing again and again expecting different outcomes”! :-)

So I have to say that consciousness remains somewhat mysterious; when I’m engaged in skilfull rationalization, am I acting consciously? am I manifesting awareness and authentic presence? or just following along as L-brain spins out its ideological commentary as I seek consistency? (We don’t like dissonance; we like confusion even less!)

But I think you end on a high note: I think the finest state of being (“profound relaxation”?) is where our consciousness is fluid and responsive, so there’s never the slightest risk of being “contradicted” by external reality since there’s never dogma to be contradicted.

nice to meet you



Ben, nice to meet you too. Many interesting things that you are saying, ‘doubt is insight’ is really is true, I think. Lately I am thinking that if there is no paradox, it most likely is not true. But maybe that is a bit too much :)

What you say about selective attention, actually I think that is what Bohm does not mean. My understanding at this point is that he sees that as the source of confusion. Well, nothing wrong with selective attention, as long as you are being aware of it. But what I think he means is that you have to really pay attention to the whole of what is presented.

And for ‘trying to overcome them, we keep on producing them’, somehow I feel I understand what he means, but the next moment I am losing it.

As in ‘engaging in skilful rationalization being conscious’, I am not sure if that suggests awareness and authentic presence. I agree that we don’t like dissonance and confusion, but as I understand Bohm, and along with that my own experience, giving attention to that confusion while watching your own reaction, is the only (maybe) way to deal with it.

Yes, ‘fluid and responsive’ and ‘no dogma’ sound very good to me!


Ben Tremblay

Hi there –
I didn’t mean to focus on “selective attention”. I think of that sort of thing as being like optical illusions; confirmation bias, recency bias, observer bias, the list goes on and on … it’s just how the brain operates. I meant nothing more than that. (Roshi Jiyu Kennett of Mt Shasta Abbey talked about “the builder of the house of ego” in context with formal Soto Zen. I liked that.)
My point was that we can nurture those mmmmm heuristics. Not saying we should. Not saying they’re beneficial. Just saying that we can.

As for “doubt as insight”, no credit here! All thanks to Rumi for that one. :-)

Oh gee I’m straining to recall something … a YouTube with Bohm and HHDalai Lama … meh, no luck. Anyhow, I remember Ani Pema Chödron talking about how if we’re always looking out in terms of “problems” then we’re constantly working to find solutions … and re-creating the original situation. (Which, to my way of thinking, is another perhaps unconcious tactic / strategy.)

“giving attention to that confusion while watching your own reaction” … huh huh … I can’t speak for folk of the Theravadin persuasion, but that there pretty much captures the heart essence of zazen and samatha meditation! “Watching the movement of mind” is how I’d put it. :-)




‘The builder of the house of ego’, I like that too. I don’t know how he means that, but actually I think that building process is extremely important. The ego has to desolve or die or transform, but in order for that to happen, I think it first has to be build into something solid.

‘Nurture heuristics’, I had to search and translate a bit to understand what you mean by that, but I think that is something I actually do a lot and really enjoy doing. Searching just as long until I come up with a concept that does make sense to me.

Yes, that looking in terms of problem and re-creating the original situation is something I can not get my head around so well yet. Somehow I have the feeling it is important to ‘understand’ it as a whole, the ‘meaning’ of why things happen.

‘Watching the movement of mind’ is indeed another way of putting it, I guess, although ‘mind’ is not enough to watch if I understand what Bohm means. Especially emotions and bodily reaction are important, although I think that mainly counts when we get confused or meet paradoxes.

But it is really difficult to know exactly what everyone means with very general words like ‘consciousness’, ‘thought’ and ‘mind’. Do they include emotions or any physical reaction? Bohm talks about ‘thinking and thought’, and ‘feeling and felt’, to differentiate between a ‘static’ and ‘active’ state (that is, if I understand it right) and I really feel such differentiations are really important, although I would not know at this point how to handle that.


Pablo S.

Thanks for sharing Bohm, this is essential.


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