The Importance of Individual Human Experience

David Bohm has some very interesting things to say about how he sees the future of our world.

In the interview from the previous post, he says things that, at first sight, just look like common sense.

But if you look closer to what he says, I think it is rather revolutionary.

At a certain point the interviewer asks him to give his view on human relations in society and Bohm gives the following answer:

I think it is essential to have coherence and order and harmony, that the whole society moves together with a common pool of information, which is not imposed, but what is established by exchange and dialogue.

The emphasis is mine, because I think it is easy to get focused on the harmony and the dialogue. But personally I think the essence of what he says, to get to this whole pool of information, individual human experience plays a very important role. Further on in the interview he elaborates on that.

But first he says that the general trend has not gone very far yet in exchange and dialogue. Everything is still divided into nations and religions and other kind of groups that behave as if they were independent.

Then the interviewer asks if Bohm is moving the emphasis from the individual to the whole, on which Bohm answers some things that are very interesting.

I took them apart so that I can give my understanding of what he says. And besides that, I can place it in a certain order, which I think is important.

  • Each individual contains the whole.
  • Each their own or move together.
  • Impose leads to conflict.
  • The individual needs freedom.
  • Find out for themselves.
  • Calmly entertain each others views.
  • Look at all the views.
  • No need to agree with other views.
  • Holding all the views is holding the whole.
  • A common pool of information to guide society.


Each individual contains the whole

Bohm says that each individual already contains the whole information field of society. It is the whole information field, but each individual contains that information field in their own way.

But if each individual contains that whole information field of society, how does it get in there? Bohm says that most of it comes from society. Both information and misinformation. And both of them, information as well as misinformation, determine who you are and what you do. He says the information gets picked up by osmosis. That what you pick up from family, friends, from school, what you read, what you watch on television.

But it also might be build in, or there may be hidden connections we don’t know. But implicitly each person contains the whole.

My understanding: This ‘in their own way’ is an important distinction, I think. Because it is not something objective, not something that is the same for everyone. As mentioned in the posts The meaning of Values and Beneath the World of Logic, each individual has his own unique way to see the world.


Each their own, or move together

Here Bohm gives two different approaches to move further as humans.
1. Each individual with his own pool of information leading to chaos.
2. Or moving together with a common pool of information.

My understanding: So it is impossible for each individual to act upon his own understanding without coming into a conflict. Each individual may think his own way of understanding is the only way. But at some point it is different from others. And the result is chaos.

The alternative is moving together. But then those with the most power have to decide which way to go. And as becomes clear in the next point, that is not Bohm’s idea.


Impose leads to conflict

So it seems that moving together is a better option then the chaos of many individual views. But Bohm seems clear in his desire for moving together without imposing certain views upon others. He says there is an attempt to impose, but that might lead to a conflict with the pool.

My understanding: Bohm talks about a common pool of information. And here he mentions a conflict with that pool when certain views are imposed. If I understand what he means, then I think that is a very important observation.

If certain views are imposed upon others, no matter how well meant, the natural individual views get blurred. And as a result people just follow rules that go against their own self.


The individual needs freedom

‘The individual needs to have freedom to look at all the information and determine in his own way whether it is right or not.’

My understanding: I think there are 3 important things he says here. First there is the concept of the pool of information. I already went into that in the post Make the Quantum World Understandable, where according to Bohm information is a different concept then energy. Which I think is a very important distinction.

Second is that he says the individual has to find out for himself if certain information is right or not. I will go into that in the next point.

But there is the third point where he says that the individual needs freedom to look at all the information. I think this is an extremely important point. And I think that goes way beyond learning at school. It is about having access to mediums like the internet. But also a freedom from pressure to learn things that are not so much necessary then that it is distracting from what is important for the individual.

I think people have an inherent curiosity. They want to learn, they want to discover, they want to find out how things work, they want to improve skills. But they need freedom to do so. And not have to give all their time and energy learning things that are forced upon them, give stress and finally result in knowledge that is only useful in the eyes of others.


Find out for themselves

So then when the individual had the freedom to look at all the information, he now has to ‘determine in his own way whether it is right or not’.

My understanding: Another very important point I think. By looking at all the information, some information might cover his experiences and other information might not. To determine in his own way whether it is right or not, might seem a bit odd (how about scientific evidence) but as long as it is seen as personal experience combined with knowledge, and not some view that gets imposed on others, there is no harm in itself because it is just that, individual knowledge.


Calmly entertain each others views

‘We have got to be able to talk about it, to dialogue, to entertain each others view, to look at it, calmly’.

My understanding: The next few points seem to be the most characteristic for Bohm’s vision. They are at the heart of what he calls dialogue. Dialogue is not just discussion, it is not debate. It has a much more exploring and exchanging character. It requires an open mind, that is capable of putting aside our own prejudice. It needs to be able to see others as individuals.

Individuals that had different experiences.

Bohm calls it here even ‘entertain’ each others views. So that seems much more than just ‘listen’ to them. I think he means a more active attitude. Really think about them from several points of view. See what fits in with our own worldview and what does not. And search for possible explanations.


Look at all the views

‘So that each one can look at all the views’.

My understanding: That means that dialogues will have to be recorded in some way. That people are capable of looking at all of them, ordering them in different ways. And then see what patterns will emerge.


No need to agree with other views

‘He does not necessary agree with them’.

My understanding: Also a very important point I think. It requires a certain development to be able to consider other worldviews without necessary agreeing with them. We need to be able to step outside our own world, to be able to see others.

If we do not have to accept them, if there is no need to totally agree with them, it is much easier to do so. And it is essential to do so anyway, because there might always be certain aspects that fit in with our own vision. And not only fit in, but an addition that would not otherwise have become known.


Holding all the views is holding the whole

‘Each individual, when he holds all the views then he holds the whole’.

My understanding: I think what Bohm means here is that all views, no matter how absurd some of them seem to be, have some degree of truth in them. And each of them is needed to paint the whole picture. We might not agree, we might have strong resistance against certain views, but no matter how opposed it is to our own view, some part does have an element of truth.

But it might be that the way it is communicated, is not understood in the way it was meant. So it is important to find a certain agreed upon way that is capable to express all our personal experience and individual knowledge. Which might require something more than language and logic.


A common pool of information to guide society

‘Of that I think will emerge a common pool of information which would guide society’.

My understanding: So according to Bohm we need to look at all views to find all the information. Actually I think it is the only way to find all the information. Because it is hidden deep inside each of us.

But the only way to become aware of it, is to experience life. To live life, to make decisions, to act, make mistakes, come to conclusions and in the end to ‘entertain’ other conclusions. To dialogue. And then, when we have all the information, it can be used to guide society.


The importance of individual human experience

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