An Interview with David Bohm, English Part 5



Interviewer: … the way of making pictures in three dimensions.

Bohm: In three dimensions where you don’t make a point to point correspondence between object and image, but where the waves, what you do is you take the waves from the whole into each region.

Interviewer: So you can make .. in three dimensions.

Bohm: Yes, and not only that, but each part of the image contains an image of the whole. But with less detail than the whole.

Interviewer: So you feel that the condition of each human individual is to be this fussy part of the hologram that contains the whole.

Bohm: Yes, but at the same time he’s a contributor to the whole. You see, we have to, that both views must be maintained.

Interviewer: But is this something that’s created through history or has it been there all the time?

Bohm: Oh, I think it’s build into the way we are. The groups were smaller in the past, that’s all you see. Originally there were small groups of twenty to forty hunter gatherer and then societies got larger. And as they got larger it became difficult to maintain a coherent whole. We had wars and many other conflicts and we now have this challenge of five billion people, we’ve got to make it a coherent whole or else we won’t survive.

Interviewer: So it’s an entirely new challenge.

Bohm: Yes, I don’t think it ever was before.

Interviewer: And your basic idea is that the architecture of human society is now such that there is an interaction between all the five million people at one time ..

Bohm: Five billion.

Interviewer: Five billion, sorry. But there’s no actual understanding of ..

Bohm: Well, actually they are a whole but it’s incoherent. You see, they can not avoid being a whole. They’re exchanging. Every person is according to what the others are. If two people are enemies, each one makes the other, right. Is that clear?

Interviewer: Each makes the other an enemy?

Bohm: Well, what he is, you see, two enemies are very closely related. People who hate each other are extremely closely related, except that they are in an incoherent relationship. One that is very destructive, but you see hate is a very close relationship but it is destructive. Now it has to be turned to something else.

Interviewer: In this transition from seeing the world as parts to the world as a whole, that you think we all need to survive, there are going to be many difficulties. How do you see that transition?

Bohm: Well, I don’t see exactly how it’s going to happen. I think we are faced with this challenge as the danger of nuclear war, the danger of ecological destruction and many other dangers. The fact that our cities are becoming difficult to live in, cars will eventually clog them up. People are committed now to the view of growth, economic growth. But that is just what will destroy the planet.

If five billion people want to live at the present European American standard living, the Japanese and so on, then they will be like a swarm of locust descending on the planet. So somehow there has to be a change where we say that this desire for material goods has to be more limited, which means people have to find something else in life, if they want to survive. There will not even be material goods if we keep this up.

You get much more carbon dioxide, much more pollution, much more everything. So there is this challenge and I see a beginning of a movement, especially an ecological challenge, some movement has occurred on the nuclear challenge, because of Gorbachev, which is encouraging. So there is some movement in that way, the question is, will it be fast enough. If we had more time, I would be much more ..

Interviewer: But it seems that in the past five years there has been quite a change e.g. on nuclear armaments.

Bohm: Yes, I think primarily the coming in of Gorbachev, that he has changed the whole atmosphere. If he can sustain that, that would be very good. And other people from the west could finally move with him.

Interviewer: So where you see the initiative these days is really in the east rather than in the west.

Bohm: For the moment, yes. There is some initiative in the west developing on the ecological question, it’s just very rudimentary. I don’t think people .. the magnitude of a change that is needed. Somebody said that we spend a trillion dollars a year throughout the world on armaments, that amount spend on the ecology would solve the problem. But if you spend a lot less than that, it probably wont either it will slow it down.

Interviewer: What is the most important thing, money or consciousness?

Bohm: Consciousness. Because where the money is spend will also depend on consciousness. Whether we feel that we are part of this one world or that we all think that we are separate.

Interviewer: Now Niels Bohr had this notion of an open world and he was rather ridiculed when he published his open letter to the United Nations in 1950 about the necessity of human beings talking together about the bombs. How would you see that today?

Bohm: Well, I think he saw the necessity at that time but people weren’t ready for it. Perhaps he was influenced by that feeling of wholeness too, which was in his view. I think that people are more ready to listen to that now but the crisis is developing at a very fast rate.

Interviewer: So in a sense, what you’re saying is that Bohr was seeing something and nobody really understood and maybe because he didn’t dare to say it.

Bohm: Well, I think that they weren’t ready to listen. The people didn’t want this one world. They were frightened of it, they said we have so many enemies we want to take care of ourselves first and so on. And those attitudes still prevail but there’s a movement away. And not for people to listen.

Interviewer: Now if we take the tradition that you’re out of, of natural scientists that have been involved in discussing society, that is traditionally a tradition where spirituality and worldviews and religion are seen as enemies. If you take the left wing natural scientist tradition from before the second world war. How come that scientists today are interested in worldviews and spirituality?

Bohm: Well, some are. I don’t think a great many. Partly because the science itself has opened up that possibility in the way that I described. And partly because I think for just as with other people there is a gloring sense of the inadequacy of the old approach. It will not only not solve all the problems that are said, but also it creates a kind of empty life. If you could imagine that we are successful as the economy grew and grew and grew, what would we have at the end, people would be bored. In the 60s when there was prosperity, you had all these hippies. They found it had no meaning. If we had the kind of prosperity that people hoped for, I think the whole thing would collapse faster than ever.

Interviewer: But how are we going to become hippies, through prosperity or through poverty?

Bohm: Prosperity would make hippies, poverty might make people afraid to lose their jobs. But I think neither of those ways is going to work. A change of consciousness is needed. And the worldview is part of that.

Interviewer: And what is the most important way that this changing consciousness will come about, you think?

Bohm: I don’t know. I see many factors, it’s like a stream from many springs. Not only a worldview, but I think one of the most important factors would be to have dialogue of many different kinds of people. Not only east and west and north and south. For example a dialogue among scientists, I think scientists find it very hard to have a true dialogue because they’re so committed to their views. They should have dialogues among each other or with non-scientists or even religious.

Interviewer: And now in 20 min you are going to have a dialogue with the scientists here at the Nils Bohr institute. It’s been some decades since your ideas have been presented here hasn’t it?

Bohm: Yes, well I came here in 1957 for one month in the summer and then again in ‘58. Now at that time I was just moving from Israel to England and we spend a month here at the institute. We talked about physics mostly at that time.

Interviewer: Do you find that the kind of ideas that you present are easily understood in an environment like the Bohr institute.

Bohm: Well, I haven’t tried the Bohr institute yet, I just came. But I think that scientists find it harder, in some ways, than many other people you see, then some other people. Because there is still a strong commitment, perhaps partly unconscious, to the old atomistic worldview.

Interviewer: So what you’re saying is that science has shown us something that scientists do not want to see?

Bohm: Well, they have become so used to the way of seeing it, that they don’t want to change, you see they feel uncomfortable about changing. And they feel there’s no reason to change, they say we’re doing so well now, why should we change. In one sense it looks as if we’re doing very well, you see, but if you look at the broader view, it looks very dangerous.

Interviewer: Thank you.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4


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