Aesthetic Theology

Aesthetic News Archive

Past News, March 2012

David Bohm, the Implicate Order & Bach

Recently I gave an illustrated talk to the Yorkshire branch of the Scientific and Medical Network entitled "Aesthetics, from Plato to Neuroaesthetics, Fibonacci to Morality, Bach to David Bohm". The conclusion of the talk was very much in line with American quantum physicist David Bohm and his advocation of a new world order/explanation.

Referring to quantum theory, Bohm's basic assumption is that "elementary particles are actually systems of extremely complicated internal structure, acting essentially as amplifiers of information contained in a quantum wave." As a consequence, he has evolved a new and controversial theory of the universe--a new model of reality that Bohm calls the "Implicate Order."

The theory of the Implicate Order is an ultraholistic cosmic view; it connects everything with everything else. Rather like a hologram in principle, any individual element could reveal "detailed information about every other element in the universe." The central underlying theme of Bohm's theory is the "unbroken wholeness of the totality of existence as an undivided flowing movement without borders." “the holomovement enfolds and unfolds in multidimensional order, the dimensionality of which is effectively infinite”.

The explicate order is a projection from higher dimensional levels of reality, and the apparent stability and solidity of the objects and entities composing it (i.e. humanity and all solid objects) are generated and sustained by a ceaseless process of enfoldment and unfoldment.

Bohm believed that there is an underlying cosmic intelligence that supplies the information--the Player of this game, who is the third category and which is engaged in endless experimentation and creativity, accruing an infinity of experienced being. Bohm sees the cosmos as in a state of process, a "feedback" universe that continuously recycles forward into a greater mode of being and consciousness. Consciousness is an exchange between the explicate and implicate orders, moving itself (through its sub-totalities) into higher and higher levels of consciousness; it is a feedback process that results in a growing accumulation of understanding.

Bohm considers the human individual to be an "intrinsic feature of the universe, which would be incomplete--in some fundamental sense" if the person did not exist. He believes that individuals participate in the whole and consequently give it meaning. Bohm accepted that a human body is a microcosm of the macrocosm and so the order of the universe manifests itself within the human body. Thus enfolded within us is every aspect of the Universe, past and present. In other words each of us is a hologram of the universe.

What has this to do with Aesthetic Theology? Two ideas spring to mind. When I translate this into ideas I can understand I start with myself and all the elements of which I am composed, and the energy with which I operate. These elements were fashioned in exploding stars and scattered into the universe. In fact we can trace these back to the origins of the Universe and the Big Bang some 13.2 billion years ago (if indeed this ever took place and there are now some who advocate an 'Electric Universe' which gainsays this). Come what may, that from which I am made has been around since the very beginning.

We were, in other words, all there at the point of creation. Now if Bohm is right in his contention that not only is everything interconnected but that all particles have knowledge of all their existences this I feel could be a possible explanation for the way in which performers seem to tap into the mind of the composer, and that their feeling of being larger than the sum of the parts is their point of contact with this Implicate order in which is 'enfolded' not only the mind and music of the composer but also the building blocks of the Universe (see Music in Theology). Here I particularly include mathematics, and the forms and shapes to which that music conformed, i.e canon and counterpoint.

The Renaissance and Baroque periods, consequently, are critical to our understanding because here we have, first, true democracy of expression because all parts are equal and second, acknowledgment of the mathematical laws of the Universe within which the artistry is expressed. Further, when we hear musical compositions, like the fugues and counterpoint of Bach, they seem to express nothing more than extremely abstract modes of feeling, without arousing any associations that would impel the mind to make a more concrete interpretation. Music here goes beyond language because our emotional literal vocabularies have been constructed to communicate only the emotions of everyday life. Consequently we have to go even deeper into our psyches to understand, which many are not able to do first time off – this is why many find these forms boring. They have not cultivated the inner abilities to comprehend them at a deep level. Such compositions are more heavily based on mathematics than other forms and so they take us deeper not only into ourselves but also into the structure and mathematical patterns of the universe. Such music, for me therefore, is an integrated microcosm of the interwoven mathematical patterns of that first and ultimate Creativity and a reciprocal expression to that creativity, i.e. in performing or listening to say a Bach fugue we are experiencing our hologram of the universe at its basic creative level.

The other thought I have is about the nature of God. If 'He' is indeed the 'Player' in Bohm's theory who is gaining ever more experience and knowledge as the world evolves then all life should be viewed as an evolutionary journey for both humanity and God, and one in which that first great creativity is answered and developed by that which was created, i.e. humanity. We have produced Art, Buildings, Poetry and Music which Nature cannot. That is our ultimate and basic response to being created, to respond by being creative ourselves. And remember that the same neural pathways used by aesthetic appreciation are those used for virtue and morality. Like our double helix DNA, aesthetics and morals are intertwined, and as such are the essentials of life. Thus Aesthetics is the language of the both God and the Universe. It is the basis of our inter-connection.