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Excerpts from
Infinite Potential: The Life and Times of David Bohm

Bohm and Krishnamurti

CHAPTER 16  The Strength of Bohm’s attack, particularly that matter would take on “the shadowy character of ideas”, is particularly ironic when seen in the light of his later attraction for Hegel and the teachings of Jiddu Krishnamurti. P. 145.

The result was that he cast his net even wider, visiting the local library and bringing home books on the Christian mystics, Indian philosophers, yoga and Buddhism. In particular, he came a work of P. D. Ouspensky and G. I. Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff had taught that people are driven by forces and reactions that are largely unconscious When everyone behaves like a somnambulist, where is human freedom? Freedom, Gurdjieff wrote, is an illusion. Our choices mined by largely underlying irrational impulses. The burning question Gurdjieff posed was how to awaken people from their sleep.

Bohm was struck by the story of how P D. Ouspensky, an important disciple and interpreter of Gurdjieff, had watched people on the London underground and compared them to sleepwalkers.  In his own life Bohm was painfully aware of the irrational and impulsive ways in which people behave. He compared the human race to people asleep on runaway horses. The problem was not so much to control the horse as to wake up the rider, then to have him or her stay awake long enough to realize the danger.

If Gurdjieff had stated the basic problem facing human beings, what was the next step? How was the sleeper to awaken and achieve true freedom? To Bohm, the solutions Gurdjieff had provided were mere psychological tricks. One approach had been to place his disciples in absurd or stressful situations. He would, for example, serve an elaborate meal and press food and drink on disciples long after they were satiated. Because the disciples held Gurdjieff in such respect, they would not refuse what was offered, even beyond the point of personal discomfort. In this way Gurdjieff hoped to awaken in them the realization that they had no will of their own. If they could be awakened for only a moment, they might be able to look more carefully at their own reactions. Operating through confrontation,  paradox, and an extraordinary form of dancing, the Master would alert his disciples to their powers and potentials.

Bohm did not think much of this project. It was unlikely that he could be persuaded to gyrate wildly to music and fling himself from a stage into an orchestra pit. If Bohm were ever to awaken on the runaway horse, he would have to do it in a more sedate and contemplative manner. Still, Gurdjieff had raised the problem that Bohm was now to address with all his energies.

When his former colleagues in the United States learned of this change of interest, it caused them considerable distress.  In the years that followed, some lamented that Bohm had gone "off the rails," that a great mind had been sidetracked, and the work of an exceptional was being lost to science. Yet in the context of Bohm's childhood dreams and visions of light and of vast energies, his fascination with the "ultimate," and his stories of highly evolved consciousnesses living on distant planets, his new path was consistent with everything that had gone before.

The catalyst for what was to be a major transformation of his life and work was discovered by Saral Bohm during one of their visits to the public library. There she came across a book that contained the phrase “the observer is the observed." This sounded to her exactly like the sort of thing David was always talking about in the context of quantum theory.

Saral showed him The First and Last Freedom, written by the Indian teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti: Bohm read the book as fast as he could, then borrowed more books by the same author. Here was a thinker who had seen deeply and authentically into the essence of the human problem. Gurdjieff had warned of the trap of unconscious conditioning; Krishnamurti was pointing to a way out. He wrote of the transformation of human consciousness through the operation of “intelligence," or the "unconditioned."[*] Having long dreamed transcendence, now a doorway to what lies beyond thought was being opened for Bohm. Bohm wrote to the American publisher to discover if Krishnamurti was still alive and if additional books were available. He learned that in June 1961 the Indian teacher would be making his first visit to London in several years. He would hold a series of talks, but no individual meetings were possible.

When the time arrived, the Bohms traveled to London and stayed at a small hotel. At the first talk Bohm would have seen a fine-boned Indian, impeccably dressed in the best that Savile Row had to offer. His features were handsome and delicate, a face that lit up in animation as he spoke, hands gracefully employed to emphasize his words, eyes at one moment soft and compassionate and, at the next, burning with passion. His talk would begin in a tentative fashion, as if he were probing into some new area for the very first time. Possibly he would invite his audience to suggest a topic and then begin tentatively, like connoisseur handling an exceptional piece of porcelain, gently turning it in his hands, commenting on its beauty, pointing out singular features, inviting his audience to participate in his enjoyment rather than offering a dogmatic opinion.

Krishnamurti did not teach in the traditional sense of imparting knowledge, referring to dogmas and ancient traditions, seeking adherents and disciples, suggesting disciplines and practices, and emphasizing a conclusion. Rather, he asked his listeners to accompany him journey. His topics were all-encompassing-suffering, the nature of freedom, the ending of time, "dying to the moment." He proceeded via a series of questions, asking in effect "What is this thing? Could it be this? Could it be that?" His technique, if that is the correct word, was the via negativa, showing the futility of the approaches and answers that other teachers drew upon.

As he spoke, he invested these burning questions with such passion and intensity that his listeners were drawn into the quest, seeking in their own minds a way to answer the questions and each time realizing the inadequacy, indeed the total futility of their answers.  In this way each person was brought to the edge, face to face with the abyss. Responding to Krishnamurti's questions, they traveled into a new terrain and reached that point where the next step would take them into the void. Krishnamurti spoke of the transformation of consciousness, and his audience realized that, no matter how brilliant they might be in physics, law, philosophy, or painting, they were unprepared to make that leap.

Krishnamurti had brought his audience to the perception that whatever they planned, believed in, hoped, or thought about could in no way meet the case. Something totally different was called for.  There was great psychological resistance to this perception, each mind seeking a way of escape. But was it possible to remain with this tension, Krishnamurti asked, to suspend the desperate need for action, engage with such energy that something different came into existence? Again and again those who attended Krishnamurti's lectures found themselves suspended at this point. It should be added that in their personal lives, many of them fell into a sort of paralysis, one in which any form of practical action seemed inadequate.

Being taken to the edge must have been a particularly challenging experience for Bohm. In his physics he had always attempted to go to the limit, constantly seeking the question that lies beyond the question. He had dreamed of transcendence, of what lies beyond the everyday world of shadows. Now he was listening to someone who claimed to voyage and even live in the world beyond that edge. It was of the greatest importance to Bohm that he should talk to him face to face, and he wrote to the London organization. The result was a meeting at the Wimbledon house where Krishnamurti was staying.

Bohm knew little of the personal life of the man he was about to meet.4 Only later did he learn that Jiddu Krishnamurti's origins as a teacher (on the earthly plane, at least) went back to that remarkable woman, Annie Besant, who in her earlier years had been a Fabian, a pioneer of women's rights, and a staunch advocate of birth control. After coming upon Madame Blavatsky's "Secret Doctrine," Besant experienced a religious conversion.

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky had founded the Theosophical Society to teach her syncretic mixture of oriental philosophy and religion. 1907 Besant became the society's president, adding her own brand f esoteric Christianity to the mixture. Theosophists believed, among other things, in figures who guided the spiritual evolution of the man race, and they spoke of the coming of the World Teacher. It as said that this being had suffered many reincarnations in order to reach a state of perfection and that even now a physical body was being prepared for him.

Annie Besant became friendly with Charles Webster Leadbeater, who had earlier been expelled from the Theosophical Society. Convinced of his clairvoyant powers, she had him reinstated, and the two traveled to India, where Leadbeater spotted the son of Jiddu Naraniah, a minor functionary in the Theosophical Society. Leadbeater watched the boy bathing in the river with his companions and was struck by his aura of total selflessness. As he probed into the earlier reincarnations, he became convinced that young Jiddu Krishnamurti was the vehicle for the Bodhisattva Maitreya. Leadbeater and Besant prepared the boy for this manifestation, and while his education was generally conducted along traditional English lines, he was also accepted for instruction on the astral plain by Master Koot Hoomi--all of which caused some controversy within Theosophical circles and precipitated the apostasy of Rudolf Steiner, who went on to form his own Anthroposophical Society.

Krishnamurti's first initiation on the astral plane took place in January 1910, and in the years that followed, he lived in England, advancing through a series of spiritual levels until he reached the point where Lord Maitreya would speak through him.

During this period Leadbeater also spotted D. Rajagopalalacharaya, whom he predicted would become the Buddha of Mercury--admittedly a more modest-sized planet than Earth but one that nonetheless demands a liberal application of sunblock. Rajagopal, who was later to play a significant role in Krishnamurti's life, was sent to England, where he and Krishnamurti met, initially with some reserve. While Rajagopal excelled at his schooling, Krishnamurti failed his examinations and appeared in many ways to be a vacant young man.

But on the astral plane Krishnamurti was moving through spiritual levels much faster than Leadbeater had believed possible. Soon he began to speak in the first person when referring to Lord Maitreya. He claimed not to be the vehicle but to have merged his consciousness with that of "the beloved"--an even more highly evolved spiritual entity than Lord Maitreya.

On several occasions each year, Krishnamurti addressed his followers at large-scale meetings, and while speaking before a large audience at Ommen, Holland, on August 3, 1929, he performed a particularly dramatic act: He formally dissolved the Order of the Star, which had been created around him, with the words "Truth is a pathless land." Human freedom could not be gained by belonging to an organization, practicing a religion, or following a guru, he said. From now on, Krishnamurti would travel the world, giving talks and answering questions. Rajagopal would supervise his various travel and publishing projects.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Krishnamurti had a distinguished following, including such figures as the writer Aldous Huxley. Years later, on hearing Krishnamurti speak at Gstaad, Switzerland, in 1061, Huxley wrote, "It was like listening to a discourse of the Buddha--such power, such intrinsic authority. "In his public talks Krishnamurti spoke of "dying to the moment," of human freedom, and the end of suffering. He hinted at the transformation of consciousness that can take place in a mind that is totally silent. In his own case it appeared that the irrational conditionings that entrap the rest of humanity had never "stuck" with him.

In 1061 he began to record his states of consciousness and write of a mysterious "it," or benediction, that came to him each day in a palpable way. "The process," he wrote, was accompanied by such intense pain in his head and spine that at times he would faint. From the 1920s through the 1940s, he had spoken of Krishna and others visiting him, as if his body and brain were vehicles to be used by other powers.

Into this heady and esoteric world, Bohm entered passionately and  wholeheartedly. In Krishnamurti's books he found a clear analysis of the nature of consciousness and the mechanism whereby the thinker separates himself or herself from the thought and the action of thinking, by positing him or herself as a separate, independent entity. In this act of separation, and in the subsequent reification of the thinker and the thought, lie the origins of human problems. Krishnamurti's observations that "the thinker is the thought" and "the observer is the observed" struck Bohm as resembling his own--and Niels Bohr's--meditations on the role of the observer in quantum theory. Bohm had personally experienced the way in which the observation of a particular thought changes the movement of thought itself. His study of Hegel had led him to similar conclusions about the movement of thought. The physicist was well prepared for his engagement with Jiddu Krishnamurti.

The meeting was important for both men. Before World War II the majority of Krishnamurti's audiences had been connected with the Theosophical Society and were familiar with the language and context in which he spoke. In the 1950s the new audiences were less able to follow his teachings. The world had changed, and Krishnamurti knew that he had to adapt his approach. His discussions with David Bohm therefore came as a particular challenge. Bohm was one of the very few people in the West who could hold a sustained dialogue with Krishnamurti and, in the process, help him to refine his approach to communication, making it less poetic but more precise in the use of certain words.

All this lay in the future, for at their first encounter the two men sat in absolute silence. While it may be unusual to remain quiet in someone's company for so long, Bohm felt an absence of tension. In the end it was Saral who broke the silence, suggesting that Bohm should explain his work to Krishnamurti. Although the Indian teacher would not have understood the technicalities of Bohm's research, he listened attentively and appeared to grasp the spirit of what Bohm was saying.

As Bohm spoke, he had a feeling of intense communication with no holding back. It was the same feeling of energy, openness, and clarity that he had sometimes experienced when speaking with scientific colleagues who were vividly interested in his ideas. At one point Bohm used the word totality, whereupon Krishnamurti jumped from his chair and embraced the physicist, saying, "Yes, that's it. Totality." 15

The meeting was everything Bohm dreamed of. Krishnamurti was totally open and able to go into things with great passion. Bohm compared him to Einstein in his ability to explore deeply in a spirit of impersonal friendship.

Not only had Bohm become disillusioned with Marxism, he had failed to find a community of physicists who were willing to think passionately about the implications of their own subject. The search for transcendence remained one of the most important quests of his life, and he was totally open to the encounter. Following their first meetings Bohm devoted more and more of his time to investigating Krishnamurti's teachings. Their interaction gave him a perspective from which to question the value of his own research, and at times he even contemplated abandoning physics in favor of a total commitment to the Indian teacher.

Bohm's apparent new direction again caused considerable distress among his former colleagues in the United States. For his part, he was finding it increasingly difficult to relate to what other physicists were doing.  P. 200


Non-locality, as we have seen, means that distant objects are correlated in ways that classical physics can never explain.  Correlation does not mean mere synchronization, like two digital waches that continue to tell the same time even when they are far apart. Rather, it is a more active form of correlation that keeps the two particles correlated.  Nor does non-locality imply the sort of synchronization that exists between clocks linked by a radio signal. non-locality, according to conventional quantum theory, has nothing to do with interactions and signals; it is instantaneous and appears to transcend the limits of space and time.

Quantum non-locality cannot therefore be explained on the basis of any conventional field or force; it does not involve signals being sent from one particle to the other. The concept is so difficult to explain precisely because our very language, like our everyday concept of space, is based on fundamental notions of location and separability. Talking about non-locality demands the creation of a new language. When non-locality was found lurking in the heart of Bohm's hidden variable or causal interpretation, it came, according to Vigier, as a great shock to both men.

From Vigier's perspective, Bohm had created his original theory in a bid to restore causality to the heart of physics. Yet now it appeared that non-locality had reemerged to deny causality. He argued with Bohm about the meaning of this non-locality and later recalled thinking up all sorts of causal paradoxes that follow from it-for example, a person travels back in time to meet his father and so prevents his own conception.6

Thus, in Vigier's opinion, non-locality subverted their entire program. So disturbed was he that he abandoned the research altogether and moved into the field of cosmology. He believed that Bohm felt the same way about things, and that it was for this reason that Bohm gave up physics and turned to the teachings of Krishnamurti. Only later, when it was shown that causality is not violated by non-locality, did Vigier return to the de Broglie-Bohm theory.

It should be added that this is Vigier's own interpretation of the events. Bohm may well have been puzzled by non-locality, and he once suggested to Basil Hiley that an absolute non-locality may not be possible. But neither Hiley nor Philippidis, a student who later worked with Bohm, believed Bohm's reaction had ever been so extreme as to cause him to abandon his causal interpretation. Indeed, his hidden variable approach is essentially a local theory that gives what appear to be non-local results!

Why then did Bohm give up his hidden variable work? As far as Hiley was concerned, Bohm simply lost interest in his 1952 paper in favor of his work on topology, prespace, and a new order to physics.  In fact, he did not return to the theory until the early 1970s, when Christopher Philippidis began an independent investigation of hidden variables.

Bohm may have put aside hidden variables, but as far as his colleagues and students were concerned, his passion for physics continued unabated. His lectures and seminars were inspiring, and he radiated ideas when he spoke to his doctoral students. Yet in private, Bohm had periods of dark despondency in which he questioned the value of his work and wondered if he should abandon it altogether. His general discouragement, which was particularly debilitating during his first years in London, was relieved only by his relationship with Krishnamurti. The Indian teacher pointed to a direct awareness of a universal ground, the same ground Bohm that was trying to describe in his physics. As they talked, Bohm's focused energy enabled him to enter into and remain within the "untalkable," at the same time pushing the Indian teacher to clarify and expand his teachings.

In his public talks and private conversations, Krishnamurti would address the nature of thought and the transformation of consciousness. Thought, for Krishnamurti, is a constant activity of the physical brain. (And by "thought," Krishnamurti included feeling and, indeed, all the content of consciousness.) This activity, he explained, operates in response to memory, a record of the past or a sort of internal image. He admitted that thought and the response to memory can be very useful in its proper place--practical matters such as driving a car, doing mathematics, or carrying out scientific research--but when it comes to psychological matters it gives rise to all manner of conflicts and confusions. To take a daily example, a husband may not respond so much to a remark made by his wife, but rather to his whole mental image of his wife, his memory of past remarks, and the complex emotional associations involved. "Thought is a movement in time," Krishnamurti said, and the husband is trapped within by this psychological dimension of time, unable to enter into the actuality of the moment.

This problem arises, in part, because the thinker assumes that he is quite separate from the thought, that he is in control of thought and able to observe it objectively or influence its outcome. But, as Krishnamurti so often emphasized, "the observer is the observed, the ': thinker is the thought." The more one attempts to control one's ' thought, for example, by condemning one's angry reaction, the more an inner conflict is established that feeds the general process of thought.

For Bohm, this insight had strong resonances with his own thinking and with the quantum mechanical inseparability of observer and observed. Indeed, several years later, he and the environmental photographer, Mark Edwards, wrote a book together, Changing Consciousness: Exploring the Hidden Source o f the Social, Political and Environmental Crises Facing our World,7which traced our present environmental and social troubles to the operation of thought.

Many religious and philosophical systems had associated conflict and suffering with the operation of thought. They had also offered practices for bringing thought into proper order. But, for Krish namurti, any practice, technique, approach, or discipline perpetuates the overall situation by separating observer and observed. There is, he taught, no way in which thought can be controlled or made to cease for there is no agent who exists apart from the process itself. Rather, the entire movement has to cease so that something qualitatively different can come into operation. Krishnamurti spoke of this as "dying to thought," suggesting that when this takes place the physical brain no longer supports or gives energy to the movement of thought and thereby becomes totally silent. It is from within this silence that the unconditioned operates.

This was the "transformation of consciousness" that Krishnamurti referred to. For him, it could not be a partial thing, or something that operated in a temporary manner. If the transformation occurred then it would be total and permanent. At times Krishnamurti would refer to the unconditioned as "the intelligence." But before his dialogues with Bohm, Krishnamurti had rarely spoken in a specific way about the nature of this "intelligence." Now Bohm was asking him if its operation brought about a physical mutation of the brain's structure. Krishnamurti agreed that this could take place and that it was possible for brain cells to regenerate.

There were times when, in dialogue with Bohm, Krishnamurti became so moved that he was forced to leave the room, saying that he had never openly discussed such matters before.8 On one occasion Krishnamurti said that there was no thought present within the room. Bohm believed that there was a little thought moving within his brain, but Krishnamurti told him that whatever thought arose was not held on to but was allowed to die away. On another occasion, as they entered very deeply into the idea of universal mind, the excitement in the atmosphere became palpable. Krishnamurti held on to Bohm, saying, "What did you feel?" "I didn't feel anything," Bohm replied. "There was just great clarity." "That's it!" Krishnamurti replied.

Krishnamurti claimed to have undergone that transformation of consciousness that occurs when the mind "dies to thought." As a result, he taught, his physical brain was totally silent and his perception of truth was immediate and direct. But could others enter into this state? those who had followed his teachings asked. Bohm himself believed that such a transformation could occur if sufficient energy was generated when a person was in dialogue with Krishnamurti himself. After all, he believed, the mind is a non-local. If only ten people underwent this profound change, he once told me, they would act as a nucleus to change the whole of society.9

His discussions with the Indian teacher were so important to Bohm that he and Saral traveled each year to Saanen, Switzerland, where Krishnamurti gave public talks. It was during this period that Bohm talked to him about his physics. Krishnamurti did not think much of science, or for that matter of music, art, philosophy, or literature. But he nonetheless advised Bohm to "try to begin from the unknown." For Bohm, the crucial issue was how to dissolve the rigid compartments of knowledge and allow something new and creative to operate.

Thought is the tool whereby science proceeds, yet thought also ' controls the thinker. The deepest scientific insights come about, Bohm believed, only when the mind reaches a state of such intense ` energy that habitual patterns of thought are dissolved. The creative moment of an Archimedes, Newton, or Einstein involved the same transformation of consciousness of which Krishnamurti spoke. Yet enlightenment, for these scientists, occurred only for a brief moment and did not embrace the whole of their lives. They rapidly fell back into an ordinary state of consciousness that Bohm described as rigid and brittle. Krishnamurti, by contrast, spoke of something radical and total.

Krishnamurti demanded that thought be pushed to its limits, to the point where it gave way to something else. Bohm, however, believed that thought still had a significant role to play. When it was "brought into order," it could be a valuable tool. Thinking was the center of his life; how could he carry out physics without it? Such questions continued to trouble Bohm.

Their first visit to Saanen was an idyll for Saral since, after Krishnamurti's daily talk, she and Bohm would walk in the mountains alone and picnic high above the town. A combination of environmental factors made that particular spring unique in its abundance of alpine flowers, and the couple were particularly happy together.lo At that time Bohm was not singled out for any special attention by the other listeners to Krishnamurti's talks. Then, during the next season, Krishnamurti referred to Bohm by name. Everyone's interest was now aroused, for clearly Bohm was someone whom the Indian teacher considered important. Now the Bohms began to receive invitations to dinner from the other listeners. From being a couple on their own, they-or at least David Bohm-became the center of attention.

Krishnamurti had occasionally told young people that celibacy was significant, indicating that it encouraged the generation of great energy and intensity that could lead to psychological transformation. Krishnamurti seems to have raised the matter with Bohm as well, and the physicist believed that the Indian teacher led a celibate life.

It was during this period that Krishnamurti's interaction with Bohm became more sustained and intense-so much so that one day Bohm announced to Saral that Krishnamurti had suggested the two men should live and travel together, exploring questions on a continuous basis. Bohm was moved by this request, although as it turned out, it was something Krishnamurti proposed to others, sometimes on the basis of only a short acquaintance." Saral, extremely surprised, told her husband that if this was what he truly wanted, they would try to work something out.

In the end Bohm chose not to live and travel with Krishnamurti. He did, however, become deeply involved with a new educational experiment. When Krishnamurti spoke of the transformation of consciousness that comes about when the mind "dies to thought," he meant that thought is the mechanical, conditioned response to memory. Would it be possible to bring up young people without much of this weight of conditioning? he asked. For a number of years Krishnamurti resisted requests to open a school in Europe. Earlier schools had been associated with his name in India and the United States, but in recent years nothing in the West reflected his philosophy of education-without-conditioning. Only after his encounters with David Bohm and with Dorothy Simmons (who, along with her husband, Montague, had been running a school for high-IQ delinquents at Royston, near Cambridge) did he agree that such a venture was worth pursuing. He asked the Bohms, the Simmonses, and Mary Cadogan to look into the idea.

The year was 1967, and Bohm was about to attend a conference in Italy when Krishnamurti asked him to lunch and indicated that he wanted the physicist to "run the school." This request came as a great surprise, particularly since Bohm had little administrative experience and was employed as a full-time professor of physics. While Bohm was in Italy, Saral met with the planning committee; and, while speaking at one of their meetings, she was cut short by Krishnamurti with "She's not in it."12 It was a hurt Saral could never forgive nor, for that matter, understand. It seemed to her that her only value in Krishnamurti's eyes was as Bohm's wife. Her feelings toward him had always been mixed, but from then on he became an increasing irritant in the marriage.

Back from Italy, Bohm explained that he could not take on the responsibility of the schoo1.13 In any event, Dorothy Simmons, who already had experience running a school, was to take on the day-to day responsibility. Probably what Krishnamurti had in mind for Bohm was more the role of a resident consultant or some similarly significant position.

With plans for the school firmly established, Krishnamurti began to look around for suitable property. When Bohm was asked to act as a trustee, he became worried that he could be legally responsible forany debts the school incurred if property was purchased with inadequate fund raising. As expected, he entered a state of anxiety, not wanting to refuse Krishnamurti but exhibiting his lifelong insecurity about money. His hesitation in making a definite decision may well have been, for Krishnamurti, further evidence of a lack of commitment. Eventually property was purchased at Brockwood Park, close to the village of Bramdean, near Winchester, and Bohm then assumed the position of trustee.

After the Brockwood Park school opened, it became Krishnamurti's base in England for several months each year. Bohm finally accepted the roles of both school trustee and trustee of the Krishna murti Foundation. Throwing himself heart and soul into the life of the school, he drove with Saral to Brockwood each Friday, only returning late Sunday evening. All the passion that he had once given to physics was now being poured into this educational experiment. He talked regularly with the staff and students, trying to resolve difficulties as they arose. He conveyed to them something of his own search for fundamental truth. As he spoke, he made his audience feel as his equals, coparticipants in the same search. And when he dialogued with Krishnamurti, he acted as stand-in for all of them, articulating the questions they would like to have asked.

Following Krishnamurti's lead, the Bohms become vegetarian. Also like the Indian teacher, Bohm took up meditation. But a word of qualification is needed here: By meditation, Krishnamurti meant something very different from the mental exercise practiced in Eastern religions and philosophies. Such systems came in for scathing attack from Krishnamurti: repeating mantras and following gurus were, he said, particularly stupid ways of wasting time. Any system, effort, belief, or intention directed toward a goal perpetuates the artificial duality that fuels the continued operation of thought.

Meditation, for Krishnamurti, was instead an act of alert attention. He likened it to coming upon a tiger in the forest or a snake on one's path-a sense of total alertness and awareness. In meditation one makes no effort to change, improve, transform, or reach a goal. One simply perceives. Anger, fear, and love are also opportunities for meditation--allowing an awareness of the total nature and structure of what is occurring at each instant. Yet as soon as one assesses such an emotional state, judging anger to be inappropriate or love a virtue, ' then one falls into the trap of separating observer from observed and the thinker from thought.

Bohm had learned from Hegel how thought attempts to hold fast and discover security. In the very act of its arrest, thought discovers its opposite, its antithesis, and in so doing, it begins to move again. No effort, no desire, no goal will ever cause that movement to cease. For in every desire lies the creation of an illusion-the separation of the thinker, the "I," from that which it seeks. In the very desire to arrest thought, the ceaseless movement is born again and sustained. Only something of a totally different quality can bring about its death. This, for Krishnamurti, was the heart of meditation.

Bohm was aware of an intense, attentive watchfulness in Krishnamurti. He noted in particular the attention Krishnamurti gave to the movements of the eyes. It was important to pay attention to these movements during meditation, the Indian teacher once told Bohm. Possibly he meant that the movement of the eyes indicates the movement of thought reflected in the scanning movement of attention.

Bohm set aside a quiet period each day and, while walking, he would watch the movement of his thought. Anger, fear, and thought are, he suggested, like the weather. They are physical, electrochemical movements within the physical brain. Just as we watch the weather without thinking to change it, so too we can watch our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in their contents. How much Bohm was able to achieve and sustain such a nonjudgmental awareness was not at all clear to those who knew him. Bohm often appeared to be so caught up in anxieties that they permeated his entire being.

The exploration of Krishnamurti's teachings had become of I  great importance to Bohm. Saral was also impressed when she first heard the Indian teacher speak and was enthusiastic about the idea of a school. Yet as time went on she became increasingly concerned with the way Brockwood was dominating her life. Each Friday they would drive down to the school; she could no longer set aside the weekend to meet with friends. Even if the couple were to take a vacation together, it had to be at Saanen near Krishnamurti. It was almost as if the Indian teacher had become the third party in their marriage, a triangle in which her own contributions were not being acknowledged. Exclusion was painful for her. As a child, she had been given less attention than her brother, who was frequently ill. Behind her cheerful, optimistic exterior lay distant hurts and insecurities.

Things became more even difficult when Saral expressed misgivings about the changes she began to notice in the school. During their first years with Krishnamurti, everything had been open, but now she felt that many of those who surrounded Krishnamurti were placing an increasing emphasis upon the Indian teacher's image. For example, elaborate means were being used to record and preserve each of his talks and conversations. As far as she could see, he was being turned into a guru. Bohm countered by saying it was no longer sufficient that Krishnamurti should simply talk but that his teachings had to be more widely disseminated. Saral hit back, saying that people at Brockwood had begun to make compromises which went against the spirit of Krishnamurti's teachings. Bohm retorted that Saral saw things in black and white and was unable to make allowances for people. As time went on she found it increasingly difficult to speak critically to her husband about Krishnamurti or the school. As with his earlier '' devotion to Marxism and Soviet Russia, she felt that Bohm was unwilling or unable to look at what was happening.

For Bohm, his mutual exploration with Krishnamurti remained the most significant encounter of his life. The Indian claimed that he was not reproducing a traditional teaching, that at the very moment he spoke he saw truth afresh, as if for the first time. Now Bohm had become a coparticipant in the process, and together they were bringing truth into manifestation.

Some of those around Krishnamurti resented their closeness. They noticed that the Indian teacher's imagery and vocabulary were changing. Bohm, they felt, was overly intellectual and dry, his influence on Krishnamurti was negative, and he was removing poetry and mystery from the teachings.

The tensions came to a head when it was decided to publish the dialogues he and Krishnamurti had held in the early 1970s. These dialogues were so popular that copies of the audiotapes were constantly being borrowed from the school. Edited into book form, the conversations would provide an important avenue whereby a new generation could learn about Krishnamurti.

The task of preparing the manuscript fell to George and Cornelia Wingfield Digby. (George was keeper of textiles at the Victoria and Albert Museum and a recognized authority on William Blake.) But when their completed manuscript was shown to the publication committee, one of its members felt that it did a disservice to Krishnamurti. Not only had his language changed, but a word count showed that Bohm uttered more than the Indian teacher himself. Readers would believe that Bohm was instructing Krishnamurti. Clearly the manuscript could not be published as it was.

The committee sought Krishnamurti's advice. With fine political acumen he threw the ball back into their court, telling them that publication decisions were their province, not his. In the end, with the threat of resignation of one of the committee members hanging over them, publication was suspended.

Bohm heard rumors about the aborted project, but nothing was said to him directly. One day during lunch, a member of the foundation turned to Krishnamurti and said, "You have something to tell David, don't you?"16 Krishnamurti appeared embarrassed, and when the others left, he indicated that the committee had decided not to publish the book. Only certain dialogues would be included in another publication. No explanation was offered, and Bohm assumed that it had something to do with the quality of the recordings. Only later did he learn the real reason. For many years this incident nagged at him like an aching tooth. Why had Krishnamurti not been direct with him? Why had he not explained the true reason?

Despite such occasional doubts, however, Krishnamurti's teachings filled Bohm's early years in London, almost to the point of displacing his interest in physics. In his dialectical materialist period, physics had been infused with hope, but now he felt it could bring no fundamental change to the human race. Knowledge had little to do with the transformation of human consciousness.

Paradoxically, while Bohm harbored these doubts about the value of physics, his students and colleagues at Birkbeck College knew nothing of them. Whenever he spoke about physics, his energy mounted and his mind generated new ideas. Basil Hiley, for one, found it exhilarating to work with Bohm, who also inspired a number of exceptional students. Yet despite his close daily contact with Bohm, Hiley never suspected the extent of the physicist’s involvement with Krishnamurti; Bohm appeared able to compartmentalize the various aspects of his life.  P. 132

The metaphor of the video game was also applied to Bohm's ideas of soma-significance. As we play the game, those spaceships on the screen seem so real to us that we forget that they are merely the manifestation of an underlying program. Similarly, the mind offers a "display" of its own-anger, fear, desire-mental images that appear to be so autonomous and independent of us that they become other, something that the "I" witnesses and attempts to control. Yet there really does not exist an "I" that is absolutely separate from these images. As Krishnamurti had said before, the thinker is the thought.

The whole mental "display," Bohm argued, is a subtle trap. What we are experiencing is merely the "weather" of the brain. Just as we watch the wind and rain around us without feeling responsible for it or trying to change it, so too we should observe the brain's "weather" and realize that it is an electrochemical process generated by memory and previous conditioning. But this separation is enormously difficult to see. The reason we mistake mental processes for part of ourselves is that our brain has no nerves that register its own thinking. We have no way of perceiving how the display operates, no senses that convey the origin and dynamics of thought.

Here Bohm drew upon the notion of proprioception--our ability to know exactly where our arms and legs are situated in space, even with our eyes shut. Subtle feedback signals from our muscles constantly inform the brain of the body's disposition so that, for example, we always know what our hands are doing. But we have nothing that tells us "how" we are thinking. All we have is the product-individual thoughts, feelings, and intentions. This lack of proprioception for thought is the basic flaw in the human animal, the origin of the mental trap.

How can consciousness display itself? Bohm now asked himself. How can we get out of the trap? How can the mind develop its own proprioception? P. 281.

CHAPTER 16 The Edge of Something Unknown

For Bohm, the grail was wholeness: not that monolithic authoritarian wholeness of universal law and ultimate theory, but a wholeness that was subtle and moving; the universe as an infinity of levels, each qualitatively different yet expressing unity within the multiplicity. Without underlying wholeness the cosmos would make no sense, yet levels cohere and the entire cosmos has an organic quality about it.

Thought fragments wholeness; it breaks apart the material world into elementary particles localized in space and time, and it draws boundaries between nations and creates concepts (boundaries of ideas) within the mind. Fragmentation, for Bohm, was not simply false separation-taking apart what belongs together--but also false unity, or forcing together things that are truly different.

Bohm had begun his search for wholeness in the external physical universe. Yet he had always known that this universe, and all its laws, existed within the microcosm of his own body. His quest lay both without and within. It was a quest guided by illumination, such as had once come to him in the dreams and fantasies of his childhood; it had come again in his seminar at Berkeley and in those intense moments of investigation with Krishnamurti. He sought wholeness in the light, and when that light failed, the effect was devastating. It was a true living death.

A variety of explanations were offered, by friends and colleagues, for the terrible depression that descended on Bohm in the spring of 1991. His health was failing, and he no longer had the energy for creative thinking. Was it a passing phase, he worried, or had his creativity vanished forever?

He was deeply concerned about events in the Persian Gulf. Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait: an unpredictable madman, he had to be stopped by force. Maybe biological weapons would be un leashed, maybe even on Israel. Would the multinational forces be successful in their action, or would it all end in indecisive bloodshed? Several of Bohm's friends were shocked to learn that he supported the U.S. military intervention. Their hostile reactions struck Bohm as almost another form of betrayal.1

As events in the gulf unfolded, Bohm's distress was exacerbated by the television news coverage. Concerned for the safety of her relatives in Israel, Saral hoped to recognize on TV the areas on which SCUD missiles were falling. While Bohm believed that the United States was acting correctly, he was disturbed that war had been necessary and, when the bloodshed was over, that Hussein was still in power.

Bohm genuinely believed that dialogue groups could make a difference. They would help resolve conflicts by moving directly to their roots and act, in a non-local way, on human society. Now, however, in the light of global events, his approach seemed futile, and he questioned the value of this work.

Those of his friends with an amateur interest in psychotherapy wondered if the depression meant that Bohm was confronting the actuality of his life and work. Perhaps he felt he had not achieved the potential of his childhood dreams and visions. He was in the grip of a major spiritual crisis, they believed, yet his very illness suggested how his life and work could evolve further.[†] Tragically, acting on such insight is exactly what a depressed person is paralyzed from doing. From within a profound depression, it is impossible to make choices* during the agony of his depression. They do not reflect his final and more reflective opinion of Jiddu Krishnamurti.)

The only thing Bohm could still hang on to was physics. Basil Hiley believed that Bohm had already had an intimation of his death and knew that a definitive statement of the ontological interpretation would be his final work. The book he had written with Hiley was to be the summation of work that dated back to 1952. It would rebut decades of criticism and justify his original position.

The ontological interpretation offers an account of the actuality of microphysical events, something the Copenhagen interpretation denies. An important application is the quantum measurement problem-how is it that something definite comes out of probabilistic potentialities? This problem had been solved by Bohm's approach in the 1970s. In Bohm's theory active information, associated with the quantum potential, guides the quantum system into a definite outcome. When this new state is registered in the macroscopic world, the information becomes inactive. Potentiality is transformed into actuality without any need for human observers.

Their book together was virtually complete. But now, in his state of extreme mental anxiety, Bohm worried about what is known as the classical limit. He had always stressed that quantum theory connects to our early ways of perceiving the world and that it is appropriate to new orders of description in physics. Yet another important point must be made: Any theory of the microscopic world must also contain, within its limits, a description of our own classical world made out of rigid objects located in space. Bohm himself had stressed the importance of the implicate order, but he also pointed out that an explicate order unfolded from it. So too the world of classical physics must emerge out of Bohm's ontological interpretation. Large-scale objects had to be well defined and localized over long time periods. Active information appeared to resolve that problem-when active information becomes inactive, then well-defined outcomes remain. But did information really remain inactive over an infinitely long time period?

It was only as Bohm and Hiley began to think about the origin of the universe within their causal interpretation that this problem began to resurface. Was it possible, they began to wonder, that under certain conditions a degree of ambiguity enters the quantum system? There was no difficulty in demonstrating that, within Bohm's theory, a classical limit exists in our world. The problem arose during the first instants of the creation of the universe. Under what conditions could they ensure that definite events would occur without a residual interference from inactive information? Put another way, how could they bring about a collapse of the quantum wave function before large-scale bodies existed? (This problem of the initial state of the cosmos presents outstanding difficulties in conventional quantum theory.)

Bohm and Hiley tried out a number of different scenarios for this initial state and it was clear that in order to solve the problem they had to make a number of assumptions. As far as Hiley was concerned, they had resolved the issue while, at the same time, exposing a particular deep problem about the way in which our universe was born. But, as his depression grew, Bohm became obsessed with this point, blowing it up out of all proportion until it loomed in his mind as the major defect in his whole work. For decades he had criticized Bohr, claiming that the Copenhagen interpretation of the measurement problem was obscure. But now he felt guilty of the same crime. The book must not be published. He told me he had deceived colleagues and students. Everyone's reputation would be ruined.

Basil Hiley understood the problem but did not feel that it was insurmountable. It was simply a matter of getting down to more work. But Bohm knew that his energy had gone. He could no longer rise to the challenge. His life had collapsed around him.4

Now Bohm took to telephoning friends and telling them his work was worthless. To me, he explained his scientific anguish using a remarkable symbolic image. In grappling with the question of whether inactive information could still have an effect when extrapolated to infinitely long times, Hiley had convinced him that, where systems in interaction are concerned, there is always a definite, unambiguous, and objective outcome. But what, Bohm asked, of systems not in interaction with each other, such as distant stars? The motion of each individual atom in a star is guided by the active information associated with the quantum potential. Attracted to the example of a star, Bohm now argued that, in an astronomically long time scale, the individual particles within a star fluctuate, and so does the center of mass of the star itself. In other words, unless they were fixed by observation, the stars themselves would move, fluctuating around their positions in the sky.[‡]

It was a truly staggering symbol for Bohm to have conceived. Essentially he was saying that he could no longer hold the stars steady in the sky. His lifelong search had been for order. Now his own theory was generating chaos in the heart of the universe. Increasingly this failure became the leitmotif of his conversations with friends, colleagues, and psychiatrists. When people encouraged him to press on, Bohm replied that he was too old and that his health and energy were such that he would never be able to work creatively again.

Hiley continued to revise the book, feeling that no major problems remained. Bohm's energy was still low but he continued to make useful suggestions during these discussions. While there were deep and interesting questions in the book, Hiley believed that what had hitherto been implicitly hidden within quantum theory was now out in the open.

During the initial period of his depression, Bohm was in regular psychoanalysis with Patrick de Mare. The sessions were harrowing. On the occasions Saral went with him and sat in the waiting room, she heard her husband weeping and even crying out like a child in pain. His agitation became so intense that he was unable to sleep at night, even with sleeping pills, as thoughts raced though his head. Clearly he was unable to travel and fulfill his various engagements. Yet Saral was reluctant to tell people he was suffering from depression. Mental illness, she believed, still carries a stigma, and she was worried that Bohm's critics would use it to discredit his works

Bohm leaned heavily on David Shainberg at this time, telephoning him in New York several times during the day and for as long as an hour at night when he was unable to sleep. (Bohm had also called Shainberg many times during his 1984 breakdown.) In the worst of his depression, he could not be left alone for even a minute and would call Shainberg three or four times in the middle of the night. The phone rang, and Shainberg or his wife, Catherine, would lift it to hear, "Hello, I'm feeling terrible." Catherine described the silence that followed, as Bohm waited for her to speak, as one in which he seemed to be sucking out her blood. Finally Bohm would speak about his various anxieties, Krishnamurti, physics, Kuwait, and the violence in the world. As he talked, it was as if the world itself were coming to an end. In the midst of his pain, he was still questioning. What had been the meaning of his life? Had he really understood Krishnamurti's teachings? Had he given up his authority to Krishnamurti?6 The situation reached a crisis point, and Saral received a telephone call from de Mare asking her to bring Bohm's nightclothes to his office. Her husband was suicidal, and must be admitted into the Maudsley Hospital. When she received the call, Saral burst into tears but managed to compose herself by the time she arrived at de Mare's office. She asked him if hospitalization was really necessary-she could continue to look after him at home, she argued. De Mare was firm that Bohm required constant attention.

The institution he entered is the Section of Old Age Psychiatry run by Raymond Levy, housed at the Institute of Psychiatry associated with the Maudsley Hospital and the Bethlem Royal Hospital. The Bethlem, founded in 1247, was the original "Bedlam," the first mental hospital in Europe. Bohm was admitted on May 10, 1991, and remained in their care until his final discharge on August 29 of that same year.7

By the time the Bohms arrived at the Maudsley, it was late in the day and the duty doctor could not be found. Saral herself was in a distressed state, and the ward, located in a chalet containing some ten or twelve patients, each with their own room, seemed old. Bohm protested that he did not want to stay and asked to be taken home. But Saral persuaded him to remain, at least until the doctor arrived, while the head nurse, exaggerating in a friendly way, said that he could lose his job if Bohm left. Two of the women patients also urged him to stay. Eventually the duty doctor arrived and told Saral that her husband was a very sick man.  As she drove home, she felt terrible at having to leave him there.  P. 310

By October, Bohm's health had improved a little, and he could take short walks with Saral. He told Pylkkanen that he was finally happy with his ontological interpretation. Now that it was completed, he said, they should expand their planned paper on cognition into an entire book. He also began to watch videotapes of his and David Shainberg's discussions with Krishnamurti.

Krishnamurti had spoken of the ending of thought, and of the mind that becomes silent so that something qualitatively new can operate to transform consciousness and mutate the brain. Over the years Bohm had accepted that this process can and does happen. Now he was asking "What is it that sees in this non-dualistic state? What is it that observes consciousness?" In a telephone call to Lee Nichol, he speculated that in the end, this new mode of consciousness might be nothing more than just another variation of thought. This remark seemed to fly in the face of everything Bohm had ever said, and Nichol wondered if, at the end of his life, Bohm simply wanted a final explanation, one that left no room for uncertainty and allowed a closure of his work.

Bohm also telephoned Don Factor. During his depression he had sometimes called the whole dialogue process into question. Now he felt that dialogue had to confront the fact that our notion of the self was wrong. There was indeed a self, but this self is not an object but an entire mental process, an ongoing activity. Insight, he repeated, brings about a radical change in the brain, not simply at the level of neural pathways but, he told Factor, right at "the quantum level."

As Bohm spoke, Factor sensed that he was seeking a transcendental breakthrough. Dialogue by itself was no longer enough. There had to be something beyond even dialogue. One tries everything, he told Factor, and nothing seems to work; then a level of frustration arises that is so great that it breaks down the entire system. It is at this point that a radical change of meaning can occur. Such a change can never be brought about by an act of will. It involves opening up to something greater.31

On that same evening, October 26, 1992, Bohm watched the videotape of the last of the seven dialogues he and Shainberg had made with Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park over sixteen years be fore. The subject was death and what may lie beyond. Afterward he turned to Saral and said, "We should have gone on talking."32

The following morning Saral drove her husband to the hospital for his weekly check of Warfarin. He was in the examination room for an unusually long time. When he came out, he told Saral, "They could not get the blood to flow." After lunch he decided to go to Birkbeck to work with Hiley. Saral asked him to phone before he left for home and to take a taxi if he felt tired.

At around six fifteen that evening, Bohm telephoned to say that he felt well enough to use the underground but would take a cab from Edgware station at the other end. His work with Hiley had gone well, and his voice was bubbling with energy. "You know it's tantalizing," he said, "I feel I'm on the edge of something." Around seven thirty the doorbell rang. Saral assumed David had forgotten his keys. Instead, she opened the door to a cab driver who told her, "Your husband has collapsed."

Bohm was lying in the cab, his wallet on the floor. Since it was his habit to take it out as the cab pulled up at his house, he must have collapsed only moments before. She called the emergency services without success. In the end the cab driver took them to Edgware General. Sitting in the back, Saral tried to revive him by talking to him and blowing into his lungs. There was no response except for the fluttering of one eyelid. At the hospital they worked to revive him for half an hour. Then he was pronounced dead.33 P. 319

[*] In his early writings Krishnamurti used words in specialized and often poetic ways. Krishnamurti's term intelligence should not be confused with the purely rational functioning of thought. It implies something that lies beyond discursive thought and that acts when the mind is silent and has died to thought. He taught that this intelligence is able to bring about a mutation, or physical transformation, of the brain itself.

[†] In contrast, Hiley believed that what could be termed a "spiritual crisis" did not fully emerge until Bohm was discharged from the hospital. It was then that he began to examine and question his life's work.

[‡] Technically speaking, if the information is not absolutely inactive each star would be surrounded by a diffraction pattern.


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