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Lifting the veil on Bohm’s holomovement

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In this paper, we argue that Bohm’s unbroken and undivided totality he called the holomovement, the title he gave to the concept of the self-organizing universe, is more coherently understood when viewed as universal consciousness. Bohm’s understanding of consciousness oscillates around being a quality of local minds and the interconnected totality of the holomovement. We suggest such equivocations impose limitations on Bohm’s general holistic framework because they import into his model the limiting restrictions of Cartesian separation and are, therefore, incongruous for use within his holistic model of the holomovement. We also argue that the term ‘meaning’ has a structural and functional agency appropriate to Bohm’s model of the holomovement, while also reflecting the living characteristics of this organic totality that is full of meaning.
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Lifting the veil on Bohm’s holomovement
Andrew Lohrey & Bruce Boreham
To cite this article: Andrew Lohrey & Bruce Boreham (2021) Lifting the veil on
Bohm’s holomovement, Communicative & Integrative Biology, 14:1, 221-229, DOI:
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Lifting the veil on Bohm’s holomovement
Andrew Lohrey and Bruce Boreham
In this paper, we argue that Bohm’s unbroken and undivided totality he called the holomove-
ment, the title he gave to the concept of the self-organizing universe, is more coherently under-
stood when viewed as universal consciousness. Bohm’s understanding of consciousness oscillates
around being a quality of local minds and the interconnected totality of the holomovement. We
suggest such equivocations impose limitations on Bohm’s general holistic framework because
they import into his model the limiting restrictions of Cartesian separation and are, therefore,
incongruous for use within his holistic model of the holomovement. We also argue that the term
‘meaning’ has a structural and functional agency appropriate to Bohm’s model of the holomove-
ment, while also reflecting the living characteristics of this organic totality that is full of meaning.
Received 24 September
Revised 28 October 2021
Accepted 28 October 2021
Holomovement; wholeness;
nonlocality; local realism;
meaning; consciousness;
David Bohm’s friend and colleague, Basil J. Hiley wrote,
I have always felt that wholeness was the key to under-
standing quantum phenomena.’ Hiley went on, ‘In this
regard the Bohm model has served its purpose. It has
shown that it is possible to lift the veil of reality, but has
it been lifted far enough’? [1, p.7] This is the question
we ask in this paper in relation to the reality of whole-
ness, has the veil of reductionism been completely lifted
from Bohm’s model of wholeness and if not, what
would the scope and contours of a coherent model of
wholeness look like?
Wholeness and the Implicate Order [2], was the
seminal book by David Bohm (1917–1992) that intro-
duced his model of wholeness. In this book, Bohm
began with a criticism of Cartesian dualism as it applied
to relativity theory and to quantum physics, comment-
ing that the Cartesian order is ‘leading to serious con-
tradictions and confusion’ [2, p.xv]. His positive
response to the Cartesian fragmentation of knowledge
was a new order that had its roots in the experiments of
quantum physics, and which he said was appropriate to
a universe of unbroken wholeness. A ‘universe of
unbroken wholeness’ represented a world view quite
distinct from the Cartesian dualist world view that has
at its heart the separation of the mental from the
physical, a dualism that is commonly phrased as sub-
jectivity versus objectivity.
To be coherent, a world view that proclaims the
universe as an unbroken wholeness, must be applicable
to the whole, that is, to everything without exception.
In other words, its application should be universal and
that will include not just the field of physics but also of
biology and psychology. That means not simply whole-
ness in relation to the non-organic, but also wholeness
in relation to organic life and the Singularity of Nature
(that is, the way that nature appears to mesh intercon-
nectedly) [3] as expressed by Torday and Miller [3]. In
a related paper, these authors [4] propose that the
quantum principles of non-locality, entanglement and
quantum coherences are active biological mechanisms
and that life on earth has been dependent on quantum
processes from its earliest beginnings. Quantum coher-
ence and entanglement have been shown to be the
active operating means of excitation of the light har-
vesting complexes used by photosynthetic bacteria. In
addition, the avian magnetic compass is dependent on
quantum superposition and the quantum entanglement
of particles, while cell–cell communication extends
across an entire organism by a variety of quantum
means. These authors conclude that the interrelation-
ship between the physical and biological realms is an
established feature of ongoing processes.
Yet importantly, the question of a coherent whole-
ness must also include those ‘stateless subjects’ – mean-
ing, mind, language and consciousness – that have been
continually turned back in their attempts to cross the
Cartesian sea of separation and division by formal
exclusions that try to prevent them from arriving at
the ports of mainstream science. In this paper, it is the
refugee subjects of meaning and consciousness that we
focus on in regard to Bohm’s view of wholeness. The
CONTACT Andrew Lohrey 33 Legge Street, Falmouth, Tasmania, 7215, Australia
2021, VOL. 14, NO. 1, 221–229
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted
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reason for this emphasis is Bohm’s own interest in and
concern with both these subject matters and how they
relate to his model of wholeness.
Bohm’s view of wholeness appears to have come
from two quarters; firstly, as a reaction to the severe
limitations of Cartesian dualism and its deleterious
effects on science; and secondly as a broad interpreta-
tion that has grown out of research and experiments in
quantum science. What then are the characteristics of
Bohm’s model of wholeness? He identified these char-
acteristics by using the example of a hologram as a way
of describing the interactive nature of undivided whole-
ness. Yet he also produced his own theory of wholeness
in Wholeness and the Implicate Order. We take the
example of the hologram first.
A hologram is created when coherent laser light is
reflected (or scattered) from an object and collected on
a photographic plate along with part of the original
laser beam. The two beams interfere to generate
a standing wave pattern which is recorded directly on
the plate. The intensity on the photographic plate is the
square of the sum of the amplitudes of the reflected (or
scattered) light and the reference beam. After develop-
ment, the photographic plate can be illuminated with
a laser beam that interacts with the interference pattern
to produce a three-dimensional image that looks like
the original object, but this image appears to us if we
are looking through a window.
The significant feature of the hologram that Bohm
focussed on was the complex relationship between the
parts and the whole. In a hologram the local regions of
the original object are mapped into every region of the
hologram and if a laser beam is used to illuminate only
a small fragment of the photographic plate, we do not
see a fragment of the image but instead, we see the
whole image in somewhat less sharply defined detail.
What does this tell us about the interactive and whole-
ness character of the hologram? It tells us that each
fragment of the image is not only a part of the whole
but also it is an instance of the whole. That means that
the whole of the hologram inheres in or is immanent
within each fragment or part while each part contri-
butes to the whole.
These interactive relationships between parts and
whole that are produced by coherent light in holograms
can be called symmetrical. That means these holo-
graphic relationships can be detailed as: ‘whole-to-part
/part to whole’ relationships. In addition, the unifying
force that holds the parts and the whole together is
structured by a complex of whole-to-part/part-to-
whole relations that exhibits a symmetrical force or
unity. This force creates the indivisible unity of the
hologram so that the parts, while still distinct are
locked together into the whole image in ways that
cannot be separated or divided into separate or linear
series. Bohm used the example of the hologram to
discuss the universal nature of wholeness in that each
region of space: ‘the movement of light implicitly con-
tains a vast range of distinctions of order and measure,
appropriate to a whole illuminated structure. Indeed, in
principle, this structure extends over the whole uni-
verse and over the whole past, with implications for
the whole future’. [2, p.148]
Hence, the example of a hologram became an inter-
active model having a scope that takes in the whole of
space and time of the universe. In this sense, his whole-
ness model does incorporate everything in the universe.
But Bohm also developed his own theory of universal
wholeness which was supported by the interactive char-
acter of the hologram. This was his theory of the
implicate and explicate orders. The explicate order
represents the explicit differentials forms and objects
(the parts) that move within of the physical world of
space and time and which we will now say, arise
through the local mind’s processes of perception. In
contrast, Bohm’s implicate order represents the entire
universal context of a singular, whole and unified inter-
connected system an undivided universe. The entire
implicate order can be described as having unifying
qualities but devoid of quantities, rather quantities are
the central feature of the explicate order.
The universe wide unifying context of the implicate
order is entirely implicit, a term that Bohm suggests is
based on the verb ‘to implicate’, which means ‘to fold
inwards’. [2, p.149] He speculated that each region of
space and time ‘contain a total structure ‘enfolded’
within it’. Hence, the implicate order can be described
as an enfolding order while in contrast, the explicate
order unfolds from the implicate order the moving
forms and objects of the explicit and physical universe.
This means that all physical objects and forms observed
to be moving in the continuum of space and time
represent the explicate order, which unfolds from the
implicate order. From a Cartesian perspective, the
explicate order is the first and only order of
The relationship between Bohm’s two orders is not
dualistic but highly integrated in that the explicate
order arises out of the movements of the implicate
order and together these two orders produce an undi-
vided universe, which is a wholeness where there are no
separations or gaps. At times Bohm refers to the totality
of this wholeness as the ‘holomovement’. [2, p.178; 5,
p.273] As a consequence of this totality, Bohm suggests
that ‘everything is to be explained in terms of forms
derived from this holomovement’. [2, p.178] The clear
implication of this statement is that the holomovement
arranges, organizes and exerts agency over the derived
forms of the explicate order the visible and physical
In his paper, Quantum Reality Unveiled Through
Process and the Implicate Order [1] Hiley describes
some of the properties of wholeness in regard to quan-
tum physics by suggesting that ‘what underlies all mate-
rial structures and form is the notion of activity,
movement or process.’ [1, p.9] This background of
continual change represents pure activity or flux in
which all matter and substance are seen as explicit,
semi-autonomous, quasi-local invariant features of the
background movement. Hiley writes that Bohm
described this fundamental background flux as ‘move-
ment’ and the entire fundamental background as the
holomovement. It appears to us that the continual
background flux of the holomovement represents the
results of the agency of this totality. In addition, to be
coherent the totality of the holomovement must repre-
sent a singular system that contains nested sub-systems.
In other words, while there may be a diversity of wholes
in physics and biology there is only one over-riding
wholeness that connects all these sub-systems together.
As Bohm and Hiley state in The Undivided Universe,
‘The essential features of the implicate order are, as we
have seen, that the whole universe is in some way
enfolded in everything and that each thing is enfolded
in the whole’. [6, p.382]
The agency of the holomovement is also implied
in the term ‘order’ that Bohm uses to describe his
model of wholeness. The term ‘order’ implies an
arrangement of parts that has been already prede-
termined through a pre-established set of conditions
inherent in the holomovement. Hence, the ‘impli-
cate order’ is an order that not only enfolds every-
thing, (and everything means from particles to
molecules to organism to galaxies) but also this
primary order contains the organizing potentials
and agency out of which all forms and objects
arise. ‘All things found in the explicate order emerge
from the holomovement and ultimately fall back
into it’. [6, p.382] Hence, the primary unifying
agency in the universe is thus contained within the
potential forces of Bohm’s holomovement. In other
words, there is only one whole in the universe and
that is the current singularity of the holomovement.
This conclusion is reinforced by the definition that
Hiley provides in his 2008 paper where he describes
wholeness like this: ‘As we are so immersed in reduc-
tionism, it is very difficult to know what the notion of
wholeness actually means. Put simply wholeness
implies that the properties of the individual parts are
determined by the order of whole, rather than the parts
determining the whole’. [1, p.7] Hiley’s definition of
wholeness turns the traditional Cartesian approach,
focussed on locality and determinism on its head by
proposing that the holomovement’s overall agency is
determined by the conditions of the nonlocal whole
and not by the local parts. As the organizing agency
of parts is traditionally seen as a local agency, so too the
agency of the whole must represent a nonlocal agency.
The order of the whole can thus be called a nonlocal
order and following Bohm’s model in another place we
have called this nonlocal order, ‘The Nonlocal
Universe’ [7].
In addition, Bohm’s model of the implicate and
explicate orders reverses the Cartesian’s local fixation
on physical forms and objects and this is made explicit
by his proposition, ‘that in the formulation of the laws
of physics, primary relevance is to be given to the
implicate order’. [2, p.150] Applying this proposition
means giving primary relevance to the unity and con-
nections that the holomovement provides. Hence, in
terms of the unifying agency of the holomovement
the individual parts of the universe (physical objects
and forms) come into existence and their movements
are determined by the organization and order of the
whole. Yet even while acknowledging the primary
agency of the holomovement what is left unstated by
both Hiley and Bohm is the question of the conditions
of the ‘order of the whole’. What does that mean in
terms of the whole’s structure and function? Has the
veil been lifted far enough?
In order to reflect on that question, we need to go
back to the genesis of Bohm’s implicate order, which
are the conditions of meaning. As already referred to,
Bohm’s focus on the implicate order derived from the
term ‘implicit’ which he suggested is based on the verb
‘to implicate’ or to fold inwards. While this may be
correct, the term ‘implicit’ primarily relates to a major
condition of meaning. With his interpretation of
‘enfolding’ Bohm also provides a physical example of
enfolding with the ‘unmixing experiment’ that involved
two concentric transparent cylinders that rotate relative
to each other. This is an experiment referred to by both
Bohm [2, p.154] and Hiley [1, p.17] and is interesting
because it is entirely physical. The impression the
reader receives from the descriptions of this experiment
is that enfolding, and unfolding are physical processes.
While that experiment does indicate there can be
physical processes of enfolding and unfolding, we
should not forget that these critical terms refer back
to the functions of meaning and as meaning represents
a metaphysical state, the terms’ enfolding’ and ‘unfold-
ing’ represent metaphysical functions of meaning. In
terms of the structure and function of meaning,
‘unfolding’ stands as an approximate term for the gen-
eral transformations that unfold explicit meaning
(objects, forms and differences) from their implicit
contexts, while enfolding represents the reverse trans-
formation. Bohm also used the term ‘enfolding’ in
a more general sense of a field that enfolds forms and
objects as we shall see in the next section in relation to
energy and matter. What then are the conditions of
meaning and how do these conditions relate to the
Meaning is a subject matter that over the years a range
of European philosophers and linguists have directed
their attention toward. Many of these have understood
meaning to be the by-product of signs, language, mind
or intentionality (Brentano, Saussure, Pierce, Ogden
and Richards, Wittgenstein). Others like the phenom-
enologists have sought to tie meaning to the conscious
experience of phenomena (Husserl). The authors of this
paper have a forty-plus year history of researching,
writing and analyzing the subject matter of meaning
and that work has manifest in a range of books on the
subject, the last two being Lohrey, 2018, 2020. Perhaps
the author that has influenced our theory of meaning to
a large degree is David Bohm with his book, Wholeness
and the Implicate Order [2].
How is it possible for Bohm, a physicist writing
about quantum physics to have any influence on
a metaphysical theory of meaning? We consider that
his influence is an indication of the completeness of his
research and the coherence of his theory of wholeness.
We suggest that for a theory of wholeness to be so, even
if it is directed at the physical world, it would have to
include in some manner the central role of meaning in
human experience. Bohm’s theory of the implicate and
explicate orders rests on the metaphysical conditions of
meaning, that is, on the nature of implicit and explicit
meaning. Hence, our theory concerning the wholeness
of meaning reflects to a large degree Bohm’s theory of
In essence, Bohm’s theory of wholeness while focussed
on the physical world nevertheless marks out the main
contours of meaning to a remarkable degree. However, by
focussing on the physical world certain terms he uses,
such as ‘order’ when used to refer to the implicate and
explicate orders masks to some extent the implication that
these are the orders of meaning. In general, our holistic
theory of meaning is entirely inclusive, non-Cartesian and
that means while inclusive of the local human mind it also
has a focus on universal consciousness, which in another
place we have called the nonlocal [7].
In this paper, we would stress that we are not offer-
ing a radical idealist interpretation of Bohm and Hiley’s
work. Radical idealism is the metaphysical view that is
associated with ideas in the mind. While we do present
a metaphysical view here, the reality of meaning is not
directly associated with ideas, but with the self-know
experiences of meaning exchanges and meaning mak-
ing. These actions are always prior to the formation of
concepts and ideas [8,9]. In addition, we are not
attempting to ‘put words into Bohm mouth’ but simply
endeavoring to excavate the full implications of what he
and Hiley have written.
Our approach to meaning is of an omnipresent
reality and far from viewing it as a by-product of
signs, language, mind or intentionality, (the conven-
tional views) our approach is in line with Bohm’s
proposal, that meaning represents the first and founda-
tion agency of the universe. We could also add that any
act of making meaning represents the self-known
experience of intelligibility that involves both implicit
qualities and explicit quantities. As a First Order
experience meaning precedes thought, ideas, concepts,
expressions as well as the inorganic physical world and
also organic forms of life for all these are but derivative
manifestations of Bohm’s derivative explicate order.
It is unnecessary here to detail every feature of our
theory of meaning, however, suffice to say that its
general lines follow closely [with some exceptions) to
Bohm’s approach to wholeness and his theory of the
implicate and explicate order. Bohm and Hiley were
both physicists who often referred to meaning in gen-
eral terms but neither of them crossed the bridge into
analyzing meaning as a subject matter and as
a consequence, neither of them had any analysis of
meaning’s structure or function. As physicists, their
emphasis always tended to be on the physical features
of wholeness and away from the underlying metaphy-
sical strata of wholeness. Yet the metaphysical founda-
tions of the physical world are always there in Bohm’s
theory as the terms, ‘enfolding’ and ‘unfolding’ testify.
In the late 1980s Bohm authored a book on mean-
ing, called Unfolding Meaning: A Weekend of Dialogue
with David Bohm [10]. In it, he directed a group dis-
cussion toward the fascinating question of how our
meanings relate to the universe as a whole. Bohm had
a persistent concern about the relationship between
mind and matter and in these discussions, he began
to investigate the relationship between three crucial
features: matter, energy and meaning. With this discus-
sion he was suggesting that matter, energy and meaning
may have similar fundamental roles to play in the
Actually, he goes further than that because he was
suggesting that meaning had an agency that could
enfold both matter and energy and then concludes
that meaning represents the more fundamental state
than either energy or matter. This is perhaps an extra-
ordinary statement for an internationally acclaimed
physicist to make because meaning is not a physical
state but fits the requirements of a prior metaphysical
state. Hence, the implications of Bohm’s comments in
relation to matter, energy and meaning are quite radical
in that the so called independent solid, physical world
that physicists talk about in terms of energy and matter
may not be the primary foundation after all but rather,
as Bohm suggested is enfolded within a metaphysical
world of meaning, which is more fundamental.
Bohm reasoning in this conclusion is that the rela-
tionship between energy, matter and meaning is not
equal because meanings can enfold meanings, but they
can also enfold matter and energy. Hence: ‘Matter
enfolds energy, and energy enfolds matter’, however,
energy cannot enfold energy and matter cannot enfold
matter’. Following this logic, Bohm concludes that
while ‘meaning refers to itself directly, and this is in
fact the basis of the possibility of that intelligence which
can comprehend the whole, including itself. On the
other hand, matter and energy obtain their self-
reference only indirectly, firstly through meaning’.
[10, p.91] In another reference, Bohm writes the sup-
porting comment that ‘the cosmos may be ordered
according to a kind of “objective” meaning.’(11,
p.180) Here is direct evidence that after the develop-
ment and publication of this theory of wholeness and
the implicate order Bohm insists that meaning (a meta-
physical state) is more fundamental than either the
physics of energy or matter.
Bohm’s reference to ‘an intelligence that can com-
prehend the whole, including itself’ is also evidence of
the further step he takes in relation to meaning and that
was that meaning is the essential nature of
consciousness. [12, p.436] In Unfolding Meaning he
gives support to that contention by writing, ‘Any fun-
damental change in meaning is a change in being for
us. Therefore, any transformation of consciousness
must be a transformation of meaning’. [10, p.93] He
also writes that ‘We can say that human meanings
make a contribution to the cosmos, but we can also
say that the cosmos may be ordered according to a kind
of ‘objective’ meaning’. [10, p.97] And again, ‘I think
conscious awareness, its essential feature, is meaning.’ . .
. ‘The activity of consciousness is determined by mean-
ing’. [10, p.102]
Thus, in this book when referring to meaning and in
particular to ‘objective meaning’ he is implying
a universe of intelligence and by linking conscious
awareness to meaning, this becomes universal con-
sciousness. Supporting that conclusion is his suggestion
that meaning had agency that can enfold both matter
and energy along with his conclusion that meaning is
more fundamental than either energy or matter. In
addition, Bohm states that, ‘Meaning organizes every-
thing’ [12, p.443] and again, ‘meaning is the essence of
reality’ [12, p.441]. Hence, with these statements Bohm
positions meaning as the fundamental ground of the
universe. While he did not actually write the words,
meaning represents the content of consciousness the
implication that follows from his proposition concern-
ing the relationship between meaning, which organizes
everything and consciousness, leads directly to this
conclusion, that meaning as the content of universal
consciousness has the agency that can organize
The implications of this conclusion are extensive.
Take one small example from biology, in relation to
the cell-centered view of evolution the linking of mean-
ing and consciousness is significant, especially in rela-
tion to the question of the content of cell-to-cell
communication [13]. In their paper ‘The Cosmologic
continuum from physics to consciousness’, Torday and
Millar write, ‘Life is dependent on information that is
communicated between the cell and its environment, or
between cells’ [4]. We would respectfully suggest that
all communication, whether between cells or their
environment or even between people, represent
exchanges of meaning, rather than ‘information’.
‘Information’ represents a discursive artifact of the cur-
rent mechanic/technological, Cartesian sub-culture,
which is a cultural context that we doubt has much
relevance to the life of cells or to cell-to-cell commu-
nication. The issue of ‘meaning’ rather than ‘informa-
tion’ is critical to how communication is generally
understood whether as part of a Cartesian order suita-
ble for classical mechanics, or as an integrated move-
ment within the wholeness of the holomovement.
Inherent in Bohm linking of meaning and con-
sciousness is the related question of the content of
consciousness that is associated with acts of commu-
nications. If meaning does represent the content of
consciousness as Bohm’s work implies, then meaning
must also represent the content of communication.
Such implications lead directly away from the current
preoccupation in physics, technology and biology with
the divisive term ‘information’ and back into
a metaphysical engagement that the term meaning sug-
gests. While the statement: meaning represents the con-
tent of consciousness may seem a radical proposition to
assert, we suggest that it simply presents a challenge to
any Cartesian researcher to find some meaning that is
devoid of consciousness, or the reverse. We believe that
such a demonstration would be impossible. Hence,
Bohm’s conclusion in these documents, that meaning/
consciousness are two side of the same coin is highly
significant for the whole of science and that includes
our understanding of evolution.
This linkage of meaning and consciousness tells us
that the context of the holomovement is that of con-
sciousness and as the holomovement refers to every-
thing in the universe it means that the context of the
holomovement is universal consciousness. As
a consequence, the universal context of the holomove-
ment would then be entirely filled with the content and
the conditions of meaning. Such a conclusion gives
a coherent and meaningful depth to the holomove-
ment. However, we should point out that neither
Bohm or Hiley explicitly stated that the implicate
order and its enlarged potential, the holomovement
represented the context of universal consciousness,
but that conclusion strongly presents itself once we
follow through on the implications of what both
authors have stated.
Bohm’s thinking on the subject of consciousness
oscillated around several positions and often slides
seamlessly from one position to another. At times, he
advocated a panpsychist view as seen (above) in his
references to meaning, energy and matter. At other
times, he took a dual-aspect position, ‘each level of
the unbroken whole of reality there will be a ‘mental
pole’ and a ‘physical pole”. [5, p, 285] Finally, he and
Hiley were not averse to relying upon a more main-
stream Cartesian reductionist position, like the follow-
ing taken from Bohm and Hiley’s highly original 1995
book, The Undivided Universe: ‘Throughout this book it
has been our position that the quantum theory itself
can be understood without bringing in consciousness
and that as far as research in physics is concerned, at
least in the present period, this is probably the best
approach’. [6, p.381]
In order to get some stability in our understanding
of Bohm’s view of consciousness it is necessary to look
more closely at some of the implications of what he and
Hiley have written in regard to wholeness, conscious-
ness and meaning.
Returning to the genesis of Bohm’s implicate order,
that of implicit meaning, in terms of our theory of
meaning (which closely follows Bohm’s hierarchy) the
term ‘implicit’ represents the larger nonlocal aspect of
meaning while the smaller local aspect is that of explicit
meaning. By focussing directly on the nature of mean-
ing, we arrive at an understanding that implicit mean-
ing has more qualities than the transformations that
underpin the processes Bohm called enfoldment and
unfoldment. These are conditions that represent how
meaning re-organizes itself when implicit meaning
transforms itself into explicit meaning and again,
when explicit meaning is transformed back into impli-
cit meaning. A common example of this is in thought.
Different thoughts arise out of a background of impli-
citness (they unfold) and persist for a while and then
disappear after a time, to be enfolded back into the
implicit background of consciousness.
Of the many qualities of implicit meaning, at the
forefront are the tacit interconnections that establish
background contexts. Contexts provide the necessary
unity that underpins and organizes every system. The
necessity of underlying interconnections and unity that
organizes every systems is pertinent to the controver-
sies in evolutionary biology where traditional
Darwinian competition-oriented evolution has been
contrasted to symbiotic and cooperation theories. The
evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis (1938–2011) has
been the primary proponent of the theory of evolution
through symbiosis. Considered a radical by her tradi-
tional peers, Margulis’ endosymbiotic theory reflects
the natural underlying unity of implicit meaning and
by extension, the unifying role of Bohm’s holomove-
ment. Her approach to evolution has been summed up
by Torday who wrote that Lynn Margulis, ‘dictates that
we are ‘of’ this Universe’ rather than ‘in’ it [14].
From the wholeness perspective of meaning, the con-
troversy over evolution by competition or cooperation
points to the different worldviews that rest on the value
we place on the implicate or explicate orders, that is, on
implicit or explicit meaning [9]. Traditional mainstream
science has tended to employ Cartesian views that assume
a world of separation and division, which is the natural
result of an exclusive focus on the differences of the
explicate order, that is, of maintaining an exclusive focus
on explicit meaning. In relation to evolution, this locally
oriented and deterministic worldview will emphasize
competition simply because the underlying unity of all
systems has been ignored or erased from this worldview
and so competition (in the form of competing differences)
is then seen as the natural form of interaction between
organisms. In contrast, an evolutionary theory that
implies an underlying organizing and unifying context
(of implicit meaning) will result in the kind of emphasis
Margulis gives to symbiosis and its crucial role in symbio-
genesis, that is, in organisms living together. As Bohm’s
implicate and explicate orders are not equal (the explicate
always arises out of the implicate) so a theory of evolution
that rests on the underlying nonlocal unity of implicit
meaning must be marked as superior to a local and
deterministic theory that reflects and over-values the sec-
ondary attributes (explicit differences) of the explicate
Returning to the several qualities of implicit mean-
ing, each of the three qualities mentioned (context,
unity and interconnection) add meaning to Bohm’s
model of the implicate and explicate orders by connect-
ing the parts to the totality of the holomovement. Hiley
tell us in his 2008 paper that ‘the importance of context
in quantum theory has only recently begun to emerge.
However, in the Bohm interpretation context depen-
dence becomes crucial’. [1, p.15] Hiley goes further
stating that contextual dependence is vital not just to
quantum mechanics but to other areas of human activ-
ity including especially philosophy and psychology [1,
p.22]. We agree that context dependence is not only
crucial to quantum theory but also for every area of
analysis and that includes Bohm’s model of wholeness.
Hence, the background context that the holomovement
represents acts by unifying through complex and impli-
cit interconnections the totality of its individual parts.
Perhaps the most pertinent quality of implicit mean-
ing to this discussion is implication. Implications repre-
sent the multiple possibilities that arise from every
explicit action, behavior or expressions and, therefore,
these possibilities represent the future consequences
and potential paths that need to be accounted for,
resisted or pursued. The implications embedded within
a theory are crucial for a fuller comprehension of the
theory and this is the case with regard to the implica-
tions within Bohm’s model of the holomovement and
his view of consciousness. In this respect we need to
ask, what was Bohm and Hiley referring to when they
write that the background from which all physical
phenomena arise is the holomovement? Is the
holomovement an idea, an abstract principle or uni-
versal consciousness?
In his 2008 paper, Hiley writes that ‘the word
“movement” invariably invokes the response “move-
ment of what?” But in our terms, movement or process
cannot be further analyses’. [1, p.10] His justification
for this lack of analysis is that movement or process is
a primitive description from which all else follows but
suggests it can also replace the term ‘field’ as a primitive
description of present-day physics. In addition, follow-
ing the philosophy of Whitehead (1939) Hiley’s prefer-
ence is for the word ‘process’ rather than ‘movement.
He writes, ‘What I have tried to suggest here is that by
using the notion of process and its description by an
algebraic structure, we have the beginnings of
a descriptive form that will enable us to explore the
relations between mind and matter in new ways’. [1,
p.21] However, we would suggest that the word ‘pro-
cess’ is equally open to the question ‘process of what’?
As is the terms ‘movement’, ‘field’ or ‘order’.
An answer to the ‘what’ question in each of these
cases will provide us with the important contextual
details of these processes so we then will have
a direction and focus for further analysis, discussion
and understanding. However, if we choose to remain
content with the orphan terms ‘movement’ or ‘process’
or ‘order’ this inevitably will mean we are content to
leave their contexts void of content and conditions. As
serious researches this is not the position we can accept
as we have already agreed with the implications in
Hiley’s comments that context is crucial. Contexts are
always crucial and especially when it comes to the
wholeness of Bohm’s model of the holomovement.
In order to discover the conditions of the content of
this universal context and thus its fuller meaning we
suggest the need to go back and relook at implicit
meaning because one of the major qualities of implicit
meaning is context. Implicit meaning comes in contexts
and, therefore, the content of every context will be
implicit meaning. The ‘what’ question in regard to
‘movement or ‘process’ is then answered by the con-
clusion that the movement within the holomovement is
that of implicit meaning. How Bohm would respond to
this kind of conclusion is ambiguous. For example, his
treatment of the holomovement as fundamental has
presented mainstream reductionist science with
a serious difficulty because this primary state he writes
is ‘undefinable and immeasurable’ in its ‘unbroken and
undivided totality’. [11, p.131]
Bohm states that its law cannot be stated, for the
‘total law of the undefinable and immeasurable
holomovement could never be known or specified or
put into words. Rather, such a law has necessarily to be
regarded as implicit’. [11, p.137] This last reference to
‘implicit’ represents an excellent description of the con-
tent of the holomovement, as we have suggested, the
holomovement is entirely full of implicit meaning.
However, is implicit meaning inherently ‘undefinable
and immeasurable’? In other words, are there any
intrinsic conditions of the implicitness of the
holomovement able to be identified and described?
Neither Bohm or Hiley answer such questions as
these, however, Bohm modifies his comment regarding
‘undefinable and immeasurable’ when he writes that the
law of the primary and fundamental holomovement
represents an ‘immense multidimensional ground.’
[11, p.118] In terms of meaning, we would suggest
that the implicit content of the holomovement cannot
be measured but it does allow for a surprising range of
multidimensional descriptions.
Bohm has also stated that the holomovement is ‘life
implicit’ and it represents the ground of ‘life explicit’,
[11, p.102] yet throughout his work he does not focus
on these foundational terms of ‘implicit’ and ‘explicit’
meaning, rather, he works with their derivations (impli-
cate order and explicate order). This path has
a tendency to situate consciousness as a local and
private feature of the individual. For example, the pri-
mary quality of Bohm’s holomovement he says is ‘self-
existent and universal’ [11, p.102] and which ‘applies
both to matter (living and nonliving) and to conscious-
ness’. [11, p.104] In these statements the holomove-
ment appears not to be conceived of as universal
consciousness, even though he says it is ‘life implicit’.
We suggest that if life and agency are general features
of universal consciousness, then ‘life explicit’ will repre-
sent organic life forms such as birds and animals and
human being while ‘life implicit’ will represent the gen-
eral form, which is ‘life’ itself. If the holomovement
contains both the potentials of ‘life implicit’ as well as
the capacity to produce the life cycles of transient life
forms then this discussion has moved the holomove-
ment from physics into the areas of biology and the life
sciences, (where it intersects with the organistic or hol-
istic philosophy of nature suggested by Gilbert, S. F., and
Sarkar, S., 2000).
Yet these kinds of interconnections
related to universal consciousness have arisen naturally
from Bohm and Hiley’s statements that were not pur-
sued, although Hiley does identify “Being” as the out-
ward manifestation of becoming and discusses the
development of a mathematical formulation to describe
this process. [1, p.10.] Perhaps the reason for this lack of
extended discussion is the containment of consciousness
to the local level where like matter it is treated as one of
the holomovement’s local features.
A further comment on how Bohm viewed con-
sciousness is when he attributes implicit and explicit
qualities to consciousness and says, ‘Whatever may be
the nature of these inward depths of consciousness,
they are the very ground, both of the explicit content
and that content which is usually called implicit.’ [11,
p.117] Again, when referring to the actual structure and
function of thoughts, ‘We see then, that each moment
of consciousness has a certain explicit content, which is
a foreground, and an implicit content, which is
a corresponding background’. [11, p.111] And then,
‘Consciousness is possibly a more subtle form of mat-
ter.’ [11, p.148] While this last comment is ambiguous
in relation to the Cartesian view, none of these refer-
ences locate consciousness as universal but they leave
the firm impression that Bohm’s use of ‘consciousness’
represented a quality of the local human mind. If that is
the case, then this view is not consistent with his com-
ments in Unfolding Meaning where he links meaning to
a consciousness that can comprehend the whole,
including itself, and then when he proposes that mean-
ing is more fundamental than energy or matter.
We would argue that in order to come to some
informed consideration concerning the wholeness of
Bohm’s holomovement it is necessary to begin by ask-
ing about the conditions of implicit and explicit mean-
ing, rather than relying upon his secondary terms of the
implicate and explicate orders. It is also necessary to
pursue the many oscillating implications within Bohm
and Hiley’s work in order to pin them down to the
scope of their use of the term ‘consciousness’ and the
relationship that term has to meaning. For example,
how are we to interpret these comments when Bohm
states that ‘meaning is fundamental to what life actually
is’ [11, p.180] and that ‘the universe is its meaning’ [11,
p.181] or again, ‘there is no point in asking the mean-
ing of life, as life is its meaning’, and again, ‘not only
that there is a meaning to it, [the universe as a whole]
but rather that it is meaning’ [12, p.438.]? From Bohm’s
oscillating views on consciousness, they can represent
ambiguous statements. However, from the standpoint
presented here that meaning is the fundamental ground
of universal consciousness Bohm’s comments are
coherent in that they reinforce the contention that the
holomovement as ‘life implicit’ is universal conscious-
ness. As such the holomovement will contain the
agency and the transformational potentials to produce
the life cycles of diverse, transient life forms.
Hiley writes, ‘if we put wholeness centre stage then
Nature at its very core is organic and by using the term
organic, I am using it in the same spirit as Whitehead
(1939)’. Then he goes on, ‘in this view the atoms,
molecules, fields and ultimately space-time itself arises
from activity, process. By starting from this more basic
position we hope to lift the veil of reality further’. [1,
p.7–8] We suggest that when the Cartesian veils are
fully lifted from Bohm’s holomovement we will see
clearly that the First Principle of physics, biology, phy-
siology, mathematics, psychology and society at large is
the unity and interconnection of universal conscious-
ness, which operates as a holomovement in regard to
every implicit and explicit exchange or transformation.
Such a clear view will mean that Nature at its very core
is organic, sentient and rich with meaning and hence,
the universe is not dead but within its living heart is
intelligent, organic and full of meaning.
1. Both Bohm and Hiley have used the term ‘active
information’ to discuss the exchanges of the implicate
and explicate orders, however, we would respectfully
suggest that such terminology is detrimental to the
wholeness worldview. Bohm’s comment that ‘informa-
tion is a condensed form of meaning’ [12, p.442]
introduces an un-necessary Cartesian gap between
meaning and information that is unable to be bridged.
For a more complete discussion see: Lohrey, A.,‘The
Language Virus of Information Theory’, Edgescience,
#35, September, 2018/5.
2. “Embracing Complexity: Organicism for the 21st
Century” Develop Dynam 219: 1–9).
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author(s).
Andrew Lohrey
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David Bohm is one of the foremost scientific thinkers of today and one of the most distinguished scientists of his generation. His challenge to the conventional understanding of quantum theory has led scientists to reexamine what it is they are going and his ideas have been an inspiration across a wide range of disciplines. Quantum Implications is a collection of original contributions by many of the world's leading scholars and is dedicated to David Bohm, his work and the issues raised by his ideas.
Time to Reconcile science and philosophy
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Torday J. Time to Reconcile science and philosophy; 2019. Available from: cle/2030082/time-to-reconcile-science-and-philosophy
Wholeness and implicit order. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul
  • D Bohm
Bohm D. Wholeness and implicit order. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul; 1983.