Book Review

Science, Order, and Creativity
by David Bohm and F. David Peat

I bought this book at a sale because I thought the cover was so...unusual. Plus the title and the whole package was my kind of thing. There's stuff about fractals and Heisenberg and there's a chapter named "What is Order?" 

I didn't plan on reading it, but then one night I gave it a shot, and I saw that these guys really knew what they were talking about. They take us from physics to metaphysics, to meta-, and then on to the mystical and the cosmic and the everyday mind. By the end they're discussing Krishnamurti.

I like their idea of "false play" / "playing false:" This is when a person "is engaged in an activity that no longer has meaning in itself, merely in order to experience a pleasant and satisfying state of consciousness" but is now concerned with "reward or the avoidance of punishment." This not only screws with the "generative order of consciousness" but generates violence: the denial of the freedom of creative states of mind "brings about a pervasive state of dissatisfaction and boredom. This leads to intense frustration..." and deadened senses, intellect, and emotions, and the loss of a capacity for "free movement of awareness, attention, and thought." (I've been thinking back and forth about signing up with Patreon all week...)

A lot of thought went into this book. Reading it gave me a nice feeling of texture and struggle. It felt like good exercise for the mind AND the heart. Over-earnestness, a vision of the beyond, struggling with language — I can sympathize. 

As usual as I was reading I couldn't help but think more diagrammatic thinking would have helped, and not just thinking—more actual diagrams would have helped. I guess that's what the cover artist Andresj Dudzenski was trying to get at with the flower, cubes, etc. But the cover artist and the writers are using different metaphor-schemes, as far as I can tell. I don't remember any of those sorts of things (such as shaped holes and pegs, flowers or magnifying glasses) appearing inside the text.) Relatively speaking there are actually quite a few illustrations—fractals and geometric figures, and even the Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch by Rembrandt and some JW Turner. 

But how about a sense of humor, an ironic sense? This book is pretty dry. Here's a sample of the writing: "Thus, if there are rigid ideas and assumptions in the tacit infrastructure of consciousness, the net result is not only a restriction on creativity, which operates close to the "source" of the generative order, but also a positive presence of energy that is directed toward general destructiveness." It's true, but it's not exactly powerfully written. In the end, though, it's hard for me to hold this against a book so dedicated to making clear this vision of reality which makes humor and compassion possible at all, by "operating close to the source of the generative order" in a spirit of openness and creativity.

Near the end:
Consider, for example, a hypothetical individual whose consciousness had been "cleared up" both in the individual and the cosmic dimensions. Although this person might be a model of wisdom and compassion, his or her value in the general context would be limited. For because of "unconscious" rigidity in the general infrastructure, the rest of humanity could not properly listen to this person and he or she would either be rejected or worshiped as godlike. In either case there would be no true dialogue at the social level and very little effect on the vast majority of humanity. What would be needed in such a case would be for all concerned to set aside assumptions of godlike perfection, which makes genuine dialogue impossible. In any case, the truly wise individual is one who understands that there may be something important to be learned from any other human being. Such an attitude would make true dialogue possible, in which all participants are in the creative "middle ground" between the extremes of "perfection" and "imperfection." In this ground, a fundamental transformation could take place which goes beyond either of the limited extremes and includes the sociocultural dimension.