David Bohm: Well, first of all materialism is the name of a certain philosophical…
K: I don’t mean that. I want to explore this.
DB: Matter is all there is, you see.
K: That is, nature and all human beings, react physically. This reaction is sustained by thought. And thought is a material process. So reaction in nature is a materialistic response.
DB: I think the word ‘materialistic’ is not quite right. It is the response of matter.
K: The response of matter; let’s put it that way. That is better. We are talking about having an empty mind, and we have come to that point when the wall has been broken down. This emptiness and what lies beyond it, or through it – we will come to that, but before doing so, I am asking, is all reaction matter?
DB: Matter in movement. You could say that there is evidence in favour of that, that science has found a tremendous number of reactions which are due to the nerves.
K: So would you say that matter and movement are the reactions which exist in all organic matter?
DB: Yes, all matter as we know it goes by the law of action and reaction, you see. Every action has a corresponding reaction.
K: So action and reaction are a material process, as is thought. Now, to go beyond it is the issue.
DB: But before we say that, some people might feel that there is no meaning in going beyond it. That would be the philosophy of materialism.
K: But if one is merely living in that area it is very, very shallow. Right? It has really no meaning at all.
DB: perhaps one should refer to one thing that people have said – that matter is not merely action and reaction, but may have a creative movement. You see, matter may create new forms.
K: But it is still in that area.
DB: Yes. Let’s try to make it clear. We have to see that there are very subtle forms of materialism which might be difficult to pin down.
K: Let’s begin. Would you consider that thought is a material process?
DB: Yes. Well, some people might argue that it is both material, and something beyond material.
K: I know. I have discussed this. But it is not.
DB: How can we say that simply, to make it clear?
K: Because any movement of thought is a material process.
DB: Well, we have to amplify this so that it is not a matter of authority. As an observation, one sees that thought is a material process. Now how are you going to see that?
K: How could one be aware that thought is a material process? I think that is fairly clear. There is an experience, an incident which is recorded, which becomes knowledge. And from that knowledge, thought arises and action takes place.
DB: Yes. So we say that thought is that. It is still coming from the background. So are you saying that something new coming into being is not part of this process?
K: Yes, if there is to be something new, thought, as a material process, must end. Obviously.
DB: And then it may take it up later.
K: Later, yes. Wait, see what happens later. So we say all action, reaction and action from that reaction is movement of matter.
DB: Yes, very subtle movement of matter.
K: So as long as one’s mind is within that area, it must be a movement of matter. So is it possible for the mind to go beyond reaction? That is the next step. As we said earlier one gets irritated, and that is the first reaction. Then the reaction to that, the second reaction, is ‘I must not be’. Then the third reaction is, ‘I must control or justify’. So it is constantly action and reaction. Can one see that this is a continuous movement without an ending?
DB: Yes. The reaction is continuous, but it seems at a certain moment to have ended, and the next moment appears to be a new movement.
K: But it is still reaction.
DB: It is still the same but it presents itself differently.
K: It is exactly the same always…
DB: But it presents itself as always different, always new.
K: Of course. That’s just it. You say something, I get irritated, but that irritation is a reaction.
DB: Yes, it seems to be something suddenly new.
K: But it is not.
DB: But one has to be aware of that, you see. Generally the mind tends not to be aware of it.
K: We are sensitive to it, alert to the question. So there is an ending to reaction if one is watchful, attentive; if one understands not only logically, but having an insight into this reacting process, it can of course come to an end. That is why it is very important to understand this, before we discuss what is an empty mind, and if there is something beyond this, or whether in that very emptying of the mind there is some other quality.
So is that empty mind a reaction? A reaction to the problems of pain and pleasure and suffering? An attempt to escape from all this into some state of nothingness?
DB: Yes, the mind can always do that.
K: It can invent. Now we have come to the point of asking whether this quality of emptiness is not a reaction. Right, Sir? Before we go further, is it possible to have a mind that is really completely empty of all the things that thought has put together?
DB: So that thought ceases to act.
K: That’s it.
DB: On the one hand, perhaps you could say that reaction is due to the nature of matter, which is continually reacting and moving. But then is matter affected by this insight?
K: I don’t quite follow. Ah, I understand! Does insight affect the cells of the brain which contain the memory?
DB: Yes. The memory is continually reacting, moving, as does the air and the water, and everything around us.
K: After all, if I don’t react physically I am paralysed. But to be reacting continuously is also a form of paralysis.
DB: Well, the wrong kind of reaction! Reaction around the psychological structure. But assuming that the reaction around the psychological structure has begun in mankind, why should it ever stop? Because reaction makes another and another, and one would expect it to go on for ever, and that nothing would stop it.
K: Only insight into the nature of reaction ends psychological reaction.
DB: Then you are saying that matter is affected by insight which is beyond matter.
K: Yes, beyond matter. So is this emptiness within the brain itself? Or is it something that thought has conceived as being empty? One must be very clear.
DB: Yes. But whatever we discuss, no matter what the question is, thought begins to want to do something about it, because thought feels it can always make a contribution.
DB: Thought in the past did not understand that it has no useful contribution to make, but it has kept on in the habit of trying to say that emptiness is very good. Therefore thought says, I will try to bring about the emptiness.
K: Of course.
DB: Thought is trying to be helpful!
K: We have been through all that. We have seen the nature of thought, and its movement, time, and all that. But I want to find out whether this emptiness is within the mind itself, or beyond it.
DB: What do you mean by the mind?
K: The mind is the whole – emotions, thought, consciousness, the brain – the whole of that is the mind.
DB: The word ‘mind’ has been used in many ways. Now you are using it in a certain way, that it represents thought, feeling, desire and will – the whole material process.
K: Yes, the whole material process.
DB: Which people have called non-material!
K: Quite. But the mind is the whole material process.
DB: Which is going on in the brain and the nerves.
K: The whole structure. One can see that this materialistic reaction can end. And the next question I am asking is whether that emptiness is within or without. (Without, in the sense of being elsewhere.)
DB: Where would it be?
K: I don’t think it would be elsewhere, but I am just putting the question…
DB: Well, any such thing is a material process.
6K: It is in the mind itself. Not outside it. Right?
K: Now what is the next step? Does that emptiness contain nothing? Not a thing?
DB: Not a thing, by which we mean anything that has form, structure, stability.
K: Yes. All that, form, structure, reaction, stability, capacity. Then what is it? Is it then total energy?
DB: Yes, movement of energy.
K: Movement of energy. It is not movement of reaction.
DB: It is not movement of things reacting to each other. The world can be regarded as made up of a number of things which react to each other and that is one kind of movement: but we are saying it is a different kind of movement.
K: Entirely different.
DB: There is no thing in it.
K: No thing in it, and therefore it is not of time. Is that possible? Or are we just indulging in imagination? In some kind of romantic, hopeful, pleasurable sensation? I don’t think that we are, because we have been through all that, step by step, right up to this point. So we are not deceiving ourselves. Now we say that emptiness has no centre, as the ‘me’, and all the reactions. In that emptiness there is a movement of timeless energy.
DB: When you refer to timeless energy, we could repeat what we have already said about time and thought being the same.
K: Yes, of course.
DB: Then you were saying that time can only come into a material process?
K: That’s right.
DB: Now if we have energy that is timeless but nevertheless moving…
K: Yes, not static…
DB: Then what is the movement?
K: What is movement from here to here?
DB: That is one form.
K: One form. Or from yesterday to today, and from today to tomorrow.
DB: There are various kinds of movement.
K: So what is movement? Is there a movement which is not a movement? You understand? Is there a movement which has no beginning and no end? Unlike thought which has a beginning and an end.
DB: Except you could say that the movement of matter might have a beginning and no ending; the reactive movement. You are not speaking of that?
K: No, I am not talking of that. Thought has a beginning and thought has an ending. There is a movement of matter as reaction, and the ending of that reaction.
DB: In the brain.
K: Yes. But there are various kinds of movements. That is all we know. And someone comes along and says there is a totally different kind of movement. But to understand that, we must be free of the movement of thought, and the movement of time, to understand a movement that is not…
DB: Well there are two things about this movement. It has no beginning and no end, but also it is not determined as a series of successions from the past.
K: Of course. No causation.
DB: But you see, matter can be looked at as a series of causes; it may not be adequate. But now you are saying that this movement has no beginning and no ending; it is not the result of a series of causes following one another.
K: So I want to understand verbally a movement that is not a movement. I don’t know if I am making it clear?
DB: Then why is it called a movement if it is not a movement?
K: Because it is not still, it is active.
DB: It is energy.
K: It has tremendous energy; therefore it can never be still. But in that energy it has stillness.
DB: I think we have to say that the ordinary language does not convey this properly, but the energy itself is still, and also moving.
K: But in that movement is a movement of stillness. Does it sound crazy?
DB: The movement can be said to emerge from stillness.
K: That’s right. You see, that is what it is. We said that this emptiness is in the mind. It has no cause and no effect. It is not a movement of thought, of time. It is not a movement of material reactions. None of that. Which means, is the mind capable of that extraordinary stillness without any movement? When it is so completely still, there is a movement out of it.
DB: I think I mentioned before that some people, like Aristotle, had this notion in the past; we discussed it. He talked about the unmoved mover, when trying to describe God, you see.
K: Ah, God, no. I don’t want to do that!
DB: You don’t want to describe God, but some sort of notion similar to this has been held in the past by various people. Since then it has gone out of fashion, I think.
K: Let’s bring it into fashion, shall we?!
DB: I am not saying that Aristotle had the right idea. It is merely that he was considering something somewhat similar, though probably different in many respects.
K: Was it an intellectual concept or an actuality?
DB: This is very hard to tell because so little is known.
K: Therefore we don’t have to bring in Aristotle.
DB: I merely wanted to point out that the concept of a movement of stillness wasn’t crazy, because other very respectable people had had something similar.
K: I am glad! I am glad to be assured that I am not crazy! And is that movement out of stillness the movement of creation? We are not talking of what the poets, writers and painters call creation. To me, that is not creation; just capacity, skill, memory and knowledge operating. Here I think this creation is not expressed in form.
DB: It is important to differentiate. Usually we think creation is expressed in form, or as structure.
K: Yes, structure. We have gone beyond being crazy, so we can go on! Would you say that this movement, not being of time, is eternally new?
DB: Yes. It is eternally new in the sense that the creation is eternally new. Right?
K: Creation is eternally new. You see that newness is what the artists are trying to discover. Therefore they indulge in all kinds of absurdities, but few come to that point where the mind is absolutely silent, and out of that silence there is this movement which is always new. The moment when that movement is expressed…
DB: …the first expression is in thought?
K: That is just it.
DB: And that may be useful, but then it gets fixed, and becomes a barrier.
K: I was told once by an Indian scholar that before people began to sculpt the head of a god, or whatever, they had to go into deep meditation. At the right moment they took up the hammer and the chisel.
DB: Then it came out of the emptiness. There is another point, you see. The Australian aborigines draw figures in the sand, so that they don’t have permanency.
K: That is right.
DB: Perhaps thought could be looked at that way. You see, marble is too static, and remains for thousands of years. So although the original sculptor may have understood, the people who follow see it as a fixed form.
K: What relationship has all this to my daily life? In what way does it act through my actions, through my ordinary physical responses, to noise, to pain, various forms of disturbance? What relationship has the physical to that silent movement?
DB: Well, in so far as the mind is silent, the thought is orderly.
K: We are getting on to something. Would you say that the silent movement, with its unending newness, is total order of the universe?
DB: We could consider that the order of the universe emerges from this silence and emptiness.
K: So what is the relationship of this mind to the universe?
DB: The particular mind?
K: No; mind.
DB: Mind in general?
K: Mind. We went through the general and the particular, and beyond that there is the mind.
DB: Would you say that is universal?
K: I don’t like to use the word universal.
DB: Universal in the sense of that which is beyond the particular. But perhaps that word is difficult.
K: Can we find another word? Not global. A mind that is beyond the particular?
DB: Well you could say it is the source, the essence. It has been called the absolute.
K: I don’t want to use the word ‘absolute’, either.
DB: The absolute means literally that which is free of all limitations, of all dependence.
K: All right, if you agree that ‘absolute’ means freedom from all dependence and limitation.
DB: From all relationships.
K: Then we will use that word.
DB: It has unfortunate connotations.
K: Of course. But let’s use it for the moment just for convenience in our dialogue. There is this absolute stillness, and in or from that stillness there is a movement, and that movement is everlastingly new. What is the relationship of that mind to the universe?
DB: To the universe of matter?
K: To the whole universe: matter, trees, nature, man, the heavens.
DB: That is an interesting question.
K: The universe is in order; whether it is destructive or constructive, it is still order.
DB: You see, the order has the character of being absolutely necessary; in a sense it cannot be otherwise. The order that we usually know is not absolutely necessary. It could be changed; it could depend on something else.
K: The eruption of a volcano is order.
DB: It is order of the whole universe.
K: Quite. Now in the universe there is order, and this mind which is still is completely in order.
DB: The deep mind, the absolute.
K: The absolute mind. So, is this mind the universe?
DB: In what sense is that the universe? We have to understand what it means to say that, you see.
K: It means, is there a division, or a barrier, between this absolute mind and the universe? Or are both the same?
DB: Both are the same.
K: That is what I want to get at.
DB: We have either duality of mind and matter, or they are both the same.
K: That’s it. Is that presumptuous?
DB: Not necessarily. I mean that these are just two possibilities.
K: I want to be quite sure that we are not treading upon something which really needs a very subtle approach – which needs great care. You know what I mean?
DB: Yes. Let’s go back to the body. We have said that the mind which is of the body – thought, feeling, desire, the general and the particular mind – is part of the material process.
DB: And not different from the body.
K: That’s right. All the reactions are material processes.
DB: And therefore what we usually call the mind is not different from what we call the body.
DB: Now you are making this much greater in saying, consider the whole universe. And we ask if what we call the mind in the universe is different from what we call the universe itself?
K: That’s right. You see why I feel that in our daily life there must be order, but not the order of thought.
DB: Well, thought is a limited order, it is relative.
K: That’s it. So there must be an order that is…
DB: …free of limitation.
K: Yes. In our daily life we have to have that – which means no conflict, no contradiction whatsoever.
DB: Let’s take the order of thought. When it is rational it is in order. But in contradiction the order of thought has broken down, it has reached its limit. Thought works until it reaches a contradiction, and that’s the limit.
K: So if in my daily life there is complete order, in which there is no disturbance, what is the relationship of that order to the never-ending order? Can that silent movement of order, of that extraordinary something, affect my daily life, when I have inward psychological order? You understand my question?
DB: Yes. We have said, for example, that the volcano is a manifestation of the whole order of the universe.
K: Absolutely. Or a tiger killing a deer.
DB: The question then is whether a human being in his ordinary life can be similar.
K: That’s it. If not, I don’t see what is the point of the other – the universal.
DB: Well, it has no point to the human being. You see, some people would say, who cares about the universe. All we care about is our own society, and what we are doing. But then that falls down, because it is full of contradiction.
K: Obviously. It is only thought which says that.
So that universe, which is in total order, does affect my daily life.
DB: Yes. I think that scientists might ask how. You see, one might say, I understand that the universe is constituted of matter, and that the laws of matter affect our daily life. But it is not so clear how it affects the mind; and if there is this absolute mind which affects the daily life.
K: Ah! What is my daily life? Disorderly, and a series of reactions. Right?
DB: Well, it is mostly that.
K: And thought is always struggling to bring order within that. But when it does that, it is still disorder.
DB: Because thought is always limited by its own contradictions.
K: Of course. Thought is always creating disorder, because it is itself limited.
DB: As soon as it tries to go beyond the limit, that is disorderly.
K: Right. I have understood, I have gone into it, I have an insight into it, so I have a certain kind of order in my life. But that order is still limited. I recognize that, and I say that this existence is limited.
DB: Now some people would accept that, and say ‘Why should you have more?’
K: I am not having more.
DB: But others might say, ‘We would be happy if we could live in a material life, with real order.’
K: I say, let’s do it! It must be done! But in the very doing of it, one has to realize it is limited.
DB: Yes, even the highest order that we can produce is limited.
K: And the mind realizes its limitation and says, let’s go beyond it.
DB: Why? Some people would say, why not be happy within those limits, continually extending them, trying to discover new thoughts, new order? The artist will discover new forms of art, the scientists a new kind of science.
K: But all that is always limited.
DB: There is often the feeling that we can go this far, and accept that this is all that is possible.
K: You mean the feeling that we must accept the human condition?
DB: Well, people would say that man could do much better than he is doing.
K: Yes, but all this is still the human condition, a little reformed, a little better.
DB: Some people would say enormously reformed.
K: But it is still limited!
DB: Yes. Let’s try to make clear what is wrong with the limitation.
K: In that limitation there is no freedom, only a limited freedom.
DB: Yes. So eventually we come to the boundary of our freedom. Something makes us react, through reaction we fall back into contradiction.
K: Yes, but what happens when I see that I am always moving within a certain area.?
DB: Then I am under the control of the forces.
K: The mind inevitably rebels against that.
DB: That is an important point. You see the mind wants freedom. Right?
DB: It says that freedom is the highest value. So do we accept that, and see it just as a fact?
K: That is, I realize that within this limitation I am a prisoner.
DB: Some people get used to it and say, ‘I accept it.’
K: I won’t accept it! My mind says there must be freedom from prison. I am a prisoner, and the prison is very nice, very cultured and all the rest of it. But it is still limited, although it says, there must be freedom beyond all that.
DB: Which mind says this? Is it the particular mind of the human being?
K: Ah! Who says there must be freedom? Oh, that is very simple. The very pain, the very suffering demands that we go beyond.
DB: This particular mind, even though it accepts limitation, finds it painful.
K: Of course.
DB: And therefore this particular mind feels somehow that it is not right. But it can’t avoid it. There seems to be a necessity of freedom.
K: Freedom is necessary, and any hindrance to freedom is retrogression. Right?
DB: That necessity is not an external necessity due to reaction.
K: Freedom is not a reaction.
DB: The necessity of freedom is not a reaction. Some people would say that having been in prison you reacted in this way.
K: So where are we? You see, this means there must be freedom from reaction, freedom from the limitation of thought, freedom from all the movement of time. We know that there must be complete freedom from all that, before we can really understand the empty mind, and the order of the universe, which is then the order of the mind. We are asking a tremendous lot. Are we willing to go that far?
DB: Well, you know that non-freedom has its attractions.
K: Of course, but I am not interested in these attractions.
DB: But you asked the question, are we willing to go that far? So it seems to suggest that there may be something attractive in this limitation.
K: Yes. I have found safety, security, pleasure in non-freedom. I realize that in pleasure or pain there is no freedom. The mind says, not as a reaction, that there must be freedom from all this. To come to that point and to let go without conflict, demands its own discipline, its own insight. That’s why I said to those of us who have done a certain amount of investigation into all this, can one go as far as that? Or do the responses of the body – the responsibilities of daily action, for one’s wife, children, and all that – prevent this sense of complete freedom? The monks, the saints, and the sannyasis have said, ‘You must abandon the world.’
DB: We went into that.
K: Yes. That is another form of idiocy, although I’m sorry to put it like that. We have been through all that, so I refuse to enter again into it. Now I say are the universe and the mind that has emptied itself of all this, one?
DB: Are they one?
K: They are not separate, they are one.
DB: So you are saying that the material universe is like the body of the absolute mind.
K: Yes, all right.
DB: It may be a picturesque way of putting it!
K: We must be very careful also not to fall into the trap of thinking that the universal mind is always there.
DB: How would you put it then?
K: Man has said that God is always there; Brahman, or the highest principle, is always present, and all you have to do is to cleanse yourself, and arrive at that. This is also a very dangerous statement, because then you might say, there is the eternal in me.
DB: But I think that is projecting.
K: Of course!
DB: There is a logical difficulty in saying it is always there because ‘always’ implies time, and we are trying to discuss something that has nothing to do with time. So we can’t place it as being here, there, now or again!
K: We have come to the point that there is this universal mind, and the human mind can be of that when there is freedom.