Oral History Transcript — Dr. David Bohm
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Interview with Dr. David Bohm
David Bohm; January 30, 1987
ABSTRACT: University of Bristol (1957-1961); work on electron beams and flux in a magnetic field with Yack Aharonov; work on plasmas and the separation of the individual and collective behavior with Gidon Carmi; conference on solid state electronic plasma theory in Utrecht (1959); read Georgii Gurdjieff, Peter Ouspensky, Buddhism, Indian and Christian philosophy; first meeting with Krishnamurti (June 1961); Birkbeck College, University of London (1961-1987); integrating mathematics, physics and philosophy in his teachings; lecturing about Causality and Chance in Modern Physics; differences between Niels Bohr, Wolfgang Pauli and Werner Heisenberg’s ideas on quantum mechanics.
TranscriptSession I | Session II | Session III | Session IV | Session V | Session VI | Session VII | Session VIII | Session IX | Session X | Session XI | Session XII
Bohm:Yes, we were discussing Bristol last time if I can recall. It has been a long time, before Christmas vacation. I think I mentioned that I felt a bit uneasy with the sort of pecking order in Bristol, the social emphasis on status and the people there.
Bohm:I am just reminding you, I will not to go into details.
Bohm:Price and some of the others and others not. Not everybody, but it was quite a bit of it. I found at that time that it was very helpful to talk with Professor Curner in the philosophy department. We talked about all sorts of questions. It helped to revive my energy sometimes.
Wilkins:In the philosophy department?
Wilkins:He was not a scientist?
Bohm:No, he was not, but he knew a little of science and then there was Paul Feyerabend who was interested in the philosophy of science.
Wilkins:What department was he in?
Bohm:Yes, during that period. He had just come from Popper [?]. He had worked with Popper.
Wilkins:He worked with Popper, did he?
Bohm:Yes. He got his degree probably working with Popper, and then he went over to Bristol for a while, and then he left Bristol later.
Wilkins:Did he then go on to Berkeley?
Bohm:I do not know where he went, but he was moving around quite a bit. He went to Berkeley and now he is also in Zurich.
Wilkins:He is now also in Zurich.
Bohm:He spends part time.
Bohm:We discussed — we found — Discussing the philosophy of science and philosophy more generally was helpful to make the thing more tolerable. There was not must interest in that in the department, well, perhaps a little. Other things that happened, during that period I worked with the two students, Aharonov and Carmi, who came with me from Israel, Yack Aharonov, and Gidon Carmi. We worked on the problem of measurement in quantum mechanics and wrote a few papers clarifying certain aspects of the technical aspects, which I do not know if I need to go into, how the measuring apparatus works. Aharonov got the idea at that time of considering a line of flux in a magnetic field, considering electron beams split in two, so half would go around one side and half around the other and then they would recombine to produce interference. He showed that the interference pattern would be shifted according to the strength of the line of flux, even though the electron beam never came into the line of flux. We wrote a paper on it. Some people found it, most people found it very puzzling. Those who really understood quantum mechanics accepted it after a little thought, but for years people have refused to accept that. Again, many people come up and they want to find a hole in it because they do not like the idea of the electron being affected by a field that it does not contact.
Wilkins:When you say does not contact, is that in the sort of classical sense?
Bohm:No, in any sense. The electron being split, it spreads about a millimeter or so and comes around. The line of flux is much smaller and the electron beam never enters the line of flux.
Wilkins:It is a very localized magnetic field.
Bohm:Yes, but by changing the strength of it, you can change the interference pattern. This is a peculiarly quantum mechanical effect. It is not very different from what determines the energy levels, which are the number of waves around a circuit must be an integer. People do not mind that. That is a non-local effect, but they get worried about this, because it is sort of outside the atom on a fairly large scale. People might accept something like that inside an atom. For even now, we get papers coming up trying to disprove it and it is getting a bit boring to keep on answering them with after twenty-five or twenty-seven years or more.
Wilkins:Has it been verified in any direct way?
Bohm:It has been verified in any number of ways, and recently the Japanese have verified it with tremendous accuracy. They have sort of screened the magnetic field completely when metal and by superconductors and by everything to make sure the electron could never affect it. That does not change anything. People kept on trying to find a way out because they do not like the idea. Quantum mechanics plainly predicts it. If they had found a way out, they would have been in a hole. They would have had to say something is wrong with quantum mechanics. They tried to show that there really is a magnetic field somewhere producing the effect. Finally, these Japanese have essentially made it clear that there is not. With Carmi, I worked further on the plasmas and the separation of the individual and the collective behavior that we discussed earlier. We developed some nice mathematical way of dealing with it, which he pursued later after he left, but very little interest developed in it. I had thought that maybe if there was a lot of mathematics, people would get interested in it, but apparently, that is not enough. Many people found it hard to understand. You got to have mathematics which looks as if it is going to produce a calculable result fairly readily, then they will get interested. Because now, for example, super-symmetry and the screen theory have tremendous structures have been up, but essentially no experiments. It is the structure of mathematical speculation. Sometimes I find it hard to see what is going on in physics because they say that the things I do are too speculative. They admit that it may take twenty, thirty or forty years before they can compare it with an experiment. Who knows? It seems to be worth doing, so I am trying to find out what is it that makes it worth doing in their eyes.
Wilkins:In fact, it is a little bit like packaging for the selling of toothpaste, or something?
Bohm:I do not know. Why do you say that?
Wilkins:I mean the thing is that in trying to get people interested in buying something, you have to use rather sort of not terribly rational approaches, which is though getting scientists interested in studying ideas [???]
Bohm:Scientists physicists have the notion that mathematics is the proper vehicle of truth in physics.
Wilkins:Because you have said that mathematics or not mathematics is not the sole criteria [inaudible].
Bohm:No, because there was Carmi’s stuff, which was very good mathematics, but they do not seem to pay any attention to it. Maybe they found it too difficult. They could not see how you could calculate something. I cannot really guess exactly, because. You see, this present mathematics, you can calculate all sort of things, but you cannot compare any of them with experiments and they are all infinite anyway and approximations are out of control and so on. It is part of the accepted, I mean, what people have come to accept as the right way. But anyway.
Wilkins:It is like having confidence in the currency, so to speak.
Bohm:Yes. I think it was in 1959 when I went to a conference in Utrecht on solid state electronic plasma theory and all that.
Bohm:1959. I was still in Bristol. Pines was there. I think he had me invited. Remember, that Pines had gone on ahead after the work we had done and he had become quite an authority on that area. When I got there, I found it was strange, you see. First of all, I listened to the papers and there was nothing, they just filled the board with equations and I found it boring, because they did not even calculate any experiments. They just talked about their equations. It seemed that they had changed over from the method of what I called canonical transformations, which I had been working on, too. They were not called diagrams, Feynmann diagrams, which are sort of a way of working out certain calculations quickly. Somehow physicists felt much happier about that. They felt confident that they were talking about something with these diagrams, that they understood it. But I felt that they did not, that these were just technical devices for manipulating the formulae. I remembered telling somebody there, saying, “I do not really understand what is going on here.” And he says, “I do not understand what you mean by not understanding or what you are doing by understanding.” So, we were somehow not communicating. He felt that manipulating the diagrams made it all perfectly understandable. I felt that there were no physical concepts in it.
Wilkins:Yes, but presumably, if within a group, if everybody is doing the same sorts of manipulations, they all start building up a sort of confidence that this is valuable. It must be valuable because the other people are doing it.
Bohm:Yes, and they all feel that since everybody says, “I understand,” when you do it, then we understand.
Wilkins:Yes, although none of them really do.
Bohm:They understand the manipulations, but then I say they should have some deeper understanding, but they did not see the point of that. They felt that it was already very deep.
Wilkins:But I mean in that respect, it is like confidence in currency, is it not? Currency does not have any value at all unless there is confidence in it. The confidence is built up by [inaudible].
Bohm:I think these equations are the currency of communications. You have to be able to talk in terms of the prevailing currency to translate your ideas into the prevailing currency or else you cannot use it in that particular group.
Wilkins:Is it a common illusion of greater rationality and so and it actually exists?
Bohm:Yes. Aside from that, at first the spirit there was very poor. Very competitive people watching each other. Sara was saying that people did not know what to think about me. They said, “On the one hand, I may not be of any value to them at all. On the other hand, maybe I will do something that it would be important to be on my good side.” Then the Russians came in a solid little group, which would never separate and never say anything to anybody else. All suspicion and fear. There was Bogolubov and everybody was orbiting around him, all the Russians and satellites, all looking very grim.
Wilkins:They do that at these international peace meetings, too. I think it is, well, various reasons why they do it, but anyway.
Bohm:Then people — One felt they were just watching each other and wanting to get ahead and get status and see how they could advance themselves through these conferences. It did not really make a good impression on me. Then, later when I saw this mathematics which Carmi had done on plasma, that made no impression, I began to gradually lose interest in the subject, because I said, “They do not want to consider any ideas at all, not even mathematical ideas.” Because, for a long time I said, “Well, maybe the reason they do not want to pay any attention to me is because it is not mathematical enough.” But here, it was made very mathematical. Since that time, several people have said, “These are good papers,” but, unfortunately, not pay attention to it. It became unclear to me what in the world was the currency?
Wilkins:But you say that Pines had taken up some of your ideas?
Bohm:Yes, but he translated that into the other currency. Sort of made an exchange to the other currency. There it caught on very nicely.
Wilkins:Yes. In a sense, he did package it meaningfully. Maybe you should get an advertising agent working for you.
Bohm:It was not exactly packaging. It is a matter of putting it — Suppose you have money from some country — you have to put it into the local money to be able to buy things. People will not accept your money. The thing is, it has to be put into the local currency. Now, the local currency is diagrams and manipulation of formulae.
Wilkins:In a sense, it is like currency and so far as it is not the thing itself, but it is what the thing is presented to look like. Packaging does not just mean in the physical package you put it into. It is the whole sort of image of the thing.
Bohm:The image is that you have a set of formulae, which in principle you have a method you could just work out, if you were proficient at it, you could get the answer to everything, just crank along. It looks that way. Obviously it is not that way and everybody knows it is not that way, but as long as it looks that way, it is acceptable as currency. I began to feel that either I was not in sympathy of what was going on physics or that these people were somehow not really serious. My interest began to go down slowly over a couple of years; my interest in the plasma stuff went down. I went to other conferences, too, where I found a very similar spirit, also tremendous emphasis. Some people were making themselves big shots and they were emphasizing their status. At this Utrecht conference, Pines got up and made a little talk about trying to tell people about what I had done. I felt uneasy about this whole thing, why he should do that or why?
Wilkins:Why did you feel uneasy?
Bohm:Maybe he felt a little guilty. Because, for example, Pines had written, I do not know if I would put this in the book, but Pines — When I was in Brazil, we had done two papers already on the plasma and the last two were to be done. Pines wrote up the last two, and he said that he would put the last one in his name first, because he had to get a job. I was too busy in Brazil with all sorts of worries to answer him back.
Wilkins:You mean [???] of names [???] ?
Bohm:Yes. Therefore it would look, that was the one where all the calculations were done. Physicists say that is the real stuff anyway. All the other stuff is just getting ready for that. Later, I learned that that was the way physicists think, that the people who do the calculations are the ones who really count. They say others like Feynmann provide insights, which, however, are useful to those who do the calculations, who are really doing the, what do you call it, the bread and butter of physics; really the solid stuff of physics. I must have become useful to those who do that than has no value, but the one who does that is the one who is really doing it and therefore, that is the one who counts.
Wilkins:Who makes the idea sort of gives them a concrete form?
Bohm:Yes. In general. See, when I got there, I had the distinct impression anyway that these ideas were being attributed to Pines and probably, in subtle ways, perhaps unconsciously, had been doing that. He already did it openly in that order in which he put the names on the paper. Then he may have felt guilty or he felt regretful, you know, somehow.
Wilkins:But did any of these remarks he made, were they published in writing?
Bohm:No, they are not published.
Wilkins:It is very easy for people to get up and make fine speeches which probably are not even recorded, like that. What counts is what goes down in black and white on paper.
Bohm:I think I was getting a little depressed there in Bristol for all these reasons. I became interested — I was beginning to feel that physics, you could not base everything on physics, your whole life on physics. I had already been looking into philosophy. I began to look at other things. Sara and I used to go the public library and look at the sections on philosophy, religion and mysticism and so on, looking at some broader issues. The question really was something deeper that would have meaning or value. It seemed that physics did not have as much meaning as I thought it had. It turned out to be not so different from, let us say, business. A businessman does whatever will please his customers and get him money, get him whatever he wants. A lot of physicists seem to be in that boat. They found out what was wanted and did it and hoping thereby to gain various advantages.
Wilkins:It was a bit like your father back in the furniture shop. You put the right things in the window and people came and bought them.
Bohm:If you get what they want and they buy them, then you get along. That is a way of living all right, but I felt it has very little meaning. Just because people happen want, they need the items, obviously, the furniture, but just because people happen to want certain things is not a very good reason for devoting your life to getting them for them. At least, you get them solid items, like furniture with the business, but here just give them ideas or calculations. Give them the calculations they want or the results they want.
Wilkins:Incidentally, about the competitive spirit, when I reading this book about the Lawrence Livermore laboratory, there was quite a bit in that about Caltech and apparently, a young scientist going through Caltech, this would only be in the last ten years or so, find it highly competitive, enormous pressures on people. I think the spirit in a center like that can?
Bohm:I certainly found Caltech a terrible place.
Wilkins:Yes, you did, but evidently this, I think the traditions can go on in institutions like that and the same spirit was still very strong, apparently.
Bohm:I was beginning to search for a deeper meaning even beyond what could be found in philosophy as well as science. Looking at these questions, two people I read at that time were Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. I do not know if you know them.
Wilkins:I do not know them, but I have heard of them.
Bohm:The idea which they proposed seemed interesting to me which was to become aware of your own thoughts and your reactions and all of life, which are irrational and the source of most of the trouble. For example, Ouspensky said he used to watch the people in the underground. He felt they were like sleepwalkers. They were not aware of what they were doing. They were just driven along to their jobs or wherever by forces inside of them or between them which they were not aware of. It seemed to me that these forces were driving us and driving the whole world into terrible situations. It required a sort of awareness. I also read Buddhism or oriental philosophy, Indian philosophy, yoga, and probably some of the Christian philosophers. During that time this is the story that Sara picked up this book, First and Last Reading, by Krishnamurti. She noticed the phrase, the observer and observed, and thought I talked about it all the time in quantum mechanics, so she thought maybe it had something to do with that and she gave it to me. I found the book extremely interesting. I read it as fast as I could. Then I looked for more books of his. They had a few more in the library. I then wrote to them and asked if there were more books and I got an answer and ordered some more. Finally, I asked if I could meet him. It turned out that in June of 1961, he was coming to London for the first time in many years (he had been ill) and that we could at least come and listen to him. While in London, I wrote to meet him, although they said that he was not meeting people, but still I wrote to this Doris Pratt and she answered finally that I could come and see him. So I came with Sara. This went off very well. I felt that in Chrishner — let me explain that in the writings, there was something there which seemed to be very relevant to the whole human problem, the question of meaning, which was not only this self-awareness that Gurdjieff and Ouspensky had been talking about, but something much deeper. It is very hard to put your finger on it, but I sort of felt that non-verbally at first. The question of the observer and observed was raised, for example, to say that they were not really separate. I felt from quantum mechanics this must be very significant. He was applying it to the human being himself, saying that the human being as observer was not different from human being as observed. Now, this is a very deep point because usually, a human being regards himself as an observer as separate from the observed, even when he is looking at himself. He thinks that he is standing back looking at something inside of himself. But these two are actually one. The confusion that they are separate is the cause of tremendous misery, at least that was saying. I had sort of an intuitive feeling this was right. He was also hinting at something much deeper, some ground, some emptiness in a wholeness ground which everything came, which if we could contact that, then we would sort of rise beyond all these daily problems into a totally different area, where, therefore, we would not be caught in them.
Wilkins:I did not realize that Gurdjieff and Ouspensky would you say one of their main points was to become conscious of one’s own thoughts?
Bohm:Yes, and feelings and reactions and how irrational they are.
Wilkins:Did they have any kind of discussion about how one did this?
Bohm:Yes, in many ways. Ouspensky used to say, “Remember yourself while you are in the mist of something.” Gurdjieff used to give all sort of trick methods whereby people would be sort of shocked into noticing themselves. They were sort of extravagant. He would get people to do all sorts of crazy things, because they were trying to serve him until they suddenly realized what they were caught in. They were just trying to make an impression on him. They had been doing all sort of absurdities. Typically, for example, he used to invite people to eat with him and he would prepare enormous elaborate meals and drink, and even those who did not want, he would press on them. He would get them to go along with him against their will, showing that they really had no will. He did not say that, but the ultimate meaning of it was they had not any. Through this, they would be awakened into looking at their real reactions, what is really going on.
Wilkins:Did he have small communities?
Bohm:He had something like a small community, and so did Ouspensky. It was not a permanent community, but people came somewhere to Richmond or somewhere like that once a week over the weekend.
Wilkins:I think some people thought he was so difficult in these places I think.
Bohm:Yes, well some people find them tremendously helpful, I know, and some got into difficulty. I never was attracted to them enough to want to go on with their stuff, but I thought the points they raised were interesting. But Krishnamurti was the only one that I felt really whole-hearted about. I think that was a crucial point that occurred just as I was about to leave Bristol. I talked with Krishnamurti and we got on very well. He seemed totally open. Also, Sara felt that way. I said I would talk about my scientific ideas, which I did. He could not have understood them, except the general spirit, but he was very open in listening and attentive. At one stage, when I said “totality,” he grabbed me and said, “That is it, totality.”
Wilkins:You sometimes get a feeling for the spirit of the thing without really able to grasp it in any very clear intellectual manner.
Bohm:Yes. I think for a long time that was the feeling about Krishnamurti. It was opening up the notion of not only a self-awareness, but also going much deeper into the nature of being and the mind. An awareness, attention that would transform the mind and transform the human being. I felt that was necessary, that probably without actually formulating it, I began to feel that nothing was going to solve the human problems that I knew about. Science would not solve it. Politics was clearly was not going to solve it. We had seen after the 20th Congress what had happened to the people who wanted to solve it by socialism. Hegelian philosophy would not solve it. It was interesting enough, but it would not solve it. It interested me because it went into this process of thought itself, which I felt was where the trouble is. Even in Israel, as I told you before, I had been interested in thought. Essentially, I remember one minor work I had at the time, that feeling was more powerful than thought, but thought would win in the end, because it continued. It kept at it, and feeling would only hold for a little while. In other words, it would give way eventually to the pressure of thought. Not that I favored thought, but I am saying that thought would win and produce all sorts of destructive effects because it could just keep at it, like Stalin, day after day, putting in his men here and there and sort of knocking out everybody else. When I felt it was really necessary to really understand the workings of thought, the nature of thought beyond just simply the content, but actually the process, how it operates and this irrational destructive way getting people to fight each other and nations, between groups and inside families and what not, because of the way they think and because of the assumptions they make. No prejudices.
Wilkins:Yes, but I mean you have yourself said that you cannot really separate thought from feelings, so [inaudible].
Bohm:No, you can’t, but thought has come to dominate feeling. Thoughts can start feelings. For example, people came by marching and shouting and singing and crying, you see, the feelings stirred up. But that happens without all that inside the individual. Thought will keep it up and will then impose a set of feelings, so you got to feel this way, you got to love your mother and your father, and you got to do your duty, you got to be a patriotic, you got to this, you must present this image and feel this way and so on. Therefore, this constant pressure means that the spontaneous feelings gradually get worn down and go to sleep. What I call the thought feelings take over.
Wilkins:Is it partly because I mean thought gives you this illusion of concreteness and reality.
Bohm:Yes, well that is part of it. More recently I put it like this to say thought imposes a show in consciousness, a show of reality. Every thought contains not only the image and the imagination, but also all sorts of feelings and neural chemistry. The thought that somebody is your enemy will contain various neuro chemicals that will stir you up. Comforting thoughts will produce endorphins and you feel nice. Then you remove those comforting thoughts and the brain demands to have them back. You are sort of hooked on them.
Wilkins:You mean the show is something which has the illusion of being concrete in so far as it has a great mass of detail.
Bohm:Yes, and we call them props. Let us think of the play in an act. Every play requires concrete props. These are all the props. Other people may be the props, society maybe the prop, and money may be the prop for the show. The person has the show about himself and about his world. This show contains all sorts of neuro chemicals, and when the show cannot be put on that way, the neuro chemicals are disturbing and the brain just physically, like as in the case of morphine, demands to have them back, and puts a pressure on thought to produce false ideas and illusions, that will bring back the show and arrange props that will do it. The point is then that there is the show of the self. There may be a real self, but this is hidden, whether there is or not we cannot say yet because it is hidden by the show of the self. The show of the self is the primary difficulty with thought, because it takes on such importance that thought is distorted by it and emotions are flooded with it. The neuro chemistry is flooded. The whole system is flooded. Everything is arranged so that the show must go on. This was a point that Krishnamurti was raising in his own language that it was this self-centered thought which was the cause of the trouble. And essentially, there would be a way of being without this self-centered thought, which the mind would be intelligent, quiet, alert, and silent. Let me try to put it like this, which inside, in this whole process, there is a number of illusions. One is the illusion of an observer who is observing the thought. Consider a play going on, a play within a play, like Hamlet. You have these various actors who are looking at the play, another set of actors are directing the play and who are changing the scenery and arrangement. If somebody outside is just looking at the play and he says all these people are looking at it, it’s being directed, acted, and so on. He realizes that the play is a show, but all the rest of it is taken as real, that they are putting on the show, but in fact they are not putting on the show; they are part of the show. Something similar is going on in the brain. When you think it is clear that a show is going on, the imagination puts on a show of what you think. But then you also have a show of an observer who is watching the imagination, and the experiencer was experiencing it, and a doer who was doing it, but these are all part of the show. Thought puts on the whole show as if from a tape in memory.
Wilkins:Paul discusses the question of the infinite regression of one level observing the person who is observing [inaudible].
Bohm:Yes, but then we get out of this infinite regression because we say that there is no observer. That is essentially what Krishnamurti was saying that there is nothing but a show of an observer, a show of an observed, but the show is put on by thought. Therefore — if you try to analyze it the usual way, you get the infinite regression, but this way, you say there is no regression, but, in fact, there is an intelligence which is asleep, which therefore there this show is putting on the show of an intelligent observer who is looking at it. But there is no intelligent observer. It is like a sleepwalker, as Ouspensky was saying, that the sleepwalker is dreaming that he is awake and looking at it and directing it, and so on. The point is therefore you need an awareness, an attention to all this, to see the actual process of putting on the show as such, because the show is put on in such a way to conceal the fact that it is a show. There are all sorts of devices for concealing that it is a show, making it look very realistic. The props are part of it. Also, insensitivity is part of it, and dullness. Therefore, as long as this goes on, the human affairs cannot be —
Wilkins:How do you mean insensitivity as part of it?
Bohm:You see, the brain becomes insensitive to all the evidence that this is a show. It will not pay any attention to it. It also denies the evidence presented with it and says it is not the evidence.
Wilkins:Yes, it is selectivity.
Bohm:So, it is distorted. There is a neuro chemical pressure within the show to defend the show and to defend the concealment of the fact that it is a show. Therefore, as long as that goes on, the human life has very little meaning, because everything is arranged to try to defend the show. All real things must be organized to defend the show, so they are hiked as props to make a nice show. Therefore, they are not really being seen as they are. The whole thing is therefore — you know, it is irrational meaningless ultimately. Therefore, from that point of view, seeing through this was the crucial element because as long as this goes on, science is part of the props for the show, religion is another part. All the activities of human beings are props for the show. As you can see what happened in the Soviet Union, they wanted to change and have socialism. They could not. Karl Marx was somewhat aware of this. He said there is such a thing as false consciousness. This show, which is concealed, is false consciousness. It is not really inaccurate, but it is committed to be false in order to maintain the show. It has a false structure. Marx was aware of this. He called it “false consciousness,” but he said it was due to exploitation of class by class that the bourgeois, in order to justify exploitation, had to have a false consciousness of what was going on, both for themselves and for the workers. When class structure was gone, consciousness would clear up and it did not. This goes back far beyond this to ancient times, or even to our primate ancestors. If you take the chimpanzees, for example, Jane Goodall, who has lived among them, said that sometimes a group of dominate males and a few females conceive a dislike for the chimpanzees on the other side of the mountain. They were organizing gangs and going out and kill them, beat them up and kill them, get pleasure out of it, drink their blood. It lasted a little while. They were rather like street corner gangs who fight, who enjoy fighting. The point is that if the neuro chemicals can be stirred up by thought, you will have that going on. Now, if you take a dog, it will not work because the dogs’ brain is not big enough. We used to have a dog in Brachwhen [?] who would get furiously angry when she met another dog. I was taking her for a walk and it took all my energy to drag her along. But as soon as we went around the corner, all this stopped and she suddenly wondered why she was so excited. She could not make the picture of the other dog, which she hated so much, and therefore continued the quarrel to keep the neuro chemicals going. Now, the chimpanzee can do that. It has a much bigger brain. The human being can do it much better, can do it for hundreds of years. The neuro chemistry eventually runs the show. When you set up a revolution, hate, fear or violence, everybody has an — the neuro chemistry runs the show and eventually, you end with the Mafia.
Wilkins:Yes, but you are not saying that it not of ultimate reality. You are saying that it is an essential element in running the show.
Bohm:But it is running the show now. It is the major element now. It should not run the show at all in an intelligent operation. The neuro chemistry should be serving intelligence. The right neuro chemicals state for the right operation.
Wilkins:Yes, you mean there is not enough sort of general intelligence behind it, and it tends to run itself.
Bohm:It puts the intelligence to sleep. When there is hate, fear and violence, the intelligence goes to sleep, therefore, the show runs on the neuro chemistry.
Wilkins:Yes, but just as you say that Marx had all his ideas and then it did not work out really very well in practice, and of course, Krishnamurti had all these really good ideas and they did not work out [inaudible].
Bohm:I am saying that no they do not. I am not saying that we have a solution. I am trying to say that it begins to throw light on it. We will have to come further to what I think is needed. As we go along, say that we find there were ways in which Krishnamurti’s ideas did not work either, but at least it throws light what was some of the things that are missing. That they did not take into account that the very constitution of the human brain has this problem in it, which far antedates any particular social thorns.
Wilkins:Yes, but I mean you would also say that Marx’s ideas were casting some light on the nature of the problem, too.
Bohm:It casts some light, but then we say that we have to cast some more light.
Bohm:Certainly, the social structure and the exploitation helps to maintain the wrong neuro chemistry. It is an important cause, but there is more to it than that. Especially, since the people who want to change this structure are already in the neuro chemistry of the structure and their intelligence is largely asleep, as you can see. I have been sort of anticipating things that came much later, but at the time these things were by no means so clear to me. I just had an intuitive feeling that this was an important point, what Krishnamurti was talking about.
Wilkins:So what you are talking about is these general philosophical psychological notions. This was not being related to physics in any very specific manner, right?
Bohm:Except that I felt physics had the observer and observed, and also I felt that physics by itself clearly was not enough. I had enough experience to make me feel that way.
Wilkins:But you mean that in physics there was a specific problem of the observer and the observed, which did sort of form a parallel, when they think about the human beings sort of generally. But you were not using these philosophical notions any way directly in the physics of that time.
Bohm:No, but I had the feeling that they might be of some value in the physics. And vice versa, I had the feelings that physics might help to clarify some of these notions.
Wilkins:You mean as.
Bohm:Not only by a parallel, but also because we would have to bring in a parallel between the material structure of reality and the mind in order to make these notions more clear. But if we found that matter was one way and the mind another, the whole thing would be extremely unclear. I felt quantum mechanics was indicating that there was quite a parallel between the two.
Wilkins:When did you leave Bristol then?
Bohm:It was really ‘61. The summer of ‘61. I started in the fall of ‘61 at Bizkbeck.
Wilkins:How long had you been at Bristol?
Bohm:Since ‘57, so it was four years.
Wilkins:I thought you said that Eric Burrup had been helpful?
Bohm:Yes, he had been in the sense he suggested it. He knew Bernal, so he suggested I apply, which I did. I remember I went before some committee. Bernal was on it.
Wilkins:They had vacant position?
Bohm:They had a vacant position. Eric said it is not a plum, but it is a good way to get started. You might move later. It turned that I did not move, but I applied, there were very few applicants at that time and I got the job quite readily.
Wilkins:You left a chair of theoretical physics.
Bohm:That is right. There were just one or two other applicants, but I got the job. There was not a tremendous rush of applicants, because at that time there was a shortage of physicists.
Wilkins:Maybe Bizkbeck was not regarded as very sort of leading academic place.
Bohm:No, but I felt that it was good to get out of Bristol and Eric felt that even if I was not happy at Bizkbeck, then I should try somewhere else, but meanwhile, it was a good step.
Wilkins:Yes, well, I mean it was a well-defined top academic position, which you are quite right really important to the value you attach to yourself once you?
Bohm:I do not know if I can think of anymore, but?
Wilkins:What about Pauli?
Bohm:I was teaching this course, organizing it, to combine weaving mathematics and physics together and concepts. Also, I was developing what I would call sort of a world view of integrating physics in broader areas, a sort of a cosmology. I cannot really remember now, but in my inaugural lecture I gave sort of a broad overall view bringing together physics and models and quantum mechanics, and the notion of the basic idea that the reality is not static object, but flowing movement. The old Eric Heithen [?] idea that what is, is movement. The forms which appear such as vortices are relatively constant only and relatively independent, so to explain all sorts of objects, particles and so on that way, and to build up into larger structures and eventually to understand things much more broadly that way.
Wilkins:If you took Hegel, would he regard the dialectical process then as being the ultimate reality?
Bohm:The trouble with Hegel is I was essentially adopting the view of the material processes, the reality, and then we were thinking about it. I was very interested in Hegel, but I had not yet integrated that into the physics. I was using Hegel as sort of a parallel to physics rather than really integrating it at that stage. For Hegel, the basic reality was mind, the universal mind. You could think of what people have called God as way of personalizing it. The mind is a process. This was his essential step, assumption. He regarded it as a perception. He said, “You must pay attention to thought as a real process, not just to the content.” Usually we are trained to pay attention to the content of thought and ignore its actuality as a process.
Wilkins:You mean thought has movement?
Bohm:Thought is movement, not only has movement, but it is movement. Its movement is what it is. Since it is a process, the things which appear as content are rather likely femoral forms of vortices, and, therefore, the pictures we get in thought and the words, the concepts and so on are like that, but thought itself is a flowing process, which we do not immediately see because we are trained not to see it. We are conditioned not to see it.
Wilkins:So that is the dialectical process?
Bohm:We call that the dialectical process, which Hegel said goes by way of opposition, going from the thesis to the antithesis, then what he calls its aufgehoven [?] into a synthesis, which means it is both kept and discarded, that the old thing is discarded, but in a sense its kept as a sort of a moment, as an aspect of the new, but not with independent reality. But then these are still only forms within the process, but the process itself is only implicit, it is deeper than the forms, which I just recently called the “show.” The forms which appear in thought could be called part of the show, the show of imagination, for example. The show of words. It helps to manifest the thought. Hegel used that word to manifest a great deal. But the thought itself is highly implicit or [???]. This process goes on, and you can give it attention. Hegel is saying you are looking at the process of thought, not directly of your sense and impressions of reality. But ultimately he wants to explain what appears in the sense impressions as the thought of the universal mind. So since we say matter is what the ground behind our sense impressions, therefore, he is explaining matter as a kind of feature of the thought of universal mind, in which universal mind ingenerates the show of another, which is actually no other, but itself. Just as in your own imagination you generate the show of something else, but it is actually yourself. The process of it is yourself, the reality of it, the actuality of it.
Wilkins:So using your language, then that is saying that matter is a sort of explicit order.
Bohm:Of thought. Of universal mind.
Wilkins:Yes, and this now, just a minute. The flowing process is the mind or the way the mind is working?
Bohm:The flowing process in Hegel’s view is the ground of the mind. He says there is nothing but mind, ultimately. That is his idea.
Wilkins:The ground of the mind, but the ground is sort of, the mind is sort of more explicit?
Bohm:No, he does not carry it that way. Questions like that are raised in Oriental philosophy, but his is saying that thought is the basis. The flowing process of thought is the basis, universal thought. That is for him the situation. The show which appears in it, which includes the manifestation of thought is not only inside, but outside.
Bohm:Not only inward in the human being, but it is what he sees. Ultimately, the outward is part of that show, too.
Wilkins:Yes, you mean the outward being the matter?
Bohm:Matter as we see it, the essentially perceived world.
Wilkins:And the inward, your speaking about the processes in the mind? At the core.
Bohm:That which you plainly recognize to be process of mind. Immediately you sense that this is mind and that is matter, but ultimately, even — You say ultimately both are mind, but of a deeper mind.
Wilkins:Yes, I see, so that the moving process then includes the matter, what you recognize as being matter and also mind.
Bohm:Yes. I was sort of trying to bring mind in a little bit at that stage, but I was primarily trying to describe the dialectical process as taking place in a very subtle kind of matter. For Hegel, you have this — See, Hegel, in a way, also had this question of the observer and the observed, because when thought produces the show of the other in imagination it is no other really, but there seems to be an observer who is observing the other. That is part of the show. So thought produces the show of two which are really one, but in reality they are one. But thought has to make this distinction in order to manifest itself, but to understand thought, you must realize that it is only a distinction in the show and not a distinction in reality.
Wilkins:Yes, I think I see what that means.
Bohm:For all the distinctions made in thought are in the show. They may be useful to make or indicative. They help to do things and so on. But they are like the dotted lines you draw on a diagram.
Wilkins:Yes. They may be useful insofar as you need to eat to keep alive, and if you could not eat to keep alive, then —
Bohm:In order to make things and build things and do all sorts of things — To operate within the material world, whatever that means, you have to do this. Even if the material world were the thought of God, you still have to think that way to be able to handle it.
Wilkins:I think that many [???] sort of somewhat favor the idea of not eating and letting your body go to pot so that you would then sort of just go off to God or something, but I think that is a rather sort of extreme position, was it not. I mean most religions seem to attach some importance to life as we know it.
Bohm:For Hegel, he thought there was an evolution going on of the spirit and with the help of matter in nature. That therefore, he did not ever say that he would not take that position, but he would say that the spirit evolved in going through this evolution, going through this process.
Wilkins:But you mean by using evolution there, you mean he is thinking in much longer terms of kind of things like biological evolution?
Bohm:No, spiritual evolution. I do not know if he thought of biological evolution at the time, but he is saying that humanity, by going through these stages of thought, was evolving spiritually.
Wilkins:You mean like Dial Deshardan [?], you mean all that sort of things. That this is a long term sort of evolution.
Bohm:Yes, but he thought it was very valuable to relate to nature and take part in matter in society and all that.
Wilkins:So did you mean the continuing flowing process that had a very long term element into it, which is essentially sort of progressive or uplifting or something like that.
Bohm:Yes, progressive evolution of something. Unfoldment you may call it.
Wilkins:Yes, but this is on a quite a different time scale from the one of the, all the little vortices which are forming from minute to minute.
Bohm:Yes, well that makes sense to say there are various — in this process there are slow, fast, some little ripples and changes and some much longer term changes.
Wilkins:Yes, I think possibly he did not get on to the biological evolution one at all, because I mean they — I don’t forget all the state of science so actually at the time.
Bohm:There was not far enough advanced to say much about it.
Wilkins:Yes, the evolution of living forms is somewhat different from the idea of the spiritual evolution and [inaudible].
Bohm:But ultimately, for Hegel, it would not be because the physical forms are also ideas.
Wilkins:Yes, ultimately, yes, but somewhat, at least is somewhat distinct.
Bohm:Yes, but still ultimately, nature is the universal idea in its element of ugliness to itself. Externality to itself is what he called it.
Wilkins:How much of this was in Heraclitus? Because, I mean, presumably Heraclitus there is not much —
Bohm:There is very little known about it. No, just a few fragments.
Wilkins:Yes, so there are just a few kinds of hints from Heraclitus.
Bohm:Yes. Plato had a bit of it in his dialectic. But it is sort of continuous. Hegel regarded himself as the heir [?] of all previous philosophy. Philosophy was also evolving in this way or unfolding, but it had reached its highest and Hegel or in the German state or wherever. Whether he thought it would ever go higher, I do not know. He is reputed to have thought that he had reached its ultimate, which he shouldn’t have really.
Wilkins:I think he was a bit distinct from many philosophers in so far as he just did see himself as part of a general process whereas most other philosophers I thought saw themselves as rather sort of more distinct.
Bohm:Yes, well, he thought that he was the culmination of the whole process. But whether he thought it could go on from there or not, I do not know. To culminate to a higher peak.
Wilkins:You said about Plato and dialectic, did you say?
Bohm:Yes, well, Plato and Socrates. The Greek started dialectic and they were one of the earlier people who did it.
Wilkins:You mean Socrates and dialogue?
Bohm:Yes. I mean the dialectic was a method of questions and answers whereby you try elicit the truth by a series?
Wilkins:You think to some extent that to grow out of Heraclitus?
Bohm:Not necessarily. I do not know. Plato certainly knew about Heraclitus, and he brought in, you know, I think that he tried to?
Wilkins:He made reference to Heraclitus?
Bohm:I am not sure. But he brought in, he had a very dynamic element in some of his thoughts. It might have fitted. I do not know enough about it to say.
Wilkins:I do not think he ever mentioned Democritus anywhere, did he, which I think has been commented on, because he was a contemporary. He must have known about him. I think he must have despised him no end.
Bohm:I think that he would not have accepted a materialist philosophy.
Wilkins:I see. That is what I mean. It would have appalled him. I do not think this has ever been commented on, but people have said that they were contemporary. They must have heard about it, no but a single mentioned word. Presumably, he thought he was unmentionable, despicable [???]
Bohm:Well, he probably did not think it was worth commenting on it. I think to do it?
Wilkins:I think he regarded it as being?
Bohm:Nothing to do with the truth.
Wilkins:Right. I think this sole thing you see is relevant to the whole business of the Monos [?] and the molecular biological now. The thing is that one can pick holes in what Monos said and deride it and so on, but the basic notions of Monos are living in molecular biology now. People are going on and they are developing these ideas, and they are working. This is what we have to face. I find it really rather disturbing. It is not a load of poppycock. In one sense, it works. I am not quite sure about the AIDS virus thing, but I mean all kinds of biological problems from a both practical and theoretical nature, it is beginning to creep into, but I still feel most of the signs are supported by Jim Watson saying we do not suffer from the German disease.
Bohm:What is that?
Wilkins:Interest in philosophy. That is what Watson said. He boast of it. I do not suffer from the German disease. He said that in London a year or two ago and we get on with the job.
Bohm:Yes, well, I will have to look into that. It is the same as to say technical is working too in a certain sense, but it is not producing — the overall long range results are not being produced. You cannot say that people are really better off than they were in the ‘60s or after all that technology.
Wilkins:I think the molecular biology is having the subtle spiritually destructive forces and the people who are not working in the field, of course, it gives them the creeps. People are working just get hooked on the drugs [inaudible].
Bohm:Well, they get the endorphins. They get all the neurochemicals because it is exciting problems.
Wilkins:Well, it is their life. It is their careers, their money, their self-esteem and everything else. They are wrapped up in it. I interrupted there. You were saying that?
Bohm:You could say that sometimes things work in a narrow context, but they are producing havoc in a greater context. It is like the idea of making a pact with the Devil, as Faust does. He got everything he wanted, but the whole thing was worthless.
Wilkins:I think the Chinese [inaudible] who asked me to contribute an article in some popular scientific Chinese journal. Sort of the intelligent layman kind of thing. So, I saw him today, I said, “Well, look, I wondered whether I could write something about molecular biology, some of the philosophical problems that it raises, and just raise the question as to whether the readers might think that traditional Chinese philosophy might be able to contribute to some these problems.” I would not be saying how to do it oneself, but I mean, don’t you feel that the whole — I mean I know little about it, the whole as being this big sort of holistic element in traditional Chinese philosophy, hasn’t there? And one feels that there might be something, possibilities there so why not raise the — And they are also so concerned about the value of the scientific workings of a broader social and political sense, aren’t they, with all the communism and Marxism and all that sort of stuff. And although they may be taking up the idea of purer science to some extent in western models and straight, forward application. Yet it seems to me they have a tradition there of thinking more widely about the significance of it, which is not so strong in the west. Anyway, I am getting off the point. Go back to you.
Bohm:I was developing a kind of world view, a cosmology which included the notion of infinite depth of matter and infinite qualities which I had already put in my book, Causality and Chance in Modern Physics. I remember I used to give talks about it. There used to be groups of students who would gather for weekends in these grace and favor houses, like in Richmond Park, and I gave talks during those early years. Some of the people who were there said that my view was such as to make more room for the religious approach by giving sufficient richness and liveliness to matter, so that it would not be this mechanical structure that we were talking about.
Wilkins:Yes, because I think it just is very difficult. It seems artificial to just sort of bring God into these mechanical pictures.
Bohm:Yes, well that goes back, remember the Rosenkrenzer during the late middle ages. The scientific tradition included Rosenkrenzer and various other, alchemy, which had the idea of matter being sort of alive almost and having God in it, you see that God imminent. The divine was imminent in matter. The church at that time regarded all this as a kind of heresy, a kind of rival to their own approach. Therefore, they conceived the notion that God would have to be totally transcendent, though this was really against Christian doctrine, and that the universe was just a machine. The scientists like this because it gave them complete freedom. Religion had nothing to do with this machine. God had made the machine and from there on it went, except for occasional miracles and the theologians gained the possibility of getting rid of all these heresies and witchcraft and all, everything having to do with the notion of some divine force in matter.
Wilkins:[Restroom break] It is recording again.
Bohm:I was sort of moving toward a broad cosmology and world view which would leave room for something more like spirit.
Wilkins:That was in the early ‘60s?
Bohm:Early ‘60s, yes.
Wilkins:Were the student fairly responsive to this?
Bohm:Some of them were. At least there was a good response to bringing in physical concepts along with the mathematics.
Wilkins:The ‘60s was supposed to be especially, have all this special kind of interest in spirituality and wholeness and God knows what. Was there not?
Bohm:There were a few like that in Bizkbeck, but I do not think there were a great many. There were people who worked in the day and came there at night. There were a number who were interested, but this was a minority.
Wilkins:You mean the students were selected really for people who were doing a degree for vocational purposes.
Bohm:Yes. They get better job.
Wilkins:Whereas, ordinary universities would have people just drifting up there to get a wider education.
Bohm:Meanwhile, I was reading more and more of Krishnamurti getting a hold of more of his books and meeting him, say once a year when I came to London listening to his talks.
Wilkins:That was before Brockwood [?]?
Bohm:Yes. What else was I doing? I do not know. I was developing the ideas. And I did not have a lot to work, see Basil Hiley had just come, for the first year he did not come because he will ill. He came the same as I did. Then, after that, I was?
Wilkins:He is getting here, isn’t he?
Bohm:Yes. I became slowly acquainted with him, but it was a slow process. I had one or two students, but they were not exceptional.
Wilkins:Did Basil come as a lecturer or?
Bohm:Yes, as a senior. I do not know exactly when.
Wilkins:A member of staff.
Bohm:A member of staff.
Wilkins:He did his Ph.D. here.
Bohm:That is right. I had a few students and we worked on various things. I do not think any compared with Aharonov, Carmi or Pines for that matter.
Wilkins:Where did the students from come?
Bohm:They came largely from Bizkbeck itself.
Wilkins:I see. There were students who taken a physics degree and then stayed to do a Ph.D.
Bohm:Yes. I recall I was beginning to get a bit depressed about the whole subject. I did seem that there was very little scope in Bizkbeck for doing much and the students were not all that good. And I could not find any contact here and everybody here was interested in, what they were doing then was group theory and working out long tables in groups and everybody was very excited about it. It seemed that elementary particle physics was just sort of working out that stuff.
Wilkins:You mean it was groups then and strings now or?
Bohm:Yes. They had just about began to, I think they had worked out this SU3 group and people got excited and everybody was giving lectures about it and doing long, long tables of groups. On the whole, I could not get very interested. I remember once giving a talk on my own ideas in, I cannot remember what they were now anymore, but in Imperial College. It was not Salon [?]. Who was the fellow who Matthews. He could not quite see the point of it, but he said, “Maybe you are more interested in mathematics than in physics.” I was trying to develop something.
Bohm:I could not see the point of what they were doing and they could not see the point of what I was doing. I kept on, but I was getting a bit discouraged and feeling, really getting nowhere. I could see more and more when I talk with people that there were more people who were trying to use physics as a way of getting money or power. That whole element seemed to be building up more. I recall that I was reading Krishnamurti and for a while that seemed to be very helpful, but there seemed to reach an end of what you could do with this reading. I already felt that it did not; it became rather abstract after a while.
Bohm:I did meet him once a year and it became much more alive when I talked with him. We had some very good talks in those days about all sort of things, including universal mind.
Wilkins:You mean as a kind of personality, he was somehow seen to be an expression of his idea as sort of in practice, so to speak?
Bohm:Yes. That is right.
Bohm:That’s right. It was called living. I think I had sort of picked up the idea that perhaps there could be a direct awareness of this universal mind or universal ground, whatever you want to call it. Maybe Krishnamurti was in that state. He seemed to claim that. Therefore, the insight he got there would not only be irrelevant and should be relevant and communicable, also perhaps even helpful in physics and perhaps the two would be in somewhere related to try to get an idea about matter which would be coherent with what he was saying about the mind. So, all those things were forming. When I saw him — We began to go to Switzerland Zannu [?], where he had set up gatherings every year where people would meet in a tent, a couple of thousand people. He would give talks and he had smaller discussion groups. I think all of that really helped to keep my energy up because afterward I found out my ideas in physics would flow much better. By talking only with physicists, I felt there was a sort of Lenin atmosphere as far as I was concerned. There was a failure of communication. They did not know what I was talking about. I could not really get interested in what they were talking about. It was sort of getting back to that period in Berkeley when I wanted to give up physics. If you remember my saying I did not know quite what to do. I was beginning to think that these questions that Krishnamurti raised were more important than physics. I remember at one stage I decided that. I think that is the way things were going. At that stage, the communication with Krishnamurti was very easy and very good. It was very direct it seemed. I would see quite a bit of him when we went to Zannu. I had the feeling that I was really understanding this stuff. I had talked about with all sorts of people. It seemed as if I was learning all about doing something.
Wilkins:You mean with Krishnamurti’s sort of ideas generally? You might have a grasp for them and then you could somehow illuminate them further.
Bohm:Yes, talk about them with other people who were interested. It became a very strong interest. I felt that he was calling for a transformation and mutation of consciousness. If we use this language I was using now, you could say that to end this show which conceals itself so that it becomes a show which takes on the quality of the center of existence through the mind would be in a different state, a new state which you cannot imagine now where everything would be quite different and where these problems we now have would be left behind. So, that was the sort of thing I was thinking about.
Wilkins:But incidentally, I mean you didn’t really find, did you very much, that in the other people who were — Did you find much the other people who were going there that you did not Krishnamurti stand out as being rather unique, that the other people [inaudible].
Bohm:There were number of people — In the early days, I used to talk with a lot of people. There was a vivid interest, which made it interesting.
Wilkins:They had an interest, but I mean, they did not have all that much to contribute, did they, in the sense that Krishnamurti did?
Bohm:No. That was one of the points that there was a strong interest so that they would contribute something.
Wilkins:You mean just sort of people being interested in a way [inaudible].
Bohm:Well, they also commented and said things. They understood in their own way. It was a contribution. It was not at the level of Krishnamurti.
Wilkins:[???] with a pretty big cap.
Bohm:Yes. But anyway, during that period, I was quite happy with the whole thing. I think it was one of the things that enabled me to keep going because it seemed pretty dead in this place I got to. As the idea I thought of — It was not Bizkbeck which had fault, because Bizkbeck had the advantage for me in that it was a very easy going atmosphere and I could do what I like, whereas, if I went to another place, there would have been pressure to work on their stuff.
Wilkins:Yes, you mean in Imperial College you would have found this very strong atmosphere hanging all around the place?
Bohm:Yes. There was not point in my applying to another place, because it was not my problem. My problem was that what they were doing.
Wilkins:The problem of physics as a whole.
Bohm:It did not interest me. I was very fascinated with physics, but I felt that the way it was going, I had no sympathy with it; and the way I wanted it to go, they had no sympathy. So I still thought that maybe by bringing mathematics and physics together they would get interested. Events were to prove that was no so.
Wilkins:You mean you did not find any physicists at that time who had sort of broader and deeper philosophical interests, like sort of Bohr and things like that? People just were not around?
Bohm:No. Bernal was about the broadest, but he was not very much in my line. Bernal was quite interested in what I had to say, actually.
Wilkins:I somehow feel that there was all that much depths of understanding there.
Bohm:He stood out far above most of the others.
Wilkins:He certainly had an extraordinary sort of liveliness and a broad interest. That is true.
Bohm:His mind was very lively.
Wilkins:I was an undergraduate at Cambridge when he was there and I found him an extremely inspiring person. I saw quite a bit of him from time to time. During the war, too and after the war. I think what is final — I am not very good to talk about what is final evaluation of people. There is not a sort of pleasant way of putting it, but I think that he had a terribly inspiring thing, pre-war and early war which I think somehow wore thin later on and I do not know that he had anything like the sort of depth of someone like Bohr to him.
Bohm:Bohr had become fairly rigid by the time I met him anyway. Peterson was saying he was just crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s as an [???]. He kept on doing.
Bohm:He thought that maybe if I could suggest some new idea, it would put a ten-year lease of life on board.
Wilkins:Incidentally, there is a new newspaper called The Scientist and a one page article by Neville Mott and how he went to work with Bohr. It brought a thing out which I had never taken in properly from previous reading. Apparently, he said extraordinary thing was about the time we spend around discussing everything. He went on and on and on and on.
Bohm:Yes, well Bohr did. The point is they talked and talked and talked about all sorts of things.
Wilkins:Apparently, he found this extremely stimulating.
Bohm:Yes, well people do not talk. That is what I felt that we just got to be talking with no particular purpose.
Wilkins:Some kind of sort of open sort of process going on there, which?
Bohm:The more modern atmosphere is against it because everybody is thinking about his status and his job. People are even getting a bit afraid to talk, to share their ideas. I remember when I got back to Europe from Israel, I came in the summer of ‘56, and I met this fellow, George Yvick [?] whom I had known fairly well in America. He began to talk about my ideas and he took me aside one day and said, “You know, you better not talk so freely about your ideas, that people will steal them.” The point is that the people became more interested in using ideas to get ahead to get ahead and to gain advantages. They were not sort of fascinated by the ideas themselves, just absorbed in them. They began to say, “This is the way I can get a job and get ahead and make it security and win a Nobel Prize and whatever.” The atmosphere was not that free anymore. When I talked with Einstein, you could feel that he; you almost forgot that he was Einstein. You say here are just two people talking. It is not to say who is he and where is he going? What is he going to get? … and all that. That is how I felt with Krishnamurti when I first met him.
Wilkins:I was thinking there is something which sort of transcends or the personal concerns which was bigger than them, so to speak.
Bohm:During this period which I found somewhat depressing as far as physics was concerned, we got a student, Donald Schumacher, was quite brilliant. He came from America, but he was not very stable mentally. He took a great interest in Niels Bohr. He really studied Niels Bohr and he had some insights into Niels Bohr which, Bohr is exceptionally hard to understand, and as I said, I think I wrote a book Quantum Mechanics which I thought was on Bohr’s philosophy, but it probably was not. It was a bit closer to Pauli’s philosophy. Pauli was regarded as one of the architects of the Copenhagen Interpretation, and yet you can see big differences between him and Bohr. I had come out with something which Pauli like a great deal and Bohr never commented on.
Wilkins:You mean when you sent it to them?
Bohm:Yes. I can see know that Bohr could not have said anything to me, because it would have been very embarrassing to him to say that I praise Bohr so highly, and he would have to say that I had it all wrong. But Pauli liked it, because my ideas are really much closer to Pauli than to Bohr. The point is, I had not really understood Bohr, but I had sort of seen him the way I wanted to see him. Because he was so hard to understand, I sort of began to read my own view in there. This fellow Schumacher had some insight which made it much more clear what Bohr was about. What he said could be summed up by saying that the form of the experimental conditions and the meaning or content of the results are a whole, not further analyzable. This question of the observer and the observed, which is fascinated by quantum mechanics, is very hard to put consistently without confusion. You may say there is supposed to be an indivisible quantum uniting the observing equipment and what is observed. Therefore, if it indivisible, you cannot distinguish them, because any distinction between them would cut that quantum, if you cut the quantum, you have changed the situation. Imagine here the two together, one whole. Between them Bohr drew sort of a dotted line saying a distinction, but across that distinction is this indivisible quantum which cannot be distinguished. So, the distinction, he said, is only logical and not real.
Wilkins:The dotted line, not a whole line.
Bohm:A real line, yes. In other words, it is like form and content. Therefore, the point is now that what Bohr emphasized the whole phenomenon. He said, “The phenomenon cannot be discussed apart from the whole set of experimental conditions.” The experiment result, the meaning of the experimental result cannot be separated from those conditions. Therefore, different conditions have a different meaning. That is with complementary. The conditions for measuring momentum mean one thing. The conditions for measuring position cause the same result and mean something else, the same spot of the observed. But the two conditions are not compatible. That is the meaning of complementarity. It became clear that Bohr said the phenomenon was not analyzable. The phenomenon is the appearance. Essentially saying nothing can be said about the essence underlying the appearance. The whole point of explanation is then to find the essence underlying the appearance. He is saying that there is not any or you can say nothing about it. Therefore, it would have been a very repellant philosophy to me had I understood that in the early days. To say we have nothing but the appearance and we have a mathematical algorithm which enables us to compute the probability of a certain phenomenon.
Wilkins:I think you said another time that he denied there was any physical reality.
Bohm:Looking at it more carefully, he did not deny there is reality, but he denied you could say anything about it. Now, Pauli did not do that. He said quite a bit about it. He said that the mind is involved, the mind of the observer is involved in that reality. I would not have gone on with Pauli that way, but there were a great many other points about Pauli I probably would have gone on. I said quantum properties in my book, I said in my book quantum properties are potentialities which I realized according to the experimental conditions. I was saying something more about reality than Bohr would want to say, would think proper to say. Is that clear? If I say it is a potentiality Bohr does not want to say anything. He said, “I only discuss the phenomenon.” I say, “Underlying the phenomenon is a reality of out which has the potentiality for producing various phenomenon.”
Wilkins:You are saying?
Bohm:Yes. Pauli is saying it, too, and so is Heisenberg. But everybody says Bohr, Heisenberg, and Pauli are saying the same thing, but they are not.
Wilkins:So, Bohr did not like to be trying to grasp this underlying reality?
Bohm:No, he did not want to say anything about it.
Wilkins:He was essentially elusive?
Bohm:Yes, whereas, Pauli said it is pretty elusive too, but if there is something you can say, Heisenberg, right? So, that was more along my line too to say there is something you can say. On the other hand, I understood from Schumacher what Bohr was saying that there is nothing you can say. When you have described the phenomenon, you had described all that can be said.
Wilkins:It does seem to me to illustrate the extreme subtly of these notions. I think I am beginning to understand a little bit more about that peculiar thing they say that Bohr never wrote his own papers. He sat around with a whole group of people talking them and got them to write them. The whole group wrote them. Presumably, this is something to do with the whole subtly of the operation.
Bohm:Yes, he had to find out how the language would communicate.
Wilkins:Otherwise, you would think, “Why on Earth did he not get on and write his own paper?”
Bohm:His problem was to communicate in a way that he felt would not distort, so he had to distort the subtlety in order to not over simplify.
Wilkins:You mean if there was not this talk going backwards and forwards, than he could not?
Bohm:He would not realize that the subtleties were being lost, unless you actually find out in talking with, how they, what happens.
Wilkins:There is obviously a hell of a lot of truth in that. Most people tend to assume that if they say something in a certain way, the other person will understand. Don’t they?
Bohm:Yes. It is only in a dialog that you can find out.
Wilkins:Yes, but as a result of a continuing process.
Process of dialog. Let us talk a bit about this.