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Photo by Stphen Harry

In a talk, ‘The Implicate Order: A New Order for Physics’, given at a conference organized by the Center for Process Studies, David Bohm made the following comments:

“In other words, the energy in empty space is immensely greater than the energy of matter as we know it. Therefore, matter in itself is a kind of ripple in empty space. Matter is a relatively stable and autonomous ripple in the emptiness. Those of you who have studied the theory of solid states may not find this notion of emptiness entirely unfamiliar. For example, in a crystal of very dense material at absolute zero, if the crystal is of perfect order, electrons go right through it as if nothing were there. The suggestion is then that emptiness is really the essence. It contains implicitly all the forms of matter. The implicate order really refers to something immensely beyond matter as we know it — beyond space and time. However, somehow the order of time and space are built in this vacuum.”

This insight has a close resonance with the well-known passage from the Heart Sutra:

Form is emptiness; emptiness also is form. Emptiness is no other than form; form is no other than emptiness.

The Buddhist practitioner and translator Karl Brunnhȍlzl says of this in his excellent book The Heart Attack Sutra:

“In fact, emptiness is the very reason that anything can appear at all because emptiness is the fundamental space, nonsolidity, and openness in which appearance, movement, functionality, and change are possible. If things were solidly and independently existent, nothing could ever appear newly or change.”

— Graham Smetham

If this idea is true, we are living a lie with our concepts of identity, possessions and the material universe. The implication is that we are conjured out of a state of potentiality in order to — what? Experience something? What could it be?

We’re convinced of our separateness, of the reality of time, of our earthly pursuits, of our successes and failures, of the figure we cut in the world. Quantum physics and Buddhism seem to be pointing to consciousness as the origin and lever of growth of Soul. Spirit and materiality have a common root, a shared identity and joy in living. They counter-fertilize. Suppressing the body, as the Puritans like to do, looks like a big misunderstanding.

Releasing things to be themselves, letting go of mental forcing and cultural coercion might allow consciousness to grow. It’s interesting that Buddhists and Western physicists are starting to talk to each other about the nature of reality. If we are born out of a fertile emptiness, we no doubt die back into it. Our identity was a realized potential that was fulfilled to some extent by our life in the so-called solid universe.

We can’t see it, but nothing moves by itself. We are life forms that move like giant orchestras that are interconnected for eternity. Our ideas of what we are doing here begin to look childish and partial. We have a tiny vision as we go about the task of becoming conscious of how we are connected to everything. We have been free until now to play with the idea of disconnection, competition and status. We have played with war, hate and destruction of nature. Such ideas still have power in our world, but maybe they are waning. I’m encouraged that new science is connecting to ancient religion in a way that could show us a better path.

We know new ideas are not generally immediately known and understood, but I don’t think these ideas will be forgotten. Understanding them may be a matter of life or death.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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