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The holomovement is a key concept in David Bohm's interpretation of quantum mechanics and for his overall worldview. It brings together the holistic principle of "undivided wholeness" with the idea that everything is in a state of process or becoming (or what he calls the "universal flux"). For Bohm, wholeness is not a static oneness, but a dynamic wholeness-in-motion in which everything moves together in an interconnected process. The concept is presented most fully in Wholeness and the Implicate Order, published in 1980.


The basic idea came to Bohm in the early 1970s, during an extraordinary period of creativity at Birkbeck College in London. The holomovement is one of a number of new concepts which Bohm presented in an effort to move beyond the mechanistic formulations of the standard interpretation of the quantum theory and relativity theory. Along with such concepts as undivided wholeness and the implicate order, the holomovement is central to his formulation of a "new order" in physics which would move beyond the mechanistic order.

Early development of the idea[edit]

In an essay published in 1971, Bohm continued his earlier critique (in "Causality and Chance in Modern Physics") of the mechanistic assumptions behind most modern physics and biology, and spoke of the need for a fundamentally different approach, and for a point of view which would go beyond mechanism. In particular, Bohm objected to the assumption that the world can be reduced to a set of irreducible particles within a three-dimensional Cartesian grid, or even within the four-dimensional curvilinear space of relativity theory. Bohm came instead to embrace a concept of reality as a dynamic movement of the whole: "In this view, there is no ultimate set of separately existent entities, out of which all is supposed to be constituted. Rather, unbroken and undivided movement is taken as a primary notion" (Bohm, 1988, p. 77). He then goes on to paraphrase da Vinci to the effect that movement gives shape to all forms and structure gives order to movement, but adds modern insight when he suggests that "a deeper and more extensive inner movement creates, maintains, and ultimately dissolves structure". (78).

In another article from the same period, "On the Metaphysics and Movement of Universal Fitting", Bohm identifies some of the inadequacies of the mechanistic model, particularly the inability to predict the future movement of complex wholes from the initial conditions, and suggests instead a focus on a general laws of interaction governing the relationship of the parts within a whole: "What we are doing in this essay is to consider what it means to turn this prevailing metaphysics of science ‘upside down’ by exploring the notion that a kind of art — a movement of fitting together — is what is universal, both in nature and in human activities" (90). This movement of the whole is what he calls here the artamovement, which he defines as the "movement of fitting" (91), and which is clearly related to what he would later call the holomovement.

Undivided wholeness[edit]

The term holomovement is one of many neologisms which Bohm coined in his search to overcome the limitations of the standard Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. This approach involved not just a critique of the assumptions of the standard model, but a set of new concepts in physics which move beyond the conventional language of quantum mechanics. Wholeness and the Implicate Order is the culmination of these reflections, an attempt to show how the new insights provided by a post-Copenhagen model can be extended beyond physics into other domains, such as life, consciousness, and cosmology.

The holomovement concept is introduced in incremental steps. It is first presented under the aspect of wholeness in the lead essay, called "Fragmentation and Wholeness". There Bohm states the major claim of the book: "The new form of insight can perhaps best be called Undivided Wholeness in Flowing Movement" (Bohm, 1980, 11). This view implies that flow is, in some sense, prior to that of the ‘things’ that can be seen to form and dissolve in this flow. He notes how "each relatively autonomous and stable structure is to be understood not as something independently and permanently existent but rather as a product that has been formed in the whole flowing movement and what will ultimately dissolve back into this movement. How it forms and maintains itself, then, depends on its place function within the whole" (14). For Bohm, movement is what is primary; and what seem like permanent structures are only relatively autonomous sub-entities which emerge from the whole of flowing movement and then dissolve back into it an unceasing process of becoming.

All is flux[edit]

The general concept is further refined in the third chapter, "Reality and Knowledge considered as Process", this time under the aspect of movement, or process. "Not only is everything changing, but all is flux. That is to say, what is the process of becoming itself, while all objects, events, entities, conditions, structures, etc., are forms that can be abstracted from this process" (48). His notion of the whole is not a static Parmenidean oneness outside of space and time. Rather, the wholeness to which he refers here is more akin to the Heraclitian flux, or to the process philosophy of Whitehead.

Formal presentation[edit]

The formal presentation of the concept comes late in the book, under the general framework of new notions of order is physics. After discussing the concepts of undivided wholeness and the implicate and explicate orders, he presents the formal definition under the subheading "The Holomovement and its Aspects". Consistent with his own earlier Causal Interpretation, and more generally with the de Broglie-Schroedinger approach, he posits that a new kind of description would be appropriate for giving primary relevance to the implicate order. Using the hologram as a model, Bohm argues that the implicate order is enfolded within a more generalized wave structure of the universe-in-motion, or what he calls the holomovement:

Generalizing, so as to emphasize undivided wholeness, we can say that the holomovement, which is an unbroken and undivided totality, ‘carries’ implicate order. In certain cases, we can abstract particular aspects of the holomovement (e.g. light, electrons, sound, etc.), but more generally, all forms of the holomovement merge and are inseparable. Thus in its totality, the holomovement is not limited in any specifiable way at all. It is not required to conform to any particular order, or to be bounded by any particular measure. Thus, the holomovement is undefinable and immeasurable." (151).

As the interconnected totality of all there is, the holomovement is potentially of an infinite order, and so cannot be pinned down to any one notion of order. It is important to note that Bohm's concepts of the implicate order and the holomovement are significant departures from the earlier "Hidden Variables" interpretation, and the conceptual framework is somewhat different from that articulated in the Bohm-Vigier interpretation, sometimes called the Causal-Stochastic Interpretation, and the interpretations of the proponents of "Bohmian Mechanics", where the general assumption is of an underlying Dirac ether (see F. David Peat's Introduction to Quantum Implications). While the concept of the holomovement has been criticized as being "metaphysical", it is actually subtler,[citation needed] while at the same time encompassing the whole range of interconnected physical phenomena.

The law of the holomovement: Holonomy[edit]

The starting point for Bohm's articulation of what he means by a "new order in physics" is his notion of wholeness. Thus crucial for understanding the holomovement is his notion of how interconnected phenomena are woven together in an underlying unified fabric of physical law. In the following section, called "Law in the Holomovement", he takes up the question of order, and the laws of organization which relate the parts to each other and to the whole. This is what he calls the "law of the whole", or holonomy. Rather than starting with the parts and explaining the whole in terms of the parts, Bohm's point of view is just the opposite: he starts with a notion of undivided wholeness and derives the parts as abstractions from the whole. The essential point is that the implicate order and the holomovement imply a way of looking at reality not merely in terms of external interactions between things, but in terms of the internal (enfolded) relationships among things: "The relationships constituting the fundamental law are between the enfolded structures that interweave and inter-penetrate each other, through the whole of space, rather than between the abstracted and separated forms that are manifest to the senses (and to our instruments)" (185).

Extension to life, consciousness and cosmology[edit]

In the final chapter of the book, "The enfolding-unfolding universe and consciousness", Bohm elaborated further on the need for new notions of order of physics, and set forth a general view in which totalities are continually forming and dissolving out of the universal flux, or what he designates as the holomovement. He recapitulates: "Our basic proposal was that what is the holomovement, and that everything is to be explained in terms of forms derived from this holomovement. (178)." And again: "The implicate order has its ground in the holomovement which is, as we have seen, vast, rich, and in a state of unending flux of enfoldment and unfoldment, with laws most of which are only vaguely known (185). As such, the holomovement includes not just physical reality, but life, consciousness and cosmology. As Bohm sums it up at the end of the book: "Our overall approach has thus brought together questions of the nature of the cosmos, of matter in general, of life, and of consciousness. All of these have been considered to be projections of a common ground. This we may call the ground of all that is" (212).

In popular culture[edit]

Bohm's work and the Holomovement are the topic of a feature-length documentary under development by Paul Howard and David Peat.[1]

Bohm features as a fictional character in the novel The Wave by British author Lochlan Bloom which includes several "enfolded" narratives.


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