David Bohm On The Dangers Of Fragmentation

David Bohm On The Dangers Of Fragmentation

Head Of A Martyr, by Odilon Redon, 1877

David Bohm, referring to the prevalent dualistic paradigm, says that mankind

begins to see and experience himself and his world as actually made up of components. Being guided by this view, man then acts in such a way as to try to break himself and the world up, so that all seems to correspond to his way of thinking. He thus obtains an apparent proof of the correctness of his fragmentary self-world view, not noticing that it is he himself, acting according to his mode of thought, who has brought about the fragmentation that now seems to have an autonomous existence, independent of his will and of his desire.

Fragmentation is thus an attitude which disposes the mind to regard divisions between things as absolute and final, rather than as ways of thinking that have only some relative and limited range of validity and usefulness. It leads to a general tendency to break things up in an irrelevant and inappropriate way, and so, it is evidently inherently destructive. For example, though all parts of mankind are now actually fundamentally interdependent and inter-related, the primary and overriding kind of significance generally given to the widespread and pervasive distinctions between people (family, profession, nation, race, ideology, etc.) is preventing human beings from working together for the common good, and indeed, even for survival. When man thinks of himself in this fragmentary way, he will inevitably tend to put his own separate Ego first, or else his own group. He cannot seriously think of himself as internally related to the whole of mankind and therefore to all other people. Even if he does try to put mankind first, he will tend to think of nature as something separate, to be exploited to satisfy whatever desires people may happen to have at the moment. Similarly, he will think body and mind are independent actualities, and he will go on in his thinking to divide these further into various parts and functions, each to be treated separately. Physically, this is not conducive to over-all health (whose root meaning is “wholeness”). And mentally, it is not conducive to sanity (which has basically a very similar meaning), as is indeed shown by an ever-growing tendency to the break-up of the psyche, as neurosis, psychosis, etc.

To sum up then, fragmentary thinking is giving rise to a reality that is constantly breaking up into disorderly, disharmonious, and destructive partial activities. It seems reasonable then seriously to explore the suggestion that a mode of thinking that starts instead from the most encompassing possible whole, and goes down to parts (sub-wholes) in a way appropriate to the actual nature of things, would tend to bring about a different reality, one that was orderly, harmonious, and creative. But for this actually to happen, it is not enough that we explore this notion only intellectually. It must also enter deeply into our intentions, actions, and indeed, into our whole being. That is to say, we have to mean it, with all that we think, feel, and do. To bring this about requires an action going far beyond what we have discussed here (David Bohm, The Implicate Order: a New Approach to the Nature of Reality).

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