Bohm on Creativity

I’ve been drawn to the work of David Bohm for a long time. He brings together ideas from physics philosophy and meditation. His thinking is deep, to the extent I’m not quite sure I fully comprehend it – in a way that keeps me engaged rather than putting me off.

I’m just reading a collection of his essays on creativity. I’ll just make a few observations on some of what I’ve enjoyed so far.

I like how he relates creativity to the perception of higher levels of order, and (and as I understand it) sees true creativity as the expression of a natural urge to comprehend higher levels of order… as something noble and beautiful.

Thus it can be seen that nature is a creative process, in which not merely new structures, but also new orders of structure are always emerging.

Elsewhere in his work, Bohm sets the bar high in his definition of what constitutes thinking. He suggests that much of what passes for thought in our lives is really the repetition of conditioned responses, provoked by old feelings. He labels those as “felts” rather than thoughts. I think this more rareified idea of what thinking is relates closely to his conception of creativity.

He has some fascinating things to say about the limits of mechanistic models, such as this:

But, after all, for thousands of years people have been led to believe that anything and everything can be obtained if only one has the right techniques and methods. What is needed is to be aware of the ease with which the mind slips comfortably back into this age old pattern. Certain kinds of thing can be achieved by techniques and formulae, but originality and creativity are not among these. The act of seeing this deeply (and not merely verbally or intellectually) is also the act in which originality and creativity can be born.

One my mantras is “notice more, change less”. Bohm appears to me to emphasise creativity as an act of discovery rather than of manufacture. He argues that when we try to force change we commit an error of perception:

..a preconceived idea of producing social harmony is in reality just as mechanical and arbitrary as is the chaotic state of conflicting orders which it aims to eliminate… What is really needed to create a genuinely new order in any field whatsover… is that state of mind that is continually and unceasingly observant of the fact of the order of the medium in which one is working.

Somewhere in there is perhaps the reason I distrust so much of what I read about innovation processes: on the surface, they claim to champion novelty, but often what I sense is really an attempt to impose power.

4 thoughts on “Bohm on Creativity

  1. Andrew Farmer

    Interesting. Rather than ‘champion’ novelty, by using some process should innovation merely be seeking to channel it?

  2. Antonio Dias

    I’m new to Bohm, having found him through Dwight Towers’ link to your comments…. I now find myself celebrating and asking, “Where has he been all my life!”

    The points you bring up, about “thinking versus felting” and that “forcing change is an error of perception,” are immense in their implications! This latter point brings a new perspective on the value of acceptance.

    Trying to keep this brief… I’ve recently posted some first reactions to Bohm, and expect to return to examining his insights soon!

    Your last point, about the pursuit of innovation as a means to impose power instead of as a creative act. This connects back with “forcing change” and really opens up ways we can talk about our current predicaments.

    Great post! Thank you!


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