An Uncommon Collaboration: David Bohm and J. Krishnamurti

On the surface of events, it would be difficult to imagine a more unlikely collaboration between two historical figures than that of David Bohm and J. Krishnamurti.  Bohm was the quintessential theoretical physicist, one who made important contributions to the foundations of quantum mechanics.  Krishnamurti was an original and radical philosopher of mind whose early life was shrouded in a metaphysical enigma.  But underneath the surface, the sequence of events that brought the two men together represents a clear and logical progression.  Bohm’s fascination with Krishnamurti’s work is better understood not as a departure from his career path but rather as the culmination of it.

Part of what appealed to Bohm about Krishnamurti was the scientific attitude he perceived in Krishnamurti’s approach to psychological issues.  This was not scientific in the more narrow sense of controlled, double-blind experiments, but rather in the spirit of inquiry, free from personal bias or investment, an inquiry based upon facts rather than speculation.  Bohm said the experience of conversing with Krishnamurti reminded him of the quality of the discussions he had held with Einstein.

Over the course of a quarter century, Bohm and Krishnamurti engaged in 144 recorded dialogues.  Many of these were group conversations, but some thirty dialogues were conducted with only the two men talking together.  These were published in books including Truth and Actuality, The Ending of Time, and The Future of Humanity.  The central theme animating their explorations was the nature and structure of consciousness.  However, this theme took many forms, including the nature of intelligence, the meaning of wholeness, and conflict and cooperation in human relationship.

Such a close and sustained relationship was not without episodes of discord and controversy.  These are as interesting and revealing in their own right as were their accomplishments.  Altogether, the collaboration between the two men was extremely fertile, and their mutual contributions were of historic significance.