Did K and Bohm take a wrong turn by “personifying” thought?

Did K and Bohm take a wrong turn in their two decades of thinking together? Their attribution of entity qualities to thought have influenced each other’s work. K: “We have never asked: who is the controller? The controller is put together in the past, the past which is knowledge, which is thought. Thought has separated itself as the controller and the controlled.” (The Network of Thought, p.79). B: “Briefly, one can say that when thought functions on its own, it is mechanical and not intelligent, because it imposes its own generally irrelevant and unsuitable order drawn from memory.” (Wholeness and the Implicate Order, p.67). Both considered thought as the source of conflict in one’s life and in the world as a whole. K even said, “Logic is a danger. Thought is a danger.” Ojai 1977 Did they lose their way down the corridors of thought during hours of dialogues together?

If K-Bohm 20 year dialogue on thought took a wrong turn, then, what was discovered (uncovered) about thought during those years, would have to be in opposition with the rest of K’s talks/other dialogues/books/etc. K said to Pupul J.that nothing has changed in the teachings over his life.
Personally I don’t see any wrong turn at all, I find the dialogues with Bohm extraordinary (clear).

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What makes you think they may be mistaken? I mean what is the supposition you hold that might indicate they are wrong?

Also, do you take it that they are saying that “thought is an entity”, that “we identify as the thinker of thoughts” or something else?

PS. Logic can be a danger in 2 ways : it can confirm dangerous beliefs (which is why it should be used in conjunction with evidence/facts) and can lead to dangerous things (see atomic bomb - which is why it needs to be used in conjunction with compassion)

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Their discovery was that thought acting as a ‘controller’ was a creator of conflict and suffering. It projected an illusory duality of a thinker that was separate and an ‘observer’ that was separate. Thought IS fear K said. This is for us to verify or dismiss.

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Thank you Crina, Doug and Dan for your comments. My introduction to both K and Bohm was their video series of dialogues, which I found very thought stimulating. My first impression of K was ‘he was a Cosmic psychologist’. My supposition that thought is process originating in the brain of every individual leads me to think they might be wrong. The way both K and Bohm talk/write connotes thought as a malevolent entity pouncing on humanity. I hear similar depictions of thought in some of today’s dialogues. Personifying thought may be an imperfection of their theory. I know some ideas about thought have come out of old India: “All thoughts vibrate eternally in the cosmos…Thoughts are universally and not individually rooted; a truth cannot be created, but only perceived. Any erroneous thought of man is a result of an imperfection, large or small, in his discernment." Sri Yukteswar For my K conditioned brain, this would be a belief, which I avoid except for my belief in science. But when one considers 8 billion humans,each thinking 70,000 thoughts per day, there may be something to the idea of thoughts vibrating in the cosmos, being universally rooted. Eventually, we will find out for ourselves.

For me, Bohm hit it on the head when he said that the reason that thought went wrong, took a wrong turn, is “because it could”! Nothing “malevolent” about it really , just a ‘new brain’ that for the very first time on this planet, could look around itself and ask: “why am I here?”

Are you implying that this somehow contradicts the idea that we all have the same brain - meaning we all have a human brain (developed over billions of years of evolution)? Thus we all apprehend reality in the same way (tiny mutations, traumas, cultural and personal conditioning aside).

People do have a strong tendancy to come to binary (good/bad) conclusions and take our conclusions for dogmatic truth - and identify personally with the truth that we hold. This is probably what you are referring to regarding negative opinions about thought that many K followers try to impose during dialogue.

I think it is in fact this confusion between my thoughts and the truth. ie. the impression that my beliefs/thoughts are an accurate reflection of the truth, and whats worse: must be defended (because I identify with them on an emotional/psychological level) that is actually the main problem with thought - its a shame if Bohm and K have not made this clear (maybe they were dealing with other interesting aspects of the thought problem that their discussion happened to have led to).

nb. considering our relationship to thought, it is correct to say that the “thought” situation is a dangerous (conflictual/confused/fear laden) one.

Is there a ‘me’ apart from thought? In which case if not, then it’s ‘thought’s relationship to thought’? No separate ‘me’ in the equation?

No ‘me’ and no ‘mine’? Doesn’t get much more ‘radical ‘ than that!
Thought coming up with a ‘me’ and a ‘mine’ was the ‘wrong turn ‘?

Thought is speech and imagery, so to think, to use thought, is to personify, because every individual uses words and imagery in their own distinctive way.

To be conscious without thought (one would think) is to be human in the most impersonal way because without thought, actuality is naked, pristine.

Where in their dialogues does it seem to you that K and Bohm lost “their way down the corridors of thought during hours of dialogues together?”

The story of Thought

Upon its birth, Thought asks itself, "Why have I come into existence? Am I necessary, or am I here to complicate, confuse, and confound? Am I under control, or am I on my own? I’m afraid of my power to alter and distort the obvious, but I’m thrilled and delighted with this power, too, so I’m already complicated and confused. Oh god! What am I to do? Why can’t I just stop and go back to being the unknowing, unthinking being I was?

Then Thought answers its own question, saying, “I can’t stop doing what I do until I see with perfect clarity why I confuse and confound myself. I am here to know what the brain does before it knows how to see what it’s doing”.

Dan, thought “taking a wrong turn” again personifies thought, though that’s not the precise word, as they attributed living entity qualities to thought–perhaps “entify” would work.
Doug: Indeed the human brain is pretty much the same globally, but there are 8 billion individual, unique brains designed to keep the induvial safe and surviving in its environment. No two are alike.
Inquiry, I think they lost their way by personifying thought: The Story of Thought is a perfect example of personification, attributing human qualities to the inanimate: being born, self-talk, etc.

(Non-duality is veiled for me, though I’ve had glimpses enough to know that there is another way of perceiving. My daily life is in the world of duality; my body and environment are distinct.)

How can thought be anything but personal, unique to the brain that employs it, if the brain has never been completely still, silent, empty of thought? For the brain that knows only thought and its own peculiar, personal way of thinking, thought is always personal. But of the brain that ceases to think, resides in silence and emptiness, we know nothing and can’t even imagine.

So what does it matter that the ceaselessly thinking brain is personal and regards all thinking as personal? Doesn’t it matter more that the brain may be able not to think when no thought is required? As long as thought is incoherent, does it matter if it’s personified?

What happens when one stops personifying thought?

"Personification is the attribution of human characteristics to abstract ideas, natural phenomena, or inanimate objects in a figurative manner. Personification is a common literary device in poetry and literature. Giving natural phenomena human traits can add emotional depth to the reading experience…

Personalize: to make personal or individual; specifically, to mark as the property of a particular person."(My thoughts are the tools I use to problem-solve, plan and organize my life.)

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If you know the answer to this question, please provide an example of thought that can’t be personalized, because, what human that doesn’t personalize the verbal or written thought they come across?

The question is always, “Who said this, and why?”. If something is written or spoken by a machine, it will still be evaluated by how smart, stupid, ignorant, ungrammatical, or meaningless it may be. That is, we measure thought by our beliefs and values, so we can’t help but personalize all thought by our measure.

We see from the aforementioned definitions that personalizing thought is completely different from personifying thought. Most people personalize thought, believing that they are producing thought from their individual brains. When K and Bohm started personifying thought, it essentially dissociated the individual from thought. It may have been an experiment with the effect of language on perception, or a theory based on their own altered perceptions or, at the most extreme, a folie a deux.

Found this interesting article on Bohm and his relationship with K, among others: Look for Truth, No Matter Where It Takes You

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We are alone and at the same time it is a singular process that is looking out through billions of pairs of eyes.
No 2 tigers are alike, but we can still consider tigers as a thing. In terms of survival the differences between tigers might mean that one will survive when all the others fail.
When confronted with a young lady in shorts and a T-shirt, I will not have the same experience as someone with a strong Islamic conditioning - we are not perceiving the same reality thanks to our different brains - but the process affecting our experience is the same.
Also I think that on kinfonet we are less interested in perfecting or regulating our selves (aka suffering) than in considering freedom from the self (which is in a different ballpark methinks - though of course related - as with everything in the universe)

Okay thanks for clarifying - and why do you think this personification of thought may be a problem? Can’t it just be a literary device as you say? For example I could say that thought is the architect of the brain, or I could say that neural pathways are created through usage. Both statements may be describing the same process, but either might be more appropriate in different contexts.

When two highly influential people (K and Bohm) personify thought, whether as a literary device, language/perception experiment, theory, or if it was actually a folie a deux, others may come to believe that thought has living entity characteristics dissociated from the individual. I’ve heard this “belief” in dialogues and read it in postings on this forum.


If your concern is people whose mental health is precarious; people who will be disturbed and upset to think that thought is an entity, we must take that into consideration. But if for other people it’s useful and therapeutic to personify thought, why shouldn’t they do so?

I think it’s important to be aware of and “own” our thoughts, as well as emotions, behaviors and body sensations.

Of course. I’m not advocating ignoring or down-playing “emotions, behaviors and body sensations”. Awareness covers everything, but if we’re not mindful of what thought is doing, we don’t really know why we do what we do, and why we feel the way we do. Of everything we’re aware of, nothing is of greater or lesser importance. We have to take it all into account and our reactions to it.

Our problem, as Bohm made clear, is that with thought there is no proprioception. We can’t always control or know what thought is going to do. It isn’t always intentional like what we do physically.