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Letters from David Bohm to Peter Racz

We would like to thank Peter Racz for supplying these letters and our volunteer Rick for preparing the initial transcription.

January 14, 1972

Dear Peter,

Please accept my apologies for the long delay in answering your letter. I have not been feeling very well; nothing serious, but a long series of colds.

You are right to say that I do not take the interpretation of the graphologist seriously. I do not think that this man is clear in himself, and therefore, I do not think that he can give clear analyses of other people either.

The difficulties you describe in your letter are, of course, common to everybody. The tendency of the mind to “escape” is universal. Perhaps, in the article that I am enclosing with this letter, you will see that the mind is always regarding its own disorder as a problem rather than as a paradox. As long as this happens, the mind will accept this paradox as real, and seek a “solution” to its “problem.” But to do this is, of course, to “escape.” The source of all this confusion is the attempt of the mind to make reality confirm to its unreal pains and fears. When the mind no longer mistakes the unreal for what is real, then there is no problem, and therefore, no “escape.”

I think that it would be best if you were to come again to listen to Krishnamurti, if this should prove to be possible. It takes a great deal of serious work to get to the bottom of our confusion, and there is no need to be discouraged if you feel that you are still caught in confusion.

Saral and I send our warmest regards.


David Bohm

February 26, 1972

Dear Peter,

Thank you very much for your recent letter. The questions you raise there are indeed very difficult to discuss, especially in correspondence. However, I expect to be in England during early September, or late in August, so that if you come, we might have some discussion.

I notice one important thing in your letters,—the frequent use of the word “all” (E.g. “all making [?] is the I in movement”). One has to be very careful about using this word. Have you actually perceived the “allness,” which is meant by the word “all”? Or is the use of this word mainly a habit? If so, then many of your conclusions about the impossibility of moving from the “I” may not be altogether true. If they are not true, then your statements may themselves be part of the trap. If you question what is happening when you listen to Krishnamurti, this implies also the need to question your own conclusions about “allness”—the absolute impossibility of observing anything honestly and sincerely.

About the use of marijuana, in my view, the main question is: “Why do I feel the need to use it?” If it is because my problems are too painful so that without the drug, I suppress awareness of them, then something is wrong. For what is really needed is a mind that is honest with itself—i.e., free of self-deception. If my mind cannot look at itself unless the pain is decreased by a drug, then my mind is already trapped in dishonesty and self-deception. For my mind says “I will never look at what is true, if to do this is very painful. Rather, I will accept what is false as true and project comfortable and pleasant illusions, unless my nerves are desensitized by a drug.” No matter what I see under the influence of the drug, this will have little meaning. For the essence of my illness is that I cannot look at what is true when this is painful. The cure is to be aware of pain and my unending attempt to escape it—to invite pain and fear, so that the mind can examine these impartially. It is no use to get rid of the pain by means of a drug, because what is wrong with me is just that I suppress the truth in order to escape this pain. When I cease to do this, I won’t need a drug, or any other aid to clear perception.

With kindest regards from Saral and from me,

David Bohm

March 12, 1972

Dear Peter,

I am not at present planning to visit Saanen this Summer. However, I shall be glad to see you in late August (the last few days) or early September, if you come to England.

About the question of honest and sincere observation, the key point is to keep in mind what you said; i.e., “I really don’t know.” You don’t know whether your observation is honest and sincere or not. It may at times be so, for all you know. But then, further thoughts may come in slightly later to twist and confuse what was, to begin with, a clear perception.

Does anybody know what observation actually is? Rather, one has to be aware of self-deception and the creation of illusion.

If you are aware that you don’t know what honest observation is, are you honestly aware of this fact? If so, then you do seem to know what honest observation is. And thus, you are contradicting your statement that you do not know. There seems to be a paradox here, which requires your careful attention.

With kindest regards,

David Bohm

P.S. Please let me know when to expect you, so that I will be here when you arrive.

March 25, 1972

Dear Peter,

Thank you very much for your letter.

It is hard for us to make definite plans at present, but we will be in England by the end of August. Very probably, we will be here by August 25. Certainly, if you stay till the end of the month, we will have some time to talk.

Last time, I wrote you about a paradox. How do you know you are or are not confused, or are less confused? Who is it who knows? Is there an entity who is confused and either knows or does not know how confused he is? Or is this apparent entity actually illusory, so that the belief in such an entity is the very essence and source of the confusion? How can an illusory entity observe itself? If there is no such entity, how does observation take place?

These questions have no ready answers. Rather, they call for inquiry and exploration, with passion, rather than from a motive of the illusory entity called the self.

Best wishes from me and from Saral,

David Bohm

March 9, 1973

Dear Peter,

We were very glad to hear from you, and to learn that you are still working. Your suggestion to study psychiatry is most interesting. However, I would like to point out a few things about it.

  1. Most psychiatrists and schools of psychiatry have their own ideas, which are quite contrary, generally speaking, to what Krishnamurti is saying. So, if you plunge in without looking, you may be worse off than ever, because you will be adding new contradictions and conflicts in your life.

  2. To help people as a psychotherapist, you have to be really harmonious in yourself. It is no use to try to attain harmony by helping others. Rather, being a therapist has to be an expression of your true nature, your deep inner being. It is not intelligent to put first the question of doing some good. Rather, the first thing is always to see deeply into your own nature, and to let your action flow spontaneously from there.

I know a psychiatrist in America who is in accord with Krishnamurti’s approach, and who is, in my view, very perceptive and intelligent. Perhaps you may write him, if you wish, mentioning that I suggested it to you. You might ask him for advice on the best way to go into psychotherapy, the best place for your studies etc. His name and address are:

Dr. David Shainberg
1235 Park Ave.
New York, N.Y. 10028 USA

Saral and I send you our kindest regards.

David Bohm

September 25, 1973

Dear Peter,

I am sorry for the delay in answering your letter, but I have been very busy.

I was glad to hear that the experience in England was helpful. I hope that it continues to be so.

What you say about relaxation, not interfering with the natural psychological movement, is right, of course. But there is another side to the question. If one emphasizes passivity and relaxation too much, one may end up by accepting the false movement of the mind as necessary and inevitable. What is also needed is to be very active in inquiring, in questioning all the distorted, false responses of the mind. This requires a great deal of energy, of passion. But this inquiry should not attempt to interfere with the mind, or to try to control it, to “make it better,” etc. Rather, it has to function purely as inquiry into the fact. Such an inquiry may then lead the mind beyond the fact, to something new, perhaps to transformation.

Saral and I send our warmest regards.

David Bohm

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