By William van den Heuvel

This paper explains how I got to my notion of passion. There was a weekend seminar in London (1989) with Jacob Needleman and David Bohm. I think it was about "sacredness" or something like that. At one time Needleman suggested we split up in several groups and talk about the value or purpose of sorrow and if we can learn something from it.

I was in the group with David Bohm. We discussed the question of sorrow and the word "passion" came up. David Bohm then said something which I could only partly hear (accoustically). As far as I could hear it was about passion being the opposite of action, or something like that. At the time I thought this was a strange thing to say but somehow this remark stuck in my mind.

When I was back in Munich, I looked it up in my etymological dictionary and it turned out he was right. Passion was, etymologically speaking, the opposite of action in the same way that passive is the opposite of active. The words "passion and action" are the same as "letting and doing". This inspired me to pursue this idea.

I applied this idea of passion to David Bohm's notion of proprioception and suspension and came to the insight that there is a certain order in this whole thing:

The reaction is the "doing", the non-reaction is the "letting". When the system decides to "let" (no reaction) we have what I call "passion" and what David Bohm called "suspension". However, rather than treating these two words as synonymous, I like to make a subtle distinction between passion and suspension: Although the word passion literally means "non-action", I prefer to use it to denote the ability not to react. We can then keep suspension as the result of passion (which is the the actual passiveness of the thought/felt system).

Passion is not indifference or numbness but is the operation of self-awareness aided by proprioception. Thus, there is extreme intelligence in passion. This intelligence replaces the automatic reflexes of the thought/felt system. This doesn't mean that the system will never again react. It just means that the system will never again react in a mechanical way. The system is still capable of reacting, but now it will only do so when awareness says that it is appropriate. Thus, the machine is now being driven by an intelligent operator.

Copyright © 1996 by William van den heuvel. All rights reserved.