The quantum theory is, without doubt, the most revolutionary development in modern physics. Unfortunately, a large part of its potential impact on our overall world view has been lost sight of, because it is generally treated as being nothing more than a calculus, for which no general imaginative conception is thought to be possible. The main emphasis in working with this theory has therefore been on the development of a mathematical formalism that can predict the widest possible range of experimental results. In this talk I shall, however, describe in general terms how the quantum theory, understood somewhat more imaginatively than is usually done, can point to a new order in physics, which I call the enfolded order, or the implicate order.
I shall begin by sketching briefly a few salient historical features in the development of our modern notions of order in physics. Now, the ancient Greeks thought in terms of an essential order of aesthetic and moral perfection, which is least on the surface of the Earth and increases progressively toward the Heavens. And so, they were led to suppose that Heavenly bodies should express the perfection of their nature by moving in what they thought to be the most perfect of geometrical figures -- the circle. When observations failed to disclose such circular orbits, they retained their notions of essential order by supposing that the movements could be analyzed in terms of the Ptolemaic epicycles, i.e., circles on top of circles. In more modern times, as is well known, this view was overturned by the Copernican idea that the Sun is at the centre (and ultimately that there is no determinate centre at all). This idea led to the development of an entirely new notion of essential order, which was expressed in terms of a detailed description of the mechanical motions of bodies through space. This order was first given a precise mathematical form by Descartes, through his invention of co-ordinates. The co-ordinates are pictured with the aid of a grid (as shown in Fig. 1).