Dialogue And The Human Condition

Published: Thu 15 Feb 2024 10:47 AM
In my 30’s I had the good fortune to dialogue with David Bohm, considered the founder of the global dialogue movement and a man Einstein called his “spiritual son.” Bohm was a brilliant, sensitive physicist and philosopher, but his intellect was unintentionally overpowering, so he wasn’t the best example of his own dialogue proposal.
During the weekend I spent in dialogue with Bohm, I soon realized that the best I could do was to pick his prodigious brain. The mutual inquiry he advocated wasn’t possible, not out of ego, but because he was at another intellectual level.
David Bohm, who grappled with depression all his life, became acutely depressed near the end of his life, and had to be institutionalized in England. No pharmaceutical intervention helped, so they resorted to an updated use of electroshock, which brought him out of it.
(Tesla, another genius, was the first to use electroshock to bring him out of the mental and emotional abyss of deep depression. Having invented electricity, he used a small Tesla coil on his own head!)
Bohm’s extreme depression greatly saddened me when I learned of it. Having essentially lost my 20’s to undiagnosed clinical depression, I know what sinking into a bottomless pit feels like.
A psychiatrist rather cavalierly told me at 30, “You need to be on meds, man.” It scared the bejesus out of me. So I began diligently taking meditations in nature, journaling, researching depression, and running track. After six months, the hellish cycle ended, but I don’t assume depression cannot return, as it did with Bohm.)
To this day, I immediately heed anxiety, which is the canary in the cold mind. (I’m not against the use of anti-depressants; I just feel they’re way over-prescribed by the medical/pharmaceutical complex in this dead culture.)
My sense is that Bohm, who died in 1992, felt that he had not made a difference in his life and with his dialogue work. He foresaw the growing crisis of human consciousness and the implacable planetary ecological crisis we have today.
At the core level of the human condition, it’s beyond reasonable doubt that there is a metaphysical movement of man-made darkness in human consciousness and the world. But is there a metaphysical movement of cosmic intelligence that cares about potentially intelligent species such as Homo sapiens?
Homo sapiens is causing the Sixth Mass Extinction in the history of life on Earth. Many people say that the fact that there were five previous mass extinctions proves that the universe is random and destructive.
However former mass extinctions, including by huge asteroids, were more creative than destructive, opening up new spaces and pathways for more complex flora and fauna to rapidly evolve. Whereas the human species is just fragmenting, decimating and denuding the Earth.
Some people openly or secretly are waiting for ecological collapse, hoping that radical change in humans will then occur. But we are the humans. And though an ecological collapse of one kind or another may be inevitable, without a new spiritual and philosophical foundation having been poured within us before it occurs, there will be no possibility of changing course after it does.
My approach to dialogue, gleaned from insights with Bohm and others, involves holding beliefs, opinions, and even worldviews in abeyance while holding open a space for following the thread of shared question as it logically unspools.
This approach requires a significant degree of self-awareness and restraint, so that reaction does not overtake mutual inquiry and generate intractable conflict. Reason and logic are essential to this process, but not the primary principle. Rather, the ‘sound’ insight makes when something rings true guides and propels the dialogue. Try it.
Participants in dialogue learn to listen together for insight, which could come from anyone in the group, since it arises in the moment from the spaces and silences of the group as people listen for insight beyond words. I’ve initiated dialogues where a participant doesn’t say a single word, yet the quality of their listening made a tremendous contribution to the group thinking together.
The term I use for this approach is Meditative Dialogue. I feel it’s the social equivalent of solitary, methodless meditation, which to my mind is sine qua non.
Here’s an example of an urgent question for spiritual and philosophical inquiry that traditional and academic philosophy is not asking as far as I know.
A very disturbing UN study by conservation scientists just came out that finds nearly half of internationally protected migratory species, from narwhals to monarchs, are facing extinction as a result of human activity.
The extinction rate is believed to actually be much higher across the animal kingdom because many migratory species on land, in the sea and the air are not listed.
How can a single, supposedly sentient and prospectively sapient species be bringing about the Sixth Mass Extinction in the history of life on Earth?
In other words, given that life evolved in seamless wholeness, how did a species evolve that operates in opposition to life’s basic principle of wholeness, a species that acts from separation and is fragmenting of the planet that gave rise to it all to hell?
Is the evolution of so-called higher thought what makes the human species so destructive? Or is it the misuse of the quantum adaptive leap of symbolic thought?
Undoubtedly both, but we must, as human beings, take full responsibility for what man is doing to the planet and people. For the fault does not lie in our stars but within ourselves.
We can urgently address and begin to remedy, within ourselves, man’s ongoing mistake of psychological separation and fragmentation.
Then, socially, we can take new and effective approaches to igniting insight together through dialogue. The diversity of life on Earth, as well as the future of humanity, depends on fully awakening insight alone and with others.
Martin LeFevre
Lefevremartin77 at gmail
Link: “The world is losing migratory species at alarming rates”:
Link: David Bohm, “On Dialogue”:

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