The late quantum physicist David Bohm observed that both quantum mechanics and mystical traditions suggest that our beliefs shape the realities we evoke. He further postulated that thought is largely a collective phenomenon, made possible only through culture and communication. Human conversations arise out of and influence an ocean of cultural and transpersonal meanings in which we live our lives, and this process he called dialogue.
Most conversations, of course, lack the fluid, deeply connected quality suggested by this oceanic metaphor. They are more like ping-pong games, with participants hitting their very solid ideas and well-defended positions back and forth. Such conversations are properly called discussions. “Discussion,” Bohm noted, derives from the same root word as “percussion” and “concussion,” a root that connotes striking, shaking and hitting.
Dialogue, in contrast, involves joining our thinking and feeling into a shared pool of meaning which continually flows and evolves, carrying us all into new, deeper levels of understanding none of us could have foreseen. Through dialogue “a new kind of mind begins to come into being,” observed Bohm, “based on the development of common meaning… People are no longer primarily in opposition, nor can they be said to be interacting, rather they are participating in this pool of common meaning, which is capable of constant development and change.”
Bohm’s approach to dialogue involved participants working together to understand the assumptions underlying their individual and collective beliefs. Collective reflection on these assumptions could reveal blind spots and incoherences from which participants could then free themselves, leading to greater collective understanding and harmony. Bohm maintained that such collective learning increases our Collective Intelligence.
For links to sites, groups, and listservs working with Bohm’s approach to dialogue, see these websites:
This resource was created on the NCDD wiki by members of the dialogue & deliberation community.