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Dialogue Is Not Dialectical
By Martin LeFevre:
Apr 8, 2019, 3:53pm

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Most people have heard of the Hegelian Dialectic, in which thesis and antithesis clash in opposition and produce a new and different thesis. True dialogue does not work that way however.

The Hegelian Dialectic is essentially another dualism of the human mind, which is then projected onto nature, purportedly as when hydrogen (thesis) 'clashes' with oxygen (antithesis) to produce water (synthesis). Nature does not actually work that way however.

Evolution takes place not through any kind of dialectic, but expands in seamless wholeness, whether on earth or in the universe. The universe unfolds like a flower in perpetual creation.

The birth and death of stars follows cycles certainly, but creation is not something that occurred 13.8 billion years ago with the Big Bang and the universe is winding down like a huge clock; it is still occurring every moment. That's why predictions of how the universe will end are ludicrous.

Scientists can only say, with a high degree of uncertainty, how black holes and galaxies, stars and planets evolved. On a cosmic scale, it is impossible to predict what will occur in the long run, for the simple reason that while we know some of the laws of the universe, we can't know all of them, as black holes attest.

An attitude of humility applies as well, and especially, to consciousness, even to human consciousness, which for some time has been in an arrested development stage in the evolution of consciousness in the universe.

Meditative dialogue is about removing the blocks to our development of cosmic consciousness.

Diversity flows from wholeness, not from particularization. To have genuine diversity in human consciousness, which is becoming increasingly homogenous in the global society, we have to embrace the wholeness of humanity, as paradoxical and counterintuitive as that may sound.

There is no disorder, much less chaos in the universe, except in man and creatures like man. Therefore the path to wholeness, diversity and order (not man-made order, which ends in authoritarianism) is by gaining insight into our own fragmentation and disorder.

The next, overdue leap in human consciousness has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with igniting insight in the brain Therefore we have to begin at the beginning, with communication.

Because the word 'dialogue' is so misused and overused, we need to use other words or phrases for the process of communicating meaning and insight beyond verbal and conceptual levels. Call it inquiry, questioning together, or thinking together, but as with solitary meditation, space and time have to be carved out in this dead culture for it.

Recently I had a long, enjoyable brunch with an activist in town. I had invited him to participate in a dialogue group I was forming, and he expressed interest. As we stood the door on leaving however, literally and metaphorically going our different ways, he said, "Show me the money."

He wasn't speaking literally, but it was bad enough. He was thinking too much like an activist, wanting to know the likely results before engaging in the process of thinking together.

In America at least, the business mentality has infected nearly every facet of life in society. "Show me the money" is shorthand for narrowing in on specific, 'achievable' goals, and believing that by achieving them we are making a difference.

The 'dialogue movement' was embraced about 15 years ago by the corporate world. It failed to make a difference in the corporate world however, or in the culture generally. Why?

Because dialogue 'facilitators' were enlisted by business as a way to improve efficiency and productivity, while the facilitators themselves were about improving business culture and the quality of life for employees. When corporations realized that 'Bohmian dialogue' wasn't increasing their bottom line, they gave the facilitators the boot.

Businesses have to make a profit, but when the profit motive is first, everything of true value erodes. More than any other reason, that's why America has become a spiritual and intellectual concentration camp.

What then is a fitting, life-affirming approach to communication? We need to drill down rather than narrow in, questioning together with one mind rather than worshipping the individual self and its opinions and 'truths.' We have to allow space for the unexpected to happen. And insight, whether alone or in a group, is always unexpected.

Thinking together is done for its own sake, no matter what the outcome. A "show me the money," results-oriented attitude is antithetical to the spirit of inquiry and the creation of a new culture that we so urgently need.

This doesn't mean indulging in endless philosophical discussions---talk for talking's sake. That's the bogus charge of business people and activists without an inner life.

It means questioning and listening, without providing answers and with the intent to hear the music of insight, from whomever it comes in the group. It means asking questions, not giving answers.

Here's a suggested question with no answer to begin: Can contemplatives with activist inclinations, and activists with an inner life step into the extremely dangerous leadership vacuum that now exists in the world?


Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He welcomes dialogue.

Published with permission of the author. All copyright remains with the author.

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