Bohm’s concerns about Dialogue /1

By Lee Nichol November 22, 2013

This is Lee Nichol’s response to an e-mail from a colleague of David Peat, inquiring about some Bohmian dialogue issues that had come up in Joe Jaworski’s book, Source.

«Bohm’s disappointment with the dialogue approach was not in regard to “facilitators” but with the evolution of the whole process of dialogue as he envisioned it. By this time in his life, he had completely dismissed the idea of facilitator training. His concern was that regular people who had given years to the process – as participants, not facilitators – seemed to be spinning in circles. His conclusion was that people went to dialogues full of ideas about it, but when they were not in the dialogue circle they ceased to do the inner work required to make the dialogue work.

A section in Joseph Jaworski’s book explains this quite clearly; here is a condensed version of a longer essay found in this book.

But why did Bohm dismiss the training of facilitators? Firstly, because the cart was being put before the horse. Dialogue? Great idea! Facilitator training? Great! Sign me up! But how much dialogue did these facilitators participate in? And when they did do dialogue, was it not as part of their facilitator training? Forgive me for saying, but this is absurd. If I want to be a general in the armed forces, I do not do a “training” to become a general. What I must do is enter at the level of basic training. I find out in very concrete terms what this vocation I am aiming for actually is. The messy, hard, frustrating, exhilarating actuality of the process. In this way, I gain experience that is not theoretical, and that is not filtered through my “training to be a general.” I have to find out if I am up for the reality of this, rather than the idea of this. I acquire tacit knowledge of what is required to be in the armed forces.

Bohm felt, among other problems, that facilitators were being trained through very high levels of abstraction, with virtually no concrete tacit understanding of dialogue itself. This understanding only comes through doing dialogue! And if the dialogue I am actually doing is part of facilitation training, my mind is going to be filled with all kinds of things that are “supposed” to be happening, things that I am “supposed” to be learning, and things that I am “supposed” to be doing. If you can really see what I am getting at here—and then solve the conundrum—you will perhaps have made a significant step forward»