Often when I talk about dialogue – having one, being in one, et cetera – what I am talking about is simply an intense and focused exchange between two people with similar interests. That is, you and I have a shared language – Christian, ACIM and so forth – and we are both devoted to direct experience of waking up in/to/through God – and we are trying to accomplish that to some degree by sharing with one another. Our dialogue resembles one part of a long walk to a shared home – clearing the trail, say. So it is helpful that way. Or it can be.
I don’t think this is precisely what David Bohm had in mind when he explored and wrote about dialogue, though I think he would perhaps have been supportive of it. But a Bohm dialogue envisions a suspension of judgment – a willingness to try and observe what is happening in oneself without acting on it – that is quite a tricky needle to thread. If you try it, the first thing you will see is that the idea of a goal becomes quite tenuous. So if the talk is ostensibly about, say, the role of forgiveness in A Course in Miracles there is a good chance it won’t remain there. Or that it won’t move much in traditional terms. You won’t get anywhere in the intellectual sense, the furthering of ideas sense.
There are two things going on here. The first is simply recognizing the value of deliberate, thoughtful and analytical sharing between people who are trying to end their seeming separation from God. This is valuable because it deprecates mystery and ensures that the focus is on the self. It is very easy to stay in the poetic and mythological language of A Course in Miracles. You can really savor it and get into it. You can talk about how Helen Schucman was the next best English writer to Shakespeare. And when you get tired of praising the prose, you can get into how the course revises critical metaphors like “crucifixion” and “Heaven” and critical stories like the one about Adam and Eve.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with that – but it may not be terribly helpful. Certainly as anybody who has poked around this blog knows I have spent – and will no doubt continue to in some ways – a lot of time looking at the course in just that way. But getting all devoted to the course is simply to make an idol of it. On some level that is true. I think most students do it, to different degrees, and so I think sooner or later all students have to undo it.
So the dialogue I have been practicing and exploring lately – which is not precisely Bohmian dialogue – has its goal to get closer to the ground from which A Course in Miracles springs. It doesn’t denigrate the imagery and language and mythology and so forth; but it is trying to get past it to the underlying structure. There are, for example, a lot of debates about Jesus in the course communities – whether we are dealing with the historical Jesus, Helen’s personal Jesus, the idea of Jesus, or something else altogether. And what I am saying now is that that is not a very important thing to worry about. It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to settle that to figure out how to practice forgiveness. You really don’t.
Please keep in mind that I am not saying those ideas are altogether extraneous – they’re not. It is important to respond to what calls us. But it is also helpful to remember that we are aiming to wake up. If you look at the last lessons of the course you will see that they are not in the nature of conclusion, but beginning. The course is really more about setting up a base camp if you will, then about scaling the summit.
So what I am doing now is going slowly. I am not restricting myself to the course. If I encounter people who are adept in some other language and mythology, then I enter into dialogue with them. If they are okay with it, of course. Always I keep the focus on my experience. The teacher is not “out there.” Yes, some books are helpful, and yes, some people are helpful too. I relate with some of you quite deeply because you have done so much work and it so helpful to me.
But ultimately, we are waking up. We are ending, to the highest farthest degree possible, our separation. We are remembering or reclaiming or re-establishing oneness. To do that, we have to see what is going on inside of us. We have to find what is broken in us. We have to observe the ego – how thought works, how habit forms, how we react and respond to thought. We have to redefine the journey: what is really important? What is everything for? Do I want to be right or at peace? Nobody can do any of that for us. It is hard work – perhaps consuming many lifetimes. Yet I want to claim it now. I want to clarify and simplify.
Dialogue helps. It may not yet be true Bohm dialogue. It may never need to be that. But it is still helpful. It brings about some peace and some gratitude. That is something.