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The Importance of Dialogue for Religious Freedom PDF Print E-mail

Leonard Swidler and Ashok Gangadean, Global Dialogue Institute

delivered at the
International Coalition for Religious Freedom Conference on 
"Religious Freedom in Latin America and the New Millennium"
October 10-12, 1998, Sheraton Mofarrej Hotel, Sao Paolo, Brazil

Leonard Swidler: We are here today as the co-founders and directors of the Global Dialogue Institute. We are attempting to apply the creativity generated by inter-religious and intercultural dialogue to what we call the culture-seeking, opinion-changing groups in civil democracy and society: corporate business, law, education, the media, etc. We have been working with various groups in these different fields. Some of you are interested in these fields, and, if you wish to talk to us, we are certainly very happy to speak to you afterwards to see if we can collaborate. The whole mission of the Global Dialogue Institute is networking, forming alliances, and fostering dialogues, not simply in words but in action also.

In order to introduce you to our work, we will each give a brief presentation and then ask you to participate in what we call "deep dialogue." Initially Ashok and I will each make a ten or twelve minute statement. Then we will begin a formative reading of one of the documents which you should have picked up from the back table, namely, "The Seven Stages of Dialogue." Ashok and I will initiate the process by reading one of the stages out loud and exchanging some comments between ourselves. Then, we will elicit your participation. As we get into a description of what we mean by deep dialogue, I think it will become obvious that this body has a wealth of experience, and all sorts of questions will immediately come to mind. We want you to articulate these questions and to engage us and each other in the dialogue.

We have a third person with us in our session today, Dr. Frank Kaufmann. Dr. Kaufmann has been very active for many years in the Unification Church area of interreligious dialogue. He is functioning today as rapporteur.

Ashok Gangadean: As you may notice, the way that we have structured the room is already an act of dialogue. We have removed the barriers, straight benches, and tables that separate us and arranged the chairs into a semi-circle. Everything that we do in deep dialogue is an attempt to bring us into reflective, heightened awareness in this very moment.

In my very brief opening remarks, I would like to summarize the technology of deep dialogue, which has taken us decades to put together. We stress the word "technology" because we realize that even as a human being we may have lost touch with it. For as humans we create our own worlds and experience. It is a well known great philosophical discovery and principle across the ages that the way we conduct our minds shapes our experience in the most profound ways. We humans are world-makers. We make our worlds. We live in worldviews. Recognizing this is the key to understanding the depth of what we call deep dialogue.

The word dialogue is used in many ways in our everyday experience. It is important for us to find a special word to capture the deepest level of what we take to be authentic dialogue. Conversation, debate—there are all sorts of words for human talking back and forth. But what is deep dialogue? When we recognize that we inhabit a world in our cultures, in our religions, in our ideologies, in our personal perspectives, we realize that we are always in some worldview.

What has been clear over the centuries and the millennium is that the deepest persisting violence breaks out when worldviews meet one another and collide. This is quite obvious when we look around the world today. We look back over the past 3,000 years and see a glaring, drumming, repeating pattern of worldviews, ethnic views, and ideologies colliding, causing human relations to break down and inevitably giving rise to violence.

Deep dialogue is an attempt to transcend our own perspective and worldview. We know that violence breaks out when worldviews collide, but we have not learned to incorporate our subconscious and move creatively across and between different worldviews. The deepest dialogue enhances the human art of becoming a rational awakened human being. Deep dialogue is a phrase that encompasses global dialogue that goes across worldviews. Unless we learn the deeper rational human skills of being in our worldview and yet at the same time crossing over into other worldviews authentically in their own terms, we cannot understand and have real communication and whole human relations. Deep dialogue is an attempt to focus upon these skills and to understand the sources of violence and the loss of religious and human freedom.

In this conference, we tend to think of religious freedom in terms of the external violations that occur to our freedom. We think of the external tyranny of other worlds, cultures, and regimes suppressing, repressing, and persecuting our own religious expression of freedom. Yet the more deep and pernicious form of the loss of religious freedom is the internal tyranny that is voluntarily participated in by one’s own ideology. All of the great teachers across the ages have seen that we human beings suffer internally in accordance with how we conduct our minds. We can be enslaved to ideologies and worldviews if we do not think critically and understand that fact.

Therefore, in discussing deep dialogue, I am going to stress both internal and external. If we have not created the inner dialogue that can creatively integrate the multiple identities that we inhabit, then we have no integrity and, therefore, we have no free choice. We become slaves. Many philosophers have seen that. This is a simple preface to what we are trying to understand as the technology of deep dialogue. Leonard Swidler and I would like to show our decades of work which we have engaed in both independently and now together. Focusing on teachable, human skills of dialogue between worlds that we humans need to and can master—and are meant to master—in order to come into our full human form and human flourishing. Until that happens we have no genuine inner freedom or interpersonal and cultural freedom or freedom of expression.

I will not speak for very long because the idea here is to perform and experience some of what we call deep dialogue. I will say something very briefly about my own journey into deep dialogue and then talk about important prerequisites for entering into deep dialogue.

In my early work as a philosopher, I studied logic and ontology. I examined the depths and foundations of logic. I found that there was a profound split in the European tradition of logic between Aristotle, whose logic shaped the European tradition for 2,500 years, and the modern logic introduced by Ludwig Wittgenstein that brought the great analytic revolution in understanding the laws of consciousness. As you know, logic is the science of thinking that looks into the thought process itself. The paradigm of Aristotle and that of the modern mathematical logicians were deeply split and at odds. That put me into a profound crisis as a thinker. Logic is the science of reason. If logic itself is split at its core and cannot be brought together coherently, then reason itself is threatened.

It was at this point that I began to journey more and more systematically across different philosophical worlds and traditions over decades because I had one clear intuition that we human beings as rational beings come out of a deep common law of principle. There must be some profound unifying principle that pulls my world together and generates all possible worlds. That has been my quest for my entire career. And as I proceeded into the Hindu tradition, the Buddhist tradition, the Zen tradition, the Confucian tradition, and the Islamic tradition, not to mention the Judeo-Christian traditions and the traditions of philosophers, I began to discover something at the foundation of consciousness in all of these traditions. There is a deep unifying principle that has not been adequately named and brought out even though the greatest religions of the ages have tried to do so: in naming God Yahweh; in naming the ultimate principle Christ; in naming the Tao; in naming Allah; in naming Om Raman In; naming Shun Yah Tal. These have been great attempts of the great religions of the world to get to this primal name.

Looking at this as a philosopher, it is clear that we do not have a common, global name that can capture this universal, primal principle. So in our work I propose to reintroduce the word logos to name that primal force out of which our worldviews arise. This universal primal principle provides the key to deep dialogue.The logos, the infinite principle, is so deep and powerful that it is at once the source of both abysmal unity and manifest multiplicity. The diversity that we see in the technology of human individuality arises from this primal logos out of its unifying power. The unifying power, because it is infinite, generates abysmal multiplicity. In other words, diversity, individuality and multiplicity—if rightly understood is an expression of the logos—are not a violation of unity; diversity comes out of the unity. That is the principle of deep dialogue.

In summation, we saw that there are missing laws for us independently and together to articulate deep dialogue. Understanding this, we find that what we call deep dialogue is very natural. All the great teachers have shown that the logos is primal and that all things in reality are in dynamic, interactive, relational process. That is dialogue. Reality is relational. Therefore, deep dialogue is very natural and common sense.

Let us take a look at nature, or objective reality. I call deep dialogue the reality principle because we know that if we don’t respect nature or the laws of nature we will perish. Darwinian evolution, survival of the fittest, adaptability, these are all principles of deep dialogue. Nature practices deep dialogue. The development of science is a refinement of common sense. In other words, everything is already dialogic and all of us are working at some level of dialogue to survive. If we didn’t have a way of touching reality as it is, conforming to it, and adjusting to it, we would perish. This is the essence of the scientific spirit. The scientific mind captures the kinetic dialogical thinking. The essence of scientific method is that the scientist asks questions of nature which is out there, other, objective. He then listens to the response or phenomena and examines the evidence. That is a dialogical process—asking, then listening, and then revising one’s own view, theory, and structure in light of the evidence. That is the power of the scientific mission.

So what we call deep dialogue is the natural evolution of culture. What we see in the logos story unfolding is that humanity has been in profound evolution from an egocentric stage of ideology where we center in our own perspective and worldview and are unable to really let that go to a deeper dialogical consciousness. It is into this deeper level of dialogue that we are moving now.

What is exciting about the new millennium is that we are now moving from a formative and individualistic technology of being human—a monocentric or egocentric way—into a dialogic way. Deep dialogue is an attempt to capture the dynamics of that evolution, which we see to be the essence of human reason and rationality, of scientific thinking and civic democracy, and of the human technology of well-being. For us deep dialogue is the human art that we need in our internal lives to integrate and fulfill ourselves as human beings. It is the essence of a rational moral awakening because it is the essence of global ethics.

The principle of deep dialogue is to treat the other as one would treat oneself. It is a universal imperative—the dialogic imperative. In this deep dialogue process, we find the heart of a culture in which we can reach the goal of human evolution. If you cannot learn these new skills you cannot get to the source of human violence and cannot reach fulfillment. If you use it. you flourish. That is human truth. Deep dialogue is a new personal imperative.