Leonard Swidler

[email protected]

Let’s start with the beginnings and basics, and then move forward to the present—with an eye to the Future, which is rushing toward us with the speed and force of a roaring freight train!

  1. Meaning of Democracy

“Democracy,” as the Greek term itself (demos, “people,” cratein, “rule”) tells us, means “the rule by the people.” As we know, the term originally named what we today would view as an only incipient form of Democracy in Athens of the fifth-century BCE. I say “incipient” because only a small portion of the demos were reckoned in the “ruling” class – just as was the case with incipient American democracy. When Thomas Jefferson in 1776 wrote in the American Declaration of Independence: “All men are created equal,” again, only a portion of the demos, the “white-land-owning-males,” were included. It has taken hundreds of years of struggle, including a blood-letting civil war, to include all American adult humans in that word “men”—and to this very day it is still an often-violent struggle toward making the demos include all humans: “Black Lives Matter” reads the band on my right wrist today in fall, 2020!

  1. The Beginning of Everything

Now, let’s start truly at the Beginning! As best we can tell, the Universe (Universum, Latin, “unified one”), or Cosmos (Greek, “order”—differentiated from Chaos, “disorder”) began as a super-tiny, less than the size of an atom “something” 13.8 billion years ago (Where? Made of What? Differentiated from What?), which “Banged” (Why?), and has since been expanding at the “Speed of Light” (186,000 mph—and increasing!) into What? and Where?—and many other fundamental Mysteries. Once the Cosmos (Is there only one? some astro-physicists wonder?) started expanding, it produced billions (!) of galaxies of stars (like our Sun, most larger, some smaller), each of which galaxies contains billions (!) of stars, each of which has multiple circulating planets. We increasingly gain more and more knowledge of this increasingly-visible-to-us-astronomically-expanding Cosmos, which simultaneously poses ever more, ever-deeper questions for us humans—like recently discovered mysterious Black Holes, which constitute the vast majority of the known Cosmos!

Add to our increasing knowledge of the Macro, is the simultaneously increasing knowledge of the Micro of sub-atomic reality of “Quantum Mechanics, which also provides humanity with ever more profound and explicit information of the seemingly unendingly ever tinier levels of micro-matter such that there seems to be a fundamentally still mysterious-to-us changeability between matter (which occupies space) and energy (which doesn’t).

All this has led creative thinkers like the nuclear physicist David Bohm[1] (whom a number of physicists and philosophers, speak of as a “Prophet of Dialogue,” to proclaim that “Ultimate Reality Is Not Shredded, But Whole!” He eventually moved from being shunned in the scientific world (because of, during the McCarthy Era, a brief youthful relationship with Marxism) to being recognized as a pioneering seer bridging the fields of global science and mind/spirit philosophy—and preeminently “dialogue” between what he named the explicate and implicate dimensions of all reality: The Physical/“Spiritual” Plenum. Bohm’s thought probes that fundamental underlying Reality which tantalizingly seems to lie just beyond the reach of our fundamental physical science, beyond our Alpha, the “Big Bang”) and our Omega (the “Endlessly Expanding Cosmos”—for the past 13.8 billion years, and into the future…. ???

Even before I had read of David Bohm and his work, I had come to a similar vision – although without his physical science pedigree to warrant my thought being taken seriously in that conversation. With the thought and work of physical scientists like David Bohm as further support for my thought, let finish laying out the deep background for Democracy—and then briefly suggest the direction our further work for both expanding and deepening of “Democracy” needs to take.

III. Nobody Knows Everything about AnythingTherefore Dialogue!

We now are moving into the dawning Age of Global Dialogue wherein we humans are increasingly aware that we cannot know everything about anything! This is true for the physical sciences: No scientist would claim that she or he knows everything about biology, physics, chemistry…. Likewise, no one would claim that s/he knows everything about the human sciences: sociology, or anthropology, or—good heavens, economics!—and each of these disciplines is endlessly complicated. In sum—in the form of the above mantra:

Nobody Knows Everything About Anything—Therefore, Dialogue!”

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[1] David Bohm (1917-92 – born in Wilkes-Barre, PA) was a world-class nuclear physicist/philosopher of the middle and latter part of the 20th century. Robert Oppenheimer—“creator” of the Atom Bomb—was his Doktorvater at the University of California-Berkley, with whom he worked as a young scientist on the “Manhattan Project;” later Bohm became a personal friend of Albert Einstein (who called him his Spiritual Son). Similarly, the Dalai Lama called him his Science Guru. During the McCarthy era he was (shamefully!) shunned by the science community, including his Dokvater Robert Oppenheimer, but subsequently became recognized as a pioneering seer bridging the fields of global science and mind/spirit—and preeminently “dialogue” between what he named the explicate and implicate dimensions of all reality: The Physical/“Spiritual” Plenum. Bohm’s thought probes that fundamental underlying Reality which tantalizingly seems to lie just beyond our Fundamental physical science, our Alpha (the “Big Bang”) and Omega (“Endlessly Expanding Cosmos”—for the past 13.8 billion years, and…. ?).

A stunning new (September, 2020, film on David Bohm: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDpurdHKpb8. Link to discussion among five outstanding thinkers/activists after the premier of the film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DucW5wfVh4&feature=youtu.be

Interview providing of an excellent explanation of the basic ideas of David Bohm by Bohm himself:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-jI0zzYgIEe

An excellent interview of Bohm about his physics views, sliding into talk heavily about The Whole & Dialogue

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QI66ZglzcO0

However, when it comes to the most comprehensive, the most complicated, discipline of all—Religion, and increasingly its equivalent, Secular Ideologies—billions of us still claim that we know all there is to know, and whoever thinks differently is simply mistaken!

But, if it is true that we always can only know partially in any limited study of reality, as in the physical or human sciences, surely it is all the more true of Religion and Secular Ideologies which are “explanations of the ultimate meaning of life, and how to live accordingly.”[2] We must, then, be even more modest in our claims of knowing better in this most comprehensive field of knowledge, Religion/Ideology, attempting to explain “the ultimate meaning of life, and how to live accordingly.”

Because of the work of great thinkers like the late Hans-Georg Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur, we now also realize that no knowledge can ever be completely objective, for we, the knower, are an integral part of the process of knowing. In brief, all knowledge is interpreted knowledge. Even in its simplest form, whether I claim that the Bible is God’s truth, or the Qur’ān, or the Gita…. or indeed, the interpretation of them by the Pope, my Rabbi, Shaik, Guru or… whoever, it is I who affirm that they teach the complete truth.

But, if neither I, nor anyone else, can know everything about anything, including, most of all, the most comprehensive claims to truth—Religion/Ideology—how do I proceed to search for an ever-fuller grasp of reality, of truth?

  1. From the Age of Monologue to the Age of Global Dialogue!

The clear answer is Dialogue. In Dialogue I talk with you primarily so that I can learn what I cannot perceive from my place in the world, with my personal lenses of knowing. Through your eyes I see what I cannot see from my side of the globe, my side of the street, and vice versa. Hence, dialogue is not just a way to gain more information. Dialogue is a whole new way of thinking! We are painfully leaving behind the Age of Monologue and are, with squinting eyes, entering into the Age of Global Dialogue!

  1. The Universe Is a Cosmic Dance of Dialogue!

Dialogue, then—in its most expanded meaning: “The mutually beneficial interaction of differing components”—is at the very heart of the Cosmos, of which we humans are the highest expression:

1) On the Macro level of the whole of the Cosmos (expanding, as we saw, since the “Big Bang” 13.8 billion years ago at the speed of light (186.000 mph!): the basic interaction/dialogue of matter and energy (in Einstein’s unforgettable formula: E=MC2; “Energy = mass times the square of the speed of light”) to,

2) on the Micro level, the creative interaction/dialogue of protons and electrons in every atom to

3) the vital symbiosis of body and spirit in every human, through

4) the creative dialogue between woman and man, to

5) the dynamic “humanizing” dialogic relationship between the individual and society.

Thus, the very essence of the Cosmos and our Humanity is Dialogical, and a fulfilled Human life is the highest expression of the Cosmic Dance of Dialogue.

In the early millennia of the history of humanity, as we spread outward from our starting point in central Africa, 200,000 years ago, the forces of Di-vergence were dominant. However, because we live on a globe, in our frenetic Di-vergence we eventually began to encounter each other more and more frequently. Now the forces of stunning Con-vergence are becoming increasingly dominant.

In the past, during the Age of Di-vergence, we could live in isolation from each other; we could ignore each other. Now, in the Age of Con-vergence, we are forced to live in One World. We increasingly live in a Global Village. We cannot ignore the other, the different. Too often in the past we have tried to make over the other into a likeness of ourselves, often by violence. But this is the very opposite of dialogue! This ego-centric arrogance is in fundamental opposition to the Cosmic Dance of Dialogue. It is not creative; it is destructive.

Hence, we humans today have a stark choice: Dialogue, or Death!

  1. Dialogues of the Head, Hands, Heart in

Holistic Harmony of the Holy Human

For us humans there are three main dimensions to dialogue, corresponding to the structure of our humanness: Dialogue of the Head, Hands, Heart, in Holistic Harmony of the Holy Human.

  1. The Cognitive or Intellectual: Seeking the Truth

In the Dialogue of the Head we reach out to those who think differently from us to understand how they see the world, and why they act as they do. The world is too complicated for anyone to grasp alone; increasingly, we can understand reality only with the help of the Other, in Dialogue. This is important, because how we understand the world determines how we act in the world.

  1. The Ethical: Seeking the Good

In the Dialogue of the Hands we join together with others to work to make the world a better place in which we all must live together. Since we can no longer live separately in this “One World,” we must work jointly to make it not just a house, but a Home for all of us to live in. In other words, we join hands with the other to “heal the world”—Tikun olam, in the Jewish tradition. The world, within us, and all around us, is always in need of healing, and our deepest wounds can be healed only together with the other, only in Dialogue.

  1. The Affective or Aesthetic: Seeking the Beautiful, the Spiritual

In the Dialogue of the Heart we open ourselves to perceive/receive the beauty of the other. Because we humans are body and spirit—or, rather, body-spirit—we give bodily-spiritual expression in all the arts to our multifarious responses to life: joy, sorrow, gratitude, anger…. and, most of all, love. We try to express our inner feelings, which grasp reality in far deeper and higher ways than we are able to put into rational concepts and words or every-day deeds; hence, we create poetry, music, dance, painting, architecture….—the expressions of the heart. All the world delights in beauty, and so it is here that we find the easiest encounter with the other, the simplest door to dialogue.

Here, too, is where the depth, spiritual, mystical dimensions of the human spirit are given full rein. As the seventeenth-century mathematician/philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623–1663) said: Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point, (“The heart has its reasons, which reason knows not,” (Pensees, 358).

  1. Holiness: Seeking the One

We humans cannot live a divided life. If we are even to survive, let alone flourish, we must “get it all together.” We must not only dance individually the dialogues of the Head, Hands, and Heart, but also bring our various parts together in Harmony to live a Holistic life, which is what religions mean when they say that we should be Holy (Greek, holos, “whole”).

  1. The Cosmic Dance of Dialogue!

Hence, we are authentically Human only when our manifold elements are in Dialogue within each other, and we are in Dialogue with the other persons and all reality/Reality, around/in us.

We Humans must be the Lead Dancers in The Cosmic Dance of Dialogue!

  1. Glocal Dialogue—The Democracy of the Future!

Clearly, the world has become a unity on manifold levels—from the Globe to the Individual. This Globalization—or rather, this Glocalization—cannot be stopped—despite the American Isolationists’ “America First” destructive efforts of the first half of the 20th century, which tried to block it. Likewise, neither can the hugely destructive of international friendships MAGA of Donald Trump who tried to turn back Glocalization even more insultingly—e.g., “shit hole countries of Africa.” What happens in Europe, South America, Africa, Asia massively effects America—and vice versa! My 1990’s call, “Dialogue or Death”[3] is screamingly even more desperately pertinent today. Scientists are not just predicting, we all are now beginning to experience the oceans flooding the land, the forests burning, which in turn causes more flooding…and onward….—like an exponential tripping of a global Dominos of Destruction.

To stop and turn back this growing “Flaming-Flood of Destruction,” all the world—the Glocal Demos, needs to actively join together in the Dialogue of the Head, Hands, Heart, and the Whole/Holy—Now!

[1] David Bohm (1917-92 – born in Wilkes-Barre, PA) was a world-class nuclear physicist/philosopher of the middle and latter part of the 20th century. Robert Oppenheimer—“creator” of the Atom Bomb—was his Doktorvater at the University of California-Berkley, with whom he worked as a young scientist on the “Manhattan Project;” later Bohm became a personal friend of Albert Einstein (who called him his Spiritual Son). Similarly, the Dalai Lama called him his Science Guru. During the McCarthy era he was (shamefully!) shunned by the science community, including his Dokvater Robert Oppenheimer, but subsequently became recognized as a pioneering seer bridging the fields of global science and mind/spirit—and preeminently “dialogue” between what he named the explicate and implicate dimensions of all reality: The Physical/“Spiritual” Plenum. Bohm’s thought probes that fundamental underlying Reality which tantalizingly seems to lie just beyond our Fundamental physical science, our Alpha (the “Big Bang”) and Omega (“Endlessly Expanding Cosmos”—for the past 13.8 billion years, and…. ?).

A stunning new (September, 2020, film on David Bohm: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDpurdHKpb8. Link to discussion among five outstanding thinkers/activists after the premier of the film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DucW5wfVh4&feature=youtu.be

Interview providing of an excellent explanation of the basic ideas of David Bohm by Bohm himself:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-jI0zzYgIEe

An excellent interview of Bohm about his physics views, sliding into talk heavily about The Whole & Dialogue

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QI66ZglzcO0

[2] Leonard Swidler and Paul Mojzes, The Study of Religion in an Age of Global Dialogue (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000).

[3] Leonard Swidler, with John Cobb, Monika Hellwig, and Paul Knitter, Death or Dialogue. From the Age of Monologue to the Age of Dialogue Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990.