SINCE 1984

Dialogue, as an activity to address fragmentation in human thought, was first conceived at a private gathering in England in May 1984. David Bohm, Professor of Theoretical Physics at Birkbeck College University of London, met with a group of 45 participants privately invited by Peter Garrett, at a hotel near his home in the Cotswolds. It was a powerful three-day weekend meeting, and the proceedings were subsequently published under the title ‘A Weekend of Dialogue with David Bohm’ (1985).

During the following seven years a series of private Dialogues were convened in Israel, Switzerland, UK, USA, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, generally with between 25 and 60 participants, and the need for Dialogue was firmly established. The paper Dialogue – A Proposal (1991) by David Bohm, Don Factor and Peter Garrett announced the outcome of this pioneering work, and it is still widely available on the internet. It made core observations like:

“Men and women are able to sing, dance or play together with little difficulty, but their ability to talk together about subjects that matter deeply to them seems invariably to lead to dispute, division and often to violence. This points to a deep and pervasive defect in the process of human thought.”

Other publications like ‘Dialogue with Scientists and Sages: The search for Unity’ (1986), ‘Science, Order and Creativity’ (1987), ‘Thought as a System’ (1990) and ‘On Dialogue’ (1996) developed different aspects of the theoretical need for Dialogue. The Academy curates an archive of original recordings and transcripts of David Bohm and colleagues from this time.

Following David Bohm’s death in 1992, the exploration of Dialogue continued in many different countries and fields of human endeavour, including social and organisational conflicts. A generic practice began to emerge that could address the challenge of fragmentation in human thought, and skilful practitioners showed evidence of significant progress. By 2017 it became apparent that a new profession taken form, and in March 2017 the Academy of Professional Dialogue was formed as an international not-for-profit organisation by ten Founding Members from the UK, US, Sweden, Norway and Germany.

Peter Garrett (Chair) and William Isaacs, describe the heritage of Professional Dialogue at the online conference, October 2020.