The Synthesis Dialogues I: Summary

Dharamsala, India, September 11-16, 1999  


 The Synthesis Dialogues was a complex experiential encounter that took place at the Norbulingka Institute in Dharamsala, India in September, 1999.  The conference was convened by the Association For Global New Thought (AGNT).  The co-directors of the project are Barbara Fields, who is executive director of AGNT, Brian Muldoon of the Dearborn Institute, and Brother Wayne Teasdale.  More than forty "leading edge" thinkers attended, as well as some sixty observors.  We were joined at three extensive sessions by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as well as by a number of other Tibetan officials and lamas.

 The primary goal of the Synthesis Dialogues was to create a living laboratory in which participants could examine for themselves the process by which human awareness is expanded.  The process design called for participants to refine these polarities among their colleagues in each field and then to engage with other disciplines.  We were a band of pilgrims in the classic sense, humbled and revealed by the long, hard road we traveled.  In India, one can feel the forces of creation and destruction right at the surface, and connect with the sacred dimension that seems, in the West, to be merely mythic.

 The encounter with India created a powerful dynamic, however subtle and unarticulated.  To be Western and wealthy in the midst of such suffering is so inherently unfair that only the most hardened obervor could escape feelings of profound grief and the desire for economic justice.  Some attendees immediately began talking about the need to establish a facility to care for the local beggars and lepers; others looked for opportunities in their discussions to address the unsustainable disparity that characterizes our modern world.

 Although many of us were disappointed that so many of the expressed objectives were not achieved, His Holiness the Dalai Lama stated to us in a private audience after the event that he thought it had been extremely successful.  It appears that he has more confidence in the power of sincere and kind hearts (which he saw the group as having) than in a roomful of manifestos. He also views the group's work as being very long term, so was not expecting the concrete results that we anticipated.  "This was a very good start," he said, "and we must continue what has begun.  You should have a follow-up meeting in the United States, and then another Dialogue--perhaps in Europe this time--in two years."  He assured us that he would participate fully in that next Synthesis Dialogue.

 If we did not define a map of synthesis--such as one showing how all the disciplines are interconnected and can work together on action projects--was there a synthesis achieved?  We think there was such a synthesis, simple as it may appear.  And that synthesis is this:  All forms of human knowledge and activity are responsive to and now are being evolved by the insights of spirituality at every level.  Most of the lessons seemed to have occurred at a more personal and humble level.  Hard as we tried, our grandiosity went nowhere, and almost everyone learned something about humility  (whether on the way to Dharamsala,at the event itself or upon returning home).  This showed us that what we mean by "spirituality" must be more grounded, more authentic and more directly tied to the suffering of our neighbors than many of us had seen before.  Castles in the air will not be granted a construction permit.


Business / Leadership / Economics
David C. Korten    People-Centered Development Forum
Meg  Wheatley    The Berkana Institute
Richard  Barrett    Richard Barrett and Associates
Myron  Kellner-Rogers   The Berkana Institute

Education / Culture
Dee  Dickinson    New Horizons for Learning
Jean  Houston    Foundation for Mind Research
Barbara  Marx Hubbard   Foundation for Conscious Evolution
Thom  Hartmann    Author

Environment / Sustainability
Duane  Elgin    Millennium Project
Vicki  Robin    The New Roadmap Foundation
Sulak  Sivaraksa    Santi Pracha Dhamma Institute
Stephanie  Kaza    Univ. of Vermont Environmental Program

Governance / Community
Rolf  Carriere     The World Bank
Gordon  Davidson, Corinne McLaughlin Center for Visionary Leadership
 Jim  Garrison     State of the World Forum
William  Ury     International Negotiation Network
Ravindra  Varma     Chair, Gandhi Peace Foundation

Healing / Medicine
Joan  Borysenko    Mind, Body, Health Science
John  Mack     Center for Psychology and Social Change
Caroyln Myss    Author, Anatomy of the Spirit

Media / Arts
Frances  Korten    Postive Future's Network
Asha and Russill  Paul d'Silva  California Institute of Integral Studies
Justine and Michael  Toms  New Dimensions Broadcasting Network

Science / Technology
Amit  Goswami   Institute of Noetic Sciences
Clifford  Matthews   Scientist, Univ. of Illinois
Eric Carlson    Former Director, Adler Planetarium
Elisabet  Sahtouris   Evolutionary Biologist
Vandana  Shiva   Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology
Peter Russell    The Global Brian
Fred Alan, Wolf   Physicist

Spirituality / Religion
Marcus  Braybrooke   World Congress of Faiths
Tenzin Choegyal  Rinpoche  Kashmir Cottage, Dharamsala