It seems that emotional investment in an experience requires an ontological assertion about it.
For example, if an image of a painful incident pops into my head, how I react to it will likely differ based on whether the image is a …
- Memory of an event
What is the difference between (1) and (2)? If the incident left no lasting traces, then what do I have? With the past gone, what criteria do I have in claiming (2) is more real than (1)? Yet it’s this ontological assertion that forms the bedrock of my emotional investment in (2) over (1).
Or take a play. People compete, back-stab and then walk away unfazed. Phenomenally, the incident could be identical to a painful event, yet it’s considered nothing, because it too is not “real”. Again, an ontological assertion determines the emotional response.
In short, I reify, and as a result, I think I have something “concrete” to cling to.
Many inner paths try to deconstruct this reification, yet often the paths can get involved, and may do their own reification and become crystallized doctrine. However, one philosophy took non-reification to great lengths: Pyrrhonism. Pyrrhonism advocated the suspension of beliefs about all phenomena. Further, it encouraged constant investigation of phenomena, with an openness to experience, even if said experience contradicted Pyrrhonism itself! The result of practicing Pyrrhonism was said to be a deep serenity — Ataraxia.
Unfortunately, very little survives of Pyrrhonism today. However, more recently a Philosophical movement arose with very strong echoes of Pyrrhonism, even if it had a different goal.
This school is Phenomenology.
Phenomenology was an attempt to study phenomena in and of themselves, and a key practice involved Phenomenological Reduction and Epoche — suspending judgment about phenomena. Sound familiar? The result was a type of meditation, and at times language that seemed to hint at happiness. You can read more about Phenomenalogical Reduction here, but here are some passages from the site to hopefully whet your appetite:
There is an experience in which it is possible for us to come to the world with no knowledge or preconceptions in hand; it is the experience of astonishment.
Socrates (or Plato or Aristotle, depending on who you read) claimed that Philosophy began in wonder. However, this wonder often vanishes, to be replaced by canned knowledge, concepts that often superimpose — if not replace — our experience. So how do we sustain this wonder? Phenomenological Reduction!
The phenomenological reduction is at once a description and prescription of a technique that allows one to voluntarily sustain the awakening force of astonishment so that conceptual cognition can be carried throughout intentional analysis, thus bringing the “knowing” of astonishment into our everyday experience.
[…] The path to the attainment of this perspective is a species of meditation, requiring rigorous, persistent effort and is no mere mental exercise. […] and initially brings about a radical transformation of the individual performing it similar to a religious conversion.
The “religious conversion” is intriguing and makes me wonder if this was purely an “academic” philosophy, or if some hints as to the ultimate impact on our well-being were felt.
Interestingly enough, once we start, we end up seeking the “self”…
[…] all consciousness is consciousness of something; […] Furthermore, since we are always already in a world, the first task of epistemology is to properly and accurately describe what is already the case; and we can do this only if we begin with a thorough examination of consciousness itself and carry that examination all the way back to the “I” in the “I Am.” Husserl speaks of going “back” [ruckfrage] because we must begin where we are; and where we are includes a sense of self whose identity is temporarily seated in the sedimented layers of consciousness built up through our temporal experiences. Hence, if we are to encounter the “I” we must dig back down through those layers or we must continually present ourselves with the question: who is “I”? as we consider the great variety of things with which we have identified. This questioning back is the method of the phenomenological reduction and aims to lay bare the “I”—the condition for the possibility of knowledge.
This is reminiscent many inner paths such as Buddhism and Vedanta (Hinduism), and specifically, Ramana Maharishi’s Self-Inquiry Meditation.
Again, despite the language, Phenomenology seems more academically inclined. Yet the process and the language are so reminiscent of Pyrrhonism that it’s hard not to take this and run. In particular, it’s very tempting to try to build a modern Pyrrhonist practice by combining what survives of Pyrrhonism with at least one of the movements of Phenomenological Reduction.
Here is another article on phenomenology and meditation.