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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

philosophical Q & A today

an online friend and I were having a discussion about spirituality and philosophy, and the beauty of love versus the mind... so I thought I'd post a part of it, my response to a question he asked, here.

Q: how can philosophical reasoning be a cornerstone to an open mind and spiritual understanding?

A: I'd much rather talk about dissolving.... but, okay, sigh, back to the mind stuff.

philosophical reasoning CAN be (isn't, necessarily) the cornerstone to an open mind because it subjects the mind to more than one point of view about how the world operates. like, building the muscle of the mind to flex in many directions, to be, as it were, flexible. also, philosophy asks questions, the critical questions, about the purpose of human life, etc., which are pretty much the identical questions spiritual characters also pose -- so the overlap is there for the taking.

the other point about philosophical reasoning is that it allows for questions without definitive answers -- ie, 'we don't know everything there is to know'. to my mind, that's a healthy basis for creating an open mind.

however -- I don't think that an open mind alone will lead to a deep spiritual understanding. that requires a leap of something beyond the mind, and definitely in a realm where thoughts are not the most prevalent characteristic. it takes heart, and intuition, and guts, and -- that ineffable quality of adventurous humility, ie, I really don't know but there are mysteries and I want to discover what lies behind them, even if the reality I discover totally blows my human mind.

I studied with one of the top British empiricist philosophers, an avowed atheist his whole life, great colleague of Bertrand Russell and friends with George Orwell and the like -- logical positivist. when he was in his 70s, he had a near-death experience that suddenly shattered his whole life's belief system that there was nothing after death, and seriously brought his atheism into doubt.

so -- the philosophical meanderings can also turn rigid, into posturing and a solidification of belief systems, like any religious dogma. at the same time, if one has a direct experience that completely challenges the belief system -- or overturns it, even for a brief instance.... having had a philosophical background can, I think, help one accept that something mystical just happened rather than some superstitious hocus-pocus of self-hypnotism.

the biggest challenge of all, I think, is not an open mind, but having an open heart -- and I doubt that philosophy can teach that quality.

just two rupees on the subject as a former philosophy student.

oh, and a last word on the subject from the immortal Bard, from Hamlet:

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."


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