Anda di halaman 1dari 207


Turning away from Philosophy of Being

Non-Philosophy: the intersubjectivity of Sophos, THE
ONE and the Real Self.

Ulrich de Balbian PhD

Meta-Philosophy Research Center

And now for something completely different, unintended and
without even trying to do or be that, different that is (since very
small my parents would say why do you always have to be
different, why do you always have to do something different,
in a different way well I suppose it does reveal something?)
Well, if Griezmann is not disponible, or another saviour, one
must step up oneself, or find another saviour, like Sophos.. ?

I wrote about this in a number of books and articles, for

example about methods, techniques, practices and
methodology here:
hodology as well as exploring and illustrating the subject-
matter of philosophizing here:
ng_for_its_subject-matter_.docx and in a number of books that
can be seen here:

1, at or here:
Explorations, questions and searches not put down on paper
are probably more important than the ones mentioned above.
These were occurrences for almost as long as I can remember.
They took many forms, endless questions about everything
under the sun, unsatisfied with unexplained socio-cultural
institutions, communities, social relationships, social roles,
behaviour, values, norms and much more I had to question
them rather than merely submit to them or act in accordance
with them. Although I expressed these questions and queries
about the status quo in many areas such as sport, art, social
sciences, endless reading and marginal groups and
relationships I realized that they form part of the philosophical
discourse. Not the discourse that has become the expression of
the professionalization of philosophy the last few hundred
years, but of the not-institutionalized practice of original
thinking, of creative philosophical thinking. As examples of the
latter, Socrates, of course, the pre-Socratics, Plato, Leibniz,
Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, Plotinus, writers on Mysticism such as
Meister Eckhart, van Ruysbroeck, John of the Cross, Teresa of
Avila, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, from Advaita, Zen and other
Buddhist schools, Wittgenstein, Hume, German Idealists, Rumi,
novelists and poets, Paul Klee and other visual artists and many
names who form part of the seeking for the unity-experience as
explored in History of Mysticism (those who seek the unity
experience, to become ONE with THE ONE, Godhead, the one
real Self, Buddha mind, Sophos, etc). History of Mysticism *was
first published by Atma Books in 1987, now and is a unique
compendium of the lives and teachings of the world's best
known mystics. They are presented in chronological order, and
include representatives of every religious tradition, revealing
the broad universality of genuine religious experience.
expanded and revised Thirtieth Anniversary edition is available
as a free downloadable PDF document on this website at my
Downloads page. This book is fundamental for seasoned
scholars of philosophy and religion as well as anyone new to
the study of Mysticism. Here is a reproduction of the Table of
Download File

I. Mystics of The Ancient Past

Pre-history Of Mysticism
Vedic Hymnists
Early Egyptians
The Early Jews
Upanishadic Seers
The Bhagavad Gita
The Taoist Sages
The Buddha

II. Mystics of The Greco-Roman Era

The Pre-Socratic Greeks

Socrates And His Successors
Zeno of Citium
Philo Judaeus
Jesus of Nazareth
Early Christians
The Gnostics
The Hermetics

III. Mystics of The Early Middle Ages

The Tantra
The Chan And Zen Buddhists
The Sufis

IV. Mystics of The Late Middle Ages

Jewish Mysticism
Ibn Arabi
Medieval Christians
Meister Eckhart
Thomas Kempis

V. Mystics of The Modern Era

Nicholas of Cusa
Juan de la Cruz (St. John of the Cross)
Seventeenth And Eighteenth Century Mystics
Sri Ramakrishna
Ramana Maharshi
Swami Rama Tirtha
Twentieth Century Mystics
So much for my own wisdom- or unity seeking and
experience. During which I learned many things, that this
seeking will not be taught in academic classes, that those
who live OFF philosophy and other socio-cultural practices
(eg priests, religious, professors, etc of religion, philosophy,
sciences, arts, humanities, etc) do not form part of the
seekers of this experience and do not represent those who
love the one above all and who have realized the unity-
experience of the one. As illustrated by those included in the
History of Mysticism and in other books such as F C
C-Happold/dp/0140137467 . One of the first books I have
ever read and never stopped reading since. I include the

image of the cover for several reasons, it sums up the book,
the two types of mysticism and of course look whose work it
is!! Lol, of course, the one who many has said I must be the
reincarnation of?

Mysticism: A study and an Anthology, he divides mysticism

into 2 types:
1. The mysticism of love and union
2. The mysticism of knowledge and understanding
And see Religious Experiences - The Student Room
Happold's types of mysticism. Rather than develop a set of
criteria to identify mystical experiences, F.C. Happold
developed a way in which people could think ...
I think these two types of mystics are not mutually exclusive
and they perhaps form the two poles of a continuum, with
some mystics lying closer to the one pole than the other or
others may well be positioned somewhere in the middle
revealing characteristics of both types. I mention this as it
seems to me, from self-knowledge and introspection (ha ha)
that I suffer both types. My love for Sophos, need to
question philosophically and living a philosophical life appear
to reveal the second type, although my intense love for
Sophos, visual art, union with The One, etc, are signs of the
former. Enough, and far, far too much, of such personal
aspects of my intellectual (or less pompous, my thinking)
biography. It was not intended to reveal something about

myself or fulfil a need to share details concerning myself with
others, but merely to illustrate something about thinking (not
thinking about) and living philosophically. And thereby to
reveal something about what philosophy, philosophizing is
and is about.
It is against this background and in this context that the few
things I do put on paper, such as the exploration of
philosophical approaches, methods (or ways) and subject-
matter, and on canvas (as my visual art explorations and
expressions), should be viewed and interpreted. The above
answers the question why philosophize and why paint, or
rather why I philosophize and why I paint, night and day
and almost 24/7. At some stage perhaps as an exploration of
the one, Sophos, etc and of the methods, road and ways to
unity with the one, then after the unity-experience with the
one, Sophos, the one real self, etc, the nature of this
experience and expressing the nature of the one. In other
words as the Muslim Sufis whose words are included in
Happold, put it: when I look inside my coat/cloak, it is only
you I see, when you knock on the door and I open it to let
you in, we say, it is I and no longer you and I. In short an
expression of the nature of Sophos, wisdom, the one, when
one opens ones mouth in a considered manner, in language
only lovers will recognize (not contrived, technical,
professional terms borrowed from others and an academic
tradition, but in intimate sighs and simple ordinary, everyday
language), one talks as if the beloved, one expresses the
mind, the characteristics, the mind set, the reality, the
cosmos, the universe and nature of the beloved, the one.
The only one that is. This is no longer mere talking about, but
taking in the name of, like when the prophets from the Old
Testament spoke in the name of the one, spoke as if
HASHEM, as if they are, at that moment at least, Hashem-
From the explorations of the subject-matter of the
philosophical discourse we are able to identify a number of
things concerning the objects of philosophy and the changes

that occurred over time in the subject-matter of this
In the beginnings of the Western tradition of philosophy, the
traditional genesis of this discipline with the Pre-Socratics,
few other disciplines and specialized discourses of these
disciplines existed. Those who were involved in this inter-
subjective, socio-cultural practice at that time explored
phenomena that at later stages in the history of philosophy,
became the objects of study of disciplines that became
differentiated in the scheme of things concerned with reality,
beings, humans, experience and perception of reality,
consciousness, thinking, reflecting on all these things, and
other elements. Plato and Aristotle dealt with questions and
phenomena that today are the subject-matter of other
disciplines for example physics, chemistry, astronomy, astro-
physics, theology, geography, geology, social sciences,
humanities, aesthetics, the arts and inter-disciplinary
sciences such as cognitive sciences.
If philosophers are still concerned with the subject-matter of
these disciplines then they will deal with them as philosophy
of, philosophy about such disciplines, their assumptions,
theories, methodologies, terms being developed, concepts
etc. In other words philosophy has not quite given up
ownership of those domains that previously formed part of
its discourse. Theoretical Physics might suggest ontologies of
the kind that previously were presented in the philosophical
discourse, but philosophers still cling to that discipline in an
attempt to salvage and retain some subject-matter from
those discourses, now, all but lost for the socio-cultural
practice of modern philosophy.
Others employ and extend the intersubjective principles,
assumptions, pre-suppositions, values, norms, attitudes,
rationale and other transcendentals of the philosophical
discourse so that they are able to remain involved in
disciplines such as theology, logic, mathematics, ethics, law,
economics, sociology, psychology, the art, humanities, etc.
So today we find a philosophy of everything and anything,
for example gender, ecology, risk, social theory, migrants,

global warming, virtual reality, social media, sex,
government, the public (sphere), language, linguistics, signs,
and any idea that exist, or does not yet exist, in our
conceptual system, life-worlds, realities, thinking, dreaming,
imagination, etc.
Let us refer to this as conceptual analysis, analysis,
deconstruction, critical theory, post-Kantianism, neo-
Platonism, new-Hegelianisms, post-anarchism (the
philosophical approach), neo-Marxism, phenomenology,
hermeneutics, cognitive science, cartographies of cognition,
etc so as to arrive at a whole array of approaches that will
encompass every possible type of language game, linguistic
exploration and analysis that could be done with ideas,
concepts, conceptual systems, their origins, transcendentals,
aims, rational, functions, etc in this Anthropocene(!!! Another
latest fade and fashionable term, that is meant to be all-
explanatory, like cognitive, cognition and cognitive sciences
once were meant to be)- centered, -originated, -constituted
and maintained reality, realities, cosmos, universe/s,
multiverse of ours. Yes, of ours, as one thing has not
changed much since the earliest Western philosophical birth
pangs, and probably since the first being resembling
anything human walked upright, became concscious, started
to think and think about his existence and thinking that one
thing is, it is all about us, us being the centre not only of our
socio-culturally constituted realities and life-worlds, but all
existing, or not yet existing, possible reality/s, life-worlds and
universes. Yes, it is all about us human beings, homo
sapiens sapiens as far as the universe or multiverses,
infinity stretch, is, or is (not, ad infinitum.
No matter what clever new terms we contrive, whatever
disciplines we devise, whatever socio-cultural practices we
execute, whatever institutions (or their norms, values, pre-
suppositions, assumptions and other transcendentals we
un/intentionally support, maintain and adhere to, be they
fictional, reality, hyper-reality or virtual reality) it is all
about us, from us and for us. In spite of minute, rebellious
attempts to try and create an alternative to
anthropocentrism, such as those of object- oriented

ontology, it remains with US, us who usurped and replaced
the creator, all creators , be they real or fictional, if they
resemble us or not, if they are beings or forces (such as
those that caused the big bang, created and maintain the
universe or other variations on that as imagined by the pre-
Socratics, by primitive religions, folk beliefs, etc.

Is there an alternative to Anthropocene- and anthropo-
centered consciousness, cognition, thinking, frames of
reference, perspectives, constitution of realities and life-
worlds, approaches, socio-cultural practices and
intersubjectivity? Are we the only creators of
transcendentals, our constitution the constitution of all
transcendentals as Kant and Hegel speculated and showed
us? Are human beings, our constitution, our motives, needs,
values, attitudes and aims, be they personal and subjective,
or intersubjective and socio-culturally derived, based and
maintained (as critical theory and other sociologisms have
shown us through their scientific speculations, descriptions,
analyses and theorizing and want us to believe) the only
possible one, the only meaningful one?
Is it possible that, if someone were to be in union with the
beloved (of the Sufis), united with Sophos, one/d with the
buddhamind, realized the one, true self, if someone like that
could reveal something of an alternative to the restricted
anthropo(cene?)-centered philosophies we deal in? If
someone like that could identify, reveal and conceptual the
transcendentals that underlie and precede all our activities,
including our fake, false and inauthentic, professional-
oriented philosophizing, could that someone present us with
alternatives, for example more authentic and relevant
(constitutions of) life-worlds, realities, interpretations of
understandings of existence and realities? Activities and
consciousness that have as transcendentals Sophos, that
have as rationale and purpose the realization of Sophos, and
that have as values, norms and intersubjectivity (and the
creation, development and maintenance) Sophos? Living for

and by Sophos in the manner in which the mystics revealed
to us how they lived for and by (the values and norms) of
the one ?
The Origin of Western Mysticism
Introduction .......................................
............................... 9
I. The One.................................
......................... ......... .........26
The One of Plotinus is synonymous with Brahman
of the Upanishads. It is also synonymous with the
Shiva of Shaivism, the Taoof Taoism, the Purusha
of the Bhagavad Gita, the Dharmakayaof the Buddhists, the
Haqqof Ibn Arabi, and the Gottheitof Meister
Eckhart. However, it is best to limit our comparisons; too
many would be tedious. We It may be termed "pure Consciousness,"
but even th
is is inaccurate as It is
Consciousness prior to the act of being conscious of anything. Even to
say, "It is," is
misleading, since It is beyond Being; even the word, "prior," connotes
causal or
temporal sequence, and It is beyond both Time and Causation. Nothing
can be rightly
said of It, but we must settle upon a name in order
to speak of It, and so we may choose "Consciousness," "the Self," "The
One," The First,"
or "The Good," despite their inadequacy.
The One, we must remember, is not something standing behind the
manifold, as
a separate thing, but is the One by which, in which, and from which all
that is manifest

II. The Divine Mind.........................

.................................... 42

III. The Soul ................................
........................................... 54
IV. Providence...............................
........................................ 66
V. Free Will...............................
........................................... 86
VI. Beauty ..................................
......................................... 100
VII. Love ....................................
.......................................... 110
VIII. Purification ............................
...................................... 118
IX. The Return..............................
...................................... 126
X. Happiness ...............................
...................................... 140
XI. The Stars ...............................
........................................ 148
XII. Letter to Flaccus .......................
................................... 162

What are the values, rules, norms of the mystics of their
beloved, the one? Wittgenstein said something like, that
what cannot be said should or can be shown. It seems to me
that most things are shown by us, even if they appear to be
said. Even sentences in speech or writing present us with
words that we imagine we understand, but we understand
merely something approximate from what is shown to us,
even though we mistakenly think that we become that what
is said or written, that we grasped the meanings being said
or shown as real, true facts.
Experience Or Understanding?
seemed to some to imply that the nondual (advaita) Reality
could be known through deliberate intellectual enquiry.

This controversy may be easily resolved if we examine how

the word, advaita, is commonly used. It is a Sanskrit word,

which, literally, means not two, but it is generally used to
stand for both nonduality and nondualism. To illustrate
this, let us look at several official definitions of the word:
First definition, from the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia:
Advaita (Sanskrit: Nondualism) Most influential school of
Vedanta etc. Second definition, from the Oxford
Dictionary of Philosophy: advaita (Sanskrit, nonduality) The
doctrine of the Vedantic school associated with Shankara,
that asserts the identity of Brahman and atman etc. And
the third definition, from the Oxford Dictionary of Asian
Mythology: Literally, nondual, advaita is the Hindu term for
the state of nondifferentiation that is Brahman or the
absolute reality.

When used with Vedanta, advaita refers to the philosophy

of Nondual Vedanta, or, simply Nondualism; it can also
mean Nonduality, a synonym for the absolute reality, or
Brahman. So we have two meanings for the same word:
nonduality and nondualism. The first is an experiential state;
the second is a philosophical position. Admittedly, Advaita
(Nondualism), the philosophical term, may indeed be
understood; but Advaita, when we mean by it: nonduality
the nondual reality, the thing in itself, cannot be
understood. It must be experienced to be known.
Note: but surely if the ineffable One of the mystic has been
experienced, those experienced can be shown if not said?
And they might be shown by art, visual art, poetry and in
other ways, if they cannot be rationally conceptualized?

That undifferentiated state where there is neither I nor

Thou may be experienced in transcendent vision, but it
cannot be understood by the mind. The state in which there
is neither now or then may be experienced in
transcendent vision, but it cannot be understood by the
mind. The state in which neither here nor there exists
cannot be understood by the mind. The mind and the
language it uses is grounded in duality; duality is its
mechanism, its being. With what instrument would one
understand nonduality? It cannot be understood by the

mind. However, Nonduality has been experienced by many
throughout historyincluding myself. Nonduality, therefore,
is, by definition, a transcendent experience, a divine
revelation, beyond the temporal mind.

It must be reported, however, that the opinion that Advaita is

unequivocally an understanding, arrived at through
reflection, and not a transcendent experience, has become a
widely-held one among some students of enlightenment
centered in the U.K. On the website, hosted by
Dennis Waite, a questioner who had a profound realization
of the truth of advaita and then, after some months, no
longer experienced it, was corrected by several different
disciples who set out to impress upon him the doctrine that
advaita was not an experience, but an understanding. (See Q.348 Temporary Realization/, Posted
on August 4, 2013).

Advaita (nondualism) is an understanding; advaita

(nonduality) is definitely not a matter of understanding; it is
a matter of revelation. Ideas may be understood. Concepts
may be understood. We can understand the idea, the
concept, of nondualism, but we cannot understand
nonduality. Understanding is a subjective process of the
mind. Those who have obtained an intellectual
understanding that the universe is an undivided unity, that
there are not two things (I and Thou, Spirit and Matter), but
only one, have attained a wonderful understanding, to be
sure; but it cannot hold a candle to the experience of seeing
that nondual Reality through the eyes of eternityeven if in
time our memory of the details of that vision may fade.

Philosophers have attempted through the ages to

understand the nondual Reality, and in the end have had to
surrender and take their place among the many vanquished
souls who have followed the dead-end road of reason, and
never reached their goal. For satisfaction does not lie down
that road. The intellect turns out to be an inappropriate and
useless instrument in the hunt for the knowledge of Reality,
in the quest for the divine Self. Inevitably we must come to
the realization that the intellect is impotent to discover God
(the non-dual Reality), or to comprehend His ways. And with
that realization comes also the sweet acceptance of the truth
that only He can reveal His immediate and all-embracing

This illustrates what I mean by that what is said, the factual

words and sentences, and the understanding of them (by
the intellect, that what we learned what those words
mean)and that what is shown and grasped as if some kind of

Sir James Hopwood Jeans OM FRS[1] (11 September 1877 16 September

1946[2]) was an English physicist, astronomer and mathematician. The stream of
knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the Universe begins to
look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer
appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter... we ought rather
hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.

James Jeans in The Mysterious Universe, [14]

In an interview published in The Observer (London), when asked the question

"Do you believe that life on this planet is the result of some sort of accident, or
do you believe that it is a part of some great scheme?", he replied:

I incline to the idealistic theory that consciousness is fundamental, and that the
material universe is derivative from consciousness, not consciousness from the
material universe... In general the universe seems to me to be nearer to a great
thought than to a great machine. It may well be, it seems to me, that each
individual consciousness ought to be compared to a brain-cell in a universal

What remains is in any case very different from the full-blooded matter and the
forbidding materialism of the Victorian scientist. His objective and material
universe is proved to consist of little more than constructs of our own minds. To
this extent, then, modern physics has moved in the direction of philosophic
idealism. Mind and matter, if not proved to be of similar nature, are at least
found to be ingredients of one single system. There is no longer room for the
kind of dualism which has haunted philosophy since the days of Descartes.

James Jeans, addressing the British Association in 1934,

recorded in Physics and Philosophy, [15]
Finite picture whose dimensions are a certain amount of space and a certain
amount of time; the protons and electrons are the streaks of paint which define
the picture against its space-time background. Traveling as far back in time as
we can, brings us not to the creation of the picture, but to its edge; the creation
of the picture lies as much outside the picture as the artist is outside his canvas.
On this view, discussing the creation of the universe in terms of time and space
is like trying to discover the artist and the action of painting, by going to the
edge of the canvas. This brings us very near to those philosophical systems
which regard the universe as a thought in the mind of its Creator, thereby
reducing all discussion of material creation to futility.

James Jeans in The Universe Around Us, [16]

Milne, E. A. (1947). "James Hopwood Jeans. 1877-1946".

Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society. 5 (15): 573
570. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1947.0019.
"England & Wales deaths 1837-2007 Transcription".
Findmypast. Retrieved 2016-06-27. (subscription required
(help)). SEP 1946 5g 607 SURREY SE
Jeans 1944, p. 137.
Jeans 1981, p. 216.
Jeans 1929, p. 317.

Here Jeans also refers to the differences between

understanding and the other kind of knowing referred to
above as understanding/intellect and experience (a kind of
pre-conceptual being one with what is known, nonduality.
More on this below -

We have all become somewhat accustomed to the picture of
the world presented to us by modern physics which asks us
to accept that the world consists of either particles or of
wavesdepending on how we decide to analyze it. Suffice it
to say that, in some experiments the world of both light and
matter prove to be particulate; and in some experiments the
world of both light and matter prove to be wavular. This
empirical ambiguity is so prevalent in the field of physics
that we now refer to the constituents of both light and
matter as wave-particles, while ignoring the clearly
contradictory nature of the term and its meaning.
Reality, as we all know, is one; and yet it can appear to be
divisible into individually distinct and separate perceivable
entities, or appear as waves on a single continuum in which
there is no separation between subject and object. Back in
the 1930s, many were pondering these two versions of
reality which physics had discovered were complementary
but irreconcilable descriptions of the reality we experience
among them the highly respected mathematician and
dabbler in physics, James Jeans (1877-1946). Jeans couldnt
help noting that these two complementary versions of reality
were radically dissimilar:
When geography cannot combine all the qualities we want
in a single map, it provides us with more than one map.
Theoretical physics has done the same, providing us with two
maps which are commonly known as the particle-picture and
the wave-picture. It is perhaps better to speak of these two
pictures as the particle-parable and the wave-parable.

The particle-parable, which was first in the field, told us that

the material universe consists of particles existing in space
and time.

The wave-parable does not describe the universe as a

collection of particles but as a system of waves. [In this
parable,] the universe is no longer a deluge of shot from a
battery of machine-guns, but a stormy sea with the sea
taken away and only the abstract quality of storminess
left 1

The old particle-picture which lay within the limits of space
and time, broke matter up into a crowd of distinct particles,
and radiation into a shower of distinct photons. The newer
and more accurate wave-picture, which transcends the
framework of space and time, recombines the photons into a
single beam of light, and the shower of parallel-moving
electrons into a continuous electric current. Atomicity and
division into individual existences are fundamental in the
restricted space-time picture, but disappear in the wider, and
as far as we know more truthful, picture which transcends
space and time. In this, atomicity is replaced by 'holism':
the photons are no longer distinct individuals each going its
own way, but members of a single organization or whole a
beam of light.

And is it not conceivable that what is true of the objects

perceived may be true also of the perceiving minds? When
we view ourselves in space and time we are quite obviously
distinct individuals; when we pass beyond space and time we
may perhaps form ingredients of a continuous stream of life.

It suddenly struck me, in reading this description of the

Wavular version of reality, that this is a description of the
mystical experience that occurred to me in my cabin in the
woods in 1966. 3 I had experienced a shift in consciousness
from what I regarded as the normal version of reality into
another, unfamiliar, version of reality. But what does that
even mean? What is another version of reality? Is there
more than one reality? You see, there has been no
vocabulary other than that of religion with which to describe
the Nondual reality in which one finds oneself in this so-
called mystical experienceuntil now. Perhaps we must
look to the vocabulary of the physicists to comprehend and
explain it!

Compare his notions of The Particulate (Dualist) Version
of Reality and The Wavular (Nondual) Version of
Reality .
1. Here, each perceiving subject and each perceived object
possesses a unique identity, each individual subject or object
being distinct from any other.

2. Here, every perceiving subject and perceived object

consists of smaller units, referred to, in sequence, as
molecules, atoms, and sub-atomic particles.

3. Here, the consciousness of each subject perceives, in

addition to the subject-object duality, a self-created duality
of values, emotions, qualities, consisting of pairs, such as
like-dislike, happy-sad, pleased-displeased, etc.

4. Here, both subjective and objective events occur within

the parameters of time and space. Within these parameters,
each perceiving subject (soul?) is born, matures, and
eventually dies (perhaps to reincarnate at a later time).

5. Here, the struggle for individual existence sets creature

against creature according to the diversity of self-interest
and motive.
1. Here, only one limitless continuum of Consciousness
exists, containing within It all phenomena, including ones
own body, consisting of waves in the continuum.

2. Here, all wavular phenomena consist of and are

manifestations of the one continuum, having no distinct
identity of their own.

3. Here, consciousness experiences itself as the one

continuum. There is only the One, with no division

4. Here, what is experienced is ones eternal Self. Time

and space do not exist. All that occurs is the correlation and
natural evolution of the waves of the one integrated


5. Here, all the wavular phenomena move together of one

accord, one harmony, one purpose.
In 1966, when I was sitting in my cabin before the fire in the
stove, I was experiencing reality, as all of us normally do,
from the perspective of a distinct individual existing within
the phenomenal universe of time and space. But, following
my prayer, I entered into a mystical experience. When my
mind entered into that unfamiliar realm of awareness, I was
suddenly seeing from the perspective of the one eternal
consciousness from whom the world of time and space is
projected and sustained. There was no difference between
that one eternal consciousness and I. And there was no
difference between the world and I. One consciousness
pervaded and constituted all. It was clear to me then, and
remains clear to me now, that the ability to make that shift in
awareness does not lie within my control. And for that
reason, I am compelled to regard its occurrence as a matter
of Grace. Nonetheless, I believe that we are endowed with
the ability to either cooperate with that grace or to turn our
backs on it.
The recognition that the mystical experience provides
experiential confirmation of the scientific theory of an
underlying wave-based reality signals the long-awaited and
undeniable coincidence of science and mysticism in our time.
Not only is wave-particle duality a recognized property of
light (electromagnetic radiation), quantum theory implies
that wave-particle duality is a property of all matter; the
electron, which we think of as a particle, is really a quantum
bundle of an electron-field which acts with wave-like
properties. 4 However, we humans regularly perceive our
macroscopic world (which is made up of the microscopic
world) not as Wavular (Nondual), but as Particulate
(Dualistic). Yet these two perspectives (or parables) are
vastly dissimilar.

As anyone can see, neither of these two quite different
versions of the one reality are remotely similar to the other,
though they are complementary versions of the same reality.
How can this be? Most of us experience the Particulate
(Dualist) version of reality everyday. It is our normal view of
the world. But, few of us, it seems, actually experience the
Spiritual or Wavular (Nondual) version even for a few
minutes of a lifetime. Nevertheless, it appears that these
two versions of reality are not entirely independent, though
one exists in time and space, and the other in eternity.
Amazingly, they exist together, overlapping, as it were, one
projected upon the other.
.. The wave-theory of the scientists has been around since
the late nineteenth century. Mystical experience and Wave
Theory have just never been associated together before. But
today marks a momentous occasion. The recognition that
the mystical experience provides experiential confirmation of
the scientific theory of an underlying wave-based reality
signals the long-awaited and undeniable coincidence of
science and mysticism in our time.
Not only is wave-particle duality a recognized property of
light (electromagnetic radiation), quantum theory implies
that wave-particle duality is a property of all matter; the
electron, which we think of as a particle, is really a quantum
bundle of an electron-field which acts with wave-like
properties. 4 However, we humans regularly perceive our
macroscopic world (which is made up of the microscopic
world) not as Wavular (Nondual), but as Particulate
(Dualistic). Yet these two perspectives (or parables) are
vastly dissimilar.
As anyone can see, neither of these two quite different
versions of the one reality are remotely similar to the other,
though they are complementary versions of the same reality.
How can this be? Most of us experience the Particulate
(Dualist) version of reality everyday. It is our normal view of
the world. But, few of us, it seems, actually experience the
Spiritual or Wavular (Nondual) version even for a few
minutes of a lifetime. Nevertheless, it appears that these

two versions of reality are not entirely independent, though
one exists in time and space, and the other in eternity.
Amazingly, they exist together, overlapping, as it were, one
projected upon the other.
The Wavular (Nondual) version of reality is absolute; it exists
noumenally, but not phenomenally; that is, it can be seen in
inner vision by the higher mind, but does not appear as a
physical reality. Physical requires time and space; and
thats where the Particle-version of reality exists. The two
versions of reality exist as exclusive, yet complementary
realms, or perspectives. The Wave-version of reality can be
discovered as operative in the Particle-version; but the
Particle-version of reality is ultimately illusory, being identical
to the Vedantic concept of Maya, an appearance.
Some mystics, including myself, have experienced for
themselves, in inner vision, that the nature of reality is
wavular, and that one eternal continuum of Consciousness
and Bliss is all that is. How, then, do we get from there to
the particulate reality that we all normally experience in the
framework of time and space? Is it possible that this
Particulate reality is a construct of the perspectives of our
individual minds?

What is this indescribable continuum of Consciousness this

wavy ocean of reality? It is the universal Mind that
encompasses and includes everything, including each of
our individual minds? We are in it and part of it; we and
everything in the universe flow along in its tides and evolve
according to its whims. It is the manifest Divinity. It is Gods
lila, His play!

But the real unanswerable question is whence comes this

Particulate world that we experience? If the Nondual,
Wavular, vision of reality is the correct one, whence comes
this Dualistic, Particulate, vision of reality that is ubiquitously
present to each of us throughout our lives? Is it a result of
human perception only? And if it is a product of our own
perception, is it ego-generated? In other words, is the
Nondual ocean of reality overlayed by a projected reality

produced by the sense of Iwhich then necessitates not-I
(or the other), and hence a multitude of pairs of subjects
and objects? Or is our delusion a universal one, created by

In my own experience, these two frames of reality, the

Particulate and the Wavular, the Dualist and the Nondualist,
are wholly differentiated perspectives that almost seem to be
separate realms: One, the Particulate, is our normal,
personal, Technicolor, world of subject-object perception
and interior mind-born qualities and values. The second, the
Wavular, is a non-personal, transcendent, awareness from a
perspective beyond time and space, which is identical with
an eternal and undivided Consciousness that spreads as
waves to include all existence. 5 The Wavular, Nondual,
reality is absolute; but the Particulate, Dualist, reality is a
product of the individual mind. It is initiated, I believe, by
the arising of the sense of I: that which we refer to as the

Let us examine the evidence: the creation of all the pairs of

opposites (dualities) occurs in the individual mind, and is
personally unique for each individual. Each mentally
constructed value is created from the unique perspective of
each I: I-other, here-there, now-then, night-day, pleasant-
unpleasant, like-dislike, good-bad, beautiful-ugly, etc. One
thing is essential to the creation of each of these dualities:
the ego, the I. Without the I, they have no footing in this

But, as we all know, that ego is a false sense of identity. It

vanishes when the real I, the one Consciousness, the
absolute Self, is revealed. That absolute Self is experienced
in the awareness of the Wavular (Nondual) reality when, by
divine grace, one is lifted above the individually-created
Particulate perspective to that of the divine Mind. There, all
is one Self. But how can we reach that ethereal vision? First,
know that your current Dualist perspective is false, and begin
behaving in such a way to bring about the transformation of
your perspective from that of your individual self to that of
the One. I know well that it is not an easy task, and one that
will require long effort; but you can begin simply by treating
everyone with love.
The brilliant physicist, David Bohm (1917-1992) regarded
these two realms, the Wavular and the Particulate, as the
Implicate Order and the Explicate Order respectively.
Here is an explication of Bohms vision by Michael Talbot:

Bohm posits that we can look at reality as if it consists of

two levels. He calls the level we inhabitwhere things like
electrons, toaster ovens, and human beings appear to be
separate from one anotherthe explicate order. The level of
subatomic realitywhere things cease to have separate
location, quantum interconnectedness reigns, and all things
become a seamless and unbroken wholehe calls the
implicate order.

As we have seen, because everything in the universe is

ultimately constituted out of things that exist at this
unbroken level, the apparent separateness of objects at our
own level of existence is also an illusion. Because we are
constituted out of the nonlocal level, Bohm feels it is
ultimately meaningless to speak about consciousness as
having a specific location. It may manifest inside our heads
while we function in life, but the true home of consciousness
is in the implicate, says Bohm. Thus, consciousness, the
great ocean of consciousness that has divided itself up into
all human beings, also exists in all things. Despite its
apparent inanimate nature, in its own way a rock is also
permeated with consciousness So are grains of sand, ocean
waves, and stars.
(from Michael Talbot, Mysticism And The New Physics, New
York, Penguin Group, 1993; p. 158 [originally published by
Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981].)

We internalized the institutionalized mind of the explicate

order, we come to believe that this is what normal
experience is like, that it is normal to perceive, live in,

experience and interact with this type of constituted reality.
The type of intersubjectivity we become and then are part of
is ascribes to this kind of reality, thinking, perception,
experience and consciousness. The intersubjectivity of the
implicate order, of nonduality of wavular theory is not
available to us, so we do not internalize it, its values,
attitudes, norms and practice.
The explicate or institutionalized intersubjectivity we
internalize and employ to constitute our selves, our realities
and existence are as follows of the The Particulate
(Dualist) Version of Reality
1. Here, each perceiving subject and each perceived object
possesses a unique identity, each individual subject or object
being distinct from any other.

2. Here, every perceiving subject and perceived object

consists of smaller units, referred to, in sequence, as
molecules, atoms, and sub-atomic particles.

3. Here, the consciousness of each subject perceives, in

addition to the subject-object duality, a self-created duality
of values, emotions, qualities, consisting of pairs, such as
like-dislike, happy-sad, pleased-displeased, etc.

4. Here, both subjective and objective events occur within

the parameters of time and space. Within these parameters,
each perceiving subject (soul?) is born, matures, and
eventually dies (perhaps to reincarnate at a later time).

5. Here, the struggle for individual existence sets creature

against creature according to the diversity of self-interest
and motive.

The self, consciousness, existences a, realities and life-

worlds of the mystics are of this The Wavular (Nondual)
Version of Reality kind and almost Vedaita kind this is
where we come from and this is where we going after

departure, as described and experience by those who have
passed on from this existence to so-called after-life.
1. Here, only one limitless continuum of Consciousness
exists, containing within It all phenomena, including ones
own body, consisting of waves in the continuum.

2. Here, all wavular phenomena consist of and are

manifestations of the one continuum, having no distinct
identity of their own.

3. Here, consciousness experiences itself as the one

continuum. There is only the One, with no division

4. Here, what is experienced is ones eternal Self. Time

and space do not exist. All that occurs is the correlation and
natural evolution of the waves of the one integrated

5. Here, all the wavular phenomena move together of one

accord, one harmony, one purpose.

Concerning the origin of the universe in terms of this

explicate (scientific big-bang theories) and in terms of the
implicate perspective (religious interpretations) see this
Science and Gnosis on the origin of the universe and other
Gnosis is possible only with the elimination of the ego-
mechanism by which a persons awareness is limited to that
of a separate individual identity. This ego-mechanism is a
subtle mental obscuration that structures a false
identification with the biological and psychological processes
of individuation. Thus, instead of being aware of the real I-
identity that is universal Consciousness, one is restricted to a
false artificial identification with the individuals biological
and psychological processes. The eternal Consciousness
which is essentially one thereby becomes perceived in the
awareness of the individual as a separate me-identity.
However, this ego-mechanism, present in all beings, may be
dispelled by an interior revelation that we can only regard as
divine Grace. It is a sudden interior illumination that
reveals to the human awareness the one eternal
Consciousness, which is the origin and substratum of all
individuated consciousness.
Both the word, 'science'from the Latin scientia, and the
word, gnosisfrom the ancient Greek, mean to know, but
the knowledge is of two kinds. Each kind of knowledge has a
long and well documented history: Science has developed
over the centuries through the positing of rational theories
and the rigorous accumulation of physical data, modifying its
position as reason, observation and data dictate. Gnosis is
also based on experience, but it is experience that is extra-
sensual, supra-rational, and wholly subjective, or personal.
Science is confirmed by evidence derived from empirical
observation; gnosis is confirmed by evidence derived from
introspective revelation. Science pertains to knowledge of
the gross, material world; gnosis pertains to knowledge of
the subtle, spiritual foundation of the world.
In recent years, after this article was originally written in
2006, I have speculated in various writings that the divine
breath of the Creator became manifest in time and space as
a burst of high frequency electromagnetic radiationat
levels of intensity in the gamma range or abovewhich
scientists refer to as the Big Bang. This theory seems to me
a likely onemuch more likely than the materialist theories
of contemporary scienceand is explained at length and in
detail in several of my later articles and book publications,
including 'The Phenomenon of Light', 'How God Made The
World', 'Recent Theological Developments', and 'First Light'--
each of which may be found on the Menu at my website:

The Problem of Consciousness
Steve Dzemidzenka
dissertation on The Problem of Consciousness which offers a
highly intelligent summation of the most pressing problems
confronting the paradigm of materialistic science today,
along with an astute presentation of the radical solution to
these problems
Our Mathematical Universe And The Hard Problem of
Copyright 2014 by Steve Dzemidzenka
In this new ontological paradigm, Consciousness is
fundamentally the only thing that exists. Our individual
consciousness exists only because reality itself is
Consciousness. What we call the external universe is just
the holographic matrix/sense data projected into our
awareness. The matrix itself is computed by Cosmic
Consciousness according to the algorithms and equations of
the Grand Mathematical Structure.
Max Planck: I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard
matter as a derivative of consciousness.
John Wheeler: I suggest that we may never understand this
strange thing, the quantum, until we understand how
information may underlie reality. Information may not be just
what we learn about the world. It may be what makes the
Ken Wilber in his book, The Eye of Spirit: From De Broglies
assertion that mechanism demands a mysticism to Einsteins
Spinozist pantheism, from Schrodingers Vedanta idealism to
Heisenbergs Platonist archetypes: these pioneering
physicists were united in the belief that the universe simply
does not make sense and cannot satisfactorily be explained,
without the inclusion in some profound way, of
consciousness itself. And using words that few of these
pioneering physicists would object to, James Jeans pointed
out that it looks more and more certain that the only way to

explain the universe is to maintain that it exists in the mind
of some eternal spirit.
James Jeans: I am inclined to the idealistic theory that
consciousness is fundamental, and that the material universe
is derivative from consciousness, not consciousness from the
material universe The universe seems to me to be nearer
to a great thought than to a great machine. It may well be, it
seems to me, that each individual consciousness ought to be
compared to a cell in a universal mind.
George Wald: Mind, rather than emerging as a late
outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the
matrix, the source and condition of physical realitythe stuff
of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. What we
recognize as the material universe, the universe of space
and time and elementary particles and energies, is then an
avatar, the materialization of primal mind. In that sense
there is no waiting for consciousness to arise. It is there
Scientific materialism is a philosophical opinion that is
closely associated with science. It grew up alongside science,
and many people have a hard time distinguishing it from
science. But it is not science. It is merely a philosophical
opinion. But it is one that leads to incomprehensible
conceptual difficulties in the understanding of the universe
especially the hard problem of consciousness and the
phenomena of subjective experience.

The Hard Problem of Consciousness

In the beautiful words of David Chalmers, Consciousness
poses the most baffling problem in science. There is nothing
that we know more intimately than conscious experience,
but there is nothing that is harder to explain. All sorts of
phenomena have yielded to scientific investigation in recent
years, but consciousness has stubbornly resisted. Many have
tried to explain it, but the explanations always seem to fall
short of the target. Some have been led to believe that the
problem is intractable, and that no good explanation can be

Lets start with giving a rough definition of what we mean by
consciousness here. Consciousness is something that has a
capacity for subjective experience. I am not going to define it
further by trying to define what subjective experience is. It
would be a waste of time as we all already know intuitively
what it is. When you notice that you feel sad or excited,
angry or scared, feel desire, see colors, hear sounds, taste
flavors, feel solidity of touch, when you notice your own
thinking and awareness of abstract concepts you notice
your own subjective experience. Its existence is
fundamentally the only undeniable fact that each one of us
knows for oneself. The question is what in our universe of
elementary particles accounts for the existence of
consciousness/subjective experience?

Its not that we lack some futuristic technology to probe into

a brain. The problem goes so much deeper it is more than
impossible it is inconceivable how subjective experience
can possibly arise in a sea of elementary particles doing
their mindless thing.

The Cartesian dualism between Matter and Consciousness

has plagued science from the beginning. No one has a clue
how to resolve it. Literally all attempts to approach the
problem have been shown to be utterly unsatisfactory. The
main reason for that is the unbridgeable conceptual chasm
between the categories of matter/energy and
consciousness/subjective experience. These two phenomena
are fundamentally of a different type, and expressing one in
terms of another is called category mistake.

Its been assumed by scientists of a materialistic bent that

this dualism must be resolved in physical terms meaning
that its assumed that matter is at the very bottom of the
ontological hierarchy, that matter is fundamental and is the
substratum of everything that existsthat literally
everything is made up of Matter and can be explained in
terms of Matter, its measurable parameters and its behavior.
In other words, it can be explained in terms of mass, charge,
spin, speed, and motion. There is essentially nothing else in
the conceptual apparatus of materialism that could be
invoked to account for the phenomena of consciousness/
subjective experience.

So how do we find a way out of this cognitive dissonance?

The hope of those stuck in the materialist/physicalist camp is
that somehow arranging zillions of these elementary
particles into some kind of elaborate networked configuration
in space will give rise to subjective experience that
somehow, as if by magic, the phenomenon of consciousness
will emerge out of the spatial organization of purely physical
entities. After all, the neural network of brain matter is in
essence nothing more than a certain arrangement of
interacting particles in space. There is really nothing else to
it on the fundamental level. Is there room for subjective
experience in this picture? No. From the
materialist/physicalist perspective, the source of subjective
experience is completely incomprehensible.

Some philosophers like Willard Quine and Daniel Dennett got

so desperate that they started insisting on an even more
incomprehensible solution: that subjective experience is just
an illusion and really does not exist at all.

Some insist that consciousness is mere information

processing and integration, but somehow they fail to realize
that, even though consciousness has characteristics of
information processing/integration and of intelligence, and
these characteristics can be simulated in a computer (aka
artificial intelligence), these characteristics only abstract
certain aspects of consciousness while forgetting about the
experience itself, which is really the key characteristic.
Christof Koch said, You can simulate weather in a computer,
but it will never be wet. Similarly, you can simulate
intelligence in a computer, but it will never be conscious.

The materialist/physicalist approach to consciousness raises

many questions; for instance, consider the example of the
experience of vision: Thermonuclear reactions in the Sun
produce photons carrier particles of electromagnetic
energy. The photons propagate towards earth and eventually
hit optic nerves in our eyes. The optic nerve, in response,
generates electrical signals that travel further along the
neural pathways of the brain. Neural cells in the brain get
excited and start firing more electrical impulses. This entire
cascade of electrical activity is a purely physical
phenomenon, and, despite being undoubtedly difficult to
trace and decode in detail in a lab, represents absolutely no
fundamental conceptual problem. But suddenly, as if by
magic, in the midst of this purely physical phenomena, arises
the subjective experience of, lets say, redness in other
words, the perception, awareness, and experience of color.
Who/what is experiencing this? The brain and neural cells?
The chemical and electrical activity? Its utterly

Its plainly obvious that neither the neural cells of the brain
nor the electrochemical reactions/interactions between them
experiences anything in themselves. We must assume that
they are only communicating information about what to
experience to some other entity an independent entity that
is capable of experiencing in a fundamental and irreducible
way. In other words, an entity that is, in itself, actually
capable of a subjective experience. One such entityin fact,
the only entity that is fundamentally capable of subjective
experienceis called consciousness. The question then
becomes How can we explain how the neural cells of the
physical brain can even interact with this independent and
immaterial consciousness? This is called the problem of
interaction and its resolved below.

In order for us to see the light at the end of the tunnel, we

need to start with re-stating that matter/energy and
consciousness/subjective experience are fundamentally of a
different type of different categories. In order for us to
make sense of how one interacts with another, we must
admit that both must be of the same type of the same
category; otherwise we are stuck in an irreconcilable
conceptual chasm.

We have two alternatives here: either both are of a
material/physical type made of the stuff of matter/energy or
both are of some intangible/immaterial type since
consciousness seems to be immaterial. At this point, we
dont know which alternative is true, but we do know that the
materialistic alternative, which in essence is trying to reduce
consciousness to physical terms, leads us to
incomprehensible conceptual difficulties and even forces
some to completely deny the existence of the subjective
experience altogether, treating it as a mere illusion.. So, lets
see where the other alternative leads us, and let us judge the
tree by its fruits.

We know that consciousness/subjective experience is

immaterial. But how can matter/energy be immaterial as
well? Isnt that just another incomprehensible idea? At first
glance, it seems to be. After all, we believe we look into the
outside world and feel its solidity. But the image of the
outside world and the feeling of solidity as well as all other
sensations of it are just that immaterial sensations inside
your consciousness, sense data. Even the materialists agree
that we dont see the outside world itself; we only see our
sense data. The presence of this sense data in our awareness
does not at all mean that it is produced by a material
universe it only means that it is produced by something.
And here comes a very elegant solution which has become
possible to conceive only recently thanks to some new
developments in physics and computer science: Modern
physics is highly mathematical. In fact, at the level of
subatomic particles which is literally all thats currently
believed to exist its pure math. Can it be that what we call
the material universe is really nothing more than an
immaterial mathematical structure? Can it be that our sense
data is produced according to this mathematical structure?

Its not merely my idea that the universe is mathematical;

there are some Nobel level theoretical physicists saying
exactly that: it from bit in the words of John Wheeler. For
example: Max Tegmark, in his book, Our Mathematical
Universe, comes to the conclusion that: Math does a decent
job inspiring wonder among physicists about why it works so
well. The answer isnt obvious, but he thinks he knows why:
Its because reality is math. Seth Lloyd proposes that the
universe itself is a quantum computer (computing the
mathematical structure of physical laws). Paul Dirac says,
God is a mathematician of a very high order and He used
advanced mathematics in constructing the universe.
Galileo Galilei declared that The book of nature is written in
the language of mathematics.

Please realize that the existence of the universe is not

denied. What is meant here is that its not material, but
mathematical; and this mathematical structure representing
the universe is an elaborate system of abstract equations
and algorithms according to which our sense data (the
holographic matrix) is produced. In other words, the universe
is a mathematical simulation.

But the question is, where does this mathematical structure

exist? If we cannot imagine where it can possibly exist, it
means that we are stuck in another incomprehensible pit.
After all, its very hard to imagine that a mathematical
structure exists by itself in some kind of void. Moreover,
there must be something that computes it because we do
know that the universe is dynamic and not static.
Fortunately, the answer is easy.

From our own subjective experience, we know that all

abstract concepts, including mathematical ones, exist in our
individual consciousness. If we re-interpret the entire
physical universe as The Grand Mathematical Structure, then
this structure must also exist in some kind of consciousness
not in our individual consciousness, but in a Consciousness
external to ours. Cosmic Consciousness?

This Cosmic Consciousness literally thinks (more precisely,

computes) The Grand Mathematical Structure into existence
at this very moment. The results of this computation are
input into our individual consciousness as colors of a 3D
image, sounds, smells, flavors, sensations of solidity,
temperature, pleasure/pain, and all other sense data. You
can also think of the totality of sense data as a virtual matrix
(yes, just like in The Matrix movie) a matrix that we naively
mistake for the external material world around us only
instead of machines, as in the movie, there is Cosmic
Consciousness. In the plainest language, the external
material universe is simply the thoughts of Cosmic
Consciousness projected into our awareness as sense data.
As Plato famously stated in his Allegory of The Cave, we only
observe the shadows of reality. In other words, we only
observe sense data (shadows) projected onto our limited
consciousness according to The Grand Mathematical
Structure (abstract Platonist forms).

Instead of the physical universe, there is Cosmic

Consciousness out there; thus its no wonder that our
individual consciousness exists. And obviously, since its
consciousness here and there inside and outside, both have
no trouble interacting with each other.

In this new ontological paradigm, Consciousness is

fundamentally the only thing that exists. Everything else that
exists exists inside Consciousness either as an individual
consciousness or as information/experience/sense data
absolutely without any physicality. Our individual
consciousness exists only because reality itself is
Consciousness. What we call the external universe is just
the holographic matrix/sense data projected into our
awareness. The matrix itself is computed by Cosmic
Consciousness according to the algorithms and equations of
the Grand Mathematical Structure.

Cartesian dualism is completely resolved in a worldview in

which, both on the inside and on the outside, there is nothing
but consciousness. Both are of the same immaterial
type/category and thus both have no trouble interacting with
each other: both interact by exchanging information (which
is immaterial as well) and not by exchanging physical
particles of energy as in the materialistic view. The
information is translated into sense data/subjective
experiences, and specifies how our individual consciousness
is changed to produce experience.

This, no doubt, sounds fantastical (though not so much to

philosophers of an Eastern mindset), but it fits very nicely
and is infinitely more comprehensible than trying to explain
how consciousness/subjective experience arises in a swirl of
elementary particles doing their mindless thing. I am afraid
we are literally forced by reason to accept this idealistic
worldview. Here, we should apply Sherlock Holmess dictum:
When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains,
however improbable, must be the truth.
There can be no question on which side of this debate modern
physics falls!

Lets review the most obvious implications of this new ontology,

which is literally forced upon us by the necessity to explain the
existence of consciousness/subjective experience:

1. It resolves the Cartesian dualism and the problem of


2. It resolves the hard problem of consciousness. It turns out

that if consciousness is assumed to be fundamental, the
problem is not hard at all. In the words of Donald Hoffman: If
you want to solve the mind-body problem you can take the
physical as given and explain the genesis of conscious
experience, or take conscious experience as given and explain
the genesis of the physical. Explaining the genesis of conscious
experience from the physical has proved, so far, intractable.
Explaining the genesis of the physical from conscious
experience has proved quite feasible. The key to the latter, as
I have described, is realizing that matter/energy and
consciousness/subjective experience MUST be of the same
type/category: either both are material/physical (which proved
intractable and incomprehensible) or both are immaterial
(proved extremely productive). Otherwise, there is no
conceptual bridge to link them and conceive even in principle
how one can interact with another .

3. It provides the ontological framework for the resolution of the
duality of particles/waves in Quantum Mechanics. There are no
particles or waves in the mind of Cosmic Consciousness; there
are only the equations of The Grand Mathematical Structure.
According to the current formulations, these are equations of
the wave function. At the point of observation, the equations
are computed and the results are translated into our sense

4. It resolves the quantum entanglement mystery spooky

action at a distance. When two photons become entangled,
regardless of how far they travel away from each other, they
still keep an informational link to each other; i.e., measuring
the spin of one photon instantly results in the opposite spin for
another, despite the fact that many light years might be
separating them, obviously violating the speed of light limit.
Thats a great mystery in current physics; but it is resolved in
the new paradigm, in which all that exists inside the Grand
Mathematical Structure is an equation that describes this
system of entangled photons. There is no need to communicate
anything across light years as the information about spins is
simply embedded as variables in the equation itself. When the
spin of one photon is measured by us, the equation is
computed by Cosmic Consciousness. The result includes the
spins for both photons. They are determined at exactly the
same time.

5. It explains the nature of space. There is no space inside

Cosmic Consciousness. There is only The Grand Mathematical
Structure computed by it. This mathematical structure includes
primitive numeric variables like mass, charge, spin, distance,
time interval, speed, etc all integrated into abstract geometry.
Space itself is an abstraction in that abstract geometry.

6. It explains what space is expanding into. Astronomical

observations show that the universe is expanding more
precisely, the space itself is expanding. The question of course
is what is it expanding into? Is there more space beyond? That
would mean that space is infinite something that physics
absolutely cannot accept, as it insists at all costs that the
universe is a finite system. Its a great mystery. In the new
paradigm, space itself is simply abstract geometry of The
Grand Mathematical Structure. There is nothing that is
expanding into anything only variables in the equations of
The Grand Mathematical Structure change their values.

7. It explains what space curves into. The general relativity

theory showed that space is curved around mass, but what
exactly does space curve into? Space needs another dimension
to do this. If space is simply abstract geometry of The Grand
Mathematical Structure, this problem resolves itself.

8. It explains why multi-dimensional formulations like those in

string theory do not present a fundamental problem. Even
though our sense data seems to be 3-dimensional, we are not
forced to insist that The Grand Mathematical Structure itself is
formulated in and is limited to 3 dimensional geometry. For
example, a wave-system of electrons does not exist in 3-
dimensional or 10-dimensional space it exists as a
formula/equation in the mind of Cosmic Consciousness. The
equation is computed and the result of the computation is
translated into our 3D sense data. This also means that the
holographic principle can work for our universe, as it shows that
the three dimensions of reality we observe may in fact be a
two-dimensional information structure painted on some sort
of cosmological surface. Its all hard to imagine, but if the
reality is The Grand Mathematical Structure, than its easy to
see how the mathematical formalism of the holographic
principle can literally describe our universe.

9. It explains the nature of the substance of elementary

particles. There is no physicality/material substance in the mind
that is Cosmic Consciousness; there are no electrons, quarks,
atoms, etc. there are only numeric variables like mass,
charge, spin, distance, etc. These are variables in the equations
of the Grand Mathematical Structure. In other words, if we wish
to speak in terms of Objects/Properties, there are indeed
properties, but no objects. There is no substance out of which
objects are made.
10. It explains why math is so good at describing our universe
and why the physical laws that we discover are mathematical.
Cosmic Consciousness is the best mathematician in existence;
It designed The Grand Mathematical Structure. When physicists
discover mathematical equations that describe the universe,
they literally discover equations that correspond to those in the
mind of Cosmic Consciousness. We are not completely there
yet; all the equations we have discovered so far are
approximations at this point. But we will get there some day
and we will know exactly what the Grand Mathematical
Structure is.

11. It explains the complete discretization of the universe.

Imagine a thought experiment where we use a hypothetical
microscope capable of magnifying matter without any
(uncertainty) constrains. With every jump of magnification, The
Grand Mathematical Structure needs to be computed to
produce new sense data. If matter were continuous there would
be an infinite number of magnification jumps possible a
situation akin to Zenos paradoxes, so the computation process
that Cosmic Consciousness would have to do, would be infinite.
For the computation to be finite, it must be done in discrete
blocks. Moreover, the precision of the computation must always
be the same. The level of discreteness and precision is probably
specified by Plancks constant, Plancks length, Plancks time,
etc. There is a minimal mass and a minimal amount of energy.
The geometry of space time is discrete/pixilated; i.e., there is
minimal length, area, and volume. This is in complete
agreement with Quantum physics. Quantum means discreet.
Discretization of The Grand Mathematical Structure is the
mechanism to deal with computational infinities.

12. It explains where consciousness comes from. Our individual

consciousness exists only because Consciousness itself is what
the ultimate reality is. We are just ripples in the infinite ocean
of Cosmic Consciousness. Metaphorically, the best way to
visualize the relationship between Cosmic Consciousness and
our individual consciousness is by imagining an ocean. The
ocean itself is Cosmic Consciousness, but each individual wave
in the ocean is our individual consciousness. Both are
inseparable just as each wave is a part of the entire ocean,
though it is at the same time a distinctly identified entity within
the ocean.

13. It resolves the fine-tuned universe problem. By recent

calculations, the probability of ending up with a universe such
as ours is practically nil. There have been multiple parameters
identified thatto an extremely high level of precisionmust
be exactly what they are for the universe to allow the existence
of stars, stable atoms, and life. Isnt it highly ironic that we live
in a universe that we observe to be a statistical improbability of
the multitude of cosmic coincidences! But, if there is an
entity that is conscious and which computes The Grand
Mathematical Structure into our sense data, then this entity
must have designed it. And if that is so, then the fine-tuned
universe problem simply falls away.

14. It resolves the problem of free will and purpose in universe.

In the traditional materialistic universe, there is no purpose in
the impersonal ocean of elementary particles doing their
mindless thing. But, if the universe is designed, its designed
for a purpose. The purpose of human life must obviously be
aligned with the purpose of its Creator. But its a question for
free will to decide on that. Free will in itself is an inherent and
irreducible capacity of intellect, which is itself an inherent and
irreducible capacity of human consciousness. In the animal
consciousness, these capacities appear to be negligible or
completely zero.

15. It explains the nature and function of the brain. The human
brain is simply an algorithm (in The Grand Mathematical
Structure) that processes information and gives instructions to
our individual consciousness about what and how to
experience. By finding the right triggers, its possible to instruct
our consciousness to experience (or not to experience) all kinds
of things e.g. psychedelic substances, anesthesia, etc.
Another function of this algorithm is to filter out information.
Clearly, there is so much more happening in The Grand
Mathematical Structure than what our consciousness is
instructed to experience. It should be possible in principle to
find ways to tweak a brain to filter out information.

16. It explains why there will never be a Turing machine (aka a

binary/quantum computer) capable of consciousness/
subjective experience. Even a human brain cannot produce
consciousness; it only imprints on and gives instructions to an
entity that is fundamentally capable of subjective experience.
Such an independent entity is called consciousness.
Intelligence is not consciousness; its only one aspect that
characterizes it experience being the main one. A computer
can only simulate intelligence thanks to some smart
algorithms; but fundamentally, all there is is just a flow of
electrons and voltage states (computed according to Boolean
logic in the case of a binary computer and the logic of
superpositions in the case of a quantum computer). In other
words, there are just ones and zeros in a logical pattern. What
is possible, however, is to integrate computers into a brain and
influence consciousness through it. This actually has already
been demonstrated.

17. It explains the nature of mystical experience. Cosmic

Consciousness can literally flow into an individual
consciousness and become its subjective experience. Needless
to say, all boundaries are dissolved in that state and there is
simply an awareness of cosmic oneness and the most perfect
state of consciousness.

It must be said, however, that, while all of this is completely

consistent with the scientific evidence, none of it is testable
and provable in the strict (experimental) sense, as this entire
subject is whats called a meta subject as in metaphysics. But
its obvious that the materialistic paradigm is exactly of the
same nature as well; it too is completely untestable and
unprovable, and in addition, it is completely incomprehensible.

Truly, all we know is our own sense-data on top of which we

layer an elaborate system of abstractions (language). What lies
behind the sense-data the physical universe or Cosmic
Consciousness is not accessible to scientific inquiry in the
strict (experimental) sense. Physics operates solely inside the
realm of the sense-data in the sense that constructions and
conclusions of our intellect are compared against experimental
data which is nothing more than sense-data. But if we want to
go further, we have no means to compare constructions and
conclusions of our intellect against what lies behind the sense-
data. Only pure reason not backed by experimental data (or
mystical experience) can take us there.

It would seem that as long as pure reason actually solves

problems in a manner that is both self consistent within itself
and consistent with the conclusions of experimental physics,
we are completely justified to accept it as our belief system.
The alternative is a forever unresolved tangle of
incomprehensible conceptual difficulties. Here, its really not a
question of rebuttal both paradigms are equally irrefutable in
a strict sense, and by standards generally accepted and
practiced in the physical sciences. Here, its a question of which
paradigm has a better explanatory power and the one with a
greater power should be chosen.

So if the idealistic paradigm is not testable and provable in the

strict sense, do we need to bother? The answer and the choice
is strictly yours. However, if you do decide its not worth
anything, you must also admit that sticking habitually to the
materialistic paradigm, from the perspective of formal proof, is
not only equally unjustified for the same reasons as above, but
is actually counter productive and, at this point after several
millennia of intellectually struggling to think in terms of the
materialistic paradigm even dumb, as it only leads to an
incomprehensible conceptual chasm with no hope of resolution,
as the history has shown.

So the choice is yours: either stay agnostic, waiting for a

resolution which will literally never come if you insist on strict
formal experimental proof, or simply pick a side. By picking the
idealistic side, many of the immense conceptual difficulties are
resolved while at the same time incorporating and even
elevating math and mathematical physics into the tools by
means of which we truly discover the content of the mind of
God. For me, the choice is easy. The age of materialism is
overdue to be overthrown once and for all. Enjoy!

I am not theistic at all in the traditional sense, but needless to
say, Cosmic Consciousness is of course instantly identified with
God (God The Father in Christian terms not God The Son).
Cosmic Consciousness is fundamentally the only thing that
exists thus It is omnipresent, because everything else exists
inside It. For this very reason, Its omniscient; Its thoughts
constitute The Grand Mathematical Structure. Its omnipotent
because by changing Its thoughts, It changes the universe. The
act of designing and thinking The Grand Mathematical
Structure into existence is an act of love. Cosmic Consciousness
is infinite, but It divided a finite part of Itself into distinct
entities us. Thus we are created in the image of God.

Ironically, Im reminded of a great quote from Robert Jastrows

God and the Astronomers: For the scientist who has lived by
his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad
dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about
to conquer the highest peak; and as he pulls himself over the
final rock, he is greeted by a band of mystics who have been
sitting there for centuries.
* * *

The latter reminds one of the famous story of the Journey of the
Birds. The Conference of Birds: the Sufi's journey to God: Farid
ud-Din Attar ...
Written in 1177, 'The Conference of Birds' is a Muslim mystical
allegory dealing with the struggles and ordeals a soul must face
to achieve enlightenment. The Conference of the Birds or
Speech of the Birds, is a long and celebrated Sufi poem of
approximately 4500 lines written in Persian by the poet Farid
ud-Din Attar, who is commonly known as Attar of Nishapur.
Originally published: 1177
Author: Attar of Nishapur
Genre: Epic poetry
Characters: Simurgh, Chamberlain, peacock, parrot, Duck,
Partridge, Owl, hoopoe, Sparrow, nightingale, Heron, Falcon,
Written in 1177, 'The Conference of Birds' is a Muslim mystical
allegory dealing with the struggles and ordeals a soul must face
to achieve enlightenment. One thousand birds assemble to
hear the Hoopoe bird (a spiritual master) who describes how
they must seek the Simurgh, their true King. Many give
excuses: they are happy with love or treasure, or fame, or any
number of other worldly delights, and do not see the need for
an arduous adventure in search of a semi-mythical sovereign.
But the journey begins, leading the avian pilgrims through
seven valleys where the travelers confront their own individual
limitations and fears. Only 30 birds complete the journey, and
discover that they themselves are the Simurgh they have
sought. As with all truly mystical literature, 'The Conference of
Birds' teaches that the aim of the quest is the discovery of the
Divine within.

Where Consciousness Comes From

1. The Experience of The Self
2. On Learned Ignorance

3. The Uncertain Science
4. The Implicate Order
5. The Interconnectedness of All Things
6. The Constancy of The Whole
7. The Unity of God
8. The Eternal Return
9. Consciousness
10. The Soul
11. The Logos
12. Toward A Synthesis Of Science And Gnosis
About The Author
1. The Awakening...................................
.............. 3
2. The Common Vision ...............................
......... 9
3. Enlightenment...................................

.............. 18
4. The Kingdom of God..............................
........ 33
5. Encounter With The Guru .........................
..... 38
6. The Wave And The Ocean ..........................
... 43
1. Vedanta.........................................
.................. 49
2. Sankhya.........................................
.................. 57
3. Taoism ..........................................
.................. 60
4. Buddhism........................................
................ 66
5. Shaivism ........................................
................. 70
Judaism ..........................................
................. 75
7. Christianity ....................................
................. 81
8. Islam ...........................................
.................... 86
1. Science And Gnosis..............................
.......... 93
2. Consciousness...................................
............ 108
3. Mind............................................
.................. 111
4. Soul............................................
................... 116
5. The Problem of Evil .............................
........ 120
6. Personality .....................................

............... 123
7. The Celestial Dynamics Of Grace................ 1
8. Freedom Or Determinism? .........................
.. 135
1. The Appearance of Duality.......................
.... 145
2. The Ultimate Unity..............................
......... 160
3. Devotion And Grace..............................
....... 164
...................... 172
About The Author...................................
................ 185
Notes .............................................
......................... 186
..................... 190

This great culmination of the desire for knowing can only be described
by the mystic, but a reasoned explanation
of the various mechanisms that are involved in the unfolding of this
complex universe must be left to the scientist.

Religious experiences can be characterized generally as experiences that

seem to the person having them to be of some objective reality and to have
some religious import. That reality can be an individual, a state of affairs, a
fact, or even an absence, depending on the religious tradition the experience is a
part of. A wide variety of kinds of experience fall under the general rubric of
religious experience. The concept is vague, and the multiplicity of kinds of
experiences that fall under it makes it difficult to capture in any general
account. Part of that vagueness comes from the term religion, which is
difficult to define in any way that does not either rule out institutions that

clearly are religions, or include terms that can only be understood in the light of
a prior understanding of what religions are. Nevertheless, we can make some
progress in elucidating the concept by distinguishing it from distinct but
related concepts.

First, religious experience is to be distinguished from religious feelings, in the

same way that experience in general is to be distinguished from feelings in
general. A feeling of elation, for example, even if it occurs in a religious
context, does not count in itself as a religious experience, even if the subject
later comes to think that the feeling was caused by some objective reality of
religious significance. An analogy with sense experience is helpful here. If a
subject feels a general feeling of happiness, not on account of anything in
particular, and later comes to believe the feeling was caused by the presence of
a particular person, that fact does not transform the feeling of happiness into a
perception of the person. Just as a mental event, to be a perception of an object,
must in some sense seem to be an experience of that object, a religiously
oriented mental event, to be a religious experience, must in some way seem to
be an experience of a religiously significant reality. So, although religious
feelings may be involved in many, or even most, religious experiences, they are
not the same thing. Discussions of religious experience in terms of feelings,
like Schleiermacher's (1998) feeling of absolute dependence, or Otto's
(1923) feeling of the numinous, were important early contributions to
theorizing about religious experience, but some have since then argued (see
Gellman 2001 and Alston 1991, for example) that religious affective states
are not all there is to religious experience. To account for the experiences qua
experiences, we must go beyond subjective feelings.

Religious experience is also to be distinguished from mystical experience.

Although there is obviously a close connection between the two, and mystical
experiences are religious experiences, not all religious experiences qualify as
mystical. The word mysticism has been understood in many different ways.
James (1902) took mysticism to necessarily involve ineffability, which
would rule out many cases commonly understood to be mystical. Alston
(1991) adopted the term grudgingly as the best of a bad lot and gave it a
semi-technical meaning. But in its common, non-technical sense, mysticism is
a specific religious system or practice, deliberately undertaken in order to come
to some realization or insight, to come to unity with the divine, or to experience
the ultimate reality directly. At the very least, religious experiences form a
broader category; many religious experiences come unbidden, not as the result
of some deliberate practice.

Many have thought that there is some special problem with religious language,
that it can't be meaningful in the same way that ordinary language is. The

Logical Positivists claimed that language is meaningful only insofar as it is
moored in our experiences of the physical world. Since we can't account for
religious language by linking it to experiences of the physical world, such
language is meaningless. Even though religious claims look in every way like
ordinary assertions about the world, their lack of empirical consequences makes
them meaningless. The principle of verification went through many
formulations as it faced criticism. But if it is understood as a claim about
meaning in ordinary language, it seems to be self-undermining, since there is no
empirical way to verify it. Eventually, that approach to language fell out of
favor, but some still use a modified, weaker version to criticize religious
language. For example, Antony Flew (Flew and MacIntyre, 1955) relies on a
principle to the effect that if a claim is not falsifiable, it is somehow
illegitimate. Martin (1990) and Nielsen (1985) invoke a principle that
combines verifiability and falsifiability; to be meaningful, a claim must be
one or the other. It is not clear that even these modifed and weakened versions
of the verification principle entirely escape self-undermining. Even if they do,
they seem to take other kinds of language with themlike moral language, talk
about the future or past, and talk about the contents of others' minds that we
might be loathe to lose. Moreover, to deny the meaningfulness of religious-
experience claims on the grounds that it is not moored in experience begs the
question, in that it assumes that religious experiences are not real experiences.

Another possibility is to allow that religious claims are meaningful, but they
are not true or false, because they should not be understood as assertions.
Braithwaite (1970), for example, understands religious claims to be expressions
of commitments to sets of values. On such a view, what appears to be a claim
about a religious experience is not in fact a claim at all. It might be that some set
of mental events, with which the experience itself can be identified, would be
the ground and prompting of the claim, but it would not properly be what the
claim is about.

A second challenge to religious-experience claims comes from

Wittgensteinian accounts of language. Wittgenstein (1978) muses at some
length on the differences between how ordinary language is used, and how
religious language is used. Others (see Phillips 1970, for example), following
Wittgenstein, have tried to give an explanation of the strangeness of religious
language by invoking the idea of a language-game. Each language-game has its
own rules, including its own procedures for verification. As a result, it is a
mistake to treat it like ordinary language, expecting evidence in the ordinary
sense, in the same way that it would be a mistake to ask for the evidence for a
joke. I saw God should not be treated in the same way as I saw Elvis. Some
even go so far as to say the religious language-game is isolated from other
practices, such that it would be a mistake to derive any claims about history,

geography, or cosmology from them, never mind demand the same kind of
evidence for them. On this view, religious experiences should not be treated as
comparable to sense experiences, but that does not entail that they are not
important, nor that they are not in some sense veridical, in that they could still
be avenues for important insights about reality. Such a view can be attributed to
D. Z. Phillips (1970).

While this may account for some of the unusual aspects of religious language, it
certainly does not capture what many religious people think about the claims
they make. As creationism illustrates, many religious folk think it is perfectly
permissible to draw empirical conclusions from religious doctrine. Hindus and
Buddhists for many centuries thought there was a literal Mount Meru in the
middle of the (flat, disc-shaped) world. It would be very odd if The Buddha
attained enlightenment under the bo tree had to be given a very different
treatment from The Buddha ate rice under the bo tree because the first is a
religious claim and the second is an ordinary empirical claim. There are
certainly entailment relations between religious and non-religious claims, too:
Jesus died for my sins straightforwardly entails Jesus died.

Epistemological Issues

Since the subjects of religious experiences tend to take them to be real

experiences of some external reality, we may ask what reason there is to
think they are right. That is to say, do religious experiences amount to good
reasons for religious belief? One answer to that question is what is often called
the Argument from Religious Experience: Religious experiences are in all
relevant respects like sensory experiences; sensory experiences are excellent
grounds for beliefs about the physical world; so religious experiences are
excellent grounds for religious beliefs. This argument, or one very like it, can
be found in Swinburne (1979), Alston (1991), Plantinga (1981, 2000), and
others. Critics of this approach generally find ways in which religious
experiences are different from sensory experiences, and argue that those
differences are enough to undermine the evidential value of the experiences.
Swinburne (1979) invokes what he calls the Principle of Credulity,
according to which one is justified in believing that what seems to one to be
present actually is present, unless some appropriate defeater is operative. He
then discusses a variety of circumstances that would be defeaters in the ordinary
sensory case, and argues that those defeaters do not obtain, or not always, in the
case of religious experience. To reject his argument, one would have to show
that religious experience is unlike sensory experience in that in the religious
case, one or more of the defeaters always obtains. Anyone who accepts the

principle has excellent reason to accept the deliverances of religious experience,
unless he or she believes that defeaters always, or almost always, obtain.

Plantinga offers a different kind of argument. According to Cartesian-style

foundationalism, in order to count as justified, a belief must either be
grounded in other justified beliefs, or derive its justification from some
special status, like infallibility, incorrigibility, or indubitability. There is a
parallel view about knowledge. Plantinga (1981) argued that such a
foundationalism is inconsistent with holding one's own ordinary beliefs about
the world to be justified (or knowledge), because our ordinary beliefs derived
from sense-experience aren't derived from anything infallible, indubitable, or
incorrigible. In fact, we typically treat them as foundational, in need of no
further justification. If we hold sensory beliefs to be properly basic, then we
have to hold similarly formed religious beliefs, formed on experiences of God
manifesting himself to a believer (Plantinga calls them M-beliefs), as properly
basic. He proposed that human beings have a facultywhat John Calvin called
the sensus divinitatisthat allows them to be aware of God's actions or
dispositions with respect to them. If beliefs formed by sense-experience can be
properly basic, then beliefs formed by this faculty cannot, in any principled
way, be denied that same status. His developed theory of warrant (2000) implies
that, if the beliefs are true, then they are warranted. One cannot attack claims of
religious experience without first addressing the question as to whether the
religious claims are true. He admits that, since there are people in other
religious traditions who have based beliefs about religious matters on similar
purported manifestations, they may be able to make the same argument about
their own religious experiences.

Alston develops a general theory of doxastic practices (constellations of

belief-forming mechanisms, together with characteristic background
assumptions and sets of defeaters), gives an account of what it is to rationally
engage in such a practice, and then argues that at least the practice of forming
beliefs on the basis of Christian religious experiences fulfills those
requirements. If we think of the broad doxastic practices we currently employ,
we see that some of them can be justified by the use of other practices. The
practice of science, for example, reduces mostly to the practices of sense-
perception, deductive reasoning, and inductive reasoning (memory and
testimony also make contributions, of course). The justificatory status the
practice gives to its product beliefs derives from those more basic practices.
Most, however, cannot be so reduced. How are they justified, then? It seems
that they cannot be justified non-circularly, that is, without the use of premises
derived from the practices themselves. Our only justification for continuing to
trust these practices is that they are firmly established, interwoven with other
practices and projects of ours, and have stood the test of time by producing

mostly consistent sets of beliefs. They produce a sufficiently consistent set of
beliefs if they don't produce massive, unavoidable contradictions on central
matters, either internally, or with the outputs of other equally well-established
practices. If that's all there is to be said about our ordinary practices, then we
ought to extend the same status to other practices that have the same features.
He then argues that the Christian practice of belief-formation on the basis of
religious experience does have those features. Like Plantinga, he admits that
such an argument might be equally available to other religious practices; it all
depends on whether the practice in question generates massive and unavoidable
contradictions, on central matters, either internally, or with other equally well-
established practices. To undermine this argument, one would have to show
either that Alston's criteria for rationality of a practice are too permissive, or that
religious practices never escape massive contradictions.

Both Plantinga's and Alston's defense of the epistemic value of religious

experiences turn crucially on some degree of similarity with sense-
experience. But they are not simple arguments from analogy; not just any
similarities will do to make the positive argument, and not just any
dissimilarities will do to defeat the argument. The similarities or
dissimilarities need to be epistemologically relevant. It is not enough, for
example, to show that religious experiences do not typically allow for
independent public verification, unless one wants to give up on other perfectly
respectable practices, like rational intuition, that also lack that feature.

The two most important defeaters on the table for claims of the epistemic
authority of religious experience are the fact of religious diversity, and the
availability of naturalistic explanations for religious experiences. Religious
diversity is a prima facie defeater for the veridicality of religious
experiences in the same way that wildly conflicting eyewitness reports
undermine each other. If the reports are at all similar, then it may be reasonable
to conclude that there is some truth to the testimony, at least in broad outline.
But if two eyewitness reports disagree on the most basic facts about what
happened, then it seems that neither gives you good grounds for any beliefs
about what happened. It certainly seems that the contents of religious-
experience reports are radically different from one another. Some subjects of
religious experiences report experience of nothingness as the ultimate reality,
some a vast impersonal consciousness in which we all participate, some an
infinitely perfect, personal creator. To maintain that one's own religious
experiences are veridical, one would have to a) find some common core to
all these experiences, such that in spite of differences of detail, they could
reasonably be construed as experiences of the same reality, or b) insist that
one's own experiences are veridical, and that therefore those of other
traditions are not veridical. The first is difficult to manage, in the face of the

manifest differences across religions. Nevertheless, John Hick (1989) develops
a view of that kind, making use of a Kantian two-worlds epistemology. It is
only as plausible as the Kantian framework itself is. Alston (1991) and
Plantinga (2000) develop the second kind of answer. The general strategy is to
argue that, from within a tradition, a person acquires epistemic resources
not available to those outside the tradition, just as travelling to the heart of a
jungle allows one to see things that those who have not made the journey can't
see. As a result, even if people in other traditions can make the same argument,
it is still reasonable to say that some are right and the others are wrong. The
things that justify my beliefs still justify them, even if you have comparable
resources justifying a contrary view.

Naturalistic explanations for religious experiences are thought to

undermine their epistemic value because, if the naturalistic explanation is
sufficient to explain the experience, we have no grounds for positing
anything beyond that naturalistic cause. Freud (1927) and Marx (1876/1977)
are frequently held up as offering such explanations. Freud claims that religious
experiences can be adequately explained by psychological mechanisms having
their root in early childhood experience and psychodynamic tensions. Marx
similarly attributes religious belief in general to materialistic economic forces.
Both claim that, since the hidden psychological or economic explanations are
sufficient to explain the origins of religious belief, there is no need to suppose,
in addition, that the beliefs are true. Freud's theory of religion has few
adherents, even among the psychoanalytically inclined, and Marx's view
likewise has all but been abandoned, but that is not to say that something in the
neighborhood might not be true. More recently, neurological explanations of
religious experience have been put forward as reasons to deny the
veridicality of the experiences. Events in the brain that occur during
meditative states and other religious experiences are very similar to events that
happen during certain kinds of seizures, or with certain kinds of mental
disorders, and can also be induced with drugs. Therefore, it is argued, there is
nothing more to religious experiences than what happens in seizures, mental
disorders, or drug experiences. Some who are studying the neurological basis
of religious experience do not infer that they are not veridical (see, e.g.,
d'Aquili and Newberg 1999), but many do. Boyer (2001), for example, titles
his book Religion Explained: the Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought,
at least implying that no other explanation is needed.

There are general problems with all kinds of naturalistic explanations as

defeaters. First of all, as Gellman (2001) points out, most such explanations
(like the psychoanalytic and socio-political ones) are put forward as
hypotheses, not as established facts. The proponent assumes that the
experiences are not veridical, then casts around for an explanation. This is not

true of the neurological explanations, but they face another kind of weakness
noted by Ellwood (1999): every experience, whatever its source, is
accompanied by a corresponding neurological state. To argue that the
experience is illusory because there is a corresponding brain state is
fallacious. The same reasoning would lead us to conclude that sensory
experiences are illusory, since in each sensory experience, there is some
corresponding neurological state that is just like the state that occurs in the
corresponding hallucination. The proponent of the naturalistic explanation as a
defeater owes us some reason to believe that his or her argument is not just
another skeptical argument from the veil of perception.

One further epistemological worry accompanies religious experience.

James claimed that, while mystical experiences proved authoritative
grounds for belief in the person experiencing them, they cannot give
grounds for a person to whom the experience is reported. In other words, my
experience is evidence for me, but not for you. This claim can be understood in
a variety of ways, depending on the kind of normativity that attaches to the
purported evidential relation. Some (see Oakes 1976, for example) have claimed
that religious experiences epistemically can necessitate belief; that is,
anyone who has the experience and doesn't form the corresponding belief is
making an epistemic mistake, much like a person who, in normal conditions,
refuses to believe his or her eyes. More commonly, defenders of the epistemic
value of religious experience claim that the experiences make it epistemically
permissible to form the belief, but you may also be justified in not forming the
belief. The testimony of other people about what they have experienced is much
the same. In some cases, a person would be unjustified in rejecting the
testimony of others, and in other cases, one would be justified in accepting it,
but need not accept it. This leaves us with three possibilities, on the
assumption that the subject of the experience is justified in forming a
religious belief on the basis of his or her experience, and that he or she tells
someone else about it:1)the testimony might provide compelling evidence for
the hearer, such that he or she would be unjustified in rejecting the claim;2) the
testimony might provide non-compelling justification for the hearer to accept
the claim; 3)or the testimony might fail to provide any kind of grounds for the
hearer to accept the claim. When a subject makes a claim on the basis of an
ordinary experience, it might fall into any one of these three categories,
depending on the claim's content and the epistemic situation of the hearer. The
most natural thing to say about religious experience claims is that they work the
same way (on the assumption that they give the subject of the experience, who
is making the claim, any justification for his or her beliefs). James, and some
others after him, claim that testimony about religious experiences cannot fall
under either of the first two categories. If that's true, it must be because of
something special about the nature of the experiences. If we assume that the

experiences cannot be shown a priori to be defective somehow, and that
religious language is intelligibleand if we do not make these assumptions,
then the question of religious testimony doesn't even arisethen it must be
because the evidential value of the experience is so small that it cannot survive
transmission to another person; that is, it must be that in the ordinary act of
reporting an experience to someone else, there is some defeater at work that is
always stronger than whatever evidential force the experience itself has. While
there are important differences between ordinary sense-experience and religious
experience (clarity of the experience, amount of information it contains,
presence of competing explanations, and the like), it is not clear whether the
differences are great enough to disqualify religious testimony always and
A religious experience (sometimes known as a spiritual experience, sacred
experience, or mystical experience) is a subjective experience which is
interpreted within a religious framework.[1] The concept originated in the 19th
century, as a defense against the growing rationalism of Western society.[2]
William James popularised the concept.[2]

Many religious and mystical traditions see religious experiences (particularly

that knowledge which comes with them) as revelations caused by divine agency
rather than ordinary natural processes. They are considered real encounters with
God or gods, or real contact with higher-order realities of which humans are not
ordinarily aware.[3]

Skeptics may hold that religious experience is an evolved feature of the human
brain amenable to normal scientific study.[note 1] The commonalities and
differences between religious experiences across different cultures have enabled
scholars to categorize them for academic study.[4]


1.1 William James

1.2 Norman Habel

1.3 Richard Swinburne

1.4 Rudolf Ott

Perennial philosoph

Main article: Perennial philosophy

Academic discussion
The idea of a perennial philosophy, sometimes called perennialism, is a key area
of debate in the academic discussion of mystical experience. Writers such as
WT Stace, Huston Smith, and Robert Forman argue that there are core
similarities to mystical experience across religions, cultures and eras.[60]

For Stace the universality of this core experience is a necessary, although not
sufficient, condition for one to be able to trust the cognitive content of any
religious experience. Karen Armstrong's writings on the universality of a golden
rule can also be seen as a form of perennial philosophy.[61]

Perennial philosophy and religious pluralism

Main article: Religious pluralism
Religious pluralism holds that various world religions are limited by their
distinctive historical and cultural contexts and thus there is no single, true
religion. There are only many equally valid religions. Each religion is a direct
result of humanity's attempt to grasp and understand the incomprehensible
divine reality. Therefore, each religion has an authentic but ultimately
inadequate perception of divine reality, producing a partial understanding of the
universal truth, which requires syncretism to achieve a complete understanding
as well as a path towards salvation or spiritual enlightenment.[62]

Although perennial philosophy also holds that there is no single true religion, it
differs when discussing divine reality. Perennial philosophy states that the
divine reality is what allows the universal truth to be understood.[63] Each
religion provides its own interpretation of the universal truth, based on its
historical and cultural context. Therefore, each religion provides everything
required to observe the divine reality and achieve a state in which one will be
able to confirm the universal truth and achieve salvation or spiritual

According to the Perennial Philosophy the mystical experiences in all religions
are essentially the same. It supposes that many, if not all of the world's great
religions, have arisen around the teachings of mystics, including Buddha, Jesus,
Lao Tze, and Krishna. It also sees most religious traditions describing
fundamental mystical experience, at least esoterically. A major proponent in the
20th century was Aldous Huxley, who "was heavily influenced in his
description by Vivekananda's neo-Vedanta and the idiosyncratic version of Zen
exported to the west by D.T. Suzuki. Both of these thinkers expounded their
versions of the perennialist thesis",[13] which they originally received from
western thinkers and theologians.

Transcendentalism was an early 19th-century liberal Protestant

movement, which was rooted in English and German
Romanticism, the Biblical criticism of Herder and
Schleiermacher, and the skepticism of Hume.[web 1] The
Transcendentalists emphasised an intuitive, experiential
approach of religion.[web 2] Following Schleiermacher,[15] an
individual's intuition of truth was taken as the criterion for
truth.[web 2] In the late 18th and early 19th century, the first
translations of Hindu texts appeared, which were also read by
the Transcendentalists, and influenced their thinking. [web 2] They
also endorsed universalist and Unitarianist ideas, leading to
Unitarian Universalism, the idea that there must be truth in
other religions as well, since a loving God would redeem all
living beings, not just Christians

7.1 Psychiatry

7.2 Neuroscience

o 7.2.1 Neurology

o 7.2.2 Neurotheology

Neurotheology, also known as biotheology or spiritual neuroscience,[71] is

the study of correlations of neural phenomena with subjective
experiences of spirituality and hypotheses to explain these phenomena.
Proponents of neurotheology claim that there is a neurological and
evolutionary basis for subjective experiences traditionally categorized as
spiritual or religious.[72]

According to the neurotheologist Andrew B. Newberg, neurological
processes which are driven by the repetitive, rhythmic stimulation which
is typical of human ritual, and which contribute to the delivery of
transcendental feelings of connection to a universal unity.[clarification needed]
They posit, however, that physical stimulation alone is not sufficient to
generate transcendental unitive experiences. For this to occur they say
there must be a blending of the rhythmic stimulation with ideas. Once this
occurs "...ritual turns a meaningful idea into a visceral experience."[73]
Moreover, they say that humans are compelled to act out myths by the
biological operations of the brain due to what they call the "inbuilt
tendency of the brain to turn thoughts into actions"

o 7.2.3 Studies of the brain and religious experience't


The material contained herein presents no speculative philosophy; it

offers no metaphysical hypothesis. Rather, it is the collected legacy of
those who have experienced, first-hand, the unitive Truth underlying all
existence.This is noordinary history of people, places and events; it is the secret
history of
mans perennial journey on the ultimate Quest, where all the travelers,
arriving from widely diverse paths, arrive at the self-same unitive Truth.
Mysticism is that point of view which claims as its basis an intimate
knowledge of the one source and substratum of all existence, a
knowledge, which is obtained through a revelatory experience during a

rare moment of clarity in contemplation.When we study the many speculative
philosophies and religious creedswhich men have espoused, we must wonder at
the amazing diversity of
opinions expressed regarding the nature of reality; but when we examine
the testimonies of the mystics of past and present, we are struck by the
unanimity of agreement between them all.I have known
that spirit, said Svetasvatara, who is infinite and in all, who is everone,
beyond time.1 He can be seen indivisible in the silence of
contemplation, said the author of the Mundaka Upanishad. 2 There a
man possesses everything; for he is one with the ONE. 3
About five hundred years later, another, a young prince named
Siddhartha, who was to become known as the Buddha, the enlightened
one, sat communing inwardly in the forest, when suddenly, as though a
veil had been lifted, his mind became infinite and all-encompassing: I
have seen the Truth! he exclaimed; I am the Father of the world,
sprung from myself!4
And again, after the passage of another fivehundred years, another young man,
a Jew, named Jesus, of Nazareth, satin a solitary place among the desert cliffs of
Galilee, communing inwardly, when suddenly he realized that the Father in
heaven to whom
he had been praying was his very own Self; that he was, himself, the sole
Spirit pervading the universe; I and the Father are one! he declared
they had realized the truth of man and the universe, that they had known their
own Self, and known it to be the All, the Eternal. And throughout succeeding
ages, these announcements
were echoed by others who had experienced the same realization: I am
the Truth! exclaimed the Muslim, al-Hallaj; My Me is God, nor do I
recognize any other Me except my God Himself, said the Christian
saint, Catherine of Genoa. And Rumi, Jnaneshvar, Milarepa, Kabir and
Basho from the East, and Eckhart, Boehme and Emerson from the West,
said the same.

These assertions by the great mystics of the world were not made as
mere philosophical speculations; they were based on experience an
experience so convincing, so real, that all those to whom it has occurred
testify unanimously that it is the unmistakable realization of the ultimate
Truth of existence.
In this experience, called samadhi by the Hindus, nirvana by the Buddhists,
fana by the Muslims, and the mystic union by Christians, the consciousness
of the individual suddenly becomes the consciousness of the entire vast
universe. All previous sense of duality is
swallowed up in an awareness of indivisible unity. The man who previously
regarded himself as an individualized soul, encumbered with sins and inhabiting
a body, now realizes that he is, truly, the one Consciousness; that it is he,
himself, who is manifesting as all souls and
all bodies, while yet remaining completely unaffected by the unfolding
drama of the multiform universe.
Even if, before, as a soul, he sought union with his God, now, there is no
longer a soul/God relationship. He, himself, he now realizes, is the one
Existence in whom there is neither a soul nor a God, but only the one
Self, within whom this imaginary relationship of soul and God
manifested. For him, there is no more relationship, but only the eternal
and all-inclusive I AM. Not surprisingly, this illuminating knowledge of
an underlying I that is the Soul of the entire universe has a profoundly
transformative effect upon the mind of those who have experienced it.
If we can believe these men, it is this experience of unity, which is the
ultimate goal of all knowledge, of all worldly endeavor; the summit of
human attainment, which all men, knowingly or unknowingly, pursue.

The reason for the similarity of view among the various primitive cultures is
that the
Reality, which their pictorial symbols are contrived to represent, is the
common and universal Reality experienced in the mystical vision, a
Reality that is the same for all who seeit never dawning on them that
the direct
knowledge of the one Absolute and Its projection of the universe is an
actual experience common to all seers of all times.
In this vision or union, the mind is somehow privileged to
experience itself as the eternal Consciousness from which the entire
universe is projected. It knows itself as the unchanging Ground, or
Absolute, and the world as Its own projected Thought or Ideation. The
individual who contacts, through prayer or deep meditation, that
universal Consciousness, experiences It as his (or her) own identity. He
(or she) realizes, in those few moments, that he (or she) is indeed nothing
else but that one Being manifest in a singular individual form; and that
all this universe is the manifestation of that one Being, flowing forth
from It as a wave of love streams out from a loving heart.
One who has known It sees clearly that this mystically experienced
Reality has two distinct aspects; It is the pure, eternal One, beyond
motion or change; and It is also the world-Thought, which emanates
from It,

So difficult is this two-in-One to speak ofsince It cannot be spoken of

without differentiating the two aspects, and making It appear to be two
when It is always Onethat the ancient seers tended to characterize the

two aspects as male and female complements. In their attempts to
explain this ineluctable duality-in-Unity, the seers of early cultures relied
upon pictorial symbolssuch as the yin-yang symbol of the Chinese, or
depicted the projection of the world of matter upon the Absolute in
anthropomorphic or animistic images. In nearly every such instance, the
unmanifested Absolute was depicted as Male, and Its projected image-
Power, co-existent with It, was regarded as Female. He is the Father-
God, the eternal One, the ultimate Source and Controller; but She, His
inherent Mind is the Creatrix, the Mother-Power from whom all creation
When we delve even further backward, into the upper Paleolithic era (ca.
35,000-9,000 B.C.E.), we find it difficult to imagine how one might have
communicated mystical experience in that time, long ago, even to ones
peers, considering the limited language skills of the peoples of that time.
some nameless mystic told his comrades of his experience of
the great Unity. And, for century after century, that tale was passed
down orally as an authentic description of the origin and beginning of all
things; until, around 700 B.C.E., it finally appeared in written form as an
allegorical tale, or myth, of creation. Here is that tale as it appears in the
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad:
In the beginning, there was only the Self. ... He reflected, and saw that there was
nothing but Himself, whereupon heexclaimed, I am (Aham). Ever since, He
has been known
within as I. Even now, when announcing oneself, one says, A distorted
version of this tale shows up a few centuries later in Platos
Symposium, 3 where Aristophanes recounts the legend of the original
androgynous creature who was both male and female rolled in one, and
who was then divided into two by Zeus as a means of checking its
power. But Platos version is without the profound allegorical meaning
of the original myth as retold in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Let me
attempt to explain:
In the One, there is no form, no experience at all. There is no vision, and
no knowledge. For, in order for there to be experience, there has to be
two: the experiencer and the experienced. For vision, there has to be a
seer and a seen; for knowledge, there must be a knower and a known, a
subject and an object. For any of these things to be, the One must I am ..., and
then gives the other name that one bears.pretend to be two, must create within
Itself the semblance of duality. If there is only a seer and no seen, there can be
no vision. And if there is
only a seen and no seer, again, vision cannot be.
Figuratively speaking, the One is lonely being alone; so It creates
(images forth) a second, in order to experience (enjoy) Itself. This is the
primal division, the primary creation: it is an apparent bifurcation of the

one Consciousness into subject and object, seer and seen. In all
existence, there are only these twoand they are really both the One.
This Self-division of the One into subject and object is the primal
dichotomy alluded to in this allegory. The subject is, in actuality, the
One; the object is, in actuality, the One. That One is, naturally, beyond
gender; but, in Its (pretended) roles as subject and object, It becomes the
male principle and the female principle.
This same bifurcation is continued throughout creation; the subject and
object, as male and female, become the multitude of living forms, and
through delighting in each other, continue to recreate themselves. This is
the allegory of the cow and the bull, the mare and the stallion, the jenny
and the jack-ass. Then he realizes, all this is myself! This is the
wondrous knowledge that comes to man when he knows and understands
his own true nature and the nature of all objective reality. He is,
indeed, the one Self of all, who lives within his own creation,
experiencing the play of duality, while remaining the forever-undivided
In the mystical experience of unity, there is seen, of course, neither male
nor female. The One, which contains in Itself all pairs of opposites, is
Itself beyond gender. However, It is apprehended under two different
aspects: It is the transcendent, quiescent Consciousness, beyond the
manifestation of time and space; and It is the Creative Force, which
cyclically manifests and de-manifests the entire universe. And it is
evident that, in almost every early culture, these two aspects have been
commonly represented in word and picture by those who have
apprehended them both, as the Father-God and the Mother-Goddess
These two symbols of the primary duality-in-Unity
It has long been recognized as a fact of mystical psychology that, as a
man comes to know God in the unitive vision, he knows in that some
moment, his own true Self. This intriguing fact is expressed most
succinctly in a passage from the ancient Indian epic, the Ramayana; in it,
Rama, who represents the Godhead incarnate, asks his servant,
Hanuman, How do you regard me? And Hanuman replies:
dehabhavena dasosmi
jivabhavena twadamshakah
atmabhave twamevaham
(When I identify with the body, I am Thy servant;
When I identify with the soul, I am a part of Thee;
But when I identify with the Self, I am truly Thee.) 1
These three attitudes represent progressively subtler stages of selfidentification:
from the identification with the body, to identification with
the soul, until, finally, one comes to know the Divine, and thereby ones
eternal Self. While each of these three relational attitudes finds

expression as the prevailing attitude within various individual religious
traditions, they are essentially representative of the viewpoint from these
different stages of self-awareness.
Of Pythagoras personal life and authentic teachings little is known for
certain .
Pythagoras seems to have introduced to the Western mind a truly
Monistic philosophy, and in particular, the concept of a Unity (Monad)
self-divided into a higher, eternal principle, characterized as Male, and a
lower, creative principle, characterized as Female. Says Hippolytus, in
his Refutation of All Heresies:
Pythagoras declared the originating principle of the
universe to be the unbegotten Monad and the
generated duad ... And he says that the Monad is the
Father of the duad, and the duad the Mother of all
things that are begotten. ...For the duad is generated
from the Monad, according to Pythagoras; and the
Monad is Male and primary, but the duad is Female
[and secondary]. 1
He stated further that the creation produced by the duad, or Mother,
consisted of two kinds, or levels; one, the physical level, which includes
the material world, and the other, a subtle, or psychic, level which
includes all the individualized souls, various spirits, and mental realms.
Plato, in his Phaedo, states as a Pythagorean doctrine that the soul is but
temporarily encased in the body, and transmigrates from birth to birth in
this world, which is not its true and final home. For Pythagoras,
contemplation of the Eternal was mans highest calling. When asked,
What are men born for? he replied, To gaze on the heavens.
According to him, when the soul is perfected, purified from its
subjugation to the material body, there would be no further need of
rebirth. Thus, it appears that the philosophy of Pythagoras, if not entirely
derived from Indian sources, was certainly in perfect agreement with that
of the Upanishadic seers.
The Pythagoreans formed a widespread and influential religious cult
HertaclitusHis book, On Nature, was written in brief epigrammatic
statements about
the one Reality, which few could understand. According to his
biographer, he deliberately made it obscure so that none but adepts
should approach it. But there were some who understood, and called it
a guide of conduct, the keel of the whole world, for one and all alike.
One appreciative
scholar of the time wrote about Heraclitus book: Do not be in too great
a hurry to get to the end of this book by Heraclitus the Ephesian. The
path is hard to travel; gloom is there and darkness devoid of light. But if

an initiate by your guide, the path shines brighter than sunlight.
In a time of polytheism and superstition, Heraclitus writings were
unique. He assumed, as most philosophers of his time assumed, that the
natural world consisted of unoriginated matter that predated its divine
orderingmatter which Hesiod had described as the primal Chaosand
that this matter of which the universe consisted was then rearranged and
set in order in a designed manner by the all-pervading Thought or
Intelligence of God. That Divine, all-pervading formative Intelligence,
Heraclitus called Logos, a common Greek word used variously to
mean thought, reason, idea, or theory. What he intended by this
term becomes clear when we examine the philosophy of Heraclitus, not
as a rational construction, but as an attempt to explain what he had
experienced in the mystical vision of Unity. The Logos represented
that Divine principle of Intelligence or Soul revealed in the mystical
vision as the all-pervading Consciousness by which the physical world is
invisibly ordered and governed
Heraclitus tried to explain that the manifest universe is permeated by the
Thought (Logos) of the one Mind; and for that reason, the entire universe
is a conscious manifestation of the one Divine Consciousness. Man
himself, as a soul, is a manifestation of the Logos, and, for that reason,
can discover the Logos within himself. The Logos is his source, his
ruler; in fact, his very being. And, says Heraclitus, it is only through the
conquest of egotistical pride, and dedication to the one Self in the silence
of contemplation, that one is able to know that hidden Unity.
Following is a reconstruction of Heraclitus thought, based on existing
fragments from his book, On Nature :
I have explained the Logos, but men are always incapable of
understanding it, both before they have heard it, and after.
For, though all things come into being in accordance with the
Logos, when men hear it explainedhow all things are made
of it, and how each thing is separated from another according
to its naturethey seem unable to comprehend it. The
majority of men are as unaware of what they are doing after
they wake from sleep as they are when asleep. 6
... Everyone is ruled by the Logos, which is common to all;
yet, though the Logos is universal, the majority of men live as
if they had an identity peculiar to themselves. 7 ... Even when
they hear of the Logos, they do not understand it, and even
after they have learnt something of it, they cannot
comprehend; yet they regard themselves as wise. 8
Those who believe themselves wise regard as real only the
appearance of things, but these fashioners of falsehood will
have their reward. 9 Though men are inseparable from the

Logos, yet they are separated in it; and though they encounter
it daily, they are alienated from it. 10 What intelligence or
understanding do they have? They believe the popular
orators, and are guided by the opinions of the populace; they
do not understand that the majority of men are fools, and the
wise few. 11
Of all the wise philosophers whose discourses I have heard, I
have not found any who have realized the one Intelligence,..

The mystical philosophy of unity had been thoroughly expounded

and re-expounded by the Roman Stoics, and the unitive vision had also
been well represented by the Brahmin and Buddhist emissaries living in
Greece, Rome and Alexandria. But, while it is one thing to hear of and
understand the unity of all existence, it is quite another to actually realize
it in oneself. The former is the province of the philosophers and
theologians; the latter is the province of the From that time forward, Jesus was
inspired with a new delight in God,
and a fervent desire to draw near to Him and to know Him within
himself. And he felt a great need to be alone in order to focus all his
mind on the Lord who had so bountifully graced him with vision and
inward joy. So he took himself into the solitude of the desert wilderness
outside the city. Filled with certainty that God was drawing him to yet
clearer vision, he swept away all concern for his own bodily welfare and
went alone into the rocky wastelands, to pray and to seek the clear vision
of God within himself.
During one star-filled night, deeply drawn into a silent prayer of longing,
Jesus suddenly became awake to a clear, still awareness; his mind was
lifted beyond itself into a pure, eternal, Consciousness. His mind had
become one with the Mind of the universe. In that exalted awareness,
there was no longer a Jesus and his God, but a one, all-pervading, Reality
which had no division in it at all. He had entered what he was later to
call, the kingdom of God, and knew himself as the one Being existing
in all. He knew the unsurpassably joyful truth that he was, and had
always been, the one Existence that lives in every single form on this.
By morning, Jesus had come back to his limited self, but the knowledge
of his infinite and eternal Self still flooded his mind, and he bathed in the
intoxicating afterglow of that knowledge. He had been released of every
delusion, fear, and source of pain that man is subject to in this world.

To be able to understand the meaning of the concepts here expressed and what
the entire piece tries to express and communicate we employ our

intersubjectively created, institutionalized and internalized conceptual means.
This intersubjectivity is usually of a dualistic kind with ideas of subject-vs
object, etc, based on, employing and transmitting dualistic notions, principles
and underlying assumptions. Have we ever considered the creation and
employment of an intersubjectivity based on non-dual notions, not of the subject
vs object dichotomy, but one based on Sophos, unity with the one, the one real
self, etc?
We perceive, experience, think, reflect, understand and communicate in terms of
a frame of reference of dualism, for example subject vs object. Is it not possible
to imagine and devise and then philosophize in terms of a non-dual
intersubjectivity, and intersubjectivity that does not accept and convey dualistic
notions such as subject, object, etc? But an intersubjectivity of a non-dual nature
such as a), b) the one real self, c) of unity, and d) the one, pure consciousness or
absolute awareness. Is it not possible to develop and constitute a frame of
reference of this kind of intersubjectivity? A point of reference that does not
constitute, assume and proceed in terms of subject vs object and other dualistic
notions. The above presented us with examples of non-dual notions based on
principles and assumptions of unity with the one, experience as if one is the one
real self, god, etc. We will now look at more examples of this kind from the
history of mysticism a link to the download of which was given above.
The Christian community had, among its more vocal proponents, a
number of learned philosophers and theologians during this time,
including Justin Martyr (d. ca. 165 C.E.), Clement of Alexandria (d. ca.
215 C.E.), and Origen (182-251 C.E.), all genuinely devout and earnest
men. They seem not to have been mystics, however; they had not,
themselves experienced God directly, but were interested primarily in
rationalizing the Christian tenet of the divine authority of Jesus. Being
well learned also in the philosophical tradition of the Greeks, they were
at pains as well to explain their theology in terms recognizable to the
pagan world. As a means of accomplishing this, they adopted the
Greek concept of the Logos, and asserted that Jesus was none other than
the divine Logos of God.
Let us look for a moment at the progression of ideas and events, which
led to the wholehearted adoption of this conception by the Christian
Church. The idea first appears in the opening paragraph of the Fourth
Gospel written about sixty years after the death of Jesus by the evangelist
known only as John. John undoubtedly had some familiarity with the
concept of the Logos, probably from Philo, and perhaps from Stoic
sources as well. He began his Gospel with these words:
In the beginning was the Logos; the Logos was with God,
and the Logos was God. ...All things were made by the Logos;
without him nothing was made. It was by him that all things
came into existence.

... What came about in him [the Logos] was life, and the life
was the light [of God] in man. The life shines in the darkness
[of world-manifestation], but the darkness did not understand
it. 31
All this is in keeping with the mystical perception of duality-in-Unity
enunciated by mystics of every time and place. John then goes on to
assert that the Logos became Jesus of Nazareth:
And the Logos became flesh and lived among us the onlybegotten
son of his father.
This statement, that the Logos became flesh in the person of Jesus, is
also inarguable, as it is the Logos, the creative Intelligence of God,
which has become flesh in the person of every creature on earth; and the
phrase, only-begotten son is a designation for the Logos which goes
back to Philo. But John seems to imply that Jesus was more than simply
another manifestation of the Logos, that he was, indeed, the creative
Intelligence itself. It was this very suggestion, which gave immediate
rise to a widespread movement among 2nd century Christians to regard
Jesus as a special and unique manifestation of God, through whom the
very Godhead lived and acted upon earth for the upliftment of humanity.
But let us take a moment to recall the meaning of the term Logos, as it
had been traditionally used up to that time.
Note: here we have an example of the one, the logos, sohpos, the one real self,
of unity in embodied form.
The Logos, as we have stated before, is the Absolute in Its immanent
aspect, the Divine Intelligence or Consciousness that pervades the
material world of form. These two, the transcendent One and Its
immanent presence are one and inseparable, just as a mind and its
thought are one and inseparable. Thus, Nature is formed and ruled by
Gods Thought, or Logos, and is replete with Divinity, is nothing but
Divinity; and is as much one and synonymous with God as the radiance
of the Sun is with the Sun itself. The term, Logos, had long been
understood in this way, and it was in this way that it was understood and
explained by Christians as well, such as Athenasius, Patriarch of
Alexandria (293-372 C.E.):
Was God, who IS, ever without the Logos? Was He, who is
light, ever without radiance? ...God is, eternally; then, since
the Father always is, His radiance also exists eternally; and
that is His Logos.
... For, as the light [of the Sun] illumines all things within its
radiance, and without that radiance nothing would be.. Athenagorus (2nd
century C.E.), who wrote an Apology of Christianity

to the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, also asserted the eternal
coexistence and oneness of God, the Father, and His Power of worldemanation
(the Logos), which he calls the Son:
If ... you ask what is meant by the Son, I will state briefly that he
is the first product of the Father, not as having been brought into
existence (for from the beginning, God, who is the eternal Mind
has the Logos in Himself, being from eternity instinct with
Logos); but inasmuch as the Logos came forth to be the Idea and
energizing power of all material things.35
Tertullian (150-225 C.E.), another of the early Church Fathers, expressed
the same idea in more simplified terms:
The Spirit is the substance of the Logos, and the Logos is the
activity of the Spirit; the two are a Unity (unum). 36
and so on and so on.
These remarks by the early Church Fathers are identical with the
declarations of all the mystics who have, over the centuries, described
their experience of the two complementary aspects of Reality. But they
went on, from this conventional observation, to formulate a rather
startling tenet of faith: that the Logos, the very stream of Gods
Intelligence pervading the universe, took on a personality of its own, and
lived on planet earth as the man known as Jesus of Nazareth. Here is
how this idea was expressed by one of the most influential of the early
Church Fathers, Ireneus, the bishop of Lyons (ca. 130-200 C.E.):
The Logos existed in the beginning with God, and through
him all things were made. He was always present with the
human race, and in the last times, according to the time
appointed by the Father, he has been united with his own
handiwork and become man, capable of suffering. ... He was
incarnate and made man; and then he summed up in himself
the long line of the human race, procuring for us a
comprehensive salvation, that we might recover in him what
in Adam we had lost, the state of being in the image and
likeness of God. 37
At a later date, Athenasius, the Patriarch of Alexandria, added some
clarifying remarks to that, in order to explain how the Logos could be
working entirely through the person of Jesus while at the same time
manifesting the entire universe:
The Logos was not confined solely within [Jesus] body; nor
was he there and nowhere else; he did not activate that body
and leave the universe emptied of his activity and guidance.
Here is the supreme marvel. He was the Logos and nothing
contained him; rather he himself contained all things. He is the
whole creation, yet in his essential being he is distinct from it

all, while he is in all things in the activities of his power,
ordering all things, extending over all things his universal
providence, quickening each and every thing at once,
containing the universe and not contained by
note with these ideas in mind let us now move on through history.
We come across the gnostics,for example the Thomas Christians,
who considered themselves as the true believers in the real Jesus.

I am not interested in the details of what the Gnostics, Thomas Christians

And other groups believed concerning Jesus as the incarnate one, and I
am more interested in looking at the experience of their unity with the one
of a few other mystics. The reason for this interest is because I wish to try and
notions that could assist us to develop the intersubjectivity of sophos, unity, the
one real
self, etc.
The perennial philosophy, which began in Greece with Heraclitus,
Pythagoras, and Socrates, became, in the Rome of the first few centuries
of the Current Era, a full-fledged religious tradition. This religion had
no ecclesiastical organization, or zealous proselytizers; yet it produced
some of the most devoutly religious literature created during those times.
It had not the fervent appeal of Christianitys proclaimed Savior, nor
the long heritage of divine appointment claimed in Jewish historicoreligious
narratives; but was rather a sane and sober religion of simple
devotion to the one Divine Principle, which was both transcendent to and
immanent in all His creation.
It was the hallmark of these pagan religionists to view all earlier
mythical and cultic religious manifestations as so many figurative
expressions of the one perennial urge toward Divinity, so many poetical
renderings of the one common Truth. This broadly tolerant and
conciliatory view was best expressed by the historian, Plutarch (ca. 100
C.E.), who said:
There is one divine Mind, which keeps the universe in order,
and one providence, which governs it. The names given to
this supreme God differ; he is worshipped in different ways in
different religions; the religious symbols used in them vary,
and their qualities are different; sometimes they are rather
vague, and sometimes more distinct. 1
A contemporary of Plutarch, and one of the most exemplary
representatives of the perennial philosophy in 1st century Rome, was the
freed-slave, Epictetus (50-120 C.E.), who is usually regarded as a Stoic
but who was equally inspired by Socrates whom he held as his model.
Despite his devout and holy views, however, it is difficult to find any

explicit references to the mystical vision of God in his Discourses; his
preeminent concern, like Socrates, was to guide men to the awareness of
the Divinity within them through the development of virtue, right
understanding, and spiritual strength.
Plotinus taught his philosophy in Rome.
His lectures were free and open to the public, and he lived solely on the
favors of his wealthy students and patrons. He taught from his own
mystical experience, but he framed his thoughts often in terms familiar to
students of Plato; and for that reason he became labeled in much later
times as the founder of Neoplatonism. This is an unfortunate
misnomer, however, for it tends to detract from the fact that Plotinus
message was founded, not so much on any one tradition, but on his own
personal realizations.
Plotinus, like Socrates, had attained the realization of the absolute
Reality, and was solely intent on expressing what he had directly
perceived in the vision of Unity. Yet, since he and Socrates had
experienced a common unitive Reality, it is only natural that Plotinus
would utilize familiar terms, which had been used previously in the
Socratic dialogues of Plato. It should be remembered that the mystic
writes in order to put into rational verbal form what he has experienced,
and he utilizes the verbal symbols and terms of preceding mystics, not in
a dogmatic fashion, but solely in order to draw upon familiar
terminologies to make clear his own vision, and to show its consistency
with the vision of those who preceded him.
Plotinus philosophy of Unity is identical to the Upanishadic philosophy
also, yet, though he was no doubt familiar with Indian thought, it would
be a mistake to infer therefore that he borrowed his own philosophy from
those sources. For it is only natural and to be expected that one person,
having experienced the Unity, will describe It in terms similar or
identical to another who has experienced It. For Plotinus, philosophy
was not a mere game of ideas put forward as a convincing hypothesis; he
had experienced, through contemplation, the ultimate unitive Truth, and
spoke from his experience in order to explain It to others. We need not,
therefore, be astonished that his words agree with those of all others who
have experienced that same interior revelation.

Note: the development of intersubjectivity based on unity, Sophos, the

logos, etc.
Plotinus found corroboration for his philosophy, not only in the
utterances of Socrates and the Upanishadic seers, but in the writings of a
number of other ancient philosophers as well. In his classes, his students
were required to read the commentaries of Severus, Cronius, Numenius,
Caius and Atticus, as well as the works of Aspasius, Alexander of

Aphrodisias, and Adrastus. Said Plotinus, We must believe that some
of the ancient and blessed philosophers also discovered the Truth; and it
is only natural to inquire who of them found It, and how we may obtain a
knowledge of It. 3
In the first ten years of his life in Rome, Plotinus wrote nothing, but by
the time Porphyry had become his follower in 263 C.E., he had
completed twenty-one treatises. In answer to the questions of his later
students, he wrote thirty-three more, which were circulated without titles
among his closest followers. And, after Plotinus death, Porphyry
gathered these fifty-four treatises together into a book of six sections,
containing nine treatises each; hence the title, Enneads (Nines), by
which Plotinus book is known.
In his meetings with his friends and students, Plotinus would explain in
an imaginative and compelling manner the truths of the spiritual life.
Says Porphyry: When he was speaking, the light of his intellect visibly
illumined his face; always of winning presence, he then appeared of still
greater beauty; a slight moisture gathered on his forehead, and he
radiated benignity.4 Plotinus, said Porphyry, lived at once within
himself and for others; from his interior attention he never relaxed unless
in sleep. And even that he kept light by often touching not so much as a
piece of bread and by constantly concentrating upon the thought within.5
...He was gentle, and always at the call of those having the slightest
acquaintance with him. After spending twenty-six years at Rome, acting,
too, as arbiter in many differences, he had never made an enemy of any..
...Once There, she will trade for This nothing the universe
holdsno, not the entire heavens; for there is nothing higher
than This, nothing more holy; above This there is nowhere to
go. All else, however lofty, lies on the downward path; she
knows that This was the object of her quest, that there is
nothing higher. 32
...Without that vision, the soul is unillumined; but illumined
thereby, it has attained what it sought. And this is the true
Goal set before the soul: to receive that light, to see the
Supreme by the Supreme; ...for That by which the illumination
comes is That which is to be seen, just as we do not see the
Sun by any other light than its own.
How is this to be accomplished?
Let all else go! 33
This is Plotinus final word on the means to the attainment of that
supernal vision: Let all else go!

note: including and especially all notions and believes based on

the dualist intersubjectivity!

Whether we call this by the name of
dedication, devotion, purity of heart, singleness of mind,
renunciation, or detachment, it is the word of all the seers of God in
response to the question, How is It attained? But who can let all else
go? How does one find the courage to turn away from the world to focus
all ones attention on the divine Source within? It cannot even be
attempted unless one is inspired from within by His grace. For it is that
One Himself who puts such a desire into the heart; it is He who attracts
like a magnet the soul to its own awakening, to contemplation, just as it
is He who reveals Himself as the one Soul of all
The declarations of the mystics differ from the exclusively philosophical
and theological reasonings of such intellectuals in that they are derived
solely from direct experience, and are put forward as a means of
expressing the truths realized in that experience rather than as
speculations based on authority or reason. And since it is only the very
few who reach to the height of direct experience of God, the mystical
writings which appear in the early Middle Ages are also very few.
One of the best examples of genuine mystical thought produced during
this time is found in a series of writings which came to light in the early
6th century, and which produced a great effect on all subsequent
Christian theology. This collection of writings was attributed to
Dionysius, the Areopagite, a figure who is mentioned only briefly in the
New Testament book, Acts of the Apostles (17:32), as a follower of Paul
in Athens. This collection consists of four treatises: The Divine Names,
Mystical Theology, The Celestial Hierarchy, and The Ecclesiastical
Hierarchy, along with several letters addressed to various Apostolic
figures. All were regarded, up until the 16th century, as genuine and
It was determined in the 16th century, however, and corroborated by
scholars of later centuries, that these writings could not possibly have
been by Dionysius of the 1st century, owing to their use of terms which
came into prominent usage only much later, and were therefore spurious.
It is now supposed that they were written at some time around the end of
the 5th century, perhaps by a Syrian monk who had some familiarity
with the Neoplatonic tradition through Proclus (410-485), and who, no
doubt, chose to use the name of an Apostolic figure as a means of
assuring permanence to his work. To Christians, the fact that it was not
Dionysius, the Areopagite, who wrote these mystical works, might
present a serious impediment to considering their author a genuine
representative of Christian mysticism; nonetheless, regardless of who the
author really was, he not only greatly influenced Christian thought for
over a thousand years, but he was and remains an able spokesman for the
perennial philosophy of mysticism.

It was the intention of the author calling himself Dionysius, the
Areopagite, to explain, as best he could, the nature of the transcendent
Reality which he had experienced, and which the Greek philosophers
called Being, or the Good, and which the Jews called Yahveh.
That God could not be seen as an object of perception by the eyes, and
could not be known by the intellect, the authorwhom we shall call
Dionysius for convenience sakefirmly maintained. However, he
explained, God could be experienced in rapt contemplation when the
mind transcended all perceptions of images and all knowledge as we
commonly know it, and entered into a perfect union with God,
participating in His being, and knowing through His knowing:
He is superessentially exalted above created things, and
reveals Himself in His naked Truth to those alone who pass
beyond all that is pure or impure, and ascend above the
topmost altitudes of holy things, and who, leaving behind
them all divine light and sound and heavenly utterances,
plunge into the Darkness where truly dwells, as the Oracles
declare, that ONE who is beyond all. 1
That divine Darkness is the unapproachable light in which
God dwells. Into this Darkness, rendered invisible by its own
excessive brilliance and unapproachable by the intensity of its
Note: I merely mention these quotes concerning Psudo-Dionysus to
Show more of the development of the non-dual intersubjectivity, based on
Sophos, the one real self, etc and not to give contents to the believes
of that intersubjectivity.

There was really little to choose between the two, Toaism and Buddhism
however; for, while the Taoist and Buddhist terminologies were
different, the realization of Truth which each taught was, of course, the
same. In every mystical tradition, the ultimate goal is the attainment of
enlightenment, the direct perception of the one Reality. In ancient India,
this realization was called nirvana, or samadhi; when Buddhism was
transplanted in China, this supramental experience was called, in
Chinese, chien-hsing, and as Buddhism became established in Japan in
later centuries, this experience was called kensho or satori. The words
and the languages are different, but the experience is the same.
This experience of enlightenment, of the absolute, quiescent, Source of
all existence, is described by one Chinese Buddhist in this way:
In learning to be a Buddha, and in seeking the essence of the
teaching of our school, man should purify his mind and allow
his spirit to penetrate the depths. Thus he will be able to
wander silently within himself during contemplation, and he

will see the Origin of all things, obscured by nothing.
...His mind becomes boundless and formless, allilluminating
and bright, like moonlight pervading the
darkness. During that absolute moment, the mind experiences
illumination without darkness, clarity without stain. It
becomes what it really is, absolutely tranquil, absolutely
illuminating. Though this all-pervading Mind is tranquil, the
world of cause and effect does not cease; though It illumines
the world, the world is but Its reflection. It is pure Light and
perfect Quiescence, which continues through endless time. It
is motionless, and free from all activity; It is silent, and selfaware.
...That brilliant Light permeates every corner of the
world. It is This we should become aware of and know.
Similarly, in every mystical tradition, the means to the realization of
Reality is the same; it is an inturning of the mind in search of its root, its
source; we call this process meditation. In India, the Sanskrit word for
meditation is dhyana; in China, it is chan, and in Japan, it is zen. Chan,
or Zen, then, is nothing but the practice of meditation toward the
attainment of enlightenment. Enlightenment is the only goal of Zen; and
it is meditation, or contemplation, alone which leads to it. For this
reason, all the Chan and Zen masters incessantly point all sincere
seekers of enlightenment to the meditative life.
Note: above we saw about the development of intersubjectivity of the one or the
real self in Zen, below we will see how it developed in Islam as Sufism.

The religion of Islam was founded in Arabia by Muhammed (d. 632),

whose book, the Quran or Koran, constitutes the final authority and
credo for all who claim Islam as their religion. Though Muhammed
claimed that the book was inspired by God, whom he calls Allah, it
contains much that is derived from ancient Jewish and Christian sources.
Muhammed set forth in the Quran, by the use of many anecdotes and
commentaries, a number of moral precepts and social laws, which did
much to transform a diversified group of lawless nomadic tribes into a
united God-fearing nation. And while the Quran is essentially a book of
moral principle and faith, it contains many statements by Muhammed,
which may be interpreted as mystical in nature.
Following upon the death of Muhammed, a number of devout mystics
belonging to the Islamic faith appeared throughout the Middle East,
spreading from Arabia to Egypt, Iraq, Persia, Turkey, and Afghanistan.
They came to be known as Sufis, from the word for woolapparently
because of the woolen garments worn by these gnostics to set them apart
as knowers of God. While the mainstream faithful of Islam were

busily engaged in the spread of their religion through territorial conquest
during the 8th and 9th centuries, the Sufis were teaching the pure love of
God, and living an ascetic life aimed at realizing Him in the depths of
their souls.
All were great lovers of God,
and each of them greatly influenced the mystical mood of their time.
Their love of God took the form of a one-pointed yearning for union with
Him, for the vision of His Face; and their writings often resembled the
arduous outpourings of a lover to his beloved.
For the Sufis, the path of love is the Way by which the soul makes the
involute journey to the awareness of her own true identity. And the
prayerful songs of love sung by the Sufis are the expressions of the
souls yearning to return in awareness to her eternal Source and Ground.
She searches inwardly for her pristine state, her Beloved, her Lord; and
subdues herself, dissolving herself, as it were, by reducing her own being
to her pristine simplicity and ultimate non-being.
Note: is this not what happens when through Socratic dialogue or analysis
of language use dissolves away misleading use of language and we are left with
more meaningful concepts and conceptual practice?

She renounces all regard for herself, divests herself of all fascination with
phenomena, both inner and outer; and, drawn by a one-pointed love and
desire for God, is brought at last to silence. Then the illusory duality of
soul and God is no more; the awareness of the one Self dawns with
supreme clarity, knowing who It has always been, knowing Its eternal
freedom and joy.
Such a description of the souls inner pilgrimage makes it appear a
simple and clear-cut process, but it is the most difficult accomplishment
that can be performed, for the ego-soul does not die without a fight. It
wages a tireless and bitter warfare against its own attraction to God, and
fights with all the fury and panic of a drowning man struggling to sustain
his existence; it incessantly asserts its love of the manifested world and
life, and restlessly strives to create a diversion from its path toward God.
Torn in two directions, the soul suffers, on the one hand, the agonies of
annihilation, and on the other, the painful prolonging of its failure to
reach its avowed Goal. Only when it comes at last, by the grace of God,
to that point where it surrenders all other objectives for God alone does it
become capable of reaching its cherished Goal; divinely inspired by the
desire for God alone, it makes that leap into the consciousness of
universal Being.
In the writings of the early Sufis, and in particular, those of Dhun-Nun,
this path of divine love for God, culminating in vision, or gnosis, is

charted as a path (tariq) marked by several distinct advances, or stations.
The actual journey along the spiritual path begins with the station of
Repentence (tauba).
The next station is that of Faith, or Surrender To God (tawakkul). The
mental agitation resulting from fear for ones own welfare, which may
afflict the novice when he chooses to give all his thought to God, is
dispelled by the calm remembrance that it is He who has called the soul
to Him, and that He will nourish and provide for the body as well.
Surrendering all thoughts of his own bodily welfare, he gives everything
into the hands of God,
The next station is that of Patient Endurance (sabr), a great necessity for
the soul called to the contemplation of God. Calm acceptance of the
rigors of such a life is necessary to the stability of the soul, which must
pass through many ordeals, and many temptations that arise in the mind.
Next, and allied with Patient Endurance, is Joy In Affliction (rida).
When the soul is free to focus its attention on God, it enjoys an inner
bliss, which cannot be dislodged by any outward occurrence, no matter
how unpleasant.
The Dark Night Of The Soul; the Sufis call it gabd. This is a state of
dryness and emptiness, when the soul, struggling to become completely
selfless, egoless, has not yet reached the ultimate degree of extinction,
and suffers the heavy sense of death, with no light of superconscious life
yet visible. It is a dry, awful, sense of ones own nothingness, ones own
emptiness, which may be likened to the darkness experienced while
going through a dark tunnel when the light at the other end cannot yet be
seen. The ego-self is withered, dried-up, and all but gone; but the greater
Selfhood has not yet revealed Itself
Then comes the revelation of Love and Spiritual Knowledge (mahabba
and marifa). The soul awakens to an incredibly clear awareness that
embraces both divine Love and Knowledge. It is an inner realization by
the soul that the God it sought is all-inclusive Love, and the soul
experiences that Love within itself. It knows that This is the sustaining
Power and guide of all its life.
It is this love longing which leads to the station of Annihilation (fana).
This is the profoundly transformative experience previously referred to
as nirvana, samadhi, or the vision of God. For, at the moment the ego
is extinguished, the eternal and all pervasive I is realized. It is an
experience that overturns all previous conceptions of God and the soul.
Scholars may imagine that a Buddhist experiences one thing, a Vedantist
another, and so forth; but one who has experienced It, whether a Sufi,
Christian or Hindu, knows that It is the final Truth, the only One. There
are not different Unitys, one for each sect or denomination; there is only
one One, and it is That which is experienced by Christians, Buddhists,

Hindus and Sufis alike. It should be obvious that, if there is such a thing
as Unity, and if It can be experienced, then the experience must be the
same for all; since Unity, by its very definition, by its very nature, is one.
So what if that One is called by different names in different lands! In
every place and in every generation, new terms are ever being invented
in the hope of elucidating the knowledge of Unity.
Said al-Hallaj:
I am He whom I love, and He whom I love is I; we are two
spirits dwelling in one body. If you see me, you see Him; and
if you see Him, you see us both. 1
These words of his were very similar to those of Jesus, who had
experienced the same revelation; and they met with a similar response.
By the late Medieval period (11th-14th centuries), the philosophers and
theologians of the Western world had become increasingly aware of the
long tradition of mystical philosophy dating from the early Greeks and
Solomon Ibn Gabirol (ca. 1021-1058 or 1070) was born in Malaga, in
southern Spain, reared and educated in Saragossa, and began composing
religious poems at the age of sixteen. He wrote his philosophical works
in Arabic, but his poems, of which he wrote over three hundred, were
written in Hebrew. Some of these poems are still part of the liturgy of
the Spanish Jews. His main philosophical work is The Fountain Of Life,
but he wrote, in addition, two ethical treatises, The Improvement Of The
Qualities Of The Soul, and The Choice Of Pearls, along with a book on
the Divine Will, which is lost.
In its Latin form, this work greatly influenced such Christian theologians
as Albertus Magnus, Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinus, and Duns Scotus,
all of whom quoted it freely. And it was not until the 19th century that a
Jewish scholar, Solomon Munk, discovered that the translation of Ibn
Gabirols work, from Arabic to Hebrew, which had been made by Shem
Tob Falquera (1225-1290) under the Hebrew title, Mekor Hayim, was
identical to the work Christians called Fons Vitae. Thus it was
discovered that the Muslim, Avicebron or Avicebrol, was none other
than the Jewish philosopher, Solomon Ibn Gabirol.
Ibn Gabirol, following after the fashion of Aristotle and Plotinus, with
whom he was familiar through Arabic translations, tried his hand at such
a systematic presentation, and made a remarkable effort, offering many
clarifying conceptualizations. Yet, for all his genius and skill, in addition
to his apparent first-hand knowledge, his great work, The Fountain Of
Life, remains a dry and tedious work, holding little appeal for the modern
mind. It is an unhappy fact that any attempt to explain the emanation of
the world from God must prove futile and unrewarding, no matter how
clearly and unmistakably one has seen it in the mystical experience.

See how many have vainly tried to do so, utilizing such words as
Logos, Prakrti, Will, Shakti, and so many others, to signify the
ineffable Power of God by which He casts forth this world-image from
Himself, remaining all the while entirely unaltered, eternally and
indivisibly One
To those who have seen God, His projection of the universe from
Himself is a clear and obvious fact; but to those who have not, the notion
that the spirit of God somehow permeates the mutable universe must
seem an impossible contradiction.
One can scarcely speak of Medieval Jewish mysticism without making
some mention of the separate and unique phenomenon of the Kabbala, a
word that simply means the tradition. Kabbala stands for a peculiar
movement of Jewish esotericism, which arose in the 12th century,
making use of mystical thought to elaborate a system of secret
symbolism, much as the Pythagoreans had done much earlier.
It was Moses de Leon, in his pseudepigraphic work, the Splendor
(Zohar), who carried on the formulations of Isaac the Blind, explaining
in a similar fashion the manifestation of the world from the En Sof.
Moses de Leon, a Castilian Kabbalist, wrote the Zohar around 1280, but
presented it as an ancient tract from the hand of a member of the circle of
Simeon bar Yohai, a revered figure of the Talmudic literature, who lived
in the 2nd century C.E. Under this pretence, it managed to have a wide
circulation and influence during medieval times. De Leon went to great
lengths to portray the Zohar as a work of the 2nd century by writing
much of it in the Aramaic language, and by extolling its authenticity in
his other writings. So successful was he in his forgery that it was not
until recent times (the 19th century) that the fraud was discovered; up to
that time, the Zohar was regarded by many devout Jews as possessing an
authority equivalent to that of the Talmudic scriptures.
In the first chapter of the Zohar, the Biblical description of Creation in
the book of Genesis is reformulated to comply with the mystically
perceived projection or emanation of the phenomenal universe from the
Absolute, the En Sof:
In the beginning, when the Will of the King began to take
effect, He impressed His signs into the heavenly sphere.
Within the Most Hidden, the Infinite (En Sof), a dark flame
issued forth, like a fog forming in the Unformed.
This rather fanciful description is, of course, in keeping with the general
scheme of creation put forward by the philosophers of the so-called
Neoplatonic tradition, including Ibn Gabirol. But, from this point on,
the Zohar reveals itself as a Midrash, or commentary, upon the tales of
the Jewish Torah, inventing tales of its own to elucidate the teachings of
the ancient prophets

While the Zohar and Judaism in general
recognizes that God Almighty is all one without separation, and that
the Father and the Mother never separate and never leave each other,
but are [always] together in complete union, the Shekinah, as human
soul, is recognized to be separated in effect from its Eternal Source by
ignorance, and yet capable of conscious reunification with God through
mystical ascension, thus coming to know through direct experience the
Oneness of the soul with God. The purpose of a mans life therefore is to
accomplish the Yihud (unification) of the Shekinah and the Holy One;
i.e., the union of the soul with God.
In 1244, Jalaluddin Rumi met Shams Tabriz in the streets of Konya, and was
drawn by him to the fervent life of mystical love. His relation to Tabriz
was like that of a loving disciple to his Guru or Pir. Jalaluddin
transferred all his ardent devotion to Shams, as only a spiritual lover can
do, seeing him as the Divine manifest in his life for the sake of providing
him with companionship with God. However, Rumis sons and other
family members were so jealous and outraged by the hold that Shams
had on Jalaluddins affections that they murdered Shams and threw his
body in a well. At least, so the story goes. Rumi filled the void in his
life by writing a book of poems of love and longing, called Divan-i
Shams Tabriz, sometimes addressing them to Shams, and sometimes
identifying with him.
His verses are full of the imagery of love, but it is the love of the soul for
God. Rumi is the epitome of the mystical lover; but he also knew the
union with his Beloved, and speaks with rare beauty of this mysterious
marriage of the soul and God.
While Thomas Aquinus was still teaching in Paris, Johannes Eckhart
(1260-1328) was born in the village of Hochheim in Germany, and
entered the Dominican monastery at Erfurt, near his village, at around
fifteen years of age. There he learned Latin, logic, and rhetoric. In those
days, a novice served a one-year novitiate, followed by two years of
studying the Divine Office and the Constitutions of the Order; then there
were five years of philosophy and finally three years of theology.
Meister Eckhart had attained great position in the Church and had
acquired great learning; but he was also a man of great devotion. One
night, while intently praying to his invisible Lord, his mind, suddenly
made clear and bright through his one-pointed attention, became
perfectly still; and in that stillness, the truth of his own and all being
became perfectly clear and evident to his minds eye. He realized, in this
still, luminous clarity, that his own mind, which moments ago searched
the darkness for its God, was, in fact, itself the one Reality. It had
created, by its sense of I and Thou, a duality where none in fact
existed. And as the light of his mind grew more steady, he became more

and more aware of his true nature as the one eternal Consciousness
whose light fills the universe and who is the true identity of all living
In this experience of unity which Christians call the vision of God,
there is no longer a veiling sense of duality; for when the I discovers
that the Thou it sought is itself, then all duality vanishes, as a dream
vanishes when a man awakes from sleep. When that pure and eternal I
is known, It is the one who knows; there is no other. When It is known,
It is known as the true Self, which has always been the Self, despite all
previous misconceptions one might have had as to ones identity. Then
it is realized that this one Self is the only conscious I of all beings, and
that it is this one Self also who is projecting all this world of forms.
Truly, there is no one here but that one Self. When He awakens us, then
we realize this. First, He calls us, by causing us to become aware of His
presence within us; then we are drawn to seek Him in prayer and
contemplation. Like a flame within, He draws us to Himself, our Self,
by an inwardly inspired love and desire. When we are purely and singly
focused on Him, when the mind is stilled and clear, we awake to who we
have always been, and know our eternal Identity.
Eckhart, like the ancient Upanishadic rishis, like the Buddha and Jesus
and all other true mystics, had seen the ineluctable Truth of all existence,
had become enlightened. But how was he to speak of it? It was so high
above the understanding of ordinary men and women that they would
surely become frightened and confused on hearing of it, and even the
wisest would surely misinterpret it!
But the difficulties facing Eckhart were two-fold; he had not only the
natural obstacle presented by the inability of language to describe the
indescribable; but there was also the stone-wall of Christian doctrine that
he had sworn to defend, and which, now, if he were to speak faithfully of
the truth, he should have to demolish. To be sure, the Truth he had
known and of which he was eager to speak was the same Truth which
Jesus had seen and of which he had spoken. But the real purport of
Jesus teachings regarding his identity with the Father had been
construed over the centuries as a doctrine relating to him alone and not
applicable to all men; and so, ironically, when Meister Eckhart began
reiterating the message of Jesus regarding the identity of the human soul
and God, his message was received with horror, and regarded by all
orthodox Christians as heretical and blasphemous.
like all others who have seen the Truth, recognized that the divine
Consciousness at once transcends and pervades the universe. It is both
the absolute, transcendent Godhead and the projecting Power, the
Creator. Yet there is no actual division between these two aspects; for it

is that same one Consciousness that appears as all existence.
But who can tell of this knowledge?
one eternal Consciousness is beyond time, beyond the universe of
phenomena; yet from It, like a thought or projected image, the world
shines, like a magic-show. This world-image is projected and withdrawn
in a recurrent cycle, and while it is distinguishable from the eternal
Consciousness Itself, still, it is not different from the eternal
Consciousnessas a thought is not different from the consciousness
from which it emanates.
Meister Eckhart, in his Sermon, made the distinction between these two
aspects of the One by using the two terms, Godhead (Gottheit)
and God (Gott), to represent these two aspects respectively. By
Godhead, he meant, of course, that transcendent, absolute, Silence
which is forever unchanging, unmoving; and by God he meant the
Creator, that aspect of the Divine which, like an effusive mind,
continually projects the phenomenal universe.
God and the Godhead are as different from each other as
heaven and earth... Creatures speak of God but why do
they not mention the Godhead? Because there is only unity in
the Godhead and there is nothing to talk about. God acts.The
Godhead does not. ...The difference between God and the
Godhead is the difference between action and non-action. 5
The eternal Godhead is mans true Being, the conscious Self from
which the creative-aspect, God, shines forth. My real being, says
Eckhart, is above God, if we take God to be the beginning of all
created things. ... I [the eternal Godhead] am unborn, and in my unborn
aspect I can never die. In my unborn aspect, I have been eternally, and
am now, and shall eternally remain.6 That unborn aspect, the Godhead,
is experienced when, in contemplation, one enters into that Silence which
exists as the Source and Ground of the minds creative effusion.
Eckhart, having broken through into that Silence, spoke of his own
experience of the unborn Self:
In that breaking-through, when I come to be free of my own
will and of Gods will and of all His works and of God
Himself, then I am above all created things, and I am neither
God nor creature, but I am what I was and what I shall remain,
now and eternally. 7
It is worth repeating that this description of a unitive Reality, consisting
of an eternal and unchanging aspect and a creative aspect, which
manifests itself as the phenomenal world, is not the mere product of a
speculative theology; for Eckhart, as for all who have seen it, it is a
directly perceived fact. To those who have seen the Truth, such

descriptions as Eckhart offers of It seem perfectly simple and obvious;
yet to those who have not, it seems all a muddle. When Eckhart spoke of
these matters to the simple peasants in his Sunday Sermon, he closed by
saying to the congregation, Whoever does not understand what I have
said, let him not burden his heart with it; for as long as a man is not equal
to this truth, he will not understand these words, for this is a truth beyond
speculation that has come immediately from the heart of God.
Following the death of Meister Eckhart, many of those illumined by the
knowledge of the Self took a lesson from Eckharts condemnation, and
were careful to avoid offending the guardians of the faith; but there
were a few who, inspired by Eckharts words and his example, found the
courage to speak of their own experience of the unitive Self. Among
these, was one of Eckharts faithful disciples, John Tauler (1300-1361),
who, like Eckhart, was a member of the Dominican Order.
The Blessed Henry Suso (1296-1381) was another of Eckharts disciples
and defenders; and another, the Blessed Jan Ruysbroeck (1293-1381),
was a Flemish citizen who, inspired to lead the contemplative life,
formed a monastic community at Groenendael, under the rule of the
Canons Regular of Saint Augustine.
One of Ruysbroecks confreres at Groenendael was a man by the name
of Gerhart Groot (1340-1384), who later formed another contemplative
community at Deventer, called The Brethren of The Common Life.
He, like Ruysbroeck, Suso and Tauler, had become entirely disenchanted
with the theological hair-splitting of the Scholastics and wished to return
the emphasis of the Christian faith to the holy life of devotion, and away
from the preoccupation with philosophical and theological formulations,
which had been the trend since Thomas Aquinas flourished at Paris.
There, to Deventer, in 1376,
came a young man named Thomas Haemerlein from Kempen on the
Rhine, who was to become one of the most beloved and influential saints
of all time, known to the world as Thomas a Kempis.
In his solitary nights, Thomas wrote down his interior meditations,
prayers, and counsels, and these pure outflowings of Gods activity in
him were eventually collected in the form of a small book for the
spiritual benefit of those novices in his charge. In a very short time after
his death, however, this little book became frequently copied and widely
circulated, not only among ecclesiastics, but among the lay populace as
well; and was immediately received throughout Christiandom as a
supremely holy book of spiritual guidance. As the earliest Latin
manuscripts of this book were untitled, for purposes of identification it
was circulated under the title, Musica Ecclesiastica, or Music of The
Church; but later copiers, forming a title for it from the first few words
of the opening chapter, called it, De Imitatio Christi, or Of The

Imitation Of Christ. It is by that title that it is known to us today.
The 16th century Spaniard, Juan de la Cruz (1542-1591), known to
English-speaking people as John of the Cross, spoke with such simple
clarity and poetic beauty on the path of devotion, and with such
psychological subtlety on the mental stages leading to union, that all
others who have spoken of these matters seem, in comparison to him,
like babbling and stammering infants. Had he lived and written in our
own day, still the lucidity of his spiritual vision would be a matter for
wonder; the fact that he lived and wrote in the 16th century, in an age of
great narrow-mindedness and religious oppression, is nothing short of
If Thomas a Kempis was the epitome of the Christian bhakta in the 15th
century, Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464) was that centurys representative
jnani. But these two were not so far apart in thought as they might at
first appear; in fact, one may find stated in Thomas a Kempis writings
the same perennial philosophy found in Nicholas and vice versa.
Thomas a Kempis, however, was very much a figure of the Middle Ages,
while Nicholas, though outlived by Thomas, is generally regarded as a
transitionary figure, with one foot in the Middle Ages and one in the
Renaissance era. This is due primarily to the scope of Nicholas
interests, which led him into scientific, social, and political concerns as
well as strictly mystical ones. He was born Nicholas Krebs at Cues (Cusa) on
the Moselle river in the
Rhineland to a well-to-do barge captain, in 1401. Like Thomas a
Kempis, twenty years before him, Nicholas went as a young boy to the
Brethren of The Common Life at Deventer to receive his early education.
At the age of sixteen, he entered the University of Heidelberg, and then
transferred to the University of Padua, where he studied Canon law, the
sciences, mathematics, and Greek. He received his degree at the age of
twenty-two, and thereafter decided to enter the priesthood. Nicholas
studied theology at Cologne, as did Eckhart, and in 1426 became
secretary to the Cardinal legate, Giordano Orsini, becoming ordained as a
priest in 1430.
It would seem that around this time Nicholas collected and read a great
number of classic philosophical and mystical works, including those of
Plato, Eriugena, Dionysius the Areopagite, and especially Meister
Eckhart. Sometime around his twenty-eighth year, he must have
experienced the vision of God of which he was later to write so
lucidly. But, in the years that followed, Nicholas became caught up in
the politics of the Church and the ongoing disputes between the Church
and the state, thus beginning the career of reform and reconciliation,
which lasted, throughout his life. In 1440, during a respite from his political

Nicholas wrote his best known philosophical work, De docta ignorantia,
On Learned Ignorance.
Nicholas wrote his little book, De visio Dei, On The Vision Of God, in 1453.
This was also the Nicholas was a prolific writer on the theme of mystical
vision; in 1450
he had written his beautiful dialogue, De sapienta, On Wisdom, and in
his later years, De possest (1460), De non aliud (1462), and De
venatione sapientia (1463), an autobiographical recounting of his search
for wisdom. His primary and overriding interest was in explaining
mystical theology in accordance with his own mystical experience, but
he was also aware of the great need to combine with the devotional life a
love and respect for scientific knowledge in order to forge a unified and
rational comprehension of reality, extending from God to all creation.
He had a natural bent toward mathematics, and used many similies and
analogies from that discipline to illustrate his meaning in many of his
theological works. In addition, he wrote a number of purely mathematic
and scientific treatises advocating a more experimental approach to
knowledge of the natural world. Among these are Raparatio calendari
(1436), his treatment of the reform of the calendar; De quadratura circuli
(1452), and De staticis experimentis (1453). In addition to his
remarkable knowledge of mathematics, geometry and physical science,
he was also well versed in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Arabic. No
wonder, with all his vast learning and indefatigable energy,year that he wrote his
dialogue concerning the universal tolerance of all religions, De pace fidei,
in which he asserted that all religion[s] and the
worship of God, in all men endowed with the spirit, are fundamentally
one and the same, despite the diversity of their rites.

Thomas a Kempis had felt it irrelevant to

speak of the experience of unity; instead, he concentrated upon exhorting
his charges to make those preparations which would enable them to
experience it for themselves. Nicholas, on the other hand, had but little
to say about the path, and felt a necessity to underscore the truths learned
in that experience. There is not a mystic who ever lived who did not
declare emphatically and often that one cannot possibly know God
through the rational intellect, yet Nicholas of Cusa made this fact the
object of an entire book, and brought the point home in a forceful and
definitive manner to minds which, theretofore, had been unwilling to
hear the message. Because so many of his time were involved in the
futile exercise of dialectics, he felt called upon to make clear that no
amount of reasoning, no amount of intellectual effort, could reveal That
which was beyond the reach of words and intellectual conceptions. This
he did in a book entitled, On Learned Ignorance.

In this book, he pointed out to the dialecticians that all their metaphysical
and theological learning was, in fact, nothing more than ignorance; and
that, when they reached that understanding which allowed them to
acknowledge that all their learning had only brought them, and could
only bring them, to know that they did not know, then they will have
reached that state of learned ignorance wherefrom they could truly
begin to embark on their spiritual journey to true knowledge. Reason,
said Nicholas,
strives for knowledge and yet this natural striving is not
adequate to the knowledge of the Essence of God, but only to
the knowledge that God beyond all conception knowledge. 2
In each generation, the story of the
vision of Truth is retold, even by those who recognize the futility of such
telling. These secret things ought not to be revealed to everyone, because when
they are made known they appear to many as absurdities. 1
He knew well the futility of words to explain what can only be known
through experience; and yet he spoke all the same. For what else is one
to do, unless he abandon humanity altogether and play the fool?
...That wisdom (which all men by their very nature desire to
know and consequently seek after with such great affection of
mind) is known in no other way than that it is higher than all
knowledge and utterly unknowable and unspeakable in all
language. It is unintelligible to all understanding,
immeasurable by all measure, improportion-able by every
proportion, incomparable by all comparison, infigurable by all
figuration, unformable by all formation, ...unimaginable by all
imagination,... inapprehensible in all apprehension and
unaffirmable in all affirmation, undeniable in all negation,
indoubtable in all doubt, inopinionable in all opinion; and
because in all speech it is inexpressable, there can be no limit
to the means of expressing it, being incognitable in all
cognition... 3
But this declaration of the inability of the rational intellect to know God
is not the end but the beginning of Nicholas message, as it is of all
mystics from the authors of the Upanishads forward. The Reality, says
which is the truth of all beings, is unattainable in its purity;
all philosophers have sought it, none has found it, as it is; and
the more profoundly learned in this ignorance, the more we
shall approach Truth itself. 4
Those who think that wisdom is nothing other than that which
is comprehensible by the understanding, that happiness is
nothing else than what they can attain, are quite far from the

true eternal and infinite wisdom. 5
...The highest wisdom consists in this, to know ... how That
which is unattainable [by the intellect] may be reached or
attained in a manner beyond [intellectual] attainment. 6
Much of On Learned Ignorance and The Vision Of God as well is
devoted to proving by rational argument that God is quite beyond
rational comprehension. Nicholas does this by showing that God is
infinite, and therefore beyond all finite predications; and that God is the
coincidence of opposites (coincidentia oppositorum) and is therefore
beyond all thought or expression, which, by its very nature, is based on
either a positive or negative assertion. Nicholas arrived at this
understanding, however, not through logic or ratiocination, but through
direct experience of God.
This coincidence of opposites is the very nature of the mystical
experience. As one enters into the awareness of unity, one directly
perceives that all dualities are produced by the separative mind (or ego).
As that veil of false ego is dissolved, the duality of I and Thou
disappears; the fluctuating mind is stilled, and enters into a Stillness
beyond the opposites of motion and stillness. As this occurs, one realizes
that all that stood as a barrier to this Unity, is constructed of polarities.
For example, the activity of love necessitates its opposite, hatred; the
recognition of beauty necessitates the recognition of ugliness; the love of
knowledge begets a hatred for ignorance; our love of the true necessitates
the arising of repulsion for what is false; even our love of and desire for
Gods vision necessitates the despising of all that obscures it. Thus we
invent good and evil, likes and dislikes; we see movement and rest, and
all the other pairs of opposites, which go to make up our perception of
our separate reality.
But, in the Unity-awareness, which is the absolute Ground of all
existence, these opposites do not exist. As Nicholas says:
Because He is Himself the absolute Ground, in which all
contrariety (alteritas) is unity, and all diversity is identity, that
which we understand as diversity cannot exist in God. 7 ...Just
as contrariety in unity is without contrariety because it is
unity, even so, in infinity, contradiction is without
contradiction, because it is infinity. Infinity is simplicity
itself; contradiction cannot exist without a contrary. 8
...O Lord, my God, ... I see Thee to be Infinity Itself,
wherefore nothing is alien to Thee, nothing differing from
Thee, nothing opposed to Thee. For the Infinite allows no
otherness from Itself, since, being Infinity, nothing exists
outside It: absolute Infinity includes and contains all things. 9
In that Infinity, or Unity, the world-appearance is experienced as a cyclic

evolution and involution, or explication and complication, as
Nicholas puts it. Yet this primary dual motion of explication and
contraction, this recurring projection and withdrawal of the world appearance,
is reconciled or resolved in the primal Unity, which is
beyond all such opposites. It is unchanging, as It contains both
explication and contraction. The alternating explication and contraction
goes onas a mans breath goes on; but the One in whom this occurs
remains the same Unityas a man remains the same whether breathing
out or breathing in. That Unity is a One, not set over against a second,
but a One which encompasses all duality within Itself. This is the
simple Truth known by all who have risen to that unitive Awareness
which is the coincidence of all opposites.
Nicholas, having experienced that Unity-awareness, wherein all dualities
cease to be, sees this coincidence of opposites as a sort of threshold, or
wall, separating mortal awareness from God-awareness; he calls it the
wall of Paradise:
I have learnt that the place wherein Thou art found unveiled is
girt round with the coincidence of contradictories, and this is
the wall of Paradise wherein Thou dost abide. ...Thus tis
beyond the coincidence of contradictories that Thou mayest be
seen, and nowhere this side thereof. 10 ...O God almighty,
Thou dwellest within the wall of Paradise, and this wall is
that coincidence where later is one with earlier, where the end
is one with the beginning, where Alpha and Omega are one.11
All these polarities cease to be in the mystical vision. There is no
longer an I and a Thou, no longer a universe and a God, no longer a
separation between motion and rest, order and chaos, sound and silence.
That One is utter Unity, and It is oneself, ones only real, eternal, Self.
And the whole charade of polar opposites in comparison to that eternally
undivided Self is but a misty phantasy, as little affecting that Self as a
flimsy daydream. In that experience of Unity, a man realizes that That is
always and eternally his only Identity, despite the film of separate ego
and separate thought, which closes back in upon him, like moss on the
water, obscuring that pure Awareness. For he has seen in that Awareness
that this One is the only one anywhere; that that one Consciousness,
which is who he is eternally, is the source and manifestation of all that is.
Naturally, the separative mind, which exists and functions only as a
producer of opposites, can scarcely be expected to fathom That which is
beyond all opposites. Thought is made of opposites, and therefore
cannot be expected to conceive of That which produces it. It is only
when the mind, having become stilled and concentrated, rises to the
awareness of its own Ground and Source that this coincidence of
opposites occurs. One may practice this concentration through the

means of meditation or prayer, but one does not always succeed; it
occurs, in fact, but rarely. To anyone practicing this concentrated
transcendence of the ego-mind, it quickly becomes evident that it cannot
be done simply by ones own efforts. There must be a coincidence as
well of love and grace, which comes in its own time. It is set, as it
were, in the universal Will, and arises in its own due time during the
ordered unfolding of the universe.
We can only become aware of that grace as it increases in us. A strong
resolve arises in us to know God; our love for Him increases within us
beyond what we have experienced before, and we sense a nearness, a
proximity, which we long to close. It draws us like a magnet, increasing
within us Its own desire, until at last in a moment of yearning prayer, the
veil is drawn aside, the wall of contraries is passed, and the Unity dawns
within. This uncommon drawing-power experienced within is known as
grace. Everyone who has ever entered that Unity-awareness has
acknowledged its agency, and his own impotency without it.
When grace begins to be active within, the understanding becomes
quickened and illumined, and the heart becomes filled with a tender love
and yearning for God. The mind cannot bear to think of anything but
God, and it turns away from all mental apparitions to focus singly on its
Of his own mystical experience, Nicholas is typically silent in most of
his written works; but, in The Vision Of God, written for the monks of
Tegernsee, he does reveal something of his own vision. Here, he speaks
of how the Face of God may be seen beyond the veil of all appearances
and all faces:
Thou hast at times appeared unto me, Lord, not as one to be
seen of any creature, but as the hidden, infinite, God. 16
...In all faces is seen the Face of faces, veiled, and obscured,
although it is not seen unveiled until a man enters, beyond all
faces, into a certain secret and mystic silence where there is
no knowledge or concept of a face. This mist, cloud, darkness
or ignorance into which he that seeks Thy face enters when he
goes beyond all knowledge or concept, is a state beneath
which Thy face cannot be seen except veiled; but that
darkness reveals Thy face to be there, beyond all veils. 17
...Thou dost ravish me above myself that I may foresee the
glorious place whereunto Thou callest me. ...Thou grantest me
to behold the treasury of riches, of life, of joy, of beauty. ...
Thou keepest nothing secret. 18
...I behold Thee, O Lord my God, in a kind of mental trance, 19
...Thus, while I am borne to loftiest heights, I behold Thee as
Infinity... 20 ...And when I behold Thee as absolute Infinity, to

whom is befitting neither the name of creating Creator nor of
creatable Creatorthen indeed I begin to behold Thee
unveiled, and to enter into the garden of delights! 21
...[In that vision] nothing is seen other than Thyself, [for
Thou] art Thyself the object of Thyself (for Thou seest,
and art That which is seen, and art the sight as well)... 22
It is there, in that mystical experience of infinite Unity that one beholds
the wondrous and paradoxical nature of an unchangeable and immutable
One, which appears as the changeable and mutable world of multiplicity.
In wonder at this ineffable paradox, Nicholas exclaims:
O God, ...[Thou dost] seem subject to mutability, since Thou
dost never desert Thy creatures, which are subject to
mutability; ...but, because Thou art the absolute Good, Thou
art not changeable, and dost not follow what is mutable. O the
unplumbed depths of Thee, my God, who art not separate
from Thy creatures, and art nonetheless beyond them! 23
Like all others who have experienced God, and faced this conceptual
paradox, Nicholas finds it necessary, in order to explain the nature of an
unchangeable and constant Unity which appears as a changeable and
inconstant world-manifestation, to conceptually divide the one Reality
into categorically separate persona. He frames his conception in terms
identical to those used by the early Christians, Gnostics and Hermeticists.
God, he says, in His absolute and invariable Unity, is the Father; in His
mysterious creative Power of world-manifestation, He is the Son, or
the Word; and in His perceptible manifestation as the multiple forms
of the world, He is the Holy Spirit. Nicholas is always quick to remind
us that these three are always one, and are divided conceptually only in
order to make clear the various modes, or aspects, of the One.
As the Father, God is the absolute Unity, Infinity, Eternity. The
creative Power of God Nicholas explains as that potency within the
Father wherewith all things are produced from non-being to being. If
God, the unchanging Unity, be called the Father, then, says Nicholas,
His Power of manifestation is the Son:
He is God the Father whom we might also call One or
Unity, because He necessitates being out of what did not
exist (through His omnipotence) ... This [omnipotent Power
of His] is the Word, the Wisdom, the Son of the Father; and
we may regard Him as co-equal to the One or Unity. 24
And the Power or Energy which is manifested by the Word, or Son, and
which forms all things, is the Holy Spirit. It is the Word that is, itself,
manifest as the world, but to differentiate the cause, or Creator, from the
effect, or the created, he uses these two terms. Thus, these three
Father, Son, and Holy Spiritare but names for God, His Power of

Manifestation, and the world-appearance which is the product of that
Power. They are one in essence, but three when categorized according to
their different characteristics.
Thus the Essence is triune, and yet there are not three essences
therein, since It is most simple. The plurality of these three is
both plurality and unity, and their unity is both unity and
plurality. 25
Nicholas always stresses the essential unity of these three aspects of
Reality, rather than their apparent plurality. For his purpose is to show
that the world is nothing but the Word, and the Word is nothing but God;
and that, therefore, the world is nothing but God. What is the world,
asks Nicholas, but the manifestation of the invisible God? 26
This threefold categorization of Reality is, of course a formulation
common to all mystics of all traditions. In the Vedantic terminology, for
example, these three are Brahman, Maya, and Jagat; in the Shaivite
terminology, Shiva, Shakti, and samsara; for the Buddhists,
Dharmakaya, Purvapranidhanabala, and samsara; and so on. Nicholas
vision is, in all respects, common to all who, through inner vision, have
seen the Truth of existence and attempted to explain it in a way
comprehensible to the intellect. But this is not a mere theological
formula to be learned and mouthed by school children. It is to be
experienced in that inner vision wherein God as man awakens to his
divine Ground and eternal Identity through a loving regard, as that of a
son to his father, or an ardent lover to her beloved.
Man is at once the Essence and the appearance; both God and His
Thought-image. When he rises in awareness beyond the appearances of
the Thought-image, he knows his eternal Identityas a man, waking
from a dream, realizes he is not just the dream-image within a dream, but
the dreamer; or as an image in a mirror might behold him who is the
source, or original, of the image. When anyone looks into this mirror of
Eternity, says Nicholas,
what he sees is not the figure, but the Truth, whereof the
beholder himself is a figure. Wherefore, in Thee, my God,
the figure is [really] the Truth, and the Exemplar of all things
that exist. 27
...I am a living shadow and Thou the Truth... Wherefore, my
God, Thou art alike shadow and Truth; Thou art alike the
image and the Exemplar of myself and all men. 28
In his little book, De sapientia, On Wisdom, which is a dialogue
between a teacher and his student, Nicholas expresses most beautifully
the difference between that knowledge attainable through intellectual
learning, and that direct knowledge of God which is wisdom; and he
exhorts his readers to pass beyond a mere intellectual understanding to

that wisdom attainable only in the vision of God, through love and grace:

Juan de Yepes y Alvarez on June 24, 1542, at Fontiveros, a
small village about twenty-four miles northwest of Avila in the district of
Old Castille. In 1567, at the age of twenty-five, he was ordained.
It was just at this time that Juan met the nun, Mother Teresa de Jesus,
who was then a woman past fifty years of age, and who was later to be
recognized as a saint, and known to the world as Teresa of Avila.
The Carmelites traced their ancestry to a group of anchorites who dwelt
on Mount Carmel in Palestine in ancient times, and who adopted in the
12th century the strict Rule of Saint Albert, the Latin Patriarch of
Jerusalem, which placed special emphasis on poverty, strict enclosure,
fasting and prayer. By the mid-thirteenth century, this Rule was relaxed,
and again made even milder in the mid-fifteenth century by order of
Pope Eugenius IV. In 1562, Teresa of Avila founded the Discalced
Carmelites, calling for a return to the primitive Rule, a return to the
original ideals of the strictly contemplative life.
The strict tenets of Teresas new Order were solely directed toward the
reformation of the heart, in order that it might receive the grace of divine
love, and toward the focusing of the hearts intent on the pursuit of the
holy union of the soul with the Divine. Thus, they called for very little
of outward works or preaching, but focused entirely on a life of interior
recollection and prayer, and a singular devotion to God alone, to the
exclusion of all else.
Juan was thereupon found guilty of rebellion and contumacy, and
condemned to an unspecified term of imprisonment. He was thrown into
a closet six feet by ten feet, which had served as a privy to an adjoining
guest-chamber. This was in December of 1557. His home for the next
nine months was this small stone privy-closet, lit only by a small hole at
the top.
It was during this nine months in his tiny cell that Juan wrote down, on
scraps of paper given to him by a sympathetic jailer, the verses which
were to comprise his most famous and exquisite poetry on the dark
night of the soul, and its union with its Lord. It was there, in this most
wretched physical state, that his mind, freed from all but God, his only
solace, experienced that illumination which he calls the divine
marriage of the soul and God.
Juans prose works, each corresponding to one of his short poems, are
The Ascent of Mount Carmel, The Dark Night (which was intended as
part of The Ascent), The Spiritual Canticle, and The Living Flame Of
Love. The path he expounds in these works is not, in the least way,
different from that shown by the devotional saints of all religious

traditions; his distinction lies, rather, in the keen clarity of his perception
of the progressive psychological stages along the way, and the amazingly
lucid and convincing way in which he describes these stations. Anyone
who has traveled the path of divine lovewhether Hindu, Jew, Buddhist
or Sufimust stand in awe, and thrill with delight, before these written
works of Fray Juan de la Cruz; for no more true and perfect description
of the mystical path of devotion could ever be imagined.
The goal of the mystic is Truth,
God, the Highestin short, the ultimate perfection and beatitude. For
the lover, all this is summed as union with the Beloved. To be united
with God is to be dis-united with the separative ego; to see the one Self is
to become blind to the desires and appetites of the individual self. The
knowledge, pleasure, and enjoyment of God is obtained internally and
not externally; and therefore the knowledge, pleasure and enjoyment of
the phenomenal world is not included in it.
.those who look to the Eternal, the Absolute, do so only
by looking away from the transient, the phenomenal; and those who look
to the transient, phenomenal world necessarily look away from the
Eternal. Make no mistake: though these two are undoubtedly
complementary aspects of the same one Reality, they are, to the vision,
mutually exclusive. Juan expresses this fact in this way:
The high things of God are foolishness and madness to man...
Hence the wise men of God and the wise men of the world are
foolish in the eyes of each other, for to the one group, the
wisdom and knowledge of God is imperceivable, and to the
other, the knowledge of the world is imperceivable. Wherefore
the knowledge of the world is ignorance to the knowledge of
God, and the knowledge of God is ignorance to the knowledge
of the world. 2
The wisdom of God lies in a direction opposite to the wisdom of the
world, but to the normally active and outgoing mind, such a 180 turnaround
is as difficult as holding back a raging river or a dozen wild
horses. To Juan, this total denial of the outgoing tendencies of the mind
and will is like a dark night for the soul. And in his poem, called The
Dark Night, he tells of the journey of the soul to union with God in
allegorical terms, describing a midnight rendezvous of a lover with her
beloved. In his commentary on this poem, he explains that he describes
this journey as taking place on a dark night because, in setting out on this
journey, the soul must be emptied of all appetite or desire for what
belongs to the phenomenal world; and this, to the soul, is like darkness.
Secondly, the path itself is dark, as it may not be negotiated by the light
of the reasoning intellect, but in the darkness of faith alone. Thirdly,
says Juan, God, Himself, the Objective and End of the journey, is

profound darkness to the mind and senses accustomed to the light of the
In addition to the renunciation of the appetites, there is yet another,
complementary, ingredient in the successful attainment of union with
God; and that is grace. Grace is, of course, ever-present, and is the hand
that upholds an aspirant every step of the way; but the grace of divine
love, the grace of extreme longing for God, is a very special and highly
significant grace. The desire for God, says Juan, is the preparation for
union with Him. ... If a person is seeking God, his Beloved is seeking
him much more. And if a soul directs to God its loving desires, God
sends forth His fragrance by which He draws it and makes it run after
Him.8 And yet this love is an afflictive and joyless love, until it is
consummated; for, though it enters sweetly, it brings the soul near to
death before its work is done.
Yet, as the soul draws nearer to God, through this infused flame of love,
its suffering grows even more intense as it longs solely for the
consummation of that love, in the perfect meeting with the Beloved.
Brought, by grace, to utter humility and nothingness, it is prepared to
make that final ascent.
In the 20th Century there were an exceptional few Christian writers, even during
those awful
war years, who advanced the call to mystical knowledge, such as Evelyn
Underhill (1875-1941), Dean Inge (1860-1954) and Thomas Merton
It was not until the 1950s, however, that the new availability of
inexpensive paperback volumes served to familiarize an increasing
segment of the public with the past mystics of every religious tradition.
The works of D.T. Suzuki, R.H. Blyth, Christmas Humphries, Philip
Kapleau and other Buddhist scholars created a great deal of interest in
Zen Buddhism; and the publication of ancient Sufi works translated by
A.J. Arberry and R.A. Nicholson brought about an increased familiarity
with that tradition as well. By the 1960s, a large-scale Renaissance of
mysticism had surfaced in the West. During that decade, hundreds of
scholarly works and translations of mystical literature were published in
Europe and America, and thousands of eager young minds were
awakened to the life of devotion and meditation on the Self.

As mentioned previously at the beginning of the numerous quotes on the
insights, teachings and lives of these mystics, the above are from The History of
Mysticism (30th edition) by Swami Abhayananda. (Stan Trout)

The History of Mysticism: The Unchanging Testament Paperback

October, 2002 by Swami Abhayananda .
Also see:

1. Mystical Experience

2. Categories of Mystical Experiences

3. The Attributes of Mystical Experience

4. Perennialism

5. Pure Conscious Events (PCEs)

6. Constructivism

7. Inherentists vs. Attributionists

8. Epistemology: The Doxastic Practice Approach and the

Argument from Experience

9. Mysticism, Religious Experience, and Gender


Many important books listed

Academic Tools

Other Internet Resources

Related Entries

Underhill, Evelyn, 1945, Mysticism, A study in the Nature and

Development of Man's Spiritual Consciousness, London:
Mysticism, by Evelyn Underhill, [1911], at
Essential reading the article linked above.
2 Definitions

2.1 Mystical experience and union with the Divine or


2.2 Religious ecstasies and interpretative context

2.3 Intuitive insight and enlightenment

2.4 Spiritual life and re-formation

3 History of the term

3.1 Early Christianity

3.2 Medieval meaning

3.3 Early modern meaning

3.4 Contemporary meaning

4 Scholarly approaches of mystical experience

4.1 Mystical experiences

4.2 Perennialism versus constructionism

4.3 Contextualism and attribution theory

4.4 Neurological research

4.5 Mysticism and morality

5 Forms of mysticism

5.1 Shamanism

5.2 Western mysticism

o 5.2.1 Mystery religions

o 5.2.2 Christian mysticism

o 5.2.3 Western esotericism and modern spirituality

5.3 Jewish mysticism

5.4 Islamic mysticism

5.5 Indian religions

o 5.5.1 Hinduism

o 5.5.2 Tantra

o 5.5.3 Sant-tradition and Sikhism

5.6 Buddhism

5.7 Taoism

5.8 The Secularization of Mysticism

6 See also
7 Notes
8 References
9 Sources

9.1 Published sources

9.2 Web-sources

10 Further reading
11 External links

Are there characteristics we can identify in the descriptions of
the cases of religious experience and mystical experience we
have quoted? Are any of them philosophically relevant? Do they
reveal certain values, norms, attitudes, aims and other aspects
of a shared intersubjectivity? Is this a specialized type of
intersubjectivity? Are there different types of intersubjectivity,
for example in different countries, cultures, communities,
groups, disciplines and socio-cultural practices?

a) Intersubjectivity emphasizes that shared cognition and

consensus is essential in shaping our ideas and relations.
Language, quintessentially, is viewed as communal rather
than private. Therefore, it is problematic to view the
individual as partaking in a private world, one whose
meaning is defined apart from any other subjects. But in
our shared divergence from a commonly understood
experience, these private worlds of semi-solipsism
naturally emerge.
Intersubjectivity is a term used in philosophy, psychology,
sociology, and anthropology to represent the psychological
relation between people. It is usually used in contrast to
solipsistic individual experience, emphasizing our inherently
social being
b) In philosophy
2 In psychoanalysis
3 In philosophy
In the debate between cognitive individualism and cognitive
universalism, some aspects of thinking are neither solely
personal nor fully universal. Cognitive sociology proponents
argue for intersubjectivityan intermediate perspective of
social cognition that provides a balanced view between
personal and universal views of our social cognition. This
approach suggests that, instead of being individual or universal
thinkers, human beings subscribe to "thought communities"
communities of differing beliefs. Thought community examples
include churches, professions, scientific beliefs, generations,
nations, and political movements.[11] This perspective explains
why each individual thinks differently from each another
(individualism): person A may choose to adhere to expiry dates
on foods, but person B may believe that expiry dates are only
guidelines and it is still safe to eat the food days past the expiry
date. But not all human beings think the same way

3.1 Phenomenology

4 In psychology
5 In child development

5.1 Across cultures

6 See also
7 References
8 Further reading

8.1 Psychoanalysis

8.2 Philosophy

Intersubjectivity and philosophy:

Jean-Paul Sartre

Martin Buber

Gabriel Marcel


Edmund Husserl


Eviatar Zerubavel

Emmanuel Levinas

9 External links

Brandchaft, Doctors & Sorter (2010). Toward an

Emancipatory Psychoanalysis. Routledge: New York.

Laplanche, J. & Pontalis, J. B. (1974). The Language of

Psycho-Analysis, Edited by W. W. Norton & Company, ISBN

Orange, Atwood & Stolorow (1997). Working

Intersubjectively. The Analytic Press: Hillsdale, NJ.

Stolorow, R. D., Atwood, G. E., & Orange, D. M. (2002).

Worlds of Experience: Interweaving Philosophical and
Clinical Dimensions in Psychoanalysis. New York: Basic

Stolorow & Atwood (1992). Contexts of Being. The Analytic

Press: Hillsdale, NJ.

Stolorow, Brandchaft & Atwood (1987). Psychoanalytic

Treatment: An Intersubjective Approach. The Analytic
Press:Hillsdale, NJ.


Edmund Husserl Zur Phnomenologie der

Intersubjektivitt. Texte aus dem Nachlass 1905-1920

Edmund Husserl Zur Phnomenologie der

Intersubjektivitt. Texte aus dem Nachlass 1921-1928

Edmund Husserl Zur Phnomenologie der
Intersubjektivitt. Texte aus dem Nachlass 1929-1935

Edmund Husserl Cartesian Meditations, Edited by S.

Strasser, 1950. ISBN 978-90-247-0068-4

Critique of intersubjectivity Article by Mats Winther

Edmund Husserl: Empathy, intersubjectivity and lifeworld,

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Contemporarily, intersubjectivity is a major topic in both the analytic and the

continental traditions of philosophy. Intersubjectivity is considered crucial not
only at the relational level but also at the epistemological and even metaphysical
levels. For example, intersubjectivity is postulated as playing a role in
establishing the truth of propositions, and constituting the so-called objectivity
of objects.

A central concern in consciousness studies of the past 50 years is the so-called

problem of other minds, which asks how we can justify our belief that people
have minds much like our own and predict others' mind-states and behavior, as
our experience shows we often can.[10] Contemporary philosophical theories of
intersubjectivity need to address the problem of other minds.

In the debate between cognitive individualism and cognitive universalism, some

aspects of thinking are neither solely personal nor fully universal. Cognitive
sociology proponents argue for intersubjectivityan intermediate perspective of
social cognition that provides a balanced view between personal and universal
views of our social cognition. This approach suggests that, instead of being
individual or universal thinkers, human beings subscribe to "thought
communities"communities of differing beliefs. Thought community examples
include churches, professions, scientific beliefs, generations, nations, and
political movements.[11] This perspective explains why each individual thinks
differently from each another (individualism): person A may choose to adhere to
expiry dates on foods, but person B may believe that expiry dates are only
guidelines and it is still safe to eat the food days past the expiry date. But not all
human beings think the same way (universalism).

Intersubjectivity argues that each thought community shares social experiences

that are different from the social experiences of other thought communities,

creating differing beliefs among people who subscribe to different thought
communities. These experiences transcend our subjectivity, which explains why
they can be shared by the entire thought community.[12] Proponents of
intersubjectivity support the view that individual beliefs are often the result of
thought community beliefs, not just personal experiences or universal and
objective human beliefs. Beliefs are recast in terms of standards, which are set
by thought communities.

Intersubjectivity-1 (standard definition): consensual

validation between independent subjects via exchange of
signals. I call this semiotic intersubjectivity
Intersubjectivity-2 (weak-experiential definition): "mutual
engagement and participation between independent subjects,
which directly conditions their respective experience." The term
"weak experiential" is misleading here, I prefer to say
psychological intersubjectivity
Intersubjectivity-3 (strong-experiential definition): "mutual co-arising and
engagement of interdependent subjects, or 'intersubjects' which creates
their respective experience." This is better defined as ontological or
metaphysical intersubjectivity, for example Whitehead's Process Philosophy
and Co-Creation

de Quincey is highly critical of Ken Wilber, another philosopher of

intersubjectivity, both regarding his excessively intellectual edifice and his more
limited idea of intersubjectivity as limited to his Lower Left quadrant (=
Intersubjectivity-1 and 2). However according to Sean Esbjorn-Hargens he
oversimplifies and misrepresents Wilber. Wilber clearly is a very difficult and
cantankerous author to understand, and I don't want to enter into this particular
argument. But Esbjorn-Hargens, who does a good job in his co-authored book
Integral Ecology of making Wilber more understandable, argues that Wilber's

definition is rather more nuanced. Because I'm interested in trying to find as
many definitions as possible, I'll quote Esbjorn-Hargens here, along with some

Wilber uses the same term, "intersubjectivity," to refer to at least five different
dimensions of intersubjectivity. Thus, when approaching Wilber on the topic of
intersubjectivity one needs to be sensitive to the context, which is often the
only indicator of which type of intersubjectivity is being explained. Though
this presentation doesn't afford the space for a thorough explanation of these
dimensions, let me briefly introduce them with terms I have generated:

1. Intersubjectivity-as-spirit: the transcendental quality of all relationships

that allows for any dimension of intersubjectivity to manifest. The only reason
that two subjectivities can touch simultaneously (co-presence) is that they
are ultimately only one Subject. [MAK: Intersubjectivity as nonduality - this
can be added to de Quincey's list, as Intersubjectivity-4.]

2. Intersubjectivity-as-context: the context created by multiple intersubjective

structures (i.e., meshworks) which are constitutive of the subject and create
the space in which both subjects and objects arise (e.g., physical laws,
morphic fields, linguistic, moral, cultural, biological, and aesthetic structures).
These cultural contexts, backgrounds, and practices are nondiscursive and
inaccessible via direct experience. [MAK: This category would seem to combine
de Quincey's ontological intersubjectivity (Intersubjectivity-3) with Wilber's
standard Intersubjectivity as Lower Left quadrant]

3. Intersubjectivity-as-resonance: the occurrence of "mutual recognition" and

"mutual understanding" between two holons of similar depth. Within this
dimension there are Worldspaces and Worldviews.

Worldspaces: ontological resonance between two subjects

who share emergent domains (e.g., physical, emotional,
mental, and spiritual). Here, mutual recognition is simple
co-presence prior to reflection (precognitive). [MAK:
Wilber's latest work rejects ontology, hence this category
cannot be distinguished from the next, unless it's by

Worldviews: epistemological resonance between two

subjects who share a level of psychological development
(e.g., archaic, magic, mythic, rational, and centauric). Here
mutual understanding is co-presence via cognition, which
complexifies with development. This is the cognitive
component of a shared worldspace. [MAK: perhaps these
two categories could be called Intersubjectivity-1 1/2, or
psychosocial intersubjectivity]

4. Intersubjectivity-as-relationship: the way we identify with and have

relationship with other subjects and objects. Within this dimension there are
at least three types of relationships.

It-It relationships: an objective subject in relation with an

objective object.

I-It relationships: a subject in relationship with an object

(or a subject seen as an object).

I-I relationships: a subject in relationship with a subject.

This last subdivision has two general forms, either
solidarity or difference. [MAK: This is all about
perspectives, which is very big in Wilber's post-
metaphysics. Wilber only has three main perspectives,
with otehrs being convoluted meta-views ("I know that
you know that I know"...), whereas I have postulated
further perspectives of nonduality and beyond. In any
case, all these Wilberian perspectives can be pretty much
reduced to subsets of Intersubjectivity-1 and 2]

o Relationship-as-solidarity: relating to another subject

because they mirror your values, ethnicity, gender, or
nationality etc.

o Relationship-as-difference: relating to another

subject as a subject despite the fact that they are
different from you in important ways. ( MAK: These
two sub-categories can be considered variants of

It is also helpful to keep in mind a related quality to intersubjectivity, namely:

5. Intersubjectivity-as-phenomenology: the felt-experience of different

dimensions of intersubjectivity, including: spirit, resonance, and relationships.
Note that intersubjectivity-as-context is not available as "felt-experience" by its
very nature of constituting the subject prior to experience. [MAK: This category

seems to combine Intersubjectivity-1 (phenomenology) and 3 (process

I have to admit, this Wilber stuff gives me a huge headache. In comparison, de

Quincey (who is also quite tecyhnical) is simplicity itself! It is easy to
understand why it is so difficult to criticise Wilber, one is confronted with a
convoluted labyrinth. As for myself, I prefer to make esoteric and metaphysical
ideas as simple as possible

At best Wilber adds one new category, possibly two. A further dimension of
Intersubjectivity, curiously not mentioned by Wilber in view of hsi Mahayana
Buddhist leanings, is Tu-shun's non-obstruction of Shih against Shih . "Indra's

Therefore the following dimensions of Intersubjectivity, from the most trivial to

the most profound, can be listed:

semiotic intersubjectivity

psychosocial intersubjectivity

psychological intersubjectivity

metaphysical intersubjectivity

nondual intersubjectivity

Indra's Net

Welcome to the Kheper website. The word Kheper means

evolution, metamorphosis, transformation, coming into

I first encountered the idea of Intersubjectivity in the work of Ken Wilber,
although it seems it originally developed in psychology and phenomenology.
The concept has however been developed in much greater detail by
Transpersonal Psychologist Christian de Quincey (who is also critical of
Wilber's interpretations)

As I further developed my own Integral Philosophy (inspired in part by

Wilber;'s work, but also realising the deficiencies of his methodology), I began
to realise that Intersubjectivity (by which is meant Intersubjectivity-2 and 3 in
the above definitions) was actually something quite important. For example, I
realised its connection with Martin Buber's I-Thou relationship and with
sentientism and constructing a universal ethical system that goes beyond
anthropocentricism to include not just eco-spirituality but love of animals (and
indeed of all sentient beings) as well.

It also occured to me that every interaction we have with the world, whether
on the gross physical or the subtle/auric level, and whether with inanimate
(inconscient) objects, nature, non-human animals, humans, devas, or any other
being, is intersubjective and participatory in some way, and ideally can aid in
transforming the world

Intersubjectivity, occurs whenever the individual consciousness interacts

with or contacts other subjective or objective persons, beings or things
beyond its own boundaries. There is then the option of dualistic ego/shadow-
projection, in which case the Other is interpreted only through the distorting
veils of one's own lower-astral generated delusion, or else egoic and narcissism
is transcended in favour of degrees of empathic expansion, including selfless
identification and sympathetic joy and compassion with other human beings,
non-human animals, the environment, or physical and non-physical sentient
beings as a whole.

Intersubjectivity is shared understanding that helps us

relate one situation to another. Sociologists who reject the
assumption of the objective nature of social reality and focus
on the subjective experience of actors have to avoid reducing
the world only to personal experience. Intersubjectivity that
aims at fusion with the other is too narrow to account for the
constitution of subjectivity and subjectivism.

Through intersubjectivity ordinary people as well as
sociologists assume that if another stood in their shoes
they would see the same things. We all make our subjective
experience available and understandable to others. What might
constitute intersubjective relations during infancy and early
childhood remains a puzzle within and beyond psychology.

Intersubjectivity implies that students are tasked with

discovering how to build knowledge and instructors are tasked
with guiding students in these processes. The inference to
other minds by analogy with one's own is unconvincing, yet all
our social interaction assume we can identify others' belief and

Patterns of Intersubjectivity in the Constitution of

Subjectivity: Dimensions of Otherness
Nelson Ernesto Coelho, Jr., Lus Claudio Figueiredo
Four matrices are described through references to their
proponents: (a) trans-subjective intersubjectivity (Martin
Heidegger); (b) traumatic intersubjectivity (Emmanuel
Levinas); (c) interpersonal intersubjectivity (George Herbert
Mead); and (d) intrapsychic intersubjectivity (Sigmund Freud).
Intersubjective dimensions are understood as indicating
dimensions of otherness.

Constitution of the Self: Intersubjectivity and

Ivana Markov, University of Stirling, Scotland, UK - Culture &
Psychology, Vol. 9, No. 3, 249-259 (2003)
The polysemic nature of intersubjectivity stems not only from
diverse pursuits and goals but also from different ontologies of

Intersubjectivity and Temporal Reference in Television

Stephanie Marriott - Time & Society, Vol. 4, No. 3, 345-364
Television commentary gives rise to an electronically mediated


The Achievement of Intersubjectivity through Embodied

Completions: A Study of Interactions Between First and
Second Language Speakers - Junko Mori, University of
Makoto Hayashi, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign -
Applied Linguistics 2006 27(2).
The coordination of vocal and non-vocal resources that are
brought to bear on the achievement of intersubjectivity.

Reconciling communicative action with recognition

thickening the inter of intersubjectivity
Eva Erman, Department of Political Science
The symmetry implied by social contract theory and so-called
Golden Rule thinking is anchored to a Cartesian subjectobject
world and is not equipped to address recognition.

Feeling Gender Speak - Intersubjectivity and Fieldwork

Practice with Women Who Prostitute in Lima, Peru
Lorraine Nencel, De Vrije Universiteit
This article discusses a dimension of fieldwork methodology
often overlooked. The discovery brought several
epistemological principles into question pertaining to power and
intersubjectivity subscribed to in a feminist or critical

The ontological co-emergence of 'self and other' in

Japanese philosophy
Yoko Arisaka, Philosophy Department
Abstract: The issues regarding intersubjectivity have been
central topics in modern Japanese philosophy. Watsuji's
phenomenology deals more directly with the topic of

The Husserlian theory of intersubjectivity as alterology.

emergent theories and wisdom traditions in the light of
genetic phenomenology
Natalie Depraz, College International de Philosophie
Abstract: The relevance of Husserlian Theory of
Intersubjectivity for contemporary empirical research and for
ancestral wisdom. Two main Husserlian discoveries that
subjectivity is from the very beginning intersubjectivity and
infants, animals, the insane and aliens are subjects in a full
sense as they are right from the beginning already
intersubjective subjects.

The practice of mind. Theory, simulation or primary

Shaun Gallagher, Department of Philosophy, Canisius College,
Abstract: That theory of mind is our primary and pervasive
means for understanding other persons, go beyond the
scientific empirical evidence and phenomenological evidence.

Burnout and intersubjectivity: A psychoanalytical study

from a Lacanian perspective
Stijn Vanheule, An Lievrouw, Paul Verhaeghe, Ghent University,
Human Relations, Vol. 56, No. 3, 321-338 (2003)
On the basis of qualitative research data we investigate to what
extent Lacan's model of intersubjectivity helps us to
understand the burnout process. Outlining intersubjectivity
through the dialectical master and slave relationship and the
difference between imaginary and symbolic interactions.

The 'shared manifold' hypothesis. From mirror neurons

to empathy
Vittorio Gallese, Istituto di Fisiologia Umana.
Abstracts: This account of intersubjectivity based on the
findings of neuroscientific investigation will be discussed in
relation with a classical tenet of phenomenological sociology.

Understanding the representational mind. A prerequisite

for intersubjectivity proper
Iso Kern, Institute of Philosophy, Eduard Marbach, Institute of
Philosophy, University of Bern.
Abstracts: The study of intersubjectivity is closely tied to
questions of the representational mind. It focuses on
developmental studies of children's understanding of the
human mind.

A Philosopher Manqu? Simone de Beauvoir, Moral

Values and 'The Useless Mouths'
Elizabeth Stanley, University of Manchester, UK
European Journal of Women's Studies, Vol. 8, No. 2, 201-220
Les Bouches inutiles and the Useless Mouths, to examine ideas
about morality, ethics and intersubjectivity expressed within it.

Scandalous ethics. Infinite presence with suffering

Annabella Pitkin, Barnard College, Columbia University, 3009
Broadway, New York, NY 10027, USA
Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8, No. 5-7, 2001, pp. 231-
Abstracts: Buddhist and Jewish thinkers say scandalous things
on purpose.Scandalous things are said in order to cause a
breaking-open in the consciousness of the hearer and
practitioner, which produces compassion, transformation, and

Matrix and Intersubjectivity: Phenomenological Aspects

of Group Analysis
Hans W. Cohn, School of Psychotherapy and Counselling,
Regent's College, London
Group Analysis, Vol. 26, No. 4, 481-486 (1993)
A move from an extreme subjectivism to a complete dismissal
of the subject. Matrix and intersubjectivity are the relevant
fields of experience.

Encounters with animal minds

Barbara Smuts, Department of Psychology, University of

Michigan, 525 East University, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1109, USA
Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8, No. 5-7, 2001, pp. 293-
Abstracts: Explores the kinds of relationships that can develop
between human and nonhuman animals. How Safi and I co-
create systems of communication and emotional expression
that permit deep 'intersubjectivity.'

Empathy and consciousness

Evan Thompson, Department of Philosophy, York University,
4700 Keele Street, North York, Ontario M3J 1P3, Canada
Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8, No. 5-7, 2001, pp. 1-32
Abstracts: That Individual human consciousness is formed in
the dynamic interrelation of self and other and is inherently

Holding in Mind: Intersubjectivity, Subject Relations and

the Group
Phil Schulte, NHS psychotherapy service in Bexley, Kent
Group Analysis, Vol. 33, No. 4, 531-544 (2000)
Intersubjectivity is emerging as a key concept in
psychoanalysis. The intersubjective perspective stands in
contrast to classical psychoanalytic theorizing.

Intersubjectivity in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism

B. Alan Wallace, Department of Religious Studies, University of
California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-3130, USA
Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8, No. 5-7, 2001, pp. 209-
Abstracts: Buddhist concepts of intersubjectivity like the
meditative practice of dream yoga is shown to have deep
implications regarding the nature of intersubjectivity.

The Politics of Problems: Intersubjectivity in Defining

Powerful Others
Sue Jones, University of Bath
Human Relations, Vol. 37, No. 11, 881-894 (1984)
How persons in organizations, tackling what they define as

complex problems, define others as significant in terms of their
perceived power.

Beyond empathy. Phenomenological approaches to

Dan Zahavi, Danish Institute for Advanced Studies in
Humanities, Vimmelskaftet 41A, 2, DK-1161 Copenhagen K,
Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8, No. 5-7, 2001, pp. 151-
Abstracts: The phenomenologists argue that a treatment of
intersubjectivity requires a simultaneous analysis of the
relationship between subjectivity and world.

From intersubjectivity to intercorporeality: contributions

of a phenomenological philosophy to the psychological
study of alterity. - COELHO JUNIOR, Nelson Ernesto.
Abstract: Philosophical questioning of intersubjectivity in the
phenomenological theories of Husserl, Scheler and Merleau-

Paths of intersubjectivity: Ferenczi, Bion, Matte-Blanco.

Psicol. USP, 1999, vol.10, no.1, p.141-155. ISSN 0103-
6564. GERBER, Igncio
Abstract: Intersubjectivity is pertinent to the freudian concept
of Psychoanalysis. It was Ferenczi, the pioneer in the
investigations of emotions.

Sequentiality as a problem and resource for

intersubjectivity in aphasic conversation: analysis and
implications for therapy - Wilkinson R.
Source: Aphasiology, Volume 13, Numbers 4-5, 1 April 1999,
pp. 327-343(17)
Abstract: Investigations of non-aphasic conversation have
displayed the importance of sequentiality in the meaning and
understanding of utterances in conversation.

The Intersubjectivity of Interaction

John W. Du Bois, University of California, Santa Barbara
Why is it necessary to integrate intersubjectivity into any
understanding of language and social life? How does
intersubjectivity relate to stance?

Labour and Intersubjectivity: Notes on the Natural Law

of Copyright
ABRAHAM DRASSINOWER, University of Toronto - Faculty of
Stanford/Yale Jr. Faculty Forum Paper No. 01-06 and U of
Toronto, Public Law Research Paper No. 01-06
Abstract: A theoretical approach to copyright law centred on
authorial right and capable of accounting for the public interest
in access to intellectual creations. The paper offers a rights-
based interpretation of the idea-expression-dichotomy inspired
by Kant's theory of property.

Grounding Signs of Culture: Primary Intersubjectivity in

Social Semiosis
Stephen J. Cowley, Sheshni Moodley, Agnese Fiori-Cowley,
Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Bradford, UK,
University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Mind, Culture, and Activity 2004, Vol. 11, No. 2, Pages 109-
Abstract: The article examines how infants are first permeated
by culture. Building on Thibault (2000), semiogenesis is traced
to the joint activity of primary intersubjectivity.


ABSTRACT: After exploring the concept of projective
identification and the claims from various contemporary
psychoanalysts the paper explores the philosophical concept of

Considering the nature of intersubjectivity within

professional nursing

Wanda Pierson
Abstract: This article examines some of the notions of
intersubjectivity and proposes an alternative understanding.

Communication Media and Intersubjectivity in Small

Shaila Miranda, University of Oklahoma
Robert P. Bostrom, University of Georgia
Leslie Jordan Albert, University of Oklahoma
ABSTRACT:Signification, comprehension, and emotional
contagion. Results indicate that the effects of CMC on all three
processes were negative and that signification and
comprehension had positive effects on the intersubjective social
construction of meaning.

Between Subjects: Shared Meanings of

Authors: Leadbeater, Bonnie J.
Abstract: This review of the theoretical foundations of
intersubjectivity argues that the problem lies in the
developmental starting points of the theories.

Holding in Mind: Intersubjectivity, Subject Relations and

the Group
Phil Schulte, NHS psychotherapy service in Bexley, Kent
The intersubjective perspective stands in contrast to classical
psychoanalytic theorizing.

Perverse Ethics - The Body, Gender and

Lara Merlin, Rutgers University - Feminist Theory, Vol. 4, No. 2,
165-178 (2003)
The violence of Western culture derives from a particular
gendered fantasy of bodily organization. By re-imagining the
body, it becomes possible, not to avoid loss, but rather to alter
its meaning.

Critique of Intersubjectivity

Abstract: The article investigates the philosophical and
psychological notion of intersubjectivity.

Bayesian Intersubjectivity and Quantum Theory

Prez-Surez, Marcos; Santos, David J.
Abstract: Frequentism and Bayesian theory are discussed
together with the replacement of frequentist objectivity for
Bayesian intersubjectivity.


The article investigates the philosophical/psychological notion of

intersubjectivity and argues that our subjective involvement in each other,
especially the psychoanalytic relation between analyst and analysand, ought to
be regarded as an involvement on the unconscious level. The diverse notions of
a joint conscious creation, or joint narrative, implying a relative merger of our
conscious personalities, are harmful and will not invoke a wholesome form of
subjective engagement.

Keywords: intersubjectivity, Ogden, relational field, the analytic third, narrative.


I contend that there are two kinds of intersubjectivity: (1) the unsound merger
theories and (2) the sound version where the intersubjective co-creation takes
place autonomously in the unconscious, (? Or as values, norms, etc?) supported
by an ego that allows for autonomy by defining itself against both inner
otherness and outer otherness. It implies that the unconscious is
acknowledged as a comparably autonomous inner other, rather than a passive
storage space for repressions or introjected object-relations.

The realm of unconscious co-creation can be viewed as a greenhouse, which

must be carefully maintained over a long time. If a seed is buried in the earth
then we have to leave it there. One cant simply tear it up, lay it on the table,
saying, this is what I find in the unconscious. This will only destroy the
burgeoning plant. Instead one must water it modestly. When it begins to sprout,
it should be exposed to a little sunlight (=conscious recognition), but not too
7. Empathy, intersubjectivity and lifeworld

One of the main themes of transcendental phenomenology is intersubjectivity.

Among other things, it is discussed in considerable detail in the 5th of the
Cartesian Meditations and in the manuscripts published in vol. XIII-XV of
Husserliana. (A particularly important critique of Husserl's view on
intersubjectivity from a sociological viewpoint is found in Schtz 1966.)

According to Husserl, intersubjective experience plays a fundamental role in

our constitution of both ourselves as objectively existing subjects, other
experiencing subjects, and the objective spatio-temporal world. Transcendental
phenomenology attempts to reconstruct the rational structures underlyingand
making possiblethese constitutive achievements.

From a first-person point of view, intersubjectivity comes in when we undergo

acts of empathy. Intersubjective experience is empathic experience; it occurs in
the course of our conscious attribution of intentional acts to other subjects, in
the course of which we put ourselves into the other one's shoes. In order to
study this kind of experience from the phenomenological attitude, we must
bracket our belief in the existence of the respective target of our act-ascription
qua experiencing subject and ask ourselves which of our further beliefs justify
that existence-belief as well as our act-ascription. It is these further beliefs that
make up the rational structure underlying our intersubjective experience. Since
it takes phenomenological investigation to lay bare these beliefs, they must be
first and foremost unconscious when we experience the world in the natural

Among the fundamental beliefs thus uncovered by Husserl is the belief (or
expectation) that a being that looks and behaves more or less like myself, i.e.,
displays traits more or less familiar from my own case, will generally perceive
things from an egocentric viewpoint similar to my own (here, over there,
to my left, in front of me, etc.), in the sense that I would roughly look upon
things the way he does if I were in his shoes and perceived them from his
perspective. This belief allows me to ascribe intentional acts to others
immediately or appresentatively, i.e., without having to draw an inference,
say, by analogy with my own case. So the belief in question must lie quite at the
bedrock of my belief-system. It forms a part of the already pregiven (and
generally unreflected) intentional background, or lifeworld (cf. Crisis),
against which my practice of act-ascription and all constitutive achievements
based upon that practice make sense in the first place, and in terms of which
they get their ultimate justification.

Husserl's notion of lifeworld is a difficult (and at the same time important) one.
It can roughly be thought of in two different (but arguably compatible) ways:
(1) in terms of belief and (2) in terms of something like socially, culturally or
evolutionarily established (but nevertheless abstract) sense or meaning.

(1) If we restrict ourselves to a single subject of experience, the lifeworld can be

looked upon as the rational structure underlying his (or her) natural attitude.
That is to say: a given subject's lifeworld consists of the beliefs against which
his everyday attitude towards himself, the objective world and others receive
their ultimate justification. (However, in principle not even beliefs forming part
of a subject's lifeworld are immune to revision. Hence, Husserl must not be
regarded as an epistemological foundationalist; see Fllesdal 1988.)

(2a) If we consider a single community of subjects, their common lifeworld, or

homeworld, can be looked upon, by first approximation, as the system of
senses or meanings constituting their common language, or form of life
(Wittgenstein), given that they conceive of the world and themselves in the
categories provided by this language.

(2b) If we consider subjects belonging to different communities, we can look

upon their common lifeworld as the general framework, or a priori structure,
of senses or meanings that allows for the mutual translation of their respective
languages (with their different associated homeworlds) into one another.

The term lifeworld thus denotes the way the members of one or more social
groups (cultures, linguistic communities) use to structure the world into objects
(Husserliana, vol. VI, pp. 126138, 140145). The respective lifeworld is
claimed to predelineate a world-horizon of potential future experiences that
are to be (more or less) expected for a given group member at a given time,
under various conditions, where the resulting sequences of anticipated
experiences can be looked upon as corresponding to different possible worlds
and environments (Husserliana, vol. III/1, p. 100). These expectations follow
typical patterns, as the lifeworld is fixed by a system of (first and foremost
implicit) intersubjective standards, or conventions, that determine what counts
as normal or standard observation under normal conditions (Husserliana,
vol. XV, pp. 135 ff, 142) and thus as a source of epistemic justification. Some of
these standards are restricted to a particular culture or homeworld
(Husserliana, vol. XV, pp. 141 f, 227236), whereas others determine a
general structure that is a priori in being unconditionally valid for all
subjects, defining that on which normal Europeans, normal Hindus, Chinese,
etc., agree in spite of all relativity (Husserliana, vol. VI, p. 142). Husserl
quotes universally accepted facts about spatial shape, motion, sense-quality as
well as our prescientific notions of spatiotemporality, body and causality

as examples (ibid.). These conceptions determine the general structure of all
particular thing-concepts that are such that any creature sharing the essential
structures of intentional consciousness will be capable of forming and grasping
them, respectively, under different lifeworldly conditions.

The notion of lifeworld was already introduced in the posthumously published

second volume of Ideas, under the heading of Umwelt, to be translated as
surrounding world or environment. Husserl there characterizes the
environment as a world of entities that are meaningful to us in that they
exercise motivating force on us and present themselves to us under egocentric
aspects. Any subject taking the personalistic attitude builds the center of an
environment containing such objects. The personalistic attitude is the attitude
we are always in when we live with one another, talk to one another, shake
hands with one another in greeting, or are related to one another in love and
aversion, in disposition and action, in discourse and discussion (Husserliana,
vol. IV, p. 183; Husserl 1989, p. 192). The central notion of Husserl's
Umweltanalyse is the concept of motivation, whose application he explains as
follows: how did I hit upon that, what brought me to it? That questions like
these can be raised characterizes all motivation in general (Husserliana, vol.
IV, p. 222; Husserl 1989, p. 234, with translation change). The entities
exercising motivating force on us owe their corresponding meaning or
significance to certain forms of intentional consciousness and intersubjective
processes. Thus, to quote one of Husserl's examples, I see coal as heating
material; I recognize it and recognize it as useful and as used for heating, as
appropriate for and as destined to produce warmth. [...] I can use [a combustible
object] as fuel; it has value for me as a possible source of heat. That is, it has
value for me with respect to the fact that with it I can produce the heating of a
room and thereby pleasant sensations of warmth for myself and others. [...]
Others also apprehend it in the same way, and it acquires an intersubjective use-
value and in a social context is appreciated and is valuable as serving such and
such a purpose, as useful to man, etc. (Husserliana, vol. IV, pp. 186f; Husserl
1989, pp. 196f).

On Husserl's view, it is precisely this subjective-relative lifeworld, or

environment, that provides the grounding soil of the more objective world of
science (Husserliana, vol. VI, p. 134), in the twofold sense that (i) scientific
conceptions owe their (sub-)propositional content and thus their reference to
reality to the prescientific notions they are supposed to naturalize and that,
consequently, (ii) when things get into flux in science, when a crisis occurs, all
that is left to appeal to in order to defend new scientific approaches against their
rivals is the prescientific lifeworld, as manifested in our according intuitive
acceptances (for references cf. Fllesdal 1990a, pp. 139 f). This view offers an

alternative to the naturalistic stance taken by many analytic philosophers

One of the constitutive achievements based upon my lifeworldly determined

practice of act-ascription is my self-image as a full-fledged person existing as a
psycho-physical element of the objective, spatio-temporal order. This self-image
can be justified by what Edith Stein, in a PhD thesis on empathy supervised by
Husserl (Stein 1917), has labelled as iterated empathy, where I put myself into
the other subject's shoes, i.e., (consciously) simulate him, under the aspect that
he (or she) in turn puts himself into my shoes. In this way, I can figure out that
in order for the other subject to be able to ascribe intentional acts to me, he has
to identify me bodily, as a flesh-and-blood human being, with its egocentric
viewpoint necessarily differing from his own. This brings home to me that my
egocentric perspective is just one among many, and that from all foreign
perspectives I appear as a physical object among others in a spatio-temporal
world. So the following criterion of subject-identity at a given time applies both
to myself and to others: one human living body, one experiencing subject.
However, Husserl does not at all want to deny that we also ascribe experiences,
even intentional ones, to non-human animals. This becomes the more difficult
and problematic, though, the less bodily and behavioural similarity obtains
between them and ourselves.

Before finally turning to the question of what objectivity amounts to in this

connection, let us notice that in Husserl's eyes something like empathy also
forms the basis of both our practical, aesthetical and moral evaluations and of
what might be called intercultural understanding, i.e., the constitution of a
foreign world against the background of one's own homeworld, i.e., one's
own familiar (but, again, generally unreflected) cultural heritage (cf.
Husserliana, vol. XV). Husserl studied many of these phenomena in detail, and
he even outlined the beginnings of a phenomenological ethics and value theory
(cf. Husserliana, vol. XXVIII, XXXVII). In this context, he formulates a
categorical imperative that makes recourse to the notion of lifeworld, or
environment, as follows: Always act in such a way that your action contributes
as well as possible to the best (the most valuable) you recognize yourself to be
able to achieve in your life, given your individual abilities and environment (cf.
Husserliana, vol. XXXVII, pp. 251 ff). Note that on Husserl's view the will of a
free agent, capable of following this imperative, is always already embedded in
a volitional context predelineating the open future horizon of a full
individual life that the agent is currently able to lead (Husserliana, vol.
XXXVII, p. 252), thus qualifying as a dynamic intentional structure.

8. The intersubjective constitution of objectivity and the case
for transcendental idealism

Even the objective spatio-temporal world, which represents a significant part of

our everyday lifeworld, is constituted intersubjectively, says Husserl. (The same
holds true for its spatio-temporal framework, consisting of objective time and
space.) How so? Husserl starts (again, from a first-person viewpoint) from a
solipsistic abstraction of the notion of a spatio-temporal object which differs
from that notion in that it does not presuppose that any other subject can
observe such an object from his (or her) own perspective. His question is what
justifies us (i.e., each of us for him- or herself) in the assumption of an objective
reality consisting of such objects, given only this solipsistic conception of a
spatio-temporal thing (or event) as our starting point. On Husserl's view, the
crucial further step in order to answer this question consists in disclosing the
dimension that opens up when the epistemic justification, or motivation, of
intersubjective experience, or empathy, is additionally taken into account and
made explicit (Husserliana, vol. VII, p. 435).

Roughly, his argument goes as follows. In order for me to be able to put myself
into someone else's shoes and simulate his (or her) perspective upon his
surrounding spatio-temporal world, I cannot but assume that this world
coincides with my own, at least to a large extent; although the aspects under
which the other subject represents the world must be different, as they depend
on his own egocentric viewpoint. Hence, I must presuppose that the spatio-
temporal objects forming my own world exist independently of my subjective
perspective and the particular experiences I perform; they must, in other words,
be conceived of as part of an objective reality. This result fits in well within
fact, it serves to explainHusserl's view, already stressed in Ideas, that
perceptual objects are transcendent in that at any given moment they display
an inexhaustive number of unperceived (and largely even unexpected) features,
only some of which will become manifestwill be intuitively presentedin the
further course of observation.

However, according to Husserl this does not mean that the objective world thus
constituted in intersubjective experience is to be regarded as completely
independent of the aspects under which we represent the world. For on his view
another condition for the possibility of intersubjective experience is precisely
the assumption that by and large the other subject structures the world into
objects in the same style I myself do. It is partly for this reason that Husserl can
be said to adhere to a version of both realism and idealism at the same time.

Another, related, reason is that Husserl's argument for realism is developed in a

context in which he defends what he refers to as "transcendental idealism" (a

terminological choice he would later regret; see Fllesdal 1990a, 128). During
the years in which his transcendental phenomenology took shape, he developed
a number of "proofs" of this position, most of which are based upon his
conception of a "real possibility" regarding cognition or the acquisition of
knowledge. By a "real possibility", Husserl understands a possibility that is such
that "somethingmore or less 'speaks in favour of it'" (Hua XX/1, p. 178).
Real possibilities are, in other words, conceived of as more or less (rationally)
motivated possibilities; and Husserl understands motivation in such a way that it
is always someone who is motivated a certain way (cf. Hua IV, p. 222). This is
why Husserl subscribes to the following dependency thesis: The real possibility
to acquire (empirical) knowledge regarding a contingent object A (possible
world, individual thing, state of affairs involving such thing; cf. Hua XXXVI,
pp. 139f) "requires" an "epistemic subject", which "either experiences A, or
acquires knowledge regarding A on the basis of experience, or else has the
practical possibility (or the practical ability) to experience A and acquire
knowlede regarding it" (Hua XXXVI, p. 139). Husserl also adheres to the
following correlation thesis with regard to empirical reality and real epistemic
possibility: If a contingent object A is real (really exists), then the real (as
opposed to the merely logical) possibility obtains to acquire knowledge
regarding A (cf. Hua XXXVI, p. 138, l. 35-36). From these two propositions
the dependency and the correlation thesishe derives the conclusion that the
existence of a contingent object A requires "the necessary co-existence of a
subject either acquiring knowledge" regarding A "or having the ability to do so"
(Hua XXXVI, pp. 139f). This is nothing but "[t]he thesis of transcendental
idealism [...]: A nature without co-existing subjects of possible experience
regarding it is unthinkable; possible subjects of experience are not enough"
(Hua XXXVI, p. 156).

Husserl seems to regard real possibilities as epistemic dispositions

(habitualities), or abilities, that require an actual "substrate" (cf. Hua XXXVI, p.
139). At the same time, he stresses that "surely no human being and no animal"
must exist in the actual world (adding that their non-existence would however
already result in a "change of the world") (cf. Hua XXXVI, p. 121). One way to
make sense of this would be to weaken the dependency thesis, and the
requirement of an actual substrate, and to merely require what might be called
real higher-order possibilitiespossibilities for acquiring epistemic dispositions
in counterfactual (or actual) cases where epistemic subjects would be co-
existingthat may remain unactualized but could be actualized by someone
properly taking into account a multitude of individual epistemic perspectives,
by means of intersubjective experience. But even under this reconstruction there
remains a sense in which the criteria of real possibility and reality constitution,
and the corresponding structure of the real world, are dependent on a "pure
Ego", on Husserl's view: What counts as a real possibility, or as epistemically

justified, is dependent on the phenomenological subjects reflecting about such
counterfactual cases in the methodological context of the transcendental
reduction and the results they arrive at in this context.

The Shared Mind

Perspectives on intersubjectivity
Edited by Jordan Zlatev, Timothy P. Racine, Chris Sinha and Esa
Lund University / Simon Fraser University / University of Turku
The cognitive and language sciences are increasingly oriented
towards the social dimension of human cognition and
communication. The hitherto dominant approach in modern
cognitive science has viewed social cognition through the
prism of the traditional philosophical puzzle of how individuals
solve the problem of understanding Other Minds. The Shared
Mind challenges the conventional theory of mind approach,
proposing that the human mind is fundamentally based
on intersubjectivity: the sharing of affective, conative,
intentional and cognitive states and processes between
a plurality of subjects. The socially shared,
intersubjective foundation of the human mind is
manifest in the structure of early interaction and
communication, imitation, gestural communication and the
normative and argumentative nature of language. In this path
breaking volume, leading researchers from psychology,
linguistics, philosophy and primatology offer complementary
perspectives on the role of intersubjectivity in the context
of human development, comparative cognition and
evolution, and language and linguistic theory.

The cognitive and language sciences are increasingly oriented
towards the social dimension of human cognition and
communication. The hitherto dominant approach in modern
cognitive science has viewed social cognition through the
prism of the traditional philosophical puzzle of how individuals
solve the problem of understanding Other Minds. The Shared
Mind challenges the conventional theory of mind approach,
proposing that the human mind is fundamentally based on
intersubjectivity: the sharing of affective, conative, intentional
and cognitive states and processes between a plurality of
subjects. The socially shared, intersubjective foundation of the
human mind is manifest in the structure of early i The Shared
Perspectives on intersubjectivity
Table of Contents

Foreword. Shared minds and the science of fiction: Why theories will
differ vii

Colwyn Trevarthen
1. Intersubjectivity: What makes us human?
Jordan Zlatev, Timothy P. Racine, Chris Sinha and Esa 1 14
Part I. Development
2. Understanding others through primary interaction and
narrative practice 17
Shaun Gallagher and Daniel D. Hutto
3. The neuroscience of social understanding 39
John Barresi and Chris Moore 66

4. Engaging, sharing, knowing: Some lessons from

research in autism 67
R. Peter Hobson and Jessica A. Hobson

5. Coming to agreement: Object use by infants and
adults 89
Cintia Rodrguez and Christiane Moro
6. The role of intersubjectivity in the development of
intentional communication 115
Ingar Brinck
7. Sharing mental states: Causal and definitional issues
in intersubjectivity 141
Noah Susswein and Timothy P. Racine
Part II. Evolution
8. Evidence for intentional and referential
communication in great apes? 165
Simone Pika
9. The heterochronic origins of explicit reference 187
David A. Leavens, William D. Hopkins and Kim A. Bard 214

10. The co-evolution of intersubjectivity and bodily

mimesis 215
Jordan Zlatev
11. First communions: Mimetic sharing without theory of
mind 245
Daniel D. Hutto
Part III. Language
12. The central role of normativity in language and
linguistics 279
Esa Itkonen
13. Intersubjectivity in the architecture of language
system 307
Arie Verhagen
14. Intersubjectivity in interpreted interactions: The 333
interpreter's role in co-constructing meaning 355

Terry Janzen and Barbara Shaffer
15. Language and the signifying object: From convention
to imagination 357
Chris Sinha and Cintia Rodrguez
Author index
Subject index

The Shared Mind

Perspectives on intersubjectivity
Consciousness Research
Consciousness research
Cognition and language
Cognitive linguistics
Evolution of language
Cognitive psychology
Subject Linguistics / General

Main BIC
CFD: Psycholinguistics

U.S. Library of Congress Control Number 2008015388

Constitution of Subjectivity: Dimensions of Otherness

1. Nelson Ernesto Coelho Jr.

1. University of So Paulo, Brazil,

1. Lus Claudio Figueiredo

1. University of So Paulo, Brazil,

This article presents a new characterization of the concept and experience of
intersubjectivity based on four matrices that we see as organizing and
elucidating different dimensions of otherness. The four matrices are described
through key references to their proponents in the fields of philosophy,
psychology and psychoanalysis: (1) trans-subjective intersubjectivity (Scheler,
Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty); (2) traumatic intersubjectivity (Levinas); (3)
interpersonal intersubjectivity (Mead); and (4) intrapsychic intersubjectivity
(Freud, Klein, Fairbairn, Winnicott). These intersubjective dimensions are
understood as indicating dimensions of otherness that never occupy the field of
human experience in a pure, exclusive form. The four matrices proposed need to
be seen as simultaneous elements in the different processes of the constitution
and development of subjectivity.

G.H. Mead and knowing how to act: Practical meaning,

routine interaction, and the theory of interobjectivity
Theory & Psychology October 1, 2012 22: 556-571

o Abstract

o Full Text (PDF)

Interobjectivity: Representations and artefacts in Cultural

Psychology Culture & Psychology December 1, 2010 16:

o Abstract

o Full Text (PDF)

'Why Sally Never Calls Bobby "I" ' Revisited: an Alternative

Perspective on Language and Early Self Development
Culture & Psychology June 1, 2004 10: 223-238

o Abstract

o Full Text (PDF)

Supplementarity and Surplus: Moving between the
Dimensions of Otherness Culture & Psychology September
1, 2003 9: 209-220

o Abstract

o Full Text (PDF)

Orientation to the Setting: Discursively Accomplished

Intersubjectivity Culture & Psychology September 1, 2003
9: 233-248

o Abstract

o Full Text (PDF)

Participant Perception of Others' Acts: Virtual Otherness in

Infants and Adults Culture & Psychology September 1,
2003 9: 261-276

o Abstract

o Full Text (PDF)

Why does Sally never Call Bobby `I'? Culture & Psychology
September 1, 2003 9: 287-297

o Abstract

o Full Text (PDF)

Interobjectivity and Culture Culture & Psychology

September 1, 2003 9: 221-232

o Abstract

o Full Text (PDF)

Constitution of the Self: Intersubjectivity and Dialogicality

Culture & Psychology September 1, 2003 9: 249-259

o Abstract

o Full Text (PDF)

On the Varieties of Intersubjective Experience Culture &

Psychology September 1, 2003 9: 277-286

o Abstract

o Full Text (PDF)

Intersubjectivity, a term originally coined by the philosopher Edmund Husserl

(18591938), is most simply stated as the interchange of thoughts and feelings,
both conscious and unconscious, between two persons or subjects, as
facilitated by empathy. To understand intersubjectivity, it is necessary first to
define the term subjectivity i.e., the perception or experience of reality from
within ones own perspective (both conscious and unconscious) and necessarily
limited by the boundary or horizon of ones own worldview. The term
intersubjectivity has several usages in the social sciences (such as cognitive
agreement between individuals or groups or, on the contrary, relating
simultaneously to others out of two diverging subjective perspectives, as in the
acts of lying or presenting oneself somewhat differently in different social
situations); however, its deepest and most complex usage is related to the
postmodern philosophical concept of constructivism or, in social psychology,
soc ...

Ferrarello: Husserl, Intersubjectivity, and Lifeworld

Intersubjectivity can be described as a relationship between me and an

other. The peculiarity of this relationship lies in the fact that the other is not
alien to me, but is within me in a way that his or her otherness can be
investigated beginning with the way in which that otherness is imminent
in my ego. The others otherness is present to me in person, in Husserls

For philosophy the problem is this: how can I give an account of something if it
is completely outside of and transcends my own nature? A phenomenological
theory of intersubjectivity, founded upon the recognition of the imminence of
otherness offers a solution to the problematic of the transcendence of
objectivity. How can the other be present in my lived-world? How can the world
be an objective world though we are different living subjects? How can we live
in a society of shared values?

These questions can be answered through the use of the phenomenological

method. Husserl framed these questions as belonging to a sociological
transcendental philosophy (Husserl, 1968, p. 539) or a transcendental
sociology (Husserl, 1966, p. 220). Husserls phenomenological investigations
of the lived-experience of a subject frame the subject as a transcendental
intersubjective unit. In contrast to the word transcendence, transcendental
refers to the essential nature of the subject.

We can inquire into this nature beginning with world as it is imminent in a

subjects experience. For example if I want to look into my lived experience of
thinking about something, I can first take a specific lived experience of mine in
which I am thinking about my friend Anna; then I can analyze this lived
experience phenomenologically in order to explain its essential structure
(philosophically). This kind of phenomenological method will be particularly
attentive to the presence of the other in my lived experiencein other words, to
reflect carefully on the way in which the other is present to me. In fact, when I
think about Anna, my thinking can be affected by multiple contextsfor
example, the judgments of the others about Anna or myself, or the education I
received, which shapes my way of perceiving and thinking about others. My
lived experience will be not only mine, meaning it is never a purely solitary
experience, it always implicitly participates in intersubjectivity because it will
be the outcome of an embodied, social and en-worlded experience. In that
sense phenomenological method has an access to the others otherness from
inside; it digs into the lived-experience of the subject in order to describe how
the transcendent world appears to us.

The volumes of Husserliana which we can read to gain a detailed idea of

Husserls views on this issue are: the Fifth Cartesian Meditation (Husserl,
1982), which sends us to Volume 8 (First Philosophy, Second Part & other
important additions) and the Volumes from 13-15 of the Husserliana (Husserl,
1973a-c), which are especially dedicated to intersubjectivity.

The sources Husserl borrowed to develop his theory of intersubjectivity are
especially indebted to Brentano (1973), Stein (1989) and Fink (1995). From
Brentano he took the theory of intentionality to explain the subject-object
relationship and from Stein the notion of empathy to clarify the manner in
which we perceive otherness.

In what follows, I will focus firstly on the notion of intentionality, secondly on

the constitution of otherness and its objectivity, thirdly on the idea of ego and its

Intentionality or Living the Outside World

Franz Brentano

Generally speaking, intentionality is a term that dates back to the scholasticism

of St. Anselm. For Anselm (c. 1033-1109), intentionality denotes the difference
between the objects that exist in human understanding, and those that actually
exist in the physical world. From an etymological point of view, intentionality
comes from Latin intendere, in English to point to or aim at. Brentano (1838
1917) took this term and adapted it for his psychology to describe the
relationship between mental phenomena and physical objects. In fact for
Brentano intentionality was considered the hallmark of psychological
phenomena. What is remarkable to notice here is the continuity and the break
between Husserl and Brentanos theories of intentionality. Both philosophers
used this theory to explain the structure of mental phenomena and pure
consciousness, but they construed it differently.

As mentioned, for Brentano intentionality indicates the central property of every

mental phenomenon in reference to its content: conscious acts intend extra-
mental objects. In Brentanos Psychology from Empirical Standpoint the author
explains his viewpoint with the following words:

Every mental phenomenon is characterized by what the Scholastics of the

Middle Ages called the intentional (or mental) inexistence of an object, and

what we might call, though not wholly unambiguously, reference to a content,
direction toward an object (which is not to be understood here as meaning a
thing), or immanent objectivity. Every mental phenomenon includes something
as object within itself, although they do not do so in the same way. In
presentation, something is presented, in judgment something is affirmed or
denied, in love loved, in hate hated, in desire desired and so on. (1973, p. 101)

The overall aim of Brentanos book was to establish the philosophical

foundations of psychology as a science. Psychology represents a science whose
data come from experience and introspection hence Brentano envisions
psychology from an empirical standpoint. Brentano thought that if psychology
was to be established as a science, there had to be a criterion that distinguishes
its subject matter from the subject matter of physical (or natural) science. The
intentional relationship was the main feature of any psychological experience
and it clarifies how an object is intended by a psychological subject. Though
Brentano did not address the issue of intersubjective intentional experience, his
theory is also useful in explaining that class of lived experiences.

Edmund Husserl

Husserl borrowed Brentanos notion of intentionality and interpreted it from a

subject-directed perspective. For Husserl intentionality is not the intentional in-
existence of the object within the consciousness; instead, it describes the
relationship of a subject to the objects of consciousness. Despite the similarities
between Husserl and Brentano concerning the role played by the intentional
essence as a key to explain the general structure of subjective lived experience,
Husserl partly moves away from the definition of intentionality provided by his
master. While Brentano considers intentionality as a hallmark of psychological
objects, Husserl defines it as a characteristic of the manner in which subjects
intend objectivities. For this reason Husserl calls intentional acts objectifying
acts, because they are able to objectify or present objects to the subject within
consciousness (Husserl, 1970, 314). In the case of a melody, for example, to
intend it means the melody must be present to me. For Husserl every intentional
act is objectifying because it makes an object present for
consciousness. Intersubjective intentionality is a kind of intentionality in which
another person is made present to me within my lived experience thanks to a
specific kind intentional essence that I am going to address next.

Generally speaking, Husserl claims that the intentional essence is made up of

the two aspects of matter and quality (1970, p. 251). Quality is the way in
which a content is given to consciousness, and matter corresponds to the content
of the act. Quality () has guided us since we formed the Idea of matter
while the same object remains differently present to consciousness. One may
think, e.g., of equivalent positing presentations, which point by way of differing
matters to the same object (Husserl, 1970, p. 52). Indeed we might evaluate,
love or just perceive the same matter once it is given us, in consciousness, by a
presentation. Within intersubjective intentionality the other is perceived in the
form of empathy. The quality by which I can form in my mind the idea of
otherness is that of feeling myself in the shoes of the other (en-paschein to
feel in). In the next paragraph I will describe the process of empathizing,

Empathy and the Experience of the Otherness

While intentionality describes the conscious relatedness of the subject and the
world, empathy helps us to understand in everyday language how I can put
myself in the shoes of someone else. In particular, I want to focus on a key
term in Steins doctoral thesis on empathy supervised by Husserl (Stein, 1989):
iterated empathy. This term concept enables us to give an account of the sense
of the others experience as somehow my own. In phenomenological terms, how
is it possible for me to ascribe the intentional acts of another person to myself
as if I were living the others intentional acts?

According to Husserl, the steps

describing my contact with the lived-experience of the other are the following: I
live the world, for the most part, within a natural attitude. In this attitude I do
not experience myself as a solipsistic, self-contained unit, but rather as a part of
a community where others are continually in touch with and affecting my lived-
experience and shaping the way I am aware not only of others but of myself.
For this reason I undergo a process that Husserl calls communarization
(Vergemeinschaftung) whereby the second egothe ego of another person
appears to my first primordial ego as similar to mine. In the process of
communarization I realize that I am a community of persons though I am just
me along with my own lived-experience (Erlebnisse). To put in act this process
I engage in what Husserl calls analogical apprehension whereby the other, who
is present (Paarung) to me as a fellow human being is mirrored in my
experience, meaning that I can perceive the other because he is similar and
dissimilar to me. Moreover, I recognize the truthfulness of my perceptions of
the other person thanks to their changes and possibilities. In fact, Husserl speaks
of a harmonious synthesis (Einstimmigkeitssynthese), a synthesis by which I can
confirm or deny the always changing presentations I can have of the other. Now,
let us explain all these steps in more detail.

Husserl writes: the other man is constitutionally the intrinsically first man
(Husserl 1982 55, p. 124). In fact when I perceive another person, the other is
genetically constituted in the midst of my own, flowing experience within the
natural attitude, which means that my perception of the other is not posited
before or after my self-presence, but it blossoms as a natural experience
alongside my self-presence. In my own simple living and perceiving, the other
appears as natural part of my being-in-the world: one could almost say, as a
companion. Perhaps for this reason Husserl describes the relation using the term
pairing (Paarung), which I will address below. This very first experience is
called by Husserl communarization (Vergemeinschaftung) to indicate this
originary mode of living in which no ego (not even myself) remains absolutely

In this monadological intersubjectivity the second ego [the other] is not simply
there, and strictly given to himself; rather is he constituted as alter ego the
ego indicated as one moment by this expression being I myself in my owness
(Husserl 1982 44, p. 94). The other appears via a pairing (Paarung), that is via
its external presence as an animate organism (Leib) that is similar to mine.
When I perceive this organism analogous to me, I live an analogical
apprehension that enables me to recognize myself as a human being partaking
in a humanity that is shared with others. The analogy is not in full force and
effect (voll); it is an indication, not an anticipation (Vorgriff) that could become
a seizure of the self (Selbstgriff) (Husserl 1972, p. 87).

In this analogical apprehension the other lives within my lived-experience as a

mirroring (Spiegelung) of my own self and yet not a mirroring proper, an
analogue of my own self and yet again not an analogue in the usual sense
(Husserl 1982 44, p. 94). Therefore the ego and the alter ego are always and
necessarily given in a primal pairing, as the (transcendental) condition of
any analogical apprehension and any later mirroring of the other. Thus the
mirroring we speak of is not the static re-presentation of my own solitary self,
duplicated or projected, so to speak, on the passive screen of the other: rather,
this mirroring is a simultaneous opening to similarity and difference in the midst
of interrelatedness and commonality. Intersubjectivity is no mere opening to a
discrete other or a recognition of myself in isolation; rather, as Khosrokhavar
(2001) has written, intersubjectivity is the egos opening to the world of others,
as such.

The experienced animate organism (Leib) of another continues to prove itself

as actually (wirklich) an animate organism, solely in its changing but
incessantly harmonious behavior (Gebaren). Such harmonious behavior (as
having a physical side that indicates something psychic appresentatively) must
present (auftreten) itself fulfillingly in original experience, and do so throughout
the continuous change in behavior from phase to phase. (Husserl 1982 52, p.
114 sq.)

Another key word to describe the intersubjective

community is harmonious synthesis (Einstimmigkeitssynthese). This concept,
borrowed from Brentanos inner perception, describes the intersubjective
constitution of otherness, which is accompanied by a feeling of consistency. Via
this kind of synthesis I can be sure that what I perceive in the world genuinely
corresponds to what is there. In fact, this synthesis is the foundation of my
ability to recognize whether or not there is consistency within my perceptions,
in the midst of the dynamic flow of my conscious acts and others movements
in everyday experience. For example, if I see a dog crossing the street and
suddenly I hear the dog meowing, there is an immediate disjuncture among my
perceptions that conveys to me that I misperceived the identity of the animal!
There is something in my synthesis that does not match my earlier apprehension
exemplifying the way in which perception is always engaged in self-

Everything [is] alien (as long as it remains within the apprehended horizon of
concreteness that necessarily goes with it). [It] centers in an apprehended Ego
who is not I myself but, relative to me, a modificatum: another Ego (Husserl
1982 52, pp. 115-6). I perceive the otherness only when I appresent it to my
ego, that is when I intend it by an epistemological intentional act. The identity-
sense of my primordial Nature and the presentiated other primordial Nature is
necessarily produced by the appresentation and the unity that it, as
appresentation, necessarily has with the presentation cofunctioning for it this
appresentation by virtue of which an Other and, consequently, his concrete ego
are there for me in the first place. Quite rightly, therefore, we speak of
perceiving someone else arid then of perceiving the Objective world, perceiving
that the other Ego and I are looking at the same world, and so forth though this
perceiving goes on exclusively within the sphere of my ownness (Husserl 1982
55, pp. 123-4).

Therefore the objective world and mutual existence of the others can be attained
by virtue of this harmonious confirmation of apperceptive constitution. I intend
the other within a specific horizon of functionings and peculiarities but these
presentations have to be continuously confirmed or corrected in the flow of my
new, intersubjective experiences of it. In this way, apperception is in a
continuous, open-ended process of adjustment and correction. Harmoniousness
is also preserved by virtue of a recasting of apperceptions through
distinguishing between normality and abnormalities (as modifications thereof),
or by virtue of the constitution of new unities throughout the changes involved
in abnormalities (Husserl 1982 55, 125 sq.) The mutual relations
characterizing each member of the monadological community involve an
objectivating equalization (Gleichstellung) (Husserliana 1982 56, p. 129) of
the existence of the ego and the others I, the ego, have the world starting from
a performance (Leistung), in which [] constitute myself, as well as my
horizon of others and, at the same time (in eins damit), the homogeneous
community of us (Wir-Gemeinschaft) ; this constitution is not a constitution of
the world, but an actualization which could be designated as monadization of
the ego as actualization of personal monadization, of monadical
pluralization (Husserliana VI, 417).

Intersubjective Reduction and Lifeworld

At the end of the fourth text in Husserliana XV Husserl writes starting from
intersubjectivity, it is possible to establish the intersubjective reduction by
placing between brackets the world in itself and thus achieving the reduction to
the universe of the intersubjective that includes in itself all that is individually
subjective (1973c, 69; Husserl 1972, 188 sq., p. 272). The very first beginning
of a phenomenological intersubjective analysis is given by reduction. The
reduction designates the inquirers passage from a natural attitude, in which the
subject naively participates in the world, to a phenomenological attitude, in
which the subject reflects upon what he already lived and is living in order to
discern the essence of a lived-experience (Erlebnisse).

In 44 of the Fifth Cartesian Meditation, Husserl explains reduction as a

primordial act of putting out of play any constitutive function of intentionality
not as reported by another subjectivity but in reference to the primordial
sphere of the inquirers ego, in its irreducible immanence, that is, to the
intentional sphere actual and potential in which the inquirers ego is
constituted in its peculiar ownness (eigen). This reduction is different from
the classical phenomenological reduction. While the latter brings us back to the
constitutive transcendental subjectivity, the former (that implies the latter)
should be understood as a dismantling reduction (Abbaureduktion) that aims
at revealing the original sense of the inquirers ego as suchthat is, to witness
the phenomenon of I-ness.

In fact, the ego that stands out to the inquirer by means of this reduction is an
Ur-ich, a primordial ego (Husserliana VI, p. 188). In my spiritual ownness, I
am nevertheless the identical Ego-pole of my manifold pure subjective
processes, those of my passive and active intentionality, and the pole of all the
habitualities instituted or to be instituted by those processes (Husserl 1982
44, p. 98).

According to Husserls
phenomenological theory every ego seems to live many lives at once; or put
differently, to exemplify multiple modes of being-an-I simultaneously. The ego
can be said to live at least three lives at the same time: an immanent,
transcendental and intersubjective life. In the first one the ego lives according to
the natural attitude thanks to which it acquires sense data. Through employing
the reduction, it puts in bracket all that does not belong to its own intentional

life to recover habitualities and sedimentations constituted as abiding
convictions (bleibende berzeugungen), which determine the Self as a
concrete egoic pole and the transcendent objects (given either actually or
potentially). Finally the intersubjective ego is the ego given after the reduction.
In this life the ego discovers itself not as a solipsistic unit or a monad but as an
intersubjective unit. All that belongs to its lived-experience is mingled with and
inextricable from the lived-experiences of others. Thus, the second
transcendental ego is only a limited aspectone might almost say a profileof
the third, transcendental intersubjective ego, but at the same time the former
grounds (fundiert) the latter.

The relation between the transcendental ego and other egos is also strengthened
by the apperception of the world (Weltapperzeption). In fact the transcendental
ego constitutes the world as a phenomenon thanks to its intentional activity.
Since the transcendental ego is fundamentally one with the intersubjective and
immanent ego, the constitution of the world is an intersubjective constitution in
which the world is always intrinsically a lifeworld shared by an intersubjective
community. It itself is a part of the explication of the intentional components
(Bestnde) implicit in the fact of the experiential world that exists for us.
(Husserl 1982 49, p. 108).

In the first volume of Ideas Husserl had already introduced this concept under
the heading of Umwelt to mean a surrounding natural world, and it is only after
writing the Cartesian Meditation and most of all in the Crisis that Husserl
elaborates a proper Umweltanalyse to explicate the idea of an objective world
shared within the intersubjective life of a living community. (Husserliana, vol.
IV, p. 222; Husserl 1989, p. 234). To explain the layers of this lifeworld
(Lebenswelt), Husserl gives the following example:

I see coal as heating material; I recognize it and recognize it as useful and as

used for heating, as appropriate for and as destined to produce warmth. [] I
can use [a combustible object] as fuel; it has value for me as a possible source
of heat. That is, it has value for me with respect to the fact that with it I can
produce the heating of a room and thereby pleasant sensations of warmth for
myself and others. [] Others also apprehend it in the same way, and it
acquires an intersubjective use-value and in a social context is appreciated and
is valuable as serving such and such a purpose, as useful to man, etc. (Husserl,
1976, pp. 186f.).

Our world is a subjective-relative lifeworld. We cannot even conceive

something that transcends us in a strict sensebecause that something, if it

could not be shared with a real or potential we, could not be grasped by
consciousness in the first place. In other words, we would not be capable of
intending itin the simplest terms, we would not be able to speak about it. Our
intended world is the grounding soil within which a more objective (or better,
intersubjective) world of community and science is co-constituted (Husserl,
1976, p. 134). This is the only soil within which we simultaneously discover
and shape our multi-tiered, intersubjective life.


Bernet, R. 1994. An Intentionality without Subject or Object?, Man and World

27 (3), 231-255.

Brentano, F. 1874. Psychology from the Empirical Standpoint, Rancurello,

Terrell, and McAlister (trs.) 1973. London: Routledge. (Original: Brentano, F.
1874. Psychologie von einem empirischen Standpunkt, Leipzig.)

Brentano, F. 1952. The Foundation and Construction of Ethics, E. Hughes

Schneewind (ed.), London: Routledge London, 1973 ( Original: Brentano, F.
1952. Grundlegung und Aufbau der Ethik, Meiner Felix Verlag).

Caston, V. 2002. Aristotle on Consciousness, Mind 111, 751-815.

Crowell, S. 2005. Undergoing: Phenomenology, Value, Theory and Nihilism.

Husserl: Critical Essays 5 Horizons: Lifeword, Ethics, History and
Metaphysics, 112-124.

Drummond, J. J. 1995. Moral Objectivity: Husserls Sentiment of the

Understanding. Husserl Studies 12, 165-183

Drummond, J. 2006. Respect as a Moral Emotion: A Phenomenological

Approach. Husserl Studies 22, 1-27.

Fink, E. 1933-34. Sixth Cartesian Meditation. The Idea of a Transcendental

Theory of Method. Edited by R. Bruzina, Indiana University Press, 1995.

Husserl, E. 1900, 1901, 1913 & 1921. Logical investigations, 2 vols. Edited by
J. N. Findlay, New York: Routledge, 1970.

Husserl, E. 1918-26. Analysen zur passiven Synthesis. Aus Vorlesungs- und
Forschungsmanuskripten, 1918-1926. [Analyses of passive synthesis. From
lectures and research manuscripts, 1918-1926]. Edited by Margot Fleischer. The
Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1966.

Husserl, E. 1922, Ideas pertaining to a pure phenomenology and to a

phenomenological philosophy, third book: phenomenology and the foundations
of the sciences, F. Kersten (ed.), The Hague/Boston/Lancaster: Martinus
Nijhoff, 1983.

Husserl, E. 1925, Phnomenologische Psychologie. Vorlesungen

Sommersemester. 1925. [Phenomenological psychology. Lectures from the
summer semester. 1925]. Edited by Walter Biemel. The Hague: Martinus

Husserl, E. 1936, Die Krisis der europischen Wissenschaften und die

transzendentale Phnomenologie. Eine Einleitung in die phnomenologische
Philosophie. [The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Philosophy.
An introduction to phenomenology]. Edited by Walter Biemel. The Hague:
Martinus Nijhoff, 1976.

Husserl, E. 1911-21, Aufstze und Vortrge. 1911-21 [Essays and Lectures.

1911-1921]. Edited by Thomas Nenon und Hans Rainer Sepp, 1987.

Husserl, E. 1905-20, Zur Phnomenologie der Intersubjektivitt. Texte aus dem

Nachlass. Erster Teil. 1905-1920. [On the phenomenology of intersubjectivity.
Texts from the estate. Part 1. 1905-1920]. Edited by Iso Kern. The Hague:
Martinus Nijhoff, 1973a.

Husserl, E. 1921-28, Zur Phnomenologie der Intersubjektivitt. Texteaus dem

Nachlass. Zweiter Teil. 1921-28. [On the phenomenology of intersubjectivity.
Texts from the estate. Second part. 1921-28]. Edited by Iso Kern. The Hague:
Martinus Nijhoff, 1973b.

Husserl, E. 1929-35, Zur Phnomenologie der Intersubjektivitt. Texte aus dem

Nachlass. Dritter Teil. [On the phenomenology of intersubjectivity. Texts from
the estate. Third part. 1929-35]. Edited by Iso Kern. The Hague: Martinus
Nijhoff, 1973c.

Husserl, E. Cartesian Meditations. An Introduction to Phenomenology.

Translated by Dorion Cairns. Seventh impression. The Hague/Boston/London:
Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1982.
Khosrokhavar, F. 2001. Linstance du sacre: Essay de foundation des sciences
sociales. Paris: Les Editions du Cerf.

Kriegel, U. 2003. Consciousness as Intransitive Self-Consciousness: Two Views

and an Argument. Canandian Journal of Philosophy 33, 103-132.

McIntyre, R. Smith, D. W. 1982. Husserl and Intentionality. A study of Mind,

Meaning and Language, Dordrecht and London.

Moran, D. 1996. Brentanos Thesis, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society

Supplementary 70, 1-27.

Morrison, J. C. 1970. Husserl and Brentano on Intentionality, Philosophy and

Phenomenological Research 31, 27-46.

Rollinger, R. D. 1999. Husserls Position in the School of Brentano,

Dordrecht/Boston/London: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Smith, Q. 1976. Husserl and the Inner Structure of Feeling-Acts. Research in

Phenomenology 6 (1), 84-104.

Stein, E. 1917. On the Problem of Empathy. Washington: ICS Publications,


Photo credits

Friends shadows photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via photo pin cc

Strange cat photo credit: Noelas via photo pin cc

Brikis photo credit: oranges and lemons via photo pin cc

Volume 6, No. 3, Art. 32 September 2005

Analysing Discourse. An Approach From the Sociology of Knowledge

Reiner Keller

Abstract: The contribution outlines a research programme which I have coined
the "sociology of knowledge approach to discourse" (Wissenssoziologische
Diskursanalyse). This approach to discourse integrates important insights of
FOUCAULT's theory of discourse into the interpretative paradigm in the social
sciences, especially the "German" approach of hermeneutic sociology of
knowledge (Hermeneutische Wissenssoziologie). Accordingly, in this approach
discourses are considered as "structured and structuring structures" which shape
social practices of enunciation. Unlike some Foucauldian approaches, this form
of discourse analysis recognises the importance of socially constituted actors in
the social production and circulation of knowledge. Furthermore, it combines
research questions related to the concept of "discourse" with the methodical
toolbox of qualitative social research. Going beyond questions of language in
use, "the sociology of knowledge approach to discourse" (Wissenssoziologische
Diskursanalyse) addresses sociological interests, the analyses of social relations
and politics of knowledge as well as the discursive construction of reality as an
empirical ("material") process. For empirical research on discourse the approach
proposes the use of analytical concepts from the sociology of knowledge
tradition, such as interpretative schemes or frames (Deutungsmuster),
"classifications", "phenomenal structure" (Phnomenstruktur), "narrative
structure", "dispositif" etc., and the use of the methodological strategies of
"grounded theory".

Key words: sociology of knowledge, discourse, politics of knowledge, symbolic

interactionism, frame, classification, narrative structure, grounded theory,
Foucault, Berger, Luckmann

Table of Contents

1. Discourse and the Sociology of Knowledge

2. The Research Programme of Wissenssoziologische Diskursanalyse

3. Methods and Practice of Discourse Research

4. Conclusion: Beginnings

Symbolic Interactionism: The Role of Language in The Formation of Discourse

and Self


Towards an embodied science of intersubjectivity: Widening the

scope ...
Ezequiel Di Paolo, Hanne De Jaegher - 2015 - Psychology
This has been called primary intersubjectivity. ... Advocators of
the phenomenologically based interactionist theory usually
draw a distinction between two ...

The Political Philosophy of Intersubjectivity and the Logic of


This paper is concerned with the competing and complimentary relationships

between intersubjectivity and discursive logic. It contends that the ultimate
failure of Husserlian phenomenology is a testament to the dilemma of
subjectivist philosophy. Indeed, political philosophy requires a paradigm-shift
from subjectivity to intersubjectivity. With this in mind, this paper examines the
classical encounter between morality and ethical life in connection with
discursive ethics. While it argues that Habermas still retains a strong residue of
subjectivist philosophy, it attempts to clarify the discursive analysis of Foucault
and probes into its applicability to practical philosophy.

Robert Boyce Brandom (born March 13, 1950)[1] is an American philosopher

who teaches at the University of Pittsburgh. He works primarily in philosophy
of language, philosophy of mind and philosophical logic, and his work
manifests both systematic and historical interests in these topics. His work has
presented "arguably the first fully systematic and technically rigorous attempt to
explain the meaning of linguistic items in terms of their socially norm-governed
use ('meaning as use', to cite the Wittgensteinian slogan), thereby also giving a
non-representationalist account of the intentionality of thought and the
rationality of action as well."[2]

Brandom is broadly considered to be part of the American pragmatist tradition
in philosophy.

On Normative Pragmatics: A Comparison Between Brandom

and Habermas
Raffaela Giovagnoli
Teorema: Revista Internacional de Filosofa
Vol. 20, No. 3 (2001), pp. 51-68
Facts, Norms, and Normative Facts:
A Reply to Habermas*
Robert Brandom

I greatly appreciate Jrgen Habermas generous interest in and engagement with

the approach to discursive practice detailed in
Making It Explicit
. His account of the
basic methodological commitments and motivations, and of the central moves
structure the project is a masterful combination of compression and fidelity to
spirit of the enterprise. He ends his summary with an understandable expression
of skepticism about the final success of the account of the objectivity of
(and so of the norms of speech, thought, and belief they articulate), against the
background of the social practical account of language use that supplies its raw
materials. The story about objectivity depends on the intricate interaction of
dimensions: the distinction of social perspective between attributing and under-
taking a commitment, which is made explicit in
de re
ascriptions of propositional
attitudes, the distinction of deontic status between commitment and entitlement,
and the role of perception and action in confronting practitioners with material
incompatible commitments.

From Kant to Hegel: On Robert Brandom's Pragmatic Philosophy

of Language
Jrgen Habermas

Habermas interest in Brandom can be seen as an extension of his engagement

with the Anglo-American pragmatist tradition, which began in the 70s, and
forms a cornerstone of his own magnus opus, The Theory of Communicative
Action. Two distinct strains of this tradition concern Habermas: on the one hand,
linguistic pragmatics, through the work of J L Austin and John Searle; and on
the other, the philosophical pragmatism which runs through, most explicitly,
James, Dewey and Rorty, but which can also be found in Wittgenstein, Quine
and Davidson. It is therefore not surprising that he would be particularly
interested in a major work which in part aims to marry together the two.
Brandom summarises the project of Making it Explicit in a precis to a volume of
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research dedicated to that work:

The book is an attempt to explain the meanings of linguistic expressions in

terms of their use. The explanatory strategy is to begin with an account of social
practices, to identify the particular structure they must exhibit in order to
qualify as specifically linguistic practices, and then to consider what different
sorts of semantic contents those practices can confer on states, performances,
and expressions caught up in them in suitable ways. The result is a kind of
conceptual role semantics that is at once firmly rooted in actual practices of
producing and consuming speech acts, and sufficiently finely articulated to
make clear how those practices are capable of conferring a rich variety of kinds
of content. [my emphases in bold]

Identity, Intersubjectivity and Communicative Action

Simon Glynn
Florida Atlantic University

ABSTRACT: Traditionally, attempts to verify communications between

individuals and cultures appeal to 'public' objects, essential structures of
experience, or universal reason. Contemporary continental philosophy
demonstrates that not only such appeals, but fortuitously also the very
conception of isolated individuals and cultures whose communication such
appeals were designed to insure, are problematic. Indeed we encounter and
understand ourselves, and are also originally constituted, in relation to others. In
view of this the traditional problem of communication is inverted and becomes
that of how we are sufficiently differentiated from one another such that
communication might appear problematic.

On the nature and role of intersubjectivity in communication

We outline a theory of human agency and communication and

discuss the role that the capability to share (that is,
intersubjectivity) plays in it. All the notions discussed are cast
in a mentalistic and radically constructivist framework. We also
introduce and discuss the relevant literature.

Intersubjectivity and intentional communication


The sense of shared values is a specific aspect to human sociality. It
from reciprocal social exchanges that include imitation, empathy, but
also negotiation from which meanings, values and norms are eventually
constructed with others. Research suggests that this process starts from
birth via imitation and mirroring processthat are important foundations
of sociality providing a basic sense of social connectedness and mutual
acknowledgement with others. From the second month, mirroring,
and other contagious responses are by passed. Neonatal imitation gives
way to first signs of reciprocation (primary intersubjectivity), and
joint attention in reference to objects (secondary intersubjectivity). We
review this development and propose a third level of intersubjectivity,
that is the emergence of values that are jointlyrepresented and
with others, as well as the development of an ethical stance
emerging theories of mind from about 4 years of age. We propose that
tertiary intersubjectivity is an ontogenetically new process of value
and mutual recognition that are the cardinal trademarks of
human sociality

Subjectivity and Intersubjectivity in Modern Philosophy and


In this wide-ranging study of subjectivity and intersubjectivity,

Roger Frie develops a critical account of recent conceptions of
the subject in philosophy and pdychoanalytic theory. Using a
line of analysis strongly grounded in the European tradition, Frie
examines the complex relationship between the theories of
subjectivity, intersubjectivity, language and love in the work of
a diverse body of philosophers and psychoanalyists. He
provides lucid interpretations of the work of Sartre, Binswanger,
Lacan, Habermas, Heidegger, Freud and others. Because it
integrates perspectives from continental philosophy, analytical

philosophy, and psychoanalytic theory, this book will appeal to
a wide audience in the areas of philosophy, history of
philosophy, psychoanalysis, and social theory.


Against the background of our survey of intersubjectivity we might have ideas

for the construction of a framework by means of which we could begin to map
and thus systematise a diversity of positions for interpreting it. Regardless if it is
interactionist, dialogical intersubjectivism or discursive, discourse
intersubjectivity. From our second-order or meta position reflecting on the
nature of the intersubjectivity (types?) of mystics we can typify them as more or
lesser cognitivist, more naturalist or idealist, more or less neurological etc.
However such notions form part of cerebral disciplines obsessed with
cartographies, models, systems and theories. We will have to look for aspects
and notions of intersubjectivity that are meaningful, relevant and functional
viewed from the perspective of pure and absolute consciousness, or nondualism,
or the one real self, or the One and the all, or Sophos. These approaches and
points of view have very different concerns than those of intellectual disciplines
and will perceive and classify intersubjectivity in different terms, according to
different values.

What is the nature of intersubjectivity that has a principles Sophos, the one, the
real self, pure consciousness, absolute awareness, nonduality, and other ideals of
mystics. What are the values of these principles, what is the purpose, the aims
and attitudes these ideas express? What are the norms and standards of
intersubjectivity of Sophos, the one, pure consciousness etc? We would have to
consider attitudes such as love, compassion, humility, altruism, etc. With these
conditions and principles in mind we will be able to identify relevant
characteristics of the intersubjectivity of mystics.

We need to keep in mind all the time our purpose, our rationale and goals when
we explore the intersubjectivity of mystics, a special kind of intersubjectivity
that is based on agreements about the one goal to realize and the one statae to
maintain, namely unity with the one, Sophos, the real self or the execution or
being of absolute, pure consciousness.

There probably will be a difference between the intersubjectivity of those

mystics on the way, following the path, the method and those that have arrived,

that have realized unity with the one, the all, Sophos, pure consciousness, the
one real self. In the case of the latter we will probably describe something like
the characteristics of Eckharts Gotttheit or Godhead, the Sufi Beloved, the one
in union with the one real self of Vedanta, etc, while in the case of the former,
those still on the way, we will probably explore characteristics of god the father,
son and spirit, or whatever terms are more meaningful for mystics of other, or
no, religion.

I suggested a few factors how intersubjectivity of everyday existence,

interactionist and dialogical situations as well as specialized discourses and
their practices are maintained, eg through values, principles, norms and other
explications of underlying, usually implicit and unstated transcendental. But
how does intersubjectivity, both general, less informed, unspecialized and
uneducated as well as more educated, informed forms and specialized kinds of
intersubjectivity of scientific, art, social sciences, humanities originate? This
question could take us back to investigating consciousness (human and animal),
its origin and nature as it will form one of the building blocks and pre-
conditions of intersubjectivity. One sees all sorts of discussions, especially in
sociology, concerning intersubjectivity, discourse, interaction, dialogue etc, but
such discussions are based on numerous assumptions. One for example is
consciousness, it is taken for granted by such discussions. It is pointless arguing
about first, second, third persons, the public and their roles in the origin,
development, maintenance and modification or transformation of
intersubjectivity if assumptions on which such explorations are made, are not
investigated. Consciousness of those individuals or groups involved is one of
those factors. Consciousness might be differentiated, developed and become
more specialized during the development of intersubjectivity, but for there to be
intersubjectivity (or the traditional subject) there needs to be consciousness.

Consciousness has been mentioned in the exploration of the searches of mystics

and pure consciousness of the one and the one real self was one way in which
the goal of the mystic was conceptualized. To realize, acquire, become, be and
exist as this pure consciousness of the one, the beloved, god was one way of
talking about and reflecting on the outcome or final product of the mystic path.
This mystic path is that of a conscious being and not that of a rock, a plant or
animals other than humans and to be able to conceive of and tread such a path
consciousness is required. Questions concerning the nature of the
intersubjectivity of the mystic discourse can be asked, for example where do
mystics, who are always described as isolated individuals, sometimes with
guides or teachers, encounter and internalize the intersubjectivity the employ for
their mystical experiences and for the ideas they use to think and talk about it
and express their mystical paths and experiences. Where did John of the Cross
obtain the words he uses to express his mystical poems? Did he employ words
from other contexts and discourses? Is that how it functions, mystics employ
already existing notions from other areas of their lives, in new ways, to express
and convey their new, mystical experiences and insights?

Is the consciousness of the mystic seeker transformed and

developed during his seeking, by his walking of the path (the
way or method) and by him undergoing mystical experiences?
What would be the characteristics of the normal'
consciousness before this transformation and which aspects
(levels, structures, dimensions, functions...) of consciousness
will be so transformed and which will remain unaltered.
Remember we referred to the mystic type of consciousness as
pure consciousness or awareness. By this we intend to typify it
as nondual (no subject vs object distinction, no subject vs
subject distinction - all subjects and objects' in the mystic
vision, the birds eye view or the God-vision are one or united
or forming a unity in union), not functioning in terms of
subject(centered) and object-dualism or separation (being
opposed to or ontologically separate from its objects of
perception and experience or subject-matter), not anthropo-
centered (as objected to by for example object-oriented
ontology), unconcerned if it operates in the anthropocene or
any other, space (time and place) is no concern of it. Thus it will
operate or be' (regardless of place, say on earth or
anywhere else in the multiverse) the same (dentical, if it has
any identity as it, like the godhead is beyond categories such
as existence and non-existence, identity, self - being the one,
real non/Self). It is' without values (as if it were to have values,
that selected values will exclude its opposing non/values), no
attitudes, no norms, no motives, no principles, no
transcendentals (such as space, time, frames of reference - for
experience, understanding, thinking, reflection, expressiopn,
communication, etc) being all and none of these things
These are a few clues concerning the nature or non-nature of
pure consciousness of the Beloved, the Godhead or the One,
the one Real Self (all that what is, and not is). It probably shares

certain non-characteristics of Heideggers (depiction of) the
Being of all beings, that is beyond being. The mystics
(probably heightened but still) ordinary awareness is said to be
gradually or suddenly transformed, eg according to two schools
in Zen and other approaches.
A religious experience (sometimes known as a spiritual experience, sacred
experience, or mystical experience) is a subjective experience which is
interpreted within a religious framework.[1] The concept originated in the 19th
century, as a defense against the growing rationalism of Western society.[2]
William James popularised the concept.[2]

Many religious and mystical traditions see religious experiences (particularly

that knowledge which comes with them) as revelations caused by divine agency
rather than ordinary natural processes. They are considered real encounters with
God or gods, or real contact with higher-order realities of which humans are not
ordinarily aware.[3]

Skeptics may hold that religious experience is an evolved feature of the human
brain amenable to normal scientific study.[note 1] The commonalities and
differences between religious experiences across different cultures have enabled
scholars to categorize them for academic study.[4]


1.1 William James

Psychologist and Philosopher William James described four characteristics of

mystical experience in The Varieties of Religious Experience. According to
James, such an experience is:

Transient the experience is temporary; the individual

soon returns to a "normal" frame of mind. It is outside our
normal perception of space and time.

Ineffable the experience cannot be adequately put into


Noetic the individual feels that he or she has learned

something valuable from the experience. Gives us

knowledge that is normally hidden from human

Passive the experience happens to the individual,

largely without conscious control. Although there are
activities, such as meditation (see below), that can make
religious experience more likely, it is not something that
can be turned on and off at will.

1.2 Norman Habel

Norman Habel defines religious experiences as the structured way in which a

believer enters into a relationship with, or gains an awareness of, the sacred
within the context of a particular religious tradition (Habel, O'Donoghue and
Maddox: 1993). Religious experiences are by their very nature preternatural;
that is, out of the ordinary or beyond the natural order of things. They may be
difficult to distinguish observationally from psychopathological states such as
psychoses or other forms of altered awareness (Charlesworth: 1988). Not all
preternatural experiences are considered to be religious experiences. Following
Habel's definition, psychopathological states or drug-induced states of
awareness are not considered to be religious experiences because they are
mostly not performed within the context of a particular religious tradition.

Moore and Habel identify two classes of religious experiences: the immediate
and the mediated religious experience (Moore and Habel: 1982).

Mediated In the mediated experience, the believer

experiences the sacred through mediators such as rituals,
special persons, religious groups, totemic objects or the
natural world (Habel et al.: 1993).

Immediate The immediate experience comes to the

believer without any intervening agency or mediator. The
deity or divine is experienced directly

1.3 Richard Swinburne

In his book Faith and Reason, the philosopher Richard Swinburne formulated
five categories into which all religious experiences fall:

Public a believer 'sees God's hand at work', whereas

other explanations are possible e.g. looking at a beautiful

Public an unusual event that breaches natural law e.g.

walking on water

Private describable using normal language e.g. Jacob's

vision of a ladder

Private indescribable using normal language, usually a

mystical experience e.g. "white did not cease to be white,
nor black cease to be black, but black became white and
white became black."

Private a non-specific, general feeling of God working

in one's life.

Swinburne also suggested two principles for the assessment of religious


Principle of Credulity with the absence of any reason

to disbelieve it, one should accept what appears to be true
e.g. if one sees someone walking on water, one should
believe that it is occurring.

Principle of Testimony with the absence of any

reason to disbelieve them, one should accept that
eyewitnesses or believers are telling the truth when they
testify about religious experiences.

1.4 Rudolf Otto

The German thinker Rudolf Otto (18691937) argues that there is one common
factor to all religious experience, independent of the cultural background. In his
book The Idea of the Holy (1923) he identifies this factor as the numinous. The
"numinous" experience has two aspects:

mysterium tremendum, which is the tendency to invoke
fear and trembling;

mysterium fascinans, the tendency to attract, fascinate

and compel.

The numinous experience also has a personal quality to it, in that the person
feels to be in communion with a holy other. Otto sees the numinous as the only
possible religious experience. He states: "There is no religion in which it [the
numinous] does not live as the real innermost core and without it no religion
would be worthy of the name" (Otto: 1972). Otto does not take any other kind
of religious experience such as ecstasy and enthusiasm seriously and is of the
opinion that they belong to the 'vestibule of religion'.

Ecstasy In ecstasy the believer is understood to have a soul or spirit

which can leave the body. In ecstasy the focus is on the soul leaving the
body and to experience transcendental realities. This type of religious
experience is characteristic for the shaman.

Enthusiasm In enthusiasm or possession God is understood to

be outside, other than or beyond the believer. A sacred power, being or
will enters the body or mind of an individual and possesses it. A person
capable of being possessed is sometimes called a medium. The deity,
spirit or power uses such a person to communicate to the immanent
world. Lewis argues that ecstasy and possession are basically one and the
same experience, ecstasy being merely one form which possession may
take. The outward manifestation of the phenomenon is the same in that
shamans appear to be possessed by spirits, act as their mediums, and even
though they claim to have mastery over them, can lose that mastery
(Lewis: 1986).

Mystical experience Mystical experiences are in many ways the

opposite of numinous experiences. In the mystical experience, all
'otherness' disappear and the believer becomes one with the
transcendent. The believer discovers that he or she is not distinct
from the cosmos, the deity or the other reality, but one with it.
Zaehner has identified two distinctively different mystical experiences:
natural and religious mystical experiences (Charlesworth: 1988).
Natural mystical experiences are, for example, experiences of the 'deeper
self' or experiences of oneness with nature. Zaehner argues that the
experiences typical of 'natural mysticism' are quite different from the
experiences typical of religious mysticism (Charlesworth: 1988). Natural
mystical experiences are not considered to be religious experiences
because they are not linked to a particular tradition, but natural mystical
experiences are spiritual experiences that can have a profound effect on
the individual.

Spiritual awakening A spiritual awakening usually involves a

realization or opening to a sacred dimension of reality and may or may
not be a religious experience. Often a spiritual awakening has lasting
effects upon one's life. The term "spiritual awakening" may be used to
refer to any of a wide range of experiences including being born again,
near-death experiences, and mystical experiences such as liberation and

Psychedelic drugs
7 Neurophysiology

7.1 Psychiatry

7.2 Neuroscience

o 7.2.1 Neurology

o 7.2.2 Neurotheology

o 7.2.3 Studies of the brain and religious experience
What is Religious Experience?

The term
religious experience
can conjure up a wide and diverse series of

We might assume that it can mean anything from saying a prayer, to attending a
service at a place of worship, to hearing the voice of God.


However, our understanding of the term is important
in investigating the concept.
Definition of Religious Experience

A religious experience is a non-

occurrence, and may be perceived as

It can be described as a mental event which is undergone by an individual, and

of which that person is aware.

Such an experience can be spontaneous, or it may be

brought about as a result of
intensive training and self-discipline.

Recipients of religious experiences usually say that what has happened to them
has drawn them into a deeper knowledge or awareness of God.

It is very important to remember that the experience itself is not a substitute for
the Divine, but a vehicle that is used to bring people closer to the Divine.

The experience that each individual has is absolutely unique and cannot be
with anyone.

religious experiences see to be encouraging; they
do not
condemn the individual, but help them to live a better life, or help others, for
The Types of Religious Experience

Richard Swinburne talks of there being five different types of religious


The first two are within the 'public' realm, and the next three within the 'private'.

Richard Swinburne talks of there being five different types of religious


The first two are within the 'public' realm, and the next three within the 'private'.
Characteristics of Religious Experiences
Mystical experiences

Mystical experiences are experiences where the recipient feels a sense of

with the Divine.

Mysticism involves the spiritual recognition of truths beyond normal

William James

William James is, arguably, the most famous commentator on religious


James was an American doctor (Harvard graduate), not a theologian.

He had a deep interest in philosophy, and an equally profound interest and

specialism in psychology.

His famous work The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) was originally a
series of lectures (The Gifford Lectures) given at
Edinburgh University at the
beginning of the 20thcentury.
William James four characteristics of mystical experiences

James recognised that the term mystical is used in a wide variety of contexts,
but suggested that using it to refer to a person was has had a religious
is too ambiguous.

Therefore, in his book The Varieties of Religious

Experience, he offers four
characteristics which he claims will enable us to identify mystical experiences:

The experience of God goes far beyond the human powers of description.

The person feels like they are unable to describe the experience or not do it


St Teresa of Avila states, I wish I could give a description of at least the

part of what I have learned, but, when I try to discover a way of doing so, I find
impossible ...

The person receives knowledge of the divine which is not otherwise available.

The experience is therefore a direct revelation from God.


Religious experiences are described as transient which means they are n


A transient appearance may appear to last for a long period of time whereas it
may have actually been very short.

The effects of the transient experience are however

, long lasting and involve a
changed view of the universe.

Religious experiences were found to be passive, which means the person was
not in control of what happened to them.

Instead the experience just happens and is from God


James saw this as evidence that a religious experience can be explained by

saying a person willed it.
F C Happold -Types of mysticism

F C Happold tried to provide some sort of context in which to think about and
discuss mystical experiences.

Mysticism: A Study and an Anthology
(1963), he suggests that we can divide

mysticism into two types:
The mysticism of love and union
The mysticism of knowledge and understanding.
The mysticism of love and union

This is the longing to escape from loneliness and the feeling of being separate.

Happold believes that there are two urges that govern all of us.

The first is to be an individual.

The second is to be accepted in some way.

These two urges are constantly in conflict with one


Happold believes that these urges have their origin

in the fact that we are in some
way sharers in what we could call the Divine Life

This suggests that, despite our need to be individuals, we are always trying to
back to God hence the desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

F C Happold -Types of mysticism

F C Happold tried to provide some sort of context i

n which to think about and
discuss mystical experiences.

Mysticism: A Study and an Anthology
(1963), he suggests that we can divide
mysticism into two types:
The mysticism of love and union
The mysticism of knowledge and understanding.
The mysticism of love and union


This is the longing to escape from loneliness and the feeling of being separate.

Happold believes that there are two urges that govern all of us.

The first is to be an individual.

The second is to be accepted in some way.

These two urges are constantly in conflict with one


Happold believes that these urges have their origin

in the fact that we are in some
way sharers in what we could call the Divine Life

This suggests that, despite our need to be individuals, we are always trying to
back to God hence the desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
The mysticism of knowledge and understanding

Happold says that people have another urge which

is in all of us.

We need to try to find out the secret of the universe (the meaning of life, in
other words).

Importantly, he says that we do not seek this in sections, but want to know the
whole story, as it were.

The way that we can look for answers to such an ultimate question is through
experience of God.
Aspects of mystical experience

Further to his separation of mystical experience in

to two types, Happold says that

there are three aspects of mystical experience:


Mystical experiences in this context is the idea of

finding the soul and, therefore,
complete self-fulfilment.

This form of mysticism does not deal with the God of classical theism, although
does relate to certain Buddhist and Hindu philosophers.

Nature-mysticism is found in the belief that God is


He is everywhere, and can therefore be united with

in many aspects of nature.

God-mysticism is the idea that humans want to return to God.

There are suggestions that mystical union with God

requires the human soul to
become like God

The cause of the experiences which people seem to have and are undoubtedly
affected by is real; if that cause is believed to be God, then God exists.

This does not prove the God of classical theism, but just God in the sense of the
source of the religious experience.

Finally, James noted that things that are true tend

to lead to consistency, stability
and flowing human intercourse.

Put another way, if something is real and true it is likely to improve a persons
life, whereas that which is false is more likely to
restrict and damage a persons

Significantly, James noted that those who claimed to have had religious
experiences seemed to be generally more fulfilled and purposeful in their
understanding of the world and their place in it, than those who subscribed to
atheist theories.
The challenges to religious experience from philosophy
Can the finite experience the infinite?

The problem arises of how you can distinguish God from other possible
of experience.

E.g. God is said to be the Creator how would you

recognise that attribute?

God is also said to be omnipresent, infinite, omnipotent and eternal but

simply by virtue of an awareness of an object of experience, can anything
recognised to be that?

To recognise omniscience, you would have to be omniscient yourself!

It takes one to know one!!

God has no body, he is not material, yet is said to

be one being.

Therefore an encounter with God is radically different from an encounter

with a

According to the Bible, God is not a person, e.g.

God is Love.

How can we experience God if God is not material?

People argue that just as you can encounter a table

, you can also encounter God,
but the two are very different.

E.g. God is not material, nor does he have a definite location.

Also, claims can be checked of encounters with objects, but when the object is
God, they are not verifiable.
Direct experience of God is impossible.

We interpret every experience in ways we understand


It could be argued that the religious person interprets experience according to a

religious framework of life, whilst the atheist interprets it as purely natural

The finite cannot experience the infinite so we cannot experience God.


God is also said to be omnipresent, infinite, omnipotent and eternal but how,
simply by virtue of an awareness of an object of experience, can anything be
recognised to be that?

To recognise omniscience, you would have to be omniscient yourself!

It takes one to know one!!

God has no body, he is not material, yet is said to

be one being.

Therefore an encounter with God is radically different from an encounter with a


According to the Bible, God is not a person, e.g.

God is Love.

How can we experience God if God is not material?

People argue that just as you can encounter a table

, you can also encounter God,
but the two are very different.

E.g. God is not material, nor does he have a definite location.

Also, claims can be checked of encounters with objects, but when the object is
God, they are not verifiable.

Direct experience of God is impossible.


We interpret every experience in ways we understand

It could be argued that the religious person interprets experience according to a

religious framework of life, whilst the atheist interprets it as purely natural

The finite cannot experience the infinite so we cannot experience God.

Problems of verifying religious experience

Individuals rather than groups undergo religious experiences.

As a result, we only have one persons testimony as

to what has happened.

E.g. St Bernadette testified that the Virgin Mary had spoken to her.

Witnesses to the experience stated that they did not see or hear the Virgin Mary
and only saw Bernadette talking to an unseen some

Religious experience is very like emotion it is a

personal response, which
means that any form of empirical testing is useless
Religious experiences are regarded as subjective be
cause no objective criteria can
be applied to them in order to judge to their merit
, authenticity or anything else.

A subjective experience cannot be offered as scientific; that is, as empirical or

intellectual proof.

This is basically because experiences happen to people, and will always be open
to interpretation.

It would appear that those who encounter these experiences portray the Being
revealed to them quite differently.

In some cases it is clearly the God of their respective faith.

In other cases it would appear to be a deity quite

distinct from the God of formal

or organised religion.

For some, it is simply the force of nature.

How can we then verify the authenticity if the experiences are so different?

In many cases, drugs or alcohol can produce very similar effects to a religious

In The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) James refers to experiments

using nitrous oxide and anaesthetics.

He suggests that, when mixed sufficiently with air,

these substances stimulate
the mystical consciousness in an extraordinary degree.

If this is the case can we rely on peoples accounts?

The challenge to religious experience from science

Page 16 to 19
Sigmund Freud

More particularly, he believed that they were projections of the ultimate, oldest
and most profound ideas that people had.

For example, if someone claimed to have experienced

the suffering of Jesus, a
religious person may accept this.

Freud, on the other hand, would claim that the recipient of this experience was
simply projecting his or her ultimate beliefs about
suffering, helplessness and
separation, along with salvation, hope and desire t
o be reunited with ones parent
(in this case portrayed as God.)

Freud refers to religion and religious experience a

s a mass delusion or paranoid

In turning away from reality and putting a wishful

reality in its place the person

makes use of magical thinking.

In some ways this brings religion closer to science


Freud had often said that paranoid delusions are like philosophical systems or
scientific theories - they are all trying to make sense of the world, and our place
in it.
V S Ramachandran

Ramachandran is a neurologist
He carried out extensive research related to temporal lobe epilepsy from which
he has concluded that there is important evidence linking the temporal lobes to
religious experience
So what we suggested was, there are certain circuits within the temporal lobes
which have been selectively activated. Their activity is
selectively heightened in these patients,
and somehow the activity of these specific neural circuits is more conducive to
belief and mystical belief. It makes them more prone to religious belief.
V S Ramachandran, God on the Brian, BBC Horizon programme, 2003
Ramachandran is not unwilling to accept that it may
be that God exists and has
placed the temporal lobe within the brain as a means of communication with
What is beyond doubt is that the origins of religion are even more complex than
had been
thought. The science of neurotheology has revealed
that it is too simplistic to see
religion as either spiritually inspired or the result of social conditioning. What it
is that for some reason our brains have developed specific structures that help us
in God. Remarkably it seems whether God exists or
not, the way our brains have
developed, we will go on believing.
V S Ramachandran, God on the Brian, BBC Horizon programme, 2003
Michael Persinger

Michael Persinger is a cognitive neuroscience researcher who agrees that the

temporal lobes have a significant role in religious
experiences, and argues that
religious experiences are no more than the brain responding to external stimuli.


Persinger claims that by stimulating the temporal lobes with a unique machine
can artificially induce in almost anyone a moment that feels just like a genuine
religious experience.

Persinger has developed a helmet which produced weak magnetic fields across
the hemispheres of the brain, specifically the temporal lobe.

Over 900 people who have taken part in the experiments claim to have had
for of religious experienced.

It is thought that this happens because when under

the influence of the helmet, the
brain is deprived of the self-stimulation and sensory input that is required for it
define itself as being distinct from the rest of the world; the brain defaults to a
sense of infinity.

This sense of self expands to fill whatever the bra

in can sense, and what it senses
is the world, so the experience of the self simply
expands to fill the perception of
the world itself.

One experiences becoming one with the universe.

However, as soon as the electromagnetic field is turned off then the experiences

Persinger has been able to reproduce this by electrically suppressing activity in

the superior parietal lobe using his helmet.

When he performed this experiment on Tibetan monks

and the Franciscan nun,
they all reported that the experiment was identical
to what they experience in their
own meditative practice.

This sense of self expands to fill whatever the bra

in can sense, and what it senses
is the world, so the experience of the self simply
expands to fill the perception of
the world itself.

One experiences becoming one with the universe.

However, as soon as the electromagnetic field is turned off then the experiences

Persinger has been able to reproduce this by electrically suppressing activity in

the superior parietal lobe using his helmet.

When he performed this experiment on Tibetan monks

and the Franciscan nun,
they all reported that the experiment was identical
to what they experience in their
own meditative practice.
Can religious experience show that God probably exists?
Page 19
William James observes that religious experiences
tend to have a profound effect on the lives of
people and even whole societies, implying that
such effects cannot reasonably be attributed to
Instead, it is much more reasonable
to believe that a real God is responsible for
religious experiences than to attribute the profound
effects of those experiences to a mere imaginary
James also argues that all normal persons have
religious experience and, since experience is the
final arbiter of truth, then God as the object of
religious experiences must be accepted as
factually true.
There are a countless number of people throughout
the world claiming to have had a religious
experience. For many, the sheer amount of
testimony is proof that God is responsible for the
experience and therefore probably exists.
cannot corroborate the account so cannot accept if

it is true.
In many cases, drugs or alcohol can produce very
similar effects to a religious experience. We also
have physiological problems such as temporal lobe
epilepsy. Therefore, it is difficult to prove the
source of the experience to be God.
People argue that just as you can encounter a table
you can also encounter God, but the two are very
different. E.g. God is not material, nor does he
have a definite location. Also, claims can be
checked of encounters with objects, but when the
object is God, they are not verifiable.
Is it necessary to have a religious experience in order to be able to understand
a religious experience is?
Page 20
How successful are the challenges to religious experience from philosophy and
science? Page 21
Conclusion page 28

The key advantage to the religious experience argument for the existence of
is that it relates to people in a much more direct
way than some of the other
traditional families of arguments.

The approach is much more accessible and, to a degree, understandable.

The key disadvantage is that we are dealing with something akin to emotion, not
something empirical and verifiable.

Perhaps the most persuasive element of the entire approach is Swinburnes

insistence that while it may be possible to isolate
each element of proof offered
and find problems with it, such elements have far greater cumulative worth.

Atheist philosopher Anthony Flew who was keen to dismiss the cumulative
approach, said: If one leaky bucket will not hold
water that is no reason to think that ten can.

Caroline Franks Davis agreed, but pointed out that

it may be possible to arrange the buckets inside each other so that the holes do
not overlap.

In other words, while individual arguments regarding religious experience may

flawed, it is possible to take elements from each and to end up with a fairly
powerful argument for Gods existence.

It is perhaps appropriate to conclude that the argument is probably of value to

the non-believer only in as much as it points to another area of human life that
might involve a divine being.

There is no clear answer to the question of whetherone can demonstrate Gods

existence as a result of religious experience.
Several psychologists have proposed models in which religious experiences
are part of a process of transformation of the self.

Carl Jung's work on himself and his patients convinced him that life has a
spiritual purpose beyond material goals. Our main task, he believed, is to
discover and fulfil our deep innate potential, much as the acorn contains the
potential to become the oak, or the caterpillar to become the butterfly. Based on
his study of Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Gnosticism, Taoism, and other
traditions, Jung perceived that this journey of transformation is at the
mystical heart of all religions. It is a journey to meet the self and at the same
time to meet the Divine. Unlike Sigmund Freud, Jung thought spiritual
experience was essential to our well-being.[82]

The notion of the numinous was an important concept in the writings of Carl
Jung. Jung regarded numinous experiences as fundamental to an understanding
of the individuation process because of their association with experiences of
synchronicity in which the presence of archetypes is felt.[83][84]

McNamara proposes that religious experiences may help in "decentering" the

self, and transform it into an integral self which is closer to an ideal self.[85]

Transpersonal psychology is a school of psychology that studies the

transpersonal, self-transcendent or spiritual aspects of the human experience.
The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology describes transpersonal psychology

as "the study of humanitys highest potential, and with the recognition,
understanding, and realization of unitive, spiritual, and transcendent states
of consciousness" (Lajoie and Shapiro, 1992:91). Issues considered in
transpersonal psychology include spiritual self-development, peak experiences,
mystical experiences, systemic trance and other metaphysical experiences of


noun: mysticism

1. 1.

belief that union with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or
the spiritual apprehension of knowledge inaccessible to the intellect,
may be attained through contemplation and self-surrender.

2. 2.

belief characterized by self-delusion or dreamy confusion of thought,

especially when based on the assumption of occult qualities or
mysterious agencies.

Mysticism is popularly known as becoming one with God or the Absolute


1 Etymology

2 Definitions

o 2.1 Mystical experience and union with the Divine or


Mysticism is popularly known as union with God or the Absolute.[10][11] In
the 13th century the term unio mystica came to be used to refer to the
"spiritual marriage," the ecstasy, or rapture, that was experienced when
prayer was used "to contemplate both Gods omnipresence in the world
and God in his essence."[web 1] In the 19th century, under the influence of
Romanticism, this "union" was interpreted as a "religious experience,"
which provides certainty about God or a transcendental reality.[web 1] An
influential proponent of this understanding was William James (1842-
1910), who stated that "in mystic states we both become one with the
Absolute and we become aware of our oneness."[12] William James
popularized this use of the term "religious experience"[note 1] in his The
Varieties of Religious Experience,[14][15][web 2] contributing to the
interpretation of mysticism as a distinctive experience, comparable to
sensory experiences.[16][web 2] Religious experiences belonged to the
"personal religion,"[17] which he considered to be "more fundamental than
either theology or ecclesiasticism".[17] He gave a Perennialist
interpretation to religious experience, stating that this kind of experience
is ultimately uniform in various traditions.[note 2]

McGinn notes that the term unio mystica, although it has Christian
origins, is primarily a modern expression.[18] McGinn argues that
"presence" is more accurate than "union", since not all mystics spoke of
union with God, and since many visions and miracles were not
necessarily related to union. He also argues that we should speak of
"consciousness" of God's presence, rather than of "experience", since
mystical activity is not simply about the sensation of God as an external
object, but more broadly about "new ways of knowing and loving based
on states of awareness in which God becomes present in our inner

However, the idea of "union" does not work in all contexts. For example,
in Advaita Vedanta, there is only one reality (Brahman) and therefore
nothing other reality to unite with itBrahman in each person (atman)
has always in fact been identical to Brahman all along. Dan Merkur also
notes that union with God or the Absolute is a too limited definition,
since there are also traditions which aim not at a sense of unity, but of
nothingness, such as Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and Meister
Eckhart.[web 1] According to Merkur, Kabbala and Buddhism also
emphasize nothingness.[web 1] Blakemore and Jennett note that "definitions
of mysticism [...] are often imprecise." They further note that this kind of

interpretation and definition is a recent development which has become
the standard definition and understanding

o 2.2 Religious ecstasies and interpretative context

o 2.3 Intuitive insight and enlightenment

o 2.4 Spiritual life and re-formation

o Other authors point out that mysticism involves more

than "mystical experience." According to Gellmann,
the ultimate goal of mysticism is human
transformation, not just experiencing mystical or
visionary states.[web 2][note 11][note 12] According to McGinn,
personal transformation is the essential criterium to
determine the authenticity of Christian mysticism. [19]
[note 13]

3 History of the term

o 3.1 Early Christianity

o 3.2 Medieval meaning

o 3.3 Early modern meaning

o 3.4 Contemporary meaning

The 19th century saw a growing emphasis on individual experience, as a

defense against the growing rationalism of western society.[15][web 1] The
meaning of mysticism was considerably narrowed:[web 1]

The competition between the perspectives of theology and science

resulted in a compromise in which most varieties of what had
traditionally been called mysticism were dismissed as merely
psychological phenomena and only one variety, which aimed at union
with the Absolute, the Infinite, or Godand thereby the perception of its
essential unity or onenesswas claimed to be genuinely mystical. The
historical evidence, however, does not support such a narrow conception
of mysticism.[web 1]

Under the influence of Perennialism, which was popularised in both the
west and the east by Unitarianism, Transcendentalists and Theosophy,
mysticism has been applied to a broad spectrum of religious traditions, in
which all sorts of esotericism and religious traditions and practices are
joined together.[37][38][15] The term mysticism was extended to comparable
phenomena in non-Christian religions,[web 1] where it influenced Hindu and
Buddhist responses to colonialism, resulting in Neo-Vedanta and
Buddhist modernism.[38][39]

In the contemporary usage "mysticism" has become an umbrella term for

all sorts of non-rational world views.[40] William Harmless even states that
mysticism has become "a catch-all for religious weirdness".[41] Within the
academic study of religion the apparent "unambiguous commonality" has
become "opaque and controversial".[30] The term "mysticism" is being
used in different ways in different traditions.[30] Some call to attention the
conflation of mysticism and linked terms, such as spirituality and
esotericism, and point at the differences between various traditions.[42]

4 Scholarly approaches of mystical experience

o 4.1 Mystical experiences

o 4.2 Perennialism versus constructionism

Perennialism versus constructionism

The term "mystical experience" evolved as a distinctive concept since the 19th
century, laying sole emphasis on the experiential aspect, be it spontaneous or
induced by human behavior. Perennialists regard those various experiences
traditions as pointing to one universal transcendental reality, for which those
experiences offer the proof. In this approach, mystical experiences are
privatised, separated from the context in which they emerge.[43] Well-known
representatives are William James, R.C. Zaehner, William Stace and Robert
Forman.[44] The perennial position is "largely dismissed by scholars",[5] but "has
lost none of its popularity."[45]

In contrast, for the past decades most scholars have favored a constructionist
approach, which states that mystical experiences are fully constructed by the
ideas, symbols and practices that mystics are familiar with.[44] Critics of the term
"religious experience" note that the notion of "religious experience" or
"mystical experience" as marking insight into religious truth is a modern
development,[46] and contemporary researchers of mysticism note that mystical
experiences are shaped by the concepts "which the mystic brings to, and which
shape, his experience".[47] What is being experienced is being determined by the
expectations and the conceptual background of the mystic.[48]

Richard Jones draws a distinction between "anticonstructivism" and

"perennialism": constructivism can rejected with respect to a certain class of
mystical experiences without ascribing to a perennialist philosophy on the
relation of mystical doctrines.[49] One can reject constructivism without claiming
that mystical experiences reveal a cross-cultural "perennial truth". For example,
a Christian can reject both constructivism and perennialism in arguing that there
is a union with God free of cultural construction. Constructivism versus
anticonstructivism is a matter of the nature of mystical experiences while
perennialism is a matter of mystical traditions and the doctrines they espouse.

o 4.3 Contextualism and attribution theory

o The contextual approach has become the common

approach.[43] Contextualism takes into account the
historical and cultural context of mystical
experiences.[43] The attribution approach views
"mystical experience" as non-ordinary states of
consciousness which are explained in a religious
framework.[23] According to Proudfoot, mystics
unconsciously merely attribute a doctrinal content to
ordinary experiences. That is, mystics project
cognitive content onto otherwise ordinary
experiences having a strong emotional impact. [50][23]
This approach has been further elaborated by Ann
Taves, in her Religious Experience Reconsidered. She
incorporates both neurological and cultural
approaches in the study of mystical experience.

o 4.4 Neurological research

Neurological research takes an empirical approach, relating mystical

experiences to neurological processes.[51] This leads to a central
philosophical issue: does the identification of neural triggers or neural
correlates of mystical experiences prove that mystical experiences are no

more than brain events or does it merely identify the brain activity
occurring during a genuine cognitive event? The most common positions
are that neurology reduces mystical experiences or that neurology is
neutral to the issue of mystical cognitivity.[52]

Interest in mystical experiences and psychedelic drugs has also recently

seen a resurgence.[53]

The temporal lobe seems to be involved in mystical experiences,[web 8][54]

and in the change in personality that may result from such experiences.[web
It generates the feeling of "I," and gives a feeling of familiarity or
strangeness to the perceptions of the senses.[web 8] There is a long-standing
notion that epilepsy and religion are linked,[55] and some religious figures
may have had temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE).[web 8][56][57][55]

The anterior insula may be involved in ineffability, a strong feeling of

certainty which cannot be expressed in words, which is a common quality
in mystical experiences. According to Picard, this feeling of certainty may
be caused by a dysfunction of the anterior insula, a part of the brain
which is involved in interoception, self-reflection, and in avoiding
uncertainty about the internal representations of the world by
"anticipation of resolution of uncertainty or risk".[58][note 14]

o 4.5 Mysticism and morality

5 Forms of mysticism

o 5.1 Shamanism

o 5.2 Western mysticism

5.2.1 Mystery religions

5.2.2 Christian mysticism

5.2.3 Western esotericism and modern


o 5.3 Jewish mysticism

o 5.4 Islamic mysticism

o 5.5 Indian religions

5.5.1 Hinduism

5.5.2 Tantra

5.5.3 Sant-tradition and Sikhism

o 5.6 Buddhism

o 5.7 Taoism

o 5.8 The Secularization of Mysticism

6 See also

7 Notes

8 References

9 Sources

o 9.1 Published sources

o 9.2 Web-sources

10 Further reading

11 External links

Areas of inquiry
Henology stands in contradistinction to several other philosophical disciplines.
The term "henology" refers to the discipline that centers around The One, as in
the philosophies of Plato and Plotinus. It is sometimes used in contradistinction
to disciplines that treats Being as its starting point (as in Aristotle and Avicenna)
and also to those that seek to understand Knowledge and Truth (as in Kant and

See also

Absolute (philosophy)

Deleuzian metaphysics

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola

"God above God" in the philosophy of Paul Tillich

Henosis, union with what is fundamental in reality

Monad (philosophy)


Non-philosophy (French: non-philosophie) is a concept

developed by French philosopher Franois Laruelle
(formerly of the Collge international de philosophie and
the University of Paris X: Nanterre).

Laruelle argues that all forms of philosophy (from ancient philosophy to

analytic philosophy to deconstruction and so on) are structured around a
prior decision, and remain constitutively blind to this decision. The
'decision' that Laruelle is concerned with here is the dialectical splitting of
the world in order to grasp the world philosophically. Examples from the
history of philosophy include Immanuel Kant's distinction between the
synthesis of manifold impressions and the faculties of the understanding;
Martin Heidegger's split between the ontic and the ontological; and
Jacques Derrida's notion of diffrance/presence. The reason Laruelle
finds this decision interesting and problematic is because the decision
itself cannot be grasped (philosophically grasped, that is) without
introducing some further scission.

Laruelle further argues that the decisional structure of philosophy can

only be grasped non-philosophically. In this sense, non-philosophy is a
science of philosophy. Non-philosophy is not metaphilosophy because, as
Laruelle scholar Ray Brassier notes, "philosophy is already
metaphilosophical through its constitutive reflexivity".[1] Brassier also
defines non-philosophy as the "theoretical practice of philosophy
proceeding by way of transcendental axioms and producing theorems

which are philosophically uninterpretable".[1] The reason why the axioms
and theorems of non-philosophy are philosophically uninterpretable is
because, as explained, philosophy cannot grasp its decisional structure in
the way that non-philosophy can.

Laruelle's non-philosophy, he claims, should be considered to philosophy

what non-Euclidean geometry is to the work of Euclid. It stands in
particular opposition to philosophical heirs of Jacques Lacan such as
Alain Badiou.

The One in Plotinus

Univocity of being

The term mysticism, comes from the Greek , meaning to conceal. In the
Hellenistic world, mystical referred to secret religious rituals. In early
Christianity the term came to refer to hidden allegorical interpretations of
Scriptures and to hidden presences, such as that of Jesus at the Eucharist. Only
later did the term begin to denote mystical theology, which included direct
experience of the divine (See Bouyer, 1981). Typically, mystics, theistic or not,
see their mystical experience as part of a larger undertaking aimed at human
transformation (See, for example, Teresa of Avila, Life, Chapter 19) and not as
the terminus of their efforts. Thus, in general, mysticism would best be
thought of as a constellation of distinctive practices, discourses, texts,
institutions, traditions, and experiences aimed at human transformation,
variously defined in different traditions.

Under the influence of William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience,

heavily centered on people's conversion experiences, most philosophers' interest
in mysticism has been in distinctive, allegedly knowledge-granting mystical
experiences. Philosophers have focused on such topics as the classification of
mystical experiences, their nature in different religions and mystical traditions,
to what extent mystical experiences are conditioned by a mystic's language and
culture, and whether mystical experiences furnish evidence for the truth of their
contents. Some philosophers have begun to question the emphasis on
experience in favor of examining the entire mystical complex (See Jantzen,
1994 and 1995, and section 9 below, and Turner, 1996). Since this article
pertains to mysticism and philosophy, it will concentrate chiefly on topics
philosophers have discussed concerning mystical experience.

1. Mystical Experience

Because of its variable meanings, even in serious treatments, any

definition of mystical experience must be at least partly stipulative.
Two, related, senses of mystical experience will be presented, one in a
wide definition reflecting a more general usage, and the second in a
narrow definition suiting more specialized treatments of mysticism in

1.1 The Wide Sense of Mystical Experience

In the wide sense, let us say that a mystical experience, is:

A (purportedly) super sense-perceptual or sub sense-perceptual experience

granting acquaintance of realities or states of affairs that are of a kind not
accessible by way of sense perception, somatosensory modalities, or standard

We can further define the terms used in the definition, as follows:

1. The inclusion of purportedly is to allow the definition to be accepted

without acknowledging that mystics ever really do experience realities or
states of affairs in the way described.

2. A super sense-perceptual experience includes perception-like content of

a kind not appropriate to sense perception, somatosensory modalities
(including the means for sensing pain and body temperature, and
internally sensing body, limb, organ, and visceral positions and states), or
standard introspection. Some mystics have referred to a spiritual sense,
corresponding to the perceptual senses, appropriate to a non-physical
realm. A super sense-perceptual mode of experience may accompany
sense perception (see on extrovertive experience, Section 2.1). For
example, a person can have a super sense-perceptual experience while
watching a setting sun. The inclusion of the supersensory mode is what
makes the experience mystical.

3. A sub sense-perceptual experience is either devoid of phenomenological

content altogether, or nearly so (see the notion of pure conscious
events, in Sections 5 and 6), or consists of phenomenological content
appropriate to sense perception, but lacking in the conceptualization

typical of attentive sense perception (see below on unconstructed

4. Acquaintance of realities means the subject is aware of the presence of

(one or more) realities.

5. States of affairs includes, for example, the impermanence of all reality

and that God is the ground of the self. Acquaintance of states of affairs
can come in two forms. In one, a subject is aware of the presence of (one
or more) realities on which (one or more) states of affairs supervene. An
example would be an awareness of God (a reality) affording an awareness
of one's utter dependence on God (a state of affairs). In its second form,
acquaintance of states of affairs involves an insight directly, without
supervening on acquaintance, of any reality. An example would be
coming to see the impermanence of all that exists following an
experience that eliminates all phenomenological content.

It is not part of the definition that necessarily at the time of the experience the
subject could tell herself, as it were, what realities or state of affairs were then
being disclosed to her. The realization may arise following the experience.

Mystical experience is alleged to be noetic, involving knowledge of what a

subject apprehends (see James, 1958). To what extent this knowledge is alleged
to come from the experience alone will be discussed below (Section 8.5).

Many Buddhist traditions, however, make no claim for an

experience of a supersensory reality. Some cultivate instead an
experience of unconstructed awareness, involving an
awareness of the world on an absolutely or relatively non-
conceptual level (see Griffiths, 1993). The unconstructed
experience is thought to grant insight, such as into the
impermanent nature of all things. Buddhists refer to an
experience of tathata or the thisness of reality, accessible
only by the absence of ordinary sense-perceptual cognition.
These Buddhist experiences are sub sense-perceptual, and
mystical, since thisness is claimed to be inaccessible to
ordinary sense perception and the awareness of it to provide
knowledge about the true nature of reality.

1.2 The Narrow Sense of Mystical Experience

In the narrow sense, more common among philosophers, mystical experience
refers to a sub-class of mystical experience in the wide sense. Specifically it
refers to:

A (purportedly) super sense-perceptual or sub sense-perceptual
unitive experience granting acquaintance of realities or states
of affairs that are of a kind not accessible by way of sense-
perception, somatosensory modalities, or standard
A unitive experience involves a phenomenological de-emphasis, blurring, or
eradication of multiplicity, where the cognitive significance of the experience is
deemed to lie precisely in that phenomenological feature. Examples are
experiences of the oneness of all of nature, union with God, as in Christian
mysticism, (see section 2.2.1), the Hindu experience that Atman is Brahman
(that the self/soul is identical with the eternal, absolute being), the Buddhist
unconstructed experience, and monistic experiences, devoid of all
multiplicity. (On unitive experiences see Smart 1958 and 1978, and
Wainwright, 1981, Chapter One.) Excluded from the narrow definition, though
present in the wide one, are, for example, a dualistic experience of God, where
subject and God remain strictly distinct, a Jewish kabbalistic experience of a
single supernal sefirah, and shamanistic experiences of spirits. These are not
mystical in the narrow sense, because not unitive experiences.

2. Categories of Mystical Experiences

2.1 Extrovertive and Introvertive

2.2 Theistic and non-theistic
2.2.1 Union with God
Union with God signifies a rich family of experiences rather than a single
experience. Union involves a falling away of the separation between a person
and God, short of identity. Christian mystics have variously described union
with the Divine. This includes Bernard of Clairvaux (10901153) describing
unification as mutuality of love, Henry Suso (12951366) likening union with
God to a drop of water falling into wine, taking on the taste and color of the
wine (Suso, 1953, p. 185), and Jan van Ruysbroeck (12931381) describing
union as iron within the fire and the fire within the iron (see Pike, 1992,
Chapter 2). Generally, medieval Christian mysticism had at least three stages,
variously described, in the union-consciousness: quiet, essentially a prelude to
the union with God, full union, and rapture, the latter involving a feeling of
being carried away beyond oneself (see Pike, 1992, Chapter 1).

2.2.2 Identity with God
Theistic mystics sometimes speak as though they have a consciousness of being
fully absorbed into or even identical with God. Examples are the Islamic Sufi
mystic al-Husayn al-Hallaj (858-922) proclaiming, I am God (see Schimmel,
1975, Chapter 2), and the Jewish kabbalist, Isaac of Acre (b. 1291?), who wrote
of the soul being absorbed into God as a jug of water into a running well. (see
Idel, 1988, p. 67.) Also, the Hasidic master, R. Shneur Zalman of Liady (1745
1812) wrote of a person as a drop of water in the ocean of the Infinite with an
illusory sense of individual dropness. And, the (heretical) Christian mystic,
Meister Eckhart (c. 12601327/8) made what looked very much like identity-
declarations (see McGinn, 2001 and Smith, 1997). It is still controversial,
however, as to when such declarations are to be taken as identity assertions,
with pantheistic or acosmic intentions, and when they are perhaps hyperbolic
variations on descriptions of union-type experiences.

In theurgic (from the Greek theourgia) mysticism a mystic intends to activate

the divine in the mystical experience. (See Shaw, 1995, p. 4.) Thus, a Christian
mystic who intends to activate God's grace, is involved in theurgy. Nonetheless,
while typically theistic mystics claim experience of God's activity, many do not
claim this to result from their own endeavors, while others refrain from
declaring the activation of the divine as the purpose of their mystical life. So
they are not involved in theurgic activity.

The Jewish kabbalah is the most prominent form of alleged theurgic mysticism.
In it, the mystic aims to bring about a modification in the inner life of the
Godhead (see Idel, 1988). However, it is questionable whether in its theurgic
forms kabbalah is mysticism, even on the wide definition of mysticism,
although it is clearly mysticism with regard to its teaching of union with the
Godhead and the Einsof, or Infinite.

Apophatic mysticism (from the Greek, apophasis, meaning negation or

saying away) is contrasted with kataphatic mysticism (from the Greek,
kataphasis, meaning affirmation or saying with). Apophatic mysticism, put
roughly, claims that nothing can be said of objects or states of affairs which the
mystic experiences. These are absolutely indescribable, or ineffable.
Kataphatic mysticism does make claims about what the mystic experiences.

An example of apophatic mysticism is in the classical Tao text, Tao Te Ching,

attributed to Lao Tsu (6th century B.C.E.), which begins with the words, Even
the finest teaching is not the Tao itself. Even the finest name is insufficient to
define it. Without words, the Tao can be experienced, and without a name, it can
be known. (Lao Tsu, 1984).

In contrast, with this understanding of kataphatic and apophatic, Fr. Thomas
Keating has argued that Christian mysticism strongly endorses God's being

3. The Attributes of Mystical Experience

4. Perennialism

Various philosophers, sometimes dubbed perennialists, have attempted

to identify common mystical experiences across cultures and traditions
(for the term perennialism, see Huxley, 1945). Walter Stace's
perennialist position has generated much discussion (Stace, 1960, 1961).
Stace proposes two mystical experiences found in all cultures, religions,
periods, and social conditions. He identifies a universal extrovertive
experience that looks outward through the senses to apprehend the One
or the Oneness of all in or through the multiplicity of the world,
apprehending the One as an inner life or consciousness of the world.
The Oneness is experienced as a sacred objective reality, in a feeling of
bliss and joy. Stace's universal extrovertive experience (or the
experienced reality, it is not always clear which) is paradoxical, and
possibly ineffable (Stace, 1961, 79).
Secondly, Stace identifies a universal, monistic, introvertive experience
that looks inward into the mind, to achieve pure consciousness, that
is, an experience phenomenologically not of anything (Stace, 1961, 86).
Stace calls this a unitary consciousness. Some have called this a Pure
Conscious Event or PCE (Forman, 1993b and 1999. See section 6
below). A PCE consists of an emptying out by a subject of all
experiential content and phenomenological qualities, including concepts,
thoughts, sense perception, and sensuous images. The subject allegedly
remains with pure wakeful consciousness. Like his extrovertive
experience, Stace's universal introvertive experience involves a blissful
sense of sacred objectivity, and is paradoxical and possibly ineffable.
Stace considers the universal introvertive experience to be a ripening of
mystical awareness beyond the halfway house of the universal
extrovertive consciousness.

5. Pure Conscious Events (PCEs)

Pure Conscious Events (PCEs)
5.1 The Defenders of Pure Conscious Events

Much philosophical disagreement has taken place over

questions concerning PCEs, allegedly an emptying out
by a subject of all experiential content and
phenomenological qualities, including concepts, thoughts,
sense perception, and sensuous images. Do such events
ever really occur, and if they do, how significant are they
in mysticism?

6. Constructivism

7. Inherentists vs. Attributionists

Inherentists believe that there are experiences that are

inherently religious or mystical. These experiences come
with their religious or mystical content built in as would
redness be built in to a sense experience. Rudolf Otto was
an inherentist. Attributionists believe that there are no
inherently religious or mystical experiences. There are
only experiences deemed religious. Among their ranks is
to be counted William James. A leading attributionist, Ann
Taves, contends that first people or groups will have
experiences of what strikes them as being special. Only
then, depending on various factors they will attribute a
religious or mystical meaning to them. (Taves, 2009) Taves
is thus as much an anti-constructivist as she is anti-
inherentist. The constructivist sees religious or mystical
experiences to be constituted from the very start by
cultural conditioning. The attributionist denies this, in
favor of a tiered or block-building approach from
experiencing something special to a religious or mystical

Constructivism underscores the conceptual

construction of mystical experience. Let us call soft
constructivism the view that there is no mystical
experience without at least some concepts, provided by
one's cultural conditioning, concepts being what
construct an experience. Let us call hard
constructivism the view that a mystic's specific cultural

background massively constructs determines, shapes,
or influences the nature of mystical experiences (See
Hollenback, 1996, Jones, 1909, Introduction, and Katz,
1978 and 1983). On the assumption that mystical
traditions are widely divergent, hard constructivism entails
the denial of perennialism. Soft constructivism is strictly
consistent with perennialism, however, since consistent
with there being some trans-cultural mystical experience
involving concepts common across mystical traditions.
Both hard and soft constructivist arguments have been
mobilized against the existence of PCEs.

8. Epistemology: The Doxastic Practice Approach and the

Argument from Experience

9. Mysticism, Religious Experience, and Gender


Academic Tools

Other Internet Resources

Related Entries

noun: consciousness

1. the state of being awake and aware of one's surroundings.

"she failed to regain consciousness and died two days later"

o the awareness or perception of something by a person.

plural noun: consciousnesses

"her acute consciousness of Mike's presence"

o the fact of awareness by the mind of itself and the world.

"consciousness emerges from the operations of the brain"


Consciousness is the state or quality of awareness, or, of being aware of an

external object or something within oneself.[1][2] It has been defined as:
sentience, awareness, subjectivity, the ability to experience or to feel,
wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the
mind.[3] Despite the difficulty in definition, many philosophers believe that there
is a broadly shared underlying intuition about what consciousness is.[4] As Max
Velmans and Susan Schneider wrote in The Blackwell Companion to
Consciousness: "Anything that we are aware of at a given moment forms part of
our consciousness, making conscious experience at once the most familiar and
most mysterious aspect of our lives."[5]

Thanks to recent developments in technology, consciousness

has become a significant topic of research in psychology,
Linguistics, neuropsychology and neuroscience within the past
few decades. The primary focus is on understanding what it
means biologically and psychologically for information to be
present in consciousnessthat is, on determining the neural
and psychological correlates of consciousness. The majority of
experimental studies assess consciousness by asking human
subjects for a verbal report of their experiences (e.g., "tell me if
you notice anything when I do this"). Issues of interest include
phenomena such as subliminal perception, blindsight, denial of
impairment, and altered states of consciousness produced by
alcohol and other drugs, or spiritual or meditative techniques.

3 Philosophy of mind

3.1 The coherence of the concept

3.2 Types of consciousness

Many philosophers have argued that consciousness is a unitary concept

that is understood intuitively by the majority of people in spite of the
difficulty in defining it.[23] Others, though, have argued that the level of
disagreement about the meaning of the word indicates that it either means
different things to different people (for instance, the objective versus
subjective aspects of consciousness), or else is an umbrella term

encompassing a variety of distinct meanings with no simple element in

Ned Block proposed a distinction between two types of consciousness

that he called phenomenal (P-consciousness) and access (A-
consciousness).[26] P-consciousness, according to Block, is simply raw
experience: it is moving, colored forms, sounds, sensations, emotions and
feelings with our bodies' and responses at the center. These experiences,
considered independently of any impact on behavior, are called qualia. A-
consciousness, on the other hand, is the phenomenon whereby
information in our minds is accessible for verbal report, reasoning, and
the control of behavior. So, when we perceive, information about what we
perceive is access conscious; when we introspect, information about our
thoughts is access conscious; when we remember, information about the
past is access conscious, and so on. Although some philosophers, such as
Daniel Dennett, have disputed the validity of this distinction,[27] others
have broadly accepted it. David Chalmers has argued that A-
consciousness can in principle be understood in mechanistic terms, but
that understanding P-consciousness is much more challenging: he calls
this the hard problem of consciousness.[28]

Some philosophers believe that Block's two types of consciousness are

not the end of the story. William Lycan, for example, argued in his book
Consciousness and Experience that at least eight clearly distinct types of
consciousness can be identified (organism consciousness; control
consciousness; consciousness of; state/event consciousness; reportability;
introspective consciousness; subjective consciousness; self-
consciousness)and that even this list omits several more obscure forms.

There is also debate over whether or not a-consciousness and p-

consciousness always co-exist or if they can exist separately. Although p-
consciousness without a-consciousness is more widely accepted, there
have been some hypothetical examples of A without P. Block for instance
suggests the case of a zombie that is computationally identical to a
person but without any subjectivity. However, he remains somewhat
skeptical concluding "I dont know whether there are any actual cases of
A-consciousness without P-consciousness, but I hope I have illustrated
their conceptual possibility." [30]


3.3 Forms of consciousness

While philosophers tend to focus on types of consciousness that occur 'in the
mind', in other disciplines such as sociology the emphasis is on the practical
meaning of consciousness. In this vein, it is possible to identify four forms of

Sensory experience, "the phenomenal sense that

something exists in relation to, or has an impact on, a
person". The concept of affect attests to this kind of
consciousness, as does sense data' "

Practical consciousness, or "knowing how to do things,

knowing how to go on. As writers as different as
Wittgenstein and Marx have elaborated, it is "basic to
human engagement"

Reflective consciousness, "the modality in which people

reflect upon the first two forms. It is the stuff of ordinary
philosophy and day-to-day thinking about what has been
done and what is to be done"

Reflexive consciousness, or "reflecting on the basis of

reflection, and interrogating the nature of knowing in the
context of the constitutive conditions of being".

3.4 Mindbody problem

3.5 Problem of other minds

3.6 Animal consciousness

3.7 Artifact consciousness

4 Scientific study

4.1 Measurement

4.2 Neural correlates

4.3 Biological function and evolution

4.4 States of consciousness

4.5 Phenomenology

5 Medical aspects

5.1 Assessment

5.2 Disorders of consciousness

5.3 Anosognosia

When I am in a conscious mental state, there is something

it is like for me to be in that state from the subjective or
first-person point of view. But how are we to understand
this? For instance, how is the conscious mental state
related to the body? Can consciousness be explained in
terms of brain activity? What makes a mental state be a
conscious mental state? The problem of consciousness is
arguably the most central issue in current philosophy of
mind and is also importantly related to major traditional
topics in metaphysics, such as the possibility of
immortality and the belief in free will. This article focuses
on Western theories and conceptions of consciousness,
especially as found in contemporary analytic philosophy of

The two broad, traditional and competing theories of mind

are dualism and materialism (or physicalism).

Some philosophers attempt to explain consciousness

directly in neurophysiological or physical terms,
while others offer cognitive theories of
consciousness whereby conscious mental states are
reduced to some kind of representational relation
between mental states and the world. There are a
number of such representational theories of consciousness
currently on the market, including higher-order theories
which hold that what makes a mental state conscious is

that the subject is aware of it in some sense. The
relationship between consciousness and science is also
central in much current theorizing on this topic: How does
the brain bind together various sensory inputs to
produce a unified subjective experience? What are the
neural correlates of consciousness? What can be learned
from abnormal psychology which might help us to
understand normal consciousness? To what extent are
animal minds different from human minds? Could an
appropriately programmed machine be conscious?

Table of Contents

1. Terminological Matters: Various Concepts of Consciousness

2. Some History on the Topic

3. The Metaphysics of Consciousness: Materialism vs.


1. Dualism: General Support and Related Issues

1. Substance Dualism and Objections

2. Other Forms of Dualism

2. Materialism: General Support

1. Objection 1: The Explanatory Gap and The Hard


2. Objection 2: The Knowledge Argument

3. Objection 3: Mysterianism

4. Objection 4: Zombies

5. Varieties of Materialism

4. Specific Theories of Consciousness

1. Neural Theories

2. Representational Theories of Consciousness

1. First-Order Representationalism

2. Higher-Order Representationalism

3. Hybrid Representational Accounts

3. Other Cognitive Theories

4. Quantum Approaches

5. Consciousness and Science: Key Issues

1. The Unity of Consciousness/The Binding Problem

2. Conscious experience seems to be unified in an

important sense; this crucial feature of consciousness
played an important role in the philosophy of Kant
who argued that unified conscious experience must
be the product of the (presupposed) synthesizing
work of the mind. Getting clear about exactly what is
meant by the unity of consciousness and
explaining how the brain achieves such unity has
become a central topic in the study of consciousness.
There are many different senses of unity (see Tye
2003; Bayne and Chalmers 2003, Dainton 2000,
2008, Bayne 2010), but perhaps most common is the
notion that, from the first-person point of view, we
experience the world in an integrated way and as a
single phenomenal field of experience. (For an
important anthology on the subject, see Cleeremans
2003.) However, when one looks at how the brain
processes information, one only sees discrete regions
of the cortex processing separate aspects of
perceptual objects. Even different aspects of the
same object, such as its color and shape, are
processed in different parts of the brain. Given that
there is no Cartesian theater in the brain where all
this information comes together, the problem arises
as to just how the resulting conscious experience is
unified. What mechanisms allow us to experience the
world in such a unified way? What happens when this
unity breaks down, as in various pathological cases?
The problem of integrating the information

processed by different regions of the brain is known
as the binding problem

3. The Neural Correlates of Consciousness (NCCs)

4. As was seen earlier in discussing neural theories of

consciousness (section 4a), the search for the so-
called neural correlates of consciousness (NCCs) is
a major preoccupation of philosophers and scientists
alike (Metzinger 2000). Narrowing down the precise
brain property responsible for consciousness is a
different and far more difficult enterprise than merely
holding a generic belief in some form of materialism.
One leading candidate is offered by Francis Crick and
Christof Koch 1990 (see also Crick 1994, Koch 2004).
The basic idea is that mental states become
conscious when large numbers of neurons all fire in
synchrony with one another (oscillations within the
35-75 hertz range or 35-75 cycles per second).
Currently, one method used is simply to study some
aspect of neural functioning with sophisticated
detecting equipments (such as MRIs and PET scans)
and then correlate it with first-person reports of
conscious experience. Another method is to study the
difference in brain activity between those under
anaesthesia and those not under any such influence

5. Philosophical Psychopathology

6. Animal and Machine Consciousness

7. References and Further Reading

Cogito ergo sum

Not an easy concept to define, consciousness has been described as the state of
being awake and aware of what is happening around you, and of having a sense
of self. [Top 10 Mysteries of the Mind]

The 17th century French philosopher Ren Descartes proposed the notion of
"cogito ergo sum" ("I think, therefore I am"), the idea that the mere act of
thinking about one's existence proves there is someone there to do the thinking.

Descartes also believed the mind was separate from the material body a
concept known as mind-body duality and that these realms interact in the
brain's pineal gland. Scientists now reject the latter idea, but some thinkers still
support the notion that the mind is somehow removed from the physical world.

But while philosophical approaches can be useful, they do not constitute

testable theories of consciousness, scientists say.

"The only thing you know is, 'I am conscious.' Any theory has to start with
that," said Christof Koch, a neuroscientist and the chief scientific officer at the
Allen Institute for Neuroscience in Seattle.

Correlates of consciousness

In the last few decades, neuroscientists have begun to attack the problem of
understanding consciousness from an evidence-based perspective. Many
researchers have sought to discover specific neurons or behaviors that are linked
to conscious experiences.

Recently, researchers discovered a brain area that acts as a kind of on-off switch
for the brain. When they electrically stimulated this region, called the claustrum,
the patient became unconscious instantly. In fact, Koch and Francis Crick, the
molecular biologist who famously helped discover the double-helix structure of
DNA, had previously hypothesized that this region might integrate information
across different parts of the brain, like the conductor of a symphony.

But looking for neural or behavioral connections to consciousness isn't enough,

Koch said. For example, such connections don't explain why the cerebellum, the
part of the brain at the back of the skull that coordinates muscle activity, doesn't
give rise to consciousness, while the cerebral cortex (the brain's outermost
layer) does. This is the case even though the cerebellum contains more neurons
than the cerebral cortex.

Nor do these studies explain how to tell whether consciousness is present, such
as in brain-damaged patients, other animals or even computers. [Super-
Intelligent Machines: 7 Robotic Futures]

Neuroscience needs a theory of consciousness that explains what the
phenomenon is and what kinds of entities possess it, Koch said. And currently,
only two theories exist that the neuroscience community takes seriously, he

Integrated information

Neuroscientist Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin-Madison

developed one of the most promising theories for consciousness, known as
integrated information theory.

Understanding how the material brain produces subjective experiences, such as

the color green or the sound of ocean waves, is what Australian philosopher
David Chalmers calls the "hard problem" of consciousness. Traditionally,
scientists have tried to solve this problem with a bottom-up approach. As Koch
put it, "You take a piece of the brain and try to press the juice of consciousness
out of [it]." But this is almost impossible, he said.

In contrast, integrated information theory starts with consciousness itself, and

tries to work backward to understand the physical processes that give rise to the
phenomenon, said Koch, who has worked with Tononi on the theory.

The basic idea is that conscious experience represents the integration of a wide
variety of information, and that this experience is irreducible. This means that
when you open your eyes (assuming you have normal vision), you can't simply
choose to see everything in black and white, or to see only the left side of your
field of view.

Instead, your brain seamlessly weaves together a complex web of information

from sensory systems and cognitive processes. Several studies have shown that
you can measure the extent of integration using brain stimulation and recording

The integrated information theory assigns a numerical value, "phi," to the

degree of irreducibility. If phi is zero, the system is reducible to its individual
parts, but if phi is large, the system is more than just the sum of its parts.

This system explains how consciousness can exist to varying degrees among
humans and other animals. The theory incorporates some elements of
panpsychism, the philosophy that the mind is not only present in humans, but in
all things.

An interesting corollary of integrated information theory is that no computer
simulation, no matter how faithfully it replicates a human mind, could ever
become conscious. Koch put it this way: "You can simulate weather in a
computer, but it will never be 'wet.'"

Global workspace

Another promising theory suggests that consciousness works a bit like computer
memory, which can call up and retain an experience even after it has passed.

Bernard Baars, a neuroscientist at the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla,

California, developed the theory, which is known as the global workspace
theory. This idea is based on an old concept from artificial intelligence called
the blackboard, a memory bank that different computer programs could access.

Anything from the appearance of a person's face to a memory of childhood can

be loaded into the brain's blackboard, where it can be sent to other brain areas
that will process it. According to Baars' theory, the act of broadcasting
information around the brain from this memory bank is what represents

The global workspace theory and integrated information theories are not
mutually exclusive, Koch said. The first tries to explain in practical terms
whether something is conscious or not, while the latter seeks to explain how
consciousness works more broadly.

"At this point, both could be true.

Consciousness is pliable and therefore lends itself to be transformed.

Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary study of mind and intelligence,

embracing philosophy, psychology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience,
linguistics, and anthropology.

1. History

2. Methods

3. Representation and Computation

4. Theoretical Approaches

o 4.1 Formal logic

o 4.2 Rules

o 4.3 Concepts

o 4.4 Analogies

o 4.5 Images

o 4.6 Connectionism

Connectionist networks consisting of simple nodes and links are very useful for
understanding psychological processes that involve parallel constraint
satisfaction. Such processes include aspects of vision, decision making,
explanation selection, and meaning making in language comprehension.
Connectionist models can simulate learning by methods that include Hebbian
learning and backpropagation. The explanatory schema for the connectionist
approach is:

Explanation target:

Why do people have a particular kind of intelligent behavior?

Explanatory pattern:

People have representations that involve simple processing units

linked to each other by excitatory and inhibitory connections.

People have processes that spread activation between the units via
their connections, as well as processes for modifying the

Applying spreading activation and learning to the units produces

the behavior

o 4.7 Theoretical neuroscience

o Theoretical neuroscience is the attempt to develop

mathematical and computational theories and
models of the structures and processes of the brains
of humans and other animals. It differs from
connectionism in trying to be more biologically
accurate by modeling the behavior of large numbers
of realistic neurons organized into functionally
significant brain areas.

o 4.8 Bayesian

5. Philosophical Relevance

Some philosophy, in particular naturalistic philosophy of

mind, is part of cognitive science. But the interdisciplinary
field of cognitive science is relevant to philosophy in
several ways. First, the psychological, computational, and
other results of cognitive science investigations have
important potential applications to traditional
philosophical problems in epistemology, metaphysics, and
ethics. Second, cognitive science can serve as an object of
philosophical critique, particularly concerning the central
assumption that thinking is representational and
computational. Third and more constructively, cognitive
science can be taken as an object of investigation in the
philosophy of science, generating reflections on the
methodology and presuppositions of the enterprise.

o 5.1 Philosophical Applications

Innateness. To what extent is knowledge innate or

acquired by experience? Is human behavior shaped
primarily by nature or nurture?

Language of thought. Does the human brain operate with

a language-like code or with a more general connectionist
architecture? What is the relation between symbolic
cognitive models using rules and concepts and sub-
symbolic models using neural networks?

Mental imagery. Do human minds think with visual and

other kinds of imagery, or only with language-like

Folk psychology. Does a person's everyday understanding
of other people consist of having a theory of mind, or of
merely being able to simulate them?

Meaning. How do mental representations acquire meaning

or mental content? To what extent does the meaning of a
representation depend on its relation to other
representations, its relation to the world, and its relation to
a community of thinkers?

Mind-brain identity. Are mental states brain states? Or can

they be multiply realized by other material states? What is
the relation between psychology and neuroscience? Is
materialism true?

Free will. Is human action free or merely caused by brain


Moral psychology. How do minds/brains make ethical


The meaning of life. How can minds construed

naturalistically as brains find value and meaning?

Emotions. What are emotions, and what role do they play

in thinking?

Mental illness. What are mental illnesses, and how are

psychological and neural processes relevant to their
explanation and treatment?

Appearance and reality. How do minds/brains form and

evaluate representations of the external world?

Social science. How do explanations of the operations of

minds interact with explanations of the operations of
groups and societies?

Additional philosophical problems arise from examining the presuppositions of

current approaches to cognitive science

o 5.2 Critique of Cognitive Science

The claim that human minds work by representation and computation is an

empirical conjecture and might be wrong. Although the computational-
representational approach to cognitive science has been successful in explaining
many aspects of human problem solving, learning, and language use, some
philosophical critics have claimed that this approach is fundamentally mistaken.
Critics of cognitive science have offered such challenges as:

1. The emotion challenge: Cognitive science neglects the

important role of emotions in human thinking.

2. The consciousness challenge: Cognitive science ignores

the importance of consciousness in human thinking.

3. The world challenge: Cognitive science disregards the

significant role of physical environments in human
thinking, which is embedded in and extended into the

4. The body challenge: Cognitive science neglects the

contribution of embodiment to human thought and action.

5. The dynamical systems challenge: The mind is a

dynamical system, not a computational system.

6. The social challenge: Human thought is inherently social in

ways that cognitive science ignores.

7. The mathematics challenge: Mathematical results show

that human thinking cannot be computational in the
standard sense, so the brain must operate differently,
perhaps as a quantum computer.

The first five challenges are increasingly addressed by advances that explain
emotions, consciousness, action, and embodiment in terms of neural
mechanisms. The social challenge is being met by the development of
computational models of interacting agents. The mathematics challenge is based
on misunderstanding of Gdel's theorem and on exaggeration of the relevance
of quantum theory to neural processes.

o 5.3 Philosophy of Cognitive Science

Cognitive science raises many interesting methodological questions that

are worthy of investigation by philosophers of science. What is the nature
of representation? What role do computational models play in the
development of cognitive theories? What is the relation among apparently
competing accounts of mind involving symbolic processing, neural
networks, and dynamical systems? What is the relation among the various
fields of cognitive science such as psychology, linguistics, and
neuroscience? Are psychological phenomena subject to reductionist
explanations via neuroscience? Are levels of explanation best
characterized in terms of ontological levels (molecular, neural,
psychological, social) or methodological ones (computational,
algorithmic, physical)?

The increasing prominence of neural explanations in cognitive, social,

developmental, and clinical psychology raises important philosophical
questions about explanation and reduction. Anti-reductionism, according
to which psychological explanations are completely independent of
neurological ones, is becoming increasingly implausible, but it remains
controversial to what extent psychology can be reduced to neuroscience
and molecular biology


Academic Tools

Other Internet Resources

Artificial Intelligence on the Web

Biographies of Major Contributors to Cognitive Science

Cognitive Science Dictionary, University of Alberta

Cognitive Science Society

Computational Epistemology Lab at the University of


Dictionary of Philosophy of Mind

Glossary of Cognitive Science

Mind and Brain News from Science Daily

More specific Cognitive Science links

Related Entries


1.1 Levels of analysis

A central tenet of cognitive science is that a complete

understanding of the mind/brain cannot be attained by
studying only a single level. An example would be the problem
of remembering a phone number and recalling it later. One
approach to understanding this process would be to study
behavior through direct observation, or naturalistic observation.
A person could be presented with a phone number and be
asked to recall it after some delay of time. Then, the accuracy
of the response could be measured. Another approach to
measure cognitive ability would be to study the firings of
individual neurons while a person is trying to remember the
phone number. Neither of these experiments on its own would
fully explain how the process of remembering a phone number
works. Even if the technology to map out every neuron in the
brain in real-time were available, and it were known when each
neuron was firing, it would still be impossible to know how a
particular firing of neurons translates into the observed
behavior. Thus, an understanding of how these two levels relate
to each other is imperative. The Embodied Mind: Cognitive
Science and Human Experience says, the new sciences of the
mind need to enlarge their horizon to encompass both lived
human experience and the possibilities for transformation
inherent in human experience.[4] This can be provided by a
functional level account of the process. Studying a particular
phenomenon from multiple levels creates a better
understanding of the processes that occur in the brain to give
rise to a particular behavior. Marr[5] gave a famous description
of three levels of analysis:

the computational theory, specifying the goals of the


representation and algorithms, giving a representation of

the inputs and outputs and the algorithms which
transform one into the other; and

the hardware implementation, how algorithm and

representation may be physically realized.

1.2 Interdisciplinary nature

Cognitive science is an interdisciplinary field with contributors from

various fields, including psychology, neuroscience, linguistics,
philosophy of mind, computer science, anthropology, sociology, and
biology. Cognitive scientists work collectively in hope of understanding
the mind and its interactions with the surrounding world much like other
sciences do. The field regards itself as compatible with the physical
sciences and uses the scientific method as well as simulation or modeling,
often comparing the output of models with aspects of human cognition.
Similarly to the field of psychology, there is some doubt whether there is
a unified cognitive science, which have led some researchers to prefer
'cognitive sciences' in plural.[6]

Many, but not all, who consider themselves cognitive scientists hold a
functionalist view of the mindthe view that mental states and processes
should be explained by their function - what they do. According to the
multiple realizability account of functionalism, even non-human systems
such as robots and computers can be ascribed as having cognition.


1.3 Cognitive science: the term

2 Scope

2.1 Artificial intelligence

2.2 Attention

2.3 Knowledge and processing of language

2.4 Learning and development

2.5 Memory

2.6 Perception and action

2.7 Consciousness


Both the word, 'science'from the Latin scientia, and the word, gnosis
from the ancient Greek, mean to know, but the knowledge is of two
kinds. Each kind of knowledge has a long and well documented history:
Science has developed over the centuries through the positing of rational
theories and the rigorous accumulation of physical data, modifying its
position as reason, observation and data dictate. Gnosis is also based on
experience, but it is experience that is extra-sensual, supra-rational, and
wholly subjective, or personal. Science is confirmed by evidence derived
from empirical observation; gnosis is confirmed by evidence derived
from introspective revelation. Science pertains to knowledge of the gross,
material world; gnosis pertains to knowledge of the subtle, spiritual
foundation of the world.

Scientists, for example, have determined, through theory, reason, and
observation, that the universe of time and space began as an immense
burst of high-frequency energy, referred to as the Big Bang. Scientists
have determined over the past century or so that at some point, about 14
billion years ago, an enormous amount of energy suddenly appeared,
expanding and transforming into mass-bearing particles, that collectively
formed our phenomenal universe. Those scientists have even determined
the temperatures and rate of acceleration of this energy in the first few
seconds and minutes of its release, and have cataloged the material
particles which were created as this energy cooled and solidified. They
are also convinced that, prior to this big bang, nothing else existed
not space, not time, not matter; but only this concentrated
(electromagnetic) energy in a potential and pre-material state. It was only
as these highly-energized wave/particles of light interacted and collided,
that they were transformed into material wave/particles, which then
became the fundamental components of the universe.

Physicists and cosmologists have further determined that, approximately

ten billion years after the Big Bang (four and a half billion years ago),
remnants of an exploding star, or supernova, within this expanding
universe, condensed into our solar system; and that sometime during the
next few hundred million years, single-celled organisms bearing a
molecule called DNA emerged on planet Earth; that these microbes then
evolved, resulting in a prodigious display of living creatures, including
Homo sapiens, who emerged fairly recently, that is to say, in the last
200,000 to 150,000 years.

To this broad scientific theory gnostics (mystics) have no objection, as it

is consistent with the knowledge obtained through gnosis. But it doesnt
go far enough if we are interested in knowing the true beginning; i.e.,
where did this initial energy

Gnosis is possible only with the elimination of the ego-mechanism by

which a persons awareness is limited to that of a separate individual
identity. This ego-mechanism is a subtle mental obscuration that
structures a false identification with the biological and psychological
processes of individuation. Thus, instead of being aware of the real I-
identity that is universal Consciousness, one is restricted to a false
artificial identification with the individuals biological and psychological
processes. The eternal Consciousness which is essentially one thereby
becomes perceived in the awareness of the individual as a separate me-
identity. However, this ego-mechanism, present in all beings, may be
dispelled by an interior revelation that we can only regard as divine

Grace. It is a sudden interior illumination that reveals to the human
awareness the one eternal Consciousness, which is the origin and
substratum of all individuated consciousness.

This mystical experience of expan

all these experiences are synonymou
How can the revelations of P
presented identical accounts

These two camps, science an
Another way of referring to t
Consciousness is the source
These waves of thought on t
This is the realization of the
transformative and lasting in
To physicists studying the su
. Quantum physics has effe
For quite a long time now, th
And since consciousness app
conclusion that consciousnes
There are others, however, w
various religious views of the
known philosophy of Cartesia
to many of its time.
In describing the origin of the
universe of space, time, mat
conscious life emerged or ev

Today, in the early part of th

yet unknown process of spon

"Consciousness is a biologica

Others, more cautious, say m

"Consciousness indubita


Another says:

"I doubt we will ever be

logically necessary acco
however complex.

Nonetheless, over the years

"The new biology of mind p

But then, in the latter part of

"Understanding Consciousne

"What we do not understand

objects (interconnected nerv

Now we need to apply all these ideas, notions, insights to
a) the development of
b) the nature of
1) mystics intersubjectivity
2) PURE consciousness (after the coordination or synthesis!! of
the transformation of normal awareness/consciousness into
pure awareness/consciousness) differentiation

1) that all these thoughts are not expressions of (concrete,
first-order nature and operation of) mystical consciousness,
awareness and intersubjectivity, but merely attempts to think
about and reflect on these things, to express and talk about
them (from a second-order or meta-position) . But in the end

we must be and remain aware of the fact that Pure Awareness
or Consciousness, like the Godhead, the One, the one Real Self,
the Beloved, etc will always be ineffable (in words and
concepts). It' might be (possible to allow it' to be) directly
expressed in music, visual art, fiction, poetry, movement,
performance, film, in virtual reality?
2) What we are asking for in the last sentence is in fact: what is
it like in concrete, first-order to be' (exist as if, as it does not
exist or has no existence, not existence or any other category
can be projected on it) Pure Consciousness or to be as if Pure
Awareness, the One, the one real self, sophos, etc. And, what
could be the nature of the intersubjectivity of (as contained in,
like everything that are contained in) of the Beloved and Pure
Consciousness? Because it is only one, not two and therefore
cannot be a gathering or group of persons so as to form or have
or reveal intersubjectivity, norms of behaviour or thinking' ,
values, attitudes, motives, etc. It' is complete, not lacking
anything, nothing can be added to or subtracted from it, it does
not require anything, so it has no wishes, no motives, no
choices between alternatives, it is fulfilled, fulfilment, the
absolute, both the zero and omega point at once, all finitude
and infinity simultaneously, everywhere and nowhere, it is and
not is both this and that...