Philosophy and Practice

Legacy Lost: The Ecstasy Deficit in Modern Philosophy
Presented at the Pacific Division, American Philospohical Association, March 2013. Follow the link above to this paper thus summarized:

  • Western philosophy has a vital inheritance from mythological cults that emerged out of Shamanic mists and yielded both the great tragic plays and the power of mystery religions.
  • This legacy informed philosophy’s effort to understand the nature of things and provided ongoing inspiration for philosophy as a way of living.  Over time, however, philosophy progressively inclined toward purely intellectual endeavor.  Subordinated to theology during the Middle Ages, it lost the core experiential connection cultic ritual had evoked and developed toward its modern post Cartesian exercise.
  • The direct spiritual experience that inspired philosophy finally became shunned as primitive magic.  Philosophy is now “haunted” by religion because it has distanced itself from direct experience of animate, divine nature (physis).  To recover that distance, philosophy needs to be informed by ecstatic experience.

From Epistemology to Transcendence
Follow the link above to this paper thus summarized:

  • Science and modern culture have paradoxically absorbed both Hume’s stipulation of the priority of sensory experience and Kant’s assertion that mental and mathematical abstractions are fundamental and prior to sensory experience.  Whitehead resolves the paradox by postulating a universe created out of occasions that exemplify William James’s drops of experience.  Fully comprehending these occasions requires the same mystical understanding as Plato’s unwritten, fundamental doctrines.  Spiritual practice is key to such comprehension.
  •  The conjunction in ancient philosophy of intellect and practice was dissipated by medieval Scholasticism.  Cultural differences mean that any modern practice which tries to regain the original function of practice in philosophy must necessarily differ from ancient practice.
  •  James laid foundations of a transpersonal psychology that suggests means by which philosophical understanding might be facilitated so that it is a way of life, rather than simply an intellectual endeavor.

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