In the previous lesson we saw that when we transcend our perimeter, we connect to fountains of plenitude that lie beyond our boundaries. These are sources of wisdom from outside our habitual patterns of behaving and feeling. They can inspire us with new meanings; they can animate in us new understandings – not just in abstract thoughts but mainly in our attitudes to life. We come to relate to life FROM these understandings, and these understandings express themselves in our awareness and our way of being.
Of course, many of our emotions and behaviors continue to be governed by our conceptions and patterns. We are, after all, human beings – creatures with a specific psychological structure and biological constitution, influenced by our specific culture and language and personal history. Nevertheless, on another dimension we are bigger than these conceptions and patterns, and can be nourished by greater fountains of wisdom and plenitude.
All this has an important implication. It implies that philo-sophy as a search for wisdom requires us to change our state of mind, or more generally our state of being. It requires us to discover and develop a window that opens to beyond our boundaries. Our task, then, is to open in ourselves a small space that is empty of ourselves – empty of our usual patterns and conceptions, free from our normal attitudes and ego. We want, in other words, to open a CLEARING in the forest: an open space in the midst of the dense network of our psychological structures. As the metaphor of “clearing” suggests, we do not seek to abolish our psychological “forest,” but rather to create a small place in the forest, as small as it might be, that opens to the sky.
This is an amazing capacity of human beings: We can be open beyond ourselves. We can reach out to fountains of wisdom that are not part of our psychology. This capacity is analogous to perception – to seeing or hearing, as well as to thinking. In vision, we can see objects that lie outside our body. In hearing, we hear events that are far away. In thought, we can think about mathematical relations, or about somebody across the ocean. In short, our awareness reflects not only our psychology and biology, but also things outside us.
Likewise, in philo-sophia we seek to “look” beyond ourselves, towards greater horizons of reality. But the metaphor of perception has its limitations. Unlike looking and seeing, as philo-sophers we do not try to perceive objects such as stones and trees, not even abstract ideas such as the concept of the self or the theory of socialism. Furthermore, we do not seek to LOOK AT reality, like an observer who collects information about some distant object. Rather, we seek a different connection to those greater horizons of reality: opening ourselves to them, letting them animate and inspire us, allowing them to speak through our life. We want them to be in the roots that nourish us, not (or not only) in front of our eyes.
This kind of philosophizing, which seeks to open in ourselves a clearing and to philo-sophize from it, is called CONTEMPLATIVE PHILO-SOPHY.