Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A little skepticism versus the infallibility of personal experience

Below is a copy of a posting I have recently made [25 Aug '09] to a discussion group [about 'Consciousness] on FaceBook. In that particular thread I am being chided by "Dixie" an exponent of Zen meditation who tells me I am ignorant and deluded, because I don't sit and meditate like she does. I have taken to not denying such charges because, in my gathering dotage, I now see that it is true, at least for several reasonable values of the word 'true' anyway. But I am not happy to simply acquiesce in the assertions of somebody else's world view without challenge. I've been there, done that; there are too many other people who just wanna tell me how to think, for some reason or other. I am loath to just quietly accept the view of a person when they are asserting what amounts to the infallibility of personal experience.
Dixie has just remarked that she doesn't want to continue arguing "because this is not really a discussion any more", and so she is not going to post again, until I can prove that I have meditated as prescribed.

So Dixie, what you are saying is that your description of things MUST be right, because it IS right. If I ask how you know that it is right, what makes you so sure that it is not "make believe", you say it is because you KNOW that it is right and it could not be wrong.

But then one has to ask: do you mean that as far as you are concerned, it is not possible that you could be mistaken? Please understand that I am not asserting that you are mistaken, simply asking if you can conceive the possibility that your understanding could be wrong.

My reason for seeking this clarification is precisely because I have experienced being wrong in the past, and also experienced being *right*. The being wrong in various ways showed me things about myself, and about how people 'tick'. The being right showed me how there is a way, and there can be times when, MY decision is right, simply right. But it always seems that other people want to describe my world for me using their words, their concepts. They may be well meaning, they might be nice people, but how can I know if they really know what they themselves are talking about?

So this is why I ask, again, in other words: How can you be sure that what you experience in deep meditation is not just a deeper layer of naive realism?

You see, years ago I had an experience in which I knew that "God" had touched me. I didn't need anybody else to confirm that for me, and I still don't. Because of the context in which this occurred, I became a Christian. But that was then. Now I am not a Christian, but I still know that it was God - though I would rather say "Life" - which touched me. I don't need anybody else to interpret my life, my world, for me.

I am looking for people who are willing to engage with our world constructively, and that requires that none of us assumes we have a monopoly on truth.