Transcendental Phenomenology is a system of philosophy created by Edmund Husserl, the 20th century German philosopher. Phenomenology is the a priori science of experience: It studies experience without reference to assumptions posited by experience. Phenomenology considers experience in itself and without assuming anything about the reality or unreality of the contents of experience. The experience of seeing has certain universal structures whether the seeing occurs in dream or reality. These universal structures are the subject matter of phenomenology. In this sense phenomenology is related to philosophy as mathematics is related to natural sciences. Although Emmanuel Kant started transcendental philosophy, it was Edmund Husserl who first established phenomenology and its method as a self-sufficient philosophical system that can bring to self-evidence all other inquiries.
Phenomenological truths discovered through phenomenological method have universal validity. It was in transcendental phenomenology that the constitution of human being and its place within cosmos is understood rigorously and on a purely scientific basis. Phenomenology is the ultimate epistemology, and philosophy is possible only as phenomenology, in agreement with Heidegger.
Phenomenology demands a new way of thinking, a new way of seeing, which cuts through all unjustified assumptions of modern science and philosophy. It exposes these unjustified assumptions in an attempt to ground knowledge in a presuppositionless self-evidence. The ultimate ground of apodictic self-evidence is what Husserl calls “The Phenomenological Onlooker.” The existence and reality of this onlooker is established in a self-consciousness of the onlooker, unlike Kant that posit this as a theoretical construct for the sake of epistemological necessity. The way to an experience of this onlooker is for the first time postulated in Husserl’s phenomenology. The method of bringing to self-evidence the phenomenological onlooker is known as “transcendental-phenomenological Reduction.” Although there are many different Reductions performed in phenomenology, the universal Reduction or Epoche is the one that for the first time discloses the onlooker to itself. Phenomenology shows that the human natural life is a life of acceptedness, a life witnessed and accepted by the onlooker.
Phenomenology posts three levels of ego: First is the empirical ego, the psychological human “I.” This ego is the one to which we as humans have access. A deeper level ego is called the “transcendental ego” which constitutes the world as such; this ego has the task of constituting the world around itself; the empirical ego is itself a constitution of the transcendental ego. Phenomenology studies and exposes in detail that modes and structures of transcendental constitution of the world and human ego. At a deeper level exists the “non-participant onlooker” which is a witness to the constitutions of transcendental ego. It is the self-forgetfulness of this phenomenological onlooker that results in our human understanding of world as an objective reality. Phenomenological has simply accepted what is constituted by transcendental ego. The phenomenological Reduction which frees the onlooker from this acceptedness is not performed by the human ego not by transcendental ego. It is the phenomenological onlooker that performs the Transcendental Reduction, thus the onlooker comes to itself for the first time in the performance of Reduction.
The onlooker is captivated by the world. Reduction frees the onlooker from this world-captivation. This experience of freedom from world-captivation which is known in phenomenology as Transcendental Experience is recorded by mystics of all revealed traditions: In Islamic esoterism this moment is known as the extinction of ego after which the mystic utters “Ana-al-haq” meaning “I am the truth.” In Hinduism this moment is known as Liberation, a realization in which the mystic realizes “I am Brahman.” In Christianity it is the identity of father and son that is posited when Christ says in John 10:30 that “I and my father are one.” This identity, the identity of the empirical ego with phenomenological onlooker, is evident in all esoteric paths; it is known as Supreme Identity.
Although phenomenology is not considered a metaphysical system, it is the first systematic exposition of truth not based on revealed tradition. Phenomenology can explain why there is world and human existence, why the world is the way it is, why is there something rather than nothing, etc.
In other words, transcendental phenomenology is a revealed tradition of its own that makes possible the attainment of the absolute truth within itself and without the need of other systems or traditions; it is an esoteric path of Pure Intellect with Supreme Identity not as its goal but as its beginning, for Reduction is the initiation process necessary for becoming a phenomenologist. Thus, phenomenology is true philosophy. It is so because philosophy should be concerned with truth rather than fact which is the business of world sciences.
What is known in other spiritual and religious traditions as enlightenment is none other than the transcendental experience produced as a result of the successful performance of Reduction. The event of enlightenment whose causes and mechanics was unknown to other traditions, mistakenly attributed to grace, purification of mind and soul and body, diet, austerity or religious ritual, is for the first time understood in phenomenology. The precise mechanism by which one attains enlightenment is known in phenomenology as universal Reduction. Phenomenology shows that there is nothing divine or mysterious behind this experience; rather, it is a natural stage of conscious evolution that brings about the transcendental experience of onlooker by the onlooker.
Phenomenological truths are beautifully, however unknowingly, expressed in the postulates of quantum physics. One can even view phenomenology as the inward approach to that which quantum mechanics is the outward approach. Transcendental Phenomenology and Quantum Mechanics form a Yin-Yang pair that give expression to the inexpressible ultimate reality behind all phenomena. In both cases, the subject matter of phenomenology and quantum physics is ultimate reality; through phenomenology and the method of Reduction this ultimate reality is confirmed by direct experience and evidence; through quantum physics it is confirmed by experiments in nature.
Quantum physics and phenomenology arrive at the truth of the ultimate reality independently of all other traditions whose goal was the same thing. What is seen as truth by means of modern science and philosophy, particularly quantum physics and phenomenology, coincides with what was seen by mystics of all revealed traditions, particularly mystics within Islam, Hinduism, Taoism, and Christianity.
The ability of modern science and philosophy at arriving at the ground of truth without the need of tradition and its symbolic, though unnecessary disciplines and rituals, is telling of a new age in which truth is known directly by an individual. Consciousness is at a stage of evolution that it can directly handle truth without the aid of alien means such as traditions. Traditions functions as mere vessels for a specific historical periods in which a direct grasp of the Absolute is impossible for the individual. Although tradition has extreme value in its containment of truth in certain times, it is nonetheless inadequate for the modern man of intellectual temperament. For such seekers phenomenology is the new revelation, a new tradition, that can arrive at truth without recourse to anything outside itself, be it other religious and spiritual traditions or the findings of modern sciences. The one requirement for the task of phenomenology is the capacity of objectivity on the part of the seeker. Such degree of objectivity is never possible within revealed traditions since they all presuppose the revealed truth in their expositions.
If we understand the movement of consciousness to be toward truth, the movement of man is from those of traditions which address the subjective aspect toward pure phenomenology that address the purely objective aspect of man. After all, objectivity of the intellect is none other that the detachment of the individual. Truth had to wait for man to evolve into a a degree of objectivity necessity for a direct vision of the Absolute. This high degree of objectivity is realized in Transcendental Phenomenology.
What makes phenomenology a unique system is its degree of objectivity and mathematical rigor which is never seen before. Its power in unveiling the truth without superstitious and unnecessary demands from the phenomenologist lies precisely in its high degree of objectivity and scientific rigor. It is from this qualification that one can view Transcendental Phenomenology of Edmund Husserl as Supreme Science.
More details about the relation between Phenomenology and Quantum Physics can be found in my book Nondual Perspectives on Quantum Physics.