The Shadow of The Philosopher

Maurice Merleau-Ponty was a French phenomenologist of the highest rank. Phenomenology as founded by Edmund Husserl and defined by him as “The return to things themselves” preserved its original strength and intention only in the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty, while others such as Martin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt, though offered important and enlightening phenomenological researches, eclipsed the vast field of phenomenology opened up by Husserl.

Merleau-Ponty understood the method of Phenomenological Reduction for what it was, as a step back into the origin of the gaze in which the world makes its first appearance, or as Eugen Fink puts it, “as wonder in the face of the world.” Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception is a masterpiece that must be read by any serious seeker of contemplative temperament. Below I quote an excerpt from his preface to the Phenomenology of Perception which aims at waking us up from the dogmatic slumber through which we have come to believe that our perception of the world is caused by the world!

All my knowledge of the world, even my scientific knowledge, is gained from my particular point of view, or from some experience of the world without which the symbols of science would be meaningless. The whole universe of science is built upon the world as directly experienced, and if we want to subject science itself to rigorous scrutiny and arrive at a precise assessment of its meaning and scope, we must begin by reawakening the basic experience of the world of which science is the second-order expression. Science has not and never will have, by its nature, the same significance qua form of being as the world which we perceive, for the simple reason that it is a determination or explanation of that world.

I am, not a ‘living creature’ nor even a ‘man,’ nor again even ‘a consciousness’ endowed with all the characteristics which zoology, social anatomy or inductive psychology recognize in these various products of the natural or historical process-I am the absolute source, my existence does not stem from my antecedents, from my physical and social environment; instead it moves out towards them and sustains them, for I alone bring into being for myself (and therefore into being in the only sense that the word can have for me) the tradition which I elect or carry on, or the horizon whose distance from me would be abolished-since that distance is not one of its properties-if I were not there to scan it with my gaze.”

Scientific points of view, according to which my existence is a moment of the world’s, are always both naive and at the same time dishonest, because they take for granted, without explicitly mentioning, it, the other point of view, namely that of consciousness, through which from the outset a world forms itself round me and begins to exist for me. To return to things themselves is to return to that world which precedes knowledge, of which knowledge always speaks, and in relation to which every scientific schematization is an abstract and derivative sign-language, as is geography in relation to the country-side in which we have learnt beforehand what a forest , a prairie or a river is.”     

7 thoughts on “The Shadow of The Philosopher

    1. Yes in a way; but ‘my’ here refers to the so called Absolute Subject, or God. I as this human person with mind, emotion, and personality am myself something perceived by that absolute subject. But there is a component of me, the pure sense of I-ness which is impersonal and belong to God, that is my true essence. It is that deep impersonal I that constitutes perceptions around itself, and it does it so well that it appears real, as if the I was in the world instead of the world in the I. In this sense, there are no two perceptions, mine and yours. There is only one consciousness and one experience, and that is of the Absolute Subject. The same way that your consciousness dreams and creates a world of perception around itself and an avatar by which you move in those perceptions which also includes many others, in a similar way the absolute subject too, being One, appears as the many through perceptions that emanate from it.
      In reality though it seems we move in this vast world, but as absolute subject we are not really moving or going anywhere since there is nowhere to go; there is no other time; it is an eternal now in which we experience of world, motion, temporality, and life and death. These are not factual events but only experiences. No more that the events within a movie, however upsetting, cannot affect the existence of the audience, this world too is mere experience and never touches us (us as the pure I) Our human aspects of course die and go away, but that is only because they were never real to begin with. There is only Him and Him alone. Thus, we must just be happy and joyful. Whatever happens happens. It never happens to me but before me. Something like that. 🙂

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      1. I guess I am more attached to my personality than I care to be. I hear what you’re saying and I can begin to understand but thank you for helping me to see that I will let that just as you said once “fall away” Usually I put forth great effort but I’m going to just relax into it! You’re an angel!!

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      2. It is not you; we all are attached to personality and in a way we are that personality. It is only from the accounts given my mystics that we know this personality is superimposed on an absolute subject, that there is more to us than just our humanity. Other than that, and except we are totally annihilated in God, we are always operating at the personal level. But we can sense the divine element in us; some with feeling or some with meditation. If you reflect on the sense of I-ness in you which goes deeper than just ego, that pure I-ness which is not your personality but your awareness of your personality, that is the divine ray. And it is the same in all of us; since it is coming from one and the same point, Him. In a way you are bearing the seed of God within you. You are the temple.

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  1. when you a child of tender age/newborn please take a second and try to locate within you. grown body contains that newborn and is hiding in its original form.
    the word that hid the baby is – grownup.
    at times i could see the existence is only a joke.

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