The Shrouding Cover Called Human

*A must read for the contemplative seeker.

The lives that we live in our everyday world are lived in toto with that world, i.e., the world, as we understand it, is part of what makes us who we think we are; and, conversely, the world is only what it is (what we think it is) by virtue of having us in it, because when we think of the totality of the world, we must remember that it is a totality already containing us thinking it. Hence, we (the world and ourselves) hold each other mutually captive by virtue of what we accept—the acceptednesses—to be true. This reflexive containment is part of what Fink means when he says, “To know the world by returning to a ‘transcendence’ which once again contains the world within it signifies the realization of a transcendental knowledge of the world. This is the sole sense in which phenomenology is to be considered as a ‘transcendental philosophy.’”

With this statement we finally arrive at the core of what Fink means to communicate; the Phenomenological Reduction is self-meditation radicalized. On its face, his statement may seem to involve the presupposition that the self is already estranged from its own essence; however, as Fink points out, “phenomenology does not begin with a ‘presupposition’; rather, by an extreme enhancement and transformation of the natural self-meditation, it leads to the ground-experience which opens-up not only the concealed-authentic essence of the spirit, but also the authentic sense of the natural sphere from out of which self-meditation comes forth.” The ground-experience, furthermore, can succeed “only when, with the most extreme sharpness and consequence, every naïve claiming of the mundane-ontological self-understanding is cut off, when the spirit is forced back upon itself to Interpret itself purely as that ‘self’ which is the bearer and accomplisher of the valuation of every natural ‘self-understanding.’” This view is already made explicit in direct connection with the phenomenological onlooker in Fink’s discussion in Sixth Cartesian Meditation (pp. 39-40). The meditation does not bring the reducing “I” into being; the reducing “I” is disclosed once the shrouding cover of human being is removed. That is, by un-humanizing ourselves we discover the reducing “I”—the phenomenological onlooker who is the one practicing the epoché.

Now we can more clearly grasp the meaning of Fink’s statement; when he speaks of spirit being “forced back upon itself,” the “itself” is the phenomenological onlooker—spirit; and the radicalization of self-meditation is the procedure whereby we discover what Husserl earlier referred to as “I am, this life is.” This is “radicalization” precisely because it is to be done without any reference to the mundane. Let me explain, the world is familiarly and horizonally pre-given to us in its totality; furthermore, we are pre-given in it. So, the mundane-ontological self-interpretedness of the spirit is a moment in the totality of the pre-givenness of the world. Hence, if we use any element of the mundane-ontological interpretedness of the world, we have not exercised a “radical” shift. In order for the shift to be truly radical in Husserl’s sense, no element of the mundane can enter into either the motivation for self-meditation or into the ground of it—in the sense of an understanding of the essence of spirit prior to the ground-experience that brings spirit to itself. What we want to accomplish is a radical shift in which the spirit (phenomenological onlooker) is forced back upon itself to interpret itself purely as that “self” that is the bearer (as the human ego) and accomplisher (transcendental constituting ego) of the valuation of the entirety of the mundane-ontological self-interpretedness.

The radical nature of the Phenomenological Reduction seems to have been greatly underdetermined by some and that we can only get a truly accurate picture of what Husserl means by taking seriously his claim that, not only is the reduction radical, but it is radical in a “new” sense of that term; this “new” radicality is linked directly to self-meditation that has been radicalized—radicalized, that is, insofar as it is a self-meditation that is “forced back upon itself to Interpret itself purely as that ‘self’ which is the bearer and accomplisher of the valuation of every natural ‘self-understanding.’” One practical way to grasp what it means for the self to be “forced back upon itself to interpret itself purely as that ‘self’ which is the bearer and accomplisher of the valuation of every natural ‘self-understanding,’” is to understand this ‘self’ as the “I” in “I am.”

Excerpt from epoche by John Cogan

13 thoughts on “The Shrouding Cover Called Human

    1. thanks to give the biggest of challenges by –” The ground-experience, furthermore, can succeed “only when, with the most extreme sharpness and consequence, every naïve claiming of the mundane-ontological self-understanding is cut off, when the spirit is forced back upon itself to Interpret itself purely as that ‘self’ which is the bearer and accomplisher of the valuation of every natural ‘self-understanding.’” i don’t know is it right on my part to ask your kindness to explain such construct in simple layman’s language.

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      1. What it says is very similar to the method of neti neti is Jnana yoga. It is trying to say that in we must suspend all the beliefs, conscious or subconscious, that are constantly operative in the background of our daily experience; they include belief in the reality of the world, ourself, space time , and all other things we know through commonsense and science and philosophy and religion. Total suspension of all judgment. Through doing this the Atman is forced to appear before us. The reason we are not awake to true Self is because of our deep absorption in ideas and beliefs, in the mind. So it is saying that to get to that Self we must become conscious of and then suspend all underlying beliefs. These are not just beliefs that we hold but also those that we do not know that we hold. Like we think there is an outside world, that the now had a past and s future to come. All these need to be rejected. Only the now is self evident.

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  1. Basically, what this is saying is, the only way to truth is to rid your self of all attachment to truth or previous knowledge? Like Christ told us to be like a child, completely open, innocent and ready to experience truth? Great discussion here!!

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  2. I often used to wonder about a hypothetical thought experiment – what if a man loses memory completely, that he forgets about all notions and beliefs he had held so far about survival and identity, everything about the world he had been sensing and contemplating so far. Or what if he had none in the first place right from his birth, without any ability to sense the outside world, without any notions of identity, without any way to know or contemplate on the world (let’s consider for granted that he has no sense of his physiological needs as well). I am not considering any psychological disability as well here.Practically he will turn out to be a no ‘human'(or even a living being) in traditional sense. But what will be the nature of his conscious without any kind of ‘conditioning’? Or would his natural instincts on a auto-mode try to drive his conscious towards finding a definition and closure for his kind of survival? My personal opinion would be the latter, because even if it were a hypothetical scenario I think the ingrained instinct in all of us would by default venture towards settling on a tangible ‘definition’ for a survival and self- identity, given that our psychological faculties are intact.
    I consider this as I read about the reference to the mundane you have mentioned here. Would I be right in saying that a radicalization in self-contemplation need to be overriding of our natural instincts, and inorder for that to happen we need to give our natural instincts a free run to settle itself first (by way of traditional conditioning of consciousness by way of this world), and then reverse-condition this consciousness by way of the self-meditation you explain here? In other words, would I be right in saying that a pre-givenness to this world would be necessary as well initially, for all practical purposes, inorder for me to reverse condition my consciousness by rejecting all I have known so far for my self-identity to reduce to its true oneself?

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    1. Thanks RamG again for your very interesting ideas. I think I do agree with you very much. From a spiritual point of view, liberation is impossible for one who is not bounded, the idea being that liberation, knowledge, etc, all require a initial state of bondage. If the world wasn’t pre-given, then there would be no life or spirituality, let alone liberation. Or, consciousness must traps itself in order to liberate itself. In many scriptures also there has been reference to the whole process of creation as this famous statement: God became man so that man may become God. Putting gods aside, The Absolute became the relative so that the relative may become the absolute.
      In a more religious context, the event of the Fall (symbolically) was necessary for man to understand the value of his true nature, i.e. god. We don’t learn until we fall 🙂

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  3. Or to ask with an analogy, if I am assuming I am bound in once place by a physical object or something, I need to contemplate on the nature and properties of what is binding me in the first place. Only then I can realise that what I need to do to ‘unbind’ myself (whether it involves a physical act or a mere realisation). To set myself free, or realise that I am indeed free, I need a fixture in the first place, imagined or otherwise.
    Similarly consciousness needs a fixture on something first, even if it is unreal, and then it need to contemplate on all that surrounds the fixture and reject them all to realise its true natural state.

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    1. Very much true. The whole state of affair of life is kinda ridiculous, not necessarily in a bad way, because we have fallen into bondage so that we understand the worth and value of liberation, a pretty much necessary process for life and spiritual/intellectual development. But then when liberation arrives, one sees that the bondage has been illusory to begin with, like a dream. The true Self is never in bondage but thinks it is so, but it won’t know it until it is liberated. So the whole story of life and existence is like a momentary lapse in memory where we forgot we are already pure and free.
      A good analogy I found is this: Consider you are playing a video game in which your game-avatar has to explore here and there in the game world. Now, the avatar is conditioned by the game world; but you, who is playing the game and moving the avatar, you are not conditioned by the game-world; you are totally outside it. The relation between you and your avatar is pretty much like the relation between your true Self and your human form. Your true Self is entirely transcendent to this world, always free and unaffected by all events and states of consciousness; it is only your human form, your avatar, that is subject to conditions of existence, growth and decay, birth and death. The true Self moves everything but Itself is not moved by anything, pretty much like the way you play a video game. But this is only an analogy and we should not assume that the True Self is itself in another world because there are no conditions of space and time limiting the Self, and without space and time the idea of world is meaningless.
      When the game is over you move on to another game, or maybe rest. 🙂

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