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Apophat

Integral philosophy from a contemplative perspective.

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The Consolation of Philosophy

Philosophy as a Path

Hi Folks,

I was thinking about all of you and how I might reach out. I know this is a time of fear and worry for so many of us. Then I remembered that an ancient Roman named Boethius wrote a book called The Consolation of Philosophy while awaiting his execution.

Then it occurred to me that some of you might find helpful to read why philosophy helps me cope with something as serious as this virus. It has to do with the power of Wisdom to serve as a reminder — there is far more going on than I can take in through the small world of my limited understanding.

Many great spiritual philosophers from the Buddha to Plato state that our ordinary view of the world is illusory and that we live in “a cave of shadows.” This means we don’t see things as they really are. I have always found this really helpful — to remember that I do not have the whole picture. That is my starting point.

Most people don’t think of philosophy as a spiritual path, but for me it is. By path I mean it uses suffering and fear as a means of seeking wisdom. It is the path of self-knowledge in the ancient meaning of that term. This is not knowledge about myself – an accumulation of data, but experiential awareness and contact with the deeper — or True Self — of one’s own deepest sense of “presence.” Contact with this Self is often the only real relief from fear and worry that I experience.

The questioning of who I really am can lead me past all the usual “answers” until nothing remains but silent awareness, the emptiness of full presence. In this space one can “know” things that are otherwise unknowable. I can’t talk or write about these things except indirectly because they go beyond language. But that does not mean this reality is not real or experienceable.

To know that when the pain of this world is almost too much to bear, I am reminded that this world is not ever going to give me the joy and peace I am looking for anyway. In some amazing sense then suffering becomes “a dark gift” because it can force me to look within for that which cannot be found without.

 

When I am in touch with my deeper self, the fear vanishes and only love remains. My path is to trust this love.

 

This, for me, is the consolation of philosophy.

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Updated: Sep 18, 2021

Hi Everyone,

Are you hungry?

I was able to Zoom with a few of you since I last wrote. It is good to see faces and have some contact in this new weird world we are all living in. Please don’t hesitate to set up an appointment if you would like to chat by phone or Zoom.


I am getting my Eastern Philosophy class together for the fall semester and in doing so I have come across some cool quotes that I figured I would share, hoping at least some of you would find them helpful.


“Your own Self-Realization is the greatest service you can render the world.” Sri Ramana Maharshi


I like this quote because it reminds me that even here in a fairly isolated condition, I can be of service to the world. I think of it this way. We have changed laws regarding slavery, child abuse, and many other painful issues. And yet…the madness seems to continue in one form or another. Why? I think it is because not enough people have changed on the inside.


I am trying to wake up by the simple mindfulness practice of being present. Just that. The effort to come back to the present moment and not get lost in the madness of past and future is one way.


We are human beings, beings whose fundamental food is the experience of truth.” Jacob Needleman


I think of food for the body, food for the mind, but what is this “fundamental food?” The hint is that it is not ideas. It is an experience. Think of your peak experiences, times when you were in “the Zone.” Needleman is suggesting that these moments feed us in ways we don’t truly understand.


“What is most necessary for people and what is given us in great abundance, are experiences, especially experiences of the forces within us. This is our most essential food, our most essential wealth. If we consciously receive all this abundance, the universe will pour into us what is called life in Judaism, spirit in Christianity, light in Islam, power in Daoism.” Jacob Needleman


The key here is “consciously.” We can receive this essential food only in the present moment. So let’s have a feast! Are you hungry? I know I am. Come feast with me! Here. Now. One breath at a time.


To Self-Realization!


Apophat


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Updated: Sep 18, 2021

Hi Folks,

I am overdue waving my flag to remind you all that I hope you are taking care of yourselves during this crazy period of time. I would love to Zoom with some of you if we can find a time to do so. My schedule is pretty flexible and I am stuck at home most of the time. Perhaps I will just put a Zoom invitation out there in the next couple of days and see who can show up.

James Baldwin: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

So what has been on my mind is the need for me to take a deeper look at the racism not just in our country, but in myself. I finished reading White Fragility by Robin Diangelo and it has hit home like a bomb going off. I encourage you to read it.

The gist of it is that there are assumptions I hold without even knowing it due to the conditioning I received as a child, not simply from my family, but from the culture at large. As Diangelo writes: “I didn’t choose this socialization, and it could not be avoided. But I am responsible for my role in it” (149).

Unrecognized assumptions are very dangerous, thus my encouraging you all to live an examined life, even when it is a painful experience. It is important to realize that we see the world through glasses that we did not choose. But that does not mean they don’t impact my behavior.

Here are some of those assumptions revealed in White Fragility:

  • I am free of racism.

  • My learning is finished; I know all I need to know.

  • Racism can only be intentional; my not having intended racism cancels out the impact of my behavior.

  • If I am a good person, I can’t be racist.

  • I have friends of color, so I can’t be racist.

Self-knowledge is often painful, but it is the bedrock of transformation. I can’t help change systems of oppression until I see how I am implicit in them.

As Angela Davis teaches: “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist.”

Wisdom is always calling to us. Am I quiet enough to hear it? Are you?

To Becoming Anti-Racist

Apophat


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Updated: Sep 18, 2021

Hi Folks,

These are such confusing times that it seems more necessary than ever to reach out and feel connected. I get so busy that my goal to reach out each week has not been met. But here I will try again.

Thomas Merton wrote more than 50 years ago: “The greatest need of our time is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters our mind.”

The little news I watch makes it seem that the world is falling apart, between the ugliness of racism to fear of this pandemic. What can I do? Is there a “should” there, meaning I “should” be doing something?

As you know, I am a huge fan and supporter of Bryan Stevenson. If you haven’t seen the film about him yet you might want to (should?) put it on your list. It has the same title as his book, Just Mercy.

As a white male I am trying to understand racism — the racism I don’t see because I am in the middle of it. So I am trying to learn and several books have been recommended to me. Last night I started reading White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.

One quote I have been thinking about all day: “I believe that white progressives cause the most daily damage to people of color.” For example, I am that white progressive. I think I am not racist. But “White progressives do indeed uphold and perpetrate racism, but our defensiveness and certitude make it virtually impossible to explain to us how we do so.” This is just in the introduction to what I believe is going to be a painful read.

As you know, living an examined life is a big part of why I love philosophy and love teaching it too. This summer I am going to try to examine where and how racism still manifests in me. It is a time to read, journal, and for me, to listen to the pain so many of you have experienced. If you would like to call me or Zoom, let me know. My job will be to listen.

I need to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters my mind. Do you want to join me in examining this part of my life? Maybe we can help one another? Let me know.

Martin Luther King: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

To Being a Light!

Apophat


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About Apophat

So good to have you here.

I have been studying philosophy and religion my whole adult life. Intellectually, my home is in the world of Integral Philosophy. I attended graduate school at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, earning my Ph.D. in Philosophy and Religion. 

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© 2021 by Apophat.

We Are Apophatic. Stay in the Question.

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