There is no truth that does not ultimately rest upon what is evident to us
in our own experience


William Barrett

The study of subjective experience is called Phenomenology — literally, the study of how things appear to us. Phenomena — such seeing red, experiencing anger, or desiring relief from pain — have a property that distinguishes them from other subject matter; we experience them directly. Researching phenomena from the first-person perspective presents unique challenges and payoffs.

There is a recursive aspect to the Delphic Oracle's famous exhortation: "Know Thyself." The knower and the thing to be known are the same. My first initial interaction with Bernie illustrates the distinction between the field of study and the knower of the field:

Me: "What is your problem?"
Bernie: "I can't control my anger."

Bernie's statement implies two enitites: one is emotionally reactive and the second wants to learn to control the emotional reactivity of the first. In our two-mind model, the former is the Puppy [the Experiential Processing System] and the latter is the Puppy Trainer [the Abstract Processing System]. I will be working with the Puppy Trainer, the one who answered my question [the emotionally reactive Puppy rarely shows up during our sessions  —  i.e., Bernie is usually calm and rational when I see him].

Bernie's history reveals that neither sincere vows "to never do it again," nor medication has produced good long-term outcome. To achieve the irreversible change that results from developing self-mastery, we will be working directly with experiential phenomena such as motivation and emotion to develop the practical skills to react mindfully to the things that happen.

The quest for self-mastery has a long history. Some ancient and modern approaches are presented in the sections ahead to help structure your personal research. You are obviously bright and good at understanding text, and I hope you enjoy the abstract philosophical discussions. However, for this course to do you any practical good, your understanding has to go deeper.

To develop your ability to work with experiential phenomena, you have to get the creature you inhabit to follow the protocols. When you do, you will experience particular phenomena [including motivations, appraisals, and emotional reactions]. Your challenge, as a phenomenal researcher, is to participate in the experience, yet maintain the perspective of a dispassionate observer studying cause-and-effect.

Immaculate Perceptions & Illusions

The tacit premise of perception is that "I see things as they are." As you probably already know, things are not always as they appear. We are more certain of the correctness of our beliefs and interpretations than we should be. As a result we are vulenerable to illusions [cognitive and perceptual errors] that cause a great deal of avoidable suffering. The understanding of this basic prinnciple of phenomenology is protective.

Meta-Cognitive Awareness refers to the appreciation that your perception is a creation of your nervous system, not a valid and complete depiction of objective reality. The case for this first epiphany of phenomenology includes appeals to both processing systems.

Optical Illusions and other visual stimuli are presented on the next page that will elicit certain experiential phenomena. The objective of this page is to make the case to your Experiential Processing System that your perception is a creation of your nervous system and not a valid and complete depiction of the objective world. The text on The Soul Illusion page describes the sequence of physical and biological transfers of information from pressure waves of air caused by a falling tree to the electrical transmissions in the brain that produce the phenomenon of sound perception, and is designed to make the same case to the Abstract Processing System.

The ancient and modern paths that follow include abstract text along with invitations to experience certain phenomena that support tbe ideas and extend them to practical experience.


Optical Illusions > >

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