Part II: A Psychonaut’s Guide to the Invisible Landscape: Can We Trust Our Own Experiences?

14 Jun

A Psychonaut’s Guide to the Invisible Landscape

A Psychonaut’s Guide to the Invisible Landscape

 

All the questions brought up in this book answer to a bigger question, perhaps the biggest question of all:

Can we trust our own subjective experiences?

This innocent-sounding question is one of enormous implication.

At times when I read his words I thought to myself that if I accept what he says, than by the same standards, I should accept the words and experiences of those who profess many other subjective experience, many of which contradict each other. (For instance, the prophets of various religions all claiming that theirs is the only truth and everyone else is wrong.)

On the flipside, if we can’t trust our own experiences, than what the hell are we to do?

Hard-nosed scientists would say that all we can trust is objectively measured data i.e. then science, and only science, in the strictest sense of the word, is the only path towards knowledge and truth.

I agree that a scientific approach yields literally awe-some results but this approach falls short in explaining our everyday experience of the world and that which we know most intimately: the conscious experience, the spiritual impulse, the subjective, inner self… the “I” that we all experience.

So the question is how do we reconcile the subjective experience with the objective measure of science?

The Dalai Lama says it best in his book The Universe in A Single Atom, when he asks:

“Given that one of the primary characteristics of consciousness is its subjective and experiential nature, any systematic study of it must adopt a method that will give access to the dimensions of subjectivity and experience.

A comprehensive scientific study of consciousness must therefore embrace both third-person and first-person methods: it cannot ignore the phenomenological reality of subjective experience but must observe all the rules of scientific rigor. So the critical question is this: Can we envision a scientific methodology for the study of consciousness whereby a robust first-person method, which does full justice to the phenomenology of experience, can be combined with the objectivist perspective of the study of the brain?”

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3 Part Review Series:
Part 1: A Psychonaut’s Guide to the Invisible Landscape
Part 2: A Psychonaut’s Guide to the Invisible Landscape
Part 3: A Psychonaut’s Guide to the Invisible Landscape


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