It seems that my previous blog would not make sense unless I described what a contemplative science is, and if it is possible to really have one. Contemplative science might be defined as a study of our inner world; psychology, well being and understanding the nature of consciousness. This can be done in two complimentary ways: empirically, through neurological and overall physical observations, and through contemplation, or direct observational awareness. In this way, one might call contemplative science a form of psychology, in which the practitioner learns about his or her identity through both direct observation of how they think, feel, and identify with themselves and their world, and how these observations are reflected via empirical evidence. To be more specific, various methods have been tried and tested. This form of science is ancient, and in some sense, common in east and west. It’s origins are in Buddhism, Hinduism and ancient philosophy (Greek, etc). Their practices are thus deeply rooted in their various cultures and religious traditions. Nevertheless, you might call meditators inner-scientists, probing and practicing various techniques which are verifiable and reproducible. Spiritual masters have made claims about the understanding of human nature, which can be verified by trying their methods (Follow your breath, etc). Ultimately, you must practice it yourself in order to confirm or deny the discoveries. If a Buddhist claim is: the self is illusory, or there is ultimately “emptiness” in all things, well, the only way to find out what he or she is talking about is to test the method. What do you discover? Is it an accurate description of the experience?
Even if empirical science cannot verify particular claims: we are all one, for instance, it can still produce correlative results. It’s an ongoing process. For now, we can utilize the claims contemplative sciences make about human nature, study them, and perhaps use them to re-work or enhance previous understanding about human well-being. Philosopher and Buddhist practitioner Ken Wilber argues that contemplative science can be used in psychology, sociology and various other established disciplines as a “next step” in understanding the overall process of human development. Also, that perhaps meditative experiences, when studied and understood correctly, can add an entirely new dimension to human psychology models. This is often coined as: pre personal, personal, and transpersonal. Can human beings experience a greater connections with one another and the world at large? If so, we will need open-minded and willing philosophers, thinkers, and social scientists to describe and embrace these higher dimensions of the human being. The “transpersonal.” To summarize what we have so far, in order for contemplative science to evolve beyond the traditions which supported them, scientists will have to step forward and start working with it. Their results, I am sure, will be quite interesting.
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