22 Aug 2015

5. Cultivating the higher dimensions of our being

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The philosophical companionship is a framework for philosophical interaction, a format of philosophical practice. And like most formats, it can be used for a variety of different goals. However, I think that there is a certain goal that is especially appropriate for it. This is because the philosophical companionship involves contemplation.

By "contemplation" I mean that companions try to enter a state of mind that is different from their usual ways of thinking and speaking. They use various procedures – resonating with each other, meditative exercises, imagery, etc. – in order to avoid their normal opinionated thinking patterns. Metaphorically speaking, they try to think and speak from a different "place" within themselves, to reflect from a different "dimension" of their being, from their inner "depth."

I will not try to analyze here what these metaphors mean. Their exact meaning is something to explore in actual practice, not something to define in advance.

In any case, as a result of this contemplative orientation, companions activate inner capacities which are rare in everyday life: different sensitivities and experiences, different inner attitudes, different ways of reflecting and understanding. And in the long run, they end up developing and cultivating these capacities.

We may say that the philosophical companionship cultivates dimensions of our being which are normally dormant and even hidden, which are deep and precious and wise and illuminating, or what we may call "higher dimensions" of our being.

What exactly these higher dimensions are – this is an issue for personal exploration, not something to decide dogmatically. But I believe that the philosophical companionship is at its best when it searches in an open and personal way for that which is sublime, precious, deep, wise within each one of us.

Searching for the highest dimensions of our being and cultivating them within us – this seems to me an appropriate goal not just for philosophical companionships, but for philosophical practice in general. I have never felt comfortable with the usual goals which philosophical practitioners often aim at: resolving personal problems, making people feel better, offering "interesting" activities, sharpening thinking abilities.

These goals seem me too small for philosophy. Philosophy, by its very nature, is a search for grand things – for truth, for wisdom, for the foundation. If we don't want to trivialize philosophy, then nothing less than cultivating the highest dimensions of life seems to me a sufficient goal.


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Ran Lahav

I am a philosophical practitioner, working with individuals and self-reflection groups. I received my PhD in philosophy and MA in psychology from the University of Michigan in 1989. I then started teaching philosophy at a university in Texas, but was not satisfied with academic philosophy. In 1992 I started practicing philosophical counseling, and a year later started giving at Haifa University (Israel) the first university course in the world about this field, and continued teaching it for 15 years. In 1994 I initiated the First International Conference on Philosophical Counseling, and co-organized it with Lou Marinoff. In 2014 I envisioned the Agora webpage, and launched it together with my friend and colleague Carmen Zavala from Peru.

I now live quietly in rural Vermont (northeast USA), where I write, walk in nature, and teach online at two universities. I also give workshops on philosophical practice around the world. My publications include two novels in Hebrew, an anthology on philosophical practice in English, two books on philosophical practice in Italian, and more than 30 professional articles.

My professional website is PhiloLife.net